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'Clownageddon' continues as creepy clowns are spotted in three more US states

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

'We won't stand for anyone terrorising our community' warned Greeley district attorney.

FBI says hackers have made more attempts to breach state voter registration systems

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Comey called on state officials to remain vigilant as 'bad players have been poking around.'

Typhoon Megi: Search for missing after China landslide

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

At least 26 people are missing after rains caused by Typhoon Megi trigger a landslide in China's Zhejiang province.

'Hillary Shimmy Song' tops wave of viral presidential debate tunes

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

They've got weird lyrics and a beat you can dance to.

Thousands to pay final respects to Israel's Shimon Peres

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Thousands of people are expected to pay their final respects in Jerusalem to former Israeli Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres, who died at the age of 93.

Mexico returns remains of US soldiers from 1846 war

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

The remains of 10 US soldiers killed during the Mexican-American war of 1846 are being returned 170 years after their deaths.

Oil rallies after Opec ministers announce output cut

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

The oil producers cartel Opec has agreed a preliminary deal to cut production for the first time in eight years, sending crude prices surging.

Trump's fortune drops $800m in one year

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Due in large part to the softening of the New York real estate market, Mr Trump's personal wealth has fallen to $3.7bn, says Forbes.

Beating Big Brother

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Secret surveillance of US citizens by police is on the rise with black neighbourhoods often the target - here is how one Californian city fought back.

Michelle Obama calls out Donald Trump for Barack 'birther conspiracy' and comments about women

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

The first lady also appeared in her first campaign spot for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Appeal begins in Brazil against acquittal of 74 police

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Relatives of prisoners who died during a riot in 1992 in a Sao Paulo jail are appealing after a Brazilian court threw out convictions against 74 police officers.

Ugandan shot by US police 'pointed object'

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Police in California say they shot dead a Ugandan refugee because he pulled an object from his pocket, pointed it and assumed a 'shooting stance'.

Italy: Former nuns tie the knot and call on Catholic Church to be more tolerant of same sex marriage

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Nuns Federica and Isabel fell in love while volunteering at a drug rehab centre in Pinerolo.

A new 'lunatic line'?

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Kenyan plans to build a railway across a national park, but could it be a new version of the so-called "lunatic line" to nowhere, asks Alastair Leithhead.

OPEC agrees to cut oil production for first time in eight years

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Brent crude rose to $49 a barrel on the news after a meeting of the cartel in Algeria.

Dip in the road

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Thai women take baths in potholes to draw attention to unrepaired roads.

Under fire

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Chile's first female president, Michelle Bachelet, has made it her mission to change her country's restrictive abortion laws.

Poison pen

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

The poisonous memoirs of a right-wing adviser at the Elysee Palace embarrass ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy as he plans for a presidential comeback.

Feeling the cold

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

People who lost their homes in the Italian earthquake disaster are still living in tents but they have the support of a vast relief team.

Kate Middleton dons cowboy boots for Carcoss Commons walkabout during Canada tour day 5

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

The Duke and Duchess received a traditonal welcome by the Tagish First Nation people of Carcross.

Thirsty business

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

A look at continuing efforts to reduce the water and energy needed to cool the world's data centres.

Aleppo: Brain surgery carried out on hospital floor

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

BBC Newsnight has obtained distressing footage which shows the grim reality inside an Aleppo hospital. John Sweeney's report has upsetting footage and scenes of surgery.

Why the left shouldn’t abandon freedom of movement

By Anoosh Chakelian from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 29, 2016.

Jeremy Corbyn’s new take on immigration won’t work.

Jeremy Corbyn was on the BBC’s Today programme yesterday morning, answering questions about policy ahead of his party conference speech.

The main line of questioning was on immigration, something Corbyn and his team have had to think hard about in recent months.

For over a decade, all parties have been trying to marry policy with popular opinion on Britain’s migrants. Brexit has exacerbated this dilemma, what with the UK’s participation in freedom of movement teetering on the rim of the dustbin of history.

The problem is a familiar one. Immigration is generally a good thing, but in the eyes of the majority of voters – and in reality in certain pockets of the country – it doesn’t look that way. But for a party seen as “soft” on immigration, pandering to the harder line of rhetoric from its opponents merely reinforces the perception that there is a big problem – and validates its opponents’ policies.

The Labour leader has angered some in his party by insisting he won’t be drawn into making “false promises” on immigration numbers. This is the right decision. The Tories’ targets are arbitrary, set them up to fail, and do little to quell public dissatisfaction with the number of migrants.

An inaccurate government headcount, whether it’s successfully brought down or not, doesn’t translate onto your street, or local schools, or queue at the doctor’s surgery – just as a politician’s reassurance about the positive net contribution from migrants doesn’t. The macro doesn’t satisfy the micro.

And Corbyn calling for a cap would not only be unconvincing to voters, but a betrayal of his supporters, who have projected their liberal politics onto him and love it when he champions migrants. Corbyn himself has never really been into free movement; he’s unconvinced by the benefits of the single market. Of course he is. He’s a eurosceptic, and a eurosceptic who is suspicious of capitalism, to boot.

But having a leader of a mainstream party sticking up for migrants is an important thing; someone’s got to make the positive case, and it’s not like Corbyn’s one to compromise for votes anyway. Particularly as he builds his whole reputation on being a “man of principle” and a “real alternative”.

Rather than “false promises”, Corbyn’s given us a number of false problems instead. He speaks about the effect of migration in terms of depressed wages and pressure on public services. If he were in government, he would reintroduce a “migrant impact fund” (amount unspecified) to make up for these.

The first problem with this is that Corbyn knows as well as Boris Johnson and Theresa May and George Osborne and Ed Miliband and Tony Blair and Caroline Lucas and everyone else who’s attempted to make policy on this does that, actually, migrants overwhelmingly come here to work. Indeed, he underlined his stance against scapegoating migrants in a passionate passage of his speech yesterday. They don’t “take” people’s jobs, and it is not the number of them that brings down wages or drives up rents.

Where wages are kept lower than the national average by the presence of migrant workers, you will find numerous agencies that pay them less than the minimum wage, fail to give them proper contracts, and often advertise jobs solely overseas. Where you find these agencies, you find businesses happy to turn a blind eye to their recruitment and employment practices.

Where rents are driven up higher than the local average by the presence of migrant workers, you will find landlords who are happy to make money from people willing to live ten to a house, share bedrooms and have a poor quality of life.

Boston – the town in Britain with the highest proportion of EU migrants after London – is a textbook study of this. A high level of workers is needed for agricultural and factory labour. They aren’t stealing people’s jobs, and unemployment is relatively low. But those who benefit financially from their presence, and take advantage, are the ones who cause the consequent negative social and economic conditions in the town. Conditions that led it to voting higher than anywhere else for Brexit.

So Corbyn’s “migrant impact fund” is a nebulous fix to a false problem that not even he believes in. Even the name of it sends the wrong message, making migration sound like a spate of bad flooding, or noise pollution.

It’s our light-touch enforcement of employment law, and murky regulation of exploitative agencies that slip through its net, which need government money and attention. Perhaps “shark impact fund” would be a better name for Corbyn’s fix-all pot of gold.

Giving councils extra funds for public services is priced into Labour policy already (if the party truly is anti-austerity) – and should not now be linked to a negative idea of migration in a tacked-on attempt to to make something palatable for voters. It’s a bit like Ed Miliband’s “Controls on Immigration” mug. Simply giving something a new name, or stamping on a motto, doesn’t wash with voters.

Those who argue that the country has voted against free movement, and we should accept it, that may be so. But it’ll do the Labour party little good campaigning to get rid of it. Once it’s gone, and we’ve replaced it with some kind of points-based system, places with high levels of migration will still have high levels of migration – because those are the places where jobs need filling. It’ll either be EU migrants who manage to stick around, or other immigrants drafted in out of necessity having been assessed under a points-based system. If investment in these areas isn’t ramped up, residents will still feel left behind, and will still see migrants around them as the cause.

So what about the many pro-Brexit areas where there is a very low number of immigrants? This really is irrelevant. The problem in these areas is the problem the country over: lack of funds. Unless you invest, people will remain unsatisfied. And if people remain unsatisfied, they will continue to look for something to blame. Unfortunately, Corbyn is joining the legions of politicians who are handing them that easy target. And he is least likely to see the electoral benefit of it.

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Google, Facebook, Amazon join forces on future of AI

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are to form the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, to work on maximising the potential of the technology.

US school shooter kills dad before rampage

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A teenager killed his father before going to a nearby primary school and opening fire with a handgun, wounding two students and a teacher, police say.

Shimon Peres: Man of peace or war criminal?

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Long-serving Israeli politician leaves a mixed legacy after winning a Nobel Peace Prize, but also accused of war crimes.

'Mosaic house' is culmination of 20 years' work

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A vibrant "mosaic house" in Los Angeles represents a 20 year collaboration between two married artists, who have covered almost every surface in tiles and ceramics.

Hundreds mourn Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Large funeral turnout for murdered writer who was killed outside the court where he faced charges of insulting Islam.

Jill Stein: 'No thanks' to Hillary or Trump presidency

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Third party candidate says Trump victory would be "horrific" but Clinton's policies are "not at all" reassuring.

Kanye West leads Nashville crowd in chants of 'F*** Taylor Swift' as he sings 'Famous' three times

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The rapper defended his controversial track during the Bridgestone Arena date of his Saint Pablo tour.

Congress rejects Obama veto of Saudi 9/11 lawsuits bill

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The US president says the congressional override of his veto on a bill allowing 9/11 lawsuits against Saudi Arabia sets "a dangerous precedent".

Teenager kills father before injuring two children and a teacher at a South Carolina school

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

All three victims have non-life threatening injuries, authorities in Townsville said.

The Shooting at an Elementary School in South Carolina

By Matt Ford from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Updated on September 28 at 5:36 p.m. ET

NEWS BRIEF At least three people, including two children, were shot Wednesday at an elementary school in Townville, South Carolina, an emergency official in Anderson County said. The suspect, a teenager, is in custody, the official said.

The two children were taken by helicopter to a hospital, he said, while the teacher was taken to a different medical facility by ambulance. Local officials said at a press conference that the students had been shot in the leg and foot, and the teacher had been shot in the shoulder.

Local media outlets are also reporting the alleged gunman’s father had been found dead at his residence, but local officials declined to immediately clarify whether his death was related to the shooting.

The remaining students from the Townville Elementary School are safe, he said, and were bused to the nearby Oakdale Church. Parents were asked to pick their children up at the church.

Townville is about 41 miles southwest of Greenville, South Carolina.

This is a developing story and we’ll update it as we learn more.

Brad Pitt 'met Jennifer Aniston at New York hotel' weeks before Angelina Jolie filed for divorce

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

It has been reported that Pitt opened up about his marital problems to his ex-wife.

US Congress overrides Obama's veto on 9/11 bill

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Families of 9/11 victims are now able to sue Saudi Arabia for allegedly backing attackers after law is passed.

Ban Ki-moon says Aleppo 'worse than a slaughterhouse' as John Kerry threatens to cut Moscow contact

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

UN Secretary-General's comments come as two Aleppo hospitals were bombed on 28 September.

The First Documented Case of Zika Spread by Physical Contact

By Julie Beck from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Utah’s mystery Zika case has been solved, and the answer, as with so many revelations about Zika, is something never before seen with this virus. Someone seems to have gotten Zika through only casual physical contact with an infected person—the first such case that’s been documented.

In July, after a 73-year-old patient who’d contracted Zika while traveling to Mexico died (a rare occurrence in itself), a second person came down with the virus. The second patient had visited the first man in the hospital, but had not traveled to any Zika-infected areas or had sex with anyone who had. So with the two known methods of transmission—mosquito bites and sexual transmission—out of the running, it was unclear just how this second person had managed to get infected.

In a new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the patients’ physicians from the University of Utah describe just what happened with these cases:

Patient 2 reported having assisted a nurse in repositioning Patient 1 in bed without using gloves. Patient 2 also reported having wiped Patient 1’s eyes during the hospitalization but reported having had no other overt contact with blood or other body fluids, including splashes or mucous membrane exposure.

The only fluids the second patient could have come in contact with are sweat and tears. A previous study detected traces of the virus in the tears of infected mice; there hasn’t been any similar research on sweat. The second patient probably either had a cut somewhere on his skin, or he inadvertently touched his eyes, nose, or mouth, and the virus entered his body. “It should not be able to pass through unbroken skin,” says Sankar Swaminathan, the chief of infections disease at University of Utah Health Care, and first author on the paper.

But a big part of why this transmission likely occurred has to do with the uniqueness of the first patient’s case. It’s very rare for people to die of Zika—in this outbreak so far, there have been only 13 fatal cases in adults (not counting deaths from Zika-related Guillain-Barré). When Zika patients die, Swaminathan says, in many cases they also have a preexisting condition like leukemia that compromises the immune system. In this case, the first patient, while elderly, was not immunocompromised. But his infection was extremely severe. His blood had 200 million copies of the virus per milliliter—with a typical infection, Swaminathan says, you’d expect to see hundreds of thousands, and one million would be considered high.

It’s not clear why this man suffered so intensely from what is typically a very mild virus. He’d had dengue in the past; it’s possible that remaining antibodies from that somehow worsened this infection. This can sometimes happen when people get two different strains of dengue—the second dengue infection will be worse. Swaminathan also speculates that the man may have had a genetic immune deficiency that just happened to be very specific to this virus.

With infectious diseases, “there’s some people we find who get very unusual manifestations of infections that 99.99 percent of people never get,” Swaminathan says. It could be that these people, though not otherwise immunocompromised, have specific weaknesses to particular pathogens.

Whatever the reason, the patient ended up with an abnormally high viral load, which led to shock, respiratory failure, and eventually death. (The second patient came down with a less intense, more ordinary version of Zika.) The extent to which the virus can be spread through bodily fluids like this is a question the authors suggest needs more research, but Swaminathan suspects that it may be the high viral load that led the virus to be present in the first patient’s sweat or tears. Mosquitoes and sexual transmission are still the main worries—“For the general public, this doesn’t really change very much,” Swaminathan says—but this case is yet another surprise pulled from Zika’s seemingly endless playbook.

US Congress overturns Barack Obama's veto of 9/11 bill

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The first override of Obama's presidency may allow victims' families to sue Saudi Arabia.

Somalia: US accused of killing 22 troops in air strike

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Security official says Americans were "misinformed" in a request that came from regional rival to hit al-Shabab.

Kate Middleton falls about in giggles during 'William the Moose' storytelling session

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The royals, who were visiting the Macbride Museum in Yukon, were able to see the funny side.

Her Own Canine Dominion

By Adrienne Green from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

It’s often said that some pet owners love their animals like their own children. One study found that when humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes, both animals get a boost of oxytocin—the “bonding” hormone—which is the same process that creates the connection between parents and their babies. That (at least in part) explains why some owners invest in doggie tuxedos, pet perfumes, and even freshly painted nails for their pets.

However, not all animals enjoy being groomed, and some have issues that are beyond cosmetic, such as alopecia (hair loss). When pets are difficult to groom at home, many owners seek out professional help. Ethel Taylor is the owner of Doggie Washerette, a dog-grooming business in Washington, D.C. I spoke with Taylor about her job, how she overcame her fear of dogs to start her business, and how the arrival of a major pet franchise in the neighborhood has changed her business. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Adrienne Green: What were you doing before you started your dog-washing business and how did you end up starting Doggie Washerette?

Ethel Taylor, the owner of Doggie Washerette,
grooms her dog Joy. (Emily Jan / The Atlantic)

Ethel Taylor: I was a missionary, and I'm still a missionary but I was spending most of my time doing ministry [work] stateside as well as in West Africa and South America.

In 2010, I just had a vision that it was time to do something different. About eight years before that, my sister had taken me to a self-serve dog wash in Richmond, Virginia, where I'm from. I just held the idea in the back of my mind. At that point, I didn't know of anything here in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area that was like that. So 2010, I thought maybe it's my year to do something [different]. The [dog washing business] seemed to be pretty cool, and I began to research and pursue information about starting that kind of business. I started Doggie Washerette in my own neighborhood, five minutes from my house, mainly because I wanted to make an impact in my own community.

Green: Small-business owners often work a lot more than a typical 40-hour week. What is your schedule like?

Taylor: Well, it's definitely like a new baby: It requires all of your attention, and it affects you differently even when you're not here because you're in charge. The business moves as you move it, so you're always looking for new ways to get the word out. People need you; they just need to know you're there. I'm always looking for those opportunities, as well as opportunities to network with other business owners to stay encouraged, get new ideas, and to stay inspired.

Green: What's an average day like for you?

Taylor: This year has been a little challenging for me in particular. My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer about this time last year, and so the dynamics of my day really changed. Trying to run a business, keep up with his treatment and keep him encouraged, taking care of my home life, and international ministry, [has been a challenge]. With my husband having to take some steps back, I've been having to fill some of the responsibilities there as well, and then continue to maintain my business.

This year has been challenging with the business as well, because Petco, a major franchise, took the concept of the self-serve dog wash and undercut my prices by half and moved one of their locations within walking distance of my shop. It began to pull a lot of my business from the self-serve [portion of my services]. Also, some of the high-rise buildings in the urban areas near my shop are putting the dog washtubs in the basements of the buildings. One of my main [client] apartment complexes started that, so I had to be flexible and make the big decision to take away the self-serve option from my services. Now, I only offer full-service grooming. All in all, the changes have all gone well. My husband's health is improving significantly, thank God, and the business has sustained. I have a good employee now.

Green: Has the number of employees you have changed since streamlining your business?

Taylor: It's just the two of us, but we're doing the same amount of work as when I had three or four people. It hasn't really taken away from the service, but there is definitely is more for me to do. Having the full groom only, though, has cut down on my hours a little. Now I leave when the last dog is picked up, instead of advertising that I’ll stay open until 7 p.m. when the full groom work ended at about 3 p.m. Before, I had to stay around for four more hours, or pay someone for four more hours, even after all the dogs were done just in case one self-serve person came in.

Ethel Taylor, the owner of Doggie Washerette (Emily Jan / The Atlantic)

Green: Since getting rid of the self-service dog wash, what kind of services do you provide at your shop?

Taylor: My business is not cookie-cutter. We're not an assembly line. I really focus on each individual dog’s needs, from temperament, to skin, to hair. I'm not just a groomer; I'm a therapeutic groomer, meaning I study the science of dog skin and hair. I have been very successful with solving skin and hair issues that some dogs have dealt with their whole lives such as coat challenges, extreme dryness, dander, and even yeast and bacterial infections. Even now, I'm studying to become a grooming aesthetician.

When the elderly dogs come in with hip dysplasia or arthritis, I’m able to deal with them. We're able to attend to their specific needs—whether it is the new puppy or whether it is the aggressive dog that really has behavioral issues—to provide an atmosphere where some of their fears are reduced. I let each dog have his or her own space. I'm not a trainer, and [when they’re with me] it’s not time to socialize, it's time to get groomed. I don't have to let them do the social thing, which is sniff each other and interact and see how they play together. For dogs, it's all about territory, so there's less anxiety when they don't feel intimidated [which can happen when] somebody's going to come into their space. I am proactive in educating the pet’s parent, if you will, because usually when people know better they make attempts to do better.

Green: There’s a running joke that some people love their dogs the way they love their kids. Have you seen that with your clients?

Taylor: I don't think that's just a joke. Believe me, everything we have for humans they have for dogs these days, including doggy die, nail polish, cologne, fake eyelashes. Unfortunately, I've seen from one extreme to the other. Sometimes people do cross the line, but I just say to each his own. I live by Genesis 1:28, we definitely have a responsibility to care for God's creatures to the best of our ability. Some are able to care a little bit more than others, and by care I mean regular grooming and vaccinations and even their living environments. I just think that in today's society, some people definitely prefer to have the dog instead of children, and that's their prerogative. My husband and I joke that our poodle Joy is the daughter we never had, because we had all boys.

Taylor: I grew up with dogs, and we had a family dog when I was really young. One of my brothers, who was in the military, would have to bring his dog when he came back stateside. In my adult life, I never had a dog. I was a single mother, so I was trying to feed my son and myself. I didn't really have time to try to feed a dog as well.

In 1994, I was a mail carrier and a dog had bitten me. For years, I was petrified of dogs. Literally, I wouldn't come into your house if you had a dog unless you locked them in the bathroom. It's a miracle that I'm in this industry, and as good at working with animals as I am. Two weeks before I actually had my grand opening, I was still afraid of dogs. I groom dogs now that nobody else in town would take, or who've been kicked out of other places because they were too aggressive or wouldn't handle the groom well. You've always got to pass through some of your fears to get to where you're really supposed to be.

Green: Do you think you’ll groom dogs until you retire?

Taylor: Well, I don't know about forever, but there has been so much to this endeavor as far as affecting people's lives positively. A gentleman had a dog before he got married, and his wife is extremely allergic. It got to a point where he was going to have to get rid of the dog for her sake—mainly because the dog was so aggressive, no one could groom him. The dog had undercoat, which is where most of the allergies come from. For someone to say, “Believe it or not, you saved my marriage,” that was a mouthful.  I think my most fulfilling situation has been to grow the hair back on a poodle that had some kind of seborrhea (dandruff). After being able to groom her with the clippers, she had a whole new strut.

Then, being able to help young people who are just trying to find their way by hiring them. Not with just a job and for some money, but with life skills and life experiences and mentoring. It's been more than just something to do, but helping them see what it takes to run your own business and the sacrifices that it entails.

Green: Is your work tied to your personal identity?

Taylor: I think that it's tied in in a lot of ways. When it comes down to having your own business, you're always discovering yourself and pulling from places within yourself, even things you didn't think you had in you. When it comes to the rubber meeting the road, you have to perform. It’s a good feeling, because you see things moving and happening, you see things that were just a vision manifesting.

I think about the many days when I sat here with no customers in the beginning. I said, so many times to myself and even to God, “I invested all of my money and my energy to sit here and look out of the window? To sit here and not hear the phone ring for two or three days in a row?” Now, I have a four-drawer file cabinet that's packed with files of customers. Over 5,000 people have come through here in just a couple years. So, things like that, you sit back in your quiet time and say, "Wow, it really happened." I really did something with no marketing degree, with no business degree, just a couple semesters of college education, and a vision. It's just really fulfilling. I'm not making a whole heap of money yet, but the opportunity is definitely here.


This interview is a part of an ongoing project on work and identity in America. You may find other pieces here, including interviews with a funeral director, a prison guard, and a pastor.

Syria: US tells Russia it will end talks if bombing continues

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

US warns Russia over the bombardment of Aleppo, saying it will suspend co-operation on Syria peace talks unless Moscow stops the assault.

Michelle Obama: 'We need an adult in White House'

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Michelle Obama has taken aim at Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump, saying "a president can’t just pop off" when he or she is upset.

In Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour may have picked an unlikely winner

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The party leader is making gains internally at least. 

Kezia Dugdale did not become the leader of Scottish Labour in the most auspicious of circumstances. She succeeded Jim Murphy, who lasted just six months in the job before losing his Westminster seat in the 2015 general election. She herself has survived one year, but not without rumours of a coup.

And so far, she has had little reward. Labour lost 14 seats in the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, and not just to the auld enemy, the SNP, but a seemingly decrepit one, the Tories. She backed the losing candidate in the recent Labour leadership contest, Owen Smith. 

Yet Dugdale has firm fans within Scottish Labour, who believe she could be the one to transform the party into a vote-winning force once more. Why?

First, by the dismal standards of Scottish Labour, Dugdale is something of a winner. Through the national executive committee, she has secured the internal party changes demanded by every leader since 2011. Scottish Labour is now responsible for choosing its own Westminster candidates, and creating its own policy. 

And then there’s the NEC seat itself. The decision-making body is the main check on the Labour leadership’s power, and Dugdale secured an extra seat for Scottish Labour. Next, she appointed herself to it. As a counterweight to Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, Dugdale now has influence within the party that extends far outside Holyrood. The Dundee-based Courier’s take on her NEC victories was: “Kezia Dugdale completes 7-0 Labour conference victory over Jeremy Corbyn.”

As this suggests, Dugdale’s main challengers in Scotland are likely to come from the Corbyn camp. Alex Rowley, her deputy leader, backed Corbyn. But Labour activists, at least, are battle weary after two referendums, a general election and a Scottish parliament election within the space of two years. One well-connected source told me: “I think it's possible we haven't hit rock bottom in Scotland yet, so the scale of the challenge is enormous.” 

Polls are also harder to ignore in a country where there is just one Labour MP, Ian Murray, who resigned from the shadow cabinet in June. A YouGov exit poll of the leadership election found Smith beating Corbyn in Scotland by 18 points (in every other part of Britain, members opted for Corbyn). Observers of Scottish politics note that the most impressive party leaders, Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson, were given time and space to grow. 

In policy terms, Dugdale does not stray too far from Corbyn. She is anti-austerity, and has tried to portray both the SNP and the Tories as enemies of public service. She has attacked the same parties for using the Scottish referendum and the EU referendum to create division in turn. In her speech to conference, she declared: “Don’t let Ruth Davidson ever tell you again that the Union is safe in Tory hands.”

So long as Labour looks divided, a promise of unity will always fall flat. But if the party does manage to come together in the autumn, Dugdale will have the power to reshape it north of the border, and consolidate her grip on Scottish Labour. 

 

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Goldsmiths Prize 2016: women writers dominate the shortlist

By Serena Kutchinsky from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The former winner Eimear McBride, Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy are all in the running for the £10,000 prize.

The shortlist for this year’s Goldsmiths Prize for fiction is dominated by women writers, with the prolific Rachel Cusk, the former winner Eimear McBride and the playwright and novelist Deborah Levy all in the running for their latest works. The only male author among the shortlist of six is the award-winning author Mike McCormack, whose novel Solar Bones has won plaudits outside his native Ireland.

Now in its fourth year, the £10,000 prize was set up by Goldsmiths College with the New Statesman to reward fiction "that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form". Previous winners include the Irish writer Kevin Barry’s Beatlebone, a fictional account of John Lennon’s stay on an uninhabited island off the Irish coast, and Scottish-born Ali Smith for her innovative novel in two parts How to be Both.

The chair of the judges, Blake Morrison said: “The six books on this year’s shortlist have a wide range of subject matter and idiom but all show the same desire to push boundaries and take risks. Dark areas are explored with a lightness of touch. And serious themes broached. . . with no loss of humour or irony.  

“Narrowed down from an entry of 111 titles, it’s a list the judges arrived at without rancour or compromise, and one that demonstrates the healthy state of British and Irish fiction today.”

Among this year’s judges is the New Statesman’s contributing writer, Erica Wagner, the author Joanna Walsh, Bernardine Evaristo — a  Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London whose writing also spans short fiction, essays and radio drama.

The winner will be announced on 9 November 2016.

The 2016 Goldsmiths Prize shortlist

Transit, Rachel Cusk, Cape

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy, Hamish Hamilton

The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, Faber & Faber

Solar Bones, Mike McCormack, Tramp Press

Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Cassava Republic Press

Martin John And Other Stories, Anakana Schofield

JMA_Photography

Exclusive: Shami Chakrabarti set to become shadow attorney general

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The Labour peer and former Liberty director is expected to join Jeremy Corbyn's team next week. 

With the conclusion of Labour conference (here are five lessons from it), Jeremy Corbyn's attention will turn to assembling a new shadow cabinet. The leadership is expected to agree to allow MPs to elect a proportion of the frontbench. But Corbyn intends to begin appointments next week in advance of a deal.

Shami Chakrabarti, who recently became a Labour peer and chaired the party's anti-Semitism inquiry, is set to become shadow attorney general, I can reveal. The barrister and former Liberty director "wants to do more" and the "gig is a no brainer," a source said. Her slated brief has been unfilled since Karl Turner's resignation in June. 

Others expected to join the shadow cabinet include Keir Starmer (who could become shadow home secretary following Andy Burnham's departure), former shadow housing minister John Healey and former shadow Wales secretary Nia Griffith. Stephen Pound is said to have turned down the post of shadow leader of the House, currently filled by 81-year-old Paul Flynn, who doubles up as shadow Wales secretary. In his conference speech, he praised Corbyn's "job creation scheme for geriatrics". 

The Labour reshuffle is expected to begin next Wednesday, the day the Conservative conference ends. 

Getty Images.

CIA Director Calls 9/11 Legislation 'Badly Misguided'

By Clare Foran from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

CIA Director John Brennan warned against the national security risks of legislation that would allow families of victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

“I think the legislation is badly misguided and doesn’t take into account the negative impact on U.S. national security,” Brennan told Jeffrey Goldberg at the Washington Ideas Forum presented by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute. Brennan added: “We all recognize that the emotions associated with 9/11 are still quite palpable [and] …. the victims’ families are still seeking justices, but the 9/11 commission report said that there was no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials, individually, were responsible for the 9/11 attack.”

Congress voted to override the president’s veto on Wednesday, paving the way for the bill to become law and marking the first successful veto override of the Obama presidency.

The CIA director cautioned that the implications of the legislation extend far beyond potentially damaging the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  “I think there’s a very, very dangerous slippery slope that we’re going to get on,” Brennan said, adding that “foreign governments are going to start to pass similar type of legislation that is going to haul the United States into court overseas, even for the most frivolous charges and allegations for what the U.S. has done overseas.”

During the course of a wide-ranging conversation on U.S. national security and foreign policy, Brennan declined to say outright that Russia has intervened in the U.S. presidential election. But he warned that “Russia has tremendous capabilities in the cyber realm” and that “the Russians have been very active globally in trying to influence political developments in a variety of countries, including engaging in election politics and manipulation in countries overseas.”

Yet the CIA director did not refute the possibility that, as Goldberg put it, Russia “is trying to, in essence, hack our election.” “The U.S. government right now is very much aware and working on the issue of who might be trying to get into and intrude in the electoral systems What we do at CIA is to look at a country’s capabilities, look at their intent, look at things that they have done in the past, and determine whether something that certainly looks like a duck, smells like a duck and flies like a duck, whether it’s a duck or not.”

There is a widespread belief among cyber security experts that state-sponsored Russian hackers were responsible for the hack that led to leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Last week, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein and congressman Adam Schiff formally released a statement saying that “based on briefings,” they had “concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election.” The statement added that “this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election—we can see no other rationale for the behavior of the Russians.”

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin during his campaign, provoking criticism and anxiety among high-profile Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said in August that there are “real questions” as to whether Trump is “just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race.”

Brennan also warned about the negative national security implications of divisive political rhetoric.  “Making comments that are incendiary and that are viewed as attacking a religion or a people or a community only further drive those individuals to grasp onto those extremist views,” Brennan said after Goldberg asked whether the way Trump has talked about Muslims during the election, which includes a call to ban Muslims from entering the country, hurts national security interests. “They interpret a lot of the comments that are made as the West and the United States are against them ... It's the extremist comments on both sides of this have just fed those sources of extremism.”

CIA Director Calls 9/11 Legislation 'Badly Misguided'

By Clare Foran from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

CIA Director John Brennan warned against the national security risks of legislation that would allow families of victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

“I think the legislation is badly misguided and doesn’t take into account the negative impact on U.S. national security,” Brennan told Jeffrey Goldberg at the Washington Ideas Forum presented by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute. Brennan added: “We all recognize that the emotions associated with 9/11 are still quite palpable [and] …. the victims’ families are still seeking justices, but the 9/11 commission report said that there was no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials, individually, were responsible for the 9/11 attack.”

Congress voted to override the president’s veto on Wednesday, paving the way for the bill to become law and marking the first successful veto override of the Obama presidency.

The CIA director cautioned that the implications of the legislation extend far beyond potentially damaging the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  “I think there’s a very, very dangerous slippery slope that we’re going to get on,” Brennan said, adding that “foreign governments are going to start to pass similar type of legislation that is going to haul the United States into court overseas, even for the most frivolous charges and allegations for what the U.S. has done overseas.”

During the course of a wide-ranging conversation on U.S. national security and foreign policy, Brennan declined to say outright that Russia has intervened in the U.S. presidential election. But he warned that “Russia has tremendous capabilities in the cyber realm” and that “the Russians have been very active globally in trying to influence political developments in a variety of countries, including engaging in election politics and manipulation in countries overseas.”

Yet the CIA director did not refute the possibility that, as Goldberg put it, Russia “is trying to, in essence, hack our election.” “The U.S. government right now is very much aware and working on the issue of who might be trying to get into and intrude in the electoral systems What we do at CIA is to look at a country’s capabilities, look at their intent, look at things that they have done in the past, and determine whether something that certainly looks like a duck, smells like a duck and flies like a duck, whether it’s a duck or not.”

There is a widespread belief among cyber security experts that state-sponsored Russian hackers were responsible for the hack that led to leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Last week, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein and congressman Adam Schiff formally released a statement saying that “based on briefings,” they had “concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election.” The statement added that “this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election—we can see no other rationale for the behavior of the Russians.”

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin during his campaign, provoking criticism and anxiety among high-profile Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said in August that there are “real questions” as to whether Trump is “just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race.”

Brennan also warned about the negative national security implications of divisive political rhetoric.  “Making comments that are incendiary and that are viewed as attacking a religion or a people or a community only further drive those individuals to grasp onto those extremist views,” Brennan said after Goldberg asked whether the way Trump has talked about Muslims during the election, which includes a call to ban Muslims from entering the country, hurts national security interests. “They interpret a lot of the comments that are made as the West and the United States are against them ... It's the extremist comments on both sides of this have just fed those sources of extremism.”

Philippines: Duterte wants end to 'war games' with US

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Philippine leader tells Filipinos in Vietnam that military drill with US in October will be the last during his term.

Alfred Olango: US police kill mentally ill black man

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Unarmed African-American tasered and shot dead by police after his sister called officers for help.

Merkel chides Greece over handling of asylum

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Athens ‘has to do better’ in dealing with migrant crisis, says chancellor’s spokesman

Deutsche woes draw in Draghi and Berlin

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

ECB chief grilled by Bundestag over bank’s future as Germany denies making preparations for a rescue

EU refugee policy marks progress, not success

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

While the European Commission congratulates itself on a job well done six months after the EU-Turkey Deal, infrastructure designed to support the tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Greece is still significantly lacking.

The Eruption of Mount Barujari

By Marina Koren from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

NEWS BRIEF A volcanic eruption in Indonesia on Tuesday spewed plumes of ash into the air, sent hundreds of tourists clambering down the mountainous region, and temporarily disrupted nearby air travel.

Mount Barujari erupted Tuesday just after 3 p.m. local time. Clouds of ash reached as high as 2,000 meters, or 6,560 feet.

More than 1,100 foreign and local tourists were in the area to climb the mountain, the AP reported, citing Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency. Most evacuated with the help of rescue workers, and by Wednesday night about 50 people, mostly foreign tourists, were making their way down the mountain, according to the disaster agency. The AP reports “some tourists did not immediately heed warnings to leave because they wanted to take photos or videos of the eruption.”

The ash cloud briefly halted flights in and out of the airport in Bali, located to the west of Lombok.

Mount Barujari, which has been called a “baby” volcano, is a popular attraction on the country’s Lombok island. It sits inside the crater of far larger Mount Rinjani, a 3,726 meter-high (12,223-foot-high) active volcano, the second tallest in Indonesia. Officials have advised people to stay at least three kilometers, or nearly two miles, away from the summit of Mount Rinjani.

Indonesia experiences some of the most frequent and powerful seismic activity in the world. The country sits between the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Alpide belt, two chain of volcanoes and mountains where eruptions and earthquakes are common.

Georgieva jumps into UN leadership race

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Late nomination from the Bulgarian government puts EU budget commissioner into race

Land Rover reveals new Discovery, a tech-filled SUV with 4G and iPhone-controlled seats

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

New Discovery is a luxury SUV loaded with technology such as 4G internet and smartphone-controlled seats.

Tipping point from petrol to electric 'is upon us' says Jaguar Land Rover boss

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Managing director Jeremy Hicks says his company will 'absolutely be in the frame' for electric cars.

Quantum computing breakthrough as scientists develop entanglement tech to make qubits last longer

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

University of Tokyo scientists have figured out how to sustain the lifetime of qubits.

Charlotte's voice

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Nine-year-old Zianna Oliphant had not planned to speak on behalf of her whole city of Charlotte. When she did, she got the world's attention.

Cheap, fast and safe: 3D-printed bone fixes broken spine of rat and and skull of a monkey

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Synthetic graft showed no sign of infection or rejection, with bone growth taking place within weeks.

Europe marches the wrong way on defence

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Member states should meet the obligations of the club they are in

Europe marches the wrong way on defence

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Member states should meet the obligations of the club they are in

White House accused of trying to censor Congress over Russian hacking claims

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Russian hacking groups Fancy Bear and Cosy Bear were linked to the hacks.

Trump focuses minds on climate deal

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Paris accord looks set to take effect less than 12 months after its adoption

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie 'laughed about Bridgegate'

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie laughed about his staff closing part of a bridge for political revenge, a court has heard.

The NS Podcast #175: Conference Special

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The New Statesman podcast.

Helen and Stephen fight through colds to bring you their first thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn's conference performance. How has the party responded to his re-election? What's the relationship with Welsh Labour? And who made this year's stand-out speeches?

(Helen Lewis, Stephen Bush)     

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes here or with this RSS feed: http://rss.acast.com/newstatesman, or listen using the player below.

And if you're craving yet more NS podcastery, you can watch Helen and Stephen host a live recording at this summer's London Podcast Festival. Tickets available here

Links:

Find outmore about why Stephen's worried about the NEC

And read five  things that George Eaton learned from conference

Want to give us feedback on our podcast, or have an idea for something we should cover?

Visit newstatesman.com/podcast for more details and how to contact us.

GETTY

Taking the Fear and Desperation Out of Online Dating

By Julie Beck from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Whenever people start dating differently, a freakout inevitably ensues. As Moira Weigel details in her book Labor of Love, when young people started “going out” instead of having gentlemen callers visit women in their family homes, their elders were horrified. Some thought women who allowed men to buy them dinners or tickets to the movies were “turning tricks.” The reaction to the phenomenon of “going steady” in the 1940s and 50s was less extreme than accusing people of prostitution, but still hand-wringy.

Add technology to the mix and you get fear of change, doubled. When people began forming connections online, romantic or otherwise, the anonymity the internet allowed was terrifying. Anyone you talked to online could be a murderer, or so it seemed. Even as people got over that, a stigma lingered around online dating—that you must be desperate, or weird, to try it. In the early years, online dating carried a whiff of sadness—it was for people who had “failed” at dating in-person.

Whitney Wolfe, the founder of the dating app Bumble, said she thinks some companies were promoting that message themselves, through the way they marketed.

“In the last decade, [dating sites] marketed to the desperate, to people who were lonely and hopeless,” she said on Wednesday at the Washington Ideas Forum, an event produced by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “Therefore when someone used it they felt this sense of shame or embarrassment.”

One old eHarmony commercial on YouTube starts with a man saying “I was skeptical about anything that was on an internet.” (Yes, an internet.) Later, in the same commercial, a woman says, “I don’t think anybody, no matter how old they are, should ever give up.” Evoking skepticism and giving up may not be the best way to make people excited for a dating service.

Whitney Wolfe at the Washington Ideas Forum
(Max Taylor Photography)

Skepticism and fear are typical reactions to technology that changes how people connect. My colleague Derek Thompson, who interviewed Wolfe at the Washington Ideas Forum, brought up a 1909 song by Irving Berlin, warning women against dating men who own cars. “Keep away from the fellow who owns an automobile / He'll take you far in his motor car / Too darn far from your Pa and Ma,” the song goes. It then evokes the classic fear for a woman dating a man, especially one relatively unknown to her, of being harassed, or even harmed: “There's no chance to talk, squawk, or balk / You must kiss him or get out and walk.”

Wolfe said she hoped her app could erase some of those fears for heterosexual women who are online dating; the gimmick of Bumble that separates it from Tinder, Hinge, and the scads of others is that the woman has to send the first message. Unfortunately, men regularly send women harassing messages on dating platforms like Tinder and OKCupid, and the culture around online dating can seem toxically misogynist at times. (Wolfe herself is a former Tinder employee, and settled a sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit against her former bosses in 2014.)

When the woman has to message first, Wolfe says,  “the women feel empowered and confident,” and the men feel “relieved.” The traditional gender roles of the man as pursuer and the woman as the pursued still often play out online, though certainly not all of the time. Wolfe thinks some of the harassment comes from men who are afraid of being rejected.

“When men are on these platforms—generally speaking, not everybody—there’s this sense of ‘I have to make the first move, I have to go hunting,’” she says. “That puts a lot of pressure on the man. It also opens up a stream of bad behavior because if the woman doesn’t respond, it’s taken as rejection. So when the woman is making the first move, he’s complimented, he feels flattered.” Hopefully, if the interaction goes according to Wolfe’s hopeful script, the woman’s fear of getting unwanted harassing messages from randos and the man’s fear of being rejected are both erased.

More generally, Wolfe thinks dating apps can, contrary to the old stereotype, make people’s searches for love less desperate. When the opportunity to meet new people is always available, there’s less need to scan every bar and party for prospects, panning for gold in a river of bros.

“I don’t want, as a young woman, to be pressured to go out every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to try to find something,” Wolfe says. “You should be able to do that on a business trip or wherever you are at your own leisure.”

Draghi faces Bundestag wrath on ECB stance

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Conservative critics say low rates and QE are good for the eurozone as a whole but not for Germany

To Be a Guerrilla, and a Woman, in Colombia

By Megan Alpert from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

From her perch at the top of a hill at a school for at-risk youth in Bogotá, a 17-year-old girl wearing a white track suit, her hair pulled into a ponytail, could see the city stretch before her. Her straight back and easy assertiveness were the only signs that, just six months earlier, she was roaming the jungle with the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), a communist guerrilla group that formed in the late 1960s with the aim of overthrowing the Colombian government. The group formally demobilized in 1991, but since then, dissident factions have continued to fight and finance themselves via drug trafficking. Nowadays, the group’s ranks have dwindled to around 100 fighters, down from 3,000 at its peak in the 1970s, but it still holds sway in some rural areas of Colombia where the state is largely absent.

When I visited the young woman at her school this April, she told me she fled her home in Norte de Santander in 2015 to join the EPL to escape her family. Her stepfather began sexually abusing her when she was 12, and when her mother found out four years later, she turned her anger on her daughter. She joined the group at 16, she said, not to achieve some ideological goal, but to “unburden [her] mind.” In only two months in the jungle, she learned how to carry a 50-pound pack and a rifle, and barely escaped being pummeled by an improvised mortar that landed next to her during a firefight.

She is one of thousands of women who have fought in leftist guerrilla groups during more than half a century of war in Colombia. Groups like the EPL, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and, most notably, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took up arms to fight against land and wealth inequality, but wound up turning to illegal activities like kidnapping and drug trafficking to finance their operations. On September 26, after four years of negotiations, the largest rebel group, the FARC, signed a peace treaty with the Colombian government. This means that, soon, an additional 7,500 combatants, including about 3,000 women, will demobilize en masse.

Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) has played a crucial role in the government’s strategy to weaken leftist rebel groups. Between 2002 and 2012, the FARC shrank from 20,000 guerrillas to 8,000. But critics say the Colombian government’s efforts to bring women back into civilian life have always been lacking. Women made up about 40 percent of the FARC and about 25 percent of the ELN; about 20 percent of leftist guerrillas who participated in the government reintegration between 2003 and 2012 program were women.

The young woman I met in Bogotá wants to be an architect. She’s a natural leader, and the school has put her in charge of a group of girls. But she faces a host of challenges. She misses her friends, the security of her rifle, and life in the camp, which she talked about wistfully. The only reason she doesn’t rejoin, she said, is because she knows it would kill her mother. Like other female ex-combatants, she faces intense stigma for betraying not only her country, but her gender.

When she leaves school and finishes college, she’ll face a culture that expects her to care for children, keep a clean house, and meet a high standard of beauty. When friends or future employers discover her guerrilla past, they might reject or even fire her. If she chooses to get married, that, too, might be difficult: Men, even former guerrillas, can see women who have been members of rebel armies as damaged goods.

The Colombian government’s problem with women combatants is apparent from a public-service campaign designed to look like a lipstick ad. It reads: “Guerrillera, feel like a woman again. Demobilize.” Designed by the PR firm MullenLowe SSP3 in 2012 for the Colombian government, it features lipstick colors with names like “freedom,” “love,” “happiness,” and “tranquility,” and promises women that they can “smile and become the mother [they’ve] always dreamed of being.”

It’s hard to imagine the lipstick campaign convincing Sandra Sandoval, a 34-year-old former combatant I met in Bogotá, who joined a local FARC militia when she was 17. When she heard that paramilitaries—rival right-wing militias—were coming after her for being a member of the FARC, she escaped into the jungle with the guerrillas, leaving behind her first child, a baby girl. Sandoval later rose to become a commander, using her position to help local communities find the resources to build schools and roads, she said. “At any moment you could die in the struggle … but sometimes you feel that you’d die peacefully because maybe in some future, others could enjoy that transformation that you were fighting for.”

In 2003, after she had been with the FARC for five years, Colombian security forces captured and held Sandoval for questioning overnight. Other FARC combatants assumed her quick release meant she’d betrayed them. Her life in danger, she fled to the Colombian army and demobilized through a program at the Ministry of the Interior, which led the DDR effort at the time. The program expanded several times until in 2011 the government formed the Colombian Reintegration Agency (ACR), the office that now guides former combatants into civilian life.

But Sandoval left the program in 2012, she said, because she disagreed with the DDR process, which she felt failed to offer her the support she needed to survive in the city and apply to college—both entirely new phenomena to her. The program did not help ex-combatants who are mothers find childcare while they participate in program’s requirements, she added. The program also often pigeonholes women into more domestic careers, according to Kimberly Theidon, an anthropologist at Tufts University who has done extensive fieldwork with former combatants. In Sandoval’s case, she finished her high-school degree in a year and in 2005 was offered vocational training. “I was asked to choose between cooking, tailoring, or computer maintenance,” said Sandoval. She chose computer maintenance, something she’d never done. She later received a government scholarship and studied systems engineering, though she said she left her first class in tears because she had never learned advanced math.

In 2013, the ACR started incorporating gender analysis into their program in earnest. Joshua Mitrotti, the head of the ACR, said that challenging traditional gender norms is now a part of his agency’s mission. “If [women] want to maintain that traditional role, perfect. If they want to innovate beyond that, we can support them,” Mitrotti said, insisting that now the options for female ex-combatants are exactly the same as those for men, and that the ACR tries to encourage their leadership, especially among other combatants.

But Mitrotti went on to contradict his own feminist bona fides. He said that female former combatants have sometimes lost their “feminine features” by doing the same work as men and want to get them back. “We put a strong focus on accompanying them and helping them again reconstruct those feminine features that they want to construct.”

Of course, some, like Sandoval, “never saw [herself] as feminine.” Peasant women have to do hard physical labor from the time they are children, she said. As a girl, she grew accustomed to carrying firewood and working with a machete. She started wearing makeup at 25, not because she sought to be more feminine but because she lives in Bogotá and wanted to fit in. Life in the city has made her question herself. “They say my way of walking is very macho,” she said.

Roxanne Krystalli researches transitional justice and gender violence at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She said that the low number of women who’ve undergone formal integration via the ACR means that women are likely choosing to demobilize without government support. That puts them at risk of retaliation from their home communities and the armed groups. It also means they are missing out on the allowance, psychological support, and job training provided by ACR.

It’s unclear why women reintegrate with the government at such a low rate. It could be due to poorly conceived PR campaigns, or the belief that the programs won’t address their needs. Or it could be that the path to reintegration is a dangerous one. Guerrillas who wish to demobilize must turn themselves in to the Colombian army, which then hands them over to the appropriate government office. But Theidon said that first step may be particularly frightening for women, given how rape has proliferated as a tool of war in the Colombian conflict.

The ACR declined to respond to Theidon, Sandoval, and Krystalli’s critiques, citing Mitrotti’s busy schedule during the signing of the FARC peace deal. Sandoval, who re-registered for the ACR program two months ago, said that it it is now more personalized, and has expanded its geographic reach. But it remains to be seen whether it has made the structural changes she thinks are necessary, she said.

Colombia’s reintegration programs have historically been male-dominated. Theidon said that when she visited shelters for former combatants “it was a very masculine space.” She questioned whether women would want to be one of the only women in a shelter or on a small farm. Krystalli added that women may choose to demobilize informally because of the stigma they face as former combatants, which is greater for women, who have contradicted the idealized role of a peaceful, loving mother.

After living with a group that at least nominally valued equality, this can be difficult to accept. An 18-year-old former ELN combatant that I interviewed in Palmira said that returning to civilian life is made doubly difficult by the stigma she experiences as both a former combatant and as a woman. “They always think that women are more domestic, more feminine, and all that, but not back there,” she said. With the guerrillas, “it’s gender equality, we’re all equal. So it’s difficult.”

This stigma is sharpened by the stereotype that women in the FARC sleep with commanders to advance their rank, a sexualization bolstered by the notion that the only reason a woman would join a rebel group is because they were forcibly recruited or wanted to escape abuse at home. Theidon found that just 9 percent of combatants in leftist militias were forcibly recruited. Most joined because they lived in areas where, with the presence of the Colombian state was virtually invisible, the guerrilla group was more or less in charge, its presence normalized, or because an acquaintance who was already in the group convinced them to join.

“The government projects the idea that we were brought to join armed groups by force, that we had to be the lovers of the combatants and the commanders. That we slept with everyone,” Sandoval said. “It’s making us into idiots. It’s saying women don’t have the capacity to think and make a decision.”

Though the FARC and ELN profess to believe in gender equality, and use this claim as a recruitment tool, neither group offers a feminist utopia. Coerced sex, rape, and forced abortions have been widespread problems in both groups. Many women were also forced to give up their children. Jeimy Velasquez, a 30-year-old currently taking ACR-funded dress-making classes, still cries when she talks about having to leave her two-year-old son when the FARC forcibly recruited her. She didn’t see him again until he was five. While she was with the group, she had to keep her feelings “good and buried” because the commanders couldn’t know that she was in pain, she said. She carries the guilt of not only missing part of her son’s life, but of recruiting others to join the FARC. “For me, this is to steal someone’s life from them,” she said. She now gives presentations to young people to try to convince them not to join guerrilla groups.

Theidon explained that female ex-combatants carry a different kind of guilt than male ones.  “Many of them, because of forced abortions, because of having partners that they didn’t necessarily want, because they had children they didn’t keep, felt that they’re bad moms, they’ve been bad women.”

But the guerrillera experience is full of contradictions. The young former ELN combatant, who was with the group from ages 14 to 16, savored her uniform and her rifle. “It gives you authority,” she said. When asked if local people were afraid of her, she said no. In rural communities, she explained, people grow coca to live, which government forces destroy. So guerrillas “get their affection because they’re protecting what they rely on to eat and survive.”

For Velasquez, it was the worst thing that has happened to her. Yet it gave her skills—discipline, punctuality, obedience—that now serve her well. She also formed connections with other guerrillas. “In the middle of pain, you make a family,” she said.


Reporting for this article was funded by an Adelante fellowship from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Catalan leader pledges independence vote

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Carles Puigdemont insists he is ready to negotiate with Madrid but says matter must be put to a vote

Humans evolved to be a violent species - but we can change our own nature

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Violent behaviour is shaped by cultural factors but researchers shows it may have an evolutionary basis too.

US to deploy 600 troops to Iraq for Mosul offensive

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

US defence chief says the military "advisers" will train Iraqi soldiers for the coming battle with ISIL for major city.

Humans: Unusually Murderous Mammals, Typically Murderous Primates

By Ed Yong from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Which mammal is most likely to be murdered by its own kind? It’s certainly not humans—not even close. Nor is it a top predator like the grey wolf or lion, although those at least are #11 and #9 in the league table of murdery mammals. No, according to a study led by José María Gómez from the University of Granada, the top spot goes to… the meerkat. These endearing black-masked creatures might be famous for their cooperative ways, but they kill each other at a rate that makes man’s inhumanity to man look meek. Almost one in five meerkats, mostly youngsters, lose their lives at the paws and jaws of their peers.

Gómez’s study is the first thorough survey of violence in the mammal world, collating data on more than a thousand species. It clearly shows that we humans are not alone in our capacity to kill each other. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, have been known to wage brutal war, but even apparently peaceful creatures take each other’s lives. When ranked according to their rates of lethal violence, ground squirrels, wild horses, gazelle, and deer all feature in the top 50. So do long-tailed chinchillas, which kill each other more frequently than tigers and bears do.

The point of this macabre census was to understand the origins of our own behavior. Gómez typically studies plants and insects, but he realized that the techniques he uses to study their evolution can be used to study our own. In particular, he noted that closely related species tend to show similar levels of lethal interpersonal violence. He could use those similarities to predict how violent any given mammal should be, and whether it meets, exceeds, or defies those expectations.

Humans do all three. Gómez’s team calculated that at the origin of Homo sapiens, we were six times more lethally violent than the average mammal, but about as violent as expected for a primate. But time and social organizations have sated our ancestral bloodthirst, leaving us with modern rates of lethal violence that are well below the prehistoric baseline. We are an average member of an especially violent group of mammals, and we’ve managed to curb our ancestry.

Gómez’s team predicted that when our species arose, around 2 percent of us (1 in 50) would have been murdered by other people.

Thomas Hobbes would have approved. In the 17th century, he argued that modern society protects us from our brutish nature, lived in “continual fear, and danger of violent death.” Not so, said Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who felt that civilization corrupts our neutral nature. These opposing views on violence—the former emphasizing an innate proclivity, and the latter focusing on cultural influences—preceded Hobbes and Rousseau by many centuries, and outlived them by many more. “Consensus does not exist, and positions are polarized,” says Gómez. “We hope that our study will shed light to the role that both evolution and culture have played in human lethal violence.”

First, he and his team compiled everything they could find on causes of death for various mammals, accumulating some 3,000 studies over two years. Their work revealed that lethal violence aimed at others from the same species is rare but widespread. It exists in almost 40 percent of the 1,024 mammal species that the team surveyed, and varies from group to group. Contrary to Watership Down, rabbits rarely kill each either. Neither do bats or whales. As you might expect, carnivores like lions, tigers, and bears, do so more frequently. But “it was striking that lethal violence wasn’t concentrated in those groups,” says Gómez.

The primates—the order that includes us, apes, monkeys, and lemurs—seem to be especially violent. While just 0.3 percent of mammal deaths are caused by members of the same species, that rate rose to 2.3 percent in the common ancestor of primates, and dropped slightly to 1.8 percent in the ancestor of great apes. That’s the lethal legacy that humanity inherited.

That isn’t to imply determinism. Even within the apes, chimps are notably more aggressive than bonobos, which suggests that group-wide capacities for violence can be tempered by other factors. And history shows that humans have also varied greatly in our violent tendencies. We are influenced by our history, but not saddled to it.

Gómez’s team showed that by poring through statistical yearbooks, archaeological sites, and more, to work out causes of death in 600 human populations between 50,000 BC to the present day. They concluded that rates of lethal violence originally ranged from 3.4 to 3.9 percent during Paleolithic times, making us only slightly more violent than you’d expect for a primate of our evolutionary past. That rate rose to around 12 percent during the bloody Medieval period, before falling again over the last few centuries to levels even lower than our prehistoric past.

Why? Probably because, as Hobbes suggested, we became organized.

It’s likely that primates are especially violent because we are both territorial and social—two factors that respectively provide motive and opportunity for murder. So it goes for humans. As we moved from small bands to medium-sized tribes to large chiefdoms, our rates of lethal violence increased.

But once we formed large states, “institutions like the rule of law reduced rates of lethal violence below what one would expect for a mammal with our ancestry and ecology, and below what has been observed in human societies in earlier periods and with simpler forms of social organization,” says Steven Pinker from Harvard University. He argued as much in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, but says that Gómez’s team have done so “with greater precision, rigor, and depth; I wish this study had been available when I wrote the book.”

“We’ve known that for a long time! Volumes have been written on this,” says Polly Wiessner, an anthropologist from the University of Utah who is unimpressed with the study’s human half. “They have created a real soup of figures, throwing in individual conflicts with socially organized aggression, ritualized cannibalism, and more. The sources of data used for prehistoric violence are highly variable in reliability. When taken out of context, they are even more so.”

Richard Wrangham from Harvard University has similar concerns about the mammalian data, noting that Gómez have folded a lot of different kinds of killing—infanticide, adult deaths, and more—into a single analysis. And from an evolutionary standpoint, it matters less whether two related species kill their own kind at a similar rate, but whether they do so in a similar way.

“In the primates, infanticide is undoubtedly the commonest type,” says Wrangham. However, we humans “belong to a club of species that kill adults at an exceptionally high rate—a small club that includes a few social and territorial carnivores such as wolves, lions and spotted hyenas. That’s worth stressing in order to avoid readers leaping to the conclusion that there is nothing surprising about human violence. Humans really are exceptional.”

“We tried to separate violence in different types, but we couldn’t find enough data,” Gómez admits. “But right now, we’re re-evaluating our database to explore whether different causes of mortality have different evolutionary patterns. I hope to tell you something more in the future.”

The study demonstrates the importance of recognizing humans as animals more generally, and primates more specifically,” says Patricia Lambert, an anthropologist at Utah State University. There is a tendency to see human behavior as distinct from that of all other members of the animal kingdom and I think this hinders our understanding of the human brain and behavior.”

That being said, she adds that rates of lethal violence vary considerably between different human populations, ranging from 0 to 65 percent. Average values “do not characterize the spectrum of human violence all that well, she says. “I wonder if this is also true for other mammals, or if this degree of variance is uniquely human.”

Musk and the price of manifest destiny

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Adventure can be the only justification for manned space flight

An Engineer With a Butcher’s Knife

By Bourree Lam from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

I first heard about the restaurant Bourrée at Boucherie from a friend in New Orleans last year. I was beyond amused that there existed a restaurant with my unusual name, and that I could finally get a taste of what it feels like when the Joes of the world walk into a Joe’s Pub or Joe’s Restaurant. I couldn’t help but take The Atlantic’s ongoing series of interviews with American workers as an opportunity to learn more about my namesake eatery.

Bourrée, the restaurant, specializes in daiquiris and wings. It’s owned by Nathaniel Zimet, a chef, and his business partner James Denio, and the restaurant has its own butcher, Tucker Larson. Larson was pursuing a degree in environmental engineering when he decided to take a break from school and work at a restaurant. I talked to him about what it’s like to change career paths, whether he’ll stay in butchery, and what he’s learned about food and himself by working at Bourrée. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Bourree Lam: How did you get started as a butcher?

Tucker Larson: I've been working at Bourrée for just over a year;I started September 2, 2015. Actually, I had just moved down to New Orleans a couple weeks before and was looking on Craigslist and saw the apprentice butcher position. The restaurant expanded—they opened up a new spot and they were trying to do more of a meat-market deal, where they butcher for their restaurant next door, Boucherie.

They didn't have anyone in this position. It wasn't necessarily what I wanted to do, but I thought it would be a pretty cool way to learn a different skill set that I had no clue about.

Before I moved to New Orleans, I was going to college up in Philadelphia at Drexel University studying environmental engineering. It was a five-year program and I was three years through it. When I went in, I was very excited about it [but] I just lost the excitement and I needed a change. I've always thought New Orleans was awesome, and I wanted to work with food. I decided to take a break, and I'm a year into that break and really enjoying what I’m doing now.

Lam: How did you decide to apply to be an apprentice butcher? Were you surprised when they got back to you, because it was a posting on Craigslist?

Larson: I came down to New Orleans to look for work in a restaurant and to do a little more hands-on stuff. I was just looking for jobs; I was talking to friends and I was checking Craigslist every day. I just saw the ad and I sent Nathaniel, the head chef and owner, an email. He got back to me later that day.

I don't really know what I was thinking. I was eating lunch with one of my friends when I got the call. I've always wanted to know how to butcher, and understand the importance of butchery. Instead of starting on the [cooking] line—where you have all these products that are already set for you—I started from the bottom, where you have to create the products.

Lam: What do you think about the name of the restaurant?

Tucker Larson, the butcher at Bourrée at Boucherie in New Orleans (Bourrée at Boucherie)

Larson: I never really thought about it until this interview. I've thought about the term Boucherie, the parent restaurant, because I've been to a Cajun, traditional-style boucherie. I was sitting here, thinking about it today. It's funny because, in passing by, I've heard customers talk about the card game Bourré and how they played it as a kid. I've heard that it's a term for a drinking. I think it's pretty funny, to be quite honest. I think it's a clever name, and it fits with Boucherie. I think the two go hand in hand.

Lam: Do you see butchery as a possible career now?

Larson: I do, potentially, see it as a career. I don't know if I'd be a butcher for the rest of my life, but I think the skills that I've gained while working here in the past year have definitely changed my direction in life. I would like to go back and finish school, but that's more of a completion thing than it is a desire to do environmental engineering.

Lam: What’s a typical workday like for you?

Larson: At Boucherie, the casual fine-dining restaurant for Bourrée, whole ducks come in. They work with beef, as well. Bourrée gets two pigs a week, and we process them. Most of the meat I work with is duck and pig. Obviously, there's not so much you can do with duck—you can break them down, make duck breast, confit the leg, and other things, but those are the two things that we do at Boucherie.

For the pig, there are different directions you can go. We have a smoker that we run most days, which I'm responsible for. We do a lot of pulled pork for sandwiches. A lot of the pork goes toward pulled pork, but then you have the middle sections and the more desirable cuts that you can turn into different things. We have a curing cabinet where we cure specific cuts from the pig that are extremely valuable, such as the coppa, which comes out of the shoulder. We do a lomo, which is the pork loin.

Basically, what we do is we take the pig and figure out how to best preserve it and create different flavors. I take the raw product and through either curing or smoking preserve the product so that it becomes sellable, as well as altering the flavor to a more desirable, complex flavor background.

Lam: What are some of the challenges of your job?

Larson: When I first started, it was very difficult because I'd never done anything like that. It was tough to get through a pig in one day. Even skinning the pig was challenging. I think that was the biggest struggle was getting my butchery skills to a level to where I could do more interesting and valuable things with the meat. That took a solid four or five months before I was really comfortable breaking down the whole pig, making accurate cuts, being precise, and knowing what I was going to do with it.

Now, the challenge has kind of changed. Recently, it's been more about creativity and understanding more what I can do with the animals: How I can work with Nathaniel to create different products that are more interesting and more useful?

Lam: What do you mean by useful?

Larson: For instance, today we're trying to figure out how to make pork-skin sausage. Traditionally, what we do is we take the pork skin, boil it down, render out the fat, and scrape the skins, then dehydrate them and fry them and they crackle. We'll sell that at Bourrée.

We get so much of it, and I feel there's more ways that we can utilize pork skin so we're taking pork meat and we're cutting the pork skin. We're trying to make a pork-skin sausage that have a different texture because if you cook pork skin, it has a different texture than pork meat. We'll see how the flavors go and how we can make that a good, desirable product.

Lam: Have your friends or family asked you to cook more since you started working there?

Larson: I think they almost expect it—they don’t really “ask.” My roommates are both teachers. The way my schedule's set up is I have Sundays and Mondays off, and I'll work Tuesday through Saturday. I don't know if anybody really asks for it, but it developed into me doing a Monday dinner for some of my friends. Monday is their toughest day of the week. They'll get off work, and I'll cook them dinner. I enjoy cooking for people. My family, they just want to see how far I've come in the past year. It is expected that I cook for them to show them what I can do.

Lam: How does the job that you do now relate to your personal identity?

Larson: I think it's definitely changed my identity as a person. It has to. I went from being a student in a very acceptable college to now being a butcher in a restaurant that's trying to find itself in the New Orleans food scene. I think that transition made me change my personality.

It's tough to say, but I look at things a little bit differently now, especially from a food perspective. That might just be because I work in a restaurant now, or it might be because we get our pigs from farmers that we're actually friends with, so I know them. I've been to the farms where the pigs were raised, and that changes the way you look at how food's produced and the quality of the meat that you get. It’s made me a smarter consumer.

I still have the same ideals. The reasons why I went into environmental engineering haven't changed. I still thoroughly enjoy nature and try to spend as much time in it as I can. Now, I enjoy working with my hands and creating a product in a more instantaneous way, whereas in engineering I didn't really feel like I was creating a product that I could see, initially, or that I could feel. Here, I can taste it.

Lam: Do you think this job, as a butcher, is more fulfilling for you at this point?

Larson: Yeah. For me, especially now at this point in my life, it is. It might be because [working with food] is what I want to do in general. It might be that I still am not totally positive. I guess the reasons why I stopped going to engineering school is I was frustrated with the inability to create things and the inability to be expressive.


This interview is a part of an ongoing project on work and identity in America. You may find other pieces here, including interviews with a funeral director, a prison guard, and a pastor.

South African teen wins Google prize for orange peel innovation

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A 16-year-old South African wins a Google prize for using orange peel to develop a cheap super-absorbent material to help soil retain water.

Italy downgrades economic forecasts

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Projections limit Renzi’s chances of proposing stimulus before December’s constitutional referendum

From hawk to dove

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A profile of Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian President who negotiated a peace deal with the Farc rebel group to put an end to more than 50 years of conflict.

Deadly air strikes hit two Aleppo hospitals

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Syrian forces continue onslaught to retake key city from rebels as medical facilities again targeted in the air war.

Japan's Cliffside Suicide Vigilante

By Nadine Ajaka from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Yukio Shige is a retired Japanese police detective with a huge self-imposed burden: to patrol the Tojinbo Cliffs to stop people from jumping to their deaths. He talks individuals away from the steep drop and takes them to a cafe, working with volunteers to help these individuals seek mental help. Gatekeeper is a remarkable and intimate 39-minute documentary that follows Shige as he monitors the sheer cliffs, which have become a notoriously popular destination for suicides in Japan. So far, he’s saved over 500 people. Still, it’s a massive undertaking with societal challenges: Japan has one of the highest suicide rates of any developed country. An average of 70 people kill themselves every day.

Gatekeeper was produced by Field of Vision, and directed by Yung Chang. It won Best Short Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival 2016 and is shortlisted for Best Nonfiction Short at the Cinema Eye Honors 2016. For more information about the film, visit its Facebook page.

Jets pound Aleppo in government push to take city

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Government fighter jets backed by Russian air force pound rebel-held Aleppo, as ground assault begins.

Euroclear and Paxos launch blockchain for gold settlement in London Bullion Market

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The announcement was made during a signing ceremony event at the SIBOS Annual Conference in Geneva.

A-list Insider: Royal family take Canada, Bon Iver accuses Beyoncé of selling out

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Entertainment editor Toyin Owoseje rounds up the celebrity stories of the week.

How a double agent's homesick wife almost ruined the D-Day operations

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Wife of legendary double agent threatened to expose his identity unless allowed to visit her family in Spain.

The Movies Already Getting Oscar Buzz

By David Sims from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

With the main film festivals of the fall (Telluride, Venice, and Toronto) now concluded, and Martin Scorsese finally confirming that his much-anticipated drama Silence will come out at the end of the year, the next three months will bring a calendar loaded with prestige releases. Among them are films that better reflect the wide range of faces and voices in America (and around the world), which have recently been severely under-represented on Oscar night. Audiences and critics will be paying especially close attention to the works and actors the Academy chooses to recognize, after the awards were condemned this year for nominating only white performers two years in a row.

The question, as always, is which films will be able to stand out once studios begin their awards campaigns in earnest. A lot can happen in a few months; after all, the season has already seen its earliest anointed front-runner practically disappear from the race. The former Best Picture favorite was the big story out of Sundance: The Birth of a Nation (October 7), a searing depiction of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia written and directed by Nate Parker. The film won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize just as the conversation over the largely white Oscar nominations was at its loudest. The movie was acquired by Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million, with the studio promising a huge publicity campaign in the fall to help push it for awards contention.

The Birth of a Nation / Fox Searchlight

Though every Oscar race has early contenders that later fall by the wayside, the story with The Birth of a Nation is much more complex. While the film is coming out less than two weeks from now, it’s been completely overshadowed by reporting into rape charges that a college student filed against Parker and his writing partner 17 years ago, and the subsequent revelation that the accuser killed herself years after Parker was cleared. Though the intricate details of the case don’t lend themselves to quick summary, they reflect very poorly on Parker, as did his immediate reaction to the renewed media coverage. Though it seems crass to analyze the case’s impact on the film’s awards chances, it’s still an unavoidably terrible PR situation for The Birth of a Nation—and Oscar races tend to be rooted in publicity as much as they are in critical acclaim.

Beyond the Sundance praise, however, The Birth of a Nation seemed poised for success because of its weighty historical subject matter, and its presentation was frequently compared to another Oscar winner, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. The field beyond The Birth of a Nation is nonetheless rich and different; despite the absence of an obvious blockbuster, there’s a swath of films that seem certain to inspire passionate support and (hopefully) provide a nominee list that isn’t just comprised of familiar faces.

La La Land / Summit Entertainment

First, there are the festival hits, films that have peaked in recent weeks after successful premieres at Telluride, Venice, or Toronto. Perhaps the most hyped is La La Land (December 2), which won the pivotal People’s Choice Award at Toronto, a common bellwether for the Oscars that in recent years has gone to winners including Room, The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave, and Silver Linings Playbook. Directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), the swoony LA-set musical (with original music and lyrics from the Broadway duo Pasek and Paul) has drawn raves for its lead performers Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Moonlight / A24

Telluride saw the debut of Moonlight (October 21), the second film from the independent director Barry Jenkins, who made a small splash in 2008 with his debut Medicine for Melancholy. A powerful coming-of-age story about a young black man, Moonlight is best seen with as little preparation as possible; it’s a film that’s difficult to capture in a few words, or in a single moment. For that reason, it might seem like a more difficult play for Oscar voters—but in a year when Hollywood’s representation is under so much scrutiny, and with critics firmly declaring it one of the must-see movies of the year, it could be a surprise hit.

Hidden Figures / Fox

Moonlight is a beautiful, singular film, but it shouldn’t have to solely carry the burden of easing the Academy’s embarrassment after its last two years of all-white acting nominees. There are many other exciting projects due starring ensembles of color, like Fences (December 16), an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play, which has Denzel Washington directing and starring alongside Viola Davis; Hidden Figures (December 25), a biopic about the African American NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), who calculated the trajectories for the Apollo 11 flight; and Loving (November 4), which stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the couple who named the Supreme Court case that made interracial marriage legal in America in 1967.

Jackie / Fox Searchlight

Most of these films seem primed to appeal to voters, who love prestige projects from A-list actors and directors, adaptations of beloved works, and worthy biographical films that address the nation’s past. Other movies along those lines: the Sundance hit drama Manchester by the Sea (November 18), Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (November 11), an unusual Iraq War film based on a novel by Ben Fountain; Live by Night (December), a Ben Affleck-directed 1920s crime film inspired by a Dennis Lehane book; Jackie (December 9), which focuses on Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman ) in the days after her husband’s assassination; and Lion (November 25), an inspiring tale starring Dev Patel based on the nonfiction hit A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.

Silence / Paramount Pictures

One of the longest-gestating adaptations is Scorsese’s Silence (December 23), a film he’s been trying to make since the early 1990s. Based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, the film explores a fascinatingly ambiguous period of 17th-century Japan, in which Portuguese missionaries spreading Christianity in the country were persecuted by the ruling shogunate. A stirring work about belief in the face of unimaginable suffering, it’s well-suited to its director, who has long struggled with his own Catholic faith, and could garner buzz for its stars Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver. 2016 is certainly filled with movies in search of a wider audience, but Scorsese’s ultimate passion project could end up the one that stands out the most.

LSE-Deutsche Börse in offer to appease EU

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Groups offer to sell Paris-based part of LCH after regulators formally probe merger

MH17: Missile fired from Russia-backed rebel area

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Prosecutors say evidence shows Malaysian jet brought down from area controlled by Ukraine rebels supported by Moscow.

Irish boxer Steven Donnelly bet against himself before winning Rio 2016 fight

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Ireland's Michael Conlan and Great Britain's Anthony Fowler also sanctioned for betting.

Tourism increase leads to polar bears being shot dead in the Arctic

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Polar bears are a protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defence and as a last resort.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

Getty Images.

Former DRC warlord and vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba files appeal against ICC conviction

From IBTimes.co.uk : World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Bemba received an 18-year jail term for atrocities committed by troops which included murder, rape and pillaging.

Decision-making by referendum: Interpreting the electorate’s wishes

By from European Union. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Main image:  ANYONE who has lost a close relative will have learned to beware the phrase “It’s what he/she would have wanted”. The deceased, alas, are no longer around to express their wishes. The temptation is to assume that one’s own desires coincide with those of the departed.When it comes to the views of the electorate, politicians (and newspapers) easily assume that they are in tune with the real desires of the voters. Britain’s recent referendum on membership of the European Union is a case in point. The question was:Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?That was it. There were no subsidiary questions about how the United Kingdom should leave. But in the wake of the Leave vote, there are plenty of commentators ready to say that the vote “clearly” means Britons have voted to leave the single market, stop freedom of movement etc. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has been accused of living in “la-la land” for not realising that free movement had to stop.But is that what people voted for? Daniel Hannan, a leading eurosceptic MEP, argued that:We never said there was going to be a radical decline (in the immigration numbers)On the single market, as I highlighted in a previous blog, some commentators insisted that practical politics would mean ...

Even Black Preschool Teachers Are Biased

By Melinda D. Anderson from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The trend is a familiar one, documented across grade levels: Black students are disciplined more harshly than their white classmates. They’re about four times as likely to be suspended and almost twice as likely to be expelled. The pattern also extends to the youngest black learners. Federal education data released in June revealed black preschoolers were 3.6 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions. Yet even with this recurring outcome, one aspect remained largely unknown: What was the major contributing factor in the highly disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for black pre-k children?

A new study from the Yale Child Study Center, a leader in early-childhood research, set out to address this perennial question and answer why black children make up an overwhelming share of the youngsters pushed out of preschool. Multiple studies show that implicit bias—harboring unconscious stereotypes that shape educators’ behaviors and decisions—influences teacher expectations and gifted-and-talented placements for older schoolchildren. The link was missing, however, in early-childhood settings.

In what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind analysis, Walter Gilliam, a Yale professor and noted expert in preschool discipline, discovered both black and white early-childhood educators showed signs of implicit bias in administering discipline, seemingly rooted in different, though equally harmful, race-based judgements. “Implicit biases do not begin with black men and police,” Gilliam said. “They begin with young black boys and their preschool teachers, if not earlier.”

Using a sophisticated eye-tracking system, a sensor technology that follows and records the movement of a person’s gaze, Gilliam and the research team invited pre-k teachers to watch a dozen short video clips of preschoolers in typical classroom situations. Participants were asked how quickly and accurately they could detect challenging behaviors in the children—a black boy, black girl, white boy, and white girl—yet none of the videos contained misbehavior, and the children in the videos were all actors. What researchers found was that the preschool staff—both black and white teachers—more closely observed black youngsters, and especially black boys, when challenging behaviors were expected, “suggesting that preschool teachers may hold different expectations based on the race of the child,” said Gilliam.

In a second segment of the research, the same group of preschool educators were asked to read a paragraph detailing “unpredictable and challenging” classroom behaviors, ranging from difficulties napping and following instructions to blurting out answers and taunting other children. Each vignette contained a pre-selected, stereotypical black or white boy or girl name: DeShawn, Jake, Latoya, and Emily. The participants were then asked to rate the severity of the behavioral challenges—the only difference in each vignette was the perceived race and sex of the child—and the likelihood that they would recommend suspension or expulsion.

Of note, both black and white preschool educators—22 percent of the participants identified as black, 67 percent as white—showed strong evidence of implicit biases. However, the nature of the biases differed based on the race of the teacher. White teachers appeared to have lower expectations of black children, finding them as a group more prone to misbehavior, “so a vignette about a black child with challenging behaviors [was] not appraised as … unusual, severe, or out of the ordinary.”

Conversely, black teachers seemed to hold black preschoolers to a higher behavioral standard; pay notably more attention to the behaviors of black boys; and recommend harsher, more exclusionary discipline. Prior research suggests that teachers of all races tend to over-punish black students. Gilliam also points to research on black parents and their “need to prepare [black] children for, or protect them from, a harsh world” to help explain this tendency. “It seems possible that the black preschool teachers may be operating under similar beliefs … that black children require harsh assessment and discipline.” The study further finds the consequence is significant, as black early educators are more likely to teach in communities with higher proportions of black preschoolers: “Greater scrutiny of black students … may contribute to the increased likelihood of preschool expulsions and suspensions with black children, and black boys more specifically.”

Similarly, when the preschool educators learned the students’ family background, to offer some context for the “behavioral challenges,” the responses also diverged based on race. When the race of the teacher and the child were the same, there was greater empathy for the child; when the race of the teacher and the child differed, the additional family information led teachers to perceive the child’s behavior as more severe.


While one of the strengths of the study is its reliance on 132 participants at a widely attended annual early-education conference, the researchers caution that this can also be a limitation—many preschool teachers work for very low wages or for programs without the resources to send them to such professional-development opportunities, Gilliam admits, conceding the possibility that “this sample may not be typical preschool teachers.”

Even so, the University of Pennsylvania professor Howard Stevenson said the Yale study gives greater context to existing data regarding preschool suspensions and expulsions. Stevenson, who has studied and written on racial literacy, called it “groundbreaking work” that helps to address a gnawing issue that parents of preschoolers of color often ask in his research, which is how their children are misperceived just by being themselves.

"Racial socialization is the degree to which family or media or parents in particular prepare their children for a world that might be racially difficult,” Stevenson explained. “What [the Yale study] points to is that teachers are already socialized, regardless of their racial background, about racial politics in ways that they don't often understand, but that may come out in their observation of children, and particularly black males.”

Better pre-service training for preschool teachers focused on evidence-based strategies for reducing bias surfaced as a solution to the entrenched problem, as did the importance of ongoing training for veteran educators.

“Early educators are not immune to implicit biases. No one is,” said Gilliam, the lead researcher. But by recognizing the harm these prejudices have on children they serve, preschool teachers “represent perhaps our nation's best frontline defense against the negative impacts of implicit biases.”

Harry Styles’ starring role in Another Man magazine proves he is the perfect teen idol

By Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Nostalgic, androgynous and fresh – One Direction’s most famous face is as traditional a heartthrob as it gets. Music critics should know better than to write him off.

In As You Like It’s famous “seven ages of man” speech, Shakespeare splits the everyman’s life into seven parts. Three central, youthful ages stand out. The schoolboy, “with his satchel / And shining morning face, creeping like a snail / Unwillingly to school.” The lover, “sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad / Made to his mistress’ eyebrow”. And the soldier, “full of strange oaths,” with a patchy beard, brimming with ambition.

Today, an equally significant work made its way into the world – the most recent issue of Another Man magazine, which stars Harry Styles in three separate editorial shoots, as well as interviews between him and Paul McCartney and Chelsea Handler, and an essay on his youth written by his sister, Gemma Styles. In each shoot, Styles bears a resemblance with each of these three Shakespearean stages – in one, he sports a boyish bowl cut outside his old school, another casts him as a wistful, long-haired lover decked out in red, the third sees Styles with a new, short crop (done for the upcoming film Dunkirk, in which he plays a soldier), more masculine tailoring and barely-there facial hair.

The photoshoot marks something of a milestone in Styles’ career – something he seemed to confirm himself when he preceded sharing the magazine’s three covers on his Instagram feed with three blank posts (now, when you click on Styles’ Instagram page, there is a clear white line between his pre and post- Another Man pictures). This is his first interview and photoshoot since he left One Direction, and cut off all his hair for an acting role, and aside from the odd grainy fan picture or long-lens pap shot, fans have hardly had a glimpse of him since.

So, if this is a statement about a decisive moment in Styles’ trajectory, what does it actually say? Do the three different styles of shoot represent the ghosts of Harry’s past, present and future? Is his sheer versatility a way of presenting the former boyband star as a full-blown actor? In terms of the magazine’s written content, we don’t really discover anything about Styles we didn’t know before.

In his short phone interview with McCartney, Styles’ questions (“When you first went from being in a band to being on your own, what was the creative side of that like?” and “How did you find going from touring with so many people around you, to going out doing songs you’d written every word of?”) suggest he plans to write and perform solo music, and he briefly discusses his acting work with Chelsea Handler (“It’s a challenge, but it feels good to be out of my comfort zone”).

But the rest of the issue feels firmly nostalgic. Styles reiterates how much he loves returning home to Holmes Chapel (“that’s one of the places for me where I feel like I disappear the most […] I go back to Cheshire a lot and walk around the same fields”), the rush he had performing with his former bandmates (“there’s no drug you can take that gives you that same high”), while his sister reflects on his moments spent boiling pasta, playing with the family dog, and running baths for their mum. “It’s cool to have such specific moments in your mind to look back on,” Styles tells Handler.

The three shoots are nostalgic, too. This latest issue of Another Man follows one themed around Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones and the “heirs to his throne”. As Styles is his most obvious successor (often compared to Mick Jagger in both looks and charisma), two of these shoots feel almost as though they were intended for that previous issue. Both the boyish, Sixties Beatles and Stones-inspired shoot – “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, shot by Alasdair McLellan – and the ragged rockstar story, “Anything That’s Part Of You”, shot by Willy Vanderperre – reference specific Jagger photographs and his general vibe.

On seeing the new covers, the Guardian proclaimed: “Harry Styles proves the heartthrob is dead: long live the artthrob”. It saw the shoots, with their high fashion aesthetic, and placement in a niche fashion magazine, as well as Styles’ ability to move from boyband star to actor to potentially authentic singer/songwriter as proof that the old concept of a heartthrob has died. The article says he is “not just a teen dream any more”, “revelling in a context that couldn’t be further from his One Direction past”, and adds: “To win hearts in 2016, you now have to offer artistic value. And you have to hustle.”

But what these visual callbacks to Jagger emphasise is that Styles is, in fact, a very traditional heartthrob – his very appeal may be due to the fact that he is the most traditional heartthrob we’ve had in years. Like McCartney, John Lennon, David Bowie, Jagger, Marc Bolan, or Kurt Cobain, Styles is creative, interested in fashion, androgynous, boyish and followed around the world by a stream of enthusiastic fans, who are mostly young women. And, perhaps in no part due to that last detail, like all of them, he has been dismissed as a cheap fad by music writers who should probably know better.

In “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, TS Eliot said that a truly “traditional” writer is that which has “a sense of the timeless, as well as of the temporal, and of the timeless and of the temporal together”. This is also what makes that writer contemporary, and aware of his own specific moment in time. “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.”

If we apply that logic to the long list of teen idols, Harry Styles ticks all the boxes. Nostalgic, androgynous and fresh – Styles is as traditional as it gets. May he retain his place in the canon for centuries to come.

Another Man

Jeremy Corbyn's full speech at the 2016 Labour party conference

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The Labour leader received a standing ovation. 

Thank you for that introduction. And how brilliant it is to see the hall here in Liverpool, absolutely packed for the Labour conference, well I say it's packed but Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats.

Either way Conference, it’s a huge pleasure to be holding our party’s annual gathering here in this fantastic city that has shaped our country, our economy, our culture and our music.

Liverpool and its people have always been central to the Labour party and our movement. And I know some people say campaigns and protests don’t change things. But the Hillsborough families have shown just how wrong that is.

It’s taken twenty-seven years but those families have, with great courage and dignity, finally got some truth and justice for the ninety-six who died. And I want to pay tribute to all the families and campaigners, for their solidarity, their commitment and their love.

We must learn from them so we promise those campaigning for Orgreave, for Shrewsbury, for the thousands of workers blacklisted for being trade unionists that we will support your battles for truth and justice and when we return to government we will make sure that you have both.

Because winning justice for all and changing society for the benefit of all is at the heart of what Labour is about.

So yes, our party is about campaigning and it’s about protest too.

But most of all it’s about winning power in local and national government, to deliver the real change our country so desperately needs.

That’s why the central task of the whole Labour party, must be to rebuild trust and support to win the next general election and form the next government. That is the government I am determined to lead, to win power to change Britain for the benefit of working people.

But every one of us in this hall today knows that we will only get there if we work together. And I think it’s fair to say after what we’ve been through these past few months that hasn’t always been exactly the case.

Those months have been a testing time for the whole party, first the horrific murder of Jo Cox, followed by the shock of the referendum result and then the tipping over of divisions in parliament, into the leadership contest that ended last Saturday.

Jo’s killing was a hate-filled attack on democracy itself that shocked the whole country. Jo Cox didn't just believe in loving her neighbor, she believed in loving her neighbour’s neighbor, that every life counted the same.

And as Jo said in her maiden speech as an MP “we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. Let that essential truth guide us as we come together again to challenge this Tory Government and its shaky grip on power.

We have also lost good MPs like Michael Meacher and Harry Harpham. They were Labour through and through, passionate campaigners for a better world.

And let me pay particular tribute to those parliamentary colleagues who stepped forward in the summer to fill the gaps in the shadow cabinet and ensure that Labour could function as an effective opposition in parliament.

They didn’t seek office, but they stepped up when their party and in fact the country needed them to serve. They all deserve the respect and gratitude of our party and movement. And this conference should thank them today, they are our future.

We’ve just had our second leadership election within a year. It had its fraught moments of course, not only for Owen Smith and me , and I hope we don’t make a habit of it.

But there have also been upsides. Over 150,000 new members joined our party. Young rising stars have shone on the front bench and we found that the party is more united on policy than we would ever have guessed.

I am honoured to have been re-elected by our party a second time with an even larger mandate. But we all have lessons to learn and a responsibility to do things better and work together more effectively.  I will lead in learning those lessons and I’d like to thank Owen, for the campaign and his work as shadow work and pensions secretary.

And all the Labour Party Staff and my own team for their brilliant work.

One lesson is, that there is a responsibility on all of us to take care with our rhetoric, respect democratic decisions, respect our differences and respect each other. We know that robust debate has at times spilled over into abuse and hate around our party, including misogyny and anti-Semitism, especially on social media.

That is utterly unacceptable. Our party must be a safe and welcoming space for everybody and we will continue to take firm action against abuse and intimidation.

And let me be absolutely clear, anti-Semitism is an evil, it led to the worst crimes of the 20th century, every one of us has a responsibility to ensure that it is never allowed to fester in our society again. This party always has and always will fight against prejudice and hatred of Jewish people with every breath in its body.

We meet this year as the largest political party in western Europe with over half a million members campaigning in every community in Britain.

More people have joined our party in the last twenty months than in the previous twenty years. We have more of our fellow citizens in our party than all the others put together.

Some may see that as a threat. But I see it as a vast democratic resource. Our hugely increased membership is part of a movement that can take Labour’s message into every community, to win support for the election of a Labour government. Each and every one of these new members is welcome in our party.

And after a ten year absence, we welcome back the Fire Brigades Union to our party and to conference. We are reuniting the Labour family.

And over the past year, we’ve shown what Labour can do when the party stands together.

At conference a year ago, I launched our campaign against cuts to tax credits and we succeeded in knocking this government back. 

This year, three million families are over £1,000 better off because Labour stood together.

In the Budget, the government tried to take away billions from disabled people but we defeated them …

We have won all four by-elections we’ve contested. In the May elections, we overtook the Tories to become the largest party nationally. We won back London with a massive win for Sadiq Khan the first Muslim mayor of a western capital city. 

And we won the Bristol mayor for the first time, Marvin Rees, the first black mayor in any European city. And of course we also won the mayoralty in Salford and here in Liverpool.

That’s the road of advance we have to return to if we’re going to challenge the Tories for power and turn the huge growth in the Labour party into the electoral support we need across Britain.

There’s no doubt my election as Labour leader a year ago. And re-election this month grew out of a thirst for a new kind of politics, and a conviction that the old way of running the economy and the country, isn’t delivering for more and more people.

It’s not about me of course, or unique to Britain but across Europe, North America and elsewhere, people are fed up with a so-called free market system, that has produced grotesque inequality stagnating living standards for the many calamitous foreign wars without end and a political stitch-up which leaves the vast majority of people shut out of power.

Since the crash of 2008, the demand for an alternative and an end to counter-productive austerity has led to the rise of new movements and parties in one country after another.

In Britain it’s happened in the heart of traditional politics, in the Labour party which is something we should be extremely proud of. It’s exactly what Labour was founded for to be the voice of the many of social justice and progressive change from the bottom up.

But it also means it’s no good harking back to the tired old economic and political fixes of twenty years ago because they won’t work anymore. The old model is broken. We’re in a new era that demands a politics and economics that meets the needs of our own time.

Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change. That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain.

She promised a country: “that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us”.

But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk.

This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh rightwing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.

Who seriously believes that the Tories could ever stand up to the privileged few? They are the party of the privileged few, funded by the privileged few, for the benefit of the privileged few.

This is a party, after all that now wants to force through an undemocratic Boundary Review based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register with nearly two million voters missing.

They’ve dressed up as a bid to cut the cost of politics by abolishing fifty MPs, but the £12million savings are dwarfed by the expense of the 260 peers David Cameron appointed at a cost of £34million a year. It’s nothing but a cynical attempt to gerrymander the next election.

And this is a prime minister who was elevated to her job without a single vote being cast after a pantomime farce which saw one leading Tory after another falling on their swords.

When I meet Theresa May across the dispatch box, I know that only one of us has been elected to the office they hold, by the votes of a third of a million people.

In any case, the Tories are simply incapable of responding to the breakdown of the old economic model. Because that failed model is in their political DNA.

It’s what they deliver every time they’re in government. Tory governments deregulate, they outsource and privatise they stand by as inequality grows.

They’ve cut taxes for the privileged few sold off our national assets to them, always on the cheap and turned a blind eye to their chronic tax avoidance.

They’re so committed to the interests of the very richest they recruited Sir Phillip Green into government as something called an efficiency tsar.

Well, government might be a bit more efficient if the super-rich like Sir Phillip actually paid their taxes.

When government steps back there are consequences for every one of us.

Look what’s happened to housing under the Tories:

  • housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s;
  • home ownership is falling as more people are priced out of the market;
  • evictions and homelessness go up every year;
  • council homes are sold off without being replaced.

And another consequence is that we’re paying over £9 billion a year to private landlords in housing benefit.

Instead of spending public money on building council housing, we’re subsidising private landlords. That’s wasteful, inefficient, and poor government. 

So Labour will, as Teresa Pearce said, build over a million new homes at least half of them council houses and we will control private rents, so we can give every British family that basic human right - a decent home.

It’s the same in the jobs market. Without proper employment regulation, there’s been an explosion of temporary, insecure jobs nearly one million people on zero hour contracts.

There are now six million working people earning less than the living wage and poverty among those in work is at record levels.

That didn’t happen by accident, the Tories have torn up employment rights and deliberately tried to weaken the organisations that get people justice at work the trade unions.

Of course trade unions are not taking this lying down. Look at the great campaign Unite has waged at Sports Direct, to get justice for exploited workers and hold Mike Ashley to account. That is why Labour will repeal the Trade Union Act and set unions free to do their job.

And we will raise the minimum wage to a real living wage that brings working people out of poverty and we’ll ban zero hours contracts as John McDonnell and Ian Lavery have set out at this conference.

And then there’s the scandal of the privatised railways more public subsidy than under the days of British Rail all going to private firms and more delays more cancellations. And the highest fares in Europe. 

That is why the great majority of the British people back Labour’s plan, set out by Andy MacDonald, to take the railways back into public ownership.

But if you want the most spectacular example of what happens, when government steps back, the global banking crash is an object lesson a deregulated industry of out of control greed and speculation that crashed economies across the globe and required the biggest ever government intervention and public bailout in history.

Millions of ordinary families paid the price for that failure. I pledge that Labour will never let a few reckless bankers wreck our economy again.

So Labour is offering solutions. During this summer’s leadership campaign, I set out ten pledges which I believe can be the platform for our party’s programme at the next election.

They have now been put to you and endorsed by this conference.

They lay out the scope of the change we need to see for full employment, a homes guarantee, security at work, a strong public NHS and social care, a National Education Service for all, action on climate change, public ownership and control of our services, a cut in inequality of income and wealth action to secure an equal society and peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy.

Don’t worry, they’re not the Ten Commandments. They will now go to the National Policy Forum and the whole party needs to build on them, refine them and above all take them out to the people of this country.

But those ten pledges the core of the platform on which I was re-elected leader will now form the framework for what Labour will campaign for and for what a Labour government will do.

Together they show the direction of change we are determined to take - and the outline of a programme to rebuild and transform Britain.

They are rooted in traditional Labour values and objectives shaped to meet the challenges of the 21st century. They are values Labour is united on. They reflect the views and aspirations of the majority of our people. And they are values our country can and will support as soon as they are given the chance.

And these pledges are not just words. Already, across the country, Labour councils are putting Labour values into action, in a way that makes a real difference to millions of people, despite cynical government funding cuts that have hit Labour councils five times as hard as Tory-run areas.

Like Nottingham City Council setting up the not-for-profit Robin Hood Energy company to provide affordable energy;

Or Cardiff Bus Company taking 100,000 passengers every day, publicly owned with a passenger panel to hold its directors to account;

Or Preston Council working to favour local procurement, and keep money in the town;

Or Newcastle Council providing free wi-fi in 69 public buildings across the city;

Or Croydon Council which has set up a company to build 1,000 new homes, as Cllr Alison Butler said: “We can no longer afford to sit back and let the market take its course”.

Or Glasgow that has established high quality and flexible workspaces for start-up, high growth companies in dynamic new sectors.

Or here in Liverpool, set to be at the global forefront of a new wave of technology and home to Sensor City, a £15million business hub that aims to create 300 start-up businesses and 1,000 jobs over the next decade.

It is a proud Labour record each and every Labour councilor deserves our heartfelt thanks for the work they do.

But I want to go further because we want local government to go further and put public enterprise back into the heart of our economy and services to meet the needs of local communities, municipal socialism for the 21st century, as an engine of local growth and development.

So today I’m announcing that Labour will remove the artificial local borrowing cap and allow councils to borrow against their housing stock.

That single measure alone would allow them to build an extra 60,000 council homes a year.

Labour councils increasingly have a policy of in-house as the preferred provider and many councils have brought bin collections, cleaners, and IT services back in-house, insourcing privatized contracts to save money for council tax payers and to ensure good terms and conditions for staff.

I have said that Labour will put security at work and employment and union rights from day one centre stage.

But one in six workers now in Britain are now self-employed. They’re right to value their independence but for too many it comes with insecurity and a woeful lack of rights.

So we will review arrangements for self-employed people including social security that self-employed people pay for in their taxes, yet aren’t fully covered by.

And we will ensure that successful innovators have access to the finance necessary to take their ideas to the next level grow their businesses and generate employment.

So as part of our Workplace 2020 review, we will make sure that and our tax and social security arrangements are fit for the 21st century, consulting with self-employed workers and the Federation of Small Businesses.

If the Tories are the party of cuts and short-termism. Labour is the Party of investing for the future.

With the same level of investment as other major economies, we could be so much more unlock so much skill, ingenuity and wealth.

That’s why we’ll establish a National Investment Bank at the heart of our plan to rebuild and transform Britain.

And we will borrow to invest at historically low interest rates, to generate far greater returns. It would be foolish not to, because that investment is expanding the economy and the income it generates for us all in the process.

Even this government, after years of austerity and savage cuts to investment is starting to change its tune.

I am not content with accepting second-class broadband, not content with creaking railways, not content with seeing the US and Germany investing in cutting edge and green technologies, while Britain lags behind.

Last year, for example the Prime Minister promised a universal service obligation for ten megabyte broadband.

But since then the government has done nothing letting down entrepreneurs, businesses and families, especially in rural areas.

That’s why we’ve set out proposals for a National Investment Bank with £500 billion of investment to bring our broadband, our railways, our housing and our energy infrastructure up to scratch.

A country that doesn’t invest is a country that has given up. That has taken the path of managed decline. A Labour government will never accept second best for Britain.

Our country’s history is based on individual ingenuity and collective endeavor.

We are the country of Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing and Tim Berners-Lee, the land of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sarah Guppy of George Stephenson and Eric Laithwaite.

The Tories have turned their back on this proud British tradition. They have put privatisation and cutting spending first.

Britain now spends less on research as a share of national income than France, Germany, the US and China. A Labour Government will bring research and development up to three percent of GDP.

Yesterday, Rebecca Long Bailey set out the terms of our Industrial Strategy Review. We need an economy that works for every part of this country so that no community is left behind.

And today I’m asking everyone, businesses, academics, workers, trade unions and anyone who cares about our future prosperity to have your say in that review.

We are a wealthy country - and not just in terms of money.

We are rich in talent, rich in potential.

That’s why we’ve proposed a comprehensive National Education Service at the heart of our programme for government to deliver high quality education for all throughout our lives.

Education has always been a core Labour value from the time of Ellen Wilkinson and before.

And a National Education Service will be an essential part of the 21st century welfare state.

In a rapidly changing economy people need to re-train or upgrade their skills without falling into debt.

Britain already lags behind other in productivity.

Partly that’s about investing in technology and infrastructure.

And partly it’s about investing in people and their skills.

How can we build and expand the sectors of the future without a skilled workforce?

But this Conservative government has slashed adult education budgets taking away opportunities for people to develop their skills and leaving businesses struggling to find the skilled workforce they need to succeed.

So today I am offering business a new settlement. A new deal for Rebuilding Britain.

Under Labour we will provide the investment to rebuild Britain’s infrastructure.

We will fund that investment because it will lead to a more productive economy providing the basis on which our economy and our businesses can thrive, helping to provide over a million good jobs and opportunities for businesses.

But investment in capital must include investment in human capital, the skilled workers needed to make our economy a success.

So this is the deal Labour will offer to business.

To help pay for a National Education Service, we will ask you pay a little more in tax.

We’ve already started to set out some of this, pledging to raise corporation tax by less than 1.5 percent to give an Education Maintenance Allowance to college students and grants to university students so that every young learner can afford to support themselves as they develop skills and get qualifications.

Business shares in economic success and it must contribute to it too.

And I recognise that good businesses deserve a level playing field.

So I also pledge to good businesses that we will clamp down those that dodge their taxes you should not be undercut by those that don’t play by the rules.

There is nothing more unpatriotic than not paying your taxes it is an act of vandalism, damaging our NHS, damaging older people’s social care, damaging younger people’s education. So a Labour government will make shabby tax avoidance a thing of the past.

Labour’s National Education Service is going to be every bit as vital as our National Health Service has become.

And we recognise that education isn’t simply about preparing for the workplace. It’s also about the exploration of knowledge and unlocking the creativity in every human being.

So all school pupils should have the chance to learn an instrument take part in drama and dance and have regular access to a theatre, gallery or museum in their local area.

That’s why we will introduce an arts pupil premium to every primary school in England and Wales and consult on the design and national roll-out to extend this pupil premium to all secondary schools.

This will be a £160million boost for schools to invest in projects that will support cultural activities for schools over the longer-term.

It could hardly be more different to the Tory approach to education. Their only plan is the return of grammar schools, segregation and second class schooling for the majority and what a great job Angela Rayner is doing in opposing them.

So this Saturday 1 October, I want you to take the message into your community that Labour is standing up for education for all.

Grammar Schools are not the only way, the Tories are bringing division back into our society. They are also using the tried-and-tested tricks of demonising and scapegoating to distract from their failures.

Whether it be single mothers, unemployed people, disabled people or migrants, Tory failure is always someone else’s fault.

And those smears have consequences, from children being bullied in school, to attacks in the street - such as the rise of disability hate crime.

I am so proud of this party. In the last year, we stood up to the government on cuts to disabled people’s benefits and cuts to working families tax credits.

And on Monday, our shadow work & pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams announced we would be scrapping the punitive sanctions regime and the degrading Work Capability Assessment.

As politicians, as political activists, as citizens, we must have zero tolerance towards those who whip up hate and division, stand together against racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and defend those being demonised.

It has been shaming to our multicultural society that assaults on migrants have increased sharply since the referendum campaign a campaign that peddled myths and whipped up division.

It isn’t migrants that drive down wages, it’s exploitative employers and the politicians who deregulate the labour market and rip up trade union rights.

It isn’t migrants who put a strain on our NHS, it only keeps going because of the migrant nurses and doctors who come here filling the gaps left by politicians who have failed to invest in training.

It isn’t migrants that have caused a housing crisis; it’s a Tory government that has failed to build homes.

Immigration can certainly put extra pressure on services and that’s why, under Gordon Brown, Labour setup the Migrant Impact Fund to provide extra funding to communities that have the largest rises in population.

What did the Tories do? They abolished it and then they demonise migrants for putting pressure on services.

A Labour government will not offer false promises on immigration as the Tories have done. We will not sow division by fanning the flames of fear. We will tackle the real issues of immigration instead whatever the eventual outcome of the Brexit negotiations and make the changes that are needed.

We will act decisively to end the undercutting of workers’ pay and conditions through the exploitation of migrant labour and agency working which would reduce the number of migrant workers in the process.

And we will ease the pressure on hard pressed public services - services that are struggling to absorb Tory austerity cuts, in communities absorbing new populations.

Labour will reinstate the migrant impact fund, and give extra support to areas of high migration using the visa levy for its intended purpose. And we will add a citizenship application fee levy to boost the fund.

That is the Labour way to tackle social tension investment and assistance, not racism and division.

This party campaigned hard to remain in the European Union. I spoke at rallies from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire for our Labour campaign to remain and reform.

But although most Labour voters backed us we did not convince millions of natural Labour voters especially in those parts of the country left behind. 

Left behind by years of neglect under-investment and de-industrialisation.

Now we have to face the future together we are not helped by patronising or lecturing those in our communities who voted to leave. We have to hear their concerns about jobs, about public services, about wages, about immigration, about a future for their children. And we have to respect their votes, and the decision of the British people.

Of course that doesn’t mean giving a blank cheque to Theresa May and her three-legged team of fractious Brexiteers as they try to work up a negotiating plan and squabble about whose turn it is to have the Chevening country retreat each weekend. 

We have made it clear that we will resist a Brexit at the expense of workers’ rights and social justice we have set out our red lines on employment, environmental and social protection and on access to the European market.

But we will also be pressing our own Brexit agenda including the freedom to intervene in our own industries without the obligation to liberalise or privatise our public services and building a new relationship with Europe based on cooperation and internationalism.

And as Europe faces the impact of a refugee crisis fuelled by wars across the Middle East we have to face the role that repeated military interventions by British governments have played in that crisis.

The Chilcot report made absolutely clear, the lessons to be learned from the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, just as this month’s Foreign Affair Select Committee report into the war in Libya demonstrated those lessons had still not been learned a decade later.

The consequences of those wars have been the spread of terrorism, sectarianism and violence across an arc of conflict that has displaced millions of people forcing them from their countries.

That is why it was right to apologise on behalf of the party for the Iraq war right to say that we have learned the lessons and right to say that such a catastrophe must never be allowed to happen again.

We need a foreign policy based on peace, justice and human rights and what great news to hear the peace treaty in Colombia after fifty years of war and we need to honour our international treaty obligations on nuclear disarmament and encourage others to do the same.

We are a long way from that humanitarian vision. Britain continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a country that the United Nations says is committing repeated violations of international humanitarian law war crimes in Yemen just as we have seen taking place in Syria.

So today I make it clear that under a Labour government when there are credible reports of human rights abuses or war crimes being committed British arms sales will be suspended, starting with Saudi Arabia.

Last year, the votes we needed to win power went many different ways in all parts of our country while millions of our potential voters stayed at home.

Many didn’t believe we offered the alternative they wanted.

It’s true there’s an electoral mountain to climb.

But if we focus everything on the needs and aspirations of middle and lower income voters, of ordinary families, if we demonstrate we’ve got a viable alternative to the government’s failed economic policies. I’m convinced we can build the electoral support that can beat the Tories.

That means being the voice of women, of young people and pensioners middle and lower income workers, the unemployed and the self-employed, minority communities and those struggling with the impact of migration at work and everyone struggling to get on, and secure a better life for themselves, their families and communities.

Running like a golden thread through Labour’s vision for today as throughout our history is the struggle for equality.

Rampant inequality has become the great scandal of our time, sapping the potential of our society, and tearing at its fabric.

Labour’s goal isn’t just greater equality of wealth and income but also of power.

Our aim could not be more ambitious. We want a new settlement for the 21st century, in politics, business, our communities with the environment, and in our relations with the rest of the world.

Every one of us in the Labour party is motivated by the gap between what our country is and what it could be.

We know that in the sixth largest economy in the world the foodbanks, stunted life chances and growing poverty alongside wealth on an undreamed of scale are a mark of shameful and unnecessary failure.

We know how great this country could be, for all its people, with a new political and economic settlement.

With new forms of democratic public ownership, driven by investment in the technology and industries of the future, with decent jobs, education and housing for all with local services run by and for people not outsourced to faceless corporations.

That’s not backward-looking, it’s the very opposite.

It’s the socialism of the 21st century.

Our job is now to win over the unconvinced to our vision. Only that way can we secure the Labour government we need.

And let’s be frank, no one will be convinced of a vision, promoted by a divided party. We all agree on that.

So I ask each and every one of you, accept the decision of the members end the trench warfare and work together to take on the Tories.

Anything else is a luxury that the millions of people who depend on Labour cannot afford.

We know there will be local elections next May. In Scotland, where we have won three council by-elections this summer, in Wales and in counties across England.

And there'll be metro mayor elections too, including here on Merseyside, where my good friend Steve Rotherham will standing as Labour's candidate, Steve, best of luck, I will miss your comradeship and support.

But we could also face a general election next year.

Whatever the Prime Minister says about snap elections, there is every chance that Theresa May, will cut and run, for an early election.

So I put our party on notice today, Labour is preparing for a general election in 2017, we expect all our members to support our campaign and we will be ready for the challenge whenever it comes.

Let us do it, in the spirit of the great Scots-born Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly who said:

"The socialism I believe in, is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That's how I see football, that's how I see life."

We are not all Bill Shanklys. Each of us comes to our socialism from our own experiences.

Mine was shaped by my mum and dad, a teacher and an engineer. Both committed socialists and peace campaigners, my mum’s inspiration was to encourage girls to believe they could achieve anything in their lives.

And by working as a teacher in Jamaica when I was a young man, that taught me so much about the strength of communities living in adversity, as well as fighting for the low paid as a trade union organiser here in Britain.

As the great American poet Langston Hughes put it: “I see that my own hands can make the world that’s in my mind”.

Everyone here and every one of our hundreds of thousands of members has something to contribute to our cause.

That way we will unite, build on our policies. Take our vision out to a country crying out for change.

We are half a million of us, and there will be more, working together to make our country the place it could be.

Conference, united we can shape the future and build a fairer Britain in a peaceful world.

Thank you.

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Donald Trump's Double Standard on Weight

By Spencer Kornhaber from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

One of the odder moments of Monday’s presidential debate came when Donald Trump speculated that the DNC had been hacked not by Russia but by “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” He was trying to suggest the crime had been committed by someone unaffiliated with a government—but why bring up fatness?

Weight seems to be one of Trump’s preoccupations. The debate and its fallout highlighted how he publicly ridiculed the Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado as “Miss Piggy” and an “eating machine,” and how he called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” with “a fat, ugly face” (“I think everyone would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her,” he said onstage Monday). He also recently poked fun at his ally Chris Christie’s weight-loss struggles and called out a protestor as “seriously overweight.” And when he was host of The Apprentice, he insisted on keeping a “funny fat guy” on the show, according to one of its producers.

On Dr. Oz recently, Mehmet Oz told Trump that his body-mass index is high for his height and Trump said he’d like to lose some pounds.

Looking for some historical context for Trump’s comments on weight, on Tuesday I spoke with Amy Farrell, the author of the 2011 book Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture. She is a professor of American studies and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Dickinson College. This conversation has been edited.


Spencer Kornhaber: I was struck by how much the topic of weight was part of the debate: There was the 400-pound hacker, Rosie O’Donnell, and Alicia Machado. Why do you think this keeps coming up this election?

Amy Farrell: Trump is definitely a bully, and we know that fat-shaming is the most typical reason a child will be bullied. So he’s picking up on a typical playground tactic. And it’s really connected to our ideas about sex and gender, race, and sexuality. His specialty is to insult, and fat shaming is a rhetorical move that’s far reaching, prevalent, and an easily understood way to degrade people.

Kornhaber: A couple of weeks ago he was on Dr. Oz and it came up that he was overweight. Do you think he’s immune from the same standard that he’s holding other people to?

Farrell: The Dr. Oz example was interesting on a number of fronts. I’m not a medical doctor but in terms of my researching the scientific studies about weight and my expertise—which is more cultural—Dr. Oz himself was off. We know that actually the nuanced information about weight is much more complex than saying, “You’re fat, lose weight and that will take care of your problems.” Exercise and eating well correlates with health, not necessarily weight.

Does Trump seem to be immune himself, considering that he’s wielding “fat” as a weapon even though we wouldn’t look at him and necessarily see a thin person? There’s certainly a double standard. It’s not that men aren’t criticized for being fat or don’t face repercussions about fatness. We know that Chris Christie had weight-loss surgery in order to make himself seem more politically able.

But there’s much more of an allowance for a man to be fat than there is for a woman. Studies are pretty clear that a man can be much larger and be perceived as [just] a “big man,” and a woman gaining some weight very quickly moves into the category of being fat and undesirable.

I think that there’s some level of the image of the “fat cat” that Trump is relying on. The fat cat wasn’t necessarily likable, but he was seen as powerful and able. So he gets a bye in that way. [In The New Yorker] Calvin Trillin did a pretty fatphobic but biting account of whether Trump is actually wearing a corset to hide his weight. I think that Trillin was picking up on that double standard in writing that.

Kornhaber: The issue of weight was brought up in the debates in part by Hillary mentioning Trump’s previous comments. She’s treating them as if they are a political liability. Back when Trump was judging Miss Universe, when he made some of the most egregious statements, it was the ’90s. Is she right to be thinking that people’s attitudes have changed?

Farrell: It’s an interesting question as to whether or not she’s actually dipping into dangerous waters by pointing out how fatphobic he is. I think she’s right on. It’s not as if we’ve moved into a world where there’s no fatphobia, but I think she is recognizing the extent to which “fat” gets used as an insult against anyone who steps out of line.

It’s in the same way the term “lesbian” would have once been used to critique any woman who spoke up for herself, who seemed to be making a claim for a certain level of rights. There were two [defensive] tactics that powerful women used. One was to say, “We’re not, and we have nothing to do with lesbians actually.” All that does is divide people, make lesbians angry, and make it even more scary for a woman to be identified as a lesbian. The other tactic was to say, “Quit calling me a lesbian, we might or might not be lesbians. To be called a lesbian doesn’t mean we’re a lesser person that someone who is straight.”

I think she’s choosing the latter tactic there, to say, “You’re throwing out these insults, I’m going to stand with my sisters here who may be thin or fat. I’m taking the sting out of this by saying I just find you really reprehensible for trying to insult this way.” She’s using that tactic of solidarity.

Have things changed? I do think that Hillary Clinton is tapping into the fact that there [have been] many people working since the latter part of the ’60s to make a space for fat people. The New York Times just had an article on how poorly fat people are treated in medical settings. The fat-activist movement is making inroads, there’s a constituency out there who knows these kind of tricks and is done with that: “We’re not going to be treated as second-class citizens anymore.”

Kornhaber: In the ’90s, Trump criticized Alicia Machado’s weight as a violation of the contest, saying, “When you win a beauty pageant, people don't think you're going to go from 118 to 160 in less than a year, and you really have an obligation to stay in a perfect physical state." Last night, Hillary implied there was something negative about Trump’s connection to beauty pageants in general—what do you make of that?

Farrell: I thought Hillary was walking a fine line, because it’s a problem for her to say that it’s bad to be in a beauty pageant. Lots of women are in beauty pageants, or enjoy them. But I think what she’s alluding to is that his only use for women is that they’re beautiful. She’s saying women are more than what we look like. So even if someone isn’t necessarily beautiful, they’re a real person.  

Trump’s insults are really about fearmongering for women. [The implication is] that women need to live up to a certain kind of standard, and if one doesn’t they are deserving of insults, threats of violence, of sexual assault, whether symbolic or real. That has been a tactic used for the last 150 years. Cartoons against the suffragists showed them as turning into animals; white suffragists turning into black people, using the presumption that blackness was bad; and them turning into fat people. So he’s just drawing on a long tradition of mocking women if they don’t satisfy a particular kind of standard that is pleasing to him as a powerful white man.

Kornhaber: The incredible thing he said about Rosie O’Donnell last night was that no one could disagree with him about what he said about her—as if there was a universal standard under which she could be written off completely.

Farrell: Right, and also what was her great crime? It was disagreeing with him. And she’s an outspoken woman who also makes people laugh, which makes her particularly hated. The mockery of him he can’t stand, and so the only response back is to say she’s really like an animal, out of control, ugly, etc.

Kornhaber: The gender double standard is clear, but for many people his hacker comment probably brings to mind a man. I was reading an interview with an Apprentice producer who said that Trump always wanted to keep a fat man on the cast so people could laugh at him. He’s also made fun of Chris Christie’s struggles with weight, right in front of Chris Christie. What does it mean for a man to be making fun of other men’s weight?

Farrell: There have been some interesting cultural analyses that have been done of representations of fat men. The fat man can be the everyman who everyone can identify with and isn’t threatening. Often he’s a humorous character: easy to mock but maybe quite likable, too.

But that also slides into a man who’s perceived as not being sufficiently masculine. Not being sufficiently strong. Not sufficiently male, really. So I think when he mocks other men for being fat, it’s like the alpha male kicking the other men who aren’t as great of a man as he is.

When he said [the hacker] could just be “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” we don’t know if he was thinking about a man or a woman. But my sense was that he was imagining a man. I think that was just a statement that he could be some kind of loser who snuck into the DNC because we don’t have the cyber security we were supposed to be having. [Weight] was a quick way to paint a loser.

Kornhaber: What role has weight played in presidential politics before?

Farrell: Grover Cleveland was really mocked for his weight, Howard Taft was mocked for his weight. I’ve written about the fact that I find it unsurprising that the Obamas have been very concerned about weight because weight is a way to signal being civilized, being the most professional. When Bill Clinton started to gain weight, he was made fun of—that was like, “See, he’s out of control with his weight and his sexuality.”

So weight has certainly played a part before. What’s new is that I don’t have any records of any presidential candidates going around just mocking fat people. Or calling women fat, at least publicly.

When Trump said, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t look presidential”—he denied it then last night—that was actually a really interesting phase, because she doesn’t. We’ve only had male presidents, so when we think of presidents we think of male. She doesn’t look like a man, she looks like a woman. So he was getting to that whole issue of body politics there. Obviously I’m not saying she doesn’t look presidential, but I’m saying body, body weight, body size, skin color, sexuality are all things that have been attributes about whether or not someone is “looking presidential” or not.

Kornhaber: Any other thoughts on this topic?

Farrell: I’m very unhappy that Trump has said those things but I am glad it has given us an opportunity as a culture really to look directly at what fat denigration means to people—for us to get this on the table so it’s not something that’s hidden and hurting people but something that we can address and challenge. Last night when Hillary had the last minutes to speak, she made sure she included [Alicia Machado]. Knowing that she’s a careful debater and practiced, it wasn’t something that just popped out of her mouth.

Shimon Peres: the political giant who went from hawk to peacemaker

By Xan Rice from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The former Israeli President and Prime Minister has died.

Shimon Peres, who died on Wednesday at the age of 93, was one of Israel’s most defining figures, a politician who was present at the founding of the Jewish state, oversaw its nuclear programme and then transformed in his later years from a hawk to a peacemaker.

More loved abroad than at home until his final years, the two-time prime minister was “the essence of Israel itself”, in the words of Barack Obama, who led the tributes.

Peres is best-known for being one of the architects of the historic Oslo Accords in 1993, which were meant to pave the way for an independent Palestinian state. Until Peres broke the taboo, Israel had refused to negotiate directly with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. A year later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside his old political nemesis Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO.

But the accords never translated into a lasting peace, and in his final years Peres looked on with dismay as the two-state solution he championed appeared increasingly unlikely.

Born in Poland in 1923, Peres moved with his family to Palestine at the age of 11, settling in Tel Aviv. He became active in politics, catching the attention of David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, who made him one of his protégés.

During Israel’s war of independence in 1948, Peres was responsible for purchasing weapons for the army and after that was out of the public eye. He was briefly head of the naval service, and then moved to the defence ministry as director general where he was instrumental in building up the country’s military capacity. During the Fifties, Peres founded Israel’s clandestine nuclear programme before entering politics in 1959. Over the next half century he held numerous positions in cabinet, from finance to transport and foreign affairs.

Though he often spoke of harmonious co-existence with Israel’s neighbours, he initially had strong reservations about territorial compromise, and supported settlement building in the 1970s. He twice served as prime minister, first in a unity government in 1984 and subsequently after Rabin was assassinated in 1995.

He never won an election though, despite running for prime minister five times. His biggest setback occurred in 1996, when was certain he would win and be able to start implementing the two-state solution. But terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Peres’s decision to launch an offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, where scores of refugees were killed during an Israeli attack, turned public opinion against him. Victory went to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current prime minister and a hardliner with whom Peres has never seen eye to eye.

He stayed in politics and in 2007 became Israel’s ninth president, a largely ceremonial role. Two years later he became the first Israeli president to speak to the legislature of a Muslim country, addressing the Turkish parliament.

Peres stepped down as president in 2014, at the age of 91, but never stopped advocating peace with the Palestinians, even after Israeli society appeared to lose interest in a pursuing lasting accommodation with its neighbours.

In an interview with Time  in February, he was asked about Israel’s future if there was no peace agreement.

“If there won’t be a two state solution, it will be ongoing violence and tragedy for all sides, for all people. The opposite to just is wrong. And you cannot compare it. Two states can bring peace. The lack of two states can prevent peace. And nations without peace, people without peace are going to live in a terrible tragedy, totally unnecessary.”

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US air strike reportedly kills 13 Afghan civilians

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

ISIL fighters were the target of an air raid that allegedly killed at least 13 civilians in Achin district.

Russia city backtracks on approval for gay rights march

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Officials in Ivanovo revoke permission for a same-sex marriage march, blaming a "mix up".

Last survivor

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

His long career had plenty of dark moments, but Shimon Peres goes to his grave as one of the greatest of Israel's founders and statesmen, writes Jeremy Bowen.

Diamonds: Nothing lasts forever

From Analysis. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A tradition-bound industry is trying to adapt as jewellery sales fall and consumer tastes change

'Seething fury'

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Canada's First Nations use a royal tour to push for political action on social issues and say there is "seething fury" over the slow course of change.

Another Black Man Shot by Police

By J. Weston Phippen from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

NEWS BRIEF Police in El Cajon, a city 20 minutes east of San Diego, California, shot and killed a black man on Tuesday as family members said he was having a mental breakdown and walked into traffic. The shooting led to overnight protests, which follow similar demonstrations in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Police Chief Jeff Davis initially said responding officers believed the man, who has not been publicly identified, held a gun. But family said he has a history of mental illness. Police received several calls, including one from the man’s sister, that he had walked into traffic near a strip mall and was acting erratically. Two officers responded at about 2  p.m., and said the man refused to comply with their orders.

What happened next is the moment in dispute. The police originally said the man held a gun. The family insisted he did not, and The San Diego Union-Tribune has reported that Davis, the police chief, is now saying it was not a gun. He has declined to say what it was.

According to the Union-Tribune, Davis had originally said:

At one point the suspect took out an object from the front pocket of his pants, grasped it with both hands, and “extended it rapidly toward the officers” as he stood in a stance that suggested he would shoot, Davis said.

One officer fired the stun gun as the other fired the handgun, Davis said.

Police officers in El Cajon do not wear body cameras, though they say they have footage of the shooting provided by witnesses. One witness told The New York Times the man was scared to death, “jerking, confused,” and held his hands in the air when he turned to run and police shot him. Police dispute that account. Tuesday night the El Cajon Police Department tweeted:

The man was taken to the hospital and later died. A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the strip mall where police had shot him, and by night the protesters numbered about 200, including leaders from local churches. One protester, India Miles, told the Union-Tribune, “We’re tired of innocent people dying. It’s one thing if you’re guilty and you got a gun at a cop’s head, but if you have nothing on you and you’re just getting shot for having a seizure or having car trouble, or whatever the case may be, that stuff has to stop.”

Police have not released the footage witnesses gave them.

The shooting comes in the wake of other recent instances in Charlotte and Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which officers shot black men, leading to protests. They also come after several high-profile killings of black youth and men by police officers, starting with Michael Brown in August 2014.

Armenia: Life in a Suitcase

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A look at the poignant stories of two Armenian women in Turkey, trying to support their families far from home.

Gone is Shimon Peres, but so is his era

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

During his long career, he was involved in the good, the bad and the ugly of Israel's politics.

Missile ‘brought in from Russia’ downed MH17

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Dutch-led criminal probe says Malaysia airliner was hit by Buk fired by rebels in eastern Ukraine

In Egypt's Guantanamo 'abuse is systematic'

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Prison authorities refused to provide inmates with medical care, possibly causing their deaths, HRW report finds.

Memory keepers

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The child of two Holocaust survivors talks about being the keeper of their memories – and projects working with children of survivors of massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia talk about the impact handed down through families.

Venezuela's media clamp down

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

As protests pick up in fervor on the streets of Caracas, as do President Nicol?s Maduro's media silencing methods.

Can Scotland avoid a ‘hard Brexit’?

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Far-reaching economic changes would justify a second referendum on independence, SNP strategists say

Educating girls in South Sudan

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Meet the girls who must overcome conflict, hunger, stigma and sexual abuse just to go to school.

Jeremy Corbyn has lost his NEC majority - and worse could be to come

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The NEC promises to be a thorn in the Labour leader's side.

Jeremy Corbyn has lost his majority on the party’s ruling national executive committee, after a longstanding demand of the Welsh and Scottish parties sees the introduction of two further appointed posts on the NEC, one each of Kezia Dugdale, leader of Scottish Labour and Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister and leader of the Welsh party. 

It means that, unlike during his first year as leader, Corbyn will not have a majority on the NEC. Corbyn acquired a small majority on the party’s ruling body at last year’s Labour conference, when Community, which represents workers in steel and the third sector, was voted off in favour of the BFAWU, which represents bakers. Added to the replacement of Hilary Benn with Rebecca Long-Bailey, that gave Corbyn a small but fairly reliable majority on the NEC. (It also led to Bex Bailey, the diminutive rightwinger who sat as Youth Rep, being dubbed “Rebecca Short-Bailey” by Corbynsceptic trade union officials.) 

In practice, the new NEC is now “hung”, as Corbynsceptics sacrificed their new majority last night when they elected Glenis Wilmott, leader of the European parliamentary Labour party, as chair. Corbyn’s opponents judge that controlling the chair, which rules on procedure and interpret’s the NEC’s rules, is worth more than a majority of one. 

Divisions will hinge upon the NEC’s swing voters – Alice Perry, who is elected by councilors, Ann Black, elected by members, and Keith Vaz, the chair of BAME Labour, and the new Welsh Labour representative, appointed by Jones. Corbyn may, therefore, have cause to regret fighting quite so hard to resist the changes this time.

“All we’re asking is that we should have the same rights as Jeremy, who appoints three,” Jones told me on Monday. At an acrimonious meeting at the NEC, Jones – who has been campaigning for the change since he became leader and has already been rebuffed back in 2011 – told Corbyn that the Welsh leadership had been kept waiting “too long” for the same rights as the Westminster party. Jones, unlike Dugdale, remained neutral in the leadership race. He explained to me that “I’d expect [London] to stay out of our elections, so you’ve got to return the favour”. 

Dugdale takes a different view, and, I’m told, feels that Corbyn’s allies in Scotland have been manoeuvring against her since she became leader. She has appointed herself to sit on the NEC, where she will be a consistent vote against Corbyn.

But worse may be to come for Corbyn in the trade union section. An underappreciated aspect of Labour politics is the impact of labour politics – ie, the jostling for power and members between affliated trade unions. What happens at the Trade Union Congress doesn’t stay there, and there has long been a feeling, fairly or unfairly, that Unite – Britain’s largest trade union – throws its weight around at the TUC. 

A desire to “cut Len down to size” is likely to make itself felt in Labour.The merger of Unite with Ucatt, the construction union, takes Unite’s share of the seats on the 33-person NEC to five including the treasurer Diana Holland.  Although Unite’s total membership is larger, it affliates fewer members to the party than Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, and the GMB do. Usdaw is a reliable block to Corbyn on the NEC and the GMB is at odds with the leadership over Trident and fracking. 

All of which means that Corbyn’s path to wide-ranging rule changes may not be as clear as his allies might wish. 

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Turkey: 32,000 jailed for links to group 'behind' coup

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Justice minister confirms arrests of almost half of the 70,000 people investigated following July's failed coup attempt.

If Seumas Milne leaves Jeremy Corbyn, he'll do it on his own terms

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The Corbynista comms chief has been keeping a diary. 

It’s been a departure long rumoured: Seumas Milne to leave post as Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy to return to the Guardian.

With his loan deal set to expire on 20 October, speculation is mounting that he will quit the leader’s office. 

Although Milne is a key part of the set-up – at times of crisis, Corbyn likes to surround himself with long-time associates, of whom Milne is one – he has enemies within the inner circle as well. As I wrote at the start of the coup, there is a feeling among Corbyn’s allies in the trade unions and Momentum that the leader’s offfice “fucked the first year and had to be rescued”, with Milne taking much of the blame. 

Senior figures in Momentum are keen for him to be replaced, while the TSSA, whose general secretary, Manuel Cortes, is one of Corbyn’s most reliable allies, is said to be keen for their man Sam Tarry to take post in the leader’s office on a semi-permanent basis. (Tarry won the respect of many generally hostile journalists when he served as campaign chief on the Corbyn re-election bid.) There have already been personnel changes at the behest of Corbyn-allied trade unions, with a designated speechwriter being brought in.

But Milne has seen off the attempt to remove him, with one source saying his critics had been “outplayed, again” and that any new hires will be designed to bolster, rather than replace Milne as comms chief. 

Milne, however, has found the last year a trial. I am reliably informed that he has been keeping a diary and is keen for the full story of the year to come out. With his place secure, he could leave “with his head held high”, rather than being forced out by his enemies and made a scapegoat for failures elsewhere, as friends fear he has been. The contents of the diary would also allow him to return in triumph to The Guardian rather than slinking back. 

So whether he decides to remain in the Corbyn camp or walk away, the Milne effect on Team Corbyn is set to endure.

 

Getty

How does a Buk missile system work?

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The Ukrainian military has given BBC News access to one of its Buks, to show how sophisticated a piece of military equipment it is.

Ali Bongo sworn in as president of Gabon

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Bongo takes oath of office despite criticism from the opposition and members of the international community.

Why fewer of us want a long-term relationship ... with a political party

By Jon Mellon from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

In 2015, 38 per cent of voters backed a different party to the one they supported in 2010. So what does the rise of swing voters mean for British politics?

For decades political parties have competed furiously for one of the great prizes of British politics: the affections of the swing voter. It wasn’t that long ago that there were relatively few political swingers: until the 1990s, fewer than a quarter of voters would switch parties from one election to the next.

Yet that once relatively rare breed is becoming increasingly common, which means party campaigners are going to have to come up with new tactical thinking. The British Election Study survey panels, conducted episodically over the last fifty years, are unique in that they are able to track the same voters from one election to the next, unlike more conventional opinion polls that only look at a snapshot of voters at a given time. Using these studies, you can identify the percentage of voters who switch their vote from one party to another between each pair of elections since 1966 when such data was first collected.

In 1966 only around 13 per cent of voters had changed their minds since the previous election in 1964. Since then, the proportion of swingers has been steadily increasing, and by 2015, 38 per cent of voters backed a different party to the one they supported in 2010.

The increase in swing voters is pretty consistent. The only exceptions are between February and October 1974, when (understandably) fewer voters changed their minds in eight months than switched in the preceding four years, and between 1997 and 2001, when the electoral dominance of New Labour under Tony Blair held back the tide for a time. These two exceptions aside, the increase has been constant election-on-election.

A lot of vote shifting can go on even between elections where the overall result remains stable. In 2001, for example, more people switched votes than in any election before 1997, with a surprising level of turmoil beneath the surface stability. While these largely cancelled out on that occasion, it set the stage for more dramatic changes in the parties’ votes later on.

So British voters now seem more likely than ever to jump from party to party. But who exactly are these swingers? Are they disillusioned former party loyalists? Or have British voters simply stopped getting into a serious relationship with the parties in the first place? We can get some insight into this using data from the yearly British Social Attitudes Survey, looking at the number of respondents who say that they do not identify with any of the political parties (party identifiers tend to switch much less often) when they are asked ‘Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a supporter of any one political party?’ and then ‘Do you think of yourself as a little closer to one political party than to the others?’ if they say no to the first question. The graph below combines data from 1984 to 2013. Each line represents people who were born in a different year. Higher lines mean that there are more people who do not identify with a political party. So, for instance, voters born in 1955 started with very low levels of non-identification (22 per cent), which have gradually risen to 44 per cent in the latest survey. Most of the lines on the graph go up over time, which shows that almost all generations are falling out of love with the parties.

However, an acquired taste in swinging among the older generations is dwarfed by the promiscuous younger generations – shown by the dashed lines – most of whom never form an attachment to a party at all. Each generation in the data has been less committed to the parties than the previous generation was at the same age, with around 60 per cent of the youngest generation – those born since 1985 – expressing no attachment to any political party.

Since most of this change has been a generational shift, it may be a long road back for the parties. Loyalty to parties is often handed down in families, with children inheriting their parents’ commitment to a party. Now that this process has broken down, and younger generations have lost their attachment to parties, they may in turn pass on this political detachment to their children.

The majority of younger voters have simply never grown up with the idea of getting into a long-term relationship with a political party, so they may never settle down. Many Labour MPs were outraged when it turned out that lots of the new members who joined up to vote for Jeremy Corbyn had voted for the Green Party just a few months before, but this may simply reflect the political approach of a generation who see parties as needing to earn their vote each time rather than commanding lasting, even unconditional loyalty.

If Britain’s newfound taste for swinging isn’t going to disappear any time soon, what does it mean for party competition? In the past most people had settled partisan views, which seldom changed. General elections could be won by attracting the relatively small group of voters who hadn’t made up their minds and could very easily vote for either of the two main parties, so political parties based their strategies around mobilising their core voters and targeting the few waverers. While they worried about traditional loyalists not turning up to the polls, the parties could be assured of their supporters’ votes as long as they got them to the voting booth.

Nowadays, swing voters are no longer a small section of the electorate who are being pulled back and forth by the parties, but a substantial chunk of all voters. This helps to explain why politicians have been so surprised by the sudden rise of new parties competing for groups previously thought to be reliable supporters. The new parties that have entered British politics have also allowed voters to express their views on issues that don’t fall neatly into traditional left– right politics such as immigration (UKIP) or Scottish independence (the SNP). This in turn has posed a dilemma for the traditional parties, who are pulled in multiple directions trying to stop their voters being tempted away.

This may just be the start. If the number of swing voters stays this high, the parties will have to get used to defending themselves on multiple fronts.

This is an extract from More Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box, edited by Philip Cowley and Robert Ford.

Cameron in Nuneaton. Photo: Getty

Andy Burnham quits shadow cabinet: "Let's end divisive talk of deselections"

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The shadow home secretary reflected on a "profoundly sad" year. 

Andy Burnham will leave the shadow cabinet in the reshuffle to focus on his bid to become Manchester's metro mayor in 2017. 

In his swansong as shadow home secretary, Burnham said serving Labour had been a privilege but certain moments over the last 12 months had made him "profoundly sad".

He said:

"This is my tenth Conference speaking to you as a Cabinet or shadow cabinet minister.

"And it will be my last.

"It is time for me to turn my full focus to Greater Manchester. 

"That's why I can tell you all first today that I have asked Jeremy to plan a new shadow cabinet without me, although I will of course stay until it is in place."

Burnham devoted a large part of his speech to reflecting on the Hillsborough campaign, in which he played a major part, and the more recent campaign to find out the truth of the clash between police and miners at Orgreave in 1984.

He defended his record in the party, saying he had not inconsistent, but loyal to each Labour leader in turn. 

Burnham ran in the 2015 Labour leadership election as a soft left candidate, but found himself outflanked by Jeremy Corbyn on the left. 

He was one of the few shadow cabinet ministers not to resign in the wake of Brexit.

Burnham spoke of his sadness over the turbulent last year: He was, he said:

"Sad to hear the achievements of our Labour Government, in which I was proud to serve, being dismissed as if they were nothing.

"Sad that old friendships have been strained; 

"Sad that some seem to prefer fighting each other than the Tories."

He called for Labour to unite and end "divisive talk about deselections" while respecting the democratic will of members.

On the controversial debate of Brexit, and controls on immigration, he criticised Theresa May for her uncompromising stance, and he described Britain during the refugee crisis as appearing to be "wrapped up in its own selfish little world".

But he added that voters do not want the status quo:

"Labour voters in constituencies like mine are not narrow-minded, nor xenophobic, as some would say. 

"They are warm and giving. Their parents and grandparents welcomed thousands of Ukrainians and Poles to Leigh after the Second World War.

"And today they continue to welcome refugees from all over the world. They have no problem with people coming here to work.

"But they do have a problem with people taking them for granted and with unlimited, unfunded, unskilled migration which damages their own living standards. 

"And they have an even bigger problem with an out-of-touch elite who don't seem to care about it."

Burnham has summed up Labour's immigration dilemma with more nuance and sensitivity than many of his colleagues. But perhaps it is easier to do so when you're leaving your job. 

Getty

China police uncover $6m supermarket gift card scam

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Former supermarket staff accused of hacking computer systems to fraudulently reload cards.

Adelaide slammed by its worst storm in decades

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Powerful storm batters South Australia causing widespread power outage affecting airport, hospitals and traffic lights.

Five things we've learned from Labour conference

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The party won't split, Corbynite divisions are growing and MPs have accepted Brexit. 

Labour won't split anytime soon

For months, in anticipation of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election, the media had speculated about the possibility of a Labour split. But the party’s conference confirmed that MPs have no intention of pursuing this course (as I had long written). They are tribally loyal to Labour and fear that a split would prove electorally ruinous under first-past-the-post. Many still expect Theresa May to hold an early general election and are focused on retaining their seats.

Rather than splitting, Corbyn’s opponents will increase their level of internal organisation in a manner reminiscent of the left’s Socialist Campaign Group. The “shadow shadow cabinet” will assert itself through backbench policy committees and, potentially, a new body (such as the proposed “2020 group”). Their aim is to promote an alternative direction for Labour and to produce the ideas and organisation that future success would depend on.

MPs do not dismiss the possibility of a split if their “hand is forced” through a wave of deselections or if the left achieves permanent control of the party. But they expect Labour to fight the next election as a united force.

Neither the Corbynites nor the rebels have ultimate control 

Corbyn’s second landslide victory confirmed the left’s dominance among the membership. He increased his winning margin and triumphed in every section. But beyond this, the left’s position is far more tenuous.

The addition of Scottish and Welsh representatives to the National Executive Committee handed Corbyn’s opponents control of Labour’s ruling body. Any hope of radically reshaping the party’s rule book has ended.

For weeks, Corbyn’s allies have spoken of their desire to remove general secretary Iain McNicol and deputy leader Tom Watson. But the former is now safe in his position, while the latter has been strengthened by his rapturously received speech.

Were Corbyn to eventually resign or be defeated, another left candidate (such as John McDonnell) would struggle to make the ballot. Nominations from 15 per cent of MPs are required but just six per cent are committed Corbynites (though selection contests and seat losses could aid their cause). It’s for this reason that allies of the leader are pushing for the threshold to be reduced to five per cent. Unless they succeed, the hard-left’s dominance is from assured. Were an alternative candidate, such as Clive Lewis or Angela Rayner, to succeed it would only be by offering themselves as a softer alternative.

Corbynite divisions are intensifying 

The divide between Corbyn’s supporters and opponents has recently monopolised attention. But the conference showed why divisions among the former should be interrogated.

Shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis, an early Corbyn backer, was enraged when his speech was amended to exclude a line announcing that Labour’s pro-Trident stance would not be reversed. Though Lewis opposes renewal, he regards unilateralism as an obstacle to unifying the party around a left economic programme. The longer Corbyn remains leader, the greater the tension between pragmatism and radicalism will become. Lewis may have alienated CND but he has improved his standing among MPs, some of whom hail him as a bridge between the hard and soft left.

Elsewhere, the briefing against McDonnell by Corbyn allies, who suggested he was an obstacle to recruiting frontbenchers, showed how tensions between their respective teams will continue.

Labour has accepted Brexit

Ninety four per cent of Labour MPs backed the Remain campaign during the EU referendum. But by a similar margin, they have accepted the Leave vote. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, both long-standing eurosceptics, confirmed that they would not seek to prevent Brexit.

Owen Smith called for a referendum on the eventual deal during his leadership campaign. But with some exceptions, such as Angela Eagle, most of his backers have rejected the idea. Though 48 per cent of the electorate voted Remain, MPs emphasise that only 35 per cent of constituencies did. Some still fear an SNP-style surge for Ukip if Labour seeks to overturn the outcome.

The debate has moved to Britain’s future relationship with Europe, most notably the degree of free movement. For Labour, like Theresa May, Brexit means Brexit.

Corbyn will not condemn deselections 

The Labour leader could have won credit from MPs by unambiguously condemning deselection attempts. But repeatedly invited to do so, he refused. Corbyn instead defended local parties’ rights and stated that the “vast majority” of MPs had nothing to fear (a line hardly reassuring to those who do). Angela Eagle, Stella Creasy and Peter Kyle are among the rebels targeted by activists.

Corbyn can reasonably point out that the rules remain the same as under previous leaders. MPs who lose trigger ballots of their local branches face a full and open selection. But Labour’s intensified divisions mean deselection has become a far greater threat. MPs fear that Corbyn relishes the opportunity to remake the parliamentary party in his own images.  And some of the leader’s allies hope to ease the process by reviving mandatory reselection. Unless Corbyn changes his line, the issue will spark continual conflict. 

Getty Images.

Does Trump Know How to Laugh?

By Alex Wagner from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Among the many remarkable exhibitions of abnormal behavior on stage Monday night, one of the most peculiar was that Donald Trump never once displayed a sense of humor. For the entire evening—ninety-five minutes of bombast, accusations, defensive maneuvering and confounding explanations—Trump’s countenance morphed from deep concentration to deep disdain, from periodic sneers to pointed indignation. There were moments of levity on stage, to be sure, but it seemed as if Trump possessed an almost categorical aversion to smiling, to laughing for even a minute at the absurdity of the situation, and indeed some of his own absurdist commentary.

The same could not be said for his opponent: Clinton, perhaps more than at any time this campaign (excepting her recent appearance with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns) was relishing in a sort of comic levity, made initially evident in this exchange:

Clinton: I have a feeling that by, the end of this evening, I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened.

Trump: Why not?

Clinton: Why not? Yeah, why not?

Hey, why not? Therein began Clinton’s meta-routine, which was comprised not of laff lines, per se, but a series of joking asides that amounted to a rhetorical subtweet for the audience at home: Can you believe this guy?

Trump: And I think I did a great job and a great service not only for the country, but even for the president, in getting him to produce his birth certificate.

Holt: Secretary Clinton?

Clinton: Well, just listen to what you heard.

You could almost hear Clinton elbowing moderator Lester Holt in Dangerfield-esque disbelief, as if to say, Can you getta load of this one? The Clintonian comedy softshoe continued on, reaching its apex towards the end of the evening:

Trump: I don't know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there's a person with a temperament that's got a problem.

Holt: Secretary Clinton?

Clinton: Whew, OK.

The “Whew, OK” was accompanied by a shoulder shimmy that quickly became one of the defining GIFs of the evening, a sort of Shake It Off for American politics: Players gonna play / Haters gonna hate / I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake it off. If the broad consensus is that Clinton was more prepared on Monday night, it is also true that she was having a lot more fun. Both served her well.

Granted, a lot has been made of Hillary Clinton’s sense of humor—her laugh is shrill, too many of her jokes have seemed too prepared for far too long. But undoubtedly, at the first presidential debate on Monday, it was confirmed: Her sense of humor exists! And this mattered, because humor showed Clinton to be as self-aware as she was serious, and served to isolate Trump, making him seem like an angry spider caught in a tangled dystopia of his own construction.

This isn’t to say that Trump can’t get laughs. It’s simply that when he gets them, he’s humiliating people—whether “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, “Lyin” Ted Cruz or “Little” Marco Rubio. Humor borne out of cruelty happens to be the easiest and therefore lowest form of comedy: It is cheap stuff and it does not elevate the candidate, nor make him a more fundamentally sympathetic character. And when Trump does manage to grab laughs, his smile is a forced, flat line—a concession to facial spasm more than a natural expression of amusement or mirth.

Contrast this with the behavior of the current president, also on display this Monday. President Obama appeared at the Tribal Nations Conference the same day, swathed in a blanket and straw hat given to him by the Crow nation—giggling and beaming at his own apparent absurdity:

With all due respect to the Crow nation, for an American president, it was an unusual-looking affair, and Obama knew it. But allowing himself to be presented as such revealed a president willing to put his own particular (sartorial) preferences on the line in order to show respect. And also, perhaps most importantly, to not take himself so seriously.

This would seem to be a truism in contemporary American politics: The electorate opts for serious leaders, but almost always men who are able to poke fun at themselves—and the gravitas of their position. Nobody has proved quite as adept as laughing at himself as former President George W. Bush, who willingly conceded to being a class clown, even as a candidate in 1999.

From the New York Times:

Someone congratulated Mrs. Bush for an award that she had just been given by her alma mater, Southern Methodist University, and asked the couple if Mr. Bush had ever received a similar distinction from one of the schools that he attended.

“If they honored me,” Mr. Bush said, with a touch of mischievous pride, “the teachers might boycott.”

Bush, no policy expert, sought laughs for his intellectual and rhetorical shortcomings. At the 2001 White House Correspondents Dinner, he conceded, “Now ladies and gentlemen, you have to admit that in my sentences, I go where no man has gone before.” Bush became even sillier in his late-presidency, as he channeled the spirit of the dance while visiting with the Kankouran West African Dance Company in 2007:

To be fair, in his post-presidency, this jocularity has not always served him as well (for example, when he couldn’t stop dancing during the Dallas memorial service for slain police officers this summer).

President Clinton was an entertainer who used his sense of humor easily and often. In October of 1995, while negotiating Bosnian peacekeeping forces with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Clinton’s bellyaching laughter and gleeful backslapping at Yeltsin’s jokes—despite their lingering disagreements—was itself a form of frothy diplomacy:

It is very nearly impossible to imagine Trump and Putin getting close to this sort of mirthful rapport, and not just because Putin has an evidently terrible sense of humor and engages in a form of solipsism so extreme that it has found him crooning Fats Domino songs to live audiences without even a shred of irony:

No, it is hard to imagine Yeltsin-Clinton-style engagement between Putin-Trump, (despite whatever inclinations may already exist), mostly because it is impossible to imagine Trump ever really laughing that hard, or that freely.

Trump has offered a vitriolic diagnosis of the state of affairs in the United States, and his ability to convincingly channel populist rage has gotten him very far. Almost to the top, in fact. But Americans are not a joyless people, and have—for the last quarter century, at least—elected men who could offer (however legitimately) some hope of good humor in the middle of chaos and complication. Trump has never offered this to the public, and Monday night found him on his biggest stage yet—still unable to wipe the scowl from his face, unswervingly furious about society’s miseries. It is hard to imagine the American public offering the next four years of leadership to a man so taken, so entirely consumed, with dark tragedy.

The Company That Wants to Fight Your Medical Bills

By Olga Khazan from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

If you’re the special kind of person who’s interested in medical billing, I’ve had an exciting past few months. One day this spring, I was frantically chopping carrots after work when I noticed that my left hand was covered in lukewarm blood. When I washed it off, I saw my skin splaying open to reveal my pale-blue thumb joint. That necessitated not one, but two trips to an urgent-care center, a strange hybrid of an emergency room and doctor’s office where payment can be similarly muddled.

I also got a new mouthguard, something my doctor says I must wear, or else I will grind my teeth away to tiny nubs while I sleep. I tried to pretend the little session where they make a mold of your mouth using what looks and tastes like melted-down Crocs was a 15-minute spa retreat from my work emails. My bubble was burst when, on my way out, the front-desk woman told me the mouthguard would cost more than $400, which I let her charge to my credit card because the alternative was to press my sawed-off hand to my nub-toothed mouth and run screaming out the door.

Another doctor I see regularly told me “I don’t deal with insurance,” with the same nonchalance that 20-somethings with rich parents say they “didn’t feel like having roommates” to explain their one-bedroom condos. She has no in-network equivalent.

These experiences softened me up for a pitch from Remedy, a new start-up that aims to help people fight their medical bills. Though estimates of billing errors vary widely, at least 10 to 30 percent of medical bills contain a mistake. I figured my recent medical misadventures might make Remedy worth my while.

Remedy was founded in 2015 by John Schulte, a software engineer, Marija Ringwelski, a public-health worker, and Victor Echevarria, a former executive at the errand startup TaskRabbit. Echevarria sought to apply TaskRabbit’s duty-delegating model to disputing medical bills, another chore many can’t wait to offload. By the end of November, Remedy had raised $1.9 million from investors, and it’s expected to formally launch this week.

At first, Remedy relied on individuals texting the company photos of bills they found dubious. Before long, though, the team realized people “felt they were being taken advantage of and wanted a constant protector,” Echevarria told me. Now users connect their insurance to the platform and have Remedy scrutinize every one of their claims. To the layman, disputing medical errors can prove so tedious and complicated, Echevarria said, that “it makes cancelling Comcast look like the simplest thing in the world.”

Remedy’s bill-sleuthing is performed in part by a network of medical-billing contractors who work on each patient’s “cases” on their own schedule. For any errors uncovered, providers are supposed to refund the money directly to the Remedy user. Remedy is free to use, but it takes a 20 percent cut of the savings they find, up to $99 for a single bill. (Though the company said that $99 cap could change.)

Remedy said that based on “research from CMS [The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services], statistics from academia, and independent investigations,” medical errors are responsible for $120 to $150 billion in overcharges each year. It uses that figure, divided by the population of insured Americans, to bolster its claim that it would save the average family $1,000 per year.

It’s not clear yet how much money Remedy would save for the average healthy-ish person, however. Echevarria told me Remedy focuses on the mistakes made by doctors’ offices, rather than on bargaining with insurers. In the U.S., all diagnoses are assigned a code, and an improper code might lead to a denied claim, as might a clerical error like a misspelled name. It’s easy and common for doctors or billing clearinghouses to make these mistakes, Echevarria said. Insurers, meanwhile, are so strict in what they cover that negotiating with them can be like “banging your head against a wall of futility, even for us,” he said. Still, the company said it would appeal some denied claims, like those for services that should have been covered by the plan.

Since its founding, the company says it has discovered errors in half of its users’ bills. For patients who can’t afford their bills, Remedy said they will help set up monthly payment plans for free. Eventually, Echevarria said, “our hope is to negotiate for discounts in every single case” where a patient desires one. In my case, though, steep, correct bills weren’t reduced; I got an email from Remedy saying “everything checks out” with my three-figure mouthguard.

The service can make things a bit awkward with your medical providers. My no-insurance doctor sent me a worried email when Remedy asked her about my tab. Without thinking, I sheepishly apologized for the inconvenience. Several billing experts told me I should have argued with the dentist about my mouthguard bill rather than paying it, but the reason I turned to Remedy was because I find haggling with doctors to be more painful than, well, pulling teeth. Remedy says its service is actually good for doctors, since sometimes patients simply dodge bills they feel are unfair.

Perhaps most critically, several cybersecurity experts warn that it can be risky to entrust a private company with personal medical data. “When you use the service, you’re agreeing that these third-party people can look at your data,” said Sandy H. Ahn, a professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “It’s concerning. There are certain medical conditions that you might not want people to know about.”

When I called Avi Rubin, director of the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, he peppered me with frightening questions: “Once you use them, how do you know you can delete your medical records? Can you put a lid on it? Is the cat out of the bag? How do the specialists safeguard it? How do they destroy the data when they’re done with it?”

Rubin added that while it sounds like Remedy could be a valuable service for those who are slammed by unaffordable medical bills, he personally wouldn’t find the savings worth the risk of a medical-data leak.

Christine Arevalo, vice president at the cybersecurity firm ID Experts, provided a chilling example of what this type of medical identity theft might look like.

“A lot of times [medical identity theft] lurks in the shadows,” she said, until “you get a bill in the mail for an ambulance ride that you didn’t take.” She described a scenario where someone could use your insurance and pollute your health record, and when you’re lying in a hospital, unconscious and unable to speak for yourself, you could receive improper treatment because your health record shows you have an allergy you don’t really have.

Granted, cybersecurity folks are a cautious crowd who study worst-case scenarios. If you use the Internet, chances are your data has already been exposed to hackers many times over. Remedy says it uses hospital-grade data encryption, and the billing specialists in its network only have access to a patient’s medical information while they’re actively working on their case. Remedy is not a covered entity under HIPAA, the federal law that guards patients’ medical information, but Echevarria said the company treats its data as though it were. They never share users’ data with anyone but the billing specialists, they said, and they delete users’ data if they deactivate their account.

Perhaps that’s one way to reap the upsides of Remedy without chancing becoming inspiration for a Homeland episode. In the 20 days that I tried Remedy, the company did find one $50 error. It turned out the urgent-care center charged me for my stitches twice.

Chuck Bell, the programs director at the Consumers Union, pointed out that people can also try to resolve their billing issues without the help of apps like Remedy, simply by contacting their state insurance department or local consumer assistance program. Those options might be more time-consuming, but they also don’t dip into the patient’s savings. According to a recent Consumer’s Union survey, two-thirds of respondents took action to dispute a surprise medical bill, and 28 percent of them were happy with the resolution.

Bell said that while services like Remedy might make financial sense for some, we shouldn’t lose sight of the underlying problem: Medical bills are too high and too wrong, too often.

“Do we really want to encourage the growth of a new industry to scrutinize inaccurate bills?” he said in an email. “The dead elephant in the room is that if the consumer had been billed correctly, they would not need this service.”  

Belgium rolls out ‘tax shift’ policy

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

PM Charles Michel aims to rebalance system to support people on low to medium incomes

Stolen African penguin 'cannot survive in the wild'

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A huge hunt is under way for a stolen African penguin who experts fear will die in the wild.

We're hiring! New editor needed for NS Tech

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The New Statesman is looking for a writer/editor for its B2B tech vertical, NS Tech.

The New Statesman is looking for a new editor for its B2B tech vertical, NS Tech.

The site covers subjects like cyber-security, government computing and how companies adapt to the digital future.

The successful applicant should have:

- experience in writing B2B copy to a high standard, free from legal issues or errors

- SEO, headline and other production skills, to ensuring the copy is presented as cleanly and searchably as possible 

- the ability to manage outside contributors alongside their own writing

- the ability to work to quick turnarounds

- the ability to generate ideas and concepts

To apply, please send an email to india.bourke @ newstatesman.co.uk with the subject line "NS Tech". Include a cover letter outlining your suitability for the role, and a CV. Applications close at noon on 7 October 

The role will be based in our offices in London, and the salary will be competitive – based on experience.  

Getty.

Shimon Peres dies: President Obama leads tributes to Israel's former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

World leaders rushed to pay tribute to the former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner. 

Shimon Peres, the former Israeli prime minister, president and Nobel Prize winner has died aged 93.

Peres, who served as prime minister twice and later became Israel's ninth president, suffered a stroke two weeks ago and has been seriously ill at a hospital near Tel Aviv since. His condition had improved before a sudden deterioration on Tuesday led to his death.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role negotiating the Oslo Peace Accords a year earlier, which talked of an independent Palestinian state. 

His son Chemi led the tributes to his father — praising his seven decades of public service and describing him as "one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel" who "worked tirelessly" for it.

World leaders rushed to honour his memory with President Obama calling him "the essence of Israel itself".

"Perhaps because he had seen Israel surmount overwhelming odds, Shimon never gave up on the possibility of peace between Israelis, Palestinians and Israel's neighbours," Obama wrote.

Britain’s chief rabbi Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis bid farewell in an emotional statement: "There will be countless tributes to Shimon Peres over the coming days, but I fear that few, if any, will adequately capture the palpable sense of collective grief felt across the world, nor do justice to the memory of a true giant amongst men," he said.

"It is true that Shimon Peres was a great statesman. He was the noblest of soldiers, a born leader, a uniquely talented diplomat, an inspiring speaker and a relentless campaigner."

The former US president Bill Clinton called Peres a "genius with a big heart" and said he would never forget “how happy” Peres was in 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn. 

"The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow together," he said.

"And Hillary and I have lost a true and treasured friend.”

Peres’s former political opponent, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in his statement: “Along with all the citizens of Israel, the entire Jewish people and many others around the world, I bow my head in memory of our beloved Shimon Peres, who was treasured by the nation.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that "even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace".

French president Francois Hollande said "Israel has lost one of its most illustrious statesmen, and peace has lost one of its most ardent defenders"

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Indian PM Narendra Modi have also paid tribute.

Among the world leaders expected to attend his funeral in Jerusalem on Friday are President Obama, Prince Charles and Pope Francis.

ONEN ZVULUN/AFP/Getty Image

Yanis Varoufakis: The left never recovered from the fall of the Soviet Union — yet there is hope

By Yanis Varoufakis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A radical internationalism is needed to democratise the EU and breathe new life into the left.

The left has been in disarray since 1991 – it never fully recovered from the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite widespread opposition to Stalinism and ­authoritarianism. In the past two decades, we have witnessed a major spasm of global capitalism that has triggered a long deflationary period across the United States and Europe. Just as the Great Depression did in the 1930s, this has created a breeding ground for xenophobia, racism and scapegoating.

The rise of centrism is also partly to blame. For a period in the late 1990s, it seemed that this had become the new doctrine of the left. In Britain, New Labour under Tony Blair was never part of the left. Margaret Thatcher was delighted by the manner in which his governments copied her policies and adopted her neoliberal mantra, though she did ask the question: if you want to vote for a Conservative, why not vote for a real one instead?

Parties such as New Labour, the Socialists in France and the Social Democrats in Germany might have called themselves the radical centre, but that was just labelling. What was happening under the surface was that the progressive parties of the left were being lured into financialisation. In the 1960s and 1970s the centre left was aware of its duty to act as a mediator between industrial capital and labour. Harold Wilson’s Labour Party, Willy Brandt’s Social Democrats in Germany and others understood that their duty was to strike a grand bargain whereby industrial capital ceded to workers’ demands for higher wages and better conditions, while they agreed to help fund the welfare state.

From the mid-1980s onwards, the left-wing leadership abandoned this duty. Industrial capital was in decline and it was much easier to look towards the super-profits of the City of London and the global banks. A Faustian pact was made with the financial sector – European governments turned a blind eye to what the bankers were doing and offered them further deregulation in exchange for a few crumbs from their table to fund welfare. This is what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did in Britain, Gerhard Schröder did in Germany and the Socialists did in France. Then the financial crisis struck. At that point, social democrats throughout Europe lacked the moral strength and analytical power to tell bankers that although they would salvage the banks, their reign was over.

The best hope for the left is to come together to defeat the worst enemy of European democracy: “Euro-tina”, the reactionary dogma that “there is no alternative” to the continent’s current policies. Hence the EU’s true democratisation is the only alternative. This is what my collaborators and I hope to achieve with our new Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25). We are compiling a new economic agenda for Europe, which will answer the question I am asked on the streets everywhere I go, from Sweden to the UK: what can we do better within the EU? If the answer is “nothing”, the Brexiteers have a point – we might as well blow the whole thing up and start afresh. The alternative to the “Year Zero” approach is to recalibrate European institutions in the context of a practical and comprehensive agenda comprised of policies that will stabilise Europe’s social economy.

The EU institutions are anti-Europeanist and contemptuous of democracy. People might wonder: if that is the case, why am I arguing to stay in, but against the Union? In response, I ask those who support the left-wing argument in favour of Brexit: since when has the British state been a friend of the working class? Never. And yet their argument is: do not dismantle it. The nation state was created to promote a fictitious notion of a national interest to co-opt labour and those on the fringes of society – the “lumpenproletariat”, as we once called them. The left understands that it is not our job to destroy institutions. Instead, we struggle to take them over and use them for good. I cut my political teeth protesting against the Greek state but I do not believe that it should be dismantled and the same argument applies to the EU.

Good people who are motivated to change society often fall out with each other. I am reminded of a scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – when the Judaean People’s Front confronts the People’s Front of Judaea and the Popular Front of Judaea. DiEM25’s task is to try to convince our fellow left-wingers that the solution is a pan-European unity movement. A concrete example of the power that this can have is the election of Barcelona’s new mayor, Ada Colau. A DiEM25 supporter, she won the race against the odds,
having started her career running a protest movement that championed the rights of citizens threatened with eviction because they were unable to pay their mortgages.

The Syriza government, in which I served as finance minister from January to July 2015, failed to achieve change because we ended up disunited and the prime minister capitulated to the EU at the moment when he had a mandate from the Greek people to do the opposite. My hope was that if Syriza had carried on with the struggle, we would have been a catalyst for movements across Europe (such as the one that has fuelled the rise of Jeremy Corbyn) to join us.

The capitulation of Alexis Tsipras was a hefty blow to the concept of radical inter­nationalism, but I still believe that internationalism offers the solution to the problems facing Europe in this deflationary era. The number of good-quality jobs has decreased, investment is depressed and optimism about the future is being destroyed. It is the left’s duty to do all we can to end this. If we can explain to the masses what the sources of their discontent are, we have a chance to breathe new life into the left. There are no guarantees – just a chance.

This is the latest article in our “New Times” special series

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Setting history alight: Revolution and history in Egypt

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

From Jeeps running over protesters to a museum being set alight, Yehia Ghanem recalls key moments in Egypt's revolution.

Syrian troops launch major ground assault for Aleppo

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

After massive aerial bombardment, Syrian forces mobilise for ground operation to "wipe out" rebels and retake key city.

EfSyn: A Greek media success story

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

No one thought the Greek 'journalists' paper' would last, but EfSyn's circulation continues to rise.

There is nothing progressive about making immigrants scapegoats

By Maya Goodfellow from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Labour's so-called "moderates" are going down a dangerous path.

This is what we know about the consequence of Brexit so far: bigots have been emboldened, and racist feelings that have long been lurking under the surface of British society are out in the open. But instead of prompting a crisis of conscience among the political elite, the EU result and its violent consequences has only exacerbated their shallow but dangerous understanding of immigration and public anger.

Chuka Umunna, Stephen Kinnock and Rachel Reeves are some of the Labour MPs who been talking irresponsibly about immigration. In recent weeks these “moderates” have been calling for Labour to support “managed migration” or lamented that the party hasn’t taken a “muscular” enough stance on the subject. Shocked by the referendum result they have accepted the myth that migration undercuts wages, despite the fact that research says the contrary; and claimed that immigration causes racism, ignoring the fact that people who have experienced the highest levels of migration are the least anxious about it.

As part of his analysis of immigration, Umunna said migrants must stop leading “parallel lives” and integrate into British society. Talk of integration is so often used to attack migrants but community cohesion isn’t a one-way street. If Polish people open shops in their communities, they’re accused of taking over; if they keep to themselves, perhaps in part because of abuse they get, they’re refusing to integrate. Meanwhile English language classes remain woefully underfunded and the migration impact fund met the government’s axe back in 2010.

But there’s an ill-informed logic that you have to give way on immigration to preserve “progressive policies”. People who think this miss the point: there is nothing progressive about pandering to anti-immigration sentiment and in the process helping lay the ground for xenohpobia. The referendum result and ensuing violence was not the outcome of ignoring peoples’ so called “legitimate concerns” it was the result of politicians and the media scapegoating and demonising immigrants over the past decade.

We already know conceding ground on immigration simply gives anti-migrant politicians ammunition. Brendan Cox, whose MP wife Jo was killed in her constituency, said: “Petrified by the rise of the populists they [mainstream politicians] try to neuter them by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric. Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimise their views, reinforce their frames and pull the debate further to the extremes.”

Labour were complicit in creating ground for xenophobia to breed. The party’s craven submission to right-wing anti-immigration rhetoric is no new phenomenon; think Ed Miliband’s “controls on immigration” mugs at the last general election. Afraid of laying out the facts and losing votes to people who feared immigration, Labour fed - instead of countered - incendiary rhetoric.

We have seen the violent and ugly consequences of what happens when anti-migrant politics is not robustly opposed. The numbers of hate crimes have surged since the referendum; people from all over the world have had abuse hurled at them and Arkadiusz Jóźwik, a man from Poland, was murdered in Harlow. This violence was not born in a vacuum, nor was it solely the result of the Leave campaign’s virulently racist message. It was produced by a lethal concoction: anti-migrant politics and a poisonous right-wing media fused with public feelings of economic and social disenfranchisement. Instead of recognising successive how government’s policies had disadvantaged large swathes of people, politicians blamed immigrants. And so where prejudice already existed, they aggravated it.

It is in this climate of misinformation and scaremongering that people form their views. Most Briton want the number of immigrants in this country to be reduced. But then in 2014 Britons on average thought 24 per cent of the population were immigrants, which was nearly twice the real figure of 13 per cent. The imagined threat that migrants pose to this country only grows with every lie Labour repeat about immigration. Treading further into this ground as Umunna, Kinnock and Reeves have done is an entirely irresponsible decision.

“If you give ground to anti-immigrant politics” Diane Abbott said, “it will sweep away all of us.” The anti-immigration feeling some Labour MPs want to capitulate to isn’t just about immigrants from Europe; it’s also about race. Post-Brexit violence didn’t only affect people from EU states; British-born people of colour were told aggressively and repeatedly that they didn’t belong. This is because anti-immigration feeling at times acts as a proxy for a resurgent national identity tied to whiteness and visible minorities are seen as the enemy within. There’s an Islamophobic strain to this. TellMama, an organisation that records anti-Muslim incidents in the UK, found attacks on Muslims they spiked days following the Brexit result – and they were directly linked to Brexit. No matter how well people of colour integrate, they are told they never quite fit - talking irresponsibly about immigration only makes this worse. Ask Nadiya Hussain; she won Bake Off, a programme that couldn’t get more British, and still she experiences racist abuse.

It is impossible to form a progressive approach to immigration while reiterating lies about people from abroad. This is an approach Labour already tried and it doesn’t work: it only feeds the flames of prejudice. The truly brave approach would be to lay out the positive case for immigration because it’s patronising to assume the electorate are incapable of listening to reason if it’s framed in the right way. In a country where migrants and people of colour are told they don’t belong, there is nothing progressive about accepting myths about immigration.

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Clinton vs Trump: How does the electoral college work?

By Jonn Elledge from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A brief history.

If you have even the vaguest awareness of US politics, you'll no doubt recall the role Florida played in the 2000 presidential election. The result in the state was so close that arguments about recounts and hanging chads went on for weeks, before the result was finally settled – and the next president decided – by the US Supreme Court.

The odd thing about Bush v Gore, though, is that nobody questioned which of the two had more votes: it was Al Gore, by more than half a million. (The number of contested votes in Florida was something like a tenth of that.) To put it another way, it was always clear that more Americans wanted Gore as president than Bush.

And yet, the outcome of the election ignored that entirely. It turned instead on who had won Florida. That, the Supreme Court decided, had been Gore's opponent: George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the United States, and the rest is history.

So why did a man who everybody agreed had come second become president? Why did the whole thing end up turning on the number of votes in a few counties of former swamp?

History and geography

The answer comes down to that weirdly undemocratic American invention, the electoral college. The founding fathers, you see, did not actually intend for the president to be chosen by the people.

Much of the constitution was the work of the over-achieving Virginian delegation to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Their plan, written by James Madison, suggested that the president should be chosen by Congress.

That idea was rejected on the grounds that it would undermine the president's independence. Some delegates feared that allowing a bunch of men who spent all their time locked in a room together arguing pick the head of state would lead to “intrigue” (yes), and suggested the president should be chosen by popular vote instead.

So they settled on a compromise. Each state would pick “electors” – how they did so was their own business – and these would in turn pick the president. Senators and congressmen were specifically barred from becoming members of this electoral college; but an aspect of the original plan that survived was that the number of electors in each state would be equal to the number of representatives it had it Congress.

Some of the oddities in this system have been ironed out over time. By the mid 19th century most states were choosing electors by popular vote: the presidential election may be indirect, but it's an election nonetheless. After the 23rd Amendment passed in 1961, those who lived in Washington DC, previously disenfranchised because it isn't a state, were given the vote too (it gets three votes in the electoral college).

But others anomalies remain. Here are three:

1) A lack of proportion

One of the big issues in 1787 was persuading the original 13 states to agree to the new constitution at all. Many of the smaller ones (Delaware, New Hampshire) were nervous that, by joining the union, they would instantly be dominated by their much bigger neighbours (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts).

To keep them on board, the Constitutional Convention agreed the “Great Compromise”. The size of the delegations each state sent to the House of Representatives would be roughly proportional to the size of its population; in the Senate, though, every state would get two senators, whether it had several million people, or three old blokes and a dog. In other words, the US constitution had to deliberately over-represent smaller states in Congress, just to persuade them to sign up to the thing in the first place.

All this still applies today – and because size of a state’s delegation to Congress determines the number of votes its gets in the electoral college, smaller states are over-represented in presidential elections, too. The result is that a vote in California is worth less than a third of a vote in Wyoming:

Image: Fzxboy/Wikimedia Commons.

2) A lack of faith

The people don't choose the president: the electoral college does, with electors generally voting based on the votes of the people in their state.

But the operative word there is “generally”: while most states have laws requiring electors to vote with the popular will, or rendering their vote void if they don't, some 21 states do not. So, occasionally, there are “faithless electors”, who don't vote the way their state wants them to. In the 57 presidential elections between 1788 and 2012, there have been 157 incidents of such faithlessness (although, to be fair, in 71 cases this was because the electorate's preferred candidate was dead).

This has never affected the outcome of an election: the closest was in 1836 when the Virginia delegation refused to vote for vice presidential candidate Richard Mentor Johnson on the grounds that he was having an affair with a slave. (Being massive racists, they were fine with the slavery and the abuse of power; it was the interracial sex they had a problem with.) But Martin Van Buren's election as president was never in doubt, and even Johnson was confirmed after a vote in the Senate.

Even in those states which don't have laws to punish faithless electors, becoming one is still often a bloody stupid thing to do, since it generally means betraying the party that made you an elector in the first place, an act which will almost certainly wreck your career. Nonetheless, it is constitutionally possible that, when the electoral college meets after November's election, some of its members will ignore the result entirely and propose, say, Kevin Spacey as the next president. And those are the votes that count.

3) A lack of interest

The biggest oddity of the system though is the fact of the electoral college at all. The voters don't pick the president: the electoral college does. The result is that presidential campaigns need to focus not on individual voters, but on states.

Most states allocate their electoral votes on a winner takes all basis. There are two exceptions to this: Nebraska and Maine both hand out one electoral vote to the winner in each congressional district, and two to the state-wide victor. This rarely makes any difference, since both states are small, and any candidate who carries the Maine 2nd is likely also to have carried the whole of Maine. Just occasionally, though, it does: in 2008 Obama narrowly carried the Nebraska 2nd (Omaha, basically), prompting grumpy local Republicans to redraw the boundaries to dilute the local Democratic vote and so ensure this wouldn't happen again.

In the vast majority of states, however, winning 50.1 per cent of the vote will be enough to get you 100 per cent of the electoral votes. In an election with more than two candidates, indeed, you don't even need to do that: a simple plurality will get you 100 per cent of the vote, too.

This, combined, with demographics, mean we already know how something like 363 of the 538 electoral votes on offer will go. Only around 13 states are considered competitive this year. In the other 37, plus the District of Columbia, we might as well already know the result.

The result is that, for the next few weeks, there will be endless reports about Florida, Virginia and Ohio. But you're not going to hear so much about how voters are feeling in California or Delaware or Arkansas or Texas. The first two will go for Clinton; the last two will go for Trump. The campaigns will ignore them; the voters may as well not show up. State-wide demographics mean the result is already clear.

In a true popular election, every vote would count equally. In the electoral college, they do not. The result, 16 years ago, was four weeks of legal wrangling over a few hundred votes in Florida. The result, this year, is that it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump will become president – even if Hillary Clinton gets more votes.

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Thai junta allows a 'culture of torture', says Amnesty

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Amnesty International in its report documents 74 cases of torture at the hands of Thai soldiers and police.

Why Ivanka Is Trump's Top Surrogate

By Michelle Cottle from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

It’s no secret that Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are not besties. The Republican presidential pick has little use for the Speaker’s wonky, establishment ways. Ryan, meanwhile, increasingly looks as though he feels about Trump the way most Americans feel about Anthony Weiner: Please, God, just make him go away!

Practically speaking, however, it simply won’t do to have the top-ranked GOP officer holder completely out of touch with his party’s nominee. The optics are terrible, and there’s nothing the political media enjoy quite like stories about internecine unpleasantness.

Under such ticklish conditions, there was really only one way for the two men to bridge this gulf without losing face: Bring in Ivanka.

So it was that Trump’s elder daughter and the House Speaker sat down together for an intimate chat in Manhattan last Monday. Arranged at Ivanka’s behest, the meeting took place immediately after Ryan’s address to the Economic Club of New York: Ivanka briefed Ryan on her dad’s campaign; Ryan regaled Ivanka with war stories from 2012. It was, the Speaker’s people assured me, “a productive conversation.”

The very next afternoon, Ivanka ventured even deeper into the political jungle. Jetting down to Washington, she met with more than a dozen Republican women legislators on Capitol Hill. The topic was her father’s childcare plan, which Ivanka reportedly helped formulate. (The invitation came from conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, whose political office did not respond to repeated inquiries about the inspiration for, gist of, or anything else to do with the meeting.) Afterward, Rep. Marsha Blackburn told Roll Call that the confab had been “informative” and said Ivanka seemed knowledgeable about the issue—which is more than has ever been said of her dad in any policy area.  

Of all the ways Team Trump is reinventing presidential politics this cycle, among the most curious is the emergence of his daughter as the ultimate utility player. Part character witness, part strategist, part policy advisor, and part goodwill ambassador, Ivanka is expanding the role of aspiring First Daughter in a way that no previous aspiring First Child has attempted—and few others could likely get away with.  

First and foremost, of course, Ivanka is performing the expected function of a political child: presenting an attractive, appealing tribute to her hyper-ambitious parent’s softer side. Indeed, by all accounts she is more dazzling in the role than most family surrogates—perhaps because the contrast between her polished self-presentation and her dad’s carnival-barker persona is so stark. Just think about the number of times since Ivanka’s convention debut that you’ve heard (or perhaps even uttered) some variation of, “Well, if the guy raised a daughter like that, he can’t be all bad.”

Ivanka’s work as humanizer-in-chief is more vital than usual because Trump’s wife, Melania, is so poorly suited for the job. Even setting aside the brouhaha over Melania’s convention-speech plagiarism and the awkward questions about her visa status during her early days of modeling here, Melania does nothing to make Trump seem more relatable. She is too young, too hot, and, yes, too exotic. (Just try picturing the Slovenian-born supermodel snarfing down corndogs and casually chatting up Middle America’s working moms about the high costs of child care.) If anything, she is a reminder of how very different her thrice-married, reality-show, real-estate heir of a husband is from the average American. Ivanka may be richer than most voters, but she radiates a humanity, decency, and basic likability that the rest of that family sorely lacks. As such, she is essentially pulling double duty in normalizing the candidate.

Beyond providing a personal touch to Team Trump, Ivanka is also stepping out as a policy surrogate on so-called women’s issues. Post-convention, she has been pitching her dad’s child-care plans in interviews, on the trail, and, this week, to Republican congresswomen (all of whom are answerable on such matters to their constituents). She has hit a bump or two in this capacity. For instance, when Cosmo presented her with some tougher-than-expected questions, Ivanka got snippy and cut short the interview.

Still, for anyone unnerved by the Donald’s sketchy handling of women (either personally or politically), Ivanka provides both hope and comfort. Whether or not she has personally struggled with issues like parental leave or equal pay, she talks a pretty good game. Plus, she’s got that whole “Women Who Work” book coming out early next year based on her company’s initiative of the same name.

Intertwined with all this, there’s Ivanka’s roll as ambassador to the Republican elite and moderates more broadly. If Donald Jr. is the Trump child best suited for outreach to his dad’s rowdy, alt-right base, Ivanka is the one most palatable to the electorate’s less edgy elements. This definitely includes members of the party establishment who, for whatever reason, might find it distasteful or politically complicated to be seen publicly snuggling with her dad—such as, say, women lawmakers or a House Speaker with a political brand (and ambitions) to protect. For anyone worried about getting too close to the unstable ball of toxic gas that is Donald Trump, Ivanka provides a less risky, more socially respectable alternative.

Considering Ivanka’s lack of policy or political background, it’s striking to see her adopting such wide-ranging responsibilities in her dad’s campaign. It is more striking still that her role has thus far drawn virtually no criticism. When her Cosmo interview went sideways, the chattering class noted her poor performance. But the basic fact of Ivanka’s centrality to her dad’s campaign has raised vanishingly few eyebrows. Just imagine the kind of abuse that Chelsea Clinton or Tagg Romney would have taken under the same conditions.

Then again, in a campaign where the nominee himself is a proud political and policy neophyte, why should his daughter/ strategist/policy adviser be expected to have any more experience or expertise?

Is This the Year Arizona Turns Blue?

By Molly Ball from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

PHOENIX—The Latino activists here are working their hearts out to change this red state’s political complexion. But when I bring up Hillary Clinton, Marisa Franco shakes her head.

“People don’t like Hillary,” Franco says with a narrow-eyed frown. The cofounder of a grassroots group called Mijente, Franco has a militant attitude and a head of black ringlets. Along with two other young Latina activists, we’re chatting over tacos at a counter-service joint a few miles from downtown.

Arizona might—might—be a swing state this year, thanks in part to activists like these. But they want to make sure I understand that their work is not testament to any positive feelings toward the Democratic candidate. President Obama represents “broken promises,” and Clinton would be “no change,” says Alejandra Gomez, who works for a group called People United for Justice.

The activists are telling people to register and vote for one reason: to oppose Donald Trump and the Phoenix area’s controversial anti-immigrant sheriff, Joe Arpaio. It is a wholly, avowedly negative campaign. Sometimes, as their canvassers go door-to-door, people will ask them whom to vote for, or whether they should vote at all. “We say, ‘You have to vote to stop Trump and Arpaio. There are other people on the ballot,’” says Viri Hernandez, who is 25 and undocumented, and directs a group called the Center for Neighborhood Leadership.

That Arizona could be in play this year is testament to the oddity of 2016. Clinton held narrow leads in a few polls taken in the state over the summer, though Trump has led in most polls, and his lead has grown locally as well as nationally in recent weeks. Still, one polling average puts his lead at just 2 percentage points—in a state Mitt Romney won by 10 in 2012.

“The numbers say it is a swing state, even though it shouldn’t be,” a Trump campaign official acknowledged to me, adding that the Republican’s team is monitoring it closely. Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, has spent six figures on an ongoing flight of television ads, and Democrats claim to have 170 staffers in the field. If this is not a swing state, both presidential campaigns are wasting an awful lot of resources on it.

Whatever happens in Arizona in November, the state stands as a microcosm and test of this year’s cross-cutting political currents: the changing American Southwest and rising Latino vote; the divided Republican Party; and the demographic clash highlighted by Trump’s divisive campaign. What better illustration could there be of the fractured Republican Party, after all, than a single ballot that features Trump; Senator John McCain, whom Trump memorably insulted; and Arpaio, whose media-fueled immigration provocations prefigured Trump?

Franco’s wallet is pasted with the slogans: “DISMANTLE ICE/DEFUND THE POLICE.” She describes the state’s politics as a racial and generational battle. “The browns versus the grays,” she calls it—the ascendant young Latino power versus the fearful old white people, many retirees from elsewhere. “They came here from other states where they’re not used to seeing Mexicans, and then they think they should be in charge, even though we were here first,” she says.

It is Arpaio that the activists want most ardently to unseat, and they insist they have a chance. Arpaio, who is now 84 and has been in office since 1993, won his last reelection, in 2012, with 50.7 percent of the vote in the conservative bastion of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its predominantly white suburbs.

Like Trump, Arpaio built a national reputation on outrageous, attention-getting stunts, such as forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear, work on chain gangs, and eat rotten food; some prisoners are housed in an Arpaio-built, un-air-conditioned “Tent City.” Arpaio has also, like Trump, led the charge on the false claim that President Obama was not born in the United States. Just last week, he told a Tea Party group that he was undeterred by Trump’s nominal reversal on the issue. “It is my duty to investigate identity theft, forged documents, especially government documents,” he told the local public-radio station, KJZZ.

Federal judges have repeatedly ruled that Arpaio has abused his power as sheriff and that his jails violate inmates’ rights. Courts have also repeatedly found that Arpaio’s department engages in racial profiling, but Arpaio has ignored and even mocked judges’ orders to change department practices. As a result, he now may face criminal contempt-of-court charges and is due in court next month, on October 11—the day before Arizona’s vote-by-mail ballots are due to hit voters’ mailboxes.

There’s plenty of reason to be skeptical that Arpaio can be beat. It has, after all, never happened before in his long and controversial career. Maricopa County is heavily Republican, and Arpaio is a fixture of the local scene. His Democratic opponent, Paul Penzone, lost to Arpaio four years ago and remains relatively unknown. Arpaio will have practically limitless campaign funds thanks to his national popularity and fundraising prowess on the right.

“The sheriff has been elected and reelected six times, and he will be reelected in November,” his campaign manager, Chad Willems, tells me. The court case is “a challenge,” he acknowledges, but “our internal polling shows the sheriff in a very strong position to win.”

The activists say their voter-registration and mobilization effort has been building ever since 2010, when the state legislature infamously passed a tough suite of immigration laws known as SB 1070. They can already claim some successes in targeted, small-scale efforts, such as the ouster of the bill’s author, Russell Pearce, and the election of pro-immigrant city councilmembers in Phoenix. The proportion of minorities registered to vote in Maricopa has gone from 25 percent to 30 percent in the past four years, according to Gomez.

Meanwhile, Arpaio’s approval rating has sunk to the lowest levels of his career—57 percent of county voters disapproved of him in a poll taken this month. Many in the business community are tired of the cost his antics inflict on the area’s reputation. And then there is the outrage over Trump, which the activists say has motivated many Latinos to register and vote for the first time.

I ask Franco whether not being for any particular candidate has been an obstacle for the activists’ efforts. “No,” she says with a grin. “People like a piñata.”

“What really moves people is voting for something they believe in,” she adds. “But when you don’t have that, a villain is very powerful.”

A few hours later, I go out knocking on doors with three Bazta Arpaio campaigners: Bryan Martin Patiño and Jose Arellano Perez, both seniors at Cesar Chavez High School, and Ernesto Lopez, an organizer who works for the campaign. Perez is there to get extra credit in his government class; Patiño, who is undocumented, does it for the sake of his father, who got pulled over two years ago and has been in detention ever since as he awaits a judgment in his deportation appeal. Patiño can’t vote, but he can move votes.

In this part of Laveen, a South Phoenix exurb, the streets are desolate and the houses are tiny and close together, stucco shacks with dirt front yards. It is only about 98 degrees, a moderate day by Arizona standards. The canvassers are targeting people who didn’t vote in 2012. Some were eligible and didn’t vote; others have just entered the electorate, by dint of their age or citizenship.

“Arpaio? I think his time is pretty much up—he’s been there too long,” says Dale Colyer Jr., a 44-year-old truck driver in a Diamondbacks T-shirt whose two young, biracial-looking children are playing in the driveway. Colyer, who appears to be white, is considering voting for Trump, who he finds “hilarious.” But of Arpaio, he says, “I heard he might go to jail for that racial-profiling stuff.”

The canvassers get direction on which houses to hit from their iPhones, which have an app version of the Democratic database tool VAN installed. (It’s called, naturally, MiniVAN.) After each knock, they record the appropriate response—yes, no, mail ballot, not home, moved—which syncs to the cloud.

“I have seen so many families suffer from deportation, from separation,” says Maria Martinez, a tired-looking 42-year-old with a pickup in the driveway. “I know kids whose older brothers are raising them because their father is gone. I know a mom who’s homeless with her kids because her husband got deported for a ticket. I’ve seen a lot of bad things.” Martinez, who has a job assembling refrigerators at the Subzero plant, says she definitely will vote against Arpaio.

Lopez is an excellent canvasser, gregarious and persistent. (The high schoolers are still learning.) He also functions as a sort of traveling social-services hotline. Offering to help with the homeless woman’s husband’s deportation case, he takes Martinez’s number, jotting it in the margins of an anti-Arpaio flier, and promises to call. Martinez, in turn, volunteers that there may be full-time jobs opening up at the fridge plant, “for the first time in years,” in case he knows anyone who is looking for work.

Some of the canvassers’ targets have personal experience with Arpaio’s system. “I have a brother right now that’s in there,” says Evangelina Garcia, 60, whose pebbled yard is dotted with cactuses. “He has cirrhosis of the liver and the doctors gave him four months to live, but Arpaio won’t give him his meds.” A makeshift wooden cross hangs over her door. Lopez gives her his phone number.

Arpaio’s voters may feel he is protecting them from a bad element that doesn’t deserve sympathy. But in this community, many feel a personal connection to Arpaio’s victims. “I don’t like how he’s racist,” says Tammy Roth, a red-haired, blue-eyed 29-year-old mother of two. The little boy and girl peer out from the doorway; dogs bark from behind a tall wooden backyard fence. “My mom’s half, my kids are half—my husband is Mexican. I don’t like the way he treats the inmates. Regardless of race, he’s just cruel.”

In a pink house with mauve trim, an old man in a red hat who speaks no English asks Lopez to help him decipher a letter from a financial-services company. As they talk about politics, Anastacio Enriquez, 78, becomes agitated. Why, he asks in Spanish, is Arpaio—such a bad person—in office in the first place?

Lopez gives a rueful shrug. Unfortunately, a lot of people in Arizona don’t like Latinos, he answers. But this time maybe we can make a change.

Outside the converted house in downtown Phoenix where Grant Woods, a former two-term Republican state attorney general, keeps his office, two campaign signs are planted: One for McCain, the Republican senator and former presidential nominee; and one for Penzone, Arpaio’s Democratic opponent. The signs, both blue-and-white, lean away from one another, standoffishly.

“Arpaio is an abomination as far as I’m concerned,” Woods tells me, his intense, craggy face topped by a brush of gray hair. “I can’t think of any reason why anyone would support the guy at this point in time. His record couldn’t be any more offensive.”

Woods, who’s now a lobbyist and trial lawyer, once served as McCain’s chief of staff, and remains a close friend and adviser to the senator. He cuts a quirky figure: One wall of his office features a moody, black-and-white photograph of a Navajo elder taken by Woods’s late friend Barry Goldwater. Another features a wall-sized poster from the movie version of Les Miserables—Woods is a huge fan of the musical.

McCain has found himself in a tough spot this year. Memorably insulted last year as “not a war hero” by the draft-dodging reality-TV star who went on to take his party’s nomination, McCain has continued to criticize Trump but says he will vote for “the nominee of the party.” It always sounds as if he’s saying it through gritted teeth.

A longtime immigration reformer who helped author 2013’s Gang of Eight bill, McCain has few fans in his state’s Trump-loving GOP base. But now, having beaten his right-wing primary challenger by 13 points last month, McCain faces a qualified if little-known Democratic congresswoman, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, who’s criticizing him for not rejecting Trump entirely. “He gets killed from the right; the party nominates someone who’s probably his last choice; and then he gets killed from the left for not disavowing [Trump],” Woods complains. “He really can’t win.”

Woods doesn’t mean that last part literally—like most Arizona observers I spoke to, he believes McCain will pull it out. McCain leads in the polls by margins that far outpace Trump’s; as a campaigner, he’s known as a hard worker who takes nothing for granted. Nonetheless, this year, McCain worries that he could be in danger if Trump galvanizes Latino voters against the GOP. “The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I’ve never seen in 30 years,” the senator told a closed-door fundraiser in April, according to audio obtained by Politico.

For decades, American Latinos who are eligible to vote have turned out in much lower proportions than white or black voters. Their share of the electorate—and the population—continues to increase, but lags its potential, largely because of immigrant communities’ lack of connection to the political process. Before Trump came along, Arizona Democrats had been playing a long game, the party chairwoman, Alexis Tameron, told me—hoping their gradual efforts might pay off in 2020 or 2024.

Democrats hope—and Republicans fear—that Trump has jump-started the process. But it will take more than a wave of new minority voters to turn this red state blue, Woods points out. It will take erstwhile Republicans like him rethinking their allegiance.

Woods, a self-described moderate Republican, has been annoyed with his party for a while now. “I had enough problems with them before Trump,” he tells me. “I wasn’t a fan of the Bush presidency. Someone like Mike Pence,” Trump’s running mate, “is way too doctrinaire for me. If the party is going to be full of the across-the-board negative and hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump, I don’t see why anybody would want to be a part of it.”

Woods sees the state as a long shot for Clinton. “It’s tough for a lot of people not to vote with their party,” he says. “Not for me, though. I think she’s the most qualified candidate ever, and I think she’ll do a good job. I don’t have any problem saying I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Woods believes Arpaio, whom he has known for three decades, will lose this time, and he frets about his party’s future. “Why is it even close?” he wondered. “Maybe that’s the better question. I don’t know.”

The back pews of the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa are not quite full by the time Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, takes the stage on Thursday night, after Pastor Jason Anderson has encouraged the assembled to “elect Jesus president of your heart.” This heavily white, Christian Phoenix suburb is a bastion of conservative Mormons, but Trump’s unpopularity with the Latter-Day Saints has forced the campaign to seek other venues. Instead, neatly dressed parishioners mingle with Trumpy-looking guys with camouflage pants and tattoos down the length of their arms.

Neither Trump nor Clinton’s path to victory can truly be said to run through Arizona. If Trump is in trouble here, he is likely also underwater in a bunch of other states Romney won four years ago; by the same token, if Clinton is competitive here, she has probably already clinched enough electoral votes to win the election. The state leans slightly more Republican than Iowa and more Democratic than Georgia, according to FiveThirtyEight.

It’s not clear why either presidential campaign would spend its resources in Arizona, yet both campaigns are doing so. The Clinton campaign has been airing television ads since last month and doesn’t plan to stop. Trump hasn’t spent money on ads here, but he has spent time: The nominee has visited Arizona three times, most recently for the incendiary immigration speech that followed his visit to Mexico last month. This is Pence’s third visit since being named to the ticket.

When Pence, with his shiny-haired Ken-doll-come-to-life affect, begins to speak, the contrast between his friendly, square, conventional appeal and Trump’s bombastic rallies could hardly be more stark. There are regular moments of cognitive dissonance. “Just about everything you need to know about Mike Pence can be summed up in the fact that I’ve been married to the most wonderful woman in the world for 31 years,” he says. One wonders whether a similar conclusion could be drawn from the nominee’s marital history.

A few minutes later, Pence recounts his ancestors’ humble beginnings, with special praise for his Irish immigrant grandfather. “That young man had the courage to get on a boat and leave everything he knew behind,” he says. The bravery and dignity of immigrants is not a major theme of any Trump speech I have heard.

As Pence is wrapping up, a man yells from the crowd, “What about Joe Arpaio for homeland security?” Pence chuckles noncommittally.

When the event is over and people are filing out, I ask Carol Walker, a 65-year-old former real-estate broker, what she thinks of Arpaio. “I love the guy,” she gushes. Someone, she says, has to enforce the laws rather than coddling immigrants the way the federal government does. “America is giving away so much,” says Walker, who wears rolled-up jeans and a thermal shirt printed with stars. “They want to come here, but do they want to work hard? I don’t know.” Walker says there is “no way” she will vote for McCain, who has sided with the Democrats too much for her taste.

Earlier in the day, I’d visited the state Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix, where the first thing you see when you walk in is a big, bright-red stack of Sheriff Joe yard signs. The Trump signs, which had been going like hotcakes, required assembly—they consisted of a baglike piece of flimsy plastic to be stretched across a wire frame. A small batch of McCain signs was relegated to a corner.

A 69-year-old volunteer named Don Hesselbrock, who lives in Phoenix and owns a private security company, had come in to pick up an Arpaio sign, two Trump signs, and some bumper stickers. Hesselbrock is a conservative who supported Ted Cruz in the primary, but now he was squarely behind Trump. He was not picking up a McCain sign, and I asked him why. “I’ll vote for him, but I’m not a McCain guy,” he said. “I’m really dismayed by these Republicans who are not getting fully behind Trump like they should.”

The state party chairman, Robert Graham, came bounding out of a back room. An energetic East Coast native, Graham is all in for Trump, and is contemplating a bid for Republican National Committee chairman when Reince Priebus’s term is up after the election. Graham, who has a bushy head of sandy hair and a jockish bearing, loves to tout the state GOP’s outreach to minority communities, especially Latinos and Native Americans. He told me a story about bringing Latin hip-hop performers to a parade in overwhelmingly Hispanic Nogales, a draw the local Democrats couldn’t compete with. “That’s how you engage communities—you become part of them,” he said.

I asked whether Trump has set these efforts back. “Oh, at first he for sure did,” Graham said. “But now, what I’ve said to people is, the party’s bigger than any one person. We’re not just showing up trying to wave his brand.” Trump, he was essentially saying, would win because Republicans had reassured Latinos—and, perhaps, Arizonans in general—that they’re not all like him.

Couple describe moment Hanks photobombed wedding pictures

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Elisabeth and Ryan speak to the BBC after Tom Hanks photobombed their wedding pictures in Central Park, New York.

Why can you change gender but not race?

By Marina Benjamin from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Marina Benjamin on the curious logic of modern identity politics. 

At my daughter’s state girls’ school, many of the students see themselves as gender fluid. Some feel more like boys than girls. Others feel like boys on some days and girls on others. A lot of the girls are out, with many identifying as gay and quite a few as bi- or pansexual. No doubt, in time, a small minority of them will migrate across the gender spectrum entirely, crossing permanently from one side to the other.

Such freewheeling thinking about gender and sexual identity was unimaginable until just a few years ago, yet in this brave new world of gender mutability, most teens are as fluent as they are fluid. It is a testimony to the speed and success with which gender­queer and trans activists have challenged societal norms around masculinity and femininity, bringing about the kind of meltdown in gender roles that feminism was unable to achieve despite 50 years of trying.

This is a world in which, controversially, subjective feeling reigns supreme. If you feel male and wish to be known as “he”, then that is your prerogative, regardless of your sex. As Frank Browning points out in The Fate of Gender, US colleges (those ever-sensitive barometers of social change) now routinely ask students for their preferred personal pronoun. They provide “gender-neutral” toilets and free counselling for transsexual students. One elite college recently cancelled a production of The Vagina Monologues after some students protested that “not all women have vaginas”.

Browning’s interest is in the way “gender radicals” have “[upended] the routines, rituals and rules of gender”, leading to radical transformations in how we live. Like a disaster tourist travelling through an earthquake zone, he finds his eye drawn to “upheavals”: to kindergarten ­teachers in Oslo, dedicated to eradicating what they see as gendered behaviour in the very young children they teach; to same-sex couples negotiating new ways of parenting post-­surrogacy or adoption; to a voyeuristic drive-by past Naples’s femminielli – street-walkers famed “for their beautiful legs, their sumptuous breasts and their large penises”; to discussing masturbation with a middle-aged Shanghai sociologist who offers classes in self-stimulation to empower women.

The politics of the transgender movement skids in and out of the narrative but never moves centre-stage. Browning is more interested in gender equality at work, or how the Catholic Church is and isn’t adapting to gay marriage.

Browning spent many years working as a radio journalist and his book resembles nothing so much as a mid-morning magazine programme. There’s a bit of chat, a bit of travel, a sprinkling of interviews with academic experts and some sharp insights that get somewhat lost in the babble. The result is a loose collection of gender-busting exemplifications, rather than a tightly argued thesis. You could reorder half the chapters in the book and still enjoy the same mildly entertaining reading experience.

Some of the most fascinating subjects that Browning touches on remain underexamined. He notes, for example, that at least one in every 1,500 (some suggest the figure is more like one in 150) children born in the US and Australia is intersex: that is, they possess genitalia and a chromosomal identity that admit of ambiguity. Until very recently, doctors in the US would perform sex reassignment surgery on such newborns, at the risk of leaving them infertile and, just as dreadful, in bodies that they would often grow up believing to be wrongly sexed.

Browning doesn’t interview anyone who has had such an experience, or mine literary works for perspective, or link the intersex phenomenon into broader identity politics, or discuss the painful subterfuges that hermaphrodites such as the late Olympic track and field star Stella Walsh resorted to in order to “pass” – in her case, as female. Instead, he makes a rather tenuous link between the horrors of institutional surgical reassignment and tribal female genital mutilation. Cutting is cutting, of course, and always reprehensible, but readers never get to grips with what it means to be intersex.

It’s a shame, because, as Rogers Brubaker argues in his pacy and stimulating extended essay Trans, it is in the in-betweenness that our binaries break down, whether we are talking about nature v nurture (where discoveries in epigenetics are busy dissolving firm oppositions); male and female (those tired categories with which trans politics is playing havoc); or, most interestingly, black v white. Following social scientists such as Alondra Nelson of Columbia University, Brubaker takes up the case that race has little basis in genetics: it is an epiphenomenon, or, to use the lingua franca of anti-essentialists, a “social construct”.

Brubaker’s book was inspired by the media’s synchronous pairing of Bruce Jenner’s rebirth as Caitlyn and Rachel Dolezal’s outing as white in 2015. Dolezal had lived as a black woman for years, braiding her hair and darkening her skin. She identified as black and became head of her local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Yet in most quarters her claim to be black met with angry ridicule. Her reception was in pointed contrast to Jenner’s, whose debut as Caitlyn was heralded by a sexy Vanity Fair cover and a reality TV series. If public legitimation could be ­extended to Jenner, why not to Dolezal?

Dolezal’s teacher memorably called her “a white woman with a black soul”, but this was not enough, Brubaker says, to counter the flurry of negative commentary about “passing, choice, authenticity, privilege and appropriation” – which are precisely the themes that animate his lively book. He makes a persuasive case that the trans movement belongs to “a much broader moment of cultural flux, mixture and interpenetration”, of a piece with the “burgeoning discussions of hybridity, syncretism, creolisation and transnationalism in the last quarter-century”. Simply put, Trans illus­trates a sharpened tension between the language of choice and that of givenness.

The nub of Trans’s argument is that we are culturally primed to be more receptive to transgender journeys, whether male to female or vice versa, because these are framed as identity or even civil rights issues, whereas racial identities are still categorical. In public discourse today, there is no such thing as a racial spectrum: you can’t be a bit black or a bit white. You have to choose and you certainly can’t cross over to the other side. As Brubaker sums it up: “Dolezal was living a lie; Jenner was being true to her innermost self.” Dolezal was guilty of “cultural theft” (in contrast to Michael Jackson, who was deemed a race traitor, she was a “race ­faker”); Jenner was fighting gender oppression.

I remember getting flamed on Twitter when I asked why the hell Dolezal couldn’t be considered black. The hot-button term, it turned out, was “transracial”. This expression emerged in adoption circles, where activists concerned that adoption “could lead to changes in racial identity – in particular to the loss of one’s authentic identity for want of social support for it”, sought to strengthen racial categories. I also received a dozen tweets telling me that Dolezal hadn’t suffered enough to be black – a line likewise pushed by some feminists critical of the territorial claims made by transgender women.

With respect to Jenner, I was sympathetic to views expressed with wicked humour by Germaine Greer, but more acceptably by ­Lionel Shriver, who, in response to Jenner’s claim to have a “female brain”, railed against the neo-essentialism of the trans movement for relying on and reinscribing outmoded gender stereotypes. Pointedly, Brubaker also notes “the remarkable power of the binary gender system to adapt to and reabsorb transgender people”. Better to make a show of taking in migrants than to acknowledge that your borders are fundamentally weak.

With its push-me-pull-you politics, gender fluidity understandably creates controversy. The irony is that, in theory at least, transracialism ought less to do so. Not only is there no genetic basis for racial difference, but the boom in genetic ancestry testing, which tests autosomal DNA (inherited from both parents, and accounting for the full, multi-stranded range of one’s genetic ancestry), often reveals complex mixtures of biogeographic lineage, thus leaving considerable room for what Alondra Nelson calls “affiliative self-fashioning”.

Genetic ancestry testing gives credence to the likes of Dolezal, who might wish to see herself as environmentally, psychologically, culturally, emotionally and intellectually black, even if the “technologies of migration” which support transgender journeys – institutionalised in legal, medical, social and activist bodies – are not yet in place for transracial journeys such as hers.

However mind-bending such ­determined migrations might seem, the brouhaha over race and gender shows that we are primed to understand categories of identity in ways that are legibly embodied. In this, we are not so different from our intellectual ancestors the ancient Greeks, who, as Adrian Thatcher reminds us in Redeeming Gender, championed a “one sex” theory on the basis of bodily homologies between men and women that saw female genitalia as mirroring male genitalia. Only inside out.

Marina Benjamin is the author of “The Middlepause: on Turning Fifty” (Scribe)

PRIVATE COLLECTION/PRISMATIC PICTURES/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

An emigre who became a statesman

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A look back at the life and career of former Israeli PM and President Shimon Peres.

The Economist explains: Why is Italy’s constitutional referendum important?

By from European Union. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Main image:  THE Italian government has announced that a much-anticipated referendum on constitutional reform is to be held on December 4th. The outcome will be crucial for the prime minister, Matteo Renzi (pictured), who said earlier this year he would resign if the vote went against him. That was rash. By personalising the ballot, Mr Renzi created an opportunity for voters to register a protest against his left-right coalition and, in particular, its failure to revive the economy. Quarter-on-quarter growth in the second quarter was flat. A government victory that at first seemed assured now looks much less certain. The latest poll, for Eumetra, a research institute, estimated that when undecided voters and likely abstainers were stripped out, the opponents of the reform had increased their lead to 10 percentage points. Why?Unlike David Cameron, who called Britain’s referendum on EU membership, Mr Renzi had no option but to stage a referendum after failing in parliament to secure the necessary two-thirds endorsement for the changes he seeks. Their aim is to make Italy, which has had 63 governments in the 70 years since the birth of the Republic, a more governable country. The mayfly-like lifespans of Italian governments is not the sole reason that they find it impossible to implement their ...

Russia aims to turn Aleppo into Grozny

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

A broken ceasefire in Syria benefits the jihadis

Erdogan escalates his ‘master phase’

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Turkey’s president has used the failed coup to assert control over a febrile nation and advance his own ambitions

Russia plays geopolitical Gazprom game

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Kremlin looks to bond with Germany and punish Ukraine

Turkey’s cooling relations with EU signal deadlock over travel

From Europe News. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Ankara insists that a deal to curb migrant flow must give its citizens the right to visa-free entry to the EU

Long legacy

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly looks back at the long career of Shimon Peres, who helped shape every decade of Israel's life.

Threat of violence

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

India's official entry to the Best Foreign Language film at Oscars is a gritty crime drama on police brutality and corruption, writes Sudha G Tilak.

Bags of joy

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

Finnish-Syrian father-of-six Rami Adhan has become known as the "toy smuggler" for taking large bags of toys into Syria for children suffering in the war.

Created equal

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The Republican Party may not be the most natural home for a transgender woman from New Jersey - but Jennifer Williams is trying to change it from the inside.

Peter Mandelson: I pray every day for an early election to end Labour's awful state

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 28, 2016.

The Prince of Darkness is not happy. 

Peter Mandelson prays every morning for an early general election to deal the "awful" situation in the Labour party, he has revealed.

When asked about the likelihood of a snap election, the Labour grandee told an audience at the Royal Television Society "bring it on". 

According to The Guardian, he added: "I get up every day and pray that will be the case."

Mandelson also criticised politicians of all parties for "running scared" of freedom of movement to the point they could sacrifice the economy. 

The former European trade commissioner said Brexit would be "the most complex policy exercise mounted in peace time". 

Known as "The Prince of Darkness" for his mastery of political spin, Mandelson was an architect of New Labour and has long been a Europhile.

In August, he accused the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of sabotaging the attempt to stay in the EU. 

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Making life multi-planetary: Elon Musk outlines his vision to take humans to Mars

By Hasan Chowdhury from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The Space X CEO detailed the practical measures required to turn his Interplanetary Transport System from a science fiction dream into near future reality.

Not one to shy away from astronomical ambition, Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to the stage at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on Tuesday to announce the strategy behind his plan to make human life multi-planetary.

Since Space X’s inception, Musk, who has sought to revolutionise spaceflight through reusable rockets and cost-effective fuel, has hoped to push the boundaries further.

Addressing the audience, he outlined the details and practical measures required to bring his vision to life.

The project, named the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), will be designed to establish a population on Mars by employing a fully reusable transportation system that will slash the cost of regular spaceflight.

Musk expressed his view that the colonisation of Mars is achievable, believing that given an initial manned trip of 10 people, it will take “40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilisation” on the planet, with a million expected there within 40 years.

The carbon fibre space crafts of the ITS will have a thrust power of 13000 tons, a lifespan of 30 years and use methane and oxygen, refuelled in orbit or upon landing on Mars and back on Earth.

The choice of fuel is one of four key areas highlighted by Musk that will require full attention to make the mission possible: full reusability of rockets, refuelling in orbit, a propellant plant docked on Mars and use of the correct fuel are mandatory. Meeting these criteria will enable Space X to offer flights to the red planet at a reduced rate of around $200,000 – a fraction of the $10bn cost estimated by the Space X CEO if people were sent by traditional methods.

For Musk, the chance to go to Mars represents the chance to save human life. He believes that the future will deviate along two paths: one in which an event hastens the extinction of Homo sapiens on Earth, and one in which humans can become “a space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species.”

The matter is an acutely existential one, and a quick-glance at Musk’s track-record will make it difficult to doubt his capabilities of overcoming the obstacles in the way of the 140 million mile journey.

There are of course a number of obstacles currently blockading the path, such as the issue of protecting people from the radiation of deep space, as well as the ethical and moral quandaries of setting up a functioning society.

The fleet of spaceships which Musk suggested jokingly would be “kind of like Battlestar Galactica”, are ones which no longer occupy the pages of science fiction but the near future of human space travel.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Athens starts fund to speed privatisation

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Sale of utilities and transport assets meets with dissent but is needed to unlock €2.8bn bailout cash

Jeremy Corbyn to tell Labour: "Prepare for a 2017 general election"

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The newly re-elected Labour leader will urge the party to unite.

Jeremy Corbyn is expected to warn Labour to prepare for a general election in 2017 at conference on Wednesday.

The newly re-elected Labour leader will say: "Whatever the Prime Minister says about snap elections, there is every chance that Theresa May will cut and run for an early election. 

“So I put our party on notice today. Labour is preparing for a general election in 2017, we expect all our members to support that effort, and we will be ready whenever it comes."

Urging the party to rebuild trust, he is to declare: "Every one of us knows that we will only get there if we accept the decision of the members, end trench warfare and work together to take on the Tories."

He will also set out ten Labour policy pledges, which include full employment, public ownership of services and a national education service.

On immigration, he is expected to say: "A Labour government will not offer false promises. We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. 

"We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration – and make the real changes that are needed."

This includes reinstating the migrant impact fund, and tackling the exploitation of migrant workers. 

Getty

What will Labour's new awkward squad do next?

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

What does the future hold for the party's once-rising-stars?

For years, Jeremy Corbyn was John McDonnell’s only friend in Parliament. Now, Corbyn is the twice-elected Labour leader, and McDonnell his shadow chancellor. The crushing leadership election victory has confirmed Corbyn-supporting MPs as the new Labour elite. It has also created a new awkward squad.   

Some MPs – including some vocal critics of Corbyn – are queuing up to get back in the shadow cabinet (one, Sarah Champion, returned during the leadership contest). Chi Onwurah, who spoke out on Corbyn’s management style, never left. But others, most notably the challenger Owen Smith, are resigning themselves to life on the back benches. 

So what is a once-rising-star MP to do? The most obvious choice is to throw yourself into the issue the Corbyn leadership doesn’t want to talk about – Brexit. The most obvious platform to do so on is a select committee. Chuka Umunna has founded Vote Leave Watch, a campaign group, and is running to replace Keith Vaz on the Home Affairs elect committee. Emma Reynolds, a former shadow Europe minister, is running alongside Hilary Benn to sit on the newly-created Brexit committee. 

Then there is the written word - so long as what you write is controversial enough. Rachel Reeves caused a stir when she described control on freedom of movement as “a red line” in Brexit negotiations. Keir Starmer is still planning to publish his long-scheduled immigration report. Alison McGovern embarked on a similar tour of the country

Other MPs have thrown themselves into campaigns, most notably refugee rights. Stella Creasy is working with Alf Dubs on his amendment to protect child refugees. Yvette Cooper chairs Labour's refugee taskforce.

The debate about whether Labour MPs should split altogether is ongoing, but the warnings of history aside, some Corbyn critics believe this is exactly what the leadership would like them to do. Richard Angell, deputy director of Progress, a centrist group, said: “Parts of the Labour project get very frustrated that good people Labour activists are staying in the party.”

One reason to stay in Labour is the promise of a return of shadow cabinet elections, a decision currently languishing with the National Executive Committee. 

But anti-Corbyn MPs may still yet find their ability to influence policies blocked. Even if the decision goes ahead, the Corbyn leadership is understood to be planning a root and branch reform of party institutions, to be announced in the late autumn. If it is consistent with his previous rhetoric, it will hand more power to the pro-Corbyn grassroots members. The members of Labour's new awkward squad have seized on elections as a way to legitimise their voices. But with Corbyn in charge, they might get more democracy than they bargained for. 

 

Getty

Girl rebukes Charlotte mayor over police shootings

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

A young African-American girl delivers a tearful plea about police shootings to city officials in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sarkozy vows to offer UK exit from Brexit

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Former president plans revised EU treaty that could persuade Britain to remain in bloc

America’s dystopian presidential debate

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The realities depicted by Trump and Clinton are far from the truth

An Animated Guide to Humanity's First Interstellar Mission

By Ross Andersen from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

In a 1610 correspondence to Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler noted, “Ships and sails proper for the heavenly air should be fashioned. Then, there will also be people, who do not shrink from the dreary vastness of space.” Now, more than four centuries later, the Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner is applying these principles to modern day space exploration.

Human travel to our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, will not be possible for many years, if ever. However, in the near future, robots might be able to make the trip in an inexpensive and scalable way. Using a solar sail, a nearly weightless spaceship and a powerful beam of light, probes could travel the 4 light years to Alpha Centauri in only 20 years. The most expensive piece of equipment, the beam of light, will stay on the planet, and each spaceship will cost only as much as a smartphone. With this scalable model, our earthly civilization might someday become truly galactic.

SRSLY #61: Autumn TV preview / Victoria / The Year of Magical Thinking

By Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

On the pop culture podcast this week: we look ahead to the exciting new TV shows coming out in the rest of the year, watch ITV's new period drama Victoria and read Joan Didion's grief memoir The Year of Magical Thinking.

This  is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

Listen using the player below...

...or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on StitcherRSS and SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is usually hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The Links

The Autumn TV preview

The shows we mentioned were:

Atlanta, Insecure, Queen Sugar, Gilmore Girls, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective AgencyBlack Mirror, Crisis in Six Scenes.

The episode of Another Round with Ava DuVernay.

Victoria

A clip from the show.

A piece on whether Victoria is the new Downton Abbey.

For next time

Caroline is watching The Bletchley Circle.

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]gmail.com.

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we’d love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

We love reading out your emails. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we’ve discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at]gmail.com, or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.

Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 

See you next week!

PS If you missed #60, check it out here.

Nigerians die in droves for want of aid

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The international response to the crisis left in Boko Haram’s wake is way too slow

The Moment That Political Debates on TV Turned to Spectacle

By Nadine Ajaka from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

In the summer of 1968, America was in a critical place. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, protests surrounding race were proliferating, and the Vietnam War continued, unpopular as ever. Ahead of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, ABC was last in ratings and decided to call in polar opposites Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. to debate each other. Vidal was a life-long leftist while Buckley was at the helm of a new conservative movement, and their televised dispute deteriorated into a shouting match filled with personal attacks. Viewers were riveted, and the episode served to alter the way that politics was televised. This short excerpt from the documentary Best of Enemies, which explores this moment that television changed forever, includes clips and commentary from the debate. The full film has its broadcast premiere October 3 at 10 p.m on Independent Lens on PBS.

We're running out of time to stop a hard Brexit - and the consequences are terrifying

By Tim Farron from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Liam Fox has nothing to say and Labour has thrown the towel in. 

Another day goes past, and still we’re no clearer to finding out what Brexit really means. Today secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, was expected to use a speech to the World Trade Organisation to announce that the UK is on course to leave the EU’s single market, as reported earlier this week. But in a humiliating climb-down, he ended up saying very little at all except for vague platitudes about the UK being in favour of free trade.

At a moment when the business community is desperate for details about our future trading arrangements, the International Trade Secretary is saying one thing to the papers and another to our economic partners abroad. Not content with insulting British businesses by calling them fat and lazy, it seems Fox now wants to confuse them as well.

The Tory Government’s failure to spell out what Brexit really means is deeply damaging for our economy, jobs and global reputation. British industry is crying out for direction and for certainty about what lies ahead. Manufacturers and small businesses who rely on trade with Europe want to know whether Britain’s membership of the single market will be preserved. EU citizens living in Britain and all the UK nationals living in Europe want to know whether their right to free movement will be secured. But instead we have endless dithering from Theresa May and bitter divisions between the leading Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Labour party appears to have thrown in the towel on Europe. This week, Labour chose not to even debate Brexit at their conference, while John McDonnell appeared to confirm he will not fight for Britain’s membership of the single market. And the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who hardly lifted a finger to keep us in Europe during the referendum, confirms the party is not set to change course any time soon.

That is not good enough. It’s clear a hard Brexit would hit the most deprived parts of Britain the hardest, decimating manufacturing in sectors like the car industry on which so many skilled jobs rely. The approach of the diehard eurosceptics would mean years of damaging uncertainty and barriers to trade with our biggest trading partners. While the likes of Liam Fox and boris Johnson would be busy travelling the world cobbling together trade deals from scratch, it would be communities back home who pay the price.

We are running out of time to stop a hard Brexit. Britain needs a strong, united opposition to this Tory Brexit Government, one that will fight for our membership of the single market and the jobs that depend on it. If Labour doesn’t fill this gap, the Liberal Democrats will.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

Getty Images.

Ankara gives Boris Johnson a warm welcome

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Foreign secretary’s offensive poem about Turkey president fails to derail diplomatic trip

Goodbye, Sam Allardyce: a grim portrait of national service

By Cameron Sharpe from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

In being brought down by a newspaper sting, the former England manager joins a hall of infamy. 

It took the best part of 17 years for Glenn Hoddle’s reputation to recover from losing the England job.

Between leaving his job as manager in February 1999 and re-surfacing as a television pundit on ITV during the 2014 World Cup, Hoddle was English football’s great pariah. Thanks to his belief in faith healer Eileen Drewery and a string of unconventional and unacceptable views on reincarnation, he found himself in exile following in a newspaper interview during qualification for England’s Euro 2000 campaign.

But just as Hoddle is now cautiously being welcomed back to the bosom of English football, current incumbent Sam Allardyce has felt the axe fall. After less than two months in charge of the national side and with only a single game under his belt, the former Bolton Wanderers manager was caught up in a sting operation by the Daily Telegraph — allegedly offering guidance on how to circumvent his employer’s rules on third-party player ownership.

The rewards for guiding an English team to major international success promise to be spectacular. As a result, the price for any failure — either moral or performance-related — is extreme.

Hoddle’s successor – the endearing Kevin Keegan – resigned tearfully in a toilet at Wembley after a tumultuous 18-month spell in charge. His replacement, the laconic Sven-Göran Eriksson, provided moments of on-field excitement paired with incredible incidents of personal indiscretion. His tangle with "fake sheikh" Mazher Mahmood in the run up to the 2006 World Cup – an incident with haunting parallels to Allardyce’s current predicament – led to a mutual separation that summer.

Steve McClaren was hapless, if also incredibly unfortunate, and was dispatched from the top job in little over a year. Fabio Capello – who inspired so much optimism throughout his first two years in charge – proved himself incapable of lifting the hex on English major tournament fortunes.

The Italian’s star was falling from the moment he put his name to the oddly timed Capello Index in 2010, although his sustained backing of then captain John Terry over a string of personal misdemeanours would prove to be the misjudgement that ultimately forced his exit. As Allardyce has found out, the FA has become increasingly hard on lapses in moral judgement.

English football is suffused with a strange mix of entitlement and crushing self-doubt. After a decade that has given us a Wimbledon champion, several Ashes triumphs, two Tour de France winners and eye-watering Olympic success, a breakthrough in this area has never felt further away.

In replacing Capello, Roy Hodgson — the man mocked by Allardyce during his hours supping pints with Telegraph reporters — had hoped to put a rubber stamp on a highly respectable coaching career with a spell managing his own country. But this summer’s farcical defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 put his previous career in a much harsher light.    

Allardyce was a mix of the best and worst of each of his predecessors. He was as gaffe-prone as Steve McClaren, yet as committed to football science and innovation as Hodgson or Capello. He also carried the affability of Keegan and the bulldog spirit of Terry Venables — the last man to make great strides for England at a major tournament.  

And as a result, his fall is the most heartbreaking of the lot. The unfairly decried charlatan of modern football is the same man who built a deeply underrated dynasty at Bolton before keeping Blackburn, West Ham and Sunderland afloat in the most competitive league in Europe.

And it was this hard apprenticeship that convinced the FA to defy the trendy naysayers and appoint him.

“I think we make mistakes when we are down here and our spirit has to come back and learn,” Hoddle mused at the beginning of his ill-fated 1999 interview. As the FA and Allardyce consider their exit strategy from this latest sorry mess, it’s difficult to be sure what either party will have learned.

The FA, desperately short of options could theoretically turn again to a reborn Hoddle. Allardyce, on the other hand, faces his own long exile. 

Photo: Getty

Germany bans Facebook-WhatsApp data share

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Social network told to delete all user data passed on by its messaging service

US banks look to EU for senior staff

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Bosses use vote as excuse to shift some posts to cheaper locations, says headhunter

Angela Rayner - from teenage mum to the woman who could unify Labour

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Corbyn-supporting Rayner mentioned Tony Blair in her speech. 

For those at the Labour party conference feeling pessimistic this September, Angela Rayner’s speech on education may be a rare moment of hope. 

Not only did the shadow education secretary capitalise on one of the few issues uniting the party – opposition to grammar schools – and chart a return to left-wing policies, but she did so while paying tribute to the New Labour legacy. 

Rayner grew up on a Stockport council estate, raised by a mother who could not read nor write. She was, she reminded conference, someone who left school a no-hoper. 

"I left school at 16 pregnant and with no qualifications. Some may argue I was not a great role model for young people. The direction of my life was already set.

"But something happened. Labour's Sure Start centres gave me and my friends, and our children, the support we needed to grow and develop."

Rayner has shown complete loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn throughout the summer, taking two briefs in the depopulated shadow cabinet and speaking at his campaign events.

Nevertheless, as someone who practically benefited from Labour’s policies during its time in government, she is unapologetic about its legacy. She even mentioned the unmentionable, declaring: “Tony Blair talked about education, education, education. Theresa May wants segregation, segregation, segregation.”

As for Rayner's policies, a certain amount of realism underpins her rhetoric. She wants to bring back maintenance grants for low-income students, and the Educational Maintenance Allowance for those in further education. 

But she is not just offering a sop to the middle class. A new childcare taskforce will focus on early education, which she describes as “the most effective drivers of social mobility”. 

Rayner pledged to “put as much effort into expanding, technical, vocational education and meaningful apprenticeships, as we did with higher education”. She declared: "The snobbery about vocational education must end."

Tory critics have questioned the ability of a woman who left school at 16 to be an education secretary, Rayner acknowledged. “I may not have a degree - but I have a Masters in real life,” she said. It could have sounded trite, but her speech delivered the goods. Perhaps she will soon earn her PhD in political instincts too.  

Getty

A hard Brexit is far from inevitable

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

There is room for compromise on both sides, writes Peter Mandelson

Nick Clegg reveals that there is a special security door for cats in Downing Street

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

“Cats come first.”

Another day, another story about Whitehall cats to distract the nation from the hellfire of British politics and the death of social democracy as we know it.

This week, it’s Nick Clegg’s turn to weigh in on the greatest silly season-turned-perennial story of our times. He revealed, during an interview on Absolute radio, that there is a special security entrance for cats in Downing Street.

The cats in question are No 10’s Larry, and the Foreign Office cat Palmerston, who often clash with one another when prowling their neighbouring patches of Whitehall territory.

Clegg explained that Downing Street’s layout is basically dictated by the presence of these two cats:

“There’s lots of crowded stairs and cluttered offices, and then there was this funny little door that you had to kind of speak to someone on a microphone (about) to get from one part of the building to the other.

“I think actually, increasingly, that was used not for security, but to keep the cats out from one end of the building to another.

“Totally British. The cats come first.”

Your mole hears from government sources that while Larry and Palmerston are feuding, the Treasury cat Gladstone is burnishing his credentials as Whitehall’s most efficient mouser. Apparently he has the highest tally since moving in. But perhaps he will need his own secure entrance soon too, as Palmerston was recently caught breaking into the Treasury.

A little envious, your mole is lobbying its editor for its own secure burrow into NS Towers.

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Verhofstadt warns of Brexit veto power

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Assembly’s chief negotiator says relationship must avoid ‘love-hate’ of past 40 years

Russia’s Syria strategy bewilders west

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Syria’s torment overshadowed in exchanges of bluster, accusation and denial

Thai tourism video stirs cultural heritage debate

From BBC News - World. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Government unhappy over playful use of characters from Thailand's national epic.

Sadiq Khan gives Jeremy Corbyn's supporters a lesson on power

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The London mayor doused the Labour conference with cold electoral truths. 

There was just one message that Sadiq Khan wanted Labour to take from his conference speech: we need to be “in power”. The party’s most senior elected politician hammered this theme as relentlessly as his “son of a bus driver” line. His obsessive emphasis on “power” (used 38 times) showed how far he fears his party is from office and how misguided he believes Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are.

Khan arrived on stage to a presidential-style video lauding his mayoral victory (a privilege normally reserved for the leader). But rather than delivering a self-congratulatory speech, he doused the conference with cold electoral truths. With the biggest personal mandate of any British politician in history, he was uniquely placed to do so.

“Labour is not in power in the place that we can have the biggest impact on our country: in parliament,” he lamented. It was a stern rebuke to those who regard the street, rather than the ballot box, as the principal vehicle of change.

Corbyn was mentioned just once, as Khan, who endorsed Owen Smith, acknowledged that “the leadership of our party has now been decided” (“I congratulate Jeremy on his clear victory”). But he was a ghostly presence for the rest of the speech, with Khan declaring “Labour out of power will never ever be good enough”. Though Corbyn joined the standing ovation at the end, he sat motionless during several of the applause lines.

If Khan’s “power” message was the stick, his policy programme was the carrot. Only in office, he said, could Labour tackle the housing crisis, air pollution, gender inequality and hate crime. He spoke hopefully of "winning the mayoral elections next year in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham", providing further models of campaigning success. 

Khan peroration was his most daring passage: “It’s time to put Labour back in power. It's time for a Labour government. A Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street. A Labour Cabinet. Labour values put into action.” The mayor has already stated that he does not believe Corbyn can fulfil this duty. The question left hanging was whether it would fall to Khan himself to answer the call. If, as he fears, Labour drifts ever further from power, his lustre will only grow.

Getty Images.

Putin's vote-winning trick? He makes power personal

By Jana Bakunina from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Representatives in the Russian parliament, the Duma, have long been unpopular. Yet President Putin is immune to voter's discontent.

A week before Russia’s parliamentary elections, the central square in Ekaterinburg – the fourth-largest city in Russia, a thousand miles east of Moscow – was packed with people, huddling close on a wet September night. They faced a stage decorated with a poster imploring the crowd to vote for “ours”, meaning United Russia, Vladimir Putin’s political party.

Yet it wasn’t politics for which thousands of people had braved the rain – it was music. During the perestroika and glasnost years of post-Soviet openness, Ekaterinburg was the cradle of the Russian rock scene. The home-grown bands Nautilus Pompilius, Chaif and Agata Kristi sang about freedom and change. Thus, this free concert to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the legendary Sverdlovsk Rock Club was bound to draw a crowd, and United Russia latched on to that.

A message from Dmitry Medvedev, the United Russia leader, praising local rock bands for their bravery “in those days when freedom was in deficit”, was read to the assembled fans. If freedom was a powerful word thirty years ago it has little impact on Russians today. Turnout in the election on 18 September was less than 50 per cent (and only 41.5 per cent in the Ekaterinburg region), a sign of the general political apathy. Before they went to the polls, it was hard to find anyone who was enthusiastic about voting.

“Why should I bother with voting? The result is clear: United Russia will, as always, win,” says Vyacheslav Bakhtin, who owns a small construction company in Ekaterinburg. He added: “Elections are the last thing on my mind. My business has been suffering for the last two years. We couldn’t even afford to go on a family vacation this summer.”

The Russian economy is struggling because of low oil prices, trade embargoes and geopolitical concerns. There have been public spending cuts, and the free float of the rouble led to currency devaluation and high inflation (7 per cent in August). Unemployment is rising and the base interest rate is 10.5 per cent.

There are many reasons for Russians to want a change in government, yet it appears that people do not see the link between their daily struggles and Putin’s policies.

Anna Mikhailova has recently returned from a tour of the Golden Ring of Russia (a circuit of medieval cities to the north-east of Moscow), where there is a stark contrast between the restored onion-domed churches and the crumbling villages.

“People live in poverty in crammed kummunalki [Soviet-style communal flats with several families sharing one kitchen and bathroom],” she tells me. “But they still talk about Putin the Saviour, standing up for Mother Russia.”

Apart from United Russia, 13 parties were judged eligible to stand, but the range of choice was an illusion. Olga, who requested anonymity for her own safety, explained. “We have one party – United Russia – a few pseudo-opposition parties, the Communists, the LDPR and Fair Russia who support Putin’s cause, and a bunch of nobodies that people don’t care about.”

Indeed, Gennady Zyuganov, who has led the Communist Party since 1993, campaigned under the slogan “Ten Stalinist punches against capitalism”. But although he criticised Medvedev, he didn’t touch Putin. The populist leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, another political dinosaur, actively endorses Putin’s foreign policy.

If there is discontent among voters, Putin is immune to it. On the eve of the elections, United Russia’s popularity slid to just 30 per cent of total respondents in one poll, though it scored 50 per cent among those who said they were definitely going to vote. Medvedev’s own approval rating fell to 48 per cent. His message to the elderly that state pensions wouldn’t increase, and his advice to teachers to get jobs in the private sector if they weren’t happy with their state salaries, might have had something to do with it. Yet Putin’s popularity remained consistently high, at 82 per cent, according to independent pollsters the Levada Centre.

Alexey Volkov, a 40-year-old business manager, says he voted for the Communists. “I voted against United Russia, the apparatchiks stifling the president,” he explains. “Putin, on the other hand, is the best ruler since Alexander III [Russia’s emperor at the end of the 19th century].”

Representatives in the Russian parliament, the Duma, have long been unpopular and considered ineffective by the Russian people. Over the past 16 years, presidential power has expanded hugely. Since Russia adopted its new constitution in 1993, successive presidents have introduced legislation to stretch the office’s authority. In his first term as president, Putin acquired 219 new rights and duties, and as his successor Medvedev enjoyed an additional 114 responsibilities. These range from educational appointments to federal government decisions.

As predicted, United Russia topped the ballot with 54 per cent of the vote. Putin’s party claimed 343 of the 450 seats (up from 238 in 2011). The same four parties will form the Duma. The Yabloko and PARNAS parties, seen by voters as a token gesture of protest against the Kremlin, gained negligible support, with 2 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

It is ultimately Putin’s victory. In the eyes of the majority, he has restored Russia’s strength abroad, revived the defence industry and army, and reinvigorated the country with patriotism. The latter was accomplished via manipulation of the media, which has reinstated the West as the enemy and focused attention on foreign affairs at the expense of the social and economic agenda at home.

Still, with the low turnout, only 26 per cent of eligible Russians voted for Putin’s party. Though that was enough to tighten the president’s grip on the Duma, nationwide the elections paint a picture of a dejected Russia just beginning to feel discontent with the status quo. It is not yet enough to unseat Putin, but as the old Russian saying goes: a drop of water can cut through stone.

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Colombia: ‘Leave the rifles behind’

From Analysis. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The country prepares to vote on a peace accord with leftwing rebels to end five decades of conflict

Ireland’s opportunity

From Europe News. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

International companies based in the UK may start relocating across the Irish Sea

Can religion trump the climate change deniers? Meet the inter-faith environmentalists

By India Bourke from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The role of faith in fighting intolerance, protecting the planet, and trumping Trump.

"I need my brothers here with me - Canon Giles and Rabbi Natan," said Dr Husna Ahmad, motioning for the two men to join her at the pulpit. Taking their hands and raising them above her head, she continued:

“[I need them] to be my voice, to fight for my right to practice my religion, for my right to wear the hijab and to care for my sons and daughters and granddaughters - as they would care for their own”.

Why do I ask for this at an evening about climate change? she asked, her voice now shaking with emotion. “Because only when we think as one humanity can we save this planet.”

The meeting at St John’s church, Waterloo, saw Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders come together for the first-ever "Faith for the Climate" event. Their message echoed the wider Interfaith movement's statement on climate change: that caring for the earth is our shared responsibility. 

As so often with environmental subjects, the effort felt at risk of being shadowed by the more tangible needs of the soup-kitchen operating in the dusk outside. Yet at a time of rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism building cross-community connections and tackling prejudice matter more than ever.

Not least since the fledgling consensus on climate change is also under threat. In the US, one of the world's great polluters, the Republican candidate Donald Trump is a climate change denier. 

During last night's televised debate Hillary Clinton took the businessman to task for saying that climate change was "a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese". Trump denied the accusation: "I did not, I did not, I do not say that," he responded. Yet his tweet history suggests otherwise - revealing how a toxic mix of xenophobia and climate scepticism play their part in his wider message.

Prepped with tea and pitta bread, attendees bore witness to a talk by Sir David King - the Foreign secretary's special representative on climate change. By 2035 the world needs to be at net zero emissions, King explained.

Unbearable heat waves, extreme flooding and biblical-levels of crop-destruction wait on the other side of this deadline.

Last week’s UN conference in New York has seen over 30 new nations, including the UK, officially commit to the Paris climate treaty.  Yet against such optimism must be set the looming prospect of a Trump Presidency in America. 

Not only has Trump said he would “cancel” America’s commitment to the Paris agreement. He has also promised to end the “war on coal”, scrap the Environment Protection Agency, and appoint an oil executive to be the Interior secretary. Without America’s support for global action on climate change, the 1.5 degrees target would be impossible to reach.

So how can religion help? On a direct level, many faith-based bodies are already utilising their vast networks to help tackle the challenge.

Since 2004, Operation Noah, a UK-based Christian charity, has called on the church to divest from fossil fuels.

Sir King also described the Pope's 2015 environmental encyclical as an important part of the "crescendo" that set the stage for the successful negotiations on the global climate deal. On the back of such international progress, groups such as Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and the Big Church Switch are strengthening their interventions. Just last week, Christian Aid announced a new $53m fund to improve energy efficiency in developing countries. 

But there is perhaps also another, less direct, way that religion is helping. Christian evangelicals in the US have been more likely to be climate sceptics. Yet in inter-religious contexts, the multiplicity of interpretations can also be an invitation to a deeper interrogation - of the very way we form assumptions about the world. 

Just look at how many takes there have been on the Noah story within Christianity alone. Mike Hulme at Kings College London points to an American Christian evangelical coalition which supports fossil fuels for their ability to provide cheap energy for the poor. Others have claimed that God’s promise to Noah not to drastically alter the earth again means that the impact of climate change will be softened. In contrast, others read floods as a punishment for human sin. According to the Bishop of Carlisle, the 2007 floods were “the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

While it may be tempting to pack unpalatable viewpoints off in a "basket of deplorables", or wipe them out with an apocalyptic flood, the takeaway from events like last Wednesday's seems to be a message of expanded community and common ground.

For Canon Giles, simply watching members of different faiths united in prayer had transformative power. "In that moment, we were no longer a gathering of different faiths and dogmas," he said. "We were simply members of the muddled human species, pooling our hopes and prayers."

Helena Smith

This week, a top tip to save on washing powder (just don’t stand too near the window)

By Nicholas Lezard from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

I write this, at 3.04pm on a sticky Thursday afternoon, in the state in which Adam, before his shame, strolled in the Garden of Eden.

Well, in the end I didn’t have to go to Ikea (see last week’s column). I got out of it on the grounds that I was obviously on the verge of a tantrum, always distressing to witness in a man in his early-to-mid-fifties, and because I am going to Switzerland.

“Why Switzerland?” I hear you ask. For the usual reason: because someone is paying for me. I don’t think I’m going to be earning any money there, but at least I’ll be getting a flight to Zurich and a scenic train ride to Bellinzona, which I learn is virtually in Italy, and has three castles that, according to one website, are considered to be “amongst the finest examples of medieval fortification in Switzerland”.

I’m not sure what I’m meant to be doing there. It’s all about a literary festival generally devoted to literature in translation, and specifically this year to London-based writers. The organiser, who rejoices in the first name of Nausikaa, says that all I have to do is “attend a short meeting . . . and be part of the festival”. Does this mean I can go off on a stroll around an Alp and when someone asks me what I’m doing, I can say “Oh, I’m part of the festival”? Or do I have to stay within the fortifications, wearing a lanyard or something?

It’s all rather worrying, if I think about it too hard, but then I can plausibly claim to be from London and, moreover, it’ll give me a couple of days in which to shake off my creditors, who are making the city a bit hot for me at the moment.

And gosh, as I write, the city is hot. When I worked at British Telecom in the late Eighties, there was a rudimentary interoffice communication system on which people could relay one-line messages from their own computer terminal to another’s, or everyone else’s at once. (This was cutting-edge tech at the time.) The snag with this – or the opportunity, if you will – was that if you were not at your desk and someone mischievous, such as Gideon from Accounts (he didn’t work in Accounts; I’m protecting his true identity), walked past he would pause briefly to type in the message “I’m naked” on your machine and fire it off to everyone in the building.

For some reason, the news that either Geoff, the senior team leader, or Helen, the unloved HR manager, was working in the nude – even if we knew, deep down, that they weren’t, and that this was another one of Gideon’s jeux d’esprit – never failed to break the monotony.

It always amused us, though we were once treated to a terrifying mise en abîme moment when a message, again pertaining to personal nudity, came from Gideon’s very own terminal, and, for one awful moment, for it was a very warm day, about 200 white-collar employees of BT’s Ebury Bridge Road direct marketing division suddenly entertained the appalling possibility, and the vision it summoned, that Gideon had indeed removed every stitch of his clothing, and fired off his status quo update while genuinely in the nip. He was, after all, entirely capable of it. (We still meet up from time to time, we BT stalwarts, and Gideon is largely unchanged, except that he’s now a history lecturer.)

I digress in this fashion in order to build up to the declaration – whose veracity you can judge for yourselves – that as I write this, at 3.04pm on a sticky Thursday afternoon, I, too, am in the state in which Adam, before his shame, strolled in the Garden of Eden.

There are practical reasons for this. For one thing, it is punishingly hot, and I am beginning, even after a morning shower, to smell like a tin of oxtail soup (to borrow an unforgettable phrase first coined by Julie Burchill). I am also anxious not to transfer any of this odour to any of my clothes, for I will be needing them in Switzerland, and I am running low on washing powder, as well as money to buy more washing powder.

For another thing, I am fairly sure that I am alone in the Hovel. I am not certain. To be certain, I would have to call out my housemate’s name, and that would only be the beginning of our problems. “Yes, I’m here,” she would reply from her room. “Why?” “Um . . .” You see?

So here I lie on my bed, laptop in lap, every window as wide open as can be, and looking for all the world like a hog roast with glasses.

If I step too near the window I could get arrested. At least they don’t mind that kind of thing in Switzerland: they strip off at the drop of a hat. Oh no, wait, that’s Germany.

Pexel

The dark, forgotten world of British girls’ comics is about to be resurrected

By James Cooray Smith from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The UK’s most surreal and innovative comic strips have long been gathering dust. As a publisher acquires the archives, they could be heading for a renaissance.

Comics now exert a massive influence on popular culture, yet those that do are almost exclusively drawn from two American publishers, and mostly exist within one genre: Superheroics.

Comics, though, are a medium, not a genre, and, in acquiring this prominence, American superhero comics have obscured almost everything else done in the medium both in the US and elsewhere.

British comics, from publishers like DC Thomson, IPC and Fleetway, rarely involved superheroes, and were traditionally anthologies, with multiple episodic serials running at all times. They were divided by their publishers into three categories, humour comics aimed at younger children (The Beano and The Dandy remain well-known, although only the former still exists), comics aimed at boys (largely war comics, such as Battle, which also incorporated sports stories and science fiction), and titles specifically targeted at older girls.


All scans courtesy of David Moloney of the Great News For All Readers blog​.

The girls’ titles, particularly, have largely disappeared from common memory, acknowledged only by a handful of enthusiasts. This is odd, as at their peak, they routinely massively outsold the boys’ titles they shared shelf space with.

Bunty (1958-2001) is one of the few girls’ titles to retain any cache, but it had many stablemates and competitors. Some were devoted to straightforward romantic series, and strips with “improving moral messages” (eg. the girl who gets her dream job after helping a blind man out rather than be on time to her interview; it turns out to have been a test).

They also ran features that reflected then contemporary assumptions as to what all girls would/must like (Bunty often had a “cut-out wardrobe” clothes section as its back page), but there was also more variety in tone and content than you might expect.

The Seventies saw the creation of Tammy (1971-84), Jinty (1974-81) and Misty (1978-80). Tammy’s stories were often bleak, and many were variations on the darkest aspects of Cinderella (“Alison All Alone” saw a contemporary girl locked up by step-parents for reasons that are never really articulated).

Jinty ran some relatively normal contemporary school stories, eschewing a jolly hockey sticks angle and pushing something closer to kitchen sink drama (eg. “Pam of Pond Hill”, a Grange Hill-like series set in a comprehensive). But, as time went on, it became darker and odder, running series like John Wagner’s “The Blind Ballerina” (which has been described by acclaimed comic book writer Alan Moore as “cynical and possibly actually evil”).

The lack of credits in most comics in this era meant the audience would’ve been largely unaware that their favourite stories, with their almost exclusively female casts were, like “The Blind Ballerina”, largely written and drawn by men.

Misty creator Pat Mills’ recollection is that while the publishers of the time had many women on staff, most of them saw magazines for older girls and women as the more worthwhile publications than comics.


Women who left a significant mark on these male-dominated titles include Jinty editor Mavis Miller, writer Benita Brown (later an author of historical family sagas set in the northeast which could rival Catherine Cookson when it came to being borrowed from public libraries), and Shirley Bellwood whose consistently magnificent covers for Misty – reputedly largely portraits of her own younger self – were responsible for establishing its aesthetic.

Pat Mills intended that Misty would do to, and for, girls’ comics what his own 2000AD had done with boys’ comics. Whereas 2000AD was, and indeed is, the ultimate science fiction anthology book, Misty would be – as its logo of a bat silhouetted against the moon suggested – unapologetically a horror comic.

Typical Misty serials include “The Loving Cup” (a cursed goblet vessel causes women who drink from it to be possessed by Lucrezia Borgia), and “Winner Loses All” (in which a girl sells her soul to Satan to both save her alcoholic father and become a champion showjumper – the horse is cursed, of course).

Then there’s “Screaming Point”, about a hangman who dabbles in diabolic resurrection of his own clients, or Misty’s longest running single story, “Paint it Black”, in which cursed paints cause a girl quite a lot of trouble. More sci-fi than supernatural – but still within the horror remit – was “The Sentinels”, a serial about two tower blocks in contemporary Britain, which simultaneously exist in the real 1970s and in an alternative timeline where the country has been occupied by the Nazis since the 1940s.

If you’re now wondering why these amazing-sounding stories are no longer available to read, here’s the good news: you may very soon be able to. In August, Rebellion, the owners of 2000AD, bought a vast archive of old classic British comics from Egmont UK (the Fleetway and IPC Youth Group archives), which includes all the above material and more.

Rebellion, initially a computer games company known for the Sniper Elite series, bought 2000AD from Fleetway in, well, 2000AD. Fleetway was also the original publisher of Misty, and so on, although they’ve passed through other hands since.

This is oddly reminiscent of the “hatch, match and despatch” process, where a publisher would “merge” a cancelled comic into another they owned, incorporating the most popular characters and strips into the new composite title. This was the process whereby Tammy absorbed both Misty and Jinty as their sales declined. Mills has suggested that, had he had more direct control, Misty would, like 2000AD, still be running today.

Rebellion has already published a single slim volume of two Misty serials (containing the very odd, and very Seventies, reincarnation drama “Moonchild”, and the genuinely horrifying “The Four Faces of Eve”) and more are planned, but may depend on sales of this volume. If I could take this opportunity to call for a public vote in favour of reprinting Tammy’s startling “Karen, the Loneliest Girl in the World” here, I’d be grateful.


Reprints though, should really only be the beginning. With Rebellion having access to the Egmont archive and its intellectual property, could we see films or television series of some of Misty or Jinty’s best series?

With their female leads, strong emotional content, science fiction and horror aspects and political and social angles, it’s hard to deny that much of the content of Misty or a Jinty has a similar appeal to the kind YA books that become billion-dollar film franchises these days, in the exact same way American boys’ comics do.

It is startlingly easy to imagine opening an issue of Misty and finding a forgotten 1970s strip version of Twilight, or seeing The Hunger Games on the centre pages of Jinty. The main difference would be that they’d both be set in Slough.

With a bit of luck, some of the most peculiar, imaginative and challenging work in British comics could soon be raised from the dead in a new century and in a different form entirely, and then go on to dominate the world. Which, rather appropriately, sounds like something out of Misty.

Via David Moloney of the Great News For All Readers blog

Is Louis Theroux’s new film, My Scientology Movie, “banned” in Ireland?

By Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The film isn’t getting an Irish release – could the country's blasphemy and defamation laws be to blame?

The Church of Scientology is a touchy subject. So touchy, in fact, that the plot of Louis Theroux’s new documentary, My Scientology Movie, revolves around the controversial church’s refusal to appear in on camera. As the institution becomes more and more impenetrable, Theroux’s film uses dramatic readings and re-enactments (alongside more traditional methods like interviews with former Scientologists and scenes showing their attempts at access) to get to the heart of the subject.

Now, Theroux is discovering new complications as his film approaches release. As the buzz around the feature grew, Irish entertainment sites began to notice that although a UK distributor, Altitude, was attached to the project, there was no release date listed for Irish cinemas, nor an Irish distributor. This sparked concern among those familiar with Irish blasphemy and defamation laws – Alex Gibney’s 2015 Scientology documentary, Going Clear, did not secure an Irish theatrical release over libel claims.

The 2009 Defamation Act states that any “person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000”. Blasphemous matter is defined as anything that is “insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion”, and that intends to cause outrage.

There is a loophole in the law, if it can be proved that “a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value” in the work. The law also states that blaspemhy laws do not apply to an organisation or “cult” that prioritises making financial profit or manipulates followers and new recruits. Scientology isn’t officially recognised as a church in Ireland, but it’s unclear whether or not it counts as a religion under the acts definitions.

It’s important to note that the decision not to show the film in Ireland lies with the distributors – this is not a case of the Irish government banning the film from cinemas, as many have been keen to point out on Twitter. As this is at their discretion, it also means we might never know for sure why they decided not to go for an Irish release.

Altitude had this to say in a statement:

Altitude Film Distribution currently has no plans for a theatrical release of My Scientology Movie in Ireland, and has no further comment to make at this time.

Informative, GRMA guys!

My Scientology Movie

The New Statesman Cover | May's new Tories

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

A first look at this week's magazine.

30th September - 6th October issue
May's new Tories

5 times Hillary Clinton completely owned Donald Trump

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The Democratic presidential candidate called out her rival on multiple occasions. 

Only 5 per cent of what Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump says is true, according to the fact checkers Politifact. And yet for months his outspoken comments on race, his business acumen and most of all his rival's emails has sustained his campaign.

But when the two candidates stood head to head in the first debate, Hillary Clinton was the clear winner. Here are some of her best quotes:

1. Nuclear tweets

"That is the number one threat we face in the world and it becomes particularly threatening if terrorists ever get their hands on any nuclear material. So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes as far as I think anyone with any sense should be concerned."

2. Racist lies

"He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen."

3. Zero taxes

"Maybe he doesn't want the American people to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years anybody's ever seen were the couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a a casino licence, and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax. So if he's paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. I think probably he's not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see."

4. Pigs and slobs

"This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs. Someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, and has said women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men."

5. Little guys

"If your main claim to be President of the United States is your business, I think we should talk about that. Your campaign manager said you built a lot of businesses on the backs of little guys. And indeed, I have met a lot of people who were stiffed by your and your businesses, Donald. I've met dishwasers, painters, architects, glass installers, marble installers, drapery installers, like my dad was, who you refused to pay when they finished your work that you asked them to do.

"We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your club houses on your golf courses. It's a beautiful facility it was immediately put to use, and you wouldn't pay what the man needed to be paid - what he was charging you.

"Do the thousands of people who you have stiffed over the course of your business not deserve some sort of apology?"

4. Negative painter

"It's really unfortunate that he paints such a dire, negative picture of black communities in our country."

5. Fact check

Donald Trump: "You're telling the enemy everything you want to do. No wonder you've been fighting Isis your entire adult life."

Clinton (68): "Please, fact checkers, get to work!"

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Hands across the pages: the stories of the world's most beautiful books

By Peter Parker from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel allows us to see inside the books most of us will never get the chance to open.

Some books are so old and valuable that most readers will never get to see them ­except when opened at a single spread in a glass display case. As Christopher de Hamel (the custodian of the treasure-house Parker Library at Corpus Christi, Cambridge) observes, even now that many rare books have been digitised, there is no satisfactory substitute for sitting at a desk and turning these ancient pages yourself, “touching hands” with their creators and the long-vanished world in which they lived.

Given that you generally need to be a ­palaeographer of de Hamel’s standing in order to do this, his handsome new book provides the next best thing. He has selected for our joint inspection 12 manuscripts, ranging in date from the late-6th-century Gospels of St Augustine to the early 16th-century Spinola Hours. These books have made very long journeys to their current locations in (mostly) high-security, temperature-controlled and restricted-access libraries and museums, crossing seas and continents, passing through many hands, and sometimes disappearing entirely from view for centuries.

The experience of reading this book is of sitting beside de Hamel as he describes the commissioning, making and subsequent history of these manuscripts and draws our attention to quirky or crucial details we might otherwise have missed. The book is lavishly illustrated but many of the images have had to be reduced from their real dimensions, and readers will find it useful to have a magnifying glass to hand, as de Hamel does when studying the originals.

As part of the immersive experience the author provides, we meet not only the books, but also the libraries and museums in which they are kept and the staff who oversee them. At the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen, he tells us, ordinary visitors are treated “with a care and patience I could hardly imagine in any other national library”, whereas the employees of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York are grim, bossy and humourless, while those at the Bibliothèque nationale de France are “inclined to fob you off with microfilm, ­especially if they suspect that your French is not up to arguing”. Once seated at a desk, de Hamel takes possession of the books, describing their bindings, dimensions and (in footnotes) their collation, in which the pages that make up a manuscript are itemised according to “a formula that looks at first sight as impenetrable as a knitting pattern or a sequence of DNA, but which is in fact quite precise and simple”.

Some of these books were created for personal and portable use, but others are extremely large and heavy. In a delightfully unsupervised room at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, de Hamel tries to pick up the Codex Amiatinus (circa 700), the weight of which the archaeologist Rupert Bruce-Mitford likened to that of “a fully grown female Great Dane”. Not to be outdone, de Hamel notes that “a 12-to-13-year-old boy is about the same”, and adds that it would have taken the skins of 515 young cattle to produce the 1,030 pages of parchment needed for this huge Vulgate Bible. It began its life in what is now Tyne and Wear, copied from a Bible brought back to England from Rome in 680 by two monks called Benedict and Ceolfrith. It was in fact one of three copies, two of them commissioned for the twinned abbeys of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and a third to be lugged back to the papal court in Rome, “the first documented export of a work of art from England”.

Unfortunately, Ceolfrith died en route in central France and the book vanished from history for over a millennium, not least because someone altered its dedication page. It appeared, unrecognised, in the inventory of a Tuscan monastery in 1036, but was not identified as Ceolfrith’s lost copy until 1887. Quite how it ended up in the monastery is not known, though de Hamel wonders whether the monks accompanying Ceolfrith paused at Monte Amiata on the onward journey to Rome and then decided to settle there.

The detective work in tracing the history and provenance of these manuscripts is an essential and enthralling element of de Hamel’s book. Another extraordinary survival is that of The Hours of Jeanne de Navarre, found literally underfoot by a French soldier in a railway siding at Berchtesgaden Railway Station in 1945, after Hitler’s Alpine retreat had been overrun by Allied forces. Created for the eponymous French queen in the second quarter of the 14th century, the book passed through several royal hands, including those of Joan of Navarre, the second wife of Henry IV of England. It then spent three centuries at a Franciscan nunnery in Paris, before coming on to the collectors’ market. Bought by Edmond de Rothschild in 1919, it was subsequently stolen by the Nazis and possibly entered Hermann Göring’s personal collection.

The significance of these books is not merely palaeographical, and de Hamel proves equally well versed in medieval genealogy, and religious and social history. He provides enlightening accounts both of the production of the books and of the ways in which they were used: sometimes to teach royal children to read, sometimes as a way for the aristocratic laity to commune with God without the intermediary of church and priest. He describes the physical demands of being a scrivener or illuminator, and a fascinating chapter on the “Hengwrt Chaucer” carefully weighs the evidence identifying the individual who created this c.1400 copy of The Canterbury Tales.

The author challenges the received wisdom, declaring himself unimpressed by the much-vaunted artistry of The Book of Kells: it may contain the earliest painting of the Virgin and Child in European art but “the baby is grotesque and unadorable, with wild red hair like seaweed [and] protruding upturned nose and chin”. He evidently prefers the mid-10th-century Morgan Beatus, which warns of an apocalypse that seemed at the time all too imminent and includes an enchanting Adam and Eve, “brightly pink like newly arrived English ­holidaymakers on Spanish beaches”. As these quotations demonstrate, de Hamel’s book may be a work of formidable scholarship but it is also, thanks to the author’s relaxed and informal style of writing, eminently readable and very entertaining.

Peter Parker is the author of “Housman Country: Into the Heart of England” (Little, Brown)

Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel is published by Allen Lane (640pp, £30)

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US presidential debate: Hillary Clinton might have triumphed over Donald Trump but does it really matter?

By Nicky Woolf from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The former secretary of state landed some solid blows on the tycoon but in the age of post-truth politics what matters more is how people feel.

There is a phrase that has become nearly ubiquitous, a sort of bitterly ironic catchphrase for journalists covering the 2016 presidential election in general – and Donald Trump in particular – and it is this: “lol nothing matters”.

Its glib boys-on-the-bus nihilism conceals a deeper truth. This campaign has degraded to the point at which truth and lies have become largely interchangeable. What is real matters less now than what people feel.

Hillary Clinton won most of the exchanges in the first presidential debate Monday night. The clash was at times oddly stilted, even boring; early skirmishers, the two opponents spent much of the first half of the debate warily circling, rather than engaging. The next debate will almost certainly make much better television.

But once she hit her stride the former secretary of state landed some solid blows on Trump over his preposterous pursuit of the “birther” conspiracy theory, and pressed him hard over his refusal to release his tax returns – something every presidential candidate for half a century has done – and his lie about not being able to do so while under an "audit". (No such prevention exists, of course, but: lol nothing matters.)

In the key part of that exchange, Clinton said: “So you’ve got to ask yourself, why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks,” she said, in probably her best moment of the night.

“Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes,” she continued, pressing home her advantage.

At which point, Trump leaned into the microphone, not to object, but simply to petulantly interject: “That makes me smart.” Clinton had clearly got under his skin.

Not every Clinton line landed, mind. A particularly painful example: early in the debate, and then again later, she tried to coin the agonizingly cringeworthy phrase “Trumped-up trickle-down,” causing a collective wince from the Twitterati.

But many of the things Trump said were obvious, even lazy, lies. When Clinton took him to task for saying that climate change was “a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese”, Trump responded “I did not, I did not, I do not say that,” despite the fact that he hadn't even bothered to delete a tweet by him from 2012 saying literally just that. When Clinton said that Trump had at first supported the invasion of Iraq – which he did – he flatly denied it. 

At other times, he was simply incoherent or so infuriatingly vague as to be completely adrift from meaning.

It was telling, though, that Clinton called several times for “fact-checkers” to get on top of Trump's delusional ramblings and hold him accountable. CNN's post-debate poll gave the victory to Clinton, 62 percent to 27 percent – a rout. But CNN's audience skews Democratic by ten points. Clinton can call for fact-checkers as much as she likes, but only a fraction of a percentage of viewers, and only a minescule fraction of a fraction of Trump-leaning viewers, will probably ever seek out or even recognise that kind of fact-checking as legitimate.

So what happens next? The truth is we don't know at all. None of us know. It has become bleakly popular to say that we now live in a “post-truth” era, but in reality it is more that truth has become balkanized. Social media has made it possible for people to live in their own silo of separate truth.

Towards the end, Clinton channelled Fox News's Megyn Kelly, pressing Trump on his opinions towards women – quoting that he had called them “slobs” and “fat pigs”. To anyone for whom Trump's campaign is transparently ludicrous and misogynistic to the core – which is to say, pretty much my social and social media circle, and, let's face it, if you're reading this article, most likely yours as well – this was a win.

But that echo will only ring true to the political operatives, journalists, or people in our silo, who share a certain set of values.

This election is teaching us that we are no longer a representative sample. Trump – Donald Trump – after a two-year tidal wave of appalling bigotry, despite being a joke to you and to everyone you break bread with, went into Monday's debate with Hillary Clinton on Monday afternoon in a virtual tie. A virtual tie! Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton! Think, for a second, how off-piste that means we now are.

Where are most people now getting their information from? A bunch of places, all of them totally diffuse, much of it from what their friends, sociopolitical and geographic peer group share with them on social media. It's this catastrophic diffusion of truth which has brought us here. Some of the collapse of authoritative media was absolutely the media's fault. Some of it was due to technological and social changes that were out of anyone's control.

But it has led us to this place: where lol nothing matters.

 

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Do you see yourself as British or English? The answer could help define modern politics

By Helen Lewis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

The rise of English identity has left a glaring space in politics for an English nationalist party. Who is going to fill it?

Political scientists call it the “Moreno question”. In the 1980s, the Spanish academic Luis Moreno Fernández came up with a test for identity, which was originally applied to gauge interest in Catalan independence. In its English incarnation, it asks voters to grade themselves from “I feel more British than English” to “I feel more English than British”. Unsurprisingly, Ukip does best among those who describe themselves as “English, not British”, while Labour’s vote rises the more people see themselves as British. In the biggest group – the 47 per cent who see themselves as equally English and British – the Tories lead.

The Moreno question helps us make sense of three interlinking trends in modern politics. First, the stark fact that in the 2015 election, a different party won in each nation of the United Kingdom: Labour in Wales, the SNP in Scotland, the Tories in England and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. Second, Ukip’s lack of success north of the border: the Herald reported in July that Ukip’s only elected representative in the country, David Coburn MEP, had been forced to take on the role of treasurer at his local branch in Fife because it has so few members. Third, Labour’s declining performance in its historic northern heartlands. Many voters there want a party with a distinctively English flavour and don’t feel that Labour is it.

Devolution has had many unexpected consequences, but the rise of an English identity is one of the least explored. Because of its demographic dominance, mainstream politicians have long argued that it would be unfair to give England its own parliament. Labour is particularly resistant to the idea because it would magnify the Conservatives’ power. As it is, the principle of “English votes for English laws” will exclude the SNP and Plaid Cymru from the grand committee-stage hearings on grammar schools, because education is a devolved matter.

However, the last general election showed that there’s a problem with English voters feeling ignored. In Worcester, the Tory MP Robin Walker told me in April 2015 that arguments about the SNP holding Labour to ransom cut through on the doorstep. “There is a real concern if [voters] are saying, ‘The proceeds of the mansion tax are all going to go on nurses in Scotland. That doesn’t help us,’” he said. Many English voters felt that the SNP would be a successful lobby group at Westminster for Scotland’s interests. Where was their equivalent?

For John Denham, the former Labour MP who now leads the Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Winchester, the same dynamic applied this summer in the EU referendum campaign. “Scotland got ‘Scotland Stronger in Europe’,” he tells me. “England had to put up with ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’. That was an elite campaign run by people who think Britain and England are the same thing.”

Once again, the Moreno question helps us understand a fundamental divide among English voters. Denham says that 80 per cent of people who defined themselves as “English only” voted Leave, while 80 per cent of those who called themselves “British only” voted Remain.

Denham thinks that this presents an enormous challenge for Labour in northern seats where Ukip is in second place, given that its intellectuals and leading politicians feel so squeamish about Englishness. “If Labour continues as a cosmopolitan, liberal party that doesn’t want anything to do with the politics of identity,” he warns, “it won’t reach those voters.”

Other politicians worry that if Labour doesn’t occupy this space, another party will. “As nationalists go, the SNP is pretty good,” a senior left-wing politician told me recently. “An English nationalist party could be something altogether more nasty.”

In this light, the election of Diane James as the leader of Ukip looks like a rare stroke of luck for Labour. She is a southerner, educated at Rochester Grammar School, and an MEP for south-east England. Although she is polished and professional – albeit prone to outbursts of admiration for Vladimir Putin – she seems unlikely to appeal on an emotional level to working-class white voters in the north, where the greatest potential for an English nationalist party lies. Thanks to Ukip’s Caligulan internal politics, the deputy leader, Paul Nuttall (from Bootle), did not stand and the charismatic Steven Woolfe (from Burnage) was excluded from the race after the party’s executive committee ruled that he had submitted his nomination papers 17 minutes after the deadline. (Another potential candidate, Suzanne Evans, was suspended by the party, and pretty much everyone else in Ukip seems to hate its only MP, Douglas Carswell.)

If not Labour, or Ukip, perhaps the Conservatives? Theresa May’s rebranding of the party, complete with articles on bringing back grammar schools in the Daily Mail, shows that she is pitching for Ukip-leaners. “In terms of language and biography, she has a better understanding of that struggling, socially conservative, English nationalist voter than Cameron did,” says Robert Ford, a professor of political science at Manchester University and co-author of Revolt on the Right. He believes that any party that thinks a simple economic message can sway these voters is underestimating the “emotive” nature of identity-based politics. “It’s no use going to Sunderland and saying, ‘We’re going to nationalise the trains,’ and thinking, ‘They’ll come back to us.’”

There is another option. A new party could be born, perhaps even out of the ashes of post-referendum Ukip: Arron Banks, its mega-donor, has said that he fancies the idea. With the right leader, nationalist sentiment could spread like wildfire among the “English, not British”. And, as Nigel Farage has shown, you don’t need to get elected to Westminster to have an effect.

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Labour is getting very, very scared about robots

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 27, 2016.

Forget Brexit, it's the march of the automatons you should be worried about. 

Labour is worried about getting exterminated - and not at the polls. One of the preoccupations of this year's party conference is robots, and the possibility that mechanical devices will soon be replacing Britain's workforce. And fast. 

Norman Pickavance, a Grant Thornton consultant who advised Ed Miliband on employment policy, warned that three different futures loomed, including a "world of extraction" where humans are commoditised, or a "world of robotics and anxiety" (his preferred world was the third, an "age of connections"). Speaking at a Fabian fringe event, he said: "On robotics, I think the changes are coming really quickly."

Yvette Cooper, a former Cabinet minister, concurred. She said: "None of us know quite how fast this could happen, but it could rip through certain areas or sectors."

Next it was the turn of Chuka Umunna, the former shadow business secretary. He may have made headlines at conference for his comments on integration, but it seems he wasn't just talking about the human kind. "There are communities which have a high concentration of a particular industry that we know automation and robots are going to fundmentally impact," he said during a Resolution Foundation event.

So is Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet going to shrug off Brexit and focus on robot wars? The Staggers asked Jon Trickett, shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills. And if anything, his view is even more apocalyptic. 

"It is part of the reason we can't go on in the same way," he said. "There are things that have happened to our country that make it difficult to sustain the status quo. Now we have got this innovation process which is about to accelerate. I think thousands of thousands of jobs are under threat.

"I think it's important we don't become Luddites, because this can emancipate people from the drudgery of labour, but at the same time it is important people are not left on the scrap heap."

As for why everyone's talking about it? According to Trickett, this is simply because "it is literally about to happen".

In the age of the robots, politicians must seize power in more ways than one. "Technology can either be our master or our servant," he told The Staggers. "I think we will have to make it our servant."

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The clever ideological trick that could save the Labour party

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The Co-operative party could suddenly get a lot more popular. 

It’s do or die for the party’s moderate MPs, who have lost the fight for the soul of Labour and must quickly move on. 

The 172 Labour MPs who backed a no-confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year may not like their newly elected party leader much, but they loathe John McDonnell. 

So it is little surprise that one of them, John Woodcock, reportedly looked “sick to the stomach” when the Shadow Chancellor tenderly invited him for a cuppa in his office following the leadership election result at conference. Reading the tea leaves tells me those talks aren’t going to go well.  

Yet moderate MPs would do well to revisit McDonnell’s off-the-cuff comments from a few years back: “I’m not in the Labour party because I’m a believer of the Labour party as some supreme body or something God-given or anything like that,” he told a small audience in 2012. “It’s a tactic. It’s as simple as that. If it’s no longer a useful vehicle, move on.” 

Two feather-spitting former frontbenchers called for McDonnell’s resignation when these comments emerged in March, saying they revealed his Trotskyist tendencies. "The context (a hard-left gathering) and the company (which included Gerry Downing, expelled from Labour for his comments on 9/11) didn’t make for great publicity, no," a Leader’s Office staffer privately confesses. 

But McDonnell is right: There is nothing necessary, natural or divinely ordained about Labour’s existence lest it can get things done. Which is why the parliamentary Labour party cannot botch its next attempt at power. 

In the wake of Corbyn’s re-election, Labour MPs face a fork-in-the-road: fight this civil war until its bitter end - play the long game, wait until Labour loses the next general election and challenge Corbyn again - or start afresh. 

It is a bleak, binary choice, akin to a doctor delivering test results and declaring the illness is terminal as feared: the patient can go down fighting and die a slow death, notwithstanding a medical miracle, or instead take part in a pioneering new drug trial. This carries the risk of dying immediately but promises the possibility of life as well. Both options are fraught with danger.

The problem with the first option is that moderates have all but lost the party already. A poll reveals Corbyn won 85 per cent - 15 per cent among members who joined after he became party leader and lost 37 per cent - 63 per cent among those who were members of the party before the last general election. The result: victory by 119,000 votes. 

Corbyn has already announced he wants to give these foot soldiers far greater firepower and told Andrew Marr he had asked the NEC to draft plans for increasing the membership and including it in “all aspects of party decision making”. Labour is transitioning apace into a social movement: free of formal hierarchy and ambivalent about parliamentary power. 

So why wait until 2020? There is every chance that MPs won’t any longer have the power to challenge to Corbyn within four years’ time. If Momentum has its way with reselection and shadow cabinet elections, leading rebels may not be around to begin with. 

Even if MPs mount another leadership challenge, few believe organisations like Saving Labour or Labour First could put together a sizeable enough electorate to outgun Corbyn at the ballot box. He would be voted back in by a landslide. 

The alternative is for MPs to create a new centre-left force. The main plan under consideration is to join the Cooperative party, Labour’s sister party, and sit as a bloc of “double hatted” MPs, with their own policy agenda on Brexit and the economy. This new bloc would apply to the Speaker to become the official opposition. 

Plenty of MPs and members recoil at the idea of a semi-split like this because of the mixed message it would send to voters on the doorstep. "So you don’t have faith in Corbyn, but you’re a Co-op MP campaigning on behalf of his Labour?" Many believe a full-split would be worse. They fear being pitted against Corbyn-backed Labour candidates in local constituencies and splitting the left vote, opening the door to Ukip or the Conservatives in marginal seats. 

But if moderate MPs mean what they say when they warn of total electoral wipeout in 2020, risking a new centre-left grouping is intuitively worth it.  What do they have to lose? And how many more times can Labour’s moderates cry wolf - Labour "risks extinction", Sadiq Khan said yesterday - until voters call their bluff and tell them to quit complaining and fall in line behind their leader? 

While Corbyn’s polling remains disastrous, a Co-op/Labour party would boast a mandate of 9.3m people, a policy agenda in line with Britain’s political centre of gravity and a chance of becoming the official opposition: a risk worth taking in the face of electoral oblivion. 

A handful of battle-bruised MPs are talking about coming together. "Time to unite," a deflated Hilary Benn tweeted this weekend. There is a precedent for this: first past the post means the party has always been composed of uneasy coalitions of different groups - take the trade unionists, liberal cosmopolites and ethnic minorities of the New Labour years - and it is arguably no different now.  

Yet this is not about a coalition of diverse interests. It is about two parties within a party, each of which believes Labour is their rightful inheritance. Of the two, moderates are least likely to gain anything by engaging in an all out war. It is time they took a leaf out of McDonnell’s book and accepted it is time, regrettably, "to move on". 

Gabriel Pogrund is a journalist at The Sunday Times and a Google News Fellow 2016. 

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How Well-Meaning, Intelligent People End Up in a Cult

By Nicolas Pollock from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

EnlightenNext was an organization, founded by self-styled guru Andrew Cohen, that aimed to facilitate spiritual awakening. Cohen’s most devoted students meditated for hours—at times, months—on end, were often celibate, and lived together. However, what started as an idealistic venture quickly turned into a complicated, often-sinister world that revolved around Cohen. The story of EnlightenNext’s rise and fall begs a deeper question: How do otherwise well-intentioned and rational people end up in a cult? In this documentary, The Atlantic talks to former members, as well as Cohen himself, about their stories in order to uncover the life span of a new religious movement that, after 27 years, collapsed nearly overnight.

Airbus and Boeing could both lose battle

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The aircraft manufacturers have wasted enough time at the WTO

Interview: Momentum’s vice chair Jackie Walker on unity, antisemitism, and discipline in Labour

By Margaret Corvid from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The leading pro-Corbyn campaigner sets out her plan for the party.

As Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters celebrate after his second win, Jackie Walker – vice chair of the pro-Corbyn campaign organisation Momentum, a Labour member and an activist – talks about the result and the next steps for Labour’s membership.

Walker is a controversial figure in the party. Her history as a black anti-racism activist and advocate for Palestine, and her Jewish background on both sides of her family, did not keep her from being accused of antisemitism for a February Facebook post about the African slave trade. In May, she was suspended from the Labour party for her comments, only to be reinstated a few weeks later after a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee.

Anger was reignited at an event hosted by Momentum that she spoke at during Labour party conference, on whether Labour has an antisemitism problem. Walker said the problem was “exaggerated” by Corbyn’s critics, and used as a “weapon of political mass destruction” by the media. (We spoke to Walker before this debate took place).

After a summer plagued by suspensions of Labour members, accusations of hateful speech on both sides, and calls for civility, Walker discusses what steps need to be taken forward to help bring the party together.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke in his acceptance speech about wiping the slate clean and the need to unite the party. What steps can members from all sides take to unite the party?

I think people have got to stop using antagonistic language with each other, and I think they’ve got to stop looking for ways to undermine the democratic will of the membership. That has now been plainly stated, and that’s even with something like 120,000 members not getting their vote because of the freeze. He has increased his majority – we all need to acknowledge that.

Is there anything that Corbyn’s supporters need to do – or need not to do – to contribute towards unity?

I can’t speak for the whole of Jeremy’s supporters, who are numbered in their hundreds and thousands; I know that in my Labour group, we are always bending over backwards to be friendly and to try and be positive in all of our meetings. So I think we just have to keep on being that – continue trying to win people over by and through our responses.

I was knocking doors for Labour last week in support of a local campaign protesting the planned closure of several doctors’ surgeries – I spoke to a voter on a door who said that they love the Labour party but felt unable to vote for us as long as Corbyn is leader. What should we say to voters like that?

The first thing I do is to ask them why they feel that way; most of the time, what I find is that they’ve been reading the press, which has been rabid about Jeremy Corbyn. In all the research that we and others have done, the British public agree overwhelmingly with the policies espoused by Jeremy Corbyn, so we’ve got to get on the doorstep and start talking about policies. I think that sometimes what happens in constituency Labour party groups is that people are saying “go out there and canvass but don’t mention Jeremy”. I think that we need to do the opposite – we need to go out there and talk about Jeremy and his policies all the time.

Now that Corbyn has a stronger mandate and we’ve had these two programmes on Momentum: Channel 4’s Dispatches and BBC’s Panorama, which were explanations of the group, Momentum’s role will be pivotal. How can Momentum contribute towards party unity and get its membership out on the doorstep?

I think we have to turn our base into an activist base that goes out there and starts campaigning – and doesn’t just campaign during elections but campaigns all the time, outside election time. We have to do the long campaign.

The Corbyn campaign put out a video that was subsequently withdrawn – it had been condemned by the pressure group the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which has filed a disciplinary complaint against him. What are your thoughts on the video?

I find their use of accusations of antisemitism reprehensible – I am an anti-racist campaigner and I think they debase the whole debate around anti-racism and I think they should be ashamed of themselves. There is nothing wrong with that video that anyone could look at it and say this is antisemitic. I would suggest that if people have doubt, they should look at the video and judge for themselves whether it is antisemitic.

There’s been a compliance process over the last several months that’s excluded people from the party for comments on social media. Now that Corbyn is in again, how should compliance change?

One of the issues is that we have gotten Jeremy back in as leader, but control of the NEC is still under question. Until the NEC actually accepts the recommendations of Chakrabati in terms of the workings of disciplinary procedures, then I think we’re going to be forever embroiled in these kinds of convoluted and strange disciplinary processes that no other political party would either have or put up with.

There have been rumours that Corbyn’s opponents will split from the party, or mount another leadership challenge. What do you think they’ll do?

I have absolutely no idea – there are so many permutations about how this game could now be played – and I say game because I think that there are some who are Jeremy’s opponents who kind of see it as a power game. I read a tweet somewhere saying that the purpose of this leadership election – which has damaged Labour hugely – has nothing to do with the idea that actually Owen Smith, his challenger, could have won, but is part of the process to actually undermine Jeremy. I think people like that should really think again about why they’re in the Labour party and what it is they’re doing.

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US leadership on climate change at risk

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

A legal case threatens to undermine the viability of the Paris accord

After the leadership battle, immigration is Labour's new dividing line

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

Some MPs are making a progressive case for freedom of movement controls. 

After three brutal months of infighting, culminating in another sweeping victory for Jeremy Corbyn, the buzzword at the Labour party conference is unity. But while Corbyn’s opponents may have resigned themselves at least temporarily to their leader, a new fissure is opening up.

Considering it was sparked by Brexit, the Labour leadership contest included surprisingly little debate about freedom of movement. In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, Corbyn declared he was “not afraid to talk about immigration”.  Owen Smith, his rival, referred to the “progressive case against freedom of movement”. But ultimately, the contest embodied a clash between the will of the membership and the parliamentary Labour party. 

Now, though, the question can no longer be dodged. What position should Labour take on freedom of movement? And is it time for a fundamental shift on immigration?

Labour’s 2015 pledge to “control immigration” was widely derided by its own party activists – not least when it appeared on a gift shop mug. Apart from making a rather authoritarian present, one of the flaws in this promise was, at the time, that the only way of really controlling immigration would be to leave the EU. 

But an increasingly vocal group of MPs are arguing that everything has changed. Heavyweights from the Miliband era are now, from the back benches, trying to define limits to freedom of movement and immigration. Chief among them are Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna. 

Reeves makes her case from an economic perspective. She argues that freedom of movement from the EU has depressed wages (the cause and effect is disputed). At a Resolution Foundation event during Labour conference, she recalled visiting a factory in her constituency where workers complained the jobs went to foreigners. 

Umunna, on the other hand, argues unease with immigration has a cultural element as well. He has said that immigrants need to stop leading “parallel lives”. At the Resolution event, he declared of Brexit: “This isn’t all about economic equality – it is about identity politics.” Umunna's tough talk on integration may coincide with his bid to chair the Home Office select committee, but his observations about the underlying distrust of immigrants rings true. 

How Labour copes with freedom of movement depends on which view prevails. It is possible to imagine the party coming up with an answer to the freedom of movement question that involves Corbynite economic themes, such as protecting wages, labour rights and restrictions on agency recruitment. Lisa Nandy, another speaker at the Resolution event, rallied the audience with a story of workers on low wages standing “in solidarity side by side” with migrant workers. It would be a distinctly left-wing argument that critiques the Government’s tolerance of zero-hours contracts and other precarious employment practices. 

But if, as Umunna suggests, Brexit is also an articulation of a deeper anti-immigrant feeling, Labour is entering more dangerous territory. On a tactical level, it is hard to see how the party can beat the May Government when it comes to social conservatism. It undermines any attempt to broker a "soft Brexit", which many of Labour's members, who voted Remain, will want. 

And then there's the prospect of the party most closely associated with ethnic minorities condoning xenophobia. Labour activists point out that some of the Brexit backlash is plain old racism. Speaking at a Momentum rally during the leadership contest, Diane Abbott, the shadow health secretary and one of Corbyn’s closest allies, declared: "Anyone who tells you maybe you have to do something about these Eastern Europeans, it's not about skin colour, what we've seen since the Brexit vote gives lie to that. 

“If you give ground to anti-immigrant politics, it will sweep away all of us. And we cannot give ground to that stuff. You cannot as a Labour movement take a position that one part of the working class is a problem of another section of the working class."

More pragmatic MPs too, still remember the ill-fated immigration mug. They see the new “tough on immigration” line as an uneasy alliance between working-class MPs on the Labour right, and a group of middle-class metropolitans who have spotted a gap in the market and jumped on it. Should this second attempt, Labour MPs will have achieved nothing except alienating their activist base. 

Ultimately, the initiative lies with Corbyn. If he can set out a radical agenda for protecting workers’ rights, he may be able to bring the party with him. But if this fails to shift opinion polls, immigration could be the next issue to disunite the party. 

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Harry Styles: What can three blank Instagram posts tell us about music promotion?

By Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

Do the One Direction star’s latest posts tell us about the future of music promotion in the social media age - or take us back to a bygone era?

Yesterday, Harry Styles posted three identical, captionless blank images to Instagram. He offered no explanation on any other social network, and left no clue via location serves or tagged accounts as to what the pictures might mean. There was nothing about any of the individual images that suggested they might have significance beyond their surface existence.

And, predictably, they brought in over a million likes – and thousands of Styles fans decoding them with the forensic dedication of the cast of Silent Witness.

Of course, the Instagrams are deliberately provocative in their vagueness. They reminded me of Robert Rauschenberg’s three-panelled White Painting (1951), or Robert Ryman’s Untitled, three square blank canvases that hang in the Pompidou Centre. The composer John Cage claimed that the significance of Rauschenberg’s White Paintings lay in their status as receptive surfaces that respond to the world around them. The significance of Styles’s Instagrams arguably, too, only gain cultural relevance as his audience engages with them.

So what did fans make of the cryptic posts? Some posited a modelling career announcement would follow, others theorised that it was a nod to a Taylor Swift song “Blank Space”, and that the former couple would soon confirm they were back together. Still more thought this suggested an oncoming solo album launch.

You can understand why a solo album launch would be on the tip of most fans’ tongues. Instagram has become a popular platform for the cryptic musical announcement — In April, Beyoncé teased Lemonade’s world premiere with a short Instagram video – keeping her face, and the significance behind the title Lemonade, hidden.

Creating a void is often seen as the ultimate way to tease fans and whet appetites. In June last year, The 1975 temporarily deleted their Instagram, a key platform in building the band’s grungy, black and white brand, in the lead up to the announcement of their second album, which involved a shift in aesthetic to pastel pinks and bright neons.

The Weekend wiped his, too, just last week – ahead of the release of his new single “Starboy”. Blank Instagrams are popular across the network. Jaden Smith has posted hundreds of them, seemingly with no wider philosophical point behind them, though he did tweet in April last year, “Instagram Is A BlackHole Of Time And Energy.”

The motive behind Harry’s blank posts perhaps seems somewhat anticlimactic – an interview with magazine Another Man, and three covers, with three different hairstyles, to go along with it. But presumably the interview coincides with the promotion of something new – hopefully, something other than his new film Dunkirk and the latest update on his beloved tresses. In fact, those blank Instagrams could lead to a surprisingly traditional form of celebrity announcement – one that surfaces to the world via the print press.

Pompidou Centre

Laid in America: how two YouTubers made a mainstream sex-comedy for children

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

Caspar Lee and KSI's new movie is officially rated 15, but digital downloading means their young audiences have easy access. 

It’s not that expectations are high when it comes to YouTube movies. Despite being released by Universal Studios, vloggers Caspar Lee and KSI’s latest feature film Laid In America always looked set to be cheap and cheerful rather than a cultural blockbuster. It’s just that the opening scene of the movie – in which KSI humps a blow-up sex doll doggy style while forcing its head down on Caspar Lee’s crotch, before ejaculating into his own boxers – jars a little when you consider the relative age of the pair’s fan bases.

Caspar Lee is a 22-year-old South African YouTuber whose prank videos and vlogs have earnt him 6.79 million subscribers. KSI – real name Olajide Olatunji – is a year older and has double the influence, with 14.64 million people subscribed to his video gaming channel. Although YouTube doesn’t allow the public to see the demographics of any particular YouTuber’s audience, videos of Olatunji and Lee’s meet-and-greets with fans reveal that the former is idolised by teenage boys and the latter beloved of pre-teen and teenage girls. Search “Caspar Lee book review” on YouTube and the first non-branded result shows a very young girl waxing lyrical about the star.

KSI and a 13-year-old fan, via kalabza1973

Despite Laid in America’s Red Band trailer and raunchy premise – of two English students in America desperately trying to lose their virginity, à la American pie – it seems the filmmakers, Bad Weather Films and The Fun Group, are aware of the pair’s audiences. The movie premieres tonight at the O2 in London and is then available for digital download only. This isn’t a reflection on the limited influence of YouTubers – whose transformation of the publishing industry alone shows they could easily sell out cinemas – but a savvy business decision that allows children to watch a film that has been rated 15 by the British Board of Film Classification. Rather than trying to sneak into a cinema, kids can affectively undo 104 years of film classification history with just a few clicks.

It’s not that it’s particularly shocking that 12-year-olds can easily watch this gross-out comedy complete with the requisite sex party, dwarf in a cage, plethora of swear words, and obligatory “That… was… awesome!”. No, the most offensive thing about the film (aside from KSI’s abysmal acting) isn’t the sex, it’s the sexism.

“Tabitha is a complete BLOB,” says Duncan (Olatunji) when Jack (Lee) asks why, if he’s so desperate to lose his virginity, he doesn’t sleep with the girl who keeps passing him love notes. “You know that girl that you’d never have sex with and then the night is coming to an end and you run out of options? … Basic Last Option Bae. BLOB.”

The credentials that make Tabitha a BLOB, appear to be – to the naked eye – that she is not tall, she is a normal weight, and she doesn’t wear concealer under her eyes. Heather Cowles, the actress who plays her, is in fact so attractive that you almost wish they’d gone down the old-fashioned fat-suit and fake-acne line. When a preteen girl who idolises YouTubers so much that she sets them as her profile picture watches them mock and deride what is essentially a normal looking girl, how will they feel?

Caspar Lee with fans at a book signing via Getty

There are a multitude of similar instances in the movie. “Did you get a chance to experience any American girls?” asks Jack and Duncan’s headmaster in one of the opening scenes of the film, as headmasters are wont to do. When the duo reveal they are both virgins, the principal acts shocked. “No girls? Not even fat girls?” he says.

None of this would be particularly damaging to the normal, adult audiences of similar Hollywood comedies. But YouTubers have an incredible influence over their fans, so much so that brands are willing to pay between £20,000 and £50,000 for them to recommend a single product in their videos. It seems a shame that this influence will be used to increase the insecurities of young girls and reinforce, yet again, that Sex Is Everything to young boys.

The attitudes to women in the film are beyond outdated. To begin with, Duncan and Jack need to “find hot girls” in order to be allowed into cool-kid Tucker Jones’ party. From this point on, women are a commodity. “The more money we appear to have, the hotter girls we’ll get,” says one of the stars – god, don’t ask me which – when the pair try out a dating app. Next we see them ride a Boober (like an Uber, but with two complimentary large-chested girls), leave a woman passed out in her lingerie after she hits her head, and be rewarded with sex for – and truly, romance is dying, dying, dead as I write this – telling a girl’s ex-boyfriend that she’s “not a bitch”.

But surely, surely, in 2016 this is all redeemed by a heartfelt message about how actually, losing your virginity and “getting” hot girls isn’t everything? No such luck. The ending of the film is basically softcore porn, though the final shot features Jack and Duncan riding a Segway shouting: “We go in your country and take your women!” They saw. They conquered. They came. 

It's not yet apparent whether the film will be a commercial success, though the pair think that if it is, other studios will also begin making download-only films. "I guess the studios will be like, 'Oh this worked, let's try this' and follow," KSI told the BBC. If this is the case, hopefully more consideration will be put into making movies with a positive message for YouTubers' young audiences. 

 
Universal

US gas: Global market, local problems

From Analysis. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The north-east is producing huge amounts of fuel from shale formations but environmentalists have vowed to halt pipelines

Why Clive Lewis was furious when a Trident pledge went missing from his speech

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The shadow defence secretary is carving out his own line on security. 

Clive Lewis’s first conference speech as shadow defence secretary has been overshadowed by a row over a last-minute change to his speech, when a section saying that he “would not seek to change” Labour’s policy on renewing Trident submarines disappeared.

Lewis took the stage expecting to make the announcement and was only notified of the change via a post-it note, having reportedly signed it of with the leader’s office in advance. 

Lewis was, I’m told, “fucking furious”, and according to Kevin Schofield over at PoliticsHome, is said to have “punched a wall” in anger at the change. The finger of blame is being pointed at Jeremy Corbyn’s press chief, Seumas Milne.

What’s going on? The important political context is the finely-balanced struggle for power on Labour’s ruling national executive committee, which has tilted away from Corbyn after conference passed a resolution to give the leaders of the Welsh and Scottish parties the right to appoint a representative each to the body. (Corbyn, as leader, has the right to appoint three.)  

One of Corbyn’s more resolvable headaches on the NEC is the GMB, who are increasingly willing to challenge  the Labour leader, and who represent many of the people employed making the submarines themselves. An added source of tension in all this is that the GMB and Unite compete with one another for members in the nuclear industry, and that being seen to be the louder defender of their workers’ interests has proved a good recruiting agent for the GMB in recent years. 

Strike a deal with the GMB over Trident, and it could make passing wider changes to the party rulebook through party conference significantly easier. (Not least because the GMB also accounts for a large chunk of the trade union delegates on the conference floor.) 

So what happened? My understanding is that Milne was not freelancing but acting on clear instruction. Although Team Corbyn are well aware a nuclear deal could ease the path for the wider project, they also know that trying to get Corbyn to strike a pose he doesn’t agree with is a self-defeating task. 

“Jeremy’s biggest strength,” a senior ally of his told me, “is that you absolutely cannot get him to say something he doesn’t believe, and without that, he wouldn’t be leader. But it can make it harder for him to be the leader.”

Corbyn is also of the generation – as are John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – for whom going soft on Trident was symptomatic of Neil Kinnock’s rightward turn. Going easy on this issue was always going be nothing doing. 

There are three big winners in all this. The first, of course, are Corbyn’s internal opponents, who will continue to feel the benefits of the GMB’s support. The second is Iain McNicol, formerly of the GMB. While he enjoys the protection of the GMB, there simply isn’t a majority on the NEC to be found to get rid of him. Corbyn’s inner circle have been increasingly certain they cannot remove McNicol and will insead have to go around him, but this confirms it.

But the third big winner is Lewis. In his praise for NATO – dubbing it a “socialist” organisation, a reference to the fact the Attlee government were its co-creators – and in his rebuffed attempt to park the nuclear issue, he is making himeslf the natural home for those in Labour who agree with Corbyn on the economics but fear that on security issues he is dead on arrival with the electorate.  That position probably accounts for at least 40 per cent of the party membership and around 100 MPs. 

If tomorrow’s Labour party belongs to a figure who has remained in the trenches with Corbyn – which, in my view, is why Emily Thornberry remains worth a bet too – then Clive Lewis has done his chances after 2020 no small amount of good. 

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Roy Hattersley: Labour is far closer to extinction now than in the 1980s

By Roy Hattersley from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

 If the takeover of the party by the far-left succeeds there will be no opportunity to rescue it from the wilder shores of socialism, says the former deputy leader.

The comparison with the Eighties is irresistible but misconceived. Labour is far closer to extinction as a major party than it was 35 years ago. That is not because Jeremy Corbyn is incapable of leading the party to victory — although he is. Nor is it because his supporters threaten the political assassination of anyone who says so — although they do. It is because, for the first time in its history, Labour is in real danger of a permanent domination by the unrepresentative and unelectable left.

All the other regular crises in the party’s history — German rearmament, nuclear disarmament, the defection of the Gang of Four to found the SPD — were resolved by mistakes being rectified, resolutions reversed and Labour resuming its place in the mainstream of British politics. Nor was there any genuine risk that the infiltrators from the far left would play a decisive part in national policy making. The Militant Tendency controlled municipal politics in Liverpool and attempted, with mixed success, to unseat vulnerable mainstream MP’s. But there was no possibility of them subverting the whole party. Now the far left operating through Momentum  aspires to make a decisive, and irreversible shift in Labour’s core ideology by initiating a purge of mainstream Labour MPs and a cull of headquarters office staff, reducing the part that the parliamentary party plays in choosing the leader and making the election manifesto the preserve of the annual conference. If the putsch — described by its instigators as an extension of party democracy — succeeds, there will be no opportunity for a latter day Neil Kinnock to rescue Labour from the wilder shores of socialism and the odds on its survival lengthen.

The crisis could have been averted. The parliamentary party  with the exception of a handful of residual Blairites  is ready for some sort of compromise. That is why, three weeks ago, it gave its overwhelming support to the proposal that the shadow cabinet should be elected by Labour MPs rather than chosen by the leader. The change was intended to allow an honourable return to the front bench for the shadow ministers who resigned in the spring. As a move towards unity, it is no more than papering over the cracks but better that than gaping fractures. Although Corbyn had neither the sense nor the grace immediately to accept the gesture of conciliation, the choice between an uneasy peace and continued guerrilla warfare still lies with him. If — as his victory speech suggests — he regards last Saturday’s victory as a mandate to impose his sectarian will on the party, the battle is likely end with mutual self-destruction.

Even if Jeremy Corbin succeeds in his attempts to create a permanent far-left hegemony, the Labour Party is unlikely to split as it did 30 years ago . The fate of the SDP — absorption into a Liberal Party which kept the Tory-led coalition in office or defiant independence that ended in the ignominy of polling fewer by-election votes than the Monster Raving Loony Party — has dampened enthusiasm for a breakaway movement. Nor are there charismatic potential leaders who stand ready to lead their followers into battle in the way that Roy Jenkins and David Owen (the Fidel Castro and Che Guevara of social democracy) marched a dozen Labour MPs into the valley of political death. But a futile attempt to form a new party would at least imply the hope of some sort ofresurrection. The more likely outcome would be the product of pure despair — the parliamentary Labour party would not divide and instead would begin slowly to disintegrate.

If the worst happens some Labour MPs will suddenly discover previously undetected virtues in Corbyn and Corbynism and line up behind him. Others will grow weary of being abused by local extremists and fade away. Contrary to public opinion, most MPs could earn more from less demanding jobs outside parliament. The politically dedicated, determined to be candidates in the next election, will accept the challenge of reselection. More will succeed than fail, but the harm to the party’s reputation will be immense.

One feature of the 1980 desertion will certainly be replicated. When the Gang of Four defected, the damage done by the loss of glamorous leadership was more than matched by the loss of hard working membership. If Labour MPs begin to believe that the battle for reason and recovery is no longer worth fighting the disenchantment will become infectious. Jeremy Corbyn’s devotees would still turn out for the rallies. But the enthusiasm with which they would tramp the streets on rainy nights, or spend boring weekends telephoning target voters, is in doubt. Reliance on the notion that the election can be won online is the refuge of politicians who either have not identified or do not understand the floating voters.

The haemorrhage has already begun — increased by the behaviour of recently recruited Corbynites who do not seem to have heard that their hero has an olive tree outside his office door. All over the country they are bullying and filibustering their way into the control of local parties — excoriating mainstream members, manipulating the rules of debate and postponing votes until late in the evening. Of course, the men and women who oppose them could play the same game. But they are, by their nature, reasonable people and they want to lead reasonable lives. That is why they represent the sort of Labour Party with which voters can identify. 

Unfortunately, many of the Labour MPs who should have led the campaign to recreate an electable party have spent the last year either sulking or complaining. They have been anti Corbyn but pro very little. Owen Smith’s leadership campaign ended in disaster not because of the size of the incumbent’s votes but because of the challenger’s failure to set out an alternative vision of the society that socialists hope to create. Angela Eagle would have won fewer votes, but she would come closer to reassuring party members that "moderates" (a deadening description which should be abandoned) have principles and policies. A campaign that relied on nothing except the obvious truth that Jeremy Corbyn would lead Labour to defeat was doomed from the start. A majority of the party members who joined before 2015 voted for Smith. Think of how many more would have done the same had he offered them more to vote for than disapproval of his opponent.

Corbyn, and many of the Corbynites, are unmoved by the evidence that they are heading straight to defeat. That is, in part, because Corbyn himself is in what psychiatrists call “total denial.” There were times last year when he seemed to be implementing a carefully coordinated plan to alienate all the middle-of-road voters on whose support a Labour victory depends. He has proposed the unilateral abandonment of the British nuclear deterrent, refused to back Britain’s continued membership of the European Single Market and defended his historic association with apologists for terrorism — all items on the curriculum vitae of a Labour leader who might have been invented by Conservative Central Office. No political leader in British history has been so careless about his party’s prospects at the ballot box. But that is only one of the reasons why the threat of defeat will do little to halt the party's leftward gallop.

There is, within the ranks of Corbyn supporters, a substantial number of activists who — since they do not believe that parliamentary democracy can create the socialist Utopia of their dreams — regard the election of a Labour Government as an irrelevance. Indeed they believe that a prolonged period of Tory misrule will bring forward the day when a spontaneous uprising will herald the new dawn. It is near to inconceivable that Corbyn believes in such millenarian nonsense. But he appear to subscribe to the equally fatuous view that the first task is to make Labour a genuinely socialist party and that winning elections can wait until it is accomplished.

That is clearly the view of those correspondents to the New Statesman who complain about Corbyn’s critics obsession with what they call “electablity”. It is easy for their cynics to sneer about putting power before principle, but winning is a matter of principle too. Labour exists to make those changes in society which can only be achieved in power. In 2016 the fight — to quote the former Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell in 1962 — is less about saving “the party we love” than about rescuing the nation from long years of  Tory bigotry. To behave in a way which diminishes — indeed for a time extinguishes — Labour’s chance of fulfilling its historic purpose is worse than self indulgent. It is betrayal.

There are major figures in the current drama of the Labour Party whose attitude towards the prospect of government is both inexcusable and incomprehensible. Chief among them is Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite and a man whose every bombastic television appearance is worth thousands of votes to the Tories. The members he represents have the strongest possible vested interest in a Labour victory at the next election. Yet many of his policies and pronouncements — particularly his risibly unsuccessful attempts to bully MPs into supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership — contribute to the Conservatives’ opinion poll lead and increases the danger of massive defeat at the next election turning into total destruction.

Anyone who doubts that Labour could be reduced to the status of the Liberal Democrats or the Greens — struggling for influence without even hoping for power — should be sent to canvas for the party in Scotland. But the near oblivion north of the border is not yet inevitable in the south. Recovery will take time and before Labour can begin effectively to deal with the challenges from outside the party it must struggle back into the mainstream of politics — a process which has to begin with an acceptance that Jeremy Corbyn’s first election was more than a combination of the Peasants’ Revolt and the Children’s Crusade. For many of the men and women who voted for the first time in 2015 his victory represented the end of a decade of disillusion. At first they had felt no more than disappointment at opportunities that successive Blair Governments missed — their delight in the landslide victory of 1997 fading away until it was finally extinguished on the battlefields of Iraq.

The Peak District village in which I live is home to more Labour party members than the tourists may imagine. Two of them  —  a retired bank manager and an emeritus professor of cardiac surgery — voted for Corbyn in 2015. In part they were motivated by a desire to “give socialism a chance for once.” But they also thought that they were drawing a line under the years of “the third way” and triangulation. New Labour, in which they had once devoutly believed, had come to mean private enterprise edging its way into the health service, the surreptitious extension of secondary selection and light regulation of the City of London. Jeremy Corbyn, like the Scottish National Party, has much to thank Tony Blair for.

For some people Jeremy Corbyn was, like Donald Trump and Marine LePen, a welcome alternative to the politics of the establishment. To many more he was, by the very nature of his unelectability, the antidote to the opportunism which they (wrongly) believe characterises life in Westminster. Now, a mainstream candidate for the Labour leadership will have to make clear that they are guided not by opinion polls but by a vision of a new and better society. The next leader must concentrate every nerve and sinew on winning, but they must have faith in their ability to carry the country for reasonable revolution.

Unfortunately the members of the Labour mainstream are notoriously reticent about  discussing first principles. They find talk of “the vision thing” embarrassing and believe that the task which faces them is too obvious to need justification by any “fancy theories.” Yet there is a great body of work — by the likes of TH Green, RH Tawney. Anthony Crosland and John Rawls — which set out the theory of democratic socialism and descriptions of why it is especially relevant today – Joseph E Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality and The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett — abound. The recovery of reason has to begin with Chukka Umuuna explaining the virtues of equality, Yvette Cooper describing Britain’s obligations to the developing world and Dan Jarvis defining the role of the state in protecting the weak against the strong. Or any of them talking about what they stand for instead of assuming that their convictions are taken for granted. The Daily Mail might not report their speeches, but moderate party members will treat the related Fabian Society pamphlets like water in the desert.

If, as they must, the reasonable majority of Labour MPs choose to stay and fight, they have to organise — inside the parliamentary party and, more importantly in the constituencies. I have spent much recent time insisting, to sceptical friends that the occupants of the opposition back benches are as competent and committed as were members of any of the governments, or shadow governments, in which I served. But I do not even try to argue that they are as active as my contemporaries once were in reclaiming the party. Success and survival depends on the constant demonstration that reasonable radicals still have a home in the Labour Party.  

One refugee from Corbyn’s original shadow cabinet assured me that like-minded Labour MPs do occasionally meet. When I asked what they discussed, I was told that they “wait for something to turn up.” But, something will only turn up if it is prepared and promoted by the men and women who have the courage and commitment to lead Labour out of the wilderness. The journey will be long and hard and there can be no guarantee of arrival at the desired destination. But those of us who believe that Labour can still provide the best prospect of a more equal society have to begin the trek toward the promised land — and we need to set out straight away.

Roy Hattersley was deputy leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992.

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Want to beat child poverty? End the freeze on working-age benefits

By Dan Jarvis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

Freezing working-age benefits at a time of rising prices is both economically and morally unsound. 

We serve in politics to change lives. Yet for too long, many people and parts of Britain have felt ignored. Our response to Brexit must respond to their concerns and match their aspirations. By doing so, we can unite the country and build a fairer Britain.

Our future success as a country depends on making the most of all our talents. So we should begin with a simple goal – that child poverty must not be a feature of our country’s future.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that relative child poverty will see the biggest increase in a generation in this Parliament. That is why it is so troubling that poverty has almost disappeared from the political agenda under David Cameron, and now Theresa May.

The last Labour Government’s record reminds us what can be achieved. Labour delivered the biggest improvement of any EU nation in lifting one million children out of poverty, transforming so many lives. Child poverty should scar our conscience as much as it does our children’s futures. So we have a duty to this generation to make progress once again.

In my Barnsley constituency, we have led a campaign bringing together Labour party members, community groups, and the local Labour Council to take action. My constituency party recently published its second child poverty report, which included contributions from across our community on addressing this challenge.

Ideas ranged from new requirements on developments for affordable housing, to expanding childcare, and the great example set by retired teachers lending their expertise to tutor local students. When more than 200 children in my constituency fall behind in language skills before they even start school, that local effort must be supported at the national level.

In order to build a consensus around renewed action, I will be introducing a private member’s bill in Parliament. It will set a new child poverty target, with requirements to regularly measure progress and report against the impact of policy choices.

I hope to work on a cross-party basis to share expertise and build pressure for action. In response, I hope that the Government will make this a priority in order to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment to make Britain a country that works for everyone.

The Autumn Statement in two months’ time is an opportunity to signal a new approach. Planned changes to tax and benefits over the next four years will take more than one pound in every ten pounds from the pockets of the poorest families. That is divisive and short-sighted, particularly with prices at the tills expected to rise.

Therefore the Chancellor should make a clear commitment to those who have been left behind by ending the freeze on working-age benefits. That would not only be morally right, but also sound economics.

It is estimated that one pound in every five pounds of public spending is associated with poverty. As well as redirecting public spending, poverty worsens the key economic challenges we face. It lowers productivity and limits spending power, which undermine the strong economy we need for the future.

Yet the human cost of child poverty is the greatest of all. When a Sure Start children’s centre is lost, it closes a door on opportunity. That is penny wise but pound foolish and it must end now.

The smarter approach is to recognise that a child’s earliest years are critical to their future life chances. The weight of expert opinion in favour of early intervention is overwhelming. So that must be our priority, because it is a smart investment for the future and it will change lives today.

This is the cause of our times. To end child poverty so that no-one is locked out of the opportunity for a better future. To stand in the way of a Government that seeks to pass by on the other side. Then to be in position to replace the Tories at the next election.

By doing so, we can answer that demand for change from people across our country. And we can provide security, opportunity, and hope to those who need it most.

That is how we can begin to build a fairer Britain.
 
 

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The New Statesman's Fundamenta-list: the zeitgeist, then and now

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

In 1988, Marxism Today put out a list of "modern" and "new" things. Now, with the future of the left forcing us to radically rethink the "new times", the New Statesman has updated the list for 2016.

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

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Absolutely Fashion showed what fashion week is really like: nasty, brutish and short

By Tanya Gold from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

With fake meetings about fake covers, the documentary gave a glimpse into the abyss at the heart of the fashion world.

London Fashion Week is the sad little sister of the one in Paris, where I once attended a Valentino couture show dressed by Gap, watched what looked like live-action anorexia nervosa at Armani and got into a fight at Chanel. Did a man wearing a lion’s head on his real head look stupid? Yes, said I. No, said the fashion ­journalist, with fury.

Fashion Week had a small elegy this year – a BBC2 documentary called Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue, which was fantastically misnamed. There is nothing inside Vogue, except a vague groping for novelty, which is technically an abyss. But that did not stop the programme’s director, Richard Macer, from sitting in Vogue House for nine months, watching women smell each other’s mascara. In the way of a certain type of media, he seems to have emerged more ignorant than when he began. This is the central principle of fashion: stupefy the buyer and she will pay to be reborn as something uglier.

“He doesn’t understand fashion,” said one critic, which I think meant: “He should have licked Karl Lagerfeld’s shoes while crying about belts.” To this critic, that is understanding fashion. It is a religious hierarchy. (That no one has asked Lagerfeld what he has done to his face, and why, proves this. When I met Lagerfeld in Paris, he was behind a velvet rope. I wondered if he sleeps with it.) Macer is a sexist, suggested another critic, who seemed to think that any industry that employs women in large numbers – human surrogacy farms, for instance, or Bangladeshi textile factories, or German super-brothels – is feminist. This is the stupidest definition of feminism I have yet heard and I have fashion to thank for it.

Macer was too frightened to ask questions about exploitation, pollution or the haunting spectacle of malnourished adolescents inciting self-hatred in older females in pursuit of profit, and he is not alone. I read no insights about London Fashion Week, but I do not care about clothes. He was so cowed by his access as to be undeserving of it, and Absolutely Fashion was as much about the laziness and commercial imperatives of modern journalism as it was about fashion, from which we should expect nothing.

Macer had a tiny scoop: British Vogue learned that American Vogue was running a cover of the singer Rihanna in the same calendar month. It decided to run early and people stayed up all night anxiously repaginating. He had the opportunity to ask Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of the US magazine, about it, but a staffer begged him not to. So he didn’t. He segued from journalist to PR. He drank the opiate – and I understand this, because if you don’t, you won’t survive. “Come again,” Jean Paul Gaultier once told me in Paris. His meaning was: “. . . but only if you love my clothes”.

In one scene, the actor Hugh Jackman was photographed in a bathtub at Claridge’s Hotel in London. He was fully clothed and looked marginally more stupid than he does dressed as the genetically mutated wolf man Wolverine, but that is not the point. “Come and see how handsome you are, Hugh,” cooed a Vogue woman. I wouldn’t have minded Jackman preening over an image of himself in private, but this exposed a truth: some journalism is celebrity PR.

Elsewhere, Kate Moss did a shoot wearing clothes that belonged to the Rolling Stones. It was based, she said, on a well-known shoot that they once did “in exile”. She meant tax exile, which was funny.

That Vogue, which is still, at least nominally, a magazine, should devote itself to this junk is not excused by an intellectual curiosity so dulled that one executive said that New York Fashion Week had “a sort of Lego element to it”.

British Vogue is edited by Alexandra Shulman, and in the manner of print media with long-standing editors – she has been there for 24 years – it is, in essence, a cult. In this case, a passive-aggressive-ocracy. (People are always surprised to learn that magazines are tyrannies, but there it is.)

I do not know whether Shulman wanted Macer there or not, or whether she didn’t have the clout to stop it, but once he was in, she treated him with the bored derision of a woman contemplating a ball gown chewed by moths. Shulman has the face of a woman who should get out while she can. In her only revealing scene, she had to choose between two front covers. One was “artistic” because it showed Kate Moss’s knickers; the other was unthreatening because it showed only Kate Moss’s face. “My heart is never allowed to rule,” she said, and she laughed. But I think she meant it.

She lied to Macer, too, holding fake meetings about fake covers so the world would not learn that Vogue had, by its cracked standards, a huge scoop: the Duchess of Cambridge would appear on the cover of the 100th-anniversary issue in a hat.

Absolutely Fashion also taught us, had we not known, that fashion is peopled by privileged creatures who are impervious to the extent of their privilege and who are, therefore, bad journalists, because they cannot even effectively interview themselves. For instance, the photographer Mary McCartney, one of Paul’s daughters, told Macer that she had never got work because her father was a member of the Beatles.

To be oblivious to reality is essential in fashion. Everyone is equal under the skirt. Yet McCartney flourishes because of the doctrine of the age: the already prosperous are more worthy of prosperity.

Not everyone seemed so disingenuous. One woman described the search for the non-existent novelty as “exhausting”. She no longer believed in the cult.

Absolutely Fashion, if you watch it critically, is more interesting than Macer perhaps allowed himself to dream. In its way, it embodied any fashion week anywhere: nasty, brutish and short. 

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Full speech: John McDonnell's new, socialist economic policy to include a Living Wage Review

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

Floating a £10 an hour Living Wage and the possibility of Universal Basic Income, the Shadow Chancellor told the audience at Labour party conference they no longer have to "whisper" the word socialism. Read McDonnell's speech below.

Now the leadership election is over, I tell you, we have to become a government in waiting. An election could come at any time. Theresa May has said that she will not be calling an early election, but when could anyone trust a Tory leader?

We have to prepare ourselves not just for fighting an election but for moving into Government. To do that successfully we have to have the policies and the plans for their detailed implementation on the shelf, in place for when we enter government whenever that election comes.

Everybody in the Party, at every level and in every role, needs to appreciate the sense of urgency about this task, the mess we will inherit. So in this speech I want to address some of the key issues we will face and how we will face them.

First though, we need to appreciate the mess that the Tories are leaving behind for when we go into Government. Six years on from when they promised to eliminate the Government’s deficit in five years, they are nowhere near that goal. The national debt burden was supposed to be falling by last year, and it is still rising. In money terms, it now stands at £1.6 trillion. Our productivity has fallen far behind. Each hour worked in the US, Germany or France is one-third more productive than each hour worked here. Our economy is failing on productivity because the Tories are failing to deliver the investment it needs, and government investment is still planned to fall in every remaining year of this Parliament.

In the real world economy that our people live in wages are still lower than they were before the global financial crisis in 2008. There are now 800,000 people on zero hours contracts, unable to plan from one week to the next, and the number continues to rise. Nearly half a million in bogus self-employment, 86 per cent of austerity cuts fall on women,  nearly 4 million of our children are living in poverty.

As the fifth richest economy in the world, it shoudn't be like this.

So let's talk about the immediate issues facing us. On Brexit, we campaigned to remain but we have to respect the decision of the referendum. That doesn't mean we have to accept what the Tories serve up for our future relationship with Europe.

Since the Brexit vote, the Tories have come up with no plan whatsoever. They have no clue. Half of them want a hard Brexit, to walk away from 30 years of investment in our relationship with Europe.  Some are just paralysed by the scale of the mess they created. Working with our socialist and social democratic colleagues across Europe, our aim is to create a new Europe which builds upon the benefits of the EU but tackles the perceived disbenefits.

I set out Labour’s red lines on the Brexit negotiations a few days after the vote. Let's get it straight, we have to protect jobs here. So we will seek to preserve access to the Single Market for goods and services. Today, access to the Single Market requires freedom of movement of labour. But we will address the concerns that people have raised in the undercutting of wages and conditions, and the pressure on local public services.

We will not let the Tories to bargain away our workers’ rights. We will defend the rights of EU nationals that live and work here and UK citizens currently living and working in Europe. We were all appalled at the attacks that took place on the Polish community in our country following the Brexit vote. Let's be clear that, as a Party, we will always stand up against racism and xenophobia in any form.

In the negotiations we also want Britain to keep its stake in the European Investment Bank. At the centre of negotiations is Britain’s financial services industry.Our financial services have been placed under threat as a result of the vote to leave. Labour has said we will support access to European markets for financial services. But our financial services must understand that 2008 must never happen again. We will not tolerate a return to the casino economy that contributed to that crash.

We will support financial services where they deliver a clear benefit to the whole community - not just enriching a lucky few. We’ll work with the finance sector to develop this new deal with finance for the British people.

We will fight for the best possible Brexit deal for the British people.

There will be no more support for TTIP or any other trade deal that promotes deregulation and privatisation, here or across Europe. And we'll make sure any future government has the power to intervene in our economy in the interests of the whole country.

For Britain to prosper in that new Europe and on the world stage, our next major challenge is to call a halt to this government's austerity programme.

The Conservative Party built upon the disaster of the 2008 financial crisis by introducing an austerity programme that has made the impact of the economic crisis more prolonged, protected the corporations and the rich, and made the rest of society pay for the mistakes and greed of the speculators that caused the crash.

Last year this Conference determined that this party would oppose austerity and that's exactly what we've done. We have had some major successes. We've forced the reversal of tax credit cuts.We also fought and won to have the Personal Independence Payment cuts scrapped.

Sometimes we don’t thank people enough in our movement. So I want to thank Owen Smith for the work he’s done working with Jeremy to defeat the Tories on this.

These are tangible victories that are making a real difference to people’s lives. This is what we can achieve when we are united.

So when we go into government united, be clear, we will end this government's austerity programme that has damaged the lives of so many of our communities. The first step is opposing austerity; the second step is creating the alternative.

Exactly as our economic advisor, Nobel Prize winner, Joe Stiglitz, says: “we have to rewrite the rules of our economy”.

We will rewrite the rules to the benefit of working people on taxes, investment, and how our economic institutions work. So on tax, we know we can’t run the best public services in the world on a flagging economy with a tax system that does not tax fairly or effectively.

I’ll congratulate the Christians on the Left for their campaign promoting the hashtag “patriots pay their taxes”. It’s a great slogan. Patriots should pay their taxes. Labour are already setting the pace on tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion.

We launched our Tax Transparency and Enforcement Programme to force the Government into action. I’d like to thank Rebecca Long-Bailey for leading the Labour charge in Parliament to hold the tax dodgers to account.

The publication of the Panama papers threw just some light on the scale of tax evasion and avoidance. Some of the largest firms in the City of London are up to their necks in it. HSBC alone accounted for more than 2,300 shell companies established to help the super-rich duck their taxes.

In government we will end the social scourge of tax avoidance. We will create a new Tax Enforcement Unit at HMRC, doubling the number of staff investigating wealthy tax avoiders. We will ban tax-dodging companies from winning public sector contracts. And we will ensure that all British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories introduce a full, public register of company owners and beneficiaries.

Our review of HMRC has also exposed the corporate capture of the tax system, and how staff cutbacks are undermining our ability to collect the taxes we need. I want to thank PCS, Professor Prem Sikka, John Christiansen and their team for the expertise they have provided us in drawing up this review.

The next stage of our work will be to develop the legislation and international agreements needed to close tax havens and end tax abuse. I’ll give you this assurance that when we go back into government, we’ll make sure HMRC has the staffing, the resources, and the legal powers to close down the tax avoidance industry that has grown up in this country.

But we have to do more than stop tax avoidance. The burden of taxation as a whole now falls too heavily on those least able to pay. So let me make it clear: in this coming period we will be developing the policies that will shift the tax burden more fairly, away from those who earn wages and salaries and onto those who hold wealth.

Turning to investment, as I've said before, Labour as a party of government needs to think not just how we spend money but how we earn it. I've announced a £250billion investment programme that will ensure no community is left behind. This is the scale of investment that independent experts say will start to bring Britain's infrastructure into the 21st century.

It means putting the investment in place that will transform our energy system, providing cheap, low-carbon electricity. It means ensuring every part of the country has access to superfast broadband, matching the best in the world. It means delivering the transport improvements, including HS3 in the north of England, that will unlock the potential of our whole country.

For too long major decisions about what and where to invest have been taken by Whitehall and the City. The result has been underinvestment and decline across the country. It’s time for our regions and localities to take back control. So we will create new institutions, not run by the old elite circles.

Our £250billion National Investment Bank will supply the long-term, patient finance needed to sustain a new, more productive economy. It will be backed up by a network of regional development banks, with a clear public mandate to supply finance to regional and local economies.

It’s a disgrace that our small businesses can’t get the finance they need to grow. Our financial system is letting them down badly. The new regional development banks will have a mandate to provide the patient, long-term investment they need.

But we’ll go further than this. We’ll shake up how our major corporations work and change how our economy is owned and managed. We’ll clamp down on the abuses of power at the very top. There’ll be no more Philip Greens under Labour and we will legislate to rewrite company law to prevent them.

We'll introduce legislation to ban companies taking on excessive debt to pay out dividends to shareholders. And we'll rewrite the Takeover Code to make sure every takeover proposal has a clear plan in place to pay workers and pensioners.

But we can do more to transform our economy for working people. Theresa May has spoken about worker representation on boards. It’s good to see her following our lead. We know that when workers own and manage their companies, those businesses last longer and are more productive.

If we want patient, long-term investment, and high-quality firms, what better way to do it than give employees themselves a clear stake in both? Co-operation and collaboration is how the emerging economy of the future functions.  We’ll look to at least double our co-operative sector so that it matches those in Germany and the US.

We’ll build on the good example of Labour Councils like Preston, here in the north-west, using public procurement to support co-operatives where they can. We’ll help create 200 local energy companies and 1,000 energy co-operatives, giving power back to local communities and breaking up the monopoly of the Big Six producers. And we’ll introduce a “Right to Own”, giving workers first refusal on a proposal for worker ownership when their company faces a change of ownership or closure.

So the next Labour government will promote a renaissance in co-operative and worker ownership. The new regional development banks will be tasked with supplying the capital a new generation of business owners will need to succeed.

We’ll support business hubs across the country. I visited Make Liverpool yesterday, where an abandoned warehouse is being turned into a shared workshop space for small businesses and the self-employed. The next Labour government will provide support to establish business hubs in every town and city.

We know the economy is changing, with more people self-employed than ever before. We need to think creatively about how to respond and so we’ll be taking a serious look at how to make the welfare system better support the self-employed.

And I am also interested in the potential of a Universal Basic Income - to learn from its potential from the experiments currently taking place across Europe.

But until working people have proper protections at work, the labour market will always work against them. To achieve fair wages, the next Labour government will look to implement the recommendations of the Institute of Employment Relations.

We’ll reintroduce sectoral collective bargaining across the economy, ending the race to the bottom on wages. And let me give you this commitment: in the first hundred days of our Labour government, we’ll repeal the Trade Union Act.

And what happens when trade unions are weakened? Over 200,000 workers in the UK are receiving less than the minimum wage set down in law. This is totally unacceptable.

Under Labour, we will properly resource HMRC and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to make sure there are no more national scandals like Mike Ashley of Sports Direct. And our vision for a high-wage economy, with everyone receiving their fair dues, does not end there.

I have spoken before about building on the great achievements of previous Labour governments. One of the greatest achievements of the government elected in 1997 was the establishment of a national minimum wage, lifting millions out of poverty. The Tories opposed it, claiming it would cost millions of jobs, but - united in purpose - we won the argument.

Under the next Labour government, everyone will earn enough to live on. When we win the next election we will write a real Living Wage into law. We'll charge a new Living Wage Review Body with the task of setting it at the level needed for a decent life. Independent forecasts suggest that this will be over £10 per hour. This will be a fundamental part of our new bargain in the workplace.

But we know that small businesses need to be a part of the bargain. That’s why we will also be publishing proposals to help businesses implement the Living Wage, particularly small and medium-sized companies. We will be examining a number of ideas, including the expansion and reform of Employment Allowance, to make sure that this historic step forward in improving the living standards of the poorest paid does not impact on hours or employment.

Backed up by our commitment to investment, we will end the scourge of poverty pay. Decent pay is not just fundamentally right, it’s good for business, it’s good for employees, and it’s good for Britain. We need a new deal across our whole economy.Because whatever we do in Britain, the old rules of the global economy are being rewritten for us.

The winds of globalisation are blowing in a different direction.They are blowing against the belief in the free market and in favour of intervention. Look at the steel crisis. With the world market flooded by cheap steel, major governments moved to protect their domestic steel industries. Ours did not, until we pushed them to. They are so blinkered by their ideology that they can’t see how the world is changing.

Good business doesn’t need no government. Good business needs good government. And the best governments today, right across the world, recognise that they need to support their economies because the way the world works is changing.

For decades, manufacturing jobs disappeared as producers looked for the cheapest labour they could find. Today, one in six manufacturers in the UK are bringing jobs back to Britain. That’s because production today is about locating close to markets and drawing on highly-skilled labour and high-quality investment.

Digital technology means production can be smaller-scale, in smaller, faster firms dependent on co-operation and collaboration, not dog-eat-dog competition. The economies that are making best use of this shift are those with governments that understand it is taking place, and support their new industries and small businesses. We could be a part of that change here.

There is a huge potential in this country, and in every part of this country. We have an immense heritage of scientific research, and engineering expertise. Today, our science system is a world-leader. We have natural resources that could make us world-leaders in renewables. We have talent and ambition in every part of the country.

Yet at every single stage we have a government that fails to reach that potential. It has cut scientific research spending, it has slashed subsidies to renewables, threatening tens of thousands of jobs, and it plans to cut essential public investment in transport, energy, and housing across the whole country.

Be certain, the next Labour government will be an interventionist government. We will not stand by like this one has and see our key industries flounder and our future prosperity put at risk. Like Rebecca Long-Bailey has said, when we return to government we will implement a comprehensive industrial strategy.

After Brexit, we want to see a renaissance in British manufacturing and as we've committed ourselves, our government will create an entrepreneurial state that works with the wealth creators, the workers and the entrepreneurs to create the products and the markets that will secure our long term prosperity.

Let me just say this in conclusion, on a personal note. I'm so pleased that this conference is being held in Liverpool. I was born in the city, not far from here. My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.

As a result of Labour government policies, I remember the day we celebrated moving into our council house. My brother and I had our own bedrooms for the first time. We had a garden front and rear, both of us were born in NHS hospitals, and both of us had a great free education. There was an atmosphere of eternal optimism.

Our generation always thought that from here on there would always be a steady improvement in people's living standards. We expected the lives of each generation would improve upon the last. Successive Tory governments put an end to that.

Under Jeremy's leadership, I believe that we can restore that optimism, people's faith in the future. In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.

Imagine the society that we can create. It's a society that's radically transformed, radically fairer, more equal and more democratic. Yes, based upon a prosperous economy but an economy that's economically and environmentally sustainable and where that prosperity is shared by all.

That's our vision to rebuild and transform Britain.

In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called Socialism.

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Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump: do presidential debates influence the election result?

By Jonathan Jones from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

As the US presidential candidates prepare for their first debate, can such events affect the outcome? We look at past debates and the polls that followed.

Presidential debates are big events. 67 million Americans tuned in to the first encounter between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney four years ago. The candidates spend a lot of time preparing for their bouts, and reaction to them dominates election coverage for days afterwards.

But all this attention on the debates exaggerates their importance when it comes to determining the next occupant of the Oval Office. That’s not to say that they have no effect – indeed, there are a couple of elections that could easily have turned out differently without them, as we’ll see below – but debates are rarely the “game changers” they’re often billed as.

According to political folklore, it was Richard Nixon’s sweaty face and cheap make-up in the first ever televised debate that handed the 1960 election to John F Kennedy. It’s certainly possible that the debates helped Kennedy to his narrow victory that year, but there isn’t much hard evidence. Polls by Gallup showed Kennedy going from 1 percentage point behind Nixon before the debate to 3 points ahead afterwards – but that could be down just as easily to sampling error as to sweatiness.

The other result that may have hinged on the debates was, unsurprisingly, another very close election: the 2000 race between Al Gore and George W Bush. Gore entered the debate with a 1.8-point lead, according to Nate Silver’s averages of the polls taken the week before the debate.

But Gore was widely criticised for sighing while Bush was talking and, in the average of polls taken the week after the debate, Gore now trailed by 1.5 points. He did recover to win the popular vote by half a point but, of course, not the presidency.

Challengers to incumbent presidents have tended to see their poll numbers rise after the first debate, perhaps because it’s a chance to make their pitch to voters who don’t know much about them. The largest example of this is the most recent: when Romney got the better of Obama in their first debate four years ago. Obama’s poll lead shrunk from 5 percentage points on the eve of that debate to less than 1 point a week later.

However, as with convention bounces, any poll bounce a candidate receives from a debate is likely to be short-lived. In the end, Obama won the 2012 election by 3.9 points – almost exactly the margin FiveThirtyEight was forecasting just before his poor first debate.

So, in general, debates have less of an effect on the outcome than the breathless coverage of them might suggest. But this is a close election – Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump by just 2 points. Even a small debate bump for one of them could change the complexion of the race significantly. And there are some good reasons to think that the debates could have a bigger impact this year.

In the past, debates have tended to pit experienced, competent, well-prepared debaters against each other. This time, Clinton – who’s performed well in lots of debates against Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders this year – faces Trump, who’s never debated anyone one-on-one and didn’t do terribly well in debates with his competitors for the Republican nomination.

Clinton’s been preparing assiduously: studying briefing books and clips of Trump, and taking full days out of her campaign to practise with her experienced team. Trump, meanwhile, has been “testing out zingers” with Rudy Giuliani and Roger Ailes over cheeseburgers at his golf course.

However, it’s not the candidates’ performances that matter, so much as what the media says about them. In 2004, Kim Fridkin and others found that viewers who watched NBC’s relatively pro-Bush coverage of the final debate were more likely to declare him the winner than those who just watched the debate, or who watched it with CNN’s online commentary.

And as we’ve seen plenty of times already in this campaign, much of the media holds Trump to a lower standard than Clinton. Don’t be surprised, therefore, to hear positive reviews of Trump “beating expectations”, even if he doesn’t perform as well as his opponent.

There is also an unusually large number of voters who are not currently planning to vote for either major candidate. Right now, about 18 per cent of voters are either undecided, or say they’ll vote for one of the “third-party” candidates, such as Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Jill Stein. That compares with roughly 8 per cent at this point in the 2008 and 2012 elections; in each case the eventual third-party vote totalled less than 2 per cent.

That means there’s a bigger than usual pool of potential voters for the candidates to tap into with a strong debate performance, especially with neither Johnson nor Stein on the stage.

So the debates might well make a difference to this campaign – especially as it’s so close right now. But don’t expect a “game changer” where one candidate seals victory with a clever zinger or witty put-down. It takes more than that to become President.

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Jeremy Corbyn shows his support for a campaign asking him to change his own cabinet

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The newly re-annointed Labour leader was shown holding a sign calling for a shadow minister for mental health.

Phew. So Jeremy Corbyn got his expected victory. This mole, neutral in Labour party factional matters, has little opinion on the result, although I am of course heartily relieved to see the end of all that hustings kerfuffle. Labour can get on with discussing policy.

It seems now, then, is the perfect time for activists and MPs to put their proposals to the leadership. The timing is particularly good with every political journalist in the country currently installed in Liverpool for Labour Party conference.

One set of savvy campaigners evidently felt the same. They managed to get their sign, asking Corbyn to bring back the shadow minister for mental health post he scrapped in July, in front of the man himself  who promptly posed with their request.

Now, this mole is sympathetic. Of course, to some it may seem ludicrous that Corbyn posed with a sign calling for something entierly within his power to achieve.

But after so many years as a backbench provocateur, could it not be that posing with signs is just second-nature for Corbyn, and groups of activists near-impossible to avoid? Could it be that he, trotting across the conference floor, could not help being pulled towards the nearest placard, caught in its pull like a moth to a socialist flame? Is he suckered by slogans? Magnatised by movements? 

With such an affliction, party conference must be a minefield.

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The age of self: the strange story of how YouTubers saved publishing

By Barbara Speed from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

When 21-year-old Alfie Deyes released his first book, it was No 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list for 11 weeks. Who are the YouTubers – and why are their books so successful?

It’s a sunny Saturday May morning in Cardiff city centre, and shoppers are throwing confused glances at a large, cordoned-off queue outside WHSmith attended by a hulking cluster of guards. The queue is here for an author signing – a common enough sight at high-street bookshops – but the barriers and the bouncers are all new. “Even Charlotte Church didn’t have security,” the shop manager tells me. The queue is waiting for Caspar Lee.

The general population divides into two categories: those who have never heard of Caspar Lee and those who think he is one of the biggest stars in the UK. Lee, a 22-year-old British-born South African, is a YouTube star. Vlogging, or video blogging, first took off around 2005 – also the year that YouTube was founded. By July 2006 it was the fifth most popular site on the internet. A huge amount of content is uploaded every day, but Lee and his friends are the site’s celebrities. At the time of writing, he has 6.7 million subscribers on his main account – and his videos have notched up 633 million views.

His clips centre on pranks, chats with other YouTubers and records of his daily life. One series showed his trip to Paris with a girlfriend: we saw him singing in the shower and her drawing on his face with make-up. It all feels very up close and personal, until you start to wonder just who is holding the camera as the pair skip up the Eiffel Tower together, holding hands.

Until recently, Lee shared a flat with another YouTube star, Joe Sugg (the 25-year-old brother of the YouTube megastar Zoella). The pair’s influence is so great that the established media has had to take notice: BBC Worldwide recorded the travel documentary Joe and Caspar Hit the Road in 2015.

Inside YouTuber world, Lee is almost unimaginably famous. In October 2015 he recorded an interview with Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci, the two most recent Bond girls, titled “KISSING MY NEW GIRLFRIENDS”. He thinks, in short, that an implied insight into his love life will get more clicks than the names of two of the world’s biggest actresses. He is probably right. The video has over 1.9 million views.

***

To understand that queue outside WH Smith, we need to go back to 2014, when Blink, a small British publishing house, decided to bring out a book with a vlogger named Alfie Deyes.

The Blink editors knew they were taking a risk: Deyes, then 21, was virtually unknown outside YouTube. Not only that – his book was, quite literally, pointless. Based on his vlog of the same name, The Pointless Book featured mostly blank pages on which readers could complete a task. “Do a finger selfie,” reads one, suggesting that you draw round your own fingers. Another page wants you to “draw your pet”.

At best, it was a playful take on his channel. At worst, it was a middle finger to the whole publishing industry.

“No one had published a book with a big-name YouTuber before,” says Karen Browning, head of Blink’s public relations. “We knew Alfie had huge platforms and a big teenage fan base, but we didn’t know if that would translate into an audience.”

Blink did a big PR push. At first, the press wasn’t interested but then, as the sales figures rolled in, it began to take notice. Metro called Deyes “the most famous celebrity you’ve never heard of” and the Telegraph demanded: “Who on Earth is Alfie Deyes?” Blink decided to hold a signing at Waterstones Piccadilly days after the book was published, predicting a crowd of about 500, and handed out wristbands accordingly.

What happened next can be read in baffled news and police reports. Conservative estimates indicate that at least 4,000 fans descended on the store for the signing. Half an hour before it was due to start (YouTube fans are, it seems, nothing if not prompt), police helicopters and horses had to intervene and the shop was closed. Westminster City Council allegedly advised Waterstones not to hold any more signings until it could control them properly. “It was unprecedented,” Browning says. “They had never seen crowds of this size for anyone before. Including David Beckham.”

The book was No 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list for 11 weeks and Deyes was featured in Debrett’s list of the 500 most influential British people in 2015. PointlessBlog now has 5.4 million subscribers. To date, the book has sold 300,000 copies and its sequels, The Pointless Book 2 and The Pointless Scrapbook, have sold 160,000 and 60,000 respectively. To put that in context, Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize, had sold 12,237 copies by the time he won.

Within days of Deyes’s signing, heads in the publishing world snapped towards YouTube. Isabel Prodger was working in publicity at Simon & Schuster at the time. “We had a book coming out by Grace [Helbig, a US YouTube star] and it wasn’t really on the radar at all – we were just distributing it,” she tells me. “There was no publicity campaign, no marketing. It was pretty much Amazon-only.” After the Deyes events, Helbig’s book, Grace’s Guide: the Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up, began to sell well, despite having no UK publicity.

Prodger’s job became YouTuber-focused: in the summer of 2015 she held events all over Britain for YouTubers, including Connor Franta, Tyler Oakley, Louise Pentland (YouTube name Sprinkleofglitter)and Miranda Sings. Today, publishers and bookshops alike are operating what many describe to me as a “slick operation”. Tickets are sold online and the location, which is kept secret (though when an event is marketed by WHSmith for certain cities it’s not hugely difficult to guess where it will be), is texted to visitors a week before the event. Security is high – for the fans’ protection.

Publicists such as Prodger and Browning measure signings in hundreds and hours – Oakley did 1,000 in three and a half hours. “It all depends on the length of their signature,” Prodger says.

Deep in the bowels of WHSmith in Cardiff, I sit down with Lee in the makeshift green room to discuss his book, Caspar Lee. It’s a memoir written by his mother, Emily Riordan Lee, with annotations, presented in a font resembling handwriting, by him. It covers 21 years out of his 22, from a photo of him as a baby – “Oh my God, Mom” – to his recent trip down the red carpet with Joe Sugg to promote their BBC documentary.

Lee is tall, with a neat haircut and the high cheekbones and piercing eyes his fans downstairs are whispering about. He is also far more serious than you would expect, given that he makes videos with titles such as “CARA DELEVINGNE SHOWS ME HER UNDERPANTS” and “ROOMMATE SHOWER PRANK”.

Why has he waited so long to do a book, until practically everyone was doing them? By my count, at least ten big or medium-name YouTubers will have released books between August and October 2016, and many are on their second or third. “I think I’m the last one to do it of the YouTubers I’m close with,” he says – by which he means the likes of Zoella, Deyes and Oli White, whose Generation Next young adult novel about an aspiring YouTuber appeared around the same time as Caspar Lee.

Lee says that he was approached by publishers before but wasn’t inspired until he thought of writing a book with his mum, a former journalist.

“I didn’t really want to write a book,” he says slowly, as if worried that he’ll say the wrong thing, “but then I realised I could spend more time with her while making the book. It’s really nice to have someone good at writing to do it, who knows my story.”

Lee has a busy schedule of signings – another one today and then to the Hay Festival; he will be the first YouTuber to appear there. (Katya Shipster, a publicist for Penguin, later tells me that the audience was full of dedicated Lee fans: “It felt pretty great to be bringing in a new generation of literary festivalgoers.”)

Back at WHSmith, the queue snakes right through the travel section. A mother barks at her pre-teen daughter, “Camera ready! Are we camera-ready?” A brother and sister, one nine, one 11, say they love Lee’s videos but would never watch them together. “Oh, we’re definitely each getting our own copy of the book,” the girl adds. Who is more excited to be here? “Me!” both shout at the same time. But why bother buying a physical book when Lee’s vlogs are there to watch, for free, any time? A shy 14-year-old explains: “This feels different – it looks really cool and funny. I’m going to read the whole thing this weekend.”

The noise mounts as the clock ticks closer to midday.

***

YouTuber books are a difficult genre to define. Lee rejects the definition altogether. “It’s important for people to understand that YouTube is just a platform, like TV is, and everyone makes completely different types of content on it.”

Indeed, the books come in disparate forms. Yet although one interviewee after another tells me that the grouping is a bugbear for authors and publishers alike, there is no doubt that it works as a marketing technique. Near Lee’s table at WHSmith is a special “YouTuber” book display, featuring everything from cookbooks to novels.

When we say “YouTuber”, especially in the UK, we don’t mean local schoolboys uploading skateboarding tricks. We mean an elite cadre of high-profile stars at the top of a complex UK YouTuber food chain. Most of these figures make personality-led videos. The women often talk personal life, make-up and shopping; the men veer towards interviews or pranks. A common trope is interviewing other YouTubers using a “tag”, or list of rote questions that has been circulating in the community, which might include “When was your last holiday?” or “How did you meet your best friend?”.

Somehow, the YouTubers manage to make even these dull questions interesting. They most resemble reality stars or presenters, in that they all have specific skills but are keen to emphasise that they are just like their viewers, and are really only there to chat. A common refrain in Zoella’s make-up videos is: “Remember, I’m not a proper make-up artist – these are just the techniques I use!” They are a new form of celebrity and they glimmer with that particularly irresistible quality: they all know each other. Zoella and Deyes are a couple. They share a £1.5m house in Brighton.

Philip Jones, the editor of the Bookseller, says the YouTubers’ books fill the vacuum left by celebrity biographies. “Until 2008, celebrity publishing was a big plank in most publishers’ armoury – massive sales generated over Christmas, with A-, B- or even C-list celebrities dominating the charts and underpinning a lot of the publishers’ work for the rest of the year. But that really sank without a trace from 2007-2008 onwards. Since then, publishers have been looking for the new celebrity publishing, and this is it. It came along at exactly the right time.”

Some are snobby about YouTuber books (a Guardian piece about a box set of Deyes’s first two books called them “the worst thing you’re likely to see in a tin this Christmas”), but Jones insists that the phenomenon has been a saviour for an industry that was struggling; the books are a key factor in the upturn of physical sales from 2015 onwards. YouTuber books, with their big, colourful images and hardback covers, most certainly fall into the printed-books category. Print’s overall resurgence encourages bookshops to invest, Jones says. “I think it was an important affirmation that the book is ­probably going to survive. The next reading generation, buying their YouTuber books, clearly want books. It has given everyone a lot more confidence in what they’re doing.”

Although they may have plugged the hole left by old-style celebrities, YouTube stars generally seem more invested in the overall process than their predecessors. As Briony Gowlett, a senior editor at the publisher Hodder & Stoughton, explains: “Because YouTubers are creative people, they know what they want – they’ve grown up on a platform where the restrictions are very few.”

These are young celebrities in direct control of every part of their personal “brand” and they are not about to let go. Which is wise, because digital-savvy audiences can sniff out inauthenticity, as Zoella (arguably the UK’s biggest non-gaming YouTuber, with 11.1 million subscribers) and her publishing team learned to their cost.

Zoella was the first YouTuber to catch the attention of the press, thanks in part to lucrative deals with brands taking advantage of her huge online following. But her breakthrough also brought backlash: a 2014 piece in the Independent – which argued that an “irritatingly Disneyfied” make-up vlogger was not the ideal role model for young girls – went viral, both because her fans hated it and because it resonated with many parents befuddled by her appeal.

Breakthrough also meant a book deal, and Zoella produced a young adult novel about a socially awkward blogger, Girl Online. The children’s author Siobhan Curham was credited as an “editorial consultant”. There followed accusations that the book had been ghostwritten but was not marked as such. A spokesperson for Random House told the Sunday Times: “To be factually accurate, you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own.” Zoella tweeted: “Of course I was going to have help . . . everyone needs help when they try something new.”

Zoella’s debut sold 78,109 copies in its first week, making her the UK’s fastest-selling debut novelist ever. She didn’t hold meet-and-greets like her brother, boyfriend or friends: she has spoken about her problems with anxiety and hundreds of signings would have been too much for her. Girl Online, whether ghostwritten or not, is surprisingly moving. The protagonist writes in her first post: “This can be our very own corner of the internet, where we can talk about what it is truly like to be a teenage girl – without having to pretend to be something we’re not.”

Zoella has become an important figure in breaking the taboo around mental health. She tries – with questionable success – to ensure that her make-up videos promote a message about being creative with your appearance, rather than “fixing” your faults or simply appealing to a crush.

For sequels, she has written alone, though she holds weekly meetings with her publisher. And she has launched the Zoella Book Club with WHSmith, which presents a curated list of young adult books she has “selected” herself. (I requested more information about the ­process from WHSmith, but it remained tight-lipped.) In June, her recommended books drove a sales surge on Amazon – sales of The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward went up by 11,000 per cent.

***

Tanya Burr is on her way. The staff of WHSmith at the Bluewater shopping centre in Stone, Kent, are buzzing around a giant poster with her name on it and worrying about the table. “It’s ugly,” one of them says, pushing £20 into her colleague’s hand. “Go and buy a tablecloth.”

At the ticketed signing for Tanya Bakes, Burr’s new cookbook, the queue has been sent up the escalators to the mezzanine floor of the shopping centre, and faces peer down, stretching as far as you can see. Burr is not quite as big a star as Deyes, Zoella or Lee: she has only 3.6 million subscribers.Her UK book tour hasn’t quite sold out, but has still made waves – the Liverpool Echo did a liveblog of her signing. When it was published at the end of June, Tanya Bakes moved straight to No 1 in the non-fiction charts. It hit the top spot on Amazon, thanks to pre-orders, even before it was published.

A hush falls over the store – “She’s coming!” – and in walks Burr, wearing jeans, Converse trainers, a stripy T-shirt, impeccable make-up (she’s best known for her beauty tutorials) and a choker. She smiles sweetly and then sits down at the table. “Take away the tablecloth,” she says, her smile dropping. “It slips around when I’m signing.”

One by one they come, most of them too scared to say a word but eager to take their selfie. (Prodger says most fans far prefer a selfie to a chat.) The more outgoing ones immediately hold up their phones to take a reaction video: “We just met Tanya!”

This engaged young audience is just as exciting for publishers. Trade insiders compare the titles favourably with ­colouring books, the other chart-topping genre of 2015-16. Prodger says that during her long summer of signings, she saw “incredibly well-dressed, stunning 17-year-old girls” at signings who would say, “Oh, I’ve never been in a bookshop before.”

“It’s not seen by everyone as a totally positive phenomenon in publishing,” she remarks – “nothing ever is – and some people just don’t understand it. But that’s one thing that’s undeniably good about it.” As the author Neil Gaiman said at a lecture in London in 2013, “There are no bad authors for children. You don’t discourage children from reading because you think they’re reading the wrong thing. Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading.”

Later, I sit with Caspar Lee, in a shop that will owe no small sliver of its profits over the next year to a book filled with his face and faux-handwriting, and ask him about his own relationship with books.

“Writing a book feels like a huge responsibility. It’s so overwhelming.” He looks towards the stairs with confusion and trepidation. “When I walked into the bookshop earlier, I just looked around and realised . . . how many types of literature there are.”

Downstairs, a side door opens, an alarm accidentally rings out and Lee, his mum and his sister step on to the shopfloor. “He’s REAL!” yelps a teenage girl to her friend. A hundred iPhone cameras click as the trio make their way to the signing table. The rumble of the crowd rises to a roar.

SOUVID DATTA/GUARDIAN NEWS & MEDIA LTD

Clinton and Trump: do presidential debates really matter?

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The ability of the candiates to perform in front of the cameras is unlikely to impact the final result.

The upcoming televised presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are undoubtedly the most eagerly anticipated for many years. No doubt there are various surprises in store – this has been, after all, the most surprising of campaigns.

People will be particularly fascinated to see if Trump dials down his bombastic rhetoric and perhaps even adds some substance to the vague policy pronouncements he has made so far. To a lesser extent, many will also be interested in whether Clinton can add the necessary zest to what some consider her lacklustre style, and whether she can prove she’s made a sterling recovery from her recent bout with pneumonia.

It’s possible that some voters may in fact change their minds based on what they see in the two’s only on-camera encounters. And yet, barring a true disaster or devastating triumph, it’s unlikely that anything the candidates say or do will make much difference to the overall result.

This might not seem all that surprising for these two candidates in particular. Leaving aside how long they’ve both been in public life, social media and the 24-hour news cycle have put Clinton and Trump under incredible scrutiny ever since they announced their respective candidacies – and their every sentence and gesture has already been analysed in the greatest detail.

Trump in particular has received more free publicity from the networks and Twitter than even he could afford, and it’s highly unlikely that he will say anything that the US public hasn’t heard before. Similarly, voters’ impressions of Clinton are apparently so deeply entrenched that she probably won’t change many people’s minds.

Yet there are also broader reasons why presidential TV debates are less important than we might imagine.

Looking the part

Even before the media environment became as saturated as it is today, debates were rarely, if ever, decisive in presidential elections. The exception was possibly the very first TV debate in 1960, which pitted the then vice-president, Richard Nixon, against John F. Kennedy.

At the time, the election was so close that the young, relatively inexperienced but highly telegenic Kennedy was able to reap the benefits of putting his case directly to viewers. He was the underdog; a relative unknown in comparison to Nixon and so had more to gain from such national exposure. Nixon, as the establishment figure, had a lot to lose.

In the end, Kennedy’s narrow victory may well have been because of his debate performances. But his success also demonstrated another important feature of television debates: that viewers take more notice of what they see than what they hear.

Notoriously, television viewers responded very favourably to Kennedy’s film-star good looks, but were turned off by Nixon, who refused to wear make-up and looked sweaty and uncomfortable under the studio lights. In contrast, those who listened on the radio believed that Nixon had come out on top. It seems that viewers saw Kennedy as more “presidential” than Nixon, especially given his calmness under pressure. Kennedy did work hard to exploit some of Nixon’s weaknesses on policy, but in the end, that turned out not to be the point.

Kennedy’s success was one of the reasons that neither of his two successors, Lyndon B. Johnson and then a resurgent Nixon, participated in any such events when they were running for the presidency. Although some debates were held in the primaries, there were no face-to-face contests between presidential candidates in 1964, 1968 or 1972.

The next debates were held in 1976, another tight campaign. These yielded a notorious moment in the second encounter between Gerald R Ford and Jimmy Carter, when the incumbent Ford appeared to throw the election away with a poorly judged remark declaring that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. As myth has it, this gaffe stalled Ford’s polling surge; he ultimately lost the election.

Yet even this was not decisive. Although the comment did the president no favours, it’s highly debatable whether it in fact had an impact on the overall result; Ford actually closed the polling gap with Carter between the debates and the general election. People’s reactions to the debate had less to do with the substance of his remark and much more with the media’s constant replay and analysis of that moment, which continues to mar Ford’s reputation to this day.

Selective memory

This pattern has continued in the election cycles that have followed, as slips and awkward moments rather than substance provide the media with dominant themes. Many people recall vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle’s cack-handed attempt to compare himself to Kennedy in 1988, or George Bush senior’s ill-judged glance at his watch when listening to a question in 1992; few probably remember much about what policies they discussed, or whether, if they won, they carried them out.

If anything, the shortcomings of the TV debate format have become more pronounced in the current cycle. Although neither of the main candidates in this year’s election wants for national exposure, the primary debates have tended to favour the underdog and those who claim to be outsiders.

On the Republican side, Trump’s various moderate competitors were one by one hobbled and engulfed; Clinton, for her part, spent months slugging it out with her remarkably successful left-wing rival Bernie Sanders, never quite landing a televised knockout punch and ultimately only defeating him properly after six months of primaries.

While credible policy proposals seem to matter less than ever, things that would have once been considered catastrophic gaffes have become par for the course. Indeed, one could argue that Trump’s success so far is because he has built his campaign on half-truths and outright lies without care for the consequences.

So despite all the anticipation, this year’s debates probably won’t tell us very much about what will happen after the president takes office next January; the analysis will almost certainly focus less on what the candidates have to say and more on how they say it. Voters will no doubt tune in in great, possibly record-breaking numbers, but they’ll come away with precious little sense of what’s in store for their country.

Equally, the spectacles we’re about to witness might be pyrotechnic enough, but they’re unlikely to decide the result in November. And in the unlikely event that they do, it won’t be for the right reasons.

Andrew Priest is a lecturer in Modern US History at the University of Essex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Momentum vice chair Jackie Walker calls claims of antisemitism in Labour “a weapon of political mass destruction”

By Anoosh Chakelian from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

The issue was also compared to a “monstrous soufflé” during a tense and often bizarre Momentum debate at Labour party conference.

A two-hour debate hosted by Momentum – asking whether there is antisemitism in the Labour party – grew heated on Sunday evening of the Labour party’s annual conference.

The packed out room, at the campaign movement’s fringe called The World Transformed, was warned beforehand to avoid “bitter incivility of discourse”. Which, translated from the language of Labour conference, means: “Don’t say anything dreadful.”

Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum, argued that antisemitism claims have been “exaggerated for political purposes”, and “the most fundamental aim of such allegations, I suggest, is to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”, and “silence” his supporters.

She claimed that there is “little if any hard evidence” that Labour has a problem with antisemitism, and blamed a “rabidly, anxiously anti-Corbyn” media for using antisemitism claims as a “weapon of political mass destruction”.

“Being offended is not the same as experiencing racism,” Walker added. “Claims of racism have been weaponised . . . Both the chair and the vice-chair [referring to herself] of Momentum are Jewish, and many leading members of Momentum are Jewish.”

(Later an audience member picked up on this theme perhaps a little too zealously. “Trotsky the Jew? Lenin the Jew? What about Zinoviev? What about Kamenev?” he cried, concluding that therefore claims of left-wing antisemitism are “nonsense”.)

Jeremy Newmark, head of the Jewish Labour Movement, clashed with Walker, accusing her of having “perpetuated” the “antisemitic myth” of slave trade collusion (referring to a comment she made on Facebook for which she was briefly suspended from Labour).

She hit back by saying she was “disappointed” in his comment, and had “simply repeated the defamation of his friends in the Jewish Chronicle”, accusing them of racism towards her as a black woman.

Newmark lamented that, “the relationship between our community and the Labour Party has deteriorated”, and “it pains me that a once historic natural alliance [should] dissipate, dilute and disappear”.

He warned those who “want to criticise someone for over-egging” the issue of antisemitism in the party should look no further than Jeremy Corbyn, who called for Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into the subject. “Perhaps you should criticise him.”

It was a tense exchange, which elicited gasps and heckles from the audience. But perhaps less predictable was the description of the Labour antisemitism row as a “monstrous soufflé” by Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, an LSE academic involved in boycotting Israeli universities.

He called it “a monstrous soufflé of moral panic being whipped up”, and warned the audience: “We need to ask about this soufflé”.

“Who are the cooks? Where’s the kitchen? What are the implements?” he asked, before the killer rhetorical question: “Why has this soufflé been cooked?”

Update

Momentum appears to be distancing itself from Walker’s comments at this event. A spokesperson emphasises that the group hosted the discussion on antisemitism in light of the Chakrabarti inquiry “because it is absolutely crucial that our movement understands how antisemitism manifests itself, and works to stamp it out in society as a whole as well as in our party”.

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Ed Miliband on Brexit: Labour should never be the party of the 48 per cent

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

The former Labour leader has not ruled out a return to the shadow cabinet. 

What do George Osborne, Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband have in common? A liking for a soft Brexit, it turns out. 

But while Osborne is responding to the border lockdown instinct of some Tory Brexiteers, the former Labour leader, along with Chuka Umunna, Lisa Nandy and Rachel Reeves, has to start by making the case to fight for Brexit at all.

And that’s before you get to the thorny and emotional question of freedom of movement. 

Speaking at a Resolution Foundation fringe event, Miliband ridiculed calls to be the “party of the 48 per cent”, in reference to the proportion who voted to stay in the EU referendum.

Remain voters should stop thinking Brexit was a “nasty accident” and start fighting for a good deal, he urged.

Miliband said: “I see talk saying we should become the party of the 48 per cent. That is nonsense.

"I don’t just think it is nonsense electorally, but it is nonsense in policy because it buys into the same problem people were objecting to in their vote which is the old ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’”. 

Remain voters shared many of the same concerns as Leave voters, including on immigration, he said. 

Miliband praised the re-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s comments that a hard Brexit would be a disaster. He said: “We have to engage in these negotiations.”

Although he said he “anticipated” staying on the back benches, he did not rule out a return to the shadow cabinet, and urged the party to use its newly recruited member, many of whom joined under Corbyn.

Miliband was backed up by Nandy, seen as a rising star of the party, who said there was longterm dissatisfaction with jobs and wages: “You throw freedom of movement into the mix and you create dynamite.”

She also called for Labour to throw itself into Brexit negotiations: “We have been stuck between two impossible choices, between pulling up the drawbridge or some version of free market hell.

“But the truth is we are a progressive, internationalist, socialist party and we can’t afford to make that false choice.”

Reeves, who wrote in The Staggers that freedom of movement should be a “red line” in Brexit negotiations, said: “I don’t buy this idea that people who voted Leave have changed their minds.”

And she dismissed the idea of a second referendum on the eventual deal: “If people voted against the deal, then what?”

But while the speakers received warm applause from the party member audience, they were also heckled by an EU national who felt utterly betrayed. Her interruption received applause too.

Umunna acknowledged the tensions in the room, opening and ending his speech with a plea for members not to leave the party. 

Having called identity politics "the elephant in the room", he declared: “We have got to stay in this party and not go anywhere. It is not just because you don’t win an argument by leaving the room, it is because we are the only nationwide party with representatives in every region and nation of this country. We are the only party representing every age and ethnic community. 

“Stay in this party and let us build a more integrated Britain.”

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Japan gaming: More virtual than reality?

From Analysis. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

The industry looked to its home market for growth but now it is designing for a global audience

What Labour MPs who want to elect the shadow cabinet are forgetting

By Anoosh Chakelian from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

The idea is to push Jeremy Corbyn to build an ideologically broad team, but it distracts from the real hurdle – management.

Labour MPs who have been critical of Jeremy Corbyn are pushing to vote for shadow cabinet members – rather than having all the posts appointed by the leader.

Most of the parliamentary Labour party who are not Corbyn loyalists believe this should be the “olive branch” he offers them, in order to put his recent words about “unity” and “wiping the slate clean” into action.

Corbyn and his allies have refused to consider such an idea outside of a “wider” democratisation of the party – saying that Labour members should also get a say in who’s on the frontbench. It’s also thought Corbyn is reluctant due to the shadow cabinet having three representatives on the National Executive Committee. He wouldn’t want his opponents voting for those, tipping the balance of the Committee back towards centrists.

Shadow cabinet elections were a longstanding convention for Labour in opposition until Ed Miliband urged the party to vote against them in 2011. Labour MPs on different wings of the party believe a return to the system would avoid Labour’s frontbench being populated solely by Corbyn’s ideological wing.

But there is a complication here (aside from the idea of a party leader having to run an effective opposition with their opponents in key shadow cabinet positions).

Proponents of shadow cabinet elections say they would help to make Labour a broad church. But really they could put those in the “make-it-work” camp who initially helped form Corbyn’s team in a difficult position. Initially conciliatory MPs like Thangam Debonnaire and Heidi Alexander have since left their posts, revealing frustration more at Corbyn’s management style than policy direction. Chi Onwurah MP, who remains a shadow minister, has also expressed such concerns.

One senior Labour MP points out that the problem with shadow cabinet elections lies in those who left Corbyn’s shadow cabinet but had wanted to cooperate – not in bringing ideological opponents into the fold.

“There were lots of people on his team who actually liked Jeremy, and wanted to make policy with him,” they tell me. “And many of them eventually felt they had to leave because of how difficult it was to work with him. They wanted to stay but couldn’t. If people like that couldn’t stay, will they go back? It will be much harder for him to show them he can work differently.”

One of the “make-it-work” faction voices their concern about returning to the shadow cabinet via elections for this reason. “A lot of us [who left] are still really interested in our policy areas and would be happy to help if they asked,” they say. “But it was too difficult to be taken seriously when you were actually in those shadow cabinet meetings.”

My source describes a non-collegiate approach in meetings around the shadow cabinet table, where Corbyn would read out pre-written opening statements and responses when they delivered their ideas. “It was like he wasn’t really listening.”

The plan to reintroduce shadow cabinet elections barely left the ground in a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee on Saturday night, on the eve of Labour conference.

This is in spite of Labour MPs urging the NEC to make a decision on the matter soon. Jon Ashworth, an NEC member and shadow minister, told me shortly after Corbyn’s victory speech that this would be “a good way of bringing people back” in to the team, and was determined to “get some resolution on the issue” soon.

It doesn’t look like we’ll get that yet. But for some who have already tried serving on the frontbench, it’s a distraction from what is for them a management – rather than an ideological – problem.

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Piñata peso is a signal of ‘Trump risk’

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

US politics wallops world’s most-liquid emerging market currency

I worked as a teacher – so I can tell you how regressive grammar schools are

By Adrian Smith from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

The grammars and "comprehensives" of Kent make for an unequal system. So why does Theresa May consider the county a model for the future?

In 1959 my parents moved me from a Roman Catholic primary school to the junior branch of King Henry VIII, Coventry’s most high-profile grammar. The head teacher berated my mother for betraying the one true faith, but although she was born in Galway, my mum was as relaxed about her religion as she was about her native roots. Any strong feelings about the English Reformation had disappeared around the same time as her Irish accent. Her voice gave no clue to where she was from and – as a result of a wartime commission – the same was true of my father. Together, Mrs and Mr Smith embodied postwar Britain’s first-generation upwardly mobile middle class.

Their aspiration and ambition were so strong that my mother saw no problem in paying for me to attend a Protestant school. Why, you may ask, did my dad, a middle manager and by no means well off, agree to pay the fees? Quite simply, my parents were keen that I pass the eleven-plus.

King Henry VIII School benefited from the direct grant scheme, introduced after the Education Act 1944. In Coventry, the two direct grant schools were centuries old and were paid a fee by the government to educate the fifth or so of boys who passed the eleven-plus. When secondary education in Coventry became comprehensive in the mid-1970s, King Henry VIII went fully independent; today, it charges fees of more than £10,000 per year.

A few years ago, I returned to my old school for a memorial service. As I left, I saw a small group of smartly dressed men in their late seventies. They had strong Coventry accents and intended to “go down the club” after the service. It occurred to me that they represented the small number of working-class lads who, in the years immediately after the Second World War, were lucky enough to pass the eleven-plus and (no doubt with their parents making huge sacrifices) attend “the grammar”. But by the time I moved up to King Henry VIII’s senior school in 1963 there appeared to be no one in my A-stream class from a working-class background.

From the early 1950s, many of the newly affluent middle classes used their financial power to give their children an advantage in terms of selection. My parents paid for a privileged education that placed top importance on preparation for the eleven-plus. In my class, only one boy failed the life-determining test. Today, no less than 13 per cent of entrants to the 163 grammar schools still in the state system are privately educated. No wonder preparatory schools have responded enthusiastically to Theresa May’s plans to reverse the educational orthodoxy of the past five decades.

Nowhere has the rebranding of secondary moderns as “comprehensives” been more shameless than in Kent, where the Conservative-controlled council has zealously protected educational selection. Each secondary modern in east Kent, where I taught in the 1970s, has since been named and renamed in a fruitless attempt to convince students that failing to secure a place at grammar school makes no difference to their educational experience and prospects. That is a hard message to sell to the two-thirds of ten-year-olds who fail the Kent test.

Investment and academy status have transformed the teaching environment, which a generation ago was disgraceful (I recall the lower school of a secondary modern in Canterbury as almost literally Edwardian). Ofsted inspections confirm that teachers in non-grammar schools do an amazing job, against all the odds. Nevertheless, selection reinforces social deprivation and limited aspiration in the poorest parts of the south-east of England, notably Thanet and the north Kent coastline.

A third of children in Thanet live in poverty. According to local sources (including a cross-party report of Kent councillors in 2014), disadvantaged children make up less than 9 per cent of pupils in grammar schools but 30 per cent at secondary moderns. University admissions tutors confirm the low number of applications from areas such as Thanet relative to the UK average. Though many of Kent’s secondary moderns exceed expectations, the county has the most underperforming schools in the UK.

When I began my teaching career, I was appallingly ignorant of the harsh realities of a secondary education for children who are told at the age of 11 that they are failures. Spending the years from seven to 17 at King Henry VIII School had cocooned me. More than 40 years later, I can see how little has changed in Kent – and yet, perversely, the Prime Minister perceives the county’s education system as a model for the future.

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Trade unions must change or face permanent decline

By Gavin Kelly and Dan Tomlinson from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

Union membership will fall below one in five employees by 2030 unless current trends are reversed. 

The future should be full of potential for trade unions. Four in five people in Great Britain think that trade unions are “essential” to protect workers’ interests. Public concerns about low pay have soared to record levels over recent years. And, after almost disappearing from view, there is now a resurgent debate about the quality and dignity of work in today’s Britain.

Yet, as things stand, none of these currents are likely to reverse long-term decline. Membership has fallen by almost half since the late 1970s and at the same time the number of people in work has risen by a quarter. Unions are heavily skewed towards the public sector, older workers and middle-to-high earners. Overall, membership is now just under 25 per cent of all employees, however in the private sector it falls to 14 per cent nationally and 10 per cent in London. Less than 1 in 10 of the lowest paid are members. Across large swathes of our economy unions are near invisible.

The reasons are complex and deep-rooted — sweeping industrial change, anti-union legislation, shifts in social attitudes and the rise of precarious work to name a few — but the upshot is plain to see. Looking at the past 15 years, membership has fallen from 30 per cent in 2000 to 25 per cent in 2015. As the TUC have said, we are now into a 2nd generation of “never members”, millions of young people are entering the jobs market without even a passing thought about joining a union. Above all, demographics are taking their toll: baby boomers are retiring; millennials aren’t signing up.

This is a structural problem for the union movement because if fewer young workers join then it’s a rock-solid bet that fewer of their peers will sign-up in later life — setting in train a further wave of decline in membership figures in the decades ahead. As older workers, who came of age in the 1970s when trade unions were at their most dominant, retire and are replaced with fewer newcomers, union membership will fall. The question is: by how much?

The chart below sets out our analysis of trends in membership over the 20 years for which detailed membership data is available (the thick lines) and a fifteen year projection period (the dotted lines). The filled-in dots show where membership is today and the white-filled dots show our projection for 2030. Those born in the 1950s were the last cohort to see similar membership rates to their predecessors.

 

Our projections (the white-filled dots) are based on the assumption that changes in membership in the coming years simply track the path that previous cohorts took at the same age. For example, the cohort born in the late 1980s saw a 50 per cent increase in union membership as they moved from their early to late twenties. We have assumed that the same percentage increase in membership will occur over the coming decade among those born in the late 1990s.

This may turn out to be a highly optimistic assumption. Further fragmentation in the nature of work or prolonged austerity, for example, could curtail the familiar big rise in membership rates as people pass through their twenties. Against this, it could be argued that a greater proportion of young people spending longer in education might simply be delaying the age at which union membership rises, resulting in sharper growth among those in their late twenties in the future. However, to date this simply hasn’t happened. Membership rates for those in their late twenties have fallen steadily: they stand at 19 per cent among today’s 26–30 year olds compared to 23 per cent a decade ago, and 29 per cent two decades ago.

All told our overall projection is that just under 20 per cent of employees will be in a union by 2030. Think of this as a rough indication of where the union movement will be in 15 years’ time if history repeats itself. To be clear, this doesn’t signify union membership suddenly going over a cliff; it just points to steady, continual decline. If accurate, it would mean that by 2030 the share of trade unionists would have fallen by a third since the turn of the century.

Let’s hope that this outlook brings home the urgency of acting to address this generational challenge. It should spark far-reaching debate about what the next chapter of pro-worker organisation should look like. Some of this thinking is starting to happen inside our own union movement. But it needs to come from outside of the union world too: there is likely to be a need for a more diverse set of institutions experimenting with new ways of supporting those in exposed parts of the workforce. There’s no shortage of examples from the US — a country whose union movement faces an even more acute challenge than ours — of how to innovate on behalf of workers.

It’s not written in the stars that these gloomy projections will come to pass. They are there to be acted on. But if the voices of union conservatism prevail — and the offer to millennials is more of the same — no-one should be at all surprised about where this ends up.

This post originally appeared on Gavin Kelly's blog

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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

By Hunter Davies from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

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Buckets of pasta and the radio blaring? It's back to school on Lake Como

By Antonia Quirke from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 25, 2016.

The breakfast show on 102.5 FM Sportiva blasts from windows and my friend Lucia sucks her teeth as we wind on foot through the cars. “Che STRESS.”

It’s back-to-school day on Lake Como, and the traffic is demented. The usually sedate town – you don’t come here to party, no matter how many times you may spot George Clooney on a Riva – has been roused from its long, summer slumber by an early Monday start and there’s an irascible jam along the waterfront. The breakfast show on 102.5 FM Sportiva blasts from windows and my friend Lucia sucks her teeth as we wind on foot through the cars. “Che STRESS.”

Hanging a left towards the San Giovanni station, we get a first glimpse of the camp of 300-plus migrants who have been gathering here since July, trying to get into Switzerland by train and move on to Germany. Repeatedly turned back by Swiss border guards, they return to Como and pitch tents and shelters on the slopes outside the station, before trying again – ­although in recent weeks over a hundred have got through.

Everywhere there is music coming from smartphones connected to the camp’s wifi, tuned in to radio stations in Ethiopia and Libya, Eritrea and Gambia. Young men lie out on towels and blankets. The wifi was pretty much the first thing that the local volunteer camp helpers got sorted, one of them tells me, access to radio and YouTube being an essential factor in keeping things relatively calm and optimistic – that and the great cauldrons of pasta.

Nobody here is going hungry, though plans to move everybody out of sight and into shipping containers near the town’s Cimitero Monumentale next week are making people nervous. Luba, 18, won’t tell me where he has travelled from, or how. From the way he says his name – too carelessly – I can tell he has plucked it out of the air.

“I am from Como,” he insists, quite furious, and then laughs suddenly, wanting to distract me, to talk about something lighter. “What colour is your car?” he asks, waving his phone with its radio station tuned to an old hits channel. Next to him, a boy has been rinsing his clothes in a bucket, and as he lays out a pair of wet socks to dry, we all rather awkwardly listen to Bryan Ferry singing “Don’t Stop the Dance”.

The female radio host sighs her appreciation of the crooner. “Che bello. Che stupendo. He looks Italian.” 

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Labour moderates need another message

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

MPs have to rethink their approach to winning back the party

Harriet Harman: “Theresa May is a woman, but she is no sister”

By Caroline Crampton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

The former deputy leader of the Labour Party urged women to unite across the divided party.

The day-long women's conference is usually the friendliest place at Labour party conference. Not only does it have a creche and a very clear emphasis on accessibility, but everybody who attends starts from a place of fundamental agreement before the sessions have even begun. For that reason, it's often ignored by political hacks in search of a juicy splits story (especially since it takes place on Saturday, before the "real" conference action really gets underway). But with the party divided and the abuse of women on and off social media a big concern, there was a lot to say.

This year, kick off was delayed because of the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn's victory in the leadership election. The cheer for the renewed leader in the packed women's conference hall was far bigger than that in the main hall, although not everybody was clapping. After a sombre tribute to the murdered Labour MP and former chair of the Labour Women's Network Jo Cox, Harriet Harman took to the stage.

As a long-time campaigner for women's rights, veteran MP and former deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harman is always popular with women's conference - even if her position on the current leadership and her status as a former Blairite minister places her out of sync with some of the audience. Rather than merely introducing the first speaker as the agenda suggested, Harman took the opportunity to make a coded dig at Corbyn by doing a little opposition of her own.

"Theresa May is a woman, but she is no sister," she declared, going on to describe the way that May, as shadow spokesperson for women and equalities under William Hague, had been a "drag anchor" on Harman's own efforts to enact pro-women reforms while Labour were in government. The Thatcher comparison for May is ubiquitous already, but Harman made it specific, saying that like Thatcher, Theresa May is a woman prime minister who is no friend to women.

Harman then turned her attention to internal Labour party affairs, reassuring the assembled women that a divided party didn't have to mean that no advances could be made. She gestured towards the turmoil in Labour in the 1980s, saying that "no matter what positions women were taking elsewhere in the party, we worked together for progress". Her intervention chimes with the recent moves by high profile former frontbenchers like Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper to seek select committee positions, and Andy Burnham's campaign to become mayor of Greater Manchester.

Harman's message to women's conference was clear: the time for opposition to Corbyn is over now - we have to live with this leadership, but we can't let the equalities legacy of the Blair years be subsumed in the meantime. She ended by saying that "we have many leaders in the Labour party," pointing to Jess Phillips, the chair of the women's PLP, and Angela Rayner, shadow minister for education, women and equalities. Like Burnham, Cooper et al, Harman has clearly decided that Corbyn can't be unseated, so ways must be found to work around him.

Rayner followed Harman onto the stage. As one of Corbyn's shadow ministerial team, Rayner is far from in agreement with Harman on everything, and rather than speak about any specific policy aims, she addressed women's conference on the subject of her personal journey to the front bench. She described how her mother was "born on the largest council estate in Europe and was one of twelve children" and "never felt loved and didn’t know how to love, because hugs, cuddles and any signs of affection just wasn’t the norm". She went on to say "mum won't mind me saying this - to this day she cannot read and write". Her mother was in the audience, attending her first Labour conference.

As a former care worker who became a mother herself when she was just 16, Rayner is a rarity at the top of Labour politics. She told the Guardian in 2012 that she is used to being underestimated because of her youth, her gender and her northern accent: "I'm a pretty young woman, lots of red hair, and everyone expects me to be stupid when I walk into a meeting for the first time. I'm not stupid and most people know that now, but I still like to be underestimated because it gives me an edge. It gives me a bit of stealth."

The mass shadow cabinet resignations in June propelled Rayner to the top sooner than an MP only elected in 2015 might have expected, and she has yet to really prove her mettle on the grind of parliamentary opposition and policy detail. But if Labour is ever to win back the seats in the north where Ukip and Brexit are now strong, it's the likes of Rayner that will do it. As Harriet Harman herself shows, the women and equalities brief is a good place to start - for even in turbulent, divided times for Labour, women's conference is still a place where people can find common ground.

OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

“We can’t do this again”: Labour conference reactions to Jeremy Corbyn’s second victory

By Anoosh Chakelian from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

Overjoyed members, determined allies and concerned MPs are divided on how to unite.

“I tell you what, I want to know who those 193,229 people are.” This was the reaction of one Labour member a few rows from the front of the stage, following the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory at the Labour party conference. She was referring to support received by his defeated contender, Owen Smith, who won 38.2 per cent of the vote (to Corbyn’s 61.8 per cent).

But it’s this focus on the leader’s critics – so vehement among many (and there are a lot of them) of his fans – that many politicians, of either side, who were watching his victory speech in the conference hall want to put an end to.

“It’s about unity and bringing us all together – I think that’s what has to come out of this,” says shadow cabinet member and MP for Edmonton Kate Osamor. “It shouldn’t be about the figures, and how many votes, and his percentage, because that will just cause more animosity.”

Osamor, who is supportive of Corbyn’s leadership, is not alone in urging her colleagues who resigned from the shadow cabinet to “remember the door is never shut”.

Shadow minister and member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) Jon Ashworth – not a Corbyn loyalist, but focusing on making the shadow cabinet work together – shares the sentiment.

Standing pensively in front of the now-empty stage, he tells me he backs shadow cabinet elections (though not for every post) – a change to party rules that has not yet been decided by the NEC. “[It] would be a good way of bringing people back,” he says. “I’ve been involved in discussions behind the scenes this week and I hope we can get some resolution on the issue.”

He adds: “Jeremy’s won, he has to recognise a number of people didn’t vote for him, so we’ve got to unite.”

The former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, another MP on the NEC, is sitting in the audience, looking over some documents. She warns that “it’s impossible to tell” whether those who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet would be willing to return, and is concerned about talent being wasted.

“We have a lot of excellent people in the party; there are new people now in the shadow cabinet who have had a chance to show their mettle but you need experience as well as ability,” she says.

Beckett, who has urged Corbyn to stand down in the past, hopes “everybody’s listening” to his call for unity, but questions how that will be achieved.

“How much bad blood there is among people who were told that there was plotting [against Corbyn], it’s impossible to tell, but obviously that doesn’t make for a very good atmosphere,” she says. “But Jeremy says we’ll wipe the slate clean, so let’s hope everybody will wipe the slate clean.”

It doesn’t look that way yet. Socialist veteran Dennis Skinner is prowling around the party conference space outside the hall, barking with glee about Corbyn’s defeated foes. “He’s trebled the membership,” he cries. “A figure that Blair, Brown and Prescott could only dream about. On average there’s more than a thousand of them [new members] in every constituency. Right-wing members of the parliamentary Labour party need to get on board!”

A call that may go unheeded, with fervent Corbyn allies and critics alike already straying from the unity message. The shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon is reminding the PLP that, “Jeremy’s won by a bigger margin this time”, and telling journalists after the speech that he is “relaxed” about how the shadow cabinet is recruited (not a rallying cry for shadow cabinet elections).

“If Jeremy wants to hold out an olive branch to the PLP, work with MPs more closely, he has to look very seriously at that [shadow cabinet elections]; it’s gone to the NEC but no decision has been made,” says Louise Ellman, the Liverpool MP and transport committee chair who has been critical of Corbyn’s leadership. “That might not be the only way. I think he has to find a way of working with MPs, because we’re all elected by millions of people – the general public – and he seems to dismiss that.”

“If he sees it [his victory] as an endorsement of how he’s been operating up until now, the problems which led to the election being called will remain,” Ellman warns. “If we’re going to be a credible party of government, we’ve got to reach out to the general electorate. He didn’t say anything about that in his speech, but I hope that perhaps now he might feel more confident to be able to change direction.”

Corbyn may have called for cooperation, but his increased mandate (up from his last stonking victory with 59.5 per cent of the vote) is the starkest illustration yet of the gulf between his popularity in Parliament and among members.

The fact that one attempt at a ceasefire in the party’s civil war – by allowing MPs to vote for some shadow cabinet posts – is in contention suggests this gulf is in danger of increasing.

And then where could the party be this time next year? As Osamor warns: “We should not be looking at our differences, because when we do that, we end up thinking it’s a good thing to spend our summer having another contest. And we can’t. We can’t do this again.”

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Word of the week: Owened

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

Each week The Staggers will pick a new word to describe our uncharted political and socioeconomic territory. 

 

In a week where Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election for a second time, the word of the week is:

Owened (verb)

To be totally publicly humiliated.

Origin:

Jonn Elledge

Usage: 

"LOL, Owened."

"Corbyn totally Owened Smith when it came to the Isis question."

"You thought you'd win, but you were Owened."

Articles to read if you got Owened:

Do you have a suggestion for next week's word? Share it in the form below.

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Jeremy Corbyn's won a monumental victory - but it's more delicate than it looks

By Michael Chessum from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

The need for peace on the left is overwhelming. 

It is perverse, absurd even, that in the aftermath of such a monumental victory Jeremy Corbyn must immediately talk of coalition building and compromise. Previous winners of internal struggles – most notably Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock – certainly did nothing of the sort, and Corbyn’s victory is bigger than theirs. To an extent, this is not the victory of one set of ideas but the establishment of a new party altogether – with a completely different centre of gravity and an almost completely new membership. 

That new Labour party – and core project that has built around Corbyn’s leadership – is itself a delicate network of alliances. The veterans of big social movements, from the Iraq War to the anti-austerity protests of 2011, find themselves in bed with left-leaning cosmopolitan modernisers and the reanimated remnants of the old Labour left. All parts of the coalition have reason for hubris, to believe that this new formation – complex enough as it is already, and filled with ideas and energy – can carry the Corbyn project into Number 10 with or without the co-operation of his Labour colleagues and the wider left. 

That vision is a mirage. Labour has undergone the biggest membership surge in its history, and is now the biggest left of centre party in Europe. As John Curtis has pointed out, the party’s support has maintained a high floor relative to the level of infighting and sniping over the summer, in part because of Corbyn’s strong appeal to Labour’s base. But the bleak electoral outlook, compounded by boundary changes, requires us to do more than read out lines from pre-written scripts. We must all, from a position of strength, stare death in the face.

The terms of peace with the Labour right must be negotiated carefully. There can be no negotiating away of internal democracy in the selection of candidates or national policy-setting; doing so would permanently weaken the left’s hand and allow Corbyn’s detractors in parliament to run riot. And in policy terms, Corbyn cannot compromise basic anti-austerity principles – not just because doing so would be a betrayal that would demobilise Labour’s new base, but because the project of triangulation pioneered by Ed Milliband is a tried and tested electoral failure. 

And yet the need for peace is overwhelming. At a grassroots level, Owen Smith’s support was not made up of hardened Blairites. Many of them, unlike Smith himself, really did share Corbyn’s political vision but had been ground down and convinced that, regardless of the rights and wrongs, there could be no end to Labour’s civil war without new leadership. The left’s job is to prove those people, and the politicians who claim to represent them, wrong. 

Labour’s assorted hacks – on left and right – often forget how boring and irrelevant the search for Labour’s soul looks to a wider public that long ago left behind party tribalism. The intellectual task ahead of us is about framing our politics in a comprehensible, modernising way – not creating a whole new generation of people who know Kinnock’s 1985 conference speech by rote. 

A united Labour Party, free to focus on shifting the consensus of British politics could well change history. But the grim realities of the situation may force us to go even further. To get a majority at the next election, Labour will need to gain 106 seats – a swing not achieved since 1997. 

Add to that the socially conservative affirmation of the Brexit vote, and the left’s profound confusion in terms of what to do about it, and the challenge of getting a Labour Prime Minister – regardless of who they are or what they stand for – looks like an unprecedented challenge. That unprecedented challenge could be met by an unprecedented alliance of political forces outside the Labour party as well as inside it. 

In order for Labour to win under the conditions set by the boundary review, everything has to be calibrated right. Firstly, we need an energised, mass party which advocates radical and popular policies. Secondly, we need the party not to tear itself apart every few months. And yes, finally, we may well need an honest, working arrangement between Labour, the Greens, and other progressive parties, including even the Lib Dems. 

Exactly how that alliance would be constituted – and how far it would be under the control of local parties – could be the matter of some debate. But there is every chance of it working – especially if the terms of the next general election take place in the context of the outcome of a Brexit negotiation. 

The starting point for that journey must be a recognition on the part of Corbyn’s opponents that the new Labour party is not just the overwhelming democratic choice of members, but also – with a mass activist base and a mostly popular programme – the only electable version of the Labour party in the current climate. For the left’s part, we must recognise that the coalition that has built around Corbyn is just the core of a much wider set of alliances – inside Labour and perhaps beyond. 

 

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How Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

The revolt against the leader transformed him from an incumbent back into an insurgent. 

On the evening of 12 July, after six hours of talks, Jeremy Corbyn emerged triumphantly from Labour’s headquarters. “I’m on the ballot paper!” he told supporters gathered outside. “We will be campaigning on all the things that matter.”

The contest that Corbyn’s opponents had sought desperately to avoid had begun. Neither a vote of no confidence by 81 per cent of Labour MPs, nor 65 frontbench resignations had persuaded him to stand down. Days of negotiations led by Tom Watson had failed (“For years I’ve been told that I’m a fixer. Well, I tried to fix this and I couldn’t,” Labour’s deputy leader sorrowfully told the parliamentary party). The rebels’ last hope was that the National Executive Committee would force Corbyn to reseek nominations. After being backed by just 40 colleagues in the confidence vote, both sides knew that the leader would struggle to achieve 51 signatures.

But by 18-14, the NEC ruled that Corbyn would be automatically on the ballot (“Watson, Watson, what’s the score?” chanted jubilant aides in the leader’s office). After withstanding a 16-day revolt, Corbyn appeared liberated by the prospect of a summer of campaigning. His confidence prefigured the outcome two months later.

Corbyn did not merely retain the leadership - he won by a greater margin than last time (with 61.8 per cent of the vote to last year's 59.5 per cent) and triumphed among all three sections: party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters. The rebels had hoped to narrow his mandate and win among at least one group: they did neither. Far from being a curse for Corbyn, the contest proved to be a blessing. 

***

The day before the pivotal NEC meeting, Angela Eagle, who had been preparing to stand for months, launched her leadership bid. The former shadow business secretary was admired by MPs for her experience, tenacity, and economic acumen. Her trade union links and soft left background were further cited in favour of her candidacy.

But after an underwhelming launch, which clashed with Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Conservative contest (leaving Eagle calling questions from absent journalists), MPs gravitated towards Owen Smith.

Like Eagle, Smith hailed from the party’s soft left and had initially served under Corbyn (two prerequisites in the rebels’ eyes). But unlike her, the former shadow and work pensions secretary did not vote for the Iraq war (having entered parliament in 2010) or the 2015 Syria intervention. “It looks like the war party,” a senior Corbynite said of Eagle’s campaign launch with Hilary Benn. Many Labour MPs feared the same. With the left-leaning Lisa Nandy having ruled herself out, only the ambitious Smith met the criteria.

“I’d been in hospital for two days with my brother, who was unwell, in south Wales,” he recalled when I interviewed him.  “I came out having literally been in A&E at Cardiff Heath hospital for 29 hours, looking after him, to have my phone light up with 30, 40, 50 colleagues, MPs and members, ringing up saying ‘there’s going to be a contest, Angela Eagle has thrown her hat into the ring, you should do likewise.’ And at that point, on the Wednesday night, I started ringing people to test opinion and found that there was a huge amount of support for me.”

On 19 July, after Smith won 90 MP/MEP nominations to Eagle’s 72, the latter withdrew in favour of the Welshman. A week after the Conservatives achieved their second female prime minister, Labour’s 116-year record of all-male leaders endured. Though Smith vowed that Eagle would be “at my right hand throughout this contest”, she went on to appear at just one campaign event.

Corbyn’s challenger was embraced by MPs as a “clean skin”, untainted by service during the New Labour years. But Smith’s non-parliamentary past was swiftly - and ruthlessly - exploited by his opponents. His time at the US drugs firm Pfizer was cited as evidence of his closeness to big business. Corbyn’s supporters also seized on interviews given by Smith as a by-election candidate in 2006.

The man pitching to the left was found to have defended Tony Blair (suggesting that they differed only over the Iraq war), supported private sector involvement in the NHS and praised city academies. “I'm not someone, frankly, who gets terribly wound up about some of the ideological nuances,” he told Wales Online. Such lines were rapidly disseminated by Corbyn supporters through social media.

“Getting out early and framing Owen was crucial,” a Corbyn source told me. A Smith aide echoed this assessment: “It helped secure their base, it took a load of people out of contention.”

Throughout the campaign, Smith would struggle to reconcile his past stances with his increasingly left-wing programme: opposing private provision in the NHS, returning academy schools to local authority control, banning zero-hours contracts and imposing a wealth tax of 1 per cent. “It was easy for us to go for the jugular over his background when he portrayed himself as a left candidate,” a Corbyn source said.

Smith insisted that the charge of opportunism was unmerited. “To be honest, my opponents have extrapolated rather a lot in an attempt to brand me as a ‘Blairite wolf in sheep’s clothing,’” he told me in August. “Well, I’m nothing of the sort, I’ve always been a democratic socialist and I always will be.” He added: “I’m someone who’s been surrounded by people who’ve been on the left of the Labour movement all their lives. It should come as no surprise that I’ve come out of that background and I’m pretty red. Because I am.”

But a former shadow cabinet colleague said that Smith did not stand out as “a radical” in meetings. “The only time that I remember him becoming really animated was over further tax-raising powers for Scotland and the implications for Wales.”

As well as Smith’s ambiguous past, Corbyn’s allies believe the breadth of his political coalition hindered him from the start. “He was trying to bring together Blairites, Brownites and every other -ite in between,” a campaign source said. “That was never going to hold, we knew that and from the moment there were splits it was easy to point out.”

Jon Trickett, the shadow business secretary and one of Corbyn’s early supporters, told me: “They tried to pretend that there was no distinction between them and Jeremy on policy grounds, they tried to narrow down the areas of difference to electability. But, frankly, it didn’t seem credible since some of the people behind it were absolutely ideologically opposed to Jeremy. Peter Mandelson and people like that.”

A frequently expressed charge was that Smith’s left-wing pledges would be overturned by Blairite figures if he won. John McGeechan, a 22-year-old postgraduate student who joined Labour after “self-indulgent, self-serving MPs initiated their corridor coup”, told me of Smith: “He’s just another mealy-mouthed careerist who says whatever he thinks is going to get him elected. I don’t believe at all that he means what he says about creating a radical socialist government given that he’s got the backing of Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, people who’ve disagreed with Corbyn on pretty much all his socialist policies. I don’t believe that he’s going to stand up to these people.”

Whether believable or not, Smith’s programme showed how Corbyn had shifted Labour’s centre of gravity radically leftwards - his original aim in June 2015.

***

On the night Corbyn made the leadership ballot, the rebels still found cause for hope. Unlike in 2015, the NEC imposed a freeze date of six months on voting (excluding 130,000 new members) and increased the registered supporter fee from £3 to £25 (while reducing the sign-up period to two days). “It’s game on!” a senior figure told me. By narrowing the selectorate, Corbyn’s opponents hoped to achieve a path to victory. With fewer registered supporters (84 per cent of whom voted for Corbyn last year), they believed full party members and affiliated trade unionists could carry Smith over the line.

But when 183,000 paid £25 to vote, their expectations were confounded. Far from being “game on”, it looked to many rebels like game over. Once again, Corbyn’s opponents had underestimated the left’s recruiting capacity. Smith’s lack of name recognition and undistinctive pitch meant he could not compete.

Alongside the main contest were increasingly fractious legal battles over voting rights. On 28 July, the high court rejected Labour donor Michael Foster’s challenge to Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the ballot. Then on 8 August, a judge ruled that the party had wrongly excluded new members from voting, only for the decision to be overturned on appeal.

In the view of Corbyn’s allies, such legal manevoures unwittingly aided him. “They turned Jeremy, who was an incumbent, back into an insurgent,” Trickett told me. “The proponents of the challenge made it seem like he was the underdog being attacked by the establishment.”

Smith, who repeatedly framed himself as the “unity candidate”, struggled to escape the shadow of the “corridor coup”. That many of his supporters had never accepted Corbyn’s leadership rendered him guilty by association.

“The coup had an enormous galvanising effect and an enormous politicising effect,” a Corbyn source told me. “For a great number of people who supported Jeremy last year, there was a feeling, ‘well, we’ve done the work, that’s happened, now over to him.’ What the coup meant for a lot of people was that this isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn, this is a people’s movement, which we all need to lead.” The Corbyn campaign signed up 40,000 volunteers and raised £300,000 in small donations from 19,000 people (with an average donation of £16). Against this activist army, their rivals’ fledgling effort stood no chance.

“At the launch rally, we had 12 simultaneous events going on round the country, livestreamed to each other,” a Corbyn source said. “We had a lot of communication with people who were big in the Sanders campaign. In the UK context, it’s trailblazing.”

On 12 August, after previously equivocating, Smith ruled out returning to the shadow cabinet under Corbyn. “I've lost confidence in you. I will serve Labour on the backbenches,” he declared at a hustings in Gateshead. In the view of Corbyn’s team, it was a fatal error. “He shot apart his whole unity message,” a source said.

Smith, who initially offered Corbyn the post of party president, was rarely booed more than when he lamented Labour’s divisions. As one of the 172 MPs who voted against the leader, he was regarded as part of the problem, rather than the solution. By the end, Smith was reduced to insisting “I wasn’t in favour of there being a challenge” - a statement that appeared absurd to most.

As well as his leftist credentials and unifying abilities, Smith’s other main boast was his competence and articulacy. “HIs USP was that he was this media-savvy guy,” a Corbyn source said. “As a result, he threw himself up for any and every media opportunity and made tons of gaffes. We just made sure people were aware of them.”

The most enduring gaffe came early in the campaign, on 27 July, when he spoke of wanting mto “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”. Though Smith initially defended his “robust rhetoric” (“you’ll be getting that from me”), by the afternoon his campaign had apologised. What was explained as a “rugby reference” dogged them for weeks. “It played into the hands of how Corbyn wanted to depict us,” a Smith source told me. “It was really hard to shake off.”

More unforced errors followed. Smith suggested getting Isis “round the table”, in anticipation, many believed, of Corbyn agreeing. But the Labour leader baulked at the proposal: “No, they are not going to be round the table”. Corbyn’s communications team, more organised and agile than in 2015, denounced Smith’s remarks as “hasty and ill-considered”. As with “smashed”, the Labour challenger had achieved rare cut-through - but for the wrong reasons.

Smith’s rhetorical looseness became a recurring problem. At a rally on 23 August, he appeared to refer to Corbyn as a “lunatic”. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said of meeting his wife: “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on. That must be leadership.”

Earlier in the campaign, Smith’s team denied that the candidate referred to the size of his penis when he quipped of his height: "5ft 6. 29 inches - inside leg!” The guffaws from his supporters suggested otherwise.

We used to have a gaffe counter,” a Corbyn source told me. “I think it got up to 30 by the end.”

Smith’s team, meanwhile, despaired at how the Labour leader’s own missteps failed to dent him. The discovery that Corbyn had in fact secured a seat on a Virgin train, contrary to initial impressions, did little lasting damage. “It’s priced in, the bar is much lower for him,” a Smith source complained.

Incorrect claims, such as Labour being level in the polls before the coup attempt and Corbyn giving 122 speeches during the EU referendum campaign, were believed by many of his supporters. “How do you rebut bullshit?” a Smith aide asked. “If you respond, it becomes a story.”

So frequently had Labour MPs condemned their leader that extraordinary charges were soon forgotten. On 22 August, shadow business minister Chi Onwurah wrote in the New Statesman that Corbyn’s treatment of her and Thangam Debbonaire could constitute “racial discrimination”.

If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in,” she argued. But within a day, the story had moved on.  

For Smith, fleeting momentum was achieved through significant endorsements. On 10 August, the GMB backed his campaign after becoming the only trade union to ballot its members. The following week, Labour’s most senior elected politician, Sadiq Khan, endorsed Smith. Unlike Andy Burnham, the London mayor believed he could not remain neutral during this profound schism. Smith was subsequently also backed by the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale. Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband trumpeted his cause. Yet such declarations counted for little. “It’s like the Remain campaign and the Archbishop of Canterbury,” one Smith ally told me, suggesting that Labour members, like Leave voters, ”weren’t listening” to such grandees.

But in the view of Corbyn’s team, the rebels profoundly “underestimated” their opponent. “He’s a nice guy but he also has an inner steel and won't flinch from a challenge. The Obi-Wan Kenobi comparison is very accurate when you work up close with him. He’s also extremely intelligent and has a great grasp and retention of detail. It showed in the debates.”

“I have to say, I felt pretty sorry for Owen at several points,” another Corbyn source reflected. “Whatever it was, his ambition or being pushed into it, it didn’t seem like it was the right time for him. He hadn’t worked out what he was about and why that fitted with the times.”

***

Those Labour MPs who long warned that an early challenge to Corbyn would prove futile have been vindicated. “Party members are always loyal to the incumbent,” a senior source astutely noted. In the case of Corbyn, a lifelong campaigner, who many contended was “never given a chance”, this traditional fealty was intensified.

“Most of the people backing and funding him didn’t think Owen was going to win,” a Corbyn source said. “Their aim was, one, to reduce Jeremy’s mandate and, secondly, to map the selectorate.”

Having won a second leadership contest - an unprecedented achievement for the Labour left - the leader’s supporters insist their ambitions do not end here. “We’ve got to think incredibly seriously about how we win a general election in a totally changed landscape,” a Corbyn source told me. “This campaign has been showing how to do it.” But a Smith aide warned that it was a “massive strategic error” to make electability, rather than principle, the defining test of Corbyn. The leader, he suggested, could withstand a general election defeat provided he simply affirmed his values.

Beyond regarding a split as worthless, Labour MPs are divided on how to proceed. Some want another leadership challenge as early as next year. Rather than seeking to narrow the selectorate, they speak of recruiting hundreds of thousands of new members to overpower the left. “There are lots of people out there who want a credible, electable, centre-left proposition and we have not given them enough of a reason to sign up,” a former shadow cabinet minister told me. “Who has an offer and the charisma to be able to bring in new people? That has to be the question the next time round.”

Others believe that backbenchers should follow Thumper’s law: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  A senior MP argued that MPs should “just shut up” and “let Jeremy crack on with it.” The imperative, he said, was to avoid MPs “taking the blame for us getting thumped in a snap election”. Some are prepared to move beyond neutrality to outright support by serving under Corbyn.

The Labour left and their most recalcitrant opponents both confront challenges of electability. The former must demonstrate a path to victory despite Corbyn’s subterranean poll ratings. The latter, who boast so often of their superior appeal, must face a remorseless truth. Until they are electable in the party, they will never be electable in the country.

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Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest in crushing victory

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

The Labour leader increased his mandate from 2015. 

Jeremy Corbyn has stormed to victory with an increased mandate in his second Labour leadership contest, with 61.8 per cent of the vote.

The Labour leader won 59 per cent of the member vote, 70 per cent of registered supporters' votes and 60 per cent of affiliated supporters' votes.

His triumph confirms for any remaining doubters the party's shift to the left - in 2015, he had won 59.5 per cent of the vote.

Owen Smith, the challenger, received 38.2 per cent of the vote. He was reported to have conceded defeat moments before the official result.

The turn out was 77.6 per cent, with 506,438 valid votes cast. 

Both men ran on a similar platform of opposition to austerity and zero-hours contracts, but Corbyn commanded the support of the majority of grassroots activists and party members.

In his victory speech, he struck a conciliatory note, thanking volunteers on both teams and telling Smith: "We are part of the same Labour family."

He said: "I will do everything I can to repay the trust and support, to bring our party together."

Pledging to make Labour an engine of change, he urged party members to "wipe the slate clean" after a summer of sniping and work together.

"We are proud as a party that we're not afraid to discuss openly, to debate and disagree. That is essential for a party that wants to change people's lives for the better," he said. 

Noting the party had tripled its membership since last spring, he urged members to take Labour's message into every community, and said the party had a duty of care to its members: "Politics is demeaned and corroded by intimidation and abuse. It's not my way, and it's not the Labour way, and never will be."

Smith, by contrast, stepped forward to represent disaffected Labour MPs, who were unimpressed with Corbyn's campaign during the EU referendum and feared he was unelectable. 

Corbyn's victory will at least temporarily quash any rival leadership bids, but it nevertheless leaves the leader with a headache. 

After the vote for Brexit, a wave of resignations emptied Corbyn's shadow cabinet, and he has not succeeded in fully refilling it. He now faces the choice of building bridges with the parliamentary Labour party, or going down the more radical route of reshaping the party itself. 

Much hinges on the decision of the National Executive Committee on whether to allow elected shadow cabinet positions, which could potentially offer a way back in for anti-Corbyn MPs. But if such elections extended to grassroots members, this could also end up isolating them further. 

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Arsène Wenger: English football's first true cosmopolitan

By Jason Cowley from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

After 20 years are these the end of days for the Arsenal manager? 

How to account for the essence of a football club? The players and managers come and go, of course, and so do the owners. The fans grow old and die. Clubs relocate to new grounds. Arsenal did so in the summer of 2006 when they moved from the intimate jewel of a stadium that was Highbury to embrace the soulless corporate gigantism of the Emirates. Clubs can even relocate to a new town or to a different part of a city, as indeed Arsenal did when they moved from south of the Thames in Woolwich to north London in 1913 (a land-grab that has never been forgiven by their fiercest rivals, Tottenham). Yet something endures through all the change, something akin to the Aristotelian notion of substance.

Before Arsène Wenger arrived in London in late September 1996, Arsenal were one of England’s most traditional clubs: stately, conservative, even staid. Three generations of the Hill-Wood family had occupied the role of chairman. In 1983, an ambitious young London businessman named David Dein invested £290,000 in the club. “It’s dead money,” said Peter Hill-Wood, an Old Etonian who had succeeded his father a year earlier. In 2007, Dein sold his stake in the club to Red & White Holdings, co-owned by the Uzbek-born billionaire Alisher Usmanov, for £75m. Not so dead after all.

In the pre-Wenger years, unfairly or otherwise, the Gunners were known as “lucky Arsenal”, a pejorative nickname that went back to the 1930s. For better or worse, they were associated with a functional style of play. Under George Graham, manager from 1986 to 1995, they were exponents of a muscular long-ball game and often won important matches 1-0. Through long decades of middling success Arsenal were respected but never loved, except by their fans, who could be passionless when compared to, say, those of Liverpool or Newcastle, or even the cockneys of West Ham.

Yet Wenger, who is 66, changed everything at Arsenal. This tall, thin, cerebral, polyglot son of an Alsatian bistro owner, who had an economics degree and was never much of a player in the French leagues, was English football’s first true cosmopolitan.

He was naturally received with suspicion by the players (who called him Le Professeur), the fans (most of whom had never heard of him) and by journalists (who were used to clubbable British managers they could banter with over a drink). Wenger was different. He was reserved and self-contained. He refused to give personal interviews, though he was candid and courteous in press conferences.

He joined from the Japanese J League side Nagoya Grampus Eight, where he went to coach after seven seasons at Monaco, and was determined to globalise the Gunners. This he swiftly did, recruiting players from all over the world but most notably, in his early years, from France and francophone Africa. I was once told a story of how, not long after joining the club, Wenger instructed his chief scout, Steve Rowley, to watch a particular player. “You’ll need to travel,” Wenger said. “Up north?” “No – to Brazil,” came the reply. A new era had begun.

Wenger was an innovator and disrupter long before such concepts became fashionable. A pioneer in using data analysis to monitor and improve performance, he ended the culture of boozing at Arsenal and introduced dietary controls and a strict fitness regime. He was idealistic but also pragmatic. Retaining Graham’s all-English back five as well as the hard-running Ray Parlour in midfield, Wenger over several seasons added French flair to the team – Nicolas Anelka (who was bought for £500,000 and sold at a £22m profit after only two seasons), Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pirès. It would be a period of glorious transformation – Arsenal won the Premier League and FA Cup “double” in his first full season and went through the entire 2003-2004 League season unbeaten.

The second decade of Wenger’s 20 years at Arsenal, during which the club stopped winning titles after moving to the bespoke 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium, has been more troubled. Beginning with the arrival of the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in 2003, the international plutocracy began to take over the Premier League, and clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, much richer than Arsenal, spent their way to the top table of the European game. What were once competitive advantages for Wenger – knowledge of other leagues and markets, a worldwide scouting network, sports science – became merely routine, replicated even in the lower leagues.

Wenger has spoken of his fear of death and of his desire to lose himself in work, always work. “The only possible moment of happiness is the present,” he told L’Équipe in a recent interview. “The past gives you regrets. And the future uncertainties. Man understood this very fast and created religion.” In the same interview – perhaps his most fascinating – Wenger described himself as a facilitator who enables “others to express what they have within them”. He wants his teams to play beautifully. “My never-ending struggle in this business is to release what is beautiful in man.”

Arsène Wenger is in the last year of his contract and fans are divided over whether he should stay on. To manage a super-club such as Arsenal for 20 years is remarkable and, even if he chooses to say farewell at the end of the season, it is most unlikely that any one manager will ever again stay so long or achieve so much at such a club – indeed, at any club. We should savour his cool intelligence and subtle humour while we can. Wenger changed football in England. More than a facilitator, he was a pathfinder: he created space for all those foreign coaches who followed him and adopted his methods. 

How to leave the Labour party

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

No longer willing to live and die beneath the red flag? How to escape.

Perhaps you aren't exactly happy about the leader of the party. Perhaps you voted for Brexit and are finding your inner Kipper. Or perhaps you'd just rather spend those subs on beer.

So you go to the Labour party website, and funnily enough, despite this being a very popular Google search term, there is no section on how to leave. Once you have joined, it seems, you  are Labour for life. There are whole forums on the internet dedicated to working out a way to quit. 

This is how you can leave the Labour party. 

There are two ways.

1. You can write abusive things on social media, join the Conservative Party and tweet enthusiastically about it or go campaigning for The Greens and tweet about it too. The nuclear option is of course going for another left-wing party like the Socialists Workers Party or the Alliance for Workers' Liberty.

2. You can cancel your direct debit, and contact the Labour party headquarters telling them you are leaving at The Labour Party, Labour Central, Kings Manor, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6PA. This is more boring, but more predictable, and it means you can join again when you are filled with regret for abandoning your comrades.

 

But be warned, leaving Labour is a bit like leaving the Catholic Church - you can never completely succeed. During the leadership contest, there were reports of lists of ex-Labour members still held by local activists, in the hope that one day, one day, they might come back. 

Also, if you join a union, you're probably affiliated anyway. 

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Dear Labour: Stop wasting time, and join us in a progressive alliance

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 24, 2016.

A one-off alliance could kick the Tories out of power. 

This week, after a seemingly endless campaign, the Labour party will choose its new leader. For those of us who oppose what the Conservative Government is doing to our country, the end of this bitter internal battle within the Labour party can’t come a moment too soon. We need everyone playing their part in providing effective opposition and holding Theresa May to account.

On Friday 23 September, we launched our Green Guarantee to set out our role in that: a promise to members, voters and supporters about what it means to be Green. And at the heart of that promise is a new politics of public service that combines honest, consistent and principled Green opposition, with a willingness to do things differently and search for bold solutions.

We also have a message for the new Labour leader - stop wasting precious time on what divides you and instead invest in cooperation.  Join us in making a persuasive case for doing things differently by looking to the future, not to the past. Commit to a progressive alliance

With a snap general election looking increasingly unlikely, it seems Britain now faces three and a half years of a Conservative Government run by a Prime Minister who has, so far, done nothing to indicate she has a grasp on how to rise to the challenges we face. How to build a new resilient economy that values relationships rather than transactions. How to create a community immigration premium and the strong social connections that would allow us all to benefit from free movement. How to deliver smart, future facing, properly funded public services run by the people for the people. Nor has she risen to the biggest challenge of all - a world unlimited by climate change.  

A one-off general election alliance between progressive parties to try to prevent the Conservatives forming the next government could be a game change. That’s why our Green Guarantee contains a pledge to cooperate rather than compete, if it will deliver the best future for Britain.

Such an alliance is, critically, also an opportunity to unite behind a pledge to replace our outdated voting system with a citizens’ democracy. In 2015 more than 1m people voted Green and they deserve to have their views represented in Parliament by more than one MP. Almost 2m voted Lib Dem and yet they have just eight seats, while almost 4m Ukip votes claimed one MP. If we want a future where decisions are negotiated, not imposed, where power and wealth are redistributed, fair elections are essential. And if we genuinely want to heal the divisions revealed by the EU referendum campaign, to tackle the fear, inequality and hopelessness that’s been laid bare, we need every voice to be heard and every vote to matter.  

Taking back control means having a second referendum on the terms of any EU deal. It means we need to be clear what we would like our future relationship with the EU to look like, what we'll be negotiating for, and Parliament having a full debate and vote on triggering Article 50. And it means a general election to decide who delivers the deal. 

Our Green Guarantee puts the principle of working together to solve common problems at the heart of any agreement – we still think this is the best way to protect our environment, workers’ rights and free movement. In this age of insecurity, collaboration and partnership matter more than ever before. 

They also underpin the innovative Green economy of tomorrow. A sharing and participative economy where the exploitative Uber model gives way to a taxi firm owned by drivers and passengers. An economy for the digital age where modern technology and a universal basic income allows us to live larger lives, and where work is about real purpose, not a means to an end. An economy that’s jobs rich, energy efficient and really means business.   

Our Green Guarantee is that, as co-leaders of the Green party, we will embrace the rapidly changing uncertain world in which we live, not turn from it. Be brave enough to map the future, not simply react to it. We invite whoever is elected as the new leader of the Labour party to do the same.

Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas are co-leaders of the Green party.

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Moving on up: why Ira Sachs is king of the "Rightmovie"

By Ryan Gilbey from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Little Men reminds us that Sachs is the the cinematic poet laureate of the gentrification drama.

There’s a nauseating moment at the end of the 1986 film Stand By Me when the narrator reflects on his childhood. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12,” he sighs. “Jesus, does anyone?” That sort of retroactive idealism is a temptation for any coming-of-age movie, but the writer-director Ira Sachs resists it in Little Men. His film charts the blossoming friendship between two 13-year-old boys, Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri), without stooping to suggest that what they have is somehow purer than anything in the adult world. It isn’t – it’s just subject to different forces. Sachs captures the concentrated joy of youthful larks and loyalty but he is as wise as Fassbinder ever was to the impact of economic and social pressures on our emotional choices.

It’s clear that the film will be discreet from the way the cinematographer, Óscar Durán, shoots Jake and Tony from behind during their first meeting, as though permitting the boys a modicum of privacy away from our prying eyes. Sachs has a knack for finding those pockets of quiet in the hubbub. The opening shot puts the reserved, feminine-faced Jake at his school desk; he’s the still point in the midst of chaos. He takes whatever life – or, in this case, his classmates – can throw at him.

Then Jake gets a bombshell: his grand­father has died. His father, Brian (Greg Kinnear), and mother, Kathy (Jennifer Ehle), move with him into the old man’s building in Brooklyn. Downstairs is a cluttered dress shop that was being leased to Tony’s mother, Leonor (Paulina García), at a cut-price rate that failed to take into account the property boom. Jake’s father considers himself a sensitive man – he is an actor – ­preparing for a production of The Seagull but his life has just become The Cherry Orchard. Family members advise him to jack up the rent or boot out Leonor.

Kinnear conveys the honest terror of a kind man staring into the depths of his conscience and not liking what he finds. García, the star of the superb Gloria, is brave enough to make her character actively disagreeable at times. In her most complex scene, she sacrifices the moral high ground and overplays her hand with a single rash remark.

Yet Little Men belongs to the little men. Sensing the tremors of discord between their families, Jake and Tony stick together. They skate through the streets in a blur as the camera struggles to keep sight of them behind trees and parked cars while the propulsive score by Dickon Hinchliffe of Tindersticks urges them on.

As Tony, Barbieri is the find of the film. He’s twitchy and gangly, his voice a scratchy drawl that belongs to a bourbon-soaked barfly. No one has swaggered through Brooklyn with such aplomb since John Travolta at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. Then he’ll do something impulsive, such as hugging his sobbing mother by wrapping his long arms all the way around her and clutching her head to his chest, and suddenly he’s a baby again.

With this and Love Is Strange – about a middle-aged gay couple forced to live separately due to financial difficulties – Sachs has appointed himself the cinematic poet laureate of gentrification-based drama. (Call it the dawn of the Rightmovie.) But he isn’t a tub-thumper. He and his co-writer, Mauricio Zacharias, show simply and plainly how money alters everything. Durán shoots the Brooklyn locations in a crisp, summery light that mirrors this straightforwardness. Any poetry springs from the everyday, such as the night-time shot in which blurred blobs of colour from streetlights and headlamps suggest dabs of paint on a palette.

Even the editing (by Mollie Goldstein) speaks volumes. The sudden cut from the gaudy clamour of a disco, where Tony wears a glow band around his neck like a fallen halo, to the chill calm of the subway platform evokes acutely that plunging feeling when the fun is over. As the boys wait for the train, their faces are framed in unsmiling repose in a shot that calls to mind Simon and Garfunkel on the cover of Bookends. And we all know what happened to them. 

United states of emergency: will the North Carolina riots stain Obama's legacy?

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

The latest flare up of violence in the US is a reminder that the election of the first black president did not herald a new age of post-racial harmony.

Last April I travelled to Baltimore the morning after the Governor of Maryland had declared a state of emergency in the city, following riots that erupted after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Time had just published a poignant article comparing images of disorder on America's streets in 2015 with those 50 years earlier, during the struggles of the civil rights era. However, the scene that greeted my companion and I as we looped round the I-95 into the inner harbour looked more like photos we had seen of Helmand in 2001, or Mosul in 2003. Except this wasn't Baghdad, it was Baltimore – the birthplace of Edgar Allen Poe, Babe Ruth and The Star Spangled Banner. And yet it was clearly a warzone, for how else could you explain the presence of 4,000 national guardsmen, either poking out of armoured vehicles or patrolling the streets with automatic weapons?

During the protests that have erupted in Charlotte, and elsewhere, following the shooting of yet another black man by the police, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch has warned against this kind of violence becoming the “new normal”. As North Carolina governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency on Thursday morning, the horrible truth was that the normalcy of it all was plain to see. Such is the frequency with which riot police and even soldiers have been deployed on America's streets over the past few years, that the “United States of Emergency” would not seem like an inaccurate rebranding. Of course all of this civil disobedience plays into the hands of a Republican presidential candidate who is making the restoration of “law and order” one of the central tenets in his bid for power.

It is not hard to see the desperation on Obama's face as he reaches the denouement of his own tenure. While the 44th President's political legacy will be debated for years to come, it is now obvious that one thing it did not herald was a new era of post-racial harmony. America's obsession with symbolism almost willed him to the White House but as so often is the case with US politics: the higher the pretensions, the harder the fall. 

Charlotte doesn't represent anything particularly unique in this long struggle against police racism. It's just another place name to be added to Ferguson, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and dozens of others that could form a particularly grim tourist trail. The horrible truth is that as long as there have been black men in America – especially in places like Charlotte – they have always been unfairly targeted by police. For decades in the South these same forces were the “thin white line” promulgating a form of apartheid against the black majority. The difference now is that 21st century technology allows witnesses to capture and disseminate proof of this worldwide. The power of images to expose racial violence is unquestionable. The campaigner Mamie Till, mother of Emmett, knew this when she published photos of her son's mutilated corpse in 1955. As did George Holliday when he filmed Rodney King's beating in 1991.

There is a kind of despair when it comes to trying to find solutions to America's devastating gun and racial problems. Unfortunately neither presidential candidate seems to offer much hope of significant change. One is perceived as being in thrall to big business (of which the gun lobby represents a significant part) and the other, well, it is not hard to imagine Trump's glee at further proof of how “broken” and disorderly the country is under the Democrats. Both of their reactions to this latest incident have been muted. If either of them care at all about fixing this problem they need to take action and it needs to be drastic. The late comedian Robin Williams once quipped that in Britain the police shout: “Stop! Or I'll shout Stop again”. In America that first “stop” is all too often followed by a much louder sound.

The problem is that whenever a “taskforce” is created to fix the problem – such as Obama's 21st century policing initiative – its recommendations are always non-binding. On top of this is the fact that there are nearly 20,000 distinct police departments in the US representing a myriad of vested interests and demographic differences, and all adhering to slightly different codes of conduct. American police need to revert from a militarised occupying force to a pacific consensual one, perhaps by sending officers out unarmed. Unfortunately the likelihood of this happening with either a Trump, or even Clinton, presidency is sadly close to none. 

Alexis Self is a writer based in New York City.

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Strictly: Has Ed (Glitter) Balls got the winning moves?

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Will the former Westminster high-flyer impress the judges and fans?

Ed Balls once had dreams of Labour leadership. Now, according to flamboyant Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli, the former Shadow Chancellor should be aspiring to “imitate the hippopotamus from Fantasia” every Saturday night, preferably while basting himself in fake tan.

Welcome to my world, Ladies and Gentleman. A place where the former Westminster high flyer  is more famous for sashaying around in sequins (and ineptly tweeting his own name) than for his efforts with the Bank of England. It’s a universe so intoxicating, it made political correspondent John Sergeant drag a professional performer across a dance floor by her wrists in the name of light entertainment.

The same compulsions made respected broadcaster Jeremy Vine alight a prop horse dressed as a cowboy (more Woody from Toy Story than John Wayne) and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe fly across the ballroom like an inappropriate understudy in an am dram production of Peter Pan. It is a glorious, if unnerving domain.

Ed Glitterballs, as he will henceforth be introduced at every after-dinner speaking engagement he attends, has trotted out many well-rehearsed reasons for signing up: getting fit, being cajoled by his superfan wife, Yvette Cooper, regretting a missed opportunity. But could it be that, as he relentlessly plugs his autobiography, he’s merely after a bit of Strictly stardust for his post-politics career? 

Let’s start with the basics. Politicians are generally unpopular, while anyone with a vague connection to Strictly is treated as a demi-God. So the chance for “the most annoying person in modern politics” (David Cameron’s words, not mine), to bask in reflected glory is a no-brainer.

It’s a valuable opportunity to be humble and self-deprecating — qualities so rarely on display in the House of Commons. Which of us sitting at home scoffing Maltesers, wouldn’t sympathise with poor old Ed being chastised by his impossibly svelte partner for having a beer belly? Early polls suggest the dads’ vote is in the bag.

When Widdecombe appeared on the show back in 2010 — one of the most astonishing rebranding exercises I have ever witnessed — Westminster colleagues warned she would lose gravitas. “My reply was yes I would, but what did I need it for now?” she said.

Strictly Come Dancing gives the nation an extraordinary capacity to forget. Maybe it’s the fumes from the spray tan booth, but Widdecombe’s stern bluster was soon replaced by the image of a sweet old lady, stumbling around the dance floor with gusto. Her frankly shameful record on gay rights evaporated as she traded affectionate insults with openly gay judge Craig Revel Horwood and won us all over with her clodhopping two left feet. Genuinely incredible stuff.

Balls won’t be another Ann Widdecombe. For a start he’s got the wrong partner. She had untouchable fan favourite Anton Du Beke, more famous than some of the celebrity contestants, who happily provided the choreography and patience for her to shine. Balls is with an unknown quantity — new girl Katya Jones. 

His performance has been hyped up by an expectant press, while Widdecombe's had the all-important shock factor. Back then nobody could have predicted her irrepressible stomp to the quarter finals, leading to a career in panto and her own quiz show on Sky Atlantic. And unlike John Sergeant, who withdrew from the competition after a few weeks owing to sheer embarrassment, she lapped up every second.

Neither, however, is Balls likely to be Edwina Currie. If you forgot her stint on the show it’s because she went out in the first week, after failing to tone down her abrasive smugness for the ballroom. Balls is too clever for that and he’s already playing the game. Would viewers have been so comfortable with him cropping up on the Great British Bake Off spin-off An Extra Slice a few months ago?

My bet is that after a few gyrations he’ll emerge as amusing, lovable and, most importantly, bookable. The prospect of Gordon Brown’s economic advisor playing Baron Hardup in a Christmaspanto  is deliciously tantalising. But what happens when the fun stops and the midlife crisis (as he takes great pleasure in calling it) loses its novelty? Can he be taken seriously again?

When asked about Labour’s current Corbyn crisis, Balls told The Guardian: “If I got a call saying, ‘We think you can solve the problem, come back and rescue us,’ I would drop Strictly and go like a shot.” Well, Jeremy Vine came out unscathed — he hosts Crimewatch now, folks! — and thanks to Have I Got News For You, Boris Johnson casually led us out of Europe. Perhaps the best is yet to come.

Great news all round for Balls, then, he’d have to work really hard to come out of this badly. But there’s a reason he’s the bookies’ booby prize, with odds of 150/1 to lift the glitterball trophy. An entertaining but basically useless act has never won the show. We’ll be bored by November.

“But Ed might be sensational!” I hear you cry. Unfortunately his brief appearance on this year’s launch show suggests otherwise. This weekend — the first time he and Katya will perform a full routine —  he will be giving us his waltz, one of the more forgiving dances, and a style Balls has already expressed fondness for.

After that come the sizzling samba, the raunchy rumba and the cheeky Charleston. These can be mortifying even for the show’s frontrunners. As a straggler, Balls may find himself dewy-eyed, reminiscing about the time Bruno compared him to a cartoon hippo. But if he can just cope with a few weeks of mild ridicule, the world could be his oyster.

Emma Bullimore is a TV critic

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Yahoo’s data breach demands more scrutiny

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

The company must be as open as possible about how this happened

Challenge to central banks’ credibility

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Ever more radical policies are meeting ever greater scepticism

How do I leave the Labour party?

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

It's harder to leave the Labour Party than to join, but if you're determined here’s how to quit.

Leaving the Labour Party is a surprisingly tricky process, with the Labour website offering no guidance in its membership section and the rulebook containing no specific guidance on how a member can voluntarily leave the Labour party – although there are numerous acts that could trigger your suspension, as Labour members have recently discovered during the “purges”.

If you’ve decided to resign your membership, either in protest at the leadership or for some other reason, the first step is to cancel your direct debit or standing order, which you can do either by contacting your bank or through your online banking service.

However, this will not immediately cancel your membership. The rulebook says: “a member shall be deemed to have lapsed from membership if s/he has been in arrears for six months and has not responded to a request to pay the arrears.” This means it’s possible to remain a member (although not to participate in party elections) for half a year without paying subs, and some people report being left on the rolls for several years.

The next step is to notify the secretary of your constituency Labour party in writing that you have resigned your membership. While it would be satisfying to do this by post, enclosing your membership card, an email would be sufficient.

Of course, you might decide to expedite this process by getting yourself ejected from the party. If you plan to join a rival party to Labour, doing so would immediately void your Labour membership: the Tories, Greens, Lib Dems or WEP would fit the bill here. Or you could just campaign for one of these parties and announce your new affiliation on social media. Engaging in abusive behaviour could also work, although it would lack class. 

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Technology: Looking and learning

From Analysis. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

As digital assistants become part of our lives, deeper questions on privacy and co-dependence arise

“Stinking Googles should be killed”: why 4chan is using a search engine as a racist slur

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Users of the anonymous forum are targeting Google after the company introduced a programme for censoring abusive language.

Contains examples of racist language and memes.

“You were born a Google, and you are going to die a Google.”

Despite the lack of obscenity and profanity in this sentence, you have probably realised it was intended to be offensive. It is just one of hundreds of similar messages posted by the users of 4chan’s Pol board – an anonymous forum where people go to be politically incorrect. But they haven’t suddenly seen the error of their ways about using the n-word to demean their fellow human beings – instead they are trying to make the word “Google” itself become a racist slur.

In an undertaking known as “Operation Google”, some 4chan users are resisting Google’s latest artificial intelligence program, Conversation AI, by swapping smears for the names of Google products. Conversation AI aims to spot and flag offensive language online, with the eventual possibility that it could automatically delete abusive comments. The famously outspoken forum 4chan, and the similar website 8chan, didn’t like this, and began their campaign which sees them refer to “Jews” as “Skypes”, Muslims as “Skittles”, and black people as “Googles”.

If it weren’t for the utterly abhorrent racism – which includes users conflating Google’s chat tool “Hangouts” with pictures of lynched African-Americans – it would be a genius idea. The group aims to force Google to censor its own name, making its AI redundant. Yet some have acknowledged this might not ultimately work – as the AI will be able to use contextual clues to filter out when “Google” is used positively or pejoratively – and their ultimate aim is now simply to make “Google” a racist slur as revenge.


Posters from 4chan

“If you're posting anything on social media, just casually replace n****rs/blacks with googles. Act as if it's already a thing,” wrote one anonymous user. “Ignore the company, just focus on the word. Casually is the important word here – don't force it. In a month or two, Google will find themselves running a company which is effectively called ‘n****r’. And their entire brand is built on that name, so they can't just change it.”

There is no doubt that Conversation AI is questionable to anyone who values free speech. Although most people desire a nicer internet, it is hard to agree that this should be achieved by blocking out large swathes of people, and putting the power to do so in the hands of one company. Additionally, algorithms can’t yet accurately detect sarcasm and humour, so false-positives are highly likely when a bot tries to identify whether something is offensive. Indeed, Wired journalist Andy Greenberg tested Conversation AI out and discovered it gave “I shit you not” 98 out of 100 on its personal attack scale.

Yet these 4chan users have made it impossible to agree with their fight against Google by combining it with their racism. Google scores the word “moron” 99 out of 100 on its offensiveness scale. Had protestors decided to replace this – or possibly even more offensive words like “bitch” or “motherfucker” – with “Google”, pretty much everyone would be on board.

Some 4chan users are aware of this – and indeed it is important not to consider the site a unanimous entity. “You're just making yourselves look like idiots and ruining any legitimate effort to actually do this properly,” wrote one user, while some discussed their concerns that “normies” – ie. normal people – would never join in. Other 4chan users are against Operation Google as they see it as self-censorship, or simply just stupid.


Memes from 4chan

But anyone who disregards these efforts as the work of morons (or should that be Bings?) clearly does not understand the power of 4chan. The site brought down Microsoft’s AI Tay in a single day, brought the Unicode swastika (卐) to the top of Google’s trends list in 2008, hacked Sarah Palin’s email account, and leaked a large number of celebrity nudes in 2014. If the Ten Commandments were rewritten for the modern age and Moses took to Mount Sinai to wave two 16GB Tablets in the air, then the number one rule would be short and sweet: Thou shalt not mess with 4chan.

It is unclear yet how Google will respond to the attack, and whether this will ultimately affect the AI. Yet despite what ten years of Disney conditioning taught us as children, the world isn’t split into goodies and baddies. While 4chan’s methods are deplorable, their aim of questioning whether one company should have the power to censor the internet is not.

Google also hit headlines this week for its new “YouTube Heroes” program, a system that sees YouTube users rewarded with points when they flag offensive videos. It’s not hard to see how this kind of crowdsourced censorship is undesirable, particularly again as the chance for things to be incorrectly flagged is huge. A few weeks ago, popular YouTubers also hit back at censorship that saw them lose their advertising money from the site, leading #YouTubeIsOverParty to trend on Twitter. Perhaps ultimately, 4chan didn't need to go on a campaign to damage Google's name. It might already have been doing a good enough job of that itself.

Google has been contacted for comment.

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Dear Labour: stop wasting time, and join us in a progressive alliance

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

A one-off alliance could kick the Tories out of power. 

This week, after a seemingly endless campaign, the Labour party will choose its new leader. For those of us who oppose what the Conservative Government is doing to our country, the end of this bitter internal battle within the Labour party can’t come a moment too soon. We need everyone playing their part in providing effective opposition and holding Theresa May to account.

On Friday 23 September, we launched our Green Guarantee to set out our role in that: a promise to members, voters and supporters about what it means to be Green. And at the heart of that promise is a new politics of public service that combines honest, consistent and principled Green opposition, with a willingness to do things differently and search for bold solutions.

We also have a message for the new Labour leader - stop wasting precious time on what divides you and instead invest in cooperation.  Join us in making a persuasive case for doing things differently by looking to the future, not to the past. Commit to a progressive alliance. 

With a snap general election looking increasingly unlikely, it seems Britain now faces three and a half years of a Conservative Government run by a Prime Minister who has, so far, done nothing to indicate she has a grasp on how to rise to the challenges we face. How to build a new resilient economy that values relationships rather than transactions. How to create a community immigration premium and the strong social connections that would allow us all to benefit from free movement. How to deliver smart, future facing, properly funded public services run by the people for the people. Nor has she risen to the biggest challenge of all - a world unlimited by climate change.  

A one-off general election alliance between progressive parties to try to prevent the Conservatives forming the next government could be a game change. That’s why our Green Guarantee contains a pledge to cooperate rather than compete, if it will deliver the best future for Britain.

Such an alliance is, critically, also an opportunity to unite behind a pledge to replace our outdated voting system with a citizens’ democracy. In 2015 more than 1m people voted Green and they deserve to have their views represented in Parliament by more than one MP. Almost 2m voted Lib Dem and yet they have just eight seats, while almost 4m Ukip votes claimed one MP. If we want a future where decisions are negotiated, not imposed, where power and wealth are redistributed, fair elections are essential. And if we genuinely want to heal the divisions revealed by the EU referendum campaign, to tackle the fear, inequality and hopelessness that’s been laid bare, we need every voice to be heard and every vote to matter.  

Taking back control means having a second referendum on the terms of any EU deal. It means we need to be clear what we would like our future relationship with the EU to look like, what we'll be negotiating for, and Parliament having a full debate and vote on triggering Article 50. And it means a general election to decide who delivers the deal. 

Our Green Guarantee puts the principle of working together to solve common problems at the heart of any agreement – we still think this is the best way to protect our environment, workers’ rights and free movement. In this age of insecurity, collaboration and partnership matter more than ever before. 

They also underpin the innovative Green economy of tomorrow. A sharing and participative economy where the exploitative Uber model gives way to a taxi firm owned by drivers and passengers. An economy for the digital age where modern technology and a universal basic income allows us to live larger lives, and where work is about real purpose, not a means to an end. An economy that’s jobs rich, energy efficient and really means business.   

Our Green Guarantee is that, as co-leaders of the Green party, we will embrace the rapidly changing uncertain world in which we live, not turn from it. Be brave enough to map the future, not simply react to it. We invite whoever is elected as the new leader of the Labour party to do the same.

Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas are co-leaders of the Green party.

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How to educate girls on the joy of sex

By Eleanor Margolis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Adding a more human element to the sexual education syllabus could stop teens turning to porn.

What part of “French 3D printed educational clitoris” do you not understand, Justine Greening? While the Education Secretary considers making sex education mandatory in schools, France has innovated its way to “demystifying” the female orgasm, by introducing schoolchildren to a model of a clitoris. What tends to be thought of as a sneaky little button has been brought to life – by the French – as a quite big pink wishbone.

When I did secondary school sex education, more than ten years ago, the clitoris was mentioned in passing, while the penis practically dressed up as Barbra Streisand and sang show tunes for an entire double period. The climax of the penises’ performance was a literal climax (a live action cock filled the screen of one of those wheelie televisions you only get in schools). Everyone screamed. Especially the boys.

Sex education — in its current non-mandatory, irrelevant and uninteresting state – badly needs to start letting girls know, with or without the help of 3D printed clitorises, that sex is for them. After all, what is it about the female orgasm that has nurtured such a cult of mystery and elusiveness? Please can we get a grip and accept that the Loch Ness Monster is three seals, and the female orgasm is, in turn, about as esoteric as a Boots meal deal. For starters, the clitoris (if the starting point of all reproductive anatomy must be a penis) is a massive tiny dick that’s very easy to locate. One of my favourite things about sleeping with women is the fact they take this for granted. Which is actually something of a miracle seeing as even my generation was brought up to believe sex is what girls get through for the sake of their boyfriends. It will hurt. He won’t go down on you. An, eww, why would you want that anyway?

I genuinely believe that, had I been told otherwise in sex education, my first time a) wouldn’t have been a Gobi Desert dry nightmare and b) may not have even been with a boy (I was instructed that this was the Done Thing). It’s essential, of course, that girls are told that, as well as having orgasms they’re allowed to sleep with other girls. The LGBT component of sex education is still optional (for schools that choose to teach it in the first place). But with this, and a mandatory focus on consent, sex education has the power to properly tackle the too often gruesome, mechanical and joyless dynamic of sex. A dynamic in which the penis takes centre stage like a howling diamante frankfurter.

In the grand scheme of things, it probably shouldn’t take a 3D printed clitoris to explain that the female orgasm is a thing. Plus, without a clitoris emoji and Snapchat filter to boot, its impact may be muted. But, the more effort made to break down the weird taboo surrounding female sexuality, the closer we may well come to making the bedroom a more equal and altogether less dull place for teenagers. Stigma cannot be eradicated by diagram after diagram of the uterus, accompanied by stale narratives about babies.

Not, of course, that the mechanics and contraception side of things isn’t hugely important. But without a more human element to the syllabus, young people can and will look to porn for all the sex education they need.

When I was about eight, I found a deck of pornographic playing cards in my then 18-year-old sister’s room. Each card depicted a man with an abnormally large schlong, looking pleased with himself. As an introduction to the world of Adult Situations, this was both mystifying and daunting.

 

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn has galvanised the Labour party - now let's win a general election

By Diane Abbott from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

We need to harness the enthusiasm behind the Jeremy for Labour campaign. 

It is significant and important that more people joined the party this year than all of the Tory membership combined. 

Labour's members and supporters have proven that Labour is the most relevant party after a long leadership campaign, where both candidates have had the chance to address some of the key issues facing us in austerity Britain.

Now, nothing is more important for the Labour party than coming together to oppose the Tories and move forward on a road to winning the next general election.

We need to speak not only to the converted, but to those whose trust we lost before the general election. 

To do this, Labour needs to not only oppose Tory ideologically-driven cuts, but also to set out an attractive alternative to improve people’s standards of living. 

As the reality of Brexit sinks in, we need to set the terms, lead the debate. We have to look outwards and not inwards. 

It is for this reason that we must continue to be both a firmly anti-austerity and pro-investment party. 

Now more than ever, Labour needs to fight to protect our public services and stand up for the majority of people in the face of the Conservatives’ offensive against ordinary people.

Austerity continues to decimate our vulnerable communities, with the worst effects of cuts to public services and reforms to welfare still to come for many. 

An economy that delivers for everyone needs to be more than a soundbite. We’re the party for the many, not the few. We need to stand up for those who vote Labour, but also those who don’t. 

In the last year, we have started to outline a credible and coherent alternative to austerity, based on investment not more ideologically-driven cuts.

We have put back on the political agenda that Britain needs a proper industrial strategy which invests in the industries and technologies of the future. 

This could address our infrastructure needs, for more housing, better rail links, and world class digital infrastructure, and provide quality public services, including the renationalised, properly funded health service the people of Britain deserve. 

The public trust Jeremy Corbyn. That’s why he can win a general election. Both because his policies are what the economy and the majority of the country needs, and because people know he will deliver his promises.

Our party has over 550,000 members - giving us the potential to be a movement for change in every area and community across Britain. 

The Jeremy for Labour campaign saw tens of thousands of people involved in a grassroots campaign with:

  • a Facebook presence reaching 6m people per week at its peak;
  • the signing up of 40,000 volunteers who made over 110,000 calls to Labour members and supporters, on top of 300,000 calls from phonebanks;
  • the raising of over £300,000 in donations from over 19,000 people with an average donation of just £16;
  • 59 major campaign events, including hustings, policy launches and rallies. Two rallies were attended by over 10,000 people, with 80,000 people attending events in total.

We need to harness this enthusiasm going forward, utilising the talents and resources of our members to win on the doorstep, and win the argument that there is an alternative to austerity. 

Crucially, now we need to unite and build the momentum for victory in a general election. 

By taking the fight to the Tories in this way, and outlining the pathway out of austerity that has been proposed this summer, we can win the next general election and transform Britain into a fairer, more equal society.

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Is Labour socialist?

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Does the Labour party represent the values of socialism?

Is Labour socialist? Has it ever been? And does Jeremy Corbyn truly represent a change in its political direction?

These are all important questions to address as Corbyn allies and his detractors battle for their party’s soul.

“Socialism” was the most looked-up word in the online dictionary last year, so individuals like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders who advocate socialist ideals are clearly playing on people’s minds. For the sake of ease, let’s take socialism essentially to mean collective or governmental ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods – although the definition has become slightly muddied in modern times. Read more about that here.

The Labour party has historically been known as a socialist party. Before its rose emblem (a common symbol of socialism and social democracy in political movements across Europe following World War II) was introduced in the Eighties, the party’s symbol was a red flag – a standard associated with communism and socialism since the French Revolution. The party and its leaders still sing The Red Flag at the end of its annual autumn party conference.

Plus, the party was born out of the trade union movement – heralded by the Manchester Guardian in 1918 as “the Birth of a Socialist Party” – the priorities of which often aligned with the tenets of socialism, regarding workers’ rights and redistribution of wealth. And many key trade union figures over the years have been supportive of the idea of an international workers’ movement.

The Labour party has also in the past implemented broadly socialist policies: the welfare state, National Health Service, nationalising key industries, progressive income tax policy, minimum wage, equality legislation.

All those things suggest it has in the past been a party with socialist values. But it has never advocated or implemented an economy-wide move towards common ownership of the means of production. And it has always taken the parliamentary route to reform rather than a revolutionary route to socialism.

Also, its electoral manifestos had not contained the word “socialism” since 1992, before Corbyn and his supporters started using the term a bit more (though he and his allies in Parliament call themselves “democratic socialists”).

Before 1995, Clause IV of the Labour constitution entrenched its socialist values:

“To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

But then Tony Blair mooted a replacement when he became leader, which was agreed upon at a special conference in Easter 1995 after a debate:

“The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.”

So now, the Labour party is less socialist. “Social democrats” are usually how more centrist left wing politicians in western democracies are described – and how most Labour MPs would identify. But Corbyn and his allies often use the description: “democratic socialist”.

Wikimedia Commons

In the EU, One in Five People in Prison Haven’t Yet Been Found Guilty of Any Crime

From Open Society Foundations - Europe. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Why are courts using pretrial detention as a first resort rather than a last one?

In the EU, One in Five People in Prison Haven’t Yet Been Found Guilty of Any Crime

From Open Society Foundations - European Union. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Why are courts using pretrial detention as a first resort rather than a last one?

There are only two rules for an evening drink: it must be bitter, and it must be cold

By Nina Caplan from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

A Negroni is the aperitif of choice in bars everywhere from London to Palermo - and no wonder.

The aperitif has the odd distinction of being the only alcohol that can always rely on a sober audience: it is the opener, the stimulant, a spur to the appetite for good food and good conversation. This preparatory beverage is considered the height of sophistication, and certainly nobody labouring in field or factory ever required a pep to their evening appetite. Still, to take a drink before one starts drinking is hardly clever behaviour. So why do it?

One reason is surely the wish to separate the working day from the evening’s leisure, an increasingly pressing matter as we lose the ability to switch off. This may change the nature of the aperitif, which was generally supposed to be light, in alcohol and character. Once, one was expected to quaff a pre-dinner drink and go in to dine with faculties and taste buds intact; now, it might be more important for those who want an uninterrupted meal to get preprandially plastered. That way, your colleagues may contact you but they won’t get much sense out of you, and pretty soon they’ll give up and bother someone else.

The nicest thing about the aperitif, and the most dangerous, is that it doesn’t follow rules. It’s meant to be low in alcohol, but nobody ever accused a gin and tonic or a Negroni (Campari, gin and vermouth in equal portions) of that failing; and sherry, which is a fabulous aperitif (not least because you can keep drinking it until the meal or the bottle ends), has more degrees of alcohol than most wines. An aperitif should not be heavily perfumed or flavoured, for fear of spoiling your palate, yet some people love pastis, the French aniseed drink that goes cloudy in water, and that you can practically smell across the Channel. They say the scent actually enhances appetite.

Really only two rules apply. An aperitif should be bitter – or, at any rate, it shouldn’t be sweet, whatever the fans of red vermouth may tell you. And it must be cold. Warm drinks such as Cognac and port are for after dinner. Not for nothing did Édith Piaf warble, in “Mon apéro”, about drowning her amorous disappointments in aperitifs: fail to cool your passions before sharing a table, and you belong with the barbarians.

On the other hand, conversing with your nearest over a small snack and an appropriate beverage, beyond the office and before the courtesies and complications of the dinner table, is the essence of cultured behaviour. If, as is sometimes thought, civilisation has a pinnacle, surely it has a chilled apéro carefully balanced on top.

The received wisdom is that the French and Italians, with their apéritifs and aperitivos, are the experts in these kinds of drinks. Certainly the latter are partial to their Aperol spritzes, and the former to such horrid, wine-based tipples as Lillet and Dubonnet. But the English are good at gin and the Americans invented the Martini. As for Spain, tapas were originally snacks atop a covering that kept the flies out of one’s pre-dinner drink: tapa means lid.

Everywhere, it seems, as evening approaches, people crave a drink that in turn will make them salivate: bitterness, the experts tell us, prepares the mouth to welcome food. The word “bitter” may come from “bite”, in which case the aperitif’s place before dinner is assured.

I like to think that a good one enables the drinker to drown all sour feelings, and go in to dinner cleansed and purified. Fanciful, perhaps. But what better lure to fancy than a beverage that exists only to bring on the evening’s pleasures?

Nina Caplan is the Louis Roederer Pio Cesare Food and Wine Writer of the Year

NANCY JO IACOI/GALLERY STOCK

Will the Sugar Tax actually work?

By Jon Woods from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

The Sugar Tax is opportunistic, expensive and unlikely to achieve its stated goals, says Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland 

Clearly, one of the issues we face as a society is obesity, and specifically  childhood obesity. It’s an issue  that occupies the minds of everybody in  the food and drink industry, and as a  manufacturer we want to help people  make good choices about what they eat  and drink.

 We launched Diet Coke almost 30  years ago, before people were talking  about obesity, when people talked about  calories and Jane Fonda workouts. And  really, we launched Diet Coke back then  because we read consumer sentiment:  people increasingly wanted a low- calorie option. Diet Coke went from  a tiny part of the business in the UK  to almost half of the cola we sell today,  along with the other no-sugar Coca- Cola we make, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.  Most soft drinks manufacturers have  been reducing sugar in their drinks, and  that’s reflected by the market: between  2004 and 2014 sales of full-sugar soft  drinks fell by 44 per cent. And yet, in  the same period, obesity rates increased  by about four per cent. So it’s pretty  hard to argue that soft drinks are the  sole cause and need special attention. 

Further research, from the analysts at  Kantar, says firstly that soft drinks  contribute less than three per cent of the  total calories in the UK diet, and secondly  that the sugar coming from soft drinks  purchases has fallen by 16 per cent since  2012. The decline in full-sugar soft drinks  over the past 10 years has been massive,  a double-digit decline in four years – but  total sugar consumption has fallen  much more slowly, and in the last few  years it’s been broadly flat.  

Why is this happening? I can’t speak  for the rest of the industry, but I can say  why sugar from soft drinks is declining.  We’re in a competitive business, and we  win by offering consumers the drinks  that they want: better tasting, lower- sugar variants. Consumers are  increasingly aware of their diets, and  zero-sugar alternatives are widely  available and competitively priced.  

It doesn’t seem logical to create a tax  that focuses on only some of the sugar  we consume. It’s targeted specifically at  soft drinks (and even then not all soft  drinks, with milkshakes and coffee- drinks being exempt) – the one category  which has reduced sugar significantly.  Why target the one success story that  has already cut sugar by 44 per cent?  

Sugar taxes have been tried in other  countries, without much success. The soft drinks tax in Mexico gets talked  about most often. On average, it reduced  Mexicans’ daily calorie intake by just six  calories per day. In the UK, Oxford  Economics has predicted that the levy  will reduce calories by on average five  calories per person per day. Five calories  is a bite of an apple. Coca-Cola has been in the UK for  more than 100 years. The work we do  across our 11 sites, including our six  manufacturing plants, from East  Kilbride in Scotland to Sidcup in Kent,  delivers £1bn in revenue to the  Exchequer, mainly through VAT and  corporation tax. With our bottler  partner, we employ 4,000 people in the  UK, and for every one of our employees,  we create eight further jobs through our supply chain. We invest about £50m a year in our operations here and spend  around £800m a year with 8,500 UK  suppliers, from farmers to packaging  suppliers. All of this is made less  affordable by the tax. Ultimately the sugar tax is a hugely  expensive and damaging policy. As  someone involved in running a very  large business I’m not interested in  symbolic gestures, but in trying to make  a real difference in the real world. To me  this is reformulating and launching new  lower or no sugar drinks - as we’ve done  with 28 drinks since 2005, and using  our marketing to attract people to  lower-calorie alternatives. These are  difficult, expensive measures, they take  large numbers of people working  around the UK to implement and they  create real results: the sugar tax will  only make this investment harder. 

For more on the Sugar Tax, search #canthetax. 

“How to leave the Labour party”: Google’s top search about Labour on the eve of its conference

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Searching for a way out.

Your mole, readjusting its spectacles and blinking bemusedly at its palmtop, doesn’t usually have much truck with what the great tech disrupters of today suggest is “trending”. Ever since its hashtag campaign, #notallmoles, failed to take off, it’s been more than a little cynical about the relative popularity of things online.

But it was amused to read Google’s announcement today that its most-searched question about Labour in the UK is currently: “How to leave the Labour party”.

On the eve of Labour’s annual party conference, it does seem bleakly poignant. But perhaps a more effective search for Labour members who are getting cold feet would be “How to get purged from the Labour party”. It’ll be a more efficient process, that’s for sure.

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L’islamophobie en Europe

From Open Society Foundations - Europe. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Bien que le terme soit encore disputé, l’islamophobie en Europe se manifeste au travers d’une variété d’attitudes et d’actes, ainsi que dans les politiques et pratiques de certaines organisations et institutions.

L’islamophobie en Europe

From Open Society Foundations - European Union. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Bien que le terme soit encore disputé, l’islamophobie en Europe se manifeste au travers d’une variété d’attitudes et d’actes, ainsi que dans les politiques et pratiques de certaines organisations et institutions.

A guide to the top ten London Film Festival screenings you should go and see

By Ryan Gilbey from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Some of the most-celebrated films on at the 60th year of the BFI London Film Festival are sold out. Here are the ones that are still available – and worth seeing.

Feeling panicked because you haven’t booked any tickets yet for the 60th BFI London Film Festival, which is now less than two weeks away? Confused because you don’t know your Chi-Raq from your Paterson? Fed up that the movies you have heard good things about (La La Land, Toni Erdmann) are all sold out? Sick to the back teeth of being asked rhetorical questions which presume to know your state of mind?

Fear not. Below is a handy, whistle-stop guide to ten promising festival screenings for which, at the time of writing, there are still plentiful tickets to be had.

Being 17

Veteran director André Téchiné delivers what is rumoured to be one of his best films: a tantalising and exuberant tale of two teenage boys engaged in a mysterious mutual antagonism.

Elle

All hail the return of master provocateur Paul Verhoeven with this highly-regarded psychological thriller starring Isabelle Huppert as a woman whose response to being attacked is unorthodox and full-blooded.

Frantz

The mischievous writer-director Francois Ozon is always a good bet. I’ve heard two things from friends and colleagues about his new film, a wartime drama. First, that it’s brilliant. And second, that it is best watched without knowing anything about it beforehand—not even the name of the play on which it is loosely based. So I’m passing on those tidbits to you.

Heal the Living

Love Like Poison was a subtle and deeply affecting coming-of-age story set in rural France. Now that film’s director, Katell Quillévéré, returns with a drama about the emotional complications arising from organ donation.

King Cobra

A real-life murder case was the inspiration for this seamy but sensitive journey into the world of gay porn, in which a deadly tug-of-war ensues over a hot new teenage star. The cast includes James Franco, Christian Slater and Alicia Silverstone.

Mindhorn

Anyone who saw Mighty Boosh star Julian Barratt in Will Sharpe’s brilliant Channel 4 show Flowers earlier this year will know that he has developed new muscles as an actor. That bodes well for this comedy, which he also co-wrote, and in which he plays a washed-up actor recreating his best role – a detective with a robotic eye.

Moonlight

The acclaim from the Toronto Film Festival for this story of an African-American boy growing up gay in 1980s Miami has been deafening.

Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart gave a revelatory performance as personal assistant to a lofty actor (Juliette Binoche) in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria. Now she’s sticking with Assayas and keeping it personal by playing a shopper to the stars, with a supernatural element thrown in – she’s a medium hoping to make contact with her dead twin brother.

Raw

Universal Pictures has snapped up this bizarre-sounding French-Belgian drama about a teenage veterinary student turned cannibal.

The Reunion

I’ve heard only good things about this tender love story set in Madrid, with one colleague even describing it as a Spanish Before Sunrise. Praise doesn’t come much higher.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5-16 October.

Still from Being 17

Meet the MPs' favourite restaurateur: "Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith will get free pudding if they make up"

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

The Kebab Awards founder plans to stand as an MP at the next election. 

In a backstreet near the London Eye, unbeknownst to the tourists milling around, sits the best-connected man in politics. When Ibrahim Dogus first arrived in Britain in the early nineties with his Kurdish family, he was a teenage refugee who could barely speak English. 

Two decades on, his bustling restaurant Troia, where we are sitting, is responsible for sustaining the leaders of this country. And Dogus, as a successful entrepreneur, has their ear. 

“We get everybody,” Dogus said. “We get Tory people, the SNP, the Lib Dems - when they were larger in number they came here a lot. I haven’t seen Caroline Lucas, but Jean Lambert [the Green MEP for London] is a good friend.

And then there’s Labour. Dogus, a party member, is preparing to host Owen Smith’s thank you party. Jeremy Corbyn celebrated his victory in the very same place last year. Ed Balls held his book launch at another Dogus restaurant, Westminster Kitchen. The Miliband brothers both pop in, although not together. 

“Jeremy is the best regular,” Dogus said. “Stephen Kinnock is great. These two come every week.” 

Dogus has in fact known Corbyn for two decades. They first met when, as a student in north London, he spoke at a National Union of Teachers meeting on Turkey and the Kurds.

“They didn’t tell me that the local MP was coming to speak,” Dogus remembered. “When they told me at the last minute I started to sweat. I was 16-17 years old and I was on a panel with Jeremy Corbyn.”

The embattled Labour leader is “a great guy”, he insists: “He is genuine. He is sincere. He is very open. 

“You can talk to him if you see him on the street. You don’t need to know him - you can say hi.”

Despite the bitter battle between Labour’s left and right taking place in the media sphere, Dogus is adamant that, when it comes to his restaurant at least, things remain civil. “They all seem to get on well,” he said.

He would like to see Corbyn and Smith sit down for a meal together. Referring to the restaurant where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown struck their infamous pact, he declared: “Troia could be the Granita  - in a good way for the party. 

“I think the two leadership candidates could come for a nice meal and start rebuilding the party as a united force.”

And if they can come to an arrangement? “I will give them a free dessert and a glass of ayran,” he pledged.

If Corbyn and Smith did book a table for two, Dogus has plenty of advice for Labour from the restaurant trade. “Teamwork is key. If there are lots of arguments, or secret plots by chefs or waiting staff, the restaurant is destined to fail. But if people work in harmony, they have a better chance. And it is good for customers - in this case the public - to have a united team.”

Consistency is also important: “We shouldn’t keep changing our ideas. And word of mouth is key. When you have a good idea, people will talk about it. This way the message will get across. It is the same with restaurants.”

Talking to Dogus, it doesn't take long to realise his interest in politics is much deeper than simply his MP regulars. 

He has founded a thinktank, the Centre for Turkey Studies, made the British Kebab Awards a date in every parliamentarian’s diary, and chairs the group SMEs For Labour. He believes the UK should celebrate immigrant success more, and must be more aware of the impact of its foreign policy in Turkey and other areas of the Middle East. 

In the EU referendum, he backed Remain – his business relies on many European workers – and would like a say on the final deal. “I think the country deserves a second chance,” he told me. “When we know what is on the table, I think the Government should consider coming back for a second vote.

He quotes the Government, restaurant-style: "This is the end product. Would you like to taste it?”

Come 2020, it could be Dogus joining the MP diners at their table. “I am interested in standing,” he said. “Hopefully, at the next election, I will apply for a seat to run.” If he is anything as good at running a campaign as he is a restaurant, that's something for Labour to cheer.

 

Ibrahim Dogus

Which companies are making driverless cars, and what are their competing visions for the future?

By Hasan Chowdhury from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

An increasing number of tech giants are populating the driverless car market. Where do each of them stand on ambition, innovation, and safety?

The driverless car has metamorphosed from a superfluous autonomous machine to the vehicle of choice for tech giants hoping to boast their technical prowess and visionary thinking.

The name of the Silicon Valley game has always been innovation, and the chance to merge quadruped hardware with self-regulating software has offered companies a new way to reinvent themselves and their visions. A new means by which to edge each other out in a race to the top of a Fritz Lang-style global metropolis, whose technocratic ruler would be the company capable of aligning their driverless transportation dreams with those of the public.

Racing quite literally out of the blocks in this race to showcase its driverless vehicles has been Uber. Having already expanded its operations as a taxi service from the streets of San Francisco to more than 300 countries worldwide, Uber went and pushed out its sample line of driverless cars in Pittsburgh last week.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has previously stated that the need for the company to delve into driverless cars is “basically existential”, which explains why Uber seems to be so keen to come out with a working model first. It’s a vision that seeks to cut the cost of ride-hailing by slashing the cost of human drivers, and hopes to offer a safer alternative for passengers who must place an unwarranted trust in a driver they’ve never met to shuttle them safely to their destinations.

Uber’s driverless cars are designed with Volvo, and currently require technicians at hand for potential intervention, but aims to phase these out. It has had the distinct advantage of analysing data from all the road miles made by Uber drivers so far. If Uber has its way, car ownership could be a thing of the past. Speaking to Reuters, an Uber spokesperson confirmed this, saying: “Our goal is to replace private car ownership.”

There are a number of issues at hand with Uber’s approach. The fleet of cars displayed in Pittsburgh was in fact not a fleet – there was a grand total of four for viewing, making it impossible to visualise how a fully-fledged system would work.

A more pressing issue is Uber’s timeframe: in comparison to other companies in the market, Uber is aiming for mass-market spread within a few years – far too soon according to experts who think that safety measures will be compromised, and adherence to future regulations avoided, as a result. Uber currently lacks an ethics committee, creating a grey area in determining what happens if one of these cars is involved in an accident.

Perhaps demonstrating even greater ambition, given its sheer dominance over the market, is Google. Taking on the challenge of autonomy and safety on busy city streets, Google seems to be well-equipped given its unrivalled mapping data.

First revealed in 2010, Google’s self-driving car project is expected to come into service sometime in the 2020s. Accidents and traffic could be a thing of the past, they say. Chris Urmson, who headed the project until recently, believes that these cars will work based on a positive feedback system, one which allows them to improve the more they are put into practice. As one car learns, every car will learn. Shared data means the rate of improvement for Google’s driverless cars will be exponential.

Showing no sign of a slow-up in its ambitions, Apple, a company which has found a way into the psyche of its acolytes, is thought to be getting involved in the cars of the future too. Links have been made between Apple and McLaren, with a £1.2bn acquisition rumoured. It would come as no surprise if Apple did this; its greatest successes came in convincing consumers that they needed their products, and a possible iCar could do the same.

A tamer approach to driverless cars is coming from the companies who identify themselves as automotive ones as opposed to tech ones. Tesla has led the pack with its driver-assist technology. Its Model S is “designed to get better over time”, using a “unique combination of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and data to automatically steer down the highway, change lanes, and adjust speed in response to traffic”.

Following the first death of a person in an autopilot mode Tesla Model S car in May this year, the media and consumers were quick to issue warnings over the safety of the Tesla autopilot mode. Though Tesla CEO Elon Musk was quick to offer his condolences to the family of Joshua Brown, the driver who crashed in the vehicle in Florida, he was firm in his insistence that Tesla was not to blame. Musk explained that this was the first documented death of a person in a Tesla on autopilot mode after an accumulative total of 130 million miles driven by its customers, whereas “among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles”.

When put into perspective, it’s clear to see how a paranoid hysteria surrounds the rolling out of driverless vehicles. Safety has always been one of the key proponents for their use; by removing the risk of human error, we are able to create a safer road environment, as highlighted by Musk.

Earlier this year, Ford launched Ford Smart Mobility – its start-up-styled initiative designed to encourage ride sharing. By creating a small subset team to work on the technology, Ford is safeguarding itself from unforeseeable failures with driverless cars by maintaining its production of normal ones. Its cars have had elements of automation introduced incrementally, such as implanted sensors that enable these cars to park themselves. Ford hopes to have some sort of ride-sharing service in action by 2021.

BMW, Volvo and Audi are taking the cautious road too. BMW is making use of GPS to chart safe routes for its cars. In comparison to Google’s mapping, BMW’s system seems much more primitive, suggesting that the pace of development is dictated by accessibility to technology beyond vehicles. Volvo focuses on safety too and hopes that Volvo cars will be involved in no accidents by 2020 due to automation.

As we enter a market in which the top tech companies will be meeting at crossroads in their driverless cars, competing visions and levels of ambition will create a new relationship of trust between consumers and driverless car producers. There is no doubt that driverless cars will be here to stay, our roads one day teeming with passengers who get to relax on the roads. Taking your hands off the wheel will eventually become the norm, but don’t expect to be free-wheeling worldwide for a while yet.

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George Osborne's star hire Jim O'Neill quits the Treasury

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

The former Goldman Sachs economist was an advocate of the Northern Powerhouse. 

Jim O'Neill, an influential economist, has resigned from his role as commercial Secretary to the Treasury.

O'Neill, also known as Lord O'Neill of Gatley, was hired by George Osborne after the 2015 election. 

A longstanding Goldman Sachs economist, who coined the acronym Brics to describe the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, he embodied the internationally-minded world of high finance. 

After Osborne was sacked by Theresa May in July, O'Neill became a lone voice for Osbornomics.

He demanded the continuation of Osborne's treasured "Northern Powerhouse" project, and was reportedly a critic of the May Government's approach to China during its reconsideration of the Hinkley Point nuclear plant plan. 

In July a friend of O'Neill told the FT bluntly: "He's considering why he has been asked to stay."

O'Neill's departure marks another shift away from the easy relationship the previous Government enjoyed with the City, and its focus on becoming a global headquarters for banks and other financial institutions.

Osborne in particular had prioritised the relationship with China, introducing legislation that eased operations for Chinese banks in the UK and encouraging Chinese investment.

Jon Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister without Portfolio, described O'Neill's resignation as a blow for May: “A much respected minister has not only walked out on her after just three months, but even more damning, has abandoned the Tory party altogether over her divisive lurch to the right in attempting to bring back grammar schools. If Theresa May had any sense she would ditch this regressive policy now. 

“What's more, his reported concerns over Hinkley and the Northern Powerhouse is yet more evidence of a Prime Minister whose basic competence is more and more being called into question.”

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How I will use my brother Bernie Sanders's fame to fight David Cameron's seat

By Serena Kutchinsky from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

The next destination for Sanders fans – Witney.

The Green Party has selected the brother of the US Democratic senator, Bernie Sanders, as their candidate to run in David Cameron’s old seat in the forthcoming Witney and West Oxfordshire by-election.

Larry Sanders, 82, is the Green Party’s health spokesperson and has lived in Oxford since 1969. An experienced local councillor, he been enjoying a burst of unexpected fame off the back of his brother’s high-profile, if ultimately unsuccessful, bid for the US presidency.

Cited by his brother as a defining political influence, Sanders gave a speech at the American Democratic Convention in July which moved the former presidential candidate to tears, the moment captured on camera then went viral.

“It’s true that I have got all this publicity because of him [Bernie] and I now feel more energised,” he said. “The more votes we get the better, of course, but this is an opportunity for people to hear what the Green Party is saying both locally and nationally.”

Sanders last ran as a candidate in the neighbouring Oxford West and Abingdon constituency in 2015, where he finished fifth. He doesn’t expect the result in Witney to be much different — the party gained a mere five per cent of the vote in 2015 — but plans to use it as an opportunity to highlight issues around the NHS and social care.

“The NHS is going downhill rapidly and it’s hard to get the message through,” he said, describing the battle between the junior doctors and the government over the threatened imposition of new contracts as a “political scam.”

“Jeremy Hunt  is doing cheap politics, there are cuts coming to local services all over the country, so they created this fantasy of a seven-day NHS to stop people talking about the cuts. There’s not enough funding in the system to support a seven-day service so there is no happy solution — the junior doctors say the NHS will be worse off under the new system, and it’s bad for patients if the doctors strike. Everyone seems to be advising the doctors on what they should do, but hardly anybody is putting pressure on Hunt, so that what I intend to do everywhere I get a chance to be heard.”

Bernie is unlikely to make an appearance on the campaign trail for his older brother— he’s a bit busy finishing a book, campaigning for Hillary Clinton and supporting around 100 candidates in the US elections through his new political organisation Our Revolution. But, there is a chance he might make a virtual appearance to help drum up interest in his brother’s candidacy.

“During my last campaign [in 2015] he Skyped in his from his office. He said nice things about me and answered questions from audience. We will see if we can do something similar but as a foreign politician he’s probably not  allowed to say which candidate he supports even if it's his brother."

Sanders faces a tough struggle against the Conservative candidate, Robert Courts, 37, a barrister who lives in the area and has served as West Oxfordshire District Councillor since 2014.  The Conservatives currently boasts a  majority of 25,000 in the seat and Sanders admits he will have to work hard to even keep his party’s deposit. “The Conservatives are good at fielding glossy men in suits in Witney and he [Courts] can lose a lot of vote without having to work very much, but I will do my best to land a few punches.”

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How much more trouble will the three Brexiteers cause for Theresa May?

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Downing Street has already been forced to publicly rebuke Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.

When Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox to her cabinet, there was much talk of her political savvy. The prime minister, it was said, had embraced the Pottery Barn rule: "you break it, you own it". Rather than handing key posts to Remainers, she charged the Leavers with making Brexit work.

But this theory was always overplayed. As an interventionist prime minister, it was May herself who would lead the epic task of withdrawal (a point she underlined by taking charge of a Brexit cabinet committee). Her decision to nevertheless hand significant responsibility to the Leavers would, some warned, undermine her.

The sceptics are now claiming vindication. Since becoming prime minister two months, Downing Street has been forced to publicly rebuke each of the three Brexiteers. Johnson, to the surprise of some, completed the hat-trick last night. After stating that the UK would trigger Article 50 "in the early part of next year" and suggesting that withdrawal could completed before the two-year deadline, the Foreign Secretary was swiftly admonished. "The decision to trigger Article 50 is hers," a No.10 source said. "She will be doing it at a time when she believes it is in the best interest for Britain."

Before Johnson's freelancing, Davis was similarly scolded for remarking that single market membership was "very improbable" if the UK was unable to control free movement. "He is setting out his view that it is improbable," a Downing Street official pointedly stated. "The prime minister’s view is that we should be ambitious and go after the best deal we can."

A few days later, Fox ventured that British business was "too lazy and too fat" to drive a buccaneering nation. Once again, No.10 was forced to emphasise that the trade secretary's views were very much his own. "The Prime Minister wants to make sure the government is looking at how we can create opportunities for British businesses overseas."

At present, these differences have been limited to process and analysis, rather than policy. May's allies privately recognise that it is "very improbable" that the UK will be able to maintain single market membership (as opposed to "access") and control free movement. Davis, a candid man, was merely stating what most in Westminster regard as obvious. 

But the more time passes, the harder it will be for the prime minister to prevent greater differences surfacing. A defining choice, for instance, is whether the UK leaves the customs union, a possibility that dismays business but which is a prerequisite for Fox's free trading ambitions. The risk for May is that rather than "fixing" the problem she has inherited, the Brexiteers leave it broken. And she will very much own it.

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A damning report on grammar schools pits Theresa May against the experts

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

Grammar schools are not just unrepresentative, they do nothing to change educational standards. 

Theresa May’s plans to introduce grammar schools will have no difference on national attainment – and may squeeze out places for the poorest children. 

That’s the findings of the Education Policy Institute, after an intensive study of grammar school demographics, and achievement levels. 

It concluded: “This result suggests that additional grammar schools are not a good intervention for raising average standards across a schools system.”

Grammar schools are unrepresentative of the local community, the report found. Just 2.5 per cent of grammar school pupils on free school meals, compared to an average of 13.2 per cent in state-funded high schools as a whole. 

Pupils from mixed white, Indian and Chinese backgrounds are over-represented, while white British and Black Caribbean backgrounds are under-represented. 

Damningly for May, the report also pulled apart the idea of quotas for families who are, in her words, “just managing”. It said: 

A quota system could also present a political challenge, as well as a practical challenge in terms of defining a new group of "just about managing" households. The Government would also need to consider steps to ensure that children from lower income working households did not simply displace children from the poorest non-working households.

While the report did not find grammar schools on their own had a negative effect on national attainment, this seems to be due to their relatively small number. 

In the most selective areas, by contrast, the report found pupils who did not go to grammar schools had an average of 0.6 grades lower at GCSE subjects, and the effect was magnified for children on free school meals. 

Although grammar school pupils did do better than average, the report said this was mainly down to the fact they had been picked for their academic aptitude. Similarly high-attaining pupils in comprehensive schools performed just as well. 

Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called May’s education policies divisive: “Her plans for new grammar schools have been universally panned by experts.” This latest report suggests she is right. 

 

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Politicians and fashion? Why their approach can be telling

By Dylan Jones from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

My week, from spying on the spies to Theresa May’s fashion charm offensive – and how Sadiq stole hearts.

About nine months ago I was asked if I wanted to spend a morning with Zac Goldsmith, as he appeared to be wakening from the slumber that had obviously taken hold of him when he decided to run for mayor of London. However, after about three minutes in his company (maybe less, actually) I realised that not even his campaign team – let alone voters in the Borough of Southwark – thought he had a hope in hell of winning.

There was only ever going to be one winner, and the enthusiasm with which Sadiq Khan has been greeted by London has been heartwarming. He won the politician award at GQ’s Men of the Year Awards a few weeks ago, and I’d never heard such a roar as he leapt up on stage to collect it. Well, I’ve heard such roars for the likes of Michael Caine, Elton John and Amy Schumer, but rarely for a politician. In fact, the last time there was such fulsome applause for a politician at the GQ awards was when we gave one to a pre-Sextator David Blunkett. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised: the last time Noel Gallagher graced us with his presence, he asked: “Is this what a Conservative party conference looks like?”

 

On the dole

The recent past is being hauled over so repeatedly that soon there are going to be ­retrospectives of events that happened only last week. Or next week. On paper, the new exhibition at the V&A in London, entitled “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970”, seemed slightly behind the curve, but the reality is very different – as it’s probably the best exhibition you’ll see in London this year.

This is all down to the curation, which was handled by Geoffrey Marsh and Victoria Broackes, the wizards behind “David Bowie Is”, the most successful show in the V&A’s history. It’s a terrific exhibition, although being reminded of the cultural and political insurrection of the Sixties also reminds you of the period’s seemingly innate optimism as a new London was mushrooming into life. Winston Churchill was dead, abortion was about to be made legal and the rise in happiness seemed exponential. Britain was experiencing almost full employment (though the government wobbled slightly in the spring of 1966 when it was announced that the jobless total had gone up to half a million). It never occurred to anyone that there might not be a job
waiting for them when they left school or their red-brick university.

 

Priced out

There certainly won’t be a house waiting for them, not if they intend to live in London. The marketing bods behind the new development at Battersea Power Station came in to make a presentation at Vogue House a few weeks ago, showing us lots of slides and videos about their fabulous ­development. There’s a Frank Gehry this and a Frank Gehry that, a swimming pool, a private members’ club and lots of artisanal independent retailers selling organic rhubarb and fancy beer, blah blah blah.

Their roll-call of “good things” included the ominous words “affordable housing”, but this appears to be anything but. After the presentation, I promptly stuck my hand up and asked them what they actually meant by affordable housing. The answer I got wasn’t satisfactory, so I asked again: “What does your entry-level accommodation cost?” And the very charming man with the lapel-mike coughed apologetically and almost whispered, “£350,000.” At which point I made my excuses and left.

The idea that my daughters can one day get on the property ladder in London is pure fantasy, and they certainly won’t be living in Battersea, or indeed anywhere near it.

 

Back in fashion

Last Thursday, Theresa May hosted her first reception at Downing Street for the British fashion industry, an event that usually takes place twice a year, and which is attended by fashion designers, industry figures, newspaper and magazine editors and the like. ­Samantha Cameron was always a significant supporter of the sector (which contributes more to the country’s GDP than the car industry), as was Sarah Brown before her, and it is instructive that May has decided to follow in their footsteps.

It’s also telling that Mrs Cameron was not only invited to the event at No 10 but turned up, which says a lot about both women. Theresa May is a fundamentally shy person, yet she not only made a pitch-perfect speech in front of a Brexit-sensitive (and quite possibly suspicious) crowd, but chose to embrace the opportunity to espouse the growing importance of an industry that was so closely associated with the wife of her predecessor. There is such a lot of noise at the moment surrounding the PM’s apparent lack of interest in remaining on good terms with David Cameron, so one wonders what, if anything, is going on here. Taken at face value, May’s move at the reception was extremely classy.

 

The spying game

The following day I found myself in Cheltenham for a five-hour briefing on counterterrorism, cyber-defence, drug smuggling and child kidnapping at GCHQ.

I had expected the place to be like the Foreign Office, but it’s actually more like Google, Apple or Nike, and feels as though it could easily be a campus on America’s “Left Coast”.

There is an incredible sense of purpose at GCHQ, a feeling that they are all working for the common good, and frankly I found it infectious. While the denizens of Silicon Valley might be very adept at pushing the frontiers of consumerism, designing training shoes, telephones and algorithms, it felt far more appropriate to be spending time with men and women obsessed with making the world safer.

Dylan Jones is the editor-in-chief of GQ and a trustee of the Hay Festival

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The law is finally protecting renters from rogue landlords - now enforce it

By Campbell Robb from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 23, 2016.

A million private renters reported landlords breaking the law last year. 

With home ownership a distant dream for a growing number of people, and access to social housing increasingly rationed, more and more people are being forced to rent from a private landlord. Life as a private tenant can be tough. In much of the country, rents are eye wateringly high and difficult to pay for even those on middle incomes. And our renting laws leave millions of families stuck in short-term tenancies, unable to put down roots in a home they know they will be able to live for the long-term.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, too often private renters get shoddy service. For too many that’s not having their basic rights met, but for some it’s criminal.

New research out today from Shelter reveals the extent of this problem and shows that an estimated a million private renters have been victim to law-breaking landlords over the past year. When surveyed the equivalent of over 600,000 renters say a landlord has entered their property without permission or notice, over 200,000 say they’ve been subjected to harassment, and shockingly 50,000 reported that their landlord has thrown their belongings out of their property and changed the locks.

Of course, only a minority of landlords engage in these illegal practices, but to date, far too many tenants have been forced to put up with them. Our advisers frequently hear from renters facing landlords looking to bend and break the law – and more often than not renters feel vulnerable and powerless.

Take Linda from Chesterfield. After leaving a property she wanted her deposit back. She wasn’t having any joy so used a template letter from Shelter’s website and contacted the landlord formally – which she did twice and was ignored both times. Linda escalated the issue to the small claims court, followed a number of different legal routes and had to pay for legal advice in order to eventually get it back. You shouldn’t have to be a part-time housing lawyer to get your deposit back, and yet our survey shows that over 370,000 people over the last year have paid their deposit to a landlord which has not been protected by a government scheme.

Linda’s story also highlights that we’re not just talking about a London issue here, but a problem across England. Our survey showed that, whilst the highest proportion of complaints came from London, one in six renters from the East of England were victim to law breaking landlords, one in seven in the North East and one in eight in the South West.

New enforcement powers introduced earlier this year are an opportunity to really crack down on the rogue landlords who persist in the sector. For the first time, it is going to be possible to ban rogue landlords from letting out property. And, if they breach a ban, there will also be the new threat of a custodial sentence for the worst offenders.

Making legislation more robust in favour of renters is clearly a move in the right direction. Not only is it necessary in order to protect people, but it would be popular as generations slide back into a system of renting instead of home ownership.

There’s more that renters themselves can also do. What’s clear from our research is that renters too often don’t know their rights, and so power can weigh in favour of rogue and irresponsible landlords who know how to play the system and manipulate their tenants. Renters can change this by getting in touch with organisations like Shelter and understanding their rights and their legal situation more thoroughly.

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The Fight to Vote in a Southern Swing State

By Vann R. Newkirk II from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 26, 2016.

For the past three years, North Carolina has been embroiled in conflict over restrictive voting laws that target African Americans. As a southern swing state, its residents’ votes will be significant in the 2016 election. In this video, Atlantic politics writer Vann R. Newkirk II, along with his younger brother, travels around North Carolina to talk to citizens about their hopes and anxieties surrounding the upcoming election.

The SNP are championing Waspi women - so why don't they fix pensions themselves?

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

Soon it will be harder to knock Westminster on pensions. 

Few issues demonstrate how comprehensibly Labour has left the field of political debate, and the consequences, than that of pensions.

Older people are more inclined to vote and therefore have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of elections, particularly referendums given recent experience.

So it was a smart move by the party to pick up the matter of women’s pension age.

Women Against State Pension Age Inequality (Waspi) was a protest movement gathering momentum when Barbara Keeley first brought their plight to parliament last December. In the Lords Joan Bakewell took up the same cause reading out a string of heartbreaking testimonies she’d received from women in their 60s forced to work when their health was failing or claiming benefits for the first time in their lives.

Their complaint is not that state pension age is being equalised but that a certain cohort of women born in the 1950s are bearing the brunt of it and were not given adequate information before changes to their entitlement were implement.

One of the starker examples given is that a woman born in February 1953 would have retired at the start of this year while her sister born 12 months later has to work three-and-a-half years longer before drawing her pension.

About 2.6m women are affected.

The then shadow pensions minister Nick Thomas-Symonds and his impressive team took up the issue as Waspi grew in size and influence. By the start of the year MPs from all parties were being contacted by angry constituents affected.

At which point Jeremy Corbyn reshuffled his team and gave the pensions brief to Angela Rayner. Her press man said she needed a couple of weeks to get to grips with the issues. But a high profile debate on the issue had been scheduled to take place in the House of Commons within days of her appointment.

And here’s the thing. That debate was called by the SNP.

They’d sniffed something and figured hitching their wagon to Waspi could have a number of happy outcomes for them.

Labour should’ve muscled them aside. Instead it stood aside.

So keen on the Waspi issue were the SNP that they gave Mhairi Black the lead on it, having previously only sprinkled her political stardust sparingly.

She and the SNP took ownership of the issue and they are determined to lead to victory. This week, they published the results of research they commissioned from Landman Economics setting out what can be done to help the Waspi women and the costs of each option.

The SNP’s preferred option is to ignore George Osborne’s 2011 act speeding up the equalisation process and set the clock back to 1995 when the policy and timetable were first announced. This would see women’s pension age hit 66 in 2026 rather than 2020.

That plan is costed at £8bn, significantly less than the £30bn quoted by the government to pay for the Waspi campaign’s demands. The SNP claim it can be paid for out of the National Insurance Fund which currently has a surplus balance approaching £30bn.

So even if Labour have flaked, the Waspi women at least know the SNP care about them.

Except the SNP only care about one thing – independence.

Nothing wrong with that, it’s their raison d’etre. But they are only interested in pensions as a means to an end.

The Scottish independence referendum of 2014, like the European referendum just passed, was won and lost among the old.

Pensioners didn’t trust the SNP with their pensions. They bought the Better Together claim that their income was more secure in the UK, because pensions remain reserved, paid in and out on a UK basis.

The SNP know that if they’re ever going to win a referendum they need an answer on pensions. Their answer is that Westminster can’t be trusted to pay you what you’re due, and that the Nationalists can – even though the latter part can’t actually be tested till after the event of an independence vote.

Trashing Westminster worked pretty well for the Brexiteers so it’s easy to see why it appeals to the SNP too. (Though neither of those groups would ever admit to having anything in common).

But there is another way.

Welfare powers are coming to Holyrood, still controlled by the SNP as it has been for nearly 10 years.

Under the Scotland Act, the Scottish parliament will have the ability to create new benefits, as long as it pays for them.

Ahead of the Holyrood election in May, Scottish Labour pledged to use the new powers to create a top up specifically aimed at women apparently hard done by at the hands of pension age changes. Around 100,000 Scottish women would be eligible and the plan was to pay for it by reversing changes to the top rate of tax threshold. 

The SNP say Westminster made the problem, so Westminster must fix it. They reject the opportunity to be proactive and project an image of a party – and since they often like to conflate themselves with Scotland itself – and a country that gets things done and tackles apparent injustices even if it costs money.

Inevitably it’s easier to do nothing, to criticise Westminster and reject redistribution.

They are right that the nub of the issue lies at Westminster as long as pensions remain reserved. And as long as Labour sits on the sidelines talking to itself (with the honourable exception of the likes of Keeley, whose commitment to the cause seems unstinting) the SNP can take ownership of the issue and the narrative and bend it to their own aims.

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Zuckerberg pledge offers hubris and hope

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

The latest plans to tackle disease are bold but promising

British universities need support

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

Brexit threatens research funding and academic recruitment

Globalism v populism: America’s trade war

From Analysis. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

The presidential campaign’s protectionist rhetoric is threatening global commerce

A friend bet a fiver on me writing this story – but it's still taken me 25 years

By Lynne Truss from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

“It’s like Trevor’s on a tightrope,”  said my boyfriend, “but the tightrope is only a foot above the ground”.

I often think that I’ve never seen the inside of a police station except on screen. There is a huge imbalance here. On telly, I’ve been inside the nick a million times: I could easily sketch the layout of the nicks in, say, Foyle’s War, or Endeavour, or Happy Valley. So it’s odd that when I think of the one time I did spend the night in a nick – Stoke Newington, 1991 – I have no recollection of the desk sergeant, or indeed the desk, or the corridors, or even the posters on the noticeboards.

Here’s the scenario. It was the night before my birthday. I lived in south London, and wrote a weekly TV review, which I often worked on into the small hours. On the night in question, my boyfriend came home at 8pm and discreetly started making soup. He lived at my place, but he had a flat elsewhere, where a man whom we shall call Trevor was currently renting a room. Trevor was outdoors-y (to put it mildly), had no source of income, and was prone to mood swings.

“How are you getting on?” the boyfriend inquired, around midnight. “Not there yet!” I said. When I finally submitted the piece (by fax) at 2.30am, the boyfriend was still up. “I need to tell you something,” he said. “Trevor threatened to shoot me this evening.”

Now, it wasn’t particularly strange that someone would want to shoot my boyfriend. He was incredibly annoying. But until this moment, I’d had no idea that Trevor had the means. It turned out that he owned shotguns. These were normally kept at a club in Essex, but this week he had visited that club; moreover, he had shown my boyfriend a little black “x” in his diary, denoting the day he would commit suicide. It was today. “Why didn’t you tell me this six hours ago?” I yelled. “You were working,” he said.

And so we found ourselves sitting until morning in Stoke Newington Police Station, making a lengthy statement, and feeling worried to death about Trevor. The two young detectives who dealt with us I do remember, and quite vividly: one friendly, Welsh and dark who obediently wrote down everything my annoying boyfriend said, such as, “It’s as if Trevor’s on a tightrope, but the tightrope is only a foot above the ground”; the other excitable, blond and Cornish, who memorably burst in to the room shouting, “He’s got a Magnum!”

Trevor was OK. He was presumably quite surprised when an armed response unit bashed his door down, but at least he didn’t kill himself.

I got home around 8.30am; it had been the longest night of my life. I suppose that’s why I’ve blotted out all those inside-the-nick details that I would otherwise expect to remember. A friend told me later she had bet a fiver that I would write about Trevor Night within 12 months. But she lost the bet. It’s actually taken 25 years to get over it. 

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Commons confidential: Own up, Owen

By Kevin Maguire from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

Why is the Owen Smith campaign asking for money? Plus: the Lib Dem villege fete, and why Emily Thornberry looks on the bright side.

Success opens wallets and looming failure is a shut purse for Owen Smith’s campaign. A snout whispers that the total raised by a begging email from Chris Bryant, asking for £100 each from the 162 Labour MPs who nominated Pontypridd’s kamikaze kid, would barely cover a parish council by-election, let alone a Labour leadership battle. “There’s no point,” grumbled a Westminster non-payer, “in throwing good money after bad.” The email was at least properly addressed. One earlier Smith camp text began, for example, “Dear Creasy” instead of Stella. It’s not as if MPs are precious or anything.

Will “Son of Jack” Straw CBE is discovering that a calling card headed “executive director of Britain Stronger in Europe” is no door-opener since the Brexit result. When he strolled into Legal & General’s London HQ, a receptionist asked the red-socked Europhile to spell his surname before informing S-T-R-A-W that its chairman, John Kingman, wasn’t available. I wonder if a Vote Leave emissary would be whisked upstairs.

Jeremy Corbyn’s attack Rotties unfairly, if effectively, smeared Citizen Smith as a Big Pharma lobbyist who favours NHS privatisation, but the challenger’s team was relieved the Momentum mob never called him a “château socialist”: Smith inherited a house in France from a relative. My snout muttered the force de dissuasion was one of Corbyn’s inner circle owning a place in Normandy. Nothing’s too good for the ouvriers.

To Brighton for the Lib Dem village fete, which replaces the somewhat larger conferences staged before it was punished electorally for joining the ConDem coalition. The Christians and humanists were kept apart in the exhibition area and the party’s history group applied Stalinist censorship to rewrite the past. The fallen hero Cyril Smith’s photograph has vanished since the obese spanker was branded a paedophile.

In an email to all MPs, that supremely self-important Tory, the Gainsborough growler Edward Leigh, urged them to “abolish the useless two-week September sitting” and restore a 12-week recess. The extended holiday break, argued the ruddy-faced former chairman of the public accounts committee, would accelerate repairs to the crumbling building. How gloriously convenient for all concerned.

“Looking on the bright side of life” should be Emily Thornberry’s new motto. Labour’s irrepresible shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman jokes she has made Jean-Marc Ayrault famous in France after the Gallic press picked up on her blind spot. The downside is TV interviewers might ask the forgetful Islingtonian to boost the profiles of other European leaders she can’t name.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

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Why I'm proud to be the office Bake Off skeptic

By Stephanie Boland from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

I don't care how cheerful my colleagues find it - the world needs fewer anodyne young men with big dreams and bad icing.

I have a confession: one that my colleagues know – and consider aberrant – but the wider world does not.

I don’t like the Great British Bake Off.

I’m not even a cooking show skeptic. I fancy Michel Roux Jr as much as the next person (or at least I did, until my mum professed he reminded her of my dad and I suddenly felt a bit weird about the whole thing). I even went through a phase, as an undergraduate, of watching River Cottage on Channel 4 catch up – as good a way of avoiding reading WB Yeats as any.

No: It’s worse than that. I’m a true heretic. I hate Bake Off not for its concept, but for its very Bake Off-ness. I hate it for its unique style. I hate it for the things my colleague Anna uses to assess how Bake Off each episode of the Bake Off is.

Here’s why.

Mel and Sue

I am very fond of both Mel and Sue, individually and on different programs. The news that they worked hard to keep Bake Off nice, partially by standing, swearing, near crying contestants in order to make the footage impossible to broadcast, endears them further.

And yet: it is hard to escape the fact that the most damaging lie in English culture is that middle-class innuendo is funny.

My colleagues tell me this is my fault and that I do not get the joke, which is that Mel and Sue are not funny. I am not sophisticated enough to find something funny because it is not funny. I just find it not funny.

Paul Hollywood

I don’t love to hate him; I just hate him. Mediocre, snidey men in public life make me depressed.

If I wanted to watch a man ramble on, having incomprehensibly been given a role for which he is no way qualified, I’d watch Derek Acorah’s back catalogue of Most Haunted.

Again.

Mary Berry

Nominative determinism: suspect.

Boring contestants

Nadiya Hussain and Tamal Ray were fantastic – I’m not a monster – but why not just read Nadiya in the Times, or follow them on Twitter? You can get all the joy of the show’s more compelling characters without having to watch some blandly attractive man called Tim or Eoin – I don't know their names; they could all be the same man in different shirts as far as I'm concerned – cock up a profiterole and talk about his “journey”.

On that note.

People going on “journeys”

I hate journeys. Ban this word from television.

Cakes are not that great. . .

. . .and they cannot save us. People who have tried to convince me about the Bake Off say they see it as a gorgeous ray of sunshine in our dark times. It is not, because cake is nothing.

Cf the best response to today’s news:

Perhaps I’ll enjoy it more on Channel 4.

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Professional services and Brexit: A lob and a smash

By from European Union. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  The low-rate world Fly Title:  Professional services and Brexit Print section Main image:  20160924_BRP502.jpg Rubric:  Law firms and consultancies enjoy a Brexit boost, but probably not for long NO SECTOR is more valuable to Britain’s GDP than “professional and business services”—those 4m or so lawyers, accountants and consultants who make up 12% of Britain’s workforce and grease the wheels of the country’s (and much of the world’s) economy. Their strength has been compared to the “Wimbledonisation” of British tennis. Although Britain has few world-class tennis players, it wrote the rules and hosts the world’s biggest tournament; although there are few big British banks, the rules by which finance is governed were largely devised by British lawyers, many of whom enforce them. The sector is one of the country’s few undisputed world leaders, and biggest overseas earners; its share of exports to developed economies, at 12%, is second only to America’s, and ...

Politics this week

By from European Union. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The low-rate world Print section Main image:  20160924_WWP001.jpg A UN convoy attempting to supply aid to rebel-held areas in Syria was bombed, apparently by Russian jets. Twenty people were killed. The UN and other humanitarian groups briefly suspended aid deliveries. John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, called on Russia and Syria to stop flying warplanes over northern Syria, as he tried to salvage a ceasefire that began only recently. See article.  Iraq’s finance minister, Hoshyar Zebari, was sacked by parliament over allegations of corruption. Mr Zebari is a prominent Kurdish politician who had served as foreign minister and was well known to international creditors and donors. Israel saw a surge in attacks on soldiers and policemen by Palestinians armed with knives, shattering several months of relative calm. Some of the attackers were killed. At least 44 people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo during protests against unconstitutional manoeuvrings by President Joseph Kabila to stay in office beyond the end of his second term. UN investigators found evidence ...

Charlemagne: The parable of Ticino

By from European Union. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The low-rate world Fly Title:  Charlemagne Print section Main image:  20160924_EUD000_0.jpg Rubric:  The harsh lessons from Switzerland for Brexiteers FOR the European Union’s high priesthood in Brussels, the right of people to live and work anywhere in Europe is sacred. But free movement is a worldlier concern for Franco Puffi, who runs Precicast, a high-tech metal foundry in Ticino, a Swiss canton next to the Italian border. Fully 90% of those who toil in its workshops are Italian, as are the engineers who design its moulds and the managers who seek new export markets for aerospace and biomedical components. Mr Puffi would like to employ more locals, but says the Swiss prefer banking and public-sector jobs. Northern Italians, by contrast, value industrial work and have the technical skills he needs. Their country’s economic woes make them “hungrier”. And there are a lot more of them. For others, that is precisely the problem. “Ticino is confronted ...

Criminal justice: Think before you clink

By from European Union. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The low-rate world Fly Title:  Criminal justice Location:  RIGA Print section Rubric:  Why a rise in community punishment is not cutting prison rates ILONA SPURE sighs with regret when she recalls how, in Soviet times, a thief could get two years in prison for pilfering a jar of jam. Now the director of Latvia’s prison service, she says that even after the country regained independence in 1991 it kept the Soviet habit of putting a lot of people behind bars. In 2004, when it joined the EU, Latvia still had its highest rate of incarceration: 337 people per 100,000, compared with the EU average of 122. “We thought there was no alternative to prison,” says Ms Spure. No longer. In recent years judges have been handing out ever more “community work service”, in which offenders perform unpaid jobs like sprucing up shabby buildings or cleaning parks. Last year such punishments were applied in 53% of convictions, up from 28.5% in 2011 and none at all before ...

The real game of thrones

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

IF YOU turned on the news in Saudi Arabia a decade ago, you were likely to see a relatively young, reform-minded prince who was bent on securing the kingdom’s future. Muhammad bin Nayef was out front, dealing with the country’s most pressing challenge, terrorism. He was clever, media-savvy and ambitious. There was little doubt that he wanted to be king.

In April last year, four months after King Salman, his uncle, had ascended to the throne, he duly became crown prince. That was a dramatic break with tradition, because the past six kings of Saudi Arabia have all been sons of the founding monarch and several more are still alive. They were waiting in a brotherly queue. But at last it was decided that the succession would jump a generation. Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, now 57, is officially next up.

That now seems less certain. In the past year King Salman’s own much younger son, also a Muhammad, aged only 31, has burst onto the scene as...Continue reading

Behave or be whipped

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

The frog jump—a national sport

NIGERIANS might be forgiven for thinking they have travelled back in time. Their president, Muhammadu Buhari, has revived some of the economic policies he favoured when he was last in power, as a military dictator in the 1980s, such as restricting imports and propping up the currency. Such retro thinking has failed to rescue Nigeria from its first recession in 20 years; indeed, it has probably made it worse. And now social policy is going back in time, too.

Under a new “national reorientation” campaign called “Change Begins with Me” Mr Buhari wants to tame Nigerians. Moral “degeneration”, he says, is the reason that drivers run red lights and militants blow up pipelines. “Our value system has been badly eroded,” the president lamented in a speech that plagiarised Barack Obama’s 2008 victory address. A presidential spokesman blamed an “overzealous” speech-writer who will face “appropriate sanction”.

Others may face the same fate. A “War Against Indiscipline” brigade, first drafted by Mr Buhari in 1984, was relaunched last month and is hunting for funds for its 150,000...Continue reading

Capitalist crusader

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

Afro capitalist at the helm

A FEW weeks after Herman Mashaba became mayor of South Africa’s biggest city, tragedy struck. A group of illegal miners known as zama-zamas (“chancers”, for the risks they take) were trapped in an old mineshaft at Langlaagte, the Johannesburg farm where prospectors first discovered gold in 1886. At least three of them died.

To Mr Mashaba, the disaster was a symptom of the breakdown of law and order. It was also a chance to look for capitalist solutions to lingering problems, such as the sky-high unemployment that makes zama-zamas risk their lives. Langlaagte is the “commercial foundation” of Johannesburg, Mr Mashaba declared in his inaugural speech to the city council a few days later. It ought to be a tourist site, and have its “commercial potential” unleashed.

Mr Mashaba, 57, calls himself the “Capitalist Crusader” (the title of a book he published last year). Among South African politicians he is a rare breed: a scrappy self-made millionaire, a libertarian and a capitalist in a country so left-leaning that even the...Continue reading

European defence: Potemkin Euro-armies

By from European Union. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The low-rate world Fly Title:  European defence Print section Rubric:  Grand talk of a “defence union” risks exposing Europe’s weakness THE idea of a European army is as old as the hope for European unity. After creating the European Coal and Steel Community, the embryo of today’s European Union, the six founding members agreed in 1952 to form a supranational European force. But the plan was voted down by the French parliament; thereafter countries focused on gradual economic integration. Now that the EU is in trouble and Britain has voted to leave, the idea of military integration is being revived (see article). Some countries talk of a “European Defence Union”. Others, evoking the “Schengen” passport-free travel area, envisage a “Schengen for defence”. Eurocrats want to show there is life in the EU after Brexit: with the British gone, they say, the biggest obstacle to defence integration will be gone, too. France, left as the unrivalled EU military power, delights in the chance to reclaim leadership from Germany. The ...

Snouts in the trough

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

SQUEALING, the ten tiny piglets ran around in panic as policemen booted them with such force that they flew into the air. What ought to have been a comical sight—painted pigs dashing around outside Uganda’s parliament—was marred by the same violence that is meted out to all opposition, no matter how peaceful, against the government of Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years.

The pigs were released on September 15th by two activists from the self-styled Jobless Brotherhood in protest against a decision by MPs (or “MPigs” as the group calls them) to award themselves 200m Ugandan shillings ($59,000) each to spend on fancy new cars.  

It was not the Brotherhood’s first porcine protest. In June 2014 two members made it into the lawmakers’ car park with animals. Last year they dropped piglets in Kampala and Jinja (in the latter a police chief accused the Brotherhood of “holding an unlawful assembly and violating the rights of pigs”).

“If you started feeding a pig in the morning...it will continue eating up to evening,” one activist told the local press. “This is the same way our MPs are behaving; they never get tired of...Continue reading

Gagged in Gaza

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

LAST month Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Palestinian authorities of detaining and torturing critical journalists. Two days later the secret police proved the human-rights campaigners right. Plainclothes officers arrested Mohammed Othman, a journalist who has criticised Hamas. He was detained for a day and a half and, he says, beaten, deprived of food and forced into painful positions.

Freedom of speech is enshrined in Palestine’s basic law. However, researchers from HRW found five other journalists and activists who were detained recently in Gaza and the West Bank (which are ruled respectively by the Islamist Hamas and the secular Fatah movements). Most of the detained journalists said they had been tortured. One was threatened by an officer brandishing a gun.

There are few data on such arrests, which both factions deny are politically motivated. Anecdotally, though, many Palestinians say they have increased. Just 20% think they enjoy press freedom, according to a March poll; 66% believe they cannot openly criticise the Palestinian Authority (PA). Even a Facebook post can provoke a visit from the authorities. In May, for example, officers...Continue reading

What are the New Times? Why we're looking back to assess the future of the left

By Jason Cowley from New Statesman Contents. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

The world according to Martin Jacques, the return of the state, and why we're tackling the new “New Times”.

In the Eighties, if you were seriously ­interested in political ideas, you read Marxism Today – or, if you didn’t, you should have. For a journal owned and funded by the Communist Party of Great Britain, it was surprisingly well designed, like a cerebral version of the style magazine The Face. Politically unpredictable, it was, as its former editor Martin Jacques has written, a magazine “of profound political and intellectual substance” – just like today’s New Statesman, I hope.

 

Permanent transition

In October 1988, Marxism Today published its celebrated “New Times” issue. I bought a copy and still have it somewhere. It was both a kind of manifesto – for the postmodern, “post-Fordist” economic and cultural order that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were a response to but had also helped create – and an anatomy of a crisis: a crisis of the left and of the Labour Party, which failed to understand that Thatcherism was hegemonic and we had entered a new age.

The cultural theorist and Marxism Today contributor Stuart Hall called it a “permanently transitional age”. In his signature essay in the New Times issue, he analysed the changing nature of the state, globalisation, the shift to the new information technologies, outsourcing and more flexible forms of work, as well as identity and gender politics. “The question should always be,” he wrote, “where is the ‘leading edge’ [of change] and in what direction is it pointing?”

 

The state that binds

Where is the leading edge of change today? The Brexit vote, Jeremy Corbyn’s capture of Labour, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the US and the rise of populist movements across Europe are all, in their various ways, expressions of these new times. Theresa May, too, seems to understand that something fundamental has changed and her closest advisers – notably her joint chief of staff Nick Timothy – are articulate in the language of “post-liberal” conservatism.

I spoke to Jacques, now 70, at the weekend just as he was leaving for China, and asked what he thought was going on. “What I call the era of neoliberalism, from the mid- to late Seventies to the financial crash of 2007-2008, is over,” he said. “It crashed with the crash. Neoliberalism, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, became hegemonic. And social-democratic parties became leaders of this trend. This is why the left ended up being so discredited by New Labour.”

“Neoliberalism” is a convenient catch-all term, of course, for whatever the ills of Western capitalism are perceived to be. For Jacques, it encapsulates the dogma of the small state, market solutions, privatisation, the dominance of monetary policy, and so on. It was not the cause of globalisation, he said, “but it responded quicker to it than the left. It gave it a particular flavour and character.” The greatest beneficiaries of globalisation, he suggested, are the east Asian countries – especially China, which has lifted 700 million people out of poverty and still has a growth rate more than three times that of the US. “In this new era, the centre of gravity is moving remorselessly to the East.”

For Jacques, the significance of Trump is that he “grasps that this [the status quo] is unsustainable. He’s very much against neoliberalism – look at the free-trade agreements he opposes. And he knows how to talk to the people, like [Nigel] Farage does. But what’s really unstitching neoliberalism is inequality. And when an economy gets into crisis, the centre of gravity switches in a leftward direction.”

Jacques believes that there has been a revival of left-wing ideas and he cited the ­influence of Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Krugman and Harvard’s Dani Rodrik. “These guys are making the running. Another phenomenon is that people on the right are moving left – just read Martin Wolf’s columns in the Financial Times.

“There’s a renewed interest in the state. The state binds society together. If the state becomes too weak, society fragments.”

 

Grave reservations

Jacques is not a Labour Party member but he said that he would have voted for Corbyn, who represents a “big shift”. “There’s a new generation looking for something different. Look at the young people who have joined Labour. To them, Corbyn is ­authentic. He’s candid and not like other politicians. He has strong, left-wing things to say. That he’s been saying them for so long is part of his appeal and also his problem.”

The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) should not have disrespected Corbyn’s mandate. “The frame of Labour politics has shifted markedly to the left. This seems to me to be permanent,” Jacques said. “These are the new co-ordinates. Many in the PLP don’t understand that it’s the end of New Labour. They didn’t understand the financial crisis. They didn’t understand what neoliberalism was.” Something interesting is happening. “There are lots of currents. Corbyn is enabling something that’s been long repressed. I don’t know where it’s going to lead. I have grave reservations about Corbyn. But this is a complicated situation. We’ve got to pick our way through it.”

 

Rowing back

Marxism Today closed in 1991, less than three years after its New Times special. It was absorbed by the New Statesman, which has a genius for survival and for merging with and subsuming other notable publications – New Society, the Nation, the Week-End Review. “We never had any money,” Jacques told me. “We didn’t have a sugar daddy, though we were subbed by the CP [Communist Party] . . . I did it for 14 years and, as you know, editing a magazine can be hard. It takes over your life. Yet we acquired a formidable reputation because we got things right. We understood the decline of the left. We got Thatcherism a few years before the rest, though the Thatcherites got it as they were doing it, of course. Now, there’s a new tide . . . Everyone is rowing back on that period [of neoliberal hegemony]. Even May understands that new winds are blowing.” 

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In a Postfact World, German Journalists Welcome a Trove of Migration Data

From Open Society Foundations - Europe. Published on Sep 22, 2016.

How an organization became a one-stop shop for reporters by furnishing fact-based information on migrants and refugees.

Allister Sparks: A fighter for justice in South Africa

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

WITH the death of Allister Sparks on September 19th in Johannesburg at the age of 83, South Africa mourns the passing of one of its most fearless, dogged and influential liberal journalists. A relentless critic of apartheid from the moment it was formally enacted in 1948, when he was but a boy, Mr Sparks never stopped telling truth to power, even after democracy was achieved in 1994. He remained a thorn in the flesh of governments until weeks before his death.

The high point of his combative career was his editorship of the Rand Daily Mail, torchbearer of liberal South Africa, from 1977-1981. During this time he famously exposed the truth behind the murder in custody of a charismatic black activist, Steve Biko. Mr Sparks also exposed the scandal known as “Muldergate” after an information minister, Connie Mulder, who had secretly overseen the transfer of state funds to finance a pro-government newspaper, the Citizen. This led to the resignation of the prime minister, John Vorster, and his replacement by P.W. Botha, who began cautiously to embark on reforms that led to the unravelling of apartheid a decade later. He incurred the authorities’ further wrath...Continue reading

What Islamophobia Is Doing to American Children

By Nicolas Pollock from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

As an Iranian-American comedian, Maz Jobrani focuses most of his material on how people misunderstand Middle Easterners in America. With Trump’s call to ban Muslims and increasing debate around ISIS, he’s had plenty of material to work with. Anti-Muslim sentiment has grown since 9/11. According to a 2015 YouGov/Huffington Post poll, 55 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam. In the same year, for the first time in U.S. history, the FBI began collecting data on anti-Arab hate crimes. In this interview filmed at the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival, Jobrani discusses how xenophobia is affecting American kids.

The Pros and Cons of Living in an Income-Sharing Commune

By Sam Price-Waldman from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

In the heart of Washington, D.C., seven people live in a single home and pool all of their incomes, which range from upwards of $80,000 to a couple thousand. The residents of Compersia Commune embrace an ideology that values unpaid labor and disavows capitalism. In this tiny, socialized economy, the collective gets everything you have—which, for some, has been liberating. “We talk a lot and think a lot about trying to transform our relationship to money,” says GPaul, one of the commune’s members in this Atlantic documentary. “We’re doing all of this work so that worrying about money [and] stressing about money is not so present in our lives.”

Rosneft: Siberian spring

From Analysis. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

New drilling in Soviet-era brownfields makes it unlikely that Russia will help ease the global glut

Congo’s Kabila must accept he has to go

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

The country at the heart of Africa has reached a treacherous impasse

BoJ steels itself for further easing

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

Having restocked its policy toolbox the central bank must use it

The ceasefire unravels

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

AFTER months of diplomatic wrangling America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, hoped he had finally struck a deal with Russia that would help end the war in Syria, which has killed perhaps half a million people. For the plan to work, both sides needed to lay down their weapons for one week and allow aid into besieged parts of the country. If that happened the truce would then be extended, paving the way for Russia and America to launch joint military action against Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), a terrorist group and former al-Qaeda offshoot.

But the plan never got that far. Although the fighting ebbed, the Syrian government blocked most aid deliveries into rebel-held areas, and stripped vital medical supplies from the few that it did allow across the front lines. On September 19th the Syrian regime refused to extend the seven-day ceasefire, accusing rebels of failing to uphold their side and citing an air strike by American and coalition forces that mistakenly killed 62 Syrian soldiers.

But the real breach came soon after Russian and Syrian warplanes went back into action, pounding rebel-held neighbourhoods in the northern city of Aleppo. A UN aid...Continue reading

European defence: The fog of politics

By from European Union. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The low-rate world Fly Title:  European defence Print section Main image:  20160924_EUP001.jpg Rubric:  After the Brexit vote, the European Union is pushing for more military integration. Its proposals mostly miss the point TERRORISM, Russian bullying, chaos in the Middle East and the possibility of a President Donald Trump: it is no surprise that the European Union wants to put defence and security at the top of its agenda. As the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, put it in his “State of the Union” speech on September 14th: “Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defence policy.” Although personally devoted to the federalist vision of a European army, Mr Juncker was careful not to raise its spectre on this occasion. Instead, he rattled off a number of ostensibly more achievable goals, some of which had been floated a few days before in a paper prepared by the French and German defence ministers. It was ...

The Economist explains: How Britain’s post-referendum economy is faring

By from European Union. Published on Sep 21, 2016.

SINCE it voted to leave the European Union in late June, Britain’s economy has not imploded. The FTSE 250, its main domestically focused stock index, is above its pre-referendum level. The pound, after a few torrid days of trading immediately after the vote, has stabilised. Polls suggest that few Brexiteers regret their vote: indeed, many of them now argue that the pre-referendum doom-mongering was overblown, and some even detect the beginning of a “Brexit boom”. What is the reality?Certainly, some parts of the British economy are holding up nicely. Retail sales figures for August reported a surprisingly small monthly drop of 0.2%. Even if sales volumes are flat in September, they will grow by 1.5% over the third quarter as a whole. But strong consumer spending is hardly a surprise. Over half the country voted for Brexit, after all, so they should be happy shoppers. And bad economic news tends to have an effect on consumer spending only after a lag: retail sales also grew strongly in September 2008, the month that the financial crisis really got going. Look at other parts of the British economy, and things are less positive. Before the referendum, economists’ main worry was that companies would postpone expensive, hard-to-reverse decisions while Britain’s future relationship with the EU was sorted out. The two big questions concern jobs and investment. It is too ...

Stimulus would serve Germany’s interest

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 20, 2016.

A consumer boom is welcome but Berlin could do more to support it

Rethink asylum rules for mass movement era

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 20, 2016.

May’s call for reform of postwar policy is sensible but insufficient

Daily chart: How Britain is faring with its EU energy targets

By from European Union. Published on Sep 20, 2016.

UNTIL recently Britain had grand renewable-energy ambitions. Its prime minister had solar panels on his London house and once claimed that he would lead the country’s “greenest government ever”. And for those who feared that these were hollow gestures, the European Union rules would help keep Britain on course. But with David Cameron’s departure from politics and the country’s imminent withdrawal from the EU, environmentalists may start to fret.The good news is that, for now at least, Britain is still bound by the EU’s renewable-energy targets set out in 2009. One such goal is that 30% of the electricity supply should come from renewable sources by 2020. The country is on track. In 2015 around 25% of Britain’s electricity was generated from a variety of renewable sources including tidal, hydro, solar and biomass power stations. And as befits the windiest country in Europe, the biggest source of Britain’s renewable energy is wind power. It has nearly 7,000 wind turbines, with an installed capacity of over 14 gigawatts, and the world’s largest offshore wind turbine array. Despite their inefficiency—the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy calculates that wind turbines onshore run at only 27.3% of their potential capacity, with offshore wind farms performing slightly better at 36.9%—wind turbines will provide 10% of Britain’s total energy demand by ...

Trump v Clinton: Florida or bust

From Analysis. Published on Sep 20, 2016.

Trump’s success in must-win state hinges on whether older white voters or Hispanics hold more sway

Asia hacking: Cashing in on cyber crime

From Analysis. Published on Sep 19, 2016.

Attacks cost Asian companies $81bn last year. The region is even more vulnerable to new scams

China’s debt addiction threatens economy

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 19, 2016.

Beijing should admit the scale of the problem and begin deleveraging

Switzerland: Brexit migration model or cautionary tale?

From Analysis. Published on Sep 18, 2016.

How a Swiss-EU immigration stand-off is resolved could feed into a template for post-Brexit Britain

Test new financial models for antibiotics

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 18, 2016.

Countries should fund experiments to delink profits from sales

All of Brazil goes through the car wash

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 18, 2016.

Nobody is too powerful to escape the Petrobras corruption probe

The EU after Brexit: European leaders in Bratislava avoided all the difficult questions

By from European Union. Published on Sep 17, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The EU after Brexit Byline:  T.N. Print section Main image:  20160924_blp901.jpg Rubric:  Contentious issues about growth, migration and European defence have been postponed to later meetings RIVEN by crisis and recrimination, the European Union has lost its way in recent years. The European Union was in a “critical situation” after Britain’s unprecedented vote in June to leave the club, warned Angela Merkel, the normally sober German chancellor, when she arrived at a European summit in Bratislava on September 16th. By the end of the day the 27 EU leaders—all bar Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, who was not invited—had drawn up a “Bratislava road-map” to give direction to their floundering club. But the way ahead remains as murky as ever. Divisive issues were left for another day; so were serious policy proposals. Mrs Merkel and Donald Tusk, who presided over yesterday’s meeting, had spent the preceding weeks trying to find common ground among ...

US election: Still the economy, stupid?

From Analysis. Published on Sep 16, 2016.

A rise in middle-class incomes has failed to change the political narrative of a country in decline

We hold the future of self-driving cars

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 16, 2016.

Clear rules are instrumental to the transition towards a driverless era

Capitalism and the roots of discontent

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 16, 2016.

It is wrong to suppose nations are helpless in the face of globalisation

Will a Global Compact on Migration Lead to Lasting Change?

From Open Society Foundations - European Union. Published on Sep 16, 2016.

An unprecedented UN summit aims to address the migration issue, but real progress will depend on the international community making good on its promises.

Forgive me father: Reimagining Europe as a drama between priest, sinner and infidel

By from European Union. Published on Sep 16, 2016.

PLENTY of people have tried to use Christian imagery to portray or even explain the multiple strains suffered by the European Union and its monetary system. For example, Emmanuel Macron, France’s economy minister, once suggested that the Catholic (and Orthodox) belief in a sacrament of forgiveness helped to explain the happy-go-lucky attitude of the European south to profligacy and debt which the Protestant north found so exasperating. And Stuart Holland, a British Labour politician, is among several commentators who have found significance in the fact that the German word Schuld means both debt and guilt in the moral or religious sense. A more playful deployment of Christian imagery has been proposed by one of the leading academic scholars of EU affairs, who happens to be Greek. After lecturing for many years at Oxford University and becoming a professor at the London School of Economics, Loukas Tsoukalis now lives in his homeland and runs a foreign-affairs think-tank, ELIAMEP. For his sins, or perhaps for his virtues, he has been an adviser to past presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.In a book about the European crisis, entitled “In Defence of Europe” and published this summer, Mr Tsoukalis calls one chapter “The Priest, the Sinner and the Non-Believer”. The priest is Germany, the sinner is Greece, and the incorrigible free-thinker is ...

The Economist explains: Why Germans are protesting against free trade

By from European Union. Published on Sep 16, 2016.

FEW countries have done as well out of international trade as Germany. Last week the Ifo Institute, an economics think-tank, said Germany’s current-account surplus was set to hit an all-time high of $310 billion this year. A strong export industry and a currency weakened by the travails of its southern neighbours make Germany’s economic position hard to challenge. Yet on September 17th between 100,000 and 250,000 Germans will take to the streets in cities across the country to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal currently being negotiated between the European Union and America. They will also protest against CETA, a similar deal between the EU and Canada. In a poll conducted by the European Commission in May, 59% of Germans opposed TTIP, compared to the EU average of 34%. Only the Austrians were less keen. Why is a nation of exporters so wary of liberalising trade?One big factor is a growing resistance to change. Unlike their peers in other European countries, Germans consider their country to be in good economic shape. A big change to the status quo, such as a new trade agreement, strikes them as a threat to existing privileges rather than an opportunity to improve their lot. When asked about their reasons for opposing the TTIP, Germans overwhelmingly say that it will curtail consumer rights, compromise data and ...

Amber light for China in UK nuclear power

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

Uncertainty about the £18bn Hinkley project survives a review

France: Islam and the secular state

From Analysis. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

The burkini bans have exposed historic tensions that are dividing Muslims and threatening French unity

Russian poll is still far from truly free

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

Domestic political system is ossified even as the economy deteriorates

Germans against trade: Fortress mentality

By from European Union. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain’s one-party state Fly Title:  Germans against trade Location:  BERLIN Print section Main image:  Athwart history, yelling “stop” Rubric:  Protectionists and scaremongers are winning in Germany Athwart history, yelling “stop” A MOVEMENT is sweeping across Germany. Its followers say delightedly that it reminds them of the peace protests in the 1980s. At stake today, they claim, is nothing less than democracy itself: multinational companies—especially American ones—are trying to foist their wares on helpless European consumers. These behemoths, the protesters warn, could feed Europeans food that is genetically modified or even toxic, and sue into submission democratic European governments that pass laws the corporate honchos dislike. Energised by this dystopian vision, more than 100,000 demonstrators are expected on September 17th at protests in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, ...

National museums: Existential rethink

By from European Union. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Britain’s one-party state Fly Title:  National museums Print section Main image:  What will be the fate of the Tate? Rubric:  Curators, overwhelmingly Remainers, ponder how to respond to Brexit What will be the fate of the Tate? THE enlarged Tate Modern gallery opened on June 17th with a new display determined to show that Modernism had not just been made by white men in New York, Paris and London. Instead, there were many Modernisms: artists in 1960s eastern Europe developed their own vision, just as the artists of the Gutai movement were doing the same in Japan and legions of women artists were producing works of power and originality in Brazil. Could Tate Modern’s reopening turn out to have been the high point of Britain’s easy cultural engagement with the world? In the three months since, Britain’s national museums seem to have gone through an existential crisis. On the question of the EU, museum curators are to a man (and woman) Remainers. Many of ...

Food and the law: Full English Brexit

By from European Union. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Britain’s one-party state Fly Title:  Food and the law Print section Main image:  The Brexit blues Rubric:  Protecting traditional produce is another complication of leaving the EU The Brexit blues WHAT makes a Cornish pasty legally a Cornish pasty? The requirements are strict. It must be D-shaped, with pastry crimped on one side (never on top). Its filling must include beef, swede, potato and onion, lightly seasoned, appropriately chunky. Finally it must be prepared—though not necessarily baked—in Cornwall. These strictures are enforced under the EU’s protected food-names scheme, which safeguards products made in a traditional fashion, tied to particular locations. Replacing this legal framework will be another tummy ache for those negotiating Brexit. Britain’s protected foods include such delicacies as Melton Mowbray pork pies (which must use diced or minced uncured pork and exhibit bowed pastry sides) and Arbroath smokies (haddock smoked in a ...

Brexit and trade: Not so simple

By from European Union. Published on Sep 15, 2016.

UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Br