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The Week Middle East — 03 February 2018

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The main story…
What happened
What the editorials said
Gunning for May
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, warned that
the detailed trade talks that are scheduled to start in
March would proceed only if the UK first made clear what
it wanted. In a further blow to the PM, a secret Whitehall
analysis prepared for Cabinet members, but leaked to
BuzzFeed, claimed that Brexit will leave the economy worse
off whether the UK leaves the EU with a free trade deal, single
market access or with no deal at all.
What happened
What the editorials said
Trump’s volte­face
Donald Trump surprised his critics last week
when, in his keynote speech at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, he dropped his
protectionist rhetoric and spoke out for free
trade. The president said he wanted a global
trading system that worked “for all nations”.
He told political and business leaders that
under his leadership, the US was “open for
business” again and that it welcomed foreign
investors; the US might even rejoin talks on
the multilateral Trans­Pacific Partnership,
abandoned by Washington immediately after
he took office, he hinted. “America first,” he
declared, does not mean “America alone”.
Hats off to Trump for “the most emollient and effective inter­
national address of his presidency”, said The Times. His words
were “an essential antidote” to the “starkly
isolationist” message of his inauguration
address. Let’s hope they encourage the “world’s
liberal elites” to stop viewing Trump as the
“devil incarnate”, said the Daily Mail. Yes, he’s
narcissistic and volatile. But judge him by his
deeds rather than by his “crass” tweets and a
different picture emerges. His tax cuts have led
to investment “flooding back” to the US; and
firms such as Walmart and Apple are passing on
the benefits of lower business taxes through
“hefty pay rises all round”.
The president: all smiles at Davos
The president insisted, however, that America would not
“turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices”. Earlier in
the week he had raised fears of a trade war when he slapped
punitive tariffs on imported solar panels and washing
machines, mainly produced in China and South Korea.
It wasn’t all bad
An orca in France is thought
to be the first killer whale to
be able to “speak” human.
By producing sounds through
its blowhole, Wikie can say
“hello”, “bye bye”, “one, two,
three” and “Amy”.The whale
learnt the words – which come
out as squawks and whistles –
by copying the speech patterns
of its trainer (Amy) at its marine
park in Antibes. Whales are
members of a select group
of animals that can learn to
reproduce sounds just by
hearing them.
The “hard­line Brexiters” are restive, said
The Guardian. Until recently, they seemed
reconciled to the idea of a stand­still transition
period after we leave the EU. “Now, though, their fears about
a soft Brexit or even a reversal of Brexit – plus their sense that
Mrs May cannot survive – is luring them into recklessness.”
The difficulty for these critics is that there is a majority in
Parliament, and in the Cabinet, for the sort of transition May
is pursuing, said The Daily Telegraph. “If they don’t like it,
they will have to act soon, but then they risk destabilising the
Government and may not get Brexit at all.”
The PM: no strategy?
The danger is that the new tariffs on Asian
goods will undermine that progress, said The Wall Street
Journal. Thousands of US jobs will be at risk if utility
companies no longer have access to cheap solar panels, and
consumers will be paying more for their white goods. The
victims of a trade war won’t be the Chinese: they will be the
“forgotten men and women” Trump promised to protect.
A farmyard cow in
Poland has escaped
its pen and taken
up with a herd of
wild bison. Having
run away from a
farm in October, the
Limousin cow has
spent the past
three months with
the bison in the
Białowieza Forest,
on the Polish-Belarusian border. The animals seem to have accepted
it: it is in good condition, which indicates that it has been getting
food. However, there are concerns it might mate with a bison –
which could kill it during delivery, because the hybrid calf would be
bigger than a normal calf, while also contaminating the gene pool
of Poland’s endangered bison population.
A cash-strapped student woke
up from a nap on a train to find
that a kind-hearted stranger had
left £100 on her lap. While
travelling to her home town of
Leeds, Ella Johannessen, 23,
had made an emotional call to
her mother about her financial
worries. She had got into debt
in her final year at university
after giving up her part-time
job to focus on her studies.
Later, waking from her nap,
she found five £20 notes under
a napkin – and burst into tears.
She said the gesture showed
that there was “kindness, and
good people, in the world”.
Theresa May faced renewed calls to quit this
week, as Tory MPs and donors accused her
of lacking leadership skills and a clear Brexit
strategy. The latest round of speculation about
her political survival began last week when the
Chancellor, Philip Hammond, suggested in
a speech in Davos that Brexit would entail
only “very modest” changes to the UK­EU
relationship. This enraged Eurosceptics, who
saw it as evidence that the PM was backsliding
on her promise of a clean break with the EU.
Their hackles were further raised when Brussels
set out its stance on the Brexit transition period,
specifying that the UK will have to follow all
EU rules, without being able to shape them, for
two years after it leaves the bloc.
“Only a month ago, Theresa May appeared to be in a
relatively strong position after concluding a phase­one Brexit
deal with the EU,” said The Independent. But
a weak start to the year, including a “botched
Cabinet reshuffle”, has triggered a new round
of infighting. If it carries on like this, her
critics may soon muster the 48 Tory MPs
needed to call a vote of no confidence. The
situation is untenable, agreed the FT. May
seems “paralysed, unable to impose discipline
or – much to the frustration of her interlocutors
in Europe – to articulate any strategy at all”.
She has apparently abandoned plans to deliver
another high­profile speech on Brexit for fear
of widening Cabinet splits.
…and how it was covered
What the commentators said
What next?
The worst thing about the present Tory shambles, said Juliet Samuel in The Daily Telegraph,
is that it’s sabotaging our ability to negotiate a decent Brexit deal. Several EU countries have
signalled that they’re open to a new approach: Sweden has declared that any Brexit deal
should go further than the EU’s deal with Canada; Luxembourg’s PM recently criticised the
EU’s “binary thinking” on Brexit. If Britain were not so distracted by its government being
so “dithering” and “rudderless”, it would have more time to cultivate these allies and further
its interests. We’re failing to take advantage of a crucial “window of opportunity”.
Some of the PM’s critics
have signalled that a poor
Tory performance in May’s
local elections could trigger
a no-confidence vote.
Others have suggested that
she should quit once the
outline of an EU trade deal
is in place in October.
Tory MPs are united in despair today, said Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. The centre
and left of the party are worried about the “lack of direction and vision”, while Eurosceptics
fear she’s going soft on Brexit, suspecting – with good reason – that the transition period could
be endlessly extended. It is the job of a leader to break these sort of impasses and rally MPs
behind a common cause, said Andreas Whittam Smith in The Independent. If May can’t do
that, “what is the point of her”? We’ve reached the stage where any other candidate – be it
Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd or Sajid Javid – would be an improvement.
Perhaps so, said Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, but the reality is that no leader will ever be
able to “bridge the yawning ravine between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Anna Soubry”. There is no
conceivable deal that would satisfy “the crash-out-now Brextremists, the Binos (‘Brexit in name
only’) and the stay-ins”. No wonder May cancelled her speech and is hiding behind a “twoyear transition to nowhere”. The anger at May is misdirected, agreed Janan Ganesh in the FT.
The UK’s options after Brexit boil down to a choice between “substantial enmeshment with the
single market (along Norwegian lines) or external trade with it (the Canadian model)”. While
attempting, with a predictable lack of success, to fudge the difference, May has essentially
selected the latter course and wants to smooth the way with a transition period. Given the
harsh realities of Britain’s negotiating position, up against a far larger trading bloc, it’s hard
to see what a new prime minister would be able to do that she hasn’t.
This week’s leaked Brexit
document estimated that UK
growth would be between
2% and 8% lower over the
next 15 years compared to
current forecasts under the
three scenarios that were
measured (see page 36).
But a government source
dismissed the document as
a “selective interpretation
of a preliminary analysis”,
pointing out that the analysis
hadn’t sought to measure the
economic impact of the
Government’s desired
outcome of a bespoke deal.
What the commentators said
What next?
What a difference a year makes, said Hamish McRae in The Independent. In 2017, it was the
Chinese leader Xi Jinping who “wowed” the audience at Davos by unexpectedly championing
the cause of free trade. This year, it was Trump who played that role – and he did so with real
force. The first serving US president to attend Davos since Bill Clinton in 2000, he turned up at
the head of the largest-ever US delegation to go there: it included both the secretary of state and
the treasury secretary. Small wonder the world’s business elite were “purring” at his apparent
change of heart. Their relief could be short-lived, said Oliver Wiseman on CapX. If this
notoriously impulsive president has had a sudden rethink on globalisation, he’s just as likely
to have another. When the next round of renegotiation talks on the Nafta trade pact gets under
way, he may well act on his threat to pull out altogether. He probably still sees getting tough on
China, a key pledge in his election campaign, as his best hope for re-election.
Friendly talks in Davos
between Trump and
Theresa May ended with
an agreement to finalise
the date of a visit by the
president to London later
this year. After the meeting,
Trump spoke of his “really
great relationship” with the
PM and the likelihood of a
“tremendous increase” in
UK-US trade.
Yet any tariff war would be self-defeating, said Shawn Donnan in the FT. Both Trump’s predecessors imposed tariffs early in their presidencies; both came to regret it. George W. Bush’s
levy on foreign steel is thought to have cost 200,000 US jobs; Barack Obama’s tariff on Chinese
tyres was also damaging. Yet, apparently unaware of the danger, this administration is said to
be considering new tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium. But it’s hypocritical to single out
Trump as the wicked protectionist, said Jeremy Warner in The Daily Telegraph. As US
commerce secretary Wilbur Ross noted last week, China and other leading economies love to
preach free trade while “practising the opposite”. China shuts America’s “digital giants” out
of its markets while Europe imposes a 10% tariff on US cars – four times the rate charged by
America for cars from the EU. As Trump rightly says, free trade must also be fair trade.
If you fell into arguing with a man
espousing views you despised,
would you be less inclined to hit
him if he were wearing a tie as opposed to a T-shirt? Of all the
hidden conventions that sustain democracy – conventions that the
authors of our Book of the week (see page 23) fear are being slowly
eroded – dress codes are the last that spring to mind. But they still
matter. Especially in France. After Emmanuel Macron’s party won a
parliamentary majority in June, the practice of male MPs having to
wear ties was swiftly abandoned. But last week, as a result of a farleft MP addressing the Assembly wearing his local team’s greenand-black shirt, the drift to informality was abruptly reversed.
Outraged deputies have now banned MPs from turning up in
football shirts. Quite right too. Bad form is bad for democracy.
Jolyon Connell
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Washington is expected
to announce what Trump
has called a big “fine” on
China for the alleged theft
of intellectual property (IP).
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often forced by China to
hand over their IP as a cost
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Controversy of the week
Taking on big tech
The big event at the World Economic Forum in Davos last
week was meant to be Donald Trump’s appearance, said
John Cassidy in The New Yorker. As it turned out, he was
“upstaged by another elderly Manhattan billionaire: George
Soros”. In a blistering speech, the investor and crusading
philanthropist inveighed against “the rise and monopolistic
behaviour of the giant IT platform companies”, particularly
Google and Facebook. In economic terms, Soros said, they
were making excessive profits, crushing competitors and
stifling innovation. But they were also harming individuals
and democracy. Social media companies “deliberately
engineer addiction to the services they provide”, he said; they
Soros: crusading billionaire
“influence how people think and behave without them even
being aware of it”. And it was only a matter of time, Soros argued, before governments would have
to step in and break them up – to regulate them like public utilities.
Soros summed up the prevailing mood, said Adam Satariano on Bloomberg. Big tech is facing
criticism across the world, “on a range of critical issues”: for spreading misinformation, Russian
propaganda and extremist content; for harming users’ mental health; for invading their privacy;
for avoiding taxes; for threatening massive job losses as a result of advances in automation. Big tech
has become dangerously big, said Jamie Doward in The Observer. But what can be done about it?
The “nuclear option” would be to subject the likes of Google and Amazon to the anti-monopoly
treatment meted out to, say, the US telecoms giant AT&T in 1956: it was forced to give patents to
rivals for free, a crucial step in the “technology explosion” that created Silicon Valley. This would be
justified. Facebook and Google between them hoover up three-quarters of global online advertising
revenue. But regulators usually act against monopolies only when they drive up consumer prices; the
services offered by big tech are mostly free or cheap, and popular. The authorities could still do more
to stop them neutralising the competition, said The Economist. Facebook keeps buying rivals such as
WhatsApp and Instagram. Amazon is adept at squeezing competitors from the market.
We ought to focus on what big tech firms actually do, said Evgeny Morozov in The Observer.
Essentially, they’re data-miners. Facebook and Google launch products not for the revenue, but the
data they can gather from users, which they then find ways to sell. Amazon makes far more profit on
its information services than from shopping. And with this data comes a vast amount of power, said
Jessi Hempel in Wired. Every time they use that power, the tech companies risk alienating the public.
So far, tech’s leaders haven’t shown a “moral compass”: witness Facebook’s reluctance to act on
evidence that Russian agents were exploiting it and Uber’s many dubious practices. These firms need
to win our trust – “to convince us that they deserve our faith as they pilot us into the unknown”.
Spirit of the age
Black cats are struggling to
find new homes because
they don’t look good in
selfies, the founder of a
Bristol rescue shelter has
claimed. All 40 of the felines
at The Moggery are black –
and Christine Bayka says
that prospective owners
refuse to take them because
they show up badly in
photos, making them harder
to show off on Instagram
and the like. “It’s an increasing problem,” she said.
The number of British
teenagers holding a driving
licence has plunged in the
past two decades, a finding
that could have huge implications for the car industry.
In 1992-94, 48% of 17- to
20-year-olds had a licence;
by 2014 only 29% can legally
drive. In the same time, the
proportion of 21- to 29-yearolds with licences has fallen
from 75% to 63%.
Good week for:
Yorkshire, which now fields its own international football team.
The squad decided that, rather than play in an English league, it
would sign up to Conifa, to compete against the likes of Quebec,
Zanzibar, Darfur and South Ossetia. However, its first match,
which ended in a draw, was against the Isle of Man.
Elton John, who announced that he is to retire from live shows –
just as soon as he has completed a three-year, five-continent,
300-concert Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. John, 70, said he
wanted to have more time to dedicate to his children.
Thomas Cook, which made headlines by offering customers a
new and apparently unique service: the chance to pre-book their
own sunlounger, for their entire stay. The scheme, costing s25,
could be available at 30 hotels this summer, after an initial trial.
Bad week for:
Treasure hunters, after a trove of Roman gold unearthed
by two metal detectorists in a field in Suffolk turned out to be
nothing more than a prop left over from the filming of a BBC
comedy about two metal detectorists. Andy Sampson and Paul
Adams reckoned they were in for a £250,000 windfall, until an
expert pronounced the coins replicas – and Sampson’s wife
reminded him that Detectorists had been filmed in the area.
Paul Hollywood, the Bake Off judge, who was alleged to have
bought thousands of fake followers on Twitter from a firm in the
US. Devumi charges about $29 per 2,500 followers. Rower James
Cracknell was also named in a New York Times report. He said
he bought 50,000 followers in 2016 and that he regretted it.
Rape cases review
The Crown Prosecution
Service is to review all
current rape cases in England
and Wales, to ensure
evidence has been properly
disclosed. Director of Public
Prosecutions Alison
Saunders warned that the
review, which follows the
recent collapse of several
trials owing to evidence not
being shared with defence
lawyers, could lead to some
prosecutions being dropped.
In the lead-up to criminal
trials, police have a duty to
disclose evidence that might
help the defence – but it
seems that information from
phones and social media is
often being withheld.
BBC pay gap
There is “no evidence” of
gender bias in the BBC’s
payment of on-air presenters,
according to a new report.
However, auditors from the
firm PwC did find that male
presenters are paid 6.8%
more, on average, than
female presenters. In
response, the BBC said
there would be “substantial”
pay cuts for some men –
including John Humphrys
and Jeremy Vine – and pay
rises for other employees of
both sexes. The BBC has also
proposed a £320,000 cap on
news presenters’ salaries.
The 170-strong BBC Women
group still insists that women
are being paid less than men
for doing the same jobs.
Poll watch
47% of voters are now in
favour of a second EU
referendum once the terms
of Brexit are known. 36% of
voters expect Brexit to have
a positive impact on the
economy; 49% think it will
have a negative impact.
Only 27% of 18- to 24-yearolds are in favour of leaving
the EU, compared to 69% of
people over 75.
ICM/The Guardian
21% of 18- to 24-year-olds
don’t communicate with
their next-door neighbours –
compared to 1% of over-55s.
27% of 18- to 24-year-olds
say they have never spoken
to a stranger on a bus; 5% of
over-55s say the same.
CRUK/The Independent
32% of Britain’s workers
have less than £500 in
savings. A further 9% have
between £500 and £999.
Populus/The Guardian
Middle East at a glance
Damascus, Syria
No peace: Most of Syria’s rebel groups
refused to come to the Russian-sponsored
peace conference in the resort town of Sochi
last week. Those who did come refused to
leave the airport. The Sochi talks were called
by Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin,
with the stated goal of breaking a
longstanding impasse in negotiations to end
the seven-year civil war. Those other talks,
sponsored by the United Nations, have
made no progress toward the negotiated
political transition they envision. Back in
Syria, at least 35 people were reported killed
in the three days before the conference.
Much of the magnificent 3,000-year-old
temple of Ain Dara, with its mysterious and
massive footprints and a structure that
provides clues for understanding the biblical
temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, has also
been destroyed in a Turkish airstrike.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Corruption settlement: Saudi
Arabia’s attorney general
announced that the kingdom
had received settlements
exceeding SAR400bn ($106.7bn)
from detainees following the
winding down of the first phase of a
corruption purge. In comments
carried by Saudi Press Agency,
Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said the
Supreme Committee for Combating
Corruption subpoenaed 381 people
in total from the date of a royal
order in early November, many of
whom were summoned to testify
and provide evidence. A review of
all the cases relating to those
accused of corruption is now
complete and negotiations with
those willing to settle in exchange
for their freedom have concluded.
Cases were transferred to the Public
Prosecution, which decided to
release those that had settled and
admitted to wrongdoing or had
insufficient evidence supporting the
allegations against them.
Baghdad, Iraq
Sanctions lifted: Iraqi lawmakers voted to
lift sanctions imposed on banks in the
Kurdistan region, a move that may take the
two sides towards reconciliation after the
latter’s independence referendum. Politicians
in Baghdad said that the embargo had
fulfilled its objective by enforcing federal
control on the Kurdish banking industry.
Last October, Iraq’s central bank imposed
financial restrictions that included the
suspension of dollar and foreign currency
exchange on four Kurdish-owned banks.
The Iraqi government has also decided to
send the Kurdistan Region 250 billion Iraqi
dinars (about $210 million) for the salaries
of Kurdish state employees, particularly the
health and education ministries, two
ministries whose payroll lists are being
audited by the Iraqi Central Government.
The Kurdistan Region has faced difficulties
to pay the salaries of its 1.249 million
people on its payroll in time, something that
caused protests on numerous occasions.
Tehran, Iran
Couple sentenced: The convictions of
Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife,
Afarin Neyssar, who are Zoroastrians,
mark the latest case of Tehran
imprisoning dual nationals and those
with ties to the West after its nuclear
deal with world powers. Vafadari was
sentenced to 27 years in prison, while
Neyssar, who has permanent residency in
the US, received a 16-year sentence, the
Center for Human Rights in Iran said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationalities,
so those detainees cannot receive
consular assistance. In most cases, dual
nationals have faced secret charges in
closed-door hearings before Iran’s
Revolutionary Court, which handles
cases involving alleged attempts to
overthrow the government. A UN panel
in September described “an emerging
pattern involving the arbitrary
deprivation of liberty of dual nationals”
in Iran, which Tehran denies.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
160kph speed limit: A speed limit of
160kph has been set for the new Sheikh
Khalifa bin Zayed Road as Abu Dhabi
tries to ease the flow of commercial
traffic and support economic growth.
The speed limit is the highest in the
country. The new highway links the
capital to the Al Dhafra Region and
Saudi Arabia, and speed cameras are set
to record at 161kph, meaning the usual
20kph buffer does not apply. Motorists
breaking the limit will be fined. Brig Ali
Khalfan Al Dhaheri, director general of
central operations at Abu Dhabi Police,
said the road is a key project in Abu
Dhabi and called on motorists to abide
by the speed limit. The Dh5.3 billion
highway is an upgrade of the MafraqGhuwaifat road.
Muscat, Oman
Foreigners banned: Oman’s Ministry of
Manpower has taken the unusual step
of banning the recruitment of foreign
Dubai, UAE
workers in 10 sectors for six months.
Off-plan surge: Dubai residential property prices The drive is intended to encourage the
and rents are expected to continue their decline
recruitment of Omanis in the private
this year amid a surge in demand for off-plan
sector after a pledge from the government
units, according to Chestertons MENA. The
to create 25,000 jobs during the same
company said there was a 60% increase in
period. This came after hundreds of
off-plan real estate transactions last year
unemployed people demonstrated outside
compared to 2016 with a steep rise in volume
the Ministry of Manpower in Muscat and
and value in the second half. Dubailand, Business a similar protest in Salalah last week,
Bay and Al Furjan led the market by transactions, according to Reuters. The government
while The Lagoons (Dhs800m), Downtown
previously pledged to create 25,000 jobs
Dubai (Dhs780m and Business Bay (Dhs759m)
in October. The ministerial decree applies
led by value. This compared to completed unit
to private sector companies in the
leaders by value Dubai Marina and Emirates
“information systems, sales, marketing
Living (Dhs800m), followed by Downtown
and management sectors, human
Dubai (Dhs450m). Property firm ValuStrat
resources, insurance, information,
warned last year that a rise in off-plan property
medical professions, airports, engineering
could be delaying a market recovery in the
and technical professions”, according to
emirate with the segment accounting for 73%
Oman News Agency. It will not affect
of sales in the third quarter.
work permits issued before the ban.
The world at a glance
Toronto, Canada
Billionaire couple “murdered”: Canadian police now believe that
a pharmaceutical billionaire and his wife, who were found dead
in their Toronto mansion in December, were the victims of a
“targeted” killing. In the days after the bodies of Barry and Honey
Sherman were discovered, police sources briefed the press that
they were treating the case as a murder-suicide. However, the
couple’s four adult children dismissed that theory as preposterous,
and commissioned their own investigation – the results of which
support their view that the couple were murdered. Barry Sherman,
the founder of the generic drugs manufacturer Apotex, was well
known for his charitable donations. In business, however, he was
notorious for his aggressive practices in a competitive industry
and he had made enemies. Police say that as yet, they have no
suspects in the case.
Washington, DC
Trump ally ousted: The billionaire casino
mogul Steve Wynn (pictured) stood
down as finance chair of the Republican
National Committee this week, after The
Wall Street Journal reported that multiple
women have accused him of sexual
misconduct. According to the paper, he
reached a $7.5m settlement with a
manicurist at one of his casinos who
accused him of persistent harassment. A former business rivalturned-political ally of President Trump, Wynn previously made
global headlines in 2006 when he put his elbow through Picasso’s
painting Le Rêve while showing it off to friends not long before
he was due to sell it for $139m. He denies any misconduct.
Ingham County, Michigan
Abuse doctor sentenced: The former USA Gymnastics team
doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to between 40
and 175 years in prison for abusing girls and young
women under the guise of medical treatment. In
November he had pleaded guilty to seven counts,
but during his seven-day sentencing hearing, 156 gymnasts gave
victim impact statements detailing the abuse they had endured
at his hands. Nassar, 54, said they had “shaken me to my core”
and apologised. But the judge then produced a letter he’d written
earlier, in which he described himself as a “good doctor” and
suggested his accusers were lying. You “still don’t get it”, she said,
tossing the letter aside. He is already serving a 60-year term for
possession of indecent images of children.
Washington, DC
Trump stresses togetherness:
Donald Trump used his first
State of the Union address this
week to strike an unusually
conciliatory note, while also
trumpeting his economic
achievements and proclaiming
a “new American moment”.
Sticking closely to his script,
and speaking in measured
tones, the president (pictured) said that he wanted the nation
to come together as “one people and one American family”,
and that he hoped to work with “Democrats and Republicans
to protect our citizens of every background, colour, religion
and creed”. However, he insisted that he still wanted to build
his border wall, and on foreign policy, he took the opportunity
to condemn a “depraved” North Korea.
Earlier in the week, the White House was forced to deny
having had anything to do with the abrupt resignation of the
deputy director of the FBI. President Trump had repeatedly
accused Andrew McCabe of being biased against him, and has
called the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s alleged links
with Moscow a “witch-hunt”.
Caracas, Venezuela
Election brought forward: Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro
has confirmed that he intends to stand for a second term in
elections that are now scheduled to take place by 30 April. The
poll had been scheduled for December this year, but the progovernment “constituent assembly” – a body Maduro convened
last year to bypass the elected national assembly and cement his
grip on power – decided that the date should be brought forward.
Analysts believe his ruling United Socialists are keen to capitalise
on the opposition’s disarray: many of Maduro’s opponents have
been barred from office or forced into exile since last year’s deadly
anti-government protests. “If the world wants to apply sanctions,
we will apply elections,” said Diosdado Cabello, one of seven
senior Venezuelan officials recently targeted by EU sanctions.
“There will be revolution for a long time to come.”
Valle Chacabuco, Chile
New parks: In a landmark for
conservation efforts, Chile has
created five new national parks in
Patagonia, covering ten million
acres. The parks were signed into
law this week in Parque Patagonia by Chile’s outgoing president,
Michelle Bachelet. As well as federally controlled land, they
incorporate a million acres of formerly private land that was
acquired by Doug Tompkins, the American founder of the North
Face clothing brand, who died in a kayaking accident in 2015,
and his wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins. The couple had spent
years buying land in Patagonia to preserve it as wilderness, which
delighted conservationists, but angered some local farmers.
McDivitt Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia, another
clothing brand, donated the land to Chile last March.
The world at a glance
Cairo, Egypt
Election farce:
A self-declared
supporter of
President Abdul
Fattah al-Sisi
(pictured) has
announced that
he will run as
a candidate in
March’s elections
– thus sparing
Sisi the embarrassment of a one-horse race. Mousa Mostafa
Mousa, of the pro-government Ghad Party,
filed his election papers minutes before the
deadline after a chaotic scramble to find an
“opponent” to lend the process the veneer
of democracy. Sisi’s real opponents have all
quit the race.
Afrin, Syria
Turkish offensive: President Erdoğan of
Turkey has vowed that his country will
“clean” its entire border with Syria – even
if it means extending Turkey’s offensive
against the Syrian Kurdish YPG group,
in the Afrin enclave of northwestern Syria,
for hundreds of miles eastwards all the
way to Iraq. Turkey, which regards the
prospect of a Kurdish state as a threat to
its own territorial integrity, launched an
all-out offensive in Afrin in mid-January.
However, it appears to be making only
modest progress against an entrenched
enemy in difficult, mountainous terrain.
At home, the Erdoğan government has
launched a harsh crackdown on dissent
over the air and ground offensive: so far
more than 300 people have been arrested
for spreading “terror propaganda” (i.e.
criticising the offensive) on social media.
Kabul, Afghanistan
Deadly bomb: More than 100 people
were killed, and 235 or more wounded,
in a massive bomb attack in central Kabul
last Saturday. An ambulance packed with
explosives was used in the attack on a
busy area of the Afghan capital, close to
embassies and government buildings. It
was the worst terrorist atrocity in Kabul
since last May, when a truck bomb near
the German embassy killed 150 people,
and one of a string of recent attacks
claimed by the Taliban. A spokesman
for the group said the bombing had sent
a message from the “the Islamic emirate”
to “Trump and his hand-kissers” about
their policy of “aggression” – namely more
troops and air strikes. This week, a BBC
analysis found that 70% of Afghanistan is
now either under Taliban control or
actively threatened by its fighters.
Beijing, China
Fears grow for bookseller:
China has rebuffed calls
from Sweden, the US and
others to free the missing
Hong Kong bookseller
Gui Minhai or explain the
reasons for his renewed
detention. Chinese agents
allegedly snatched Gui, a
Swedish national, from
his holiday home in
Thailand in 2015 and
held him in China for two
years, before he resurfaced
last October. A fortnight
ago, plain-clothed agents
removed him from a train
close to Beijing, while
he was travelling
“Racist” laws to
be scrapped:
Liberia’s new
president, George
Weah, has pledged to
scrap a “racist” clause in the constitution
that allows only black people to be
citizens. Liberia was founded in the 19th
century by freed American slaves, who
restricted citizenship to “persons who are
Negroes or of Negro descent” in order to
create a “haven for freed men of colour”.
As part of his plan to attract much-needed
inward investment, he also wants to scrap
a ban on foreigners owning property.
Liberia is home to many immigrants from
Lebanon and elsewhere, who have lived
there for decades, yet are denied
citizenship. To help the economy, Weah
said he was taking a 25% pay cut and
called on fellow lawmakers to do likewise.
Riyadh, Saudi
Freedom for
Saudi prince:
Prince Alwaleed
bin Talal
(pictured), one of
the world’s richest
men and Saudi
Arabia’s bestknown global
investor, has been
released from
detention at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel,
as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s
corruption purge appears to wind down. It
is not known how much he paid for his
freedom. However, other businessmen
have also been released in exchange for
vast settlements, totalling $107bn to date.
Melbourne, Australia
Cook statue attacked: A statue of Captain
James Cook in Melbourne was vandalised
last week in the run-up to Australia Day.
The memorial to the British explorer was
daubed with pink paint, the words “no
pride” and the Aboriginal flag. Another
memorial, to the explorers Burke and
Wills, was also defaced. Australia Day,
which marks the arrival of British
settlers in 1788, has been celebrated on
26 January since 1994. But to Aborigines,
that date is known as Invasion Day.
There’s a growing campaign for the date
of Australia Day to be changed.
Europe at a glance
Watching Cozy
Bear: The Dutch
played a key role
in discovering
interference in the 2016 presidential election,
the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant
reported last week. Agents with AIVD, the
country’s domestic intelligence agency,
broke into computers used by the Russian
hacking group Cozy Bear in mid-2014,
and then watched in real time as the
Russians targeted the US State Department,
Congress, and the Democratic National
Committee. AIVD passed that intelligence
to the CIA and NSA. The Dutch spies also
traced Cozy Bear’s computers to a room in
a Moscow building, hacked the security
camera in the hallway outside, and
observed visits by members of Russia’s
Foreign Intelligence Service.
Paris, France
Floods ease:
France has been
experiencing its
heaviest rainfall
in 50 years:
officials say that
242 towns along
the River Seine
and its tributaries
have suffered
flood damage.
In Paris, the river
peaked at about four metres (13ft) above
its normal level, engulfing the city’s
riverside quays, halting all river traffic,
closing riverside rail stations and causing
the Louvre to close a basement gallery as
a precaution. Around 1,500 people have
been evacuated from their homes in the
greater Paris region. River levels are
expected to subside only gradually
over the coming days.
Paris, France
Nutella “riots”: A decision to offer a 70%
discount on big jars of Nutella sparked
mayhem at Intermarché supermarkets
across France last week, as customers
brawled in the aisles to get hold of the
cut-price spread. The three-day promotion
dropped the price of a 950g jar from s4.50
(£3.96) to s1.40 (£1.23) – an offer French
consumers literally fought to take up.
In one supermarket, a member of staff
was punched in the face while trying to
separate warring shoppers. “They are like
animals. A woman had her hair pulled,
an elderly lady took a box on her head,
another had a bloody hand,” one witness
told French media. The frenzy led some
stores to enforce a strict rationing policy
of one pot per customer. The spread was
created by the Ferrero family in Italy in the
1940s. Today about 365 million kilograms
of Nutella are sold each year (almost the
weight of the Empire State Building).
Warsaw, Poland
Holocaust law: Poland’s lower house of
parliament has passed a controversial new
law that will make it a crime to suggest
that Poland bore any responsibility for the
genocidal atrocities committed on its soil
during the Second World War. Many Poles
deeply object to the fact that Nazi camps
such as Auschwitz and Treblinka, where
millions of Polish and other European
Jews were murdered, are often described
as “Polish death camps”. The new law,
which still needs approval by the senate
and the president, would turn the use of
such phrases into offences punishable with
imprisonment. Defenders of the bill say
it is designed to make clear Germany’s sole
responsibility for the Holocaust. However,
its critics point out that numerous Poles
did cooperate with the Nazi occupiers and
were involved in the Holocaust. Israel’s
PM Benjamin Netanyahu described the
law as “baseless”, and said “the
Holocaust cannot be denied”.
Aachen, Germany
Diesel tests on humans: Germany’s biggest
carmakers – Volkswagen, Daimler (the
maker of Mercedes) and BMW – were
engulfed in a fresh diesel scandal this
week: all three firms, it has emerged, had
links with studies in which humans and
monkeys were exposed to noxious diesel
emissions, which are linked to lung
disease, asthma and heart attacks. The
tests had been conducted at University
Hospital Aachen in 2014 by the research
group EUGT, which was funded by the
three carmakers. Details of the tests,
leaked to the press, show that
researchers deliberately exposed 25
people to nitrogen dioxide – one of the
most toxic byproducts in diesel exhaust
fumes – for hours at a time. EUGT also
ran similar tests on ten monkeys in the
US. On Tuesday, Volkswagen described the
tests as “repulsive” and suspended its chief
lobbyist, who’d admitted to knowing
about them.
Moscow, Russia
Naming and shaming oligarchs: In a move
that has infuriated Moscow, the US
treasury has released a “Putin list” of 210
wealthy and powerful Russians with links
to the Kremlin, putting them on notice
that they could be subject to future
sanctions. The requirement to “name and
shame” the oligarchs was contained in a
law passed by Congress last year, aimed at
penalising firms doing substantial business
with Russia’s military or intelligence
sectors. At the time, President Trump
denounced the idea of publishing the list
as “unconstitutional”, but still went ahead
and signed it into law. The Kremlin has
damned it as an “obvious” attempt to
sway Russian voters against Vladimir
Putin ahead of March’s elections.
Czech Republic
president: The
Czech Republic’s
president, Miloš
Zeman (pictured),
has won a second
term, narrowly
beating his
pro-EU challenger,
Jirí Drahoš, in an
election dominated by the issue of whether
Prague should draw closer to Moscow.
The Czech president is a non-executive
head of state, but plays a key role in the
formation of governments. Zeman’s
populist nationalism has helped stoke
resentment towards Muslim immigrants;
his victory is being cited as a further
example of the backlash in former Soviet
states against the EU’s liberal values.
My son James Bulger
Denise Fergus was a cautious
young mother. When she went
out with her two-year-old son,
she kept him in a buggy. But
on 12 February 1993, he was
on foot – and for a second in
a butcher’s shop, she let go
of his hand. In that moment,
says Simon Hattenstone in
The Guardian, James Bulger
was abducted by two ten-yearold boys, who tortured him to
death and left his body on a
railway line. Twenty-five years
on, Fergus has written a book,
entitled I Let Him Go. In it,
she reveals that she was
haunted by two thoughts: that
James was calling for her at
the end – and that if only
she’d held on to his hand,
or looked the other way when
she left the shop, he’d be alive.
For years, Fergus – who went
on to have three more sons,
two of them with her second
husband – battled to have
James’s killers’ eight-year jail
terms extended. She failed,
but writing the book and
helping other children through
a charity she runs in James’s
name, has brought her a
degree of peace. Time has
eroded her anger too: but
forgiveness of his killers? To
forgive them, she says, would
be to betray James. “I’ll never
forgive them. Not even on
my deathbed.”
Pattie Boyd on rock stars
Pattie Boyd was married to not
one but two rock stars. At 21,
she married George Harrison,
having met him on the set of
A Hard Day’s Night, and was
catapulted into the world of
The Beatles. It was huge fun,
but bizarre (“Taxis were paid;
the car was filled; I didn’t see
any bills at all”) and often
overwhelming. Harrison wrote
his love song Something for
her, but he was not faithful;
and by the late 1960s, he’d
grown moody and depressed,
and was hooked on substances.
Into this scenario came Eric
Clapton. While collaborating
with her husband, he became
obsessed by Boyd; he wrote
Layla about her, and when she
refused to leave Harrison for
him, he fell into a black hole
of addiction that lasted years.
But he didn’t give up: after her
marriage collapsed, he tracked
her down – and they wed in
1979. Yet it was to prove no
happy ending, says Nina
Myskow in The Times.
Clapton was, in his words, a
“basket case”. He was also
not faithful. The last straw
came one morning after he
had been up all night
drinking. He was “hysterical”,
she says. “He was screaming
so loudly that I thought the
veins in his neck were going to
burst. ‘That’s it,’ I said. ‘I
can’t stand it.’ It was my
birthday. I left.” She then met
a man who was not a rock
star, but a property developer.
More than 20 years on,
they’re still together. “With
Eric I was living on a rollercoaster. When I started seeing
Rod [Weston], I was going to
a psychotherapist and said,
‘The weird thing about him is
that he’s sort of like the same,
all the time.’ The therapist
said, ‘Pattie, that’s normal.’ I’d
never realised that before.”
Castaway of the week
This week’s edition of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs featured chess
grandmaster, writer and political activist Garry Kasparov
1 Strangers in the Night by Bert Kaempfert, Charles Singleton and
Eddie Snyder, performed by Frank Sinatra
2* Symphony No. 40 in G minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic
3 Étude Op. 10, No. 12 by Frédéric Chopin, performed by
Vladimir Ashkenazy
4 Overture to The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber,
performed by the original London cast
5 Koni priveredlivye, written and performed by Vladimir Vysotsky
6 Carmen by Georges Bizet, performed by Simon Rattle and the
Berlin Philharmonic
7 Main Title (The Godfather Waltz) by Nino Rota, conducted by
Carlo Savina
8 Chi Mai by Ennio Morricone, featured in Le Professionnel
Book: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
* Choice if allowed only one record
Luxury: telescope
With an Oscar nomination under his belt for his role in Get Out – a
horror film about racism – Daniel Kaluuya is the toast of Hollywood.
But the 28-year-old grew up on a council estate in north London. It
was a teacher who got him into drama, when he was nine; she told
his mother that he was a “very busy” child who needed an outlet.
“So, I wrote a play,” he told Roslyn Sulcas in The New York Times.
“The teacher said I was difficult, and I thought, ‘I’ll show you.’”
It won a competition and was performed at Hampstead Theatre.
He didn’t pursue acting then – but later caught the bug at drop-in
improv sessions run by the Anna Scher Theatre in London. “Being
young, working class and black, everything you do is policed,” he
says. “If someone hits you and you hit back, you are aggressive. If
you cry, you are weak. You are always pretending to be something.
But in those classes, there was no pressure to be anything except
honest, and that made me happy.” Later, he acted in, and wrote,
episodes of the TV drama Skins, but like many black actors, he
found that he had to go to the US to get decent parts. Even there,
it wasn’t simple: Samuel L. Jackson said Kaluuya’s part in Get Out
should have gone to a black American. “It speaks to the fact you are
still getting policed,” Kaluuya says, wearily. “Even in the positive
there is critique that a white person wouldn’t get.”
In praise of Ikea
“The famously frugal founder of Ikea,
Ingvar Kamprad, died last weekend, after
making an important contribution to
mankind. There’s no other brand that
punctuates our lives in the same way that
Ikea does: going to uni and decking out
your student digs; renting your first flat
and buying “grown-up cutlery”; kitting
out your child’s nursery. Ikea democratised
good taste and taught us that good value
trumps all. In tribute I urge you all to dig
out your Allen keys and lower the top shelf
of your Billy bookcase a notch. And think
about this: at an unveiling of a statue of
himself, Kamprad was asked to cut the
ribbon. Instead of snipping it, he reportedly untied it, handed it to the mayor and
said: ‘Now you can use it again.’”
Laura Weir, London Evening Standard
Jenny Joseph, poet
who wrote Warning,
which was voted
Britain’s favourite
post-war poem, died
8 January, aged 85.
Ingvar Kamprad,
founder of Ikea,
died 27 January,
aged 91.
Ursula K. Le Guin,
influential science
fiction and fantasy
author, died 22
January, aged 88.
Mark Whittow,
Oxford scholar of
Byzantine history,
died 23 December,
aged 60.
The battle for women’s suffrage
One hundred years ago, British women were given the vote for the first time. How did it come about?
Who first called for women’s votes?
The first appeals for women’s suffrage in
Britain date from the early 19th century.
In 1818, in his Plan of Parliamentary
Reform, Jeremy Bentham insisted that
women should be given the vote. Women
at the time had no political rights at all
– they were deemed to be represented by
their husbands or fathers – but then nor
did most men: the Great Reform Act of
1832 increased the electorate from about
366,000 to 650,000, still only 18% of
the adult men in England and Wales.
Later that year, the radical MP Henry
“Orator” Hunt presented Parliament
with a petition drawn up by Mary Smith,
a rich Yorkshire woman, arguing that
unmarried women who owned property
and paid taxes should be allowed to vote.
words”. In 1905, Christabel Pankhurst
(Emmeline’s daughter) and Annie
Kenney repeatedly shouted over a
speech by the MP Sir Edward Grey,
asking: “Will the Liberal government
give votes to women?” They assaulted
police officers when asked to leave
and were arrested. A series of mass
processions followed; more than
250,000 women protested in Hyde Park
in 1908, shocking Edwardian England.
The term “suffragettes” was initially
coined as a pejorative by the Daily Mail.
How effective were their protests?
This is a still a subject of debate. Most
historians agree that the suffragettes
were initially very effective in mobilising
A demonstration by the Women’s Freedom League women and highlighting injustices. Many
were arrested and ill-treated; prisoners
who went on hunger strike were brutally force-fed. Over time
When did the campaign really get going?
they became steadily more militant – smashing shop windows,
It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that the first
setting fire to letter boxes, libraries and even homes. The PM,
campaigning women’s groups were formed. Initially they focused
Herbert Asquith, an opponent of women’s votes, was attacked
on the lack of education, employment opportunities and legal
with a dog whip. Mary Richardson slashed Velázquez’s Rokeby
rights for women (married women, at the time, had no
independent legal standing); but the question of the vote gradually Venus in the National Gallery; Emily Wilding Davison threw
herself under the King’s horse on Derby Day 1913 and was
became central to their demands – both symbolically, as a
killed. The use of violence was thought, certainly at the time,
recognition of women’s rights, and practically, as a means of
improving women’s lives. In 1867, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon to have been detrimental. Their cause has “marched backwards”,
declared Winston Churchill, a recent convert to women’s suffrage.
formed the London Society for Women’s Suffrage; other
committees then sprang up all over the country, representing all
What was it that finally brought about reform?
political persuasions. In 1897, the National Union of Women’s
The First World War. Even before that, there was a Commons
Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett,
majority for changing the law, but never sufficient government
was formed; by 1913 it represented 500 such groups.
will. The sacrifices of the War bolstered support for widening the
franchise generally. Both suffragists and suffragettes suspended
How were their arguments received?
campaigning. More than a million women were newly employed
The issue certainly gained traction. The philosopher and MP John
outside the home – in munitions factories, engineering works, the
Stuart Mill, a proponent of sexual equality, tabled an amendment
police – and suffrage had long been based on occupational status.
to the 1867 Reform Bill, calling for all householders, regardless of
Crucially, Asquith was replaced as PM by David Lloyd George,
sex, to be enfranchised. And as the suffragists were at pains to
a supporter of votes for women. The Representation of the People
point out, the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884 had enabled 40%,
Act 1918 was introduced by the coalition government and passed
then about 60%, of men to vote, some of whom were barely
by a majority of 385 to 55, gaining the Royal Assent on 6
literate; yet well-educated, taxpaying women still could not.
February 1918. Women over 30 who
Motions were debated in Parliament
First movers and late adopters
were householders or married to one,
throughout the 1870s. They were,
or university graduates, were given
however, defeated; the old arguments
New Zealand became the first country in the world to
the vote – some eight million in total
prevailed. Women, it was said, were
give women the vote, in 1893. This was thanks to the
efforts of suffragists led by Kate Sheppard – who was
– along with nearly all men over 21.
mentally less able than men; their
inspired by the writings of John Stuart Mill and his
“natural sphere” was in the home;
wife, Harriet Taylor Mill – and to the support of many
When could all women vote?
they were unable to fight for their
of the self-governing colony’s leading male politicians.
The 1918 Act was a victory for the
country, and thus undeserving of full
Australia followed in 1902 (indigenous Australians, by
gradualist approach of Fawcett’s
rights; moreover, they simply didn’t
contrast, were not allowed to vote until 1962). The first
NUWSS: limiting the female vote
want the vote. This was at least partly
women to vote in Europe were in Finland, in 1906, then
by age and class soothed concerns
true. “I have never felt the want of a
an autonomous part of the Russian Empire, but with a
that men, owing to wartime losses,
vote,” declared Florence Nightingale
long tradition of women’s rights. Norway followed in
in 1867, while Queen Victoria
1913, Denmark in 1915, Germany and Austria in 1918. In would suddenly become an electoral
1920 white women in the USA were given the vote.
minority. It took another ten years
condemned the “mad, wicked folly
before truly universal suffrage was
of women’s rights”. Even George Eliot
In Spain, female suffrage was introduced in 1931;
introduced, thanks to the Equal
was reluctant to back the cause.
during Franco’s dictatorial regime, women had similar
– i.e. very limited – democratic rights to men. Female
Franchise Act of 1928; the NUWSS
suffrage came late to France, which didn’t give women again played an instrumental role
What about the suffragettes?
the vote until 1944, after the liberation. In Switzerland,
(the WSPU was dissolved in 1917).
In 1903, the Women’s Social
one of the oldest democracies in the world, women
Fawcett noted in her diary that it
and Political Union (WSPU) was
couldn’t cast a vote until 1971. This is a feature of the
was 61 years since she had heard
formed in Manchester by Emmeline
country’s direct democracy: constitutional changes are
Mill’s proposed amendment to the
Pankhurst and other campaigners
effected by referendum, not by legislators. Since the
frustrated by the slow progress of
1880s, Swiss women had repeatedly asked male voters 1867 Reform Bill. “So I have had
extraordinary good luck in having
the NUWSS’s suffragists. The WSPU
to give them the vote. The men kept saying no.
seen the struggle from the beginning.”
was committed to “deeds, not
Best of the Arabic language articles
regional conflicts
to Syria
Maher Al Junaidy
Al Hayat
chooses Syria for
Abdul Rahman Al Rashed
As-Sharaq Al-Awsat
The phenomenon
of political
‘extras’ in Egypt
Mohamed Abou El Fadl
Al Arab (London)
A return to the
Arab renaissance
Dr. Tayeb Tizini
Al Ittihad
Just as the Russians benefited
from the Syrian conflict to move
their battles from Chechnya to
Syria, Erdoğan’s appearance on
the scene is an attempt to secure
the Turkish interior by
transferring his battles with the
PKK to Syrian territory. Syrians in
general – Arabs and Kurds alike –
have no interest in the battle for
Afrin and its outcome. It seems
that the fate awaiting the land of
olives and olive oil, due to these
dirty battles, is to turn the region
into a bargaining chip between victor and regime, regardless of the victor (be it Erdoğan
or Öcalan). Perhaps the story of these days of blood and destruction coming to our
people in Afrin will prove that the battle between Erdoğanians and Öcalanians is about
which one of the two will deliver Afrin to the regime in the future. The failure of Syria to
lodge a complaint with the United Nations about another country’s forces entering its
territories without its public consent, is considered by international law experts as an
undeclared acceptance or a form of implicit consent. The compass may have lost its
bearings, but human sentiment remains our guide that calls for solidarity with our
people in Afrin. Our blood is Afrini olive oil, and Afrinis have nothing but olive oil!
Under the Trump administration, Washington’s policy has varied in the Middle East in
general, and in Syria and Iraq in particular. Americans have abandoned last year’s policy
of cooperating with the Russians in Syria, and they’ve adopted a new plan of confronting
them through regional agents and alliances. Moscow beat Washington in adopting this
strategy. They are using Iranians and its Lebanese, Iraqi and other militias to fight on the
ground. On the other hand, Americans are using Syrian Kurdish militias, along with
remnants of the Syrian Free Army, in the eastern Euphrates region. This new American
approach now seeks to thwart the Russian-Iranian project in Syria and Daesh’s attempts
to “return” after the overthrow of the “Caliphate state” in Raqqa. Fortunately for the
region, policymakers in Washington have finally woken up to the dangers posed by the
transformations in Syria, and they are opposed to Iran’s plans for Iraq. Even if the
situation does not escalate to a full-blown military confrontation, adopting a hostile
policy will raise the cost of war for the Iranian regime, making it highly unlikely that it
will dominate the region any time soon.
‘Extras’ play a marginal role. The
word itself is derived from the
Italian “comparsa” which literally
means something that can easily
be dispensed with. Many people
believed that after the Egyptian
revolution the era of political
‘extras’ was over. There are more
than 100 political parties in Egypt
now, and many young politicians
have emerged. But, as Egyptians
later discovered, nothing changed
and the country has made no
political advancement at all. Presidential elections in Egypt are the time for new heroes
to emerge or opportunities for ‘extras’ to shine. Many bet on the former in the upcoming
elections scheduled for next March, when the names of nominees were circulated. This
list included Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shafiq, Lieutenant-General Sami Annan, and
human rights activist Khalid Ali. The voluntary or involuntary withdrawal of the three
candidates served to confirm that old methods have not changed. Once the arena was
vacated by Sisi’s rivals, the search was on for ‘extras’ who will accept playing minor roles
in a major political play to fake the existence of a presidential battle.
The Arab world lives amidst bloody conflict, where turmoil and panic prevail. This
raises a bitter question: Is the Arab world standing on a decisive precipice? This can be
viewed in the context of political philosophy, social studies, or in a methodological
historical vision. It seems that what is happening now ‘targets’ the Arab people first and
the Muslim world second, as “others” seek to inflame situations. In this context the
following challenging question arises: Why are some people’s attitudes towards religion
problematic, complex, perverse and deceptive? In short, Arab political modernisation
has failed in many cases. It seems we have given up on all our dreams of national and
nationalistic renaissance. Our dreams now speak to us “from behind the veil”. They call
on us to rise and reclaim our dignity. They tell us that only dignity can give us the power
to decide on our existence. They tell us we have given up human dignity, which makes
humans human, allowing shameful acts to be committed today.
Best articles: International
Adrift in a
stormy sea
of troubles
The New York Times
Under oath,
Trump would
be a disaster
The city that
is about to
run dry
Times Live
Mexico is set to be buffeted by a “perfect storm” this year, says Jorge G. Castañeda. A series of
looming threats are on the horizon. One of them is President Trump’s recent package of tax reforms,
which was designed partly to dissuade American firms from investing in Mexico. With the US
corporate tax rate now at 21% (compared to 30% in Mexico), many US companies will be tempted
to repatriate jobs and money from Mexico, while some Mexican multinationals might relocate north
of the border. Another factor that will deter foreign investment in Mexico this year is the uncertainty
surrounding the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). Trump has threatened
to walk away from it, and it’s hard to see this issue being resolved before the US midterm elections in
November. Then there’s the problem of Mexico’s presidential election in July. The favourite to win is
the left-wing firebrand Andrés Manuel López Obrador, better known as AMLO. Nervous investors
are postponing projects until after the poll. All in all, the prospects don’t look good for Mexico in
2018. What a shame that the country didn’t take more advantage of the past 25 years of good
relations with the US. “Now only God and the Virgin of Guadalupe can help.”
President Trump’s attorneys “should grab
their worry beads,” said Timothy O’Brien.
The president told reporters last week that
he’d happily speak under oath with special
counsel Robert Mueller (pictured). “Speaking
from experience” – my lawyers deposed
Trump in 2007, when he sued me for libel
(and lost) – that’d be a catastrophic mistake.
In a legal deposition, the president’s welldocumented “inability to stick to the facts”
puts him in a perilous position. During the
two-day deposition in my case, he “had to
admit 30 times that he had lied over the
years” about everything from the size of his speaking fees to how much his father loaned him.
Impatient and unwilling to read long documents, Trump was woefully unprepared to testify, wasn’t
aware of his own lawyers’ arguments, and was repeatedly caught off guard by my attorneys. When
he testifies before Mueller’s team, he will not know what information, emails, and testimony the
investigators already have – a minefield for a blustering, combative braggart like Trump, who always
says too much. His lawyers will try to limit his testimony, but Trump doesn’t listen to anyone, and
“he’s probably not going to start now.”
Cape Town “has the potential to devolve into a bloody, roaring, dystopian nightmare”, says
Tom Eaton. After three years of what has been billed as a once-in-a-millennium drought, the city
of almost four million people is nearly out of water. On or around 12 April – “Day Zero” – the
authorities are planning to turn off the taps in houses, schools and some businesses, and to impose
extreme water rationing. The drilling of wells and the construction of desalination plants has begun,
but no new water will be available for months. It’s going to be hell. We Capetonians have already
been urged to restrict our water use to 87 litres per day, but 60% of people haven’t done so, proving
that you don’t have to be a member of the super-rich class to be an “entitled idiot”. City leaders are
no help, blaming national and provincial authorities for the predicament rather than offering
leadership and inspiration. So far only 200 water distribution centres have been planned – which
works out to about 20,000 people per centre. The queues will be horrific. Panic is setting in. We need
a better plan, and soon. “Time, like baths, is a luxury we can no longer afford.”
America’s bust-up over immigration
They’re hard to spot among the “insults and bombast”, said
The New York Times, “but every now and then President
Trump emits a sensible idea”. There was the appearance of
one last week when he declared that he was open to offering a
path to citizenship for the “Dreamers”. These are the 690,000
immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children
and who were granted temporary protection from deportation
by Barack Obama under a scheme since cancelled by Trump.
The president’s words heartened Democrats – until they heard
his price. In return, the White House wants an extra $25bn for
border security and an end to the diversity visa lottery (which
allots 50,000 green cards a year to applicants from eligible
countries). It also wants to curtail what it calls “chain
migration”, so that legal immigrants in future can bring in
only spouses and dependents, not adult children nor parents.
The White House calls this a “compromise position”, said
Sophia Tesfaye on Salon, but the reality is the package of
measures would represent “the biggest cut to legal immigration
into the US since the racial quota laws of the 1920s”. The
advocacy group reckons it would reduce legal
immigration by about half. Hard-line Republicans are
exploiting the plight of the Dreamers to try to gut America’s
immigration system. On the contrary, said David Harsanyi in
The Federalist, it’s the Democrats who are the cynics here. All
their “emotionalism and moralising” about the poor Dreamers
(representing less than 10% of America’s 11 million or so illegal
immigrants) is designed to distract us from the fact that they’re
making no effort to secure America’s borders. They make out
the Dreamers are a one-off case, rather than part of an ongoing
problem. Are we expected to offer these amnesties every decade?
Both sides are disingenuous on this issue, said Victor Davis
Hanson in the Los Angeles Times. Progressive Democrats
don’t want to stem the tide of illegal immigration because it
has expanded the Latino vote and swung the political balance
in their party’s favour in the American southwest. “Beltway
Republicans”, meanwhile, have also been happy to let the influx
continue over recent decades because it brings in cheap labour.
“But an irate public has had it with open borders – and both
parties are scrambling to hide their past and present agendas for
now by focusing on the idealised Dreamers.”
Amazon and
the assault
on trust
The Guardian
Far too few
officers on
the streets...
Fraser Nelson
The Daily Telegraph
... and far too
many men in
prison cells
Ian Birrell
The i newspaper
the key to
Richard Morrison
The Times
Best articles: British
Technological innovations often create problems that can’t be
fixed, says The Guardian. And in their latest adaptation of
artificial intelligence, the likes of Google and Amazon are creating
a problem that could prove fatal to society: they’re developing
software that can graft the face of one person onto the body of
another in totally convincing video simulations. The process is
not new, of course. It’s used in Hollywood movies when artificial
creatures (think Gollum in The Lord of the Rings) appear
alongside real actors. More disturbingly it’s used in fake adult
videos, where the face of a celebrity like Emma Watson is grafted
onto another star’s body. But where such technology once required
sophisticated computing capacity, now it will be available to
anyone with a laptop. Imagine the assault on truth and reputation
this will entail. You want Barack Obama to confess he was born
in Kenya after all? Whatever you want to believe, or want people
to believe, there’ll be a video to support it. Society cannot function
without a level of trust. In a world where the camera not only lies,
but lies superbly well, what chance is there of sustaining it?
The Tories have pulled off a “rather miraculous” trick over recent
years, says Fraser Nelson. They’ve steadily cut the police budget
and police numbers – yet still managed to preside over falling
crime levels. But have they finally pushed their luck too far? After
steadily declining for 20 years, crime levels in England and Wales
have skyrocketed in the past 12 months: knife crime is up 21%,
robbery 29%. You can’t say for sure this is linked to the decline
in police numbers; what is certain is that “the chances of any thief
bumping into a policeman are lower than at any time in decades”.
We’ve lost one in seven of our front-line police officers in the past
eight years; in Europe, only Hungary and Scandinavia have fewer,
as a share of the population, than us. We may have reached a
“tipping point” where the low visibility of police officers on the
street simply “emboldens the bad guys”. The Tories don’t want
to admit it, but it’s getting harder to claim that the spike in the
crime figures is a “freakish statistical blip”, or that the propensity
for crime is unaffected by the number of officers there to tackle it.
Two years ago, David Cameron set out his vision for a “truly 21st
century” prison system. It was just hot air, says Ian Birrell. Two
shocking reports into jails in Nottingham and Liverpool show
that conditions remain Dickensian – inmates crammed into filthy,
freezing cells; cockroaches; rats; extensive violence. Whether you
measure it by the high levels of reoffending or the number of
suicides, it’s clear the system is failing; yet we keep locking more
and more people up – England and Wales have the highest rate of
imprisonment in western Europe. Something has to change, and
if ministers are wise, they should seek inspiration from Scotland.
There, the SNP government rightly concluded that short jail terms
disrupt family and work ties, and thus usually do more harm than
good. So eight years ago it ruled that whenever judges imposed a
sentence of less than 12 weeks, they’d have to justify in court why
they hadn’t imposed community service or another penalty. Since
then, both prison numbers and reconviction rates have fallen:
there are now plans to extend the anti-jail presumption to
sentences of up to 12 months. Westminster should follow suit.
It’s hard being an Arsenal fan these days, says Richard Morrison.
And I’ve got a bad case of the jitters about their forthcoming clash
with the tiny Swedish club of Östersunds FK. Why? Because I’ve
discovered that every single Östersunds player reads Dostoevsky
in his spare time. The novelist features on the annual reading list
that’s part of their contract. Not only that, the players also put on
a play every year, have written a book together, work on projects
with refugees and have even danced Swan Lake. It’s all part of
their club’s “holistic” training regime. And judging by the way the
club has risen up the Swedish leagues and won the Swedish Cup,
it’s highly effective. Would that clubs over here tried to do likewise with England’s “intellectually stunted and money-obsessed”
footballers. And not just football clubs. British bosses all tend to
equate productivity with long hours and laser-like focus, ignoring
the benefits that flow from widening people’s horizons. If only
they “had the boldness and vision to unlock their workers’
imaginations”, we could all start to thrive like Östersunds.
I read it in the tabloids
Villagers in rural India were
thrilled when a mysterious
blue rock fell from the sky,
thinking it was a meteorite.
Some residents of Fazilpur
Badli chopped off sections
of the 26lb lump as souvenirs.
But officials instead suspect
that it is in fact “blue ice”:
human waste mixed with
disinfectant and dropped
from a passing aeroplane.
“Villagers who kept it inside
their refrigerators,” said one
resident, “are now busy
cleaning their houses.”
An 18th century mummy
dug up 40 years ago in
a Swiss church is, it
transpires, the great-greatgreat-great-great-greatgreat grandmother of Boris
Johnson. The body was
unearthed in 1975 during
renovations on Basel’s
Barfüsser Church. Historical
research and DNA analysis
has revealed that it is the
remains of Anna Catharina
Bischoff, a direct ancestor
of Johnson’s. Her body
was mummified by mercury
poisoning, probably given
as a treatment for syphilis.
The world’s most famous
grumpy cat has won $710,000
in a lawsuit. Grumpy Cat
(pictured) became a social
media sensation in 2012, and
the US coffee firm Grenade
Beverage paid for the right to
use the scowling pet’s image
on its iced Grumppuccino.
But the cat’s owner, Tabatha
Bundesen, later took Grenade
to court, complaining that it
also used the cat’s image on
other products.
Last week she
won the court
case. Grumpy
Cat’s lawyer,
David Jonelis,
said he thought
it was the first
time an internet
meme had won
a court case.
Best articles: Europe
The comedian
brought up
short by reality
Il Giornale
A failure to see
inside the
Russian soul
Radio Kommersant FM
The wrath of a
president with
a very thin skin
Cyprus Mail
What is it with the Italian comedian-turned-political activist Beppe Grillo? In 2009, he began posting
blog rants against the governing class, and out of those grew his Five Star Movement, which caused
a political earthquake by coming third in the 2013 elections. Even more remarkably, polls now put
it in top place for the elections in March. So why on earth, asks Francesco Maria Del Vigo, has Grillo
chosen this moment to quit? Apparently bored with day-to-day politics, he has removed all mention
of Five Star from his blog, and instead taken to musing about climate change and artificial intelligence. Is it a clever plan to boost the party’s chances by redirecting attention to 31-year-old Luigi Di
Maio, its candidate for PM? Has Grillo fallen out with the party heads? More likely he’s lost faith in
the “monster” he’s created. Its record in local government is uninspiring, especially in Rome which,
under its Five Star mayor, is choked with mountains of uncollected rubbish. Grillo once wanted to
create a new ruling class, but now, with “disarming candour”, says the real need is to create “a new
people”. And there you have it. For someone given to utopian visions, the reality is never enough.
Westerners are up in arms over the decision by
Russia’s culture ministry to ban The Death of
Stalin, says Dmitry Drize. A black satire directed by
British writer Armando Iannucci, the film contains
no pornography or unacceptable violence: so the
ministry initially passed it. But so intense has
been the political backlash – “a blasphemous
libel” against Russian history, its critics say – that the
ministry has had to change its mind. The problem
is not that the film is historically inaccurate, or that
Soviet leaders are portrayed as “dim-witted” and
“bloody”; Russian cinema has always caricatured
Western leaders (“capitalists, Zionists, aggressors”)
in cartoonish ways. It’s that the events covered in the film are the most “tragic and terrible” of our
recent history: hundreds of thousands were slaughtered in prison camps. “Laughter in such matters
is really offensive.” But Westerners understand nothing of Russians’ feelings; they can’t see how
mockery of our past upsets us and gives reactionaries ammunition. This is the first such ban since
Soviet times – but with more provocations like this, it could become the norm.
Turkey’s President Erdogan can’t abide criticism of any sort, says Cyprus Mail. Last week an obscure
Turkish Cypriot newspaper criticised his army’s assault on Syria’s Kurds, calling it a shameless land
grab and comparing it to the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. Erdogan was so incensed by the impertinence
of what he called a “cheap and nasty newspaper”, he publicly invited “my brothers in north Cyprus”
to give “the necessary response”. That was a signal for an angry mob waving Turkish flags to
surround the paper’s HQ in Nicosia, smash its windows and break into the building. Heaven knows
what might have happened had the police not arrived in time. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa
Akıncı, bravely condemned the violence and called for freedom of expression to be respected – only
to be jeered and jostled. That, alas, is the way things are going in the north of the island, where
fanatics abound, ready to crush Erdogan’s critics at the slightest signal. How crazy that Erdogan
should be so upset by criticisms in a low-circulation publication that hardly anyone reads, and how
appalling that he should respond by inciting violence by “local heavies”. If he’s intent on infecting us
with his “authoritarian mentality”, what hope is there of Cyprus ever achieving a peaceful resolution?
How Germany’s Left got lost in the culture wars
Germany’s social democrats face a hideous dilemma, said Sabine
Kinkartz in Deutsche Welle (Bonn). Trounced in last year’s
elections, the centre-left SPD needs a period in opposition to
regroup. Yet it’s under huge pressure to renew its governing
coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU or risk
plunging the country into instability. Heeding the call, party
delegates have narrowly voted to start formal talks with the
CDU. But that has enraged young activists, who feel that
propping up a right-wing government for a third term will
destroy their party’s credibility. The membership will have the
final say when negotiations are completed – and the activists are
now urging people to join and help to vote the deal down. No
wonder SPD leader Martin Schulz looks “exhausted”. Should a
party so grotesquely divided even be allowed into government?
The SPD had no choice, said Gudrun Doringer in Salzburger
Nachrichten (Salzburg). Had it “shirked its responsibility” to
form a government, voters would have punished it even more.
A mainstream party could never behave with such “negligence”.
But the drive to sign up temporary supporters for an absurdly
tiny fee of s10 shows “a frightening lack of seriousness”, said
Daniel Friedrich Sturm in Die Welt (Hamburg). The newcomers
need join for only two months, yet will be shaping the SPD’s
direction for years to come. More than a million Germans
are dedicated members of the country’s political parties. These
people are “citizens” in the best sense, the “backbone of our
party democracy”. Party leaders should never allow that
commitment to be diluted by political “one-night-standers”.
The problem facing Germany’s centre-left is that it is “divided
almost evenly between blue-collar workers and leftist progressives”, said Timo Lochocki in Foreign Policy (Washington) –
which is to say, between “proponents of conservative and liberal
identity politics”. This mattered less when the SPD could fall
back on its core issues of welfare and social justice, but after a
decade of economic boom, these issues no longer resonate with
voters and have been overtaken by cultural ones. And on such
matters, to support one side is to court the fury of the other,
as the previous SPD leader, Sigmar Gabriel, found when he recently suggested talking up ideas of “homeland” and “German
identity”. To go down that road would see many progressives
defect to the Greens or the radical Left party. But to go soft
on immigration could prompt many working-class supporters
to vote for Merkel or the nationalist AfD. The SPD’s best hope
is to stick to economic issues – to hang on until the inevitable
economic downturn comes and then offer a genuine alternative.
Health & Science
What the scientists are saying…
A step closer to levitation
The possibility of human levitation –
and the use of tractor beams to suspend
and manipulate objects in mid-air – has
moved a step closer. Levitation has already
been achieved using magnetic beams (as
in maglev trains), but that only works
with objects that respond to magnetism.
So scientists have been trying to suspend
objects in sound waves. The difficulty
has been size. They’ve only been able to
suspend tiny objects in acoustic tractor
beams, because any particle bigger than
the wavelength of the sound picks up the
rotation of the sound field and spins off.
Now, though, engineers at the University
of Bristol have got around this problem.
Instead of using spinning fields, they have
created rapidly fluctuating acoustic
vortices – like tornadoes of sound – with
silent (stable) cores big enough to trap
relatively large objects. Using ultrasonic
waves at a pitch inaudible to humans
(40kHz), the researchers were able to hold
a 2cm polystyrene ball. And they reckon
that with more acoustic power, they could
hold larger objects in the beam – perhaps
even humans one day. In the meantime,
acoustic beams have many other potential
applications. “I’m particularly excited by
the idea of contactless production lines
where delicate objects are assembled
without touching them,” said Professor
Bruce Drinkwater, of Bristol’s Department
of Mechanical Engineering.
Even one cigarette a day is a risk
People who smoke only one cigarette a day
may feel they’re doing themselves no harm
– but they’re wrong. A meta-analysis of
141 studies that looked at smoking and
heart health has suggested that one-aday smokers have a 50% raised risk of
cardiovascular disease – roughly half that
The two successful macaque clones
of 20-a-day smokers. The finding, said the
team at University College London, tallies
with earlier studies that found that passive
smokers have a raised risk of arterial
stiffness and inflammation. Heart disease
is the biggest smoking-related killer, linked
to even more premature deaths than lung
cancer. “No safe level of smoking exists for
cardiovascular disease,” the team warn in
their BMJ-published report.
The first primate clones
For the first time, scientists have used the
technique that produced Dolly the sheep
to clone monkeys. The Chinese researchers
who produced the two macaques say that
having access to genetically identical
primates will be a huge boon to medical
research. It will give scientists a clearer
understanding of genetic diseases by
enabling them to compare animals who
are identical save for one tweaked gene;
when testing drugs, it will make it possible
to rule out the possibility that variations in
outcomes are down to genetic differences.
But other experts have raised a host of
concerns. The somatic cell nuclear transfer
(SCNT) technique involves transferring a
cell nucleus to a donated nucleus-free egg
that is then prompted to develop into an
embryo. Although 23 species have been
cloned in this way, primates have only
been cloned before using a less complex
embryo-splitting technique. Similar to the
process that creates twins, it can only lead
to a very limited number of genetically
identical individuals. SCNT can in theory
lead to a far larger number of clones, but
in the Chinese experiment, the fail rate was
very high. The team implanted scores of
embryos, but only two monkeys survived
beyond a few days. Added to that is the
concern that by cloning a primate species,
the team has broken down a significant
barrier on the way to cloning humans.
Herbal remedy danger
Herbal remedies such as St. John’s wort
and ginseng may be harmful when used
alongside conventional drugs, reports
The Guardian. In a review of medical
literature, researchers at Stellenbosch
University in South Africa found several
instances of alternative treatments
appearing to interact with prescription
drugs, resulting in potentially dangerous
side effects. In one case, the autopsy of
a 55-year-old who died while swimming
concluded that the ginkgo biloba
supplements he had been taking may
have inhibited his anti-seizure medicine.
Other cases documented patients on statins
appearing to suffer complications linked to
flaxseed, St. John’s wort and green tea. “If
you are taking herbal remedies you should
disclose it to your clinician,” said one of
the report’s authors, Dr Charles Awortwe.
Making a new home on Mars
A lifetime of obesity
The man behind the Mars One mission
to send humans on a one-way trip to
the Red Planet is about to start recruiting
his first interplanetary colonisers. Bas
Lansdorp’s idea is that people will start
travelling to Mars in 2031, with a view
to creating a permanent human
settlement. Some 200,000 people have
applied for the mission, and the selection
process for the first four-person team
begins this year, with a barrage of
psychological tests to determine
whether they can handle the enormity
The planned settlement of Mars One
of the challenge.
Conditions will be harsh: the first crew will be out there alone; they will be
confined to cramped, pod-like units indefinitely; and their water will be so limited,
they likely won’t be able to shower for two years. But all that, Lansdorp told The
Independent, is nothing compared to the psychological stress of leaving behind
everything you know, for ever. Some experts think his plans are absurdly ambitious,
but he says that Mars may be only the beginning, and that one day humans could
inhabit giant balloons floating above Venus, or pods fixed to Jupiter’s moons.
Four in five obese children in the UK
will remain dangerously overweight in
adulthood – which could lead to them
losing up to 20 years of healthy life,
a new report has warned. The report,
from the Royal College of Paediatrics
and Child Health, urges the Government
to break a “terrible destructive cycle” by,
for instance, introducing measures to
stop fast food shops opening near
schools, and banning junk food ads from
being shown on TV before the 9pm
watershed. One in three children are
overweight or obese by the time they
leave primary school, official statistics
show. Separately, a study in the US has
suggested that the behaviours that lead
to obesity are “contagious”. Researchers
looked at data gathered from US
military bases and found that when
families move into communities with
high levels of obesity, they are more
likely to become obese themselves.
Internet: Can states save net neutrality?
become more powerful than you could
Federal Communications Commission
possibly imagine.” The fact that so many
Chairman Ajit Pai “spent 2017
politicians and lawyers are “champing
dismantling Obama-era rules on net
at the bit to fight” shows that the FCC’s
neutrality. A handful of lawmakers
handling of the matter was “incredibly
in liberal-leaning states plan to spend
shady; regulations don’t normally get
2018 building them back up,” said
overturned this fast.” Questions abound
Joshua Brustein on
about Pai’s speed in pushing for repeal,
Legislatures in at least six states,
not to mention the “millions of fake
including California, Massachusetts,
online comments” in favor of overturning
and Washington, have introduced
the rules. Democrats correctly sense that,
bills to restore net neutrality rules
come the fall, protecting net neutrality will
within their borders, and last week,
be “a vote winner on which all levels of
the Democratic governors of New
elections could turn.” At stake is “nothing
York and Montana both signed orders
FCC Chairman Pai: Taking the heat
less than the health of our open society,”
barring state agencies from doing
said The Boston Globe in an editorial. If
business with internet providers that
the federal government is unwilling to protect a free and open
“block or slow down certain web traffic.” States are also taking
internet, “then state and local government must.”
the FCC to court: Last month, 21 state attorneys general filed
a lawsuit calling the FCC’s December decision to roll back net
“Should more states adopt their own net neutrality rules,
neutrality rules “arbitrary and capricious.” The federal agency
it could result in a patchwork of differing regulations,”
clearly anticipated all this pushback, having included a provision
said Brian Fung in The Washington Post. AT&T, fearing
that forbids states from creating their own net neutrality
such a nightmarish scenario, began campaigning last week
regulations. But states aren’t alone: A resolution undoing the
to head off the states. Claiming it “does not block or slow
FCC’s net neutrality repeal has the declared support of 50 US
senators, and the Internet Association, a trade group representing down websites,” the company called for Congress to “draft
a national law on net neutrality that would resolve the
Amazon, Facebook, and Google, has joined the legal fight.
patchwork problem and settle the net neutrality debate.”
AT&T is right, said John Kneuer in Lawmakers
If Pai and his cohorts thought their decision would settle the net
should ensure Pai’s sensible decision stands firm, and that it
neutrality matter last year, they are now under no such illusion,
isn’t undone by the next administration. Only Congress can
said Chris Taylor on “As Obi-Wan Kenobi
resolve the debate “once and for all.”
might have told them: Strike down net neutrality, and it will
Innovation of the week
Bytes: What’s new in tech
Snapchat permits outside sharing
A minuscule new robot prototype,
“small enough to move around in a
stomach or urinary system,” can walk,
jump, roll, and swim – and could soon
be deployed to deliver drugs within
the body, said James Gorman in The
New York Times. The tiny bot,
developed by researchers at the Max
Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
in Stuttgart, Germany, measures just
1/7 of an inch and is made of elastomer
rubber, which is embedded with small,
magnetic particles. Using external
magnetic fields, scientists can twist
and turn the bot’s body into a wide
variety of positions. The prototype has
already shown that it can jump over
obstacles and crawl through narrow
tunnels, and can also move minute
objects by rolling around them and
depositing them elsewhere. Although
the device has yet to be tested on
humans, Metin Sitti, who leads the
research team, says that step will take
place soon.
“Snapchat has cracked open its walled
garden,” said Georgia Wells in The Wall
Street Journal. The social media app will
soon begin allowing users to share videos
and stories generated within Snapchat
outside of its app. A new redesign will
permit the sharing of Snaps to social
platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
as well as via email and text. The move
demonstrates Snap’s readiness “to evolve
beyond the basis for the app’s early
popularity”: disappearing, one-on-one
messages and cloistered social groups. Snap’s
primary rivals, Twitter and Facebook, began
permitting the outside sharing of posts in
2011 and 2013, respectively. The redesign
was launched this week in Australia and
Canada and will be available in the US in
several weeks.
Spotify adds news, sports,
and politics
“Spotify will begin offering news and
political coverage to lure listeners away
from radio and podcasts,” said Lucas Shaw
on The world’s largest
paid music service has already targeted
arch-rival Apple by hosting many of the
podcasts available on iTunes. Its latest
initiative, dubbed Spotlight, has drafted eight
media companies, including BuzzFeed and
Refinery29, to produce daily programming.
Initially available only to Spotify’s US
customers, Spotlight will kick off with a
daily newscast “featuring reporting from
BuzzFeed journalists.” The new shows
debut this month and cover news, sports,
politics, and pop culture. Although the asyet-unprofitable streaming service “almost
single-handedly reversed the record industry’s
long decline,” it clearly has its eyes on the
$18 billion radio ad market.
Apple expands health data
Apple has
unveiled a new
feature allowing
users “to
download and
see parts of
their medical
records on their
iPhones,” said
Natasha Singer
in The New
York Times. Included as part of its popular
Health app, the feature signals the tech
giant’s “growing ambitions in the digital
health market.” Apple says users will be able
to transfer clinical data such as cholesterol
levels and lists of medications prescribed by
their doctors “directly from their medical
providers to their iPhones.” A dozen
major medical institutions, including Johns
Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore and CedarsSinai in Los Angeles, are participating.
Apple says any consumer medical data it
compiles will be encrypted and stored locally
on iPhones and will not be visible to Apple
“unless the user chooses to share it.”
Talking points
The Presidents Club dinner: rich men behaving badly
know you accept my third
hand.” Vanity Fair conceded
that Oprah’s extra hand was
an editing mistake, but said
Witherspoon’s extra limb was a
visual trick caused by the lining
of her dress.
Pick of the week’s
Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood
issue is out, and as usual it
features a host of cover stars
(pictured). But this year’s photo
shoot prompted ridicule when
eagle-eyed social media users
noticed that in two of the group
images, stars appeared to have
superfluous body parts. The
stars in question took it in
good part. Reese Witherspoon
tweeted: “Well… I guess
everybody knows now… I
have three legs. I hope you can
still accept me for who I am.”
Oprah Winfrey replied:
“I accept your third leg. As I
Defence Secretary Gavin
Williamson confessed last
week to stealing extramarital
kisses with a female colleague
in 2004, when he worked for
a fireplace manufacturing
company in Yorkshire. “This
incident nearly destroyed two
marriages,” he told the Daily
Mail. “I no longer sell fireplaces
and have built a career in
politics. Family will always be
central to what I do and what I
believe in.” Williamson’s
confession prompted mirth in
Westminster, where many saw
it as a tactical concession by
the ambitious minister. “If
Gavin’s clearing the decks like
this, then the PM really is in
trouble,” one former cabinet
minister reportedly said.
Theresa May’s plight seemed
even graver this weekend
when Damian Green, her close
friend and former No. 2, “liked”
a tweet in which a journalist
described her as “hopeless,
hopeless”, and warned that
every day she remains PM
is “another day closer to a
Corbyn government”. Green
insisted it was an error.
They may not have known that the
Everything about the Presidents Club
hostesses had been told to sign nondinner stank, said The Guardian. If
disclosure agreements on arrival and
holding an all-male dinner for high
surrender their phones, and no doubt only
rollers in the property industry wasn’t
a minority were “bottom grabbers”. But
anachronistic enough, the event’s
the fact remains that 360 modern, sentient
organisers had recruited 130 women,
men saw no risk to their reputations in
on the basis of their looks, to work as
attending a men-only event known for its
“hostesses” for the evening. Told to
“anything goes” vibe, the kind of evening
wear black knickers, they were warned
that has semi-clad dancers as entertainment
that they’d have to put up with some
and auction lots that include a course of
“annoying men” in return for their
cosmetic surgery to “add spice to your
£150 fee. Organisers had also felt
obliged to print a warning in the
brochure urging guests not to harass the
It’s all very shocking, said James Moore
staff. Even so, the annual fundraiser,
Attendees arrive for a “strange and magical evening” in The Independent – but not surprising.
described by a compère at the dinner as
We all know that if you put a load of
“the most un-PC event of the year”,
powerful men together in a room, with young women to fill their
remained true to its billing. The evening kicked off with the
glasses, there’s a chance “they’ll behave as if the progress of half
hostesses – clad in short black dresses and high heels – parading
a century or more never happened”. Why all the fuss then,
across the ballroom of The Dorchester hotel to the Little Mix
wondered Polly Vernon in The Daily Telegraph. Perhaps it’s
song Power; they then made their way to the tables, to join the
because this evening was raising funds for children’s charities,
360 male guests (mainly in property, but also businessmen,
or perhaps we just “enjoy being extra-appalled when [powerful
celebrities and politicians). According to two undercover
men are] exposed as behaving as badly as we’d always suspected
Financial Times journalists at the event, these women (some still
they were”. Yet you don’t have to hang out with plutocrats to be
in their teens) were then repeatedly groped, with hands around
harassed. A drunken man is rarely a “woke” (socially conscious,
waists and on stomachs; several were propositioned; one
politically correct) man; if you wait
man exposed himself.
tables or work behind a bar, being
“So many attendees claimed to
propositioned and groped by fools with
Within hours of the story breaking, the
an inflated sense of their own allure is an
Presidents Club charity had shut; Great
have left early, it’s a wonder the
Ormond Street children’s hospital
ballroom wasn’t empty by 10pm” occupational hazard.
had promised to return £530,000 in
Yes, and many women willingly do
donations from it; and firms that had
this work, said The Guardian. It’s not news that people will
sponsored it (including Sir Martin Sorrell’s PR giant, WPP) were
accept degrading jobs when nothing better presents itself, nor that
“regretting” their involvement. So many attendees claimed to
they will go along with behaviour they know to be wrong rather
have left early, it’s a wonder the ballroom wasn’t empty by 10pm,
said Mark Steel in The Independent. As for those that stayed, they than make a fuss and risk losing their jobs. But that doesn’t make
sexual harassment right. Until the coalition changed the law in
claimed to have seen nothing inappropriate. Meanwhile, business
2013, employers had a specific obligation to protect their staff
types dismissed the groping complaints, on the grounds that the
from sexual harassment by third parties (e.g. customers). So, legal
hostesses must have known what kind of event they’d signed up
reforms are part of the answer. But as important, said The Times,
to. “This made it a strange and magical evening”, where the
women knew what was going to happen all along, yet none of the is to change social norms and behaviour in places where the law
is hard to enforce, such as in bedrooms and in hotel ballrooms.
men there had a clue, even as it was happening all around them.
Powerful men must feel obliged to do more than pay lip service
to sexual equality; annoying men can learn to control themselves.
It’s 2018, said Merryn Somerset Webb in the FT. Sexual
Some people think Great Ormond Street should have kept the
harassment is the issue of the moment. None of the people on
tainted money and used it to save the lives of sick children. It
the guest list (among them Sir Philip Green, the Ocado boss Tim
would be far better for the City to organise another event,
Steiner and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi) can have missed
attended by men and women, and this time raise twice as much.
the #MeToo movement. They may even have pronounced on it.
Talking points
Corbyn’s “youthquake”: was it an illusion?
in The Guardian.
“First drafts of history are
There certainly was
sometimes wrong,” said
a youthquake of sorts,
Oliver Wiseman on CapX.
although it may have been a
After Theresa May lost her
little different from what we
majority last June, one
previously thought. Labour
explanation was soon widely
greatly increased its already
agreed upon: that Jeremy
dominant share of the vote
Corbyn had mobilised large
(if not turnout) in the 18- to
numbers of young people,
24-year-old group, with a
who had never voted before,
20-point swing. In addition,
to turn out in droves for
there was both an increased
Labour. There was even a
word for it, “youthquake”,
“Oh, Jeremy”: the Labour leader and fans turnout, and a strong swing
to Labour, among 25- to
which Oxford Dictionaries
44-year-olds. This was a youthquake that
declared their word of the year. The trouble is,
extended right up to middle age.
it “never actually happened”. According to the
authoritative British Election Study, there was
You can see why commentators made the
in fact no meaningful increase in turnout among
mistake, said Ross Clark in The Spectator.
18- to 24-year-olds; it may even have fallen.
Turnout went up in seats with lots of young
(That age group’s estimated turnout was 43.1%,
compared to 82.8% among 65- to 74-year-olds.) people, such as Canterbury, but it wasn’t
The whole theory was based on flawed polls and necessarily the youngest adults doing the extra
turning out. There was in fact an even stronger
on anecdote: Corbyn often surrounded himself
with young people, and appeared at Glastonbury correlation between increased turnout and
seats with large numbers of 0 to 4-year-olds –
to chants of, “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”.
something that cannot be explained by lots of
The study “will – or should – make grim reading toddlers turning out to vote. Even so, the survey
should give the Conservatives pause for thought.
for Labour’s leadership”, said Tom Harris in
Between 2015 and 2017, Labour increased its
The Daily Telegraph. The Corbynites’ belief
has always been that there’s no need to appeal to share of the vote among every age group up to
75; the Tories, only among the over-55s. (That
swing voters. Instead, true socialism will inspire
both parties were able to increase their vote was
“all those people who couldn’t previously be
largely thanks to the collapse of UKIP.) This
bothered to vote” to “usher in a brighter
suggests that the Tories need to appeal not just
future”. But if, after all, Labour cannot depend
to the young, but to “all generations of Corbyn
on this revolution, where will Corbyn’s victory
converts, right up to those in their 70s”.
come from? Hang on a minute, said Alan Travis
The homeless: why the Tories must act
incentives that would be
If it seems to you that there
created by such a move”?
are more people sleeping on
Buying more homes isn’t the
the streets these days than
answer, agreed Tim Worstall in
there used to be, you’re right,
The Times. There are two sorts
said George Eaton in the New
of rough sleeper: “the transient
Statesman. Statistics published
homeless who get picked up
last week show that rough
and placed in at least
sleeping in England has
temporary accommodation
increased for the seventh
quite quickly, and those for
consecutive year: local
whom accommodation isn’t the
authorities estimated that
A victim of austerity?
problem at all”. For this latter
there were 4,751 people bedded
group, who suffer from a range of addictions
down outside on any given night in autumn
and mental health issues, the difficulty isn’t
2017, up 15% on the previous year. And “it
finding them a roof, but keeping them under it.
is no coincidence that the rise in rough sleeping
began in 2010”; that was the year the Tories
Ministers must tackle the deeper causes behind
started imposing austerity. The reduced funding
homelessness (to help both rough sleepers and
for homeless hostels and other support services;
the much larger group of people languishing in
the “arbitrary” benefits cap; the rise in private
poor, temporary housing), said Iain Martin on
rents – they’ve all exacted a terrible toll. But its priority now must be to get
people off the streets. The spike in homelessness
This trend is to be “lamented”, said The Daily
during the 1980s and early 1990s helped bring
Telegraph, but let’s keep a sense of proportion.
about the Tories’ electoral defeat by reinforcing
In all, there are thought to be as many as 6,000
the image of them as “selfish and uncaring”.
rough sleepers in England, a quarter of whom
The same could happen again. If Britons keep
are in London and a fifth of whom are foreign
witnessing the “scandalous” sight of people
nationals. Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting that
sleeping outside in icy weather, they’ll turn their
Labour would buy 8,000 properties across the
country to provide free housing for these people. wrath on those who failed to fix the problem.
But has he given any thought to “the perverse
Wit &
“Whoever scatters thorns
should not go
around shoeless.”
Neapolitan mafioso, quoted
in The Times
“We are never so generous
as when giving advice.”
François de La
Rochefoucauld, quoted
on The Browser
“Everyone is always in
favour of general
economy and particular
Anthony Eden, quoted
in Forbes
“Rudeness is the weak
man’s imitation
of strength.”
Eric Hoffer, quoted in
The Baltimore Sun
“Time is an illusion.
Lunchtime doubly so.”
Douglas Adams, quoted in
The Washington Post
“It is impossible to
persuade a man who does
not disagree, but smiles.”
Muriel Spark, quoted in The
New York Times
“Shallow understanding
from people of good will is
more frustrating than
absolute misunderstanding
from people of ill will.”
Martin Luther King Jr., ibid
“Gentlemen’s clubs are
for men who prefer
armchairs to women.”
V.S. Pritchett, quoted in The
“The world is full of
magic things, patiently
waiting for our senses
to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats, quoted in the
New Jersey Herald
Statistics of the week
In England up to 2.4 million
people are living in rented
homes deemed to have
category-one hazards, such as
rats, dangerous boilers and
broken stairs.
The Guardian
Young black men were the
victims in almost a third of
the killings in London last
year, despite making up only
1.4% of its population.
The Times
Tennis: Federer joins the 20 club
players had to develop a broad repertoire of
At the start of 2017, Roger Federer was thought
strokes. Most members of the younger generation,
to be “not only past his prime but past the period
by contrast, rely on “crushing groundstrokes” – so
when he was past his prime”, said Tom Fordyce
they are ill-prepared for Federer’s “pick-and-mix
on BBC Sport online. Five years had passed since
stall of knifed slices, drop shots, net rushes and
his last grand slam title; he had just returned from
old-fashioned forehand drives”. Playing against
six months out, after knee surgery. So when he
him is like “switching from the quick crossword
won the Australian Open title a year ago, it was
to the cryptic one”.
hailed as “one final reminder of what had once
been”. How wrong we were. In July, Federer went
The “ferocious” heatwave in Melbourne played
on to regain his Wimbledon crown without
into Federer’s hands too, said Kevin Mitchell in
dropping a set – and on Sunday, at the age of 36,
The Guardian. Temperatures hit a sweltering 38˚C
he beat Marin Cilic to win the Australian Open.
on Sunday, so the organisers decided to close the
This is no “echo of past glories”; it’s a “second
roof and switch on the air conditioning. That
golden age” for a player who was already
slowed down the ball, reducing the impact of
considered the greatest of all time. He now has 20
Cilic’s fearsome 133mph serve. The heat also
grand slam titles, four more than any other man in
helped decide the women’s title: by the time
history. “And why should it stop there, with his
“A second golden age”
Simona Halep reached the final on Saturday,
rivals injured and the young dashers stalled, and
having battled through brutal, hot matches, she was running on
Wimbledon waiting to welcome him back once more?”
empty – and after losing to Caroline Wozniacki, she had to be
hospitalised for dehydration. Wozniacki’s triumph, at the age of
How on earth does Federer do it, asked Stuart Fraser in The
27, made her a grand slam champion for the first time, said Barry
Times. At an age when so many players have hung up their
Flatman in The Sunday Times. The Danish player had previously
rackets, he remains in “astonishing physical condition”. That’s
spent 67 weeks as world No. 1, but she was frequently dismissed
largely thanks to his fitness trainer, Pierre Paganini. Federer also
as just “too nice” to win a major. Now, after developing a more
enjoys one crucial advantage over his younger rivals, said Simon
forceful serve and working to put more pace on her groundBriggs in The Sunday Telegraph. He came of age at a time when
strokes, she has finally “got the prize she craved for so long”.
the strings on rackets were less effective at gripping the ball, so
Cricket: England’s ODI stars
the pace” for Test cricket, he proved his value in this
What a way to “finish off” Australia, said Richard
format on Sunday by taking five wickets for 35 runs.
Gibson in the Daily Mail. England didn’t even need
Curran’s technique is impressive – he produces clever
to win the fifth one-day international (ODI); having
variations – but it is his “irrepressibly competitive
taken an unassailable 3-0 lead, they had already
and optimistic attitude that shines brightest”.
sealed a series triumph. But despite only scoring “a
modest” 259 runs in Perth on Sunday, they “refused
Curran’s man-of-the-match performance was testto throw in the towel”. Thanks to “a spellbinding
ament to this side’s strength in depth, said Michael
spell of reverse swing bowling” from Tom Curran,
Vaughan in The Daily Telegraph. Only six players
they held on to prevail by 12 runs – and finish the
are guaranteed places in the team; everyone else must
series with a 4-1 win. The series could “not have
constantly “perform to stay in”. And Eoin Morgan,
gone better”, said Vithushan Ehantharajah in The
who captains England in ODIs and Twenty20,
Guardian. Yes, England lost the fourth ODI. But the
makes the most of the talent at his disposal – he is as
variety of their four victories “speaks of improved
good a one-day captain as England have ever had.
adaptability”: they were by turns dominant,
Curran: “spellbinding”
The only thing holding back the side is a lack of
professional and dogged. In Curran, England have
street smarts: they need to learn how to gauge conditions and to
found quite the one-day cricketer, said Steve James in The Times.
avoid losing wickets when they chase a “monster target”. If they
Just 22 years old, the Surrey bowler only made his ODI debut last
do that, they can win the World Cup next year.
September – and he failed to impress in the Ashes. Yet if he “lacks
Can “physical intimidation” stop the Sky Blues?
Sporting headlines
How do you stop a team like
game”, said Henry Winter in The
Manchester City, asked Mark
Times. And City are “hardly
Ogden on ESPN FC. Pep
angels” themselves, as their
Guardiola’s side have lost only
midfielder Fernandinho showed
once in the Premier League this
when he clattered into Marko
season, to Liverpool, and enjoy
Grujic on Sunday. Yet that
an all but insurmountable lead at
doesn’t mean we should just
the top of the table. But as
accept the claim, made by Cardiff
opponents run out of “legitimate
manager Neil Warnock, that
ways” to thwart City, they’re
vicious challenges are part and
resorting to “physical intimi­
parcel of the English game.
dation”. In their 2­0 loss to City, in
What’s all the more frustrating
Bennett “scything” Sané
the fourth round of the FA Cup,
about Cardiff’s approach is just
Championship side Cardiff City “took it to
how “short­sighted” it was, said Mark Ogden.
another level”: their defender Joe Bennett
Even Championship clubs can give City a fright
“scythed down” Leroy Sané with a horrific
if they embrace attacking football – as Bristol
tackle that will sideline the winger for weeks. It
City proved last month when they came close to
was a throwback to the “bad old days” when
holding City in both legs of the Carabao Cup
English football was “like the Wild West”.
semi­final. The only way to beat City is to
actually “take them on at football”.
Nobody disputes that football is a “physical
Football Manchester City
bought French defender
Aymeric Laporte from Athletic
Bilbao for £57m – a club
record. Liverpool striker
Daniel Sturridge joined West
Bromwich Albion on loan.
Golf Chinese golfer Li
Haotong won the Dubai
Desert Classic, finishing one
shot ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Cricket In the auction for
the Indian Premier League,
Rajasthan Royals bought
Ben Stokes for almost £1.4m.
Chris Woakes was sold to
Royal Challengers Bangalore
for £820,000. Joe Root and
Eoin Morgan went unsold.
Review of reviews: Books
Book of the week
David Runciman in The
Guardian. Norms, the
unwritten rules and
How Democracies Die
conventions that hold a
by Steven Levitsky and
democracy together, are based
on the idea that all sides have
Daniel Ziblatt
a fundamental allegiance to
Viking 320pp £16.99
the system, and that it’s often
best to put long-term interest
ahead of short-term
“There are two must-read books
advantage. In short, they are
about the Trump presidency at the
what prevent politicians
moment,” said Andrew Marr in The
taking “every cheap shot
Sunday Times. “This is the one you
going”. Trump, of course, has
probably haven’t heard of.” Steven
no such “impulse control”; he
Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt – both
is the “norm-shredder-inHarvard professors – draw on their
chief”. While Levitsky and
training as political scientists to pose
Ziblatt don’t think he spells
a “once unthinkable” question: is
the death of US democracy,
American democracy under threat?
their fear is “what he will
Their answer should concern every
leave behind”.
US citizen, while also speaking
Protesters mock President Trump in May 2017
Their case seems
“urgently to British democracy”.
overblown, said Roger Boyes in The Times. Trump isn’t “pretty”,
Would-be authoritarians, they write, display four characteristics:
and he is arguably part of a trend towards authoritarian-minded
they reject the democratic rules of the game; deny legitimacy to
strongmen, such as Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
opponents; tolerate – or even encourage – violence; and seek to
who use their popularity to “change the democratic rules and
curtail civil liberties. Donald Trump is guilty on all counts. Yet
institutions in their favour”. Yet Levitsky and Ziblatt go even
the authors see Trump as more symptom than cause, the product
further, citing Nazi Germany as an example of what can happen
of a creeping decline in US political culture marked by the
when gatekeepers fail to keep demagogues in check. But “there is
coarsening of discourse, a tendency to demonise opponents, and
no sensible comparison between Germany in the 1920s and 1930s
the erosion of “civility and restraint”. Democracies, they argue,
and today’s America”: Germany then was “in no sense a
need “gatekeepers” – political parties, essentially – to function
developed democracy”, and Trump has “nothing of Hitler about
properly, and America’s gatekeepers haven’t been doing their job.
him”. Democracy in America may not be flourishing, but “it’s not
This “provocative and readable” book argues that the biggest
dead yet, not by a long chalk”.
threat to democracy comes from the “erosion of norms”, said
Novel of the week
The Only Story
by Julian Barnes
Jonathan Cape 224pp £16.99
Like his Booker-winning The Sense of an
Ending, Julian Barnes’s new novel is narrated by
an older man looking back, in puzzlement, on
his past, said Kate Clanchy in The Guardian.
When the story opens – in 1960s Surrey – “Paul
is 19, down from university, and bored and
aimless”. His mother sends him off to the tennis
club, where he embarks on an affair with a
“knowing, ironical” 48-year-old named Susan.
The relationship proves to be the “defining
event” – indeed the “only story” – of Paul’s life: Susan leaves her husband and
the couple set up home together. But as the years pass, their romance curdles –
because of Susan’s creeping alcoholism. Marked by its “psychological acuity”,
this is a quietly harrowing novel about the complexity of love and the
slipperiness of memory.
To a large extent, The Only Story represents a “return to origins” for Barnes
(pictured), said Jon Day in the Financial Times. We are “back in the suburbs of
Metroland” – the privet hedge-lined world of his 1980 debut. And Paul is the
latest in a long line of protagonists “embarrassed” by the “bourgeois horrors”
of family life. While it may not be especially original, this is still a “brilliant”,
probing work. It’s certainly cleverly constructed and packed with “skilfully
turned essays”, said David Sexton in the London Evening Standard. Yet it also
displays – like so much of this author’s work – a remarkable disdain for the
English middle classes and “no sympathy whatsoever for family”. Even as a
love story, it struggles to be believable: it is “improbably pitched from the start”.
“Not since Anita Brookner has such an accomplished novelist so skilfully put
forward such a wrongful, damaging, view of life.”
Life in the Garden
by Penelope Lively
Fig Tree 208pp £14.99
Besides writing, the two central activities of
Penelope Lively’s life have been reading and
gardening, said Alex Preston in The Observer.
In this “beautiful” book, the 84-year-old novelist
“laces elegantly between the two”. Part history
of gardening, part memoir of Lively’s horticultural life, Life in the Garden also has “regular
and illuminating examples” from “our best
garden writers”. Lively puts into words things
that all gardeners instinctively know – that being
in the garden “raises the spirits” and “modulates
the seasons”. Although not “perfect” (the
authorial interjections can be clunky), Life in the
Garden stands out for its style and intelligence at
a time when most gardening books are “vehicles
for lavish photography”.
“Like the best gardeners, Lively has opinions,
but balanced ones,” said Charles Elliott in the
Literary Review. Her “abhorrence of Victorian
bedding-out” is matched by her enthusiasm for
the era’s kitchen gardens, and while she generally
admires the rose, she concedes it can be
“wayward, sulky, ungrateful”. Overall, she
“runs circles” around many esteemed garden
writers. Life in the Garden is “wonderful”.
Mary Stuart
Friedrich Schiller
Director: Robert Icke
Duke of York’s Theatre,
St Martin’s Lane,
London WC2
(0844-871 7623)
Until 31 March; then
touring to Bath, Salford
and Cambridge
Running time:
3hrs 5mins
(including interval)
The Flying Lovers
of Vitebsk
Daniel Jamieson
Director: Emma Rice
Composer: Ian Ross
Wilton’s Music Hall,
Graces Alley, London E1
(020-7702 2789)
Until 10 February;
then touring
Running time:
1hr 30mins
modern-dress production: it
“Casting decisions do not
“crystallises the role of chance in
usually make gripping theatre,”
Schiller’s great play (translated
said Jenny Gilbert on The Arts
fleetly by Icke) and the symDesk. But in Robert Icke’s
metries, ironies, duplicities and
version of Friedrich Schiller’s
dualities that course through it”.
1800 political thriller, which
Schiller’s “rich irony” is that
has transferred to the West End
Elizabeth is “more of a prisoner
following an acclaimed 2016
than the captive queen could
run at the Almeida, the question
ever be”, said Fiona Mountford
of who will play Mary, Queen
in the London Evening Standard.
of Scots – and who her nemesis,
Williams, with “wrenching
Elizabeth of England – is “an
intensity”, manages to suggest
edge-of-the-seat moment
how, to the ever-more suspicious
night after night”. Two great
virgin queen, the very idea of
actresses, Juliet Stevenson and
Mary assumes “monstrous
Lia Williams, each stand ready
proportions”. This magnificent
at every performance to perform
production also boasts a terrific
either role. And with the entire
cast assembled on stage – and
Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson supporting cast of courtiers,
and a chilling, “devastatingly
the audience, too, watching the
fine” last act. In real life, the cousin monarchs
result closely on screens that flank the stage
never met, said Ann Treneman in The Times, but
– the question of who takes which part is
in Schiller’s play they do, “claws very
nightly decided by the spin of a coin:
much extended”. And here it’s a truly “electric”
“a sovereign, of course”.
encounter. “I really could see the lightning.”
Whoever calls heads correctly gets to keep her
head as the English monarch, said Daisy BowieSell on What’s On Stage, and at the performance
The week’s other opening
I saw, this was Williams, whose volatile
Beginning Ambassadors Theatre, West Street,
Elizabeth has a kind of “punky sass”. And as
London WC2 (020-7395 5405). Until 24 March
the loser – the Catholic queen Mary, who gets
Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton give
exquisitely nuanced performances in David
hauled off to Fotheringhay Castle – Stevenson
Eldridge’s “bruising, painfully real rom-com
is “hard and strong, but beguiling”, full of
two-hander” about a late-night “courtship
charm and grace. But is all this a stunt? A
dance” at the end of a flat-warming (Times).
gimmick? Not at all, said Sarah Hemming in the
FT. It’s a “brilliant, bold start” to Icke’s riveting,
lives and works”. It’s
Emma Rice’s theatrical work
“inventive, playful, joyous,
teems with “images of flying
a bit crazy and entirely heartlovers”, said Natasha Tripney in
rending”. It’s also almost
The Stage. The idea has cropped
“unbearably gorgeous to look
up again and again, from Nights
at”; the angularity of Chagall’s
at the Circus to Romantics
landscapes and the Gothic pallor
Anonymous. “Love can be as
of his faces are ravishingly
destabilising as it is uplifting.
evoked. In sum: a “triumph”.
It can knock you off your feet.”
Rice has never done anything
This magnificent early show,
finer than this “classic” of “total
about the lives and love of
theatre”, agreed David Nice on
Marc Chagall and his wife,
The Arts Desk. For this revival,
Bella, was first performed
Marc Antolin as Marc and
more than 25 years ago – and
Daisy Maywood as Bella make
it still takes the breath away. In
a “perfectly balanced double
its first incarnation (under the
act”. Their acting is a model
title Birthday), the “intimate and
of clarity and simplicity: he
tender” piece starred Rice herself
Daisy Maywood and Marc Antolin infuriating yet adorable; she
opposite the show’s writer,
fiercely intelligent and charming.
Daniel Jamieson, as Marc. This
They sing beautifully, too, accompanied by
new version won rave reviews at Bristol Old Vic
James Gow and (composer) Ian Ross on cello,
in 2016 and is now playing at Wilton’s Music
piano and other instruments. There’s sweetness,
Hall in east London, before heading out on a UK
here, but also great heartache. “Inspiring” stuff.
tour in the spring. Catch these lovers if you can.
This is “theatre to make the heart soar and
the soul sing”, said Alun Hood on What’s On
CD of the week
Stage – one of those “rare, beautiful pieces of
Django Django: Marble Skies Because £10
stagecraft that reminds you why you love theatre
Their adventurous, genre-blurring approach to
so much”. It is the story of revolution, war, antirock music has served the London quartet well,
Semitic persecution and pogroms – as well as a
and their third album – which includes moments
meditation on art, artistic self-absorption,
that are “impossibly lovely” – draws on
everything from Krautrock to 1960s surf music;
memory and love. Yet it’s far from worthy or
from 1980s synth-pop to house (Guardian).
precious. It’s a big-hearted and “frequently
hilarious distillation of both of the Chagalls’
Stars reflect the overall quality of reviews and our own independent assessment (4 stars=don’t miss; 1 star=don’t bother)
Dir: Alexander Payne
2hrs 15mins (15)
Swiftian satire with
Matt Damon
Early Man
Dir: Nick Park
1hr 29mins (PG)
Are the old ways the best?
Last Flag Flying
Dir: Richard Linklater
2hrs 5mins (15)
An adult rumination
on patriotism
This “gorgeous, giddy” Swiftian parable from the
writer-director of Sideways stars Matt Damon as
an ordinary joe who agrees to undergo a shrinking
procedure that reduces him to five inches tall, said
Xan Brooks in The Guardian. As a “small”, he gets
to live in a luxurious gated micro-community –
Leisureland Estates. But, given the nature of his
fellow miniaturised citizens – an amoral playboy
(Christoph Waltz), a motormouthed Vietnamese
house cleaner – it’s not the tiny paradise he’d hoped
for. Alexander Payne’s film is crammed with “hotbutton topics” such as global overcrowding and the
perils of climate change, said Ian Freer in Empire. Yet it ultimately fails to bring them together in a
satisfying way. That’s because it can’t make up its mind what it wants to be, said Deborah Ross in
The Spectator. It’s neither a fable, nor a social satire; and Damon, while supposedly a “generic
everyman”, is just “blandly annoying”. The film’s greatest weakness, said Joshua Rothkopf in Time
Out, is that by staying too much inside its own miniature vision it forgets the key question: how
would the outside world interact with these tiny jerks? One longs for the wider perspective.
This “funny, silly” stop-motion movie from Nick
Park, the creator of Wallace & Gromit, is set in
prehistoric times, said Nigel Andrews in the FT.
It follows the fortunes of a simple Stone Age man
named Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne), whose
way of life is threatened by a tribe wielding bronze
weapons and terrifying French accents, led by the
villainous Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). And every
scene is crammed with comedic detail, said Robbie
Collin in The Daily Telegraph. I especially loved the
sight of Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) casually
trimming his morning stubble with a giant beetle. Yet
I fear this is far from vintage Park, said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times. The decision to make the
climax a football match between the rival tribes feels unconvincingly “laddish”. And if you’re going
to poke fun at that already much-lampooned game, “you need to be funnier, cleverer and more
inventive than this”, said Matthew Bond in the Daily Mail. The great thing about Park’s Shaun the
Sheep was that it worked for both children and adults. Early Man, alas, does not.
This is a sort of sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 classic,
The Last Detail, a quirky buddy movie that starred
Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid and Otis Young. In
Last Flag Flying, the now-aging trio are played by
Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne
– with Carell playing a timid Vietnam vet who asks
his two buddies to help him pick up the body of his
son, a US marine killed in Iraq. Directed this time by
Richard Linklater of Boyhood fame, and with such a
strong cast, you might have thought you’d be in for a
treat, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Alas, it’s
an utterly “bland” confection: as the pals squabble
and make up, the narrative arc is as “sentimental” as it is “predictable”. On the contrary, this is an
inspiring “rumination on the tricky subject of patriotism”, said Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out. It’s
no masterpiece, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph, but it has some glorious scenes when the
actors’ chemistry clicks and the chat “flows with the unmannered ease of the director’s best work”.
How a cheesy musical became “one of cinema’s greatest success stories”
When it came out in December, The Greatest
because they epitomised the films their parents
Showman was dismissed by critics as unbearably
loved. But as La La Land proved last year, films
cheesy. And it flopped horribly on its first
with songs are popular once again. And the people
weekend, making back just a tiny fraction of its
who wrote the songs for La La Land also wrote the
$84m budget. Yet almost unbelievably, this oldsongs for The Greatest Showman. I’ve got two
fashioned musical about the life of the 19th
more words for you, said David Sims in The
century impresario P.T. Barnum has turned into
Atlantic: Hugh Jackman. The 49-year-old, who
“one of cinema’s greatest success stories”, said
plays Barnum in the film, spent a decade trying to
David Sanderson in The Times. Its soundtrack
get the project off the ground, and part of its
has topped the US Billboard chart and the film
current success is due to his infectious passion.
has grossed a whopping $260m.
In Hollywood, the bean counters measure a
Hugh Jackman’s passion project
The explanation, or part of it, can be summed up
film’s word-of-mouth success by its “multiplier”: its
in a word: “singalong”. Someone had the bright idea of organising
total US box office gross divided by its first-weekend takings.
screenings where the lyrics to the upbeat songs appear as
A healthy multiplier for a hit movie is three. The Greatest
subtitles, enticing audiences to give voice, and ever since fans
Showman has already achieved a staggering 12. There’s only one
have been flocking to join in the fun. It also helped that musicals
film in history that has done better: Titanic, with a multiplier of 21.
are coming back into fashion, said David Crow on DenOfGeek.
That’s a number “even The Greatest Showman probably won’t be
com. In the 1970s, the baby boomers turned their back on them
able to beat”.
Exhibition of the week Charles I: King and Collector
Royal Academy, London W1 (020-7300 8090, Until 15 April
some “wonderful” Titians,
Charles I was an intransigent
including Conjugal Allegory
autocrat who plunged Britain
(c.1530­35) – “a tender, subtle
into civil war and became the only
image of love”. The show’s “most
English monarch to be executed by
spectacular” room features Andrea
his people, said Mark Hudson in
Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar
The Daily Telegraph. It’s fair to
(c.1484­92), a series of vast
describe him as a king who “got
canvases imagining the “opulence,
just about everything wrong” –
barbarity, splendour and cruelty”
everything, that is, except for
of ancient Rome. Alas, this “feast
collecting art. Over the course of his
of great art” is undermined by the
reign, Charles spent a fortune amas­
curators’ “refusal” to engage with
sing masterpieces by the likes of
the historical background; virtually
Raphael, Rembrandt and Veronese,
nothing here alludes to Charles’s
not to mention a wealth of
disastrous failures, which led
commissions by Van Dyck, his court
ultimately to “violent revolution”.
painter. Yet after the Civil War,
To ignore this is to rob us of
Oliver Cromwell’s regime sold them
“the art’s proper context”.
all off, dispersing the collection
across the Continent. Now, at the
Even so, these images carry a
Royal Academy, some 140 paintings,
palpable “sense of doom”, said
drawings and sculptures – about
Laura Cumming in The Observer.
a tenth of the total – have been
Despite his best efforts, even Van
reunited for the first time since
Dyck couldn’t conceal Charles’s
Charles’s beheading. The result
“empty eyes” in portraits of him
is an exhibition bursting with
as a “silken Cavalier on horseback”.
“patently magnificent” art, from
In Velázquez’s hands, meanwhile,
some “marvellously penetrating”
his contemporary Philip IV of
portraits by Holbein and Dürer,
Spain appears “puffy, adenoidal and
to Tintoretto’s “explosive” Esther
weak”. It is a solemn reminder that
before Ahasuerus (1546­47).
“art survives”, while kings – “even
Although there are some
Van Dyck: Charles I with M. de St Antoine (1633)
those claiming a divine right” –
“makeweight” works here, this is a
do not. Throw in master works such as Van Dyck’s Self-Portrait
glimpse at one of the “greatest” art collections ever assembled.
with a Sunflower (1632­33) and Orazio Gentileschi’s revelatory
Head of a Woman (1630­35), and you have a truly “historic
Charles bought up entire art collections from Europe, almost
single­handedly introducing England to Renaissance painting, said event”. Ultimately, this is “not a show so much as an entire
museum of masterpieces”.
Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. Among the best things here are
Where to buy…
Allan D’Arcangelo
at Waddington Custot
Ever since Edward Hopper painted
Gas in 1940, the open road has been
a source of fascination for American
artists, writers and film­makers. The
late painter Allan D’Arcangelo (1930­
1998) was one such, but rather than
hymning the quasi­mythological vision
of the highway exemplified by Dennis
Hopper’s film Easy Rider, he chose to
focus on rather more mundane aspects
of trans­American automobile travel.
In this selection of paintings and
drawings created between the 1960s
and the 1980s, he captures filling
stations, flyovers, road signs and
construction materials to create a kind
of highway iconography, approaching
his subject through the filter of
traditional landscape painting.
The obvious point of reference is
D’Arcangelo’s contemporary and
Untitled (1967), 182.9cm x 121.9cm
fellow road enthusiast Ed Ruscha
– the style is pop art­informed and
deliberately simple, making use of
angles so odd as to be vertiginous –
but the best of the work here defies
easy comparison. Prices range from
£11,000 to £340,000.
11 Cork Street, London W1 (0207851 2200). Until 28 February.
One of the perks of
being US president
is that you can ask
to borrow major
works of art to
decorate the White
House. And last year,
officials emailed the
Museum in New York
to ask for Vincent van
Gogh’s 1888 painting
Landscape with
Snow for Donald and
Melania Trump’s quarters. The response from
the museum’s chief curator, Nancy Spector, was
polite but firm, reports The Washington Post:
she could not accommodate the request.
Instead, Spector wrote, another work was
available: “an 18-carat, fully functioning, solid
gold toilet”, a sculpture entitled America by
the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan (pictured).
It cost an estimated $1m to make and has been
described as “a pointed satire aimed at the
excess of wealth” in the US. In 2016, the
work was installed in a fourth floor toilet in
the Guggenheim for visitors to use, causing
“something of a sensation”. However, despite
his taste for gold-plated fixtures, Trump
apparently rejected the offer.
Trump’s golden opportunity
The Week reviews an
exhibition in a private gallery
The List
Best books… Tariq Goddard
Novelist and publisher Tariq Goddard picks his six favourite family
sagas. His latest novel, Nature and Necessity, about a family of socialclimbing bohemians, is published by Repeater Books at £9.99.
Absalom, Absalom! by
William Faulkner, 1936
(Vintage £9.99). The most
effective way of telling the
history of a region, or of a
country, is to focus on the
ultimate tribal unit, the
family. You can then measure,
as Faulkner does, who is able
to get away from home, how
far they go and how long it
takes for them to come back.
The Homecoming by Harold
Pinter, 1965 (Faber £9.99). A
play that casts a father and his
sons in a Hobbesian struggle
for the wife of their estranged
son and brother, revealing
that there is nowhere so
dangerous as home, and no
one so threatening as those
who live there.
The Don Flows Home to the
Sea by Mikhail Sholokhov,
1940 (out of print). A
neglected masterpiece in
which a family of Don
Cossacks alternate between
marvelling at nature and
killing one another during a
civil war. Typically a “White”
must fix a fence with a “Red”
in-law, whose cousins he has
recently slaughtered.
Unsurprisingly the fence
falls down.
The Patrick Melrose Novels
by Edward St. Aubyn, 2012
(Picador £14.99). An
improbably hilarious quintet
detailing the brutalising social
mores of the English upper
classes. The protagonist
endures the abuse and cruelty
endemic in a milieu where to
speak of suffering is less
socially acceptable than the
abuse that bequeaths it.
Martin Chuzzlewit by
Charles Dickens, 1844 (OUP
£9.99). A rambling and
uneven book that nonetheless
demonstrates how injured
self-righteousness and
victimhood can be just
as destructive to familial
harmony as naked greed
and murderous intent.
The Easter Parade by
Richard Yates, 1976 (Vintage
£9.99). A story of two sisters
who take wildly different, but
equally unsatisfying paths in
life. This beautiful book
bravely waives any redemptive
consolation that could justify
what the woman endure.
For out-of-print books visit
Your guide to what’s worth seeing and doing by What’s On magazine
The opening of the famous Drai’s Las Vegas
is one you won’t want to miss. And in true
Dubai style, the new day-to-night super
venue is bringing a huge artist to officially
open the new hotspot. Launching on Friday
February 9, Canadian rapper and Grammy
nominee Tory Lanez is set to take to the
stage at the new super venue. Doors will
open from 1pm, with an all-day party in
true Drai’s style kicking things off.
February 9, Drai’s DXB, Meydan, Soho
Garden, Dubai, Tel: (052) 388 8857.
Redfest Dxb returns this February, with two
days of superstar artists set to headline the
annual event at the Media City Amphitheatre.
On Thursday February 8, American duo The
Chainsmokers will headline, supported by
US rapper Russ. Known for tracks What
They Want and Losin Control, South
London singer-songwriter Kelli-Leigh, and
French-Lebanese artist Anthony Touma also
appear. On Friday February 9, Kesha,
Marshmello, Bebe Rexa and Craig David
are all set to take to the stage.
February 8-9, Media City Amphitheatre, Dubai
Media City, from Dhs395
If you’re looking to keep your January
health kick on track into February, The
Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery, the Middle
East’s first holistic wellbeing resort is
celebrating its recent launch by hosting a
dedicated Wellness Week from February 3
to 10. Experts will share knowledge on a
host of subjects such as holistic nutrition,
martial arts, meditation, mindfulness, yoga
and life coaching. Prices start from Dhs50
for one session, with package deals
available for 5 sessions at Dhs200.
Alshamali has curated a menu which
features dishes such as marinated
poussin, Turkish beef tartare and sweet
milk bastille. Local DJ Karrouhat takes to
the decks to offer a lively vibe against the
backdrop of the Dubai Canal.
+961 Brunch, Renaissance Downtown,
7.30pm to 11pm, Dhs250 soft, Dhs350 house.
Tel: (04) 512 5511
Try Dubai is back for a second serving this
year on Friday February 9. The free entry
event hosts the city’s most popular clubs
and groups, from yoga shalas and sports
clubs, to comedy troupes and active apps,
plus gives you the opportunity to try them
out for free.
February 9, Barasti Beach, Dubai, 11am to
5pm, Tel: (04) 427 3000
February 3-10, The Retreat Palm Dubai
MGallery, East Crescent The Palm Jumeirah,
Dubai, Tel: (04) 524 7777
Bhar, the modern Middle Eastern brasserie
in the recently-opened Renaissance
Downtown hotel has just launched a new
Friday brunch. Bringing Beirut vibes to the
Friday evening offering, Chef Mohanad
Best properties
UAE Properties
Dubai: This brand new designer villa,
situated on Frond N of Palm Jumeirah,
has a large double height entry vestibule
that reveals the central waterfront view of
the property. This spacious 6,000 sq. ft.
home offers a large en-suite guest
bedroom, an entertainment room,
kitchen, laundry room and a private
en-suite maid’s quarters on the ground
floor. There’s also an open-plan lounge
and dining area on the beach side of the
villa, alongside a modern show kitchen,
and four large double bedrooms with
en-suite facilities on the second floor. The
two main beach side bedrooms feature
large private balconies with views
towards the Atlantis hotel and the Dubai
skyline. The contemporary residence also
boasts a large private infinity swimming
pool, landscaped gardens, beach access,
and a private double garage with on drive
parking for two additional vehicles.
AED15,500,000. Knight Frank, Anne
Ogilvie; (+971-0505518705)
Pretty cottages
▲ Oxfordshire: Ellsdale Cottage, Postcombe. A recently refurbished Grade II
thatched cottage with many period features and views over the pretty private
gardens. Master bed, 2 further beds, family bath, breakfast/kitchen, 2 receps,
utility, WC, hall, garden, parking. £695,000; Knight Frank (01865-790077).
West Sussex:
Holland House,
Ardingly. A Grade
II detached village
house dating from
the 17th century,
with many period
features including
an inglenook
fireplace, exposed
brickwork and
beams, and
sash windows.
Master suite,
3 further beds,
family bath,
2 receps, utility,
study, cloakroom,
eaves store, garage,
enclosed garden,
paved terrace.
£650,000; Savills
on the market
Dubai: This
DIFC-located two
apartment offers
the best of urban
living. Both
bedrooms offer
bathrooms and a
powder room.
There’s two
balconies, one attached to the living
space, one to a bedroom, and the
1,836 square feet apartment enjoys
exclusive views of the Burj Khalifa,
while one of the bedrooms offers
an ocean view. A bright white open
kitchen/dining area is ideal for
entertaining. There’s a utility
cupboard and storage space, along
with a separate living area. The
property also gives access to a
shared pool and gym. Asking price
is AED3,425,000. Allsopp &
Allsopp, Charlie King
(+971 0528427032)
Devon: The
Chantry, 6 Vicarage
Hill, Kinsteignton.
A unique Grade II*
Victorian Gothic
cottage, with an
outdoor heated
swimming pool
and detached
hayloft. Master
suite, 4 further
suites, kitchen,
utility room, 3
large receps,
impressive entrance
hall, 1-bed detached
hayloft above a
triple garage, patio,
pool, pond,
parking. £575,000;
Stags (01803865454).
Moray: Bleachfield
House and Bleachfield
Cottage, Bleachfield
Terrace, Deskford,
Buckie. A pretty house
and self-contained
cottage, which were
originally part of the
linen industry at
Deskford. Main house:
master bed, 3 further
beds (1 en suite),
2 baths, large kitchen/
dining room, 1 further
recep, family room,
porch, patio. Cottage:
double bed, 1 bath,
kitchen/dining room,
1 further recep;
workshop, garden
store. OIEO £365,000;
Savills (01224971110).
Yew Tree Cottage,
A pretty Grade II
Cotswold cottage,
thought to date back
to the 17th century,
set in this popular
village between Stowon-the-Wold and
The property has
been carefully
restored recently.
Master bed, 2 further
beds, family bath,
farmhouse kitchen,
sitting room, office,
2 attic rooms with
conversion potential,
garden, parking.
£650,000; Strutt
& Parker (01608653308).
▲ Lincolnshire: 3 The Terrace, Greetham, Horncastle. A Grade II
cottage with far-reaching views over the Lincolnshire Wolds, an Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty. 3 beds, shower, open-plan kitchen/recep,
1 further recep, gym/office, hot tub, landscaped garden, antique stone
trough and original lead water pump. £350,000; Savills (01522-508908).
Food & Drink
What the experts recommend
Galvin The Square, City Walk, Dubai
(04) 5905444)
“If you’re British, chances are you’ll
likely know of the Galvin brothers,
owners of the critically acclaimed
restaurant in London’s Harrods
department store,” says What’s On.
Galvin is split over two floors; the
ground level has quite a “lavish interior”
and there’s a more “relaxed” lounge
upstairs that “focuses on smaller bar
bites”. Executive chef Luigi Vespero has
worked alongside the brothers in London
for many years and is “as dedicated to
producing quality food as they are”. The
steak tartare is “delicious”. The confit
egg yolk is served on the side and
coupled with a tomato relish to make a
“winning combination”. The escargot is
cooked simply and “tastes divine”. The
beef tenderloin is “cooked to perfection”,
and served with wild mushrooms and
bone marrow tarte fine. The tagine of
lamb is also a “table-wide hit”. For
dessert, “definitely” order the chocolate
fondant. Chef Luigi has “certainly done
the brothers proud”. AED250 to
Gina’s Café Al Seef Village Mall, Khalifa
Park, Abu Dhabi (02-4489642)
Gina serves Spanish tapas and the
“compact menu” features a selection of
cold and hot tapas dishes, a “couple of
burgers” and a lot of drinks, reports
a finger. Its size is something the staff
should mention when ordering. Flavour
then “went AWOL” from a vegetable
paella. The staff, while polite, didn’t
“really engage with us” – they seemed
“on autopilot, almost”. Some of the food
here “was good, but other dishes need
work”. It’s more of a place to “visit for
coffee for now”.
Gina’s Café: “visit for coffee”
What’s On. A portion of meatballs in
tomato sauce was “tasty and authentic”.
The spicy garlic shrimp was also of a
“good standard” – it was a “fiery
number”, the plump seafood cooked
nicely and full of flavour. Things “fell
flat” though with a dish of feta and
tomato. A “tiny portion arrived on a
small plate” – the cheese and tomato (the
latter was actually a paste, although it
didn’t say this on the menu) were served
on a piece of bread not much bigger than
STK Dubai The Walk, Rixos Premium,
JBR, Dubai, (052-3480957)
STK is “famed for its fine cuts of steak”,
but as we discover on our visit, that’s not
the “only reason” to get this steakhouse
on your “must-try bucket list”, says
What’s On. We kick things off with the
‘Lil Brgs’, two neat mini burgers in a
seeded bun, which are “cooked pink and
melt in the mouth”. For the main, the
“surprising hit” is the passion fruit miso
black cod. It’s a “unique flavour flight”
with a tasty zucchini complementing the
subtle passion fruit flavour. But let’s not
forget, it’s “the steak we’ve really come
for”. And what we like about this menu
is that you’re “invited to pick your meat”
from the likes of ribeye, striploin and
fillet, the weight and the way it’s cooked,
then add your sides to it. We pick a
medium sized fillet with béarnaise sauce
and add steamed broccolini and a mac ‘n’
cheese. It’s “not the best steak” we’ve
ever had, but it “certainly ranks high”
on the list.
Recipe of the week: Middle Eastern millionaire’s shortbread
A three-layered bar with a shortbread bottom, halva in the middle and a glossy tahini caramel on top. This winning combination,
devised by our head pastry chef, uses Middle Eastern favourites to transform the famously cloying millionaire’s shortbread into
something so much better, say Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.
Serves 16 shortbread: 40g icing sugar 35g cornflour 40g caster sugar 175g unsalted butter, melted and set aside to cool slightly ½ tsp
vanilla extract 250g plain flour 1⁄8 tsp salt halva: 200g halva, roughly crumbled into small pieces 80g tahini tahini caramel: 200g
caster sugar 120ml water 100g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed 80ml double cream 150g tahini paste ¼ tsp flaky sea salt
• Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 20cm
square tin with baking parchment, making sure
that the paper rises up over the edges of the tin.
• For the shortbread, sift the icing sugar and
cornflour into the bowl of an electric mixer with
the paddle attachment in place, then add the
caster sugar and mix on a medium speed.
With the machine still running, slowly pour in
the butter and beat until combined. Add the
vanilla and reduce the speed to low, then sift
in the flour and salt, and continue to beat until
the dough comes together. Tip the mixture
into the tin and use your hands to pat and
even out the surface. Bake for 25 minutes or
until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside until
completely cool: this will take an hour or so, so don’t start
making the caramel too soon or it will have set by the time the
shortbread is cool.
• For the halva layer, mix the halva and tahini in a small bowl
with a wooden spoon. Spread the mix over the cool shortbread
and use the back of a spoon to smooth it out to an even layer.
• To make the caramel, put the sugar and water
into a small saucepan and place over a mediumlow heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has
dissolved, then increase the heat to mediumhigh. Bring to a boil and cook – still at a boil – for
about 12 minutes, until the sugar is a deep
golden brown. Remove from the heat and add
the butter and cream: take care here, as the
mixture will splutter. Whisk to combine and, once
the butter has melted, add the tahini paste and
salt. Whisk to combine again, then pour evenly
over the halva layer in the tin, so that all of the
halva is covered.
• Place in the fridge for at least four hours until
set, before cutting into bars, about 10cm x 2.5cm. Sprinkle a
pinch of sea salt over the middle of each bar and serve.
• The shortbread layer can be made up to four days in advance
and stored in an airtight container. It also freezes well. The
finished bars will keep for up to one week in an airtight container
in the fridge. Remove them from the fridge 20 minutes before
serving, to take off the chill.
Taken from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, published by Ebury Press at £27.
New cars: what the critics say
Jaguar E-Pace
from £28,500
Diesel cars have been
on the receiving end of
a “barrage of negative
publicity” about their
environmental impact.
Yet they continue to
“roll off the production
line” and people are still
buying them. The diesel
models of Jaguar’s first
compact SUV, the E-Pace,
are expected to outsell the
petrol models by three to
one – because “effortless
diesel clout” suits this kind
of car very well indeed.
From the outside, at least,
the E-Pace looks “just
right”: it’s among the
more handsome cars of
this type. It’s “attractively
styled” inside, too, with a
10in infotainment system
in all models, but after
a while you start to notice
an excess of shiny plastic.
Still, there’s a comfortable
driving position and –
despite the car’s “relatively
compact size” – lots of
space, including a boot
that holds 577 litres.
Auto Express
This is “an excellent
SUV to drive”. It’s fun
on the road, with accurate,
nicely weighted steering.
The D240 diesel model,
with 240bhp, delivers
“impressive” performance,
going from 0 to 62mph
in 7.4 seconds, without
being too noisy – although
the cheaper D180 is
probably a better choice.
Whichever you go for, the
E-Pace is one of the better
small premium SUVs on
the market.
The best… upmarket vacuum cleaners
Tips of the week…
how to back up photos
● You might think you’ve already backed up
a photo by posting it online – to Facebook,
say, or Instagram. But these websites tend
to reduce the resolution of images, so when
you retrieve them they’ll be relatively low
● An easy way to back up photos on your
phone, in the form you took them, is to use
a service that will store them. If you have an
Apple device, iCloud is very simple to use –
but it gives only 5GB of free storage before
it starts charging. By contrast, Google
Photos offers unlimited storage.
● To store lots of photos, an external hard
drive is a relatively economical option: you
can get a 500GB model for about £40.
● Test your back-up system at least every
two months by trying to restore a few
photos that you’ve uploaded previously.
● No method of backing up images is
foolproof. So if you have any particularly
precious photos, store them in more than
one place.
Sebo Felix Vogue Eco This
retro-looking machine folds flat
to get underneath tables and
sofas. It’s well built and energyefficient – as the name suggests
– but it’s not great on stairs
CX1 Cat
and Dog
Ideal for
pet owners,
this bagless
does a
brilliant job
of sucking up
hair – from animals
and humans alike.
It’s particularly good
on carpets and at getting
into crevices, and makes
very little noise (£350;
Dyson V8 Absolute Dyson’s
new machine has been hailed
as the gold standard for cordless
vacuum cleaners. It cleans
as well as most corded
machines – as it should
at this price – and boasts
excellent battery life of about
40 minutes (£380;
And for those who
have everything…
When you wake up, the face on the Dusk is
clear white. Over the course of the day,
however, it gets darker – and by night, it’s
completely black. The clock is available to
pre-order for another fortnight before it’s
dispatched in August.
Gtech AirRam 2 The AirRam
offers a relatively hassle-free
vacuuming experience: it’s
cordless, light (just 3.5kg)
and easy to steer. The dirt is
compressed in a capsule, which
means it can be emptied
without making a mess
Where to find…
yoga holidays
Hotel Galanias in Sardinia hosts one-week
retreats in the summer. Twice-daily classes
take place on a platform above the sea
(from £995 with breakfast and dinner;
Shamballah Yoga Retreat, near Portugal’s
“wild, beautiful” coast, has classes for all
levels. It’s in the home of a couple who
provide delicious vegetarian meals (from
s600 a week, full-board in a shared room;
Pure Flow Yoga, on the Thai island
of Koh Phangan, holds classes from
experienced teachers, right on the beach.
Accommodation is in nearby bungalows
(from $505 for classes and six nights’
Adventure Yogi in Ibiza is less intensive:
there’s a class every morning, leaving you
free the rest of the time. You can stay in a
simple cottage or in a caravan (from £395
a week for room, breakfast and classes;
Bosch Athlet Ultimate
BCH732KTGB The latest model
in Bosch’s highly regarded Athlet
range, this powerful
cordless cleaner is equally
impressive on carpet
and hard floors. You
can also convert it
into a compact
portable unit that
you can carry over
your shoulder (£400;
This week’s dream: a laid-back break on the coast of Mexico
out in the 1960s while he filmed The
Mexico is not short of charming seaside
Night of the Iguana in nearby
towns, but few are quite as perfect as
Mismaloya. The two “elegant” stone
Sayulita, says Antonia Quirke in Condé
houses they owned now form a hotel,
Nast Traveller. Caught between the
Casa Kimberly, with nine large, “cool”
slopes of the Sierra Madre mountains
rooms furnished with antiques, and a
and a wide, curling beach of white sand
courtyard where a mariachi band plays
halfway down the country’s Pacific
in the evenings.
coast, it was home to just a few hundred
In Sayulita, you might stay at Casa
people only 15 years ago. Since then, its
Love, an “unusual” guest house, which
population has quadrupled, and it now
is like a castle turret with no glass in its
has “pretty” shops and places to eat,
windows, or nearby at the luxurious
but still doesn’t feel “distorted or
Imanta resort, in Punta de Mita. Yet it’s
spoilt”. Popular with surfers, it has
also worth heading down the coast past
a laid-back, “bohemian” atmosphere,
Puerto Vallarta, to spend a night or
attracting characters who might have
three at Las Alamandas, a beach resort
been “improvised by Paul Theroux”.
Puerto Vallarta: beloved of Burton and Taylor
owned by Isabel Goldsmith-Patiño, the
And southwards lie more dazzling
oldest of James Goldsmith’s daughters.
beaches and pleasant towns, allowing
There are remote fishing villages and “spectacular” sandy coves
for plenty of lazy excursions during a stay here.
to see en route, and the hotel has a “bewitching” splendour, with
On the same beach as Sayulita, the hamlet of San Pancho has
a breathtaking beach and jungle views. Abercrombie & Kent
an air of “faded wealth”, with its cobbled streets and old
(01242-386475, has a 13-night trip
turquoise and lime-painted houses. Also not far is the town of
from £5,395pp, including flights.
Puerto Vallarta, where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor hid
Hotel of the week
Getting the flavour of…
Madagascar for brave souls
The Bower House,
Set in the heart of Shipston-onStour – ten miles from Stratfordupon-Avon – this “classy”, newly
opened restaurant with rooms will
delight foodies and theatregoers
alike, says Tom Chesshyre in The
Times. The “elegant” 18th century
building it occupies used to be a
shop, but now feels more like a
country house, with “smoky-blue”
wooden panelling, gilt-framed oil
paintings and “first-rate” rooms
with antique desks, espresso
machines and floral (“but not
chintzy”) curtains. There are
“fancy” ila products in the
bathrooms, and the food (which
shows British, French and
Australian influences) is great.
Doubles from £130 b&b. 01608663333,
Extreme poverty, industrial destruction
and environmental degradation have left
Madagascar in a mess. Tourists typically
visit its few surviving pockets of primary
rainforest – but there’s much else of great
beauty left between them, says Horatio Clare
in the FT. To experience the island as only
the Madagascans know it, try the seven-day
journey up the Route Nationale 5 between
the Andasibe-Mantadia and Masoala
national parks. Even when attempted at
walking pace in a Land Cruiser with an
expert driver, this coastal road is a stiff
challenge, with deep ruts and bridges that
threaten to collapse as you cross them. But
there are also beaches “like wild heavens”,
bays “where humpbacks spout”, and
tumbledown hotels with excellent food. It’s
a trip for “brave souls” only, but stay the
course and you may fall in love with this
“vulnerable and still extraordinary” place.
Natural High Travel (01747-830950, www. has an 11-night trip
from £4,700pp, excluding flights.
Europe by camper van
Fractious kids, small sleeping spaces, tricky
manoeuvres on unfamiliar roads – there are
plenty of reasons a young family might steer
clear of a camper van holiday in Europe.
But with the right van, it can be great fun,
says Hattie Garlick in The Sunday Telegraph.
Starting in Barcelona and heading into
southern France, a two-week circuit of
five campsites will take in “awe-inspiring”
beaches, mountains and architecture.
Consider stopping at Camping Cala Llevadó,
Can Coromines, Huttopia Font-Romeu, La
Vie en Vert and Camping Barcelona for a
mix of big sites with great kids’ clubs and
small, “boutique” bases in beautiful settings.
For two weeks, the Indie Campers Active
Plus van costs from s800 in winter to s1,735
in summer (020-7183 5587, www.
Driving the Prosecco Route
Following a 30-mile loop through the hills
behind Venice, the Strada del Prosecco (or
Prosecco Route) takes in no end of medieval
villages, “fairy-tale” forests and views of
snowy Alpine crests. More intoxicating still,
however, are the vineyards en route, says Mia
Aimaro Ogden in The Sunday Times.
Prosecco is Italy’s finest and most famous
fizz, and the best of it comes from this corner
of the Veneto. Give yourself three days to
explore and, ideally, take a driver-guide in
case you get “cheery” along the way. From
small individual producers such as the lawyer
Giancarlo Adorno (10,000 bottles a year) to
the huge Bisol estate (five million), all offer
tours and tastings. Grape Escapes (01920468666, has tours
from £219pp b&b, excluding flights.
Last-minute offers from top travel companies
Gloucestershire b&b break
Explore Westonbirt Arboretum
during a 3-night stay at the
Best Western Mayfield House
Hotel, Malmesbury . From
£194pp. 01905-792801,
Arrive 27 March.
3-night stay in Kraków
Situated in the famous
Salwator district, The
Niebieski Art Hotel & Spa
costs from £312pp b&b, incl.
Bristol flights. 020-3196 7994,
Depart 29 March.
Short Iceland escape
Offering breathtaking views
over Reykjavík, the Radisson
Blu Saga Hotel offers 4 nights
from £422pp b&b, incl.
Manchester flights. 020-8974
7200, www.travelrepublic. Depart 17 March.
Fun in the Caribbean sun
A 7-night stay at the Grand
Palladium Jamaica Resort &
Spa, in the coastal town of
Lucea, costs from £1,553pp.
all incl. with flights. 0800-408
uk. Depart 29 March.
news website in
the UAE
unique visitors
per month
To suit your
business and
+971 4 427 3000
*Google Analytics
Legendary jazz trumpeter who played for Nelson Mandela
“If I can get a trumpet,
I won’t bother anyone
any more.” That was the
promise that Hugh Masekela
– then a delinquent 14-year-old – made to the
chaplain of his school near Johannesburg in
1953. The chaplain, Trevor Huddleston,
duly raised the money to buy him an
instrument and found a trumpeter to teach
him too. So it was that Masekela, who has
died aged 78, became one of the world’s
“finest and most distinctive horn players”,
said The Guardian. Yet he did not keep his
promise not to “bother anyone”: on the
contrary, as a prominent figure in the antiapartheid struggle, he was a thorn in the flesh
of the apartheid regime.
in the US in 1956, and when he told him
Masekela’s story, Armstrong gave him one of
his own trumpets. “I sent it straight to South
Africa,” Huddleston said, “and I have a
wonderful picture of Hugh jumping for joy.”
But in 1960, in the wake of the Sharpeville
massacre, gatherings of more than ten people
were banned, said The Daily Telegraph. The
music stopped and Masekela left the country.
With Huddleston’s help, he was able to get
to London, then the US, where, with Harry
Belafonte as his sponsor, he enrolled in a fouryear course at the Manhattan School
of Music. His first album came out in 1962.
He played the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967,
alongside Janis Joplin, and the year after he
had a chart hit with Grazing in the Grass. Yet
in the 1970s his career stalled as he fell into
addiction. He returned to Africa, where he
spent many years exploring its music before
settling in Botswana.
Hugh Masekela was born into a musical
family in Witbank, near Johannesburg, in
1939. His father was a health inspector and
Masekela: exiled for 30 years
sculptor; his mother was a social worker. He
was educated at St Peter’s College, where the staff included
In 1985, Masekela received a message, smuggled out of prison,
not only Huddleston – later Archbishop Huddleston, head of
from Nelson Mandela. Deeply moved, he was inspired to write
the British anti-apartheid movement – but also Oliver Tambo,
Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) – which became the
a future leader of the ANC. It was seeing Kirk Douglas in the
unofficial anthem of the anti-apartheid movement. He took
1950 film Young Man with a Horn, based on the life of
part in Paul Simon’s controversial, but hugely successful,
cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, that inspired Masekela to take up
Graceland tour in 1987; performed at the Nelson Mandela
the trumpet. He began playing at school in the Huddleston Jazz
70th birthday tribute concert at Wembley in 1988, in front of
Band and was soon in demand across the country. Exploring
a worldwide audience of 600 million; and, having returned to
South African styles and developments in American jazz, he
South Africa after the release of Mandela, played for him and
created his distinctive Afro-jazz sound and collaborated with
the Queen during President Mandela’s state visit to Britain in
the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand), with whom
1996. He was married four times, first to his fellow exile, the
he formed the hugely popular Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s first
singer Miriam Makeba, who – years after their divorce – did
bebop band. Huddleston had by then moved back to Britain,
but continued to help Masekela: the priest met Louis Armstrong much to popularise his 1977 protest song, Soweto Blues.
The irascible outsider who founded The Fall
Belligerent, poetic, deadpan,
Mark E. Smith satirical, unpredictable,
crackling with energy and
anger, downing chasers,
popping pills and sowing fear and confusion all
around, Mark E. Smith was one of the most
extraordinary figures to emerge from the punk
movement. For more than 40 years he was
frontman of The Fall – or The Mighty Fall, as
fans of the band like to call it – although to
describe it as a band is perhaps to mislead, said
The Daily Telegraph. Smith, who has died aged
60, hired and fired at will, getting through so
many band members – about 66 in all – that
there is a book, The Fallen, charting their
experiences. “If it’s me and yer granny on
bongos, it’s The Fall,” he said.
included The Velvet Underground and the
German band Can, notably because of their
use of repetition as a stylistic device.
In 1983, he met his first wife, the American
musician Brix Smith, at a Fall gig in Chicago. “I
remember looking at Mark, thinking: he doesn’t
look like a very nice guy,” she said in The
Guardian. “But I was transported.” Discovering
a sweeter side of his nature, she fell in love,
moved to Manchester and joined the band.
Lasting until 1989 (when they divorced), she
brought The Fall closer to the mainstream, with
albums such as The Wonderful and Frightening
World of... The Fall produced 31 studio albums,
but despite having a champion in John Peel (who
loved them because, “They are always different,
Smith: inspired by Camus
they are always the same”), their music rarely
troubled the charts: Smith’s declamatory vocals and caustic
Mark Edward Smith was born in Salford in 1957. He was
lyrics, with their cultural and political references and complex
brought up in the shadow of the Manchester United training
wordplay, were not the stuff of pop success.
ground, surrounded by Man U fans, so naturally he claimed an
allegiance to Manchester City. His father and grandfather were
Nor was Smith easy to work with; on the contrary, he thrived
both tough ex-servicemen. “Manchester has always produced
on chaos and confrontation (brutal, and often physical). “I like
men like this,” he said. “Hard men with hard livers. Men with
to push people till I get the truth out of them,” he explained. In
faces like unmade beds.” Having passed his eleven-plus, he
middle age, his excesses caught up with him, said Sean O’Hagan
excelled at the Stand Grammar School, particularly at English,
in The Observer. “Scarecrow-thin”, with a consumptive rattle,
and while he left at 16 to work on the docks, he continued to
he looked far older than his years. But age did not mellow him.
study literature in his spare time. He founded his band with
Always the outsider, he became what one writer described as a
some friends in 1976, after seeing the Sex Pistols in Manchester,
“kind of antimatter national treasure”.
and named it after the Albert Camus novel. Other inspirations
Invest in a brand
that reaches highly
engaged consumers
all year round.
+9714 427 3000 or
133,095 copies
January – June 2017
Companies in the news
...and how they were assessed
Waterstones: sold to a hedge fund?
The last time Britain’s best-known bookseller
changed hands was in 2011, when the
Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut
snapped it up from an ailing HMV, said
Mark Kleinman on Sky News online. Now
Waterstones looks to be back on the block.
Elliott Advisors, the UK arm of Paul Singer’s
New York hedge-fund empire, is reportedly
in talks to buy the bookseller, and has been
granted “a short period of exclusivity” in
which to do a deal before “a number of
other potential private-equity buyers” are let
off the leash. After its near-death experience
at the start of the decade, Waterstones has been on a roll after a turnaround engineered
by managing director James Daunt (founder of the Daunt Books chain) in the teeth
of rising online competition, said Hannah Boland in The Daily Telegraph. The 275store chain posted an 80% rise in profits to £18m in 2017. Nonetheless, one insider
suggested that the price on the table “was likely to be much lower” than the £250m
reportedly sought last autumn when Rothschild was hired to investigate options, said
Mark Kleinman. After a crisis at the Russian bank Otkritie, of which he is one of the
biggest shareholders, “Mamut has been seeking to raise cash”. Elliott, a notoriously
“aggressive” operator, has seen its moment and pounced.
Thomson Reuters/Blackstone: new data warrior
“After struggling for years to challenge Bloomberg’s dominance of the financial
information sector,” Thomson Reuters looks ready to throw in the towel, said Naomi
Rovnick and Javier Espinoza in the Financial Times. The group is in advanced talks to
sell a 55% share of its “financial and risk” (F&R) division to the US private-equity giant
Blackstone in a deal valuing the business at $20bn. The talks don’t include Thomson
Reuters’ newsgathering operation, or its legal, tax and accounting businesses. Even so,
this is a hefty chunk of business to hand over, said Michael Bow in the London Evening
Standard. The F&R division – which supplies the group’s “flagship” Eikon terminal
to City traders – notched up $6.1bn in sales in 2016, more than half of Thomson
Reuters’ annual revenues. By contrast, “the better-known news division, founded in
London in 1851, contributed about 3%”. If Blackstone and its billionaire founder
Stephen Schwarzman secure this deal, it could shift the balance of power in the cutthroat financial data and comms world. Several investment banks – including Goldman
Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley – recently launched their own messaging service,
Symphony, in an effort “to break Bloomberg’s grip”. The data battle looks set to heat up.
GKN/Melrose: ongoing skirmish
GKN has been described as “Britain’s last big engineering company”, said Ben Marlow
and Alan Tovey in The Sunday Telegraph. But does the firm, which makes aerospace
and car parts, really merit government protection on the grounds of “national security”?
Apparently it does: the Government has reportedly instructed senior officials to evaluate
whether a proposed £7.4bn takeover by turnaround specialist Melrose is in the public
interest. The answer should be obvious, said Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail. GKN is
“a vital defence contractor in the US”, making parts for the Black Hawk helicopter, the
F/A-18 fighter and B-21 bomber. It is also one of Britain’s most “innovative industrial
groups” and thus critical to our “manufacturing base in the post-Brexit world”. Still, no
one can deny that GKN’s “patchy” management record could and should be improved,
said Neil Collins in the FT. In fact, it looks the perfect company to be “put through the
Melrose mincer”. The bid battle continues.
Kuwait Petroleum Corp: $500bn investment
Kuwait Petroleum Corp expects to spend over $500bn as it boosts its crude oil
production capacity to 4.75 million barrels per day in 2040, the national oil firm said
while outlining ambitious growth plans for the next two decades. Kuwait’s current oil
production capacity is around 3.15 million bpd. Achieving 4.75 million bpd would
exceed the current output of Iraq and Iran, OPEC’s second and third biggest oil nations,
whose production was 4.4 million and 3.8 million bpd respectively in December. OPEC
leader Saudi Arabia produces around 10 million bpd and has capacity of over 12 million
bpd. The move by Kuwait to expand capacity signals a willingness among OPEC
producers to fight for market share in the long term as global oil demand rises and as
the organisation faces competition from Russia and two fast-emerging oil superpowers,
the United States and Brazil.
Seven days in the
Square Mile
Janet Yellen presided over her final
meeting at the US Federal Reserve
before handing over to the incoming
chairman, Jerome Powell. Markets
were not expecting an interest rate
move, but were looking for signals
about the likelihood of three more
possible rate rises this year. Theresa May,
began a trade visit to China, with a UK
delegation including more than 40
businesses and universities; according
to law firm Baker McKenzie, Chinese
investment in Britain more than doubled
last year to $20.8bn. France posted its
strongest annual growth since 2011,
notching up 1.9% growth during 2017,
slightly outpacing Britain’s 1.8% growth.
A leaked government analysis of Brexit
found that the UK economy would be
worse off under every possible deal
scenario. A comprehensive free trade
agreement with the EU would cause
growth to fall by 5% over the next
15 years; a “no deal” scenario would
result in an 8% loss; and even a “soft”
Brexit of continued single market
access would lower growth by 2%.
Research by EY found that the number
of listed companies issuing profit
warnings hit a two-year high last
year, with support services and retailers
feeling the most pressure. The price of
bitcoin fell again sharply on news that
Facebook is banning all ads related to
bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and initial
coin offerings (ICOs). Ryanair agreed
to recognise pilot unions in a bid to
head off future strikes. The co-founder
of Superdry, Julian Dunkerton,
pocketed £18m after selling a 1.23%
chunk of the fashion retailer.
Although New Yorkers are not renowned
for their patience, “they do not seem to
mind waiting their turn for a fresh
serving of avocado”, says The Economist.
Hence the lengthy queues at Avocaderia
in Brooklyn, which claims to be “the
world’s first avocado bar”.The venue’s
popularity is a sign of the times:
avocados are “fast becoming America’s
favourite fruit”, with imports more than
trebling over ten years. Roaring demand
and supply shortfalls have seen
wholesale prices more than double over
the past year, but the queues seem set
to continue. After only ten months in
business, Avocaderia’s founders are
“already looking for new opportunities
to expand”.
Talking points
Issue of the week: another Carillion?
A massive share plunge at Capita has reignited the debate about the big outsourcers
mismanagement, underinvestment and
Here we go again, said Caitlin
ego-fuelled acquisitions.” Capita can
Morrison in City AM. Shares in the
be saved – “albeit with two years of
outsourcing giant Capita plunged by
pain”. The news at Capita isn’t as bad
“more than 40%” to a 15-year low
as it looks, agreed Dominic O’Connell
on Wednesday morning, after the
on BBC News online. Had Carillion
contractor issued a profit warning,
made an announcement like this a
suspended its dividend and admitted it
few years ago – and raised the money
urgently needs to raise £700m. It didn’t
to pay off debt – “it might still be with
take long for City analysts to draw
us now, rather than languishing in the
comparisons with recently-collapsed
arms of a liquidator”. Capita’s new
Carillion. “In terms of updates, [this] is
boss, Jonathan Lewis, “has decided
about as ugly as it gets,” said Mike van
to take evasive action early”. In doing
Dulken of Accendo Markets. Many
so, “he has probably ensured that the
of the themes are depressingly familiar.
Capita: runs London’s congestion charge
company does not suffer Carillion’s
Capita, which runs London’s
fate”. Despite the sharp share fall, investors seem willing to give
congestion charge, and counts the Army and the Department of
him the benefit of the doubt.
Work and Pensions among its customers, has admitted it is “far
too complex and thinly spread across multiple markets”, and too
“Select committees and regulators are going to be kept busy for
dependent on government contracts. Investors will be wondering
years poring over the detritus left by the insolvency of Carillion,”
what the news augurs for the UK’s public-private partnerships.
said Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail. The Financial Reporting
Shares in Serco, Babcock, Mitie and Kier also fell.
Council has just “added a probe of auditors KPMG to the list of
inquiries”, and may also demand a competition investigation into
“Jeremy Corbyn can’t believe his luck,” said Jim Armitage in
the accounting and auditing market. Bring it on, said Nils Pratley
the London Evening Standard. “The news-flow supporting his
in The Guardian. The “Big Four” firms – KPMG, PwC, Deloitte
nationalisation agenda just keeps coming”: first Carillion and
and EY – are auditors to 97% of FTSE 350 companies. Such an
now “Crapita”. Proof that state outsourcing doesn’t work!
“oligopoly” inevitably “breeds complacency”. Whether or not
“Just one thing though: Capita is not Carillion.” Although it has
KPMG is eventually exonerated over its role in the demise of
botched plenty of public contracts in its time, they’re not on the
Carillion, this “cosy stitch-up” needs to end.
scale of Carillion’s. “Rather, its crisis is down to years of financial
Making money: what the experts think
economy.” Sixteen months
● The falling FTSE
ago, the pound fell to
The FTSE 100 tumbled to
a 30-year low of $1.14,
its lowest level in 2018 last
and some predicted dollar
week, after Donald Trump’s
parity. Its rebound may not
team in Davos “doubled
be “entirely welcome” to
down on its tough trade
exporters and FTSE 100
war talk”, said Tom Rees
investors. But it’s time
in The Daily Telegraph.
Remainers “stopped
That prompted “a dollar
claiming that Brexit is
dump”, which in turn sent
depressing the pound”.
the pound soaring past
$1.42 – never great news
● Posh ghost towers
for companies in Britain’s
Last year, London builders
leading blue-chip index,
began work on 1,900
which tend to make most
“ultra-luxury” apartments
of their earnings overseas.
in developments such as
The Footsie continued
Luxury flats: failing to sell
Nine Elms, said The
falling this week, making it
Guardian. More than half
“the sole major index to
have failed to sell, according to property
have slipped back into the red and miss
data expert Molior London, which claims
the global stocks rally this year”. The
that rich overseas investors are shunning
pound, by contrast, is “the top-performing
the UK “due to uncertainty over Brexit
G10 currency against the dollar in the
and the increase in stamp duty on second
past six months”.
homes”. Hundreds of Asian investors, who
bought London developments off-plan in
● Sterling’s recovery
2015-16 hoping to make a quick profit by
“The recovery of sterling is partly a dollar
“flipping” them closer to completion, have
story,” said Alex Brummer in the Daily
lost heavily and are now “desperate to
Mail. But it’s also down to “recognition
sell”. Molior reckons it could take three
among traders” that, “far from being a
years to shift “the glut” – yet more flats
post-referendum basket case, the British
are still being built as “gambling chips”,
economy is humming”. Last week’s
but investors are “no longer interested in
positive labour market data “came hard
on the heels of buoyant manufacturing and the London casino”, said property agent
export orders” and improving tax receipts. Henry Pryor. He predicts “loads of empty
and part-built posh ghost towers”.
“VAT takings do not rise in a sagging
UK disruptors
In recent years, “a host of famous
names” have disappeared from the
US S&P 500, replaced by stocks such
as Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, says
The Times. A similar struggle between
“the disruptors” and “the disrupted”
is going on in Britain. Who’s winning?
Just Eat “Despite making no food and
having no stores,” the online ordering
service “has a market cap similar to
Sainsbury’s”, says Michael Russell of the
Hermes US All Cap fund. “Scale and
network density” enable Just Eat
to deliver more cheaply than rivals,
establishing “a protective moat”.
Rightmove Russell also rates this
online estate agency, which lists
properties across Britain. “When homehunters conduct property searches, they
no longer visit estate agencies
and instead start with Rightmove.”
Ocado Walter Price of Allianz
Technology Trust views the food
delivery firm’s “consumer-friendly
model” as an ongoing threat to
incumbent retailers. Because Ocado
is both time- and cost-efficient, it could
yet “lead to a radical transformation”
of grocery shopping.
Sophos Price also likes this software
outfit, which produces a central
management console that allows
security to be more easily “sold and
managed” as a service. It could become
“a global leader in the security sector”.
May must stop
the kowtowing
to China
Jeremy Warner
The Daily Telegraph
Waiting for
the bull
to drop
Robert Samuelson
The Washington Post
RBS is still
defending the
James Moore
The Independent
Brexit: a
The Economist
“What does Theresa May hope to achieve from her trade mission to
China,” asks Jeremy Warner. “There will certainly be contracts
aplenty, some of them possibly genuinely new ones.” But what is her
overall purpose there? Does she back President Trump’s complaint
that the Chinese abuse the rules of fair trade, or is she “merely on the
scrounge” for potential windfalls? Britain’s recent policy might be
described as the great “kowtow”: we’ve opened up the City to
renminbi trading, backed China’s efforts to form Asian alternatives to
the World Bank and the IMF, and ceded control of our nuclear
energy industry. Yet the payback “has been far from obvious”.
Trump’s gripes seem “more than justified”: Beijing “talks free trade”,
and has grown increasingly rich and powerful on it, “but practices
something different”. What honestly is the purpose of its $1trn “One
Belt, One Road” trading infrastructure project other than to advance
its influence – the use of trade “for imperialist ends”. May should
remember all that as she “begs bangles from China” this week.
“The stock market is going gangbusters,” said Robert Samuelson.
What’s perplexing experts, however, is whether this remarkable
market run is simply based on “runaway speculation” or whether
it suggests the economy is fundamentally strong. There’s little
doubt we are in boom times: Since President Trump’s election,
stocks have ascended by an incredible one-third. The market hit
record highs in 12 of the first 15 trading days of 2018, logging an
overall gain of $1.9 trillion. That has some analysts arguing that
stocks are overvalued, possibly by as much as 20%. In that
scenario, the “herd mentality” that has led investors to push
prices higher and higher will eventually dissipate, and the market
will correct itself. Trump and his allies wave off those worries,
arguing that the corporate tax cut and regulatory reform have
“brightened the economic outlook, justifying higher stock prices.”
Who’s right? Who knows. What’s certain is that “the market
remains vulnerable to unexpected economic and political shocks.”
Any decline in the market now would cripple consumer
confidence and spending. That leaves “Main Street, to some
extent, hostage to Wall Street.”
Royal Bank of Scotland still doesn’t get it, says James Moore.
It has been resisting publication of a critical Financial Conduct
Authority report into its Global Restructuring Group, which has
been castigated for exploiting troubled small- and medium-sized
firms. This week saw an about-turn. The bank now accepts that
the so-called “skilled person’s review” of GRG – which once
issued a memo stating that “sometimes you need to let
customers hang themselves” – should be published, although
it disagrees with some of its findings. About time. The unit’s
conduct towards its customers now stands as “an almost bigger
stain” on the bank’s reputation than its state bailout. And RBS’s
evasive approach has only exacerbated the bitterness. GRG has
now been “consigned to the dustbin of banking history”: RBS’s
new restructuring unit, we are told, “does things differently” and
the bank has promised to compensate victims. But there “is still
a sense that RBS is going through the motions” and would prefer
to sweep the affair under the carpet, rather than learn from it.
Mobsters have always exploited world events for their own
gain, says The Economist. But “for organised criminals, Brexit is
perhaps the most promising rearrangement of the European scene
since the fall of communism”. Clearly, much will depend on the
outcome of exit negotiations. But if, for instance, Britain achieves
its aim of maintaining an open border in Ireland while leaving the
EU customs union, we can expect “an increase in the already
substantial traffic in contraband” across the border, as well as
“new opportunities through British ports and quiet coastal spots”.
The expected “parliamentary logjam” as Westminster replaces EU
laws may also bolster crooks if it means that current loopholes in
anti-money-laundering regulations remain unclosed. But “Brexit’s
biggest bonus for the underworld” is likely to be “weaker police
oversight” following our presumed withdrawal from Europol and
mechanisms such as the European arrest Warrant. Thanks in part
to the EAW, Spain’s “Costa del Crime” has lately become less
attractive to British crooks hoping “to enjoy (and reinvest) other
people’s money”. “More sangria, lads?”
City profiles
Jamie Dimon
“How do you run for
president? Insist that you’re
not,” said Quartz. Everyone
in Davos was convinced that
the JP Morgan boss, Jamie
Dimon, was “considering
a 2020 run” as a Democrat
when he told “a standingroom-only crowd” that “he
thought he’d be good at it” –
but wasn’t going to stand. He
wasn’t actually bluffing. Wall
Street’s longest-serving CEO
has just announced plans
to stay on at the investment
bank for another five years.
By the time Dimon, 61,
comes to review his decision
again in 2023, “he will have
served 17 years” in charge,
said the FT. “They’ll take
him out in a coffin,” quips
one rival banker. The veteran
banker “is popular with
investors”, who welcomed
the decision, and with staff.
But his “longevity” may lead
“to itchy feet below him”.
Adam Neumann
The WeWork co-founder likes
“to portray himself as
a trendy tech entrepreneur”,
but many in the real estate
world are adamant that
Adam Neumann’s
“co-working” company
is actually a property
business, says the FT.
A man of “gargantuan
ambition”, Neumann,
38, says his aim is to help
people “make a life, not
just a living”. But WeWork’s
basic model of leasing
out vast tracts of space,
then farming out chunks to
companies on a short-term
basis, has made it “the
largest corporate office
occupier in central London”.
Critics point out that the New
York-based firm, privately
valued at more than $20bn,
is “massively exposed” to
any global downturn in
office leasing markets.
However, Neumann and
his backers seem
undeterred by this prospect.
Who’s tipping what
The week’s best buys
Directors’ dealings
Paragon Banking Group
The Times
This buy-to-let lender’s
mortgage business is increasing
market share amid tighter
regulation; it’s also expanding
into mainstream retail banking
services, second-hand car loans
and asset finance.
Buy. 504p.
Sirius Minerals
Investors Chronicle
The Yorkshire-based
prospective potash miner has
permits in place, stage one
finance complete, forward sales
contracts agreed and development underway. On time and
budget for production in 2021.
Buy. 23p.
Crest Nicholson
Investors Chronicle
Given the chronic imbalance
between supply and demand,
this housebuilder is well set
to≈achieve further growth.
Completions are growing,
selling prices are rising and
forward sales are ahead.
Yields 6.3%. Buy. 522p.
Satellite Solutions
The Times
SSW rents broadband capacity
from satellites and beams
signals to remote households
in Europe and Australia.
Customers and revenues are
increasing rapidly as capacity
in Europe expands. Buy. 8p.
The Daily Telegraph
ZPG, the renamed Zoopla,
has expanded from property
into utilities comparison
services, styling itself as an
“industry consolidator”. Not
cheap, but its diversification
should protect against market
wobbles. Buy. 344p.
Card Factory
2 directors
buy 42,907
Chemring Group
Investors Chronicle
The defence technology group’s
results beat expectations, but
the good news has been
scuppered by the onset of an
SFO investigation into
“bribery, corruption and
money laundering” at a
subsidiary. Hold. 195p.
Investors Chronicle
The beleaguered estate agent
has warned that total income
from sales and lettings will
fall by around 14%. Profits in
financial services are drooping
and the CEO has resigned.
Sell. 114p.
Dechra Pharmaceuticals
The Times
The acquisition of two
European firms – AST Farma
and Le Vet – should help to
increase sales growth and
synergies at this British
manufacturer of veterinary
products, as well as bolstering
its position on the Continent.
Hold. £22.46.
A disappointing Q3 update
from the greetings card and
small gifts retailer prompted
shares to drop 16%. CEO Karen
Hubbard and non-exec Roger
Whiteside have shown faith,
spending £48,741 and £49,535
adding to their stakes.
…and some to hold, avoid or sell
CMC Markets
The Mail on Sunday
The spread-betting firm has
reported strong sales growth
per customer. But Numis has a
raft of concerns including the
rapidly changing regulatory
environment, volatile sales,
lower active client numbers
and higher costs. Sell. 162p.
Form guide
SSP Group
The Times
CEO Kate Swann’s reputation
as a “ruthless and effective
cost-cutter” has been proved
as momentum continues at
the transport caterer. Further
organic growth is achievable,
but shares could be susceptible
to a pullback. Hold. 685p.
The events organiser has been
swooped on by rival Informa,
with a £9bn takeover offer,
prompting shares to gain
23.6%. A counterbid is
unlikely and Informa may
be overpaying. Take profits.
Sell. 885p.
Shares tipped 12 weeks ago
Best tip
Ted Baker
The Times
up 10.91% to £30.50
Worst tip
The Times
down 1.4% to £18.99
Market view
“Buoyant financial
markets give the Fed room
to increase the pace of
policy tightening.”
Seamus Mac Gorain
of JP Morgan Asset
Quoted in the FT
Market summary
Key numbers
numbers for investors
FTSE 100
FTSE All-share UK
Dow Jones
Nikkei 225
Hang Seng
Brent Crude Oil
UK 10-year gilts yield
US 10-year Treasuries
Latest CPI (yoy)
Latest RPI (yoy)
Halifax house price (yoy)
30 Jan 2018
3.0% (Dec)
4.1% (Dec)
+2.7% (Dec)
$1.418 E1.139 ¥154.179
Best and
and worst
worst performing shares
Week before
3.1% (Nov)
3.9% (Nov)
+3.9% (Nov)
Change (%)
London Stock Ex.Grp.
% change
Sage Group
Brit.American Tobacco 4831.50
Mediclinic Internat.
Smurfit Kappa Gp.
i3 Energy
Source: Datastream (not adjusted for dividends). Prices on 30 Jan (pm)
Following the Footsie
6-month movement in the FTSE 100 index
The Daily Telegraph
Anpario provides “highperformance natural feed
additives for animal health”
and is growing strongly,
especially overseas. With
a strong balance sheet and
high margins, it deserves its
premium rating. Buy. 440p.
The last word
Andy Murray contemplates
the end of his career
At the age of 30, the British No. 1 has been plagued by a persistent hip problem, which could lead to him stepping back from
playing top-level tennis. Simon Barnes looks over Murray’s glorious 13 years so far
Sport is cruel even to its
champions. Andy Murray
knew this when he left home
at the age of 15 to train in
Spain. He knew it in his
greatest triumph, when he won
his first Wimbledon singles title
in 2013. And he knows it now
as he faces what might be the
end of his career, aged 30.
He hasn’t played competitive
tennis since Wimbledon last
year, when he was beaten over
five sets by the American Sam
Querrey. He attempted to
come back for the US
Open, the last grand slam
tournament of the year, but
had to pull out before the
start. He was planning to make
a comeback at last month’s
Australian Open, but he
missed that too.
still change Christendom. I can
fool myself that I might write
a novel as good as Ulysses. No
athlete can have such illusions.
I was sitting in the press
box on Centre Court at
Wimbledon in 2013. An hour
or so back I had written in my
notebook: “Wow, he’s going to
do it in straight sets!” Murray
had then done exactly that,
beating Novak Djokovic 6-4
7-5 6-4 to become the first
British player to win the men’s
singles championship for 77
years. And he did a strange
thing. He didn’t celebrate, not
at first: the achievement was
too immense, too personal,
and we’d all been waiting far
too long. He was, after all, the
first British male winner since
Fred Perry in 1936.
The problem is in his right
Instead, he turned and looked
hip. He has spent the past
up at the press box. Perhaps
six months working to get
looking for interpretation,
it better. Certainly, there is
for meaning, or for at least
scarcely a soul in sport with
some reaction beyond
the work ethic of Murray. Yet
scribbling in notebooks.
eventually he accepted that rest
A quite extraordinary series
and rehabilitation would not
Murray lifting the singles trophy at Wimbledon in 2013
of expressions then chased
solve the problem; he had
in rapid succession across his face: sick relief, genuine
surgery in Australia last month, and hopes to be back on court
bewilderment, joy – and, with it, the tiniest hint of fear.
in time for Wimbledon this year. Even so, he now faces another
long period of rehabilitation and is by no means guaranteed a
I recalled the promise on the garden gate in The Chronicles of
result. The injury could be a career-ender: an example of the
brutal wear and tear that top-level sport inflicts on the bodies of Narnia: that those who eat the fruit unlawfully “shall find their
hearts’ desire and find despair”.
its participants.
Is that it, then? Is that what I
“‘I would give anything to be back out there. have slaved my life away for,
Murray put up a picture of
himself as a child on Instagram
I didn’t realise until these past few months just sacrificed my childhood for, the
thing to which I have dedicated
last month, accompanied by
how much I love this game,’ said Murray”
every sleeping and waking
a message. “I choose this pic
moment of my life? I have
as the little kid inside me just
fulfilled my quest – my life – so now what? Because nothing will
wants to play tennis and compete. I genuinely miss it so
be as good again. Murray was then 26.
much and I would give anything to be back out there. I didn’t
realise until these past few months just how much I love this
He first came to public attention in 2005, a gangling galoot
game. Every time I wake up from sleeping or napping I hope
of 18 who put up some stirring, precocious performances at
that it’s better, and it’s quite demoralising when you get on the
Queen’s, the pre-Wimbledon tournament. Then, in the main
court [and] it’s not at the level you need it to be to compete at
event in SW19, he made a game run to the third round. By
this level.”
then Tim Henman was in decline after many gloriously
dramatic Wimbledon campaigns.
It’s not like Murray to be so confessional. It’s not just the pain
and the endless boredom of rehab – it’s the possibility that this
So what should we make of this awkward young Scot who
could be the end. For a professional athlete, 30 is usually only
filled his press conferences with grunting bagpipe noises and
the beginning of the end: last year Roger Federer, the greatest
sported a barbed-wire haircut? Might he, too, take the British
of them all, won the Australian Open and Wimbledon at the
tennis followers through the same teatime agonies of triumph
age of 35. But all athletes face the same frightful prospect: that
and disaster as Tim? The answer came later the same year, in
life as they know it is over before they hit 40. Only sport offers
Basel, Switzerland. I went to that one; the first few hundred of
such cruelties as a matter of routine. Donald Trump is 71 with
a fine collection of air miles I totted up in pursuit of Murray. He
plenty of thrilling times ahead of him; the Pope is 81 and can
The last word
played Henman, and beat him in three sets.
“I’ve passed on the baton,” Henman said.
“Or is it the torch? Whatever it is,
I’ve passed it on.”
even when you fail, the pain of losing
is a vivid reminder that you’re alive.
I remember an encounter with Sugar
Ray Leonard in a New York boxing gym.
He was 34, training for a fight against
Terry Norris. Everyone was telling him
to retire: he, of all boxers, should be able
to outsmart the game and leave it without
a beating that might change him. Why
was he fighting again? He looked at me
as if I had lost my mind, asking such a
question in such a place. Then he gave me
a serious answer. “Nothing will ever give
me the same satisfaction as what I do here.
I don’t care if I do the greatest movie and
win an Oscar. It wouldn’t be the same
satisfaction. It would be foolish to say that
it could be.”
“The little kid inside me just wants to compete”
The next year Murray went to contest
an event in San Jose, California. His
mother, the majestic Judy, and then
coach Mark Petchey couldn’t go. So
he went with his girlfriend, Kim Sears.
Both were 18. It was a kind of gap year
adventure: a young couple seeing what
the real world was like. It wasn’t such
a bad place, it seemed. Murray won the
thing. He beat Lleyton Hewitt in the final.
The last point was classic Murray: a rally
constructed from counterpunching
backhand slices that led with glorious
inevitability to the double-fisted kill stroke.
Then he kissed the princess. Life should be like that.
So the British public took Murray to their hearts – yet did so
with infinite wariness. He has never been the sort to go out of
his way for approval. As he has jested more than once himself,
he is British all right – when he wins. When he loses, he’s
Scottish through and through. Too much has been made of his
remark about the 2006 football World Cup. He said he would
be supporting “whoever England were playing against”:
routine banter as ancient and as daft as football. Inevitably,
those with a taste for synthetic indignation decided Murray
was anti-English, never mind that he loved and later married
an Englishwoman – the same Kim, of course – and chose to live
in England.
Norris beat the hell out of him. Many of us recall Steve
Redgrave’s shouted remark as his boat drifted towards the
boathouse in Atlanta in 1996, after he had won his fourth
Olympic gold medal. “Anyone who sees me in a boat again
has my permission to shoot me.” Four years later he was in
a boat again, hammering up the rowing lake at the Sydney
Olympics. He was now 38, had been diagnosed with diabetes,
the crew had suffered traumatic defeat and equally traumatic
changes of personnel – and yet there was Redgrave. Again.
Well, why not? Nothing would ever give him the same
satisfaction as what he did there.
Perhaps some people can take wealthy idleness in their stride.
“A million dollars in the bank and after that you sit around
on some island drinking pina coladas,” Leonard said. That’s
not my perception of life.” People who become sporting
champions tend to lack the
pina colada mentality.
But it was soon clear Murray had made only one bad mistake
in his life, and it wasn’t a
football joke. It was the timing
“Now Murray is saying plaintively that he
of his birth. Had he been born
in almost any other era, he
would be happy to rub along with a ranking of After Federer won Wimbledon
in 2012, he went until last
would have collected half
30: making shots, playing matches”
January without winning
a dozen grand slam singles
another grand slam. But he
titles and be considered on the
never considered retirement. He loves victory, but he also loves
second tier of all-time greats: below gods such as Rod Laver
the struggle. And perhaps as much as both, he loves the game
and Pete Sampras; level with Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and
of tennis. When he and Murray rallied, I sometimes thought
Mats Wilander.
that neither ever wanted the point to end, so enthralling was
the dialogue of tennis.
Yet Murray played in the time of Roger Federer (20 grand
slams and counting) and Rafael Nadal (16). When it seemed
Now Murray is saying plaintively that he would be happy to
that at last these two were on the wane, Novak Djokovic
rub along with a ranking of 30, making shots, playing matches
(12) took over. To play in a time of two gods could be
and revelling in sport’s eternal simplicities: winning is good,
regarded as a misfortune, but three looks as if fate was waging
losing is bad – and so to the next point, the next match, the
a personal vendetta.
next tournament.
It follows that Murray’s tally of three grand slams (two
Murray is smart, balanced, concerned, thoughtful and
Wimbledons, one US Open) involved probably the three
sometimes eloquent – and has no taste whatsoever for taking
hardest titles ever won. His eight losing finals show not
it easy for the next 60 years. I doubt if he’s tasted a pina colada
weakness of character but the opposition’s stupefying strength.
in his life. He knows that nothing can compare with the pursuit
And note: Murray also won two Olympic gold medals and was
and capture of sporting victory. He has lived without such
for a time world No. 1.
things for six months, and now must do so for longer. Perhaps a
lot longer. Perhaps for ever.
He also did something still more remarkable. In 2015, he led
Britain to victory in the Davis Cup, a competition in which
If you are one of those who have managed to withhold
Britain had been an embarrassment for years. As well as
admiration of Murray across the arc of his career, I suggest
11 victories and no defeats in the competition, Murray inspired
you cease to do so at once. It’s my belief that sport can be
lesser players to rise to the occasion. Tennis is supposed to be a
appreciated on three levels. The lowest is partisanship. After
lonely and selfish pursuit: here was Murray as the greatest team
that comes drama. And then, at the very top, comes pure,
man in the history of British tennis.
refined, glorious, bewildering excellence. Murray has in his time
brought us all three at once, and it’s been truly glorious. I hope
But now he must contemplate the horrors of premature
he does so again.
retirement, and as he does so, he remembers how much he
loves tennis. Not the glory, money and the winning: the simpler
joys of hitting tennis balls in competition, constructing beautiful This article first appeared in The Sunday Times. © The Sunday
Times/News Syndication.
points and finishing them off with the perfect kill shot. And
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The Times
Solution to Crossword 193
ACROSS: 1 Braise 4 Aflutter 9 Action 10 Infringe 12 Paradox 13 Egotism
14 Lent 15 Scabies 19 Redraft 20 Alto 24 High tea 25 Eternal 26 Lingerie
27 Ratted 28 Misusage 29 Turnip
DOWN: 1 Beanpole 2 Altering 3 Shoddy 5 Finger buffet 6 Uprooted 7
Tennis 8 Rheumy 11 Exacerbating 16 Test beds 17 Plankton 18 Rolled up 21
Shalom 22 Agents 23 Déjà vu
Clue of the week: Riotous single Royal, a new castle-dweller? (10, first letter
E, last letter N)
Solution: ENGLISHMAN (single anag + HM + a n; an Englishman’s home)
Sudoku 195
Fill in all the squares so that
each row, column and each
of the 3x3 squares contains
all the digits from 1 to 9
Solution to Sudoku 228
Solution to Sudoku 194
Charity of the week
The Al Noor Training Centre for
Children with Special Needs is a
specialist facility located in Al Barsha,
Dubai. Designed to help integrate
special needs students into society, it
was founded in 1981. The centre, which
accommodates about 300 children, has
no direct funding and relies on private
donations. The children it looks after
range in age from 2½ to 18 years and
face challenges such as Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Autism.
These are addressed through special education methods, physiotherapy,
speech therapy and occupational therapy. Al Noor also has its own Work
Placement Unit, which trains children for employment.
Visit to find out how you can help.
Available at all leading bookshops and selected
outlets in the Gulf and at
Published with the support of
Журналы и газеты
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