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The Guardian Weekly 2017 10 20-26

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Vol 197 No 20 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 20-26 October 2017
Austria gives
youth its head
Kurz’s electoral
gamble pays
ys o
Eigg’s dream
comes true
owners thrive
‘Maybe we
try a woman?’
Mona Prince’s
vision for Egypt
Xi’s iron grip on Chinese hearts
Midway through his
10-year stint, ‘chairman
of everything’ is feared
but also respected
Tom Phillips Tanmen
Like most residents of the fishing village of Tanmen, Huang Jie will never
forget the day China’s “chairman of
everything” came to town. It was 8
April 2013 – just a few months after
Xi Jinping had taken power – and he
was using one of his first presidential
trips to pay a morale-boosting visit to
the sailors on the frontline of Beijing’s
quest to control the South China Sea.
“He was just over there,” reminisced
Huang, 45, the owner of a harbour-side
equipment shop, motioning excitedly
into the street to where Xi’s motorcade
passed by. “He looked out at us and
smiled. When he waved, it was as if it
was in slow motion – he didn’t say a
word, but I felt so excited.”
Some five years after his tour of
Tanmen, Xi is celebrating what should
be the midpoint of a 10-year stint at
the helm of the world’s second-largest economy. China’s political elite
descended on Beijing this week to
salute a 64-year-old strongman who
is now so powerful that a new body
of ideology may be written into the
constitution, putting him in the
same political league as the nation’s
founder, Mao Zedong.
For critics, foremost among them
liberal intellectuals and human rights
activists, Xi’s first term has proved calamitous. Some had hoped he would
prove a political reformer. Instead,
China’s authoritarian leader has waged
Objects of affection … souvenir
badges of Mao Zedong and Xi
Jinping Thomas Peter/Reuters
war on dissent with unexpected ferocity, throwing some opponents in jail
and forcing others overseas.
Abroad, Xi has also accrued detractors, irking nations large and small for
his assertive – some say domineering –
foreign policy initiatives. Perhaps nowhere has that swagger manifested itself more clearly than in the politically
charged waters around Tanmen,
where Beijing is using “maritime militia” groups to push highly controversial sovereignty claims over about
90% of the South China Sea.
But as Xi completes his first term,
experts say many of China’s 1.4 billion
citizens see him in a far more favourable light. “Whatever people may have
to say about Xi Jinping, he has actually been a popular leader,” said Steve
Tsang, head of the China Institute at
the School of Oriental and African
Studies in London. “The economy remains strong … corruption has been
contained … China is internationally
much more accepted as being in the
top league and is calling the shots …
In Trumpian terms, he’s managed to
make China look great again.”
Cheng Li, director of the Brookings Institution’s John L Thornton
China Cent er in Washington, said
Xi’s popularity is stronger
among poorer citizens.
“Of course, there is a lot
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2 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
World roundup
Academy expels disgraced movie mogul
Fatalities as violent storm hits Ireland
Macron denies ‘president of the rich’ tag
The organisation
behind the Oscars
has expelled the
disgraced Hollywood
movie producer Harvey
Weinstein, while separately it emerged UK
police are looking into five
allegations of
sexual assault
against him
made by three
Several allegations of rape have been
made by actors in the UK
and the US against Weinstein, all of which he has
strenuously denied.
Last Saturday, some
of the film industry’s
most powerful figures
voted to expel him from
their ranks. Dozens of
actors, including Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth
Paltrow, have made
accusations of sexual
abuse against the
movie mogul
this month,
the Academy
of Motion
Picture Arts and
Sciences to call an
emergency meeting.
Last week Weinstein’s
wife, the British designer
Georgina Chapman, said
she was leaving him.
page 18
At least three
people died in hurricane-force winds
and hundreds of thousands were left without
power after Storm
Ophelia battered Ireland
and western Britain.
Ireland experienced
the worst of the weather
on Monday, with winds
of almost 160km/h
damaging electricity
networks and causing
widespread disruption.
The Irish prime minister,
Leo Varadkar, described
Ophelia’s impact as a
“national emergency”,
adding that it was the
worst storm to have hit
Ireland in 50 years.
The remnants of the
hurricane also cut off
power supplies and disrupted transport in parts
of north-west England
and Scotland.
More Europe
news, pages 8, 9
The French president, Emmanuel
Macron, has angrily
denied he is cut off from
real life or holds workingclass people in disdain in
his first live primetime
interview after five
months in power.
Macron organised the
TV appearance last Sun-
day in part to counter the
damaging image among
his critics that he cares
more about the wealthy
than the struggling.
In recent weeks, some
of his policies, such as
watering down wealth
tax, had led to him being
labelled a “president of
the rich” by opponents.
Cuba ailment could be ‘mass hysteria’
Senior neurologists
have suggested
that a spate of
mysterious ailments
among US diplomats
in Cuba – which has
caused a diplomatic
rift between the two
countries – could have
been caused by a form of
“mass hysteria” rather
than sonic attacks.
The unexplained incidents have prompted the
US to withdraw most of
its embassy staff from
Havana and expel the
majority of Cuban diplomats from Washington.
The neurologists who
talked to the Guardian cautioned that no
proper diagnosis is possible without far more
information and access
to the 22 US victims,
who have suffered a
range of symptoms
including hearing loss,
tinnitus, headaches and
The neurologists
argue that the possibility
of “functional disorder”
due to a problem in the
nervous system – rather
than a disease – should
be considered.
More Americas
news, page 7
Journalist’s murder stuns Malta
Dozens killed in Iberian wildfires
At least 32 people
were killed in
northern Portugal
and Spain, where hundreds of wildfires forced
residents to flee from
towns and villages.
The death toll
in Portugal,
where a huge
fire killed
64 people
in June, was
expected to
rise. The government declared a state
of emergency for regions
north of the Tajo river
after last Sunday was
described as “the worst
day of the year in terms
of forest fires” by the
civil protection spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar.
Over 6,000 firefighters were battling more
than 500 wildfires last
Sunday – the highest
number of fires in a
single day for
more than 10
years. Jorge
Gomes, Portugal’s secretary of state of
internal administration, said
most of the fires had
been set deliberately.
The fires were fanned
by strong winds. Some
blazes in Galicia, Spain,
remained out of control
this week.
The journalist who
led the Panama
Papers investigation into corruption in
Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near
her home.
Daphne Caruana
Galizia’s blogs were a
thorn in the side of both
the establishment and
underworld figures that
hold sway in Europe’s
smallest member state.
Her most recent revelations pointed the finger
at Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and
two of his closest aides,
connecting offshore
companies linked to the
three men with the sale
of Maltese passports and
payments from the government of Azerbaijan.
No group or individual
initially claimed responsibility for the attack.
Muscat condemned
the “barbaric attack”,
saying he had asked
police to reach out to
other countries’ security
services for help identifying the perpetrators.
“Everyone knows Ms
Caruana Galizia was a
harsh critic of mine,”
said Muscat, “but
nobody can justify this
barbaric act in any way”.
Caruana Galizia was
53 and leaves a husband
and three sons.
Weah and Boakai face Liberia runoff
The former international footballer
George Weah and
Liberia’s vice-president,
Joseph Boakai, will face
a runoff for the country’s presidency on 7
November, the electoral
commission announced.
With tallies in from
95.6% of polling stations, Weah had taken
39% of the votes and
Boakai 29.1%, both well
short of that required to
win outright from the
first round of voting.
Whoever wins the second round will replace
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
who is stepping down as
president after a maximum of two terms.
The handover would
represent Liberia’s
first peaceful transfer
of power in more than
seven decades.
More Africa news,
page 6
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 3
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
Isis fighters ‘broker deal to leave Raqqa’
Islamic State
fighters remaining in Raqqa, once
the group’s de facto
capital, have brokered
a deal that would allow
them to leave the city
with a number of human
shields, according to
agencies in Syria.
Omar Alloush, a senior official of the Raqqa
civil council, said a deal
had been reached to
allow fighters out of
the city, which is on the
verge of being captured
by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
“Foreign fighters are
included in the deal,”
he said. According to
Alloush, up to 500 fighters including both Syrian
and foreign-born jihadists remain in Raqqa.
More Middle East
news, pages 4, 5
Jeenbekov wins Kyrgyzstan election
observers said
there were
“numerous and significant procedural problems” during the count in
Kyrgyzstan’s presidential
vote, but praised the
orderly transfer of power
in the ex-Soviet state.
Sooronbai Jeenbekov,
a protege of the outgoing president, won last
Sunday with 55%, a
stronger result than polls
had predicted. Opposition leader Omurbek
Babanov conceded
defeat but said he would
investigate irregularities.
The election was
seen as a test of stability in the central Asian
country where Russia
still holds considerable
sway and two previous
leaders were ousted in
riots. Candidates had,
in general, campaigned
freely, the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.
Park accuses successor of revenge plot
Park Geunhye, the
deposed South
Korean president, has
denounced her bribery
and corruption trial as
“political revenge” after
her legal team resigned
in protest against her
treatment in detention.
Speaking publicly for
the first time since her
trial began six months
ago, Park told a hearing
at the Seoul central district court on Monday:
“I was supposed to be
released today, but the
court issued another
arrest warrant … I can’t
accept its decision.”
Last week the court
extended her detention
until April next year, citing a potential risk that
she would attempt to
destroy evidence.
In an outburst that
seemed to be directed
at her successor as
South Korean president,
Moon Jae-in, Park said:
“I hope I will be the
last victim of political
revenge in the name of
the rule of law.”
More Asia Pacific
news, pages 12-13
Chinese space station due to crash
An 8.5-tonne
Chinese space
station has
accelerated its out-ofcontrol descent towards
Earth and is expected
to crash to the surface
within a few months.
The Tiangong-1 or
“Heavenly Palace” lab
was launched in 2011
as a “potent political
symbol” of China, part
of a scientific push to
turn China into a space
superpower. It was used
South African activist verdict praised
An anti-apartheid
activist who died
in 1971 was tortured and killed by South
African police, a court
said, a landmark decision that raised hopes
that dozens of similar
cases would be
The inquest
into Ahmed
Timol’s death
had riveted
South Africans.
“It is sad that it
took so long,” Nobel
peace prize winner
and former archbishop
Desmond Tutu said in a
statement read out by
Timol’s family.
The court found that
Timol, pictured, did not
kill himself by jumping from a window, as
authorities said at the
time. An inquest found
that the South African
Communist party
member was
murdered after
his arrest and
transfer to a
police station.
was one of 73
political detainees who died in police
custody in South Africa
between 1963 and 1990.
The system of whiteminority rule ended in
the early 1990s.
Australia joins UN human rights council
Australia was
elected uncontested to the UN
human rights council on
Monday in New York, as
the council wrestles with
rights abuses among
current and prospective members. Current
member the Philippines
has waged a deadly
extrajudicial “war on
drugs” that has killed
at least 6,000 people,
while prospective
member the Democratic
Republic of the Congo
is riven by conflict,
arbitrary arrests, torture
and killings, and the
persistent recruitment
of child soldiers.
Elections to the
47-member council are
largely uncompetitive.
Only among Asia Pacific
states are six nations
competing for four seats.
Election is not a formality: a majority of votes
cast is needed. Australia
was competing for one
of two “Western Europe
and others” group seats
against Spain and France,
but France’s withdrawal
made Australia’s elevation almost certain.
for both manned and
unmanned missions and
visited by China’s first
female astronaut, Liu
Yang, in 2012.
But in 2016 Chinese
officials confirmed they
had lost control of the
space station and it
would crash to Earth.
China’s space agency
has since notified the
UN that it expects
Tiangong-1 to come
down between this
month and next April.
Antarctica penguins die of starvation
A colony of
about 40,000
Adélie penguins in Antarctica has
suffered a “catastrophic
breeding event” – all
but two chicks died of
starvation this year. It
d time
is the second
in four yearss that
tation –
such devastation
sly seen in
not previously
more than 50 years
– has occurred.
The finding
calls to set up
oa marine protected area in
East Antarctica, at this
week’s meeting of 24
nations and the EU at
the Commission for
the Conservation of
Antarctic Marine Living
Resources in Hobart.
The colony of about
18,000 breedin
breeding penguin pairs on Petrels
suffer a
Island suffered
similar eve
event in
2013, blamed
on a record
of summer sea ice and
heavy “u
“unprecedented” rainfall.
4 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
International news
Yemen cholera crisis is worst in history
War-fuelled epidemic
could amount to 1m
cases by end of year
Kate Lyons
The cholera epidemic in Yemen
has become the largest and fastestspreading outbreak of the disease in
modern history, with a million cases
expected by the year’s end and at least
600,000 children likely to be affected.
The World Health Organization
has reported more than 815,000 suspected cases of the disease in Yemen
and 2,156 deaths. About 4,000 suspected cases are being reported daily,
more than half of which are among
children under 18. Children under
five account for a quarter of all cases.
The spread of the outbreak, which
has surpassed Haiti as the biggest
since records began in 1949, has been
exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition. While there were 815,000 cases
of cholera in Haiti between 2010 and
2017, Yemen has exceeded that number in just six months.
Save the Children has warned that,
at the current rate of infection, the
number of cases will reach seven figures before the turn of the year, 60%
of which will be among children. In
July the International Committee of
the Red Cross predicted there would
be 600,000 suspected cholera cases
in the country by the end of the year.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s
country director for Yemen, said
an outbreak of this scale and speed
is “what you get when a country is
brought to its knees by conflict, when
a healthcare system is on the brink of
collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked
from getting the medical treatment
they need”. He added: “There’s no
doubt this is a manmade crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s
a complete and total breakdown in
sanitation. All parties to the conflict
must take responsibility for the health
emergency we find ourselves in.”
More than two years of fighting
between the Saudi-led coalition and
Houthi rebels has crippled the country, causing widespread internal displacement, the collapse of the public
health system, and leaving millions
on the brink of famine.
The crisis was exacerbated when
sanitation workers, whose salaries
had gone unpaid, went on strike.
This meant that rubbish was left on
the streets and then washed into the
water supply.
It is estimated that 19.3 million
Yemenis – more than two-thirds of
the population – do not have access
to clean water and sanitation.
The government stopped funding
the public health department in 2016,
meaning many doctors and hospital
staff have not received salaries for
more than a year. Healthcare has since
been provided mainly by international organisations, but their efforts
have been hampered by the conflict.
The spread of the disease has nonetheless slowed. At the beginning of
the most recent outbreak, in May this
year, between 5,000 and 6,000 new
cases were detected daily. That rate
has since dropped to just under 4,000
a day. The mortality rate has also declined, from 1% at the beginning of the
outbreak to 0.26% now.
“Whatever decline we’re seeing
now is due to the heroic efforts of
workers at the scene,” said Sherin
Stocking up … safe water supplies have become scarce in Yemen Reuters
Varkey, the officiating representative
of Unicef Yemen.
Varkey said the situation would
not be solved until there was peace
in the country. “There are no signals
that give us any reason for optimism.
We know that both parties to the conflict are continuing with their blatant
disregard of the rights of children,” he
said. “We’re at a cliff and we’re staring down and it is bottomless. There
seems to be no hope.”
Cholera should be easily treatable
with oral rehydration salts and access
to clean water. But Mariam Aldogani,
Save the Children’s health adviser
for the city of Hodeidah, said conditions in the country had made this
very difficult.
Aldogani said: “All the NGOs are
trying to increase the knowledge of
how to prevent the disease, because
it’s preventable, you have to boil the
water. But if you don’t have money
to buy gas, and you have to walk a
long way to get the wood, how can
you boil the water?”
Aldogani said witnessing the suffering of her patients was deeply
painful. “I saw one young man, he
had cholera and severe dehydration. He was in a coma and he died
in front of his mother. We tried our
best, but he came too late and she
was crying, and I cried. It makes me
angry. When I see a mother lose her
baby, especially a stillbirth, she waits
for this baby for a long time and then
she loses it because of cholera, it
makes me so angry.
“The war is a big problem for us,
it’s a wound. But with the cholera,
you have the wound and you put salt
in the wound. It hurts. I hope this war
can be stopped. We need peace for
the children of Yemen. Our situation
before the war was not good, but it
was not like this.”
Morphine shortage means 25 million a year die in agony
Sarah Boseley
More than 25 million people, including 2.5 million children, die in agony
every year around the world, for want
of morphine or other palliative care,
according to a major investigation.
Poor people cannot get pain relief
in many countries because their needs
are overlooked or the authorities are
so worried about the potential illicit
use of addictive opioids that they will
not allow their import. “Staring into
this access abyss, one sees the depth
of extreme suffering in the cruel face
of poverty and inequity,” says a special
report from a commission set up by
the Lancet medical journal.
In Haiti, for instance, says the report, there are no hospices for the
dying and most suffer without pain
relief at home. “Patients in pain from
trauma or malignancy are treated
with medications like ibuprofen and
Number of children among the
25 million people
who die in pain
every year for
want of drugs or
palliative care
acetaminophen [paracetomol],” reports Antonia P Eyssallenne of the
University of Miami School of Medicine. Nurses dislike giving high doses
of narcotics for fear of blame for the
patient’s death.
The commission’s three-year inquiry found nearly half of all deaths
globally – 25.5 million a year – involve
serious suffering for want of pain relief and palliative care. A further 35.5
million live with chronic pain and distress. Of the 61 million total, 5.3 million are children. More than 80% of
the suffering takes place in low- and
middle-income countries. Jim Yong
Kim, president of the World Bank,
said: “Failure of health systems in poor
countries is a major reason that patients
need palliative care in the first place.
More than 90% of these child deaths
are from avoidable causes. We can and
will change both these dire situations.”
Professor Felicia Knaul, co-chair of
the commission from the University of
Miami, said: “The world suffers a deplorable pain crisis: little to no access to
morphine for tens of millions of adults
and children in poor countries who live
and die in horrendous and preventable
pain,” and called it “one of the world’s
most striking injustices”.
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 5
International news
Iraq moves to occupy Kurdish territory
Analysis: anti-Isis coalition
risks descending into war
Peshmerga withdraws
from Kirkuk as US seeks
to downplay clashes
Martin Chulov Erbil
and agencies
Kurdish fighters lost more territory in
Iraq this week, a day after Iraqi forces
pushed them out of the disputed oilrich city of Kirkuk.
The commander of local Yazidi
fighters, Masloum Shingali, said Kurdish forces had left the town of Sinjar
before dawn on Tuesday, allowing
Shia-led militia fighting with Iraqi
forces to move into the town.
Shingali said there had been no
clashes and that the Kurdish forces
left immediately. “They didn’t want
to fight,” he said. The town’s mayor,
Mahma Khalil, said the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a predominantly Shia
militia coalition, were securing Sinjar.
Iraqi troops pushed their Kurdish allies in the battle against Islamic
State out of Kirkuk on Monday, seizing oilfields and other facilities as tensions soar over last month’s Kurdish
vote for independence.
Iraqi forces also took control of the
Bai Hasan and Avana oilfields northwest of Kirkuk on Tuesday, after
seizing the Baba Gurgur, Jambur and
Khabbaz fields the previous day, a
senior military officer told Reuters. Oil
officials in Baghdad said all the fields
were operating normally.
The Pentagon sought to play down
the scale of clashes between the two
sides on Monday, after forces loyal to
the central government in Baghdad
rapidly took over nearly all of Kirkuk,
and Kurdish forces abandoned their
positions, retreating to nearby oilfields. Video footage showed streams
of Kurdish refugees leaving Kirkuk in
cars. Thousands of civilians returned
Advance … Iraqi troops head for peshmerga defences near Kirkuk Getty
to Kirkuk on Tuesday, a day after fleeing for fear of potential clashes.
Baghdad’s move came after last
month’s referendum on Kurdish
independence, which included the
ethnically diverse city, a contentious move that Baghdad viewed as
effective annexation.
The peshmerga withdrawal delivered decisive military and political
gains to Baghdad and a devastating blow to the Kurdish region’s de
facto president, Massoud Barzani,
who had staked much of his legacy
on the referendum and aimed to use
it as a stepping stone to consolidate
Kurdish autonomy.
The north-western town of Sinjar is
infamous as the site of one of Islamic
State’s worst atrocities. It killed thousands of Yazidi men and abducted
thousands of women and girls as sex
slaves in 2014. Tens of thousands of
civilians fled into mountains in appalling conditions, helping to trigger US
intervention against the jihadis.
The Yazidis are Kurdish-speaking,
but follow their own non-Muslim
faith that earned them the hatred of
the Sunni Muslim extremists of Isis.
Following the 2014 exodus, many
Yazidis volunteered to fight against
Isis, either in their own militias or
those sponsored by the Kurds or the
Iraqi government.
Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary
force made up largely of Shia militias
trained by Iran said Yazidi fighters
in its ranks had deployed in Sinjar.
Kurdish forces took the town from
Isis in 2015.
Sinjar and Kirkuk form part of a
swath of historically Kurdish-majority territory that the Kurds want
to incorporate in their autonomous
region in the north, against the
wishes of Baghdad.
The Kurds took over parts of the
territory in 2014 when many units of
the Iraqi army disintegrated in the face
of the jihadis’ rapid advance through
areas north and west of Baghdad.
With Islamic State days from being
ousted from its Syrian stronghold
of Raqqa, and having been ejected
two months ago from Mosul in
Iraq, the western anti-Isis alliance
should be congratulating itself.
Instead, it finds the two ground
forces that did most to expel Isis,
which are armed, trained and supported by Washington, at each
other’s throats, with tensions concentrated on the oil city of Kirkuk.
The hardline military response
from Iraq and Iran earlier this
week to the Iraqi Kurds’ decision
to hold a referendum on independence – a vote strongly opposed by
every western state – risks a new
war that could destroy the unity of
the Iraqi state.
The nightmare is a Turkish or
Iranian occupation of parts of
Kurdistan leading to a guerrilla
war before the Isis dream of a
caliphate is crushed.
Already there is revived talk of
disenfranchised Sunnis following
the Kurdish path to independence
by seeking to form their own state
in Iraq – the genesis of Isis in 2014.
Sunnis reason that, along with
the Kurds, they make up approximately 40%-45% of Iraq’s population, but if the Kurds secede from
Iraq, the remaining Sunnis will
form a smaller rump in an overwhelmingly Shia state, which will
make them more vulnerable to
sectarian persecution.
An amicable divorce for the
Kurds was always unlikely due
to the formal incorporation into
Kurdistan of disputed territories
such as Kirkuk, an emotive issue for
Kurds and Arabs given its oil and
strategic position. Patrick Wintour
Palestinian rivals make new attempt at reconciliation
Peter Beaumont Jerusalem
The rival Palestinian factions Hamas
and Fatah have signed a preliminary
reconciliation deal in the latest in a
series of attempts to end a decadelong Palestinian territorial, political
and ideological split that has crippled statehood aspirations. The
deal, signed in Cairo in the presence
of Egyptian intelligence officials, focuses on who should control the contested Gaza Strip and on what terms.
The two sides’ mutual hostility has
defined the stark geographical and
ideological division in Palestinian
society between the West Bank and
Gaza, which they have ruled separately since clashes broke out in 2007.
Hamas was represented at the signing by Saleh al-Arouri, who has been
accused by Israel of masterminding
attacks on Israelis from his exile in
Turkey and elsewhere.
Under the agreement, the West
Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA)
is to resume full control of the Hamascontrolled Gaza Strip by 1 December,
according to a statement from Egypt’s
intelligence agency. According to reports the agreement would also see PA
forces take control of the Rafah border
crossing between Gaza and Egypt. In
exchange, the Palestinian president,
Mahmoud Abbas, and the PA are expected to lift crippling restrictions on
electricity supply to Gaza that have
made the lives of its 2 million residents miserable in recent months.
While significant on paper at least,
the deal is similar to previous attempts at reconciliation between the
two sides that quickly ran into the
sand. Despite the reported agreement
on the Rafah crossing, it is unlikely to
make much difference in practical
terms for goods entering Gaza from
Egypt, as truck traffic remains restricted by the Egyptian military because of the security crisis there.
A Fatah official said Abbas would
visit Gaza “within less than a month”.
If it goes ahead, the Abbas visit would
be the first since 2007, when the
Islamist Hamas movement assumed
control of Gaza.
6 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
International news
Spotlight back on al-Shabaab
Mogadishu bomb attack
could prompt greater US
involvement in Somalia
Karen McVeigh
Jason Burke
For many years, Somalia was a
forgotten front among the various
campaigns against violent extremist Islamists around the world. Last
Saturday’s massive bombing of the
centre of Mogadishu, the capital
of Somalia, will bring the spotlight
back on to the battered country.
Al-Shabaab, the Islamist group
based in the country, is almost certainly responsible for the truck bomb
that killed at least 320 people. The
attack proves once more it is among
the most capable and tenacious militant organisations anywhere.
Al-Shabaab’s roots run back
through a series of violent – and
sometimes non-violent – revivalist Islamist movements in Somalia
over the past 40 years. In the past
decade, it has been fighting local, regional and international forces, and
has survived significant strategic
setbacks primarily by exploiting the
weaknesses and failings of central
government in the shattered state.
One reason for the relative lack
of attention to al-Shabaab in recent
years in Washington, London and
other western capitals is that the
group has ruthlessly purged anyone
who wanted to swear allegiance to
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from
its ranks. That al-Shabaab – the name
means “the youth” – is not seen as
particularly dangerous beyond its
immediate region is another reason.
Though the group has been a formal affiliate of al-Qaida since 2011,
it has not engaged in terrorist planning against European or US targets.
Though it has attracted militants
from the west, it has not sent many
Destruction … the blast killed at least 320 people Mohamed Abdiwahab/Getty
back the other way. It has, however,
launched a series of attacks in east
Africa, such as the assault on an upscale shopping mall in Kenya in 2013
in which 67 people were killed.
Regional powers, including
Kenya, have done the heavy lifting
in terms of military deployments in
Somalia in recent years. More than
20,000 troops have been deployed
by the African Union. But they have
been much criticised, accused of corruption, military incompetence and
of being arrogant – and sometimes
brutal – toward local populations.
A series of assaults by al-Shabaab
on African Union bases have undermined political will to continue
this commitment among regional
states – as the extremist strategists
intended it would.
The bombing in Mogadishu may
intensify a growing US commitment
to pursuing a more active role in
Somalia. This year the US president
Donald Trump designated Somalia
a “zone of active hostilities”, allowing commanders greater authority
when launching airstrikes, broadening the range of possible targets
and relaxing restrictions designed
to prevent civilian casualties. He
also authorised the deployment of
regular US forces to Somalia for the
first time since 1994.
The US pulled out of Somalia
after the 1993 “Black Hawk Down”
episode, when two helicopters were
shot down in Mogadishu and the
bodies of American soldiers were
dragged through the streets. In May
a special forces soldier was killed
in a skirmish with al-Shabaab. Any
deeper commitment would come
against a background of greater
involvement in Africa. This month,
four US servicemen were killed in a
firefight with militants in Niger.
Somalia is suffering its worst
drought in 40 years, with the effects
of climatic catastrophe compounded
by war and poor governance.
Al-Shabaab’s control over populations in much of rural south and
central Somalia is such that it was
able to impose a ban on humanitarian assistance, forcing hundreds
of thousands of people to choose
between death from starvation and
disease or brutal punishment.
Devastating blast is ‘the Somali 9/11’, official says
Somalian security officials say a key
member of the cell that launched
a devastating attack on Mogadishu
has told them al-Shabaab, a violent
Islamist group in Somalia, was responsible for the blast.
The death toll from the bombing,
which involved a truck packed with
explosives, reached 320 late on
Monday morning. Hundreds more
were injured in one of the most
lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the
Maasai fear
for existence
world for many years. Al-Shabaab,
which is an al-Qaida affiliate,
vowed this year to increase its attacks after both the US Trump administration and Somalia’s recently
elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced fresh
military efforts against the group.
There was no initial claim of responsibility for the blast but a man
detained by Somali security forces
as he tried to drive a second vehicle
packed with explosives into the city
last Saturday, has given details of
the plot to interrogators.
One official said: “This is the Somali 9/11. The man we arrested has
confessed. He is proud of what he
has done. He says it was for jihad.”
Analysts said the Somali security services had been under “very
great pressure” in recent months,
and had been seriously weakened
by internal factional fighting. JB
For Lilian Looloitai, a Maasai woman
from east Africa, “land means life”.
For her nomadic tribe, who have
grazed cattle in north Tanzania’s
highlands for centuries, a bitter dispute playing out on the edge of the
Serengeti national park brings not just
uncertainty, but threatens their very
existence. It is the latest example of
the growing tensions between wildlife
conservation, which brings revenue
to the country, and the rights of nomads, who need land to survive.
“How long will the government
continue to expand the national
parks? It is for wildlife, but we are
human beings,” said Looloitai, the
managing director of Cords Limited, a
rights group based in Arusha. “As pastoralists, we are being undermined.”
The long-running border dispute
between Maasai people in Loliondo
and the authorities was reignited two
months ago amid reports that, over
a period of two days, hundreds of
homes were burned down.
It has happened at a time when
pastoralists are struggling with a
serious drought in the area, which
has reduced the quality and quantity
of their pasture.
On 21 S eptember, residents
from four villages in Loliondo –
Ololosokwan, Olorien, Kirtalo and
Arash – filed a case with the east African court of justice in an attempt to
stop more evictions.
“The way they are doing things is
against human rights. We don’t expect
people to be evicted,” said Looloitai.
In Tanzania, all land belongs to
the state, so evictions are not illegal
if force is used, said Looloitai. However, she urged the government to
find a peaceful solution.
When claims emerged in 2012 that
the Tanzanian government wanted
to force Maasai pastoralists off their
land to make way for game hunting,
there was an international outcry.
The plan, which would reportedly
benefit Dubai-based company Otterlo
Business Corporation, would have
displaced about 30,000 people and
caused problems for the Maasai, who
depend on seasonal grasses to graze
livestock. The government shelved
the plans after the campaign.
The latest reports are causing renewed concern. NGOs said the evictions were a surprise, because a commission had been working to find a
solution to the land dispute.
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 7
Family freed
after Afghan
Ashifa Kassam Toronto
Queen’s promise ... Britain signed a treaty with indigenous people for the use of land Granger/Rex/Shutterstock
Canada may owe a lot of rent
First Nations legal case
seeks to reassess 167year-old annuity treaty
Ashifa Kassam Toronto
When the fur-trader-turned-politician William Benjamin Robinson
pulled up to the shores of the river that
links Lake Superior and Lake Huron
in 1850, his mission was clear: he was
to gain access to as much of the vast
territory around him as possible.
Acting on behalf of Queen Victoria,
Robinson launched into formal negotiations with the indigenous people
who lived in what would later become
north-eastern Ontario in Canada.
The two sides eventually struck a
deal: in exchange for access to more
than 9m hectares of land, Robinson offered hunting and fishing rights – and
an annual payment equivalent to C$2
per person each year. In 1874, the payment was increased to C$4 a year.
Since then, it has remained stagnant.
Now, 167 years after the Robinson
Huron Treaty was signed, the docu-
ment – and its original intent – is at the
heart of a landmark legal challenge
playing out in Ontario.
Twenty-one First Nations, representing about 30,000 people, have
taken the federal and Ontario governments to court, accusing them
of failing to uphold the deal Robinson
hashed out with their ancestors.
Central to the case is the question
of how the annual payment should
be interpreted.
The First Nations claim that their
ancestors initially balked at what
seemed like a paltry sum for their
resource-rich land. “So what William Benjamin Robinson said – and
I’m paraphrasing – was: ‘Here’s
what I’ll do. I’ll offer you this annuity and if the territory produces more
revenue for the crown, the annuity will be increased accordingly,’”
said Mike Restoule, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
The treaty stipulates that any increase in the annuity “shall not exceed
the sum of 1-pound provincial currency in any one year, or such further
sum as Her Majesty may be graciously
pleased to order”.
More than a century after the first
increase, despite petitions and appeals from First Nations chiefs to various levels of government, the annuity
remains unchanged.
Last year, according to government figures, about 580,000 people
were eligible to collect annuities
from treaties signed between 1850
and 1921. For many, the payment
has become a symbol of the complex
relationship their ancestors forged
with the crown.
Ontario’s ministry of indigenous
relations and reconciliation declined
to comment on the case as it is before
the courts. But in a statement to the
Guardian, the government noted
its respect for Aboriginal and treaty
rights. “We are committed to meeting the province’s constitutional and
other obligations in respect of indigenous peoples,” it said.
The court cases, which have
hearings scheduled into early 2018,
have attracted attention across the
country, said Restoule. “Other First Nation groups are watching this very carefully because they’re saying they don’t
have a good deal either,” he added.
Nearly five years to the day after they
were captured by militants linked to
the Taliban, an American woman, her
Canadian husband and their three
children – all of whom were born in
captivity – were rescued, bringing an
end to an ordeal the couple described
as a “Kafkaesque nightmare”.
Pakistani troops, operating on intelligence provided by the US, rescued
Caitlan Coleman, her husband Joshua
Boyle and their children after locating
them in the mountainous Kurram Valley region that borders Afghanistan.
The couple were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012 and were believed
to be held by the Haqqani network, a
group deemed a terrorist organisation
by the US.
After arriving in Toronto, Boyle said
they had been kidnapped while trying
to deliver aid to villagers in a Talibancontrolled region. Boyle later said the
militants who abducted him and his
wife raped her and killed an infant
daughter born in captivity.
Following their rescue, his fatherin-law expressed frustration with
Boyle for taking his daughter to
Afghanistan while she was pregnant.
Many seized on the remarks, along
with the fact that Boyle was once
married to the sister of Omar Khadr,
the Canadian held for 10 years at
Guantánamo Bay, to speculate that
the couple had had other motivations
for the trip.
Boyle dismissed the reports. “I’m a
harmless hippy and I do not kill even
mice,” he told the Toronto Star. “I’ve
been vegetarian for 17 years. Anybody who knows me would laugh at
the notion that I went with designs on
becoming a combatant.”
Opposition raises suspicions over Venezuela vote
Rachelle Krygier, Anthony Faiola
Washington Post
Venezuela’s electoral council declared
pro-government candidates the overwhelming winners in last Sunday’s
key state elections even though the
opposition, which opinion polls had
shown poised for widespread victories, cast serious doubt on the results.
In the vote to elect the governors
in all 23 Venezuelan states, the progovernment electoral council said
government candidates had won in
17 states, with the opposition capturing five and one remaining too close to
call. Before the announcement, opposition officials, who had predicted an
almost opposite outcome, suggested
possible fraud. They were locked
in meetings late last Sunday and did
not immediately comment after the
tally was announced.
“Given the information we’ve been
managing, we want to alert the country,” Gerardo Blyde, head of the opposition coalition’s campaign, said before the official results were released.
“We have serious suspicions and
doubts about the results that will be
announced by the electoral council.”
The results could spark a fresh
round of international condemnation and potentially further sanctions on the authoritative government of president Nicolás Maduro.
After a vote in July creating a progovernment super congress loyal to
Maduro that was widely decried as
fraud, US president Donald Trump
labelled Venezuela a dictatorship and
increased sanctions against Maduro
and his government, while warning
that more could come. Last Sunday,
however, Maduro hailed the results
as not only as a victory for his socialists, but as proof of his government’s
commitment to democracy.
“This is one more victory,” he said
on state TV. “The path is democracy.
The path is elections. Not violence.
Not economic war.”
The government put the turnout at
a relatively high 61% – a level at which
key pollsters had predicted the opposition would win sweeping victories.
8 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
International news
Austrian voters swing to the right
Conservative Sebastian
Kurz may invite far right
to join him in a coalition
Philip Oltermann
The centre of political gravity in
Austria shifted to the right after the
conservative Austrian People’s party
(ÖVP) came out top in national elections, making its 31-year-old leader,
Sebastian Kurz, the world’s youngest
head of government.
Projections last Sunday night put
the ÖVP ahead with 31.7% of the vote.
The incumbent chancellor Christian
Kern’s centre-left Social Democrats
(SPÖ) were relegated to second place
with 27% of the vote, while the farright FPÖ took 25.9%, failing to match
its best-ever result. For the first time
Austria’s two rightwing parties both
managed to increase their seats tally
without taking votes off each other.
The result represents a triumph for
Kurz, who has turned around his party’s fortunes and said he was “overwhelmed” with the result, vowing to
introduce a “new political culture” of
togetherness under his leadership.
The Vienna-born politician will probably be tasked with forming the next
government, potentially in coalition
with the FPÖ, founded by a former
Nazi functionary and SS member after
the second world war.
Critics argue that Kurz, whose
manifesto has called for lower taxes
and tougher measures against “political Islam”, only achieved his victory
by embracing a divisive agenda dictated by the far right. Of ÖVP voters,
55% said they had picked the party
because of its stance on asylum and
integration policies.
The shift in Austria’s political landscape comes less than a year after the
FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer was beaten in the
presidential vote by a Green-backed
candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen.
Kern called elections in May after months of deadlock over policy
disputes between the SPÖ and ÖVP,
which have jointly governed in a
“grand coalition” for the last decade.
While last Sunday’s result would
mathematically allow a continuation
of the coalition, the election campaign
has not only seen Kurz’s party drift to
the right but sparked an ugly war of
words between the former allies, intensified by allegations of “dirty campaigning”. Any rapprochement between the two parties would require
deft diplomacy and could undermine
Kurz’s platform for change.
Kern, a former head of Austria’s
state-run railway operator who took
over as chancellor in May 2016, has
previously indicated that he would
prefer to go into opposition if his party
came second. Last Sunday he stated
that he expected Kurz to come quickly
to a coalition agreement with the FPÖ.
Neither centre party has categorically ruled out a coalition with the
FPÖ, which formed a government with
the SPÖ in 1983 and the ÖVP in 2000, a
move met at the time with economic
sanctions from Israel and several EU
member states. Under Heinz-Christian
Strache, who has led the FPÖ following a split in 2005, it switched from a
broader anti-immigration message to
more targeted anti-Islam rhetoric. In
a recent TV debate Strache called for
Austria to join the Visegrád group of
central European states, whose borders overlap with the 19th-century
Austro-Hungarian empire.
On Austrian TV Strache described
the result as a “great victory” and a
sign of a “desire for change”, even
though his party’s projected result
falls short of the support the FPÖ commanded in polls at the height of the
refugee crisis.
A “dirndl coalition” between the
ÖVP, the Greens and the liberal party
Neos looked likely to fall short of a majority. The Greens, after a recent party
split, found itself on the verge of failing to meet the 4% hurdle for entering parliament for the first time in 38
years. But the Peter Pilz List, a party
founded by a former Green MP, looked
likely to enter parliament for the first
time. The Social Democrats will view
the result with mixed feelings. While
the SPÖ’s overall share of the vote decreased, it managed to improve its performance in the capital, Vienna, where
it emerged as the strongest party and
gained three percentage points.
However, the SPÖ’s pitch as a progressive alternative to Kurz and the
far right was damaged by revelations
that an adviser to the party had paid
for a group of websites churning out
racist and antisemitic conspiracy
theories to discredit Kurz in the eyes
of far-right supporters.
The Rocky fan who became
foreign minister at just 27
At 31, Sebastian Kurz looks set to
become the youngest-ever leader
of an EU state and the current
youngest leader in the world. Born
in Meidling, a centre-left stronghold in Vienna’s south-west, and a
fan of the Rocky films, his political
career began when he joined the
youth branch of the centre-right
Austrian People’s party aged 17,
while his party led a coalition with
the far-right FPÖ. After serving as
state secretary for integration from
2011 to 2013, he became foreign
minister at the age of 27. In early
2016, he broke ranks with Berlin
to lead the charge to reintroduce
border controls that in effect sealed
the Balkan migration route. PO
Sebastian Kurz’s Austrian People’s party won over 30% of the vote Getty
Ultimatum from Madrid as Puigdemont urges dialogue
Sam Jones Madrid
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has refused to clarify whether
he declared Catalonia’s independence
from Spain last week, but has repeated
his calls for negotiations with the Madrid government to resolve the country’s political crisis.
Although Puigdemont signed a unilateral declaration of independence
last Tuesday, claiming that the recent
referendum had given his government a mandate to create a sovereign
republic, he proposed that the effects
of the declaration be suspended for a
few weeks to allow dialogue.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, responded with an ultimatum the next day. He said Puigdemont
had until Monday this week to confirm
whether he had declared independence, and until Thursday to abandon
his push for independence or face imposition of direct rule from Madrid.
In a letter on Monday, the Catalan
president failed to answer Rajoy’s
question, asking instead for an urgent
meeting “before the situation deteriorates still further”.Puigdemont wrote:
“We want to talk – as people do in established democracies … The suspension of the political mandate received
at the ballot box on 1 October shows
our firm desire to find a solution and
not confrontation.” The Spanish government said it was disappointed. “It
shouldn’t have been too hard to answer yes or no on whether independence has been declared,” the deputy
prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, said on Monday morning.
In the letter, Puigdemont said his
government was proposing a twomonth window for talks before pressing ahead with independence. Rajoy
has insisted there will be no talks until
Puigdemont renounces his independence plans. Thousands of Guardia
Civil and national police officers deployed to Catalonia will remain “until
things return to normal”.
In the referendum 90% of participants voted for splitting from Spain.
But only 2.3 million of Catalonia’s 5.3
million voters – 43% – took part.
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 9
the wealthy
Kicker here
like thismore
a sea
a short
like this
→ Finance,
14 Page XX
Then Section
International news
How Cosa Nostra’s ‘cattle mafia’ wants
to bully farmers into surrendering land
Sicily diary
Lorenzo Tondo
he Napoli sisters keep
their entire harvest in
a glass jar, resting on a
wooden table in the living room. Inside, there
are only a dozen stalks
of wheat. The rest of
the crop – 80,000kg – was destroyed
by the Sicilian mafia, determined to
force out these three women working
in the land of The Godfather.
For three generations, the Napoli
family farmed wheat and hay in
Corleone, the historic stronghold of
Cosa Nostra. Their father, Salvatore,
was a hard worker who, after much
sacrifice in the fields, managed to
send his three daughters – Marianna,
Ina and Irene – to university.
But a crisis in what was the world’s
most notorious mafia, broken apart
by prosecutors, has pushed Cosa
Nostra back to their rural origins, and
they want their land back.
The first threat to the Napoli
sisters came in April 2009, a few
months after their father’s death: 80
cows and 30 horses invaded their
fields, destroying the entire crop.
“We thought it was an accident,”
says Ina, “but deep down we knew
these things, around these parts, are
never simple accidents.”
Illegal grazing is the oldest form of
mafia intimidation in Sicily. To make
it clear the act was not an accident,
two poisoned dogs and dozens of
cow carcasses were delivered to their
old country cottage. Two threshers
were destroyed and cattle invasions
continued for almost eight years.
From time to time, a man appeared
at the sisters’ house, offering €5,000
($6,000) a year to “manage” their 90
hectares of land. Cosa Nostra saw the
three unmarried sisters – zitelle, in the
local dialect – as easy prey.
The crisis in the mafia’s origins
lies in the jailing of more than 4,000
mafiosi since 1990 and the replacement of old mobsters with younger
bosses who lacked their authority.
Drug trafficking, once under the
control of Cosa Nostra, is now run
by the most powerful Calabrian
mafia, the ’Ndrangheta. The Sicilian
construction industry, which once
represented a giant business for the
mafia, has lost more than €1bn since
2007, according to the Italian Association of Builders.
Fighting back … the Napoli sisters in their fields in Corleone, Sicily Francesco Bellina/Cesura
Far from Palermo, hidden in the
Sicilian interior, Cosa Nostra is trying to start again from scratch.
“It is as if, pushed by the crisis,
Cosa Nostra has withdrawn into the
countryside,” says Sergio Lari, the
head of the Caltanissetta prosecutor’s office in the centre of Sicily.
“Far from the pressure of the authorities in the big cities, the bosses
seem to have found a safe haven.”
“The cattle mafia is destroying
these lands,” says Emanuele Feltri,
who in 2010 set up an organic farm
in the Simeto valley that soon after
became subject to fire and theft by
mafiosi. Four years ago, the mafia
killed four of his sheep with rifles,
one of which was decapitated.
They thought stealing
from us would be like
stealing candy from a
baby. But they messed
with the wrong people
“They ask the farmers for protection money, from €50 to €500 a
month. They want to take our lands.
Their goal is to bring the farmer to
bankruptcy, by destroying his crop
or burning his lands. In that way,
they will be able to buy that land, for
very little money, and benefit from
EU agricultural subsidies.’’
The sisters’ land is thought to be
worth €1m. Besides the wheat, there
is an artificial lake and a source of
pure, fresh water that could be used
to produce bottled water. Before
their father died, the farm produced
tonnes of grain and hay with an
annual profit of about €35,000.
Today it produces just 330 bales
of hay, while wheat production is at
zero. Debts have accumulated, year
after year, reaching €100,000. “This
year, we earned €660,” says Marianna, tears wetting her face. “The
mafia has bent but not broken us.”
The sisters have filed more than
28 complaints since 2014 to the
Carabinieri, the Italian military
police, but their recourse to the
law has isolated them in their community. “People no longer say hello
to us; workers refuse to come to
work with us,” Ina said. “Someone came to ask us to withdraw
the complaints, to avoid it getting
worse. But we did not.”
A few months ago, the mafia
delivered another macabre gift to
the sisters: the skins of three sheep.
Those responsible for the gruesome intimidation campaign remain
free. While prosecutors are taking
the cattle mafia on in dozens of
cases across the island, the eightyear campaign against the sisters is
not among them. Individual cases of
illegal grazing are treated as minor
offences, with fines of just €300.
“We hope this sad story receives
the right attention from the investigative authorities,” says the sister’s
lawyer, Giorgio Bisagna. “Someone
needs to investigate all the cases,
together, from 2009 to today. If they
don’t do it, those criminals will get
only a couple of fines.”
The Napoli sisters refuse to surrender and, in a few months, their
land will come under the protection
of Libera Terra, an association that
usually manages lands confiscated
from the mafia.
“The bosses thought that stealing
from three zitelle would be like stealing candy from a baby,” says Irene,
“but this time they messed with the
wrong zitelle.”
10 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
International news
Trump scraps Obamacare subsidies
Unesco: Israel joins US in
quitting heritage agency
Trumpcare … the president’s executive order angered state officials, who threaten legal action Reuters
Surprise move delivers
another wounding blow
to healthcare reforms
Ed Pilkington New York
Sabrina Siddiqui Washington
Donald Trump has planted a timebomb under Obamacare, issuing a
notice late last Thursday that scraps
vital federal subsidies underpinning
the current healthcare system.
The late-night move caught critics off guard and brought accusations
that Trump was unilaterally destroying his predecessor’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, after
the Republican-controlled Congress
failed to secure changes. The announcement stops federal support of
up to $7bn to insurance companies to
help them cover the medical needs of
low-income Americans.
The Trump administration sought
to lay the blame for the current crisis
in healthcare on former president
Barack Obama, claiming the federal
subsidies, known as “cost-sharing
reduction payments”, were unlawful
and “yet another example of how the
previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to
prop up a broken system”.
Last Friday morning Trump
claimed in a tweet that “the Democrats [sic] ObamaCare is imploding”
and appeared to call on the Democrats to negotiate. “Massive subsidy
payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped,” he wrote. “Dems
should call me to fix! ... ObamaCare is
a broken mess. Piece by piece we will
now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves!”
Reaction from Democratic politicians and other Trump opponents
was swift. Top officials denounced
the White House move and threatened legal action to stop the subsidies
being revoked. In California, the state
attorney general, Xavier Becerra, said
he was ready to sue the Trump administration to protect the subsidies. Eric
Schneiderman, attorney general of
New York state, followed suit.
The attack on the subsidies came
as a double blow to Obamacare, just
hours after Trump had lashed out at
the reforms by an executive order
weakening the system. In that order,
Trump opened the door to cheaper,
less comprehensive insurance, which
experts say will result in health plans
for the sick becoming more expensive.
Last Thursday’s second blow is targeted at the very foundations of the insurance structures created under Obamacare. The Congressional Budget
Office two months ago suggested that
terminating the cost-sharing subsidies would lead to a dramatic 20% rise
in the average cost of the most popular
plans offered by the Affordable Care
Act, as well as worsening the federal
deficit by almost $200m.
Even moderate conservatives were
aghast at the move. Charlie Sykes, a
conservative talkshow host, said:
“What we have now, for better or
worse, is Trumpcare. Trump has said
he wants Obamacare to implode. Is
now taking steps to make it implode.
Now he owns all of the consequences.”
Among Republican leaders in
Congress, the House speaker came
to Trump’s support, even though his
own party had not found a workable
replacement for Obamacare. Paul
Ryan said Trump’s efforts to unpick
the reforms marked a “monumental
affirmation of Congress’s authority”.
The United States has formally
notified the UN’s world heritage
body Unesco that it is withdrawing
its membership of the organisation
citing “continuing anti-Israel bias”.
The announcement by the
Trump administration was followed a few hours later by news
that Israel was also planning to
quit the financially struggling cultural and educational agency.
In a statement Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister,
welcomed the US move saying:
“This is a brave and moral decision, because Unesco has become
a theatre of absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
The body is best known for its
world heritage listings of outstanding cultural and natural sites but
has often drawn the ire of Israel
and the Trump administration for
a series of decisions, including
the listing of Hebron, a city in the
occupied Palestinian territories, as
a Palestinian world heritage site.
Unesco’s director-general, Irina
Bokova, expressed her “profound
regret” over the US decision.
“This is not just about World Heritage,” she said, describing the
withdrawal as “a loss to both the
organisation and the US”.
Disclosing the US government’s
decision, the state department said
it would seek to “remain engaged
… as a non-member observer state
in order to contribute US views,
perspectives and expertise”.
The withdrawal will take effect
on 31 December 2018.
Peter Beaumont
Comment, page 22 →
Juggernaut rolls on after generals avert disaster on Iran deal
Simon Tisdall
Donald Trump’s unilateral decision
to renege on the 2015 UN-approved
nuclear deal with Iran has been condemned by friends and foes alike.
Britain joined France and Germany
in declaring support for the agreement as written. Iran was backed
by China and Russia in deploring
Trump’s move as unwarranted.
That Trump does not much care
what others think has been plain all
along. But it could have been much
worse. Trump had been expected to
withdraw from the deal completely,
demand harsh sanctions and take
other steps to demonise Iran. The
fact that he stepped back was the
result of intense lobbying. Pressure
was applied by senior White House
officials, departmental chiefs and
close allies. Trump’s worst instincts
on Iran were curbed, for now.
Leading the campaign inside
the West Wing were three former
generals – John Kelly, Trump’s
chief of staff; James Mattis, defence
secretary; and HR McMaster, national
security adviser. Their intervention
meant Trump’s speech, while strategically misjudged, needlessly bellicose, and factually inaccurate, was
not the cataclysm predicted. It was
the night of the generals. Whether
Trump’s principal advisers and handlers, egged on by friendly overseas
leaders, can pull off the same trick
in future is an open question. But an
important precedent has been set.
The biggest concern is North
Korea, where the US leader has recklessly threatened to rain down death
and destruction on Kim Jong-un
in response to the regime’s nuclear
weapons build-up. For the time being, the three stooges – Generals
Kelly, Mattis and McMaster – are
probably the best, last defence preventing Trump from starting the
third world war.
Trump remains ready to wreck
the accord completely at any point.
If Congress accepts his call for additional criteria by which to measure
Iran’s compliance, collapse of the
deal may be months away.
Leader comment, page 22 →
Republic of Uzbekistan
“Support to Equipping State Sanitary and Epidemiological Supervision Centers with Laboratory Equipment Project in the Republic of Uzbekistan”
Procurement of Laboratory Equipment / ICB No: UZB-0073/ICB/01
This Invitation for Bids (IFB) follows the General Procurement Notice (GPN) for this project which was published on the websites of Islamic Development Bank
(IDB) ( on 19.04.2015, Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan ( on 24.04.2015, and in the newspaper Guardian Weekly on 21.08.2015,
issue no. 11 (vol 193).
The Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan has applied for financing from the IDB toward the cost of “Support to Equipping State Sanitary and Epidemiological
Supervision Centers with Laboratory Equipment Project in the Republic of Uzbekistan”, and it intends to apply part of the proceeds of this financing to payments
under the contract for Procurement of Laboratory Equipment, ICB No: UZB-0073/ICB/01.
The Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan now invites sealed bids from eligible Bidders for supply of the following equipment:
№ of lots
№ of items
Laboratory balances
pН/ion meter
Ultrapure water system
Electrostatic field intensity meter
Microwave digestion system
Acid purification system
Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry
Gas chromatograph with ECD and FID
Nitrogen generator for gas chromatograph with FID and ECD
Gas analyzer for hydrogen fluoride in ambient air
Multi-component gas analyzer, portable
Bidders may bid for any or all lots. Each lot must be priced separately. The Bid for a particular lot must contain all the items of the lot. Each item of the lot should be
in full compliance with technical specifications for that item. Bids will be evaluated and contracts will be awarded on a lot-by-lot basis.
Bidding will be conducted through the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) procedures specified in the Guidelines for Procurement of Goods and Works
under IDB Financing and is open to all bidders from eligible source countries as defined in these Guidelines. In addition, please refer to paragraphs 1.7 and 1.8
setting forth the Bank’s policy on conflict of interest.
Interested eligible Bidders may obtain further information from the Project Management Unit (PMU) and inspect the bidding documents at the address given in
this invitation for bids from 14.00 to 17.00 (Tashkent time).
Qualifications requirements include (a) financial conditions, (b) experience and technical capacity, (c) compliance of supplied goods with applicable international
standards. Bids that do not contain such information may be rejected. Additional details are provided in the Bidding Documents.
A complete set of Bidding Documents in English may be purchased by interested bidders upon submission of a written Application to the address below and upon
payment of a non-refundable fee of US$300 (without VAT, VAT is not charged) or its equivalent in Uzbek soums (UZS) at the exchange rate fixed by the Central
Bank of Republic of Uzbekistan on the day of payment. Payment shall be made by Bank transfer into one of the following accounts of the Ministry of Health:
US Dollar account: Account #: 20203840600102144001
Private Open Joint Stock Commercial Bank "Invest Finance Bank",
address: 1, T. Shevchenko str., Tashkent, 100029 Republic of
Uzbekistan. SWIFT: INFBUZ2X
Correspondent account: 70-55.085.997/001 in Raiffeisen Bank
International AG, Vienna, Austria. SWIFT: RZBAATWW
UZS account: Account #: 20203000700102144001,
Private Open Joint Stock Commercial Bank "Invest Finance Bank",
address: 1, T. Shevchenko str., Tashkent, 100029 Republic of Uzbekistan,
MFO (Bank code):01041
All banking charges and fees relating to the bank transfer shall be for the bidder’s account. Cashiers and certified checks are not accepted. The bidding documents may
be collected by an authorized representative of the Bidder at the address of the PMU, upon presentation of the Bidder’s Authorization and documents confirming
payment of the non-refundable fee to one of the above accounts.
The Bidding Documents may also be sent to the Bidder by courier at no additional charge to the bidder following the receipt by the PMU of a written request quoting
ICB No: UZB-0073/ICB/01, providing the address of delivery, contact details, and a document confirming payment of a non-refundable fee to one of the above
accounts. Bidding Documents will be available from the date of advertisement of IFB.
Bids must be delivered to the address below not later than 13.00 (Tashkent time) on December 19, 2017. Late bids will be rejected. Electronic bidding is not allowed.
All bids must be accompanied by an original bid security of following amount equivalent to:
№ of lots
Amount of Bid Security
$ 12’000
$ 31’000
$ 37’000
$ 76’000
$ 18’000
Currency of Bid Security
US Dollars or an equivalent amount in
freely convertible currency
Bids will be opened in presence of bidders’ representatives who choose to attend the bid opening session at 15.00 (Tashkent time) on December 19, 2017, at the
following address:
Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan,
100011, 12 Navoi str., Tashkent, Uzbekistan,
Project Management Unit
Tel/fax: (+998 71) 268-25-39, 267-73-47 ext.:124 e-mail:
12 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
International news
Chairman Xi basks in
love of China’s poor
← Continued from page 1 of criticism
from intellectuals about the personality cult and the tight control,” he said.
“But Xi Jinping’s popularity is solid
among the laobaixing [common folk].
They see him as a strong leader … He
← Continued
things done.
from page
He makes
people proud. There is a tendency
to view him as the third great leader
since Mao, Deng and then Xi.”
In Tanmen, on the eastern coast
of Hainan, some go even further. “In
5,000 years of Chinese history not
a single national leader has set foot
in Tanmen. It’s something we could
never have dreamed … We are grateful to Chairman Xi,” beamed Zhong
Wenfeng, the owner of a waterfront
souvenir shop.
Part of the adulation expressed
here seems drawn almost verbatim
from the intense and inescapable
propaganda with which China bombards its citizens. “Chairman Xi is a
world leader. His book on governance
has sold out in many countries across
the world,” Zhong gushed, parroting
the unashamedly hagiographic bulletins in which the party news agency
Xinhua excels.
Outside his shop, a portrait of Xi –
his hands clasped together – captured
the image that spin doctors have tried
to curate of their commander-inchief: a sagacious and omnipotent
father figure leading his subjects towards “The China Dream”. An accompanying slogan stated: “The Dream of
a Powerful Country. The Rejuvenation
of China. The Happiness of the People.
The Wealth of the Nation.”
Observers say that Xi’s domestic
veneration is largely the result of his
populist anti-corruption crusade.
In January 2013, Xi declared war on
thieving tigers and flies – top officials
and low-rank bureaucrats – describing
their crimes as an existential threat to
the Communist party’s grip on power.
Dozens of top officials – often Xi’s rivals – have since been felled, including the former security chief, Zhou
Yongkang, the army’s second most
senior officer, Xu Caihou, and Sun
Zhengcai, who some tipped as a future
president. “Xi might not have people’s
Xi’s rise to the world stage
15 June 1953
Born into well-connected political
family. His father, Xi Zhongxun,
fell out of favour in the Cultural
Revolution but was rehabilitated.
Marries folk singer Peng Liyuan.
Becomes governor of Fujian
province and later party secretary
of Zhejiang province.
November 2012
Appointed general secretary of
Communist party and in 2013
president of China.
October 2017
The Economist declares Xi the
most powerful man in the world.
admiration, but he has certainly got
their respect,” said Kerry Brown, the
head of the China Institute at King’s
College London. “In a multiparty
democracy, I think he would probably
be in a good position to be re-elected.”
Orville Schell, a veteran China expert from New York’s Asia Society,
said he sensed “a cauldron of disaffection” bubbling beneath the surface
towards China’s political leaders. But
many citizens applauded how Xi was
strutting China’s stuff on the world
stage. “I suspect that on a surface
level – but an important level – many
Chinese feel a certain amount of pride
that their country is now able to speak,
even throw its weight around a little,
and be heeded in the world,” he said.
Tsang said there was particular delight at how Xi appeared to be winning
the geopolitical arm-wrestle with Donald Trump, who swept to power vowing
to challenge Beijing on everything from
trade to Taiwan, North Korea and the
South China Sea, but has so far failed to
match those threats with actions.
Xi had ceded almost no ground to
Trump on any of these issues, Tsang
said. “And what have the Americans
done? Nothing! So you can see why the
average Chinese citizen might think Xi
Jinping was doing really well.”
At Tanmen’s docks, Qin Huaishu,
another of the president’s fans, was
giving a new lick of paint to a weathered fishing vessel that was turned into
a permanent floating monument to Xi
after he clambered on board during
his 2013 visit. “Xi chatted with the
fishermen about their daily lives and
went downstairs to check the engine,”
recalled Qin, a 55-year-old workman.
At Tanmen’s fishermen association
there were further tributes. Just inside
the door hung a framed photograph
memorialising Xi’s visit. A copy of Xi’s
tome, The Governance of China, sat in
pride of place on the desk of the association’s president, Ding Zhile.
Women may hold up half the sky, but are scarce in politics
Tom Phillips
“Times have changed … today men
and women are equal,” Mao Zedong
pronounced more than half a century ago. “Whatever men comrades
can accomplish, women comrades
can too.” Unless, of course, you
mean running the country.
For not once since Mao’s communists took power in 1949 has a
woman been appointed to China’s
top political body, the politburo
standing committee, let alone become the country’s top leader.
Few expected that to change this
week when the Communist party’s
great and good met in Beijing to
celebrate the start of Xi Jinping’s
second five-year term and conduct
a highly scripted reshuffle of the
party’s upper echelons.
“Taiwan has a female president.
Even Hong Kong has a female chief
executive. But I think the Communist party would have to collapse before you actually saw a woman leading China as a country,” said Leta
Hong Fincher, the author of a forthcoming book Betraying Big Brother:
China’s Feminist Resistance.
“All the signs indicate that the
Communist party does not want
women to have power. It wants
women to return to the home and
take care of the families while men
stay on the frontline and do the
important work of the nation.”
Cheng Li, an expert in Chinese
politics from the Brookings Institution, said it was not inconceivable
that a woman could clinch one of
the seven spots on the standing
committee during this month’s
transition. He gave Sun Chunlan, the
67-year-old head of the United Front
Work Department, a secretive group
charged with fortifying the party’s
influence at home and abroad, a
5-10% chance of breaking that
glass ceiling.
But there were similar hopes for
Liu Yandong, the 71-year-old vicepremier, before the last party congress, in 2012, that came to nothing.
“[The race] for the seats … is so
tight – so competitive – that usually
various forces will not let a woman
leader enter,” Li admitted.
Elizabeth Economy, director
for Asia studies at the Council of
Foreign Relations, predicted that
the committee would remain a club
for the boys: “I think it’s going to
be a pretty conservative group that
is comfortable with the more authoritarian and politically repressive
state-directed tendencies of Xi.”
Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that women “hold up half
the sky” and they did enjoy unquestionable advances after the 1949 revolution, as China’s leader fought to
simultaneously liberate women and
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 13
Exiled politician warns
of Cambodian crackdown
Oliver Holmes
Speaking to a local Communist
party newspaper at the time, Ding
boasted that Xi had shaken his hand on
two separate occasions. He described
China’s leader as “happy”.
Five years on, however, he refused
to share his memories of the afternoon
he spent with one of the most powerful men on earth. “We’re not talking
to any foreign media, no matter who
you are,” he snapped. “Please put
Chinese wave … a jade plaque has
a picture of Xi and his wife Peng
Liyuan How Hwee Young/EPA
harness their economic potential.
But women continue to play a
peripheral role in Chinese politics.
There are just two female faces on
the party’s expanded 25-member
politburo; only 10 of the 205 full
members of its central committee
are women, down from 13 in 2012.
According to Li’s research, not a single one of China’s 31 provincial governments is run by a woman. There
are only two female governors.
Hong Fincher said an array of
structural reasons helped explain
why the pinnacle of Chinese politics was so overwhelmingly male:
“There are far fewer women who are
members of the Communist party;
there is a huge gender gap in the
mandated retirement age, so women
are expected to retire up to 10 years
before men; and there is rampant
discrimination, actually throughout
Chinese society but particularly in
Chinese politics.”
But the dearth of female politicians also reflected a broader deterioration in women’s rights that
has seen authorities crack down on
China’s nascent feminist movement,
and push propaganda campaigns to
convince women to marry earlier
and have more children.
Hong Fincher said a looming demographic crunch – which means
that by 2050 more than a quarter of
China’s population will be over 65 –
had convinced Beijing that women
were now needed more in the home
than in the halls of power.
“Communist party leaders are extremely alarmed at the demographic
trends in China so this is a big reason
why they are pushing women into
marrying and having babies,” said
Hong Fincher.
yourself in my shoes. I have problems
of my own.”
The “chairman of everything”
looked down from the wall behind
him in an immaculately ironed blue
shirt. Observer
Additional reporting by Wang Zhen
A senior Cambodian opposition figure
has called for the world to wake up to
a calculated campaign by long-time
prime minister Hun Sen to batter the
remnants of its democracy ahead of
elections next year.
“Democracy in Cambodia is dipping really fast into a big hole. There
is no time to wait or waste,” said Mu
Sochua from Berlin. After the Cambodian opposition leader, Kem Sokha,
was arrested last month, Mu Sochua,
his deputy in the Cambodia National
Rescue party (CNRP), fled to Germany.
“Whatever Mr Hun Sen wants, he
gets. People are so fearful,” she said.
In the run-up to July 2018 polls, the
government has shuttered radio stations and newspapers, kicked out civil
society groups and earlier this month
it attempted to dissolve the CNRP, the
main opposition party.
Warning of “the death of democracy” under Hun Sen, Mu Sochua said
a government-controlled supreme
court was likely to rule in his favour
against the CNRP. “That will totally
destroy and set back democracy, way
back,” she said of the lawsuit against
her party, which Human Rights Watch
has described as a “naked grab for
total power”.
“All the elements for building democracy in Cambodia have not just
been weakened, but totally put into
silence,” she added.
After the south-east Asian nation emerged from years of war, it
has worked ostensibly as a democracy since 1993. While government
harassment has been widespread, a
reasonably free and critical press has
survived, as well as functioning elections every five years.
The current crackdown appears
motivated by the opposition’s significant and unexpected electoral gains
during 2013 national elections, which
it very nearly won. Taken aback by
the sudden surge, Cambodia began
a policy of imprisoning opposition
leaders, including Sam Rainsy, the
founding president of the CNRP, who
is now in exile.
But it was the June 2017 commune
elections – which saw the CNRP take
close to 44% of all seats – that proved
the resilience of the opposition’s popularity and led to the recent rampedup purge. The opposition had presented a bona fide threat to Hun Sen’s
three decades in power.
The government has since forced
the closure of a famed long-running
paper, the Cambodia Daily, as well as
radio stations that re-broadcast Radio Free Asia and Voice of America’s
Khmer language service.
“The ruling party, to make sure
they don’t lose the next election,
eliminated the independent voices,
which is the radio. Because radio
really reaches out to the most remote
areas,” said Mu Sochua, who is globally renowned for her decades of
women’s rights work and even served
as a minister in Hun Sen’s coalition
government for six years before resigning in 2004.
“It’s been a very, very fast process. A rollercoaster for democracy,
going towards the dissolution of the
only and the main opposition party
in Cambodia.”
Duterte to target ‘big fish’
Oliver Holmes Manila
and Reuters
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has ordered police to end
all operations in his deadly war on
drugs after a 15-month campaign in
which officers have killed thousands.
In a televised speech he said he
hoped a shift to bigger targets in his
war on drugs would satisfy “bleeding
hearts” and interfering western states
fixated on the high death toll in his
brutal crackdown.
He read a memorandum that removes police from the drug war
and places the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in charge
and said the shift was to target “big
fish”, moving away from street level
operations to go after big networks
and suppliers.
The PDEA’s 1,800 staff make up
just over 1% of the 160,000-strong
national police, meaning the order
could significantly reduce the killings.
The statement comes at a time of
waning public support for countrywide operations that police say have
killed more than 3,900 “drug personalities” since last July, although activists say these are alleged drug users
and suspected small-time dealers.
More than 2,000 other people have
also been killed in drug-related crimes
and thousands more murdered in unexplained circumstances, according
to police data.
14 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Tax the rich more, says IMF
Fiscal analysis supports
Labour strategy in UK –
and undermines Trump
Larry Elliott Washington
Heather Stewart
Higher income tax rates for the rich
would help reduce inequality without
damaging growth, the International
Monetary Fund has said.
The Washington-based IMF used
its influential half-yearly fiscal monitor last Wednesday to demolish the argument that economic growth would
suffer if governments in advanced
western countries forced the top 1%
of earners to pay more tax.
It said tax theory suggested there
should be “significantly higher” rates
for those on higher incomes, but the
argument against doing so was that
hitting the rich would hurt growth.
But the institution said: “Empirical
results do not support this argument.”
The IMF added that different types of
wealth tax might also be considered.
In the UK, the Labour party seized
on the report, calling for higher taxes
on the rich and citing the IMF’s intervention as evidence of the need for a
fairer tax system. In its election manifesto this year, Labour proposed a 45%
tax band on those earning more than
£80,000 ($105,000) and a 50% rate for
those on more than £123,000.
John McDonnell, the UK shadow
chancellor, said: “The IMF supports
the argument we made in the general
election for a fairer tax system. There
is no evidence to support those who
scaremonger about the effects of making the rich pay fairer tax.”
The Conservative UK prime minister Theresa May has repeatedly attacked Labour’s approach as extreme.
The fiscal monitor does not mention any country by name and does
Fair share? Top tax rates have fallen from 62% to 35% Alamy
not specify at what level governments
should set the new higher rate for top
earners. But the report stressed that
cutting tax for the top 1% had gone
too far – a strong hint that the IMF has
doubts about the pro-rich tax plan
proposed by Donald Trump for the US.
Instead, the IMF said higher tax for
the rich was necessary to arrest rising
income inequality – the argument
used by Labour in the UK.
The fiscal monitor said most
advanced economies in the west had
experienced a sizeable increase in
income inequality in the past three
decades, driven primarily by the
growing income of the top 1%.
Governments have traditionally
sought to make society more equal
by levying higher income tax rates on
the rich and using the proceeds to help
the less well off.
But the IMF found that income tax
systems had become markedly less
progressive in the 1980s and 1990s
and had remained stable since then,
even though growing inequality
pointed to the need for a more progressive approach.
In a blogpost, the head of the IMF’s
fiscal affairs unit, Vítor Gaspar, said
the average top income-tax rate for
the richer countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development had fallen from 62%
in 1981 to 35% in 2015. IMF research
found that between 1985 and 1995,
redistribution through the tax system had offset 60% of the increase in
inequality caused by market forces.
But between 1995 and 2010, income
tax systems had failed to respond to
the continuing increase in inequality.
Leader comment, page 22 →
Australia ‘near the top’ for growth of income inequality
Australia is among countries with
the highest growth in income
inequality in the world over the
past 30 years, according to the
International Monetary Fund.
Vítor Gaspar, the head of the
organisation’s fiscal affairs unit,
said Australia’s income inequality
growth was similar to the US, South
Africa, India, China, Spain and the
UK since the 1980s. Gaspar said
IMF staff had used the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development’s income distribution
database, Eurostat, and the World
Bank’s Povcalnet data, among other
sources, to calculate that income
inequality had increased in nearly
half of the world’s countries in the
past three decades, and Australia
had experienced a “large increase”.
Last month Australia’s treasurer,
Scott Morrison, told the Business
Council of Australia that income
inequality was not getting worse,
and that the Treasury and Australia’s Reserve Bank had found, in
specific analysis, that Australian
wages were growing slowly across
most industries and most regions.
However, he would not release
the analysis.
In July, the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, when asked about
his views on inequality, said it had
grown “quite a lot” in the 1980s and
1990s and had risen “a little bit” recently, but it was important to make
a distinction between income and
wealth inequality.
“Wealth inequality has become
more pronounced particularly in
the last five or six years because
there’s been big gains in asset
prices,” Lowe said. “So the people
who own assets, which are usually
wealthy people, have seen their
wealth go up.” Gareth Hutchens
Finance in brief
• Saudi Aramco has dismissed reports that it is considering shelving plans for the
world’s biggest ever flotation,
with the state-owned oil company saying the $2tn listing
was on track for next year.
Amid concerns about the feasibility of such a huge international listing, the company
was favouring a private stake
sale to foreign governments,
including China, the Financial
Times reported. But Aramco
dismissed the report as “entirely speculative”.
• James Murdoch narrowly
survived a rebellion by independent Sky shareholders to
be re-elected as chair of the
British satellite broadcaster.
Just 51.6% backed Murdoch to
stay. Concern among dissenters centred on what they see
as a potential conflict of interest, given his role as chief
executive of 21st Century Fox,
which is trying to buy Sky
in an £11.7bn ($15.5bn) deal.
Only 36% of independent investors, however, supported
the company’s remuneration
report. The total pay package for Sky’s chief executive,
Jeremy Darroch, quadrupled
to more than £16m in the year
to the end of June, despite a
hefty fall in annual profits.
• The price of bitcoin last
week smashed through
$5,000 to an all-time high.
The cryptocurrency rose by
more than 8% to $5,243, having started the year at $966.
Bitcoin has soared by more
than 750% in the past year
and is worth four times as
much as an ounce of gold. But
the price has been volatile.
The digital currency fell below $3,000 in mid-September
after a Chinese crackdown.
Beijing ordered a cryptocurrency freeze due to fears that
increasing numbers in the
bitcoin market could prompt
wider financial problems.
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Hong Kong
New Zealand
16 Oct
9 Oct
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 15
UK news
Kicker hereunder
like this
slated byhere
a short description
→ Matthew
Then Section
and Page
Grim outlook as possibility of
‘bad-tempered’ Brexit grows
Leaving the EU was sold as easy. But a no-deal scenario is horribly likely
Toby Helm
A little over a year ago, David Davis
was confident Brexit Britain would
soon strike new trade deals across
the world. They could be negotiated
and agreed without the difficulties and delays of which Remainers
warned. All parts of the global trade
jigsaw would fall quickly and neatly
into place. “So be under no doubt,”
the Brexit secretary wrote in an
article for the ConservativeHome
website in July 2016, “we can do
deals with our trading partners, and
we can do them quickly … I would
expect the negotiation phase of most
of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months. Trade deals
with the US and China alone will give
us a trade area almost twice the size
of the EU, and of course we will also
be seeking deals with Hong Kong,
Canada, Australia, India, Japan, the
UAE, Indonesia – and many others.”
And international trade secretary
Liam Fox predicted that a free-trade
deal giving the UK access to EU markets after Brexit “should be one of the
easiest in human history”. His fellow
Tory, Eurosceptic John Redwood,
said: “Getting out of the EU can be
quick and easy – the UK holds most of
the cards in any negotiation.”
Last weekend, 16 months on
from Leave’s narrow referendum
win, the talk was no longer of quick
deals or smooth routes out. Theresa
May and her cabinet were preparing the country for the possibility
of “no deal” being reached with
Brussels before the UK leaves at the
end of March 2019. No deal would
also mean no two-year transition
of the kind that May said would be
so important in her recent Florence
speech. Many hardline Brexiters
have changed their tune, and cheer
on the prospect of “no deal” as the
only way to break free. None of the
trade deals they envisaged have
been done and none are in sight. (It
is not possible to enter into them
until we leave the customs union).
Up to now, the EU has refused
even to begin to talk about postBrexit trade arrangements with the
UK because other issues, such as
the divorce bill for leaving, are still
May makes hectic diplomatic
efforts ahead of key summit
No-fly zone … an EU ‘no deal’ could ground UK flights to Europe PA
deadlocked. In the Commons last
Monday, May confirmed that negotiations had stalled and reality was
dawning. She said that “while it is
profoundly in all our interests for the
negotiations to succeed, it is also our
responsibility as a government to
prepare for every eventuality, so that
is exactly what we are doing”. She
meant: “Get ready for no deal.”
If there is no UK-EU deal before
March 2019, the consequences
would be huge. The return of customs checks would mean a return to
the hard border between Northern
Ireland and the republic. For trade,
the UK would default to World Trade
Organization rules, meaning tariffs
would be imposed on goods leaving
the UK for the EU and on those sold
into the UK market by the remaining 27 members. The government
has said it wants the continuation of
“frictionless” trade with EU countries. But a WTO regime would mean
tariffs of between 2% and 3% on
many industrial goods. They would
be far higher in other sectors: 10% for
cars, 20% to 40% for many agricultural products. The British Chambers
of Commerce and other business
groups warn that some British firms
will consider moving abroad and
investment in the UK could suffer.
The chancellor, Philip Hammond,
said there was also a prospect of
flights between UK and EU airports
being grounded, as the UK would no
longer fall inside the EU’s aviation
regulatory regime. The right of EU
nationals to stay in the UK could also
disappear, as would those of UK citizens living in EU countries.
The hard-Brexit Tory right was
arguing only a year ago that Brexit
would be relatively smooth and
simple. Now that it has proved to be
anything but, and talks with Brussels have hit the buffers, many of
them are encouraging this “no deal”
option as somehow a pure form of
Brexit. It means a clean break.
They blame the EU and Remainers
for blocking the kind of future they
sold as possible before the Brexit
referendum. The big question now is
whether the British public takes the
same view or coalesces more around
the idea that “no deal” is a very bad
deal for them. Observer
Theresa May appealed to the
French president, Emmanuel
Macron, to widen the Brexit negotiations to discuss a transition
period, during a high-stakes flurry
of diplomacy ahead of this week’s
European council summit. The
prime minister was seeking to
convince European leaders that
talks on a transition phase should
be approved at the summit on
Friday. She also called the Irish
taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and held
a whistle-stop dinner with the
European commission president,
Jean-Claude Juncker, and the EU’s
chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in
Brussels on Monday.
Downing Street’s efforts looked
unlikely to be rewarded, however,
unless May was willing to offer
concrete guidance on how many
of the UK’s financial commitments
to the EU budget she is prepared to
honour. Last weekend May sought
to convince the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, of the need for
talks on a transition phase without
any success, it is understood.
EU leaders appear to have
concluded that insufficient progress has been made in the first
phase of talks to open negotiations
on the future trading relationship
or discuss a transition period.
Documents leaked last week suggested that European leaders, on
the bidding of the European council president, Donald Tusk, would
present an agreed position on a
transition period and a trade deal
in December, should the UK make
further concessions.
The EU is both unsure about the
reliability of the UK as a negotiating
partner, at a time when May’s position as prime minister is in doubt,
and wary of looking too eager for
trade talks when major concessions
in the financial settlement are being
sought. Other UK cabinet ministers
have also been wooing EU leaders.
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, met eight eastern European
foreign ministers at Chevening last
Sunday to try to break the Brexit
deadlock. Guardian reporters
16 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
UK news
Education budgets face ‘breaking point’
Headteachers warn MPs
funding crisis in England
is threat to standards
Richard Adams
Headteachers are warning MPs that
school budgets in England are facing
“breaking point” after a combined
£2.8bn ($3.7bn) in cuts and costs imposed upon them by the government.
The National Association of Head
Teachers (NAHT) is writing to all Westminster MPs to highlight the plight
of state schools in England suffering
from funding shortages and say that
standards are at risk.
In the letter Paul Whiteman, the
NAHT’s general secretary, urges MPs
to lobby Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and ask for more resources
for schools ahead of next month’s
autumn statement. “The autumn
budget is the last chance for money to
make it to schools this year,” he said.
“Please write to the chancellor of the
exchequer to ask him to announce
more money for schools.”
Privately, school leaders are concerned that Brexit and other education issues – especially university
tuition fees and student loans – are
crowding school funding concerns
off the agenda. With the Department
for Education (DfE) and the Treasury
having made concessions on student
loans, and with the possibility of more
to come, headteachers fear there are
few resources left for schools.
Whiteman said he believed the
message had not been getting through
to MPs about the extent of the crisis
in schools, despite education being “a
vote-changer for nearly a million people on polling day” at the last election.
In his letter, Whiteman tells MPs:
“I’d be very surprised indeed if you
hadn’t heard from a headteacher or
a parent expressing concerns about
school funding over the last few
months. And yet, there’s a concern
among school leaders that despite
the hundreds of letters written, and
the thousands of parents, families
and governors who have become
campaigners, many MPs have failed
to grasp the severity of the issue.”
The NAHT also planned to have
members lobby parliament directly
this week. It has detailed how changes
by the government since 2015 have
resulted in £2.8bn being taken out
of schools’ frontline budgets. The
changes include national insurance
and pension increases that have
cut teaching budgets by 5.5%, and
£600m-worth of cuts to the education services grant used to fund services such as facilities management
and legal advice. Promises of higher
pay for teachers will also have to be
met from current budgets.
The letter to MPs also points out
that many schools and academies
will have to pay a further 0.5% cut of
their payroll for the government’s new
apprenticeship levy.
The DfE has already announced an
extra £1.3bn for schools between 2018
and 2020, but the headteachers argue
that is still below the further £2bn a
year schools need to keep their budgets at the same level as 2015-16.
The NAHT’s campaign follows last
month’s move by 4,000 headteachers
to write to parents, telling them there
is “simply not enough money in the
system” to fund schools properly.
In response, the DfE said the new
national funding formula being introduced by the government, alongside the extra £1.3bn announced
by the education secretary, Justine
Greening, would see funding distributed more fairly to each school.
Inquiry into student loans to
look at possible graduate tax
Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, is to lead an inquiry
into the rising costs of the controversial student loans system in
England and its possible replacement by a graduate tax.
The system of student loans has
been transformed into a major political issue by steeply rising levels
of debt carried by graduates after
university. Morgan’s inquiry comes
after the prime minister, Theresa
May, froze tuition fees at their fulltime level of £9,250 ($12,300) a year
and raised the income level that
triggers graduate repayments from
£21,000 a year to £25,000.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies
has estimated that the changes will
shift the cost of higher education
by £2.3bn a year from graduates
to taxpayers, with 83% of recent
graduates unlikely to repay their
income-contingent loans in full.
The system introduced since
2012 means undergraduates take
out loans of £9,250 per year for tuition fees, and maintenance loans
of up to £8,400 a year for students
living away from home outside of
London (£11,000 in London).
Graduates have to pay interest
on the debt while studying and after graduation of up to 6.1% based
on income. But they only have to
make repayments worth 9% of
their income above £25,000, while
those who earn less than £25,000
pay nothing. Any debt or interest
unpaid 30 years after graduation is
written off by the government.
The Treasury committee led by
Morgan will scrutinise the changes
to student loans, including repayment thresholds, interest rates,
tuition fee levels and the impact on
student finances. RA
Seeking answers … teachers hope for money in the autumn budget Alamy
Children’s chief attacks NHS over mental health care
Jamie Doward Observer
The children’s commissioner, Anne
Longfield, has launched a savage
attack on the head of the NHS, accusing him of denigrating research
that shows an “unacceptable” lack of
children’s mental health provision.
In an unusual move, she published
an open letter to Simon Stevens, chief
executive of NHS England, saying he
has ignored young people’s experiences of the service and the frustrations
of their parents. In a list of grievances
against him and his team, she threatens to use the law to compel him to
hand over data on waiting times for
children’s mental health services.
Longfield decided to publish her
complaints on the commissioner’s
website after Stevens attacked many
of the claims in her recent report into
children’s mental health, her top priority after consulting with children.
“Many told me about their desperate
attempts, sometimes lasting years,
to access support, and even primary
school children raised concerns about
anxiety,” she told Stevens in the letter.
The report, published to coincide with
World Mental Health Day last week,
estimated that only between a quarter and a fifth of children with mental
health conditions received help last
year. It stated: “Progress in improving
children’s mental health services has
been unacceptably slow.”
In a reply to Longfield, Stevens suggests NHS England was “bounced”
into giving a response to the report
only after aspects of it were shared
with journalists. He said a key finding of the report – that “the government’s much-vaunted prioritisation
of mental health has yet to translate
into change at a local level” – was “demonstrably factually inaccurate”.
Stevens writes: “I’m afraid we
stand by our view that your report
did indeed in places give a misleading view of NHS care.”
David Harewood, page 48 →
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 17
Scots’ bid Mull islanders launch appeal to buy neighbouring Ulva
Islanders on Mull are to launch a
worldwide appeal to help buy the
tiny Hebridean island of Ulva, after
Scottish ministers stopped its owner
selling it for £4.25m ($5.6m).
The appeal is likely to attract
interest from people as far afield as
Australia whose forebears left Ulva
during and after the Highland clearances, which saw the island’s population plummet from about 600 people
two centuries ago to just six today.
The 1,860 hectare island in the
Inner Hebrides nestles just off the
west coast of Mull and is reached
by a short ferry ride. It is the largest of Mull’s sister islands, which
include Iona and Staffa, known
for its striking basalt columns and
Fingal’s Cave. Ulva features some of
the same basalt columns found on
Staffa, Neolithic standing stones, a
Grade II-listed church and remnants
of a once-sprawling township.
Rebecca Munro, whose husband
Rhuri grew up on the island, where
they are raising their two children,
said they hoped to see Ulva thrive
again. Rhuri is a creel fisherman,
and the nearby seas are rich in lobster, langoustine and crab, while she
runs a small seafood cafe there with
her sister-in-law, catering to about
5,000 visitors a year.
“The idea that we could bring
more people back and support the
school at the same time would be
lovely … When you walk around and
you see the ruins and the houses still
there but empty, you get a sense of
what it could be like again,” she said.
The community bid was announced in the summer after it
emerged that Jamie Howard, whose
family has owned Ulva for 70 years,
was about to put it on the market.
Its sale brochure boasted of the
island’s links to Beatrix Potter and
Sir Walter Scott.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first
minister, announced at the Scottish
National party’s annual conference
last Tuesday that the sale had been
blocked to allow a community bid
using new rights for residents to buy
local land, forests and buildings,
partly with public funds.
The Ulva bid is seen as a key
moment for Scotland’s land reform
movement, which wants to see an
end to highly concentrated landownership patterns. The introduction of a national lottery-backed
Scottish Land Fund, which has £10m
a year to spend, has seen a surge in
interest in community buyouts.
Much of the purchase price
would need to be raised through
crowdfunding. Part of that campaign will focus on Australia
and the wider Scottish diaspora.
Ulva’s most famous emigre was
Lachlan Macquarie, the fifth
governor of New South Wales,
who was described by British
settlers as the “father of Australia”.
Severin Carrell Photograph: Alamy
Weekly review, page 26 →
Universal credit threat to free school meals
Michael Savage
Jamie Doward Observer
Ministers are facing fresh calls to suspend the rollout of their flagship welfare reform after experts warned that
a potential flaw could end up costing
an extra £600m ($800m) a year.
MPs, councils and charities have already sounded the alarm over universal credit after mounting evidence that
new claimants were being plunged into
debt and rent arrears, including some
threatened with eviction. There are
now concerns the new system of benefit payments risks causing havoc with
the allocation of free school meals,
which are given to more than a million
children from low-income families.
Under universal credit, which combines several old benefits into a single
payment, the “trigger” for working
out which families are entitled to a
free school meal has been removed.
However, the system’s design means
there is no obvious way of putting a
new trigger in place.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank is warning that ministers face
having to either cut back free meals
or give them to all children whose parents receive universal credit. The latter
expansion would cover an additional
1.7 million children at a cost of up to
£600m a year. Currently, some children of parents who receive working
tax credits are entitled to a free meal.
There is no such threshold built into
the universal credit system. The government could not explain how the issue would be fixed, saying only that details would be released “in due course”.
David Finch, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation,
said: “Implementing such an ambitious reform was always going to be
hard … But inevitable implementation
challenges are different to straightforward design flaws.
“Universal credit rightly aims for
a highly desirable simplification of
our social security system, but the issue of free school meals is just one of
many design issues which should be
addressed before millions of people
are moved to the new system.”
John Harris, page 20 →
News in brief
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
UK news
• UK inflation hit a five-andhalf-year high on Tuesday,
outstripping growth in pay
packets and putting renewed
pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.
The consumer prices index
jumped by 3.0% in September, up from August’s 2.9%
– the highest reading since
early 2012. The increased
squeeze on living standards
comes as the weak pound
pushes up the cost of imported fuel, food and raw
materials. Sterling slumped
following the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
• Britain has made zero
progress in tackling inequality between the sexes in the
past decade and lags behind
Sweden, Denmark, Finland,
the Netherlands and France in
the EU’s latest gender equality
league table. The UK joins Slovakia and the Czech Republic
among the EU’s 28 member
states in having made no
significant advances in reducing levels of inequality when
taking into account a range of
fields including the workplace,
income, education, health or
political engagement.
• Nicola Sturgeon pledged to
set up a state-owned energy
company in Scotland to offer
cheaper power to homeowners, as she sought to restore
her battered party’s confidence at its annual conference last week. Seizing on
a policy pushed by Scottish
Labour, the first minister
said power from the publicly
owned energy company
would be sold as cheaply as
possible. It was one of a series
of populist policies aimed at
bolstering her party’s appeal
to leftwing and rural voters.
• Uber has lodged a legal
appeal against Transport for
London’s decision not to renew its private hire licence, as
the ride-hailing app company
steps up its campaign to keep
operating in one of its biggest
markets. It is attempting to
reverse a ruling that it is not
a “fit and proper” firm to run
taxi services in the capital.
Uber’s licence expired on 30
September, but its cars will
remain available in London
until the legal process is
exhausted – potentially a
year or more. A first hearing
is likely to take place on
11 December, according to a
judicial office spokesman.
18 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
fall is a cue
to rethink
Rebecca Solnit
Too many men seem
aroused by their ability
to inflict pain and
humiliation on women.
But now their victims
are being listened to
his month has not been a good one for
women. In the United States, it was reported that a man who allegedly raped a
12-year-old girl was granted joint custody
of the resultant eight-year-old boy being
raised by his young mother. The severed
head and legs of Swedish journalist Kim
Wall, who disappeared after entering inventor Peter
Madsen’s submarine, were discovered near Copenhagen.
A hard drive belonging to Madsen, Danish police
said, was loaded with videos showing women being
decapitated alive.
A Swedish model received rape threats for posing in
an Adidas advertisement with unshaven legs. The University of Southern California’s dean of medicine was
dumped after reports resurfaced that he had sexually
harassed a young medical researcher in 2003. A number
of men at liberal publications were revealed to have contacted Milo Yiannopoulos, urging him to attack women –
“Please mock this fat feminist,” wrote a senior male staff
writer at Vice’s women’s channel, since fired. And, of
course, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was described
by the New York Times as a serial sexual harasser; his
alleged offences, according to a TV journalist, including
trapping her in a hallway, where he masturbated until
he ejaculated into a potted plant.
Last week, the New Yorker ran a follow-up story by
Ronan Farrow (the biological son of Woody Allen, who
has repudiated his father for his treatment of his sisters),
expanding the charges women have made against Weinstein to include sexual assault. He quotes one young
woman who said “he forced me to perform oral sex on
him” after she showed up for a meeting. She added, “I
have nightmares about him to this day.” Weinstein denies any non-consensual sex.
Saturday 7 October was the first anniversary of the
release of the tape in which the United States president
boasted about sexually assaulting women; 11 women
then came forward to accuse Donald Trump. This
month began with the biggest mass shooting in modern
US history, carried out by a man reported to have routinely verbally abused his girlfriend: domestic violence
is common in the past of mass shooters.
Underlying such attacks is a lack of empathy, a will to
dominate and an entitlement to control, harm and even
take the lives of others. Though there is a good argument that mental illness is not a sufficient explanation
– and most mentally ill people are nonviolent – mass
There must be terrible
loneliness in a failure
to value the humanity
of others, the failure
of empathy and
Jasper Rietman
shooters and rapists seem to have a lack of empathy so
extreme it constitutes a psychological disorder. At this
point in history, it seems to be not just a defect from
birth, but a characteristic many men are instilled with
by the culture around them. It seems to be the precondition for causing horrific suffering and taking pleasure
in it as a sign of one’s own power, in regarding others as
worthless, as yours to harm or eliminate.
Or perhaps it’s an extreme version of masculinity
that has always been with us in a culture that gives men
more power than women; perhaps these acts are the
result of taking that to its logical conclusion. There must
be terrible loneliness in that failure to value the humanity of others, the failure of empathy and imagination, to
consider oneself the only person who matters. Caring
about others, empathising, loving them, liberates each
of us; these bereft figures seem to be prisoners of their
selfishness before they are punishers of others.
Much has also been written to explain why the mass
shootings are not terrorism, but perhaps terrorism can
be imagined as a cultural as well as political phenomenon, a desire to instil fear, assert dominance, devalue
the rights and freedoms of others, assert the power of
the violent and of violence.
hat powerlessness of others seems to
be desired and relished in these cases.
It’s time to talk about the fact that many
men seem erotically excited by their ability to punish, humiliate, inflict pain on
women – the subject of a lot of porn. When
you jerk off while cornering an unwilling
woman, you’re presumably excited by her powerlessness and misery or repulsion. Another of Weinstein’s
victims told the New Yorker: “The fear turns him on.”
Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes took pleasure,
according to his victims, in degrading the employees
he sexually exploited and harassed. Journalist Gabriel
Sherman reported in 2016: “The culture of fear at Fox
was such that no one would dare come forward” until
Gretchen Carlson broke the silence with a lawsuit. This
year several black employees sued the network for racial
There is a solution, but I don’t know how we reach
it, except in a plethora of small acts that accrete into
a different worldview and different values. It’s in how
we raise boys, in what we define as erotic, in how men
can discourage each other from the idea that harming
women enhances their status. Perhaps it’s in young men
in power learning from the fall of Ailes, Bill Cosby, Bill
O’Reilly and now Weinstein – and myriad Silicon Valley
executives and more than a handful of academics – that
women have voices and, sometimes, people who listen
believe them, and the era of impunity might be fading.
Though the change that really matters will consist of
eliminating the desire to do these things, not merely the
fear of getting caught.
In Darren Aronofsky’s film Mother!, Jennifer Lawrence plays a young earth goddess of a woman restoring her poet husband’s house to the best of her ability,
alone, while he ignores her requests to have some say in
what does and doesn’t happen, who does and does not
enter their home. You can interpret the story, as Aronofsky intended, as an environmental allegory in which
the house is the earth, the destruction is environmental
destruction, the recklessness that accompanies selfishness. Or you can just see it as a film about things going
increasingly wrong in an unequal marriage between an
egomaniac without empathy and a woman who is all too
giving and not respected. It works either way.
It’s a film for our time and one I can only hope captures a moment that will pass, because it’s past time to
talk seriously about the poisonous lack of empathy and
imagination that lies behind the corpses and the nightmares and the everyday fears.
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 19
We should value people more than money
Gary Younge
Human beings have always travelled,
but borders now limit that primal act
of self-betterment. It’s time for us to
put an end to immigration controls
hen I was a teenager I went to
West Berlin with my local youth
orchestra to take part in an AngloGerman cultural exchange. It was
1983 and the wall was up. As we
toured the city over 10 days, we
would keep butting into this grotesque cold war installation blocking our way, and butting up against my 14-year-old’s defence of socialism.
Clearly, built with the deliberate intention to trap
people in a place they might not want to be, the wall
was heinous – not just a bad idea, but morally wrong.
As such, it was the most obscene symbol of the broader
case against the eastern bloc. The fact their governments would not allow residents to travel to the west
was prima facie evidence of their lack of freedom: they
were understood to be like open prisons.
Not long after the wall came down, this entire logic
went into reverse. As country after country shed its
Stalinist overlords and went into free-market freefall,
the case for their peoples’ right to leave was eclipsed
by the fear that they might actually come. In the west
their “freedom” was welcomed; their presence was not.
While they were demolishing the wall, we were building
a fortress. Politics kept them in. For more than a decade,
before they gained admission to the European Union,
economics would keep them out.
“A map of the world that does not include utopia is
not worth even glancing at,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “For it
leaves out the one country at which humanity is always
landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out,
and, seeing a better country, sets sail.”
The map of my utopian world has no borders. I
believe in the free movement of people. As a principle, I
think we should all be able to roam the planet and live,
love and create where we wish.
Benedict Anderson once famously described nation
states as “imagined communities”. I’d like to imagine
mine without border guards, barbed wire, passport
control, walls, fences or barriers. The world would be a
better place without them.
Some of this stems from personal history. I am from
a travelling people. My parents were born and raised in
Barbados, a small island in the Caribbean caught in the
crosswinds of colonial ties and postwar labour scarcity.
I have 14 aunts and uncles. Along with my parents,
nine of them left Barbados for lives in Britain, the US
and Canada. I have cousins scattered across the globe.
Borders are no friends to diasporas. They privilege formfilling over family.
“Do you plan to work while you are here?” the UK
immigration officer asked my grandmother when she
came to see us one time. “You have cane here?” she
asked wryly – she who worked in the canefields her
entire life. Like my granny, though for different reasons, borders have always been a tense issue for me.
With those in uniform struggling to match the colour
of my face to the crest on my passport, how could it
be otherwise? To be black and on the move in the west
Thomas Pullin
is to be an object of suspicion. The documents are
supposed to speak for themselves; but somehow there
was always more explaining to do.
Borders exist, by definition, to separate us from others. The primary two issues then become which “other”
that will be, and on what basis we should be separated.
America’s 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the White
Australia Policy – a series of measures lasting 70 years
– or Britain’s Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962
are among the more crude filters. But while the “othering” changes with time – the shift from race to religion
as grounds for suspicion over a generation has been
breathtaking – the fact of it remains the same. Some
people won’t be welcome, not because of what they
have done but because of who they are.
The map of my utopian
world has no borders.
As a principle, I think
we should be able to
roam the planet and
live where we wish
his has long been a problem. Recently,
however, it has been compounded by the
fact that even as borders have become
tougher for people, they have all but been
lifted for capital. Money can travel the
globe virtually without restriction, in
search of regulations that are weaker and
labour that is cheaper.
When it does, it often displaces people: shutting
down factories and shifting them to the other side of
the world. But those who find their lives turned upside
down by the free movement of capital are often prevented from moving country and looking for work.
People should have at least the same rights – or more,
since humans are more valuable than money.
Sadly, desperate people are turned away at borders all
the time. Others are incarcerated for having the audacity to cross borders we have created, to escape wars we
have started, environmental chaos we have contributed
to or poverty we have helped create. Others die trying.
It is a fact, rarely stated but generally acknowledged and accepted, that the global poor should not be
allowed to travel. That’s most of the world.
Nation states are a relatively new concept; migration
is as old as humanity. Borders do not simply set boundaries for countries, but are metaphors for the boundaries
of how we might think about other human beings.
Immigrants are not the problem. Borders are.
20 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Tories are
to blame for
rise in UK
John Harris
Eva Bee
Ruinous government
policies have seen rough
sleeping soar. A benefits
payments overhaul will
only pile on the misery
for thousands more
rom the knuckles upwards, at least three
of his fingers were missing. Frostbite last
winter, he said. Some of his toes had gone
too. Someone had found him unconscious
with hypothermia, and he had spent months
in hospital before once again living on the
street. He said he needed £17 ($22) for a onenight stay in a hostel: I gave him a fiver and some cigarettes, and we talked some more.
I was in Manchester, covering the Conservative party
conference earlier this month. In the UK, the scourge
of homelessness and rough sleeping has been growing
at speed. A snapshot count by the National Audit Office
this time last year suggested that just over 4,100 people in England were sleeping rough, a figure that had
increased by 134% since 2010. The number of households in temporary accommodation was reckoned to be
77,000, up 60% in six years.
Some of these figures look like underestimates.
In Greater Manchester, homelessness is said to have
quadrupled since 2010. Homelessness charity Crisis
estimates that in 2016 rough sleeping in the UK averaged around 9,000. And all of these problems are set to
get much worse. A study by academics at Heriot-Watt
University in Scotland said that if government policy
remains as it is, the number of homeless people in Britain will reach 575,000 by 2041, up from 236,000 in 2016.
Over the same period, the number of people sleeping
rough could top 40,000.
Little more than a year ago, the official approach to
homelessness was still often stuck in a rut of punitive
measures: councils imposing fines for begging and
rough sleeping, and endless talk of crackdowns and zero
tolerance. Now, though, accompanied by a clear sense of
political panic, there are the first signs of a thaw.
Last week, Theresa May announced a £3.8m contribution to something called the “Greater Manchester
Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer” – showing her approval for measures aimed at getting help to the region’s
homeless people, many of them authored by Greater
Manchester’s new Labour mayor, Andy Burnham.
Meanwhile, parliament has passed the Homelessness
Reduction Act, which will supposedly ensure that councils have increased obligations to homeless people.
Clearly, all this is proof that homelessness is newly
intruding on politics, but it jars against two unavoidable
questions. First, why does the government still seem
largely focused on symptoms, rather than causes? And
when it comes to the latter, who is ultimately to blame?
The answer is simple, embodied in the fact that
homelessness statistics show a surge that began in 2010.
The Tories have long had a streak of cold cruelty, and
the obscenities of current homelessness are the result.
Of course, if you cut and cap benefits, leave a snowballing housing crisis untouched and fail to question the
specious morals of the market, it will have human costs.
Now comes universal credit, a new system of benefits
payments already rolled out in areas scattered across
the country, before its full introduction in 2022.
Private landlords are already refusing to let properties
to people in receipt of the new benefit, for fear of their
tenants going into arrears. Councils and housing associations say that the mandatory six-week gap between
making a claim and receiving a first payment is leading
to huge problems, and evictions are already under way.
In Manchester, Burnham says universal credit threatens to double his region’s number of rough sleepers. “If
the rollout goes ahead as planned it will make our problem dramatically worse,” he says.
The words highlight two of 2017’s biggest stories: on
the streets of British cities, everyday matters of life and
death. And in London, a government seemingly lost
in its own cruelties.
More at
Opinion In brief
Find a better sauce for your outrage
Farewell, old and not much-loved pound coin
I did not come of age in an era of
activism. During my four years at
college, I can remember only two
campus-wide protests that gained
any traction. One was to remove a
piece of modern sculpture that had
been erected along a windswept
walkway. The other was to restore a
particular brand of cereal to its former availability in all dining halls.
I was reminded of those sorry
times as impromptu protests
erupted at McDonald’s franchises
across America, in response to a
lack of Szechuan McNugget dipping
sauce. The Szechuan sauce was originally introduced as a promotional
tie-in with the 1998 Disney film Mulan, and then quickly discontinued.
But after it recently figured in the
plot of the animated sci-fi sitcom
Rick and Morty, online petitions for
its return were launched. Sensing a
marketing opportunity, McDonald’s
At midnight last Sunday, everything
changed for ever. The pound coin
– the old, round, squat pound coin,
as British as a blue passport or a
bag of liver – ceased to become legal
tender. The trusty pound coin, unlocker of vending machines, locker
of lockers, has been transformed
into scrap metal in your hands,
replaced by a bimetallic interloper
that looks as if it was designed by
Fisher-Price for a bet. You’re right to
be brokenhearted about it.
Except you’re not brokenhearted
about it. Nobody is. In an age where
the slightest alteration to anything
must be met by oceans of fizzingly
disproportionate outrage, the old
pound coin has died unmourned.
Vegans aren’t on the warpath
because, unlike polymer banknotes,
nobody thought to splice cow DNA
into the new coins. Men’s rights
activists aren’t narked off because,
released a very limited amount of
the sauce in selected outlets.
McDonald’s had not reckoned
with the determined entitlement of
Rick and Morty fans. At one LA franchise, 300 people turned up to fight
over 20 packets of sauce. The police
had to be called. In Newark, New
Jersey, customers held up makeshift
signs that said “#GiveUsTheSauce”.
It’s heartening to see that the
young people of America are still
familiar with the mechanisms of
protest, if not the actual point of it.
On the same weekend that the vicepresident stormed out of a football
game because black NFL players
were protesting over racial injustice,
it seems a little stupid to confuse
behaving like a jerk at McDonald’s
with some kind of cause. Let’s hope
Rick and Morty fans can find some
more suitable source of outrage.
Tim Dowling
unlike the new polymer tenners,
the new coins haven’t just suddenly
discovered that women exist.
Even shops don’t seem to mind
much. The Federation of Small Businesses, Poundland and Tesco all said
they would carry on accepting the
old pound coins. They aren’t legal
tender any more, but what the hell.
The passing of the old pound coin
is an opportunity for you to be the
truest version of yourself possible. If
you’re in any way philanthropic, you
can donate your stock of coins to any
of the numerous charities who are
requesting them. Or if you’re a historian, tape them to the inside of a
notebook, even though nobody will
ever take any pleasure from looking
at them in the future.
This is the round pound’s last
gasp. It’s up to you to fritter it away
on pretty much nothing. It’s what it
would have wanted. Stuart Heritage
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 21
In praise of ...
Hollywood stars have welcomed the expulsion of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein from the Academy
is hated for
Matthew d’Ancona
The chancellor is reviled
by many Tories for
looking at the fine print
of Brexit and rejecting
the feelgood fantasias
he book The Power of Positive Thinking
introduced the notion that you can shape
reality by mere “affirmations”. I suppose
snake oil of this sort might help some people get through the day. But it is no basis
upon which to govern a country. Wishing
upon a star is not enough for a successful
departure from the EU.
Yet this is precisely what the exasperated Jiminy
Crickets of Brexit are demanding of chancellor Philip
Hammond. Last Thursday, John Redwood tweeted:
“The Chancellor must get the Treasury to have more
realistic, optimistic forecasts & to find the money for a
successful economy post Brexit.” Nadine Dorries, meanwhile, complained: “We need a ‘can-do’ man in the
Treasury, not a prophet of doom.”
By something close to constitutional convention,
the chancellor is the government-of-the-day’s Dr No.
Whoever holds this great office of state must personify
prudence, protect the public finances, resist all harebrained schemes that will jeopardise jobs or otherwise
imperil prosperity. That, at least, is the job description.
So it is innovative, not to say extremely stupid, to insist
that Hammond suddenly pick up the pom-poms of the
cheerleader and whoop that “Brexit totally rocks!”
The latest charge levelled against the chancellor
concerns his alleged failure to prepare with sufficient
enthusiasm and application for a “no deal” outcome. All
departments have been instructed to make contingency
plans for the collapse of David Davis’s negotiations with
the EU’s Michel Barnier. But Hammond’s foes want to
see the public coffers opened, and money splashed out
to make Britain ready for the cliff edge.
Spent on what, though? Were Britain to crash out of
the EU at the end of March 2019 without a deal, it would
be subject to the rules of the World Trade Organization – meaning export tariffs of 10% on cars, 36% on
dairy products, and high levies on clothes, footwear,
chemicals and much else. The customs system would
grind to a halt. International regulation systems would
vanish, replaced by an economically disastrous vacuum.
How did cats wind their way into
our lives? The answer, as many evolutionary biologists argue, is that
cats may have selected us as much
as we selected them. Nothing challenges my understanding of Darwinian evolution more than the fact I
have fallen so deeply in love with a
milky-eyed cat. When he appeared
in our lives, it was like we had discovered a rich new seam of love
every time he entered the room. He
offers very little affection, yet we
lovingly prepare food for him.
I am staggered at the realness of
our emotions toward him. They are
the same emotions I imagine you,
dear reader, will know in your own
pets. The same emotions that make
you cry when they’re gone. We love
them. And they seem to love us.
Do we anthropomorphise them,
or do they animalise us? If the latter,
then perhaps it is their presence that
may wake us up to the wider disasters we are inflicting upon nature.
If so, that’s a message I’m happy to
share. Jules Howard
It is pitifully deluded to suggest that spending a few
billion here, and a few billion there, is going to prepare
the UK for such an outcome. As Hammond himself has
suggested, the only way for Britain to cope with such a
calamity would be for it to become an entirely different
kind of country: low-tax, low-regulation, a Singapore
of the west. The problem is that the British themselves
would never tolerate the inevitable consequences of
such a transformation – the drastic shrinkage of public
services, the welfare state and core social entitlements.
Small wonder that Kenneth Clarke and other Tory
Remainers are tabling an amendment that would write
the two-year transition plan into the EU withdrawal
bill – effectively giving the Commons the ability to reject
Brexit entirely if no agreement is reached with Brussels.
At present this stands little chance of becoming law;
but it will remind Theresa May and her whips that the
parlous state of the EU talks is jeopardising her already
precarious majority.
May’s public readiness to countenance a “no deal”
outcome reflects a strategy rather than a secret yearning. She calculates that the EU will not negotiate fairly
unless its 27 other member states believe we are ready
to walk away without an agreement. But as the months
pass and the talks stall I also sense that a growing number of Brexiteers see “no deal” not as a threat but as
an objective. Before the election, one cabinet minister
close to the talks told me that “life under WTO rules
would be perfectly OK, you know”. Really?
For daring to look at the small print of Brexit and
failing to declare the whole process “doubleplusgood”,
Hammond is now pilloried by the faction within his
party that, whatever its numerical strength, shouts
loudest. He is hated by his enemies because he puts
fact before emotion, and refuses to join in the feelgood
It is bleakly ironic that those who are working hardest to mitigate the most damaging consequences of
Brexit are routinely accused of undermining the whole
process. If only the chancellor would think positively, it
would all be fine. Wouldn’t it?
22 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Decertifying the Iran deal
Full of sound and fury
Donald Trump has taken a wild swing at his
predecessor’s key foreign policy legacy, the
milestone 2015 Iran nuclear accord. By refusing to “certify” Iran’s compliance, Mr Trump
has set events on an unpredictable course. He
had until 15 October to “certify” the deal’s implementation. He had done so twice already
since coming to office. But this time, though
nothing substantial has changed, he’s noisily
refused. Does this matter? He cannot, alone,
pull the US out of this deal, but he has raised
the spectre that this might happen “at any
time”. He wants measures taken to counter
Iran’s “destabilising actions” and to “deny all
paths to a nuclear weapon”, though without
much clarity as to what this might entail. None
of this contradicts the agreement formally, but
it will all weaken it. Congress now has 60 days
in which to decide whether to vote to reimpose sanctions. Even if that happens, European allies who are party to the nuclear deal,
along with Russia and China, have all clearly
indicated they will act to preserve it.
The 2015 deal offered the best possible assurances that Iran’s nuclear military activities would be contained for roughly 10 years.
It imposed strict international inspections,
and provided strong incentives through sanctions relief. By defusing the nuclear crisis, it
helped consolidate the more moderate factions within Iran’s power structures. It has
helped to prevent the arms race in the Middle
East from taking on entirely new proportions.
Now, all these positive outcomes may start
to unravel. Iran has promised a “crushing”
response if its Revolutionary Guards are targeted by US sanctions – something Mr Trump
has now called for. His provocation could
lead to Iran pulling out of the nuclear accord
– which may well be his tactical goal.
The emerging diplomatic picture is unprecedented: a US president finds himself at
odds not only with his own close advisers, but
with all the key international players involved
in a major crisis over international security.
“America First” has become “America alone”
at the moment when it is clear that America,
alone, has far less power than it still supposes.
No one else believes that Iran has violated
the terms of the deal. Even Mr Trump now
claims only that Iran has violated the “spirit”
of the accord.
There is no need to panic. Just as the
agreement has its limits, so does Mr Trump’s
angry rhetoric demonstrate his. He has not
quite taken any action that Iran would find
completely unacceptable. He threatens and
blusters, but the agreement will stand unless
Congress decides to break it.
This is where all the pettiness of his character works for the good. Because he is interested only in victory, he may fail entirely to
notice that he has backed down from some
of his own rhetoric. But Congress must now
refuse to impose sanctions that would definitively break the deal.
The IMF’s message
Yes, tax the super-rich
The International Monetary Fund has been
on quite a journey from the days when it was
seen as the provisional wing of the Washington consensus, an ideology that promoted the
false idea that growth was turbo-charged by
scrapping welfare policies and pursuing privatisations. These days the IMF is less likely
to harp on about the joys of liberalised capital
flows than it is to warn of the dangers of evergreater inequality. The Fund’s latest – and
welcome – foray into the realms of progressive economics came last week when it used
its half-yearly fiscal monitor to make the case
for higher taxes on the super-rich. Make no
mistake, this is a significant moment.
For almost 40 years, since the arrival of Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street and Ronald
Reagan in the White House, the economic
orthodoxy on taxation has been that higher
taxes for the 1% are self-defeating. Soaking the
rich, it was said, would lead to lower levels of
innovation, less investment, weaker growth
and, therefore, reduced revenue for the state.
The IMF’s analysis makes two important
points. First, it says that tax systems should
have become more progressive in recent years
in order to help offset growing inequality but
rather have been becoming less progressive.
Second, it finds no evidence for the argument
that attempts to make the rich pay more tax
would lead to lower growth. There is nothing
especially surprising about either of the conclusions: in fact, the real surprise is that it has
taken so long for the penny to drop. Growth
rates have not picked up as taxes have been cut
for the top 1%. If trickle-down theory worked,
there would be a strong correlation between
countries with low marginal tax rates for the
rich and growth. There is no such correlation.
The IMF is not naive. It knows it is one thing
to make the case for higher taxes on the rich
but another thing to get governments to implement them. The IMF has demolished the
argument that what is good for the super-rich
is good for the rest of us, but don’t expect the
top 1% to give up without a fight.
Culture can help
bring us together.
So Unesco is vital
The Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg
said earlier this year that the social
media giant wants to bring together
communities and help people “find
a sense of purpose and support”. As
a film-maker, I know that cinema
is an ideal medium for opening
minds and, in Zuckerberg’s words,
“expanding our horizons”. Through
cinema, distant countries have got
to know one another and powerful
taboos have been overcome.
Politicians rightly fear and respect these powers. This is why authoritarians have always sought to
subjugate them.
Culture is not something we can
take for granted; it requires a constant state of struggle. This is not
a struggle for any one country to
pursue on its own. This is why we
have Unesco, the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation. The organisation’s
mission is a vital one: to “build
peace in the minds of men and
women” and “create the conditions
for dialogue among civilisations,
cultures and peoples, based upon
respect for commonly shared values”. That means fostering quality
education for all, putting science to
work for sustainable development
and celebrating cultural diversity.
I believe Audrey Azoulay, who
was France’s culture minister until
earlier this year and has just been
elected the new director-general of
Unesco, will be perfect for the post,
as I have seen her approach her work
not with the mindset of a politician
or a bureaucrat, but instead with the
vision of an artist.
Were they to look beyond their
business interests, businessmen
such as Zuckerberg could be incredibly helpful in meeting these
challenges. Social media networks
are incredible tools for building
bridges across borders, but cannot
create the cultural touchstones that
bring disparate peoples together.
Indeed, we have too often seen
them having the effect of driving
neighbours apart.
If our shared objective is to heal
divides, we must work together to
protect our shared global heritage,
while educating our children to
preserve it when we are gone.
Costa-Gavras is an Oscar-winning
director and screenwriter
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 23
The vote in Catalonia
• The English have remarkable
knowhow in working with our
fellow Brits – not only the Welsh,
the Scots and the Manx but also the
Irish. While in no way interfering in
Spanish affairs, an offer of conciliatory help would be an act of statesmanship to one of our oldest European friends at this difficult time.
David Hayes
Bristol, UK
Unfair review of Clinton book
At the beginning of his review of
Hillary Clinton’s new book What
Happened (29 September) Peter
Conrad claims that he “grieved”
when she lost the presidential
election. Who needs enemies with
supporters like this?
Letters for publication
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Acting editor: Graham Snowdon
Guardian Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York
Way, London N1 9GU, United Kingdom
Gary Kempston
Much nonsense has been said and
reported about the situation in Catalonia. First there is the suggestion
that the Catalans were only trying
to exercise their democratic right
to vote (Simon Tisdall, 6 October).
That is not so. The referendum in
Catalonia only gave votes to a subset
of the population of Spain, and so
was not democratic.
Second, there is the suggestion
that the Catalans were peacefully
campaigning “in line with the UN
charter’s universal right to self-determination”. That too is nonsense.
The charter merely talks about the
“principle of … self-determination
of peoples” without defining what
“peoples” means. What it surely
does not mean is that a subset of
the people within a country can
unilaterally declare independence
from that country. If that were the
case, London and the home counties
could declare independence from
the UK to form a state that remains
in the EU. I am sure that even Tisdall
would not defend that proposition.
Catalonia contributes more taxes
to Spain than it receives. That is the
economic nature of any state – richer
parts subsidise the poorer parts.
However, the Catalans don’t like
this and in a country that professes
itself to be Catholic – and therefore
Christian – it is pure hypocrisy.
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain
it is ever more expensive to achieve
and has finite limits.
Unless we get to grips with the
underlying forces driving our behaviour, we cannot hope to change
it for the better; indeed, if we fail
to control them, the pressure will
inevitably become even greater
and our responses even more
competitive rather than cooperative.
David Barker
Bunbury, Western Australia
Having just devoured the book,
I was astounded by the viciousness
and lack of exactitude in Conrad’s
review. Steve Bannon’s team could
not have done better. He displays all
the prejudices Hillary Clinton had
to contend with during her whole
career: he attacks her for speaking out (too early), for the wrong
reasons (for money), for wearing
the wrong clothes (pantsuits from
Ralph Lauren), for being guilty of
triumphalism (she is preparing
herself to be president) and finally
for not understanding that it was all
about showbiz (maybe she should
have tap-danced wearing a miniskirt
from Walmart). The concluding lines
when he says he feels sorry for her
opponent made me feel nauseated.
Read the book and make your
own mind up. I would feel honoured
to shake Hillary Clinton’s hand. Her
professionalism, her resilience and
her composure are models for us all.
Maria Moran
Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada
Living on Planet Monbiot
I wish I was living on the same
planet as George Monbiot, where all
we need to do to attain peace and
harmony is to adopt a new social
paradigm based on cooperation and
altruism (22 September). Sadly, the
world I inhabit is one in which there
is ever-increasing pressure on all our
essential needs caused by unbridled
population growth and resulting in
ever-increasing competition, which
won’t go away just because we
would like it to. Technology has supported this growth but its benefits
are extremely unevenly distributed,
To contact the editor directly:
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Macron’s so-called reforms
In your 22 September cover story
The eurozone strikes back, Jennifer
Rankin quotes the economist James
Nixon as saying that Emmanuel
Macron’s labour reforms could hail
a decade of expansion for the euro
area. That sounds promising. But
one sentence jumped out: that Macron’s reforms would “make it easier
for small and medium-sized firms to
fire workers, thus boosting hiring”.
That sounds logical and you certainly can’t argue with steps to make
things easier for smaller companies.
But what I found strange was that
“small and medium-sized” firms are
mentioned specifically. What of multinational corporations? Will they be
exempted and suddenly start giving
stable, long-term contracts to their
employees? I somehow doubt that
and believe that corporations will
get on the bandwagon and use “fireability” to reduce their costs, thereby
enabling them to eclipse smaller
companies even more quickly.
Or maybe corporations are beyond this and have outsourced
so much of their labour that they
don’t really care. If this is the case,
then governments should force
corporations to raise their employment conditions, rather than have
smaller companies lower theirs.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany
• Oliver Burkeman’s article on
anxiety (6 October) reminds me of
the words carved on the mantelpiece in my grandparents’ house:
“How much pain the evils have cost
us that have never happened.”
Sue Spring
Le Boulvé, France
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From the archive
20 October 1987
Bloodbath as City
suffers worst day
Stock markets around the world
ended yesterday in tatters as Wall
Street’s nosedive continued. No
major market was able to withstand
the impact of New York’s sustained
attack of nerves.
In the Far East, Tokyo took an
overnight hammering whilst Hong
Kong and Singapore showed their
sharpest ever falls. In London, too,
it was a day for breaking unwanted
records. The unprecedented £50bn
bloodbath was intensified by Friday’s near closure of the City’s
financial markets. On mainland
Europe, Milan, Frankfurt and Paris
all ended sharply down. Not surprisingly with share prices on the run,
gold was in demand with investors
closing $15.75 higher in London at
$481 an ounce. In the City, the reaction to Wall Street was immediate,
with the FTSE index opening 136.9
points down. At its worst, the index
had crashed more than 300 points, a
£63bn loss, and even a minor rally at
the end of the day still left it almost
250 points adrift at 2,052.3.
Dealers in London described
the day as “frenetic”. More than
800 million shares changed hands,
around 50% up on a normal day,
whilst the Stock Exchange’s computer system recorded the highest
ever number of price changes. At
one stage during the morning, prices
were changing so rapidly that the
Stock Exchange put on the ‘fast market’ notice to show that prices being
shown on dealing screens might
well be different from those investors were quoted on the telephone.
Peter Rodgers and Mark Milner
Corrections and
• An article about Irish antiabortion protests (6 October) made
geographical reference to the
“British mainland”, when England
should have been specified.
• Due to an editing error in a 1 September article about US economics,
we said Jackson Hole was in Colorado, not Wyoming.
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 20.10.17
Firefighters observe operations as wildfires blaze a destructive trail near Calistoga in California’s Napa Valley. At least 40 people have died and evacuees returned to find thousands of homes an
Swiss speed climber Dani Arnold clings on one-handed as he traverses a section of the
Breitwangflue ice tunnel near Kandersteg, Switzerland Thomas Senf/Mammut/AP
A special light show from 59 Productions celebrates 20 years since the opening of the
Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain Justin Sutcliffe
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 25
nd businesses destroyed across the northern part of the state Justin Sullivan/Getty
A cub is ready for its closeup at the Shenshuping Conservation and Research Centre of the
Giant Panda in China, where 36 young made their first public appearance Getty
Tunnels in the former Salina Turda salt mine in Cluj County, Romania. Excavation stopped
in 1932 but the mine was reopened as a tourist attraction in 2010 Stoyan Nenov/Reuters
A refuse collector at the top of a huge mound of rubbish at Okhla landfill in Delhi, India.
The city produces more than 5,000 tonnes of waste each day Shams Qari/Barcroft Images
26 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 27
Forces at sea
The untapped power of marine turbines
→ Discovery, pages 32-33
This island is not for sale
The Hebridean isle of Eigg overcame private owners to assert community
independence. But can its way of life survive? By Patrick Barkham
t’s the difference between black-and-white
TV and colour,” said Brian Greene. “That’s
what it was like after the revolution.” Greene
was giving me a lift along Eigg’s only road,
waving at every passerby. It was the kind
of explosive Scottish Highland summer day
when butterflies jinked out of the steaming greenery and every foxglove, fuchsia and yellow flag iris
seemed to have simultaneously burst into flower.
Small islands are like celebrities: they loom
far larger than their actual size, they are pored
over by visitor-fans and they become public
possessions, laden with reputations and attributes they may or may not embody. The Hebridean
island of Eigg is second to St Kilda as the most famous of the smaller British isles. While St Kilda is
renowned for its extinction as a place of human
settlement, Eigg is celebrated for its rebirth. After
overthrowing its eccentric, authoritarian owner
two decades ago, this 31 sq km patch of moor and
mountain was reborn as what is sometimes mockingly called the People’s Republic of Eigg. This
triumph of David versus Goliath has forged an
apparently inspirational, sustainable community
of 100 people. On first glance, it appears at once industriously creative and attractively lackadaisical:
colourful houses, gardens filled with strawberry
patches, hammocks made from former fishing nets
and swings from old buoys.
Larger British isles, such as Shetland and Orkney,
or the Isle of Man, have (at least in modern times)
avoided the vexation of capricious landlords. Perhaps their remoteness, or the strength of their local culture, militate against individual possession,
but it may simply be sheer size. In contrast, the
Small Isles – Eigg, Muck, Rùm and Canna – are perfectly formed and of an ideal size to be possessed
by one person. For the last two centuries, these
beautiful, fecund Hebridean islands have been
objects of desire for wealthy men – and it has always been men – who love islands, with disastrous
consequences for both sides.
The islophile DH Lawrence wrote a satirical short
story, The Man Who Loved Islands. It is a cautionary tale: a young idealist called Mr Cathcart buys
a small island in order to create his own utopia,
downsizes to a tiny one when he realises the native islanders are mocking him, and finally moves
to an uninhabited rock. Fredrik Sjöberg, an author
I visited on the tiny Swedish island of Runmarö, believes small islands possess “a peculiar attraction for
men with a need for control and security” because
“nothing is so enclosed and concrete as an island”.
The literary academic Peter Conrad offers a more
Freudian interpretation, suggesting that an island
is a “uterine shelter” surrounded, like the foetus,
by fluid, and attracting men in search of a mother
or a primal source of safety. Novelists cocoon their
creativity – and fragile egos – on islands, too. “I like
islands,” wrote Will Self, “because they’re discrete
and legible, just like stories.”
Mystique and mischief … Eigg’s Singing Sands
Patrick Barkham
One of Eigg’s old Gaelic names is “the Island of the
Powerful Women”, which it was respectfully called
by male islanders at sea, to avoid bad luck. But its
matriarchy was despoiled by a succession of men
whose craving for Eigg outdid their means. The English Runciman family were reasonably enlightened
– Lord Runciman’s wife, Hilda, became one of the
first female MPs – but they sold Eigg as a “perfectly
secluded island of the Old World” in 1966. It was
bought by an elderly Welsh farmer whose Hereford
cattle promptly died of bracken poisoning. Disheartened, he got rid of Eigg for £110,000 (roughly
£1m, or $1.3m, at today’s rates) in 1971 to Bernard
Farnham-Smith, self-styled naval commander and
head of an English charity that wanted to run the
island as a school for disabled boys. Eigg’s own
school was so depleted that by 1973 it was down
to one pupil. Islanders welcomed the charismatic
“Commander” and his stories of his navy days in
China. Farnham-Smith’s ingenious ideas were a bit
vague, however, and he was soon cutting costs. The
island doctor described his regime as “living under
enemy occupation, without the satisfaction of being able to shoot the bugger”. It turned out that the
most Farnham-Smith had commanded was a fire
brigade, and Eigg was back on the market in 1974.
On 1 April 1975, Keith Schellenberg, a dashing,
Yorkshire-born businessman and former Olympic
St Kilda is renowned for
its extinction as a place of
human settlement, Eigg
is celebrating its rebirth
bobsleigher, acquired Eigg. He was a charming,
persuasive adventurer, who, over the next 20 years,
fulfilled the narrative of The Man Who Loved Islands
perhaps more faithfully than any other real nesomane (John Fowles’s term for island-lover). Legend has it that Schellenberg found himself locked
in his home at Udny Castle, a grand pile belonging
to his second wife, with the deadline for a blind
auction for Eigg approaching. Unfazed, he abseiled
down the walls to offer Farnham-Smith £274,000
– £74,000 more than the state-run Highlands and
Islands Development Board was prepared to pay.
The 39 remaining islanders – an all-time
population low – were initially pleased. They
didn’t want a takeover by the government, which
had shown little interest in renovating their pier or
reforming the high freight charges on the ferry. At
first, Schellenberg promoted a prescient modern
vision of self-sufficiency through tourism, the
miracle industry then hailed by the authorities as
the solution to the Highland “problem”. FarnhamSmith had kept the wooden community hall locked,
but in a popular early move Schellenberg gave it
back to the islanders so there could be badminton
in winter and dances in summer. Dozens of ceilidhs
took place during that first golden year. Unlike
other Highland lairds, Schellenberg was a vegetarian who objected to shooting, and he encouraged
the Scottish Wildlife Trust to create three nature
reserves. Buildings were renovated for holiday
homes, and flashy boats, including a motor cruiser
called the Golden Eye, brought tourists to the island. Job ads in national newspapers brought an
influx of new residents to work for the new owner.
Maggie and Wes Fyffe were running a craft workshop on the east coast of Scotland when Schellenberg turned up and invited them to start a similar
project on Eigg. The Fyffes loved Eigg and felt an immediate sense of belonging. “Apart from the fact that
it is beautiful, I just liked being part of a small community,” Maggie said as we drank tea in her croft.
The couple had two children and, on Eigg, they no
longer felt excluded from things. “Kids go to everything here because if there’s something happening
everybody goes,” said Maggie. “It just felt right.”
In keeping with most Hebridean islanders, the
Gaelic-speaking Eigg natives were far from insular. “It’s a real misconception that folk have about
Hebridean crofter types,” said Maggie. She mentions an old islander who has travelled the globe
and fought in Palestine. “People in general here
are very hospitable – it’s part of the culture. They
were really happy to see young people and kids
arriving,” she said. That outward-facing mentality
is still a feature of the island.
By the summer of 1979, Eigg was open for business. The population jumped to 60 and the school,
that crucial barometer of small-island health, had
12 pupils. There was a new tearoom and craft centre; moped hire, day cruises, sea angling, lobster
fishing and pony trekking were advertised as on
offer. Visitors could even help with haymaking or
sheep shearing. Unfortunately, when the tourists
arrived, these activities were rarely available. Staff
turnover was worryingly high. New employees were
housed in run-down buildings with polythene for
windowpanes. Schellenberg’s grand Lodge was
open house for his society friends in high summer.
One likened him to Mr Toad: “Keith actually wears
those round goggles and he’s always arriving in
places with a lot of noise and clouds of dust.” His
prized possession was a 1927 Rolls-Royce. Guests
would perch on the running board as he drove them
to beach picnics or moonlit games of hockey. “We
spent our days as if we were Somerset Maugham
characters, sunbathing or playing croquet on the
manicured lawn,” said one friend.
In the village shop I met Sarah Boden, one of
Eigg’s two farmers. She remembers a German playboy landing in the Lodge gardens in a helicopter.
Two models dressed in catsuits brandishing toy guns
stepped out first. “Schellenberg was very charismatic, a real showman,” said Boden, who recalled
him driving around in an eight-wheeled ArgoCat, an
amphibious all-terrain vehicle. “He’d drive it to the
boat and park it in the most ridiculous place possible
at the pier, just so the visitors would watch.”
Schellenberg revived the inter-island games that
traditionally took place between residents of the
Small Isles, and for his guests devised war games
with tennis balls, which were insensitively billed as
“Jacobites v Hanoverians”. Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 During the 1988 games
the island ceilidh band, who had agreed to play for
his wealthy guests, decided there would be a small
entrance fee to raise money for a new hall. When
Schellenberg discovered that his American friends
had been charged, he demanded that their money
be returned. The band walked off stage and many
islanders left the concert in protest, pursued by
one of the laird’s aristocratic Scottish guests, who
shouted: “Scum of the earth, half-baked socialists!”
Behind the comedy was genuine suffering.
In 1980, Schellenberg had divorced his wealthy
second wife and, suddenly much poorer, was
running Eigg on a shoestring. The farm manager
quit, labourers were made redundant and the
tractors ran out of diesel. His regime was propped
up by generous government tax breaks for new,
environmentally damaging plantations of nonnative Sitka spruce. The rain came in through the
nursery roof; old islanders’ homes were by now
particularly dilapidated. Life “was quite grim”,
remembered Boden, who spent the first six years
of her life on the island in the 1980s. “We lived in
five different houses and two caravans. Schellenberg would employ and sack people on a total whim,
so there was no security.”
Inadvertently, though, he created an island community that would ultimately depose him. Many
of the outsiders Schellenberg hired and fired, such
as the Fyffes, liked Eigg so much that they stayed,
and scratched out a self-sufficient life on crofts
in Cleadale, the fertile valley that had been the
island’s traditional centre. Older inhabitants were
welcoming, if perplexed, to see newcomers adopt
the life they urged their children to escape. Old and
new bonded over house ceilidhs while Schellenberg
fretted about Eigg’s “hippy” population. He characterised them as misfits fleeing the mainstream,
“wandering itinerants who found the island a nice
refuge but were not mentally strong enough to cope
with the life and earn a living”.
The laird was struggling to earn one, too. Planned
golf courses and tennis courts never materialised,
and tourism petered to a halt. “I’ve kept its style
slightly run-down – the Hebrides feel,” he claimed in
later years. Eventually, Schellenberg’s ex-wife, who
still jointly owned Eigg, took him to court, accusing
him of mismanaging their declining asset. Across
the Highlands, by the 1990s, there were growing
calls for land reform. Tom Forsyth, an unsung hero
of Scottish land reform who had helped regenerate
crofting on an isolated peninsula north of Ullapool,
imagined that Eigg could become a new Iona – like
that much-visited Scottish isle, a place of spiritual
pilgrimage, creativity and prosperity. Together with
Alastair McIntosh, a Lewis academic; Robert Harris,
a Borders farmer, and Liz Lyon, an artist, Forsyth
would found the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. In 1991
they launched a public appeal: to raise millions of
pounds so they could buy the island.
The following May, Schellenberg was forced by
his ex-wife to put Eigg up for sale. In July 1992, it
was bought by the highest bidder: Schellenberg.
He planned to take his Rolls-Royce on a “triumphant tour” of the island, reported the Scotsman,
“once it was rendered roadworthy”. The car’s
days were numbered, however: early in January
1994 the sheds on Eigg’s pier burned down, with
Schellenberg’s Roller inside. The police arrived to
investigate but the culprits were never identified.
“It was once the laird’s factor [his estate manager]
who went about burning people out. Now it seems
OK to burn out the laird himself,” fumed Schellenberg, blaming “hippies and dropouts” for subverting island traditions with “acid-rock parties”. Eigg’s
indigenous population responded with an open
letter refuting his “ludicrous allegations”.
Schellenberg was determined not to let the islanders take over, and in 1995, needing money after an
acrimonious split from his third wife, he abruptly
sold Eigg to a fire-worshipping German artist and selfstyled “professor” who went by the name of Maruma
– Gotthilf Christian Eckhard Oesterle had read his
new name in a pool of water in Geneva. Schellenberg
returned to Eigg one last time to requisition an 1805
map of the island from the craft shop. Islanders heard
he was on his way and parked a disused community
bus against the shop’s door to block it. Then they took
the day off to see what would happen next. A local
police officer told the furious ex-landlord that if no
one claimed ownership of the bus within 30 days he
could remove it. Schellenberg stormed off, by boat.
“You never understood me,” was his anguished parting shot to the islanders. “I always wanted to be one
of you.” Brian Greene, who came here from England
as a young man responding to a job advert, almost
felt sorry for him. “He was like an alien. The Scots can
be pretty hard on their thousand-year-old oppressor
sometimes,” he said. “Everyone has good points, but
he refused to show his.”
Maruma arrived with grand plans. He declared it
was impossible to own Eigg and vowed to improve
opportunities for the community, build a swimming
pool, and replace the dirty diesel generators that
provided electricity with wind and solar power. The
press discovered that, unfortunately, Maruma was
not quite what he seemed: he was unknown in the
art world, he wasn’t a proper professor, and he had
used Eigg as security for a loan at a punitive 20%
interest rate. He promised to remove the island’s
rusty old cars, but a pile of wrecks soon accumulated by the pier: locals dubbed it “the Maruma
centre”. In July 1996, the island was put up for sale
again, at an inflated price of £2m.
The Trust redoubled its fundraising efforts. The
story of the islanders who wanted to buy their own
island was portrayed as a jolly romp in the style of
Ealing comedy Whisky Galore, in which Hebridean
islanders rebel against British bureaucrats. Eigg
folk didn’t particularly relish this stereotype, but it
captured imaginations and raised money.
‘A triumph for all that is
good in humanity and one
in the eye for everything
that is mean-spirited’
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 29
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
No more lairds … islanders (including Maggie
Fyffe, far left) take a break after erecting a
standing stone to celebrate their purchase of
Eigg. Above, Keith Schellenberg, the isle’s owner
until 1995 Murdo MacLeod
Maggie Fyffe, who became the Trust’s administrator, sorted through the mail from wellwishers:
donations began flowing in at the rate of £1,000
per post bag; soon it was £30,000 per bag. Concerts
took place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Tyrone – and
even Detroit – to raise funds. A mystery benefactor, a woman from northern England whose identity
Fyffe still won’t reveal, gave £900,000. According
to Alastair McIntosh, most donations came from
England. Outsiders were shocked by the feudalism that the islanders endured – the owners even
decided which of them, if any, could eat Eigg’s seaweed – and worried about the possible fate of its
pristine environment. The wildlife trusts, including
the Scottish Wildlife Trust, were particularly effective at mobilising their members to help Eigg.
Meanwhile, the island’s Trust feared that
Maruma’s German estate agent would sell Eigg to
another international client. The agent described
the Scottish islands on his books as “the Van Goghs”
of 120 personally inspected paradises: “There is
a sense of romance in buying islands. It is the ultimate purchase you can make, a complete miniature
world of which you can be king.” Maruma’s creditor,
a German clothing exporter, finally put the islanders
out of their misery. After Maruma defaulted on
his £300,000 loan, the creditor used the Scottish
courts to force Eigg’s sale. His solicitors accepted
the islanders’ offer of £1.5m on 4 April 1997. Finally,
the people of Eigg owned their island.
Community-owned Eigg is 20 years old. Like a celebrity, it must handle fame, fans, negative publicity
and hangers-on. A constant stream of film-makers,
journalists, anthropologists and scientists pitch up
to study the place, so I sense a certain weariness
when I pull my notebook from my pocket.
Boden moved back to Eigg in 2010, after years
as a music journalist in London. She’s amazed by
how many members of her former tribe arrive on
storytelling business each summer and expect her
to delightedly drop everything. “A lot of them come
with a script that they expect you to conform to – ‘As
a community we are forging forwards and revolutionising X, Y and Z’ – but usually the reality is a
lot more complicated than that. They don’t really
listen to what you say and go away none the wiser.”
Or, as her partner Johnny Lynch – the musician
Pictish Trail – put it: “I find it quite embarrassing
because there’s folk here who say, ‘I saw you on the
TV, you fanny.’”
At the time of the buyout, Simon Fraser, then
chairman of the Trust, called it “a triumph for
all that is good in humanity and certainly one in
the eye for everything that is mean-spirited and
self-seeking”. The islanders celebrated independence day on 12 June 1997 with 90 bottles of malt
donated by Skye’s Talisker distillery, which had
been founded by two brothers from Eigg. The
hangover, an eruption of mean-spiritedness, came
six years later. A Scottish-German journalist, a critic
of land reform, visited Eigg and penned an unflattering portrayal of the new island rulers for Die Zeit
in Germany, which British tabloids were only too
happy to echo. Islanders were quoted speaking of a
“clash of cultures” – between Hebridean residents
and incomers – and Keith Schellenberg chipped in,
claiming Eigg had been despoiled “by people who
had lived in Tibet and had ‘Make Love, Not War’
painted on the sides of their vans”.
The newspapers’ cautionary tales about Eigg
appear to have lodged in the minds of many who
briefly visit. I met two tourists on Barra who passed
on gossip they had heard about Eigg politics, claiming it was a cliquey, “clannish” place. I encountered
an ex-resident of Rùm who declared that Eigg was
“a bit too full of scandals and growers and dropouts”, and suggested residents needed to grow up.
Robert Louis Stevenson, who adventured through
the isles of the south Pacific in the 1880s, described
the drifters in the Marquesas as “people ‘on the
beach’” – beached like driftwood – and more than
once before I reached Eigg, I heard that familiar accusation: it’s full of people who flee to a small island
because they can’t hack it in the mainstream.
There was another charge too: its residents
were grant-junkies, sustaining their laidback lifestyles with mainland subsidies. I chatted to the
owner-captain of the little boat Shearwater on my
way to Eigg and he criticised his larger rival, the
government-subsidised CalMac ferry. I assumed
he’d attack Eigg’s subsidised existence too, but he
unexpectedly defended the island: everyone talks
about Eigg’s grant money, he argued, but no one on
the mainland describes the National Grid or roads
or hospitals as state handouts, whereas Eigg built
its own electricity grid and doesn’t have hospitals
or proper roads. Subsidies are hoovered up by whoever owns land in Britain. It does seem unfair, then,
to criticise the islanders for applying for the subsidies enjoyed by wealthier landowners. As islanders point out, taxpayers’ funds provided just £17,517
towards Eigg’s community buyout.
Plenty of outsiders look more positively upon
Eigg. On my way home from the island, I stopped
for supper in Glasgow with Alastair McIntosh,
the author and activist who invigorated Eigg’s
independence movement. I found him volunteering
at GalGael, a charity based in an old workshop in the
terraced streets around Rangers’ Ibrox stadium.
Young people were carving wood and learning
how to build boats.
Continued on page 30 →
30 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Weekly review
← Continued from page 29
McIntosh’s beard is
turning white and he controls a hearing aid with his
mobile phone, but he still possesses an aura of both
vitality and peace, and is as inspiring as the best kind
of preacher. To my surprise, this man of Lewis was
born in Doncaster to an English mother and a Scottish father. When McIntosh was four years old, his
father took the family to Lewis, which remains his
son’s heartland, and worked there as a GP. The island is the foundation for McIntosh’s belief in the
importance of communities rooted in a local culture
that can transcend the spiritual paucity of global
capitalism and its veneration of consumption.
He cherishes Eigg, which represents a rare win
for activists. “When we set up the first Eigg Trust,
the original vision was about renewable energy,
cultural renewal and renewal of the spirit. Not only
has all of it been fulfilled, but it’s been considerably surpassed.” He’s not claiming the credit; it’s
the islanders who’ve exceeded the Trust’s hopes.
He recently returned to Eigg. “The ones who were
heavy on the drink were still heavy on the drink,
but the thing that impressed me was the number
of young people who were back, balancing babies
with a rich matrix of economic activities by which
they held their lives together and built their homes,
unfettered by an absentee landlord.”
The old divide between indigenous people
and newcomers has disappeared on Eigg with a
younger generation who are a melange of both.
The supposed Hebridean/hippy divide was never
so stark or so simple, and many islanders working
quietly at the heart of the community are from
indigenous families. Eigg’s success has come
from a genuine fusion of Hebridean culture and
mainland counterculture. Incomers who have
fitted in with island life, and not just come to buy
the view, have taken on the best Hebridean traditions of spirituality, cooperation, hospitality and
music, and Eigg has attracted people wanting to
participate in a less materialistic community. But to
create a community less focused on money, people
need a platform to share it, argues McIntosh, and
that platform is “the land”.
The fact that the community owns the island of
Eigg makes it different from alternative-minded
communities in, say, Totnes or Hebden Bridge, or
almost any place in England where daily life, and
most possibilities, are mediated through the landownership of private individuals. The communityowned Eigg is “not a selfish endeavour. It’s not
about just wanting to be landowners, it’s about the
community having life and individuals having life
within that community,” said McIntosh. “In Scotland, we spit the word out – ‘property’. You can’t
own the land, the land owns you. What I found in
England is there’s such a lack of physical space, and
it’s usually upper-class-controlled. England has
never recovered from the Norman conquest. That
deeply embedded class system is so divisive.”
In contrast, community ownership enables Eigg to
run its own housing association and provide cheap
rents – currently about half the market level of “affordable housing” in this region of Scotland. Lowrent societies where residents are liberated from the
grind of earning a lot to pay for a house are likely to be
more radical, creative places: people have the freedom, and time, to pursue less money-oriented goals.
McIntosh echoes an earlier writer of the Highlands, Hugh MacDiarmid, by raising the question
of what a small island might bring to a bigger one.
His great hope 20 years ago was that Eigg would be
“a pattern and an example unto one another”, to
quote George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. The
centre needs the periphery as a source of inspiration
and renewal, just as the periphery relies on the centre. Eigg may be able to give the larger island at its
side some practical lessons in affordable housing,
renewable energy and land reform. A small-island
manifesto for the “mainland” might begin with the
realisation that we need to treat other people more
carefully. Be open to outsiders and to the world. Live
as generalists, not as sclerosed super-specialists.
Spend more time outside. Reduce our consumption. Make our own energy or, at worst, buy it by the
sack, and then we will use less. Consider animals and
plants as well as people. Live more intimately with
our place, for it is a complex living organism, too.
I spent several days walking across Eigg’s moors
to meet some of the islanders who run its democratically elected “government”, the Isle of Eigg
Heritage Trust. Apart from replacing feudalism
with scrupulous democracy, the Trust’s first priority after buying the island was to ensure that the
islanders, who mostly lease their properties, had
one basic right they never enjoyed under individual
owners: security of tenure. They renovated dilapidated homes and built a shop and tea room, with
toilets and showers for visitors.
The early years of the Trust were not riven with
conflict, but the historian Camille Dressler revealed
some tensions in her 2007 book, Eigg: the Story of
an Island. The directors of the Trust realised, to their
“bafflement and frustration”, that “the suspicion towards power-holders, which was once directed at the
landowner, now found itself directed at the Trust”.
The Schellenberg/Maruma era was, at best, a negligent one, and the islanders were used to sorting
things out themselves. Many had enjoyed this feeling of liberty from bureaucratic conventions, and
Community ownership
enables Eigg to run its own
housing association and
provide cheap rents
were not sure they liked the box-ticking demanded
by democracy. As one islander told Dressler: “The
more efficient we try to make this organisation, the
more we end up like the mainland.” But Dressler now
says any unease about the self-governing regime
has disappeared. Maggie Fyffe believes that almost
every decision is reached by consensus. A high proportion of residents volunteer for the Trust or for
various committees that manage everything from
the island’s rubbish to its culture, but there are some
refuseniks. Boden is currently serving as a Trust director. “We still struggle with an us-v-them mentality,” she said. “Sometimes decisions get made and
people moan about ‘the Trust this’ or ‘the Trust that’.
You have to remind them that they are the Trust.”
Eigg has thrived, said McIntosh, because the
community has developed a way to manage disputes. “That’s of such importance. In my view, the
main inhibitor of community landownership is that
people are afraid of themselves, they are afraid of
what might be set loose if they don’t have a controlling figure above them.”
Many portraits of island dystopias are suffused
with this fear. On his tour of Scotland, Samuel
Johnson wrote of the dangers of brooding brought
on by small islands: “The evils of dereliction rush
upon the thoughts; man is made unwillingly
acquainted with his own weakness.” Mr Cathcart
is confronted by precisely this in The Man Who
Loved Islands. Perhaps DH Lawrence was scared of
small islands, too. William Golding brooded much
upon this danger, not only in Lord of the Flies, in
which the schoolboy inhabitants of a small island
rapidly turn feral, but in Pincher Martin, in which
a wrecked sailor’s small island is revealed to be a
hallucination of his own ruined mind, or perhaps
purgatory. In reality, the residents of Eigg have faced
their inner demons and won.
I sat in Maggie Fyffe’s croft, where water-andwind-powered fairy lights twinkled and the air smelt
of roll-ups and woodsmoke. Is Eigg a utopia? “Utopia
is a bit strong.” She cackled wildly at my question
and then paused. “I think it is. I love it here.”
Home land … Sarah Boden, a farmer and director of Eigg’s community trust Murdo MacLeod
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 31
Weekly review
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
‘I’m here to do a job,
not speak for God’
Mona Prince hopes to breathe
new life into Egypt’s presidential
race, finds Ruth Michaelson
n a smoky restaurant-bar in downtown
Cairo, the presidential candidate is sucking
hard on a cigarette. “I’m breaking the image
of the president as an all-knowing, god-like
type,” says Mona Prince, an elbow propped
against the table. Prince, an English literature professor in a frayed white baseball cap, drinks
two beers during our interview. “I’m a human being
– and the president is a human being!” she laughs.
The message that leaders, even current president
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, are fallible, is popular among
other prospective candidates too. “We primarily
want to send a message that no president is immortal
in office – that there are other candidates and there
is competition,” says Anwar el-Sadat, the nephew
and namesake of Egypt’s iconic former president.
Sadat said he is contemplating a run, and that he
and his team are preparing a potential candidacy.
Should he enter Egypt’s 2018 presidential race,
the well-known former MP will be a formidable
Yet in a country where Sisi won the last election
with 96% of the vote, prospective candidates for
2018 are not aiming for victory. Simply getting on
the ballot and presenting an alternative to Egypt’s
current dictatorial politics will be a win in their eyes.
Since coming to power in 2013 and then winning
the 2014 election, Sisi has positioned himself as the
personification of Egypt’s security and potential
prosperity, while cracking down on all opposition.
“The competition with Sisi is not necessarily about
winning, it’s about creating debate,” says Sadat. The
only thing that could dissuade him from running, he
says, would be “if I felt that the competition is already
settled, biased, or lacking in independence”.
Prince is fond of saying “We’re not doomed!” as a
kind of perverse rallying cry. Her platform is focused
on education and the arts as the solution for Egypt’s
woes, including economic crisis and a growing jihadist insurgency. But her candidacy has been met with
derision, in part because of her unorthodox way of
announcing her intention to run via a Facebook
video that showed her drinking beer on the rooftop
of her home and discussing political issues.
“No presidential candidate would dare post a
photo with a glass of wine or whatever in his hand
– even though they do drink,” she says. “It’s not
about promoting drinking in the society. I’m just
being honest! I don’t post pictures of myself praying
so that people know I’m religious. That’s not what
qualifies me to be president. I’m here to do a job,
not speak for God.”
Prince is no stranger to controversy. She is currently suspended from Suez University after teaching John Milton’s Paradise Lost, leading the university to accuse her of “spreading destructive ideas”,
and “glorifying Satan”. The university started a disciplinary hearing – still ongoing – after she posted a
video of herself dancing on Facebook. Prince could
lose her job and, if further legal charges are brought,
she will be banned from the presidential race.
Much of the criticism of Prince in Egyptian media targets her gender, dismissing her for “revealing
her personal life”. She responds that such criticism
deepened her motivation to run for president.
“[The people] feel like we need some change, and
why not?” she says. “We’ve tried the prototype – a
president who looks and talks a certain way. Maybe
we try a woman?”
But entering the presidential race has become a
‘We’ve tried the prototype
– a president who looks
and talks a certain way.
Maybe we try a woman?’
Change candidate … if Mona Prince stands for
president she could cash in on dissatisfaction
with Abdel Fatah-al-Sisi Joao Martins
dangerous prospect, even months before the official
campaign is due to start. The human rights lawyer
Khaled Ali, who launched a legal battle against the
Egyptian government earlier this year to prevent
the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia,
received less than 1% of the vote when he ran in
Egypt’s only internationally recognised democratic
election in 2012. But after news reports linked him
to a second run in 2018, he found himself in court,
sentenced to three months in prison for an “obscene
gesture”, stemming from a photo taken months earlier outside a Cairo court. Ali is expected to appeal,
but if he loses he won’t be able to stand next year.
Former presidential candidate and ex-prime
minister Ahmed Shafiq, who lost to Mohammed
Morsi in 2012, has hinted he intends to run again in
2018, saying on television last month that he will
announce his decision “within a week or 10 days”.
Shafiq, a former commander of the Egyptian Air
Force, is linked the country’s powerful military and
the deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak. He remains
in exile in the United Arab Emirates.
Despite obvious hurdles to their candidacies,
Sisi’s would-be opponents have reason to hope for
public support. A 2016 poll from Egypt’s Centre
for Public Opinion Research found a 14% drop in
Sisi’s popularity after economic turmoil led to rising prices. However, some MPs are pushing for the
presidential term to be extended to six years, arguing Sisi needs more time to enact long-promised
economic reforms.
To get on the ballot, all candidates require a
petition of at least 30,000 signatures from 15 governorates. Prince claims that her 110,300 Facebook
followers to her personal page – her campaign
page has 7,230 at the time of writing – make this
achievable, unlike when she last ran, in 2012. “It’s
an achievement if I manage that,” she says.
32 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Ocean winds could power
Floating marine turbine farms may be the next big
step for green technology, explains Chris Mooney
here is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate “civilisation
scale power” – assuming, that is, that
we are willing to cover enormous
stretches of the sea with turbines,
and can come up with ways to install and maintain them in often extreme ocean environments,
according to new research.
It’s very unlikely that we would ever build
open ocean turbines on anything like that scale –
indeed, doing so could even alter the planet’s climate,
the research finds. But the more modest message
is that wind energy over the open oceans has large
potential – reinforcing the idea that floating wind
farms, over very deep waters, could be the next major step for wind energy technology.
“I would look at this as kind of a green light
for that industry from a geophysical point of view,”
said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for
Science in Stanford, California. The study, in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
was led by Carnegie researcher Anna Possner, who
worked in collaboration with Caldeira.
The study takes, as its outset, prior research that
has found that there’s probably an upper limit to
the amount of energy that can be generated by a
wind farm that’s located on land. The limit arises
both because natural and human structures on land
create friction that slows down the wind speed, but
also because each individual wind turbine extracts
some of the energy of the wind and transforms
it into power that we can use – leaving less wind
energy for other turbines to collect.
“If each turbine removes something like half the
energy flowing through it, by the time you get to the
second row, you’ve only got a quarter of the energy,
and so on,” explained Caldeira.
The ocean is different. First, wind speeds can
be as much as 70% higher than on land. But a
bigger deal is what you might call wind replenishment. The new research found that over the midlatitude oceans, storms regularly transfer powerful wind energy down to the surface from higher
altitudes, meaning that the upper limit here for
how much energy you can capture with turbines
is considerably higher.
“Over land, the turbines are just sort of scraping the kinetic energy out of the lowest part
of the atmosphere, whereas over the ocean,
it’s depleting the kinetic energy out of most of
the troposphere, or the lower part of the atmosphere,” said Caldeira.
The study compares a theoretical wind farm of
nearly 2m sq km located either over the US (centred on Kansas) or in the open Atlantic. And it finds
that covering much of the central US with wind
farms would still be insufficient to power the US
and China, which would require a generating capacity of some seven terawatts annually (a terawatt is
equivalent to a trillion watts).
But the North Atlantic could theoretically power
those two countries and then some. The potential
energy that can be extracted over the ocean, given
the same area, is “at least three times as high”.
It would take an even larger, 3m sq km wind installation over the ocean to provide humanity’s current
power needs, or 18 terawatts, the study found. That’s
an area that is even larger than Greenland.
Hence, the study concludes that “on an annual
mean basis, the wind power available in the North
Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world”.
But it’s critical to emphasise that these are purely
theoretical calculations. They are thwarted by many
practical factors, including the fact that the winds
aren’t equally strong in all seasons, and that the
technologies to capture their energy at such a scale,
much less transfer it to shore, do not currently exist.
And there’s another large problem: modelling
simulations performed in the study suggest that
Stereotype that women are kinder and less selfish is true, claim
Nicola Davis
“Woman seems to differ from man in mental
disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and
less selfishness,” wrote Charles Darwin in The
Descent of Man.
Now scientists claim there is evidence that the
brain’s reward system may be geared towards more
“prosocial” behaviour in women.
“It was known that women and men behave
differently, but it was not known why, or how this
comes about in the brain,” said Philippe Tobler,
associate professor of neuroeconomics and social
neuroscience at the University of Zurich. Writing
in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Tobler
and colleagues from Germany, Switzerland and
the Netherlands carried out two studies looking at
whether dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays
a crucial role in the brain’s reward system, is linked
to different social behaviours in men and women.
In the first, a group of 56 men and women were
randomly allocated to two groups, and either given
a placebo or amisulpride – a drug that blocks the
action of dopamine in the brain.
The participants were then presented with a
hypothetical situation in which they could either
claim a wad of cash for themselves, or split a chunk
of money evenly with another person. After completing the task, the experiment was repeated with
participants taking the alternative pill.
In the second study, the team looked at data
from 40 men and women who had undergone brain
imaging while undertaking decisions on whether to
share money, focusing on a value-processing region
of the brain that relies on dopamine signalling.
The team found that when making prosocial
choices, activity in a value-processing region of the
brain was stronger for women than men.
The researchers say that, taken together, the
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 33
Just listening helps us
understand emotions
A study by a US psychologist suggests
that people are better able to pick up
on the emotions of others when simply
focusing on their voice, compared
with watching and listening to them.
“Humans are actually remarkably
good at using many of their senses
for conveying emotions, but emotion
research historically is focused almost
exclusively on the facial expressions,”
said Michael Kraus, a social psychologist at Yale University. While
combining information from a person’s
voice with their facial expressions and
other cues might at first seem like a
way to boost understanding of their
thoughts and feelings, Kraus added
that pooling the senses divides attention. “Listening matters,” he said.
New Antarctic mission
extracting this much wind energy from nature
would have planetary-scale effects, including
cooling down parts of the Arctic by as much as 13C.
“Trying to get civilisation-scale power out of
wind is a bit asking for trouble,” Caldeira said. But
he said the climate effect would be smaller if the
amount of energy being tapped was reduced down
from these extremely high numbers, and if the wind
farms were more spaced out across the globe.
“I think it lends itself to the idea that we’re going
to want to use a portfolio of technologies, and not
rely on this only,” said Caldeira.
Energy gurus have long said that among renewable sources, solar energy has the greatest
potential to scale up and generate terawatt-scale
power, enough to satisfy large parts of human
energy demand. Caldeira doesn’t dispute that.
But his study suggests that at least if open ocean
wind becomes accessible someday, it may have
considerable potential too.
Alexander Slocum, an MIT mechanical engineering professor who has focused on offshore wind
and its potential, and who was not involved in the
research, said he considered the paper a “very good
study” and that it didn’t seem biased.
“The conclusion implied by the paper that
open ocean wind energy farms can provide most
of our energy needs is also supported history: as a
technology becomes constrained (eg horse-drawn
carriages) or monopolised (Opec), a motivation
arises to look around for alternatives,” Slocum continued by email. “The automobile did it to horses,
the US did it to Opec with fracking, and now renewables are doing it to the hydrocarbon industry.”
The research points to a kind of third act for
wind energy. On land, turbines are very well established and more are being installed every year. Offshore, meanwhile, coastal areas are now also seeing more and more turbine installations, but still in
relatively shallow waters.
But to get out over the open ocean, where the
sea is often several kilometres deep, is expected to
require yet another technology – likely a floating
turbine that extends above the water and sits atop
some kind of very large submerged floating structure, accompanied by cables that anchor the entire
turbine to the seafloor.
Experimentation with the technology is already happening: Statoil is moving to build a large
floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland, which
will be located in waters around 100 metres deep
and have 15 megawatts of electricity generating
capacity. The turbines are 253 metres tall, but 78
metres of that length refers to the floating part
below the sea surface.
“The things that we’re describing are likely not
going to be economic today, but once you have an
industry that’s starting in that direction, it should
provide incentive for that industry to develop,” said
Caldeira. Washington Post
studies support the idea that the dopamine-based
reward system is geared towards sharing behaviour
in women and more selfish behaviour in men.
But others are far from convinced. Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston
‘We know that girls and
women are expected to
behave in different ways
from boys and men’
A team of scientists is planning an
expedition to examine the marine
ecosystem revealed when an enormous
iceberg broke off the Larsen C ice shelf
earlier this year. Researchers are now
hoping the event may lead to novel
revelations from the area opened up,
which had been hidden under ice for
up to 120,000 years. Scientists from the
British Antarctic Survey will embark on
the research ship RRS James Clark Ross
in February. If everything works out,
the scientists will examine the 5,800 sq
km of sea floor that had been shielded.
Harry Potter fan’s wasp
A Harry Potter fan turned entomologist
has named a wasp after a redeemed
villain in the series in the hope of
drawing attention to the much maligned insect. Tom Saunders named a
New Zealand parasitoid wasp as part of
his masters study at Auckland University. The wasp, which he named Lusius
malfoyi, is one of 3,000 wasps endemic
to New Zealand, none of which sting
or cause any problems to humans. The
wasp was named after the fictional
Lucius Malfoy, who is the father of
Draco Malfoy in JK Rowling’s series.
Online 3D shipwreck
University who was not involved in the work, said
that while intriguing, the results were “questionable”. She pointed out that the imaging study pooled
results from two different groups of participants.
However, Angela Saini, author of Inferior: How
Science Got Women Wrong, said that the results
showed biology and culture were intertwined: “We
know that girls and women are socially expected to
behave in different ways from boys and men. We
encourage girls to be kinder, gentler and more generous … It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that
research like this shows that women tend to show a
greater reward response to this kind of behaviour.”
Armchair archaeologists will have the
chance to explore a second world war
shipwreck online in 3D virtual reality.
The Thistlegorm Project documents
the wreckage of SS Thistlegorm, a
British merchant steamship sunk by a
German bomber in 1941 off the coast
of Egypt. The ship lies 32 metres below
the surface of the Red Sea, and the site
is considered one of the best wreck
dives in the world. The survey allowed
the team behind the project to reconstruct what is left of the Thistlegorm
on the sea bed and create 3D models of
how the wreck appears.
34 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Luxuriant garden of the stars
Stuart Clark marvels at beautiful
images of the cosmos drawn
from both astronomy and art Universe
edited by Rosie Pickles
Phaidon, 352pp
Many poetic descriptions of the universe have
found their way into print over the millennia that
humankind has been fascinated with outer space.
The starry vault, the firmament, the void, heaven
– all express something of the awe and mystery we
naturally feel when confronted with infinity. Perhaps the most apparently incongruous, yet simultaneously most appropriate description is to be found
in the works of William Herschel, the 18th-century
astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus. He
called the universe a “luxuriant garden”.
He lived at a time when botanists were travelling the world to classify its myriad plants. Herschel
saw a direct parallel to his own efforts to catalogue
the celestial objects that he and his sister, Caroline,
were discovering in the night sky. Each curiosity
appeared as a sculpted twist of dim light in his telescope, as plentiful and as diverse as wildflowers in a
meadow: hence his horticultural description.
As I flipped through the pages of Universe, I
found myself experiencing a sense of Herschelian
wonder at the sheer beauty of deep space. But what
makes this book unique is that as well as the breathtaking images taken with telescopes and the drawings of historical astronomers, it also includes the
creative representations that have sprung from the
mind of artists. The result is a weighty tome that
contains more than 300 evocative pictures. It was
once popular to call publications of this sort “coffee table books”, but Universe deserves more serious consideration than as a visual distraction while
taking a caffeine hit.
“The pictures had to have art-historical interest,
aesthetic value and/or curiosity value, and above
all be provocative,” says Professor Paul Murdin, a
Cambridge astronomer, who wrote the book’s introduction. It is a refreshing perspective to bring to an
astronomy book, and reflects perfectly the quiet rise
of “one culture” thinking that places art and science
on level pegging as equally valid ways to bring meaning to our place in nature. Perhaps this is because
the book’s editor is Rosie Pickles, an art historian
rather than an astronomer, who put together a group
of consultants to advise on pictures that were significant or fresh, and spanned a number of cultures.
“Artists have a way of seeing that is different from
us scientists,” says Murdin, “We let nature provide
the originality and beauty, artists get inspiration
from sources that are less constrained.”
Thus, a high-definition image of the galaxy
Centaurus A is placed opposite a diptych from artist
Jane Grisewood. Centaurus A contains a supermassive black hole in its core that is disturbing space
so much that jets of particles can be seen shooting
out of it, and Grisewood’s piece reflects her interest
in black holes. It uses two black-and-white artworks
to visualise the power of gravity, both to hold shining objects together and to hide things from view
within a heart of utter darkness.
About everything you can’t see in the picture … Nasa’s awe-inspiring image of Saturn Nasa/JPL
Elsewhere in the book, a 1582 alchemical representation of the sun, complete with a ray halo and
a human face, is juxtaposed with a 21st-century
computer simulation of a sunspot. Immediately
noticeable are the tendrils that reach out from the
sunspot, emulating the artistic representation of
the sun’s rays in the artwork. Although this works
well, the approach could perhaps have been more
clearly signposted on the cover. Subtitling the book
Exploring the Astronomical World does mean that
it is going to disappoint anyone who purchases it as
an easy way to learn astronomy.
Unapologetically, it sometimes requires the
reader to closely examine the captions to separate
scientific fact from artistic fiction. For example, I
was surprised to learn that the picture of Titan is
in fact a piece of art by Daniel Zeller. Conversely, it
was almost a shock to discover that the impressionistic swirls, rather pretentiously (I thought) called
Dunes on Mars, was in fact a picture, from the HiRise
camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, of
actual dunes on Mars. The piece that brought the
biggest smile to my face was Totality by Scottish
artist Katie Paterson. She constructed a disco ball,
each mirrored tile depicting a different solar eclipse.
It reminds me of all the times I’ve secretly stood
beneath one and imagined that I’m in deep space.
The book contains images of genuine surprise.
One such is 1971’s Fallen Astronaut by Paul van
Hoeydonck. The Belgian artist fashioned a 8.5cm
tall human figure out of aluminium as a tribute to
the six Soviet cosmonauts and the eight US astronauts who had died in the exploration of space.
What makes it truly extraordinary, however, is that
the image shows it lying in the dust on the surface
of the moon. Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott had
smuggled it aboard his lunar capsule and deposited it there without the approval or knowledge of
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 35
Truths rise from
the sunken depths
Manhattan Beach
by Jennifer Egan
Little, Brown, 448pp
Meghan O’Rourke
Nasa during a moon walk. As there is no atmosphere
on the moon, the small statue could now rest there
undisturbed for millennia.
One of Murdin’s own favourite images is of Buzz
Aldrin’s footprint on the lunar surface. The reason,
he says, is because “the picture is about everything
you can’t see in the picture”. That itself is an important theme running throughout. Murdin says that
he hopes the reader will take away “pride at being
human in a vast and fascinating universe”.
There are not many books that can claim that level
of ambition. While some will balk at the interdisciplinary approach, it is worth remembering that many
of the most popular astronomy books contain their
elements of fiction. By that I mean that there is a
modern fashion for neglecting to differentiate mere
hypotheses from established fact. At least here, the
origin of the image is detailed in the caption.
Universe may be the ultimate coffee table book
about astronomy. Just make sure you have the ultimate coffee table to hold its weight. Observer
Jennifer Egan has said that she
wants each novel she writes to teach
her something new. So what does
the writer who won a Pulitzer prize
in 2011 for A Visit from the Goon
Squad – an experimental, audacious novel that embraces discontinuity, told in 13 chapters from
varying points of view, including a surprisingly
moving chapter in the form of a PowerPoint
presentation – try next? Unpredictably, Egan has
written something that looks at first glance like a
traditional historical novel.
A work of remarkable cinematic scope, Manhattan Beach portrays the lives of an Irish family
in Brooklyn, set against the backdrop of the Great
Depression and then the second world war. A young
woman becomes a diver to help the war effort and
uncovers the powerful forces that led to her beloved
father’s disappearance; a father is forced to leave his
family behind to save his own life; and a successful
mobster gets swept up in cultural tides that threaten
everything he’s built.
As a novelist, Egan possesses an unusual mix
of qualities, combining a powerful social realism
with poetic resonances that derive from her precise
imagery and her fascination with the limitations of
language. Here, she places her characters in situations that permit trenchant cultural observations,
writing revealingly about the challenges of coming
of age in the middle of the American century, when
women’s lives were substantially circumscribed.
But this novel is also metaphysical in nature: Egan’s
characters are transformed by the vast ocean around
them, which both hides and reveals.
In the vivid opening set piece, 11-year-old Anna
Kerrigan accompanies her father Eddie to visit a
charming mobster named Dexter Styles at his house
in Manhattan Beach. Eddie is angling for a new job:
he needs money to pay for a wheelchair for Anna’s
sister Lydia, who is severely disabled. Anna, of
course, knows none of this, and the scene is written with the watchfulness of a young girl. When
her father leaves her alone with Dexter’s daughter
and her nurse at the beach, she finds herself driven
to plunge her feet into the icy water, producing “a
flame of ache that felt unexpectedly pleasant”, and
resonating with the novel’s theme of loss.
While the reader might expect this scene to precede a book exploring Eddie and Dexter’s relationship, Egan thwarts our expectations. We flash forward to the mid-1940s: Anna is 19, working at the
Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Eddie has disappeared.
Anna now supports her mother and Lydia. She
fiercely pushes her way into a job as the only female
diver in the Navy Yard, and later pursues a one-night
stand with Dexter, concealing her identity and hoping to learn what happened to her missing father.
Egan shifts perspectives fluidly, moving from
Anna to Eddie to Dexter – all written in the close
third person that allows us to shadow the characters’ inner lives. In one crucial scene, Anna asks
Dexter to take Lydia to the beach, where Lydia
briefly awakens and speaks. The moment changes
not only Anna but Dexter for ever.
Egan’s decision to withhold crucial scenes until
late on ends up feeling disappointing, even if one
can appreciate the reasons for her doing so. It’s in
the later sections that we meet Eddie once more. But
at this late stage the narrative feels less urgent than
expository. This may be a weakness of Manhattan
Beach, but it comes from an admirable attempt to
deploy narrative as a tool to enact – to mimic – the
disruptions we experience in real life.
Optimistic outrage
The Death of Homo Economicus
Peter Fleming
Pluto, 308pp
Steven Poole
To certain segments of the progressive left, capitalism has been “late
capitalism”, or in its death throes, or
already dead, for a very long time. So
how come it still exists? Part of the
answer may lie in the argument of
this sparklingly sardonic book by
Peter Fleming. Our entire lives, he
argues, have been economified. The ruling narratives
of work and commerce hypnotise us into thinking of
our very selves as micro-businesses, so that it becomes ever harder to imagine life outside the paradigm of capital investment, productivity and profit.
“Homo economicus” is the made-up creature
who is the proletarian hero of mid-20th-century
economics: going about his life with unimpeachable rationality, efficiently calculating ways to maximise his self-interest. But people don’t actually
live like that, as the behavioural economists Amos
Tversky and Daniel Kahneman pointed out. It is a
refuted model, yet its malign influence persists.
Fleming offers an excellent historical analysis of
the associated idea of “human capital”, according
to which each employee really is a little entrepreneur, investing in his or her skills. This amounts,
Fleming thinks, to a deliberate atomisation of the
workforce and a hollowing-out of education itself.
The skill of an individual, he insists rightly, is not a
private good – and this applies not just to the most
obvious examples, such as doctors, but to everyone.
Fleming has an excellent chapter on the “theatre
of work”, where looking busy and adopting the right
emotional attitude in an office can be soul-destroying burdens, and he is very astute on the inhumanity
of the zero-hours contract, allied to unprecedented
methods of electronic surveillance over employees.
Delivery drivers, for example, are paid only for each
package they deliver, with no sickness or other benefits. Fleming extends the logic remorselessly: why
pay a bartender for any time other than those exact
seconds when she is pouring a drink? Employers,
he writes, should be paying for “availability” over
a period of time; paying only for exactly measured
micro-quantities of work is just the newest way to
shaft the little guy. Today, “sophisticated technologies are now paving the way for millions of ‘crap
jobs’ to flourish”, and millions of human beings
are being downgraded to the undignified status
of sub-automata: they still have to work because
they are cheaper than machines.
This is all enlivened by a marvellously insulting turn of phrase: most Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
←Continued from page 35 economics, the author
claims, takes place in “a kind of nerd’s dreamtime”.
He writes contemptuously of “the state and its
semi-lobotomised thinktanks” as well as the “submental technocrats” who enforce targets in university teaching. The reader may periodically demur at
what can seem like apocalyptic exaggeration, but
that is after all in the nature of polemic.
What, then, is to be done? Fleming favours a
“radical de-privatisation of the public sphere”,
some version of universal basic income and a fellowship of the precarious to demand universal workers’
rights. It’s notable that next to such ideas the final
lines of The Communist Manifesto – “Workers of
the world, unite” – would not look outdated. But
there is also a more contemporary hint of Game of
Thrones throughout the book, as Fleming warns
that if we do nothing, a dark “winter” of humanity
is coming. Yet the nicest thing about his book is its
avoidance of despair: it is often hilariously angry,
but the stylish expression of outrage can itself be a
positive and optimistic act.
Gaze afresh in awe
The Lost Words
by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
Hamish Hamilton, 128pp
Katharine Norbury
Fresh Complaint
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Farrar Straus Giroux, 304pp
Lisa Zeidner
Washington Post
Illustration by Jackie Morris
In 2007, the new edition of the
Oxford Junior Dictionary introduced words such as “broadband”
while others, describing the natural
world, disappeared. The dictionary’s guidelines require that it reflect “the current frequency of
words in daily language of children”. However, the philosopher AJ Ayer introduced
a generation to the notion that unless we have a word
for something, we are unable to conceive of it, and
The shape of the whole
that there is a direct relationship between our imagination, our ability to have ideas about things, and
our vocabulary. Not surprisingly, a groundswell of
opposition to the word cull began to grow and, in
2015, the debate reached a tipping point when an
open letter to the OJD, coordinated by the naturalist
Laurence Rose, was signed by many artists and writers along with the brilliant illustrator Jackie Morris
and the hugely acclaimed wordsmith, word collector,
and defender of the natural world, Robert Macfarlane. A heated debate in the national press ensued,
both for and against the lost words, and the collaboration between Morris and Macfarlane was born.
The Lost Words makes no mention of the dictionary. Instead, in a book of spells rather than poems,
exquisitely illustrated by Morris, Macfarlane gently, firmly and meticulously restores the missing
words. Acorn, blackberry, bluebell, conker and
“perhaps the one that cut the deepest” for Morris, “kingfisher”, are lovingly returned to future
generations of children. It is a sumptuous, heavy
book. A proportion of the profits will go to Action
for Conservation, a charity that works with “disadvantaged and socially excluded children” and is
“dedicated to inspiring young people to take action
for the natural world”. There are no current plans for
a paperback, and I think this is a shame, because a
lighter, cheaper edition that could be tucked under
a little one’s arm and afforded by the school library
will cross the social divide just by being there.
The acrostic spell-poems are designed to be read
out loud. It is a book for adults and children, for
adults to read with children. The spells carry the
spirit of their subject in their structure. Take the
brilliant “Magpie Manifesto: / Argue Every Toss! /
Gossip, Bicker, Yak and Snicker All Day Long!” Not
only are the word and the bird restored and celebrated, but the spirit and nature and the clatter of
the magpie are conserved within its lines.
The Lost Words is a beautiful book and, in terms
of ideas, an important one. I once asked a magician
what he considered to be the defining characteristic
of his art. “Directing the gaze,” he said. Re-enchantment, re-engagement and conservation of the natural world is ultimately only going to be possible if we
retain the language with which to make it happen.
Restored … the word otter was among nature terms removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary
Jeffrey Eugenides, author of the
Pulitzer prize-w inning novel
Middlesex, is known for epic tales
with intricate plots and large casts
that cover long time periods. His fulsome approach is not ideally suited
for the short-story form. But with
Fresh Complaint, his first collection
of short fiction, Eugenides gamely adapts his characteristic style for the genre. Because he’s not a fast
writer, with nine years between each of his novels,
the collection offers his fans a quick fix – a kind of
intermezzo – of his distinctive voice.
The 10 stories in Fresh Complaint cover close to
three decades of Eugenides’s writing career, from
1988 to the present. Most chronicle struggle and
disappointment. His characters’ relationships sour;
their promising careers don’t soar as they approach
middle age, and neither do their bank accounts.
They fret about health insurance. Bill collectors
hound them at dinner.
Eugenides excels at penetrating – and gently
mocking – the insider lingo of academics. He can
make a realistic setting seem deliciously weird, and
the highlights in these stories often feature simultaneously funny and plaintive images that encourage our appreciation for “the pleasant absurdity of
America”. Two of these stories revisit characters
from Eugenides’s novels. The Oracular Vulva reintroduces Dr Peter Luce, the sexologist and intersex
expert from Middlesex, as he does field research on
the bizarre Dawat tribe in Irian Jaya and engages in
an Amadeus-style rivalry about sexual identity with
a younger academic. Air Mail revisits the peripatetic,
mystically inclined Mitchell from The Marriage Plot
as he endures an epic case of dysentery – and a hallucinatory fast – at a backpackers’ camp in Thailand.
These stories can’t fairly be called outtakes, as
they cover different periods in the characters’ lives
than the novels do. Of course, in a novel Eugenides
has more time. But the highly unusual situations
and settings featured in these tales feel more true
to his vision than the ones chronicling more typical dissatisfactions: the divorces, infidelities and
dashed hopes that turn up in many an American
writer’s New Yorker magazine story. Although the
writing is undeniably skilful, Eugenides isn’t at his
best when focusing on “lives of quiet desperation”.
His novels – and better stories – chronicle wilder,
more significant troubles.
The two best stories in Fresh Complaint are the
two most recent, and they bookend the collection.
The achingly sad Complainers concerns the fraught
relationship between an 88-year-old woman with
dementia and her younger friend, as both slip out
of their lives’ moorings. In the title story, an Indian
American teenager seduces and entraps a famous
married cosmologist when he gives a lecture at a
small Delaware college – a plot to bespoil her own
reputation and avoid an arranged marriage in India.
In both of these stories, Eugenides achieves what a
stellar short story can do better than any other form:
by focusing on one discrete part of a life, he forcefully suggests the shape of the whole.
38 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
The house of Lego
built brick by
brick for all ages
This gleaming ziggurat of fun in the Danish town of
Billund is a homecoming for the toy firm as much
as a tourist attraction, finds Oliver Wainwright
hildren are wrestling with the jaws of
a shark in mid-attack, while others are
trying their hand at surfing on wobbly
boards, raised up on a bright blue platform overlooking the endless forest
that stretches around the Danish town
of Billund. Elsewhere, yet more crowds of kids are
leaping across rubber steps, shrieking with delight
as they race to the swings on this multi-levelled,
multicoloured landscape.
This gleaming ziggurat of fun is the new Lego
House, a mind-blowing mecca for fans of the
iconic construction toy, designed by BIG, the firm
led by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Now heading
up a New York-based global empire, working on
everything from Google’s new California campus to
a Chinese energy firm’s HQ, Ingels sees the project
as a homecoming.
“We have finally graduated as Danish architects,”
he says proudly. “We have made a brick building
– without breaking the brick module in a single
place.” Ingels is referring to the rule, particularly
observed by meticulous Danes, that you should
never cut a brick to fit with your design, but configure the design to fit the brick instead.
For his first foray into bricks, Ingels couldn’t have
landed a better commission – even if these are not
actually bricks at all, but ceramic tiles clipped on to
a steel frame. Rarely have architect and client been
so well matched, given Ingels’s trademark brand of
cartoonish quips, and his penchant for blocky forms.
His buildings sometimes feel a little flat, more sheen
than depth, but for a temple to Lego that couldn’t be
more appropriate. The project is a triumph.
This staggered pile of shiny white blocks, built
just metres from the redbrick house and workshop where the family-owned company began
in 1932, is the ultimate embodiment of the Lego
brand. At two of its corners, the big blocks appear
to melt, plunging down to form cascading steps,
encouraging you to clamber up on to the colourful terraces that spiral up to the summit for views
across the town. A row of skylights, resembling the
circular studs of Lego bricks, allow you to peer down
into the building at the marvels within – chiefly a
row of three huge dinosaurs howling with rage
because, as keen observers will notice, they’ve each
trodden on a piece of Lego.
“This had to be a place where even the most
hardcore Lego fans would say, ‘Wow!’,” says Jørgen
Vig Knudstorp, the former CEO and now executive
chairman, who has been credited with turning the
company around after it almost went bankrupt in
2004. “But it’s also about trying to revitalise the
town centre, which has been left behind by all the
development on the edge of the city, out near the
airport. Visitors come to the Legoland and Lalandia
theme parks, but they rarely venture into town.”
As the employer of 4,500 of the 7,000 citizens of
Billund, the company has an interest in the future
of the place. It is fitting that the Lego House now
stands on the site of the former town hall (which
became redundant after municipal functions were
recently consolidated), and Knudstorp says it is the
centrepiece of a wider masterplan, on which BIG is
also working, for Billund to become “the creative
world capital of children”.
It can sometimes be tricky to separate the
company from the town: it was Lego that built
the airport in the 1960s and it recently founded its
own international school here, based on “playful
pedagogy”. It is now busy building housing for
its employees, as well as a vast new HQ, similarly
envisioned as a stack of toy blocks. In an eerie touch,
Lego security cars also glide around town, as if
waiting for some spectacular cartoon crime scene
from The Lego Movie to erupt.
The opening of the Lego House comes at an
awkward time for the brand. After years of untrammelled growth, the first half of 2017 saw revenue fall
by 6%, leading to the announcement of 1,400 job
losses last month, around 8% of the entire workforce. “We grew too quickly,” says Knudstorp, fiddling absentmindedly with a pile of bricks. “But I’m
confident we’re back on track.”
In the world of the Lego House, though, everything is awesome. First, you’re taken on a journey
through 13 galleries, cleverly designed to appeal
to kids and grown-ups, with just the right mix of
interactive tech and traditional brick-based fun. Like
everything Lego, it’s not cheap, with tickets costing
199 krone, or $32, for adults and children alike.
You can try your hand at town-planning, Legostyle, with a digitised population of Lego minifigures eagerly awaiting the arrival of housing,
offices and green space, projected on to big model
tables. The growing city adapts to whatever buildings visitors add, introducing young minds to such
concepts as the logic of zoning.
Elsewhere, guests are challenged to save a
On Architecture
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 39
Building creativity … children explore one of nine play terraces at the Lego House; left, a birds-eye
view of the structure; a young fan gets to grips with some bricks Lego; Iwan Baan
population of woolly mammoths stuck in the Arctic ice, using a fleet of Lego Mindstorms robots, or
invited to create a school of colourful fish to be released into a digital aquarium. There are recording
booths for making your own stop-motion animation, and racing car components waiting for you to
click a vehicle together and hurtle it down a ramp.
All of these virtual wonders can be uploaded and
enjoyed later on an accompanying app.
But other zones are dedicated to what Lego has
always done best: bricks. Mountains of them are
everywhere, with buckets built into every bench
and huge troughs filled by gushing brick waterfalls, along with galleries dedicated to impossibly
detailed fantasy worlds full of amusing scenes,
many submitted by Lego fans themselves.
“We thought: ‘If we gave a Lego superfan enough
time and bricks, what would they make?’” says
Stuart Harris, the man in charge of concocting these
elaborate structures. The result is a robot smashing
through the back of an opera house, U2 playing on
the roof of an English pub, a streaker running across
a football pitch and many other surreal tableaux.
For serious AFOLs (adult fans of Lego), though,
the sepulchral basement will be the highlight.
Here, the Lego story is told with precious early
prototypes from the archive spotlit in glass cases
and arranged around a hallowed central shrine,
where the most popular lines throughout the
ages are on display, along with a digitised table
of every Lego set ever made. Just in case it was
all getting too grown-up, there’s a family of Lego
moles, burrowing through the floor.
Museum cafes are seldom much to celebrate, but
here again the brick brand has surpassed itself. “The
minifigures in the kitchen can’t understand us when
we speak to them,” says an apologetic waitress, “so
we have to give them your order in the form of Lego
bricks.” Guests must then assemble their brick lunch,
scan it in, then marvel as a Lego lunchbox trundles
out of the kitchen, down a spiralling conveyor belt
and into their hands, via a pair of humanoid robots.
Visiting children were in raptures.
In all of these jaw-dropping theatrics, the building fades into the background, a neutral setting of
white volumes, gently tinted by the brightly coloured
floors, always giving glimpses into other galleries.
The designers have thankfully resisted the temptation to take the Lego theme too far – there are no
oversized Lego doors, windows or light fittings. The
simple Lego brick is the key: all of the furniture and
exhibits are made from standard Lego pieces, enlarged to the same scale as the building, so you can go
home and make a model of the entire thing yourself.
Or buy the official version in the gift shop for $80.
Finally, as you leave, you pass a rumbling
machine that spurts out packets of six red bricks,
which each visitor is given, along with a combination card suggesting one way to put them together.
“Considering six bricks can be configured in over
915 million ways,” says Harris, “it should keep us
going for at least the next 3,000 years.”
Bilbao effect
often copied,
never equalled
Rowan Moore
he Bilbao Guggenheim
museum, which opened
to the public 20 years ago
this month, has become
the most influential
building of modern times. It has
given its name to the “Bilbao effect”
– a phenomenon whereby cultural
investment plus showy architecture
is supposed to equal economic uplift
for cities down on their luck. It is
the father of “iconic” architecture,
the prolific progenitor of countless
odd-shaped buildings the world over.
Yet rarely, if ever, have the myriad
wannabe Bilbaos matched the original.
Frank Gehry’s project has fulfilled
its original intentions as a “transformational project” with precision.
It proved the catalyst for a wider plan
to turn around an industrial city in
decline. It appeals to a “universal audience”, creates a “positive image” and
aims to “reinforce self-esteem”. It has
been rewarded with a steady million
visitors a year, the 20-millionth having
arrived shortly before the 20th birthday.
Gehry and his office pioneered
the use of Catia, software originally
developed for designing aircraft,
which allowed elaborate shapes to
be made without prohibitive cost.
It enabled him to realise the Bilbao
Guggenheim, as he is keen to point
out, within its $100m budget.
The ability of computers to design
unfeasibly elaborate buildings has
since multiplied. It is a ubiquitous
and defining feature of contemporary
architecture. It has been an effective
accomplice of post-Bilbao “iconic”
architecture that, although sensible
architects have been pointing out its
weaknesses for almost as long as it has
existed, and although it suffers from
an obvious hyperinflation of shape – if
everything looks abnormal it becomes
normal – shows no sign of going away.
This long-running craze would
have happened in any case, but the
Guggenheim gave it fuel. From the
political, cultural and commercial
currents of its time, it drew the energy to make a phenomenon that few
le would wish away, least
of all Bilbao itself. Its true
n is that it can’t
be copied,
pied, because
e it came
from circumstances
es that
were unique.
40 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Grandeur, beauty and excess
Tim Ashley is swept away
visually and aurally by the V&A’s
showcase of the power of opera
his vast and exhilarating exhibition
explores and celebrates opera’s
often confrontational history, its
grandeur, beauty and occasional
excess, and, above all, its ability
to probe the depths of the human
psyche, both individual and collective. Mounted
by the V&A in collaboration with the Royal Opera
House, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is by no
means exhaustive, nor does it claim to be. Seven
operas are examined in the context both of their
composer’s lives and the cities and countries
in which they were originally performed – the
exception being the 1861 Paris version of Wagner’s
Tannhäuser. A final room brings us up to date with a
survey of operas mostly premiered since 1945.
The experience is essentially immersive. We
walk through the exhibition – the first in the new
Sainsbury Gallery – with headphones as a hi-tech
sound system plays a constantly shifting musical or
spoken commentary on what we see. We begin with
Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea (1643) in the
pleasure-loving Venetian Republic, and the opera’s
final duet, with its suggestively twining voices,
accompanies us as we pass paintings of gamblers and
courtesans provocatively holding open their skirts.
In Handel’s London, a mercantile city that viewed
opera primarily as an import that demanded lavish
stagings, we find a working replica of a baroque
theatre, and hear Rinaldo’s mermaids singing as we
watch a ship pitching through
gh a
storm at sea before the clouds
part and it reaches safety.
Multiple narratives gradually
emerge and converge. Opera
has always been at the political
cutting edge. Mozart’s Le
Nozze di Figaro embraces
the values of Enlightenment
Vienna in its attack on
aristocratic codes of privilege
and licence. A passage from
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s
1758 Letter to D’Alembert on
the Theatre is daubed on the
walls. “The stage is, in general
eneral a painting of the
human passions, the original off which
hi h iis in every
human heart,” we read, as we hear and watch the
extraordinary Act III sextet that reunites Mozart’s
hero with the parents from whom he was separated
Opera lovers will find
their perceptions altered;
newcomers may well be
startled and converted
at birth, as the Count, whose power over Figaro is
breaking, looks on in discomfited rage.
When we reach Milan and Verdi’s Nabucco, we are
plunged into a national struggle for independence,
fought both in the theatre and on the battlefield. We
listen to Va Pensiero in the midst of a photographic
installation that shows the auditoriums of 150
Immersive … a working replica of a baroque theatre; above, a portrait of Mozart Jack Taylor/Getty
opera houses, before
arriving, almost literally, at the
barricades where the music is
suddenly replaced by the sound
of distant
The exhibition’s final opera
Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth
is Sh
of Mtsensk,
first performed in
Leningrad in 1934, and suppressed
by Stalin two years later.
Constructivist posters remind us
the doomed flowering of Soviet
of th
modernism. A reconstruction of
Shostakovich’s study is literally
cordoned off by red tape. On
its back wall, archive footage
shows the
the composer himself manically playing the
Act III interlude on the piano.
A second strand to the exhibition is primarily
erotic. All seven operas deal with the nature of
desire, and can be interpreted as male narratives
about female sexuality, even Nabucco, where we
hear Maria Callas voicing Abigaille’s torrential
feelings for Ismaele. The Venusberg music from
the Paris Tannhäuser, meanwhile, ranks among the
most extreme depictions of sex in music, and eight
TV screens push the scene to excess by deliriously
jumbling its representation in six different postwar productions. In the decorous, hypocritical
Paris of Napoleon III – his statue surveys the room
with lofty indifference – the work’s reception pitted
an admiring intelligentsia against a hostile public:
Baudelaire, whose Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à
Paris represented a turning point in music criticism,
can be seen among the listeners in Manet’s painting
Music in the Tuileries Garden.
Eroticism tips into expressionist violence in the
sixth opera, Strauss’s Salome, the 1905 Dresden
premiere of which took place against the background
of the emergence of the psychoanalytic movement
and the growing consolidation of feminism. Ernst
Ludwig Kirchner’s aggressive nudes challenge the
viewer, and an analyst’s couch, placed beneath
a video of the final scene from David McVicar’s
terrifying Royal Opera production, turns Strauss’s
necrophiliac heroine into a case study. Strauss’s
annotated copy of Oscar Wilde’s play, complete
with Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations, arouses
something like reverential awe, and costumes by
Salvador Dalí and Gianni Versace testify to its almost
unnerving attraction. A poster for International
Women’s Day in 1925 closes the section and
leads us towards Shostakovich’s heroine and her
sympathetically observed, if catastrophic, revolt
against the male world in which she finds herself
trapped. The last room elaborates the theme for our
own time, as Agnès in George Benjamin’s Written on
Skin fiercely defies the Protector who abuses her.
It’s a remarkable achievement that ultimately
has the potential to change the way you think.
Opera lovers will find their perceptions alternately
challenged and renewed by what they find.
Newcomers may well be startled, convinced and
converted by its narrative of social relevance,
immediacy and essential humanity. I cannot
recommend it too highly.
At the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until
25 February
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 41
Culture Reviews
Kicker here like this
Then a short description here like this
→ Then Section and page XX
Rock and pop
Midnight Oil
Way to Blue
Loving Vincent
ere is an oddity: intriguing and yet
weirdly exasperating, like a sentimental
tribute, or a one-joke epic, or a monomaniacal act of stylistic pedantry.
It’s an animation imagining the last months
of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, and specifically (but
inconclusively) investigating the theory first
aired in the 2011 biography by Steven Naifeh
and Gregory White Smith, that he did not shoot
himself but was actually shot as a bizarre prank
by a local bully, one René Secrétan, a 16-year-old
who was tormenting poor Vincent and loved to
swagger round the fields in a cowboy costume
carrying a pistol. So on his deathbed Van Gogh
claimed he had killed himself, perhaps out of
weary despair, or a desire not to make posthumous trouble for the neighbourhood, or perhaps simply to avoid the ignominy of an absurd
end, and claim the awful glamour of suicide.
But the real point of this film is that every
frame is a pastiche of a Van Gogh canvas, and
everything has avowedly been painted by hand.
Landscapes pulse and throb, swirl and scintillate; brushstrokes bristle on skies or people’s
faces like autumn leaves. Sometimes specific
images are coyly referenced – although the film
stops short of the sunflowers themselves.
Directors Hugh Welchman and Dorotea
n a scrap of paper, Marcel Duchamp
explained why he took the name Rrose
Sélavy for his female alter ego, who
gazes out from a sultry photo taken in
the 1920s. The name of his drag persona is, he
explains, “an easy pun”. Rrose Sélavy sounds like
“Eros, c’est la vie” – meaning “Eros, that’s life.”
This exhibition could easily have the same
pun as its title, for that belief is what connects
the two most subversive provocateurs of the
20th century. Salvador Dalí’s life’s mission was to
revel in base lusts. Men and women masturbate
copiously in his work, most notably in his 1929
painting The First Days of Spring, in which a greyfaced man collapses on a woman’s breasts. At first
Kobiela have created live-action footage with actors playing scripted roles and then digital software appears to have been used to facilitate the
over-painting. But the point is that actual, real
oozing paint has been used: intricately, painstakingly. Audiences are entitled to ask: might not
the same effect have been achieved much more
easily with digital trickery from a laptop? Are
Welchman and Kobiela like old school London
cab drivers finding their way around with “the
knowledge” while everyone else has satnav?
It’s not clear. But the result is a continuously
weird and dreamlike film. Douglas Booth plays
Armand Roulin, the son of a local postmaster in
Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh’s life ended
in illness and poverty. His father is the bearded
Joseph, played by Chris O’Dowd, and images
of both Roulins are of course based on Van
Gogh’s portraits. On the narrative pretext of
delivering a letter from Van Gogh to Dr Gachet
(Jerome Flynn), Armand makes it his business
to discover what actually happened and he talks
to many famous portrait subjects. Van Gogh is
played by Robert Gulaczyk and the flashbacks
are in the form of monochrome pencil drawings.
It’s accomplished and, in a way, impressive.
But it also becomes oppressive, self-admiring
and even a bit pointless. As an exercise in
style, Loving Vincent is of interest, but it
doesn’t tell us that much about his work or his
life. Peter Bradshaw
sight, a display of some of his most
pornographic drawings near some off
Duchamp’s most revered readymades
seems a bizarre coupling, yet among
the latter’s objects is Please Touch,
a book cover adorned with a rubber
breast. Both artists seem enthusiasti-cally depraved, which is what makess
this exhibition such a delight.
The different personalities of Dalí and Duchamp are revealed by their portrayals of their
fathers. In 1925, Dalí painted his as a glaring,
pipe-holding patriarch. By contrast, the Fauvestyle portrait the young Duchamp painted
ainted of
his in 1910 is almost anodyne. But it is Duchamp’s genius that triumphs. Jonathan
than Jones
At the Royal Academy of Arts, London,
until 3 January
e’re in a sports field in Alice Springs
for the first of Midnight Oil’s Australian tour dates – and the last leg of
their Great Circle world tour – and expectations are high. The band first played here in
1986 on the Blackfella/Whitefella Tour, an experience that became the inspiration for the album
Diesel and Dust. Those songs about baking highways and waterholes were born here. Tonight,
those songs are coming home.
This reunion is about more than just nostalgia.
Midnight Oil were Australia’s most political band,
driven by a passion for Indigenous rights, environmental concerns and a desire to speak truth
to power. The Oils disbanded because lead singer
Peter Garrett, pictured below, thought he could
better achieve his aims through a political career,
and reformed when he discovered this was folly.
“The only thing I can say to you is ignore Tony
Abbott at all costs,” he says. “He was pretty close
to me at one stage of my working life. Didn’t feel
good, I’ve got to say that. Did not feel good. Does
not look good, does not sound good.” The question now is whether Midnight Oil are still relevant
as a political force. And do the fans even care?
The band is watertight, clear as a bell and full
of energy. Garrett’s voice is strong and his body
is satisfactorily twitchy, but the first part of the
set feels like a warm-up. The first truly great moment comes seven songs in, when the band plays
Truganini from Earth and Sun and Moon. Their
voices join together in sweet, strident harmonies,
so quintessentially Oils, calling out the horrors of
colonial history in a curiously uplifting wave.
A little later, the band unearths No Time For
Games from the Bird Noises EP and Garrett
sneaks some new lyrics into the mix. “Got no
time for people who don’t believe in marriage
equality, got no time for people who are mistaken
about history,” he sings, before sidling up to Jim
Moginie for a bout of interpretive dance as the
lead guitarist plays a jagged solo. From here on in,
Midnight Oil are well and truly away.
Rob Hirst climbs down from behind the drumkit to join Garrett, bassist Bones Hillman and guitarist Martin Rotsey at the front of the stage while
Moginie positions himself on the keyboard for
Tin Legs and Tin Mines, and the band is bathed in
stage-lit hues of desert orange and pink.
Joyfully, we arrive at a trio of hits from Diesel and Dust, primed for th
their anthemic power.
The snaking melody of War
Warakurna is carried by
ou arms to the sky to
the audience, and we lift our
honour the fierc
erce refrain of The Dead
Heart, but it’s worth noting here
that there are very few black
faces in the crowd. Their absence speaks
volumes about
how ffar we have not come.
The trilogy closes with the
clas Beds are Burning,
and the crowd sings en
on cue.
The Oils may not have had
the lasting
political impact
they once
hoped for, but
for Au
Australian rock at least,
their legacy rings true.
Simo Ubaldi
Australia to
1 November
42 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Morfa Harlech
The rich need all they can get
There’s nothing left to say:
they write in a strange way
If you won the lottery, what would
you do with your millions?
Spend the lot on lottery tickets in
the hope of winning some real cash!
André Carrel,
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
What’s so sinister about lefties?
The answer is: everything! Since
the word sinister derives from the
Latin word for left, lefties are by
definition sinister.
Even my sinister brother-in-law
acknowledges this reality.
Terence Rowell,
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
• My guiding principle would be to
not let the millions change my life.
Reiner Jaakson,
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
• They can’t be set straight by
the right.
R De Braganza, Kilifi, Kenya
• Have you ever seen them write?
Pat Phillips,
Adelaide, South Australia
• Lefties are sinister because
righties are more dexterous.
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia
• They lack the adroitness of
the right.
Peter Rosier,
Camperdown, NSW, Australia
A questionable answer
Is death the question or the answer?
I’ll side with Hamlet on this one and
just procrastinate.
Richard Orlando,
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
• We shan’t know the answer to that
question until it’s too late.
Joan Dawson,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
• The devil’s in the detail.
Marilyn Hamilton,
Perth, Western Australia
• Death is a question. Ouija boards
notwithstanding, no one has
• At last I would be rich, so I would
certainly need all of the money.
John Anderson,
Pukekohe, New Zealand
Sinister style … Greg Rusedski
returned to give us the answers.
Lawrence Fotheringham,
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
• I’d mind my own business (and
you should mind yours).
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
Madness takes the prize
• Neither – simply the quest for
Noel Bird,
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia
• Neither – it’s simply a fact of life.
Lawrie Bradly,
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
At what point does madness
become brilliance?
When you win the Nobel prize for it.
John Ryder, Kyoto, Japan
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
• Neither. It is merely an antidote.
Michael Olin, Holt, UK
Any answers?
• Once we get to find out, will we
Margaret Wyeth,
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Do people who believe in an afterlife behave better towards others?
John Benseman,
Auckland, New Zealand
• As death is unquestionable, it is
self-evidently the answer.
David Turner,
Bellevue Heights, South Australia
Wouldn’t we rather be children
again, living with our parents?
Edward Black, Sydney, Australia
• That depends on whether you
think it is the beginning or the end.
Neil Johnson, Birmingham, UK
Send answers to weekly.nandq@ or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Nancy Arms
I have a former work supervisor
and friend I admire named Hanne.
She’s from Denmark but has lived
in the US for many years. I have
always respected her intelligent and
humorous opinion on many things,
but particularly her outsider’s
perspective on America.
Around the time it became
apparent that Donald Trump was
serious about running, we got
together for lunch. We ruminated
about how nothing was really clear,
“but one thing is for certain,” she
said, “it will be bad.”
I told her that frequently the news
overwhelmed me, but I wanted to
be informed, that it was going to be
more important than ever to be a
citizen who participated. She said
she listened to National Public Radio a bit, and also subscribed to the
Guardian Weekly. Between the two
sources, she felt like she was getting
a good worldview.
Within a week of Trump’s
The wave smudges out something
written in the sand with a stick. I
imagine it as a spell cast to charm
ashore those lost at sea. And so it
does, as tides ebb and flow, stranding the barrel jellyfish. These
extraordinary creatures, alsjo known
as dustbin-lid jellyfish because of
their size and shape, have been
shipwrecked after an epic voyage.
Rhizostoma pulmo or R octopus is
the largest jellyfish in British waters
(they can grow to nearly 90cm in
diameter) and is harvested around
Wales for high-value medical-grade
collagen. It feeds on plankton and
its sting does not injure humans any
more than do nettles; it is fed upon
by leatherback turtles and sunfish.
Jellyfish are boneless, brainless
and heartless, and have drifted
on ocean currents for 500m years,
pulsing gently towards landfall with
the same kind of trusting faith as
the dark age mystics who set themselves adrift seeking divine grace.
There are many washed up on
this beach – some upside down,
election, the crap faucet turned
on full blast. It was hard to even
understand what was going on
among the media speculation and
the outrage.
That week I quit Facebook and
subscribed to the Guardian Weekly.
Now I take in a level-headed and
even-handed version of the news
and when the articles become too
heartbreaking, I set the newspaper
down and pick it up later.
If you’re reading this, Hanne,
good call, and thanks.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
showing frilly translucent pantaloons of tentacles; others the right
way up, looking like in-vitro flowers
on Victorian graves; others halffolded, resigned to this contortion
without struggle.
Beach walkers seem unimpressed
with the jellyfish, repulsed even, as
if these creatures were worse than
the plastic flotsam and jetsam that
sullies the pristine beach. A juvenile
gull with an imploring whistle, and
its immaculate pirate-eyed parent,
dance for crumbs around a pink flipflop on the dune’s edge.
There is a log to perch on eating
sarnies, with a view beyond the surf
of black ducks in rafts of 20 or 30,
separated by a hundred metres or
so. These are scoter, Melanitta nigra,
perhaps hundreds of them on the
north end of Cardigan Bay towards
the Llyn peninsula.
These ducks are almost silent
lurching in the lumpy water, pelagic
pilgrims of the storm abandoned
to its surge and yet free. The scoter
whistle their chants at sea. Around
them are more barrel jellyfish,
dreaming minds in a luminous
trance heading towards a futile yet
inspirational end. Paul Evans
Read more Nature watch online
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 43
Quick crossword
Cryptic crossword by Philistine
5 Spirit of the age (9)
8 Long skirt (4)
9 Child’s feline pet (5-3)
10 Eat greedily (6)
11 Withstand (6)
13 With enthusiasm (6)
15 Very bad (6)
16 Sport combining rifle
shooting and crosscountry skiing (8)
18 Herb with thread-like
foliage used as seasoning
19 Space for manoeuvre
1 Large bottle enclosed in
wickerwork (8)
2 Irish author of Dracula,
d. 1912 (6)
3 A or B? (6)
4 Catch sight of (4)
6 Self-service restaurant (9)
7 Exact copy (9)
12 Air force unit (8)
14 Lemon shade (6)
15 Deliberately misleading
rumour (6)
17 Lean (4)
Last week’s solution, No 14,773
First published in the Guardian
20 September 2017, No 14,780
1 Chanel in gold
reflected style (6)
2 1910’s oversized
coat (3,3)
3 Free up climate
change of unwelcome post (6,4)
4 Your imprisonment
by extremely evangelical radical (5)
5 Romance rudely
interrupted by …
JIFFY AD! (6,3)
Futoshiki Medium
Fill in the grid so that
every row and column
contains the numbers
1-5. The “greater than”
or “less than” signs
indicate where a number
is larger or smaller than
its neighbour.
2 < 4
3 > 2
2 < 4
4 > 3
©Clarity Media Ltd
Last week’s solution
6 Stick card (4)
7 Denial from
Antigone (8)
8 Disagreement thins
out acts to put back
into play (5-3)
13 Professed East
German deposing
sensible leader (10)
15 No French police
centre in the neighbourhood is disproportionate (3-6)
16 Hybrid front
weapon (8)
17 Chapter two ends,
having covered previous work by 14? (8)
19 Celebrated without
her in ramshackle
farmhouse (6)
20 Involved in battle,
Kremlin revolutionary of 1910 (6)
First published in the Guardian
26 September 2017, No 27,312
23 Beginning to
near Australia,
refugees upset to be
incarcerated here (5)
24 Every other phase
in rising tide (4)
Last week’s solution, No 27,306
Sudoku classic Hard
1 Give a new name
to brand leader?
Agreed to differ
about that (7)
5 Tree enthusiast
chasing firms (7)
9 Smoke irritated
Craig (5)
10 German meat and
food rejected by
queen (9)
11 Lucky rollover for
20? (10)
12 Back Tory moderates
in a pickle (4)
14 1910 is a geneticist
ignored at first, as is
John (11)
18 Realign energy in
turn with love across
the channel (11)
21 Draw to be
inadequate (4)
22 Most in need of tip
to form relationships
25 Memo from
lover accepting
command (9)
26 Stop urban
division (5)
27 Say Saddam has
chemical and
biological weapons
in 1910 (7)
28 Il est un misérable
bain-marie, peut-être
2 8
5 1
6 5 8
1 2
9 6
2 8
9 6
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 20.10.17
One way to take shine
off smuggled gold
Indian customs authorities have
discovered 29 people hiding gold
in their rectums on two flights that
landed at a southern airport.
More than 10kg of the metal were
found on at least 37 passengers on
the two flights from the Sri Lankan
capital, Colombo, that landed at
Madurai international airport in
Tamil Nadu.
Some had wedged the pieces,
ranging from 30 to 600 grams, into
their hand luggage or children’s
pushchairs. Others opted for a more
“ingenious way of concealment”,
according to India’s Directorate of
Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the
law enforcement agency that intercepted the passengers.
Upon “thorough examination”,
the DRI said, the nuggets were
discovered and confiscated by
authorities. The total value of the
haul was about 30m rupees ($4.6m).
The smugglers walked free as no
individual was carrying enough to
meet the criminal threshold.
Gold is hugely popular in India,
traditionally worn by brides,
donated to Hindu temples as
offerings, or given as part of dowries
from all but the poorest families.
As the country’s middle class has
grown, so has demand.
Indians are thought to hold
about $1tn in private gold. A temple
in Kerala was discovered in 2011 to
be storing about $22bn worth of the
metal in its vault.
A spokesman for the DRI said the
latest haul was far from the largest – a 2015 operation netted almostt
64kg of gold smuggled by three
planeloads of passengers.
“The uniqueness of this case is
that huge numbers of people concealed the gold in their rectums,” he
said. “Rectum concealment by this
many guys is a first.” Michael Safi
World’s smelliest fruit
has genome decoded
Once described as smelling of
“turpentine and onions, garnished
with a gym sock”, south east Asia’s
durian fruit leaves no one unmoved
– you either adore or abhor it.
Popular in Thailand, Malaysia and
Indonesia, the spiny, stinky delicacy
is banned from public transport and
hotels because of its strong smell.
Yet for a food so controversial, very
little was known about the durian’s
genetic makeup – until now.
Scientists from Singapore, Hong
Kong and Malaysia published the
DNA blueprint of the common durian, Durio zibethinus, laying bare
the genes responsible for its traits.
Such data “is vital to better
understanding of durian biodiversity”, the team wrote in
n the
journal Nature Genetics.
While some may
ay wish
h they
h h
never caught a whiff
hiff of durian,
others are concerned
d that
several species are
e considered endangered
ed or
vulnerable. Knownow
wing more about
bout th
plant’s DNA
NA may
help protect
otect it.
ere are 30
own species in
he Durio family,
with D zibethinus
the most widely
Agence FrancePresse
Giant piano finds new
home in New Zealand
‘Most useless airport’
receives its first flight
One of the world’s longest pianos
has found a new home in the deep
south of New Zealand after the fire
brigade were called on to help shift
the behemoth into place.
Adrian Mann began building the
5.7-metre piano as a high school
student in a farm shed in Timaru,
a small town on the east coast of
the South Island. Now aged 28 and
working full-time as a piano builder,
Mann said his keyboard has been
played by some of New Zealand’s
best concert pianists, and was once
installed in the Otago Museum foyer
in the hope Elton John would play it
when he gave a concert in Dunedin.
Mann said the instrument, weighing more than a tonne, sounded
very different from normal pianos,
with a deeper bass and depth resulting from its length. It will now
remain in Mann’s workshop in Dunedin, where he hoped pianists from
around the world would visit.
“A lot of people approach the piano with all sorts of different ideas.
I had
h a pian
pianist from London
visit recently
recen and he was
quite pessim
about the
thought it was
piano. He th
a gimm
mick,” sa
said Mann.
But when h
shed playing, he
as quite delighted
ith what he ccould
et out of it. A lot of
ianists co
come along
nd the first thing
y do iis play the
om n
notes and go
goodness’. It can
‘oh my
be quite
te h
hard to pull people
Eleanor Ainge Roy
away.” Ele
The “world’s most useless airport”
welcomed its first commercial
passenger flight – five years later
than planned. Environmental and
geographical challenges famously
delayed the opening of the airport
on St Helena, one of the most
isolated inhabited islands on the
planet, and the project, which cost
the British government £285m
($375m), was saddled with the
unfortunate moniker.
But last Saturday an SA Airlink
aircraft touched down on the
infamous runway after a six-hour
flight from Johannesburg. With it
arrived 68 passengers and a new
chapter in the history this tiny
volcanic outpost in the middle of
the south Atlantic.
Until now St Helena – a British
overseas territory 1,900km off the
coast of south-west Africa – has
only been accessible by Royal Mail
ship (RMS St Helena). That six-day
journey from Cape Town can cost
up to £4,138. So a lot is riding on the
new, weekly flight.
In 2010, the British (then
coalition) government justified
the cost of the airport arguing
that the “additional short-term
costs of constructing an airport
are outweighed by the long-term
benefits”. The island receives more
than £26m in aid every year.
While islanders may mourn the
loss of RMS St Helena, which makes
her final voyage on 5 February 2018,
it is hoped an increase in tourism
will boost the island’s economy.
More flights will have to be added
for the airport not to be deemed a
white elephant. Emma Weaver
Same Difference
Identify the two words the spelling
of which differs only in the letters
**Y***** (steers in air)
**SS-***** (perfumes the air)
Maslanka puzzles
1 I thought Pedanticus was railing
about the disasters that had
beset our PM, but no – a journo
had spoken of “the chaos that
ensued it”. Why had that
resulted in a tantrum?
2 If a and b are positive
whole numbers, how
many solutions does 1/a +
1/b = 1/2 have?
3 Since well before Pythagoras we
have all known that 32 + 42 = 52. If a
and b are random digits, what are
the chances 3a + 4b be a multiple of 5?
Consider the three cases: a) a = b; b) a
≠ b; and a and b are independent.
4 From the catalogue of The Rogue’s
Gallery, where this abomination –
Reflections on A Man o’ War – hangs,
I learn that it consists
ts of two identical
semicircles resting on the
he diameter
of a larger semicircle as shown,
own, with
a little porthole perched on
them. If the radius of a small
semicircle is R, what is the
radius of the porthole?
What fraction of the area
of the larger jellyfish
is taken up by the porthole and two
little jellyfish?
5 Sheriff Einstein challenges Gullible
Gus to “a game of flipping a silver
dollar”. The flipping is to continue
until a head follows a head (Gus
wins); or a Head follows a Tail (Einstein wins). What are their chances
of winning? Yes, the coin is fair.
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
Find the correct definitions:
a) weeping from open wound
b) total crumbling of political authority
c) suborbital gland in some animals
d) crisis in diphtheria
a) form of leprosy
b) beggar
c) huge draught of Polish cognac
d) giant arum
E pluribus unum
Rearrange the letters of PRIVATE
CARE to make a single word.
Missing Links
Find a word that follows the first
word in the clue and precedes the
second in each case making a fresh
word or phrase. Eg fish mix could be
cake (fishcake & cake mix) …
a) tour line
b) poor ship
c) ruck cloth
d) mob size
e) monkey hell
f) Indian house
©CMM2017. For solutions see page 47
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 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
Our hardwired laziness means once
we’ve adopted pseudo-conveniences,
we won’t want to give them up
he new iPhone 8, as you probably
couldn’t help learning a few weeks
back, boasts “wireless charging
that’s truly effortless”, meaning
that instead of having to plug it
into the wall, you simply place it
on a special pad. Which you then
plug into the wall. If you’re struggling to imagine
the kind of person who finds the act of plugging
a cable into their phone unacceptably inconvenient, well, that makes two of us.
But I’m sure wireless charging will catch on
anyway, because Apple understands something
profound about the psychology of convenience:
half the time, it isn’t really about eliminating annoying or effortful chores. It’s about introducing
features you “didn’t know you needed” – a fancy
way of saying you didn’t need them – safe in the
knowledge that once lots of other people have
them, you’ll want them; and once you’ve got
them, you won’t want to lose them. “I guess it’s
one of those things you don’t really care about
until you use it,” wrote one owner of another device with wireless charging, trying to explain the
appeal. Which is also true of heroin.
One culprit here is presumably the phenomenon of “loss aversion”, which describes how
people are much more upset about losing, say,
£10 than they are thrilled by the prospect of gaining £10. Perhaps for evolutionary reasons, we’re
much more motivated to cling to what we’ve
already got than to strive to obtain what we don’t
yet have. Add to that our hardwired tendency
toward laziness – our instinct to conserve every
morsel of energy, and to avoid every expenditure
of effort – and you can see why, once you can persuade people to adopt certain pseudo-conveniences, they’ll be unlikely to want to give them up.
Illustration by Michele Marconi; right, Lo Cole
What I’m really thinking
The twentysomething
Before you have wireless charging, the effort of
plugging a cable into your phone seems negligible; once you have it, it’s too convenient to relinquish. And so even if, like me, you’re the kind of
person who fantasises about downgrading from
a smartphone to a dumbphone, you find yourself
buying the new iPhone instead.
The other strange implication in Silicon Valley’s obsession with “effortless” convenience is
the idea that all these tiny daily hassles – plugging
We’re much more
motivated to cling to
what we’ve already got
than to strive to obtain
what we don’t yet have
in your phone, having to talk to a human to order
a takeaway, inserting your card instead of using
contactless payment – add up to a significant
obstacle to a more meaningful life. But the time
savings are tiny. A much bigger obstacle is making
good use of what time you already have. Because
even if wireless charging saved you an hour a day,
rather than three seconds, the same preference for
laziness means you’d be more likely to spend that
hour on Facebook or Instagram – instead of writing your book, volunteering in your community or
whatever. And how would you check Facebook?
Why, on the same smartphone that was supposed
to be freeing up all that time. I’ll admit this is all
very convenient. But convenient for Apple and
the rest of them – not for you.
If you invite me to your wedding or
hen party, you’ll handle me in one
of three ways. One: you brief everyone, so there’s no chance they’ll ask
about my relationship status. Two:
you shoot me a sympathetic glance
when something romantic happens
and tell me how tired you are of
wedding planning. Three: you don’t
acknowledge my divorce at all, and
treat me exactly the same as every
other guest. The third is my favourite. The world already gives me
ample reminders that I am different
from most people my age.
I was married at 23, divorced by
25. Some of you were at the wedding
and have revisited that day, searching for clues that the marriage
was doomed. There were none;
everything was wrong from the
start, but we were all too young to
notice, or too polite to point it out.
I spent years justifying my decision to continue with the relationship. We had stopped making time
for each other, and he paid very
little attention to me on our wedding day. But we’d been together six
years and romance doesn’t last for
ever, does it? The best of you were
supportive when I repeated this
mantra, but there was enough scepticism in your expression to push
me to start questioning it.
I am now 27, and in a relationship
with a man I’m even more in love
with. I attend your weddings, fawn
over your colour schemes, feel my
heart swell with happiness when
you walk down the aisle. I hope to
be the sole member of the divorced
club for the foreseeable future. But
if I see th
the warning signs
in yo
your marriages, I
won’t hesitate to help
with that same kind,
sceptical expressc
ssion. That’s the
least I can do.
Tell us what you’re
real thinking. Email
46 The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17
Football hopes to heal Colombia’s divide
The guns are silent after 53 years, and what was
once one of the world’s most feared rebel groups
wants a professional team. Carl Worswick reports
six-hour drive south
of the Colombian
capital, Bogotá,
across scorched plains
and through twisting passes stretched
along Andean peaks, a dozen men
kick a battered football across a strip
of land clogged with mud and stones.
On the sidelines a man slumped in
a wheelchair clatters his prosthetic leg
against the frame. A woman standing
beside him howls at the referee. She is
clutching a rabbit. A rifle peeps from
the bundle of white fur.
As the rain begins to lash down,
the kick-and-rush played at breakneck speed continues unabated. It’s
an ugly spectacle and yet, for the
200-strong crowd in this war-weary
corner of Colombia, the aesthetics are
not a primary concern. Most are here
to witness the first steps in a historic
transformation: that of the world’s
first professional football team made
up of former guerrilla fighters.
A year ago everyone was still at war
but last November a peace deal was
signed and the western hemisphere’s
longest-running conflict came to an
end. For the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia guerrilla group,
or the Farc, the Marxist struggle has
taken a new direction and football is
playing a lead role.
“Football has always been very
popular within the Farc and so we
decided to start our own professional
team,” Jeison Yepes says. “Everybody’s excited.” Yepes is the president
of the Farc’s sports committee at the
Mesetas camp, one of 26 temporary
installations set up under the watch
of the United Nations to facilitate the
reintegration into civilian life of more
than 7,000 Farc members. Weekend
tournaments hosted throughout Colombia at different Farc camps have
helped get former guerrilla fighters involved in sport and tap into an enthusiasm for football. These events also
serve to identify potential players.
“There are 16 teams playing in
n this
tournament and so the idea is to start
looking at talented players with a view
to selecting one or two for regional
trials,” Yepes says. “The very best
from every region will go on to
form the team.”
Hundreds of kilometress
south-west in the Cauca region,,
it’s a similar story. Every week-end male, female and kids’’
teams have been competing in
Farc- organised tournaments. After
five decades of war, sport is helping
to bring communities together.
“The Farc have several teams competing here at La Elvira but we also
have sides from local Afro-Colombian
communities, indigenous teams and
mixed sides made up of the Farc and
civilians,” says a former combatant,
Julian Caballero, who was once on
the books of the top-flight Colombian
team Deportivo Cali.
As part of the government’s commitment to the reintegration process,
representatives of Colombia’s sports
body, Coldeportes, are running sports
and physical education programmes
in the camps. “We have 61 people
working across the whole country,”
says the project coordinator, Gisela
Gómez. “Our objective is to get
people involved in as many types of
recreation as possible, but clearly it’s
football they love the most.”
Tucked in wild countryside deep
in former Farc territory, La Elvira
camp in Cauca has become the focal
point in efforts to get a Farc team off
the ground. The camp’s commander,
who uses the alias Walter Mendoza, is
a veteran fighter with 37 years’ service
in the Farc. He was once a prized target for the government but this year
he was named the Farc’s head of sport.
He immediately put football at the top
of his list of priorities.
“Believe me, there is a lot of talent in the Farc, not just for football
but also in the arts, volleyball, other
sports, music and culture,” he says.
“Clearly, though, football is what gets
everyone excited and so that’s why we
are exploring the idea of putting together a professional team to compete
in the second division.”
Like many Farc members, Mendoza
supports Atlético Nacional, the Copa
Libertadores champions and arguably
Colombia’s most popular team. He lists
the former international striker Faustino Asprilla as “a long-time personal
Colombians united … a game at one of the 26 UN-backed camps set up to
help reintegrate former Farc members back into civilian life Carl Worswick
friend” and claims Asprilla, alongside
other former Colombian stars, is helping collaborate with the project.
That brainchild for the idea was
Felix Mora. A human rights lawyer
and fan of Bogotá’s biggest football
team, Millonarios, he began five years
ago to explore bridging both passions.
“Let me be clear, this is not a Farc
team,” Mora says. “This team, La Paz
FC, will include ex-Farc fighters and
anyone considered a victim of the
conflict. They will be on the same
team fighting for a common goal.”
La Paz Fútbol Club began as an idea
that brewed for several years. That
was until the doors of peace swung
open last year. Following a plebiscite
on the peace deal in October that was
narrowly rejected by the Colombian
people, the Nobel peace prize winner Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc
chief, alias Timochenko, submitted
a revised
deal that was approved by
congress. The guns fell silent after 53
years. Suddenly people became interyea
ested in Mora’s initiative.
In April Mora travelled to La
Elvira to meet Mendoza and thrash
out a deal. “That was tough, having
tto go out there into the sticks and
be forthright with a top Farc comb
mander that this had to be a joint
project involving anyone who has
been touched by this war, as a way of
uniting Colombians.”
Colombia has 36 professional
teams split into two divisions. To
enter, La Paz FC have two options: to
buy out one of the existing teams or to
persuade the country’s main football
body, the División Mayor del Fútbol
Profesional Colombiano (Dimayor) to
expand the league.
If the first option is problematic
because of the huge sums needed to
obtain a team’s licence, not to mention
finding a club interested in selling, the
second idea is even trickier.
Dimayor remains full of autocratic
club presidents deeply hostile to the
Farc. In order to change Dimayor rules
and allow extra teams, this tightly knit
old boys’ club has to take a majority
vote and the chances of 19 or more
presidents voting in favour look slim.
Over the past few weeks Mora has
sought to spark debate about the project, so much so that even the former
Colombian president Álvaro Uribe
stormed into the debate. “It would
be an embarrassment,” Uribe said.
“After all Colombia’s efforts to rid
drug trafficking from football, the Farc
are now going to have their own team.
It’s nonsense.”
Uribe’s description of La Paz FC
as a uniquely Farc team has become
The Guardian Weekly 20.10.17 47
Sport in brief
• Qualifying rounds for football’s
2018 World Cup finals moved into
their final stages, with all but a
few places in Russia still to be decided. In South America, Argentina
squeaked through after beating Ecuador, but Copa América champions
Chile missed out altogether. The
United States will also be missing after they lost 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago
in their final game, while a late Panamanian winner against Costa Rica
saw them to their first finals. In a
major shock in Europe, three-times
World Cup finalists Holland finished
outside the qualifying places.
Qualifiers: Europe Russia (hosts),
Belgium, Germany, England, Spain,
Poland, Serbia, Iceland, France,
Portugal. Qualified for play-offs:
Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark;
Northern Ireland, Sweden, Republic
of Ireland, Greece (ties to be determined; held from 9-14 November).
South America Brazil, Uruguay,
Argentina, Colombia. North and Central America Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama. Asia Iran, Japan, South Korea,
Saudi Arabia. Africa Nigeria, Egypt
(three other places still to be decided).
Intercontinental play-offs: Peru v
New Zealand; Honduras v Australia
(ties to be held from 6-14 Nov).
Winning ways … Maria Sharapova
• Cricket’s governing body has approved a nine-team, two-year Test
world championship series to begin
in 2019. The teams will play six
series over the new championship
with the two-highest ranked sides
contesting a final in June 2021. The
ICC also approved the trial of fourday Test matches but all Test championship matches will be five-day
contests. The ICC has also approved
a 13-team one-day international
league, which will begin in 2020 and
lead to World Cup qualification.
Leonard Barden
After his terrible start at the Isle
of Man Open last month, Vladimir
Kramnik declared that he would
take the fight with Fabiano Caruana
and Wesley So down to the wire
by playing not just in the current
European Club Cup in Turkey, but
also the European national teams
championship in November. But
Kramnik sat out rounds one, two
and four in Antalya.
Is he, then, out of the Candidates?
Not quite. Though the tournament
is in Berlin, the likely sponsors are
Russian as they were in 2016, so
Kramnik could yet be awarded the
final wildcard place.
The two English teams in the
Eurocup, 3Cs and White Rose, were
the highest available finishers in last
season’s national 4NCL league.
Daniel Abbas, 18, is top board
for 3Cs. The Manchester Grammar
schoolboy, one of the best English
juniors, had a baptism of fire in
this week’s game against the 2016
European champion. His play below
was a touch too passive. At move 13,
a4-a5 is a more active plan, while 16
Qc1? loses the thread where 16 Ng3
Qf7 17 Nxh5 Qxh5 18 f4 keeps White
in the game. As played, GM Inarkiev
• Maria Sharapova clinched her
first WTA tennis title since returning from a drugs ban after beating
Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin
Open, while Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the final of
the Shanghai Masters. Sharapova,
a tournament wildcard who made
her comeback in April, defeated the
Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5,
7-6 to secure her first title since the
Italian Open in May 2015. Sharapova
served a 15-month ban after testing
positive for the banned substance
meldonium. In Shanghai, Federer
delivered a masterclass to defeat
the world No 1 Nadal 6-4, 6-3 for
his sixth title of the year. It was the
36-year-old Swiss’s fourth victory
against his rival in as many matches
this season.
Maslanka solutions
3516 Sergey Volkov v Nils Grandelius,
Stockholm 2014. White to move and win.
built up a remorseless attack that
eventually broke through for mate.
Daniel Abbas v Ernesto Inarkiev
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 g6 4 Bxc6
dxc6 5 d3 Bg7 6 h3 b6 7 Nc3 e5
8 Be3 Qe7 9 0-0 Nf6 10 Qd2 h6 11 b3
Nh5 12 Ne2 Bd7 13 Nh2?! f5 14 exf5
gxf5 15 Rae1 0-0-0 16 Qc1? Rhg8
17 Kh1 Be6 18 f3 Bf6 19 a4 Bh4
20 Bf2 Bxf2 21 Rxf2 Qh4 22 Ref1
f4 23 Qe1 Rg5 24 Rg1 Rdg8 25 Rff1
Ng3+ 26 Nxg3 fxg3 27 f4 Rh5 28 Qe4
Bd5 29 Nf3 Qg4 30 Qxe5 Rxh3+
31 gxh3 Qxh3 mate.
3516 Not 1 Rd8?? Qxa6 2 c8Q Qa1+ 3 Kg2 Qf1
mate. But 1 Rc1! Qxa6 2 Rxc4! bxc4 3 Qh3!
a common theme. While undermining Mora’s attempts to build a team
including all actors in the conflict,
this focus also antagonised the Farc,
which felt Mora was speaking on its
behalf without authorisation.
A rupture was imminent. Following
weeks of silence, the Farc appointed
Edgar Cortes, a former director at the
nine-times Colombian champions
Santa Fe, as the group’s spokesperson for sport. He wasted no time in
dissolving the partnership.
“We have decided to rule out the
possibility of working with this team
La Paz FC. It’s a project that didn’t take
into account what we wanted,” Cortes
said. “We will instead be focusing on
developing our own football project.”
Provisionally labelled Fútbol Paz
Farc, the new plan is to set up coaching schools in rural areas long abandoned by the state. While the goal
of competing professionally in the
Colombian league remains, Cortes
argues the Farc must first show they
can perform at regional level.
Football alone will not provide all
the answers to building a brighter
Colombia, but in setting an example
of how former enemies may put their
differences aside and move on, it
could help reconciliation.
Not so long ago the Farc was one
of the most feared rebel groups in the
world. Now, former fighters muse that
the only shots fired will be on goal.
• In the United States, the baseball
season hurtled toward its climax. In
the American League, the Houston
Astros held a 2-0 lead over the New
York Yankees in their best-of-seven
series. In the National League, the
Los Angeles Dodgers held a similar
advantage over last year’s champs,
the Chicago Cubs. The two winners
are due to meet in the World Series,
beginning next week.
1 Some verbs can only be transitive (they need an
object!); some are intransitive (wouldn’t be seen
dead with an object!) and some swing both ways.
Ensue has lost its archaic transitive usage. “Seek
peace and ensue it” falls weirdly on our modern
ear, and the cognate words ensuable and ensuant
have also fallen into desuetude. It is nowadays used
intransitively to mean “happen after”. What is right
once might not be what is right now.
2 Two (truly distinct) solutions). [1/a + 1/b =
1/2 —> (a + b)/ab = 1/2 —> ab/(a + b) = 2 —>
ab = 2(a + b) —> (a – 2)(b – 2) – 4 = 0 —> (a – 2)
(b – 2) = 4. Now 4 = 1 X 4; or 2 X 2, leading to the
two solutions: (a, b) = (3, 6) (and (a, b) = (6, 3);
and (a, b) = (4, 4).]
3 The last digits of the powers of 3 as a goes from
0 to 9 inclusive are (1, 3, 9, 7, 1, 3, 9, 7, 1, 3); the
corresponding last digits for the powers of 4 are: (1,
4, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, 4). If a number ends on 5 or 0 it
is a multiple of 5. If a = b, we need a = 2, or 6 to get a
terminal 5; so 20%; if a ≠ b, we need a = 0, 4 or 8 and
b = 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 (prob = (3/10)(5/9)); or a = 2, with
b = 4, 6, or 8 (prob (1/10)(3/9)); or a = 6, with b = 2,
4 or 8 (prob ((1/10)(3/9)), giving a net probability of
21/90. If a and b are random, then a = 0, 4 or 8, and b
odd (prob (3/10)(5/10)); or a = 2 or 6 and b = 2, 4, 6
or 8 (prob (2/10)(4/10)); so net probability of 23%.
4 The height of the big semicircle = 2R. It also
equals [(R + r)2 – R2]½ + r;
so (2R – r) = (r2 + 2Rr)½;
squaring both sides:
4R2 + r2 – 4Rr = r2 + 2Rr.
After some housework:
R(2R – 3r) = 0, whence
r = (⅔)R. The two little jellyfish and porthole fill
13/18 of the area of the large jellyfish.
5 Consider the first two flips. HH wins for Gus,
TH for Einstein. But TT & HT must eventually be
Einstein’s as you must get a single H before you can
get a double H. So: Einstein ¾, Gus ¼.
Wordpool c), d) EPU PREVARICATE
Missing Links a) tour/guide/line b) poor/
relation/ship c) ruck/sack/cloth d) mob/cap/size
e) monkey/nuts/hell f) Indian/summer/house
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Building a brand
Denmark’s Lego House is a
delight for fans of all ages
Culture, pages 38-39
David Harewood
I feel no shame over the breakdown I
suffered as a young actor, struggling with the
pressures of my identity. It helped make me
who I am and gave me enormous strength
produced in London in the 1960s it caused a scandal and I leapt at the chance of the central role.
What I didn’t realise was that I was venturing into
the treacherous waters of representation, and the
question of how, as a black actor, one is supposed
to represent blackness. Sloane is a scheming,
murderous, sexual deviant who ends up in
servitude to two highly dysfunctional characters,
and maybe I should have seen how my blackness
could be seen to add a racial element to an
already inflammatory set-up.
The play was funny. Press night was a success,
so I dared a peek at the reviews. I’d heard they
were generally positive – and they were. Only the
journalist from the local black newspaper had
given it the thumbs down, and he wasn’t holding
back on naming names. “Mr Harewood should seriously examine his choices as an actor,” he wrote.
Here I was, struggling with my black identity in
a white world, and rejected by people who looked
just like me. It was a confusing time. I began
to lose confidence on stage. I started drinking,
before and after shows. Manically throwing
myself into performances was the only way I
could block out what was happening in my head.
But it was my next job that pushed me over the
edge. I was cast as the “fool for interracial love” in
a touring production of a very flawed play about
black identity. It was a disaster, made even worse
by the unwanted sexual advances of another
Ben Jennings
or World Mental Health Day on
10 October I was encouraged by
a friend to tweet a word of support to
help raise awareness of an issue that
affects so many people in different
ways. I picked up my phone and
tweeted about my experience, 20-odd
years ago, when I suffered a breakdown and was
sectioned under the Mental Health Act. In truth
I didn’t think what I’d written was a big deal. So
I was astonished at the reaction: 36,000 people all
over the world liked or shared the post.
My own breakdown started shortly after I left
drama school. Despite a successful start, within
a couple of years of becoming professional
I found myself deeply unhappy.
It is fitting that I am writing this in the same
week that UK government figures revealed the
huge effects of ethnicity on life chances in Britain, because my own breakdown had everything
to do with identity. Outside drama school, in the
world of acting, I was being forced to get to grips
with the reality that I was no longer just another
actor. I was a black actor.
Perhaps I was naive, but at no point during my
time studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Art did the colour of my skin cross my mind.
I was a comprehensive school kid from
Birmingham; I’d never heard of Bertolt Brecht.
I’d read Othello and cried at a production of King
Lear when I was at school, so I knew Shakespeare
was kinda special. But that was about my limit.
Suddenly, at drama school, I was exposed to
all these amazing plays by astonishing writers.
I played King Lear in my second year.
But in the real world I was never going to play
those roles. Outside Rada, those opportunities
weren’t open to actors of colour, and leading
roles were rare, particularly on television. I very
quickly had to adjust my sails for shallower
waters. It was immensely frustrating, since
I knew I was capable of much more. But my
blackness had trumped my talent.
Things came to a head when I played the part
of Sloane in Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane
at Derby Playhouse. When the play was first
member of the company. I couldn’t wait to get back
to London, to see my friends and be happy again.
But it was already too late. I haven’t got
enough space in this article to tell you what
happened between then and the day I was
sectioned at the Whittington psychiatric hospital
in Archway, north London, but I will say this:
I had the most extraordinary time. Much of it
I don’t remember, but I have vague memories of
travelling around London, performing “street
theatre” and bursting into song on the tube.
Help arrived when I had an audition and
turned up three hours late. The casting director, who later became a dear friend, recognised
something was wrong and called my agent.
The first time I realised I was in serious trouble
was when I tried to get out of the hospital ward
I was on but I couldn’t because the doors were
locked. I’d been sectioned.
I had amazing support from friends and family,
who visited me often and stressed to everyone at
the hospital that although I appeared to be a scary
big black guy prone to outbursts of song and
verse, I was in fact an actor experiencing a nervous breakdown of some kind. My brother Paul offered me the best advice: “Dave … I know you’re
flying a bit but if you wanna get out of here you’ve
got to tone it down and start acting normal.”
I took his advice. I resolved to start taking
control and cutting out the outbursts. Eventually,
with rest and the amazing care of my mother,
I got myself out of there, and within six to eight
months was back at work.
I’ve never had a repeat of what happened, and
although many of the issues and pressures of
identity and blackness are still with me, I’m much
better at coping with them now.
I’m reasonably secure in who I am and how I fit
in. Personally, I believe that episode has given me
enormous strength. I’ve never been ashamed to
talk about it – it’s my go-to pub anecdote – so I’m
not sure why it’s taken so long to say it publicly.
If you’ve ever experienced or are experiencing
some form of mental illness, I’d urge you to get
some support and wish you the best of luck. It’s
more common than you think.
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