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The Guardian Weekly – December 01, 2017

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Vol 197 No 26 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 1-7 December 2017
Zimbabwe smiles
at the Crocodile
Mnangagwa vows
to rebuild nation
What’s up with
Lifting the lid
on group chat
‘It feels like a
new adventure’
The inventive
world of Björk
Germany’s grand accord wanes
In need of a new direction? German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s authority was diminished by a weak showing in recent elections Christian Bruna/EPA
Merkel’s struggles to
to form a government
are drawing anxious
comparisons with the
ill-fated Weimar years
Philip Oltermann
Danyal Bayaz has experienced many
things during his first few weeks as
a new MP, but boredom is not one
of them. Two months after entering
Germany’s parliament as a Green
party candidate, Bayaz, 34, from
Heidelberg, has watched rightwing
politicians give each other standing
ovations for Eurosceptic diatribes,
leftwingers heckle the far right as racists and a former climate activist with
dyed hair form unlikely alliances with
Christian Democrats in tailored suits.
Last week Bayaz saw the dramatic
collapse of coalition talks that would
have seen his Green colleagues catapulted into government and now faces
the possibility that his seat may come
up for grabs again in fresh elections
next spring. “Right now I am not even
sure if it’s worth me getting a loyalty
card here,” he quips as he orders a cappuccino in the Bundestag’s canteen.
For years, German politics were
seen as uneventful to the point of tedium. Only recently the lack of drama
inside the reconstructed Reichstag’s
circular plenary chamber led to calls
for a more confrontational, Westminster-style approach. But as old
geopolitical certainties have crumbled over the past 18 months, Berlin’s consensual, unexcitable style of
policymaking has won new admirers.
Faltering efforts to form the next coalition government have exposed Angela Merkel’s diminished authority.
Many are now beginning to wonder
if the division wrought on Britain and the US by Brexit and Donald Trump
has also descended on Europe’s
biggest economy.
With Merkel’s last coalition partners, the Social Democratic party
(SPD) and the Free Democrats (FDP),
seemingly more eager on opposition
than on government posts, and an
already ultra-oppositional Alternative
für Deutschland hoping to profit from
the political standstill, commentators
in Germany have started to evoke the
darkest days of the Weimar Republic,
the period after the first world war
when short-lived minority governments ruled by emergency decrees.
“Like in Weimar, the federal republic is now a multiparty system in which
extreme parties have begun to paralyse the working of the parliamentary
democracy,” wrote Stephen Szabo, an
expert on US-German relations.
“Germany’s obsession with stability was largely a result of reforms
aimed at avoiding the mistakes of
the Weimar Republic,” said Anthony
Glees, a historian at the University of
Buckingham. “In spite of a proportional vote system, a 5% threshold for
smaller parties guaranteed that postwar Germany was for decades a twoparty state, where the power would lie
safely in the centre.”
With polls for possible fresh elections next year predicting that both
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the SDP
could drop below 30%
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2 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
World roundup
Obama’s ‘neutral’ internet rules to end
Ireland on brink of snap election
The US telecoms regulator is to overturn
Obama-era rules
keeping the internet
The Federal Communications Commission
chairman, Ajit Pai, said
the body plans to repeal
“net neutrality” regulations that were championed by tech companies
and consumer groups,
but criticised by internet
service providers and Pai
“The FCC will no
longer be in the business
of micromanaging business models,” he said.
He added that the
Obama administration had sought to pick
winners and losers
and exercised “heavyhanded” regulation of
the internet.
Net neutrality is the
principle that all internet
traffic is treated equally.
Critics say removing
the rule will allow ISPs
to control the internet
– picking winners and
losers by slowing some
services while giving
preferential treatment
to those they favour.
More US news,
page 8
Ireland was on the
verge of a snap
election after
the party that props up
the minority coalition
government threatened
to pull down the administration over a police
whistleblower scandal.
The prime minister,
Leo Varadkar, faces
the prospect of going
to the polls as early
as this month, in the
middle of a crucial summit on the EU, Britain
and Brexit at which
the stakes are high for
the Irish Republic. The
prospect of an election
emerged following a
row about emails from
the deputy prime minister, Frances Fitzgerald,
into how police deal
with a whistleblower
alleging corruption and
Slovenia PM risks job to support refugee
The prime minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar,
one of the few liberal
leaders in central and
eastern Europe, is facing impeachment over
his support for a Syrian
asylum seeker facing
If the rightwing
opposition wins its parliamentary motion, Cerar
could be dismissed,
although supporters say
he has enough votes.
The future of Ahmad
Shamieh, 60, who
arrived in Slovenia in
2015, has become a
dividing line in the country’s politics.
Leftist leads Honduras presidency race
Early results from
Honduras’s presidential election on
Monday showed leftist
challenger Salvador
Nasralla with a surprise
lead over President Juan
Orlando Hernández.
With 70% of votes
counted, officials said
Nasralla, pictured on
poster, had 45.7% of the
vote, with Hernández
on 40.2%. Nasralla is a
candidate of the Alliance
of Opposition Against
Dictatorship; Hernández
a conservative US ally.
Both claimed victory.
Voter turnout appeared
heavy, with few irregularities reported.
More Americas
news, page 9
Hope for Argentinian sub crew fades
Water entered
the snorkel of
the Argentinian
submarine ARA San
Juan, causing its battery to short-circuit
before it went missing
on 15 November, a
navy spokesman said
on Monday as hope
dwindled -for the
44-member crew.
The San
Juan had only
a seven-day
oxygen supply
when it lost
contact, and a
sudden noise
was detected
that the navy
says could have
been the implosion of
the vessel.
Before its disappearance, the submarine
had been ordered back
to its Mar del Plata base
after it reported water
had entered the vessel, a navy spokesman,
Enrique Balbi, said.
The search for the
submarine has been
concentrated about
430km off Argentina’s
southern coast. The
effort includes ships
and planes manned
by 4,000 personnel from 13 countries, including
Brazil, Chile
and Britain.
EU steps up Russian ‘fake news’ battle
The EU is stepping
up a campaign to
counter disinformation and “fake news”
from Russia by spending
more than €1m ($1.2m)
a year on an anti-propaganda unit.
For the first time
since the team was set
up in 2015, the East
StratCom taskforce will
have money from
the EU budget,
rather than
relying on
from member states or
other budgets.
The unit has been
granted €1.1m a year
from the EU budget for
2018-20, officials said.
The funding emerged
after the European council president, Donald
Tusk, pictured, warned
that one of Europe’s
problems was “cyberattacks, fake news,
hybrid war”, following a
summit with EU leaders
and their counterparts
in eastern Europe and
the Caucasus. “We have
to keep very cautious,
vigilant and also honest.
If we want to protect
ourselves, if we want to
help our partners, we
have to be very aware
about the threat inside
the EU,” he said.
Tusk referred to
Theresa May’s
recent speech,
in which the
UK prime minister accused
Russia of meddling in elections
and planting fake
stories in the media to
“weaponise information” and sow discord.
The decision to dedicate EU money to the
unit follows a rise in
misinformation about
the Catalan independence referendum.
More Europe
news, pages 6, 7
Saudis block Yemen aid despite pledge
Aid agencies said
Saudi Arabia had
not fulfilled a
promise to reopen aid
corridors into northern
Yemen, leaving the main
aid lifeline closed for
tens of thousands of
starving people.
Following intense
pressure from western
governments, Riyadh
agreed early last week
to lift a fortnightlong blockade of the
port of Hodeida, but
aid agencies said at
the weekend that no
permissions for shipments had yet been
given. A UN source said:
“We have submitted the
request to bring in aid,
as we have every day,
but there has been nothing. At this stage we do
not know the reason for
the delay.”
More Middle East
news, page 4
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 3
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
Lebanon PM suspends his resignation
The Lebanese
prime minister,
Saad Hariri,
said he was suspending the resignation he
announced last month
while in Saudi Arabia,
easing a crisis that deepened regional tensions.
“Our nation needs …
exceptional efforts from
everyone to protect it
against danger,” Hariri
said during independ-
ence day celebrations,
having returned to
Beirut last Tuesday. “We
must dissociate from
wars, external struggles
and regional conflicts.”
Hariri’s surprise resignation had prompted
fears he had been forced
from office under orders
from his regional backers and was held against
his will in Saudi Arabia.
Nepal launches elections in rural areas
of mountain
villages and
foothill towns voted in
Nepal’s first provincial
polls last weekend, hoping to bring government
closer to the areas.
Officials said turnout
was more than 65%
among the 3.2 million
voters choosing representatives in seven
newly formed federal
states as well as the
national assembly. “We
will be closer to the government now with the
state assemblies,” said
schoolteacher Swasthani
Thapa, who was among
voters queueing at
Chautara, 80km east
of Kathmandu. Elections continue until 7
December elsewhere in
the country.
More South Asia
news, page 5
Eruption of Bali volcano looks likely
officials called
for 100,000
people to leave the area
of Bali’s restless Mount
Agung volcano, as a
major eruption looked
increasingly likely.
By Monday, 40,000
people had been moved
away from the volcano.
Mount Agung has
been spewing ash since
last Tuesday. After
confirmation that it was
shifting into the magmatic phase, authorities
raised the warning level
to the maximum of 4
on Monday.
Measurement of
Mount Agung began
after the last big eruption in 1963, which
lasted a year and killed
more than 1,000 people.
More Asia Pacific
news, page 8
Chinese port hit by factory explosion
A factory explosion in a port
city south of
Shanghai last Sunday
killed two people and
injured at least 30 as it
destroyed buildings
and left streets littered
with damaged cars
and debris.
The explosion struck
a factory in a riverfront neighbourhood in
Ningbo, one of China’s
busiest ports. A police
statement said the cause
was under investigation.
Television images
showed cars twisted and
mangled by the force of
the explosion, a plume
Court doubles Pistorius jail sentence
A South African
appeal court more
than doubled the
prison sentence of the
former Paralympian
Oscar Pistorius for murdering his girlfriend,
Reeva Steenkamp.
The supreme court
of appeal increased
the senten
sentence from
six years to 13
years and five
months. Pistoriu
torius killed
when he
fired four
throu a
closed toilet
door in his home in Pretoria in February 2013.
He said he had mistaken
her for a burglar.
Steenkamp’s family
welcomed the longer
sentence and said it
showed justice could
prevail in South Africa.
“This is an emotional
thing for them. They just
feel that their trust in
the justice system has
been confirmed,” a family spokeswoman said.
The court said Pistorius “displays a lack of
remorse, and does not
appreciate the gravity of
his actions”.
More Africa news,
pages 12-13
Pope visits Myanmar in Rohingya crisis
Violence as Manus centre cleared
Thousands of
Catholics welcomed Pope Francis to Myanmar, where he
began a three-day visit.
The trip was fraught
with sensitivity over
how he would deal with
the plight of the Muslim
Rohingya. He was scheduled to meet the de facto
leader, Aung San Suu
Kyi, and commander-inchief, Min Aung Hlaing,
who have overseen the
exodus of more than
620,000 Rohingya in
three months.
of grey smoke rising,
and debris scattered for
dozens of metres.
Footage showed rescuers wearing helmets
carrying injured people
away. Eyewitnesses said
there were a large number of injured people.
Industrial accidents
are common in China,
where safety standards
are often lax. In 2015
giant blasts killed at
least 165 people in the
northern port city of
Tianjin, causing more
than $1bn in damage
and sparking widespread
anger over a perceived
lack of transparency.
Violent scenes
were witnessed
at a former
Australian migrant
detention centre in
neighbouring Papua
New Guinea, as security forces struggled to
remove former detainees from the facility.
Papua New Guinea
police and the Australian
government said all residents had been removed
from the Manus Island
facility last Friday, on
the second day of “Operation Helpim Friends”.
But phone footage
showed security personnel raiding the facility
using metal batons, and
forcing inhabitants on
to buses against their
will. The Australian
immigration minister,
Peter Dutton, said that
he was aware of three
people being injured in
the operation.
The centre was closed
on 31 October, but up to
300 men resisted being
moved because of concerns about their safety
at a new centre, and had
been living without running water or electricity.
4 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
International news
Sisi vows ‘brute force’ after Sinai attack
Analysis: an ‘iron fist’ policy
in Egypt has always failed
Airstrikes follow mosque
massacre by militants
reportedly flying Isis flag
Edmund Bower Cairo
Egypt was reeling last weekend from
the worst atrocity it has suffered in
recent years, with officials putting
the death toll from the bomb and gun
assault on a Sinai mosque at 305. The
figure includes 27 children.
A further 128 people were wounded
in the attack on the al-Rawda mosque
in Bir al-Abed, north Sinai. A bomb
ripped through the mosque as Friday
prayers were finishing, before militants opened fire on the worshippers.
In response, airstrikes were directed
at “terrorist” locations, said military
sources. Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Nabil Sadeq, said the attack was carried
out by 25 to 30 militants stationed at
the mosque’s main door and 12 windows before opening fire on those
inside. More than 50 ambulances
ferried casualties from the mosque,
about 40km west of the city of Arish,
to nearby hospitals.
British prime minister Theresa
May told the Egyptian president,
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, that the UK stood
“ready to help in any way possible”.
Downing Street added that the two
leaders agreed that international cooperation was needed to tackle the
problem of terrorism.
Early this week no group had
claimed responsibility for the attack,
but it marks a significant escalation
in a region where for three years
Egyptian security forces have battled
an Islamic State insurgency that has
killed hundreds of police and soldiers.
It was reported last weekend that the
gunmen carried the Islamic State flag.
The attack was not only one of the
worst terrorist incidents in Egyptian
history, but also the first on a mosque.
The justification for assaulting a Muslim place of worship appears to be that
it was frequented by Sufis, a sect many
Islamist extremists deem heretical.
There are, however, many conspiracy theories circulating, which
suggest the atrocity has provided the
president with a convenient opportunity to demonstrate his security
credentials. In a nearby outdoor cafe,
in the shadow of another mosque
frequented by Sufis, most patrons
were adamant last Saturday that the
attack was purely politically motivated. “This was all because of the
elections,” said one customer. Sisi is
expected to stand in elections due to
be held early next year to try to retain
Tragedy … worshippers’ shoes after the al-Rawda assault Getty
the presidency. When he first ran in
2014 his campaign message was that
the former army general was the only
man who could bring stability to the
country and prevent the chaos that
has engulfed Libya and Syria from
reaching Egypt. “I supported him,”
said the customer. “But I would never
vote for him again. I’ll take just about
anyone else; he can’t win.”
With a sharp drop in tourism, following the 2011 Arab spring, Sisi has
presided over a period of economic
instability as well as terrorist threat.
“Do any of us live as well as we used
to?” said the customer. “My salary is
a third of what it used to be.”
All around the cafe and in the street
are signs of the forthcoming elections.
Posters on lamp-posts show Sisi’s
smiling face, accompanied with an appeal for him to “Build it” – meaning to
re-run for office. This is supposedly a
grassroots movement, although some
‘This is all because
of the elections,’
said one customer
in a nearby cafe
community figures have reported
being given petitions to hand out, sent
to them by the interior ministry.
With the elections drawing closer,
this attack seems to have shaken the
government’s nerves. The president
reacted swiftly, promising to meet
the attack with brute force, as well
as declaring three days of public
mourning. In a press release last Saturday, the state information services
said he had ordered that 200,000
Egyptian pounds ($11,300) be paid
to the families of victims for every
member killed.
Yet the mood in Cairo last weekend
was one of calm. Its residents are used
to stories of violence from the Sinai
region. “It feels like a long way away,”
says Ahmed Yousef, 30, a telecoms engineer. In July, at least 23 soldiers were
killed when suicide car bombs were
detonated at two military checkpoints
in Sinai. Isis claimed responsibility.
The local Isis affiliate, Wilayat al-Sinai
(the province of Sinai), also carried out
the region’s previous deadliest attack
when, in 2015, it brought down a Russian passenger jet carrying tourists
back from the Sharm el-Sheikh resort,
killing 224 people.
Leader comment, page 22 →
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah alSisi, cultivates a hard-man image.
His response to last Friday’s atrocity at al-Rawda mosque in northern Sinai was wholly predictable.
Hours after Islamic State-linked
gunmen killed more than 300 Sufi
worshippers, Sisi sent waves of
warplanes to exact revenge. “The
air force has … eliminated a number of outposts used by terrorist
elements,” the military said.
If only it were that easy. If Sisi
and his generals knew the location
of such terrorist outposts, why had
they not already been destroyed? It
is probable the targets were chosen
randomly and yet more innocent
lives may now have been lost.
Speaking to the nation after the
mosque raid, Sisi – an ex-general
who seized power in 2013 in a
military-backed coup – used the
only language he knows. “The
police and military will avenge
our martyrs and restore peace and
security,” he said. “We will respond
with brute force.”
But like an alcoholic who takes a
drink and hopes that the outcome
will be different this time, Sisi’s addiction to violence is a kind of madness. Egyptian leaders before him,
notably Hosni Mubarak, all tried to
physically crush their opponents.
They all failed. And Sisi will, too.
The largely ungoverned spaces
of northern Sinai province have become a new locus of militant activity. Sinai has been under a state of
emergency, and closed to outside
agencies and media, since 2014,
when militants killed 30 soldiers.
The latest atrocity has been
blamed on Wilayat al-Sinai, an Islamist group with links to Isis that
has hit Coptic churches in Cairo
and Alexandria. Sisi’s “iron fist”
tactics have proved futile. The Isis
link appears to be strengthening,
and northern Sinai may become a
destination of choice for jihadis.
Long experience shows that
more killings, repression and dictatorial rule are not the answer for
Egypt, any more than for other
post-Arab spring countries. Egypt
under Sisi has become a black hole
for human rights and democratic
governance. Yet the US and Britain
turn a blind eye. Until the state
rejects systemic violence as a form
of policy, the violence of non-state
actors will persist and grow. That’s
a hard lesson for a hard man like
Sisi. Simon Tisdall
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 5
International news
Gender classes for Delhi taxi drivers
India tries to change
male mindsets in battle
against sexual violence
Michael Safi Delhi
In a dimly lit classroom Achyuta
Dyansamantra strides back and forth
before a whiteboard, intoning into the
microphone like a preacher.
“If you stare at a woman for more
than 14 seconds, that can land you
in jail,” he tells the audience. Singing
to women in public or passing lewd
remarks is also banned, he says.
“Whether you agree with it or not, the
law is the law.”
About 100 faces stare back, many
scribbling notes, some toying with
their phones. The students are some
of more than 100,000 commercial
drivers who operate taxis and rickshaws in the Indian capital, Delhi.
Since a gang rape and murder five
years ago incensed the nation, such
“gender sensitisation” classes have
become mandatory to renew commercial driving licences in the city.
As the anniversary of the death of
physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh
approaches, women’s rights advocates say the classes are helping to
change a patriarchal culture, one that
has proved more stubborn to reform
than the country’s laws against sexual
harassment and assault.
One driver has been raising his
hand patiently during the class. “Generally, all the rape happens in India
and not in foreign countries,” he says
when finally called on. “Why is that
so?” The man answers himself. “In
this country, if you want to have sex,
you cannot do so – that’s why there is
rape,” he says.
Dyansamantra frowns. “We will
discuss this later on,” he says, though
he does mention that there is a red
light district in the capital.
In Delhi, as elsewhere, sexual violence is most frequently committed
by men known to the victim. “If drivers were a problem, the Delhi transport system would have come to a
stop,” says Rutika Sharma, a social
worker who helps run the schemes,
developed by the Delhi-based Manas
Foundation, a mental health group.
But as growing numbers of women
go out to work and simply go about
their lives, they are coming into more
frequent contact with commercial
drivers – some from backgrounds
where the idea of an independent
woman is still relatively new. “We are
trying to explain things in 40 minutes or one hour, that they have been
seeing for 40 years,” Sharma says.
Changing mindsets is the aim of the
class. “Clothing is a major argument,”
Sharma says. “Some drivers say fashion – what the girls are wearing – is not
Indian culture. They say we are copying other countries.” Inevitably, some
raise this kind of clothing as a contributing factor to sexual harassment or
assault. “We tell them rape cases are
increasing with girls aged six months
or two years old,” says Dyansamantra. “Or we show them stories of an
82-year-old lady being raped by some
man. We ask the drivers: what was
she wearing? And they realise – everything is a mindset.”
Women drinking is also a big issue,
says Sharma, especially in Hauz Khas
Village, a south Delhi neighbourhood
Change of pace … Delhi has seen an increase in women passengers Alamy
of bars and restaurants. “If a girl goes
to Hauz Khas, she is a not a good girl.
It’s a bad place, where a girl cannot go.
That is their mindset,” she says.
Drivers frequently push back.
“They say: you are modern children of
Delhi universities, so you can talk like
this, but we can’t. We are deep-rooted
Indians,” she says. “But we tell them
everything is changing. Now your taxi
needs an AC. You have good phones.
You are sending your own daughters
to school, which you didn’t do before.
You are giving your children this
change, so why don’t you accept it?”
Where moral persuasion fails, an
appeal to the pocket can be effective.
“We tell them 70% of their passengers
are women. We run their business,”
Sharma says. “So if we won’t come
out, how will the drivers earn?”
At the end of each class, drivers
receive a sticker for their vehicle.
“Along with my taxi, I also drive a
campaign to end violence against
women”, one declares. Another says:
“Women’s respect and safety is my
honour and duty”.
Outside the training centre, Subhash Chander reclines in his rickshaw,
smoking. “Of course you have to respect women,” he says. “But I’m an old
man. Why do I need to attend such a
class?” Much has changed in the four
decades he has driven rickshaws in
Delhi. “When I started, there were few
women passengers,” he says. “Now
every office has women, and most of
them take autos.”
It is not a development he welcomes. “Generally, 99% of women behave wrongly,” he says. “They are having mobiles and all these things. They
don’t know how to talk to elders.”
Pakistan minister quits after anti-blasphemy protests
Nosheen Abbas Islamabad
Sune Engel Rasmussen
Pakistan’s law minister has resigned
after weeks of protests staged by a
hardline cleric against a perceived
softening of the blasphemy laws.
At least six protesters were killed
and 200 injured in Islamabad last Saturday when thousands of police officers unsuccessfully tried to disperse a
three-week sit-in that had virtually
paralysed the capital.
Zahid Hamid’s resignation is the
latest in a series of government concessions to religious extremists, who
have been edging their way further
into the political mainstream.
Last week a court in Lahore lifted
the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, a militant leader with a $10m US bounty on
his head for international terrorism,
who leads a growing political movement and is fiercely opposed to Indian
and western interference in Pakistan.
“The decision to resign was taken
in a bid to steer the country out of the
prevailing critical situation,” Hamid
said, according to a report in Pakistan’s Tribune newspaper.
Observers said Monday’s deal
could set a dangerous precedent.
“Zealots have taken the law into their
own hands. Mullahs can get up and
ask for anyone’s resignation, so this
is the death of rationality,” said Zahid Hussain, a political analyst. “This
is complete surrender to hardline
Islamists. It’s a sad day for Pakistan: it
shows that the state is so weak.”
Hussain also rebuked the army,
which brokered the deal and has been
criticised for its alleged proximity to
extremist groups, for refusing to step
in against the protesters, despite a request from the government.
In the deal on Monday with Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who heads the
Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, the government also agreed to release a report
on an investigation into the alteration of an electoral oath declaring the
prophet Muhammad as God’s final
prophet. Protesters saw the change
as appeasing a religious minority,
the Ahmadis, who are officially
deemed heretical.
The government will also free
and drop charges against detained
protesters. In return, Rizvi agreed
not to issue a fatwa against the minister, seemingly to dissuade attacks on
his person.
Blasphemy is a capital offence in
Pakistan and serves as a rallying cry
for Islamist extremists. Unfounded
allegations regularly trigger mob attacks and lynchings, which the government has been unable to prevent.
The recent protests expose the
fragility of the governing Pakistan
Muslim League-Nawaz party, which
has been under increasing pressure
since the disqualification of the prime
minister, Nawaz Sharif, in July over
corruption allegations.
6 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
International news
Mladić begins life term for genocide
Mladić, 74, was chief of staff of the
Bosnian Serb forces from 1992 until
1996 during the ferocious civil wars
and ethnic cleansing that followed the
breakup of the Yugoslav state.
The one-time fugitive from international justice faced 11 charges – two
of genocide, five of crimes against
humanity and four of violations of
the laws or customs of war. He was
cleared of one count of genocide, but
found guilty of all other charges. The
separate counts related to “ethnic
cleansing” operations in Bosnia, sniping and shelling attacks on besieged
civilians in Sarajevo, the massacre of
Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica
and taking UN personnel hostage in
an attempt to deter Nato airstrikes. The
trial in The Hague, which took 530 days
across more than four years, is arguably the most significant war crimes
case in Europe since the Nuremberg
trials, in part because of the scale of the
atrocities. Almost 600 people gave evidence for the prosecution and defence,
including survivors of the conflict.
Judge Alphons Orie said Mladić’s
crimes “rank among the most heinous
known to humankind and include
genocide and extermination”. Orie
dismissed mitigation pleas by the
defence that Mladić was of “good
character”, had diminished mental capacity and was in poor physical health. Relatives of victims flew
into the Netherlands to attend the
hearing, determined to see Mladić
receive justice decades after the end
of the war in which more than 100,000
people were killed.
Among those present was Fikret
Alić, the Bosnian who was photographed as an emaciated prisoner
behind the wire of a prison camp in
1992. “Justice has won and the war
criminal has been convicted,” he said.
Others were reduced to tears by the
judge’s description of past atrocities.
Mladić was one of the world’s most
wanted fugitives before his arrest
in 2011 in northern Serbia. He was
transferred to the ICTY in the Netherlands, where he refused to enter a
plea. A not-guilty plea was eventually
governments collapse and allow the
rise of Adolf Hitler obscured the fact
that minority governments worked
efficiently elsewhere in Europe and
even at a German state level. As the
centre-left SPD is waking up to the
potential cost of new elections and
mulls over tolerating a minority government, it is possible that Merkel
could eventually come to agree.
“The way the Bundestag had managed to integrate first the Green party
in the 1980s and then the Left party
at the start of the new millennium
shows that our parliamentary system
can adapt to new parties,” Schulz said.
“We sometimes forget that the
Weimar Republic only had 10 years
to mature and develop,” said Thomas
Mergel, a historian at Berlin’s Humboldt University. Even during its short
existence it had shown that a parliamentary system could teach the most
intransigent political party the value
of coalition forming, he argued.
Bayaz is optimistic that a livelier
Bundestag can have its upsides. “There
is a new pluralism in the debating
chamber,” he said. “Parties are not as
easy to keep apart as they used to be.”
The son of a German mother and a
Turkish father with a PhD on financial
markets, Bayaz said he would have
enjoyed a conservative-liberal-green
“Jamaica” coalition that cut through
old political certainties. It is not impossible to conceive that newcomers
like Bayaz could end up ushering in a
German minority government.
One of the hangovers of the Weimar
Republic is that a president cannot call
a snap election without making parliament vote in a chancellor first. The
assumption is that a chancellor who
has not organised a governing coalition would fail to gain a majority in
such a vote. New MPs who have only
just started to find a taste for their life
in politics, from whatever party, may
have a different idea. Observer
‘Butcher of Bosnia’
sentenced by UN court
after mammoth trial
Owen Bowcott and Julian Borger
The former Bosnian Serb commander
Ratko Mladić, known to many as the
“butcher of Bosnia”, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after
being convicted of genocide, war
crimes and crimes against humanity.
More than 20 years after the
Srebrenica massacre, Mladić was
found guilty at the UN-backed international criminal tribunal for the
former Yugos lavia (ICTY) in The
Hague of 10 offences involving extermination, murder and persecution of
civilian populations.
As he entered the courtroom last
Wednesday, Mladić gave a broad smile
and thumbs up to the cameras – a gesture that infuriated relatives of the victims. His defiance shifted into detachment as the judgment began: Mladić
played with his fingers and nodded
occasionally, looking initially relaxed.
The verdict was disrupted for more
than half an hour when he asked the
judges for a bathroom break. After he
returned, defence lawyers requested
that proceedings be halted or shortened because of his high blood pressure. The judges denied the request.
Mladić then stood up shouting
“this is all lies” and “I’ll fuck your
mother”. He was forcibly removed
from the courtroom. The verdicts
were read in his absence.
Failure to form alliance
could be opportunity
for German politics
← Continued from page 1 while support for the FDP, the AfD, the Greens
and the Left party continues to grow,
Glees said, “that system is now biting
Germany in the leg”.
Many historians warn of hastily drawn comparisons, however.
“What’s wrong with Germany becoming more like multiparty democracies
in the Netherlands or Scandinavia?”
asked Andreas Schulz, a researcher on
German parliamentarianism.
Merkel has announced she is sceptical about forming a minority government, either on her own or with
the Green party, which would have
to form majorities with other parties
vote by vote. But Schulz said the traumatic experience of seeing minority
Guilty … Bosnia Serb military leader
Ratko Mladić enters the courtroom
entered on his behalf. Through much
of the trial, he was a disruptive presence in court, heckling judges and
on one occasion making a cut-throat
gesture towards the mother of one
of the 8,000 victims of the 1995
Srebrenica massacre.
In evaluating Mladić’s culpability
for genocide, the court cited: his command and control of the Bosnian Serb
army and interior ministry forces,
which carried out almost all of the
executions; his presence in the area;
and his frequent remarks about how
the Muslims could “disappear”.
Once Mladić has exhausted any
appeals, he could, theoretically, be
sent to the UK to serve out the rest of
his life behind bars. Britain is one of
the countries that has signed up to the
tribunal’s agreement on the enforcement of sentences. The UK has hosted
other Serbian convicts sent on from
the ICTY. In 2010, Radislav Krstić,
who was convicted at The Hague in
2001 for his part in the Srebrenica
massacre, had his throat slashed in
his cell at Wakefield prison by three
Muslim inmates intent on revenge.
The former Liberian warlord
Charles Taylor is also serving out his
50-year prison term in a UK jail.
Mladić will remain in the UN
detention centre at Scheveningen
in the meantime. Any appeal will be
dealt with by the successor court,
the UN mechanism for international
criminal tribunals.
The trial is one of the last to be heard
by the ICTY, which is to be dissolved at
the end of the year.
Ed Vulliamy, page 20 →
Coalition talks back on hold
Talks on forming another “grand
coalition” government in Germany
are unlikely to fully start until
next year as the Social Democratic
party (SPD) continues to weigh
up the risks of working again with
Angela Merkel.
Merkel’s chances of a fourth
term as chancellor were thrown
into doubt last month when talks
about a three-way “Jamaica coalition” between her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Free Democrats and the Greens collapsed.
At the end of last week the SPD
leader, Martin Schulz, budged
and indicated he was open to
exploring the possibility of a rerun
of the centrist coalition between
Germany’s two largest parties that
has governed the country for the
last four years. PO
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 7
International news
Romanian justice
protests reignited
High-level corruption
would go unchecked,
say government critics
Daniel Boffey Brussels
Romania’s centre-left coalition
government is facing a fresh wave
of demonstrations over claims that
it wants to overhaul the justice system to allow high-level corruption to
go unpunished.
Tens of thousands of people massed
in Bucharest and other cities last Sunday evening, a second demonstration
was planned for this week and further
protests are expected in the coming
weeks. A joint statement by the 40 or
so civil society groups and two trade
union federations who are behind the
protests claimed Romania had been
“taken over by a political mafia”.
In February a decree that would
have shielded dozens of public officials
from prosecution sparked the biggest
street protests in the country since the
1989 revolution toppled the communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu.
The decree was rescinded after
two weeks of daily demonstrations.
Liviu Dragnea,
leader of
Romania’s Social
Democrat party,
had his personal
assets frozen by
The minister for justice, Florin
Iordache, resigned, only to be later
appointed to head a special parliamentary commission driving new
legislative changes.
The government’s opponents
claim that under the draft laws now
being considered in parliament, the
powers of the respected anti-corruption directorate, the DNA, would be
reduced, with the justice ministry
able to name head prosecutors.
The judicial inspection body that
investigates the work of judges would
also come under the control of the minister of justice. A new structure staffed
by prosecutors is being devised to investigate criminal acts committed by
magistrates. Iordache’s special parliamentary commission started considering the laws last week. The government aims to have them approved by
the end of the year.
The Romanian government is a coalition between the Social Democrat
party (PSD), the centre-right Liberal-Democrat Alliance, and the
Democratic Alliance of Hungarians
in Romania.
In an annual report published by the
European commission last month, the
EU said justice reform had stagnated in
the country this year and challenges
to judicial independence remained a
persistent source of concern.
Last Sunday evening, a traditional time for protest in Romania,
an estimated 30,000 people marched
to parliament in Bucharest, while
roughly 20,000 held rallies in about
70 cities across the country.
Protesters shouting “Thieves” and
“We want justice not corruption”
briefly scuffled with mounted police in Bucharest and blew whistles as
they marched.
Monica Macovei, a former justice
minister from the centre-right European Conservatives and Reformists
group, said: “There will be more protests. There is no need to change the
laws on the judiciary.
“This coalition wants to stop the
fight of the judiciary against corruption. It is time for the EU to send a
very, very strong message because
despite the report by the European
commission the government is carrying on and judicial independence is in
danger. The pan-European groups in
the European parliament should also
expel these parties. It should not be
the people of Romania who suffer.”
In the last decade, Romanian
prosecutors have investigated hundreds of public officials, including
former prime ministers, over allegations of corruption.
Last month prosecutors froze
personal assets belonging to the
leader of the PSD, Liviu Dragnea, as
part of an investigation into suspected
theft of cash from state projects, some
of them EU-funded.
The European Anti-Fraud Office
says the money was fraudulently paid
to officials and others from the European Regional Development Fund
for road construction in Romania. It
asked the Romanian government to
recover the funds.
Dragnea denies wrongdoing and
has appealed against the ruling to
freeze his assets. He is unable to be
prime minister because of a 2016
conviction for vote-rigging.
Corruption experts say there are
some positive aspects to the proposed
reforms, including greater transparency and parliamentary scrutiny
of the work of the secret services.
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and Page XX
Hamstrung China gets taste for Spanish jamón
Having discovered the joys of French
wine, caviar and truffles, China’s
new rich are now turning to Spain’s
jamón ibérico, or Iberian ham, to
satisfy their desire for western
luxury goods. But demand threatens
to outstrip supply, leaving Spaniards
facing steep price rises for their most
prized Christmas delicacy.
China’s recent lifting of import
restrictions has allowed top-of-therange ham to find its “rightful place
in the market, alongside caviar and
truffles”, René Lemée, the head of
exports for the famous Cinco Jotas
brand, told El País newspaper.
Spanish ham comes in many
forms, but to be defined as jamón
ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian
ham), which is what the Chinese
want, it must first come from Iberian
blackfoot pigs, or from 50% crossbreeds. These pigs must then spend
several months of the year roaming
the dehesa, pasture planted with
oaks, feeding on grass and acorns.
For the months before being slaughtered they eat this diet exclusively.
Once it is killed, the animals’ legs
are plunged into vats of salt and drycured for a minimum of 36 months.
A 7.5kg leg sells at between €150 and
€600 ($180 to $720).
“It’s inevitable that the price in
Spain is going to rise,” said Roberto
Batres, the director of Shanghai de
Delaiberia Gold, which exports ham,
wine and olive oil to China.
To meet demand the Chinese
have started importing raw frozen
pork to cure, although Batres says
the product is excessively salty. The
hand cutting of de-boned jamón de
bellota is also an art and a ham-cutting school has been set up in China.
Stephen Burgen Denis Doyle/Getty
Chechen leader ‘ready to step down’
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya republic, said he was
ready to step down, leaving it for the
Kremlin to choose his successor.
Kadyrov has been accused by human rights bodies of arbitrary arrests
and torture of opponents, zero tolerance of sexual minorities and tough
political declarations that have embarrassed the Kremlin.
A former Islamist rebel who had
led Chechnya since 2007, he was
endorsed by president Vladimir Putin
in March last year to carry on in the
job, while being warned that Russian
law must be strictly enforced in the
majority-Muslim region.
Asked in a TV interview if he was
prepared to resign, the 41-year-old
Kadyrov replied: “It is possible to say
that it is my dream.”
“Once there was a need for people
like me to fight, to put things in order.
Now we have order and prosperity
… and time has come for changes in
the Chechen Republic,” he told the
Rossiya 1 channel in comments aired
on Monday.
Asked about his would-be successor, Kadyrov replied: “This is the prerogative of the state leadership.”
Kadyrov’s unexpected statement c ame as Putin, 65, was widely
expected to announce he will run for
his fourth term as president in elections due in March. It is expected he
will win by a landslide. But some analysts have said his association with
politicians like Kadyrov may be used
by opponents during the campaign.
8 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
International news
Las Vegas gun sales languish
Following the Route 91
massacre, the gun show
action is at a ‘dead crawl’
Brittany Bronson Las Vegas
In a convention hall off the Las Vegas
strip, stalls selling assault rifles were
drawing a steady stream of attendees.
Women watched as their boyfriends
aimed rifles towards the ceiling, peering through scopes. Families with
children in pushchairs passed tables
lined with tub after tub of ammunition clips and magazines, while handwritten signs displayed the number of
rounds, from five to 40.
This was the return of the Great Las
Vegas Gun Show, one of the first firearms fairs in the city since the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history took place there. On 1 October, Stephen Paddock holed up in
the Mandalay Bay hotel with nearly 50
weapons and more than 4,000 rounds
of ammunition. Shooting down on the
Route 91 Harvest festival, he killed 58
people and injured 489.
While plenty of people were at
the show last weekend, it was not a
patch on past numbers, said Robert
Fares of Silver Bullet Concealment,
a local company. “This is actually
smaller than it’s been. Just a year ago,
it stretched all the way down,” he said,
referring to where a partition cut the
hall by a third, shrinking a room that
in recent years had been full.
Mike Zolczer has a home-based
company, Polyphonic Audio, which
sells ear protection for gun enthusiasts. Following Route 91, he said,
“business has been a dead crawl …
most of my money comes from gun
shows.” Silver Bullet Concealment
also mentioned a decline in business
soon after the massacre. It said sales
were slowly returning to normal.
Midwest Arms Collector, organiser of
the show, refused to release attendance figures, describing it only as “average”. It did not associate any spike
or decline in sales with the Route 91
massacre, instead citing an overall national decrease in gun sales since Donald Trump’s election victory. Even so,
discussion of Route 91 and of Paddock
– as well as a distrust of media – could
be heard in the hall. “You can identify
as anything you want,” said Fares.
“Just don’t make me pay for it, and
don’t infringe your desires upon me.
If I want to own a dozen high-capacity
magazines, that’s my right.”
Among items on sale at the twoday event were handguns, semi-automatic rifles and ammunition. Displays advertised holsters, rifle cases
and other accessories. For women,
there were handbags designed to
carry guns, and petite guns in Tiffany
blue; for children there were camouflage bags that read: “My first rifle.”
What were not clearly advertised or on
display were bump stocks, the device
Paddock used to make his semi-automatic weapons fire more like automatic ones. After the shooting, there
seemed to be political momentum
towards a ban, but in Congress that
momentum has stalled, with states
and cities now taking the lead. Massachusetts has banned them, while
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont,
Hawaii, Maine and South Carolina
plan to introduce similar proposals.
Convention sales constitute a
large proportion of tourism revenue
in Las Vegas. Since the Paddock massacre, the city has been trying to
downplay any idea that it is no longer
safe. A string of gun shows are due to
be staged in Nevada in the next two
months, culminating in late January
with the biggest of them all, the Shot
Show, the world’s largest, which usually attracts more than 60,000 people.
At Mandalay Bay, glass now covers
the windows Paddock shot out. But
they are a slightly different colour
from nearby panes, a permanent reminder of the October massacre.
Fire sale … numbers were down at the Las Vegas show Brittany Bronson
Former Trump security adviser may cooperate with Russia investigation
Lawyers for Donald Trump are
said to believe that former national
security adviser Michael Flynn
is on the verge of “flipping” and
cooperating with investigators
into the Trump campaign’s alleged
collusion with Russia, according to
reports last week.
The retired three-star general,
who championed Trump at rallies
and advocated closer ties with
Russia, is a central figure in special
counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s aides
cooperated with Moscow to boost
his 2016 presidential campaign.
Flynn’s legal team last week cut off
communications with the president’s lawyers, the New York Times
said, the strongest signal yet that
he is negotiating a deal. Mueller announced his first charges in October
with the indictments of the former
campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business associate Rick
Gates, and the guilty plea of George
Papadopoulos, a foreign policy
adviser to the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos has been cooperating
with Mueller’s investigators,
but Flynn would represent a star
witness for the special counsel.
Flynn’s lawyers have told
Trump’s legal team they could no
longer discuss Mueller’s investigation, the New York Times said.
“Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing
information with Mr Trump’s lawyers,” the paper added. “That agreement has been terminated.”
Although this alone is not proof
that Flynn has turned state’s
witness, the development has led
Trump’s lawyers to conclude that
Flynn has at least begun discussions
with Mueller about cooperating.
David Smith Washington
Comment, page 18 →
expels baby
Justin McCurry Tokyo
Weeks after Ivanka Trump lauded
Japan’s progress on women’s participation in the workforce, a female politician was forced to leave the chamber
after colleagues objected to the presence of her seven-month-old child.
Yuka Ogata had taken her son to a
session of the Kumamoto municipal
assembly last Wednesday to highlight the difficulties many Japanese
parents – particularly women – face
juggling their careers with raising
children, amid a shortage of nursery places. Ogata had taken her seat
shortly before the start of the session
when she was approached by the assembly chairman, Yoshitomo Sawada,
and secretariat staff who demanded to
know why she had brought her son.
Their conversation lasted several
minutes until Sawada escorted Ogata
and her son to his office, according to
the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Ogata
attended the delayed session alone
after leaving her son with a friend.
Sawada apologised for the delay, but
an assembly member was reportedly
heard to say: “You’re not the one who
needs to be apologising.” Asahi Shimbun said that, though there is no rule
against assembly members being accompanied by a young child, Ogata’s
colleagues insisted he was a visitor
and must sit in the public gallery.
Ogata’s experience has focused attention on the daily reality faced by
many working mothers in Japan amid
a rise in the number of women entering the workforce. The number of children on waiting lists for state-funded
daycare has risen for the third year in
a row, figures released in September
showed, raising doubts over government plans to provide a place for every
child by April 2020.
Sharing a stage with Trump at
the World Assembly for Women
last month, Japan’s prime minister,
Shinzo Abe, lauded his record on getting more women into the workplace
and improving childcare provision,
as part of the “womenomics” initiative he launched five years ago. The
number of Japanese women in managerial positions has doubled over the
past five years – albeit from a low base.
Ogata, who previously worked for
the United Nations, said she had been
forced to act after a lack of progress
in talks with the assembly secretariat
about bringing her son to work. Secretariat staff said they would reconsider
their position in light of the row.
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 9
the website
here like this
explores São
Then a short
like this
Then Section and Page XX
International news
Inside Brazil’s ‘Cracolandia’, the lawless
drug zone at the heart of its biggest city
São Paulo diary
Sam Cowie
t’s a horrible life. You don’t
eat. You don’t sleep. Any
money you can get goes on
crack,” says Felipa Drumont.
Drumont is 26, transgender,
homeless and addicted to
crack. For the last four years
she has lived on the streets of an area
of central São Paulo that has become
infamous: Cracolandia, literally
meaning Crackland.
Here hundreds of people sit in
the street, wrapped in blankets, and
smoke crack openly. Others wander,
wild-eyed, looking for tin cans to
sell. Most are gaunt from years of
drug abuse. There is rubbish everywhere and a smell of body odour.
Police patrol the perimeter, metres
away, but do not intervene with
drug-taking or dealing. They watch
for other crimes, such as robbery.
There are harm-reduction tents,
municipal officers and NGO vehicles
emblazoned with “Craco Resiste”.
On weekdays there are workers and office types in suits who
hurry past on the opposite side
of the street. Cracolandia sits on
prime real estate. It is next to Luz,
the city’s biggest and busiest train
station. Nearby is a neoclassicalstyle concert hall. The office of South
America’s biggest newspaper, Folha
de S.Paulo, is a few blocks away. It
is unlike nearly anything in any city
in the world. To some, including
the mayor, João Doria, that makes
it an embarrassment. After taking
office in January, the business mogul
declared war on Cracolandia.
Early on a drizzly Sunday morning
in May, Drumont watched as helicopters appeared and a battalion
of 900 armed police and security
agents descended on the addicts.
She says the police used rubber
bullets and stun grenades to disperse
the crowd. “Thank God I wasn’t
injured, but I was terrified.”
Drumont and hundreds of other
addicts scattered. Many took refuge
in a nearby gas station; others
checked themselves in for treatment
in government programmes, or were
accompanied by city social services
to packed homeless shelters. After
breaking up the crack market, police
raided local properties, seized drugs
and guns, and arrested dozens of
suspected traffickers.
Two sides of life … São Paulo girls pass through Cracolandia on their way to a ballet lesson Nacho Doce/Reuters
Local government officials hailed
the operation as a success. Doria
declared: “Cracolandia is over and
won’t come back.” Six months later
Cracolandia continues, just metres
from where it was cleared.
The area around it is gentrifying
and an ambitious revitalisation is
planned for 2018, including 1,200
new apartments. But this brazen
drug scene has been a fixture of São
Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, for more
than two decades.
Since Cracolandia appeared in
the 1990s, when the highly addictive form of cocaine entered the
city’s narcotics market, a succession of governments have tried
– and failed – to end it, mostly via
Some feel Cracolandia
is symptomatic of the
city's wider problems
of poverty, inequality
and homelessness
repressive policing. After the raid
in May, Cracolandia re-formed just
400 metres away, in a park. Drumont
followed; the raid didn’t dissuade
her from taking crack. “I used even
more drugs because I was nervous
and scared,” she says.
For those who say Cracolandia
must go, the tactics meet broad
approval. They consider Cracolandia
a menace, arguing that it gives power
to organised crime, degrades the city
and perpetuates drug addiction.
Brazil is thought to be home to
the highest number of crack users
in the world. According to the last
national crack survey in 2014, carried
out by the Fiocruz medical institute,
there are about 370,000 regular users
in 27 state capitals and the federal
district around the capital, Brasilia.
São Paulo is the base of Brazil’s most
powerful drug trafficking gang, the
PCC (First Command of the Capital).
Authorities say it plays a controlling
role in supplying Cracolandia.
As evidence for the success of
their tough strategy, officials point
to a study – commissioned by the
state government – showing that
Cracolandia has become smaller:
from 1,861 users before the operation
in May to 414 in July, a reduction
of 77%. Clarice Sandi Madruga,
coordinator of the survey, said there
are many reasons for the drop. Some
addicts have sought help; others
used the opportunity of the raid to
flee from debts with drug dealers.
“Something needed to be done,”
she said. “But if many Paulistanos
supported the raid, many did not.
They take the view that Cracolandia
is symptomatic of the city’s wider
problems: of poverty, homelessness and inequality. They say for all
its problems, it acts as a refuge for
the city’s addicted, downtrodden
and abandoned.”
César Muñoz, senior researcher
at Human Rights Watch, said the
“war on drugs” approach has failed
to reduce drug use, driven addicts
away from health services and given
rise to human rights violations. Even
some government officials deplore
the discredited tactics. “The traffickers they arrested are just small-time
dealers,” says Arthur Pinto Filho, a
senior official in the public prosecutor’s office of the state of São Paulo.
“The traffic continues,” he adds.
“It was a huge waste of public money
… It was a step backwards. This is the
same thing that has been done for
years and never worked.”
10 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
International news
Australia refocuses
its foreign policy
Deeper engagement in
Pacific region issues
asserted in white paper
Katharine Murphy Sydney
Climate change is creating a disaster
on Australia’s doorstep, with environmental degradation and the demand
for sustainable sources of food undermining stability in some countries,
especially “fragile states”, according
to the Australian government’s first
foreign policy white paper in more
than a decade.
The briefing paper, released last
week, contains warnings over the
disruptive effects of climate change
in Australia’s immediate region,
noting that many small island states
will be “severely affected in the long
term”, and the coming decade will see
increased need for disaster relief.
The demand for water and food
will rise, with the world’s oceans and
forests under intense pressure, the paper notes. It says climate change and
pressure on the environment could
contribute to conflict and irregular
migration, specifically affecting Australia’s economic interests.
Despite debate in the country about
whether Australia needs to rethink its
American alliance, the white paper
notes that the postwar alliance with
the US “is central to Australia’s security and sits at the core of our strategic
and defence planning”.
While the white paper makes the
case that it is in Australia’s interests
to pursue a cooperative relationship
with China, it contains language critical of China’s military posturing. It
characterises the disputes that have
emerged in the South China Sea as “a
major fault line in the regional order”.
With strategic tensions in the
region on the rise, the white paper
United to face fragile world …
Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop
foreshadows a more activist Australian engagement with the democracies
of the Indo-Pacific, meaning Japan,
India, Indonesia and Korea – and more
active support for the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)
countries, where China is attempting
to assert diplomatic dominance.
It also underscores the “grave
and growing” threat posed by North
Korea, characterising the behaviour
of the Pyongyang regime as the most
immediate security challenge for the
region – while referencing the global
threat from terrorism and insurgencies. Australia has been active in
countering Isis-linked militants in the
southern Philippines.
The white paper also references
the political challenges of the age,
charting rising anti-globalisation
and populist sentiment. It notes that
politics in some countries has become
more fragmented and “volatile”, with
nationalism and protectionist sentiment on the rise, while the global
governance and the rules-based order
are now contested. It says that a more
inward-looking world is a world less
likely to rise collectively to meet collective security challenges.
“We will be living in a more contested and competitive world,” said
the foreign affairs minister, Julie
Bishop, after the white paper was published. She said Australia would step
up support for “our neighbourhood,
where we have distinct responsibilities” and resist the “false hope of protectionism and isolationism”.
In signalling a more activist role
for Australia in the Indo-Pacific, the
prime minister, Macolm Turnbull,
said that, in the past, “we could safely
assume that the world worked in a
way that suited Australia. Now power
is shifting and the rules and institutions are under challenge.”
The prime minister said the white
paper provided “a framework for
securing our own future, while sharing
the burden of collective leadership
with trusted partners and friends”.
Turnbull said Australia had no intention of degrading the alliance with
the US but the contemporary climate
meant “pursuing our interests as
much in San Francisco as in Shanghai,
and always on our own terms”.
He said the US would remain a
significant presence in the region,
“leaving aside one administration or
one president”, because it was “manifestly in America’s long-term national
interest today, tomorrow and as it has
always been”.
Out of the blue Mexico creates ocean reserve
Mexico’s government has created
the largest ocean reserve in
North America around a Pacific
archipelago regarded as its crown
jewel. The reserve will help ensure
the conservation of marine creatures
including humpback whales,
pictured, giant rays and turtles.
The protection zone spans 150,000
sq km around the Revillagigedo
islands, which lie 390km south-west
of the Baja California peninsula.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña
Nieto, announced the decision in a
decree last weekend that also bans
mining and the construction of new
hotels on the islands.
The four islands that make up the
Revillagigedo archipelago, called
the Galapagos of North America,
are part of a submerged volcanic
mountain range. The local ecosystem is central to the lives of some
400 species of fish, sharks and rays
that depend on the nutrients drawn
up by the ocean. The area is a breeding ground for commercially fished
species such as tuna and sierra.
However, the fish populations had
declined, unable to reproduce fast
enough for the rate at which they
were fished. The creation of a marine reserve is expected to help them
to recover, as all fishing activities
will now be prohibited and the area
policed by the Mexican navy.
The news has been praised by
internationally by the WWF. Mario
Gómez, executive director of Beta
Diversidad, a Mexican environment
charity that has supported the reserve’s creation, also welcomed the
move. “We are proud of the protection we will provide to marine life in
this area, and for the preservation of
this important centre of connectivity of species migrating throughout
the Pacific,” Gómez said.
Mexico joins Chile, New Zealand
and Tahiti in taking recent steps to
preserve the ecological systems in
their territorial waters.
Mattha Busby and agencies
Photograph: Alamy
International Tender
(Ref: CWW/SR-66886/11/2017)
Concern Worldwide Somalia with financial assistance from DfID
invites tenders from qualified suppliers for the following:
Non-Food Items (NFI), Medical Equipment & RUTF / RUSF
Tender Documents Available From:
Closing date for submission is:
1600 hours GMT on 15th December 2017
12 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
International news Zimbabwe
Activists fear post-Mugabe
crackdown on human rights
Concerns grow over
hardline record of new
president Mnangagwa
Jason Burke Harare
Activists and human rights campaigners in Zimbabwe fear a new crackdown
that could roll back gains made during
the eight-day crisis that culminated
in the resignation of President Robert
Mugabe last week.
Relatives of victims of state-sponsored violence are worried about the
track record of the new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s
right-hand man and is blamed for the
brutal suppression of opposition parties during elections in 2008.
“Just because [Mnangagwa] has
wrestled power from the devil does
not mean I see him as the messiah,”
said Patson Dzamara, whose activist
brother, Itai, was abducted in 2015 and
has not been heard of since. “So many
have been killed, maimed, tortured or
imprisoned, and the ones who are presiding over this transition are the ones
responsible,” Dzamara added.
Mugabe, whose 37-year rule over
the impoverished southern African
country was marked by brutal repression, quit after a military takeover led
to mass protests and impeachment
proceedings in parliament.
In his inauguration speech in a
packed national stadium in Harare last
Friday, Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old
stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF party,
said he would govern for all “patriotic Zimbabweans” and promised
elections would be held as scheduled
next year. He did not mention lifting
restrictions on freedom of expression, or any measures to weaken the
grip of the feared internal security
services he helped to set up following Zimbabwe’s independence from
white-minority rule in 1980.
The new president was justice minister when Itai Dzamara was pushed
into a vehicle by unknown men, and
has been accused of involvement in
the killings of more than 20,000 civilians in the south of Zimbabwe in
the 1980s. Mnangagwa denies any responsibility, saying he was then head
of internal security and not in the military, which carried out the massacres.
In his inauguration speech, he
called on Zimbabweans to “let bygones be bygones”. But there are
concerns that Mnangagwa, despite
describing Zimbabwe as an “unfolding democracy”, may prove as intolerant of protest as his predecessor.
A court judgment was expected this
week on subversion charges brought
against Magamba, an award-winning
satirical online network, social media
activist centre and creative hub raided
by police hours before the military
takeover on 14 November. “How they
deal with this [case] is a litmus test
for the new government,” said Samm
Farai Monro, Zimbabwe’s best-known
political satirist and creative director
of Magamba. “It will be a signal to any
activist who uses social media … about
what you can and can’t say in this supposedly new Zimbabwe.”
The network had repeatedly incurred the wrath of authorities with
an irreverent and immensely popular
weekly show. The raid came after attempts to close its offices in Harare for
alleged planning permission infringements failed. Martha O’Donovan, a
US citizen who was an activist working with the network, was arrested
last month on charges of subversion
and undermining the authority of the
president and will appear again in
court this month.
The fall of Mugabe, 93, was triggered by a factional battle within
the ruling party over his succession.
Within days of the military takeover, thousands of people were on the
streets, waving placards and chanting
slogans against the autocrat in scenes
unthinkable under his rule. In one
massive protest more than 100,000
people marched through Harare.
Human rights activists in Harare
say that more than 400 people have
been detained since the military took
power. These include hundreds of
security officials loyal to Mugabe, as
well as former finance minister Ignatius Chombo. Only a few have been
charged with any offence. Chombo
appeared in court last Saturday in leg
irons to face corruption charges. He
was later denied bail.
The whereabouts of several other
prominent supporters of Grace
Mugabe, the former president’s
52-year-old wife, are unknown. It
was the first lady’s bid to cement her
hold on power through the sacking of
Mnangagwa on 6 November that led
to her husband’s fall.
Takeover … Emmerson Mnangagwa
exits smiling from his inauguration
ceremony in Harare Ben Curtis/AP
The cunning ‘Crocodile’ snaps up power
Emma Graham-Harrison
Zimbabwe’s new president is not, at
first glance, the obvious champion
of the change his country hungers
for. Emmerson Mnangagwa is 75,
and for decades he was right-hand
man to Robert Mugabe, accused of
the same human rights abuses and
similar corruption. He is widely
known as “the Crocodile”, a liberation war nickname that may have
stuck because it suited his reputation for ruthless cunning.
Born in east Zimbabwe, where
relatives remember an “active and
confident” boy, he spent 10 years
in jail during the struggle, gaining
O-levels, A-levels and a law degree,
then returned to war in the bush.
After independence he was a stalwart of the Zanu-PF party, which he
now leads, and was one of Mugabe’s
closest aides, cycling through roles
including spymaster and security
chief, and administering the wellstocked party coffers before being
made vice-president. He fell out of
favour and was ousted along with
supporters from his “lacoste” faction, when his own presidential
ambitions crossed those of Mugabe’s
wife, Grace – but the split was very
recent. “Mnangagwa isn’t exactly a
fresh face. He’s been with Mugabe
since 1976. He was the chief hatchet
man for Mugabe on and off for 40
years. That’s a fact that hasn’t suddenly become irrelevant,” said the
historian Stuart Doran.
Perhaps the most controversial
episode from Mnangagwa’s past is
his role in ethnic massacres in the
1980s, carried out under Mugabe’s
watch as part of a vicious postindependence power struggle
with other factions. Thousands of
civilians were massacred by the
military, mostly ethnic Ndebeles in
Matabeleland. Mnangagwa was in
charge of intelligence services at the
time. He has blamed the uniformed
military. “We need to confront the
Matabeleland issue head-on so we
can heal, set up a peace and reconciliation committee, so we can
move on,” said the activist Marshall
Shonhai. “Our brothers and sisters
in the south are hurting. For over 30
years it has just been swept under
the carpet.”
Human rights groups also say
Mnangagwa played a key role in
violence directed at the growing political opposition in Zimbabwe. He
is blamed for repression during the
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 13
Grace parallels Madame Mao
Damned for their husbands’ sins
→ Comment, page 19
$10m for ‘jovial’ ex-ruler
A “jovial” Robert Mugabe was
“taking things very well” after resigning as president of Zimbabwe
after 37 years in power, close associates and relatives have said.
Gideon Golo, the former central
bank governor and the former
president’s business adviser,
said Mugabe was in good spirits
when he last saw him shortly
before the inauguration of the
country’s new leader, Emmerson
Mnangagwa, last Friday.
Mugabe was forced to resign
by a military takeover, which led
to popular protests and impeachment in parliament, but only after
negotiating a deal that guaranteed
immunity from prosecution, protection for his business interests
and a $10m cash sum. The same
protection is extended to his family
members and relatives. Mugabe,
93, will keep his salary of $150,000.
His wife, 52-year-old Grace, will
receive half of that after his death.
“He is fine. I have been to see
him; he is quite jovial. He is actually looking forward to his new
life, farming and staying at the rural home. He has taken it well,” Leo
Mugabe, a nephew, said.
The former first lady was now
concentrating on plans to build a
university in his honour. “I like the
spirit she has … she is with him all
the time. She is an amazing person,” Leo Mugabe said. In August,
Zimbabwe announced plans to
build the $1bn postgraduate university in Mazowe, 35km outside
Harare. The plan drew fierce criticism. Mugabe’s rule left Zimbabwe
with a worthless currency, vast
debts and a devastated infrastructure. One local Zimbabwean
newspaper reported that the ageing autocrat wept as he signed his
resignation letter last Tuesday. JB
2008 election campaign so intense
that the opposition candidate eventually dropped out of the race, leaving the way clear for Mugabe.
“It’s difficult to see how going forward he can be respectful of human
rights, given his history,” said Dewa
Mavhinga, southern Africa analyst
for Human Rights Watch. “People
may not see it now, or realise now,
because of the relief of seeing the
end of Mugabe’s political era, but
Zimbabwe is in grave danger in
terms of constitutional democracy.”
Mnangagwa also has long ties
with China. He trained there as a
guerrilla in the 1960s, sent his son
to study at a Chinese university, and
visited Beijing shortly before the
coup, leading to speculation he had
sought the blessing of officials there.
It is a connection that may help him
bring in loans and foreign investment but has also sparked worries
that he could look to Beijing for a
new political model with tighter political control. Mnangagwa has been
seen as more business-friendly than
many in Zanu-PF. This explains his
appeal to some Zimbabweans today.
But many also hope that the Crocodile will not forget the fate of his exboss when he ignored the misery of
ordinary citizens.
Change of guard is a warning
to Africa’s other strongmen
Simon Tisdall
The startling decision by Zanu-PF,
Zimbabwe’s ruling party, to
summarily remove the man who
founded and ran the party with
an iron discipline for more than
30 years will send a chill down the
spines of other autocratic African
leaders, who may find they have
outstayed their welcome.
General Constantino Chiwenga,
the armed forces chief, kicked
away the military prop supporting
Robert Mugabe’s presidency last
week. Mass protests in Harare,
Bulawayo and other cities showed
he had lost popular support.
Mugabe’s party comrades began the
process of impeaching him. Then,
finally, he resigned.
One leader with reason to feel uneasy is Uganda’s president, Yoweri
Museveni. Like Mugabe, he came
to power on the back of a guerrilla
struggle. Museveni has stubbornly
clung to office since 1986, abolishing
presidential term limits, emasculating the political opposition and
curbing media freedoms. He “won”
a fifth consecutive term last year
amid credible claims of voter fraud
and intimidation.
In a country of nearly 40 million where the average age is 15,
most people were not born when
Museveni first took office. At 73, he
is 20 years younger than Mugabe.
But his kindred liberation-era outlook, and his Mugabe-ish record of
homophobia, appear anachronistic
in the Facebook generation. Speaking recently to mark 31 years in
power, Museveni showed disdain
for modern notions of democratic
accountability. According to the
Zambian Observer, he told his
audience: “I hear some people
Years in power
Africa’s longest serving leaders
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Equatorial Guinea
Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe, 1980 to 2017
Paul Biya Equatorial Guinea
Denis Sassou Nguesso Congo-Brazzaville
33 not consecutive
Yoweri Museveni Uganda
saying that I’m their servant. I’m not
a servant of anybody. I am a freedom
fighter. I am fighting for myself and
for my beliefs.”
Andrew Mwenda, writing in
Uganda’s Independent Magazine,
said Museveni has avoided some of
Mugabe’s mistakes. “Museveni has
actually disbanded the old guard
in the NRM [National Resistance
Movement – Uganda’s Zanu-PF
equivalent] and the Uganda People’s
Defence Force … While the military
leaders of Zimbabwe are all from the
old guard who fought the bush war,
Museveni has purged these people.”
Mwenda said Museveni had also
sacked his most potentially troublesome challenger, Amama Mbabazi,
a veteran former prime minister.
Three other sub-Saharan African
presidents with a questionable understanding of democratic pluralism
– Paul Kagame in Rwanda, Pierre
Nkurunziza in Burundi and Joseph
Kabila in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo (DRC) – may also be given
pause by Mugabe’s downfall.
Kagame, in charge since 1994,
was elected president for another
seven years in August with 98.79%
of the vote – after ramming through
a constitutional amendment allowing him to stand for a third term.
Three of the better placed opposition candidates were disqualified.
“Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago,
Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating
in public life and voicing criticism of
government policy,” said Muthoni
Wanyeki of Amnesty International
before the poll.
There is little sign yet Kagame
will share Mugabe’s fate. Not
so Nkurunziza in neighbouring
Burundi. He played the same trick
in 2015, insisting on a third term
despite constitutional prohibitions.
Less proficient at repression, he
faced violent popular resistance
– which he violently suppressed.
Nkurunziza remains in post, but that
could change, partly depending on
an international criminal court investigation announced last month.
Joseph Kabila, whose term as
DRC president expired in 2016, is
showing Mugabe-like tenacity in
clinging to office. A deal to hold the
delayed elections this year appears
to have collapsed. The UN warned
last month that 1.4 million people
in the south-western Kasai region
have been displaced by violence and
more than 3,000 killed. But Kabila is
not budging.
14 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Can Saskatoon’s $84m
gamble pay off?
Bitcoin record
high defies
bubble fear
Julia Kollewe
Big draw … Saskatoon hopes the Remai Modern gallery will encourage visitors and investment Adrien Williams
Critics voice fears over
Canadian town’s cultural
economic revival plans
Giovanna Dunmall Saskatoon
“This isn’t just a gallery, it’s an act of
making a city,” says Bruce Kuwabara,
founding partner of KPMB Architects,
at the opening of the Remai Modern,
a vast glass-and-steel art museum
in Saskatoon. The $84.6m (US$67m)
project would be a major event for
any city, let alone a small university
town of 250,000 in the wheat-filled
Canadian prairies.
Saskatoon is on the cusp of something. It’s the third-fastest growing
city in Canada, has one of the country’s youngest demographics and its
economy is growing. The latter fact
is thanks in great part to an oil and
gas industry that, controversially, is
charged some of the lowest tax rates
in the world and has helped create
more than 8,000 millionaires in the
province of Saskatchewan. The Remai
Modern – four horizontal cantilevered
volumes by the South Saskatchewan
river – is also the recipient of one of the
biggest philanthropic arts donations
in Canadian history.
A series of new developments are
being built near the museum, including an office tower, a high-rise condominium and a 15-storey boutique hotel. The downtown neighbourhood of
Riversdale was until recently a cheap
home for new immigrants and less affluent communities. It is fast filling up
with independent bars, artisan coffee
shops and trendy co-working spaces.
“Riversdale was a bit of a ghost
town six or seven years ago,” says
Andy Yuen, owner of The Odd Couple,
a independent restaurant in the area.
“From a business perspective, having
a world-class gallery a 10-minute walk
away is amazing.”
This is not the first time a smaller
city has tried to reinvent or elevate itself with a high-profile gallery – think
the Mona in Hobart, the Turner in
Margate or, most famous of all, the
Guggenheim in Bilbao. The latter
spawned a phenomenon called the
“Bilbao effect”, supposed to describe
the trickle-down economic benefits
and rise in tourism that happens as a
result of this sort of splashy arts project. But will it work in Saskatoon?
The museum says that the Remai
will support 292 full-time jobs and
contribute $34m to Saskatoon’s GDP
in the first two years. Jen Budney, a
Saskatoon-based curator, is sceptical.
She believes that even in Bilbao the
“effect” is highly questionable: poverty has risen in the Basque city and the
art scene has flourished only thanks
to generous investments in grassroots
arts organisations by city officials.
“Even if the projected number of
tourists do arrive in Saskatoon, in the
absence of any other policies and programmes, the real ‘Bilbao effect’ will
be the creation of a few highly paid
managerial positions and many more
minimum-wage jobs,” she says.
Priscilla Settee, professor of indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan, believes the money could
have been better used. “Poverty is a
huge issue for too many Saskatoon residents, many of whom are indigenous
peoples,” she says. She rues the loss of
the city’s former Mendel Art Gallery –
whose collection of 8,000 works was
inherited by the Remai Modern – arguing that its free admission and sevenday opening meant “people of little
means felt it was accessible”.
‘The real effect
will be to create
a few highly paid
management roles’
The Remai Modern’s long inception and cost overruns, which had
to be covered by city funds at a time
of significant municipal cuts, only
make matters worse, Settee says.
Originally projected to cost $55m, the
Remai finally came in at over $80m
(or $100m if you count the car park
beneath, which it shares with a local
theatre). The money for construction
came largely from federal, provincial
and city funds – and the city council
(which picked up the largest share of
the $55m public bill) has come under
considerable scrutiny.
The museum’s director, Gregory
Burke, speaks of “embracing the history of indigenous peoples through
modern and contemporary practice”.
However, Budney – who was a curator
at the Mendel and speaks for a group
of artists and arts organisers who have
been vocal throughout the construction – believes his words are hollow.
“How is a museum of modern art
going to address the legacies of colonialism, which you see every day in the
devastating economic and social inequality in our city and province, when
it hasn’t yet hired any indigenous staff
for permanent senior strategic or creative positions?” she asks.
But the make-or-break factor for
the museum may be the number of
visitors. Critics worry that projected
number of 220,000 a year is unrealistic for a museum with an entrance fee
of $12 in a city of 250,000. The wider
province of Saskatchewan only contains a little over 1 million people, in
an area roughly the size of France.
Will art fans travel repeatedly, given
the lack of direct flights from major
art centres such as Los Angeles and
New York, and the day-long journey
required to get here from parts of
Canada? The long winter, when temperatures reach -40C, may not help.
Whatever happens, it will take a
few years for the true “Remai effect”
to become clear.
Bitcoin hit a new record high after
passing $9,000 and was this week
close to reaching five figures as investors in the cryptocurrency shrugged
off warnings of a bubble.
The virtual currency rose to a fresh
all-time high of $9,700 on Monday.
That made it worth more than seven
times an ounce of gold, which is
traditionally seen as a safe haven in
times of turmoil. In a remarkable rally,
bitcoin started the year at $1,000 and
smashed through $5,000 in October.
Analysts said the decision by the
Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME)
to launch bitcoin futures in December
had fuelled buying, but also warned
of the dangers of a speculative bubble building. The digital currency has
gained more than 50% since the CME
announced its decision on 31 October.
Neil Wilson, senior market analyst
at ETX Capital, said: “The legitimacy
this gives bitcoin as a tradeable asset
is very important. The market cap
of bitcoin now exceeds that of IBM,
Disney [or] McDonald’s.”
Warning of looming pain for bitcoin
buyers, Wilson added: “But for traditionalists, it’s hard to fathom. Rather
than a commodity or currency, bitcoin
is like owning stock in a company that
will only ever issue 21m shares and
never pay a penny in dividends. The
only way it has value is if the next guy
is willing to pay you more for it – the
greater fool. With no intrinsic value to
bitcoin, it’s hard to see this as anything
other than a giant speculative bubble.”
Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at online foreign exchange broker FXTM, said bitcoin was showing
no signs of slowing down. According
to CNBC, the financial news service,
there are more than 120 investment
funds devoted to cryptocurrencies.
Leader comment, page 22 →
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Hong Kong
New Zealand
27 Nov
20 Nov
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 15
UK news
the remainer
Kicker here
like this
has seen light
Then a short
→ Polly
21 XX
Then Section
Chancellor cuts property tax
amid gloomy growth forecasts
Bid to encourage home ownership is focus of annual budget statement
Heather Stewart and Larry Elliott
Philip Hammond placed a stamp duty
cut for first-time buyers at the heart
of his budget last Wednesday as he
sought to mask Britain’s deteriorating
economic prospects by pledging to
“revive the homeowning dream”.
Faced with evidence the UK will
be one of the weakest growing major
economies in the next five years, he
announced a modest increase in funding for the NHS, and £15bn ($20bn) of
measures to tackle the housing crisis.
The measures were overshadowed
by forecasts from the independent
Office for Budget Responsibility cutting its expectations for UK growth
until 2022 by a quarter. The OBR is now
more pessimistic about growth than
the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund. In its biggest
downgrade since its creation seven
years ago, it said earnings and living
standards would be squeezed hard over
the next two years, even if the government succeeds in striking a Brexit deal.
Unemployment is expected to
rise as a result of sluggish growth –
cut from 2% to 1.5% in 2017 and by
between 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points
in the next four years.
Hammond announced a £9bn
increase to borrowing in 2019-20 –
expected by the Treasury to be the
toughest period for the economy as
Britain leaves the EU – and pushed
back until the mid-2020s the date
by which the government expects to
end its budget deficit. The chancellor
sought to placate rebels on both wings
of his party, setting aside £3bn for
Whitehall departments to prepare for
Brexit, and cutting waiting times for
claimants of universal credit.
Hammond had been under intense
pressure to respond to concerns during the general election campaign
about cuts to public services and the
rising cost of living, with several vocal
MPs, including former minister Nick
Boles, calling for an end to austerity.
The shadow chancellor, John
McDonnell, condemned the budget as
“a nothing-has-changed budget from
an out-of-touch government with no
idea of the reality of people’s lives and
no plan to improve them”.
The OBR said it could no longer
ignore the prolonged period of weak
productivity growth since the start
Pressure … Hammond tried to placate party critics Frank Augstein/AP
Workers ‘face two decades without earnings growth’
Britain’s leading financial thinktank warned workers to expect an
unprecedented two lost decades of
earnings growth and many more
years of austerity as a result of the
slowdown forecast in the budget.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies
said that figures slashing the outlook for productivity, earnings and
growth in every year until 2022
made “grim reading”, and predicted that even by the middle of
the next decade, public finances
would be in the red. It said:
• GDP per person would be 3.5%
smaller in 2021 than forecast in
March 2016.
• The loss of growth would mean
the economy was £65bn ($87bn)
smaller in 2021 than thought.
• Average earnings were on course
to be £1,400 a year lower in 2021
than forecast in 2016.
Paul Johnson, the IFS director,
said the OBR’s decision to reduce
its growth forecasts would delay
deficit reduction, limit Hammond’s
ability to ease pressure on welfare
and public services and harm living
standards. “We are in danger of
losing not just one but getting on for
two decades of earnings growth,” he
said. “We will all have to get used
to the idea that steadily rising living
standards may be a thing of the
increasingly distant past.”
The recovery in earnings, which
were growing through 2014 to the
first half of 2016, had been choked
off, Johnson said. Phillip Inman
of the global financial crisis a decade
ago. In a sign of the damage caused
by the worst recession the UK has
suffered since the second world
war, the OBR said the trend rate of
productivity growth was now around
1%, half its pre-crisis rate.
Analysis by the Resolution Foundation suggested the downgrade to GDP
growth would result in a £1,000-a-year
cut to average family incomes, with
average pay not recovering to precrash levels until 2023. The Trades
Union Congress said wages would be
worth £800 less a year in 2021 than had
been expected at the spring budget.
Against this backdrop, the chancellor chose to loosen the purse strings,
spending £25bn more over the next
five years than planned at his first
budget in March. Treasury insiders
acknowledged that the spending
boost in the next two years was to help
offset the looming downturn.
The abolition of stamp duty for
first-time buyers was the most eyecatching element of Hammond’s bid to
fulfil what Theresa May has called her
“personal mission” to fix the housing
crisis, and build 300,000 new homes
a year. The Treasury said it amounted
to an average tax cut of £1,600 for a
million first-time buyers over five
years. Other housing measures
included allowing local authorities to
levy increased council tax on empty
homes, setting aside more funding
for local authorities to buy up and
decontaminate sites, and a review led
by former minister Oliver Letwin into
how to prevent developers hoarding
land without building on it.
But the details of the budget red
book show that aside from the stamp
duty change, the housing measures
amount to just £275m of new spending in 2018-19, and £1.6bn by 2021-22.
Alongside housing, Hammond
announced an extra £2.8bn for the
NHS, including £350m to deal with
increased pressures over the winter
and to get waiting time targets back
on track. As expected, the chancellor
abolished a one-week waiting time
before universal credit claims can be
processed – a move that should cut the
waiting time from six weeks to five.
The budget included a series of antitax-avoidance measures, after the
leaked Paradise Papers underlined
the scale of the challenge.
16 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
UK news
Vote Leave in payouts probe
Watchdog rejects claim
donations to anti-EU
groups were permitted
Carole Cadwalladr
Vote Leave, the official campaign to
quit the EU, faces fresh questions over
controversial payments it made to
other anti-Europe movements during
its successful referendum battle.
The electoral commission has
denied a claim by Vote Leave’s chief
strategist, Dominic Cummings, that
it had given them “a letter of permission” to make the donations to other
campaigns. The commission last
week announced a new investigation into donations Vote Leave made
of £625,000 ($835,000) to BeLeave
and £100,000 to Veterans for Britain, and whether the officially sanctioned organisation had exceeded its
official spending limits.
Cummings had previously claimed
that the commission gave permission
“in writing” for the donations. However, following months of freedom of
information requests, the commission has now said it had no record of
it. Cummings did not respond to the
Observer when asked if he had any
explanation for the discrepancy.
The watchdog said new information meant it had “reasonable grounds
to suspect an offence may have been
committed”, but Stephen Kinnock,
Labour MP for Aberavon, said it now
needed to produce this information.
Kinnock wrote to the commission, the
Metropolitan police and the Crown
Prosecution Service in the spring
with evidence that he claims showed
four campaigns were “working together” in breach of UK law. He said:
“It’s very unclear what’s prompted
this new investigation. They haven’t
produced any new evidence beyond
what we knew months ago. I think the
electoral commission really needs to
lay its facts on the table.”
The announcement last week came
as the commission was facing a legal
challenge from campaigning group
the Good Law Project over why it had
dropped a previous investigation
into the spending of Vote Leave and
satellite Brexit campaigns. At stake is
whether Vote Leave deliberately engineered a way of exceeding the legal
£7m funding limits or if it had permission to do so. After Jolyon Maugham
of the Good Law Project said he would
launch a judicial review of the commission’s failure to investigate the
donations, Cummings tweeted in
September: “FYI u seem unaware
(not blaming u no reason u wd know)
of a crucial fact: the EC gave us written
permission in advance for what we did
…” Then: “When they suddenly told
us we cd make donations we were so
shocked we asked for written confirmation & got it. Extremely surprising.”
Kinnock said: “There is an unholy
alliance of organisations that, at very
best, played fast and loose with the law
and at worst were deliberately manipulating and cheating.” He said he had
sent another letter to the commission
last week raising questions about how
all four campaigns – Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the
Democratic Unionist party – apparently achieved such close convergence
in how resources were deployed.
The watchdog said that, following
the new information, it would examine if the Boris Johnson and Michael
Gove-fronted campaign had filed its
returns correctly.
Cash stop … questions have arisen over Leave campaigners’ funds Getty
Tales of despair deluge benefits inquiry
Rowena Mason
A House of Commons inquiry into
disability benefits has heard from
more than 3,000 people in despair
at the system, including dozens who
say they have been driven to suicidal
thoughts by the process.
Frank Field, chair of the work and
pensions committee, said it would be
usual to receive about 100 responses,
but the inquiry had been deluged by
people sharing stories about being
denied disability benefits or battles
to keep their entitlements.
The evidence includes testimony
from many saying their mental health
had deteriorated as a result of trying to
claim the employment support allowance (ESA) for daily living costs and/or
the personal independence payment
(PIP) to cover extra costs caused by
long-term disability.
There have been longstanding concerns among mental health groups,
medical professionals, user groups
and MPs about the operation of both
benefits, with claimant assessments
run by outsourced providers and final
decisions made by Department for
Work and Pensions (DWP) officials.
The submissions included more
than 100 people reporting that they,
or someone they care for, feels their
suicidal feelings have worsened or
been triggered by the process.
Field, a former Labour welfare
minister, said the whole system was
“not controlling expenditure and had
a huge human cost”. He added: “This
system is acting as a concrete block on
the top of people rather than acting as
a floor from which people can build
security through their own efforts. It’s
just absolutely dreadful.”
A DWP spokesperson said:
“Assessments are carried out by
quali fied healthcare professionals
who have at least two years of practical experience and must be registered
with a medical body. The latest official
research shows that 76% of PIP claimants and 83% of ESA claimants are satisfied with their overall experience.”
Irish border
‘must await
Brexit deal’
Jessica Elgot, Daniel Boffey
and Henry McDonald
A final decision on the Northern Irish
border cannot be made until a UK-EU
trade deal has been agreed, Liam Fox
has said, despite warnings from Brussels that trade talks cannot proceed
unless an agreement is reached ahead
of the summit on 4 December.
Ireland is seen as the key obstacle
to proceeding to negotiations about
a future trade relationship with
the EU, with the Irish government
dissatisfied with the options offered
so far to prevent a hard border with
Northern Ireland. Leo Varadkar,
the Irish prime minister, has said he
wants a written guarantee that there
will be no hard border, which Dublin believes can be achieved only by
keeping the region within the single
market and customs union.
Fox said that option was out of the
question. “We don’t want there to be
a hard border, but the UK is going to
be leaving the customs union and the
single market,” he said in a television
interview last Sunday.
Government sources conceded
there was still some way to go on the
question of the border, but it is likely
to stress that neither side wants a hard
border with Ireland, and the option to
agree to Varadkar’s written guarantee
has not yet been definitely ruled out.
Fox said the UK had always come to
special arrangements with Ireland
that could be written into the final
agreement, but there needed to be
clarity about the future trading relationship with the EU before the border question could be settled. Fox’s
position does not necessarily clash
with the EU’s. The 27 member states
need only “sufficient progress” to be
made by next week’s council summit.
This will require what the Irish foreign affairs minister, Simon Coveney,
called last Friday “a road map” to how
Britain plans to avoid a hard border.
The Democratic Unionist leader,
Arlene Foster, warned that any attempt to redraw the border into the
Irish Sea would be opposed by her
party, which holds the balance of
power at Westminster. Speaking after her party’s annual conference in
Belfast last weekend, she rejected
“special status” for Northern Ireland
and for it to stay in the customs union, which would lead to a redrawing
of the border. “Every business I speak
to does not want a border down the
middle of the Irish Sea. The UK is our
biggest market,” she said.
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 17
Eastern promise Harrods’ £200m redesign to appeal to Asian shoppers
News in brief
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
UK news
• Prince Harry is to marry
his American actor girlfriend,
Meghan Markle, next year,
Clarence House has announced. “His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is
delighted to announce the
engagement of Prince Harry to
Ms Meghan Markle,” it said in
a statement on Monday.
Prince Charles said he was
thrilled and that Harry and
Meghan would be “very
happy indeed”. The ceremony
is likely to be conducted
by Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, who
said he was delighted by the
news and had been impressed
by Harry’s “immense love
for his family”.
Comment, page 22 →
Harrods has begun the biggest
redevelopment in the department
store’s 170-year history to increase
its appeal to wealthy overseas
shoppers flocking to Britain to
exploit the weak pound.
The managing director of
Harrods, which is owned by Qatar’s
sovereign wealth fund, said £200m
($267m) will be spent redeveloping
the shop’s retail space over the next
three years. The famous exterior
with its 12,000 light bulbs and green
awnings will be untouched.
Michael Ward, who has been running Harrods for more than decade,
said the refurbishment will be the
most ambitious since the Knightsbridge store was opened by Charles
Henry Harrod in 1849.
Work has already begun on the
redevelopment of its grade II-listed
food halls, and its fine watch room
and beauty halls will increase in size.
Ward said much of the refurbishment work is being carried out to
tailor the store to customers from
China and south-east Asia. “Our
Hong Kong and Chinese customers
are extremely important to Harrods
so are considered part of our
redevelopment plans,” he said. “For
us, the future is in the east and we
have been focusing on that for a
number of years.”
He said Chinese customers are
Harrods’s second-highest spenders
after British shoppers, and research
showed that £1 of every £5 that
Chinese visitors spend in London is
spent at Harrods.
Last month Harrods reported its
eighth consecutive year of rising
profits, recording a 39% increase
in pre-tax profit to £233m. Annual
sales broke through the £2bn
mark for the first time, and the
company noted a “significant boost
in trade after the weakening of the
British currency”.
The company paid out a £110m
dividend to its owner Qatar Holding,
the strategic investment division
of the Qatar Investment Authority.
The sovereign wealth fund bought
Harrods from Mohamed Al Fayed
for £1.2bn in 2010.
Official figures show the number
of Chinese visitors to the UK in the
first six months of the year rose by
47% to 115,000. These visitors spent
a record £231m in the first half of
the year, a 54% increase according
to the Office for National Statistics
during this period. Rupert Neate
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty
Toys a potential present for hackers
Patrick Greenfield
Parents should consider turning
off cameras and geolocation settings in Christmas presents to protect their children from hackers, the
Information Commissioner’s Office
(ICO) has warned.
Smart toys and wearable devices are
among the most desirable children’s
toys this Christmas, but the regulator
has warned their internet connectivity presents safety risks from hackers.
The guidance comes amid growing
concern about the susceptibility of
electronic items to hacking.
In a blog post for the ICO, Steve
Wood, the deputy commissioner,
wrote: “You wouldn’t knowingly give
a child a dangerous toy, so why risk
buying them something that could be
easily hacked into by strangers?
“In the same way that safety
standards are a primary consideration for shoppers buying toys, we
want those buying connected items in
the coming weeks to take a pause and
think about both the child’s online
safety, and also the potential threat to
their own personal data such as bank
details, if a toy, device or a supporting
app is hacked into.”
Wood urged adults to check if their
internet router is secure, and consider
setting up electronic devices with
strong privacy options before their
child unwraps their gift.
The deputy commissioner warned
parents: “If you aren’t convinced
a smart toy or connected/wearable device will keep your children
or your personal information safe,
then don’t buy it. If consumers reject
products that won’t protect them,
then developers and retailers should
soon get the message.”
On cameras, Wood wrote: “Some
toys and devices are fitted with web
cameras. The ability to view footage
remotely is both their biggest selling point and, if not set up correctly,
potentially their biggest weakness,
as the baby monitor hacking issue
of a few years ago demonstrated. If
you have no intention of viewing
footage over the internet, then turn
the remote viewing option off in the
device’s settings, or else use strong,
non-default passwords.”
He added: “One of the main selling
points of children’s smart watches
is the ability for parents to know
where their children are at all times.
However, if this isn’t done securely,
then others might have access to this
data as well.”
• Birds living and breeding
on the UK’s farmland have
seen numbers decline
by almost a tenth in five
years, official figures show.
Farmland bird populations
have declined by 56% since
1970, largely due to agricultural changes including
the loss of mixed farming,
a switch to autumn sowing
of crops, a reduction in hay
meadows and the stripping
out of hedgerows.
• The highest number
of violent sexual crimes,
including rapes, in Europe
are recorded by the police in
England and Wales, according
to new EU official statistics.
The disclosure comes as official British figures show
that 1.2 million women and
700,000 men in the year to
March 2017 reported being
the victims of some form of
domestic abuse in England
and Wales. The Office for National Statistics says the majority of victims did not report
their abuse to the police.
• Employers and unions
have called for a rethink
of the government’s
apprenticeship policies
after a 59% fall in those taking up trainee posts since a
new scheme was launched
in April. Just 48,000 people
started an apprenticeship in
the final three months of the
educational year to July 2017,
compared with 117,800 in the
same period a year before.
The biggest drop came in the
lowest level “intermediate”
apprenticeships, which dived
by 75%, compared with a 48%
drop in the most advanced
training courses.
18 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Trump is
the US
from within
Jeffrey H Smith
The president’s words
and actions are
deconstructing vital
government agencies –
and it may take years
to undo the damage
he Guardian has reported that John le
Carré, the famed British spy novelist,
recently said of the Trump presidency:
“Something truly, seriously bad is happening and we have to be awake to that.” Chillingly, he expressed alarm about the “toxic”
parallels between the rise of Donald Trump
and hard-right regimes in Poland and Hungary and the
rise of fascism in the 1930s.
Le Carré may be overstating the risk of rising fascism,
but he is surely right to warn that many of Mr Trump’s
early actions and words challenge fundamental tenets
of democracy. These challenges include his assertion
that the media is “the enemy of the people”, that
news he doesn’t like is “fake news”, that there were
“good people” among the neo-Nazi demonstrators in
Charlottesville, Virginia.
At the same time the Trump administration has
mounted a systematic effort to “deconstruct the ‘administrative state’”, as his recently departed chief strategist,
Stephen Bannon, was fond of saying.
Much of this effort has been focused on the regulatory agencies rather than the national security agencies.
But make no mistake: the president’s words and actions
are deconstructing those agencies with perhaps even
greater consequences.
Trump’s destructive impact on the national security
agencies has two dimensions.
First, his foreign policy of “America first” has called
into question our commitment to our allies and the international framework that has kept us safe for 70 years.
In turn, the American institutions and individuals who
must execute this policy are undermined.
Second, some of his actions and utterances are so far
outside the bounds of responsible presidential conduct
that many professionals who serve in the national security agencies lack confidence in him as commander-inchief. Much damage has been done, and whether it can
be repaired, and if so how, is not clear.
Former presidents and secretaries of state and
defence know that we must wisely use all of the tools in
the “national security toolbox”, a useful concept coined
by the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. Our
values and moral leadership are among our most effective tools. As the former Republican president George W
Bush recently said: “When we lose sight of our ideals, it
is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those
charged with preserving and protecting democracy.”
A weakened and
demoralised foreign
service is a serious
blow to America’s
long-term interests
and security
Jasper Rietman
We also must lead. To do so, we need allies and skilful
diplomacy carried out by adroit and experienced diplomats who are adequately resourced, supported and respected. Trump appears to have little or no appreciation
of the value of diplomacy or foreign aid.
If anything, the Trump administration seems oddly
determined to cripple the Department of State. Consider, for example, the president’s tweet saying that the
secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was “wasting his time
trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”, a foolish
utterance that makes any resolution of the North Korean
threat vastly more difficult.
On top of this brilliant strategic move, Trump has proposed cuts of nearly 30% in the state department budget
and the elimination of 2,300 jobs. Furthermore, Tillerson’s use of outside management experts to restructure
the department as if ExxonMobil had just acquired a
new oil drilling subsidiary has had the predictable effect. Diplomacy is sputtering on one cylinder and many
of our best foreign service officers have quit in disgust.
The administration is having a difficult time finding
talented individuals to serve in the appointed jobs at
state and defence. Applications for the foreign service
are reportedly down and the department’s intention to
no longer participate in the presidential management
fellows programme is deeply disturbing.
he message to state department career
employees is clear: “You are not important.” Tillerson is scheduled to unveil his
proposed reorganisation soon, and there
is great apprehension that his changes will
gravely weaken the role of the state department and centralise power in political
appointees at the expense of career professionals.
All of this plays well with much of Trump’s base who
are hostile to globalisation. But a weakened and demoralised foreign service is a serious blow to American longterm interests and security.
The president’s foreign policy and his tweets are often hard to defend. Our allies wonder whether “America
first” means “I’m last”. The president says he’ll honour
America’s commitments, but that’s not what he said earlier. Does he mean it now, or is he just saying it because
he’s been told to say it?
This said, there are some hopeful signs. Trump has
assembled some first-rate foreign policy advisers.
There is criticism that it is too “general heavy”, but that
is not well placed.
Generals James Mattis, John Kelly and HR McMaster
are combat-proven leaders and thinkers who have confronted the maddeningly complex wars in Iraq, Syria
and Afghanistan. The president seems to be listening to
them on vital matters such as North Korea, Afghanistan
and the value of the Iranian nuclear deal.
McMaster and Kelly have, by most reports, done a
good job of organising the policy process at the National
Security Council. Whether careful decision-making processes will hold in a crisis, where actions must be managed closely to avoid unintended escalation, remains to
be seen. And in a crisis the president’s inexperience and
his tendency to tweet from the hip could be calamitous.
The Trump administration is now past the initial
days, when confusion and “rookie mistakes” are excusable. We are beginning to see what the true character of
the man and his administration are.
Echoing the concerns of John le Carré, Mattis recently
told a small group of soldiers: “You just hold the line –
my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines – you
just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.”
Americans must all “hold the line”.
Jeffrey H Smith counsels US and foreign companies on
a wide range of national security issues
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 19
Grace was Mugabe’s lightning rod
Tania Branigan
Many have drawn parallels between
the deposed first lady of Zimbabwe
and Madame Mao. Both were largely
damned for their husbands’ sins
hey say that history does not repeat itself,
but it rhymes. Zimbabwe’s turmoil has had
striking, almost uncanny echoes of China’s
more than four decades ago. A charismatic
figure revered for leading the struggle for
liberation, yet reviled for his crimes once
in power, is nearing the end of his long life,
and evidently frail. The military and his party peers are
jittery about their future. And at the heart of the struggle
is the rise of his much younger, very ambitious wife.
Robert Mugabe has been forced out at 93, after he
appeared to be moving to secure his wife’s position.
Mao Zedong’s grip remained tight when he died at
82. But his wife, Jiang Qing (“Madame Mao”), lost the
ensuing power struggle and was put on trial – as some
say Grace Mugabe may be. When the head of the war
veterans’ association compared the Mugabes to the
Chinese couple last Tuesday, he was only the latest of
many Zimbabweans to do so.
People there know the history well because of the
long-term ties. Beijing was an early ally of Mugabe, but
its interests are pragmatic, not ideological or personal.
It wants stability and a friendly regime in Harare.
That the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is a
known quantity, having trained in China, is a bonus.
And the men in Beijing have never seemed comfortable
with female leaders.
Grace, like Jiang, came to the political forefront relatively late after marriage, and developed a young party
clique around her: Jiang’s Gang of Four played a leading
role in fomenting the devastating Cultural Revolution,
while Grace fostered the G40, or Generation 40, grouping. Both humiliated established players and helped
orchestrate their ousting. Both were bullies. Jiang was
regarded – accurately – as volatile, vicious and vindictive. She caused countless deaths. “Gucci Grace” is seen
not only as corrupt and extravagant, but also erratic and
aggressive – unsurprisingly, given two very public cases
of alleged assault overseas.
But they were regarded with disdain as well as dislike; hence the frequent reminders that Mugabe worked
in a government typing pool, while Jiang was a Shanghai
starlet before reinventing herself as a revolutionary.
Their images align suspiciously neatly with archetypes
of irrational, vicious women – and look all the worse in
light of frequent comparisons with the “good”, selfless,
patriotic women who preceded them. Sally Mugabe was
known as the “mother” of Zimbabwe, while He Zizhen,
Mao’s third wife, was a committed revolutionary who
was forced to leave two of their babies behind during
the Long March in the 1930s.
Ruthlessness, even unpredictability, hardly made
either Jiang or Grace unique in their political spheres.
Yet their allies and rivals never attracted the same visceral hatred. Both women became lightning rods for the
grievances against their husbands. Pillorying them deflected blame from the men who sponsored them. These
women were vehicles for their husband’s desire to maintain their legacies, and for factional interests as well as
Nate Kitch
their own. As Jiang told her show trial: “I was Chairman
Mao’s dog – I bit who he wanted me to bite.”
When the odds are stacked against women politically
– more the case in China, then and now, than in
Zimbabwe – the chances are that those who rise will
have done so through personal connections. In Asia,
this has sometimes allowed them to float above the fray,
as if they have merely inherited a mission to fulfil from
love and duty. But more often, and especially when
their ambition is evident, these relationships are turned
against them. And they, in turn, are weaponised against
other women. Even now, the spectre of Jiang looms in
China. For all the rhetoric of equality, no woman has
ever reached the top political body.
Grace Mugabe and
Jiang Qing were both
vehicles for their
husbands’ desire
to maintain their
political legacies
hipo Dendere, a Zimbabwean and postdoctoral fellow in political science at Amherst
College in the US, notes that some women
seem to have been drawn to Grace precisely
because of the misogyny she faced. Now,
she warns, “Women are going to be afraid to
speak out when they recall Grace Mugabe. I
think she will be used against them … There’s a sense of
people saying: ‘Women, you gave us these problems.’”
Dendere points not just to protest slogans such as
“We don’t want prostitutes in politics” and “Leadership is not sexually transmitted”, but also to previous
elite attacks on both Grace and the other prominent
Zimbabwean female politician, Joice Mujuru. She was
vice-president to Robert Mugabe, until he ousted her,
and boasted impressive credentials as a fighter in the
liberation struggle. Even those were undermined by
sexist attacks: she was accused of performing witchcraft
to down an enemy aircraft, to capture and manipulate
her husband, and to defeat political enemies.
Yet young women in Zimbabwe have been trying to
carve out a space for themselves, through activism such
as the #shevotes campaign encouraging registration.
Many more have taken to the streets to voice demands
for change. They believe they have a right to determine
their future – even if they are realistic about the prospects of doing so. The kind of change these women want
does not stop at seeing off the Mugabes. It means seeing
off the powerful old men who ousted them as well.
20 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Mladić will
die in jail.
But he won
in Bosnia
Ed Vulliamy
Nate Kitch
I revealed the camps
where mass murder
and rape took place.
But the Serbian warlord
has achieved his goal of
banishing non-Serbs
eneral Ratko Mladić, the most bloodthirsty warlord to strut European soil
since the Third Reich, will die in jail. Any
other outcome after last week’s verdict in
The Hague would have been preposterous. The mothers of the more than 8,000
men and boys mass-murdered in Srebrenica, over five days in the summer of 1995, have every
reason to welcome the sentence of life imprisonment,
and Mladić’s conviction for genocide: the only judicial
standard by which that crime can be rightly measured.
But for all the back-slapping by human rights organisations and lawyers, there is a dark cloud under which
the majority of those who survived Mladić’s hurricane
of violence etch out their lives, and that shrouds the
memory of those killed, or who are still “missing”.
I testified against Mladić, as well as his political counterpart Radovan Karadžić and seven other defendants,
at The Hague: mostly to give evidence on the network
of concentration camps I revealed in this newspaper in
1992 and the litany of mass murder, ethnic “cleansing”,
rape and destruction that followed over three years.
Last week I spent time on the phone to survivors.
Beyond those bereaved by Srebrenica, not one shared
in the celebration of Mladić’s conviction.
He faced two counts of genocide: one for Srebrenica,
the other for what happened in the “municipalities”
elsewhere in Bosnia. Here serial atrocities were committed by troops under Mladić’s direct command over
those years, while the international community dithered, and worse. The whole idea of the Hague tribunal
was as much an act of contrition for that failure as it was
ambition for international justice. Mladić’s pogroms
included more mass murder, torture, mutilation and
rape, in the camps at Omarska, Trnopolje and Keretem
in north-west Bosnia. To the east, in Višegrad, civilians
– including babies – were herded alive into houses for
incineration, or down to a bridge to be shot, or chopped
into pieces, and hurled into the river Drina. Then there
was the wholesale demolition of towns and villages, and
the “cleansing” of all non-Serbs; the razing of mosques
and Catholic churches; the gathering of women and girls
into camps for violation all night, every night.
None of this, apparently, is genocide. Mladić was acquitted on that count. So what is?
Among those in The Hague to hear the verdict was
Kelima Dautović, who survived the Trnopolje camp
while her husband was in one at Omarska, and lost
many of her extended family and neighbours in the
levelling of her home town of Kozarac in 1992. “It’s so
disappointing, but hardly surprising,” she says. “Maybe
they didn’t want to call it genocide because it happened
under the eyes of the international community that was
there, supposedly protecting us. Whatever, I hope the
historians do a better job than the judges.”
Human Rights Watch celebrates the fact that the
verdict sends “a message to those in power around the
world who are committing brutal atrocities, whether
in Burma, North Korea, or Syria”, as preparations begin
for prosecutions of war crimes in Syria. But who exactly
will be brought to justice?
As archbishop Desmond Tutu has asked: where was
Tony Blair when it came to justice for the ruins of Iraq?
The Hague tribunal’s remit was also to “promote reconciliation” in the Balkans. Well, there is none. Mladić
got largely what he wanted: a Bosnian Serb statelet from
which almost every non-Serb was banished in 1995.
Even the chief prosecutor at The Hague, Serge Brammertz, acknowledged that “conflict and atrocities can
gain a logic of their own”, and life in Bosnia is more sectarian than at any time since the war. Mladić is no doubt
a furious man, but he can start his sentence with the
satisfaction of a mission in no small part accomplished.
More at
Opinion In brief
Manhattan mums fight a very civil war
Low-alcohol wine isn’t worth drinking
Something exciting happened in the
world of online mothers’ forums last
week, and it wasn’t a list of 10 new
ways to spy on your nanny. In Britain there is Mumsnet; in New York,
until recently, there was the Upper
East Side Mommas group, a Facebook community of some 28,000
women that many went to for the
advice – but stayed for the fights.
There were the fights about vaccinations. There was the saga of the
Spitting Woman, a homeless woman
on Manhattan’s Upper East Side who
spat at people and their children. In
August, two members of the group
had their lawyers send four other
members a cease-and-desist letter
after being called racist during an
argument about Black Lives Matter.
Punctuating these disputes was
a series of increasingly desperate
pleas for civility from the group’s
founder. But a fight that broke out
There’s nothing more dispiriting
than the three words “low-alcohol
wine”, with the possible exception
of “low-fat cheese”. They usually
denote a sickly sweet concoction
with little resemblance to anything
you would normally drink.
Yet sales are booming. One group
that has apparently taken to lowalcohol beverages is millennials.
This tallies with a recent report from
the Office for National Statistics
in which over a quarter of 16- to
24-year-olds claimed not to drink.
But is low-alcohol wine the best
option for those who can’t or don’t
want to booze?
You won’t be entirely surprised to
hear that, as the Guardian’s drinks
correspondent, I’m not convinced.
For a start, low-alcohol wine is
a misnomer. Wine by definition
involves a percentage of alcohol.
Remove it and you’re essentially left
over Israel/Palestine proved too
much for her nerves; after a few
days of fierce back and forth, the
group was shut down.
Two things stood out about this:
the apparent inability of anyone
involved to end matters simply by
walking away. And the extent to
which, in this exclusively female
discursive space, many of those involved evoked their hurt feelings.
Actually, there was a bigger takeaway: nothing on those pages fell
outside even the strictest general
user standards. There were no apparent trolls at work, no threats, no
swearing, no violence. The fight in
this Mommas group was about as
civil as a forum can get.
It seems a shame that what had
been a vibrant group crumbled because adults can’t tolerate hearing
other adults express passionately
held counter-views. Emma Brockes
with grape juice. You’ve subtracted
the ingredient that makes wine so
delicious and redolent of a specific
place. Alcohol is a carrier of flavour
and body – the qualities that make
wine so compatible with food. If
you’re used to drinking wine, you’re
unlikely to be satisfied. It’s like
eating an egg without the yolk.
And there’s more to wine than
just the taste. It’s perfectly possible
to drink one glass, just as it’s possible to have one slice of cake.
For various reasons sometimes
people, including me, choose not
to drink. I take at least a couple of
days off each week, but I wouldn’t
dream of drinking low-alcohol
wines on those occasions. Do, by all
means, if they appeal to you – but I
can assure you that there are many
more palatable options. Including
that traditional British favourite, tea.
Fiona Beckett
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 21
In praise of …
spreading Christmas cheer
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has issued a grim message for the British public: the age of austerity is not over
sees light
on Brexit
Polly Toynbee
The Labour leader has
finally grasped what
leaving the EU means:
harm for those his party
cares about the most
t last, Labour steps up. Brexit is the great
national crisis of our times and yet the
leaders of the opposition have sometimes
seemed so muted it has driven remainers
to tear their hair out in frustration.
That changed last Wednesday at prime
minister’s questions. Jeremy Corbyn for
the first time turned all guns on prime minister Theresa
May over her incoherent, incomprehensible and impossible Brexit stance. He used all his questions, every one,
to wallop her exactly where she and her party are most
vulnerable – and not before time.
If ever there were an open goal, it is the warring party
of government whose demented 40-year obsession
with the EU is finally driving us all to destruction. On
budget day, prime minister’s questions (PMQs) may get
less attention than usual, but the signs are that Corbyn’s
blistering salvos are just the opening shots in what
should be a weekly cannonade.
Here’s his best tirade: “Seventeen months after
the referendum they say there can be no hard border
[between Ireland and Northern Ireland] but haven’t
worked out how. They say they’ll protect workers rights,
then vote against it. They say they’ll protect environmental rights, then vote against it. They promise action on tax
avoidance but vote against it time and time again.”
The prime minister’s lame response was: “Let me tell
him, I am optimistic about our future. I’m optimistic
about the success we can make of Brexit.” Naturally,
anyone who questions her nonexistent post-Brexit plans
or visions is a traitor, “talking down Britain”.
Half an hour later as the chancellor rose, there was
no way he could avoid talking down Britain, no sugar to
coat the pill as he read out dire budget figures showing
growth and productivity falling further behind the
Europe many Tories so despise. And Brexit is the reason.
As the forecast sinks in, everyone sees the longest fall
in living standards for 50 years, lasting until the middle
of the next decade. And even then, who knows?
Where has Corbyn been? On a journey, say those
close by. A lifetime of instinctive “capitalist club”
A pub in Wimbledon will open its
doors to anybody who’s alone or
lonely on Christmas Day. They will
be welcomed with open arms, “a
free Christmas dinner and a drink of
their favourite festive poison”.
I was aware of how this time of
year affects the lonely, but who
aside from a publican in south-west
London is doing anything about it?
I contacted my local Age UK in
Camden, north London, a charity
that understands only too well the
effects of loneliness on older people.
“We try to give all our older community members Christmas gifts
in early December and the majority
of them will remain unopened in
their homes until Christmas Day. For
many of them it’s the only present
they will receive and the only interaction they’ll have on Christmas.”
You need only look at the most
basic of statistics to see that people
are living longer. One day, before
we know it, organisations such as
Age UK may be very important to us
too. Dave Berry
Euroscepticism has been shed. Distress over Brexit
from his young supporters and his trade union allies has
brought him round. Besides, the facts have changed. His
abstract distaste for the EU has given way to facing the
hard reality of what Brexit means: inflicting most harm
on those he cares about most. If only those on the opposite benches were on the same reality-check journey.
In PMQs he has usually dodged the great issue. But
his tone changed recently: on a visit to Shipley, in West
Yorkshire, he was asked how he would vote if there were
a referendum now, Corbyn unhesitatingly said he’d
vote remain: “I voted remain because I thought the best
option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind.”
He added: “We must make sure we obtain tariff-free
access to the European markets and protection of all the
rights and membership of agencies we have achieved
through the European Union.”
He was, say some, hesitant on unfamiliar policy
turf. But now he has found his feet, and his voice. “The
danger is, we will get to March 2019 with no deal, we
fall out of the EU, we go on to World Trade Organisation
rules, and there will be threats to a lot of jobs all across
Britain,” he warned. “I think it is quite shocking.”
This week the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier,
was expected to deliver his verdict on whether sufficient
progress had been made. He has already thrown down
the challenge to the chaotic Tories: what kind of country
does Britain want to be?
May doesn’t know, but Corbyn does. The European
model beckons as the enlightened, internationalist,
progressive vision – the Europhobic model is a land of
impoverished deregulation.
There were obvious reasons for Labour’s reluctance
to go full-tilt against Brexit. Too many Labour MPs in
leave seats had taken fright. But since the election,
another picture has emerged: Labour lost votes in some
leave seats but gained votes in other leave areas as electors lost faith in the government’s chaotic negotiations.
My hunch is that the harder Corbyn hits out over
Brexit, the stronger Labour’s support will grow. And the
word is, that’s what we shall hear from now on.
22 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Terror in Egypt
Airstrikes will not end the crisis
To describe last Friday’s horrific gun and
bomb assault on a Sufi mosque in the northern Sinai peninsula as the deadliest attack by
armed militants in Egypt’s modern history
understates it. It is one of the worst to happen anywhere in recent years. Officials say
more than 300 worshippers were killed. As in
Manchester, Paris or Barcelona, families are
devastated and a wider community left fearful – as its perpetrators desired.
It is also unprecedented, despite the area’s
troubled recent history. The escalation was
not only in its scale and the ruthlessness of its
organisation, but also in its target. Militants in
the peninsula have killed hundreds of police
and soldiers; the last year has seen them strike
Coptic churches and pilgrims in mainland
Egypt. Sufi shrines and a 100-year-old cleric
have been attacked. But this attack is the first
time a mosque there has been targeted.
Though no one has yet claimed responsibility, it is widely assumed to be the work
of the Islamic State affiliate, Wilayat al-Sinai
(“province of Sinai”); officials say gunmen
carried Isis flags. The motive is still unknown.
Isis considers Sufis heretical and one of its
propaganda outlets had published an interview with a local commander in Sinai who said
that tackling Sufism was a priority. Other reports have suggested that the attack could be
retaliation against a community that refused
to cooperate with the militants, or that a rogue
faction could be responsible.
The experience of other countries shows
there is rarely an easy explanation for radicalisation. It also highlights the temptation
for governments to rush to extraordinary
measures that not only contradict the values
they purport to uphold, but can also prove
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, was
quick to vow “brute force” and vengeance
in response to the attack. Within hours, the
government said it had launched airstrikes on
“terrorist” locations.
Even his dogged allies in the US, who kept
their lips sealed when he ousted the elected
Muslim Brotherhood government in a coup
in 2013, have stressed the need for a proper
counter-insurgency strategy that goes beyond
striking bases – albeit while selling Cairo great
quantities of the arms used to target militants.
The UK has been more consistent in its message, but is unlikely to press too hard. Yet as
Alistair Burt, the British minister of state for
the Middle East, pointed out last weekend,
confronting such extremism requires tackling
it in a variety of ways, including by addressing
what draws people towards militancy.
If there are indications that Cairo’s thinking
is beginning to take such ideas into account,
the change is not yet obvious. But relying on
brute force is likely to take a further toll on
innocent citizens in northern Sinai, and cannot protect them from the kind of attackers
who struck the al-Rawda mosque.
Blockchain of fools
One of the few men to get out in time before
the Wall Street crash of 1929 did so – legend
has it – because he was offered a stock tip by
the boy who shined his shoes. He immediately
sold all his holdings. If the mania for gambling
on the stock market had reached down to the
children on the streets, the bubble must have
been due to pop at any moment. The corresponding moment for the cryptocurrency
bubble will only be discernible in retrospect,
but we have some pretty strong candidates.
The endorsement of one project by the reality-TV star Paris Hilton has already happened.
The production – or “mining” – of bitcoins now
uses more electricity than Ireland or Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the notional price of the main
cryptocurrencies continues to shoot upwards in a way that makes nonsense of the
idea that they have any value as a medium of
exchange. Even if they were widely accepted
by legal merchants, it would at the moment
be lunatic to exchange them for anything but
real money. Since it is only widely used as
a currency in drug deals or for ransom payments, there is either a huge boom in criminal
activities outside the world of cryptocurrencies, or one within unregulated exchanges
where these tokens are traded.
There are many cryptocurrency schemes
that are sold on the same grounds as the greatest South Sea Bubble prospectus: “For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage,
but nobody to know what it is.” But there is
one novel element in today’s lunacy, and this
is the apocalyptic hope common in Silicon
Valley that it is possible to replace all messy
human institutions with infallible computer
code. The blockchain technology underlying the various cryptocurrencies is meant
to make human decisions redundant and to
replace faith in governments with indisputable rationality. This delusion has produced
one of the most astonishing outbursts of irrational exuberance in financial history. When
this bubble bursts, it will be clear that so long
as there is greed we will need laws to tame it.
Royal wedding
will change race
relations in Britain
Afua Hirsch
Almost two decades ago, an unruly baroness named Kate Gavron
made a shocking suggestion. Prince
Charles, she said, should have married someone black. It would be, she
imagined, a powerful symbol of the
monarchy’s commitment to racial
integration and multiculturalism.
In this context, Prince Harry and
Meghan Markle’s engagement represents something genuinely different
from what has gone before. Their
marriage will bring into reality what
the British establishment lacked the
imagination to even conceive of as
possible 17 years ago – that a senior
royal can love, and marry, someone
whose ethnic heritage is not just different to his own, but the heritage
that has been most othered in Britain – black and African.
I struggled growing up with the
feeling that the monarchy were
fundamental to Britishness, but that
the Britishness they represented
was one that excluded me. That’s
hardly surprising, given that the
concept of the royal family is the
very antithesis of diversity.
Since the royal family are such a
quintessentially British institution,
it’s fitting that our British dysfunction around race should also emerge
in response to Markle’s arrival. One
of the problems in Britain today is
the tendency to downplay racial
difference, and the temptation of
so many well-meaning people who
“don’t see race” to believe that if we
can all just wilfully blind ourselves,
it will hopefully go away.
By contrast, Markle has expressed
pride in her heritage, speaking about
the experience of having black
heritage in a prejudiced American
society; of seeing her mother abused
with the “N” word, of working in a
highly racialised industry as an actor, and the identity struggle that
so many people who grow up as minorities can relate to.
If Prince Harry had wanted to find
a way to make his role more relevant
in modern Britain, he could have
done a lot worse. And so while neither the reaction to his engagement
to Markle could ever have been
planned, if engagements are meant
to bring people together, this one is
doing just that.
Afua Hirsch is a writer and
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 23
Coping with the rise of China
For over 50 years I was unaware we
had a family member involved in
the first world war, and I held views
on Remembrance Day similar to
those of Simon Jenkins (Let’s consign the 20th century to history, 17
November). However, on the death
of my mother in 2011, I found out
from distant cousins that we had
a great-uncle who died in 1917 in
Belgium. Their research discovered
his grave in a military cemetery near
Ypres. We also discovered that this
man rescued his brother (my grandfather) from a bomb blast and in so
doing, was himself shot in the leg,
dying one month later.
My grandfather survived to produce four more children, including
my mother. So if it were not for my
great-uncle’s act of bravery, several
family members would not exist.
My brother, my wife and I paid a
visit to Ypres on 1 April 2017, on the
centenary of my great-uncle’s death,
to show our respects.
Andrew Hardman
Cheadle Hulme, UK
Donald Trump is the latest US
president who is struggling to deal
with the inexorable rise of China
to replace the US as the dominant
global power. It is clear that Trump
is singularly ill-equipped for this
once-a-century transition in the
global pecking order. It will certainly
take more than a bromance between
Trump and Xi Jinping to smooth the
change under way (A bromance unlikely to run smooth, 17 November).
This time, after 500 years, it is
out with the west and in with the
east, compounding the scale of the
break with the old order. This time
the weapons at the disposal of both
the rising and declining powers can
destroy the planet. There is an imperative to ensure that the transition
occurs while keeping global warming below 2C. This time the western
conception of democracy will be replaced and the capitalist system will
face unprecedented change.
We will need world leaders with
the values, vision, patience and
courage to create a better world.
They are not currently available.
Stewart Sweeney
Adelaide, South Australia
• Simon Jenkins put into words
what I have been thinking. As one
of the few people alive who had a
parent who fought in the first world
war, I feel entitled to comment.
The “heroes” of the first war found
themselves trapped in a meaningless
conflict that had been brought about
by degenerate rulers and ambitious
politicians. They were faced with the
choice of being killed by the enemy
or executed on the orders of their
own officers. The average man in the
trenches learned quickly how to stay
alive. The rest of the world has failed
to learn from that conflict.
Today, it seems, nobody dares
appear on television or at a public
meeting without wearing a poppy.
So I would like to suggest as an alternative we should have black poppies
as a protest against all future wars.
The proceeds could go to organisations dedicated to peace. But I fear
that, if a million marchers were unable to stop the UK from getting into a
meaningless war, we could be wearing black poppies for a long time.
Mike Kearney
La Mouche, France
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Gary Kempston
Forget about remembering
• Simon Jenkins’s view that Remembrance Day has become a “synthetic festival” offends the decency
of both British and Commonwealth
people. I hereby register my disgust.
Whenever I visit Vimy Ridge, or
the Ypres salient, I always express
sorrow in the German cemeteries.
The Germans too were lions led by
donkeys as generals, and hyenas
posing as politicians. They too left
mothers and wives bereft.
I tried to book a hotel in Ypres
for next year’s 100th anniversary.
Everywhere is fully booked – it is fair
to assume by people with high moral
values. I will be at Vimy Ridge.
It is people like Jenkins who seek
to stop the younger generations
from comprehending that ordinary
men and women believed. And, in
so doing they sacrificed their todays
so that people like him could have
their tomorrows.
It is not admirable to subvert others by using the privileged pulpit of
a newspaper: especially when such
opinions could be extremely distasteful to many decent people.
Paul Cotton
Ornex, France
• May I congratulate Simon Jenkins
on his brave article regarding the
loss of meaning in our remembrance
services. I really object to the Cenotaph’s inscription “The Glorious
Dead”, while Wilfred Owen’s “The
old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro
patria mori” is far more honest and
Kay Nicholson
Sheffield, UK
To contact the editor directly:
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You can subscribe at
Or manage your subscription at
• Micah White says we need a
binding global legal regime to
prosecute financial crimes against
humanity (17 November). I agree,
but this is only one of the elements
of a planetary legal regime. Another
should be the international climate
crimes tribunal. The time for
drafting that one is now.
Stuart Reid
Mt Lawley, Western Australia
• Emmanuel Carrere reports that
France’s president Emmanuel
Macron, in Athens, recalled a reference by Hegel to Minerva and her
wisdom-giving owl (17 November).
Surely, whatever name Hegel may
have used for the goddess of wisdom, so cultivated a man as the
president would have called her by
her Greek name Athena, after whom
the city he was visiting was named.
Michael Drury
Brussels, Belgium
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From the archive
1 December 1959
for the easily led
On the hooks in the hall were hung
the trappings of delinquent youth –
black leather jackets and pencil-slim
jeans. In the hall itself twelve youths
wearing pale blue sweat-shirts
and football shorts puffed through
a strenuous routine of physical
training, moving briskly as if the
crisp commands from the instructor
were snapping at their heels. These,
it was explained, were “the sheep
and the show-offs”. Not the gang
leaders or the incurably vicious, but
the easily led and the foolish.
Teddy boys, in fact, in the process
of being, in Mr Butler’s words,
“de-teddified” at the senior attendance centre in Manchester. The
attendance centre is a long, leaky
annexe to the police station at
Plymouth Grove, Manchester. The
walls are bare, the floor is splintery,
and puddled in places where the rain
squeezes through the roof. Fortyseven youths have been here since
the centre opened last December. All
of them were ordered to attend for
twelve hours by magistrates’ courts
for offences ranging from petty
larceny to drunken brawling.
They are from the middle-stream
of juvenile offenders who have been
in trouble before but who have never
been to approved school, borstal, or
a detention centre. They are aged
between 17 and 21 and are probably
unaware that they are the guinea
pigs in an experiment designed to
tackle the rising crime rate among
juveniles by creating in them a
wholesome dread of punishment.
There are other attendance
centres throughout the country
and they have been in operation for
some time, but they all serve junior
juvenile offenders – aged between 12
and 17. The Manchester centre is the
only one which attempts to tackle
the problem of the older boy. As at
the junior attendance centres, the
accent is on work, with everything
done at the double: the difference is
in the type of work done.
Perhaps because the experiment
is still experiencing growing pains,
the work consists of what is termed
in the Army “barrack-room bull.”
The boys are employed on scraping
and painting walls and repairing the
ceiling. When they have redecorated
the whole building it seems that
they will start again and redecorate
the redecorations, so to speak.
For any breach of centre rules
such as malingering or disobedience, the offender is sent back to the
magistrates’ court and tried again.
24 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Shoppers scramble for television sets on Black Friday at a store in São Paulo, Brazil. Retailers across the world now see the US-inspired discount day as a litmus test ahead of the key Christmas t
An 11-year-old Balinese dancer has her makeup applied before performing a traditional
Margapati dance at a village event in Denpasar, Indonesia Mahendra Moonstar/Getty
A pair of John Lennon’s glasses are displayed at police headquarters in Berlin. A man was
arrested on suspicion of handling stolen items from Lennon’s estate Markus Schreiber/AP
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 25
trading period Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
Flowers are placed on the carcass of one of two endangered Asian elephants killed by a train
near Gauhati, India. It is thought they ventured into the area in search of food Anupam Nath/AP
New York’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade featured giant balloons characters from popular
culture, in this case Angry Birds, above the streets of Manhattan Wang Ying/Xinhua
A Krampus show in Goricane, Slovenia, hots up. The goat-demon who punishes naughty
children at Christmas has become better known in recent years Borut Zivulovic/Reuters
26 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
The fatal defect
of neoliberalism
The guiding principles behind the era’s reigning
fiscal ideology – always more markets, always
less government – are in fact a perversion of
mainstream economics, argues Dani Rodrik
s even its harshest critics concede,
neoliberalism is hard to pin down.
In broad terms, it denotes a preference for markets over government,
economic incentives over cultural
norms, and private entrepreneurship over collective action. It has been used to
describe a wide range of phenomena – from Augusto
Pinochet to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan,
from the Clinton Democrats and the UK’s New
Labour to the economic opening in China and the
reform of the welfare state in Sweden.
The term is used as a catchall for anything that
smacks of deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation
or fiscal austerity. Today it is routinely reviled as a
shorthand for the ideas and practices that have produced growing economic insecurity and inequality,
led to the loss of our political values and ideals, and
even precipitated our current populist backlash.
We live in the age of neoliberalism, apparently.
But who are neoliberalism’s adherents and disseminators – the neoliberals themselves? Oddly, you
have to go back a long time to find anyone explicitly
embracing neoliberalism. In 1982, Charles Peters,
the longtime editor of the political magazine Washington Monthly, published an essay titled A NeoLiberal’s Manifesto. It makes for interesting reading
35 years later, since the neoliberalism it describes
bears little resemblance to today’s target of derision.
The politicians Peters names as exemplifying the
movement are not the likes of Thatcher and Reagan,
but rather liberals – in the US sense of the word –
who have become disillusioned with unions and big
government and dropped their prejudices against
markets and the military.
The use of the term “neoliberal” exploded in the
1990s, when it became closely associated with two
developments, neither of which Peters’s article had
mentioned. One of these was financial deregulation,
which would culminate in the 2008 financial crash.
The second was economic globalisation, which
accelerated thanks to free flows of finance and to
a new, more ambitious type of trade agreement.
Financialisation and globalisation have become the most overt manifestations
of neoliberalism in today’s world.
That neoliberalism is a slippery,
shifting concept, with no explicit
lobby of defenders, does not
Impure neoliberals
… Tony Blair and
Bill Clinton
mean that it is irrelevant or unreal. Who can deny
that the world has experienced a decisive shift toward markets from the 1980s on? Or that centre-left
politicians – Democrats in the US, socialists and social democrats in Europe – enthusiastically adopted
some of the central creeds of Thatcherism and Reaganism? Much of our contemporary policy discussion remains infused with principles supposedly
grounded in the concept of homo economicus, the
perfectly rational human being who always pursues
his own self-interest.
But the looseness of the term neoliberalism also
means that criticism of it often misses the mark.
There is nothing wrong with markets, private
entrepreneurship or incentives – when deployed
appropriately. Their creative use lies behind the
most significant economic achievements of our
time. As we heap scorn on neoliberalism, we risk
throwing out some of neoliberalism’s useful ideas.
In Iceland, 86% of workers
are trade union members;
the comparable number
in Switzerland is just 16%
The real trouble is that mainstream economics
shades too easily into ideology, constraining the
choices that we appear to have and providing
cookie-cutter solutions. A proper understanding of
the economics that lie behind neoliberalism would
allow us to identify – and to reject – ideology when
it masquerades as economic science. Most importantly, it would help us to develop the institutional
imagination we badly need to redesign capitalism
for the 21st century.
Neoliberalism is typically understood as being
based on key tenets of mainstream economic
science. To see those tenets without the ideology,
consider this thought experiment. A highly regarded economist lands in a country he has
never visited and knows nothing about. He
is brought to a meeting with the country’s
leading policymakers. “Our country is in
trouble,” they tell him. “The economy is
stagnant, investment is low, and
there is no growth in sight.”
They turn to him expectantly: “Please tell us what
we should do to make
our economy grow.”
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 27
What’s up with WhatsApp?
The secret world of group chat
→ Review, pages 30-31
Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare
The economist explains that he knows too little
about the country to make any recommendations.
He would need to study the history of the economy,
to analyse the statistics, and to travel around the
country before he could say anything.
But his hosts are insistent. “We understand
your reticence, and we wish you had the time
for all that,” they tell him. “But isn’t economics a
science, and aren’t you one of its most distinguished
practitioners? Even though you do not know much
about our economy, surely there are some general
theories and prescriptions you can share with us to
guide our economic policies and reforms.”
The economist does not want to emulate those
economic gurus he has long criticised for peddling
their favourite policy advice. But he feels challenged by the question. Are there universal truths
in economics? Can he say anything valid or useful?
So he begins. The efficiency with which an economy’s resources are allocated is a critical determinant
of the economy’s performance, he says. Efficiency,
in turn, requires aligning the incentives of households and businesses with social costs and benefits.
The incentives faced by entrepreneurs, investors
and producers are particularly important when it
comes to economic growth. Growth needs a system
of property rights and contract enforcement that will
ensure those who invest can retain the returns on
their investments. And the economy must be open
to ideas and innovations from the rest of the world.
But economies can be derailed by macroeconomic
instability, he goes on. Governments must therefore
pursue a sound monetary policy, which means restricting the growth of liquidity to the increase in
nominal money demand at reasonable inflation.
They must ensure fiscal sustainability, so that the
increase in public debt does not outpace national
income. And they must carry out prudential regulation of financial institutions to prevent the financial
system from taking excessive risk.
He warms to his task. Economics is not just about
efficiency and growth, he adds. Economic principles
also carry over to equity and social policy. Economics
has little to say about how much redistribution a society should seek. But it does tell us that the tax base
should be as broad as possible, and that social programmes should be designed in a way that does not
encourage workers to drop out of the labour market.
By the time the economist stops, it appears as if he
has laid out a fully fledged neoliberal agenda. A critic
in the audience will have heard all the code words:
efficiency, incentives, property rights, sound money,
fiscal prudence. And yet the universal principles
that the economist describes are in fact quite openended. They presume a capitalist economy – one in
which investment decisions are made by private
individuals and firms – but not much beyond that.
They allow for – indeed, they require – a surprising
variety of institutional arrangements.
So has the economist just delivered a neoliberal
screed? We would be mistaken to think so, and our
mistake would consist of associating each abstract
term – incentives, property rights, sound money
– with a particular institutional counterpart. And
therein lies the central conceit, and the fatal flaw, of
neoliberalism: the belief that first-order economic
principles map on to a unique set of policies,
approximated by a Thatcher/Reagan-style agenda.
Consider property rights. They matter insofar as
they allocate returns on investments. An optimal
system would distribute property rights to those
who would make the best use of an asset, and afford
protection against those most likely to expropriate
the returns. Property rights are good when they protect innovators from free Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 riders, but they are bad
when they protect them from competition. Depending on the context, a legal regime that provides the appropriate incentives can look quite different from the
standard US-style regime of private property rights.
This may seem like a semantic point with little
practical import; but China’s phenomenal economic
success is largely due to its orthodoxy-defying
institutional tinkering. China turned to markets, but
did not copy western practices in property rights. Its
reforms produced market-based incentives through
a series of institutional arrangements that were better adapted to the local context. Rather than move
directly from state to private ownership, for example, which would have been stymied by the weakness of the prevailing legal structures, the country
relied on mixed forms of ownership that provided
more effective property rights for entrepreneurs in
practice. Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs),
which spearheaded Chinese economic growth
during the 1980s, were collectives owned and controlled by local governments. Even though TVEs
were publicly owned, entrepreneurs received the
protection they needed against expropriation.
Local governments had a direct stake in the profits
of the firms, and hence did not want to kill the goose
that lays the golden eggs.
China relied on a range of such innovations, each
delivering the economist’s higher-order economic
principles in unfamiliar institutional arrangements.
For instance, it shielded its large state sector from
global competition, establishing special economic
zones where foreign firms could operate with different rules than in the rest of the economy. In
view of such departures from orthodox blueprints,
describing China’s economic reforms as neoliberal
– as critics are inclined to do – distorts more than
it reveals. If we are to call this neoliberalism, we
must surely look more kindly on the ideas behind
the most dramatic poverty reduction in history.
One might protest that China’s institutional
innovations were purely transitional. But this
common line of thinking overlooks the diversity
of capitalist arrangements that still prevails among
advanced economies, despite the considerable
homogenisation of our policy discourse.
What, after all, are western institutions? The size
of the public sector in OECD countries varies, from a
third of the economy in Korea to nearly 60% in Finland. In Iceland, 86% of workers are members of a
trade union; the comparable number in Switzerland
is just 16%. In the US, firms can fire workers almost
at will; French labour laws have historically required
employers to jump through many hoops first. Stock
markets have grown to a total value of nearly oneand-a-half times GDP in the US; in Germany, they are
only a third as large, equivalent to just 50% of GDP.
The idea that any one of these models of taxation, labour relations or financial organisation is
Adapted to local circumstances … Chinese free
trade operates differently to the American version
inherently superior to the others is belied by the
varying economic fortunes that each of these economies have experienced over recent decades. The
US has gone through successive periods of angst in
which its economic institutions were judged inferior to those in Germany, Japan or China. Certainly,
comparable levels of wealth and productivity can be
produced under very different models of capitalism.
The visiting economist in our thought experiment knows all this, and recognises that the principles he has enunciated need to be filled in with
institutional detail before they become operational.
Property rights? Yes, but how? Sound money? Of
course, but how? It would perhaps be easier to criticise his list of principles for being vacuous than to
denounce it as a neoliberal screed.
Still, these principles are not entirely contentfree. China, and indeed all countries that managed
to develop rapidly, demonstrate the utility of those
principles once they are properly adapted to local
context. Conversely, too many economies have
been driven to ruin courtesy of the political leaders
who chose to violate them. We need look no further
than Latin American populists or eastern European
communist regimes to appreciate the practical significance of sound money, fiscal sustainability and
private incentives.
Of course, economics goes beyond a list of
abstract, largely common-sense principles. Much
of the work of economists consists of developing
stylised models of how economies work and then
confronting those models with evidence. Economists tend to think of what they do as progressively
refining their understanding of the world: their
models are supposed to get better and better as they
are tested and revised over time. But progress in
economics happens differently.
Economists study a social reality that is unlike
the physical universe. It is completely manmade,
highly malleable and operates according to different rules across time and space. Economics advances not by settling on the right model or theory
to answer such questions, but by improving our
understanding of the diversity of causal relationships. Neoliberalism and its customary remedies
– always more markets, always less government –
are in fact a perversion of mainstream economics.
Good economists know that the correct answer to
any question in economics is: it depends.
Does an increase in the minimum wage depress
employment? Yes, if the labour market is really
competitive and employers have no control over
the wage they must pay to attract workers; but not
necessarily otherwise. Does trade liberalisation increase economic growth? Yes, if it increases the profitability of industries where the bulk of investment
and innovation takes place; but not otherwise. Does
more government spending increase employment?
Yes, if there is slack in the economy and wages do
not rise; but not otherwise. Does monopoly harm
innovation? Yes and no, depending on a whole host
of market circumstances.
In economics, new models rarely supplant
older models. The basic competitive-markets
model dating back to Adam Smith has been modified over time by the inclusion, in rough historical
order, of monopoly, externalities, scale economies,
incomplete and asymmetric information, irrational
behaviour and many other real-world features. But
the older models remain as useful as ever. Understanding how real markets operate necessitates
using different lenses at different times.
Perhaps maps offer the best analogy. Just
like economic models, maps are highly stylised
representations of reality. They are useful precisely
because they abstract from many real-world details
that would get in the way. But abstraction also implies that we need a different map depending on
the nature of our journey. If we are travelling by
bike, we need a map of bike trails. If a new subway
is constructed, we will need a subway map – but we
wouldn’t throw out the older maps.
Economists tend to be very good at making maps,
but not good enough at choosing the one most suited
to the task at hand. When confronted with policy
questions of the type our visiting economist faces,
too many of them resort to “benchmark” models
that favour the laissez-faire approach. John Maynard Keynes once defined economics as the “science
of thinking in terms of models, joined to the art of
choosing models which are relevant”. Economists
typically have trouble with the “art” part.
This, too, can be illustrated with a parable. A
journalist calls an economics professor for his view
on whether free trade is a good idea. The professor responds enthusiastically in the affirmative.
The journalist then goes undercover as a student
in the professor’s advanced graduate seminar on
international trade. He poses the same question: is
free trade good? This time the professor is stymied.
“What do you mean by ‘good’?” he responds. “And
good for whom?” The professor then launches into
an extensive exegesis that will ultimately culminate
in a heavily hedged statement: “So if the long list
of conditions I have just described are satisfied,
and assuming we can tax the beneficiaries to compensate the losers, freer trade has the potential to
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 29
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Sorely disappointed … Mexico faithfully
followed neoliberalism’s economic prescriptions,
but stagnation followed Mario Guzman/EPA
increase everyone’s wellbeing.” If he is in an expansive mood, the professor might add that the effect of
free trade on an economy’s longterm growth rate is
not clear either, and would depend on an altogether
different set of requirements.
This professor is rather different from the one
the journalist encountered previously. On the record, he exudes self-confidence about the appropriate policy. There is one and only one model, at least
as far as the public conversation is concerned, and
there is a single correct answer, regardless of context.
Strangely, the professor deems the knowledge that
he imparts to his advanced students to be inappropriate (or dangerous) for the general public. Why?
The roots of such behaviour lie deep in the culture
of the economics profession. But one important motive is the zeal to display the profession’s crown jewels – market efficiency, the invisible hand, comparative advantage – in untarnished form, and to shield
them from attack by self-interested barbarians,
namely the protectionists. Unfortunately, these
economists typically ignore the barbarians on the
other side of the issue – financiers and multinational
corporations whose motives are no purer and who
Access to free markets has
played an important role in
virtually all the economic
miracles of our time
are all too ready to hijack these ideas for their own
benefit. As a result, economists’ contributions to
public debate are often biased in one direction, in
favour of more trade, more finance and less government. That is why economists have developed
a reputation as cheerleaders for neoliberalism, even
if mainstream economics is very far from a paean to
laissez-faire. The economists who let their enthusiasm for free markets run wild are in fact not being
true to their own discipline.
How then should we think about globalisation in
order to liberate it from the grip of neoliberal practices? We must begin by understanding the positive
potential of global markets. Access to world markets in goods, technologies and capital has played
an important role in virtually all of the economic
miracles of our time. China is the most recent and
powerful reminder of this historical truth, but it is
not the only case. Before China, similar miracles
were performed by South Korea, Taiwan, Japan
and a few non-Asian countries. All of these countries embraced globalisation rather than turn their
backs on it, and they benefited handsomely.
Defenders of the existing economic order will
quickly point to these examples when globalisation comes into question. What they will fail to say
is that almost all of these countries joined the world
economy by violating neoliberal strictures. South
Korea and Taiwan, for instance, heavily subsidised
their exporters, the former through the financial
system and the latter through tax incentives. All
of them eventually removed most of their import
restrictions, long after economic growth had taken off.
But none, with the sole exception of Chile in
the 1980s under Pinochet, followed the neoliberal
recommendation of a rapid opening-up to imports.
Chile’s neoliberal experiment eventually produced
the worst economic crisis in all of Latin America.
While the details differ across countries, in all cases
governments played an active role in restructuring
the economy and buffering it against a volatile
external environment. Industrial policies, restrictions on capital flows and currency controls – all prohibited in the neoliberal playbook – were rampant.
By contrast, countries that stuck closest to the
neoliberal model of globalisation were sorely disappointed. Mexico provides a particularly sad example.
Following a series of macroeconomic crises in the
mid-1990s, Mexico embraced macroeconomic orthodoxy, extensively liberalised its economy, freed
up the financial system, sharply reduced import restrictions and signed the North American Free Trade
Agreement (Nafta). These policies did produce macroeconomic stability and a significant rise in foreign
trade and internal investment. But where it counts
– in overall productivity and economic growth – the
experiment failed. Since undertaking the reforms,
overall productivity in Mexico has stagnated, and
the economy has underperformed even by the undemanding standards of Latin America.
These outcomes are not a surprise from the perspective of sound economics. They are yet another
manifestation of the need for economic policies
to be attuned to the failures to which markets are
prone, and to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each country. No single blueprint fits all.
As Peters’s 1982 manifesto attests, the meaning of
neoliberalism has changed considerably over time
as the label has acquired harder-line connotations
with respect to deregulation, financialisation and
globalisation. But there is one thread that connects
all versions of neoliberalism, and that is the emphasis on economic growth. Peters wrote in 1982
that the emphasis was warranted because growth
is essential to all our social and political ends – community, democracy, prosperity. Entrepreneurship,
private investment and removing obstacles that
stand in the way (such as excessive regulation) were
all instruments for achieving economic growth. If a
similar neoliberal manifesto were penned today, it
would no doubt make the same point.
Critics often point out that this emphasis on
economics debases and sacrifices other important
values such as equality, social inclusion, democratic deliberation and justice. Those political and
social objectives obviously matter enormously, and
in some contexts they matter the most. They cannot always, or even often, be achieved by means of
technocratic economic policies; politics must play
a central role.
Still, neoliberals are not wrong when they argue
that our most cherished ideals are more likely to be
attained when our economy is vibrant, strong and
growing. Where they are wrong is in believing that
there is a unique and universal recipe for improving
economic performance, to which they have access.
The fatal flaw of neoliberalism is that it does not
even get the economics right. It must be rejected
on its own terms for the simple reason that it is
bad economics.
A version of this article first appeared in
Boston Review
30 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Weekly review
Inside the secret
world of group chat
WhatsApp’s intimate
circles are helping bring
scandal to light and play
an increasingly vital role
for politicians and activists.
Here, five users open up
f Jan Koum and Brian Acton hadn’t been
turned down for jobs at Facebook, the lives
of a billion or so people around the world
might look somewhat different today. Their
failure to get hired, however, left the two
former Yahoo! employees with enough
time on their hands to play around with an idea.
And eight years ago, that idea became WhatsApp.
Like most incredibly lucrative inventions, it
doesn’t sound like much; just a free, quick and easy
mobile phone messaging service, allowing users to
set up specific groups of friends around whom messages will be sent en masse. But last year it overtook traditional SMS text messaging in popularity
and increasingly it’s weaving itself into the fabric
of modern life, for what it really does is create private meeting places in a very public online world.
In that sense, WhatsApp is beginning to turn friendship back into what it used to be before Facebook
(which inevitably bought the app three years ago):
not vast, sprawling networks of people you barely
know but small, intimate circles of trust where likeminded people can share stuff that matters to them.
Sometimes it’s things that would be boring to
anyone outside the circle, as with the legions of
family WhatsApps used to share baby pictures, injokes and gently nagging messages from mothers
to far-flung offspring at university. But sometimes
what’s shared is anything but dull.
Shortly after June’s UK general election, Tory
MPs used WhatsApp groups to canvass backbench
opinion about Theresa May’s prospects – so much
more discreet than huddling in the corners of
House of Commons tearooms, as plotters did in a
more analogue age. They’re routinely used on all
sides of the house to swap gossip, agree lines to take
across groups of sympathetic MPs and support individuals under pressure. They’ve played a pivotal
part in exposing sexual harassment, with victims
swapping names via a “whisper network” of likeminded WhatsAppers. And for political activists
inside repressive regimes, they can be a lifesaver.
Yet the app’s system of secure end-to-end encryption – which means that nobody outside the group
can intercept the messages – also attracts those with
more sinister intent. UK home secretary Amber Rudd
suggested earlier this year that it was one of several
potential hiding places for those plotting terrorist
atrocities – Isis recruiters have been known to use
it and Khalid Masood sent a message on the service
shortly before killing six people by driving his car
into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge
earlier this year. The FBI, meanwhile, is said to be
concerned about its potential use in money laundering, insider trading and other financial crimes.
The biggest danger for ordinary users, however,
is that while a group may feel like a safe and private
space, it can be anything but. It’s so simple for the
distracted to send what was meant to be a private
thought around the wrong group, as the Labour MP
Lucy Powell found out when she sent a less than
flattering message about frontbench colleagues to
the entire women’s parliamentary Labour party.
And, unlike a whispered conversation in real life,
WhatsApp leaves an electronic record that can all
too easily be leaked by a rogue group member; like
human friendships down the ages, it’s only ever
as strong as its most gossipy link. Some things, it
seems, even technology can’t change. Gaby Hinsliff
The Second Source Female journalists tackle sexual harassment Rosamund Urwin
Sisterhood can emerge in unexpected places. In
recent weeks, WhatsApp has been my haven of female solidarity, my sorority house – a group set up
in reaction to the onslaught of tales about sexual
harassment is now forging a response to combat
esthis abuse. It all began with a Twitter message. I had read a brilliant piece by Emily
Reynolds: An Incomplete List of All the
Men in the Media Who Have Wronged
Me. Afterwards, I messaged her to say
how well-written it was.
Reynolds – who is younger than
me – had had similar (actually far
worse) experiences to me when I
started as a journalist 10 years ago. It
made me think, if nothing changed, thiss would
happen to the 22-year-old of tomorrow, of next
year, of the next decade – a stuck record of abuse.
Compared with what has since been reported, the
harassment I suffered seems mild. There were
inappropriate texts (“Before I die, I will kiss every
freckle on your lips” was one) and incessant pestering. Reynolds wrote she had been sent an unsolicited penis pic before a follow-up introducing
her to a contact.
We set up a WhatsApp group for female journalists to ttalk about their experiences. Five
founding members swiftly became 20. Patfoundi
terns swiftly emerged. The same names
kept coming up – and the same behaviour. Men invited women for drinks osiou
tensibly to give them career advice, but
expecting rather more than a chat. It
became obvious why this type of abuse
is so prevalent
in the media. It is an informal industry
where contacts are all.
Our group started with stories, but it quickly
morphed into a movement. It has empowered us.
When I was sexually harassed, I felt alone; now
I realise so many women shared my experiences
and we want to stop it happening to more women
in the future. This revolution will be WhatsApped.
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 31
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The White Helmets Syria Civil Defence volunteers coordinate rescues Khaled Khatib
The internet in Syria is bad, but WhatsApp doesn’t
require a lot of data, so everyone uses it. I’ve been
with the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the
White Helmets, since 2013 – we are volunteers
who go to the scene of attacks to rescue trapped
civilians. We have people ready all round Syria.
We use WhatsApp groups to organise where
more help is needed. It’s especially important for
contacting people in areas that are completely
under siege, like the countryside around Homs,
and areas where there are no longer motorways
to travel on. We can hold meetings with these
colleagues through WhatsApp.
In April, when there was a large chemical
attack in Khan Sheikhoun, the local rescue
group used WhatsApp to communicate that
they needed more support. Many rescue groups
responded and went to the scene where more
than 60 people were killed and many more
injured. It is difficult to think how this would
have been coordinated so quickly with so many
people in any other way. As a media officer, I
used WhatsApp to communicate with people
on the ground about what was happening and
then put the story on social media to bring more
help to the people there. Recently, we’ve been
using WhatsApp to speak to our team in Ghouta,
a Damascus suburb, where there is shelling
in the street. WhatsApp makes being in touch
during the war easier for us.
Gaysians LGBT group supporting Asians
and organising marches Khakan Qureshi
Women’s PLP A group for female
British Labour MPs Lucy Powell
I’m part of a south Asian LGBT support group in
Birmingham and someone contacted me to see if
I wanted to help get our commu-nity across the UK together for
this year’s London Pride – he
invited me to a small group
to organise it. It is made up of
19 people around the country, many of them prominent
within our community. It’s 70
years since the partition of India
and 50 years since homosexuality
f lt lik
was decriminalised in the UK, so it felt
like a good
time for us to make a statement.
We organised for 100 of us to be in the
Pride parade this year. We might have gone as
individuals in the past, but this time we made
a stand and said: “We are gay Asians and
we’re standing proud.” It felt like our little
group made a big difference.
In our group there are atheists, agnostics,
Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and we discuss
the unique challenges we face. There’s one
woman who is going through a traumatic time
as she prepares to tell her family she is lesbian
and we’ve been able to give her assurance and
guidance. We’re like-minded individuals who
have come together to make things happen.
I’m in about eight parliamentary WhatsApp groups.
Back in January, I had a temporary group with the
MPs Alison
McGovern and Jess Phillips to draft an
article on childcare. When it was published, there
had been a sense offline that our frontbench
wasn’t that happy. Later in the day there was
a co
conversation on the Women’s PLP [Parliame
mentary Labour party] group about childcare
and the article came up. I meant to comment
about it in the group of the three of us, but put
message in the Women’s PLP group – about
my m
women in that group. [The post read: “We are in
the most ludicrous, nonsensical, pretend, unreal, bollocks position as an Opposition … Angela
[Rayner] and Tulip [Siddiq] really think they’re going to be Ministers in an actual Labour
government very soon.”] I realised
my m
mistake almost straight away.
I texted Angela and Tulip to
apologise and posted back in
the larger group to apologise
everybody. I had a sleepless
to e
night, but Angela and Tulip were
very good about it. It’s made
very, v
me incredibly
careful. If you commit
t writing,
those things
whether it’s WhatsApp,
text or email, then they can stand there for the
rest of time without context.
Cornmarkets Business Group Cork traders fight antisocial behaviour Frank Bradley
Nicolas Asfouri/Getty
I set up a group for traders in our area of Cork city
to communicate the problems we’re facing. We’ve
got 29 different businesses in the group – the
Scout shop, McDonald’s, there are public houses,
restaurants, craft shops, hairdressers and shoe
shops. This summer there was an increase in antisocial behaviour and it hasn’t been given enough
attention by the authorities. People are openly
dealing heroin. There’s a lot of drinking happening on the main street,, and a lot of aggression.
I’m a publican and I try
y to
keep a strict house, but
there are off-licences
selling countless
amounts of alcohol
and it’s affecting
us all.
We use the group to record stuff so that when
we go into meetings with City Hall or the police,
we know what we want to talk about. We take pictures of people drinking in the street, urinating.
We’re not being vigilantes. We’ve been told, and
we’re very aware, that we can’t use any of this as
official evidence against anyone.
We’re all self-employed and don’t really have the
time to take off for meetings, so it saves us time.
ve only used the group in a negative way so far,
but we’ve decided we’re
going to use WhatsApp
to organise a festival in
the spring, too.
IInterviews by
Candice Pires
32 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
DNA revolution
reveals our origins
Scientists can map our ancestors’ genomes
without skeletal remains, explains Robin McKie
cientists made a remarkable discovery
at Trou Al’Wesse in Belgium earlier
this year. Inside a cave that overlooks
the Hoyoux river they found evidence
it had been occupied by Neanderthals
tens of thousands of years ago. Yet the
cave contained no skull fragments, no teeth – nor
any other skeletal remains of this extinct species
of human being.
The team, from the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, were sure
of their ground, however. Their genetic analysis of
soil samples, scraped from the cave floor, had pinpointed the presence of Neanderthals through that
most definitive of biological markers: their DNA.
In other words, without digging up a bone or a
molar, the team, led by geneticist Matthias Meyer,
had found – merely by studying a few microscopic
strands of DNA – that tens of thousands of years
ago Neanderthals had sheltered at Trou Al’Wesse.
It was the scientific equivalent of “extracting gold
dust from the air”, as one researcher put it.
Such hyperbole is understandable. The Trou
Al’Wesse sediments would have been packed with
DNA from plants, bacteria and other cave animals
accumulated over millennia – as well as possible
contaminating genetic material from the scientists
themselves. Yet the Leipzig group, whose work was
reported in the journal Science, in April, was able
to pinpoint the few invisible scraps of Neanderthal
DNA that had lingered there and enrich this material
until they had enough to study its makeup in detail.
“We don’t know what was the exact source of
this Neanderthal DNA,” Meyer said. “It could have
come from Neanderthals who bled, or sweated, or
left urine or faeces in the cave. However, once these
cells had broken open, their DNA would have spilled
out and would have become bound to minerals in
the soil, where they were preserved.”
Meyer’s project is an example of the astonishing
advances that have been made in studying ancient
genomes. Apart from detecting the presence of
Neanderthals and other ancient people at sites
devoid of any other remains, researchers are also
using these techniques to uncover ancient population movements, pinpoint previously unknown human species, track the evolution of human illnesses
and uncover the sources of human creativity. A new
window has been opened on to our past.
“This is the genetic equivalent of uncovering the
great library of Alexandria. All we have to do now
is to learn how to read what we have found,” said
Johannes Krausse, of the Max Planck Institute for
the Science of Human History in Jena.
The study of ancient genomes began 20 years
ago when scientists first developed techniques for
extracting DNA from fossils and for creating sufficient copies of that genetic material to allow them
to study and characterise them.
As a result, we have discovered that Neanderthals, who evolved separately from modern humans
for more than half a million years, later interbred
with us as we emerged from our African homeland.
The existence of the Denisovans was revealed
only when scientists extracted DNA from a tooth
and a few bone fragments from the Denisova cave
in Siberia, and found it belonged to a previously
unknown species of ancient human. Only a finger
bone and three teeth of these people have ever
been found, yet we know from genetic studies that
Denisovans also interbred with modern humans.
Their descendants, carrying small amounts of
Denisovan DNA, then went on to settle in Melanesia
and Australia thousands of years ago.
“Essentially, we are finding – thanks to DNA
studies – that our relatively simple picture of human
evolution was insufficiently detailed,” said Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum,
It came from somewhere else … the mysterious dark object from
Stuart Clark
Astronomers say they are now certain that a mysterious object detected hurtling past our sun in
October is indeed from another solar system. They
have named it 1I/2017 U1(’Oumuamua) and believe
it could be one of 10,000 others lurking undetected
in our cosmic neighbourhood.
The certainty of its interstellar origin comes
from an analysis showing its orbit is almost impossible to achieve from within our solar system. It is
the first rock to have been identified as forming
around another star. Since asteroids coalesce during planet formation, this object – named after a
Hawaiian messenger – can tell us something about
the formation of planets around its parent star. The
latest analyses show ’Oumuamua is similar to some
comets and asteroids in our own solar system. This
suggests planetary compositions like ours could be
typical across the galaxy.
’Oumuamua is thought to be an extremely
dark object, absorbing 96% of light that falls on its
surface, and it is red. This colour is the hallmark
of organic (carbon-based) molecules, which are
the building blocks that allow life as we know it to
function. It is widely thought that the delivery of
organic molecules to the early Earth by the collision
of comets and asteroids made life here possible.
’Oumuamua shows the same could be possible in
other solar systems.
The characteristics of the rock have been published by two groups of astronomers. The first, led
by Karen Meech of the University of Hawaii, found
’Oumuamua was elongated and about 400 metres
long. Using the European Southern Observatory’s
Very Large Telescope they also found it rotated once
every 7.3 hours. The other group of astronomers,
led by David Jewitt of the University of California
Los Angeles, estimated how many similar interstellar visitors there might be in our solar system.
Surprisingly, they calculate another 10,000 could be
closer to the sun than the eighth planet, Neptune,
A very complicated family tree ... advances in
DNA collection and analysis have shown that
Homo sapiens were more mobile and complex
than previously thought Stuart Kinlough/Alamy
London. “It is now clear there was a lot more interbreeding between ancient species, including early
Homo sapiens and others, and that there was a lot
more movement of populations both in the distant
past – and relatively recently.”
One intriguing discovery is provided by the identification of the Ust’-Ishim man, a 45,000-year-old
male whose remains were found in Siberia. DNA
taken from his thigh bone indicates he was a member of Homo sapiens who possessed a distinctive
genetic lineage that has since disappeared entirely.
And a similar fate seems to have affected the
Oase people of Romania. Named after a specimen
found at Peştera cu Oase, Romania, this population
of Homo sapiens contained fairly high amounts of
Neanderthal DNA from recent interbreeding but
also died out without leaving any further trace.
Scientists have also uncovered evidence that
about 15,000 years ago, as the first farmers were
developing in the Middle East, a group of people
known as basal Eurasians added their DNA to the
gene pool of these early agriculturists. Yet no one
knows who these people were. The ghostly imprint
of their genes in modern human DNA is the only
evidence we have so far of their existence.
A major player in uncovering this picture of
mysterious, shifting populations is the Swedish researcher Svante Pääbo, who led much of the effort
to sequence the Neanderthal genome and the discovery of the Denisovans. Like most others in the
field, he too has been startled by the rate of progress.
“I now think it is possible that we could sequence
the genes of people and animals that lived up to
1 million years ago,” he said. “Already we have isolated genes from a horse that was 700,000 years old
– though it helped that it was preserved in permafrost. However, if you had asked me 20 years ago
what the limit would be I would have said we would
be lucky to go back 100,000 years.”
The insights gained through the study of ancient
genomes go far beyond the study of our past. “There
is a great deal we can learn about modern humans
from this work,” said Tony Capra of Vanderbilt
University in Nashville. “For example, we know
that around 2% of the genomes of modern humans
is made up of Neanderthal DNA. However, some
parts of our genomes are noticeable because they
never contain Neanderthal DNA. That indicates
these sections contain genes that are crucial to our
success as a species.” Observer
a different solar system
Alien ... artist’s impression of ’Oumuamua
which is 30 times further from the Sun than the
Earth. Yet these are currently undetected. Each of
these interstellar interlopers would be just passing through, travelling too fast to be captured by
the gravity of the sun. Yet it still takes them about
a decade to cross our solar system and head back
into interstellar space.
If this estimate is correct, about 1,000 enter and
another 1,000 leave every year – which means that
roughly three arrive and three leave every day.
Using robotic telescopes such as Pan-Starrs, which
detected ’Oumuamua, to look for asteroids is a
priority for astronomers searching for potentially
hazardous objects that could impact Earth.
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 33
Adults can help babies
identify words and ideas
Babies as young as six months old may
have an inkling that certain words and
concepts are related, say scientists in
research that sheds new light on how
infants learn. The study also found that
babies who were more often exposed
to adults talking to them about items
in their vicinity did better at identifying a picture of an object when the
item was said out loud. “What this is
saying is that it is always a good idea
to talk to your kid and to show interest
in whatever they are interested in, and
it looks like the more you do that, the
better – put very simply,” said Dr Elika
Bergelson of Duke University in North
Carolina, who co-authored the paper
published in the Proceeding of the
National Academy of Sciences.
Sperm and air pollution
High levels of air pollution are
associated with poor sperm quality
and could be partly responsible for the
sharp drop in male fertility, according
to a study. A team of scientists, led by
researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studied the sperm of
nearly 6,500 men and found a “strong
association” between high levels of fine
particulate air pollution and “abnormal
sperm shape”. The report, published
in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, said that although
the effect is “relatively small in clinical
terms” it might still lead to infertility
for a “significant number of couples”
given the extent of air pollution in cities
around the world.
Vitamin D and arthritis
Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels
may help to prevent rheumatoid
arthritis, according to researchers.
A study led by the University of
Birmingham compared the ability of
immune cells in blood from inflamed
joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis to respond to the so-called sunshine
vitamin. The experts found tissue that
was not diseased responded well to
vitamin D, suggesting it could be effective at preventing the disease’s onset.
Rollin’ with the blues
A study has found that blue whales
have a tendency to roll to one side or
the other when lunging for prey, with
the preference apparently down to the
depth of the water and the type of roll
they execute. “As humans we think
lateralisation [like “handedness”] is
a uniquely human trait but actually
you find it in a broad range of species
in the animal kingdom,” said James
Herbert-Read of Stockholm University,
co-author of the study in Current
34 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Getting better all the time
Steven Poole finds endearing
comedy in two friends trying to
outdo each other’s self-help plans
Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement:
A Year Inside the Optimization Movement
by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
OR Books, 357pp
How can I be a better person? For most of human
history this has been an ethical question. But now
it’s a technological one. This is the age of life-hacks,
smart drugs, cosmetic surgery, mindfulness apps,
productivity-enhancing software and social media,
the largest infrastructure for boasting the world has
ever seen. Crucially, the phrase “self-help”, with
its unfortunate possible implications of weakness and victimhood, has been elbowed out by the
engineering metaphor of “self-optimisation”.
This is now such a huge and variegated industry that, for a curious outsider, it’s difficult to know
where to start. Which is where our authors come in,
for they have done their readers the profound service of starting everywhere. Over the course of 2016,
they each spent an entire month trying to optimise,
according to the latest scientific or at least sciencey
advice, one area of their lives, from productivity (in
the work sense), to brain function, physical attractiveness, relationships, creativity, money and so on.
In a month, Carl Cederström scoffs smart pills, gets a
personal trainer to build muscle and learns French;
André Spicer runs an ultramarathon, becomes a day
trader and goes on a man retreat.
It’s a great idea for a stunt book, and the results
are written up in a tremendously enjoyable form
of alternating diary entries, which importantly
avoids any kind of second-guessing hindsight. We
follow the adventures of each author in what seems
like real time – Cederström in Stockholm, Spicer in
London – and we also witness one side and then
the other of their conversations about the project.
The result is something like an internet-age buddy
movie in which the heroes vie to outdo one another in extreme self-fashioning, and constantly
trade amusing insults. Spicer goes to a cultish selfimprovement seminar and writes: “During the next
break, I wrote an email to Carl asking him what he
thought my blockage was. He responded with one
word: yourself.”
The authors embark on the project as critics
of the culture, but they do find some things that
actually work for them – for instance, working in
“Pomodoros”, or blocks of 25 minutes punctuated
by five-minute breaks – and the analysis of this
world in general gets deeper and more thoughtful
as they approach the end of a very bizarre year. Cederström goes on a Zen guru’s retreat, for example,
and is surprised: “Before going to the retreat I had
thought of spiritual training as a middle-class indulgence. But now, after I saw the pain that these people
were suffering and how desperate they were to get
better, I could no longer stand on the side and laugh.”
But that’s OK, since there are still plenty of other
things worth laughing about. The chapter on optimising sex, in particular, is an absurdist masterpiece: the authors’ long-suffering partners refuse
to participate, so Spicer dances awkwardly at a
Are we there yet? Carl Cederström, left, and André Spicer try to better themselves Ikon/Alamy
Tantric workshop, while Cederström buys expensive masturbation paraphernalia in a futile attempt
to become multi-orgasmic. “I could think of many
people I wouldn’t like to have sex with,” he writes,
“and I was one of them.” Comedy is deployed as an
analytical weapon, which is especially effective during the month the
he authors attempt to become better
people in a morall sense (after all), by trying
on philosophies such as “effective altruism”. “I was just getting into my new role
as moral Carl,” Cederström
ederström reflects, “and
I had already alienated
enated my family.”
Overall, as an
n anatomy of modern
optimisation culture
ulture the book
is sharp and laconic,
aconic, as
readers of the authors’
excellent previous
work, The Wellness
Syndrome, will have
expected. Late on,
the authors spend
a m o n t h t r ying to optimise
“attention”, or how famous they can become on social media. Cederström decides to record his physical self-transformation on Instagram. “As I was doing my second set of bench presses, I thought about
Christopher Lasch’s claim that, in the early 1970s,
as people lost hope in improving the world politically, they retreated into self-impro
self-improvement. It was
no small irony that our year of self
was also the year when both Britain
Britai and the USA
had fallen apart politically.” In London,
meanwhile, Spicer is thin
thinking along the
same lines. “What
“Wha can you say
when you are face
faced with a year
like 2016? All words
wor seem to be
cliches. They only added to the
rubble of history.”
But this book is also something
more than a sparkling nonfiction analysis of cultural
tura trends: it’s an
of a pleasingly
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 35
The first transnational
corporation in the west
The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall
of God’s Holy Warriors
by Dan Jones
Viking, 428pp
“The themes of the Templar story resonate powerfully today,” Jones observes. He rightly does not
draw specious parallels, but the reader can’t help
recognising familiar territory. In what we now call
the Middle East, religions collide and atrocities
abound. The power of states is threatened, or seen to
be threatened, by unaccountable forces with global
tentacles. Information is unreliable and easily manipulated, allowing conspiracy theories to take root
and spread. But nothing is left of the Templars except words on parchment and ruins in stone.
Cullen Murphy
Washington Post
friendship. “Carl Skyped,” reads one of Spicer’s
early diary entries. “He was lying on a couch under
a blanket. He looked pitiful. I instantly started feeling better about things. This always happens. When
Carl feels bad, I feel good. Buoyed by Carl’s illness, I
continued writing.” The result is that the book is both
the record of a “social scientific experiment”, as they
say, and a fine literary comedy of cultural criticism.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the selfimprovement world that this account illuminates is
what so many of its most ardent followers want to
do with all that increased productivity and endurance. Do they dream of revolutionising scientific
understanding or making immortal art? Not really;
they just want to become self-improvement gurus
themselves. The logical end point of this curious
dynamic will arrive when everyone in the world
spends their time telling everyone else how to
optimise their life as someone tells other people
how to improve their methods of telling other people how to improve themselves. It may sound silly,
but on the other hand there would be no time for
nuclear Armageddon.
The planning was meticulous. The
letters were sent by the king to local
authorities throughout his realm.
They were to act one month later,
simultaneously and at dawn – on a
Friday the 13th. The targets were
unaware of what lay in store. It was
a performance reminiscent of a Stalinist purge or Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives.
The year was 1307, and the month was October. The king was Philip IV of France. And his victims were all members of the order of “the Poor
Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Jerusalem”, better known as the Knights Templar – or
simply the Templars. Over a period of two centuries, this charitable and military order of Crusaders
had grown in power and wealth. At a stroke, and
with the acquiescence of a weakened pope, Philip
destroyed the order, imprisoning its leaders and
burning many at the stake. “God will avenge our
death,” said James of Molay, the last Grand Master,
as he faced the flames on an island in the Seine. And,
in a way, God has. The Templars live on in popular
culture – from the video game Assassin’s Creed to
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Philip IV does not.
Dan Jones, the author of well-regarded histories
of the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses, obviously gives no credence to the conspiratorial fantasies that have been spun around the Templars. His
aim is to present a gripping historical narrative, and
in this he succeeds.
The raw material is rich. Founded by a French
knight in 1119, after the successful First Crusade, the
Templars began with a mission to protect throngs
of pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. The members of the order wore white robes with a distinctive red cross, embraced personal poverty and lived
according to a regime codified by the Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux. A papal charter was followed by a papal decree granting the Templars an
exemption from taxes and local laws, effectively
creating a transnational entity. As Jones describes
it, the order comes across as a combination of Blackwater, Goldman Sachs, Kroll International, FedEx,
Fort Knox, Bechtel and, well, the Red Cross.
“By the 1240s,” Jones writes, “the order was providing diverse financial services to some of the richest and most powerful figures across Christendom.”
The order’s military record was mixed. In 1187, an
army of Templars and others was surrounded and
slaughtered by the sultan Saladin in his successful
campaign to restore Palestine to the Muslim fold.
But the Templars had another century of influential life in front of them, until that Friday the 13th in
1307. Philip IV was pious, paranoid, unscrupulous,
mercurial and deeply in debt to the Templars. It was
all too easy to manufacture charges of heresy, blasphemy and sexual depravity. The power and secretiveness of the Templars only fuelled the charges.
Within a few years the Templars were extinct, except in the popular imagination.
Grounds for inspiration
Life in the Garden
by Penelope Lively
Fig Tree, 208pp
Alex Preston
When a really good book comes along,
it draws attention to the absence of
such a book on your shelves before it
arrived. I hadn’t really thought much
about the state of the once venerable
art of garden writing until I read Life
in the Garden. It brought home to
me how few recent gardening books
come anywhere close to its style, intelligence and depth. Garden books have become,
as Penelope Lively herself points out, nothing more
than “vehicles for lavish photography”.
Lively is the only author to have won both the
Booker, for Moon Tiger in 1987, and the Carnegie medal for children’s fiction, for The Ghost of
Thomas Kempe in 1973. In Life in the Garden, she
has given us something quite new; rich and unusual,
this is a book to treasure, as beautiful on the inside
as its gorgeous cover and endpapers (all by the celebrated illustrator Katie Scott).
“The two central activities in my life – alongside writing – have been reading and gardening,”
Lively says, and Life in the Garden laces elegantly
between the two. “I always pay attention when a
writer conjures up a garden,” Lively writes, “… it is
nearly always deliberate, a garden contrived to serve
a narrative purpose, to create atmosphere, to furnish a character.” Life in the Garden moves between
Lively’s own horticultural life and a broad history of
gardening, with regular and illuminating examples
from a host of the best garden writers in nonfiction,
poetry and novels.
Lively’s work is full of memorable gardens, from
the Egyptian oases of Moon Tiger (which drew on
her childhood in Egypt) to the garden centre at Dean
Close in According to Mark. Lively doesn’t quote herself, which is a shame, but calls on others instead,
from Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West to her
friends Elizabeth Jane Howard and Carol Shields.
She is gently dismissive of those writers who give
you a garden, but don’t know enough about it to
name names. Proust comes in for criticism here.
This is a book that gives words to something that
those of us who garden know by instinct – how being
in the garden raises the spirits, modulates the seasons. Throughout the book we are drip-fed scenes
from Lively’s life, so it becomes like an autobiography smuggled into a garden book. Now, at 84, time
and space have conspired to circumscribe her gardening existence. She writes frankly of the fact that
the Hydrangea paniculata Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
←Continued from page 35 Limelight she’s planting
will probably outlive her, although “I am requiring
it to perform while I can still enjoy it”.
This isn’t quite a perfect book. Lively has a tic
of too-regular authorial interjections to remind the
reader of what’s to come. It’s part of the charm of
the book, this enthusiasm, but the outbursts come
too often and begin to clunk.
There’s a common theme that links many of the
authors Lively mentions – they’re infuriatingly privileged. Lively herself is from blue-blooded stock –
her grandmother’s place in Somerset had a sunken
rose garden, a ha-ha, a splendid-sounding yewlined water feature. Few of my author friends have
been lucky enough to inherit castles with extensive
grounds or pick up a Prussian aristo with a sprawling
estate, like Elizabeth von Arnim.
And yet, for all the scarcity of really good contemporary garden writers, there are still many who use
gardens to powerful effect in their novels. Our long
history of gardening deserves a book as beautiful as
Life in the Garden.
Effing, not blinding
Swearing Is Good for You: the Amazing
Science of Bad Language
by Emma Byrne
Profile, 240pp
How to Swear: An Illustrated Guide
by Stephen Wildish
Ebury Press, 192pp
Andrew Anthony
My earliest memory is of sitting on
the pavement outside my childhood
home while Tony Hilsden tutored
me in the lexicon of profanity. “No,
’. It’s ‘cunt’.”
not ‘can’t’.
I was four
our years old and the reacks in
n my mind is that my
son it sticks
ht him doing it,
mother caught
sent him packing and told me to
forget everything I’d just
learned. That, of course, became an impossibility the
bidinstant I realised its forbidden nature. So began my initiation into the social taboo
of “bad” language.
We all go through the same
proscription by some or other
authority figure. And yet most
of us emerge as proficient
swearers, able to construct
whole sentences, should
ut of
the occasion demand, out
F-words and S-words and
d Cabet
words, and a whole alphabet
of curses that, despite near
universal recognition, are
deemed unfit to print.
In spite of their widespread
circulation and occasional
ds re
eprofitability, these words
remain marginal, suspect, unac
ceptable in polite society.
ut what
It’s not so much about
they describe – the words
ds “se
“rectum” and “vagina”, for example, do not require
asterisks – but more about what they represent: the
unsayable. We know this because the nature and
type of unsayable words changes across time and
cultures. Blaspheming – the mere mention of God
or Jesus – was once beyond the bounds, as was the
word “bloody”.
So, what’s the point of unsayable words that we
regularly say? According to Emma Byrne, author of
Swearing Is Good for You, profanities are a fundamental part of our language, performing a vital role
in our development. She comes at swearing from
the perspective of evolutionary psychology and
with a vocabulary of which Tony Hilsden would
have approved.
Citing several not always entirely relevant scientific studies, she makes the case that taboo words
act as a kind of pressure valve, allowing us to let
off steam rather than, say, punch somebody’s lights
out. Apparently research shows that swearing also
helps productivity, creates greater unity, eases pain
and is so deeply embedded in our brains that profanities are often the last bits of language that stroke
victims can use.
“In fact,” writes Byrne, “I don’t think we would
have made it as the world’s most populous primate
if we hadn’t learned to swear.”
It was at this stage that I mumbled something
that may have eased my own pain but didn’t necessarily help with my productivity as a reviewer.
Byrne’s contention is that without swearing we
would have to rely on biting and gouging and throwing faeces to maintain social order, but you don’t
need a PhD in psychology to know that if someone
describes someone else with a swearword in, say, a
road rage incident, the risk of violence goes up, not
down. However, if there is a defining characteristic
of swearwords it must surely be their flexibility.
As Stephen Wildish shows in How to Swear: An
Illustrated Guide, “fuck” can be an adjective, a verb
and a noun, all in the same sentence. It can also be
offensive, funny, descriptive, ironic, literal, metaphorical and much else besides, depending on linguistic and social context.
To enter into the vernacular, this is one of those
elegantly designed amusements
amusemen intended to be
read while wiping y
your arse. A book of
lavatorial la
made for the
smart lavatory.
h books
attempt to be
nd about the profane
uses psychology and
– Byrne us
ogy Wildish employs
grammarr and
an irony – and both
in the obvious
writers in
ou of their subject.
However, both books
re constructed from
on which the
fail to deliver.
admits in her
Ass Byrne
o way
to know for
re that any of this
he idea that swearing
a peaceful alpro
to violence for
ourr primitive
Still, they’re entertainStil
ing and
an informative and,
else, remind
if nothing
you of
o the pleasure of
ng words that are not
ant to be said.
Marking one’s place
Black Rock White City
by AS Patrić
Melville House, 256pp
Houman Barekat
Australian author AS Patrić’s debut
novel tells the story of two migrants
from the former Yugoslavia trying
to rebuild their lives in late 1990s
Australia. Black Rock is a suburb of
Melbourne with a large immigrant
population, and “white city” – the
literal English translation of “Belgrade” – connotes renewal and regeneration, the
blank slate of a fresh start. His protagonists, Jovan
and Suzana, lost everything in the Balkan conflict. In
Australia they take jobs that are beneath their level
of education: she works as a carer; he, formerly a university lecturer, is now a hospital janitor. Jovan used
to be a prolific poet and Suzana wrote fiction, but
neither has done much writing since they migrated.
Patrić – who was born in Serbia and moved to Australia as a child – paints a convincing snapshot of émigré life, rendering its banal humiliations with pointed
weariness. Aussies speak to Jovan “as though his
slow, thick words are a result of brain damage”, and
he endures constant passive-aggressive banter from
a racist colleague. Even the dentist he is sleeping with
(with Suzana’s blessing) treats him dismissively:
“He’s more a part of the now of her imagination
than he is a man with his own history and his own
future.” Suzana’s best friend in Australia is a fellow
migrant with whom she has little in common aside
from a shared language. Then there is the matter of
adjusting to a different set of cultural expectations
regarding gender relations: Suzana can’t help feeling
contemptuous of her employer for his passive and
diffident manner, which would be deemed weak and
unmanly by the standards of her native country.
This is all perceptively observed, but it hangs
awkwardly on a plot line that would not look out of
place in a television cop show. A mysterious vandal
writes menacing graffiti on the walls of the hospital
where Jovan works. He goes on to mutilate a corpse,
carving the word “Inspiration” into the body, and
the threat level escalates from there. Jovan befriends a journalist, who as luck would have it is writing a book on graffiti. The two men indulge in lots of
lurid hypothesising about the perpetrator’s motives.
The theme that connects these two seemingly
discrete narratives is the idea of writing as release.
Patrić invites us to consider that the impulse that
drives youths to scrawl tags on train stations is not
a million miles from the urge to write fiction or
poetry: in both cases it is a question of wanting to
register your existence. Suzana, who has attempted
suicide, edges towards some kind of healing as she
begins writing a historical novel: “When ink is put
to the page she is history and her children will speak
again.” It hangs together, but only just.
Black Rock White City won Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin award in 2016. No doubt it was
the book’s sympathetic and topical portrayal of
marginalised communities that endeared it to the
judges: Patrić’s trenchant humanism forms a sombre rejoinder to the rising tide of nativism across
the English-speaking world. Black Rock White City
is aesthetically flawed, but its sensitive exploration
of the innate human need to put down roots is admirably ambitious and timely.
38 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
‘I’m dating life. It feels like
Icelandic icon Björk is in positive mood with her new album,
um, Utopia.
She gives Miranda Sawyer a sneak listen and discusses creative
y flute club
control, the trouble with men – and why she started Friday
t’s hard talking to Björk about her music. This
is for a few reasons, the most important of
which is that she doesn’t make music to talk
about it. She makes music because that is
what she does (“I write one song per month,”
she says, “sometimes two months”), and
usually the whole picture of an album doesn’t
emerge for her until very late in the process.
“OK, I will put my head into the place where I
have to talk about me,” Björk says, shifting in her
seat. She is feeling “a bit scruffy” – she means rough
around the edges – after a night out at a gig (her
friends’, twins Gyða and Kristin: “Gyða plays these
kind of cello loops, it’s really meditative”).
Even off-duty, Björk is interested in the offbeat and experimental. She’s worked in music for
more than 30 years, so she’s called a pop star. But
really, she’s an artist in disguise, often literally (at
the moment, she favours delicate feather or filigree
head dresses). Today, despite her hangover, she
looks great. There is kohl smudged under her eyes,
and she’s drinking tea and chewing gum. Every so
often she takes her gum out and puts it on her saucer;
then picks it up absent-mindedly and chews it again.
We are above a cafe in Reykjavik, Iceland. This
building was once the home of an important politician, and the rooms are small and decorated like a
granny’s house: ornaments in glass display cases,
Victorian side tables, antimacassars on curlyarmed sofas. Björk folds herself in and out of her
olde worlde chair, her body language opening and
shutting according to how comfortable she is with
the conversation.
At the moment, the conversation concerns her
new album, Utopia. Björk has only recently worked
out what Utopia might mean. For a long time, as is
her wont, she was creating it without a huge idea,
just working. Her music involves her exploring
small triggers, connecting “emotional coordinates”;
matching technical difficulties with musical aims;
processing the results of time spent with musicians,
editors, producers; arranging, recording, editing,
mixing. Mostly editing. “Eighty per cent of my music is me sitting by my laptop, editing. Weeks and
weeks on each song,” she says. Now it’s all done,
she’s marshalling her multitudinous ideas – musical, conceptual, conscious, subconscious – trying to
organise everything into a single quotable notion.
She has been working on this album for two and a
half years. I have heard it exactly once. Seventyfive minutes ago, in the room next door, I plugged
earphones into a laptop and listened to Utopia all
the way through. Straight afterwards, I walked into
this room to talk to Björk about what I’d just heard.
I can’t hear Utopia any other way because Björk’s
last album, Vulnicura, was leaked online three
months before its release date. The river between
us is swirling with her experiences. I’ve barely got
my toes wet.
Anyhow, Björk has been making Utopia since she
finished her last tour. It started, she says, like many
of her albums: as both a reaction against her previous album, and a following-on from it. Released in
2015, Vulnicura was bleak. It dived into the misery of
her break-up with artist Matthew Barney, her longterm partner and father of her daughter, Ísadóra.
Its centrepiece, Black Lake, had Björk at her most
vulnerable and bitter, with lyrics such as “I am one
wound, my pulsating suffering being … You fear my
limitless emotions, I am bored of your apocalyptic
obsessions … You have nothing to give, your heart
is hollow.” “The saddest song I’ve ever written,” is
how she describes it to me.
“We did the final gigs for Vulnicura in Carnegie
Hall,” she remembers, “and they were so tragic.
Everybody who ever had a broken heart ever was
there, and they were all telling me their stories. It
was really sweet and genuine, you know? And with
the performances, I was like: ‘This has to be discreet,
and treated with grace.’ But after the first one, I
almost felt guilty. Because the whole room was crying and I was not. Me and Alejandro [Ghersi, AKA
electronic artist Arca, who worked on Vulnicura]
were guiltily drinking champagne in the back going:
‘Next time we’re going to have fun, OK?’ I wanted
this album to go towards the light. You indulge in
the grief to a certain point, but then you have to be
a little bit Pollyanna.”
‘People miss the jokes.
A lot of it is me taking
the piss out of myself and
being … self-deprecating’
That’s the contrast with Vulnicura. The continuation – what Björk calls “the seed” – is provided
partly by Ghersi. He came into Vulnicura towards
the end of the process, when Björk was in full control: “I was the bossy back-seat driver.” They got
on well, and during Utopia, their partnership was
more equal, Björk letting him contribute more as
an artist. They took small elements they liked from
Vulnicura, passed sounds they liked to each other
via email (melodies from South American flutes,
singers from Cambodia) and played with them.
The result is exceptionally beautiful. Utopia is
overwhelming, lush and gorgeous, with harps and
flutes and real-life bird calls, a magic forest of constantly changing sound. There’s an ebb and flow
dynamic, like the turning of swallows in the sky.
Sometimes Björk’s voice is at the fore, sometimes
it’s just another instrument. This is not an album of
pop songs, although you might find one or two, at
a push; it’s orchestral and detailed, all-enveloping.
Björk thinks of her utopia as an island, perhaps one that was created out of an eco-disaster,
an island where plants have mouths or hover like
hummingbirds or grow out of your hands. “Do you
know the fish in The Simpsons, that has three eyes?
Like that.” (This
This makes me laugh: Björk is
n she’s given credit for.) In her
funnier than
en arrive to create a new, bethead, women
ter society. They bring kids and music and
y tech, “and then there is the
fe on the island”.
everyday life
This idea came partly because she wanted to use
flutes, and her friend James Merry (originally hired
to do research
rch for her 2011 album Biophilia) dug
yths from around the world. He found
out flute myths
tales “from South America, Amazon tribes, and
Africa, and Indonesia, and China, and Icelandic
”. The thread between the tales was a
story of escape,
ape, where women break out from a
society thatt oppresses them, steal flutes and run
hildren to a new place: “And they live
with their children
very happily
y for, I dunno, two-thirds of an album.
e guys come and chop everyone’s heads
But then the
idn’t fancy that bit, so “I decided I’m
off.” Björk didn’t
ange the ending. I think we can
going to change
ou know.”
change it, you
now that I got all this
I don’t know
sten, though the
from one listen,
sense of wildlife,
ldlife, physical
liss was very
space and bliss
strong. My notes say
things like “epic, full
of nature”,, “rattle
(monkey sounds)”,
“flutes gorgeous,
beats tough,
ent”. I
e idea
did get the
ace, of
of a new place,
women supportpporting women,, of rejecting old systems
(in Tabula Rasa, she
eak the
sings: “Break
chains of the fuckups of our fathers”).
There are also – excitng hints of a
ingly – strong
new lover (Blissing
Blissing Me: “I
fall in love with his song”).
ling of the end
And the feeling
of a difficult relationship, of
ward (Sue Me).
moving forward
ay well be being
Though I may
too literal. Björk
jörk laughs when
cs at her, and ask
I quote lyrics
her about her
er love life.
“It’s pretty
ty active, I’ll leave
he says. “I think
it at that,” she
it’s still too
o early to be too
specific. Look,
ook, I’m happy
Technical and
nd visual …
Björk spentt two and a half
ing on Utopia
years working
Santiago Felipe/Getty
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 39
a new adventure’
that people are st
still listening to me after all
these years, but
b sometimes I feel people
misunderstand the lyrics. People miss
the jokes.
jokes A lot of it is me taking the
of myself and being, what do
piss out o
you call it,
it self-deprecating …”
In a recent
interview, Björk called
Tinder album”. “Yes, because
Utopia “my T
I thought that w
was hilarious, but obviously I
would never be able to be on Tinder.” What she’s
talking about, really, is fresh experiences with new
people: the excitement and sexiness and clumsiness
of those encounters. “P
“People trying things out, and
rejection, both ways. W
We all have chapters, and then
it’s like: ‘I’m walking
when you start new chapters,
down the same streets II’m always walking down, I’m
wearing the same clothes,
clothe but it feels like I’m on Mars.’
sense, but also in a scary sense. I
In the best possible sen
explorer, I enjoy it.”
missed being this emotional
Björk’s been travellin
travelling with her music from when
Her first foreign tour, in 1983,
she was a teenager. He
when she was 18, was w
with Tappi Tikarrass, supporting the punk band Cras
Crass. Back then, Björk spoke no
Margaret Thatcher” from
English, but learned “Fuck
another band, Flux of Pink
Indians, who had a song
with that as the chorus
chorus. These were the days of skinheads and punks figh
ghting at gigs. Björk loved it. “It
was like I went to th
the moon!” she says. “Like: ‘My
God, things are so exotic here!’”
She was in various
Icelandic punk/goth/
indie bands until
unti her first solo album, Debut
in 1993, married her art tendencies and soaring voice with producer
Nellee Hooper’s dance
went platinum in the US. Back
sensibility and w
then, I would see
se her at parties, and she enjoyed herself in the
t same way we all did. There
is no VIP velvet
velve rope instinct in Björk. She
likes stimulating
stimulatin people, whoever they are.
We talk about
abo that time a bit; interestingly, through the filter of gender politics
and then move
mo on to the more acute issexual harassment and abuse.
sue of sexu
The night before
I arrived, Björk issued
statement on Facebook in support of
a stateme
the actors
actor who have spoken out about
this. She
Sh said that she, too, had been
sexually harassed while working in
the fillm industry. She named no
names, though she was clearly
talking about Lars von Trier, the
director of Dancer in the Dark, in
which she starred (Von Trier has
since denied her claims). “My
humiliation and role as a lesser
sexually harassed being was the
norm and set in stone with the
director and staff of dozens who
enabled it,” she wrote. Having
long operated from a position
power in the music industry,
of p
she was shocked to find that actresses did not have such power.
When she was promoting
Vulnicura, in an interview with
Pitchfork, she pointed out that,
for y
years, she has been regarded
as a singer-songwriter who
works with male producers. In
fact, she produces her albums, and she is in control of the arrangements, the sound, the mixing,
everything. She wondered, in the interview, if it
was partly her fault: she likes to create beautiful
visuals and so has rarely been photographed in the
studio, next to a mixing desk, or holding an effects
unit. Lots of young female musicians took her at
her word, and there is now a website dedicated to
pictures of them next to technical equipment.
“I am so honoured by this,” she says. “And so now
I’m going to try and talk about these things more.
Agh, I’m blushing! But I am going to own it … for the
ladies.” (She says this in a funny voice.)
What she wants to tell me about is the all-female
group of 12 flautists on Utopia. “The flute club!
Flute-Föstudagur!” They would meet at her cabin
every Friday (Föstudagur means Friday). Björk,
who’s been paying the flute since she was six,
rehearsed them, “like 50 or 60 days”, and did all
the arrangements and the conducting, everything.
It was the same for the choir and the brass, “and for
all the arrangements I’ve done on my albums. But
people … it’s like they think it happened by magic
and fell from the sky.”
Why do we have the impression that Björk isn’t
a technical musician? Perhaps it’s because she’s a
singer, with her exceptionally emotional voice.
“Yes, and I think more with women than men,
if we have that access to the emotional side in us,
people think it has to be oblivious,” she says. “We
are allowed to be oblivious, but we can’t then step
back and edit it. But the mixing of this album was
really tricky. You know, without trying to sound too
pretentious, it was not necessarily about the events
but the filters around the sound. The juxtaposition
of the flutes and the electronics and the voice and the
birds. It’s really delicate. If it’s wrong, the whole thing
just tips … It took me three months to mix the album.”
She thinks of Utopia as having three parts. The discovery of the island, the day to day, and then, more
prosaically, how humans survive difficult times. One
of the songs, Body Memory, is about how your body
can get you through trauma when your head and
heart can’t. It was sparked by another day she spent
at her cabin, this time by herself. She wrapped herself
in loads of coats, lay down on the moss, and listened
to an audiobook of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
She’d been aware of the book for a long time but had
dismissed it as “a bit goth”. This time, though, she
found it stimulating, especially the final part. “It’s
about having people who are experts in dying,” she
says, “who have physical practice to help you to die.
Like yoga exercises. Breathing exercises … Like death
doulas. I was so impressed by this.”
And so she wrote Body Memory to remind herself that she is able to move through grief, get past
Vulnicura and survive. “It’s my version of helping
myself, suggesting you have it all in you, you have
all the answers. Without sounding mushy. It’s like
my manifesto. Let’s do this!”
Björk laughs and picks up her gum and her body
language is open. She’s waving from the other bank,
not semaphoring. “I think I’m Tindered to life,” she
says. “I’m dating life. I’m like: ‘Oh, those are new
hands and I’ve got new legs and new … it’s a feeling
of … It feels like a new adventure.’” Observer
Utopia is released on One Little Indian
40 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Naked flesh was never the same again
A Modigliani retrospective
emphasises the agency of
his models, finds Lara Feigel
e fight against the nude in
painting, as nauseous and
as tedious as adultery in
literature,” proclaimed the
Italian Futurists in 1910. The
nude was dead; the speeding car more thrilling than the female body. Yet
by 1919, Modigliani had almost single-handedly
resuscitated her. Naked flesh, captured on the canvas, would never be the same again.
For decades, every Modigliani book and exhibition has talked about the “myth” of Modigliani, and
this retrospective – his biggest in decades – at Tate
Modern is no exception. Each biographer has had a
new approach. Exhibitions have focused on elucidating the specifics of his Italian heritage or his social
milieu. This one makes much of his cosmopolitanism, reminding us that he was a Jewish Italian in
Paris. It emphasises that he was a sculptor as well as
a painter (nine of his sculptures are included) and examines his social and historical context. It sheds light
on his relationship with cinema and contemporary
fashion and attempts to give agency to his models.
This works well when it comes to Modigliani’s
most significant love affairs, and there are three
very interesting women to explore. Two of these, the
Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and the South African-born British journalist Beatrice Hastings, were
at least as professionally successful as he was. He
met the married Akhmatova in 1910, and their affair
lasted for more than a year. He drew her repeatedly
and one of the few surviving drawings appears here.
There is something otherworldly about her, reclining
in bed: her hair forms a halo and the sheet around her
legs gives her the appearance of a mermaid.
The relationship with Hastings lasted longer,
Mythic … Reclining Nude, 1919; detail of Seated
Nude, 1917, top Museum of Modern Art, New York
from 1914-16, and resulted in some intriguing paintings. Few letters from Modigliani survive, so Hastings’s columns for a London magazine form a crucial lens on to the artist in this period. These were
the years that saw him making his reputation as a
painter but also saw him succumbing to alcohol and
drugs, and becoming more unpredictably irascible.
A feminist, dedicated to living unconventionally,
Hastings smoked in public and matched her lover
in his drinking. She also seems to have fought back.
The myths about their quarrels still proliferate.
There’s an anecdote in which he threw her through
a closed window and she bit him in the balls. Perhaps the most striking portrait of her is the one from
1915 where she’s figured as “Madam Pompadour”,
an anglicised version of Louis XV’s smart and politically influential mistress. With her exuberant
hats, Hastings appears as a woman of the
world, her face and neck elongated in
Modigliani’s now characteristic
way. He was forging a style that
was distinctly his, the lines clear
and definite, the human shapes,
whether of eyes or faces, echoing
the almond-ovals of his sculptures.
Then there is Jeanne Hébuterne,
the most frequently painted of Mod-igliani’s lovers. They met in 1917 when
he was 33 and she 19; she bore his child
in 1918. Jeanne was undoubtedly the
he meekest
of Modigliani’s serious lovers. Though she was a
painter in her own right, it’s hard to argue that her
career mattered much in years that were dominated by child bearing and curtailed by her willingly sacrificial death two days after his own from
tuberculosis. It’s possible, then, to create a narrative
in which agency is given to Modigliani’s most significant mistresses. But what of his nude models –
surely the paintings that many of the visitors will be
there to see? The Tate has collected 17 of the nudes
painted between 1916 and 1919, as well as an earlier
one made in a darker expressionist style. Though
some of the models of these paintings are given first
names and are recognisable across several pictures,
we don’t know anything about them.
The exhibition’s curator Nancy Ireson suggests that these models can be identified as “new
women” by their hair and makeup. Certainly this
is rendered convincing by their expressions in the
paintings. Modigliani portrays them as erotic subjects in control of their own sexuality, fully able to
answer the male gaze with desire of their own.
Visually, there is something unusually satisfying
about looking at a Modigliani nude from his final
years. A characteristic example is the wonderful
Sleeping Nude With Open Arms (1917), where a
woman lies, erotically splayed, her legs leading off
beyond the edge of the picture. The gaze is drawn
rapidly down so that the process of looking, if sustained, becomes a process of repeatedly caressing
from head to thigh. Subtle variations in colour show
the muscles in her stomach tensed with expecHer arms, open behind her head
tation. H
in a gesture
of self-satisfied display,
seem about to move forward, allowsee
ing her to participate in the scene.
Other nudes are more quietly
languorous. There’s even the ocla
ccasional gesture of modesty, with
a 1917 standing nude somewhat
halfheartedly covering a breast and
patch of pubic hair with her hands. It
was the
th pubic hair that was the focus
for shock
shocked outrage when Modigliani first
exhibited the po
portraits in 1917.
Though the nudes may be a highlight, the show
aims to give a sense of his range. There are friends
(Cocteau is among the most visually appealing),
dealers and ordinary people. The Tate’s own The Little Peasant (1918) and the 1919 The Boy are moving
portraits from his final years, where he seems to have
returned to the influence of Cézanne. The exhibition
ends, as it must, with his haunting final self-portrait
from 1919, his cheeks gaunt, his eyes half-shut with
sadness and pain, but both the face and body as
poised as ever. “Happiness is an angel with a grave
face,” Modigliani had written, before painting himself in that role. And so the myth endures.
Modigliani is at Tate Modern, London, until 2 April
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 41
Culture Reviews
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Rock & pop
Morrissey Low in High School
iven its world premiere by English
National Opera, Nico Muhly’s Marnie
is drawn from Winston Graham’s 1961
novel of the same name, famously
filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964. The subject,
Muhly argues, “screams out for operatic treatment”, and his heroine – a thief and liar acting
out of compulsive responses to half-remembered childhood trauma – certainly has antecedents elsewhere. Muhly links her fear of sex
and physical contact to Debussy’s Mélisande,
who, like Marnie, is also trapped in a marriage
with a potentially abusive man. There are also
overtones of Emilia Marty in Janácek’s Makropoulos Case, who similarly changes her identity
multiple times for the purposes of deception.
Muhly and his librettist Nicholas Wright follow the outlines of the novel rather than the film,
retaining the original British setting. We encounter characters that Hitchcock dropped, most
crucially, perhaps, Mrs Rutland, the formidably
manipulative mother of Marnie’s husband, Mark.
Music and dramaturgy are stylised, at times
a bit too much so. In a gesture towards Jungian
psychology, Marnie is tracked by four similarly
dressed “shadows”, who sing in Monteverdian
close harmony, while eight male dancers in
suits and trilbies hover round her, omnipresent
his is a big, powerful, generational story
culminating in tragedy and violence,
based on the novel by Hillary Jordan,
which director Dee Rees handles with flair
and real passion. It concerns Jim Crow America
and the changes beginning to happen after young
men returned from the second world war to find
a home unfit for heroes, riddled with the bigoted
attitudes they left behind in wartime.
Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund play brothers
Henry and Jamie; Carey Mulligan plays Laura, an
unworldly woman who marries Henry, charmed
by his shy courtesy but also secretly entranced by
Jamie’s romantic charm. Yet these good qualities
seem knocked out of the brothers when they have
Tristram Kenton
reminders of the masculinity she understandably dreads. The chorus are both essential to the
drama and commentators upon it. The climactic
hunt, in which the death of Marnie’s horse Forio
results in her first experience of grief, is closer
to oratorio than opera – a big choral narrative,
followed by a succession of arias.
The score has passages of undeniable beauty.
A lyrical warmth characterises Muhly’s vocal
lines, and the choral writing, geared to the ENO
chorus for whom Muhly has expressed great
admiration, is tremendous. Yet there is a major
flaw, which is primarily one of tone. Muhly’s approach is essentially reflective; this psychological thriller doesn’t always thrill as it should.
It is, however, superbly done. Sasha Cooke,
pictured above, and Daniel Okulitch, fine artists
both, admirably convey the central couple’s difficult relationship. Cooke sounds gorgeous and
is a compelling actor. Okulitch has a nice line in
vulnerability that makes Mark’s predatory sexuality all the more troubling. There are strong
cameos from Lesley Garrett as Mrs Rutland, and
Diana Montague as Lucy, the friend of Marnie’s
mother who holds the key to the past. Michael
Mayer’s staging has an elegant fluidity. Martyn
Brabbins conducts with great sensitivity. The
playing and choral singing are outstanding.
Tim Ashley
At the Coliseum, London, until 3 December
to work on the grim farm in the
he Mississippi
mud belonging to their grotesquely
squely racist
father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks).
Their tenants are a black family,
amily, led by
a lay preacher, Hap Jackson (Rob
Rob Morgan),
and his smart son Ronsel (Jason
on Mitchell,
pictured). Ronsel and Jamie go off
to war after Pearl Harbor. They
return, traumatised and lonely,
with a bond of friendship and
respect that transcends race.
The two begin a clandestine
friendship. It leads to a moment of horror, yet also to
a strange kind of release.
Mudbound is absorbing: the
language, performance and
direction all have real sinew.
Peter Bradshaw
here are not many artists around today
that can compare to Morrissey,” offered
record label BMG, when the singer inked
the deal that brings us his 11th album.
“He is prodigious, literate, witty, elegant and,
above all, courageous. His lyrics, humour and
melodies have influenced many generations.”
An enthusiastic tribute, but perhaps hard for
long-time observers of Morrissey’s career to read
without immediately thinking: yeah, I’ll give this
relationship six months.
In a world of flux and change, there’s a certain
comforting familiarity about the arrival of a new
Morrissey album. We’ve had stage one: the signing of a fresh record contract, replete with gushing
praise. And, indeed, stage two: promotion of new
album overshadowed by Morrissey’s inclination
to make public statements that suggest – and let
us pick our words carefully here – that some of his
views may tend a little towards the reactionary.
Which brings us to stage three: the album
itself – already acclaimed as a brilliant return to
form by people who can remember a time when
Morrissey only released extraordinary records,
2006’s Ringleader of the Tormentors being the
most recent example. But Low in High School
largely cleaves to the model of its two less stellar
predecessors. Like 2009’s Years of Refusal and
2014’s World Peace Is None of Your Business, its
main musical currency is wilful ugliness. Opener
My Love, I’d Do Anything for You’s glam stomp is
blitzed with corrosive guitars, churning electronics, a deafening, discordant brass arrangement
and, somewhere in the background, a plethora of
distorted screams and cries.
It’s an approach that can be potent. Yet once
you’re struck by the sense that the sonic ugliness
reflects the worldview of the man at its centre –
the way the wit and compassion that illuminated
Morrissey’s greatest songs has gradually calcified
into misanthropy and self-pity – the overall effect
can be hugely unedifying. Witness the abundantly nasty I Bury the Living, on which Morrissey sneers at a squaddie and, after he’s killed in
the line of duty, at his bereaved mother. It’s over
seven minutes long, plenty of time to explore a
topic, but there’s no subtlety, nuance or insight
here. You listen to it and think: how did a lyricist
who wrote songs as beautifully shaded and empathetic as This Night Has Opened My Eyes wind up
thinking this passes muster?
But elsewhere, Morrissey’s greatness flashes
into life. Th
There are brilliant lines liberally scattered abou
about – “I’m not my type”, “Will you wrap
yourr legs
leg around my head to greet me?” – and,
on I W
Wish You Lonely, a piece of penetrating
self-scrutiny that goes some way to answering
oft-asked question about what Morrissey’s
the oft-as
real proble
problem is. A life of solitude with only the
Ukip leadership
election results for company, it
suggests, makes you “think of yourself only,
of e
everything you demand, you want and
need, and to hell with everybody else”.
What it all amounts to is your standar
ard Morrissey solo album: brilliance
alongside stuff that boggles the mind.
A state of affairs that, alas, may bring us
tto the traditional stage four, in which
Morrissey denounces his record label
as part of the ever-burgeoning global
conspiracy ranged against him.
Alexis Petridis
42 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Bretton, Derbyshire
Let the sunshine in, you say?
Looks pretty cloudy to me
• Yes, if they wanted to see more
of the world.
Maurice Trapp, Le Vigan, France
Doesn’t much feel like the Age of
Aquarius, so what shall we call it?
Our worship of the selfie and a
sense of political impotence
suggest we should call it the Age of
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia
• I stopped carrying a camera when
travelling as soon as I realised that
taking pictures stopped me from
actually looking at what was in
front of me.
Chris Kennedy,
Stella, Ontario, Canada
• Considering those at the helm of
certain countries, then I fear we are
in the Age of Cancer.
Charlie Bamforth,
Davis, California, US
• Nefarious.
Jonathan Vanderels,
Shaftsbury, Vermont, US
• The Age of Unreason, or, briefly,
the Twitterage.
Joan Dawson,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
• My suggestion is the Age of
Hilarious, but it’s a sick joke.
Neil Johnson, Birmingham, UK
• The Age of Querulousness?
Richard Orlando,
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
• Author Steve Fraser seems to have
nailed it in the title of his book, The
Age of Acquiescence: The Life and
Death of American Resistance to
Organised Wealth and Power.
Lawrie Bradly,
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
I’m sure that Siri will tell us
Is it time to rethink our definition
of intelligence?
Who’s clever enough to know?
Edward P Wolfers,
Austinmer, NSW, Australia
• If they could find another way
to share it.
Lillian Henning,
Nantucket, Massachusetts, US
Age of Aquarius ... Woodstock
Geopolitical competition
• A machine will soon decide more
precisely on our behalf.
Philip Stigger,
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
What makes a great game?
• Empires knocking hell out of
one another.
Paul Broady,
Christchurch, New Zealand
• Intelligence: that’s what we use
Siri for, isn’t it?
Marilyn Hamilton,
Perth, Western Australia
• Thinking your side will lose, but
they don’t.
Charlie Pearson,
Portland, Oregon, US
• Beyond a doubt. However, even
intelligence circles have difficulty
thinking beyond the box.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
• Once we find some, perhaps.
Noel Bird, Boreen Point,
Queensland, Australia
Learn to see with your eyes
Would people travel as much if they
could not take pictures?
If digital detox is important to you,
then you would still explore the
world, but minus the intrusion of
a camera.
Ursula Nixon,
Bodalla, NSW, Australia
Any answers?
Whatever became of those ‘little
pink houses for you and me’?
RM Fransson,
Wheat Ridge, Colorado, US
When does infatuation turn to love?
John Geffroy,
Las Vegas, New Mexico, US
Send answers to weekly.nandq@ or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Rosanna Eckersley
Around four years ago I was offered
a six-week introductory subscription to the Guardian Weekly. I was
studying for my PhD and teaching
art history. It had become difficult to
get through a daily newspaper, but
it wasn’t just the scale of the Weekly
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discussion that took me beyond the
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Unlike so many readers, I have
always lived in the UK, and the
south-east of England. The happiest
changes in my life have come
through family and education: my
husband, three children and a baby
granddaughter; my degree at Birk-
beck College, University of London,
completed at the age of 42, led to
the satisfactions of higher education teaching; my doctorate, on
artist Winifred Knights, re-ignited
a partially dormant feminism.
I like the Eyewitnessed pictures
– the scale has real impact. I
The road between Abney and Bretton had been closed for much of the
summer as a landslip was repaired.
The ground hereabouts is wormed
through with faults and weaknesses, a legacy of shale rocks and
local lead mining. It’s a boundary of
sorts, between limestone country to
the south and dark gritstone moors
to the north, a place of geomantic
charm and mystery, hidden corners
and unexpected angles.
Now the road was open again,
offering some of the best views in the
Peak District. I stopped at a remote
cottage where a footpath led down
into the head of Bretton Clough.
To the north of me was an elegant
matrix of walls and emerald fields
below Cockey Farm, itself tucked
pleasingly into the rumpled shoulder of Abney Low. To my right was
a patch of moor whose thin soil
and steep ground must have made
enclosure a waste of effort. Hidden
nearby was an ancient well and to
the east Eyam Moor with its bronze
age stone circle half lost in heather.
particularly enjoy the Weekly
Review articles, the range of commentators on the back page and
topics that warrant greater coverage,
from the lives of Chechen gay men to
solutions to housing problems and
indigenous communities worldwide.
I was first drawn to the Weekly
by this international range. But I
read the UK discussions, too: in
a country shaken by the terrible
Grenfell Tower fire, political turmoil
and terrorism, we need high-quality,
thoughtful journalism.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
The trees just here are always full
of birds. There’s gorse and plenty of
tree cover: alder and willow in the
wet flushes, beech and sycamore
near the cottage, which, I noticed,
had generous rations on offer.
Teams of goldfinches, chaffinches
and tits were working in rotation at
several hanging feeders.
A woodpecker watched from the
trees. A siskin hopped below for
scraps, then a female greenfinch,
and then a brambling. In the birches
behind me a blackbird clucked softly
and I turned as some fieldfares
alighted. It was almost too much.
Then the homeowner arrived,
not in the least concerned to find
a stranger scanning the back of his
property. It was, he said, always
this busy, since his wife put up the
feeders. “You see them coming up
out of the valley each morning,”
he told me, as though describing a
Mongol horde.
I moved on, up a rough track,
glancing across scrubby fields to see
a sparrowhawk sweep through my
field of my vision and settle watchfully in a tree. A rising tide, it seems,
really does float all boats.
Ed Douglas
Read more Nature watch online
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 43
Quick crossword
Cryptic crossword by Arachne
1 Pulchritude (6)
4 Straight downhill ski run (6)
8 Jordan’s capital (5)
9 Afghan fundamentalist
militia (7)
10 North African country (7)
11 Black and white beast (5)
12 Defamatory (9)
17 Trump’s predecessor (5)
19 Large dish (7)
21 Adult (5-2)
22 Wherewithal (5)
23 Beer and lemonade
mixture (6)
24 Wagered (6)
1 Composer of a well-known
lullaby published in 1868
2 Senior naval officer (7)
3 Uniform jacket (5)
5 West Indian ballad (7)
6 Not rural (5)
7 Grammatical word
structure in sentences (6)
9 Farewell remark – dipole
top (anag) (6-3)
13 Whacked on the head (7)
14 Reversal (7)
15 Branches (6)
16 Forced open (6)
18 Hawaiian greeting (5)
20 Let in (5)
1 Remove papers from
aforementioned iron
strongbox (4)
2 Start to fall off
wagon after 31 days
in shape (7)
3 Simplified drawings of clouds over
Indian city (8)
Last week’s solution, No 14,810
First published in the Guardian
30 October 2017, No 14,814
Futoshiki Medium
©Clarity Media Ltd
2 < 3
2 < 4
Last week’s solution
2 < 4
5 How’s your father, if
air con not working?
6 Female officer
promoted to protect
a state (6)
7 Serious student
stripped on street
8 Raised objection,
piercing sex organs
in experimental
locations (4,5)
12 Composition of
Lennon, voice for
pacifism (3-8)
13 Legless chaps touring Rhode Island
with time for fun (9)
15 Some ascendant yogis outrival
masters (8)
17 Bitter criticism of 6
musicians online (7)
First published in the Guardian
8 November 2017, No 27,349
19 Fearful and upset, I
therefore shut up (7)
20 Chromium and
bronze around east
of Mediterranean
island (6)
22 6 foot of cantankerous pensioner (4)
Last week’s solution, No 27,342
Fill in the grid so that
every row, every column
and every 3x3 box
contains the numbers 1
to 9. We will publish the
solution next week.
Free puzzles at
Sudoku classic Hard
Fill in the grid so that
every row and column
contains the numbers
1-5. The “greater than”
or “less than” signs
indicate where a number
is larger or smaller than
its neighbour.
2 < 4
1 Tawdry, casual fling
is enthralling! (6)
4 Extremely aloof,
graceful and rich (8)
9 Confused, at heart,
by most recent
setback for game (6)
10 Patrick oddly
ignored constellation without a red
giant (8)
11 Enters damaging
struggle for
promotion (14)
13 Impressive
intellectual ringing
round miners (10)
14 Hit thumb regularly
on front of sill (4)
16 See world without
borders and wax
lyrical (4)
18 Lustful Liberal
Democrat restrained
by pair with common sense (10)
21 Aren’t sorry to
interrupt relations
between Mars and
Venus, perhaps (14)
23 Being sexist in guest
house (8)
24 Jill and Tony halfcut after second
cocktail (6)
25 Brilliant storybooks
ultimately enhance
childhood (8)
26 Reverse right away
from acid on motorway (6)
Last week’s solution
44 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
Heiress gets off lightly –
with $30,000 fine
Most students would feel a $30,000plus fine for driving over the limit
was a calamity, but Katharina G
Andresen got off lightly.
Andresen, 22, was handed a
NOK250,000 ($30,600) fine by an
Oslo court after she failed a roadside
breathalyser test while on her way
to the family chalet in the ski resort
of Hafjell, three hours north of the
capital, for the Easter weekend.
Drink-driving penalties in Norway are means-tested, and since
Andresen – a tobacco heiress with
assets estimated at NOK7.7bn – is
reportedly the country’s richest
woman, the fine could have been
much higher.
Andresen, who was found to have
a blood alcohol level of 0.06 – three
times over the legal limit, which
at 0.02 is one of Europe’s strictest
– more than an hour after she was
stopped, successfully pleaded that
she had limited means.
While the state prosecutor demanded the stiffest possible penalty
and 18 days in prison, the court
accepted that she had “no fixed
income” and “the assets she possesses, at the date of this judgment,
have not yet yielded a dividend”.
In normal cases, Norwegian
judges fine drunk drivers 1.5 times
their gross monthly salary, but they
have discretion to increase the
amount based on what they consider to be the “real financial position” of the defendant, VG said.
Andresen, who was also banned
from driving for 13 months and
handed a suspended three-week
prison sentence, said she regretted
her error of judgment. “I thought I
had waited long enough not to be
over the limit any more,” she told
financial daily Finansavisen. “I am
very sorry.” Jon Henley
Monaco will claim sea
to build posh flats
Monte Carlo, is regarded as vital for
the continued growth of the principality; according to state statistics
body L’Institut monégasque de la
statistique et des études économiques (IMSEE), not one new-build
apartment went up for sale last year.
Rupert Neate
Construction has begun on a $2bn
scheme to reclaim land from the
sea around Monaco so that more
luxury apartments can be built for
the thousands of extra millionaires
expected to move to the principality
in the next 10 years.
Nearly 35 in every 100 Monaco
residents are millionaires and more
of the global super-rich want to
join them. Around 2,700 more are
expected to call Monaco home by
2026, according to research by estate
agent Knight Frank, taking the total
to 16,100 out of a total population of
under 38,000.
But the sovereign city-state has
run out of space for those seeking
the “fiscal advantages”
antages” that the
tax haven offers.
he world’s
To attract the
e Albert II,
wealthy, Prince
the reigning monarch, has
approved the “offshore
on project”,
urban extension
which will add
d six hecco’s 202
tares to Monaco’s
hectares. This will
allow the creation
tion of
120 luxury homes
selling for more
than $100,000
per sq metre.
The new
Portier Cove
neighbourhood, near
Casino de
Call to ban smoking
from French films
tween Fred Red and Jack Black. The
chances of a card drawn randomly
from Fred’s hand being red is now ⅓.
Jack notes the chances of his drawing a black card from his hand are
not ⅓. He discards a red card and
takes a card from Fred and now the
chances of a black card are ⅓. How
many black cards does Jack Black
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
b) outcast
c) loose overgarment worn by some
Muslim women
d) Egyptian goddess of
A call for French directors to stub
out smoking on screen has been
greeted with a mix of disbelief
and outright ridicule. It has also
prompted the existential question:
what would French cinema be without the cigarette?
The debate was ignited after the
Socialist senator Nadine GreletCertenais accused France’s filmmakers of continuing to advertise
for the tobacco industry.
“Seventy per cent of new French
films have at least one scene of
someone smoking. This
Thi more
or less helps to make
mak its use
banal, even promote
to children and a
adolescents,” Grelet-Certenais
told the Sénat, th
the upper
house of parliam
published five
A study publ
years ago by a French
anti-cancer group
found that 80% of the
180 films surve
by the organis
featured a reference
to ssmoking
– ssomeone
Smoking or
fuming? Jeanne
Moreau in
i Eva
up, for example – and 10% had more
than 10 such scenes.
On Europe1 radio, the philosopher Raphaël Enthoven said the idea
might have been made with good
intentions but was little more than
“censorship under the pretext of
public health”.
“Injecting morality into the ‘seventh art’ [cinema] is like pouring
cola into a Château Lafite,” he said.
Kim Willsher
Mexican politician
promotes rat soup
A local politician in the Mexican
state of Zacatecas is promoting the
consumption of rat soup in an attempt to rescue a local tradition and
remove the stigma of eating rodents.
“The idea is to demystify the
consumption of field rats, a clean
animal, which is not related in any
way to the species in the sewers,”
said Guadalupe Flores, a member of
the state legislature.
The consumption of caldo de rata
– rat soup – goes back to colonial
times in Zacatecas, a state set in the
heart of the country. Full of vegetables such as corn and courgette and
spiced with oregano, the soup is
still commonly consumed in some
communities but it rarely makes the
menus of restaurants.
Mexican politicians are often
themselves described as ratas by
protesters and editorial cartoonists,
so there was a degree of irony in
Flores’ decision to host a recent
festival celebrating rat soup on the
steps of the state legislature.
But she expressed confidence
that the attention could help revive
interest in the traditional dish.
David Agren
Maslanka puzzles
1 “Carluccio – damn your boots!
Giorgio! Modi–bloomin’–gliani!”
These were the dire oaths emanating
from the drawing room at 123 just
before Pedanticus booted the DAB
radio into the wastepaper basketbin.
What had got the aesthete’s dander
up this time?
2 “(x – 7) is positive if x is larger than 7
and negative if not,” remarked Andy to
Candy, as they wrestled with homework; which was to write down a
simple expression involving x that
was positive if x took values between
0 and 1, and was negative everywhere
else. Any ideas?
3 Down at The Last Chance saloon
Tom breaks open a new pack of
cards and deals them evenly be-
Missing Links
Identify the word in which each asterisk represents a missing letter:
Same Difference
Find the correct definition:
a) screen
Rearrange the letters of PLASTIC
GOOSE to make another word.
E pluribus unum
Identify the two words, the spelling
of which differs only in the letters
***F******** (“it’s paid”)
***C******** (“it’s walked”)
Find a word that follows the first
word in the clue and precedes the
second, in each case making a fresh
word or phrase. Eg the answer to fish
mix could be cake (fishcake & cake
mix) and to bat man it could be he
(bathe & he-man) ...
a) racing energy b) sub green
c) no breaker
d) true bottle
e) crazy club
f) pine pie
©CMM2017. For solutions see page 47
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 45
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Oliver Burkeman
This column will change your life
The Amish stance toward any invention
is that they assume they don’t need it,
then adopt it only if it suits their values
he basic stereotype about the Amish
– drivers of horse-drawn buggies,
wearers of huge beards – is that
they’re stuck in the 18th century:
if a technology wasn’t invented by
then, you won’t find them using it
today. So it’s alarming to learn, as
the New York Times reported recently, that smartphones, PCs and computer-controlled machinery
are increasingly part of the community’s daily life.
There are Amish bakeries that take credit cards. So
much for your fantasy – OK, my fantasy – of escaping the hyper-connected world and retreating to a
simpler era. If clicking and swiping have got even
the Amish addicted, what hope for the rest of us?
Except, as Kevin Kelly points out in his book
What Technology Wants, the Amish have never
been unequivocal shunners of modernity. “Amish
lives are anything but anti-technological,” he
writes. Visiting Amish communities, he found
battery-powered radios, computer-controlled
milling machines, solar panels, chemical
fertilisers and GM crops. What distinguishes the
Amish stance toward any given invention isn’t
that they reject it outright; it’s that they start by
assuming they don’t want or need it, then adopt it
only if they decide it’s in line with their values.
Generally, these days, “our default is set to say
‘yes’ to new things”, Kelly notes, whereas for the
Amish “the default is set to ‘no’”. Thus cars don’t
make the cut, because they encourage people to
wander far away, instead of building community
close to home. But laptops and smartphones
are fine, for some Amish, in certain workplace
contexts – though never at home – because the
benefits are deemed to outweigh the downsides.
I’m not going to argue that we should adopt
Amish values, which are largely illiberal, let alone
Illustration by Michele Marconi; right, Lo Cole
What I’m really thinking
The older man offered
a seat on the bus
copy their system for determining which technologies are allowed, which essentially means
doing whatever the bishops decide. But I agree
with Cal Newport, who highlighted Kelly’s work
on his blog recently: isn’t it alarming that the
basic Amish logic – adopt a new technology only
if it helps you do what you deem important – feels
so alien to us? “The Amish are clear about what
they value,” he writes, “and new technologies are
evaluated by their impact on these values.”
Why does the basic
Amish logic – adopt a new
technology only if it helps
you do what you deem
important – seem alien?
It’s not rocket science. (I’m not sure where the
Amish stand on rocket science.) Yet most of us
are deeply enmeshed in the opposite: we end up
gradually adopting new things simply because
they’re there.
To implement Newport’s philosophy, you might
take an inventory of the tech you use and evaluate
each item for its real usefulness, working on the
assumption that if something can’t justify itself,
it’s out. I’ve started that process: I left a bunch of
social networks I was barely on, and deleted all
but 30 (!) apps from my phone, including email.
(I almost never replied via phone anyway.) Yes, it’s
only a start. On the other hand, I don’t own a car,
so I’m already Amish-ish in that respect. Time to
start shopping for a horse and cart.
The teenager who offers me her seat
is pretty, I notice. With the warmest
of smiles, she rises and steps into
the aisle with courtesy bordering on
a curtsey. I am wrong-footed, then
conflicted. “No,” I scream silently,
stifling an internal laugh, “I come
from a generation where I do that for
you.” I realise immediately what a
strange and bygone place that is.
Speech fails me; I burn with
embarrassment and confusion.
Later, I reflect that this is an act of
unfettered kindness, an example of
the goodness of a maligned generation. I bow in recognition, but feel
bowed with shame. I am fit, able,
strong. In my head, I am young; she
shocks me by making me so acutely
aware of my advancing years.
To accept the seat is to accept that
new status – elderly, needy, requiring
care – a status I am not yet ready to
embrace. To decline is to snub an
act of generosity. To prevaricate is to
appear ungrateful and ungraciously
dithery. To explain is impossible.
This dilemma is played out before
the other passengers. What if, once
I am seated, an older person boards
and no one gives up their seat? Do
I remain motionless and burn with
shame, or stand and relinquish my
newly received gift – a slap in the
face for the kindly girl?
I manoeuvre awkwardly into the
seat, smile and sink my head on to
my chest, in childlike submission to
a world that has consigned me to a
new role. The bus stumbles to a halt.
I shuffle down the aisle and out into
the rain, a Rubicon crossed.
Tell us what you’re really thinking –
46 The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17
England’s hopes lie
in Adelaide pitch
After first Ashes Test
drubbing, seamers could
be key to levelling series
Vic Marks Brisbane
Now an optimistic outlook is required.
The good news for England fans is that
there is a precedent for the team being
overcome in the first Test in Brisbane
and yet returning home with the Ashes
(though one has to acknowledge that
this happened on the 1954-55 tour
when Frank Tyson was reckoned to be
really quite scary by the Australians).
There is, however, no escaping the
fact that the mountain has become
higher for England following their
10-wicket defeat at the Gabba which
leaves them 1-0 down in the fivematch series. Perhaps the most worrying observation is that the team
performed quite well for most of the
match, yet were still outplayed.
The parallels with the corresponding defeat in Brisbane four years ago
are far from precise. Then, England
had a more experienced lineup which
prompted greater expectations. But
they were an old side and it did not
take much for the tour party to splinter when it started to go wrong (on the
second day of the Gabba Test rather
than the fourth). They left Brisbane in
a state of shock, incurred by the ferocity of Mitchell Johnson roared on by
30,000 Queenslanders, and they did
not get over it. There is a different feel
to this side. They have more limitations but hopefully greater resolve, if
not as much talent. They will surely
stick together better.
Now they head to Adelaide, where
the second Test begins on 2 December,
and the pressure mounts. In times
past, the most genteel of Australia’s
capitals was quite a good place to take
stock. By Antipodean standards the
wicket was a featherbed, where outof-sorts batsmen could recover form.
It could easily be a venue for a holding
draw while the generals reassessed
their resources – but not any more.
Adelaide has become a result-pitch
in the era of day-night Test cricket. As
dusk falls, the capricious pink ball can
become mischievous and untrustworthy. Bowlers now look forward to the
Adelaide Test more than batsmen.
In one sense this is good news for
England. If a draw is taken out of the
equation the chances of squaring the
series at the earliest opportunity are
enhanced. Traditionally England
sides – and this theory applies to the
2017 tour party – are better suited to
surfaces that offer sideways movement. On true surfaces extra pace and
quality, mystery spin can be invaluable; this is not England’s forte. But the
old guard of Stuart Broad and Jimmy
Anderson can be rejuvenated by the
prospect of seam movement, which
has been evident whenever using the
pink ball in Adelaide. So the second
Test probably represents England’s
best chance of a win in this series,
but the realisation that a draw is very
unlikely adds to the pressure.
England will play the same batsmen. All, except Alastair Cook, showed
glimmers of form at the Gabba, where
the ball spun more than anticipated for
Nathan Lyon. Now they must consider
how to play Lyon in Adelaide; they
may have to risk being more positive.
The problem is not helped by the
proliferation of left-handers in the
England team. Like most off-spinners
Lyon is more effective against
them; this mirrors the difficulties
From 76-4 to 10-wicket victory
On a disappointingly sunny fifthday for England fans, Australia
completed the job of winning the
first Test at the Gabba without any
alarms. Their victory was emphatic
in the end: a 10-wicket romp,
which represented some comeback
from the depths of 76 for four on
day two. The winning runs came
from a scorching straight drive by
Cameron Bancroft, a wonderful
way to end his Test debut. This
completed a terrific fightback by
Australia. Having bowled England
out for 195, they required 170 to
win. As the pitch flattened, Bancroft and David Warner knocked
off the runs to preserve their
fantastic record in Brisbane. VM
experienced against Mehedi Hasan
in Bangladesh and Ravi Ashwin in the
2016-17 India winter tour. England
could do with more right-handers
– even the man in reserve, Gary Ballance, is left-handed – but the selectors
must have taken that into account.
For Mark Stoneman – impressively
composed against the new ball at the
Gabba – and Dawid Malan, working
out how to get off strike against Lyon
is a challenge. Counter-intuitively,
batsmen sometimes need to be more
aggressive in Test cricket than at
domestic level, for the simple reason
they receive far fewer poor deliveries.
Stoneman and Malan are discovering
this the hard way against Lyon.
Mitchell Starc neatly outlined
Lyon’s value to the side at the Gabba:
“He has been fantastic in this Test, by
keeping one end tied up, it enabled
A shirt can be so much more than a numbers game
Inside sport
Barry Glendenning
If the evidence presented in the
opening week of the US justice
department’s Fifa corruption trial
was not grim enough, the recent
sight of a footballer named Mambo
not wearing No 5 provided further
evidence that the game is to all
intents and purposes “gone”. During
a televised English National League
match between his side and Leyton
Orient, the Ebbsfleet United central
defender Yado Mambo became an
unlikely social media talking point
when viewers noticed the 26-yearold’s club had missed a trick by failing to allocate him the obvious digit
as an homage to that 1999 Lou Bega
smash-hit Mambo No 5.
On the face of it, shirt numbers are
no more than a means of identification but they are so much more than
that. Some are iconic and tradition-
ally associated with creative genius
– not just any old clogger gets to wear
No 10, like Eusebio, Maradona and
Pelé. Word from the Emirates Stadium suggests prising that particular
Arsenal shirt from the shoulders of
Jack Wilshere is believed to be a strict
condition of any new deal Mesut Özil
may sign. The often-maligned midfielder already wears the No 10 shirt
for Germany and a cursory perusal of
his Twitter feed suggests he is more
than a little obsessed with occupying
that number than any number of
wannabe UK prime ministers.
Even in baseball it resonates:
one episode of Seinfeld centred on
George Costanza’s plan to name his
first born Seven, after the New York
Yankees legend Mickey Mantle.
Gianluigi Buffon’s decision to
wear No 88 at Parma famously upset
Italy’s Jewish population, who saw
it as neo-Nazi symbolism (H is the
eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88
equates to HH, or Heil Hitler). The
The Guardian Weekly 01.12.17 47
Sport in brief
the quick bowlers to have short, sharp
spells at the other end.”
So the theory is simple: disrupt
Lyon and those fast bowlers’ spells
will not be so short or sharp. The problem is that Lyon is much-improved; he
now bowls faster and more accurately.
But even the best lose some control
when successfully attacked.
If there is the anticipated movement
in Adelaide, then England’s comparative lack of pace will be less critical.
Twenty wickets will not be beyond
them but finding a way to dispatch the
Australia captain Steve Smith cheaply
– his unbeaten first-innings 141 was a
major difference between the sides –
will keep the analysts busy.
goalkeeper, who had just lost his
place in the Italian national team to
Francesco Toldo, pleaded ignorance
of this and insisted his choice of bingo’s two fat ladies was a motivational
tool. “I have chosen 88 because it
reminds me of four balls and in Italy
we all know what it means to have
balls: strength and determination,”
he said. “And this season I will have
to have balls to get back my place in
the Italy team.” Whatever his logic, it
had the desired effect.
rubber after David Goffin had given
Belgium both their points with
impressive displays in the singles.
France, however, had more strength
in depth, winning a singles match
through Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last Friday and Richard Gasquet and PierreHugues Herbert coming away with
victory in last Saturday’s doubles
match. It is France’s first title since
they beat Australia away in 2001
before three defeats in the final in
2002, 2010 and 2014.
ran in 10 tries at Suncorp Stadium,
Brisbane to advance to their 12th
successive World Cup decider. There
they will face England, who withstood a tremendous late fightback
by Tonga in Auckland to prevail
20-18 in the other semi-final.
• Less than a week after becoming
the first Kangaroo to score five tries
in a Test, Valentine Holmes broke his
record with six in Australia’s 54-6
Rugby League World Cup semi-final
rout of Fiji. A ruthless Australia
• France won their 10th Davis
Cup tennis title as Lucas Pouille
thrashed Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 to
give them a 3-2 victory in the final
against Belgium in Lille. Pouille was
never threatened in the decisive
Hands on … France’s Davis Cup winners
Leonard Barden
The Fide Grand Prix continues in
Palma de Mallorca, with just one of
the eight candidates to challenge
for Magnus Carlsen’s world crown
still to be decided. Shak Mamedyarov made sure of the seventh spot
when his Azeri colleague Teimour
Radjabov lost two games at Palma
to drop out of contention.
Meanwhile, Levon Aronian took
the overall lead with an imaginative
attacking game that overwhelmed
his normally ultra-solid Dutch
opponent Anish Giri.
Finally, world champion Carlsen
continues to sweep aside all opposition at rapid and blitz chess.
The Norwegian crushed China’s
Ding Liren in their speed match. He
was near-invincible in online speed
games, defeating Wesley So and
Alex Grischuk by wide margins in
the knockout.
Once again an early h2-h4!? set
the tone for Aronian’s victory, and
it was probably best to stop the
pawn’s further advance by 8...Bg4
9 Bg2 Nc6. A little later Black could
try 12...cxd3 13 Qh4 f6! when there is
nothing clear.
As played, White’s attack speedily
became crushing when his f-pawn
• After a season that had featured
an often gripping and highly competitive battle for the title, Formula
One closed the curtain on the
campaign with a decidedly anticlimactic affair in Abu Dhabi. The
fireworks that greeted Valtteri Bottas
as he crossed the line to take victory
at Yas Marina, on an uninspiring
circuit where passing is hard, had
sadly not lit up the occasion. But for
Bottas this was anything but a damp
squib; beating his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton into second
was just the finish the Finn badly
needed. Equally for Mercedes, sealing a dominant one-two over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third was
the perfect finale.
Maslanka solutions
3522 Magnus Carlsen v Wesley So,
speed 2017. How did White win?
joned the assault. Black’s final error
was 24...Bf6 when Qd6 is a better
practical chance. In the game 27 d6!
was utterly crushing.
Levon Aronian v Anish Giri
1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5
Nxd5 5 d3 Bg7 6 Bd2 O-O 7 g3 c5
8 h4!? Nc6 9 h5 Nxc3 10 bxc3 c4
11 hxg6 hxg6 12 Qa4 Na5? 13 d4 b6
14 Bg2 Bb7 15 Qc2 Qd5 16 Nh4 Qd7
17 e4 e5 18 d5 Bc8 19 f4! Qe7 20 f5!
g5 21 Qd1 gxh4 22 Rxh4 Rd8 23 Qh5
Kf8 24 Rg4 Bf6? 25 Bh6+ Ke8 26 Rg8+
Kd7 27 d6! 1-0
3522 Qb1! (threat 2 Qb8 mate) Qb5 2 Nc6+!
Qxc6 3 Qb8+ Qc8 4 Qb6+ Nc7 5 Qd6+ and mate
On form … Australia opener
Cameron Bancroft beats the dive of
Joe Root in Brisbane Matt King/Getty
• Scotland rounded off an entertaining round of northern hemisphere rugby union internationals in
style by thrashing Australia 53-24 at
Murrayfield. The Scots ran in eight
tries against the Wallabies – who
were reduced to 14 men for half of
the game after the sending off of
Sekope Kepu – to end up with their
largest-ever points total against a
Tier One nation. New Zealand remained at the top of the world rankings, underlining their class with
a 33-18 win over Wales in Cardiff.
England ran in seven tries in a 48-14
win over Samoa at Twickenham,
while Ireland also completed a clean
sweep of November international
victories after a 28-19 win over
Argentina in Dublin. Elsewhere,
South Africa eased to a 35-6 win
over Italy in Padua, while Japan
showed they will be no pushovers
when they host the 2019 World Cup,
scoring three tries against France in
a 23-23 draw in Paris.
1 It is perhaps little wonder that so many English words are mangled as it is a multifarious
language hard to bring under uniform control.
So we hear poling for polling, and buck for
book. But the rules of Italian pronunciation are
so easy and uniform. One such rule is that i
immediately after c or g is not pronounced but
serves only to soften the preceding consonant;
so Carluccio is just three syllables: Car-loochcho (there is a double ch sound in it) and not
Car loo-chi-o. Similarly, Giorgio is not Jawjee-o (or worse still: Jee-aw-jee-o), but two
syllables approximating to Jaw-Joe. Know this
and you are well-placed to say eg Giorgione.
As for the gl in Modigliani, the g is not sounded
in its own right but belongs to the trigraph gli
pronounced lyee. 2 x(1 - x) will work the trick.
For x > 1 x is positive and 1 – x is negative; for
x < 0, x is negative and 1 - x is positive. Only in
the range 0 < x < 1 are both positive. At x = 0
and x = 1 the expression equals zero. 3 Jack
had had 8 black cards, 17 red cards and 2 jokers. He ends up with 16 red cards, 9 black
cards and two jokers. Clearly, 2 jokers are
involved as the number of red cards Fred has is
a third of the number of cards he has, but 26 is
not integrally divisible by 3, but 27 is. So Fred
has 9 red cards and 18 others; there are 26 red
cards in the pack so Jack Black must have 17
red cards, and 10 other cards. Now Jack can’t
have 9 black cards, or the chances of a black
would be 1⁄3; he must end with 9, so he must
have had 8 black cards and gets a black card
from Fred. Wordpool c) Dropouts JAMBALAYA Same Difference PROFESSIONAL,
PROCESSIONAL EPU ESCAPOLOGIST Missing Links a) racing/green/energy b) sub/
lime/green c) no/deal/breaker d) true/blue/
bottle e) crazy/golf/club f) pine/apple/pie
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Acting editor: Graham Snowdon.
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Neoliberalism’s fatal flaw
How did mainstream
economics get so distorted?
Review, pages 26-29
Gaby Hinsliff
Life isn’t always wonderful in small towns,
but we can’t give up on them. Provincial
centres are struggling as people move
away – yet the future isn’t all about cities
summer, fantasising about snapping up a family
house for the price of a flat at home.
But look closer and those high streets are too
sleepy by half, bulked out with charity shops and
brave stabs at businesses that don’t last. Come
back in winter when it’s blowing a gale and it’s
a different story.
These are the rapidly ageing towns whose
young people leave for university and don’t
return, except at Christmas when they venture
into the pubs they used to drink in, and feel half
nostalgic, half uncomfortable. One unforeseen
consequence of expanding higher education,
with almost half of UK teenagers now going away
to university, is that so many get a taste of city life
and never look back.
And fair enough, to be frank. It would be
wholly wrong to turn back the clock, when for
so many of my generation higher education was
the making of us. But the greater opportunities
seized by some do raise unsettling questions
about the impact on those left behind – the kids
Small towns thrive when
their occupants feel
genuinely torn between
staying or going
Nate Kitch
witzerland needs you. Or more precisely, the tiny Alpine community of
Albinen needs you, badly enough that
it’s offering 25,000 Swiss francs (about
$25,000) a head to anyone prepared
to move into town and stay there. Its
chief attraction is said to be lots of
lovely fresh air; and if that sounds suspiciously like
admitting it doesn’t have all that many attractions,
therein perhaps lies the problem. Young people are
leaving Albinen, shrinking its population to that of
a modest hamlet, and not coming back. And that’s
a problem not confined to Switzerland.
Small towns and villages everywhere, from the
sleepy shires to post-industrial towns, are now
struggling to keep their footing in a world where
youth, energy and prosperity are draining away
to the city. A million young people have moved
out of small communities over the past 30 years,
according to the new thinktank Centre for Towns,
launched last week to focus minds on places that
all too easily slip between the cracks of public
debate, the places that aren’t really rural or urban
but awkwardly in between.
They don’t always look as if they are struggling, and contrary to urban myth not all their
residents exhibit a curmudgeonly rage against the
modern world. Some are the sort of pretty, sleepy
market towns where holidaying city dwellers
hover wistfully by estate agents’ windows every
who couldn’t or didn’t want to move, and older
generations who never had the chance.
Thanks to their rapidly ageing populations,
it’s small towns that will bear the brunt of rising
demand for expensive health and social care,
just as they are grappling with the painful consequences of economic change. Their factories
are closing, high-street shops being replaced by
vast warehouses where the only work is picking
and packing goods for invisible online customers.
Places where automation is more likely to cost
jobs than bring them.
While thinktanks like Centre for Towns don’t
have all the answers, at least they are thinking far
enough ahead to ask the right questions about
what, apart from a sackful of Swiss francs, could
make small-town life attractive again.
It’s always involved compromises, occasionally
painful ones. Everyone remembers the syrupy
ending of It’s A Wonderful Life, where a small
town rallies round to save its beloved bank, but
the film actually begins with thoughts of suicide.
Our hero George dreamed of travelling the world,
and leaving the dreary family business behind for
something new; but his father’s death leaves him
effectively trapped, forced to step in to save the
bank the community relies on.
His reward for staying and doing his duty by
Bedford Falls is a happy family life and the warm
glow of knowing his community cares about him.
It’s an impossibly romanticised version of what
happened to many small-town family businessmen in 1930s America, but then as now the film’s
popularity suggests people do still long to believe
in the fairytale.
Small towns thrive when their occupants feel
genuinely torn between staying or going, because
there are advantages to both. The problem now
is that in too many small towns that choice has
come to feel rather like a tug-of-war in which
one end let go of the rope. There is precious
little comfort to be had in staying, but dwindling
opportunities to get out. But small towns occupy
a powerful place in our hearts and imaginations,
and they have a right to survive. All they need
now is a reason to exist.
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