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The Guardian Weekly – January 05, 2018

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Vol 198 No 5 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 5-11 January 2018
Warnings of
plastics ‘binge’
Producers raise
pollution risk
New fix for the
war on drugs
Portugal’s radical
policy in focus
Storyteller for
the small screen
Jodie Foster’s new
directorial turn
Iran shaken from within
Angry demonstrations
are biggest since 2009
Weak economy and
food price rises blamed
A striking image, taken by an amateur photographer on a smartphone,
shows a young woman in Tehran taking off her hijab, perching on a telecoms box, and holding her headscarf
aloft on a stick.
It may look as if she is waving a
white flag of truce, but given her
geographical location, in a country
where wearing the hijab is obligatory
for women, it is a small – yet audacious
– act of resistance, embodying the aspiration of a young nation frustrated
with economic grievances but also a
lack of social and political freedom.
The photo surfaced last week as
a new wave of anti-regime protests
that began over economic issues in
north-eastern Iran spread across the
country in a way nobody anticipated.
Having taken on a political dimension
of huge scale, those protests – which
continued with increasing violence
this week – pose the biggest challenge
to Tehran’s leadership since the 2009
unrest, shaking the foundations of the
Islamic Republic.
The geographical scale of unrest in
provinces, and the harshness of the
slogans chanted, are unprecedented
since the 1979 revolution. They have
drawn parallels to the months of antigovernment unrest after the disputed
2009 election, which gave Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad a second term in office
amid a bloody crackdown.
Anadolu Agency/Getty
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Standing up … protests have been led by young and working class Iranians
But the new protests, labelled by
many on Twitter as Eteraz-e-omomi
(or “the general strike” in Farsi) are
posing more questions than answers,
puzzling observers about how it all
started, why it spread so quickly, and
what it means for Iran’s future. There
are also big differences from the turbulence eight years ago.
A relatively small protest last
Thursday in Mashhad, Iran’s secondlargest city and the main base for
opponents of moderate president
Hassan Rouhani, unexpectedly gave
impetus to a wave of spontaneous
protests spreading across provinces.
A source close to government officials said Rouhani’s administration
believes the first protests were organised by his opponents, most notably
supporters of his campaign rival, the
hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi. “Death
to Rouhani” were among the first
chants in Mashhad, but the situation
soon got out of control with people
chanting anti-regime slogans such as
“death to the dictator”, denouncing
the leadership of the supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Within a day the protests spread to
Kermanshah in the west of Iran, Isfahan in the centre, Rasht in the north,
and even Qom, the hotbed of clerics,
as well as other cities such as Sari,
Hamedan and Qazvin. As the protests
grew bigger, anti-regime demonstrations were held in Tehran but also in
Shahr-e-Kord, Bandar Abbas, Izeh,
Arak, Zanjan, Abhar, Doroud, Khorramabad, Ahvaz, Karaj and Tonekabon.
By Tuesday, at least 21 people were estimated to have died in clashes between
protesters and security forces.
Mohammad-Taghi Karroubi, son of an opposition
leader under house arrest,
4→
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Latvia €5.50 Lebanon LBP6000 *Malta €2.20 Norway NOK52 Oman OMR1.65 Pakistan PKR385 Poland PLN14 Qatar QAR14.50 Saudi Arabia SAR15.50 Singapore SGD8 South Africa ZAR49.90 Sweden SEK55 Switzerland CHF9 Turkey TRY15.50
2 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
World roundup
Opioids driving down US life expectancy
Presidential race begins in Cyprus
1
4
Life expectancy in
the US has declined
for the second year
in a row as the opioid
crisis continues to
ravage the nation.
It is the first
time in half a
century that
there have
been two
consecutive years of
declining life
expectancy.
Drug overdoses killed
63,600 Americans in
2016, an increase of
21% over the previous
year, researchers at
the National Center for
Health Statistics found.
Americans can now
expect to live 78.6
years, a decrease of 0.1
years. The US last
experienced two
years’ decline
in a row in
1963, during
a tobacco
epidemic and
a wave of flu.
The new data
from NCHS shows that
synthetic opioids such as
fentanyl have emerged
as the latest threat.
US world diary,
page 9
The race for the
Cyprus presidency
has begun in
earnest in an election
that, once again, could
hold the key to the
island’s feuding Greek
and Turkish communities
finally uniting.
Last Friday nine
candidates, including
the incumbent president,
Nicos Anastasiades,
formally submitted
bids to contest the
race, the first round of
which is scheduled for
28 January.
Anastasiades is
widely viewed as the
frontrunner, but not
tipped to win outright in
the first round, in which
case a vote between the
top two candidates will
be held.
More Europe
news, pages 6-7
→
Morsi jailed for ‘insulting judiciary’
6
Former Egyptian
president
Mohamed Morsi
has been sentenced to
three years in prison
and fined 2m Egyptian
pounds ($112,000)
after being found guilty
of insulting the judiciary.
Nineteen others were
also jailed for three
years last Saturday, but
fined lesser amounts
ranging from 30,000 to
1m Egyptian pounds.
The defendants were
accused of insulting
the judiciary in media
statements and on
social media.
More Middle East
news, page 4
→
→
Venezuela frees government opponents
2
Three dozen opponents of Venezuela’s
socialist government have been freed
from prison, a local
rights group has said.
Following condemnation for holding about
270 activists in prison,
President Nicolás
Maduro’s administration
said it was freeing 80 of
them, replacing jail terms
with sentences such as
community service.
Alfredo Romero,
whose Penal Forum
group tracks the detention of activists, said
36 “political prisoners”
had been freed, but
he criticised the
government for not giving a blanket amnesty.
Latin America
news, page 11
1
→
UN warns on killing of Colombia activists
3
3
by the Colombian
government and the
Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia
(Farc) ended a civil war
that had lasted half
a century.
More than half of
the 105 rights activists
and community leaders
killed last year were
gunned down by hitmen,
the UN said.
By comparison,
in 2016, 127 rights
defenders and community leaders were killed,
up from 59 in 2015 and
45 in 2014, according to
UN figures.
8
2
Campaigner Erica Garner dies aged 27
5
More than 100
human rights
defenders were
killed in Colombia
last year, according to
the United Nations,
which urged more
accountability and
better protections.
Activists have
been particularly at
risk in regions that
were vacated by rebel
fighters under a peace
agreement signed in
2016, leaving a power
vacuum, the UN’s
human rights office
in Colombia said. The
peace accord signed
5
The Black Lives
Matter activist
Erica Garner has
died, after a week in
hospital following a
heart attack. She was
27. Garner was the
daughter of Eric Garner,
a man who died in a
police chokehold in
New York in 2014.
Among tributes,
Senator Bernie
Sanders said
that, although
Garner
“didn’t ask to
be an activist,
she responded
to the personal
tragedy of seeing her
father die … by becoming a leading proponent
for criminal justice
reform and for an end to
police brutality”.
Announcing Garner’s
death in New York, the
Rev Al Sharpton said she
was “a warrior to the
end”. He said: “Her heart
was broken when she
didn’t get justice … the
[heart] attack just dealt
with the pieces that
were left.”
Four months ago
Garner gave birth to
a son who was named
after her father. She also
had an eight-year-old
daughter. In a recent
interview with the webshow Like it or Not,
she talked about
the difficulties of life as
a parent and
an activist.
“I’m struggling right now
from the stress of
everything,” she said,
“because the system, it
beats you down.”
Her mother, Esaw
Snipes, told the New
York Times that her
daughter learned during
her recent pregnancy
that she had heart
problems. “She was a
warrior. She fought the
good fight,” Snipes said.
Coalition raids kill 68 Yemenis in a day
7
Sixty-eight Yemeni
civilians were killed
in two air raids by
the Saudi-led coalition
in one day, the UN’s
humanitarian coordinator in Yemen has said, as
he condemned what he
described as “an absurd
and futile war”.
Jamie McGoldrick’s
unusually direct criticism
came in an update citing
initial reports from
the UN human rights
office of the two strikes
last week. The first hit
a crowded market in
Taez province, killing 54
civilians, including eight
children, and wounding
32 others, McGoldrick
said. The second was in
the Red Sea province of
Hodeidah and killed 14
people from one family.
“I remain deeply
disturbed by mounting
civilian casualties,”
McGoldrick said.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 3
Eyewitnessed
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
Surprise resignation by Mali PM
8
Mali’s prime
minister and his
government have
resigned in a surprise
move, just months
before presidential polls
are due to be held.
Authorities gave no
reason for Abdoulaye
Idrissa Maïga’s decision
to step down months
before the president,
Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta,
seeks re-election.
The president’s
office said Maïga, who
had been in his post
since April, handed in
his resignation along
with his government’s
last Friday, when it
was accepted.
He resigns with
Mali’s north still a
theatre of unrest.
More Africa news,
page 10
→
At least 41 die in Kabul from Isis bombs
10
Islamic State
has killed
at least 41
people and injured more
than 80 others in an
attack on a Shia Muslim
cultural centre and news
agency that share a
building in Kabul.
The first explosion
was detonated by a
suicide bomber sitting
among students at a
lecture marking the
38th anniversary of
the Russian invasion
of Afghanistan. Two
more blasts outside targeted security and medical services, and people
attempting to put out a
fire started by the first
bomb.
The explosions killed
at least one journalist
working for the Afghan
Voice news agency.
More South Asia
news, page 8
→
Mount Taranaki granted legal rights
12
Mount Taranaki
in New Zealand
is to be granted
the same legal rights
as a person, becoming
the third geographic
feature in the country
to be granted a “legal
personality”.
Eight local Māori
tribes and the
government will share
guardianship of the
sacred mountain on the
west coast of the North
Island, in a long-awaited
acknowledgment of the
indigenous peoples’
relationship to the
mountain, who view it as
an ancestor and whanau,
or family member.
The new status of
the mountain means
that, if someone abuses
or harms it, it is the
same legally as harming
the tribe.
Kim Jong-un’s nuclear force ‘complete’
10
4
6
13
11
13
14
7
9
12
South Sudan’s rivals agree to ceasefire
9
A ceasefire
between
South Sudan’s
warring parties began
on Christmas Eve,
in the latest bid to
end a devastating
four-year war.
Government
and several
armed groups
signed a
ceasefire deal
during peace
negotiations in
Addis Ababa.
The agreement
says all forces should
“immediately freeze in
their locations”, halt
actions that could lead
to confrontation and
release political detainees, as well as abducted
women and children.
Riek Machar, pictured,
the former vice-president whose falling out
with president Salva Kiir
started the conflict in
December 2013,
ordered his
rebel forces
to “cease all
hostilities”.
South
Sudan’s
leaders fought
for decades for
independence but, after
achieving it in 2011, a
power struggle between
Kiir and Machar led to
civil war two years later.
Shanghai to limit population to 25m
North Korea’s
leader, Kim
Jong-un, has
warned the United
States that his country’s
nuclear forces are now
“completed”, adding
that the nuclear launch
button was always
within easy reach.
While he remained
defiant in his confrontation with Donald
Trump, he struck a more
conciliatory note on
relations with South
Korea, offering to start
talks on sending a North
Korean delegation to the
upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Japan’s whalers get free run in Antarctic
14
11
China’s financial
hub of Shanghai
will limit its
population to 25
million people by
2035 as part of a quest
to manage “big city
disease”, authorities
have said.
The state council said
the goal to control the
size of the city was part
of Shanghai’s masterplan
for 2017-2035, which
the government body
had approved.
More Asia Pacific
news, page 13
→
After a year in which
he ordered a string of
missile launches and
the regime’s sixth and
most powerful nuclear
test, Kim used his
annual New Year’s Day
address to declare the
North’s nuclear weapons
capability a reality.
“We achieved the
goal of completing our
state nuclear force in
2017,” Kim said in a
speech broadcast live
by state TV. “The US
should know that the
button for nuclear
weapons is on my desk.
This is not blackmail
but reality.”
A fleet of Japanese ships is
hunting minke
whales in the Southern
Ocean. It is a politically
incendiary practice:
the waters around Antarctica were long ago
declared a whale sanctuary, but the designation
has not halted Japan’s
whalers, who are continuing a tradition of catching whales “for scientific
research” in the region.
In the past, conservation groups such as Sea
Shepherd have mounted
campaigns of harassment
and successfully blocked
Japan’s ships from killing whales. But not this
year. Despite previous
successes, Sea Shepherd
says it can no longer
frustrate Japan’s whalers because their boats
now carry hardware
supplied from military
sources, making the fleet
highly elusive and almost
impossible to track. As a
result the whalers are –
for the first time – being
given a free run to kill
minke whales.
More environment
news, pages 12, 13
→
4 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
International news Middle East
Tehran’s enemies must be extra careful
Weakening of regime
could lead to escalation
of tensions in region
Analysis
Simon Tisdall
Like birds of prey circling high in
the desert sky, Iran’s many foes are
watching the protests in Tehran
and other cities with beady-eyed
anticipation. But hopes that
the unrest could trigger regime
collapse, voiced in the US and
Israel, appear premature. Any
real or imagined weakening of the
Iranian government’s grip could
presage a dangerous escalation of
regional tensions.
Predominantly Shia Muslim,
Iran’s efforts to project its power
across the Middle East have earned
it many enemies. Its expansionist
policy accelerated following the USBritish debacle in Iraq after 2003.
Iran is now a leading actor in postSaddam Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
These perceived encroachments are
a cause of resentment, not only in
Iraq’s Sunni heartlands to the north
and west of Baghdad, but especially
in the headquarters of Sunni Islam,
Saudi Arabia. Iranian officials have
already accused the Saudis of
fomenting the protests.
Until recently the idea that Saudi
Arabia was secretly plotting regime
change in Iran might have seemed
outlandish. But tensions between
the two countries are at an all-time
high. The Saudis accused Iran of
direct responsibility for a recent
Iran shaken from
within by wave of
deadly protests
← Continued from page 1 Mehdi Karroubi, said new demonstrations show
that, despite the crackdown in 2009,
the desire for protest has remained.
“Instead of blaming foreign powers
and saying that they are inciting the
protests, the establishment has to
acknowledge that there is a base for
protest within Iran,” he said.
Karroubi said that, after Rouhani
won a landslide victory with the support of reformists, his unexpected conservative turn since had disappointed
his base. “It’s always been the reformist youth who pumped hope inside the
country and they’re silent now.”
Senior figures in the reformist camp, who do not back regime
Under fire … Hassan Rouhani faces
US, Saudi and Israeli wrath EPA
missile attack on the king’s royal
palace in Riyadh. The missile was
launched from Yemen, where a
Saudi-led coalition is fighting Houthi
rebels backed by Tehran.
The rivalry extends to Lebanon,
where the Saudi crown prince,
Mohammed bin Salman, mounted
what most observers concluded
was a bungled coup in November
to reduce the influence of Tehranbacked Hezbollah, the Lebanese
Shia political party and militia. In
his drive to repulse Iran, knock
Qatar and other Arab Gulf states into
change, and even many supporters
of the Green movement, which arose
after the 2009 presidential election,
are uncomfortable with some of the
slogans, such as those in support of
monarchy. Compared with 2009, the
new protests appear to lack any specific organisation, which many see
as an advantage because the state
cannot easily crack down on them by
arresting a leader, and others as a disadvantage because they don’t have a
clear strategy for the next step.
While the middle class and the
elites were behind the 2009 protests,
this latest wave appears to be led
by the working class, most affected
by the weak economy and a jump
in food prices.
“It’s a jigsaw puzzle,” said one commentator, who did not want to be identified. “There might be other reasons
at play too, such as internal rivalries
line, and assert control at home,
the youthful Salman has gained a
reputation for recklessness. Nobody
truly knows how far Salman is
prepared to go, although he has
vowed in the past “to take the fight
to Iran” and has described Iran’s
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, as “the new Hitler of
the Middle East”. Salman has the
backing of his friend Jared Kushner,
Donald Trump’s son-in-law and
Middle East envoy. Trump’s wish
to see what he calls Iran’s “rogue
regime” toppled is no secret.
What has been surprising is the
sudden eruption of the protests,
which had no obvious internal
trigger. Trump and Mike Pence,
his vice-president, voiced hopes
Iran’s “oppressive regime” would
fall, though Hassan Rouhani was
democratically re-elected president
under a year ago.
Israeli politicians are also
excited about regime change in Iran.
The regional cooperation minister,
Tzachi Hanegbi, said the protesters
were “courageously risking their
lives in the pursuit of freedom”,
and called on the “civilised world”
to support them. Israel says Iran
has stepped up missile and weapon
supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon
and to Palestinian militants in
Gaza. It is worried about the security
of its Golan Heights border with
Syria. A weakened Iran could lash
out. It could also prove a disruptive
partner for Iraq and Syria, and
Turkey and Russia, Tehran’s allies
of convenience.
As for the circling US, Saudi and
Israeli hawks, they should be careful
what they wish for.
between different factions, especially
as Khamenei becomes older and the
succession race becomes serious.”
Bold resistance … a woman raises
her headscarf in protest Twitter
Rouhani admits discontent
but condemns violence
The Iranian authorities threatened
a crackdown against protesters and
scrambled to block social media
apps allegedly used to incite unrest
as the biggest demonstrations in
nearly a decade continued into this
week. People across Iran took to
the streets again on Monday night
in defiance of riot police and state
warnings to stay away.
The president, Hassan Rouhani,
said last Sunday night that “people
have the right to criticise”, but
the authorities would not tolerate
antisocial behaviour.
Officials said at least 200 people
were arrested during demonstrations in central Tehran last Saturday. It was not clear how many
were arrested in the provinces,
which saw even bigger protests.
By Tuesday it was estimated at
least 21 people had died in clashes
between police and security forces.
Rouhani, urging the nation to
be vigilant, acknowledged people
were unhappy about the state of
economy, corruption and a lack of
transparency. “People are allowed
under the constitution to criticise
or even protest, but in a way that at
the end they lead to a better situation in the country for the people.”
Condemning US president Donald
Trump, who voiced support for
the protests, Rouhani said: “This
gentleman who today sympathises
with our people has forgotten
that a few months ago he called
us a terrorist nation.”
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
In contrast to coverage of the 2009
protests, a number of state news agencies and local newspapers reported
on the recent protests. Last Sunday
night, the state-run newspaper Iran
was among the first to publish images
of protests in Tehran. Earlier in the
day, conservative cleric Gholamreza
Mesbahi-Moghadam said the authorities should listen to the protesters and
allow gatherings, and state TV must
cover the demonstrations.
Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran
University professor, blamed the Rouhani government’s economic policy
for the protests: “I think perhaps the
government policy seems to some as
leaning towards liberalisation of the
economy, raising the price of gasoline
and removing subsidies, and at the
moment, because the economy is not
doing so well, it has created a sense of
concern among a lot of people.”
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 5
International news
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and Page XX
Trump’s bombast augurs ill for world peace
President’s disdain for
traditional diplomacy
could catch fire in 2018
Analysis
Julian Borger
The Trump effect on international
relations is likely to be studied for
generations to come, but first we
have to survive it. With the US presidency sliding towards two major
conflicts, that is no foregone conclusion. Experts on nuclear weapons
and the institutionalised madness
of mutually assured destruction are
increasingly making nervous jokes
about living outside the blast radius
in Washington DC.
The standoff with North Korea
was bequeathed by the previous
administration. But Trump’s demagoguery has steepened the incline
of the slippery slope to conflict in
Asia and the Middle East, while his
blithe lack of concern about climate
change is a serious hindrance to efforts to rescue the planet.
North Korea
The only time the two presidents
met, Barack Obama warned Donald Trump about the threat posed
by North Korea’s weapons programmes. Kim Jong-un was already
well on the way to making an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
with a nuclear warhead. “It won’t
happen!” Trump tweeted soon after.
But it did, in spades. Pyongyang
now has (most likely) a hydrogen
bomb, and, quite possibly, a missile
capable of reaching Washington.
China
Trump wants to achieve two objectives in his relations with China that
are fundamentally in conflict. He is
seeking to make it the battleground
for “America first” policies abroad,
remaking a trade relationship in
the US favour, while trying to enlist
more help from Beijing in tightening
the vice on North Korea. Beijing’s
decision to start building refugee
camps suggests China is planning
for regime collapse in Pyongyang or
war on the Korean peninsula.
Iran
Hostility to Tehran is one of the few
constants in Trump’s foreign policy.
In part this seems grounded in his
desire to destroy Obama’s flagship
foreign policy legacy, the 2015 deal
in which Iran accepted curbs on its
nuclear programme in return for
Demagoguery ... Trump raises the risk of a slide into conflict in Asia and the Middle East Getty
sanctions relief. Trump refused to
certify this deal in October and may
torpedo it entirely in mid-January.
That would put the administration on a confrontation course with
Iran, forsaking Washington’s traditional allies in Europe along the
way, in favour of alignment with
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, the
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin
Salman and his Abu Dhabi counterpart, Mohammed bin Zayed, who
are determined to push back Iranian
influence in the Gulf.
Syria
The Trump-Netanyahu-Salman axis
has no real plan for containing Iran’s
reach where it has extended most,
in Syria. As Russia reduces its footprint, Iran is set to expand its own,
rebuilding the Syrian army and bolstering it with proxy militias on the
template of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The consolidation of Iranian
military power from Herat in Afghanistan to southern Lebanon will
remake the map of the Middle East,
one of the most important long-term
consequences of the US invasion
of Iraq, followed by Obama and
Trump’s decisions largely to stay out
of the Syrian civil war.
In 2018, the US will almost certainly become more aggressive in
its attempts to contain Tehran’s
reach. All of Trump’s national security team are hawkish on Iran. The
question is whether they will opt
for a slow-burn approach, bleeding
Iranian forces through proxies, or
choose all-out confrontation.
Washington withholds UN funding after snub on Jerusalem
The US has announced significant
cuts in UN funding for 2018-19
in what will be interpreted as a
further attempt by the Trump administration to bend international
decision-making to its will.
This year’s contribution will be
slashed by more than $285m. “We
will no longer let the generosity of
the American people be taken advantage of,” the US ambassador to
the UN, Nikki Haley, said.
Under the UN charter, the US is
responsible for 22% of the annual
operating budget, or around $1.2bn
in 2017-18, and 28.5% of the cost
of peacekeeping operations, estimated at $6.8bn. The timing sends
a clear message. Last month, the
general assembly voted 128-9 in
favour of a resolution condemning
the US recognition of Jerusalem as
the capital of Israel.
After the vote, Haley reminded
the assembly that the US would
remember the vote “when we are
called upon to once again make the
world’s largest contribution to the
UN, and we will remember it when
countries come calling on us to use
our influence for their benefit”.
Edward Helmore New York
Russia
There is far less unity in the Trump
team over Russia. In his desire to
grant concessions to improve the
relationship with Vladimir Putin,
the president is at odds with almost
all his most senior officials. The
secretaries of defence and state,
James Mattis and Rex Tillerson,
have sought to box Trump in on the
issue, stipulating there will be no
sanctions relief and no diplomatic
thaw until Russia pulls back in
Ukraine.
Either Trump overhauls his team,
replacing Mattis and Tillerson with
more pro-Moscow alternatives,
or a newly re-elected Putin sours
significantly on Trump. Either way,
the drift of both countries from
disarmament back to an arms race
looks hard to stop.
Europe
The UK government’s hopes of
an extra-special relationship with
Washington post-Brexit have
foundered on the rocky shallows of
Trump’s personality. The president’s
Islamophobic forays into British
politics have given Theresa May little choice but to rebuke him openly,
drawing his ire in return.
Meanwhile, deep differences
over Iran, North Korea and climate
change have forced Emmanuel
Macron and Angela Merkel to plot
a European course on global issues
that is increasingly independent of
the US. That divergence is likely to
widen this year.
6 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
International news Europe
Corruption still mars Bulgaria
as it takes over the EU helm
Campaigners worried
that Brussels is going
soft over Sofia’s failings
Jennifer Rankin Brussels
As of 1 January, Bulgaria, the poorest
and “most corrupt” country in the European Union, has picked up the baton of the bloc’s rotating presidency.
The presidency – chairing EU meetings and setting an agenda – does not
have the clout it once did, but it is still
a big moment for the Balkan nation
of 7.4 million people, which was part
of the last wave of EU enlargement
that reunited east and west. Yet more
than a decade after Bulgaria joined
the EU, questions remain over its
record in tackling corruption, while
the presence of far-right minority
parties in government has caused
alarm. According to Transparency
International’s corruption perceptions index, Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the EU.
“No one [in Bulgaria] is prosecuting political corruption, there are no
ex-government officials in jail,” says
Ognian Shentov, chairman of the
Centre for the Study of Democracy
(CSD) in Sofia. “We have reached a
stage of state corruption which we
describe as state capture.” A report
by his organisation paints a devastating picture. More than one
in five adults, 1.3 million,
are thought to have
taken part in a corrupt transaction,
such as paying
or receiving a
bribe, but only
72 court cases
were completed in 2015. Anti-corruption campaigners point to the Bulgarian subsidiary of Lukoil, the Kremlinowned energy company that supplies
100% of Bulgaria’s oil imports. Lukoil
is Bulgaria’s largest company and has
seen its monopoly power entrenched,
with laws discouraging competition.
Another red flag includes the delay in investigating the collapse of
the Corporate Commercial Bank, the
country’s fourth-largest lender until
a 2014 bank run that appears to have
been set off by a feud between its
wealthy owner and a politician.
More than a decade after joining
the EU on 1 January 2007, Bulgaria
and Romania remain subject to special monitoring to bring them into
line with European norms. The cooperation and verification mechanism
(CVM), designed and run by Brussels,
was only meant to last a few years. But
the European commission continues
to publish annual reports.
“Clearly the mechanism has produced results. Bulgaria managed
to bring under control organised
crime,” says Ruslan Stefanov, who
leads CSD’s corruption monitoring
programme. “But on corruption and
judicial reform, it is not producing
the results the EU and Brussels
had expected.” He argues,
however, it is wrong to conclude Bulgaria is “the most
corrupt country in the EU”,
pointing to other surveys
that give a more mixed
picture than Transparency International.
“[The TI survey] is a
question of whether
you like your country or not. I don’t
think Bulgaria is
experiencing more corruption than,
say, Slovakia, but the potential impact
is much bigger because the economy
in Bulgaria is much smaller.” Yet Stefanov worries Brussels might be going soft on Bulgaria because it does
not want to “thrash a country” that is
about to take the presidency.
A senior official at the European
commission, who was not authorised to give a name, rejected suggestions the reports could be scrapped
for political reasons. The CVM process
would not be concluded until “we will
see all benchmarks and all recommendations in the reports fulfilled”.
The presidency is far from the
only reason why the EU may be less
inclined to get tough with Sofia. Solvent and stable Bulgaria is not “a problem country” for Brussels. Bulgaria is
not facing sanctions for violation of
the rule of law, like Poland, nor has it
picked a fight on refugee quotas, like
Hungary. Nor has it had three multibillion-euro bailouts, like Greece. Sofia’s solid finances and predictability
under the centre-right prime minister,
Boyko Borissov, pictured left, explain
why Jean-Claude Juncker, European
commission president, wants Bulgaria in the eurozone and has called
for it and Romania to “immediately”
join the passport-free Schengen zone.
France, Germany and other western
countries have blocked Schengen entry of the two eastern states for years
over corruption fears.
But Heather Grabbe, director of
the Open Society European Policy
Institute, said: “In 2007 willingness
to join everything was just assumed
and ability was the big problem; but
now the fact Bulgaria is trying and
wanting to be part of things seems to
count more.”
Eastern promise … Bulgaria was
welcomed into the EU in 2007 and
its stability makes it a problem-free
country for Brussels Getty
The biggest controversy of Bulgaria’s time in the European spotlight
seems more likely to centre on ministers who are part of the xenophobic
United Patriots coalition. In October
deputy prime minister Valeri Simeonov was found guilty of discrimination for a 2014 speech in parliament
calling Romany people “arrogant,
presumptuous and ferocious-like
humans” and comparing Romany
women to “street dogs”. And defence
minister Krasimir Karakachanov has
called for Europe’s external borders to
be defended by “force of arms if necessary” to stop asylum seekers.
Banned Putin critic calls for boycott of March election
Marc Bennetts Moscow
Russia has rejected concerns that a
decision to bar the government critic
Alexei Navalny from running against
Vladimir Putin in March’s presidential
election could undermine the vote’s
legitimacy, as the Kremlin hinted at
reprisals in response to opposition
calls for a boycott of the polls.
Russia’s election committee ruled
last week that Navalny should be ineligible to stand for office until at least
2028 because of a previous conviction
for fraud. The decision was later upheld
by the supreme court. Navalny said the
charges that led to his conviction were
trumped up to prevent him from challenging Putin. He said he would ask his
200,000 campaign volunteers to divert
their efforts into convincing Russians
to boycott the election and called for
nationwide protests.
Navalny said in an online video address: “Only Putin and the candidates
he has personally selected, those who
don’t represent even the smallest
threat to him, are taking part. To go to
the polling station now is to vote for
lies and corruption.”
Putin, who has been in power for
18 years, was a notable absentee at his
official nomination for re-election in
Moscow last Tuesday. The Kremlin
Alexei Navalny
has said voting in
the presidential
election would
now mean voting
for ‘lies and
corruption’
cited Putin’s work schedule as being
behind his failure to attend.
The EU said in a statement that
the decision to bar Navalny “casts a
serious doubt on political pluralism
in Russia and the prospect of democratic elections next year”. It pointed
out that the European court of human
rights had previously ruled that Navalny had been denied the right to a fair
trial on the charges cited by Russian
authorities. “Politically motivated
charges should not be used against
political participation,” the EU said.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 7
Macron can rescue the EU
French president’s eloquence the key
→ Natalie Nougayrède, page 19
Catalan nationalists could
face fresh wave of arrests
Judge is seen as acting
on the orders of ruling
politicians in Madrid
Stephen Burgen Barcelona
Observer
Poland rejects Brussels concern over judiciary laws
The Polish government last month
accused the European commission
of a politically motivated attack
after the EU’s executive body triggered a process that could see the
country stripped of voting rights in
Brussels over legal changes that the
bloc claims threaten the independence of the judiciary.
Poland’s fellow 27 EU member
states were advised by the commission that the legislative programme
of its government was putting at
risk fundamental values expected
of a democratic state by allowing
political interference in its courts.
The row represents the greatest crisis in the EU since the Brexit
decision, with Poland showing little inclination to back down. Frans
Timmermans, commission vicepresident, told reporters that in two
years 13 laws had put at serious risk
the independence of Poland’s judiciary. “Judicial reforms in Poland
mean that the country’s judiciary is
now under the political control of
the ruling majority.”
Poland’s new prime minister,
Mateusz Morawiecki, replied on
Twitter: “Poland is as devoted to
the rule of law as the rest of the EU.”
The Polish foreign ministry called
the Brussels action “essentially
political, not legal”. Daniel Boffey
Observer Brussels
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Navalny’s boycott “can in
no way affect the legitimacy of the
election”. He said calls for a boycott
may be in violation of Russian law and
should be “rigorously studied”.
Navalny came to prominence during anti-Putin demonstrations in
Moscow in 2011 and 2012, when he
called the ruling United Russia party
“crooks and thieves”. Although Navalny, barred from appearing on state
television, was only polling at about
2% before the decision to ban him
from next year’s vote, his supporters
say his participation would have allowed him to tap into anger over corruption. In an opinion poll published
last month, more Russians said for the
first time since 2003 that they wanted
to see change rather than the “stability” Putin has made his cornerstone.
Russian media have reported that
the Kremlin is seeking to secure 70%
of the vote for Putin with a 70% overall turnout at the 18 March election.
Although Putin is all but certain to
win re-election for a fourth term that
would keep him in power until 2024,
an opinion poll released by the Moscow-based Levada Centre last month
indicated that turnout and Putin’s
share of the vote would fall short of
the Kremlin target by about 10%.
Turnout at the previous presidential
elections, in 2012, was 65%.
The dramatic election in Catalonia on
21 December was supposed to draw a
line under months of tension and division across the Spanish region over its
status. Instead it opened a potentially
damaging new division with suggestions a fresh wave of arrests of Catalan
nationalists may be unleashed.
Altogether, 19 of the elected candidates are either in prison, on bail or in
exile, and face charges that carry up to
30 years in prison. Now the supreme
court judge Pablo Llarena plans to
issue writs against a further 11 people linked with the deposed Catalan
government for their part in organising last October’s referendum and
fomenting secessionism.
They include Marta Rovira, acting
leader of Esquerra Repúblicana (Republican Left) – its leader, Oriol Junqueras, is in prison – Anna Gabriel and
Mireia Boyá of the anti-capitalist CUP
party, and Josep Lluís Trapero, former
head of the Mossos d’Esquadra police
force, who was hailed as a hero for his
handling of August’s terrorist attacks.
Even the name of Pep Guardiola,
former Barcelona football club coach
and now at Manchester City, has appeared in a police report that forms
part of the investigation into events
leading up to the unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October.
The report describes the peaceful
demonstrations organised by Catalan organisations as “sowing the
seeds of hate towards the Spanish
state”. At one gathering,
on 11 June, Guardiola
read out a manifesto
for independence.
The report has been
passed to Llarena,
who is in charge of the
investigation.
Commenting on the
legal moves last month, the
deposed Catalan president
Carles Puigdemont, pictured, said in Brussels: “I
think it’s clear that in
Spain there are a number of state prosecutors, judges and state
attorneys who are under
orders from politicians.
The judges are political
appointments.”
The legal assault on the secessionists began last March when the superior court slapped a two-year ban on
former Catalan president Artur Mas
from holding public office for his role
in organising the illegal referendum
in November 2014. Three members
of his cabinet were also banned. They
faced fines of €5.2m ($6.2m), about
€2m of which was raised by independence organisations Òmnium Cultural
and the Asamblea Nacional Catalana,
but Mas has had to offer his home as
collateral. The ANC and Òmnium have
had to raise close to €1m in bail for activists and politicians.
In September, the late attorney
general José Manuel Maza threatened to arrest 712 Catalan mayors who
agreed that their facilities could be
used in the banned 1 October referendum. They faced charges of perverting the course of justice and misuse
of public funds. The following month
Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, leaders respectively of the ANC and Òmnium, were held in protective custody
on charges of civil disobedience. They
are still in prison. A few weeks later
eight members of the Catalan government that declared UDI were jailed
while Puigdemont and five cabinet
ministers fled to Brussels.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano
Rajoy, refers repeatedly to “the rule
of law” whenever the Catalan issue
is raised and his government denies
that it is using the judiciary to do its
dirty work. “There is a separation of
powers in Spain,” says Pablo Casado,
a member of the ruling Popular party’s
communications department.
However, there is plenty of scope
for political interference. The 20
members of the General Council of the
Judiciary, which appoints most senior
judges, are themselves appointed by
congress and the senate. Members of
the constitutional court that declared the Catalan referendum illegal are also political appointees.
“The conflict between Spain
and Catalonia is a political conflict and the Spanish government has renounced its political responsibilities and
has hidden behind the
judicial process,” Argelia Queralt, professor
of constitutional law
at Barcelona University, said. “But this
doesn’t mean they
are manipulating
the courts, only
that they are using
the existing legal
means.”
8 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
International news
Indian villagers pay price of sand boom
Killings highlight rural
crisis as protests against
river mining turn violent
Michael Safi Jatpura
Observer
“We didn’t know they had guns,” Santosh Yadav says. “If we knew they had
so many guns – that they were planning to commit a massacre – we would
never have argued with them.”
Yadav still replays the morning of
19 May last year in his mind. The decision he made with his uncle and cousins to go to the riverbank. To confront
the men mining sand near his village.
Not to run when the miners went to
their vehicles and returned with guns.
“We were telling them to stop taking the sand,” he says, standing by the
same river on the outskirts of Jatpura,
his village in the east Indian state of
Jharkhand. “They said, who are you to
stop us? If we want to lift sand, we will.
Then they lifted their guns and fired.”
His cousin, Niranjan Yadav, died
first, he says. Then his uncle, Uday.
The miners turned their guns on Vimlesh, the second son. Postmortem reports show all three were shot at close
range in the chest. “They also fired at
me,” Yadav says. “To save myself, I
jumped back and hid behind one of
the trucks, and then in a hole behind
a nearby bush … It is by sheer luck I
managed to escape death that day.”
The three shot men were victims
of an environmental crisis. Virtually
every facet of construction depends
on sand. With Asia in the midst of
history’s largest-ever building spree,
awareness is growing of the extent to
which the world’s supplies are dwindling. China used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the US used
in the entire 20th century. In India, by
Building spree … sand has become
vital to feed India’s housing drive
some estimates, the amount of sand
used for construction has tripled since
2000. The country plans to build at
least 60m new houses by 2024. “Demand for sand now outstrips that of
any other raw material,” says Sumaira
Abdulali, convener of the Awaaz
Foundation, which campaigns against
illegal sand extraction.
As supplies of sand close to cities
such as Delhi and Mumbai have become exhausted, developers are turning to more remote regions to source
it, bringing them into conflict with
smaller, usually vulnerable, communities. Groundwater shortages, flooding and depletion of animal life often
follow in the wake of unsustainable
mining, which activists claim can
also weaken bridges and barrages
along the path of heavily mined rivers, leading some to collapse. No reliable data exists for the amount of sand
mined, Abdulali says. “But it’s quite
clear when you visit the countryside
in India, there is hardly a creek, river
or beach where you don’t see the effect of sand mining.” Also unknown
is the toll of the hundreds of conflicts
in small communities between those
with mining leases and local residents. “But we know the violence is
widespread,” Abdulali says.
Jatpura is a long way from the burgeoning cities of urban India. The
sand miners arrived at the beginning
of the year, using excavators and industrial vacuums that could slurp vast
quantities of sand from the riverbed.
Niranjan Yadav led the opposition to
the project. The mining was veering
close to a patch on the banks of the
river where Hindu villagers traditionally burned their dead. The dredging
also made the river treacherous. Holes
appeared beneath the surface, sometimes six metres deep. Villagers said
that in April a 12-year-old boy had
been playing in the water when he
slipped into a crevice and drowned.
Satinder Singh was a manager from
a nearby village who oversaw the sand
mining in Jatpura and other sites. After
the Yadav men were shot and the alleged gunmen fled, he remained close
to the river “to keep watch”, according
to Neha Arora, deputy commissioner
for the state’s Garwha district. Officers found him beaten to death, and his
rented house in Jatpura razed. Police
believe he was attacked by a mob.
The Jatpura shootings triggered
protests and Jharkhand state has since
amended its mining policies. Lifting
sand is now permitted only from large
rivers; the river by Jatpura, classified as
medium-sized, is now out of bounds.
Water cannon mobilised
to fight pollution in Delhi
India has unveiled a new weapon
against air pollution – an “antismog gun” that authorities hope
will clear the sky above Delhi
but that environmentalists say
amounts to a temporary solution.
The cannon’s Indian manufacturers say the droplets of water it
ejects at high speed can flush out
deadly airborne pollutants in one
of the world’s smoggiest capitals.
The device – shaped like a hair
dryer and mounted on a flatbed
truck – was tested in Anand
Vihar, an area of Delhi’s east
bordering an industrial zone. The
US embassy website last Wednesday showed concentrations of the
smallest, most harmful particles,
known as PM2.5, registered 380 at
Anand Vihar – more than 15 times
the World Health Organisation’s
safety maximum.
The cannon, designed to combat dust on mining and construction sites, costs roughly $31,000.
“If it proves successful, then we
will roll these out on Delhi’s streets
as soon as possible,” Imran Hussain, Delhi’s environment minister,
said in Anand Vihar as the cannon
spurted mist under hazy skies. Its
manufacturer, Cloud Tech, said it
can blast up to 100 litres of water
per minute into the skies and clear
95% of airborne pollutants.
Greenpeace said the cannon was
a distraction from the root causes
of Delhi’s winter pollution, as cool
air traps a toxic blend of pollutants
from crop burning, car exhausts,
open fires, construction dust and
industrial emissions. “This is
definitely not the solution,” Greenpeace’s Sunil Dahiya said. AFP
‘Honour’ killings of two teenagers shock Karachi
Sune Engel Rasmussen Karachi
The night Ghani Rehman was condemned to die, his father asked if they
could share a last meal together. But
Ghani preferred to wait in his room.
His sisters came to see him, and he
gave each a small token to remember
him by: a plastic-wrapped mint drop.
The 18-year-old boy knew what was
coming. Less than 24 hours earlier,
the neighbour’s 15-year-old daughter
Bakhtaja, with whom Ghani had tried
to elope from Ali Brohi Goth, their
poor neighbourhood of Karachi, had
been tied down and electrocuted.
His father finished dinner, then returned. With the help of an uncle, he
strapped his son to a rope bed, tying
one arm and one leg to the frame with
uncovered electrical wires. Bakhtaja
had endured 10 minutes of electrical
jolts before she died. The boy took
longer and eventually the uncle strangled him. The couple were then buried
in the dead of night.
In Pakistan, illegal so-called honour killings are a pandemic, and
women its main victims. Still, the
murders in Ali Brohi Goth shocked
Karachi. The brutality was unusual,
and while “honour” killings do occur
in the city, they are usually reported
in rural areas. “There are pockets in
Karachi where tribal culture is being
followed, but we had no idea it was
to this extent,” said Mahnaz Rahman,
resident director of Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights group. Outside
a secular middle class, some communities are becoming more entrenched
in conservative values, she said.
The Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan has reported an average of
650 “honour” killings annually over
the past decade. But the real number
is likely to be much higher.
Bakhtaja and Ghani are buried 10
metres apart in the local cemetery.
The fathers and two uncles were arrested. Ten days after the murders,
Karachi was hit by monsoon rains
that wrought havoc. Dozens of people
were electrocuted. It was God’s punishment for killing the teenage couple,
local women told each other.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 9
Flaws
Kickerand
hereorder
like this
Trump
exposed
US constitution
Then a has
short
description
here like this
→ Jonathan
Freedland,
page
Then Section
and Page
XX 22
International news
Hippy dream dragged into billion-dollar
industry as California legalises cannabis
Los Angeles diary
Rory Carroll
W
hile Arctic
conditions
gripped
America’s
north-east,
sunshine
bathed Los
Angeles last week – but that was not
the only reason denizens of the Venice boardwalk were feeling mellow.
An astringent, earthy aroma infused
the Pacific zephyrs wafting through
the buskers, joggers, skateboarders,
tourists and panhandlers.
“Weed is part of the culture here,”
said Oni Farley, 30. “It’s part of the
LA/California scene, the laid-back
vibe.” He ignored a police patrol
car that inched through the throng.
“I’ve blazed in front of cops and they
don’t say anything.”
Pot wasn’t hiding. In multiple
different ways it was on display.
“Addicted to weed, anything green
helps,” said a scrawled sign tilted
against the backpack of Alexander
Harth, 36, a member of the boardwalk’s homeless population.
A vape shop offered glass pipes
and other pot paraphernalia. T-shirt
stores peddled images of Barack
Obama smoking a joint alongside
other herb-themed garments saying
“best buds” and “just hit it”.
This week, California, the US’s
most populous state, and the
world’s sixth biggest economy, officially “hit it” by legalising cannabis.
Think Amsterdam, but sunnier
and vaster – a watershed event
for the legalisation movement.
Overnight a shadow industry worth
billions of dollars annually emerged
into the light, taking its place
alongside agriculture, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and other sectors
that are regulated and taxed.
It will answer to the newly
created Bureau of Cannabis Control
– bureaucratic confirmation that
a day many activists did not dare
dream of has indeed come to pass.
California legalised pot for
medicinal purposes in 1996,
ushering in a web of dispensaries,
spin-off businesses and creeping
mainstream acceptance. That
culminated in voters in 2016
approving proposition 64, a ballot
initiative that legalised pot sales for
recreation, as of 1 January.
High there … California is now the largest US state to legalise recreational marijuana use Robert Galbraith/Reuters
It is expected to unleash profound
changes across the state. The Salinas
Valley, an agricultural zone south of
San Francisco nicknamed America’s
salad bowl, has already earned a
new moniker: America’s cannabis
bucket. Silicon Valley investors
and other moneyed folk are hoping
to mint fortunes by developing
technology to cultivate, transport,
store and sell weed. Entrepreneurs
are devising pot-related products
and services. Financiers are exploring ways to fold the revenue – estimated at $7bn per annum by 2020
– into corporate banking.
California is not the trailblazer.
Colorado grabbed that mantle in
Weed is part of the
culture here. I’ve
blazed in front of
cops and they
don’t say anything
January 2014 when it became the
first jurisdiction in the world to
legalise recreational cannabis sales.
California is one of 29 US states
where pot is legal for medical or
recreational use.
But cultural, political and
economic heft makes California a
landmark in the global legalisation
campaign. This is the state that
incubated the political careers of
Richard Nixon, who launched the
war on drugs in 1971, and Ronald
Reagan, who continued hardline
prohibition policies.
When California legalised pot for
medicinal purposes, many cities
and neighbourhoods refused to
issue licences for pot dispensaries. In Venice they popped up like
toast, as did “clinics” where for a
fee ranging from $20-$40 doctors
issued pot recommendation letters
to ostensible patients.
Full legalisation feels historic,
but the new era may begin with
a whimper. State authorities have
given counties and cities authority
and responsibility to govern the
new industry. The result is a
patchwork. Some places, such
as Kern county, are still banning
all commercial pot activity. LA
and San Francisco only recently
approved local regulations so it
could be months before newly
licensed pot shops appear.
Donald Trump’s administration
also casts a shadow because pot
remains illegal under federal law.
The attorney general, Jeff Sessions,
has compared the herb to heroin
and threatened a crackdown.
Fearful of federal prosecution,
banks are shunning pot businesses,
leaving the industry stuck with
mounds of cash that must be transported under armed guard.
Venice’s bohemians helped
pave the way to California’s big
experiment but it is another
California, that of boardrooms and
city halls, which stands to gain.
Based on Colorado’s experience,
Golden State politicians are expecting tax windfalls. Labour unions
are hoping to recruit thousands of
workers to cultivate and sell pot.
Corporate expansion felt a world
away from the patch of sand that
Alexander Harth called home.
Despite the sunshine drawing crowds
he stuffed his sign into his backpack.
The dollars weren’t coming. Observer
10 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
International news
Pressure mounts on Zuma
Court tells parliament
to bring in rules to pave
way for impeachment
Agence France-Presse
Ruth Maclean
South Africa’s highest court has
ruled that parliament failed to hold
president Jacob Zuma to account
in a scandal over state-funded upgrades to his country residence,
fuelling opposition calls for him to
be impeached.
The constitutional court ordered
the national assembly to make rules
that allow the president to be impeached, adding to Zuma’s difficulties after he was replaced by Cyril
Ramaphosa as leader of the ruling
African National Congress.
Frustrated by setbacks in the national assembly, the leftwing Economic Freedom Fighters and other
small opposition parties went to court
as part of a campaign to impeach Zuma
before a general election in 2019. In
2016, the court found that Zuma had
violated the constitution when he refused to pay back public money spent
on multimillion-dollar upgrades to
his property at Nkandla, in his home
province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Improvements to the homestead
cost $15m and included a swimming
pool, which the former police minister
Nkosinathi Nhleko claimed was a “fire
pool” for extinguishing fires, an amphitheatre, which Nhleko said could
serve as an emergency assembly
point, as well as a chicken run and
cattle enclosure.
The court cited section 89 of South
Africa’s constitution, which allows
for the president to be removed for
serious misconduct, or violation of
the constitution or law, if two-thirds of
the members of the national assembly
are in agreement.
Mugabe to
keep luxury
lifestyle
Political peril … the ANC has replaced Jacob Zuma as party leader Getty
“We conclude that the assembly
did not hold the president to account
… The assembly must put in place a
mechanism that could be used for the
removal of the president from office,”
judge Chris Jafta said, handing down
the judgment, which was supported
by a majority of the court.
“Properly interpreted, section
89 implicitly imposes an obligation
on the assembly to make rules specially tailored for the removal of the
president from office. By omitting to
include such rules, the assembly has
failed to fulfil this obligation.”
Despite a damning 2014 report
into the upgrades by the then public
protector, Thuli Madonsela, Zuma
managed to avoid paying anything
until 2016, when he refunded a small
portion of the cash spent on Nkandla.
Opposition parties blamed Baleka
Mbete, the speaker of the national assembly, for parliament’s failures on
Nkandla. Mbete was accused of personally trying to protect Zuma over
the upgrades after she said: “In the
African tradition, you don’t interfere
with a man’s kraal [cattle enclosure].”
The court’s chief justice, Mogoeng
Mogoeng, disagreed with his colleagues over the ruling, but it was not
enough to change it. After Mogoeng
passed him a note, Jafta said: “The
chief justice characterises the majority
judgement as a textbook case of judicial
overreach, a constitutionally impermissible intrusion by the judiciary into
the exclusive domain of parliament.”
Although Zuma has survived six
motions of no confidence, including
one involving a secret ballot, his power
was diminished when the ANC chose
Ramaphosa as its new leader, rather
than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the
president’s ex-wife and his chosen
successor. It was well known that
Nelson Mandela wanted Ramaphosa,
a powerful union leader, to succeed
him, but when Thabo Mbeki became
president in 1999 Ramaphosa withdrew from political life.
Zimbabwe’s ousted president Robert
Mugabe will get a residence, a fleet of
vehicles and private air travel as part of
a new government-funded retirement
package for former leaders, according
to state media. Mugabe will also be entitled to at least 20 staffers including
six personal security guards, according to details of the benefits published
in the Herald newspaper.
The 93-year-old, who quit in November under popular pressure following a military takeover, is the first
beneficiary of the generous measures unveiled last Wednesday by new
president Emmerson Mnangagwa. No
financial details were spelled out, but
the country’s constitution stipulates
that an ex-president is entitled to a
pension equivalent to the salary of a
sitting president.
Local independent media had reported that Mugabe was granted a
$10m retirement bonus as part of a
deal to persuade him to step down.
The government denied the claims.
As part of the new package, Mugabe
will have three cars – a Mercedes-Benz
S500 or an equivalent class of sedan,
an all-terrain station wagon and a
pickup van – which will be replaced
every five years.
Mugabe and his wife will be entitled to diplomatic passports. The couple can go on four first-class air or train
trips within Zimbabwe and four trips
abroad on a private plane. Mugabe will
also be awarded a fully furnished official residence anywhere in the capital,
Harare, in addition to bills and entertainment allowances. Health insurance for the former leader, his spouse
and dependants is also included in the
raft of benefits.
Six out of 10 back Weah as Liberia’s new president
Ruth Maclean
Daniel Nyakonah Monrovia
The former football star George
Weah has won Liberia’s presidential
election, defeating the vice-president,
Joseph Boakai, in a runoff with
61.5% of the vote.
Last Thursday’s announcement
by the country’s election commission chair, Jerome Korkoyah, means
Weah, pictured right, will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s president next month, after an election
fraught with accusations of fraud. It
will be the country’s first democratic
transition since 1944 and follows two
devastating civil wars.
Spontaneous celebrations erupted in the capital, Monrovia, a Weah
stronghold. Supporters
danced, clapped and sang
“Olé, olé, olé” outside the
electoral commission’s of-fices as the results were read out.
Weah, a national sporting hero,
topped the first round of voting in
October with 38.4% but failed to win
the 50% necessary to avoid a runoff.
Boakai came second with 28.8%.
The runoff
r
was delayed twice
after several parties took their
allegations of malpractice to
alle
the supreme court, but it finally took place with a low
nal
turnout on 26 December.
turn
Weah, 51, is the only AfW
rican to be Fifa’s world player
of the year
yea or to have won the Ballon d’Or for Europe’s best player. At
the time, Nelson Mandela called him
the “pride of Africa”. His was already
an inspirational story to a generation of Africans: he grew up in Clara
Town, a poor suburb of Monrovia,
and played football across the river
in West Point, Liberia’s biggest informal settlement, where he still has a
large fanbase. Many see his becoming president as a fitting next chapter
in the rags-to-riches fairytale and one
that gives them hope.
“With George, he will empower the
youth, the women, and will develop
the country,” said one supporter.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 11
International news
Lima protest
at pardon
for Fujimori
Dan Collyns Lima
Crackdown … Mexico’s army hunts drug kingpins but shootouts often add to a rising body count Getty
The killing goes on in Mexico
War on the drug cartels
began in 2006 but today
gunmen still spread fear
David Agren Reynosa
Sofía, a medical assistant in Reynosa,
a scruffy border city in northern Mexico, has a morning routine. She wakes
at 6am and readies her son for nursery; then she reviews her social media
feeds for news of the latest murders.
Updates come via WhatsApp texts
from friends and family: “There was a
gun battle on X street”, “They found a
body in Y neighbourhood”, “Avoid Z”.
In Mexico today, choosing your route
to work can be a matter of life or death.
It is 12 years since the then president, Felipe Calderón, deployed thousands of soldiers to suppress drug cartels, but the bloodletting continues,
the rule of law remains elusive and
accusations of human rights abuses
by state security forces abound.
Mexico races past grim milestones:
more than 200,000 dead and an estimated 30,000 missing; more than 850
clandestine graves unearthed. Government statistics released last month
confirmed that 2017 was officially the
country’s bloodiest since 1997, with
about 27,000 murders in 12 months.
Some of the worst recent violence
has hit Reynosa and the surrounding
state of Tamaulipas, squeezed against
the Gulf coast and US border. Once in a
while, a particularly terrible incident
here will make news globally, such as
the murder of Miriam Rodríguez, an
activist for families of missing people, who was shot dead at home on
Mother’s Day. But most crimes are not
even reported in the local papers. “We
don’t publish cartel and crime news to
protect our journalists,” said one local news director, whose media outlet
has been attacked by cartel gunmen.
Eight journalists were killed in Mexico
in 2017, making it the most dangerous
country for the press after Syria.
The information vacuum is filled
by social media, where crime scene
photos and news alerts on shootouts
are shared on anonymous accounts.
In Reynosa, violence is part of
everyday life. Morning commutes are
held up by gun battles; cinemas lock
the doors during a shootout. More
than 90% of residents feel unsafe in
the city, according to a state survey in
September. The violence here began
in 2010 when the Gulf cartel’s armed
wing – ex-soldiers known as Los Zetas
– turned on their masters. Since then,
conflict has scorched the state as rival
factions emerge and collapse. Fighting erupts over trafficking routes and
the growing local drug markets, but
state forces are also implicated: last
month soldiers killed seven people,
including two women, in what was
described as a “confrontation”.
The government bristles at the suggestion it is at war. When the International Institute for Strategic Studies
ranked Mexico as the world’s seconddeadliest country (Syria is first) –
ahead of Afghanistan and Yemen – the
foreign ministry noted that Brazil and
Venezuela have higher murder rates.
But the body count keeps rising: tourist areas have seen shootouts and decapitations. Last month six men were
found hanging from bridges in the
resort of Los Cabos.
All of which has been disastrous for
the image of president Enrique Peña
Nieto, who took office in 2012 with
an agenda to push through structural
‘As long as US drug
demand exists,
new criminal
groups will appear’
reforms and promote Mexico as an
emerging economy. Fighting crime
seemed an afterthought. Peña Nieto’s
government continued to target cartel
kingpins. But analysts say the strategy
shatters larger criminal empires but
leaves smaller – often more violent –
factions fighting for the spoils.
Breaking cartels pushed crime
groups to diversify, said Brian J Phillips, a professor at Mexico City’s Centre for Teaching and Research in Economics. “The new groups are more
likely to raise money by kidnapping or
extortion, since that doesn’t require
the logistics of drug trafficking,” he
said. “As long as demand exists in the
US, and supply is in or passing through
Mexico, new criminal organisations
will appear.” Liberalisation of marijuana in some US states has led some
farmers to switch to opium poppies.
Politicians are seen as allying themselves with criminals. “Mexico cannot
stop dirty money going into the political system,” said Edgardo Buscaglia,
an organised crime expert at Columbia University. “That’s the key
to understanding why violence has
increased in Mexico.” Such claims are
all too familiar in Tamaulipas, where
two governors have been indicted in
US courts on organised crime charges.
In Tamaulipas, locals are exasperated with the flailing government
response. They just want the killing
to end. “They can traffic all the drugs
they want so long as they don’t mess
with ordinary people,” said a woman
known online as Loba (She-wolf). She
is one of the activists who report on
cartel violence via Twitter and Facebook. It’s a perilous task: at least two
citizen journalists in Tamaulipas have
been killed, and Loba was kidnapped
in 2011 and held for 12 days before her
family paid a $13,500 ransom. When
asked why she runs such risks, Loba
answered: “Perhaps this can save
someone from being shot.”
Thousands of Peruvians have marched
in Lima to vent outrage over a pardon
for jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, in the biggest protest since the
decision was announced.
The anger was directed at president
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who granted
the pardon on health grounds on
Christmas Eve to lift the 25-year sentence Fujimori, 79, had been serving
for corruption and authorising death
squad killings. Public indignation
threatens to push Kuczynski’s beleaguered government into a political
crisis as he reshuffles his cabinet and
seeks to forge a new alliance with the
majority opposition party, led by Fujimori’s daughter Keiko.
“The president has lost all legitimacy,” said María Isabel Cedano, a
feminist campaigner who backed
Kuczynski in the 2016 presidential
runoff to prevent a win for Keiko Fujimori. “He has betrayed us. He should
resign and convene new elections.”
Alberto Fujimori, whose authoritarian leadership in the 1990s left an
indelible mark on the country, continues to cast a shadow over Peru. His
supporters credit him with stamping
out the Maoist Shining Path movement and responsibility for Peru’s economic success, while others consider
him a corrupt and iron-fisted dictator.
Speaking from a hospital bed last
Tuesday, Fujimori asked for forgiveness from the Peruvians he said he
had “let down”.
“It was a taunt,” said Rosa Rojas
Borda, who lost her eight-year-old
son Javier and husband Manuel in
the 1992 Barrios Altos massacre – one
of two carried out by a military death
squad Fujimori created. “He should
ask for forgiveness from the relatives
of those he had killed.”
Human rights lawyers in Peru say
there are legal grounds to challenge
the pardon because it was a political,
not humanitarian, decision. Carlos
Rivera, a lawyer at the Legal Defence
Institute, said Kuczynski issued it as
part of a deal to avoid impeachment
on corruption allegations. The president has denied any wrongdoing.
The Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights expressed “deep
concern”. Paulo Drinot, a senior lecturer in Latin American History at
University College London, said: “The
pardon is a major reversal in the consolidation of Peru’s democracy. PPK
has undermined the rule of law for
his own political survival.”
12 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
International news
Warnings of ‘disastrous’ plastics binge
Commentary: community
spirit is key to lasting change
Alarm as fossil fuel firms
invest $180bn with view
to increasing production
Matthew Taylor
The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage
to oceans, habitats and food chains is
set to increase dramatically over the
next 10 years after multibillion dollar
investments in a new generation of
plastics plants in the US.
Fossil fuel companies are among
those who have ploughed more than
$180bn since 2010 into new “cracking”
facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons.
The new facilities – being built by
corporations like Exxon Mobile Chemical and Shell Chemical – will help fuel
a 40% rise in plastic production in the
next decade, according to experts, exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis
that scientists warn already risks “near
permanent pollution of the earth.”
“We could be locking in decades of
expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realising
we should use far less of it,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center
for International Environmental Law.
“Around 99% of the feedstock for
plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon
and Shell, that have helped create the
climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and
gas companies and plastics.”
Greenpeace UK’s senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said any increase
in the amount of plastic ending up in
the oceans would be disastrous: “We
are already producing more disposable
plastic than we can deal with, more in
the last decade than in the entire 20th
century, and millions of tonnes of it are
ending up in our oceans.”
The huge investment in plastic production has been driven by the shale
gas boom in the US. This has resulted
in one of the raw materials used to produce plastic resin – natural gas liquids
(NGL) – dropping dramatically in price.
The American Chemistry Council
says that since 2010 this has led to
$186bn dollars being invested in 318
new projects. Almost half of them are
already under construction or have
been completed. The rest are at the
planning stage. Kevin Swift, chief
economist at the ACC, told the Guardian: “There has been a revolution in
the US with the shale gas technologies,
with the fracking, the horizontal drilling. The cost of our raw material base
has gone down by roughly two thirds.”
Tipping point … millions of tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans Alamy
The findings come amid growing
concern about the scale of plastics
pollution around the world. Last year
scientists warned that it risked near
permanent contamination of the
planet and at a UN environment conference in Kenya last month the scale
of plastic in the sea was described as
an “ocean Armageddon”. Last June a
Guardian investigation revealed that
a million plastic bottles are bought
around the world every minute with
most ending up in landfill or the sea.
Steven Feit, from the Centre for
Environmental International Law,
said: “The link between the shale gas
boom in the United States and the ongoing – and accelerating – global plastics crisis cannot be ignored. In the US,
fossil fuel and petrochemical companies are investing hundreds of billions
of dollars to expand plastic production
capacity … All this buildout, if allowed
to proceed, will flood the global market
with even more disposable, unmanageable plastic for decades to come.”
Although the majority of the new
investment is in the US, the impact
will ripple outwards in the form of vast
new supplies of raw materials for plastics being transported to Europe and
‘Links between the
shale gas boom and
the plastics crisis
cannot be ignored’
China. Petrochemical giant Ineos has
been shipping natural gas liquids from
the US to cracking plants in Europe and
the UK for the past year. Last month
the company announced it will ship
the first NGLs from the US to China in
2019 where it will be turned into plastic
resin at a new facility in Taixing, China.
Roland Geyer, from the University
of California at Santa Barbara, was the
lead author of a study revealing that
humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes
of plastic since the 1950s, with the
majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s oceans and continents. The report warned that plastic,
which does not degrade for hundreds
of years, risked “near-permanent contamination” of the earth. He told the
Guardian: “I am now all but convinced
that the plastic waste/pollution problem will remain unmanageable without serious source reduction efforts.”
The ACC added that the plastics
boom had brought huge economic
benefits to the US, creating hundreds
of thousands of jobs. Steve Russell,
the ACC’s vice president of plastics,
also defended the environmental
impact of plastic, citing a study from
2016 that found using plastic reduces
environmental damage.
“Advanced plastics enable us to do
more with less in almost every facet
of life and commerce. From reducing
packaging, to driving lighter cars, to
living in more fuel-efficient homes,
plastics help us reduce energy use,
carbon emissions and waste.”
A decade ago I visited Modbury, a
picturesque, rather conservative
place in the English county of
Devon, to find out how it became
the first town in Europe to ban
plastic bags in shops. It took
Modbury a month to go plastic
bag-free after resident Rebecca
Hosking showed local traders
a film she’d just made about
plastic bags killing marine life
in Hawaii. It was surreal to see
how quickly behaviour changed:
suddenly, carrying a plastic bag
was antisocial behaviour.
Ten years after Modbury,
small communities are again
leading the transformation of
our antisocial relationship with
plastic. The west coast village of
Aberporth is aiming to become the
first single-use plastic-free place in
Wales. Its pub has switched from
plastic to paper straws and ditched
condiment sachets; the shop sells
milk in glass bottles.
As in Modbury, this change
is driven by direct experience:
villagers are shocked by the
plastic washing up on their
shores; Plastic Free Aberporth
member Gail Tudor is also a filmmaker who witnessed plastic
pollution on a 10-day trip around
Britain’s coast.
We assume that cities are the
cradles of innovation but in the
UK, sustainable living is often
being led by small communities,
from the Scottish island of Eigg
(clean energy) to Balcombe, in
West Sussex (community energy)
to Penzance, in Cornwall (plasticfree). This is no accident: an
inspirational individual can get
things done in small places. Faceto-face dialogue is more compelling
than media or social media. And
living more closely with others
shapes human behaviour – the
shaming of plastic bag-use saw
Modbury change rapidly.
Hopefully it won’t take a
decade for the government to
follow Aberporth on single-use
plastics. Charges could reduce use
and better reflect their true cost
to our planet.
Policymakers are fearful of
backlashes against red tape and
the nanny state, but the public
response to nudges such as plastic
bag charges or smoking bans show
we are supremely adaptable.
Therein lies our best hope for
survival. Patrick Barkham
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 13
International news
Japan set to restart
giant nuclear plant
Safety measures cleared
despite lingering fears
from Fukushima disaster
Justin McCurry Kashiwazaki
Japanese authorities last week ruled
that reactors at the world’s biggest
nuclear power plant were safe to
restart, almost seven years after the
disaster at Fukushima.
The nuclear regulation authority
gave its formal approval for Tokyo
Electric Power (Tepco) to restart the
reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
plant, 240km north-west of Tokyo.
The reactors, the same type of boilingwater units that suffered meltdowns at
Fukushima Daiichi following the tsunami of March 2011, now meet stricter
safety standards, the regulator said.
When all seven of KashiwazakiKariwa’s reactors are operating, it can
generate 8.2GW of electricity, enough
to power 16 million households.
Occupying 4 sq km along the Sea
of Japan, it is the biggest nuclear
power plant in the world. But the reactors have been idle, with the plant,
in Niigata prefecture, the nuclear
industry’s highest-profile casualty
of the nationwide atomic shutdown
that followed the triple meltdown at
Fukushima Daiichi in 2011.
Japan only has one nuclear power
plant currently in operation, and the
country is deeply divided over the revival of the technology. KashiwazakiKariwa now has the look of a working
nuclear plant, with about 1,000 Tepco
staff and 5,000-6,000 contract workers providing the labour for the postFukushima safety retrofit, projected
to cost 680bn yen ($6bn).
They have built a 50 m-high
seawall that, according to Tepco,
can withstand the biggest tsunami.
In the event of a meltdown, special
Niigata
prefecture
Sea of Japan
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
Fukushima
Daiichi
Japan
Tokyo
Kyoto
Pacific Ocean
150 km
vents would keep 99.9% of released
radioactive particles out of the atmosphere, and corium shields would
block molten fuel from breaching the
reactors’ primary containment vessels. Autocatalytic recombiners have
been installed to prevent a repeat of
the hydrogen explosions that rocked
four of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors.
Other parts of the sprawling complex are home to fleets of emergency
vehicles, water cannon, backup power
generators, and a hilltop reservoir
whose 20,000 tonnes of water would
be drawn to cool reactors in the event
of a catastrophic meltdown.
“As the operator responsible for
the Fukushima accident, we’re committed to learning lessons, revisiting
what went wrong and implementing
what we learned here at KashiwazakiKariwa, the plant’s chief, Chikashi Shitara, said. “We are always looking at
ways to improve safety. “Because of
our experience at Fukushima, we’re
committed to not making the same
mistakes again – to make the safety
regime even stronger.”
The public, however, are far from
convinced. Last year, the people of
Niigata prefecture registered their
opposition by electing Ryuichi Yoneyama, an anti-nuclear candidate, as
their governor. Exit polls showed that
73% of voters opposed restarting the
nuclear plant, with just 27% in favour.
Yoneyama has said he will not make
a decision on the restarts, scheduled
for spring 2019, until a newly formed
committee has completed its report
into the causes and consequences of
the Fukushima disaster – which could
take at least three years.
For many residents the plant’s location renders safety improvements irrelevant. “Geologically speaking, this
is no place for a nuclear power plant,”
said Kazuyuki Takemoto, a lifelong
anti-nuclear activist, citing instability caused by underground oil and gas
deposits in the area, and evidence that
the ground on which Tepco’s seawall
stands is prone to liquefaction in the
event of a major earthquake.
Critics have pointed to the chaos
that could result from attempting to
evacuate the 420,000 people who
live within 30km of KashiwazakiKariwa. “That’s more people than
lived near Fukushima, plus we get
very heavy snowfall here, which
would make evacuating everyone
impossible,” Takemoto said.
Adding to their concerns are the
presence of seismic faults in and
around the site.
Ocean rescue Super corals may halt decline
New super corals bred by scientists
to resist global warming could be
tested on the Great Barrier Reef
within a year as part of a global effort to save the “rainforests of the
seas” from extinction.
Researchers are getting promising
early results from cross-breeding
different species of reef-building
corals, rapidly developing new
strains of the symbiotic algae that
corals rely on, and testing inoculations of protective bacteria. They are
also mapping out the genomes of
the algae to assess the potential for
genetic engineering.
One breakthrough is the reproduction of the entire complex life
cycle of spawning corals in a London aquarium, which is now being
scaled up in Florida and could see
corals planted off that coast by 2019.
“It is a story of hope, rather than
saying: ‘It’s all going to die and
there’s nothing we can do about
it,’” said Madeleine van Oppen,
of the Australian Institute of Marine
Science. The researchers, who
presented their cutting-edge work
at a conference at Oxford University,
acknowledge that biological interventions on coral reefs could be seen
as controversial or risky.
“But it is too late to leave them
alone, given the pace at which we
are losing corals,” said Van Oppen,
who said the broad aim was to speed
up natural evolutionary processes.
Coral reefs are critical ecosystems, hosting more than a million
species and sustaining natural services worth $10tn a year, providing
food for 500 million people. But
climate change is heating the oceans
and causing corals to bleach: reefs
could die out as early as 2050, with
perhaps half already gone.
The global coral bleaching catastrophe from 2014 to 2017 was the
worst in recorded history. “That was
a real wake-up call,” said Van Oppen,
with the world’s largest expanse
of coral – Australia’s Great Barrier
Reef – losing half its corals in two
years, despite being seen as the best
managed. Damian Carrington
Bee deaths linked to fungicides
Damian Carrington
Common fungicides are the strongest factor linked to steep declines in
bumblebees across the US, according
to the first landscape-scale analysis.
The surprising result has alarmed
bee experts because fungicides are
targeted at moulds and mildews –
not insects – but now appear to be
a cause of major harm by making
them more susceptible to the deadly
nosema parasite or by exacerbating
the toxicity of other pesticides.
The widespread decline in bees and
other pollinators is worrying because
they fertilise about 75% of all food
crops. Pesticides, habitat destruction,
disease and climate change have all
been implicated in bee declines, but
relatively little research has been done
on the complex question of which factors cause the most damage.
The new study, published in the
journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, used machine-learning statistical methods to analyse the role
of 24 different factors in explaining
the decline of four bumblebee species, tracked at 284 sites across 40 US
states. These included latitude, elevation, habitat type and damage, human
population and pesticide use.
Scott McArt of Cornell University in
the US, who led the study, said: “The
‘winners’ in predicting both nosema
prevalence and range contraction
were fungicides.”
14 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Finance in brief
Finance
Spark … Airbus,
Rolls-Royce and
Siemens are
working together
Electric passenger jet
revolution ready for take off
Battery-powered air
taxis and hybrid planes
set to change aviation
Karl West
Trains, ships and automobiles have
all been swept along in recent years
by the electric power revolution – and
planes are next.
Passenger jets are poised for an
electric makeover that could fundamentally change the economics and
environmental outlook of the aviation
industry. Up until now the fact that the
necessary batteries weigh two tonnes
each has limited the switch from fossil
fuels to an electric-powered future.
However, last November a consortium comprising Airbus, Rolls-Royce
and Siemens said they had found a
way to use hybrid electric jet engines
to conquer gravity. They are converting a regional jet into a demonstration
plane, called the E-Fan X, which will
be ready by 2020.
Paul Stein, chief technology officer
at Rolls-Royce, said: “It is a two-tonne
battery pack – the batteries are still
fairly heavy. Beating gravity into submission is a huge challenge, so weight
is a big issue.”
The BAE 146 demo aircraft, a jet
that seats up to 100 people, will at
first have one of its four gas turbine
engines replaced with the hybrid engine. This engine will be powered by
batteries and an onboard generator
using jet fuel. If successful, the team
will then move to two electric engines.
Siemens is designing the 2MW electric
motor, Rolls is building the generator
that powers the engine and Airbus will
integrate the system into the plane
and link it to flight controls. They are
developing the hybrid motor because
fully electric commercial flights are
currently out of reach.
Pound for pound, fossil fuels
contain around 100 times as much
energy as a lithium-ion battery, the
most common electric power pack at
present. In a car, which has its wheels
planted firmly on the ground, engineering experts can design a vehicle
to offset that weight disadvantage.
But in a machine that must lift itself
off the ground and propel upwards
this is a much harder problem to solve.
This tricky dilemma is a challenge that
has been embraced with renewed
gusto in the aviation sector. “Aviation has always eluded electrification
largely because of the size and weight
of components involved,” Stein said.
“But technology has moved on apace.
Electrification is now poised to make
a significant impact.”
Stein said three classes of aviation
are potentially within reach of an electric engine revolution. “The smallest
is air taxis, which can take one to four
people up to [120km]. For small air
taxis, the battery technology is almost
ready now,” he said.
Some of these air taxis look like flying cars, such as those backed by Larry
Page, one of Google’s founders. Chinese-owned Terrafugia’s “roadable
aircraft” drives like a typical car on the
ground and fits in a standard singlecar garage and can be pre-ordered for
$300,000. Pipistrel, a Slovenian company, already makes a two-seater
electric training plane. Airbus has also
developed a two-seater, the E-Fan,
which flew across the Channel in 2015.
The second market is the small,
regional jet that can carry between 10
and 100 passengers. “Our target end
‘Beating gravity
into submission is a
huge challenge, so
weight is an issue’
game is a fixed-wing, regional hybrid
design,” Stein said of the E-Fan X
project. The third market – the shorthaul commercial market, dominated
by Airbus’s A320 and Boeing’s 737 – is
still some way off.
Bjorn Fehrm, an aeronautical analyst at aviation Leeham News and
Comment, said: “For ultra-short
range, it can be fully electric. For the
range of today’s thousands of single
aisle [A320, 737] planes, it will have to
be hybrid for at least another 30 years.
For long range, it’s unrealistic. There
would have to be a breakthrough in
fuel cells, or similar.”
Airlines are watching the evolution of electric battery technology
with interest. EasyJet wants electric
planes to fly passengers on its shorthaul routes within 10 to 20 years. It
has signed a deal with Wright Electric, a US engineering company, to
develop electric-powered aircraft
that could reach Paris and Amsterdam
from London.
The attractions for airlines are clear:
depending on the oil price, jet fuel had
accounted for between 17% and 36%
of their running costs over the last few
years. Stein reckons the E-Fan X could
produce fuel savings of 15%.
“For us, safety is paramount. The
burden of proof to ensure we maintain
that safety margin is very high,” Stein
said. “We cannot have a battery chemistry that risks a fire.”
Substantial investment and brainpower is being ploughed into developing alternative battery chemistries.
One promising option is a solid-state
lithium battery, which replaces the
liquid electrolyte of current cells with
a solid substitute. Such batteries offer much higher energy densities and
should also be cheap to mass produce.
Huge riches await those that can
crack the problem and produce a
next generation power source that is
cheaper and greener.
• Global stock markets
ended 2017 on record highs,
gaining $9tn in value over the
year due to a strong worldwide economy, president
Donald Trump’s tax cuts and
central banks’ go-slow approach to easing financial
support. The FTSE 100 hit a
new peak in London, with
an all-time closing high of
7687.77, having earlier hit a
new all-time peak of 7697.62.
In global terms, the MSCI allcountry world index gained
22% or $9tn on the year to an
all-time high of 514.53.
• Growth in China’s manufacturing sector slowed in
December as a punishing
crackdown on air pollution
and a cooling property market
start to weigh on the world’s
second-largest economy.
The data supports the view
that the Chinese economy is
beginning to gradually lose
steam after growing by a
forecast-beating 6.9% in the
first nine months of the year.
However, signs of a sharper
slowdown – a major fear
among global investors – have
yet to materialise. The official
Purchasing Managers’ Index
(PMI) released last Sunday
dipped to 51.6 in December,
down from 51.8 in November
and in line with forecasts.
• Apple has apologised to
customers for deliberately
slowing the performance of
older iPhone models without
users’ consent. The US tech
company also announced a
$50 reduction in the cost of
iPhone battery replacements,
down from $79 to $29, and an
iOS software update providing updates on iPhone battery health in early 2018. The
apology comes after Apple
admitted to slowing down the
iPhone 6, 6S, 7 and SE – when
their batteries are either old,
cold or have a low charge – to
prevent abrupt shutdowns.
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Australia
Canada
Denmark
Euro
Hong Kong
Japan
New Zealand
Norway
Singapore
Sweden
Switzerland
USA
1 Jan
1.73
1.70
8.37
1.12
10.54
152.02
1.90
11.07
1.80
11.06
1.31
1.35
29 Dec
1.73
1.69
8.37
1.12
10.56
152.39
1.90
11.06
1.81
11.06
1.32
1.35
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 15
UK news
Keeping
Labour
together
Kicker here
like this
Corbyn
must description
resist radical
pruning
Then a short
here
like this
→ Martin
Kettle,and
page
21 XX
Then Section
Page
What does 2018 have in store
for beleaguered Theresa May?
With potential successors circling, the PM’s problems have not gone away
Analysis
Heather Stewart
Theresa May began 2017 with
a healthy majority in parliament,
a commanding poll lead and an
apparently unassailable grip on the
Conservatives. She ended it relying
on the Democratic Unionist party to
govern, with rebellion simmering
among MPs on both wings of her
party – yet doggedly insisting she is
“getting on with the job”.
But this year will bring a fresh set
of daunting challenges. First, and
colouring everything else, is Brexit.
The prime minister snatched victory
from the jaws of defeat in December
by securing the EU27’s agreement
that “sufficient progress” had been
reached to proceed to the next stage
of negotiations.
The deal, however, came with a
£35bn ($47bn)-plus price tag, and
exposed tensions over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic
that have been parked, not resolved.
May’s cabinet held its first formal
discussion of a potential future trade
deal – the “end state” – in December,
but little clarity is expected in the
coming months, with two rival
camps vying to shape the debate.
Broadly, Boris Johnson, Michael
Gove and Liam Fox – and their
followers on the far reaches of the
Tory backbenches – are “divergers”:
they want Britain to “take back
control” of laws and regulations.
Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd
and other “aligners”, cheered on
by pro-EU MPs, would prefer a
closer continuing alliance, fearing
the impact on economic stability of
a more abrupt shift.
May’s studied ambiguity has kept
these groups just about onside:
she has suffered only one defeat
in the Commons on Brexit, which
for a government with no formal
majority handling an issue of such
divisiveness is a moderate success.
But experts warn that as negotiations shift to the nature of the “end
state”, holding her party together
will become a growing challenge.
“I personally think there is
no other deal than a soft Brexit
deal, and she’s just going to lose
Brexiteers off the edge of the bus,”
Focus … May and her party have their sights on the Brexit ‘end state’ Getty
says Lord Wood, a Labour peer and
former adviser to Ed Miliband.
“I think at some point the Brexiteers’ tolerance for ‘the wrong kind
of Brexit’ will snap.” Whether that
means cabinet resignations or backbench demands for a leadership
contest, handling the malcontents
will require a deft touch few at
Westminster believe May has shown
in the past 12 months.
May is also under pressure to rebuild her party’s pitch to the country.
Backbench rebellions on a series
of issues, from universal credit to
school funding, underline the extent
of the Tories’ vulnerability to Jeremy
Corbyn’s anti-austerity message.
PM sacks first secretary of state following porn allegations
Damian Green was sacked last
month as first secretary of state
after admitting he lied about the
presence of pornographic images on
his House of Commons computer.
An investigation by the cabinet
secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood,
found that Green’s vehement
denials after a Sunday newspaper
reported that porn had been found
on his computer were “inaccurate
and misleading”.
His departure was a personal
blow for Theresa May, who brought
him into Downing Street to help
shore up her authority.
In his resignation letter, Green
continued to maintain that he
did not “download or view” the
pornography, but added that he
“should have been clear in my
press statements”.
He became the third cabinet minister to step aside since November,
following the departures of Michael
Fallon and Priti Patel. HS
MPs want answers to their
constituents’ concerns on spending
cuts – and a broader vision of what
a Conservative government is about.
“They have still not given the public
any reason to vote for them. Where
are the bold policy offerings?” says
one disgruntled senior Tory.
Nick Timothy, May’s former joint
chief of staff, who was forced out in
the wake of the general election, has
been using his column in the Daily
Telegraph to recommend radical
measures, including a wealth tax,
that were noticeably lacking from
the manifesto he helped to write.
Gove has been getting his
teeth into the environment brief,
announcing policies on everything
from plastics to pesticides.
Tory MPs have been told to stress
their green credentials, which
No 10 hopes will help to improve
the public’s perception of the
Conservatives’ values.
This year, Downing Street also
plans to focus on housing and
school standards, areas in which
it believes May has a good story to
tell. But she will also have to tackle
controversial issues such as postBrexit immigration, and some of her
MPs fear she is hampered by timidity and her lack of a solid majority.
Meanwhile, the prime minister’s
every move is watched by a platoon
of potential successors. From
Johnson, who has been waiting
for the ball to “come loose from
the back of the scrum” for years,
to newer faces such as the fiercely
ambitious defence secretary, Gavin
Williamson, they are united for
the moment by the sense that the
painful compromises required by
Brexit would be better made by the
already heavily compromised May.
That could change if hardline
Eurosceptic MPs believe Brexit is being put at risk, or the party’s liberal
wing thinks the Conservative brand
is taking such a hammering it’s time
for a change.
Local elections in May, including
in London, will be a crucial test of
the party’s support. But for the moment, May’s strongest protection is
the resurgent Corbyn. Conservative
MPs fear any new leader would be
forced to seek their own electoral
mandate – and might well not get it.
16 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
UK news
Londoners queue up to leave capital
High house prices fuel
record exodus to more
affordable areas of UK
Robert Booth and Caelainn Barr
The urge to quit London is so widespread that only a handful of the remotest corners of England and Wales
did not see someone from the capital
arriving to start a new life last year.
According to the most recent official figures, analysed by the Guardian,
292,000 people left the metropolis in
the year to the middle of 2016, up 14%
on a decade earlier and the highest
level since 2006.
The trend is being driven by people
leaving London’s relatively expensive
housing market but also by financially
squeezed councils sending homeless
families out of the capital.
People arrived from London in
every part of England and Wales except three areas: the remote Isles of
Scilly 40km off Land’s End, Barrowin-Furness in Cumbria and Torfaen in
rural south Wales.
Among the most popular destinations were Brighton and Birmingham,
whose populations were swollen by
a combined 12,100 people from the
capital last year. Other s included
Bristol, which welcomed 4,210 people
from London, and Manchester, which
attracted 4,150.
Most people leaving London went
to nearby areas in the home counties.
Dartford was the most likely destination with 4,260 people moving to the
Kent town in the year to June 2016.
The need to escape the capital’s
often unaffordable housing market
is a prime reason for departures. At
£482,000 ($650,000), average prices
are more than double those in the rest
of the UK – £223,000.
Moves by region
Number of people moving from London to
the following regions.
From mid-2015 to mid-2016, thousands
0
20
40
60
80
South-east
East
South-west
West Midlands
East Midlands
North-west
Yorks/Humber
North-east
Scotland
Wales
N Ireland
SOURCE: ONS/BARRATT HOMES
Councils are sending homeless
families out of the capital to cheaper
properties at the rate of more than
2,000 a year. In April, May and June
this year, London boroughs made 524
placements outside of the capital.
They included two families moved
450km north to Newcastle upon Tyne
and Sunderland, another two families
to Merseyside, five to Bradford in West
Yorkshire and 32 to the West Midlands. More than 200 families were
sent to Kent and almost 100 to Essex.
A significant number of the total
number of leavers are thought to be
people who graduated from univer-
sity in the 1990s, moved to London
and bought homes when they were
cheap and are now in their 40s with
families and considerable equity.
The trend is causing social tensions
with incomers branded “DFLs – down
from London” by local people who resent the impact on house prices when
property-rich arrivals outbid each
other. This has been the case in the
Sussex town of Lewes, to which 740
Londoners moved last year, and in the
picturesque north Kent fishing towns
of Whitstable and Herne Bay, with
3,700 Londoners moving into the area
that includes Canterbury.
“The effect on places within commuting distance is gentrification and
rising housing prices to London levels
in the most sought-after parts of those
places,” said Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Oxford
University. “This then ripples out to
most of the rest of Brighton, Reading,
Cambridge, even Hastings. Migration
from London has already reduced
many communities to shells of what
they once were.
“Creating a sense of community
again will take a long time and requires two or three generations to be
able to stay in one place. The immigrants who have the greatest effect
on life in England are internal immigrants, English-born affluent people
with a large deposit.”
Laura Boon, 36, moved to Canterbury from Crystal Palace last year with
her husband, Tom, a hospital doctor,
and their two daughters aged seven
and eight. After 16 years in the capital they bought a four-bed detached
house just outside Canterbury for
about half the price it would have cost
in south-east London. “If we’d wanted
to live in a comfortably sized family
house and afford a social life in London we would have needed two very
healthy incomes,” she said.
Minimum wage dwarfed by
increases in executive pay
The disparity in pay between those
at the top and bottom of the earnings ladder is revealed by analysis
showing the national minimum
wage would be £5.24 ($7.08) an
hour higher if it had risen at the
same rate as a top chief executive’s
pay over the past two decades.
With 2018 marking the 20th
anniversary of legislation that heralded the minimum wage, research
by the GMB union underscores by
just how much the statutory pay
floor has failed to keep pace with
executive earnings.
It shows that if increases in
the national minimum wage had
kept pace with a chief executive
it would be £12.74 an hour compared with £7.50 now for those 25
years and older. For a worker aged
over 25 on 40 hours per week this
would equate to £26,000 a year
compared with the £14,664 they
are currently paid.
The disclosure will intensify
the debate about the yawning gap
between the best and worst paid.
Analysis published last week by
the Vlerick Business School, based
on 2016 data, found that chief executives of FTSE 100 companies
receive on average 94 times more
than the average employee. The
average FTSE 100 company chief
saw an 11% rise in their median total pay between 2015 and 2016.
Calculations by the High Pay
Centre confirm that the average
FTSE 100 chief is now paid £4.35m
a year – compared with £1.23m
when the national minimum wage
came in – an increase of 354%.
Jamie Doward Observer
Cartoon, page 21 →
Calls for transport secretary to quit over rail bailouts
Toby Helm and Jamie Doward
Observer
Lord Adonis is calling for the resignation of transport secretary Chris Grayling for using taxpayers’ money to bail
out private rail companies – a decision
the former government infrastructure
tsar says is symptomatic of a government that has “broken down” under
the strain of Brexit.
Adonis, who resigned as head of
the government-backed National Infrastructure Commission last Friday,
said the decision has landed taxpayers
with a potential bill running into billions and will lead to higher fares and
less investment in the network.
His intervention came as rail passengers suffered the biggest fare rises
in five years this week and commuters
held protests across the country. With
the price of season tickets increasing
by up to 3.6%, Labour, unions and
transport groups have warned that
commuters are starting to turn their
back on rail travel.
Adonis said his relations with
government had become severely
strained over Brexit in recent months.
But it was Grayling’s move to bail out
Stagecoach and Virgin, which were
contracted to run the East Coast line
until 2023, that was the final straw.
“Handing a cheque worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Richard Branson and Brian Souter [chair of
Stagecoach] would be indefensible at
the best of times but we are now at the
worst of times with a Brexit squeeze
on the public finances and with rail
fares going through the roof,” Adonis
said. “I think Chris Grayling’s position
is going to become untenable. It is of a
piece with him being a radical Brexiter
to whom everything is subordinate to
hard-right ideology.”
Grayling announced at the end of
November that a new partnership
would take responsibility for intercity trains and track operations on
the East Coast route in 2020. Virgin
Trains East Coast, in partnership with
Stagecoach, had previously agreed to
pay the government £3.3bn ($4.4bn)
to run the service until 2023.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 17
International
news Subject
UK news
The mother of all windfarms? Dutch firm plans North Sea megahub
Britain’s homes could be lit and
powered by windfarms surrounding
an artificial island deep out in the
North Sea, under advanced plans by
a Dutch energy network. The radical
proposal envisages an island being
built to act as a hub for vast offshore
windfarms that would eclipse today’s facilities in scale. Dogger Bank,
125km off the East Yorkshire coast, is
a potential site.
The hub would send electricity
over long-distance cables to the UK
and Netherlands, and possibly later
to Belgium, Germany and Denmark.
TenneT, the project’s backer
and Dutch equivalent of the UK’s
National Grid, recently shared early
findings of a study that said its plan
could be billions of euros cheaper
than conventional windfarms and
international power cables.
Rob van der Hage, who manages
TenneT’s offshore wind grid development programme, said: “The big challenge we are facing towards 2030 and
2050 is onshore wind is hampered by
local opposition and near-shore is
nearly full. It’s logical we are looking
at areas further offshore.”
As each kilometre farther out
to sea means another kilometre of
expensive cabling to get the power
back to land, the firm argues a more
innovative approach is needed.
The island idea would theoretically
solve that by allowing economies of
scale, higher wind speeds and relatively short, affordable cables taking
power from offshore turbines to the
island. There converters will change
it from alternating current – as used
in mains electricity but that incurs
losses of power over long distances
– to direct current for transmitting
back to the UK or Netherlands. That
long-distance cable, an interconnector, would give the windfarms
flexibility to supply whichever country’s market was paying the most for
power at any given time, and mean
the power almost always had a use.
To fit all the equipment, the island
would need to be around 6 sq km, but
Van der Hage is not daunted. “In the
Netherlands, when we see a piece
of water we want to build islands or
land. We’ve been doing that for centuries. That is not the biggest challenge,” he said. The more significant
obstacles look likely to be economic.
While TenneT could shoulder the estimated €1.5bn ($1.8bn) cost of building the hub, it is not allowed to build
power generation, so that would be
left to the likes of offshore windfarm
developers such as Denmark’s Ørsted
and Germany’s Innogy.
However, to get them on board
TenneT needs to find other energy
network operators, such as the UK’s
National Grid, to help pay for the
long-distance cables. If all goes well,
Van der Hage said, the earliest the
island could be operational is 2027,
with the windfarms to follow. The
project could handle windfarms with
a capacity of 30GW, more than twice
today’s total installed offshore wind
power across the whole of Europe.
Adam Vaughan Image: TenneT
Politicians still top New Year honours list
Guardian reporters
A quarter of all knighthoods in the
New Year honours list have gone
to politicians, including the Tory
kingmaker Graham Brady, who has
Theresa May’s political future in his
hands as chair of the 1922 committee
of backbenchers, and former Liberal
Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
The annual list makes knights of
Brady and Clegg, despite the prime
minister’s promise to stamp out the
cronyism of the David Cameron era
by focusing awards on those who contribute to their community.
Other politicians to get the highest
honour include Christopher Chope,
a rightwing Conservative who was
a junior minister under Margaret
Thatcher and John Major, and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who served as a
junior whip under William Hague.
Labour’s Lindsay Hoyle, the depCheryl Gillan,
the Tory party’s
longest-serving
female MP, is the
only woman to
receive a top
political honour
uty speaker of the Commons, is also
knighted along with Mark Hendrick,
who has served as Labour MP for Preston for 17 years and was previously
the first MEP from a minority ethnic
background. The only female MP to
get a top honour is Cheryl Gillan, who
becomes a dame.
Notable names honoured from
the arts world include former Beatle
Ringo Starr, and the last surviving Bee
Gee Barry Gibb, both of whom receive
knighthoods. Also honoured is Darcey
Bussell, the former principal dancer at
the Royal Ballet, who becomes a dame
for services to dance.
News in brief
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and Page XX
• Five men were arrested as
part of an investigation into
a possible Islamist plot to attack Britain. Counter-terror
officers arrested a 21-year-old
man in Sheffield last Friday
on suspicion of preparing acts
of terror. Two other buildings
were searched in the city in
connection with the alleged
plot. The raids followed the
arrests of four men in Sheffield and nearby Chesterfield
before Christmas. Two of the
men have been charged with
one count of engaging in the
preparation of an act of terrorism under section 5 of the
Terrorism Act 2006.
• British passports issued after October 2019 will be dark
blue and gold, replacing the
current burgundy model. The
British passport is redesigned
every five years, and the
new version will come into
production when the current
contract expires, the Home
Office has announced. The
return of the navy cover, first
used in 1921, is being hailed as
a victory by pro-Brexit MPs,
who had campaigned for it.
The government said the
new passport, which would
include updated features and
technology, would be one of
the most secure in the world.
• The number of Irish
passports issued has hit
record levels since the Brexit
vote, with applications from
Britain and Northern Ireland
continuing to rise, the Irish
government announced.
More than 160,000 Irish passports were issued to people in
Northern Ireland and Britain
in 2017. At the same time,
the number of people born
in Britain registering as Irish
rocketed by 95%. According
to statistics issued by Ireland’s department of foreign
affairs, 779,000 Irish passports were issued in 2017, the
highest number since records
began.
• Readers have raised more
than £1.25m ($1.7m) in the
Guardian and Observer 2017
appeal for three homelessness charities. The appeal,
which continues until 7
January, is in aid of the UK
youth homelessness charities
Centrepoint and Depaul UK,
and the No Accommodation
Network (Naccom), which
supports local organisations
providing shelter for destitute
refugees and asylum seekers.
18 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Comment&Debate
Silicon
Valley
is eating
your soul
John Harris
Former Google and
Facebook executives
are sounding the alarm
about the pervasive
powers of technology.
But will we listen?
O
ne source of angst came close to being
2017’s signature subject: how the internet
and the tiny handful of companies that
dominate it are affecting both individual
minds and the future of the planet. The
old idea of the online world as a burgeoning utopia is in retreat.
If you want a sense of how much has changed, picture
the president of the US tweeting his latest provocation
in the small hours, and consider an array of words and
phrases now freighted with meaning: Russia, bots, troll
farms, online abuse, fake news, dark money.
Another sign of how much things have shifted is a
volte-face by Silicon Valley’s most powerful man. Barely
more than a year ago the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, seemed still to be rejoicing in his company’s imperial phase, blithely dismissing the idea that fabricated
news carried by his platform had affected the outcome
of the 2016 US election as a “pretty crazy idea”. Now
scarcely a week goes by without some Facebook pronouncement or other, either updating the wider world
about its latest quest to put its operations beyond criticism or assuring us that its belief in an eternally upbeat,
fuzzily liberal ethos is as fervent as ever.
The company has reached a fascinating point in its
evolution: Facebook is at once massively powerful and
suddenly defensive. Its deeply questionable tax affairs are being altered; 1,000 new employees have been
hired to monitor its advertising. At the same time, it still
seems unable to provide any answers to worries about
its effects on the world – beyond more Facebook.
While Zuckerberg and his colleagues do ethical somersaults, there is rising noise from former insiders at
tech giants who worry about what their innovations are
doing to us. Former Facebook president Sean Parker
warned in November that its platform “literally changes
your relationship with society, with each other … God
only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
At around the same time, the former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya held a public interview at
Stanford University in which he did not exactly mince
his words. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback
loops that we have created are destroying how society
works,” he said. “No civil discourse, no cooperation,
misinformation, mistruth … So we are in a really bad
state of affairs right now, in my opinion.”
Then there is Tristan Harris, a former high-up at
Google who is now hailed as “the closest thing Silicon
Bill Bragg
A possible way out
resides in embracing
the idea of navigating
the internet with
a basic degree of
moderation
Valley has to a conscience”. Under the banner of a
“movement” called Time Well Spent, he and his allies
are urging software developers to tone down the compulsive elements of their inventions, and the millions
who find themselves hooked to change their behaviour.
What they are up against, meanwhile, is apparently
personified by Nir Eyal, a Stanford lecturer and tech
consultant. In 2013 he published Hooked: How To Build
Habit-Forming Products. His inspiration for the book
is the behaviourist psychology pioneered by BF Skinner. Among his pearls of wisdom is one both simple
and chilling: “For new behaviours to really take hold,
they must occur often.” But on close inspection even he
sounds somewhat ambivalent: in April, at something
called the Habit Summit, he told his audience that at
home he had installed a device that cut off the internet
at a set time every day.
Good for him. The reality for millions of other people
is a constant experience that all but buries the online
world’s liberating possibilities in a mess of alerts, likes,
messages, retweets and internet use so pathologically
frantic that it inevitably makes far too many people vulnerable to pernicious nonsense and real dangers.
Thanks to manipulative ephemera, WhatsApp users
anxiously await the ticks that confirm whether a message has been read by a receiver; and, a turbocharged
version of the addictive dots that flash on an iPhone
when a friend is replying to you, Snapchat now alerts
its users when a friend starts typing a message to them.
And we all know what lies around the corner: a world of
Sensurround virtual reality, and an internet wired into
just about every object we interact with. As the repentant Facebookers say: if we’re not careful, we will soon be
at risk of being locked into mindless behavioural loops,
craving distraction even from other distractions.
There is a possible way out of this, of course. It resides not in some luddite fantasy of an army of people
carrying old Nokia phones and writing each other letters, but the possibility of a culture that embraces the
idea of navigating the internet with an emphasis on basic moderation. We now know – don’t we? – that the person who begins most social encounters by putting their
phone on the table is either an addict or an idiot.
T
here is also a mounting understanding that
one of the single most important aspects
of modern parenting is to be all too aware
of how much social media can mess with
people’s minds, and to limit our children’s
screen time. This, after all, is what Bill
Gates and Steve Jobs did, as evidenced by
one of the latter’s most pithy statements. In 2010 he was
asked about his children’s opinion of the iPad. “They
haven’t used it,” he said. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
Two billion people actively use Facebook; at least
3.5 billion are reckoned to be online. Their shared habits, compulsions and susceptibilities will have a huge
influence on the world’s progress, or lack of it. So we
ought to listen to Tristan Harris and his campaign. “Religions and governments don’t have that much influence
over people’s daily thoughts,” he recently told Wired
magazine. “But we have three technology companies” –
he meant Facebook, Google and Apple – “who have this
system that frankly they don’t even have control over
… Right now, 2 billion people’s minds are already jacked
into this automated system, and it’s steering people’s
thoughts toward either personalised paid advertising or
misinformation or conspiracy theories. And it’s all automated; the owners of the system can’t possibly monitor
everything that’s going on, and they can’t control it.”
And then came the kicker. “This isn’t some kind of
philosophical conversation. This is an urgent concern
happening right now.” Amid an ocean of corporate
sophistry, those words have the distinct ring of truth.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 19
Comment&Debate
Macron must use his eloquence to save Europe
Natalie Nougayrède
The French president is uniquely
placed to speak for the continent.
If he reaches out to the British people,
perhaps Brexit can be avoided
I
n 2017, France won and Britain lost. Emmanuel
Macron emerged to transform a sclerotic political
scene, dazzling the world and many in his country
with a youthful energy that made French rejuvenation a buzzword. Theresa May stumbled from one
hiccup to the next, rushing to Washington for an
awkward meeting with Donald Trump, triggering
article 50 with no plan for the aftermath, and losing her
majority in parliament.
Macron made headlines with slogans such as “Let’s
make the planet great again”. May’s mantras – from
“global Britain” to “Brexit means Brexit” – backfired
or seemed to go nowhere. Macron secured a solid base
in the national assembly for his upstart La République
en Marche party. He made sweeping, lyrical speeches
about Europe, heralding a new era of empowerment
and European sovereignty.
May went to Florence, in a worthy attempt to build
bridges with Europe, despite everything. But what
mostly got noted was that the UK would pay its dues
to the EU – an early sign of bowing to the inevitable as
her Brexit negotiating team prepared to align itself with
conditions laid out by Brussels.
For these two former global, colonial powers, who
must now grapple with a fast-changing world where
punching above your weight is no longer so easy, last
year surely marked Gallic triumph and British misery.
But would the French be right to gloat? If things continue like this in 2018, no one will stand to gain.
France has a lot to lose if Britain turns its back on
Europe. To say “good riddance”, as former French prime
minister Michel Rocard once said, is shortsightedness.
Brexit has now become a process so tedious and
drawn out that we’ve almost forgotten the shock of
that morning of 24 June 2016.
Parts of France’s establishment have long thought
of Britain as a contrarian force in the European club. De
Gaulle was right to block the British, goes that line of
thought. For one thing, British-led EU enlargement to the
east – in fact, Europe’s reunification – diluted France’s
sense of being the indispensable cornerstone. Europe’s
centre of gravity shifted to Berlin. So it has been tempting
for some in Paris to relish the thought of going back to
some sort of “core” Europe model: a cosy group holding
close to the vision of the “founding fathers” of the 1950s.
This won’t fly. The world has changed. Europe
has changed. Forces that have the potential to
undermine it have not dissipated – from Moscow to
Ankara, from entrenched populist movements to the
cyberworld, from migration to the many impacts of
unregulated globalisation.
For all the talk about Europe surviving (or even being
galvanised by) Brexit and Trump, Britain’s current crash
course out of the EU remains as damaging a move for all
as it was deemed to be 18 months ago. Brexit will represent the first European breakup in 60 years – a wound
whose ultimate consequences we have yet to fathom.
Britain is rocked by polarisation and internal
divisions, but it remains a strong democracy – carrying
Matt Kenyon
For these two former
global, colonial
powers, last year
surely marked
Gallic triumph and
British misery
values that today can hardly be taken for granted. Given
this, France and Britain have special responsibilities,
not least in the UN, where the very principle of international cooperation is under threat. Some of those who
think Brexit can be made to work will believe the cracks
in the liberal order it will open up can be papered over.
But there will be a cost.
If Macron really is the saviour of Europe he wants
to be, then he should say something to help to prevent
Brexit. A window of opportunity may open up next
summer, when it will become increasingly clear that
Brexit is a near-impossible task. This is not to suggest
France should move to carve out new conditions for
Britain. The EU, in these Brexit talks, is focused on its
self-preservation as a bloc, and that includes a big “no”
to a bespoke deal that might transform the single market
into gruyère cheese: full of holes.
In 2016 Barack Obama, a man Macron in many
ways likes to imitate, delivered a speech in Hanover
addressed not to governments but to “the people of
Europe”. It is striking that, as Europe’s leaders keep
talking of “unity”, they mostly tend to reach out to their
domestic, national constituencies. Macron has shown
he can look beyond. Why not reach out to the British
people in this historic moment?
Why not say: we would like you to stay, we are not
seeking to benefit from your departure nor to harm you,
and we still have so much to achieve together? Why
not say: some of the trends that led to Brexit, among
them inequality and a broken social fabric, are problems France and others on the continent also have to
deal with? Why not plunge into historical references in
which the salvation of France was made possible thanks
to Britain’s courage, and now, nearly 80 years on, show
French courage in return?
What does Macron have to lose? At the moment the
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, can’t deliver such a
speech because she is tied up with domestic uncertainties. But Macron can really make a difference in becoming the first, strong continental voice to make the case
for stopping Brexit’s collective wrecking ball. If that
happened, 2018 would be a Franco-British success story,
not a messy divorce. En marche to that!
20 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Comment&Debate
Kabul attack
exposes
deadly new
Isis strategy
Hassan Hassan
Observer
The caliphate may be
defeated but Islamic
State militants have
turned their attentions
to reigniting local
sectarian insurgencies
I
ts much-vaunted caliphate has gone. But while
2017 might have seen the end of Islamic State’s
dream of ruling over its twisted vision of an ideal
society, last year ended with an ominous sign
that its deadly international campaign against the
many people and faiths it sees as spiritual foes has
gathered new energy.
Last Thursday, dozens of civilians in Kabul were
killed in a suicide attack that targeted a Shia cultural
centre in the Afghan capital. The attack comes despite
an intensifying campaign by the US and Afghanistan
to uproot the twin threats emanating from Isis and the
Taliban. Striking inside the Afghan capital, despite the
surge in security and military measures, has also raised
fears about the enduring ability of the group as the caliphate it once established in Iraq and Syria has collapsed.
In Afghanistan, Isis has done so much with so little.
In Libya, for example, the group had hundreds of local
battle-hardened fighters with experience stretching
back to the early years of the Iraq war and who played
a pivotal role in early Isis efforts in Syria in 2014, but its
fortunes have dwindled over the past two years.
The Afghanistan affiliate, in contrast, has competition
from resurgent Taliban militants, but it has managed to
deepen its presence. Striking inside the capital suggests
that the group has evolved from a largely foreign-led
organisation to an increasingly localised one.
Aside from its persistence in Afghanistan, the nature of last Thursday’s attack is a harbinger of what is
to come as Isis loses its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The
Isis media outlet claimed that the cultural centre was
bankrolled and sponsored by Iran. “The centre is one of
the most notable centres for proselytisation to Shiism in
Afghanistan,” the statement added.
Isis has sought to tout itself as the defender of Sunnis
across the region and the choice of words in its statement is designed to drive that message. The sectarian
theme is likely to be the group’s main focus in the coming years, as it retreats from a caliphate to an insurgency.
The sectarian narrative helps the group present a “contiguous ideology” from Afghanistan to Syria, in place
of the caliphate it seems to have lost; its message to its
followers is that the victims of its attack were potential
soldiers in the army that Iran is forming everywhere.
Presenting itself as the last line of defence against
Iran will ensure that its localised operations have a
general regional theme. The group has increasingly focused on sectarianism, not just against the Shia but also
against Christians and other religious minorities.
The group’s attack inside Iran in June was designed
to achieve this objective and attacks that it portrays as
directed against Iranian interests, such as the one in
Kabul, serve a similar purpose. By doing so, it seeks to
tap into a market in which even al-Qaida and the Taliban cannot compete with the same vigour. In October,
suicide bombers linked to the group killed at least 57
worshippers in a Shia mosque in Kabul. Isis’s sectarian
focus makes its persistence even more troubling. A day
after the Kabul assault, the group also claimed responsibility for a militant shooting on a church in Cairo, one of
several attacks targeting Coptic civilians and churches in
the country in recent years.
The lesson from such attacks is that the group can
still be deadly. Indeed, its territorial demise might even
exacerbate insurgencies elsewhere, if militants fill up
the ranks of affiliates in other countries.
The territorial demise of the caliphate might reduce
threats against the west, but for the immediate region,
where it can move more easily, Isis will continue to exploit social divisions and political stagnation.
Hassan Hassan is co-author of Isis: Inside the Army
of Terror
More at theguardian.com/opinion
Opinion In brief
Good marriages don’t rely on dream weddings
I’ve changed my mind about changing my mind
“What people fail to realise,” my
newlywed friend remarked as we
discussed my upcoming nuptials,
“is that when women say they want
to get married, they generally mean
they want a wedding.” To which I
would add: or security, or reassurance, or even – whisper it – status.
The trouble is that matrimony
may make you wealthier, but the
power isn’t vested in any institution
to make you happier, or more secure
in the psychological rather than the
custodial sense. Only the right partnership can do that.
Data taken from more than
350,000 people in two UK surveys,
analysed by researchers from the
Vancouver School of Economics,
informs us that married people
are happier than single ones, that
those in committed relationships,
even without the paperwork, are as
happy as those who have put a ring
Was there ever a time of greater
certitude, when so many were so
convinced of so much? Brexiteers,
vegans, doomsayers, Putinistas,
people of faith, people of no faith,
terrorists, trolls, football pundits …
Minds are made up, closed for new
business. No one, it seems, is open
to the subtle arts of persuasion,
discussion, debate, exchange.
No one, it seems, apart from me.
I seem to be more biddable than
ever. It may be unfashionable, but
I’ve changed my mind about
changing my mind. I do it all the
time. Recently I’ve changed my
mind about vases, tuition fees,
surfing, houseplants, cinnamon,
Portugal and the accordion. In some
matters, I’ve changed my mind
more than once: social media
(thumbs down, thumbs up, thumbs
down); winter (love, hate, love); and
porridge (hot, cold, just right).
on it – and that the middle-aged are
the most happily hitched of all.
I’m 45 now and very happily married, although we have never bothered with either the legal shenanigans or the big party. As for that man
I did officially marry – reader, I divorced him. My clear-sighted friend
is also divorced. Both of us had brilliant weddings; it was the aftermath
that didn’t work out so well.
My current partner also had a previous long-term relationship, complete with property and children. By
the time we met, we had figured out
a few things we wanted and a few
others we decidedly did not.
Smug Marrieds in their middle
years know that long-term love is
about old slippers, not glass ones,
and that the morning coffee can be
even more romantic than raising a
champagne glass – if you’re drinking
with the right person. Nina Caplan
Then there are the things I change
my mind about every day, several
times: God, crisps, democracy, the
internet, euthanasia, alcohol, the
free market. I didn’t even want to
write this, but they talked me into it.
This near-constant vacillation is
not a good look for an occasional
opinion writer. People tell me there
is a danger that uncertainty comes
off second best. No one ever won an
argument with “I’m not so sure”.
But I’m not so sure. Showing a
willingness to evaluate and alter
one’s position where appropriate
can have a reciprocal effect. If we
treat others’ views with due care
and attention, perhaps they will do
the same with ours.
So please don’t try to talk me out
of this. The last thing I want to do is
change my mind about changing my
mind about changing my mind.
Mark Rice-Oxley
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 21
Comment&Debate
In praise of ...
a royal car park
The Labour party has warned of an alarming rise in UK household debt as inflation rises and wages are squeezed
Labour
must reflect
all talents
Martin Kettle
The Tory party’s travails
offer a great opportunity
if Corbyn puts his team
forward as a strong and
united alternative
I
n a distinctively Conservative context, Michael
Heseltine has posed an important question for all
those who reject the doctrinaire extremes. The
most important liberal Tory of the Thatcher era
asked last week whether the national interest of
preventing or softening Brexit should override any
partisan anxiety about what a Jeremy Corbyn government might mean. You do not have to be a pro-European Conservative like Heseltine to see that the answer
to that question is now yes.
Heseltine’s dilemma is an academic one at present.
Corbyn may have said recently that he expects Labour
to be in power by the end of 2018. Yet that seems unlikely. The problem is not that Labour might not win a
general election in 2018. The problem is that there is an
obstacle: the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
This 2011 law says that in order for there to be an
election, the government has to lose a confidence
vote or the prime minister has to persuade two-thirds
of MPs to vote for one. Both are possible in theory in
2018, but not likely.
For the moment, therefore, the question facing
Labour is not what it will do in government, but what
it will do in another year in opposition. Some will say
the answer is straightforward. Corbyn simply needs
to do more of what he has done so well in 2017: offer
a positive alternative economic message, remain
constructively ambiguous about Brexit, wait for the
Conservatives to hit the rocks and prepare to win on
a tide of public anger.
That is not an approach that can be dismissed. It
has got Corbyn and Labour to a place that very few,
even among the committed, would have predicted
back at the end of 2016. Twelve months ago, Labour
was polling in the upper 20s. Now, in line with the June
election result, Labour polls consistently in the low 40s.
For Labour, 2016 was a year of internal divisions. Yet
2017 witnessed a ceasefire.
Is this standoff merely a hiatus or is it perhaps the
shape of things to come? The latter is the better option.
There are certainly some in Momentum who want to
The scruffy council car park in
Leicester that was revealed in 2012
as the site where Richard III was
buried in 1485 is being given scheduled monument status.
The listing is to protect “one of
the most important sites in our national history”, the remains of the
medieval friary where the battered,
naked body of the last Plantagenet
king was buried after he lost the
battle of Bosworth, his life and his
crown to Henry Tudor.
Part of the site, including
the grave, has been preserved
within the new Richard III centre,
converted from an old school whose
playground helped preserve the
archaeology. However, many traces
of the lost Greyfriars church and
the friary buildings are believed to
lie under the car park.
The heritage minister, John
Glenn, said: “The discovery of
Richard III’s skeleton was an
extraordinary archaeological find
and an incredible moment in British
history.” Maev Kennedy
transform Labour into a party for radical socialists
alone. What is most striking about Labour is that, so far,
there is little evidence of a systematic attempt to purge
the centrists and social democrats.
This is not to downplay or be naive about the instances where existing leaders and candidates have
been ousted in favour of new and mainly more leftwing
alternatives. But at this early stage the evidence that it
is happening is patchy and rarely black-and-white.
Labour is at a critical point where its different traditions have to decide whether to recognise the others’
legitimacy within the party. Labour has always been
an often loose coalition of socialist and labour, liberal
and conservative, revolutionary and reformist, left and
right, and much else.
This has become increasingly irresistible in postindustrial politics. If one tradition tries to deny
legitimacy to the others, as some in New Labour foolishly attempted, and some in Corbyn Labour might
like, the resulting party will always be weakened.
Fanaticism is fatal for Labour, whether it is fanaticism
of the right, the centre or the left.
The important questions in British politics in 2018
are all about Brexit. Will Brexit happen? And if it does,
on what terms? But in the years beyond 2018 there is
a different question that needs addressing now too.
Assuming that the Tory government eventually falls
over in the aftermath of Brexit, what kind of Labour or
Labour-led government comes next?
The issue here is not whether Corbyn should or will
create a Labour party that Lord Heseltine, if he had a
vote, could vote for. Part of the issue, nevertheless,
is whether Corbyn’s Labour is one that can win 2017
Tory voters in marginal seats. That is one reason why
Labour must continue to liberalise its position on Brexit.
There will be no Labour government and thus no respite
from Theresa May’s economically brutal Brexit if that
does not happen. Labour’s different traditions would
be wise to maintain the current armistice. If they spend
their time trying to exterminate one another it will not
happen. The choice is Corbyn’s.
22 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
theguardianweekly
Comment
#MeToo
What comes next?
The exposure of the predatory behaviour of
the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein,
and the #MeToo campaign it triggered, have
had an impact even his accusers surely never
anticipated. It has forced at least some powerful individuals to at last face consequences for
their behaviour. But it has proved even more
important in two other regards.
First, the sheer volume of testimony that
has emerged refutes the idea that the odd “bad
apple” needs to be removed but everything is
otherwise fine. It has demonstrated that this
is a widespread and structural issue. Second,
the torrent has emboldened women to challenge behaviour that they silently endured.
Women are, at last, being heard. But which
women? The questions that #MeToo has
forced people to confront – who is heard, who
is believed, who wins redress – are skewed
by race and class as much as by gender. The
very phrase “me too” bears examination:
many ascribed it to the actor Alyssa Milano,
who started the social media avalanche. But
it was a black woman, Tarana Burke, who
first used the words to raise awareness of the
pervasiveness of abuse – just as the battles of
black workers, mostly forgotten, shaped US
sexual harassment law.
What does #MeToo mean for women who
face additional discrimination and abuse
as people of colour? For women on factory
floors, in care homes or delivering parcels? For
women on short-term contracts and without
union representation, or in the gig economy,
where bosses can easily deny them work and
where abusers may be clients of the business
paying them? No woman should suffer socially, economically or professionally for challenging her abuser. But how much harder it is
to speak out when the cost may be not only
your career, but the ability to pay the rent or
feed your children.
Plenty of people want to move on; some
because they don’t understand the movement’s importance, and others precisely because they understand its implications. Even
now, women are paying a price for speaking
out. Much discussion has skipped past the
primary question – how women should be
treated in the workplace – to fixate on how
perpetrators should be treated, without
pausing to acknowledge the penalties that
victims have already paid.
The #MeToo campaign has proved powerful. But it cannot solve all the problems it
raises. The work of effecting real, widespread
and lasting change will be long, slow, unglamorous and exhausting. It will be not just
about raising awareness but about improving
law and policy, and bolstering women’s economic status. It will depend on measures such
as a new international standard on violence
and harassment in the world of work, under
discussion by the UN’s International Labour
Organisation. Its best hope of success rests on
its ability to address the needs of all women.
Surveillance in China
Big Brother is watching
“Orwellian” is a much abused word; but in the
case of Xinjiang, in China, its use is entirely
apposite. Authorities’ grip on the resourcerich, violence-stricken north-western region
– and most of all on the lives of its Uighur Muslims – grows tighter by the day.
“The happiest Muslims in the world live in
Xinjiang,” a propaganda official there claimed
last year. But a series of recent reports have
unveiled a digital police state. Technological
advances, such as facial recognition software
and biometric data collection, are married
to a vast and expanding security apparatus,
a bureaucracy that inserts itself into all parts
of life, and traditional hard power: shows of
force by heavily armed police.
Officials collected DNA from millions of
residents last year under what they describe as
a free Physicals for All healthcare programme.
It follows a regional security directive urging
the collection of “three-dimensional portraits,
voiceprints, DNA and fingerprints”. At checkpoints, armed police use handheld devices to
check smartphones for banned apps. At petrol
stations, machines scan drivers’ identity cards
and faces. One prefecture requires each car
to have a GPS tracking device. At knife shops,
machines etch the identity details of the buyer
on to each blade.
The tightening of controls was triggered
by deadly violence: ethnic riots in Urumqi in
2009, which killed almost 200 people, mostly
Han Chinese, and knife, bomb and vehicle
attacks, some outside Xinjiang. But rights
groups, exiles and analysts say that many
more in the Turkic-speaking Uighur community are frustrated by economic inequality,
discrimination and tight restrictions on cultural and religious expression or criticism of
authorities, all of which officials conflate with
separatism and violent extremism.
The region is unique in China in the level
of repression. But it has become a laboratory for measures then used elsewhere. And
as Chinese global ambitions grow, these
techniques are likely to be exported.
Trump has laid
bare serious flaws
in the US model
Jonathan Freedland
It is 20 years since I published a book
called Bring Home the Revolution.
Begun when I was still in my 20s, it
too was an essay in idealism, arguing
that the American uprising of 1776
and the constitution that followed in
1787 were a rebellion against a system of government under which we
Britons still laboured two centuries
later – albeit with an overmighty,
overcentralised government in place
of the bewigged King George.
The American revolution, I
argued, was our inheritance, a part
of our patrimony mislaid across
the Atlantic. From a written constitution to a system of radically
devolved power to the replacement
of monarchy with an elected head
of state, it was time for us to bring
home the revolution that we had
made in America.
But it’s time for me to admit
my doubts about its core idea – its
admiration for the US constitution
and system of government. For
this first year of the Donald Trump
presidency has exposed two flaws
in the model that I cannot brush
aside so easily.
The first is that Trump has
vividly demonstrated that much
of what keeps a democracy intact
is not enshrined in the written
letter of a constitution, but resides
instead in customs and conventions – norms – that are essential to
civic wellbeing. Trump trampled
all over those as a candidate –
refusing to disclose his tax returns,
for example – and has trampled
over even more as president.
But the first year of Trump has
also shown the extent to which the
US has an unwritten constitution
that – just like ours – relies on the
self-restraint of the key political
players, a self-restraint usually insisted upon by a free press. Yet when
confronted with a leader unbound
by any sense of shame – and shamelessness might just be Trump’s
defining quality – America is left
unexpectedly vulnerable.
And yet, despite everything, I still
see so much to admire in the founding achievement of America. The
society remains innovative, restless
and creative. But its next act of renewal might be to update or amend
the text that gave it birth, to declare
that no human invention, no matter
how great, can remain stuck.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 23
Reply
Katherine Viner has reaffirmed that
the Guardian Weekly’s mission is to
“use clarity and imagination to build
hope” (22 December). I could not
have put it better and look forward
to another year of the Guardian
doing just that.
However, delivering on this
splendid mission might just mean
that the Guardian has to contemplate crossing a rather risky Rubicon. I refer to the clarity provided
by Larry Elliott in the same edition
when he described the reality of
the last four decades as “a class war
between capital and labour, which
capital has won hands down”.
This insight is the starting point to
cutting through the confusion of the
weekly flow of events to a clarity that
will allow imagination to flourish,
hope to arise and change to occur.
The question remains: will the
Guardian cross such a Rubicon and
more fully contribute to a better
clarity of understanding and mobilisation for change in the years ahead
– for the people, against the few?
Stewart Sweeney
Adelaide, South Australia
• Referring to the excellent article
on the Guardian’s history, position
and future by Katharine Viner, I
once more realised why I appreciate
the Weekly so much and can’t do
without it. My Dutch daily Trouw is
much younger but has similar principles. Now let’s all try to practise
these in life.
Niek de Vries
Tiel, the Netherlands
Igor Kisselev/Alamy
The building of hope
While the media loves to
hate Trump, and Trump is
always telling us how much he
scorns the media, both know
they are in a dysfunctional
symbiotic relationship thanks to
a profit-making company that has
its own agenda. Twitter is a vertical,
hierarchical form of communication
– and mostly one-way. It facilitates
diatribe, not dialogue. Journalists
should not allow themselves to
become the “followers” of anyone.
Social media is a fashion beloved
of those who don’t know how to sit
still and think for themselves. When
we all wake up from up our stupor,
maybe the world’s media will lead
the way back to real conversation by
disconnecting from all social media.
We should reserve Twitter et al for
banal social intercourse instead of
building news stories around it.
Nick Inman
Larreule, France
The dangers of extremism
The problem isn’t Trump
The problem is not Trump’s use of
Twitter (cover story, 8 December);
it is the media’s use of Trump’s use
of Twitter. Journalists have come
to rely on tweets as an easy source
of news: the more outrageous the
better. So much easier than asking
awkward questions of power.
If journalism is the relaying of
information, something has gone
badly wrong. Twitter is not information. It is the spontaneous
expression of mood, the stuff of
gossip, not democratic debate.
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Editorial
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon
Guardian Weekly, Kings Place,
90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK
Peter Beaumont’s fine feature
focused on Jerusalem makes clear
the extensive costly human impact
of president Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognise Jerusalem
as the capital of Israel (15 December). As Beaumont implies, that decision means that another Palestinian intifada is now a real possibility.
My wife and I were holidaying in
Syria and Jordan in 2001. That was
at the time of the second Palestinian
intifada. We recall how nasty and
brutal it was – on all sides.
Once, as we taxied from Amman
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to a Dead Sea resort, the contentious
West Bank town of Jericho was
clearly visible some 15-20km away.
At that distance there was no sign of
the dreadful hostilities it was experiencing. But for local Jordanians just
across the border, the trauma of that
conflict seemed very close to home.
Our taxi driver told us with
grim humour that at night he and
his family looked across in that
direction from the Dead Sea border
area where they lived to experience
the night flashes, explosions and
gunfire as a sort of ghoulish afterdinner entertainment.
Most Jordanians and Syrians we
met, while they strongly favoured
the Palestinian cause, were wary
of extremism on all sides. As one
Jordanian said to me as we came
across him watching TV reportage
of a recent terrible Jerusalem restaurant bombing: “Israelis – boom,
boom, boom. Palestinians – bang,
bang, bang. Why?”
The Middle East got over that
bout of violence. Now the stupidity
of Trump threatens it with another.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia
• With reference to your
8 December story on the final battle
for Mosul: the harrowing endgame
shows, as usual, how even one death
in the name of religion is always one
too many. A second terror is listed
at the end of the article – the same
politicians who led to the rise of Isis
jostle for position as they loot the
nation. My take on that is, in summary, the conditions are ripe for it
all to happen again.
As one learned person said
recently “politics is about the
past; history concerns the future”.
Nothing has been learned.
Stephen Banks
Birmingham, UK
Briefly
• In Romania battles over its bears
(8 December), your writer decries,
“Despite a national hunting ban,
Transylvanians want to shoot the
beasts”. That is why I have always
supported the right to arm bears.
Robert Milan
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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From the archive
5 January 1961
Peter Downes,
tiddlywinks icon
The secretary-general of the English
Tiddlywinks Association sounds like
a character in a Goon Show script.
One expects him to resemble a Sellers sportsman who talks in Churchillian tones about national honour –
“that English feller did damned well
to come in thirty-second.”
The fact that Mr Peter Downes
is only 22 is not much of a surprise
– the game is associated these days
more with university rags than with
drawing-room carpets – but one
hardly expected the tiddlywinks
equivalent of Sir Stanley Rous to be
an earnest young teacher of French
and Divinity at Manchester Grammar School, whose bookcase is
stacked with volumes of poetry by
Rimbaud alongside titles like “Style
in the French Novel”.
Although he has devoted the
school holidays to organising the
northern junior tiddlywinks championships held in Manchester this
week, Mr Downes has none of the air
of a crank. He is refreshingly normal
with a variety of interests that range
from the Student Christian Movement to soccer refereeing. He wants
nothing more than the acceptance of
tiddlywinks as a game worth a paragraph on the sports page rather than
a column on the gossip page about
how debs are following the duke in
taking up “winking”.
Mr Downes was fairly proficient
at the game before he went to Cambridge. He joined the tiddlywinks
club which was already in existence
there, and after a weekly review
at the time of the Altrinchammonarchy controversy had printed
an article headed “Does the Duke
cheat at tiddly-winks?” he wrote to
the palace, urging the Duke of Edinburgh to play the Cambridge team.
Prince Philip nominated a team from
the Goon Show to represent him,
and in addition to providing the
Hickeys and Tanfields with acres of
copy it raised £200 for the National
Playing Fields Association.
Since then the association, which
makes no profits for itself, has raised
over £1,000 for the NPFA, and Mr
Downes gets great satisfaction out of
the thought that a game whose only
playing field is a dining-room table
has done something for more orthodox sports. After the visit of the
Goons, “winking” became the thing
to do at Cambridge.
A conference was held which
formed the English Tiddlywinks
Association and devised the “international rules of tiddlywinks.”
24 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Eyewitnessed
Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar take an early morning walk past a pond at Balukhali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh Marko Djurica/Reuters
A Balinese girl takes part in a traditional dance during a cultural parade at a festival in
Denpasar to mark the New Year Sonny Tumbelaka/Getty
A robin is caught in flight on New Year’s Eve as it approaches a suet cake that hangs from a tree
in Frankfurt, Germany Michael Probst/AP
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 25
Pope Francis leads the First Vespers and Te Deum prayer in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican
on New Year’s Eve Tony Gentile/Reuters
A street vendor displays his stock of wristwatches at a bus terminal in Delhi, India
Saumya Khandelwal/Reuters
A tear runs down the face of Kenyon George, whose girlfriend Shawntay Young was among 12
people who died in an apartment building fire in the Bronx, New York Julio Cortez/AP
26 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Portugal’s big fix
for the war on drugs
W
hen the drugs came, they hit
all at once. It was the 1980s,
and by the time one in 10
people had slipped into the
depths of heroin use – bankers, university students,
carpenters, socialites, miners – Portugal was in a
state of panic. Álvaro Pereira was working as a family doctor in Olhão in southern Portugal. “People
were injecting themselves in the street, in public
squares, in gardens,” he told me. “At that time, not
a day passed when there wasn’t a robbery at a local
business, or a mugging.”
The crisis began in the south. The 1980s were a
prosperous time in Olhão, a fishing town 50km west
of the Spanish border. Coastal waters filled fishermen’s nets from the Gulf of Cádiz to Morocco, tourism was growing and currency flowed throughout
the southern Algarve region. But by the end of the
decade, heroin began washing up on Olhão’s shores.
Overnight, Pereira’s beloved slice of the Algarve
coast became one of the drug capitals of Europe:
one in every 100 Portuguese was battling a problematic heroin addiction at that time, but the number
was even higher in the south. Headlines in the local
press raised the alarm about overdose deaths and
rising crime. The rate of HIV infection in Portugal
became the highest in the European Union. Pereira
recalled desperate patients and families beating
a path to his door, terrified, bewildered, begging
for help. “I got involved,” he said, “only because
I was ignorant.”
In truth, there was a lot of ignorance back then.
Forty years of authoritarian rule under the regime
established by António Salazar in 1933 had suppressed education, weakened institutions and
lowered the school-leaving age, in a strategy intended to keep the population docile. The country
was closed to the outside world; people missed
out on the experimentation and mind-expanding
culture of the 1960s. When the regime ended
abruptly in a military coup in 1974, Portugal was
suddenly opened to new markets and influences.
Under the old regime, Coca-Cola was banned
and owning a cigarette lighter required a licence.
When marijuana and then heroin began flooding in,
the country was utterly unprepared.
Pereira tackled the growing wave of addiction
the only way he knew how: one patient at a time.
A student in her 20s who still lived with her parents might have her family involved in her recovery; a middle-aged man, estranged from his wife
and living on the street, faced different risks and
needed a different kind of support. Pereira improvised, calling on institutions and individuals in the
community to lend a hand.
In 2001, nearly two decades into Pereira’s
accidental specialisation in addiction, Portugal
became the first country to decriminalise the possession and consumption of all illicit substances.
Rather than being arrested, those caught with a
personal supply might be given a warning, a small
fine, or told to appear before a local commission – a
doctor, a lawyer and a social worker – about treatment, harm reduction, and the support services that
were available to them.
The opioid crisis soon stabilised, and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug
use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose
deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates.
HIV infection plummeted from an all-time high in
2000 of 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases
per million in 2015. The data behind these changes
has been studied and cited as evidence by harmreduction movements around the globe. It’s misleading, however, to credit these positive results
entirely to a change in law.
Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact
that it has held steady through several changes in
government – including conservative leaders who
would have preferred to return to the US-style
war on drugs – could not have happened without
an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how
the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself.
In many ways, the law was merely a reflection of
transformations that were already happening in
clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables
across the country. The official policy of decriminalisation made it far easier for a broad range of
services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing,
etc), that had been struggling to pool their resources
and expertise, to work together more effectively to
serve their communities.
The language began to shift, too. Those who
had been referred to sneeringly as drogados (junkies) – became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as “people who use
drugs” or “people with addiction disorders”. This,
too, was crucial.
It is important to note that Portugal stabilised its
opioid crisis, but it didn’t make it disappear. While
drug-related death, incarceration and infection
rates plummeted, the country still had to deal with
the health complications of long-term problematic
drug use. Diseases including hepatitis C, cirrhosis
and liver cancer are a burden on a health system
Johanna Parkin/Guardian Design
Since decriminalising all illegal substances in
2001, this otherwise conservative country has
seen dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection
and narcotic-related crime. So why hasn’t the rest
of the world followed suit? By Susana Ferreira
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 27
Does free will exist?
The forces that control our actions
→ Discovery, pages 32-33
that is still struggling to recover from recession and
cutbacks. In this way, Portugal’s story serves as a
warning of challenges yet to come.
Despite enthusiastic international reactions to
Portugal’s success, local harm-reduction advocates
have been frustrated by what they see as stagnation and inaction since decriminalisation came into
effect. They criticise the state for dragging its feet
on establishing supervised injection sites and drug
consumption facilities; for failing to make the
anti-overdose medication naloxone more readily
available; for not implementing needle-exchange
programmes in prisons. Where, they ask, is the
courageous spirit and bold leadership that pushed
the country to decriminalise drugs in the first place?
In the early days of Portugal’s panic, when Pereira’s beloved Olhão began falling apart in front of him,
the state’s first instinct was to attack. Drugs were
denounced as evil, drug users were demonised, and
proximity to either was criminally and spiritually
punishable. The Portuguese government launched
a series of national anti-drug campaigns that were
less “Just Say No” and more “Drugs Are Satan”.
Informal treatment approaches and experiments
were rushed into use throughout the country, as
doctors, psychiatrists and pharmacists worked
independently to deal with the flood of drugdependency disorders at their doors, sometimes
risking ostracism or arrest to do what they believed
was best for their patients.
In 1977, in the north of the country, psychiatrist
Eduíno Lopes pioneered a methadone programme
at the Centro da Boavista in Porto. Lopes was the
first doctor in continental Europe to experiment
with substitution therapy, flying in methadone
powder from Boston, under the auspices of the
Ministry of Justice, rather than the Ministry of
Health. His efforts met with a vicious public backlash and the disapproval of his peers, who considered methadone therapy nothing more than statesponsored drug addiction.
Down in Lisbon, Odette Ferreira, an experienced
pharmacist and pioneering HIV researcher, started
an unofficial needle-exchange programme to address the growing Aids crisis. She received death
threats from drug dealers, and legal threats from
politicians. Ferreira – who is now in her 90s, and
still has enough swagger to carry off fake eyelashes
and red leather at a midday meeting – started giving away clean syringes in the middle of Europe’s
biggest open-air drug market, in the Casal Ventoso
neighbourhood of the city. She collected donations
of clothing, soap, razors, condoms, fruit and sandwiches, and distributed them to users. When dealers reacted with hostility, she snapped back: “Don’t
mess with me. You do your job, and I’ll do mine.”
She then bullied the Portuguese Association of Pharmacies into running the country’s – and indeed the
world’s – first national needle-exchange programme.
A flurry of expensive private clinics and free,
faith-based facilities emerged, promising detoxes and miracle cures, but the first public drugtreatment centre run by the Ministry of Health – the
Centro das Taipas in Lisbon – did not begin operating
until 1987. Strapped for resources in Olhão, Pereira
sent a few patients for treatment, although he did
not agree with the abstinence-based approach used
at Taipas. “First you take away the drug, and then,
with psychotherapy, you plug up the crack,” said
Pereira. There was no scientific evidence to show
that this would work – and it didn’t.
He also sent patients to Lopes’s methadone programme in Porto, and found that some responded
well. But Porto was at the other end of the country. He
wanted to try methadone Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 for his patients, but the
Ministry of Health hadn’t yet approved it for use.
To get around that, Pereira sometimes asked a nurse
to sneak methadone to him in the boot of his car.
Pereira’s work treating patients for addiction
eventually caught the attention of the Ministry of
Health. “They heard there was a crazy man in the
Algarve who was working on his own,” he said, with
a slow smile. Now 68, he is sprightly and charming,
with an athletic build, thick and wavy white hair
that bounces when he walks, a gravelly drawl and a
bottomless reserve of warmth. “They came down
to find me at the clinic and proposed that I open a
treatment centre,” he said. He invited a colleague
from a family practice in the next town over to join
him – a young local doctor named João Goulão.
Goulão was a 20-year-old medical student when
he was offered his first hit of heroin. He declined
because he didn’t know what it was. By the time he
finished school, got his licence and began practising
medicine at a health centre in the southern city of
Faro, it was everywhere. Like Pereira, he accidentally
ended up specialising in treating drug addiction.
The two young colleagues joined forces to open
southern Portugal’s first CAT in 1988. (These kinds of
centres have used different names over the years, but
are commonly referred to as Centros de Atendimento
a Toxicodependentes, or CATs.) Local residents were
vehemently opposed, and the doctors were improvising treatments as they went along. The following
month, Pereira and Goulão opened a second CAT in
Olhão, and other family doctors opened more in the
north and central regions, forming a loose network. It
had become clear to a growing number of practitioners that the most effective response to addiction had
to be personal, and rooted in communities. Treatment was still small-scale, local and largely ad hoc.
The first official call to change Portugal’s drug
laws came from Rui Pereira, a former constitutional
court judge who undertook an overhaul of the penal
code in 1996. He found the practice of jailing people for taking drugs to be counterproductive and
unethical. “My thought right off the bat was that
it wasn’t legitimate for the state to punish users,”
he told me in his office at the University of Lisbon’s
school of law. At that time, about half of the people in prison were there for drug-related reasons,
and the epidemic, he said, was thought to be “an
irresolvable problem”. He recommended that drug
use be discouraged without imposing penalties, or
further alienating users. His proposals weren’t immediately adopted, but they did not go unnoticed.
In 1997, after 10 years of running the CAT in
Faro, Goulão was invited to help design and lead
a national drug strategy. He assembled a team of
experts to study potential solutions to Portugal’s
drug problem. The resulting recommendations,
including the full decriminalisation of drug use,
were presented in 1999, approved by the council of
ministers in 2000, and a new national plan of action
came into effect in 2001.
Today, Goulão is Portugal’s drug tsar. He has
been the lodestar throughout eight alternating conservative and progressive administrations; through
heated standoffs with lawmakers and lobbyists;
through shifts in scientific understanding of addiction and in cultural tolerance for drug use; through
austerity cuts, and through a global policy climate
that only very recently became slightly less hostile.
Goulão is also decriminalisation’s busiest global ambassador. He travels almost non-stop, invited again
and again to present the successes of Portugal’s
harm-reduction experiment to authorities around
the world, from Norway to Brazil, which are dealing
with desperate situations in their own countries.
Portugal’s policy rests on three pillars: one, that
there’s no such thing as a soft or hard drug, only
healthy and unhealthy relationships with drugs;
two, that an individual’s unhealthy relationship
with drugs often conceals frayed relationships with
loved ones, with the world around them, and with
themselves; and three, that the eradication of all
drugs is an impossible goal.
“The national policy is to treat each individual
differently,” Goulão told me. “The secret is for us
to be present.”
A drop-in centre called IN-Mouraria sits unobtrusively in a lively, rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood
of Lisbon, a longtime enclave of marginalised communities. From 2pm to 4pm, the centre provides services to undocumented migrants and refugees; from
5pm to 8pm, they open their doors to drug users.
A staff of psychologists, doctors and peer support
workers (themselves former drug users) offer clean
needles, pre-cut squares of foil, crack kits, sandwiches, coffee, clean clothing, toiletries, rapid HIV
testing, and consultations – all free and anonymous.
On the day I visited, young people stood around
waiting for HIV test results while others played
cards, complained about police harassment, tried on
outfits, traded advice on living situations, watched
movies and gave pep talks to one another. They varied in age, religion, ethnicity and gender identity,
and came from all over the country and all over the
world. When a slender, older man emerged from the
bathroom, unrecognisable after having shaved his
‘The national policy is
to treat each individual
differently. The secret
is for us to be present’
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 29
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Long-term fix … left, a nurse hands out
methadone in Lisbon; below, a man receives
clean syringes after being given the drug at a
clinic Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty
beard off, an energetic young man who had been
flipping through magazines threw up his arms and
cheered. He then turned to a quiet man sitting on
my other side, his beard lush and dark hair curling
from under his cap, and said: “What about you?
Why don’t you go shave off that beard? You can’t
give up on yourself, man. That’s when it’s all over.”
The bearded man cracked a smile.
During my visits over the course of a month, I got
to know some of the peer support workers, including João, a compact man with blue eyes who was
rigorous in going over the details and nuances of
what I was learning. João wanted to be sure I understood their role at the drop-in centre was not to
force anyone to stop using, but to help minimise the
risks users were exposed to.
“Our objective is not to steer people to treatment
– they have to want it,” he told me. But even when
they do want to stop using, he continued, having
support workers accompany them to appointments
and treatment facilities can feel like a burden on the
user – and if the treatment doesn’t go well, there is
the risk that person will feel too ashamed to return
to the drop-in centre. “Then we lose them, and that’s
not what we want to do,” João said. “I want them to
come back when they relapse.” Failure was part of the
treatment process, he told me. And he would know.
João is a marijuana-legalisation activist, open
about being HIV-positive, and after being absent for
part of his son’s youth, he is delighting in his new role
as a grandfather. He had stopped doing speedballs
(mixtures of cocaine and opiates) after several painful, failed treatment attempts, each more destructive than the last. He long used cannabis as a form of
therapy – methadone did not work for him, nor did
any of the inpatient treatment programmes he tried
– but the cruel hypocrisy of decriminalisation meant
that although smoking weed was not a criminal offence, purchasing it was. His last and worst relapse
came when he went to buy marijuana from his usual
dealer and was told: “I don’t have that right now, but
I do have some good cocaine.” João said no thanks
and drove away, but soon found himself heading to
a cash machine, and then back to the dealer. After
this relapse, he embarked on a new relationship, and
started his own business. At one point he had more
than 30 employees. Then the financial crisis hit. “Clients weren’t paying, and creditors started knocking
on my door,” he told me. “Within six months I had
burned through everything I had built up over four
or five years.”
In the mornings, I followed the centre’s street
teams out to the fringes of Lisbon. I met hi-vis-clad
Raquel and Sareia, who worked with Crescer na Maior,
a harm-reduction NGO. Six times a week, they loaded
up a large white van with drinking water, wet wipes,
gloves, boxes of tinfoil and piles of state-issued drug
kits: green plastic pouches with single-use servings of
filtered water, citric acid, a small metal tray for cooking, gauze, filter and a clean syringe. Portugal does
not yet have any supervised injection sites (although
there is legislation to allow them, several attempts
to open one have come to nothing), so they go out to
the open-air sites where they know people go to buy
and use. Both are trained psychologists, but out in the
streets they are known simply as the “needle girls”.
“Good afternoon!” Raquel called out cheerily,
as we walked across a seemingly abandoned lot in
an area called Cruz Vermelha. “Street team!” People materialised from their hiding places like some
strange version of whack-a-mole, poking their
heads out from the holes in the wall where they had
gone to smoke or shoot up. “My needle girls,” one
woman cooed to them tenderly. “How are you, my
loves?” Most made polite conversation, updating
the workers on their health struggles, love lives, immigration woes or housing needs. One woman told
them she would be going back to Angola to deal with
her mother’s estate, that she was looking forward
to the change of scenery. Another man told them
he had managed to get his online girlfriend’s visa
approved for a visit. “Does she know you’re still using?” Sareia asked. The man looked sheepish.
“I start methadone tomorrow,” another man said
proudly. He was accompanied by his beaming girlfriend, and waved a warm goodbye to the girls as
they handed him a square of foil.
In the foggy northern city of Porto, peer support
workers from Caso – an association run by and for
drug users and former users, the only one of its kind
in Portugal – meet every week at a noisy cafe. They
come here every Tuesday morning to down espressos, fresh pastries and toasted sandwiches, and to
talk out the challenges, debate drug policy (which, a
decade and a half after the law came into effect, was
still confusing for many) and argue, with the warm
rowdiness typical of those in the northern region.
When I asked them what they thought of Portugal’s
move to treat drug users as sick people in need of
help, rather than as criminals, they scoffed. “Sick?
We don’t say ‘sick’ up here. We’re not sick.”
I was told this again and again in the north: thinking of drug addiction simply in terms of health
and disease was too reductive. Some people are
able to use drugs for years without any major disruption to their personal or professional relationships. It only became a problem, they told me, when
it became a problem.
Caso was supported by Apdes, a development
NGO with a focus on harm reduction and empowerment, including programmes geared toward recreational users. Their award-winning Check!n project
has for years set up shop at festivals, bars and parties
to test substances for dangers. I was told more than
once that if drugs were legalised, not just decriminalised, then these substances would be held to the
same rigorous quality and safety standards as food,
drink and medication.
In spite of Portugal’s tangible results, other
countries have been reluctant to follow. The Portuguese began seriously considering decriminalisation in 1998, immediately following the first UN
General Assembly Special Session on the Global
Drug Problem (UNgass). High-level UNgass meetings are convened every 10 years to set drug policy
for all member states, addressing trends in addiction, infection, money laundering, trafficking
and cartel violence. At the first session – for which
the slogan was “A drug-free world: we can do it”
– Latin American member states pressed for a radical rethinking of the war on drugs, but every effort
to examine alternative models (such as decriminalisation) was blocked. By the time of the next
session, in 2008, worldwide drug use and violence
related to the drug trade had vastly increased. An
extraordinary session was held last year, but it was
largely a disappointment – the outcome document
didn’t mention “harm reduction” once.
Despite that letdown, 2016 produced a number
of promising developments: Chile and Australia
opened their first medical cannabis clubs; following the lead of several others, four more US states
introduced medical cannabis, and four more legalised recreational cannabis; Denmark opened
the world’s largest drug consumption facility, and
France opened its first; South Africa proposed legalising medical cannabis; Canada outlined a plan
to legalise recreational cannabis nationally and to
open more supervised injection sites; and Ghana
announced it would decriminalise all personal use.
The biggest change in global attitudes and policy
has been the momentum behind cannabis legalisation. Local activists have pressed Goulão to take
a stance on regulating cannabis and legalising its
sale in Portugal; for years, he has responded that
the time wasn’t right. Legalising a single substance
would call into question the foundation of Portugal’s drug and harm-reduction philosophy. If the
drugs aren’t the problem, if the problem is the relationship with drugs, if there’s no such thing as a
hard or a soft drug, and if all illicit substances are
to be treated equally, he argued, then shouldn’t all
drugs be legalised and regulated?
Massive international cultural shifts in thinking
about drugs and addiction are needed to make way
for decriminalisation and legalisation globally. In
the US, the White House has remained reluctant
to address what drug policy reform advocates
have termed an “addiction to punishment”. But
if conservative, isolationist, Catholic Portugal could
transform into a country where same-sex marriage
and abortion are legal, and where drug use is decriminalised, a broader shift in attitudes seems possible elsewhere. But, as the harm-reduction adage
goes: one has to want the change in order to make it.
When Pereira first opened Continued on page 30 →
30 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Weekly review
Getting better … users waiting at a treatment facility in Lisbon Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty
←Continued from page 29 the CAT in Olhão, he faced
vociferous opposition from residents. They worried
that with more drogados would come more crime,
but the opposite happened. Months later, one
neighbour came to ask Pereira’s forgiveness. She
hadn’t realised it at the time, but there had been
three drug dealers on her street. When their local
clientele stopped buying, they packed up and left.
The CAT building itself is a drab, brown twostorey block, with offices upstairs and an open waiting area, bathrooms, storage and clinics down below. The doors open at 8.30am, seven days a week,
365 days a year. Patients wander in throughout the
day for appointments, to chat, to kill time, to wash,
or to pick up their weekly supply of methadone
doses. They tried to close the CAT for Christmas Day
one year, but patients asked that it stay open. For
some, estranged from loved ones and adrift from
any version of home, this is the closest thing they’ve
got to community and normality. “It’s not just about
administering methadone,” Pereira told me. “You
have to maintain a relationship.”
In a back room, rows of little canisters with
banana-flavoured methadone doses were lined up.
The Olhão CAT regularly services about 400 people,
but that number can double during the summer
months, when seasonal workers and tourists come
to town. Anyone receiving treatment elsewhere
in the country, or even outside Portugal, can have
their prescription sent over to the CAT, making the
Algarve an ideal harm-reduction holiday destination.
After lunch at a restaurant owned by a former CAT
employee, the doctor took me to visit another of his
projects – a particular favourite. His decades of working with addiction disorders had taught him some
lessons, and he poured his accumulated knowledge
into designing a special treatment facility on the
outskirts of Olhão: the Unidade de Desabituação, or
Dishabituation Centre. Several such UDs, as they are
known, have opened in other regions of the country,
but this centre was developed to cater to the particular circumstances and needs of the south.
Pereira stepped down as director some years ago,
but his replacement asked him to stay on to help
with day-to-day operations. Pereira should be retired by now – indeed, he tried to – but Portugal is
‘I don’t treat patients –
they treat themselves.
I’m here to help them make
the changes they need’
suffering from an overall shortage of health professionals in the public system, and not enough young
doctors are stepping into this specialisation. As his
colleagues elsewhere in the country grow closer to
their own retirements, there’s a growing sense of
dread that there is no one to replace them.
“Those of us from the Algarve always had a bit of
a different attitude from our colleagues up north,”
Pereira told me. “I don’t treat patients. They treat
themselves. My function is to help them to make the
changes they need to make.” And thank goodness
there is only one change to make, he deadpanned
as we pulled into the centre’s car park: “You need to
change almost everything.” He cackled at his own
joke and stepped out of his car.
The Olhão centre was built for just under €3m
($3.5m), publicly funded, and opened to its first patients nine years ago. This facility, like the others, is
connected to a web of health and social rehabilitation services. It can house up to 14 people at once:
treatments are free, available on referral from a doctor or therapist, and normally last between eight
and 14 days. When people first arrive, they put all of
their personal belongings – photos, mobile phones,
everything – into storage, retrievable on departure.
“We believe in the old maxim: ‘No news is good
news,’” explained Pereira. “We don’t do this to
punish them but to protect them.” Memories can
be triggering, and sometimes families, friends and
toxic relationships can be enabling.
To the left there were intake rooms and a padded isolation room, with clunky security cameras
propped up in every corner. Patients each had their
own suites – simple, comfortable and private. To
the right, there was a “colour” room, with a pottery
wheel, recycled plastic bottles, paints, egg cartons,
glitter and other craft supplies. In another room,
coloured pencils and easels for drawing. A kiln,
and next to it a collection of excellent handmade
ashtrays. Many patients remained heavy smokers.
Patients were always occupied, always using
their hands or their bodies or their senses, doing
exercise or making art, always filling their time
with something. “We’d often hear our patients
use the expression ‘me and my body’,” Pereira said.
“As though there was a dissociation between the
‘me’ and ‘my flesh’.”
To help bring the body back, there was a
small gym, exercise classes, physiotherapy and
a jacuzzi. And after so much destructive behaviour – messing up their bodies, their relationships, their lives and communities – learning
that they could create good and beautiful things
was sometimes transformational.
“You know those lines on a running track?” Pereira
asked me. He believed that everyone – however
imperfect – was capable of finding their own way,
given the right support. “Our love is like those lines.”
He was firm, he said, but never punished or
judged his patients for their relapses or failures.
Patients were free to leave at any time, and they
were welcome to return if they needed. He offered
no magic wand or one-size-fits-all solution, just
this daily search for balance: getting up, having
breakfast, making art, taking meds, doing exercise,
going to work, going to school, going into the world,
going forward. Being alive, he said to me more than
once, can be very complicated.
“My darling,” he told me, “it’s like I always say:
I may be a doctor, but nobody’s perfect.”
A longer version of this piece appears on
thecommononline.org. Research and travel for
this piece were made possible by the Matthew
Power Literary Reporting Award
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 31
Weekly review
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Mumbai metro runs into a holy row
Parsi priests, cricket fans and
conservationists object to tunnel
route, reports Bachi Karkaria
I
n October a petition was sent to the Indian
prime minister, Narendra Modi, about the
latest phase of the Mumbai metro – a 33.5km
stretch currently under construction. The
petition claimed that the metro, if built,
would “breach the magnetic circuits” of two
Zoroastrian fire temples, thus “diminishing their
spiritual powers” and unleashing “dark forces”.
Signed by 11,000 people, the petition concluded
that the temples were “living, vibrant … intermediaries between God and mankind”, and that
if these “holy fires are defiled the backlash from
nature will not spare those responsible”.
The third phase of Mumbai’s metro network will
pass under some of the oldest, swankiest and most
built-up enclaves of south Mumbai. The tunnel
will be bored close to two Zoroastrian fire temples
and a well that supposedly has the power to grant
wishes. The dwindling Zoroastrian, or Parsi, community in the country numbers fewer than 45,000
in Mumbai and only 56,000 in total in India. But in
this city of roughly 18 million they are a high-profile
group – and many of them now see Ashwini Bhide,
managing director of the Mumbai Metro Railway
Corporation (MMRC), as a demon of sorts.
Mumbai desperately needs the metro to rescue
its disastrously inadequate public transport system.
The bulk of the burden is borne by its colonial-era
commuter train network, which carries 7 million
passengers a day – seven times its intended capacity. The first two phases of the metro were relatively
uncontroversial, as they are both elevated lines.
Only the third phase is underground, passing under South Bombay, a district where few of its rich
residents will need to use public transport.
Bhide insists that the metro will not damage
the Parsi temples. At a meeting between the metro
authorities and a Parsi delegation that included the
two clerics who put forward the petition, Bhide
pointed to government studies that declared the
construction safe.
“We explained to them that the tunnel was going nowhere under the sanctum sanctorum,” she
says. “Even the wells from which water is drawn for
ceremonies are safely distant from the alignment.
Moreover, they are embedded in the soil layer, and
there’s a large buffer between that and the tunnel
which bores through the basalt rock.”
Firoz Kotwal, who presides over the Wadia Atash
Behram temple, one of the two on the metro route,
agrees with Bhide. “The MMRC team convinced us
with concrete proof that there was no danger at all
to the fire temple, and the chief minister gave us a
personal assurance of safety,” said Kotwal. “So the
hue and cry is baseless.”
But the petition diehards are not letting up.
“What about spiritual integrity?” asks Hanoz Mistry,
one of the petition’s signatories. “An Atash Behram
[temple] is a composite whole, not just the consecrated fire enthroned in the sanctum sanctorum.
“There is no such thing as safe distance. Would
one take the risk of constructing a metro line under
a nuclear reactor, even though the concerned engineers may give all kinds of assurances on safety and
structural stability? An Atash Padshah [imperial fire]
is far, far more delicately and sensitively balanced
and spiritually exalted,” he said.
Public hysteria has also grown around the idea
that the metro would swallow 20 cricket pitches
from the open space of Azad Maidan, a sports
‘What about spiritual
integrity? A [temple] is
a composite whole, not
just the consecrated fire’
Train strain … the elevated part of Mumbai’s
metro system already carries some of the city’s
millions of commuters, but some Parsis, below,
are unhappy Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
ground equally hallowed to cricket fans. The powerful Maharashtra Cricket Association complained
that the field would be lost to thousands of players. They also noted that the Mumbai police had
commandeered an additional patch to accommodate protesters recently evicted from their historic
rallying ground near the government secretariat –
again, because of the metro.
But Bhide says the cricketers are mistaken. “Only
3.5 hectares of the 20 hectares would be affected,
and that, too, only during construction. The state’s
cricket association has relocated some of these, and
staggered timings for play.”
There have also been controversies over the commandeering of a 25-hectare tract of greenbelt land
in the Aarey Milk Colony district by the MMRC for
a car depot, a move that has been challenged by
the National Green Tribunal as it is claimed that it
threatens 3,130 trees.
More recently, there has been concern about
insufficient testing of the soil for tunnelling below
the “heritage mile”, an area of grand stone colonial
buildings. In August, a 100kg cornice fell off the JN
Petit Library, a 119-year-old neo-Gothic building
recognised by Unesco. Activists blamed the metro
construction for the accident, and in October the
Mumbai high court issued a two-month stay on
construction work to reinforce the building. Several
other buildings have also developed cracks.
It is difficult to be sure whether this is linked to
the tunnelling. Mumbai is built on basalt, and the
metro will pass 25 metres below the surface.
Whatever the validity of the protests, tunnel vision might be the real enemy. “The city will come
to a standstill in a few years” without the metro,
Bhide says. Phase three is likely to go ahead regardless: 14% of the civil engineering is complete, three
tunnel-boring machines have been lowered into the
ground and another six are ready to go.
While “magnetic circuits” and “dark forces” may
delay completion beyond 2021, when this section
of metro is due to open, they won’t stop it. With 1.7
million commuters expected daily, there is, quite
literally, too much riding on it.
32 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Discovery
Think you are free?
Then think again
Yale psychologist John Bargh has studied
the unconscious forces that control our actions.
Not even he is immune, finds Decca Aitkenhead
H
owever you feel about your
behaviour in 2017, you will almost
certainly assume that the choices
you made were your own. You
could not, according to John Bargh,
be more wrong. The Yale psychologist has just written a book, Before You Know It,
about the extent to which our actions are dictated
by forces about which we are almost oblivious.
Who knew, for example, that we feel less hostile to people different to ourselves after washing
our hands? Or that the reason why you’re feeling
so friendly is the cup of piping hot coffee you are
holding? Or that parents who want to encourage
their children to be generous will have more success
by turning the room temperature up than by telling
them to share? Bargh’s book, as Malcolm Gladwell
puts it, “moves our understanding of the mysteries
of human behaviour one giant step forward”.
The 62-year-old American is a big, smiley man,
but his demeanour is at odds with the rather
depressing message of his work. Human beings’
brains, it explains, are primed by prudent and
rational evolutionary instincts to trust people who
look like us, and to fear those who look “other” as a
threat. This goes some way to explain why, despite
all of modern society’s efforts to promote progressive values, social progress is so agonisingly slow.
That’s pretty dispiriting, isn’t it?
“Yes, I hate to say it, but yes. Democracy is an
advance past the tribal
bal nature of our being, the tribal
nature of society, which was there for hundreds of
thousands, if not millions,
illions, of years. It’s very easy
for us to fall back into
to our tribal, evolutionary
st tribe, us against them.
nature – tribe against
It’s a very powerfull motivator.” Because it
speaks to our mostt primitive self ? “Yes,
se how powerful it is.”
and we don’t realise
rstood its power, Bargh
Until we have understood
argues, we have no hope of overcoming it.
“So that’s what we have to do.”
If unconscious racism is an ancestral
legacy, it is also reinforced
einforced by contemrgh offers a study of
porary culture. Bargh
popular primetime US TV shows – Grey’s
Anatomy, CSI, Bones
es – in which participants who had never seen the
programme were shown
hown scenes
in which the main
n charach either a
ter interacted with
black or white character.
aracter.
The scenes were edited,
nly the
however, to show only
main character. The
e audio
was also removed, so that
ld see
participants could
only the main character’s
acter’s
non-verbal communication towards the off-screen
character. They were then asked to judge how the
visible character felt towards the unseen character.
“These are shows, remember,” Bargh says, “that
intentionally tried to have equal-power black and
white characters. It’s not like the black people on the
show are all the criminals, and the white people are
all the detectives. They have the black detective and
white detective; they actually have equal power.”
The findings were chilling. The main character
was consistently judged to be conspicuously more
positive towards the show’s white characters, and
more negative towards its black characters.
“They don’t script it that way. And it’s not
intended by the producers or actors of the show.
There are programmes that do intend it – but
we’re even talking about the ones that don’t, and
it still has this massive effect. It’s conveyed so
powerfully to people watching that, after they see
it, they have more negative automatic attitudes
towards black people. The research found that
the more they see of shows like that, the more they
have more of a racist attitude.”
Anyone who has ever wondered why minorities
object about what colour a doll comes in, say, might
reconsider their scepticism about the importance
of culture after reading Bargh’s book. He presents a
study of two sets of Asian-American five-year-old
girls, who were asked to perform maths tests after
being “primed” with activities designed to trigger
One group was
their unconscious sense of identity.
i
asked to colour in pictures of Asians eating with
chopsticks; the other
othe to colour in pictures
of a girl holding a doll. The first group
outperformed tthe second in the maths
test. By the age of five, they had abthat Asians are
sorbed the stereotypes
stere
good at maths and
a girls are bad.
“These Asian-American
Asia
girls are
not hearing at home that girls can’t
do maths,” Bargh
Ba
says. “These are
Harvard presch
preschool kids; the parents
are, like, tiger mums and dads. A lot
of them brought
brough the children into the
study thinking th
that being in this Harvard
would help their girl get
study at age five w
into Harvard at ag
age 18: that’s how motivated they are. Th
They’re not the ones who
are telling the gi
girls they can’t do maths.
It’s in the culture
cultu we soak up, without
even knowin
knowing it.”
Bargh decided
de
to test his own
unconscio
unconscious racial bias, using a
complex system of word association and
a
physical reflexes
devised to eliminate any possibility of him consciously
dictating his responses. He was dismayed to discover that his unconscious associated “white” with
“good” and “black” with “bad”. However, he found
he could override his bias by deploying the power of
imagination. He sat the tests again, and got opposite
results, “simply by really trying to feel as if I was a
black person. Now obviously with no experience,
it’s laughable that I could try – but I really did try to
convince myself temporarily that OK, I’m a black
person. And I reversed the results.”
In a fascinating study conducted by Bargh,
participants were invited to imagine they had
a superpower that rendered them safe from all
physical harm, and were then quizzed on their social attitudes. Half the participants were liberals,
and half conservatives. The imaginary superpower
had no impact on liberals’ social attitudes. “Feeling
On science
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 33
Why Trump is
being sued by
fossil hunters
Elsa Panciroli
R
Why is social progress so agonisingly slow?
Above, the Women’s March on Washington; left,
the cast of Grey’s Anatomy; far left, John Bargh
Mario Tama/Getty; five; Graeme Robertson
physically safe,” however, “significantly changed
the conservative participants’ social attitudes to
being similar to those of liberals.”
This worked, he explains, because research has
found that “conservatives have larger fear centres
of the brain. They’re more concerned with physical
safety than liberals.” Once we feel afraid, our own
fear can further distort our perception of actual
danger. For example, research has found that when
people become new parents of a tiny, vulnerable
baby, they begin to believe their local crime rate
is going up, even if it is falling. “That happened to
me,” Bargh admits. “After my daughter was born,
suddenly we felt that the neighbourhood was getting so dangerous that we had to leave.”
Even more pertinent to current events is Bargh’s
research into sexual harassment. In the 1990s, an
esteemed law professor had studied supreme court
cases of sexual harassment and concluded that 75%
of the accused genuinely did not realise they were
doing anything wrong. Intrigued, Bargh devised a
study to see if this could be true.
Participants were asked to fill out an anonymous
questionnaire devised to reveal their willingness to
use power over a woman to extract sexual favours
if guaranteed to get away with it. Some were asked
to rate a female participant’s attractiveness. Others
were first primed by a word-association technique,
using words such as “boss”, “authority”, “status”
and “power”, and then asked to rate her. Bargh
found the power-priming made no difference whatsoever to men who had scored low on sexual harassment and aggression tendencies. Among men who
had scored highly, however, it was a very different
case. Without the notion of power being activated in
their brains, they found her unattractive. She only
became attractive to them once the idea of power
was active in their minds.
This, Bargh suggests, might explain how sexual
harassers can genuinely tell themselves: “‘I’m
behaving like anybody does when they’re attracted
to somebody else. I’m flirting. I’m asking her out. I
want to date her. I’m doing everything that you do
if you’re attracted to somebody.’ What they don’t
realise is the reason they’re attracted to her is because
of their power over her. That’s what they don’t get.”
Perhaps the single most confronting revelation of
Bargh’s work is its implications for consumer capitalism. It’s not that our economic model makes us
sad – although it does – so much that making us sad
is good for consumer capitalism.
He describes a study by a Harvard social
psychologist. “It found that sad people not only
buy more, but they pay more. They’re willing to pay
more because, basically, when we’re sad, we want
to change state.” Someone feeling sad would rather
spend $100 than $10, “because it changes the state
more. And stores know this.”
Ever wondered why shops like to pipe out mournful music? Well, Bargh grins – there’s your answer.
“They don’t want us to be happy; they want us
to be sad. Politicians want us to be fearful. All these
things are not in our own interests at all. They’re
manipulating us for their own interest, and against
our own, and I think that’s horrible.”
esearch published last year
suggested that the only
area of science that liberals
and conservatives could
bond over was dinosaurs.
Everyone loves Brontosaurus, right?
Whatever else may be going wrong,
surely palaeontology is safe from the
ravages of politics?
Last month Trump announced
plans for the biggest loss of protected
public lands in US history. By gutting
two of America’s national monuments
– Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears
Ears – he will remove government
protection for over 800,000 hectares.
These areas were designated because
they contain thousands of archaeological sites, landscapes sacred to NativeAmerican tribes and unique geology.
Among the countless geological treasures are palaeontological
specimens of international importance, spanning 320m years of life on
Earth. Much of this will be open to
destruction if planned cuts go ahead.
But scientists are fighting back. The
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
(SVP) is suing the US president.
“From a palaeontological point of
view, these two areas contain remarkable fossil records of important intervals of North America’s history,”
says David Polly, president of the SVP
and professor of palaeontology at the
University of Indiana.
“Trump’s changes have now
exposed many sites to potential
destruction,” Polly said.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National
Monument in Utah has yielded one of
the most diverse herbivorous dinosaur
faunas in the world. As many as 25 new
species of dinosaur have been found
there in the last two decades. The
stratigraphy spans from the Permian,
around 270m years ago, all the way
through the Mesozoic “time of the
dinosaurs”, to the Late Cretaceous.
The rocks at Bears Ears reach back
even further, right into the woodland
world of the Carboniferous, 320m
years ago. Bears Ears is also unique in
preserving ecosystems from the Late
Permian. “The first ecosystems that
were dominated by vertebrates, in the
time of the sail-backed Dimetrodon
and its relatives,” says Polly.
Let’s hope that legal action by the
SVP and others can prevent the loss of
these sites to preserve the rich heritage
found in these amazing landscapes.
34 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Books
Lost souls, orphaned
without wild salmon
Lorraine Berry laughs and cries
as the great portrayer of Native
American life tells his own story
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: a Memoir
by Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown, 437pp
Sherman Alexie has emerged as one of the US’s
greatest writers. And because he has always written
of the terrible beauty of Native American life with
an honesty and humour that makes white people
uncomfortable, his work has been deemed controversial. Alexie’s young adult novel, The Absolutely
True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has appeared near
the top of annual US “banned books” lists. Each
year, new challenges arise to his thinly veiled autobiography of his years growing up on the Spokane
Indian Reservation in eastern Washington state.
In addition to his fiction, Alexie is also well
known for his poetry. In addition to his 26 books, he
wrote and co-produced the film Smoke Signals. You
Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is his long-awaited
memoir. In it, he focuses much of the story on one
particular year – the year in which his irascible
mother, Lillian, died, but also the one in which he
underwent brain surgery to remove a large tumour.
Those who are familiar with his novels will relish the true-life stories behind some of his fiction;
those who aren’t will find that his writing provides a
powerful alternative to the stock figures of the mythological wild west – the brave cowboy and the stoic,
noble Indian. At the centre of this book, though, is
his relationship with his mother: a difficult, abusive
woman who could also perform acts of enormous
maternal sacrifice on behalf of her children.
Alexie’s recounting of his mother’s death differs
from standard grief memoirs, most of which are
accounts of love or at least move towards reconciliation. He is angry at his mother, even after her
death and despite his efforts to forgive. However,
although he comes to realise that the reasons for her
rages were understandable and even though he is
now a parent himself, Alexie still resents the impact
her rage had on him and his siblings.
The book is infused with humour. Some of the
funniest moments are his writings about basketball, the game he made the centre of the drama of
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
He also writes about the variation of the game of
exchanging insults, “the dozens”, that Indians play
among themselves, especially when wrestling over
whose suffering has been worse. Other moments
are more typical: that first phone call from the deceased’s phone, for example.
“On the morning of her funeral, my phone rang.
The Caller ID announced it was ‘MOM’. For a moment, I believed it was her calling from the afterlife so I pondered what I would say. And I decided I
would go with, ‘Hey, Lillian, gotta say I’m impressed
with your resurrection, but is it a Jesus thing or a
zombie fling?’”
Of course, it’s his sister calling from his
mother’s house.
Alexie’s mother was Spokane while his father was
a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe. They were born
into a world where the creature on which their tribes
were reliant, and about which their holy stories were
told, was the salmon, whose five-year life cycle is
the stuff of legend. Alexie writes about the salmon’s
journey to reproduce with characteristic wit; his audience doesn’t find his crudeness that funny, but
he is correct. “‘Salmon,’ I said, ‘are the most epic
fuckers in the animal kingdom.’”
I have never forgotten sitting on rocks next to
the shore of the Stillaguamish river. The water
roared and tumbled over boulders in the centre of
the river, but in the shallows I watched dozens of
Coho salmon in their death throes after they had fulfilled their journeys. But on the Columbia river the
series of dams created barriers that even the most
motivated salmon were unable to pass. The Grand
Coulee Dam was constructed in the 1930s.
“The Interior Salish, my people, had worshipped the wild salmon since our beginnings,”
Alexie writes. “That sacred fish had been our primary source of physical and spiritual sustenance
for thousands of years.” But within five years of
the dam’s construction, the salmon vanished. “My
mother and father were members of the first generation of Interior Salish people who lived entirely
without wild salmon. My mother and father, without wild salmon, were spiritual orphans.”
The loss of the salmon was just one of the great
injustices in his parents’ lives. Alexie’s father drank
himself to death, but his mother stopped drinking
when Alexie was a boy. She made her living by
making and selling quilts. Alexie recounts a time
when, after the lights had been turned off because
she couldn’t pay the bill, his mother sewed in the
dark until she had made a quilt that would earn
enough to get the electricity turned back on. And
while she did such things, he also recounts the
night when, responding to his 10-year-old anger,
she threw a full can of soda at him that knocked
him unconscious. And then left him to sleep it off
without seeking medical attention. And yet, even
as he writes about incidents such as this, he reflects
on his mother’s life, and begins a new poem for her:
I want to reverse this earth
And give birth to my mother
Because I do not believe
That she was ever adored.
I want to mother the mother
Who often did not mother me.
I was mothered and adored
By mothers not my own,
And learned how to be adoring
By being adored.
Alexie’s memoir of his relationship with Lillian
reflects the complicated love that many of us
have for our parents. It is his gift to us, through his
willingness to be honest without being vengeful,
that those of us who have felt shut out of the grief
memoirs in which parents and children had perfect
relationships can read these pages and weep.
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 35
Empathy for our
fellow creatures
The Inner Life of Animals
by Peter Wohlleben
Bodley Head, 288pp
Jennifer S Holland
Washington Post
True to life … Sherman
Alexie’s writing provides
a corrective to wild west
mythology Alamy
Peter Wohlleben seems like someone
I’d like to join for a cup of tea after a
stroll through the woods. The forest
ranger and author of the immensely
popular The Hidden Life of Trees is
one of the most likable characters
(among many) in his new book.
The Inner Life of Animals is a
natural follow-on and just as beautifully questions
human assumptions about nature. As he turns from
plants to animals, Wohlleben again shares relevant
science plus his own insights on his subjects – what
animals almost certainly feel and what their behaviours tell us about how they think – developed over
years of observing, listening to and giving fellow
creatures the benefit of the doubt.
It’s a tidy, polite little book. Each quick chapter
is a sweet rush that makes you crave just a little bit
more. Despite the short attention to such subjects
as animal love, shame, trickiness, altruism, fear
and regret, Wohlleben packs each chapter with stories and, where it exists, scientific evidence, so the
reader feels nearly sated. (The subject of grief may
be the exception.) As a daily caregiver to animals and
a trained ecologist working in the field, the author is
well suited to bridge anecdote and published study.
From outside the author’s experience, the stories
of animal intelligence and empathy are often familiar: Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language;
the French bulldog that adopted wild-boar piglets;
Clever Hans, the math-loving horse. These classic
tales remind readers that the debate over animal
capabilities is nothing new. It’s just taken this long
for most of our species to consider the possibilities.
And there is much material here, outside of
Wohlleben’s musings, that readers will find fresh.
One example came from a wolf researcher who
described to the author how wolf pups engage ravens in play and how the birds even warn “their
four-legged friends” when a predator such as a
grizzly is nearby. Another comes from a recent project in Germany to try “to teach manners to pigs” at
mealtime, in which yearlings learned to respond to
individual names.
Wohlleben pays attention. He cares about the
little guy. “I, for one, would be really interested to
know more about weevils,” he tells us cheerfully.
He’s not afraid to be sentimental and a little silly, especially when describing his own animals. “Our dog
Barry was a little scaredy cat,” he writes. The family’s beloved goats, whose images grace the cover
of the book, make repeat, sometimes goofy, appearances. Clearly Wohlleben approves of anthropomorphic terms – in fact, he suggests that many
scientists’ and policymakers’ refusal to use them is
misguided. Though schooled to think otherwise, I
was convinced, by the end, that such language, used
judiciously, does more good than harm.
For the most part, Wohlleben doesn’t proselytise
as much as nudge readers to look not just at the evidence of animals’ complex lives. Gentle though his
approach may be through much of book, Wohlleben
delivers firm messages. Especially toward the end,
the reader feels his frustration grow at the ways
we underestimate our fellow creatures. “When
you think how sensitive pigs are, how they teach
their young and help them deliver their own children later in life, how they answer to their names
and pass the mirror test, the thought of the annual
slaughter of 250 million of these animals across the
European Union alone is chilling.”
Such hard-hitting moments aside, Wohlleben’s
words will touch even the animal-emotion sceptic.
Size matters
Big & Small: a Cultural History of
Extraordinary Bodies
by Lynne Vallone
Yale, 360pp
Kathryn Hughes
According to Lynne Vallone in this
supple, clever book, children are fascinated by anomalous bodies because they have not yet found their
settled place on the human scale. We
all start as the smallest person in the
room and, if all goes well, we grow
until one day, we simply stop. All the
same, deep within our average adult bodies we
retain that memory of being tiny together with the
compensatory longing to be huge, to tower over our
care-givers and make them quake. That’s why we
continue, even as we shrink again in later life, to be
fascinated by stories of bodies both great and small.
Vallone starts her account with Jeffrey Hudson,
the court dwarf. Little Jeffrey first burst into history
when he was seven years old and 45cm high, jumping out of a pie as a delightful surprise for Charles
I’s consort, Henrietta Maria. The queen loved her
unexpected dinner guest. He grew up to be a captain
of the horse, natty in scarlet silk and fine leather. All
the same, that didn’t mean that he was at liberty to
shape his own identity. The court painter Anthony
van Dyck put Hudson to hard symbolic work in his
1633 piece, Queen Henrietta Maria with Jeffrey Hudson. In the painting Hudson is present not simply to
emphasise Her Majesty’s height and slenderness (in
real life she was neither) but also to dramatise her
towering temporal and spiritual power.
In 1643, with civil war raging, Hudson accompanied his mistress into exile in France. From there
he was exiled again, for killing a man in a duel. Sold
by Barbary pirates into slavery, it was only after he
had been divested of the last shreds of cuteness that
he was able to return, an ageing adventurer like any
other, to live out his remaining time in Rutland, the
smallest county in England.
What Hudson thought about any of this we do
not know. He left no letters or diaries. But the same
turns out to be true for pretty much all of the little
and large people trooping through Vallone’s account
who found themselves pitched into the public gaze.
It was certainly so with Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, the American dwarf who made a
fortune for Phineas Barnum in the middle decades
of the 19th century. The fact that Stratton was “perfectly symmetrical in all his proportions” and able
to carry a tune (he made Yankee Doodle Dandy his
own) meant that Barnum could market Stratton as a
cut above the sullen achondroplastic dwarves usually found in freak shows. Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Books
Determined to survive
← Continued from page 35 His marriage to fellow
dwarf Lavinia Warren in 1863, was celebrated in a
fashionable New York church with various Vanderbilts and Astors in attendance.
Vallone is a leading figure in literary childhood
studies, which could explain why the land of miniatures is where she feels most at home. Slightly
less persuasive is her treatment of bigness. She
concentrates on the robotic giants who strode
through the mid-20th century’s cultural imagination as avatars of scientific progress. Still, in case
we should go away with the idea that largeness is
intrinsically less textured than smallness, Vallone
finishes with a powerful section on “the obese girl”
who, she argues, is one of the west’s most potent,
modern-day monsters. By rights we should applaud
the large teen’s unequivocal taking up of space in a
manner that appears to reverse centuries of female
diminishment and erasure. In reality, Vallone suggests, our rush to pathologise her says more about
our own anxieties. We are all of us both too big and
too small for comfort.
Goblin
by Ever Dundas
Saraband, 288pp
Peter Ross
Inimical synthesis
Proxies: Twenty-Four Attempts
Towards a Memoir
by Brian Blanchfield
Picador, 192pp
Neel Mukherjee
With its roots in the Latin exigere, to
examine, and in the Middle French
essaier, to attempt, to put something
to the proof, the essay form, from its
inception, has been peculiarly alive
to the interrogative relationship it
has with the self that writes it. Montaigne, held to be the progenitor of
the form with his Essays, published in 1580, asked
the question Que sais-je? (“what do I know?”) in his
essay Apology for Raymond Sebond. Proxies is
award-winning American poet Brian Blanchfield’s
first book of essays, and it returns the form to Que
sais-je? The short introductory note outlines what
might be seen as the book’s USP, “a total suppression of recourse to other authoritative sources”
while composing it.
The single-subject essays were written with the
internet off and without consulting books and other
works that either feature or are referenced in the
pieces. Accordingly,
ly, there is a 20-page “correction”
correction
at the end that aims
ms to remedy the occasional blurriness and errors of referencing. And yet this trick,
enabling Blanchfield to let the constraint lead him to
“an area of personal
al uneasiness, a site of vulnerability”, is the least interesting
teresting aspect off what
might well be a book
ok like no other.
A formal constraint
traint is also, of
course, a challenge
nge. The sheer
variety of the seemingly
emingly unrelatable and unrelated
lated subjects
Blanchfield brings into conversation with each other
er in these essays
is exhilarating. What
everything
hat unites everyth
hing is
the self, so that the
he essay can move
mov
ve to
a looser and bigger
er genre – memo
memoir
oir or
life-writing, as the
indicates.
he subtitle indica
ates.
Although every piece
ece here records some
kind of reckoning Blanchfield has with himself. On Withdrawal
Tumbleweed
al and On Tumble
eweed put
Observations into gold … Brian Blanchfield’s
musings on owls and mushrooms are captivating
together a picture of his life employed in part-time
or fixed-term teaching jobs. An account of foot
disgust in Sophocles’s Philoctetes leads to the awful way his stepfather treats his mother and ends
with two graphic paragraphs on her washing and
dressing the open wound (“frightfully clean, like a
throat”) on the sole of her husband’s right foot every
evening after dinner. In On Peripersonal Space,
Blanchfield tussles with his mother’s open distaste
of his homosexuality.
Part of the joy in reading Blanchfield is experiencing the way his alchemical mind and style fuse
disparate things into gold. The style is a thing of
wonder: dense; learned, cleaving towards the academic, without ever being dry; lyrical (we never forget that he is a poet); often joyously gnarled but always surprising. He can observe the world minutely,
as when he writes how “owls have a concentricity
about their feathery faces
c
faces”.. In a catalogue
of school
canteen food, he notes: “White ccrimini mushrooms
ever in their bin at the salad bar.” Why is that “ever”
so perfectly positioned, so funn
funny?
Like Montaigne, Blanchfield would
w
probably say
that it is only ever possible
poss
to ten
tend towards knowledge, never
neve
er reach it
it, hence the US subtitle, Essays
E
Nea Knowing, where
Near
“near”
“nea
ar” could be both indicative
of proximity
p
(but never identification)
ca
ation) and also, if we take it
as a verb, as a journey towards
a de
estinatio that is always
destination
already e
elusive.
So, in the
e end, wh
what does he know?
An enormou
us amount
enormous
amount, it turns out. But a
more interes
interesting
sting ques
question he might have
asked of his project
pro
oject could have been: “How
do I express wh
hat I know
what
know?” The answer can
be given in one word: inim
inimitably.
Dead things can’t die; weirdos
always find each other. These two
statements, from Scottish author
Ever Dundas’s terrific debut novel,
contain between them much of the
meaning of the book, and much that
makes it moving. It is a celebration
of freakery, of creating one’s own
family; a meditation on trauma and loss and abandonment (in both senses of that word) which, somehow, is never bleak. Goblin brims throughout with
a kind of reckless joy.
The story switches regularly and rapidly between past and almost-present, mostly in London:
between the firelit city of the blitz and the firelit city
of the 2011 riots. Goblin, when we first encounter
her, is an 81-year-old reader-in-residence at Edinburgh’s Central Library, where she is kept company
by Ben, a homeless man eating his way through Ulysses, page by page. Goblin is the name her mother
used for her: a term of hatred that she has reclaimed.
One day, she reads in the newspaper about the
discovery in Kensal Green Cemetery of a macabre
buried cache – doll parts, bones, a camera. The film,
when developed, is of interest to the police. This
provokes in Goblin intrusive thoughts of her childhood in London. Things that were buried are coming to the surface. Suddenly, we are back in 1941 and
she is a semi-feral girl, an androgynous urchin with
a head full of HG Wells and Bride of Frankenstein,
and a bedroom full of strays.
Neglected and emotionally abused by her mother,
Goblin shows love and mercy to animals. A crucial
plot point has to do with the so-called pet massacre
of 1939 when, in the first four days of the war, an
estimated 400,000 animals were put down by Londoners worried that they would not be able to care
for them. As well as animals, Goblin’s other comfort
is language. She is a storyteller, potty- and poetrymouthed, cursing and versing, “weaving tales, spinning words into nets”, as one character puts it, until
“no one knew what was true any more”. She creates
a personal mythology based around her reading.
Goblin is a picaresque; the heroine sets out to
walk from Cornwall to London, a revacuee heading back to the blitz with her pet hog, Corporal Pig,
trotting at her heels. There is so much energy and
delight in that chapter, but Dundas can do stillness
too. She is an accomplished creator of tableaux. The
plot seems to freeze on artfully composed scenes:
girls in gas masks playing skipping games; a teenage
boy lying in his bedroom, Dietrich on the wall, Liszt
on the gramophone, smoke in the air; a drowned
child , her dirty blond hair “like a messed up halo”
What Dundas reveals, is the mildewed wall behind
the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Her wartime
London is rendered with such eldritch vivacity that
the story loses considerable energy, though not fatally so, when it moves on and Goblin grows up.
The novel itself is a kind of foundling. After its
original publisher faced financial difficulties, it was
rescued by Saraband and was named as Scottish
first book of the year at the Saltire literary awards.
Dead things can’t die? Quite so. Dead good things
shouldn’t either.
38 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Culture
L
ast month Charlie Brooker told me about
the moment he learned Jodie Foster
would direct an episode of Black Mirror,
his inspired series of one-off dramas
about the ways our gadgets are colonising the idea of “human”. Brooker had
written a script for the new series in which a neurotic
single mother uses technology to spy on her daughter. The Netflix people suggested they tried the script
out on the two-time Oscar-winning actor.
Brooker has had considerable global success
with Black Mirror but the thought of working with
Foster, “an actual icon”, made him come over, he
says, “all British and starstruck”. He turned to his
co-showrunner for the series, Annabel Jones. “We
were like: ‘You’re kidding, right? You are going to try
Jodie bloody Foster? Yeah right, of course you are.’”
The script was given to Jodie bloody Foster,
though, and she came back immediately and said
she wanted to do it.
Through the course of the film-making – the shoot
was in Toronto, the editing in London – Brooker
says Foster could not have been more engaged or
engaging. And for his part, he says, as long as he
repressed the thoughts that went: “Christ, she was
in Taxi Driver, she was in The Accused, she was in
The Silence of the Lambs …” he was fine. Otherwise,
obviously: “You got a bit of vertigo.”
I met Foster to talk about her film when she was
in London working with Brooker on the edit of
Arkangel (her episode of Black Mirror), and experienced a bit of that vertigo. It would be fair to say
that the actor, now 55, is not the most enthusiastic of interviewees. Having been first put in front
of cameras aged three, and subsequently having
suffered well-documented traumas with stalkers,
Foster has long been wary of talking about herself
beyond her work. She is determinedly friendly, but
radiates the same intense and guarded intelligence
you know from her most famous roles, as well as a
profound awareness of being quoted out of context.
Stray a little too far into personal territory and you
immediately feel like the seediest of tabloid hacks.
One of the reasons Foster has taken a break from acting for a while – a decision she announced in an uncharacteristically frank speech at the 2013 Golden
Globes in which she came out both as single and as
a director (she assumed everyone already knew she
was gay) – was, she says, to avoid any of this. She still
loves the idea of acting, but she finds all that goes
with it, the junkets and the photo shoots and the
interviews, “absolutely soul-crushing”.
With that idea hanging in the air we sit in a
hotel room sipping Earl Grey tea and talk first
about how the Black Mirror offer came about.
Foster was at lunch with her agent, and “moaning
as ever about the feature film industry”, she says.
She was and is nostalgic for the three-act beginning and middle and end of 90-minute drama.
“Much as I love this renaissance of episodic series,”
she says, “characters are not in service of a single
story, and I miss that.”
As she grumbled along these lines, her agent
stopped her – “I think I have something you should
see” – and told her about Black Mirror, Brooker’s
series of standalone “indie” films. Foster went away
and binged on the first two series. (“Friends had told
me about it a million times, but I hadn’t tuned in,”
she says.) And then she read the script. “I was like:
‘How did you know?’”
Part of that affinity was the fact that having
“made movies for some 50 years”, Foster was
deeply aware of how few stories out there “are
told by women, through women’s eyes, and with
a female director”. The other thing she liked about
‘I make
movies to
figure out
who I am’
Jodie Foster tells
Tim Adams
why the theme
of mothers and
daughters
persuaded her to
direct an episode
of Black Mirror
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 39
On camera and behind it … main, Jodie Foster
now; from top, collecting a Golden Globe award
in 2013; in The Silence of the Lambs; directing
Arkangel for Black Mirror Nadav Kander/Observer
Brooker’s script was its believably human drama.
“What was interesting,” she says, “is that though
all of the shows are about technology, none of the
shows are really about technology at all. All of them
are about relationships and the emotional damage
we all carry, which is highlighted by the Klieg light
of technology.”
In her notes to Brooker, Foster had quite a lot of
thoughts about the dynamic between mother and
daughter. He went away and rewrote parts. She
wanted the feel of the film to be more blue collar
and lived in, to depict a slightly bruised small-town
American world.
I guess Foster made those changes because she
wanted to bring the story closer to home. She agrees
to a point: “This show goes back to mothers and
daughters,” she says, “and it brings you back to your
own mother. I have been thinking about her in the
edit suite this week.”
Foster and her mother, Brandy, had a famously
intense relationship. Brandy was divorced from
Foster’s father, Lucius, a former lieutenant colonel in the US air force, before Jodie, the youngest
of their four children, was born. In order to help
support the family Brandy put her infant daughter
forward for casting not long after she could walk.
Foster was the breadwinner before she went to
school and the pair of them were inseparable in
her early movie career. Some years ago now, Foster
began to lose her mother to dementia. Again at her
Golden Globes speech, she addressed her directly:
“Mom, I know you’re inside those blue eyes somewhere and that there are so many things that you
won’t understand tonight,” she said. “But this is the
only important one to take in: I love you, I love you,
I love you. And I hope that if I say this three times,
it will magically and perfectly enter into your soul.
You’re a great mom. Please take that with you when
you’re finally OK to go.”
With those words in mind it is hard, when you
watch Foster’s unsettling Black Mirror episode,
not to think a lot of that relationship was running
through her head when she made it. Foster insists
it is not directly autobiographical – it was Brooker’s
script, after all – but does allow that, “as a director
I have always wanted every movie I have made to
be in some way the story of my life. Otherwise how
am I supposed to commit to it?”
She suggests Brooker’s parable has a universal
theme, about the fears any parent has about raising
children, and the understanding that at some point
you have to let them go. “In a weird way our children
have become our favourite form of entertainment,”
she says, talking more widely of the trend for “helicopter parenting”. “We live vicariously through
them and rediscover the world through them. There
is something wonderful and healthy about that –
and something also suffocating and sad.”
Does she recognise that dichotomy from her
childhood? “My mother used to say she was always
scared and she didn’t know why,” she says. “She said
she would wake up in the middle of the night thinking: ‘How am I going to take care of my children?’ It
wasn’t a given. It was very important to her to give
that opportunity to me, and yet there was always
that contrary sense of, ‘You’ll never take care of
yourself without me!’”
Her mother must have been immensely proud.
“She was, but she was a part of it. We were a team
that made movies together. We went to little towns
together and stayed at the Ramada Inn and made dinners on hotplates. It was like a travelling roadshow.”
In some ways Foster has always seemed like a
slightly reluctant movie star. She argues that’s not
really the case: films were all she ever wanted to
do; it was the fame part that hit her in her teens after Freaky Friday, Bugsy Malone and particularly
Taxi Driver, that made her uncomfortable. She read
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers recently, she says, and
the notion of successful people being those who are
lucky and committed enough to get in 10,000 hours
of practice in a chosen field first resonated with her.
“When you are 18 and you have already made 30
movies, you know quite a lot about storytelling …”
One way of reading her subsequent career has
been as an effort to change that insistent “we” she
talks about of her mother, to a definitive “I”. In her
20s, she rejected acting for a while to study English literature at Yale, and graduated with honours.
When she went back to films she began a run of extraordinary, drawn-out success with The Accused,
and then The Silence of the Lambs. In 1991, the year
she won her second Oscar for the latter, she started
her own production company and directed her first
film, Little Man Tate. There was a sense in which
she could put her talent to anything. Was she a frustrated director all the time?
She says it was more just how it turned out. “Sadly
I never worked out how to be prolific as a director
and have a career as an actor, and also raise children
and run a company. It was the directing that always
went on the back burner. But now is the time.” It
is easier for her to commit to the total immersion
that directing requires, she suggests, now that her
‘When you are 18 and you
have already made 30
movies, you know quite
a lot about storytelling’
two sons, aged 19 and 16, are more independent.
She raised her boys with her former partner, Cydney Bernard. In April 2014, Foster married actor and
photographer Alexandra Hedison.
She has no interest in revealing how her marriage has affected her working life, but you have
the sense, talking to her, that it has coincided with
a greater self-confidence, that she is a bit less tough
on herself than she once was. When she stepped
back from acting, she says she felt a new freedom.
“I didn’t want to be the most successful director,
or the highest paid, I just wanted to be somewhat
of an auteur,” she says. “If that meant I made two
movies my entire life and I loved them, then I was
fine with that.”
Though she has recently accepted her first acting
role for five years (as the lead in the thriller Hotel Artemis), she is doing so very much on her own terms,
out of curiosity rather than necessity.
“What once was chosen for her, now is very much
her choice. “Some directors love cranes and CGI and
spectacle, but that is not why I make movies,” she
says. “I feel like I make movies because there are
things I have to say in order to figure out who I am
or my place in the world, or for me to evolve as a person. But until you get to the end of your movie you
don’t always realise why you were obsessed with
that particular thing.”
And then she heads back to the editing suite to
once again make doubly sure. Observer
Season 4 of Black Mirror is on Netflix
40 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Culture
Weft and warp of the 20th century
Hannah Ryggen’s political views
found expression through her
tapestries, finds Skye Sherwin
O
n a wind-blown farm on a remote
Norwegian shore, with no running
water or electricity, Hannah Ryggen
worked from scratch on her anti-fascist tapestries. Spinning wool from
her sheep, she dyed it with things
she’d found by foraging: birch leaves, bark moss
and bog rosemary. Urine, too, was an essential part
of this alchemical process, and visitors were asked
to leave their donations in a bucket. Using a homemade loom, she started weaving – without preparatory drawings – a design she saw in her head. Before
you even get to the end result, the conviction, not to
mention the sheer stamina required, is staggering.
What Ryggen created in this far-flung spot,
where she lived from the mid-1920s, channelled
both current affairs and her day-to-day experience. Modern Art Oxford’s survey, subtitled Woven Histories, features a rogue’s gallery of political
thugs, their faces rendered angular and cartoonish
by the horizontal and vertical lines of the weave.
In one 1936 work, Hitler, Göring and Goebbels pop
up like murderous glove puppets with blood-red
faces and hands. Three decades later, Lyndon
B Johnson’s beagle – for the artist a fluff y media
distraction from the Vietnam war – becomes a similarly scarlet hound of hell. In between the monsters
are freedom fighters, artist martyrs and Ryggen’s
own family and farmyard animals.
With her rough-hewn style and heartfelt message,
Ryggen harnessed the raw power of folk or outsider
art. Her seclusion, however, was only geographic.
She spent six years as a painter’s apprentice before
turning, pointedly, to weaving, and her renegade use
Frankness and humour … how Hannah Ryggen,
above, wove together the tumult of the second
world war Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum
of traditional rural techniques was just as attentiongrabbing in 1930s Norway as it is now. Making tapestries almost exclusively for public spaces, she was
known across Europe and America.
Since her death in 1970, the Swedish-born artist has remained a defining figure in Scandinavia,
although she has only recently been rediscovered by
the wider world. For most in the UK, this exhibition
will be a revelation, and not just for her oddball mix
of scalding protest and rustic weaving. What’s clear
here is why Ryggen strikes a chord now. Her art has
plenty to say when it comes to today’s most urgent
political and environmental issues, from the “altright” to the slow food movement.
Early works from the 1930s give a lively impression of Ryggen’s sensibility. She focuses on
the human dimension in headline news, even as
she elevates contemporary figures into idealised
archetypes. The tapestry Liselotte Herrmann depicts a young communist executed by the Nazis
as a Madonna, feeding the baby she was separated
from. Even at her most homely, Ryggen tracks
big issues, as with We and Our Animals, which
relates her struggle, in rich oranges and indigos,
to consume the beasts she reared and cared for.
What’s at stake here is more than sentimental. During the Great Depression, not eating livestock was
a life or death matter. The Ryggens’ smallholding
kept them from starving.
This is unashamedly didactic art, its message
stripped back to charged symbols and icons. Yet it
never feels preachy. What makes the tapestries so
memorable is their disarming frankness and jarring
humour. Ryggen is happy to include a bird’s round
butthole, her husband’s red nose or her own lopsided breasts, visible through her clothes. In her
first overtly political work, Ethiopia, Mussolini
is a square-faced Herman Munster with an arrow
through his neck in place of a bolt.
Ryggen wasn’t burdened by our own questions
about the point of political art. That she came from
a world where people believed culture made a
difference is brought home, horrifically, in her 1940s
output, when Norway was occupied, her husband
imprisoned and emaciated POWs marched past the
farm; 6 October 1942, a huge three-scene tapestry,
shows theatre directors from the nearest cultural
hotspot Trondheim, who were executed for their
leftwing productions. On the right, beyond a bullish
Winston Churchill, the Ryggens float on a rose-filled
boat, awaiting disaster.
With their coarse weaves and tufted wool, her
tapestries have a terrific, material presence. A committed communist, Ryggen used the weft and warp
of the tapestry itself as a metaphor for the knotty social bonds that hold us together. She often brought
in pattern to suggest this network in ways that make
her rejection of preparatory drawings all the more
astonishing. Mother’s Heart, about her cherished,
epileptic daughter Mona, is a kaleidoscopic mix of
abstract pattern, nudes, love-hearts and flowers.
Yet beyond the work’s physical heft, it’s Ryggen’s
unique one-woman approach to the entire weaving
process that really distinguishes her. As eccentric
as it first seems, she struck on an art form that completely embodied her beliefs in self-sufficiency, social responsibility and the value of work, from start
to finish. It’s impossible not to get caught up in her
peculiar, impassioned fabrics.
At Modern Art Oxford until 18 February
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 41
Culture
Everything must go
Photographer Lorenzo Vitturi tells
Sean O’Hagan about capturing
the mayhem of a Lagos market
D
uring a trip to Lagos in 2014, Lorenzo
Vitturi visited Balogun market for
the first time. “I knew it was one of
the biggest street markets in Africa,”
he says, “but nothing prepared me
for how overwhelming it was. The
crowds of people on the narrow streets, the products on display, the noise, the colour, the chaotic
energy. I knew I had to take photographs there,
amid the sensory overload of what is, in effect, a
city within a city, with tens of thousands of people
passing through it every day.”
What most fascinated Vitturi was the contrast between the human drama of the vast, sprawling market and the eerie emptiness of the 27-storey brutalist
office block that loomed over it. Built in 1987, Financial Trust House was once the hub of Nigeria’s
financial sector. But as the market grew around it,
the bankers and traders moved elsewhere. “Save
for the owner’s office, all 27 floors are empty,” says
Vitturi. “The real estate value of the building has
fallen dramatically, but he is still holding out for
some kind of miraculous redevelopment.”
Three years on, Vitturi has created a dramatic
photobook that captures the curious dynamic of
Balogun market: the cacophonous streets and the
silent semi-derelict building. In 2014, in his acclaimed book Dalston Anatomy, Vitturi captured
the edginess of Ridley Road market in east London
as it held out against gentrification. Money Must Be
Made is a similarly imaginative evocation of a place
that defies straight documentary.
Vitturi uses a hybrid approach: ornate, posed
studio portraits of locals are juxtaposed with striking laser-cut collages and sculptural installations
made from the brightly coloured products on sale:
plastic buckets, woven mats, chairs, hats, bowls,
beads, umbrellas, footballs and fabrics. Here and
there, we are given a glimpse of a bustling street,
with garish products filling the frame and objects
piled high in teetering pyramids, as people jostle
for space in the cut-and-thrust of street-level
Darwinian capitalism.
Venice-born Vitturi, who now lives in London,
is a graduate of Fabrica, the Benetton-funded
visual research centre in Treviso. He worked as a
set painter for Tinto Brass, the Italian director of
such “erotic” films as Caligula, and at Rome’s legendary Cinecittà Studios. He describes his images
as “posed but not overly staged”. In Lagos, unable
to find space to shoot amid the swirl of the market, he isolated his subjects in a makeshift outdoor
studio in the courtyard of the office block. Their
often ornate styles of dress and the objects they
carry become part of an elaborate human sculpture,
a metaphor for the market itself.
‘The street traders in
Balogun are not just
resisting gentrification,
but had defeated it’
Entrepreneurial skills … an innovative Balogun
market trader from Money Must Be Made
“These people have to survive by their creativity
as well as their entrepreneurial skills,” says Vitturi.
“Every day, the sellers construct these extraordinary sculptures, using a limited space to pile up
their wares in the most precarious ways. There is
so much creativity in such a compressed space. The
results are often close to my own aesthetic. That was
something I wanted to reflect in the book.”
The only breathing space in the ongoing dazzle of
colour comes in the middle section, in which Vitturi
shifts his gaze – and his approach – to the ghostly interior of Financial Trust House. Suddenly we are in
a world of monochrome greyness: rooms filled with
the detritus of a once-thriving place; corporate signs
and computer parts covered in a layer of Saharan
sand. The vivid human drama outside seems a
world away from the atmosphere within, where an
aura of post-apocalyptic emptiness prevails.
“It struck me early on that the place was almost the opposite of Ridley Road,” says Vitturi,
“not just in scale, but in the sense that the street
traders in Balogun are not just resisting gentrification, but had defeated it by expanding to meet the
demands of their customers.”
Why did he choose the brutally descriptive title?
“Money Must Be Made was one of several quotes
I selected from the interviews I did with traders. I
hired a local calligrapher to paint the words on to a
flag made of traditional Nigerian fabrics. It summed
up the ethos of the market. Balogun is a place where
nothing is wasted. The level of recycling is incredible. Everything has a value. One guy said to me, ‘If
you shit here, I will find a way to make money out
of it.’ That really summed up their resourcefulness,
but it didn’t really work as a book title.”
Money Must Be Made by Lorenzo Vitturi is
available from Self Publish, Be Happy
On video games
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
When the
lights go off in
virtual worlds
Simon Parkin
I
t’s truly a golden age for
apocalyptic dreamers and fretters. While doom impends for
our world, it has already visited
scores of virtual ones. Demon’s
Souls, the 2009 opus by Japanese
video game auteur Hidetaka Miyazaki,
is the latest game world scheduled to
die. Sony, its publisher, recently announced that it will be taken offline
in February. Video game apocalypses
have, since the rise of the internet, become almost commonplace. More than
50 online worlds have closed since
the mid-1990s, usually in response to
dwindling populations of players who,
through inactivity, render the project
commercially unviable.
The earliest examples closed without ceremony, but developers soon
realised that it was better to end
with a bang than a whimper. Game
designers have usually folded the end
of the world into their fiction. When
Rubies of Eventide closed down in
2009, for example, its creators set fire
to the capital city, a blaze that took
every player down with it. When Star
Wars Galaxies closed in 2011, the ending was marked with wonder, rather
than violence: in the last few hours
the skies flickered with a firework
display set to mournful music, a
swansong for digital existence.
Dr Henry Lowood, curator of History
of Science and Technology Collections
for Stanford University Libraries, was
present when publisher EA switched
off the servers for The Sims Online in
2008. He watched its world’s trees and
structures pop from existence. At the
time, Lowood described the scene as
like seeing “a tidal wave or an earthquake wiping out a town”.
The passing of a virtual world presents a challenge to the documentarians of our nascent digital culture.
Even offline video games can be difficult to preserve, requiring specific and
outdated hardware to run. How do the
historians capture for posterity online
worlds that constantly change, evolve
and then disappear?
Weirdly, the kind of oral tradition
that preserved the tales of antiquity has
re-emerged, capturing fragments of evidence and experience in blogposts, radio programmes and video clips. Unlike
an old film, an expired video game
world is gone for ever, and certainly in
the form in which it was first experienced by its inhabitants. Observer
42 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Diversions
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Wenlock Edge
Don’t overcook the custard
Just look up to the heavens
and smile that they are there
When does infatuation turn to love?
When the recipient of your sighs
returns the favour.
Kate Henderson,
Kingwood, Texas, US
When we lose loved ones we try to
keep them alive in our mind. How?
By keeping them alive in our heart.
Christine Kerr,
Marrickville, NSW, Australia
• Usually, too early.
Giorgio Ranalli,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
• I find it helps to consult them
when I have a major life decision
to make.
Margaret Wilkes,
Perth, Western Australia
• The tiniest visual hint will bring
them to mind, such as when you
spot something that he or she
once loved.
Richard Orlando,
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
• With a smile, a re-creation of the
good times and gratitude.
Charlie Bamforth,
Davis, California, US
• Like any custard, when the
temperature is right. But beware!
Cook it too long and it will curdle.
Stuart Williams, Lilongwe, Malawi
Celebrating life … Day of the Dead
• By remembering that the one
we loved is still alive, but in a
finer dimension.
C McCutcheon, Loule, Portugal
It’s really worth fighting for
• In the case of my father:
by emulating his habits, even
(especially?) the ones I used to
find annoying.
Jonathan Knowles, Kolsås, Norway
What makes an idea worthy of
a sacrifice?
• The social benefit that it creates.
Philip Stigger,
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
• Mindfulness.
André Gauthier,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
• Brainwashing.
Anthony Walter,
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
• It’s nothing we do; they just
simply hang around.
Kate Light, Motueka, New Zealand
• If that idea becomes a cause worth
fighting for.
Marilyn Hamilton,
Perth, Western Australia
• By repeating their precious
little habits.
Gerldine Dodgson,
Pauanui, New Zealand
• Just look up to the heavens
and smile.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
• Its promulgation by a charismatic
charlatan who promises you heaven.
Paul Broady,
Christchurch, New Zealand
• Unwavering and tested faith in it.
Nicholas Albrecht, Paris, France
• The second time around.
David King,
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
• With time, if at all.
Charlie Pearson,
Portland, Oregon, US
• When wanting him/her for
yourself turns to wanting him/her
for his/herself.
Barney Smith, Bristol, UK
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
bit.ly/notesandqueries
Any answers?
Singers sing, performers perform.
Does personal life ever affect them?
E Slack, L’Isle Jourdain, France
Is there anything better than
chamomile tea at bedtime?
John Geffroy,
Las Vegas, New Mexico, US
Send answers to weekly.nandq@
theguardian.com or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Vernon Gibberd
Although I first encountered it as
an intimidatingly dense weekly at
my Quaker boarding school, my
reacquaintance with the Guardian
Weekly came in 1963. It was a year’s
subscription and a wedding present from my college chaplain at St
Catharine’s, when, newly married,
Tineke and I left Cambridge to work
for an agricultural project founded
by Seretse Khama’s uncle, Tshekedi
in the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
This later became Botswana, with
Seretse its first president in 1966.
That oh-so-light air mail edition
reached us at a speed that should
shame today’s post offices. Projectworker Fish met the nightly mixed
goods on his bike at our siding
on the Cape to Cairo railway and
brought it the 4km to our mud-andthatch rondavel.
And what a week’s good read
it was! Tineke, now a homeopath,
loves the What I’m Really Thinking
column best, while my fondest
Black-white-black-white: the bull
watches the bird through the snow.
This is the first flurry for years, long
enough to have forgotten how snow
changes everything the other side
of the doorstep. It began with the
supermoon, a silver florin in a halo
of limelight. Then came Storm Caroline – “good times never seemed
so good,” sang Neil Diamond – and
although not such good times elsewhere, it was easy going here.
Weather presenters spread long
fingers over maps and warned that
the departing storm would pull
down Arctic air, leading to snow at
low levels. No one warned the dogs,
they felt the excitement of a world
changed around them, a duty to
redraw their scent maps, a camaraderie with humans daft enough to
roam abroad in a blizzard.
After the first snowfall overnight,
the morning brightened: a veiled
sun above winter trees, white fields,
and suddenly the familiar had been
memory is reading Nancy BanksSmith’s television review despite the
remoteness of that medium. Even
the sports pages always kept me
interested, albeit while I was on a
dusty roadside waiting for a lift.
Now, after an almost continuous
54 years, it’s still our newspaper,
still takes a week to read with its
news, reviews and analyses at a
breadth and depth not even matched
by the hour-long Channel 4 News,
for we now have television here in
Gloucestershire – and electricity, too!
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
guardian.weekly@theguardian.com
enchanted. Snowflakes showered
from an overhanging hedge sounding like pouring grain; wiper-bladesized fragments flew from boughs
of ash and chestnut in a plantation;
a nuthatch knocked out a coded
message; a treecreeper wound an
invisible ribbon up a cherry tree. On
the fencepost, the robin presented
a Christmas card of him/herself,
pudding plump, breast shot, left eye
watching, right eye scanning the
electromagnetic map of the wood
for sanctuary. Blackbirds were loud
with excited-speak.
Up on the top, the wind returned
with a vengeance, bringing a sideways lash of snow; and down below,
the bull was goaded by it to turn
from feeding towards something
that caught his eye. A shaggy black
Highland bull with a copper ring
through his nose, his shoulders
rolled and his hooves stamped snow
into dark earth. It felt as if, after all
this time, the weather and the beast
had become one, perfect opponents,
the storm in a quiet heart, black and
white. Snow blew between the tips
of his horns, through the maps of
wild bulls and forests. He saw the
blackbird at the gate; perhaps like
him and the storm, it had come from
the north, too. Paul Evans
Read more Nature watch online
bit.ly/naturewatch
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 43
Quick crossword
1
2
3
Cryptic crossword by Arachne
4
5
Across
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
21
20
22
23
24
Across
8 Swedish assorted buffet
(11)
12 Way of life (9)
16 Inflamed swelling (7)
17 Small bushy plant with
bitter minty leaves (6)
19 Increase (3,2)
23 Beard growing from an ear
of barley or rye (3)
1 Drunken revels (11)
9 Expenses (9)
10 Game played with
matchsticks (3)
11 Stealing (5)
13 Butcher’s chopper (7)
14 Hebrew prophet (6)
15 Repeated incantation (6)
18 Large river mouth (7)
20 Cancel (informal) (5)
21 Greek god of flocks and
herds (3)
22 Dilapidation (9)
24 Breaking down (11)
H
F A
L
W I
T
B O
S
W I
S
Down
2 Skill (3)
3 Adriatic country (7)
4 Plant – preparation for
treating bruises (6)
5 Passageway (5)
6 Fresh thinker (9)
7 Embarrassing
disagreement (11)
M
B
B
E
P A S O D O B L E
S
R
W
A
S T
R E L E N T
O
O
E
R E M E
N D O W
O
I
N N E T
D A N U
I
R
I
Z A R D R Y
S E
G
D
R
T
F U L L B O A R D
E
Y
T
Y
T
E
D
D
Y
B
E
A
R
D
Y
E
T
Last week’s solution, No 14,834
First published in the Guardian
1 December 2017, No 14,842
Down
1 Not so dense, spelling “bum” right (7)
2 Dotty pants a lot after
giving birth (9)
3 Jet set romps
regularly in bar (5)
Futoshiki Easy
©Clarity Media Ltd
Last week’s solution
<
4
1
∨
>
∨
∧
< 4
3
5
∨
2
2
3
9
4
5
7
8
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
18
21
6
17
19
22
23
24
25
27
4 Travelling to the
pole, in need of pap
(9)
5 Provide grub, but not
support (5)
6 A country boy turned
up to welcome
American Buddhist
(5,4)
7 Charlie grew old
behind bars (5)
8 Cordial setter’s
absorbed in short
newspaper article (7)
14 Help the French ban
kind of moustache
(9)
16 Say obscene words
about substandard
game (9)
17 Write on sex with
variable confidence
(9)
18 Half-inch fairy
kindles revolt (7)
First published in the Guardian
6 December 2017, No 27,373
20
26
28
20 Scratching head,
expecting ruling (7)
22 Blush, stuck (5)
23 Miniature bears puff
and creep (5)
24 Unruly leaders of
Viking hordes often
cause absolute chaos
(5)
H
O
A N D R
R
I
D R O O
U
C A S H
H
A T S E
I
I
R U M M
P
C O L L
A
I
S O F A
T
Y
C
T
C
C
N
O M E D A
A R O
M
A
N
R
P
P
S N O W D R I
L
E
O
C
I E R
D E C A N
C
L
H
I
A
P I E
I N C
T
E
L
E S T
D E D U C
I
O
S
A
E C T E D
P R I
A
I
D
L
R
S
O I L P A I N
T
N
E
Y
S
C
M A
R
F T
A L
I
A N
E
E S
M E
A
T S
Y
Last week’s solution, No 27,367
Sudoku classic Medium
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.
1
3
5
2
∧
∧
2 < 4 > 3
5
∨
5
2
1
4
∧
∨
4
1
2 < 3
∨
∧
∨
3
5 > 4
1 <
1
1 Wise fool ignoring
content of inane
books (7)
5 Will supplement
of fish oil initially
improve capacity for
love? (7)
9 Mates saunter about
surrounding bit of
property (5)
10 Leaves Gillette
founders with
millions (6,3)
11 Abrasive doctor
appears extremely
narked (9)
12 Find FIFA banning
all females in Asian
country (5)
13 Are sick of blighter
with shed (5)
15 Institution raising
issue of defunct
generators (9)
18 Half-hearted hostility
and dismal dazzle (9)
19 Perhaps Guinness
works to eliminate
boundaries? (5)
21 Oddly dismissing
Carnegie Hall’s
backer and investor
(5)
23 Vocal work of Mercury inspiring boy
band at first (5,4)
25 Radical change to
sport’s corporate
image (9)
26 Behold Shakespearean heroine with
retrograde moon (5)
27 Ageing yodeller
dropping round,
unfortunately (7)
28 Scramble and vault
on walls of Eton (7)
< 4 >
>
<
∧
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
theguardian.com/sudoku
∧
> 2
∧
Last week’s solution
44 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Diversions
Shortcuts
Death entrepreneurs
find new ways to go out
Dying is easy? In fact, it turns
out most of us have been doing
it wrong. In an eco age, both
burial (which releases methane),
and cremation (using natural
gas and electricity) have downsides. But new options are being
developed, often by starry-eyed
death entrepreneurs.
Last month, Sandwell council
in the West Midlands announced
it would like to become the first to
offer “liquid burial”, via a £300,000
($400,000) “Resomator”.
Cadaver disposal in the
Resomator would be as easy as stepping into a “torpedo-shaped” bath
of an alkaline solution, heated to
152C, and, after simmering a while,
the chamber is reduced to a nice
bouillabaisse – “a tea-coloured liquid” which can be flushed into the
local water system.
Leaving your body to science? At
Texas State University, the largest
“body farm” in the world, on
Freeman Ranch, averages 70 corpses
a time, deliberately left outdoors to
rot down naturally, often via wild
animal feasts, to better understand
the process of decomposition and
with the wider aim of improving
forensic science.
Katrina Spade’s Seattle-based
Urban Death Project is attempting
to turn people into compost. The
process is modelled on an animal
version used in agriculture. Feed
around 60 bodies in at the top
of a three-storey unit, and over
four weeks, a rich loamy compost
should emerge at the bottom end.
Families are given a symbolic urn
of soil to take home.
Good results can be achieved
if we just give up on our precious
subterranean six feet. The harmful
methane buildup can’t develop if
we’re instead buried in very shallow graves, wrapped only in a biodegradable shroud. Gavin Haynes
French rescue Sodom
manuscript for nation
The French government has stepped
in to declare Marquis de Sade’s
manuscript, 120 Days of Sodom, a
national treasure as it was about to
be sold at auction in Paris.
Officials ordered that the 18thcentury erotic masterpiece be withdrawn from the sale, along with
André Breton’s Surrealist Manifestos,
banning their export from France,
the Aguttes auction house said.
They were part of a vast sale
of historic documents owned by
French investment firm Aristophil,
which was shut down in a scandal
two years ago, taking $1bn of its
investors’ money with it.
Sade wrote the controversial
work about four rich libertines in
search of the ultimate form of sexual
gratification on a roll
made from bits
of parchment he
had smuggled
into his cell in
the Bastille.
When the
Paris prison
was stormed at
the beginning
of the French
revolution on
14 July 1789,
the famously
philandering
aristocrat was
freed, but he was swept out by the
mob without his manuscript.
Sade believed it had been lost to
the looters and wept “tears of blood”
over it, but the unfinished manuscript turned up decades later. Even
so, the book remained unpublished
for more than a century and was
banned in Britain until the 1950s.
Auctioneer Claude Aguttes, said
the French ministry of culture had
promised to buy the Sade and Breton
works “at international market
rates”. Agence France-Presse
Researchers invent
glass that heals itself
Japanese researchers say they have
developed a new type of glass that
can heal itself from cracks. Made
from a low weight polymer called
“polyether-thioureas”, the glass can
heal breaks when pressed together
by hand without the need for high
heat to melt the material.
The research, published in
Science, by researchers led by Prof
Takuzo Aida from the University of
Tokyo, promises healable glass that
could potentially be used in phone
scree
screens and other
ffragile devices,
which they say are
w
a
an important challe
lenge for sustainable societies.
a
While selfh
healing rubber
a
and plastics
h
have already
been developed,
b
Heal thyself …
good news for
butterfingered
phone users
the researchers said that the new
material was the first hard substance
of its kind that can be healed at
room temperature.
The new polymer glass is “highly
robust mechanically yet can readily be repaired by compression at
fractured surfaces”. Samuel Gibbs
Mekong delta trove
of new species found
A snail-eating turtle found in a food
market and a bat with a horseshoeshaped face are among 115 new
species discovered in the Greater
Mekong region.
A report from the conservation
charity WWF reveals that three
new mammals, 11 amphibians,
two fish, 11 reptiles and 88 plants
were found by scientists in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and
Vietnam in 2016.
They include an extremely rare
crocodile lizard, two species of mole
living among a network of streams
and rivers, and a vibrantly coloured
frog that is one of five new species
discovered in the same forest in
northern Vietnam.
The snail-eating turtle was not
discovered in a river or forest but
in a market in north-east Thailand,
having been caught in a nearby
canal by shopkeepers.
The mountain horseshoe bat
was found in the evergreen forests
of Laos and Thailand, and has a
horseshoe-shaped facial structure,
the WWF said.
Many of the new finds are already
threatened by habitat destruction,
the creation of new infrastructure,
poaching and the illegal wildlife
trade, the conservation charity
warned. Press Association
Maslanka puzzles
1 “He demands he is there.” Thus
spake the presenter on our favourite
speech network. What made steam
issue from Pedanticus’s ears?
2 If a and b are different, show that
if (√a + √b) is rational, so is (√a - √b).
Show also that if √a is not rational,
neither (√a + √b) nor (√a - √b) can be.
3 On closer inspection Garabaggio’s
Wall Seen Through My Tilted LetterBox is seen to consist of
four right-angled triangles.
According to the catalogue
of the Rogue’s Gallery,
where this pretentious
piece of shallowness is
currently on display, the diagonal of
the rectangle measures 1 metre, and
the central section of the diagonal is
28cm long. What are the dimensions
of the rectangle?
4 During Hanukah down at The
Last Chance saloon Sheriff Einstein
showed them how to play dreidel.
This is a four-sided top, each side
bearing a different one of the four
letters: ‫נ‬ (Nun), ‫( ג‬Gimel), ‫( ה‬Hei),
‫( ש‬Shin). If properly made, when the
dreidel is spun each of the four symbols has an equal chance
of 1 in 4 of ending up face
up. How many spins do we
expect to need to get all
four letters? If a go consists
in spinning the dreidel
twice, how many goes does if take for
one of the pairs to be a double Nun?
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
Wordplay
Same Difference
Wordpool
Identify the two words the
spelling of which differs only in
the letters shown:
A******* (rich)
E******* (waste)
Find the correct definition:
XENIUM
a) gift to ambassadors in the
Classical world
b) in psychology a unit of
estrangement
c) placeholder name for the
element Nihonium
d) wayfarer’s inn
Dropouts
Identify the word in which each
asterisk represents a missing letter:
C*O*N*E*S
Missing Links
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 fish mix could be
cake (fishcake & cake mix) …
a) sand gain
b) bank book
c) cap pudding
d) gas root
e) alter trip
f) spinning dog
©CMM2018. For solutions see page 47
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 45
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Mind&Relationships
Oliver Burkeman
This column will change your life
What makes something a distraction
isn’t the fact that it’s stupid or silly.
It’s the role that it’s playing in your life
T
hroughout history, people who
like to think of themselves as highminded have sneered at the masses,
frittering their days away on “mindless entertainment”. The definition
of “mindless” keeps changing: not
so long ago, novels were considered
a frivolous indulgence; then broadcasting took
their place, and novel-reading became something that high-minded people did. For years, I
told myself I wasn’t like the Average Person who
watched four hours of TV a day, because I was
doing something much more brainy: surfing the
internet. Recently, largely thanks to social media,
it’s become impossible to ignore the fact that
this is often mindless too. So now, on my more
self-disciplined days, I stay off social media, and
feel slightly superior about it. And what do I do
instead, since I’m far too smart to waste my life on
rubbish? Now, I listen to podcasts.
So, naturally, I was intrigued by a recent essay on New York magazine’s website The Cut, by
Sirena Bergman: “I listen to 35 hours of podcasts
every week. Is that … bad?” Her conclusion: yes,
partly. The brain needs silence, and the trouble
with audio – like mobile internet too – is that it
doesn’t simply replace other forms of entertainment; rather, it seeps into the gaps that you
might previously have used to be alone with your
thoughts. Podcasts improve my daily life immensely and I’ve zero intention of abandoning
them; but Bergman draws attention to an important truth about the content we incessantly consume: it’s quite possible to get addicted to stuff
that seems edifying and intellectual, as well as to
brainless nonsense. Indeed, for a certain kind of
person, it’s probably easier. You know it’s a distraction to compulsively seek updates on reality
Illustration by Michele Marconi; right, Lo Cole
What I’m really thinking
The new resident in
a retirement home
TV shows. It’s harder to remember that political
news, or fascinating tales from the frontiers of science, might be serving the same function.
The point is that what makes something a distraction isn’t necessarily that it’s stupid or silly. It’s
the role it’s playing in your life. If it’s helping you
numb out, or put off important but scary tasks, or
avoid asking tough questions about how you’re
spending your time, it’s a problem, whatever the
details. Seemingly productive work can easily be
It’s quite possible to get
addicted to stuff that
seems edifying and
intellectual, as well as
to brainless nonsense
a distraction, if it’s not the work that counts. Even
deeply meaningful activities can be distractions.
That’s the logic behind a suggestion attributed
to the investor Warren Buffett: first, write down
your top 25 goals for life; then identify the most
important five, focus on them, and avoid the other
20 like the plague – because they’re the seductive
ones most likely to distract you, precisely because
they do matter. They just don’t matter most.
From this perspective, “mindless entertainment” really isn’t the main danger. Yes, obviously,
it’s a waste of time to watch four hours of (most)
television a day. But that very obviousness means
it’s hard to do by accident. It’s when you catch
yourself feeling smug that you’re immune to that
sort of thing that you really need to start worrying.
oliver.burkeman@theguardian.com
Why am I here? This is awful. What’s
happened to me? I don’t like it. Why
did I have to leave my little old cottage and beautiful garden, and the
neighbours who were real friends?
I was so happy there, and now I’m
in a flat in an ugly modern building
that calls itself a retirement home.
Friends visit and say, “It’s so clean
and warm! And it’s all on the level!”
Well, my house was warm (in parts)
and cleanish. And I loved walking up
and down in my hilly town.
There are a lot of other women
here, and a handful of men. Every
day in the entrance hall there is a pile
of newspapers ordered by residents.
I saw that most of them were the
Daily Mail and I shuddered. One fellow resident, smiling kindly, said
to me, “Everyone here dresses so
nicely.” I looked down at my trousers
and well-worn, comfortable cardigan, and thought, “Oh God, I haven’t
even got a single dress!”
I have been invited to join the
bingo group and the crochet circle.
In both cases, I declined – graciously,
I hope. But then, the worst moment:
someone publicly expressed her outrage at the way we are being invaded
by refugees. My hackles rose immediately, but feebly I let them fall
again. It required too much courage,
just then, to give vent to my own
passionate and contrary feelings on
this subject. But the time will come.
Another friend, visiting, asked:
“What do you like most about living
here?” I thought long and hard, and
then answered truthfully: “I can’t
think of anything at all.”
Later, I realised that my scattered
chi
children won’t need
to w
worry so much
now. I am safe and
now
war
warm and clean.
It ca
can’t be that bad,
can it?
i
Tell us what you’re
rea
really thinking
at mind@the
m
guardian.com
gua
46 The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18
Sport
Against sporting and
personal odds, they
came through to win
or having these diseases, because
From inspirational
at the end of the day, we are all
baseball and wheelchair human.” SB
tennis players to
Alfie Hewett
squash’s power couple, Wheelchair tennis often flies under
the radar at grand slams, but it is a
Simon Burnton and
wonderfully entertaining sport at its
Jacob Steinberg salute best. It takes tremendous levels of
dedication and skill to rise to the top
some of last year’s
and Alfie Hewett had to demonstrate
both qualities in ample quantities
real champions
Jake Diekman
Last Christmas Diekman, who had
battled with ulcerative colitis since
childhood but not let it kill his
dreams of becoming a professional
baseball player, had an alarming
flare-up. Surgery was scheduled for
25 January, four days after his 30th
birthday, after which there was another in April, and a third in June. His
colon was removed and rebuilt, leaving him “really freaking sore” and
eventually with what is known as a
J-pouch, fashioned out of his small
intestine, replacing it altogether. In
February he pledged to make a quick
return to baseball, to his doctors’
displeasure. “I’m going to push very
hard,” he said. “A lot of people are
like, ‘No you’re not’, and I was like,
‘I’m pitching the second half of the
year.’” He did just that, returning to
action in August and to the Texas
Rangers team in September. He went
on to make 11 appearances, finishing
with an ERA (earned run average) of
2.53 (which, for those who have no
idea what an ERA is, is good).
But more important was his iny
sistence on making every
step of it public, in regularr
video updates for a
Dallas newspaper and
countless interviews.
His aim was to raise
awareness of Irritable Bowel Disease,
and also to raise funds
through his Gut it Out
foundation. “If others see
e
me going through it maybe
b th
they’re
’
not so scared,” he said. He hopes,
with his openness, to normalise a
condition that is often seen as being
too awkward to discuss. “It doesn’t
have to be embarrassing, and it’s not
just all about going to the bathroom
a lot,” he says. “There doesn’t need
to be a stigma behind having a bag,
when he faced Argentina’s Gustavo
Fernández in the French Open final
last June. Hewett was 19 at the time
and, though he was a double silver
medallist at the 2016 Paralympic
Games, his hopes of winning his first
singles title at a major looked over
when he found himself on the wrong
end of a bagel in the first set. The
likable Norwich City fan was a bag
of nerves, but gathered his thoughts
during the changeover, elected to
keep fighting and mounted a stirring
comeback to stun his opponent and
triumph 0-6, 7-6 (11-9) 6-2, becoming
the first British winner of the men’s
wheelchair singles title at Roland
Garros. A teenager had made history on the Parisian clay and Hewett
wasn’t done there, teaming up
with Gordon Reid to beat the tough
French pair of Stephane Houdet and
Nicolas Peifer to the Wimbledon
doubles title for the second successive year. He is one of the finest
young athletes around. JS
The squash power couple
Neither Nour El Tayeb nor Ali Farag,
left, had won a top-tier World Series
event in squash before the US Open
in October
October. The Egyptian pair’s
performances had been
perform
improving, but they had
impr
yet to scratch that itch
before
bef
e travelling to
Philadelphia.
Phi
delphia. It all came
together
tog
her on one memorable afternoon, though.
rabl
On a day
ay of high emotion,
Farag watched
w tched El Tayeb win
women’ss final and El Tayeb
the wome
watched
Farag win
t h dF
n the men’s final,
husband and wife
e supporting each
other in their pursuit
suit of glory. JS
Sam Kasiano
o and friends
In January Sam Kasiano,
asiano, pictured
ugby league
centre right, the rugby
ly known as
prop affectionately
Dogzilla, travelled
d to Fiji
with a few team-mates for his wedding. It was a dramatic time to be in
Fiji, what with an earthquake on the
morning of the big day that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale and,
once that passed, a tsunami warning
forced them to flee to higher ground.
“We were running looking for our
kids, for our wives,” said Mario Tartak, Kasiano’s manager. “Everyone
was pretty distressed. You look at
your kids and you look at your wife
and everybody was terrified.”
When they looked down from the
hilltop they saw someone stuck at the
bottom, struggling with his disabled
father. “We were swimming and suddenly we all had to race up the safe
spot of the hill,” said Sean Brown, the
struggling son. “We got out of this
buggy and I was struggling to get my
dad out. There were heaps of blokes
sitting around not giving a damn. All
of a sudden you see [Greg] Eastwood
[another prop],
p p , and [Frank] Pritchard
[Kasiano’s best man and Samoa
team-mate] pick my old man up and
carry him on their shoulders up the
hill. When we got to the top Kasiano
was giving water to my dad and taking care of him.” The big wave never
materialised and the wedding went
ahead, but Kasiano clearly still had an
appetite for extreme weather-related
activities: in July he moved
oved
to Melbourne Storm. SB
B
Victoria
Azarenka
Luck has rarely been
on Victoria Azarenka’s side in recent
years. Few players
on the WTA Tour can
match her natural ability and one of the most heartening
h t i
moments of the tennis season was
seeing the former Australian Open
champion return to the grind in time
for Wimbledon. After recovering
from a series of serious injuries, Azarenka,, above, had returned after giving birth to her first child, and reachround at SW19 was a
ing the fourth
fo
promising sign for the Belarusian.
promisin
an. Yet
events conspired against her again.
A custody
custo battle over her son,, Leo,
left her unable
u
to leave California,
nia,
her out of both the US Open
ruling he
pen
Belarus’s first Fed Cup final.
and Bela
l. “No
parent sh
should have to decide beetween their
th child or their career,”
r,” the
28-year-old wrote in an open letter
28-yeartter
on social media. It was tough for
or Azarenka to take, but she maintained
ned her
dignity throughout.
t
There is a happy
twist in the
t form of her wildcard
rd at
month’s Australian Open. JS
this mon
The Guardian Weekly 05.01.18 47
Sport in brief
Simone Zaza
There are certainly sportsmen
who have come back from greater
adversity than Zaza, pictured below,
but the Italian footballer’s resurrection is nevertheless remarkable. In
2016 he started 10 club games, spent
13 on the bench, and scored three
goals. There were also nine international caps, among them the Euro
2016 quarter-final against Germany,
in which he came on with penalties
looming, and then spanked his over
the bar after a comedy high-stepping
run-up. “It really traumatised me,”
he said in January. “After the Euros
I felt really terrible. Over the summer I lost a lot of weight. The things
that hurt me the most were the
[YouTube] videos, the Zaza Dance.”
His decision to move to West Ham
that summer was another poor one.
“Very quickly
quic
I found that many
things upset
ups me: the environment,
the culture,
cultur the training, the food.
I’m not sa
saying I’m a victim, I know
very well that I earn a lot of money
playing football.
f
I’m just trying to
explain tthe causes of this failure.”
In January
Januar he moved to Valencia,
and some
something changed. His first
goal for th
the club felt, he said, “like
being reborn”;
reb
he has gone on to
score 16 in the league over the
year, despite playing with
a persistent
pe
knee injury. SB
draw in the fourth Test at Melbourne.
Australia captain Steve Smith batted
for almost seven hours to record his
23rd Test century and stave off defeat
despite England having taken a big
first-innings lead. The result meant
Australia led the five-match series
3-0 heading into the final match at
Sydney this week.
World record price … Virgil van Dijk
• Liverpool smashed football’s
transfer world record for a defender
after paying fellow English Premier
League club Southampton £75m
($101m) for the Dutch international
centre-half Virgil van Dijk. The
transfer fee eclipses the £53m spent
by Manchester City to sign the
England full-back Kyle Walker from
Tottenham Hotspur last summer.
• England’s cricketers avoided an
Ashes series whitewash but were unable to force victory in a rain-affected
Chess
Leonard Barden
India’s former world champion
Vishy Anand, now a veteran aged
48, rolled back the years at the
World Rapid Championship in
Saudi Arabia. He produced a vintage performance for the $750,000
15-round, three-day event in scoring 10.5/15 to take the gold medal.
His win over Norway’s world No 1
Magnus Carlsen is featured in this
week’s puzzle and proved a decisive
moment. In a final tie-break Anand
easily defeated Vladimir Fedoseev, a
rising Russian star half his age.
Carlsen was the hot favourite for
the crown, and despite a wobbly
start came on strong in the middle
rounds to take a clear lead on 9/12.
Then he uncharacteristically faded
with two nondescript draws and a
loss to Russia’s Alexander Grischuk.
China dominates women’s chess,
and although the world No 1 Hou
Yifan did not compete, they still
took gold and silver through Ju Wenjun and Lei Jingjie in the $250,000
women’s championship.
Carlsen won this game by simple
yet impressive strategy against China’s Wang Yue. His 9 Ng5! acquired
the bishop pair in a position where
White also controlled the only open
• Birmingham has been selected to
host the Commonwealth Games in
2022, the biggest sporting event to
be awarded to an English city since
the London Olympics in 2012. The
West Midlands mayor, Andy Street,
described the announcement as a
“fantastic Christmas present” for
the region but it will not come cheap
with the projected overall cost running to £750m, with the government
covering around £560m.
• Guy Novès became the first
France rugby union coach in history
to be sacked after he was replaced
by Jacques Brunel. Novès endured
a torrid two-year spell in charge,
managing just seven wins from 21
matches, forcing the French Federation president, Bernard Laporte, to
act. The former Italy coach Brunel,
63, was named as his successor.
Maslanka solutions
3527 Magnus Carlsen v Vishy Anand, world
rapid. Should White’s knight go to c5 or f4?
file, Black’s pieces became comically
passive and 25 Qa5! set up the finish
27 Rd8 Rxd8 28 Qxd8+ Kg7 29 Bf6+
Kh8 30 Qf8+ and mate.
Magnus Carlsen v Wang Yue
1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 c6 4 Nf3 d5
5 Bb3 Qc7 6 Nc3 dxe4?! 7 Nxe4 Nxe4
8 dxe4 Be7 9 Ng5! Bxg5 10 Bxg5 Na6
11 Be3 O-O 12 Qd2 Qe7 13 Qc3 Re8
14 O-O-O Nc7 15 Rd3 Qf6 16 f3 Ne6
17 Rd6 g6 18 Rhd1 Qg7 19 Qd2 h5
20 g3 Nc7 21 Bh6 Qh7 22 Rd8 Bh3
23 Rxa8 Nxa8 24 Bg5 Nc7 25 Qa5!
Ne6 26 Bxe6 Bxe6 27 Rd8 1-0
3527 1 Nc5?? Rxc5! 2 Qxc5 Qe4! and Carlsen
resigned: 3 Kf1 Qh1+ 4 Ke2 Bf3+ 5 Kd2 Ne4+.
Back in style … Alfie Hewett
triumphs, top left; Jake Diekman
returns to form, above; and Nour El
Tayeb plays her part, far left Getty
• Two former South American
football officials were found guilty
on multiple corruption charges
late last month by a New York City
jury in the first case brought to trial
as a result of the US government’s
sprawling investigation of football’s
governing body, Fifa. Juan Ángel
Napout, the former president of
South American football’s governing
body (Conmebol), and José Maria
Marin, the former president of Brazil’s football federation, were both
found guilty of racketeering and
wire fraud conspiracies following a
five-week trial. Their co-defendant,
Manuel Burga, the former head
of football in Peru, was cleared of
similar charges. The convictions
add to the 23 guilty pleas prosecutors have already secured against
individuals and entities accused of
bribery in the government’s probe
of corruption at Fifa. More than 40
people and companies have been
charged as part of the investigation,
which the US attorney’s office says
remains ongoing. The case was the
first to come to trial since a dramatic
dawn raid at a hotel near Fifa headquarters in Zurich in 2015 revealed
the investigation to the public for
the first time.
1 It would be a shame if the subjunctive (past and
present) were to vanish from English as it can
occasionally allow us to make neat distinctions.
These uses, admittedly, are sparse, often in ossified
forms and easily confused with other forms.
Verbs of demanding and insistence are the chief
stumbling blocks for modern radio folk. If I insist
Bert goes to school I am saying (perhaps in the face
of statements to the contrary) that Bert goes to
school; if I insist he go to school, I am not saying
he does but rather I am making a demand of him.
It would be nuts to demand that something be
the case that is already the case, which is why We
demand the foreign minister goes to Syria falls so
awkwardly on the logical ear. But the use of the
subjunctive is a well-hidden subtlety, noticeable
only in the verb to be and in the 3rd person singular
of more pedestrian verbs (and even that might be
unclear, as in eg We insist that the government
listen. Is government singular or plural there?),
which is why eg some Poles say Thanks god! Or
schoolchildren sing Britannia rules the waves. The
French, the Germans, the Hungarians all retain
their subjunctives. Why cannot we?
2 (√a + √b)(√a - √b) = (a – b), so that if one of (√a
+ √b) and (√a - √b) is rational so is the other. Now
suppose √a is irrational. We note √a = [(√a + √b) + (√a √b)] ⁄2; if even one of (√a ± √b) were rational, both
would be; but by hypothesis √a is irrational; so (√a
± √b) are irrational, too.
3 We have two pairs of congruent triangles, and
all four are similar. The smaller one has sides
(36, 48, 60) = 12(3, 4, 5); the larger (48, 64, 80)
= 16(3, 4, 5); so the letter-box measures 60 X 80,
both units in centimetres.
4 Let the expected number of goes before success
be n. We succeed first go, or later; so n = (p)(1) +
(1 – p)(n + 1) — n = 1⁄p. For all 4 letters we expect
25⁄3 spins. For a pair of Nuns, 16 goes.
Wordpool a) Dropouts CROWNLESS
Same Difference AFFLUENT, EFFLUENT
Missing Links a) sand/bar/gain b) bank/note/
book c) cap/rice/pudding d) gas/tap/root
e) alter/ego/trip f) spinning/top/dog
Guardian News & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. Published by Guardian News & Media Ltd.,
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK.
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon.
Printed by Trinity Mirror Printing Ltd, Watford. Registered as a newspaper at the Post Office.
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To subscribe visit gu.com/subscribe/weekly
Addicted to stuff
Why mindless distractions
fulfil a serious function
Mind & Relationships, page 45
George Monbiot
Our blindness to the living world is
lethal, as we normalise the erosion of
our environment, and the devastating
losses to fragile ecosystems it brings
W
hat you see is not what
others see. We inhabit
parallel worlds of
perception, bounded
by our interests and
experience. What is
obvious to some is invisible
to others. As the psychologist Richard Wiseman
points out: “At any one moment, your eyes and
brain only have the processing power to look at
a very small part of your surroundings … your
brain quickly identifies what it considers to be the
most significant aspects of your surroundings,
and focuses almost all of its attention on these
elements.” Everything else remains unseen.
Our selective blindness is lethal to the living
world. Joni Mitchell’s claim that “you don’t know
what you’ve got till it’s gone” is, sadly, untrue: our
collective memory is wiped clean by ecological
loss. One of the most important concepts defining our relationship to the natural world is
shifting baseline syndrome, coined by the fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly. The people of each
generation perceive the state of the ecosystems
ms
they encountered in their childhood
od
as normal and natural. When
wildlife is depleted, we
e might notice the loss, but we are unaware that the
baseline by which we judge
dge the decline
is in fact a state of extreme
me depletion.
So we forget that the default
efault
state of almost all ecosystems
ems – on
land and at sea – is domination
ation by
a megafauna. We are unaware
are
that there is something deeply
ply
weird about British waters;
they are not thronged with
great whales, vast shoals
of bluefin tuna, two-metre
cod and halibut the size of doors,
rs, as they were
until a few centuries ago. We are
e unaware that
the absence of elephants, rhinos, li
lions, scimitar
cats, hyenas and hippos, that lived on the British
Isles during the last interglacial period (when the
climate was almost identical to today’s), is also an
artefact of human activity.
And the erosion continues. Few people
younger than me know that it was once normal
to see fields white with mushrooms, or rivers
black with eels at the autumn equinox, or that
every patch of nettles was once reamed by
caterpillars. I can picture a moment at which the
birds stop singing, and people wake up and make
breakfast and go to work without noticing that
anything has changed.
Conversely, the darkness in which we live
ensures that we don’t know what we have, even
while it exists. The recent BBC television series
Blue Planet II, focusing on underwater life,
revealed the complex social lives and remarkable
intelligences of species we treat as nothing but
seafood. If we were aware of the destruction we
commission with our routine purchases of fish,
would we not radically change our buying habits?
But the infrastructure of marketing and media
helps us not to see, not to think, not to connect
our spots of perception to create a moral worldview upon which
we can act.
ich w
Most people subconsciously
collaborate in this
subc
evasion. It protects them from either
cognitive dissonance. To be
grief or cog
wonder and enchantment
aware of the w
of the world, its astonishing
ast
creatures and
complex interactions,
inte
and to be aware
simultaneously of the remarkably
simultaneou
rapid de
destruction of almost
every living system, is to
ever
take on a burden of grief
ta
tthat is almost unbearable. This is what the
a
great conservationist
g
Aldo Leopold meant when
wh he wrote: “One
ecological education is
of the penalties of an eco
that one lives alone iin a world of wounds.”
Th darkness in which
The
we live ensures that
we don’t know what we
have, even while it exists
In June, this year, a powerful light – 125 watts
to be precise – was shone into a corner of my
own darkness. Two naturalists from Flanders,
Bart Van Camp and Rollin Verlinde, asked if they
could come to our tiny urban garden and set up
a light trap. The results were a revelation. I had
come to see the garden – despite our best efforts
– as almost dead: butterflies and beetles are rare
sights here. But when Bart and Rollin showed us
the moths they had caught, I realised that what
we see does not equate to what there is.
When they opened the trap, I was astonished
by the range and beauty of their catch. There
were pink and olive elephant hawkmoths,
pictured; a pine hawkmoth, feathered and ashy;
a buff arches, patterned and gilded like the back
of a barn owl; flame moths in polished brass;
the yellow kites of swallow-tailed moths; common emeralds the colour of a northern sea, with
streaks of foam; grey daggers; a pebble prominent; heart and darts; coronets; riband waves;
willow beauties; an elder pearl; small magpie;
double-striped pug; rosy tabby. The names testify
to a rich relationship between these creatures and
those who love them.
Altogether, there were 217 moths of 50
species. This, Van Camp and Verlinde told me,
was roughly what they had expected to find.
Twenty-five years ago, there would have been
far more. A food web is collapsing, probably
through a combination of pesticides, habitat destruction and light pollution, and we are scarcely
aware of its existence.
Every summer night, an unseen drama
unfolds over our gardens, as moths, whose ears
are tuned to the echo-locating sounds bats make,
drop like stones out of the sky to avoid predation.
Some tiger moths have evolved to jam bat sonar,
by producing ultra-sonic clicks of their own. We
destroy the wonders of the unseen world before
we appreciate them.
That morning I became a better naturalist,
and a better conservationist. I began to look
more closely, to seek the unseen, to consider
what lies beneath. And to realise just how much
there is to lose.
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