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The Guardian Weekly – March 16, 2018

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A week in the life of the world | 16-22 March 2018
Stage set for a
meeting of egos
Can Kim and
Trump bond??
Can’t find
th words
th digital age
Vol 198 No 15 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
Brixton’s record
store legend
Life and times
of Blacker Dread
How children
are exposed to
cigarette adverts
Sarah Boseley London
Dan Collyns Lima
Kate Lamb Jakarta
Amrit Dhillon Delhi
Schoolchildren around the world
are being exposed on a daily basis to
cigarette advertising and promotions
by a tobacco industry that needs
to recruit the young to maintain its
vast profits.
A major investigation in more than
22 countries across four continents by
campaigners and experts has found
cigarettes or promotions on display
close to sweets, fizzy drinks or stationery in shops or in stalls just outside schools, and often at the eye line
of children.
There was often vibrantly colourful branding, “power walls” of products often near cashiers, and digital
screens showing tobacco advertising. Banner ads bore the names of
cigarette brands in letters sometimes
larger than the name of the shop.
Flavoured cigarettes were on sale and
so were single sticks, which are more
affordable for young smokers.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free
Kids compiled and analysed reports
since 2014 carried out by a range of
public health groups, NGOs and Johns
Hopkins University.
Marlboro cigarettes made by Philip
Morris and British American Tobacco
brands such as Pall Mall, Kent, Dunhill and Lucky Strike were being sold
and promoted within 300 metres or
closer to schools in nearly all the countries researchers examined in a series
of studies.
Brands made by Japan Tobacco and
Imperial were seen near schools in a
smaller number.
In Peru, Guardian correspondents
corroborating the findings saw single
sticks apparently for sale in corner
shops near schools in flavours attractive to children. In Indonesia they saw
banner ads above stalls near a primary
school. In India, they saw single cigarettes and tiny sachets of chewing
tobacco for sale alongside sweets
directly opposite school gates.
Big Tobacco denies promoting its
products to children; Philip Morris
International (PMI) said it did not market to children anywhere in the world
and British American Tobacco (BAT)
said it has strict rules
against targeting children.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty
Research in more than 22 countries found tobacco
sold and promoted near schools by an industry
that needs to recruit the young to maintain profits
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2 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
World roundup
Mounties get their first woman leader
Vancouver acts to tax empty homes
The Canadian prime
minister, Justin
Trudeau, appointed
Brenda Lucki to lead
the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, the first
permanent female
head of the
force, which
has been
dogged by
of discrimination and sexual
Lucki, who has been
with the force for 31
years, will take over as
commissioner in midApril, Trudeau told a
televised ceremony last
Friday at the RCMP’s
training academy in
Regina, Saskatchewan.
The previous RCMP
commissioner, Bob Paulson, retired last June
after more than
five years in the
job. During his
term of office,
Paulson was
obliged to
make a tearful apology as
the national police
force reached a settlement agreement over a
series of deeply embarrassing harassment,
discrimination and
sexual abuse claims.
Thousands of
homes in Vancouver were declared
unused and liable for a
new empty homes tax
as part of a government
attempt to tackle skyrocketing home prices
and soaring rents.
About 4.6% or 8,481
homes in the western
Canadian city stood
empty or under-utilised
for more than 180 days
in 2017, according to
declarations submitted
to the municipality by
98.85% of homeowners. Properties deemed
empty will be subjected
to a tax of 1% of their
assessed value.
Vancouver has rolled
out measures to cool
prices and improve housing affordability in the
country’s most expensive real estate market.
Greeks call for Turkey to free ‘hostages’
Protesters took
to the streets
of northern
Greece demanding the
release of two Greek
soldiers detained by
Turkey. Greece’s defence
minister, Panos Kammenos, described the
pair as “hostages” and
ordered border patrols
to be stepped up. Sgt
Dimitris Kouklatzis,
27, and Lt Angelos
Mitretodis, 25, were
seized on 2 March after
allegedly being found
in a “forbidden military
zone” in Turkish territory. The soldiers say
they strayed across the
frontier in bad weather.
Democrats out in force for Texas primary
Democratic party
turnout soared in
America’s most
populous Republican
state last Tuesday, as
Texas held the nation’s
first primary elections
before November’s
The Texas primaries
were scrutinised for
hints as to whether
revulsion over Donald Trump and the
rightwards swing of
the Republicans could
translate into a flurry of
Democratic enthusiasm
that gives the party a
chance of retaking the
House of Representatives in November.
No Democrat has won
a statewide election in
conservative Texas since
1994. However, in early
voting the Democratic
turnout doubled from
2014 in a poll that saw
Beto O’Rourke win the
Democratic party’s
nomination to stand
against Ted Cruz for the
US Senate seat.
More US news,
pages 4-5; 12-13
Argentina’s Falklands dead identified
The relatives of 89
previously unidentified Argentinian
soldiers killed during the
1982 Falklands invasion
are to travel to the
islands this month to put
names on their graves.
The identification
has been made possible
due to DNA testing and
the humanitarian initiative of a British captain,
who in 1982 gathered
more than 120 dead
soldiers, with their
effects, and put them in
graves marked with the
words “Argentine soldier
known only to God”.
The testing of the
bodies by the International Committee of the
Red Cross was agreed by
the UK and Argentina in
2016 after a campaign
led by both British and
Argentinian veterans.
Power struggle puts EU’s clocks back
Europeans who
have been arriving
late to work or
school can blame a
lag in the continent’s
electricity grid that is
causing some clocks to
run too slowly.
The problem is caused
by a political dispute
between Serbia and
Kosovo that is sapping
energy from the local
grid, causing a domino
effect across Europe’s
25-nation synchronised
high-voltage power
network spanning the
continent from Portugal
to Poland and Greece to
The European power
grid lobby group urged
the two Balkan countries
to resolve the dispute.
“Since the European
system is interconnected
... when there is an
imbalance somewhere
the frequency slightly
drops,” said Claire
Camus, a spokeswoman
for the European Network of Transmission
System Operators for
Electricity (ENTSO-E).
The continental network had lost 113GWh
of energy since midJanuary because Kosovo
had been using more
electricity than it generates. Serbia, which is
responsible for balancing
Kosovo’s grid, had failed
to do so, ENTSO-E said.
The Brussels-based
organisation added that
“this average frequency
deviation, that has never
happened in any similar
way in the continental
European power system,
must cease”.
The deviation from
Europe’s standard 50Hz
frequency has caused
electric clocks that keep
time by the power system’s frequency to fall
behind by about six minutes since mid-January.
More Europe
news, page 6
Assad’s forces surround Douma
Syrian government
forces surrounded
the largest town
in the besieged enclave
of eastern Ghouta, in
a prelude to a possible
ground assault.
Forces loyal to Bashar
al-Assad split off Douma
from the rest of eastern
Ghouta, according to
the Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights, a day
after a Red Cross and
UN aid convoy arrived in
the town to unload food
supplies to thousands
of civilians in desperate
need. Douma was once
one of the largest cities
in Syria. The report from
the UK-based human
rights group, which said
both Douma and the
smaller nearby town
of Harasta were surrounded and cut off, was
disputed by locals.
More Middle East
news, page 7
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 3
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
Kenya rivals meet to heal divisions
The Kenyan
president, Uhuru
Kenyatta, met
the opposition leader,
Raila Odinga, in public
for the first time since
last year’s disputed
elections, with the pair
promising to heal the
country’s divisions.
The surprise meeting
at Kenyatta’s office in
Nairobi ended with the
symbolic appearance of
the two men standing
side by side to deliver a
joint statement.
Calling each other
“brother”, they
announced a plan for a
programme to overcome
deep and longstanding
ethnic and political
divides, but did not
provide details.
More Africa news,
page 7
Nepal plane crash kills at least 49
A Bangladeshi aircraft
while trying to land at
Kathmandu airport in
Nepal, killing at least
49 people.
The US-Bangla
Airlines plane made
an unexpected turn
while landing at around
2.18pm local time on
Monday, clipping a fence
and bursting into flames,
according to the airport’s general manager,
Raj Kumar Chettri.
It came off the runway and fell down a
slope, sliding for about
300 metres. There were
71 people on board.
Of the passengers, 33
were Nepali nationals,
32 from Bangladesh and
one each from China and
the Maldives.
More south Asia
news, page 11
PNG anger at slow aid after earthquake
Aid workers and
officials have
been threatened by people in Papua New Guinea
who are angry at the slow
delivery of emergency
help following a 7.5
magnitude earthquake
that struck the highlands
on 26 February.
Care Australia
estimates half a million people have been
affected by the quake,
with 150,000 in desperate need of emergency
supplies and more than
100 believed to be dead.
Anna Bryan, Care’s
programme director in
the country, said frustration has grown in
the worst-hit areas as
aftershocks continued
to strike, including one
of 6.8 magnitude on
7 March.
China abolishes presidential term limits
The Chinese
leader, Xi
Jinping, has
succeeded in abolishing
presidential term limits,
a momentous political
coup that paves the way
for him to stay in power
for years to come.
Nearly 3,000
members of China’s
National People’s Congress voted the highly
controversial constitutional amendment
through last Sunday
at the Great Hall of the
People – an imposing
Mao-era theatre on
the western fringe of
Tiananmen Square.
Bono apologises for bullying at charity
The singer Bono
apologised after
claims were made
that workers at a charity he co-founded were
subjected to a culture of
bullying and abuse.
The U2 singer said
he was left furious after the
surfaced in
last year. He
admitted the
One organisation
failed to protect some
employees at its Johannesburg office and said:
“I need to take some
responsibility for that.”
The One campaign,
created in 2004 to fight
poverty and preventable diseases, launched
an investigation after
a group of former
employees from its
Johannesburg office
tweeted allegations
of management
The group
told an internal inquiry
into events
between 2011
and 2015 that
they were repeatedly
ridiculed and belittled
and were ordered to do
domestic work at the
home of a supervisor at
End anti-Muslim riots, UN tells Sri Lanka
The UN’s political
chief condemned
anti-Muslim violence that has targeted
mosques and businesses
in Sri Lanka. After a
visit to the country, the
undersecretary general
for political affairs,
Jeffrey Feltman, urged
the government to
bring the perpetrators
of the violence and hate
speech to justice.
Feltman, who met
Muslim leaders, “condemned the breakdown
in law and order and the
attacks against Muslims
and their property”, a
UN statement said.
Sinhalese mobs
attacked 11 mosques
and at least 200 Muslimowned businesses,
prompting the government to declare a state
of emergency. At least
three people have been
killed and 20 wounded,
while the police have
been accused of failing
to protect the island’s
minority. Muslims make
up 10% of Sri Lanka’s
21 million people. The
majority Sinhalese are
largely Buddhist.
Applause rippled
through the auditorium
as Xi cast his vote. A
further 2,957 ballots
were cast in favour of
the change while three
delegates abstained and
two voted against, a
small hint of the outrage
the move has caused in
some liberal circles. The
identities of the five dissenters is a mystery.
“I can now announce
that the proposals to
amend the constitution
of the People’s Republic
of China has passed,” an
announcer proclaimed.
More Asia Pacific
news, pages 4-5
School scandal worsens for Abe couple
Shinzo Abe
that new revelations in a cronyism
scandal linked to the
Japanese prime minister and his wife “could
undermine trust in the
entire government”.
The prime minister
had previously said he
would resign if he or his
wife were shown to be
involved in slashing the
price of public land sold
to a rightwing school
operator in Osaka.
The finance ministry
admitted it had altered
official documents
surrounding the decision
to provide an 85% discount on the appraised
value of the land. One
document originally
quoted the educational
group Moritomo Gakuen
as saying that Abe’s wife,
Akie, had recommended
the school project “move
forward because it is a
good plot of land”. However, this was removed
in a version submitted to
lawmakers investigating
the sale.
Japan world
diary, page 9
4 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
International news
Why Trump and Kim Jong-un
share a dangerous delusion
Both leaders think they
are winning. A summit
could be dangerous
Julian Borger
f a summit between Donald
Trump and North Korea’s Kim
Jong-un – as announced last
Thursday – really takes place
in May, it will count as one of
the most remarkable pieces of
theatre in diplomatic history.
If that drama leads to a substantive
peace agreement it would represent
an extraordinary achievement. The
Korean war never formally ended
and the threat of a new devastating
conflict has hung over the peninsula
for decades.
It is a prize on an epic scale, but so
are the risks. Both leaders view the
provisional agreement to meet as
a personal triumph born of resolve.
If each reckons he has the other over
a barrel, there will be little room for
compromise if and when they meet.
The South Korean messengers
who conveyed Kim’s invitation took
pains to lay credit at Trump’s feet.
White House briefers last Thursday
night also went out of their way to tie
the surprise development to the US
president’s leadership qualities.
Having invested so much personal
capital in the meetings, there is
a significant danger of a backlash
from either or both men if they do
not get their way under the glare of
international attention.
There is plenty of room for misunderstanding. Both leaders say they
want the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but historically their
governments have interpreted that
to mean quite different things. While
Washington sees it in terms of North
Korean unilateral disarmament,
Pyongyang envisions an end to the
“hostile policies” of the US and the
formal removal of the nuclear deterrent umbrella that has sheltered
South Korea from its neighbour.
There is no guarantee the summit
will take place. Kim did not put his invitation down on paper. It was relayed
orally by the South Korean national
security chief, Chung Eui-yong. Since
Kim met Chung and his delegation
last Monday in Pyongyang, the North
The president is
convinced of
his expertise in
the art of the deal
has remained silent on the contents
of the offer and could seek to move
the goalposts in the run-up to the
high-stakes meeting.
Trump could not contain his
excitement over the developments. He appeared unannounced
at the White House briefing room
to tip off journalists about Chung’s
planned press statement. He told
one reporter he hoped to garner the
credit for the breakthrough.
He seemed unaware that Pyongyang had been seeking a one-onone meeting with a US president
since the 1990s at least. In securing
agreement, Kim can claim an
achievement that eluded his father
and grandfather – being treated in
the eyes of the world as an equal by
the most powerful man on earth.
“To be clear – we need to talk to
North Korea,” argued Jeffrey Lewis,
the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury
institute of international studies
at Monterey. “But Kim is not inviting Trump so that he can surrender
North Korea’s weapons. Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that his
investment in nuclear and missile
capabilities has forced the United
States to treat him as an equal.”
Arguably neither Kim nor Trump
deserve the principal credit for the
sharp turn they have taken from
mutual insults and rattled nuclear
sabres. That credit is more reasonably attributed to the South Korean
president, Moon Jae-in, who found
himself in the crossfire since coming
to office last year, but has managed
to leverage that position, through
the hosting of the Winter Olympics,
into an opening for dialogue.
The timing has also been benign.
The election of a pro-engagement
president in South Korea has been
followed by Kim’s declaration at
the start of this year that his regime
had attained its goal of building
an arsenal of nuclear missiles. The
Pyongyang regime now sees itself
entering negotiations from a position of strength as a nuclear power.
The White House narrative
is entirely different. It portrays
North Korea as cowed into talks
by Trump’s determination and
the unprecedented international
sanctions regime that has been
imposed since last September.
However, any expectation Trump
might have that Kim will trade his
nuclear weapons for sanctions
Unexpected theatre … Donald
Trump and Kim Jong-un view
the provisional agreement to
meet as a personal triumph
born of resolve EPA; Getty
relief may be ill-conceived. Few
observers believe the North Korean
leader will bargain away lightly
what he sees as a guarantee of his
regime’s survival.
Historically, major summits
have followed months or years
of carefully orchestrated lowerlevel negotiations. For this new
Alarm over president’s vague stance on denuclearisation
Jon Swaine
Donald Trump faced criticism from
Republican allies last Sunday after apparently agreeing to meet
Kim Jong-un without demanding
that North Korea start scrapping its
nuclear programme.
Senators from Trump’s own party
expressed scepticism and urged
him to set tougher preconditions,
amid growing concerns over the
administration’s chaotic approach to
nuclear diplomacy.
Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado
said Trump should not meet Kim until North Korea produces proof it has
begun reversing its years-long pursuit
of a nuclear weapon.
“What we have to hear more of
is how we are going to get to those
concrete, verifiable steps towards
denuclearisation before this meeting
occurs,” Gardner said.
Trump’s team has given a series
of muddled statements on that precondition. No mention of it was made
during an abrupt announcement last
Thursday that Trump was willing to
hold a summit with Kim by May, in
what would be the first-ever meeting
of the two countries’ leaders.
Trump’s press secretary, Sarah
Sanders, said last Friday Trump was
“not going to have this meeting take
place until we see concrete actions
that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea”. She later in effect
retracted that statement in briefings
to reporters.
The president has offered little clarity. After tweeting about conversations
with world leaders on the issue, he
returned to it in a rambling speech
to supporters in Pennsylvania last
Saturday evening, saying of North
Korean denuclearisation: “They are
thinking about that – who knows
what’s going to happen?”
The uneven public statements
followed an eccentric unveiling of
Trump’s historic acceptance of Kim’s
invitation. The decision was announced to journalists on the White
House driveway by a South Korean official, shortly after Trump’s secretary
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 5
Man of steel
Trump’s tariffs threaten trade war
→ Finance, page 12-13
White House ‘hollowed out’
as senior advisers walk away
David Smith
diplomatic opening to be successful,
that order will have to be reversed.
The question is whether Kim and
Trump would settle for something
less than a grand bargain.
There are concerns over whether
the Trump administration is
equipped for complex talks. Its
leading Korea experts have left and
the state department has been excluded. Trump for now is flying solo,
convinced of his expertise in the art
of the deal. But his deal-making in
the real estate business drove him
to bankruptcy several times. The
implications of an equivalent failure
in nuclear summitry, and how he
might react, are sobering.
of state, Rex Tillerson, had said direct
negotiations were a distant prospect.
Having lambasted Barack Obama
for what they deemed an overly
conciliatory approach to Iran during
nuclear talks, Republicans were left
struggling to defend Trump’s position.
“I don’t think anybody really believes that North Korea is prepared
to denuclearise,” Senator Jeff Flake, a
Republican critic of Trump, said.
Democrats, too, expressed concerns. “I am very worried that he’s going to go into these negotiations and
be taken advantage of,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said.
Warren said Trump should urgently
address a lack of senior diplomats
who would probably be needed for
successful negotiations. The US has
no permanent ambassador to South
Korea or assistant secretary of state
for the region.
That view was echoed by Ben Rhodes, a former senior aide to Obama,
who was involved in the Iran deal
and said the Trump administration
appeared unprepared for discussions
of similar gravity.
“There’s nothing more complex
than nuclear negotiations; there’s no
place in the world more volatile than
the Korean peninsula,” Rhodes told
ABC. “You cannot just approach this
like a reality show.”
Leader comment, page 22 →
Donald Trump was holding court in
the east room of the White House,
surrounded by chandeliers, gold
curtains, mirrors and portraits.
He had a message for the media:
“You know, I read where, ‘Oh, gee,
maybe people don’t want to work
for Trump.’ Believe me, everybody
wants to work in the White House …
I could take any position in the White
House, and I’ll have a choice of the 10
top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there.”
That was at about 3.45pm last
Tuesday. Less than two hours later,
the White House everyone wants to
work for was struggling to explain
its latest empty desk. Gary Cohn,
Trump’s top economic adviser, had
decided to walk away.
There has never been such a
rapid turnover of personnel in a US
administration in modern times,
raising fears of a “brain drain” that
will leave significant jobs unfilled.
“The White House is getting
hollowed out and the number of
people capable of doing things, of
doing real things whether you agree
or disagree ideologically, is getting
smaller and smaller,” said Chuck
Schumer, the Democratic minority
leader in the Senate.
Trump, former host of The
Apprentice, has enjoyed pulling
back the curtain to allow White
House meetings to be televised.
But he also appears to be copying
reality-TV by eliminating a member
of his administration or cabinet
each week, leaving the audience in
suspense: who’s next?
Reports have suggested it could be
HR McMaster, the national security
adviser whose style is said to grate
with Trump, or Rex Tillerson, the
repeatedly marginalised secretary
of state. John Kelly, the chief of
staff once seen as a stabilising force,
has been under pressure over his
handling of allegations of domestic
abuse against his aide Rob Porter.
And Jared Kushner, Trump’s
son-in-law and senior adviser,
looks especially vulnerable after his
security clearance was downgraded
and the Russian collusion
investigation closes in.
This threatens to leave Trump in
ever greater isolation, trusting his
gut on policy rather than a dwindling
band of advisers whom he relishes
setting against each other. “I like
conflict,” he said at a recent press
conference, as the Swedish prime
minister, Stefan Löfven, looked on
with a poker face.
A Democratic strategist, Robert
Shrum, said: “In terms of modern
presidencies, this is the most
untethered we’ve ever seen. We’re
being governed by the president’s
impulses.” Despite a presidential
tweet insisting “There is no Chaos,
only great Energy!”, Shrum added:
“Most major Republicans don’t
want anything to do with the place.
It’s a six months-to-a-year gig.”
About 43% of top White House
positions have turned over since
Trump was inaugurated, according
to Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the
Brookings Institution thinktank in
Washington. Two years into their
In numbers
Turnover of
top White
House roles
since Trump’s
Number of senior
advisers who have
resigned, been
fired or reassigned.
There are 12 in all
terms of office, Barack Obama’s
staff turnover rate was 24% and
George W Bush’s was 33%.
Seven of Trump’s 12 most senior
advisers have resigned, been fired
or reassigned. Porter, the staff
secretary, was forced out after the
domestic abuse allegations against
him became public. The communications director Hope Hicks, labelled
Trump’s “real daughter”, has resigned. Cohn’s departure suggests
there could be a runaway effect.
Only a handful of the old guard are
left. The White House social media
director, Dan Scavino, is the only
aide who has been by the president’s
side since he launched his campaign
in June 2015. Stephen Miller, senior
adviser to the president, and Kellyanne Conway, White House counsellor, who joined in 2016, have both
proved their survival instincts.
But staff will leave and become
increasingly hard to replace. “Are
there people always wanting to
work in the White House and to suck
up to power? Of course there are,”
said Kurt Bardella, a columnist for
HuffPost. “Are they highly qualified
people? Absolutely not.”
Jonathan Freedland, page 19 →
6 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
International news
Votes mean prizes
for weary Russians
Officials look to prop up
Putin’s legitimacy and
experiment with raffles
Andrew Roth Moscow
In the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk,
political activists are raffling a car,
while in the southern Russian city of
Krasnodar, the prize is an iPhone X.
In Berdsk, the best selfie will be plastered across a billboard. The catch? To
qualify for a chance to win, Russians
must turn out to vote.
There is little doubt that Vladimir
Putin will win a fourth term as president in the election this coming
Sunday, making him the first Kremlin leader since Stalin to serve two
decades in power.
But in an uncontested political
field, the Kremlin is worried about
turnout. And with concerns that Putin’s appeal alone may not be enough
to attract voters on 18 March, officials
across the country are experimenting with raffles, competitions and the
occasional referendum – like one in
Volgograd that asks voters whether
they want to change time zones – all
in an effort to ensure Putin wins with
greater support than in 2012.
“I think a good result for Putin
would be him beating his 2012 results,”
said Valery Fyodorov, the head of a
leading state-owned polling agency,
VCIOM, who regularly presents the
results of his polling at the Kremlin.
Sixty-five per cent of voters turned out
in 2012, with 63.6% supporting Putin.
“My understanding is that the administration wants to pull, not push,
Dominant … there is little doubt
that Putin will win a fourth term
people to these elections,” Fyodorov
said. “And that means not using
punishments or threats, but bringing
people out to vote with better messaging and, yes, some selfie contests and
referendums to raise interest.”
The 2018 election may already go
down as one of Russia’s most bizarre
and inert. The president can’t be
bothered to star in his own campaign
adverts; the Communist party’s candidate, Pavel Grudunin, is a millionaire and former member of the ruling
party; some Putin opponents consulted the Kremlin before announcing
their presidential bids; and the most
prominent opposition politician in the
country – Alexei Navalny – has been
barred from running.
At Putin’s first campaign event, at
Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium one Saturday earlier this month, organisers
padded out the crowds with paid attendees. The country’s hockey league
delayed its playoffs so that players
could appear on stage with Putin.
And yet, despite the obvious staging of elements of this campaign, insiders, pollsters, political commentators and opposition members say the
government’s legitimacy is on the line.
“Turnout is a measure of the public’s support,” said Evgeny Roizmann,
mayor of Yekaterinburg, the country’s
third-largest city. A rare public opponent of Putin in Russia’s heartland,
Roizmann has said he will not vote.
The Kremlin must walk a tightrope
in this election: garnering enough
support to confirm its validity, while
avoiding the kinds of strong-arm tactics that prompted widespread antigovernment protests after parliamentary elections in 2011. And to achieve
that, authorities aim to create a “holiday-like atmosphere” on voting day.
Authorities are particularly worried about turnout among young people. A series of anonymously backed
election material has targeted them
on social media, including a YouTube
clip warning that Russia could become
gay-friendly if voters don’t vote.
So far, however, the person who
seemed least enthused by the campaign was Putin himself, who until the
stadium rally this month had barely
altered his routine of visits to factories
and local governments around Russia.
“He is not that interested in the
campaign,” a person close to the
Kremlin said. “He expects his subordinates to make sure that everything
goes smoothly. And if it doesn’t, then
they’ll shoulder the blame.”
Editorial cartoon, page 21 →
Abortion Irish expats urged to return for vote
Up to 40,000 Irish citizens living
abroad are being urged to return
home to cast crucial votes in a
historic referendum in May that
could overturn the country’s ban
on abortion. A campaign, Home to
Vote, is calling on the Irish diaspora
in the UK, Europe, north America
and elsewhere to book flights and
ferries to Ireland to exercise their
democratic right.
Three years ago thousands of
Irish citizens returned home to vote
on same-sex marriage legislation,
boosting the remarkable two-thirds
majority for changing the law. Campaigners now hope to repeat the feat.
More than three-quarters of a million Irish-born people live in other
countries – a significant number set
against the resident population of
4.8 million. Only those who have been
abroad for 18 months or less and intend to return to Ireland are eligible
to vote. Those qualifying must register in advance and vote in person.
The referendum will ask whether
article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution – known as the eighth amendment – should be repealed. This
gives a foetus the same rights to life
as a pregnant woman, and has been
in place since 1983, enshrining in the
constitution a ban on abortion.
If it is overturned in a referendum
expected on 25 May, legislation
giving women an unrestricted right
to abortion up to the 12th week
will be introduced. Since 1983 an
estimated 170,000 Irish women have
travelled to the UK to terminate their
pregnancies, incurring high costs,
logistical difficulties and emotional
strain. In addition, up to 2,000
women a year end pregnancies by
taking the abortion pill, illegally
obtained online. Harriet Sherwood
Photograph: Reuters
Re-elected Le Pen looks to rebrand
Kim Willsher Paris
Marine Le Pen has been re-elected
leader of the Front National and immediately proposed changing the
far-right party’s name to Rassemblement National (National Rally),
saying it must serve as a “rallying cry”
to new voters.
Le Pen said FN had moved from its
roots as a protest group into opposition and was now ready to govern
under a new name.
“I have thought and consulted long
and hard on the name. It must carry
a political message and clearly indicate our political project for France.
It must imperatively include the
word ‘national’,” she told the party’s
conference. “It must be more than a
project; it must be a rallying cry.”
Le Pen announced that party
members would be asked to vote on
the rebranding in the coming weeks.
For a political leader whose
primary objective in recent years has
been to soften FN’s image and shed
its antisemitic, jack-boot image, the
proposed name had unfortunate echoes of the Rassemblement National
Populaire (RNP), an extreme-right
collaborationist group set up by Marcel Déat, a “neo-Socialist, during the
German occupation of France between 1941 and 1944.
The result of the poll of party
members on the name change is not
expected to be known until late April.
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 7
International news
How Boko Haram tricked 110 schoolgirls
Gone … the school where girls
willingly boarded trucks of men
who posed as soldiers there to
save them Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Dapchi pupils taken
by kidnappers in belief
they were being helped
Isaac Abraak Dapchi
Ruth Maclean
Evening was falling and hundreds of
students were preparing to break the
fast observed every Monday at the
girls’ boarding school in the small Nigerian town of Dapchi. Watching them
get ready to eat reminded Usman Mohammed, a school security guard, that
it was time for his evening prayers. It
was a school night like any other. Until
suddenly it wasn’t.
“The food had just been served
when we started hearing gunshots,”
he said. He rushed to see what was
happening. Girls were running in all
directions. He could see men in army
uniforms, carrying weapons. There
were vehicles painted in military
colours, but if you looked closely, you
could see “Allah is great” inscribed in
Arabic on the bonnets. “We immediately knew these weren’t soldiers,”
Mohammed said.
The strangers were trying to round
up the girls. He remembered them
shouting: “Stop, stop! We are not Boko
Haram! We are soldiers, get into our
vehicles. We will save you.”
Habiba Jekana, who suffers from
sickle cell anaemia and had been off
school with a fever, believed them.
She couldn’t walk to the truck, so a
friend lifted her on to her back, carried
her over and hoisted both of them in.
The men were in fact members of
Boko Haram, the violent group that
calls itself Islamic while raping, murdering and kidnapping on a vast scale
in north-east Nigeria.
Some of the Dapchi girls had heard
of the Chibok girls, 276 schoolchildren
abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 to
global condemnation, but they were
not expecting the same to happen
to them. Dapchi is in Yobe, another
badly affected state, but the town
had never been attacked before, and
since Chibok, Nigeria had elected
a new government that repeatedly
claims Boko Haram is beaten and on
the run. Since the 19 February attack,
officials have contradicted each other
about what happened. But the residents of Dapchi know.
Sitting outside the market, local vigilante Mohammadu Mdada
watched as two cars pulled up at
around 6pm. Men with rifles got out,
and asked tricycle taxi drivers to point
out the soldiers, hospital and school.
Duly directed, nine more cars sped
past, fanning out towards the three
targets. A wave of motorcycles followed. Motorcycles have been banned
across the region, and that was how
Mdada knew it was Boko Haram.
At the school, the government
Girls’ Science and Technical College,
Hafsat Abdullahi had just got out of
the bath when she heard shots.
The 18-year-old and her friends assumed it was the school’s dodgy electricity transformer, but then she saw
military men. “They said: ‘Come, let
us help you, we are soldiers,’” she said.
“We thought they were. A lot of students just jumped into their trucks.”
One of those girls, she later discovered, was Fatima, her sister.
A dormitory porter realised what
was happening, Hafsat said. “He was
shouting to us: ‘Don’t get into those
vehicles!’ But the girls just kept jumping in. Then [the porter] turned round
and drove some of us towards the
fence. We jumped over it and headed
into the bush.” Bullets flying around
her ears, Hafsat sprinted from the
school, three schoolmates running
with her. “Allah helped us. None of
the bullets hit us,” she said. Hundreds
of girls hid out in the open that night.
With 110 girls loaded into their
trucks, Boko Haram drove out
through the school gates. They went
back past the vigilantes, who could
do nothing, having only one musket
between them.
“The girls were shouting and
crying: ‘Please help us! Save us,’”
Mdada said. “The BH men had whips
in their hands, flogging the girls.”
While Habiba was being lifted into
the kidnappers’ truck, her father was
roasting meat back at his butcher’s
shop. “I knew it was them and that this
was trouble,” Mainama Jakana said.
He heard gunfire from the school, but
before he could get there he met the
convoy loaded with captives. “I followed one of the trucks,” he said. “I
pleaded with them to let my daughter
go. I said she was a cripple. They told
me to go home.”
Four hours before, the vigilantes
got a call from their friends in Guma,
around 30km away, to say people in
military fatigues were heading their
way. Then they got a call from another
nearby village, Turma. They were too
scared of the police to report it.
In any case, according to villagers,
the district police officer left town that
morning without telling his men. The
military, meanwhile, was conspicuous by its absence. “There was not a
single soldier around, none,” said Mohammed, the school security guard.
Although it is not known which faction of Boko Haram was responsible for
the latest kidnapping, it was doubtless
attracted by the prospect of ransoms
like those paid for the Chibok girls.
The day after the kidnapping, as
girls trickled back from the bush,
their parents and the school started
to work out who had been taken. For
the abducted girls’ families, there is
little to do but wait. “We came home
and started praying day and night.
That how it has been since,” Hafsat
and Fatima’s mother, Jummei, said.
“We implore the world to pray for us.”
Generation of children at grave risk in Syria
Martin Chulov Beirut
A generation of Syrian children face
psychological ruin and ever-increasing danger, with child deaths soaring
by 50% last year and the number of
young soldiers tripling since 2015.
A report by Unicef found 2017 was
the worst yet of the war for young Syrians, with 910 killed in a conflict that
has taken a vastly disproportionate
toll on the most vulnerable people.
The figures undermine claims that
the war, which will soon enter its
eighth year, is losing steam. Those
most at risk face escalating threats of
being permanently maimed by fighting, or emotionally scarred by a litany
of abuses including forced labour,
marriages, food scarcity and minimal
access to health or education.
“There are scars in children and
there are scars on children that
will never be erased,” said Geert
Cappelaere, Unicef’s director for the
Middle East and North Africa. “The
protection of children in all circumstances that was once universally
embraced – at no moment have any
of the parties accepted.”
More than 13 million people inside Syria now need humanitarian
assistance, more than half of whom
are children, the UN says. Of the 6.1
The number of
people internally
displaced in
Syria, roughly
half of whom are
children, according to UN figures
million people internally displaced,
roughly half (2.8 million) are children.
Figures for last year show an average
of 6,550 people were displaced each
day in Syria.
On almost every economic indicator, children in Syria experienced
worse conditions last year than in
2016. The scarcity of food has soared
across the country, with the young
again suffering most for the lack of adequate nutrition. Up to 12% of young
Syrians are considered to be acutely
malnourished, the report says.
8 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
International news
Fusion power to be
‘on grid in 15 years’
Super-magnets key to
MIT project that could
beat climate change
Hannah Devlin
The dream of nuclear fusion is near to
being realised, according to a US initiative that says it will put fusion power
on the grid within 15 years.
A collaboration between scientists
at MIT and a private company intends
to use new high-temperature superconductors that they say will allow
them to create the first fusion reactor
that produces more energy than must
be put in to get a fusion reaction going.
Bob Mumgaard, CEO of the private
company Commonwealth Fusion
Systems, which has attracted $50m in
support from the Italian energy company Eni, said: “The aspiration is to
have a working power plant in time to
combat climate change. We think we
have the science, speed and scale to
put carbon-free fusion power on the
grid in 15 years.”
Fusion’s promise is huge: a zerocarbon, combustion-free source of
energy. But until now every fusion
experiment has operated on an energy deficit, useless for electricity
generation. Decades of disappointment have led to the joke that fusion
is the energy of the future – and always
will be.
The timeframe normally cited is
30 years, but the MIT team believe
that they can halve this by using new
superconducting materials to produce
ultra-powerful magnets, one of the
main components of a fusion reactor.
Fusion works on the concept of
forging lighter elements together to
form heavier ones. When hydrogen
atoms are squeezed hard enough,
they fuse to make helium, liberating
vast amounts of energy in the process.
Energy dream … a visualisation of MIT’s major new experiment to produce
carbon-free fusion power Ken Filar, PSFC Research Affiliate
However, this produces net energy
only at temperatures of hundreds of
millions of degrees Celsius, far too hot
for any solid material to withstand. So
scientists use magnetic fields to stop
the hot plasma – a gaseous soup of
subatomic particles – from contacting the chamber.
A new superconducting material –
a steel tape coated with a compound
called yttrium-barium-copper oxide,
or YBCO – has allowed scientists
to produce smaller, more powerful magnets. This should reduce the
energy needed to get the fusion reaction started. The experimental reactor
is designed to produce about 100MW
of heat. While it will not turn that heat
into electricity, it will produce the
power used by a small city.
Prof Maria Zuber, MIT’s vicepresident for research, said: “If we
succeed, the world’s energy systems
will be transformed.”
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 9
Have your say
Share your views with readers
→ Reply, page 23
International news
Long road to recovery for the ghost
towns evacuated after Fukushima
Japan diary
Daniel Hurst
kuma, on Japan’s east
coast, used to host a
community of 10,500
people. But today the
houses stand empty.
The town is one of the
closest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station
and – seven years after the earthquake and tsunami that triggered a
triple meltdown – it remains under
evacuation orders with decontamination not yet finished.
However, Okuma is not totally
deserted. It is patrolled by Jijii Butai,
or The Old Man Squad, retirees who
keep watch over their former home.
Tsunemitsu Yokoyama, 65,
stands a few metres from a pickup truck, and is one of six retirees
who formed the squad five years
ago, partly to allay the concerns of
homeowners about potential breakins and fires. He says the squad
members are less worried about
radiation exposure than the younger
generation because “we don’t have
many years ahead of us anyway”.
Almost every day, they travel from
their new homes one to two hours
away and conduct volunteer patrols
looking out for damage caused by
wild boars, pick up rubbish that may
have accumulated in the waterways
and clear away fallen trees.
“We belong to the same
generation, we are around the same
age, so we can understand each
other pretty well in terms of sharing
the same goal and also the objective
and hope for this town,” Yokoyama
says of the bond they’ve formed.
In some parts of the town, residents are now allowed to check up on
their homes – but they are not allowed
to stay overnight. It’s clear, however,
that it will be a difficult process to
entice former residents back once
decontamination is completed. Even
Shuyo Shiga, the leader of the Okuma
town recovery project, expects that
the rest of his family will stay away
once the situation has been put back
to relative normality. Shiga’s property
is part of a parcel of land earmarked
to become an interim storage facility
for nuclear waste. In addition, he says
one of his three children suffered
trauma from seeing their neighbours
“swallowed up by the tsunami”.
His children are now in their 20s.
Deserted, not forgotten … exclusion zones remain but the Old Man Squad (below) patrol their former home Getty
“I think a person that has that
kind of difficult experience, it’s
very hard for them to come back to
Okuma,” Shiga says.
“The children said they will not
return … and my wife is talking
about not returning, so I suppose it
will be for me to return to Okuma as
a single person – not with my family,
not with my wife.”
The town is starting its recovery
with modest ambitions. Homes
are being built for the 50 households that have said they want to
return. Eventually, says Shiga, the
town plans to build 100 detached
houses. But this is a fraction of the
pre-disaster population. It tends
to be older residents who want to
return, he adds.
Elsewhere in Fukushima prefecture, the town of Namie is a
stark example of the challenges of
getting a former evacuation zone
back on track. Authorities lifted the
evacuation orders there on 31 March
2017, except for some districts. So far
just 490 people have returned of its
former population of 21,000.
Yohei Aota, an official from
Namie town government, reveals
the figures as he looks out over the
portside district of Ukedo – a lowlying area that was swamped by a
15.5-metre wave. His home was one
of those destroyed.
“Of course looking at the scenery
reminds me of what happened,” he
says from an elevated vantage point
where the local elementary students
successfully escaped the reach of the
tsunami. Now the school building
stands empty and most of the homes
in the area have been demolished.
“There used to about 1,900
people living here [in Namie’s Ukedo
district] but 182 people died unfortunately from the tsunami,” Aota
says. “And actually there are still 30
missing persons – no remains, no
belongings have been found of these
30 missing persons.”
Fukushima authorities are
anxious to say that considerable
progress has been made since May
2012 when the number of evacuees
from across the prefecture peaked at
164,865. That figure has fallen below
50,000. But people are not in a hurry
to move back.
Rieko Watanabe, 65, who evacuated from Namie to Minamisoma,
says everyone has their own reasons
for not going back. She commutes
from Minamisoma to run her business, which serves meals and bento
boxes to residents and workers.
Watanabe says that the people
in Namie are shy about their plans
for the future. “But they often look
around and if they notice a friend
or an acquaintance or a neighbour
returning they might say: ‘Oh
maybe it’s time for me to return as
well and maybe I can do something’.
We are praying every day and we
are working hard every day so that
this trend of people coming back to
Namie would be strengthened and
can be maintained.”
She adds with a determined smile:
“Never give up.”
10 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
International news
‘It’s the youngsters who like them most’
← Continued from page 1
Lima Flavoured sticks
Dotted across Lima, the capital of
Peru, the Guardian found colourfully
marketed flavoured cigarettes being
openly advertised in corner shops
often a stone’s throw from schools.
Romina Castro said she was tempted
by them to start smoking when she
was 17. She liked the mint and lemon
flavoured combination offered in a
range of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
“They don’t have the bitter flavour
of normal cigarettes,” the 21-year-old
university student said. “They just
taste nicer.”
Sold in packs of 10 or 20, the Lucky
Strike cigarettes come in nine different
flavours including mint, lemon, berry,
grape or cinnamon and, more recently, feature flavour combinations.
In another corner shop, the Guardian saw cigarette packets stacked
among the sweets and snacks in a
glass-fronted counter, at the eye level
of a small child.
Closer inspection showed open
packets with some cigarettes missing. A likely indication – along with
the lighter hanging on a piece of string
by the door – that cigarettes were being sold individually, which is not only
against Peruvian law but seen as a ploy
to encourage premature smoking.
BAT Peru said it strongly opposed
the sale of single cigarettes and said
it was unfortunate the practice happened. The firm denied flavoured
products attracted young smokers. A
spokesperson said: “On the contrary,
the flavours only seek to deliver a
different smoking experience to [well
informed] adult smokers.”
Delhi Laws f louted
India has laws against the advertising and sale of cigarettes within 100
metres of schools, but in Delhi it
appears to be flouted in many places.
The day the Guardian visits, there
is a tiny tobacco kiosk in Mayur Vihar
less than 100 metres from Ahlcon
International School in New Delhi.
The vendor stocks cigarettes and tiny
sachets of a chewable tobacco popular
throughout India.
Asked if he knows that the law
prohibits him from selling his products within 100 metres of any school,
the vendor replies: “No, I don’t know
about that law but I do know that you
shouldn’t sell tobacco to children.
“No one wants children to get the
habit so I refuse if any young person
comes to me.”
Nearby is ASN senior secondary
school where two tobacco stands are
situated directly opposite the main
A young boy smokes at a kiosk in
Yogyakarta, Indonesia after a day
at elementary school Getty
The tactics used
1. Cigarettes or
promotions close to
sweets, fizzy drinks
or stationery, and
often at the eye level
of children
Jakarta Free cartons
2. Colourful branding
or 'power walls' of
products near
cashiers, and digital
screens showing
cigarette ads
3. Banner advertising
with names of
cigarette brands
sometimes bigger
than the shop name
4. Flavoured
cigarettes on sale –
like mint, lemon,
berry or grape, plus
5. Single sticks for
sale – which
campaigners say
are more affordable
to children
gates, on the other side of the road.
Wedged between a fresh fruit stall, a
fruit juice stand, and food and flower
stalls, they look normal and innocuous to the schoolchildren who pass
the shops . The kiosks themselves
stock sweets, lollipops and chewing
gum alongside the tobacco products.
A cigarette costs 10 rupees (15 cents).
In theory, India has stringent antitobacco measures in place. In 2003,
the country passed a law banning
tobacco companies from advertising
at shops and banning the sale of tobacco and cigarettes near educational
institutions throughout India. But
anti-tobacco activists, campaigning
to ensure that young Indians do not
start smoking and become addicted,
have found the law being flouted in
numerous places in the city.
The Delhi high court is examining a
petition filed by activists demanding
that the authorities enforce the ban,
but such court cases can take many
years to reach any conclusion.
Dr Suresh Kumar Arora, the chief
tobacco control officer, said enforcement is not easy. “Children are immature, they are influenced by peer
pressure and they like to experiment
and so they are the target of tobacco
companies who know they can be
their future customers,” he said.
The tobacco companies respond
PMI said it complies with relevant
regulations. “Preventing children
from smoking is of the highest
priority and we take very seriously
our responsibility to ensure that
we do not market to children anywhere in the world … [our guidelines] strictly preclude the use of
materials deemed attractive to
minors,” a spokesperson said.
BAT said: “Under-age smokers
are not, and will never be, our
target audience, anywhere in the
world … products and marketing
should never appeal to, or engage
under-age smokers. Across the
world, we have very strict rules
to ensure we do not have outdoor
advertising within 100 metres of
a school.”
Imperial Brands said it sold
products responsibly: “our product
and brand communications are
not aimed at, or made appealing
to, people under the age of 18 or
non-smokers, and that we operate
in accordance with local laws”.
Japan Tobacco and Imperial
did not respond to a request
for comment.
The view from the turquoise entrance
gates of SDN Ciater 4 primary school
in Serpong, on the outskirts of the
Indonesian capital, is a string of
roadside stalls littered with tobacco
ads. One features a picture of a sleek
red race car with smoking tyres that
reads: “Test your limits, go international.” It’s for a local clove brand,
Gudang Garam.
The adjacent banner, a plainer
design with a single calligraphy style
‘A’, from the local Sampoerna brand,
now owned by Philip Morris, merely
advertises its low price: 20,000 rupiah
[$1.45] per pack.
“That?” said the stall owner, of the
Sampoerna banner hanging outside
her stall, which sells sweets alongside
tobacco. “Someone from the cigarette
company gave it to me. They gave me
a carton of free cigarettes too.”
Representatives from tobacco
companies visit her stall about once
every three months, she said, offering
fresh new signs for free.
The tobacco industry is big business in Indonesia. It has created some
of the country’s richest men and contributes $10.5bn in taxes each year.
Tobacco advertising is everywhere
– at roadside stalls, on billboards and
music concerts, late night on TV, and
at sporting events. Jakarta has banned
advertising on billboards around
schools. Banners have instead been
tacked to stalls, fences and trees.
“There’s no monitoring, regulation
or tax, and you can put up a lot,” said
Lisda Sundari, from Yayasan Lentera
Anak, an NGO focused on protecting
Asked about the Sampoerna banner, Philip Morris International said
it was committed to complying with
regulations in each market it operates and for Sampoerna this meant
“making every effort not to place
any cigarette advertisements (shop
signboards, billboards, and banners)
inside or within 100 meters of educational facilities”.
“Given the large number of retailers throughout Indonesia, mistakes
can happen; however, we strive to
make every effort to ensure that our
communications are only directed at
adult smokers.”
It said the banners close to SDN
Ciater 4 school had now been taken
down. Indonesia manufacturers
Gudang Garam and Djarum did not
respond to requests for comment.
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 11
International news
Arrival of the ‘love hotel’ divides India
One short-stay company
has made $3m but there
is still outraged hostility
Michael Safi Delhi
Police swept through Mumbai hotels
at about 3pm, going room to room, arresting more than 40 unmarried couples. All were charged. The college
students were forced to call their parents and admit what they had done.
Their crime was “indecent behaviour in public”, the police said. For
couples without marriage certificates
in India – especially those of different
faiths – spending time in a hotel room
together can still be a struggle.
But where many Indians see immorality, others in the country’s digital startup industry see opportunity.
“We have a guaranteed promise,” says
hotel entrepreneur Blajoj “Blaze”
Arizanov. “No knocks on the door, no
weird stares, no questions asked.”
For nearly three years Arizanov,
a Macedonian, and his Indian
co-founder, Sanchit Sethi, have been
pursuing an unlikely goal: to bring a
version of Japan’s short-stay “love
hotels”, designed for urgent amorous
encounters, to India.
StayUncle, their company, added
its 800th hotel partner in February
and clocked up $3m in total sales.
The startup is helping to drive a more
couple-friendly attitude across the
Indian hotel industry, even if society
is still catching up.
StayUncle started in 2015 as a hotel aggregator, selling half-day stays
aimed at business people seeking a
nap or somewhere to freshen up. But
sales were slow. In the meantime, the
website was being inundated with
couples seeking privacy. “We got to
know they were coming to us because
they couldn’t book a hotel with local
IDs,” Arizanov says. “It was a tragic
thing, but maybe the opportunity we
had been scouting for all this time.”
Winning over hotels was the hardest step. Eight out of 10 dismissed
the idea outright. Asking them to
shed their old-fashioned ideas rarely
worked. What did, however, was an
Amorous encounter … a couple
exchange confidences in a suburb of
Mumbai NK Sareen/Alamy
appeal to the hip pocket – and the
rapid growth of Airbnb. “We told
them, you can choose to be conservative, or you can open your eyes to the
opportunity,” Arizanov says. “There
are thousands of young people with
well-earning jobs and lots of free
money who want to have fun. And if
you reject them Airbnb will take your
piece of the pie.” Most hotels were
satisfied when money started flowing.
Many now approach StayUncle asking to be listed. But Arizanov says he
“mercilessly” cuts at least 10 a month
for being insufficiently discreet.
Other hotels asked to be taken off
the website after seeing StayUncle’s
provocative marketing. When the
company posted a picture on Facebook of two Hindu deities checking
into a room, it got death threats. When
Arizanov insisted on calling the website’s blog Naughty Sita, after another
Hindu god, staff threatened to quit.
(It was retitled Naughty Bharat, or
Naughty India, last month.)
StayUncle’s greatest threat may be
competition. India’s largest network
of budget accommodation, Oyo, recently introduced a “relationship
mode”, listing hotels that have agreed
not to hassle unmarried couples.
12 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
The war over US steel: Trump
tips world trade into turmoil
EU voices concerns over
tariffs and spiral of
economic retaliation
Phillip Inman
Blast furnace B will fire up later this
year in Granite City, Illinois, giving up
to 500 steel workers a job and offering
Donald Trump a fitting emblem for his
campaign to put America first.
Mothballed for several years by US
Steel, the blast furnace will smelt iron
made newly competitive by Trump’s
decision to slap a 25% tariff on steel
imports and 10% on aluminium,
including from the UK and Europe.
Within hours of the president first
propounding his protectionist move,
the European commission hit back
with the threat of its own measures:
extra tariffs on everything from orange
juice to Harley-Davidson motorbikes.
Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s trade
commissioner, said she wanted to
avoid a tit-for-tat battle that could
turn into a full-blown trade war. “A
trade war has no winners. If it does
not happen, all the better – then we
can work with our American friends
and other allies on the core issue of
this problem: overcapacity,” she said.
When he signed the presidential
order last Thursday, Trump made it
clear Mexico and Canada would be
excluded from the plan. Australia
last weekend also secured an exemption and and it was suggested “other
countries” might also be spared.
However, a trade war now looks inevitable because Europe appeared to
remain firmly in his sights when he
added that any retaliation by the EU
would be met with a tariff on European car imports.
History’s biggest
For steel and aluminium read wool.
For the US and China read England
and the Low Countries. For Donald
Trump read Edward III. There
is nothing new about the use of
protectionism as a policy tool.
England in the 14th century
was in a similar position to a
“We’re going to be very fair, we’re
going to be very flexible but we’re
going to protect the American worker
as I said I would do in my campaign,”
said the president. “A strong steel
and aluminium industry are vital
to our national security,” he added.
“Steel is steel. If you don’t have steel
you don’t have a country.”
Raoul Leering, head of international
trade research at ING, said: “This is a
dangerous development, even though
the damage in the short term from
steel and aluminium tariffs is limited. We have a president that doesn’t
subscribe to the benefits of trade.”
US presidents have adopted trade
tariffs before in their frustration at
US steel imports
% of total
South Korea
Source: ING
US aluminium imports
% of total
Source: ING
poor developing country today. It
produced a lot of a staple commodity – wool – which it exported across
the Channel to be turned into cloth
by Flemish weavers.
Edward wanted a slice of this
lucrative business so he imposed
controls on wool exports – thus
depriving the Low Countries of the
raw materials they needed – and
imposed a ban on imports of cloth.
This was merely the start of five
centuries of protectionism that
ended only in 1860 when – with Britain’s manufacturers dominating the
what they see as “dumping” by statesubsidised foreign competition. In
2002 George W Bush said he would
impose 30% tariffs on steel products,
using the pretext, like Trump, that the
US’s national security was threatened
by the decline of its steel industry.
European leaders appealed to the
World Trade Organi zation (WTO),
which arbitrates in trade disputes,
and won. Bush went ahead anyway,
provoking Brussels to select a string
of tariffs on goods made in congressional swing seats. It was said at the
time that the threat of an import tax
on Florida oranges brought the state’s
governor, Jeb Bush, into conflict with
his brother, the president. Within
weeks, the tariffs were abandoned.
If the impact on employment figures from effectively raising the cost of
steel was uppermost in Trump’s mind,
analysts say he would have considered
the potential net loss of jobs in the car
industry, the aviation industry and the
countless other manufacturers that
depend on cheap steel as a raw material. These companies are expected to
pass on the extra cost to their customers and suffer the usual consequences
– lower demand and a profit squeeze.
“There is a cost to the domestic
economy from protectionist measures,” said Ben May, head of global
research at consultancy Oxford Economics. “A tariff that pushes up the
price of imported steel in the US will
have a negative impact on carmakers
and every industry that uses steel.
In the rest of the world, it will create
oversupply and reduce the cost.”
Most analysts argue that Trump is
ignoring economic realities to make
gestures to his voter base of blue-collar, disenfranchised workers before
midterm elections in November.
Tr ump’s economic adv iser,
Gary Cohn, resigned after failing to
world – tariffs were finally scrapped.
In the intervening period, Henry VII
and Elizabeth I took further steps to
nurture the textile sector, and the
Navigation Acts ensured that colonies could trade only with Britain.
Protectionism worked for Britain.
It put Flemish and Indian textile
producers out of business and held
back the growth of industry in the
American colonies, which, as far as
London was concerned, were there
to provide the commodities that
Britain would turn into goods. This
approach was summed up by Pitt
Fired up … analysts say Trump is
ignoring economic reality to make
gestures to blue-collar workers EPA
persuade the president to drop his
plan. Republican leaders, many on the
libertarian and free-market wing of
the party, have picked up the baton to
argue that tariffs are a crude tool that
will backfire on US businesses. Vicepresident Mike Pence and Treasury
secretary Steve Mnuchin are known
to have voiced misgivings in private.
However, Trump has pressed ahead
with the support of prominent Democrat senators, steel union representatives, commerce secretary Wilbur
Ross, and two advisers: economist
Peter Navarro and trade representative Robert Lighthizer.
Lighthizer and Navarro have persuaded Trump that China poses an
existential threat to the American
the Elder, who said in 1770 that the
colonies should “not be permitted
to manufacture so much as a
horseshoe nail”.
Once free of British rule,
the United States took
a rather different view.
In 1791, the country’s
first Treasury secretary,
Alexander Hamilton,
pictured, produced a report
for Congress that made
the case for supporting
America’s “infant
industries” against
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 13
US moves to
relax rules
on banks
Lauren Gambino Washington
and agencies
economy and that the US is the victim
of unfair free trade agreements, including the North American Free
Trade Agreement. Navarro believes
that closing the US trade deficit by restricting imports will help the economy grow. His critics point out that
lower imports make no difference to
GDP, which measures the production
of US goods and services. By contrast,
a rise in exports propels GDP higher.
Economists and much of the Republican party subscribe to the idea
that openness to trade makes US companies more efficient, and when they
cannot compete, they should shift
their efforts to making something
with a comparative advantage. That
said, figures from credit insurer Euler
Hermes show 467 new protectionist
measures were implemented worldwide in 2017, led by the US with 90
new measures that included import
duties on foreign-made solar panels
and washing machines.
The UK is one of the top 10 economies for those introducing protectionist measures over the past four years
– though this mostly involves subsidising UK businesses rather than punishing foreign rivals. Germany and Switzerland are ranked fourth and sixth
worldwide for the same reason – using
trade finance and other subsidies to
promote domestic firms against rivals.
Those figures suggest that Trump’s
claim of state-subsidised foreign firms
abusing free trade has some validity.
The WTO should be the forum to settle
these disputes, but Trump thinks the
WTO is rigged against the US.
When it rules that his tariffs are
illegal under WTO rules – as it surely
will – the president will say this
justifies his view. And then the trade
war will escalate.
foreign competition. Hamilton
was not just the founder of US
protectionism: he proposed the
first modern industrial strategy.
Learning from Britain, he called for
tariffs, bans on imports and curbs on
exports of strategically important
raw materials. But he also wanted
patent protection for inventions,
product regulation and investment
in infrastructure.
In the last decade of the 18th
century, the US was not ready for
this radical blueprint. But over the
next 100 years, protectionism was
ratcheted up. In the second half of
the 19th century, when America
was industrialising rapidly, tariffs
on manufactured imports stood at
40-50%, higher than anywhere else
in the world.
By the end of the second world
war the US had achieved, like
Britain before it, global economic
dominance. This necessitated a
change of strategy in favour of
liberalising global markets so that
US producers could take advantage
of being more efficient than rivals.
Larry Elliott Observer
Congress has forgotten the “devastating impact of the financial crisis”, Senator Elizabeth Warren said last week
as Republicans moved closer to relaxing banking regulations implemented
after the financial crash of 2008.
A vote of 67-32, with support
from a coalition of moderate Democrats, a number of whom are facing
tough midterm elections, allowed
the Senate to begin debating a bill
that would scale back some of the
2010 laws, known as Dodd-Frank,
meant to prevent future abuses in the
financial system.
The Senate was expected to pass
the bill this week following the strong
bipartisan vote. Lawmakers in the
Republican-led House would still
need to approve the measure before
it becomes law.
Republican leaders said the bill
would boost small banks and businesses. Senior Democrats said it was
an attempt to deregulate big banks
that caused the 2008 crash, inviting
similar disaster.
“This bill seeks to right-size the
regulatory system in our country and
to allow our community banks and
credit unions to flourish,” said senator Mike Crapo, chair of the Senate
banking committee and the author of
the legislation.
The legislation would increase the
threshold at which banks are subject
to stricter capital and planning
requirements. Lawmakers are intent
on easing those rules for midsize and
large regional banks, asserting that
such a move would boost lending and
the economy.
Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who worked with the Obama
administration on banking industry
oversight after the 2008 crash,
pledged to fight the bill, even if she
faced long odds. “There’s Democratic
and Republican support because the
lobbyists have been pushing since
the first day Dodd-Frank passed to
weaken the regulations on these giant
banks,” she said.
She added: “People in this building
may forget the devastating impact of
the financial crisis 10 years ago – but
the American people have not forgotten. The American people remember.
The millions of people who lost their
homes; the millions of people who
lost their jobs … they remember and
they do not want to turn lose the big
banks again.”
Finance in brief
More online
Latest business news and analysis
• The US added 313,000
new jobs in February – the
strongest gain since July 2016
– as the unemployment rate
remained steady at 4.1%. The
figures from the Labor Department smashed the 200,000
forecast from economists. But
the recovery in wages, which
sparked a sell-off on global
stock markets, stalled again
last month. In February, average hourly earnings rose just
0.1% a month earlier, below
economists’ projections of
0.2% and January’s 0.3% rise.
The US jobs market has now
added an average of 242,000
jobs each month over the past
three months. But the still
slow growth in wages implies
that while people who were
on the margins are returning
to work, the jobs being
created are still lower wage.
• House prices in parts of
London that were once at the
epicentre of the UK property
boom have fallen as much as
15% over the past year in fresh
evidence of the impact of the
EU referendum. Figures from
Your Move, one of the UK’s
biggest estate agency chains,
reveal that the average home
in Wandsworth fell by more
than £100,000 ($140,000) in
value over the last 12 months.
• There are almost four times
more men than women in
Britain’s highest-paid posts,
according to “scandalous”
figures that show the extent
of the glass ceiling blocking
women from top jobs.
Government data reveals the
huge disparity in the number
of men and women with a
six-figure income. There were
681,000 men earning £100,000
or more in 2015-16, according
to HM Revenue & Customs. It
compares with only 179,000
women. The latest figures
show that 17,000 men earned
£1m ($1.4m) in 2015-16, while
only 2,000 women did so.
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Hong Kong
New Zealand
12 Mar
5 Mar
14 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
UK news Salisbury poisoning
A brutal calling card brings
terror to a cathedral city
Real-life spy drama that
began on a town bench
sparks a national outcry
Luke Harding
It is probably Salisbury’s ugliest corner, tucked away from the cathedral
and market square. In the afternoon
of Sunday 4 March, a few people were
milling around the redbrick Maltings
shopping centre. It has a bakery, a
pharmacy and a bargain greetings
card shop called G&T’s. Plus a bench.
It was here passers-by noticed
something odd: a grey-haired man in
his 60s, slumped and unresponsive.
Next to him was a woman in her 30s.
Both were comatose. Police arrived
at 4.15pm, saw it was a medical emergency and summoned backup. An air
ambulance landed in the central car
park. At 5.10pm it took off, ferrying the
woman to Salisbury district hospital.
The man went by ambulance.
At first, the case seemed routine.
Officers sealed off the spot – close to
the river Avon, swollen by melting
snow. They began collecting evidence.
Journalists from the Salisbury Journal
arrived at 5.43pm. It soon became evident this was no minor news item. The
officers and paramedics who had gone
to the bench reported itchy eyes and
breathing difficulties. Meanwhile, the
victims were in a critical condition in
intensive care.
The patients, police discovered,
were Sergei Skripal, 66, and his
daughter Yulia, 33, who was visiting
from Moscow. Skripal was a former
officer from Russia’s GRU military intelligence who, in 1995, began secretly
working for MI6. He was arrested in
2004, convicted of treason and sent
to a penal colony in Mordovia. Then
in 2010 Skripal got out, less than halfway through a 13-year sentence. The
FBI had captured a group of Russian
sleeper agents in the US. In a scene
full of cold war atmospherics, Skripal
was swapped on the tarmac of Vienna
airport. The sleepers went home to
Moscow. Skripal’s destination was
Salisbury in south-west England.
Skripal and his wife Liudmila
settled in an inconspicuous semidetached house, bought in 2011 without a mortgage. He made little effort
to hide. True, the KGB and its successor, the FSB – at one point headed by
Vladimir Putin – took an unforgiving
view of traitors. But Skripal admitted
his crime and received an official pardon. He was, logic suggested, safe.
By last Monday, the horror hit.
Scientists at the nearby government
laboratory in Porton Down confirmed
what hospital staff must have suspected: the Skripals were attacked
with Novichok, a rare nerve agent.
Typically, such substances paralyse
the nervous system, inhibit breathing and bring a rapid, choking death.
As counter-terrorism police took
charge, Scotland Yard began with
the thesis that someone had tried to
kill the Skripals.
Detectives started to examine CCTV
cameras. The Skripals had arrived in
the city centre at lunchtime. They ate
salmon risotto at Zizzi’s restaurant and
dropped into the Mill public house.
To get to the bench area, they would
have had to walk through a 100m tunnel, past a camera. The Metropolitan
police’s assistant chief commissioner,
Mark Rowley, confirmed that the police
were dealing with attempted murder.
How was the poison deployed? Had
an assassin or assassins shadowed the
Skripals? Could the agent have been
remotely triggered? Did Skripal’s business activities in England hold clues?
It was not difficult to guess which
country would have the motive, the
means and arrogance to carry out
an assassination on British soil. The
idea that a death squad might roam
Salisbury’s streets seemed fantastical. Except Putin had sent one before.
Britain believes that in 2006 two
FSB-hired assassins, Andrei Lugovoi
and Dmitry Kovtun, poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with a radioactive cup
of tea. Litvinenko, an FSB officer who
became a Putin critic, died in agony 23
days later. As home secretary, Theresa
May refused his widow Marina a public inquiry. It eventually went ahead,
concluding in 2016 that Putin had
“probably approved” the hit.
Former intelligence professionals
were in no doubt Russia had struck
again. Asked if the Skripal case was
Litvinenko II, one said: “Yes indeed.”
Another cited the “fuck you-ness” of
the attack, done with no regard for
who else might be poisoned or killed.
Choosing nerve agent as a weapon
was telling: it is the prerogative of
states – and whoever used it knew it
would be discovered. It was, therefore, a form of brutal calling card.
On guard ... the scene of the possible
murder attempt on Sergei Skripal
and his daughter Yulia, both
pictured left Finbarr Webster/Rex
In Moscow, officials rubbished the
idea of a Russian plot. Their denials
were identical to those after Litvinenko’s murder, done with a bit of a wink.
If Kremlin involvement hardens into
fact, the government has few retaliatory options. Prince William will not
attend this summer’s World Cup in
Russia, but that will not upset the FSB,
with one insider likening it to “hitting
Putin with damp kitchen roll”.
If the case against Russia is proved, why not charge Putin with
Simon Tisdall
The attempted murder of Sergei
Skripal has shed uncomfortable light
on Britain’s vulnerability to foreign
threats against its sovereignty, security, citizens’ safety and laws.
The brazen nature and public
execution of the plot is disturbing
for many reasons. It suggests
respect for Britain, its values and its
law enforcement capabilities is so
diminished that it is seen as an easy
venue for score-settling. Or was the
plot intended, at least in part, to
discredit and humiliate the British
government? A handful of countries
might have cause to do that. But only
one or two possess the rare nerve
agent, the sheer malice and ruthless
audacity evident in this case.
In 1850 Lord Palmerston, then
foreign secretary, enunciated the
principle of universal protection for
British citizens everywhere. Nowadays not only is Britain incapable of
protecting its citizens abroad – just
look at the shameful case of Nazanin
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, unjustly jailed in
Tehran – it also struggles to protect
British citizens on home soil, including foreign nationals taking refuge
here. One cause of vulnerability is
the perception that Britain is little
more than a US satrapy. Even so,
don’t look for help from Donald
Trump. In dealing with modern-day
authoritarian regimes, Britain is at an
even greater disadvantage. At least
the US broadly shares its democratic
values. Chinese and Russian leaders
suffer no such constraints. Xi Jinping has been consecrated de facto
president for life. Vladimir Putin, in
effect, already holds that position
in Russia. Such unchecked power
affords enormous freedom of action
that British politicians lack.
Past British bluster and prevarication weaken this country’s hand.
After Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian defector, was murdered in
London in 2006, politicians such as
Theresa May, then home secretary,
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 15
Sowing the seeds of discord
Solidarity needed to stand up to Putin
→ Leader comment, page 22
The poisoning sent shockwaves
through the small community of
Russian defectors living in the UK.
One, who declined to be named, said
Skripal’s poisoning meant there was
now less likelihood Moscow would
go after him in the near future. He
thought Skripal would never have
been targeted if the British government had reacted more forcefully
when Litvinenko was killed.
For Salisbury, the days sice the attack have been like something from a
spy drama. A day or so after the poisoning, market traders turned up as normal 100 metres from the bench square.
Then forensic officers piled into Skripal’s house, sealing off the road. Tents
blocked neighbours’ view. Similar
coverings appeared over the graves of
Skripal’s wife and son, Alexander, in
Salisbury cemetery. She died in 2012 of
cancer; he died last year in St Petersburg, aged 43. It is not clear how.
One theory is that Yulia flew to the
UK from Moscow to mark the first
anniversary of her brother’s death.
There are flowers and the model of
a small St Bernard dog on the grave.
Whatever the cause, there is no doubt
that in recent years Sergei Skripal has
suffered multiple misfortunes.
By last Thursday, the mood had
turned military. Firefighters in green
protective suits and wellingtons
went back to the bench. The reason?
Their incident tent had blown over.
At another new crime scene, a vehicle recovery pound, officers donned
biohazard suits. Last Friday 180
Royal Marines and air force personnel arrived to help remove evidence.
Like the story of Litvinenko – which
took a decade to puzzle out – the Skripal case looks set to become a major,
long-lasting criminal inquiry. It has
diplomatic dimensions and intelligence implications. Should MI6 have
done more to protect Skripal? Can it
guarantee other defectors’ safety?
After Litvinenko, shouldn’t the
agencies have seen this coming?
Neighbours say Skripal used to
meet a slightly younger man at the
Côte Brasserie in Salisbury, in the
same area as Zizzi. Skripal’s dining
companion spoke Russian. There is
speculation that the person was Skripal’s former MI6 handler, settled locally after a long career specialising in
Russia and eastern Europe.
The message emanating from
Moscow seems clear. It goes like this:
we can strike whenever and wherever
we want. And there is little you can
do about it.
attempted murder?
failed forcefully to pursue the statesponsored Russian perpetrators. The
people who attacked Skripal may
calculate that, as with Litvinenko,
Britain will feebly shy away from
open confrontation.
May says that, if Russia is proved
culpable in Salisbury, “full-spectrum” counter-measures will be
applied. But she is badly short of
ammo. Diplomatic expulsions are
a two-edged sword. Sanctions are
already being applied, related to
Ukraine, without much effect.
Further action of that kind can
only happen via the EU. To pretend
that bad feeling caused by Brexit
will have no impact on future European cooperation in such cases is
delusional. May could appeal to the
UN, but would face a Russian veto.
Targeting financial dealings, including alleged money laundering,
might be a more promising avenue.
But if the Kremlin really is to blame
for this latest outrage, the best response is the simplest: charge Putin
with attempted murder. Observer
‘Highly likely’ Moscow was
behind attack, says May
Guardian reporters
Theresa May has ordered Vladimir
Putin’s administration to explain how
a former spy was poisoned in Salisbury,
or else she would conclude it was an
“unlawful use of force” by the Russian
state against the UK.
After chairing a meeting of the
national security council on Monday,
the prime minister told MPs that it
was “highly likely” that Russia was
responsible for the attack on Sergei
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. She
warned that Britain would not tolerate such a “brazen attempt to murder
innocent civilians on our soil”.
In a statement to the House of
Commons that triggered an angry
response from Moscow, May said the
evidence had shown that Skripal had
been targeted by a “military-grade
nerve agent of a type developed by
Russia”. Describing the incident as
an “indiscriminate and reckless act”,
she said that the foreign secretary,
Boris Johnson, had summoned the
Russian ambassador to Whitehall and
demanded an explanation.
Russian officials hit back, with
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman
for the Russian foreign minister, calling the remarks “a provocation” and
describing the event as a “circus show
in the British parliament”.
Andrei Lugovoi, a Russian member
of parliament who stands accused
of the 2006 murder of the former
Russian agent, Alexander Litvinenko,
said May’s decision to point the finger at Moscow so quickly was “at a
minimum irresponsible”.
Ministers on the national security
council were told that the nerve agent
used was from a family of substances
known as Novichok. “Based on the
positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at
Porton Down, our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent
and would still be capable of doing so,
Russia’s record of conducting statesponsored assassinations, and our
assessment that Russia views some
defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against
Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” she said.
The prime minister said that left
just two plausible explanations:
“Either this was a direct act by the
Russian state against our country, or
the Russian government lost control
of this potentially catastrophically
damaging nerve agent and allowed it
to get into the hands of others.”
The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, went further, saying the nerve
agent attack “clearly came from Russia” and would have consequences.
He told journalists travelling with him
in Africa that the Novichok agent was
“only in the hands of a very, very limited number of parties” and said it was
“almost beyond comprehension” that
a state actor would use such a dangerous substance in a public place.
May said the government would
consider Russia’s response this week.
She promised to return to the house
with a full range of retaliatory measures. Her tough statement means that
a major diplomatic row is looming
between Moscow and London, with
expulsions on both sides highly likely.
The prime minister won strong
support for her position from
international allies . Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said:
“ The use of any nerve agent is horrendous and completely unacceptable. The UK is a highly valued ally,
and this incident is of great concern
to Nato. Nato is in touch with the UK
authorities on this issue.”
Novichok: the USSR’s classified chemistry
Novichok refers to a group of nerve
agents that were developed by the
Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s
to elude international restrictions
on chemical weapons. The most
potent of the Novichok substances
are considered to be more lethal
than VX, the most deadly of the familiar nerve agents, which include
sarin. And while the Novichok
agents work in a similar way, by
massively overstimulating muscles
and glands, one chemical weapons
expert said that the agents do not
degrade fast in the environment
and have “an additional toxicity”.
“That extra toxicity is not well
understood, so I understand why
people were asked to wash their
clothes, even if it was present only
in traces,” he said.
The chemical structures of
Novichok agents were made public
in 2008 by Vil Mirzayanov, a former
Russian scientist living in the US,
but the structures have never been
publicly confirmed.
The fact that so little is known
about them may explain why
Porton Down scientists took several
days to identify the compound
used in Salisbury. Ian Sample
16 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
UK news
UK-Saudi deal called ‘national disgrace’
Britain closer to Typhoon
fighter jet deal with Riyadh
Joint aid plan for poorest
nations overshadowed
by rage at Yemen ordeal
An aid deal between the UK and Saudi
Arabia announced last Friday has
been branded a “national disgrace”.
Amid further outcry over Britain’s relations with the Gulf state, ministers
signed the £100m ($138m) agreement
with Riyadh to coincide with Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
to London last week.
The government described the deal
as a “new long-term partnership” to
improve livelihoods and boost economic development in some of the
world’s poorest countries. But the
accord was greeted with fury by opposition MPs and the aid sector, with
grave concerns expressed about Saudi
Arabia’s role in the Yemen conflict.
Kate Osamor, shadow international development secretary, said
the agreement “made a mockery” of
Britain’s reputation as a global leader
in delivering humanitarian aid.
“Theresa May implied she would
lobby Mohammed bin Salman to stop
bombing civilians and end the use of
starvation as a weapon of war,” said
Osamor. “Over 22 million Yemeni lives
depend on permanent, full access for
aid, food and fuel in Yemen. Instead,
she has won no concessions and simply handed on a plate to Saudi Arabia
a new humanitarian partnership and
an endorsement from DfID [the Department for International Development], the world’s best aid agency. It
will whitewash Saudi Arabia’s reputation and role in the war, and it is a
national disgrace.”
The partnership, pooling the development expertise of both countries,
Will Oliver/EPA
Karen McVeigh
Hannah Summers
Deal maker … Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Downing Street
is the first of its kind between Britain
and the Saudi Fund for Development.
The aim, said DfID, would be to create
vital infrastructure in drought- and
conflict-stricken countries.
Penny Mordaunt, the international
development secretary, said: “We are
sharing the best of British expertise,
and our collective efforts will help
create jobs and livelihoods to support
the poorest people to stand on their
own two feet. This in turn will help to
boost global prosperity, which is in all
of our interests.”
Mordaunt had previously said
Saudi Arabia had no excuse for blocking aid to Yemen, warning that the
use of starvation as a weapon was
in breach of humanitarian law, but a
DfID statement on the deal said the
UK was “encouraged by the easing
of restrictions into Yemen”. However, critics argue that the Saudi-led
coalition is only permitting goods
through ports on a month-by-month
basis, dramatically limiting the efforts
of NGOs, traders and shipping agents
to get supplies into Yemen.
Allan Hogarth, head of policy and
government affairs at Amnesty International UK, said: “At a time when
the UK is arming a Saudi-led military
coalition that’s laying waste to homes,
hospitals and schools in Yemen, this
raises troubling questions.”
Downing Street defended Bin
Salman’s visit, saying trade deals
worth £65bn had been agreed. Bin
Salman’s three-day charm offensive
included talks with May and the
archbishop of Canterbury, and an
audience with the Queen.
Britain’s biggest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, has moved towards completing an order worth
billions from Saudi Arabia for 48
Typhoon fighter jets.
The announcement came at the
end of the visit to the UK last week
by Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman. Although it could help
save jobs, the proposed contract
was denounced by arms campaigners concerned about Saudi Arabia’s
bombing of Yemen.
The UK signed a memorandum
of intent with the Saudis. The BAE
chief executive, Charles Woodburn, described the news as “a
positive step towards agreeing a
contract for our valued partner, the
kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We are
committed to supporting the kingdom as it modernises the Saudi
armed forces.”
Typhoon sales have been slowing and BAE announced 1,400 job
cuts in October. The prospect of a
Saudi deal is a boost, coming on top
of a £5bn ($6.9bn) order from Qatar
for 24 Typhoons. Arms sales to
Saudi Arabia have been dogged by
scandal since allegations of illicit
payments to land the al-Yamamah
contract – Britain’s biggest arms
deal, worth £43bn – surfaced soon
after it was sealed in 1985. Both the
Serious Fraud Office and the US
justice department investigated.
Andrew Smith, of the Campaign
Against Arms Trade, said that since
the bombing of Yemen began in
2015 the UK had licensed arms
worth £4.6bn to Saudi Arabia, even
before the latest “shameful” deal.
BAE Systems says it employs
about 5,000 people on the Typhoon project. Ewen MacAskill
Millions of families face deepest benefit cuts in years
Michael Savage
Families struggling to make ends meet
will be hit by the biggest annual benefits cut for six years, according to a
new analysis that exposes the impact
of austerity measures on the low-paid.
The latest public spending
squeeze, due to come in at the start
of the financial year in April, will see
the second-largest annual cut to the
benefits budget since the financial
crash. According to new research by
the Resolution Foundation thinktank,
the changes will save around £2.5bn
($3.4bn) and affect about 11 million
families, including 5 million of the
“just about managing” families Theresa May vowed to help. More than
1.5 million workers will benefit from
a 4.4% pay rise when the national living wage rises from £7.50 to £7.83 from
April. But that is outweighed by the
£2.5bn cuts to working-age benefits.
This year’s squeeze will fall on lowand middle-income families. The new
analysis suggests these families are
set for an average loss of £190 this year
alone; some will be far worse off.
There are four key benefit cuts.
Working-age benefits will be frozen
for a third year, saving £1.9bn and
affecting almost 11 million families.
The 3% real-terms cut in workingage benefits will be by far the biggest
of the freeze, set to last four years. A
measure limiting benefit claims to a
family’s first two children, costing up
to £2,780 for a family having a third
child, saves £400m this year and affects 150,000 families. Withdrawal of
the family element of support for new
tax credit and universal credit claims
from families with children will cost
families up to £545. It saves £200m
this year and will affect 400,000
families. Finally, rollout of the universal credit system saves £200m
because some claimants have lower
entitlements compared with the
existing system.
A government spokesman said:
“We are spending more than £90bn a
year on working-age welfare, and this
will continue to rise.”
UK news
Party like it’s 2500BC New theory on how Stonehenge was built
The process of building Stonehenge –
and having a party at the same time –
may have been more important than
the finished monument, English
Heritage has said. Experts believe
that choosing the stones, moving
them and setting them up on Salisbury Plain may have been a way of
bringing people together to socialise
and celebrate.
English Heritage’s senior historian,
Susan Greaney, said: “In contemporary western culture, we are always
striving to make things as easy and
quick as possible, but we believe that,
for the builders of Stonehenge, this
may not have been the case. Drawing
a large number of people from far and
wide to take part in the process of
building was potentially a powerful
tool in demonstrating the strength of
the community to outsiders. Being
able to welcome and reward people
who had travelled far, perhaps as a
kind of pilgrimage, with ceremonial
feasts, could be a further expression
of the power and position of the
Research showcased at Stonehenge reveals that prehistoric people
brought animals to the site from as
far as north-east Scotland, more than
800km away, to take part in lavish
midwinter feasts. Scientists examined some of the 38,000 bones and
teeth (90% of them pig; 10% cattle)
discovered at the site of a neolithic
village called Durrington Walls,
which lies about 2.5km north-east of
the main stone ring.
Durrington Walls was only settled for between 50 and 100 years,
but it is believed to have housed the
circle’s builders and the first visitors
after the sarsen stones were put in
place. Experts examined elements
including strontium in the pig teeth
found there. Because isotopes of
strontium differ chemically according to the geology of the place where
the young animal fed, it is possible
to know where individual creatures
came from. They concluded cows
and pigs were herded hundreds of
kilometres along ancient byways
and may even have been brought
by boat to southern England. It suggested that in 2500BC Stonehenge
was known across Britain as a place
of pilgrimage and celebration.
Stonehenge experts have also
studied evidence from societies
who more recently have practised
moving huge stones – such as on
Sumba and Nias islands in Indonesia
and in north-east India. Greaney
said: “There are amazing photos
from societies in Indonesia and parts
of India within the last 100 years or
so of people practising stone moving and raising. They show people
in ceremonial dress, amazing feasts
happening, hundreds of people coming together and having a good time.
“As soon as you abandon modern
preconceptions that assume neolithic people would have sought
the most efficient way of building
Stonehenge, questions like why
the bluestones were brought from
so far away – the Preseli Hills of
south Wales – don’t seem quite so
perplexing.” Steven Morris
Photograph: David Goddard/Getty
UN concern over Grenfell ‘human rights’
Patrick Butler
The government may have failed to
comply with its international human
rights obligations over the Grenfell
Tower fire, which killed 72 people
and left hundreds more homeless, the
UN’s housing investigator has said.
Leilani Farha, UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate
housing, said she was worried that
international human rights standards on housing safety may have
been breached and could have been
a factor in the tragedy last June. She
said: “My sense is that in London there
is an emphasis on the development of
property to attract money and wealth
to the city. My concern is that is overemphasised, and the standards and
wellbeing of tenants in social housing
are under-emphasised, and that is a
structural issue.”
Farha paid an informal visit to
London last week to meet Grenfell
survivors and local residents, who
told her they had been excluded from
decisions about safety before the fire
and the authorities had not engaged
with them “in a meaningful way” in
its aftermath. Safety standards in the
tower – from the cladding of electrical
circuits and access for fire vehicles –
may have breached human rights to
safe and secure housing, she said.
A government spokesperson said:
“We were clear that the council had
failed the residents of Grenfell, and
so we have committed to supporting
everyone affected in the years ahead
– including by rehousing residents and
offering mental health support.”
News in brief
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 17
• Vice-chancellors’ pay at
British universities has far outstripped that of their peers in
senior public-sector leadership
roles, according to research
conducted by the Guardian.
Analysis of the salaries of
vice-chancellors at leading
universities shows they are
paid far above the chief executives of NHS hospital trusts
and local authorities. The
£185,000 ($255,000) pay of the
chief executive of Birmingham
city council – the largest local
authority in Europe – was less
than half that of the University
of Birmingham’s vice-chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, who
receives £378,000.
• The number of people
arrested for terrorism-related
offences in Britain rose by
58% to a record 412 in 2017.
The Home Office quarterly
statistics published last
Thursday show there were
412 arrests in 2017 compared
with 261 in 2016. The director
general of MI5, Andrew
Parker, spoke in October of
“a dramatic upshift to the
highest tempo I’ve seen in my
34-year career”.
• Paramilitary-style “punishment” shootings and beatings
have surged again across
Northern Ireland, with a 60%
increase in such attacks over
the past four years, according
to the latest police figures
obtained by the Guardian.
News of the rise in dissident
republican and Ulster loyalist
assaults on people within
their communities came as
the head of the Police Service
of Northern Ireland revealed
that some victims’ parents
were drugging their loved
ones or getting them drunk,
before they were beaten or
shot, to offset the pain.
• Tributes were paid to Sir
Ken Dodd, who died aged 90
just two days after marrying
his long-term partner. The
comedian and entertainer
died in the house where he
was born in the Liverpool
suburb of Knotty Ash, his
publicist said. Dodd’s widow,
Anne Jones, said: “I have had
the supreme joy and privilege
of working and living with
him as partner for the past
40 years. The world has lost a
most life-enhancing, brilliant,
creative comedian, with an
operatically trained voice,
who just wanted to make
people happy.”
18 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
must be
ready for
their day
Andrew Rawnsley
The centre-left may be
struggling, but there is
little to suggest voters
are clamouring for statist
socialism or a society of
he past is a foreign country; they do things
differently there. We can see just how
alien the past can be by taking my time
machine for a short spin back 20 years. In
1998, Amazon is a company struggling to
convince people that there is a profitable
future selling books online. Facebook
doesn’t exist. Neither does the iPhone. The Russian
intelligence service is run by Vladimir Putin. Some
things haven’t changed then.
Also in 1998 – and this will really surprise some people – Tony Blair is the most popular prime minister Britain has ever had. He and other centre-leftists of his type
are dominant in the western democracies. Bill Clinton,
a “new” Democrat, is in his second term at the White
House. “New Labour” has recently surged to power with
a parliamentary landslide in Britain. It will go on to win
two further elections. The neue mitte – the word new is
much loved by this generation of social democrats – has
been a winner for the SPD’s Gerhard Schröder, who is
embarked on the first of two stints as Germany’s chancellor. The moderate left is in government in two-thirds
of the countries that are members of the European
Union. Their successful offer is broad support for free
markets combined with good public services, a decent
welfare state, internationalism and social liberalism.
This seems to be a magic formula both for the taking of
power and the exercising of it.
How archaic that sounds when we return to 2018.
Just about everywhere you look, social democrats
are being pulverised. The latest example has been
furnished by the populist earthquake in Italy, where
Matteo Renzi’s Partito Democratico was smashed
down to less than a fifth of the vote and the centre-left
came in third behind a rightwing bloc fronted by Silvio
Berlusconi, who is banned from taking public office,
and the Five Star Movement, which was founded by a
man who is, literally, a comedian. An even more dismal
fate befell the French Socialists when their candidate
for president finished fifth with less than 7% of the vote.
When Germany went to the polls last autumn, the SPD,
for decades the most powerful centre-left party in
Europe, recorded its worst result since the creation of
the federal republic in 1949.
It is true that centre-right parties have also been
haemorrhaging support to the various insurgent
brands of illiberal populists, demagogic nationalists
and fascists. The troubles of the centre-right are scant
Nathalie Lees
Social democrats
were too mesmerised
by the power of
globalisation and
the dividends to be
had from it
consolation for the centre-left because its crisis looks
much more existential. Social democrats neither head
the government nor lead the opposition in Germany,
Britain, France or Italy – Europe’s four largest economies. The centre-left was thrown out of power when
Austria went to the polls and fell to a historical low in
the most recent Spanish contest. In Scandinavia, the
traditional heartland of European social democracy,
they are in charge in just one country.
There is one thing to be said for the bleak place in
which social democrats find themselves. They have
time to reflect on what went wrong. They were too often
managerial and metropolitan, with the result that they
lost connection with segments of traditional support
that felt condescended to by a cosmopolitan elite. After
the scarring electoral defeats at the hands of the right in
the Thatcher-Reagan era, the centre-left overcorrected
in its approach towards markets. They were too indulgent of the excesses of high finance in the run-up to the
Great Crash of 2008 and have been duly punished since.
They were too mesmerised by the power of globalisation
and the dividends to be had from it; they paid too little
attention to those who lost out or felt left behind. Stir in
surges in immigration and it has been a perfect storm.
ome argue that it is even grimmer. Social democracy is not just in distress – it is defunct.
Hegemonic in 1998, it has become essentially
obsolete in 2018. It is contended that the
“third way” of the Blair era was only viable
in “good times”. The formula depended on
strong and stable economic growth to satisfy
the public desire to enjoy better services and welfare
provision without paying too much more in tax. That
formula doesn’t work when growth is anaemic, money is
tight and choices are much more stark.
Another gloomy view is that social democracy is the
victim of a realignment that is replacing the traditional
division between left and right with a politics more
driven by identity and values. A split between “open”
and “closed” views of the world is polarising population groups and opinion between nativist authoritarians
and globalist liberals. This is agony for social democrats
because it cleaves their historical voting coalition of
the working class and middle-class liberals. There is
a paradox about this crisis for social democracy. The
broad formula of the centre-left still has appeal to many
millions of voters. There is little evidence that the
modern electorate wants to embrace the heavy-metal
socialism of a super-statist society. Nor can we detect
a great clamour to live in a state-shrunk society of
unfettered markets and devil-take-the-hindmost.
Many voters may have given up on social democrats,
but they still like the idea of a regulated market
economy with good public services and decent welfare
protection. This is the western Europe that social
democrats were so influential in creating in the decades
after 1945. Progressive taxation, equality of opportunity
and the idea that the strong have a responsibility
towards the weak are basic tenets of the centre-left that
have become embedded. It was so successful that it
could make social democrats of Conservatives, as when
Britain’s Tories accepted the Labour-created NHS.
Social democrats have arguably had more influence
over the development of western Europe than any
rival political movement. They created a world that
electorates have, by and large, come to take for granted.
This may be part of their problem. Fewer and fewer
voters are old enough to have memories of how ghastly
some of the alternatives can be. When electorates
get experience of what the snake oil peddled by the
populists really tastes like, social democrats may be
given an opportunity to be heard again. They had better
be ready with attractive things to say and compelling
leaders to articulate them. Observer
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 19
Meet Trump’s twin: Israel’s Netanyahu
Jonathan Freedland
The longtime prime minister clings to
power despite being mired in scandal,
just like the US president. But they
face very different political systems
ach day brings a scandalous new revelation
as investigators probe deep into the affairs
of the leader and his inner circle. The inquiries range across multiple fronts, tangling
politics and business and involving both the
top man’s closest aides and his immediate
family. On a big news day, the investigative
authorities announce they’ve arranged a plea bargain
with one of the key players, coaxing them to turn state’s
witness against the man they once served so loyally.
In response, the leader resorts to social media to
denounce his tormentors, claiming a witch-hunt by
once-trusted institutions – the media and the courts,
even the attorney general he himself appointed – and
casting himself as the victim of a liberal establishment
that hates him and his supporters. To his opponents’
despair, the ploy seems to work. The base stays with
him. But still, day after day, the legal net tightens.
If that fairly sums up the situation of Donald Trump,
it also works for the man the US president greeted so
warmly in the Oval Office last week: his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu. The two posed for pictures
in matching dark suits and blue ties, flanked by their
wives who also seemed to be colour-coordinated. Bibi
and the Donald: they could almost be twins.
I’ve spent a week in Israel and the West Bank,
speaking to politicians, diplomats and observers
of Netanyahu, and the parallels are starting to look
uncanny. While special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation into the Russia affair has expanded into
a wider exploration of Trumpworld, so Israel’s prime
minister faces a police inquiry into no fewer than four
separate allegations of serious corruption.
Case 1000 centres on allegations of old-fashioned
bribery: gifts of cigars, champagne and the like to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, from a pair of billionaire businessmen who, the PM admits, he helped out, including
on “tax issues”. Case 2000 alleges that Netanyahu
sought a deal by which he would use the law to hurt one
newspaper in order to boost the economic fortunes of its
rival, in return for warm coverage from the latter.
Case 4000 is similar, an offer to a media tycoon to ensure state policy favourable to his telecoms company, in
return for positive coverage of Netanyahu from a news
website owned by the magnate. What could prove most
serious is Case 3000, which accuses Netanyahu’s most
trusted consiglieri of fraudulently profiting from Israel’s
purchase of submarines from a German firm.
For most politicians, a war on so many fronts would
be overwhelming. But obituaries may be premature.
Even his most bitter critics admit that Netanyahu
dominates the political landscape, dwarfing all his
rivals both inside and outside his party. In the PM’s
chair for nine years, and having held that post for three
years in the 1990s, he is the country’s longest-serving
leader since its founder, David Ben-Gurion. Israelis now
struggle to picture anyone else in the role.
While outsiders see a terrible paralysis, with the
occupation in its 52nd year and the conflict with the
Nicola Jennings
Both pose as the
plucky champion of
the excluded,
persecuted by the elite
that has kept the little
guy down for so long
Palestinians as far away from resolution as ever, most
Israelis see stability, relative prosperity and, above
all, quiet. But it’s his Trumpian qualities that are most
striking. Trump was born into serious money, while
Bibi was educated in a series of prestige institutions.
Yet both pose as the plucky champion of the excluded,
persecuted by the same permanent, snooty elite that
has kept the little guy down for so long. “We are being
attacked all the time, every minute and every hour,”
Netanyahu complained last Thursday. “Listen to Israeli
citizens who support us and who want justice.”
Both men rely on those most powerful fuels: fear and
hate. While Trump points an accusing finger at African
Americans, whether athletes or war widows, Netanyahu
knows how to play on Jewish Israeli fears of Palestinians, and not just those in the West Bank and Gaza but
those fellow citizens living inside pre-1967 Israel.
bove all, what Trump and Bibi share is
a toxic combination of selfishness and
shamelessness. Trump thinks nothing of taking to Twitter to slam the FBI
or the justice department, even if that
means breaking Americans’ trust in
vital institutions. All that matters is his
own immediate self-interest. Netanyahu prefers posting
videos on Facebook to tweeting, but the targets – and the
effects – are the same.
Both are brazenly incapable of embarrassment. They
are without shame.
The big difference is in their countries’ systems.
Ultimately, the only real recourse against Trump is
political, by bringing impeachment proceedings in
Congress. But in Israel, as the attorney general clarified
last week, the law demands that an indicted prime
minister leave office, no matter how strong his political
position. Netanyahu’s most likely move is to call early
elections. He might then gain a boost from the country’s
70th anniversary celebrations in May and, if he wins,
argue that the public renewed his mandate despite the
various charges against him.
It would be an act of outrageous nerve, but you can
see him pulling it off – with Trump himself watching in
awed admiration.
20 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
protest is
than ever
Selma James
Sébastian Thibault
Begun in Iceland in 1975,
the Global Women’s
Strike has evolved into
a worldwide movement
with myriad demands
n the first day of the UN Decade for
Women in 1975, the women of Iceland
took the day off to demonstrate the importance of all their work, waged and
unwaged, in the countryside and the city.
Almost all women who were physically
able came out of their homes, offices and
factories, and even female television presenters were
replaced on the screen by men holding children. Some
90% of women took part. They called it a day off but we
at the International Wages for Housework Campaign
called it a strike, and took as our slogan their placard that
said: “When women stop, everything stops.”
Iceland was not international but it was of international significance. What moved them to strike had to be
moving in the souls of women everywhere. The question was: when would it manifest itself?
In 1985, at the final conference of the UN decade in
Nairobi, we had won the UN decision that unremunerated work at home, on the land and in the community,
should be measured and valued. We called Time Off for
Women for 24 October and a number of countries joined
us. But we could not sustain international action.
It was not until 1999 that Margaretta D’Arcy, a writer,
anti-war activist and Irish nationalist, called for a national strike of women in Ireland on 8 March 2000 and
asked the Wages for Housework Campaign to support
her call. I wrote to the National Women’s Council of Ireland, telling them that if they called the Irish women out
on strike, we would make it global. They didn’t, but we
did. We launched the Global Women’s Strike with Margaretta and women from a number of other countries at
the UN in New York in 1999. In most of the 60 countries
where women went on strike it was a celebration, not a
mobilisation. But we were making a variety of demands.
The first was: “Payment for all caring work – in wages,
pensions, land and other resources.” What was more
valuable than raising children and caring for others?
The more women went out to work, the harder it was
to also be a carer, and what was most galling was the
lower pay for doing a double day. Caring and pay equity
have risen on the political agenda, as well as other
injustices that women face, beginning with rape and
domestic violence often going unpunished.
Two years ago, two important movements manifested themselves. In Poland women went on strike to
stop anti-abortion legislation. They succeeded in getting
the government to back down. In Argentina, following
police inaction after the rape and murder of a number of
women, hundreds of thousands took to the streets with
the slogan Ni una menos (not one less). Their call for an
end to femicide swept across Latin America and beyond.
As a result of Poland and Argentina coming together,
the International Women’s Strike was formed last year.
Women from more than 30 countries participated.
But how can you strike if you can’t risk being sacked?
This has always been the dilemma, especially of the
carer on whom vulnerable people depend.
The Global Women’s Strike is putting the family
courts on trial for unjustly taking children from their
mothers; cleaners are demonstrating for a living wage;
there is a sex work strike for decriminalisation in
London’s Soho; and a picket of Unilever in support of
the Sisters of Rohingya’s call for disinvestment from
Myanmar to end the rape and genocide there.
In Germany, some 3.4 million members of the
IGMetall union are winning the right to a 28- (instead
of 35-) hour week for at least two years to care for
children and elderly parents. This is what we can win
when striking and care come together.
Selma James is founder of the International Wages for
Housework Campaign
More at
Opinion In brief
Why should we let the rich hog all the art?
French have beer-goggles when it comes to wine
Last month, London art adviser
Harry Smith spent more than £110m
($150m) bulk-buying 13 works by
Picasso on behalf of unnamed
wealthy clients. Smith, the executive
chairman and managing director of
the art advisory firm Gurr Johns, also
bought another nine at Christie’s. Is
it pessimistic of me to fear that the
bulk of these masterpieces will not
end up in public museums?
How I dislike people who hog
great artworks. An investigation by
the historian Sir David Cannadine
found that museum collections in
the UK are at risk of becoming “inert
and lifeless” unless more money is
invested for them to buy objects. Is
this the future we face? A society
in which only the super-rich get to
bask in the beauty of humanity’s
masterpieces? I don’t especially
begrudge them their monopoly
on vulgar yachts or tacky hotels,
The French president, Emmanuel
Macron, has admitted to drinking
wine every day “with lunch
and dinner”. “It is a danger to
public health when young people
binge-drink spirits or beer,” he
added, “but wine isn’t the issue.”
He then confirmed that his
administration had no ambitions to
make the Loi Évin, a law passed in
1991 putting restrictions on alcohol
and tobacco, any stricter.
You see, French people are civilised. They care about the food they
eat and the bottles they carefully
pick to go with it. They look down
on anyone unsophisticated enough
to suggest that their habits might
not be as refined as they think.
Sure, they might occasionally
find themselves horizontal, but they
don’t get drunk like the British do.
Of course, data collected by the
World Health Organization in 2015
but when they start stealing the
art, I’m liable to start rocking back
and forth while muttering “Full
communism!” under my breath.
“We are predicting that art will
comfortably overtake wine as the
best-performing asset class this
year,” Andrew Shirley, a partner at
Knight Frank and author of the luxury investment index, said last year,
presumably to divert attention from
the husk where his soul once was.
Thank God for export bars,
such as the one placed recently
on Francesco Guardi’s painting
Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei
Camerlenghi. But they are not
enough, and as long as our galleries
and museums remain chronically
underfunded, more and more pieces
will fall into the hands of the haves,
who often lack the brains and the
hearts to fully appreciate them.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
shows that French people drink
nearly as much as their British counterparts, but this doesn’t matter.
Every country has their very own
national delusions and France is no
exception. In a way, Macron embodies a lot of ours. He arrogantly
charmed his way into the presidency, pontificates about philosophy, unashamedly talks about his
love of classical novels and poetry,
and is passionate to the point of absurdity about the French language.
France isn’t, in reality, the France
we know from the movies, and
everyone knows it deep down. But
it doesn’t hurt to pretend once in
a while. However, deciding that
wine simply isn’t a normal alcoholic
beverage because it happens to be
quintessentially Gallic is not harmless, and future generations might
finally decide to put health before
tradition. Marie Le Conte
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 21
In praise of …
China’s panda park
Ahead of Russia’s presidential elections, the incumbent has little reason to be worried Andrzej Krauze
Brexit hides
EU’s need
for reform
Gary Younge
Across the continent,
faith in democratic
institutions is faltering.
But Britain’s petulance
is obscuring that fact
considered voting for Brexit. My issue was democracy. I didn’t like the fact that the European parliament could not initiate legislation; that turnout for
European parliamentary elections had fallen 30%
since the first elections in 1979; the way countries
that voted “the wrong way” on EU referendums
were instructed to vote again and get it right; the
fact that Greece’s democratic rejection of the terms of its
bailout (2015) was treated with such contempt.
It felt increasingly obvious that this institution had
growing control over our lives even as it became less obvious how anyone beyond its ruling bodies could directly
influence it. It’s never been obvious to me that the EU’s
senior leadership could satisfactorily answer all of the
late Tony Benn’s five essential questions for people of
power, namely: What power have you got? Where did
you get it from? In whose interests do you use it? To
whom are you accountable? How do we get rid of you?
To frame this as a matter of sovereignty felt too
limiting. International capital would have the run of
the planet whether we stayed in or out of the EU. So our
leaving would not give us “back control” but leave us
more isolated than independent. The question was less
who had the power than whether that power was democratically accountable.
Once the leave campaign was gripped by xenophobia
and post-colonial delusion my voting choice became
clear. Basic social democratic protections and open
borders were the things I liked most about being in the
EU. I’ve heard many remainers insist that people who
voted to leave weren’t voting against the EU, but other
things. Well so was I – I was voting primarily against
bigotry. I feared a leave vote would strengthen an ugly,
stubborn strain of British parochialism that needed no
encouragement. That fear has proved well founded.
So my vote to remain was not an endorsement of
the EU. I wish we hadn’t left; I wish it were much better.
There is no contradiction there. Indeed, I think if it
had been better we would not have left and we should
have only stayed with the proviso that we would work
to make it better.
The Bank of China has pledged at
least 10bn yuan ($1.6bn) to create
a vast panda conservation park in
south-west Sichuan province by
2023, the Chinese forestry ministry
has said.
The park aims to bolster the
local economy while providing an
unbroken range in which pandas can
meet and mate.
The ministry said the park will
measure 2m hectares, making it
more than twice the size of Yellowstone national park in the US.
Zhang Weichao, a Sichuan official
involved in the park planning,
told the state-run China Daily the
agreement would help alleviate
poverty among the 170,000
people living within the project’s
proposed territory.
Giant pandas are China’s
unofficial national mascot and live
mainly in the Sichuan mountains.
An estimated 1,864 live in the wild,
where they are chiefly threatened
by habitat loss. Another 300 live in
captivity. Associated Press
Two years on, this distinction still matters because
the Keystone Cops nature of Britain’s departure
has diverted attention from an ever-urgent issue –
the EU still needs to be democratised. The lack of
accountability and transparency in its institutions leaves
it susceptible to a vast array of haters and hucksters.
Across the continent the institutions associated with
the EU are more tolerated than loved, leaving the EU
ruling more by ambivalence than consent. In short, it
is only because Theresa May has made herself look so
ridiculous that Jean-Claude Juncker is looking so good.
There was a keener sense of this vulnerability early
last year when the brazen idiocy of Britain’s negotiating
strategy was not fully clear. Back then, the possibility
of far-right victories in the Netherlands and France
prompted fear of Brexit contagion. The far right did
not win. And in the intervening time Britain has kept
throwing down the gauntlet, only to pick it up itself,
apologise for making a mess, and ask for another chance.
This has forced the EU to negotiate with Britain like a
parent negotiates with a petulant child. They have made
clear the boundaries, only stepping in to prevent selfharm. So long as Britain acted as a tragicomic, cautionary
tale, the EU’s legitimacy has appeared unassailable and
longevity beyond doubt. Neither is true.
While the far right did not win in France or the
Netherlands it did gain ground, as it went on to do in
Germany and Austria later in the year. Its parties don’t
have to win to exert considerable influence.
A Pew Research poll from last year shows there is
widespread desire on the continent for referendums on
EU membership – with significant majorities in France,
Italy and Spain. And even if there is little backing for
actually leaving at present, it is not difficult to see where
more support might come from.
Shortly before David Cameron announced there
would be a referendum, Angela Merkel suggested he
“couch the speech in an argument about Europe having
to change” for the benefit of everyone. She was right.
The fact that he failed to heed her advice is not just bad
for Britain. It’s bad for Europe too.
22 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Russian spy attack
Sergei Skripal and the sowing of discord
When Vladimir Putin was asked recently what
historical event he would change if he had the
power, he said he would undo the collapse of
the Soviet Union. This was a timely reminder
of what motivates Kremlin policy. Putinism
embodies the feeling that Russia was robbed
of its wealth and superpower status. The internal failings of the Soviet system are of little
consequence in this account of history. The
Russian president’s project is the reversal, at
any cost, of a humiliating defeat by the west.
The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a
former Russian spy who worked for MI6, and
the credible suspicion of Kremlin responsibility must be seen in this context. The use
of a sophisticated nerve agent points to an
assassination attempt by a government actor.
Moscow attacks such talk as “an anti-Russian
campaign”. But commentary on Russian state
television observed that “traitors to the motherland” are not safe on UK soil, alluding to the
“strange deaths” of other Russians in Britain
in recent years, not just the 2006 poisoning of
Alexander Litvinenko.
If confirmed as a Russian action, the use of
a chemical weapon on British soil would be an
act of extreme hostility, suggesting Mr Putin
is seeking to demonstrate a capacity to project aggressive power unimpeded around the
globe. A similar message was conveyed by the
Russian president’s recent speech boasting
of new “invincible” nuclear missiles. Some
of this is for domestic consumption. He will
win the presidential election on 18 March: no
other outcome is permitted. But he still likes
to burnish his strongman credentials. And
repressive regimes must always be advertising their ruthlessness to deter public dissent.
The flaw in the neo-Soviet model is that, as
with the USSR, it prioritises militarism over
modernisation. Nationalist swagger cannot
cover up economic stagnation and corruption
for ever. That is why Mr Putin hates sanctions
imposed after his annexation of Crimea – and
why those sanctions are vital. Financial constraint is something Russia cannot ignore.
That illustrates also a challenge for Theresa
May in responding to the latest affront. Unilateral retaliations targeting Russian commercial
interests are inevitable. But the UK also relies
on the solidarity of its allies. In a speech last
year, the prime minister accused Russia of
actions that “threaten the international order
on which we all depend”.
Her point was that the Kremlin campaigns
to undermine the rules by which democracies
mediate their relations. Mr Putin would prefer a zero-sum “great game” approach where
might is right. Sadly the current US president
has instincts closer to Mr Putin on that front.
Mr Putin is not as powerful as he looks.
Russia has developed a capacity to sow discord abroad, but the western alliance has the
nobler record of underpinning stability and
spreading prosperity. Restoring that capability relies on solidarity among democracies.
Trump and Kim
Jaw-jaw, not war-war, but risks remain
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un appear to be
overturning one of Marx’s famous dictums:
this time, history is happening first as farce.
The blustering, bouffant-haired leaders who
attacked each other as a “dotard” and “little
rocket man”, and threatened mutual obliteration, now say they will sit down to talk
peace. Farce is preferable to tragedy, and after the warnings of fire and fury the chance to
at least postpone a conflagration is welcome.
Any further advance to a substantive peace
agreement would be a true triumph. But it is
hard to take such a prospect very seriously,
and easy to see what could go very wrong.
This is Pyongyang’s diplomatic coup, not
Washington’s. For North Korea, the talks are
the prize. Previous administrations did not
want to hand that over for nothing. Mr Kim
will be able to show his people that he has met
the world’s superpower on equal terms.
This is not Nixon in China. That feat took
years of planning, masses of expertise and concentrated, high-level diplomacy. This appears
to be a vain caprice, made with minimal or
no discussion with the state department. Mr
Trump is impetuous, unwilling to remedy his
ignorance by listening to others, and loves to
grandstand. The US does not even have an
ambassador to South Korea. It dropped its
choice, Victor Cha – an expert widely regarded
as a hawk – for not being hawkish enough and
warning against a “bloody nose” strategy towards the North. Professor Cha has warned
that “this dramatic act of diplomacy … may
also take us closer to war. Failed negotiations
at the summit level leave all parties with no
other recourse for diplomacy.”
US allies are nervous: the risks are real. It
isn’t hard to imagine the men giving or taking
offence, or Mr Trump dropping US secrets or
making a concession inadvertently, or goading the North in a post-summit tweet. Yes,
jaw-jaw is better than war-war. But there is
every likelihood that a summit will be at best
a spectacle, and at worst could bring tragedy
rather than peace one step closer.
Despite the news,
there is hope for
our blue planet
Fiona Gell
I recently helped to organise an
environmental meeting and found
myself checking our video link by
calling home. Beamed on to the
screen was my four-year-old son. I
asked him what message he would
like to send. He said: “Why do
people have to throw rubbish in the
sea and hurt marine creatures?”
His message was with me as
I watched distressing footage of
thousands of dead starfish and other
creatures washed up on the UK’s east
coast earlier this month. Conservationists believe freezing weather was
behind the mass die-off.
Like many people, my son is
really anxious about the damage
we are doing to our seas. He still
loves exploring rock pools, and
watches Blue Planet episodes over
and over again. But I’ve realised I
need to work to instil in him some
optimism to counter his anxiety.
Fortunately, there are good reasons for hope. I remember a 2009
conference in Washington DC,
where the marine scientist Sylvia
Earle gave a keynote address about
“hope spots” – her term for special
places around the world where
conservation work has ecological,
cultural or community importance.
In the decade since then, Earle
and others have taken this message
around the world, as part of a wider
movement to promote the idea that
it is not too late to protect our global
marine ecosystems.
There are some great stories
about how good science, international cooperation and community
engagement have saved species and
habitats. In 1979, for example, there
were fewer than 100 Rodrigues fruit
bats left on the Indian Ocean island
that gives them their name. Thanks
to decades of conservation efforts,
there are now more than 20,000 in
the wild. They symbolise real hope
for those who are working to save
species on the edge.
We need to face environmental
problems to be able to solve them,
but despair doesn’t help. It is easy
to become overwhelmed by the
vastness of the task. We need
stories about people working
together to make a difference to
inspire our own small steps.
Fiona Gell is a marine
conservation officer
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 23
Our destructive behaviour descends
to ever greater depths with every
new technology. That there are
associated benefits is not the point
– didn’t those dark satanic mills
provide jobs, and wasn’t industrially
produced cloth cheaper?
The warped notion of progress
does indeed lie at the heart of our
inability to oppose further madness.
For example, both Larry Elliott
(9 February) and George Monbiot
(16 February) acknowledge the inevitable increase in joblessness and alienation that will result with further
automation, but propose adapting to
it rather than resisting it. Like Adam
Smith’s invisible hand of the market,
the technological imperative is, apparently, not to be interfered with.
It therefore came as some relief
to read Kevin McKenna’s We are
turning space into a junkyard
(16 February), which provided an
antidote to the Guardian’s heroic account of Elon Musk’s megalomaniacal space venture (16 February).
The late Chilean poet Pablo
Neruda said that we must make a
profession of being earthbound and
get to know particular places. It’s
very late in the day, but Neruda’s
sentiment should be embraced.
Ally Fricker
Brady Creek, South Australia
Trump’s mood-swing tariffs
Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium aren’t the result of any reasoned
decision. That would involve thinking about potential outcomes. Alarm
bells would ring, for instance, that
Europe would likely threaten US
bikes, bourbon and jeans (9 March).
But Trump wouldn’t have a clue
about any of that. In his ignorance
and bellicosity, he only knows how
he feels at any given moment.
Now Trump is threatening a trade
war and his feelings are impervious
to logic. We just have to ride out this
madness, waiting for Congress to
wake up. We can only hope, in the
meantime, that another of his erratic mood shifts doesn’t launch the
world into any other new war.
Lawrie Bradly
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
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Rosie Roberts
Virtues of being earthbound
Praise for the Neanderthals
Neanderthals were the first artists
on Earth (2 March): not just that, but
also the first agriculturalists. Notice
that the photo of the rock painting
accompanying your story showed
the plan of three livestock pens. The
bottom one is for cattle, and the top
one shows another creature, possibly a pig.
To the top left, near the pens, are
tied bundles of feed, such as hay.
At the bottom is a water trough or
pond. The image on the top right is
not so definite, but may be a person.
It is high time that Neanderthals,
my ancestors, should finally be
given their correct designation of
Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.
Since they were obviously sapient
and mated with us.
Sam Nejad
Geraldton, Western Australia
Inequality of healthcare
While I appreciate the intent of
David Cox’s What’s causing inequalities in emergency hospital care?
(23 February), this comes as no surprise. Why would racial bias mysteriously disappear in an emergency
room? The idea is ludicrous. The
indignation of the surgeon who said:
“It is an insult to those who provide
trauma care” is offensive to those of
us who have to endure such racism.
Yes, let’s do more research to combat this ignorance. But please don’t
be shocked by what you discover.
Christine Birbalsingh
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
To contact the editor directly:
On social media
Twitter: @guardianweekly
You can subscribe at
Or manage your subscription at
• NHS patients from poorer
backgrounds are less likely to
receive the best care. This would be
consistent with a 1970s BBC broadcast of a study by two registrars.
Surprised by the varying levels
of courtesy that their consultant
showed in handling his patients,
they proved this to be related to the
individual’s accent by using actors
who affected differing ones.
Here is the pecking order that
they discovered in the study: people
with upper-crust accents were
handled best; followed by foreigners with impeccable English; then
standard English; next distinctive
regional brogues; and worst of all,
a town accent. My Danish wife,
with immaculate English, confirmed
how attentively consultants
managed her ailments.
Anthony Walter
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
• Welcome back to the bidet
(2 March). And for the right reasons.
My first encounter was as a mid-teen
in 1963 in a rundown Paris hotel.
I thought it was for washing feet; the
night-time cockroaches on the walls
could have told me otherwise. I left
after a week, feet clean.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France
• I much appreciated Oliver Burkeman’s column of 26 January (Any one
of us could be a jerk). I was reminded
of a saying I heard some years back:
“If you meet three jerks in one day,
it’s not them”. Words to live by.
Rayanne Dupuis
Fontainebleau, France
• Arwa Mahdawi writes (9 March),
“Giving birth may add the
equivalent of 11 years to a woman’s
biological age.” My dear old mum
had seven children: that makes, let
me see … 77 years off what ought to
have been her natural lifespan.
Had she not had the children,
then, she would have lived to
175. As it was, we had to bid her
adieu prematurely at 98. Cut down
in her prime.
Bruce Inksetter
Gatineau, Québec, Canada
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From the archive
16 March 1973
Plastic macs give
‘Tango’ a miss
“Rubbish” was the word most often used by audiences who saw
the first public British showing of
“Last Tango in Paris” yesterday.
They looked more nonplussed than
corrupted as they left the Prince
Charles cinema in London, flaunting
their furs and velvet collars, not a
plastic mac in sight.
Even the ticket touts, who had
reckoned that five minutes of
diverse sexuality in Bertolucci’s
129-minute film should be worth a
bob or two, were complaining that
business was bad.
Not a soul admitted to being
shocked. Certainly not 92-year-old
Mrs Emily Tippett, of Midhurst,
Sussex, who said as she was being
helped up the step to watch her first
sex film: “I want to see the muckiest
film advertised. What I am interested in is a good bit of fun. You’re
never too old.” Two hours later her
verdict was: “rubbish.” She found
the sex scenes “common.”
Mr John Roman-Baker, a 28-yearold writer from Brighton, described
the film as a masterpiece. “The
whole point of the film is the search
for God,” he revealed.
Another writer, middle-aged,
velvet-collared, put a contrasting
view: “It’s a load of degradation, redeemed slightly by the performance
of Marlon Brando.”
Lord Longford, the campaigner
against pornography, was eagerly
awaited by a gang of photographers.
“Oh, Ron,” said a heavily made-up
lady. “Don’t go in yet - Lord Longford’s coming, let’s wait and see
him.” And see him they did, dropped
obligingly against a hoarding showing a nude scene from the film as the
flash bulbs popped. He explained
that he was very concerned about
the showing of improper material
and felt it his duty to see the film.
Miss Esme Kaufler thought the
film was a “load of rubbish.” But she
went on: “I liked the music and hope
it will revive the tango.”
There was one “slightly stunned,”
a middle-aged woman who added
that the film was a breakthrough:
one “bored,” Natalie Kent, a phlegmatic middle-aged actress, who had
found herself saying “So what?”
during the sex scenes: and one “disgusted,” a middle-aged East End
company director “ashamed to have
gone to see it.” He also thought it
was degrading for an actor of Brando’s ability. “Not,” he added, “that
I was disgusted from any prudish
angle.” John Windsor
24 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Den, a 14-year-old girl from the Dinka tribe who works as a cattle keeper, cook and cleaner for her brother, poses at their camp in Mingkaman, South Sudan. During the dry season, pastoralists f
Yvette Short with her whippet, Tease, who won this year’s Best In Show at Cruft’s. Some
21,000 dogs competed for a range of prizes at the show in Birmingham, UK Leon Neal/Getty
Swimmers enjoy the Glenelg Beach waterslide as they cool off from the hot weather in
Adelaide, South Australia Amer Ghazzal/Barcroft Images
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 25
from the highlands move their livestock to the lowlands, closer to the Nile Stefanie Glinski/Getty
Staff members pose for a selfie during the opening session of China’s National People’s
Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Mark Schiefelbein/AP
An inmate at Tihar jail in Delhi, India, the largest complex of prisons in south Asia, makes
decorations for an event to mark International Women’s Day Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
A replica of the Venus de Milo with prosthetic arms is displayed in Paris to raise awareness of
the thousands of amputees worldwide in need of a prosthesis Christophe Archambault/Getty
26 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Search for
What is the future for lexicography
when a connected world means
it is an eternal struggle to keep up
with the English language’s past
and present, asks Andrew Dickson
n February 2009, a Twitter user called
@popelizbet issued an apparently historic
challenge to someone called Colin: she
asked if he could “mansplain” a concept
to her. History has not recorded if he did,
indeed, proceed to man splain. But the
lexicographer Bernadette Paton, who excavated
this exchange last summer, believed it was the first
time anyone had used the word in recorded form.
“It’s been deleted since, but we caught it,” Paton
told me, with quiet satisfaction.
In her office at Oxford University Press (OUP),
Paton was drafting a brand new entry for the Oxford
English Dictionary. Around 30,000 such items are
on the OED master list; another 7,000 more pile up
annually. “Everyone thinks we’re very slow, but it’s
actually rather fast,” Paton said. “Though admittedly
a colleague did spend a year revising ‘go’.”
Spending 12 months tracing the history of a twoletter word seems dangerously close to folly. But the
purpose of a historical dictionary such as the OED is
to give such questions the solemnity they deserve.
“Well, we have to get things right,” the dictionary’s
current chief editor, Michael Proffitt, told me.
At one level, few things are simpler than a dictionary: a list of the words people use or have used,
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 27
Face value
Job hunting and artifical intelligence
→ Discovery, pages 32-33
with an explanation of what those words mean,
or have meant. At the level that matters, though –
the level that lexicographers fret and obsess about
– few things could be more complex. Who used
those words, where and when? How do you know?
Which words do you include, and on what basis?
How do you tease apart this sense from that? And
what is “English” anyway?
In the case of a dictionary such as the OED – which
claims to provide a “definitive” record of every
word in the language from AD1000 to the present
day – the question is even larger: can a living language be comprehensively mapped, surveyed and
described? Speaking to lexicographers makes one
wary of using the word “literally”, but a definitive
dictionary is, literally, impossible. No sooner have
you reached the summit of the mountain than it has
expanded another hundred feet. Then you realise
it’s not even one mountain, but an interlocking
series of ranges marching across the Earth. (In the
age of “global English”, the metaphor seems apt.)
Even so, the quest to capture “the meaning of
every thing” – as the writer Simon Winchester
described it in his book on the history of the OED –
has absorbed generations of lexicographers, from
the Victorian worthies who set up a “Committee to
collect unregistered words in English” to the OED’s
first proper editor, James Murray, who spent 36 years
shepherding the first edition towards publication
(before it killed him). The dream of the perfect dictionary goes back to the Enlightenment notion that
by classifying and regulating language one could –
just perhaps – distil the essence of human thought.
In 1747, in his “Plan” for the English dictionary he
was about to commence, Samuel Johnson (pictured
below) declared he would create nothing less than
“a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated;
by which its purity may be preserved, its use ascertained, and its duration lengthened”. English would
not be merely listed in alphabetical order; it would
be saved for eternity.
Ninety years after the first edition appeared, the
OED – a distant, far bulkier descendant of Johnson’s
Dictionary – is embarked on a third edition, which involves overhauling every entry (many of which have
not been touched since the late-Victorian era) and
adding at least some of those 30,000 missing words,
as well as making the dictionary into a fully digital
resource. This was originally meant to be completed
in 2000, then 2005, then 2010. Since then, OUP has
quietly dropped mentions of a date. How far had they
got, I asked Proffitt. “About 48%,” he replied.
The dictionary retains a quiet pride in the lexical
lengths to which it will – indeed, must – go. Some
time in the late 1980s, Proffitt’s predecessor as chief
editor, John Simpson, asked the poet Benjamin
Zephaniah about the origins of the noun “skanking”. Zephaniah decided that the only way to explain was to come to the OED headquarters and do
a private, one-on-one performance. Skanking duly
went in, defined as “a style of West Indian dancing
to reggae music, in which the body bends forward
at the waist, and the knees are raised and the hands
claw the air in time to the beat”.
The tale touches something profound: in capturing a word, a sliver of lived experience can be
observed and defined. If only you were able to catch
all the words, perhaps you could define existence.
The first English dictionary-makers had no fantasies about capturing an entire culture. In contrast to
languages such as Chinese and ancient Greek, where
systematic, dictionary-like works have existed for
millennia, the earliest English lexicons didn’t begin
to be assembled until the 16th century. They were
piecemeal affairs, as befitted the language’s mongrel
inheritance – a jumbled stew of old Anglo-Germanic,
Norse, Latin and Greek, and Norman French.
The language was perplexing enough, but in the
mid-1500s it was getting ever more confusing, as
political upheavals and colonial trade brought fresh
waves of immigration, and with it a babel of recently
“Englished” vocabulary: words such as “alcohol”
(Arabic via Latin, c1543) and “abandonment”
(French, c1593). Scientific and medical developments added to the chaos. In 1582, the schoolmaster
Richard Mulcaster issued a frantic plea for someone
to “gather all the wordes which we use in our English tung … into one dictionarie”. Such a book would
stabilise spelling, a source of violent disagreement.
Also, there would finally be rules for “proper use”.
Johnson’s Dictionary, eventually finished in 1755,
was a heroic achievement. He corralled 43,500-odd
words – perhaps 80% of the language in use at the
time. But in some eyes, not least the editor’s, the
book was also a heroic failure. In contrast to the
jaunty Enlightenment optimism of his 1747 Plan,
with its talk of “fixing” and “preservation”, the
preface to the published Dictionary is a work of
chastened realism. Johnson explains that the idea of
taming a fast-evolving creature such as the English
language is not only impossible, but risible.
Still, the dream lingered. What if one could
get to 100% – lassoing the whole of English, from
the beginning of written time to the present day?
Numerous revisions or rivals to Johnson were
proposed, though few were actually created. In
November 1857, the members of the London Philological Society convened to hear a paper by Richard
Chenevix Trench, the dean of Westminster, entitled
On Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries.
It was a bombshell: Trench argued that British word
banks were so unreliable that the slate needed to
be wiped clean. In their place, he outlined “a true
idea of a Dictionary”. This Platonic resource should
be compiled on scholarly historical lines, mining
deep into the caverns of the language for ancient
etymology. It should describe rather than prescribe,
casting an impartial eye on everything from AngloSaxon monosyllables to the latest technical jargon
(though Trench drew the line at regional dialect).
Most of all, it should be comprehensive, honouring
what Trench called – glancing jealously at Germany,
where the brothers Grimm had recently started work
on a Deutsches Wörterbuch – “our native tongue”.
For the first two decades, the New English
Dictionary, as it was called, looked as if it would
go the way of so many previous projects. The first
editor died a year in, leaving chaos in his wake.
The second had more energy for young women,
socialism, folksong and cycling. Only after it was
taken over by OUP, who in 1879 were persuaded
to appoint a little-known Scottish schoolteacher
and philologist called James Murray as chief editor,
did things begin to move.
Murray’s masterstroke was to put out an “appeal”
in newspapers and library books for volunteer
readers to search for quotations, which would
illustrate the ways words changed over time – a
“corpus” of data that would make the dictionary as
accurate as possible. More than 2,000 enthusiasts
from across the world and all walks of life assembled
some 5m quotations. Even when it became evident
that it would all take far, far longer than scheduled
– after five years they were still halfway through
the letter A – Murray kept the dictionary going. “It
would have been impossible without him,” says the
lexicographer and OED historian Peter Gilliver.
The first part was published in 1884, A to Ant,
and instalments emerged at regular intervals for
the next 40-odd years. Although Murray died in
1915 – somewhere between “Turndun” and “Tzirid”
– the machine churned on. In 1928, the finished dictionary was published: some 414,800 headwords
and phrases in 10 volumes, each with a definition,
etymology and 1.8m quotations tracking usage over
time. It was one of the largest books ever made, in any
language. The publisher Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 made the most of the
achievement, trumpeting that “the Oxford Dictionary is the supreme authority, and without a rival”.
Yet if you knew where to look, its flaws were only
too obvious. By the time it was published in 1928,
this Victorian leviathan was already hopelessly out
of date. The A-C entries were compiled nearly 50
years earlier; others relied on scholarship that had
long been surpassed. In-house, it was admitted that
the second half of the alphabet (M-Z) was stronger
than the first (A-L); the letter E was regarded as especially weak. Among other eccentricities, Murray
had taken against “marzipan”, preferring to spell
it “marchpane”, and decreed that the adjective
“African” should not be included, on the basis that
it was not really a word. “American”, however, was,
for reasons that reveal much about the dictionary’s
Anglocentric worldview.
The only solution was to patch it up. The first
Supplement to the OED came out in 1933, compiling new words that editors had noted in the
interim, as well as original omissions. Supplements to that Supplement were begun in 1957,
eventually appearing in four instalments between
1972 and 1986 – some 69,300 extra items in all. Yet
it was a losing battle.
At the same time, the ground beneath the lexicographers’ feet was beginning to give way. By
the late 1960s, a computer-led approach known as
“corpus linguistics” was forcing them to re-examine
their deepest assumptions about the way language
operates. Instead of making dictionaries the oldfashioned way – working from pre-existing lists
of words/definitions, and searching for evidence
that a word means what you think it does – corpus
linguistics turns the process on its head: you use
digital technology to hoover up language as real
people write and speak it, and make dictionaries
from that. The first modern corpus, the Brown Corpus of Standard American English, was compiled
in 1964 and included 1m words, sampled from 500
texts including romance novels, religious tracts and
books of “popular lore” – contemporary sources
that dictionary-makers had barely consulted. The
general-language corpora that provide raw material
for today’s dictionaries contain tens of billions of
words, a database beyond the wildest imaginings
of lexicographers even a generation ago.
For lexicographers, what’s really thrilling
about corpus linguistics is the way it lets you spy
on language in the wild. Collating the phrases
in which a word occurs enables you to unravel
different shades of meaning. Observing how a word
is “misused” hints that its centre of gravity might
be shifting. Comparing representative corpora lets
you see, for example, how often Trump supporters
deploy a noun such as “liberty”, and how differently
the word is used in the Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s completely changed what we do,” the
lexicographer Michael Rundell told me. “It’s very
bottom-up. You have to rethink almost everything.”
But while other dictionary publishers leapt on
corpus linguistics, OED editors stuck to what they
knew, relying on quotation slips and researchers in
university libraries. When the OED’s second edition
was published in March 1989 – 20 volumes, containing 291,500 entries and 2.4m quotations – there
were complaints that this wasn’t really a new edition, just a nicely typeset amalgam of the old ones.
The entry for “computer” defined it as “a calculating-machine; esp an automatic electronic device for
performing mathematical or logical operations”. It
was illustrated by a quotation from a 1897 journal.
By astonishing coincidence, another earthquake, far bigger, struck the very same month
that OED2 appeared in print: a proposal by an
English computer scientist named Tim BernersLee for “a large hypertext database with typed
links”. The world wide web, as it came to be called
(the OED dates the phrase to 1990), offered a
shining path to the lexicographical future. Databases could be shared, and connected to one another; whole libraries of books could be scanned
and their contents made search able. The sum
of human text was starting to become available
to anyone with a computer and a modem. The
possibilities were dizzying. In a 1989 article in the
New Yorker, an OUP executive said, with a shiver of
excitement, that if the dictionary could incorporate
corpus linguistics resources properly, something
special could be achieved.
The fact that so much text is now available online
has been the most cataclysmic change. Words that
would previously have been spoken are now typed
on social media. Lexicographers of slang have long
dreamed of being able to track variant forms “down
to the level, say, of an individual London tower
block”, says OED consultant Jonathon Green; now,
via Facebook or Instagram, this might actually be
possible. Lexicographers can be present almost
at the moment of word-birth: where previously a
coinage such as “mansplain” would have had to
find its way into a durable printed record, which a
researcher could use as evidence of its existence, it
is now available near-instantly to anyone.
Anyone, and anywhere – when the OED was first
dreamed up in the 1850s, English was a language of
the British Isles, parts of North America, and a scattering of colonies. These days, nearly a quarter of the
world’s population, 1.5bn people, speak some English, mostly as a second language – except, of course,
that it isn’t one language. There are myriad variants
and all of these Englishes are more visible now than
ever, cross-fertilising others at ever greater speed.
“The circle of the English language has a welldefined centre but no discernible circumference,”
Murray once wrote, but modern lexicographers beg
to differ. Instead of one centre, there are many intersecting subgroups, each using a variety of Englishes,
inflected by geographical background or heritage,
values, other languages, and an almost incalculable
number of variables. And the circumference is expanding faster than ever. If OED lexicographers are
right that some 7,000 new English words surface annually – brand new coinages and words the dictionary has missed – then in the time you’ve been reading
this, perhaps two more words have come into being.
In the time you’ve been
reading this article,
perhaps two more words
have come into being
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 29
A dream never to be realised again … the original
complete Oxford English Dictionary took
49 years to compile and was woefully out of date
by the time of publication Richard Baker/Alamy
Most people, of course, now never go near a
dictionary, but simply type phrases into Wikipedia
(used more often as a dictionary than an encyclopedia, research suggests) or rely on Google, which
– through a deal with Oxford Dictionaries – offers
thumbnail definitions, audio of pronunciations,
etymology, a graph of usage over time and translation facilities. If you want to know what a word
means, you can just yell something at Siri or Alexa.
Dictionaries have been far too slow to adjust,
argues Jane Solomon of “Information-retrieval is changing so fast,” she said. “Why
don’t dictionaries respond to context, like figuring
out that you’re searching for food words, and give
you related vocabulary or recipes?” And not just
words: “I’d love to include emojis. They’ve become
a whole separate language. People sometimes need
explanation; if you send your daughter the eggplant
emoji, she might think that’s weird.”
Some have dared to dream even bigger than polysemous aubergines. One is a computer professor at
the Sapienza University of Rome called Roberto Navigli, who in 2013 soft-launched a site called Babelnet,
which aims to be the dictionary to beat all dictionaries – in part by not being a dictionary at all. Described as a “semantic network” that pulls together
15 existing resources, it aims to create a comprehensive, hierarchical root map of not just English
but of 271 languages simultaneously, making it the
largest lexicon/encyclopedia/thesaurus/reference
work on the web. Navigli told me his real aim was to
use “semantic technology” to enable autonomous
machine-reading of text. “This is the dream, right?”
he said. “The machine that can read text and understand everything we say.”
For lexicographers and Google alike, one linguistic frontier remains stubbornly inaccessible.
Whereas it’s now easy to assemble written-text corpora and open a window on how language functions
in a particular environment, doing so for spoken language has always been far harder. The reason is obvious: recording speech, then transcribing it and creating a usable database, is both time-consuming and
hugely expensive. Speech corpora do exist, but are
small and unrepresentative (it’s easy to work with
court transcripts; far harder to eavesdrop on what
lawyers say down the pub). If you could capture
large samples of it – people speaking in every context, from playgrounds to office canteens to supermarkets – you could monitor even more accurately
how we use language, day to day. “If we cracked the
technology for transcribing normal conversations,”
Rundell said, “it really would be a game-changer.”
For the OED’s editors, this world is both exhilarating and, one senses, mildly overwhelming. The
digital era has enabled Oxford lexicographers to
run dragnets deeper through the language, but it
has also threatened to capsize the operation. When
you’re making a historical dictionary and required
to check each and every resource, then recheck
those resources when, say, a corpus of handwritten
17th-century letters comes on stream, the problem
of keeping the dictionary up to date expands to even
more nightmarish proportions. Adding to that dictionary to accommodate new words increases the
nightmare exponentially. “It’s never-ending,” one
OED lexicographer said. “You can feel like you’re
falling into the wormhole.”
Adding to the challenge is a story that has become
wearily familiar: while more people are consulting
dictionary-like resources than ever, almost no one
wants to shell out. Sales of hard-copy dictionaries
have collapsed. If you can get a definition by holding
your thumb over a word on your smartphone, why
bother picking up a book?
Even if the infrastructure around lexicography
has fallen away, some things stay pleasingly consistent. Every lexicographer I spoke to made clear their
distaste for “word-lovers”, who in the dictionary
world are regarded as the type of person liable to
scrawl “fewer” on to supermarket signs reading “10
items or less”. The normally genial John Simpson
writes crisply that “I take the hardline view that
language is not there to be ‘enjoyed’”; instead, it is
there to be used.
But love is, most grudgingly admit, what draws
people to spend their lives sifting and analysing
language. It takes a particular sort of human to be
a “word detective”: something between a linguistics academic, an archival historian, a journalist
and an old-fashioned gumshoe. Though hardly
without its tensions – corpus linguists versus
old-school dictionary-makers, stats nerds versus
scholarly etymologists – lexicography seems to be
one specialist profession with a lingering sense of
common purpose: us against that ever-expanding,
multi-headed hydra, the English language. “It is
pretty obsessive-compulsive,” Solomon said. “It’s
always on the move. You have to love that.”
There are other joys, too: the thrill of catching a
new sense, or crafting a definition that feels, if not
perfect, at least right. “It sounds cheesy, but it can be
like poetry,” Rundell reflected. “Making a dictionary
is as much an art as a craft.”
Throughout it all, the OED churns on, attempting
to be slightly more complete today than it was yesterday. The dictionary team now prefer to refer to
it as a “moving document”. Words are only added;
they are never deleted. These days it issues online
updates four times a year; though it has not officially
abandoned the notion of another print edition, that
idea is fading. Seven months after I first asked how
far they had got into OED3, I enquired again; the
needle had crept up to 48.7%. “We are going to get
it done,” Proffitt insisted, though as I departed Oxford, I thought James Murray might have raised a
thin smile at that. If the update does indeed take until 2037, it will rival the 49 years it took the original
OED to be created, whereupon it will presumably
need overhauling again.
A few days ago, I emailed to see if “mansplain”
had finally reached the OED. It had, but there was
a snag – further research had pushed the word back
six months, from February 2009 to August 2008.
Then, no sooner had Paton’s entry gone live someone emailed to point they had spotted “mansplain”
on a May 2008 blogpost, just a month after Rebecca
Solnit had published her influential essay Men
Explain Things to Me. The updated definition, Proffitt assured me, will be available as soon as possible.
30 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Weekly review
The record store owner who became
Rob Walker meets veteran
reggae guru Blacker Dread,
a community kingpin who
has helped countless south
London kids stay out of jail
e has recorded with the biggest reggae artists of the past 50 years, performed for Nelson Mandela on his
state visit to Britain, and for more
than two decades ran a record store
in Brixton, south London, that became a social hub and safe house for the city’s AfroCaribbean community. Yet the judge who sent him
to prison in 2014 dismissed his life as a “failure”.
Blacker Dread, real name Steve Burnett-Martin, is now out and so, too, is a feature-length
documentary about his life by Molly Dineen, a
Bafta-award winning film-maker. Being Blacker,
which Dineen filmed over three years, is a close-up
on Brixton’s Jamaican community and the man who
unintentionally became its kingpin.
“There was never a point when I said, OK, I’m going to be that person, that voice. It’s just something
that happened,” says Blacker.
Born in Jamaica, he moved with his family to
Britain when he was nine, settling first in Bromley,
south London, then later moving to Tulse Hill, close
to Brixton – the heart of the Caribbean community.
At 11 he gained entrance to a selective grammar
school (he had to take the exam twice because it was
assumed he had cheated the first time, he says). But
Blacker never felt part of the crowd – he describes
his schooling instead as the “ghettology” he learned
on the streets.
In his 30s, he opened a small record shop on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. It was to transform his life
and the lives of all those around him. “People kept
coming into my shop – mothers asking me to speak
to their sons, people with problems wanting advice.
I used to wonder to myself, what do I say? How do
you advise people on their life? It became part of my
daily routine. All I knew was that when people came
in, I had to be there for them.”
Twenty-five years on, the Blacker Dread Muzik
Store is credited in the community with helping
young people stay out of gangs, drugs and jail. Those
in trouble with the police were encouraged “to go
and see Blacker” – not for protection but to ensure
that things “were done by the book”. “Young people
say or do things that get them into more trouble, so
I thought, let me try and keep as many of these kids
out of police clutches as possible,” he says.
Blacker speaks in calm, dulcet tones – a voice that
many would recognise from his Caribbean reggae
sound system gigs of the 1980s, where he made his
name in festivals and street parties across the UK’s
capital. He ended up as the record selector for Sir
Coxsone, a frontrunner in the development of Britain’s sound system movement. Blacker himself, his
devotees say, was pivotal to the music genre from
which grime now traces its roots. Two of his sons –
Blacker has 11 children – are leading grime artists in
their own right: Ratlin and Shak Corleone.
Blacker went on to become a music producer
too, working with the likes of Jamaican reggae stars
Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown. But Blacker’s
musical success has almost taken a back seat to his
binding role in the community. There is no masking
the anger and frustration at what he calls the indifferent way the police have treated the community.
Grief over the loss of his son, Solomon, gunned
down on New Year’s Eve 2004 aged 24, weighs
heaviest of all. No one has been convicted of the
shooting, and Blacker says the officer leading the investigation never spoke to him. “It was devastating
the way [the police] didn’t put any effort into trying
to find out who killed my son,” Blacker says. “After a
couple of weeks it’s like they didn’t want to know.”
Brixton Splash, an annual non-profit street party
– south London’s answer to the Notting Hill carnival
– was founded by Blacker and Ros Griffiths. Blacker
was involved for 10 years. “I just thought, this is
‘How do you advise
people? All I knew was
that, when they came in,
I had to be there for them’
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 31
a hero
Brixton legend ... the highs and lows of Blacker
Dread’s remarkable life have been chronicled
in a new documentary film Molly Dineen
going to be a tribute to my son, but it will be a silent
tribute. There will be thousands of people coming
for a big party but, as far as I’m concerned, they’ll
be partying for my son.”
As a young man growing up in London, Blacker
had become increasingly politicised. Through
his friendship with an exiled South African, he
became a member of the ANC while Mandela was in
prison. “We used to do fundraisers to send money
to the cause – £500 [$700], £300, whatever we
could make.”
When Mandela announced his first visit to Britain
in 1996 as South Africa’s president, Blacker wrote
to him and invited him to visit Brixton. “It’s the
heartbeat of black people in Britain,” he told him.
Mandela not only obliged, but asked Blacker to meet
with him on his arrival.
“He asked me what black people in Britain
wanted most. What things would we ask for, if we
could? I remember saying, it’s not that we want
‘things’, we just want to be given a good chance.
We want to be given an opportunity to make
‘things’ happen.”
Blacker ended up with 30 VIP guest passes for the
show in Brixton Recreation Centre. “So I gave them
to my friends and made sure that real people had a
presence in that hall,” he says.
That day, Blacker played an eight-minute set with
Jamaican reggae artist Freddie McGregor. “Even
Prince Charles got up and was trying to shake a leg,”
Blacker jokes. “It went down brilliantly.”
It was to be one of the high points of Blacker’s
life in Brixton, he says, bringing the “great man” to
his beloved community. But as the area has become
increasingly gentrified, so much of its community
magic has gone, he says. “We have this little joke.
We’ve taken the B off Brixton and we call it Rixton,”
he says. “The B is for all the black people that had
to move out.”
Blacker had to move out, too, for a while, when
he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison
for money laundering in 2014. It is a complicated
story that Blacker doesn’t dwell on, but accepts
his role in the affair. It was a bitter irony, captured
powerfully in Dineen’s documentary. Blacker – the
man who had helped so many stay out of jail – looks
on powerlessly as his record shop of 25 years gets
packed away and closed down.
In prison, though, in true Blacker style, he became the go-to person for resolving what he calls
“the little disputes”. He worked too as a DJ on National Prison Radio, which broadcasts to 107 prisons
across the UK. “They had a reggae show called Bob
and Beyond, but when I looked at the catalogue it
was like 600 Bob Marley songs and nothing else,” he
says. “So I helped them develop a massive catalogue
of reggae music.”
His liberty restored, Blacker, who turns 60 this
year, says he plans to return to Jamaica to be with
his youngest son, JJ. “I’ll miss the people,” he says.
“But you have to be selfish at one point in your life.”
Being Blacker can be seen on BBC iPlayer in the UK
and has selected release elsewhere
Front and centre ... two of Legally Black’s posters which appeared on bus stops and billboards
How Brixton activists took DIY route to
getting black people into lead film roles
hiden Tekle and his friends became so
frustrated about the lack of black actors
in films and TV shows that they decided
to recreate famous movie posters, including Titanic, Harry Potter and The
Inbetweeners, with black people taking
the leading roles. The posters, created in Brixton
with the activism group Advocacy Academy,
were only intended to line the bedroom walls of
Tekle and his mates, but the subversive advertising organisation Special Patrol Group spotted the
posters online, loved the concept and jumped in
to give them a wider audience.
Special Patrol Group, which has run “vandal
advertising” campaigns targeting police corruption, printed out giant versions of the posters
and stealthily placed them in bus stop billboards
around Brixton, south London.
“The first I knew about it was when I saw myself
at the bus stop,” said Tekle, 18, who was cast as Jay
in the remake of an Inbetweeners poster. “I was
just ‘wow’.” He and his friends – Liv Francis-Cornibert, Kofi Asante and Bel Matos da Costa, all 17,
who formed activist group Legally Black – decided
to create the posters after coaches at the Advocacy
Academy asked them what made them most angry
and what they would like to change in society.
“I’ve been racially abused since I was 12,” said
Tekle, who is studying for A-levels in government
politics, sociology and media studies. “And we are
always looking at the media and never seeing any
positive representations of black people. In big
films, black characters are often playing criminals
and drug dealers, and that quickly conditions people to believe that all black people are like that.
“So, we decided to put black faces in the big
movies, and challenge people’s perceptions and
The four teenagers dragged friends and family
along to pose for the posters, and a professional
photographer and graphic designer gave up their
time to help create the images.
Tekle’s dad poses as James Bond in the reimagined poster for Skyfall and a friend’s mum stands
in for The Doctor in a recasting of Doctor Who. The
tagline on the posters reads: “If you’re surprised,
it means you don’t see enough black people in
major roles. Join us in our mission for better black
representation in the media.”
Research by the British Film Institute shows
that black actors played only 218 lead roles in the
1,172 British films released between 2006 and
2016. There were 45,000 roles in total, which
means black British actors played 0.5% of them.
Special Patrol Group put up the posters one
evening last month , so that those behind the concept would see them on their graduation from the
Advocacy Academy. A couple of days later, most
had been taken down and replaced with adverts
for McDonald’s. JCDecaux, the advertising company that owns many of the bus stop billboard
spaces, did not respond to requests for comment.
Amelia Viney, the chief advocate at the Advocacy Academy, which aims to channel youth anger
into political activism, said the teenagers came up
with the idea and concept entirely by themselves
and she “could not be more proud”.
“They begged and they hustled so hard they got
everything done for as little as £150 [$200],” she
said. “They had copies made for them to keep, but
then Special Patrol Group got in touch and their
concept was quickly a real reality on the streets.”
Viney, 30, said she started Advocacy Academy
in 2014 to “encourage people who have a raw deal
to take on the establishment and change things”.
The group aimed to train young people who were
“deeply passionate and deeply angry how to channel that anger into radical activism”. Rupert Neate
32 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
AI recruiting takes
the human out of HR
Job hunters are screened relentlessly to measure
their supposed value, finds Stephen Buranyi
ccording to Nathan Mondragon,
finding the right employee is all
about looking at the little things.
Tens of thousands of little things,
as it turns out. Mondragon is the
head psychologist at Hirevue, a
company that offers software that screens job
candidates using algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI). Hirevue’s flagship product, used by
global giants such as Unilever and Goldman Sachs,
asks candidates to answer standard interview questions in front of a camera. Meanwhile its software,
like a team of hawk-eyed psychologists hiding
behind a mirror, makes note of thousands of barely
perceptible changes in posture, facial expression,
vocal tone and word choice.
“We break the answers people give down into
many thousands of data points, into verbal and nonverbal cues,” says Mondragon. “If you’re answering
a question about how you would spend a million
dollars, your eyes would tend to shift upward, your
verbal cues would go silent, or turn to ‘ums’ and
‘ahs’. Your head would tilt slightly upward with
your eyes. The facial movement analytics would
tell us you were going into a creative thinking style.”
The program turns this data into a score, which is
then compared against one the program has already
“learned” from top-performing employees. The
idea is that a good prospective employee looks a lot
like a good current employee, just not in any way a
human interviewer would notice.
It sounds far-fetched. Approaches such as vocal analysis and reading “microexpressions”
have previously been applied in policing and
intelligence with little clear success. But Mondragon
says their automated analyses line up with established tests of personality and ability, and that
customers report better employee performance
and less turnover.
Hirevue is one of a slew of new companies selling
AI as a replacement for the costly human side of
hiring. Bath-based Cognisess specialises in games
that predict various aptitudes. San Francisco’s Mya
Systems offers a reactive, AI-powered chatbot that
will conduct the entire interview process. Hirevue estimates the “pre-hire assessment” market
is worth $3bn a year. According to Doug Rode, a
managing director at the recruiter Michael Page, the
past year has seen a marked increase in companies
selling AI packages of widely variable quality.
A study last year by the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development found an average of
24 applicants for an average low-wage job. Tesco,
the UK’s largest private employer, received well
over 3m job applications in 2016. As the number of
people applying for jobs has increased, employers
have removed human beings from the hiring side
whenever possible, automating more and more of
the decisions. This started more than a decade ago
with simple programs that scanned text CVs for keywords about education, skills and past employers to
flag them for recruiters. It has expanded to include
a bewildering range of quizzes, psychometric tests
and custom-built games that can be used to reject
applicants before a human sees their application.
This shift has already radically changed the way
that many people interact with prospective employers. The standardised CV format allowed jobseekers
to be evaluated by multiple companies with a single approach. Now jobseekers are forced to prepare
‘The tests are frustrating.
You never know what
you’ve done wrong. It
leaves you feeling trapped’
for whatever format the company has chosen. The
burden has been shifted from employer to jobseeker
– a familiar feature of the gig economy era – and
along with it the ability of jobseekers to get feedback
or insight into the decision-making process. The
role of human interaction in hiring has decreased,
making a difficult process deeply alienating.
Beyond the often bewildering and dehumanising
experience lurk the concerns that attend automation and AI, which draws on data that’s often been
shaped by inequality. If you suspect you’ve been
discriminated against by an algorithm, what recourse do you have? How prone are those formulas
to bias, and how do the multitude of third-party
companies that develop and license this software
deal with the personal data of applicants? And is
it inevitable that non-traditional or poorer candidates, or those who struggle with new technology,
will be excluded from the process?
“It’s all these artificial barriers, it makes people feel the hiring process is impenetrable,” says
Heather Davies, a retired HR coordinator and one
Raven culture: how two species are becoming one
Hannah Devlin
Speciation, where one species diverges into two, is
a well-known concept in the theory of evolution.
But a study based on almost 20 years of research
has revealed that “speciation reversal”, the merging
of two previously distinct lineages, may also play
an important role.
Scientists have discovered that two lineages of
common raven that spent between 1m and 2m years
evolving separately appear to be in the process of
such a consolidation. The findings raise intriguing
questions about how science should define species
– and whether the boundaries are really clear cut.
“The bottom line is [speciation reversal] is a
natural evolutionary process, and it’s probably happened in hundreds, or almost certainly thousands,
of lineages all over the planet,” said Kevin Omland,
professor of biological sciences at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and co-author of
the new study. “One of our biggest goals is to just
have people aware of this process.”
Omland began studying the raven 20 years ago,
after he began to suspect that two separate species
could have been lumped together. He reported
the existence of two lineages: one concentrated
in the south-western US, dubbed California,
and another found everywhere else (including
Maine, Alaska, Norway and
d Russia)
called Holarctic.
The latest paper, published in
n Nature
Communic ations, providess new
intriguing details of the evolutionary
history of the two groups. A genetic
analysis of 400 birds spanning the
geographical range of the two
populations suggests that the
California and Holarctic lineeages diverged between 1m and 2m
years ago, but more recently have
merged together again and have
been hybridising for at least tens
ns of
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 33
New evidence of shifting
northern seasons
The Arctic spring is arriving 16 days
earlier than it did a decade ago, according to a study that shows climate
change is shifting the season earlier
more dramatically the further north
you go. The research, published in the
journal Scientific Reports, comes amid
growing concern about the warming of
Greenland, Siberia, Alaska and other
far northern regions. The authors
from the University of California,
Davis, based the study on temperature
records and 743 previous phenological studies looking at timings of bird
migrations, flowers blooming and amphibians calling. The results showed
a curve, with spring events occurring
earlier further north of the equator.
Five types of diabetes
of the organisers of a Christians Against Poverty jobs
club that meets weekly in a church hall in Muswell
Hill, London. While there’s acceptance among
attendees that increasing automation is inevitable
(“it’s 2018 after all”), there’s real frustration at the
hollowing out of human interaction.
“It’s a bit dehumanising, never being able to get
through to an employer,” says Robert, a plumber in
his 40s who uses job boards and recruiters to find
temporary work. Harry, 24, has been searching for
a job for four months. In retail, where he is looking,
“just about every job” has some sort of test or game,
anything from personality to maths, to screen out
applicants. He completes four or five tests a week
as jobs are posted. The rejections are often instant.
“It’s frustrating. You never know what you’ve done
wrong; it leaves you feeling a bit trapped,” Harry says.
Even among the groups where automated hiring is seen as the biggest success, there is some
apprehension. Several professional recruiters told
me that, at every job level, many candidates were
put off by these systems, and that they failed to
Algorithmic aptitude testing … the ‘pre-hire
assessment’ market is estimated to be worth
$3bn a year TongRo Images/Alamy
thousands of years.
yea The two populations now comprise pure Hol
Holarctic ravens and a group that are
hybrids of the
th two original lineages (the pure
California type no longer exists).
“The extensive genetic data reve
veals one of the best supported examples of speciation
reversal of deeply diverged
lineages to date
date,” said Arild Johnsen, professor of
zoology and evo
evolutionary biology at University of
Oslo and anothe
another co-author. “The biggest thing is
the degree to wh
which we’ve caught them in the act.”
The genetic analysis also revealed that the
mitochondrial D
DNA of the hybrids and the Holarctics
differed by abou
about 4%, which the scientists said was
twice as much as
a would normally be seen for birds
to be considered separate species.
Despite bein
being genetically distinct, though,
the birds look the same, sound the same and
behave the same – although it is possible that
they were different before they started to merge
into one group.
The paper also notes that a third group of ravens
– known as Chihuahuan ravens – which branched off
from the California lineage, have remained separate
and do not interbreed with the other two groups,
despite their geographical ranges overlapping.
Scientists are not sure why this is the case.
“The Chihuahuan raven doesn’t want to play,”
said Omland. “It stays by itself and doesn’t interbreed with the others.”
The team is now investigating what prompted
the merger between the two populations, including whether humans played a role. They are analysing genetic data from ravens that lived in the early
1900s to investigate whether the hybridisation has
accelerated since then.
engage “passive but talented” applicants. A survey by the recruiter Allegis Global Solutions found
that 58% of north American job applicants said
they were comfortable interacting with an automated program – an ambiguous statistic widely
interpreted as a green light.
An underground fightback of sorts against automation has emerged, as applicants search for ways
to game the system. On web forums, students trade
answers to employers’ tests and create fake applications to scope out their processes.
The apex of this practice is perhaps the Walesbased company Practice Aptitude Tests, which
collates information from jobseekers and former
employees about recruitment tests and sells practice versions, as well as tips for navigating them.
Guy Thornton, the head of the company, claims the
service has been used more than 3m times.
Diabetes that begins in adulthood
falls into five distinct categories,
research has revealed, with scientists
suggesting it is time to ditch the idea
that diabetes is split into two types.
Researchers say all of the newly
classified subgroups are genetically
distinct and have numerous differences, including the age at which they
tend to occur and different levels of
risk for complications. “For the patient,
I think it will mean a more individualised therapy [and] a better quality of
life,” said Leif Groop, professor of diabetes and endocrinology at Sweden’s
Lund University, who led the study.
Seeing around corners
A team of researchers have come up
with a new laser-based system that
efficiently produces images of objects
that are hidden around a corner – a
development they say could allow
autonomous vehicles to see obstacles
before they come into the line of sight.
“There is this preconceived notion
that you can’t image objects that aren’t
already directly visible to the camera –
and we have found ways to get around
these types of limiting situations,” said
Dr Matthew O’Toole, a co-author of the
research from Stanford University.
British geneticist dies
The pioneering geneticist Sir John
Sulston has died aged 75. Sulston led
the UK side of the landmark Human
Genome Project and founded the Wellcome Sanger Institute near Cambridge,
one of Britain’s leading biomedical
institutions. Sulston’s work on decoding the genome of the nematode worm
Caenorhabditis elegans, which revealed
how genes control cell division, won
him the 2002 Nobel prize in physiology
or medicine. The findings underpin
the understanding of developmental
growth and of how cancers emerge.
34 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Different kinds of winners and losers
Zoe Williams takes issue with
Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s latest
social and political polemic
Skin in the Game:
Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Allen Lane, 304pp
Skin in the Game is Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s fifth
book. He presents it sometimes as part of a triptych
with his earlier works The Black Swan and Antifragile, and at other times as a continuation, each
book “just as Eve came out of Adam’s ribs”, seeding
the central idea of the next. The Black Swan, a soaraway success praised for its prophetic power and
intense relevance, looked – just before the financial crash of 2007 – at “high-impact, unexpected”
events; at those disasters that result when you underestimate the complexity of systems and, at its
simplest, when you assume that because you’ve
never seen one, black swans don’t exist.
Antifragile, which had more of a pop-philosophy
feel, advised how to take advantage of modern randomness and volatility. Skin in the Game has more
in common, in the way its ideas are structured and
their application, with Black Swan. Yet a style runs
strong and consistent through each of the three
books, trenchant beyond all imagining, and is its
own kind of wit. Every economist, journalist, book
reviewer, professor, anyone who is not part of an
“active and transactional life” is an inveterate idiot,
unless he or she is one of a handful Taleb respects,
who also seem to be his very close friends. “I am
never bothered by normal people,” he says, though
given the emphasis he puts on his “fuck-off ” wealth,
the reader might be permitted to wonder how many
normal people he engages with.
Taleb is riotously discourteous and extremely
thin-skinned, still taking issue in his footnotes
with the negative review he received in this paper for Antifragile. The effect is arresting: it can
be extremely good fun. The combination of fearlessness, self-belief and immodesty adds up to
charisma on the page; Taleb is the festival messiah
you’d follow into a river until the drugs wore off.
The argument of the new book is also immediately attractive: if you have no skin in the game, you
shouldn’t be in the game. “If you give an opinion,
and someone follows it, you are morally obligated to
be, yourself, exposed to its consequences.” Bankers
are in the “Bob Rubin trade”, named after the former secretary of the US Treasury, who “collected
more than $120m in compensation from Citibank
in the decade preceding the banking crash of 2008.
When the bank, literally insolvent, was rescued
by the taxpayer, he didn’t write any cheque – he
invoked uncertainty as an excuse. Heads he wins,
tails he shouts ‘Black Swan’.”
There are fools of randomness and crooks of randomness, but Taleb’s corrective is the same: they
must have skin in the game. This is needed to ensure
they think well, so that they learn from their mistakes, and because systems learn and species evolve
by weeding out failure. Those who don’t succeed
must face ruin, or death (this dances around a bit,
as correctives will when you’re ranging freely in
Pay the price … Taleb argues that the architects of the financial crash should suffer Cate Gillon/Getty
your references between a lecture agent who once
pissed you off and the ancient text of Hammurabi);
whatever, something bad. So far, so appealing: most
sensible people have agreed for some time that
bankers need personal liability if they’re going to
make responsible choices.
Perhaps already it sounds too broad;
yes, doctors have skin in the game, having
professional pride and reputation, severe
legal consequences for error, a deep understanding of complex systems and
centuries of accrued ethical standards.
But the proposition that bureaucrats,
being separated from the consequences
of their decisions (no skin in the game),
are the ultimate social ill is hard to
sustain; if you accept that systems are
complex, then subsidiarity – devolving decisions down to the lowest civic
level at which they can be made, where
everyone’s skin is involved – can only
be a partial solution. The statement that “the most
egregious contributor to inequality is the condition
of a high-ranking civil servant or tenured academic,
not that of an entrepreneur” is very easily falsifiable
by referring to the real motor of inequality: the distribution of profits between capital and labour, driven
by chief executives and shareholders who want values maximised – people whose skin is very much in
the game of driving down wages. There’s a case to
be made for balance. You wouldn’t want homicide
law to be written by the mother of a murdered child.
It’s in this book’s details that the flaws reveal
themselves. “Prince Andrew,” we learn, “took more
risks than ‘commoners’ during the Falkland [sic]
war of 1982, his helicopter being in the frontline. Why? Because noblesse oblige;
the very status of a lord has been
traditionally derived from protecting others.” If this gels with nothing
you’ve ever thought or heard about
Prince Andrew, it’s because it’s not
true. He did fly a helicopter, so it was
certainly more dangerous than not going to war at all; but the Argentinians
had scant anti-aircraft capability. The
ground was far more fraught with risk.
A section on how a whole population
can submit to the preferences of a tiny,
stubborn minority is fascinating only
from a great distance. Taleb hypothesises
a family of four in which one member will only eat
non-genetically modified food. It is easier for the
whole family to go that way; soon, because of barbecues and whatnot, the neighbourhood starts to buy
non-GMO to accommodate them, the shop starts to
sell only that food, and so on. The least flexible dominate the most, because the former will only eat some
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 35
Bread, circuses, games
and brown shirts
Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August
by Oliver Hilmes
Bodley Head, 320pp
Nikolaus Wachsmann
things while the latter will eat anything. Then we
learn that in the UK, “where the (practising) Muslim
population is only 3% to 4%, a very high proportion
of the meat we find is halal. Close to 70% of lamb
imports from New Zealand are halal. Close to 10%
of Subway stores carry halal-only meat (meaning no
pork), in spite of the high costs of losing the business
of ham eaters (like myself).”
In fact, New Zealand produces halal lamb almost
exclusively (98%), because of trade deals with the
Middle East, and Subway’s halal stores are part of a
policy since 2007 to take account of the local demographic when opening, resulting in 200-odd stores
in north-east London, Birmingham and other places
where the average Subway shopper is far more likely
to be Muslim than 3%. Taleb’s conclusion – via some
other observations on tolerance, religion and politics
– that the “West is currently in the process of committing suicide” is just silly. More saliently, it goes
against his own precepts: every idea that sounds as
if it might work in the abstract fails in the particular,
and more to the point, he has no skin in this game.
He’s not the one who has to get on a bus wearing
a hijab and be yelled at by some partially educated
thug who didn’t want his rogan josh to be halal.
In one section, Taleb reveals the best advice
he ever received, which was not to have an assistant: it is slightly incongruous, neither reinforcing,
exemplifying nor adding complexity to his argument. But it is enlightening in one sense: it might
help if he got one.
On a balmy summer evening on
16 August 1936, dozens of searchlights formed a vast dome of light
above the new Olympic Stadium in
Berlin. The spectacular effect, originally devised for the Nazi rallies at
Nuremberg, marked the end of the
1936 Summer Games. Inside the
arena, Hitler basked in the success of the games. As
the historian Oliver Hilmes concludes in his lively
book, which spans the 16 days of the Olympics, Hitler had “every reason to be satisfied”.
Nazi leaders pulled out all the stops to wow
visiting foreign notables, journalists and tourists. Around Berlin, buildings were repainted and
adorned with flags; lest they spoil the effect, the
city’s residents were banned from drying laundry
on their front balconies. The Nazis also airbrushed
out some ugly features of their rule. The German
media was warned against “burdening reports on
the Olympic Games with racial perspectives”, and
the raving antisemitic rag Der Stürmer was briefly
muzzled. The spotlight turned instead on lavish
receptions for foreign dignitaries, as Nazi bigwigs upstaged one another with displays of pomp
and power.
As propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels helped
to write the script for the “festival of joy and peace”,
as he glorified the Olympics before his guests. Behind the scenes, he was furious about the feats of the
African-American athlete Jesse Owens, who was,
with four gold medals, the star of the games. “White
humanity should be ashamed,” Goebbels fumed in
his diary. And he was frank about the regime’s aims.
Once the Olympics were brought to a “happy conclusion”, he noted, Germany could “get ruthless”
in the Spanish civil war. Hitler, meanwhile, was demanding in August 1936 that his military be ready
for full-blown war in Europe within four years. At
the same time, the Brownshirts were itching to commit more antisemitic outrages, singing: “When the
Olympics are through, we will batter the Jew!”
There are more substantive histories of the
Nazi Olympics, but Berlin 1936 is the most readable. Hilmes has a gift for storytelling. Each chapter covers a single day and offers vivid vignettes.
The flawed hero is the US novelist Thomas Wolfe.
At the start of the games he seems oblivious to the
real Nazi Germany, relishing the trappings of literary fame. By the end of the event he sees a country
where fear and terror permeated the air “like miasmic and pestilential vapors”.
Hilmes does not dwell on the dark side, though.
His book is part hipster guide to Berlin c 1936, taking
readers on a whirlwind tour of hot clubs, bars and
swanky restaurants. The city was not all drab conformity, Hilmes seems to be saying. Even under Nazi
rule, there were cosmopolitan havens, such as the
art deco Sherbini Bar, where you could dance to the
latest hits from Hollywood musicals, played by the
African-American jazz virtuoso Herb Flemming. All
this fun and opulence might help to explain why so
many foreigners were taken in by the Nazi Olympics.
Yet by favouring anecdote over analysis, Berlin
1936 is ultimately more entertaining than revealing.
There is plenty of high society tittle-tattle, but little about ordinary Berliners, who did not frequent
fancy nightspots, and it skimps on the wider political context and the long-term significance of the
games. In the end, this is a delicately crafted treat
– delectable, fluffy and a little unfulfilling – not unlike the large slice of pyramid cake one of the book’s
characters devours in the appropriately named
Heil bakery.
Too gentle a rebuke
A Good Time to Be a Girl: Don’t Lean In,
Change the System
by Helena Morrissey
William Collins, 272pp
Gaby Hinsliff
Helena Morrissey is different. She
stands out in ways that are obvious
– she has nine children and works in
the senior echelons of the City – and
ways that are not. She is a Brexiter, in
a profession that mainly voted Remain. Morrissey is unusual and her
book is essentially about why that is
a good thing; why people who don’t fit the mould
should be valued for that, rather than forced to conform. Although only, perhaps, up to a point.
Her book is pitched as a mild rebuke to the gungho American cult of “lean in” corporate feminism
preached by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Why,
Morrissey asks, should women “lean in” to an
old-fashioned patriarchal system that’s no longer
fit for purpose, when we could change the system
instead? Women shouldn’t have to copy men to get
on but should be free to succeed in their own way,
perhaps working more flexibly (when Morrissey ran
her own investment management company, she offered a four-day week to anyone who wanted it) or
managing more creatively or just approaching issues differently.
And all of that is a refreshing change from the
niggling cult of female self-improvement, which
starts from the premise that women are probably
doing it all wrong. She casts a wry eye over all those
“what successful women do” articles in which her
name regularly appears, pointing out that they get
cause and effect confused. As for how she does it
all, she’s upfront about crediting her stay-at-home
husband, Richard (who is interviewed in the book,
along with the children), and plenty of help.
Morrissey makes a compelling case, too, for why
institutions need not just diverse but dissenting
voices. In one meeting after the US election, a colleague wonders why the City hadn’t seen Brexit or
Trump coming; why boards that had diversified in
order to prevent group-think were still failing to
spot upsets looming. Her answer is the tendency to
achieve diversity in name only. Boards were willing
to hire different faces, but only if the newcomers
didn’t challenge the consensus. “The experience
showed me rather painfully and personally that
we had only reached the point where diversity of
thought was welcome in theory; much less so in
practice. I could see that my view made many people, including friends, feel very uncomfortable and
even angry,” she writes.
Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Convivial constraints
← Continued from page 35
And angering people is
not Morrissey’s style. Even her book’s title is printed
in unthreatening lower-case letters and the initiative for which she is justly famous, the 30% Club,
deliberately chose to campaign for a critical mass
of women on company boards via voluntary change
rather than by setting quotas. She won board chairs
over by arguing that women add value by bringing in “empathy, social sensitivity, collaboration
and gentleness”.
And if alarm bells ring at the mention of “gentleness”, then you may ultimately struggle with this
book. For Morrissey’s theory of how women are different leads into controversial waters – including a
strictly partial defence of Google engineer James
Damore, sacked for suggesting that biological differences rather than sexism might help explain his
company’s lack of senior women – which may alienate some of the young women at whom this book is
aimed. For women who want to smash down the
boardroom door, this is a terrific read. But smashing
the system? That, it seems, would be a step too far.
The Fountain in the Forest
by Tony White
Faber, 320pp
Sukhdev Sandhu
A queen for all ages
Nefertiti’s Face: The Creation of an Icon
by Joyce Tyldesley
Profile, 240pp
Kathryn Hughes
Even with her blinded left eye,
Nefertiti has come to epitomise
female perfection. Unc annily
symmetrical, and with the second
most famous half-smile after the
Mona Lisa, her image has been
pressed into service to sell everything from key rings, T-shirts and, in
a sinister turn, on adverts for cosmetic surgery. Recently a British woman paid $275,000 and underwent eight nose jobs and three chin implants in an
attempt to sculpt herself into a simulacrum of ancient Egypt’s most famous queen.
Nefertiti was first unearthed in 1912 when the archaeologists of the German Oriental Company went
digging in the upper Nile valley. At Amarna they
discovered the workshop of Thutmose, the court
sculptor who around 1350BC was charged with producing a set of images of the reigning dynasty. By the
time Ludwig Borchardt and his colleagues arrived
there wasn’t much left of the assorted princelings
and highnesses – an ear, a mouth, two feet and fragments of faces without ears. But there was a complete bust of the pharaoh Akhenaten’s Great Royal
Wife, radiant in her blue flat-topped bonnet crown.
“Really wonderful work,” an enraptured Borchardt
wrote in his diary that night: “No use describing it,
you have to see it.”
Calling Nefertiti “it” might seem odd, but perhaps Borchardt was responding to the way that
Thutmose had given the Queen a strong jaw and
a hint of an Adam’s apple. Certainly, this nod to
androgyny was enough to set off excited chatter
among later scholars about how she might have
ruled over Egypt in her own right following the
death of her husband. The only problem with this
theory, as Tyldesley points out, is that full-length
statues of Nefertiti show her with the slackened
breasts and rounded belly typical of a mature royal
consort and symbolic mother to her people. And the
fact that she was born a commoner meant she could
High profile … Egypt’s most famous queen
never have occupied the throne in her own right. As
for the missing eye, Tyldesley has no truck with the
fairytale that Thutmose wrenched it out to punish
the beautiful queen who had spurned him as a lover.
It is more likely that the sliver of crystal lens and
black wax got ground underfoot during one of the
workshop’s periodic lootings.
But it’s when Nefertiti goes on public display in
Berlin in 1924 that this book’s narrative crackles
into life. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s lavish
tomb two years earlier had turned the world’s attention on to Egypt. At a time when Europe was
grieving the loss of its young men, the revelation
that the pharaohs sent their dead off to the next life
equipped with nice clothes, decent wine and loyal
pets was something of a comfort. And then there
was the way she looked. In an era in which society
women were turning up to parties with jewelled
scarabs and slicked-back hair, the Egyptian queen
resembled the kind of film star you might see at a
matinee in one of the new vaguely Egyptian art deco
cinemas. Enticingly exotic but not off-puttingly foreign, Nefertiti occupied an appealingly indeterminate space where everyday womanhood could be
turned into a performance of high style.
Over the near century that Nefertiti has lived in
the Neues Museum in Berlin, rumbles about colonial
appropriation and possible reparations have never
gone away. Tyldesley is of the firm opinion that the
deal by which the Germans acquired the limestone
bust was legal if a tad opportunistic: Nefertiti was
offered to the Egyptian authorities, who couldn’t
see the point of acquiring a painted plaster head of a
mere queen consort. Still, that hasn’t stopped them
wanting her back. In 1933, Hermann Goering was on
the point of shipping her to King Fuad as a gesture
of goodwill, until Hitler stepped in to nix the deal,
declaring hysterically that he was in love with the
Egyptian queen and wanted to keep her for himself.
“I like detecting,” Gertrude Stein
once wrote. “There are so many
things to detect, why did somebody
say what they said, why did somebody cut out a paragraph …” If, in
some circles, crime fiction is still
associated with mass-market mediocrity, Stein represents a countertradition – one that includes Jorge Luis Borges and
William S Burroughs, Paul Auster and Thomas Pynchon – of highbrow and formally adventurous writers who have bent sinister, seeing this residually
pulp genre as an ally in the war against a bland literary mainstream.
The Fountain in the Forest is a rich, riveting
example of this alternative lineage. It begins with
the discovery of a noseless body hanging in a Covent
Garden theatre. The chief suspect is an old pal of
detective Rex King who, in trying to track him down,
revisits half-forgotten episodes from British and European social history, among them 1985’s “battle of
the beanfield”, in which more than 1,300 police officers prevented new age travellers from setting up
a free festival near Stonehenge. Another section of
the book follows English teenager JJ as he travels
to the south of France and happens upon a group
of artists, hippies and anarchists.
Set in the 90 days between the end of the miners’
strike and the beanfield battle, White’s novel vividly
reanimates this lost interregnum – a year before
the big bang, which ushered in the deregulation of
financial markets and imperial Thatcherism – as a
period both of defeat and of dreams, of innocence
and of dark enlightenment. Moving forward in time,
there are references to the derailing of the Stalker
inquiry, which had been investigating whether
British forces had a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland; to undercover police infiltrating groups
campaigning against the building of the Newbury
bypass; to the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad
targeting anti-racist groups supporting the family
of Stephen Lawrence. This is history as secretly
scripted, as occult malevolence.
White’s innovation is to fuse his revisionist
narrative with techniques associated with Oulipo,
the group of writers and mathematicians, including Raymond Queneau and Georges Perec, who
produced work according to sometimes baffling
rules and constraints (Perec’s novel A Void featured
not a single “e”). White forces himself to use all the
words that comprise answers to the Guardian’s
Quick Crossword from March to April 1985. Equally
arresting are the chapter names (“Pissenlit”, “Mandragore”), which are taken from the French revolutionary rural calendar. An explanation of the calendar by the scholar Sanja Perovic is so crucial to a full
understanding of White’s project that in his preface
he urges readers to check out her book on the topic.
More insecure writers would have laboured to
show off their erudition and ended up producing
drily conceptual fare. White is always convivial
company, making ostensibly abstruse speculations
seem common sense. The Fountain in the Forest is
the opening salvo in a trilogy. I’m already awaiting
the next.
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 37
Books Interview
‘It’s not just
joyful – it’s also
a place of pain’
here’s a book my younger daughter
asks me to read to her every night.
Over the years I’ve recited The Gruffalo, voyaged with her to Narnia and
opened the door to The Secret Garden. But this book is different, because when I put it down and turn off her light, she
sometimes says: “I want to be in it.”
It will come as no surprise that the book is
Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Good Night
Stories for Rebel Girls, a collection of “100 tales
of extraordinary women” that has become a publishing sensation. It is the most successful new title in the history of crowdfunding, has sold more
than a million copies, been translated into dozens
of languages and has prompted a slew of copycat
efforts. Now Rebel Girls 2 is coming out in the UK,
with a podcast scheduled for this month.
The book was born of the frustration felt by
Favilli and Cavallo at the lack of role models for girls
in fiction and film. They decided to offer alternative
fairytales to those of Cinderella and Rapunzel, who
pine for their princes. So … once upon a time there
were female scientists, judges, athletes, writers,
musicians and politicians, all with remarkable stories. Rosa Parks shares the pages with Cleopatra, the
pirate Grace O’Malley, Oprah Winfrey and Ada Lovelace. The preface of the first volume urges its readers,
to build “a world where gender will not define how
big you can dream”. When I meet them in Los Angeles, they mention a typical letter from a seven-yearold girl who had been talking to classmates about
what they would like to be when they grew up. A
surgeon, the girl said. To which a boy scoffed that no
surgeons were women. “She wasn’t angry,” Cavallo
points out, “but simply said: ‘I’m sure he hasn’t read
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.’”
There are plenty of children’s novels featuring
powerful female characters – from Madeline and
Pippi Longstocking to Anne Shirley and Hermione
Granger. But Favilli and Cavallo were concerned
with the cultural life of younger kids. But they
were determined not to assemble a worthy gallery
of historical notables. In choosing the subjects, they
sought “larger than life” moments. For example,
“we researched the lives of many female chefs. But
when we found out that Julia Child started her career as a wartime spy, cooking anti-shark cakes to
Support network … Elena Favilli and Francesca
Cavallo’s first Rebel Girls book was the most
successful new title in the history of
crowdfunding Andrzej Liguz/
keep them away from bombs intended for German
U-boats, we knew she was the right choice.”
The selection makes the books alive and forwardlooking. Favilli and Cavallo are eager to showcase diverse women from all countries, “so every girl could
find someone who reminded them of their own circumstances”. Elizabeth I is included, but so is Yusra
Mardini, the Syrian Olympic swimmer born in 1998
who, as a refugee fleeing the civil war, pushed her
leaking, crowded boat for hours in the Mediterranean
to a safe shore. Volume two includes JK Rowling and
Beyoncé alongside subjects suggested by supporters,
including the Asian-American firefighter Sarinya Srisakul and Katia Krafft, the French volcanologist who
dreamed of riding in a boat down a lava flow.
Eline van Dam; Barbara Dziadosz; Paola Rollo; Penguin Random House
Sexism led to Elena Favilli and
Francesca Cavallo’s Rebel Girls
series, explains Paul Laity
Inspirations … clockwise from top left: Beyoncé,
Beatrix Potter, Amna Al Haddad and JK Rowling
Now in their mid-30s, they have been a couple
for a decade and entered into a civil partnership in
2016. They began work on what became a children’s
media company, Timbuktu Labs, and eventually
won awards that sent them to San Francisco – the
world of startups and Silicon Valley financing.
At first, they were thrilled to be in the Bay Area,
but the “bro culture” of Silicon Valley became oppressive: “We were always the only women in the
room. We kept hearing that two girls alone will
never raise serious capital.” In 2015 Favilli wrote an
article on Silicon Valley sexism for the Guardian.
She was shocked at many below-the-line comments
and received a death threat on Twitter: “At first you
think it’s nothing, but it’s not nothing … it’s scary.”
The response to the article, Favilli says, “pushed
me even more to think that our next project should
target girls and give them a strong, empowering
message”. The books are “definitely connected” to
their Silicon Valley years: “We always say that Rebel
Girls comes from a very personal place, but it is not
just joyful and celebratory – it is also a place of pain.”
Having failed to attract further investment in
their startup, and unimpressed with traditional
publishing, Favilli and Cavallo – by now in LA –
turned to crowdfunding, and eventually raised $1m
in pre-sales on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Not every reader has been smitten. Some criticised
the inclusion in the first volume of Aung San Suu
Kyi, given the Rohingya persecution, and Margaret
Thatcher. Defending Thatcher’s inclusion, Cavallo
stresses that they wanted to “stay away from saints”,
religious or secular: “We study men in history even
if they were far from perfect … girls are taught to be
likeable at all times, and that is one of the strongest
limits we place on the leadership of women.”
The book, its authors feel, “captured a moment in
history”. During its launch year, 2016, “something
was building. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign
was, for us, a catalyst. We felt Rebel Girls was so
needed, so timely.” Clinton was included in the first
volume. (The politician has written to the authors to
thank them for “fighting gender stereotypes”.)
Rebel Girls is “bigger than us”, its authors insist
– it takes its place “in a wider conversation” that
includes the #MeToo movement. Among the protesters who took to American streets In January for
the Women’s March (marking a year since the inauguration of President Trump) were some who held
“Rebel Girls” signs. “We are proud that our book
has become a symbol of resistance,” Cavallo says.
For Favilli, seeing the protest signs had an even
bigger effect: “Honestly, I was speechless. When
people use your title as a hashtag to describe
themselves, and then it’s displayed on signs on a
march, it means your work has really become a part
of the public imagination.”
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 is published
by Timbuktu
38 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
‘I have a chip
on my shoulder
about Hollywood’
James Cromwell’s activism has come to eclipse
his acting career, explains Emma Brockes
ames Cromwell, veteran actor, Oscar
nominee and star of LA Confidential and
The Green Mile, is listing what he hates
about Hollywood. “I don’t like the system,” he says. “I don’t like what it does to
people. I don’t like the values. I don’t like
the class system. I don’t like the disparity in pay, for
men and women, and men and men.” He smiles.
“I have a chip on my shoulder about Hollywood.”
Cromwell, at 78, might be assumed to have shed
any youthful inhibitions about speaking his mind.
In fact, he says, he has always been awkward,
particularly when starting out. “I had issues with
authority and made myself fairly unpopular in
almost every theatre.” Not only was he “terminally
stupid”, he had a temper. On the set of 1997’s LA
Confidential, Cromwell disagreed with the director
Curtis Hanson over a line. “I cursed him,” he recalls.
“I kicked dirt. I punched the car.”
He has been married three times, and currently
lives with his wife Anna in a cabin in upstate New
York; when I visit it is blanketed in snow. Cromwell
comes to the door – a towering two metres tall with
the face of an Easter Island statue – says hi then
turns to go and haul logs in for the fire.
The thing people say to Cromwell in the street is:
“Don’t tell me. What were you in? You’re that guy!”
The last time Cromwell was in jail – he has been
arrested many times for his activism, most recently
for protesting against fracking – he says: “They all
knew my face. ‘Hey, he’s the guy in The Green Mile!’
I was always ‘the guy’.” Much to his amusement,
Cromwell’s best-known role is probably as Farmer
Hoggett in 1995’s Babe, about a cute pig that wants
to be a sheepdog. Made when he was 55, it became
an unexpected hit. It was interacting with piglets
on the set that started Cromwell thinking about
animal rights, leading him to not only become a
vegan, but to take up the fight for animals. More
recently, he narrated Farm to Fridge, a 2011 documentary about the horror of the slaughterhouse,
and in 2013 he was arrested for protesting against
animal testing. He was also arrested in 2015 during
a sit-in protest at a natural gas-fired power plant,
spending three days in prison last year after refusing to pay a $375 fine for the incident. Shortly after
the conclusion of his sentence, Cromwell was
arrested again, this time for disrupting an
orca show at Sea World.
For many years now, acting has come
second to his activism. While he will tell
a wry story about crashing a Hollywood
party and hanging out by the pool with
Michael Caine and Sean Connery,
he is happier explaining how
fracking is being introduced
across the US by stealth. The
difficulty for Cromwell, and for
any political activist, is that the
vast majority of people would
rather hear the one about the
Hollywood party.
Cromwell’s politics
are rooted in his childhood. He grew up in Connecticut, where his family
moved after his father, a
Hollywood director who
made more than 57 films,
was blacklisted during
the McCarthy era
witch-hunts. His
mother was an
actor, but after his
parents divorced
she never acted
again. His father, however,
found a new
footing in
How the Tomatometer became film’s top critical banana
wenty years ago, the internet was a very
different place. Google was a fresh rival
to AltaVista and Lycos. Apple computers
looked like boiled sweets, and we dialled up to “surf the net”. It was into this climate
that Senh Duong launched Rotten Tomatoes.
The idea was simple – to compile movie
reviews – and it still drives Rotten Tomatoes. He
was inspired by his love of Jackie Chan and Jet
Li movies and would scour the internet looking
for reviews of them. So why not put them in one
place? Duong already had a full-time job, he says.
“Rotten Tomatoes was a side project I worked on
in the evenings.” He single-handedly designed
and coded the site in just two weeks. “It was
very laborious. Every page was manually assembled using HTML. Every review was manually
searched for, read and quoted.”
The “Tomatometer” separates movies into
“fresh” or “rotten”. If at least 60% of a movie’s
reviews are positive, it is graded “fresh”, signified
by a ripe, red tomato. Less than 60% and it is “rotten”, signified by a green splat. Over 75% gets you
a “certified fresh” logo.
Today, movies supposedly live or die by the
ripeness of that virtual fruit. With its dominance
and prominence, Rotten Tomatoes is becoming
the story – and not always in a good way. After
Lady Bird got its 100% score, for example, one
critic opted to lob a green splat into the mix, not
because he hated the movie, but because everyone else liked it so much. “I had to consider
whether to cast Lady Bird as fresh or rotten
ten in
the context of a perfect score that people
were using to trumpet Lady Bird as the
all-time best-reviewed movie on RT,” Cole
Smithey tweeted.
Duong left Rotten Tomatoes in 2007 to
pursue other digital media projects. “When
started it,” he recalls, “I was only thinking of
its positive impact – that it could be really useful to film fans. And to studios: they could use
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 39
Ready for the fight … James Cromwell the
activist, main and below; below left, as Farmer
Hoggett in Babe Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
the New York theatre world. “He never lost the
best part of him, which was to be a member of an
artistic community that supported each other and
cared about the work. He never found that in the
studio system. All my father’s friends cut him dead.
They would pass him and not look at him.” John
Cromwell, he points out, was not a communist, but
a middle-of-the-road liberal.
Young Cromwell’s first big test came when
he joined a production of Waiting for Godot as it
toured the segregated south. It was 1963 and the
company played to mainly black audiences and
were occasionally
surrounded by
armed guardss out
of fear that white
would firebomb
their venue.
Cromwell was
first arrested
d at a
Vietnam warr protest
in 1971. Given
n his father’s blacklisting,
sting, has
Cromwell ever hesitated to join a protest because of
how it might affect his career? He smiles and, after a
long pause, says: “Once. Somebody approached me
in LA to protect the Ballona Wetlands. They were
going to develop them. One of the developers was
Steven Spielberg, who wanted to put his studio out
there. I went out and did a tour. It was incredible.
The wetlands were magic. I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’”
Next he received a call from an actor who
asked: “Jamie, there’s probably no such thing as
the blacklist any more. But supposing your name
comes up at Spielberg’s DreamWorks and they say
what about Jamie Cromwell for that part, and somebody goes, ‘Is he the guy who’s trying to block the
building of our studio?’
“I thought, ‘Ah, shit. I’ve got all these kids and
school and college.’ So I called them up and said,
‘I’ll give you money and come to the protests, but I
can’t be your front man because my position in the
industry is not secure enough.’ About a week later
I see a news report: a celebrity has chained himself
to one of the fences out there and it’s Martin Sheen.
And I thought, ‘God damn it!’”
How did he feel? “I felt like a horse’s ass –
although Martin could get away with that because he was a huge star and The West Wing was
at its height. I wasn’t and haven’t been. But I felt
that I had flinched. And I said I’m never going to
flinch again.”
And he hasn’t.
hasn Cromwell’s own star has
risen steadily. In the last 20 years he’s appeared
in The Artis
Artist, Spider-Man 3, The Queen,
Big Hero 6, 2
24 and, this summer, the sequel to
The sick feeling he got from
Jurassic World.
abandoning his principles never left him,
though. When he and Anna – an actor he
has been
be married to for four years, although they have known each other
for 35 – moved to this cabin, the first
thing Cromwell said to her was: “Do
you want
to be involved?”
He meant local activism because
“there’s got to be issues – something
out here”. Sure en
enough they found their target:
a power plant that
tha activists suspected was being
fuelled by frackin
fracking, as part of a huge semi-covert
system. “If you see a map of the country,” he
for the 300 plants
says, “with the infrastructure
they’re planning
planning, it’s like a spider’s web over the
United States. It isn’t benign.” And he’s off, eyes
ablaze, ready for the fight.
the Tomatometer to promote their good films.
I wasn’t thinking at all about how they would
react to the poorly reviewed ones.”
The system favours safety and consensus.
As well as movies, Rotten Tomatoes is grading
g the critics: if a reviewer goes against the
grain, the Tomatometer score is “proof” that
they are
ar “wrong”. “It’s self-censorship,” says
Steven Gaydos, the executive editor of Variety.
“Critics have trained themselves to [pretend
to] take seriously movies that they don’t take
seriously because the danger is not having a
job and not being ‘relevant’, being aged out of
the discussion.” Gaydos’s fear is that Rotten
Tomatoes is replacing nuanced, thoughtful film
writing. “We used to read Andrew Sarris and
Pauline Kael arguing, and now we’re looking at
a picture of a green tomato or a red tomato. We
have to see what we’ve lost here, people!”
Film-makers have expressed similar
sentiments. Martin Scorsese complained that
sites such as Rotten Tomatoes have “absolutely
nothing to do with real film criticism … The filmmaker is reduced to a content manufacturer and
the viewer to an unadventurous consumer.”
Others disagree. The New Yorker critic Richard
Brody argued that Rotten Tomatoes “has the merit
of putting reviews by critics who write for smaller
outlets alongside those who write for more prominent ones, which is all to the good”. When Duong
created Rotten Tomatoes in 1998, Hollywood
released more titles than it does now, and they
were reviewed by a handful of significant critics:
major newspapers and magazines, syndicated
critics such as Siskel and Ebert. The media elite,
you could say. Today, the situation has flipped.
Hollywood releases fewer movies and they are
reviewed by hundreds, possibly thousands, of
critics. You could see this as democratisation and
diversity of the media, or the emergence of a cacophony of critical voices. Depending on how you
look at it, Rotten Tomatoes either showcases organic, heirloom varieties like an upmarket grocery
store, or it blends all difference into one easily
digestible puree. The fruit is either half-ripe or
half-rotten; it’s all a matter of taste. Steve Rose
W its dominance
and prominence,
Rotten Tomatoes is
becoming the story
40 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Oh, what a performance gender can be
Extraordinary and mundane … portrait of CrunCrun, a burlesque comedian, taken in Avignon in
1900; two captured French soldiers pose in a
German prisoner of war camp in 1915
Adrian Searle is transfixed
by a new show that reveals a
secret history of cross-dressing
girlfriend of mine once attended
a drag-king workshop. I saw the
photographs: her pasted- on
moustache and sideburns, her
breast-bindings, her plaid shirt,
the prosthetic bulge in her leather
trousers. “Seeing myself as a man,” she said, “made
me realise how constructed my femininity was.” Her
mother went, too. It was play but more than play.
When I wear a skirt or paint my nails, it signifies
resistance to a normative masculinity I have never
wanted. It attests to something beyond the binary.
What a performance gender is.
There is an urgency to the 200 or so images in
Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers,
which is at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. These amateur images, taken between the
1880s and the 1980s, belong to the French director
Sébastien Lifshitz, who put the collection together
after making Wild Side (2004), a film about the life
of a transsexual woman.
“My classification was extremely simplistic,”
Lifshitz wrote when the exhibition opened in Arles
in 2016. “All individuals wearing the other gender’s
clothes were put in the same box. I would later
discover that things were much more complex
than that.”
One is certainly struck by the insufficiency of
two genders. There is also the difficulty, if not the
impossibility, of reading motives, because these
images go beyond mere dressing up. They are to do
with the self-creation of identity. Even at its most
playful, this constitutes a stepping away from what
one has been given. Today, the terminology proliferates in ways that would have been unimaginable
to the subjects here. An entire spectrum of human
Courtesy of Sebastien Lifshitz
and The Photographers’ Gallery
possibilities, however, is implicit among these
images of male and female transvestites, trans men
and women, the cisgendered and the genderqueer,
straights, gays, lesbians, the pan-gendered, the
gender-fluid and the gender-neutral.
A housemaid and a young man – maybe a lad on
an errand – fl irt before a vase of flowers. Both are
women. So, too, is the bloke loitering with cigarette
and walking cane in the park. The steps and urns
behind him are a studio backdrop. Four other
women pose as soldiers and their floozies. Another pair, both men, pose for a double portrait,
looking like a pair of young women out for a walk
in the country. They’re Frenchmen in a prisonerof-war camp in Germany in 1915. What is the story
here? Why are they looking so serious? For all their
everyday manners, their heads leaning together
in this oval keepsake, how vertiginous and
unknowable the image becomes.
Indeed, while many of the photographs are celebratory, we can rarely glean what motivated any of
the subjects, except to say they all find themselves
in conflict with the norms, expectations and laws
of their time. It may be play acting, entertainment,
a temporary escape, a desire to put oneself in the
place of the “other” – men as women, women as
men, or somewhere less defined.
There is a great deal of humour and pleasure
in the images, which are mostly from France,
Germany and the US. The ambiguities redouble the
more one looks. Devoid of backstory, the images
dare you to look at them, and the people in them
look back with a mixture of self-consciousness
and confidence – or they look elsewhere, pensive,
as if caught unawares. Performing for themselves,
for each other and for the camera, their roles are
frequently stereotypical of their times. Some
photos are souvenirs of dressing-up parties. Others
are in the style of movie pin-ups, cabaret posters,
or hand-coloured postcard vignettes.
The camera affirms that these people exist, with
their parasols and fabulous hats, at a transvestite
hotel, wearing their 1950s industrial-strength
lipstick. Alone at home or out on the porch, in
their terrific and not so terrific makeup, all of them
are just trying to be in the world. Whether convincing or unconvincing, they are almost always touching, astonishing, tender, melancholy, vulnerable
and haughty.
Some images are undoubtedly selfies, taken with
a timer, while in others we imagine the photographer in the room or the studio, out by the barn or
in some other outdoor setting, recording the acting
out of the stories of these alternative lives. Some
images have a real sense of necessity, an authenticity that needed to be claimed and marked.
Looking at these amateur images (although the
word amateur does not always seem quite right), we
become implicated as soon as we begin to imagine
their stories. These photographs celebrate lives and
desires, possibilities and necessities. The images
were made to be looked at, we imagine, by their
subjects, giving their self-images a greater validation, affirmation and confirmation than the mirror
alone can provide. The photograph is a mediation
between the self and the world, as symbolic as it is
a record of a moment and a state of being.
Many of these are very ordinary portraits and
group shots, the kind you’d pass over in a family
album until you look more closely. How unremarkable these pictures are, until we realise how
precise they are in their studied ordinariness.
Even the captions – The new sweater I made; My
new sewing machine and cabinet; Just got home
from church with new yellow shirt – attest to a conventional life. She is recording herself, doing what
ordinary women do. Is there a difference between
posing and being? Convention, with all its trappings, is just another kind of performance.
Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers is
at the Photographers’ Gallery, London, until 3 June
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 41
Culture Reviews
The Best Man
Flint Town
police car cuts through a bleak, frozen
night-time cityscape. It’s beautifully
and cinematically shot from above.
Flashing lights and sirens are switched
on; it’s responding to a shooting. We’re in Flint,
Michigan which, since its boom in the 1950s and
60s, has suffered blow after blow. The decline of
the auto industry and the withdrawal of General
Motors, deindustrialisation, disinvestment,
depopulation, urban decay, drugs, poverty, and
a whole lot of crime.
Not enough? Throw in a public health crisis
as well. The water supply became toxic after
a policy decision that was supposed to save
money. Kick them when they’re on their knees.
Well, slowly poison them, to be precise. Where
better place to set an observational documentary
series from the point of view of police? The force
is at breaking point, with crippling cuts, soaring
crime and a community that’s losing faith in
them. There are nine cars to patrol the city,
officers numbers are down from 300 to 98.
There are some good characters among those
98 though. Bridgette Balasko saw her first stabbing on the first day in the job, her first homicide
on day four. Now she can’t remember the last
time she was bothered by a dead body. Robert
Frost is there for exactly those reasons. “The
Rock & pop
First Aid Kit
his one’s a fuckin’ banger!” a gruff voice
hollers from the belly of the Glasgow
Academy’s sold-out hall. Scandinavian
sisters First Aid Kit just introduced new
song Fireworks and its swooning, 50s-inspired
waltz through unpursued dreams is, admittedly,
far from a party starter. But such is the showmanship of Johanna and Klara Söderberg. The sisters
are professional people-pleasers, swigging the
idiosyncratic Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru and
chatting rugby scores in between an otherwise
tightly rehearsed, slick show.
The folk-pop duo’s fourth album, Ruins, is
ostensibly a break-up album. In the four years
since their last LP, Klara broke up with her partner,
attraction of Flint was this is where the action
was, the violence,” he says. When Frost retires,
he wants to be able to say: “Hell I lived it, I went
through the worst and I survived.”
Observational documentary is made by interesting characters, as well as by what’s going on.
This has both. So much going on in the police
force, in the city: a crisis meeting with the community who, as a police officer says, “don’t give a
fuck about what our current union crisis is or pay
or whatever, they need help”; a visit from Bernie
Sanders; the police Christmas party; the election
of a new mayor and a new police chief; a tracking
dog, called Sonitrol after the security company
that paid for it. They have to find innovative
ways of doing things in Flint.
And all of that in the first episode. Brutal,
unflinching, real, Flint Town is so rich it’s
almost impossible to binge. You need to pause
between courses, to take it in, even if a lot of is
hard to digest. Beautiful to look at though, the
camera cruises slowly and past extreme urban
dereliction. Not forgetting the crime, of course.
A robbery and assault leaves a man needing
16 stitches. A reckless driver is pulled up, three
times over the limit. And that shooting; now a
young man lies lifeless in the snow. “He’s my
son!” wails his distraught mother.
Turns out he was 16. Sam Wollaston
Flint Town is streaming on Netflix
moved back to Stockholm and
reunited with Johanna. On grandiose opener Rebel Heart, Klara
sings with a clenched jaw about
the bad habits that a heart can
an still
desire. And later, on To Live a Life,
she stands solitary in the spotlight.
“I’m alone now,” she shares, with
an aura of real pain.
For Emmylou, a fan favourite
rite, a
short film documents their sisteristerhood. As they sing for the room
om it’s
clear that really, they’re singing
ng for
each other. The Academy swells
as 2,000 voices join the chorus.
There’s rare power in a performance
this heartfelt. Katie Hawthorne
Touring worldwide until August
t has taken Gore Vidal’s highly entertaining
drama about US presidential politics, premiered on Broadway in 1960, a long time to
reach the British stage. As a result, it seems
both nostalgic and topical. It takes one back to
the age of the well-tailored play and a time when
political conventions were contests, rather than
coronations. Yet, with its reminder that “to want
power is corruption already”, it chimes with
present-day cynicism about the political process.
Vidal, who twice stood for office as a Democrat
and was born into the political purple, writes
with inside knowledge. His setting is a Philadelphia hotel during a party convention where two
candidates are fighting to achieve the presidential nomination. The apparent frontrunner, Bill
Russell, combines the sophistication of Adlai
Stevenson, the 1950s Democratic candidate twice
defeated by Eisenhower, with the womanising
tendencies of JFK and the wit of Vidal himself.
Russell’s opponent, Joseph Cantwell, is a selfeducated senator from the south who has made
his name through chairing a McCarthyite committee that has supposedly destroyed the mafia
through ruthless interrogation within New York’s
Sicilian community. Both men, however, are bidding for endorsement by an ailing ex-president.
Vidal’s sympathies are too palpably with
Russell, who is presented as a man of flawed
integrity. While acknowledging the importance
of potential first ladies, the play also never fully
explores the characters of the candidates’ wives:
you wonder how much Cantwell’s wife knows
about her husband’s ambivalent sexual past.
Vidal captures well the machinations that are
inseparable from politics – not only the backstairs
manoeuvres but the hypocrisy that allows the agnostic ex-president to recall that, to woo the electorate, “you had to pour God over everything like
a ketchup”. As the director, Simon Evans, points
out, this is politics seen from the vantage point
of what in Hamilton is called “the room where it
happens”. Evans’s production also does its best
to even out the contest between the candidates.
Russell is obviously the more likable, but Martin
Shaw, pictured with Maureen Lipman, invests
him with a touch
h of in
intellectual condescension
and, although
althou he protests, “I am not
suggests there are
Prince Hamlet”,
limits to p
principled vacillation. It is a
performance well matched by
strong pe
Fahey, who plays Cantwell as a
Jeff Fah
street-fighter who views the entitlem
tlement of liberals with disdain.
In a play generous in support
porting roles, Jack Shepherd
almost steals the show as the
ex-president who shrouds his
native shrewdness under the
guise o
of a hick from the sticks.
Lipman gives a hiAnd Maureen
larious display of frosty elegance
as a vote-swaying
who wields power like a
chair w
female Richelieu.
Formally, this is an old-fashFor
ioned play. But Vidal has a spiky
awareness of the brutality of
politics. Michael Billington
At tthe Playhouse, London,
until 26 May
42 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Claxton, Norfolk
No matter what day I drive in,
there is always awful traffic
the sound of the birds singing again,
the sight of the buds bursting and
the feel of the sun on my face.
Joan Dawson,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Is the rule still “Jam tomorrow, jam
yesterday, but never jam today”?
On the contrary, the message is
consume jam now, hell for leather,
and deny existential threats like
climate change.
Lawrie Bradly,
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
• My rheumatics – which leave
when it’s warm enough for the
leaves to appear.
Martin Bryan, Churchdown, UK
• Here in Vermont it would have
to be my hearing that alerts me
to spring. The first bubbling calls
of the red-winged blackbirds are
a sure sign that warmer days are
about to come.
Doreen Forney, Pownal, Vermont, US
• If we are talking traffic jams, it still
holds true.
John Benseman,
Auckland, New Zealand
• It’s still the rule for pessimists.
Optimists say: “and jam today”.
David Turner, Bellevue Heights,
South Australia
• Although there are those who
continue to deny what we are doing
to our world, we were in a jam
yesterday, we are in a jam today and
we will still be in a jam tomorrow.
Margaret Wyeth,
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
With lions, both are helpful
Document: what came first, the
verb or the noun?
Children usually use nouns first
and develop their speech with
verbs later.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
• “Verb” begins with “v” and
“noun” begins with “n”, so it seems
the noun always comes first.
Avril Taylor,
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
• The noun: it’s best to think about
things before we act.
George Gatenby,
Adelaide, South Australia
We have it today ... jam
• A moot question. Out on the early
savannah, “Lion! Lion!” would have
served just as well as “Flee! Flee!”
John Geffroy,
Las Vegas, New Mexico, US
• “Verb” is a noun, and nouns can
do nothing by themselves. Verbs
and nouns have always needed each
other, and came together.
Edward P Wolfers,
Austinmer, NSW, Australia
• The noun. Chicken and egg are
both nouns.
Lawrence Fotheringham,
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
• The Romans used it first as a noun
but didn’t document the fact.
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia
I am relieved every year
Which of the senses convinces you
most strongly that it is spring?
A cynical friend used to say it was
the smell of the dog poo coming out
of the melting snow. But I think it’s
• My sense of relief.
Victor Nerenberg,
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada
• Smell: when the sticky buds of
the balsam poplars quicken and
send their perfume in the air, then
it is spring.
William Emigh,
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
Any answers?
Is it possible that honesty is not the
best policy?
E Slack, L’Isle Jourdain, France
Is there a garden plant or shrub that
is extra special for you?
William Emigh,
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Send answers to weekly.nandq@ or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Bryony Harris
I first discovered the Guardian
Weekly in 1997 when I moved from
England to Norway. Knowing that I
had been an avid reader of the daily
Guardian, my mother, whose political leanings were very different,
risked her reputation in her conservative village by ordering me a copy
of GW each week. Later she found
that she could buy me a subscription, and my habit was established.
Starting at the back I read it
methodically from end to end, so
it can take a while before I get to
the news. As it is often disturbing, I
delay the warm comfort of Maslanka
and the puzzles page until last.
As I try to pick out my favourites,
I realise that every section gives me
something. The depth and breadth
of the articles keep me abreast of
world affairs. Nature watch evokes
my expat’s nostalgia for the English
countryside, and I gain inspiration
from the Culture and Books pages.
Then there’s Oliver Burkeman’s
It is one of the more subtle attractions of our parish but its seasonal
window is brief. It is composed of
four very commonplace elements,
but their convergence is as special
and unpredictable as the arrival of
a rare migrant.
It is the reflection of the reeds in
the water, which doesn’t sound like
much but if conditions are perfect it
acquires great beauty. The reed has
to be dead and bled entirely of any
green hint so that it is pretty much
the colour of African savanna. I often think of it as “lion-flank beige”.
The second ingredient is a sky
of winter sunshine so bright that
the reflected water of Carleton
Beck is ringing blue. Third, I need
breeze – preferably a south-westerly
that carries the water towards the
riverbank and its reed lining.
Yet any more than force two to
three and the image is a clouded
blue shattered by surface movement. Or the reflected colours of
common sense and the clever and
pithy answers sent in by the Notes
& Queries contributors. Who would
believe there could be so much in
one thin paper package?
Changes in the Norwegian postal
system mean that my GW arrives
later than it used to, but that just
gives me more time to look forward
to it. At first it was a lifeline as I
adjusted to living in a new country.
Now it has become a trusted friend,
but I still feel a thrill when I find it
in my postbox.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
the reed ride only on surface ripples
and one has a banded image that is
pretty but conventional. Conversely,
if there is too little breeze one gets
an exact version of the reeds but
upside down. There is momentary
pleasure in these tricks of the light
but they cannot sustain you.
What is needed is for all these
three elements to coalesce precisely.
Then the reflected reed stems
wander and deliquesce so that the
surface vision ceases to have any
similarity to its sources. If the reed
lining is thick enough to exclude
the reflected sky, then it seems as
if one is looking into a soon-setting
reservoir of molten gold. Should
sky and reed actually blend in the
reflection then they acquire some of
the appearance of Victorian marbled
endpapers, or those globular, indefinable entities beloved of Salvador
Dali: melted watches or whaleheaded dreamers propped on poles.
The gold and blue interplay and
fold suggestive forms into and upon
themselves without end. Then I – for
I am the fourth element – can share
in the magic, impelled to try to capture it in words or photographs as
the subliminal chromatic signature
for this whole landscape.
Mark Cocker
Read more Nature watch online
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 43
Quick crossword
Cryptic crossword by Picaroon
1 Large cask (4)
3 Established (8)
8 Affected in mannerisms (4)
9 Close aerial combat (8)
11 Conveying a reprimand (10)
14 Escort in transit (6)
15 Llama relative, valued for
its wool (6)
17 Slovakian capital (10)
20 First – novel (8)
21 US civil rights leader,
assassinated 1968 (4)
22 Underground prisons (8)
23 Heap of combustible
material for burning a
body (4)
1 Fortuitously (2,6)
2 Personally speaking (2,2,4)
4 Small rented Scottish
farms (6)
5 Requiring no physical or
mental exertion (10)
6 Clothes (informal) (4)
7 Love beyond reason (4)
10 Clear off ! (slang) (2,4,4)
12 Disaster (8)
13 Diatribe (8)
16 Overwork – melody (6)
18 Stand-offish (4)
19 Big cat (4)
Last week’s solution, No 14,892
First published in the Guardian
6 February 2018, No 14,898
8 Reserve hotel
with flower in cool
place (8)
9 Ambassador,
found with smut, is
calm (6)
10 Wader’s good
sense on westward
track (6)
11 Slate masons
remove (8)
12 Dash in road, back
to the start (4)
13 Landlord’s stewed
tripe scoffed
by approving
soldiers (10)
15 Vain fellow with
sense to wear jacket
of organdie (2,2,3)
16 Sulphur and more
acid in dish (7)
18 Worn after study,
lawyers must don
article (10)
19 Russian front east of
Iceland’s capital (4)
20 Problem around
heroin, with
opportunity to
shoot up (8)
22 Bent lawman gets
round the law (6)
23 Wife gets joint that’s
beef (6)
24 Pretender wants
pastry, having
uncovered buffet (8)
1 Perspective from
train, even if
stopping regularly
2 Supply inn with
hogsheads, now
disclosing plans
3 Judge and posh tax
Futoshiki Medium
©Clarity Media Ltd
Fill in the grid so that
every row and column
contains the numbers
1-5. The “greater than”
or “less than” signs
indicate where a number
is larger or smaller than
its neighbour.
2 > 1
3 < 4
4 > 3 > 2
1 < 4 >
Last week’s solution
criminal sat next to
one another (10)
Potent smell’s
caught that’s
representative of
pupils (4,3)
In the current
circumstances, fool
takes one in (2,2)
English run grim
economy badly:
things’ll get ugly!
2, perhaps, means 6
Scientist’s lady’s
cross, oppressed by
dull routine (10)
Like some leaves
having two buds? (7)
Outstanding poet’s
encouragement to
unite (4)
First published in the Guardian
7 February 2018, No 27,426
Last week’s solution, No 27,420
Sudoku classic Hard
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
Last week’s solution
44 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Apple boffins fall foul
of futuristic glass doors
Employees at Apple Park, Apple’s
grand new spaceship-style headquarters in California, keep walking
into glass doors and windows.
Despite warnings from a building inspector that people would not
be able to tell where the door ends
and the wall begins, at least three
Apple employees walked or ran into
the ultra-transparent glass hard
enough to require emergency medical treatment during the first month
of occupation, according to recordings of 911 calls obtained by the San
Francisco Chronicle.
Apple Park is a gigantic, $5bn
four-storey glass and metal circular building designed by Norman
Foster, where the glass has been
specially treated to achieve an exact
level of transparency and whiteness. The doorways reportedly have
perfectly flat thresholds because “if
engineers had to adjust their gait
when entering the building, they
risked distraction from their work”,
according to a construction manager
talking to Reuters.
Employees have reportedly been
dealing with the problem since
Apple Park first opened in a limited
capacity last year. According to
Bloomberg, distracted workers on
their iPhones have been walking
into glass walls around office spaces,
resorting to sticking yellow sticky
notes on the glass doors to help.
The notes were reportedly removed,
however, because they detracted
from the building’s design.
Instead, Apple has reportedly
had to resort to putting rectangular
stickers on some of the glass to try
to avoid further injuries. Birds flying
into large panes of glass is a fairly
common hazard, but people doing
the same in an office is not.
Apple did not immediately reply
to a request for comment.
Samuel Gibbs
Proof that you can’t
rush a good sandwich
If there is an easy way to do something, Benjamin Carle does not do
it. So when the Frenchman wanted
a sandwich, he set out to make one
from scratch.
From sowing the wheat for flour,
to baking the bread, to building a
vegetable garden on a Paris rooftop and fishing for tuna, to raising
chickens for eggs. Ten months later,
Carle, 30, had his sandwich, which
he insisted tasted better for the
effort expended to make it.
It is not the first time Carle has
made life difficult for himself. In
2013, he set out to live using only
French-made products as part of a
From scratch … Benjamin Carle and
the sandwich that took 10 months
TV documentary. He was declared
96.9% “made in France” after judges
found six Ikea forks, a Chinese-made
guitar and wall paint of unknown
origin in his Paris apartment.
Carle believes the mass-produced
sandwich, 2bn of which are eaten
every year in France, is a “symbol
of a loss of savoir faire and rampant
Kim Willsher Observer
Oldest message in
bottle found on beach
A school in Tokyo that hit international headlines for introducing an
optional Armani-branded uniform
has been forced to hire security
guards after several students were
harassed over the expensive kit.
Taimei primary school, in the
wealthy Ginza district, brought in
professional guards after at least
three of its pupils encountered abusive strangers who pulled their uniforms or asked if they attended the
school, a local district spokeswoman
told Agence France-Presse. Japan’s
streets are very safe, and guards are
rarely seen at schools.
“Security guards are patrolling
area streets that pupils use in the
morning and when they go home,”
the spokeswoman said.
The school faced criticism over
its decision to adopt the designer
uniforms from April. A full set costs
parents around 80,000 yen ($750).
Since the decision was publicised,
at least one pupil had been confronted by an adult who pulled the
child’s uniform, and said: “Is this
Armani?”, the spokeswoman said. In
two other cases, strangers asked pupils if they were from the school.
Agence France-Presse
The world’s oldest message in a
bottle has been found on a beach in
Western Australia.
Tonya Illman found the 132-yearold gin bottle in the dunes near
Wedge Island in January. Her husband, Kym Illman, said she had
initially thought it was rubbish but
picked it up because it would be at
home on their bookshelf.
Inside, she found a roll of paper
printed in German and dated to 12
June 1886, which was authenticated
by the Western Australian Museum.
“It was an absolute fluke. It won’t
get better than this,” said Kym.
The bottle had been thrown overboard from the German sailing ship
Paula in 1886 as it crossed the Indian
Ocean, 950km from the Australian
coast, according to Ross Anderson,
the museum’s assistant curator of
maritime archaeology.
German ships were conducting
a 69-year experiment that involved
throwing thousands of bottles into
the sea to track ocean currents.
Each message was marked with
the ship’s coordinates, the date and
the name of the ship.
Details from the Illmans’ message
matched Paula’s maritime records,
and Anderson compared handwriting samples with captain’s entries
in Paula’s meteorological journal.
“Incredibly, there was an entry for
June 12, 1886, made by the captain,
recording a drift bottle having been
thrown overboard,” Anderson said.
His finding was confirmed by experts at the German Naval Observatory. The previous record for oldest
message in a bottle was 108 years.
Naaman Zhou
Same Difference
Identify the words, the spelling of
which differs only in letters shown:
L***** (cream)
M***** (gesture)
N***** (concept)
P***** (draught)
Students dangerously
too cool for school
Maslanka puzzles
1 I walked in on Pedanticus jumping up and down on an article by a
contemporary philosopher; the old
fellow was yelling “Illuminati dolt!
Illuminati!” Having distracted him
with an offering of kataïfi I managed
to sneak a peak at the headline of
the offending article: “Does
the Illuminati control the
world?” Now what could be
wrong with that?
2 A sailor stuck on a Desert
Island with only a monkey for
company rescued a number of potatoes from the ship as it sank beneath
the waves. Each day he gave the monkey a potato and ate half the number
of potatoes remaining. If on the nth
day the monkey got a potato and the
sailor got nothing how many potatoes
had he rescued from the ship?
3 In the far gentler Snowflake Olympics two identical hoops of radius R
roll past each other. Each is travelling with the same speed, u, relative
to the ground and one and the same
u picture will suffice to show
their relative positions just
before they pass, and just
after they pass. How long
between the two times? In
your head now!
4 Show that if you have n(n + 1)/2
black socks and n(n – 1)/2 white
socks (n a positive integer greater
than 1) your chances of withdrawing
a matching pair at random are 1/2.
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
In each case find the correct
a) recursor of the church organ
b) part of the cell that coordinates
c) synthetic element with Atomic
Number 118
d) aerosol of attar of roses
Replace each asterisk with a letter so
that the sentence make sense:
The S*U*E*T was *G*O*A*T
of G*O*E*R*.
Missing Links
Find a word to follow the first word
in each clue and precede the second,
making a fresh word or phrase. Eg
fish mix = cake (fishcake & cake mix)
a) stray point
b) sea board
c) crash light
d) cricket man
e) magnetic try
f) pan dies
©CMM2018. For solutions see page 47
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 45
Illustration by Michele Marconi
A letter to …
My mother:
where are you?
Oliver Burkeman
Awkwardness isn’t anything to fear –
it discards the facade and shows off
the flaws that make us who we are
As awkwardness feels unpleasant, it’s natural
to want to overcome it – and Dahl’s initial motivation for her book, she writes, was to surmount
her own. But after a journey through various
awkward experiences (improv classes, talking
to strangers, reading from her adolescent diaries
to a theatre audience), she makes a persuasive
case for celebrating it. We live in an era with more
opportunity than ever to burnish the image we’re
projecting, and more pressure than ever to do so.
We live in an era with
more opportunity than
ever to burnish the image
we’re projecting – and
more pressure to do so
But awkwardness pierces that facade, exposing
the imperfect life behind it. It creates, in the
words of the philosopher Adam Kotsko, “a
weird kind of social bond” – a solidarity arising from seeing that behind the fakery, we’re
all just trying our best to seem competent.
The awkward you, then, is the real you, the
one without the defensive performance. Dahl
even hints that taking a friendlier attitude toward
awkwardness might help us make the connec-tions we’ll require if we’re ever to break out off
the polarisation currently ruining politics. Put
a Trump voter and a Trump hater in a room to-er
gether for a conversation, after all – or a Brexiter
and a remainer – and at least they’ll agree on one
thing: they’ll both feel pretty awkward.
Illustration by Lo Cole
n the late 1960s, the anthropologist Edmund
Carpenter arrived in New Guinea armed with
mirrors, video and Polaroid cameras, and
a mission: to blow the minds of members
of the Biami tribe, who had never seen full
reflections or images of themselves. “They
were paralysed,” he wrote later. “After their
first startled response – covering their mouths and
ducking their heads – they stood transfixed, staring
at their images.” Like any of us, the Biami carried
an inner image of themselves, but unlike us, it was
formed without mirrors or photos. Carpenter’s
devices disrupted that inner image, triggering
discomfort. But not for long. Within days, “they
groomed themselves openly before mirrors … In
an astonishingly short time, these villagers … were
making movies [and] taking Polaroid shots of each
other.” If they weren’t technically posing for selfies
all day, it was only through lack of the right gadgets.
As Melissa Dahl points out in her brilliant book
Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, just
published in the US, it’s unclear if the Biami were
really as unfamiliar with mirrors as Carpenter
thought. But in any case, what’s striking isn’t how
strange their reaction seems, but how relatable.
You know how it feels when you make an amiable
remark in a lift, but nobody responds? Or when
two people greeting each other misjudge whether
to go for a handshake, hug or social kiss? That’s
the same awkwardness: “self-consciousness
tinged with uncertainty”, as Dahl defines it. It’s
“the feeling we get when someone’s presentation
of themselves … is shown to be incompatible with
reality in a way that can’t be smoothed over”.
Suddenly, I see I’m viewed not as a friendly
conversationalist, but as some weirdo who talks
in lifts. The horror I feel is “the dread of catching
a glimpse of my looking-glass self”.
I must have done something
terrible. Why else would you move
house without telling me where to?
I am left to guess what gross act I
have perpetrated that would cause
you to simply stop communicating
with me. What did I do? Are you
dead? How would I know?
I can only guess that this stems
from my continued contact with
my father, your ex-husband. Your
divorce when I was in my 20s was a
curious affair. You left home in small
degrees, on the pretext of visiting
your parents in another county.
Unbeknown to Dad, you were setting
up a new home there. Then there
was some peculiar arrangement
where no one was supposed to know
you and Dad were divorcing, so we
couldn’t talk about it in front of him.
Some years later, you came to my
wedding. I had a son and you congratulated us, but all the while I had
this sensation that everything I did
was a disappointment to you. The
fact that I was still in touch with Dad
was clearly a problem.
Then I got a call from my brother:
I should cease contact with Dad immediately, he said. But no indication
of why. And that encapsulates the
strange nature of our family. What
did Dad do that was so terrible?
What I do know is that, in the 70s,
Dad disappeared for a year. I never
knew why. One day two men turned
up and took you into the kitchen.
What news did they impart that
made you look so desolate? Dad
eventually came back and everything seemed to return to normal.
On the rare occasion that I see
him now, the last thing I want to
do is ruin a visit by dredging up
what is prob
probably a painful episode.
I am the only family member still
in touch with him, so he enjoys
my visits immensely;
I feel that
tackling this issue would be
ungracious. I suppose I also
fear tha
that whatever answer he
does g
give may be something
I don’t want to hear.
You and I last spoke on
the phone
10 years ago. The
last tim
time I saw you, our son
was a toddler. All I have
left is is an email address, but
nothing I send there now is
You are still my mother and
I still llove you. But you have
chosen to edit yourself out of
my life. Even if we never
spoke again, I would
llike to understand why.
46 The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18
Ireland reboot after
Six Nations victory
Joe Schmidt sets sights
on grand slam after
28-8 win over Scotland
Rugby union
Michael Aylwin Dublin
They are Six Nations champions, but
the real business awaits at Twickenham. Ireland went through that
curious half-climax last Saturday of
winning a title dressed in suits in a
stadium, willing on others to secure
them the booty. It is not quite the
experience red of tooth and claw that
players and fans crave, in the moment
and on the field, but to complete the
grand slam by beating England this
weekend would be.
A 28-8 victory for the Irish over
Scotland, followed by France’s 22-16
win over England in Paris, confirmed
Joe Schmidt’s side as champions.
Given the circumstances the Ireland
onfessed to the semicoach almost confessed
ure of this latest trisatisfactory nature
umph, a third Six Nations title
m his tenure
tenure.. As
out of five from
is first, the 2014
things stand, his
championship, won on the field
n O’Driscoll’s
in Paris in Brian
mains his
last game, remains
favourite memory.
“It’s still probably,
dare I say it, the
” he
most special,”
said. “We won it the
moment we finished
h guys
the game, with
on the pitch at the time.
Since then, in 2015,
015, we were
ng at Uini Atoin suits shouting
nio to keep the
e ball and not
let it squirt outt of the ruck,
ought England
because we thought
might score. We’re cheering on one
team to beat another, and we have no
control. Today it was similar. Same
two teams, different result, but to give
us that clear air, to go to Twickenham
with the championship, it’s an incredible relief.”
There would have been no screaming at the screen this time. England
had to beat France in Paris with a bonus point to stand any chance of denying Ireland the title. It was clear from
a fairly early stage that the requisite
four tries were not going to be scored,
however close England came to securing the win at the death. So Ireland
would have known without knowing
for the best part of an hour. No wonder
if the experience was curiously flat.
The real business for Ireland had
taken place on the field, showing
themselves to be too powerful and
too direct for a Scotland team who
played exactly as we knew they
would. Where every outrageous pass
had found its mark in victory against
England two weeks ago, here
went astray, disastrously so in the
Horne’s cut22nd minute when Peter Ho
out pass was intercepted by Jacob
Stockdale for the game’
game’s first try,
Scotland seemed
just as Scotlan
likely to bu
build on the
3-0 lead they held
at the time.
Then it was
agonisingly so,
when H
Huw Jones
inexplicably failed
to find Stuart
on his shoulder
a few
minutes later, or when
Horne failed to find Jones
or Blair Kinghorn
Kingho on his
after another bri
brilliant passecond half.
sage in the sec
It seemed harder
hard not to
Flat out … Ireland beat Scotland to become Six Nations champions after
England, led by Owen Farrell, below, were defeated by France in Paris PA
score either of those, and had they
scored either the game might have
looked very different; had they scored
both Scotland might even have won.
Gregor Townsend was phlegmatic,
encouraged by a performance he
described as “miles ahead” of their
capitulation in Cardiff in round one.
Nevertheless, their failure to win a
meaningful fixture on the road in the
Six Nations continues. But increasingly it is looking as much a reflection
on the benefits of home advantage in
this competition as it is any fundamental failings on Scotland’s part.
Which would make a grand slam for
Ireland quite the achievement, were
they to prevail at Twickenham. As
it is, this 11th consecutive win since
they lost against Wales in the champi-
onship last season represents an Irish
record. If Ireland want to beat and/
or emulate England, they might consider a grand slam ideal preparation
for their three-Test tour of Australia
this summer. Win all those, and the
world record of 18 held by New Zealand and England will appear on the
B Pts
Ireland (C) 4 4 0 0 136 67 3
4 2 0 2 105 70 3
4 2 0 2 87 68 2
4 2 0 2 95 80 2
Scotland 4 2 0 2 72 101 0
4 0 0 4 65 174 0
Final round fixtures: Italy v Scotland;
England v Ireland; Wales v France
This World Cup conspiracy is one Mourinho should love
Inside sport
Paul MacInnes
aving seen José Mourinho
slumped at a desk at
Crystal Palace’s ground
last Monday, looking as
if he had been stuck on a coach for
72 hours at a ferry port, imagine my
surprise when I got home and logged
on to the RT YouTube channel. There
the Manchester United manager was,
clean shaven, in a fashionable fleece,
and actually smiling. He was joining
a broadcaster, that has rights to show
precisely none of this summer’s
World Cup, as a pundit. But why?
One field in which the channel
is an undoubted leader is in the
peddling of conspiracy theory.
Whether it be local matters, such
as the Russian invasion of Crimea
actually being perpetrated by patriotic Ukrainians, or international
happenings such as whether the CIA
invented Ebola, RT breaks the story
and breaks it big.
Mourinho has been known to talk
of conspiracy himself. There’s the
Uefa one that led to him having a
man sent off pretty much every time
his team were within reach of a European trophy. “I went to Inter and
played a Champions League semi-final with 10 men against Barcelona,”
he said in 2013. “I go to Real Madrid,
I played again a Champions League
semi-final with 10 men. Now I come
back to Chelsea and played a Super
Cup final with 10 men. Go to analyse
the actions and make your conclusions. I’m unlucky. Just that.”
The same applies to his theory
that referees love to send him
to the stands for mouthing off.
“Yesterday one fourth official told
a manager: ‘I enjoy very much your
passion,’” he said last year. “Today
I was told: ‘Sit down or I have to
send you to the stands.’ Everything
is different for me.”
The Guardian Weekly 16.03.18 47
Sport in brief
• Kagiso Rabada’s fourth 10-wicket
match haul in only 28 cricket Test
matches propelled South Africa to a
six-wicket victory over Australia in
Port Elizabeth, but it could prove to
be his last action of the series. The
22-year-old claimed six for 54 in a
furious second-innings return that
ended Australia’s innings at 239, and
11 for 150 in the match overall. He left
his side chasing only 101 for victory,
and AB de Villiers top-scored with
28 as they knocked off the target despite losing four wickets. The series
is now tied 1-1, but Rabada’s conduct
throughout the second Test earned
him two conduct breaches, and now
he may be banned for the final two
matches. In one-day cricket, England
sealed a 3-2 series win in New Zealand after Jonny Bairstow’s century
guided the tourists to a seven-wicket
win in Christchurch. The sides now
move on to a two-Test series beginning on 22 March.
Meanwhile, on the scheduling of
his team’s matches during the Christmas period: “You television companies make the decisions and we
have to accept,” he said in January. “I
believe you make the decisions but I
also believe that some clubs, or some
managers, have good friends in the
right chairs and I don’t have them.”
Yet José is going to Russia for only
four days at the start of the World
Cup. He will also phone in (literally)
his thoughts on the final. In return
he will get a reported £1.7m ($2.3m).
Make no mistake, José is the beneficiary of this deal. Vladimir Putin and
the Russian state come only second.
second with fellow American Patrick
Reed (68), who made an embarrassing bogey at the last when his first
putt failed to make it up the hill and
rolled all the way back to his feet.
Casey’s 65, for a 10-under 274, was
enough for his second victory on
the PGA Tour. Even so, Woods’s performance has raised expectations
for next month’s Masters. He is now
among the favourites after being a
100-1 shot just a few weeks ago.
• The England striker Harry Kane
was facing a prolonged period out
of action and could miss the World
Cup after sustaining an ankle injury
in Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 Premier
League victory at Bournemouth.
Kane missed 14 matches last season
having twice hurt the same joint.
Maslanka solutions
Leonard Barden
The world championship candidates tournament in Berlin this
month will decide who becomes
the challenger for Magnus Carlsen
for the Norwegian’s world crown in
London in November.
Who will win? Levon Aronian is a
popular choice, after the 35-year-old
scored major successes in 2017.
Vlad Kramnik is a former world
champion, but at age 42 his game is
more uneven than in his best years.
Of the two Americans, Fabiano
Caruana missed becoming the 2016
candidate only in the final round,
but his recent form is less than
convincing. Wesley So, at 24, is the
youngest candidate and may need
more experience.
Shak Mamedyarov is the current
world No 2, yet there is an impression that his style lacks soundness.
Alex Grischuk has played in several
candidates without winning.
Ding Liren is the first candidate
from China, and is reckoned the
outsider. Beijing is hungry for global
success, and Ding will have been
prepared in depth for his big chance.
Sergey Karjakin won the 2016 candidates, and had a real opportunity
at one moment in the championship
3557 Vishy Anand v Alex Grischuk, Tal
Memorial, 2018. How did White win?
match in New York to take Carlsen’s
crown. Here he exploits the Israel No
1’s small errors. The fatal error was
20...Be4? (better Qh4).
Sergey Karjakin v Boris Gelfand,
Tal Memorial blitz 2018
1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 d6 4 c4 g6
5 Nf3 Bg7 6 Be2 Nf6 7 d4 O-O 8 O-O
Bf5 9 h3 h6 10 a3 Re8 11 d5 Nb8?!
12 Nc3 Ne4?! 13 Nxe4 Bxe4 14 Nd2
Bf5 15 b4 a5 16 Bc3 Na6 17 Nb3 axb4
18 axb4 Qg5 19 Kh2 h5 20 Qd2 Be4?
21 f3! Bf5 22 e4 Qxd2 23 Bxd2 Bd7
24 c5! dxc5 25 b5! 1-0
3557 Ng5+! hxg5 2 Rxf7+! Qxf7 3 hxg5+ Kg7
4 Qh6 mate.
horizon. Ireland’s autumn is still up in
the air, but none other than New Zealand are confirmed visitors to Dublin
on the third weekend of the window –
which would represent game number
18 since that defeat in Wales last year.
A fair bit remains to do till then,
though. Ireland are so meticulous
with the old one-game-at-a-time
axiom, their focus is entirely on
Twickenham. Johnny Sexton spoke
of what a grand slam – even the Triple
Crown – would mean to him, his eightyear quest for one coming to nought
since he made his Test debut the
autumn after Ireland won only their
second grand slam, in 2009.
Schmidt himself is wary of England. “They’ll be incredibly keen to
deny us what we denied them last
year,” he said. “They’ll know we’re
coming, and they’ll be ready.” Victory
number 12 will not come cheaply.
• England’s Paul Casey surged to
victory at the Valspar Championship
in Florida as Tiger Woods finished
one stroke behind in a tie for second.
Woods, the 14-time major champion
seeking his first victory since 2013,
closed with 70 and had to settle for
Fiery … Kagiso Rabada took 11 for 150
• European football endured a traumatic weekend as tensions spilled on
to the pitch. In the English Premier
League, West Ham United’s 3-0 home
defeat by Burnley was marred by four
pitch invasions, angry fans gathering in front of the directors’ box to
vent their feelings, and the police
receiving two assault allegations. In
France’s Ligue 1, stewards restrained
Lille fans from attacking players following a 1-1 draw with Montpellier.
Meanwhile in Greece, a disallowed
goal in a Superleague game between
Paok Salonika and AEK Athens led
to a pitch invasion by Paok’s owner
Ivan Savvidis, who appeared to be
carrying a gun. The game was called
off, and on Tuesday the entire league
was suspended. Deputy sports minister Giorgos Vasiliadis said: “It won’t
restart unless there is a clear framework, agreed by all, to move forward
with conditions and rules.”
1 It’s one Illuminatus, two Illuminati. The
Illuminati are plural. Although we often switch
between singular and plural with English
collective nouns (the government are at each
other’s throats; or the government is undecided)
things are not so simple with Latin and Italian
loanwords. You wouldn’t say an alumni.
2 There are many ways; here’s one which will be
useful in more complicated problems. Here we
have addition and multiplication in alternation
and it is useful to split the N spuds into two
heaps. This is because subtraction can take
place “locally”, ie from any group of the spuds,
but multiplication and division are distributive
and affect each of the total number of spuds;
so split the number of spuds into two groups:
one of which is the set S from which the monkey
gets his daily spud — and the rest of the spuds,
R. This is always a possible move, but it is
only useful because we can arrange for S to be
constant over any number of cycles; that is, it
stays the same when we subtract 1 and divide
by 2. We do this by setting S = -1, and R = N + 1.
Giving the monkey a potato from S leaves -2.
Halving this (along with the rest of the potatoes)
leaves S = -1 again. Then R is unaffected by
subtraction but is affected only by halving. The
number of spuds is thus: N = R + (-1) Now R has
to be capable of being halved n times, so the
general solution must be N = 2n – 1.
3 Ignore the rolling. Relative to the left one the
right one travels 4R at a speed of 2u, and so
takes a time of 4R/2u = 2R/u.
4 You either get a mixed pair or a matching
pair. Total number of socks = n2. Chances
of a non-matching pair are: 2[(n(n + 1))/2
X (n(n –1))/2]/[(n2). (n2 – 1)] = 1/2; so the
chances of a matching pair are 1/2.
Wordpool c) Dropouts The STUDENT was
IGNORANT of GEOMETRY. Same Difference
Missing Links a) stray/bullet/point; b) sea/side/
board; c) crash/landing/light; d) cricket/bat/
man; e) magnetic/tapes/try; f) pan/dan/dies
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Rebels return
More stories to inspire
next-generation girls
Books, page 37
Gaby Hinsliff
Don’t fall for the hype about empty nest
syndrome. Young adults returning to live
at the family home cause greater stress
to their parents than those who leave
small children, when bedtime frankly can’t come
soon enough. To deny these feelings is to deny
the thing that actually makes parenthood worth
idealising, which is the herculean effort required
to stick with it even on days when all you want to
do is lock yourself in the loo and scream. The visceral longing to be with your children is equalled
in its ferocity only by the longing, occasionally,
for a break. No wonder so many boomerangers’
parents feel what the LSE researchers rather dramatically called a “violation in the equilibrium”
when their overgrown babies come trailing back.
For one suspects their resistance isn’t just
about the longing to have a spare bedroom again,
or take up a hobby, or even spend a bit more time
at the office. (The payback for clinging on to work
throughout the frazzled early years of motherhood, an older and wiser colleague once told me,
is that it’s there for you when you need it later; it
was her stay-at-home friends who struggled with
The longing to be with
your children is equalled
only by the longing,
occasionally, for a break
fStop Images GmbH/Alamy
o more wet towels on the bathroom floor, and no more empty
juice cartons drained, only to be
carefully replaced in the fridge.
No more doors slamming at 3am,
no more coming home to a noisy
crowd of strangers around the
kitchen table. There’s nothing so eerily quiet, says
a friend whose youngest has just moved out, as
a family house that no longer has children in it.
Absence is everywhere, even if all they did when
they were there was disappear off to their rooms.
But if adjusting to an empty nest can be tough,
it seems there is one thing tougher: an empty nest
that fills back up again. According to research
from the London School of Economics, parents
whose grownup children don’t actually manage
to leave – who move out, only to bounce right
back again – are less happy than those whose
fledglings fly off without a backwards glance. At
the risk of giving poor Generation Z yet another
thing to feel guilty about, quality of life for
parents of boomerang kids fell on average by
about 0.8 points on the LSE researchers’ scale, or
roughly the sort of drop you’d expect of someone
diagnosed with an age-related disability.
The idea that the end of hands-on parenthood
might not actually be the end of the world – that it
might even be liberating – still feels faintly taboo.
For women in particular, it’s only one scary step
away from acknowledging that motherhood is
not necessarily the defining purpose of our lives;
that much as we would die for our children, we
are not solely defined by them and might eventually want or need something else for ourselves.
It’s still so much more socially acceptable to
talk about the heartbreak and the guilt and the
hot tears shed on the first day of school than to
acknowledge the mornings when closing the door
on the domestic chaos felt like sweet relief.
But if parenthood is a bittersweet process of
watching the person you love most walk away
and desperately pretending not to mind, then
the sweetness as well as the bitterness should be
more honestly acknowledged. The unvarnished
truth is that there are days, particularly with
a sense of emptiness when their kids left home,
while she felt years of guilt lifting from her shoulders now that she no longer had to rush home.)
It’s the sense that something fundamental is
wrong. If good parenting is ultimately about making yourself redundant, and giving your squawking fledgling the means to fly off and make its
own way in the world, then a grown child who
fails to launch feels at some deep level like a failure for all concerned – even when it’s not a failure
of their making. Like one of those nagging midlife
pains that hints at underlying injury, this niggling
parental anxiety hints at a deeper sickness: a
society that is holding families back from doing
what they were naturally designed to do.
A quarter of young British adults now live
with their parents, more than at any time since
records began in 1966. But more shockingly, this
is no longer just about the young. They may avoid
mentioning it in the office, but around a quarter
of a million people in the UK aged between 35
and 44 still live at home with their parents and
the idea that it can all be blamed on helicopter
parents making it too easy for their pampered little darlings not to grow up is grotesque. Midlife
divorce, insecure work and plain poverty all play
their part in driving what were once perfectly
functioning grownups back to their teenage bedrooms and wonder what happened to their lives.
Even among younger boomerangers, it’s not
just the lure of getting their washing done that
draws them home; it’s the cost of housing and the
increasingly hand-to-mouth nature of working
life that contrive to push them back. Boomerang
kids are admittedly luckier than those for whom
going back home is sadly not an option. But
when choosing to live with your mum is the only
feasible way of coping with an insecure job, or
with the costs of renting in the city where all the
jobs are, then that’s not much of a choice.
As the old saying has it, home is still the place
where when you have to go there, they have to
take you in. But a healthy and successful society
shouldn’t be sending this many overgrown children scurrying back for refuge, nor should it leave
quite this many parents feeling bad about it.
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