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2018-04-06 The Guardian Weekly

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Vol 198 No 18 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 6-12 April 2018
South Africa’s
‘Mama Winnie’
icon dies at 81
Brexit: one
year to go
Reality bites as
promises fade
Lifting bars to
Iran’s female
Congo fears a new civil war
Violence and political
turmoil as people living
in DRC are caught
between rebel militias
and lawless soldiers
Jason Burke Masisi
Justin Kapitu is dying. He does not
know it yet, and the doctors treating
the 22-year-old rebel fighter are unlikely to tell him soon, but his chances
of surviving more than a few months
are virtually nonexistent.
Kapitu was wounded in a clash
between his rebel group and a rival
faction in December. Even in the remote valleys and hills of the far east
of the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC), where the battle took
place, few paid much attention. Such
scrappy, bloody confrontations have
become an almost daily occurrence.
Bullets shattered Kapitu’s right
arm and damaged his intestines. He
is being treated at the single hospital
serving the half-million inhabitants of
Masisi territory, about 1,600km east of
Kinshasa, the capital. Kapitu weighs
only 30kg, is in constant pain and can
absorb just a fifth of the nutritional
value of the food he can ingest. He is
unsure where his family are.
“I was just a foot soldier so I don’t
really know why we were fighting,” he
said. “There are lots of reasons I think
… I don’t think the wars here will ever
stop. They will probably get worse.”
Kapitu’s analysis is shared by many.
The vast central African country has
been hit by waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil
in recent months, leading to worries
Sheltered … Congolese refugees, who fled across Lake Albert in fishing boats, at a UN camp in Uganda Reuters
about a new civil war like that which
killed 5 million people between 1997
and 2003. Across the country the
security situation has deteriorated
markedly as government authority
has collapsed, emboldening rival militia groups that hold sway over large
areas of territory, often competing for
the country’s rich resources.
The president, Joseph Kabila,
is desperately clinging to power as
various groups and individuals use
violence to gain cash, territory and
support before possible elections later
this year. More than 13 million Congolese need humanitarian aid, twice as
many as last year, and 7.7 million face
severe food insecurity, up 30% from a
year ago, the UN said in March. More
than 4.5 million people are displaced,
the highest number for more than 20
years. There are outbreaks of cholera,
and the fighting is getting worse.
In recent weeks, thousands of army
soldiers attacked villages across the
province of North Kivu, where rebel
groups are based. Around the town
of Beni, DRC’s army is fighting an
Islamist-inspired militia blamed for
killing 14 UN peacekeepers in November, the worst loss of life in a single incident for the organisation for 25 years.
Though Goma, the biggest city in
the east, remains calm, militias have
clashed with security forces on its
outskirts. Elsewhere in the east, ethnic tensions have led to massacres.
Around the town of Bunia, hundreds
have died. There have been fierce
battles west of the town
of Masisi, as government
troops attacked the base of
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2 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
World roundup
FBI questions Trump campaign adviser
Ted Malloch, a controversial Londonbased academic,
was detained by the FBI
on arrival in the US and
issued with a subpoena to testify
before Robert
Mueller, the
special counsel investigating possible collusion
between the
Trump campaign and
the Kremlin.
Malloch (pictured),
a US citizen, said he
was interrogated by the
FBI at Boston’s Logan
airport. In a statement,
Malloch, a former campaign adviser to Donald
Trump, said the FBI
also asked him about
his relationship with
Roger Stone, the
strategist, and
whether he
had ever visited the Ecuadorian embassy
in London, where
the Wikileaks founder,
Julian Assange, has lived
for nearly six years.
In the statement Malloch denied having any
Russia contacts.
Cancer warning on coffee in California
A Los Angeles
judge ruled that
California law
requires coffee companies to carry a cancer
warning label because of
a chemical produced in
the roasting process.
Elihu Berle, a superior
court judge, wrote in
a proposed ruling, in a
case that began over
eight years ago, that
the coffee companies
had failed to show that
the threat from the
Ireland sets abortion referendum date
chemical compound
was insignificant.
A not-for-profit group
had sued coffee roasters,
distributors and retailers under a state law
that requires warnings
on any chemicals that
can cause cancer. One
of those chemicals is
acrylamide, a carcinogen
present in coffee.
Ireland will vote
in a referendum
on 25 May on
liberalising its strict
abortion laws, the
government announced.
Abortion has long
been a divisive issue in
the once strongly Catholic country. Voters will
be asked if they want
to repeal article 40.3.3
– known as the eighth
amendment – which
gives unborn foetuses
and pregnant women
an equal right to life,
in effect enshrining a
ban on abortion in the
country’s constitution.
More Europe
news, pages 9-10
Costa Rican voters opt for centre-left
The centre-left’s
Carlos Alvarado
Quesada (pictured)
decisively defeated Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, a
conservative Protestant
singer, in Costa Rica’s
presidential runoff
election by promising
to allow gay marriage,
protecting the country’s
reputation for tolerance.
A former minister and
fiction writer, Alvarado
Quesada, 38, gained
61% of the vote, with
results in from 95% of
polling stations, a bigger lead than predicted.
Muñoz soon conceded,
sinking to his knees in
front of supporters.
Former Guatemalan dictator dies at 91
Former Guatemalan dictator Efraín
Ríos Montt, who
seized power in a 1982
coup, has died aged 91.
Ríos Montt, who
presided over one of
the bloodiest periods
of the country’s
civil war, as
soldiers waged
a scorchedearth campaign to root
out Marxist
guerrillas, was
convicted in 2013
of genocide and crimes
against humanity for the
massacre of 1,771 Ixil
Mayans by security forces
under his command.
But the ruling was
swiftly set aside and
a new trial ordered,
dismaying human rights
activists and victims
who had long sought
to see him punished for
atrocities during his
17-month regime.
Last October
his trial on
after being
suspended for
more than a year
while his lawyers argued
that he was too senile
to participate, with no
memory and unable to
make decisions.
Fire kills 78 in Venezuelan police cells
Distraught families demanded
information from
the Venezuelan authorities about how at least
78 people died in a fire
while they were locked
in police cells.
Police fired teargas
as relatives clashed
with them outside the
facility in Valencia,
Carabobo state, after
local officials would
confirm only that there
had been deaths in last
Wednesday’s fire.
The fire appears to
have broken out during a
disturbance at the facility – reportedly designed
to hold a maximum of 60
prisoners – with gunfire
heard during the riot.
The UN’s human
rights office said it was
appalled by the fire, and
called on the authorities
in Venezuela to carry out
a speedy investigation
and provide reparations
to victims’ families.
Juan Miguel Matheus,
a deputy in the country’s
national assembly, said
the information he had
was that 68 men and 10
women had died.
Venezuela’s attorney
general, Tarek William
Saab, put the number
of deaths at 68 people, nearly all of them
prisoners. He said four
prosecutors would investigate the circumstances.
A Window to Freedom, a non-profit
group that monitors
conditions in Venezuela’s
jails and prisons, said
unconfirmed information
indicated that a riot
began when a detainee
shot an officer in the leg.
Shortly afterwards, a
fire broke out and grew
quickly as the flames
spread to mattresses
in the cells, it said.
Rescuers apparently had
to break a hole through a
prison wall to free some
of the prisoners.
Bahrain finds new oil and gas field
Bahrain announced
the discovery
of a “highly significant” oil and deep
gas resource, which is
thought to dwarf the
Gulf kingdom’s current
reserves. It is located in
the Khaleej al-Bahrain
basin, off the country’s
west coast.
“Initial analysis
demonstrates the find
is at substantial levels,
capable of supporting
the long-term extraction
of tight oil [light crude]
and deep gas,” said
Bahrain’s minister of oil,
Shaikh Mohamed bin
Khalifa al-Khalifa.
Bahrain intensified
its search for new fossil
fuel deposits last year.
Further details of the
find’s size and extraction
viability are due to be
released this week.
More Middle East
news, pages 4, 5
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 3
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
Sierra Leone votes for new president
The opposition
Sierra Leone People’s party claimed
its candidate Julius
Maada Bio had won a
presidential run-off
election, while the ruling party disputed that,
saying it held a “comfortable lead”, as official
results were delayed.
Results had been due
on Monday but were put
back due to disagreements over the method
of counting. Maada
Bio and All People’s
Congress candidate
Samura Kamara were
competing to replace
outgoing president
Ernest Bai Koroma.
The largely peaceful
election has come as a
relief for the country
of 7 million people,
which endured a brutal,
diamond-fuelled civil
war in the 1990s.
Islamists kill peacekeepers in Somalia
attacked a
military base, home to
Ugandan soldiers, in
the latest of a series of
bloody strikes against
peacekeepers in
Somalia. Local officials
said that as many as 46
Ugandan troops, part
of the 22,000-strong
regional force in
Somalia, died in the
attack by the al-Qaidaaffiliated al-Shabaab
movement in the town
of Bulamarer, 120km
south-west of the
capital, Mogadishu.
Such attacks are
designed to hasten the
departure of Amisom,
the military and policing coalition under the
authority of the African
Union, which has been
fighting al-Shabaab for
more than a decade.
Call to end Dalai Lama’s long exile
should redouble efforts
to “reunite” the Dalai
Lama (pictured) with
compatriots in the
Chinese-ruled region
and return him to his
palace in Lhasa, the
prime minister of the
Tibetan government-inexile has urged. He made
the plea at an event in
the north Indian town of
Dharamsala to mark the
60th year of the spiritual
leader’s exile.
Lobsang Sangay
said Tibet has seen 60
years of destruction of
its culture and identity
since the Dalai Lama fled
to India in 1959. The
Dalai Lama, also at the
event, thanked India for
sheltering him.
More South Asia
news, page 7
Nauru severs court link with Australia
South Africa jails woman for racist abuse
A white woman
was jailed in South
Africa for yelling
racist abuse at a black
police officer.
In a ruling that lawyers believed to be the
first prison term
imposed in South
Africa for
verbal racial
abuse, estate
agent Vicki
(pictured) was
sentenced by a
Johannesburg court
to three years, with
one year suspended,
for directing offensive
slurs at the officer.
Previously people
convicted of the same
crime have been fined.
A video clip went viral
following the incident
in 2016 when the police
officer tried to help
Momberg after thieves
broke into her car. It
showed her saying she wanted
to be helped
by a white or
ethnic Indian
officer. In
her rant, she
several times
called the policeman
a “kaffir”, apartheid-era
slang for a black person
in South Africa.
More Africa
news, page 8
Nauru severed
its arrangement to allow
appeals to the high court
of Australia, affecting
the rights of asylum
seekers to challenge the
refusal of refugee status.
The high court has been
the final appellate court
for Nauru since 1976.
Mathew Batsiua, a
former justice minister
of Nauru, who is one
of 19 people charged
over protests outside
the Nauru parliament in
2015, told his lawyers
the Nauru government
had given the agreed
90-day notice of termi-
nation. The Australian
Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade confirmed that the 90 days
ended on 12 March.
Of the 16 appeals
decided by the high
court under the
arrangement, 11 have
concerned asylum
seekers disputing the
refusal of their refugee
status. Of those, eight
were allowed, two
were dropped because
refugee status had
been granted in the
meantime, and only one
was dismissed.
More Asia Pacific
news, page 6
Afghan clerics agree anti-polio campaign Ardern: New Zealand will be a republic
Islamic clerics
agreed to work
with the Afghan
government to persuade
militant groups in the
country that vaccination
programmes should be
allowed in remote areas,
after six new cases of
polio were reported in
Afghanistan this year.
The vaccination
programme was badly
discredited when a fake
campaign was used as
cover in the US efforts
to track down Osama bin
Laden in Pakistan.
New Zealand’s
prime minister, Jacinda
Ardern, said she expects
her country could
become a republic
within her lifetime.
In an interview before
she flew to London for
the Commonwealth
Heads of Government
meeting, Ardern said
there was great fondness
for the members
of the royal family
whenever they visited
New Zealand.
Although she could
not remember the last
time a voter had asked
her about the country
becoming a republic and
admitted it was not a
priority for her administration, Ardern said New
Zealand would eventually transition away from
the monarchy.
“When I have been
asked for an opinion …
within my lifetime I
think it is a likelihood we
will transition.”
Ardern also said she
had been given words
of advice from Barack
Obama when he visited
New Zealand last month.
4 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
International news
A risky expulsions tit-for-tat
As Russia and the west
kick out envoys, vital
diplomatic trust is dying
Ruth Michaelson Cairo
Patrick Wintour
Russia’s announcement that it will
expel 60 US diplomats and close the
American consulate in St Petersburg was a predictable response to
the surprisingly tough decision by
Washington to throw out 60 Russian
diplomats, but left unanswered the
question over how far the deterioration in western diplomatic relations
with Moscow has yet to descend.
The fallout from the attempted
poisoning of the former Russian
double agent Sergei Skripal has a
pas de deux quality, with both sides
appearing to know the next steps.
And after the US expulsions it was
inevitable that the Russian foreign
ministry would punish the European
countries it believes succumbed to
US and UK bullying by also expelling
Russian diplomats. European
ambassadors were summoned
one by one to the Russian foreign
ministry last Friday to be informed
of the individuals being expelled.
That does not mean the crisis will
necessarily end there. Russia, whose
standing among the international
community is badly damaged, is
determined to go further to clear its
name, or at least throw up enough
chaff so that a chunk of western
public opinion doubts the British
account of Skripal’s poisoning.
Moscow suggested a meeting of
the executive of the Organisation
for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons (OPCW) to have “an honest
conversation” about the poisoning.
The OPCW is studying samples –
provided by the UK – of the novichok
nerve agent allegedly used, but does
not have the ability to judge the
Fightback … Russia has denounced a ‘provocation’ Maxim Shipenkov/EPA
identity of whoever placed the agent
by the door of Skripal’s house. But
the Russian foreign minister, Sergei
Lavrov, is determined to put the UK
on the defensive, and has claimed
that “if our western partners dodge
the meeting, then it will be further
evidence that everything that has
happened is a provocation”.
Russia has also responded to the
apparent recovery of Yulia Skripal,
who was poisoned alongside her
father. The British intelligence services will be debriefing her as soon
as her health permits. It would be a
huge embarrassment for the UK government if it emerged she believed
the Russian state was not involved.
As it is, the UK government is aware
that some allied leaders, despite the
show of solidarity, face sceptical voters who are either against a confrontation with Vladimir Putin, or want
convincing proof to be provided.
The UK foreign secretary, Boris
Johnson, last Wednesday waxed
lyrical about how the Skripal episode
represented a turning point in the
west’s approach to Russia, but his
officials know this mood can easily
dissipate as other considerations –
commerce, energy security or the
Middle East – come into play.
The UK will push for further
measures against Russia at the June
meeting of EU heads of state. It may
challenge German support for Nord
Stream 2, the gas pipeline from Russia
that could put European energy
demand at the mercy of Moscow.
The great unknown is the stance
of Donald Trump, despite a phone
call with Theresa May last week. The
US administration’s actions have
been strong, but Trump has largely
been silent about the episode.
There is also a sense that confrontation can be a cul de sac. Wolfgang
Ischinger, the German ambassador to
the UK at the time of the Alexander
Litvinenko poisoning in London
in 2006, said last week: “There is
already a massive trust deficit … We
are playing with fire, and I hope that
it is also clear to the Russian side that
this is not in its interest. Diplomacy’s
greatest asset is trust, and that is
getting ruined here.”
Yulia Skripal no longer in critical condition, say Salisbury doctors
The condition of Yulia Skripal, who
was poisoned with a nerve agent
in Salisbury with her father, is improving rapidly, doctors have said.
Salisbury NHS foundation trust
said last Thursday the 33-year-old
was no longer in a critical condition,
describing her medical state as stable. Christine Blanshard, the medical director for Salisbury district
hospital, said: “She has responded
well to treatment but continues to
receive expert clinical care 24 hours
Sisi wins
a day. I want to take this opportunity to once again thank the staff of
Salisbury district hospital for
delivering such high-quality
care to these patients over
the last few weeks.” Her
father’s condition was said
to be still critical but stable.
Sergei Skripal, 66, a former
Russian double agent, is believed to have been the main target.
Detectives said they believed
the pair were poisoned with the
nerve agent novichok, smeared on
g Skripal’s
front door. At least
130 people
could have been
to the chemical
in the aftermath
of the
t poisoning, responsibility
for which the UK
believes lies
with the Russian state.
About 250 UK counterterrorism detectives are working on
the investigation, which could last
for months. Owen Bowcott
The Egyptian president, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, has swept to a landslide
victory after an election in which his
only challenger was a supporter of his
rule. Results announced on Monday
gave Sisi 97.08% of valid votes on a
41.5% turnout, a slight increase in the
number of votes in his favour despite
a dip in turnout from the previous
election in 2014.
Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the other
name on the ballot and whose party
previously endorsed Sisi, claimed
just under 3% of valid votes. Spoiled
ballots accounted for 7.27% of the
overall result.
Sisi crushed all dissent in his bid to
seek a second term in office, with five
potential opponents prevented from
getting on the ballot. Despite Sisi’s
inevitable victory, the race also highlighted internal discontent at his rule.
“I don’t think Sisi wants any kind of
real politics in Egypt,” said Hamdeen
Sabahi, a former two-time presidential candidate. “He put politics and
politicians under siege. He hates
politics. He hates other opinions.”
Sabahi previously joined with a
coalition of other pro-democracy
figures to call for a boycott of the vote,
but they were accused of attempting
to overthrow the regime. Another
signatory, Abdel Moneim Fotouh,
was arrested and added to the country’s terror list.
Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the
nephew of Egypt’s former president
who dropped out of the race citing intimidation of his supporters, said that
Egypt’s president has created antipathy within the state by limiting power
to a tight circle of trusted confidants.
In October Sisi dismissed the former
military chief of staff Gen Mahmoud
Hegazy while the Ministry of Interior
dismissed top security officials including the head of national security.
In January, Sisi fired the intelligence
chief Khaled Fawzy, replacing him
with longtime aide Abbas Kamel.
The former military chief of staff
Sami Anan, previously the secondin-command of the supreme council
of armed forces, was put in military
detention after declaring his intention
to run for president. The former prime
minister Ahmed Shafik was deported
from the United Arab Emirates before
dropping out of the race.
Now opponents think Sisi will seek
to remove presidential term limits,
but that requires a referendum to
change the constitution.
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 5
International news
Violence shakes Gaza frontier Clashes could
Israel rejects UN and EU
calls after 16 Palestinians
killed by military forces
Oliver Holmes and
Hazem Balousha Gaza City
Israel’s defence minister has rejected
United Nations and European Union
calls for an investigation into the
killing of more than a dozen Palestinians by the military during demonstrations on the Gaza frontier. Gaza’s
coastal enclave has been shaken by
the bloodiest episode in years after
protests advertised as peaceful sitins turned violent, with Israeli troops
firing rounds of live ammunition at
crowds of stone-throwers.
Hospitals in Gaza recorded hundreds of emergency admissions from
the protest, and doctors have said
most were for gunshot wounds.
The UN secretary general, António
Guterres, and the EU’s top diplomat,
Federica Mogherini, called for independent inquiries into the bloodshed,
which left 16 people dead.
But the Israeli defence minister,
Avigdor Lieberman, told Israel’s public radio last Sunday that there will not
be an inquiry. “From the standpoint
of the soldiers, they did what had to
be done,” he said. “I think that all of
our troops deserve a commendation.”
Israel has accused Gaza’s rulers,
Hamas, of using “violent riots to
camouflage terror”. It also pointed
to an attempted gun attack last Friday against soldiers along the border.
Army spokespeople have said claims
by the Gaza health ministry that more
than 750 people were wounded by live
fire are exaggerated.
At the Gaza Strip’s main Shifa hospital, the digital registry of A&E admissions last Friday, seen by the Guardian,
showed that from 8.45am until the end
of the day, 275 people from the protest
arrived. It did not specify injuries,
but doctors said most had gunshot
Under fire … protesting Palestinians
were shot by Israeli soldiers
wounds to the legs. A clerk said a further eight patients were transferred
from surrounding clinics to Shifa’s operating theatres. Surgeons said many
patients had large exit wounds.
Last Sunday a 23-year-old man,
Adam Abu Ghanima, said he had just
driven to the hospital from a demonstration, which was smaller than
last Friday’s. His kneecap had been
pierced and blood soaked the sheets
of the bed where he lay. He said he
had planned to place a Palestinian flag
near the frontier. “I was right next to
the Israeli soldiers. Before they shot
me, they fired warning shots in the
air,” he said. But he kept going, he
added, “to bring Jerusalem back”.
Another man said he had been shot
trying to lift a Palestinian flag that
had fallen over on the Gazan side.
Ibrahim Fathi Hasna, 22, said
he and another man who had wire
cutters and a Molotov cocktail had
managed to cut through a fence at
a protest last Saturday to breach an
Israeli-controlled area. They were
both shot. The other man was hit in
the back, he said, and he was unsure
of his condition. Asked why he had
wanted to cross the fence, he replied:
“I just wanted to be there.”
The Great March of Return is a
planned six-week demonstration calling for refugees and their descendants
to be allowed back to their family
homes in Israel. Backed by Hamas
and other militant and political
Palestinian factions, larger gatherings are expected every Friday, the
holy day for Muslims.
Israel did not specify exact orders
to troops, but a spokesperson said
anyone approaching the “hostile border” was a potential threat. “People
coming towards the fence, attempting
to penetrate and break into the fence,
damaging the infrastructure or using
that area as a staging ground could
potentially be shot,” said Lt Col Peter
Lerner of the Israel Defense Forces.
Last Sunday Turkey’s president,
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called Israel’s
prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
a “terrorist”. Netanyahu tweeted that
the Israeli army “will not be lectured
by those who have indiscriminately
bombed civilian populations for
years”, referring to Turkey.
Gaza has been blockaded for a
decade by Israel and Egypt, which
tightly control goods and people
entering the 360 sq km area. The
demonstrations in Gaza appeared
to be split in two, with women and
children staying hundreds of metres
from the perimeter fence, protesting
in a festival-like atmosphere. Groups
of mostly young men headed closer
to throw rocks and light bottles of
petrol. There have been no reports of
Israeli casualties.
Israel said 10 of the dead belonged
to Hamas. Hamas said five members
of its armed wing who participated in
the protest were killed.
Netanyahu suspends plan to resettle African asylum seekers despite deal
Israel’s prime minister has
suspended a deal made with the
UN refugee agency to resettle thousands of African asylum seekers
facing prison or deportation, just
hours after his office announced an
agreement had been reached.
“I’ve decided to suspend
implementation of this accord
and to rethink the terms of the
accord,” Benjamin Netanyahu
said in a late-night message on
his Facebook page. His office had
earlier announced it had agreed
to resettle 16,000 refugees and
migrants in western countries including Canada, Italy and Germany.
Israel has been criticised for a
controversial deportation plan
under which many asylum seekers
would be sent to third countries
in Africa in exchange for cash
payments. The scheme had run into
serious problems including Rwanda
and Uganda’s refusal to accept the
refugees after they learned that the
deportations could happen by force.
The plan was halted temporarily
last month by Israel’s supreme
court after challenges to its legality
following a demonstration by
25,000 people in Tel Aviv.
An estimated 40,000 African
migrants and refugees, mainly from
Eritrea and Sudan, reside in Israel
and they have become the focus
of a long-running and often toxic
political debate about their future.
Peter Beaumont and Oliver Holmes
ignite regional
Simon Tisdall
ightly wound and anticipating trouble, Israeli troops
opened fire before the Gaza
border protests had even
begun. The Palestinian
health ministry said Omar Samour, a
31-year-old farmer, was picking parsley in his field last Friday morning
when he was killed. Israel’s military
later confirmed its tanks had fired at
“suspicious figures” on the border.
As Palestinians observed a day of
mourning last Saturday, both sides
warned of possible escalation in the
weeks ahead. But a bigger question
is exercising regional analysts. Will
this violent yet long-predicted rekindling of the Israel-Palestine conflict
trigger a wider crisis drawing in
Lebanon, Syria and Iran?
Last Friday was the start of six
weeks of protests leading up to the
70th anniversary of Nakba day on
15 May, literally the “catastrophe”,
as Arabs see it, that followed Israel’s
declaration of independence on 14
May 1948. The US will also move
its embassy to Jerusalem in May,
effectively recognising the city as Israel’s sovereign capital while ignoring Palestine’s claims. A season of
looming flashpoints is now begun.
The biggest worry is Lebanon,
where Hezbollah, Israel’s sworn foe
and Iran’s close ally, is the dominant
force. Strains are already apparent
over Israel’s erection of a Gaza-style
fence on its northern border and over
disputed offshore oil and gas fields.
If the Gaza violence spreads, Hezbollah hardliners can be expected
to try to intervene. Iran’s leadership
has repeatedly warned it will directly
assist Hezbollah in any fight. Israel,
it says, will be “eradicated”.
And Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s
prime minister, has made plain, to
Russia’s Vladimir Putin among others, that current efforts by Iran to
create a permanent military presence in Syria and Lebanon cross an
Israeli red line. Urging the Americans
to step in as honest broker is a waste
of breath, too. On this subject, Donald Trump has shown himself to be
as ignorant as he is partisan.
And here’s another incendiary
date for your diary. On 12 May,
Trump is expected to repudiate
the Iran nuclear deal – potentially
toppling the whole Middle East
house of cards.
6 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
International news
Korea summit raises hopes
Senior officials pave
way for Kim Jong-un
to meet Moon Jae-in
Lily Kuo and agencies
The leaders of North and South Korea
have agreed to hold a summit at a
village on the border between the two
countries on 27 April, only the third
such meeting and another sign of a
thaw in relations.
Senior officials met last week to
prepare for the summit, days after
the nuclear-armed North’s leader,
Kim Jong-un, made a surprise trip to
China. Kim is due to meet the South
Korean president, Moon Jae-in, at the
“truce village” of Panmunjom in the
demilitarised zone, followed by landmark talks with Donald Trump, which
could be held as soon as May.
At the Unification Pavilion on Panmunjom’s northern side, the leader
of Pyongyang’s delegation, Ri Songwon, said talks were aimed at paving
the way for a meeting between the two
leaders – the first direct public reference to a summit by any official or
media outlet of the North.
“Over the past 80 days or so, many
events that were unprecedented in
inter-Korean relations took place,”
China visit … Kim Jong-un
said Ri, who is chairman of the North’s
reunification committee.
The rapid rapprochement on the
peninsula was kicked off by the Winter
Olympics in the South and comes after
a year of heightened tensions over the
North’s nuclear missile programme,
which saw Kim and the US president
engage in a fiery war of words.
Events have moved quickly since
then, with a flurry of official visits
between the Koreas and an advance
team of performers from the South
heading north for K-pop concerts
in Pyongyang. Analysts say the
success of an inter-Korean summit
will depend on the likelihood of talks
between North Korea and the US.
No date has been set for a meeting
between Trump and Kim.
Meanwhile China’s top diplomat,
Yang Jiechi, was due in Seoul to brief
Moon on Kim’s secretive visit to
Beijing to meet the Chinese president,
Xi Jinping, for the first time.
It was the North Korean leader’s
first foreign trip since inheriting
power after the death of his father,
Kim Jong-il, in 2011. China has long
been the North’s key diplomatic
champion and provider of trade and
aid, but relations have been strained
by Pyongyang’s arms programmes,
with Beijing showing a new willingness to implement UN sanctions
against its ally.
The two leaders hailed their
nations’ historic ties, with Xi accepting
an invitation to visit Pyongyang.
Leader comment, page 22 →
China retaliates against Trump’s tariffs
Lily Kuo
China has implemented retaliatory
tariffs of up to 25% on $3bn in food
imports from the US, raising uncertainty over the possibility of a trade
war between the two countries.
China’s ministry of commerce said
it would be “suspending tariff concessions” on fresh and dried fruits,
almonds, pistachios and wine, all subject to an additional 15% tariff. Eight
other items, including frozen pork,
would be subject to a 25% tariff. The
tariffs began on Monday.
The tariffs were in line with a list
of potential duties on $3bn worth of
US products released in response to
Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and
aluminium. The US president has also
promised to levy 25% on $60bn worth
of annual imports from China.
The ministry said “a large number
of people expressed their support” for
the measures in order to “safeguard
the interests of the country and its
industry”. It added that China and
the US should resolve issues through
negotiation and dialogue. “As the
world’s two largest economies, cooperation is the only correct option.”
Analysts say the fact that China’s
tariffs do not cover some of the US’s
biggest exports to China, such as soya
beans, is a sign Beijing wants to avoid
an all-out trade war.
“The amount subject to tariff is not
big, which shows China is willing to
ease the intensity of the trade conflict
that was started by the US. Trump gave
us a heavy shot, and China is giving
a light shot back,” said Shi Yinhong,
director of the US research centre at
Renmin University in Beijing.
China’s economic tsar Liu He spoke
with US treasury secretary Steve
Mnuchin over the phone. Mnuchin is
reportedly considering a visit to China
China targeted
120 US products,
with a levy of
25% on frozen
pork. Pistachios
and wine were
hit by a 15% tariff
to continue talks. Some in China are
calling for stronger retaliatory measures on soya beans and other agricultural products as well as big-ticket US
goods such as Boeing aircraft.
China, the third-largest consumer
of US pork, bought $1.1bn in pork
products from the US last year, according to the US Meat Export Federation.
The state-owned Xinhua news
called Trump’s tariffs a “self-defeating
gamble”. The editorial, published in
English, said: “The threatening tariffs,
if realised, may hurt China. Yet the
damage will be done at the expense
of enormous American interests.”
US senator Elizabeth Warren said
on a three-day visit to China that US
policy towards China up to now has
been “misdirected” and she was not
afraid of tariffs. “We told ourselves a
happy face story that never fit with
the facts. Now US policymakers are
starting to look more aggressively at
pushing China to open up the markets
without demanding a hostage price of
access to US technology,” she said last
Sunday in Beijing.
Thai tycoon
takes on
the generals
Hannah Ellis-Petersen Bangkok
It is rare, under Thailand’s oppressive
military regime, for political feathers
to be publicly ruffled. Campaigning is
banned. Dissidents and activists are
thrown in jail. But Thai newspapers
were abuzz last week with talk of
democracy and political accountability
thanks mainly to one man, Thanathorn
Charismatic , Thanathorn is cofounder of Future Forward, formed in
March after the electoral commission
allowed new parties to register for the
first time in five years, with a view to a
possible election.
Other parties also sprang up last
month but few had the immediate
impact of Future Forward, with its
progressive agenda and a billionaire
at the helm. In fact, Future Forward
captured so much public attention
that the ruling military junta pressed
the electoral commission to void the
party’s registration.
Thanathorn, 49, who has drawn
comparison to the French president,
Emmanuel Macron, said the decision to step aside from the business
world and commit himself full-time
to politics in such an oppressive climate was one he had not taken lightly.
“I know that by starting this party, it
seriously means I might go to jail
tomorrow,” he said. “But there is no
other way we can make a positive
change in this country until there is
a new political party of the people.”
Thailand has been run by the army
since Prayuth Chan-ocha, a general,
seized power in a bloodless coup in
2014. Prayuth’s junta enjoyed considerable public support when it took
power, but criticism of its often repressive policies and lack of transparency
has grown. Prayuth has promised
elections next year, though previous
promises have come to nothing.
Thanathorn made his fortune at
the Thai Summit group, which makes
car parts. But, in December he met
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, one of Thailand’s most outspoken pro-democracy voices, to discuss forming the
political party they had felt for years
had been absent from Thai politics.
Thanathorn’s idealism may have
made him an appealing prospect ,
but there are grave doubts he could
win over voters in the rural north,
and his lack of experience would be
no match for the military or Thaksin
Shinawatra, the former prime minister deposed in 2006, who appears to
be plotting a return in 2019.
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 7
International news
Mumbai beach cleanup benefits turtles
Vulnerable species now
comes to coastline once
used as a rubbish dump
Michael Safi
Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle
species have been spotted for the first
time in decades on a Mumbai beach
rejuvenated in the past two years by a
massive volunteer cleanup operation.
At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles
made their way into the Arabian Sea
from nests on the southern end of Versova beach late last month, protected
from wild dogs and birds of prey by
volunteers who slept overnight in the
sand to watch over them.
Versova has undergone what the
United Nations has called the “world’s
largest beach cleanup project” over
the past two years, transformed from
a shin-deep dump yard for plastics
and rubbish to a virtually pristine
piece of coastline.
The man who leads the continuing
cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz
Shah, said he started anticipating the
turtle hatchings two months ago when
farmers on the southern end of the 3km
beach reported seeing turtles in the
sand. “The moment we got that news
I knew something big was going to happen,” he said. Last week some of his
volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles
emerging from their nests.
He called the forest department
and then went down to the beach
with about 25 others, guarding the
area while the tiny creatures hobbled
across the sand, “making sure not one
hatchling suffered a death”, he said.
The Olive Ridley species, thought
to be named for the olive-green hue
of its upper shell, is the smallest
Safe haven … volunteers
keep an eye on arriving
hatchlings of the Olive
Ridley turtles Afroz Shah
and most abundant sea turtle in the
ocean, but is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for
Conservation of Nature.
Mothers of the species lay eggs in
an enormous mass-nesting process
known as arribada. In February, on
the coast of the eastern Indian state of
Odisha, a record 428,083 Olive Ridley
turtles nested simultaneously at the
Rushikulya rookery.
Though they nest elsewhere in
Mumbai, none had been sighted on
Versova beach in decades, due to the
acute pollution problem there, Shah
said. “I had tears in my eyes when I
saw them walking towards the ocean.”
Sumedha Korgaonkar, who is
completing a PhD on Olive Ridley
turtles with the Wildlife Institute of
India, said it was possible small numbers of the turtles had been nesting on
the beach in past years. “We can’t say
for sure, since regular patrolling for
turtles’ nests is not done in Mumbai,”
she said. “Beach cleanups definitely
have a positive effect on nesting
turtles. Many beaches which are
major nesting sites are cleaned prior
and during the nesting season by
villagers, which increases the chances
of getting nests [there].”
For more than two years, Shah has
been leading volunteers in manually picking up rubbish from Versova
beach and teaching sustainable waste
practices to villagers and people living
in slums along the coastline and the
creeks leading into it.
About 55,000 people live along the
beach and the waterways that feed it
in the crowded mega-city. Shah said
he taught them by example, offering
to clean communal toilets and pick up
rubbish himself before he ever sought
their help.
“For the first six to eight weeks,
nobody joined,” he said. “Then two
men approached me and said, very
politely, ‘Please, sir, can we wear your
gloves?’ Both of them just came and
joined me. That’s when I knew it was
going to be a success.”
He said that the team had cleaned
13m kg of debris from the beach in
the past two years and are still going,
though their campaign was briefly
abandoned in November because of
“administrative lethargy” and harassment of volunteers.
India has some of the most polluted waterways and beaches in
the world due to rapid, unplanned
urbanisation, overpopulation and
neglectful attitudes, including to
public littering.
“There has been a loss of a sense
of belonging,” Shah said. “You can
have laws, policies, regulations in
place, but if the community doesn’t
have a sense of belonging you can see
what happens.”
Malala returns to Pakistan on ‘happiest day of my life’
Michael Safi
Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel laureate
and activist for girls’ education, has
made an emotional return to Pakistan
for the first time since she was shot
in the head nearly six years ago in a
Taliban assassination attempt.
Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel
prize winner, arrived last Thursday
in the capital, Islamabad, with her
father and younger brother, meeting
the prime minister, Shahid Khaqan
Abbasi, before speaking on national
television. “I am very happy that,
after five and a half years, I have set
foot on the soil of my nation again,”
she said, wiping away tears. “Today
is the happiest day of my life, because
I have returned to my country; I have
stepped foot on my nation’s soil again
and am among my own people.”
The Oxford University student
reflected on growing up in the Swat valley north-west of Islamabad, watching
it become engulfed by militancy, and
becoming conscious of “how many
difficulties women and girls face in
our society”. She added: “For the betterment of Pakistan, it is necessary to
educate girls and empower women.”
She said the charity she created in 2013,
the Malala Fund, had invested $6m in
girls’ education
ation in the country.
zai was 11 when she
began to campaign for
education rights. Her activism became
me dangerous as
the Pakistani
tani Taliban entrenched itself
tself in the Swat
valley and
d banned girls’
schools. In
n October 2012,
when she was 15, a gunman
boarded her school bus
and shot her, the bullet
grazing herr brain and
lodging in her neck.
She was airlifted
for surgery to Birmingham, UK, where
skull. She
doctors reconstructed her sk
remained in the UK to finish school.
Her exact itinerary in Pakistan was kept secret.
secre Many
in the country see her as a
puppet of the west
Her story led the UN
to launch a ca
education; her
for girls’ educat
Malala, has
memoir, I Am Ma
sold more th
than 1.8m
worldwide ;
copies wor
and 10 No
was named by the
Malala Day.
UN as Mal
8 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
International news
‘Mother of the Nation’ dies, aged 81
Ex-wife of South Africa’s
first black president
fought to end apartheid
Jason Burke Johannesburg
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a
hero of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of its
most controversial figures, died on
Monday, aged 81.
The ex-wife of former South
African president Nelson Mandela
died at a hospital in Johannesburg
after a long illness, said her personal
assistant, Zodwa Zwane.
Seen as the “mother of the nation”
by many who admired her steely leadership, firebrand rhetoric and courageous activism against a brutal racist
regime, Madikizela-Mandela was also
repeatedly accused of corruption and
being linked to violence.
She was one of the few remaining
representatives of the generation of
activists who led the fight against
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
apartheid. Her often negative image
abroad contrast ed with her deep
popularity within her homeland.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, another
veteran of the struggle, said Madikizela-Mandela was “a defining symbol”
of anti-apartheid whose “courageous
defiance was deeply inspirational to
… generations of activists”.
Yet there was a sinister side. “What
you have in her is both the sense of
possibility and failure together;
hope and disappointment,” Njabulo
Ndebele, the author of a novel focused
on her life, said in 2011.
Born in the poor Eastern Cape province, Madikizela-Mandela’s childhood was “a blistering inferno of racial
hatred”, in the words of British biographer Emma Gilbey, and she became
further politicised at an early age in
her job as a hospital social worker.
Attractive, articulate, clever and
committed, the 22-year-old Winnie
caught the eye of Mandela, 18 years
her elder, at a Soweto bus stop in 1957.
They were married a year later.
By 1960 Mandela had gone underground, was arrested in 1962 and
sentenced to life imprisonment for
treason. During her husband’s 27-year
incarceration, Madikizela-Mandela
campaigned for his release and for the
rights of black South Africans, establishing a massive personal following.
As the violence of the apartheid
authorities reached new intensity,
Madikizela-Mandela was drawn
into a world of internecine betrayal,
reprisals and atrocity.
“We have no guns – we have only
stones, boxes of matches and petrol,” she told a township crowd. “Together, hand in hand, with our boxes
of matches and our necklaces we
shall liberate this country.” Necklacing was the term for killing a perceived
traitor with a petrol-filled burning
tyre around the neck.
Notoriously, Madikizela-Mandela
was found guilty of ordering the kidnapping of a 14-year-old, James Seipei –
also known as Stompie Moeketsi – who
was beaten and had his throat slit by her
personal bodyguard, one of the “Mandela United Football Club”, in 1989.
Within a year she gave the
clenched-fist salute of black power as
she walked hand-in-hand with Mandela out of Cape Town’s Victor prison
on 11 February 1990. For both it was a
crowning moment that led four years
later to the end of white domination
when Mandela became South Africa’s
first black president.
Congolese flee as army intensifies battle with rebels
← Continued from page 1 a powerful
local warlord known as General Delta.
Among the more than 1.4 million
forced from their homes in North
Kivu by the recent fighting is Baraka
Buira, who fled with her brother and
sister when armed men attacked her
village near the small town of Nyabiondo shortly after government troops
launched an offensive last month.
Hidden among the trees, the
14-year-old watched as men were
beaten and women dragged screaming into huts. Buira saw several
corpses on the ground but believes
her parents also fled. She is unaware
of their whereabouts. “We are suffering. This is our unhappiness,” said
Buira, who carried her two smaller
siblings for 48 hours to reach the relative safety of a camp for displaced
people. The camp has no water and no
food distribution since aid organisations withdrew. A family has allowed
Buira to share their makeshift shack,
but can provide little else.
One of the few international NGOs
still working in the area is Médecins
Sans Frontières. It supports, among
other projects, a hospital with more
than 300 beds at Masisi, where 17,000
people received care in 2017, a health
centre in Nyabiondo, a network of
mobile clinics and a fleet of ambulances. In the past two months, MSF
personnel have been attacked five
times. It can take a day to drive the
60km from Goma to Masisi on muddy
dirt tracks. There are no paved roads
and many remote communities can
only be reached by motorbike.
The crises have been exacerbated
by an absence of international forces.
The UN mission is the largest and
most expensive peacekeeping effort,
but five UN bases near Masisi were
shut last year, following a US-led
push to cut costs. Major Adil Esserhir, a spokesman, said the force was
now “more agile”. “The problem we
are facing as a military [force] is that
we must give a solution to a problem
that is not military,”
ary,” he said.
The country has been roiled
ten bloodily reby protests, often
pressed, since Kabila’s second
ate expired 15
electoral mandate
here is a lack of
months ago. “There
political will to crack down on
he only way
the militia … The
this regime can
an keep
power is to maintain
h ala situation which
lows them to keep
pillaging. Each
armed group
can be tied to an
Justin Kapitu, a rebel
fighter since he was 14
official in Kinshasa, either in government or in the army,” said Fidel Bafilenda, an analyst in Goma.
Senior officials admit the problem.
“This is a country where anyone can
exploit a militia. I can’t deny that
there are contacts between politicians
and the [armed] groups but there’s no
proof that they are financing them. We
are a young democracy,” said Julien
Paluko, the governor of North Kivu.
Paluko, a Kabila loyalist, blamed
“an absence of state authority” for
the problems. The army and police
are demoralised, corrupt and poorly
trained. An economic downturn and
soaring prices have hit salaries. “It’s
the law of the ju
jungle. We have
to do better. We have had
some difficult
difficu times but
we’ve made a lot of progress too,” h
he said.
The rene
renewed fighting
has meant a wave
of sexual
violence. Anastasia
Icyizanye, an MSF
health worker working in Nyabiondo,
said fighters from
one armed group
raped 60 women
in January
when it seized
market. MSF
has recorded twice as many incidents
of sexual violence each month in
2018 compared with last year. “There
is systematic rape – in villages, at
checkpoints on roads, wherever,”
Icyizanye said.
DRC observers are particularly
fearful of the growing tension between ethnic communities. Despite
fertile soil and plentiful water, there
is fierce competition for land in the
heavily populated green hills above
Lake Kivu, as well as for lucrative
mines where gold, coltan and other
key commodities are scratched from
the ground by artisanal miners.
Leaders of the many local rebel
groups say they are acting in selfdefence. “We are simply protecting
our villages. When the government
and its allies stop trying to force us off
our land then we will stop fighting.
Until then the wars will continue,”
Faustin Misibaho, a senior officer in
the Patriots’ Alliance for a Free and
Sovereign Congo, said.
Kapitu was 14 when he joined
the rebels, seeking revenge after
soldiers killed his father and grandfather during a raid on their village.
“My group killed a lot of people. We
were really feared and respected,”
he said. “I don’t think about those I
killed personally. Why should I? They
wouldn’t think about me.”
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 9
Populism pushback
How to save liberal democracy
→ Weekly Review, pages 26-29
International news
Tactics … a Fidesz
poster features
George Soros and
other rivals holding
bolt cutters after
having cut a border
fence Getty
Fear factor: will Orbán’s relentless focus
on migration sway Hungary’s voters?
Miskolc diary
Shaun Walker
obody in Miskolc can
say with certainty
that they have ever
seen a migrant or a
refugee in the city.
A few residents think
they might have
seen one or two people back in 2015
but cannot be sure. Others say their
friends have seen migrants in the
streets but admit they have not seen
any themselves.
And yet, in this city of 160,000
inhabitants in north-east Hungary, a
fierce election campaign is under way
in which there is one overriding issue
being discussed ahead of the vote
on 8 April. It is not the recent series
of corruption scandals involving
government officials. Nor is it the
depressing state of local healthcare or
low wages. It is migration.
The tone for the election in Miskolc
– as across the country – has been
set by Hungary’s prime minister,
Viktor Orbán (pictured right), who
is seeking to win a third consecutive
term on a far-right platform of sealing
Hungary’s borders to migrants.
If Miskolc is not to be a place of
“ghettos and no-go zones”, said
Orbán on a campaign visit to the
city last month, it is necessary to
vote for his party, Fidesz.
“There are two paths ahead for
Hungary to choose from,” said Orbán.
“We will either have a national
government, in which case we will
not become an immigrant country,
or the people of George Soros form
a government and Hungary will
become an immigrant country.”
Orbán has tried to portray opposition parties as puppets of Soros, the
Hungarian-born American financier
and philanthropist who has spent
billions on developing civil society
in post-communist countries.
Posters across Hungary portray
Soros as an evil puppet master, in
cahoots with the opposition and
desperate to flood Hungary with
refugees to destroy the country.
Many of Orbán’s critics say the
endless migration rhetoric is merely
a device to distract attention from
the numerous corruption scandals
in the prime minister’s circle. Media
outlets belonging to Lajos Simicska,
an oligarch who
ho fell out with Orbán,
have been running
ning exposés about
offshore accounts
unts and criminal
schemes linked
d to top officials.
However, the
he opposition is divided
and much of the
population is apathetic
about politics. Opinion
polls suggest that
hat the
migration rhetoric
toric is probably working well enough among
Orbán’s base to
o win him another
term. Changess that the government has made
e to electoral law
over the past eight years are likely
to help him win.
Recent polls in Miskolc suggest
Fidesz and its candidates are polling
at between 35% and 40%, which is
likely to be enough to win Orbán a
parliamentary majority, if opposition candidates do not unite.
Even when there were hundreds
of thousands of migrants and
refugees passing through Hungary
in 2015, few if any of them made it
to Miskolc. The city has struggled to
integrate its large Roma population,
and tensions were inflamed
when Orbán compared potential
future migrants to the local Roma
community. But the only real
migration crisis in the city is that
locals are trying to leave, either for
Budapest or for other EU countries.
It is estimated that over 20,000 residents have left over the past decade.
On Miskolc’s Avas housing
estate, known as one of the worst in
the country, locals complained o
government corruption, econom
hardship and express
frustration at the state
of healthcare. Yet m
migration kept coming up
in conversation
with local peo
as the decisiv
“I haven’
seen any
peomyself, but p
ple who come into
the shop have,” ssaid
a 47-year-old sh
assistant who did not give her name.
“I have a young daughter, so I’m
pretty worried about it.”
Jobbik, a far-right party that
has recently moved its messaging
further to the centre and is placed
second in most polls, is campaigning
on corruption but is also attacking
Orbán for being not harsh enough
on migrants.
Péter Jakab, the local Jobbik
candidate, admitted that migration
was not a huge issue in Miskolc.
However, the campaign pamphlets
stacked in his office, ready for distribution, have the headline: “Orbán
has already let in 2,300 migrants.”
The leaflets incorrectly allege that
these people were given Hungarian
citizenship, voting rights and cash.
Orbán shows no signs of toning
down the rhetoric prior to the
election, and has said he plans to take
the fight to Brussels after the vote,
if he wins another term, to prevent
the EU from imposing redistribution
quotas on member states.
“Migration and the attitude
towards migration is basically
determining all other aspects of
our lives,” said Zoltán Kovács,
Orbán’s spokesman.
In recent years, figures close
to the government have taken
control of much of the country’s
media landscape, especially local
newspapers and radio stations,
and critics say this has helped Orbán
to base the entire political agenda
around migration.
10 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
International news
Varoufakis: ‘Greece
is a debtors’ prison’
Maverick former finance
minister is in fighting
mood with new party
Helena Smith Athens
Yanis Varoufakis is back. He, of course,
would say he never went away, but in
Greece’s hurly-burly world of politics
his is a name prone to triggering toxic
reaction. Abroad, he is feted as the
man who took on Europe’s establishment. At home, the former finance
minister is seen as a reckless incarnation of all that was wrong with Greece
as it struggled to stay in the eurozone.
In Athens and Brussels, his confrontational style is still blamed for
the price the debt-stricken country
had to pay to be bailed out in the summer of 2015. Although his resignation
now seems a long time ago, the sight of
Varoufakis launching his own party in
Greece has unleashed emotions that
have run from enthusiasm to anger
and disdain. Media reaction has been
cool; so, too, has that of politicians.
None of which seems to bother him
in the least.
“Nobody believes the systemic
media in Greece, and they’re all
Beacon of hope
… Varoufakis
wants to help
dismantle the
EU’s ‘toxic and
bankrupt,” he said with typical defiance, days after announcing his new
venture in a packed Athens theatre.
“To those who say I cost the country,
and I’ve heard €30bn [$37bn], €86bn,
€100bn and even €200bn … I say I cost
exactly zero. The troika [of creditors]
cost Greece two generations and
continue to impose cost.”
At 57, in his leather bomber jacket
and boots, Varoufakis clearly relishes
his anti-establishment role and believes the birth of his European Realistic Disobedience Front, AKA MeRA25,
is not a moment too late. Greece,
almost nine years after the eurozone
crisis erupted, is still condemned to
being a debtors’ colony, he says.
Prime minister Alexis Tsipras,
and his once radical leftwing Syriza
party, not only gave up the good
fight; they signed up to the draconian austerity demands of Germany
in exchange for a third bailout that
has only exacerbated the nation’s
plight. For Varoufakis, it was a huge
political – and personal – betrayal. “I
think Tsipras and his colleagues have
seriously let themselves down. They
are young people, and they have to
walk the streets knowing that they
have condemned this country to debt
bondage for another 30 years,” he
says. “I am probably the only one who
did what they said they would do.”
Bankruptcy and Greece’s battle
to keep it at bay was the force that
prompted the academic to go into
politics in the first place. It was still
the force that propelled him on to the
stage to announce MeRA25, founded
with the express purpose of not only
reclaiming democracy but stopping
Greece’s inexorable slide into further
debt serfdom and insolvency.
In a political landscape that veers
from the extreme left to the extreme
right, Varoufakis believes there is
room for impact. “Our target is the
1 million Greeks who don’t abstain
from voting due to apathy but because
they are highly politicised. It’s another
unique phenomenon.”
Under the party’s programme, on
day one banks would be nationalised
and proposals advanced to radically
reduce Athens’s staggering debt load
– at about €320bn or 180% of GDP, by
far the highest in the EU. “I wake up,
and dream at night, of debt [relief].
It’s like being a prisoner of war. You
have to try to escape. Our country is a
debtors’ prison.”
Part of the pan-European DiEM25,
or Democracy in Europe Movement
2025, that he co-founded two years
ago, this new alliance of leftwingers, progressives, feminists and
greens already has a reported 7,000
members. DiEM25, which is active in
seven countries “but spreading fast”,
reportedly has more than 100,000
members and the endorsement of the
likes of Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, the radical linguist who via video
link described MeRA25 as “a beacon of
hope in a troubled world”.
But does Varoufakis mean trouble
for Greece? After all, the new movement has set itself the goal of dismantling Europe’s “toxic, class-oriented,
powerless and discredited” establishment by 2025. “We are radical Europeanists, we are in the EU but against
this EU,” he says. “We are not proposing exit or disbandment. We are not
recoiling into the bosom of the nation
state. We want to see Europe democratised, not disintegrated.”
Devil’s work Priests to be trained in exorcism
The Vatican is to hold a training
course in exorcism amid claims
that demands for deliverance from
demonic possession have greatly
increased across the world.
The Vatican-backed International
Association of Exorcists, which
represents more than 200 Catholic,
Anglican and Orthodox priests, said
the increase represented a “pastoral
emergency”. According to a priest
from Sicily, the number of people
in Italy claiming to be possessed
had tripled to 500,000 a year, and
an Irish priest has said demand for
exorcisms has “risen exponentially”.
The Christian thinktank Theos
reported last year that exorcisms
were a “booming industry” in the
UK, particularly among Pentecostal churches. But some warn that
“deliverance ministry” can be a
form of spiritual abuse. Critics also
say LGBT people and those with
mental health issues are targeted for
deliverance in the belief that their
sexuality or psychiatric problems are
the result of demonic possession.
The Vatican training course,
which will be held in Rome, will
focus on exorcism and the prayer
of liberation, a prayer commonly
used for deliverance from possession. “The fight against the evil one
started at the origin of the world,
and is destined to last until the end
of the world,” Fr Cesare Truqui, one
of the speakers, told Vatican News.
Church of England guidelines say
doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists should be consulted where
appropriate, and deliverance should
be followed up with continuing
pastoral care. Anne Richards, the
national adviser, says: “Exorcism in
a technical sense is incredibly rare.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across
a case that’s been authorised.”
Harriet Sherwood Photo: Getty
Kenan Malik, page 18 →
Vatican nears deal on China clerics
Lily Kuo
Beijing and the Vatican are reportedly
close to an agreement on the appointment of bishops in China, a deal that
could lead to the resumption of diplomatic ties severed almost 70 years ago.
The secretary general of the
bishops’ conference of the Catholic
church in China, Guo Jincai, told state
media that negotiations between
the two sides had reached “the final
stages” and an accord could be reached
as early as the end of this month.
The Catholic church and China’s
atheist Communist party have long
been at odds over Beijing’s refusal
to recognise the pope as head of the
church in the country. An agreement that recognises the Vatican’s
authority but approves Beijing’s say
in the appointments of bishops may
now be in the offing.
China, which cut off ties with the
Vatican in 1951, appoints bishops
through its Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which runs statesanctioned churches. An estimated
half of China’s 10 million to 12 million
Catholics worship in underground
churches headed by bishops that have
remained loyal to the pope.
The Vatican could ask these
underground bishops to serve under
the bishops appointed by Beijing in
exchange for influence over future
appointments. The pope has reportedly agreed to accept seven bishops
appointed by Beijing that the church
had previously deemed illegitimate.
12 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Special report One year to Brexit
Reality bites amid tense talks
as promises keep falling away
The process of triggering Britain’s departure from
the EU is now over halfway through – but many
pledges made in the runup have been contradicted
entirely. Jon Henley and Dan Roberts report
The upside and ease of Brexit
of our own borders was one of the
elements we wanted in the referenThen The mechanics of departure
dum, and unregulated free movewere rarely discussed during the
ment [during transition] would seem
referendum, but since then government bullishness has made way for a to me not to keep faith with that
decision.” (Fox, 30 July 2017)
sober damage-limitation exercise.
“There will be no downside to
Now A 21-month status quo or standBrexit, only a considerable upside.”
still transition deal was provision(David Davis in the Comally agreed in March after
mons, 10 October 2016)
months of campaigning by
“The free trade
Britain’s business leaders.
agreement that we will
have to do with the EU
‘Implementation’ period
Then Once it had
should be one of the
accepted the need for a
easiest in human history.”
transition period, the UK
(Liam Fox, 20 July 2017)
Easy? Liam Fox
Now “Nobody has ever
insisted it would serve
pretended this will be easy. I have
merely to implement the measalways said this negotiation will be
ures that would be needed for the
tough, complex and at times confron- future trade deal, which would be
tational.” (Davis, 5 September 2017)
completed before Brexit day.
“The point of the implementation
Article 50 talks sequencing
period is to put in place the practical
Then The UK insisted trade talks
changes necessary to move to the
could take place in parallel with
future partnership and, in order to
divorce talks. Though this wasn’t
have that, you need to know what
agreed before article 50 was invoked, the future partnership is going to be.”
ministers were adamant they would
(Theresa May, 23 October 2017)
have the momentum.
Now The transition period will be
“How on earth do you resolve the
used to negotiate as much as possible
issue of the border with Northern
of the future relationship, not to imIreland and the Republic of Ireland
plement a relationship that is already
unless you know what our general
agreed. Many EU capitals in fact
borders policy is, what the customs
believe it will be nowhere near long
agreement is, what our trade agreeenough to conclude a comprehenment is? That’ll be the row of the
sive free trade agreement, and will
summer.” (Davis on 14 May 2017)
have to be extended yet further.
Now The UK team caved in to
Time limit
demands for negotiations to be
Then Once it had accepted the need
carried out in sequenced phases by
lunchtime on the first day of talks on
20 June 2017. It meant they had to
make scores of concessions before
they could start to discuss trade.
Need for transition deal
Then The UK originally saw no need
for a transition period, and even
once the need for one was agreed,
some ministers would not accept
obligations beyond 29 March 2019.
“[The idea] that we’ll do a transitional arrangement where you’re
still in, paying money, still with free
movement of people – that we’ll do
the long-term deal in slow-motion …
That is plainly not what we’re after.”
(Davis, 15 March 2017)
“We made it clear that control
for a transition period, the government argued at different times both
that it should be kept short (no
longer than two years), and that it
should not be time limited at all.
A transition period of three years
is “bogus” and “not necessary”.
(Davis, 29 January 2018)
Now The period is fixed at 21 months,
postponing until December 2020 the
regulatory cliff edge that business is
desperate to avoid. Even this measure of stability is uncertain, since the
transition period could be rescinded
if there is not wider agreement later
this year.
Then At an infamous Downing Street
dinner in April 2017, Theresa May
reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker
and Michel Barnier that Britain was
under no legal obligation to cover
any financial commitments after it
left in March 2019.
“Because we will no longer be
members of the single market, we
will not be required to pay huge sums
into the EU budget.” (May, Lancaster
House speech, 17 January 2017)
“The sums I have seen that they
propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate
and I think that ‘go whistle’ is an
entirely appropriate expression.”
(Boris Johnson, 11 July 2017)
Now The UK told the EU in November 2017 it was ready to honour its
financial commitments, estimated
at €40-45bn ($49-$56bn), through
the transition period. It has since
become clear payments will continue until about 2064, and indefinitely if the UK wants to stay part of
EU agencies and programmes.
Trade deals
Then The government was confident
it would have a series of new trade
deals ready on 29 March 2019 to make
up for any lost access in Europe.
“Within two years, before the
negotiation with the EU is likely to
be complete, and therefore before
anything material has changed,
we can negotiate a free trade area
massively larger than the EU …
The new trade agreements will
come into force at the point of exit,
but they will be fully negotiated.”
(Davis, 14 July 2016)
Regaining control? Now Britain has won the right to
Theresa May
negotiate deals with third countries during the transition period
but they cannot be implemented
until after December 2020.
Hi-tech customs solution
The UK was confident that upgraded
customs infrastructure would
quickly pave the way for a hi-tech
solution to the problem of keeping
borders frictionless. Now the prime
minister is hinting this could all take
much longer to implement.
Then “The UK is
currently implementing a new customs
declaration service,
which will replace
the existing HMRC
customs system.
This is a high priority
‘Go whistle’ …
project within governBoris Johnson
ment and HMRC is on
track to deliver by January 2019.” (Department for Exiting
the European Union, 15 August 2017)
Now “As we get into the detail and
as we look at these arrangements,
then what becomes clear is that
sometimes the timetables that
have originally been set are not the
timetables that are necessary ...
when you delve into what it is that
you want to be able to achieve.”
(May, 27 March 2018)
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 13
On the website
Latest Brexit news and analysis
EU states huddle together as
they feel the chill of UK exit
Jennifer Rankin
‘No downside to Brexit’
… optimistic words from
David Davis, left, ahead
of negotiations with the
EU’s Michel Barnier,
right Virginia Mayo/AP
Free movement
Then The government was initially
insistent that free movement would
come to an end on 29 March 2019 and
that EU citizens who arrived after
that date would be subject to a different immigration regime from those
already here.
Now Free movement continues, the
only difference being a registration
system for newcomers, who will
otherwise have the same rights as
EU nationals already here. Despite
the climbdown, the promise of legal
certainty for millions of citizens on
either side remains subject to further
compromises by the UK.
Rule-taking and the role of the
European court of justice
Then From the outset, Britain’s position was that UK law would be good
enough to guarantee the rights of EU
citizens in the UK and that there was
no question of the ECJ being involved
in that or any other area of UK policy.
Britain would not accept new EU
rules during any transition period.
“The simple truth is we are
leaving. We are going to be outside
the reach of the European court.”
(Davis, 14 May 2017)
Now The ECJ will have full jurisdiction during the transition period and
the ECJ interpretation of relevant
civil rights laws is likely to be followed thereafter. In addition, the
transition agreement makes clear
that Britain will be “consulted” but is
expected to ensure the “proper implementation and application” of all
new draft EU rules and regulations
during transition.
Then “We will take back full control
of our territorial waters and … will be
able to grant fishing access for other
countries on our terms.” (Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs , 3 August 2017)
“The UK will regain control over
our domestic fisheries management
rules and access to our waters.” (May,
3 March 2018)
Now The EU will have continued access to UK fishing waters during the
transition period and has demanded
reciprocal access afterwards as a
condition of any future trade deal.
s the European
Union counts down
to Britain’s departure at midnight,
Brussels time, on
29 March 2019,
Brexit has proven to
be an unexpected unifying force.
It was not only the seismic votes
of 2016 that shocked the EU into
togetherness: the political turmoil
in the UK and the vast bureaucratic
quagmire of Brexit offer their own
lessons. One senior official says
diplomats often end their Brexit
meetings musing on how difficult it
is to leave the EU. “We often end up
saying, ‘It’s cold outside.’ ”
Anyone immersed in the hard
slog of negotiations might forget
that Brexit remains a deep blow to
Europe’s geopolitical pride. “Brexit
is very bad, painful and traumatic,
not only for the UK, but also for the
European Union,” says Luuk van
Middelaar, a historian and former
adviser to the previous European
council president, Herman Van
Rompuy. “It is going against the selfimage that Europe has of being a club
of basically all European states – give
or take Norway or Switzerland.”
Brexit was “seen as a frontal
attack” on the EU and for this reason,
the historian predicts the task of
keeping Europe together means a
hard Brexit, because it is “by far the
easiest one to negotiate”. Sweeping
concessions to the UK risk eroding
the value of EU membership. “The
political price of a soft Brexit is
higher than the economic price of a
hard Brexit,” he says.
Stubb, a veteran of EU negotiating
tables, makes a similar point when he
argues that the UK is unlikely to succeed in splitting member states by appeals to narrow interest. “What will
keep a lot of the member states at bay
from having bilateral type of arrangements is the fear the UK will be better
off outside the European Union.”
Brexit is the unlikely glue bonding
the EU together, but there are plenty
of other divisive issues.
In Brussels, at least as much attention is devoted to the next EU
budget and filling the €10-€14bn
($12.3-$17.2bn) gap left by the UK’s
departure, at a time when more
demands are being made to open
Europe’s wallet.
This time, the usual tug of
war between net payers and net
beneficiaries will be overlaid by
deeper conflicts about the nature of
the union. Some countries, such as Italy, want to tie EU funds to accepting
refugees; others like France favour
linking them to greater tax harmonisation. Several would like EU funds
frozen when a country breaches
democratic values – a point with increasing resonance amid alarm about
backsliding on the rule of law in Poland, Hungary and Romania.
“If there is one big issue that will
cause a real crisis in the EU it is the
degree to which member states
will agree to forms of peer review
over their democratic status,” says
Rosa Balfour, a senior fellow at the
German Marshall Fund. “If the EU
wants to have a long-term future,
this is something it must address.”
More immediately, the EU is
trying to reform migration rules and
overhaul the eurozone to prevent a
repeat of past bailout dramas.
For Balfour, recent elections show
that effective policies do not always
translate into electoral success. “It
is not about performance, it is about
‘Brexit is very
bad, painful
and traumatic,
not only for the
UK, but also for
the European
whether the government is seen as
the establishment, in other words,
as something to get rid of.” Across
Europe, she sees the success of
anti-EU populists as an expression of
something “not functioning in our
democracies, where people do not
feel represented”.
Despite a small uptick in pro-EU
sentiment, the public remains far
less enthusiastic about the European
project than at the end of the cold
war. Only 40% of Europeans had
a positive image of the EU in 2017,
compared with 70% in the year of
the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Restoring confidence in the EU
will be an overriding priority for the
German chancellor, Angela Merkel,
the French president, Emmanuel
Macron, and other EU leaders –
especially as European elections fall
in May 2019.
“If you are Merkel or Macron
and you are facing anti-European
populists, you want to be able to say
clearly that it makes a difference
whether you are in or out,” says Van
Middelaar. “That will also have an
impact on the Brexit dynamic.”
14 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Drilling down … Bunnings stores jettisoned home furnishings in favour of power tools Oleg Chernyavsky/Alamy
How Bunnings botched job
of buying a British DIY chain
Australian retailer forced
to write off A$1bn after
misjudging UK market
Zoe Wood
It’s an Aussie institution in crisis after
aggressive management led to disgrace and embarrassment overseas. It
also knows a thing or two about sandpaper. This is not the country’s cricket
side, but Bunnings, the Australian DIY
retailer, that set out to conquer Britain
by revamping Homebase but ended
up writing off A$1bn ($768m) after a
catalogue of major mistakes.
Easter weekend was considered
critical to Bunnings’ future in the UK,
as the country traditionally emerges
from winter to buy garden plants and
materials for home projects. However,
the omens were not good as heavy rain
in many areas last weekend drove
many British shoppers to stay at home.
“Homebase is undoubtedly the
most disastrous retail acquisition in
the UK ever,” says GlobalData’s retail
analyst, Patrick O’Brien. “I can’t think
of a worse one that has made these
kinds of losses so quickly.”
The scale of the Homebase DIY
distress became clear earlier this year
when Rob Scott, parent company
Wesfarmers’ managing director,
announced the writedown.
Perth-based Wesfarmers, one of
Australia’s biggest companies, bought
Homebase for £340m two years ago,
but by December the losses emerging
from its UK outpost had become untenable. The chain lost nearly $140m
in the last six months of 2017.
Scott admitted the management
team led by Bunnings veteran Peter
Davis had made mistakes. Perhaps the
most glaring error was axing the entire
Homebase senior management team
and about 160 middle managers as
soon as they got the keys to the stores.
Scott, who inherited the acquisition signed off by his predecessor
Richard Goyder, also lamented the
decision to jettison the large home
furnishings business.
Faced with the might of UK market
leader B&Q, Homebase tried to attract
female shoppers with “personalised
mood boards” and displays of cushions, throws and nicknacks from other
brands . But almost overnight that
USP disappeared as the Australians
chucked out the chintz and turned its
stores into no-nonsense DIY sheds.
Bunnings Warehouse stores are
definitely not designed with women in
mind. With floor-to-ceiling shelving,
the industrial chic of the recently
refurbished store near Twickenham in
south-west London is aimed at hardcore DIY-ers. There is a large section
devoted to what looks like a breeding
ground for power tools, with mitre
saws nestling among an exhaustive
selection of cordless drills. There are
four-burner gas barbecues and log
splitters. Ideal for a large spread in the
Melbourne suburbs perhaps. Not so
fab for the average British back garden.
“There’s definitely less girlie
stuff,” one shopper says. Her partner,
however, is impressed by the wide
choice on offer. Bunnings stocks more
than 30,000 products, or 40% more
than the average Homebase ever did.
Wesfarmers has now moved on to
its second team of bosses, replacing
Davis with Damian McGloughlin, a
former B&Q executive. Up to 40 stores
– the ones that are losing the most
money – are slated to close although
industry sources suggest a more radical closure programme has also been
under consideration. But even packing up and going home would be a
massive headache for Wesfarmers because it is on the hook for Homebase’s
rent bill over the length of its leases.
In a recent note, the JP Morgan
analyst Shaun Cousins calculated it
would cost Wesfarmers about $842m
to throw in the towel versus more than
$1.1bn to finish the job. Neither option
looks attractive. A third route would
be to keep the 23 converted Bunnings
stores open and close the rest. “The
least-bad outcome is exit,” was Cousins’ stark assessment.
“Bunnings wholly underestimated
the complexity of the UK market,”
says Richard Lim, chief executive of
Retail Economics. “The shop environments didn’t live up to customers’
expectations, while product selection
failed to resonate with customers.
These self-inflicted wounds have been
an incredibly expensive lesson for the
retailer with the prospect of exiting the
UK becoming a realistic scenario”.
Britons’ appetite to spend money
on sprucing up their homes has been
muted in recent months amid
Lost appeal …
rising living costs and a softenHomebase had a
ing housing market.
more female focus
Speaking in February, Scott
insisted pulling out of the UK
was not his first choice. “But as I’ve
said earlier, all options are open.
There’s value in this network and we
want to make sure that we reduce the
trading losses and hopefully put the
business on to a path to profitability.”
Few Britons will be tackling a
bigger DIY project than that in the
coming weeks.
Finance in brief
• GKN, one of Britain’s oldest engineering firms, is to
be taken over by a company
that has been labelled an
asset-stripper, prompting
calls for the government to
block the £8.1bn ($11.3bn)
deal on national security
grounds. Founded in 1759,
the company succumbed to a
hostile bid from Melrose after
a corporate tussle that has
spilled over into the political
arena. Investors’ blessing for
the takeover signals an end
to the firm that provided the
iron for Britain’s railways and
produced Spitfires during the
second world war. UK business secretary Greg Clark said
he would consider calls to
intervene on national security
grounds, given GKN’s role in
making components for military aircraft, including the
Lockheed F-35B fighter jet.
• Global mergers and
acquisitions (M&A) had their
strongest start ever in the
first quarter of 2018, totalling
$1.2tn in value, as US tax
reform and faster economic
growth in Europe unleashed
many companies’ dealmaking
instincts. While the value of
M&A deals globally increased
67% year-on-year in the first
quarter of 2018, the number
of deals dropped by 10% to
10,338, preliminary Thomson
Reuters data shows, reflecting
how deals are getting bigger.
• Barclays have agreed a
$2bn settlement with the
US justice department over
the sale of mortgage-backed
securities in the lead-up to
the 2008 financial crisis.
The settlement follows a
three-year investigation into
allegations that the bank
caused billions of dollars of
losses to investors by “engaging in a fraudulent scheme”
to sell Residential MortgageBacked Securities (RMBS)
between 2005 and 2007.
Foreign exchanges
Sterling rates
Hong Kong
New Zealand
2 Apr
26 Mar
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 15
UK news
Have your say
Share your views with readers
→ Reply, page 23
Rapist’s quashed release sends
shock through parole system
In victory for victims, high court cancels Worboys’ departure from prison
Jamie Grierson, Alan Travis
and Owen Bowcott
Dismissed Hardwick predicts
case will lead to huge changes
Serial sex attacker John Worboys is to
face a fresh Parole Board hearing after
a decision to recommend his release
was blocked in an unprecedented high
court ruling that prompted the sacking of the board’s chairman.
Worboys, 60, a former black cab
driver, now goes by the name John
Radford. He was jailed indefinitely in
2009 with a minimum term of eight
years after being found guilty of 19 offences, including rape, sexual assault
and drugging late-night passengers,
committed against 12 victims.
After the trial, police said they
believed he had attacked up to 100
women. The decision by the Parole
Board to release him on licence
after less than a decade behind bars
emerged in January.
Nick Hardwick, chairman of the
Parole Board, resigned after David
Gauke, the justice secretary, told
him his position was untenable. His
removal was announced moments
before Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice
Jay and Mr Justice Garnham ruled
in favour of two of Worboys’ victims
who brought the challenge. The board
should have undertaken “further
inquiry into the circumstances of his
offending”, the judges said.
M a ny o f Wo r b oy s ’ v i c t i m s
expressed relief at the decision.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC, who represented the two women who brought
the case, said Hardwick had been
“scapegoated” and Gauke bore some
responsibility for systematic failures.
In the ruling, Leveson said that
the Parole Board should have looked
at “the extent to which the limited
way in which he has described his
offending may undermine his overall credibility”. He said Worboys’
“apparent deftness in impression
management” should have raised
doubts about how genuine his belated admission of guilt was. The
board should have been aware that
it did not have material from the police or Crown Prosecution Service to
challenge his version of events.
The judgment also concluded that a
Parole Board rule preventing publication of the reasoning behind decisionmaking was illegal. The board makes
25,000 decisions on whether or not
Nick Hardwick, former chair of
the Parole Board who was sacked
last week after the high court decided to block the release of John
Worboys, has predicted the case
will lead to welcome and wideranging changes to the system.
After the high court ruled that
the Parole Board “should have
undertaken further inquiry into
the circumstances of his offending”, before taking the controversial decision to release the sex
attacker and former taxi driver,
Hardwick predicted the case
would lead to far-reaching reform.
“It will be a better system for the
challenge,” Hardwick said. “And it
won’t just work for victims. I think
it will be a more just system.”
Hardwick (pictured below) had
previously argued for reform to
make the board’s processes more
transparent as the debate grew
about the Worboys release decision.
“I think at the very least the Parole
Board should be able to explain its
decisions. People say, you’ll get
high-profile cases and you’ll get a
big row. Well, this was a high-profile
case. There was no openness in this
case and we got a big row.”
He said he and the board had
previously thought Worboys’
other alleged offences should not
be considered. “What the judge
said was that in this unusual
and exceptional set of circumstances, the panel should have
questioned him about those allegations, to tes
test some of his other
responses. We didn’t think
we could
do that. The
judge has said … you
could have done that
– and
an I think probably
that’s a good thing.”
Hardwick paid
tribute to the victims of
Worboys. “The women
in this case
cas – I don’t want to
call them victims, as that almost
diminishes them – have been fantastic, very feisty, very determined
and very brave … they will have
achieved some really big changes
in the parole system.” Erwin James
Custody … John Worboys must face a new Parole Board hearing Rex
to release inmates every year. “There
are no obvious reasons why the open
justice principle should not apply
to the Parole Board in the context of
providing information on matters of
public concern,” Leveson added.
The judgment has significant implications for the way the Parole Board
can conduct hearings in future, requiring it to take into account far more
material. One possible consequence is
that fewer inmates may be released.
Some key evidence that could have
been gathered in Worboys’ case was
not sent on in the dossier gathered by
lawyers acting for the Ministry of Justice, the Parole Board pointedly said.
Hardwick’s departure raises questions about the supposed independence of the Parole Board. The chair
of the justice select committee, Bob
Neill MP, said there should be a fundamental review of the way the
board operates. Richard Burgon MP,
the shadow justice secretary, called
for an “end-to-end review into the
whole handling of the Worboys case
… to re-establish public confidence
in our justice system”. Hardwick
defended the release decision
saying the three-member
panel considered a dossier
of 363 pages and heard evidence from four psychologists and prison and probation staff responsible for
Worboys. In his resignation
letter, Hardwick made it clear
he was forced to resign.
One of the two victims, known
only as NBV, said she had felt “frozen
in shock, disgusted and traumatised
by the thought that Worboys could
be on the streets so soon … News that
we have won this case finally brought
huge relief.”
16 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
UK news
Teachers warn of child poverty crisis
Schools buy pupils coats
and shoes to fill gaps left
by cuts to basic services
Richard Adams
Extreme child poverty is worsening
across the UK, with schools increasingly forced to fill in the gaps left by
councils and social services budget
cuts, school leaders have said.
Headteachers from schools in
deprived areas of England, Wales and
Northern Ireland say they are having
to provide basic services such as
washing school uniforms for pupils
from poor households, and are even
paying for budget advice and counselling services for parents. Teachers
and school leaders also said they were
regularly providing sanitary products
for pupils, buying shoes and coats
in winter, and in some cases giving
emergency cash loans to families.
The experiences of the school
leaders are borne out by the findings
of a survey published by the Child
Poverty Action Group and the National
Education Union (NEU), which held
its annual conference this week. In
the survey of 900 teachers, 60% said
child poverty in schools had worsened
since 2015, and one in three said it had
got significantly worse.
Howard Payne, the headteacher of
a primary school in Portsmouth, said:
“Over the last 18 months the number
of child protection issues I have seen
has increased fourfold – and I’m in a
small school. Every single one of those
issues has been related to poverty,
debt, not eating enough, and that has
increased dramatically.”
During the snowstorms this winter,
Payne said, he kept his school open
when other schools in the area were
Hungry to learn … but schools are now ‘a safety net’ too Dave Thompson/PA
closed. “I kept ours open because I
was really worried about the number
of children who wouldn’t get a hot
meal that day,” Payne said.
“We are expected to be social
workers, to be carers, doctors, we are
expected to deal with every issue at
the same time as doing all the other
things that government wants us to
do,” said Louise Regan, the head of a
primary school in Nottinghamshire.
“We have a food bank, so we give
out food parcels, particularly on
Fridays, we buy clothing, we do a lot
Vast majority of teachers considered quitting in past year
A poll of teachers in England has
found that four out of five say they
have considered quitting the profession over the past year because
of the heavy workload that they
have to endure.
More than 80% of respondents
to a question circulated by the
National Education Union (NEU)
said that they were thinking
about other careers because of
the long hours now required
of classroom teachers.
About 40% of those polled
said they spent more than 21
hours a week working at home
during evenings and weekends,
to keep pace with the demands of
their schools.
The NEU survey’s findings tallied
with those of a similar poll by the
country’s other major teaching
union, the NASUWT. It found 65% of
respondents said they had seriously
considered leaving the profession in
the past 12 months. RA
of buying, particularly coats in winter
and shoes,” Regan said. “We’ve had
children who haven’t come to school
because they didn’t have shoes.
We’ve gone and bought shoes, taken
them to their house and brought the
child into school.”
The headteachers, all delegates
attending the NEU’s conference, said
Mondays were often the worst days,
with children arriving in school hungry
after a weekend with little food.
Celia Dignam, an NEU official
responsible for child poverty, said the
union’s survey revealed the reality of
4.1 million children living in poverty.
“Schools, as well as educating
children, are now a safety net, particularly for children in poverty,”
Dignam said, noting that the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that
5 million children would be living in
poverty by 2021.
The survey found that 55% of teachers felt free school meal provision did
not come close to meeting the needs
of pupils from poor backgrounds.
Although child poverty sits outside of the Department for Education’s remit, the DfE has allowed pupil premium funding to be used for
poverty alleviation.
“We continue to support the most
disadvantaged children [in England] through free school meals,
the £2.5bn [$3.5bn] funding given to
schools through the pupil premium
to support their education and the
recently announced £26m investment to kickstart or improve breakfast clubs in at least 1,700 schools,” a
DfE spokesperson said.
Last week the education minister
Nadhim Zahawi announced funding
for research into ways of supporting disadvantaged families during
the school holidays, to overcome
“holiday hunger”.
Labour must remove ‘stain of antisemitism’, says Izzard
Andrew Sparrow
The comedian and activist Eddie
Izzard (pictured) marked his arrival
on Labour’s ruling national executive
committee by saying the “stain of antisemitism” present among “a minority”
of members has to be removed.
He said Labour had to “make
amends and repair the damage with
the Jewish community”, in line with
the commitment given by Jeremy
Corbyn to tackle antisemitism.
Izzard was promoted to the NEC
after the resignation of Christine
Shawcroft last weekend. Shawcroft, a
Corbyn ally, had been under pressure to
quit since it emerged she had opposed
the suspension of a Labour councillor
accused of Holocaust denial. Izzard
took her place as the runner-up
in the NEC elections.
He spoke out as the
party dismissed the
implications of a Sunday
Times investigation that
found 12 officials working
for Corbyn or John McDonnell, the shadow chancelllor, were members of Facebook
groups that routinely featured antiJewish, violent or abusive messages.
However, Izzard stressed his support for Corbyn, saying: “This is a very
important time for the Labour party
and we must stamp out completely
stain of antisemitism from
the stai
a mi
minority of members. It
has no place in our party,”
he said. “We must make
amends and repair the
damage with the Jewdam
ish community as Jeremy
Corbyn has promised to do.”
The Sunday Times reported
that a two
two-month investigation
into 20 of the biggest pro-Corbyn
Facebook groups – headed by We
Support Jeremy Corbyn, which has
67,000 members – had uncovered
more than 2,000 racist, antisemitic,
misogynist, violent and abusive messages. The paper said 12 Labour staffers
working for Corbyn or McDonnell were
members of these groups. But it did not
provide evidence of any of them posting or supporting offensive messages.
A party spokesman said: “These
groups are not run by the Labour party
or officially connected to the party in
any way. The Labour party is committed to challenging and campaigning
against antisemitism in all its forms.”
Comment, page 21 →
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 17
Change for the better Bottle and can return gets green light in England
All drinks containers in England,
plastic, glass or metal, will be
covered by a deposit return scheme,
the government has announced. The
scheme is intended to cut the litter
polluting land and sea by returning
a small cash sum to consumers who
return their bottles and cans.
Similar schemes operate in
38 countries, and campaigners
have worked for a decade for its
introduction in England. Fees vary
depending on the size of the bottle or
can and many use “reverse vending
machines” to automate the return.
Once they are returned,
containers must be recycled by
retailers. Deposit return schemes
(DRS) have increased recycling rates
to more than 90% in other countries.
At present just 43% of the 13bn
plastic bottles sold each year in
the UK are recycled, and 700,000
become litter every day. In Germany,
a DRS was introduced in 2003 and
99% of plastic bottles are recycled.
“We can be in no doubt that plastic
is wreaking havoc on our marine
environment,” said the environment
secretary, Michael Gove. “It is
absolutely vital we act now.”
The new DRS for England
announced by Gove is subject
to a consultation this year and
it is not yet clear whether all
retailers of single-use drinks will
be required to participate. The
government says it “will only
take forward options from the
consultation which demonstrate
that they offer clear benefits and
are resistant to fraud, and costs
on businesses, consumers and the
taxpayer are proportionate”.
The Campaign to Protect Rural
England has lobbied for a DRS for
a decade. Its litter programme
director, Samantha Harding, said:
“I am thrilled we will finally see
the many benefits a deposit system
will bring to England, not least the
absence of ugly drinks containers in our beautiful countryside.
Producers will now pay the full costs
of their packaging, reducing the
burden on the taxpayer and setting a
strong precedent for other schemes
where the polluter pays.”
The Green party’s co-leader
Caroline Lucas, a member of the environmental audit committee of MPs
which backed a DRS in December,
said: “After a long delay it is good to
see the government moving forward
on this issue. This scheme should
have been introduced long ago –
and it is just the tip of the iceberg
when it comes to reducing plastic
waste. If ministers really are serious
about tackling the scourge of plastic
pollution, they will implement this
deposit return scheme as soon as
possible, then revise their utterly unambitious target of eliminating unavoidable single-use plastics by 2042.”
Tanya Steele, WWF’s chief
executive, said: “Plastic waste in the
UK will rise by a fifth by 2030. We
need to be tackling the problem on
all fronts by reducing, reusing and
recycling.” Damian Carrington
Photo: Don Ryan/AP
Biggest council tax rises in 14 years
Patrick Butler
Households will be hit with the
steepest council tax rise in 14 years
from April, with the average household in England paying £81 ($113) more
at a time when most local authorities
are driving though big cuts to services.
The inflation-busting average
5.1% increase on band D properties in
England pushes up the average bill to
£1,671. Almost all councils that provide social care have opted to levy an
average £30 charge to help meet the
spiralling cost of adult care services.
Council leaders warned that despite
the steep rise, town halls would still
have to reduce services. They said
they had little choice but to ask residents to pay more as they struggled to
balance the books since government
funding had been halved since 2011.
Lord Porter, the Conservative chair
of the Local Government Association,
said: “The reality is that many councils are now beyond the point where
council tax income can be expected
to plug the growing funding gaps
they face. This means councils will
have to continue to cut back services
or stop some altogether. We … have
repeatedly warned of the serious
consequences of funding pressures
facing services caring for the elderly
and disabled, protecting children and
tackling homelessness for the people that rely on them and the financial sustainability of other services
councils provide.”
The communities secretary, Sajid
Javid, said council tax bills were 7.6%
lower in real terms compared with
2010, when the Tories came into
government. “Under the last Labour
government council tax doubled and
in Labour-run Wales it has trebled.
It’s Conservative councils across the
country who are delivering highquality services while managing taxpayers’ money more effectively.”
Last Tuesday Javid sent in government commissioners to take
over the finances and governance of
Northamptonshire county council,
which declared effective bankruptcy
in February. The Tory-run council is
putting up bills by 5.98% from April
while pushing though cuts of £40m,
including closing 21 of its 36 libraries.
Figures show the biggest yearon-year rises of £86 are found in predominantly Conservative-run county
councils, where the average bill is
£1,749. The lowest, at £55, for an average bill of £1,405, are in London. The
rise is the biggest since 2004-05.
News in brief
UK news
• The director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, is
quitting when her five-year
contract finishes at the end
of the year. Saunders, who
has faced repeated criticism
during her time as head of the
Crown Prosecution Service,
did not seek an extension of
her contract and will leave to
take up a post with a private
law firm. Her departure was
confirmed by the attorney
general’s office.
• Britain faces at least two
more years of heightened
terror alert, with risks from
state players including Russia
as well as the aftermath of
the collapse of Islamic State,
Whitehall sources have said.
Speaking as the government
launched its national security
capability review, the sources
said the risk level – currently
at severe – could soon rise to
critical, thanks to the possible
return of scores of Isis fighters
to the UK and the potential
threat from states such as
Russia, North Korea and Iran.
Instability in north Africa,
Yemen, Sudan and Syria were
also causes of concern.
• Criminal barristers in
England and Wales have
voted to stage mass walkouts
and refuse new publicly
funded cases in protest
against sustained government
cuts to the justice system.
In a poll organised by the
Criminal Bar Association,
90% of its members backed
direct action from this month.
They are likely to be supported by solicitors working
in the criminal courts and
possibly other court staff.
The protest was triggered by
changes to the advocates’
graduated fee scheme, which
barristers claim represents a
further cut to their income.
• Windfarms and solar panels
produced more electricity
than the UK’s eight nuclear
power stations for the first
time at the end of last year,
official figures show. Britain’s
greenhouse gas emissions
also continued to fall, dropping 3% in 2017, as coal use
fell and the use of renewables
climbed. Energy experienced
the biggest drop in emissions
of any UK sector, of 8%, while
pollution from transport
and businesses stayed flat.
Britain’s greenhouse gas
emissions also continued to
fall, dropping 3% in 2017.
18 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
We have
lost faith in
God – and
in reason
Kenan Malik
Our failure to create
social movements that
fill the space vacated
by the church has left
people feeling helpless
bandon all hope, ye who enter here. So
runs the inscription above the gates of
hell in Dante’s Inferno. Through those
gates walks Dante with his guide Virgil:
Now sighs, loud wailing, lamentation /
Resounded through the starless air, /
So that I too began to weep. /
Unfamiliar tongues, horrendous accents, /
Words of suffering, cries of rage, voices /
Loud and faint, the sound of slapping hands …
Inferno is the first part, or canticle, of the Divine
Comedy, Dante’s great triptych of journeys through
hell, purgatory and heaven. Today we read it as poetry,
even if it is poetry that seems to have been touched by
the divine. Seven hundred years ago it was read as a
glimpse of something far more real. Dante’s imaginative
recreation of both the physical and the moral universe,
and of the interlacing of the two, infused medieval
culture and allowed Europeans to understand both their
place in the physical architecture of the cosmos and their
duties in the moral architecture of Christian society.
So far have we moved today from Dante’s reality that
even the pope, if we are to believe the Italian journalist
Eugenio Scalfari, no longer acknowledges the existence
of hell. Scalfari asked Pope Francis where “bad souls” go
after death. Hell, Francis supposedly replied, “doesn’t
exist”. “Sinning souls” simply “disappear”.
The Vatican has condemned the article, published in
La Repubblica, insisting that the pope was misquoted.
Whatever the truth, the controversy nevertheless points
up the dilemma in which religion finds itself in the
modern world. Religious values are immensely flexible
over time. Christian beliefs on many issues have changed
enormously in the past two millennia. Yet an institution
like the Catholic church can never be truly “modern”.
Christianity, like all monotheistic religions, views
human desires and beliefs as unreliable guides to
notions of good and bad. Values derive primarily from
God, and the authority of the church rests on its claim to
be able to interpret the Bible and God’s word. Were the
church to modify its teaching to meet the wishes of its
flock, the authority of the institution would inevitably
weaken. But were it not to do so, a chasm would emerge
between official teaching and actual practice. Dante’s
hell may be difficult to believe in, but to jettison difficult
beliefs is to question the need for religion itself.
A recent pan-European survey by Stephen Bullivant,
professor of theology at St Mary’s University in London,
Religion is not simply
a set of beliefs. It is
also a means of
creating a sense of
community, identity
and meaning
showed that in a dozen countries, including Britain, a
majority of young people are irreligious. And even those
who identify as religious have attitudes increasingly like
those of their irreligious neighbours.
A survey of the social attitudes of British believers
published in 2013 by Linda Woodhead, professor of
sociology of religion at Lancaster University, suggested
that two-thirds of Catholics accepted abortion of some
kind. Half said that they are primarily guided by their
own reason, intuition or feelings. Fewer than one in 10
sought guidance from the church or Bible.
Meanwhile, Woodhead observes, a minority of
believers have marched in the opposite direction. They
possess an absolute belief in God, make moral decisions
primarily on the basis of religious sources, and are
deeply conservative on issues of social morality. The
literalism of fundamentalist Muslims and evangelical
Christians speaks to a yearning for the restoration of
strong identities and moral lines. The sectarianism of
fundamentalist religion is reflected also in the political
sphere. Witness the rise of tribal politics and of social
movements built around excluding the Other.
All this poses a challenge, not just for believers but
for non-believers, too. Religion is not simply a set of
beliefs. It is also a means of creating a sense of community, identity and meaning. One reason for the growth
of fundamentalism is that all these seem in short supply
today. The world appears increasingly trapped between
an atomised liberalism, on the one hand, and a sense
of community created by fundamentalist religion or
reactionary politics, on the other.
n his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, the
Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who spent
three years incarcerated in German concentration
camps, meditates on that experience – a
meditation on surviving hell. Frankl’s faith is
a hymn not to a transcendent deity but to the
human spirit that, through its own efforts, can
transcend the immediacy of its being in the world.
Humans, he suggests, find themselves only through
creating meaning in the world. “Man is ultimately selfdetermining,” Frankl wrote. “Man does not simply exist
but always decides what his existence will be.”
Today it is that very capacity to “decide what our
existence will be” that seems to have ebbed away. For all
the material improvements in the world, life feels more
precarious for millions of people. They seem to have
less control in shaping the direction of their world.
Liberals often laud the Enlightenment as the
moment when faith was replaced by reason. The
new moral vision was, however, also rooted in faith,
though of a different kind – faith that humans were
capable of acting rationally and morally without
guidance from beyond. It was that faith upon which
Frankl drew. It was expressed not just through science
and technology but also through politics that helped
overthrow tyranny and bring about democracy.
That faith, too, has eroded, as have the movements in
which it was embodied.
Religion once helped provide meaning through
sublimating human agency to God’s will. Not only is
it less capable of doing so now, but when it does so it
often takes sectarian or bigoted forms. Equally, as the
optimism that once suffused the humanist impulse has
ebbed away, politics, too, is less capable of providing a
means through which people can express agency. The
politics that now seeks to do this is also often sectarian.
“God is dead,” Nietzsche wrote, before adding: “Yet
his shadow still looms.” That shadow is in reality our
failure to create movements and institutions that can
nurture a sense of meaning and belongingness and
dignity. Disbelief in God carries little weight without
also a faith in ourselves as human beings. Otherwise we
find ourselves in a different kind of hell. Observer
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 19
The Iraq war still poisons British national life
Gary Younge
From Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to Brexit
and the collapse of confidence in
Westminster, this is the UK’s Vietnam
– a conflict seemingly without end
ou can tell a true war story by the way it
never seems to end,” wrote Tim O’Brien
in his novel about Vietnam, The Things
They Carried. “Not then, not ever. In a
true war story, if there’s a moral at all, it’s
like the thread that makes the cloth. You
can’t tease it out. You can’t extract the
meaning without unravelling the deeper meaning.”
For all the ways in which US politics remain
unpredictable, the presence of the Vietnam war as an
episodic inflection point remains constant. Last month,
after Donald Trump declared a ban on some transgender
people serving in the military, it was pointed out that he
avoided serving in Vietnam thanks to five deferments,
the last for “bone spurs in his heels”. More than 40 years
after the fall of Saigon, it continues to influence how
Americans view politics at home.
What has been true for Vietnam and America has
become the case for Britain and Iraq. It is 15 years
since Britain and the US invaded Iraq. The most
important consequences of that war are, of course,
in the place where it was fought, where it has left an
estimated million people dead, destabilised a region
and spawned far more jihadist terror, including Isis,
than it could ever have thwarted.
The invasion’s legality and validity have been
debated constantly. But the legacy it bequeathed our
political culture is less often acknowledged, even as it
remains deep and enduring.
Its most obvious impact has been its contribution
to Labour’s current trajectory. Jeremy Corbyn’s stance
on the war is a significant element of his appeal. When
the largest march in British history took place against
the war, he spoke from the podium. When he stood for
leader he said it was illegal, that if elected he would
apologise for it, and that if it were ever deemed a war
crime, Tony Blair should go on trial.
Iraq is also the primary and overriding reason why
Blair could win three elections and yet now barely get
a hearing in his own party, let alone beyond. Maintaining that he made the right decision and that the world
is safer for it, he has opted to protect his legacy over
restoring his credibility, and ended up sacrificing both.
But the ramifications of Iraq go way beyond Labour,
to a broader matter of trust between the public and
the establishment. A year after the invasion, 60% said
they had lost trust in ministers. Almost a decade after
that, a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit argued
Britain was “beset by a deep institutional crisis” with
trust in government, parliament and politicians “at an
all-time low”. The British Social Attitudes survey of 2013
concluded: “Those who govern Britain today have an
uphill struggle to persuade the public that their hearts
are in the right place.”
Where politicians went in the public estimation,
journalists followed. The willingness of so much of
the media to uncritically accept the government’s case
eroded confidence in journalism. When the government
claimed Iraq could use weapons of mass destruction
Eleanor Shakespeare
in 45 minutes, some acted less like journalists than
stenographers: “45 minutes from attack” was the London Evening Standard front-page headline. “He’s got
’em let’s get him,” wrote the Sun. Liberal and left scepticism about the mainstream media over Iraq would
later spread rightwards and find different targets and
justifications – some more spurious than others. But if
this was not the beginning of a popular wariness that we
were being fed what is now termed “fake news”, then it
was at least a step-change in that direction.
The willingness of
so much of the media
to uncritically accept
the government’s case
eroded confidence
in journalism
eanwhile, playing fast and loose
with facts, misleading the public,
producing dossiers full of lies and
ignoring or distorting expertise – all
of which were central to the war
effort – helped contribute to a culture
in which experts are not valued, and
facts are considered optional. When the political class
wonders how our discourse has become so diminished,
self-destructive and coarsened that the country is
capable of rejecting the warnings of economists,
presidents and specialists, they could do worse than
start with the war that most of them supported.
“I think Iraq is connected with Brexit,” Jeremy
Greenstock, a former British ambassador to the UN, told
Huffington Post a few months after the EU referendum.
“The linkages can be traced from the protests over Iraq
in 2003 to the vote in the June 2016 referendum to leave
the EU: ‘The people up there in charge just do not seem
to be taking our views into account.’”
There are some who believe that this obsession with
a decision made 15 years ago is perverse. This is deeply
misguided. First, because many are still living with the
consequences. Amnesia is the privilege of the powerful. The powerless do not have the luxury of moving on,
because their nations have been flattened, economies ruined and sectarian divisions deepened and weaponised
as a result of a war that was prosecuted in their name.
Second, it was the greatest foreign policy error of a
generation or more, in which most of the political class
and the media class were entirely complicit. We cannot
walk away – because it has changed who we are, and so
wherever we go, this dark shadow follows us.
20 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Young trans
people need
help. Will
you listen?
Owl Fisher
Bill Bragg
Studies show that
society is failing
transgender kids
and young adults.
They need society’s
support, not censure
hen Paris Lees appeared on the
BBC political TV discussion show
Question Time last month, I and
many other trans people sat at
home cheering her on. When
she brought up the fact that
45% of trans young people have
attempted suicide the clip was shared widely online,
with overwhelmingly positive reactions. This wasn’t
the first time the statistic had been brought up on the
programme, yet it was dispiriting, to say the least, that
most of the panel seemed more concerned about the
persistent myth that kids are being sent for genital
surgery. Why is this crisis of mental health within the
trans community not the main source of concern?
These statistics reveal a deep, systemic problem,
and shed light on the way trans people are mistreated
in society. We’re failing trans kids, and we need to
talk about why. Virtually every single study on trans
adults and children arrives at a similar, alarmingly high,
percentage figure for attempted suicides.
In 2014, the Williams Institute and the American
Foundation for Suicide Prevention published research
that showed 46% of trans men and 42% of trans women
had attempted suicide. One of its major findings was
that trans people across all demographics and ranges of
experience have very high levels of attempted suicide.
Two studies that specifically focus on trans youth also
showed alarming figures. A study conducted in Australia
in 2017 showed that up to 79% of respondents had
self-harmed and up to 48% had attempted suicide. In a
similar 2012 study in New Zealand, 20% of respondents
had attempted suicide. And there is more. A lot more.
Studies on the wellbeing of trans kids who are supported in their identities show that they have the same
levels of depression and anxiety as their peers. This all
leads to the same conclusion: we must support trans
children. Trans people are too often bullied, stigmatised,
denied access to services and mistreated by society. Yet
so much of the media coverage seems concerned with
trans issues only when it’s about the alleged “problems”
we cause. Why aren’t we talking about the fact that up to
45% of young trans people are trying to kill themselves?
Why aren’t we talking about the long waiting times that
trans people have to endure in order to get access to
medical services? Why aren’t we talking about Naomi,
who was stabbed to death last month in London?
As a trans person I am no stranger to abuse. I know the
feeling of being so miserable because of the way people
treated me and so full of shame about myself that taking
my own life seemed like the only option. I’m fortunate to
still be here, and that is why I find it shameful to see some
prominent figures only bring up the suicide statistics in
order to place doubt on their validity.
Research clearly shows that trans children who are
supported are much happier. We need to listen to, and
learn from, the experiences of trans people. We need
to combat stigma, discrimination and hate. We need to
elevate the voices of trans people and stop giving platforms to false narratives and hateful individuals. The
best way to do so is to support organisations and campaigners fighting for trans rights. Be angry for us. Speak
up for us. Question false narratives that demonise trans
people. Share films about our lives. Support life-saving
organisations that offer help to trans youth and their
families. Be an ally.
Trans people are simply people, wanting to live their
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pose no threat to anyone else’s rights or safety. We need
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Owl Fisher is a writer, film-maker and campaigner. Suicide
helplines worldwide can be found at
More at
Opinion In brief
What would you do if you won a million?
I keep my own name for a reason
It’s a nice dilemma to have, and quietly devastating for the rest of us who
will probably never have to face such
a conundrum. A Canadian teenager
who won the lottery, after buying
her first ticket to celebrate her 18th
birthday, was given a choice: take
home an instant C$1m ($776,000); or
receive C$1,000 a week for the rest of
her life. After consulting a financial
adviser, Charlie Lagarde chose the
latter option.
There’s been a lot of debate online
(and in the office) about her choice.
Regardless of where you lived,
there would be a temptation to
choose the one-off sum. But there
seems to be quite a common narrative among large-sum lottery
winners of excess then despair –
one study even found that lottery
winners are more likely to declare
bankruptcy within three to five years
than the average person in America.
Occasionally there is an event that
makes me want to punch the air joyfully, because it’s proof that some
things are headed in the right direction. One of those moments came last
week when British foreign secretary
Boris Johnson, in an exchange
with the shadow foreign secretary
Emily Thornberry, called her by her
“married” name of Lady Nugee.
It was an attempt to diminish
Thornberry dressed up as an
acknowledgment of nothing more
than the fact that she is married to a
man called Sir Christopher Nugee.
But Thornberry has never used anything other than her birth name. She
is entitled to do that, and I have complete sympathy with her frustration
at being effectively ridiculed for it.
When I got married 30 years ago
my husband made clear in his speech
that he was not intending to be
called Gary Moorhead; which rather
I suppose it’s like being let loose in
a really big, shiny, toyshop where
everything is affordable. It must
take plenty of willpower to survive
such a situation.
One factor may be that Lagarde
is of the millennial generation, by
which I mean the generation that
has less economic stability than the
one before it, and the one before
that. The generation that works
unpaid internships; can barely
get on the property ladder; and is
constantly derided for apparently
eating too much avocado. Such a
precarious situation may influence
Lagarde picking economic stability
over a spending spree.
After some thought, I decided
that I, too, would take the weekly
payout. So what would you choose?
And if it’s a position you do ever find
yourself in, please let me know.
Hannah Jane Parkinson
neatly made the point, we thought,
about why I would not be known
by his name. But three decades on
I still get letters from relatives and
friends who appear not to “approve”
of my decision, and who address us
as Mr and Mrs.
Name-changing is a hopelessly
outdated legacy of a past in which
women were “owned”, first by their
father and then by their husband.
But it’s light years from 2018; so I
would challenge Meghan Markle,
if she really is the feminist she tells
us she is, to retain her own name
on marriage, rather than allowing
herself to be swallowed up into
“Princess Harry” or “Duchess of X”.
Keeping my own name – in
all circumstances, and in every
situation – is the single most
important signal I have ever given
the world about my expectations of
my life. Joanna Moorhead
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 21
In praise of …
Letting workers sleep
Britain is now less than a year from the date – 29 March 2019 – when it is due to leave the European Union
must learn
how to lead
Helen Lewis
If Labour is to finally
stamp out antisemitism,
its leader must learn
how to act with integrity
eremy Corbyn has perfected the art of looking
like a passenger in his own party, carried along
by circumstance, waving graciously like a
monarch from the carriage window. Last week’s
fallout from his Facebook comment defending
an antisemitic mural was no exception. Some
of his supporters applaud his reluctance to
engage, because they sense a plot (Blairite or Zionist,
take your pick) to damage him before the local elections
in May. “This whole row is being stirred up to attack
Jeremy, as we all know,” wrote Momentum’s Christine
Shawcroft in a public Facebook post on 30 March.
Although Labour’s strong election performance was
supposed to have ended its civil war, this narrative of
St Jeremy of the Sorrows – assailed by his enemies,
suffering for our sins – is never far from the surface. It
colours everything. A YouGov poll of Labour members
found that 47% believed antisemitism was a genuine
problem, but that it had been exaggerated to damage
Corbyn “or stifle criticism of Israel”. A further 30% didn’t
believe it was a “serious problem at all”. The remaining
group, who are deeply concerned and believe the party
needs to take urgent action, were far more likely to have
voted for Owen Smith than Corbyn as leader in 2016.
That divide explains why the current row feels
so intractable. Loyalists from Momentum and the
pro-Corbyn trade unions now dominate the party’s
Southside headquarters and its ruling national executive
committee, but the turnover among local councillors
has been slower. At the grassroots, then, there are still
frequent clashes between Labour’s new membership
and its old guard. Everything is a proxy war. Admittedly,
for the conspiracy-minded, it must seem strange that
a Facebook comment made by Jeremy Corbyn in 2012
is being debated six years later. Talk to Jewish Labour
members and community leaders, however, and the
opposite view emerges: they are surprised it has taken
this long. The Jewish Chronicle first asked Corbyn about
his defence of the mural, which depicted big-nosed
bankers counting money, in 2015. The newspaper did
not receive an answer.
Innumerable policies exist within
the workplace regarding smoking,
substance abuse, ethical behaviour
and injury and disease prevention.
But insufficient sleep – another
physically and mentally harmful
factor – is commonly tolerated and
even, woefully, encouraged.
Many business leaders still believe
that time on-task equates to productivity. It is a misguided and expensive
fallacy. Early studies we have undertaken at the Center for Human Sleep
Science at UC Berkeley have shown
that shorter amounts of sleep predict
both a lower work rate and slower
completion speed of basic tasks. That
is, sleepy employees are unproductive employees. Sleep-deprived
individuals also generate fewer and
less accurate solutions to problems.
Encouraging employees, supervisors, and executives to arrive at
work well rested turns them from
busy-looking yet ineffective individuals to productive, honest, useful
ones. Ounces of sleep offer pounds of
business in return. Matthew Walker
Corbyn now says that he did not see the mural
properly before commenting on it. Another dramatic
concept is useful here: the unreliable narrator. When
Corbyn pledges zero tolerance, he wants to be taken
at his word. The trouble is, for many in the Jewish
community, his words are worthless. There is a disconnect between the Labour’s leader sweeping statements
about opposing racism and the reluctance to act against
his friends and allies. As a politician, Corbyn is loyal to a
fault and here the fault is clear: excusing antisemitism.
What happens next? Act Three is supposed to bring
a resolution – and possibly catharsis. In the classic
“hero’s journey”, the protagonist might learn something
about himself and use this knowledge to resolve his
original problem. But sceptical Labour MPs believe
their leader still has not grasped the importance of
actively confronting antisemitism on the left. Of an
email sent to party members, one said: “It was not at
all bad, but a week too late.”
The next meeting of the parliamentary party is
scheduled for 16 April and Corbyn is due to attend.
Unless Corbyn and the NEC (national executive
committee) can show they have a grip on the problem,
some MPs say they are prepared to use parliamentary
privilege to name those who haven’t done enough to
combat antisemitism.
What did last week reveal about the state of Labour?
That Corbyn’s strengths as a speaker are matched by his
weakness as an actor. That some supporters believe any
criticism must be motivated by jealousy, disloyalty or
factionalism. And that there is no appetite for a breakaway party or another doomed attempt to topple him.
So Labour is trapped in an endless Act Two. But
despite Corbyn’s martyred demeanour – and, whenever
the subject is anything other than Brexit, his insistence
that he is merely the voice of the membership – he is the
party’s leader. Who is the protagonist in this drama, if not
him? If Labour’s story is going to reach a satisfying conclusion, only he can move the plot forward. Observer
Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman
22 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
North Korea and China
Three sides in this relationship
Kim Jong-un’s dramatic entrance into China
by train – his first foreign trip as North Korean
leader – reinforced his current message of
engagement. It also marked a new step in the
bilateral alliance. But in what direction?
The alliance, always fraught, has deteriorated since Mr Kim took power. Chinese state
media stressed the amity, but described an
“unusual” relationship. One reason is that
there are three of them in it, so it is a little bit
crowded. Mr Kim’s father and grandfather
were regular visitors to Beijing. His decision to
go there only last week, more than six years after taking power, clearly relates to his pending
meeting with Donald Trump, due to take place
by May. Beijing, Pyongyang and Washington
are trapped in a bizarre triangle, with no love
lost: only suspicion and a great deal at stake.
North Korea needs China’s food and energy,
but chafes at its subordinate position, and
has long sought talks with the US. Winning
those gives Mr Kim the chance to rebalance
relations with China. But meeting Xi Jinping
first reassured Beijing that he is not cutting it
out. It strengthens him, and offers insurance
should talks go badly.
Meanwhile, China doesn’t want to be sidelined. This trip has reinserted Beijing into proceedings dominated by Seoul, Pyongyang and
Washington. An additional benefit for Beijing
may be leverage with the US as Mr Trump slaps
on trade sanctions.
Beijing doesn’t like the North’s nuclear
programme, but its desired outcomes are
very different from America’s. It certainly
doesn’t want a highly risky US military attack
on its doorstep. It assumes talk of such action
is intended to strong-arm Beijing into piling
pressure on the North. But who can count on
that with Mr Trump in power – and advised by
figures such as John Bolton, who never met a
war he didn’t like?
In turn, the US sees China as key to making North Korea behave itself. But if it can get
there without offering China a quid pro quo,
all the better. And Mr Trump would love to
make these talks his personal victory.
The danger is that they could be a disaster.
Negotiations with North Korea demand skill,
patience and coordination. Mr Trump is a volatile, egotistic unilateralist marching in with a
side largely shorn of expertise. There are fears
that he might make critical concessions over
the heads of advisers and allies – and equally
that he could dismiss these talks too quickly,
and warn that the only option left is force.
What Mr Kim and Mr Xi discussed remains
a mystery. Did China agree to dial down the
pressure? How closely did they coordinate
over the approaching summit? But opacity
fogs the vision of the players as well as that of
their audience. Each side has at best partial
knowledge of the rival interests, priorities and
tactics. And if Mr Trump and Mr Kim meet as
planned, ignorance and misapprehensions
could have truly frightening consequences.
A lost serendipity
Relative to other disruptions associated with
the digital revolution, the demise of the B-side
song hardly registers. But for analogue-raised
generations, there is fondness for songs that
were pressed into vinyl service as the lesser
support act to hits. Sometimes these alsorun tunes achieved wonders. Rock Around
the Clock by Bill Haley and His Comets, a
landmark in the popularisation of rock’n’roll,
was first issued in 1954 as the B-side to the
deservedly forgotten Thirteen Women (And
Only One Man in Town).
Sixty-four years later, the closest equivalent to the B-side is the unknown song that
turns up in a playlist curated by an algorithm.
Instead of waiting by the radio each week
to hear the charts, listeners have access to
tens of millions of new songs. The amount
of recorded music released last year is estimated to be around seven times greater than
was released in 1960. When artists relied on
music industry gatekeepers just to get into
a studio the business was rife with sexism,
racism, corruption and exploitation. Today
fans are spoilt for choice – but that glut spoils
the pleasure in choosing. It is hard to navigate
the sheer volume without reliance on “smart”
functions in services such as Spotify and Apple. But there is cause to lament the loss of
shared musical revelations – the simultaneous
opening of millions of ears to a new sound;
the British ritual of Thursday nights with Top
of the Pops; and of Friday mornings discussing it in the playground. The smaller volume
of releases belonged to an old architecture of
common cultural experience. And that is the
stuff of which national identity is made.
The fragmentation of cultural consumption into a digital labyrinth is not a problem
on the same scale as the fragmentation of
politics into mutually hostile, polarised tribes.
But they are driven by the same technological
processes. The clock cannot be turned back.
But it is also wrong to treat the digital culture
boom as all A-side, when we have no way to
measure the cost of losing the B-side.
time for Assange
as patience thins
James Ball
Convincing yourself, and the world,
that you’re a major political player
on the global stage is a tough ask
when you’re confined to your bedroom. It’s an act that Julian Assange
has been trying for years – and one
which is starting to have consequences on the WikiLeaks founder.
Assange has had his internet
access cut off by Ecuador’s embassy
in London for a second time – the first
being a result of WikiLeaks’ intervention in the US election with the leak
of emails from the Hillary Clinton
campaign, and Assange’s tweets
expressing political preference.
Ecuador made him sign an
undertaking not to get involved in
the politics of other countries – only
for the WikiLeaks Twitter account,
and Assange’s personal account, to
tweet about Catalonian independence and Britain’s expulsion of Russian diplomats. As a result, Assange
has once again had his internet
access stopped – and the embassy is
reportedly turning away visitors.
Since he entered the embassy
in the summer of 2012, there has
been a change in government
in Quito, a change in Assange’s
public image, and years of daily
frustrations between a man who
has been called the “world’s worst
houseguest” and a country not
known for respecting a free media.
Assange would like to portray
himself as a stateless challenger of
power but has found himself in the
same position as a grounded teenager: Ecuador decides who he sees,
what can be in his room, even when
he washes and tidies up (a regular
source of friction). Additionally for
someone trying to offer safety to
whistleblowers around the world, he
is a stationary target for the world’s
intelligence agencies.
Assange lives in a world of
dissonance, right down to his reasons
for being in the embassy. He talks
of being a political prisoner due to
his work for free speech. In reality,
he fled from justice having decided
not to face Swedish authorities
over an investigation into rape and
sexual assault.
Reconciling Assange’s version
of events with reality is an all-but
impossible task. As Ecuadorian
patience continues to crumble,
Assange may soon find reality will
come to bite.
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 23
Give May some credit
Well done George Monbiot for a
forthright, courageous, and above
all philosophical account of his
experience with prostate cancer
(23 March). He’s right: the best
way to cope with this is to have the
positive perspective he describes.
The only thing I would add, on
the basis of my own excellent guidance in helping me with my current
prostate cancer scare, is that there is
still much to be said for continuing
existing routine checks for prostate
cancer despite the limitations of the
PSA blood test while we are pressing
for the better test that George
refers to. Such checks significantly
increase the odds in favour of early
detection and treatment of this
insidious disease.
I wish George well in his future
treatment and life in general. I for
one look forward to reading commentary pieces from this “argumentative old git” long into the future.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia
I felt compelled to write when I
read “The gaunt post-Brexit future
towards which May is stubbornly
leading us will make Britain a poorer,
meaner, lonelier and shabbier place”
(Leader comment, 9 March). I would
like to remind the British people that,
May was a campaigner for Remain.
She is now faced with leading the
country after the mess that Boris
Johnson and Nigel Farage created.
Do people realise how hard it
is to sell a product that you don’t
100% believe in? Her job is not easy
considering the position she is in.
The British people should at least
be thankful that they have a prime
minister who tries to hang on despite
the odds, despite what she believed
in (pro-remain) because she was
given the responsibility to do so.
Evangeline Mañalac
Oslo, Norway
Pigs are treated cruelly
I was disappointed that in your fivepage article about bacon (How can
bacon be so bad…? 23 March) there
was no mention of pigs or factory
farming, nor was there a photo of
a pig. People might be less willing
to eat bacon or pork if they thought
about the fact that most of it comes
from intelligent creatures with
feelings, who are treated cruelly in
many ways. Piglets have their tails
cut off without anaesthetic, most
male pigs are castrated, again without anaesthetic or painkillers, and
almost all modern pigs are forced to
spend their whole life confined in
small cages inside concrete buildings. If you have a strong stomach,
Google “cruelty to pigs” before you
eat your next piece of bacon or pork.
James Webb
Kyoto, Japan
Another side of Nigeria
Thank you to Chitra Nagarajan and
the Guardian Weekly (Focus on
abductions warps view of Nigeria,
9 March). I lived in north-east Nigeria
Letters for publication
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Guardian Weekly, Kings Place,
90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK
Ellie Foreman-Peck
On cancer and perspective
for two years and find it frustrating to
have so little context for the sporadic
reports of abductions. The deaths of
men and boys are almost expected,
given that communities usually try
to protect the vulnerable; yet, we
hear only about the kidnappings, as
if they happened by magic.
I hope this opinion piece leads
to more detailed reporting by The
Guardian. What I really hope is that
the violence and abductions cease.
Judith Umbach
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The mystery of David Byrne
The secret to deciphering the inner
David Byrne (“Is there another way
to live?”, 30 March) through his
corpus is, I think, that there is none
– all he throws are curveballs. There
are musical concepts – not as overt
as Bowie’s – but which is the twitch
in twitchy? Revisit his and Eno’s
composition, My Life in the Bush
of Ghosts, with its array of musical
genres (and rhetorical spoken-word)
sourced from around the planet and
moulded into rock’n’roll by adding
on beats and changing tempos. Yet it
all works, with a spooky joie de vivre.
Dorian Lynskey’s assessment of
him as “a neutral observer of his
own life” is key – he’s outside – a
performance-artist of himself. He
is a chronicler of his milieu with a
lower-case “c” and meant to stay
that way. Perhaps he can only be
limned from the genres and spheres
he has chosen to avoid.
RM Fransson
Wheat Ridge, Colorado, US
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• The wonderful story by Patrick
Collinson (Finns are world’s happiest people, 16 March) greatly raised
my spirits. With the great poverty,
injustice and inequality and other
problems that plague the world, it
is so encouraging to know that progressive societies like Finland exist.
Steven Katsineris
Hurstbridge, Victoria, Australia
• So “the western alliance has
the nobler record of underpinning
stability and spreading prosperity.” (Sergei Skripal and the sowing
of discord, Leader comment, 16
March). Stability and prosperity
such as in Vietnam, Afghanistan,
Iraq, Libya, Syria …
Art Campbell
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
• I wish to point out that, in reality,
building Stonehenge (Party like it’s
2500BC, 16 March) was a very clear
employment project designed by the
women to keep their men busy and
out of the house for long periods.
Women taking advantage of men’s
proclivity for showing off feats of
strength continues to this day.
Nancy Scott
Elora, Ontario, Canada
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From the archive
6 April 1955
Churchill resigns,
to great applause
Sir Winston arrived at Buckingham
Palace looking more at ease than he
did on the last two occasions when
he came for his weekly audience
with the Queen. Then he was
serious, subdued, and oblivious
of onlookers. Yesterday, as his car
glided through the Palace gates, he
took his cigar firmly in his left hand,
blew out a long stream of smoke,
and smiled to the crowds. They gave
a small, uncertain cheer.
When he emerged 45 minutes
later he was alert and fully aware
of the hundreds standing on the
pavements and clustered round the
Victoria Memorial. For a moment
silence. Then a cheer such as one
does not hear except at Coronations.
The ranks broke and surged through
the policemen and after the car.
In Downing Street
It was at 4:25 p.m. that the
front door of 10 Downing Street
was opened … A moment later Sir
Winston came out on the steps,
where he paused and looked at
the crowd.
As the crowd broke into applause,
which soon turned into three
prolonged cheers, Sir Winston
continued to stand on the steps,
looking confident and entirely possessed. He got into his car and waved
as it drove slowly towards Whitehall.
At 5:15 the police superintendent
standing in front of No. 10 received
a signal from the end of Downing
Street. Three minutes later Sir
Winston’s car turned into Downing
Street from Whitehall. As it moved
slowly up the street there was
almost no noise from the crowd. For
a split second the silence became
almost embarrassing. But when the
car stopped in front of No. 10 the
silence was ended by an outburst
of loud applause and prolonged
cheering. Sir Winston stepped from
the car and exhaled an enormous
puff of cigar smoke. He waved to the
crowd, moved firmly up the steps,
paused on the landing, and gave the
V-sign. The crowd roared its delight.
Crowds remained in Downing
Street all evening, singing and
shouting for Sir Winston. He came
to an open window at 8:45 and
gave the V-sign eleven times.
Then at 11:00 he again came to the
window, wearing what looked like a
dressing gown, gave the V-sign, and
waved as though to make it clear
that it was his final appearance for
the night. By 11:20 the street was at
last empty, except for a constable
standing outside.
24 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
A photograph, showing riot damage in Washington DC after the assassination of black rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr on 4 April 1968, is displayed on the now-rebuilt street corner. Even
The view from inside the cockpit of a United States C-130 Hercules aircraft as it comes in
to land at Bagram airfield near Kabul, Afghanistan Reuters
French president Emmanuel Macron pays respects to Gendarme Colonel Arnaud Beltrame at a
state funeral for the police officer who died following a terrorist siege in Trèbes Chesnot/Getty
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 25
nts took place this week to mark the 50th anniversary of King’s death Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
A newborn wombat named Apari peers out from his mother’s pouch at Duisburg zoo,
Germany, which had been trying to breed wombats for 40 years Martin Meissner/AP
A woman sifts through discarded religious offerings in the Ganges river, following the Chaitra
Navratri Hindu festival in Kolkata, India Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
A couple take a photograph as they enjoy Hanami, the traditional spring pastime of viewing
cherry blossom, as the trees in Tokyo reach their full glory Toru Hanai/Reuters
26 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 27
Bye bye Beijing
A correspondent’s departing view
→ Weekly Review, page 31
Could a populist
moment become
the populist age?
Authoritarians are on the rise, and electorates
are being seduced by extremes. To fight back and
answer its critics, liberal democracy must rebuild
its moral foundations, argues Yascha Mounk
Carsten Koall; James Arthur Gekiere; Carl Court; Ozan Kose/Getty; Kayhan Ozer/AP; Dan Kitwood/PA
here are long decades in which history seems to slow to a crawl. Elections are won and lost, laws adopted
and repealed, new stars born and
legends carried to their graves. But
for all the ordinary business of time
passing, the lodestars of culture, society and politics
remain the same. Then there are those short years
in which everything changes all at once. Political
newcomers storm the stage. Voters clamour for
policies that were unthinkable until yesterday.
Social tensions that had long simmered under the
surface erupt into terrifying explosions. A system
of government that had seemed immutable looks
as though it might come apart. This is the kind of
moment in which we now find ourselves.
Until recently, liberal democracy reigned
triumphant. For all its shortcomings, most citizens
seemed committed to their form of government. The
economy was growing. Radical parties were insignificant. Political scientists thought that democracy
in places like France or the United States had long
ago been set in stone, and would change little in the
years to come. Politically speaking, it seemed, the
future would not be much different from the past.
Then the future came – and turned out to be very different indeed. Citizens have long been disillusioned
with politics; now, they have grown restless, angry,
even disdainful. Party systems have long seemed
frozen; now, authoritarian populists are on the rise,
from America to Europe, and from Asia to Australia.
Voters have long disliked particular parties, politicians or governments; now, many of them have become fed up with liberal democracy itself.
Donald Trump’s election to the White House has
been the most striking manifestation of democracy’s
crisis. But it is hardly an isolated incident. In Russia
and Turkey, elected strongmen have succeeded in
turning fledgling democracies into electoral dictatorships. In Poland and Hungary, populist leaders
are using that same playbook to destroy the free
media, to undermine independent institutions and
to muzzle the opposition.
More countries may soon follow. In Austria,
a far-right candidate nearly won the country’s
presidency. In France, a rapidly changing political landscape is providing new openings for both
the far left and the far right. In Spain and Greece,
established party systems are disintegrating with
breathtaking speed. Even in the supposedly stable
and tolerant democracies of Sweden, Germany and
the Netherlands, extremists are celebrating unprecedented successes. There can no longer be any
doubt that we are going through a populist moment.
The question is whether this populist moment will
turn into a populist age – and cast the very survival
of liberal democracy in doubt.
When democracy is stable, it is in good part
because all major political actors are willing to
adhere to the basic rules of the democratic game
most of the time. Some of these rules are formal.
A president or prime minister allows the judiciary
to investigate wrongdoing by members of his government instead of firing the prosecutor. He puts up
with critical coverage in the press instead of shutting
down newspapers or persecuting journalists. When
he loses an election, he leaves office peacefully instead of clinging to power. But many of these rules
are informal, making it less clearcut when they are
violated. The government does not rewrite electoral
rules months before an election to maximise its
chance of winning. Political insurgents do not glorify
authoritarian rulers of the past, threaten to lock up
their opponents or set out to violate the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. The losers of an election
refrain from limiting the scope of an office to which
an adversary has been elected in their last days in
the job. The opposition confirms a competent judge
whose ideology it dislikes rather than leaving a seat
on the highest court in the land vacant, and strikes
an imperfect compromise about the budget rather
than letting the government shut down.
In short, politicians with a real stake in the system
may think of politics as a contact sport in which all
participants are hustling to gain an advantage over
their adversaries. But they are also keenly aware
that there need to be some limits on the pursuit of
their partisan interests; that winning an important
election or passing an urgent law is less important
than preserving the system; and that democratic
politics must never degenerate into all-out war. “For
democracies to work,” Michael Ignatieff, the political theorist and former leader of the Liberal party
of Canada, wrote a few years ago, “politicians need
to respect the difference between an enemy and an
adversary. An adversary is someone you want to
defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy.”
In the US, and in many other countries, that is no
longer how democratic politics works. As Ignatieff
sees it, we are increasingly “seeing what happens
when a politics of enemies supplants a politics of
adversaries”. And the Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 new crop of populists
who have stormed the political stage over the past
decades shoulder a lot of the blame for this.
The rise of political newcomers is as likely to be a
sign of democratic vitality as it is of impending sickness. Political systems benefit from competition of
ideas and from a regular substitution of one ruling
elite for another. New parties can help in both ways.
By forcing long-neglected issues on to the political
agenda, they increase the representativeness of the
political system. And by catapulting a new crop of
politicians into office, they inject the system with
fresh blood. Even so, there is good reason to think
that the recent thawing of the party system is far
from benign. For many of the new parties do not just
provide ideological alternatives within the democratic system – they challenge key rules and norms
of the system itself. One of the earliest populists
to rise to prominence was Austria’s Jörg Haider, a
slick, charismatic politician. But the degree to which
he was willing to undermine core norms of liberal
democracy became apparent whenever he engaged
in a sly revaluation of Austria’s Nazi past. Speaking
to an audience including many former SS officers,
Haider claimed that “our soldiers were not criminals; at most, they were victims”. Breaking political
norms is also a speciality of Geert Wilders, the leader
of the Dutch Freedom party (PVV). Islam, he has
argued, is “a dangerous totalitarian ideology”. While
other populists have sought to outlaw minarets or
burkinis, Wilders, determined not to be outdone,
has gone so far as to demand a ban on the Qur’an.
By comparison to Haider and Wilders, a figure
like Beppe Grillo seems far more benign at first
blush, promising to take power from a self-serving
and geriatric “political caste”, and to fight for a more
modern and tolerant Italy. But once the Five Star
Movement gained in popularity, it quickly took on
an antisystem hue. Its attacks on the corruption of
individual politicians slowly morphed into a radical rejection of key aspects of the political system,
including parliament itself. Angerr against the
political establishment was sustained
ained by a
growing willingness to engage in conspiracy theories or to tell outright lies
es about
political opponents.
The reason why populists and political
newcomers are so willing to challenge
enge basic
democratic norms is in part tactical:
cal: whenever populists break such norms,
s, they
attract the univocal condemnation
n of
the political establishment. And this
of course proves that, as advertised,
the populists really do represent
a clean break from the status quo.
There is thus something performaative about populists’ tendency to
break democratic norms: while
their most provocative statements
are often considered gaffes by politiical observers, their very willingness
to commit such gaffes is a big part
of their appeal. But their recklesssness is no less dangerous for all of
that. Once some members of the
political system are willing to break
the rules, others have a big incentive
to follow suit. And that, increasingly,
is what they do. While some of the
e most
spectacular attacks on basic democratic
norms have come from political newcomers, the representatives of old, established
parties have also become increasingly
ngly willing
to undermine the basic rules of the
e game.
At times, established parties on the left have
given in to the temptation of violating democratic
norms. During the Obama presidency, the executive continued to expand its role in some worrying
ways, prosecuting a record number of journalists
for handling classified information and using executive orders to bypass Congress in policy areas
from the environment to immigration. Even so,
most political scientists agree that the Republicans
are now, by far, the best example for a concerted attack on democratic norms perpetrated by a nominally establishment party. Just take what happened
in the wake of the 2016 gubernatorial elections in
North Carolina. Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate, won a highly contentious election by an
extremely narrow margin. But instead of recognising that this gave him a mandate to rule for the next
four years, Republicans rewrote his job description.
North Carolina’s governor used to be responsible for
appointing 1,500 gubernatorial staffers; according to
a law passed by the outgoing Republican legislature,
he would henceforth be permitted to appoint only
425. The governor had previously been charged with
appointing up to 66 trustees to the school boards of
the University of North Carolina; now, he would be
permitted to appoint none. The naked partisanship
of these actions is undeniable. So is their import: Republicans in North Carolina have effectively rejected
the notion that we resolve political differences by
free and fair elections and are willing to submit to
the rule of our political rivals when we lose.
Citizens are less committed to democracy than
they once were; while more than two-thirds of older
Americans say that it is essential to them to live in a
democracy, for example, less than a third of younger
Americans do. They are also more open to authoritarian alternatives; two decades ago, for example,
25% of Britons said that they liked the idea of “a
strongman ruler who does not have to bother with
parliament and elections”; today, 50% of them do.
And these attitudes are increasingly reflected in our
politics: from Britain to the US, and from Germany to
Hungary, respect for dem
democratic rules and norms has
precipitously decline
declined. No longer the only game in
town, democracy is now deconsolidating.
That conclusion,
conclusion I know, is hard to swallow.
We like to think of the world as getting better
over time, and of li
liberal democracy as deepening its roots with every passing year. That is
why, of all my claims, the one
perhaps w
that has elicited the most scepticism
that young people have
is the idea
especially critical of demobeen e
cracy. Americans and the British
find it especially hard to believe
that young people are most disaffe
ected. After all, young people
heavily leaned toward Hillary
Clinton, the candidate of contiClin
nuity, in the last US elections:
among voters below the age
of 30, 55% supported Clinton
while only 37% supported
Trump. The story of Brexit
was very similar. Whereas
two-thirds of pension-age Brits
voted to leave the European
Union, two-thirds of millennials
voted for tthe status quo. But the attraction of the young to political extremes
has grown
grow over time. In countries
like Germ
Germany, the UK and the US, for
example, the
t number of young people
who locate them
themselves on the radical left or
the radical right has
h roughly doubled over the
two decades; in Sweden, it has
course of the past tw
increased by more than threefold. Polling data for
populist parties bears out this story as well. While
young people were less likely to vote for Trump or
Brexit, they are much more likely to vote for antisystem parties in many countries around the world.
Marine Le Pen, for example, can count young people
as some of her most fervent supporters. In this,
France is hardly an exception. On the contrary, polls
have found similar results in countries as varied as
Austria, Greece, Finland and Hungary.
One possible explanation for why a lot of young
people are disenchanted with democracy is that
they have little conception of what it would mean
to live in a different political system. People born in
the 1930s and 40s experienced the threat of fascism
as children or were raised by people who actively
fought it. They spent their formative years during
the cold war, when fears of Soviet expansionism
drove the reality of communism home to them.
The rise of political
newcomers is as likely to
be a sign of vitality as it is
of impending sickness
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 29
Age of extremes … the post-millennium political
landscape has seen the rise of politicians such as
Marine Le Pen in France (left); Austria’s Jörg
Haider (below left); and Donald Trump Chesnot/
Getty; Daniel Raunig/Getty; Chris Kleponis/EPA
When they are asked whether it is important to
them to live in a democracy, they have some sense
of what the alternative might mean.
Millennials in countries such as the UK or the US,
by contrast, barely experienced the cold war and
may not even know anybody who fought fascism. To
them, the question of whether it is important to live
in a democracy is more abstract. Doesn’t this imply
that, if they were actually faced with a threat to their
system, they would be sure to rally to its defence?
The very fact that young people have little idea
of what it would mean to live in a system other than
their own may make them willing to engage in political experimentation. Used to seeing and criticising
the (real) injustices and hypocrisies of the system in
which they grew up, many of them have mistakenly
started to take its positive aspects for granted.
Ever since philosophers began to think about
the concept of self-rule, they have put particular
emphasis on civic education. From Plato to Cicero,
and from Machiavelli to Rousseau, all of them were
obsessed with the question of how to instil political virtue in the youth. It is hardly surprising, then,
that the small band of patriots who dared establish
a new republic in America also thought hard about
how to convey their values to the generations that
would come after them. What, George Washington
asked in his Eighth Annual Address, could be more
important than to pass civic values down to “the
future guardians of the liberties of the country”?
“A people who mean to be their own Governors,”
James Madison echoed a few years later, “must arm
themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
His fears about what would happen to America if it
neglected this crucial task sound oddly apposite
today: “A popular Government, without popular
information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a
Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
For the first centuries of the republic’s existence,
this emphasis on civic education shaped the country. Parents sought to raise tomorrow’s citizens,
competing with each other to see whose four-yearold could name more presidents. Schools across the
US devoted ample time to teaching students “How a
Bill Becomes a Law”. Civic education in all its forms
stood at the core of the American project – as it also
did in, say, Britain, Germany and Scandinavia. Then,
amid an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity,
the idea that support for self-government had to be
won anew with every passing generation started to
fade. Today, it is all but extinct.
Many conservative thinkers have suggested
a simple remedy to these complex ills. As David
Brooks put the point in a recent New York Times
column, the history of western civilisation should
be taught in a “confidently progressive” manner:
“There were certain great figures, like Socrates,
Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped
fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the
humanistic ideal.” Brooks is right to emphasise the
importance of civic education. But he is wrong to
suggest that the future of civics
ivics should consist
in quite so hagiographic an account of the
past. For all of its flaws, there
re is, after
all, a kernel of truth to the critiques
that parts of the academic
mic left
level against liberal democracy.
Even though they aspired to universality, many Enlightenment
thinkers ended up excluding
large groups from moral cononsideration. Even though they
have huge accomplishments
to their name, many of the
“great men” of history commitmmitted horrifying misdeeds. And even
though the ideal of liberall democracy is very much worth defending, its current practice continues
tinues to
tolerate some shameful injustices.
Both the history of the Enlightenment and the reality off liberal
democracy are complex. Any attempt to present them in uncritical terms is bound to run counter
to the basic Enlightenment
nt value
of veracity, and to undermine
the basic democratic principle
ciple of
striving toward political equality.
It is the recognition of these
se facts
– as well as understandable
e anger
at the blithe dismissal of them
hem on
large parts of the right – thatt makes
it so tempting for many off today’s
journalists and academics
cs to settle into a pose of pure and persistent
critique. But an exclusive focus on today’s injustices
is no more intellectually honest than an unthinking
exhortation of the greatness of western civilisation.
To be true to its own ideals, civic education thus
needs to feature both the real injustices and the great
achievements of liberal democracy – and strive to
make students as determined to rectify the former
as they are to defend the latter.
One integral part of this education should be an
account of the reasons why the principles of liberal
democracy retain a special appeal. Teachers and professors should spend much more time pointing out
that ideological alternatives to liberal democracy,
from fascism to communism, and from autocracy
to theocracy, remain as repellent today as they have
been in the past. And they should also be much more
clear about the fact that the right response to hypocrisy is not to dismiss appealing principles that are
often invoked insincerely but rather to work even
harder for them to be put into practice at long last.
As I argue in my book, The People vs. Democracy,
we will only be able to contain the rise of populism
if we ensure that the political system overcomes the
very real shortcomings that have fuelled it. Ordinary
people have long felt that politicians don’t listen to
them when they make their decisions. They are
sceptical for a reason: the rich and powerful really
have had a worrying degree of influence over public policy for a very long time. The revolving door
between lobbyists and legislators, the outsized
role of private money in campaign finance, and the
tight links between politics and industry really have
undermined the degree to which the popular will
steers public policy.
All of this has had a large impact on the government’s ability to deliver for ordinary people.
The living standards of ordinary people have, in
many North American and western European
countries, been stagnating for decades. And the
growing frustration about a lack of material prohelped to fuel a massive culgress has, in turn, he
tural backlash aga
against the ideals of an equal,
multi-ethnic socie
These shortcomings
can only be addressed
through substantia
substantial reform. Institutions need
uence of money on politics and
to curb the influenc
find new ways to a
allow citizens to have a say.
Politicians need
nee to recover the will and
the imagination
imaginatio to ensure that the fruits
of globalisation
and free trade are dismuch more equally. And cititributed mu
zens – which is to say all of us – need to
work even harder
to build an inclusive
patriotism that protects vulnerable
minorities against discrimination
while emphasising
what unites
rather than what divides us.
But the project of saving
liberal democracy also calls
for something more highminded . Populists have
only been able to celebrate
such astounding successes
because the moral foundabe
tions of our system are far
more brittle than we realised. And so
anybody who
wh seeks to make a contribution to rev
revitalising democracy must
first help to rebuild it on a more stable
ideological footing. Observer
Yascha Mounk
Mou is a lecturer on government at Ha
Harvard and the author of
The People v
vs. Democracy: Why Our
Freedom is in
i Danger and How to Save It
30 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Weekly review
Iranian girls lift bars to competition
A child’s tears ended up helping
female athletes in their quest for
equality, writes Brian Oliver
f you are good at weightlifting in Iran, you
can become as rich as a Premier League
footballer. The country boasts 300 professional weightlifters, dedicated arenas in
every sizable town, and full-time officials
in all 31 provinces. When an Olympic
champion got married in 2006, his wedding made
national television news.
“Weightlifting is more popular in Iran than in
any other country,” said Mohammad Barkhah, the
national team’s head coach. Only football is more
popular and, as with football, the sport has historically been an overwhelmingly male domain – until
now. Four teenagers are set to become the first female weightlifters to represent Iran – in a competition in Uzbekistan this month. The young women
have the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in their
sights, and weightlifting has become an unlikely
vehicle of female empowerment.
The change has come about thanks in part to a remarkable alliance between Iran and the US, and the
efforts of an eight-year-old girl who won nationwide
support for the women’s cause last month.
Aysan Adib was in tears when security men enforced a ban on females entering the arena for a
men’s international competition, the Fajr Cup, in
Ahvaz, south-west Iran. Religious leaders in Khuzestan province had given permission for the ban to
be relaxed but, because the signed paperwork was
not presented, the security guards refused them
entry. Aysan, and six-year-old Yeganeh Bandeh
Khodo, thus missed a unique chance to show off
their skills in a demonstration scheduled for the
penultimate day of the event. The result was a passionate protest that rapidly went viral. Ursula Garza
Papandrea, one of the most senior women in the
sport, who headed a US delegation of three to the
competition, joined the exiled girls outside.
‘I’ll wear whatever we
have to wear, anywhere,
if it will help to further
women’s weightlifting’
The Americans were in Ahvaz to help launch
Iran’s female weightlifting programme, making sporting history along the way. Garza Papandrea, a highly qualified coach who is president
of USA Weightlifting and vice-president of the
sport’s global governing body, the International
Weightlifting Federation, became the first woman
to coach a man in an Iranian competition when
she helped Derrick Johnson to victory in the
Fajr Cup 62kg class on the first day. Sally Van de
Water, a technical official who is also state folklorist
for Pennsylvania, was the first woman to referee in
a men’s competition.
The Americans have forged a strong relationship with Iran – “this is above politics,” said Garza
Papandrea. They were feted by dignitaries everywhere they went, photographed, interviewed and
plied with gifts. The exclusion of the two girls was
therefore embarrassing for Iran – and big news.
Power display …
Aysan Adib, aged eight,
prepares to lift; above,
with Ursula Garza
Papandrea and Sally
Van de Water
That news spread fast after pictures of a tearful
Aysan appeared on social media. Khuzestan’s provincial governor, Gholamreza Shariati, stepped
in and, a day later, led Aysan, Yeganeh and the
vice-president of Iran’s women’s weightlifting
programme, Reyhaneh Tarighat, into the arena.
There were also women among the spectators, on
the results and media desks and, to the visible disgust of one of the security men, even in the VIP seats.
Aysan and Yeganeh gave their performance a
day late, when the men had finished. As the crowd
cheered they became the first female weightlifters
to appear on Iranian television, live on state-owned
Channel 3, after which they were surrounded by
media men and – another first – women.
The story made the front page of the national
daily newspaper Hamshahri, which has nearly
a million readers. A call to “let them in” went up
as the issue of women in sport became a hot topic
in the Iranian media.
Shahrokh Shahnazi, the secretary general of
Iran’s Olympic committee, said the body would be
supporting the women and could one day bid to host
the weightlifting world championships, which have
not been held in Iran in more than half a century.
The brains behind the women’s programme is
Ali Moradi, the influential president of the Iranian
weightlifting federation. He became convinced
of the need for change at the Rio Olympics as he
watched a teenager in a hijab, Sara Ahmed, become the first Egyptian woman to win an Olympic
weightlifting medal.
“We cannot make any progress without the
support of men,” said Tarighat, who has a vision
that the female contingent will become “even better
than the men’s team”.
Big challenges remain. Women’s sport is barely
ever shown on television in Iran, and women are
forbidden to watch men compete, may not perform without a hijab, and their kit must conform
to Islamic dress code. A newly designed weightlifting costume was sent to the authorities earlier this
month: a verdict is due soon.
Iran’s top female footballer, Niloufar Ardalan,
was unable to play international matches in 2015
when her husband would not give the approval she
needed, under Islamic law, to travel outside Iran.
She contacted Garza Papandrea to thank her for
her support in weightlifting, and said she wished
somebody would do the same in football.
“There are issues in sport and gender that are
experienced only in Iran,” said Bahman Baktiari,
an American-Iranian academic who is executive
director of the International Foundation for Civil
Society. He added: “Islamic restrictions take away
the competitiveness of sport in Iran.”
Garza Papandrea, who lecture s in political
science in Austin, Texas, said she had been blown
away by the reaction: “Of all the many women’s
projects I have supported over the years, this one
is the most significant.”
She and Van de Water wore headscarves for
their week in Ahvaz. “I’ll wear whatever we have
to wear, anywhere, if it will help to further women’s weightlifting – and I don’t think that is true
of all the feminists in our sport,” she said. “We’re
talking about developing a long-term relationship
with Iran. If we can help Iranian women to compete
internationally, of course we want to help. I’m so
proud to see what is happening here.” Observer
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 31
Weekly review
Good riddance, Guardian
Outgoing Beijing correspondent
Tom Phillips reflects on the trials
of reporting under surveillance
ou don’t work out, do you?”
inquired one of the officers who
had summoned me to my hotel
lobby in China’s pre-eminent police state. We had only checked
in 10 minutes earlier and, after an
exhausting week reporting along Xinjiang’s spectacular high-altitude border with Pakistan, I was
desperate for a hot shower and a snooze.
But “Mike” and his partner “Max” – two Uighur
police officers tasked with thwarting the slightest
hint of hostile foreign journalism in this repressive
region of western China – were insistent.
Could I pop down for a chat?
Over afternoon tea in the lobby of Kashgar’s
Radisson Blu, we pondered my spindly, gymdeprived physique and Mike’s love of Flamenco
music and his impeccable American English.
White armoured personnel carriers trundled past
the hotel’s fortified entrance and, finally, we came
to the point. Without the express permission of local authorities, reporting was strictly forbidden in
these troubled parts, Mike informed me. Not only
did I lack biceps, it seemed, but I lacked that too.
That warning delivered, we ended our meeting
with forced smiles and needlessly firm handshakes. “You are being watched,” one passerby
later whispered into my ear after observing my bizarre hotel lobby date with Mike and Max. “Every
call you make. Every place you go.”
Covering China’s slide back towards one-man
rule has been an unnerving and surreal mission. Since I touched down here in the summer
of 2012 the political climate has soured dramatically with the rise of Xi Jinping, a strongman
leader so powerful some call him the “chairman
of everything”. So too has the experience of
reporting here, particularly for those of us tasked
with documenting the human cost of China’s authoritarian tack.
Kicking off his second term last October with
a speech from which foreign “troublemakers”
including the Guardian, the New York Times and
the BBC were barred, Xi encouraged reporters to
roam far and wide across China: “It is better to
see once than to hear a hundred times.” In reality,
many correspondents face increasing enmity and
intimidation, although conditions remain far freer
than during the darkest periods of contemporary
Chinese history when even speaking to locals was
The poisonous atmosphere was obvious in July
2015 when I attempted to visit the Beijing home of
Xu Yonghai, an underground preacher and human
rights activist, for a Guardian project on the persecution of Christians around the world.
Days earlier, security forces had launched
a now notorious “war on law” crackdown on
human rights lawyers, rounding up hundreds of
attorneys and activists, some of whom have yet
to emerge from secret detention and have, supporters claim, been brutally tortured.
Within seconds of arriving outside the pastor’s building, we were intercepted by agents and
ordered into a cramped shed equipped with CCTV
equipment that was apparently being used to
keep tabs on Xu.
A few days later, after Xu had been forced to
travel to the Guardian’s bureau to be interviewed,
I described the experience in an email to Beijing’s
Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which monitors
and compiles increasingly bleak annual reports
on reporting conditions.
“We were held in a small room by three men
– one a uniformed cop, the other two in civilian
clothes – with a large stick on the table beside us.
It was unpleasant,” I wrote, explaining how we
had eventually been freed after I called China’s
foreign ministry and asked them to intervene.
“The man in police uniform at one point
grinned at me and said: ‘You know as well as I do
what is going on here’.”
As the weeks and months went by, and Xi’s
crackdown intensified, sucking in academics,
novelists, feminists, foreign activists and even
booksellers from Hong Kong, it was indeed becoming more and more obvious what was going
on – and it was not a pretty sight.
Last August we travelled to Tanmen, a South
China Sea fishing community Xi had visited on
one of his first presidential visits. Our plan was
to interview locals who had met China’s leader
four years earlier, and as we walked into the office
of Ding Zhile, the head of Tanmen’s fisherman’s
association and one of Xi’s hosts, we seemed to
Centre stage … Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks
at the Communist party conference; below, Tom
Phillips’s fraught encounter with Mike and Max
Kevin Frayer/Getty
have the perfect guy. A copy of one of Xi’s now
numerous books, The Governance of China, occupied pride of place on Ding’s desk. A photograph
of Xi standing just metres from where we now
stood hung just inside the door.
Ding, however, was in no mood to talk. “The
way I see things, the Guardian is not a good newspaper,” he scowled.
Could he spare just five minutes to describe
his afternoon with Chairman Xi? Not a chance.
“Please put yourself in my shoes,” Ding grumbled,
pointing to the door.
Ding’s dislike of the Guardian’s coverage of
Xi’s China has, I sense, been shared by Chinese
authorities who have complained repeatedly of
the “bad atmosphere” my stories have created.
In my six years here, state media, from whom Xi
has demanded “absolute loyalty”, have called me
a reckless gossip fiend, an unscientific barbarian,
an arrogant rumour-monger and, most recently,
a sharply voiced up-to-no-good attacker.
Those insults pale into insignificance compared
with the growing restrictions and threats faced
by Chinese journalists, the subject of one of the
most dispiriting reports of my time in Beijing.
But they do, I think, shed some light on the dramatic and troubling changes now sweeping the
world’s wealthiest and most powerful authoritarian nation and on the Communist party’s deep
unease and anger at the outsiders attempting to
chronicle them.
When I informed my government handler I
had been appointed the Guardian’s Latin America
correspondent and would soon be moving to Mexico City, he offered his congratulations. “That’s a
... mysterious land,” he said. “Remote and far!”
Alas, when it comes to this unscientific barbarian, I suspect even Mexico may not be far enough.
32 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Why microbes may
be key to our health
Conditions from obesity to anxiety appear to be
linked to the microbes inside us, says Nicola Davis
What are microbiomes?
Inside and out, our bodies harbour a huge array
of micro-organisms. While bacteria are the biggest players, we also host single-celled organisms
known as archaea, as well as fungi, viruses and
other microbes – including viruses that attack
bacteria. Together these are dubbed the human
microbiota. Your body’s microbiome is all the
genes your microbiota contains, however colloquially the two terms are often used interchangeably.
have cautioned parents against attempting to seed
babies born by c-section with vaginal bacteria.
Our gut microbiome changes quickly over our
first year or two, shaped by microbes in breast
milk, the environment and other factors, and
stabilises by the time we are about three years
old. But our environment, our long-term diet,
stress and the drugs we take, such as antibiotics,
continue to play a role as we age, meaning our
microbiome can change throughout our life.
Hang on, aren’t microbes meant to be dangerous?
It’s a bit of a spectrum: some are pathogens, but
others only become harmful if they get in the
wrong place or boom in number, and some are
very useful to the body – such as by helping to
break down the array of sugars found in human
breast milk. “These sugars are not broken
down by the infant,” said Prof John Cryan,
a neuropharmacologist and microbiome expert
from University College Cork. Instead, microbes
in the baby’s gut do the job.
Other key roles of our microbes include
programming the immune system, providing
nutrients for our cells and preventing colonisation
by harmful bacteria and viruses.
It seems like microbes are everywhere – how
many are we talking about?
The figure that has been bandied out since the
1970s is that microbes outnumber our own
cells by about 10 to one. But a study from 2016
suggests that in fact microbial cells and human
cells coexist in somewhere around a 1.3 to one
ratio – suggesting they only slightly outnumber
our own cells, although that doesn’t count viruses
and viral particles.
Where do my gut microbes come from? Do I just
pick them up from my surroundings?
Partly. But it is more complicated than that. “It
is still a little bit controversial but for the most
part it is thought that we are sterile when we are
in utero, and as we are being born, as we emerge
through the birth canal from our mums, we get
this handover bacteria,” said Cryan. “It is like
a gulp at birth. Those bacteria are really important
for starting the whole process.”
Cryan notes that during pregnancy a mother’s
microbiome shifts, apparently to an optimum
mix for offspring. “If you are not born by vaginal
delivery, but are born by [caesarean] section, things
start off being different,” he said. Indeed, studies
have suggested that these differences could be
one of the reasons why babies born by caesarean
section have a higher risk of conditions including
asthma and type
yp 1 diabetes. That said,, doctors
Does this mean I am not human?
Some say we should be seen as a holobiont, a term
that reflects the intimate, co-dependent relationship humans have with microbes. “I tell this joke
that the next time someone goes to the bathroom
and they get rid of some of their microbes they are
becoming more human,” said Cryan.
But Ellen Clarke, a philosopher of biology at
the University of Leeds, is not convinced. “It all
depends on what you mean by ‘human’ in the first
place,” she said. “If you think that a human is a
collection of cells that all share copies of the same
chromosomes, then it is shocking to be told that
our bodies contain cells with bacterial DNA.”
But as Clarke points out, human cells don’t
just contain chromosomes, but also carry DNA
within our cellular powerhouses, mitochondria, which are evolutionary descendants of
bacteria. Our genome also contains stretches of
genetic material called transposons that, at least
in some cases, are thought to have been introduced long ago by viruses. “I prefer to define a
human in evolutionary terms, and if we do this
then mitochondria are parts of a human, and so
are transposons, but gut microbes are not, and
neither are prosthetic limbs nor unborn foetuses,”
said Clarke, pointing out that microbes can escape
the body and live without us.
Are microbes the same in my gut as on my skin?
No, different parts of the body – the skin, vagina,
gut – all have very different, distinct communities of microbes. While gut microbes have gained
a lot of attention, microbes elsewhere are also
important: in recent studies, scientists have found
that bacteria commonly found on the skin might
help to protect against skin cancer.
Microbiomes also differ from person to person.
“When you look at the overall active microbiomes
between two healthy people, even if they are living
in the same city, you see a tremendous amount
of disagreement in their microbiome,” said Rob
Knight, professor of paediatrics, computer science
and engineering at the University of California San
Diego and an expert on the human microbiome.
Why has the microbiome become such a hot topic?
Over recent years the gut microbiome in particular
has been linked to a plethora of diseases and
conditions, from diabetes to autism and anxiety
to obesity.
The gut microbiome has also been linked to how
individuals respond to certain drugs, including
how cancer patients respond to chemotherapy,
and it has even, tentatively, been suggested that it
could be linked with how well we sleep.
Illustrations by Pete Gamlen
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 33
Is it that particular microbes are important, or is
it about the microbial community as a whole?
This is the knotty issue. In some experiments,
particular strains of bacteria have been linked to
particular effects or conditions, while others have
shown that the diversity of the microbiome, or
relative abundances of species, is important.
“It is a bit like a rainforest: you might have a
very nice fern that is very happy but if that is the
only thing in your rainforest and you don’t have
a diversity it is not going to be good [for the] soil,”
said Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. When it comes to
the microbiome, “it’s having the right community
of bacteria that are working together and together
producing the right chemicals for your body.”
So might microbes be affecting our weight, or
even our brains?
When it comes to obesity, there are several ways
gut microbes might influence matters, including
through appetite, production of gases, efficiency
of using food, and impact on the immune system
and inflammation.
When it comes to affecting mood, there are also
several mechanisms. One is via the vagus nerve,
a two-way highway that runs from our brain to
various organs in the body, including the gut.
With the microbiome linked to so many
conditions, does tinkering with it promise
a whole range of new treatments?
It is worth being cautious: many studies show
associations rather than cause and effect, and
some are based only on studies in germ-free mice
and have not been explored in humans. Even in
mice things aren’t straightforward – effects are not
always the same for both sexes and can differ for
different strains of mice.
Do recent discoveries actually affect patients?
Up to a point. The field has already led to advances
in the treatment of C difficile – an infection that
causes serious diarrhoea and can prove deadly.
Patients can now receive faecal transplants from
a donor with a healthy microbiome to “reset”
their inner community – a procedure that has
been shown to rapidly cure the condition.
Some researchers, including Cryan, believe microbiome research could lead to the
development of new mental health therapies.
Meanwhile, a range of studies have raised the
importance of other aspects of our microbiome,
including that the vaginal microbiome is
important in whether an HIV-prevention drug
applied to the vagina is effective.
Why do we think the microbiome is linked to all
these conditions?
While some links have come from comparing the
microbiomes of different groups of people, such
as those with a particular disease compared with
healthy individuals, a big player in microbiome
research is the germ-free mouse.
This organism is raised in a sterile environment
and can then be exposed to particular microbes,
or groups of microbes, to explore their impact.
Such studies have been key in raising possible
links between the gut microbiome and numerous
aspects of our health, including mood and obesity.
What can I do to keep my microbiome healthy?
This is where prebiotics and probiotics come in:
the former are substances, such as the fibre inulin,
on which useful microbes can thrive, while the
latter are microbes themselves that are thought to
be beneficial for health, such as the Lactobacillus
and Bifidobacterium species. While prebiotics and
probiotics can be taken as supplements, whether
you should shell out for them is another matter:
there is little advice on which prebiotics or probiotics people should consume for a particular situation.
What next?
The spotlight is on unpicking the mechanisms
by which microbes are linked to human health.
Among the conundrums is how and why the
different strains of bacteria have different effects,
while researchers are also developing studies
to explore how the microbiome influences our
response to food, and how different diets can
tweak the microbiome. There is also a need to take
more of the exciting findings from mouse studies
and probe them in humans.
antibiotic raises
medical hopes
Ian Sample
The discovery of a new class of antibiotics that can
wipe out persistent infections of the hospital superbug MRSA has raised fresh hopes for progress in the
fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Health officials around the world have seen a
steady rise in bacterial infections that no longer
respond to routine antibiotics. With resistance
emerging faster than new drugs can be developed,
the World Health Organization has called for urgent
action to combat the problem.
In the latest research, US scientists focused on a
group of recurrent infections, which are driven by
bacteria that evade antibiotics by lying dormant in
the body. The infections tend to affect people with
medical implants, or with particular conditions such
as cystic fibrosis. Led by a team at Rhode Island Hospital, scientists tested the effects of 82,000 lab-made
molecules on roundworms infected with MRSA, or
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. From
the 185 compounds that showed some effect, they
selected two of the most promising. Both belonged
to a family of molecules known as retinoids. The
tests, combined with computer modelling, showed
that the compounds killed not only normal MRSA
cells, but dormant, or “persister”, cells too.
There was, however, a downside. The drugs were
not effective against an entire group of harmful bacteria for which new antibiotics are badly needed.
Responsible for urinary tract infections, stomach
bugs, gonorrhoea, pneumonia and the plague,
among other diseases, these include Escherichia
coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Yersinia pestis.
However, the drugs still hold promise for treating
persistent MRSA infections. Writing in the journal
Nature, the scientists describe how they tweaked
one of the retinoid compounds to make it less toxic,
and then injected it into a mouse with a treatmentresistant MRSA infection. The drug cleared the
infection without any apparent side-effects.
The rise of drug-resistant infections is a direct
consequence of evolution as some of the bacteria
the drugs are meant to kill may survive because
they have chance mutations that protect them. Over
generations, these mutations become more dominant and the bacteria more resistant. To make matters worse, bacteria of different species can swap
protective genes with one another. To combat
antibiotic resistance, doctors and farmers have been
urged to use antibiotics far more sparingly than in
the past, but last week separate research revealed
that antibiotic use worldwide has increased by more
than 65% since 2000.
In an article accompanying lead scientist Eleftherios Mylonakis’s study, Julian Hurdle and Aditi Deshpande – who examine antibiotic resistance at Texas
A&M Health Science Center in Houston – wrote that,
in an era when the development of antibiotics is
struggling to keep pace with the spread of resistant
bacteria, the identification of the drugs “could help
researchers to win victories in the long fight against
bacterial infectious diseases”.
34 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
From satanic mills to an era of shared
Ian Jack is engrossed by the
stories of social change linked to
almost 300 years of factories
Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the
Making of the Modern World
by Joshua B Freeman
Norton, 448pp
The demise of the factory in the western world ranks
high among the explanations for Brexit and Donald
Trump. With it came the geographic isolation of the
old factory lands from national prosperity, and the
alienation of the former factory classes from the
mainstream of British and American life. Industrial
towns and cities grew ruinous – far too grand for the
little business they contained. People were poorer
and felt that governments didn’t care.
The US lost roughly 5m manufacturing jobs
between 2000 and 2016, while the UK lost 619,000
from 2006 to 2016 – adding in each country to the
millions that had vanished in the previous three or
four decades. An idea of the future also disappeared.
These were regarded as “good jobs”: well paid (when
they were skilled), secure, with regular hours, subsidised canteens and paid holidays. “The unionised
giant factory helped create what many Americans
look back at as a golden era of shared prosperity,”
writes Joshua B Freeman of a recent time “when
children did better than their parents and expected
their children to do better than themselves.”
That factories could be sites of optimism sits uneasily with our ideas of the Dickensian 19th century
and Blake’s satanic mills. To Engels, factory work
was “nothing less than torture of the severest kind
… in the service of a machine that never stops”. In
Das Kapital, Marx wrote that while in handicrafts
“the workman makes use of a tool, the factory makes
use of him”. And yet ever since the Lombe brothers opened their silk mill in Derby in 1721, a brighter
view of the factory has always persisted. The Derby
mill was probably the first successful prototype,
with a square, prison-like appearance that marked
many thousands of its successors, buildings that in
Freeman’s definition of a factory contained “a large
workforce engaged in coordinated production using
powered machinery”. Daniel Defoe saw this mill as a
modern marvel, reacting to a visit there with a great
explosion of facts (the machinery had 26,586 wheels
and could produce 318,504,960 yards of silk thread
every 24 hours), starting a tradition of awe-inspiring numbers that continues to this day in China,
where it can take an hour to walk from one side of
a factory to the other, and where, in 2016, at peaks
of production, 350,000 workers were employed to
make iPhones in a factory complex in Zhengzhou.
After Defoe came a long line of factory tourists, including Anthony Trollope who noticed that
visitors like himself came to see “the triumphant
perfection of British mechanism” rather than the
exhausted children who worked nearby. But the
truth was that factories produced a kind of dualism – a love-hate relationship – in the public mind.
As Freeman points out, Marx’s critique of the generality of capitalism had specific roots in the booming textile factories of northern England, where the
exploitation of workers outraged him.
Other writers, however, saw well-regulated
factories as agents of social progress. It was the
factory worker, after all, who drew the concern of
politicians – parliament passed five Factory Acts
between 1802 and 1831 – while the often harsher conditions of agricultural labourers, domestic servants
and coal miners went ignored. Factories were easier
places to control and improve – they concentrated
employment in a single building, where
workers had to obey almost military
standards of discipline – and so, Freeman
writes, they became the vehicle “for not
only visions of ever-greater productivity and material bounty but also for the
notion that a more humane version of
the economic system soon to be dubbed
capitalism was possible”.
Freeman has written a superb
account of how the material world in
his phrase became “factory made”. It
spans the factory’s social, cultural,
economic and political effects, as
well as its technical progress. Almost every page contains a memorable fact or an intriguing thought and,
by treating factories as a global phenomenon,
Freeman has freed them from the cliches of the
purely national narrative.
Women have a prominent place in this story, most
notably after the factory crossed the Atlantic to New
England, where cotton mills were set up on riverbanks that were often far from any large settlement.
Separated from urban temptation and powered by
water – coal deposits were inconveniently located –
until after the civil war, they enjoyed a more wholesome reputation than their smoky British ancestors.
Like British textile factories, these factories depended on female labour to operate the machinery.
However, unlike the typical Lancashire factory girl,
the American workforce tended to
be the literate daughters of farmers who returned to the homestead during downturns in trade
rather than staying in their factory
lodgings and making trouble; and
thereby, as Freeman writes, “avoiding the discontent and disorder that
came in England with the creation of
a permanent proletariat”.
Paternalistic mill owners did their
best to create an improving atmosphere; the Lowell mills in Massachusetts even published a magazine of
poetry and fiction for its workers. But
what did more to change the lives of the
mill women was money – that and an interval of
self-discovery between daughterhood and wifehood. “The mills … provided an escape from families, rural life, boredom and isolation, a chance to
experience a new, more cosmopolitan world of
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 35
Dirty cold-war secret
brought into the light
The Killing Season: A History of the
Indonesian Massacres 1965-66
by Geoffrey Robinson
Princeton, 456pp
The Army and the Indonesian Genocide:
Mechanics of Mass Murder
by Jess Melvin
Routledge, 322pp
Julia Lovell
Enduring love and hate … attitudes to factories
have been mixed since the first examples
opened three centuries ago Chronicle/Alamy
independent living, consumer goods and intense
sociability,” Freeman writes, quoting a woman who
remembered how a worker’s first wages could effect
an enormous transformation: from “depressed,
modest, mincing” girls into women who looked you
in the face and “sang blithely among their looms”.
This was the factory effect at its gentlest. As the
19th century wore on, it showed its more brutal
side, when the magnates such as Andrew Carnegie
and Henry Clay Frick refused to improve the hellish
conditions of their steel mills and broke up strikes
ruthlessly and brutally. Freeman argues that mainstream ideology is mistaken when it associates the
achievements of the industrial revolution with individual liberty and the free market. Factories often
did best in the opposite conditions, growing up in a
climate of denied political rights. If more examples
are needed to support Freeman’s argument, look
no further than China’s role as factory to the world.
Taylorism, Fordism, fascism: Freeman shows
how our love-hate relationship with the factory
blossomed once again in the 1920s and 30s – the production line hell of Chaplin’s Modern Times on the
one hand and Diego Rivera’s heroic Detroit murals
on the other. The author’s sympathy, insight and
exemplary anecdotes make this a marvellous book.
Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary The Act of Killing
follows a cabal of ageing hoodlums around
the city of Medan,
in north-west Indonesia. Between 1965
and 1966, they had enthusiastically joined militias
that garrotted, stabbed and mutilated to death at
least half a million suspected leftists. Almost half
a century later, they bragged about their exploits
to Oppenheimer. This polemically cinematic film –
the first of two he made about the massacres – has
transformed awareness of these events in the west
and galvanised debate within Indonesia. Oppenheimer felt, as he amassed the film’s footage, as if
he had “wandered into Germany 40 years after the
Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power”.
His films have raised consciousness of the killings, but do not address their historical context.
Only a few brief on-screen paragraphs sketch the
key events: the imposition of military dictatorship
in late 1965, the crackdown on the Indonesian left,
the murder of perhaps as many as a million “communists” by the army and civilian death squads, the
killers’ enjoyment of impunity in Indonesia since.
Two new books, one by Geoffrey Robinson and the
other by Jess Melvin, now fill out this history.
Before he became a history professor, Robinson
was Amnesty International’s head of research for
Indonesia, and his book skilfully combines a human
rights advocate’s anger with academic rigour. He
adjudicates carefully between divergent interpretations of one of the most confusing events of
the cold war: the alleged coup of 1 October 1965,
in which six Indonesian generals were kidnapped
and killed under mysterious circumstances. General Suharto – the second president, architect of the
military crackdown of 1965-66 and of the dictatorial
New Order that ruled Indonesia between 1966 and
1998 – accused the Indonesian Communist party of
orchestrating the attempted coup and used this allegation to justify exterminating the Communists.
Though the scope of her book – which focuses
on Aceh in north Sumatra – is narrower than Robinson’s, Melvin makes an essential point about the
violence. Suharto’s New Order government taught
Indonesians that the killings were a “spontaneous”
uprising “by the people”. Through hard work and
a stroke of archival luck (a box of documents that
the Indonesian intelligence agency carelessly gave
her), Melvin shatters Suharto’s propaganda story.
The “Indonesian genocide files”, as she calls the
archive, confirm a narrative of army culpability.
Robinson agrees that “without the army’s
logistical and organisational leadership … the
mass killings could not have happened”. But he is
also concerned with wider culpability and points
the finger particularly at the US and UK governments which – for reasons of cold war realpolitik –
facilitated the crackdown.
Robinson and Melvin demolish Indonesian
state orthodoxy on the country’s modern history.
But these two books have an importance beyond
Indonesian studies. They revise our definition of
genocide, draw conclusions about the close links
between militarism and mass violence, and remind us forcefully of the nefarious interventions
of western powers at cold war turning points.
Urban anatomy class
A Walk Through Paris
by Eric Hazan, translated by David Fernbach
Verso, 208pp
Lauren Elkin
Eric Hazan’s politically engaged
books on Paris reveal not a museum
city but a loud, lively, chaotic
metropolis, relevant and revolutionary even in the 21st century. France’s
capital is, like any other big city, a
place with a radical spread of haves
and have nots. What it looks like
now, the nature of its living history and how it is
under threat from gentrification and other market
forces are the subjects of Hazan’s study, which
follows a walk across Paris from south to north,
along “the Paris meridian”.
In a review of Hazan’s essential and encyclopedic
The Invention of Paris, published in 2002,
Julian Barnes described the author as a “bookish psycho geographer, rescuing historian and
committed Benjaminic flâneur; he is memory, conscience and scourge”. But where The Invention of
Paris stayed within the périphérique that contains
the 20 arrondissements of Paris, this book begins
and ends in the banlieue, or suburbs, on a long
walk from one community bookshop in Ivry in the
south to another in Saint-Denis in the north.
Though he walks it end to end, even through
the very heart of the historic city, Hazan manages to remain in predominantly working-class
areas. As he wrote in his 2011 Paris Sous Tension
(Paris Under Stress), the revolutionary quality of
Paris is unchanged; the city remains “the great
field of battle of the civil war in France between
the aristocrats and sans-culottes – no matter what
we may call them today”.
What does the working class city look like today?
The cafes and restaurants are not part of chains,
but places where you can chat with the owner. The
Métro stations are dirty and dilapidated; there are
a lot of police and few ATMs. Shops where you can
wire money are plentiful, as are cheap supermarkets. Above all, the people you see come from the
many corners of the Earth: “The cafes are Kabyle,
the tabacs are Chinese, and the PMU betting shops
always packed. On Wednesdays, groups of children
set out on excursions, and whites are a minority in
their multicoloured ranks.” The people, Hazan concludes, “have not lost the battle of Paris.”
Though he provides a wonderful array of primary sources describing the various uprisings the
city has seen, Hazan’s other points of reference
are overwhelmingly male Continued on page 36 →
36 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Middle-aged anger
← Continued from page 35 (and white). He is aware
of it: “Breton, Benjamin, Nerval, Balzac, Chateaubriand – perhaps my references lack variety. But
there is nothing I can do about it, this is my paper
family, as good as any other.” This kind of excuse
doesn’t fit with his politics, which are otherwise
devoted to the downtrodden and the underdog.
Hazan doesn’t seem to realise that he is replicating
a form of power that makes those authors the go-to
people when writing about Paris, and the bourgeois
male viewpoint on the city the dominant one.
The best moments in this book are those of personal writing, in which Hazan remembers when
he worked as a cardiovascular surgeon. This backstory lends his walk a delightful specificity. Perhaps
this scientific background explains why this is not
a lyrical walk: Hazan rarely stops to analyse or ruminate. He is stacking up observations. An ardent
student of the anatomy of the city, Hazan is a keen
observer with a remarkable memory: despite his
limitations, he has written an unmissable account
of Paris’s unique and defiant physiognomy.
Dead Men’s Trousers
by Irvine Welsh
Jonathan Cape, 432pp
Anthony Cummins
Fighting spirit
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes,
Volume 1
by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood
MacLehose, 416pp
Marcel Theroux
Jin Yong is an unfamiliar name in the
English-speaking world but a superstar in the Chinese-speaking one.
Since his first novels were published
in serial form in Hong Kong during
the 1950s, Jin Yong – the pen name
of Louis Cha Leung-yung – has
become the most widely read
Chinese writer alive. His books have been adapted
into TV series, films and video games, and his dense,
immersive world inspires the kind of adoration
bestowed on those created by writers like western
worldbuilders such as JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling and
George RR Martin.
Now 94, Jin is the most famous literary exponent
of the wuxia genre, the world of kung fu chivalry we
know through Chinese martial arts movies. A Hero
Born is the first book of Jin’s 12-volume epic Legends
of the Condor Heroes. Set in 13th-century China,
this novel follows the fortunes of its hero, Guo Jing,
from birth to adolescence. It begins with Guo in
utero, when his father is murdered by forces loyal
to the occupying Jin army and his pregnant mother
flees to Mongolia. Guo grows up among Genghis
Khan’s nomadic warriors, while the Seven Heroes
of the South, who have sworn an oath to train him in
martial arts, scour the country to find him.
A plot summary barely conveys the extraordinary
energy of this book. It blends real and fictional characters, teems with incident – reversals, unexpected
meetings, betrayals, cliffhangers – and, most of all,
dwells for page after page on lovingly described
combat. To paraphrase Miss Jean Brodie: for those
of us who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of
thing we like. As martial artists square off, evocatively named strikes are responded to with equally
evocatively named parries: Search the Sea, Behead
the Dragon; Seize the Basket by the Handle; and,
only to be used in extremis, the desperation move:
Sword of Mutual Demise. The novel gives us the
Immersive world … Jin Yong’s books have made
him the most widely read Chinese writer alive
history of strange martial techniques, assesses the
merits of different schools of kung fu, and describes
the mysterious internal alchemy that gives rise to
the most devastating physical force.
Guo is naive and not particularly gifted – a wink,
perhaps, at the idea of the uncarved block in the Tao
Te Ching: the natural object of unlimited potential.
But his innocent goodheartedness – another Taoist
ideal – makes him a captivating hero. He’s surrounded by a galaxy of colourful minor characters.
These include Ke Zhen’e, a blind martial artist who
shoots his signature weapon – iron devilnuts – by
orienting himself according to directions from the
I Ching; Lotus Huang, a brilliant young female fighter
travelling the country in disguise, and a terrifying female villain called Twice Foul Dark Wind, who is the
greatest exponent of Nine Yin Skeleton Claw kung
fu, a martial discipline that is nastier than it sounds.
Everybody is kung fu fighting, but the violence is
cartoonish rather than graphic and there is a sense
– as with Rowling and Tolkien – that despite the
strangeness of the world, we are guided by a compassionate writer whose heart is in the right place.
Jin Yong is not the first wuxia writer: its roots go
back centuries. Writing his books, he has drawn on
Chinese history and also on the examples of less
celebrated writers, such as the novelist and martial artist Xiang Kairan. Fortified by this tradition
and written with unselfconscious energy, A Hero
Born channels mythic archetypes that resonate
across cultures As I read Anna Holmwood’s vibrant
translation – gripped by the unashamed narrative
zest and primary-coloured fairytale world – I felt a
slight regret that I was coming to this novel in my
fifth decade. My one quibble is that as the heroes
swept back and forth across China and the Mongolian steppe, this reader’s pleasure would have been
greatly enhanced by a map.
Irvine Welsh’s style is so pulpy now
that it’s hard to imagine Booker prize
judges losing time arguing over his
sexual politics, as they are said to
have done before ruling out his 1993
debut, Trainspotting, for the
misogyny of its heroin-addicted
protagonist, Renton, and his fellow
Edinburgh low-lifes, Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud.
Welsh has since softened the cynicism of that
novel for preachier, more farcical capers that take
care to turn the tables on their unreconstructed male
leads (while still relying on them for tang). Somewhere along the way, though, the prose has grown
uneven: much of Dead Men’s Trousers – a fifth and
apparently last hurrah for Renton and company,
now in middle age – unfolds in the kind of airportthriller gush (champagne is a “bubbling elixir”;
people don’t wear clothes but “sport” them) that’s
now nearly as much a Welsh hallmark as his X-rated
Scots (“Ah fuckin hate the way some American cunts
call lassies cunts. Fuckin offensive, that shite”).
Set in the run-in to the Brexit vote, the plot turns
on the guilt of Renton, now a jet-setting DJ promoter,
over cash he once stole from Begbie – who for his
part has put thug life behind him to become a celebrated sculptor, albeit one prone to deadly rage if
his doting wife and daughters aren’t around to witness it (as shown in 2016’s The Blade Artist). Sick Boy,
meanwhile, has a new app-accessible escort agency
to front his exploitation of underage girls; and Spud,
dirt-poor, is ready to accept a job offer that involves
smuggling a kidney to Germany via Istanbul.
The scene where he winds up in a disused warehouse being operated on by Sick Boy, with only a
YouTube tutorial for instruction – running on a laptop that’s low on power, with no charger – is one of
several impressively hairy set pieces (others variously involve a samurai sword, an assault rifle and
a sex tape unveiled over Christmas lunch).
Yet, overall, jeopardy fizzles out as Welsh – a
little in love with his own voice – swamps the action
with rants about “neoliberal planet-rapists” and
“monarchy-worshipping paedophile bastards”;
more entertaining, at least, than gripes about longhaul flight – Welsh now lives in Miami – and online
banking. Still, the grumpy-old-raver vibe does
produce probably the book’s most blackly funny
exchange, when Sick Boy – a pimp, remember – is
aghast that Renton, whose star client wants to be
the next David Guetta, should be “coining it in fae
they fucking shit EDM DJs”.
Like a superhero franchise, the Trainspotting
universe gets a new origin story with every reboot.
The tweak in Dead Men’s Trousers implies that
Trainspotting was only published after Renton
stole the manuscript from Spud and passed it off as
his own. This nicely muddies Renton’s claim to be
a reformed character – but only at the time-warping
expense of having us believe that the original book
was published in 2017 (and not 1993). It’s ultimately
a mark of Welsh’s magic in having created such
memorable characters in the first place that they
survive this cartoonish revision.
38 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Musical-theatre geniuses next door
Frozen writers Robert Lopez and
Kristen Anderson-Lopez remain
humble, finds Alexis Soloski
little while before Robert Lopez and
Kristen Anderson-Lopez collected
their second shared Oscar, they
went skiing. You might think the
man who co-wrote Let It Go for the
animated smash hit Frozen would
know his way around some fresh powder. But this
was Lopez’s first time staring down a snowy mountain. According to his wife, the mountain won.
“He hated it,” she says. “I didn’t hate it,” he protests. “I’m just scared of heights.”
One of the most acclaimed musical theatre artists
of our time, Lopez earned a couple of Emmys, a
Grammy, an Oscar and three Tonys by the age of 39,
becoming the youngest person to achieve “EGOT”
status. When the Lopezes won the Oscar for Remember Me from Pixar’s Coco, about a Mexican boy
stuck in the Land of the Dead, he became the only
person to rank as a double EGOT. Anderson-Lopez,
who co-wrote the 2016 Broadway musical In Transit, has two Oscars and two Grammys. So she isn’t
doing so badly herself.
I meet the Lopezes, both round-cheeked
brunettes, at an Italian restaurant in New York, a few
blocks from where the Broadway musical version of
Frozen has begun previews. It includes the seven
and a half songs they wrote for the 2013 animated
film (Reindeers Are Better Than People is the half)
and 12 new ones for the stage version. “Everything
that was a closeup or action scene needed to become a song,” Lopez says. Though they’d written
and discarded 26 extra songs while creating the
movie, only eight bars of a hand-clap chant have
been salvaged from all that.
Frozen has a rumoured budget of $50m. A lot is
riding on its cold shoulders. But its composers are
warm, goofy and unfailingly unpretentious. (At the
Oscars, Anderson-Lopez strode glamorously to the
podium and then pulled an acceptance speech out
of her bra.) They’re the board game-playing, movieloving, Star Wars-obsessed musical theatre geniuses next door. When they arrive for lunch looking
uncharacteristically glitzy – a suede coat for him,
a red dress and lavish mascara for her – AndersonLopez immediately apologises. They’ve just come
from a photo shoot, she explains.
Asked about his awards, Lopez doesn’t reply in
the first person. “We just don’t want to play it up,”
he says. “It’s not a thing that is very meaningful
to us.” If he deserves an award, he says, it’s for
choosing his collaborators wisely. “There’s not one
award that I won alone.”
So yes, the humility is genuine. So is the nerdiness. Name another big-league songwriting pair who
would have dreamed up a line like, “My soul is spiralling in frozen fractals all around.” But the modesty
masks remarkable craft and frank subversion.
Avenue Q, which Lopez composed with Jeff Marx,
and Book of Mormon, written with Trey Parker and
Matt Stone, are buoyant, mischievous works. One
features puppet sex and had audiences humming
Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and The Internet Is for
Porn. The other includes a number with a multilingual chorus of “Fuck you God!” (The “Fuck you in
Dancing fractals … Frozen on stage; below, the Lopezes collect their Oscars Deen van Meer
the eye!” lyric is an uncredited Anderson-Lopez contribution.) Even Frozen, arguably less sacrilegious,
disrupts the Disney formula with a primary relationship that is between two sisters, rather than between
a princess and whatever man happens to pass by.
The Lopezes met years ago in the BMI (Broadcast
Music Inc) workshop for budding musical theatre
writers. He was a few years ahead of her. One day she
saw him put on a wig and sing like a girl, and she knew
she wanted to marry him. And she hoped he wasn’t
gay. Because they write together and live together
– in a handsome Brooklyn limestone with their two
school-age daughters – they work almost all the time.
They’ve had breakthrough moments in diners,
atop picnic tables, on the subway. If they some day
write a chart-topper about ravioli and iced tea, know
that it all began right here. “We’re always pretending and playing together,” she says. “Sometimes I’m
like, ‘I just got an idea!’ and that’s when Bobby is
like, ‘No. Tell me tomorrow.’”
“I love going to sleep and if I start to think about
a writing problem right before bed, then I have to
stay awake all night,” he explains. “So sometimes
I feel like I’m playing a little bit of defence in our
marriage.” They’ve both learned to keep down work
talk around their daughters. “We now kind of know:
don’t pitch an idea in the middle of a hike on our
family vacation,” she says.
‘We now kind
nd of
know: don’tt pitch
an idea in the
middle of
a hike on
our family
And yet, it’s their family life that underlies all
of their best work. Take Avenue Q’s There’s a Fine,
Fine Line, a direct quote from a premarital fight,
or Let It Go, which materialised during a walk in
the park when they started asking each other how
it would feel to stop striving for perfection and
instead “just binge-watch The Bachelor and drink
an entire bottle of chardonnay”.
For Coco’s Remember Me, they drew on the
guilt they feel whenever they have to leave their
kids for work-related travel. The song begins as a
lullaby sung to a baby, in part because whenever
they go away they leave custom lullabies for their
daughters, a lot of them kitten-centred. To keep the
girls close, they took them to the Oscars this year,
despite Lopez’s worry that it might have “fundamentally messed them up”. The girls handled it fine.
They know that their songs will evolve in listeners’ heads. Let It Go has been adopted as an LGBTQ
anthem. As Lopez says, “a lot of songs from musicals
become that”. But the score begins with what’s in
their hearts. It’s never been as simple as him writing
the music and her writing the lyrics or as she once
suggested, her dreaming up the big ideas and him
figuring out the key changes. Neither is sure who
came up with that fractals line, but they’re proud
that the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson now uses
it in a PowerPoint
slideshow. Whatever their
methods, they w
work – the groaning awards
cabinet says so.
so Success has made them
financially comfortable,
though they’re
“not to overdo anything”,
still careful “
Lopez says. And their reputation means they can pick
and choose their projects,
tthough as Lopez says, he’s
always done that. Not
Anderson-Lopez: “I’ve
had to hustle a little more
than you, boy wonder,”
she says affectionately.
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 39
Uncovering detail behind the devilry
Forensic Architecture reconstruct
sites to highlight war crimes and
rights abuses, finds Rowan Moore
n 2006 a man walked into an internet cafe
in Kassel, Germany, and shot dead Halit
Yozgat, a 21-year-old member of the Turkish-German family who owned it. It was the
ninth in a series of racist killings by neo-Nazis, the motivation for which the police persistently refused to admit. A striking fact of Yozgat’s
murder was that Andreas Temme, an intelligence
agent for the state of Hessen, was in the cafe at the
time, logged on to a dating website in a back room. If
there’s one thing a secret agent should be able to do,
you might have thought, it would be to notice a killing in the next room, but Temme claimed he did not.
He took part in a police video reconstruction in
which he is seen placing his payment for his internet
access on the reception table, unaware of the corpse
on the floor behind it. That might have been that,
were it not that Forensic Architecture investigated
the case and exhibited their findings at the 2017
edition of Documenta, Kassel’s five-yearly art fair.
Through creating a full-scale mock-up of the cafe
interior, and analysing the sound of the two shots
(loud enough, even with a silencer), the dispersal of
their smoke and the sightlines of the agent – a tall
man – as he put money on the table behind which
the young victim was sprawled, it was demonstrated that Temme could not possibly have failed
to hear, smell and see the crime.
Forensic Architecture, whose work is going on
show this month at the Institute of Contemporary
Arts in London, is an agency based at Goldsmiths,
University of London. The organisation’s founder
and director is Eyal Weizman, a British-Israeli architect. Its primary mission is research, to “develop
evidentiary systems in relation to specific cases”;
in so doing, it acts as “an architectural detective
agency”, working with NGOs and human rights
lawyers to uncover facts that confound the stories
told by police, military, states and corporations.
They use whatever means they can to reconstruct a hybrid of physical and virtual space – the
metadata surrounding phone calls and phone-camera videos, meteorology, eyewitness accounts, reconstructions. They might scrape thousands of images of a bombing off social media and match them
with material facts to fix facts in space and time, as
if with the coordinates of a multidimensional map.
The material is harrowing: to see, for example,
from several CCTV camera positions, life in an
Aleppo hospital in the seconds before it is obliterated
by pro-regime forces. “You never get used to it,” says
Weizman. The work is also compelling, both in the inventiveness, precision and patience of the processes
and the crystalline outcomes. It might take a year to
reconstruct a day, as it did with the events of Black
Friday, 1 August 2014, when 2,000 Israeli bombs,
missiles and shells were dropped on the city of Rafah. But Forensic Architecture’s research into that
day contributed to the cancellation of the “Hannibal Directive”, a classified policy whereby the Israeli
military might kill their own soldiers if they are taken
prisoner, rather than allow them to become hostages.
This is not where most architecture students expect to end up. After studying at the Architectural
Association in London, Weizman set up a practice in
a conventional enough way for young architects in
Tel Aviv. What changed everything was his decision
to do a PhD on the ways in which town planning in
the occupied territories was used to divide and suppress. “I was trying to show that there could be human rights violation by architecture and planning,”
he says, “and that architects can be complicit.”
Asked to contribute to an exhibit of young Israeli
architects in Berlin in 2002, he presented a show
on settlements, which led to the Israel Association
of United Architects cancelling the exhibition and
destroying the catalogues. Like much censorship, it
made the name of its target, and that year Weizman
managed to exhibit his work at the Israeli pavilion
in the Venice architecture biennale. From there he
“accelerated from the slow violence of architecture
and planning” to the rapid violence of warfare and
displacement. He founded Forensic Architecture
in 2011, their areas of interest gradually expanding beyond Israel and Palestine to wherever they
might be needed: Kassel, Syria, the disappearance
of students in Iguala in Mexico, a lethal factory fire
in Karachi, a detention centre in Cameroon where
torture and executions took place with the apparent
connivance of US personnel based there.
They are “on the side of civil society” and won’t
take commissions from government or corporations, but don’t take political sides. This has given
them a wide range of enemies and detractors, and
have been dismissed by Germany’s ruling CDU party
as factually challenged artists, by Bashar al-Assad as
Qatari stooges, by the Kremlin-backed RT TV network as supporters of Islamic State. In Israel they get
called “Pallywood”, as in Palestinian Hollywood.
Weizman also still considers Forensic’s activities to be a way of practising architecture. “A bomb
cloud is everything a building was,” he says, “in gas
form: plaster, concrete, wood, flesh. It’s horrible,
horrible, devilish dust.” But you can “reconstruct
its force fields out of its form”. Every cloud has a
“fingerprint”, a moving one, which means you can
pinpoint the place and time from which a photograph was taken from the shape of the cloud.
In Rafah their evidence made a convincing case
that the object of the onslaught was to kill an Israeli
officer who had been captured that morning, who
the military believed was in an underground tunnel.
That there was huge collateral damage to civilians
didn’t seem to be much regretted. It was a particularly aggressive interpretation of the Hannibal Directive that was in due course cancelled or at least
clarified – a triumph of which Forensic was part.
Clear-cut victories in this business seem to be rare
– it’s still not known, for example, why Temme was in
the fatal cafe and why he claimed not to have noticed
the shooting. But in the constant struggle to protect
truth from becoming a casualty, Forensic’s version of
architecture is a powerful weapon. Observer
Counter Investigations: Forensic Architecture is at
the ICA, London, until 6 May
‘You never get used to it’ … reconstruction of Black Friday in 2014, when 2,000 Israeli bombs, missiles and shells rained on Rafah Forensic Architecture
40 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
‘No one else can
understand me.
That’s magical’
After doing Lord of the Dance in Vegas,
Gwenno Saunders made what could
be the world’s first Cornish-language
concept album. Alexis Petridis met her
n the glamorous confines of a tiny back room
in her record company’s office, her chair
wedged between boxes of CDs, Gwenno
Saunders is expounding on the joy of singing in a language that only 600 people in the
world are supposed to be fluent in. “Tonally,”
she says, “Cornish is a dark language, very close to
Breton, a lot more Zs and Ks and Vs, which gives it a
very different texture. It probably reflects the harsh
landscape of Cornwall. And it’s almost like an emotional shield. Singing in Cornish, I thought, ‘Wow,
no one understands me!’ I can get lost, and everyone
else has to get lost, because what else can they do?
It allows me to escape and find freedom in music.
There’s something magical about that.”
To that end, Saunders has just recorded her
second solo album entirely in Cornish, the language
she learned as a child. The follow-up to 2014’s
Welsh-language Y Dydd Olaf (The Last Day), which
won the Welsh Music prize, Le Kov (The Place of
Memory) would be a fantastic album whatever it
was sung in – spacey, strange and richly melodic –
but there’s no doubt that the language gives it an
added sense of purpose. Without wishing to make
any rash claims, it seems likely that it’s the first ever
Cornish electronic psych-pop concept album.
Indeed, it seems likely it’s the first ever Cornish
rock album full stop. There has been a vibrant
Cornish-language folk scene for decades. The late
singer and poet Brenda Wootton was its best-known
exemplar, while Saunders has a soft spot for a band
called Bucca, who released a solitary album, An Tol
Yn Pen An Telynyor, in 1980. But Cornish’s solitary
appearance in something approaching pop was on
Aphex Twin’s 2001 album Drukqs, the tracklisting of which contains a few Cornish titles, albeit
frequently misspelt and easy to miss among the
titles comprising entirely made-up words.
Aphex Twin actually turns up on Le Kov, one of
an array of real-life figures who haunt the album’s
songs. They are the inhabitants of the titular imaginary city “where Cornish is spoken by everybody”:
Peter Lanyon, a painter of abstract landscapes from
St Ives who died after crashing the glider that he
flew to “get a more complete knowledge of the landscape”; Michael An Gof, commander of the doomed
Cornish rebellion of 1497; and Georg Sauerwein, a
19th-century German linguist who was the first
person to write a letter in Cornish for a century,
the words of which inspired the song Koweth Ker.
As she discusses the album, Saunders flits from
Brexit to JG Ballard, from Constant Nieuwenhuys,
a Dutch artist who imagined an anti-capitalist utopia where no one had to work, to cheese. (One of
the few surviving traditional sayings in the Cornish
language is “Eus keus?” or “Is there cheese?”)
Saunders says the album was partly inspired by
the government’s decision to cut its meagre funding for the Cornish language in 2016. “There’s that
argument that I think is really stupid: why do you
have to learn Cornish or Welsh, why don’t you learn
Mandarin? It’s like everything you do has to have
monetary value. I think you have to find the nonmonetary value in things.” But mostly it’s rooted
in something more personal: her desire to “accept
what I actually am – and my upbringing, which
always felt slightly at odds with other people’s”.
It certainly sounds unconventional. Saunders is
the child of a Cornish poet and a Welsh language
activist who was imprisoned “a couple of times for
vandalising the Welsh Office”. She elaborates: “My
mum was always complaining about being in the
house and having to look after the kids, so I think
she really quite looked forward to going to prison,
just to get a break.” In her house, Anglo-American
culture and the English language were forbidden,
the TV was turned down if S4C wasn’t broadcasting, and everyone spoke Cornish, a language that
virtually died out in 1770, before undergoing a minor – but ongoing – revival 150 years later.
“It was like living in a sort of cult of four people, in
Riverside in Cardiff,” she says. “Years later, I said to
my mum, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about David Bowie
or people like that?’ And she said that it was all just
around, that I was always going to find out about that
stuff myself. But it was really annoying for a while,
‘I was like: my parents
made me learn this thing
that’s quite uncommon,
so I’m going to own it’
‘Like living in a cult of four people’ …
Gwenno Saunders grew up in a house where
Anglo-American culture and speaking English
were both forbidden David Levene
because I’d meet people and have no idea what they
were talking about – you know, ‘Who are Pavement?’”
She left school at 16 and – thanks to her talents
as an Irish dancer – got a job with Michael Flatley’s
Lord of the Dance show and moved to Las Vegas. “It
was utterly bizarre. Obviously, it was the antithesis of
Wales in terms of landscape and driving factors in the
economy.” On her return, she elected to start making
music that attempted to meld the two extremes of
her life experience. “I’d got really into electronic
music in Las Vegas – going out to clubs and dancing all
night was my only release. Trance music was really
big at the time, so I thought doing that was a good
idea, with vocals in Cornish and Welsh. I was doing
a quite Kylie-type thing, with sparkly outfits. I ended
up doing tours of schools and pubs in Cornwall, doing
choreographed dance moves in a sparkly top.”
She released a couple of EPs on the Welshlanguage label Crai . But for some reason, the
public didn’t take to a Kylie-esque teenager singing
trance-influenced pop in a language that Unesco
had declared extinct. Saunders moved on, joining
acclaimed latterday girl group the Pipettes before
embarking on an acclaimed second solo career as a
purveyor of synthy psychedelia.
But the idea of singing in Cornish continued
“itching away”. At the end of her solo debut album, she slipped in a song called Amser, its lyrics a
poem in Cornish written by her father. “Otherwise it
was just going to be this thing that was my parents’
interest that I carry around for the rest of my life. I
was like, ‘You made me learn this thing that’s quite
uncommon, so I’m going to own it.’”
She doesn’t know whether she’s going to make
another Cornish album – “I just follow my nose” –
but it seems likely. After all, there’s a reason beyond
her childhood memories. “When you have minoritised cultures,” she says, “there’s this real desire to
keep creating in them. Because no one’s going to do
it for you, which is a really nice motivation to have.”
Le Kov by Gwenno is out now on Heavenly
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 41
Culture Reviews
Rock & pop
Robert Plant and the
Sensational Space Shifters
A Wrinkle in Time
va DuVernay’s film is a surreal and
primary-coloured children’s story:
good-natured, unworldly, a bit
ungainly, not a masterpiece, but amiable
and generous in spirit. Knowing absolutely
nothing of the 1962 novel by Madeleine L’Engle
on which it’s based, or the Disney TV movie
of 2003, I had no fanbase-proprietary claims.
Yet A Wrinkle in Time has been coolly received
by critics, who have indicated that they cannot
necessarily submit to its updated credentials as
a story about empowerment and young people
of colour. Maybe stories about male superheroes
are much more eligible for acclaim on this basis,
or any basis, than stories about girls.
The movie centres on Meg Murry (newcomer
Storm Reid, above right), a clever, shy, mixedrace teenager. Her younger brother Charles
Wallace (Deric McCabe), is even cleverer. Their
parents are both scientists. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
plays their mother, a particle physicist, and Dad
is Chris Pine, whose work appears to lie between
theoretical physics and pure mathematics.
One afternoon Meg’s dad gives a lecture at
which he reveals his belief in mind-controlled
travel through time and space. Two points on
the space-time continuum, he suggests, can be
pinched together: all that is needed is a fold or
Damien Hirst
n the servant’s hall, two dead hares in vitrines
look perfectly at home among the antler
trophies. No, wait – they are at home. These
are not artworks by Damien Hirst but a small
part of the atmospheric decor of one of England’s
most astounding stately homes.
It is just one more victory for Houghton Hall
in its head-to-head aesthetic contest with our
wealthiest living artist. Hirst plays the house and
the house wins. However surreal and attentiongrabbing his efforts, Houghton Hall consistently
outdoes them, absorbing outsized anatomical
statues into the dreamlike expanse of its
landscaped estate, putting spot paintings in the
shade with rococo tapestries and fairytale beds.
Atsushi Nishijima
a wrinkle. Everyone is aghast. Humiliation is
heaped on his family then he disappears. All of
Meg’s teachers and perhaps even her mother
have come to believe that he succumbed to a
mental breakdown – of which this “wrinkle in
time” stuff was a first symptom – and ran away.
But Meg keeps the faith, believing that her
father has gone on a hyperspace journey. She sets
out to find him, along with her brother Charles,
and Calvin (Levi Miller), who is not-so-secretly
in love with Meg. She is also helped by three wise
women: Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs Whatsit
(Reese Witherspoon, above left) and Mrs Which
(Oprah Winfrey). These women take the children
to a hyperreal, bucolic landscape. The children
go on to encounter various strange figures, such
as the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) and
Red (Michael Peña), as they approach the truth
about their absent father.
This is a film that is always aware of its own
value system, if not preachy then
hen a bit teachy,
bearing the same reverence forr women’s
education and cultural diversity
ty as the Narnia
stories had for Christianity. Yett for all its
avowed modernity and rebooted
ed engagement with contemporary issues,
es, A Wrinkle
in Time does seem like a product
uct of the
Disney 60s: a wacky fantasy family
adventure. Peter Bradshaw
On general release
That’s the trouble Hirst – or any
artist – has in putting on an exhibition
in such a history-laden house: its vivid
atmosphere turns his works into
nto mere
decorations. As such they are fine. As a
sculptor, Hirst is entertaining even when
he’s utterly kitsch. Unfortunately,
ely, he
also shows paintings. Whatever
er the ideas
behind Hirst’s new abstract paintings,
brilliant or inane, they have no
o life, no poetry. In a foolhardy move, Houghton
ughton has
removed every single oil painting
ing from
its state rooms and replaced them
hem all
with Hirst’s spots. No matter – there’s
plenty to look at in this 18th-century
wonderland. Jonathan Jones
At Houghton Hall, Norfolk, until
15 July
obert Plant has, rightly, won lots of
plaudits for reinventing himself in the past
couple of decades, morphing from rock
dinosaur to a thoughtful artist happy to
embrace world music, country and electronica.
So it’s a bit of surprise – though a wonderful one
– when he and his band stroll on to the stage at
the Sydney Opera House and ease into the Led
Zeppelin classic, What Is and What Should Never
Be. As the song builds to its thunderous climax,
some of the audience can’t contain their excitement at the unleashing of this music of primordial
power; the bloke beside me punches the air and
plays air guitar; others are cheering and yelping
their frenzied appreciation. We’re all hooked.
As for the man himself, he still has all the
magnetic charisma and presence that made
him the frontman of the band that more or less
created rock music as we know it. He might be
gnarled and a bit hunched these days but he’s
still full of regal swagger, flipping his microphone
stand nonchalantly, smirking and teasing the
audience with the old moves.
As his musicians rip into their work, he pulls
faces of mock amazement as the solos screech
around him. At moments he appears very
actorly, so much so that at times he resembles
a Shakespearean king surrounded by his courtiers.
They crowd around him in choreographed
fashion, bowing and fawning before him, pleasing
him with their instrumental virtuosity.
With his wild mane he could be Lear, but there
is nothing mad about what he’s doing here. Plant
has worked hard not to be a prisoner of the past
and, as he says early in the show, he’s trying to
create music for the future. Although the naming
of one of those new tracks, May Queen, evokes
a character from one of his most celebrated former glories, Stairway to Heaven, they succeed in
sustaining the interest and keep the pace rattling
along. Carry Fire, the title ttrack of his new album,
also a thrilling version
is a standout, and there’s a
of Please Read the L
Letter, a Plant-Page song
recorded in his co
collaboration with the
singer Alison Krauss.
bluegrass singe
On that alb
album, Raising Sand, the
workout but here
song is a gentle
monster and receives a
it is a rock m
twist when
whe the British folk artist
Lakeman – the night’s
Seth Lak
support act – appears on stage
to reel o
off what can only be
described as a rock violin solo.
Plant’s voice is not quite
what it w
was in his princely
pomp, of course, and there’s a
little bit too
to much soloing for my
liking, but it is still a treat to see
one of mu
music’s genuine legends
all he’s got on the Led
giving it al
Zep tracks Going to California
and Babe II’m Gonna Leave You.
Finally, the powerdriver riff
of Whole Lotta
Love speaks for
brings back the air
itself and b
all parts of the house.
guitar to a
Martin Fa
On tour in Australia,
North Ame
America and Europe
until 16 Sep
42 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Carpenter’s Lodge
One foot after another
works like a sieve
not necessarily good for us. Think
hemlock, arsenic, strychnine.
Sarah Klenbort,
Bronte, NSW, Australia
What clutters up the mind, and how
do you remove it?
If it was true in the 19th century that
“the world is too much with us,” how
much more cluttered are our lives
now, with the drivel-drizzle of social
media, junk mail, endless blogs, etc.
How to remove it? Just pull the plug,
if you remember where it is.
John Geffroy,
Las Vegas, New Mexico, US
• What clutters up the mind is the
constant activity of our amazing
human brain and the only truly uncluttered mind is a dead one! Learning mindful meditation can bring
some order to the clutter and a calmness that comes with self-acceptance.
Margaret Wilkes,
Perth, Western Australia
• Some days it’s just the “stuff ” of
daily life clutters my mind. My best
way to remove it is to walk or jog, on
the beach if possible. One foot after
another works like a sieve – the
dross goes through and only the
good stuff remains.
Elaine James, Nairn, Scotland
• Thinking can both clutter and
remove clutter from the mind. Just
think about that.
Edward P Wolfers,
Austinmer, NSW, Australia
• We were born “au naturel” and
looked cute, but for heaven’s sake
put your clothes on when using
public transport.
Marilyn Hamilton,
Perth, Western Australia
Blooming glory
Clear the decks … clutter requires order
• After a hard day’s work, the brain
becomes a wasteland of used neurotransmitters; a good night’s sleep is
the only way to sweep it clean.
Charlie Bamforth,
Davis, California, US
• Glorifying the past clogs the
mind. Living in the present is the
best remedy.
Jenefer Warwick James,
Paddington, NSW, Australia
Is there a special garden plant or
shrub that is extra special for you?
In Vancouver and Seattle at this time
of year, the camellias come into
bloom. The shrubs flower profusely,
in white, pink or red, offset perfectly
by their dark green foliage.
On the other hand, the local deer
are enamoured by my cherry laurel
that they use as a salad bar.
Anthony Walter,
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
Any answers?
Greenwash? What hogwash
• Being self-obsessed; start thinking
of others.
Rhys Winterburn,
Perth, Western Australia
Why is ‘all natural’ not always
‘all natural’?
Although some try and deny it,
not all natural disasters are free of
human agency. Or because it’s been
greenwashed. And some products
will have been metabolised,
pasteurised or irradiated.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany
• Thinking inside the box and
escaping in a pine one.
Anthony Walter,
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
• It’s not that “all natural” isn’t “all
natural”, but rather that what is
natural – and food companies love to
brag about this on their labels – is
Is there a difference between ‘Everything which is not compulsory is
forbidden,’ and ‘Everything which is
not forbidden is compulsory ?
John Pusey, Oxford, UK
Why does a certain poem come to
mind, so easily and so often?
William Emigh,
British Columbia, Canada
Send answers to weekly.nandq@ or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Gaynor McGrath
Long ago, working near Hampstead
Heath in London, I would climb up
great trees on the Heath at lunchtimes, and settle down on a comfortable branch to read my Manchester
Guardian. As a wide-ranging Aussie
world traveller in the 70s, I would
indulge in one of those delightful
fine-paper Guardian Weeklies, until
back in Australia a good friend
bought me a subscription, till I was
in a position to subscribe myself.
I have loved all the GW reincarnations, and still get a thrill when I
take my Weekly out of the letterbox.
The international news is brilliantly
presented, the challenge of the
crosswords and sudokus eagerly
The climbing bend of an overpass,
in a frigid easterly wind, early.
I’ve come because of an eye-hook
bird I’ve often seen hovering here.
A kestrel – static in the air as if on
a pole, above this corner in precisely
the same place.
More recently, I’ve seen a red kite
showing interest too, wheeling and
listing and riding the wind like its
namesake. If it was a child’s kite,
its line would have been tied to the
barrier of this bend.
I’ve seen the kestrel for years,
usually at dusk, against the sunset
sky like a mad little spatter of dirt on
a west-facing window. Wings frantic,
head down, tail splayed. Watching.
Why was a bird of prey so fixedly
interested in the scrubby, rising
corner of a small rural overpass
built of steep earth and concrete,
crossing the busiest road in the
county? Yes, Kestrels are the
“roadside raptor”, the “motorway
falcon”, famously, distinctively
awaited, as are those futoshikis that
fall like dominoes. I love articles on
the environment and the arts, book
and film reviews, long in-depth
articles, the letters to the editor and
especially George Monbiot. The GW
not only supports my worldview,
but enlarges and challenges it.
My six-year-old grandson is as
eager as me for each new GW. He
opens it up to the treasure of the
middle pages and together, we make
up stories to go with the photos.
He then starts from the front and
studies every photo and drawing,
and asks me all about them.
My three-year-old grandson
(pictured) will raid my little pile of
GWs, awaiting their next home, if he
needs to line a dam in the sandpit.
I’ve told him to use the local paper,
but he says it is just not as good.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
so. Close verge grass gives rodents
less cover, traffic noise more fright
– ideal hunting ground. But why
this spot, so tenaciously?
The overpass is new, less than
a decade old. Snow from the
weekend’s fall is still here, harder
in the direction of the wind.
I climb the barrier and down the
slope beyond, the bit with its
back to the roads, the bit the birds
watch. Ranks of saplings planted
when the overpass was built tell
a chronology of a decade’s growthrace: luxuriant spruce, gaunt
birch, thickety thorn. The ground
is hummocky grass turned yellow
by the winter. The slope is moated
by a trench, then a fence.
I wasn’t expecting a revelation
over the barrier. Teeming voles?
No. I do get an unexpected one:
what this overpass has done is
put a hill where there wasn’t
one. Ten metres in a flat landscape
gives a long view. Just the lines
of fields and a big sky, but an
unfamiliar take nonetheless.
As I turn to go there’s a snap
and a quick movement down there:
two rabbits, under the fence, down
a hole; enough, perhaps, to catch
the eye of the bird that catches
mine. Simon Ingram
Read more Nature watch online
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 43
Quick crossword
Cryptic crossword by Pan
1 Cite as evidence (6)
4 Obliterate (6)
8 Brazilian dance (5)
9 Substance of which teeth
are mainly composed (7)
10 Own up (7)
11 The way to get married
in church? (5)
12 Fat (9)
17 Theme park attractions (5)
19 Individual performer (7)
21 Go on (7)
22 Small wood (5)
23 More than enough (6)
24 Limassol’s island (6)
French wine region (6)
Devilish (7)
Desist (5)
Short ceremonial tune for
trumpets (7)
6 Goodbye to Spain (5)
7 County town and cathedral
city of Devon (6)
9 Talked about (9)
13 Esteem (7)
14 Someone on an excursion
15 Underpin (4,2)
16 Fish-eating mammals (6)
18 Male honeybee (5)
20 Fortunate (5)
Last week’s solution, No 14,910
First published in the Guardian
27 March 2018, No 14,916
1 Mate taking money
into shelter (8)
2 Pole in charge of
sticky stuff (6)
3 Real centre of
democracy on Greek
island (8)
4 Minor embracing
exercise is not in
good shape (6)
5 Dish found in
scenery outside
Globe (6)
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.
©Clarity Media Ltd
3 > 2 < 4
> 1
4 > 2
1 < 3
< 3 < 4
4 < 5
7 Setter leaving
injured American’s
treatment for
bruises (6)
8 Old German
tucked into dish of
fruit (11)
14 Philosopher stops
working to get hold
of Socrates’ second
book (8)
15 Difficult universal
and timeless tale is
deceptive (8)
16 Ski lodge in
Switzerland rented
out after the
beginning of April (6)
17 Problems in
editions? (6)
19 Cloth covering
unacceptable stew
First published in the Guardian
1 March 2018, No 27,445
20 Flipping badger
eating root of
brassica plant (6)
Last week’s solution, No 27,439
Sudoku classic Easy
Last week’s solution
5 Work hard on a new
catchphrase (6)
6 Composition for
soprano working
with Australian
tenor and alto (6)
9 Heartless publisher
to get rid of French
author (6)
10 Oscar trophy found
in tin by actor’s
third tenant (8)
11 Buffet always
includes dairy
product (4)
12 Unpleasant
character found
by retired cops
merrymaking in
empty clink (6,4)
13 Beaten miner agreed
with the police (11)
18 Italian woman
cautious about
wine (10)
21 Juicy drink (4)
22 Bullets containing
iron used by tribal
leader in hardfought battle (8)
23 Save soldiers with
special signal (6)
24 Pout about
expensive hair
product (6)
25 Crafty poet married
Iris (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 06.04.18
Art bank gives itself
licence to print money
A London-based enterprise that is
part art installation, part stunt and
part charitable endeavour started to
print its own money, sell it for real
tender and now intends to use the
proceeds to buy back debt.
Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn
took over an old on a high street in
Walthamstow, north-east London,
for two weeks and printed money
featuring the faces of people behind
four local services – a primary
school, a foodbank, a youth project
and a soup kitchen.
As well as raising money for those
projects, Hoe Street Central Bank
aims to raise enough money to buy
out £1m ($1.4m) of debt owned by
people within the E17 postcode,
in a London borough ranked 35th
most-deprived in the country.
One of the delightful ironies of
the undertaking is that the “bank”
could only have to raise as little
as £20,000 to buy out £1m of local
debt, because bad loans are often
written down to a fraction of their
face value in the secondary market.
“The system forces people into
debt for basic needs,” says Powell.
“We are the forerunners of what we
hope will be a bigger movement for
debt abolition.”
The husband and wife creative
partnership were influenced by
the Strike Debt and Rolling Jubilee
initiatives in the US, which started
to buy debt and abolish it for ethical
reasons. In 2014, Strike Debt bought
$3.8m worth of students’ loans, and
spawned other ad hoc initiatives: in
2016 TV host John Oliver bought and
wrote off $15m of medical debt held
by 9,000 people. The Rolling Jubilee
campaign has raised over $700,000 –
enough to buy over $30m of debt.
One of the artists who worked as
a money printer at the Walthamstow
“bank” (paid at the London living
wage) was drawn to it because he’s
local and had personal experience
of debt. “My parents lost their home
during the recession,” said Alistair
Gentry. “Anyone can get into debt.
It doesn’t matter how rich you are to
start with ... It feels really good to roll
up your sleeves and literally get inky,
but also metaphorically, to do something about it. Not just sit around
and having a moan.” Anna Leach
Rubber duck not your
bathtime best friend
Rubber ducks used as bathtime toys
are a haven for bacteria that could
spread diseases, Swiss and American researchers have found.
The study by the Swiss Federal
Institute of Aquatic Science and
Technology, ETH Zurich and the
University of Illinois, counted
microbes swimming inside the
yellow toys and found the murky
liquid released when ducks were
ned “potentially
squeezed contained
eria” in four out
pathogenic bacteria”
of the five toys studied.
The bacteria found
included Legionella
and Pseudomonas
as aerrium
uginosa, a bacterium
that is “often
implicated in
researchers said.
The study,
published in the
journal Biofilms
and Microbiomes,
said the scientists discovered a strikingly high volume of up to 75m cells
per square centimetre and a variety
of bacteria and fungus in the ducks.
The scientists, who received
funding from the Swiss government as part of broader research
into household objects, said using
higher-quality polymers to make the
ducks could prevent bacterial and
fungal growth. Jamie Grierson
Vive la difference,
pleads ‘rude’ waiter
Navigating the subtleties of the
English language when you are
foreign is a near full-time job; after
almost a decade of doing it, I am yet
to fully grasp all the vagaries. I have,
as a result, some sympathy for
Guillaume Rey, the French waiter
who got fired from a restaurant in
Vancouver for being rude. He is
now trying to argue that he is not
rude – he’s just French, and French
culture “tends to be more direct
and expressive”.
Although there isn’t enough information about th
the case to decide
if his defence is ou
outrageously cocky
or simply a bit bold
bold, Rey’s argument
does highlight so
some important
cultural differences. Language is, o
of course, one of
them, but expectation is
another: when going to a
restaurant in France, getrestaur
ting barked
at by a waiter
is part o
of the experience as is being
terrified by
the possibility of
a knowing frown
a k
when ordering
the wrong wine
with the wrong
course. This doesn’t
mean it always happens, but if it
does, there’s no point in batting an
eyelid: waiters are there to bring
you food, not become your best
friend. Marie Le Conte
A very expensive
aubergine riles court
An Italian man has finally been
acquitted of stealing an aubergine
nine years after being charged,
ending a legal wrangle that cost
taxpayers thousands.
The man, then 49, had the
aubergine in his bucket when
police caught him trying to escape
through a privately owned field near
Lecce, in the southern region of
Puglia, in 2009.
While being taken away, he
pleaded with the police that he had
tried to steal it because he was unemployed and desperate to feed his
child. However, the courts initially
showed no mercy, sentencing him to
five months in prison and ordering
him to pay a €500 ($620) fine. That
punishment was reduced on appeal
to two months in jail and €120.
The man’s legal counsel was
still not satisfied and took the case
to the court of cassation in Rome,
Italy’s highest appeals court, where
the defendant was acquitted nearly
a decade after he was arrested.
The court criticised the lower
courts in Lecce for not taking into
account the extreme weakness of
the prosecution’s case given the
man’s financial situation. It also
lamented the amount of public
money spent on the case, with
€7,000-€8,000 going towards legal
fees as the man was too poor to pay
for his own defence, La Repubblica
reported. Agence France Press
Maslanka puzzles
1 As I entered No 123, I had to duck
a DAB radio being kicked down the
corridor. Pedanticus was yelling
“Borges, you philistine!” and then
“Hove! Hove! Hove!” What might
have set this off ?
2 “I see that 219 is the first power of 2
that ends in two 8s,” remarked Andy
to Candy as they pored over tables
of powers.
“Yes,” said Candy, “It’s
524288. So does 259. It equals
576460752303423488.” Could there
be a power of 2 between them also
ending in 88?
3 “Oh look,” said Punnish, “the
odometer shows a palindromic
reading: 01310.” If an odometer
number is a string of digits (which
For solutions see page 47
may begin with any number of
zeroes, unlike our conventional
way of writing numbers) how
many different palindromic
readings are there for an odometer
showing n digits?
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
In each of the following cases find
the correct definition:
a) study of lakes and inland
b) snail collection
c) painting
d) study of borders
a) one who makes many gaffes
b) one whose job is to cut down
gallows birds
c) French 19th century philologist
and dictionary writer
d) ice-cream wafer
a) small bubble-like inclusion
b) low type
c) catchy slogan
d) squeal
Near Misses
Find another word that might
belong to this unusual set:
E pluribus unum
Rearrange the letters of
ROPE CORAL to make a single word.
Replace each * by a letter to solve
the clue: What a B*O*A*T should be?
Missing Links
Find a word to follow the first
word in the clue and precede the
second, in each case making a
fresh word or phrase ...
a) home load
b) miracle bee
c) pipe dancer
d) hard line
e) cold pad
f) rocket bar
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 45
A letter to …
My wife, who
died of cancer
Illustration by Michele Marconi
Oliver Burkeman
I’ve decided not to decide how I feel
about the advice of controversial
self-help guru Jordan B Peterson
spend three minutes on Twitter, or read the comment below our articles, if you think it’s only us.
This attitude is especially badly suited to
evaluating life advice of the kind that Peterson
dispenses. It makes little sense to reject an insight
that strikes you as useful because the source is
wrong about other things or you dislike their
politics. For instance, Peterson’s counsel to “treat
yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping” gets more profound the more
Pledging allegiance to
a guru’s every word is
pathetic, but rejecting
every word on principle
is patheticness inverted
you reflect on it, I think. And his tips for digging
yourself out of a rut are splendid: “Ask yourself:
‘Is there one thing that exists in disarray in
your life or your situation that you could, and
would, set straight?’ Then ask yourself, ‘What
could I do, that I would do, that would accomplish that, and what small thing would I like as a
reward?’” Cheesy, perhaps. But would you rather
mock the cheesiness, or get out of that rut?
Pledging undying allegiance to a guru’s
every word is pathetic, but rejecting his every
word on principle is the same patheticness
inverted. Are you really so weak-willed that
you fear you’ll tumble headlong into the cult if
you dip into his work? As Peterson might put it::
have some damned self-respect!
Illustration by Lo Cole
o: Jordan B Peterson. This column has
resisted comment so far on the biggest
self-help sensation in years – the
subject of approximately a gazillion
media profiles – because I don’t know
what to think. Clearly, Peterson’s got
some obnoxious followers, including
those who spat misogynistic venom at Channel 4’s
Cathy Newman after she subjected their hero to
an ordinarily aggressive British TV interview.
He’s also too fond of explaining differences
between men and women in terms of evolution,
no matter how flimsy the evidence. On the
other hand, it’s equally clear that many of his
detractors have barely opened his bestseller,
12 Rules for Life, a sprawling, often brilliant,
sometimes infuriating book built around the
core message that life works best if you take
responsibility instead of blaming others, tell the
truth, pursue meaning over fleeting pleasure,
give your day some structure and tidy your room.
If rudderless young men are flocking to him in
droves, that’s hardly a bad thing. I hope they
follow his advice: we’d all be better off.
But lately, my wishy-washy ambivalence about
Peterson has hardened into defiance: why the
hell should I be obliged to decide, as seemingly
every writer who encounters his work thinks they
are, whether Canada’s most controversial professor is A Good Thing or A Bad Thing? This sort
of pressure isn’t limited to Peterson, of course.
It’s a symptom of our hyper-partisan times, in
which everything is politics – every film, book
and sporting event, plus regular politics – and it’s
your responsibility, as a good citizen, to adopt
and feverishly defend one sharply defined,
absolutist viewpoint, come what may. Journalists
are among the worst offenders, undoubtedly. But
y dearest angel, I promised to keep you safe and
protect you for as long as
I lived, but I feel I have
failed in my duty. You left me in
April and I feel so cheated by life.
You were my entire life. You
fought cancer twice, and I remember
you saying the only reason you
put up with all the treatment was
for me. I was terrified of losing you
the first time round.
You had the most beautiful hair
and it pained me to have to shave it
when you were undergoing chemotherapy. When the treatment was
completed, all I wanted to do was
hold you and not let you go.
This time, when the doctors
informed us that there was nothing they could do, I was shattered.
You could see that I was lost and it
affected you. I am so sorry that I was
not strong enough to help you cope.
We dreamed of growing old
together, but little did I know that all
our plans would come to nothing.
I hate coming back to the house
with you no longer here; it is no
longer my home, it’s just a place I
come to lie down before I go back to
work the next day. I dread the weekends, when I have to be in the house
with the memory of your illness.
Nothing makes sense any more.
I will always cherish the 20
years we were together – the best
years of my life.
While going through some things
on your laptop, I found a recording
of your voice and I play it every time
I feel alone. The memories of us
together are all I have. My greatest
fear is that I will start to lose those.
When you were
here, I took it for
you would be at home
granted that yo
Here to give me
when I came back.
a hug and ask m
me how my day was.
Now that I have lost you I feel so
and I wonder how
empty a
long I ca
can go on without you.
I miss y
you so much.
You were my best friend
and my soulmate. Friends
tell me time will help me
adjust, but I do not want
that. I want to remember
until the day I meet
you un
wherever that is.
you again,
Nobody will ever take your
place iin my heart. I will
each day as it comes.
live ea
Wherever you are, I know
you are
ar watching and I will
try to live by your
principles. Until we
meet again, my love.
46 The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18
Baseball conflicted
in the age of Trump
Latin-Americans make
up 31% of professional
players, but many
team owners endorse
policies seen as hostile
Mike Elk and Karina Moreno
Brandenton, Florida
In between rounds of batting practice in the Florida sun, the Venezuelan-born Minnesota Twins catcher
Willians Astudillo comes over and
takes off his catcher’s mask, revealing
a mess of blond-highlighted curly hair.
For nearly 130 years, young men
like Astudillo have been trying to
break into the big leagues in baseball at spring training – their annual
chance to impress the owners of Major
League Baseball (MLB) clubs, and for
the fans a chance to check out talent
before the season opened last week.
The 26-year-old Astudillo has been
a star of the minor leagues, which act
as training grounds for the big
g teams,
ping for
for the last few years and is hoping
wins this
a permanent spot with the Twins
year. But as the new season
n begins,
Astudillo says one subject
is on the mind of his fellow
ubLatino ball players in the clubion
house – Trump’s immigration
policies. “We are conscious
us of
d the
everything happening, and
situation this country is currently
in. It is regrettable,” said Astudillo
He’s particularly worried about
Trump’s much-litigated travel
ban that includes some people
from Venezuela.
Baseball has long played
a key role in conversations
on racial equality in the United States.
Jackie Robinson integrated the Major
Leagues nearly eight years before
Brown v Board of Education integrated
public schools. The Oakland A’s president, David Kazal, said his team was
holding its first ever Cesar Chavez Day
this weekend – celebrating the labour
leader as part of Opening Day weekend
festivities as a way to continue to use
baseball as an integrating force.
However, the Trump-supporting
political spending of many MLB owners
and their push to exempt the increasingly Latino minor leagues from US
minimum wage laws has raised questions about how committed they are to
their Latino players and their growing
Latino fanbase. Last year immigrant
players made up a record high percentage of professional opening day
rosters. About 31% of all professional
baseball players and approximately
50% of all minor leaguers are Latinos.
Throughout Latin America, all 30 MLB
teams run dormitory-style academies
that offer free room and board to boys
as young as 13, who drop out of school
to pursue their dream.
When clubs sign players in Latin
America, they are able to sskirt the
league’s draft rules on minimum
as 16
age, signing them up as young a
without representation. Often, tthey
get only a few thousand dollars ssigning bonus, and a minim
wage of only $1,10
$1,100 a
month to work for a m
five months a year
year; in
contrast US-b
top draft pi
of comparable
talent are sig
for bonuses
worth million
Despite b
basebeing a
ball bein
Swing shift … (clockwise from main) Willians Astudillo playing in Mexico; another
Venezuelan, José Altuve, in action for Houston Astros; Puerto Rican icon Roberto
Clemente, who played in Pittsburgh for 17 years; Donald Trump at the White House
industry, the Save America’s Pastime
Act signed by the Trump administration last week will permanently exempt minor league players from federal
minimum wage laws. “I would see eight
Latino guys piled into a two-bedroom
apartment,” said Garrett Broshuis, a
former minor league pitcher turned
lawyer, who is leading a class-action
wage theft lawsuit on behalf of minor
league ballplayers.
Baseball increasingly depends
on Latino fans. As the sport loses its
popularity among black and white
millennial audiences, profits have
been buoyed by growing Latino
viewership. Many clubs go to great
lengths to market themselves to
Latino fans domestically and overseas. Pittsburgh Pirates renamed the
bridge that fans cross over before
games the Roberto Clemente Bridge,
after the Latino superstar.
Yet last month, the Pittsburgh
Pirates president, Frank Coonelly,
spoke at the annual Lincoln Day fundraiser for the Allegheny county Republican party featuring the Trump
aide Kellyanne Conway and the antiimmigrant Republican candidate Rick
Saccone before the Pennsylvania 18th
congressional district special election. Coonelly dismissed any suggestion that he was there to campaign
for Saccone or his anti-immigrant
agenda. Elsewhere, the Chicago Cubs
co-owner Joe Ricketts also ran multimillion-dollar ads accusing the Democrat Conor Lamb, who won the race, of
being in favour of “sanctuary cities”.
Cricket Australia bans fail to cover up need for more questions
Inside sport
Andy Bull
he harder you step in mess,
the more it spreads. Cricket
Australia found a flaming
bag of the stuff on its doorstep and decided the best way to put
it out was to stamp right down on it.
It has banned Steve Smith and David
Warner from all state and international cricket for a year, Cameron
Bancroft for nine months, and
ordered all three to do 100 hours of
community service. Smith will not
be eligible for any kind of leadership
role in the Australian team for another two years, Warner ever again.
The crime was petty, the coverup clumsy, the punishment swift
and vicious. Warner and Smith have
both been cut from this year’s Indian
Premier League, too. Outside of the
treatment given to match fixers, there
is no precedent in cricket for such
heavy sentences. They are certainly
not in line with those given to
the other players who have
been caught ball-tampering in recent years.
Sympathy for the
three banned players is
tempered by the sorry
details. Warner came
up with the plan to cheat,
taught Bancroft how to do it,
Smith (pictured) signed it off, and
then all three tried to cover it up.
Worse, Smith and Bancroft had lied
in their confessional press conference, when they insisted
Bancroft had not been using
sandpaper but sticky tape.
Hard questions have not
been answered by these
bans. It is not clear why the
players decided to change
their story about the sandpaper,
or why the lie stood for three days.
Nor why, if this was really the first
time the team had cheated in this
The Guardian Weekly 06.04.18 47
Sport in brief
While the Golden State Warriors
did not go to the White House after
winning the 2017 NBA championship to
show their opposition to Trump’s policies, the Houston Astros gladly agreed
to a photo op with Trump, featuring
several all-star Latino players, including current American League Most
Valuable Player José Altuve.
Arizona congressman Raúl Grijalva
said: “Like it or not, despite what
owners are doing in terms of shoring
up and propping up Donald Trump
… Resistance will be there because
immigrants have been exploited in
every work sector in this country.”
It’s a sentiment that many in baseball share in the age of Trump. “We
aren’t perfect,” said the Oakland A’s
Kaval. “But we have to continue to
strive to make those contributions.”
Karina Moreno is an assistant
professor at Long Island University
way, the South African cameramen
say they were tipped off to keep an
eye out, or Warner felt he had to get
Bancroft to do the tampering. It is not
clear why, if CA was really “sick of
Warner’s bullshit” as one report put
it, that it was tolerated for so long.
And it is not clear why it took all this
for the coach, Darren Lehmann – who
has also resigned – to realise something was so wrong with his team.
Of course all the answers will be
in a wide-ranging review when, no
doubt, CA’s chief executive, James
Sutherland, will be just as tough on
himself as the governing body has
been on Smith, Warner, and Bancroft.
• England’s Test cricket side fought
hard in the second Test in Christchurch but were unable to force a victory as New Zealand clung on for a
draw. Stuart Broad took two wickets
with his first two balls of the day as
the tourists, needing to bowl New
Zealand out on the last day, reduced
the hosts to 91 for 4 in the first hour.
But the hosts finished the day on 256
for 8 to secure the draw and win the
two-match series 1-0.
Triple champion … Anthony Joshua, right
• England’s women cricketers suffered a 57-run defeat to Australia in
the final of the Tri-Nation T20 series
in India as a run of poor results continued. Following successive defeats
to the same opponents and the hosts
in the group stages, England were
always up against it in Mumbai.
Chasing Australia’s 209 for four, a
record score for women’s T20 internationals, England never recovered
from the double early losses of Bryony Smith and Tammy Beaumont for
ducks, and were eventually restricted
to 152 for nine off their 20 overs.
• Alan Pardew left his job as
English Premier League side West
Bromwich Albion’s manager after
just over four months. The club said
it was a mutually agreed decision,
which followed nine straight defeats.
West Brom won only one Premier
League match in 18 attempts under
Pardew and are 10 points adrift of
safety at the bottom of the table
with six games remaining. In Greece,
meanwhile, the PAOK Salonika president Ivan Savvidis was banned from
football stadiums for three years
for storming on to the pitch with a
gun in his waistband during a domestic game on 11 March. The Greek
league also stripped the club, who
lie second, of three points, dealing a
blow to their title chances.
• Leinster extinguished English
interest in rugby union’s European
Champions Cup by inflicting a
30-19 defeat on reigning champions
Saracens at the Aviva Stadium.
The tournament top seeds face
the Scarlets in the semi-finals at
the same ground after completing
a conclusive victory in Dublin. In
last weekend’s other quarter-final,
Racing 92 beat Clermont 28-17 to
set up a semi-final against Munster
in Bordeaux.
Maslanka solutions
Leonard Barden
By winning last month’s candidates
tournament in Berlin, the 25-yearold American Fabiano Caruana has
qualified for a 12-game world title
series against Norway’s Magnus
Carlsen in November. It was going
to be in London with a €1m ($1.2m)
prize fund, but now there are
rumours of an attempted venue
switch and some tricky negotiations.
The first American-born
challenger since Bobby Fischer
defeated Boris Spassky in 1972
lives in St Louis, which has
become a renowned global chess
centre hosting, inter alia, the US
championship and an annual elite
event in which both Carlsen and
Caruana compete.
The billionaire Rex Sinquefield
bankrolls it all and was financially
responsible for Caruana, who
has dual nationality, electing to
represent the US rather than Italy
from 2015.
Caruana’s penultimate round
win over Levon Aronian, who
was the pre-tournament favourite
but ended up last, became a
complex struggle, decided by a
few key moments.
3560 White mates in three moves (by Fritz
Giegold, 1970)
Fabiano Caruana v Levon Aronian
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6
5 O-O Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 O-O 8 d3
d6 9 Bd2!? Bg4 10 c3 d5 11 h3 Bh5
12 Qe2 Rb8 13 Bg5 dxe4 14 dxe4 h6
15 Bc1 Bg6 16 Nbd2 Nh5 17 Nf1 Bc5
18 g3 Kh7 19 Kg2 Qe7 20 Bc2 Rfd8
21 b4 Bb6 22 a4 Nf6 23 Nh4 Qe6
24 Bd3 Bh5 25 g4 Bxg4!? 26 hxg4
Nxg4 27 Nf5 Nxf2!? 28 Bc2 g6
29 N1e3? gxf5 30 exf5 Qf6 31 Qxf2
e4? 32 Rh1 Rd6 33 Bxe4 Rg8+ 34 Kf1
Ne5 35 Qf4 c6 36 axb5 Rg5 37 bxa6
Qd8 38 f6+ Ng6 39 Rxh6+! 1-0
3560 1 Kc1! f5 2 Rgd7! Bxf4+ 3 R7d2 mate.
Ulises Ruiz/AFP/Getty; Harry How/Focus on Sport/Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty
• Anthony Joshua, taken the
distance for the first time in 21
boxing bouts, collected a third major
heavyweight world title belt when
he cruised to a convincing if dramafree win over the WBO champion,
Joseph Parker, and looks in good
shape to raise his game for what will
be a more demanding assignment
against Deontay Wilder. Two of the
judges saw it 118-110, and the third
had it 119-109, which was perhaps
a bit harsh on the New Zealander.
But the verdict was, overall, fair.
Afterwards, Joshua said: “This is
boxing. It’s what we do. Forget the
hype. Joseph Parker is a good world
champion. As I said before, this
would be about boxing. The main
thing now is I am the unified heavyweight champion of the world.”
1 More solecisms on our favourite network
radio station. It seems that some expert
bolstering her case with the sacred name
of Borges pronounced it to rhyme with
Orge (the river in France). Bozhe moi! My
advice to folk appearing on quibbly “not
necessarily, professor”-type programmes
is to check the pronunciation of the authors
of the quotes you pluck so freely. This
was followed by a presenter (no names,
no packdrill) saying that another one was
“hoving into view”. It’s not difficult: I heave
into view today; I hove into view yesterday.
O mores! Sent in by too many to mention.
2 The terminal digits of powers recur
cyclically. For example, the powers of 2
have endings 2, 4, 8, 6, 2, 4, 8, 6 … in cycles
of the 4 digits [2, 4, 8, 6]. If 219 is the first
power of 2 to end in two 8s (-88) Candy
argued that we expect a period of at least 19
for -88 (is that logical?); so the only other
possible candidate is 239. But that ends in
three 8s: 549755813888.
3 The number of palindromes with n digits
(n odd) equals the number with n + 1 digits.
If n is odd we have 10(n + 1)/2; if even, 10n/2.
Point to Ponder: Can you unite these into a
single formula?
Wordpool a), c), a).
Near Misses These are all words obtainable
by changing the name of an element of the
periodic table by one letter.
E Pluribus Unum CORPOREAL
Dropouts BUOYANT
Missing Links a) home/work/load;
b) miracle/worker/bee; c) pipe/line/dancer;
d) hard/border/line; e) cold/shoulder/pad;
f) rocket/salad/bar.
Guardian News & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. Published by Guardian News & Media Ltd.,
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK.
Acting editor: Graham Snowdon.
Printed by Trinity Mirror Printing Ltd, Watford. Registered as a newspaper at the Post Office.
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Gut feelings
From obesity to anxiety, could
the key be in our microbes?
Discovery, pages 32-33
Gaby Hinsliff
Delayed parenthood is often laid at
the door of women wanting to build
a career before motherhood, but is
insecure housing the real culprit?
difficulty of feeling torn between an all-absorbing
career and a ticking biological clock, but in a sense
they’re the lucky ones; generations of women
before us would have killed to have such choices.
What does worry me, however, is whether for
some of them later motherhood is becoming a
warning sign of underlying economic distress.
For as the UK Office of National Statistics puts
it, delayed parenthood isn’t just about what it calls
the “opportunity costs of childbearing”, or what is
more popularly referred to as women putting their
careers first. (Where do men put their careers,
one wonders, for the whole of their 20s? Is the
argument that they’re all secretly dying to change
nappies, if only their girlfriends would just settle
down?) Of course anxiety about whether parenthood will be the death of your career still looms
depressingly large, even though in some ways
it should never have been easier to pull off that
particular conjuring trick. A young woman starting out in my old job now wouldn’t have the same
sinking feeling of looking round the office and
wondering where all the women of childbearing
age went; at least she’d have the right to ask for
part-time hours, and the option of her partner
The last time birthrates
among UK women over
35 rose this high was
in the late 1940s
Ellie Foreman-Peck
obody is ever really ready to
have a baby. You think you are,
eventually, but it’s not until
you actually become a parent
that it becomes clear how
preposterous that notion is. I
can still remember, even at the
ripe old age of 35, hesitating on the way out of
the maternity ward, half-waiting for some sort
of grownup to rush out and stop us. Surely they
weren’t just going to let a pair of hapless amateurs
leave with an actual live baby?
But it turns out the essence of parenthood,
and arguably of grownup life in general, is never
really feeling ready for any of it and muddling
through all the same. It’s like being kicked
upstairs through a series of wholly undeserved
promotions, feigning breezy competence in front
of management all the way from the toddler years
to the teens, and praying they don’t notice that
you’re hopelessly out of your depth.
So in some ways it’s hardly a surprise, still
less a crisis, that the average age of parenthood
should be creeping up and up; that the birthrate is
falling now in all age groups except the over-40s,
according to official UK statistics released last
week, and that within a year or so births to women
in their 30s are expected to outnumber those to
women in their 20s. There’s so much to be said
for doing a bit of living first, for taking romantic
or professional risks while you can and coming
to parenthood older and wiser and resigned to
the inevitable death of a social life – or, indeed,
making a considered decision not to come to it
at all. Older parenthood is now becoming the
norm not just for the graduate middle classes,
who have always left it late, but increasingly
across the spectrum; the peak age for conceiving
among women in the lowest-skilled jobs is now
in their late rather than early 20s.
And arguably, so what? If millennials are
making a choice to grow up more slowly, to put
parenthood off until they’re ready, in the full
knowledge that leaving it too late carries a risk
that it might never happen, then all power to
them. I don’t for one moment underestimate the
taking some paternity leave too. Then again, she’d
arguably be lucky now to have got my old job in
the first place. More likely she’d be freelancing
instead, and all too uncomfortably aware that
the path to paid maternity leave is hardly easy.
This must be partly what the ONS means by citing
“uncertainty in the labour market” as a hidden
force behind falling fertility rates.
But the other new culprit on the block is what
it calls “housing factors”: what most of us would
call the fierce desire to nest; to feel settled in a
home, not hopping from rented flat to rented
flat and constantly worrying about school
catchments. Push that secure state further and
further out of reach for young couples and it’s not
surprising if they delay starting a family.
Britain’s housing market is, as we learned last
week, beginning to seize up even for those lucky
enough to have scraped into it. Homeowners are
moving less often, either because they’re elderly or
because the cost of trading up – say, from a one-bed
starter flat to somewhere with room for a nursery
– is increasingly prohibitive not just in the expensive hotspots but in cold ones, where people aren’t
building up enough equity to rise up the ladder.
The lucky ones just stay put and extend the loft,
but the unlucky will struggle to make the physical
space for a family. A survey by the housing charity
Shelter in 2016, the same year covered by the latest
birthrate statistics, found that one in five people
were putting off starting a family because of housing pressures. Tellingly, the last time birthrates
among women over 35 rose this high was in the late
1940s, when so many younger couples’ plans to
start a family would have been delayed by the war.
What we’re experiencing now is obviously
a much milder peacetime variant, something
shaped as much by raised expectations of what’s
needed to raise a family as by harsh economics.
But all the same, there’s something deeply
uncomfortable about the idea of lives being placed
on pause for such avoidable reasons. If we must
have a moral panic about fertility, don’t let it be
over young women choosing to live a little before
they have kids. Let it be over the ones who may be
running out of choices.
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