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The Guardian Weekly – October 13, 2017

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Vol 197 No 19 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 13-19 October 2017
Into heart of
Isis’s capital
Hunting down
Raqqa’s jihadis
‘Sleep should
be prescribed’
Health benefits
of bedtime
Equality fight
on campus
India’s female
students protest
The alarming rise of
antibiotic resistance
Scientists warn current
practices must be halted
if the world is to avoid
a major medicinal crisis
Robin McKie
Scientists attending a recent meeting of the American Society for Microbiology
reported they had uncovered a
highly disturbing trend. They
revealed that bacteria containing a gene known as
mcr-1 – which confers
resistance to the antibiotic colistin – had spread
round the world at an alarming
rate since its original discovery 18
months earlier. In one area of China
it was found that 25% of hospital patients now carried the gene.
Colistin is known as the “antibiotic
of last resort”. In many parts of the
world doctors have turned to its use
because patients were no longer responding to any other antimicrobial
agent. Now resistance to its use is
spreading across the globe.
In the words of England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies: “The world is
facing an antibiotic apocalypse.” Unless action is taken to halt the practices
that have allowed antimicrobial resistance to spread and ways are found to
develop new types of antibiotics, we
could return to the days when routine
operations, simple wounds or straightforward infections could pose real
threats to life, she warns.
That terrif y ing
prospect was the focus of a major international conference due
to be held in Berlin this week. Organised by the Wellcome Trust, the UN
and several national governments,
the meeting was attended by scientists, health officers, pharmaceutical chiefs and politicians. Its task is
to try to accelerate measures to halt
the spread of drug resistance, which
now threatens to remove
many of the major weapons
currently deployed by doctors
in their war against disease.
At present about 700,000 people
a year die from drug-resistant infections. However, this global figure is
growing relentlessly and could reach
10 million a year by 2050.
The danger, say scientists, is one
of the greatest humanity has faced
in recent times. In a drug-resistant
world, many aspects of modern
medicine would simply become
impossible. An example is provided by transplant surgery. During operations,
patients’ immune systems have to
be suppressed to stop them rejecting a new organ, leaving them prey to
infections. So doctors use immunosuppressant cancer drugs. In future,
these may no longer be effective.
Or take the example of more
standard operations, such as abdominal surgery or the removal of a
patient’s appendix. Without antibiotics to protect them during these
procedures, people will die of peritonitis or other infections. The world
will face the same risks as it did before Alexander Fleming discovered
penicillin in 1928.
“Routine surgery, joint replacements, caesarean sections and
chemotherapy also depend on antibiotics, and will also be
at risk,” says Jonathan
Pearce, head of infections
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2 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
World roundup
Canada payout for forced child removals
EU rules out tax on consumer plastics
Canada will pay up
to C$750m ($598m)
in compensation
to thousands of
aboriginals who were
forcibly removed as
children from
their families
decades ago.
The move
is the latest
attempt by
the government to repair
ties with Canada’s
indigenous population,
which says it has been
the victim of systemic
racism for centuries.
Welfare authorities
took about 20,000
aboriginal children from
their homes between the
1960s and 1980s and
placed them in foster
care or allowed them
to be adopted by
The compensation
package is
designed to
settle lawsuits
launched by those
affected, who say the
forced removal deprived
them of their heritage.
More Americas
news, page 10
The EU ruled
out penalties on
single-use plastic
products, in favour of
raising public awareness
of the damage consumer
plastics are doing to the
world’s oceans.
Frans Timmermans,
vice-president of the
European commission,
said a tax would “not be
“The only sustainable
method is to create recyclable plastic and take
out microplastics,” he
said. “You can’t take out
microplastics with a tax.
You need to make sure
things are reused, and
not put in the ocean.”
Karmenu Vella,
environment commissioner, pledged that the
EU’s plastics strategy
would be published by
the end of the year.
Polish police raid women’s groups
Women’s rights
groups denounced
police raids on
their offices in several
Polish cities that
resulted in the seizing
of documents and
computers, a day after
women staged antigovernment marches to
protest at the country’s
restrictive abortion
law. The raids targeted
two organisations, the
Women’s Rights Centre
and Baba, which help
victims of domestic
violence and participated
in last week’s antigovernment protests.
More Europe
news, pages 6, 7
Cost of global obesity to top $1.2tn a year
2 4
The cost of treating
ill health caused
by obesity around
the world will top $1.2tn
every year from 2025
unless more is done to
check the epidemic,
according to estimates.
Obesity and smoking
are the two main drivers
behind the soaring numbers of cancers, heart
attacks, strokes and diabetes worldwide. They
are the biggest killers.
Over the next eight
years, the experts
say, the US will spend
$4.2tn on treating
obesity-related disease,
Germany will spend
$390bn, Brazil $251bn
and the UK $237bn if
these countries do not
do more to prevent it.
The new figures come
from the World Obesity
Federation, which says
there will be 2.7 billion
overweight and obese
adults by 2025 – a third
of the global population.
Brazil detains Italian leftwing guerrilla
Brazilian police
detained Cesare
Battisti, an Italian
writer and former
leftwing guerrilla who
was convicted of murder
in his home country
and has been on the
run for decades.
Battisti was apparently trying to leave
Brazil after Italy reportedly asked Brazil’s
government to revoke
his asylum status and
extradite him to serve his
prison sentence.
He was stopped as he
was about to cross the
border in a Bolivian taxi
and was held for possession of a “significant”
quantity of undeclared
foreign currency, the
Brazilian police said.
Battisti faced life in
prison in Italy, where he
was convicted of four
murders committed in
the 1970s.
After escaping prison
in 1981, he went on
the run, living in secret
before being arrested in
Rio de Janeiro in 2007.
He was released in 2011
and given permanent
residency in Brazil.
Company tells Harvey Weinstein to go
Harvey Weinstein
was fired from the
Weinstein Company
after new information
emerged regarding his
conduct, the company’s
board of directors said.
Weinstein – the
Hollywood mogul who
produced films including
Pulp Fiction and
Gangs of New
York – was on
a voluntary
leave of
absence after
a number of
sexual harassment allegations
emerged last week in a
New York Times exposé.
An attorney for
Weinstein did not
immediately comment.
Last week it was
alleged that Weinstein
had reached at least
eight settlements with
women he had sexually
harassed, and that he
would invite women to
his hotel room under the
guise of work, then greet
them naked or ask them
to massage him or watch
him shower. Among
Weinstein’s accusers are
the actors Ashley Judd
and Rose McGowan,
with the latter allegedly
reaching a $100,000
settlement over an incident of misconduct
that happened
when she was
starring in
behaviour has been
referred to as an open
secret in Hollywood.
Dozens of Democrats
moved to sever ties with
Weinstein, donating his
past campaign contributions to women’s charities. Weinstein has given
more than $1.4m since
1992, virtually all to
More US news,
page 8
Egypt launches LGBT crackdown
Members of the
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
(LGBT) community in
Egypt are living in fear
following a wave of
arrests and violence.
Rights groups say
dozens of people have
been detained in the
crackdown, which began
after rainbow flags were
waved at a rock concert
on the outskirts of Cairo
last month, prompting
a furious reaction in the
Egyptian media.
The spike in arrests
is part of an ongoing
climate of repression.
Homosexuality is not
illegal under Egyptian
law, but homosexual
acts in public are.
Euphemistic charges,
such as “debauchery”,
are often used by the
More Middle East
news, pages 4-5
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 3
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
India’s high court bans Diwali fireworks
India’s supreme
court has banned
the sale of fireworks in Delhi during the
upcoming Diwali festival, hoping to prevent
the usual spike in toxic
air pollution.
Last year’s Hindu
festival of lights left
the city sheeted in toxic
smog that forced the
closure of schools and
power stations.
The increase in airborne pollution to levels
up to 29 times higher
than World Health
Organisation standards
led the supreme court
last November to ban the
sale of fireworks in the
Indian capital. That ban
was overturned after a
challenge by fireworks
manufacturers, but the
court has reinstated it.
US decides to lift sanctions on Sudan
The US eased
against Sudan
in a major step towards
normalising relations
with a designated
terrorism sponsor whose
leader has been indicted
on war crimes charges.
The move is a
milestone in the rehabilitation of a state that
earned international
opprobrium for its
hospitality towards
extremists such as
Osama bin Laden and
Carlos the Jackal in the
1990s, and its more
recent involvement in
war crimes against its
own people.
The decision was
widely expected after the
Trump administration
removed Sudan from its
list of countries whose
citizens’ travel to the US
is severely restricted.
Kim Jong-un gives sister politburo post
Kim Jong-un
promoted his
younger sister
to North Korea’s secretive
politburo, consolidating
her position as one of
the country’s most
powerful women.
Kim Yo-jong, pictured
above right, has been
made an alternate member of the decision-making body, North Korean
state media reported.
The move indicates that
she has replaced their
aunt, Kim Kyong-hee,
who was a key decisionmaker when their father,
the former leader Kim
Jong-il, was alive.
Kim Jong-sik and
Ri Pyong-chol, two of
the three men behind
Kim Jong-un’s missile
programme, were
also promoted amid
a wider reshuffle.
Japan approves nuclear reactor restart
Poisoning denial by Grace Mugabe
The wife of
Robert Mugabe,
the 93-year-old
president of Zimbabwe,
publicly denied that
she was behind an
attempted poisoning
of the biggest rival
to succeed her
said any idea
that she had
acted against
one of Zimbabwe’s
Emmerson Mnangagwa,
was “nonsensical”.
Though the incident
in August, which
Mnangagwa said led to
him being airlifted to
hospital in South Africa,
was widely reported
in Zimbabwe’s media,
Zanu-PF officials had
largely refrained from
commenting on it.
But the weakness of Robert
Mugabe, who
gave a rambling speech
on a visit to
South Africa
last week, seems
to have intensified the
bitter contest for power.
75, has long been
considered Mugabe’s
likely successor.
Kagame opponent faces jail term
The operator of
Japan’s stricken
Daiichi nuclear power
plant was given initial
approval to restart the
reactors at another
atomic facility, marking
the first step towards
the firm’s return to
nuclear power generation more than six years
after the March 2011
triple meltdown.
Japan’s nuclear
regulator approved an
application from Tokyo
Electric Power (Tepco)
to restart two reactors
at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
– the world’s biggest
Rwigara was detained
on 24 September and
faces a lengthy jail
sentence. Kagame won
the election in August
with more than 98% of
the vote, securing a third
term and extending his
17 years in power.
New Zealand heads for coalition rule
Prosecutors in
Rwanda charged
Diane Rwigara,
pictured, the accountant
who tried to challenge
Rwandan leader Paul
Kagame in elections this
year, with inciting insurrection and forgery.
nuclear power plant
– even as the utility
struggles to decommission Fukushima
Daiichi. The process
will involve reviews and
consultations with the
public, and the restart is
expected to encounter
strong opposition.
The Nuclear
Regulation Authority
ruled that the No 6 and
No 7 reactors, each
with a capacity of 1,356
megawatts, met tough
new safety standards
introduced after the
Fukushima disaster.
More Asia Pacific
news, page 13
The counting
of the final
block of votes
in the New Zealand election left neither major
party with enough votes
to form government.
Counting of the 17%
of ballots considered
“special votes” showed
the incumbent National
party has lost two seats
while Labour and the
Greens have picked up
one each.
Neither the National
party, headed by a
revitalised Bill English,
nor the Labour party, led
by Jacinda Ardern, have
been in a position to take
office after the 23 September election ended in
a stalemate. On election
night the ruling National
party won 58 seats and
Labour 45 – both short
of the 61 needed to form
a government in the
120-seat parliament.
Both major parties
have been forced to
woo New Zealand First’s
Winston Peters, an
unpredictable populist
who has been left as the
kingmaker after winning
nine seats.
4 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
International news Middle East
Last jihadis hunted down in
devastated capital of cruelty
In a deadly urban game
of hide and seek, Isis
snipers try to hold out
Martin Chulov Raqqa
Abu Awad, a stalwart fighter of the
Islamic State terror group, was unsettled. His battered men, who had taken
shelter in the rubble of bombed-out
buildings, were running low on
supplies, and were losing patience –
and discipline.
“Abu Osama,” he said on a radio
frequency that his pursuers were
monitoring two streets away, from the
other side of the frontline of the brutal
battle for Raqqa. “We don’t have water for ablutions, and we don’t have
enough medicine to treat our injured.”
“Cleanse yourself with dirt and I
will get some to you in the morning,”
a man replied in a tired voice.
A young Kurdish rebel listening on
a handheld radio recognised the voice.
“He’s Syrian,” he said, as others from
his unit crouched in the courtyard of
a commandeered home. “That’s their
leader, Abu Osama. One time [Isis]
told us [on the same frequency]: ‘We
will burn you, then bury you.’ There
was no point replying.”
About 300 Isis fighters are all that
are thought to be left in the city, clinging to a corner of the capital of their socalled caliphate, which five months of
battle has shrunk to three annihilated
neighbourhoods. The Old City mud
wall that had stood for more than a
millennium flanks one side of the battleground, and a wasteland that was
once an industrial area stands on the
other. Smoke from burning buildings
mixed with grey dust from airstrikes
shrouds the landscape. The extremists who have stayed have nowhere to
go. Their fate is almost certain to be
sealed in the apocalyptic ruins of the
city where it all began for Isis in Syria
more than four years ago.
What remains of the fight for Raqqa
is concentrated on a maze of ruined
streets and homes that lead towards
Clock Tower Square, where severed
heads were placed on stakes after
killings by Isis that residents were
summoned to witness. The simple
ringed roundabout has, since 2013,
been scorched into the global psyche
as an emblem of Isis’s menace. In the
eyes of many, its looming loss will seal
the terror group’s demise.
Bricks and scorched, twisted metal
cover two empty boulevards leading
to the square. Isis snipers line either
side. Capturing it will symbolically
destroy the group’s hold on territory
it conquered and has been losing for
the past year. Through a hole in a wall
used by a Kurdish sniper team, the
square and its towering clock can be
seen just under 500 metres away.
While Isis used the Great Mosque
of al-Nuri in Mosul to lay claim to be a
group inspired by faith, Clock Tower
Square showcased its naked savagery
and intimidation. “There were around
13 killings a month,” said a local pharmacist, Ismael, who fled the city six
months ago and joined a US-backed
coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “They used to
line the roundabout wearing masks,
and go around the streets with a loudspeaker ordering people to watch. If
you were a spy they cut your throat
100 km
100 miles
from the front. The same if you were
a blasphemer, or murderer. Magicians
were beheaded from the back. Women
were always shot.”
Fighters speak matter-of-factly
about events that would have been
unfathomable before the Isis reign.
“They came to get my brother from
our home,” said Moussa, 21, pointing
at the ruins of a building down the
road. “They cut his head and hung
his body on a crucifix near Aleppo.
We weren’t even allowed to ask why.”
Rami, another Arab fighter from
Raqqa, also lost a brother to Isis
members who came to his home.
“They were Syrian, from among us, or
else they wouldn’t have worn masks,”
he said. “They also killed my mother
at a checkpoint.”
The fighters based themselves in a
three-storey building just over 1.6km
south of the clock tower. A toppled
articulated lorry blocked one entrance
to the base, sand walls closed another.
On the second floor, Hazam, 28, a
Kurd from Kobani, barked instructions into a radio held in his only
hand. His left hand had been lost to a
mortar in the fight for his hometown
two years ago, and when he pointed
the stub of his wrist to direct his men,
it seemed to have extra effect.
Just past a graveyard, in which
Isis had shattered every tombstone,
six young fighters had been sent the
night before to outflank the jihadis,
but their position had been exposed.
Two had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, and the rest of the unit
had been sent to rescue them. Hazam
paced across a balcony as airstrikes
thumped into Isis positions ahead.
Shortly afterwards, there was a message on his radio. “Send the Hummer.
We have two martyrs,” a man shouted.
“And injuries. Four of them.”
An hour later, the US-supplied armoured Jeep – the only one the unit
had – roared up the street, the legs of
the dead dangling out of the back, the
wounded crammed up front. A utility
truck backed towards the Hummer,
and the two bodies were lifted on to
blankets and transferred to the open
canopy. The wounded climbed in beside them. One wounded boy rested
his head on a corpse as the truck set off
for a clinic, past an overturned lorry
and abandoned homes. Not a single
civilian was left in east Raqqa.
On both sides of the front, men and
women from around the world have
lined up to fight. Members of global
leftist groups – Americans, Turks,
Germans and Spanish, among others
Rescue … a wounded fighter is
assisted by Syrian Democratic
Forces troops Achilleas Zavallis
– flesh out the ranks of Kurdish and
Arab fighters. And, within the SDF, minorities from around the region have
taken prominent positions.
At a medical centre, two Yazidi
girls from Iraq – in their late teens,
but looking older – hosed and swept a
courtyard where the two dead fighters had been brought a few hours
earlier. Their four wounded colleagues squatted nearby. The clinic’s
doctor, Akif, a Kurd from the Turkish
mountains, quickly dismissed their
injuries. “They are just clumsy lads
who need vitamins,” he said. “They
can go back and fight.”
Akif held rank at the clinic, as did
Turkish Kurds in two other frontline
areas – where Hazam was based, and
further away in the Samra suburb of
Raqqa, where Hevda, a woman in
her late 30s, ran a small but sensitive
base. She swept the floors, cooked
meals, kept guard, and held court
whenever she wanted. Kurds and Arabs in the base deferred to her, as they
did to Dalil, from the Turkish city of
Batman, who sat alongside Hazam in
the forward base. “The problem with
Turkey is that it’s an intersection of
capitalism and totalitarianism,” he
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 5
A family lost to revolution
Iranian artist on death and renewal
→ Review, page 31
Europe’s leaders bypass
Trump to salvage Iran deal
Julian Borger Washington
said. “They have played an unfortunate role in the region.” Using a pejorative term for the Turkish leader, Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan, he added: “The sultan’s time is ticking.”
Arab volunteers, many of them locals, are prominent on the frontlines
and recruiting local men has fired
the battle with a sense of personal
vengeance. Near the frontline, with
an Isis radio in one hand and a device
to talk to his own men in the other,
Elyas, 25, from Hasaka, said the role
of the Raqqa ranks had been instrumental in the gains so far, as had precision airstrikes by a US-led coalition.
“[Isis] know we don’t torture them
if we catch them. I don’t even hate
them,” he said. “They are ignorant
people. They have been brainwashed.
If we treat them like they treat us, we
become like them.”
Elyas led his men through a hole
blown in a wall near the front, then
more holes smashed into adjoining
homes, through which both the extremists and their pursuers move. A
bicycle stood amid the wreckage of
war in one room. Clothes and Islamic
books covered the floor in another, beside rotting food. On the rooftop, Arab
fighters crouched behind a wall, as a
rocket from a fighter jet crunched into
an Isis position. Smoke from the blast
drifted over nearby grain silos and
silhouetted the graveyard. “I love the
feeling of battle,” said Elyas, as the sky
darkened. “It’s delicious.”
As Isis withdrew, it burrowed underground to avoid the jets above.
Tunnels are found most days, and
nearly all have been booby-trapped.
The stench of death lingered where
both a tunnel and an improvised bomb
had been found. An Isis man had been
discovered there the day before, and
his body had been buried nearby.
As the terror group tires, the men
hunting them down say the fall of
Raqqa has galvanised them. Commanders believe the city will fall
within three to five weeks, and there
is increasingly nowhere left to hide
for the extremists in the rubble and
tunnels of what was once the centre
of their rule in Syria.
The overwhelming destruction
of Raqqa speaks of a place that has
been through more than just warfare.
The shattered psyche of the city hangs
heavily over the battlefield. “Everything is broken,” said Ahmed Issa,
a 25-year-old student. “My parents
will never come back here. And I won’t
let my sisters come. We are haunted
by bad spirits here. Something needs
to cleanse us.”
Additional reporting:
Mohammed Rasoo
European governments were last
week looking for other ways to try to
salvage the Iran nuclear deal after it
appeared that a concerted effort to
persuade Donald Trump to continue
to certify the two-year-old agreement
had failed.
Last Friday several media outlets
confirmed what has been suspected
in Washington and foreign capitals for
some time: that Trump will overrule
top national security aides and will not
certify the 2015 international nuclear
deal with Iran, on the grounds that it
does not serve US security interests.
European lobbying efforts have focused on Congress, which would have
two months to decide – in the absence
of Trump’s endorsement – whether to
reimpose nuclear-related sanctions.
Fresh sanctions could in turn trigger
Iranian withdrawal and a ramping up
of its now mostly latent nuclear programme, taking the Middle East back
to the brink of another conflict.
When Trump threatened to withhold certification by a congressional
deadline of 15 October, the UN general
assembly in mid-September was
seen by the European signatories of
the agreement – the UK, France and
Germany – as the last best chance
to convince Trump of the dangers
of destroying it. But according to
the accounts of several diplomats
involved, the effort got nowhere.
In a postmortem teleconference
late last month, the political directors
from the foreign ministries of the UK,
France and Germany agreed to plan
for the worst and marshal European
political resources for a potential rearguard action lobbying in Congress.
“The E3 [the three European states]
are keen not to make it all about the
president’s decision,” a diplomat said.
Asked about administration policy
last Wednesday, secretary of state Rex
Tillerson said: “We’ll have a recommendation for the president. We are
going to give him a couple of options
on how to move forward to advance
the important policy towards Iran.”
One possibility was that Trump
would wound the deal by refusing to
certify it, but not push for a restoration
of sanctions. The state department
was reported to be talking to Congress
to amend its legislation so that Trump
did not have to certify the deal every
90 days, a political embarrassment.
The Senate has appeared delicately
balanced on the issue, with almost all
Republicans and Democrats likely to
vote by party line. The majority leaders in the Senate and the House, Mitch
McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, are
reluctant to get bogged down in debate on an issue they believe the president should decide.
However, the hand of the congressional leadership could be forced by
hardline opponents of the deal, who
are seeking to make it a test of conservative credentials for senators
wary about defying Trump.
One of the most vociferous critics of
the Iran deal in the Senate, Tom Cotton
of Arkansas, urged Trump not to certify the deal in order to clear the way for
a period of “coercive diplomacy” and
to persuade European governments,
Russia, China and Iran to open the
agreement for renegotiation.
However, the defense secretary,
James Mattis, has backed the nuclear
deal. His intervention is likely to make
it harder for Trump to withhold certification, and could swing votes in a
Senate decision on sanctions.
Saudi king’s Russia visit heralds shift in global power structures
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman opened
a historic four-day visit to Moscow
last week by signalling a new era
of cooperation with Russia, but
demanding that Iran, an ally of the
Kremlin, end its “interference” in
Middle East politics.
King Salman called for any peace
settlement in Syria to ensure that
the country remained integrated,
but he did not repeat the longstanding, and now shelved, Saudi call
for the Syrian president, Bashar
al-Assad, to stand aside.
The visit to president Vladimir
Putin was the first by a ruling Saudi
monarch to Moscow, and is widely
seen as a potential turning point in
Middle East politics, and even in
the conduct of world oil markets.
More than 15 cooperation agreements worth billions of dollars were
signed, leading the Russian foreign
minister, Sergei Lavrov, to claim
the visit marked the moment when
Saudi-Russian relations “reached a
new qualitative level”. In one of the
most remarkable deals, the Saudis
said they would purchase the Russian S-400 missile defence system.
Russia pulled out all the
diplomatic stops to welcome the
Saudi king, although there was a
glitch when the golden escalator
due to help him from the plane
broke down. Patrick Wintour
6 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
International news
Catalonia’s ‘silent majority’ find its voice
Analysis: no easy way out for
either Barcelona or Madrid
Counter-protest march
reveals depth of regional
support for Spanish unity
Sam Jones Madrid
Stephen Burgen Barcelona
and agencies
Barcelona was a city accustomed to
protests even before the independence referendum earlier this month
that has provoked Spain’s biggest
political crisis in 40 years.
Every 11 September for the past
five years, hundreds of thousands of
people have thronged its streets on
La Diada de Catalunya – Catalonia’s
national day – to call loudly but peacefully for independence. But until last
Sunday morning, one group had been
conspicuous by its absence – the Catalans who want to remain part of Spain.
“We have perhaps been silent too
long,” said Alejandro Marcos, 44,
one of the so-called silent majority
who gathered in Barcelona to protest
against the Catalan government’s
decision to push for independence.
“It seems that the one who yells the
most wins the argument. So we have to
raise our voices and say loud and clear
that we do not want independence.”
The organisers of the demonstration, which was addressed by the
Nobel prize-winning novelist Mario
Vargas Llosa, put the turnout at more
than one million. The police were more
conservative, counting about 350,000
participants. Whatever the total, the
proliferation of Spanish, Catalan and
European flags – not to mention the
cries of “Don’t be fooled, Catalonia is
Spain” and the chants of “Viva España!
Viva Catalonia!” – made their point.
Javier Pérez, a 36-year-old teacher,
said: “I joined the demonstration today because I believe there’s a problem
Loud and clear … calls for unity, not independence Pau Barrena/Getty
between official Catalonia and those it
silences, that doesn’t consider Spanish
-speakers here as real Catalans.
“I went to say stop ignoring us, we’re
Catalans like you, talk to us, don’t negotiate in the name of Catalans when
you are only speaking for your Catalans. I went because I want to stop being treated as a second-class citizen.”
Others had come from farther afield
to show their solidarity as the prospect
of a unilateral declaration of independence this week by the Catalan government loomed. Juan Gil-Casares, who
works in Madrid but had come to Barcelona with his family, said he had felt
compelled to make the journey. “We
decided to come and support our compatriots and show them that they are
not alone,” he said.
Vargas Llosa accused the Catalan
government of trying to execute a
coup d’état. He told the crowd that
nationalism “has filled European history – and that of Spain and the world
– with war, blood and corpses”.
Josep Borrell, the former president
of the European parliament, waved an
EU flag. He attacked some of the rhetoric used in the independence campaign. “Catalonia isn’t like Lithuania,
Kosovo or Algeria,” he said. “It’s not
an occupied or militarised territory.”
Alex Ramos, the vice-president of
Societat Civil Catalana, the pro-unity
group that called the rally under the
slogan “Let’s recover our common
sense”, said that it had been an long
overdue expression of the feelings of
the majority of Catalan society.
“What we’ve seen today has been
a social escape valve,” he said. “It’s
been a cathartic expression, with
people saying: ‘Look, enough! Stop
dividing us.’
“Let’s get back our common sense.
We can’t have a social and political
relationship if one sector is imposing something on another. There has
to be a negotiation. If we’re going to
decide the future, we need to decide
it together.”
Last Sunday “Silent Catalonia”
finally found its voice. The question was whether the opponents
of the Catalan president, Carles
Puigdemont, had left it too late.
Many explanations are offered
for why, if most Catalans do not
want a break with Madrid, the
separatists have come so close
to their goal. Both the disrupted
1 October referendum and an earlier, non-binding vote in 2014 saw
the percentage backing independence peak in the low to mid-40s.
Unionist forces are divided. The
conservative People’s party, led by
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is unpopular in Catalonia. The
Socialists, the main national opposition, have suffered leadership
splits. The Catalan Socialist party is
loth to be seen siding with Rajoy.
Many Barcelona residents say
an atmosphere of intimidation
took hold in the run-up to the vote,
with activists accusing those who
disagreed with them of harbouring
fascist sympathies. Now the “silent
majority” has taken to the field,
Puigdemont this week faced a real
dilemma. If he went ahead with a
declaration of independence, his
biggest problem might not be with
Rajoy, the Guardia Civil and direct
rule from Madrid, but with many
of his Catalan constituents.
Rajoy, however, should not mistake last Sunday’s demonstration
as support for his inflexible stance.
His best course may be to use his
constitutional powers to insist on
fresh regional elections, which
could result in the pro-independence coalition losing control of the
Catalan assembly. Simon Tisdall
Seven months later, Dutch voters get new government
Jon Henley
Nearly seven months after they voted
in an election on 15 March, Dutch
voters are to get a new government
after the leaders of four parties agreed
on a centre-right policy programme.
The prime minister, Mark Rutte,
this week presented a rocky fourparty coalition to his MPs, 208 days
after his liberal VVD party won the
March polls.
The negotiations have been the
longest to form a new government
in modern Dutch history and were
officially presented to parliament
on Tuesday, when the process of
appointing ministers began.
“I am very happy,” said Rutte, who
will form his third ruling coalition.
“Precisely on the day that this [government] formation is overtaking the
longest previous formation we have …
a negotiators’ agreement.”
However, cementing a stable
marriage between Rutte’s businessfriendly VVD, the progressive D66 and
two Christian parties – the relatively
moderate CDA and the far more
conservative Christian Union – may
prove challenging.
D66 is pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights
and pro-EU, and wants pioneering
Dutch euthanasia laws extended. The
Christian Union is opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, and has in the past argued that
the Netherlands should pull out of the
eurozone in its present form.
Nonetheless, agreement on the
government’s key policies – on tax, sick
pay, welfare payments for refugees,
and defence and education spending
– has reportedly been reached.
The D66 leader, Alexander Pechtold, said that after years of austerity,
the new government will reward voters with lower taxes. “We are coming
out of crisis, so we can invest, taxes
can be lowered,” he told reporters.
The coalition will have a majority
of just one in the fragmented 13-party,
150-seat Dutch parliament and its
ability to survive a four-year term is
likely to prove the toughest test yet of
Rutte’s consensus-building skills.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 7
International news
Macron remarks
cause more unrest
French president filmed
accusing workers of
stirring up ‘bloody chaos’
Angelique Chrisafis Paris
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has been criticised after he was
filmed accusing disgruntled workers
of preferring to stir up “bloody chaos”
rather than find jobs, weeks after he
called critics of his labour reforms
Macron, who according to his entourage did not know he was being
filmed on a visit to a struggling company in south-west France, made the
comments while clashes were occurring outside the premises between
police and workers protesting against
his economic policies.
“Instead of kicking up bloody
chaos, some of them would be better
off going to see if they can get a job
over there,” he said, alluding to an aluminium factory in the region that was
seeking new workers. “Some of them
have got the qualifications to do it,” he
said. “It’s not that far for them to go.”
Macron made the remarks to a
regional official, Alain Rousset, who
had mentioned the aluminium foundry’s difficulties in finding workers.
Critics on all sides seized on the
comments, keen to cast Macron, a
former investment banker, as out
of touch with ordinary people and a
“president of the rich” because of his
proposed cuts to France’s wealth tax.
Clémentine Autain, of the leftist
France Unbowed party, said: “It shows
a great class contempt. He can’t stop
coming out with unfair comments
targeting the masses.”
Others said Macron’s “uncouth”
language was resonant of the tetchy
Divisive … Emmanuel Macron’s
approval rating is around 32%
former president Nicolas Sarkozy,
who never quite recovered from his
famous comment “Sod off, you prat”,
uttered to a man who refused to shake
his hand at an agricultural fair.
Macron runs a tightly controlled
communications strategy from the
Élysée Palace and often berates journalists and commentators for dissecting his style rather than the content of
his message. But the comments overshadowed his announcements about
economic reform. A government
spokesman, Christophe Castaner, defended Macron, saying: “A president
should be able … to use the words that
we all use all the time.”
The Élysée was quick to insist the
comments had been taken out of context and sought to bat away any accusations of class contempt or of targeting local protesting workers.
But Macron has often been unapologetic about choosing hard language
as he seeks to style himself as a probusiness reformer. Last month, days
before a union-led protest against his
overhaul of French labour laws, he
said in a speech that he would not back
down “to slackers, cynics and extremists”. The remark became a rallying
cry, with protesters coining slogans
such as “Slackers of the world, unite!”
In July, visiting a tech startup centre in a converted rail depot, he talked
about how at a station it was possible
to meet different people – “those who
succeed and those who are nothing”.
In 2016 while he was economy minister, Macron was confronted by angry trade unionists and was recorded
telling one young man: “You don’t
scare me with your T-shirt. The best
way of paying for a suit is to work.”
When he pleaded for a cut in the
cost of getting a driving licence and
used as an example female workers at
a Brittany abattoir, many of whom he
said were “illiterate”, he apologised in
parliament and said he had not meant
to cause offence.
Macron’s popularity has fallen since
his election in May, with his approval
rating standing at 32% in a YouGov poll
released last Thursday. His supporters
maintain that a fall in popularity was
inevitable in the current climate and
that he would rather enact reforms
quickly than chase poll ratings.
Macron was criticised at the start
of his presidency for comparing his
new role to that of Jupiter, king of
the Roman gods, and he has recently
sought to get out and talk more to
people on the ground.
Comment, page 20 →
Peace prize Nobel signals to nuclear states
The head of the anti-nuclear
campaign group awarded the Nobel
peace prize has chided Donald Trump
for ramping up a nuclear standoff.
Speaking last Friday in Geneva
after the Norwegian Nobel committee made the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
(Ican) its 2017 laureate, Beatrice
Fihn, the group’s executive director,
said Trump “puts a spotlight” on the
dangers of nuclear weapons.
Fihn (pictured) said the award
sent a message to all nuclear-armed
states that “we can’t threaten to
indiscriminately slaughter hundreds
of thousands of civilians in the name
of security”.
The chair of the Norwegian Nobel
committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen,
said the award had been made
in recognition of Ican’s work “to
draw attention to the catastrophic
humanitarian consequences of any
use of nuclear weapons and for its
groundbreaking efforts to achieve
a treaty-based prohibition of such
The award underlined the mounting danger of nuclear conflict between the US and North Korea and
the vulnerability of the Iran nuclear
deal. It also amounts to a reprimand
to the world’s nuclear-armed powers
– the US, Russia, Britain, China,
France, India, Pakistan, North Korea
and Israel – all of whom boycotted
negotiations for a treaty banning
nuclear weapons approved by 122
non-nuclear nations in July.
The Nobel committee said the
peace prize was also a call to nucleararmed states “to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual,
balanced and carefully monitored
elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world”. Saeed
Kamali Dehghan and Jon Henley
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/Getty
Comment, page 22 →
Iceland bank fallout rumbles on
Jon Henley
The current prime minister of Iceland
sold almost all his remaining assets
in a major Icelandic bank’s investment fund on the day the government seized control of the country’s
collapsing financial sector at the peak
of the 2008 crash.
According to leaked documents,
Bjarni Benediktsson, then an MP
on the parliament’s economy and
tax committee, sold several million
króna of assets in the Glitnir bank’s
fund before an emergency law placed
Iceland’s failed financial institutions
under state control. The documents
suggest Benediktsson, whose name
appeared in the Panama Papers offshore scandal that toppled Iceland’s
previous prime minister, talked to
senior Glitnir executives on 6 October
2008, as the country’s banking bubble
was on the point of bursting.
While he denies any wrongdoing
and the Guardian has seen no evidence
he broke any laws, the revelations
could be embarrassing: Benediktsson
faces elections on 28 October after his
coalition collapsed last month over an
alleged attempt to cover up a scandal
involving his father.
8 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
In US gun debate, bias beats logic
Mass shootings bring
calls for action – and then
political paralysis follows
Lois Beckett
After the mass shooting in Las Vegas
on 1 October in which gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the
32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel
casino, killing almost 60 people and
injuring hundreds more, Americans
have spoken out in outrage and
grief, demanding action. They have
asked, again: why can’t the US pass
any gun control laws?
At the same time, just as they did
after Sandy Hook and San Bernardino
and Orlando, these advocates have
endorsed some gun control laws with
very little evidence behind them.
The great bipartisan gun control victory of this year may be new restrictions on “bump stocks”, a “range
toy” used to make a semi-automatic
rifle fire more like a fully automatic
rifle. That won’t do much to reduce
America’s more than 36,000 annual
gun suicides, homicides, fatal accidents and police killings.
Why does the US feel paralysed
every time there is a new attack? Jon
Stokes, a writer and software developer, said he is frustrated after each
mass shooting by “the sentiment
among very smart people, who are
used to detail and nuance and doing
a lot of research, that this is cut and
dried, this is black and white”.
He watches otherwise thoughtful friends suddenly embrace one
gun control policy or another, as if
it were a magic bullet. “Some kind
of animal brain kicks in, and they’re
like, ‘No, this is morally simple.’”
Even to suggest that the debate is
more complicated “just upsets them,
and they basically say you’re trying
to obscure the issue”.
In 2013, a few months after the
mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, a Yale psychologist
created an experiment to test how
political bias affects our reasoning
skills. Dan Kahan was attempting to
understand why public debates over
social problems remain deadlocked,
even when good scientific evidence
is available. He decided to test a
question about gun control.
Kahan gave study participants
– all American adults – a basic mathematics test, then asked them to solve
a short but tricky problem about
whether a medicinal skin cream was
effective or ineffective. The problem was just hard enough that most
people jumped to the wrong answer.
People with stronger maths skills,
unsurprisingly, were more likely to
get the answer right.
Kahan ran the same test again.
This time participants were asked
to evaluate whether a law banning
citizens from carrying concealed
firearms in public made crime go up
or down. The result: when liberals
and conservatives were confronted
with results that contradicted their
political assumptions, the smartest people were barely more likely
to arrive at the correct answer than
those with no maths skills. Political
bias had erased the advantages of
stronger reasoning skills.
Kahan concluded that, presented
with a conflict between holding to
their beliefs or finding the correct
answer to a problem, people
simply went with their tribe. It
was a reasonable strategy on the
individual level – and a “disastrous”
one for tackling social change.
When it comes to guns, Americans want it both ways. A recent Pew
study found that just over half want
stronger gun laws. Even stronger
majorities also believe most people
should be allowed to legally own
most kinds of guns – and allowed to
carry them in most places.
There is room for thoughtful gun
control within these constraints.
But the extreme polarisation of
America’s gun debate obscures how
symbolic and marginal some of the
most nationally prominent gun
control measures are. Observer
Gary Younge, page 18 →
Handguns on display at an outdoor products trade show John Locher/AP
Bump-fire stocks sell out as enthusiasts fear ban on devices
The National Rifle Association
broke its silence four days after the
deadliest mass shooting in recent
US history to call for “additional
regulations” on bump-fire stocks,
which the Las Vegas shooter used
to turn his semi-automatic rifles
into rapid-fire weapons.
But alongside the rare concession, the NRA also suggested it
was time for further relaxation
of laws permitting Americans to
carry concealed firearms. “The
NRA believes that devices designed
to allow semi-automatic rifles to
function like fully-automatic rifles
should be subject to additional
regulations,” Wayne LaPierre and
Chris Cox, the group’s two leading
figures, said in a joint statement.
The NRA pair called on the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to immediately review whether these devices
comply with federal law”. The NRA’s
suggestion comes after Republican
lawmakers indicated they might
support a ban on the devices.
Bump stocks were selling out as
fear of an impending ban sent many
gun enthusiasts hoarding. “I want
to get one before there is a push to
make them illegal,” one commenter
posted on the Facebook page of
Bump Fire Systems, a major US
manufacturer of the devices. The
company’s website had been down
for more than two days citing “high
traffic volume”. Guardian reporters
US news in brief
International news
• The Trump administration
has issued a list of hardline
immigration demands that
includes funding for a wall
along the southern border
and a crackdown on Central
American minors as part
of a deal to allow young
undocumented immigrants
known as Dreamers to
stay in the country legally.
Democrats immediately
rejected the administration’s
priorities as “far beyond
what is reasonable”.
• The US secretary of state,
Rex Tillerson, denied he
has considered resigning and pledged loyalty to
Donald Trump in the wake
of a report that he had called
the president a “moron”.
“I’m here as long as the
president thinks I can be
useful to achieving his objectives,” Tillerson said at a
hastily arranged press appearance last Wednesday.
He shrugged off the report
on NBC News – that he had
derided Trump as a “moron”
– as “petty nonsense”.
• Donald Trump’s fractious
relationship with the Republican establishment reached a
bizarre new level last Sunday
when Senator Bob Corker
described the White House
as an “adult day care centre”
and warned that the president
risked setting the US “on the
path to World War III”. An extraordinary exchange between
Trump and the chair of the
Senate foreign relations committee began when Trump
claimed Corker, who is retiring,
“didn’t have the guts” to run
for re-election. In response,
Corker tweeted: “It’s a shame
the White House has become
an adult day care centre.
Someone obviously missed
their shift this morning.”
• Rebuffing the Trump
administration, a federal
judge last Wednesday ordered
the Interior Department
to reinstate an Obamaera regulation aimed at
restricting harmful methane
emissions from oil and gas
production on federal lands.
The order by a judge in San
Francisco came as the Interior
Department moved to delay
the rule until 2019, saying
that it was too burdensome to
industry. The action followed
an effort by the department to
postpone part of the rule set
to take effect next year.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 9
of a Soviet
Kicker here
like this
its Jewish
Then acelebrates
short description
like this
→ Review,
page and
30 Page XX
Then Section
International news
Are decades of political repression
making way for an ‘Uzbek spring’?
Tashkent diary
Joanna Lillis
here is one word on
everyone’s lips in
Uzbekistan these days:
change. “Things are
changing, life is getting better!” enthused
Akrom Abdurahimov,
a twentysomething resident of the
capital, Tashkent.
“Every day you wake up and
something is different,” said Nodira
Ilhamova, a young professional sipping tea on the terrace of a trendy
cafe in the autumn sunshine.
“We’ve seen so many changes in
the country in the past year,” said
Pulat Ibrahimov, a middle-aged
businessman lunching in a restaurant packed with office workers.
There is also one name that keeps
recurring: Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the
president of this central Asian state.
Mention him and you’re as likely as
not to get a big thumbs-up.
Since Mirziyoyev came to power
a year ago following the death of
his Soviet-era predecessor Islam
Karimov, one of the world’s harshest dictatorships has lightened up
– though not enough for true openness (interviewees’ names have still
to be changed to protect identities).
Mirziyoyev, a greying 60-year-old
who was Karimov’s prime minister
for 13 years, is an unlikely poster boy
for dynamic transformation, but he
has embraced some eye-catching
reforms. He has released some
political prisoners, welcomed international human rights campaigners
who were persona non grata for
years, loosened the screws on the
media and recalled thousands of
people forced to go and pick cotton
instead of doing their regular jobs.
Most radically, he has pledged to
listen to, and govern for, the people.
The change sweeping through this
country of 34 million people who
lived under political repression and
economic stagnation for 27 years of
Karimov’s rule has sparked excited
chatter about a political thaw. Is
there an “Uzbek spring” in the air?
Is Mirziyoyev really bringing democracy to totalitarian Uzbekistan?
Mirziyoyev says he is. He intends “to build a democratic state
and a just society”, he declared
recently, making the case that he is
transforming Uzbekistan, a land of
‘Life is getting better’ … in Tashkent, some residents detect change in the air Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters
mountains, deserts and ancient Silk
Road cities into a democracy based
on “people’s power”.
Startling words since, under Karimov, Uzbekistan became a byword
for despotism, torture and worse.
Anyone who protested risked the fate
of demonstrators in the city of Andijan, hundreds of whom were gunned
down by security forces in 2005.
“This is a moment of hope for
Uzbekistan’s people,” wrote Steve
Swerdlow and Hugh Williamson
of Human Rights Watch recently,
but “it’s time to follow words with
action”. They recently visited
Uzbekistan, and the sight of Uzbek
ministers glad-handing the rights
Make no mistake:
Mirziyoyev is no
democrat. He’s an
autocrat in every
sense of the word
campaigners they recently shunned
was an astonishing sign of the
changing times.
On the streets of Tashkent there is
a new spirit of optimism – and plenty
of goodwill towards Mirziyoyev.
“He wants to show that with his
arrival things are going to be different,” said Ibrahimov. “He’s changing
many things because people need
it. Businesses need more freedom,
which will create more jobs.”
Tashkent was abuzz with talk
of the black market – or rather its
disappearance. The dodgy dealers
who used to hang around Tashkent’s
bazaars swapping dollars for wads
of Uzbek sum disappeared in early
September when Mirziyoyev embraced currency reforms.
This dynamism is creating a
feelgood factor, though it has yet
to translate into jobs. And political
change may take longer than economic liberalisation. Mirziyoyev
was, after all, a loyal foot soldier of
Karimov’s repressive regime and
came to power in a sham election in
which he won 89% of the vote.
“Make no mistake: Mirziyoyev
is no democrat. He’s an autocrat in every sense of the word,”
Bakhtiyor Nishanov, an analyst
from the Washington-based International Republican Institute, said.
Mirziyoyev’s priority is economic
growth, he said; as for democracy
and human rights, he will reform
the “bare minimum” to support his
ambition of lifting Uzbekistan out of
the economic doldrums.
Hence the headline-grabbing
initiative such as recalling doctors,
teachers and students from the
cotton fields; allowing the BBC to
reopen its long-shuttered Uzbek
bureau, and freeing a handful of the
thousands of political prisoners.
But observers fret that this is
mere cosmetic tinkering – and the
detention last month of Uzbek
writer Nurullo Otahonov on his return from Turkish exile, suggests a
well-placed concern. Otahonov was
released after four days.
For all the hype about Mirziyoyev
and his reforms, some Uzbeks are
frustrated by the pace of change.
“Things are changing at the top,
but it will take a long time to flow
down,” said Ilhamova. “It’s good
that changes are taking place, but
let’s see in 10 years – then we can
talk about it. Or maybe 50.”
10 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
International news
Hurricane-hit Dominica pleads for aid
Pummelled US Virgin Islands
marginalised in disaster crisis
Destruction … a debris-littered street in Roseau, Dominica, the day after Hurricane Maria swept through Getty
Island recovers slowly
after roofs were swept
away and crops ruined
Ashifa Kassam
Aid workers and officials in Dominica
said last week that much of the island
remain ed without power or water
and cut off from communications after Hurricane Maria battered it with
winds of nearly 260km/h and stripped
it of vegetation.
The island of 71,000 people was
the first to bear the brunt of the category 5 hurricane when it struck in
mid-September. “My roof is gone,”
Roosevelt Skerrit, the island’s prime
minister, wrote on Facebook. “I am at
the complete mercy of the hurricane.
House is flooding.” Skerrit, who was
rescued shortly after, described the
storm damage as “mind-boggling”,
adding that winds had swept away the
roofs of almost everyone he had spoken to. “We will need help, my friend,
we will need help of all kinds.”
His appeal was followed by silence.
Dominica’s communication towers
snapped as the storm crossed the island, cutting it off from the world as
it struggled to cope with destruction
left by its strongest storm on record.
A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team arrived on the island,
hours after the storm had passed. “We
saw everything totally destroyed,”
said team leader Sergio Da Silva. Cars
were flipped over on the streets and
lush farmland, planted with bananas
and sweet potatoes, decimated. Debris from trees and roofs littered the
streets. Da Silva said: “We flew over
the island, and this island that used
to be all green with leaves and trees
was totally brown. All the trees were
on the ground, there were no leaves
left any more.” Officials in Dominica
said the hurricane left 27 people dead
and more than 50 missing. About 90%
of structures on the island have been
damaged or destroyed.
Amid shortages of food and water,
the number of thefts across the capital, Roseau, began to rise, prompting
the government to impose a nationwide curfew from 4pm to 8am.
Things are slowly improving, said
Da Silva. Power has been restored to
critical buildings such as the hospital.
But many parts of the island still lack
electricity and running water, while
destroyed bridges and washed-out
river valleys have left rescuers unable
to reach remote communities.
Assistance from around the world
has enabled authorities to distribute
nearly 200,000 litres of water, along
with 5,000 tarpaulins and 17 tonnes
of high-energy biscuits. But more is
needed, said Chamberlain Emmanuel, of the Organisation of Eastern
Caribbean States. The unusually active hurricane season has left its mark
across the region. Some 95% of houses
in Barbuda were affected by the hurricanes, while electricity remains down
in many parts of Anguilla.
Skerrit told the UN general assembly in the days following Hurricane
Maria: “I come to you straight from
the frontline of the war on climate
change.” Warmer air and sea temperatures, he said, were supercharging
small storms into a devastating force.
“We as a country and as a region did
not start this war against nature …
The war has come to us. While the big
countries talk, the small island nations suffer. We need action, and we
need it now.”
If Irma hit like a right hook, then
Maria was the sucker punch, battering islanders while they were already down. Around a month after
the first of two deadly hurricanes
collided with the US Virgin Islands,
the recovery is still in its infancy.
Power lines droop over the main
roads in Charlotte Amalie, the territory’s capital. More than half of
the roof of Saint Thomas’s commercial airport no longer exists,
replaced with tarps. All the schools
have been closed. About 90% of
the territory has no power and
most people no drinking water.
While the plight of neighbouring Puerto Rico, hit hard by Maria,
prompted an outcry in the face
of a slow federal recovery effort,
the crisis on the US Virgin Islands,
home to 100,000 US citizens, has
had less focus. The White House
blamed “difficult logistics” for
Donald Trump not stopping there
on his trip to Puerto Rico last week.
But last Friday vice-president Mike
Pence flew into the territory’s second island of St Croix, where Maria
hit hardest. He said the administration “will be with you every day
until the US Virgin Islands comes
all the way back”.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), the government agency responsible for
disaster management, has begun
to roll out inspection teams. But,
said agency spokeswoman Renee
Baffles, it had been “very difficult”
to reach all the remote communities. More than 14,600 islanders
have so far registered for help with
Fema. Oliver Laughland
Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Protecting indigenous people ‘helps climate battle’
Matthew Taylor
Global leaders must do more to protect indigenous people fighting to
protect their land and way of life if
the world is to limit climate change,
according to UN special rapporteur
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
Speaking ahead of climate talks in
Bonn next month, she urged politicians to recognise that indigenous
communities were the most effective
custodians of millions of hectares of
forest that are “the world’s lungs”.
She said: “Indigenous people’s
rights need to be protected in the best
way possible, not just for them but
because they are also able to provide
solutions to many of the world’s problems from climate change to biological diversity. It is in the self-interest
of states and even corporations, in the
medium and long term, to protect and
listen to these people – the question is,
will they realise this in time?”
A recent study found that a
quarter of the carbon stored above
ground in tropical forests is found
in the collectively managed territories of indigenous peoples and local
In Brazil, deforestation in indigenous community forests from 2000
to 2012 was less than 1%, compared
with 7% outside those areas.
Indigenous people are locked in
fierce conflicts with mining, logging
and agricultural companies and their
security firms from Indonesia to
Brazil. Last year was the deadliest on
record for land rights defenders, with
about 200 people killed in conflicts in
Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Tauli-Corpuz spoke in Stockholm
at the launch of the International Land
and Forest Tenure Facility, which aims
to help communities protect their
land resources as well as fight climate
change. It is funded by Sweden, Norway and the Ford Foundation, a US
charity. The project aims to boost forest land titled to indigenous peoples
by 40m hectares within a decade.
Organisers say this would prevent
deforestation of 1m hectares and release 500m tonnes of CO2.
12 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
International news
Women at Indian university fight back
Students in Varanasi call
for end to ‘Eve-teasing’
and acts of molestation
Michael Safi
The first time Shivangi Choubey
missed the curfew at her student
hostel was a night in late September.
It was not the only rule she broke
that day. Women students at Banaras
Hindu University are not supposed
to protest. Many are made to sign a
contract that spells this out explicitly.
Men are not required to sign anything
of the kind.
Nor, at many hostels on campus,
are women served meat, permitted
to speak on the phone after 10pm,
or allowed out in the evenings when
their male counterparts still roam the
campus on sputtering two-wheelers
or cram into the library to study.
So it was especially shocking – and
unprecedented in the university’s
100-year history – when Choubey led
200 women through the gates of their
college to join hundreds of others assembled outside Lanka gate, the campus’s bustling entrance.
“Nobody ever misses a curfew,” she
says. “That’s something very big for
us. But we were so agitated, because
these things keep happening to us.”
The day before, an undergraduate
student said she had been sexually
assaulted by two men on a motorbike.
Campus security guards had been sitting on plastic chairs about 20 metres
away but did nothing, the woman said.
She told others that the warden at her
college had dismissed the incident,
Action … a police baton charge on
female demonstrators sparked anger
telling her: “They just touched you.
They didn’t do anything serious.”
“These comments were a spark
on already burning logs,” says Dhriti
Dharana, a psychology student living
at the same college as the alleged victim. “We thought, ‘To hell with everything. We’re going to protest.’”
The demonstrations that followed
have brought one of India’s most prestigious and conservative universities
to its knees. Its vice-chancellor is on
indefinite leave. The head of security
resigned. Colleges were emptied of
students – “evacuated”, one said –
days earlier than a scheduled holiday
after footage of police using batons
against young women went viral,
drawing national condemnation.
Banaras Hindu University, sprawling across hundreds of hectares in the
holy city of Varanasi, is generally quiet
and an unlikely site for a rebellion.
The university is a magnet for the
brightest students from impoverished
regions such as Bihar and eastern
Uttar Pradesh, often the first in their
families to attend college, eager for a
foothold in the Indian middle class.
Students laugh when asked if
anyone drinks on campus. “Only in
secret,” says Dharana, grinning. “We
take a birthday cake down the Ganga
[Ganges] ghats. That’s how we party.”
In part, this conservatism reflects
many of the students’ own values.
But it is also rigorously enforced. “It
is scary, very scary, to be a woman
here,” says Choubey, 21. “Eve-teasing” – a south Asian euphemism for
sexual harassment – is rampant on
campus, she says. “It happens to everyone. Boys go about on their bikes
and they touch your dupatta [shawl],
they grab your clothes.”
Inside their residential hostels,
women students see a different side
of the patriarchy – the one claiming to
protect them. Starkly divergent rules
for men’s and women’s hostels are a
fact of life at many Indian universities.
Such discrimination has sparked a
national protest movement called
Pinjra Tod – “Break the Cage” – as well
as a supreme court challenge.
When reports that a student had
been sexually assaulted on 21 September began to spread, Dharana,
23, said women were angry, but did
not initially plan to protest. “Every
girl at the university has been Eveteased, molested, from the second she
stepped on campus,” she says.
It was when they heard the security guards and hostel staff had
failed to act – and worse, apparently
shrugged off the incident – that the
campus ignited. “These people are
supposed to look after us, but they
are against us,” Dharana says. “That
is what erupted this thing.”
By the second night of protests,
more than 1,000 people had massed
outside Lanka gate and the vice-chancellor’s residence, most of them students, and a majority of them women.
The vice-chancellor, Girish Chandra Tripathi, said he was trying to
meet with students to contain the
unrest when people started throwing
petrol bombs and stones. (The students say their protests were peaceful and any violence was perpetrated
by outsiders.) At some point, police
elected to charge the crowd several
times with batons, corralling the students into their colleges and shutting
the gates, injuring several in the process. By the next day, footage of male
police officers striking women was being broadcast across the Indian media.
Since the protests, Banaras Hindu
University has appointed a new head
of security – the first woman to hold
the job. She has promised to relax
women’s curfews and restrictions on
food, alcohol and clothing.
Psychology student Mineshi
Mishra and her peers welcome the
appointment, but caution: “What we
are fighting for is not complete. The
fear which was inside our heads – that
broke up. And that was the best thing
about the movement.”
UN ‘suppressed’ Myanmar report
Emanuel Stoakes
Oliver Holmes
International Tender Announcement
(REF: CW/IRQ/TR003594/0917)
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 Hygiene Kits”
for one of its multi-donor funded programmes in the Syria.
Item specifications are detailed in the Tender Documents,
available from:
Deadline for submission is: 1700 hours (GMT + 3) on
October 29th 2017
The UN commissioned and then
“suppressed” a report that criticised
its strategy in Myanmar and warned
it was ill-prepared to deal with the
impending Rohingya crisis, sources
have told the Guardian.
The review, submitted in May, offered a critical analysis of the UN’s approach and said there should be “no
silence on human rights”. The report,
a copy of which has been obtained by
the Guardian, predicted a “serious
deterioration” in the months following its submission and urged the UN
to undertake “contingency planning”.
“It is recommended that, as a matter of urgency, UN headquarters identifies ways to improve overall coherence in the UN’s system approach,”
wrote independent analyst Richard
Horsey, the report’s author.
Security forces would be “heavyhanded and indiscriminate” in dealing with the Rohingya, said Horsey
– a prediction that rang true when
Rohingya militants attacked dozens
of outposts on 25 August, prompting
a massive military crackdown.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director
at Human Rights Watch, said: “The UN
is going to have to acknowledge their
significant share of blame in letting this
situation descend this far, this fast.”
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 13
International news
Japan forced to face brutal work culture
Journalist suffered heart
attack after 159 hours of
overtime in one month
Justin McCurry Tokyo
Japan has again been forced to confront its work culture after labour
inspectors ruled that the death of a
31-year-old journalist at the country’s
public broadcaster, NHK, had been
caused by overwork.
Miwa Sado, who worked at the
broadcaster’s headquarters in Tokyo,
logged 159 hours of overtime and took
only two days off in the month leading up to her death from heart failure
in July 2013. A labour standards office
in Tokyo later attributed her death to
karoshi (death from overwork) but her
case was only made public by her former employer last week.
Sado was found dead in her bed,
reportedly holding her mobile phone.
“My heart breaks at the thought that
she may have wanted to call me,” her
mother told the Asahi Shimbun.
Sado’s death is expected to increase
pressure on Japanese authorities to
address the large number of deaths
attributed to the punishingly long
hours expected of many employees.
The announcement comes a year
after a similar ruling over the death of
a young employee at Dentsu advertising agency prompted a national debate over Japan’s attitude to work-life
Doctors sound alarm
over the prospect of
‘antibiotic apocalypse’
← Continued from page 1
and immunity at the UK Medical Research
Council. “Common infections could
kill again.”
As to the causes of this growing
threat, scientists point to the widespread misuse and overuse of antibiotics and other drugs and to the
failure of pharmaceutical companies to investigate and develop new
sources of general medicines for the
future. Western doctors are overprescribing antibiotics to patients. In
many countries, both land and fish
farmers use antibiotics as growth
promoters and indiscriminately pour
them on to their livestock. In the latter case, the end result is antibiotics
leaching into streams and rivers with
alarming results, particularly in Asia.
“In the Ganges during pilgrimage
season, there are levels of antibiotics in the river that we try to achieve
No let-up … Tokyo commuters in the rush to work Iain Masterton/Alamy
balance and calls to limit overtime.
Matsuri Takahashi was 24 when she
killed herself in April 2015. Labour
standards officials ruled that her
death was caused by stress brought
on by long working hours. Takahashi
had been working more than 100
hours’ overtime in the months before
her death. Weeks before she died on
Christmas Day 2015, she posted on
social media: “I want to die.” Another
message read: “I’m physically and
mentally shattered.”
Her case triggered a national debate about work practices and forced
the prime minister, Shinzō Abe, to
address a workplace culture that often
forces employees to put in long hours
to show their dedication, even if there
is little evidence it improves productivity. The government proposes to
cap monthly overtime at 100 hours
and impose penalties on companies
that let employees exceed the limit.
Dentsu was last week fined
500,000 yen ( $4,438) over Takahashi’s death. While the token fine
drew criticism, Takahashi’s lawyer,
Hiroshi Kawahito, described the ruling as a “historic” event.
“It is very meaningful that a
company has been punished,” the
in the bloodstream of patients,” says
Davies. “That is very, very disturbing.”
The creation of these antibioticladen waters and banks of drugsoaked soils is ideal for the development of “superbugs”. Rare strains
that are resistant to antibiotics start
to thrive in farm animals and emerge
as highly potent infectious agents that
then spread across the planet with
startling speed. Examples of these
include tuberculosis, which was once
easily treated but which, in its modern
multi-drug-resistant form, claims the
lives of 190,000 people a year.
Another even more revealing
example is provided by colistin.
“Colistin was developed in the 50s,”
says Matthew Avison, reader in molecular biology at Bristol University.
“However, its toxic side-effects made
it unpopular with doctors. So it was
taken up by vets and used in animals.
But as resistance – in humans – to other
antibiotics has spread, doctors have
returned to colistin on the grounds
that it was better than nothing.”
But the antibiotic’s widespread use
as a growth promoter for poultry and
pigs in Asia had – by this time – encouraged the evolution of resistant strains
and these have now spread to humans.
Bans on the agricultural use of antibiotics are being imposed in Asia but
have come far too late to be effective,
a problem acknowledged by Lord
Jim O’Neill, whose report to the UK
government on antimicrobial resistance was published last year. “When
we were putting our report together,
colistin resistance was considered to
be a problem that would not affect
In the Ganges during
pilgrimage season,
there are antibiotics
levels in the river that
we aim for in patients
Nikkei business newspaper reported
him as saying. “Dentsu’s crime has
been confirmed.”
In its first white paper on karoshi
last year, the government said one in
five employees were at risk of death
from overwork. More than 2,000 Japanese killed themselves due to workrelated stress in the year to March
2016, according to the government,
while dozens of others died from
heart attacks, strokes and other conditions brought on by spending too
much time at work.
According to the white paper, 22.7%
of companies polled between December 2015 and January 2016 said some
staff logged more than 80 hours of
overtime a month, the level at which
working hours start to pose a serious
risk to health. Research shows that
Japanese employees work significantly longer hours than their counterparts in the US, Britain and other
developed countries.
Japan’s employees used, on average, only 8.8 days of their annual leave
in 2015, less than half their allowance,
according to the health ministry. That
compares with 100% in Hong Kong
and 78% in Singapore.
In the UK the Samaritans can be
contacted on 116 123. In the US the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is
1-800-273-8255. In Australia the crisis
support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
Other international suicide helplines
can be found at
us for some time. Now we find it has
already spread all over the place.”
The report put forward proposals to
stop antibiotic resistance from overwhelming health services. In particular,
it argued that drug companies should
foot the bill for the development of new
antibiotics and that patients should not
be allowed to get them without a test to
ensure they are needed.
The proposal is popular, although
Professor Alastair Hay of Bristol University counsels caution. “It is a very
good idea, but … a new type of diagnostic test like this will also add time
and work for our already overburdened health service,” he points out.
Then there is the issue of travel, one
of the biggest problems we face over
the spread of antimicrobial resistance,
according to Davies.
Tourism, personal hygiene, farming, medical practice – all are affected
by the issue of antibiotic resistance,
and it will be the task of the conference to highlight the most effective
and speedy solutions to tackle the
crisis. Observer
14 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
Brexit angst at North Sea ports
In Belgium, concerns are
growing over the impact
of UK’s exit from the EU
Jennifer Rankin Zeebrugge
Gridlock at the border, vast motorway
car parks, jobs lost across the country:
British ports have been vocal about the
risks of a hard Brexit. But across the
North Sea, continental ports are also
worried about the great unknowns of
Brexit. One of the most exposed is the
Belgian port of Zeebrugge, which does
45% of its trade with the UK.
“We are vulnerable if something
happens to the trade from the UK
to the continent,” port chief executive
Joachim Coens said. “So what I mainly
hope is that we could continue having a
good trade relationship with the UK …
as we have been doing for centuries.”
The port’s UK traffic dropped 1% in
the month following the Brexit referendum, a sudden slip after months of
steady growth. More than one year on,
it has rallied but not quite returned to
the June 2016 peak.
Zeebrugge, (literally “Bruges on
Sea”), describes itself as a bridgehead
for the British economy. Every week
64 container ships and ferries leave
Zeebrugge bound for Tilbury, Tyne,
Sheerness, Southampton and other
UK ports, laden with goods for British
shops and warehouses. A daily ferry
still crosses from Zeebrugge to Hull,
with 800,000 passengers disembarking at the Belgian port each year.
This sprawling port complex on
Belgium’s coast is a hidden link in
Britain’s just-in-time, everythingon-demand economy. More than
1m cars go to and from the UK through
Zeebrugge. If a British supermarket in
Glasgow orders a pallet of washing-up
liquid from Zeebrugge’s distribution
hub before lunchtime, it will be at
the shop the next day. Every bottle
of Evian and Volvic water on British
shop shelves travels from France
via Zeebrugge.
In the worst-case scenario – of nodeal – the port would be hit by the
resumption of WTO tariffs – 10% on
cars to 25-30% on orange juice. This
kind of “fighting divorce” would be
“bad news for the port, but mainly
for our producers and exporters”, says
Coens. Around 5,000 jobs at the port
are linked to trade with the UK.
For the industry, the outlook can
appear as murky as an overcast day
on the North Sea. “Nobody knows
what Brexit will be, what will come
after it,” says Isabelle Ryckbost, the
Finance in brief
• Amazon has been told to
repay €250m ($293m) in illegal
state aid to Luxembourg, as
the EU continues its campaign
against sweetheart deals. The
European commission also
announced last Wednesday
that it planned to take the Irish
government to the European
court of justice over its failure
to collect €13bn in unpaid
taxes from Apple, in relation
to an earlier ruling. Margrethe
Vestager, the EU commissioner
in charge of competition,
said Luxembourg’s “illegal
tax advantages to Amazon”
had allowed almost threequarters of the company’s
profits to go untaxed.
Leader comment, page 22 →
Vital economic link … the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium Alamy
secretary general of the European Sea
Ports Organisation.
“What we know is that you will
have to reorganise your port to do
the border checks,” she says. “It is not
very clear how important these additional checks will be. Will there be
an agreement between a UK port and
an EU port to facilitate these checks?
Then you have phytosanitary checks
[on plants and plant products] – will
the legislation be different?”
Swirling in the choppy waters
is anxiety about the fortunes of
Flanders, Belgium’s largest and most
prosperous region. Belgium and the
Netherlands are among the countries
that will be hardest hit by Brexit,
with only a few others, including
Ireland, expected to do worse. A
recent study from the University of
Leuven found that Belgium could
lose 2.35% of GDP under a hard Brexit.
The researchers warned that the
impact on the EU27 had been underestimated, although the UK remained
the biggest loser. “Higher tariffs on
the UK are the last thing we want,”
the minister-president of Flanders,
Geert Bourgeois, has said, citing the
port of Zeebrugge and region’s exportdominated economy.
Zeebrugge is, however, less
concerned about the resumption
‘We are vulnerable
if something
happens to the
trade from the UK’
of customs checks – “I think we can
handle that,” says Coens.
Meanwhile, Zeebrugge is fasttracking the development of apps
and scanners to further reduce paperwork. It is developing a UK-specific
programme for every stage of the
logistics chain, which would allow
goods to clear customs, even when
lorries are far away from the port.
Coens also hopes Brexit will push
the UK government to do more to help
manage migrants. From an open port
10 years ago, Zeebrugge is now fenced
off, with advance police checks required to access certain areas.
“We are not doing a lot of controls –
public and private sector together – for
the Brits,” says Coens, saying he would
like to see the British government doing more, whether that means moving
the border back to the UK or getting
British officers on Belgian soil.
It was a message he passed on to the
EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier,
who paid a visit in July.
Coens is optimistic , citing Zeebrugge’s increasing traffic with Ireland, as well as countries further
afield, including Turkey and Iran. In
July, the first cargo train from China –
loaded with Daqing-made Volvo cars
– chugged into Zeebrugge, making it a
final stop on the silk road.
“Nothing c an really replace
the importance of the UK,” Coens
adds. “The Brits are going out of
the European Union, so it cannot be
the same as before … but if the Brits
had never been part … you would
want as the E U to have the best
agreement possible.”
• The US jobs market stalled
in September, losing 33,000
jobs, as Hurricanes Harvey
and Irma took their toll. It
was the first time in seven
years that the US monthly
total had recorded a fall. The
US economy had added an
average of 176,000 new jobs
a month this year but as the
labor department had predicted, the storms – which
caused severe damage in
Texas and Florida – slowed
hiring. The loss in jobs was far
worse than the 80,000 new
jobs most US economists had
expected would be created.
It ends the longest stretch of
uninterrupted jobs growth in
US history. This was the first
loss in jobs since 2010.
• A Seattle-area startup
backed by the venture capital
arms of Boeing and JetBlue
Airways has announced plans
to begin selling a hybridelectric commuter aircraft
by 2022. The small plane is
the first of several planned
by Zunum Aero, which said
it would seat up to 12 passengers and be powered by two
electric motors, dramatically
reducing the travel time and
cost of trips under 1,600km.
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Hong Kong
New Zealand
9 Oct
2 Oct
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 15
UK news
Kicker here
can ride
political here
sea change
Then a short
like this
→ Larry
Elliott, page
21 XX
Then Section
and Page
Axe old guard to advance new
stars, senior Tories tell May
Shake-up urged after a traumatic conference week for the PM and her party
Michael Savage and Toby Helm
Theresa May must appoint a new generation of MPs to top jobs to breathe
new life into the Conservative party
and rescue her premiership, donors,
ministers and grandees have warned.
Senior Tory figures said that, while
May has no long-term future as prime
minister, she can secure a legacy of
“restarting the party” by going ahead
with a bold but risky ministerial clearout in the coming weeks. The plan is
being widely supported by figures
opposed to a Boris Johnson takeover.
They believe May can deprive the foreign secretary of reaching No 10 by
staying in post and placing talented
younger MPs in the shop window.
The prime minister is being pressed
to trigger the shake-up immediately
after the latest round of Brexit talks
with EU leaders later this month.
Downing Street said any talk of an imminent reshuffle was “speculation”.
Party whips have told the prime
minister’s office there is significant
support for the move. It comes after
an attempt last week by former Tory
chairman Grant Shapps to garner support for May’s removal, and an Opinium poll for the Observer suggesting
the Conservatives are seen as more
divided than Labour for the first time
since Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership win. Almost half (47%) think the
Tories are divided, up from 40% before the party conferences, while 42%
think Labour is split, down from 48%.
Tory rebels have long been critical
of May, but were spurred into action
after her party conference speech last
Wednesday was marred by mishaps. A
prankster handed her a fake P45 (end
of employment) form, she struggled
to speak because of a cough and there
were problems with the backdrop as
letters fell off the wall. While many
Tory MPs sympathised with that, they
were alarmed by the lack of ideas from
senior figures. Others were concerned
by “Labour-lite” policies on council
housing and an energy price cap.
However, a major reshuffle is risky,
with some fearing those sacked will
help agitate for May’s early removal.
Allies of Johnson are confident he will
not be sacked or moved, believing his
interventions on Brexit have made
him impossible to shift.
Mishaps … Theresa
May’s conference
speech was spoilt by
a prankster, a cough
and falling backdrop
letters Main image:
Peter Byrne/PA
One major Tory backer said that an
immediate change of leadership was
“the last thing” most Conservatives
wanted. “If we can get some time to
find a completely new candidate like
we did with [David] Cameron, that
would easily be the most sensible
way to restart the party. She desperately needs a reshuffle to get some exposure to the public on who they are.
The recent intakes have been quite
good.” A senior minister also said May
should “be quite brutal”, moving out
several of the old guard, including
Johnson. A former cabinet minister
added: “[Later this month] we have
an important European council meeting. Perhaps immediately after that
she needs to have a proper reshuffle
and promote the young bloods, bring
them forward to see what they are
like. It shows confidence.”
Lord Heseltine, deputy prime minister to John Major, publicly urged
May to “go down fighting” and waste
no time in appointing a new generation of MPs, despite the dangers. “We
have a relatively short window until
the next election – I think two years,”
he said. “The idea that Mrs May can
lead us through Brexit and have a new
leader in time for the next election is
fanciful. She should create the opportunity for the party to choose not just a
different singer, but a different song.”
Among the modernisers looking for
a likely new leader there is admiration
for Amber Rudd, the home secretary,
but also lingering doubts about her
ability to lead when she has such a
precariously small majority in her
Hastings and Rye seat. Johnson and
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, are
seen as the most likely leaders should
Johnson disowns attacks by
‘friends’ on prime minister
Boris Johnson has urged his “socalled friends and allies” to stop
briefing newspapers against Theresa May, saying he does not know
who the people are, and insisting
they do not speak on his behalf.
The foreign secretary’s intervention, in a message to a WhatsApp
group of Conservative MPs, follows
an article in the Telegraph in which
unnamed backers of Johnson said
he might refuse to move if May
tries to demote him in a reshuffle.
One supposed ally told the paper
that moving Johnson would go
down “like a bucket of cold sick”
with pro-Brexit voters.
But in his message Johnson said
he did not support such briefings.
“Folks I have seen yet more stuff in
the Telegraph and the Sun purporting to come from so-called friends
and allies of mine,” the message
reportedly read. It added he was
“frankly fed up to the back teeth
with all this” and did not know if
the comments came from allies or
“some sinister band of imposters”.
It follows a Tory party conference before which Johnson wrote
a 4,000-word Brexit manifesto for
the Telegraph and told the Sun any
transition period for Brexit should
not last “a second more” than two
years. Peter Walker
May go early. While party whips were
sure Shapps did not have the support
of the 48 Tory MPs required to trigger
a leadership contest, May’s tenure is
far from safe. She now faces delicate
EU talks, a difficult budget and a cabinet clash over Britain’s future EU relationship – any of which could hasten
her departure.
Former prime minister John Major
was scathing about those agitating for
a change in Tory leadership behind
the scenes. Writing in the Daily Mail,
he said: “The country has had enough
of the self-absorbed and, frankly,
disloyal behaviour we have witnessed
over recent weeks. It is time for the
individuals concerned – both in parliament and in government – to focus
their minds instead on the needs of
the British people, rather than on their
own personal ambition.”
16 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
UK news
School built in nine weeks opens doors
Temporary site created
for students displaced
by Grenfell Tower fire
Sally Weale
On a former military parade ground
once used to exercise cavalry horses,
“the fastest school ever built” has
opened its doors to students displaced
by the fire at Grenfell Tower.
Until the terrible events of 14 June,
Kensington Aldridge Academy (KAA)
was a pristine £26m ($34m) school
with state-of-the-art facilities and
a bold new ethos. Its location at the
foot of the tower tied its fortunes to
the disaster, which left an estimated
80 people dead.
Today the original building is a
ghost school. It escaped serious damage but has remained out of bounds
since the fire. KAA’s 960 pupils now
have a brand new home just over a
mile away – a temporary school created out of portable, prefabricated
buildings and erected in nine weeks.
Dubbed KAA2, it is squeezed into a
site on the edge of an area of open land
known locally as the Scrubs. There
are two other schools within a stone’s
throw; the park, which also boasts the
Linford Christie outdoor sports centre and a model aircraft runway, leads
towards Wormwood Scrubs prison.
More than 200 workers from Portakabin and the construction company
Mace worked tirelessly to be ready to
open to pupils on 18 September.
There are none of the soaring atriums or capacious theatres of many
modern academies. In the Portakabins, however, are eight science
labs and two design and technology
workshops; there’s a food technology
room, two music rooms, two IT suites
with 30 computers in each, two libraries and two studios, one for drama and
one for dance. “It fully replicates the
curriculum structure of the original
school,” says KAA’s principal, David
Benson. “We made a commitment
to parents and students about the
courses we were going to offer and
the quality of the teaching, and we’ve
honoured the commitment.”
Many in the school were affected by
the fire – four KAA pupils and a fifth
who had recently left the school died –
but the school reopened just 48 hours
later, with pupils receiving lessons for
the final weeks of the summer term in
two neighbouring schools.
More remarkably, even as the fire
still burned through the tower, 56 KAA
students turned up on the morning of
14 June to sit their maths AS-levels in a
hastily rearranged exam hall.
“Quite quickly after the fire,”
says Benson, “our instincts were
that we need to bring the students
together so we can address what’s
happened, so we can start to lift their
spirits and refocus them on their
academic ambitions.”
The school’s impressive AS level results in August, which were KAA’s first
set of national exams, put the school
in the top 10% in terms of “valueadded”, with students getting on
average a grade higher than national
“We’ve just got on with things,” says
A-level student Harry Robbins. “We’re
not dwelling on the past. It’s showing
that the school has resilience. We’ve
come together and pushed forward.”
Grenfell Tower is expected to be
finally covered and the area made safe
by March but the school will wait until
next September to move back. “It will
be good to be home,” says Benson.
Ministers ‘refusing to pay
for fire safety measures’
Councils have said the government
is failing to release funds to
improve the fire safety of dozens
of tower blocks following the
Grenfell Tower disaster despite
promising that a lack of financial
resources should not stand in the
way of essential works.
Ministers have said building
owners are responsible for
funding safety measures, but
town hall leaders complain that
they are “washing their hands
of their responsibilities” and
are being “dismissive”, four
months after the blaze at the
Kensington tower block, which
claimed about 80 lives.
The government has said it
will consider help “where works
are essential”, but has so far
resisted bids for support to retrofit
sprinklers in towers despite the
London Fire Brigade (LFB) saying
this must happen.
Dany Cotton, commissioner
of the LFB, has said retrofitting
sprinklers in tower blocks “can’t
be optional, it can’t be a nice-tohave”. Since 2007 they have been
compulsory in new-build highrises over 30 metres tall in England,
but those building regulations do
not apply to older blocks.
The Department for Communities and Local Government argues
that an appropriate level of fire
safety can be achieved without the
need to retrofit sprinklers, and fitting them is a matter for landlords
to consider for themselves.
A recent study of 677 fires
where sprinklers were activated
found they controlled or
extinguished the fire in 99% of
cases. Robert Booth
Kensington Aldridge Academy’s temporary home Alicia Canter
Fall in rail journeys comes after decades of growth
Gwyn Topham
The number of rail passenger
journeys in Britain fell sharply in
spring this year, after two decades
of virtually constant growth since
privatisation. Analysts and industry
observers said the figures were concerning, while Labour said it raised
serious questions about the viability
of franchises.
Figures from the Office of Rail and
Road show that the total number
of journeys was 407.5m from April
through to the end of June, a decline
of 4.6% compared with the same
period last year. Journeys by passengers using season tickets fell by almost
13% year on year, with many switching
to advance purchase tickets.
The fall in
total journeys
between April
and June 2017,
compared with
the same period
last year
Commuter journeys in London and
the south-east fell by 6.5%, including
a drop of 8.8% on South West Trains
(now South Western Railway), 5.3%
on the troubled Govia Thameslink
Railway (owner of Southern rail),
7.4% on Southeastern and 16.9% on
London Overground.
The shadow transport secretary,
Andy McDonald, said: “This substantial fall in rail usage reflects passenger
frustration at the cost and inflexibility
of the ticketing system and direction
of the railway more broadly.”
Average fares have risen 27% since
2010, far faster than wages, while
another 3.6% rise is due in January.
McDonald added: “The decline in
patronage … raises serious questions
about the government’s rail franchising programme which is based on
ever-increasing rail patronage. I don’t
believe the current model can sustain
a downturn.” Industry sources said it
called into question the sums paid for
recent franchises. One said: “At a time
when firms have paid massive premiums, they have got to be worried.”
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 17
news Subject
UK news
Ivory trade Government extends ban to help end elephant poaching
The UK government has bowed to
campaigners and will ban the sale of
ivory regardless of age, according to
a new consultation.
The UK is the biggest exporter of
legal ivory in the world, and shutting
down the trade will help prevent
illegal ivory being laundered by
criminals. More than 50 elephants
are killed by poachers each day on
average and the population of African
elephants plunged by a third from
2007-14, leading to warnings that the
entire species could become extinct.
The international trade in ivory
has been illegal since 1990, but
currently the UK law allows trade
in “antiques” carved before 1947 or
items worked before 1990 that have
government certificates. In September 2016, the then environment
secretary, Andrea Leadsom, pledged
to ban the sale of items carved before
1990 but not before 1947, yet no progress was made on implementation.
The new ban, put forward last Friday by Leadsom’s successor, Michael
Gove, will prohibit the sale of pre1947 ivory. This comes as a surprise –
the Conservatives removed a pledge
on ivory from their 2017 general
election manifesto in June that had
been in the 2015 manifesto.
Gove said: “The decline in the
elephant population fuelled by
poaching for ivory shames our
generation. The need for radical and
robust action to protect one of the
world’s most iconic and treasured
species is beyond dispute.”
The government was put under
pressure by a wide range of campaign
groups and prominent individuals,
including the former Conservative
leader William Hague, the primatologist Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking
and Ricky Gervais. Within the Tory
party the foreign secretary, Boris
Johnson, and the former environment secretary, Owen Paterson, have
pressed for a complete ban.
The proposed ban does suggest
a number of exceptions for antique
ivory items, including musical
instruments, items of significant
cultural value and those containing
only a small amount of ivory, which
the government says do not contribute to the poaching of elephants.
The government’s move was
welcomed by John Stephenson at
the Stop Ivory group. “The unprecedented crisis we face – with Africa’s
natural heritage being destroyed
and communities put at risk due to
poaching by illegal armed gangs – will
only stop when people stop buying
ivory,” he said. Damian Carrington
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty
Scottish government outlaws fracking
Severin Carrell
The Scottish government has banned
fracking after a consultation found
overwhelming public opposition
and little economic justification for
the industry.
Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish
energy minister, told MSPs that
allowing fracking would undermine
the government’s ambitions to cut
carbon emissions, and would lead to
unjustifiable environmental damage.
Although Scotland needs natural gas
for heating and its chemical industries,
economists with KPMG had estimated
that allowing unconventional coal
and gas extraction to take place would
increase Scotland’s GDP by only about
0.1%, but would cause environmental
ruin in areas where it took place.
A public consultation on fracking attracted more than 65,000 responses,
with about 65% of those from communities in former coalmining areas of
central Scotland targeted by the fracking industry. Of those, 99% of respondents opposed it, Wheelhouse said.
It would cause “long-lasting negative impacts on communities”, he
said, damaging public health, the
environment and Scotland’s climate
goals. A longstanding moratorium
in Scotland on allowing planning
permission would be made permanent, Wheelhouse added, until Holyrood was given the powers to control
licensing of oil and gas exploration.
“We have a moral responsibility
to tackle climate change and an economic responsibility to prepare Scotland for new low-carbon opportunities,” he told the Scottish parliament.
Mary Church, the head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is a victory for the
environment and for local communities fighting fracking.”
The Scottish government’s decision will be put to a vote later this year.
It is expected to win comfortably.
News in brief
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and Page XX
• Wiltshire police investigated allegations of sex
attacks made by 40 individuals against Edward Heath and
concluded that, had the
former prime minister still
been alive, seven were serious
enough to merit questioning
him under caution. The earliest allegation dates back to
1956, when Heath was an
up-and-coming backbench
MP; the last to 1992 by which
time he would have been one
of the best-known political
figures in Britain, albeit one
whose premiership ended
in 1974. Of the seven alleged offences deemed most
credible by police, the victims
were five boys and two men.
• Sir John Major has called
for an urgent change of
tone from the Conservative
government, including a
review of universal credit,
which he described as “operationally messy, socially unfair
and unforgiving”. The former
prime minister said his party
needed to “show its heart
again, which is all too often
concealed by its financial
prudence”, if it hoped to fight
off a Labour resurgence in the
next general election.
• Britain’s biggest defence
contractor, BAE Systems, is
to cut nearly 2,000 jobs in a
huge blow to the UK manufacturing sector. The company,
which makes the Eurofighter
Typhoon jet and Britain’s nuclear submarines, said up to
1,400 jobs would go at its military, air and information business, along with a further 375
in maritime services and 150
at its applied intelligence business. BAE employs more than
83,000 people worldwide,
including 34,600 in the UK.
• Black, Asian and minority
ethnic people face a significant
jobs gap and pay a “penalty”
despite an increase in the
number obtaining degrees, a
study has shown. The proportion of working-age people
with degrees had increased
across all ethnic groups, from
12% in 1996-99 to 30% in 201417, according to the Resolution
Foundation, a leading thinktank. But it said there was a
long way to go before progress
on educational attainment
fully fed through to the labour
market, with graduates of all
BAME groups facing a jobs gap
compared with white people
with degrees.
18 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
will not
give up
their guns
Gary Younge
The United States needs
new laws to regulate
firearms. But first it must
shed the myths that
sustain its reliance on
such deadly weapons
round 3.30am on 23 November 2013 a
stray bullet shattered the window of
an apartment in Indianapolis where a
couple watched television while their
two-month-old baby slept. The man
called 911, with panic in his voice. “I
need to get out of here,” he told the
dispatcher. “Can you get a car so I can get out of here?”
“I think there’s several officers already over there,”
the dispatcher replied, calmly. The 911 recordings reveal
the man breathing heavily as he talks to his partner.
“Put the stuff in the baby bag. Find it tomorrow. We’ll
carry it to a hotel.” He urges the dispatcher to hurry up
and rescue them until she loses her patience. “They’ll be
there as soon as they can, all right?” she says. “As. Soon.
As. They. Can. OK? Just stay inside your apartment. Do
not go out. We’ll get an officer to you.”
Four months later, in the same city, the country’s
main gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, held its
annual convention with the slogan “Stand and Fight”.
In a speech demagogic and apocalyptic, the CEO, Wayne
LaPierre, evoked a nation in peril. “There are terrorists
and home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and
knockout gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers,
airport killers … I ask you: do you trust the government
to protect you? We are on our own … The things we care
about most are changing … It’s why more and more
Americans are buying firearms and ammunition.”
The horrific incident in Las Vegas was the 273rd mass
shooting in America this year. The enduring question
of why America continues to maintain such lax gun
laws when such atrocities are so commonplace can be
answered by this frightened man’s call and LaPierre’s
dystopian response. The connection goes beyond the
weapon itself to some of the country’s most cherished
myths and pervasive pathologies. When the national
narrative is a story of conquering, dominating, force
and power, an atavistic attachment to the gun can have
more pull than a rational case against it.
In a society that fetishises self-reliance, the gun
speaks to rugged individualism – each person should
be responsible for saving themselves. In a political
culture that favours small government, the gun stands
as a counterpoint to a lumbering and inefficient state
– defend yourself, because by the time the police get
there you’ll be dead. It underpins a certain sense of
masculinity and homestead – a real man should be able
to protect his family and home. The dispatcher told him
Most people who are
killed by guns kill
themselves. People
who have a gun in
the house are far more
likely to be shot dead
Gary Kempston
to sit and wait; the NRA told him to stand and fight.
These claims for the gun are of course nonsense.
Most people who are killed by guns kill themselves.
People who have a gun in the house are far more likely
to be shot dead than those who don’t. If more guns really made you safer, America would be one of the safest
places in the world.
It would be easy to blame all of this on the NRA. The
gun lobby has been central to stonewalling even the
most basic commonsense reforms. Its capacity to lobby
and fund politicians, locally and nationally, is unparalleled. It is because of the NRA that people on the no-fly
list can still buy guns and there is no government funding for research into how to prevent gun deaths.
Yet while the NRA should not be underestimated, its
role should not be exaggerated either. Even as it wins
votes in Congress a consistent majority of Americans
polled this year believe gun laws should be more strict,
that it’s too easy to buy a gun and that if more people
carried guns America would be less safe. The NRA has
far more power in the polity than influence outside it.
But it has been able to tap into many of the core
themes of the American narrative in a way that guncontrol advocates have not. There is nothing inevitable
about this. When a gunman shot children in Dunblane
in 1996 Britain tightened its gun laws; when a shooter
ran amok in Port Arthur that same year Australia did the
same. That’s what mature and responsive democracies
do. But in America, appeals to freedom, masculinity,
small government and individualism, even when they
are flawed, have more purchase than arguments for
weapons bans, even when those arguments are right.
he problem goes all the way to the top.
With the largest military in the world by
far, raw power was a central tenet of American foreign policy before Trump promised
to unleash “fire and fury” on Kim Jong-un.
When accused of abdicating America’s role
on the world stage, Barack Obama (who
had a “kill list”) responded like a mafia don. “Well, Muammar Gaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment,” he said. “Or at least if he was around, he wouldn’t
agree with that assessment.”
At home the gun is invoked as a cornerstone of America’s founding story and a safeguard against tyranny.
“It’s about independence and freedom,” David Britt, a
gun owner, said to me at the NRA convention in 2012.
“When you have a democratic system and an honourable people then you trust your citizens … In Europe they
cede their rights and freedoms to their governments.
But we think government should be subservient to us.”
These myths are, of course, partial. In a nation that
became possible through genocide and slavery, the gun
was central to a particular notion of racial power. If gun
enthusiasts were concerned about state tyranny, they
would have been marching alongside Black Lives Matter
demonstrators protesting police shootings and calling
for the mass armament of poor, black neighbourhoods.
That’s not the kind of tyranny they object to.
But the myths are also powerful. What the gun lobby
lacks in breadth of support it makes up for in depth of
commitment. In 2013 – after the Sandy Hook shootings –
gun advocates were far more likely to have contributed
money to a pro-gun group or contacted a public official
about guns than those who support gun control. Guncontrol advocates, for the most part, want to change
laws. Gun-rights advocates, by and large, believe they
are preserving “essential truths” that make the country
what it is. They have proved themselves more motivated because long after those distressing scenes from
Vegas are a memory, these myths will remain vivid.
Americans need new gun laws. But in order to get
them they will have to start telling themselves a new
story about the country. Their lives depend on it.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 19
In Europe, history’s wounds have not healed
Natalie Nougayrède
In Catalonia and the former East
Germany, the shadow of 20th-century
traumas still falls on EU citizens, and
blights the future of the continent
istory is back in Europe. The Catalan referendum and the German election illustrate this spectacularly. The scale of the
far-right vote in what was once East Germany and Catalonia’s apparent march towards independence may look like they
happened on separate planets, but they
both have to do with pent-up frustrations. Citizens who
feel that they have been insulted have gone to the ballot
box, and in some cases taken to the streets, to protest. In
both situations there is a vivid historical backdrop, with
memories of Europe’s 20th-century nightmares playing
an important role: in Catalonia, the fight against fascism
and Franco; in the east of Germany, the experiences of
Nazism and Soviet communism.
In Leipzig and the nearby small town of Grimma, I
was told about how citizens felt their self-esteem had
been trampled on. German reunification has not led to
a shared sense of community. Rather, it’s compared to
colonisation: “westerners” took over everything – regional administrations, courts, education and the economy. Everything about life in the Communist state – the
way people dressed, what they ate, what they learned
in school, how they decorated their homes, what they
watched on TV – became an object of scorn. It’s not
that life isn’t better now. There is freedom. And living
standards have improved immensely. But many eastern
Germans feel their identity has somehow been negated,
as if they were being asked to forget about it.
Speaking with Catalan friends in recent days, I heard
similar qualms: “We were waiting for a sign that our
voice would be heard, but as the years passed nothing
was changing” … “Our cultural difference isn’t being acknowledged as it should be”. These were common sentiments, even from people not altogether enthusiastic
about breaking away from Spain.
Identity isn’t just about power, rights and institutions. Former East Germans aren’t asking for secession,
nor a special status. Catalonia is deeply divided on the
question of independence. Nor can identity be boiled
down to purely economic factors – wages, income, jobs,
social class. It’s true that regions covering the former
East Germany have higher unemployment (7.1%) than
western ones (5.1%), but the malaise reflected in the
east German far-right vote went beyond material circumstances. Catalonia’s economy has thrived in recent
decades – that hasn’t prevented protests.
A generation has passed since German reunification
in 1990; and Spain joined the European club in 1986. It’s
hard to exaggerate the benefits. Anyone who visits Leipzig, with its beautifully restored facades and the modern
architecture of its university, will struggle to spot traces
of the poverty that once characterised eastern Europe.
Catalonia’s transformation has also been stunning.
I have spent many summers in the Pyrenees, crossing
into Spain from France. And over the years I have seen
roads improved, hotels built and prosperity spread – a
region shedding the drabness left by the Franco years.
The 1992 Barcelona Olympics celebrated that success.
Andrzej Krauze
Yet these accomplishments don’t necessarily translate into people’s minds. The European project is built
on the idea that economic ties and social improvement
bring people together and help them overcome the
traumas of history. In recent years, much has been said
about how nationalism, populism and anti-establishment sentiment are a response to globalisation and
inequality. Less has been said about a more specifically
European ingredient: the shadow cast by 20th-century
traumas born of war and totalitarianism, and the difficulty – which still persists – of dealing with that legacy.
It is history that sets
continental Europe’s
populist convulsions
apart from the forces
that have driven
Brexit and Trump
t is this history that sets continental Europe’s populist convulsions apart from the forces that have
driven Brexit and Trump. Britain and the United
States never experienced life under fascism or behind a version of the iron curtain. Across Europe,
populism and extremism, whether of left or right,
plunges its roots into 20th-century political battles
and references. Catalan nationalism, I think, is different
from Scottish nationalism in this way also: it can quickly
reignite memories of oppression still vivid within families – stories of life and death in one’s own country.
When crowds in Barcelona start singing old songs of
resistance against the Franco regime, history is back.
It is also back when 22.5% of voters in the former East
Germany cast their ballots for a party – Alternative für
Deutschland – whose platform rejects everything Germany’s western-built democracy has stood for.
Last month’s German election was a clear demonstration that the Wall has survived in people’s minds. Germany and Spain today find themselves confronted by
ghosts of the past – not just to do with problems related
to social cohesion and integration, or how to preserve
a constitutional order. Yes, politicians exploit polarisation. But it is striking to see how, over a generation after
democracy was anchored in countries that had experienced the worst of the 20th century, so many citizens
feel that so much has still been left unaddressed.
Isaiah Berlin once wrote that nationalism feeds on a
sense of wounded pride. As Europe tries to sort itself out
and prepare for the future, it would do well to pay closer
attention to those wounds left by history. We thought
that they had healed – but they really haven’t.
20 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
appeal has
worn thin
Gabriel Bristow
Bill Bragg
Despite careful image
management, France’s
youngest president
looks like the old guard
after just six months
as his ratings plummet
mmanuel Macron has been called a saviour:
of Europe, of liberalism and indeed of “progressives” the world over. The hallmarks of
his campaign have been well documented:
an insurgency from the centre-ground, a
party built from scratch that managed to
win a sweeping majority and a slick communications strategy to consolidate a polished image.
But the “saviour” image he has conjured among neoliberal centrists the world over is one-dimensional. The
dimension missing from this account is crucial: namely,
the way in which Macron’s domestic image has changed
since becoming president – both because of, and in spite
of, his calculated communications strategy.
His victory marked an abrupt turning point. Gone
were the chummy interviews with journalists and the
down-to-earth friendliness of the campaign trail –
President Macron’s inauguration was marked by an icy,
authoritative look that was here to stay.
This new image is what Macron himself has described
as the “Jupiter” model. Keen to mark himself out from
his predecessor François Hollande, Macron’s communication team opted for Jupiter, the Roman sky god, as the
symbol of the new president’s style: all-powerful, aloof,
removed from the daily cut-and-thrust of politics.
The aim, according to the president himself, is none
other than to found “a new form of democratic authority” based on a “universe of symbols” that can stand in
for France’s traumatic loss of a monarchic head of state.
Key messages are diffused via carefully staged setpieces in which Macron refuses to answer any journalistic questions outside the topic of the day – which is,
of course, the topic of his choice. Access to the Élysée
and interviews are meted out sparingly. Lengthy communication is kept to a minimum – an image, so the
cliche goes, is worth a thousand words. Hence tweets
of the strapping young president being winched from a
helicopter on to a nuclear submarine or the seemingly
never-ending handshake with Donald Trump.
Despite this supposedly fresh Jupiterian branding,
such micro-managed communication is nothing new.
It places Macron in a long line of dashing saviours of
late capitalism: from Tony Blair to Barack Obama, both
of whom controlled their image to the letter. And yet,
much has changed in politics. In an era of social media,
as argued by sociologist William Davies, politicians cannot control their images with such precision.
Rather than diffusing their messages through staged
set-pieces, they are subjected to a constant scrutiny online. In such an environment authenticity rules. Figures
such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn (and Trump,
in a markedly different way), who have long, welldocumented histories of campaigning for social justice,
emerge victorious. Robotic performers are exposed.
Macron’s careful presentation is indeed wearing thin.
His defiance in the face of opposition to his neoliberal
labour law reforms – manifested most jarringly in his
live televised signing of the executive orders to push
these reforms through – looks at best anachronistic,
at worst arrogant. The desire to be seen as a serious
reformer cannot hold under the weight of contradiction contained in simultaneous cuts to public spending
and plans to scrap a tax on the assets of the wealthiest
350,000 households, worth €5bn ($5.8bn) a year.
It took six years for Blair to lose the sheen of youthful
popularity. It has taken Macron less than six months:
his approval rating dropping more steeply than any
French president since Jacques Chirac in 1995. Clearly,
the established truths of spin doctor wizardry no
longer hold, leaving France’s youngest president
already looking like the old guard.
Gabriel Bristow is an activist and writer based in Paris
More at
Opinion In brief
Why have job titles become so complicated?
I can’t let it go: Disney has gone too far
The BBC has decided to slim its profusion of elaborate job titles, to close
the gap between the thesaurusstretching array that currently exists
and everyday reality.
The Daily Mail took some pleasure in holding up some of the present labels to ridicule. It’s fair to say
most of us would struggle to describe what an “identity architect”
is. The same might be said of “service desk subject matter expert” or
“thematic research manager”.
It might be comforting to believe
that we should be able to get by with
a much smaller and simpler list of
job titles. But modish and baffling
job titles emerge in part because the
world is changing. Jobs are not all
the same as they used to be. Some
new titles are going to be needed.
The UK civil service is filled
with “permanent secretaries”,
“principal private secretaries”
My two-year-old twins came back
from pre-school last week singing
the chorus to Let it Go. For those
fortunate enough not to know, Let
it Go is the torch song at the heart of
Frozen, the Disney movie of 2013.
I was taken aback. The TV rules
are pretty relaxed in my house. I
don’t set quotas, nor do I fret about
the quality of what they watch, as
long as it is roughly age-appropriate.
But after they begged me to load
the video for Let it Go on YouTube,
I found myself having a very un-fun
parental reaction.
I’ve seen the film before, but that
was before I had kids, and while it
struck me as annoying at the time
– the nakedness of its drive to be
considered uplifting is as grim and
depressing as that tone always is – I
didn’t think much about its presentation of women. Now, in my living
room, I have two avid two-year-olds
and so on. “Do they all type?”
Jim Hacker once asked in the TV
political satire Yes Minister. “No,”
Sir Humphrey replied. “Mrs McKylie
types. She’s the secretary.”
In one job I had the words “director of strategy” on my business card,
although I can’t honestly say I was
very strategic during that time, or
displayed a particularly strong sense
of direction. I am now, among other
things, a “visiting professor”. I do at
least visit quite regularly.
What people do is more important than what they are called. So
we should probably all lighten up
a bit about job titles. The crucial
thing is to be able to understand
what someone does without referring to a dictionary. And if you don’t
take my word for it, write in and
complain to the customer interface
(content) lead curator (comment
zone). Stefan Stern
trying to climb into the television to
get nearer to Elsa.
And what on earth is Elsa doing in
the Let it Go scene? She’s dancing in
the snow, complaining of how hard
it is to conceal her inner self. She
climbs the mountain. She sets up the
ice palace. Then she raises her tiny,
heart-shaped face to the heavens
and bellows out the climax of the
song, a moment of self-actualisation
that the animators represent by having her bust her out of her dowdy
village clothes and into … an evening gown, with a slit up the side all
the way to her thigh and a bridal-like
train dragging behind her. Meanwhile, the boys are watching dogs in
hats rescue puppies on Paw Patrol.
I think banning things often
backfires, but in this case I don’t care
how much they complain: no one
is going to Halloween as Elsa.
Emma Brockes
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 21
In praise of …
centrist dads
Prime minister Theresa May’s ill-fated conference speech had some Tories calling for her removal
Labour can
now seize
its moment
Larry Elliott
Britain is experiencing
a once-in-a-generation
political sea change,
and the Tories know
it only too well
im Callaghan would have had some sympathy
for Theresa May. Back in 1979 when Margaret
Thatcher was on the brink of power, the Labour
prime minister summed up what it was like to
feel authority slipping away. “There are times,
perhaps once every 30 years, when there is a sea
change in politics,” Callaghan said. “It then does
not matter what you say or what you do. There is a shift
in what the public wants and what it approves of.”
This was not the parallel with the late 1970s that the
Conservatives were hoping the public would recognise.
Indeed, all the old favourite tunes were sung lustily at
their conference: runaway inflation, overmighty union
barons, the run on the pound, the bailout from the
International Monetary Fund and of course the Winter
of Discontent. Speaker after speaker warned voters of
what would await them should they be daft enough to
elect Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.
Much to the horror of Tory ministers, as they sought
to conjure up memories of a dystopian 1970s, however,
Corbyn seems to better articulate the new mood than
they do. The attacks on Labour, coupled with the
cherrypicking of some of the opposition’s policies – from
building more council houses to a cap on energy prices
– were a compliment to Corbyn, who is taken far more
seriously by the Tories than he was before the general
election. In Brighton, the mood was upbeat. By contrast,
the Conservatives in Manchester acted as if they had
lost. Which, in an important sense, they have.
The free-market thinktank Legatum published the
result of a poll testing public attitudes, and was horrified
to find that voters – including Conservative supporters –
strongly support nationalisation of rail, water, electricity
and gas. When the preferred adjectives to describe
capitalism are “greedy”, “selfish” and “corrupt”, it is
easy to see why Legatum concludes that the capitalist
brand is in crisis. Against that backdrop, branding
Corbyn a 1970s Marxist throwback or banging on about
his support for Venezuela is not going to cut it.
Historically, there is nothing surprising about the
current discontent. There have been three colossal
You may have heard the term “centrist dad” lately as it crests on the
wave of mainstream exposure. Baffled by the ascent of Jeremy Corbyn,
centrist dad’s tone is that of a bitterly disappointed parent lecturing
his children on their political failings. The most notable thing about
the centrist dad, other than the fact
that a large part of his prefrontal cortex remains in 1997, is that he also
shows himself to be condescending.
This man is forever on the internet
telling people, particularly young
women, that they are wrong.
But be warned: centrist dads
bruise easily. And right now, they are
hurting. A cult has taken over their
Labour party, and they may never
regain control. The pain of seeing
the neoliberalism they so lovingly
embraced rejected by the younger
generation is making them crabby.
But forgive the centrist dad, for they
know not what they do. And, as the
left knows only too well, it’s mighty
chilly and lonely out there in the
wilderness. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
economic shocks in the past 100 years, and each has led
to a political shift. Postwar welfare states in the UK and
elsewhere were the result of the Great Depression. The
privatisation and liberalisation agenda of the new right
emerged from the wreckage of social democracy, overwhelmed by inflation in the mid-1970s. Then in 2008
global capitalism had its near-death experience, and
only survived because governments used taxpayers’
money to bail out the banks. The failings of a model
built around deregulation, debt and a shift in economic
power from labour to capital were brutally exposed.
The final piece of the jigsaw was provided by Brexit.
Had the vote gone the other way in June 2016, Cameron
would still be prime minister, the Conservative party
would have remained united and the fundamental
weaknesses of the UK economy could have been
papered over for a little longer. As it is, the referendum
vote has done Labour an enormous political favour by
unleashing resentment at a rigged economic system.
Brexit will also mean facing up to the long-term
problems of the economy: a chronic balance-of-payments
deficit, the concentration of growth in one corner of
the country, the dearth of investment and a growing
productivity gap with other developed countries.
There are parallels with the events of 25 years ago,
when Britain crashed out of the exchange rate mechanism
on Black Wednesday. The ill-fated experiment lasted
only two years and resulted in a scramble to fill the policy
vacuum. Filling the current vacuum is not going to be
easy because the financial crisis and Brexit have shattered
the assumptions on which UK economic management
was based: that free markets always deliver, and that
Britain’s future was as part of the EU. Both left and right
face the challenge of how to fill the void.
Labour’s response to Black Wednesday was to move
to the right under Tony Blair, symbolically ditching
nationalisation and accepting the disciplines of the
global market. Corbyn has moved to the left, confident
that this is a once-in-a-generation moment when the
country is ready for radical ideas. The Tories, judging by
the way they are behaving, think he is on to something.
22 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
The Balkans
Hold out a helping hand
The European Union’s task of enlargement
remains starkly incomplete: the bloc’s southeastern flank is largely in limbo. Almost 20
years after the Balkan wars ended, there’s a
gaping hole on the map, bounded by members including Croatia, Romania and Greece.
In 2015 the refugee crisis exposed how swiftly
nationalist passions could return to the region.
As hundreds of thousands of people trekked
northwards, volunteers helped provide food
and clothing to desolate refugees. But tensions flared among governments, and troops
were even deployed at some borders. Two
years on, the Balkan route is mostly closed,
but the region’s problems are still vivid.
The question of how to stabilise the Balkans,
anchor democracy there, and bring the region
closer to EU institutions remains an immense
challenge, given insufficient attention. Balkan civil society activists are increasingly
concerned about unemployment, corruption
and a brain drain as young, educated people
leave for jobs elsewhere in Europe. They say
it is crucial to reboot the prospect of EU membership for Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania
and Montenegro, to encourage much-needed
reforms. They are right. The Balkans matter
to Europe not just because of the migration
issue, but also for energy routes, security and
the fight against organised crime. Little has
been done to address underlying problems.
The good news is that awareness of this
seems to be growing. The president of the
European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker,
said recently that, if the EU wants to ensure
more stability in its own neighbourhood,
“then it must maintain a credible enlargement
perspective for the western Balkans”. In 2018
the UK is due to host a special summit on the
western Balkans – an initiative presented by
the government as evidence that “Britain is
leaving the EU but not Europe”.
For the Balkans question is as much about
broader international competition as it
is about values. The EU is confronted with
strong competition from external powers
seeking to secure footholds on its doorstep
and capitalise on the region’s weaknesses.
Russia plays on Orthodox and Slavic ties,
and Turkey seeks to promote a “neo-Ottoman” vision. But more distant actors, including China and Saudi Arabia, are increasingly active. One civil society activist in
Belgrade describes this as “an unbelievable
geopolitical game that would have been unimaginable in 1989”, when the communist
bloc started crumbling.
As the EU speaks of reinvigorating its
60-year-old project, it needs to build a stable
regional architecture for the Balkans. More
EU funds should be directed towards the
region as enticement.
Churchill once said that “the Balkans produce more history than they can consume”.
If left unaddressed, bad governance and old
feuds could backfire on everyone.
Taxing the digital economy
Crunch time
The EU’s faltering progress towards a common system of taxing the huge revenues of
the new digital giants lurched forward last
week as Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition, declared that
Amazon had received unfair state aid from
Luxembourg through its tax arrangements
and demanded that it pay €250m ($293m)
in back taxes. At the same time Ms Vestager
announced that the European commission
would haul Ireland up before the European
court of justice for its failure to demand €13bn
of unpaid tax from Apple.
The two events illustrate the gulf between
the commission, together with some of the
EU’s largest economies, and smaller members
such as Ireland, Luxembourg and the Baltic
state of Estonia, which hosted a summit on
the digital economy recently. Both Ireland and
Luxembourg defend their tax arrangements.
Ireland in particular welcomes the thousands
of good jobs that the tech giants bring and has
no desire to find ways of extracting more tax
from them in case it drives them away. The
Irish government also insists that taxation is
a sovereign matter, not for EU interference.
Others are under pressure from voters who
are outraged that any company can make so
much profit in their country and pay so little
tax on it. Revenue from Facebook’s UK operations, it has emerged, nearly quadrupled last
year to £842m ($1.1bn); its corporation tax bill
crept up from £4.2m to £5.1m.
The US inland revenue service is also keen
to find transparent ways of taxing the new
digital economy, and is watching jealously as
the European commission draws up its plans,
suspicious of any move that might be used
by the tech giants to offset their US tax bills.
Already companies such as Google and Amazon hold billions of dollars in offshore funds,
where they are out of reach of the taxman. The
US defensiveness about its own tax revenues
points to the need for a global rather than a
merely European solution to the question of
how to tax the digital economy.
Why don’t women
win more Nobel
prizes for science?
Hannah Devlin
All the science recognised in last
week’s Nobel prizes is awe-inspiring
(see Discovery, page 33). So it seems
almost churlish to point out that
this year has seen yet another glory
parade of “stale white males”. The
science speaks for itself – does it
really matter who did it?
Perhaps if this were a one-off, it
would be easier to shrug and move
on. But the last time a woman won
a Nobel prize for science was in 2015
when Tu Youyou was recognised for
discoveries that led to a treatment
for malaria. And you have to go back
a full 54 years to find the last female
Nobel laureate in physics.
This scarcity of women is often
put down to the time lag between
work being carried out and being
rewarded with the highest accolade
in science. The awards, it is argued,
reflect the makeup of academic
institutions way-back-when.
Others argue that the awards
purely aim to recognise outstanding
science – whoever happens to
have done it. However, the Nobels
are not handed out by a divine
authority, but by a group of people.
The choice is always subjective,
there are always politics at play
and there is little to guard against
bias or lobbying.
The decision to reward the physics prize to an American trio whose
careers had been devoted to fruit
fly research – a field that Sarah
Palin once singled out for criticism
– was seen as a subtle rebuke to the
current US administration for its
assault on basic science funding.
This quiet nod to politics was widely
celebrated by scientists.
This year’s Nobel prizes shine
a light on incredible scientific
achievements, ones that are bound
to inspire a new generation of scientists, regardless of gender or race.
And the importance of role models
can be overstated – as British physicist Athene Donald told me recently:
“We don’t all want to be Marie
Curie.” But when, year after year, the
demographic of winners perpetuates an entrenched stereotype of old
white men being the only heroes in
science, it seems reasonable to ask
whether this is really the image the
Nobel committee wishes to project.
Hannah Devlin is the Guardian’s
science correspondent
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 23
At last we have an account of the
effects of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that does not
dwell on the subsequent nuclear
accident at Fukushima but instead
focuses on the tragedy of lives lost
(The school beneath the raging
wave, 29 September). The story
is heartbreaking in its description of how the children of Okawa
elementary school died in the
tsunami and tells how the local authorities were heavily criticised for
failing to protect the schoolchildren
and were penalised in a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Tepco, the owners
of the nuclear plant, continue to
be criticised for having a sea wall
that was too small to stop the
“raging wave” and safety systems
that were inadequate to prevent the
release of radioactivity.
Still, no one died at Fukushima,
and the damage and personal loss
the accident have caused look insignificant besides the 18,000 or so
people who died from the tsunami,
all no doubt having tragic stories of
their own. Why, then, do the inadequate sea walls and poor warning
systems at those inundated coastal
communities excite so much less attention than the nuclear plant? Why
do we agitate for plants around the
world to be shut down because of
the dangers from tsunamis, however
unlikely, yet neglect to push for sea
walls to be built? Why do we never
seem able to balance the risks?
Derek Lister
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
Stop worshipping Apple
I’ve read some unusual articles
in the Guardian Weekly over the
years, but not one as unusual as
that by John Harris about Apple,
committing heresy as an iPhone
user, by admitting that Apple devices might not always be perfect
(22 September).
I have always thought of Apple
owners (who include close friends
and my partner) as belonging to
some quasi-religious cult, with their
deity Steve Jobs, who laid down the
original gospel for Apple worshippers. Their creed that Apple is the
greatest manifestation of digital
Letters for publication
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Way, London N1 9GU, United Kingdom
Gary Kemptston
The tragedy of the tsunami
and gardens, playing the piano, listening to the BBC, meditating, tending the garden and speaking to hundreds of supporters over the fence: it
sounded like a retreat to me.
I recall reading of the “deprivation” she suffered as the old house
she lived in could not be repaired,
while countless democracy campaigners in that benighted land suffered horrendous torture and years
of solitary confinement in abysmal
conditions in Insein prison. What
happened to those poor folk?
Richard Abram
Marrickville, NSW, Australia
We must rescue the UN
technology, and that their products
should be worshipped, is absolutely
unaffected by the fact that Apple is
among the biggest tax avoiders in
the US and Steve Jobs was no philanthropist like Bill Gates.
Yes, there are other huge IT companies that avoid tax but not at the
same scale as Apple, thus depriving
many nations of revenue that could
be put to good social use. Even those
who maintain the highest moral
code by being vegetarians or social
activists are in thrall to the cult of
Apple. John Harris, join the rest of
us who refuse to be iSheep.
Nigel Hungerford
Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
• It was with commiseration, not
schadenfreude, that I smiled reading John Harris’s critique of Apple’s
latest iPhone. For many years my
kids have cheerfully regarded me as
an idiot (I entered my dotage in my
40s) because of my frustration about
and incompetence with iPhones.
The photo of Harris accompanying
his column shows he is about the
same age as my kids, making me
smilingly confident that they too
will soon join the Apple Frustration
Club. Commiseration, with a twist of
“Now you know what it feels like”.
Bob Walsh
Wilton, Connecticut, US
Many suffered in Myanmar
In discussing human rights in
Myanmar, I never understood the
sole focus on Aung San Suu Kyi
(George Monbiot, 15 September). Under house arrest in her palatial home
To contact the editor directly:
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We need to go beyond “cherishing”
the United Nations, as your leader
column suggests (29 September).
When we cherish things we tend to
put them on a pedestal, tie them up
with ribbon or stick them in a display cabinet. The UN demands a far
more radical kind of love.
We as global citizens have allowed
hubristic politicians to manipulate
the UN so that its fundamental
purpose, to engender and maintain
peace through cooperation, is all but
emasculated. We need to find a way
of renewing its mission, enabling it to
rid itself of ideological posturing that
has become the norm and of which
Donald Trump is just one example.
Which countries will have the
courage to challenge the status quo
to ensure that everyone can thrive in
an eternally uncertain future?
Neil Blackshaw
Barbizon, France
• “A decade ago … the worst
recession in living memory”, says
your short piece about the US
Federal Reserve (Finance, 29 September). Excuse me, whose “living
memory”? Though your young
writers may not believe it, I and
many others born in the 1920s are
still living and still have memories
of something worse: the Great Depression of the 1930s, memories that
include homeless and jobless men
knocking at the back door to beg our
mothers for something to eat.
Patricia Clarke
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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From the archive
13 October 1972
Students jeer and
shout at Queen
The Queen was heckled and jeered
by students and had to be protected
by Special Branch detectives and police during a visit to Stirling University yesterday. It was probably the
most hostile and rowdy reception
she has ever experienced in Britain.
There was, however, a substantial
counter-demonstration by other students who cheered the royal party
and waved “welcome” placards.
Sir Derek Lang, university secretary, said he understood the Queen
was not unduly distressed, and left
the university “laughing and having
enjoyed herself immensely.”
During the early part of her visit,
the Queen unveiled a plaque in the
university’s Queen’s Court and went
to lunch with the Principal, Professor Tom Cottrell. But, when she
started to tour the campus she was
met by a crowd of about 400. The
entourage and police cordon were
jostled as students waved their fists,
chanted “Queen out,” shouted obscenities, and sang ribald songs.
A police spokesman in Stirling described the conduct of the demonstrators as “disgusting,” and said he
was appalled at the lack of control
shown by the University authorities.
The whole affair was “nasty” and
the police had difficulty in getting
the Queen’s car away at the end.
One student said the protest was
made over the expense of the visit.
The administration had ignored
students’ welfare while planning
the visit and the cost – officially
£1,200 though there were rumours
that it would be between £7,500 and
£15,000 – could have been better
spent on books and equipment.
Sir Derek said: “The Palace reaction to the visit is that the Queen
had a very interesting and very good
day, and she was not unduly distressed.” John Kerr
Corrections and
• A leader article on 6 October
stated that 2 Sisters Food Group processes 6m chickens a year. The correct figure, as reported in that edition’s news coverage, is 6m a week.
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 13.10.17
A stockbreeder in the highlands of Van, Turkey, takes a break from herding sheep to check his phone. Stockbreeders take their animals to high altitudes every year to try to find better grassland
Dead fish are collected from Hyderabad’s Gandi lake. Authorities said 75% of the lake’s fish died
after chemicals were released from an industrial estate during heavy rains Noah Seelam/Getty
Angela Merkel arrives at Christian Democratic Union party headquarters in Berlin. As she begins
coalition building, the German chancellor has agreed to a cap on migrants Kay Nietfeld/DPA/AP
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 25
d; their journeys home can take up to 45 days Ozkan Bilgin/Getty
A visitor to London’s Frieze art fair in Regent’s Park, an annual shopfront for contemporary
art that is also regarded as a major cultural event Nick Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock
A plane passes in front of a harvest moon – the full moon closest to the northern hemisphere
autumnal equinox – above Golfe-Juan, France Lionel Urman/Rex/Shutterstock
Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of McLaren-Honda in practice for last Sunday’s
Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, where he finished 11th overall Diego Azubel/EPA
26 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
‘Sleep should
be prescribed’
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker has
spent his life’s work researching how
sleep loss increases our risk of cancer
and Alzheimer’s. Rachel Cooke
finds out what we can do about it
atthew Walker has learned to
dread the question “What do
you do?” At parties, it signals
the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will
inevitably cling to him like ivy.
On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will
find himself running an hours-long salon for the
benefit of passengers and crew alike. “I’ve begun
to lie,” he says. “Seriously. I just tell people I’m a
dolphin trainer. It’s better for everyone.”
Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is
the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science
at the University of California, Berkeley, a research
institute whose goal – possibly unachievable – is
to understand everything about sleep’s impact
on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health.
No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel.
As the line between work and leisure grows ever
more blurred, rare is the person who doesn’t worry
about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the
shadows beneath our eyes, most of us don’t know
the half of it – and perhaps this is the real reason
Walker has stopped telling strangers how he makes
his living. When Walker talks about sleep he can’t, in
all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths.
It’s his conviction that we are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”, the consequences of
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 27
Getty/Science Photo Library
DNA in the dock
Question marks over genetic evidence
→ Discovery, pages 32-33
which are far graver than any of us could imagine.
This situation, he believes, is only likely to change
if government gets involved.
Walker has spent the last four and a half years
writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book
that examines the effects of this epidemic close
up, the idea being that once people know of the
powerful links between sleep loss and, among
other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try
harder to get the recommended eight hours a night
(sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to
Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than
seven hours). But, in the end, the individual can
achieve only so much. Walker wants major institutions and lawmakers to take up his ideas, too. “No
aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation,” he says. “It sinks down into every possible
nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything
about it. Things have to change: in the workplace
and our communities, our homes and families.
But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging
‘We chastise people for
sleeping what are only
normal amounts. We
think of them as slothful’
sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not
sleeping pills, but sleep itself ? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised. Sleep loss costs the UK
economy over £30bn [$40bn] a year in lost revenue,
or 2% of GDP. I could double the NHS budget if only
they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.”
Why are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was
trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night;
in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are
seemingly obvious. “First, we electrified the night,”
Walker says. “Light is a profound degrader of our
sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only
the porous borders between when you start and
finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants
to give up time with their family or entertainment,
so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a
part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these
are the enemies of sleep.”
But Walker believes, too, that in the developed
world sleep is strongly associated with weakness,
even shame. “We have stigmatised sleep with the
label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way
we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep
we’re getting. It’s a badge of honour. When I give
lectures, people will wait behind until there is no
one around and then tell me quietly: ‘I seem to be
one of those people who need eight or nine hours’
sleep.’ It’s embarrassing to say it in public. They
would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional.
They’re convinced that they’re abnormal, and why
wouldn’t they be? We chastise people for sleeping
what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think
of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant
baby asleep, and say ‘What a lazy baby!’ We know
sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans
are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.” In case
you’re wondering, the number of people who can
survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population
and rounded to a whole number, is zero.
The world of sleep science is still relatively
small. But it is growing exponentially, thanks both
to demand and new technology, which enables
researchers to have what Walker describes as “VIP
access” to the sleeping brain. Walker, who is 44 and
was born in Liverpool, has been in the field for more
than 20 years, having published his first research
paper at the age of just 21. “I would love to tell you
that I was fascinated by conscious states from childhood,” he says. “But in truth, it was accidental.”
He started out studying for a medical degree, but
having discovered that doctoring wasn’t for him he
switched to neuroscience, and after graduation,
began a PhD in neurophysiology supported by the
UK’s Medical Research Council. It was while working on this that he stumbled into the realm of sleep.
“I was looking at the brainwave patterns of
people with different forms of dementia, but I
was failing miserably at finding any difference between them,” he recalls now. One night, however,
he read a scientific paper that changed everything.
It described which parts of the brain were being
attacked by these different types of dementia:
“Some were attacking parts of the brain that had
to do with controlled sleep, while other types left
those sleep centres unaffected. I realised my mistake. I had been measuring the brainwave activity of my patients while they were awake, when I
should have been doing so while they were asleep.”
Over the next six months, Walker taught himself
how to set up a sleep laboratory and, sure enough,
the recordings he made in it subsequently spoke
loudly of a clear difference between patients. Sleep,
it seemed, could be a new early diagnostic litmus
test for different subtypes of dementia.
After this, sleep became his obsession. “Only
then did I ask: ‘What is this thing called sleep, and
what does it do?’ I was always curious, annoyingly
so, but when I started to read about sleep, I would
look up and hours would have gone by. No one could
answer the simple question: ‘Why do we sleep?’
That seemed to me to be the greatest scientific
mystery. I was going to attack it, and I was going to
do that in two years. But I was naive. I didn’t realise
that some of the greatest scientific minds had been
trying to do the same thing for their entire careers.
That was two decades ago, and I’m still cracking
away.” After gaining his doctorate, he moved to the
US. Formerly a professor of psychiatry at Harvard
Medical School, he is now professor of neuroscience
and psychology at the University of California.
Does his obsession extend to the bedroom? Does
he take his own advice when it comes to sleep? “Yes.
I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep
opportunity every night, and I keep very regular
hours: if there is one thing I tell people, it’s to go to
bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no
matter what. I take my sleep incredibly seriously
because I have seen the evidence. Once you know
that after just one night of Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 only four or five hours’
sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack
the cancer cells that appear in your body every day
– drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to
cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even
just that the World Health Organisation has classed
any form of night-time shift work as a probable
carcinogen, how could you do anything else?”
There is, however, a sting in the tale. Should his
eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a
touch “Woody Allen-neurotic”. When, for instance,
he came to London earlier this year, he found himself jet-lagged and wide awake at 2am. His problem
then, as always in these situations, was that he knew
too much. His brain began to race. “I thought: my
orexin isn’t being turned off, the sensory gate of my
thalamus is wedged open, my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex won’t shut down, and my melatonin surge
won’t happen for another seven hours.” What did he
do? In the end, it seems, even world experts in sleep
act like the rest of us when struck by insomnia. He
turned on a light and read for a while.
Will Why We Sleep have the impact its author
hopes? I’m not sure: the science bits, it must be said,
require some concentration. But what I can tell you
is that it had a powerful effect on me. After reading
it, I was determined to go to bed earlier – a regime to
which I am sticking. In a way, I was prepared for this. I
first encountered Walker some months ago, when he
spoke at an event at Somerset House in London, and
he struck me then as both passionate and convincing.
The evidence Walker presents, however, is
enough to send anyone early to bed. Without sleep,
there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is
vitality and health. More than 20 large-scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To
take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older
‘No one wants to give up
time with their family or
entertainment, so they
give up sleep instead’
who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more
likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight
hours a night (part of the reason for this has to do
with blood pressure: even just one night of modest
sleep reduction will speed the rate of a person’s heart
and significantly increase their blood pressure).
A lack of sleep also appears to hijack the body’s
effective control of blood sugar, the cells of the
sleep-deprived appearing, in experiments, to
become less responsive to insulin, and thus to cause
a prediabetic state of hyperglycaemia. When your
sleep becomes short, moreover, you are susceptible
to weight gain. Among the reasons for this are the
fact that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the
satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases
levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin.
“I’m not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused
by the sleep-loss epidemic alone,” he says. “It’s not.
However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles
do not adequately explain its rise. Something is
missing. It’s now clear that sleep is that third ingredient.” Tiredness, of course, also affects motivation.
Sleep has a powerful effect on the immune
system, which is why, when we have flu, our first
instinct is to go to bed: our body is trying to sleep
itself well. Reduce sleep even for a single night,
and your resilience is drastically reduced. If you
are tired, you are more likely to catch a cold. The
well-rested also respond better to the flu vaccine.
As Walker has already said, more gravely, studies
show that short sleep can affect our cancer-fighting
immune cells. A number of epidemiological studies have reported that night-time shift work and
the disruption to circadian sleep and rhythms that
it causes increase the odds of developing cancers
including breast, prostate, endometrium and colon.
Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan
will significantly raise your risk of developing
Alzheimer’s disease. The reasons for this are difficult to summarise, but in essence it has to do
with the amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) that accumulate in the brains of those suffering from the
disease, killing the surrounding cells. During deep
sleep, such deposits are effectively cleaned from
the brain. What occurs in an Alzheimer’s patient
is a kind of vicious circle. More amyloid, less deep
sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on. (In
his book, Walker notes “unscientifically” that he
has always found it curious that Margaret Thatcher
and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were vocal about
how little sleep they needed, both went on to develop
the disease; it is, moreover, a myth that older adults
need less sleep.) Away from dementia, sleep aids
‘Sleep will come to be seen as a preventative
medicine’ … neuroscientist Matthew Walker,
and, top, brain waves during REM sleep
Saroyan Humphrey; Deco/Alamy
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 29
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our ability to make new memories, and restores our
capacity for learning.
And then there is sleep’s effect on mental health.
When your mother told you that everything would
look better in the morning, she was wise. Walker’s
book includes a long section on dreams (which, says
Walker, contrary to Freud, cannot be analysed). Here
he details the various ways in which the dream state
connects to creativity. He also suggests that dreaming is a soothing balm. If we sleep to remember, then
we also sleep to forget. Deep sleep – the part when we
begin to dream – is a therapeutic state during which
we cast off the emotional charge of our experiences,
making them easier to bear. Sleep, or a lack of it, also
affects our mood more generally. Brain scans carried
out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the
reactivity of the amygdala – a key spot for triggering
anger and rage – in those who were sleep-deprived.
In children, sleeplessness has been linked to aggression and bullying; in adolescents, to suicidal
thoughts. Insufficient sleep is also associated with
relapse in addiction disorders. A prevailing view in
psychiatry is that mental disorders cause sleep disruption. But Walker believes it is, in fact, a two-way
street. Regulated sleep can improve the health of,
for instance, those with bipolar disorder.
I’ve mentioned deep sleep in this (too brief) summary several times. What is it, exactly? We sleep in
90-minute cycles, and it’s only towards the end of
each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each
cycle comprises two kinds of sleep. First, there is
NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is
then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
When Walker talks about these cycles, which still
have their mysteries, his voice changes. He sounds
bewitched, almost dazed.
“During NREM sleep, your brain goes into this
incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic
chanting,” he says. “There’s a remarkable unity
across the surface of the brain, like a deep, slow
mantra. Researchers were once fooled that this state
was similar to a coma. But nothing could be further
from the truth. Vast amounts of memory processing is going on. To produce these brainwaves, hundreds of thousands of cells all sing together, and
then go silent, and on and on. Meanwhile, your
body settles into this lovely low state of energy,
the best blood-pressure medicine you could ever
hope for. REM sleep, on the other hand, is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep, because the
brain patterns are identical to when you’re awake.
It’s an incredibly active brain state. Your heart and
nervous system go through spurts of activity: we’re
still not exactly sure why.”
‘No aspect of our biology
is left unscathed by sleep
deprivation. It sinks into
every nook and cranny’
Does the 90-minute cycle mean that so-called
power naps are worthless? “They can take the edge
off basic sleepiness. But you need 90 minutes to get
to deep sleep, and one cycle isn’t enough to do all
the work. You need four or five cycles to get all the
benefit.” Is it possible to have too much sleep? This is
unclear. “There is no good evidence at the moment.
But I do think 14 hours is too much. Too much water
can kill you, and too much food, and I think ultimately the same will prove to be true for sleep.” How
Sleep in numbers
• Two-thirds of adults in developed nations
fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep
recommended by the World Health Organisation.
to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had
four hours, you are 11.5 times more likely to be
involved in an accident.
• An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night
would be predicted to live only to their early 60s
without medical intervention.
• A hot bath aids sleep not because it makes you
warm, but because your dilated blood vessels
radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops. To successfully initiate sleep, your
core temperature needs to drop about 1C.
• A 2013 study reported that men who slept too
little had a sperm count 29% lower than those
who regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep.
• The time taken to reach physical exhaustion
by athletes who obtain anything less than eight
hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours,
drops by 10-30%.
• If you drive a car when you have had less than
five hours’ sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely
• There are now more than 100 diagnosed sleep
disorders, of which insomnia is the most common.
• Morning types, who prefer to awake at
or around dawn, make up about 40% of the
population. Evening types, who prefer to
go to bed late and wake up late, account for
about 30%. The remaining 30% lie somewhere
in between.
is it possible to tell if a person is sleep-deprived?
Walker thinks we should trust our instincts. Those
who would sleep on if their alarm clock was turned
off are simply not getting enough. Ditto those who
need caffeine in the afternoon to stay awake. “I see it
all the time,” he says. “I get on a flight at 10am when
people should be at peak alert, and I look around,
and half of the plane has immediately fallen asleep.”
So what can the individual do? First, they should
avoid pulling “all-nighters”, at their desks or on the
dancefloor. After being awake for 19 hours, you’re
as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk.
Second, they should start thinking about sleep as
a kind of work, like going to the gym (with the key
difference that it is both free and, if you’re me, enjoyable). “People use alarms to wake up,” Walker says.
“So why don’t we have a bedtime alarm to tell us
we’ve got half an hour, that we should start cycling
down?” We should start thinking of midnight more
in terms of its original meaning: as the middle of
the night. Schools should consider later starts for
students; such delays correlate with improved IQs.
Companies should think about rewarding sleep.
Productivity will rise, and motivation, creativity and
even levels of honesty will be improved. Sleep can
be measured using tracking devices, and some farsighted companies in the US already give employees
time off if they clock enough of it. Sleeping pills, by
the way, are to be avoided. Among other things, they
can have a deleterious effect on memory.
Those who are focused on so-called clean sleep
are determined to outlaw mobiles and computers from the bedroom – and quite right, too, given
the effect of LED-emitting devices on melatonin,
the sleep-inducing hormone. Ultimately, though,
Walker believes that technology will be sleep’s
saviour. “There is going to be a revolution in the
quantified self in industrial nations,” he says. “We
will know everything about our bodies from one day
to the next in high fidelity. That will be a seismic
shift, and we will then start to develop methods
by which we can amplify different components of
human sleep, and do that from the bedside. Sleep
will come to be seen as a preventive medicine.”
What questions does Walker still most want to
answer? For a while, he is quiet. “It’s so difficult,”
he says, with a sigh. “There are so many. I would
still like to know where we go, psychologically and
physiologically, when we dream. Dreaming is the
second state of human consciousness, and we have
only scratched the surface so far. But I would also
like to find out when sleep emerged. I like to posit
a ridiculous theory, which is: perhaps sleep did not
evolve. Perhaps it was the thing from which wakefulness emerged.” He laughs. “If I could have some
kind of medical Tardis and go back in time to look at
that, well, I would sleep better at night.” Observer
Why We Sleep is published by Allen Lane
30 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
Weekly review
Rebirth of Zion in deepest Siberia
Birobidzhan – a Soviet construct –
wants its Jewish identity to
thrive, discovers Shaun Walker
n front of Birobidzhan’s railway station, loudspeakers blast out ballads in Yiddish while
hundreds of schoolchildren in ersatz folk
costumes dance circles around the menorah monument that dominates the square.
Across town, labourers are building a kosher
restaurant, the city’s first. A two-storey building
under construction next door will house a mikvah,
the ritual pool in which religious Jews must bathe.
The Jewish renaissance in Birobidzhan is the
latest chapter in the surreal tale of this would-be
Siberian Zion. Nestled on the border with China,
seven time zones east of Moscow and a six-day journey away on the Trans-Siberian railway, the region
was first settled en masse during the 1930s as part
of a plan to create a Soviet homeland for Jews under
Stalin. Its story since then has reflected the vicissitudes of Soviet and then modern Russian history.
The population of the area, still officially called the
Jewish Autonomous Region, is barely 1% Jewish, but
the authorities are trying to cultivate the memory
of Jewish customs and history among the residents
and even hope to attract new Jewish migrants.
Eli Riss, Birobidzhan’s 27-year-old rabbi, said the
local Jewish community currently numbered 3,000
at most, and only 30 were regulars at the synagogue.
His parents emigrated to Israel but after religious
schooling he returned to his birthplace as a rabbi.
“We are a long way from Israel here and a long
way even from Moscow, where there are big Jewish
communities,” he said. “My task is for people to
understand what it means to be Jewish.”
When the area was officially established as the
Jewish Autonomous Region in 1934, 14 years before
the foundation of Israel, it was the first explicitly
Jewish territory in modern times. By 1939, 18% of
the population was Jewish and Birobidzhan had a
Yiddish theatre and Yiddish newspaper. The work
of the police department, courts and city administration was carried out at least partially in Yiddish.
Some historians have suggested the Birobidzhan
project was tainted with antisemitism from the
start, creating a “dumping ground” for Jews. But in
the 1930s many Jewish intellectuals promoted the
project with vigour. Jews travelled to Birobidzhan
from inside the Soviet Union, western Europe and
even farther afield – infected with a revolutionary
fervour that gave a Jewish flavour to the utopianism that characterised many of those involved in
the early Bolshevik project.
The optimism was short-lived. During Stalin’s
purges, much of the local party leadership was
executed and expressions of Jewishness were discouraged. After the second world war, the region saw
A long way from Israel … Birobidzhan is on Russia’s border with China Shaun Walker
a new influx of Jews who had escaped the Holocaust
and had no homes to which to return. A new wave
of antisemitic purges was followed by decades of diminished interest in Jewish identity. Then, when the
Soviet Union collapsed, many Jews left for Israel to
escape the economic misery. Iosif Brener, a local historian, estimates that 20,000 Jews left Birobidzhan in
the late 1980s and early 1990s, the majority for Israel.
Alexander Levintal, the region’s governor, said
Birobidzhan was still suffering from the effects of
mass Jewish emigration. “When the Soviet Union
collapsed and the borders opened, about 70 families
of Jewish doctors left, and medicine in the region
has still not fully recovered,” he said.
Riss, the rabbi, said that among those who remained there was little Jewish cultural identity.
“Our community has lost the understanding of what
it means to be Jewish.”
Birobidzhan Stern, the town’s Yiddish-language
newspaper, is now published in Russian but has
two pages in Yiddish each week. The editor, Elena
Sarashevskaya, although not Jewish herself fell in
love with Yiddish as a child, studied it at university
and now writes the Yiddish pages. She intends to go
on publishing the Yiddish pages even though most
people in the city cannot read them.
“Yiddish is imbued with a real life-force; maybe
it’s linked to the suffering of the Jewish people,” she
said. “People are always pronouncing Yiddish dead
but it’s still very much alive, it’s always finding new
ways to survive.”
In Birobidzhan street signs use both Russian and
Yiddish, and one school still offers Yiddish lessons,
although the university Yiddish faculty shut a
few years ago. A Jewish cultural festival held last
month in the city featured a concert from a cantor
of Vienna’s main synagogue and the opening of an
exhibition on the city’s history featured Russian,
American and Israeli artists.
Archive photographs in the exhibit show the enthusiasm with which many Jews took to the project,
including shopfronts with Yiddish signage and the
first years of Valdgeym, a Jewish collective farm established just outside the city. However, religious
Judaism was alien to Soviet atheism and thus
frowned upon. The local museum contains leaflets
in Yiddish warning locals not to celebrate Passover.
With so few Jews now living in Birobidzhan, the
massed Yiddish dances and mannequins that welcome visitors to the Jewish cultural centre give the
impression of a Jewish Disneyland rather than of a
thriving community. If the local government gets
its way, more Jews would come to the region, especially some of those who left in the early 1990s. Rostislav Goldstein, the senator for the region in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Birobidzhan’s
proximity to China could provide advantages for
Israeli businesses wanting to crack the Chinese
market. He said he wanted to create a local version
of the Aliyah, the name given to the process of attracting Jews from the diaspora to Israel. “We have
one big advantage over Israel, and that’s that there
are no Arabs shooting here,” he said.
Levintal, the local governor, was more circumspect. He said his chauffeur had emigrated from
Birobidzhan to Israel in the early 1990s but recently
returned as he could not get used to the mentality
there. “If the economic situation here improves then
more people will want to return,” he said.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 31
Weekly review
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Refugee crisis … Parastou Forouhar says she finds ‘healing in repetition’ through her art Courtesy of the artist
Family, death and the failed revolution
The daughter of Iranian dissidents
tells Saeed Kamali Dehghan how
their murders informed her art
very autumn, the Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar returns to Tehran from
Germany to hold a memorial service
for her murdered parents. Dariush
Forouhar, a secular politician, and
his wife, Parvaneh, were two of Iran’s
most high-profile political activists when they were
stabbed to death in their home on 22 November
1998. The killers placed her father’s body in a chair
facing towards the Qibla, the direction of Mecca.
Forouhar, 55, remembers receiving a call from
a BBC reporter asking when she had last spoken
to her parents. “I called a close friend of my parents
in Paris and he was crying,” Forouhar says. “I
thought, it mustn’t be just an arrest. We were
used to [arrests]. I said, is Dad killed? He said, it’s
not just your dad.”
Every year since, Parastou has gathered with
close relatives to light a candle and pay tribute to
her parents’ secular democratic values. The public
are routinely blocked from attending by security officials. “They won’t let people in for the ceremony
[but] it gets media coverage and it becomes an act
of protest,” says Forouhar, whose work was recently
exhibited at Pi Artworks in London.
Forouhar says regularly revisiting the suffering
she has endured for nearly 20 years has helped to
heal the wounds of her past. “When I work, I also
have pain, you want to move on but also reproduce
the pain at the same time,” she says. “Sometimes
I can’t distinguish: is it art or pain? It’s really like
finding healing in repetition. For me, the way to deal
with pain is to reproduce it in art.”
The murder of Forouhar’s parents shone a
spotlight on the killings and disappearances of
other Iranian dissident intellectuals in the 1990s
and created an atmosphere of fear that helped
put the brakes on the reformist agenda of President
Mohammad Khatami.
In a rare admission in 1999, Iran’s ministry of
intelligence took responsibility for the killings,
saying it had “committed these criminal activities
… under the influence of undercover rogue agents”.
Saeed Hajjarian, a reformist politician and journalist
involved in revealing the “chain murders”, survived
an attempted murder the following year but was left
severely disabled.
Forouhar studied art at Tehran University after
the 1979 Islamic revolution and says it was the failure of the revolution that made her the artist she
is today. “We thought, we’ll build a better life, we
thought it was possible, but then we realised those
who hijacked the revolution are suppressing the
segment of the society that did not approve of revolutionary policies,” she says. “The streets turned
unsafe and the arrests and the executions followed.”
She left for Germany in 1991, graduating with a
master’s from Offenbach am Main and holding her
first exhibition at her university in 1994. Forouhar
established a portfolio of works that she defines
as being between “abstraction and the formation
of metaphors”, drawing on what she learned in
Tehran, when students expressed dissent through
highly coded and alternative methods.
“I use ornaments as a structure in my work – I
like the structure of repetition, of harmony and
congruity,” she says. “Ornaments have similarities
with totalitarian regimes. They want to make everything harmonic, and anything that doesn’t confirm
has to be eliminated.”
Butterflies feature prominently, but they are
composed of human bodies in agonising pain.
‘This is a turning point for
Europe – its response to
refugees drowning will
define its future identity’
“In Persian poetry, butterflies are often described
as being in the height of aesthetics, but often also
shown as dying. It has a paradox inside it. And it’s
also the name of my mother [Parvaneh means butterfly in Farsi]. Every time I produce one, it’s as if
I’m producing an image of my mother.”
Her works are about “simultaneity of beauty and
harm” and “the ambivalence of their co-existence”.
She has previously said she wants to encourage
viewers to “give up their distances, ambivalent
positions, and rethink their presumptions – to recognise and respond to these contradictions and
contrasting emotions”.
Her recent work, Written Room, which featured
in a group exhibition in Paris last month, shows giant Farsi calligraphy covering the surfaces of gallery
spaces. Her other fascination has been with the influx of refugees to Europe in recent years, and recent
work shows migrants drowning at sea on paper she
made herself. “This is a turning point for Europe,
to see how it will react – its response to refugees
drowning will define its future identity.”
Forouhar also has an installation in progress,
called Documentation. It first went on show in 1999
in Frankfurt and features a room full of documents
pinned to the wall or stored in boxes. It includes
every piece of correspondence she has had with
human rights organisations, Iran’s judiciary, Germany’s parliament and other officials, regarding her
parents’ murder. A photocopier sits in the middle
and viewers are invited to make copies of the documents and take them home. Every year, she updates
the work with new correspondence.
Though the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani
was re-elected as Iran’s president in a landslide
victory in May, Forouhar does not believe his
terms in office will bring a new dawn. “His election
marks the total retreat of the whole society from
the demands it had during the Green movement
[of 2009],” she says. “It’s a reconciliation between
the government and the people, and the people
gave in, as if the people have become accomplice.
This is all an illusion.”
32 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
DNA is no longer
the magic bullet
The relevance of genetic evidence in criminal
trials is coming under scrutiny, says Nicola Davis
or David Butler, it began with a knock
on the door seven years ago. When he
opened it, officers from the Merseyside police were standing on his doorstep. The retired taxi driver was being
arrested for murder. The police said
they had evidence connecting Butler to the death of
Anne Marie Foy, a 46-year-old sex worker who had
been battered and strangled in Liverpool in 2005.
Butler’s DNA, it turned out, had been logged
into the UK national database after a 1998 investigation into a break-in at the home he shared with
his mother. A partial match had been made to DNA
found on Foy’s fingernail clippings and cardigan
buttons. This, combined with CCTV evidence of a
distinctive taxi seen near the scene, led the prosecutor to tell the jury in Butler’s trial that the DNA
information “provides compelling evidence that
the defendant was in contact with Anne Marie Foy
at the time immediately before she died”.
The case seemed conclusive. Yet Butler was adamant: he had not met Foy.
“You do see an assumption being made that a
DNA profile is evidence of contact – case closed –
whereas it is actually a lot more complicated than
that,” says Ruth Morgan, the director of the Centre
for the Forensic Sciences at University College London. “We are only beginning to realise quite how
complex it is.”
Since DNA was first used in a police investigation
31 years ago, to solve the murder of Dawn Ashworth,
a 15-year-old schoolgirl who was raped and strangled in Leicestershire, the technique has attained an
aura of being bulletproof. Certainly, in some cases,
evidence of a DNA match to a suspect can be powerful. “There will be times when you get a really clear
[DNA] profile, and it is very clear how that material
got to the crime scene. And it is [also] very clear that
it was during the course of an illegal activity,” says
Morgan. “The classic [example] would be semen on
the clothing of someone who is underage.”
Questionable evidence … Anne Marie Foy’s
death triggered a controversial trial
But Butler’s case is just one of many that highlight growing questions in the world of forensic
science: what exactly are fingermarks, DNA or gunshot residue actually evidence of – particularly now
that even tiny traces can be detected?
The answer may have profound consequences.
According to research published by Morgan and her
colleagues, rulings for 218 successful appeal cases in
England and Wales between 2010 and 2016 argued
that DNA evidence had been misleading, with the
main issues being its relevance, validity or usefulness in proving an important point in a trial.
In a seminal paper from 2005, the neuroscientist
Itiel Dror and colleagues revealed that, in the case
of ambiguous marks, those examining the evidence
could be swayed in their conclusions by the context
of a case, with a match more likely to be made when
the crime had been depicted as harrowing.
After initial resistance, the impact of such work
has been dramatic. “Fingermarks are now presented
in court in a completely different way – it is really,
really rare that you get someone saying unequivocally: ‘This is an identification,’” says Morgan.
But with technology allowing the recovery of
minute traces of DNA, new challenges have arisen.
Not only is it often unclear whether trace DNA is
from skin cells, saliva or some other body fluid,
but such DNA samples often contain material from
multiple individuals, which is difficult to tease apart.
What’s more, working out when the DNA was
deposited, and for how long it might have been present, is an enormous problem. “If you get a mixed
profile on an item of clothing, is the major profile
the last person who wore it, or is it somebody who
regularly wore it?” Morgan asks.
And it gets more complicated. “In different
scenarios, some people leave DNA and some
people don’t,” she says. Indeed, studies from
several groups have looked at a number of factors
affecting how much DNA is left behind, which can
be influenced by such things as how long it was since
somebody washed their hands. And some people
simply shed more.
To Butler, such issues proved pivotal. The DNA
samples from Foy’s nails were a complex mixture
of profiles and only a partial match was found with
Butler’s DNA. Further analysis of the initial examination notes also revealed that Foy had been wearing glittery nail varnish. “That is going to retain
more DNA for a longer time because there is more
opportunity; more things for it to stick to,” says Sue
Pope, a DNA expert who worked on the case, and is
now co-director of Principal Forensic Services Ltd.
And there was another significant factor: Butler
had a condition which led to him having flaky skin.
“He was depositing a lot more cells that you might
expect from a single touch,” says Pope. The findings,
argued the defence, meant that Butler’s DNA could
have found its way on to Foy’s hands and hence her
clothing by entirely innocent means – for example
by Foy handling coins that had previously been
touched by Butler. After eight months on remand,
Butler was acquitted.
The question of how and when DNA can be transferred, and its implications for the justice system,
was thrown into sharp relief by the murder of the
British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy in 2007. Among the evidence was the fact
that DNA from Raffaele Sollecito – the boyfriend of
Kercher’s flatmate, Amanda Knox – was found on
the clasp of Kercher’s bra.
While it was argued that the DNA cropped up
as a result of contamination, Morgan points out
that when people are under the same roof there
are multiple opportunities for transfer. Yet just
how much DNA is transferred, and in what circumstances, remains unknown. The upshot is that, although the technology is more powerful than ever,
the presence of trace DNA is far from a magic bullet.
Georgina Meakin, an expert in DNA analysis,
also based at UCL, says that public understanding
is another thing lagging behind advances in technology. One potential area of confusion is just what
DNA analysis involves. Rather than sequencing the
whole genome, only certain areas of the DNA are
‘You do see an assumption
that a DNA profile is
evidence of contact when
it is a lot more complicated’
Nobel science prizes
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 33
A celebration
of inner and
outer space
Three US physicists won the Nobel
prize in physics for the first observations of gravitational waves. Rainer
Weiss was awarded one-half of the
9m Swedish kronor ($1.1m) prize. Kip
Thorne and Barry Barish will share
the other half. All three played leading
roles in the Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or
Ligo, experiment, which in 2015 made
the first historic observation of gravitational waves triggered by the violent
merger of two black holes a billion light
years away. The Ligo detections confirmed Einstein’s century-old prediction
that during cataclysmic events the fabric of space-time itself can be stretched.
examined. Since 2014, in England, it has generally
been at 16 sites, plus an additional marker that indicates whether the sample is from a man or woman.
“These [sites] consist of repeating sequences of
DNA, and we are interested in the number of repeats
that are present; it is the number of those repeats
that can differ between individuals,” says Meakin.
But, she stresses, trace DNA is often far from conclusive, with analysts often having to turn to statisticians to unpick mixed profiles. It’s a situation
that some have sought to commercialise, among
them Cybergenetics – the company behind an
algorithm-based technology known as TrueAllele
which claims to be able to untangle mixed profiles and “produce accurate results on previously
unsolvable DNA evidence”.
It has been used in hundreds of cases in the US.
But there is a hitch: experts have argued that neither
they, nor the defendants, have been allowed access
to the system’s source code – meaning, among other
things, that it is difficult to know what assumptions
are built into the technology. “There is a lot of concern,” says Morgan. “People aren’t happy that it is
essentially a black box.”
But the company puts the case that both defence
and prosecution are welcome to test the software on
their own data, adding that the maths behind the
system has been disclosed.
Nonetheless, Pope argues that independent validation of software for DNA analysis is crucial. “A
courtroom setting is not the best place for looking at
really detailed questions about how statistics have
been done.” And, even if the technology is accepted
as being reliable, questions remain. It “tells you
‘Our ability to analyse may outstrip our ability to
interpret’ … gathering evidence after a bombing
in Belfast Peter Muhly/Getty
something about the potential source of the DNA,
but nothing at all about the activity involved in the
DNA coming to be where it was found”, she says.
That became apparent in the case of the Massereene barracks murders – the shooting of two British soldiers in Antrim, Northern Ireland, in March
2009. Among the evidence were findings from
TrueAllele, which included a match between mixedprofile DNA taken from a mobile phone found in the
getaway car and one of the suspects, Brian Shivers.
As Mark Perlin, founder of TrueAllele, testified, the
DNA on the phone was 6bn times more likely to be
that of Shivers than it being a coincidence. Together
with other DNA evidence, the finding proved
pivotal. Shivers was found guilty and sentenced to
at least 25 years in jail.
Yet in 2013, there was a retrial. The reasoning
hung not on the evidence, but on its interpretation.
Shivers’s DNA, the judge concluded, might have
turned up on the phone and on other evidence from
an innocent touch, or even a handshake.
“Have the prosecution eliminated other possibilities than the guilt of the accused? Am I satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the
accused?” he asked.
The answer was clear. No. Shivers was acquitted.
Take on the role of a forensic investigator, in our
latest virtual reality experience, Crime Scene –
The Nobel prize in physiology or
medicine has been awarded to a trio of
US scientists for their discoveries on
the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms – the 24-hour
body clock. The team identified a
gene within fruit flies that controls
the creatures’ daily rhythm, known as
the “period” gene. This gene encodes
a protein within the cell during the
night that then degrades during the
day. Jeffrey C Hall, 72, has retired but
spent most of his career at Brandeis
University in Waltham, Massachusetts,
where fellow laureate Michael Rosbash, 73, is a faculty member. Michael
W Young, 68, works at Rockefeller
University in New York.
The Nobel prize in chemistry has been
awarded for developing a technique
to produce images of the molecules of
life frozen in time. Jacques Dubochet,
Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson
developed a technique called cryoelectron microscopy that has allowed
the structure of biomolecules to be
studied in high-resolution. Henderson, a Scottish scientist and professor
at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular
Biology, succeeded in using one of
these microscopes to generate the first
three-dimensional image of a protein
at atomic resolution. Frank, a Germanborn professor at Columbia University
in New York, made the technology more
generally applicable. Dubochet, who
is Swiss and an honorary professor at
the University of Lausanne, refined a
vitrification technique that allowed
biomolecules to be rapidly frozen while
retaining their natural shape.
34 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
All at sea in a sieve
Robert McCrum is moved by an
account of a gay writer’s torment
concealed by surreal wordplay
Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense
by Jenny Uglow
Faber, 598pp
If ever there was an English national literary treasure,
he must be Edward Lear. In polls The Owl and the
Pussycat is often voted the nation’s favourite poem.
Anyone who has ever doodled a limerick, of any tone
or topic, pays homage to his genius. As well as timeless nonsense such as The Jumblies, there’s also his
art – brilliantly studied paintings of exotic creatures;
luminous desertscapes; antic sketches of men with
birds in their beards – work that puts him in a class of
his own as an important Victorian artist.
Edward Lear is one of those English one-offs
who are treasured because they seem to suggest
that there are no more important things to do than
paint or write, and who embody a benign, provisional and above all amateur spirit. Lear himself,
slyly complicit, summarised his place in the English cultural landscape with a teasing, encrypted
How pleasant to know Mr Lear!
Who has written such volumes of stuff !
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.
He was born in London in 1812, the same year
as Charles Dickens, one of at least 17, or was it 19
(his mother lost count; there were infant deaths)?
Young Edward was both swept up in, and set apart
from, this brood. With good reason: he always felt
different. By the age of five, he was not only a boy
among many sisters, but also diagnosed as epileptic, a lifelong terror he shared with Lewis Carroll.
Epilepsy would be one of the secrets that made him
solitary, while his atrocious eyesight “formed everything into a horror”. Lear’s nonconformist parents hardly compensated for these childhood traumas: both were largely absent. His City broker father
was remote; his “shadowy” mother rejected him.
Jenny Uglow declares at the outset that she wants
to “follow his life straightforwardly”. In this, she’s
echoing the discreet and magisterial example of
Vivien Noakes, who pioneered this elusive subject
in 1968 in Edward Lear: The Life of a Wanderer.
But Uglow goes much further than Noakes. This,
quite rightly, is the half-life of a gay man in a society that had neither language nor tolerance for
homosexuality. By chapter two, on top of his other
troubles, young Edward is grappling with some
mysterious abuse, “the greatest evil done to me in
my life”. What, exactly, this was remains unclear,
though Lear recorded the date of the “greatest evil”
every year in his diary. Uglow, whose focus on Lear
and his confused sexuality is unflinching, is too
good a biographer to indulge in reckless speculation
here. Clearly, for “pleasant” Mr Lear, nothing would
ever again be “straightforward”, especially once he
and his beloved sister Ann began to escape into a
parallel universe of exquisite botanical drawing.
Nonsense verse soon followed. From boyhood, Lear
was “three parts crazy”, but “wholly affectionate”.
He would only get more like himself.
There were few intrusions on his adolescent
solitude, apart from birds, especially parrots, his
favourites. Some early zoological work inspired
his vocation as an artist. Eventually, he would
rival Audubon. Parrots also brought him a patron,
Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, whose
teeming family exposed Lear to a new audience for
his gifts as an entertainer. As an artist, Lear was supposed to remain below stairs with the servants, but
Stanley liked to have his protege upstairs to amuse
his guests. Where Carroll had Alice and the Liddell
family, Lear had the Knowsley nursery, where the
Stanley children, their friends and nursemaids, kept
riotous company. Unlike Carroll, he did not sentimentalise little girls, betraying no hint of the paedophile. Rather, Lear loved the mayhem of childhood
to which nonsense was the only answer. Nonsense
was infantile, rude, eccentric and grumpy, as
children are. Nonsense could celebrate surreal violence and ghoulish accidents. As a roving landscape
painter, Lear could be exquisite. Through his crazy
wordplay, he could express his inner torment as a
homosexual single man in Victorian England.
Abroad, in Rome or Corfu, he could be “as happy
as a hedgehog” and was free to fall in love with other
artists. At home, he had to present himself, half ironically, as a man in need of a wife: “I anticipate the
chance of a Mrs Lear”, he wrote, “in 40 years hence.”
Unlike some gay Victorians, who went native
overseas, it was Lear’s respectable hope that he
was “always an Englishman” abroad. “Mr Lear”
was certainly a weird bird. As he grew older, this
myopic court jester, and nomadic artist, unable to
reconcile his sexual with his social self, morphed
into his mature, eccentric persona.
This was the closet homosexual who, in the summer of 1846, came to teach drawing to Queen Victoria. “How did you get all these beautiful things?” he
exclaimed, on first seeing the famous royal collection. “I inherited them, Mr Lear,” replied the Queen.
It’s at this point that Uglow diverges most completely from the narrative line hewn by Noakes.
Uglow’s interest in Lear’s court life is finite. And yet
Windsor did do something for Lear, which was give
an awkward, gay man renewed self-confidence.
Thus, 1846 also saw the publication of A Book of
Nonsense. Uglow is good on Lear’s verse, attributing
just the right amount of consequence to its surreal
There was an Old Person of Rhodes,
Who strongly objected to toads;
He paid several cousins,
To catch them by dozens,
That futile Old Person of Rhodes.
On his travels again – now to the Holy Land – Lear
fell in love with a younger man, Frank Lushington,
who would eventually compound Lear’s inner torment. Uglow shows that the life of the Victorian gay
man, even in progressive circles, was excruciating.
Only abroad could Lear and Lushington enjoy a
semblance of marriage – as Uglow puts it – “without the sex”.
In middle age, Lear’s wordplay had become
quasi-Joycean, writes Uglow, “alive, protean, ever
evolving, and finding new endings, like new limbs”.
English one-off … Edward Lear’s The Owl and the
Pussycat, one of the country’s favourite poems
Culture Club/Getty/Hulton Archive
This is the Lear beloved of Auden and Eliot. He was,
says Uglow, “an eerie, queery, sometimes weary,
sometimes cheery Edward Lear”. When “cheery”,
he enjoyed moments that were “splendidophoropherostiphongious”, but there was always a terrible
sadness, too, that only nonsense could assuage.
In 1861, Lear published a new Book of Nonsense,
a huge success that would establish him as a classic. Four years later, Lewis Carroll published Alice
in Wonderland, a very different kettle of fish. These
two Victorian giants never met, and Lear read Alice
“without comment”.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 35
The future is coming
but not as we think it
Life 3.0
by Max Tegmark
Allen Lane, 384pp
Yuval Noah Harari
Lear’s world, unlike Dodgson’s Oxford idyll, was
provisional, nomadic and fraught. Lushington got
married and Lear tortured himself with matrimonial
fantasies. He would be “forever roaming with a hungry heart”. Finally, the gaiety and sadness of Lear’s
life expressed itself in his four greatest poems: The
Owl and the Pussycat, The Dong With a Luminous
Nose, Some Incidents in the Life of My Uncle Arly,
and The Jumblies, warbling their “moony song”. He
might recognise that he had gone “to sea in a sieve”,
but he admonished his diary that “the morbids are
not allowed”.
This extraordinary Englishman died in selfimposed isolation in San Remo aged 75. Uglow has
written a great life about an artist with half a life,
a biography that might break your heart. Observer
If you hear a scenario about the world
in 2050 and it sounds like science fiction, it is probably wrong; but if you
hear a scenario about the world in
2050 and it does not sound like science fiction, it is certainly wrong.
Technology is never deterministic: it can be used to create very different kinds of society. In the 20th century, trains,
electricity and radio were used to fashion Nazi and
communist dictatorships, but also to foster liberal
democracies and free markets. In the 21st century,
AI will open up an even wider spectrum of possibilities. Deciding which of these to realise may well be
the most important choice humankind will have to
make in the coming decades. This choice is not a
matter of engineering or science. It is a matter of
politics. Hence it is not something we can leave to
Silicon Valley – it should be among the most important items on our political agenda. Unfortunately,
AI has so far hardly registered on our political radar.
Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0 tries to rectify the situation. Written in an accessible and engaging style,
the book offers a political and philosophical map of
the promises and perils of the AI revolution. Instead
of pushing any one agenda or prediction, Tegmark
seeks to cover as much ground as possible, reviewing
a wide variety of scenarios concerning the impact of
AI on the job market, warfare and political systems.
Life 3.0 does a good job of clarifying basic terms
and key debates, and in dispelling common myths.
While science fiction has caused many people to
worry about evil robots, for instance, Tegmark
rightly emphasises that the real problem is with
the unforeseen consequences of developing highly
competent AI. In Tegmark’s words, “the real risk
with artificial general intelligence isn’t malice but
competence. A superintelligent AI will be extremely
good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals
aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.”
Naturally Tegmark’s map is not complete, and
in particular it does not give enough attention to
the confluence of AI with biotechnology. The 21st
century will be shaped not by infotech alone, but
rather by the merger of infotech with biotech. AI
will be of crucial importance precisely because it
will give us the computing power necessary to hack
the human organism. Long before the appearance
of superintelligent computers, our society will
be completely transformed by rather crude and
dumb AI that is nevertheless good enough to hack
humans, predict their feelings, make choices on
their behalf and manipulate their desires. It might
be apocalypse by shopping.
Yet the real problem of Tegmark’s book is that
it soon bumps up against the limits of present-day
political debates. The AI revolution turns many
philosophical problems into practical political
questions and forces us to engage in “philosophy
with a deadline” (as the philosopher Nick Bostrom
called it). Philosophers are patient people, engineers are impatient, and hedge fund investors are
more restless still. When Tesla engineers come to
design a self-driving car, they cannot wait while
philosophers argue about its ethics.
Consequently Tegmark soon leaves behind familiar debates about jobs, privacy and weapons of
mass destruction, and ventures into realms that
hitherto were associated with philosophy, theology and mythology, taking things beyond our own
planet. This can hardly be avoided but I fear that
many of his prospective readers will not follow him
there. Our political systems, and indeed our individual minds, are just not built to think on such a scale.
History in the eating
The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for
Food Shaped the Modern World
by Lizzie Collingham
Bodley Head, 400pp
Kwasi Kwarteng
Saturday 18 July 1545 was fish day on
the Mary Rose. The crew ate on the
cramped gun deck, sitting wherever
they could find room. Fish days were
not popular, but on this Saturday the
meal provided a welcome respite
from frantic activity, as all 185 soldiers, 30 gunners and 200 mariners
on board were readying the ship for war.
The next day a chance gust of wind caused the
vessel, overloaded with artillery, to keel over and
sink. No more than 40 men survived. In the face
of the tragedy, Henry VIII is supposed to have
exclaimed: “Oh my gentlemen! Oh my gallant men!”
He could hear the cries of the drowning sailors as he
watched from the shore in Portsmouth.
In the wreckage, archaeologists have discovered
the vertebrae of cattle and pigs, as well as thousands
of fish spines, strewn among the remains of the
wicker baskets that once held them. These were
the residue of the ship’s stores of beef, pork and cod.
Such evidence has shown the extent to which
England was trading across Europe and beyond,
even in the 16th century. Lizzie Collingham’s book,
The Hungry Empire, is an energetic and refreshing
account of a little-considered aspect of British history. By examining what people ate, Collingham skilfully provides an account of complex connections.
She constructs her book around 20 meals: each
chapter tells a slightly different story about the
empire, centred on a particular dish. It’s hard to
think of a more ingenious way of treating imperial history. Chapters deal with the Chinese opium
trade, the colonisation of New Zealand and the diet
of 18th-century labourers in rural Lancashire. The
range is dazzling. Purists may raise an eyebrow at
the inclusion of several recipes, including “Nellie
Husanara Abdool’s pumpkin and shrimp curry”,
though budding chefs may well find the prescriptiveness useful: “Add curry powder, brown sugar,
thyme, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for another
15 minutes. Add 250ml of water and cook for 20–25
minutes until the pumpkin is soft.” Yet The Hungry
Empire, it should be clear, is supported by meticulous historical research.
Using food as a way of understanding empire is
highly effective. Food knows no barriers of race,
gender or even time. The recipe for jollof rice, a
speciality of west African cuisine, has probably
not changed across the centuries. Michel Jajolet
de la Courbe, a French Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
←Continued from page 35 explorer and slave dealer,
described a rice dish from west Africa in the late 17th
century, in which he defined chillies as “a green or
red fruit, shaped like a cucumber, and with a taste
resembling that of pepper”. No account of food in
the empire can avoid references to the slave trade.
The Africa-America sea route opened a channel
whereby “a host of American plants and foodstuffs
entered west African agriculture”, particularly maize
and manioc (cassava). In the early days maize was
even known as “white man’s grain” in the Gold Coast.
Of all the meals that represented British culture,
perhaps none captured the imagination more than
the Christmas pudding. It was the Victorians who
fixed the traditional plum pudding as a festive dish.
“The author of the Book of Christmas,” Collingham
writes, “personified the plum pudding as a ‘blackamoor who derives his extraction from the spice
lands’.” In the book’s illustration, it even appeared
as a portly black figure, clothed in medieval costume.
The pudding was thought of as a national dish precisely because of the foreign nature of its sugar, spice
and dried fruits: “an emblem of our commercial eminence”. This book’s treatment of food in the empire
is innovative and exciting; to bring such vibrancy to
an old topic is a remarkable achievement.
Hot on the trails
Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife With
Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics
by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti
Norton, 174pp
Priyanka Kumar
Washington Post
We’ve come a long way from
the days when Aristotle
believed that storks winter on
the moon. Now GPS tags, DNA
sequencing, satellites and
phone networks allow scientists to track animals across
vast stretches of land and
through sky and sea.
eographer James
In Where the Animals Go, geographer
Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, a former
ormer design editor for National Geographic,
ormashowcase some of the latest information on animal movement gleaned
from these new technologies.
Through colourful maps, detailed
graphics and explanatory essays,
the book presents in intimate
detail the comings and goings off
species from ants and bees to jaguars,
baboons, vultures and, yes, storks.
ull of
Where the Animals Go is full
unexpected information. When geese
fly over the Himalayas, for example,
their hearts beat at up to 500 times
a minute. “Some geese crossed
the Tibetan plateau in less than
a day at record-breaking climb
rates of 2.2 kilometers per hour,”
Cheshire writes. “That’s like
ascending from sea level to the
summit of Mount Everest in four
Fast fliers … but white storks don’t
really reach the moon
hours. What’s more, they do so without acclimatisation, rest, or help from the wind.”
Other chapters demonstrate the risks animals face
as they try to make their way to food and water and
to mate. By monitoring the speed and direction of
elephants, for example, researchers can determine
whether they have been harassed by armed herders.
In a fascinating essay, The Elephant Who Texted for
Help, Uberti describes how the GPS collar of a Kenyan elephant alerted researchers that the animal had
been shot; watching from a researcher’s living room,
scientists followed its tracks on screen, all the way
until the moment it sadly succumbed to its wounds.
This and other chapters demonstrate how
human intrusion has disrupted animals’ movement
and in some cases put their very existence in peril.
Tracking devices and genetic analysis have shown,
for example, that mountain lions in the Santa Ana
mountains near Los Angeles have become “effectively marooned on an island, surrounded by freeways and ever-encroaching human development”.
Since 2001, the authors report, “only one tagged lion
... has managed to cross Interstate 15 in either direction, but he was killed 25 days later for preying on
a rancher’s sheep”. The long-term effect is stark:
“Without the ability to breed with other gene pools,
the Santa Ana population is in jeopardy.”
GPS and other technology make such discoveries
possible, but tagging animals is itself risky. The
simple act of “catching an animal is about the most
horrible thing that can occur to it”, says bio-logging
pioneer Rory Wilson. Even if you “catch it and let it
go, it’ll have the heebie-jeebies for weeks”. A GPS
collar can compromise the “100% intact fur barrier”
otters need to protect them from cold. Because a
puncture in their fur could mean death, scientists
use internal tags on otters instead. With such precautions, says Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder
of Save the Elephants, “stress can be minimised”
so that the “risk is outweighed by the enhancement
of the [animal’s] survival chances that comes from
what we learn through the tracking”.
Cheshire and Uberti write about billions of data
points being collected – some by citizen scientists
– and their ravishing maps put this information to
good use, but what’s missing here is a deeper discussion of habitat loss, which is already changing the
ways animals move. Storks, as Cheshire and Uberti
now; it’s easier
point out, don’t always migrate
to feed on garbage du
dumps. The habitat
to have now is
conversation we need
about how urban environments are
an underutili
underutil sed resource and
our backyards can
rewilding o
offer sorely needed rest stops
for small migrating b
Mapping anima
animal migrations can
help government officials to draw park
boundaries more strategically
to protect
animals such as o
oilbirds, who have a
wider range than
th was previously
understood. Cheshire writes,
“In order
ord to fully understand why something
happens we often
need to know
where it happens.”
Cheshire and
Uberti, and the
scientists whose work they
the have interpreted,
show us with precision an
and clarity where the
will give, say, mounanimals go. Whether we w
tain lions the corridors they
the need to cross our
freeways wit
without getting hit is
another ma
Only connect
Go, Went, Gone
by Jenny Erpenbeck
translated by Susan Bernofsky
Portobello, 286pp
Eileen Battersby
Displacement has moved beyond a
literary theme; for millions, it is reality. The notion of war has been overtaken by upheaval, which forces
desperate people to flee without
hope of a final destination, allowing
history to repeat itself, relentlessly.
This is the humanising lens through
which Jenny Erpenbeck, Europe’s outstanding
literary seer, views our world.
Previously she had looked to the layered history
of her own country, Germany, in dazzling metaphysical fictions such as Visitation and The End
of Days. As a Berliner born in the former East Germany in 1967, her early experience was dominated
by living in a divided city within a fractured country;
her work suggests that she believes human understanding resides in memory.
Her new novel resonates with an unexpected
simplicity that is profound, unsettling and subtle.
The prose, as before astutely translated by Susan
Bernofsky, has relinquished theatricality in a conventional, calm and at times wry narrative. It follows Richard, a self-contained widower and newly
retired academic, as he discovers empathy through
delving into the individual ordeals of a group of African asylum seekers in Berlin whom he gradually
befriends and tries to help.
As the novel opens, the former classics professor
is dealing with the prospect of retirement. His selfabsorption dictates his daily routines; he is Everyman minding his patch. It is only when watching
the evening news that he realises he had walked
by 10 African men staging a hunger strike. “Why
didn’t Richard see these men at Alexanderplatz?”
When the anonymous protest is ended, he regards
it as a pity. “He’d liked the notion of making oneself visible by publicly refusing to say who one is.
Odysseus had called himself Nobody to escape from
the Cyclops’s cave.” From the opening pages, Erpenbeck makes clear that this cultivated academic
knows little about Africa. “Where is Burkina Faso?”
he wonders, and is surprised to learn that there are
54 African countries.
The book could easily have become a wellintentioned polemic, but Erpenbeck combines her
philosophical intellect with hours of conversations
conducted with refugees to tell a very human story
about a lonely, emotionally insulated man slowly
discovering there is a far wider, urgent world beyond him through his meetings with extraordinary,
vividly drawn migrants, each with a story to tell.
Richard helps the men, responding to their interests, contrasting individual cultures and specific dilemmas, whose agonies make him recall tales from
the Brothers Grimm. The refugees have nothing
except their memories and their mobile phones –
their sole links with family, friends and who they
once were.
Great fiction doesn’t have to be real, but it does
have to be true. Erpenbeck’s powerful tale, delivered in a wonderfully plain, candid tone, is both real
and true. It will alert readers, make us more aware
and, it is to be hoped, more human.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 37
Why US writers should back
away from the Man Booker
This prize used to be a chance for
Americans to hear about other
authors, laments Ron Charles
othing shatters the mystique
of the floating city like seeing
a McDonald’s in Venice. But
such deflating sights have been
the norm for years. American
colonisation of the world’s economy is complete. Earlier this year
in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, we listened to music
under a sun-blocking billboard for Netflix’s Glow.
That moment came back to me when I read the
list of finalists for the Man Booker Prize. For the
first time, half of the nominees for Britain’s most
prestigious literary award are Americans:
4321 by Paul Auster (US)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK)
It’s not that American novelists are suddenly
writing better books. No, this US invasion is
the result of a controversial adjustment to the
prize’s eligibility rules. In 2014, the Booker judges
opened their doors to include anyone writing a
novel in English. (The prize had previously been
limited to novels by authors in the Commonwealth.) After that change, two Americans immediately made the shortlist. The next year, Marlon
James, a Jamaican writer living in Minnesota, won
the prize. In 2016, the American writer Paul Beatty
won. This year, an American has a 50/50 chance of
being announced the winner on 17 October.
Some British writers, notably Booker winner
AS Byatt, have complained about the way this rule
change dilutes the prize’s identity and creates an
impossible task for judges. With no criteria except
“written in English”, the Booker prize sinks into an
ocean of titles that no panel of readers can credibly
survey. But that’s for the Brits to worry about.
As Americans, we should be more concerned
about the loss of cultural diversity, about the
closure of yet another avenue for us to experience
something beyond our own borders. It’s no
criticism to say that this year’s finalists by Auster,
Fridlund and Saunders are all distinctly American
novels. But for any serious reader of fiction in the
US, the Americanisation of the Booker prize is
a lost opportunity to learn about great books that
haven’t been widely heralded.
As flattering as it is for US novelists to be
invited into the UK arena, Americans don’t
need any encouragement to trumpet their own
books. As a nation, the US is already depressingly
xenophobic when it comes to our reading choices.
And besides, American novelists already have
prestigious awards reserved just for them, including the Pulitzer prize in Fiction and the National
Book Awards. Opening the Booker up to any work
of fiction written in English comes perilously close
to creating another bloated monster like the Nobel
Shortlisted for words, not nationality … from
top: Mohsin Hamid, Ali Smith, George Saunders
prize in literature, an award with such broad
standards that it stands for nothing at all.
But literary prizes are conflicted organisations.
They want to promote literary excellence, of
course, but they also want to promote themselves.
In a universe of ever-escalating awards and
ever-diminishing attention, every prize is fighting
for recognition. What better way to garner more
press than to sprinkle some beloved American
names among the finalists.
But that’s a competition with diminishing
returns. The Brits need to admit that they made a
mistake. For the good of the Commonwealth – and
the United States – the Booker prize administrators
need to stage a literary Brexit. Washington Post
Ron Charles is the fiction editor of the
Washington Post
On literature
Ishiguro is a
Nobel winner
for our times
John Mullan
few years ago in a panel
discussion at a literary
festival I was asked to
name a recent British
novel that readers and
critics would still be talking about in a
hundred years’ time. On the spur of the
difficult moment I plumped for Kazuo
Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Only as
I tried to explain my choice did I realise
why I had given this answer. It was not
just a novel I enjoyed and admired, it
was also a novel that enacted something
elementary and elemental: a human’s
need to imagine his or her origins.
The Swedish Academy has made
some dubious decisions in recent years
but, in awarding Ishiguro the Nobel
prize in literature, this year its 18 voters
have got it right. Ishiguro’s novels step
aside from contemporary mores and
pressing social issues. Audaciously,
sometimes bewilderingly, they abstract
us from our times.
How brilliant it is that Never Let Me
Go opens with a page that says only
“England, late 1990s”. Narrated by a
young woman who is a clone, created
to provide organs for those requiring
transplant surgery, it takes place in a
version of Britain both cosily provincial
and utterly strange. The countryside,
the liberal boarding school, the English
seaside town have never made for
such a disturbing backdrop. Similarly,
the novel that made him famous, The
Remains of the Day, took a character
familiar from a hundred English books
and films – the butler in a country
house – and gave him a narrative of
painstaking evasiveness. For all the
teasing period detail, it was a novel
about human self-denial and selfdeception at any time and in any place.
While stylistically austere or
self-limiting, Ishiguro’s fiction revels
in literary allusion and generic playfulness. Often he takes a well-known
fictional subgenre and transforms it.
With Never Let Me Go it is dystopian
science fiction. His most recent work,
The Buried Giant, perplexed many
with its rewriting of the rules of fantasy
fiction. Imagining Britain in the dark
ages, it creates characters who have
lost track of history and cannot even
remember the important events of
their own lives. It is a fable for all
times. It is because he writes for all
times, using such carefully controlled
means, rigorous yet utterly original,
that Ishiguro is such a worthy winner.
38 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
‘In some ways I feel
I haven’t fulfilled
my true potential’
Steve Buscemi’s barfly persona suits his roles as
oddballs or killers but at heart he is an enthusiast
and a team player, discovers Aaron Hicklin
ike Tommy, the aimless barfly he plays
in Trees Lounge, the melancholic 1996
indie film he also wrote and directed,
Steve Buscemi found himself in a
spiral of hopelessness after leaving
school, jumping from one part-time
job to another: cinema usher, ice-cream seller,
petrol station attendant. There were many long
nights in bars. “I really had difficulty there [on Long
Island] in my last couple of years because I felt like I
didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “I felt my life
was going nowhere.” His father had pushed all four
of his sons to take a civil service exam, in Buscemi’s
case as an avenue to a career with the fire service,
where he would work for four years.
Although he knew he wanted to be an actor, he
had only a dim notion of how to realise his dream.
It was also his father who suggested he apply for
drama school, ostensibly as an interlude until the
fire department came calling. At his interview for
the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New
York, Buscemi was asked why he wanted to be an
actor. He casually parroted his dad’s well-meaning
advice that acting classes would stand him in good
stead for whatever path he chose in life. “I remember her telling me: ‘Well, we really want people who
want to be actors,’” he recalls. “In that moment, I
felt I really blew it.” He didn’t, as it happens, but it
taught him not to be so cavalier about the thing he
was most passionate about.
Buscemi told the story of his Lee Strasberg interview as we sat in a quiet neighbourhood bar in
Park Slope, Brooklyn, not far from the brownstone
he shares with the artist and film-maker Jo Andres,
his wife of 30 years. Like the bar itself, his demeanour was low-key and unassuming. With a beer in his
hand, he talked quietly but grew more animated as
he spoke about his early days as one half of comedy
duo Steve & Mark, with Mark Boone Jr. Their shtick
was a kind of stream-of-consciousness situation
comedy that introduced them to New York’s thenvibrant performance art scene. Downtown legend
Rockets Redglare, famously the first person to enter Sid Vicious’s room at the Chelsea Hotel after the
murder of Nancy Spungen, took the young Buscemi
under his wing, helping secure gigs and introducing
him to the scene. That version of New York disappeared in the 1990s, vanquished by rising rents,
Rudy Giuliani and the devastation of Aids.
His breakout role in 1986 was as a musician dying
of Aids in Parting Glances – a bold choice for an actor
launching his career. “When I played that character
I only knew one person who maybe had Aids,” he
recalls. “This was right smack in the middle of all
that fear and anxiety: ‘Could you get it from somebody by just being in the same room?’ Of course,
later, so many of my friends died of Aids. We lost so
many good people in their prime.” He talks poignantly of Ethyl Eichelberger, a drag performance
artist who dominated the 1980s scene before being
diagnosed with HIV and taking his life in 1990. Most
of those people have faded from public consciousness, but they hang on in Buscemi’s memory as the
mentors and guides of his career.
You feel their animating spirit in his own projects,
populated as they are by oddballs and outsiders.
He summons a quote by Frank Capra to the effect
that every character in his Christmas classic, It’s a
Wonderful Life, is worthy of his or her own film. “I
tried to keep that in mind as I wrote Trees Lounge,”
he said. “I thought I was being careful not to
romanticise the life of someone who hangs out in a
bar all the time, and yet I do find these characters
romantic, and I still find bars really alluring.” He
was touched when the owner of the bar they were
set to film in changed his mind at the last minute.
“He said: ‘I don’t think I can close my bar for a week
and let you guys film here,’ and we said, ‘Why?’ and
he said: ‘Where are my regulars going to go? What
are they going to do?’”
In 2005, Buscemi went back to his old high
school in Valley Stream, a predominantly IrishItalian neighbourhood, to receive an award. Talking to students he recalled his anxious youth. “I still
get scared,” he told them. “I try to live with it, and
you keep going.”
In Park Bench, Buscemi’s charming, littlewatched web-only talkshow, a telling moment
comes during a conversation with the Wu-Tang
Clan’s GZA. The rapper recalls his childhood inspirations, including Don McLean and Neil Sedaka,
prompting an elated Buscemi to offer a formative
experience of his own. “I went to the mall and
bought some 45s. I ran into a bunch of girls from
my school and they reached into my bag and pulled
out Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,”
he says. “I could tell they were embarrassed for me,
and I thought: ‘I don’t care, I like this song.’”
Something about his response to being shamed
for his dubious musical tastes – “I don’t care” – captures the animating spirit of an actor. Buscemi is
among the least pretentious actors you will find, as
comfortable working with Adam Sandler as with
the Coen Brothers. When he describes Sandler as an
Tremblin’ in the Kremlin:
The Death of Stalin
Fear rises like gas from a corpse in Armando
Iannucci’s brilliant horror-satire The Death Of
Stalin. It’s a sulphurous black comedy about
the backstairs Kremlin intrigue that followed
the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, adapted by
Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin from
the French graphic novel series by Fabien Nury
and Thierry Robin.
Faced with the unthinkable demise of
the revered Stalin, these Soviet dignitaries
panic, plot and go in and out of denial: a
bizarre, dysfunctional hokey cokey of the
mind. Iannucci shows their reaction as akin
to the casting or lifting of a spell. All these
ageing courtiers and sycophants have suddenly been turned into a bunch of scared and
malicious children.
The Death Of Stalin is superbly cast, and
acted with icy and ruthless force by an A-list
lineup. There are no weak links. Each has
a plum role; each squeezes every gorgeous
horrible drop.
Michael Palin is outstanding as Molotov,
the pathetic functionary with the kindly,
Popular and hip … Steve Buscemi as gangster
Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire; below,
as Nikita Khrushchev Sportsphoto/Allstar
unhappy fac
face who has long since sacrificed
his self-respect
on the altar of Stalinism; Steve
Buscemi is a nervy Khrushchev, who morphs
from uneasy court jester into a Soprano-esque
player; Andrea Riseborough is compelling as Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, driven
to a b
borderline-Ophelia state of trauma
and dread.
Jeffrey Tambor is hilarious as the vain Malenkov, and so is
Friend as Stalin’s deadbeat
son, Vasily. Jason Isaacs gets
laughs as the truculent war hero Zhukov, to whom he
a muscular northern accent:
a down-to-earth man of action
w carries out the final, brutal
And the first among equals is
Russell Beale as the toadlike
secret pol
police chief, Beria, who oozes evil.
Stylishl plugging into the classic SovietStylishly
era mode of subversive satire, and melding
it with his own, Iannucci has returned to
his great th
thematic troika of power, incompetence an
and bad faith. Like the spin-doctors
o his TV satires The Thick of It
and aides of
and Veep, these
Soviet rivals scurry around
in an eterna
eternal headless-chicken dance whose
purpose is to make sure that someone gets the
Pete Bradshaw
blame. Peter
“auteur” he is not doing it to be funny or contrary;
he means it. “We just really hit it off when we did
Airheads,” he says, referring to their first film together, pithily reviewed by Time Out in 1994 as a
movie “about airheads, and for them, too”. Bad
reviews, the few there are, glide off Buscemi like
water off a duck’s back.
As a rule, it’s not Sandler’s movies that fans think
of when they picture Buscemi. That honour is more
likely to go to his Atlantic City kingpin, “Nucky”
Thompson, in HBO’s mafia origins epic Boardwalk
Empire, or to his memorable date with a wood
chipper in the Coen Brothers’ snowbound masterpiece, Fargo. His tip-kvetching Mr Pink in Quentin
Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs transformed both the
director and his ensemble cast into touchstones of
a new era in independent film-making. That film
defined a 1990s cinematic “cool” that would have
impressed those girls in the mall – if Buscemi cared
about such things. It’s partly because he doesn’t
care, you suspect, that he manages the tightrope
walk along the line of popular and hip, equally at
ease in bubblegum fare like Con Air as in cult films
like Coffee and Cigarettes.
Buscemi is one of the industry’s busiest actors,
with more than 125 films to his name, and an equally
impressive résumé in television, from The Sopranos
and Boardwalk Empire to cameos in The Simpsons
(as himself), 30 Rock (as a private detective-turnedlesbian drama teacher), and the new series, Philip
K Dick’s Electric Dreams – in which he falls in love
with a self-advertising robot in a dystopian vision
of marketing gone rogue. Buscemi has been a name
for more than 20 years, yet through a combination
of humble origins and insecurity he exhibits almost
no ego. When I marvel at his direction of the Pine
Barrens episode of The Sopranos – in which the
show’s acute combination of menace and burlesque
is on full display – he shrugs off the compliment, insisting that any director would have done the same.
He tips his hat instead to the writers. This is typical of the way Buscemi views his craft, in which his
emphasis is almost always on collaboration, rather
than individual genius.
“He’s the opposite of an asshole,” says Armando
Iannucci, who cast Buscemi in his satirical new
movie, The Death of Stalin. “On set he’s very generous and he’s not taking up anyone’s time. He’s almost apologetic when he comes up with a thought.”
Buscemi plays Nikita Khrushchev, stealthily coming from behind to take over the sudden
vacancy created by Stalin. Iannucci recalls how,
during rehearsals, Buscemi would observe and
watch but rarely chip in. “He’ll only ask little
questions, but you can see him going away and
just thinking through each moment, and knowing
when to turn it up a tiny notch, and then another
tiny notch, and then another tiny notch, so you
don’t notice the shift at any one point,” he says.
“It’s just when you stand back to look at the whole
thing you can see how delicately and cleverly he’d
gradated that transformation.”
Buscemi talked fondly about his father’s belief in
reincarnation and the afterlife. As a child, he would
come home to find visiting psychics communing
with the dead. One year the young Buscemi sought
out a psychic, and confided his hopes of being an
actor. “He said: ‘I don’t really see acting so much
as writing – writing is what I see for you,’” Buscemi
recalls, his brow furrowing. “So, in some ways I feel
that I haven’t fulfilled my true potential.” Observer
On Film
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 39
Savour the
images and
ditch the talk
Caspar Salmon
here is a disease in the
heart of cinema, and that
disease is the Q&A. More
cinemas are putting them
on than ever, partly as a
response to the rise of online streaming, in order to “add value” to their
offering – and audiences are lapping it
up. Q&As with directors and cast sell
out in minutes to people consumed
with a burning impulse to ask why
there are no nice characters in the
movie, or what it was like to film all
those hot scenes. Why?
There’s good reason other art forms
don’t enact the same depressing, bathetic rituals as film-makers do with
the Q&A. Imagine if, at the end of a
gig, the lights came up and Dave Grohl
and the rest of Foo Fighters came back
on stage to sit on stools and take a few
softball questions about lyrics and
feedback from a tame interviewer,
before a microphone was passed into
the crowd for concert-goers to ask why
I’ll Stick Around was omitted from the
setlist, or if the band have any words
about the passing of David Bowie.
The Q&A is a sorry staple of literary festivals, of course, but imagine if
everybody in the audience had only
just finished reading the book, at
exactly the same time, with no intervening period in which to formulate a
decent, critical response to the work.
The Q&A is that rare addition to
the filmic experience that diminishes
it wholesale. A film’s director is
perhaps the last person we should
be asking about their film. Not to
put too Barthes a point on it, but
the director’s intentions are always
irrelevant to the film’s success, and
asking about them occludes a proper
critical analysis of the work. Similarly,
do actors really have any insights into
the film’s artistic merit?
The Q&A removes the spectator
from the very particular dream space
that only films can occasion. The succession of images that are still floating
about as so many evanescent moments
and memories in your mind at the end
of a movie will always be catastrophically disrupted by an earnest discussion about the audition process.
The answer should be, I think, to
start more film clubs in order to generate discussions. But, as long as Q&As
keep making money for cinemas and
film-makers, the disastrous pretence
that they are interesting will continue.
40 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
On Music
Hare Squead
and the rise
of Irish rap
Tom Petty
found heart of
American rock
Alexis Petridis
Dublin’s music scene is being
transformed by global-facing
hip-hop, finds Harriet Gibsone
own a dingy industrial backstreet, a
queue forms outside Hangar, a former shirt factory in the heart of the
creative quarter of Dublin. Guests,
unperturbed by the rain, are gathered for a regular rap, trap and R&B
club night. Inside, there is a welcome lack of posturing and posing. Three men in particular – one
holding court on the dancefloor with his top off, the
other two behind the decks – are orchestrating the
mood of the club. Jessy Rose, Tony Konstone and
Lilo Blues, otherwise known as Hare Squead, are a
local group who are about to go global.
Squead are pioneers of a creative boom in
Dublin. Their music is a contemporary fusion of
trap, rap, R&B, pop, jazz and electronics. They
have Ed Sheeran’s business savvy and compositional expertise plus chiselled jaws and puppyish enthusiasm. So much so that, when we meet
Rose, he tries to insist we go trampolining rather
than do the interview.
We meet in a pub in Tallaght, the suburb where
Konstone and Blues grew up. Their childhoods
weren’t easy. “I could have easily sold drugs. I won’t
even lie,” Konstone says. “That would have been
quick money for me, especially where I’m living.”
Rose first met his two childhood friends in
Temple Bar Square in the centre of the city. He was
drawn to them immediately, surprised to see two
black kids with skateboards. He thought he was
the only one. “There were a couple of black people
around me [growing up], but they were different
to the way I am because I was into Fall Out Boy and
skating. I was comfortable being around white people, but they always saw me as goofy and different.
I never really fitted into one group.”
Forming in 2014, they put their song If I Ask – a Tinie Tempah-like creation – on SoundCloud, and soon
there was a lot of interest. They eventually signed to
Columbia and have since seen their fanbase change
from mostly men to “85%” women, perhaps due to
2016’s Herside Story, a soulful love song that turned
them into teen heartthrobs.
The band’s burgeoning popularity has nudged
the industry gaze towards the Irish capital. Driven
by an independent spirit, artists such as Erica Cody,
Simi Crowns, Jafaris, Charlotte Headon and the
Neomadic crew, among others, are reconfiguring
what it means to make Irish music – a term formerly
‘I don’t know any girls who
play fiddle in Irish bands.
There probably are some
but I haven’t met one’
Ready for leap to the global stage … Hare Squead
associated with indie, folk, rock and bodhránthrumming ceilidhs. Dublin rapper Rejjie Snow
has made a significant dent in the US, and recent
documentaries Broken Song and Irish Rappers
Revealed have explored the northside of Dublin and
its mostly white, working-class rap scene. But it’s
Hare Squead’s accessible charm that has put Dublin
– primarily multicultural Dublin – at the centre of
future-facing mainstream music.
Fachtna O Ceallaigh, Sinéad O’Connor’s former manager who now looks after Hare Squead,
believes this new generation of musicians are a sign
of Ireland’s evolving society. Not long ago, it was
insular, “agricultural, rural and contentedly Catholic” – now it’s a bustling, “outward-looking” place.
“I think that is what we’re beginning to experience here now, as manifested by Hare Squead, is
music that mixes hip-hop and R&B, an African feel
and diverse influences like Nirvana, Panic at the
Disco and Feist,” he says.
A key launchpad is Diffusion Lab, which functions as a label and studio, and enlists writers,
musicians and in-house producers.
ucers. Jafaris is one
of its core acts: his song If You Love
ove Me is a cavernous blast of emotion that Beyoncé
cé might fall for. He
was born in Zimbabwe but now
w lives in Tallaght, a
place he describes as “a mixture of the hood and the
suburbs. I was kind of exposed to a lot of robbing, a
lot of shooting, but I stayed away
y from all of that.”
Unlike fellow Irish exports who wear their
heritage overtly, these artistss are globalsounding. Comments on Hare
e Squead’s
YouTube videos often raise the
e absence
of their Irish accents in their vocals.
“I love Ed Sheeran’s music and I love
the ideas and stuff, but it’s just painting a
stereotype of Ireland,” Blues says.
s. “I don’t
know any girls who play a fiddle
le in an
Irish band. There probably are some,
but I haven’t met one.”
“I’ll take you to Grafton Street – you won’t
see one girl playing the fiddle,” adds
dds Rose.
hen Tom Petty and
the Heartbreakers
first emerged, they
cut anomalous, even
anachronistic figures
in US rock. It was 1976, the year of
the Eagles’ Hotel California and Peter
Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive!:
not, on the surface, the ideal time to
launch a band audibly obsessed with
smart, snappy 60s pop, whose big idea
appeared to be fusing the 12-string
jangle of the Byrds with the tough
swagger of the mid-60s Rolling Stones.
Their eponymous debut album more
or less sank without trace in America,
thought it attracted more interest in
the UK. But the closing track, American
Girl, turned out to be the first of a string
of songs that demonstrated the ability of Petty both to tap into something
fundamental at the heart of US rock and
to write melodies that sounded timeless and instantly familiar: Don’t Do Me
Like That, You Got Lucky, Here Comes
My Girl, Don’t Come Around Here No
More, I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’.
Indeed, so timeless and familiar
were his melodies that other artists
kept subconsciously stealing them: two
years ago Petty and co-composer Jeff
Lynne were given a cut of the songwriting royalties for Sam Smith’s Stay With
Me, thanks to the latter song’s closeness to I Won’t Back Down.
Petty, pictured, was always generous about other artists borrowing from
him. On the one hand, he could afford
to be. By the time of his death, he’d sold
something like 80m albums and had
long been part of the rock aristocracy,
palling around with the kind of artists
who had inspired
inspire him as a kid – Lynne,
Bob Dylan, Geor
George Harrison and Roy
Orbison – as the Travelling Wilburys.
But perhaps his
h generosity had more
to d
do with the sense that
Petty was a music fan as
much as he was a musician, aware that his success
was based at least in part on
smartly sy
synthesising the sound
of artists he
h loved into somehis own.
thing entirely
The artists
arti who led the tributes
his death, aged 66, from
to him after h
a heart attack last week were from
generations after his: Ryan Adams,
members of Vampire Weekend and
Kings Of Leon.
Leo If you wanted proof
of the way Pe
Petty’s music rang down
the ages, there
the it was.
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 41
Culture Reviews
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Rock & pop
The National
Blade Runner 2049
ith this visually staggering film,
director Denis Villeneuve brings us
to a kind of Ozymandias moment.
It just has to be experienced on the
biggest screen possible. Blade Runner 2049 is a
narcotic spectacle of eerie and pitiless vastness,
by turns satirical, tragic and romantic.
This is the sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic,
directed by Ridley Scott and based on Philip
K Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric
Sheep?, starring Harrison Ford as a “blade
runner”, a futureworld cop whose job is to track
down and kill disobedient almost-human androids known as replicants. The 2017 follow-up
simply couldn’t be any more of a triumph: a
stunning enlargement and improvement.
Blade Runner 2049 is co-scripted by the
original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher, and
riffs on the first film. There are poignant themevariations on memory and crying in the rain and
a cityscape full of signs in different languages,
ghostly VR advertising avatars and flashing corporate logos. It alludes to the first Blade Runner
but references also reach further back, to the
Kubrickian hotel-bar and spaceship, and to the
desolate final moments of Planet of the Apes.
The setting is Los Angeles, 30 years on from
the first film’s 2019 setting. The corporation
s part of The Royal Court’s international
programme, B by the Chilean Guillermo
Calderón is about people we loosely
dub “terrorists”.
He introduces us to two hapless anarchists,
Marcela and Alejandra, who can’t even lie convincingly to their neighbour, Carmen, and who
seem nervous about undertaking their first mission. But the stakes are raised with the arrival of
the veteran José Miguel, who not only supplies
the women with the vital bomb but who also
exposes their naivety. For much of the action, all
three characters are hooded, but once they abandon their disguise we quickly grasp that they are
driven by contradictory purposes.
that once manufactured the replicants, whose
spartacist uprising was the original theme, has
been bought out by an agribusiness empire
owned by one Niander Wallace (Jared Leto),
a grotesque figure brooding on how to create
replicant-workers on a scale sufficient for his imperial plans. Ryan Gosling plays LAPD officer K, a
limited-lifespan replicant whose task is to track
down and destroy those first-gen models. K has
a virtual-reality girlfriend, quibblingly named
Joi (Ana de Armas), with whom he believes himself to be in love, though he understands that
both she and he are constructed artefacts.
K embarks on a dangerous mission, and both
his LAPD boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright)
and Wallace are very interested in what he
might discover. Wallace despatches his assistant, named Luv and superbly played by Sylvia
Hoeks, with an unnerving habit of crying when
her face appears to show no human emotion at
all. It is all leading to a mysterious encounter
with Rick Deckard himself, the outsider cop
from the first film, played with haggard misanthropy by Harrison Ford.
The production design by Dennis Gassner
and cinematography by Roger Deakins are
both delectable, and the score by Benjamin
Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer provides a kind of
aural neon. This film’s scale is extraordinary.
It places the acid tab of cinema-pleasure on
your tongue. Peter Bradshaw
Calderón successfully conveys
the self-aggrandising absurdity that
often lies behind terrorist acts. The
three activists here speak in code so
that the four-letter word “bomb” is either
known as “B” or “the cheese”. One of the
women is even asked to defecate into
a can to make the nails surrounding the
bomb lethally infectious. This, in turn,
reveals the gulf between the two women
who want to make a non-violent, anticapitalist protest and José Miguel who
seeks to perpetuate his war on society.
The problem is that, having revealed his characters’ muddled intentions
through action and dialogue, Calderón suddenly
ith their recent seventh record inspiring an avalanche of respectful raves,
it feels like the National and their
abiding sense of emotional seriousness are finally being ushered into rock’s platinum club of all-time greats. On the first of two
sold-out nights in Edinburgh, the veteran Ohio
band certainly signal their faith in the new album
Sleep Well Beast by rolling out 10 tracks from
it. They include, in a brooding opening quartet,
the surprisingly ear-splitting The System Only
Dreams in Total Darkness, a forceful clatter of
tom-toms and abrupt guitar barbs. Two songs in,
and usually lugubrious frontman Matt Berninger
is suddenly attacking the chorus with such intensity he seems in danger of blowing out his voice.
Combining artfully arranged angst with occasional afterburner blasts of volatility is what gives
the National such a moreish charge. Now with
almost two decades on the clock, they are a band
tightly bound and driven by familial connections, with the Dessner twin brothers on guitars
(and occasional keyboard) and the Devendorf
non-twin brothers on bass and drums. Perhaps
so as not to feel left out, Berninger composed
the prickly, dysfunction-plumbing lyrics of Sleep
Well Beast with his wife Carin, tonight hymned in
Carin at the Liquor Store, a last-orders, dive-bar
piano shanty that references John Cheever, someone else who knows a thing or two about exquisitely sketched vignettes of suburban unease.
Radiohead have often seemed like a useful reference point, and not just because both
bands feature virtuosic brothers on guitar. The
National similarly have no fear of the occasional
tricksy time signature (the rueful, wrong-footing
I Should Live in Salt is an early highlight) while
their recent Kid A-style skittering beats have
invited even more comparisons with the world’s
reigning post-rock tragedians. But the mumbled,
profane epiphanies of new song Walk It Back also
bring to mind Arab Strap’s mix of gutter poetry
and slithering electronics. The minor-key spiral
Afraid of Everyone generates a seemingly unlikely moment of singalong community. On their
way to a righteous four-song encore – climaxing
with the agitated gospel of Terrible Love – the
National wring every last drop of catharsis from
their forlorn, furious canon. Graeme Virtue
Touring Europe and North America to 13 December,
then US, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand in 2018
gives them long monologues resembling confessional arias.
Aimee-Ffion Edwards and Danusia Samal clearly establish the
strange innocence of the self-styled
anarchists in contrast to the fury of
Paul Kaye, pictured, as the bombmaker, and Sarah Niles is suitably
ambivalent as the neighbour. But
while Calderón’s play, translated
by William Gregory, is enlightening about the varied impulses
behind violence, it spells out its
intentions too vociferously.
Michael Billington
At the Royal Court theatre,
London, to 21 October
42 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Claxton, Norfolk
I’d like to think I would be
philanthropic, but maybe not
• When the person concerned
begins to shine.
Avril Taylor,
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
If you won the lottery, what would
you do with your millions?
Keep very quiet about them.
Lawrie Bradly,
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
• When David took on Goliath.
Rhys Winterburn,
Perth, Western Australia
• Stick it in the bank until I’d
recovered from the shock.
Joan Dawson,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
• When the lunatics who have
taken over the asylum present
themselves with honorary
Neil Johnson, Birmingham, UK
• Buy more lotto tickets.
Meg Sutton Benseman,
Auckland, New Zealand
• I’d like to say I’d be philanthropic
but I’d probably find a discreet tax
haven and be phillips-thropic.
Pat Phillips, Adelaide, Australia
• Buy a house.
George Gatenby,
West Croydon, South Australia
• I’d stuff it in that old cushion!
James Rogers, Wuppertal, Germany
• If you live in the US, pay a
large percentage to the Internal
Revenue Service.
Heddi Lersey,
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Honorary doctorates for all!
At what point does madness
become brilliance?
Look to skits by the Marx Brothers,
Monty Python and, as the French
say, Le Grand Jerry Lewis.
Richard Orlando,
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
• The link between madness and
genius tends to be exaggerated.
People who have psychotic illnesses
In it to win it ... the lottery
may be ordinary or brilliant, and
they usually improve with treatment. Not all madmen are geniuses
and not all geniuses are mad.
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia
• When a goalkeeper dives head
first at the feet of a rampaging
attacker and grabs the ball.
Charlie Bamforth,
Davis, California, US
• At the same point where brilliance
ceases to be sane. That is, if you
conceive of intelligence as a line,
and it would be madness to do so.
Bryan Smith,
Sweaburg, Ontario, Canada
• When it has an apparently
beneficial impact upon others.
Philip Stigger,
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
• As Einstein pointed out, the only
difference between genius and
insanity is that genius has its limits.
Ursula Nixon,
Bodalla, NSW, Australia
• When, like Christopher Smart,
you consider your cat Jeoffry.
E Slack, L’Isle Jourdain, France
We all want to live it up
Will there ever be a time without
construction sites?
Certainly – the week your contractor
is meant to start!
Mac Bradden,
Port Hope, Ontario, Canada
• No, because we all like living it up.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
Any answers?
Do childhood thrills like riding
escalators wear off ?
Aoife Hanley, Kiel, Germany
How far can you make it
without reading?
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 Stewart Devitt
My first contact with the Guardian
Weekly was in the Belfast warehouse
of the Irish print retailer Eason,
sorting through the bundles of newspapers and magazines brought
back from the docks. It often
meant clambering into the
back of the van to pull out
the sought-after copies
to ensure timely delivery.
Failure to do so could trigger an irate phone call from
my boss, Miss Marshall.
She owned a local newsagency and prided herself on stocking any newspaper or periodical a
customer wanted. A missed deadline
therefore had the potential to lead to
a major crisis. Maybe this experience
accounted for my own behaviour
when I transferred over to the retail
side of the business: dealing with
customers wanting their copy
of the Guardian Weekly, and
wanting it on time. This
guardianship of the paper
continued from Belfast
to Dublin to Sheffield
and it was automatic to
watch out for copies and
have them on the shelves
on the right day.
When I left the newspaper trade I
may have thought the romance was
over. How wrong could I have been!
Finding myself in Auckland, New
In natural history, it is easy to notice
a first for the year, but to be mindful
of the last is more difficult. I know
that the house martins are gone, yet
their going from our village entailed
an unremarkable dwindling of sights
and sounds, but slowly, like a loss of
moisture in a puddle.
I did have one memorable
sighting last week in the Yare valley.
Over Blackwater, about 40 were
pooled above a poplar plantation
and in and out of their midst swirled
a single lost swift. The martins were
smaller, busier, each one with a
swept-back wing silhouette, which,
depending on the way it turned, was
shaped like a broad smile, or frown.
They were feeding in a manner
that entailed much even soaring,
then passages of wing beats of about
15 flickering strokes in bursts of
1-3 seconds. In those moments of
intensity, the birds would steeple
higher, catch their fly, and then fall,
resuming the steady-state evenness of the glide. I estimated 40,
but only a dozen birds were visible
at any moment and the rest were
implied by an elastic net of dry
buzzing notes that are the perpetual
atmosphere in which house martins
pass their lives.
Zealand, where Radio NZ covers
local and world news in about 10
minutes, the Guardian Weekly
became a lifeline to world events.
Great as this was, frustrations
set in with the delay in me getting
copies. Subconsciously I must have
realised that Miss Marshall would
never have accepted this so I took
the only sensible option and became
a subscriber. She most likely is looking down at me now, proud of the
little role she played in strengthening
my link with the Guardian Weekly.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
It seemed to me that it was the
outriders that vocalised most,
reassuring themselves of contact,
but providing the loose, mobile web
of calls with which all could keep
company. And this sound, as simple
as dried grass and as modest as
insect stridulation, is the thing they
take with them to Africa, and which
I shall miss most.
Since this bird eats only
invertebrates, it is a call made of
insects, but it is also much more.
For house martins eat what is
known as aerial plankton and the
birds will return to Europe from
Africa only when these tiny airborne
organisms reach a critical mass in
the air above our country. As the
light diminishes, as warmth fades,
as our hemisphere turns at an angle
of 23.4 degrees away from the sun,
so the calls go south. Think, then,
of the house martins’ warm envelope of dry notes as nothing less
than the music of our planet turning
in space. Mark Cocker
Read more Nature watch online
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 43
Quick crossword
Cryptic crossword by Vlad
1 Rich man with a much
younger partner (5,5)
7 Female character in The
Rivals who uses words
wrongly (8)
8 Drooping cheek (4)
9 Ditch (4)
10 Factory for casting metal (7)
12 State of weightlessness
14 Satirise (7)
16 Crow (4)
19 Persuade (4)
20 Horse race, first run in 1780
21 Any of the 99 numbered
points that divide a set into
100 equal parts (10)
6 Standard typewriter
keyboard (6)
11 Doubter – coatings (anag) (8)
12 Person militant about a
cause (6)
13 From Nazareth? (7)
15 Sprite (5)
17 Part of a wall under a ridged
roof (5)
18 Sharp (4)
1 Piece of broken glass (5)
2 Syntax etc (7)
3 Unusual (4)
4 Blessing (8)
5 French mustard city (5)
Last week’s solution, No 14,772
First published in the Guardian
18 September 2017, No 14,773
2 Carnal desire chap
satisfied ultimately,
maybe watching
one (3,6)
3 Finally become
nurse to May’s new
pals (3,2)
4 Visiting Bergen?
That’s not right, not
at all! (2,2,3)
5 Shady literary
hero is hot but
fairly dull (7)
6 Clearly states
they’re fast (9)
Futoshiki Hard
Fill in the grid so that
every row and column
contains the numbers
1-5. The “greater than”
or “less than” signs
indicate where a number
is larger or smaller than
its neighbour.
©Clarity Media Ltd
4 > 1
2 < 3
5 > 4 > 2 <
2 < 3
Last week’s solution
7 River current stops
her swimming (5)
8 Parting thought
about term Lord
applied to serial
non-believer? (6,7)
9 Counter problem
with explosive force
and discover what 8
didn’t say, OK? (6,7)
15 Allowing 10 out one
time to fish (9)
17 Run into bit of
hassle over fine
– don’t count on
support here (2,4,3)
19 Pass ecstasy round
stage school (7)
20 On the contrary, in
Domino’s I never
have meat (7)
22 Positive toilet’s the
same as before (3-2)
First published in the Guardian
19 September 2017, No 27,306
23 Hit in belly,
American retired (5)
Last week’s solution, No 27,300
Sudoku classic Hard
1 Liberal leader then –
big shot! (8,5)
10 Gall bladder finally
removed in folly (9)
11 10 about you
grabbing old soldier
abroad (5)
12 Plod catch male
breaking in (5)
13 Couple involved
with grass – one’s
chicken (5,4)
14 Insecure stack yet
to be fixed (7)
16 Debate is hard one
to call (4,3)
18 Scoundrel in
Clapton famously
unpredictable (7)
20 I call it sunscreen,
externally applied
21 Latched on to
jockey – it’s
eventful! (9)
23 King pair (Vlad’s) (5)
24 Boredom caused
by working, we
heard (5)
25 Head off in temper
– it’s over a lost
key (9)
26 Get union involved
with 10? It’s not
serious (6-2-5)
9 6
7 8
3 2
3 6
1 2
5 4 9
7 2
Fill in the grid so that
every row, every column
and every 3x3 box
contains the numbers 1
to 9. We will publish the
solution next week.
Free puzzles at
Last week’s solution
44 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
Victories threaten
club’s record for losing
The Brazilian football club Íbis Sport
hadn’t won a match for two years.
Now the self-styled “worst team in
the world”, which plays in the lowest division of the Pernambuco state
championship, has three consecutive victories.
But far from welcoming this sudden reversal of fortune, some fans
claim the club’s roots and identity
are at stake.
Following a recent 1-0 victory
against Ferroviário do Cabo, fans
stormed a local bar where the players were enjoying a barbecue to demand: please stop winning.
“This is destroying our history,”
said protest leader, Nilsinho Filho.
Other fans went on social media
to complain, or call for resignations.
“This is a worrying situation in the
long term. To stop being an icon
and to be just another winning
team. It’s the coach’s fault,” read a
typical tweet.
Between 1980 and 1984, the team
went three years and 11 months
without winning a game, and entered the Guinness Book of Records
as “the worst club in the world”.
The club’s former midfielder,
Mauro Shampoo, boasts that he
scored just one goal in 10 years, and
has also criticised the recent victories. “If we keep winning, we are going to lose our brand,” he said.
Nilsinho Filho claimed that even
if the club is promoted, Íbis Sport
has claimed its place in history.
“Even if we go on to win the
Brazilian championship one day, no
one will ever be able to take our title
as the worst team in the world,” he
said. Sam Cowie
Bon appétit … a swarm of moon jellyfish
“Jellyfish is a real issue over here
and when I started cooking with it
I realised it was also a really good
product,” says Brown.
Because of Ministry for Primary
Industries restrictions Brown is unable to serve local jellyfish at his
restaurant, and has to import it from
South Korea. Brown says the MPI
restrictions are “crazy” and says on
some days he is barely able to swim
in Wellington harbour because the
ocean is clogged with jellyfish.
“Some people go ‘yuck, no way’
and those are the people I really
want to target and change their
perception,” Brown said.
Eleanor Ainge Roy
Salvage firm targets
New Zealand chef puts Atlantic gold wrecks
jellyfish on the menu
An environmentally minded New
Zealand chef is selling plates of
imported jellyfish after becoming
frustrated that the seafood is being
wasted in his homeland.
Mass jellyfish landings are an
increasingly common occurrence
in New Zealand, with scientists
saying warming sea temperatures,
a decline in predators and nutrientrich oceans are contributing factors.
Jacob Brown, an awardwinning chef from Wellington’s
The Larder restaurant first started
experimenting with jellyfish a
couple of years ago, and says the
seafood has ballooned in popularity
as diners look for more sustainable
proteins in their meals.
Brown now sells around 150 jellyfish meals a week to his customers,
and would like to expand his menu
to include local possums, wasps,
ants and wild Canadian geese.
insurance records discovered by one
of its senior researchers.
“He came across a document
written by an adviser to wartime
chancellor of the exchequer Reginald McKenna, in a box of wills of
deceased sailors.
“It clearly indicated gold movements made on behalf of the government on requisitioned merchant liners, which were named, with values
of gold and when they sailed.”
“It’s a massive jigsaw to piece together and it took decades to do so,”
he said. Rob Davis
Germany has its first
same-sex wedding
A transatlantic salvage operation
will put to sea to recover some of the
estimated £125bn ($166bn) worth
of gold and other precious metals
sunk by German U-boats while being
shipped to the US to pay for Britain’s
first and second world war efforts.
Britannia Gold, a UK firm that has
spent 25 years analysing cargo lost at
sea, will set sail in secret to explore
the first cluster of shipwrecks it
hopes will yield treasure.
If successful, the company will
take the loot to a secure location, from
which it will negotiate a price with the
UK government for its return.
The company plans to explore
dozens of shipwrecks stretching
from the north Atlantic to the Caribbean, believing it can recover
around 2,000 tonnes of bounty.
Will Carrier, operational director
of Britannia Gold, said the company had an unrivalled opportunity
thanks to painstaking analysis of
As they entered the golden room of
Schöneberg town hall to the strains
of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March,
Bodo Mende and Karl Kreile were
only doing what tens of thousands
of others had done before – tying the
knot in front of friends and family in
the southern Berlin district.
But they were also making history
as the first same-sex couple able to
marry in Germany, after a new law
came into force on 1 October.
“After 38 years together, this is a
day we’ve waited a long time for,”
59-year-old Kreile said.
Mende, 60, said it was a “huge
honour” for the couple to be the first
in Germany to marry. “I remember
the shame we felt when we were
turned away from a registry office 25
years ago when we confronted the
registrar as part of an organised protest. They made us feel like secondclass citizens.”
Germany has now become the
14th European country to legalise gay marriage, and the 23rd
worldwide. Kate Connolly
Same Difference
Identify the two words, which differ
only in the letters shown:
****** (bad type)
GAR****** (murderously bad type)
Maslanka puzzles
1 This week Pedanticus’s ire was
triggered by the word “biopic” on an
arts programme on the radio. What
might the problem have been there?
2 In The Cheeseparers of Turin, Count
Nipcheese cuts off and consumes a
triangle similar to the original shape
of the cheese, leaving behind a triangle similar to the original shape. The
original cheese is a 3-4-5 triangle,
and he effects his “abscission” with
each cut by dropping a perpendicular from the
right-angle on
to the (cur5
rent) hypotenuse. What
fraction does
he cut off at
each stage? Prove that infinite repetition consumes the whole cheese.
3 Sheriff Einstein challenges Gullible
Gus to the following game: Gus
will roll a die. If the score is a 5 or
a 6, Einstein wins. Otherwise Gus
will win. Clearly Gus’s chances are
here 2⁄3. Now: if the same game is
played with 3 dice and if the highest
score on any die is a 5 or a 6 Sheriff
Einstein wins, what are Gus’s
chances? Endyce asks: what if we
used n dice instead?
4 The probability of winning a
single game is 90%. If you play it
n times the chances of winning it
every time falls below a half. What
is the smallest n can be?
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
Find the correct definitions:
a) rough
b) like a reptile
c) smooth
d) slab-faced
a) hogsfat
b) older version for “Siam”
c) oriental hut
d) extinct herbivore
E Pluribus Unum
Rearrange the letters of GREAT
ORDER to make a single word.
Missing Links
Find a word which follows the
first word in the clue and precedes
the second in each case making a
fresh word or phrase. Eg the answer
to fish mix could be cake (fishcake &
cake mix) …
a) fell dead
b) fire walker
c) car hate
d) fool’s leaf
e) blood tree
f) solar point
©CMM2017. For solutions see page 47
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 45
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Oliver Burkeman
This column will change your life
Do we need therapists? Research says
self-help exercises could be better for
you than cognitive behavioural therapy
esearchers say you might as well be
your own therapist,” the website
Quartz proclaimed recently, in light
of a new study that found a vanishingly small difference between
seeing a cognitive behavioural
therapist and just doing various selfhelp exercises on your own. Naturally, this sort of
thing is liable to make therapists angry. (The correct
response is to nod compassionately and ask: “Now,
why do you think that makes you so angry?”) As
Mark Brown, a blogger on mental health, has written in the Guardian, we should be wary of any finding that seems to suggest governments could save
money by telling people to sort themselves out. But
the self-help route has another limitation worth
bearing in mind: what makes you so confident you
even know what your problems really are?
Typically, self-help works like this: you’re
troubled by some issue – procrastination, commitment-phobia, depression – so you seek a book to
fix it, just as you’d seek a spanner or screwdriver
if the legs on your kitchen table started wobbling.
But minds aren’t like wobbly tables. There’s no
reason to assume – actually, there’s much reason
to doubt – that we’re in touch with our deepest
anxieties and hang-ups. Rather than productivity
techniques, maybe you need to face the fact that
your job provides no meaning. Maybe accusing
yourself of “commitment-phobia” is how you
rationalise the subconscious awareness that your
partner doesn’t love you. Maybe your depression
is best understood not as the result of “automatic
thoughts”, but as a sign that you’re living life to
serve your parents’ agenda, instead of your own.
Or maybe not: probably, some problems are
exactly what they seem. But the question is so
personal that the best book in the world can’t
Illustration by Michele Marconi; right, Lo Cole
What I’m really thinking
The adult with autism
help but miss the mark, whereas another human
at least stands a chance of hitting it. And if CBT
is truly no better than self-help, maybe the right
conclusion isn’t that therapists don’t matter, but
that CBT isn’t necessarily the apogee of therapy?
Crucially, the point isn’t that therapists are
wiser, thus better placed to tell you what your
problems are. Rather, a good therapist will throw
up roadblocks to your attempts to swiftly define
the problem before hurrying on to fix it. This is the
There’s no reason to
assume – actually, there’s
much reason to doubt –
that we’re in touch with
our deepest anxieties
kernel of good sense in the cliche of the Freudian
shrink who does nothing but rephrase his patient’s
comments as questions: he’s refusing them the
comfortable option of a one-size-fits-all solution,
forcing them toward self-understanding. Therapy
isn’t the only way to do this: journaling, meditation, even some books are among the others. What
they all share is that they throw you back on yourself, blocking the easy but inauthentic alternative
of using someone else’s secondhand answer. As
Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, though
he didn’t: “If I had only one hour to save the world,
I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem.”
Plus, when it comes to psychology, there’s a
bonus: half the time, a problem truly understood
stops being a problem at all.
Last year I took some tests at my
local adult autism centre and it
emerged that I tick all the boxes for
Asperger’s. I am in my 40s, and I am
not alone. There has been a huge
surge in adults, especially women,
tested in the last five years.
Why was it not noticed sooner? I
was a very odd child: I rarely played
with or talked to other children in
my early years, out of choice, and
spent most of my teens ostracised
as I didn’t understand others’
social rules. But it was the 1970s,
I was a girl, and autism was never
mentioned; indeed, the diagnostic
criteria until recently were based on
presentation in boys. Do I wish I’d
been identified sooner? Yes and no:
I’d have liked some help, but not to
have been limited by the label.
I haven’t done badly in life. I have
a degree and a good job, a partner, a
house and a small but valued social
circle. Now I have to come to terms
with having what other people call
a “disability”, a “mental disorder”,
a “syndrome”, and which some
people would like to see “cured.” I
don’t want a cure: I value the unique
insights, talents and attention to
detail that Asperger’s has given me.
The public at large still believe
autism is found mainly in little boys.
I can’t “come out” at work for fear
of being thought of as either stupid
or Rain Man. It’s much harder than
coming out as gay, which I did in my
20s. Thank goodness for the online
community, my local autism theatre
group and Autscape, a conference I
recently attended run by and for autistic people. There I could
cou proudly
say I’m identified as neuro-diverse.
Autism rights have a long way to go,
and I’d like to think I can,
way, be a
in a small w
pioneer for neurodiversity.
Tell us what
you’re really
at mind@
46 The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17
Leeds’s McGuire
finishes on a high
Rhinos captain bows out
after 24-6 Grand Final
success over Castleford
Rugby league
Aaron Bower Old Trafford
As part of the pre-match entertainment for the 20th instalment of the
Super League Grand Final, the sellout crowd was treated to a northern
soul medley to whet the appetite for
kick-off. In hindsight it might have
been wiser to plump for Motown
because, as the Four Tops sang way
back when, it’s the same old song once
again for Leeds and their opponents
in Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium.
For the eighth time in 14 seasons
the Super League title belongs to the
Rhinos. This time – achieved with a
24-6 triumph over Castleford Tigers
– may feel extra special given their
exertions of 12 months ago when
they were battling against relegation
but, as they have done so many times
in the past, Brian McDermott’s club
showed that whenever they reach
Old Trafford it takes something very
special to beat them.
Since they first lifted the Super
League trophy in 2004 against Bradford Bulls, only one side – the Bulls
the following year – have managed
to find the formula to beat the Rhinos at Old Trafford. Wigan, St Helens,
Warrington and now Castleford
have felt the might of Leeds’ timehonoured ability to perform in the
season’s finale.
Most of them have also experienced
the supremacy of Danny McGuire at
one time or another; Castleford were
no exception here. His performance
was one that Leeds’s legendary leader,
Kevin Sinfield, would have been
proud of.
For all the talk of Castleford’s fairytale season after decades of struggle,
McGuire, finishing on the ultimate
high here, was clearly in no mood to
let his glittering career with his hometown club finish with a whimper.
Next season will bring a new challenge at Hull Kingston Rovers for
McGuire but, perhaps fittingly, his
last performance in a Leeds shirt was
one of the finest of his 424 displays.
“Magic Mags”, said his team-mate,
Stevie Ward, after the game.
McGuire agreed things could not
have gone to plan better. “It’s a fairytale,” he said. “I went to bed on Friday night and dreamed of the fairytale
finish. A new challenge will be good
for me but I was determined my Leeds
career would finish on a positive note,
and it couldn’t have gone any better.
I said it was the right thing for the club
and myself and I stick by it.”
Leeds may not have been the best
team this season but they are the
champions. And that, as the curtain
falls on another Super League season,
is all that really matters.
“To get here was an achievement,”
said McDermott, nodding to the turmoil of 2016. “To win it? That’s where
I get lost for words.”
Ultimately, Leeds warmed to the
task amid a flurry of handling errors
– one of the more eye-catching Old
Trafford finales this was not. But
Tom Briscoe’s try from a McGuire
kick, followed by a drop goal from
the latter right on half-time, opened
up a two-score lead which, given how
out of sorts Castleford looked, always
seemed a significant advantage.
It was evident that the first try of
the second half would be crucial.
Castleford simply had to score it; they
‘Fairytale finish’ … Danny McGuire inspired Leeds Rhinos to their eighth
Super League Grand Final win in 14 seasons Michael Steele/Getty
Hardaker fails drugs test
The England international Zak
Hardaker has apologised for making
“an enormous error of judgment”
after being provisionally suspended
by the Rugby Football League for
failing a drugs test. Castleford
dropped the full-back for the Super
League Grand Final for what they
called a breach of club rules and the
governing body later revealed the
player tested positive for cocaine
following his club’s win over Leeds
on 8 September.
“I have let everyone at the club
down,” said Hardaker, who has
also been left out of England’s
World Cup squad. AB
did not. Instead it was Leeds who went
further ahead, with McGuire again involved as he seized upon an error from
Eden to put the Rhinos further ahead.
Leeds would not stop there.
Briscoe’s second preceded another
party piece from McGuire and Leeds,
the half-back touching down for his
second try before he added another
drop-goal to extend their lead to 24.
Not all fairytales have happy
endings. Pre-match, the story was
all about Castleford, and all eyes
were on the Tigers. In the end it had
been largely forgotten that when the
Grand Final rolls around and Leeds
are involved, it is almost always their
night. By full-time they had done a
fairly decent job of reminding their
Super League rivals of their virtues.
England are going to the World Cup, but don’t hold your breath
Inside sport
Barney Ronay
ut out more flags. Dust
down the red and white
jester’s hat. Root out the
gumshield, the crumpled
Yekaterinburg metro map. And
prepare to head once more into that
strangely gruelling territory between
bruised and fearful cynicism and the
eternal quiver of tournament hope.
England’s footballers booked their
place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia
after surely the most meandering,
flaccid qualification victory yet devised by any England team. Slovenia
were beaten by Harry Kane’s late
goal last Thursday but make no mistake – this was both a dreadful game
of football and a numbing spectacle.
Victory may have sealed qualification, but it deflated any realistic
expectations of what might happen
when England get there. This should
concern the Football Association.
There are only so many times even
England fans will be prepared to pay
£40 ($53) for the pleasure of throwing paper aeroplanes at the pitch.
The challenge now for England’s
manager, Gareth Southgate, is to
produce a team that people actually
want to watch. In their current guise,
watching England is like watching
a 12-round undercard split decision wrestle-off between a pair of
ponderous overweight taxi drivers.
Success for this team would involve
simply playing with a little freedom,
exploring their own limits and refusing to leave the competition until
they have at least been beaten by a
demonstrably superior team. Score
some goals. Produce at least one
performance that lets everyone feel
giddy and stupid and deluded for
four days in June.
There is a wider issue here about
international football itself. When
England’s away fans in Malta last
The Guardian Weekly 13.10.17 47
Sport in brief
• Iceland’s footballers sealed their
place in next year’s World Cup finals
in Russia after a 2-0 victory against
Kosovo in Reykjavik, becoming the
smallest nation ever to qualify for a
World Cup finals. Victory over Group
I’s bottom side guaranteed top spot
and an automatic qualifying place.
“This is really odd, I don’t know what
to say. I mean … Pelé, Maradona, Aron
Einar Gunnarsson,” the Iceland coach
Heimir Hallgrimsson said, referencing
the Cardiff City midfielder at the heart
of his side. They joined hosts Russia,
champions Germany, plus Brazil,
Belgium, Costa Rica, England, Egypt,
Iran, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland,
Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea
and Spain as confirmed qualifiers for
Russia, with the remaining places due
to be resolved in the coming weeks.
Northern Ireland and the Republic of
Ireland both advanced to qualifying
play-offs, the latter at the expense of
Wales after a tense 1-0 win in Cardiff.
Scotland narrowly missed out after a
2-2 draw with Slovenia.
month sang “we’re fucking shit”
they weren’t angry or incensed or
spoiling for a fight. They were taking
the mickey out of the whole thing:
England, us, them, the enduring
disjunct between a domestic league
of such screeching urgency and a
national team who have withered in
its shadow.
Take note, Gareth. It is when they
stop booing you really want to start
worrying. England will travel to Russia with hope. But not much of it.
Finals fantasy … Iceland fans celebrate
plus a spark plug failure that forced
his rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel,
to retire after only four laps, means
the Mercedes driver holds an almost
insurmountable points lead going
into the final four races of the season.
Hamilton had entered the race with
a 34-point advantage over Vettel and
leaves 59 ahead, with 100 available.
If Hamilton wins at the next round
in the US on 22 October and Vettel
finishes below fifth, the 32-year-old
will take the title and become Britain’s
most successful racing driver, with
Leonard Barden
Magnus Carlsen has seen off his
rivals, at least for the moment.
Following his early elimination
from the World Cup in Tbilisi, the
26-year-old champion made the
bold decision to travel to Douglas
for the Isle of Man Open.
Carlsen captured the £50,000
($66,000) first prize with an unbeaten 7.5/9. It was the Norwegian’s
first victory in a classical tournament for more than a year.
The world No 1’s lead in the
live ratings has now jumped from
a meagre 10 points a few months
ago to a healthy 36 ahead of his
closest rival, the World Cup winner
Levon Aronian.
Fabiano Caruana had beaten
Gawain Jones by finding a nuance
at move 19 in a sharp variation of the
Ruy Lopez. Carlsen opted for 14...
Re8 and a more solid approach, was
surprised by 15 g4!? and worked out
the counter 15...Qe7 and 16...Nd8.
As played, Caruana stood slightly
better against Carlsen but began
to lose the thread with 22 Bc2?. Soon
the weak a5 pawn dropped while
Carlsen’s powerful 26...d5! and 27...
Bb8! opened up the game. Short of
time, Caruana collapsed as 32...Ng5!
• The man in charge of last year’s
Rio Olympics was arrested last
Wednesday as it was alleged 16 gold
bars worth $2m that were stored in
a bank in Switzerland were among
his hidden assets. The investigation
into corruption within the International Olympic Committee escalated as Carlos Nuzman, the head of
the Brazilian Olympic Committee,
was detained amid claims he was a
key figure in a bribery scandal that
led to Rio de Janeiro being awarded
South America’s first Olympics. Nuzman was arrested on suspicion of
corruption, money laundering and
participating in a criminal operation
after Brazilian prosecutors alleged
his estate increased in value by
457% between 2006 and 2016. They
claimed not to have been able to
locate any evidence of increased income. Leonardo Gryner, former chief
operating officer of Rio 2016, was
also arrested on the same charges.
Maslanka solutions
3515 Fabiano Caruana v Magnus Carlsen, Isle
of Man 2017. What is black’s winning move?
prepared the decisive tactic that is
featured in this week’s puzzle.
Fabiano Caruana v Magnus Carlsen
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6
5 O-O b5 6 Bb3 Bc5 7 c3 d6 8 a4 Rb8
9 d4 Bb6 10 a5 Ba7 11 h3 O-O 12 Be3
Ra8 13 Re1 h6 14 Nbd2 Re8 15 g4!?
Qe7 16 Nf1 Nd8!? 17 Ng3 c5 18 Qd2 c4
19 Bc2 Nh7 20 b4 cxb3 21 Bxb3 Be6
22 Bc2? Rc8 23 Bd3 Nb7 24 Rec1 Qd8
25 Qb2 Nxa5 26 Nd2 d5! 27 Re1 Bb8!
28 exd5 Bxd5 29 Bf5 Rc6 30 Qa3 Nb7
31 Rad1 exd4 32 Bxd4 Ng5! 33 c4 Rxe1+
34 Rxe1 Be6 35 Qe3? see puzzle diagram
3515 35...Bf4! when if 36 Qxf4 Nxh3+ and Nxf4
or 36 Qd3 Bxd2 37 Qxd2 Nf3+ wins the queen.
• Bradford Bulls became the first
winners of the Women’s Super League
Grand Final after they beat their West
Yorkshire rivals Featherstone 36-6.
Played at the Manchester Regional
Arena as a curtain-raiser for the men’s
Grand Final at Old Trafford, the Bulls
were far too good for Featherstone
as they ended their domestic season unbeaten, adding the league to
their Challenge Cup success. Led by
the outstanding Lois Forsell, tries
from Kirsty Moroney and Forsell herself put Bradford ahead and, while
Georgia Roche replied for Featherstone, that was as good as it got for
them. Charlotte Booth scored to
open up a commanding lead before
half-time and second-half tries from
Claire Garner, who also kicked four
goals, Amy Hardcastle, Charlene
Henegan and Haylie Hields rounded
off the victory.
• Lewis Hamilton is within touching
distance of a fourth Formula One
world championship after his victory
at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.
His fifth win in the past seven races,
one more F1 championship than
Sir Jackie Stewart. “I could only have
dreamed of having this kind of gap,”
Hamilton said. “Ferrari have put on
such a great challenge all year long.
I have to put it down to my team.
They’ve done a phenomenal job.”
1 Oh the perils of gabbling for a living!
Presenters get stuck on transmit and
stop listening to their own output. With
the depressing regularity, you hear
presenter after presenter pronouncing
bio-pic (a snappily welcome abbreviation for biographical (moving) picture)
to rhyme with myopic— from my-opia,
from µυω = I close, and opia, from ops,
or eye (for those with the cultural benefit of a bit of Greek) because sufferers
peer at everything. What can I say?
Don’t! With thanks to Martin Constantinides of Ely, for sending in this bugbear.
2 With each
“abscission” he
cuts of 0.36 of the
3 2.4
cheese, leaving
0.64 of it. Doing
this an infinite
number of times
consumes: 0.36[1 + 0.64 + 0.642 +
0.643…] = 0.36/(1 - 0.64) = 100% of
the cheese.
3 For one die, Gus wins with probability
2⁄3; with two, 4/9; with 3, 8/27. For n dice:
4 Raising a proper fraction to an integral power greater than 1 shrinks it.
(.9)6 ~ 0.53…; 0.97 ~ 0.47…; so n = 7.
Wordpool c), a) EPU RETROGRADE
Missing Links a) fell/walking/dead
b) fire/dog/walker c) car/pet/hate
d) fool’s/gold/leaf e) blood/money/tree
f) solar/power/point
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Blade Runner 2049
‘A narcotic spectacle of
eerie and pitiless vastness’
Culture reviews, page 41
George Monbiot
The suffering and ecological destruction
inherent in livestock farming can no longer
be justified. The growth of the artificial meat
industry offers a sustainable alternative
hat will future generations,
looking back on our age,
see as its monstrosities? We
think of slavery, the subjugation of women, judicial
torture, the murder of
heretics, imperial conquest
and genocide, the first world war and the rise of
fascism, and ask ourselves how people could have
failed to see the horror of what they did. What
madness of our times will revolt our descendants?
There are plenty to choose from. But one of
them will be the mass incarceration of animals, to
enable us to eat their flesh or eggs or drink their
milk. While we call ourselves animal lovers, and
lavish kindness on our dogs and cats, we inflict
brutal deprivations on billions of animals that are
just as capable of suffering. The hypocrisy is so
rank that future generations will marvel at how
we could have failed to see it.
The shift will occur with the advent
of cheap artificial meat.
Technological change has
often helped to catalyse
ethical change. The $300m
deal China signed last month
h to
buy lab-grown meat marks the beginning of the end of livestock farming.
But it won’t happen quickly:: the
great suffering is likely to continue
for many years.
The answer, we are told by
celebrity chefs and food writers,
is to keep livestock outdoors:
s: eat
free-range beef or lamb, not battery pork. But all this does iss to
swap one disaster – mass cruelty
– for another: mass destruction.
Almost all forms of animal farmarming cause environmental damage,
but none more so than keeping
them outdoors. The reason is inefficiency. Grazing is not just slightly
inefficient, it is stupendously
ly wasteful. Roughly twice as much of the
world’s surface is used for
grazing as for growing crops, yet animals fed entirely on pasture produce just one gram out of the
81g of protein consumed per person per day.
A paper in Science of the Total Environment
reports that “livestock production is the single
largest driver of habitat loss”. Grazing livestock
are a fully automated system for ecological destruction: you need only release them on to the
land and they do the rest. Their keepers augment
this assault by slaughtering large predators.
In the UK, for example, sheep supply around
1% of the nation’s diet in terms of calories. Yet
they occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands.
This is more or less equivalent to all the land
under crops in the country, and more than twice
the area of the built environment (1.7m hectares).
The rich mosaic of rainforest and other habitats
that once covered the UK’s hills has been erased,
the wildlife reduced to a handful of hardy species. The damage caused is out of all proportion
to the meat pr
Replacing the meat in our
diets with soya spectacularly
reduces the land area required
per kilo of protein: by 70% in the
of chicken, 89% in the case of
case o
pork a
and 97% in the case of beef.
One study suggests that if the UK’s
population were all to switch to
a plant-based
diet, 15m hectares
of land in Britain currently used
for farming could be returned to
nature. Alternatively, the country
could feed 200 million people.
An end to animal farming would
be tthe salvation of the world’s
wildlife, natural wonders and
magnificent habitats.
is not just
slightly inefficient,
it iis stupendously
Understandably, those who keep animals
have pushed back against such facts, using an
ingenious argument. Livestock grazing, they
claim, can suck carbon out of the atmosphere
and store it in the soil, reducing or even reversing global warming. In a TED talk watched by
4 million people, the rancher Allan Savory claims
that his “holistic” grazing could absorb enough
carbon to return the world’s atmosphere to
pre-industrial levels. His inability, when I interviewed him, to substantiate his claims has done
nothing to dent their popularity.
A recent report by the Food Climate Research
Network, called Grazed and Confused, seeks
to resolve the question: can keeping livestock
outdoors cause a net reduction in greenhouse
gases? The authors spent two years investigating
the issue. They cite 300 sources. Their answer is
unequivocal. No.
As the final argument crumbles, we are left
facing an uncomfortable fact: animal farming
looks as incompatible with a sustained future for
humans and other species as mining coal.
That vast expanse of pastureland, from which
we obtain so little at such great environmental
cost, would be better used for rewilding: the mass
restoration of nature. Not only would this help to
reverse the catastrophic decline in habitats and
the diversity and abundance of wildlife, but the
returning forests, wetlands and savannahs are
likely to absorb far more carbon than even the
most sophisticated forms of grazing.
The end of animal farming might be hard to
swallow. But we are a resilient and adaptable
species. We have undergone a series of astonishing changes: the adoption of sedentarism, of
agriculture, of cities, of industry.
Now it is time for a new revolution, almost as
profound as those other great shifts: the switch to
a plant-based diet. The technology is either here
or just around the corner. The ethical switch is
happening already: even today, there are half a
million vegans in the land of roast beef.
It’s time to abandon the excuses, the fake facts
and false comforts. It is time to see our moral
choices as our descendants will.
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