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The Guardian Weekly – November 03, 2017

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Vol 197 No 22 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 3-9 November 2017
Spain’s crisis
heads for courts
Catalan leaders
face charges
Modern ways of
making you talk
Return to the
Gilded Age
Value of world’
super-rich soars
A year of living dangerously
Before last November’s election, Donald Trump
predicted an FBI probe into Hillary Clinton
would provoke a constitutional crisis. Right
lesson, wrong person, writes Richard Wolffe
ndictments do strange
things inside a White
House. They twist the
minds of an already
neurotic nest of frenemies, turning suspicions
into paranoia, press
leaks into prosecutorial intelligence and financial concerns
into colossal legal bills.
Normal life ceases for everyone from the president down, as
the indictments grow in number,
the grand juries call ever more
witnesses, and impeachment
looms ever closer.
Welcome to the first year of
the Trump presidency, in which
our protagonists have already
proved themselves wholly
incompetent in a succession of
crises. There may be Black Sea
ferries that leak as much as the
Trump White House, but they
still run a tighter ship than this
gang. Lest we forget, this is a
president who wanted Anthony
“the Mooch” Scaramucci to
run his clean-up operation.
So who cleans up now that the
Trump campaign is the subject
of so many investigations? The
indictments of Paul Manafort
and Rick Gates, along with the
guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, have now taken the whole
Russia scandal from phony
war to heavy shelling. It turns
out that “mistakes” on legal
disclosure forms, “misremembering” facts in front of federal
agents, and distracting “stories”
on Fox News do not constitute
much of a legal case against the
Federal Bureau of Investigation,
and its former director Robert
Mueller, who now enjoys the
title of special counsel.
Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t
such a great idea to try to stop
the Russia investigation by firing
the FBI director who succeeded
Mueller. Across the street from
the White House, at FBI headquarters, they might consider
that obstruction of justice.
But first, the facts we learned
on Monday. Papadopoulos is
not a janitor-like figure in this
enterprise, even though we
barely knew his name. Here’s one
Donald J Trump describing his
foreign policy aide, at the point in
his campaign when unkind souls
were suggesting he didn’t have
any foreign policy aides.
“George Papadopoulos, he’s
an energy and oil consultant,
excellent guy,” Trump told the
Washington Post
editorial board.
This excellent guy
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2 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
World roundup
FBI warned of death threat to Oswald
Centre-right lose majority in Iceland
The publication
of nearly 3,000
previously classified
files relating to the
assassination of John
F Kennedy in 1963
reveals that the
FBI had warned
Dallas police
about a
threat to kill
Lee Harvey
Oswald, and
claims that
Soviet officials feared
an “irresponsible” US
general could launch
a missile strike in the
wake of the crisis. The
US government released
2,891 documents last
Thursday, but Donald
Trump delayed the
release of others, saying
he had “no choice”
but to consider
national security
One of the
was a memo
that said
the FBI had
warned of a potential
death threat to Oswald,
who was then in
police custody.
Jonathan Freedland, pages 18-19
Iceland’s ruling
parties have lost
their majority after an
election that could usher
in only the second centre-left government in
the country’s history as
an independent republic.
With all votes counted
after the Nordic island’s
second snap poll in a
year, the conservative
Independence party of
the scandal-plagued
outgoing prime minister,
Bjarni Benediktsson,
was on course to remain
parliament’s largest.
But it lost five of
its 21 seats in the
63-member Althing,
potentially paving the
way for the Left-Green
Movement to form a
left-leaning coalition.
More Europe
news, page 6
Weather cuts global wine production
The International
Organisation of
Vine and Wine
(OIV) expects an 8%
decrease in global wine
production to 247m
hectolitres for 2017.
The international
producer group’s
forecast foretells the
worst global harvest
since 1961, with the
weather to blame, after
vines in key wine-producing countries such
as Italy and France were
affected by extremely
hot and cold weather.
The fall in output
predicted by the OIV
equates to about 2.9bn
fewer bottles in 2017.
Barbuda PM looks to Britain for help
Independent islands
in the Caribbean
are fearful their
infrastructure will be left
in ruins after Hurricane
Irma, as countries such
as the UK focus relief and
aid efforts on their own
overseas territories.
Gaston Browne, prime
minister of Antigua
and Barbuda, said his
country was being
overlooked because it is
independent and has a
higher per capita income
than some Caribbean
countries. “Technically,
the Queen is still our
head of state, which
means there should be
some empathy,” he said.
Fernández de Kirchner denies cover-up
Argentina’s former
president, Cristina Fernández de
Kirchner, has appeared
in court, where she
denied covering up
for Iranians accused
of involvement in a
1994 bombing at
a Buenos Aires
Jewish centre
that left 85
people dead.
the case an
Fernández de
Kirchner, who held office
from 2007 until 2015,
attacked the judge overseeing the case, which
is based on charges first
levelled two years ago
by a federal prosecutor
who was found dead in
his home shortly before
he was due to present his
allegations publicly.
The ex-president is
facing accusations of
treason and plotting a cover-up
for signing a
2012 pact
with Iran that
would have
allowed senior
Iranian officials
accused of the
attack to be investigated
in their own country,
rather than in Argentina.
More Americas
news, page 10
Global atmospheric CO2 levels soar
The concentration
of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere
increased at record
speed last year to hit
a level not seen for more
than 3m years, the UN
has warned.
The new report has
raised alarm among
scientists and prompted
calls for nations to
xconsider more drastic
emissions reductions
at the forthcoming
climate negotiations in
Bonn, Germany.
“Globally averaged
concentrations of CO2
reached 403.3 parts per
million (ppm) in 2016,
up from 400.00ppm
in 2015 because of a
combination of human
activities and a strong El
Niño event,” according
to the Greenhouse Gas
Bulletin, the UN weather
agency’s annual report.
This acceleration
occurred despite a
slowdown – and perhaps
even a plateauing – of
emissions because
El Niño intensified
droughts and weakened
the ability of vegetation
to absorb carbon dioxide. As the planet warms,
El Niños are expected to
become more frequent.
The increase of 3.3ppm
is considerably higher
than both the 2.3ppm
rise of the previous 12
months and the average
annual increase over the
past decade of 2.08ppm.
It is also well above the
previous big El Niño year
of 1998, when the rise
was 2.7ppm.
The study, which
uses monitoring ships,
aircraft and stations
on the land to track
emissions trends since
1750, said carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere is now
increasing 100 times
faster than at the end
of the last ice age.
More environment
news, page 11
Mogadishu hotel gunmen had ID cards
Attackers who
stormed a hotel in
Mogadishu, killing
at least 29 people and
wounding more than 30
last Saturday, used identity cards from the country’s intelligence service
to gain access to the
building. The five gunmen, from the Islamist
al-Shabaab group, were
dressed in intelligence
service uniforms and did
not draw suspicion as
they entered the hotel in
the centre of the Somali
capital after a truck
bomb demolished a front
entrance. The gunmen
held off security forces
for more than 12 hours,
and went from room to
room shooting guests.
Al-Shabaab claimed
responsibility online
55 minutes after the
initial bombing.
More Africa news,
page 7
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 3
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
Burundi leaves ‘weapon of west’ ICC
Burundi last Friday
became the first
nation ever to
leave the international
criminal court, set up
15 years ago to prosecute those behind the
world’s worst atrocities.
The government
hailed it as a “historic”
day and called on people
to celebrate. The move
comes a year to the day
after the administration
Kazakhstan switches to Latin alphabet
in Bujumbura officially
notified the UN that it
was quitting the world’s
only permanent war
crimes tribunal.
“The ICC has shown
itself to be a political
instrument and weapon
used by the west to
enslave other states,”
said presidential office
spokesman Willy
Kazakhstan is
to change its
official alphabet for the third time in
less than 100 years in
what is seen in part as a
symbolic move to underline its independence.
President Nursultan
Nazarbayev ordered his
office to prepare for a
switch to a Latin-based
alphabet from a Cyrillic
one, distancing itself
from Russia. The oil-rich
former Soviet republic
has close ties with Moscow, but is wary of Russia’s ambitions to maintain political influence.
Part of the latest
switch also relates to
modern technology.
The Cyrillic alphabet has
42 symbols, making it
cumbersome to use with
digital devices.
More central Asia
news, page 9
Kenyan president wins disputed rerun
said. With his victory
never in doubt, attention has focused on the
38% turnout.
That figure will undermine the credibility of
any mandate Kenyatta
may claim for a
second five-year
term and will
be seen as a
victory by the
Polls were
not held in
four western
constituencies, all
opposition strongholds,
for security reasons,
election officials said.
Fears of further violence
remain high.
Two explosions
and a
blaze at a fireworks
factory on the western
outskirts of Indonesia’s
capital have killed at
least 47 people and
injured dozens more,
officials have said.
TV news channels
broadcast images of
thick plumes of dark
smoke billowing from
a warehouse in the
Tangerang district of
Jakarta, an industrial
and manufacturing hub
on the island of Java.
“There are 47 bodies,”
police spokesman Argo
Xi Jinping to step up war on corruption
A Swedish
who spent
more than two years
in custody after his
suspected abduction by
Chinese agents is now
“half free”, a friend has
claimed, amid suspicions
he is still being held
under guard by security
officials in eastern China.
Gui Minhai, a Hong
Kong-based publisher
government. The moves
will be made during
China’s annual meeting
of parliament next year,
the central commission
for discipline inspection
said in a report.
More regional
news, page 12
who specialised in books
about China’s political
elite, mysteriously
vanished from his
Thai holiday home in
October 2015.
His disappearance –
and that of four other
booksellers, including
one British citizen –
was seen as part of
a wider crackdown
on Communist party
Foreign buyer ban in NZ housing crisis
China aims to pass
a national supervision law and set
up a new commission to
oversee an expansion of
President Xi Jinping’s
campaign to fight
corruption in the ruling
Communist party and
Yuwono told Metro
Television. “From the
manifest we obtained,
there were 103
workers.” Of this latter
figure, 46 were injured
in the explosion, he said,
adding that they were
being treated at three
nearby hospitals.
Witnesses told local
media there were two
explosions, one at about
10am and another about
three hours later, both
of which could be heard
kilometres away.
Authorities confirmed
that the fire began
near the front door
and quickly spread.
Bookseller held in China now ‘half free’
Kenya’s president,
Uhuru Kenyatta,
has been declared
the winner in the
country’s second general
election in three months,
amid fears of prolonged
political turmoil.
The rerun of
polls, controversially
ordered by
the supreme
court, was
marred by
clashes between
security forces and an
opposition boycott.
Kenyatta, 55, won
98% of the vote, the
election commission
Jakarta fireworks factory blaze kills 47
New Zealand
is planning to
ban foreign
buyers from purchasing
existing homes, in
an attempt to tackle
a housing crisis by
halting a trend among
the world’s wealthy
to snap up property in
the country.
The restrictions
announced by the new
prime minister, Jacinda
Ardern, are likely to
be closely watched by
other countries around
the world also facing
housing shortages and
price rises driven by
foreign investors.
New Zealand has
become a destination
for Chinese, Australian
and Asian buyers and has
gained a reputation as a
bolt-hole for the world’s
wealthy, who view it as a
safe haven from a potential nuclear conflict and
the rise of terrorism.
It has also become
a hotspot for wealthy
Americans seeking an
escape from political
More regional
news, page 13
4 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
International news
inquiry yields
first results
Special counsel Mueller
issues indictments for
three presidential aides
Julian Borger
Lauren Gambino Washington
Shaun Walker Moscow
The US investigation into Russian
e l e c t i o n m e dd l i ng c l o s e d i n
dramatically on Donald Trump this
week, as it emerged that a former
foreign policy adviser had pleaded
guilty to perjury over contacts with
Russians linked to the Kremlin, and
the president’s former campaign
manager and an aide faced charges of
money laundering.
On Monday George Papadopoulos,
the former foreign policy adviser, was
revealed to have pleaded guilty last
month to lying to FBI investigators
over his contacts last year with two
people with apparently close ties to
the Russian government.
One was an unnamed professor
who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton
in the form of “thousands of emails”.
Another was a woman who portrayed
herself as “Putin’s niece”.
Meanwhile, in a federal courthouse
in central Washington, Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a business associate, Rick
Gates, pleaded not guilty to an indictment for money-laundering, tax evasion, failure to register as agents for
foreign interests and conspiracy to
defraud the US government.
The indictments were the first
issued by Robert Mueller since he
was appointed special counsel in May,
with broad powers to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election
and possible collusion by members of
the Trump campaign.
After the indictment of Manafort
and Gates was revealed on Monday,
Trump tweeted: “Sorry, but this is
years ago, before Paul Manafort was
part of the Trump campaign. But why
aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the
focus?????” He added: “…Also, there is
Later, the White House press
secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, insisted there was no connection between the three men and the
Trump campaign. She said of Manafort and Gates’s indictment: “Today’s
announcement has nothing to do with
the president, presidential campaigns
or any campaign activity.” She also
insisted Papadopoulos’s lies to the
FBI about his contacts with Russia on
behalf of the Trump campaign had
“nothing to do with the activities of
the campaign”, and dismissed Papadopoulos as “a volunteer member on
an advisory council”.
However, Trump announced
Papadopoulos’s appointment as
a foreign policy adviser in March
2016, describing him as “an excellent
guy”. The charges that Papadopoulos
accepted as accurate as part of his plea
said Trump was present at a meeting
of national security advisers where
Papadopoulos boasted of Russian
connections and said he could help
Man in the middle … indicted former campaign aide Paul Manafort,
standing between Donald and Ivanka Trump Rick Wilking/Reuters
organise a meeting with Vladimir Putin. It was unclear from the charges,
to which Papadopoulos pleaded guilty
on 5 October, whether the unnamed
woman he was in contact with really
was related to Putin. But Papadopoulos’s contacts led to extensive contacts with Russian officials regarding
a Putin-Trump meeting and other
high-level exchanges.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to
making false statements to FBI agents
President’s prophecy turns bizarrely true
← Continued from page 1 was, according to his guilty plea, tasked with
improving US-Russia relations. With
that mission in mind, he pursued
meetings with a Kremlin-connected
professor in London, who promised
that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary
Clinton via “thousands of emails”.
Over several months, Papadopoulos was diligent in working his
Russian contacts, including the
Kremlin’s ministry of foreign affairs,
as he tried to organise a meeting
between the Trump campaign and
the Russian government.
Within a month of Trump calling
him an excellent guy, Papadopoulos was emailing not just his fellow
Trump aides but also a “high-ranking campaign official” with a very
kind offer for Trump himself. To wit:
“Putin wanting to host him and the
team when the time is right.”
A few months later came an alternative offer: if a trip was too difficult,
perhaps “a campaign rep” could
make a meeting? If not, Papadopoulos kindly offered to make the trip
himself in an “off the record” capacity. His unnamed “campaign supervisor” told him he should go ahead,
lied to the FBI
about the
nature of his
with Russians
about his contacts with Russians, and
about his awareness of their links to
the Kremlin. His indictment alleges:
“The professor told Papadopoulos
about the Russians possessing ‘dirt’
on then-candidate Clinton in late
April 2016, more than a month after
defendant Papadopoulos had joined
the campaign.”
Manafort and Gates pleaded not
guilty to 12 counts. The first was “conspiracy against the United States”, an
but the trip never happened. For
some reason, Papadopoulos lied to
FBI agents about the “extent, timing
and the nature of his communications” with the Russians, according
to his guilty plea. Now, instead of a
five-year prison term and a $250,000
fine, Papadopoulos is looking at less
than six months in prison and less
than $9,500 in fines.
Trump attempted to claim that
the news about Manafort and Gates
was so much blah blah “before Paul
Manafort was part of the Trump
campaign”. Nice try, Mr President.
Let’s set aside the 12 counts of the
indictments, including “conspiracy
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 5
Web of intrigue
Contacts, conspiracies and diversions
→ Comment, pages 18-19
Fake election news ‘seen by
126 million on Facebook’
Olivia Solon San Francisco
Sabrina Siddiqui Washington
overall charge that refers to a failure
to inform the government of foreign
income, and failing to register lobbying work for foreign interests.
The indictment focuses on the
business activities of the two men
before Manafort joined Trump’s
campaign, in March 2016, and Gates
became a senior fundraiser. The
charges allege the two men worked
extensively for political figures and
parties in Ukraine and laundered
millions of dollars in payment for
that work by channelling it through
a web of companies.
The charges were approved by a
grand jury last Friday. Although the
indictment says the two men’s moneymaking activities lasted until at
least 2016, the charges do not mention
their campaign role.
Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, said there
was “no angst at the White House”.
Manafort had been warned to expect
an indictment and Cobb recently told
the New York Times he was confident
Manafort had no damaging information on the president. However, the
Mueller investigation is expected to
produce further indictments.
against the United States,” moneylaundering, tax evasion and failing
to register as a foreign agent.
Let’s set aside the alleged $75m
in payments through offshore
accounts, laundered by Manafort
into property to hide the income.
Let’s even ignore the fact that
Manafort ran the Trump campaign
as its chairman, for no salary.
For now, let’s just focus on the
essential promise of the Trump
campaign. Trump talked endlessly
about his corrupt opponent. He
trashed Clinton at every turn for her
emails, warning gravely that her
presidency would be crippled by FBI
investigations. “Lock her up” was
the rallying cry of his entire general
election, based on this FBI inquiry.
Only now, the shackles are on the
other foot.
Now Trump can serve out the
remainder of this presidency living
the life he predicted for Hillary
Clinton. Making his final case to the
voters, Trump said the FBI investigations would trigger “an unprecedented and protracted constitutional
crisis” because of “a criminal massive enterprise and cover-ups like
probably nobody ever before.”
He’s rarely been so right and so
wrong at the same time.
Russian-backed content reached as
many as 126 million Americans on
Facebook during and after the presidential election, according to the company’s prepared testimony submitted
to the Senate judiciary committee
ahead of planned hearings this week.
One hundred and twenty fake
Russian-backed pages created 80,000
posts that were received by 29 million
Americans directly but then amplified
to a much bigger potential audience
by users sharing, liking and following the posts. The company planned
to disclose the numbers to the committee on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the testimony, who
declined to be named.
After appearing before the committee, representatives for Facebook,
Google and Twitter were expected to
testify before the Senate and House
intelligence committees. Both panels
are conducting separate inquiries into
Russian meddling in the US election.
Although 126 million people is
about half of Americans eligible to
vote, Facebook was expected to
downplay the significance at the
hearings. “Our best estimate is that
approximately 126 million people
may have been served one of their
stories at some point during the twoyear period. This equals about fourthousandths of (0.004%) of content in
News Feed, or about one out of 23,000
pieces of content,” said Colin Stretch,
a lawyer for Facebook in written testimony, obtained by news outlets. The
discovery of Russian interference
has, according to Stretch’s testimony,
“opened a new battleground for our
company, our industry and our society”. Facebook closed the accounts
and reported malicious actors tied to
Russia to US law enforcement.
Such “organic” posts are distinct
from more than 3,000 advertisements also linked to Russia’s Internet
Research Agency. These ads, disclosed
in early October, were viewed by up to
10 million Facebook users. Twitter and
Google found similar activity on their
own platforms. Twitter and Google
have also submitted testimony.
Google, which has not previously
commented on its internal investigation, said it discovered $4,700 worth of
ads with suspicious Russian ties as well
as 18 YouTube channels linked to the
Kremlin’s disinformation campaign. It
also discovered Gmail addresses used
to open accounts on other platforms.
Twitter has found 2,752 accounts
linked to Russian operatives – more
than 10 times greater than it had previously informed lawmakers.
Facebook and Twitter, though not
Google, have publicly outlined steps
they are taking to give the public more
information about who buys and who
sees political advertising on their site.
Their actions appear to pre-empt
regulation. A bill unveiled last month
would require social media companies to keep public files of election
ads and require companies to “make
reasonable efforts” to make sure that
foreign individuals or entities are not
purchasing political advertisements
in order to influence Americans.
Trump and Russia: a brief explainer
How serious are the allegations?
A sitting president or his campaign
is suspected of having coordinated
with a foreign country to manipulate a US election. The stakes for
Trump could not be higher.
What are the key questions?
Did Trump’s presidential campaign
collude at any level with Russian
operatives to sway the 2016 US
presidential election? And did
Trump or others break the law to
throw investigators off the trail?
What are the implications for
Trump? The affair has the potential
to eject Trump from office. It is
believed that prosecutors are
investigating whether Trump
committed an obstruction of justice.
Both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton –
the only presidents to face impeachment proceedings in the last century
– were accused of obstruction of
justice. But Trump’s fate is probably
up to the voters. Even if strong
evidence of wrongdoing emerged, a
Republican congressional majority
would probably block any action to
remove him from office.
What has happened so far?
Former foreign policy adviser
George Papadopoulos pleaded
guilty to perjury over his contacts
with Russians linked to the Kremlin,
and Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide
face charges of money laundering.
When will the inquiry end?
The investigations have an open
timeline. Guardian reporters
6 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
International news
won’t resolve
Spain’s woes
Giles Tremlett
Showing their colours … opponents of the region’s independence rally in Barcelona Santi Palacios/AP
Catalan leaders face charges
Members of cabinet
could go to jail over
independence push
Sam Jones Barcelona
Catalonia’s ousted president and several members of his deposed cabinet
fled to Belgium hours before Spain’s
attorney general asked for charges
of rebellion, sedition and misuse of
public funds to be brought against
them over their decision to declare
independence last week.
Shortly after the likely charges were
announced on Monday, Spanish and
Catalan government officials confirmed Carles Puigdemont, pictured
below, was in Brussels. It appeared
Puigdemont and five of his former
ministers had driven to Marseilles
and then caught a flight to Brussels.
There was speculation they could be
intending to set up a government in
exile or claim asylum.
In an apparent reference to Josep Tarradellas,
las, the Catalan leader
who lived in exile in Paris during the
Franco dictatorship,
orship, a spokeswoman
for Puigdemont’s
nt’s Catalan Democratic party (PDeCat)
PDeCat) said: “We
had presidents
ts in this country
who were nott able to be here
during Franco’s
o’s time and they
were still the president of the
Catalan government.”
Last weekend,
kend, Belgium’s immigration
minister suggested
that Puigdemont
ont could
be offered asylum
ylum in
the country. “It’s not
unrealistic, looking
at the current
nt situation,” Theo Francken,
a member of the Flemish
separatist N-VA
VA party, told
the Flemish-language
broadcaster VTM.
“Looking at the repression by Madrid and the jail sentences that are
being proposed, the question can be
asked whether he still has the chance
for an honest court hearing.”
Belgium’s prime minister, Charles
Michel, later clarified that an asylum
request from Puigdemont was “absolutely not on the agenda”.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, took the unprecedented step last
Friday of using article 155 of the constitution to sack Puigdemont and his
government and impose direct rule
on Catalonia after the regional parliament voted to declare independence.
As well as taking control of the
region’s civil service, police and finances, Rajoy has used the article to
call elections in Catalonia to be held
on 21 December.
On Monday, Spain’s attorney general, José Manuel Maza, announced
that he would ask the national court
to bring the charges against 14 members of Puidgdemont’s administration
for pushing ahead with independence
in defiance of Spain’s constitution and
constitutional court.
They include Pui
Puigdemont, his
Junqueras, the admindeputy, Oriol Junque
istration’s foreign minister, Raül
Romeva, and th
the government
spokesman, Jordi Turull.
The supreme court, meanwhile, will investigate
action a
against Carme
Forcadell, the speaker
of the C
Catalan parliament, and other parliame
liamentary officials
for tthe part they
played in paving the
way for the vote.
Maza said the
charges were being
sought “because their
actions over the past
two years have produced
an institut
institutional crisis that
culminated with the uniculminate
lateral declaration of independence
made with total contempt for our
constitution on 27 October”.
Under Spain’s legal system, his request will now go before judges for
consideration. The independence
leaders could be called to testify if
charges are brought. The crime of rebellion carries a maximum sentence
of 30 years’ imprisonment, while sedition carries a 15-year penalty. Misuse
of public funds is punishable with a
six-year jail term.
Puigdemont and Junqueras have
both attacked the Spanish government’s response to the declaration.
Puigdemont has urged Catalans to resist “repression and threats, without
ever abandoning, at any time, civic
and peaceful conduct”, while Junqueras described Madrid’s reaction
as a “coup d’état against Catalonia”.
Despite fears that many of Catalonia’s 200,000 civil servants would refuse to follow direct rule from Madrid,
they returned to work on Monday.
Spain’s interior ministry named a
new chief of the regional force, the
Mossos d’Esquadra, and reminded
all officers stationed in Catalonia that
they have a duty to “obey orders,
guarantee the rights of all, and fulfil
the mandates” of the Spanish constitution and the region’s statute.
The two main parties in Puigdemont’s coalition said they intended
to run in the regional polls one way or
another. A spokeswoman for PDeCat
said: “Mr Rajoy, we will see you at the
ballot boxes,” while a spokesman for
Junqueras’s Catalan Republican Left
party said: “We will find a way to participate on 21 December. [It] could be
one more opportunity to consolidate
the republic.”
According to a recent poll for El
Mundo, the elections could be very
close, with anti-independence parties being supported by 43.4% , with
pro-independence parties on 42.5%.
Matthew d’Ancona, page 21 →
When Catalans vote for a new regional government on 21 December,
truncheon-wielding riot police
should be absent and the results will
clearly be valid. But Spanish prime
minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to
call a snap election, combined with
the imposition of direct rule, does
not magically resolve the problem.
Much can go wrong before then.
It is still not clear that all separatist
parties will stand. If they do, they
look unlikely to maintain the unity
that has turned them into such a
formidable force. Conservatives
and anti-capitalists were always a
strange, and strained, alliance.
Oriol Junqueras, sacked as deputy
prime minister with the rest of the
Catalan government last Friday, looks
set to become the independence
movement’s leader as his Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party storms past
more moderate rivals. His warning
last Sunday that the movement must
now take “decisions that will be difficult to understand” reveals a terrible
dilemma. If his party stands, it will
be accused of backtracking on claims
that Catalonia is now an independent
republic. But if it does not stand, it
will be accused of cowardice.
Rajoy’s government has challenged
the deposed Catalan prime minister,
Carles Puigdemont, to stand so that
voters can “judge” his behaviour. Yet
Puigdemont will reportedly step back.
His conservative Catalan European
Democratic party – a recent convert to
separatism – has clearly lost its position as the region’s dominant party.
In many ways, this is the best possible moment for the separatists to
go into elections. With some of its
leaders now remanded in jail (but
able to run as candidates) while
Puigdemont and others face longrunning court cases, sympathy is
running high. The memory of police
violence during the chaotic 1 October
referendum remains fresh.
A unionist victory would be humiliating for the separatists. Yet Rajoy
is taking a risk, since a clear victory by
the independence movement would
help win it the support it lacks among
EU governments. It might also oblige
his conservative People’s party to accept that the constitution Spaniards,
and Catalans, approved so massively
in 1978 is overdue for a rewrite.
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 7
International news
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Libyan path to Europe now a dead end
How crisis was pushed back
across the Mediterranean
New EU strategies have
left migrants despairing
on Africa’s north coast
Francesco Semprini Tripoli
Jacob Svendsen Tunis
In the humanitarian horror that Libya
has become, the migrant detention
centre at Abu Salim is by no means the
worst. Migrant centres here, packed
with thousands of people seized on the
trafficking routes that criss-cross Libya,
have become renowned for forced
labour, beatings, torture and rape.
But in southern Tripoli, Abu Salim
offers something close to respite for
people who have been on the road for
weeks or months. Run by the interior
ministry, it’s one of the few detention sites in Libya that journalists can
safely visit. There’s a health clinic, a
kitchen, dormitories and mattresses,
spaces for prayer.
But there is little hope. The 150 or
so migrants stuck here have made
perilous journeys from Mali, Niger,
Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, the
Gambia, Guinea and Senegal, but Abu
Salim is likely to be the closest they
will get to Europe. The next stage of
their journey will be home again.
Since the EU intensified efforts this
year to prevent African migrants from
travelling north in their thousands,
Libya, once a funnel to Europe, has
largely become a dead end. Diplomatic
deals have made the authorities beef
up their efforts; many of the smuggling
gangs too have been co-opted, for now.
Ali, a 24-year-old Nigerian who has
been here for weeks, is resigned to going back. “There was plenty of work at
home, but we were poor. My mother
died and I wanted to go to Italy or Europe to ensure a better future for my
dad and brothers,” he says.
He and his brother Mokhtar travelled first to Agadez in Niger, the west
African hub of clandestine migration
and people trafficking. They paid
€300 ($350) each to cross deserts and
mountains, a tortuous route towards
an uncertain destination. In Misrata,
in north-west Libya, they paid another
€300 for a berth in a Chinese-made
dingy that was supposed to be leaving
from Garabouli, east of Tripoli.
But the boat trip never happened.
They were arrested by local militias
and brought to Abu Salim. Detainees
usually stay in the camp for two to
three months before being returned
to their country of origin.
UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency,
estimates there are about 30 government-run detention centres, but that
doesn’t include clandestine facilities
Key trafficking routes
Tarifa Hoceima
Road’s end …
receive food
at a detention
centre in Libya
Hani Amara/
Land routes
Sea routes
Arrivals by sea in 2017
run by traffickers and militias. There
are thought to be several hundred
thousand migrants in the country.
“In general, conditions are really
bad in these detention centres,” says
the UNHCR’s Libya chief, Roberto
Mignone. “At best, they are more or
less functional, but serious human
rights violations and sexual assaults
are committed there.”
UNHCR is trying to help migrants
move out of the illicit detention
centres and into facilities that it
manages. But the agency’s freedom to
operate is limited by a parlous security
situation: Mignone and his staff
operate out of neighbouring Tunisia,
with the help of a few dozen Libyan
associates. “The security situation is
very complicated and it is frustrating
not to have free access to all in need.
We have no overview of the militias’
or traffickers’ detention centres or
prisons,” he says.
Since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted
in 2011, Libya has been a magnet for migrants desperate to get to Europe. After record-breaking numbers reached
Italy in 2016 and unprecedented numbers dying in the Mediterranean over
the past two years, the EU signalled a
determination to halt the migration
through a series of deals with Libya.
One part of the strategy involved the
south of the country – where more than
2,500km of desert borders with Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan provide
multiple channels north. Italy has
helped to secure the border, offered
infrastructure and electricity, and
Something happened to the deadly
migrant trail into Europe in 2017.
It dried up. Not completely, but
palpably. In the high summer,
peak time for traffic across the
Mediterranean, numbers fell by as
much as 70%.
This was no random occurrence.
European policymakers have been
desperately seeking solutions that
would not just deal with those
already here, but prevent more
from coming.
European leaders have sought
to send the problem back to where
it came from: principally north
Africa. The means have included
disrupting rescue missions in the
Mediterranean and offering aid
to countries that promise to stem
the flow of people. The upshot has
been to bottleneck the migration
crisis in a part of the world not
equipped to cope with it.
Separately, the European commission has signed migration
deals with five African countries:
Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and
Ethiopia. These migration “compacts” tie development aid, trade
and other EU policies to the EU’s
agenda on returning unwanted
migrants from Europe.
Detractors say the EU is “bribing”
poorer countries to do Europe’s border management. Too much money
is said to go to regimes people are
fleeing from, such as Sudan.
To find out more about the ramifications of this new EU approach,
six European newspapers – Politiken, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El
País, La Stampa and the Guardian –
have teamed up to report from the
region. Mark Rice-Oxley
pledged to help improve employment
prospects for young people. Further
north, the emphasis has been on a new
Italian mission to support the Libyan
coastguard in the Mediterranean.
There has also been an “under the radar” deal between Italians and leading
figures who control the coastline and
the trafficking there. Boats no longer
leave the shore.
But nothing is straightforward in a
country with two antagonistic governments, many fiefdoms and strongmen,
and myriad trafficking groups jostling
for status, territory and business.
Francesco Semprini works for the
Italian newspaper La Stampa; Jacob
Svendsen works for the Danish
newspaper Politiken
8 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
International news
MEPs aim for Saudi arms ban
Letter urges EU embargo
in response to kingdom’s
Yemen campaign
Jennifer Rankin Brussels
The European Union is under mounting pressure from MEPs to ban arms
sales to Saudi Arabia in response to
the Gulf state’s bombing campaign in
Yemen. The leaders of four political
groups in the European parliament
have urged the foreign policy chief,
Federica Mogherini, to propose an
EU arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, because of the devastating war in Yemen
that has left nearly 20 million people
in need of humanitarian aid.
In a letter to Mogherini, seen by the
Guardian, the MEP leaders accuse the
EU of flouting its own rules, by selling
weapons to Saudi Arabia in defiance of
a 2008 common code on military exports. Mogherini has the right to propose an arms embargo, but would need
to win the backing of member states,
including the UK, one of the biggest
arms exporters to the kingdom.
The latest call for a ban would run
into immediate opposition from the
British defence secretary, Michael Fallon, who urged MPs last week not to
criticise Saudi Arabia in the interests
of a fighter jet deal.
The EU code on arms exports lists
eight grounds for turning down an arms
export licence, including respect for
the obligations of international organisations, such as the UN. In particular,
EU member states must show “special
caution and vigilance” when issuing
licences to countries where serious
violations of human rights have been
established by the UN or other bodies.
The UN has described Yemen as the
world’s largest humanitarian crisis: in
September it agreed to send war crimes
investigators to the devastated country
Decision time … EU foreign policy
chief Federica Mogherini
to examine alleged human-rights violations committed by both sides during
the two-and-a-half year civil war.
After Saudi Arabia launched a
bombing campaign against the
Houthi rebels in March 2015, at least
10,000 people were killed in the first
22 months of the conflict, the UN humanitarian office said, almost double
other estimates. At least 2,100 people
have died from cholera, while thousands more are being infected with the
disease every week following the collapse of water supplies and sanitation.
Bodil Valero, a Swedish Green party
MEP, said the EU could not continue
to sell arms to Saudi Arabia when
faced with “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world”. “We have our
common European values, we have
a common position [on arms sales],
we shouldn’t sell arms to a country
that doesn’t respect humanitarian
law or human rights,” said Valero,
who drafts the parliament’s annual
arms control resolution.
France, followed by the UK, issued
the most valuable arms-export licences to Saudi Arabia in 2015, according to the latest EU arms export report,
which shows that 17 EU member states
sold arms to the Gulf state.
The UK issued licences to Saudi Arabia worth €3.3bn ($3.8bn), but did not
reveal the value of weapons shipped
to the country that year. France issued
licences worth €16.9bn, but the value
of shipments was €899m. EU member
states refused seven arms export licences to Saudi Arabia, but the report
does not name the country or countries that did so, or why.
The letter to Mogherini states: “It is
our view that any such [arms] exports
to Saudi Arabia are in direct violation
of at least criterion two of the common position in regard to the country’s involvement in grave breaches
of humanitarian law as established
by competent UN authorities.”
It is signed by the leaders of the
Socialists, the Liberals, the European
United Left and the Greens, who
together have 48% of MEPs in the
European parliament.
The parliament passed a symbolic
resolution in favour of an arms embargo in February 2016, but member
states, which hold the levers of EU
foreign policy, have so far ignored
calls for action.
Nesrine Malik, page 20 →
Qatar to improve migrant workers’ rights
David Conn
The International Trade Union Confederation claims to have secured the
agreement of the government in Qatar
to significantly improve the physical
and employment situation of 2 million migrant workers, including ending the kafala system, which the ITUC
has described as modern slavery.
Human rights abuses such as
kafala, by which workers are tied to
a single employer; low pay; labouring
in dangerous heat and hundreds of
unexplained deaths, have been subjected to global scrutiny and criticism
since 2010 when Fifa voted for Qatar
to host the 2022 football World Cup.
The government concessions,
reported by state media, were announced just before the International
Labour Organisation was due to decide last week whether to hold a commission of inquiry into the conditions
for migrant workers building Qatar’s
infrastructure programme and 2022
stadiums. Sharan Burrow, the ITUC
general secretary, said, following the
agreements, she will recommend that
formal complaints made against Qatar
be withdrawn, meaning there will be
no ILO commission of inquiry.
Nicholas McGeehan, an expert on
migrant workers’ issues in the Gulf,
sounded a note of caution. “All we
have today are promises, and promises have been broken before,” he said.
“I feel we need to put expressions of
optimism on hold until we see full details, changes in the law where necessary, and a time frame for promised
reforms to be implemented.”
Iraqi Kurdish
leader to
step down
Martin Chulov
Masoud Barzani is to step down as
Kurdish president after the contentious independence referendum he
called backfired spectacularly, with
the Kurds of northern Iraq stripped
of a third of their territory and facing
continuing attacks by Baghdad.
The veteran Kurdish leader told a
parliamentary sitting in Erbil last Sunday that he would not re-contest the
presidency, and asked for his powers
to be dispersed. His decision comes
six weeks after the poll, which returned a 93% yes vote but immediately
prompted recriminations from neighbouring states and a rival political bloc.
The move had been expected following the ballot, which rather than
strengthen the Kurdish hold on northern Iraq has left it splintered, with
officials scrambling to avert the loss of
their last remaining revenue streams
– border crossings to Syria and Turkey
through which oil is exported.
Barzani said his position would
become vacant on 1 November, after
which parliament will redistribute his
powers. The Kurdish prime minister,
Nechirvan Barzani, is expected to
be handed some of the presidency’s
duties, with the rest to be contested
among senior officials.
After the poll, Iraqi Kurdistan lost oilrich Kirkuk to forces sent by Baghdad,
which had been angered by the referendum’s inclusion of the contested city
and other disputed territories.
Officials in the Iraqi capital saw
the move as an annexation of Kirkuk,
the fate of which has been contested
over centuries. Military units and allied militias quickly seized oilfields
and other strategic sites, turning off
overnight more than half the Kurdish
region’s revenues and leaving it with
little hand to play in negotiations.
Since then, central government
forces have pushed further into disputed areas, reverting the boundaries
of the Kurdish north to those it held
in 2003, and sharply exposing both
its military and political limitations
as it calls for internationally brokered
dialogue to end the crisis.
The Iraqi military and Shia-led
units have continued to stalk two
border crossings that account for
almost all of the region’s revenues.
Talks between Erbil and Baghdad last
weekend centred on the central government taking control of the border
posts, which would mean all revenues
from the oil trade being centrally
marketed with Erbil taking a cut.
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 9
Kicker heremalaise
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on Taj
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International news
Search for Mongolia’s past falls victim
to economic downturn – and looters
Darkhad Valley diary
William Taylor
t’s a sunny, late summer day in
northern Mongolia’s Darkhad
Basin – a large glacial lake nestled
against the country’s Russian
border. To the south stretch the
grasslands of the Eastern Eurasian Steppe; to the north, the Siberian
boreal forest. We stand – almost
precisely – at the place they meet, at
the forest’s edge overlooking a large,
grassy valley in the administrative
district of Ulaan Uul. We’ve come to
this site, known locally as Khorigiin
Am, in response to reports from local
herders of bones and artefacts lying
on the ground. What we find is shocking – scraps of silk, hastily scattered
pieces of wooden artefacts – and
bone, human bone, everywhere.
My companion, Dr J Bayarsaikhan, finishes a tally of the looted
burial craters that dot the hillside.
“More than 40,” he tells me, surveying the scene in front of us with
dismay. We work through the evening to salvage what we can from the
dozens of looted burial mounds,
which, from the fragmented artefacts we find, appear to date to the
time of the Great Mongol Empire –
around 800 years ago.
Mongolia’s cold, dry climate can
sometimes result in incredible archaeological discoveries, preserving
organic materials that might otherwise have disintegrated. However,
looting makes short work of these
rare finds. “[Organic artefacts] are
more unstable than some other
kinds of artefacts, like stone or
metal,” says Sandra Vanderwarf, a
cultural heritage preservation fellow
at the American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS), who works at
the National Museum of Mongolia.
When materials such as skin,
sinew or seeds are recovered from
archaeological sites, researchers
get a rare glimpse of how an object
was made, what kinds of animals
and plants were used to produce it
or where these animals and plants
came from. Over time, these bits
of rare archaeological data help
us understand processes like
migration, globalisation and human
responses to climate change.
Looters sell or destroy these
rare objects, exposing whatever
may be left to the elements, where
they quickly disintegrate through
Salvage job ... an archaeology student gathers artefacts from a looted site in Khoriigin Am William Taylor
exposure to weather, sun, animals
and people. It’s difficult to say how
long the scraps of decorated silk
or finely incised bone and bark we
recover may have sat at the surface,
decomposing – but the looting appears to have been recent. Nonetheless, much has already been lost.
Sadly, the story of our day at
Khorigiin Am is far from unique. As
Mongolia struggles its way through a
prolonged economic downturn, opportunistic looters are destroying the
nation’s cultural heritage. Although
looting has always taken place to
some degree, artefacts are now
sold in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, or
increasingly – with the rise of social
Historical artefacts are
now sold in the capital,
Ulaanbaatar, or –
increasingly – to
buyers on Facebook
media – to buyers on Facebook.
From there, much of these artefacts
will be sent overseas.
As one of the world’s largest
countries by geographic area, but
smallest by population density,
Mongolia poses overwhelming
logistical challenges to protecting
archaeological sites. “Because to
date there have been no monitoring
efforts, we can’t say just how bad it
has become,” says Dr Julia Clark, an
archaeologist and the cultural heritage director at ACMS. Clark has also
noticed that research projects can
actually guide looters, who might
have left sites undisturbed.
“Unfortunately,” she says,
“people sometimes think that we’re
stealing gold and treasure, and
want to get some for themselves.”
With few resources for anti-looting
efforts, anonymity is the only defence for many archaeological sites.
“To most [foreign] people, Mongolia is Genghis Khan,” says Dr
Bryan Miller, a postdoctoral research
fellow at Oxford University specialising in Mongolian and Chinese
history. “But he’s seen as this kind of
spark. He didn’t just come out of nowhere.” To understand the Mongol
empire, Miller says, we need to protect the region’s history.
The situation, though bleak, is far
from hopeless. In a televised speech
in the Ikh Khural (national assembly), representative G Munkhtsetseg
acknowledged the struggle facing
those working to protect cultural
heritage. For Mongolia’s beleaguered professionals in the field, the
words were a welcome change. In
recent years, Mongolia has also managed to pass legislation mandating
an archaeological survey for mining
projects, and instituted harsh penalties for those convicted of looting or
trafficking in antiquities.
Cultural heritage protection is
not just Mongolia’s problem. As the
United States’ recent withdrawal
from Unesco demonstrates, it is
a global issue. For archaeology to
stay relevant, researchers and authorities alike must demonstrate
its value in the public eye. “It’s a
fight that we are never going to stop
fighting,” says Miller.
William Taylor is a postdoctoral
research fellow at the Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human
History in Jena, Germany
10 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
International news
Mexican anger over corruption deepens
Outrage over official
firing of top electoral
crimes prosecutor
David Agren
Over the past year, Mexico’s ruling
party has been embroiled in a string
of scandals, including accusations of
wild overspending in regional election campaigns, systematic malfeasance by state governors and an attempt to gut a newly created national
mechanism to fight corruption.
So the announcement that the
Institutional Revolutionary party
(PRI) had fired the country’s top
electoral crimes prosecutor for discussing an investigation with the
media has been greeted with scepticism and incredulity.
Santiago Nieto – whose investigations had put the PRI on the defensive – was fired last week for unspecified “code of conduct” violations.
His office had been investigating allegations that the disgraced Brazilian
construction company Odebrecht
improperly pumped money into the
PRI’s 2012 election campaign.
In an interview with the newspaper Reforma, Nieto said the campaign’s point man for international
relations, Emilio Lozoya, had asked
the prosecutor to publicly pronounce
his innocence in the affair. Lozoya
also reminded Nieto that his father
was a prominent former PRI cabinet
member, the prosecutor said.
Shortly after the article appeared,
Nieto was forced out. His dismissal
– less than a year before presidential elections – has sparked outrage
in Mexico, where politicians have
seemed unmoved by growing frustration with corruption.
Throughout the administration
of president Enrique Peña Nieto (no
relation to the prosecutor), accusations of political corruption have
hit the headlines with disturbing
regularity. Yet prominent politicians
appear keen to downplay the issue.
Peña Nieto recently suggested Mexicans blame corruption any time they
have a problem, while the country’s
comptroller, Arely Gómez, suggested
that perceptions of corruption were
exaggerated by social media.
Ordinary people consistently cite
corruption as a major problem in
their lives, however. Mexico ranks
123rd on Transparency International’s most recent corruption perceptions index – tied with Sierra Leone
and Moldova, and 12 spots worse
than its rank the previous year.
The senate, where the PRI and
its allies hold 62 of the 128 seats,
has missed the deadline to name a
specialised anti-corruption prosecutor, meaning that campaigns for
the 1 July 2018 election will begin
with an interim attorney and no
anti-corruption or electoral crimes
Government loyalists have said
Nieto was fired for discussing an active investigation. Legal experts say
that could technically be justified,
but sensitive criminal investigations
are commonly tried in the media,
and bureaucratic incompetence and
violations of “codes of conduct” are
seldom punished.
Last year, the country introduced
a new National Anti-Corruption
system after investigative journalists found Peña Nieto, his wife and
his finance minister had purchased
properties from crony contractors.
Activists, however, say the system
is hobbled by the senate’s refusal to
name an anti-corruption prosecutor.
Among the most high-profile corruption cases that have been held up
is the investigation into Odebrecht,
which has been accused of funding
political corruption across Latin
Brazil’s unpopular president
avoids corruption trial
Brazilian president Michel Temer
survived a key vote last Wednesday
on whether he should be tried on
corruption charges, mustering support in the lower house of congress
despite abysmal approval ratings.
To avoid being suspended and
put on trial for charges of obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organisation, the president
needed the support of at least a
third of the 513 deputies in the
Chamber of Deputies.
He reached the threshold of 171
about two hours into the voting.
The final tally was 251 in support
of Temer and 233 against. The rest
were abstentions and absences.
Temer survived a similar vote
in August on a separate bribery
charge. “This accusation is fragile,
inept and worse than the first one,”
legislator Celso Russomanno said
while voting in favour of Temer.
The opposition, which spent
much of the day manoeuvring
to postpone the vote, criticised
Temer. “I vote with more than 90%
of Brazilians who have already
convicted Temer’s corrupted administration,” said lawmaker Luiza
While it was a clear win for the
president, he has become so weakened by repeated scandals that it
remains to be seen whether he can
muster support for key reforms.
Temer took over last year after
Dilma Rousseff was impeached and
removed from office. His term goes
until 31 December 2018.
Many feel the administration
lacks legitimacy because of how
Temer came to power. Temer’s approval rating is about 3%, according
to recent polls. Associated Press
Step up … a bus tour of scandal-related Mexico City sites Yuri Cortez/Getty
Maduro cements control as the opposition fractures
Anthony Faiola and
Rachelle Krygier Caracas
Washington Post
Despite international sanctions and
widespread discontent at home,
the Venezuelan president, Nicolás
Maduro, appears to have consolidated
his grip on power, outmanoeuvring
the opposition and leaving it fractured, weakened, even disgraced.
Maduro, the anointed successor of
the late Hugo Chávez, has emerged
as one of the highest-profile foreign
adversaries of President Donald
Trump, who has repeatedly called
Venezuela a dictatorship. The bus
driver-turned-president still faces serious challenges, as his oil-producing
country seeks to avert further international sanctions and a debt default
that could deepen a withering economic crisis.
Yet analysts increasingly see Maduro as having neutralised one of his
biggest threats: his domestic political
opposition. Formed in 2008 to present
a united front against Chávez, the
Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD),
amounted to a confederation of antigovernment parties. Earlier this year,
the MUD helped fuel months of antigovernment protests. Some of its
major figures, including leading dissident Leopoldo Lopez, have been in
detention on what critics call spurious
charges. But those who could speak
out were embraced in Washington
and European capitals as the voices
of democracy in Venezuela.
To a significant extent, they still
are. Yet in recent days, the MUD’s be-
hind-the-scenes infighting has spilled
out into the open, apparently playing
right into Maduro’s hands.
“The alliance of the opposition is
now crumbling,” said Dimitris Pantoulas, a political analyst based in
Leaders in the MUD always had differences. Those rifts, however, have
turned into gulfs in the aftermath of
state elections on 15 October, sapping
the opposition’s momentum. The new
divisions come as some factions appear willing to play by Maduro’s rules.
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 11
International news
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World’s super-rich are now worth $6tn
Social unrest fears amid
highest concentration of
wealth since Rockefeller
Rupert Neate
The world’s super-rich are holding the
greatest concentration of wealth since
the US Gilded Age at the turn of the
20th century, when families such as
the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes.
Billionaires inc reased their
combined global wealth by almost a
fifth last year to $6tn. There are 1,542
dollar billionaires across the world,
after the wealth of 145 multimillionaires ticked over into nine-zero
fortunes last year, according to the
UBS/PwC Billionaires report.
Josef Stadler, the report’s lead
author and UBS’s head of global ultra
high net worth, said his billionaire
clients were concerned rising inequality could lead to a “strike back”.
“We’re at an inflection point,” he said.
“Wealth concentration is as high as
in 1905, this is something billionaires
are concerned about. The problem is
the power of interest on interest – that
makes big money bigger. The question
is to what extent is that sustainable
and at what point will society intervene and strike back?”
He added: “We are now two years
into the peak of the second Gilded
Age.” He said the “$1bn question” was
how society would react to the concentration of so much money in the
hands of so few.
Anger at so-called robber baron
families who built vast fortunes from
monopolies in US railroads, oil, steel
and banking in the late 19th century,
led to President Theodore Roosevelt
breaking up companies and trusts and
increasing taxes in the early 1900s.
“Will there be similarities in the way
Rich pickings … luxury yachts in Monaco Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty
society reacts to this gilded age?”
Stadler asked. “Will the second age
end or will it proceed?”
The International Monetary Fund
recently said western governments
should force the top 1% of earners to pay more tax to try to reduce
dangerous levels of inequality.
Stadler said media coverage of inequality and the super-rich suggested
there would be an “inflection point”,
but “the perception that billionaires
make money for themselves at the
expense of the wider population”
was incorrect.
He said that 98% of billionaires’
Oil giants pay billions less tax in Canada than elsewhere
Canada taxes its oil and gas companies at a fraction of the rate they are
taxed abroad, including by countries
ranked among the world’s most
corrupt, according to an analysis of
public data by the Guardian.
The low rate represents billions
of dollars in potential revenue lost,
which an industry expert says is a
worrying sign that Canada may be
“a kind of tax haven for our own
companies”. The countries where
oil companies paid higher rates of
taxes, royalties and fees per barrel
in 2016 include Nigeria, Indonesia,
Ivory Coast and the UK. “I think it
will come as a surprise to most Canadians, including a lot of politicians,
that Canada is giving oil companies a
cut-rate deal relative to other countries,” said Keith Stewart, an energy
analyst with Greenpeace.
Companies like Chevron Canada
paid almost three times as much
to Nigeria and almost seven times
as much to Indonesia as it did to
Canadian, provincial and municipal
governments. Martin Lukacs
wealth found its way back into wider
society, adding that the world’s
super-rich employed 27.7 million
people – nearly the number of people
in the UK workforce.
Billionaires’ fortunes increased
by 17% on average last year thanks
to the strong performance of their
companies and investments, particularly in technology and commodities.
The billionaires’ average return
was double that achieved by the
world’s stock markets and far more
than the average interest rates of
0.35% offered by UK instant-access
high street bank accounts.
Stadler said that the super-rich’s
concerns over perceptions that they
were getting wealthier at the expense
of the wider population had led them
to make greater philanthropic gifts
and spend more on art galleries and
sports teams.
“You could say it is about ego and
wanting to show off,” he said. “But it
is also about giving back.”
The report says billionaires account
for 72 of the world’s 200 top collectors
of art, up from 28 in 1995.
The report says 140 of the world’s
top sports teams are owned by 109
billionaires, with two-thirds of the
US National Basketball Association
and National Football League teams
in their ownership.
In the UK, nine of the 20 Premier
League teams have billionaire
owners, including Chelsea’s Roman
Abramovich and Manchester City,
which is part of Sheikh Mansour’s
global sports empire. “There is an
acceleration of these transactions as
we speak, with major buyers coming
from China,” said Stadler.
One billionaire said he bought
sports teams because it got “stars,
sheikhs, famous businessmen and
regular guys from around the world,
all in the same room, all talking only
about the ball”.
One-metre sea rise ‘unless coal power ends by 2050’
Michael Slezak
Coastal cities around the world could
be devastated by 1.3 metres of sea
level rise this century unless coalgenerated electricity is virtually eliminated by 2050, according to a paper
that combines the latest understanding of Antarctica’s contribution to
sea level rise and the latest emissions
projection scenarios.
It confirms again that significant
sea level rise is inevitable and requires
rapid adaptation. But, on a more
positive note, the work reveals the
majority of that rise – driven by newly
recognised processes on Antarctica –
could be avoided if the world fulfils
its commitment made in Paris to keep
global warming to “well below 2C”.
In 2016, Robert DeConto from the
University of Massachusetts Amherst
revealed that Antarctica could contribute to massive sea level rise much
earlier than thought, suggesting ice
sheet collapse would occur sooner
and identifying a new process where
huge ice cliffs would disintegrate.
But that paper only examined the
impact of Antarctica on sea level rise,
ignoring other contributions, and
didn’t examine the details of what
measures society needed to take to
avoid those impacts.
The new paper by the University
of Melbourne’s Alexander Nauels
and colleagues uses simplified physical models that allowed them to explore all known contributions to sea
level rise, and pair them with the new
generation of emissions scenarios
which the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) will use in
the next set of reports.
They found that if nothing is done
to limit carbon pollution, then global
sea levels will rise by an estimated 1.32
metres. That is 50% more than was
previously thought, with the IPCC’s
AR5 report suggesting 85cm was possible by the end of the century.
But the extra contribution from
Antarctica would not kick in if
warming was kept at less than 1.9C
above preindustrial levels, the
researchers found.
12 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
International news
Rakhine crisis fuels
fear of junta return
Backlash against Aung
San Suu Kyi could push
her closer to army
Poppy McPherson Yangon
On the top floor of the Myanmar Traditional Artists and Artisans Association in Yangon, its vice-president
stands behind his latest creation. It is
a towering portrait of Aung San Suu
Kyi, a concerned expression on her
face. “If Oxford University takes down
one portrait of her, we want to create
2,000 more,” says the painter, who
goes by the name K Kyaw.
Days earlier he had joined dozens of
others at the gallery to protest against
the decision of St Hugh’s college to
take down a painting of Myanmar’s
leader by making their own. The college, where Aung San Suu Kyi studied
in the 1960s, is among several British
institutions to have stripped the Nobel laureate of honours as the world
reacts to the brutal violence meted out
against stateless Rohingya Muslims
in the country she leads. More than
600,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine
state since August, trekking to refugee
camps in Bangladesh and bringing
stories of gang rape, killing and arson
by soldiers and Buddhists. The United
Nations has said the violence is ethnic
cleansing. Others call it genocide.
In Myanmar, the condemnations
are being met with both indignation
and pleas for patience. It has been less
than two years since Aung San Suu
Kyi’s National League for Democracy
swept to power in a landslide election,
ending half a century of junta rule.
Democracy activists fear a return to
isolation and military dominance.
Oxford defied … young supporters
hold portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi
“The Rohingya crisis has put Myanmar’s reform process on a knife edge,”
says a former senior diplomat based
in the country, who like others interviewed asked to remain anonymous.
“The country and its business people
are pulled in two directions: openness, and a desire for international
standards, clean government and human rights – but with the attendant
accountability and scrutiny – or nationalism … and a reliance on support
from China. The lack of government
capacity and the poorly educated
population heightens the risk that the
military, still the only truly functioning institution, will return, and even
be welcomed in some quarters.”
For decades, Aung San Suu Kyi has
been the embodiment of Myanmar’s
democratic aspirations. The 72-yearold enjoys unparalleled adoration.
Personal attacks by Oxford and others
have led to rallies around the country
with crowds chanting her name.
Views of the situation inside Myanmar – where the Rohingya are widely
reviled as illegal immigrants and terrorists – and outside the country are
diametrically opposed. Both publicly
and privately, the state counsellor is
said to have echoed army rhetoric. Observers say she does not like to admit
the military is not under her control.
With the EU due to make decisions
on Myanmar this week, an unnamed
adviser claiming to speak with Aung
San Suu Kyi’s authority briefed foreign
reporters on the creation of a civilianled body to distribute international
aid to the Rohingya, saying that the
state counsellor felt under threat of
being overthrown by the army. The
army has intermittently reminded the
public of the constitutional clause that
allows it to take back power.
“Myanmar’s transition is much
more fragile than people assume, and
the government’s freedom to move
much narrower than supposed as a
consequence,” says Sean Turnell, an
economic adviser to the state counsellor. Myat San, a confidant of the
state counsellor whom he calls “the
Lady”, like many in Myanmar, says
she does not want to antagonise the
military. “She believes only dialogue
and practising peaceful efforts can
solve the political crisis,” he says .“In
the current situation, what the international community are doing is not
supporting this government, what
they are doing is putting the country
back into the hands of authoritarian
rule. They are pushing the Lady and
the military closer and closer.”
Taj Mahal reviled Hindus condemn ‘a blot’
Times are tough for India’s monument to love. Air pollution is turning
its marble surface yellow. Restoration work is obscuring its minarets.
Tens of millions of tourists flock to
Agra each year, but numbers are reportedly waning.
The Taj Mahal’s critics are growing increasingly bold. In past months
religious nationalists in the Hindumajority country have stepped up a
campaign to push the four-centuryold Mughal monument to the margins of Indian history. One legislator
kicked up a national storm when he
labelled the tomb “a blot”. Resentment that India’s most recognisable
monument was built by a Muslim
emperor has always existed on the
fringes of the Hindu right. But those
fringes have never been so powerful.
Attacks on the monument, a
lifeline for its home state of Uttar
Pradesh, have grown so loud that
last week the state chief minister –
himself a critic of the Taj – was forced
into “a day-long exercise in damage
control”, one newspaper said. Yogi
Adityanath paid an elaborate official visit to Agra last Thursday to
issue assurances that the Taj was a
“unique gem” that his government
was committed to protect.
Many Hindu nationalists believe
the hundreds of years in which north
India was ruled by Muslim kings was
a period of “slavery” like the British
Raj. Fuelling the controversy are
the writings of a fringe historian,
PN Oak, who claims that the English
language is a dialect of Sanskrit, and
that Westminster Abbey is, in reality,
a temple to the deity Shiva. The Taj,
too, he argued, was a Shiva temple.
Michael Safi Delhi
Photograph: Pawan Sharma/AP
Scholars tackle Xi Thought
Tom Phillips Beijing
Earnestly, resolutely, purposefully,
consciously, conscientiously and,
above all, constantly. That is how
China’s 89 million Communist party
members are expected to study and
implement the thoughts of Xi Jinping,
after his political ponderings were enshrined in its constitution last week.
According to reports in China’s
party-run media, two university departments dedicated to the examination of Xi Jinping Thought have been
created while “study groups” are being promoted across the country as
officials scramble to follow what Xi
has dubbed his “new era”.
The first and most prominent of the
Xi-related departments will be at Beijing’s Renmin or People’s University,
one of China’s top institutions. The
Beijing Daily newspaper reported that
the university had tasked top scholars
with inquiring into what is officially
called Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in
the New Era. They include Ai Silin,
president of the School of Marxism at
Tsinghua University, Xi’s alma mater,
and Han Qingxiang, a senior academic
from the Communist party’s school.
Liu Wei, the university’s head,
said: “The establishment of Xi Jinping Thought … is of epoch-making
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 13
International news
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and Page XX
Manus Island detention centre closes
Doors shut on symbol
of Australia’s infamous
immigration regime
Helen Davidson
A chapter of Australia’s controversial
and much-criticised immigration policy came to an end this week, with the
scheduled closure of the Manus Island
detention centre.
Detainees on Tuesday launched a
last-minute legal action over the facility’s closure, claiming their human
rights protected by Papua New Guinea’s constitution are being breached
by the removal of basic services including water and electricity.
The centre’s closure threatens to
be as fraught as its existence. Since it
was reopened in 2012 by Julia Gillard’s
Labor government, the facility has
seen controversy after controversy,
from the poor state of its basic infrastructure to allegations of torture and
mismanagement, astonishing rates
of trauma and mental illness, and six
deaths, including one murder.
Ultimately its existence was
ruled illegal by Papua New Guinea’s
supreme court, but that sparked a crisis about what the Australian and PNG
authorities would do with the more
than 700 men – the majority of whom
were refugees – who could not return
home, who were banned from Australia, and not very welcome in PNG.
“We feel as if the Australian government will simply dust its hands
of us and dump us here for ever,”
wrote Imran Mohammad, a Rohingya
refugee, in the Saturday Paper. “We will
become the headache of Papua New
Guinea, where we know we are not
wanted. We will not even be allowed to
leave Manus, to travel to the mainland.
It feels as if we will be pushed beyond
our limit to survive here.”
The handling of the detention centre’s expected closure has attracted
as much concern and condemnation
as any of the numerous incidents in
the history of immigration detention
on Manus Island. Alongside a sister
centre in the Pacific Island nation
of Nauru, Manus’s multicompound
facility – housed inside a PNG naval
base – forms the bedrock of Australia’s
offshore processing regime.
At the heart of the policy is a single
goal – to get asylum seekers to stop
travelling to Australia by boat. Thousands have died trying. But as successive governments became so wedded
to this outcome that a single arrival or
resettlement would dash the entire
policy as a failure, its implementation
grew increasingly harsh.
In July 2013 Australia’s then-prime
minister, Kevin Rudd, declared no
man, woman or child who sought asylum in Australia by boat would ever
be allowed to settle in the country,
regardless of whether they had family
here. By late 2017 it was proposed they
should also be banned for life.
In between the government
also felt compelled to deny family
reunions and medical transfers, the
latter policy implicated in at least one
death, when Hamid Kehazaei died in
2014 from a treatable bacterial infection that developed into septicaemia
after medical care was delayed.
Six months before Kehazei’s death
23-year-old Reza Barati was murdered
by centre employees in a deadly riot.
Four others have also died, including
two reported suicides in recent months.
The deaths punctuated the interminable suffering reported by
detainees: high rates of mental illness,
self-harm, physical and sexual abuse,
neglect and indefinite confinement.
In 2015 more than 500 men began
Stranded … refugees and asylum seekers at the detention centre Getty
a two-week hunger strike in protest
against conditions on the island. Others self-harmed and strikers who fell
ill were removed from the centre. In
May this year documents revealed
the Australian government had engineered a year-long campaign to make
conditions inside the detention centre
more punitive to encourage refugees
to leave, confirming suspicions of detainees and advocates.
Last month Human Rights Watch
detailed frequent and escalating
attacks and violent robberies by armed
locals, including three recent incidents
that resulted in medical evacuations.
The United Nations, Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch,
the Human Rights Law Centre and
a number of other Australian and
international groups have repeatedly
condemned Australia’s immigration
policies. Other countries have also
lined up to criticise at successive UN
periodic reviews. None of it led to
change in Australia’s policy.
Before the centre’s scheduled closure detainees were told to “consider
their options” as basic services including water and electricity would
be shut down around them. The plan
forced detainees from compound to
compound, and eventually – authorities hoped – out into the community.
Detainees, advocates and human
rights organisations fear a humanitarian crisis will now ensue. They say
the situation around the Australianrun centre is too dangerous to resettle people in the Papua New Guinean
community outside the compound.
Observers say the situation is critical. Whatever happens next, the mark
left by Australia’s infamous immigration regime will remain.
Ardern sworn in as PM
Eleanor Ainge Roy Dunedin
Jacinda Ardern has officially been
sworn in as the prime minister of New
Zealand, promising to tackle climate
change, eradicate child poverty and
improve the lives of the country’s
most vulnerable people.
Ardern received a round of applause
from her cabinet, friends and family
who had gathered at government
house last Thursday for the event.
In her first comments as prime
minister, Ardern promised to form
an “active” government that would
be “focused, empathetic and strong”.
A number of Ardern’s cabinet
chose to take their oath to the crown
in Te Reo (Māori language), including
corrections minister and deputy
Labour leader Kelvin Davis, minister
for Māori development Nanaia Mahuta, and women’s minister and
Greens MP Julie Anne Genter, who is
originally from the US. Genter’s effort
was singled out for praise by her colleagues and the New Zealand public.
After the swearing-in ceremony a
crowd of around 1,000 people gathered on the lawn of parliament house
to greet Ardern. “We vow that regardless of who you voted for, regardless
of where in Aotearoa [the Māori name
for New Zealand] you live, this will be
a government for all,” she said.
Leader comment, page 22 →
International Tender Announcement
t(Ref: CWW-ICT-2017-001)
Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian
organization dedicated to reducing suffering and ending
extreme poverty. Concern invites tenderers to bid for the
establishment of a framework agreement for the supply and
delivery of ICT equipment to our Dublin head office
Item specifications are detailed in the Tender Documents,
available from:
Deadline for submission is: 1600 hours GMT
Nov 17th, 2017
14 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Finance in brief
• The US economy shook
off the impact of two major
hurricanes in the third quarter, growing at a robust 3%,
the commerce department
reported last Friday. Steady
spending from consumers
and businesses over the quarter helped the economy to
beat economic forecasts. The
hurricanes caused massive
damage in Texas and Florida
during August and September
and were cited by the labour
department as a major factor in the US economy losing
33,000 jobs in September. The
stock markets have continued
to hit record highs.
Job done ... the last car made at the Elizabeth plant in Adelaide, a VFII SSV Redline Commodore Getty
Last Holden rolls off the line
Australian carmaker
packs up after end to
government subsidies
Calla Wahlquist
At 5.45am on Thursday 19 October,
three generations of the Grant family
piled into a Holden Commodore and
pulled out of their driveway in the
western Melbourne suburb of Sunbury and turned toward Adelaide.
It was the second time in six days
they had made the 700km trip. The
first, a few days earlier, was a two-car
convoy: Daniel Grant and his 16-yearold son, Jacob, in the 2006 red VZ SS
Commodore and Grant’s father, Ross,
in his new white SS Commodore.
That trip was a celebration, a gathering of 25,000 people in 1,200 vehicles – all Holdens – making a slow lap
around Adelaide’s northern suburbs,
past the Holden manufacturing plant
at Elizabeth, where a photographer
waited to capture each car as it sat
beneath the lion-and-stone emblem.
“This next trip’s more like going
to a funeral,” Grant said. “When they
said years ago that they were going to
[close the plant] I said I’ve got to be
there on the day they build their last
car. To pay my respects, I suppose.”
The last Holden to be fully manufactured in Australia, a red VFII SSV
Redline Commodore sedan, rolled off
the production line on 20 October. It
wound its way through the factory under the supervision of the remaining
950 production workers, who were
also completing farewell models of
the Caprice V, a luxury sedan used as
a police car in the US, as well as a V6
Commodore Calais station wagon and
an SS Commodore utility vehicle.
This was no ordinary factory
closure. It was the end of an era for
Holden and for car manufacturing
in Australia. Toyota rolled its last car
off the line in Geelong on 3 October
and Ford closed its manufacturing
plants at Geelong and Broadmeadows
in October last year. Mitsubishi,
often the forgotten cousin of Australian mass car manufacturing, closed
its plant in Adelaide’s southern
suburbs in 2008.
Paul Bastian, national secretary of
the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, pinpoints the closure of the
Holden and Toyota manufacturing
facilities to 2.08pm on 10 December
2013, when then treasurer Joe Hockey
stepped up to the dispatch box in Parliament House and demanded Holden
“come clean with the Australian people about their intentions”.
“We want them to be honest about
it – we want them to be fair dinkum –
because, if I was running a business
and I was committed to that business
in Australia, I would not be saying that
I have not made any decision about
Australia,” Hockey said. “Either you
are here or you are not.”
The federal government had been
in discussion with Holden’s parent
company, General Motors, for several
months about the company’s request
for A$150m ($115m) a year to offset
Hardcore fans ... Holden enthusiasts
gather at the plant in Elizabeth
the cost of production, which had
ballooned as the mining boom drove
the Australian dollar to record highs.
Without that assistance, GM said, it
was not sure it could keep manufacturing in Australia.
Holden received $1.8bn in government support between 2001 and 2012,
Hockey said. The automotive manufacturing industry received $30bn in
financial assistance between 1997 and
2012, according to a 2014 Productivity
Commission report.
Hockey’s comments, which were
followed by similar remarks from
National party leader Warren Truss,
splashed across newspaper front
pages the next day under headlines
saying the treasurer had dared Holden
to leave. GM had made the decision
to pull production before the first editions were printed, and Holden managing director Mike Devereux made
the formal announcement to staff the
following day. The plant had been in
operation since 1965.
Toyota followed suit on 10 February
2014. Ford had announced its intention to move offshore in May 2013, two
months before the federal election.
“It was clearly a decision of this
government to dare the auto sector
to leave,” Bastian said. “It was a disgraceful performance by a government, I’ve never seen anything like it
before and I hope I never see anything
like it again.”
For Holden fans, the loss is less
economic than psychological. It does
not matter to them that Holden will
continue to sell a version of the Commodore, which was Australia’s bestselling car from 1996 to 2000 and is a
fixture on every suburban Australian
street. The car will no longer be built
in Australia. The 2018 Commodore
model is a German-built Opel Insignia,
rebadged as a Holden and sized up to a
V6 for the Australian market.
• The chief executive of Germany’s stock exchange has
resigned following allegations
he was involved in insider
dealing. The Frankfurt-based
Deutsche Börse announced
Carsten Kengeter would leave
at the end of the year just days
after a court refused to back a
settlement over the allegations
under which he had agreed to
a €500,000 ($580,000) penalty and the Börse €10.5m. The
allegations stem from 2015
when he bought Deutsche
Börse shares worth about
€4.5m. Two months later,
in February 2016, Deutsche
Börse and the London Stock
Exchange unveiled merger
plans, an announcement that
sent their share prices soaring.
Those merger plans have since
been abandoned.
• Saudi Arabia will plough
around $1bn into Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin space
companies. The cash injection will be made to Virgin
Galactic, The Spaceship
Company and Virgin Orbit –
with the option of $480m of
extra investment. The Virgin
Group founder said it would
also open up the possibility
of creating a “space-centric”
entertainment industry in
Saudi Arabia.
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Hong Kong
New Zealand
30 Oct
23 Oct
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 15
UK news
needs strengthening
a short law
here like this
→ Leader
page XX
Then Section
and Page
May gets tough as allegations
of MPs’ sleazy behaviour grow
Government beefs up procedures after series of sexual misconduct claims
Cleaning up … Theresa May moved
quickly after allegations about the
behaviour of UK politicians PA
Heather Stewart and Peter Walker
Theresa May said she was determined
to take tough action to protect Westminster staff against sexual harassment following a series of sleaze allegations against MPs from several UK
political parties.
On Monday May sat beside Andrea
Leadsom, who promised MPs that
she will establish a dedicated support team in parliament to enable staff
and researchers to report incidents of
sexual harassment. The leader of the
House of Commons said the team
would refer complaints where appropriate to the police, in response to
an urgent question from the Labour
MP Harriet Harman about a series of
allegations that emerged last week.
“No one should have to work in a
toxic atmosphere of sleazy, sexist or
homophobic banter. No MP, let alone a
minister, should think it is something
to make jokes about,” Harman said.
The urgent question came after it
had emerged over the weekend that
trade minister Mark Garnier admitted
encouraging an assistant to buy sex
toys, and the former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb confessed to engaging in “sexual chatter”
with a 19-year-old who had applied for
a job in his office.
Leadsom said an independent
helpline that already exists would be
given more resources, would help victims to report their experiences and
would provide pastoral care.
“It is absolutely right that the
house must address the urgent issue
of alleged mistreatment of staff
by members of parliament. These
allegations make clear that there is a
vital need to provide better support
and protection for the thousands of
staff working in Westminster and
in constituency offices across the
country,” she said.
Leadsom said the new policies
should apply to interns and civil servants as well as MPs’ staff – and made
clear that sanctions could include
ministers losing their jobs, or MPs
losing their party whip. “Everyone in
this house must be clear that whenever a serious allegation is made, the
individual should go to the police, and
be supported in doing so,” she said.
“Your age, gender or job title should
have no bearing on the way you are
treated in a modern workforce, and no
one should be an exception to that.”
Earlier, the Speaker, John Bercow,
put the onus on May and the other
party leaders, rather than House of
Commons authorities, to crack down
on sexual harassment. The prime
minister wrote to Bercow last Sunday urging him to coordinate efforts
to introduce a contractually binding
grievance procedure to cover MPs’
staff. But the Speaker said it was up
to political parties to make changes.
‘No one should
have to work in a
toxic atmosphere
of sexist banter’
Like Leadsom, Bercow said the
police should be involved where an
allegation of assault has been made.
“Let me make it clear: there must be
zero tolerance of sexual harassment
or bullying, here at Westminster or
elsewhere,” he said.
May’s official spokesman had said
she was “deeply concerned” by allegations of sexual misconduct. The
spokesman pointedly declined to
confirm that May had full confidence
in Garnier, who was this week the subject of an internal government inquiry.
But amid reports of several dozen
Tory MPs and ministers being named
as behaving in a sexually inappropriate way on a list drawn up by party
aides, May’s spokesman declined to
say whether she had sought information on potential wrongdoing.
The spokesman denied that May
had seen an alleged dossier compiled
by party whips on MPs’ behaviour,
saying: “There is no dossier and
therefore the prime minister hasn’t
seen one.” He said he did not know of
any allegations of wrongdoing beyond
that connected to Garnier.
Claims about the behaviour of
senior UK politicians emerged last
week, after the scandal surrounding
the Hollywood film producer Harvey
Weinstein encouraged women in other
professions to share their experiences.
Crabb apologised for his “sexual
chatter” with a job applicant, while the
trade minister Mark Garnier admitted
asking a former assistant to buy sex
toys and calling her “sugar tits”.
Labour MPs also believe more allegations will emerge on their side. The
Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara was
suspended from the party last week
for misogynistic and homophobic
remarks on social media. “We’re not
going to be immune from it,” said the
Manchester Central MP, Lucy Powell. “It’s the attitudes and the power
inequalities, whether it’s Hollywood,
the BBC or Westminster.”
Separately, MPs were sharing stories last Sunday about a Conservative
MP who allegedly takes pictures of
young men in compromising positions and uses them to extract sexual
favours. The Sunday Times reported
that an unnamed senior cabinet minister had grabbed a woman’s thigh
and said: “God, I love those tits.” One
former Tory minister said: “The whole
culture needs to change.”
Downing Street flatly denied reports that the prime minister receives regular updates from the
whips about the sexual behaviour
of her MPs. Instead, they said she
had requested last Friday to see the
chief whip, Gavin Williamson, and
her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, to
ask if more should be done about
sexual harassment.
Katie Perrior, formerly May’s head
of communications, said such information was often “kept away from the
prime minister” but used by whips to
enforce party discipline.
Ben Jennings cartoon, page 21 →
16 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
UK news
Alarm sounds as high-street sales crash
Survey shows spending
dropping at fastest rate
since 2009 recession
Zoe Wood, Phillip Inman
and Sarah Butler
High-street sales are falling at their
fastest rate since the height of the recession in 2009 as pressured households put the brakes on spending, according to a survey that is a grim omen
for struggling retailers this Christmas.
The Confederation of British Industry’s survey recorded a “steep drop” in
retail sales in October. The slump sent
shockwaves through the high street,
with the CBI’s chief economist, Rain
Newton-Smith, warning of a “softening” of demand as inflation ate into
spending power. Department stores
and specialist food and drink outlets
bore the brunt of the slowdown. “It’s
clear retailers are beginning to really
feel the pinch from higher inflation,”
said Newton-Smith. “While retail
sales can be volatile from month to
month, the steep drop in sales in October echoes other recent data pointing to a marked softening in consumer
The bleak snapshot of high-street
trading provided by the CBI – which
also reported that orders placed with
suppliers had dropped at the fastest
rate since the spring of 2009 – came
as the Asda supermarket’s income
tracker documented a slump in the
spending power of average households. Kay Neufeld, an economist
at the Cebr consultancy, which conducted the study, said: “We have seen
family spending power decline in five
out of the last six months, underlining the mounting pressures on households’ budgets.”
London was the winner in the race
for higher disposable incomes, Neu-
Slowdown … rising inflation has
begun to damage retail business
feld said, after household income in
the capital rose by 2.4% compared
with a national fall of 0.5%. But in all
regions incomes failed to rise by more
than the current inflation rate of 3%.
The findings chimed with official
figures for the year to April 2017 that
showed London’s income growth
outstripping other regions, though
the biggest gains were in inner London boroughs. Wages in outer London
suburbs increased by 1.2%, compared
with 4.4% in the centre, according to
data from the Office for National Statistics. The east Midlands and East Anglia were the only other regions where
wages rose by more than the inflation
rate in April, which stood at 2.6%.
Further evidence of an income
squeeze was provided by research
from Lloyds Bank, which found that
women and families across the UK
were “feeling the strain” of rising
living costs. Based on a sample of its
current account data, Lloyds said consumers’ essential spend – a figure that
includes rent, bills, food and fuel costs
– had increased by 2% in September
versus a year ago. This was the 16th
consecutive month of year-on-year
“When paying more for everyday
items like food and fuel, people are
faced with tricky decisions on where
to cut back in other areas,” said Robin
Bulloch, the managing director of
Lloyds Bank, who said there was evidence of Britons staying away from
the shops to avoid impulse purchases
and cutting down on nights out.
The CBI said 50% of retailers polled
for its survey suffered declining sales
in October, while only 15% benefited
from an increase, leaving a rounded
balance of -36%, the lowest since
March 2009.
The CBI survey added to the mixed
economic signals to be considered by
the Bank of England this week when it
was due to decide whether to increase
interest rates for the first time in more
than a decade. A rise could help keep
inflation in check and strengthen the
pound, but household borrowing
costs would also grow.
Uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the UK’s Brexit negotiations
has also preyed on consumer confidence, which has declined sharply
over the past 18 months and depressed spending.
Average UK debt now stands
at £8,000 per person
More than 6 million Britons don’t
believe they will ever be debt free,
according to new research that has
also found the average person in
the UK owes £8,000 ($10,550) – on
top of any mortgage debt.
Almost a quarter of all Britons
said they are struggling to make
ends meet, while 62% said they
were often worried about their
levels of personal debt, according
to research for Last month the price
comparison website asked 2,000
adults detailed questions about
their personal finances. They
found that 10% of respondents had
“maxed out” on a credit card, while
a similar number said they had
been overdrawn within the past
12 months. A third of those interviewed told researchers that they
were already planning on taking
on additional debt – in the form of
credit cards, loans car finance and
mortgages – in the next year.
More than a third said they
could not see themselves ever being in a financial position to help
younger family members, breaking
the tradition of the “bank of mum
and dad”. The results chime with
a recent study by the Financial
Conduct Authority, which found
that 4.1 million people are already
in serious financial difficulty. The
survey concluded that half of the
UK population are financially vulnerable, with 25- to 34-year-olds
the most over-indebted.
Last week the ratings agency
Standard & Poor’s warned that the
rapid rise in UK consumer debt
to £200bn is unsustainable and
should raise “red flags” for the
major lenders. Miles Brignall
‘Postcode lottery’ for children’s mental health services
Jessica Elgot
Children needing mental health care
are forced to endure waits of up to 18
months for treatment while four in 10
psychiatric services for young people
are failing, according to the health service regulator.
The Care Quality Commission
(CQC), after surveying mental health
care for children in England, said that
in one case young people were forced
to wait as long as 493 days for treatment and 610 days for family therapy.
Elsewhere, services were setting their
own targets for how quickly children
should be seen, CQC said, which varied depending on a postcode lottery.
Dr Paul Lelliott, lead for mental
health at the CQC, praised the dedication of NHS mental health care staff,
but added: “We must also address
those times when a child or young
person feels let down or not listened
to and make sure the same level of
support is available to each and every
one of them.”
Labour said the report showed an
“abject failure of children and young
people” who were in urgent need. The
Department of Health said it was investing in improving the services, but
said it recognised that more work was
The research found that crisis care
for suicidal young people or those with
severe mental health problems was
sometimes available only between
9am and 5pm, with night-time care
provided by adult psychiatrists who
lacked expertise in children’s mental health. Some children and young
people were “waiting an extremely
long time to access the specialist care
and support they need”, it said. In one
part of the country, a child would be
seen within 35 days, but could have a
wait of 18 weeks in another area.
“The demand for inpatient beds
outstrips availability in some parts
of the country where fewer beds are
available,” the report found. “As a result, some children and young people
are being admitted to adult wards as
there are no beds available in wards
for people their age.”
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 17
De Vere, or not De Vere? Sonnet code ‘reveals Shakespeare secret’
William Shakespeare was in fact
Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, and is buried in Westminster
Abbey, not the Holy Trinity Church
in Stratford-upon-Avon, according to
a scholar who is the grandson of the
novelist Evelyn Waugh.
Alexander Waugh says he has
deciphered encryptions in Aspley’s
edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets
of 1609 that reveal the bard’s final
resting place.
He presented his evidence at a
conference at the Globe theatre in
London last Sunday, where the audience included the actors Sir Derek
Jacobi and Mark Rylance, who are
fellow anti-Stratfordians – longstanding doubters that Shakespeare
wrote the plays and poetry that bear
his name, and whose preferred authorship candidates include De Vere.
Waugh showed hidden
geometries, grid patterns and other
clues that he said revealed that
Shakespeare’s final resting place is
underneath his 1740 monument in
Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey
and that they spell out the words
“Edward de Vere lies here”.
He said he had “finally decoded
the mysterious dedication” to the
sonnets. “Stratfordians and antiStratfordians have said that this
dedication page must be encrypted,
because it doesn’t seem to make
any sense. It’s got those funny
dots all over the place and there’s
something very weird about it. I’ve
finally cracked it.”
The sonnets’ dedication, like the
text on the Shakespeare monument,
is “gibberish” until one deciphers its
hidden messages, he said.
Westminster Abbey’s website
states that Shakespeare was buried
in Stratford: “Shortly after Shakespeare’s death there was some talk
about removing his remains … to
Westminster Abbey, but the idea was
soon abandoned.” Waugh argues
that Ben Jonson described Shakespeare in 1623 as “without a tombe”.
De Vere died in 1604 and was buried
in Hackney, east London, but his first
cousin noted – in a manuscript in
the British Library – that he now lay
buried in Westminster.
Waugh added that the Stratfordians would have loved this discovery.
“But it tells you that it’s De Vere, so
they’re going to hate it.”
Since the 1850s, dozens of candidates have been suggested as
the likely author of Shakespeare’s
writings. In 2013 leading academics contributed to a major publication, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt,
to prove he really did write his own
plays and poems, apart from his
collaborations. Dalya Alberge
Photo: Ricardo Rafael Alvarez/Alamy
Cambridge looks to ‘decolonise’ syllabus
Maev Kennedy
A group of academics at the University of Cambridge is considering
how to implement a call from undergraduates to “decolonise” its English
literature syllabus by taking in more
black and minority ethnic writers,
and bringing postcolonial thought to
its existing curriculum.
The debate is being followed
closely by other universities. “I think
it will grow and I think it will spread
– and rightly. It is a good thing that
there should be healthy dialogue between university academics and their
students, and that their views should
be taken seriously,” said Bethan
Marshall, a senior lecturer in English
education at King’s College London.
A statement from Cambridge university said that, while the academics
had no decision-making powers, discussions on how postcolonial literature is taught were ongoing.
The statement also condemned
“the related harassment directed towards our students on social media
as a result of the recent coverage”, as
a Twitter storm broke on the issue –
with accusations both of racist thinking, and of the university giving in to
student demands.
The discussion was begun last
spring by a small group of students
taking English who were concerned
that their reading list elevated white,
male authors at the expense of all others. Their thoughts were formalised
by Lola Olufemi, women’s officer in
the Cambridge students’ union, in an
open letter signed by hundreds and
forwarded to the teaching forum,
which met last month.
Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a teaching
fellow of Churchill college and member of the forum, with a specialist interest in postcolonial literature and
theory, said no white writers would
be affected by the proposed changes.
“Broadening the syllabus means
putting different writers and texts
in conversation with each other,
not ‘downgrading’ or even eliminating a single writer. It’s a request,
as I understand it, for more representation of ethnic minority and
postcolonial writers, but for the purposes of thinking about these works
alongside the existing texts.”
News in brief
UK news
• The maximum stake on
fixed-odds betting terminals
is to be cut after the government admitted the current
level of regulation on the
machines, which allow
gamblers to bet up to £300
($395) a minute, is inappropriate. In a long-awaited
review, the Department
for Digital, Culture, Media
and Sport minister Tracey
Crouch said the government
would cut the maximum bet
on the machines from £100
to between £2 and £50. She
said the government hoped
to protect vulnerable people
“exposed by the current
weaknesses in protections”.
• David Davis was forced to
issue a statement clarifying his
own remarks last Wednesday,
after he appeared to suggest
parliament may not get a vote
on the final Brexit deal until
after Britain has left the EU.
A spokesman for the Brexit
secretary said the government
“expects and intends” to let
parliament have its say before
Britain leaves, apparently
contradicting comments he
made earlier. In parliament
last week, Theresa May had
said: “I’m confident … that
we will be able to achieve that
deal in time for parliament
to have the vote that we
committed to.”
• A million more patients
could face waits of more
than four hours in NHS A&E
wards in England by 201920 in the absence of urgent
action to address rising
demand, the British Medical
Association has said. Analysis
by the doctors’ union,
shared exclusively with the
Guardian, projects that the
number of people attending
emergency wards and waiting
more than four hours to
be treated could reach 3.7
million in three years’ time,
up from 2.6 million in the year
ending September 2017.
• The UK population is set to
pass 70 million before the end
of the next decade, according
to official figures. Demographers project that the population will rise by 3.6 million, or
5.5%, over the next 10 years,
rising from an estimated 65.6
million last year to 69.2 million in mid-2026. The Office
for National Statistics said the
population was projected to
pass 70 million by mid-2029,
reaching 72.9 million in 2041.
18 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
together in
an unholy
Carole Cadwalladr
Trump, Assange, Farage,
Bannon – why aren’t
questions being asked
about the connections?
Jonathan Freedland
Conspiracy theories
such as who killed JFK
only distract us from
the real threats we face
ast Wednesday, 11 months into Donald
Trump’s new world order, in the first year
of normalisation, a sudden unblurring of
lines took place. A shift. A door of perception swung open. Because that was the day
that the dramatis personae of two separate
Trump-Russia scandals smashed headlong
into one another. A high-speed news car crash between
Cambridge Analytica and WikiLeaks, the two organisations that arguably had the most impact on 2016, coming
together in one head-spinning scoop.
That day, we learned that Alexander Nix, the
CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data
firm that helped Trump to power, had contacted
Julian Assange to ask him if he wanted “help” with
WikiLeaks’s stash of stolen emails.
That’s the stash that had such a devastating impact
on Hillary Clinton in the last months of the US election
campaign. And this story brought WikiLeaks, which
the head of the CIA describes as a “hostile intelligence
service”, directly together with the Trump campaign for
which Cambridge Analytica worked. This is an amazing
plot twist for the company owned by US billionaire Robert Mercer, which is already the subject of investigations
by the House intelligence committee, the Senate intelligence committee, the FBI and, it was announced last
Friday night, the Senate judiciary committee.
So far, so American. These are US scandals involving
US politics and the news made the headlines in US
bulletins across US networks.
But it’s also Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics
company that has its headquarters in central London
and that, following a series of articles about its role in
Brexit in the Guardian and the Observer, is also being
investigated, by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office. The company that was
spun out of a British military contractor is headed by
an old Etonian and that responded to our stories earlier
this year by threatening to sue us. It’s our Cambridge it’s
named after, not the American one, and it was here that
it processed the voter files of 240 million US citizens.
It’s also here that this “hostile intelligence service”
– WikiLeaks – is based. The Ecuadorian embassy is just
a few kilometres, as the crow flies, from Cambridge
Analytica’s head office. Because this is not just about
America. It’s about Britain, too. This is transatlantic. It’s
not possible to separate Britain and the US in this whole
sorry mess – and I say this as someone who has spent
months trying. Where we see this most clearly is in
that other weird WikiLeaks connection: Nigel Farage.
Because that moment in March when Farage was caught
tripping down the steps of the Ecuadorian embassy
was the last moment the lines suddenly became visible.
That the ideological overlaps between WikiLeaks and
Trump and Brexit were revealed to be not just lines,
but a channel of communication.
Because if there’s one person who’s in the middle of
all of this, but who has escaped any proper scrutiny, it’s
Nigel Farage. That’s Nigel Farage, who led the Leave.EU
campaign, which is being investigated by the Electoral
Commission alongside Cambridge Analytica, about
uefully, and rightly as it turned out, one
lifelong investigator of the Kennedy assassination predicted that there “won’t be
any smoking gun” in the cache of nearly
3,000 JFK-related documents released last
Thursday. It was a suitably ironic choice
of phrase by Jefferson Morley, the editor of the JFKfacts website. Because this, of course, is a
rare case where there was very much both smoke and a
gun, in the form of the 6.5mm Carcano rifle used by Lee
Harvey Oswald to shoot John F Kennedy on 22 November
1963. It’s just not the smoking gun Morley’s readers were
looking for, the one that would prove a vast conspiracy to
murder the 35th president of the United States.
There were plenty of juicy titbits in the papers all
the same. Conspiracy theorists will seize on the CIA
memo that reports that Oswald, while in Mexico in
September 1963, spoke to a Russian diplomat identified
as a KGB officer and member of Department 13, a unit
“responsible for sabotage and assassination”. Others
will delight in the ambiguous words of the FBI director,
J Edgar Hoover, who two days after the killing wrote of
the urgent need to “convince the public that Oswald is
the real assassin”. My personal favourite is the mysterious phone call to a British local paper – the Cambridge
Evening News – 25 minutes before the shot rang out in
Dallas, instructing a reporter to call the US embassy in
London to hear “some big news”.
All of which is intriguing, but not what the conspiracy-mongers wanted to hear. They hoped this windfall
of papers might include the document that would
prove, once and for all, what they’ve said all along: that
JFK was killed by the Russians, the mafia, the Cubans,
the other Cubans, the FBI, the CIA, or some combination of all of them. What they never feared, by the way,
was a document that might point in the other direction,
a text that would settle beyond all doubt that Oswald
alone was the murderer. Such a document could not
exist, for it is in the nature of conspiracy theory that
any contrary evidence can be brushed aside. An incongruent letter or photograph can and will be dismissed as
a fake, forged by the hidden conspirators and therefore
providing further proof of their wickedness, ingenuity
and willingness to stop at nothing.
The temptation is great to laugh off such thinking as the province of cranks whose tightly spaced
letters could once safely be filed in the dustbin. But
conspiracism – of which the JFK industry was the early
exemplar – matters. It has become a defining, and
dangerous, feature of the world we live in now.
YAY Media AS/Alamy
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 19
whether the latter made an “impermissible donation” of
services to the leave campaign. Nigel Farage who visited
Donald Trump and then Julian Assange. Who is friends
with Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer. Who headed an
organisation – Ukip – that has multiple, public, visible
but almost entirely unreported Russian connections.
Who is paid by the Russian state via the broadcaster RT,
which was banned last week from Twitter. And who
appears on British television without any word of this.
This is a power network that involves WikiLeaks
and Farage, and Cambridge Analytica and Farage,
and Robert Mercer and Farage. Steve Bannon, former
vice-president of Cambridge Analytica, and Farage.
Of course, there were conspiracy theories before
the murder in Dealey Plaza. But JFK provided the template for the modern-day version of the form. Whether
it’s the microscopic analysis of photographs and film
footage, or the casual assumption that governments
could enlist many hundreds, if not thousands, of
officials to collaborate in a murderous lie, all of them
taking their secret to the grave, the pattern was set with
the Kennedy assassination – redeployed to cast doubt
on everything from 9/11 to the death of Princess Diana,
from the shooting of very young children at Sandy Hook
to last month’s mass slaughter in Las Vegas.
Again, there was a time when you might have dismissed such talk as the derangement of the bug-eyed,
irrelevant fringe, but that’s no longer so easy. Not now
that we live in the era of fake news and post-truth.
Those terms are used to describe a trend that is pervasive and indeed mainstream, that in the US has captured
the highest office in the land. The man who sits in
Kennedy’s chair today is himself a conspiracy theorist,
responsible for spreading one of the most malicious
inventions: the wholly debunked claim that Barack
Obama was not born in the US.
Some of the best analysis of conspiracy theory and
its enduring, apparently increasing, appeal strikes an
It’s Nigel Farage and Brexit and Trump and Cambridge
Analytica and WikiLeaks … and, if the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee
and the FBI are on to anything at all, somewhere in the
middle of all that, Russia.
ry to follow this on a daily basis and it’s
one long headspin: a spider’s web of
relationships and networks of power
and patronage and alliances that spans
the Atlantic and embraces data firms,
thinktanks and media outlets. That
it’s eye-wateringly complicated and
geographically diffuse is not a coincidence. Confusion
is the charlatan’s friend, noise its accessory. The babble
on Twitter is a convenient cloak of darkness.
Yet it’s also quite simple. In a well-functioning democracy, a well-functioning press and a well-functioning
parliament would help a well-functioning judiciary do
its job. Britain is not that country. There is a vacuum
where questions should be. What was Nigel Farage
doing in the Ecuadorian embassy? More to the point:
why has no public official asked him? Why is he giving
speeches – for money – in the US? Who’s paying him? I
know this because my weirdest new hobby of 2017 is to
harry Arron Banks, the Bristol businessman who was
Ukip and Leave.EU’s main funder, and Andy Wigmore,
Leave.EU’s comms man and Belize’s trade attache to the
US, across the internet late at night. Wigmore told me
about this new US venture – an offshore-based political
consultancy working on Steve Bannon-related projects
– in a series of tweets. Is it true? Who knows? Leave.EU
has learned from its Trumpian friends that black is white
and white is black and these half-facts are a convenient
way of diffusing scandal and obscuring truth.
What on earth was Farage doing advancing Calexit
– California Brexit? And why did I find a photo of him
hanging out with Dana Rohrabacher, the Californian
known in the US press as “Putin’s favourite congressman”? The same man who’s met with Donald Trump
Jr’s Russian lawyer and also visited Julian Assange in
the Ecuadorian embassy. And who is interceding on his
behalf to obtain a pardon from Donald Trump Jr’s dad.
In these post-truth times, journalists are fighting the
equivalent of a firestorm with a bottle of water and a wet
hankie. We need parliament to step up and start asking
proper questions. There may be innocent answers to all
these questions. Let’s please just ask them.
unexpectedly compassionate tone. It argues that the
imagined conspiracy is a necessary refuge for those unable to face the world as it truly is: messy, arbitrary and
full of pain. David Aaronovitch, whose Voodoo Histories
debunks the key conspiracy myths of our time, writes
that many Americans simply could not accept that a
giant like Kennedy had been taken from them by “a little
man” like Oswald: “Oswald represents chaos, the rule
of nothing, the indifference of fate. Real Oswald is more
intolerable than the notion of the establishment plot.”
ut conspiracy thinking is no longer
harmless idiosyncrasy, if it ever was. Not
when it leads to the bereaved parents of
Sandy Hook or the wounded of Las Vegas
being bombarded with death threats and
online abuse, branding them “crisis actors”
paid by the government to help stage a
hoax. But there is a deeper danger too. All this energy
spent trying to find the hidden hands that secretly
plot our destruction is energy not spent looking for
the truly hidden hand – which does not belong to one
shadowy individual, or even a group, but rather to the
much more complicated forces of politics, economics
and history that are shaping us every day.
A spider’s web of
relationships and
networks of power
spans the Atlantic and
embraces data firms,
thinktanks and media
Conspiracism has
become a defining
feature of our world
20 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
House of
Saud is still
in denial
over unrest
Nesrine Malik
Daniel Pudles
Despite crown prince
Mohammed’s pledge of
reform, there is no real
acknowledgement yet
of what lies behind
Saudi Arabia’s malaise
omething is definitely afoot in Saudi Arabia
this time. For decades, the ruling Saud family
has followed a policy of promise but never
deliver. They make the right noises in an attempt to polish the country’s much-tarnished
global image – and yet when it comes down to
it, they rarely come up with the goods.
But perhaps this time is different. In an interview
with the Guardian, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin
Salman made statements that would make even the
most hardened cynic take note. He addressed “what
happened”, saying that the Iranian revolution triggered
copycat religious regimes across the region, and that
now it was time to “get rid of it” in Saudi Arabia.
“We are simply reverting to what we followed – a
moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. Seventy per cent of Saudis are younger than 30. Honestly,
we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist
thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”
The crown prince is a masterful marketer, beloved
of the western media. He has presented himself as the
pivot around which the country’s long-awaited transformation would take place. For a while, it seemed that he
had become just that: an expectation.
But these recent comments, combined with the lifting of the ban on women driving, suggest that Prince
Mohammed, and a number of the royal establishment,
are serious. His public position is being echoed by senior
figures: this is not a one-man initiative.
It is not only the apparent millennial sincerity of the
young prince that is the driving force. Crucially, there is
an economic underpinning to this as well. The regime’s
mistake has been to think only in terms of preserving
its own power, extending generous subsidies to citizens
and protecting itself from the wrath of the religious establishment by giving it extensive freedoms.
During the years I lived in the country in the late
1990s and 2000s, terrorist activity on Saudi soil was
reaching its peak. It was always frustrating to see the
religious police harass and intimidate the public, enforcing the strictest of religious laws while the government
scrambled to combat the rise of extremism, failing to
make the link between the two. But the powerful publicorder vigilantes who dragged men to prayer and told
women to cover their faces have been weakened.
Perhaps the most astonishing statement from the
House of Saud was about the boredom of Saudi youth.
Prince Mohammed has been big on social transformation, insisting that without striking a new deal between
citizen and state, economic rehabilitation would fail.
“This is about giving kids a social life,” said a senior
Saudi royal figure. “Entertainment needs to be an option
for them. They are bored and resentful. A woman needs
to be able to drive herself to work. Without that we are
all doomed. Everyone knows that – except the people in
small towns. But they will learn.”
Such a public suggestion of a schism between Saudis
“in the small towns” and the ruling regime indicates the
government is beginning to get over its fear of alienating
religious traditionalists in their old feud with the royal
family and elite – who the hardliners see as under the
influence of the corrupt, ungodly west.
Inevitably, there is still some denial at play. The history of extremism in Saudi Arabia was the result of a
cynical use of religion that meant hardline clerics had a
free hand. For the royal family, this appeased a religious
establishment that, if alienated, could foment discord.
Yet there is still no honest reckoning over what lies at
the heart of the Saudi malaise. It’s not anything as trite
as a lack of democracy; it is the failure to confront the
fact that expropriating religion for political purposes
will always backfire. Things look promising, but only
once that lesson is learned will there be real hope.
More at
Opinion In brief
The daily routine is a form of tyranny
Mental illness and work can coexist
There is a part of me that thinks I
am sufficiently complex to not need
something so mundane as a routine.
And there’s a more real part of me
that happily kowtows to its tyranny.
Take this morning. Like every
weekday, I got up at 7.15am, rubbed
my face with coconut oil, washed
it off, went downstairs, slipped on
the penultimate step, steadied myself, went into the kitchen to make
various hot drinks, flicked through
Instagram, checked my emails,
saw there was no bread, panicked,
checked my emails again and put
three eggs on to boil.
On reflection, my whole day is a
routine. I pretend it’s not because
I am not unhappy with it, but it’s
certainly a tyranny. I hadn’t really
thought about until I came across
the morning routine of Princess
Margaret, which was doing the
rounds on Twitter last week. It
The Thriving at Work report has
found that many of us are not,
in fact, thriving at work. About
300,000 of us with long-term
mental health problems lose their
job each year in the UK.
We have been saying this for a
long time. We the people who know.
The people with mental illness; the
mental health professionals; the experts and charity heads; and in some
cases, the employers. It’s a positive
step that Theresa May, the prime
minister, commissioned this report.
It’s a travesty it took so long.
Let me tell you about working
with a severe, long-term mental
illness (in my case, bipolar disorder).
Bipolar disorder is a cyclical illness.
Those cycles will vary, according to
the illness’s subsets, from rapid cycling disorder to episodes that happen with years in between. For me,
my condition is “managed” by medi-
included the following: “breakfast
in bed”, “two hours in bed listening
to the radio”, and “a vodka pick-meup” at 12.30pm, which carried HRH
giddily into the afternoon. Imagine,
I thought, doing the same thing over
and over because you lacked the imagination to do anything else!
There is definite method in having a routine. Get big stuff out of
the way first thing and your mind
is clearer, or as Mark Twain suggests: “Eat a live frog first thing in
the morning, and nothing worse
will happen to you the rest of the
day.” And a routine can be helpful,
even essential, following the seismic
impact of, say, a job loss, or even a
death in the family.
I can, of course, allow for some
variables – sometimes I’ll put a wash
on, and today, for example, I quartered and ate a pear. I’m not a total
psychopath. Morwenna Ferrier
cation and mental health services.
For a big chunk of each year I’ll
probably spend time off. In the past
couple of years that has meant stints
in hospital, sometimes writing on
zero sleep. Then, the long walks to
recuperate, the nurturing back to
health. Then the return to work.
But I’m one of the lucky ones.
When I joined the Guardian, a care
plan was set up. It was distributed
to my managers so they could notice
any signs of impending episodes.
All of this is the kind of thing employers should be doing as standard,
and is numbered among the 40 recommendations made in the Thriving
at Work report.
Unfortunately, some people will
be too unwell to work. For those
with mental health problems who
are able to work, we must do more
to retain them. That way everyone
benefits. Hannah Jane Parkinson
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 21
In praise of ...
robot reassurance
UK prime minister Theresa May promised tough action amid allegations of sexual harassment in Westminster
Force won’t
kill dream
of Catalans
Matthew d’Ancona
Secession from Spain
would be unwise. But in
an age of hectic change,
the search for identity
cannot be dismissed
t’s remarkable what you can learn in Slovenia. At a
conference on politics, security and development
in Bled earlier this year, I was lucky enough to chat
to the Catalan delegates, proudly representing the
interests and wisdom of their ancient principality.
With considerable poise and dignity, they seemed
to me to be channelling Pericles on the Athenians:
we do not imitate, but are a model to others.
So I am not surprised that Madrid is as frightened as
it evidently is by Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of
independence. This is not a tinpot province threatening
to secede as a means of squeezing a bridge or two out of
central government. Recognised as a distinct political
entity since the 12th century, it has always treasured its
autonomy – lost under Franco and recovered after his
death in 1975. Since last Friday its separation from Spain
to become a fully functioning sovereign state, though
still improbable, is quite conceivable.
This alone represents a terrible defeat for Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, whose response was to
order the sacking of the entire Catalan government, the
closure of Barcelona’s ministries, the dismissal of Catalonia’s police chief and the dissolution of its regional
parliament. Though Madrid has generously declared
that Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan president,
is welcome to run in the snap election on 21 December,
he remains, confusingly, at risk of arrest for rebellion.
Madrid – aided by Brussels – appears determined to
inflame separatist emotions rather than seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The independence referendum held on 1 October may have been technically
illegal, as Spain’s constitutional court asserted, but the
often brutal manner in which the poll was obstructed by
the national police and Guardia Civil made such appeals
to the rule of law seem like a preposterous fig leaf for
street-level authoritarianism.
Because of Spain’s history, the integrity of the nation has special significance. In a country governed by
a military dictator between 1939 and 1975, the threat of
disaggregation and lawlessness is especially vivid. But
in an age of hectic change such as ours, history must be
The robots are coming. They’re going to take your job and destroy your
life – and there’s nothing you can
do. That’s the hype: we are facing a
dystopian future in which human
labour will be rendered obsolete.
It’s true that we are going through
a period of intense technological
change. Yes, there is a chance that
all these changes will end up making
our lives worse. That future generations will inhabit a surveillance
society in which humans are controlled by jailers they have bought
– smartphones – while an army of
slave robots maintains a narrow elite
in extravagant luxury.
But it does not have to be that
way. There are choices to be made,
and we can make them well – if,
instead of running scared, we face
up to the responsibilities of this
new era.
If we can build the right system
of rules and responsibilities around
technology, we can rise with the
robots, not fall below them.
Chi Onwurah
granted a vote rather than a veto. Bad memories may explain present errors, but they do not excuse them. And
Rajoy is proving himself unequal to the moment. Simply
asserting that the rules have been broken and will be enforced is a pitiful approach to a hugely complex cultural
Take a step back: if the early 21st century has a unifying theme, it is that the rules-based order that seemed
triumphant in 1989 faces a series of fundamental challenges. Prime among them is a burgeoning of the secessionist impulse, of tribalism and populist resistance
to distant elites. In this era of disruption, nomadism
and technological revolution, the appeal of place and
space has returned. A longing for what Heidegger called
wohnen – “dwelling” – is suddenly resurgent. In some
instances, as in Charlottesville, this takes the form of
a despicable blood-and-soil nativism. But the instinct
is not always reprehensible. For Catalans to crave their
own nation is not intrinsically wrong, whatever its impracticalities and inconveniences.
Those of us who still value rules-based internationalism have to acknowledge that not everyone is at ease
on the rollercoaster of modernity. That much was made
clear by last year’s EU referendum and the election
of Donald Trump. The notion that politics is simply a
branch of economics is no longer sustainable (if, indeed,
it ever was). The issue of identity has assumed a fresh
importance that we ignore at our peril.
I am deeply suspicious of the populism that offers
easy solutions to complex problems: secession, like
hostility to immigration, cannot possibly be the panacea
that its champions typically claim. I still believe in the
liberal order, viable nation-states and the supranational
agreements that make possible global collaboration
between them. But it is idle to pretend in 2017 that this
order is in especially good shape.
If the Catalan crisis has a lesson to date, it is that
Madrid’s answer is no answer at all. Saying the same,
only louder, will not preserve the integrity of Spain or of
anything else. In the unfolding of history, the greatest
mistake is to believe there is a script.
22 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
50 years of legal abortion
Let’s finish the work
It was 50 years last Friday since David Steel’s
abortion act became law in Great Britain (but
not Northern Ireland). It did not come into
force until the following April. In those six
months, it is likely that around 70 women
died from sepsis or some other cause resulting
from illegal abortion: in the previous decade,
it claimed at least 150 lives a year, the biggest
single cause of maternal mortality. Activists
toasted victory with champagne. But one
veteran, who had undergone an illegal abortion herself, dampened the celebrations. They
should be drinking half-glasses, she said, for
the job was only half done.
Nonetheless, in the past 50 years millions
of women have benefited from access to safe
abortion. It has transformed the future for
many girls and women – young women in particular, for the peak age for abortion is 19; it is
also disproportionately in demand in poorer
parts of England and Wales. There are now
around 200,000 abortions recorded each year,
but almost all of them – 92% – take place in the
first trimester of pregnancy. No one likes carrying out an abortion, says the Royal College
of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, but the
alternative – illegal, unsafe abortion – is worse.
Yet reforming the law does remain a job
half done. The Abortion Act 1967 did not decriminalise termination; it merely introduced
a very narrow set of exemptions from the
criminal law, a tiny window where abortion
was legal, restricted by the requirement that
two doctors agree that carrying a pregnancy
to term would be a greater risk than termination, or that the unborn child had such physical or mental abnormalities that it would be
seriously handicapped.
Over time, these rules have been interpreted much less restrictively. But even if
practice has changed, they are still in force,
and abortion remains a criminal offence both
for the woman and for medical practitioners.
Every doctor is aware that he or she remains
open to prosecution.
An adult woman still does not have the
autonomy to make one of the most fundamental decisions about her body and her life.
And for all those involved – women and health
practitioners – the climate around abortion remains punitive.
For the first time, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Midwives and the
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists all now support decriminalisation. The
professionals who are most closely involved
in reproductive health, trained and qualified
people devoted to securing and protecting
healthy lives for women and babies, believe
that it is necessary to change the law to reflect
the way the world has changed since 1967.
Experience in Canada and parts of Australia
where decriminalisation has been introduced
shows it has not led to a surge in abortion.
Abortion has always been polarising. But this
is a job half done, and it’s time to complete it.
New Zealand’s new PM
Managing an uncomfortable alliance
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s new prime
minister, has brought Labour back to power
after nearly a decade in the wilderness. Now
she has been sworn in, the country’s youngest prime minister in 150 years and its third
female leader since 1997.
Labour campaigned to reduce child poverty, build more affordable homes, make university free and every river swimmable: so far,
so Labour. But she also committed to slow the
rate of immigration from 50,000 to 30,000 a
year and ensure that employers looked for
New Zealand workers before they brought in
migrants – even though employment rates are
high and unemployment low. Her first move
in power was equally populist: she announced
plans to ban foreigners from buying existing
homes. New Zealand real estate has become a
priority item on the global super-rich’s shopping list. But it is not obvious that banning
foreign buyers will do much to free up housing for New Zealanders at the affordable end
of the market.
Gestures to popular opinion may be necessary. But, as the new prime minister acknowledges, this is a country where, for all its tourist
allure and its green potential, one in three children is growing up in a poverty that disproportionately affects Maori and Pasifika families.
Last month, Unicef described the country’s
levels of inequality and deprivation as “deeply
concerning”. Ms Ardern, who has said that she
will be the first minister for child poverty reduction, promises to introduce a payment to
assist families raising young children, increasing rent support and extending paid parental
leave from 18 to 26 weeks.
The new prime minister may be only 37, but
she has served a long political apprenticeship,
working for both the former New Zealand Labour prime minister Helen Clark, and then
for Tony Blair. Yet despite the kind of background that is now often disparaged, she has
managed to combine a degree of pragmatism
with a vote-winning authenticity. Holding it
all together will require all her skills.
Don’t let Google
run a city without
being elected
Jathan Sadowski
Alphabet, the parent company of
Google, does not suffer from a lack
of ambition. It has decided it will
plan, build and run a city – well, part
of a city. And a major city is happily
handing Alphabet a neighbourhood
of prime real estate to call their own.
The project announced last
month is a partnership between
Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet
subsidiary focused on urban technology, and Toronto. Sidewalk Labs
will be in charge of redeveloping a
waterfront district called Quayside.
With this district, Alphabet will
have its own “urban living laboratory” where it can experiment with
new smart systems and planning
techniques. It can study how these
systems work in the real world and
how people are affected.
If the Toronto development goes
as planned, it will be one of the
largest examples of a smart city
project in North America.
Mayors and tech executives exalt
urban labs as sites of disruptive
innovation and economic growth.
However, this model of creating our
urban future is also an insidious way
of handing more control to profitdriven, power-hungry corporations.
In an era of intense competition
between cities for resources, many
cities are focused on achieving
constant growth, large returns and
public-private partnerships. They
coax tech companies by offering
benefits like looser regulation and
lower taxes.
Digital districts are the next-level
version of these lures. Why settle for
tax breaks when you can lay claim to
an entire neighbourhood?
But cities are not machines that
can be optimised. Cities are real
places with real people who have
a right not to live with whatever
“smart solutions” an engineer or
executive decides to unleash.
Nobody elected Alphabet or Uber
or any other company with its sights
set on privatising city governance.
Building the smart urban future
cannot also mean paving the way for
tech billionaires to rule over cities.
If it does, that’s not a future we
should want to live in.
Jathan Sadowski is a visiting
lecturer in ethics of technology
at Delft University of Technology,
the Netherlands
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 23
The continuing rise of China to
global dominance through the rest
of this century seems inevitable
under the “iron grip” of chairman
Xi Jinping and his successors (20
October). The matter of Chinese
dominance in regard to soft power
internally and externally is, however, more problematic, leaving a
degree of openness in regard to both
human rights and forms of democracy as well as future structures for
global and regional governance.
Important as these matters are,
they are dwarfed by two more
fundamental questions in regard to
the future of capitalism. First, can
capitalism be reformed to ensure
planetary survival and turn around
economic and social inequalities? If
not, can capitalism be replaced with
an economic and social system that
offers a better prospect for the planet,
and the many – not just the few?
Can we both fulfil the Chinese
dream and other dreams while
avoiding a planetary nightmare?
Stewart Sweeney
Adelaide, South Australia
• Katherine Norbury’s lovely review
(20 October) of The Lost Words, in
which Robert Macfarlane and Jackie
Morris direct our attention to conserving the vocabulary of the natural world, reminded me of Alasdair
Maclean’s reflections about names
and places in his memoir Night Falls
on Ardnamurchan: “Civilisation
begins with names and must end
when they end … Without names for
ourselves and our possessions and
places we return to the void.”
Alastair Hulbert
Edinburgh, UK
Farming is not the answer
George Monbiot is correct in saying that grazing ruminants are less
efficient producers of food (13 October). However, much of the world’s
land area is not suitable for growing
crops; its natural ecosystem is one
of perennial deep-rooted grasses
that were maintained by large herds
of ruminants. Farming this land has
in general been an ecological disaster: witness the US dust bowl or
the so-called virgin lands campaign
under Khrushchev. With careful
management to mimic the herds of
yesteryear, these fragile lands can be
successfully grazed to produce highquality protein. Land in less arid regions, such as New Zealand, which is
too steep for crops, can also be sustainably managed with ruminants.
We should not be destroying virgin ecosystems to grow ruminant
protein, but neither should we do
the same to grow soya beans. We
have large areas of land that have
been grazed for generations. Replacing all the protein produced on this
land with soy would still require
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Gary Kempston
China’s rise to dominance
a sizable area of land, and where
is this land to be found? There is a
place in the world for sustainable
production of grass-fed meat: on
land not suitable for cultivation.
Dave Read
Wairoa, New Zealand
The population problem
We would all love to preserve the
remaining wild places in the world
and get rid of all the cities and farms
that have replaced so much of our
planet’s ecosystem. Or would we?
How many of us are prepared to
give up our creature comforts for
the life of a hunter-gatherer facing
all the challenges of nature in the
raw? And if we aren’t prepared to,
what right have we to deny others
the opportunity to have better lives
in order to make us feel good about
the environment?
A rapid route to destruction?
(6 October) deplores the development of dams, farms and hydropower in the Amazon basin while
choosing to either ignore or discount
the reasons for the development:
the ever-growing demands of an
ever-growing human population.
We are faced with a stark choice:
curb our population or reduce the
wildlife that competes for the same
resources. Campaigns to prevent development are futile misdirections
of resources that would be better
employed in addressing the reasons
why such development occurs. Or is
that too sophisticated an approach
for environmental activists?
David Barker
Bunbury, Western Australia
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• Oliver Burkeman’s column nearly
always gives me a strange feeling that
whatever part of the human race he
is a member of, it is not the part that I
belong to (20 October). I suspect that
his group is the one my nephew also
belongs to: he seems to find it incomprehensible that I don’t go rushing
out to get an updated iPhone or other
e-gadget. I find it difficult to believe
that people can take these things
seriously; they usually end up giving me the same sort of look that I’m
giving them. Namely: “Are you living
on the same planet as me?”
Michael Barton
Gamle Fredrikstad, Norway
• Gary Younge’s utopia is naively
imagined (We should value people
more than money, 20 October). I
have travelled the world for more
than 20 years and in almost every
country I have visited, hordes of
people have asked me: “Can you
please help me come to Australia?”
Rarely is this due to do with a “wellfounded fear of persecution”, but
rather a desire for our lifestyle.
Should we just let them all come?
How many billions of people should
Australia have? Unfortunately, it is
far from a realistic option to fix the
arbitrary lottery of life.
Richard Abram
Sydney, Australia
• In her story about the newly
opened airport on St Helena (20
October), how come Emma Weaver
has omitted the main attraction of
the island: Napoleon?
Marguerite Laboulle
Hastière-Lavaux, Belgium
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From the archive
3 November 1982
Trendy enough
to make teeth peel
Can you do anagrams? Do you want
an hour of news in depth? Are you
sexually liberated, socially aware
and politically concerned? Do you
wear leg warmers?
No? Then take your sticky hands
off my nice new, shiny channel. I began to feel deeply inadequate when
Olga Hubicka and Paul Cola were
telling me about forthcoming Channel 4 programmes in Preview 4.
Trendy enough to make your teeth
peel, sitting on white furniture and
drinking iced white wine I shouldn’t
wonder. A back-up team called Keith
Harrison and David Stranks, whose
names evidently didn’t measure up,
were sitting somewhere crummier
looking keenly at computers.
Channel 4, I can see, will take a
bit of living up to. Jeremy Isaacs, the
chief executive, says in TV Times,
that it’s entertaining, marvellous,
hilarious, exciting, intelligent, gritty,
provocative, thoughtful and splendidly varied. He also says in the Listener that he is not one to boast.
By their soap operas ye shall
know them. Brookside is a Liverpool
Knott’s Landing, a private housing
estate inhabited by, let’s say, the
Harrods, the Habitats, and a warm
and lovable working class family, the
Hooligans. The first episode turned
on whether the Hooligans had stolen the Harrods’ lavatory.
It was not a night when anyone
was going to be allowed to drop
off in their socks. Apart from the
fine film Walter about a mentally
handicapped man there was an Enid
Blyton spoof, Five Go Mad in Dorset. The fresh-faced four and their
intermittently dead dog bowled
along on their bicycles bossily doing
good and, I fear, irritating the nicer
elements. Nancy Banks-Smith
Corrections and
• Due to an editing error, a 13 October piece commented on “the decision to reward the physics prize to
an American trio whose careers had
been devoted to fruit fly research”.
As we correctly pointed out in Dispatches, that prize was for medicine.
The Guardian Weekly’s policy is to
correct significant errors as soon as
possible. Please give the date, page
or web link: guardian.readers@ or The readers’
editor, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, United Kingdom.
24 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Royal doctors take part in the funeral procession for the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok. After a seven-decade reign the king died on 13 October 2016, leading to a year-long peri
South Africa’s Mike Schlebach rides in the barrel of a wave at an offshore reef outside Cape
Town as part of the Big Wave Surfing Rebel Sessions 2017 Nic Bothma/EPA
The Trevi fountain was dyed red by artist Graziano Cecchini as a protest against Rome's
corruption and filth. He had previously dyed the fountain in 2007 Marco Ravagli/Barcroft Images
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 25
od of national mourning Anthony Wallace/Getty
A group of squirrel monkeys investigate a carved pumpkin during a Halloween event at
London Zoo Mary Turner/Reuters
A farmer dries out persimmons in China’s Shandong province during the harvest season for
the fruit, which is popular across much of east Asia Zhao Dongshan/Xinhua/Barcroft Images
Özlem Dalkıran of the Citizens’ Assembly, one of eight Turkish human rights activists released
on bail from jail near Istanbul, is greeted by her supporters Yasin Akgulyasin Akgul/Getty
26 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
We have
ways of
you talk
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 27
Expert interrogators
know torture doesn’t
work – but until now,
no one could prove it.
By analysing top-secret
interviews with terror
suspects, two British
scientists have
revolutionised the art
of extracting the truth,
explains Ian Leslie
n 2013, a British man was arrested for
planning to kidnap and murder a soldier.
The suspect, who had a criminal history,
had posted messages on social media in
support of violent jihad. In a search of
his residence, the police had found a bag
containing a hammer, a kitchen knife and a map
with the location of a nearby army barracks.
Shortly after his arrest, the suspect was interviewed by a counter-terrorist police officer. The
interviewer wanted him to provide an account of
his plan, and to reveal with whom, if anyone, he has
been conspiring. But the detainee – we will call him
Diola – refused to divulge any information. Instead,
he expounded on the evils of the British state for 42
minutes, with little interruption. When the interviewer attempted questions, Diola responded with
scornful, finger-jabbing accusations of ignorance,
naivety and moral weakness: “You don’t know
how corrupt your own government is – and if you
don’t care, then a curse upon you.”
Watching a video of this encounter, it is possible
to discern Diola’s desire, beneath his ranting, to
tell what he knows. In front of him, a copy of the
Qur’an lies open. He says he was acting for the good
of the British people, and that he is willing to talk
to the police because, as a man of God, he wants
to prevent future atrocities. But he will not answer
questions until he is sure that his questioner cares
about Britain as much as he does: “The purpose of
the interview is not to go through your little checklist so you can get a pat on the head. If I find you
are a jobsworth, we are done talking, so be sincere.”
Even distanced by years from the events in question, it is impossible to watch the encounter without
feeling tense. Periodically, Diola turns away from
the interviewer and goes silent, or gets up and leaves
the room, having taken offence at something said
or not said. Each time he returns, Diola’s solicitor
advises him not to speak. Diola ignores him, though
in a sense he takes the advice: despite the verbiage,
he tells his interviewer nothing.
Diola: “Tell me why I should tell you. What is the
reason behind you asking me this question?”
Interviewer: “I am asking you these questions
because I need to investigate what has happened
and know what your role was in these events.”
Diola: “No, that’s your job – not your reason. I’m
asking you why it matters to you.”
The interviewer, who has remained heroically
calm in the face of Diola’s verbal barrage, is not
able to move the encounter out of stalemate, and
eventually his bosses replace him. When the new
interviewer takes a seat, Diola repeats his promise
to talk “openly and honestly” to the right person,
and resumes his inquisitorial stance. “Why are
you asking me these questions?” he says. “Think
carefully about your reasons.”
The interviewer does not answer directly, but
something about his opening speech triggers a
change in Diola. “On the day we arrested you,”
he began, “I believe that you had the intention of
killing a British soldier or police officer. I don’t know
the details of what happened, why you may have
felt it needed to happen, or what you wanted to
achieve by doing this. Only you know these things
Diola. If you are willing, you’ll tell me, and if you’re
not, you won’t. I can’t force you to tell me – I don’t
want to force you. I’d like you to help me understand. Would you tell me about what happened?”
The interviewer opens up his notebook, and shows
Diola the empty pages. “You see? I don’t even have
a list of questions.”
“That is beautiful,” Diola says. “Because you have
treated me with consideration and respect, yes I will
Fear and xenophobia
The rise of anti-immigrant fervour
→ Books, page 34
tell you now. But only to help you understand what
is happening in this country.”
For years, any debate over what constitutes
effective interrogation has been dominated by
a pervasive belief in coercion. From NYPD Blue
to Zero Dark Thirty, we are trained in the idea
that interrogators get the job done by intimidating, demoralising and brutalising their subjects.
Steven Kleinman, a former army colonel and one
of the US military’s most experienced interrogators,
told me it is not just the public that is influenced
by popular narratives: “Politicians, policymakers,
senior military officers – people who have never
conducted interrogations are somehow just convinced they know what works.”
In 2003, Kleinman tried to stop his fellow
soldiers from conducting abusive interrogations
of Iraqi insurgents; he later became the first
military officer to speak out against such practices.
He did so not just because he thought they were
wrong, but because he thought they were stupid.
Kleinman believes that coercion is counterproductive, because it destroys the trust that underpins
a successful interview. Most specialist practitioners agree, as do the scientists who study interrogation. But conventional wisdom in military and law
enforcement circles has been very hard to shift.
This is because it is difficult to prove what works.
High-stakes interrogations take place in secret, and
have rarely been available to objective researchers. In place of cool analysis, colourful but unreliable stories of vital secrets wrenched from fearful
‘I call this one the
Hannibal Lecter interview.
He wants a piece of
the interviewer’
suspects have prevailed. In reality, well-run interrogations are rarely dramatic: drama thrives on
conflict – something interrogators strive to avoid.
A body of scientific literature supports Kleinman’s view, but most of it is based on laboratory
experiments, in which students are asked to pretend they have just robbed a bank and interrogators are asked to believe them. The virtue of these
experiments is that they allow for controlled trials
of specific interrogation techniques; the drawback
is that they are easily dismissed by practitioners as
academic game-playing.
Now, two British researchers are quietly revolutionising the study and practice of interrogation.
Earlier this year, in a meeting room at the University
of Liverpool, I watched a video of the Diola interview alongside Laurence Alison, the university’s
chair of forensic psychology, and Emily Alison, a
counsellor. My permission to view the tape was
negotiated with the counter-terrorist police, who
are understandably wary of allowing outsiders access to such material. Details of the interview have
been changed to protect the identity of the officers
involved, though the quotes are verbatim.
The Alisons, husband and wife, have done something no scholars of interrogation have been able to
do before. Working in close cooperation with the
police, who allowed them access to more than 1,000
hours of tapes, they have observed and analysed
hundreds of real-world interviews with terrorists
suspected of serious crimes. No researcher in the
world has ever laid hands on such a haul of data
before. Based on this research, they have constructed the world’s first Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 empirically grounded
and comprehensive model of interrogation tactics.
The Alisons’ findings are changing the way law
enforcement agencies approach the delicate task
of gathering human intelligence. “I get very little
pushback from practitioners when I present the
Alisons’ work,” said Kleinman, who now teaches
interrogation tactics to military and police officers.
The Alisons have done more than strengthen the
hand of advocates of non-coercive interviewing:
they have provided an unprecedentedly authoritative account of what works and what does not,
rooted in a profound understanding of human relations. That they have been able to do so is testament
to a joint preoccupation with police interviews that
stretches back more than 20 years.
Pausing the Diola video, Emily Alison grimaced.
“I call this one ‘the Hannibal Lecter interview’,” she
said. “He wants a piece of the interviewer. When I
watched this tape the first time I had to switch it off
and walk away.
“You need to remember what your purpose in that
room is,” said Emily. “You’re seeking information.
You’re not there to speak on behalf of the victims or
the police. You might feel better for getting angry,
but down that road is retribution. You become the
inquisitioner. That’s not why you’re there. If you
find yourself having a go at someone, ask yourself:
‘What am I achieving by this?’ Because they will
stop talking to you.”
With us on the day we watched the video was
an officer in Britain’s counter-terrorist police force
with whom the Alisons have been working closely
to train interviewers. “A big thing we talk about is
leaving your ego at the door,” he said. “But that’s
tough, because cops are used to being in control.”
Emily met Laurence at the University of Liverpool in 1996, shortly after arriving in the UK from
her home in Wisconsin. She had applied to join the
Madison police force, as a stepping stone to the
FBI, but opted at the last minute to take a masters
in “investigative psychology” – the application of
psychology to police work (Liverpool was then one
of the few institutions in the world to offer it). “This
wasn’t long after Silence of the Lambs,” said Emily.
“I wanted to be the new Clarice Starling.”
Laurence was a PhD student in the department of
forensic psychology, and already a rising star after
his contribution to a high-profile public inquiry. In
1993, Colin Stagg was wrongfully accused of the
rape and murder of a young mother called Rachel
Nickell on Wimbledon Common, London. Despite
an absence of forensic evidence linking Stagg to the
murder, the police made Stagg their prime suspect
after deciding that he matched an “offender profile”
created by a psychologist.
A covert operation
ion was designed to entrap Stagg,
gg, involving
an undercover female
ale police officer feigning romantic
ntic interest.
After the case was thrown
hrown out and
the police had acknowledged
owledged their
mistake, Laurence assisted
the subsequent inquiry
by exposing the pseudoudoscience on which the
profile was based.
Historic ally, the
British police have
Keep talking …
psychologists Emily
and Laurence Alison
have a unique insight
Christopher Thomond
called on outside experts to help with investigations,
but have sometimes ended up listening to quacks.
After the Stagg inquiry, however, a list of accredited
consultants was drawn up, and Laurence Alison was
on it. Every couple of months or so he would get a
call, and a question. “It might be, can you help us
with this rape in Bath, or a murder in West Mercia,”
Laurence said. The police often wanted to know the
best way to interview a particular suspect or witness, usually after an initial attempt had gone badly.
Laurence would ask for assistance from Emily,
who knew a lot about interviewing difficult people,
thanks to her background in counselling. The
Alisons would read transcripts, watch video footage, and sometimes monitor interviews in real time,
assessing the dynamics of the encounter, searching
for a way to get the interviewee to open up. They
gained a reputation for offering useful advice.
In 2010, Laurence was contacted by a US government agency that was commissioning research into
interrogation. The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, was set up in 2009 by President
Obama, keen to signal a clean break from the Bush
administration, which had sanctioned abusive
interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Housed
within the FBI, the HIG’s purpose is to ground
interrogation in science.
The HIG’s chief researchers were particularly
interested in Britain, whose counter-terrorist police
have earned a reputation for being sophisticated
interviewers, partly because the opposite was once
true. In 1992, after public inquiries into two miscarriages of justice involving IRA attacks had revealed abusive interrogation practices, parliament
passed laws stipulating all interviews be recorded,
and making it an automatic right to have a solicitor present. With the option of coercion effectively
removed, the British police were forced to think
harder about the best way to obtain information. In
a minor but significant change they stopped using
the word “interrogation”, with its confrontational
overtone, and replaced it with “interview”.
The HIG invited Laurence to apply to them for
research funding. “I said, ‘I don’t want to do research
on students. I want to look at the real thing and
extract, from observation, what works.’” He set his
sights on an audacious goal: persuading the national
counter-terrorism unit to give him access to video
of its interviews with terrorist suspects. Two years
later, following a negotiation over terms, he was
granted access to 181 interviews, a total of 878 hours
of tape. They included Irish paramilitaries, al-Qaida
operatives, far-right extremists, incompetent
bunglers caught up in something they didn’t
understand, and highly dangerous operatives.
The tapes were housed in the
UK in a secure police fac
facility in
Alisons were
Yorkshire, and the Alison
not permitted to move them.
They took turns to visit
visit, often
asaccompanied by a research
sistant, Stamatis Elntib.
The police officer
assigned to monitor them th
that day
meet them
would mee
door, then
at the doo
sit with tthem in
the small viewas they
ing room a
w at
atcc h e d h o u r s
of video. After
Aft a full
day of this, whichever Aliso
Alison was
on duty would
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 29
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Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
check into the nearby hotel, sleep and return to the
facility in the morning for another day’s work.
Each interview had to be minutely analysed according to an intricate taxonomy of behaviours,
developed by the Alisons. Every aspect of the interaction between interviewee and interviewer was
classified and scored. They included the counterinterrogation tactics employed by the suspects
(complete silence? humming?), the manner in
which the interviewer asked questions (confrontational? authoritative? passive?), the demeanour
of the interviewee (dominating? disengaged?), and
the amount and quality of information yielded. Data
was gathered on 150 different variables in all.
Watching and coding all the interviews took
eight months. When the process was complete,
Laurence passed on the data to Paul Christiansen,
a colleague at Liverpool University, who performed
a statistical analysis of the results. The most important relationship he measured was between
“yield” – information elicited from the suspect
– and “rapport” – the quality of the relationship
between interviewer and interviewee. For the first
time, a secure, empirical basis was established for
what had, until then, been something between
a hypothesis and an insider secret: rapport is the
closest thing interrogators have to a truth serum.
‘I don’t care if
they are lying,
I just want
them to talk’
n 1943, Major Sherwood Moran, of the US
Marines, published a memorandum on
the interrogation of prisoners of war, and
distributed it to troops throughout the
Pacific theatre. Moran was a missionary
who had raised a family in Tokyo before
the war. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
in 1941, he was 56, and living in Boston. Realising
that his fluency in Japanese language and culture
might be helpful to the American war effort, he
joined the Marines. Moran soon became known as
an unusually effective interrogator of Japanese soldiers, who were famously resistant interviewees.
Like Islamist terrorists today, the Japanese were fanatically, suicidally, committed to their cause, and
deeply hostile to Americans.
In his memo, Moran explained why he eschewed
the bullying methods used by other interrogators. He believed that if the prisoner was forcibly
reminded he was facing his conqueror, he would
be placed “in a psychological position of being on
the defensive”. Moran did not believe in making
the prisoner feel scared or powerless. Stripping
a prisoner of his dignity merely reinforced his
determination not to speak. The aim should be to
get into his mind and heart – to achieve “intellectual
and spiritual rapport”.
Today, most experienced interrogators agree.
In 2012 the psychologist Melissa Russano asked
42 US interrogators what they believed made for
successful interviews. The participants, who responded anonymously, had performed interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq, with some of the most
resistant interviewees in the world. These are some
of their responses:
“Being nice is far and away more fruitful than
being an asshole. I could scare the crap out of you in
the next 10 seconds, if I really wanted to. But, you
know, what is that going to do?”
“You have to present a very empathetic
“Rapport is what we do. I was trying to think of
why I’ve had success, or we as a team have had success with these guys, and I think, in some respect,
that they are interested to tell their story – they’re
interested to tell the ‘why’. So I think talking to them
in a way that is non-judgmental [gets results].”
Despite its reputation among elite practitioners,
“rapport” has been vaguely defined and poorly
understood. It is often conflated with simply being nice – Laurence Alison refers to this, derisively,
as the “cappuccinos and hugs” theory. In fact, he
observes, interviewers can fail because they are
too nice, acquiescing to the demands of a suspect, or neglecting to pursue a line of purposeful
questioning at a vital moment.
The best interviewers are versatile: they know
when to be sympathetic, when to be direct and
forthright. What they rarely do is impose their will
on the interviewee, either overtly, through aggression, or covertly, through the use of “tricks”
– techniques of unconscious manipulation, which
make the interviewer feel smart but are often seen
through by interviewees. Above all, rapport, in the
sense used by the Alisons, describes an authentic
human connection. “You’ve got to mean it,” is one
of Laurence’s refrains.
The Alisons named their research project Orbit
(Observing Rapport-based Interpersonal Techniques). Part of its purpose is to provide an anatomy
of rapport, the better to understand what creates
and destroys it. At the heart of the Alisons’ model
is an insight from a neighbouring field. During the
years when she worked on police cases with Laurence, Emily Alison had come to see interrogation
as a close relation of addiction counselling. Both
involve getting someone who does not want to be
in the same room as you to talk about something
they do not want to talk about.
Around two decades ago, the practice of addiction counselling was transformed by the application
of a simple principle: patients should feel responsible for their choices. Emily wondered if it wasn’t
time for interrogation to catch up.
In 1980, a 23-year-old South African called
Stephen Rollnick started work as a nurse’s aid in
a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics. The clinicians shared a confrontational approach. They
believed their clients were lying to themselves,
and others, about the severity of their problem.
Before setting the patient on the road to recovery,
the clinician needed to challenge the patient on
their dishonesty and strip away their illusions – to
break their resistance.
This clinic was hardly atypical. The postwar
medical consen sus on addiction treatment regarded patients as wayward children who needed to
be taught how to behave. The counsellor’s job was to
tell the addict the truth about their condition, and,
if they denied it, to do so again more forcefully until
they accepted it. To Rollnick, this seemed bound to
poison the relationship. In the coffee room, he observed that the off-duty conversations of the counsellors were imbued with disdain for their patients.
One of the clients under Rollnick’s care was an
alcoholic called Anthony, who would leave group
sessions having barely said a word. One day, he
walked out for the last time. Rollnick discovered the
next morning that Anthony had shot his wife and
then himself in front of their young children. Shattered, Rollnick resigned from the centre, left South
Africa, and settled in the UK, where he embarked on
a course in clinical psychology at Cardiff University.
A couple of years in, Rollnick came across a paper
written by a young American psychologist called
William Miller, and was startled by how much he
agreed with it. Miller argued that the more we feel
someone trying to persuade us to do something, the
more we dwell on the reasons we should not. Miller
argued that counsellors should focus on building
a relationship of trust and mutual understanding,
enabling the patient to Continued on page 30 →
30 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Weekly review
← Continued from page 29 talk through his experiences without feeling the need to defend himself.
Eventually, and with the counsellor gently shaping
the dialogue, the part of the patient that wanted to
get better would overcome the part that did not,
and he would make the arguments for change himself. Having done so, he would be motivated to follow through on them. Miller called this approach
“motivational interviewing” (MI).
Rollnick used Miller’s method in his clinical
practice, with good results. On meeting Miller
at a conference, he told him about his enthusiasm for MI. The two men wrote a book together.
Motivational Interviewing revolutionised the field
of counselling and therapy, and its techniques
became widely practised. Empirical studies
found MI to be a far more effective treatment than
traditional methods.
Implicit in Miller and Rollnick’s critique was the
uncomfortable suggestion that counsellors should
turn their professional gaze upon themselves and
question their own instinct to dominate. Instead of
thinking of himself as an expert sitting in judgment,
the counsellor needed to adopt the more humble
position of co-investigator. As Miller put it to me,
“The premise is not ‘I have you what you need, let
me give it to you.’ It’s ‘You have what you need and
we’ll find it.’ The patient must feel ‘autonomous’ –
the author of their own actions.”
Emily Alison, who had trained in MI while working for the probation service in Wisconsin, noticed
that interrogations failed or succeeded for similar
reasons as therapeutic sessions. Interrogators who
made an adversary out of their subject left the room
empty-handed; those who made them a partner
yielded information. She concluded that the detainee, like the addict, wants to feel free, despite or
rather because of their confinement, and that the
interviewer should help them do so.
The Alisons’ analysis of the terrorist tapes confirmed this. One of their most striking findings is
that suspects are likelier to talk when the interviewer emphasises their right not to. “The more
pressure you put on a person, the less likely they
are to speak to you. You need to make them feel
responsible for their choices,” said Laurence. “You
can’t bullshit, you’ve got to mean it.” He slips into
character. “Ian, you don’t have to speak to me today.
Whether you do or not isn’t up to me. It isn’t up to
your solicitor. It’s up to you.
“These are powerful tools to get inside someone’s head, but they’re not tricks. You have to be
curious. There’s a reason this person has ended up
opposite you, and it’s not just because they’re evil.
If you’re not interested in what that is, you’re not
going to be a good interrogator.”
ithin a two-week stretch early
in the summer of this year,
Manchester and London were
struck by terrorist attacks.
In the days that followed there
was an urgent push to uncover
any networks in which the perpetrators – now dead
– were enmeshed. Anyone who had been in contact
with them needed to be wrung for information. The
burden of that task fell to a select group of specialist interviewers, drawn from counter-terrorist units
across the country. Something they had in common
is that they were all alumni of the Alcyone course,
‘People who have never
conducted interrogations
are somehow convinced
they know what works’
an intensive six-day workshop designed by the
Alisons in partnership with the police. More than
150 officers have now taken the course, which a
counter-terrorist officer told me was by far the best
interrogation training the police have ever had.
At the heart of the course is a series of role-play
exercises. Actors take the parts of inter viewees.
The roles might include a gang boss with ties to
terrorists, or a young woman who has been sharing extremist propaganda on social media. The attendees are sent into the room with instructions to
elicit specific information. They are told something
about the “suspect”, but they don’t know what kind
of character they are about to interview. It might be
someone belligerent or charming but evasive.
Take a seat … rapport is the closest thing interrogators have to a truth serum Joshua Bright
The simulations are intended to be as testing as
possible. “We wanted to create something harder
than the real world,” says Laurence. The actors are
expert at needling, provoking or eluding their inquisitors. As soon as an encounter begins, its fictional nature is almost completely forgotten; even
veteran interviewers can be pushed to the edge of
self-control. “Sometimes we design a character that
will press the buttons of that particular person,”
says Laurence. “We want to see if they can emotionally self-regulate under pressure.” Simply put,
can they stop themselves losing it?
Studies of interrogation are often preoccupied
with how to detect deception, but even a lie is information; the hard problem for an interrogator is a
suspect who says nothing. As one counter-terrorist
officer who worked with the Alisons told Laurence:
“I don’t care if they’re lying. I just want them to
talk.” Some suspects give monosyllabic answers,
or stick to scripted responses, or simply turn their
chair around, presenting the interviewer with the
back of their head. Islamist militants are prone to
long ideological rants. All such tactics have the
potential to be doubly effective, because they get
under the skin of the interviewer, throwing him off
his plan by goading him into anger.
On the opening day of the Alcyone course, Laurence gives a crash course in “interpersonal psychology”, which is concerned with communication
and how it breaks down. An interviewee exerts an
emotional force on the interviewer that is hard to
resist. Skilled interrogators are adept at managing
their own automatic responses. The premise of
interpersonal psychology is that in any conversation, the participants are asking for status – to feel
respected and listened to – and communion – to feel
liked and understood. “Power, love,” says Laurence.
“The fundamental elements of all human behaviour.” Conversations only go well when both parties
feel they are getting their fair share of each.
A father who opens the door to his daughter
when she comes home late might adopt a confrontational style. But his daughter pushes back, which
provokes her father’s anger. A power struggle ensues, until the conversation terminates with one or
both stomping off. If the father had emphasised his
love for his daughter, a conversation about acceptable norms might have developed. But doing so isn’t
easy, partly because children know which buttons
to press. “I tell [the police], if you can deal with teenagers you can deal with terrorists,” says Laurence.
As we were talking, Laurence stepped into role,
pointing at my notepad. “Can I have that?” I shook
my head. “Why not? Give me a couple of sheets of paper.” I declined. Laurence raised his voice: “Oh come
on, are you fucking joking?” I was unable to think of
a reason not to give him paper but unwilling to back
down. Giving it to him felt like a small humiliation.
“It’s a classic test of autonomy,” explained Lawrence. “People don’t like being controlled, and
sometimes they put something in the room, like, ‘I
want a notebook’, to disrupt the balance of power.
If you don’t deal with it, it becomes a roadblock. So
either give him the paper or explain why you won’t.”
An interview fails when it becomes a struggle
for dominance, in which the interviewee’s way
of asserting himself is to say nothing. “In a tug of
war, the harder you pull, the harder they pull,” says
Laurence. “My suggestion is, let go of the rope.”
I thought back to how Diola’s second interviewer
had opened him up: “Only you know these things
Diola. If you are willing, you’ll tell me, and if you’re
not, you won’t. I can’t force you to tell me – I don’t
want to force you. I’d like you to help me understand. Would you tell me about what happened?”
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 31
Weekly review
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Running gains
pace in Shanghai
Facial-recognition smart tracks
and marathons now hold mass
appeal, finds Helen Roxburgh
n a clear, balmy night in Shanghai, a
group of runners stretch their hamstrings in the city’s Xuhui district,
sporting an array of headphones,
water bottles and Fitbits. The group,
known as RunnersHai, are meeting
for their weekly training – half are practising for a
marathon, others are just in it for the exercise.
“Running in Shanghai initially seemed like an
impossible challenge – even walking the streets is
dangerous because of cars and other vehicles,” says
Wang Hui, 26, from Anhui. “But with other runners,
we can find better locations together for running.”
Tonight the group is running on the West Bund,
a former industrial site by the river that has been
newly converted to host art galleries, restaurants
and public space for sports, including a running
track, basketball hoops and climbing wall. The
pleasant riverside stretch is popular among runners – a rapidly expanding group in the city – and
Hui, who has a knee injury, prefers the soft surface
of the track to hard city pavements.
“The riverside is my favourite, favourite place to
run in the city,” says Grace Guan, 30, an experienced
runner who last year took part in eight different
events, and has already secured a place for this
year’s Shanghai International Marathon.
The state-organised Shanghai Marathon
launched in 1996 with 5,000 runners; by 2016 there
were 38,000. Now, demand outstrips supply – many
of the RunnersHai group tried unsuccessfully to get
a place in the lottery-allocated system. As well as the
marathon, the city also organises a half-marathon,
which recently attracted 20,000 runners, a 10k run
that drew 8,000 and a mini-run of 5,000 people.
To accommodate Shanghai’s army of runners, the
government has extended the West Bund in the
last few months, turning a 3km track into a 15km
loop, with amenities along the way such as toilets,
signage and water pitstops.
The city’s Century Park has a new 5km public
running track that was completed this year, lined
with leafy trees and bright lighting. And on the city’s
Chongming Island, an 8km smart running track
was tested this year, equipped with devices such
as facial recognition, which can calculate a runner’s
average speed over certain distances, plus heart rate
monitors to gauge health levels.
Picturesque spots on the outskirts of Shanghai
are being promoted as running sites, including
Dishui Lake. Runs designed to fit with the city’s
urban fabric include a charity Vertical Run to the
57th floor of the Shanghai IFC building.
Shanghai is not unique in seeing exponential
growth in the number of runners. In 2011, China had
22 marathons or other running events, according to
Xinhua, but there will be more than 400 this year.
By 2020, the target is more than 800 marathons
and races nationally, with more than 10 million
participants to “promote a healthier China”, says
Du Zhaocai of the China Athletics Association.
However, runners in Shanghai have plenty to
contend with, including the city’s large numbers
of humans and cars. Many resort to running in cycle lanes – which is far from ideal. Buses and taxis
frequently pull across lanes to deposit commuters,
while dog walkers, wheelchair users, parents with
prams and general amblers frequent the space –
plus a ballooning number of cyclists, following the
introduction of hugely popular bike-share schemes.
Aside from temperatures
as high as 40C, runners
also have to deal with high
levels of air pollution
In a blur … more running-focused infrastructure
is being built in Shanghai to accommodate
fast-growing interest in the activity STR/Getty
Even the new running space at the West Bund
is often crowded, already popular with the city’s
elderly, young families and students. And with 10
new 30-storey apartment blocks under construction
opposite, the area looks set to become significantly
more crowded in the near future.
Other problems include the city’s physical size.
Both the West Bund and Century Park are outside
the city centre, prompting logistical problems for
downtown joggers who use the routes, necessitating sweaty metro or taxi journeys home.
Aside from temperatures that can reach as high as
40C, runners also have to contend with high levels
of air pollution. Many people cancel runs when the
pollution gets too high, but scientists are divided
over the long-term detriments of jogging in polluted
air. Research into the damage of exercising in pollution is still evolving. A 2012 review published in the
New England Journal of Medicine estimated daily
bicycle trips in polluted cities took up to 40 days
from a person’s average lifespan, but the additional
exercise lengthened it by three to 14 months.
“Increasingly, we are starting to understand that
even low levels of pollution may contribute to serious health impacts beyond the acute reactions that
we normally think of like respiratory and cardiovascular problems,” says Sieren Ernst, founder of
environmental consultancy Ethics & Environment.
“So is it safe to exercise in air pollution? We know air
pollution is bad for human health, and exercise increases exposure. In general, it’s not safe to breathe
air pollution, and so no – it’s not safe to exercise in it.
“That said, there is a lot of anxiety among public
health officials about saying these things, because
of course there are benefits to exercise, but we
really don’t have enough of a grip about the total
impacts of air pollution to making strong statements about these tradeoffs.”
32 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Miracle drugs from
poisonous dragons
As resistance to antibiotics grows, the Komodo
offers hope for humans, writes Adam Popescu
or thousands of years, Komodo dragons have thrived on an isolated chain
of rocky Indonesian islands despite
competing with other venomous reptiles, hunting deer and buffalo capable of crushing bone with a single kick
and dealing with annual monsoons, tsunamis and
drought. The reason for their success may be that
the bite of these giant lizards – they sometimes
weigh more than 130kg and grow more than two
metres long – is so poisonous that even a nip can
kill. They have more than 50 varieties of bacteria in
their mouths, yet rarely fall ill.
They’re also immune to the bites of other dragons. Scientists say that’s because the blood of
Komodo dragons is filled with proteins called antimicrobial peptides, AMPs, an all-purpose infection
defence produced by all living creatures, that one
day may be used in drugs to protect humans. That
would be a welcome development at a time when
some antibiotics are losing their effectiveness as
bacteria develop resistance to the drugs.
“Komodo peptides are unlike any others. The
animals have bacteria in their mouth in the wild
and they live in a challenging environment and
they survive,” says Barney Bishop, a George Mason
University chemist who co-discovered the unusual
characteristics of the peptides in the dragons’ blood
in 2013. “If we can find out why they’re able to fight
bacteria and what makes them so successful, we can
use that knowledge to develop antibiotics.”
Bishop and his team have identified more than
200 peptides in Komodo blood that hadn’t been
seen before, using a process he calls bioprospecting.
There has been at least one major find. One of the
dragon peptides was used to design a synthetic substance, called DRGN-1, that breaks down the layer
of bacteria that attaches to the surface of a wound
and can impede healing. When DRGN-1 was tested
on living bacteria and on wounds infected with bacteria, the results were startling: the wounds healed
significantly faster than if left untreated.
Microbiologist Monique van Hoek, who worked
with Bishop on the project, described DRGN-1 as “a
new approach to potentially defeat bacteria that
have grown resistant to conventional antibiotics.
The antimicrobial peptides we’re tapping into represent millions of years of evolution in protecting
immune systems from dangerous infections.”
Finding these peptides and testing them isn’t
simple. DRGN-1 was developed after a mass spectrometer identified dragon-blood peptides with the
potential to attack antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
If a peptide shows strong microbial activity
in lab testing, Bishop says, “we can look at it for
other applications. If we’re lucky, it’s a new candidate right there. Odds are, we’ll have to tweak the
sequence and structure.”
The researchers hope to find other potential drugs
based on Komodo blood – as well as in the blood of
crocodiles and alligators – and then persuade a drug
company to help bring their discoveries to market.
So far, they’ve identified 48 potential AMPs in Komodo blood that have never been seen before. He
says these discoveries might lead to applications to
curb everyday problems such as acne and pneumonia and to counteract biological weapons such as anthrax. Infections of antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill
as many as 700,000 people a year, according to the
World Health Organization, a number that it projects
could rise to 10 million a year by 2050.
Bishop and Van Hoek are testing dragon blood
AMPs against a panel of bacteria that includes those
related to highly resistant bacteria labelled priority
pathogens by the WHO.
Even after four years focused on Komodos,
Bishop remains unsure as to why their peptides are
unlike any others. Is it their environment, or does
Disease-fighters … Komodos in East Nusa
Tenggara, Indonesia, above, and at the London
Zoo, right Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
it have something to do with their evolution? “Are
these peptides unique to Komodos?” he wonders.
It’s tough to study an animal that is difficult
to capture, both because of its remoteness and its
poisonous bite. Bishop has been using samples
from Tujah, a Komodo at the St Augustine Alligator
Farm Zoological Park in Florida. Bishop’s Komodo
dragon project began in 2012, with
ith a $7.6m Defense
Department grant to analyse species that thrive
Dinosaurs liked to snuggle up as well as attack
Robin McKie
The three young dinosaurs had snuggled together
to sleep when disaster struck. A thick layer of ash
or soil, probably from a volcanic eruption or sand
storm, poured over them and the animals, each the
size of a large dog, died within minutes.
For 70m years they lay entombed, cradled beside
each other within a slab of rock, until US scientists
uncovered their remains earlier this year. Subsequent analysis of the fossilised bones – which
come from the Gobi desert – reveal the first known
example of roosting among dinosaurs. The discovery, outlined at the recent Society of Vertebrate
Palaeontology meeting in Calgary, has caused considerable excitement among scientists because
communal roosting is exhibited by many modern
species, including crows and bats. Yet in the middle of the Jurassic period dinosaurs were already
exhibiting such social interactions. Far from being
solo, lumbering beasts, evidence now indicates
they acted in sophisticated ways.
This is stressed by Alberta University’s Greg
Funston, who led the team that analysed the three
fossilised dinosaurs. “The trio had quite a close
bond,” he said in the journal Nature. “They were living together at the time of death.” The dinosaurs in
the rock have not yet been named but are described
as having domed crests on their
heir heads.
They walked on two legs and looked
like a cassowary, the giant flightless
bird found today in northern Australia
and New Guinea.
“This is a spectacular discovery
very for
it shows these were animals that
at were living together in flocks like birds do today,” said
Stephen Brusatte of Edinburgh
h University. “They
probably had feathers, although
h they could not fly.
However, they were undoubtedly
ly social creatures.”
Scientists have now established
blished that birds
evolved from a group of dinosaurs
saurs that include
velociraptors, the deadly socialised killers
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 33
Stephen Hawking’s PhD
thesis crashes website
Stephen Hawking’s 1966 doctoral
thesis has broken the internet after
becoming available to the general
public for the first time. Demand for
the thesis, entitled Properties of Expanding Universes, was so great that
it caused Cambridge University’s repository site to go down on Monday.
The “historic and compelling”
thesis had swiftly become the mostrequested item in Cambridge’s open
access repository, Apollo. A University
of Cambridge spokesperson said:
“We have had a huge response to
Prof Hawking’s decision to make his
PhD thesis publicly available to download, with almost 60,000 downloads
in less than 24 hours.”
Genetic cancer variants
Common inherited genetic variants
that together increase the risk of breast
cancer by about a fifth have been identified by scientists. A huge team of researchers, the OncoArray Consortium
project, uncovered 65 new variants.
On their own, they contribute around
4% of the heightened risk of women
with a strong family history of breast
cancer developing the disease. Adding
these variants to the list of 180 already
known is thought to account for an
estimated 18% of the familial risk.
Drugs fight dementia
despite major environmental challenges and interaction with pathogenic bacteria. In addition to the
dragons, Bishop has been studying Chinese alligators and saltwater crocodiles, which have shown
strong immunity against disease despite eating
bacteria-infested animals and living in bacteriarich environments and even surviving loss of limbs
without getting infections.
Bishop knows that if he’s going to turn Komodo
blood into a wonder drug, he needs more blood.
“Much more blood,” he laments. “We need a larger
number of animals to study.” Tujah is Bishop’s
lone sample, and he thinks wild dragons probably
Birds of a feather …
fossils suggest that
dinosaurs may have
been very social
have more curative peptides flowing through
their veins than his 13-year-old captive source,
because living in the wild forces immune systems
to function at their highest.
Bishop has never seen a Komodo in the wild, and
he knows it’s unlikely that he’ll get out into the field.
It’s costly to travel to the small island chain where
Komodos live. Luckily, the giants have a long life
span in captivity, about 25 years.
Drug discovery is a long haul, yet he’s confident.
“I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter who sleeps on a
stuffed Komodo,” he
h says. “I’d like her to grow up in
a world with effective
antibiotics.” Washington Post
made famous by the
th Jurassic Park film. “In addition,
it has been shown dinosaurs were warm-blooded
unlike other reptiles,”
said Professor Mike Benton
of Bristol Universi
University. “They also had feathers, not
to help them fly but to keep them warm and help
them display at each other, the equivalent of
the male pea
peacock tail that signals a bird’s biological fitness
tne to potential mates – a crucial
ability for a social animal It was only later
in Earth’s history
that feathers were used as
aids that co
could help birds become airborne.”
It is also likely
the three animals were siblings, a point put forward by David Varricchio
of Montana State
University. “Juvenile ravens
and seagulls stick together
to begin with when they
leave their parents
parents’ nests and this could well have
been a similar group
grou of siblings who were huddling
together when the
they were struck down.” Observer
Blood-thinning drugs could protect
against dementia and stroke in people
with an irregular heartbeat, research
suggests. A study found that patients
being treated for atrial fibrillation (AF)
were 48% less likely to develop dementia if they were taking anticoagulants.
Scientists analysed health record data
from more than 444,000 Swedish AF
patients. While the findings could not
prove cause and effect, they “strongly
suggested” blood-thinning pills protect
against dementia in patients with the
condition, the team said.
Fracking health risks
Pollutants released during fracking
processes could pose a health risk to
infants and children, according to researchers studying chemicals involved
in shale gas operations. The team
focused on five major groups of pollutants including heavy metals, chemicals
that disrupt hormone systems and particulates. These substances have been
linked to effects ranging from memory,
learning and IQ deficits to disorders including anxiety and schizophrenia, as
well as behavioural problems including hyperactivity and aggression. The
research was conducted by the Center
for Environmental Health, a US-based
non-profit organisation.
34 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
How xenophobia
captured politics
A timely analysis of the rise of
anti-immigrant fervour raises
questions for Carlos Lozada
Go Back to Where You Came From:
The Backlash Against Immigration
and the Fate of Western Democracy
by Sasha Polakow-Suransky
Nation Books, 358pp
It was either a penis or a middle finger. Either way,
it was meant to offend. The crude drawing scrawled
on the garage door greeted my family when we returned from a night out. Toilet paper was strewn
everywhere. My parents rushed us inside, trying
to keep us from looking. But of course we did, and
today my sister and I still can’t agree on the image.
It was 1980, the nation was riveted by the hostage
crisis in Tehran, and apparently someone in our
quaint northern California town didn’t want this
immigrant family feeling too welcome.
It’s funny how certain vantage points stay with
you – whenever immigrants become targets in national politics. That night always reminds me that
animus against outsiders long predates the Trump
presidency and that, as frightening and disorienting
as it felt to a child, things can always get far worse.
In Go Back to Where You Came From, Sasha
Polakow-Suransky describes the turn toward antiimmigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Islam fervour in
Europe, dwelling on the Netherlands, Denmark
and France, though he always seems to be glancing across the Atlantic. He compares Marine Le Pen
voters in France to Donald Trump voters in Michigan; he suggests that Trump and rightwing Dutch
politician Geert Wilders are both faux economic
populists; and he worries that, in Europe and the
US, democracies are threatened by popular fear of
immigrants. “What if, in reaction to the challenges
of mass migration, liberal democracies abandon
their constitutional principles and adopt exclusionary policies that erode their longstanding commitment to human rights?” he asks. “There could come
a day when, even in wealthy western nations, liberal
democracy ceases to be the only game in town.”
Polakow-Suransky, a fellow with the Open Society Foundations and a former opinion editor
at the New York Times, has reported from across
the globe for this book, providing dispatches from
refugee camps and interviewing politicians, activists and immigrants on all sides of this debate. He
captures social and political transformations in simple, memorable lines. “Holland [the Netherlands]
is famed as a tolerant society … but in recent years,
the overwhelming force in society has been fear,”
he explains. “Public debate has branded all Muslim
immigrants as guilty.”
He chronicles anti-immigration sentiment in
unexpected places (South Africa) and explains how
immigration policy in Australia (yes, Australia) has
been “a beacon for Europe’s new right”, because
it intercepts incoming refugees before they reach
Australian shores, sending them back or offshoring
them to obscure Pacific islands.
‘The combination of
fear and xenophobia
can be a dangerous and
destructive force’
Coping with migration … refugees cross from
Croatia into Slovenia in 2015 as European states
struggle to adapt to the newcomers Getty
At its heart, however, this is a book less about migrants and policies than about thinkers and politics.
Polakow-Suransky is intrigued by the “intellectual
enablers” of Europe’s anti-immigrant passions.
He dwells on the influence of Michel Houellebecq,
the author of Submission, a novel that imagines an
Islamist takeover of France, Éric Zemmour ( The
French Suicide), Thilo Sarrazin (Germany Abolishes Itself ) and Alain Finkielkraut (The Unhappy
Identity), stressing that “all these writers presented
the idea of a relentless Islamic tsunami engulfing
Europe culturally and demographically”. Lurking
in the background is Jean Raspail, whose 1973
novel The Camp of the Saints depicted, in racist and
apocalyptic terms, the arrival of boatloads of Hindus on French shores. Former White House political
strategist Steve Bannon has praised the work, and
Polakow-Suransky’s final chapter concludes with an
interview in Raspail’s Paris apartment.
“We are a country, a civilisation, a language, a
way of life,” Raspail, now in his 90s, tells him. “If we
blend it with something that does not correspond at
all to who we are, it won’t work, and we’ll be lost.”
There are many reasons such views have gained
renewed currency in Europe. The author recalls
how the reaction to a Danish newspaper’s 2005
publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad boosted support for the rightwing DPP party.
“The Danish cartoon controversy matters because
it accelerated the political shift toward the right,” he
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 35
writes. “Danes who may never have contemplated
voting for the DPP now saw their embassies on fire
… and death threats against some of their bestknown journalists. Suddenly, the DPP’s platform
was making sense.”
And high-profile mass terror attacks, such as the
Charlie Hebdo attack in France in 2015 or the killings at a Berlin Christmas market last year, galvanise
hatreds and suspicions. “The combination of fear
and xenophobia can be a dangerous and destructive
force,” Polakow-Suransky writes.
The author also lays plenty of blame on the European left, which he says allowed an opening for
resurgent rightwing populism. Even in the midst of
economic turmoil and heightened security fears,
“the focus of activism on the left shifted dramatically from economic equality to identity”, he writes,
weakening leftist appeal among some longtime supporters. Polakow-Suransky criticises Europe’s left
and centre-left parties for abandoning their “commitment to universal values and embracing multiculturalism by focusing on people as members of
communities rather than as fellow citizens”.
The European right, he essentially argues, has
been smarter. Far-right parties “have deftly coopted the causes, policies, and rhetoric of their opponents, seeking to outflank the left by blending a
nativist economic policy – more welfare, but only
for us – and tough anti-immigration and border security measures”, Polakow-Suransky explains. “By
painting themselves as the protectors of social benefits that are threatened by an influx of freeloading
migrants, they appeal to both economic anxiety and
fear of terrorism.”
In France, even the political tradition of laïcité, or
state secularism, long a cause of the left, has been
taken up by the right, which deploys it as a weapon
to claim high ground on matters from Muslim attire
to halal meat. “The populist right did not come out
of nowhere,” Polakow-Suransky writes. “It recognised an underserved niche in the political market
… and has never let go.”
Books like these often feature a dutiful list of
recommendations, but Polakow-Suransky largely
resists this temptation. It’s good, because his
strengths fall more in reporting and analysis than
in policy specifics. When he posits how leftist politicians can reach out to erstwhile supporters who
have veered away, he sounds correct but unhelpful.
“The challenge for today’s left is to acknowledge
these voters’ fears and offer policies that help address their grievances without making the sort of
moral concessions that lead toward reactionary
illiberal policies … Only by listening to and understanding marginalised voters’ rage can activists and
mainstream politicians hope to win them back.”
“Mainstream” – it’s a comforting but dangerously
elastic notion. Whoever vandalised my childhood
home was certainly not in the mainstream of my
neighbourhood or my town. The occasional incident aside, we lived happily there for a few more
years. But vantage points shift quickly, and what
one day seems fringe soon appears commonplace.
Today, disdain for outsiders is growing more overt,
and Polakow-Suransky worries that liberal democracies may prove especially susceptible.
“If they fail to deal with these challenges and allow xenophobic populists to hijack the public debate,” he warns, “then the votes of frustrated and
disaffected citizens will increasingly go to the antiimmigrant right, societies will become less open,
nativist parties will grow more powerful, and racist
rhetoric that promotes a narrow and exclusionary
sense of national identity will be legitimised.”
It will be mainstream. Washington Post
Ruled by the gods in
a far-off magical Africa
Wake Me When I’m Gone
by Odafe Atogun
Canongate, 208pp
Helon Habila
Odafe Atogun’s second novel is set
in a Nigerian village that could almost be described as magical. It is
ruled by a despotic king and his
council of priests; their worldview
is, not surprisingly, patriarchal
and ultra-conservative. Any form
of dissent or innovation is punished
with banishment, or death.
Widows must marry within a prescribed period
after losing their husbands; if they don’t, their
children are taken away to live with their uncles,
or in extreme cases exiled to the town limits and
left there to forage or beg for their food. It is a cruel
system crying out to be challenged, if someone is
willing to pay the steep price that accompanies
such defiance. An unlikely challenger emerges in
the form of the beautiful and kindly Ese.
Ese has just lost her husband and must now face
the brunt of the king’s merciless decree: she stands
to lose her only son, Noah. Meanwhile, the precocious Noah has forged a strong bond with the town’s
homeless orphans and convinced his mother that
they must care for these children, even if it means
facing the king’s wrath. It is a strong and eventful
opening, and the stakes continue to rise. The king,
it transpires, is hopelessly in love with Ese – he has
always been, even before she married her late husband, Tanto. Marrying the king would offer Noah
better odds of survival, even though the king’s
many wives sometimes kill off each other’s male
children to improve their own sons’ chances. But
Ese will only marry a man she loves, and she is not
in love with the king.
As in his first novel, Taduno’s Song, Atogun has
combined folkloric elements with a strong central
character to create a haunting and unusual narrative. His style is redolent of earlier African authors
such as Amos Tutuola, Flora Nwapa and Gabriel
Okara, who wrote what were loosely called “novels of local colour”, where the author pretends the
colonial encounter never happened, and modernity
is a distant phenomenon in the faraway city. The
Africa of such narratives is made up of hermetically
sealed societies and plotlines are often influenced
by the intervention of the supernatural. The main
characters’ greatest opposition is usually tradition
and taboo, and those who use them to control and
exploit the masses.
Clearly the gods love Ese. When she escapes her
home village and arrives in another village with a
younger, wiser king, an older woman tells her she
has been waiting for her arrival for many years; the
gods had foretold Ese’s arrival. Would she have been
able to effect her changes to society without her
newfound riches and influence, or would she have
been another victim of tradition and patriarchy?
The critic James Wood, writing about David
Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, cautioned against introducing the supernatural into modern narratives.
He claims that such devices relegate the characters
to secondary status, robbing them of agency and
turning them into mere vehicles for the whims and
wishes of the gods. The human should always be at
the centre of events; characters must stand or fall by
their ingenuity alone, not by arbitrary divine intervention. However, in Atogun’s defence, he is clearly
not trying to write a modern tale. His story could
be said to be an allegory about the endless contest
between good and bad, and how the universe sometimes – but not always – sides with the good against
the bad. It is a stark, almost puritanical worldview,
but one whose severity is modified by this author’s
beautiful imagery and evocative language.
Back to the land
A Wood of One’s Own
by Ruth Pavey
Duckworth Overlook, 256pp
Kate Kellaway
“Sometimes you have to check,”
writes Ruth Pavey, “just in case life
means you to do a somersault.” Her
own modest upheaval was to buy a
piece of land, at auction, on the Somerset Levels, with a view to turning
it into a wood. At the time she was a
teacher living in London (she is still
gardening correspondent on Hampstead’s Ham &
High newspaper), and the four acres of scrub woodland was not even the lot she’d had her eye on – that
went to a higher bidder. This was the consolation
prize. From the start of this captivating book, it is
clear Pavey’s plot has its own plot. And grounded
though she might sound – her prose is supple but
never runaway lyrical – you swiftly realise she is
willing to be blown on many a rogue breeze in pursuit of neighbourly narratives.
The world, for the curious, is full of clues. She
introduces us to Somerset locals, outsized lawnmowers, sheep with a pushy disdain for fencing,
and lets us into the idiosyncratic evolution of her
wood. Visiting the old couple who previously
owned the land, in a nearby care home, she worries that she will seem an unhinged Londoner, and
so emphasises her family roots in Somerset. The
old man does the talking until his wife pipes up
to comment that the spring water running into a
pond on Pavey’s land never dries up. Just as suddenly, she then dries up herself. If this book was not
as much a pleasure to write as it is to read, I’ll eat my
hat and gardening glove.
A visiting friend asks what her wood is for, a question that throws her at first. But one is able to answer
on her behalf. Reading is the equivalent of being in
her wood – of being quiet, released from care, able
to look and think. It is a treat not because an idyll is
being described, more because it shows that beauty
can embrace (even be enhanced by) imperfections.
And there are imperfections galore. I particularly
enjoyed the description of the secondhand Rollalong caravan bought from her neighbour, farmer
Ted. Its romance is qualified by the problems of trying to paint it (observing the blood of the squashed
insects caught in the whitewash) and of trying to
sleep in it on freezing winter nights. She had, she
admits, a “rather gothic conversation” with her
brother about health and safety.
As a gardener and as a writer, she is more free associator than purist. She responds to the “genius of
place”, but without being Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
← Continued from page 35 slavish. She has planted
150 trees, her planting not always indigenous (although she has manfully resisted the temptation of
peonies). In one chapter, her gaze strays beyond her
plot to consider her 18th-century neighbour, prime
minister William Pitt the Elder, and reflect that he
would have sorted her patch at speed, “had the
spring tapped, built a hermitage, opened up vistas,
replanted orchards”. She adds that she admires
“that bravura approach to life without at all being
able to emulate it”.
The non-bravura style makes this book – illustrated with Pavey’s black-and-white sketches – a
winner. Pavey is a sympathetic companion, never
a hectoring expert. She lets you know grafting can
be hard graft. Pretty soon, she gives up sleeping in
the Rollalong, caves in, and buys a ruined cottage
in nearby Langport. Her book is about how taking
root and accepting impermanence work together
– a sustaining contradiction. And it is a wonderful
reminder of how often the best things in life – the
beautiful moments in the wood – are unplanned.
A hint of uncertainty
Leonardo da Vinci – the Biography
by Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster, 624pp
Alexander C Kafka
Washington Post
Would you hire this guy? The candidate is hopeless with deadlines and
alternates between undisciplined
meandering and grandiose hyperactivity. When he isn’t sketching birds,
he’s making fruitless plans to reroute rivers, build cities or create
absurd flying machines. When he
does focus on a project, it’s with a febrile intensity,
drawing, say, page after page of triangles or sadistic
war machines. More disturbing, he habitually dissects corpses – humans, pigs, whatever’s at hand.
He’s restless, moving with proteges and hangers-on
from one town to another, leaving contractual
agreements unfulfilled.
A risky prospect at best, this mercurial Leonardo
from Vinci. Then again, he did create arguably the
two most iconic works of art in western history: the
Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. His drawing of Vitruvian Man is the classic representation of the Renaissance spirit. And if it weren’t for those thousands of
pages of forward-thinking sketches on geology, geometry, light, anatomy, astronomy, biblical history,
military strategy, hydrodynamics, flight, neuropsychology, ophthalmology and countless other topics,
his few surviving paintings wouldn’t be the masterworks that they are. Nor would we know so much
about this peculiar, haunted, wonderful man who
was, in so many ways, centuries ahead of his time.
He comes to life in all his remarkable brilliance
and oddity in Walter Isaacson’s ambitious new biography. Isaacson’s previous biographical subjects
include Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and
Steve Jobs – restless, driven men who, like Leonardo, had bisected personalities: one half solitary
pioneer, the other half inspirational team leader. For
all of them, the unifying element was an insatiable,
lifelong appetite for knowledge.
He hauled the Mona Lisa around with him,
sometimes strapped to a mule, for 14 years,
adding a minute speck of new paint here or there
until the 30-some layers of brush strokes over a
special lead white undercoat on wood vanished
into that spookily three-dimensional visage
with eyes that follow and a suppressed smile that
teases and taunts.
Make no mistake: Isaacson knows his stuff,
crowdsourcing, with extreme diligence, an array
of art, historical, medical and other experts to arrive at a vigorous, insightful portrait of the world’s
most famous portraitist. Leonardo groupies won’t
find startling revelations here. Isaacson’s purpose is
a thorough synthesis, which he achieves with flair.
He seems drawn to Leonardo’s own reportorial
instincts. The artist often carried a notebook tied to
his belt for his observational sketches as well as his
questions, lists, fantasies and jokes. He moved easily among not just artists and musicians (he played
the lyre and the flute) but scientists, doctors and
engineers, peppering them with questions and
sometimes collaborating with them.
If Leonardo’s life reads like a widescreen epic,
that hasn’t escaped Hollywood’s attention. Paramount has bought the rights for a movie adaptation
of Isaacson’s book with Leonardo DiCaprio playing
his namesake. Here is Machiavelli (oh, please let
it be Joaquin Phoenix), lip muscles of his own in
full enigmatic, conniving overtime, working his connections with Cesare Borgia and Leonardo. Here’s
Francis I, king of France (Russell Crowe or Hugh
Jackman?), finally offering to the artist in his final
years the no-strings-attached patronage he’s always
sought, and cradling Leonardo’s grey-bearded head
as he expires. Or not. But it’s a good story, and Ingres
couldn’t resist it in his Death of Leonardo.
Where the historical record is a little scant, the
imagination kicks in – and Leonardo wouldn’t
have had it any other way. Enjoying his own reportorial sfumato, Isaacson writes: “As always with
Leonardo, in his art and in his life, in his birthplace and now even in his death, there is a veil of
mystery. … As he knew, the outlines of reality are
inevitably blurry, leaving a hint of uncertainty that
we should embrace.”
Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man … the classic
representation of the Renaissance spirit
Wrapped up
Christmas: a Biography
by Judith Flanders
Picador, 256pp
Lucy Hughes-Hallett
One Christmas Day in the 1780s a
London woman was murdered. Her
husband testified that he had not the
smallest recollection of where he
had been that day because “he was
so much in liquor”. Nothing unusual
in that. It is a persistent fallacy, suggests Judith Flanders, that Christmas has only recently been rendered tawdry by
commerce. As she repeatedly demonstrates in this
exhaustive history, what a medieval cleric called
“swilling and riot” accompanied, and often
eclipsed, piety from the very start.
Flanders covers every aspect of Christmas – from
mistletoe to the invention of Sellotape (essential for
wrapping presents), from the knockabout violence
of mummers’ plays to the 1914 Christmas truce
(this first world war respite, she notes, was used
not so much for friendly football as for retrieving
the corpses putrefying in no man’s land). She moves
briskly over what is traditionally deemed to be the
core of Christmas. Religion is a surprisingly small
element. She is interested in nativity plays, not for
their biblical content but for the way they illustrate
her theory that modern Christmas is essentially performative. People “do” Christmas – lighting candles,
cooking special meals, exchanging presents.
The performance has always been rowdy. Since
the mid-19th century the revelry has tended to take
place indoors, around a decorated hearth, but medieval Christmases were public. Every region of Europe had its local traditions. Flanders describes an
infinite variety of processions, fairs, miracle plays
and dancing in the streets.
These rituals turned the world upside down.
King Edward I inserted himself into the story by
offering the church a Twelfth Night gift of gold and
myrrh and frankincense – but more often Christmas
celebrated, not temporal power, but a vision of its
overturn. Flanders describes lords of misrule and
abbots of unreason, boy-bishops, costumed wild
men and feasts of fools during which the powerless could play at power. This topsy-turvydom
often involved cross-dressing – priests and clerks
dressed as women. For a man to lay aside his male
prerogative was to disrupt social hierarchy in the
most radical way possible.
Food is essential to Christmas. Flanders writes
about prodigious pies and boars’ heads, and about
songs celebrating feasts when “there was fire to
curb the cold, and meat for great and small”. The
idea of the groaning board was something to sing
about, whether in the Boar’s Head Carol or in
numerous ditties about figgy pudding and roasted
apples and mince pies.
Flanders’s previous book, on the concept of
home, was analytical and illuminating, using clues
from social history and architectural imagery to
tease out ideas about the psychological value of
living spaces. This one is more of a catalogue of
colourful information, as much of a ragbag of cultural references as Christmas itself, and as surprising an assortment of items as any you might find
heaped up under a tree.
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 37
Books Interview
Is Ulysses S
Grant going
to make it
to Broadway?
After Hamilton, Ron Chernow
turned to the flawed civil war
general, writes Karen Heller
on Chernow’s timing is exquisite,
even if it took six years and 25,000
index cards to get to this moment.
As Americans debate the continued
reverence for Confederate general
Robert E Lee in the wake of the
Charlottesville, Virginia, protests, the biographer
of Hamilton – the “Hamilton” who inspired the
theatrical juggernaut – delivers his latest brick of a
book, Grant, to help rescue the Union commander
and 18th president from the ash heap of history.
Ulysses S Grant, you may recall, won the civil war.
He was the military architect who triumphed on
multiple battlefields and vanquished Lee in Virginia
after six other Union generals failed.
Yet after the South’s defeat, “Lee was puffed up to
almost godlike proportions, not only as a great general, but as a perfect Christian gentleman, this noble
and exemplary figure and an aristocratic example,”
says Chernow, 68, sitting in his sun-splashed
kitchen on the top floor of the 19th-century Brooklyn Heights brownstone where he rents two stories.
“The glorification of Lee and the denigration of
Grant are two sides of the same coin. We’ve created
our own mythology of what happened.”
Grant is Chernow’s second successive book
about an American general who became president,
following the Pulitzer prize-winning Washington
(2010). It is also his first volume since Chernow
became a household name – a claim few scholarly
biographers can make.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s little play helped sell
more than a million copies of Alexander Hamilton,
making Chernow the rare historian of 900-page,
footnote-saturated tomes who can claim that “teenagers all over the country want to take selfies with
me”. Now, he’s moved from the founding fathers on
the $1 and $10 bills to the civil war victor on the $50,
a man adored by Walt Whitman and Mark Twain.
Yet, “I’m giving you every reason not to buy this
book,” he admits, gesturing at the door stopper by
his elbow. “It’s $40. It’s more than 1,000 pages.”
It’s 1,074 pages, to be exact. But he’s grateful. “To
my loyal readers, who have soldiered on through my
lengthy sagas,” the dedication reads.
“This is a story unlike any that I have written,
maybe one more people can identify with,” says
Chernow, who has also written biographies of John D
Rockefeller (the masterful Titan), JP Morgan and the
Warburg banking family. Those previous subjects,
he says, “were built for success. They had a focus, a
drive, an intelligence, and an ambition that when you
begin the story, you know they’re going to succeed.”
Like a second family … Ron Chernow with the
cast of Hamilton, the show his book inspired
Grant “goes through more failure and hardship
and degradation I think than anyone else in American history who becomes president”. He notes, “I
was so moved by the pathos of the story, of a bright,
hard-working and fundamentally decent man who
again and again is defeated by circumstance and
seems destined to a life of complete obscurity.”
Grant “becomes a hero despite himself”.
Grant’s grand ambition was to be a maths professor – an assistant maths professor – at the US military
academy, from which he graduated in the middle of
his class. He was plagued by money woes until the
end, fleeced by the Bernie Madoff of his day. Grant’s
wife, Julia, the daughter of an unrepentant slave
owner, had a pronounced taste for status.
“The psychological portrait is at the centre of
all these books,” says Chernow, a New York native
with English degrees from Yale and Cambridge, who
began his career as a freelance journalist. Most of
his subjects had “an impossible parent”. Grant
was doubly cursed, with an impossible father and
father-in-law, both of whom lived well into old age.
“This man who had been a clerk in a leather goods
store in Galena, Illinois, a man who was almost 40
years old,” Chernow says, a man no one marked for
success. “And four years later, he’s a general with a
million soldiers under his command. Is there a more
startling transformation in American history?”
Grant is remembered as a heavy drinker, a president riddled by scandal, scoundrels and nepotism,
all of which Chernow addresses.
‘I’m giving you every
reason not to buy this
book, It’s $40. It’s more
than 1,000 pages’
“It was always Grant, the drunkard. I felt they got
it wrong,” he says, describing the general as opposing two enemies during the war, the Confederacy
and liquor. “He was Grant, the alcoholic.”
As recently as 1996, a poll of historians ranked
Grant as an abject failure, scraping the bottom of
the presidential barrel along with Warren G Harding,
Richard Nixon and James Buchanan. That assessment has begun to change.
Grant was the two-term president of the Reconstruction, an era of extraordinary if fleeting gains for
African Americans. It was also a time of relentless
violence fomented by the Ku Klux Klan and other
hate groups, which Chernow deems “the largest
outbreak of domestic terrorism in American history, where thousands of people were killed”. The
Department of Justice, established during Grant’s
presidency, brought 3,000 indictments against Klan
members and other agitators.
For many American students, the war stops
cold with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and Lincoln’s assassination days later, on 15 April 1865.
“We historians, in the wake of the controversy over
Confederate monuments, we have to use this as a
teachable moment,” Chernow says. “Reconstruction is the great black hole that remains to be filled.
Even experts on the civil war don’t really understand its full significance.”
Nine years ago, Miranda prophetically purchased
Chernow’s Hamilton before going on vacation and
envisioned – what else? – a hip-hop musical about
the nation’s first treasury secretary. He enlisted
the biographer as the show’s historical adviser.
Chernow asked to experience the musical fully,
to be as involved as he could be, to attend one
performance seated in the orchestra pit and to
sit in on the album recording. He estimates that he
has seen the show “dozens of times”. the young
cast becoming a second family. (The widowed
Chernow has no children.)
He spent his days with Grant, his nights with
Hamilton. He’s listed in the show’s playbill and,
though he demurs on the subject – “I don’t go there”
– he has a reported 1%royalty of the show’s adjusted
grosses, which amounted to an estimated $900,000
in 2016. This year, with three additional productions, his return is substantially larger.
After the musical’s first week, Chernow called his
longtime editor Ann Godoff and said, “Print up a lot
of copies of Hamilton. Everyone’s coming up to the
theatre and saying, ‘Mr Chernow, I loved the show.
I was embarrassed to realise how little I knew about
the history of the country.’”
Godoff, Penguin Press president and editor
in chief, says, “I remember thinking, ‘Ha ha ha.’
Then we went to the Public Theater, and there
were a lot of people crying, and I was crying for my
author. What this meant, watching his whole career
and life, was knowing that I was experiencing this
transformative experience.”
“Grant,” Godoff says, is an entirely different
biography. “You feel his vulnerability, as well as
his successes. He feels a figure much more capable
of our empathy.”
Chernow hopes that with his book, people will
reassess the hero of the civil war and his presidency. “There have been other good books on
Grant, but in terms of dramatising and humanising
this character, and making the character vividly
come alive on the page, I feel that’s my comparative advantage,” Chernow says.
He only has to point to Hamilton to prove his
point. Washington Post
Grant is published by Penguin
38 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Devotees of Dylan
find a shrine in
an unlikely spot
Oklahoma philanthropist funds acquisition of
Tulsa trove of all things Bob, says Karen Heller
obert Zimmerman was born in
northern Minnesota, made a name
for himself – specifically, Bob Dylan – in Greenwich Village and lives
on a Malibu spread when not on
perpetual tour.
Oklahoma barely figures in his life’s narrative or
his work. But Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city,
brimming with art deco buildings from its glory
days as the nation’s oil capital, is now the polestar of
Dylanalia, home to a massive trove of artefacts
related to the artist, plus 84,000 items (and
growing) in a digital archive of audio, video, film
and photography.
Curator Michael Chaiken pulls gems from the
temperature-controlled archives at Tulsa’s art museum: a pristine leather jacket, packed in tissue
like a grandmother’s wedding gown, that Dylan
donned for his historic 1965 Newport Folk Festival
appearance; the scarred, scratched and yellowed
Turkish frame drum that sparked Mr Tambourine
Man; spiral pocket notebooks crammed – in microscopic, tidy schoolboy scrawl – with the seismic
lyrics to Blood on the Tracks.
In an antiseptic reading room lined with long tables, Chaiken produces Dylan’s wallet from 1965,
Otis Redding’s business card (Dylan wanted the soul
singer to record Just Like a Woman; it didn’t happen), a piece of graph paper scribbled with Johnny
Cash’s phone number (865-1550), a trio of harmonica holders (no Dylan costume is complete without
one), a solitary acoustic guitar.
The collection
ction of 6,000 objects includes his
written versions
ions of many songs – 20 pages off
lyrics for Dignity
nity alone, versions of Visions
of Johanna and Like a Rolling Stone
(many lines excised, such as “all your
frowns turned
ed out to be just method
actors all in drag”).
On a set off computers with a secure server, it’s
t’s possible to listen to
take after studio
udio take of Tangled Up in
Blue. It is a feast
east of Bob. And a very big
deal, for fans and for Tulsa.
Dylan, 76, the only musician to win the
e Nobel prize in
literature, cautioned
utioned “don’t
look back”, the
he title of DA
Pennebaker’ss 1965-filmed
y on the artist, yet his camp
mp has assiduously guarded
uarded his
writings and recordings
so that other people will
soon be able to.
“You don’t often get a Nobel prize winner with
this sort of breadth of a career, which makes this
archive something special, like Graceland in Memphis,” says Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, who is friends with the musician and has
visited the archives.
Housed at the Helmerich Center for American
Research at the Gilcrease Museum, the collection was officially made available to scholars and
biographers last month.
The bulk of the ma terial, much of it stored on
those secure computer files, will remain at the
museum. But many of the objects, plus audio and
video highlights, will move to the planned Bob
Dylan Center in a former paper warehouse. The
search for an architect is under way, and the doors
are expected to open to the public in 2019.
It can’t be soon enough for the singer’s legions
of fans and chroniclers, many of whom border on
the obsessive. The need to understand and document Dylan is apparently incessant: a crusade.
There are more than 1,000 books about the artist, says associate archivist Mitch Blank, a noted
collector of Dylanology, though “very, very few
reveal very much”.
Author Clinton Heylin isn’t certain how many
books he’s written on Dylan. “Let’s say a nice round
dozen,” he says from his home in London.
“The thing about Dylan is he keeps changing.
I’ve revised one Dylan biography three times,”
Heylin says, then pauses. “I think I’ll have to
revise it again.”
Dylanologists debate major events the way
war buffs refer to battles: 17 May 1966, the “JuEngland; 29 July
das” concert in Manchester, England
1966, Dylan’s Triumph motorcycle
accident in Woodstock, N
New York
(a Friday, sunny).
“Dylan’s furtive,” says Princeton
University historian Sean Wilen
Wilentz, an adhim every
viser to the archive. “Yet you hear h
day. He’s miasmic. He’s everywhere.”
The arrival of the m
make this
archive is bound to m
city of 400,000 a primary
Bob Land.
destination in Bo
make Tulsa
Actually, it will m
a musical mecca
mecca. The city
is already home
hom to the
Woody Guthrie Center,
a museum and archive
folk singer
devoted to the fo
(and also hou
housing the
archive of prote
protest singer
Phil Ochs).
Fan faves … photos, lyric sheets and a
custom-made stage outfit; far left, Bob Dylan
Shane Bevel/Washington Post
Tulsa isn’t finished. The heirs of Johnny Cash, a
frequent Dylan collaborator, are reportedly in discussions about basing the country music singer’s
archives in Oklahoma as well.
All of which, says Brinkley, who is writing a book
on Dylan’s 1970s recordings, “is going to make Tulsa
the headquarters of Americana music”.
The Dylan collection is improbably located in this
city of verdant hills on the banks of the Arkansas
river largely because of two men: Guthrie and Tulsa
billionaire George Kaiser, who is only a nominal
Dylan admirer. Guthrie was an Okie, albeit an ambivalent one, who fled nearby Okemah almost as
soon as he could hop a freight train. Six years ago,
the George Kaiser Family Foundation purchased
the seminal folk singer’s archive for about $3m with
the blessing of the singer’s daughter Nora.
The handsome Woody Guthrie Center opened
in 2013. When New York rare books and archives
dealer Glenn Horowitz, who handled the Guthrie
sale, was offered the Dylan collection, he emailed
the Kaiser foundation’s executive director, Ken
Levit, in the autumn of 2014. He thought that
Dylan’s material might be right at home down the
street from the Guthrie collection, Bob back again
near Woody, rather than buried in a university
library stuffed with other important archives.
Dylan thought so, too. Though he rails against
being worshipped himself, Dylan idolises Guthrie.
“Tore everything in his path to pieces. For me it
was an epiphany, like some heavy anchor had just
plunged into the waters of the harbor,” Dylan wrote
of Guthrie in his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One.
When the roughly $20m purchase of his archive
by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the
University of Tulsa was announced, Dylan issued a
statement: “I’m glad that my archives, which have
been collected all these years, have finally found
a home and are to be included with the works of
Woody Guthrie and especially alongside all the valuable artefacts from the Native American Nations.
To me, it makes a lot of sense and it’s a great honor.”
Kaiser is among the nation’s top philanthropists.
Also, among the more candid, a man who openly
speaks of “guilt” and “dumb luck” when it comes
to his wealth. Forbes estimates his wealth at $7.7bn,
derived from oil, gas and the Bank of Oklahoma.
“My one indulgence is pocket squares,” he says.
That’s not quite accurate. His other indulgence
is Tulsa. Through his $3.4bn foundation, Kaiser has
single-handedly done more than anyone else to revive this once-vibrant city. He donated $200m to
help build a 40-hectare park along the banks
ks of the
Arkansas River to provide “a central gathering
spot where we’re no longer as divided as most
cities by geography, by race or by class”, he says.
As an enthusiastic booster of his city, Kaiser
sees the benefit in spending millions on Dylan
ylan if
it helps Tulsa “become more energized, a draw
raw for
talented younger people, the next cool city”.
Dylanologists believe there’s no question
ion that
Tulsa could be all that – and more. Just as Europe
is home to museums devoted to important
visual artists, the United States may eventutually be a landscape of destinations devoted
to great musical artists, who are among our
most significant exports.
“So many people will be going to Tulsa,”
says Brinkley. “Eventually, this will be one
e of
the most important 20th-century literary and
musical archives anywhere.” Washington Post
On Music
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 39
Fats Domino
played key role
in rock’n’roll
Alexis Petridis
ou could argue for the rest of
your life about what constitutes the first rock’n’roll record, but Fats Domino’s 1949
single The Fat Man has a
stronger claim than most – a pounding,
unchanging backbeat and an insistent
bass pulse; Domino on piano, playing
in a style noticeably more aggressively
than that of his peers. It sold a million
copies and transformed Domino, who
has died aged 89, from the pianist in
Billy Diamond’s Solid Senders, a local
New Orleans band, into a star.
Elvis Presley later proclaimed him
“the real king of rock’n’roll”, but in
truth, Domino was an exemplar of
boogie-woogie. Nevertheless, The
Fat Man’s stripped-back potency had
something of the future about it. Transitioned into a rock’n’roller, he released
a peerless run of singles, all deeply
rooted in the jazz and R&B of New
Orleans, but sufficiently in tune with
new musical developments to make
the US Hot 100. They included Ain’t
That a Shame, I’m Walkin’ and Blueberry Hill, the latter a jazz standard previously recorded by Glenn Miller that
became Domino’s signature song.
His influence proved vast, not least
on the Beatles. Ain’t That a Shame was
the first song John Lennon learned to
play, Paul McCartney’s Lady Madonna
was created in Domino’s image, but
ironically, by the time the Beatles
appeared, Domino’s star had fallen.
That didn’t stop huge stars noting
his importance: a 2007 tribute album
featured Elton John, Neil Young, Paul
McCartney and Robert Plant. Yet it
was the presence of Toots and the
Maytals that highlighted Domino’s
other great musical feat. His records
were regulars on Jamaican sound
systems in the 1950s, and his
accentuation of the offbeat in
his playing is one of the roots
of ska, the music Jamaicans
started to make when the supply of suitable US R&B
records dried up.
Listen to the rhythm
of his 1959 single
Be My Guest and
hear what they
were trying
to imitate.
40 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
London’s pitch-perfect future
Oliver Wainwright meets the
self-styled provocateurs planning
the UK capital’s new concert hall
e’ve never stopped being
rebellious,” says Liz Diller,
founding partner of Diller
Scofidio + Renfro, the New
York firm of architects selected to design London’s new
concert hall, the £250m ($330m) Centre for Music.
“But now we are operating in a stealthier way.
Rather than trying to kick the establishment walls
down, we’re walking in through the front door.”
To reach the hallowed entrance of London’s cultural establishment, they skipped past fellow competitors Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano
and a host of other ageing purveyors of big-budget
arts buildings – an unadventurous shortlist, on
which the Americans clearly stood out as the most
interesting thinkers of the bunch. This will be their
first project in the UK, and the stakes are high for
the self-styled provocateurs.
Most famous for their transformation of a redundant Manhattan railway line into the High Line
park, which now attracts 8 million visitors a year,
DS+R are almost accidental architects. They have
recently completed a string of major arts buildings,
from the faceted coral rock of the Broad museum
in Los Angeles, to the silvery cyclopean slug of
the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive,
but for the first two decades of their practice they
barely built anything at all.
“I never thought I was going to be an architect in
the conventional sense,” says Diller, 63, who met her
then tutor Ricardo Scofidio, now 82, while studying at the Cooper Union in New York in the 1970s.
They were invited to make something for the project
space at the Museum of Modern Art, and took the
opportunity to critique the power of the institution,
fitting out the room with surveillance cameras and
screens to monitor visitors’ behaviour.
Twenty-five years later, having been elevated
from rebels to royalty in the interim, they unveiled
a $450m masterplan to transform the very same
museum, only to be met with furious opposition.
Their expansion project was slammed by artists
and museum-goers as representing the
“death knell” of MoMA, seen as the
greedy institution selling out to commercial interests and trampling one of
its neighbours, the beloved American
Folk Art Museum, in the process. The
venom seems to have subsided for
now: the first phase of the renovation
project opened this year to general approval, their surgical interventions seen
to be fixing some of the practical flaws
aws of
the rambling warren.
DS+R’s shift from fringe radicals to powerful
players in New York’s cultural scene hasn’t been an
easy one. The High Line has also been subjected to
a backlash, mainly due to its phenomenal success.
‘Cultural institutions have
to do much more than
house art or music. They
have to play a social role’
While the project began as a bottom-up activist initiative, it has been identified as the culprit for the super-gentrification of the surrounding Meatpacking
District, spawning a cluster of luxury towers along
its fringes. It has become the template for mayors
around the world looking to drive up land values in
their cities with a little green garnish.
“The High Line is pushing people out,” says Diller,
frankly, speaking from her office nearby. “And it will
soon drive us out of the area too.” She is rueful about
the consequences, but says she wouldn’t have done
anything differently. “There’s no way that anyone
could have predicted how successful it was going to
be. You don’t want to do unsuccessful projects, but
Too successful? New York City’s High Line park has spawned a wave of ‘super-gentrification’ Alamy
success breeds speculation and development. It’s
a weird cycle.” As for their concert hall credentials,
the architects have won plaudits for their decadelong work on the Lincoln Center. “We strongly felt
that it had to be turned inside-out to make good
of its public spaces, to
on the ‘publicness’
attract new audiences,” says Diller, picattrac
tured. “Today’s cultural institutions
have to do much more than house
art or music. They have to play a social and educational role in the comcia
munity and engage everyone with or
without a ticket to a performance.”
It is a theme they are exploring to
extremes in their latest project, the Shed,
for the performing arts, dea $500m centre
with Rockwell Group and
d in
i collaboration
ll b
currently under construction at the northern end
of the High Line. Looking something like a transparent Chanel handbag on wheels, it will house a
vast transformable performance space, with a piazza that can be covered by the extension of the
movable outer shell, clad with an inflatable skin of
quilted pneumatic cushions.
“Both the Shed and London’s Centre for Music
are 21st-century institutions that force the question, ‘What are artists going to be doing in the next
15 years, 30 years and beyond?’” says Diller. “The
answer is simply, ‘We do not know.’ Our response for
the Shed was to make an architecture of infrastructure with enough variable space, loading capacity
and electrical power to support any use.”
The main challenge will be to make sure it
doesn’t feel like a corporate events hall, given that
the space will be regularly rented out for fashion
shows, product launches and other commercial bonanzas, to help subsidise the artistic programme.
Some have scoffed that it is merely a cultural bauble
to decorate Hudson Yards, the biggest private real
estate development in US history, and it is unfortunate that the Shed will now be plugged into the
base of a 70-storey tower of luxury apartments, also
designed by DS+R. “It’s our deal with the devil,”
says Diller. “It allows us to get an extra 10 storeys
of back-of-house space. We never imagined in a
million years that we would be doing a commercial
tower. But we like to do everything once.”
The architects land in London on equally rocky
ground. Many have questioned the need for the
project, which is to be shoehorned on to a tricky
site currently occupied by the Museum of London.
The entire argument for the building, which will be
home to the London Symphony Orchestra under
the leadership of Sir Simon Rattle, rests on the claim
that the acoustics of the Barbican and Royal Festival
Hall are not good enough, as Rattle has bewailed.
To justify its existence, DS+R’s auditorium will
have to sound pitch-perfect to even the most supersonic ears. When UK arts funding is so unbalanced – a 2014 report found that Arts Council spending amounted to £68.99 per head of population in
London and £4.58 in the rest of England – critics
have questioned if this is something the capital
really needs. The government withdrew funding
last year, so a private fundraising plan is under way,
for which DS+R’s design will have to serve as the
crucial bait. Whatever the outcome, with Diller at
the helm it is likely to confound all expectations of
what a concert hall might be.
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 41
Culture Reviews
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Rock & pop
The Breeders
For Ahkeem
he story told in For Ahkeem, a stark documentary portrait of a troubled teenager
struggling to redirect her life, unfolds
in the months before and after the 2014
police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson,
Missouri. Set in an insular and run-down pocket
of nearby St Louis, the film watches its subjects
as they watch news reports about the shooting,
and the subsequent protests, with a combined
sense of grief and resignation.
That backdrop is just a blip in a series of bad
news for the film’s subjects: 17-year-old Daje
Shelton and her boyfriend, Antonio. As the film
opens, Daje, pictured, is in trouble for fighting,
and has to attend a school set up to keep minors
out of jail. But while she’s excited about the
prospect of going to college, Daje is keenly aware
of the obstacles that lie in front of her and the
systemic oppression that surrounds her.
In a subtly heartbreaking moment, Daje
walks home with friends, alternately singing
and humming the theme from Dawson’s Creek
– which includes the line “I don’t want to wait
for our lives to be over”. Antonio – who first
catches Daje’s eye while swaggering through
the school’s metal detector – sees boundless
potential in her, while predicting that his own
life will be short.
Alina Szapocznikow
ulie Christie’s pink mouth blooms in a glowg stem.
s e . These
ing orb atop an elegant curving
Illuminated Lips, a 1966 series of lamp
sculptures by the Polish artist Alina Szapocolyester
znikow, repeat in coloured polyester
resin, varying from flesh tones
es to
ice white against black. There
e are
also lit-up nipples and rumpled
amber-hued planes that resemble
art nouveau glass light shades,
petals and skin.
When Szapocznikow was making
these forays into pliable industrial
materials in her adopted city Paris, her
work was frequently dismissed
ed as simply
Last Resort Doc/Transient Pictures
With a couple of exceptions, film-makers
Landon Van Soest and Jeremy S Levine shoot in
a cinéma-vérité style, including several closeups that call attention to their proximity to the
film’s subjects and voiceover narration by Daje –
a technique more commonly seen in fiction than
nonfiction – that acts as a kind of audio diary,
lending the film a bleak, poetic beauty.
Yet the events the film depicts with such intimacy, which include Daje’s pregnancy (the title
For Ahkeem refers to Daje’s child) and Antonio’s
arrest (while a passenger in a car that turns out
to be stolen), occur with frustrating predictability, reinforcing destructive stereotypes. Could
the film-makers, both savvy Emmy winners,
not have posted Antonio’s $500 bond, or at least
warned him against pleading guilty to a felony,
which would – even without jail time – affect his
employment prospects?
In a powerful subsequent scene, Antonio is
rejected from a training programme that would
have helped him get a construction job, because
he’s now a felon. The story that is told here, with
such heartbreaking clarity, is an important one,
but it is hard to watch. For Ahkeem comes uncomfortably close at times to crossing the line between shining a light on a problem and exploiting
one. Christopher Kompanek Washington Post
For Ahkeem is on limited release in selected
North American cities
sexy and narcissistic. After the artist’s death from
breast cancer in 1973, the art historian Urszula
Czartoryska wrote how, after seeing an early
sculpture of her shapely leg, “we thought of the
ec o o
e anatomy,
a ao
of the
of flirtatiousness”.
Szapocznikow was clear
clearly setting her sights on
sex and commodity, an update of the surrealist
fetish object for the consumer age.
Seen today
however, in the context of th
the Hepworth Wakefield’s
revelatory survey of her longoverlooked, searching, experimenoverlooke
tal output
output, even the artist’s most
pop creations
creatio take on a darker tone.
Rewind to tthe mid-1950s and things
look comple
completely different. Emerging
from the sanctioned
style of Soviet socialist realism, sshe started making huge
ittle has changed in the Electric Ballroom,
this grungey north London venue, since
the 90s. Even before they play the quiet
but skewering No Aloha, you can just about
see from the acute angle of the three guitar necks
that this is the Breeders, a leading outfit of the altrock era, in attack formation.
Women are strung across the stage. The two
Deal twins stand centre and left, with British
bassist Josephine Wiggs in a beanie on the right;
at the back is drummer Jim Macpherson.
It is difficult to understate the importance of
singing guitar hero Kim Deal, pictured – bassist
in the Pixies, analogue noise nerd and independent rock auteur. Tonight she is in charming form,
eye-rolling about sobriety and ticking the sound
man off about the quality of the reverb. This gig
is a crash course in how Deal’s oddball fusions
of surf guitar, Ramones-y bubblegum, vocal distortion (“awhoo-ooh!”) and heavy, avant-garde
structures can sound fresh and deep this far along
from source. Even better, her new songs are in the
same class. Before coming on stage, Kelley Deal
(the older identical twin by 11 minutes) receives
a Gibson Les Paul guitar award from Q magazine
– she holds it up with amused pride. Kelley could
not play when she was drafted in as the Breeders’
guitarist, so the recognition is resonant.
For a while, the point of this show seems to be
to throw out the most 90s sounds possible. This
lineup made Last Splash, the Breeders’ hit 1993
album. The four put aside caring responsibilities
(Kim looks after their mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease), carpentry (Macpherson), their own
work (Wiggs) and some measure of calm to tour
that album for its 20th anniversary, four years ago.
The encore features Gigantic, which Kurt Cobain famously held to be the best Pixies song bar
none. Kim Deal is known, superficially, for having the
e gru
era’s best pop ear. Butt he
strange songs defy physics,
holding together with
no obvious screws
or glues. You can
only assume more
wizardry is in the
works. Kitty Empire
The Breeders tour the
US until 13 November
semi-abstract bronzes. Like other postwar artists,
she has an acute awareness of the vulnerability of
bodies, depicting them in fragments, half-formed
and beset by change. As a teenager, she survived
the Ghetto, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, as well
as TB. While she never spoke of these experiences, it’s hard, once you know the history, not
to see them in her art. Even the sassy lamps start
to conjure Nazi horror stories, like the ashtrays
made from Jewish skin.
Recalling the broken statuary of fallen civilisations, Tumours Personified (1971) is the artist’s
attempt to own the illness. Such works become
urgent reminders of the closeness of death and
what we leave behind. Skye Sherwin
Human Landscapes is at the Hepworth, Wakefield,
UK, until 28 January
42 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Cressbrook Dale
For a few days, no problem.
All the time? Absolutely not
America, the answer clearly is: NO!
Philip Stigger,
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Wouldn’t we rather be children
again, living with our parents?
Parental homes, like many other
places, may be good to visit,
but you certainly wouldn’t want
to live there.
Lawrie Bradly,
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
• Nearly always, if those others
belong to the same club.
Rhys Winterburn,
Perth, Western Australia
• In a word – no.
Noel Bird,
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia
• If we live long enough, we will
be merry children again.
RM Fransson,
Wheat Ridge, Colorado, US
• No way! They wouldn’t let me
have a mobile phone or iPad.
Marilyn Hamilton,
Perth, Western Australia
• No. Our parents are of an age
where they’d rather like to live
with us.
Pat Phillips,
Adelaide, South Australia
• And you really thought that
your parents sold up house
and embarked on a 20-year
circumnavigation of the globe
simply for pleasure?
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
• Sure, but would “we” still be “we”?
John Geffroy,
Las Vegas, New Mexico, US
• No. They wouldn’t be able to
afford it.
Richard Orlando,
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
• Depends on which version of my
parents. On last viewing, I’ll give it
a miss, thanks!
John Benseman,
Auckland, New Zealand
• No. As it is one’s upbringing that
ultimately determines how one
behave towards others.
R De Braganza, Kilifi, Kenya
Second childhood … back at home
• No, but occasionally I’d like
to be a parent living with my
children again, as I miss them lots
now that they have flown the nest!
Margaret Wilkes,
Perth, Western Australia
• Not if our parents were
children who were living with our
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia
• Exchange choice, sex and
knowledge for security, playdates
and fairytales? No thanks!
Charlie Pearson,
Portland, Oregon, US
If you are all in the same club
Do people who believe in an afterlife
behave better towards others?
Only the true adherents to a faith.
Charlie Bamforth,
Davis, California, US
• On the evidence stemming from
both the Middle East and North
Treasure is all around us
Do childhood thrills like riding
escalators wear off ?
If you have lost the thrill I urge
you to find it again. I get a shiver of
excitement when I see the blue flash
of a kingfisher, when I climb a tree,
when I breathe deeply from a garden
flower. There’s treasure everywhere.
Leo du Feu, Burntisland, UK
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
Any answers?
What most useful skill could be
acquired and serve well when
carried into old age?
William Emigh,
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
When does opinion qualify as news?
R De Braganza, Kilifi, Kenya
Send answers to weekly.nandq@ or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Lavinia Moore
For several decades, the Guardian
Weekly has been the only newspaper
I depend on for quality news
reporting, book reviews and assorted
delights such as Nature watch.
However, it is the international
news that I have relied on when
Australian newspapers have failed
to provide me with detail that I
seek. In 2001 I went to Woomera
with a group of human rights
activists. A desert gulag had
been established where asylum
seekers were placed as far as
possible out of sight of ordinary
Australians. I started a group of
activists at work to lobby for the
rights of these people.
That same year the courageous
captain of the Tampa stood against
the government of Australia. And
then there was 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq.
I remember a colleague at this
time who could not cope with all
of the horror and decided to avoid
I find it strange to read in Oliver
Rackham’s wonderful Trees and
Woodland in the British Landscape
that sycamores were probably introduced to the UK in the 16th century,
but only went native in the 18th.
It seems odd, because it is hard to
imagine this restless beast of a tree
settling for domestic imprisonment
for 200 years.
My experience is that its whirling
helicopter-like “keys”, aided only by
the slightest breeze, can unpick any
attempt to block their escape into
the wild. In our Norfolk village I am
also astonished how quickly those
seeds put down roots and I’ve even
taken to using mole grips to wrestle
with the saplings’ iron-like purchase
on our garden soil.
Yet as you travel around the
Peak District national park, especially in a triangle defined by
Buxton, Ashford and Hartington,
Acer pseudoplatanus has a more
benign presence. Look across those
folded plains of limestone-walled
all media mentions of what was
happening. I made a decision to do
just the opposite: to read and listen
to as much as I could possibly find.
It was then that I began the habit
of getting the Weekly. And I have
continued to do so ever since.
I am now retired, but as an elder
I reserve the right to speak out,
especially regarding equality and human rights. I think that I owe this trait
to my lovely mother – a Lancashire
lass – who always advised me to help
others whenever I was able.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
pasture and it’s often the only tree
species visible.
On a recent walk during an
October downpour I also discovered
another act of kindness by this often
despised “foreigner”. The broad
palms of the sycamore’s hand-like
leaves make the canopy a natural
umbrella. At this season they may
not produce the same intense colour
of late beech or horse chestnut, but
sycamores certainly add to the sense
of slow-smoking afterglow that is
such a glorious part of Derbyshire
woods in autumn rain.
They also make other major
contributions to the atmosphere in
and around the Wye Valley. In Chee
Dale, for instance, sycamores are
often entirely smothered to their
twig ends in an overcoat of almost
fluorescent moss, so that they generate an aura of ongoing life even in
midwinter. Here in Cressbrook Dale
they were thickly clothed in moss
and ivy and then wreathed with
epiphytic polypody ferns. For now
no “rook-delighting heaven” could
find any route into this sub-canopy
scene and that enclosed world of
infinite greens had the monochrome
mood and character of temperate
rainforest. Mark Cocker
Read more Nature watch online
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 43
Quick crossword
Cryptic crossword by Boatman
Completely dark (5-5)
Coarse jute fabric (7)
Lacking originality (5)
Irish county (4)
Charon’s occupation on
the River Styx (8)
Of limited size (6)
Edible shellfish (6)
Lawbreaker (8)
Middle Eastern country (4)
Imbibe (5)
1960s’ Liverpool rock
group (7)
Sin (10)
1 Self-assertive (5)
2 Work hard — hard work (4)
3 One chasing — type of watch
4 Poisonous flowering shrub —
run album (anag) (8)
5 Where films are shown (7)
6 Hangdog (10)
9 Desolation (10)
Laid low (8)
Louder (7)
Compulsive talker (6)
Turns over — luxury car
(abbr) (5)
20 Manufacture — brand (4)
Last week’s solution, No 14,787
First published in the Guardian
4 October 2017, No 14,792
1 Bug home to cover
religious order (6)
2 Have no effect on
unions rising in case
of emergency (3,2,3)
3 Slow boat unloaded
in river (6)
4 Clears leader of
Unionville, NC to
cut trees all over
the south (7)
5 Make a priest or old
monk take one in (6)
Futoshiki Easy
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 < 3 <
2 < 3 < 4
3 < 4 >
3 < 4
2 <
©Clarity Media Ltd
Last week’s solution
6 Father John, perhaps
an alternative
minister (6)
11 Cleric rejecting
company of cleric (4)
14 Regularly in retreat?
It’s common now (3)
15 Take action against
head of abbey as
prior goes missing (3)
16 Mature household,
female only? (3)
17 Nude photo taken (3)
18 Cunning head of
abbey concealed
butcher (4)
20 Minister starting
heretical actions in
cloisters (8)
21 Play sports here, on
the right parson’s
place (7)
23 Reprobate
changing second
name to George
(Boy George?) (6)
First published in the Guardian
10 October 2017, No 27,324
24 Call signs cause
damage within
Daesh (6)
25 Wash up under
care of one of same
14 or 16 (6)
26 See 10
Last week’s solution, No 27,318
Sudoku classic Hard
2 < 3
7 Money received in
report by corrupt
priest? (9)
8 Religious instruction
accepted by distant
monk (5)
9 Boatman saved
from abuse in holy
order, shockingly (9)
10,26 Minister, right
sort at heart, one
who accepts the
whip? (5,6)
12 Corrupt priest often
seen with Candy (6)
13 They follow the
harvest, less
abundant in source
of comic operas (8)
16 One doubts God
is involved in
robbery (7)
19 Revive cannibal’s
victim, as Spooner
might ’ave said (7)
22 Revealed by priest:
I’m a tease of
dubious value (8)
25 Reject primate
— that’s just for
starters (6)
27,29 Broken-hearted
nun at bottom (10)
28 Free to neutralise
leader fleeing in
disgrace (2,7)
29 See 27
30 Neighbour to plough
for us around
mid-afternoon or
after morning in (4,5)
< 4
Free puzzles at
7 3
1 4
Fill in the grid so that
every row, every column
and every 3x3 box
contains the numbers 1
to 9. We will publish the
solution next week.
2 7 8
5 9 1
Last week’s solution
44 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Montreal man fined
for belting out a song
France’s first dog says
wee-wee in meeting
Taoufik Moalla was in his car,
belting out his favourite song – a
1990s dance hit – when he suddenly
found himself surrounded by four
Montreal police officers.
The issue, it seemed, wasn’t his
driving. Instead it was his passionate rendition of C+C Music Factory’s
smash hit Gonna Make You Sweat
(Everybody Dance Now).
“They asked me if I was
screaming. I said, ‘No, I was singing,’” the 38-year-old told the
Montreal Gazette. “I was singing
the refrain ‘Everybody Dance Now’,
but it wasn’t loud enough to disturb
The police demanded his licence
and registration and – after checking
the inside of his car – handed him a
C$149 ($117) ticket for “screaming in
a public place”.
The infraction, based on a Montreal bylaw aimed at protecting
peace and tranquillity, made little
sense to Moalla. He had left his
home just minutes earlier and his
windows had been mostly rolled up
along the way, he said.
“I don’t know if my voice was
very bad and that’s why I got the
ticket, but I was very shocked,” he
told CTV News. “I understand if
they are doing their job, they are
allowed to check if everything’s
OK, if I kidnapped someone or if
there’s danger inside, but I would
never expect they would give me a
ticket for that.”
While he was left reeling from the
incident, he said his wife had not
been as surprised. “She told me, ‘If it
was for singing, I’d have given you a
ticket for $300.’” Ashifa Kassam
Like other French presidents before
him, Emmanuel Macron knows the
value of a photogenic dog at the Élysée Palace. His black labrador-griffon cross, Nemo, is the first French
presidential pet to come from a
rescue centre, and since his arrival
this summer he has been photographed in the gardens and even
standing to attention on the palace
steps to welcome
come Niger’s president,
Mahamadou Issoufou.
But two-year-old
ear-old Nemo
brought a whole
hole new meaning to the term
rm presidential
leaks when he cocked his
leg for a long
g and abundant
wee against an ornamental
fireplace in Macron’s
gilded office during a
filmed meeting
ing between the president
and junior ministers.
In the footage
for the channel
nel TF1,
three junior ministers are in Macron’s
ornate office when
Nemo relieves
es himself
behind them.
m. Macron
and the ministers
look on helpless
until the dog
g finishes. “I wondered
what that noise
was,” says the
he junior
minister for ecology,
Brune Poirson,
on, who
had been talking
when the dog
g began
relieving itself.
“Does thatt happen often?” asks
Julien Denormandie,
a junior minister and longterm
Macron aide. Macron laughs, stays
in his seat and continues with
the meeting. “You have sparked a
totally unusual behaviour in my
dog,” he says.
The film does not show who
clears up the mess.
Angelique Chrisafis
DM’s Lite appealed to “customers
who wore Dr Martens when they
were a kid or teenager, but they
are also appealing a lot to younger
consumers who’ve been brought
up on lighter trainers or shoes”.
Dr Martens is expanding particularly in Japan and South Korea. He
added: “Japan is going very well for
us. Tokyo can be seen as a global
fashion hub.” Julia Kollewe
British boot puts stamp
on east Asian market
Bear has surgery to
remove huge tongue
Demand for Dr Ma
Martens boots is
ooming, helped by a craze in Asia
and new, lighter v
versions of the
traditional yellow-stitched
The compan
company, which is owned
by private equ
equity firm Permira,
opened 18 stores
stor last year, including two in JJapan. It plans
to open a furthe
further 20 to 25 shops
this year in Jap
Japan, continental
Europe, the UK and the US.
Dr Martens said revenue rose
by a quarter to £291m ($382m)
in the year to 31 March. The
firm sells abo
about 6m pairs of
shoes a year, most of which
are manufac
manufactured outside of
the UK, although
60,000 are
still made a
at its factory in
Last year the company
also so
sold 200,000 pairs
of its new DM’s Lite,
range modelled on
a ran
lighter “athleisure”
soles but that resemble
the tra
traditional Doc
welted black or oxblood
yellow stitchboots with
ing. The
The firm has also
introduced new colours,
and patterns.
designs a
Jon Mortimore,
nancial officer, said
chief fina
A bear in Myanmar had emergency
surgery to remove its tongue after
it became so heavy that it lolled
out of his mouth and dragged
along the floor.
Vets believe that the bizarre
swelling, which weighed 3kg, was
without precedent.
“I’ve worked with bears for more
than 10 years and I’ve never seen
anything like it,” said Heather Bacon
from the University of Edinburgh’s
royal school of veterinary studies.
“It’s pretty astonishing.”
Nyan htoo, an Asiatic black bear
– more commonly known as a moon
bear because of a golden crescent on
the chest – was rescued by monks
after he had been taken away from
his mother by traffickers to send to
China, where there is huge demand
for bile from bears’ gall bladders to
use in traditional medicine.
The monks contacted a local vet
who had studied in Sheffield who,
in turn, alerted Bacon. Along with
several other specialist vets, she
travelled to a monastery rescue
centre in rural Myanmar, about
four hours from Yangon, where
they performed the surgery.
Mattha Busby
Same Difference
Identify the two words, the
spelling of which differs only in
the letters shown …
****** (fit to consume?)
INCR****** (fantastic!)
Maslanka puzzles
1 When I heard raging within Pedanticus’s bolthole and the smashing of
a DAB radio, I wondered: was
he put out by radio minions
saying Northern Ireland as
Northern Island? Or ger-lobal
for global? Or gamboling for gambling?
I stuck a curious ear through the letterbox (he has no dog) and heard him
crying “Sixth! Sixth! Sixth!” What the
devil had got into him?
2 Andy has noticed that any twodigit multiple of 11 has digits that
sum to an even number. “This
pattern continues into the threedigit numbers, too,” he told Candy.
“Look: 132 — digit sum = 6; or 165
— digit sum = 12.” But Candy wasn’t
sure. Which of them is right?
3 Garabaggio’s latest is a semicircle
housing a square and at the top in the
middle there fits a circle. Find
the radius, r, of the small
circle in terms of the radius,
R, of the semicircle.
4 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are
presented with an urn, into which
have been placed (unobserved) two
balls identical except as to colour,
each with a probability of being white
or black. Rosencrantz withdraws a
ball. It is white. He replaces it and jiggles the urn. Again he withdraws a
white. He repeats this n times. To get
a drink he needs a black ball. How do
his chances of a drink diminish with
each white ball withdrawn?
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
Find the correct definition:
a) French film star(let)
b) lock-in
c) troubadour
d) interliminal state
E pluribus unum
Rearrange the letters of
INDICATORY to make another word.
Fill in the asterisks to make a word:
Missing Links
Find a word to follows the first word
in the clue and precede the second,
in each case making a fresh word
or phrase. Eg the answer to fish mix
could be cake (fishcake & cake mix) ...
a) bad sauce
b) Westminster gum
c) driven flake d) old people’s planet
e) poison board f) as pants
©CMM2017. For solutions see page 47
46 The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17
Hamilton takes
his toughest title
Season pushed him to
perform at his best, and
end was nerve-racking
Formula One
Giles Richards Mexico City
High drama, incident, excitement
and a nail-biting finale – it is unlikely
Lewis Hamilton would have imagined
that securing his fourth Formula One
championship would prove such an
extraordinary business. But at the end
of it all, with a ninth-place finish at the
Mexican Grand Prix, he did indeed
emerge as champion.
There was joy from the 32-year-old
at his remarkable achievement in becoming Britain’s most successful racing driver and not a little relief after a
race that had the driver, his team and
fans on the edge of their seats.
“It was a horrible way to do it,” he
said after a run of five wins from the
last six races meant he clinched the
title with his lowest finish of the season. He ended down the field after a
clash with his championship rival,
Sebastian Vettel, at the start put the
British driver into last place. The race
was won by Max Verstappen, his second victory of the season in the Red
Bull, but Vettel’s recovery from 19th
to fourth was insufficient to continue
his challenge.
Vettel’s fightback was determined
but Hamilton had a 66-point advantage going into the race and it proved
enough for him to take his place in
the history books. After a season that
has pushed him to perform at his very
best, the end was nerve-racking but
the championship deserved.
Hamilton had wanted to seal it with
a win in style at the Autódromo Her-
manos Rodríguez but that was almost
out of his hands after the opening-lap
incident. Hamilton took a puncture
and the subsequent pit stop put him
a full minute off the lead; damage to
the diffuser meant he had lost performance, making any fightback even
harder, while Vettel was also forced
to visit the pits for a new nose.
“Did he hit me deliberately?” asked
Hamilton, but the stewards took no
further action after what did appear
to be a racing incident. Although both
drivers came back through the pack,
the German had too much to do.
This fourth title, after winning for
McLaren in 2008 and for Mercedes in
2014 and 2015, is one more than Sir
Jackie Stewart achieved in 1973. It is
one more than Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna and puts him level with
Alain Prost and Vettel. Only two drivers have more – Juan Manuel Fangio
on five and Michael Schumacher
with seven.
It is a remarkable achievement
given how hard he has been pushed
by Vettel. The German knew his only
chance of staying in the fight here
was to win or finish second because
the championship had already swung
decisively in Hamilton’s favour over
the course of three races in the second
half of the season.
Ferrari proved to have an extremely
competitive car this season – it was
arguably better than the Mercedes. It
made the fight between the pair very
tight as punch and counter-punch
across meetings left little to choose
between them.
Reaching the point of being able to
take the title in Mexico had been far
from plain sailing. Hamilton had difficulty with the car in Russia, Monaco
and Hungary and took a grid penalty
in Austria. Vettel’s barge on him in
Baku was a flashpoint but it was a
loose headrest that ultimately cost
him the win in Azerbaijan. Crucially,
however, he made the most of these
difficult weekends to stay in touch
with the German.
When he had the pace he exploited it, with wins in China, Spain
and Canada and a dominant display
Where Hamilton ranks
Most world titles
7 Michael Schumacher
5 Juan Manuel Fangio
4 Lewis Hamilton
4 Alain Prost
4 Sebastian Vettel
3 Jack Brabham
3 Jackie Stewart
3 Niki Lauda
3 Nelson Piquet
3 Ayrton Senna
Great Britain
Great Britain
at Silverstone. But by the summer
break after Hungary he was still 14
points behind Vettel. What followed
was a virtuoso performance that was
concluded in Mexico.
Wins at Spa and Monza were sealed
and the fight looked to be going to the
wire, but Vettel’s hopes disappeared
with two DNFs at Singapore and Japan
and only fourth in Malaysia. After his
win at last month’s US GP, Hamilton
was 66 points ahead.
This race seemed almost certain to
be host to the denouement of the season but was not expected to be quite
as dramatic as it proved. After a strong
start, with the front runners Vettel,
Hamilton and Verstappen heading
into turn one together, Vettel and
Verstappen touched through turn two
with the Dutch driver taking the lead
and Hamilton having to go round the
outside of them both into turn three.
Root ready to prove critics wrong as England arrive for Ashes
Inside sport
Allan Innes
oe Root, the first-time Ashes
captain, led the team off the
plane in Australia. “We are
very confident we can win,”
the Yorkshireman told the local
press, stressing: “We are a completely different side from the one
that was here last time.” In 2013-14,
of course, England lost 5-0.
“We have a good strong squad
with experienced players who have
been here and won before, and some
very young, exciting players,” said
Root, who would not be drawn on
whether his side are underdogs, as
many pundits believe they are.
The main line of questioning,
inevitably, was the absence of Ben
Stokes. Reports last month appeared
to make an appearance from Stokes
more likely but Root said that would
not change England’s preparation:
they are planning for a series without
their talismanic all-rounder. An internal England and Wales Cricket Board
investigation will naturally follow the
criminal investigation, he said.
“We don’t know what’s going on
with that and we have to let the police get on with it,” Root said. “Hopefully it can be good news for Ben … In
terms of the reality of it all, we have
to wait and see, we have to plan as if
he’s not going to be here.
“Ben’s been a massive part of this
team for a long time now … We have
a strong squad and have plenty of
other all-rounders, and guys who
can come in who are keen to prove
a point and step up. The great thing
about playing here in Australia is that
you have an opportunity to earn a
huge amount of respect from around
the world if you perform well here.”
The form of Australia’s pace spearhead Mitchell Starc at the Adelaide
Oval, the venue of the day/night second Test, will not have pleased Root.
The Guardian Weekly 03.11.17 47
Sport in brief
• England’s next generation of footballers came from two goals down to
trounce Spain 5-2 and win the country’s first under-17 World Cup final
in Kolkata, India. Spain raced into a
two-goal lead before England halved
the deficit by half-time before a
crowd of more than 66,000. In a
storming second half, England then
scored four more goals to add the
under-17 title to the world under-20
won this year in South Korea. It was
England’s first appearance in the under-17 final, and Spain’s fourth. England striker Rhian Brewster finished
as the tournament’s leading goalscorer with eight, while Phil Foden,
on Manchester City’s books, was
named player of the tournament
having scored twice in the final.
He had passed Vettel in doing so
but the pair just clipped each other;
Hamilton was blameless but took a
puncture to his right rear and Vettel
damage to the front wing. Both had to
come into the pits at the end of the lap.
In the end Hamilton’s points advantage had been enough. He already
had the numbers that made the difference, including 12 podiums, 11 poles,
seven fastest laps and nine wins this
season to Vettel’s four.
The title was the objective and,
while Hamilton may not like to look
back on how it was closed out, it will
in no way diminish the pleasure that
he takes from winning one of the
most demanding championships of
his career.
In the pink-ball round of Sheffield
Shield matches, he took career-best
first-class figures of eight for 73 to dismantle South Australia and carry New
South Wales to a six-wicket victory.
Steve Smith, however, scored only 12
runs across two innings for NSW.
There were also warning signs for
the tourists at the Waca (where they
play the third Test). Western Australia’s fast bowlers got Tasmania out
for 63, their lowest-ever Shield total,
on a lightning-fast wicket.
Young guns … England celebrate
gust. The British boxer earned a 20th
straight win, likely to set him up for a
unification fight in 2018 with Joseph
Parker or Deontay Wilder. Takam had
been a replacement for the injured
mandatory challenger, Kubrat Pulev.
• Caroline Wozniacki claimed her
biggest tennis title after staving
off a Venus Williams fightback to
win the WTA Finals title 6-4, 6-4
in Singapore. The former world No
1 entered the contest having lost
against Williams seven times in
Leonard Barden
Autumn for competitive chess players marks the start of a new season.
Britain’s club amateurs are enrolling in teams, brushing up their
opening repertoire and looking to
achieve a higher grade or rating.
National leagues are also getting
under way. England’s 4NCL stages
its opening weekend on 11-12
Some important national leagues,
like those of France and Russia, play
the entire season’s matches over a
single week. The most important
league that uses the 4NCL model
is Germany’s Bundesliga, which
kicked off its season last month.
White’s 6 Nb3!? below is a pragmatic psychological approach. The
Sicilian Najdorf 5...a6 intends e7-e5
attacking the d4 knight, so moving
this piece away first can provoke
mental confusion. The simplest answer is still e7-e5.
Here Black prefers e7-e6,and the
game follows a well-known pattern
with castling on opposite sides. Visually Black seems under pressure,
but the computer is unimpressed
with White’s attack until 21...Ne7?
when 21...exd5 22 Bxd5 is level. Two
moves later, Black can still hold his
• It was a case of different day, same
result as England’s 22-year hoodoo
against Australia continued with an
18-4 defeat in the opening match of
the 2017 Rugby League World Cup
in Melbourne. But England took the
game to Australia for long periods
and Josh Dugan’s late interception
try put a favourable gloss on the
score for the hosts. The two sides are
tipped to meet again in the tournament final on 2 December.
•Europe’s golfers got an early boost
for next year’s Ryder Cup after Paul
Casey made himself eligible for
selection again. Casey, based in Arizona, sat out the USA’s comprehensive win at Hazeltine in 2016, having
refused to rejoin the European Tour
because of family commitments.
But now Casey, the world No 15 and
sixth-highest ranked European, will
look to make himself an automatic
selection for Thomas Bjorn’s team
for Le Golf National in France.
Maslanka solutions
3518 Mateusz Bartel v Robert Kempinski,
Bundesliga 2017. White to move and win.
own by 23...dxe5 24 Qxg6+ Kf8, but
castling followed by 24...dxe5? set
up White’s smart win in the puzzle
Mateusz Bartel v Robert Kempinski,
Bundesliga 2017
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4
Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Nb3!? Nc6 7 Be3 e6
8 g4 h6 9 Bg2?! Ne5 10 h3 Nc4 11 Qe2
Qc7 12 O-O-O Bd7 13 f4 Rc8 14 Rd3
b5 15 a3 a5 16 Nd4 Qb8 17 b3 Nxa3
18 g5 b4 19 Nd5 Ng8 20 g6 fxg6
21 e5 Ne7? 22 Nxe7 Bxe7 23 Qg4
O-O? 24 Qxg6 dxe5? (see diagram)
3518 5 Be4! Bf6 26 Nc6! 1-0 If Bxc6 27 Qh7+
Kf7 28 Bg6+ Ke7 29 Bc5+ wins the queen.
Speed king … Lewis Hamilton
celebrates his title win in Mexico
City Clive Mason/Getty
• Anthony Joshua was taken to
the 10th round before stopping the
durable Carlos Takam and retaining
his World Boxing Association and
International Boxing Federation
heavyweight titles in front of an estimated 75,000 fans in Cardiff last Saturday. The referee stopped the fight
after Joshua caught Takam with a
hook-uppercut combination and was
moving in to land more blows. The
Frenchman shook his head in dis-
seven matches, but served and retrieved brilliantly. Wozniacki raced
to a one-set and 5-0 lead but Williams reeled off four games in a row
before the Dane could finally lift the
title in her fifth appearance.
1 Increasingly the word sixth is being
pronounced “sickth” by folk who are either
lazy, too modern or insufficiently skilled in
their consonantal clusters. That presumably
also accounts for gerlobal. Two stabilising
factors in pronunciation are teachers (or
parents) correcting ugly and sloppy speech
– and dictionaries, both of which have gone
largely by the board. In the old days there
were a few authorities who laid down the law
on good usage; dictionaries were prescriptive.
But nowadays experts and authorities are
out of fashion and, besides, they disagree, so
how are we to choose among them? At what
point this baby pronunciation will be endorsed
by the dictionary-mongers in some dark
basement I don’t know, for that moderating
feedback loop has been removed in favour of
describing (as if, for what you choose to include
and exclude are also forms of prescription). But
then we also hear “reguly” (for regularly)
and “Febry” for February.
2 If it’s false, there must be a first multiple of
11 for which this fails. I leave you to find it. (It’s
digit sum is 11). But the number that follows it
has an even digit sum. So how exceptional is it?
Do most multiples of 11 have odd digit sums?
3 If the side of the square is a, we have R2 = a2
+ a2/4 = 5a2/4; that is: a =
2R/√5. Meanwhile a + 2r
= R; so that r = ½(R –
a) = R(1/2 – 1/√5).
4 The chances of a
black ball after an
uninterrupted run of 1, 2, 3,
4 … white balls is: 1/4, 1/6, 1/10, 1/18 … In
terms of n this is: [1/(2 + 2n)].
Wordpool d). EPU DICTIONARY.
Dropouts ATMOSPHERE. Same Difference
EDIBLE, INCREDIBLE. Missing Links a) bad/
apple/sauce b) Westminster/bubble/gum
c) driven/snow/flake d) old people’s/home/
planet e) poison/dart/board f) as/under/pants
Copyright © 2017 GNM Ltd. Published weekly by GNM Ltd, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK and printed in the US by Evergreen Printing Co.
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon. ISSN: 0958-9996.
US/Canada office: The Guardian, PO Box 868, Chesterfield, MO 63006-9943, USA
Annual subscription rates (in local currencies):
UK £120; Europe €196; Rest of World £152; US $240; Canada $240; Australia $312; NZ $392
Quarterly subscription rates:
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To subscribe visit
Reptilian rejuvenation
Could Komodo dragons hold
a key to the next miracle drug?
Discovery, pages 32-33
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
No one needs libraries? What rubbish.
These sanctuaries enrich our lives in so
many ways. Without their magical world,
I would never have become a writer
hat does the library mean
to you? It’s a question I
have been mulling over
lately, since I bought a
secondhand book online
and found guiltily that it
was, in actual fact, a library
book. I assumed that someone had stolen it, or
taken it out and then died. Then it struck me that
perhaps the library had closed, so I’ve been trying
to find out.
Meanwhile, the UK journalist and former Conservative party aide Andre Walker wrote on Twitter. “Nobody goes to libraries anymore. Close the
public ones and put the books in schools.”
What a privileged position to take, I thought,
this assumption that these vital public spaces are
not needed. Spoken like someone who has always
been able to afford books and magazines (or else,
I suspect, doesn’t read), who can pay for an internet connection, who doesn’t need help filling in
government forms.
Spoken like someone who doesn’t require shelter from the storm, isn’t lonely or trying to escape
a chaotic home life, isn’t a new parent wondering
what to do with a small, helpless being for a few
hours, because it’s raining and you’re knackered.
Spoken like someone who, because of money,
selfishness, or political ideals, doesn’t need or
want to feel part of a community that, for others,
gives life depth, and variety, and meaning.
Now, I don’t usually make a habit of writing
columns about something controversial that
someone has said on Twitter; life is far too short.
But this time, more than 100,000 people have
replied to Walker’s tweet, rendering it somewhat
newsworthy. I’m also addressing it because of the
context in which it appears: because of cuts to local authorities, libraries in Britain are closing at a
rate that – despite the passionate commitment of
librarians and activists – has begun to feel heartbreakingly inevitable.
As I write, £10m ($13m) worth of cuts mean
that 21 libraries in Northamptonshire are at risk.
Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novels
Watchmen and V for Vendetta, grew up in a
working-class family in Northampton. Without
library access, he told the Northampton Chronicle
& Echo, he would not have become a writer.
The same is true of me. Throughout my childhood, I withdrew eight books (the maximum
allowed) every few weeks from my local library.
We could never have afforded to buy them. They
gave me a passion for reading that was indiscriminate – I would devour anything, whether age
appropriate or not. You could throw anything at
me, from the Brontës or the Sweet Valley Twins,
it didn’t matter. Growing up in a rural area, I had a
planet of ideas and experiences opened up by the
library. Next year my first novel will be published.
Without the libraries of my childhood, it would
never have been written.
I feel emotional almost to the point of tears
about libraries. In wanting to examine why, it
Growing up in a rural area,
I had a planet of ideas
and experiences opened
up by the library
occurred to me that for many of us library lovers,
a library is an extension of home – a big, cosy living room into which everyone is invited. And just
as the interior architecture of a childhood home
becomes enmeshed with the interior architecture
of our minds, so does the library’s.
Many of us, if blindfolded and transported
back to the library door, would know it from
the smell alone, could navigate our way to our
favourite stacks with no effort, could draw the
posters from memory. Libraries are witnesses
to formative experiences regardless of age or
maturity, places where you may have sat and
been transported telepathically into the mind of
another: the universe that they have created, the
feelings they have projected.
And so, of course, we feel protective of them.
The books we read make us, and often save us.
As I was writing this, I was inundated with stories of what libraries mean to people, in various
ways: to some they are sanctuaries from abusive
home lives, or even homelessness. They are
places to revise and learn and use technology, to
rent films and records and CDs, when doing so
elsewhere is impossible. They are the backdrop
for bonding rituals with parents and aunts and
grandparents – one young woman, Dawn Powell,
told me that her mother had loved her library so
much, a bench had been placed there in her honour after she died.
Relationships with librarians were also important. They pointed out books that changed
readers’ lives for ever, and offered guidance, sympathy, tissues, a friendly face. One child even had
birthday cakes baked.
Libraries may be needed more by poor people
but many comfortably off people use them too.
Regardless of class background, libraries plug us
into our communities, reminding us that there is
life beyond our living rooms, that there’s more to
our daily existences than work and coming home,
and the same again tomorrow. We are not all atomised in front of our glowing screens. Libraries
don’t just mean us, they mean other people too.
No wonder we fiercely protective of them. They
are priceless. Maybe that’s why they are so busy.
Guardian News & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. Published by Guardian News & Media Ltd.,
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK.
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon.
Printed by GPC. Registered as a newspaper at the Post Office.
Annual subscription rates (in local currencies):
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Quarterly subscription rates:
UK £30; Europe €49; Rest of World £48; US $60; Canada $60; Australia $78; NZ $98
To subscribe visit
Reptilian rejuvenation
Could Komodo dragons hold
a key to the next miracle drug?
Discovery, pages 32-33
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
No one needs libraries? What rubbish.
These sanctuaries enrich our lives in so
many ways. Without their magical world,
I would never have become a writer
hat does the library mean
to you? It’s a question I
have been mulling over
lately, since I bought a
secondhand book online
and found guiltily that it
was, in actual fact, a library
book. I assumed that someone had stolen it, or
taken it out and then died. Then it struck me that
perhaps the library had closed, so I’ve been trying
to find out.
Meanwhile, the UK journalist and former Conservative party aide Andre Walker wrote on Twitter. “Nobody goes to libraries anymore. Close the
public ones and put the books in schools.”
What a privileged position to take, I thought,
this assumption that these vital public spaces are
not needed. Spoken like someone who has always
been able to afford books and magazines (or else,
I suspect, doesn’t read), who can pay for an internet connection, who doesn’t need help filling in
government forms.
Spoken like someone who doesn’t require shelter from the storm, isn’t lonely or trying to escape
a chaotic home life, isn’t a new parent wondering
what to do with a small, helpless being for a few
hours, because it’s raining and you’re knackered.
Spoken like someone who, because of money,
selfishness, or political ideals, doesn’t need or
want to feel part of a community that, for others,
gives life depth, and variety, and meaning.
Now, I don’t usually make a habit of writing
columns about something controversial that
someone has said on Twitter; life is far too short.
But this time, more than 100,000 people have
replied to Walker’s tweet, rendering it somewhat
newsworthy. I’m also addressing it because of the
context in which it appears: because of cuts to local authorities, libraries in Britain are closing at a
rate that – despite the passionate commitment of
librarians and activists – has begun to feel heartbreakingly inevitable.
As I write, £10m ($13m) worth of cuts mean
that 21 libraries in Northamptonshire are at risk.
Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novels
Watchmen and V for Vendetta, grew up in a
working-class family in Northampton. Without
library access, he told the Northampton Chronicle
& Echo, he would not have become a writer.
The same is true of me. Throughout my childhood, I withdrew eight books (the maximum
allowed) every few weeks from my local library.
We could never have afforded to buy them. They
gave me a passion for reading that was indiscriminate – I would devour anything, whether age
appropriate or not. You could throw anything at
me, from the Brontës or the Sweet Valley Twins,
it didn’t matter. Growing up in a rural area, I had a
planet of ideas and experiences opened up by the
library. Next year my first novel will be published.
Without the libraries of my childhood, it would
never have been written.
I feel emotional almost to the point of tears
about libraries. In wanting to examine why, it
Growing up in a rural area,
I had a planet of ideas
and experiences opened
up by the library
occurred to me that for many of us library lovers,
a library is an extension of home – a big, cosy living room into which everyone is invited. And just
as the interior architecture of a childhood home
becomes enmeshed with the interior architecture
of our minds, so does the library’s.
Many of us, if blindfolded and transported
back to the library door, would know it from
the smell alone, could navigate our way to our
favourite stacks with no effort, could draw the
posters from memory. Libraries are witnesses
to formative experiences regardless of age or
maturity, places where you may have sat and
been transported telepathically into the mind of
another: the universe that they have created, the
feelings they have projected.
And so, of course, we feel protective of them.
The books we read make us, and often save us.
As I was writing this, I was inundated with stories of what libraries mean to people, in various
ways: to some they are sanctuaries from abusive
home lives, or even homelessness. They are
places to revise and learn and use technology, to
rent films and records and CDs, when doing so
elsewhere is impossible. They are the backdrop
for bonding rituals with parents and aunts and
grandparents – one young woman, Dawn Powell,
told me that her mother had loved her library so
much, a bench had been placed there in her honour after she died.
Relationships with librarians were also important. They pointed out books that changed
readers’ lives for ever, and offered guidance, sympathy, tissues, a friendly face. One child even had
birthday cakes baked.
Libraries may be needed more by poor people
but many comfortably off people use them too.
Regardless of class background, libraries plug us
into our communities, reminding us that there is
life beyond our living rooms, that there’s more to
our daily existences than work and coming home,
and the same again tomorrow. We are not all atomised in front of our glowing screens. Libraries
don’t just mean us, they mean other people too.
No wonder we fiercely protective of them. They
are priceless. Maybe that’s why they are so busy.
Copyright © 2017 GNM Ltd. Published weekly by GNM Ltd, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK and printed in the US by Evergreen Printing Co.
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon. ISSN: 0959-3608.
US/Canada office: The Guardian, PO Box 868, Chesterfield, MO 63006-9943, USA
Annual subscription rates (in local currencies):
UK £120; Europe €196; Rest of World £152; US $240; Canada $240; Australia $312; NZ $392
Quarterly subscription rates:
UK £30; Europe €49; Rest of World £38; US $60; Canada $60; Australia $78; NZ $98
To subscribe visit
Reptilian rejuvenation
Could Komodo dragons hold
a key to the next miracle drug?
Discovery, pages 32-33
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
No one needs libraries? What rubbish.
These sanctuaries enrich our lives in so
many ways. Without their magical world,
I would never have become a writer
hat does the library mean
to you? It’s a question I
have been mulling over
lately, since I bought a
secondhand book online
and found guiltily that it
was, in actual fact, a library
book. I assumed that someone had stolen it, or
taken it out and then died. Then it struck me that
perhaps the library had closed, so I’ve been trying
to find out.
Meanwhile, the UK journalist and former Conservative party aide Andre Walker wrote on Twitter. “Nobody goes to libraries anymore. Close the
public ones and put the books in schools.”
What a privileged position to take, I thought,
this assumption that these vital public spaces are
not needed. Spoken like someone who has always
been able to afford books and magazines (or else,
I suspect, doesn’t read), who can pay for an internet connection, who doesn’t need help filling in
government forms.
Spoken like someone who doesn’t require shelter from the storm, isn’t lonely or trying to escape
a chaotic home life, isn’t a new parent wondering
what to do with a small, helpless being for a few
hours, because it’s raining and you’re knackered.
Spoken like someone who, because of money,
selfishness, or political ideals, doesn’t need or
want to feel part of a community that, for others,
gives life depth, and variety, and meaning.
Now, I don’t usually make a habit of writing
columns about something controversial that
someone has said on Twitter; life is far too short.
But this time, more than 100,000 people have
replied to Walker’s tweet, rendering it somewhat
newsworthy. I’m also addressing it because of the
context in which it appears: because of cuts to local authorities, libraries in Britain are closing at a
rate that – despite the passionate commitment of
librarians and activists – has begun to feel heartbreakingly inevitable.
As I write, £10m ($13m) worth of cuts mean
that 21 libraries in Northamptonshire are at risk.
Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novels
Watchmen and V for Vendetta, grew up in a
working-class family in Northampton. Without
library access, he told the Northampton Chronicle
& Echo, he would not have become a writer.
The same is true of me. Throughout my childhood, I withdrew eight books (the maximum
allowed) every few weeks from my local library.
We could never have afforded to buy them. They
gave me a passion for reading that was indiscriminate – I would devour anything, whether age
appropriate or not. You could throw anything at
me, from the Brontës or the Sweet Valley Twins,
it didn’t matter. Growing up in a rural area, I had a
planet of ideas and experiences opened up by the
library. Next year my first novel will be published.
Without the libraries of my childhood, it would
never have been written.
I feel emotional almost to the point of tears
about libraries. In wanting to examine why, it
Growing up in a rural area,
I had a planet of ideas
and experiences opened
up by the library
occurred to me that for many of us library lovers,
a library is an extension of home – a big, cosy living room into which everyone is invited. And just
as the interior architecture of a childhood home
becomes enmeshed with the interior architecture
of our minds, so does the library’s.
Many of us, if blindfolded and transported
back to the library door, would know it from
the smell alone, could navigate our way to our
favourite stacks with no effort, could draw the
posters from memory. Libraries are witnesses
to formative experiences regardless of age or
maturity, places where you may have sat and
been transported telepathically into the mind of
another: the universe that they have created, the
feelings they have projected.
And so, of course, we feel protective of them.
The books we read make us, and often save us.
As I was writing this, I was inundated with stories of what libraries mean to people, in various
ways: to some they are sanctuaries from abusive
home lives, or even homelessness. They are
places to revise and learn and use technology, to
rent films and records and CDs, when doing so
elsewhere is impossible. They are the backdrop
for bonding rituals with parents and aunts and
grandparents – one young woman, Dawn Powell,
told me that her mother had loved her library so
much, a bench had been placed there in her honour after she died.
Relationships with librarians were also important. They pointed out books that changed
readers’ lives for ever, and offered guidance, sympathy, tissues, a friendly face. One child even had
birthday cakes baked.
Libraries may be needed more by poor people
but many comfortably off people use them too.
Regardless of class background, libraries plug us
into our communities, reminding us that there is
life beyond our living rooms, that there’s more to
our daily existences than work and coming home,
and the same again tomorrow. We are not all atomised in front of our glowing screens. Libraries
don’t just mean us, they mean other people too.
No wonder we fiercely protective of them. They
are priceless. Maybe that’s why they are so busy.
The Guardian
c/o PIC
101 Haag ave
Bellmawr, NJ 08031
Copyright © 2017 GNM Ltd. Published weekly by GNM Ltd, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK and printed in the US by Evergreen Printing Co.
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon. ISSN: 0958-9996.
US/Canada office: The Guardian, PO Box 868, Chesterfield, MO 63006-9943, USA
Annual subscription rates (in local currencies):
UK £120; Europe €196; Rest of World £152; US $240; Canada $240; Australia $312; NZ $392
Quarterly subscription rates:
UK £30; Europe €49; Rest of World £38; US $60; Canada $60; Australia $78; NZ $98
To subscribe visit
Reptilian rejuvenation
Could Komodo dragons hold
a key to the next miracle drug?
Discovery, pages 32-33
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
No one needs libraries? What rubbish.
These sanctuaries enrich our lives in so
many ways. Without their magical world,
I would never have become a writer
hat does the library mean
to you? It’s a question I
have been mulling over
lately, since I bought a
secondhand book online
and found guiltily that it
was, in actual fact, a library
book. I assumed that someone had stolen it, or
taken it out and then died. Then it struck me that
perhaps the library had closed, so I’ve been trying
to find out.
Meanwhile, the UK journalist and former Conservative party aide Andre Walker wrote on Twitter. “Nobody goes to libraries anymore. Close the
public ones and put the books in schools.”
What a privileged position to take, I thought,
this assumption that these vital public spaces are
not needed. Spoken like someone who has always
been able to afford books and magazines (or else,
I suspect, doesn’t read), who can pay for an internet connection, who doesn’t need help filling in
government forms.
Spoken like someone who doesn’t require shelter from the storm, isn’t lonely or trying to escape
a chaotic home life, isn’t a new parent wondering
what to do with a small, helpless being for a few
hours, because it’s raining and you’re knackered.
Spoken like someone who, because of money,
selfishness, or political ideals, doesn’t need or
want to feel part of a community that, for others,
gives life depth, and variety, and meaning.
Now, I don’t usually make a habit of writing
columns about something controversial that
someone has said on Twitter; life is far too short.
But this time, more than 100,000 people have
replied to Walker’s tweet, rendering it somewhat
newsworthy. I’m also addressing it because of the
context in which it appears: because of cuts to local authorities, libraries in Britain are closing at a
rate that – despite the passionate commitment of
librarians and activists – has begun to feel heartbreakingly inevitable.
As I write, £10m ($13m) worth of cuts mean
that 21 libraries in Northamptonshire are at risk.
Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novels
Watchmen and V for Vendetta, grew up in a
working-class family in Northampton. Without
library access, he told the Northampton Chronicle
& Echo, he would not have become a writer.
The same is true of me. Throughout my childhood, I withdrew eight books (the maximum
allowed) every few weeks from my local library.
We could never have afforded to buy them. They
gave me a passion for reading that was indiscriminate – I would devour anything, whether age
appropriate or not. You could throw anything at
me, from the Brontës or the Sweet Valley Twins,
it didn’t matter. Growing up in a rural area, I had a
planet of ideas and experiences opened up by the
library. Next year my first novel will be published.
Without the libraries of my childhood, it would
never have been written.
I feel emotional almost to the point of tears
about libraries. In wanting to examine why, it
Growing up in a rural area,
I had a planet of ideas
and experiences opened
up by the library
occurred to me that for many of us library lovers,
a library is an extension of home – a big, cosy living room into which everyone is invited. And just
as the interior architecture of a childhood home
becomes enmeshed with the interior architecture
of our minds, so does the library’s.
Many of us, if blindfolded and transported
back to the library door, would know it from
the smell alone, could navigate our way to our
favourite stacks with no effort, could draw the
posters from memory. Libraries are witnesses
to formative experiences regardless of age or
maturity, places where you may have sat and
been transported telepathically into the mind of
another: the universe that they have created, the
feelings they have projected.
And so, of course, we feel protective of them.
The books we read make us, and often save us.
As I was writing this, I was inundated with stories of what libraries mean to people, in various
ways: to some they are sanctuaries from abusive
home lives, or even homelessness. They are
places to revise and learn and use technology, to
rent films and records and CDs, when doing so
elsewhere is impossible. They are the backdrop
for bonding rituals with parents and aunts and
grandparents – one young woman, Dawn Powell,
told me that her mother had loved her library so
much, a bench had been placed there in her honour after she died.
Relationships with librarians were also important. They pointed out books that changed
readers’ lives for ever, and offered guidance, sympathy, tissues, a friendly face. One child even had
birthday cakes baked.
Libraries may be needed more by poor people
but many comfortably off people use them too.
Regardless of class background, libraries plug us
into our communities, reminding us that there is
life beyond our living rooms, that there’s more to
our daily existences than work and coming home,
and the same again tomorrow. We are not all atomised in front of our glowing screens. Libraries
don’t just mean us, they mean other people too.
No wonder we fiercely protective of them. They
are priceless. Maybe that’s why they are so busy.
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