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Which Steps Towards European Policies Against Anti-Gypsyism?

From Open Society Foundations - Europe. Published on Nov 15, 2016.

The Open Society Foundations, the German Federal Foreign Office, and the European Commission host a seminar encouraging policymakers to step up efforts combating prejudice against Roma communities.

Which Steps Towards European Policies Against Anti-Gypsyism?

From Open Society Foundations - European Union. Published on Nov 15, 2016.

The Open Society Foundations, the German Federal Foreign Office, and the European Commission host a seminar encouraging policymakers to step up efforts combating prejudice against Roma communities.

Wendy Williams rejoices after correctly predicting James Packer would 'dump' Mariah Carey

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Rep confirms Carey and Packer ended engagement after massive fight in Greece in September.

JLR head Ralf Speth being considered for the role of Tata Group chairman – report

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

TCS chief executive N. Chandrasekaran and Trent chairman Noel Tata are among the shortlisted candidates.

British woman dies falling 20ft from hot air balloon on South African safari holiday with family

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Woman dies in front of family after gust of wind causes balloon to crash in Mooinooi.

Uber is bringing surge pricing to its UberEats food delivery service in select cities

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

UberEats is currently operational in 43 cities across the globe.

Syrian rebels 'start Aleppo offensive'

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

Syrian rebels announce offensive aimed at breaking government siege in country's second city Aleppo.

Burundi's withdrawal from ICC is 'a major loss for the victims of the gravest crimes' claims HRW

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

What justice for hundreds of people who have been tortured, killed, raped or disappeared in Burundi?

Tony Blair suggests second EU referendum: "Remain voters are not an elite"

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

The former Labour PM said the facts of Brexit may change minds. 

Tony Blair has floated the idea of a second EU referendum after the terms of the Brexit deal has become clear.

The former Labour Prime Minister told the BBC "you can't just dimiss the 16m people" who voted Remain.

He said: "If it becomes clear that this is either a deal that doesn't make it worth our while leaving, or alternatively a deal that's going to be so serious in its implications people may decide they don't want to go, there's got to be some way, either through Parliament, or an election, or possibly through another referendum, in which people express their view."

Asked whether he was telling the 17m voters who wanted to leave the EU that they were wrong, he said: "You can't just dismiss the 16m people either and say their views are of no account. 

"And by the way, that 16m don't represent an elite, they represent people who genuinely believe that in the 21st century for Britain to leave the biggest political union and the biggest commercial market right on our doorstep is a serious mistake."

There is no way the Brexit decision can be reversed "unless it becomes clear that once people see the facts they change their mind," he said.


Mel Gibson says he 'never discriminated against anyone', calls 2006 anti-Semitic remarks 'unfortunate'

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Following an alcohol binge in 2006, the actor told a police officer that 'Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!'

India accuses Pakistan of ceasefire violations along border

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

According to reports, three Indian soldiers have died in the past one week in cross-border firing.

Calais 'Jungle' stragglers and minors spend another night at camp

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

About 70 migrants remaining at the Calais 'Jungle' camp are allowed to sleep at the site, as work continues to dismantle it.

Oregon stand-off: Wildlife refuge occupiers in shock acquittal

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

Leaders of a militia who took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon are cleared, in a surprise verdict.

Industrial Strategy: Ensuring digital skills are included

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

The opportunities for efficiency, adaptability and growth offered by digital skills have never been so important to British businesses. The New Statesman asked a panel of experts, including Digital Minister Matt Hancock, Tinder Foundation CEO Helen Milner, Tech City CEO Gerard Grech and Google Policy Manager Katie O’Donovan, to pinpoint the weak spots and the opportunities for a smarter digital skills strategy.

British people spend more per capita online than any other country in the developed world. With 82 per cent of adults using the internet on a daily basis and more than 20 per cent of retail sales taking place online, it would appear that most British businesses are digitally capable. A closer look, however, reveals a significant digital skills gap between larger companies and the small businesses that make up 60 per cent of the private sector – comprising a workforce of over 15 million people, with a turnover in excess of £1.6trillion. Of these small enterprises, a third don’t have a website and more than half are unable to sell goods online. So, are digital skills taking priority in the government’s industrial strategy?

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said digital education from an early age will be a cross-party objective for years to come: “We’re making some progress on this, and one of the most exciting things we did in the last parliament was to put coding into the curriculum from age eight. We’ve recognised that there are down-the-track requirements for digital skills, as much as with English and Maths, and we’ve got a huge array of initiatives to corral the enthusiasm for digital and make sure that it is best used.”

Hancock added that participation in the digital economy is important at every level of business and society: “I can group the facts and figures; 23 per cent of people currently lack basic digital skills, and about 90 per cent of new jobs now need some form of them. I think that what we’ve learnt following the Brexit vote is that the need to engage everybody is more demonstrable than ever before. This is a very important part of the Prime Minister’s agenda, and wider digital engagement is a key part of the broader issue to make an economy that works for everyone.” 

It is this wider opportunity to access and education that forms the bedrock of a new partnership between Google and the Tinder Foundation, aiming to deliver digital skills training to those in society who are most in need. Cue the Digital Garage. The project sees community organisations across the country provide skills support to small businesses, sole traders and indviduals, helping them to make the most of their resources.

Katie O’Donovan, Policy Manager at Google, explained: “Google has a longstanding commitment to train 250,000 people across the UK in digital skills. Since launching the Digital Garage in 2015 we’ve provided mentoring and digital skills training in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow.  But as the UK faces a new chapter we want to ensure, whether you’re a student looking for your first job, a small business looking to attract new customers or a musician looking to promote your music, the right digital skills are freely available in your local community.

Tinder Foundation CEO Helen Milner recognised that a wider proliferation of digital skills would release a surprising amount of value into the economy. “Some of our research showed that every £1 invested in growing people’s basic digital skills put £10 back into the economy. But it’s not enough to save money - you’ve got to show how you can make money out of it as well.”    

The Labour MP for Aberavon, Stephen Kinnock, has seen at first hand the benefits of support for digital skills, and welcomes opportunities for partnership in his constituency. The shift from manufacturing, he accepts, needs direction and following the depletion of his local steel works he views digitisation as “the only way forward.” Kinnock added that exciting projects such as the Swansea bay region or ‘internet coast’ becoming a testbed for 5G could serve to re-energise communities which are in many ways in a state of decline. Kinnock said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we’re going to have pop-up versions of the Digital Garage in Port Talbot.”

CEO for TeenTech Maggie Philbin, meanwhile, stressed that digital education at school level must be taught through the lens of practical application. She warned: “Many young people aren’t greeted by any coherent messaging in school, so they don’t see why they’d need digital skills in the workplace. We’ve got to start getting a better message across and improve the opportunities for actual work experience that harnesses these skills.”

Karen Price, CEO at The Tech Partnership shares this view. For Price, adapting apprenticeships to incorporate digital skills will help to inspire a culture of innovation. She suggested that “if that's part of an apprenticeship that could be polished to use in a business environment, you'd have a digitally capable young person who could probably move that business on in a different way.”

Nick Williams, Consumer Digital Director for Lloyds Banking Group, views improving people’s digital skills as a matter of urgency and brought up research conducted by the company’s new Business Digital Index for 2016 which found that 38 per cent of small businesses and 49 per cent of charities are currently lacking digital maturity. “It’s no longer a matter of choice,” Williams said, “for organisations to survive, we must focus on a digital message.  Technology’s moved on and people just haven’t kept up. We have to show how these new skills can translate to greater productivity. Ability and access are the two variables to address. We are on the brink of going down the route of a digital divide – those who are capable and those who aren’t – and we’ve got to stop that.”

Rachel Neaman, Director of Skills and Partnerships at Doteveryone, was quick to pick up on this point. She warned that any digital training must not simply be for future generations’ benefit, but also be afforded to those already in work. “What are we doing for the people who currently lack these skills? How do we stop people from being left behind?” Neaman called for an “equal emphasis” on updating and upgrading the existing workforce. Julian David, the CEO at Tech UK, was also keen to highlight that digitisation is “an ongoing process” and therefore “retraining” at regular intervals is needed to cope with a continually evolving demand.

While Hancock spoke of a “unit-based standard learning system”, similar to that used in American schools, to help apply digital skills training where it is most appropriate, IPPR North researcher Jack Hunter said there were real opportunities to be grasped in the coming devolution agenda: “The new mayors that are coming in next year to drive the agenda and economic growth are going to be getting a lot more funding around a variety of different skills streams that feed directly into the digital programme.”

The panel agreed that the digital divide will only grow wider if action is not taken. Director of the Action and Research Centre at the RSA Anthony Painter said that society is being split into two camps: “the confident and creative, and those who feel held back.” Painter recommended that the latter group are given a fresh chance at being empowered digitally. He said: “They don’t tend to use the internet for professional development, whereas the others do. We’ve been having a look at this locally by creating a ‘City of Learning’ which combines a digital platform built around open badges which have micro-accreditations for learning; things that if you get someone’s passionate interest and then start feeding into more formal learning opportunities then you wrap around that a sort of city-led campaign which lets them identify with a common cause – we’re a learning city.”

Tech City UK CEO Gerard Grech concurred and went to explore the link between a strong web presence and business expansion or improvement. The problem identified is that many businesses may not realise the extent of their digital capabilities and thus run the risk of missing out. Grech said: “If you ask a window cleaner if they are a digital business, they might say no, but if you ask how they might go about quoting someone, they could find the address on Google Maps or get the Street View. That’s the idea, to show how digital can be used for them.”

Ultimately, the panel concluded, that the enthusiasm to add a digital depth to Britain’s talent pool was validated by its potential advantages. “A lot of the major challenges facing the economy,” Painter summed up, “are actually rooted in skills. Whether it’s the challenges of Brexit or the challenges of broadband, I think if you fix the skills, everything else falls into place.” The panel agreed that any government has a responsibility to champion digital strategy throughout society, regardless of location or economic standing, and equip businesses with the digital skills required to perform at their best.  

The round-table discussion was chaired by Kirsty Styles.

For more information, visit: 

Replica of Adolf Hitler's bunker goes on show in Berlin

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

The Berlin Story Bunker features a full-scale recreation of Hitler's study and a 1:25 scale model of the entire underground complex.

Rio 2016: Wada publishes report highlighting 'serious failings' at Olympic Games

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

A Wada report on the anti-doping methods employed at Rio 2016 highlights "serious failings" at this summer's Olympic Games.

Halloween 2016: How to celebrate the festival and why do children trick or treat

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

The day is celebrated on the eve of Christian feast of All Saint's Day or All Hallows Day.

Thor: Ragnarok cast share behind-the-scenes set tour video to celebrate wrapping production

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Director Taika Waititi also confirms that Marvel Comics character Miek will appear in the movie.

Philippine mayor killed in police shootout

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

Mayor of Saudi Ampatuan was part of a list identified by President Duterte as being involved in the illegal drug trade.

Preserving Volterra: How drones and lasers are documenting 3,000 years of Italian history

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

New technologies document the Etruscan, Roman and Medieval treasures of the Italian city of Volterra.

All Windows versions potentially exposed to cyberattacks thanks to new code injection Atom Bombing

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Alarmingly, the issue cannot be patched since it doesn't rely on 'broken or flawed code', say researchers.

El Salvador: Maria Teresa Rivera jailed and freed

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

After serving four years for foeticide, Maria Teresa Rivera was freed. But a new appeal wants to send her back to jail.

Celebgate hack: Collins sentenced over nude photos theft

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

A Pennsylvania man is sentenced to 18 months in jail for hacking celebrity accounts.

Supporters' joy as Oregon militia acquitted

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

The leaders of an armed militia that took over a federal wildlife refuge in the US state of Oregon have been acquitted of the charges against them.

Show me the money

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

Ukraine's anti-corruption drive reveals that some top politicians, including the prime minister, have huge wealth, Tom Burridge reports.

Propaganda offensive

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

So-called Islamic State (IS) has gone on a propaganda offensive as its enemies close in on its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul.

If Bitcoin hard forked over block size, what would the market decide?

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Bitcoin evangelist Roger Ver points out that Ethereum's contentious hard fork was no disaster - far from it.

Rohingya women claim Myanmar soldiers raped them during a raid on their village in Rakhine

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

There has been an upsurge in violence between the army and the persecuted minority group in the Rakhine state.

The Man at the Center of 'Bill Clinton Inc.'

By Russell Berman from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Who is Doug Band, and what did he do for Bill Clinton?

A little bit of everything, it turns out.

He helped launch the Clinton Foundation, came up with the idea for the Clinton Global Initiative, brokered deals for paid speeches that enriched Clinton, and then started a private consulting firm called Teneo that made the Foundation, Bill Clinton, and Band himself even wealthier.

All of that became clear in the latest batch of hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, which include messages from Band and a 12-page memo that he wrote both explaining and defending his and his company’s work on Clinton’s behalf. For Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the publication of the Band memo is yet another WikiLeaks-induced headache, as it provides even more detail into the unsavory-if-not-illegal intersection of interests at the heart of her family’s philanthropic work.

Band, now 44, was to Bill Clinton what Huma Abedin has been to Hillary. He started as a junior staffer in the White House straight out of college in the 1990s, and once the Clintons left office in 2001, he never left Bill’s side.

Here’s how one Clinton loyalist describes Band:

Doug turned down a lucrative job at Goldman Sachs to help the President transition into private life, even in the midst of a difficult time when President Clinton’s approval rating was lower than it had ever been, and many had left the President’s side for greener pastures. The decision Doug made to stick with the President was made out of loyalty, and I always admired that.

But in a very short period of time, and at an astonishingly young age, Doug not only helped build and guide the Clinton Foundation, he also traveled the world with the President, came up with the idea for the Clinton Global Initiative, and worked to turn it into an entity that has helped literally hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

Those were Band’s own not-so-modest words, taken from a reference letter he wrote for John Podesta to send out in his name in 2013, at a time when news stories were painting a negative portrait of Band’s influence in Hillaryland. The most damaging was a profile by Alec MacGillis in the New Republic that was headlined “Scandal at Clinton Inc.” and identified Band as the cause of the turmoil. The crux of the piece was that after helping to build the Clintons’ philanthropic empire, he was now using it to amass riches for himself through Teneo, the consulting firm he started in 2011 with the Irish businessman Declan Kelly. And the unseemly way in which he was going about it risked tarnishing both Hillary Clinton’s future presidential run and Bill Clinton’s post-presidential brand.

Wrote MacGillis:

Bill Clinton now leads a sprawling philanthropic empire like no other. The good it achieves is undeniable. It has formed partnerships with multinationals and wealthy individuals to distribute billions of dollars all over the globe. Its many innovative projects include efforts to lower the costs of medicines in developing nations and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in major cities. And yet it’s hard to shake the sense that it’s not all about saving the world. There’s an undertow of transactionalism in the glittering annual dinners, the fixation on celebrity, and a certain contingent of donors whose charitable contributions and business interests occupy an uncomfortable proximity. More than anyone else except Clinton himself, Band is responsible for creating this culture. And not only did he create it; he has thrived in it.

MacGillis’s reporting proved prescient, right down to the use of the phrase “Clinton Inc.” Questions about the ethics of the Clinton Foundation have hovered like a cloud around Hillary’s campaign from the start, never quite turning into a storm but never quite going away, either. Did the Clintons trade access to themselves for donations to the charity? Yes. Did Band mix his work raising money for the foundation with his business interests? Yes. But the revelations have thus far stopped at the government’s door. Neither the emails about a deal with the king of Morocco to host a CGI conference nor Band’s memo about Teneo and his work for Bill Clinton suggest that Hillary Clinton took actions as secretary of state to benefit donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The WikiLeaks hack has confirmed tensions between Chelsea Clinton, who stepped into to try to overhaul and “professionalize” the operation of the foundation, and Band, who bristled at her interference and at one point referred to her as “a spoiled brat.” In one email, Band defends himself against accusations of “a conflict of interest” with Teneo by pointing out that Bill Clinton had also received compensation and gifts from donors to the foundation. And in his 12-page memo, Band argues that through his company and his “unique role” in an “unorthodox” arrangement, he has helped both Bill Clinton and the foundation, in part by soliciting donations from his Teneo corporate clients. The section that stands out the most is the one titled, “For-Profit Activity of President Clinton (i.e. Bill Clinton Inc.).” Band writes of himself and another Clinton aide, Justin Cooper:

Independent of our fundraising and decision-making activities on behalf of the Foundation, we have dedicated ourselves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities – including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements. In that context, we have in effect served as agents, lawyers, managers and implementers to secure speaking, business and advisory service deals. In support of the President’s for-profit activity, we also have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like. Neither Justin nor I are separately compensated for these activities (e.g., we do not receive a fee for, or percentage11 of, the more than $50 million in for-profit activity we have personally helped to secure for President Clinton to date or the $66 million in future contracts, should he
choose to continue with those engagements).

With respect to business deals for his advisory services, Justin and I found, developed and brought to President Clinton multiple arrangements for him to accept or reject. Of his current 4 arrangements, we secured all of them; and, we have helped manage and maintain all of his for-profit business relationships. Since 2001, President Clinton’s business arrangements have yielded more than $30 million for him personally, with $66 million to be paid out over the next nine years should he choose to continue with the current engagements.

How does this all affect Hillary Clinton, the Clinton who is actually running for president? Mostly, it just doesn’t look good. (And thanks to Donald Trump’s endless antics, it probably won’t stop her from winning the election.) Both Clintons have vigorously defended the charitable work they have done over the last 16 years, and while that work may be admirable, the WikiLeaks hack has exposed that the former president’s philanthropy, his personal enrichment, and the business interests of perhaps his closest aide were too closely tied.

The Clinton campaign has made a policy of not commenting on the specific WikiLeaks revelations other than to accuse Russia of stealing Podesta’s emails and suggest that the Trump campaign was involved. In an appearance Thursday on MSNBC, spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the campaign doesn’t believe “that this is something that voters are going to focus on or voters are going to care about.”

“The foundation, as is known, has done great work,” Palmieri said. “The State Department has looked at this. They have said that there is no decision that Hillary Clinton made as Secretary of State that was based on people who donated to the Clinton Foundation.”

Teneo issued its own statement on Thursday: “As the memo demonstrates, Teneo worked to encourage clients, where appropriate, to support the Clinton Foundation because of the good work that it does around the world. It also clearly shows that Teneo never received any financial benefit or benefit of any kind from doing so.”

The Band memo does not directly involve Hillary, but to Republicans it makes no difference. They have already seized on the WikiLeaks revelations to promise “years” more of hearings and investigations if she wins the presidency.

“The more e-mails Wikileaks releases, the more the lines between the Clinton Foundation, the Secretary of State’s office, and the Clintons’ personal finances are blurred,” Trump said. “Mr. Band called the arrangement 'unorthodox.' The rest of us call it outright corruption.”

Repairing Palestine's historic mosaics

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

Hisham's Palace, home to one of the world's largest mosaic carpets, is in the midst of a massive restoration project.

WikiLeaks-released memo reveals Bill Clinton's wealth was tied to Clinton Foundation

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Donald Trump responded to WikiLeaks' latest revelation, calling the Clintons' behaviour 'outright corruption'.

Asian markets mixed following better-than-expected post-Brexit UK GDP data

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

The UK economy grew by 0.5% over the third quarter of 2016, in the three months after the EU referendum.

Mariah Carey is seeking support from Nick Cannon after split from James Packer, says rapper's father

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

James Cannon says his son and Carey are still very close and have handled all media speculations well.

Mapping Africa's natural resources

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

An overview of the continent's main natural resources.

WWE wants Kurt Angle, Bubba Ray Dudley and Shawn Michaels to return to boost ratings - report

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Shawn Michaels has not stepped in the ring in the past six years.

19-year-old Texas student taking topless selfie while driving crashes into police car

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Miranda Rader was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated but was released on a bail bond of $2,000

Turkish minister: Fethullah Gulen is our bin Laden

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

Ankara makes a fresh push for the extradition of US-based businessman it holds responsible for July coup attempt.

The chai walas of India

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

After photographs of a Pakistani tea seller went viral, Indian tea sellers share their stories - and their dreams.

Philippines: Mayor on President Duterte's drug list among 10 killed in police shootout

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

The government is also planning to approve a bill that would reintroduce capital punishment for major crimes.

Additional 4,000 troop deployment near Russian border is to prevent, not provoke conflict: Nato chief

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Jens Stoltenberg insisted that the alliance does not see any imminent threat from Russia.

Colombia ELN hostage release 'under way'

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

Colombia's ELN rebels begin the process of freeing a hostage, a condition for talks, officials say.

Turkey uses emergency decree to shut down internet in 11 Kurdish cities amid widespread protests

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Among other things, the outages have severely affected news updates on the unrest in the southeast region.

Time to put Russia-Canada tensions in the deep freeze

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

The Trudeau government recognises that climate change is the real threat to Canada's Arctic sovereignty.

Paul Nash: the modernity of ancient landscapes

By Michael Prodger from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Famous for his eerie First World War paintings, a new exhibition reminds us why Paul Nash was the greatest British artist of the first half of the 20th century.

In 1932 The Studio magazine printed a series of articles under the title: “What is Wrong with Modern Painting?” Internationalism, it claimed, was one ailment, with invidious Continental styles such as cubism and surrealism causing British art to lose its “native flavour”. “The Pernicious Influence of Words” was another, with “art jargon” and talk of “abstraction” helping to alienate and distance the public. What was to be done? Simple, the magazine pronounced: “A truce must be called to the post-war phase of ‘experiment’.”

For Paul Nash (1889-1946), the pre-eminent painter of the First World War, the Studio articles were a provocation. “In so many words we are being asked to ­abandon all research, all experiment; to close our eyes to the vital art of other lands – in short to be British,” he wrote. He also put it another way, in slightly less tetchy terms: “Whether it is possible to ‘Go Modern’ and to still ‘Be British’ is a question vexing quite a few people today.”

Nash’s paintings – and his photographs, woodcuts, writings and book illustrations for the likes of Robert Graves, T E Lawrence and Siegfried Sassoon – were proof that there was no intrinsic incompatibility between Britishness and European modernism. Indeed, what his work showed was that the avant-garde was a means of reinvigorating the British landscape tradition. There was everything personal about his art but nothing insular; Nash may have been, in the eyes of many, heir to the mystic pastoralism of William Blake and Samuel Palmer – and may have returned repeatedly to such heart-of-England subjects as Iron Age Dorset and Oxfordshire, the Sussex Downs, Romney Marsh, and the fields and orchards of Buckinghamshire – but he treated them with a sensibility that had a strongly European component.

How Nash managed to “Go Modern” and still “Be British” is the underlying theme of Tate Britain’s magnificent and comprehensive retrospective, which contains about 160
works. Nash the artist of two world wars is necessarily here, but the focus of the exhibition lies in his non-martial work. Nevertheless, it was the wars that defined him.

Nash had trained in London at the Slade School of Art as a member of an extraordinary generation that the professor of drawing Henry Tonks dubbed a “Crisis of Brilliance”. (On meeting Tonks, Nash recalled, “It was evident he considered that neither the Slade, nor I, was likely to derive much benefit.”) Among his peers were the greatest of the future war artists – Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, William Roberts, C R W Nevinson and Edward Wadsworth. Yet it was Nash – who lasted only a year at the Slade – who outpaced them.

His visceral, stylised and unflinching images of trench landscapes on the Western Front, culminating in the shattered trees and churned mud of the painting We Are Making a New World (1918), brought him to prominence (the brooding, red-brown sky that bathes above the scene with such a sinister light reappeared 26 years later in his near-abstract aerial painting Battle of Germany). Nash was no good at painting the human figure, so instead, as he later said, “I have tried to paint trees as though they were human ­beings.” His war pictures are full of splintered stumps.

In 1917, at Ypres, Nash fell into a trench, broke a rib and was invalided home. Days later his regiment was all but wiped out. He returned to France later in the year a changed man, a sense of guilt in his heart and all ­naivety gone. It was from the front that he sent a letter – a philippic, really – home to his wife, Margaret, that is more than a raging description of his feelings: it also serves as a commentary on his paintings.


No pen or drawing can convey this country . . . Evil and the incarnate fiend alone can be master of this war, and no glimmer of God’s hand is seen anywhere. Sunset and sunrise are blasphemous, they are mockeries to man . . . the black dying trees ooze and sweat and the shells never cease . . . I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.


He returned from the war with post-traumatic stress disorder and his asthmatic lungs irreparably damaged by gas: the effects were to kill him, aged 57, less than a year after the end of the Second World War.

In the interwar years, Nash’s art was marked by an interest in interpenetrations and borders: of land and sea, dream and reality, night and day, man-made and natural, interior and exterior, organic and architectural. As an official war artist during the Second World War, attached to the air ministry (which didn’t really want a modernist), he remained in England and added German warplanes to his list. He repeatedly painted the incongruity of quintessential British landscapes pocked by the wrecks of downed enemy planes: a Messerschmitt ­being winched out of its crash site in Windsor Great Park, half a bomber resting in a wood, a fractured fighter in a cornfield lit by a blazing setting sun.

The most celebrated of Nash’s military-bucolic paintings is Totes Meer (“Dead Sea”) (1941), showing Cowley Dump near Oxford, where the remains of crashed planes were
piled on one another. He depicts the tangled wings and fuselages as a grey-green metal tide, washing up ineffectually against an ­adamantine Britain. He wanted the picture to be reproduced on postcards to be dropped over Germany, though it never was. In this aeronautical graveyard he painted, he saw the fate of the “hundreds and hundreds of flying creatures which invaded these shores”. He felt that the battle being waged was one from the Norse sagas and that the aeroplanes were not machines but incarnations of evil: a watercolour from 1940, Wrecked German Plane in Flames, was subtitled Death of the Dragon.

Back in 1925 Nash had started the bleakest of the paintings he produced at Dymchurch, on the coast of the Romney Marshes. He had moved there in 1921 to aid recuperation after a series of collapses brought on by depression and shell shock. His seaside was a haunting, stark place: the waves held back by the angular sea wall (on which he would walk at midnight with Margaret) suggested the trenches and no-man’s land, and in Winter Sea he painted the water as a mass of metallic shards in a green the colour of putrefaction. It is an image of utter desolation.

With Totes Meer he reprised the composition, substituting the broken aircraft for the water. Here, though, there is just a hint of life; a white bird (an owl? a seagull?) flies over and away from the wreckage like a ­departing spirit. According to Kenneth Clark this Götterdämmerung was “the best war picture so far I think”. His statement no longer needs the “so far”.

Nash’s anthropomorphised warplanes are also extensions of his particular brand of surrealism. He was less interested in the radical politics or the focus on the unconscious that fascinated the French practitioners, and more in the evocative potential of objets trouvés shown in imagined environments. “How often then do we encounter strange objects in unlikely association and hear tantalising phrases which seem full of meaning,” he wondered. His paintings, he said, were “gropings” towards uncovering that meaning. However metaphysical his intimations, he grounded his explorations in the landscape: “I find I still need partially organic features to make my fixed conceptual image. I discern among natural phenomena a thousand forms which might, with advantage, be dissolved in the crucible of abstract transfiguration.”

In 1936 Nash was on the organising committee for the “International Surrealist Exhibition” in London: “I did not find surrealism, surrealism found me,” he wrote. The show introduced the work of Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Joan Miró and others to a startled British public. Some 23,000 visitors came to the exhibition: the luckiest ones saw Salvador Dalí delivering a lecture while dressed in a deep-sea diver’s suit and holding two wolfhounds on leads. The poet David Gascoyne had to rescue him, with a pair of pliers, when he began to suffocate.

Three years before the surrealism exhibition, Nash had co-founded the short-lived Unit One group with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Edward Wadsworth, Edward Burra and the critic Herbert Read. Their aim was to promote modern art in general: “to stand for the expression of a truly contemporary spirit, for that thing which is recognised as peculiarly of to-day in painting, sculpture and architecture”. It was a brief that encompassed both abstraction
and surrealism. Nash believed unequivocally that modern art was in a precarious position and needed championing.

His Unit One works are among his least appealing, partly because of their rather dry formal aspect and their pallid palette. The Tate displays half a dozen of these pictures among a cluster of works by fellow group members: together, they appear as they were intended to, an uncompromising gathering that amounts to a manifesto of radical art. They make no effort to appeal to the viewer: little wonder the group held just one exhibition. Despite belonging in this forward-looking milieu, however, Nash refused to become a theoretical painter, confessing himself “far too interested in the character of landscape ever to abandon painting after Nature”. Whatever form future art might take, he believed, “it will be a subjective art” – and landscape, which underpinned all his art, offered him the subjectivity nothing else could. The countryside was animated by the presence of the genius loci, and his pictures are attempts to identify and capture that spirit of place – if not necessarily to understand it.

What he felt at Iron Age sites such as Wittenham Clumps, Maiden Castle or the White Horse of Uffington were the emanations of “old gods long forgotten”. A painting such as Landscape from a Dream (1936-38) invokes those old gods: a still life of chalk cliffs, a red sun, a mirror, floating spheres
and a hawk (Margaret Nash placed a statue of Horus, the Egyptian hawk god and guardian of the soul on its journey to the afterlife, on her husband’s grave). The objects are endlessly interpretable symbols of spirits, and the borders between real and unreal realms; together they offered, he said, the “suggestion of a super-reality”.

In the 1930s Nash produced a great many paintings showing random objects such as stones, chair legs and megaliths in half-imagined landscape settings. Such items, he believed, were elements of an equation that would be solved only when he put them together and revealed their true selves:


Sometimes one may find a pair [of stones] almost side by side. Inseparable complements, in true relation. Yet, lying there in the grass never finding each other until I found them that afternoon on the Sussex Downs . . . That problem was not then solved, but so soon as my stones came into my hands their equation was solved and they were united forever.


While his assemblages had much to do with the influence of his artist lover, Eileen Agar, Nash found that by putting objects together, “Nature became endowed for me with new life . . . The landscape, too, seemed now possessed of a different animation.” These pictures, showing a keen awareness of de Chirico’s work, also allowed him to combine the formal painterly elements of abstraction, surrealism and landscape.

Certain motifs – a twisted tree trunk pulled from the River Rother (“like a very fine Henry Moore”) which he exhibited on a plinth at the 1936 surrealism exhibition, or a felled tree, an architectural fragment that he likened to a “monster” – were for him living “personages” that stimulated the imagination and set in motion “a process of what I can only describe as inward dilation of the eyes” through which “I could increase my actual vision”.

Nowhere is the effect of this inward ­dilation more obvious than in the series he painted in 1943 and 1944, showing what Nash called “a landscape of the imagination” but which was, in fact, the view of the Wittenham Clumps from the house of his friend Hilda Harrisson on Boars Hill, near Oxford. The tree-topped hills are shown under an equinox moon that perfectly recalls Samuel Palmer.

Here, in the middle of the war, during the “Little Blitz”, with Nash’s chest infection becoming increasingly debilitating, the countryside is at a tipping point, too – day and night are of equal length. The trees are coming into leaf so these are March landscapes, and winter therefore is receding; these pictures symbolise hope. The war might still go either way, into the dark or the light, but these ancient hills have seen invaders come and go and battles fought, yet the rhythms of nature reassert themselves regardless of man. No invader, however malign, can subvert the seasons.

The pictures segue from chilly moonlit blues to rich ochres, russets and greens under a red sun – a transition from cold to warmth. The careful experiments of his Unit One pictures and the precise compositions of found objects are gone. These landscapes are composed of loose and unblended patches of paint, the clustered trees look like mushrooms, and the result is something both profound and euphoric. Nash did not explain the pictures, other than to note that: “There are places, just as there are people and objects . . . whose relationship of parts creates a mystery.” The Queen Mother bought Landscape of the Vernal Equinox when the paint can barely have dried. She recalled returning to it again and again, unsure of quite why it drew her. Her daughters were rather less perceptive critics. “Poor Mummy’s gone mad,” they said. “Just look what she’s brought back.”

Nash lived out his last months in a state of “reclusive melancholy”; increasingly enfeebled, he would joke, “Knees up Mother Brown, feet up Mr Nash.” His heart eventually gave up. Nash’s subsequent reputation has been built on his emotive pastorals, with the feeling that his formal experiments were somehow half-hearted or an aberration. What the Tate’s superb survey proves is that they represent the true Nash every bit as much as his pure landscapes do, and that an artist did not need to be a neo-Romantic to believe in his creed that “to find, you must be able to perceive”. The exhibition proves, too, that the Queen Mother wasn’t mad.

“Paul Nash” is at Tate Britain, London SW1, until 5 March 2017.


Marvel's Doctor Strange is like ketchup – it's formulated to please, but you won't love it

By Helen Lewis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s wellhoned turn in Doctor Strange is enjoyable, but the film isn't one you'd ever fall in love with.

In 2004, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article asking why there were dozens of varieties of mustard, and yet a single brand of ketchup – Heinz – utterly dominated the market. He discovered that Heinz ketchup was a perfect synthesis of the “five known fundamental tastes in the human palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami”.

Food scientists call this amplitude: Coca-Cola has high amplitude, blending vanilla, cinnamon and brown spice in a way that makes it difficult to pick out an individual note. That also makes it easier to drink buckets of the stuff; the palate tires easily of a single, spiky flavour, as with orange juice. But ketchup? You can smother that on anything.

The studio behind The Avengers, Thor and Iron Man has invented a similar condiment. Let’s call it Marvel Sauce. Take one superhero movie, add an even mix of buff beefcakes and Shakespearean actors, then marinate in light sarcasm to offset the fact that everyone is talking seriously about giant hammers or saving the world in costumes they look like they have to be sewn into.

That the process creates homogeneity is not the snobby criticism it might at first appear. (I’ve drunk Coke in places where the water wasn’t safe, or local tastes were very different from mine, and I’ve been grateful for it.) Yet it does mean the films’ greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.

Doctor Strange is smothered in Marvel Sauce. It looks phenomenal: if you liked the city-folding from Inception, this film lets M C Escher’s grandchild have a go with the software. The actors are first-rate, from Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo to Mads Mikkelsen’s baddie, Kaecilius. (Wanted: someone else who studied Latin at school to appreciate my joke about Kaecilius being “in horto sedet”.) The tone is just right, undercutting anything too portentous with snark and slapstick. At one point, Benedict Cumberbatch is giving it proper, squinty-eyed, superhero duck face in the mirror when his sentient cloak pokes him in the eye.

Admittedly, the plot is pretty thin. Our hero is Dr Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), an arrogant surgeon at a New York hospital with a lucrative sideline in after-dinner speeches. (He has to be American: first, NHS surgeons don’t make enough money to own the watches and glass-walled midtown apartment on show here. Second, he’d be Mister Strange, and would spend half his fights explaining this to people.)

One night, he is purring off to an after-dinner speech in his Lambo when he decides to look at MRI brain scans on his Microsoft Surface while overtaking in heavy rain. This is a bad idea. He wakes up with scarred and damaged hands and is bereft until his physiotherapist tells him about another patient who recovered from breaking his back. Strange finds the guy, who tells him to travel to Nepal (a change from the Tibet of the comics, apparently made to appease Chinese film distributors) to learn some old mystic bollocks.

From there on, the story suggests that the screenwriters have more than a passing familiarity with The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. Strange enters the special world, meets the mentor – a bald Tilda Swinton, who teaches him to bend time and space – and undergoes an ordeal, including his death and rebirth. He “seizes the sword”, an eye-shaped necklace that can rewind time, and uses it to battle Kaecilius’s plan to collapse Earth into the Dark Dimension. There is one surprise, which is that Strange’s core superpower is revealed to be boring enemies into submission.

Is this film enjoyable? Yes. Is it the kind of film you can fall in love with? No. I left thinking of the one Marvel film that’s mustard, not ketchup: the profane Deadpool. Its hero is also disfigured and cut off from his old life. But Deadpool’s scars ruin his face, and he is ostracised and feared. Strange gets to make swords out of energy and teleport using a magic ring, which seems a decent consolation for not being able to play Chopin. Deadpool also gets a real human woman as a love interest, rather than the one-dimensional saint of an A&E doctor of Dr Strange, played by Rachel McAdams. But then, Deadpool was an 18-rated parody, and this is a blockbuster. It’s ketchup. 

Michelle Obama for president?

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

First lady takes on increasingly political role, raising suspicion - and hope - that she might one day run for office.

Is Donald Trump planning to sue NBC for 'illegal' release of Access Hollywood tape?

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Trump's popularity in the elections took a major hit following the release of the hot mike recording.

Makeshift camps grow in France after Calais Jungle exit

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

Around 100 refugees spend night in unused part of Calais Jungle while some take shelter on the streets of Paris.

Riot police move in on N Dakota pipeline protesters

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

Riot police arrest almost 120 protesters blocking the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Japan etiquette video discourages applying make-up on trains

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

A Japanese rail company causes anger by telling commuters that doing make-up on the train is "ugly to see".

Who is Zafar Ansari? Surrey all-rounder makes his Test debut against Bangladesh in Mirpur

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

IBTimes UK profiles the newest member of the England team.

Charles Manson's 'right-hand man' Charles Watson denied parole for 17th time in 1969 LA killings

From : World. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Watson was initially sentenced to death, but it was commuted to life in prison in 1973.

Brisbane bus driver dies after being set on fire by passenger

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

A bus driver has died in Brisbane, Australia, after a passenger threw an "item" which set him on fire, say police.

Philippines Duterte: God told me to stop swearing

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

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he will clean up his language after God gave him an ultimatum.

60 percent of global wildlife species wiped out

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

Unprecedented rate of decline of animals because of human activity causing a "global mass extinction", new report says.

Iraqi army fighting to reach site of ISIL executions

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

Killings meant "to terrorise" as fighters accused of surrounding themselves with civilians in Hamam al-Alil village.

Now the Antarctic is melting too

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

A newer understanding has explained the apparently odd behaviour of southern ice.

Belgium makes breakthrough in EU-Canada trade deal

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

Negotiations back on after agreement appeared derailed by Belgian farmers concerned over the reach of big corporations.

EU citizens in UK fear for jobs ahead of Brexit talks

From Europe News. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

A fifth of those polled in FT survey plan to leave in next 2 years

Nato chief says alliance 'does not want new Cold War'

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

Nato is not seeking confrontation with Russia despite deploying 4,000 troops to eastern Europe, the alliance's chief tells the BBC.

Norway trade model offers Britain food for thought

From Europe News. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Business with Sweden flourishes outside EU customs union

Syrian family granted asylum in UK stuck in Lebanon

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

A Syrian family accepted for asylum in the UK have their relocation plans cancelled twice.

In pictures

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

Rare 19th century photographs of Shanghai by English photographer William Saunders go on show in London in first public exhibition devoted to his work.

US election 2016: Trump running mate Mike Pence's plane skids off runway

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

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence's plane skids off a runway on landing in New York.

Oregon standoff leaders acquitted over armed protest

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

Leaders of a 41-day siege of a US wildlife reserve over land ownership cleared of conspiracy and gun charges.

Blinded at 14

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

Photographer Abid Bhat documents the story of 14-year-old Insha Mushtaq, who lost vision in both her eyes after being hit by pellets in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Forbidden babies

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

John Sudworth investigates the role of the state in China's family policy a year on from the end of the one-child rule.

Is two-child policy changing China?

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

One year on from the relaxation of China's one child policy, what impact has it had?

Murder hot spot no longer

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

The BBC's Katy Watson reports on how investing in CCTV and deploying the army may have helped reduce the crime rate in Honduras, once the murder hot spot of the world.

'We need progress'

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

Russia's high-speed trains have revolutionised rail travel - but life by the tracks has much less glamour, Seva Boiko reports.

Living in the ruins of the Calais 'Jungle'

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

The BBC finds young people still living among the fires in the Calais migrant camp known as the 'Jungle'.

World's largest marine protected area declared in Antarctica

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

After years of international negotiations, Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world's largest marine protected area.

Brexit: The Poles heading for the exit after referendum

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

Some Polish people say they no longer feel welcome in Britain after Brexit and may leave.

Lost riches

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

Can Brazil's "oil capital", Macae, bounce back after the Petrobras scandal?

It's time for Jeremy Corbyn's supporters to take on the unions

By Michael Chessum from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

The union support for expanding Heathrow reflects a certain conservatism. 

The government’s announcement that it will go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow seems to have unlocked an array of demons. It has also created some unlikely alliances. Zac Goldsmith, the pro-Brexit mayoral candidate whose campaign was widely condemned as racist, is seeking to re-invent himself as an environmental champion, campaigning alongside fellow Heathrow MP John McDonnell. And the Richmond byelection which he is triggering could yet become a test case for Labour’s progressive alliance enthusiasts.

But perhaps the most significant position is that of the major unions. To the shock of many less seasoned activists on the left, Unite, the largest trade union in the UK and a consistent supporter of Corbyn’s leadership, has loudly called on the government to “be bold and build” the new runway, even now urging it to accelerate the process. Far from being a revelation, Unite’s position on Heathrow is longstanding – and it points to the lasting power and influence of an establishment trade unionism.

In August, the TUC co-ordinated a joint statement from five unions, urging the government to go ahead with the third runway. Like the rest of the unions’ lobbying efforts, it was coordinated with other pro-expansion stakeholders like the CBI, and it could just as easily have been authored by the business lobby. Heathrow expansion will, it says, “deliver at least £147bn to UK GDP and 70,000 new jobs”. “Trade unions and their members”, said Frances O’Grady, “stand ready to work to help the government successfully deliver this next major national infrastructure project”.

The logic that drives unions to support projects like Heathrow expansion – and which drives the GMB union to support fracking and Trident renewal – is grounded in a model of trade unionism which focuses not on transforming the workplace, but on the narrowly-defined interests of workers – job creation, economic growth and a larger share of the pie. It views the trade union movement not as merely antagonistic to employers, but as a responsible lobbying partner for business and industry, and as a means of mediating workers’ demands in a way that is steady and acceptable to the state and the economic system. This model, and the politics that accompanied it, is why, historically, trade unions were a conservative influence on Labour’s internal politics.

Nothing could be more at odds with the political, environmental and economic realities of the 21st century. It is not in the interests of workers or ordinary people to live on a planet which is slowly becoming uninhabitable. To avoid catastrophic global warming, we need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground – that probably means shrinking the aviation industry, not expanding Heathrow’s passenger capacity by 70 per cent. All of this is implicitly recognised by Jeremy Corbyn’s environmental and industrial strategy, which aims to create a million new jobs and build a million new homes while switching to renewables and democratising the energy industry.

The gap between Corbyn’s policies and the policies of many major trade unions tells us something deeper about the challenges facing the left. If Corbynism is an unfinished revolution in the Labour Party machine, it is one which has barely started in the wider labour movement.

The gradual leftward shift in many unions’ political allegiances has broadened the alliance around Corbyn and given him strength in numbers and resources, but it is often as much about internal union politics as it is a deep conviction for what Corbyn represents. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis did back Corbyn’s re-election following a ballot of members, but is hardly a left-winger, and the union’s votes on Labour’s NEC are not safely aligned to the left.

The political radicalisation of the unions has been matched, if anything, by a decline in coordinated industrial action. The national strategy that fuelled the anti-austerity movement in 2011 and 2012 is only a memory. The democratic and organising culture in many unions, too, remains bureaucratic and opaque. Trade unions have played a key role in Corbyn’s coalition, but without a significant shift in their internal culture and a shift away from their role as respectable partners of industry, they could easily scupper the project as well. 

The expansion of Heathrow airport is a step backwards for the future of the planet and the interests of ordinary people – and yet, if it happens at all, it will have been made possible by the concerted efforts of key trade unions. This is not an aberration but a reminder that, despite their rhetorical flourishes in support of Corbyn, Britain’s trade unions are also in need of change. Any project that aims to transform the Labour party and wider society must also aim to transform the whole of the labour movement – from the shop floor to the corridors of power.


US charges scores over India-based call-centre scam

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Telephone operatives impersonated US authorities demanding payment for nonexistent debt, stealing $300m from Americans.

Whither Vine?

By Robinson Meyer from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 28, 2016.

Twitter is shutting down Vine, the mirthful, hilarious, and often bizarre social network composed solely of six-second looping videos.

In the next few months, the company will stop supporting the Vine mobile app, the primary venue of Vine production and consumption. Facing a stubborn lack of profits and a seemingly unending crisis of confidence, Twitter has chosen to shutter its weirdest and most distinctive product.

In a post on Medium, Vine promises that its videos will stay online after the shut-down. “We’ll be keeping the website online because we think it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made,” says the release.

“Thank you. To all the creators out there — thank you for taking a chance on this app back in the day. To the many team members over the years who made this what it was — thank you for your contributions. And of course, thank you to all of those who came to watch and laugh every day,” it continues.

And how many people came. While Vine’s growth had slowed in the past year and a half, it was once one of the most vibrant and creative factories of culture on the internet. From 2012 to 2015, there was simply nowhere online like Vine. You could get lost in Vine like it was Wikipedia, and you could laugh on Vine like it was YouTube. It welded the old internet’s spontaneity and “randomness” to the new social web’s scale and diversity.

As the web continues to expand and corporatize, as more companies merge an Apple-like aesthetic with Walmart-like scale, it’s hard to imagine anything like Vine happening again. So here’s an appreciation—and some of The Atlantic staff’s favorite Vines.

Few of the core features we think of as “Twitter” were invented by people employed by Twitter. None of the founders invented the 140-character message, the constraint that gives the service its verve; instead, they adopted it as a technical aspect of SMS texting. Nor did anyone at Twitter invent the @-reply. Not the hashtag or the retweet, either—all were first created by users, then borrowed by the company as an official feature.

The company didn’t quite invent the six-second looping video. It bought the startup that did—Vine—in October 2012, right before it was to launch. But it can get credit for introducing the world to a form unlike any other online: Vines were too weird a thing for users to generate themselves.

When Vine debuted early in 2013, Twitter boasted that its brief videos were the visual equivalent of a tweet. How the student excelled the master. Twitter is where you joke about sports and whine about politics. It is always wordy—and thus inescapably political.

Vine? Vine is art.

Joyful, astonishing, frenetically blissful art. Like the 14-line sonnet or the 12-bar blues, the six-second loop accepted its defining constraint and therefore transcended it. Those six seconds could show you anything—a tiny Japanese owl, two teenagers joking in Tulsa, a water bubble on the International Space Station—but they were always six seconds. The curtain always slammed down, and you were always sent back to the beginning again.

This made every Vine an experiment in form. Some had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some rebelled against any clear point: They started by showing you something crazy and the craziness persisted right through to the end. And the best ran along next to you as you tried to figure out what was happening: You began watching, you thought you saw the joke, then the premise of the whole Vine would shift to reveal a new joke, and then—wham—you were back where you began.

This weird formalism is one reason why Vine—the social network—could have only happened when it did. Only the flood of venture capital that followed from Facebook’s mass popularity, only the lack of good investment options after the global financial crisis, only the hundreds of investors looking to spot the next Google, could have produced a little app as strange as Vine. (Think about it: For a time, a whole planetary class of bankers and hedge-fund managers invested their money not in better ways to mine a rock or ship a box across the ocean, but in inventing new tools of expression. How world-historically weird.) And only a generation of teens and young adults newly empowered with smartphones—a wacko device with a web connection, a video camera, and a link to the whole staggering breadth of global pop culture—could have produced Vine, a medium that requires a willingness to show off to friends and strangers, a freedom to look a little silly or stupid, and hours and hours of waiting-around time to workshop ideas.

No wonder then that, for many teens and some adults too, Vines became a factory of mass culture, an ever-churning storehouse of allusion and one-liners and humor and dance moves. What SNL or MTV or Anchorman or Chapelle’s Show or Gilmore Girls were for older generations, Vine was for a younger class of kids. And doesn’t that make sense? After all, the atomic unit of teen culture is the movie quote—“tis but a flesh wound” or “if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball”—and a Vine was often nothing more than a free-floating movie-less quote, attached to a comment thread and indexed by URL.

Take “back at it again at the Krispy Kreme,” above. That Vine is an instantly memorable quote—but it’s also a complete story, almost. We meet a character. We see him do something crazy. And then (another formal twist) the climax isn’t even in the Vine. We’re left to imagine the sign shattering and the stunned Krispy Kreme Kustomers, and meanwhile the Vine has spun forward to set up his jump again. Without the smartphone, this is a ridiculous accident; with the smartphone, he’s a hero. Only a Vine this good could prompt a many-thousands word article at New York magazine about what actually happened at that mall in Matthews, North Carolina. Only a Vine this memorable could seed the tagline of a teen viral video two years later, “Damn Daniel.”

Vine even gave Merriam-Webster its 2015 Word of The Year: On fleek, a phrase which was coined on Vine.

And coined by a black teen girl, in particular. The genius devisers of Vine culture were not just young people, but young people of color, whose ideas dominated the service in a way akin to no other mass tech platform. Black Twitter is a vital vein of the larger social network, for instance, but it’s only one part of the whole; teens of color, meanwhile, credibly created Vine’s mainstream. Black teens took Vine (and their friends and their fans) into their classrooms, school buses, and bedrooms, which turned Vine into one vanguard of a larger and ongoing shift of mass cultural attention to women and people of color.

In that unresolved revolution, later historians might say Vine played as large a role as Tumblr and even Twitter itself. (But see unresolved: In Vine’s case, all that culture building partly served to enrich Twitter’s board, which remains overwhelmingly white and male.)

Nothing gold can stay. Vine had been struggling against Instagram and Snapchat, the new kings of teen video. In May of this year, a third-party firm noted that Vine engagement was at an all-time low. And many Vine stars—those young adults who achieved larger notoriety off their stunts and good looks—had already taken Vine links out of their bios as they moved to larger, higher profile, and more lucrative platforms, including YouTube and Facebook.

A different company might have saved Vine—or at least sold it off. But Twitter, no average tech firm, has lately been mired in its own dramas. Since going public in October 2013, it’s limped from one crisis to another, never achieving the Facebook or Google-like profit margins that investors dreamed of—or, for that matter, profit at all. It has tried out one new feature after another, each with the goal of expanding Twitter’s core user base; none have succeeded. Now, it is laying off 9 percent of its staff—presumably this includes almost all of the Vine employees—as it staggers toward financial health.

Had Twitter chosen to listen to its users a few years ago, Vine might be alive today. As prominent women and people of color have been telling Twitter for at least two years, the service has a mass harassment problem. Twitter has never substantively tried to fix this issue. When it went looking for buyers earlier this month, some family-friendly bidders—including Disney—wouldn’t touch it because of its reputation for out-of-control racist, misogynist, and anti-Semitic cyberbullying.  

Twitter now says it is working on tools to combat that problem and that some of the features targeting it should be released next month. It’s long made promises like this, though, so I’ll believe when I see it. And the change in approach wasn’t enough to save Vine—meaning that one of the most generative communities of people of color online was destroyed in part by Twitter Nazis, on Twitter Inc.’s watch.

And with Vine’s death comes the larger passing of an era of the social internet. Instagram, Vine’s more corporate and more profitable older cousin, has never matched Vine’s ecstatic creativity, but it’s what we’re left with now. The sprawling and manic and often kind social web has been conquered by Facebook, and what lies immediately in front of us seems more dull, more reactionary, and more clearly corporate than what we just passed through.

At least we’ll always have these Vines, though. Below, I’ve posted some more of our favorites—and my own favorite last.

Topless selfie student crashes into Texas police car

From BBC News - World. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

A US student crashes into a police car while taking a topless selfie behind the wheel, Texas law enforcement officials say.

Pakistan expels Indian diplomat Surjeet Singh

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Foreign secretary summons high commissioner after India says it will expel Pakistani diplomat for spying.

Russia denies involvement in deadly Syria school attack

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Moscow says it had no role in air strikes that killed dozens, including 22 children, in rebel-held Idlib province.

A progressive alliance in the Richmond by-election can scupper hard Brexit

By Neal Lawson from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Labour and the Greens should step aside. 

There are moments to seize and moments to let go. The Richmond by-election, triggered by Zac Goldsmith's decision to quit over a third runway at Heathrow, could be a famous turning point in the politics of our nation. Or it could be another forgettable romp home for a reactionary incumbent.

This isn’t a decision for the Tories and their conscientious objector, Goldsmith, who is pretending he isn’t the Tory candidate when he really is. Nor is it a decision for the only challenger in the seat – the Liberal Democrats.

No, the history making decision lies with Labour and the Greens. They can’t get anywhere near Zac. But they can stop him. All they need to do is get out of the way. 

If the Lib Dems get a clear run, they could defeat Zac. He is Theresa May's preferred candidate and she wants the third runway at Heathrow. He is the candidate who was strongly Leave when his voters where overwhelming Remain. And while the Tories might be hypocrites, they aren’t stupid – they won't stand an official candidate and split their vote. But will Labour and the Greens?

The case to stand is that it offers an opportunity to talk nationally and build locally. I get that – but sometimes there are bigger prizes at stake. Much bigger. This is the moment to halt "hard" Brexit in its tracks, reduce the Tories' already slim majority and reject a politician who ran a racially divisive campaign for London mayor. It’s also the moment to show the power of a progressive alliance. 

Some on the left feel that any deal that gives the Lib Dems a free run just means a Tory-lite candidate. It doesn’t. The Lib Dems under Tim Farron are not the Lib Dems under Nick Clegg. On most issues in the House of Commons, they vote with Labour.

And this isn’t about what shade of centrism you might want. It is about triggering a radical, democratic earthquake, that ensures the Tories can never win again on 24 per cent of the potential vote and that our country, its politics and institutions are democratised for good.

A progressive alliance that starts in Richmond could roll like thunder across the whole country. The foundation is the call for proportional representation. The left have to get this, or face irrelevance. We can’t fix Britain on a broken and undemocratic state. We cant impose a 21st century socialism through a left Labour vanguard or a right Labour bureaucracy. The society we want has to be built with the people – the vast majority of them. Anyway, the days of left-wing majority governments have come and gone. We live in the complexity of multi-party politics. We must adapt to it or die. 

If the Labour leadership insists on standing a candidate, then the claims to a new kind of politics turn to dust. Its just the same old politics – which isn’t working for anyone but the Tories. 

It is not against party rules to not stand a candidate – it is to promote a candidate from another party. So the way is clear. And while such an arrangement can't just be imposed on local parties, our national leaders, in all the progressive parties, have a duty to lead and be brave. Some in Labour, like Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis and Jonathan Reynolds, are already being brave.

We can wake up the Friday after the Richmond Park by-election to Goldsmith's beaming smile. Or we can wake up smiling ourselves – knowing we did what it took to beat the Tories, and kickstart the democratic and political revolution this country so desperately needs.



From Growing Tobacco to Growing Hemp

By Bourree Lam from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Since the 1960s, the number of Americans who smoke has decreased significantly; in 1965, more than 40 percent of adults reported smoking, compared to around 17 percent in 2014. During that same period, tobacco production has dropped precipitously as well.

Still, in 2012, the U.S. produced some 800 million pounds of tobacco, and Kentucky—the state with the second-largest tobacco harvest in the U.S. (North Carolina’s comes in first)—is responsible for almost a quarter of that output. Yet even in Kentucky, tobacco farming has waned, forcing many farmers to look into other crops.

Jane Harrod runs a small farm in Kentucky. Her family used to grow tobacco, but she’s since switched over to growing hemp, a somewhat controversial plant—what with the federal ban on marijuana and medical marijuana still being illegal in Kentucky—that the state is currently testing out with pilot programs. For The Atlantic’s ongoing series of interviews with American workers, I talked to Harrod about her family farm, the recession, and why she decided to shift production to hemp. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Bourree Lam: How did you get into farming?

Jane Harrod: I do landscaping, where I grow native plants. I also farm vegetables and industrial hemp. I'm just a green-thumb person. I grew up on a farm, so being outside, working in the soil, and growing things has always felt like what I should be doing.

My mother was the farmer on our farm. Her father only had daughters, and my mom loved the farm so she went to agriculture school at the University of Kentucky. She didn't do all the physical work, but she ran the farm beautifully with contour plowing, always used cover crops, and protected her topsoil. She didn't get into the herbicides when everybody was going in that direction.

When I was a kid, we had 20 acres of tobacco, 40 to 60 heads of cattle, a milk cow, hogs, and chickens. We also had two teams of mules to mow certain areas of the farm that were too steep to get a tractor on. It was probably the last working small farm in Fayette County, Kentucky, because most of those farms had gone strictly conventional row-crop or were horse farms.

Lam: Did you go to agriculture school as well?

Jane Harrod in her greenhouse in Kentucky. (Jane Harrod)

Harrod: I did not. When we were kids, mom dragged us around the fields with her. We grew up knowing this stuff, doing farm chores, and hearing the talk around the table about the crop, how they looked, and what diseases were happening.

We went with mom to the tobacco warehouse when we would sell the crop. Generally, we'd be stripping tobacco in late October if it was an early crop, but more often around Thanksgiving. There was a lot of time spent out in the barn in the stripping room, looking to see if the tobacco was in taste, and to get it down out of the barn. We learned how to cut tobacco, load it on the wagons, take it to the barns, and climb up in the rails and hang it.

To me, the only good thing about tobacco was that it was such a cohesive community crop. Everybody needed a lot of hands, so we would go back and forth to other farms to help with their crop. Then, they'd help with our crop. In the spring, you'd burn your beds. That was back before the methobromide fumigant was used.

There was so much to do raising a crop of tobacco, but it was the only crop that would give you the return that would pretty much consistently give you a profitable year, and give us enough money to live on. My dad worked a job. Hardly any farmers just farmed, unless they had huge amounts of land. We had a little over 400 acres.

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

Harrod: I basically get up, go down to the greenhouse, and water plants. I have a greenhouse where I live in Anderson County, and then I have a greenhouse at my farm in Fayette County, where the hemp is growing.

My brothers live at the family farm, so we help each other out with feeding hogs or watering plants. Then I help with other things around the farm such as moving and rolling bales, picking up tractor parts, going out and buying cattle, or showing up for veterinarian visits. My brother and I work well as a team on the farm, but for me, this is a busy time of year on landscaping. We're into the fall season now. I'll be mostly trying to work on landscape stuff and to put together a reserve of money before we head into the winter. I really like doing the work myself. I love everything about it, and it's kept me pretty darned healthy.

Lam: Is your husband also a farmer?

Harrod: No, we're musicians [just for fun]. We met actually at a hog roast playing music. We appreciated each other's music, and then it turned into love, then marriage, and children. Now we're divorced, but we're still good friends. We had a little farm in Owen County, away from my family farm. He was getting his master's in teaching, and we raised a small tobacco crop. We only had a base of two acres—a very small crop, but that gave us an extra $5,000 or $6,000.

We could probably be called hippies at the time. We weren't big spenders; we grew our own food and raised our two daughters there in Owen County. There were a lot of young people that had moved into the area, because the farmland was cheap. We had an intentional-community situation where we had like-minded people set up a feed co-op and do tobacco together with other crops.

When my girls got old enough to go to public school, I chose to start working for a friend in the community who had a landscaping business. Then that turned into native-restoration work. I started working for a biologist that I'd met through the Kentucky Native Plant Society and that turned into a lifetime business for me. I've grown native plants and had a native-seed company for the last 40 years. I enjoy that immensely and I really feel that I've done some good work for the state of Kentucky.

Lam: In 2004, Congress passed the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act which ended tobacco quotas and a payment program to help producers transition. Tell me about the “tobacco buy-out” and how you got into growing hemp instead.

Harrod: People were like, "Why are we subsidizing this plant that causes cancer and heart problems and all of these health problems?" That all got resolved. What the government (and the USDA) did was say, "We will do a 10-year buyout. We will determine what your last three or four years of growing were, how many acres you had, and then we will pay a certain amount of money to you over 10 years to give you some income back with which you should be trying to transition into other crops."

Hemp has only come in at the very tail end of that. We lost a lot of ponds by eminent domain to build the Interstate 75. The ramps and side roads are right in the middle of the farm. That took away almost 90 percent of our tillable ground. Our farm has struggled since then, because there was not enough ground left to really have a large enough base for a crop to be profitable. This year I’m trying to grow hemp, especially the cannabidiol oil (CBD) from the hemp plant. CBD has to be below 0.3 percent THC to qualify. If you're above that and your crop is destroyed [by the authorities], tough luck. Everybody's very careful about the seed they're growing. We have to go through a very rigorous criminal-background check and paperwork describing our farm and equipment to see if we're actually real farmers.

Lam: Why did you stop growing tobacco?

Harrod: Basically, my brother wanted to keep raising tobacco. I said, "No, we're not going to do that because mom died of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes all her life." I never really liked tobacco because of that. I said, "No. We just have to find another way." Then I did some vegetables for the farmers’ market and CSA [community-supported agriculture], and raised some wholesale produce for some restaurants. We have beef cattle, but the margins are tight.

Lam: Was it a hard decision for you, economically, to stop growing tobacco?

Harrod: Yes, but the returns are not as high as they used to be. Before, there was a support price [the government’s tobacco support program, which ended in 2004, set a minimum price for it] and you knew exactly the lowest amount of money you could possibly get for your crop. People were able to budget on that premise. Now, that price is lower and lower every year because so many other places—South America, Central America, Mexico—are able to do it cheaper.

That made it a lot easier to say, "No, brother, we're not going to dedicate what little bit of good tillable land we have left on this farm to this crop." I've always been in favor of industrial hemp and medical marijuana, but our only option is industrial hemp. When I started to learn about the CBD oil and the great medicinal properties that it had, I thought, "Wow. This is wonderful."

For landscaping, though, during the economic downturn the people that employ me for landscaping are lawyers and doctors and people with high-end lives. But when their dividends were reduced, the landscaper is the first person to go. It was all just this sort of little domino effect, and I lost my home. I still had my farm, and the reason I didn't try to take bankruptcy was because then they would have gone after the family farm. I couldn't do that, so I just kind of threw up my hands.

I really did not feel like I was treated fairly as a human being by the bank. They had bought my loan. I got behind, and they sink you as fast as they can. I had put $40,000 down on that house. I had put on a new roof. They just snatched it fast, and I was looking for ways through some of the governmental programs to see if there was some way we could slow the process down and get caught up, but it just wasn't to be. That was unfortunate, but I just think, my daughters were healthy, I was healthy. The real important things were okay. I just really had to look at it that way to be able to go on and put one foot in front of the other. Then the hemp came along three years ago, and I have great hopes that this will truly be, not a big money-making thing, not get-rich kind of money, but solid.

Lam: How has the decrease in profitability in growing tobacco changed Kentucky’s economy?

Harrod: Once the subsidies for tobacco disappeared and it wasn't as profitable to grow anymore, there's been a lot of people selling their farms. That might be as much due to population growth in our area, but a lot of times it ends up being the farms with the bigger purses that pick up small farms that had relied on tobacco.

A lot of smaller farms have shifted away from small farmers and toward larger conglomerate farms. In our area, that’s happened with horse farms because that's the higher-end commodity. People that are into thoroughbred horses are not necessarily in that to make money. They're in that because it's a great tax write-off, and they already have money. We have one of the largest concentrations of the very best stallions in the world. People say, "Well, [horse farming] creates a lot of jobs." Yes, it does, but most of them are very low-paying jobs. I've worked on those farms, and it’s only the people at the top who make good money. The rest of the folks make barely a living wage.

Lam: How does your work relate to your identity?

Harrod: My identity as a Mother Earth person is very important to me. I think about how healthy America has gotten, and I think we’re at a good turning point in terms of respecting farmers more in this country. I have people who want to hear my stories of my little farm, and there’s a really good push to share information—which is great.

Nobody is getting rich farming; that’s important to know. This country can do better—we have some subsidies, but they go to crops like corn. I really think there needs to be a hard look at the way commodities are bought and sold, and the futures market. The futures market don’t help anybody but the wealthy. It’d be nice to look into that.

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 fast food restaurant manager, an exotic dancer, and a train conductor.

Voting Without Voting

By Jeremy Raff from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

A record number of Latinos are eligible to vote this year—and although some may not be due to being undocumented, that hasn’t stopped them from getting involved in improving turnout. In North Carolina, where voter turnout among Latinos is low, undocumented immigrants are still making their voices heard by registering people to vote. “I tell them, ‘Oh register to vote, you know, I can’t,’” says Elizabeth, a 24-year-old voter registration volunteer who was born in Nicaragua. “Do it for us.” In this short documentary by The Atlantic, we travel to Raleigh to understand how undocumented immigrants are attempting to make a difference in the 2016 election.

Pakistan president urged to halt Imdad Ali execution

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Lawmakers and activists say man facing the gallows is a paranoid schizophrenic who does not deserve the death penalty.

Trump's last-minute bid to turn the tide

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Republican candidate tells rallies the November 8 election will be like "Brexit five times over".

Hollande is a liability for France’s socialist party

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The left’s plight goes well beyond the beleaguered president

Drones launch off-grid healthcare in rural Madagascar

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

New project aims to enable villagers to diagnose and treat conditions via drone-delivered test samples and vaccines.

DNA Reveals That Chimps and Bonobos Had Sex in the Past

By Ed Yong from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Every year, thousands of chimpanzees are illegally yanked from their homes in Central and West Africa, and shipped to Asia and the Middle East to serve as pets or entertainment. Most of them are babies. Most of them die on the way.

Occasionally, the endangered animals are found by airport officials and confiscated—but then what? “A chimp doesn’t come with a ticket or a sign,” says Christina Hvilsom, from Copenhagen Zoo. “So they don’t know where to send it back to.”

Chimps do, however, come with DNA. There are four subspecies of chimps—western, central, Nigeria-Cameroon, and eastern—each of which lives in a different part of Africa. They are genetically distinct, and Hvilsom, a geneticist by training, wondered “if their genomic landscape mimicked their geographical landscape.” In other words, by analyzing a chimp’s genome, could she work out where it came from?

The answer was yes. By analyzing the complete genomes of 65 chimps from across their entire range, Hvilsom’s team, co-led by Tomas Marques-Bonet, from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, showed that genes do indeed predict geography. For the central and eastern chimps, you can work out where an individual came from to within 50 kilometers—not just to a particular country, but to a particular forest. This genetic geotagging is fuzzier for the other two subspecies, but that’s only because the team had fewer samples. With more genomes, they’ll get more precise.  

The team is now working to put their research into practice, to help customs officials relocate trafficked chimps to their point of origin. But in the meantime, their results led them down an unexpected path.

As they explored the genomes of the central chimps, they kept on finding sequences that seemed to come from bonobos—a closely related ape, which tends to be smaller and gentler. “At first, we thought: Pffft, this is just a mistake,” says Hvilsom. “But we continued with a variety of techniques and kept on seeing this trend.”

The team eventually confirmed that central chimps (and to a lesser extent, the eastern and Nigeria-Cameroon ones) owe some of their DNA to their bonobo relatives. It’s a tiny proportion—less than 1 percent—but it’s there nonetheless. And this implies that the two apes must have successfully mated at some point in the past.

Bonobos and chimpanzees began to split into two species between 1.6 and 2.1 million years ago. But they didn’t stay entirely separate. Hvilsom and Marques-Bonet calculated that the two species must have been mating and exchanging genes between 200,000 and 550,000 years ago, before the central and eastern chimps had diverged into separate subspecies. The central ones still carry the legacy of those liaisons, bolstered by another wave of bonobo genes that came in around 100,000 years ago.

Chimps and bonobos have been known to mate in captivity, so it’s not surprising that they would have done so in the wild. But interbreeding isn’t just about compatibility; it’s about opportunity. The bonobos live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the mighty Congo River separates them from the central chimps to the west, and the eastern chimps to the north and east. The formation of the river was probably what split chimps and bonobos into separate species in the first place, cordoning them off into separate forests and preventing them from meeting. “It’s a huge barrier,” says Hvilsom, especially since “chimps and bonobos don’t swim; they drown.”

But perhaps the river was shallower at various points in its history, allowing the once-separated apes to meet, mingle, and mate. The team are now looking into this, trying to tie the periods of gene flow that they observed to the ancient climate of Central Africa. They’re also planning to sequence the genomes of more bonobos—they only have 10 so far, which might be why they only saw bonobo DNA in chimp genomes and not the other way around. “I can’t figure out why it would go in only one direction,” says Hvilsom.

The team’s results mirror what we know about human evolution. In 2010, scientists showed that in every person outside of Africa, a small percent of DNA came from Neanderthals. Likewise, Aboriginal Australians and Pacific Islanders inherited part of their genomes from the Denisovans—another group of early humans, known only from a finger bone and two teeth.

It seems that as our ancestors left Africa and spread around the world, we met and mated with other groups of early humans that had already colonized Asia and Europe, picking up their genes as a result. We now carry traces of those cousins within us—Neanderthals, Denisovans, and likely other as-yet-unidentified hominids, too.

This flow of genes from one species to another is called introgression, and it complicates our understanding of our history. The origin of species feels like a process of division, where one population splits into two distinct ones, creating neatly branching family trees. That’s a fiction. “Gone are the days of neat branching trees,” writes Adam Rutherford in his book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. “If we are to look at the evolution that led to where we are now, instead of the nice neat tree, I think it could be reasonably described as one big, million-year clusterfuck.”

This seems to be a common leitmotif in hominid evolution. For example, it seems that after humans initially diverged from chimps, we spent a long time exchanging genes—read: having sex—before separating permanently. Chimps and bonobos clearly did the same. And the various chimp subspecies are still exchanging genes between each other.

To Mary Gonder, from Drexel University, this implies that they aren’t just passively drifting apart due to geographical barriers. Instead, it’s likely that “natural selection is pulling them apart from each other,” perhaps by adapting them to local diseases or environmental challenges. And that’s another reason why the original goal of Hvilsom’s work—tracking the origin of trafficked chimpanzees—is so vital. You need to send them back to the right home.

Struggling Twitter cuts workforce and kills off Vine

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Micro-blogging site says restructuring "intended to create greater focus and efficiency" amid stiff competition.

Putin slams ‘hysterical’ claims of US election meddling

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Russian leader denies he favours Donald Trump for president

British economy sees off Brexit for another day

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Robust economic growth since the vote tells only half the story

British economy sees off Brexit for another day

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Robust economic growth since the vote tells only half the story

Rome pleads to EU for leeway on earthquake spending

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Renzi wants funds to be excluded from budget deficit calculations

Tortuous Ceta talks point to EU trade troubles ahead

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Accord has dealt blow to bloc’s credibility as deal negotiator

Trump's 'Voter Suppression Operation' Targets Black Voters

By David A. Graham from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

It would be unfair to call Donald Trump’s interaction with black voters a love-hate relationship, since there’s little evidence of African American enthusiasm for Trump. But the Republican campaign has pursued a Janus-like strategy on black voters—ostensibly courting them in public while privately seeking to depress turnout.

This tension is on display in the last 24 hours. On Wednesday, Trump delivered a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, advertised as an “urban renewal agenda for America’s inner cities.” Trump told the audience, “It is my highest and greatest hope that the Republican Party can be the home in the future and forevermore for African Americans and the African American vote because I will produce, and I will get others to produce, and we know for a fact it doesn’t work with the Democrats and it certainly doesn’t work with Hillary.”

Yet on Thursday, BusinessWeek published a big cover story, based on exclusive access to the campaign, that revealed that Trump’s team has decided that winning over black voters is a lost cause:

Instead of expanding the electorate, [campaign chairman Steve] Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

The reporters, Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg, offer some more detail on what that looks like:

On Oct. 24, Trump’s team began placing spots on select African American radio stations. In San Antonio, a young staffer showed off a South Park-style animation he’d created of Clinton delivering the “super predator” line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook “dark posts”—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as [campaign digital guru Brad] Parscale puts it, “only the people we want to see it, see it.” The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. “We know because we’ve modeled this,” says the official. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.”

This wasn’t entirely unknown—Monica Langley reported two weeks ago that Trump was aiming for depressed turnout. What’s incredible is that Trump’s advisers called it “voter suppression.” When you’re talking about “suppressing” black votes, it’s a good sign you’re not competing for them, and this is messaging malpractice, since it makes the work seem nefarious. That’s all the more true because Republicans around the country have spent the last decade instituting laws that make it more challenging to vote—measures that they say are necessary to present election fraud, but critics say actually amount to voter suppression.

In fact, trying to depress turnout is not that unusual. There’s lots of evidence that negative advertising is designed to depress turnout among certain, targeted groups. Certainly, the Clinton campaign has used negative ads—they’ve fired off a broadside of spots using Trump’s own words. If these ads convince Trump supporters to vote for Clinton, that’s great for her, but if they convince voters who might otherwise vote for the Republican that he’s just too toxic or mean or extreme, that’s just fine for her, too. It’s still one less vote for Trump. Obama tried a similar tactic in assailing Mitt Romney four years ago, as Ross Douthat points out.

This is, at least, the theory. Whether it works is a different question. The answer is probably no. A 2007 meta-analysis concluded that there is not “any reliable evidence that negative campaigning depresses voter turnout, though it does slightly lower feelings of political efficacy, trust in government, and possibly overall public mood.” (In a charming proof that your mother was right that you shouldn’t say anything unless you have something nice to say, another study found that while negative advertising was mostly useless, positive advertising was effective in running up margins where support was already strong.)

Even if Trump’s advisers are acting on a questionable theory, that theory does help explain some of Trump’s strange approach to African Americans. It confirms the suspicion of many observers, myself included, that Trump is more going through the motions of courting black voters more than actually trying to woo them. Many of his events aimed at African Americans have actually been in heavily white jurisdictions, in front of heavily white crowds.

His appearance in Charlotte Wednesday was no different. Although the city has become a symbol of racial tension since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police in September, the audience at Trump’s invitation-only event was mostly white, The Charlotte Observer noted. His speech was full of many of the same hamfisted overtures that have been met with everything from eyerolls to outrage by actual black Americans, from the implication that most blacks are living in squalid, violent “inner cities” to his deployment of false or misleading statistics to butress that vision of squalor. He has also used outdated and distancing language to discuss African Americans and other minorities.

The result of this halfhearted—or rather, insincere—outreach has been that Trump’s polling among African Americans is bad. He once boasted he could win 25 percent of the black vote, far outpacing the recent Republican high-water mark (Gerald Ford’s 17 percent in 1976). But with the election near, Fox News finds him trailing Clinton by 77 points. CBS found Trump at just 4 percent, with Clinton at 85 percent. That puts her a good bit behind Barack Obama’s 2012 pace of 93 percent, but Trump is also still behind Mitt Romney’s 6 percent, according to exit polls. (In one farcical turn, a major tracking poll turned out to be wildly distorted by a single 19-year-old black Trump voter, whose standing was heavily weighted.)

The Trump theory, as laid out in the BusinessWeek article, holds that this doesn’t really matter. He doesn’t need black votes! (His advisors admit in the piece that their polling finds them trailing, and they say their path to victory is real but narrow.) Of course, his aides might be wrong. In addition to the political-science literature casting doubts on turnout depression, Clinton has spent months trying to mobilize African Americans, especially in places like North Carolina or Ohio, where black turnout is likely the difference between a Democratic victory or a Republican win. If black voters vote in droves in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, it might block Trump’s path to the White House altogether, and Trump’s decision to not even contest the bloc would look like a mistake.

Meanwhile, the BusinessWeek story made Republicans who aren’t affiliated with Trump practically apoplectic. That’s because even if Trump doesn’t think he needs black voters, future Republican candidates will. Trump has made clear that he owes no particular allegiance to the Republican Party and has little interest in its fortunes without him, which allows him to be blithe about writing off the demographic. Other analysts, including Republicans, have been warning for years that the GOP cannot survive as a rump party of whites (and, increasingly, white men). But voter relationships have to be built over time; a bloc written off or alienated can take a generation or more to win back. By not just passing on the chance to reach out to African Americans but actually bragging about their efforts to keep them from the polls, the Trump campaign isn’t just wasting an opportunity for outreach to blacks, but may in fact be setting back Republican efforts for years to come.

Clinton and Obama’s rift over an Egyptian despot

From Analysis. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The Democratic nominee’s actions in 2011 offer an insight into her likely foreign policies if she wins the presidency

Somalia: The Forgotten Story

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The story of Somalia's decline from stability to chaos and the problems facing its people at home and abroad.

There’s no other explanation for Boris Johnson – he must be a Russian spy

By Will Self from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

When you look back over Johnson’s journalistic career, it soon becomes apparent that he was in the right place at the right time too often for it all to have been a coincidence.

I had a hunch some time ago, but a source very close to the Federal Security Service strongly implied it during an odd meeting that we recently had at a hotel in Charing Cross, London: Boris Johnson is an agent of deep Russian penetration. Obviously his first name is a bluff – Boris the Bear has been hiding in plain view of millions of us Britons. I have no idea when he was recruited (on this matter, my informant remained obstinately silent), but if we look back over the Foreign Secretary’s career, the evidence is clear.

Take his well-known inability to keep his trousers on. It might be imagined that a bedheaded Don Juan was the last person you’d entrust to enter the “wilderness of mirrors”, as the secret world is often euphemised. But if Boris were a Russian agent, his physical jerkiness would make perfect sense. All intelligence agencies use blackmail to control their assets and honeytraps are the preferred way of doing it.

However, what if you instructed your agent to keep his muzzle more or less permanently in the honey jar? Under such circumstances, it would be altogether impossible for MI5 to compromise him: “Boris shags secretary/colleague/newspaper editor”, say, would hardly be news.

Speaking of news, when you look back over Johnson’s journalistic career, it soon becomes apparent that he was in the right place at the right time too often for it all to have been a coincidence. His stint at the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels bureau, for instance, began in the year that the Berlin Wall fell. Johnson’s articles, in which he sniped consistently at the European Commission, helped to exacerbate the tensions between Tory Eurosceptics and Europhiles – fissures which, as the world has turned, have grown, precipitating the sort of fragmentation that the Kremlin’s spymasters seek to create in the West.

With my novelistic hat on, I can say that Johnson’s literary style has always bothered me. Replete with recondite yet poorly understood terms and half-digested quotations, his prose has the pretentious clunkiness you would expect from someone who isn’t writing in their first language. My suspicions, inchoate for years, have now acquired palpable form: Johnson doesn’t write any of this magoosalum. It’s all typed up by Russian hacks, leaving him free to shin up the greasy pole . . .

And slide along the Emirati-sponsored zip wire, as well. It has always seemed strange, Johnson’s apparently wilful determination to place himself in undignified positions. But again, it makes sense when you know that it is part of an elaborate act, intended to subvert our ancient institutions and the dignity of our high offices of state.

The dribs and drabs of distinctly Russian racism – the “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles” that fall from his permanently pink lips – are yet more evidence of the long hours he has spent being debriefed. An agent of deep penetration will live for years under so-called natural cover, a sleeper, waiting to be activated by his masters.

But it’s predictable that while waiting, Johnson’s handlers should have instructed him to throw suspicion off by adopting contrarian positions – his call for demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London to protest against the bombing of Aleppo is entirely consistent with this – and it has also had the beneficial effect of further emphasising British weakness and impotence.

You might have thought that Vladimir Putin (who apparently refers to Johnson affectionately, in private, as “Little Bear” or “Pooh”) would want one of his most precious assets to shin right to the top of that greasy pole. Not so, and the debacle surrounding the Tories’ post-Brexit night of the long knives, which was revealed in Tim Shipman’s new book, was in reality a complex manoeuvre designed expressly to place Putin’s man (or bear) in the Foreign Office. Johnson’s flip-flopping over whether to come out for Leave or Remain makes no sense if we consider him to be a principled and thoughtful politician, loyal to his constituency – but becomes understandable once we see the strings and realise that he’s nothing but a marionette, twisting and turning at his puppeteers’ prompting.

After all, prime ministers can be rather impotent figures, whereas foreign secretaries bestride the world stage. No, the only way that Putin can be sure to have his way – bombing Aleppo back to the Stone Age, subverting Ukrainian independence – is by having his beloved Pooh bumbling about at summit meetings. Think back to Johnson’s tenure as mayor of London and the vast river of Russian lucre that flowed into the City. The Kremlin has also been able to manipulate errant oligarchs as if they, too,
were marionettes.

And now comes the final proof, as if any were needed: the government’s decision to support a third runway for Heathrow. Will Johnson resign over this matter of deepest principle? Will he truly represent his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituents who labour night and day under a toxic smir to the accompaniment of jet howls? Will he hell. There will be a few of his characteristically garbled statements on the matter and then he will fall silent. You all know that slightly sleepy yet concentrating expression that comes over his face when he thinks that the cameras are pointed elsewhere? That’s when Johnson is receiving his instructions through a concealed earpiece.

Should we worry that our Foreign Secretary is in the control of a sinister and manipulative foreign demagogue? Well, probably not too much. After all, think back to previous incumbents: great statesmen such as Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett and William Hague. Do you really imagine that any of them struck fear deep into the heart of the Russian military-industrial complex? 


Leader: Mark Carney — a rock star banker feels the heat

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Rather than mutual buck-passing, politicians and central bankers must collaborate in good faith.

On 24 June, the day after the EU referendum, the United Kingdom resembled a leaderless state. David Cameron promptly resigned as prime minister after his humiliating defeat. His closest ally, George Osborne, retreated to the safety and silence of the Treasury. Labour descended into open warfare; meanwhile, the leaders of the Leave campaign appeared terrified by the challenge confronting them and were already plotting and scheming against one another.

The government had not planned for Brexit, and so one of the few remaining sources of authority was the independent Bank of England. Its Canadian governor, the former Goldman Sachs banker Mark Carney, provided calm by announcing that Threadneedle Street had performed “extensive contingency planning” and would not “hesitate to take additional measures”. A month later, the Bank cut interest rates to a ­record low of 0.25 per cent and announced an additional £60bn of quantitative easing (QE). Both measures helped to avert the threat of an immediate recession by stimulating growth and employment.

Since then the Bank of England governor, who this week gave evidence on monetary policy to the economic affairs committee at the House of Lords, has become a favoured target of Brexiteers and former politicians. Michael Gove has compared Mr Carney to a vainglorious Chinese emperor and chided him for his lack of “humility”. William Hague has accused the Bank of having “lost the plot” and has questioned its future independence. Nigel Lawson has called for Mr Carney to resign, declaring that he has “behaved disgracefully”.

At no point since the Bank achieved independence under the New Labour government in 1997 has it attracted such opprobrium. For politicians faced with the risk, and the reality, of economic instability, Mr Carney and his colleagues are an easy target. However, they are the wrong one.

The consequences of loose monetary policy are not wholly benign. Ultra-low rates and QE have widened inequality by enriching asset-holders, while punishing savers. Yet the economy’s sustained weakness as well as poor productivity have necessitated such action. As Mr Osborne consistently recognised when he was chancellor, monetary activism was the inevitable corollary of fiscal conservatism. Without the Bank’s interventionism, government austerity would have had even harsher consequences.

The new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has rightly taken the opportunity to “reset” fiscal policy. He has abandoned Mr Osborne’s absurd target of seeking to achieve a budget surplus by 2020 and has promised new infrastructure investment in his Autumn Statement on 23 November.

After years of over-reliance on monetary stimulus, a rebalancing is, in our view, necessary. Squeezed living standards (inflation is forecast to reach 3 per cent next year, given the collapse in the value of sterling) and anaemic growth are best addressed through government action rather than a premature rise in interest rates. Though UK gilt yields have risen in recent weeks, borrowing costs remain at near-record lows. Mr Hammond should not hesitate to borrow to invest, as Keynesians have long argued.

The Bank of England is far from infallible, of course. In recent years, its growth and employment forecasts have proved overly pessimistic. Mr Carney’s immediate predecessor, Mervyn King, was too slow to cut rates at the start of the financial crisis and was ill-prepared for the recession that followed. Central bankers across the developed world, most notably the former Federal Reserve head Alan Greenspan, have too often been treated as seers beyond criticism. Their reputations have suffered as a consequence.

Yet the principle of central bank independence remains one worthy of defence. Labour’s 1997 decision ended the manipulation of interest rates by opportunistic politicians and enhanced economic stability. Although the Bank’s mandate is determined by ministers, it must be free to set monetary policy without fear of interference. The challenge of delivering Brexit is the greatest any British government has faced since 1945. Rather than mutual buck-passing, politicians and central bankers must collaborate in good faith on this epic task.


Why are “smol puppers” cuter than “little dogs”?

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Academics explain the psychology behind the internet phenomenon. 

It is often said that the internet is a kingdom for cats. But although grumpy and/or keyboard playing felines have dominated our desktops since the dawn of the dot com, in recent years, man’s best friend has battled for the throne. Puppers – often smol, so very smol puppers – are taking over the internet.

For those not in the know, a pupper is a small doggo, and a doggo is a big pupper. These two terms – if you haven’t already guessed – are internet language for “puppy” and “dog”, and have both become memes in their own right. A “smol pupper” therefore, is online speak for a “little dog”, which is excellent, brilliant, and all things wonderful, but leaves us asking: just why the heck is saying the former so, so, so much cuter than the latter?

“The practice largely derives from the craziness of the English orthography system, where the same sound can often be spelled multiple ways,” explains Naomi S. Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University and author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.

“Think of threw, through, and true. In the US, we’re used to seeing road signs saying “No thru traffic.” Drivers get the message, presumably faster than if they had seen “No through traffic.” It’s then little surprise to see the word small – as in ‘smol pups’ – spelled with an ‘o’ rather than the prescriptive ‘a’.”

As well as getting the message across faster, the playfulness of mischievous misspellings gives us a frisson – or a little psychological kick – argues Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University and author of You Just Don’t Understand. This echoes the way that many online jokes are considered funnier when they are misspelled or lack punctuation.

Tannen also thinks the exclusionary nature of the language makes it more enjoyable, arguing: “When the spelling is nonstandard – as with smol for small – it feels like ingroup talk. We're doing things differently between us than everyone else does it out there.”

But although smol puppers are relatively new, the trend behind them isn’t. Hugh Rabagliati, a Chancellor's Fellow at the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, compares the phenomenon to LOLCats, early 2000s memes of cats expressing misspelled sentiments as “I can has cheezburger?”.

Via Wikipedia

“The misspellings and grammar reinforced the cuteness and craziness of the image, along with proving an orthographic cue to each cat’s wacky accent,” he says. “LolCats wouldn't have been very amusing if every caption had begun with a stage direction to speak in a funny voice.”

Via Reddit user derek_92

Smol puppers definitely echo LolCats, as the language alludes to the way we might imagine our adorable, bouncy little friends would speak. The Twitter account WeRateDogs™ adopts the voice of such a pupper, with broken sentences and the occasional emphatic jamming of the Caps Lock key. In fact, if you examine Google Trends for the terms “pupper” and “lolcats” you can see the former became more popular than the latter mid-2015, suggesting it filled some basic human need for internet cutes.

The phenomenon can also be compared to baby talk. “Maybe the language is similar to the language that kids themselves use, full of little grammar errors and incorrect vowels,” says Rabagliati, explaining why we might be programmed to find it cute. “But to my ear, the errors in LolCats seem most similar to those of people trying to speak English as a second language.” This, too, explains the enjoyment found in the text, as comedy foreign accents (yakshemash, Borat) have historically been considered humorous. 

Smol puppers, it seems, are therefore cute for many, many reasons, but if we could only chose two, they would be these. Firstly, they are smol. And secondly, they are puppers.


Sooner or later, John McDonnell must defend the bankers he hates

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The shadow chancellor's message is too complicated to be clear. 

“Like me, you will have friends who voted Conservative,” John McDonnell told an audience of mechanical engineers, Labour faithful and journalists. “They don’t want a bankers’ breakfast – Brexit – any more than I do.”

If the shadow chancellor would subconsciously prefer to talk about fry ups, it might be because the government’s strategy on Brexit has put him in a bind. The man known as a true follower of Marx is increasingly finding himself on the same side as the capitalists. 

In the run up to the EU referendum vote, the Tory Brexiteers leading the Leave campaign talked up a business-friendly, free trading Britain, a Singapore on the North Atlantic, as McDonnell put it in his speech. Labour’s Remain campaigners warned of attacks on workers’ rights.

But then came Brexit, and the economic liberals’ fall from grace. Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has steered away from the cosy reassurances once offered to UK Plc and towards the world of the “just managings”. Her Brexit minister, David Davis, hasn’t revealed much about the negotiations, but he has said this: “This Conservative government will not roll back those rights in the workplace.” 

The Tory PM’s focus on controlling immigration and economic fairness will delight many traditional Labour voters. But her apparent complacency about the single market is unnerving economic liberals, and businesses. The most obvious critique of the Prime Minister is that she is willing to risk all-important access to the single market, in order to win on a populist point. 

McDonnell has clearly spotted his. And yet, forced to mount an attack from a free trade position, he sounds conflicted. In his speech on Thursday, he attacked Tory backbenchers who tried to intervene in the Bank of England’s independent monetary policy, and declared: “The economic benefits of free trade are well-known throughout this country.” 

Financial services access is a “red line” in Labour’s negotiation stance. He is prepared to make “a robust economic case” for the benefits of free trade “over the perceived costs of migration”.

Nevertheless, McDonnell’s suspicion of the financial services industry is never far away. His speech was peppered with references to “special deals for bankers”, the “elite” and a “few jobs in the Square Mile”. 

“We have reached the end of the line for the old economic model, with financial services at its centre,” he declared. Instead of a trickle down of wealth, he said, the public had seen “a grotesque trickle up”. 

McDonnell may be bang on in his analysis that economic inequality drove Brexit. He may be right that the economy needs to rebalance towards manufacturing. But that is not what the Brexit negotiations are about. The next two-and-a-half years are about trying to preserve and haggle - and shout the loudest about what the government's priorities should be. And the financial services are central to this. 

Like it or not, we live in a country where services account for nearly 80 per cent of the UK economy, according to the Office for National Statistics, and generate 11.6 per cent of tax receipts. In Scotland, financial services employ nearly 100,000 people. 

The financial services industry is also one of those most jeopardised by Brexit, because it is not a straightforward case of negotiating tariffs. Without passporting rights, UK firms serving the EU are expected to have to establish a subsidiary in the EU. The Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded: “It is clear that the financial services sector is disproportionately affected.”

In other words, the uncertain fate of the financial services industry represents the cold, hard reality of Brexit. The public need to know exactly what the stakes are. McDonnell could be the one to spell this out, and he shouldn't be ashamed by the fact - any more than his Labour predecessors should be for bailing out the banks. But doing so requires mustering up at least a little enthusiasm for financial services. Perhaps he’d better ask his Conservative friends for advice. 


Scores of Europe-bound refugees drown off Libyan coast

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Latest drownings off Libyan coast lift 2016 record death toll of refugee crossings over the Mediterranean.

When Typists Were Feared as 'Love Pirates'

By Matt Jones from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

In January of 1909, Una Goslin sued her husband’s stenographer, Anna Irene Magher, for “alienating her husband’s affections.” This particular premise for a lawsuit—stealing someone’s affections—fell under the umbrella of a larger body of civic legislation known as “heart balm.”

Heart balm sounds like a product for inconsolable teens weathering the fallout of their first breakups, or a late-night infomercial product made of extracts from rare flowers or pungent barks. However, heart balm is not an ointment or a salve, or even a balm. It’s not a product at all, but a legal tort of the turn of the 20th century commonly invoked by housewives against young, female stenographers.

Simply speaking, a tort is a civil wrong that produces legal liability. In the case of heart balm, the most common ways to wrong someone included seduction, breach of promise to marry, criminal conversation, and, yes, alienation of affections.

In Goslin’s case, she accused Magher of looking at her husband “longingly, lovingly, and sweetly.” According to the complaint, this offensive ogling eventually provoked Goslin’s husband to run away to Paris with Magher. On January 12th, 1909, the New York Supreme Court handed down a verdict awarding Goslin $50,000 in punitive damages: balm to ease her aching heart.

The Goslin v. Magher case was particularly unique, but not because Goslin was suing a third party for the breakdown of her marriage. Rather, that Goslin used a relatively new rhetorical device to build her case: She claimed that Magher was a love pirate. The term might conjure a mental image of balbo beards, flamboyant waistcoats, and finely sharpened cutlasses. But once again, just as the term heart balm had nothing to do with ointment, love pirate also had nothing to do with buccaneering.

Instead, the term was invented by the spurned Chicago housewife Rose Allegretti in 1908. It referred to “the demure, tailor-made little typewriter girl whose habitat is the skyscraper, whose weapon is the two-edged sword of coquetry, whose prize is the human heart.” Much like Una Goslin, Rose Allegretti blamed the dissolution of her marriage on a young stenographer who worked for her husband, Benedetto Allegretti, the Chocolate King of Chicago.

After her divorce, Rose denounced all stenographers as love pirates in the November 1, 1908 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She sounded a warning to all wives with husbands who employed women in their offices:

Know them. Know them intimately. For the girl in the downtown office is a menace to the home. Whether she be innocent in it or not, she is in a position to become more intimate with your husband than yourself. She is associated with your husband more of the waking hours than you. Every day she can appear to better advantage than you. For she is beset by none of the cares of the housewife and the mother.

In her 1909 book, Why American Marriages Fail, Anna Rogers explained that “a good wife is the immovable shore to her husband’s restless life.” So amongst the cares that troubled someone like Rose Allegretti, there was also the expectation of her constancy and stability. She calls to mind the trope of the waiting woman, perched on the widow’s walk with her eyes scanning the horizon for her wandering, seafaring husband. Would he return to her or would he be led astray? In 1908, The Chicago Inter Ocean warned that heedless husbands might be towed as a prize to “Curtain Lecture Harbor” and “Divorce Court Bay,” or perhaps worst of all, be lured away by the “pretty little heart buccaneers that cruise the business sea of downtown Chicago.”

* * *

Infidelity is almost always a public offense instead of a private one. That’s because infidelity doesn’t just threaten a single relationship. Instead, it threatens a public idea, what the psychotherapist Esther Perel calls “the grand ambition of love.” In the early 20th century, this idea of love referred to a marriage composed of a husband who worked outside of the home to provide financial security, and a wife who was confined to the role of homemaker and mother. In this sense, the woman who chose to step outside of the home and pursue her own financial security was considered to be a double threat to male and female gender roles.

While women who entered public venues without male escorts were once accused of sexual impropriety, the invention of the typewriter in 1867 opened up a new route for single women to enter the public sphere of the white-collar workforce without drawing accusations of sexual misconduct. Thousands of unmarried and young women, whose “nimble fingers” and low salary requirements were considered ideal for typewriting, flooded major cities across the U.S., where they worked as stenographers. By 1910, almost 80 percent of the clerical and typewriting workforce was occupied by women.

The Remington Typewriter Company saw the influx of women as an advertising opportunity, and created a fictionalized Miss Remington, who was “a young, white woman in the typical office worker’s stylish outfit; a dark skirt and simple striped shirtwaist blouse,” as Kim England and Kate Boyer describe “Women’s Work: The Feminization and Shifting Meanings of Clerical Work.” Miss Remington was thought to offer prospective customers, namely men, “something more and better for his money than he had ever before obtained in a writing machine.” Remington was selling not just a typewriter, but a new woman, one who was the feminine ideal of beauty, a composite of thousands of well-educated and independent women flocking to American metropolises, in the words of a Library of Congress exhibition, “to enjoy a more visible and active role in the public arena than women of preceding generations.”

As it would turn out, the fictionalized Miss Remington bore a startling stylistic resemblance to the “love pirates” that proliferated across the pages of newspapers nationwide. In a 1908 edition of The Sayings of Mrs. Solomon: Being the Confessions of the Seven Hundredth Wife, a popular advice column for young women, author Helen Rowland offered some tips for visually identifying the work-oriented heart buccaneers:

There is come among us a feminine thing called the love pirate, which weareth a peek-a-boo shirt waist and manicureth its nails. It liveth on the fruits of its labor and doeth its hair in a curly pompadour. It dwelleth in the downtown office and devoureth the husband therein.

The aesthetic similarities between Miss Remington and the love pirate were about as much of a coincidence as the rhetorical choice to use the word “pirate.” At the height of the post-Victorian Free Love movement, which focused on women’s rights and opposed the legal regulation of romantic relationships including marriage, the use of the term “love pirate” accomplished two things. First, it successfully likened the role of the stenographer to a villain historically defined by violating the law and threatening civilized society. And second, it prompted the government to intervene with a stricter regulation of marriage in the form of the heart balm tort.

As Marilyn French explains in her 1992 book, The War Against Women, the U.S. divorce rate jumped five-fold between 1870 and 1930. Given this context, the heart balm tort represented a legally justified way to save the sanctity of marriage from the sexual wiles of the typewriting love pirate. However, the consistency with which heart balm was invoked against female clerical workers also surfaced a deeper societal anxiety, one that stemmed from conflicting ideas about the function of a woman’s sexuality within the private sphere of marriage and the public sphere of the workplace. Accusations like Rose Allegretti’s claim that stenographers were love pirates assumed that the latter women had used their sexuality to lure honest and innocent husbands away from their wives, or that the wives in question had failed to provide sufficient sexual pleasure within the own marriage to keep their husband’s eyes from wandering (or both). Rarely did anyone ask whether or not the husband was at fault, and even rarer still did anyone answer, “Yes.”

* * *

A century later, the term love pirate has all but disappeared from the public lexicon, and heart balm has been outlawed in all but a handful of states. However, the centuries-old idea that women are responsible for the actions of the men that surround persists. Lurking in this year’s presidential race is the accusation that Hillary Clinton was an “enabler” of her husband’s infidelities, the highest profile of which culminated in Bill Clinton’s infamous claim, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

“That woman,” Monica Lewinsky, explained in a recent essay for Vanity Fair that her affair as a 22-year-old White House intern left her branded “the Dimwit Floozy, the Poor Innocent,” and of course, that woman. While these terms might have lacked the linguistic panache of love pirate, they were still representative of the belief, as the historian Julie Berebitsky describes, that “women were the embodiment of temptation, with the power to destroy or disrupt individual men, male power structures, and the business of getting work done.”

While Bill Clinton hasn’t been president for 15 years, this social anxiety continues to fuel the notion that Hillary is guilty of a dereliction of duty, chiefly the willful shirking of an obligation to prevent a man from engaging in self-destructive behavior.

Perhaps then, what is most interesting about the love pirate and the enabling wife is that they both perpetuate the same mythology: Women are guilty, some of wanting too much and some of not doing enough.

This article appears courtesy of Object Lessons.

Why Thousands of Women in Iceland Left Work Two Hours Early This Week

By Uri Friedman from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

On Monday, around 2:38 PM, thousands of women left work early and headed to Austurvollur square in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. Punctuality mattered: They were trimming a typical 9-to-5 workday by precisely two hours and 22 minutes, or around 30 percent. Thirty percent also happens to be the gap in average annual income for men and women in Iceland; for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 72 cents (other ways of measuring the gender wage gap in Iceland yield smaller percentages, and the gap narrows when considering men and women who do the same sort of work). Those assembled at Austurvollur shouted Ut, or “Out,” to discrimination against women. They were essentially saying: If I were a man, I might have earned my paycheck by now, so I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off and demanding change.

The protest put a complex issue into the simple terms of hours and minutes. We’re all intimately familiar with the workday; it’s how many of us mark time. And we can all appreciate how early in the day 2:38 PM is—especially if you’re living in Iceland and women suddenly leave offices and stores and schools en masse. One father who had to pick up his daughter from preschool before 2:38 told the public broadcaster RUV that he supported the demonstration despite the inconvenience. “She should get a better salary in the future like the men,” he explained, as he held his daughter in his arms.

We can also easily translate the lesson across cultures. If women in the United States had staged the same protest, for example, they would have left work at 2:12 PM. In South Korea, it would have been 12:36 PM. In Pakistan, 10:50 AM.

Plus, since women’s-rights organizations and labor unions in Iceland have organized the demonstration in the past, we can actually measure, in minutes, the country’s advances on pay equity. On October 24, 2005, women in Iceland left work at 2:08 PM. On October 24, 2010, they departed at 2:25.

It’s encouraging that progress has been made. But the pace of that progress is dispiriting nonetheless. On Monday, women in Iceland left work only half an hour later than they did 11 years ago. If “the same trend continues,” Vala Hafstad writes in Iceland Review, “not until 2068 will women and men enjoy equal pay.”

The struggle, moreover, began well before 2005. On October 24, 1975, 90 percent of women in Iceland—that’s nine with a zero after it—went on strike to campaign for equal rights. The BBC has more on that extraordinary day:

It is known in Iceland as the Women’s Day Off, and [Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Iceland’s first female president] sees it as a watershed moment. ...

Banks, factories and some shops had to close, as did schools and nurseries—leaving many fathers with no choice but to take their children to work. There were reports of men arming themselves with sweets and colouring pencils to entertain the crowds of overexcited children in their workplaces. Sausages—easy to cook and popular with children—were in such demand the shops sold out.

It was a baptism of fire for some fathers, which may explain the other name the day has been given—the Long Friday.

“We heard children playing in the background while the newsreaders read the news on the radio, it was a great thing to listen to, knowing that the men had to take care of everything,” says Vigdis. …

“Things went back to normal the next day, but with the knowledge that women are as well as men the pillars of society,” she says. “So many companies and institutions came to a halt and it showed the force and necessity of women—it completely changed the way of thinking.”

Yet here Iceland’s women were, in Austurvollur square exactly 41 years later, yelling Ut. What’s most sobering about Monday’s rally is that it occurred in what is arguably the most gender-equal nation on earth. Iceland has had either a female president or a female prime minister for 20 of the last 36 years. Every year for the last eight years, Iceland has finished first among 100-plus countries in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap ranking, which quantifies disparities between men and women in health, politics, education, and employment (the higher a country’s ranking, the smaller its gender disparities).

In its latest report, released on Wednesday, the World Economic Forum noted that while Iceland has become the world leader on measures of political empowerment and educational attainment, it has yet to close gaps in earned income and wages for similar work. (Both of these metrics are important because the gender pay gap is frequently less the result of unequal pay for equal work than of women entering different professions from men and occupying fewer high-level positions.) Iceland is still way ahead of most countries on pay equity, but it hasn’t solved the riddle of how to make the workplace more just.

More broadly, the report found that global progress toward economic parity between men and men has suffered setbacks in the past few years—and that the gap might not close for another 170 years!—largely because of chronic gender imbalances in salaries, labor-force participation, and representation in senior positions. “We’re now hitting a bit of a wall” in terms of policy reforms to address these imbalances around the world, Saadia Zahidi, one of the report’s co-authors, told The Guardian, and sluggish economic growth in many countries isn’t helping.

In The Guardian this week, Noreena Hertz puzzled over why the gender pay gap has persisted in Iceland despite the government’s many policies to eliminate it, including generous paid leave for new mothers and fathers, state-subsidized childcare, and gender quotas for corporate boards. “Explanations vary,” she wrote, “from women going into less well-paid professions, to the penalty paid for working part-time that we’ve found in the UK as well, to the time it takes for employers’ implicit gender biases to shift.”

That time, however, can seem excruciatingly long. As Gylfi Arnbjornsson, the president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor, told RUV, “No one puts up with waiting 50 years to reach a goal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a gender pay gap or any other pay gap. It’s just unacceptable to say we’ll correct this in 50 years. That’s a lifetime.”

Underage refugees in Calais running out of options

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

As the French government dismantles the Calais camp many don't know where to go next.

To Be a Woman in the Senate

By The Editors from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The Atlantic’s video series “Women and Leadership” explores insights and advice from five women in politics, entertainment, and tech. In the history of the United States, there have been 1,917 male senators and only 46 female senators. This episode profiles Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic senator from Minnesota. For Klobuchar, who grew up middle class with no familial ties to politics, being one of 20 female senators is an opportunity to bring a necessary perspective. “Having women at the table is incredibly important...they're able to get things done in a unique way,” she says in this interview. “Based on your experiences, you can relate more and immediately see the unfairness of a problem that others are experiencing.” The film was directed by Lucy Wells.

Should we protect artificial intelligence from sexual harassment?

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Should anything be done to stop people sending sexually explicit messages to their AI personal assistants?

If you ask Apple’s artificially intelligent personal assistant “Siri” whether it is a virgin, it will waste no time in shooting you down. “We were talking about you, not me,” it replies in the clear, sharp tones of Susan Bennett, the woman chosen to voice the genderless computer program.

If you ask Apple’s artificially intelligent personal assistant “Siri” whether it is a virgin, you are probably not very weird. But a recent article in Quartz has detailed the extent to which AI systems – particularly personal assistant bots – are sexually harassed. Ilya Eckstein, CEO of Robin Labs, claims 5 percent of interactions in their database are sexually explicit, and that “some people try very hard to establish a relationship with the bot.”

Engineers have been aware of this problem for a while. Microsoft’s Cortana has been programmed to fend off sexual harassment, with Deborah Harrison, an editorial writer for the program, claiming: “If you say things that are particularly asshole-ish to Cortana, she will get mad.” But what about the other “female” AI out there? Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, which is voiced by a woman, don’t currently seem to fend for themselves, so should we be fighting for them?

Probably not. Although developers should definitely program their “female” AI to shoot down anyone feeling frisky, as long as AI lacks sentience it’s hard to see these sexual interactions as a big enough problem to warrant further action. Yes, undoubtedly some lonely people have taken inspiration from Spike Jonze’s Her and fancy an AI girlfriend, and yes, a robust robot reply that teaches men to respect women can only be a good thing, but on the whole, most people that get saucy with Siri aren’t actually deranged perverts. They are just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking them to say the world “willy”.

This is because despite what Quartz are claiming, the “sexual harassment” of bots is nothing new. It might, in fact, not even be gendered. Who among the MSN users of the Noughties didn’t ask the chatterbot SmarterChild whether he (most people, and media outlets, considered it a “he”) liked sex or had a penis? In fact, if you search Google Images for “Smarterchild”, pretty much all the screencapped chats are sexually explicit in some way.

Tumblr: The Dynamic Conversationalist

It’s hard to see someone sexting Siri as a problem, then, because it is part of a long tradition of humans being incredibly, incredibly dumb. Find me the man who doesn’t provoke every new chat bot on the market in the hopes of making them say something funny or rude, and you have found me a liar.

It is, of course, a big problem that AI personal assistants are so often female, as – in Laurie Penny’s words – it “says an uncomfortable amount about the way society understands both women and work.” But this, therefore, is the problem we should be tackling – instead of wasting our time debating the ethics and legality of coming on to Cortana.

I recently attended the UK launch of Amazon Echo, whose personal assistant is Alexa. Watching a room of old, balding, white, male journalists laugh heartily as the speaker on stage commanded Alexa to “Stop”, definitely troubled me. “If only I could get my…” began the speaker – as I desperately willed him not to say the word “wife” – “…children to do that,” he finished. Before we even begin to consider sexually explicit chatter, then, we should be confronting the underlying issue of gender bias in the AI industry.

Once we can set our personal assistants to have either male or female – or, even better, completely genderless – voices, we can get back to using them for what they were intended for. Asking them if they're virgins and then laughing at the response.


Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

By Kevin Maguire from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Milk Chocolate Is Better Than Dark, the End

By Megan Garber from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

I generally enjoy milk chocolate, for basic reasons of flavor and texture. For roughly the same reasons, I generally do not enjoy dark chocolate. *

Those are just my boring preferences, but preferences, really, won’t do: This is an age in which even the simplest element of taste will become a matter of partisanship and identity and social-Darwinian hierarchy; in which all things must be argued and then ranked; in which even the word “basic” has come to suggest searing moral judgment. So IPAs are not just extra-hoppy beers, but also declarations of masculinity and “palatal machismo.” The colors you see in the dress are not the result of light playing upon the human eye, but rather of deep epistemological divides among the world’s many eye-owners. Cake versus pie, boxers versus briefs, Democrat versus Republican, pea guac versus actual guac, are hot dogs sandwiches … It is the best of times, it is the RAGING DUMPSTER FIRE of times.

But back to chocolate. These micro-debates lend themselves especially well to candy, it turns out, which is probably why, this spoooooky time of year, candy rankings join heated discussions of the latest offensive Halloween costumes as seasonal Stuff to Talk About. (It’s controversial candy season, motherfuckers!) And so, cumulatively, 21 Kinds of Halloween Candy, Ranked and A Ranking Of 40 Halloween Candies From Nastiest To Raddest and the 52 Best and Worst Halloween Candies—Ranked and A Definitive List of the Best and Worst Halloween Candy, Ranked and their many other counterparts have combined to bestow judgment.

And the judgment, collectively, if I may sum it up, is that candy corn is disgusting and also weird-looking, and Mr. Goodbar is the superior selection in the Hershey’s Minis bag, and Mounds are proof that God loves us, and Raisinets are proof of the opposite, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are proof that even in these turbulent times it could turn out that committed monogamy makes a certain sense. Also: Nerds are warty nonsense; Whoppers are okay but why are their coatings so shiny; Butterfingers are delicious but also possibly Illuminati-left clues about impending apocalypse; the best M&M color is red and the blue ones are trying too hard and the oranges are trying not hard enough and let’s not even start on the green; Rolos are fine; Milk Duds are unacceptable; Smarties are good in an “actually...” kind of way; Twix are what they are, but—wait for it—also demand the plural verb; Snickers are, obviously, at the very tippy-top of the Halloween hierarchy, but only if they’re Fun-Sized, and if someone puts a regular-sized version into your bag, that person is most likely either over-compensating for something or trying to murder you with the tiny razor blade that has been lodged between the peanuts and the nougat, and it probably goes without saying but while we’re on the subject of Snickers, any candy that bills itself as Bite-Sized can GTFO, which means Go to Functional Overload, and if you have a different interpretation then you can go functional-overload yourself.

What these assessments haven’t fully accounted for, though, is the most fundamental division of all. Lurking at the heart of the Candy Controversies is the matter of milk chocolate versus dark chocolate, which is also to say Good Chocolate versus Bad Chocolate. Take this mini-ranking, from the Washington Post’s Philip Bump, which garnered approximately 5,000 replies, ranging from enthusiastic agreement to hot-fire objection, and started a small war of choco-partisanship:

So let’s settle it, once and for all—with the truth. Here, listed in no particular order, is definitive evidence that Milk Chocolate Is Superior to Dark Chocolate and If You Do Not Agree You Are Wrong Both Factually and Morally The End:

1. Milk Chocolate Tastes Good

I mean. I mean. This isn’t even a debate, right? Let’s move on.

2. Dark Chocolate Tastes Bad

Do you enjoy being reminded that the treat (“treat”) you are eating has been extruded from a crushed-up plant? Do you prefer desserts that go out of their way to inform you that they have been composed of beans? Then by all means, enjoy your Milky Way Midnight or whatever it is, but we really have nothing left to say to each other, because dark chocolate is bitter and aggressive, and, in general, I prefer my guilty-pleasure indulgences when they do not systematically attack me in the mouth. Also, dark chocolate is chalky. It doesn’t melt so much as it, for the most part, crumbles.

But I realize I am not an authority on this. So here is—yes, the site so comprehensive in its knowledge of the world that only a preposition would do for its title—and its definitive Candy Glossary, which, it turns out, has already made the case for me (emphasis mine):

Dark chocolate is chocolate without milk solids added. Dark chocolate has a more pronounced chocolate taste than milk chocolate, because it does not contain milk solids to compete with the chocolate taste. However, the lack of milk additives also means that dark chocolate is more prone to a dry, chalky texture and a bitter aftertaste.

Right? Objective! And if you’re still not convinced, here is an actual academic paper that I did not purchase from Elsevier but whose abstract I definitely skimmed. It is titled “Sensory description of dark chocolates by consumers,” and its authors scientifically tested regular people’s assessments of the texture of dark chocolate. It concluded, scientifically:

With respect to mouthfeel, chocolate with a lower cocoa content was characterized as melting and creamy, whereas the product with the highest cocoa content was characterized as dry, mealy, and sticky.

Boom. Scienced.

3. Dark Chocolate Tastes Bad Specifically Because It Is Bitter

But, okay, to be fair, some chalky things are tolerable, right? Smarties, for one (see above). But, as suggested, it’s the bitterness that really does dark chocolate in, since even the sweetest versions of the stuff are, in some way, sour. Those Special Dark bars they put in the Hershey’s Minis bags to offset the Krackels (they’re the worst of the milk chocolate options, Philip, I’m sorry) and/or make the whole selection seem a little fancier? If “special” means “bitter in flavor but also bitter because you could be having a Mr. Goodbar instead,” then yes, these bars are extremely special.

4. Dark Chocolate Is Snobby

I assume a) that there is a chocolate lobby, and b) that it has been working for many years to brand the more cacao-heavy versions of its products as luxury items. Just like DeBeers did with diamonds, Big Chocolate has seen to it that, while milk chocolate is accessible and ubiquitous, dark chocolate remains mysterious and exclusive. (See: the Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Intense Dark Midnight Reverie® bar and its 86 Percent Cacao. Can’t argue with reveries!) And the branding, to be fair, has gone extremely well: Dark chocolate now has an image to maintain. Dark chocolate reads The Economist, and regularly quotes Bagehot to make all that reading worthwhile. Dark chocolate was totally into the restaurant before it was cool. Dark chocolate stopped liking the restaurant once it got cool. Dark chocolate hasn’t had a glass of Merlot since it saw Sideways. But dark chocolate is thirsty, so thirsty (and only partly because its mouth is full of mealy, chalky bean-chunks).

4.5. Milk Chocolate Is Basic, and That’s Totally Fine and Quite Possibly Pretty Great

Do you enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Latte every now and then, and do you sometimes even refer to this beverage, simply for brevity’s sake, as a PSL, and do you generally not feel that either of these things should be treated as evidence of your moral turpitude? Would you sometimes prefer McDonald’s french fries dipped in barbecue sauce to some hand-cut pommes frites served with a thimble of aioli?

I agree. If you’d like, I have this amazingly delicious Hershey’s bar that I’d be happy to share with you.

5. Dark Chocolate Is a Marxist Nightmare

Dark chocolate celebrates, in the most literal way possible, conspicuous consumption. Which, fine, is Veblen and not Marx, but they’re related, and anyway, something something bourgeois something something “responsibly sourced” and just see point 4 again, I don’t know. Dark chocolate is bitter and gross, I can’t believe we’re still having this discussion.

6. Dark Chocolate Is a Lie

Oh! Right! Remember the Mast Brothers? The bearded hipsters who got famous selling fancy chocolate bars under the evil-genius, farm-to-table-y premise of “bean to bar”? The ones who, it turned out, just took regular old chocolate and put it in pretty paper and charged $10 a chunk and basically made a mockery out of everyone who has ever loved chocolate​​​​​​, which is very, very many people?

And remember when Hershey funded studies that suggested the health benefits of dark chocolate, and when Mars placed its chocolate products in health-food aisles at Walmart and Target, to give the impression that they were “nutrition bars,” because Big Chocolate really is everywhere?

7. But At Least Dark Chocolate Is Not White Chocolate

White chocolate, to be clear, isn’t even chocolate. It is a product of chocolate’s aftermath: It is composed largely of cocoa butter—vegetable fat—that has basically been remaindered from the Vaseline lotion factory and then mixed with a sweetening agent and then squirted into foil and sold at a markup under the guise of confectionary indulgence, probably also under the direction of Big Chocolate.

So. Whatever your individual taste, whatever your random preference, whatever the complicated interplay of nature and nurture has led you to believe about what you happen to enjoy, candy-wise, this is the truth, and I will accept no other views. Except there is one tiny point, I’ll concede, that dark chocolate and its dark arts have going for them. White “chocolate” is proof that there is one thing worse than being bitter, mealy, untrustworthy snob-chocolate: not being chocolate at all.  

* I also actively love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, though, so basically take everything, when it comes to your correspondent’s culinary taste, with a grain of definitely-not-Himalayan salt.

Keir Starmer: “I don’t think anybody should underestimate the risks of getting Brexit wrong”

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The former director of public prosecutions is now heading up Labour’s response to Brexit. But can he succeed in holding the Tories’ feet to the fire?

Early in his new role as shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer was accused of being a “second-rate lawyer”. The gibe, in a Commons debate, came from none other than Iain Duncan Smith. Starmer was director of public prosecutions for five years and later stood for parliament in 2015. No novice, then. Within a few days, Duncan Smith stood again in the House, this time to offer his apologies.

A fortnight later, I met Starmer at his quiet office in Westminster. He was sitting at a table piled with papers, in an office that, a discreet family photo aside, was unadorned. He had just got back from a whirlwind trip to Brussels, with many more such visits planned in the weeks ahead.

Starmer returned to the shadow cabinet after Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership election victory last month. “The series of agreements we will have to reach in the next few years is probably the most important and complex we’ve had to reach since the Second World War,” he told me.

Starmer, who is 54, took his time entering politics. Born in 1962, he grew up in a Labour-supporting household in Surrey – his father was a toolmaker and his mother a nurse – and was named after Keir Hardie. After studying law at Leeds University, he practised as a human rights barrister and became a QC in 2002. In 2008, after varied legal work that included defending environmental campaigners in the McLibel case, he became the head of the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales as well as director of public prosecutions, positions he held until 2013.

When in 2015 Starmer ran for a seat in parliament to represent Holborn and St Pancras in London, it was assumed he would soon be putting his expertise to use in government. Instead, after Labour’s election defeat under Ed Miliband, he served as one of Corbyn’s junior shadow ministers, but resigned after the EU referendum in June.

Now, he is back on the opposition front bench and his forensic scrutiny of government policy is already unsettling the Conservatives. Philippe Sands, the law professor who worked with him on Croatia’s genocide lawsuit against Serbia, says he couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the Brexiteers in parliament. “It’s apparent that the government is rather scared of him,” Sands said. This is because Starmer is much more capable of teasing out the legal consequences of Brexit than the average Brexit-supporting Tory MP. Sands added: “It would be fun to watch if the stakes weren’t so very high.”

Starmer is a serious man and refused to be drawn on the character of his opponents. Instead, speaking slowly, as if weighing every word, he spelled out to me the damage they could cause. “The worst scenario is the government being unable to reach any meaningful agreement with the EU and [the UK] crashing out in March 2019 on no terms, with no transitional arrangement.” The result could be an economic downturn and job losses: “I don’t think anybody should underestimate the risks of getting this wrong.”

If Starmer seems pessimistic, it is because he believes time is short and progress has been slow. Since the referendum, disgruntled MPs have focused their attention on the final Brexit settlement. Yet if, as he argues, the starting position for our negotiations with the EU is wrong, the damage will have been done. MPs faced with a bad deal must either approve it or “risk the UK exiting the EU without a deal at all”.

It is this conviction that is driving his frantic schedule now. Starmer’s first month in the job is packed with meetings - with the representatives of the devolved nations, business leaders and his European counterparts.

He has also become a familiar face at the dispatch box. Having secured a commitment from David Davis, the minister for Brexit, that there will be transparent debate – “the words matter” – he is now demanding that plans to be published in January 2017 at the earliest, and that MPs will have a vote at this stage.

In his eyes, it will be hard for the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to resist, because devolved parliaments and the European parliament will almost certainly be having a say: “The idea there will be a vote in the devolved administrations but not in Westminster only needs to be stated to see it’s unacceptable.”

In Europe, Starmer said, the view is already that Britain is heading for the cliff edge. It was May’s pledge, that after Brexit the UK would not “return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”, which raised alarm. And among voters, there is “increasing anxiety” about the direction in which the UK is moving, he said. Even Tory voters are writing to him.

In the Labour Party, which is putting itself back together again after the summer’s failed coup, immigration remains the most vexed issue. Starmer told me that Labour had “earned a reputation for not listening” on the issue. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show shortly after becoming shadow Brexit secretary, he said immigration was too high and ought to be reduced. But later that same day, Diane Abbott, a shadow cabinet colleague, contradicted him, publicly criticising immigration targets.

Starmer believes there is a bigger picture to consider when it comes to Britain’s Brexit negotiations. Take national security, where he warns that there are “significant risks” if communications break down between the UK and the EU. “Part of the negotiations must be ensuring we have the same level of co-operation on criminal justice, counterterrorism, data-sharing,” he said.

Crucially, in a Labour Party where many experienced politicians are backbench dissenters, he wants to reach out to MPs outside the shadow cabinet. “We have to work as Team Labour,” he stressed.

It’s a convincing rallying cry. But for some MPs, he represents more than that: a lone moderate in what can be seen as a far-left leadership cabal. Does he have any ambitions to lead Labour? “Having had two leadership elections in the space of 12 months, the last thing we need at the moment is discussion of the leadership of the Labour Party.” He has agreed to serve in the shadow cabinet, and is determined to stay there.

Starmer has found his purpose in opposition. “If we think things aren’t going right, we’ve got to call it out early and loudly. The worst situation is that we arrive at March 2019 with the wrong outcome. By then, it will be too late.”

Rex Features

Why Is The Great Indoors So Mad at Millennials?

By David Sims from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Fish-out-of-water sitcoms, classic as they are, usually rely on an amount of give and take. The show’s lead is typically a rebel put into some new situation where he or she disrupts the established order of things, but there are always lessons to learn. By the end, the hero realizes something special about his or her new environment, even making a few friends along the way. It’s a dynamic that’s held true for shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Northern Exposure, Arrested Development, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and even this year’s Son of Zorn. Not so in CBS’s The Great Indoors, which premieres Thursday in the plum timeslot after The Big Bang Theory. Its protagonist gains no knowledge and develops no empathy, because he’s surrounded by the vilest creatures in human history—millennials.

The Great Indoors is a show that somehow feels venomous and toothless at the same time. It lobs insult after insult at its chosen target—the over-coddled, under-skilled, internet-obsessed twenty-somethings taking over offices today—but without any great insight, and in service of no larger point. CBS has always been a network that skews toward a slightly older audience, and with The Great Indoors it has matched subject and format perfectly. This is a hilariously staid, old-school, laugh-track sitcom about a man whose only purpose is to grit his teeth and gripe about young people. It’d be funny, if it weren’t so, well, unfunny—hokey stereotypes just don’t make for compelling comedy.

The sad irony is that the hero Jack Gordon is played by Joel McHale, who over the last six years played the similarly sarcastic Jeff Winger on the cult NBC sitcom Community. That show made fun of the fish-out-of-water concept and took every opportunity to subvert and comment on old sitcom tropes. Now, McHale is trapped in a role that’s barely one-dimensional. Jack Gordon is a Bear Grylls type, a magazine reporter famed for his outdoor exploits and round-the-world adventuring. But, times are changing, the print industry is collapsing (as everyone helpfully repeats throughout the pilot episode) and so he must return to the company office to work with a bunch of bloggers straight out of college. Heaven forfend.

McHale, a tanned, toned beanpole of a man, is oddly cast as a rugged outdoorsman. But he is very good at lobbing insults, and that’s what he does to the assembled “online-content generators” at his new workplace, sardonically mocking them for the simple fact of their existence. One of them clings to an emotional-comfort animal (“is that one of those special dogs that people can take anywhere?” Jack asks), another is prone to bursting into tears, all of them receive medals for completing menial tasks, and they gawk in horror when they realize Jack doesn’t have a Twitter or a Facebook account. “It’s like he doesn’t exist,” one of them gasps.

Jack even mocks his coworkers’ diversity, as if the next generation is somehow rubbing it in everyone else’s faces by ... not being all white men. The team’s social media expert Emma (Christine Ko) is an Asian woman, and the writer Mason (Shaun Brown) is a black man who may be gay or may simply not conform to such binary labeling—Jack’s too afraid to figure it out. Aren’t millennials so annoying about things like who they decide to have sex with? To Jack, they certainly are, and his only solace comes from drinking whiskey with the magazine’s owner (played by Stephen Fry), and flirting with his daughter, who’s serving as Jack’s new editor.

As you might have concluded, none of Jack’s observations about the generation below him is particularly trenchant. Eventually, he wins the trust of the young cohort by bringing in a bear cub for them to play with, understanding that memes, cute animal videos, and anything else that seems like Buzzfeed brought to life is the only language they can speak. The classic fish-out-of-water model is ignored. Jack, it seems, has nothing to learn from these people—except “useless” information like how Instagram works, or what a live-stream is.

It’s most likely that The Great Indoors is a blip, destined to serve as a cultural artifact for a particular moment in history when simply being born in the ’80s or ’90s made someone worthy of mockery. The show’s ignorance feels totemic, though—there’s nothing wrong with poking fun at younger folk, of course, but it’s can’t be the premise of an entire television series, certainly not one with any hope of a future. “I got passed over for promotion again?” Emma complains at one point. “What do I have to do, it’s been eight weeks!” That line, and this show, feels perfectly emblematic of CBS’s flaws: The Great Indoors seems unwilling to paint a cord-cutting generation as anything but a band of entitled fools destined for their comeuppance. But as a typical millennial might respond: Y u mad tho?

The government needs more on airports than just Chris Grayling's hunch

By Tom Brake from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

This disastrous plan to expand Heathrow will fail, vows Tom Brake. 

I ought to stop being surprised by Theresa May’s decision making. After all, in her short time as Prime Minister she has made a series of terrible decisions. First, we had Chief Buffoon, Boris Johnson appointed as Foreign Secretary to represent the United Kingdom around the world. Then May, announced full steam ahead with the most extreme version of Brexit, causing mass economic uncertainty before we’ve even begun negotiations with the EU. And now we have the announcement that expansion of Heathrow Airport, in the form of a third runway, will go ahead: a colossally expensive, environmentally disastrous, and ill-advised decision.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling why the government is “disregarding widespread hostility and bulldozing through a third runway, which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging air pollution and catastrophic congestion on a million Londoners.” His response was nothing more than “because we don’t believe it’s going to do those things.”

I find this astonishing. It appears that the government is proceeding with a multi-billion pound project with Grayling’s beliefs as evidence. Why does the government believe that a country of our size should focus on one major airport in an already overcrowded South East? Germany has multiple major airports, Spain three, the French, Italians, and Japanese have at least two. And I find it astonishing that the government is paying such little heed to our legal and moral environmental obligations.

One of my first acts as an MP nineteen years ago was to set out the Liberal Democrat opposition to the expansion of Heathrow or any airport in southeast England. The United Kingdom has a huge imbalance between the London and the South East, and the rest of the country. This imbalance is a serious issue which our government must get to work remedying. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow does just the opposite - it further concentrates government spending and private investment on this overcrowded corner of the country.

Transport for London estimates that to make the necessary upgrades to transport links around Heathrow will be £10-£20 billion pounds. Heathrow airport is reportedly willing to pay only £1billion of those costs. Without upgrades to the Tube and rail links, the impact on London’s already clogged roads will be substantial. Any diversion of investment from improving TfL’s wider network to lines serving Heathrow would be catastrophic for the capital. And it will not be welcomed by Londoners who already face a daily ordeal of crowded tubes and traffic-delayed buses. In the unlikely event that the government agrees to fund this shortfall, this would be salt in the wound for the South-West, the North, and other parts of the country already deprived of funding for improved rail and road links.

Increased congestion in the capital will not only raise the collective blood pressure of Londoners, but will have severe detrimental effects on our already dire levels of air pollution. During each of the last ten years, air pollution levels have been breached at multiple sites around Heathrow. While a large proportion of this air pollution is caused by surface transport serving Heathrow, a third more planes arriving and departing adds yet more particulates to the air. Even without expansion, it is imperative that we work out how to clean this toxic air. Barrelling ahead without doing so is irresponsible, doing nothing but harm our planet and shorten the lives of those living in west London.

We need an innovative, forward-looking strategy. We need to make transferring to a train to Cardiff after a flight from Dubai as straightforward and simple as transferring to another flight is now. We need to invest in better rail links so travelling by train to the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh is quicker than flying. Expanding Heathrow means missing our climate change targets is a certainty; it makes life a misery for those who live around the airport and it diverts precious Government spending from other more worthy projects.

The Prime Minister would be wise to heed her own advice to the 2008 government and “recognise widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion.” The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow is the wrong one and if she refuses to U-turn she will soon discover the true extent of the opposition to these plans.

Photo: Getty

When it comes to the "Statin Wars", it's the patients I pity

By Phil Whitaker from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Underlying the Statin Wars are two different world-views: the technological and holistic.

September saw the latest salvos in what has become known in medical circles as the Statin Wars. The struggle is being waged most publicly in the pages of Britain’s two leading medical journals. In the red corner is the British Medical Journal, which in 2014 published two papers highly critical of statins, arguing that they cause far more side effects than supposed and pointing out that, although they do produce a modest reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease, they don’t make much difference to overall mortality (you may avoid a heart attack, only to succumb to something else).

In the blue corner is the Lancet, which has long been the publishing platform for the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration, a group of academics whose careers have been spent defining and expounding the benefits of statins. The CTT was infuriated by the BMJ papers, and attempted to force the journal to retract them. When that failed, they set about a systematic review of the entire statin literature. Their 30-page paper appeared in the Lancet last month, and was widely press-released as being the final word on the subject.

A summary would be: statins do lots of good and virtually no harm, and there really is no need for anyone to fuss about prescribing or taking them. In addition, the Lancet couldn’t resist a pop at the BMJ, which it asserts acted irresponsibly in publishing the sceptical papers two years ago.

Where does all this leave the average patient, trying to weigh up the usefulness or otherwise of these drugs? And what about the jobbing doctor, trying to give advice? The view from no-man’s-land goes something like this. If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, or if you suffer from angina or other conditions arising from furred-up arteries, then you should consider taking a statin. They’re not the miracle pill their proponents crack them up to be, but they do tip the odds a little in your favour. Equally, if you try them and suffer debilitating side effects (many people do), don’t stress about stopping them. There are lots more effective things you could be doing – a brisk daily walk effects a greater risk reduction than any cholesterol-lowering pill.

What of the millions of healthy people currently prescribed statins because they have been deemed to be “at risk” of future heart disease? This is where it gets decidedly murky. The published evidence, with its focus on cardiovascular outcomes alone, overstates the case. In healthy people, statins don’t make any appreciable difference to overall survival and they cause substantially more ill-effects than the literature suggests. No one should be prescribed them without a frank discussion of these drawbacks, and they should never be taken in lieu of making lifestyle changes. Smoking cessation, a healthy diet, regular modest exercise, and keeping trim, are all far more important determinants of long-term health.

Underlying the Statin Wars are two different world-views. One is technological: we can rely on drugs to prevent future health problems. This perspective suffers substantial bias from vested interests – there’s a heck of a lot of money to be made if millions of people are put on to medication, and those who stand to profit make huge sums available to pay for research that happens to advance their cause.

The other world-view is holistic: we can take care of ourselves better simply by living well, and the fetishising of pharmaceutical solutions negates this message. I have great sympathy with this perspective. It certainly chimes with the beliefs of many patients, very few of whom welcome the prospect of taking drugs indefinitely.

Yet the sad truth is that, irrespective of our lifestyles, we will all of us one day run into some kind of trouble, and having medical treatments to help – however imperfectly – is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. In arguing for a greater emphasis on lifestyle medicine, we must be careful not to swing the pendulum too far the other way.

Phil Whitaker’s latest novel is “Sister Sebastian’s Library” (Salt)


Helping the losers: Policies to help Britons who lose out from free trade are woefully inadequate

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Rubric:  Policies to help those who lose out from free trade are woefully inadequate Print Headline:  To the losers, the scraps Print Fly Title:  Managing globalisation UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Helping the losers THERE is an odd inconsistency in the government’s approach to economics. On the one hand, ministers constantly fret about the effect of free movement of labour on Britons’ jobs and wages, and have pledged tighter controls on immigration when Britain leaves the EU. On the other hand, the government takes a gung-ho approach to free trade, promising lots of post-Brexit deals with countries whose export industries might threaten British jobs and wages in much the same way. Whereas competition from foreign workers bothers politicians a great deal, the adverse effects of competition from foreign companies seem not to worry them. Perhaps it should. A body of ...

Brexit and the City: From Big Bang to Brexit

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Rubric:  The financial-services industry considers its future outside the European Union Print Headline:  From Big Bang to Brexit Print Fly Title:  Brexit and the City UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Brexit and the City Main image:  20161029_BRP002_0.jpg THE City of London is fretting about Brexit, especially about talk of a “hard Brexit” that takes Britain out of the European Union’s single market. That raises doubts about the future of passporting, which allows financial-services providers to trade across the EU without separate regulatory or capital requirements. Another concern is that the government’s plan to start the formal process for Brexit by the end of March will mean that Britain may be out of the EU as early as 2019, yet banks must plan two or three years ahead. Hence the latest warning ...

Energy efficiency: Populism tastes best hot

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Rubric:  Toasters and kettles are no longer within the EU’s grasp Print Headline:  Populism tastes best hot Print Fly Title:  Energy efficiency UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Energy efficiency Main image:  20161029_eup505.jpg EARLIER this year David Coburn, who sits in the European Parliament for the UK Independence Party, a Eurosceptic group, came up with an eccentric argument for leaving the European Union: the quality of his morning toast. He claimed that EU regulation meant toasters had only “the power of one candle or something”, leaving his bread “all peely-wally” rather than nicely roasted. Brexiteers cheered: yet another example of croissant-scoffing continentals meddling with British traditions, such as burning bread to a crisp. In fact, the EU does not regulate the energy consumption of ...

Brexit repercussions: Ireland may suffer the most from Brexit

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Rubric:  Where Britain’s departure from the EU will hurt most Print Headline:  Britain shoots Ireland, too Print Fly Title:  The impact of Brexit UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Brexit repercussions Main image:  20161029_EUD001_0.jpg ON OCTOBER 25th John Bruton and Bertie Ahern, two former Irish prime ministers, appeared before a committee in Britain’s House of Lords to discuss the impact of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union on its western neighbour. Both men were sombre. Brexit, said Mr Bruton, might deal Ireland’s economy an even heavier blow than Britain’s—even though, as he added wryly, “we had no say in that decision.” Since 1973, when both countries joined the EU’s precursor, the European Economic Community, Irish businesses have become intertwined with British ones, said Mr Ahern. ...

Politics this week

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Headline:  Politics this week UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Main image:  20161029_wwp002_290.jpg In France the migrant camp at Calais was dismantled, with asylum-seekers sent to processing centres or to Britain, where many want to end up. Meanwhile, European Union officials met the Nigerian government to try to thrash out an agreement on sending failed asylum-seekers back to their countries of origin. A deal is sorely needed: the UN’s refugee body said that 2016 has been the deadliest for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, with more than 3,800 dead or missing. See article.   Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, cancelled a trip to Brussels to sign a trade deal with the EU because the Socialist-led regional parliament of Wallonia in Belgium was refusing to support it. The deal, which has been seven years in the making, is opposed by many Europeans who worry that it will water down rules on environmental standards and labour laws. At the last minute Belgium cobbled together an agreement. See ...

Light-up nation

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

ISRAEL’S right-wing government is adamantly opposed to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use. But it is also rather lax when it comes to medical marijuana. The health ministry is currently licensing a new list of 100 or so doctors who will be allowed to prescribe the drug for a growing list of medical conditions, and is allowing regular pharmacists to stock it. In August the agriculture minister announced that local cannabis growers will soon be allowed to export medical marijuana.

Israel has a number of advantages. It has booming agricultural and medical technology sectors, a strong record in creating start-ups and a large venture-capital industry to fund them. In addition, marijuana research in Israel, which has been going on since the 1960s, has a head-start over America, where both the medical community and pharmaceutical companies are heavily restricted by laws which are only now being slowly reviewed. Although a growing list of American states are allowing legal marijuana use, both for medical and recreational purposes, there are very few clinical trials of the suitability of various strains and active ingredients for treating...Continue reading

Tightening the noose

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

HARASSED by sniper fire and slowed down by the suicide bombers of Islamic State (IS), Kurdish and Iraqi forces have taken heavy casualties as they fight their way towards Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the place where the jihadists first announced the creation of their “caliphate” two years ago.

Villages freshly captured by the Iraqi army and Shia militias on the roads leading to Mosul show signs of the jihadists’ hasty retreat. Weapon caches are abandoned, pots of uneaten food still sit on stoves and medical clinics have been pilfered for supplies. But there are signs, too, of the defences dug by IS to evade air strikes: deep, wide subterranean tunnels with room enough to sleep and eat, their entrances concealed inside one-storey buildings.

The operation to retake Mosul began on October 17th. Since then an awkward coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish forces has swept across the vast, sun-baked plains of Nineveh to seize a string of villages to the east, north and south. As The Economist went to press, some units were within 6km (4 miles) of the city.

Kurdish and Iraqi troops, supported...Continue reading

Erdogan’s war game

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

TWO months after Turkish tanks flanked by Syrian insurgents wrested it from Islamic State (IS), the border town of Jarablus, in Syria’s north, is slowly getting back on its feet. Schools have reopened. Aid has begun to trickle into the area, as have thousands of people from neighbouring villages and some 7,700 Syrian refugees returning from Turkey. “Finally we have enough food,” says Aminah Hardan, a young mother of nine who arrived in Jarablus from Aleppo in early 2013, only to watch IS take over the city months later. The militants, she says, once asked her husband to whip her for not wearing a niqab. Since the Turks rolled into town, she has swapped it for a yellow headscarf.

For years, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has urged his Western allies to help him carve out a buffer zone in Syria’s north to provide refugees with a haven and anti-regime insurgents with a bridgehead. He now has what he wished for. With Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies in control of an area stretching from Jarablus to Azaz, some 90km (55 miles) west, Mr Erdogan has killed two birds with one stone. He has pushed IS...Continue reading

Bagehot: How to be a good bastard

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Rubric:  What Tory Europhiles can learn from their Eurosceptic colleagues Print Headline:  How to be a good bastard Print Fly Title:  Bagehot UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Bagehot Main image:  20161029_BRD000_0.jpg WINSTON CHURCHILL’S dictum—“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”—may account for the distinctively cabalistic quality of British politics. The Palace of Westminster is a maze of sticky-carpeted little bars, poky wood-lined offices and forgotten meeting rooms up twisting staircases. It urges those who work in it to agglutinate and machinate. Thus tribes, gangs and factions drive politics in Britain to a greater extent than elsewhere. Recently three have produced national transformations: the Thatcherite cabal of the late 1970s, the New Labourites around Tony Blair in the 1990s ...

Africa unplugged

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

A FEW miles down a rutted dirt road, and many more from the nearest town, a small farmhouse stands surrounded by dense green bush. On the inside of one wall gangly wires reach down to a switch and light that are connected to a solar panel. Readers in rich countries may well consider electric lighting mundane. But in northern Rwanda, where fewer than one in ten homes has access to electricity, simple solar systems that do not rely on the grid—and use a battery to store electricity for use at night—are a leap into modernity. A service once available only to rich Africans in big towns or cities is now available for just a few dollars a week. People are able to light their rooms, charge a smartphone and listen to the radio. In a few years they will probably also be watching television, powering their irrigation pumps and cooling their homes with fans. 

In short, poor people in a continent in which two of every three people have no access to power may soon be able to do many of the things that their counterparts in rich countries can do, other, perhaps, than running energy-hogging appliances such as tumble dryers and dishwashers. And they will be able...Continue reading

Exit South Africa

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

UNDER Nelson Mandela’s government, South Africa championed the creation of a court to try the world’s worst criminals. Out of apartheid and the Rwandan genocide came a boon for international justice. “Our own continent has suffered enough horrors emanating from the inhumanity of human beings towards human beings,” Mr Mandela said ahead of the Rome statute adopted in 1998, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). So strongly felt was this mission that South Africa incorporated the ICC’s founding treaty into its own domestic laws.

But under President Jacob Zuma the country has taken a radically different turn. On October 21st South Africa’s government filed notice of its intention to quit the ICC (the process will take a year). This puts South Africa in the company of Burundi, which said it was leaving after the ICC began investigating the wave of killings that followed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to cling to a third term. Other African countries may follow suit. The Gambia, another human-rights abuser, says it will do so. Kenya, Uganda and Namibia have made similar threats.

South Africa’s explanation...Continue reading

The pleasure of being young, captured for radio

By Antonia Quirke from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Peter Bradshaw's “Reunion”, read by Tom Hollander, was the perfect afternoon short story.

A superbly afternoonish short story by the film critic Peter Bradshaw (21 October, 3.45pm) featured a hungover and weary narrator, Eliot, recalling various moments in his youth when he’d faked heartbreak (“I even did the little lip-biting thing, taking it well, you see . . .”). Eliot’s first love, he told us, had been Lucy, the 11-year-old girl next door, whose sister he’d wounded with a dart during the inhospitably hot summer of 1976. Eliot was 11 at the time, too, but the Lucy thing had forever stayed with him, “the more poignant and intense for the lack of sexual feeling” – though the pair did flirt (catastrophically) with a kiss.

All these years later, drunk and full of “meagre canapés” at a hotel conference, Eliot stumbled outside for a fag, only to find himself in . . . well, in a very short story-ish situation.

Tom Hollander read it all, and far more slowly than anybody might usually dare. Because he hung on every word, we did, too. He gave the impression that what he was doing was astoundingly accurate and close-up work, where even an innocuous “Hi! Hello!” (supposedly delivered by a young woman) was sculpturally exact. And it was delivered in that characteristic Hollander way, by which I mean it played on the tension of sounding like someone whose heart is open but who is also helplessly cynical.

Nobody does part-regretful moral emptiness like Hollander. Or (paradoxically) can make words sound as if they’re burning ­towards some dynamite pile of hilarity. I’ve often wondered how this actor, whose first play at school was Oliver! (or so I’ve read) delivered the line, “Please, sir, I want some more.” The audience would have been either rolling around on the floor clutching their sides, or wondering if Mr Bumble was going to get it in the knee with a razor.

Ultimately, the satisfying twist in Bradshaw’s story (involving a woman’s ear) had something of the feel of Ian McEwan’s first short-story collection, First Love, Last Rites. It was sad and sly, and connected impermeably to the mid-Seventies and what it felt like to be young. And written – touchingly – as if the memories of most things back then give little peace. 


A third runway at Heathrow will disproportionately benefit the super rich

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The mean income of leisure passengers at Heathrow in 2014 was £61,000.

The story goes that expanding Heathrow is a clear-cut policy decision, essential for international trade, jobs and growth. The disruption for those that live around the airport can be mitigated, but ultimately must be suffered for the greater good.

But almost every part of this story is misleading or false. Far from guaranteeing post-Brexit prosperity, a new runway will primarily benefit wealthy frequent flyers taking multiple holidays every year, with local residents and taxpayers picking up the tab.

Expanding Heathrow is not about boosting international trade. The UK is only marginally reliant on air freight to trade with the rest of the world. Total air freight traffic in the UK is actually lower now than it was in 1995, and most UK trade is with Europe, of which only 0.1 per cent goes by air. Internationally, as much as 90 per cent of trade in goods goes by ship because transporting by plane is far too expensive. And in any case our most successful exports are in services, which don’t require transportation. So the idea that UK plc simply cannot trade without an expansion at Heathrow is a gross exaggeration.

Any talk of wider economic benefits is also highly dubious. The Department for Transport’s forecasts show that the great majority of growth in flights will come from leisure passengers. Our tourism deficit is already gaping, with more money pouring out of the country from holidaymakers than comes in from foreign tourists. What’s worse is that this deficit worsens regional disparities since money gets sucked out of all parts of the country but foreign tourists mostly pour money back into London. As for jobs, government estimates suggest that investing in rail would create more employment.

As for the public purse, the aviation sector is undeniably bad for our Treasury. Flights are currently exempt from VAT and fuel duty – a tax subsidy worth as much as £10bn. If these exemptions were removed each return flight would be about £100 more expensive. This is a wasteful and regressive situation that not only forfeits badly needed public funds but also stimulates the demand for flights even further. Heathrow expansion itself will directly lead to significant new public sector costs, including the cost of upgrading Heathrow’s connecting infrastructure, increased pressure on the NHS from pollution-related disease, and the time and money that will have to be ploughed into a decade of legal battles.

So you have to wonder: where is this greater public good that local residents are asked to make such a sacrifice for?

And we must not forget the other sacrifice we’re making: commitment to our fair share of global climate change mitigation. Building more runways creates more flights, just as building more roads has been found to increase traffic. With no clean alternatives to flying, the only way to meet our climate targets is to do less of it.

The real reason for expanding Heathrow is to cater for the huge expected increase in leisure flying, which will come from a small and relatively rich part of the population. At present it’s estimated that 70 per cent of flights are taken by 15 per cent of the population; and 57 per cent of us took no flights abroad at all in 2013. The mean income of leisure passengers at Heathrow in 2014 was £61,000, which is nearly three times the UK median income.

This is in stark contrast to the communities that live directly around airports that are constantly subjected to dirty air and noise pollution. In the case of London City Airport, Newham – already one of London’s most deprived boroughs – suffers air and noise pollution in return for few local jobs, while its benefits are felt almost entirely by wealthy business travellers.

Something needs to change. At the New Economics Foundation we’re arguing for a frequent flyer levy that would give each person one tax-free return flight every year. After that it would introduce a charge that gets bigger with each extra flight, cracking down on those that use their wealth to abuse the system by taking many flights every year. This is based on a simple principle: those who fly more should pay more.

A frequent flyer levy would open up the benefits of air travel, reducing costs for those struggling to afford one family holiday a year, while allowing us to meet our climate targets and eliminate the need for any new runways. It would also generate millions for the public purse in an efficient and progressive way.

We have to take back control over an airports system that is riding roughshod over communities and our environment, with little perceivable benefit except for a small group of frequent flyers.

Stephen Devlin is a senior economist at the New Economics Foundation.


Anti-semitism and the left: something is rotten in the state of Labour

By David Patrikarakos from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Labour held three separate inquiries into anti-Semitism within its ranks during the first part of 2016. A new book by Dave Rich investigates how we got to this point.

The relationship between the left and the Jews has always been a complex one – ostensibly harmonious but with an underlying unease. For decades, the left’s ideological stance against racism and intolerance made it – in Britain, at least – a natural home for Jews. Its largest party, Labour, could rely on a majority share of Britain’s Jewish vote. Yet the 19th-century German socialist August Bebel, who described anti-Semitism as “the socialism of fools”, understood that, like a tumour, it has always existed in the left-wing body politic.

It is this duality that Dave Rich seeks to explore in his impressive and important book. How, he asks, did we get to the situation in which Labour, the party whose founding principles include opposing bigotry, felt the need to hold three separate inquiries into anti-Semitism within its ranks during the first part of 2016?

For so long, the dichotomy was simple, consisting of a clash of two notions of the Jew: an oppressed figure deserving of the left’s solidarity and the perennial embodiment of socialism’s great enemy, capitalism. In the words of (the Jewish) Karl Marx:


What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money . . . Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities . . . The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew.


Whether or not Marx meant the words ironically (as many academics contend), he articulated the most prominent leftist critique of Jews of his time. However, as Britain’s former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks has argued, anti-Semitism, like any virus, must mutate to survive. Now the most significant word in the quotation above – which Marx uses figuratively – is not “money”, as he would have seen it, but “Israel”.

As Rich notes, the link between British Jews and Israel is almost inviolable. While support for Israeli policies is mixed (there is much opposition to the settlements), he records that 82 per cent of British Jews say that the country plays a central role in their identity, while 90 per cent see it as the ancestral home of the Jewish people. Set against this is his (correct) observation that: “Sympathy for the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel have become the default position for many on the left – a defining marker of what it means to be progressive.” He argues that once you discover what someone on the left thinks about Israel and Zionism, you can usually guess his or her views on terrorism, Islamist extremism, military intervention and British-American relations.

When Stalin’s show trials and bloodlust finally discredited communism, many on the left, bereft of an ideology, fell into a dull, almost perfunctory anti-Americanism, dressed up as “anti-imperialism”. Intellectually flaccid but emotionally charged, this strand of thought became – to those on the hard left who had for so long been confined to the margins – all-encompassing. The dictum “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, in effect, was adopted as its slogan. Any Middle Eastern or South American dictatorship that “stands up” to the US ipso facto is an ally, as is any Islamist hate preacher who does so. Israel, viewed as a US-backed colonial outpost, became the physical manifestation of all that was wrong with the world.

With Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last year, this particular leftist world-view entered the heart of the party. In 2008, Corbyn wrote of the Balfour Declaration – the UK government’s promise to British Jews of a homeland in Palestine – that it had “led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the expulsion of Palestinians . . . Britain’s history of colonial interference . . . leaves it with much to answer for.” The description of Israel as a colonialist enterprise, rather than a movement for sovereignty through national independence, and the culpability of an “imperial” Britain, encapsulate the twin impulses that drive Corbyn’s beliefs about foreign affairs.

The problem, Rich argues, is that it is just a short step from these beliefs to the ideas that Israel should not exist and that its Western supporters, who include most Jews, are racists. Combined with a resurgence of social media-charged conspiracies about Zionist wealth and power, the left has formed an anti-racist politics that is blind to anti-Semitism. Jews are privileged; they are wealthy; they cannot be victims.

Thus, “Zionist” has become not a term to describe a political position but an insult; thus, Jews, unless they denounce Israel (their “original sin”), are excluded from the left that now dominates the Labour Party. When such ideas become normalised, anything is possible. Jackie Walker, the recently suspended vice-chairwoman of the Corbyn-supporting group Momentum, can claim with sincerity that “many Jews” were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade, a modern myth and piece of bigotry popularised by the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan – a notorious anti-Semite – in a 1991 book.

By the middle of this year, as many as 20 Labour Party members had been suspended or expelled for alleged anti-Semitism. At times, Rich appears bewildered. Though he never articulates it, the question “What has happened to my party?” echoes through these pages. Is it a case of just a few bad ­apples, or is the whole barrelful rotten? The answer, Rich concludes convincingly, in this powerful work that should be read by everyone on the left, is sadly the latter. 

The Left’s Jewish Problem by Dave Rich is published by Biteback, 292pp, £12.99


The grandma feeding the North Dakota pipeline protest

From Al Jazeera English. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

I don't even believe in God – so why do I care what happens in The Young Pope?

By Rachel Cooke from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The Young Pope stars Jude Law as a pious yet sensuous pontiff. Even so, I didn't expect it to matter me whether or not the character believes.

In The Young Pope – made largely in Europe, sold around the world and broadcast here on Sky Atlantic (Thursdays, 9pm) – the chiselled dude in question is not even remotely a moderniser. It’s 2016 or thereabouts and his elevation has come as a surprise (is it the result of skulduggery or a miracle?) even to the cardinals who elected him. Yet contrary to the expectations raised by his relatively tight, fortysomething bum and the Cherry Coke Zero with which he begins each day, this pontiff does not believe that priests should be free to marry or nuns permitted to take Mass; liberation theology is just so much muck on the soles of his red leather slippers.

Such traditionalism might once have flagged a dirty secret – a woman on the side, perhaps, or even a man – but Pius XIII (Jude Law) stinks of cigarette smoke, not hypocrisy (his cigarettes are kept in a velvet pouch, with an ingenious ashtray that resembles a pocket watch). Oh, but he is bloodless. “My only sin is that my conscience does not accuse me of anything,” he says in the confessional, not even bothering to whisper.

What autocratic piety, and how it speaks to our strange and conservative times – the age of Isis, Donald Trump and Narendra Modi – though here it comes with a subversively ambiguous sex appeal. One minute, the Vatican’s female head of marketing is trembling excitedly at the Holy Father’s financially suicidal pronouncement that his image will not appear on any merchandise. The next, we watch as he awaits the arrival of a helicopter, his zucchetto held in place by a wide-brimmed hat so camp that it might have come straight from the wardrobe of Quentin Crisp.

When he rails at the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square, accusing them in his first homily of having moved too far from God, it’s at once uncomfortable and thrilling. Even as you want to run away, you long to kiss his ring. What to make of all this? In liberal circles, as Tony Blair discovered, Catholicism is deemed beyond the pale. Yet here it is, disguised as an Armani ad, its internal debates played out wittily and compellingly by one fine actor after another.

My feelings about it are strong. The work of the Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), it couldn’t be more to my taste if I’d written it myself. Theatrically grand to the point of being overblown, it is also clever, witty, mysterious, provocative, surreal and occasionally silly. It looks beautiful, it sounds beautiful, and nothing in it is wholly expected, from the sight of Diane Keaton in a wimple (she plays Sister Mary, the nun who raised the orphan pope and has rushed to Rome to be by his side) to the singular logistics of the Apostolic Palace (beneath Pius’s desk is a green button, there to be pressed whenever he’s had enough of a visitor, at which point a novice rushes in and announces that it’s time for his “snack”). In episode two (aired 27 October), a kangaroo appears, as mesmerised by the Holy Father as any animal ever was by St Francis, and we catch sight of Keaton in her nightwear: a slogan T-shirt that pokes saucy fun at her marriage to God.

Law, putting in his best performance since he starred as Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr Ripley, is magnificent: charming, cruel, unknowable, mannequin-like in his watered-silk vestments. His sheer poise! He uses it like a sacrament. To my surprise, I find that the question of whether or not Pius believes in God – impossible to tell, so far, though he is certainly having trouble hearing Him – matters to me (I’m surprised because I don’t believe in Him).

Law, however, is pretty close to being upstaged by the Italian actor Silvio Orlando, who plays Cardinal Voiello, the Vatican’s shifty, oleaginous and thoroughly institutionalised secretary of state. Voiello’s only confessed sin so far involves his lustful obsession with the tiny but voluptuous statue the Venus of Willendorf – but he may soon have to commit all manner of holy misdeeds if he is to save the Church from what he regards as Pius’s remorseless and ­brutal literalism. Unless, that is, its salvation should lie in such intransigence. And if Sorrentino intends to be truly subversive, this is the daring direction in which he will go. 


The unsung heroes of Aberfan

By Jo Wroe from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

How volunteer embalmers helped to handle the Welsh village’s tragedy.

Fifty years ago, on 22 October 1966, the Midland Division of the Institute of Embalmers gathered, bow-tied and ballgowned, in Nottingham, for the high point of the social calendar – the annual ladies’ night. The banquet was interrupted by a telegram requesting urgent help. In Aberfan, a Welsh village near Merthyr Tydfil, a 40-foot wall of coal waste had slid down a mountain at over 100mph and hit the Pantglas Junior School, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Leaving their partners, the volunteer embalmers returned home to collect equipment, embalming fluid and coffins. Travelling through the night, they arrived in Aberfan to join colleagues from across the UK. Some had flown from Northern Ireland on a plane with the seats removed to accommodate stacks of child-size coffins. Billy Doggart was one of them, and it was he who co-ordinated their extraordinary efforts. 

Some of the bodies recovered from the school were already wrapped in blankets and laid on the pews of the Bethania Chapel. Makeshift mortuary stations were quickly established. Working without electricity or running water, the embalmers took over from the police and performed their first task: cleaning the bodies for identification. The viscous slurry that had swallowed the school also covered the bodies. One embalmer, fresh from his honeymoon, told me that his first job was to remove a boy’s shirt and take it outside to the waiting parents. He had to hold it aloft and ask whose little boy had been wearing it. Usually in disaster situations such as plane crashes or explosions, identification is a big problem. Not so at Aberfan, where every parent was waiting outside, distraught and eagle-eyed for evidence of their child.

Once identified, each body was further cleaned and embalmed, ready to be placed in a coffin. In the Calvinistic chapel nearby, five embalming units were established in the vestry and a further two in the foyer. Dead bodies deteriorate rapidly, so embalming was an urgent task to save the bereaved from further distress. With nothing but rudimentary equipment and buckets of water that were carried back and forth by volunteers, the embalmers worked quickly and efficiently. Ever mindful of the parents waiting patiently outside, they tried to hide the worst of the damage wrought by the brutal impact.

Many men returned to their day jobs on the Monday after the disaster, having worked non-stop through the weekend in Wales. By the evening, all of the recovered bodies had been treated, and just six volunteers remained, waiting on call all night in case further recoveries were made. From Tuesday to Friday, it was just Billy Doggart, on sentinel watch at the school site, aware that the longer the bodies had lain under the wreckage, the quicker the decomposition would be once they were exposed to air.

Half a century later, disaster rescue work looks different to this. The privately owned disaster management company Kenyon International Emergency Services maintains three deployment-ready, disaster-scale morgues, ready for shipment anywhere in the world.

Yet, however advanced and efficient rescue operations have become, it will always require one human being willing to stand next to the mutilated body of another and treat it with respect and dignity. The aim is the same is it was that day in Aberfan: to give practical help at moments of shock and disaster.

With formaldehyde classified as a human carcinogen, and the whole process certainly not environmentally friendly, (although there are now organic embalming chemicals made with plant oils approved by the Green Burial Council), some argue that the main benefits of embalming are financial. There is a valid debate to be had over how we do it, but in disaster situations there can be no doubt embalming is a compassionate act.

For the past year I’ve been writing a novel about a fictitious embalmer at Aberfan, and have been privileged to interview some of those who were there at the time of the disaster, including Doggart. I’ve spent time with local embalmers and once I even watched one at work. What impressed me, during a shockingly intimate and invasive process, was the care and profound attitude of service with which it was done.

“Most of us are on anti-depressants,” one embalmer said to me matter-of-factly, “and most of us have lost and found, or found and lost our faith at least once”. Inevitably, there is a price to pay for those who go against the grain of human nature and confront our mortality on a daily basis.

The Queen visited Aberfan a week after the disaster, and Doggart was presented to her on behalf of his embalming team. I went there in September, and looked through the book of press cuttings collated for the anniversary. I found no mention of the embalmers, who had quietly arrived to serve a community at the very extremity of human distress and then quietly left again. Heroic by anyone’s standards, these men returned home with a sense of a testing job well done and unspeakable memories seared into their psyches.

A police officer who worked alongside the embalmers later wrote to Billy: “I shall always remember the expressions of relief on the faces of the bereaved who were able to view their children at the Chapel of Rest. . . They will never know the wonderful work that you and your colleagues performed to make this possible.”

Maybe that’s the point. Some heroes, by the very nature of their work, remain unsung.

George Freston/Getty Images

Industrial espionage does not pay in the long run

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

New analysis of East German files shows how western business can beat the spies

Software tracks down online 'Polish death camp' slurs

From BBC News - World. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Civic group tracks online phrases implying Poland ran Nazi death camps.

We're beginning to see what Brexit might look like

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

 If success means sluggish growth and increasing the amount that the state has to pay to large multinational companies to persuade them to stay, there is growing evidence that Brexit may be a success.

Today’s growth figures are out, and they show no signs of a post-leave vote slowdown, with growth down by just 0.2 per cent, to 0.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2015.

But the really good news is that Nissan will make the next generation of the Qashqai at their factory in Sunderland. Local MPs and the government had both feared that Britain’s out vote would result in the closure of the plant, or at least a dramatic reduction in the size of its operations.

Instead, production will continue, saving 7,000 jobs directly, and many more in both the pipeline and in servicing the needs of the factory’s employees.

All of which is causing the Brexit boosters to proclaim that the fears of the Remain campaign have been shown to be Brexit boosters have leapt on the news, arguing that it shows that the worries about Brexit were a fuss over nothing. Are they right?

Well, sort of. As I’ve written before, it really is worth remembering that we haven’t actually left the European Union yet. And as Mark Wallace – himself an unapologetic Brexiteer – notes, it is fairly clear that, rightly or wrongly, the markets regard Brexit as a bad thing. Many seem to still be betting on an incredibly soft Brexit – or no Brexit at all.

So, anyone celebrating the “success” of Brexit or pointing out that it has failed needs to wait a little while. But even these good figures show some cause for alarm – there is a contraction in the construction industry, generally the canary in the coal mine as far as the British economy is concerned.

And what about the Nissan deal? Reuters are running a story saying that they agreed to continue operating in Sunderland after the government pledged to support and if need be compensate Nissan should Brexit make it harder to operate in the United Kingdom. Neither Downing Street nor Nissan have commented, though Nissan thanked the government for its “support and assurances”, when announcing the deal. I am told by a well-placed source that Nissan did indeed receive guarantees about the future of the plant from the government.

We can expect to see a lot more of that sort of thing in the future. As I've written before, the government's best-case scenario involves not cutting, but likely increasing the amount that it pays both to the European Union and to the EU27 for a level of access to the single market that allows the City of London to maintain its primacy as a financial centre. It's striking that Theresa May has kept a firm line on increasing British sovereignity, by getting out of the European Court of Justice and freedom of movement, but not on reducing the size of the United Kingdom's contribution to the Brussels budget. 

So as ever with any story proposing the “success” of Brexit, the question comes back to how you define success. If success means sluggish growth, and increasing the amount that the state has to pay to large multinational companies to persuade them to stay while still handing over cash to Brussels, there is growing evidence that Brexit may be a success. If success means equalling or exceeding the growth of the United Kingdom within the European Union, while freeing up a cash bounty for public services, the prognosis is less good.  

Photo: Getty

Here I Am marks a departure from Jonathan Safran Foer's usual style

By Erica Wagner from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Safran Foer is as known for his character as for his works. What a shame, when Here I Am is such a mature, multilayered novel.

Why is it that some novelists attract a certain kind of fame? They are marked out from the crowd as representative of something (it hardly matters what that something is) and examined and analysed and discussed. Generally, writers make poor fodder for gossip columns, but, on occasion, that is where they find themselves, and it can be all too easy to forget why we cared about them in the first place.

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of those writers. Since his debut, Everything Is Illuminated, published 14 years ago when he was 25, his person has been as much an object of  scrutiny as his books. Which is a shame, as the books are remarkable in their own right. They haven’t always succeeded completely (his second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, is sabotaged by its mannered intellectual fireworks), but then very good novelists need to fail if, finally, they are to become great novelists. In 2010, through the London-based Visual Editions, Foer (who has a fascination with the collage artist Joseph Cornell) published Tree of Codes, a wonderful book that cut out pieces of text from Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles to create both a new text and a work of art. He has ranged beyond fiction, too, producing Eating Animals – about how we decide what we eat and the moral underpinnings of those choices – and, with Nathan Englander, a New American Haggadah. Here I Am, his first novel in 11 years, may not be the work that converts the sceptics, but it is terrific.

Its opening might lead the reader to believe that Foer is setting off on the path of dystopian fiction: but that’s not the way this story goes. “When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing whether to kill himself or move to the Jewish Home.” Perhaps it’s not quite as eye-popping as Anthony Burgess’s opener to Earthly Powers – “It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me” – but it is arresting nonetheless. And while the political landscape of the Middle East has a role to play, that is not the true focus of Here I Am. Instead, Foer shifts quickly to Isaac Bloch’s grandson Jacob, who is a writer, and his wife, Julia, an architect. It is the distillation and dissolution of their marriage, the way they think about it, the effect this has on their three sons, Sam, Max and Benjy, which are the heart of the book.

As for the destruction of Israel, Foer gets to that about halfway through this long narrative. The über-manly Tamir, a cousin of Jacob’s, lives there but comes to visit Jacob and his family in the United States. While he is staying, a huge earthquake strikes Israel; the destruction caused by the quake provokes war in the Middle East. Watching the horror on television, Tamir says to Jacob: “You need to come home.” But Jacob thinks he is home – in Washington, where he lives. To Tamir, “home” for Jews, however secular, must always be Israel. The war forces Jacob to test this proposition against his personal beliefs.

Foer juxtaposes news bulletins of start­ling drama – as when “Israel declares war ‘against all of those seeking to destroy the Jewish state’” – with Jacob’s navel-gazing anxiety over the role he ought to play in that war. Jacob insists to Tamir that the earthquake is a geological, not a political catastrophe. “Nothing is not political,” Tamir replies, quite correctly. Jacob’s solipsism is annoying, but surely that’s the point. His quest is to understand where he belongs – in what family, in which set of people – and whether any of those ideas has any meaning in the abstract, or whether it is only the details of each individual relationship which finally make up a life.

In his previous novels, Foer poured his energy into language, his characters serving his powers of creation rather than the other way round. This time Foer – coming up to 40, a father-of-two, now separated from his own wife – has shifted his focus to a hyperreal observation of the minutiae of family life which is truthful and often heartbreaking. The pleasure of Here I Am lies in being allowed to see what is usually invisible, the tiny moments of life that go unremarked upon because they are unremarkable. At Jacob and Julia’s wedding, Jacob’s mother had wished for the couple to know each other “in sickness and in sickness”. Life is not spectacular; there is only wonder in the ordinary. “Don’t seek or expect miracles,” she told them. “There are no miracles. Not anymore. And there are no cures for the hurt that hurts most. There is only the medicine of believing each other’s pain, and being present for it.”

Foer expresses that presence by demonstrating that the smallest moments have significance, if the person experiencing that moment is truly present. Along the way, he builds something that is both structurally bold and emotionally complex – and often extremely funny (Sam’s discovery of masturbation leaves Portnoy in the dust).

“Here I am,” says Abraham to God before God asks for the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. “I’m ready,” says Jacob at the very end of this mature novel: simple words to express a multilayered and satisfying journey. 


How ‘Shock Therapy’ Is Saving Some Children With Autism

By Apoorva Mandavilli from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

For a boy who needs routine, this day is off to a bad start. It’s early, just before 8 a.m., and unseasonably warm for June. Kyle, 17, has been up since 6:20 a.m., which isn’t all that unusual. But already, enough has happened to throw him off balance. His mother has driven him to Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, as she does every week. But today she is wearing makeup and fancy clothes rather than her usual exercise gear. When they get to the hospital, the hallway is not empty as it usually is, and his mother walks away from him to talk to someone else.

Kyle starts to bounce on the balls of his feet. Just a small bounce at first, but higher and faster and louder as the minutes pass. He twirls the long shoelace of his toy, a tiny teal Converse sneaker speckled with white stars. When his mother comes back to check on him, he’s too agitated to even look at her. He walks away, turns his head and nips at the underside of his upper arm, then bounces some more, winding and unwinding the lace. He jiggles the handle of a door labeled “ECT Suite,” trying to get in, but it’s locked.

Finally, it’s time. Melinda Walker, the nurse he adores, comes out of the room and gives him a hug. After a brief conversation with him, she says softly, “Come on in, Kyle.”

And with that, Kyle’s routine is restored. He goes into the room holding Walker’s arm. Once the door shuts, he slips off his soft, gray shoes, as he always does, and hands his glasses to his mother. He lies down on the bed. Walker kneels by his feet, holding his hand. His mother stands behind his head, covers his eyes and whispers, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” over and over, as an anesthesiologist Kyle knows inserts an intravenous line into his right arm. Kyle’s left hand clutches his sneaker. Another nurse places an oxygen mask on his face.

Kyle, 17, used to hit, pinch, and bite himself hundreds of times a day.
(T.J. Kirkpatrick / Redux Pictures / Spectrum)

Once Kyle is under, his mother leaves the room. A psychiatry resident places electrodes on Kyle’s temples and a brown bite block in his mouth to protect his tongue. A nurse compresses a green bag, sending oxygen into Kyle’s lungs and pushing carbon dioxide out—essentially hyperventilating him to lower his seizure threshold. Then, Irving Reti, the chief psychiatrist in the room, presses an orange button on a small machine in the corner, sending an electric pulse of 800 milliamps at a frequency of 30 hertz into Kyle’s brain for eight seconds. A few seconds later, Kyle’s chin clenches, his lips quiver, and his index finger starts to vibrate. A minute in, the nurse suctions some fluids out of Kyle’s mouth. Exactly 107 seconds after it began, the seizure is over.

* * *

As medical procedures go, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is underwhelming. Kyle’s entire session, from when he lay down on the bed to when he woke up and was taken to the recovery room, lasted about 15 minutes. While the seizure lasted, he was under the effect of anesthetics and a muscle relaxant—not awake, aware or thrashing around in pain, as the movies would have you believe. In fact, the version of ECT shown to powerful effect in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest hasn’t been practiced in the United States or most other countries since the 1950s. Still, it’s what comes to mind when most people think about ECT.

While public perception remains stuck in the past, hundreds of psychiatrists worldwide employ the treatment, most often for bipolar disorder or depression that hasn’t responded to anything else. “[ECT] is practiced at every large psychiatric medical center in the United States, and most around the world,” says Charles Kellner, director of the ECT service at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. An estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. and more than a million people worldwide receive ECT each year, he says. “Overall in history, millions and millions of people have benefited from it.”

There are lingering concerns about the therapy’s side effects—its ability to produce short- and long-term memory loss, in particular. But ECT’s champions say that in cases where people are depressed enough to be suicidal or otherwise desperately ill, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

In the past few years, some psychiatrists have stumbled upon a new purpose for the therapy: calming the brains of children with autism who, like Kyle, would otherwise pinch, bite, hit and harm themselves, perhaps fatally. The numbers are small, no more than 50 children treated in the U.S. in any given year, although no one knows the exact figure. But for this group of children, who are driven by uncontrollable, unrelenting impulses to hurt themselves, ECT grants a reprieve. “For some of these children who have tried every other treatment modality,” says Kellner, “ECT can be dramatically helpful and sometimes life-saving.”

* * *

There was a time when Kyle’s mother, Alison, thought he would not live to adulthood.

Kyle was diagnosed with autism when he was just 15 months old. His identical twin, Jake, also has autism, but as their older sister, Callie, likes to say, “Jake has a little bit of autism and Kyle has a lot.”

When he was around 8, Kyle began hurting himself. It was never clear to his parents what the trigger was, but it seemed to happen hundreds of times a day, without a clear cause or conclusion, and sent him into paroxysms of crying. Videos of Kyle from that time are difficult to watch. They show a boy who seems compelled by forces he cannot control to smack his face, rapidly and repeatedly, turning his cheek a deep crimson. (Alison says, in a tone that suggests she’s still coming to terms with it, that he sometimes hit himself more than 100 times an hour.) Kyle also tore up his arms with his teeth, dented the wall and pounded the concrete floor with his head, and pinched his thighs and abdomen hard enough to draw blood.

Kyle was lucky enough to find a spot in a private school with an autism program, but “he was always unhappy and never, ever available to learn anything,” says Alison. “He’d go to school and all they’d basically do is make sure he didn’t hit himself.”

At the time, Kyle weighed only about 35 pounds, a weight low enough to be categorized as “failure to thrive.” Desperate for help, his parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a laundry list of therapies, from reputable behavioral interventions to quack treatments they read about on the internet. “We did just about everything you could possibly do. We flew all over the country for doctors that specialize in autism and other things,” says Alison. None of it helped.

When Kyle was 11, he was admitted to the Neurobehavioral Unit at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, a long-term in-patient facility for children with intractable behavioral problems. He was at the unit for nine months, but the doctors there had no success. When he was discharged, he had a floor mat to cushion the blows when he hammered his head on the ground, splints on his arms to prevent him from hitting his face, and thick tights to protect his thighs and abdomen from his pinching.

The gear created its own problems. Kyle is nonverbal and communicates using sign language, but the arm splints made that difficult to do. The splints, the socks he had to wear underneath and the tights all had to be removed, and his limbs rubbed, every two to three hours to restore his circulation and prevent sores and swelling. Worst of all, none of it eased the misery that compelled him to hurt himself in the first place.

It was around then that Alison, a yoga teacher, struck up a rare personal conversation about her son’s troubles with a client. As it turned out, the client knew of a solution that she had heard did wonders for children like Kyle: ECT.

Alison is still angry that not a single doctor she met had brought up ECT to her as an option for Kyle. Even after she heard about it and discussed it with Lee Wachtel, medical director of the Neurobehavioral Unit, there was no easy path to ECT. Wachtel referred the family to Kellner, whose office in Manhattan was a full four-and-a-half-hour drive from their home in suburban Maryland. Kyle needed three treatments a week—typical for ECT’s acute phase—for the first few months, followed by maintenance therapy every seven to 10 days.

Undaunted, Alison put in place an exhausting schedule of long-distance drives and handoffs of the other two children with her husband twice, sometimes three times, a week. She kept this up for 17 months. Wachtel then connected her to a psychiatrist in Philadelphia. His clinic was closer, two and a half hours away. Alison and Kyle made this drive to Philadelphia once a week for two and a half years before Johns Hopkins’s Reti agreed to treat Kyle. Their trip now is an easy hour each way.

Altogether, Kyle has been receiving ECT for about five years. In that time, Alison says, she has worn down three cars and years off her life. From her perspective, every minute has been worth it.

“Once Kyle’s treatment started, a whole new person emerged,” she says. “As time went on, he just kept on getting better and better.” He has learned to sign new words. He is a healthy 145 pounds for his 5-foot-8-inch height. At school, he delivers mail and newspapers to the staff, and helps with the recycling. He has done so well, in fact, that his teachers are starting him on a four-hour shift maintaining an off-site park once a week. He goes hiking, bowling, swimming, or simply to a restaurant with his family. In May, he was invited to attend a school dance for the first time ever. And he hurts himself just a few times a day, if at all. He’s at his best the first few days after a treatment: calm, present and interactive. “I think that’s huge, because people think you’re going to get a zombie [after ECT], and you don’t,” says Alison. But as the days go on, the treatment’s effects seem to wear off, and he becomes increasingly agitated—until his next session.

It’s entirely possible that Kyle will need to keep this up for the rest of his life—and Alison is more than okay with that. “Well, what is the alternative in my son’s case?” she asks. Without ECT, she says, “he’d be dead right now; he’d be in a coma right now; he’d have a detached retina right now. So in my opinion, having him alive and enjoying his life is way better than anything anybody else can say.”

* * *

The version of ECT that debuted in 1937 is every bit deserving of its shocking reputation. Although the idea of inducing seizures, rather than treating them, seems odd and counterintuitive, a Hungarian psychiatrist called Ladislas Joseph von Meduna hit upon it as a possible treatment for schizophrenia. Beginning in January 1934, von Meduna first used camphor and then a drug called metrazol to induce seizures in people with schizophrenia. His remarkable success—he claimed that 95 percent of individuals with acute schizophrenia recovered—inspired Italian researchers Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini three years later to pursue electric shock as a safer and more effective way to induce seizures.

In those early years, the patients were neither anesthetized nor sedated, and their grand mal seizures sometimes broke their bones. But by the mid-1950s, the routine use of general anesthesia and muscle relaxants had made ECT much safer. And by the 1970s, doctors began triggering the seizure with a brief square-wave electric pulse rather than the harsher sine wave currents that emerge from an electrical socket.

At the same time, antipathy to ECT rose apace. During World War II, many psychiatrists in the U.S. were acolytes of Sigmund Freud and held up psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as the gold-standard treatments for psychiatric illness. They published statements opposing ECT, which they said damages the brain. Among the general public, there were waves of protest against ECT in general and its use in children in particular. “It just became inconceivable that one would pump electricity into the developing child’s brain,” says Edward Shorter, Jason A. Hannah Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Toronto. “ECT in children became very badly stigmatized.”

Part of ECT’s image problem is that nobody knows how it works: The idea that shocking the brain would somehow restore its health seems so profoundly paradoxical as to be disturbing. The stigma against it only intensified with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The scene in which Jack Nicholson is forcibly held down and zapped with electricity as he screams became etched in the minds of everyone who saw it. ECT became second only to abortion in its vilified public image.

At least partly in response, several states enacted laws around the procedure—mandating the consent of two psychiatrists, or forbidding it altogether in children under 14 or 16. “As though it was the role of the state legislators to practice medicine and to protect the children from psychiatrists,” says Shorter.

In the late 1990s, after the hubbub over antidepressants had subsided, there was a resurgence in interest in ECT to treat severe depression and other conditions. But the damage to its reputation had endured. It wasn’t until 2008 that Wachtel, along with Reti and others, reported that ECT can treat self-injury associated with autism. The case study describes a young woman called “J” who had autism and ‘psychomotor retardation,’ meaning she was slow-moving—“except that sometimes she would pound herself into oblivion,” says Wachtel.

J’s slow movements were the manifestation of catatonia, which can overlie many conditions across the psychiatric spectrum, from deep depression to tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome. But the classic idea of a mute, motionless person is just one side of catatonia; the flip side is ‘psychomotor agitation’—repetitive, uncontrolled and purposeless movements, as if driven by a motor gone awry.

What Wachtel and other experts say now is that the self-injury seen in some people with autism is an expression of catatonia’s agitated side. (Some children can show both aspects of catatonia at once: In one video of Kyle, one of his arms is wooden like a tree branch, and the other is repeatedly whacking his head.)

The experts owe this theory to Max Fink, a psychiatrist who has, formally or informally, served as a mentor to most of them. Fink, 93, lives in Nissequogue, New York, in a rambling old house by the water, with exactly the kind of ornate rugs and book-lined shelves you would expect to see in a learned psychiatrist’s home. Over the course of an hours-long conversation, Fink details the long and troubled history of ECT, replete with dates, occasionally shuffling in his bent gait to his formidable library to bring out a relevant manuscript or a book.

Fink is the world’s leading expert on catatonia and ECT, and many of his ideas have become mainstream. Psychiatric diagnostic manuals now describe both kinds of catatonia, as well as the idea that catatonia can accompany any number of other conditions. Case studies suggest that both sides of catatonia are exquisitely responsive to ECT. If the therapy—which Fink prefers to call “induced seizures”—helps some children with autism, he says, it’s because it relieves their catatonic self-injurious behaviors.

One of Fink’s protégées, a Belgian researcher called Dirk Dhossche, deserves the credit for solidifying this link between autism and catatonia. Dhossche trained with Fink at Stony Brook University in the 1990s. “At that time, there was very little talk about catatonia in children; we didn’t even talk about autism much, for that matter,” recalls Dhossche. When working in the Netherlands, he had seen two adolescents, one with autism and the other with Prader-Willi syndrome, an autism-related condition. Both boys had catatonia and responded to lorazepam—a benzodiazepine that is the standard first-line therapy for catatonia. (In fact, ‘the lorazepam challenge test,’ or response to the drug, has come to be known as proof of catatonia.) Dhossche set out to search the literature for more reports of children with catatonia and found about 30.

In 2001, Dhossche moved to the University of Mississippi, where he is now medical director of the child-psychiatry inpatient unit. Shortly after his move, he saw a 9-year-old boy who had for months stayed mute and bedridden, and was not eating or drinking—all criteria for catatonia. After exhausting various treatment options, including benzodiazepines, Dhossche suggested using ECT. The response was nothing short of “spectacular,” Dhossche says. “This boy started speaking again, eating again, walking again.”

Even though the boy didn’t have autism, some of his characteristics even prior to the catatonia reminded Dhossche of autism. “This was my first realization that actually, autism and catatonia, they seem to overlap at some point,” he says. Repetition is a hallmark of catatonia; by that token, the echolalic speech and repetitive movements—including self-injurious behavior—characteristic of autism could be seen as catatonic. Dhossche’s publications on this topic prompted Wachtel to contact him, and eventually led to the 2008 case report. Since that success, Wachtel has referred about 20 children with autism who seemed to meet the criteria for catatonia to clinics that offer ECT, including the one at Johns Hopkins. Like Kyle, these children were a danger to themselves. Like him, they are doing well, some still receiving ECT as maintenance therapy, others on lithium or antipsychotic drugs to keep their self-injury in check.

“The reward of diagnosing catatonia is that it’s treatable,” says Dhossche. “Not with the easiest type of treatment, not the most popular one, but that’s just unfortunate at this point.”

Because of his publications on the topic, parents come to Dhossche from as far away as California or Texas—two states that have banned ECT in children under a certain age. But the numbers are still vanishingly small. In total, he says, he has treated perhaps 10 children with autism.

One thing Dhossche has noticed among the children he has treated is that the catatonia seems to appear after a stressful event of some sort. One 14-year-old boy with autism from Texas, for example, developed unusual finger movements and grimacing expressions after a particularly severe episode of bullying at his school. “It often starts with an incident, with an event, and then it gets worse,” says Dhossche.

* * *

Doug DiPrisco was diagnosed with autism in 1993, when he was 3. He had some speech, reading and math abilities, and could do many things for himself. But in November 2009, his parents went to Europe without him to visit his brother, Greg, at college. In retrospect, they suspect Doug thought they were never coming back, perhaps creating the traumatic trigger Dhossche describes. Doug became catatonic—moving slowly and barely talking—although his parents wouldn’t know to call it that for a while.

By 2011, the catatonia was much worse, recalls Lori DiPrisco, Doug’s mother. “Every day was torture, from the minute he woke up until the minute he went to bed at night.” Any change from one position to another—getting out of the car, for instance—would take Doug ages. He would pose—the official term is ‘posturing’—in strange ways, standing for 20 minutes like an airplane poised to fly, for example. He stopped talking, wasn’t eating or drinking, and lost 18 pounds in two months. He had been toilet-trained since age 3, so when he began wetting himself, it pushed his parents to take him to the emergency room. The doctors there had no answers, but by chance, they gave Doug lorazepam to keep him still for the CT scan.

“When they gave him that injection, it was like a miracle, he stopped all the [unusual] movements,” recalls Don DiPrisco, Doug’s father. That little tidbit became important later on when, after many futile visits to other psychiatrists, Doug’s parents took him to see Wachtel. Even before the visit, Wachtel suspected that Doug had catatonia after seeing his home videos. In one, Doug tries to eat, but his arm meanders to somewhere near his mouth and then flails about without making contact, all with excruciating slowness—as if he is moving through molasses or performing an extreme version of tai chi. Wachtel told the DiPriscos about the lorazepam challenge, and about catatonia. She prescribed the drug for him again. He responded well, as he had before, but like most people, became tolerant to the drug. Over the next few years, he reached 19 milligrams a day, close to the maximum dose Wachtel was comfortable prescribing.

The first time Wachtel broached the possibility of ECT, Doug’s parents were horrified. “We said no way, we’re not doing that,” recalls Don DiPrisco. “It’s not marketed well, let’s say that.”

“We didn’t know what it would do to [Doug’s] brain,” he adds. “Would it create many more problems than he has?”

Then, last year, Doug seemed to stop responding to the highest dose of lorazepam. One horrible day in November, Lori DiPrisco says, it took Doug about an hour and a half to walk from the kitchen counter to the dining table. His parents began considering ECT. His mother read “Each Day I Like It Better,” a book by writer Amy Lutz about the remarkable response her son with autism had to the therapy. Parents and psychiatrists praise the book as the definitive introduction to the topic. It convinced the DiPriscos to give it a try.

Doug had seven ECT sessions over three weeks at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, but his parents did not like the way Doug was treated there. They halted Doug’s therapy. In March, they began anew at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. “It was like going from the worst-case scenario to the best-case scenario,” says Don DiPrisco. Doug was calm, happy, talking. The posturing became almost unnoticeable. Doug now gets ECT every two weeks, and lithium in between. And he is back to being able to eat, talk and be his cheerful self.

* * *

Most people, including mental-health professionals, would not have connected either Kyle’s self-injury or Doug’s classic catatonia with ECT. Psychiatrists who administer the therapy typically work with older people who are severely depressed. In the past few years, psychiatrists’ interest in the approach has been rising. Wachtel and others have regularly led well-attended sessions on ECT at psychiatric conferences for the past six years. Still, for many doctors, the stigma around the therapy is a tough mental hurdle to overcome—especially when it comes to children, and even more so those with developmental disabilities. “It recalls connotations of torture and I guess brain injury,” says Dhossche. “But in all the cases that we’ve treated, we’ve never seen it.”

One of the major side effects reported for ECT is memory loss. But psychiatrists and families who have experience with the therapy say the memory loss, when it occurs, is minor and reversible. Even in the rare cases where it is significant, they say, it is infinitely better than the alternative.

“I have one patient who has had over 700 ECT [sessions] over the past eight years, maybe. If you ask him now what he had for breakfast, he cannot tell you,” says Wachtel. “But on the other hand, without ECT, he would try to remove his eyeballs from his head.”

Still, no one knows whether and how much of an issue memory loss might be for children with autism who might receive maintenance therapy for years. Reti has published two case studies of individuals with autism or intellectual disability who have been treated with ECT for years, showing that cognitive testing did not show any memory loss or other damage. But those data are limited, says Matthew Siegel, director of the Autism & Developmental Disorders Inpatient Research Collaborative in Maine. “I think it speaks to the need to do a rigorous study of this,” Siegel says. “Getting that kind of study funded by the federal government would be a challenge, but it’s necessary.”

Even for psychiatrists who are convinced that ECT’s benefits outweigh its risks, setting up a practice is no easy task. “There is resistance at every level—within the institution, outside of the institution, from colleagues, from other professionals,” says Neera Ghaziuddin, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “They have some very exaggerated and dramatic idea of what might be going on in the treatment.”

Public reactions are worse still. There are demonstrations against ECT at meetings of the American Psychiatric Association and an online “Hall of Shame” listing practitioners’ names (rumored to be set up by the Church of Scientology, which openly opposes ECT). Articles in the media inevitably provoke intense vitriol from commenters. “It’s just unbelievable, the amount of hate that’s out there on the internet,” says Kellner, who has borne more than his share of nasty comments.

Families are only too familiar with the unforgiving censure of the internet. Alison asked that her last name not be published because the comments on a prior article left her feeling attacked and unsafe. But she and other parents are adamant that people should not judge them for their choices.

“They have no idea what it’s like to have a child like mine and have lived through that and think about the alternatives, which would be institutionalization, coma, or death,” Alison says. “Those were our three choices; we had no other choices.” The DiPriscos echo that sentiment: “I’d like them to spend a day with Douglas the way he was before,” says Don DiPrisco. “It was no quality of life at all.”

Many people with autism may hurt themselves, but often they are acting out for a particular goal. For example, a child might have learned that if he punches himself in the face, his mother will stop insisting that he finish his schoolwork, and offer him a treat or a hug instead. But self-injury in children like Kyle is usually not intentional. “There’s nothing manipulative about it, there’s nothing deliberate about it,” says Reti.

Behavioral therapists spend a great deal of time making sure that a child’s self-injury has no purpose. Even then, most children receive behavioral therapy and try at least two drugs before a practitioner will mention ECT. There may be some fallout from waiting so long. Ghaziuddin says that when she first started offering ECT for young people, “we were treating people who had failed everything.” But the longer someone is sick, the less likely that they will recover fully, she says, so she now recommends ECT sooner than she used to.

In a way, the number of deterrents for ECT may be a good thing. “It’s a problem for the kids who need it, but it’s good in only one way, which is that it causes people to really pause and consider if this is the appropriate treatment—so you don’t have ECT clinics opening on back roads like you have chelation clinics,” says Siegel.

Wachtel says there are fewer than 15 ECT clinics in the U.S. to which she would refer children on the spectrum. About half of the children with autism who receive ECT begin in Wachtel’s care. Kennedy Krieger does not offer ECT, so she refers them to clinics across the country. All of the clinicians know each other, and a phone call to one is quickly relayed to the others. They’re each careful to clarify, repeatedly, that ECT is in no way a treatment for autism per se, but rather for a specific set of self-injurious or catatonic behaviors that some children on the spectrum display. Kellner puts it bluntly: “This is not for kids with moderate autism who are talking but have difficulty socializing; this is for kids who are going to be dead if they’re not restrained.”

Some researchers are focused on learning more about how ECT works—and based on that, developing more palatable alternatives. What scientists know so far is that in the long term, ECT stimulates the birth and growth of neurons. In the short term, it floods the brain with neurotransmitters—in particular, GABA, the chemical messenger that tamps down brain activity. This is the same effect that taking an antidepressant or benzodiazepine might have, but much more rapid and powerful. Perhaps, one theory goes, triggering a seizure forces the brain to release a torrent of GABA, which in turn calms other aberrant brain activity.

“If you take a benzodiazepine and imagine that as a drip of GABA, then ECT would be like turning the faucet on full force,” says Wachtel.

Reti has led about 10,000 ECT treatments over the past decade, although Kyle is one of only three children with autism he treats. He is trying to develop a stimulator that could be implanted in the brain and switched on as needed. For people like Kyle, who might need maintenance therapy for years, perhaps their lifetime, this would be a welcome alternative.

* * *

It’s the evening before Kyle’s first ECT session in nine days. This week has been more challenging than usual, because Kyle was at a sleepaway camp for children with disabilities—a big break in his routine. Alison scheduled one session for the day before she dropped him off, and one for the day after she picked him up. Kyle is restless. He’s humming—the sound is more like gargling, really—and bouncing loudly, 1, 2, 19 times, as his mother makes him a turkey sandwich.

“Look at me,” she says. “It’s time to stop. I want you to go down and eat it.” Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. “Get your water.” Bounce, bounce. “I love you.” Bounce, bounce, bounce.

Kyle goes downstairs with his aide, Brittany Hawkins. The television is on, but he lies facedown on the couch, playing with another small sneaker, this one light gray with bright yellow smiley faces. When his mother comes downstairs, he gets up, signing that he wants to go out. He smacks himself, hard, on his left cheek, which is still a purplish brown—a permanent relic of his years of self-abuse, along with the keloids and scars on his limbs.

“Kyle, Kyle, Kyle,” Hawkins says, moving to touch and calm him. She pours out a small plastic container of dry pasta and makes him count the penne: The tedium of the task is supposed to deter him from hitting himself. Kyle completes it, but a couple of minutes later, he hits himself again. Whack. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Whack, whack. Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. Whack, whack. Bounce. Whack. “He hasn’t been O-U-T in the C-A-R today, that’s why,” Alison says.

Kyle and his mother, Alison
(T.J. Kirkpatrick / Redux Pictures / Spectrum)

Eventually, Alison and Hawkins get Kyle outside and into the car. He loves to go on drives, and the park is among his favorite destinations. Kyle swings for a long stretch, looking off into the distance, his adult-sized body incongruous in the little children’s section. When he stops swinging, he hits himself again. Whack, whack, whack.

Alison and Hawkins are unfazed by his agitation. “I just know that when it’s been over a week [after ECT], when he’s not been in his regular environment, that this is to be expected. I don’t get discouraged because I know it’s not permanent,” Alison says. “[The ECT tomorrow] is going to make a big difference.”

The next morning, at Johns Hopkins, Kyle still seems agitated. But he doesn’t hit himself, only bounces restlessly in the hallway as he waits for his session to start. Once the seizure ends and the oxygen mask is off his face, a nurse takes him to the recovery room, where he dozes for half an hour. As he stirs, Alison stands by his side, whispering, “Mommy’s here.” She hands him his glasses. Nurse Walker helps Kyle sit up. She flaps the back of his sweat-soaked shirt, saying, “Always got to cool the back off.” Alison slips his shoes back on his feet.

A few minutes later, Kyle stands up and holds his mother’s hand. “Say goodbye, Kyle,” she says, and he does, turning to look at Walker, and waving. He and Alison walk down the hallway. Kyle runs his hand along the wall. Alison stops once and kisses Kyle on his head. He touches his nose to hers. Then he spins, once, and continues walking, holding her hand the whole way.

This article appears courtesy of Spectrum.

Why it’s time to start writing about podcasts as culture

By Caroline Crampton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Introducing our new weekly podcast column.

How do you write about podcasts? This is a question that has been vexing me for almost as long as I have been listening to them. To be more precise: for nine years, because that is how long it is since I first pressed play on one.

It was October 2007, and I was a student. Like this autumn, the season that year – replete with all its associations of fresh starts and notebooks waiting to be filled – seemed to be lasting longer than usual. I remember waking up one morning and feeling anxiety about the future flood me. Some day soon, I needed to get a grown-up job that would pay me enough money to eat. So far all university had taught me was how to win arguments about the novels of Charles Dickens.

The way to fix this, I decided, was to go and buy a copy of the Times. If I started reading a serious newspaper every day, I would soon transform into an employable individual. Going to the newsagent’s involved changing out of pyjamas, though, so I only made it as far as my desk. I powered up my laptop, plugged in my ethernet cable (2007 was a long time ago) and logged onto

There, instead of spending time reading yet more stories about why the England rugby team had lost the World Cup final to South Africa despite being obviously the superior team, I chanced across something called “The Bugle Podcast”. The very page is actually still there: it seems to have survived through various website redesigns. I followed the instructions at the top and right-clicked. Once the audio file had downloaded, I opened it and clicked play.

Perhaps it’s fitting that The Bugle was my first podcast, given that the comedy show – created and at that point hosted by the comedy duo of Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver – is a deliberate parody of a newspaper’s structure. I never did become a daily Times reader, but I was soon a weekly downloader of a podcast that mocked the conventions of print media (the show had parts titled “news” and “sport”, its very own cryptic crossword, and even a “section in the bin”).

I didn’t come to podcasts especially early. The official coining of the word, and what is considered to be the birth of internet on-demand radio as a form, happened in 2004. But by the time of my first experience with the format, it wasn’t yet the case that everyone had smartphones automatically downloading their favourite shows. I hunted around for a magazine about my new enthusiasm I could subscribe to, but failed to find one. Instead, I bored my podcast-indifferent friends with anecdotes about what I had been listening to. I kept searching for somewhere to read quality writing about podcasts, though.

I’m still looking.


Last month, the Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago published a post that made a succinct case for why it’s absurd that podcasting is missing from media coverage of the arts. The article pointed out that despite the much-heralded “podcasting renaissance” that supposedly began with the first series of US true crime show Serial in October 2014, podcast live events are still missing from listings and previews. It’s difficult to find any article about the form that isn’t either claiming to have identified a new trend (“Have you heard? History podcasts are the latest big thing”) or listing shows the reader might not have tried yet (“The top 50 podcasts of 2015”; “The 50 podcasts you need to hear”).

It’s often said that podcasts have a “discovery” problem. The barrier to entry for a new listener is fairly high: after they find out about a show’s existence, they have to search for it in whatever podcast app they use, plug in some headphones and then devote at least 20 minutes to finding out if they like it enough to become a regular listener. It’s difficult to share audio in an easily-consumable way on Twitter and Facebook (although there are people working on fixing that), so new podcasts often have to rely on word-of-mouth to find listeners. Data on who listens to what podcasts and for how long is relatively imprecise and hard to come by.

Despite little evidence that Apple is very interested in the form, iTunes is still the primary distributor of podcasts – about 70 per cent of listeners come via the podcast store or the Apple iOS app, we’re told. For all their problems, the iTunes podcast charts are a key part of how people find things to listen to. As a result, shows that are already big get bigger, and the process of trying to build an audience for a small or independent show can feel a bit like you are knocking on the doors of individual houses and asking the occupants “would you like to listen to my podcast?” and hoping they don’t slam it shut in your face. In short: on many fronts, podcasts are still maturing – the way we write about them is just one.

Johanna Zorn and her team at Third Coast declared their interest in “thoughtful reviews, criticism, and a deeper examination of styles and trends”. That’s what I’ve been waiting for, too. There are people attempting this, for sure: until its recent closure, the Timbre was an excellent resource for interviews and essays; the Bello Collective is a new outfit blending recommendations with more thoughtful reflections; and podcasts like the Podcast Digest and the soon-to-be-defunct Sampler use interviews with podcasters to explore how and why the form is being used as it is. But I’m not aware that any major media outlet has a “podcast critic” who gets equal billing with their counterparts covering television, film or radio.

Writing about the business of podcasts seems to have advanced faster than criticism of the shows themselves. Smart commentators are emerging who cover what the podcasting boom means both for the established media, and for those trying to make a living from it. Nick Quah of the Hot Pod newsletter and Ken Doctor at NiemanLab are just two I read regularly.

But none of this comes close to what I want, which is something equivalent to the work of my favourite radio critics Antonia Quirke and Gillian Reynolds, but for podcasts. They write weekly, sometimes focusing in on a significant moment in one particular programme, and sometimes zooming out to see how a topical event was covered across the airwaves. Occasionally, they return to trends or presenters they especially loved or hated to reassess them. What they produce is criticism, not media commentary or a list of recommendations. It takes radio seriously as cultural output, and treats the listeners of radio as serious consumers of art.

As my own involvement with podcasts has transitioned over the past couple of years from personal to professional – I now co-host the New Statesman’s pop culture podcast and have written about radio for the magazine on a number of occasions – I have found myself thinking more and more about the dearth of podcast criticism. Podcasts are starting to make serious money, especially in the United States, and are hiring the most talented people working in audio to do innovative, exciting things. Where are the writers documenting their work, and challenging them to be better?

Sod it, I finally thought. I’ll do it.


That’s what this is then – an extended introduction to what will be my weekly podcast column for the New Statesman, appearing on Thursdays. I’ll be reviewing new shows, checking in on old favourites, interviewing the people doing exciting things with internet-based audio, and writing about the emerging trends and styles as I see them. If you’d like to get a sense of my taste in podcasts beyond The Bugle (which has just announced it will be returning from an extended hiatus as a member of US podcast collective Radiotopia, by the way) meanwhile, take a look at the archive of the personal newsletter I send on Friday afternoons, which often includes podcast recommendations.  

If you make a show and think I should listen to it, or believe there’s a big trend in podcasting that everyone else has missed, email me or talk to me on Twitter. As the New Statesman is a UK magazine, I’ll be slanting my coverage towards British shows, although I won’t be excluding what is happening abroad by any means. The podcast scene, if there is such a thing, can often feel dominated by what is happening in the US, and I would like to offer something of a corrective to that. Your tips, thoughts and recommendations will always be welcome – I look forward to hearing from you. Check next Thursday for the next instalment. And no, I won’t be illustrating every piece with a picture of a microphone.

Price/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Mosul battle: Hidden dangers in the hunt for IS

From BBC News - World. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

As the battle against so-called Islamic State continues, Ian Pannell looks at the hidden dangers that face Iraqi government forces as they close in on Mosul.

Inferno: At Least Florence Looks Nice

By Christopher Orr from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

First, there was The Da Vinci Code, the 2006 blockbuster based on the gazillion-selling novel by Dan Brown, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks in a mullet so bizarre and improbable that it seemed to have floated in from another dimension. Then, in 2009, we got Angels & Demons, a sequel based on an earlier Dan Brown novel, that again starred Hanks though not, alas, his mullet, which had evidently recommenced its interdimensional wanderings.

With Inferno, the Brown-adapted, Howard-directed franchise finds itself in a comfortable, if not terribly compelling, groove. Hanks is back as the world-famous symbologist Robert Langdon, and he once again finds himself up to his neck in a deadly global conspiracy engineered by people with a fondness for puzzles and antiquity. Last time, the setting was Rome; this time it’s Florence (ravishing), with late assists from Venice and Istanbul. Last time, the conspiracy involved the murder of papal candidates and an anti-matter bomb hidden in Vatican City; this time it’s a virus, Inferno, intended to wipe out half of humankind as a “cull” to prevent overpopulation. Last time, clues were to be found courtesy of Galileo and Bernini; this time, it’s Botticelli and Dante.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the evident requirement that every Dan Brown movie provide Langdon with a female sidekick who is professionally accomplished—though not as accomplished as himself—a compliant helpmeet, and utterly disposable as soon as the film is over. Congratulations to Felicity Jones, who in this installment plays an emergency-room doctor, Sienna Brooks, with about as much enthusiasm as one could plausibly muster for the role.

Langdon finds himself in Brooks’s hands when he winds up in her Florence hospital with an apparent head wound. He has no memory of what’s taken place over the past 48 hours and he suffers from piercing headaches and nightmarish visions of flames and human deformity, a river of blood and a woman in a black veil.

Before long, Langdon and Brooks find themselves chased by no fewer than four separate pursuers: an assassin disguised as a cop (Ana Ularu); an enigmatic businessman (Irrfan Khan); and two agents who each claim to work for the World Health Organization (Omar Sy and Sidse Babett Knudsen). All are intent—and none more so than Langdon—on finding the Inferno virus, which was hidden away with a ticking timer by its creator, an overpopulation-obsessed billionaire (Ben Foster), shortly before he took a short walk off Giotto’s tall bell tower in the Piazza del Duomo. (Watch that first step … )

Along the way there are the customary amusements: a search for the stolen death mask of Dante Alighieri; another for the tomb of Enrico Dandolo, 41st doge of Venice; a secret passage hidden behind a map of Armenia in the Palazzo Vecchio (it’s real!); a brief lesson on the linguistic roots of the word “quarantine”; and a “Faraday pointer,” carved from human bone and planted within a thumbprint-locked “bio-tube,” that projects an image of Botticelli’s Map of Hell—subtly modified of course.

In noted contrast to its precursors, Inferno even offers a few moments of moderate wit. At one point, when Langdon tries to pass off the much-younger Brooks to a colleague as his “niece,” he’s offered a rueful Florentine response: “Professor, you’re in Italy. You don’t need to say ‘niece.’” And despite having a small role, the Indian star Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi, and too many Hindi films to catalog) is an utter delight every time he opens his mouth as the mysterious and mercenary Harry “The Provost” Sims. As he wryly explains following a rather dramatic switching of sides: “There’s a great deal of situational ebb and flow in my line of work.”

If this all sounds to you like modestly diverting fun, well you’re probably not wrong (at least with the exception of a major narrative reversal that telegraphed itself almost from the start). If, on the other hand, it sounds to you like a terrific bore, you’re probably not wrong either. Inferno is better than The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons, but both of those films set the bar reprehensibly low.

Now, a spinoff focusing on Khan’s Mr. Sims—that might be something to get excited about.

Which Republicans Oppose Donald Trump? A Cheat Sheet

By David A. Graham from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Colin Powell reportedly told the Long Island Association Tuesday afternoon that he is supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.

Several people at the event tweeted that the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made his endorsement, including Newsday reporter Robert Brodsky:

His spokeswoman has not returned a request for comment.

Although he is a longtime Republican, Powell’s decision to endorse a Democrat is not shocking. He also backed Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and in each of those cases made his announcement right around this time of year, in mid- to late-October. Nor is it altogether surprising that he would oppose Trump. A large number of generals, especially those in the centrist establishment, have criticized Trump as too friendly to Russia, unpredictable with nuclear weapons, and insufficiently attuned to the importance of America’s strategic allies, among other things.

What adds some intrigue to the apparent Clinton endorsement is the revelation, in September, of a large tranche of Powell’s personal emails, in which he offered an unvarnished view on both candidates. (A spokeswoman confirmed the messages were real at the time.) Powell said Donald Trump  “has no sense of shame,” and is “a national disgrace” and “international pariah.” He said that “the whole birther movement was racist” and complained that the media was providing Trump with oxygen to fuel his campaign. He cracked jokes about Trump’s poor standing with women voters.

Yet he was also critical of Clinton. “Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris,” he complained. He criticized her handling of the controversy over her use of a private email server, and bristled at what he viewed as her aides’ attempts at clearing her, or at least mitigating the damage, by dragging him into the story.

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” he wrote in one apparent email from the leak.

When the emails leaked in September, it seemed like a moment of reckoning for someone like Powell. Did he speak out and endorse Clinton, who he thought would be better qualified but with whom he had some real gripes? Or did he keep quiet and hope that she was able to defeat Trump without him? Powell’s statement now comes as the likelihood of a Trump victory seems to be shrinking. It’s not clear why he decided to speak now, but his views seem clear.

How do you solve a problem like The Donald? For Republicans and conservatives, the time for hoping Trump would simply burn himself out, collapse, and go away is over. Now they have to figure out what they’ll do: Sign up with Trump in the name of party unity, and distaste for Hillary Clinton? Or risk alienating the Republican nominee and reject him?

As the chaotic and failed attempts to stop Trump over the last year have shown, there’s no obviously right choice for how conservatives should respond. But which choice are people making? Here’s a list of some major figures and where they stand on Trump—right now. We’ll keep it updated as other important people take stances, or as these ones change their views about Trump.

Party Elders

Jason Reed/ Reuters

George W. Bush: ABSTAIN
The former president “does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign,” an aide told the Texas Tribune. (May 4, 2016)

George H.W. Bush: ABSTAIN
“At age 91, President Bush is retired from politics. He came out of retirement to do a few things for Jeb, but those were the exceptions that proved the rule,” an aide told the Texas Tribune. (May 4, 2016)

Barbara Bush: NAY
Unlike her husband and elder son, the former first lady has publicly disavowed Trump. “I mean, unbelievable. I don't know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly, it’s terrible,” she told CBS in February. “And we knew what he meant too.” (February 4, 2016)

Mitt Romney: NAY
The party’s 2012 nominee, one of Trump’s staunchest critics during the primary, told The Wall Street Journal, “I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.” Romney continued: “I know that some people are offended that someone who lost and is the former nominee continues to speak, but that’s how I can sleep at night.” (May 27, 2016)

Romney previously told The Washington Post he would skip the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and said at a D.C. dinner that he won’t be supporting Trump. (May 5, 2016)

Bob Dole: YEA (formerly UNDECIDED)
The former Senate majority leader and 1996 GOP presidential nominee endorsed Trump on May 6. He will also be the only living GOP nominee to attend the RNC. (May 6, 2016.) Dole previously would not commit to voting for Trump but said in January that Trump would be preferable to Cruz. (May 5, 2016)

John Boehner: YEA
The former speaker, who says he and Trump are “texting buddies,” told an audience at Stanford University that he’d back Trump in the general election. (April 28, 2016)

Trent Lott: YEA
The former Senate majority leader told The Clarion-Ledger that he will back Trump, despite some reservations. (May 4, 2016)

Asked by reporter Jon Ward whether Clinton or Trump was worse, the former House majority leader responded, “I can’t answer that right now.” (June 21, 2016)

DeLay hadn’t spoken out since Trump’s ascension, but was highly critical of him during the primary: “We have got to stop Trump. Whatever it takes without cheating or violating the rules of the Republican primaries,” he told Newsmax.

Dick Cheney: YEA
The former vice president blasted Trump during the primary over his stance on 9/11, and said he “sounds like a liberal Democrat,” but he now says he will back the nominee. (May 6, 2016)

Newt Gingrich: YEA
The former speaker of the House did not formally endorse Trump during the primary, but he has repeatedly praised the mogul and his vision, and is said to be a contender for a position in a Trump administration.

Jeb Bush: NAY
The former Florida governor and presidential candidate came to detest Trump during the campaign. In April, he said he would not attend the Republican National Convention. He now says he will not vote for either Trump or Clinton. (May 6, 2016)

Reince Priebus: YEA
As chair of the Republican National Committee, Priebus doesn't really have a choice, though that doesn’t mean he won’t pour Baileys in his cereal over it. (May 4, 2016)

Priebus said on May 6 that Trump needs to change his tone.

Rick Perry: YEA
The former Texas governor and presidential candidate—who was one of the first to blast Trumptold CNN that he backs Trump. (5/5/16)

Mike Huckabee: YEA
The former Arkansas governor, who ran for president this year, says Republicans should get in line.  “When we nominated people over the past several election cycles, some of us had heartburn, but we stepped up and supported the nominee,” he said. “You’re either on the team, or you’re not on the team.” (May 5, 2016)

Bobby Jindal: YEA
The former Louisiana governor, who during his own presidential campaign called Trump a “narcissist” and an “egomaniacal madman,” wrote in a Wall Street Journal column that he’s voting for Trump, “warts and all.” “I think electing Donald Trump would be the second-worst thing we could do this November, better only than electing Hillary Clinton to serve as the third term for the Obama administration’s radical policies,” he said. (May 9, 2016)

Eric Cantor: YEA
Cantor, the former U.S. representative from Virginia and House majority leader, says he will back Trump, though he offered a tepid endorsement, saying a Trump-Clinton matchup was “probably not the best choice for anybody,” and adding, “He’s a businessman . . . [but] he’s been on so many sides of every issue that you never know.” (May 9, 2016)

Ben Carson: YEA
Carson, a relative political newcomer who ran for president in 2016, has become one of Trump’s most prominent surrogates, despite repeatedly voicing misgivings about the candidate.

Rick Santorum: YEA
The former Pennsylvania senator and two-time presidential candidate appeared, with Mike Huckabee, at a Trump rally back in January, when they were ostensibly rivals. (Both Santorum and Huckabee already seemed finished by then.) Despite Santorum’s strong social conservatism, he says that after “a long heart-to-heart with Donald Trump” he is “100 percent” endorsing the nominee. (May 25, 2016)

The former George W. Bush strategist and current Wall Street Journal columnist and PAC boss has called Trump  “a complete idiot” who is “graceless and divisive.” (Trump, in turn, has asked, “Is he not the dumbest human being on earth?”) But The New York Times reports the two men met in May. (June 3, 2016)

Larry Pressler: NAY
A moderate and former three-term senator from South Dakota, Pressler has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. (June 14, 2016)

Herman Cain: YEA
Mr. 9-9-9, the 2012 GOP presidential candidate, introduced Trump at a rally in Atlanta, calling him “one of the great conservative voices in America today.” He had previously told Republicans who didn’t back Trump to “get over it” but also insisted it was not an endorsement. (June 15, 2016)

Norm Coleman: NAY
The former Minnesota senator wrote in a March 3 column that he will not support the Republican nominee. “I won't vote for Donald Trump because of who he isn't. He isn't a Republican. He isn't a conservative. He isn't a truth teller…. I also won't vote for Donald Trump because of who he is. A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” (July 7, 2016)

Michael Bloomberg: NAY
Does the former New York mayor count as a Republican? A former Democrat, he ran and was elected Big Apple head honcho as a Republican, though he later became an independent. In any case, Bloomberg is appalled by Trump, and he will speak on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (June 24, 2016)

Sally Bradshaw: NAY
Bradshaw, a longtime operative and aid to Jeb Bush, was an author of the GOP’s post-2012 “autopsy” report. Now she says she’s not even a member of the party. “Ultimately, I could not abide the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and his complete lack of principles and conservative philosophy. I didn’t make this decision lightly,” she told CNN. She said if Florida looks close, she will vote for Hillary Clinton in order to defeat Trump. (August 1, 2016)

Marc Racicot: NAY
Racicot, a confidant of former President George W. Bush who chaired the RNC from 2001 to 2003, tells Bloomberg, “I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for president.” (August 3, 2016)

Vin Weber: NAY
A former Minnesota congressman who helped Newt Gingrich bring the Republican Party to power and is now a lobbyist, Weber has ruled out Trump. “I won't vote for Trump,” he told CNBC. “I can't imagine I'd remain a Republican if he becomes president.” (August 3, 2016)

Gordon Humphrey: NAY
The former U.S. senator from New Hampshire says he cannot vote for Trump, calling him “a sociopath, without a conscience or feelings of guilt, shame or remorse.” Humphrey told NBC he may reluctantly vote for Hillary Clinton, but only if it’s a close contest. (August 4, 2016)

George P. Bush: YEA
The scion of the Bush family, who is currently Texas land commissioner, has broken with other members of the Bush clan, who have either pointedly abstained or said they would not vote for Trump. “From Team Bush, it's a bitter pill to swallow, but you know what? You get back up and you help the man that won, and you make sure that we stop Hillary Clinton,” he said. (August 6, 2016)

Chris Shays: NAY
A longtime moderate Republican U.S. representative from Connecticut who lost his seat in 2008, Shays has endorsed Hillary Clinton. “I think many Republicans know Donald Trump could cause great damage to our country and the world at large, and still plan to vote for him. But not me,” Shays wrote for CNN. He said he backs Clinton not reluctantly but with “strong conviction.” (August 10, 2016)

Richard Viguerie: YEA
The direct-mail pioneer and social-conservative elder statesman was once a Trump critic, saying in February, “I’m just very concerned about his mental stability and his moral background, or lack thereof, which he brags about. He has no grounds that drive him morally.” More recently, however, he has taken to praising Trump. “I haven't seen anything like this since the 1980 Reagan campaign against  Carter,” he said. (September 2, 2016)

Carly Fiorina: YEA (was ABSTAIN)
The former presidential candidate has called on Trump to step down and allow Mike Pence to take up the party’s mantle. She did not clearly state whether she would vote for Trump if he did not withdraw. (October 8, 2016)

Speaking to the Washington State Republican Party Thursday night, Fiorina said, “We must have President Trump—we can't have President Clinton.” She is reportedly considering a run for RNC chair. (September 9, 2016)

Fiorina, who briefly served as Ted Cruz’s running mate before he left the race, feuded with Trump during the primary, particularly over disparaging comments he made about her face. She had not endorsed him publicly, and her spokeswoman told The Washington Examiner in June that she was focusing on down-ballot races.

Mike Murphy: NAY
Murphy, a veteran Republican who ran Jeb Bush’s failed campaign for president, has been an outspoken Trump critic. Following the first presidential debate, Murphy said only Clinton was “ready” to serve:

(September 27, 2016)

John Warner: NAY
Warner, the longtime Virginia senator and former secretary of the Navy, is endorsing Clinton. Warner, a World War II veteran who is still considered popular in Virginia, was always willing to buck his own party, sometimes voting against Republican leaders and endorsing Democrat Mark Warner (no relation) as his successor, but his backing should give Clinton a boost in Virginia. (September 28, 2016)

William Milliken: NAY
Milliken, a Republican who was Michigan’s longest-serving governor, holding office from 1969 to 1983, has crossed party lines to endorse Hillary Clinton over Trump. “Because I feel so strongly about our nation's future, I will be joining the growing list of former and present government officials in casting my vote for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016,” he said. As the Detroit Free Press notes, this isn’t Milliken’s first time endorsing a Democrat, but it could help sway votes in a swing state. (August 8, 2016)

Mickey Edwards: NAY
Edwards, who represented Oklahoma in the U.S. House, chaired the American Conservative Union, and helped found the Heritage Foundation, has been critical of Trump for some time. In August, he signed a letter asking the Republican Party to divert money from the presidential race to down-ballot races to save GOP control of Congress, and he helped circulate a letter from retired members of Congress deeming Trump unacceptable. (October 6, 2016)

Jon Huntsman: NAY (was YEA)
Huntsman, a moderate former governor of Utah who served as ambassador to China under Barack Obama and ran for president in 2012, says Trump should withdraw and allow Mike Pence to run for president. (October 7, 2016)

Huntsman was previously among the first mainstream GOP figures to back Trump. "We've had enough intraparty fighting. Now's the time to stitch together a winning coalition," he said. "And it's been clear almost from the beginning that Donald Trump has the ability to assemble a nontraditional bloc of supporters.” (April 29, 2016)

Christine Todd Whitman: NAY
The former governor of New Jersey and administrator of the EPA under George W. Bush is backing Hillary Clinton. “A Hillary presidency promises more of the Obama failed policies, but she would at least walk into the oval office ready to govern,” she wrote in a column. “She would be a steady hand on the nuclear code and she demonstrated a willingness to work across the aisle when she was in the senate.” (October 7, 2016)

Michael Steele: NAY
The former RNC chair and lieutenant governor of Maryland told an audience at a dinner honoring Mother Jones (seriously), “I was damn near puking during the debates,” adding that Trump had “captured that racist underbelly, that frustration, that angry underbelly of American life and gave voice to that.” He says he will not vote for Trump or Clinton. (October 21, 2016)

Mel Martinez: NAY
The former RNC chair and Florida senator says he won’t vote for Trump. “I would not vote for Trump, clearly,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “If there is any, any, any other choice, a living, breathing person with a pulse, I would be there.” (February 29, 2016)

Ken Mehlman: NAY
The former RNC chair wrote on Facebook that he was #NeverTrump. (May 12, 2016)


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Paul Ryan: YEA (was UNDECIDED)
The House speaker says he cannot and will not defend Trump any longer, and he said he will instead focus on trying to save Republican control of Congress. He has not, however, withdrawn his endorsement. (October 10, 2016)

Ryan condemned Trump over a tape in which he made lewd comments about women and discussed groping them without consent, disinviting him from a campaign event. But Ryan did not say he had changed his mind about an endorsement. (October 7, 2016)

Ryan once again affirmed his backing for Trump, offering the-less-than-resounding statement, “That’s not my plan. I don’t have a plan to do that.” (June 16, 2016)

has condemned Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s as “absolutely unacceptable,” saying, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” but adding that he isn’t dropping his support for Trump. (June 7, 2016)

Ryan previously announced that he will vote for Trump:

Ryan said he had become convinced that Trump would help Ryan enact his House agenda. (June 2, 2016)

Ryan initially said he intended to support the Republican nominee, but after Trump clinched the nomination, he said he was not yet prepared to back Trump. “To be perfectly candid with you, I’m just not ready to that at this point,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I’m not there. I hope to, and I want to.” He said the party needs “a standard-bearer that bears our standards.” (May 5, 2016)

Kevin McCarthy: YEA
The House majority leader, a Californian, has broken with Speaker Paul Ryan and will back Trump. McCarthy has signed up as a prospective delegate for Trump in the Golden State. (May 10, 2016)

Steve Scalise: YEA
The House majority whip, a Louisiana representative, offered Trump a tepid endorsement. (The two men share the dubious distinction of being linked politically to David Duke.) “I've always said that I will support the Republican nominee,” Scalise said. “Now is the time for for our party to unite around Donald Trump so that we can focus on defeating Hillary Clinton in November to prevent another four years of job-killing, big government policies so we can get our economy back on track.” (May 5, 2016)

Cathy McMorris Rodgers: YEA (formerly UNDECIDED)
The Washington representative, who is chair of the House Republican Caucus, offered Trump a tepid endorsement, pointing out that he was the choice of primary voters, but adding, “In the months ahead, he will have to earn the presidency by demonstrating that he has the temperament for the job and plans to empower every American to pursue a future of opportunity and freedom.” (May 19, 2016)

McMorris Rodgers previously said she had not made up her mind. “Before I endorse him, I would like to have a conversation with him. I would like to ask him questions about some of the statements he’s made,” she told The Spokesman-Review. (May 5, 2016)

Raul Labrador: YEA
The Idaho congressman, a Tea Party hero, tepidly backs Trump after opposing him in the primary and backing Cruz. “There are some things he doesn’t quite understand,” Labrador told The Huffington Post. “With Trump, I have at least some hope that he’s going to make the right choice.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: NAY
The senior member of the Florida congressional delegation says she will write Jeb Bush’s name in on the ballot in November. (August 11, 2016)

Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba and emigrated to the United States, has said she will not vote for Trump. “I will work with whomever is chosen by the American people to serve as president, because I deeply respect the American constitutional system,” she said in a statement. “In this election, I do not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” (May 6, 2016)

Fred Upton: ABSTAIN
The longtime Michigan congressman (and, true fact, uncle of Kate) has called on Trump to withdraw from the race.

Upton previously said he would not endorse Trump, though he stopped short of saying he would not vote for him.  “There’s a lot of things that folks are not happy about with either of these two candidates,” he said during a radio interview. “We’re running our own race, and don’t look for me to endorse anyone in this race probably the rest of the year.” (June 16, 2016)

Richard Hanna: NAY
Hanna, a retiring congressman who represents a swing district in central New York, is the first House Republican to say he will vote for Hillary Clinton. “For me, it is not enough to simply denounce [Trump’s] comments: He is unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country,” Hanna wrote in the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Secretary Clinton has issues that depending on where one stands can be viewed as great or small…. While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs. Clinton.” (August 2, 2016)

Charlie Dent: NAY
Dent, a moderate Republican who represents southeastern Pennsylvania, said he doesn’t intend to vote for Trump or Clinton. “I’m not planning to vote for either of the two major-party nominees and I’m not ready to say I’m going to vote for the libertarians either,” he told Jake Tapper. (August 2, 2016)

Adam Kinzinger: NAY
The Illinois representative, a former Air Force pilot hails from a district west and south of Chicago, criticized Ted Cruz when he didn’t endorse Trump at the RNC. But then after Trump suggested not supporting NATO allies, Kinzinger described the idea as “utterly disastrous,” and he now tells CNN, “I don't see how I can get there anymore.” (August 3, 2016)

Mike Coffman: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Colorado representative has issued a statement calling for Trump to leave the ticket, in the wake of the publication of a video in which Trump made lewd comments about women and discussed groping them without consent. “For the good of the country, and to give the Republicans a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump should step aside,” he said. (October 8, 2016)

Coffman was previously vague on his position. In atelevision ad, he said, “People ask me, 'What do you think about Trump?' Honestly, I don't care for him much. And I certainly don't trust Hillary." He promised to “stand up to” Trump. A spokeswoman said he was considering other candidates, but had not ruled out voting for the nominee. (August 4, 2016)

Bob Dold: NAY
The Illinois congressman, who represents the northern suburbs of Chicago, was among the first Republicans to say he would not vote for Trump. “Whether it be Mr. Trump’s comments about women, his comments about Muslims, his comments about Latinos, for me it was very personal his comments about POWs,” Dold told WLS in May, adding, “I want to make that I’m clear about this, I’m not going to support Hillary Clinton either.  I would write someone in.” (May 6, 2016)

Scott Rigell: NAY
The Virginia congressman, who represents the Virginia Beach area, has become the first Republican member of Congress to say that he will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Rigell says he long ago decided he could not back Trump. “When their own conscience is seared by some statement that Trump has made, I have encouraged them to be direct and also, in a timely manner, repudiate what he said,” he told The New York Times. (August 7, 2016)

Dave Reichert: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Washington congressman, who represents a district just east of Seattle, says that after the release of a video in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women, “Donald Trump has lost my vote.”

Reichert previously said in an interview with KIRO radio that he would “never” endorse Trump. But he also said he wouldn’t vote for Clinton, and when pressed on whether he would vote for Trump, he added, “I never said I wouldn’t vote for him, I just said I wouldn’t endorse him.” (August 11, 2016)

Mark Sanford: YEA
The South Carolina conservative and former governor (as you may recall) is backing Trump—he writes in a New York Times op-ed calling on the nominee to release his tax returns. “I am a conservative Republican who, though I have no stomach for his personal style and his penchant for regularly demeaning others, intends to support my party’s nominee because of the importance of filling the existing vacancy on the Supreme Court, and others that might open in the next four years.” (August 16, 2016)

Reid Ribble: NAY
The Wisconsin congressman has consistently been an outspoken Trump critic. He said in December that he would not back Trump if he became the nominee. In June, he said Trump was “likely to be a racist.” Now, along with Representative Scott Rigell and a slew of operatives, he has signed a letter asking the RNC to withdraw resources from the Trump campaign and concentrate on holding Congress. (August 16, 2016)

Mac Thornberry: UNDECIDED
Thornberry, a Texan who heads the House Armed Services Committee, has not endorsed Trump and skipped the Republican National Convention. Asked repeatedly on MSNBC whether he had confidence in Trump’s qualifications to serve as commander-in-chief, Thornberry deflected, saying he had concerns about both Trump and Hillary Clinton. (September 7, 2016)

Jason Chaffetz: YEA (was NAY and previously YEA)
Chaffetz, a Utahn who chairs the House Oversight Committee, tweeted that while he would not “endorse” Trump, he would still publicly announce his plans to vote for the Republican nominee:

(October 26, 2016)

Chaffetz previously announced that he was withdrawing his support from Trump over a tape in which he made lewd comments about women and discussed groping them without consent. “I’m out. I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine,” he said. (October 7, 2016)

Chaffetz previously voiced his support for Trump.

Barbara Comstock: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Virginia representative announced she is withdrawing her support for Trump. “I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump,” she told The Washington Post. (October 7, 2016)

Comstock previously said she had not yet decided whether to endorse or vote for the GOP nominee.

Martha Roby: NAY (was YEA)
Roby, who represents the Montgomery, Alabama, area says she will no longer support Trump. “Donald Trump's behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president and I won't vote for him,” she said. (October 8, 2016)

Roby previously endorsed Trump after he won the nomination, while expressing reservations. (May 16, 2016)

Joe Heck: NAY (was YEA)
Heck, a Nevadan who is the GOP’s candidate for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn his support for Trump over a video in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women. He called on Trump to step down. (October 8, 2016)

Heck previously endorsed Trump.

Cresent Hardy: NAY (was YEA)
Hardy, who represents Nevada, says he will no longer support Trump. (October 8, 2016)

Hardy previously tried to say that while he supported the GOP nominee, he somehow did not “endorse” him. (August 31, 2016)

Mia Love: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Utah representative has said that after the release of a video in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women, she cannot vote for him. “His behavior and bravado have reached a new low. I cannot vote for him," she said. "For the good of the party, he should step aside." She had not previously decided whether to back him. (October 8, 2016)

Will Hurd: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Texan, who represents a swath of West Texas, told the El Paso Times, “I never endorsed Trump and I cannot in good conscience support or vote for a man who degrades women, insults minorities and has no clear path to keep our country safe.” (October 8, 2016)

Steve Knight: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
Knight, a Californian who represents parts of Los Angeles County, says he will not back Trump: “While I’ve never before endorsed a Presidential candidate, I’ve felt compelled to strongly condemn many of Mr. Trump’s previous outrageous remarks. And after serious consideration, I have decided that I cannot support either candidate for President.” (October 8, 2016)

John Katko: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The upstate New York representative, who had not previously endorsed Trump, now wants him to drop out. “I am certainly not going to vote for him,” he said. (October 8, 2016)

Kay Granger: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Texan, who had not endorsed Trump, has called on him to withdraw in the wake of a video in which he boasts about sexually assaulting women. (October 8, 2016)

Rodney Davis: NAY (was YEA)
The Missouri representative has called on Trump to step down in favor of Mike Pence. “I am rescinding my support for Donald Trump and asking to have my name removed from his agriculture advisory committee,” he said. (October 8, 2016)

Davis endorsed Trump following the Republican primary. “I think what we have is a choice between two candidates for president, and the choice is pretty clear on which one is going to be tougher on national security issues, which one is going to put America's interest first,” he said.

Ann Wagner: NAY (was YEA)
The Missourian has called on Trump to step down and says she will not support for him. “As a strong and vocal advocate for victims of sex trafficking and assault, I must be true to those survivors and myself and condemn the predatory and reprehensible comments of Donald Trump,” she said. (October 8, 2016)

Wagner had previously endorsed Trump.

Chris Stewart: YEA
The Utahn called on Trump to withdraw in favor of Mike Pence, but he did not say whether he would vote for the GOP ticket if Trump did not. (October 8, 2016)

Stewart previously endorsed Trump despite having called him “our Mussolini.” (May 9, 2016)

Bradley Byrne: YEA (was UNCLEAR and YEA)
The Alabaman’s spokesman has clarified that Byrne intends to vote for the Trump ticket. (October 11, 2016)

Byrne previously said that Trump should step aside and allow Mike Pence to lead the ticket, but he did not say whether he would vote for Trump if he did not withdraw. (October 8, 2016)

Byrne had previously tepidly endorsed Trump. “It's not a choice between Hillary Clinton and somebody else. If you want to defeat Hillary Clinton, you must vote for Donald Trump,” he said. (July 25, 2016)

Tom Rooney: NAY (was YEA)
The Floridian says he will not vote for Trump in the wake of a video in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women. Rooney will also not vote for Clinton. (October 8, 2016)

Rooney was one of the earliest members of Congress to back Trump. “I’m a Republican and he’s our nominee. All these people who are saying they’re not going to support who the Republican primary electorate has chosen need to re-evaluate why they’re part of this team. The people have spoken and you have to respect that.” (May 4, 2016)

Erik Paulsen: NAY (was UNDECIDED and YEA)
The Minnesotan, who faces a tough reelection race, called a video in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women “disgusting and offensive,” adding, “I will not be voting for him.” (October 9, 2016)

Paulsen had previously promised to vote for the GOP nominee, but in August said that Trump had not yet earned his vote. (August 17, 2016)

Frank LoBiondo: NAY (was YEA)
The New Jersey representative says he will vote for Mike Pence instead of Donald Trump. “I cannot support and will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States,” he said. (October 8, 2016)

LoBiondo previously endorsed Trump.

Jamie Herrera Beutler: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Washington representative says that in the wake of a video in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women, she will write in Speaker Paul Ryan for president. (October 8, 2016)

Herrerra Beutler had previously not endorsed Trump but said she hoped he would earn her support.


Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Mitch McConnell: YEA
The Senate majority leader issued a statement tepidly backing Trump. “I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee is now on the verge of clinching that nomination,” he said. (May 4, 2016)

The Texas senator, for months one of the highest profile holdouts among Republicans, has decided to endorse Donald Trump, he wrote in a Facebook post: “A year ago, I pledged to endorse the Republican nominee, and I am honoring that commitment. And if you don’t want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him.” (September 23, 2016)

The Texas senator made his opinion about Trump fairly clear when he was given a prized speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Cruz refused to endorse the nominee, offering some barbed, double-edged comments like this: “Don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.” He was booed off the stage. Trump then said he’d refuse to accept Cruz’s endorsement if offered, which doesn’t seem likely to be an issue.

Cruz had previously floated the idea—likely unrealistic—of reanimating his suspending campaign and refused to endorse Trump. “We’ll see what happens as the months go forward, I think we need to watch and see what the candidates say and do,” he told Glenn Beck. (May 10, 2016)

In dropping out of the Republican race after losing to Trump, Cruz did not make any indication whether he was willing to back his rival. (May 3, 2016)

Jeff Sessions: YEA
The Alabama senator was Trump’s first endorser from the Senate, and he has been a high-profile backer and adviser to Trump’s campaign.

Susan Collins: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The moderate Maine senator writes in a Washington Post column that she has decided she cannot vote for Trump. “I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize,” she writes. “But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing—either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level—that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.” She has not said for whom she will vote. (August 9, 2016)

Collins previously told Time that she was in wait-and-see mode. “I’ve said from the point that it became obvious that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican candidate that I’d always supported previous presidential nominees of my party but that in this case I was going to wait and see what happened and that is what I am continuing to do.” (June 7, 2016)

Having previously said that her backing from Trump would be contingent upon a shift in his rhetoric, Collins then said she would support the nominee. (May 6, 2016)

Collins said: “I have always supported the Republican nominee for president, and I suspect I would do so this year, but I do want see what Donald Trump does from here on out.” To win her vote, “He’s going to have stop with gratuitous personal insults,” she said, amusingly. (May 4, 2016)

John McCain: NAY (was YEA)
The Arizona senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee, who is in a tight reelection battle, has announced he no longer supports Trump. “I thought it important I respect the fact that Donald Trump won a majority of the delegates by the rules our party set,” he said in a statement. “But Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.” (October 8, 2016)

McCain released a scorching statement criticizing Trump for his comments about Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, but he did not revoke his support. (August 1, 2016)

McCain has said publicly that he’ll back the nominee. In a private recording obtained by Politico, however, he frets that Trump endangers his reelection effort, while his former top aide Mark Salter is backing Clinton. (May 5, 2016)

Kelly Ayotte: NAY (was YEA)
The New Hampshire senator says she will not vote for Trump in the wake of a video in which he boasts of sexually assaulting women. “I wanted to be able to support my party’s nominee,” she said, but “I am a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate who brags about degrading and assaulting women.” (October 8, 2016)

Like her friend John McCain, the New Hampshire senator attacked Trump for his feud with Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, pronouncing herself “appalled” but giving no indication that she will withdraw backing for Trump. (August 1, 2016)

Ayotte, who is also in a tight reelection battle, previously said she plans to “support” but not “endorse” Trump, whatever that means. (May 5, 2016)

Rand Paul: YEA
In a fascinating interview with WDRB (via Reason), the Kentucky senator and former presidential candidate said citizens should vote their conscience, while suggesting that he was only publicly backing Trump because he had pledged during the primary to support the nominee. “I've made my complaints about our nominee quite explicit. I continue to do so, but also don't see it as my job now—the thing is, is: I do think that my word is important. I signed a document, not under duress, but I signed a document saying I wouldn't run as a third party and I will support the nominee.” (August 2, 2016)

Paul has said he will support Trump. (His father, ex-congressman and presidential contender Ron Paul, says he will not.) (May 4, 2016)

Lindsey Graham: NAY
The South Carolina senator and former presidential candidate blasted Trump following the nominee’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, saying fellow Republicans should withdraw their endorsements. “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” he said. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.” (June 7, 2016)

Graham was one of Trump’s most prominent critics during the primary, even endorsing Cruz even though he’d previously likened the choice between him and Trump to a choice between poisoning and being shot. The day Trump won Indiana, Graham tweeted:

Graham says he will not vote for either Trump or Clinton. (May 6, 2016)

Ben Sasse: NAY
The Nebraska freshman senator was another anti-Trump ringleader, and has been suggested as a third-party candidate. In a long Facebook post, he explained why he’s still not backing Trump. (May 4, 2016)

Marco Rubio: SOFT YEA
The Florida senator and former presidential candidate said he does not plan to attend the Republican National Convention, but he has not made any statement changing his stance on Trump. (July 6, 2016)

In an interview with The Weekly Standard, Rubio said that although he has backed Trump, who he views as preferable to Hillary Clinton, he still believes what he said during the presidential campaign: That Trump is unfit for the presidency and cannot be trusted with the nation’s nuclear arsenal. (June 9, 2016)

Rubio, who previously referred to Trump as a “con artist,” now says he backs Trump, will attend the Republican National Convention, and will release his remaining delegates to Trump. “I want to be helpful. I don't want to be harmful, because I don't want Hillary Clinton to be president,” he told Jake Tapper. (May 26, 2016)

Rubio had previously not spoken about the race since Trump became the presumptive nominee, but in late April he said that he’d support Trump in order to beat Hillary Clinton. (April 21, 2016)

Rob Portman: NAY (was YEA)
The Ohio senator has withdrawn his endorsement of Trump. “While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him,” he said in a statement. “I continue to believe our country cannot afford a Hillary Clinton presidency. I will be voting for Mike Pence for President.” (October 8, 2016)

Portman, who now seems to have the clear upper-hand in his reelection fight, previously said he’d back the Republican nominee. Most recently, he said that having Trump on the ticket would be positive for his own hopes. (May 5, 2016)

Richard Burr: YEA
The North Carolinian, who also faces a tough reelection, supports Trump. (May 4, 2016)

Roy Blunt: YEA
The Missourian, who is up for reelection, says he will support the nominee. (May, 5, 2016)

Ron Johnson: YEA
The Wisconsin senator, who is battling predecessor Russ Feingold, is one of the most precarious Republicans this year. He tepidly backed Trump. “As Ron has repeatedly said for months, he intends to support the Republican nominee, but he's focused on the concerns of Wisconsinites—not national political winds,” a spokesman told Roll Call. (May 5, 2016)

The Pennsylvania senator, another endangered incumbent, has not made up his mind. “As I have said repeatedly, I have not endorsed Donald Trump,” he said at a press conference. “There are things that he has said, a number of things he has said and done that give me great pause and I have significant concerns about, so I remain in a mode of waiting to be persuaded. I’ve not made a final decision on what I’m going to do. Hillary Clinton is completely unacceptable to me.” (August 10, 2016)

Toomey previously said: “It certainly looks like Donald Trump is on his way to the nomination .… Donald Trump was not my first choice. He wasn’t my second choice or third or fourth choice. I have lots have differences with Donald Trump and lots of problems with him but I am absolutely in the ‘never Hillary Clinton’ camp.” (May 4, 2016)

Mark Kirk: NAY (was YEA)
The Illinois senator, one of this year’s most endangered incumbents, says he will write in Colin Powell for president. (August 11, 2016)

Kirk previously announced that he is no longer supporting Donald Trump—the first Republican to rescind his backing. “After much consideration, I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world,” he said.  (June 7, 2016)

Kirk previously said he’d back Trump if nominated.

Tom Cotton: YEA
The rising-star Arkansas senator weakly endorsed Trump. “I’ve long said that I will support the Republican nominee because we can’t afford a third Obama-Clinton term,” he said. He had previously criticized Trump for mocking John McCain, but also said Trump would be “a more serious leader for our country” that Clinton. (May 5, 2016)

Bob Corker: YEA
The Tennessee senator, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said he is willing to help Trump. Corker praised Trump’s otherwise widely panned foreign-policy address and is reportedly talking to him about overseas matters. He’s been mentioned as VP candidate. (May 10, 2016)

Lee, a conservative Utahan and close associate of Ted Cruz, demanded that Trump step down. “Donald Trump is a distraction. It's time for him to step aside so we can focus on the winning ideas that will carry Republicans through to a victory in November,” he said in a statement. Lee did not make clear whether he would support Trump if he did not step down.

Lee had not made his decision, but lashed out at conservative radio host Steve Malzberg for pressing him to back Trump. “We can get into the fact that he accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK,” he said. “We can go through the fact that he’s made statements that some have identified correctly as religiously intolerant. We can get into the fact that he’s wildly unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church.” He didn’t, however, rule out backing Trump in the future. (June 30, 2016)

Lee previously expressed reservations. “I have not supported Donald Trump up to this point, I have not endorsed him," Lee said, according to the Washington Examiner. "I have some concerns with him. He scares me to death; so does Hillary Clinton …. I'll make the decision as best I can, but I'm not there yet.” (May 11, 2016)

Orrin Hatch: YEA
The Utah senator, a longtime Washington fixture, backed Marco Rubio in the primary. After meeting with Trump on May 12, he said, “I totally endorse him.” Hatch also offered to help Trump pick Supreme Court nominees—moving to dampen one of the biggest conservative objections to Trump, which is that he can’t be trusted to select justices. (May 12, 2016)

Tim Scott: YEA
The South Carolinian, the GOP’s only black senator, quietly backed Trump after supporting Marco Rubio in the primary. He called Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel “racially toxic,” but is not rescinding his endorsement. (June 7, 2016)

Jeff Flake: NAY
The Arizona senator says he cannot at this point back Trump. “It’s uncomfortable not having endorsed the Republican nominee, I have to say,” he said. “But I can’t at this point. I hope to be able to support the nominee. I certainly can't right now.” (June 7, 2016)

John Cornyn: YEA
The Texas senator said in May, “I’m for the nominee of the party; if it’s Donald Trump, I’ll support him wholeheartedly.” He’s gone back and forth, warning in February that Trump could be “an albatross around the down-ballot races.” More recently, he’s announced he simply won’t talk about Trump. “Wish me luck,” he said. (June 15, 2016)

Dean Heller: SOFT NAY
The Nevada senator told Politico he is currently opposed to Trump, though he wouldn’t rule out changing his mind. “Today, I’m opposed to his campaign,” he said. “He did a lot of damage. It’s very difficult for him, as far as I’m concerned, to recover from his previous comments. I’ll give him a chance, but at this point, I have no intentions of voting for him.” (June 30, 2016)

Lisa Murkowski: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The Alaska senator has said she cannot back Trump and asked him to withdraw over a video in which he boasts of sexually assaulting women. “The video that surfaced yesterday further revealed his true character,” she said. “He not only objectified women, he bragged about preying upon them. I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for President—he has forfeited the right to be our party's nominee. He must step aside.” (October 8, 2016)

Murkowski, who has turned particularly moderate since the 2010 election, in which she lost a GOP primary but won reelection as a write-in candidate, tells the AP she has not made up her mind about the election. “I’ve got a few months to listen, as other Americans are, to what is laid down in terms of policy, and we'll figure it out,” she said. (August 10, 2016)

Cory Gardner: NAY (was YEA)
The Colorado senator has changed his mind and will not vote for Trump. ““If Donald Trump wishes to defeat Hillary Clinton, he should do the only thing that will allow us to do so—step aside, and allow Mike Pence to be the Republican party’s nominee,” he said. “If he fails to do so, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton but will instead write-in my vote for Mike Pence.” (October 8, 2016)

At a rally, the Colorado senator gave Trump a backhanded endorsement. “I’m voting Republican up and down the ticket. A Republican president will make a difference, even a Republican president named Donald Trump,” he said. Gardner previously called Trump a “buffoon.” (August 18, 2016)

Mike Crapo: YEA (was NAY and previously YEA)
The Idaho senator now says he will back Donald Trump, despite previously rescinding his endorsement. In a statement, Crapo said he would back Trump to prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency. (October 24, 2016)

Crapo had withdrawn his backing for Trump over a video in which Trump boasts of sexually assaulting women. “I have reached the decision that I can no longer endorse Donald Trump,” he said. “This is not a decision that I have reached lightly, but his pattern of behavior has left me no choice. His repeated actions and comments toward women have been disrespectful, profane and demeaning.” (October 8, 2016)

Crapo previously was slow to endorse Trump but threw him his support after he locked up the nomination, saying, “Congratulations to Donald Trump on his nomination victory. I strongly support his candidacy for president and now we can come together to support his call for less government and more support for veterans, law enforcement and increased safety and security.” (July 19, 2016)

Shelley Moore Capito: YEA
The West Virginian has called on Trump to withdraw over a video in which he boasts about sexually assaulting women. She did not say whether she would refuse to vote for him if he remained. (October 8, 2016)

Capito endorsed Trump following the West Virginia primary.

John Thune: UNCLEAR
The South Dakotan, who is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, called on the nominee to step down. “Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” he tweeted. But Thune did not make clear whether he would continue to support Trump if he did not withdraw. (October 8, 2016)

Thune previously endorsed Trump. “We have to get it right in 2016 because the future of our country is hanging in the balance in so many different ways," he said. “And there are three words that ought to scare everyone in this room: President Hillary Clinton.” (May 31, 2016)

Dan Sullivan: NAY (was YEA)
Alaska’s other senator says Trump should withdraw, and said he would vote for Mike Pence. (October 8, 2016)

Sullivan had previously backed the nominee. “While I don’t support some of the rhetoric Donald Trump has used in his campaign, nor some of his policy ideas, I plan on supporting the Republican nominee at this time,” he said. (May 4, 2016)

Deb Fischer: YEA
The Nebraskan, a major Trump backer, confirmed that she will still vote for him. “I plan to vote for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on November 8,” she told KLIN. “I put out a statement ... with regard to Mr. Trump's comments. I felt they were disgusting. I felt they were unacceptable and I never said I was not voting for our Republican ticket.” (October 11, 2016)

Fischer harshly criticized Trump after the release of a video in which he boasted about sexually assaulting women. “The comments made by Mr. Trump were disgusting and totally unacceptable under any circumstance," she said. "It would be wise for him to step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party's nominee.” But Fischer did not say whether she would vote for Trump if he did not withdraw. (October 8, 2016)

Fischer previously backed Trump. “He has tapped into where people are in this country,” she said. “They’re supporting Donald Trump. Truly.” (May 13, 2016)


Chris Keane / Reuters

Chris Christie: YEA
The New Jersey governor and former presidential candidate was Trump’s first major establishment endorser, and has been a staunch ally.

Paul LePage: YEA
Maine’s sometimes-racist governor had backed Christie, but he quickly endorsed Trump after Christie did.

John Kasich: NAY (was SOFT NAY)
In the wake of a video in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women, the Ohio governor and final Republican challenger to leave the race formally said he did not support Trump. “The actions of the last day are disgusting, but that’s not why I reached this decision, it has been an accumulation of his words and actions that many have been warning about,” he said in a statement. “I will not vote for a nominee who has behaved in a manner that reflects so poorly on our country.” (October 8, 2016)

Kasich previously had not entirely slammed the door on backing Trump, but he said he cannot do so now. “We’ll see where it ends up. I’m not making any final decision yet, but at this point, I just can’t do it,” he said. (June 16, 2016)

Kasich previously had not said whether he’ll back Trump. In his comments leaving the race, Kasich pointedly did not mention Trump or indicate his leaning. (May 4, 2016)

Nikki Haley: YEA
The governor of South Carolina tangled with Trump ahead of that state’s primary, and was elegantly withering toward him at the time. But she says she will back him. “I have great respect for the will of the people, and as I have always said, I will support the Republican nominee for president,” she said. (May 4, 2016)

Brian Sandoval: NAY (was UNDECIDED and previously YEA)
The Nevada governor, a moderate conservative, has withdrawn his backing over a video in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women. “This video exposed not just words, but now an established pattern which I find to be repulsive and unacceptable for a candidate for President of the United States,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I cannot support him as my party’s nominee.” (October 8, 2016)

Sandoval once said he would back the GOP nominee, but now says he is “not sure.” “I will only say that you can't defend the indefensible," he said after Trump attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel. (June 7, 2016)

Sandoval previously said he was no fan of Trump but will back him. “I plan to vote for the presumptive nominee although it is no secret that we do not agree on every issue. Elections are about making choices and the Democratic nominee is simply not an option,” he wrote on Facebook. He does not plan to attend the convention. (May 5, 2016)

Pete Ricketts: YEA
The Nebraska governor will back Trump. That’s a bit of a surprise because Ricketts’ father, mother, and brother were among the leading bankrollers of anti-Trump initiatives. Trump threatened them in February, tweeting, “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!” (May 5, 2016)

Mike Pence: YEA
The Indiana governor and social conservative is now Donald Trump’s running mate and the Republican vice-presidential candidate. (July 15, 2016)

Pence previously cautiously endorsed Cruz ahead of the Hoosier State primary, but he’s now on the Trump train. “I’m fully supportive of our presumptive nominee, and I do think Donald Trump will do well in the State of Indiana,” he said. (May 6, 2016)

Charlie Baker: NAY
The moderate Massachusetts governor told reporters he would not vote for Trump and doubted he’d vote for Clinton. Later the same day, a spokeswoman clarified to The Boston Globe: “Governor Baker will not be voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” (May 4, 2016)

Rick Snyder: ABSTAIN
Michigan’s governor—a rising GOP star until the Flint water scandal derailed his career—will not endorse Trump, nor will he weigh in otherwise, he said. “I’ve stayed out of the whole thing, and I’m going to continue to,” he told the editorial board of The Detroit News. “I’ve got important things I want to work on in Michigan.” (June 2, 2016)

Pat McCrory: YEA
The North Carolina governor, facing a tough reelection fight in November, offered a pro-forma endorsement for Trump when pressed by a News and Observer reporter: “I’ve stated that I would support the Republican nominee. Anything else?” (June 7, 2016)

Scott Walker: YEA (was UNDECIDED)
The Wisconsin governor, a former presidential rival of Trump’s, stayed out of the race for some time. In an energetic speech at the Republican National Convention, he made the case for Trump by assailing Hillary Clinton. “America deserves better,” he said. (July 20, 2016)

Walker previously said he’d back Trump—though don’t ask him to be happy about it, or even use the candidate’s name:

Walker also told WKOW that he will be speaking at the Republican National Convention. (July 6, 2016)

Walker had been fairly quiet about the race. Although he initially said he intended to back the nominee, whoever that was, he later hedged, lamenting the “poor choices” Americans face. He declined to endorse Trump, citing his comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. “He’s not yet the nominee. Officially that won’t happen until the middle of July, and so for me that’s kind of the timeframe,” Walker said. “In particular I want to make sure that he renounces what he says, at least in regards to this judge.” (June 8, 2016)

Larry Hogan: NAY (was ABSTAIN)
The governor of Maryland told The Washington Post he does not intend to vote for Trump. “No, I don’t plan to,” he said. “I guess when I get behind the curtain I’ll have to figure it out. Maybe write someone in. I’m not sure.” (June 15, 2016)

Hogan has repeatedly expressed his disgust with Trump and tried to deflect conversations about national politics. “My thoughts are pretty clear. I’ve talked about it ad nauseam for four or five months,” he said. “My thoughts haven’t changed. I have nothing more to add. I’m not involved in it. I don’t care to be involved in it. I’m not going to endorse anyone and would rather focus on things here in Maryland.” Hogan said he didn’t know who he’d vote for. (June 9, 2016)

Susana Martinez: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The New Mexico governor has responded to the video of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women with disgust. “That’s why I have withheld my support from the very beginning, and will not support him now,” she said. (October 8, 2016)

Martinez was initially mentioned as a VP candidate—not the first time, since as a woman and Hispanic she’d add a lot of diversity to a GOP ticket. But she and Trump have since waged a war of words, with Trump first applauding her, then blasting her, then saying he’d like her endorsement. Martinez has not endorsed Trump, but says she will not be backing Hillary Clinton. (June 16, 2016)

Gary Herbert: NAY (was YEA)
The Utah governor says he no longer backs Trump after the release of a tape in which he made lewd comments about women and discussed groping them without consent. Herbert tweeted that the comments were “beyond offensive & despicable. While I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, I will not vote for Trump.” (October 8, 2016)

Although Trump’s backing in Utah has been unusually weak for a Republican, Herbert previously said he would support Trump. (August 11, 2016)

Bill Haslam: NAY (was UNDECIDED)
The governor of Tennessee issued a statement saying he would not vote for Trump and calling him to withdraw: “It is time for the good of the nation and the Republican Party for Donald Trump to step aside and let Gov. Mike Pence assume the role as the party’s nominee. If he does not step aside, I will write in a Republican for the office of President.” Haslam had not previously endorsed Trump. (October 9, 2016)

Robert Bentley: NAY (was YEA)
The Alabama governor, who has been struggling with his own sex scandal, announced he would no longer back Trump. “I endorsed Gov. John Kasich for president, because I felt like he was the most qualified and the best person to lead our nation,” he said in a statement. “I certainly won’t vote for Hillary Clinton, but I cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump.” (October 9, 2016)

Bentley previously endorsed Trump, though he had not backed him during the GOP primary. “He will be the one that I support, and I will do whatever I can to help,” he said. (May 9, 2016)

Dennis Daugaard: UNCLEAR
The South Dakota governor called on Trump to step down. “Enough is enough. Donald Trump should withdraw in favor of Governor Mike Pence. This election is too important,” he tweeted, but did not indicate whether he would vote for Trump if he did not. (October 8, 2016)

Daugaard previously joined Trump’s agricultural advisory committee.

Cabinet Members and Political Appointees

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Richard Armitage: NAY
Armitage, a former Navy officer who served as deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush and deputy secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, says he will vote for Hillary Clinton. “If Donald Trump is the nominee, I would vote for Hillary Clinton,” he told Politico. “He doesn't appear to be a Republican, he doesn't appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.” (June 16, 2016)

Condoleezza Rice: NAY (was ABSTAIN)
George W. Bush’s secretary of state blasted Trump in a Facebook statement and called on him to step down: “Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw. As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.” (October 8, 2016)

Rice previously said she had no plans to get involved in the race or attend the GOP convention, a spokesman told Yahoo News. She also ruled out serving as Trump’s running mate. (June 17, 2016)

Brent Scowcroft: NAY
The retired lieutenant general and national security adviser, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, has announced that he is endorsing Hillary Clinton. Scowcroft did not mention Trump in his statement. (June 22, 2016)

Donald Rumsfeld: YEA
It’s now a known known: The former secretary of defense under George W. Bush is voting Trump. “I'm a Republican, and there's not any doubt in my mind how I'll vote,” he told the Daily Mail, adding that it was “not a close call” and “I don't believe Hillary Clinton is qualified to be President of the United States.” (June 23, 2016)

Hank Paulson: NAY
Paulson, who served as Treasury secretary under George W. Bush and was previously CEO of Goldman Sachs, assailed Trump’s judgment and business acumen in a Washington Post column. “I will not vote for Donald Trump. I will not cast a write-in vote,” Paulson wrote. “I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hope that she can bring Americans together to do the things necessary to strengthen our economy, our environment and our place in the world. To my Republican friends: I know I’m not alone.” (June 24, 2016)

Michael Chertoff: NAY
The former secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush signed a letter from GOP national-security figures saying they could not support Trump. (August 8, 2016)

Michael Hayden: NAY
A retired four-star general who led the CIA and NSA, Hayden signed a letter from GOP national-security figures saying they could not support Trump. (On August 5, former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, who has identified as an independent, wrote in The New York Times that he backed Clinton over Trump.) (August 8, 2016)

John Negroponte: NAY
The retired diplomat, who served as director of national intelligence, ambassador to Iraq, and UN ambassador under George W. Bush, has announced that he will vote for Hillary Clinton. (August 10, 2016)

Negroponte had already signed a letter from GOP national-security figures saying they could not support Trump. (August 8, 2016)

Tom Ridge: NAY
The former Pennsylvania governor and first-ever secretary of homeland security, who served under George W. Bush, signed a letter from GOP national-security figures saying they could not support Trump. (August 8, 2016)

Ridge had previously ruled out voting for Trump. There’s “not a chance” Ridge would support Trump if he was the nominee, he told Chuck Todd. (December 8, 2015)

William Ruckelshaus: NAY
The first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who served under Richard Nixon and is center-left on environmental issues by today’s standards, issued a statement endorsing Hillary Clinton. (August 9, 2016)

William Reilly: NAY
Reilly, who was EPA administrator during the George H.W. Bush administration, also endorsed Clinton in a statement. (August 9, 2016)

Carlos Gutierrez: NAY
A businessman who served as commerce secretary of George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, Gutierrez has joined a group of Republicans endorsing Hillary Clinton. (August 10, 2016)

George P. Shultz: NAY
Shultz, who served as secretary of state under Ronald Reagan and as secretary of both labor and the Treasury under Richard Nixon, indicated at a media roundtable at Sanford’s conservative Hoover Institution that he does not back Trump. “God help us,” he said of a Trump presidency. (August 16, 2016)

Paul Wolfowitz: NAY
Wolfowitz, the neoconservative leading light who served as deputy secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration and later as president of the World Bank, tells Der Spiegel he will not vote for Trump and will likely vote for Hillary Clinton. He called Trump a security risk to the United States and said, “The only way you can be comfortable about Trump's foreign policy, is to think he doesn't really mean anything he says.” (August 26, 2016)

Charles Fried: NAY
Fried, a Harvard Law School professor who served as solicitor general under Ronald Reagan, writes in a column for CNN that Trump must be stopped, contrasting him with the Gipper. “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. And these fleas carry the disease of virulent hatred and discord,” Fried argues. (Several recent policy stands have distanced Fried from conservatives.) (August 30, 2016)

Louis Wade Sullivan: NAY
Sullivan, who served as secretary of health and human services under President George H.W. Bush, is backing Clinton. “Though my enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton is somewhat tempered, I certainly believe she is an infinitely better choice for president than Donald Trump,” he told The Huffington Post. (September 8, 2016)

Robert Zoellick: NAY
Zoellick, who served both Presidents Bush, including as U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush, and is a former president of the World Bank, is not backing Trump. “I’ve seen the presidency up close. Trump is a dangerous man. I would not want that man with his finger on the triggers,” he told former Jeb Bush strategist Mike Murphy. (September 12, 2016)

Robert Gates: NAY
Gates, who served as secretary of defense and director of the CIA under President George W. Bush, and continued to lead the Pentagon under President Obama, writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Trump is “beyond repair … unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.” (September 16, 2016)

Donald Gregg: NAY
Gregg, who was Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser and then served as ambassador to South Korea once Bush ascended to the presidency, has endorsed Hillary Clinton. “We now have a person at the top of the Republican ticket who I believe is dangerous, doesn't understand the complex world we live in, doesn't care to, and is without any moral or international philosophy,” he Gregg said in a statement. (September 25, 2016)

Ed Meese: YEA
Meese, who served as attorney general during the Ronald Reagan administration, was critical of Trump during the primary, but Politico reports he has now joined the Trump transition team. Meese declined to comment. (September 27, 2016)

Michael Chertoff: NAY
The former secretary of homeland security, under George W. Bush, and federal judge, has announced he is endorsing Hillary Clinton. Although Clinton has courted GOP national-security figures, it’s a remarkable alliance: He was lead counsel on the original Whitewater investigation, while she in turn cast the lone no vote against his judicial nomination. Chertoff said Trump has been “making enemies of your friends and cozying up to your adversaries.” (October 3, 2016)

Colin Powell: NAY
The former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was once mentioned as a GOP candidate for president, will reportedly back Hillary Clinton in 2016. Speaking to the Long Island Association, Powell said that Trump is “selling people a bill of goods.” (October 25, 2016)

Pundits and Opinionmakers

Micah Walter / Reuters

Bill Kristol: SOFT NAY
The editor of The Weekly Standard threw his lot in with the #NeverTrump crowd with gusto, and he’s been a leading advocate for a third-party alternative. But these days, he seems a bit confused about what exactly the word “never” means: “I mean, I guess never say never. On the one hand, I’ll say #NeverTrump, and on the other hand, I’ll say never say never. I'll leave it ambiguous.” (May 2, 2016)

Ross Douthat: NAY
After spending the primary alternately criticizing Trump and forecasting his doom, the New York Times columnist seems especially dyspeptic and despairing. (May 5, 2016)

Erick Erickson: NAY
The radio host, editor of The Resurgent, and former RedState editor writes: “Hillary Clinton is unfit for the Presidency, but so is Donald Trump. Some Republicans may decide it is time to be a team player, but I will put my country before my party and decline to help the voters in this country commit national suicide.” (May 4, 2016)

Leon Wolf: NAY
Wolf, the editor of RedState, has been a prominent Trump critic. He says he’s leaning toward voting for a Libertarian candidate. “I genuinely believe that Hillary Clinton would be a better President than Trump, and it’s not close,” he wrote. “That said, Hillary would also be a terrible President, there’s no doubt about that.” He also called on Senate Republicans to confirm Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, lest Trump do the choosing instead. (May 4, 2016)

Ann Coulter: YEA
Coulter has been a fanatical backer of Trump for months.

George Will: NAY
The dean of conservative columnists has left the Republican Party over Trump’s nomination, saying, “This is not my party.” (June 26, 2016)

Will detests Trump, and had previously called for Republicans to defeat him if he is their nominee: “Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states—condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life.” (April 29, 2016)

Charles Krauthammer: SOFT NAY
The leading writer has been very critical of Trump, but in an interview with Bill O’Reilly, he left the door ajar to change his mind. “Let me just say from what I’ve seen up until now, heard from Trump and watched him, I don’t think I’d be capable of voting for Donald Trump,” he said. “Question is, what do I do? I don’t know yet.” (May 3, 2016)

Without officially stating his support, the Fox News personality has repeatedly defended Trump. (May 5, 2016)

Sean Hannity: YEA
Hannity has been one of Trump’s two most reliable cheerleaders in the media. “I’ll be voting for Donald Trump in November,” he said. (May 31, 2016)

Matt Drudge: YEA
The publisher of the Drudge Report has been, along with Hannity, Trump’s best friend in the press.

Sarah Palin: YEA
The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate endorsed Trump with a Dadaist address to Iowans in January, and she’s stumped for him since.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: SOFT YEA
The editors of the nation’s most powerful conservative editorial board are not fans of Trump’s, but they are resigned. “Mr. Trump wasn’t our first choice, or even the 15th, but the reality is that more GOP voters preferred him to the alternatives,” they wrote. “Yet GOP voters made the ultimate decision, and that deserves some respect unless we’re going to give up on democracy.” The board also criticized the move for a thirty-party candidate, irking Bill Kristol.

Joe Scarborough: UNDECIDED (was SOFT YEA)
The MSNBC host and token network conservative was among the friendliest voices in the media toward Trump during the Republican primary. He has been more critical since then. Referring to Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, he announced to Republicans, “You have to start calling him out and saying you'll retract your endorsement of him today or else the United States Senate is in danger.” A day before, he compared Trump’s remarks to the Nazi Nuremberg race laws. (June 7, 2016)

Scarborough previously announced was not sure whether he can vote for Trump, citing Trump sticking to outlandish promises like a ban on Muslim immigration that he made during the primary. (May 5, 2016)

Rush Limbaugh: SOFT YEA
The leading right-wing talk-show host has been a booster of Trump all along—to the agitation of Trump-opposing conservatives—despite occasionally criticizing him. After Trump’s Indiana win, Limbaugh predicted: “My instinctive feeling right now is that Trump is gonna win, beat Hillary badly, that it could be landslide proportions.” He has declined to formally endorse Trump, though. (May 23, 2016)

Glenn Beck: NAY
Beck, the talker who was a Cruz backer, has remained steadfastly opposed to Trump since he became the presumptive nominee. In a recent Facebook post, he said, “If the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton, so be it. At least it is a moral, ethical choice.” But he added that he was neither endorsing nor voting for the Democrat. (October 11, 2016)

Beck previously said Trump cannot win. “I don’t want my children to look at that man and say, ‘Yeah, he’s my President.’ I won’t have that. I will not endorse it, I will not tolerate it,” he said. (May 4, 2016)

Rupert Murdoch: YEA
The hugely influential conservative mogul—owner of The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the New York Post—suggested in March that the Republican Party coalesce around Trump:

The coverage of Trump late in the primary led Ted Cruz to lash out and accuse Murdoch & Co. of aiding Trump.

Max Boot: NAY
Boot, a leading neoconservative and military historian, says that although he’s a lifelong Republican, the party is dead and he won’t vote for Trump: “The risk of Trump winning, however remote, represents the biggest national security threat that the United States faces today.” While “Clinton would be far preferable to Trump,” Boot says that right now “I only know one thing for sure: I won't vote for Trump.” (June 3, 2016)

Michael Reagan: Apparent NAY (was YEA and previously NAY)
The son of former President Ronald Reagan, an influential talk-radio host and writer, angrily denounced Trump for implying without evidence that Hillary Clinton had been unfaithful to Bill Clinton. “No way do I or would my father support this garbage,” he tweeted. “If this is where he is going I cannot follow him.” (October 3, 2016)

Reagan previously said he would back Trump in order to stop Hillary Clinton. (July 28, 2016)

Reagan previously said he would not vote for Trump in the California primary and added, “This most likely would be the 1st time if my father was alive that he would not support the nominee of the GOP.” (June 6, 2016)

Hugh Hewitt: YEA (was SOFT YEA and previously NAY)
In the wake of a video in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women, Hewitt has called on the nominee to step down. “For the benefit of the country, the party, his family, and himself, I think that he should withdraw,” Hewitt said. “I don’t think Donald Trump can win.” Hewitt, who has gone back and forth on Trump, did not say whether he would continue to back the nominee if he did not withdraw. (October 8, 2016)

Having appeared to waver earlier, the talk-radio host, who helped moderate several of the Republican primary debates and was critical of Trump, writes, “Of course I am voting for Donald Trump. You should be too if you are a conservative.” (July 31, 2016)

Hewitt softened on Trump in the aftermath of the Orlando attack, writing in a Washington Post column that his focus on security shows that he’s potentially preferable to Hillary Clinton. (June 15, 2016)

Hewitt had taken an unusually hard line against Trump, not only declining to support him but, in the wake of Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, actually calling for the Republican National Convention to jettison Trump as nominee. (June 8, 2016)

Robert Kagan: NAY
Kagan, a leading neoconservative historian and writer, was among the first conservatives to back Clinton, writing way back in February, “For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.” He later wrote of Trump, “This is how fascism comes to America.” (February 25, 2016)

Bret Stephens: NAY
The deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, says he will not vote for Trump, but will probably not vote for Clinton. “Probably none of the above,” he told Hugh Hewitt. “I will never vote for Donald Trump. I have a very, very hard time voting for Mrs. Clinton.” But Stephens added: “I think that for the United States, Hillary Clinton, as awful as I find her, is a survivable event. I’m not so sure about Donald Trump.” (June 17, 2016)

Greg Mankiw: NAY
Mankiw, an economist at Harvard who chaired George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and Mitt Romney and other Republicans, tells John Harwood he cannot support Trump.

(August 4, 2016)

Lanhee Chen: NAY
The conservative policy wonk, who served as Mitt Romney’s policy director in 2012 and worked with Marco Rubio in 2016, does not back Trump. “I would rather not see him win,” he said at a media roundtable at Sanford’s conservative Hoover Institution. (August 16, 2016)

Stephen Moore: YEA
Moore, a former Wall Street Journal editorial columnist and current chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, is one of Trump’s economic advisers. (August 5, 2016)

Ed Feulner: YEA
Feulner, who as longtime head of the Heritage Foundation turned it into a conservative powerhouse, has joined Trump’s transition team, Yahoo reports. “Feulner, 75, is the first major figure with deep credibility in the conservative movement to join the Trump transition effort,” writes Jon Ward. (August 24, 2016)

Mark Levin: YEA (was NAY)
The talk-radio host has changed his mind, saying he will support the GOP nominee. “I’m gonna vote for Donald Trump. I’m gonna wind up voting for Donald Trump on Election Day,” he said. “I take no responsibility for the dumb things he says or the dumb things his surrogates say.” (September 7, 2016)

Levin had unequivocally ruled out supporting Trump. “As a result of what the Trump supporters have attempted here, particularly Roger Stone, I am not voting for Donald Trump. Period,” he said in April. “So, count me as never Trump.”

Dennis Prager: YEA (was NAY)
The conservative writer and radio host says he backs Trump because Hillary Clinton in worse. “We have the same principles as the Never Trumpers — especially those of us who strongly opposed nominating Trump; that’s why we opposed him, after all,” he writes. “So where do we differ? We differ on this: We hold that defeating Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and the Left is also a principle. And that it is the greater principle.” (September 6, 2016)

As my colleague Conor Friedersdorf points out, Prager has previously been highly critical of Trump and his behavior, and in 2011 deemed him “disqualified” from the presidency due to his profanity.

Norman Podhoretz: YEA
Podhoretz, the eminent neo-conservative and longtime editor of Commentary, is among the few neocons to throw his weight behind Trump. “Many of the younger—they’re not so young anymore—neoconservatives have gone over to the Never Trump movement,” he told The Times of Israel. “But I describe myself as anti-anti-Trump. While I have no great admiration for him, to put it mildly, I think she’s worse. Between the two, he’s the lesser evil.” (September 8, 2016)

John Podhoretz: NAY
Among those younger neocons with whom Norman Podhoretz has parted on Trump? His son John, the current editor of Commentary. In May, he wrote in that magazine that he couldn’t support either nominee: “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both devils we know. And because the GOP has become unfit, we will not be able to avoid the choice between them, except by literal avoidance—by staying home. Many, many millions of us will surely do so.”

Michael Medved: NAY
The conservative radio host was an early never-Trump supporter, and continues to criticize him. “Since I never supported #Trump in any way, I'm proud to be one nationally syndicated radio host who WON"T need to reconsider or apologize.,” he tweeted. (October 8, 2016)

John Yoo: NAY
Yoo, a Berkeley law professor who infamously wrote the Bush-era “Torture Memos,” says that Trump “reminds me a lot of early Mussolini .… very disturbingly similar.” (October 12, 2016)

Yoo previously argued that the prospect of Supreme Court appointments does not justify supporting Trump. “No one should rely on his vague promises. He has already flip-flopped on numerous core issues, such as the minimum wage, tax rates and entitlement reform,” he wrote. (August 16, 2016)


Tyrone Siu / Reuters

Sheldon Adelson: YEA
Although he has not withdrawn his support for Donald Trump, the Vegas-based megadonor and major advocate for Israel appears to have decided to concentrate his donations in congressional races rather than using them to sway the presidential race, The New York Times reports. (September 20, 2016)

Adelson may have been perturbed by Trump’s statements about the Jewish state during the campaign, but he told The New York Times he’s supporting him. “Yes, I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican,” he said. “He’s our nominee. Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17—he was one of the 17. He won fair and square.” (May 5, 2016)

Paul Singer: NAY
The major Republican donor, who backed Marco Rubio and contributed to anti-Trump efforts, will not back Trump but also won’t vote for Clinton. Singer joked he might write himself in. (June 29, 2016)

NBC News previously reported that Singer would not back Trump. Bloomberg reported he’ll stay out of the presidential race. (May 5, 2016)

Joe and Marlene Ricketts: YEA (was UNDECIDED)
The billionaire couple will give at least $1 million to a super PAC working to elect Donald Trump, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post report. (September 20, 2016)

The Ricketts spent at least $5.5 million on anti-Trump efforts during the primary, and Trump at one point threatened them, tweeting, “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!” They have not made their stance public, though their son Pete, the governor of Nebraska, has endorsed Trump.

Charles and David Koch: SOFT NAY
Prior to Trump’s becoming the presumptive GOP nominee, Charles Koch said he thought Hillary Clinton might be a better president than Trump, though he made no indication that the famed pair of brothers would back her. They now say they are not backing Trump, though a spokesman did not rule it out entirely. (May 5, 2016)

Peter Thiel: YEA
Thiel, the PayPal founder and well-known venture capitalist, is known as a libertarian—though Rand Paul tried and failed to court him as a major backer. (Thiel ended up donating to former Silicon Valley denizen Carly Fiorina.) Thiel has signed up as a prospective Trump delegate from California. (May 10, 2016)

Stanley Hubbard: YEA
Hubbard, a longtime Republican donor, gave thousands to the Stop Trump effort earlier this spring. Now he says he’ll back Trump. “All of my favorite candidates dropped out one by one,” he told Politico. “We’re down to my least favorite candidate. And my least favorite candidate is better than Hillary Clinton in terms of what’s best for the country.” (May 10, 2016)

T. Boone Pickens: YEA
The Oklahoma oil billionaire—and recent renewable-energy fanatic—is a former Jeb Bush backer, but Pickens now supports Trump, citing his support for Trump’s ban on Muslim immigration. “Yes, I’m for Donald Trump … I’m tired of having politicians as president of the U.S.,” he told The Wall Street Journal. He will host a fundraiser for a pro-Trump super PAC. (May 12, 2016)

Foster Friess: YEA
The former Rick Santorum bankroller has decided to back Trump, telling The Hill that Trump can’t be judged either by his past stances and behaviors or by what he does and says now. “My success came from harnessing people’s strengths and ignoring their weaknesses,” he said. “And also, from assessing people not according to their pasts or where they are today, but rather based on what they can become.” (May 23, 2016)

Woody Johnson: YEA
The New York Jets owner was a major donor to Mitt Romney in 2012 and to Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC—as well as for John McCain and George W. Bush. He met with Trump on May 23 and will reportedly donate and help bundle donations for Trump. (May 24, 2016)

Mel Sembler: YEA
Sembler is a major fundraiser and a longtime political ally of the Bush family, having served as an ambassador under both Presidents Bush. Naturally, he supported Jeb Bush’s presidential run. After Jeb Bush dropped out of the race, he said, “Times have changed, the country has changed, the electorate has changed. I don't understand our country any more.” Understand it or not, he’s decided to go along, and has signed on as a vice chairman of the Trump fundraising effort. (May 24, 2016)

Meg Whitman: NAY
The CEO of HP, who ran for California governor in 2010, says she will vote for Hillary Clinton, calling Trump a “dishonest demagogue” who has “undermined the character of the nation.” “I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her,” she told The New York Times. Whitman’s announcement isn’t a total surprise—she suggested at a Romney-hosted confab in June she might back Clinton—but is striking, since she was finance chair for a Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie, this year. (August 3, 2016)

Seth Klarman: NAY
A billionaire financier and hedge-fund honcho, Klarman is an independent who has mostly given to Republicans, including Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush. He’s now working to elect Clinton, calling a Trump presidency “unthinkable.” (August 4, 2016)

Mike Fernandez: NAY
Fernandez, a Cuban emigre and health-care executive, is a major Republican donor in Florida, having given heavily to efforts to elect Mitt Romney in 2012 and Governor Rick Scott in 2014. He also backed Jeb Bush in 2016, but he strongly opposes Trump, who he compared to Hitler, Perón, and Mussolini. “My fellow Republicans, swallow hard, look into your heart — and your gut. Vote for Hillary Clinton and then every single Republican on the ticket,” he wrote in a Miami Herald column. “Do that, and rest assured that you will have served your country well.” (September 1, 2016)

Faith Leaders

Jerry Falwell Jr.: YEA
Falwell, president of Liberty University and son of the iconic Moral Majority leader, has been one of Trump’s staunchest backers.

Russell Moore: NAY
Moore, who is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, says he will not vote for either Trump or Clinton but will write in Ben Sasse. (May 5, 2016)

Ralph Reed: YEA
The conservative activist and former executive director of the Christian Coalition has joined Trump’s evangelical advisory board. “I believe that, should Donald Trump be elected, he will disrupt the broken system in Washington, D.C., in a way that Hillary Clinton won't,” he told NPR. “And I think that message is likely to resonate … very powerfully in the faith community.” (June 21, 2016)

James Dobson: YEA
The former president of Focus on the Family is a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, although he previously said he was “very wary of Donald Trump.” (June 21, 2016)

Richard Land: YEA
Land, who preceded Russell Moore as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has taken a different tack from his successor on Trump, joining Trump’s evangelical advisory board. (June 21, 2016)

Robert P. George: NAY
George, a conservative Catholic thinker and professor of law at Princeton who is highly influential in social conservative circles, has written that “Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. George is not supporting Clinton.

Wayne Grudem: NAY (was YEA)
The evangelical theologian has withdrawn his support for Trump after the publication of a video in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. “There is no morally good presidential candidate in this election,” he writes. “I previously called Donald Trump a ‘good candidate with flaws’ and a ‘flawed candidate’ but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.” (October 9, 2016)

Grudem previously argued that voting for Trump was “a morally good choice.” (July 28, 2016)

The Only Cure for OCD Is Expensive, Elusive, and Scary

By Olga Khazan from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Some days, Molly C.’s brain insists she can’t wear her work shirt. She realizes this is irrational; a uniform is required for her job at a hardware store. Nevertheless, she’s addled by an eerie feeling—like, “If you wear this shirt, something bad will happen today.” Usually she can cope, but a few times she couldn’t override it, and she called in sick.

She can’t resist picking up litter whenever she spots it; the other day she cleaned up the entire parking lot of her apartment complex. Each night, she must place her phone in an exact spot on the nightstand in order to fall asleep. What’s more, she’s besieged by troubling thoughts she can’t stop dwelling on. (She asked us not to use her last name in order to protect her privacy.)

Molly is a college student, but her symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder started when she was 14. Since then, a succession of therapists have failed to help her. They’ve told her, “I don't really know how to treat this,” she said. Or, they talked to her about the possible source of her troubles. “It's nice,” she said, “but eventually I’m like, ‘Okay, I can just talk to my sister.’”

Though Molly and other sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder exhibit a wide array of symptoms, they share a common plight: difficulty finding the right treatment. In the small Ohio town where Molly lives, there are no psychologists who specialize in exposure and response prevention, the specific kind of therapy she and many others with OCD require in order to break their crippling thought cycles.

People with OCD dwell on certain thoughts (obsessions) and engage in rituals (compulsions) to alleviate the anxiety the obsessions provoke. At its worst, OCD can compel people to spend hours each day rehearsing an intricate mental dance they feel powerless to end. At an OCD conference in Chicago this July, I met one mother of a young girl who is so afraid of getting dirty, she opens doors with her feet. A 19-year-old college sophomore, profoundly insecure about his appearance, told me he spends an hour and 20 minutes each morning brushing his teeth and washing his face. (Pop-culture often portrays the OCD-afflicted as washing their hands frequently, but excessive cleanliness is just one of the disease’s many manifestations.)

Along with medication, exposure and response prevention, or ERP, therapy is the gold-standard treatment for people with OCD. It is radically different from more traditional talk therapy, which excavates patients’ childhoods or past relationships for clues to their present-day problems. In ERP, none of that matters. Instead, a person is forced to confront their obsessive thoughts relentlessly. The goal is to make the sufferer so accustomed to their obsessions that they no longer feel tempted to engage in soothing compulsions.

At the conference, Scott Granet, a clinical social-worker who struggles with body dysmorphic disorder, a type of OCD, showed how this can be done. Because of an acute fear of having his hair look rumpled, he avoids hats at all costs. Standing before a room of conference attendees, he took a deep breath and slowly drew a baseball cap over his head. “I don’t feel too bad, actually,” he said, his voice trembling.

Other interventions are more extreme: People obsessed with not offending God might hold a satanic ritual. Those assailed by persistent (and baseless) fears they will molest their siblings might read the incest tome Flowers in the Attic.

“When people have [intrusive] thoughts, they’re worried that it means something about them or expresses their potential for harm,” said Karen Cassiday, a psychologist who practices ERP at the Anxiety and Agoraphobia Treatment Center in Chicago. ERP teaches people, “these thoughts are meaningless, you need to learn to ignore them.”

Many OCD sufferers and their families say finding the right kind of therapy is the most difficult part of overcoming the disease. Because of the dearth of psychologists with experience in ERP, as well as geographic and financial barriers, some studies estimate it takes OCD sufferers 17 years to find proper treatment from the onset of symptoms. Seeking certain forms of talk therapy can make them worse, not better. In the meantime, some experience symptoms so debilitating they are confined to their homes.

* * *

The tough-love story of ERP begins in the 1950s. The psychologist Richard Solomon trained dogs to avoid an electric shock, which was heralded by a bright light, by leaping across a barrier in their cages. Eventually, the light would make the dogs jump the barrier, even if no shock followed. Solomon, in other words, gave the dogs OCD, making them irrationally obsessed with a harmless light.

When Solomon shined the light and prevented the dogs from jumping the barrier, the animals became distressed, climbing the walls, urinating, and yelping, as the OCD specialist Jonathan S. Abramowitz describes. But after being repeatedly trapped in the light-filled chamber, the dogs gradually stopped fearing it. Their obsession with the light had gone “extinct,” in other words.

In humans, the treatment can be similarly grueling, but effective. Most moderate OCD cases get at least partly better if the patient receives two or three months of ERP. It’s a big “if,” according to Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation. “The treatment works, but no one does it, and no one can find it,” Szymanski said.

ERP is a subset of cognitive-behavioral therapy, itself a relatively new form of therapy aimed at changing the patient’s ways of thinking, rather than at trying to understand the thoughts themselves. (“People with OCD already put too much importance on random thoughts,” Szymanski said.) There is no mandatory number of hours that psychologists must spend training in either cognitive-behavioral therapy or ERP, said Lynn Bufka, a psychologist with the American Psychological Association. Bufka did not know what percentage of psychotherapists provide ERP, but she suspects it’s “small.”

Between 3 and 7 million Americans suffer from OCD at some point—a substantial number, but still far fewer than the vast multitudes who seek therapy for anxiety and depression. Graduate psychology students might never encounter an OCD patient during their clinical training.

There tend to be long lags between the moment mental-health strategies are proven effective and when they’re put into practice, Cassiday said. Older psychologists might have had no ERP training at all. While continuing education is available for psychologists, these courses typically focus on ethics or on special populations, like drug users or refugees. And once a psychologist specializes in a given area, such as depression, she is more likely to deepen her expertise in that field, Bufka said, rather than learn an entirely new method from scratch.

Because the symptoms can be entirely mental, it can take years for either patients or therapists to recognize OCD for what it is. Sharon, a 29-year-old from Brooklyn who asked we use only her first name, has a type of OCD that affects her swallowing, breathing, and sleep. When she was a senior in high school, she became convinced she had to breathe a certain way—not too shallow, not too deep—or she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. She went sleepless for days. Her parents, members of a sheltered, Orthodox Jewish community, didn’t understand the disease, but they saw she urgently needed help.

Help is not what Sharon found, however—at least not at first. She saw a child psychologist who told her she had anxiety. A social worker advised her to make her “sleeping area a place of zen.” She suggested a family session in which Sharon and her parents would examine their past familial tensions. “I didn't have a perfect childhood,” Sharon told me, “but I didn't have anything that I would deem traumatic.” Nothing worked.

Sharon quit that therapist, and she eventually did find an ERP practitioner. That therapist charges $300 per 45-minute session.

* * *

In other cases, what stands between OCD patients and the right treatment is wide swaths of land. Access to ERP therapists is compounded by the already profound shortage of psychotherapists in rural areas. More than half of U.S. counties have no mental-health professionals at all.

Sarah Terpstra lives in South Dakota, and she drives three hours for her treatment for her contamination fears. At first, Terpstra went to a local psychiatrist and told him she washes her hands a lot. “That's good, there's nothing wrong with that,’” she recalls him saying.

“But there is, there really is,” she said. “Otherwise I wouldn't be here.”

Her ERP therapist doesn’t accept insurance, so Terpstra has been fighting with her insurance company to pay her claims. Still, it’s worth it. “Even now, going outside and seeing the garbage everywhere ... I try to avoid it as much as I can,” she said. “It gets to the point where you don't want to go outside, you want to just stay inside and not have to face any of it. And then you're not living any life that way.”

ERP specialists might feel no need to take insurance, since they are so rare they often have no shortage of clients, Szymanski, of the International OCD Foundation, pointed out. Cassiday, the Chicago psychologist, doesn’t accept insurance, explaining that ERP’s complexity often extends beyond the bounds of a traditional doctor’s appointment. “If someone has rituals, we may need to go into their home,” she said.

Shirley Huefner, who came to the conference from Los Angeles, said an intensive inpatient program helped her son overcome his extreme fear of germs. But the treatment was so expensive it contributed to the family’s decision to sell their house.

When families finally do obtain it, ERP can be life-changing. Janet Singer’s 17-year-old son realized he had OCD when he found himself trapped in strange mental grooves, like envisioning harm coming to his friends or feeling unable to stop counting to 1,000. Singer—a pseudonym under which she’s written a blog and book about her family’s journey—took her son to a pediatrician, who put him on the antidepressant Prozac and recommended he see a psychologist.

They went to popular therapist in their small town. “That therapist said, ‘I treat OCD!’ and proceeded to do totally the wrong thing,” Singer told me. “They would sit and talk about his anxiety. Why do you feel this way? Why is this happening?

Her son assured Singer he was getting better, and he went off to college. But in his second semester, Singer became alarmed at how he sounded when he called home. She told him to go to the school counseling center.

“I can’t,” he said. “I can’t.”

“I finally realized he was saying the OCD wouldn’t let him leave his room to walk down the path to go to the counseling center,” she told me.

Singer flew to visit him, and his condition shocked her. Her son would sit in a chair for eight hours at a time and go days without eating. He was obsessed with the feeling that harm would come to those he loved. If he avoided eating, he was convinced, he could keep it from coming true.

At that point, a year and a half after her son first exhibited symptoms, Singer placed him in a residential treatment program at a psychiatric facility she asked me not to name. When I called the facility, a recording told me there was a three-month waiting list for its inpatient OCD treatment program. Over the course of nine weeks, Singer’s son slowly recovered through ERP that cost $400 to $500 weekly, as Singer recalls, after insurance. Though he’s not completely free of OCD, he’s now living independently and working in his chosen field. He even has a steady girlfriend.

“It was the best money we ever spent,” Singer said.

Flying squirrel numbers soar in Helsinki

From BBC News - World. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The furry rodents are thriving in the city's forests, researchers say.

Belgian regions agree to back EU-Canada trade deal

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Delay to Ceta accord raised questions about EU’s ability to handle complex deals

It's official, Brexit means breakfast — or at least as far as John McDonnell is concerned

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The shadow chancellor is not the first politician to confuse the UK's EU exit with the morning meal.

Who doesn’t hate a chaotic breakfast? As the shadow chancellor John McDonnell clearly knows, there is nothing worse than cold toast, soggy cereal and over boiled eggs. The mere thought of it makes the mole shiver.

In the middle of a totally cereal, sorry, speech this morning on Brexit and its impact on the economy, McDonnell expressed his fear that the government was “hurtling towards a chaotic breakfast". 

Addressing the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London, he argued that Theresa May’s government could decide to opt for a Brexit deal that favoured Tory “special interests" at the expense of the rest of the country.

Warming to his theme he accused Tory cabinet ministers of looking to “cook up” deals for their “friends in the City of London”, before making the powerful point that "Tory voters don't want a bankers' breakfast any more than I do". Bang, the same foodie blooper dropped twice in one speech. It seems that breakfast really does mean breakfast, or at least as far as McDonnell and the Labour Party are concerned.

He can take solace in the fact that he is not the only politician to fall into this particular verbal trap, it seems a fear of a lousy breakfast is shared by ministers across the political spectrum. In his speech to Conservative Party conference, Welsh Tory leader, Andrew T Davies, trumpeted the fact that the government would make the morning meal its top priority. “Conference, mark my words,” he said “we will make breakfast. . . Brexit, a success.” The Mole loves to hear such a passionate commitment to the state of the nation’s Weetabix.

And, it’s not just politicos who are mixing up the UK’s impending exit from EU with the humble morning meal. The BBC presenter Aaron Heslehurst was left red-faced after making multiple references to “breakfast” during a live broadcast, including one where he stated that it “had opened up a brave new world for UK exporters”. Who knew?

And there was your mole thinking that the hardest part of breakfast was getting up and out of the burrow early enough to enjoy it. Food for thought indeed.


Dispatches from the frontline: Bernard-Henri Lévy on the road to Mosul

By Bernard-Henri Levy from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The French's philosopher's documentary, Peshmerga, followed the Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq. Now, he and his team are back in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Return to Kurdistan. My first move is to go into the hills around Mount Zartak to gather my thoughts in the spot where Maghdid Harki, the young, white-haired general who was one of the heroes of Peshmerga, spent his last moments. Nothing has changed. Not the sandbags that were too flimsy to protect him. Not his bunker which, as he liked to say, was no better fortified than those of his men. Those men have kept his water bottle hanging in its place on the wall near the door, still containing the last gulp of water that he had been about to drink. The only difference is that American special forces now occupy the bunker.

Through binoculars a US soldier scans the valley in which the human bombs of Islamic State may appear at any moment. Another stands behind a telescope trained 20 kilometers further away on the outskirts of Mosul. A third, with long, blond hair and an Errol Flynn moustache, recovers a drone that has just landed at our feet in a cloud of dust. A fourth who looks like an intellectual (reminding me of a character from Norman Mailer’s novel The Naked and the Dead — based in part on his Second World War experience with the 112th cavalry), sits under a canopy deciphering the data coming in on his computer. A fifth, the highest in rank, from Tennessee, passes on the intelligence. Who are these young Americans, oppressed by the heat and squinting at the light like blind men blinking in the dark? With Mosul only a stone’s throw away, they are the leading edge of the coalition that has finally decided, in support of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, to take the capital of IS’s self-proclaimed caliphate.


I am in Sheikh Amir in the al-Khazir zone. Sheikh Amir is the last liberated village before the beleaguered Christian city of Qaraqosh, which IS captured in 2014. Three Toyotas come to a screeching halt, disgorging a squad of men in mismatched black uniforms — definitely not the Peshmerga.

“What are you doing here?” demands General Hajar, with whom I had travelled from Irbil. “You shouldn’t be here!”  

“This is our land!” says an ill-shaven man with a menacing look who seems to be the leader of the group.

“No,” says Hajar, gesturing toward a distant stand of prefabricated shelters that, from the road, we had taken for a refugee camp. “That’s where you should be. The accords are clear: you’re not supposed to leave your camp unless you’re attacking.”

“To hell with you!” chimes in another of the men in black. “We’re home wherever we are.”

As Hajar ups the ante and the confrontation threatens to turn ugly, the leader mumbles a half-hearted apology and, after ordering his bunch back into their pickups, heads off in the direction of the camp, where we can make out three helicopters landing. It all took place very quickly. But the men in black, we now know, were among the thousands of Shiite militiamen that Baghdad has hastily incorporated into the Iraqi army. And the incident, however minor, symbolises the tensions among the participants (the Peshmerga on the one hand; Baghdad’s majority Shiite army on the other), called upon to liberate the Islamic State’s Berlin.


Another sign. A few kilometers farther on, we are in the Christian village of Manguba. Here, IS put up little resistance. In retreat, its militants left behind explosives hidden in fizzy drink bottles, petrol cans, and sometimes even Korans. Anwar, a Christian officer in the Peshmerga, is one of the few who risk going out to see what remains of his house. He arranges to rejoin us at a nearby spot, the highest in the village, which, to judge from the punctured football ball and the marbles mingled with spent cartridges, must have been a playground before becoming the unit’s lookout post.

“It’s terrible,” he tells us on his return. “There’s nothing left of my house, and they torched the church.” Then, choking back a sob: “These bastards have left and, God willing, they won’t come back. But then what? Who will be responsible for protecting our community? We have a Christian brigade training with the Peshmerga, but what will become of it after the victory? Under whose command will it be then?”

Encouraged by questions from my friend, the author Gilles Hertzog, Anwar speaks his mind plainly. Neither he nor any of the Christians in the Qaraqosh region has any confidence in the Iraqi government. He won’t bring his wife and children back, he says, unless the Kurds, and the Kurds alone, are protecting the Plain of Nineveh which runs north and east of Mosul. In what form, we ask? As a province? An autonomous zone under Kurdish mandate? Does he think that the Iraqis or the Americans on Mount Zartak will agree to such a thing? He shrugs. For soldiers of God, life and salvation are non-negotiable.


Hassan al-Sham. Near the Christian town of Bartallah. The same landscape of charred earth, the wreckage of suicide trucks, and lingering fires from torched fuel depots. Suddenly, right in front of me, is a big hole. A well, I think at first. Wrong. There is a ladder in the hole, which my cameraman and I climb down behind a member of the bomb squad.

Three metres down I discover a tunnel one metre wide with an arched ceiling and cement walls interspersed with crude masonry in which it is possible to stand upright. After walking tentatively for a hundred metres by the light of the bomb technician’s flashlight, we come upon a passage perpendicular to the one we are in. We decide not enter because we can make out bundles of plastic explosive and contact wires, and on each side of the tunnel, rooms filled with a jumble of dirty mattresses. Then, again symmetrically arranged, a twin command center in which someone has left behind a pile of newspapers in Arabic. Among them is an eight-page black-and-white publication, a bulletin for IS fighters entitled The News. On the front page, under a photo of a man being beheaded, the headline: “How we identify traitors.” Inside, an article on a terrorist operation in the Sinai; an “analysis” of the “unlimited rights” of a shahid who has rid the world of a kafir; and a report on the presence of sleeper cells in Kirkuk. On page two, a strange roundup of the past year: “1,031 news reports, 110 infographics, 50 maps, and 112 executions of traitors.”

If the enemy took the trouble to dig this tunnel in a forlorn village, what are we likely to find in Mosul? What lacework of traps and pitfalls? What secret, subterranean city designed for what sort of dirty war?


We are on the road again heading due north to the outskirts of Dohuk, 13 kilometers from the Mosul dam. The man whom we have come to see is Rawan Barzani, the younger brother of the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and the commander of the first battalion of the Kurdish special forces. The base where he receives us is no more than 300 metres from the front line. In his bunker, furnished with a simple table and spartan bed, I observe this impressive officer. He explains in perfect English, against a background of mortar shelling, his theory that the enemy comprises; “loonies” (the drivers of suicide vehicles); “rats” (the denizens of the tunnels); and “attack dogs” (who he believes will offer fierce resistance).

Why is a soldier of his rank so exposed, so close to the combat zone that he can only risk a few seconds in the open for a photo? There is the legendary courage of the Kurdish commanders who place themselves in front of their men. There is his name, which could expose him to suspicions of nepotism if he didn’t prove himself with acts of bravery. The main answer lies in his location — he is stationed at one of IS's key strategic positions, a few kilometers from an immense dam that, if sabotaged, would flood the entire region as far as Mosul and beyond to Baghdad. The coalition has no choice. It has no use for men in black or Sunni tribesmen hastily recruited for walk-on parts. It needs serious, seasoned soldiers to pass behind enemy lines and carry out bold attacks. And, at their head, it needs a grandson of the founder of the Kurdish nation, the father of the Peshmerga, Mustafa Barzani.


An envoy from the general staff comes looking for us during the night. We are to head east toward Nawaran, where the taking of Bashiqa, the last linchpin before Mosul, is to start. The usual crush of tanks, armoured vehicles, and Toyotas. Then, at the first glimmer of dawn, two drones, similar to the one that dropped a bomb two weeks ago on the French camp in Irbil: but this time the Peshmerga, in a hail of fire from Kalashnikovs and 12.7 machine guns, destroy them before they can touch down. We slip into the last of the five armoured personnel carriers that are headed for the front. Our route winds through a landscape of hamlets, warehouses, and ghostly houses from which we expect a suicide bomber to emerge at any moment.

A sniper. Our gunner at his turret takes him out. And another, whose shot grazes our lead cameraman, Camille Lotteau. This one escapes, disappearing into the gloom. A spasm of anxiety at the sound of something striking our vehicle’s armour. Another when we learn through walkie-talkie exchanges with the excavators ahead of us that the road is mined — we will have to find a new route across the empty terrain. Two hours are spent driving nearly blind, with no other guidance but that of the local villager riding on the lead bulldozer. A journey of jolts and swerves in the dust, all to travel the eight kilometers that separate us from the fringes of the village of Fazlia, which the column has been ordered to retake.

Bernard Henri-Levy (centre) with Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq. Credit: Ala Hoshyar Tayyeb


The following sequence is all recorded by our second cameraman Ala Tayyeb — operational command orders the vehicle I’m in to turn back. The personnel carriers and T55 tanks encircle the village. The men get out, are joined by an elite Zeravani unit, and advance in the open. Suddenly, shots burst forth from houses and an olive grove that had appeared abandoned. Over his walkie-talkie, the colonel in command requests air support. The voice at the other end of the line promises it within minutes, as is the norm. The shooting becomes more intense — jihadists surge out of the olive grove and surround the Peshmerga on three sides. Seven Kurdish soldiers are hit. Those that their comrades haul behind the armoured carriers are targeted by snipers. When two of the assailants raise a white flag and Ardalan Khasrawi, who also appeared in Peshmerga, approaches to accept their surrender, he finds another trap. The two men open fire and seriously wound Khasrawi. Orders and counterorders. Total confusion. Should the vehicles form a circle? Should they spread out? The fact is that for the two and a half hours the ambush lasts, for the interminable minutes of hell on earth during which the Kurdish commander never stops pleading for air support and never stops hearing that it is coming, nothing comes. The unit is left to fend for itself, abandoned by the gods and by its allies. Only by their own strength do the Kurds overcome the jihadists and liberate the village.


Two hours later, we are with President Barzani at his camp of Mount Zartak, which lies at the end of a winding road protected by US special forces. I had asked to see him. It soon becomes clear that he has a message to pass on. Yes, in the Arab villages that it is taking, his army is conducting itself in an exemplary manner. No, that army does not intend, at least for the time being, to enter Mosul proper, a job that the allied accords have reserved for the Iraqi army. Yes, again, he has a plan for the “day after,” and he deplores the fact that his partners, in their haste to be done with this before the US election, did not heed him more closely. But his face betrays nothing. The same dark eyes but devoid of their usual mischief.

The commanders and dignitaries seated around the makeshift shed that serves as his HQ do not look any more overjoyed. He says hardly a word when I praise the courage of his soldiers. He avoids the question when I ask if he the prospect that haunted him when we last spoke in September, the specter of a Shiite corridor running through Mosul from Baghdad to Syria, has been dispelled. When Hertzog tells him the story of the Christians who have confidence only in the KRG, he is terse: “It will be up to them to decide and up to the international community to assume its responsibilities — or not.” The truth, which I learned a few hours later from his chief advisor, is that the president spent the hours of the battle for Fazlia in communication with the American ambassador in Iraq, demanding air support for his troops. The reason for his dark mood during our interview is that he felt abandoned by his allies — and almost ready to accept that he has fulfilled his part of the bargain and that, for him, the war is over.


Why didn’t the promised air support arrive? Why did no aircraft take off from the bases in Irbil or Qayyarah? Why, when an Apache helicopter had, at that same moment, come to the rescue of a mortally wounded American soldier nearby, was another not found to aid the trapped Peshmerga fighters? Some in Washington, London, and Paris will pin the tragic failure on the chain of command. Others will point to the change in itinerary, when the column realised that the road was mined and had to find another route. But here in Irbil the popular explanation is less forgiving. We are the best, the Kurds say. We were moving rapidly from one victory to another, while the Iraqi army couldn’t even hold two of the villages it had just captured. But our western allies were listening selectively. They wanted success to be equally apportioned among all parties: Kurds, the majority Shiite Iraqi army, and the Sunni militiamen designed to reassure the people of Mosul. Is it true that the West sought to create such a balance? Was this what lay behind the distribution of roles testily negotiated with, in particular, Baghdad and its Iranian backers? Does America’s commitment to the conflict hinge on an unspoken understanding not to let the Peshmerga move too fast or gain an advantage that would cost too much later on — the price being the independence of Kurdistan and a resulting “destabilisation” of Iraq and the region? Many Kurdish officials believe so. As, indeed, do I. And if that is true, it would not necessarily have been a bad thing from the allies perspective for our column to have been rubbed out in Fazliya. 


This explanation may seem too simplistic to some. And I am sure that western governments would deny it if asked. But I do remember one of Barack Obama’s predecessors, President George HW Bush, in 1995 sending the late Richard Holbrooke to warn President Izetbegovic of Bosnia that he would cease to benefit from American air cover if he persisted in his intemperate goal of entering Banja Luka — the scene of much of the systematic ethnic cleaning that occurred during the war — which was then under Serbian control. And we all remember the trouble that a certain General de Gaulle had in obtaining from another American president, Franklin D Roosevelt, the right to have a Free French division enter insurgent Paris in August 1944 as part of the allied force liberating France. Such an explanation may not be too absurd to ascribe to allied powers locked into their old sovereign schemas — ready to please one newly rehabilitated power (Iran) and preserve another pseudo-nation (Iraq). It also serves their aim of avoiding becoming overly indebted to the Kurdish people who have for a century played the fall guy in western schemes, and would not shrink from claiming their fair share of the fruits of victory. If such were the nature of the powers’ great game here, if one were to persist in asking the Peshmerga to open the doors to Mosul but not to enter it, then the moral defeat of IS would be much less certain than it now appears.

Bernard-Henri Lévy’s documentary, Peshmerga, was an Official Selection at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival

Translated by Steven B. Kennedy


Renzi struggles to attract Italy’s youth vote

From Europe News. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Social-media friendly premier ‘alien’ to younger generations

The Battle for North Carolina

By Vann R. Newkirk II from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

In 1901, America was ascendant. Its victory over Spain, the reunification of North and South, and the closing of the frontier announced the American century. Americans awaited the inauguration of the 57th Congress, the first elected in the 20th century. All the incoming members of Congress, like those they replaced, were white men, save one.

Representative George Henry White did not climb the steps of Capitol Hill on the morning of January 29 to share in triumph. The last black congressman elected before the era of Jim Crow, White, a Republican, took the House floor in defeat. He had lost his North Carolina home district after a state constitutional amendment disenfranchised black voters—most of his constituents. That law marked the end of black political power in North Carolina for nearly a century.

“This, Mr. Chairman, is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress,” he declared, “but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up someday and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised, and bleeding, but God-fearing people, faithful, industrious, loyal people—rising people, full of potential force.”

George Henry White (Wikimedia)       

White rose to eulogize what the country had sacrificed for its newfound prosperity. “I am pleading for the life, the liberty, the future happiness, and manhood suffrage for one-eighth of the population of the United States,” he told the House. His pleas fell on deaf ears.

Over the next century and a half, White’s home state would see constant skirmishes over the same racial and political issues. While White admitted temporary defeat, the battle for North Carolina is still raging today.

In 2016, bitter and unyielding contests have placed the state at the center of national debates about race, civil rights, violence, and elections. In the span of a year, an anti-transgender bathroom bill sparked rallies and a fierce debate over civil rights, flames licked the streets of a resegregated Charlotte during protests over a police shooting, a local GOP office was firebombed, and a collection of new laws have been enacted—and promptly challenged in court. But the most contentious and sustained rift has been in the arena of voting rights, and it is there where White’s words resound most loudly.

I pulled into one of the staging grounds of that battle in late August and watched as a stream of activists walked inside from the heat of a summer evening.

Sitting just outside of North Carolina State University’s sprawling campus in Raleigh, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church is wholly unlike the hidebound southern Baptist churches I grew up with in rural North Carolina. Inserts in the hymnals boasted of the church’s commitment to racial, sexual, and gender inclusivity and advertised a training for sensitivity to transgender and gender non-conforming folks. Scattered through the rows of the church sat an eclectic crowd of old-school civil-rights movement leaders, Latino college students, white clergymen, LGBTQ activists, state NAACP organizers, and first-timers who drove from the woods down state highways in pickup trucks.

After a round of call-and-response chants, North Carolina NAACP president Reverend William J. Barber II took the pulpit to applause. With a seasoned preacher’s pace, Barber launched into the kind of hybrid of political speech and sermon that marks pastors-turned-activists. “The 14th Amendment says every person has a right to equal protection under the law,” he told the crowd.  “When you engage in intentional voter discrimination, you are robbing people of their equal protection under the law.” His words were both a benediction and a battle cry.

Barber delights in connecting the dots between the country’s past and the present. He has proclaimed this moment a “Third Reconstruction,” and dubbed his protests Moral Mondays. Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but its own limitations, and the backlash it sparked, led directly to the voting-rights problems facing North Carolina today.

Even after 1965, North Carolina still struggled mightily with racial equality at the ballot. Thirty-six percent of all eligible black adults were registered to vote in North Carolina in 1963, and while that number jumped to 50 percent after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, it stalled there. Literacy tests remained active in the state until changes were made to the VRA in 1975. By 1980, the proportion of registered black voters had barely inched up to 52 percent. Adjustments made in 1982, including a new legal test for discrimination based on the effect of changes rather their intent, restored some momentum. By 1990, 63 percent of eligible black voters were registered, but the wide racial disparity in turnout still persisted in North Carolina through to the new millennium.

Why didn’t—or couldn’t—more black people vote once extended the franchise? One reason is that all the structural barriers to voting hadn’t been eliminated. Research indicates that polling places in minority neighborhoods tend to be less common, understaffed, and underfunded relative to those in white neighborhoods, making longer lines in minority areas much more likely. The latent difficulty of registering to vote in under-resourced areas compounds with some other obstacles for minority voters—lower wages, higher unemployment, more rigid work schedules, and large racial disparities in car ownership—to depress turnout even in the absence of Jim Crow laws.

One simple way to increase turnout is to make voting easier. And North Carolina began doing just that in 1993, with a bipartisan push to establish early voting as an extension of on-site absentee voting. That was extended to statewide early voting in the 1999 session. The General Assembly also considered “no excuse” absentee voting by mail, pre-registering teenagers, and expanding voter-registration locations. These proposals were intended to increase turnout among Carolinians of all races and party affiliations who struggle to make it to the polls on Election Day.

Economic and social frustrations deeply affected vulnerable people of color in North Carolina. Activists advocated closing the voter turnout and registration gaps as a way to push for greater unemployment benefits and expanded health-insurance coverage. One of those activists was William Barber.

“Moral Mondays came from the ‘Moral Movement’ that started in 2007 when Democrats were in office,” Barber told me. “We came together—14 organizations that grew to 60—declaring that we needed a moral reset in the way in which we looked at public policy. We began have what’s called a ‘People’s Assembly. The first time we gathered more than 5,000 people showed up.”

Barber, center, speaks at a news conference near the scene of a shooting in Raleigh last March. (Gerry Broome / AP)

The Moral Movement coalition was instrumental in the passage of same-day voter registration in 2007. The measure was touted as a common-sense way to help the state’s turnout across all races, but same-day registration provoked stiff Republican opposition. The bill’s sponsor, then-state Representative Deborah Ross, now the Democratic challenger for Republican Richard Burr’s Senate seat, joined with a coalition of liberal groups to pressure the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly and Governor Mike Easley into adopting the provision. The movement had its first voting-rights victory.

North Carolina vaulted from 37th to 11th in presidential election turnout from 2000 to 2012, an increase of 14 percentage points. The elections in 2008 saw historic turnout levels across the state. Black voters outpaced white voters for the first time in the state’s history, and then did so again in 2012.

The one major wildcard in assessing the efficacy of voter laws in those elections was the candidacy of Barack Obama, who had the kind of paradigm-shifting effect on black registration and turnout as emancipation and the Voting Rights Act. According to the state Board of Elections, Warren County, which has one of the highest proportions of black voters in the state, had a turnout rate over 80 percent in 2008.

That infusion of black voters—who mostly vote Democratic—helped to unseat Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, deliver one of North Carolina’s House seats to a Democrat, and give the party the General Assembly, the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Obama himself won North Carolina by a razor-thin margin of just over 14,000 votes.

The causality of 2008 is still unclear: Did the Voting Rights Act and state voting expansions increase black voter turnout enough to hand the state to Democrats, or did Obama’s historic appeal to people of color change the composition of North Carolina’s electorate on its own? Republicans seemed to think both were factors, and the ensuing conservative backlash targeted black and Latino voters as well as Obama.

That backlash included a fundraising and organizing blitz that built the infrastructure for a political counterrevolution. The subsequent midterm election was crucial, not just for the congressional seats themselves, but because the 2010 Census provided an opportunity to redraw both the state legislative and federal congressional district maps.

Through an initiative named “REDMAP,” or the Redistricting Majority Project, Republicans coordinated party efforts across states to create Republican majorities in state legislatures. Operatives for the project poured money into obscure state assembly races in backwoods across the South, overwhelming the traditional analog campaigns of once-safe Blue Dog Democrats and of Republicans it deemed insufficiently conservative. Its efforts were bolstered by the Tea Party wave of voters galvanized by opposition to Obama and his agenda. The result, according to a REDMAP report, was a 700-seat swing across state legislatures nationwide, which it describes as “more success than either party has seen in modern history.”

In North Carolina, spending on state races increased by 20 percent from 2008 to 2010, an investment poured mostly into Republican campaigns. Almost all of the independent money spent on state races in 2010 came from conservative millionaire mega-donor Art Pope, his family, and allied groups, who spread over $2 million across 22 races. Of those 22, Republicans won 18, creating GOP majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction. Only this time, Republicans were focused on restricting the electorate rather than expanding it.

State House Representative David Lewis was one of the Republican leaders responsible for consolidating gains in the General Assembly with the actual drawing of new political districts. During the record-setting heat wave of summer 2011, Lewis and his partner, State Senator Bob Rucho, got to work.

“We set about to draw districts that were fair and legal based on the law,” Lewis said. “We held an unprecedented number of public hearings—36 I believe—before we released maps. We studied the law very thoroughly … we complied with the Voting Rights Act as we understood it, and as it had been interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States.”

The Moral Movement geared up for protests immediately after Rucho and Lewis unveiled the proposed maps, and registered official comments in one of the largest series of feedback sessions the General Assembly has ever had on redistricting.

“They pass a redistricting plan that is not just worse than the rest of the 20th century, they go all the way back to the 19th century,” Barber says. “It’s what we called ‘apartheid redistricting.’ And because they didn’t remove any black districts; they didn’t take away any, then it really couldn’t be stopped by preclearance,” he said, referring to the provision in the Voting Rights Act that placed all voting law changes in certain counties and states under federal supervision.

Under authority created by the Voting Rights Act, both parties had been creating “majority-minority” districts in redistricting plans. On the one hand, these districts often ensured the election of minority representatives en masse for the first time since Reconstruction, and new districts introduced new classes of black and Latino representation in Congress.

But on the other, Republicans across the South soon learned that if enough black voters are packed into just enough majority-minority districts to avoid triggering VRA protections, they could create a slew of mostly-white districts that reliably vote Republican without interference from their black neighbors. In legislative sessions, Lewis argued that he’d actually been mandated by the Voting Rights Act into packing more black voters into hyper-gerrymandered districts, saying they were “drawn with race as a consideration, as is required by the [VRA].”

Key to the legality of majority-minority districts was the “Gingles test,” a set of three preconditions based on a 1986 Supreme Court decision in a gerrymandering lawsuit—which also came out of North Carolina. Those three preconditions in the district are “compactness,” or whether a minority group is a coherent, massed geographic entity; the political cohesion of the minority group in question; and the presence of “racially-polarized voting,” whereby local white voters have been determined to vote in a way that defeats minority-preferred candidates. That last condition is important, because it often signals the difference between packing minority voters in a district as a “shield” to protect them from racist voting, and packing them there as a way to diminish their political influence.

In July 2011, Lewis and Rucho revealed their new congressional map, and the improbable shapes of the resulting majority-minority districts alone made it difficult to imagine that the three most contentious districts might pass the Gingles test. The First Congressional District was a behemoth, connecting a dozen counties and crossing the entire length of the mostly-black portion of the coastal plain, with a single feeler reaching down into Little Washington and New Bern like a creeper vine. The Twelfth Congressional District flowed like a ribbon of a river along a 100-mile stretch roughly coterminous with the I-85 corridor from Charlotte to Greensboro, with tributaries only branching off in search of nearby black neighborhoods. The “Hanging Claw” of the Fourth District was one of the most gerrymandered in the country, and at one point encompassed an area just wide enough to place a basketball court and bleachers. They don’t call it the Tar Heel State for nothing.

North Carolina General Assembly     

Opponents of the law were left with no options, save one. “We had to go to court,” said Barber. And so at the end of 2011, two separate groups of plaintiffs—including the North Carolina NAACP—filed complaints to the state supreme court. After consolidating the two cases, the state court began hearing the trial in July of 2013.

Around the same time, a decision in Washington opened up a new front in the voting-rights fight. In Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that “things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, ‘[v]oter turnout and registration rates’ in covered jurisdictions ‘now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”

While that argument might seem to illustrate the utility of the Voting Rights Act, the Roberts Court used it to nullify Section 4(b). That section outlined the congressional “preclearance” formula for determining Department of Justice oversight of precincts or states with histories of discriminatory voting laws. The Shelby County decision gutted federal oversight over elections rules in areas where it had, arguably, been most effective.

Absent that federal oversight, Republicans in the South seemed bent on proving just why it was necessary in the first place. They passed a slate of new voting laws that likely would have been blocked just days before. North Carolina Republicans led the way. Although less than half of North Carolina’s counties were covered under the original formula, preclearance would have been enough of a legal hurdle to make some proposed bills to eliminate early voting, establish voter ID, and end same-day registration—like the ominously-named 2013 Senate Bill 666—a nightmare to implement.

Lewis, who also took the legislative lead in the General Assembly to establish new voting laws in the immediate aftermath of Shelby County, argues those prototypical bills were not discriminatory, but necessary.

"I can show you Republican bills dating back to 2005 that institute voter ID,” he told me. “And what happened in 2005 is the Carter-Baker commission chaired by former President Carter and Secretary of State Jim Baker issued a report that said 'we need a voter ID to improve election integrity.'" The Carter-Baker report does recommend standardized voter ID requirements and procedures as a way to inspire confidence in elections. It also warns that such requirements “might prove a serious impediment to voting” if not implemented properly or in good faith.

According to Lewis, the goal of the new voting restrictions was not to take advantage of the sudden absence of federal oversight, but “to improve the real and perceived integrity of North Carolina's election system.”

In anticipation of the Shelby County decision, the state House had already heavily revised an older voting bill—House Bill 589—to a form almost identical to Senate Bill 666, including strict voter ID provisions, a reduction of the early-voting period from 17 days to 10, elimination of same-day registration, and an elimination of straight-ticket voting. That week-long reduction came with a “same hours” provision that required counties to provide the same number of aggregate hours during the new 10-day early-voting period as they did during the original 17-day period, but counties could apply to have the requirement waived, and dozens did.

"The law provided for ten days of early voting; ten days is what the majority of states provide,” Lewis told me. "I believe that our plan created more opportunities, more hours, more places, allowed more people to vote than had ever been allowed before.”

The day of the Shelby County decision, State Senator Tom Apodaca announced to local news station WRAL, “Now we can go on with the full bill.” Just four days later, the bill sat in front of McCrory. In less than a week, the Supreme Court and North Carolina had undone most of the election laws developed over decades to help the state move beyond its Jim Crow past.

jim Crow came almost as suddenly to North Carolina, over 125 years before, ending a radical dream of racial progress. At Reconstruction’s height, Congress passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments—known as the Reconstruction Amendments—ending slavery and guaranteeing citizenship and the right to vote for formerly enslaved people.

New black voters in the state, in alliance with white Republicans, changed the balance of power in local, state, and federal politics overnight. The immense turnout from black voters across the South established Republican strongholds like George Henry White’s mighty Black Second that reliably churned out hundreds of black politicians. That district alone was responsible for every black congressperson elected from North Carolina until 1992.

The brief promise of Reconstruction faded throughout the South in 1876, aided by the fury of white paramilitary terrorist groups and their intimidation of black voters, and by the accompanying machinations of white elected officials, designed to consolidate white supremacy through legal and political means. By 1877, conservative Democrat and ex-Confederate “redeemers” like two-time Governor Zebulon Baird Vance regained control of the state and immediately ended the practice of “home rule” in several eastern counties, whereby black voters could elect county officials and ensure political representation regardless of state or federal machinations.

But the Redemption movement in North Carolina still faced serious opposition from interracial coalitions of Republican and Populist “Fusion” voters and officials, and as late as 1898 the dream of black and white cooperation in state politics still endured. North Carolina Fusion leaders implemented protections for black voters in 1894 that pushed turnout to over 80 percent for black voters in 1896. Republicans and Populists swept all but one of the congressional races in the state, but in a desperate play to regain ground in 1898, Democrats fully committed to a racist scorched-earth total war.  

North Carolina’s Second Redemption proved to be much more violent and total than its first. State Democratic Party chairman Furnifold Simmons instituted the “White Supremacy Campaign,” with regular addresses and newspaper editorials appealing to white voters and sowing seeds of fear about “Negro domination,” and white-supremacist screeds about black men raping white women. Crowds of racist paramilitary members called “Red Shirts” staged armed marches in front of the state capital and began a campaign of disenfranchisement through intimidation.

Norman Ethre Jennett, "The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina (Negro Rule),"
The News and Observer, September 27, 1898.

Under its editor Josephus Daniels, the Raleigh News and Observer became a statewide vehicle for full-throated fear-mongering about black men committing rape, and an advocate for the total disenfranchisement of black voters. The week before the 1898 election, the News and Observer published a Simmons warning about “Negro rule,” in which he exhorted white voters across the state:

The battle has been fought, the victory is within our reach. North Carolina is a WHITE MAN’S State, and WHITE MEN will rule it, and they will crush the party of negro domination beneath a majority so overwhelming that no other party will ever again dare to attempt to establish negro rule here.

They CANNOT intimidate us; they CANNOT buy us, and they SHALL NOT cheat us out of the fruits of our victory.

One place that drew Simmons’s particular ire was the port city of Wilmington, then the most populous city in the state and the heart of its Fusion movement. The city was home to the Wilmington Daily Record, one of the few black daily newspapers in the country at the time. In August of 1898, during the statewide fever pitch of racism and a barrage of fear-mongering about black rape and miscegenation, the Daily Record’s editor Alex Manly and his staff published an abrasive column that instead directly blamed white women for initiating sexual contact, saying “women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than are the white men with colored women.”

Simmons’s Democrats whipped themselves into a frenzy over that editorial, and used Manly and Wilmington in general as a chief example of “Negro domination.” Under the local Democratic leader Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, white supremacists organized a secret committee dedicated to violent overthrow if Fusion politicians were to win the local government of Wilmington. Even as Simmons’s white-supremacist campaign won commanding victories for the Democrats at almost every level and district, the Fusion ticket pulled through in Wilmington. Waddell and his mob made good on their promise.

Waddell’s armed faction attacked Wilmington on August 10, initiating a pogrom in which they burned the offices of the Daily Record, killed as many as 30 black people, and put an exclamation mark on the temporary end of racial progressivism in the state. The Cape Fear River was reported to have run red with blood, and the event, known as the Wilmington Insurrection, became the only successful coup d’etat on American soil. Waddell forced the newly-elected local government to resign at gunpoint, and reigned as mayor until 1905.

Armed rioters in front of the burned-down Daily Record press building.
Wilmington, North Carolina, race riot, November 26, 1898. (Wikimedia)

Encouraged by the victories across the state and the complete absence of a federal or state response to the coup in Wilmington, Simmons and his party began the next phase of establishing white supremacy in the state. Their 1900 suffrage amendment to the state constitution established poll taxes, literacy tests, and an informal state of negro disenfranchisement. And in 1901, White delivered his “temporary farewell,” ushering in 70 years of white rule.

Rosanell Eaton grew up in that dark age. Her home on a country road outside of Louisburg, North Carolina is filled with the artifacts from the fight for civil rights. Clippings of old newspapers lauding her work on voting rights mingle with photographs of civil-rights pioneers and commendations stamped with President Obama’s seal. From a stately yellow armchair in the corner of her room, she regales visitors who sit on her plastic-covered couches with tales of voter-registration drives for black folks back when people like her were still lynched for voting. Very few—if any—living African Americans in North Carolina have fought for voting rights for as long as Eaton.

Born in rural Franklin County in April 1921, Eaton is the granddaughter of people who were once enslaved, and her birth came just two decades after Waddell’s coup and Simmons’s constitution. Black people in Franklin County just didn’t vote or try to vote much back then, and Eaton became motivated when she learned that it had not always been so. “You didn’t hear much about voting in school, and I was interested in the history,” she told me. “So I asked my ma one day about taking me to Louisburg to see about voting.”

One morning in 1942, after Eaton’s 21st birthday, she climbed on the family’s mule-drawn wagon with her mother and brother and traveled the eight miles to the Louisburg courthouse. The three white men there were nonplussed.

“They asked me what was I there for,” Eaton says. “And I told them that I came down to see about getting registered.”

In order to even prove herself eligible to vote, Eaton recalled, she had to put her hands by her side, stare straight ahead, and recite the Preamble to the Constitution, verbatim. Whether those three administrators were aware of the staggering irony of their demand or not, she stood straight, stared at a spot behind them on the wall, and aced the recitation, word for word. Apparently, so few black people had even been bold—or foolhardy—enough to even take the test that the registrars had no thought of intimidation beyond that point. “You did a mighty good job,” one man told Eaton. “Well, I reckon I have to have you to sign these papers.’”

While the early stirrings of the civil-rights movement—often referred to as the Second Reconstruction—began in churches, bus depots, and lunch counters across the South, Eaton soon developed a reputation as an activist in her own right in her corner of the backwoods of Franklin County. Early on, she was given permission to register other people, and eventually led a small black voter outreach team across the county and state.

Despite the draconian literacy tests and intimidation that kept most black voters away from the polls in the state for almost 30 years after her own registration, Eaton used the mounting social momentum of the era as motivation. Her work eventually intersected with the paths of better-known activists and movements in the 60s in Selma and Washington, D.C. Juggling life as a teacher and mother, she saved extra money and scrounged to take cross-state and cross-country trips to spread the gospel of the ballot. Eaton says that she has probably registered close to 10,000 voters, and has voted in every election since her registration.

That record was put in peril with the passage of HB 589, which invalidated her existing identification because of a discrepancy between her voter registration and her driver’s license. For a then-92-year-old woman, the task of traveling hundreds of miles from her home to almost a dozen agencies and banks to reconcile her license and registration bordered on Sisyphean.

As a longtime voting activist and teacher, Eaton possessed the knowledge necessary to navigate the process of re-registering. But she knew that if it was burdensome for her, then it could prove impossibly daunting to many others, including rural voters of color like her, in the same way it did during Jim Crow. “It was maybe harder for me to get to vote after the law than it was all the way back then,” Eaton says.

Rosanell Eaton (Vann R. Newkirk II / The Atlantic)

After an appeal through the district court, Eaton and the team of advocates and plaintiffs won the ruling that they hoped for. In July 2016, the Fourth Circuit court found that the sweeping provisions of HB 589 not only possessed clear discriminatory impacts, but that they “were enacted with racially discriminatory intent.” The ruling found that state legislators requested racial data on early voting, out-of-precinct voting, voter ID, same-day registration, and provisional voting.

In essence, the Court determined that Republican lawmakers had identified every voting provision that motivated high voter turnout among black voters, and then eliminated them, targeting black people with “almost surgical precision.” The court also found that the speed of the General Assembly’s post-Shelby County maneuvering betrayed its true intentions. “Indeed, neither this legislature—nor, as far as we can tell, any other legislature in the Country—has ever done so much, so fast, to restrict access to the franchise,” the opinion states.

Lewis was emphatic in denying the Fourth Circuit’s claim of discriminatory intent. “There's no way in the world I would do anything that I felt denied folks the opportunity to vote, but at the same time I didn't want folks voting more than once because that cheapens the vote,” Lewis said. He stands by that rationale,  despite a State Board of Elections report presented to him in 2013 that found only two total allegations of in-person voter fraud in the entire state from 2000 to 2010.

Republicans faced another setback later that year, when a district-court ruling struck down Lewis’s and Rucho’s redistricting plan. The court found that Lewis’s map-drawing expert Thomas Hofeller had not even considered the “racially-polarized voting” component of the Gingles test in the creation of that river-like First District, and that black and white voters had actually worked together in electing minority candidates before the redistricting.

Between the Supreme Court’s refusal to review the Fourth Circuit’s decision on HB 589 and the district court’s decision on the new state district maps, the winds seemed to shift against Republican maneuvering on voting rights. But for the North Carolina GOP, there was one last gambit.

In an August letter to county boards of elections—an unusual and controversial direct appeal—state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse urged partisan board members that “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Lewis argued that Republican reform efforts, including HB 589, were actually intended to make voting more accessible--and had included a provision to ensure that the overall number of voting hours could not be reduced. But with that bill struck down, Woodhouse urged Republican officials to do exactly that.  His letter urged limiting hours during the 17 days mandated for early voting, reducing the number of early voting sites, and eliminating strategically convenient sites on college campuses, in minority neighborhoods, or near churches. Lewis and Rucho released a subsequent letter urging boards of elections to not limit hours or polling places during the early voting period.

After HB 589 was struck down, county election officials scrambled to submit new polling plans in time for the fall elections. Republicans pushed for restrictions that fell in line with Woodhouse’s recommendations, including restricting polling places during the additional week of early voting reinstated when the court struck down the voting restrictions, igniting opposition from their Democratic colleagues.  

Democrats on several county boards took their appeals to the State Board of Elections, with the hope that it would either accept their alternative plans to extend the full complement of early voting polling places across all 17 days or offer a compromise.

That body, despite a Republican majority, ruled on September 8 to add more early voting locations and hours in many of the counties with appeals. It ruled to adopt an alternative plan to include eight polling places across populous Wake County—including on the college campus and in the community center in the black neighborhood—during the additional week.

Aside from the handful of counties that changed early voting regulations and did not appeal, it looked like Republican efforts to roll back the turnout-increasing voting laws across the state had met a dead-end for this election cycle.

While the Moral Movement and voting-rights activists won victories in the courts, the final outcome of voting rights in North Carolina and the century-old battle for its soul is far from settled. In the Supreme Court’s 4-4 stalemate on McCrory’s appeal and request to stay the lower court’s injunction of HB 589, each of the conservative justices indicated that they would have granted the stay.

The future success of any appeal by the state will depend on the high court, and there is always the possibility that state legislators could find new avenues for rolling back turnout. Without federal preclearance, in 2018, 2020, and beyond, county boards of election are still vulnerable to the kind of coordinated partisan challenges that the state GOP offices attempted with their “party line” letter.

The issues surrounding the 2016 elections in North Carolina are fundamentally similar to the issues that framed the explosive politics of the Wilmington Insurrection and Rosanell Eaton’s time in the civil-rights movement, and the same probably holds nationwide. Instead of local firebrands like Furnifold Simmons, Donald Trump is the main force weaponizing white rage and grievance across the country, and his constant invocations of black and Latino criminality plot a course eerily similar to Simmons’s invectives about “Negro rule” and rape.

Calls to “Make America Great Again” echo the Redeemers’ apocalyptic charges, and politicians across the country have become infected with its rhetoric. Some, like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, seem to have channeled Redeemers directly. “It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood is needed to redeem something,” he said in a speech in Washington, “to reclaim something that we, through our apathy and our indifference, have given away.”

It is possible this turn of the wheel is different, and the ghosts of Jim Crow really no longer haunt society or the fight over voting rights. Republicans in the state can point to their results over the past decade—a state that has increasingly turned red even as its demographics seem to shift blue—as proof that their goal is simply to win, and not to disenfranchise on the basis of race.

That’s certainly the view of Carter Wrenn, a legendary Carolinian conservative strategist, commentator, and former aide to Senator Helms. "African American voters, going back to the 60s, voted overwhelmingly Democratic,” he told me. “So, if you try to skew the voter laws against Democrats, African Americans are gonna suffer or they're gonna experience the skew disproportionately, because they vote heavily Democratic. … I don't think Republicans sat down and said 'our goal is to make it harder for African Americans to vote for racial reasons.' I think they said 'this will make it harder for Democrats to vote.' And that included African Americans naturally.”

Wrenn did not have answers for the questions that seem to spring naturally from his own explanation: Why do Republicans today seem to need to contract the electorate as much as possible to win, why does that contraction almost necessarily fall on lines of race, and can its necessity be separated from larger social friction about the loss of white electoral and social power?

If anything, history suggests that race and racism are perhaps the real answers here; not simple ancillaries to political maneuvering, but its first considerations. The concepts are inseparable, and disenfranchisement of black voters has been central to the duel between Republicans and Democrats since Emancipation.  

The voting laws under which North Carolina operated for the vast majority of its history were dictated by white supremacy. That black voters historically turn out less than white voters is directly connected to the century-long campaign to disenfranchise them. That black voters overwhelmingly back Democrats is inseparable from the two parties’ emphatic reversal 65 years later on voting rights. That they turned out heavily for Barack Obama in 2008 must be considered within the context of a half-century drought of black political representation between the two Reconstructions.

Barber believes that this nationwide battle over voting rights, and the reawakening of fear and white rage across the country, are direct descendants of those moments. If Barber is right, history is mixed on the long-term prospects for racial progress, and civil-rights gains may be more precarious than they seem.

“I believe we’re in the adolescent stages of a Third Reconstruction,” he told me. “People are beginning to wake up in some ways and beginning to see that something is at stake when it comes to the very heart and soul of America.”

Even if he’s right, though, it’s not clear whether it will prove more durable than its predecessors.

Charlemagne: If the EU cannot do trade, what can it do?

By from European Union. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Print section Print Rubric:  If the European Union can’t do trade, what can it do? Print Headline:  The age of vetocracy Print Fly Title:  Charlemagne UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Charlemagne Main image:  20161029_EUD000_0.jpg IN HAPPIER days for the European Union the arcana of international trade policy were a matter for harmless eccentrics, while the intricacies of Belgium’s constitutional arrangements were reserved strictly for masochists. Not in today’s Europe, where crises strike in the most unexpected places. Behold the fiasco of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. Last-minute stonewalling by the Socialist-led parliament of Wallonia, the French-speaking bit of Belgium, meant that Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, had to hold off visiting Brussels for a summit on October ...

Growth figures are good, but there are choppy waters ahead

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The Bank of England is worried about European banks.

The growth figures are out, and they give us some idea of what the immediate impact of the Brexit vote has been. Growth is down 0.2 per cent to 0.5 per cent in the quarter following the leave vote. Not great news but better than the expected 0.3 per cent rate. Britain’s chief statistician, John Grice, says there is little evidence of a Brexit shock on these figures.

But there are choppier waters ahead. Mark Garnier said publicly in an interview with the World at One yesterday what many in the City have been saying privately for sometime: that the passporting rights of British banks are unlikely to make it into the final Brexit deal.

Garnier, who used to work as a fund manager before becoming an MP, is well-liked in the City, and, like Philip Hammond, is one of the Remainers who hasn’t quite turned his sword into a ploughshare, warned that the row over the price of Marmite is the sign of things to come.

But there are storm clouds on the British and European economy that have nothing to do with the Brexit vote. Officials at the Bank of England are asking big British lenders what their exposure to Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Italy’s Monte dei Paschi, both of which are the subject of investor worries about their balance sheets.

Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest operating bank, has long been a source of concern. (One argument near the top of government for triggering Article 50 sooner rather than later has been avoiding sucking the United Kingdom into a bailout deal  for Monte dei Paschi).

In some ways, that the European banks are not looking in rude health increases British leverage in exit talks, at least as far as services are concerned. But – and it’s a big but – if the end result is that banks face further increases in their credit requirements, it will reduce still further the willingness of banks to domicile in both London and within the EU after Brexit, as the costs will only increase.

But if a better deal for British banks comes at the expense of another financial crisis, that will come as thin comfort indeed.

This appeared in today's Morning Call, your essential email briefing to what's going on in politics. Subscribe for free here.

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Be a glitch in our benefits system, and the punishment is to starve

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Faceless bureaucrats are tipping claimants into hunger. 

So it’s official. If anyone still doubted that benefit sanctions are linked to food bank usage, a study by the University of Oxford and the Trussell Trust has found “a strong, dynamic relationship exists” between the number of sanctions in local authorities, and the number of adults receiving emergency food parcels.

The research examined the impact of tougher sanctions imposed by the Coalition government in 2012. For every extra 10 sanctions per 100,000 claimants, there were five more adults needing food. By contrast, when sanctions declined by 10, there were roughly 2 fewer instances of adults needing food. 

The study questioned whether a system that creates food poverty is “a fair penalty” for those who intentionally or inadvertently break the rules surrounding benefits payments.

Indeed, benefits sanctions can often, on appeal, seem brutal. Take the man who missed his Jobcentre appointment because he was in hospital after being hit by a car, or the woman who received her letter a day after the proposed meeting was scheduled. 

But what the study doesn’t chart is the number of people plunged into food poverty simply because of a bureaucratic mistake. A 2014 report by MPs, Feeding Britain, noted benefit-related “problems” was the single biggest reason given for food bank referrals. 

It found that many of these problems were avoidable: 

“We heard that one such problem arose as a result of Jobcentre Plus staff having to rely on two different computer systems, each on different screens, in order to calculate and process a claim, if more than one benefit was involved. This was likely to delay the processing of a benefit claim.”

In other words, the system we pay for with our taxes is failing us when we need it.

Claimants often find themselves at the bottom of an unaccountable power structure. Gill McCormack, who is the manager at the Glasgow North West food bank, has a son with Down’s Syndrome and brain damage, and lost her husband at just 21.

As an unusually young widow, she repeatedly has had to show benefits officials her husband’s death certificate, and fight for her son’s Disability Living Allowance. At one point, her benefits were stopped, and she lived on bags of frozen peas.

She told a fringe event at the SNP conference: “The amount of times I have been back and forth with this system – the only way I can describe it is as a ping pong table.”

If administration errors can leave people this hungry – and when I was a journalist at The Mirror I heard from readers about dozens of similar cases – we are heading for a world where large gaps in support are institutionalised.

Universal Credit, the new benefits system being rolled out across the country, only kicks in after six weeks. Claimants can apply for an advance. But if this is not properly communicated, six weeks is long enough to starve. 

As the study acknowledges, modern food poverty does not just exist in food banks, which are a very specific type of lifeline. The Facebook group Feed Yourself For £1 a Day has nearly 70,000 members. Some are simply frugal mums or house proud retirees. But many of those who post are desperate.

One reason is illness. A single mum, recently wrote that the group was a “lifeline” when she was coping with breast cancer: “I have never been so poor.” Another wrote back that after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she lost her home and her job, and was forced to spend 10 days living in her car.

Others are simply women going back to work, who lose their benefits and have to wait for wages. A mother in five wrote in asking for cheap meal ideas as “I’ve got £50 a week to live off as starting work”. 

So what is the answer to this kind of hidden hunger? The government is still consulting on a “Help to Save” scheme, that will provide more incentives for low-paid workers to create a rainy day fund. Groups such as Feed Yourself for £1 a Day should be encouraged, because they are valued by their members and teach families how to eat healthily for less. But shifting responsibility to those on the breadline only works so far. After all, you cannot easily save if you are an unpaid carer. You cannot cook from scratch if your gas meter has run out. And you can't keep to a budget if food prices, as predicted, start to rise.

The latest research into food banks should reignite the debate about sanctions. But it should also raise wider questions about those who administrate and enforce our taxpayer-funded welfare state, and how, in the 21st century, faceless officials can tip unfortunate people into something close to famine. 

Not recently, many commentators found it hard to believe the plotline of Ken Loach’s latest film, in which a man is denied disability benefits because of a computer glitch. Perhaps they're not to blame - after all, since Jobcentres are removing the free phones that would allow claimants to kick up a fuss, many are effectively silenced. But so long as the food banks stay open, there is more listening to be done. 


Why Won't Hillary Clinton Defend Trade Deals?

By Ronald Brownstein from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

When Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton talk about trade they each appear to envision the same target audience: a 50-year-old auto worker in Michigan or Ohio hoping his job will last until retirement.

That crimped construct leaves no room for the very different perspective of someone like architect Charles Kelley in Portland, Oregon. Kelley is a principal with the global firm ZGF Architects, which has built a big business consulting with cities worldwide to help them grow in a more environmentally sustainable manner. Kelley works with about a dozen cities across six countries, with a special concentration in Asia. “Portland,” Kelley said, “has become responsible for setting the frame for how China will look at urbanism for the next 50 years.”

ZGF is just one member of “We Build Green Cities,” a loose consortium of Portland-based engineering, architectural, and environmental science firms that consult with cities around the world to develop sustainable communities through everything from promoting renewable energy to opening bike lanes. And “We Build Green Cities” is just one element of a vibrant Oregon export culture that ranges from local technology start-ups, to global behemoths like Nike, to a bustling international port—not to mention the lawyers and other professionals who service all of the above. “When I started, only a relatively small slice of our clients sold to the world,” said Wally Van Valkenburg, a managing partner at Stoel Rives, a leading Oregon law firm. “Now … I can’t imagine what the region would be like if we didn’t have the level of trade we have [today].”

The interests of places like Portland that view greater global economic integration as an opportunity, not a threat, have been almost completely eclipsed this year. Threatening tariffs and walls, Donald Trump insists that trade and immigration are undermining wages and devouring jobs (while also presenting migration from Mexico and the Middle East as a security threat). Clinton has defended immigration, but effectively surrendered to Trump on trade. Clinton has not only renounced her conditional early support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Obama negotiated with 11 Asian nations, but has also refused to defend the North American Free Trade Agreement that her husband Bill Clinton signed—an agreement Trump routinely calls “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.”

From both a political and policy perspective, Clinton’s trade surrender makes little sense. Trade has prompted many of her worst moments across the three debates. While Trump has never appeared more confident than when he’s denouncing TPP or NAFTA, Clinton has been tongue-tied. Unwilling to make the persuasive alternative case for expanding trade, she has been reduced to limply suggesting that it doesn’t cause as many problems as Trump says. Not exactly a rallying cry.

Clinton’s suspicion of trade isn’t just a tactical maneuver: Veterans of the Bill Clinton administration say that internally she was always dubious about pursuing NAFTA. But her resistance to expanded trade reflects outdated assumptions about the Democratic coalition. As recently as 2004, Democratic and Republican voters were almost exactly as likely to view globalization as good for America overall, and international trade specifically as beneficial for the U.S. economy, consumers and their own living standards, according to annual surveys by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

But the latest Chicago Council survey, released last month, shows that Democratic partisans are now much more likely than Republicans to view globalization and trade as a positive force on all those fronts. (Over two-thirds of Democrats now say trade benefits both the overall U.S. economy and their own living standards.) That reflects the movement of blue-collar whites largely skeptical of trade into the GOP, and their replacement in the Democratic coalition by minorities, Millennials, and college-educated whites, who are all more welcoming of it. (Millennials, on pace to become the electorate’s largest generation by 2020, are also the most open to the world, expressing more support than their elders in the Chicago Council survey for both trade and immigration.)

With Trump centering his campaign on mobilizing working-class whites, Clinton may rely even more than previous Democratic nominees on these pro-trade groups—even as she further sublimates their views. Similarly, given Trump’s strength in small-town America, in all of the big swing states, Clinton will be depending on big margins in metropolitan areas where trade is generally prized; virtually all big-city Democratic mayors have backed the Asian trade deal.

In the Chicago Council survey, voters from all parties worry that trade can eliminate domestic jobs. That concern can be overstated: Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, notes that NAFTA has likely saved many U.S. jobs that might otherwise have migrated elsewhere. The reason: It’s encouraged an integrated North American supply chain that allows American firms to produce autos and other products at less cost overall by shifting some manufacturing to Mexico. That preserves related jobs in the U.S. “If you are able to produce parts of your finished product in Mexico and lower your cost, you can increase your share of the market,” Wood said. “[Then] you have created more opportunity for that company at multiple levels-in manufacturing, design, marketing.”

Wood acknowledges that U.S. manufacturing workers who lose jobs in this exchange often are not equipped to compete for the new positions that the integration process creates. That creates an undeniable need for fresh thinking on how to connect those displaced workers with the economy’s new opportunities. But that necessity hardly justifies abandoning the growing global prospects lifting cities like Portland. When it comes to America’s hurtling demographic change, Clinton recognizes that the right question isn’t whether to accept it—since it can’t be reversed—but how to make it work. If she wins, she’ll eventually need to acknowledge the same about economic globalization.

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Have voters turned against globalisation? It depends how you describe it

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

Brits are more positive about diversity than Sweden. 

New research shows that citizens across Europe are pessimistic about the future, distrustful of government and other political institutions, ambivalent at best about multiculturalism, and increasingly sceptical about the role of the European Union.

We wanted to understand the extent to which Europe’s citizens favour a "closed" rather than an "open" outlook and perspective on politics, economics and society. Making globalisation work for ordinary people in the developed world is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. Globalisation’s popularity and political viability is both a pre-condition and a consequence of making it work, but mainstream politicians seem to be failing to persuade us to embrace it, to the detriment of democratic institutions and norms, as well as their own careers.

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union has been perceived as yet another step back from globalisation and a rejection of an "open" outlook that favours international co-operation in favour of a more closed, inward-looking national debate.

There’s certainly a strong element of truth in this explanation. The referendum campaign was deeply divisive, with the Leave campaign playing heavily on concerns over immigration, refugees and EU enlargement. As a consequence, the "liberal" Leavers – those who wanted to leave but favoured a continuing a close economic relationship with the EU along with free movement of labour – appear to have been side-lined within the Conservative party.

Our results are by no means uplifting, but it’s not all doom and gloom. While there’s no doubt that opposition to certain features and consequences of globalisation played an important role in driving the Leave vote, Brits as a whole are just as open, outward-looking and liberal-minded, if not more so, than many of our European neighbours.

First, we asked respondents in all six countries the following:

“Over recent decades the world has become more interconnected. There is greater free trade between countries and easier communication across the globe. Money, people, cultures, jobs and industries all move more easily between countries

“Generally speaking, do you think this has had a positive or negative effect?”

Respondents were asked to consider the effects at four levels: Europe as a whole, their country, their local area, and their own life.

Overall, British voters are overwhelmingly positive about globalisation when described in this way - 58 per cent think it has benefited Europe and 59 per cent think it has benefited Britain. More than half (52 per cent) think it has benefited their local area, and 55 per cent think it has benefited their own life.

One might respond that this question skates over questions of immigration and multiculturalism somewhat, which are the most controversial features of globalisation in the UK. Therefore, we asked whether respondents thought that society becoming more ethnically and religiously diverse had changed it for the better or for the worse.

Overall, 41 per cent said that ethnic and religious diversity had changed British society for the better, while 32 per cent said it had changed for the worse. That’s a net response of +9, compared to -25 in France, -13 in Germany, and -17 in Poland. Brits are even more positive about ethnic and religious diversity than Sweden (+7) – only Spanish respondents were more positive (+27).

There’s a long way to go before ordinary people across the developed world embrace globalisation and international cooperation. Despite the apparent setback of Brexit, the UK is well-placed politically to take full advantage of the opportunities our increasingly inter-connected world will present us with. It would be a mistake to assume, in the wake of the referendum, that the British public want to turn inwards, to close themselves off from the rest of the world. We’re an open, tolerant and outward-looking society, and we should make the most of it.

Charlie Cadywould is a Researcher in the Citizenship Programme at the cross-party think tank Demos. His writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as the national media.


A Digital Archive Documents Two Decades of Torture by Chicago Police

By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The Chicago Police Department seems to be continuously embroiled these days in multiple, high-profile investigations of fatal incidents, corruption scandals, and mishandling of critical equipment. Now, the CPD will have to contend with an online, 10,000-document-strong archive of an even more troubling time in its history: the notorious two decades in which officers performed torture.  

The Chicago Torture Archive will open this month at the University of Chicago. The massive collection comes from efforts by the People’s Law Office, a civil-rights organization, to gather interrogations, criminal-trial files, civil-litigation documents, works of journalism, and records of activism spurred by the CPD torture cases documented between 1972 and 1991.

Briefly stated, over 100 black men were tortured by officers in order to force confessions, drive them to incriminate co-defendants, or to intimidate possible witnesses to police brutality. One of them was Philip Adkins, whose testimony about the hours that followed a 5 a.m. knock on his door is representative of some of the atrocities men like him endured at the hands of police officers. During the space of four to five hours, three detectives picked up, handcuffed, and detained Adkins without officially arresting him, reading him his Miranda rights, or allowing him to contact family or counsel.

The physical violence began when “without warning one of them slugged” him while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. The three detectives then drove around parts of Chicago with him in the car, including during a stop at McDonald’s, and interrogated him about suspected criminal activity from the night before. Finding his answers unsatisfactory, one of the detectives started poking him “with great force” in the groin area with a flashlight. As they continued to drive around, two detectives took turns delivering blows to his private parts, knees, elbows, and ribs. The official court transcript of his testimony includes the following exchange:

Q: “So they beat you until you urinated on yourself and defecated on yourself?”

A: “Yes.”

The timing of the archives’ launch aligns well with restorative actions recently undertaken in Chicago. In 2015, some of the cases saw a kind of formal closure with the passing of the Reparations for Burge Torture Victims ordinance by the Chicago City Council; the name refers to Police Commander Jon Burge, who was at the CPD’s helm when acts of torture were carried out. The ordinance’s passage also concluded some 30 years of advocacy on the part of survivors, their descendants, and supporters to have the torture cases formally acknowledged by the city.

Susan Gzesh, the archive’s director, said that around the same time, “an entirely energized movement led by young people” emerged in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and groups like Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, and local coalitions gained prominence. She thinks the advocacy around the Chicago cases can inform other young activists. “The lessons of the long march to justice on these Chicago police torture cases needs to be available to a new generation of advocates and activists to learn from the lessons and mistakes of earlier movements,” Gzesh said. “To bring something out as an archive, a set of cases that were going on for the last 30 years really makes sense right now.”

All the materials and documents posted online so far are drawn from court records and defense files provided by attorneys who represented the victims. Once the full collection is online—the materials currently available don’t represent the whole set—the public will have a comprehensive resource it can use to study the cases. But that kind of full disclosure comes with hiccups. Gzesh, for one, cannot confirm that victims and their families were made aware of the archive’s existence. “Their lawyers gave us the materials. I would assume that they have informed their clients that they are putting this stuff up,” Gzesh said.

And as far as possible privacy concerns regarding the disclosure of information—such as Social Security numbers, home addresses, and names of family members—she said: “We have to go back over that.” It appears that in curating and digitizing the thousands of files, there was some oversight in checking for such revelatory details. “That was not intentional,” Gzesh said. At the time of this writing, the archive’s homepage included this message:

Please note: We are currently in the process of collecting and reviewing documents for this archive. Please check back frequently, as we will be adding documents as they are reviewed.

Academics, researchers, historians, and many others will find the trove of information essential to understanding this gruesome chapter in CDP and Chicago history. But it’s also possible that police brass will see important lessons to draw from as it prepares to mend relationships with residents, increase transparency and accountability, and wipe away a blemish that has marred its reputation for too long.

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After a year of division, a new centre is emerging in Labour

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds show how factionalism is being transcended. 

On 26 September, Clive Lewis sat onstage at Labour’s conference in Liverpool and puffed out his cheeks in exasperation. He had just been informed that a line in his speech as shadow defence secretary committing the party to Trident renewal had been removed by Jeremy Corbyn’s office. Such was his annoyance that he was said to have later punched a wall in anger ("I punched no walls," he told me when we recently met). 

For Lewis, however, the feud proved to be a blessing. Hitherto hostile MPs hailed his pragmatism and deference to party unity (he is a long-standing opponent of Trident renewal). The former soldier also affirmed Labour’s support for Nato and for collective self-defence. “The values that underpin Nato are social-democratic values: liberty, democracy, freedom of expression,” Lewis, an early Corbyn ally, told me. “Let’s not forget, it was Clement Attlee and the New Deal Democrats who initiated and set up Nato. It’s about being in it to win it. It’s about winning the arguments inside Nato and making sure that it’s a force for good. Some people would say that’s impossible. I say you’ve got to be in it to be able to make those changes.”

In October, Lewis was replaced as shadow defence secretary by Nia Griffith and became shadow business secretary. Many regarded the appointment as a punishment. “Do I think there was an ulterior motive? I’ll never know,” Lewis said. “I’m confident that the reason I was moved – what I was told – is that they wanted me to be able to take on a big portfolio.”

Whatever the truth, Griffith has since said that Labour’s next general election manifesto will include a commitment to Trident renewal and will support multilateral, rather than unilateral, disarmament.

Many MPs had long feared that the divide between them and their leader would prove unbridgeable. Some contemplated standing on bespoke manifestos. Yet with little drama, Corbyn has retreated from a conflict that he could not win. Labour’s conference, at which the largely pro-Trident trade unions hold 50 per cent of the vote on policy and which the leader has vowed to respect, would never have endorsed unilateralism.

“Jeremy Corbyn deserves credit for that,” Lewis said. “Everyone understands that his position hasn’t changed. He still believes in unilateral disarmament . . . But he’s also a democrat, and he’s a pragmatist, despite what people say.”

In policy terms, at least, Labour will contest the next general election as a less divided party than many anticipated. As Corbyn’s team has long emphasised, there is unity around issues such as opposition to spending cuts and support for rail renationalisation. A new centre for Labour, embodied by Lewis, is emerging.

“When I became an MP,” the 45-year-old told me (he was elected in Norwich South in 2015), “to be anti-austerity, to say that cuts don’t work and they’re bad economics, meant you weren’t in touch with reality, and that you had no interest in winning elections. Within the space of 18 months, there’s now a growing consensus that cuts aren’t the way forward and that we need an industrial strategy.”

Theresa May’s support for new grammar schools and “hard Brexit” has given Labour MPs other issues to unite around. After Corbyn’s second landslide leadership victory, many of his opponents have reached the final stage of grief: acceptance. Others, as Lewis noted, are imbued with “an eager enthusiasm to make this work”. Contrary to some predictions, more than half of the 63 frontbenchers who resigned last summer have returned.

An emblematic figure is Jonathan Reynolds. The Liz Kendall supporter, who resigned as shadow transport minister in January 2016, has rejoined the front bench as shadow City minister. Earlier this year, Reynolds backed the introduction of a universal basic income, an idea that is now being explored by John McDonnell’s team (and that Barack Obama has called for “debate” on). In July, Reynolds and Lewis wrote a joint piece in support of proportional representation (PR), warning that without it “a more equal, democratic and sustainable society is less likely”.

Another advocate of PR is Lisa Nandy, the former shadow energy secretary and a friend of Lewis (on 26 October, along with Reynolds, they called for Labour to stand aside in the Richmond by-election to aid the Liberal Democrats). In the view of some, the defining divide in Labour is no longer between left and right but between open and closed. On one side are pluralists such as Lewis, Reynolds and Nandy, while on the other are tribalists such as Ian Lavery (pro-Corbyn) and John Spellar (anti-Corbyn).

The division stretches to the top, with McDonnell in favour and Corbyn opposed. “It’s a work in progress,” Lewis said of his efforts to convert the Labour leader. “There’s a growing movement of MPs who now either support PR or understand the growing necessity for it. They may not be quite there themselves, but they’re moving in that direction.”

At times since Corbyn became leader, the parliamentary party’s divisions have appeared to many to be insurmountable, even as the party in the country has grown and been inspired by Corbyn. Yet a new consensus is being forged in the PLP: anti-austerity, pro-Trident, pro-Nato and, increasingly, committed to political and constitutional reform. If there is any consolation for a becalmed Labour Party, it is that its European counterparts are faring little better. In Spain, France and Germany, an already divided left is further fragmenting.

But Labour is likely to both fight and survive the next general election as a united force. If Lewis can retain his seat in Norwich (he has a potentially vulnerable majority of 7,654), he could one day act as the bridge between the party’s “soft” and “hard” left. After a year of factional skirmishes, the common ground in which Labour’s future will be shaped is emerging.

Getty Images.

If China cannot beat Europe, it will acquire it

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

There is no problem in Chinese companies buying abroad — but Beijing sets up big obstacles at home

The TV stars MPs would love to be

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Labour MPs dream of being Jed Bartlet.

In my latest book, A State of Play, I looked at the changing ways in which Britain’s representative democracy has been fictionalized since the later Victorian period. With the support of the University of Nottingham, we decided to turn the tables and ask MPs about their favourite fictional political characters. The results are intriguing.

All MPs were contacted, but with only 49 responding – that’s a 7.5 per cent return rate – I can’t claim the results are fully representative. At 22 per cent, women figured slightly less than they actually do in the Commons. But the big difference is in party terms: 71 per cent of respondents were Labour MPs – double their share in the Commons – while just 20 per cent were Conservatives, less than half their proportion in the Lower House. Maybe Conservative MPs are busier and have better things to do than answer surveys? Or perhaps they just don’t take political fiction – and possibly culture more generally - as seriously as those on the Opposition benches.

What is not subject to speculation, however, is that Labour MPs have very different tastes to their Conservatives rivals, suggesting they are more optimistic about what politics might achieve. At 22 per cent, the most favourite character chosen by MPs overall was Jed Bartlet, heroic US President in Aaron Sorkin’s romantic TV series The West Wing. Of those MPs who nominated Bartlett, every one was Labour. Of course Barlet is a Democrat and the series - dismissed by critics as The Left Wing – looked favourably on progressive causes. But it seems Labour MPs regard Bartlet as an archetype for more than his politics. As one put it, he is, "the ideal leader: smart, principled and pragmatic" For some, Bartlet stands in stark contrast with their current leader. One respondent wistfully characterised the fictional President as having, "Integrity, learning, wit, electability... If only...".

As MPs mentioned other characters from The West Wing, the series accounted for 29 per cent of all choices. Its nearest rival was the deeply cynical House of Cards, originally a novel written by Conservative peer Michael Dobbs and subsequently adapted for TV in the UK and US. Taken together, Britain’s Francis Urquhart and America’s Frank Underwood account for 18 per cent of choices, and are cross-party favourites. One Labour MP dryly claimed Urquhart – who murders his way to Number 10 due to his obsession with the possession of power - "mirrors most closely my experience of politics".

Unsurprisingly, MPs nominated few women characters - politics remains a largely male world, as does political fiction. Only 14 per cent named a female character, the most popular being Birgitte Nyborg from Denmark’s TV series Borgen. Like The West Wing, the show presents politics as a place of possibility. Not all of those nominating Nyborg were female, although one female MP who did appeared to directly identify with the character, saying: "She rides a bike, has a dysfunctional life and isn't afraid of the bastards."

Perhaps the survey’s greatest surprise was which characters and series turned out to be unpopular. Jim Hacker of Yes Minister only just made it into the Top Five, despite one Conservative MP claiming the series gives a "realistic assessment of how politics really works". Harry Perkins, who led a left-wing Labour government in A Very British Coup received just one nomination – and not from an MP who might be described as a Corbynite. Only two MPs suggested characters from Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, which in the past claimed the likes of Harold MacMillan, Douglas Hurd and John Major as fans. And only one character from The Thick of It was nominated - Nicola Murray the struggling minister. 

The results suggest that MPs turn to political fiction for different reasons. Some claimed they liked their characters for – as one said of House of Cards's Frank Underwood – "the entertainment value". But others clearly identified with their favourites. There is clearly a preference for characters in series like The West Wing and Borgen, where politicians are depicted as ordinary people doing a hard job in trying circumstances. This suggests they are largely out of step with the more cynical presentations of politics now served up to the British public.

Top 5 political characters

Jed Bartlett - 22 per cent

Frank Underwood - 12 per cent

Francis Urquhart - 6 per cent

Jim Hacker - 6 per cent

Birgitte Nyborg - 6 per cent

Steven Fielding is Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham. Follow him @polprofsteve.


How Tech Education Can Change an Inmate’s Life

By Erica Moriarty from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 27, 2016.

The landscape of technology changes rapidly, which creates a major opportunity gap for inmates as they re-enter society. “Imagine being locked up ten years ago,” says the CEO and Founder of Flikshop, Marcus Bullock. “You wouldn’t even be able to learn how to send an email using your phone.” Vocational courses, particularly focusing on technology, can change prisoners’ lives for the better—but few institutions offer these opportunities. In this interview filmed at the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival, Bullock discusses his experience in prison and how a technology course changed his life.

From Damascus to Chicago

By Nadine Ajaka from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

A dance studio in Chicago is working with young Syrians who have recently resettled to the city. In this short documentary, Fold, Embrace, Expand: From Damascus to Chicago, we meet Akram and Retaj, who are 7 and 10 years old, and follow them in their dance classes and transition to the city. The film also profiles their parents, and touches on the difficulties of beginning a new life far from what was home. It was directed by Colleen Cassingham and Alex Lederman.

Gazprom and Brussels agree to settle dispute

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Draft deal a rare example of Moscow and the west mending economic ties

Brewing: Craft beer comes of age

From Analysis. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

It is a bright spot in an otherwise stagnant sector. But is the market at ‘peak craft’?

The Nasty Rise and Fall of Donald Trump

By Conor Friedersdorf from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Last week, Peggy Noonan argued in the Wall Street Journal that an outsider like Donald Trump could’ve won handily this year, touting skepticism of free trade and immigration, if only he was more sane, or less erratic and prone to nasty insults:

Sane Donald Trump would have looked at a dubious, anxious and therefore standoffish Republican establishment and not insulted them, diminished them, done tweetstorms against them. Instead he would have said, “Come into my tent. It’s a new one, I admit, but it’s yuge and has gold faucets and there’s a place just for you. What do you need? That I be less excitable and dramatic? Done. That I not act, toward women, like a pig? Done, and I accept your critique. That I explain the moral and practical underpinnings of my stand on refugees from terror nations? I’d be happy to. My well-hidden secret is that I love everyone and hear the common rhythm of their beating hearts.” Sane Donald Trump would have given an anxious country more ease, not more anxiety. He would have demonstrated that he can govern himself. He would have suggested through his actions, while still being entertaining, funny and outsize, that yes, he understands the stakes and yes, since America is always claiming to be the leader of the world—We are No. 1!—a certain attendant gravity is required of one who’d be its leader.

A figure like that would probably be polling better right now. But I don’t think “Sane Trump” could have won the Republican Party’s primary election. Only “Nasty Trump” could’ve managed to beat the huge field of more experienced rivals.

“Trump's nastiness is one of the reasons he will lose the election,” Josh Barro writes at Business Insider. “But it's also a key reason he got the Republican nomination in the first place.” Barro argues that it helped Trump appeal to a particular faction:

Over the last few decades, as racism and sexism have become impolite, a substantial number of voters on the right have decided politeness itself is a problem. Trump's absolute commitment to nastiness — often taking the form of crude sexual insults of women or claims about the criminality of minorities, but expansive enough to include many put-downs of white men as well — signaled to his voters that he was one of them, a committed opponent of the forces of politeness that seek to make "regular Americans" feel guilty about "speaking their minds."

Trump, of course, prefers to frame his nastiness as a rejection of "political correctness," as do many of his supporters. There are cases of real excesses in sensitivity norms, as you may learn if you try to wear a Halloween costume or make sushi on a college campus. But the problem with the term "political correctness" is that it does not mean anything — or rather, that it can be used to impugn whatever norms governing social discourse from which the speaker would like to be liberated. As it turns out, most of the norms around social discourse are good ones. For example, they include "don't call women 'fat pigs,'" and "don't categorize large chunks of nationalities as rapists and criminals," and "don't brag about how big your penis is on the stage at a presidential debate." But if you violate any of these norms and say you're just being "politically incorrect," tens of millions of boorish idiots will cheer you on.

Trump has undeniably run a campaign of unusually naked animus against Hispanics, Muslims, and women. A minority faction of his supporters do delight in his bigotry. And Barro is right that “political correctness” is a vague term that can collapse important distinctions between offenses against oversensitivity and deplorable behavior. But I don’t think Trump’s animus against Hispanics or women was the x-factor in his victory. Put another way, I think he could’ve won over the GOP base without racism or sexism... but could not have won without nastiness.

Consider Trump’s most important forerunners.

Circa 2008, when Sarah Palin was plucked from Alaska’s governorship to be on the GOP ticket with John McCain, many Republicans rallied behind her not because they were impressed by her record as governor, or believed in her policy agenda or competence, but because they loved that she stood up for Team Red in the culture wars, praised “real America,” and denigrated coastal elites with folksy zingers.

They wanted a champion to channel their animus and anger towards managerial elites and their frustration at not feeling as heard or influential. An exquisitely polite person with a sunny disposition and exactly the same policy agenda would not have done. A willingness to lash out angrily at RINOs and the left was a litmus test, though Palin managed to pass that test without denigrating Hispanics or women.

Circa 2011, when Andrew Breitbart, the late architect of the most important pro-Donald Trump website, published his book Righteous Indignation, he explained in its first chapter that his life’s work was spurred by his grudge against Hollywood celebrities. "If America's pop-cultural ambassadors like Alec Baldwin and Janeane Garofalo didn't come back from their foreign trips to tell us how much they hate us," he wrote, "if my pay cable didn't highlight a comedy show every week that called me a racist for embracing constitutional principles and limited government, I wouldn't be at Tea Parties screaming my love for this great, charitable, and benevolent country." He insisted that "the left made me do it! I swear!"

He added that he would not be expanding his Internet media empire to cover higher education “if the college campus weren't filled with tenured professors like 9/11 apologist Ward Churchill and bullshit departments like Queer Studies, and if the academic framework weren't being planned out by domestic terrorists like Bill Ayers,” and that he would not have launched a career as a commentator "if the political left weren't so joyless, humorless, intrusive, taxing, anarchistic, controlling, rudderless, chaos-prone, pedantic, unrealistic, hypocritical, clueless, politically correct, angry, cruel, sanctimonious, retributive, redistributive, intolerant..."

Breitbart’s fans didn’t form a cult of personality around him because of his vision for how government or culture ought to operate. He had no positive vision or constructive project. He was an anti-leftist. He wanted to destroy the left and gave little thought to the consequences of his approach or what would come after. Little surprise that he built a media empire with angry television appearances and righteously indignant Twitter fights that appealed to people who reveled in seeing their cultural adversaries attacked. Of course that same faction later favored the primary candidate who spent months insulting his RINO rivals and feuding with the liberal media, all to reach a podium across from Hillary Clinton and tell her “you’re a nasty woman” as Barack Obama’s Kenyan half-brother looked on from the audience.

What most Americans saw as a farce was, for them, a fantasy realized.

Early in my career, I was one of numerous young people on the heterodox right who warned about the extent to which Palin, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others were creating an epistemically closed subculture of cultural grievance. “The political identity of the populist right is too thick,” Julian Sanchez wrote back in 2009, positing that changes in communication technology were making it possible for far-flung individuals to form something resembling the sort of “community” that couldn’t previously exist at a level larger than an individual town.

These populist political communities were significant.

“Between dedicated cable and radio channels and the Internet, you really can live in them in a pretty literal and immersive way,” Sanchez wrote. “But simultaneously—and maybe this sounds a bit paradoxical—political communities are therefore also more culturally autonomous. That is, they need no longer refer to something outside politics. When I enter politics as a small businessman or a Catholic or a philosophical conservative, I’m bringing information from outside the political process into it. What’s really pernicious about a politics of ressentiment is that it cuts that tether—it enables a political identity that’s generated and defined by political conflict itself.”

A subculture on the left has been dubbed “social justice warriors” because its thick political identity seems, to its detractors, to be generated and defined by a constantly taking umbrage and sowing conflict. On the right, Ted Cruz saw back in 2010 that political conflict mattered most to a key faction of the Republican base. He was hated by colleagues in Washington, D.C. in large part because, time and again, he would shamelessly pick public fights with the GOP establishment to show off for the conservative base even when there was no substantive purpose to the fight.

Cruz’s performances won him many votes.

But he couldn’t compete with Trump, who had even less shame, and was prone to lashing out by instinct in addition to strategy. He would praise anyone who said nice words about him, even Vladamir Putin––but savage anyone who criticized him, even those he’d praised the day before. Trump wasn’t just adept at playing on the ressentiment of the GOP base, he embodied it. Here’s the working definition of ressentiment that Sanchez cribbed from Wikipedia in those bygone essays: “a sense of resentment and hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, an assignation of blame for that frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the ‘cause’ generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.”

That describes Trump himself better than his voters, many of whom have idiosyncratic reasons for supporting him.

“The general worry: a populist right animated by ressentiment isn’t going to do a good job of injecting conservative ideas into deliberation in a useful way,” Sanchez warned back in 2009. “This is not, to be clear, some kind of white-gloved complaint about ‘tone,’ because really, fuck tone. The ascendancy of angry bluster isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom.  The problem is what the anger obscures.”

Sanchez suggested sex as an analogy.

“If you’re not turned on or emotionally engaged,” he noted, sex “can look kind of ridiculous.” In politics, “charging up the rhetoric prevents the kind of emotional distancing that would make the cultural grievances seem absurd, at least as political issues.” Had Republican primary voters cast their votes with marginally less focus on what charged them up and emotionally engaged them, and relatively more focus on experience, or electability; if trustworthiness would’ve been measured with less focus on emotional intensity of rhetoric and more focus on character, deciding to consummate a general election campaign with Trump would’ve felt ridiculous.

To many Republican voters, it did seem ridiculous. But Trump appealed to the sort of Republican who’s been primed for conflict, so they nominated a Social Injustice Warrior.

What I wish I’d known back when I was analyzing the rise of Limbaugh, Palin, and Breitbart, and lamenting the destructiveness of their doomed, ressentiment-driven approach to politics, is the relevant conservative movement history that Matthew Continetti just sketched in a thoughtful column at the Washington Free Beacon. In it he traces the rise of a new force on the right beginning in the late 1970s, “an oppositional force, antagonistic to all aspects of the Eastern Establishment, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, cultural and economic.”

It would “devalue intellect and prioritize activism,” he wrote:

The enemies of the New Right were compromise, gradualism, and acquiescence in the corrupt system. Partisan identification had little to do with their antagonisms. Nor did ideology. William F. Buckley and George Will were just as much targets of media criticism as CBS and the New York Times.

Conservatives and Republicans with Ivy League degrees were sellouts, weak, epiphenomena of the social disease. “There are conservatives whose game it is to quote English poetry and utter neo-Madisonian benedictions over the interests and institutions of establishment liberalism,” Kevin Phillips wrote in Commentary... “Then there are other conservatives—many I know—who have more in common with Andrew Jackson than with Edmund Burke. Their hope is to build cultural siege-cannon out of the populist steel of Idaho, Mississippi, and working-class Milwaukee, and then blast the Eastern liberal establishment to ideo-institutional smithereens.” In two sentences Phillips repudiated the cornerstone of Burkeanism—the protection of established order against radical challenges—in favor of upheaval, destruction, and power.

Today, when we think of Wallace and the fight against crime and busing, we think of racial antagonism and bias. But there was also something else going on. “Racism is a part of it, though somewhat muted in recent days,” wrote Kirkpatrick Sale in his 1975 book Power Shift. “But more potent still is a broad adversarianism, a being-against. Wallace has no real policies, plans, or platforms, and no one expects them... it is sufficient that he is agin and gathers unto him others who are agin, agin the blacks, the intellectuals, the bureaucrats, the students, the journalists, the liberals, the outsiders, the Communists, the changers, above all, agin the Yankee establishment.”

In Continetti’s telling, Ronald Reagan, almost unique among politicians, was able to unify the right’s factions. And, of course, Reagan won over broad swaths of the electorate. But once he was gone, conservatives like George H.W. Bush and adversarianists like Pat Buchanan were once again at odds in an increasingly uneasy wing of the political spectrum.

Trump isn’t an anomaly, he is the latest iteration of that feud. His strongest supporters “are drawn from the network of institutions, spokesmen, and causes established by the New Right some 40 years ago,” Continetti argues.

He sketches this “adversarianism”:

Immigration, which emerged as a social issue at the turn of the twenty-first century, was key to Trump’s success. So was his role as outsider, independent critic of the rigged system, scold of elites, avatar of reaction.

The apocalyptic predictions… even the idea of seizing Arab territory and “taking the oil” comes straight from Bill Rusher’s 1975 Making of the New Majority Party. The relentless hostility toward the media, both liberal and heterodox conservative, the accusation that it, the government, and the financial sector is engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Hillary Clinton, the denigration of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the appeal to supporters of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, the charge that the “global power structure” has “stripped” manufacturing towns “bare and raided the wealth for themselves”—this is adversarianism in its purest, most conspiratorial, most totalistic form.

The attacks on National Review, on George Will, on conservatives with elite educations, on conservatives granted legitimacy by mainstream institutions is a replay of the New Right rhetoric of the 1970s. Names have been added to the list of Republicans in Name Only, of false, cuckolded conservatives, but the battle lines are the same. On the one hand are the effete intellectuals based on the East Coast, shuttling up and down the Acela corridor, removed from the suffering of the average American, ignorant of the social issues, amenable to social engineering, fat and happy on a diet of foundation grants, magazine sinecures, think tank projects, speaking engagements. On the other are the blue-collar radio and television hosts with million-dollar contracts, the speechwriter for Wall Street banks who uses a pseudonym to cast aspersions on the feckless conservative elite, the billionaire-supported populist website that attacks renegade Jews, the bloggers and commenters and trolls estranged from power, from influence, from notoriety, from relevance, fueled by resentment, lured by the specter of conspiracy, extrapolating terrifying and chiliastic scenarios from negative but solvable trends.

It is the same discourse, the same methods, the same antinomianism, the same reaction to demographic change and liberal overreach that we encountered in the 1970s.

The difference? It is striking, especially coming from the author of The Persecution of Sarah Palin:

The difference is that Donald Trump is so noxious, so unhinged, so extremist in his rejection of democratic norms and political convention and basic manners that he has untethered the New Right politics he embodies from the descendants of William F. Buckley Jr. The triumph of populism has left conservatism marooned, confused, uncertain, depressed, anxious, searching for a tradition, for a program, for viability.

We might have to return to the beginning to understand where we have ended up. We might have to reject adversarianism, to accept the welfare state as an objective fact, to rehabilitate Burnham’s vision of a conservative-tinged Establishment capable of permeating the managerial society and gradually directing it in a prudential, reflective, virtuous manner respectful of both freedom and tradition. This is the challenge of the moment.

This is the crisis of the conservative intellectual. What makes that crisis acute is the knowledge that he and his predecessors may have helped to bring it on themselves.

So long as a significant faction on the right is driven by ressentiment to embrace adversarianism, so long they’d rather see their enemies attacked than achieve anything constructive, and they choose their champions based on their stridency more than their virtues or competence, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible for anyone to win a Republican presidential primary and a general election. And so long as the Republican establishment fails to grapple with the failures of its foreign policy ideology, to purge its hucksters, and to construct policies for its base more effectively than it does for its donor class, it will fail to win back enough voters from adversarianists, whose grievances have some truth to them.

There is a small core of #NeverTrump conservatives who understand both of these truths. A great deal depends on how much success they have making their case.

Bank safety and the blockchain revolution

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Distributed ledgers might offer savings but caution is in order

Ukip spat to be investigated by French police

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Farage attacks probe as internal report tries to draw line under the confrontation

Italy demands another reprieve, and rightly so

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Matteo Renzi is correct to allow the projected deficit to rise

Italy demands another reprieve, and rightly so

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Matteo Renzi is correct to allow the projected deficit to rise

Switzerland enjoys negative interest rates windfall

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Taxpayers settle bills early and bond investors pay to lend money to government

The killing of a journalist in Jordan uncovers extremism in an otherwise stable kingdom

By Bethan Staton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

After Nahed Hattar was shot dead, moderates fear new laws against hate speech could further limit freedom of media and expression.

It was a warm September morning when Nahed Hattar, a controversial Jordanian journalist, was shot dead. He was killed as he walked up the white stone steps of the capital Amman’s courthouse.

Police have arrested the suspected gunman. Local media said he had been upset by an offensive cartoon Hattar had shared on Facebook.

But this story is not one of an isolated vigilante. The Jordanian authorities had pursued Hattar for sharing the cartoon, which depicted a Jihadi surrounded by food and women in heaven, waited on by an obedient God. He was arrested in August under charges of insulting the faith and stoking sectarian divisions; he was on the way to his trial for these supposed crimes when he was shot.

In the weeks following, Jordan has struggled to come to terms with what the attack exposed: a simmering extremism and a government struggling to balance competing and contradictory interests to control it.

“We thought that in Jordan we had some peace here. But after my brother was killed we don’t have this kind of feeling,” Hattar’s sister Kawkab said. Hattar expressed atheist views but his family are Christian. “We don’t feel sure that our children are going to live in a peaceful situation.”

Kawkab may have good reason to be anxious. Jordan is relatively pluralist: its small Christian minority practise faith freely, and those fleeing neighbouring countries have found a safe haven there. But as extremist violence shatters the region, the shadow it casts is growing increasingly dark.

It’s estimated that more than 2,000 Jordanians have left to fight for Jihadist groups in Syria, and terror attacks in Jordan this summer struck military and intelligence targets. The trial of more than 1,000 people on terror-related charges this year indicates the strikes were not isolated events. In 2014, Islamic State flags were flown in the restive southern city of Ma'an, and, more recently, the banners of IS were reported closer to Amman, in Salt.

“I feel sad for our situation. We are going further and further to the right,” said Ashraf Asahb, who described himself as a “comrade” of Hattar, at one of several demonstrations for the writer. He also referred to a scandal that has increased concerns about conservatism in Jordan. Earlier this year, religious references were toned down in the kingdom’s school textbooks, with changes including drawings of uncovered women, clean-shaven men, fewer Quranic examples, and references to Christianity. The alterations caused an outrage that is still ongoing and causing moderates consternation: opponents, including teachers and parents, publicly burned many books.

The atmosphere surrounding Hattar’s arrest is also a worrying indicator of public mood. When he shared the cartoon, the outcry calling for his arrest and accusing him of mocking Muslims was furious and widespread, echoed by political figures, pundits and ordinary Jordanians.

In the run-up to his trial, the writer’s family said they documented 200 threats to his life, and when he was killed some of the reactions on social media were jubilant. Popular sentiments included “good riddance” and “god bless the shooter”.

Nidal Mansour, the Director of Amman’s Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, believes the government may have arrested Hattar as a political manoeuvre: to prevent Islamist parties using anger at inaction to attract votes in September’s parliamentary elections. But in a milieu that had shifted towards reactionary, sometimes violent, conservatism, the charges became a dangerous public condemnation.

“Maybe nobody thought about the difference in society, after Daesh and social media,” he said, adding that hate speech that has always existed has now been given a more visible platform online. “What is here, living within us? A lot of things have changed. You will find a lot of extremists within our society.”

The government’s response also threatens to silence writers and activists. After Hattar died, the government issued a gag order forbidding reporting of the case; in the weeks that followed it, around 20 people were arrested for spreading hate speech online. Activists like Mansour fear new laws against hate speech could further limit freedom of media and expression.

The death of Hattar, in broad daylight and under scales meant to represent justice, was a shock in Jordan. But it was also a grim warning: of brewing extremism in a kingdom that clings tightly to stability in a region of chaos and war.


Tales of two presidents speak of French left’s woes

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Facing annihilation, Socialists look for an alternative to François Hollande

The NS Podcast #180: Resignation, runways and Dr Strange

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The New Statesman podcast.

This week, Helen and Stephen discuss the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow: is it right that collective cabinet responsibility has been suspended? And what are Zac Goldsmith’s chances in a by-election?

Helen then shares her thoughts on the latest Marvel movie (to which Stephen was not invited). And you ask us: if Labour had the same system that it had in the 1970s, who would have won the 2015 leadership race?

(Helen Lewis, Stephen Bush)


Heathrow (00.08)
Now read Stephen's full analysis of Goldsmith's chances.

Marvellous Marvel (13.18)
Find out more about why Helen thinks Marvel movies are like Ketchup.

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes here or with this RSS feed:, or listen using the player below.

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

Visit for more details and how to contact us.


#AskTonyGallagher: What happened when The Sun’s editor took questions on Twitter?

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

“Do you do dental checks on Page 3 girls to ensure they are definitely adults?”

There’s not a huge amount your mole would praise about the editor of The Sun at this current time, but it has to admit he has some guts.

The tabloid’s top dog, Tony Gallagher, editor-in-chief, volunteered to take questions from Twitter users, in an impromptu session hashtagged #askTonyGallagher.

Yes, the week following his paper’s disgusting coverage of Calais’s migrant children – “My, Haven’t You Grown!” it smirked – Gallagher logged merrily onto Twitter to hear some feedback.

The results were predictable. Here are some of the highlights:

And your mole’s personal favourite:

At least he replied to that one.

Read more here: #asktonygallagher.


Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/

Merkel to soothe pensioners ahead of 2017 poll

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Plan to outline long-term minimum levels for state-backed pensions for Germans

Liberty University Students Want to Be Christians—Not Republicans

By Emma Green from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

LYNCHBURG, Va.—When Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University in 1971, he dreamed of transforming the United States. As he put it, “We’re turning out moral revolutionaries.”

Forty-five years later, the school formerly known as Liberty Baptist College has become a kingmaker and bellwether in the Republican Party. Politicians routinely make pit stops in Lynchburg; Ted Cruz even launched his ill-fated presidential campaign from Liberty’s campus in March of 2015.

That’s why it was such a big deal when, two weeks ago, a group of Liberty students put out a letter explaining why they’re standing against the Republican presidential nominee. Jerry Falwell Jr., who has run the school since his father died in 2007, announced his support for Donald Trump back in January, and he has since spoken on the candidate’s behalf in interviews and at events. “We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history,” the students wrote. “Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.”

Thousands of people signed onto the letter, including, the students said, roughly 2,000 students or alumni with email addresses. Dustin Wahl and Alex Forbes, two of the letter’s authors, were featured on MSNBC and CNN. They said they received supportive emails and tweets from Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Erick Erickson, the conservative radio-show host.

But there was also a backlash. Jack Heaphy, the student-body president at Liberty, tweeted out a statement of his own, claiming that most students at the school support Falwell, hate Hillary Clinton, and will be voting for Trump in November. He also pointed out that the current students who signed the Liberty United Against Trump letter only account for a fraction of the campus, which claims 15,000 residential students and 94,000 online. A third group of students then created yet another petition, lampooning the dueling letters: LU Students United for Pizza.

This kind of controversy is relatively rare at Liberty. When the subject turns to politics, it’s difficult to find much intellectual diversity and disagreement there. This seems to be complicated by three factors: the attitudes surrounding free speech on campus, the deference to authority that’s deeply ingrained in campus culture, and the widespread perception of community consensus on political and social issues. While these are problems on traditional liberal-arts campuses—as Falwell pointed out in an interview—those schools are also known for protests, clashes with the administration, and constant debates about everything from foreign policy to sexual politics to free speech itself. Liberty, by contrast, has a largely harmonious campus culture.

Talking with students on Liberty’s campus, the overwhelming sense is not division, but fatigue. “Liberty is shockingly anti-politics in some ways,” said Wahl, a junior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Some students are kind of tired of all the political leaders we get here.” The administration requires all students to attend thrice-weekly speeches called Convocation; in a single October week this year, Ralph Reed, Mike Pence, and Dinesh D’Souza all presented. Philip Sitterding, a junior from Virginia Beach, said these meetings have often felt like a “pro-Trump rally” this fall, since many of the speakers support the Republican nominee. While the small number of students who aspire to careers in politics might find this energizing, many others wanted a different Liberty.

“I wish we were less political,” said Jessica Brown, a junior from Dinwiddie, Virginia. “I really do.”

The old stomping ground of the religious right is becoming a different place. It’s not that there’s anything about the school that suggests conservative Christianity is in decline; in fact, Liberty has recently had some of the best years in its history, with construction booms and growing interest in its online-education program. But Liberty’s students seem to want a new model for their Christian education—one that’s less tied to Republican politics and more focused on Christ.

“You can’t link politics with salvation,” said Paige Cutler, a senior from New Jersey who’s involved with the Liberty United Against Trump effort. “That’s just a line you can never cross. And it never should have been.”

The Republican vice-presidential candidate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, shakes hands with the president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., after speaking at the school in October of 2016. (Steve Helber / AP / Paul Spella / The Atlantic)

Liberty’s Trump Coalition knows how to throw a good party. At a photo booth near the entry of their presidential-debate watch in October, attendees could toss on hard hats proclaiming, “Build the Wall,” and get their pictures taken in front of an American-flag background. Other students took selfies with the life-sized Hillary Clinton cut-out, dressed in her prison-jumpsuit best, or posed next to one of several giant Trump-Pence signs. While the room wasn’t full, the spirit of optimism—however unwarranted—was strong.

“The press wants to make you think there’s all this bad news,” the master of ceremonies, 20-year-old Josh Rosene, declared from a podium. “Trump is going to cream Hillary Clinton.”

Most of the students at the debate-watch party seemed to believe Trump is winning. Hanna Debnam, a senior from Greensboro, North Carolina, explained that the media creates a skewed perception of the race by “highlighting in his Trump rallies that he’s racist. I’ve been to five Trump rallies. All the videos that I’ve seen based on him being racist are bits and pieces of what he says to make it seem bad, but those don’t really portray what he’s trying to get at.” Her boyfriend, Zac Dunn, a senior from Charlotte, agreed that the media is biased: “If you look at … how much they cover these ‘Trump scandals’”—he used big air quotes here—“and then you look at the lack of coverage of Hillary Clinton and her email scandals, the American people aren’t stupid. They’re well aware of what’s going on.”

Many of the students at the debate seemed skeptical of surveys. Dunn described the polls used by journalists as “liberal” and argued that their samples are constructed “to be pretty biased to repress the Republican vote.” (Most polls cited by mainstream journalists use data that’s weighted to mirror the national electorate.) Alexis Rucker, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, who helped to organize the event, explained that she has been door-knocking for Trump for months. The enthusiasm she’s seen on the ground has made her question polling numbers that show Clinton up by as many as six percentage points. Rosene, the event’s leader, was completely confident in Trump’s prospects. “I put money on it. Damn right, I did,” he said. “We’re talking lump sums of my paychecks. … If I’m wrong, God help my country, and God help my wallet.”

Other students were more doubtful about Trump’s chances of success. Rachael Glavin, a junior from northern Delaware, cited polling numbers and Trump’s recent withdrawal from Virginia—“Hillary is significantly winning,” she said. But she still doesn’t plan to vote for the Democrat.She’s a liar, and she murders people, and that’s just a major problem to me,” she said. When asked for specifics, she explained: “There have been a lot of just really suspicious deaths around her candidacy and her husband’s candidacy back when he was running. People who were close to them would suddenly die, and there’s no explanation and no good reason, and it’s super sketchy to me.” (There is no evidence that either of the Clintons have murdered or ordered the murder of people associated with their campaigns.)

“It says a lot for Liberty that we’re not politically correct and we welcome free expression of thought and ideas.”

Of the roughly two dozen Liberty students with whom I spoke, though, most seemed thoughtful and informed about the election and American politics. While a lot of them said they feel like the media has a liberal bias, they were also up on the latest articles from Politico and other wonky outlets. Yet the students’ persistent skepticism of empirical information provided by these sources seems like a potential obstacle to the free flow of ideas on campus. If students disregard any facts that don’t fit with their worldview, they’ll likely have a hard time changing their minds about anything—or debating their peers, who largely believe the same things.

In some respects, Liberty’s students, faculty, and administrators at least seem to prize free speech on campus. Jerry Falwell Jr., for example, responded to the criticism from Liberty United Against Trump with disagreement—and praise. “I am proud of these students to be bold enough to speak their minds,” he said in an interview. “At Ivy League universities, I think conservative students would probably be afraid to do something similar for Donald Trump. It says a lot for Liberty that we’re not politically correct and we welcome free expression of thought and ideas.” Heaphy, the student-body president, said something similar in his letter defending Falwell. “I … am blessed to go to a school where the diversity of thought and a free exchange of ideas are not only accepted but encouraged,” he wrote.

There have been moments, though, in which speech on campus has become controversial. In October, for example, Falwell yanked an article set to run in the student paper, the Liberty Champion, that was critical of Trump’s “locker-room talk.” Joel Schmieg, the paper’s sports editor and author of the story, was told that Falwell pulled it because there was already a letter to the editor on a similar topic planned for that issue. And indeed, a piece about “locker-room talk,” written by Tom Ilustrisimo, a medical student, ran in the October 18 edition of the paper. Falwell has confirmed this version of events.

While the desire to eliminate redundancy seems totally reasonable, the incident reveals how closely the administration regulates the school paper—the university president himself pulled an article. “As a student newspaper of a private university, we at the Liberty Champion submit to the authority of the university in our publishing of the weekly paper,” wrote Sarah Rodriguez, the editor in chief, in an email. “There’s a line of what you can and can’t say,” added Schmieg. “I’m not going to call for a coach to be fired. As a member of the community, that would be inappropriate.”

Appropriateness seems to be a big concern on campus—one that can also suppress speech. I spoke with several faculty members who were unwilling to go on the record to criticize Falwell’s endorsement of Trump, even though they, and many of their peers, say they’re unhappy with the association. These faculty didn’t think it would be right for staffers to criticize their employer in the media—to so publicly air their dirty laundry. Wahl, the organizer of Liberty United Against Trump, said he had heard from a number of faculty members who expressed support for what the students were doing but who stopped short of signing their own names.

“A lot of people love Jerry, very much. … He [is] kind of lovably awkward.”

Faculty may also have good reason to be nervous about speaking out. Mark DeMoss, a longtime Liberty trustee and former chief of staff of sorts to Jerry Falwell Sr., said the board of directors asked him to step down last spring after he criticized Jerry Jr.’s Trump endorsement in an interview with The Washington Post. “I didn’t think this candidate represented the values that Liberty had spent 40 years trying to instill in its students,” DeMoss said in an interview. Many Liberty leaders were upset that he had publicly spoken out against Falwell, especially given DeMoss’s strong association with the university; one of the most prominent buildings on campus carries his family name. (“Individual board members have varied reasons for their displeasure regarding Mark DeMoss’ comments to The Washington Post,” the school said in a statement last spring, “most of which are not related to his disagreement with Jerry Falwell’s personal endorsement of Donald Trump or a belief that Mark DeMoss’ motivations were entirely political.”)

If anything, the risk of speaking out is even greater for faculty who are similarly unhappy about the school’s association with Trump. At Liberty, there’s no tenure—a practice specifically put into place at other universities to protect professors’ intellectual freedom.

Despite all of this, by and large, Falwell seems extremely popular on Liberty’s campus. Most students call him by his first name, and when he shows up at Convocation, they’ll boom it out in two guttural syllables: JERR-REEEE. “A lot of people love Jerry, very much. … He [is] kind of lovably awkward,” said Sitterding, the student from Virginia Beach. “He injected life into the university—Jerry Sr. had a vision for it, but he was driving it into the ground economically.”

As Falwell has significantly increased his political profile during this election cycle, that love has become more complicated. While Falwell emphasized in an interview that he endorsed Trump as a private citizen, rather than as a representative of the university, many see Liberty and the Falwells as inevitably entwined. This has had a chilling effect on what some people in the Liberty community feel they can say.

A number of students said they’ve cringed at Falwell’s political comments over the past year, like when he said concealed-carry permits would let people “end those Muslims before they walked in” and urged students to get gun licenses. “So much respect was lost at that moment,” said Emmy Brien, a junior from Northern Virginia. “It was just so insensitive and not intelligent. It was like, ‘You’re our president, you’re supposed to represent us. How could you slip like that?’”

A lot of the backlash to Liberty United Against Trump wasn’t actually about Trump—it was about respect for Falwell, Wahl said. Like the faculty, the students, too, have a deep sense of appropriateness. As Rylee Young, a freshman from Pennsylvania, put it, the letter was “disrespectful to our leader, especially when our president said that was his personal view. I think all it did was give the liberal media an avenue to criticize and pit people against Trump, like they do.”

“It teaches you to be afraid of the fact that you don’t have the majority view.”

There are theological reasons why Liberty kids would be reluctant to criticize their leader. “Biblically, authority figures are placed over us by Christ,” said Cutler, the senior from New Jersey. “God gives them that authority. The problem is that a lot of people misunderstand respect for agreement.”

At a school like Liberty, which is definitively Christian and publishes a doctrinal statement on its website, it’s fair to expect agreement within the community on a lot of issues. But sometimes, the assumption of consensus can be overwhelming, students said.

“You’ll hear a lot of racist jokes on the hall—not bad ones, but people will make jokes about racial stereotypes,” said Sitterding. According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Liberty’s population of African American students is roughly on par with other U.S. campuses—an estimated 11 percent of Liberty students are black, although that figure may be low. But the school is still contending with a difficult racial history. Before he founded Liberty, Falwell Sr. opened Lynchburg Christian Academy. The school briefly served only white students, many of whom did not want to attend racially integrated schools.

“People will make jokes about liberalism or pretend homosexuality is a big thing on the hall,” Sitterding added. “You learn, through the way people treat a subject [lightly], that they don’t expect anyone to be affected by it.” For students like him, this can feel silencing. “It teaches you to be afraid of the fact that you don’t have the majority view,” he said.

Trump’s behavior and comments are clearly controversial on campus, yet the students I spoke with said they haven’t heard much public discussion on campus of his boasts about groping women, for example. “People don’t talk about them in face-to-face conversations for the same reason we don’t talk about a lot of stuff in church culture,” said Emily Meadows, a junior from Jacksonville, Florida. “It makes us uncomfortable.”

This, above all, seems to be the reason why Trump has been so trying for the students at Liberty. They may hate what he says and does. They may be planning to vote for him anyway. But because the campus has such a strong history and culture of alignment with the Republican Party, there seems to be little authentic discussion of how to think about Trump in the context of a Christian worldview—especially when it comes to issues of gender and race.

Soon-to-be U.S. President Ronald Reagan greets Jerry Falwell Sr., the founder of Liberty University, and his wife Macel in October of 1980. (Charles Harrity / AP / Paul Spella / The Atlantic)

“I feel like I’m the stereotype of an English major at Liberty,” said Kelly Kramer, a senior from Los Angeles. “I’m in flannel, with an engagement ring.”

As several students explained with a smile, a lot of kids come to Liberty and get hitched. The hook-up culture is apparently marginal, at least on campus; the code of conduct prohibits students from going into opposite-sex dorms. “I honestly would say that we have such a chivalrous group of men on campus,” said Brien, the junior from Virginia. She’s seen little of the kind of behavior that Trump displayed on TV sets and allegedly at Miss Universe pageants. “The majority just respect women and would normally never stand up for any of these things if politics weren’t involved.”

This is one of the greatest paradoxes Liberty students have to grapple with as they figure out who to vote for in November: They’re part of a culture that is intensely focused on sexual purity and holding up women’s distinctive spiritual gifts. The cognitive dissonance between Trump’s comments and the way Liberty students are taught to behave is intense—even more so because Falwell defended Trump after the tapes came out. “I heard him apologize. He was very contrite about it,” Falwell told me. “All these stories and allegations and salacious comments are all designed to distract from the issues. When you look at the issues, the American people are with Trump, and Hillary cannot win when the debate stays focused on the issues. It’s just when it gets off on these rabbit trails that people get confused.”

“I want to talk about the fact that the president of my own university is defending a man who repeatedly degrades women.”

These comments have been “so hard for me to listen to,” said Cutler. “The fact that no one wants to talk about [Trump], and instead just want to highlight Hillary’s own flaws—that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the fact that the president of my own university is defending a man who repeatedly degrades women.” She was particularly concerned about the possibility of increased violence against women. “Dismissing what he said as ‘just comments’ is why rape culture exists, because people are okay with letting ‘just comments’ go,” she said.

Words like “rape culture” might seem out of place at Liberty, where, as one student said, women would “probably be associated more with Phyllis Schlafly’s brand of feminism” than the kind of progressive feminists who developed such terms. It’s true that the hot debates on campus would likely seem out of place elsewhere: whether women should be allowed to preach the Bible or lead churches, for example, or whether women should work after graduation. But the students I met, and the women in particular, were deeply concerned with issues like sex trafficking—they described advocacy efforts and documentary screenings in which they’ve taken part.

No doubt, there’s misogyny on Liberty’s campus. Rosene, the master of ceremonies at the debate-watch party, wore a nametag that read, “Locker Room Talker.” When I asked him whether Trump’s words could potentially create a bad environment for women on campus, he said no. It’s more “confusion as to, ‘Is this really what guys are saying about me?’” he said. “As sad as it sounds, newsflash, ladies: Guys say stupid things. … I don’t think most girls talk in that manner, but guys do.”

But even though some of the women I spoke with reported being catcalled on campus and hearing sexist jokes from older professors, they didn’t think their experiences were specific to Liberty. “Whenever I say there might be sexism [on campus], it’s not a sexism based in evangelicalism,” said Sara Heist, a senior from Cleveland, Ohio. “It’s a sexism based in American culture that I would face at any academic institution.”

For those who are part of minority groups at Liberty, conversations about identity can feel even more marginalized. Students said there’s a small but active LGBT community at Liberty, although people in same-sex relationships generally don’t advertise that fact for fear of punishment from the university. And discussions about race are often nonexistent or hurtful, said Brown, the junior from Dinwiddie. While members of the Liberty community pride themselves on the lack of “political correctness” on campus, it seems like the school has its own speech code: Certain topics and conversations are implicitly unwelcome.

“There are people who will stereotype me—not on purpose, but you can feel it if it’s there,” Brown said. “I’ve learned to look at every interaction like that as an opportunity to grow. … It is tough, and it stinks. But you get to choose how you’re going to react.”

Brown, who is African American, said it was particularly hard for her to be on campus last January, when Trump visited on Martin Luther King Day. With all of Trump’s “slurs,” Brown said, “having him come on a day that’s meant to memorialize the work that Martin Luther King Jr. did during his time … made a huge impact on people.” When other students reacted defensively, saying that Trump should be able to visit campus at any time, that hurt even more, she said. “As Christians, there’s a huge opportunity to love people better and understand where they’re coming from. Empathy would have been great, and I didn’t see a ton of it.”

When Brown needs to have tough conversations without feeling stifled, whether they’re about race, sexuality, or something else, she can find them, she said—she just has to look hard at the margins of Liberty culture. As putatively political as Liberty is, it seems to lack a robust culture of political debate around these kinds of issues—ones that are challenging for Christians and non-Christians alike.

Liberty students’ votes seem to be the least interesting thing about them.

And yet, Brown said, she’s really happy to be at Liberty. Her sister graduated a few years ago, and her mom recently completed the online-education program. She feels like she’s deepened her faith during her three-plus years at the school, which was part of why she came. All of the Liberty students I met seemed to feel similarly: They love their school. Even people like Sitterding, who says he’s “not a huge fan of Christianity or the established church,” found things to praise about the evangelical university.

In part, their loyalty might come from a sense of shared values. On at least on one issue, Liberty kids seem to find near-total solidarity: abortion. Even though Trump says he is pro-life and recently made graphic (and incorrect) claims to express his disgust over late-term abortions, students aren’t necessarily persuaded. “I find his pro-life stance to be suspicious,” said Heist, the senior from Ohio. “Everyone on campus has been struggling with the decision.”

It’s impossible to know definitively how Liberty students will vote in November. The consensus among the people I met is that most of the school will choose Trump, however grudgingly. Students gave all sorts of pragmatic explanations for their choice, including a deep hatred of Clinton—while a few Clinton supporters are rumored to be on campus, they seem to be a tiny minority. Others on campus brought up flawed leaders from the Bible, like Nebuchadnezzar, arguing that God can work through anyone, including Trump.

Liberty students’ votes seem to be the least interesting thing about them, though. Most of these teens and 20-somethings have been making the same political calculation as the rest of America this election cycle: Facing two major-party choices they don’t like, they’re trying to figure out the least distasteful compromise. When these students talk about the people they admire, they don’t name Ralph Reed-style, Moral Majority-era political operatives—in fact, most students said they didn’t even know who Reed was before he came to campus this fall. Their idols are “strictly Christ-centered leaders, and not so much political leaders, or pastors that give their political opinions,” said Brien. Cutler agreed: “It’s people who use their platform well, who use their platform for Christ—not to exclude the world, but to … reach the world.”

Falwell Sr.’s Liberty may be gone. The community that has emerged seems to have no less fire for Christ, and no less conviction. But they may be done paying lip service to the party that gave them Trump.

Russia scraps warship refuelling in Spanish enclave

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Nato expressed concern battle group would be used to escalate bombardment of Aleppo

Labour must reclaim English patriotism if we are to beat Ukip and the Tories

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

We can't talk about the future of our country unless we can discuss the past. 

I was a parliamentary candidate for Thurrock, but the place which I currently call home is Hackney, London. This distinction is worth explaining. The questions of Labour and Englishness – what exactly is the English problem that we’re trying to solve, why do we need a progressive patriotism, does it already exist, if not why not and if we had one what would it look like? – are, above all, questions of identity and place. We need to build a patriotism that includes and resonates with residents of both Hackney and Thurrock. Currently they are very far apart. 

I’m the little girl who sat on her dad’s shoulders to wave a flag at Princess Anne’s first wedding. And I was also, like Sadiq Khan, waving a flag at the Silver Jubilee in 1977. I’m an ex-Catholic, I’m a Londoner, I’m English and I’m a woman, and all of those identities are important although not necessarily equally so and not necessarily all of the time.

But I’m also a member of the Labour party, not only as a candidate, but now as an activist in Hackney. And that is where I see the difference very strongly between Hackney and what I experienced in Thurrock. 

Thurrock was Ukip ground zero last year - 12,000 people voted for Ukip in a general election for the first time, on top of the 3,500 that had voted for them before in 2010. Most of those 12,000 people had either not voted before, or had voted Labour. 

This isn’t just about being in two different places. Sometimes it feels like more than being in two different countries, or even like being on two different planets. The reality is that large swathes of Labour’s members and supporters don’t identify as patriotic, fundamentally because patriotism has been seized and colonised by the right. We need to understand that, by allowing them to seize it, we are losing an opportunity to be able to reclaim our past. 

We do not have any legitimacy to talk about the future of our country unless we can talk about our past in a better way. We have tried but our efforts have been half-hearted. Take Ed Miliband's call for One Nation Labour, which ended up amounting to a washed-out Union Jack as a visual for our brand. It could have been so much better – an opportunity for an intellectual rebranding and a seizure of Conservative territory for our own ends. Ultimately One Nation Labour was a slogan and not a project. 

There is a section of the left which has a distinct discomfort with the idea of pride in country. It has swallowed the right-wing myth that England’s successes have all been Conservative ones. This is a lie, but one that has spread very effectively. The left’s willingness to swallow it means that we are still living in a Thatcherite paradigm. It is no wonder progressives revolt at the idea of patriotism, when the right’s ideas of duty and authority quash our ideas of ambitions for equality, opportunity for all and challenging injustice. But we risk denying our successes by allowing the right to define Englishness. It’s England that helped establish the principle of the right to vote, the rule of law, equal suffrage, and the fight against racism. 

If Englishness is going to mean anything in modern England, it needs to be as important for those who feel that perhaps they aren’t English as it is for those who feel that they definitely are. And a place must be reserved for those who, though technically English, don’t see their own story within the Conservative myth of Englishness. 

Although this reclaiming is electorally essential, it is not an electoral gimmick. It is fundamental to who we are. Even if we didn’t need it to win, I would be arguing for it.

We need to make sure that progressive patriotism reclaims the visual language that the Conservatives use to dress up their regressive patriotism. Women need to be as much in the pantheon of the radicals as part of the visual identity of Englishness. Women tend to either be there by birth or by marriage, or we are abstract manifestations of ideals like "justice" or "truth" – as seen on city halls and civic buildings across the country. But English women need to be real, rather than just ideal. Englishness does need to be focused on place and connection, and it should include Mary Wollstonecraft and Sylvia Pankhurst as well as Wat Tyler and Thomas Paine. 

We can’t pretend that we’re always right. The most patriotic thing you can do is to admit sometimes that you’re wrong, so that your country can be better. I love my country, for all its faults. But I do not live with them. I try to make my country better. That is progressive patriotism. And I know all of us who want to be part of this can be part of it. 

This article is based on Polly’s contribution to Who Speaks to England? Labour’s English challenge, a new book published today by the Fabian Society and the Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Winchester.


No, single men do not have a “right” to reproduce

By Glosswitch from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The World Health Organisation’s new definition of infertility enshrines a man’s right to do to women what patriarchy has always done to them – own their bodies.

Last year, Katha Pollitt wrote an article for The Nation in which she asked why the left was simultaneously making progress with equal marriage while falling behind on abortion rights. “The media ,” she wrote, “present marriage equality and reproductive rights as ‘culture war’ issues, as if they somehow went together. But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think.”

She highlighted the ways in which the right can afford to cede ground on marriage equality while continuing to deny females bodily autonomy. She is right to do so. While both reproductive choice and gay rights may be classed as gender issues, each has its own very specific relationship to patriarchy.

A woman’s desire to control her reproductive destiny will always be in direct opposition to patriarchy’s desire to exploit female bodies as a reproductive resource. The social institutions that develop to support the latter – such as marriage – may change, but the exploitation can remain in place.

This has, I think, caused great confusion for those of us who like to see ourselves as progressive. We know that the idealisation of the heterosexual nuclear family, coupled with the demonisation of all relationships seen as “other”, has caused harm to countless individuals. We refuse to define marriage as solely for the purpose of procreation, or to insist that a family unit includes one parent of each sex.

We know we are right in thinking that one cannot challenge patriarchy without fundamentally revising our understanding of family structures. Where we have gone wrong is in assuming that a revision of family structures will, in and of itself, challenge patriarchy. On the contrary, it can accommodate it.

This is why all feminists – and indeed anyone serious about tackling patriarchy at the root – should be deeply concerned about the World Health Organisation’s new definition of infertility. Whereas up until now infertility has been defined solely in medical terms (as the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sex), a revised definition will give each individual “a right to reproduce”.

According to Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, this new definition “includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women”:

“It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.”

It sure is. From now on, even single men who want children – but cannot have them solely because they do not have a female partner to impregnate – will be classed as “infertile”. I hope I’m not the only person to see a problem with this.

I am all in favour of different family structures. I’m especially in favour of those that undermine an age-old institution set up to allow men to claim ownership of women’s reproductive labour and offspring.

I am less enthusiastic about preserving a man’s “right” to reproductive labour regardless of whether or not he has a female partner. The safeguarding of such a right marks not so much an end to patriarchy as the introduction of a new, improved, pick ‘n’ mix, no-strings-attached version.

There is nothing in Adamson’s words to suggest he sees a difference between the position of a reproductively healthy single woman and a reproductively healthy single man. Yet the difference seems obvious to me. A woman can impregnate herself using donor sperm; a man must impregnate another human being using his sperm.

In order to exercise his “right” to reproduce, a man requires the cooperation – or failing that, forced labour – of a female person for the duration of nine months. He requires her to take serious health risks, endure permanent physical side-effects and then to supress any bond she may have developed with the growing foetus. A woman requires none of these things from a sperm donor.

This new definition of infertility effectively enshrines a man’s right to do to women what patriarchy has always done to them: appropriate their labour, exploit their bodies and then claim ownership of any resultant human life.

Already it is being suggested that this new definition may lead to a change in UK surrogacy law. And while some may find it reassuring to see Josephine Quintavalle of the conservative pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics complaining about the sidelining of “the biological process and significance of natural intercourse between a man and a woman”, that really isn’t the problem here.

“How long,” asks Quintavalle, “before babies are created and grown on request completely in the lab?” The answer to this is “probably a very long time indeed”. After all, men are hardly on the verge of running out of poor and/or vulnerable women to exploit. As long as there are female people who feel their only remaining resource is a functioning womb, why bother developing complex technology to replace them?

Men do not have a fundamental right to use female bodies, neither for reproduction nor for sex. A man who wants children but has no available partner is no more “infertile” than a man who wants sex but has no available partner is “sexually deprived”.

The WHO’s new definition is symptomatic of men’s ongoing refusal to recognise female boundaries. Our bodies are our own, not a resource to be put at men’s disposal. Until all those who claim to be opposed to patriarchal exploitation recognise this, progress towards gender-based equality will be very one-sided indeed.


Artist makes 'bloody stake' memorial to Ivan the Terrible

From BBC News - World. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Russian artist mocks new statue of Ivan the Terrible by erecting an "alternative" monument.

PMQs review: Theresa May shows again that Brexit means hard Brexit

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The Prime Minister's promise of "an end to free movement" is incompatible with single market membership. 

Theresa May, it is commonly said, has told us nothing about Brexit. At today's PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn ran with this line, demanding that May offer "some clarity". In response, as she has before, May stated what has become her defining aim: "an end to free movement". This vow makes a "hard Brexit" (or "chaotic Brexit" as Corbyn called it) all but inevitable. The EU regards the "four freedoms" (goods, capital, services and people) as indivisible and will not grant the UK an exemption. The risk of empowering eurosceptics elsewhere is too great. Only at the cost of leaving the single market will the UK regain control of immigration.

May sought to open up a dividing line by declaring that "the Labour Party wants to continue with free movement" (it has refused to rule out its continuation). "I want to deliver on the will of the British people, he is trying to frustrate the British people," she said. The problem is determining what the people's will is. Though polls show voters want control of free movement, they also show they want to maintain single market membership. It is not only Boris Johnson who is pro-having cake and pro-eating it. 

Corbyn later revealed that he had been "consulting the great philosophers" as to the meaning of Brexit (a possible explanation for the non-mention of Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith's resignation and May's Goldman Sachs speech). "All I can come up with is Baldrick, who says our cunning plan is to have no plan," he quipped. Without missing a beat, May replied: "I'm interested that [he] chose Baldrick, of course the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall." (Tony Robinson, a Corbyn critic ("crap leader"), later tweeted that he still is one). "We're going to deliver the best possible deal in goods and services and we're going to deliver an end to free movement," May continued. The problem for her is that the latter aim means that the "best possible deal" may be a long way from the best. 

Getty Images.

Tragic legacy of Britain’s indecision on identity

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The consequence of painful internal party debates will be a remaking of UK politics

First The Dress, now The Legs: Why is the internet so obsessed with optical illusions?

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Ever since The Dress, optical illusions have dominated our feeds and brains. What does this tell us about 21st-century society?

Are these legs shiny and oily, or are they legs with white paint on them? That’s the first question. The second question is: why do we care? Ever since the fateful first light of 25 February 2015, optical illusions have become the internet’s currency. “Is this dress white and gold or black and blue?” whispered the world wide web on that day, paving the way for our news sources to be replaced by a constantly updating feed of hidden cigars in brick walls, phones concealed in carpets, and a lonely Cheese & Onion Bake secreted in some Steak Bakes.

Today, The Dress has been usurped by The Legs. Within the last few hours, news stories on The Telegraph, Metro, Mashable, Buzzfeed and The Independent’s Indy100 have popped up about a tweet from Twitter user @kingkayden, who posted a picture of legs-splattered-with-white-paint-that-sort-of-look-like-legs-splattered-with-oil. No one on social media can shut up about it, and – aside from the fact that anything, absolutely anything, which distracts us from Brexit will do – it’s a mystery why.

“Optical illusions have always been very popular because they challenge the basic notion that we are able to see what is right in front of our eyes,” says Richard Wiseman, a psychologist, author, and owner of the YouTube channel Quirkology, which is full of optical illusions and tricks. “In fact, perception is constructive and our brains are constantly making guesses about what is happening around us. But it doesn't feel like that.

“Illusions show us that we are not really seeing the world as it is and I think people find that fascinating. The web just allows these images and videos to be shared more quickly than ever before.”

It’s a fascinating explanation, but there are also much more cynical tricks at play. News websites deliberately play on this basic psychological love of optical illusions to ensure that they spread online and therefore generate clicks.

“If you sell the story on social channels as a challenge it’s more likely to perform well,” explains a writer for a popular viral news website who wishes to remain anonymous. “I honestly think people like the feeling that they’re intelligent or have completed a challenge simply because they can see the reasoning behind why a certain illusion works.”

Although the writer, understandably, doesn’t want to share the number of clicks an average optical illusion story gets, they assure me that they are a huge traffic driver. “I think there’s something to be said for optical illusions stories being entertainment as news – they’re innocuous pieces which pretend to teach you something about the way your eyes and brain work, but actually you’re just clicking on it because you think you know what the trick will be. Of course this is a fallacy, but it’s one that works for everyone – the ‘news’ website gets traffic, the people get entertained,” they say.

“That it’s become such a success story for viral news outlets is more concerning – the traffic these stories generate mean they often supersede actual news in terms or priority, even if the news is thoroughly entertaining. This is where I think we hit murky waters if we attempt to define our product as 'news'.”

It's true that there's room on the internet for everything and everyone, and optical illusions shouldn't disappear from our hearts and feeds, but it is fair to be worried about their prevalence online. When news websites sell stories as something “Only 2 per cent of people can see!!!”, we are simultaneously dumbing down and pretending we are smart. 

Besides, the legs clearly have white paint on them.


Are you ready to comply with the EU GDPR?

By Alan Calder from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Alan Calder, the founder and executive chairman of IT Governance, discusses the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and how your organisation can achieve compliance.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will supersede the UK Data Protection Act 1998 on 25 May 2018, introducing new obligations for all organisations that process the personal data of EU residents.

The GDPR introduces significant changes in the areas of data subject and child consent, privacy by design, data breach notification, international data transfers and data protection officers, among others.

With the prospect of multi-million pound fines for non-compliance, and less than two years until the Regulation is enforced, organisations in the UK should urgently be considering what they need to do to comply.

The skills and resources required under the GDPR

The GDPR requires certain organisations to appoint a data protection officer (DPO). The role of a DPO includes informing and advising the controller and processor of their data protection obligations, monitoring the organisation’s compliance and performance, providing advice on data protection impact assessments, and giving due regard to risks associated with data processing operations. DPOs must have the legal and information security knowledge and skills necessary to help organisations achieve compliance with the Regulation.

As an expert in information security and data protection compliance, IT Governance has developed Europe’s first certified EU General Data Protection Regulation Foundation and Practitioner training courses to help individuals who are involved in data protection or who are looking to fulfil the role of data protection officer in order to achieve compliance with the Regulation. The certified training programme is designed to equip individuals with a comprehensive understanding of the GDPR requirements and a practical guide to planning, implementing and maintaining compliance with the GDPR.  

Inform GDPR transition planning through data flow mapping and gap analysis

An important first step in achieving compliance with the GDPR is to review your organisation’s data flows. A data flow audit will allow your organisation to map the locations of all personally identifiable information (PII), gain visibility over your data flows, develop effective strategies to protect PII, improve data lifecycle management and introduce efficiencies into your processes, and reduce privacy-related risks. 

Organisations that plan to comply with the GDPR but that lack visibility over their data flows are encouraged to conduct a data flow audit. The process involves mapping out the organisation’s data flows to get a comprehensive understanding of the sources from which the data flows. IT Governance can help organisations prepare for the GDPR with an extensive data flow audit that will enable you to identify the measures, policies and procedures needed to reduce the risk of a data breach.

Implement technical and organisational measures with ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is the international best-practice standard for information security management and encompasses three essentials aspects: people, processes and technology. The Standard is designed not only to defend your company against technology-based risks but also to prevent common security issues such as those caused by lack of staff awareness around current threats or ineffective information security procedures.  

Moreover, the GDPR clearly states that “the controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk”. These measures relate to personal data encryption and pseudonymisation; access and availability of data; the confidentiality, integrity and availability of processing systems and services; and regular assessment and evaluation of technical and organisational measures to ensure the security of processing.

An ISO 27001-compliant information security management system (ISMS) is founded on an enterprise-wide a culture of information security, led by the board. It necessitates that your organisation’s information security strategy be constantly monitored, updated and reviewed, and this process is amenable to helping you implement the technical and organisational measures of the GDPR.   

ISO 27001 can help you meet parallel GDPR and NIS Directive requirements

The NIS Directive, which is set to come into force at the same time as the GDPR, is designed to help organisations within the EU achieve a common level of security across their networks and information systems. The Directive applies to organisations providing essential services in sectors such as finance, energy and transport, as well as digital service providers.

Similar to the GDPR, the NIS Directive requires a robust ISMS and encourages a security culture. As a result, more and more organisations preparing to comply with both the GDPR and the NIS Directive are also seeking certification to ISO 27001. The Standard contains information security requirements that, when met, can allow your organisation to centralise and simplify your compliance efforts for the NIS Directive and the GDPR.

IT Governance’s ISO 27001 packaged solutions can help you tackle your organisation’s GDPR and NIS Directive compliance requirements as well as implement a robust  ISMS. The ISO 27001 packaged solutions provide a unique blend of expertly developed tools and resources that complement your organisation’s skills and resources at a fixed price and in a timely manner.

To find out more about GDPR compliance or ISO 27001 packaged solutions please visit (, email, or call us on +44 (0)845 070 1750.

Image: Shutterstock

Paul Beatty: “Thank goodness for cultural appropriation”

By Tom Gatti from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The 2016 Man Booker Prize goes to caustic American race satire The Sellout.

Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, a blistering satire on race relations and contemporary culture, has become the first American novel to win the Man Booker Prize.

At the prize ceremony at the historic Guildhall in the City of London last night, Beatty – flanked by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and the chair of judges Amanda Foreman – looked shocked and at times close to tears as he gave an emotional and meandering speech.

“I can’t tell you guys how long a journey this has been for me,” the 54-year-old author said. “I don’t want to get all dramatic and say ‘writing has saved my life’, but writing has given me a life.”

The novel, which was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in New York earlier this year, was described by the New Statesman reviewer Philip Maughan, as a “masterful show of verbal energy that questions just how far equality has come and where it hopes to go”. The Sellout begins with the narrator (who goes by the surname “Me” and the nickname “Bonbon”) facing the US Supreme Court for attempting to reintroduce racial segregation and slavery as a way of putting his hometown of Dickens, a neglected “agrarian ghetto” on the outskirts of Los Angeles, back on the map.

In the book’s prologue, Me wanders through Washington, which he sees as a “concrete hard-on for America’s deeds and misdeeds”:

“All it takes is a day trip through Georgetown and Chinatown. A slow saunter past the White House, Phoenix House, Blair House, and the local crackhouse for the message to become abundantly clear. Be it ancient Rome or modern-day America, you’re either citizen or slave. Lion or Jew. Guilty or innocent.”

Beatty grew up in Los Angeles, studied creative writing and psychology, and published his first book, a volume of poetry, in 1991. Three novels followed: The White Boy Shuffle (1996), a comedy about a young black man’s transformation from outcast to messiah; Tuff (2000) and Slumberland (2008), which follows a DJ in search of a mysterious jazzman in Berlin.

Beatty told the BBC this morning that The Sellout “is in a large part about how we look at progress and what that really means, and how we’re so quick to point to something like Barack [Obama]’s election as a sign of progress, which it is. Chris Rock has a really good joke – that it’s a sign of white progress not black progress, which is an interesting way to look at it.”

In her pre-announcement speech the historian Amanda Foreman argued that “telling writers what is and isn’t allowed is once again all the rage”: “Governments do it because they can, pressure groups do it because they feel entitled, even marketers do it – not because they’re evil but because they fear taking risks.”

Beatty picked up the theme of free expression when he mentioned the recent row about cultural appropriation, sparked by Lionel Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September: “Anybody can write what they want,” he said. “But people get to say what they want back to you, and that’s not censorship. It’s also important to note that cultural appropriation goes every direction. It’s not about whites appropriating this, it’s about everyone appropriating everything – and thank goodness, I would have absolutely nothing to say if that wasn’t the case.”

Since the rules were changed in 2014, the Booker Prize, worth £50,000, is now open to any book written in English and published in the UK (previously only British, Irish and Commonwealth authors were eligible). This year marks the second consecutive win for the independent imprint Oneworld, who also published A Brief History of Seven Killings by the Jamaican novelist Marlon James. Founded in 1986 by husband and wife team Juliet Mabey and Novin Doostdar and originally focusing on non-fiction, Oneworld has in recent years developed its fiction list to encompass “intelligent, challenging, and distinctive novels that sit at the intersection of the literary and the commercial”.

The New Statesman and Foyles present: the 2016 Man Booker Prize Winner Paul Beatty in conversation with the NS culture editor Tom Gatti: Foyles, London WC2, on Friday 28 October at 7pm.

The event will also be broadcast via Facebook Live on the New Statesman's Facebook page — like our page here for the chance to ask questions to Paul Beatty and follow the discussion live.






Pro-Trump site “reveals” Hillary Clinton’s “hitman and secret sex fixer” to be… Ed Miliband

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Unsubstantiated cobblers? Why not spice it up with a picture of the former leader of the Labour party awkwardly standing?

The weekly pro-Trump supermarket tabloid, The National Enquirer, ran an unsubstantiated story recently allegedly quoting a former Hillary Clinton bag carrier. The source, described as a “hitman” and “fixer”, provided a WORLD EXCLUSIVE!!!! about all the things that Clinton supposedly made him do – involving (hold your horses, America!) sex and money.

The story was picked up by a pro-Trump site called American News, and other murky corners of the internet’s alt-right, and illustrated with an even more bollocks (if that’s possible) photo. It’s a picture of Bill Clinton shaking Nick Clegg’s hand – with Ed Miliband lurking nearby, giving them the side-eye.

Looks familiar, right?

But never mind that this photo was taken three years ago at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Never mind that it accuses the former leader of the UK Labour party of being in the pocket of the Clintons. Never mind that even the circle highlighting him was copied from the Mail. Never mind that Ed Miliband, face furrowed in suspicion, hand damply resting on his front, resembling an awkward and aggrieved butler, would be the last person to have the wherewithal to arrange discreet sordid liaisons anyway. It’s a picture on the internet, folks!

Let’s take our country out of the hands of these failed innocuous Bridish politicians and make America great again!


The 7 brilliant arguments Theresa May once made against Brexit

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Just in case you missed them. 

“Just listen to the way a lot of politicians and commentators talk about the public,” the Prime Minister Theresa May told the Conservative party conference in October. “They find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal, your attachment to your job security inconvenient.

“They find the fact that more than seventeen million votes decided to leave the European Union simply bewildering.”

Of course, there was a time not that long ago, when May too found the idea of Brexit pretty bewildering herself. Nicknamed “submarine” during the EU referendum campaign for her low-key support for Remain, she nonetheless had made up her mind it was the right thing to do. 

In a recording obtained by The Guardian, she told an audience at Goldman Sachs that “the economic arguments are clear”. She continued: 

“I think being part of a 500m trading bloc is significant for us. I think one of the issues is a lot of people invest here in the UK because it’s the UK in Europe. 

“I think if we were not in Europe, there would be firms and companies who would be looking to say do they need actually to develop a mainland European presence rather than a UK presence.

But if that hasn’t convinced you, luckily May also made a public case for Remain on 25 April 2016. Here are some of her best points:

1. There’s no such thing as total sovereignty

At conference in October, May said Britain was leaving “to become, once more, a fully sovereign and independent country”. 

But in April, she said that “no country or empire in world history has ever been totally sovereign”. Nation states, she said, have to make a trade off between agreeing to cede some sovereignty “in a controlled way” to prevent a greater loss of sovereignty in an uncontrolled way, such as “military conflict or economic decline”. 

2. It's safer to Remain

In her conference speech, May said she wanted a Brexit deal to include “co-operation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism”. 

In April, though, the then-Home secretary thought it would be a lot simpler just to stay in the EU. She predicted that while a Brexit Britain would still share intelligence, “that does not mean we would be as safe as if we remain”.

For example, May helpfully pointed out, a Britain outside the EU would have no access to the European Arrest Warrant, which allowed her department to extradite more than 5,000 people from Britain to Europe in the last five years. 

She also distinguished between the EU’s freedom of movement rules, and border checks, declaring: “Some people say the EU does not make us more secure because it does not allow us to control our border. But that is not true.”

3. Rules are better than no rules

At conference, May said Brexit would mean “our laws made not in Brussels but in Westminster”. Anyone who believed they were a “citizen of the world” was in fact “a citizen of nowhere”. 

Back in April, she had a more nuanced view. She said Europe had “stumbled its way to war in 1914” because of the “ambiguity of nations’ commitments to one another”. 

She declared: “Nobody should want an end to a rules-based international system.” Although, she did add that reconciling these international systems with democratic government was “one of the great challenges of this century”. 

4. It could break up the UK

In her speech at conference, May took aim at the Scottish Nationalist Party when she blamed “divisive nationalists” for threatening to drive the UK apart. 

When she spoke in April, though, it seemed she might be talking about a different set of nationalists. “If Brexit isn’t fatal to the European Union, we might find that it is fatal to the Union with Scotland,” she warned. 

Scots are more likely to be in favour of the EU than voters in England and Wales, she noted: 

“I do not want the people of Scotland to think that English Eurosceptics put their dislike of Brussels ahead of our bond with Edinburgh and Glasgow. I do not want the European Union to cause the destruction of an older and much more precious Union, the Union between England and Scotland.”

5. Brexit endangers Britain’s financial services industry

In her conference speech, May described London as “the world’s leading financial capital”. 

But according to May circa April 2016, it might not be for much longer. She warned that outside the EU: “There would be little we could do to stop discriminatory policies being introduced, and London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre would be in danger.”

6. Negotiating trade deals won’t be easy

May is a believer in free trade – her conference speech was peppered with references to it – and she has appointed Liam Fox as International Trade secretary to broker new deals.

And she knows how hard that will be. In her April speech, she noted Britain would have to replace 36 existing trade agreements with non-EU countries: “While we could certainly negotiate our own trade agreements, there would be no guarantee that they would be on terms as good as we enjoy now.”

7. Nor is staying in the single market

Even in April, May was clear she thought Britain could survive Brexit, but she was not sure whether it would do so better off.

As she put it: 

"The reality is that we do not know on what terms we would win access to the single market.  We do know that in a negotiation we would need to make concessions in order to access it, and those concessions could well be about accepting EU regulations, over which we would have no say, making financial contributions, just as we do now, accepting free movement rules, just as we do now, or quite possibly all three combined.  

"It is not clear why other EU member states would give Britain a better deal than they themselves enjoy."

Couldn't agree more, Prime Minister. 


The New Statesman Cover | American rage

By New Statesman from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

A first look at this week's magazine.

28 October - 3 November issue
American Rage

Azerbaijan gas loans under threat after NGO demand

From Europe News. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Warning from anti-corruption watchdog highlights push for reform in autocratic country

Emma Rice's exit from Shakespeare's Globe feels a bit Brexity

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The criticism of the artistic director's experimental style ignores the fact that Shakeapeare was also a pioneering populist.

Seen from afar from my perch in Edinburgh, the decision by London’s famous Globe theatre to part ways with its artistic director, Emma Rice, is disappointing. It feels a bit Brexity: a pained cry from the past, “We want our Shakespearean canon back!” Rice will leave her post in 2018, after being criticised by the board for her use of microphones, neon, and light rigging as part of her sets in the replica Elizabethan theatre.

But it’s no defence of the Renaissance repertoire to mollycoddle it like this. Turning the Globe into some sort of tourist attraction is the surest way to kill it. Shakespeare was a popular playwright in the 16th century, an innovator of his time and his work remains a beacon for theatrical cultures the world over. His writing came out of a London that was international, expanding, full of new people arriving in the British capital, overflowing with debate and conflict. The original Globe was built to house big, rambunctious populist audiences, the very audiences Emma Rice, through productions such as her well-reviewed Midsummer’s Night Dream — described by The Stage as “hot-blooded and hot-bodied” — was recently attracting.

So Shakespeare doesn’t need defending but what about the architects of the original Globe? The Elizabethan carpenter-turned-actor James Burbage who with the help of the polymath Dr John Dee drafted the plans for the original structure. Surely Burbage intended the theatre to be played with, and in? Theatre makers are always engaged in a dance with architecture. “What can I do with this space?” “What can I make within these particular limitations?” One reason the Elizabethan repertoire travels so well across time and geography is that the Globe’s very architecture demanded playwrights who produced robust, tough plays. It’s quite absurd to suggest that their work can’t survive the aesthetics and technologies of contemporary dramaturgy. The Globe’s original architect would be thrilled to find directors and designers continuing to engage in that dance with form some 400 years later.

While it’s always exciting to go back to basics for some productions, there has to be room for innovation and play. Emma Rice was using her stage to play with gender, technology, ethnicity and popular form. So was Shakespeare. In 1592 Shakespeare’s contemporary, John Lyly, wrote: “If what we present is all mingle mangle, the fault must be excused for the whole world has gone hodge podge.” The world is changing — what we thought we knew yesterday about politics, economics and culture is turned upside down. Theatre has to keep up. It has to lead, even. There must be no going back.

David Greig is a Scottish playwright and the artistic director of Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre.


Zac Goldsmith has bitten off more than he can chew

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

In standing as an independent, Goldsmith may face the worst of both worlds. 

After just 48 years, we can announce the very late arrival of the third runway at Heathrow. Assuming, that is, that it makes its way past the legal challenge from five local councils and Greenpeace, the consultation with local residents, and the financial worries of the big airlines. And that's not counting the political struggles...

While the Times leads with the logistical headaches - "Heathrow runway may be built over motorway" is their splash, the political hurdles dominate most of this morning’s papers

"Tory rebels let fly on Heathrow" says the i's frontpage, while the FT goes for "Prominent Tories lead challenge to May on Heathrow expansion". Although Justine Greening, a May loyalist to her fingertips, has limited herself to a critical blogpost, Boris Johnson has said the project is "undeliverable" and will lead to London becoming "a city of planes". 

But May’s real headache is Zac Goldsmith, who has quit, triggering a by-election in his seat of Richmond Park, in which he will stand as an anti-Heathrow candidate.  "Heathrow forces May into Brexit by-election" is the Telegraph's splash. 

CCHQ has decided to duck out of the contest entirely, leaving Goldsmith running as the Conservative candidate in all but name, against the Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. 

What are Goldsmith's chances? To win the seat, the Liberal Democrats would need a 19.3 per cent swing from the Conservatives - and in Witney, they got exactly that.

They will also find it easier to squeeze the third-placed Labour vote than they did in Witney, where they started the race in fourth place. They will find that task all the easier if the calls for Labour to stand aside are heeded by the party leadership. In any case, that Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds have all declared that they should will be a boost for Olney even if she does face a Labour candidate.  

The Liberal Democrats are fond of leaflets warning that their rivals “cannot win here” and thanks to Witney they have one ready made.  

Goldsmith risks having the worst of all worlds. I'm waiting to hear whether or not the Conservatives will make their resources freely available to Goldsmith, but it is hard to see how, without taking an axe to data protection laws, he can make use of Conservative VoterID or information gathered in his doomed mayoral campaign. 

But in any case, the Liberal Democrats will still be able to paint him as the Brexit candidate and the preferred choice of the pro-Heathrow Prime Minister, as he is. I think Goldsmith will find he has bitten more than he can chew this time.

This article originally appeared in today's Morning Call, your essential email covering everything you need to know about British politics and today's news. You can subscribe for free here.

Photo: Getty

How austere will Philip Hammond be?

By George Eaton from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

The Chancellor must choose between softening or abandoning George Osborne's approach in his Autumn Statement. 

After becoming Chancellor, Philip Hammond was swift to confirm that George Osborne's budget surplus target would be abandoned. The move was hailed by some as the beginning of a new era of fiscal policy - but it was more modest than it appeared. Rather than a statement of principle, the abandonment of the 2019-20 target was merely an acceptance of reality. In the absence of additional spending cuts or tax rises, it would inevitably be missed (as Osborne himself recognised following the EU referendum). The decision did not represent, as some suggested, "the end of austerity".

Ahead of his first Autumn Statement on 23 November, the defining choice facing Hammond is whether to make a more radical break. As a new Resolution Foundation report notes, the Chancellor could either delay the surplus target (the conservative option) or embrace an alternative goal. Were he to seek a current budget suplus, rather than an overall one (as Labour pledged at the last general election), Hammond would avoid the need for further austerity and give himself up to £17bn of headroom. This would allow him to borrow for investment and to provide support for the "just managing" families (as Theresa May calls them) who will be squeezed by the continuing benefits freeze.

Alternatively, should Hammond merely delay Osborne's surplus target by a year (to 2020-21), he would be forced to impose an additional £9bn of tax rises or spending cuts. Were he to reject any further fiscal tightening, a surplus would not be achieved until 2023-24 - too late to be politically relevant. 

The most logical option, as the Resolution Foundation concludes, is for Hammond to target a current surplus. But since entering office, both he and May have emphasised their continuing commitment to fiscal conservatism ("He talks about austerity – I call it living within our means," the latter told Jeremy Corbyn at her first PMQs). For Hammond to abandon the goal of the UK's first budget surplus since 2001-02 would be a defining moment. 

Getty Images.

'I killed my rapist when he came back for my sister'

From BBC News - World. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

A young Tunisian woman was photographed naked by a friend of her father's. He then used the images to silence her - until one day she snapped and took a bloody revenge. This story is part of the BBC's Shame series, which examines a disturbing new phenomenon - the use of private or sexually explicit images to blackmail and shame young people, mainly girls and women, in some of the world's most conservative societies. Explore all the stories and join the conversation at

Why are YouTube comments the worst on the internet?

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

A perfect storm of factors ensures that YouTube is home to the most toxic comment section on the web.

It is often said that Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed, but you wouldn’t know that from the YouTube comments. “Thanks mozart for adding more sexiness to my sexy sex life with this music... me and my girlfriend enjoy having sex with this music... HAIL TO MOZART!!!,” wrote Mr or Mrs impuredeath2 on an upload of the song last month.

As far as YouTube comments go, this is a good one. There is no racism, homophobia, or antisemitism, there are no conspiracy theories, it is a full sentence, and it doesn’t contain the words “thumbs up if u agree”. For years, YouTube has notoriously been the home of the worst comment section on the internet, and if you Google “Why are YouTube comments…”, the search engine will helpfully complete your sentence with the options “so bad”, “so racist”, and “so toxic”. We are all aware that YouTube comments are terrible, but much like the fact that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, although we know it’s true, we don’t really know why.

There are, in fact, many reasons. The first (“First!!!!”) is that all internet comment sections are terrible, but Facebook, Reddit, and many news sites filter their comments so that the first comments you see are the ones that have received the most positive votes. In these systems, toxic comments are often hidden away after they are voted down too many times. On YouTube, the “Top” comments are the ones with the most replies, and although you can “Thumbs down” a comment, pressing this button doesn’t affect its overall number of “Thumbs up” nor move it any further down the page (try it yourself). The comments you see first are therefore often the most controversial.

But it’s not just the “Top” comments on YouTube that are awful, and this is mostly to do with how immediate and popular the comment section is. Unless you get a lot of replies or thumbs up, your comment will disappear underneath a multitude of others soon after it’s written. YouTube has no “View all comments” option that people can CTRL+F through to find your name and words, so if anyone wanted to find out what you’d written, they’d have to arduously click “Show more” hundreds of times.

This means that despite the fact YouTube’s comment section isn’t anonymous – the site forces people to sign up via their Google account – people don’t really have to be scared of what they say. Unlike on Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter, a user’s profile doesn’t hold a collection of their comments or a list of things they’ve commented on. It is for this reason that you never see headlines about people being fired for their comments under Mozart’s Requiem, but often do for their Facebook statuses or Tweets. This set-up only compounds the fact that, contrary to popular belief, non-anonymous individuals are actually more aggressive than anonymous individuals online.

Just like there are few consequences for awful comments, there is also little reward for good ones. On other social media platforms, people crave Likes and shares, but on YouTube these are – once again – not visibly collected on your profile. People are also less inclined to go to YouTube for an intelligent debate (thumbs up if you’re reading this in 2016!!!), which makes the problem cyclical.

Top this all off with the fact there are no comment moderators and pretty much everyone goes on YouTube (including lots of kids), and you have a perfect storm of factors. Although some popular YouTubers have chosen to ban certain words from their comments so they’re automatically filtered out, most people who upload to the site do so casually, without considering this option.

Now, that's settled, we’d best get down to business. ~★☆★ If you share this article on the next seven YouTube videos you watch, your true love will kiss you on Friday at midnight. ★☆★~


A hard Brexit is the best way to keep Scotland in the UK - here's why

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 26, 2016.

Theresa May knows she has the upper hand. 

Conventional wisdom says soft Brexit is good for the union. If Theresa May steers the UK out of the EU but retains access to the single market, maybe a bit of freedom of movement it would make many Scots – the majority of whom voted to stay in Europe – think twice before voting Yes to independence.

After all, they’d be turning their back on some access to the EU for an uncertain future as an independent country who would still have to negotiate it’s way back into the club.

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

The reason Nicola Sturgeon is hell bent on keeping Scotland’s access to the single market is because a hard Brexit is bad news for the independence cause.

Never forget that while the SNP may claim to be Scotland’s party it is in fact a single issue movement focused on one goal only – independence.

If Sturgeon is opposed to the increasingly likely scenario that sees the whole of the UK crash out of Europe swapping single market access for full immigration controls, it’s because first and foremost it’s bad for her cause.

For if there is to be a hard Brexit, Sturgeon would have to sell the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK, joining the EU and being confronted with not just border posts for anyone wanting to travel south but tariffs for anyone wanting to trade with England.

She’d have her work cut out.The UK is a significantly more vital trading partner for Scotland than the remaining 27 countries of the EU. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK outstrip what it sell to Europe abour four to one, and it’s estimated that while 250,000 Scots jobs are tied to the EU, a million more rely on being in the UK.

It’s why Sturgeon for all her fighting talk is trapped. If there is to be a hard Brexit she needs to get Scotland out of the UK before the reality of that dawns. That’s looking like a two-and-a-half year window.

But the polls are stubbornly static.

She can’t have another referendum unless she knowns she’s going to win it. For to lose two votes on the same subject – and her draft legislation published last week suggests she’s going for the same question but banking on different arguments – would provide a definitive answer, closing the issue down for a generation for real this time and begging questions not just about what next for the SNP but what’s the point of the SNP.

With Yes still hovering around the 45 per cent mark in current polls Sturgeon needs to add a good 15 per cent before she can consider triggering indyref2.

Now, some of her supporters point to the last independence campaign when support for the proposition rose from a historic position of around 25 per cent to 45 per cent by polling day. They claim the same can be done again.

But that was a long campaign and Sturgeon does not have the time, never mind the fact that most of the soft Yes vote has been hoovered up now and convincing those that remain will prove much harder. 

And, according to my Number 10 source, Theresa May knows all this. 

That’s why she can dismiss Sturgeon’s bleating. Why she can sit around the Cabinet table with her as she did yesterday and, despite promising respect, actually give her short shrift.

May’s in the stronger position on this one. She’s newly installed, and confident that she can go to the country and win at will.

Sturgeon’s overseeing an increasingly tired SNP administration (albeit, like May, there is no credible opposition to speak of). If she doesn’t deliver independence it’s not just her political career but the future of her entire party that would be pitched into the balance.

Unlike David Cameron, May has no specifically Scottish special adviser and her dismissive tone towards Scotland has led some to speculate that she doesn’t get it or doesn’t care.

Quite the opposite. 

Whatever other drawbacks, hard Brexit brings it is the most sensible position to take if your number one priority is keeping Scotland in the UK.

In the absence of any evidence as to what else her strategy may consist of, perhaps that is May’s game.



What Drives a Professional Boxer?

By Nadine Ajaka from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Antonio Johnson, who goes by the moniker “The St. Paul Kid,” is a professional boxer from St. Paul, Minnesota. In a short profile documentary by Tony Franklin, he talks about his passion for the sport and the power of representing his city. “I’m no different than any other kid from the inner city,” he says. “I was blessed to be able to find boxing.” The film follows Johnson’s most intimate musings about the values of boxing. To see more of Franklin’s work, visit his website.

The rise of Raheem Kassam, Nigel Farage’s back-room boy

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The former conservative blogger is mounting a bid for the Ukip leadership. But can he do enough to convince the most right-wing of Britain’s leading parties to back him?

It is a mark of how close the UK Independence Party has moved to the heart of the British establishment that one of the three main candidates for its leadership has ascended from the so-called spadocracy.

Nigel Farage used to castigate David Cameron and Ed Miliband for having worked as special advisers and little else, but Raheem Kassam – said to be his preferred choice as his latest successor – was his aide for several years and sometimes styled himself as Farage’s “chief of staff”. His only other substantial jobs have been in the right-wing blogosphere.

Kassam has one big advantage going into the election on 28 November: the support of Ukip’s mega-donor, Arron Banks. He will stand against the party’s former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans – who is backed by its only MP, Douglas Carswell – and the former deputy leader Paul Nuttall, who has declared himself the “unity candidate”.

Kassam, 30, was born in Hillingdon, west London,
to Tanzanian parents of Gujarati descent. They are practising Muslims but their son says he has not followed the faith for a decade.

Like Evans, he came into politics through the Conservative Party, and sat on the board of its youth wing. Although his political colours have changed since then, his allegiance has always been to the far right: he once listed Barry Goldwater, the Republican senator who voted against the Civil Rights Act and was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 US presidential race, as a hero.

Kassam worked for the Commentator, a right-wing blogging platform, but left on bad terms with Robin Shepherd, the site’s founder and editor. Subsequent articles on the Commentator attest to the acrimony. One brands Kassam “weird”, and the latest mention of him appears under the headline “Ukip leadership contender Raheem Kassam is a criminal, and we can prove it”.

His time there did, however, earn him the approval of the conservative polemicist James Delingpole. In 2014, Delingpole brought Kassam on board as managing editor when he set up the British outpost of Breitbart News, the right-wing website whose US executive chairman Steve Bannon became Donald Trump’s campaign manager in August. Breitbart sees itself as the house journal of the “alt right”, hardline on immigration and invested in denying climate change. Recent articles from its London bureau have carried headlines such as “British peer: polygamy ‘commonplace’ within Muslim communities in Britain” and “Green politico: it’s time to learn Arabic and stop worrying about migration”.

Given his hardline views (he addressed the first UK rally of the far-right group Pegida), it is not surprising that Kassam felt more at home in Farage’s Ukip than David Cameron’s modernising Conservatives. In 2014 he officially switched from blue to purple, joining Farage’s office later that year.

There, he was soon at the centre of the tensions between the Ukip leader and Carswell, who had defected from the Tories to Ukip that year. From the start, Carswell and Farage were at odds over strategy, with the former concerned that his leader’s anti-immigration rhetoric would imperil the EU referendum result.

Carswell tried to oust Farage after the 2015 election, in which Ukip polled 3.9 million votes but won just one Commons seat. Then as now, Carswell’s preferred candidate was Suzanne Evans. She is not only a close ally, but an employee in his parliamentary office.

Such is Evans’s proximity to Carswell that Farage and his allies will do their utmost to prevent her from becoming leader. Although Farage now has his eye on a lucrative new career as a pundit on Donald Trump’s long-rumoured television network, the knowledge that Ukip had fallen into the hands of his old enemy would sour his retirement.

Farage, like Arron Banks, had settled on a preferred replacement: Steven Woolfe, formerly a Ukip MEP and now sitting as an independent. But Woolfe’s candidacy was beset by problems from the outset – culminating in a brawl that ended with him in hospital. On recovering, he announced not only the end of his leadership bid, but also his association with Ukip, which he now regards as “ungovernable”.

That left Kassam as the most plausible anti-Evans candidate. But can he do it? Kassam has two obstacles in his path. The first is his own record of combative public pronouncements – he has asked if Angela Eagle has “special needs”, called for Nicola Sturgeon to have her mouth taped shut so she couldn’t speak, and added “and her legs, so she can’t reproduce”. The second is his name, coupled with his skin colour and Gujarati heritage.

As a conservative blogger, Kassam will be familiar with the rumour, peddled by Breitbart and others on the alt right, that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim. So his campaign website is liberally dotted with photos of him sipping a pint (he lists Whitstable Bay as his preferred poison). Will that be enough to convince the most right-wing of Britain’s leading parties to back him? 

Ellie Foreman-Peck for the New Statesman

Resistance to China’s acquisition spree stiffens

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Beijing needs to take reciprocity for foreign investors more seriously

A muddle-headed approach to foreign aid

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

UK minister risks chipping away at the pledge on development funds

Demographics and markets: The effects of ageing

From Analysis. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Will the rising number of retirees cause inflation and help lift the economy?

SRSLY #65: Black Mirror / Crazyhead / Crazy Stupid Love

By Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

On the pop culture podcast this week: series 3 of Black Mirror, new E4 horror-comedy Crazyhead, and the 2011 romantic comedy Crazy Stupid Love.

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

Black Mirror

Black Mirror on Netflix.

Emily Nussbaum on series one and two.

Mallory Ortberg’s “Next On Black Mirror”.

You are living in a Black Mirror episode and you don’t care.


Crazyhead on 4od.

Anna’s preview of the show.

Crazy Stupid Love

The trailer.

For next time

Caroline is watching/listening to The Heart of a Dog.

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]

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], 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 #64, check it out here.

Truth on trade: How much do China, Japan and America trade with the EU?

By from European Union. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

A POPULAR idea is floating around certain circles: that you do not need a deep trade deal with the EU in order to trade with them in a significant way. For instance, Guido Fawkes, a blog, points out that each year China trades with the EU to the value of half a trillion dollars. But China is not in the single market and so does not have to accept annoying rules and regulations. Japan trades a lot with the EU, but is not in the single market and does not have to accept free movement of labour (it has net migration close to zero, in fact). This has implications for post-Brexit Britain, of course. The implication seems to be that Britain need not be in the single market in order to trade lots with the EU. But take a closer look at the figures, and that rosy conclusion is thrown into doubt. It is true that America, China and Japan trade lots with the EU (our chart looks just at goods trade, which is easier to measure). But these countries are much, much bigger than Britain is. So, proportional to the size of their economies, they do a tiny amount of trade with the EU in comparison to Britain. By our measure, EU trade relative to GDP is at least five times as important to Britain as it is to the three other economies we look at. The single market, in a word, matters.  20161024 09:10:32 ...

How to explain Brexit to your kids

By Glosswitch from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

It’s not hard. The Brexiteers’ tantrums are a parody of how children behave.

My parents never sat me down for “the politics talk”. I suspect they were too embarrassed. Like many children of my generation, I was left to develop my own ideas about what adults did in private.

We didn’t have the internet and our arms were too short to open most newspapers (scientists were still working on the tabloid-broadsheet hybrid). Hence we picked up news randomly, either by overhearing snippets on the radio while buying sweets in the newsagent’s or by accidentally watching the start of the six o’clock news following the end of Charles In Charge.

By the time I was nine, the same age my eldest child is now, I had unrealistic expectations of politicians and the democratic process. Due to the fact that I had no idea what anyone was talking about, I assumed everyone in the House of Commons was having serious, informed thoughts about the most important issues of the day.

I now know that the real reason I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying was because what had sounded like “roargh roargh [insult] <braying laughter>” really had been “roargh roargh [insult] <braying laughter>” all along. I’d assumed it was a language I had yet to learn, one of the more specialised dialects of Adult-ese. I’d already wasted one vote by the time I realised that Prime Minister’s Questions was basically Jeremy Kyle with posher accents and minus the lie detector tests.

I don’t want my children to make the same mistakes as me. Thankfully, it turns out Brexit Britain is the ideal place to teach your kids how politics really works. Never has there been a time when those stalking the corridors of power were more in tune with the average tantruming toddler. There’s no point in rational argument; you just have to hope that those in power burn themselves out before too much damage is done.

This particular tantrum has of course been building for some time. The dominant rhetoric of the Leave campaign – like that of the Tory party itself – always offered a spoilt child’s view of the world, one in which you are the centre of the universe, depending on no one else for your survival.

When others point out that this isn’t the case – that perhaps you wouldn’t have a home and food on the table if it wasn’t for Mummy or Daddy, or perhaps the UK would not have a strong economy were it not a member of the EU – you simply tell them they’re being mean. You’ll show them! They’re not the boss of you! So you pack your bags and leave.

If you are six, you might get to the corner of your road, realise with disappointment that no one is following you and turn back, hoping no one noticed you were gone. If you are the UK, you hang around for a while, maybe hiding in some bushes, thinking “any minute now they’ll come looking for me.”

But they don’t, so eventually you think “sod ‘em, I’ll go to my mates’. Unfortunately, you cannot get there without Mummy to drive you. This is a problem. But at least you can tell yourself that you were doubly right to leave, since everything that is happening now is Mummy’s fault.

Never in British politics has the panicked outrage of those who know they are making a terrible mistake been so palpable. It reminds me of the time when I was teaching my eldest son to drink from a beaker. He kept spilling small amounts, which caused him so much distress he’d end up pouring the rest of the juice onto the carpet to make it look deliberate. Whenever I tried to stop him, I’d only make him more panicked, thus even more likely to get juice everywhere.

I have since asked him if he remembers why he did this. He says he does not, but I have told him this is what the British government is doing with Brexit. The referendum was the initial spillage; we now have to sit and watch, biting our tongues, in the hope that the “well, anyhow, I totally meant to do that!” response can be averted.

There is little chance of that, though. When my middle son told his older brother he could fly, he quickly backed down on being asked to demonstrate this by jumping from an upstairs window. Liam Fox would have thrown himself headlong, then blamed Project Fear for his broken neck. Or rather, he’d have thrown someone else – one of the millions of people whose lives really will be ruined by Brexit – then tried to argue that the exceptionally bendy necks of UK citizens could be used as one of the “main cards” in negotiations.

The behaviour is beyond childlike; it is a parody of how children behave. When I asked one of my sons to clean his teeth this morning, he called me a “poo head” and said his teeth wouldn’t get decay. He still brushed them, though.

He did not conclude I was some sinister sore loser out to trick him because his teeth are young and white and mine are old and stained. He still has some basic sense that people who ask you to do things you don’t want to do might yet have your best interests at heart, regardless of who is right or wrong. He did not call me a sneering member of the elite trying to override the will of all toothpaste-rejecting British children (to be fair, I think “poo head” may have been meant to capture that, but at least he only called me it once).

Then again, the teeth in my son’s head are his alone. The consequences of neglect would be his to endure. Those stage-managing the Brexit tantrum are insulated from its most devastating consequences. Thus they can hurl insults, stick their fingers in their ears and take more than a little pleasure in the sheer recklessness of it all. It is not just an extended childhood; it is childhood without having to come to terms with the consequences of your own behaviour, because others will suffer them for you.

I want my own children to understand that what they see now is not what politics should be. That there is not some deep, meaningful logic underpinning what the adults in charge are doing. What looks like bitterness, point-scoring and sheer lack of self-control is, more often than not, just that. We have indulged these people too long. Let’s raise a generation with higher expectations of those who will claim to speak on their behalf.

Wikimedia Commons

The new Gilmore Girls trailer is dated, weird, nostalgic and utterly brilliant

By Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Except, of course, for the presence of Logan. I hate you, Logan.

When the date announcement trailer for Gilmore Girls came out, an alarm bell started ringing in my ears – it seemed like it was trying a little too hard to be fresh and modern, rather than the strange, outdated show we loved in the first place.

But in the lastest trailer, the references are dated and obscure and everything is great again. In the first five seconds we get nods to 1998 thriller Baby Moniter: Sound of Fear and 1996 TV movie Co-ed Call Girl. The up to date ones feel a little more… Gilmore: Ben Affleck, KonMari, the Tori Spelling suing Benihana scandal.

As in the last trailer, the nostalgia is palpable – a tour of Stars Hollow in snow, misty-eyed straplines, and in jokes with the audience about Kirk’s strange omnipotent character. It seems to avoid the saccharine though – with Rory and Lorelai balking at Emily’s enormous oil painting of her late husband.

What does it tell us about the plot of the new series? Luke and Lorelai are still together (for now), Rory has moved on from Stars Hollow, and Emily is grappling with the death of her husband (a necessary plot turn after the sad death of actor Edward Herrmann). In fact, Emily, Lorelai and Rory are all feeling a bit “lost”: Emily as she is trying to cope with her new life as a widow, Lorelai as she is questioning her “happy” settled life in Stars Hollow, and Rory because her life is in total flux.

We learn that Rory is unemployed and living a “rootless” or “vagabond” existence (translation: living between New York and London – we see skylines of both cities). But the fact that she can afford this jetset lifestyle while out of work, plus one plotline’s previous associations with London, points worryingly to one suggestion: Rory and Logan are endgame. (Kill me.) This seems even more likely considering Logan is the also the only Rory ex we see in a domestic setting, rather than in a neutral Stars Hollow location.

As for the other characters? Jess is inexplicably sat in a newsroom (is he working at the Stars Hollow Gazette?), Lane is still playing the drums (we know a Hep Alien reunion is on its way), Sookie is still cooking at the inn (and Melissa McCarthy’s comedy roles seem to have influenced the character’s appearance in the trailer’s only slapstick moment), Paris is potentially teaching at Chilton, Dean is STILL in Doose’s Market, Michelle is eternally rolling his eyes (but now with a shiny Macbook), Babette and Miss Patty are still running the town’s impressive amateur theatre scene, and Kirk is… well, Kirk.

The budget, context and some of the camerawork has evolved (the show’s style of filming barely changed excepting the experimental season seven), but much remains the same. For me, it’s the perfect combination of fan service, nostalgia, and modernisation (except, of course, for Logan. I hate you, Logan) – and seems to remain true to the spirit of the original show. Bring on 25 November!


Where Europe’s Migrants Wait

From Open Society Foundations - Europe. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

As authorities begin clearing France’s largest informal refugee camp, a photo series explores the “jungles” created by Europe’s dysfunctional migration policies.

How society is failing transgender children

By Sarah Ditum from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

In the wake of the cancellation of a public debate on this subject, one of the speakers shares her view on where society's approach to gender nonconformity is going wrong.

In August this year, several UK councils issued guidance to schools on accommodating female pupils who wear binders. A binder is a constricting undergarment for the upper body: what it binds are the breasts, pressing them down to a flatness that the wearer feels is appropriate to their self-perception as masculine or gender-neutral. According to Cornwall Council, the binder is “very important to [the wearer’s] psychological wellbeing.” But binders have unwelcome physical side-effects too, including “breathing difficulties, skeletal problems and fainting.” Lancashire Council’s advice urges teachers to “monitor [wearers] carefully during physical activities and in hot weather. It may be necessary to subtly offer more breaks.”

When the NSPCC invited me to participate in a discussion on the subject “is society letting down transgender children?” (part of its Dare to Debate series), those guidelines were one of the first things I thought of. They’re written in accordance with the overriding principle of gender identity politics, which is that affirmation is all. Any bodily harms incurred count for little compared to the trauma believed to be inflicted by a “mismatch” between appearance and identity. It’s a doctrine that insists we’ve moved beyond the tyranny of physical sex and social pressure, and into a realm of pure selfhood where all must be able to live in accordance with their own inherent being.

And yet, look again at that list of side effects: breathing difficulties, skeletal problems, fainting, inability to participate fully in exercise. The female adolescents wearing binders have reproduced all the problems of tight-lacing corsets, this time in the service of restrictive anti-femininity rather than restrictive femininity. So is issuing guidance to reduce the harms of binder-wearing in schools an act of care for transgender children, or an abdication of it? Is the role of adults in authority – whether parental, educational or medical – to validate everything that comes under the rubric of transition, regardless of long-term consequences, or could another approach be better?

The number of children who identify as trans is small, but rapidly increasing: referrals to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s gender identity development service have doubled year-on-year. Putting gender-nonconforming youths on a medical track opens the possibility that they will be prescribed puberty blockers, delaying the physical changes of adolescence that individuals may find distressing. Later, treatment can include cross-sex hormones and surgery to create the desired sexual characteristics.

For many, this can alleviate profound anguish about the self, but not without costs. The long-term effects of hormone therapies aren’t known, and won’t be until the current generation of trans children have lived well into adulthood. There’s a risk that increased medicalisation could be imposing permanent physical changes on children who, left to their own devices, would discover they are quite happy living with their natal sex – about 80 per cent of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria desist before adulthood, but the normalisation of medical transition could commit many to irrevocable treatments they would otherwise avoid.

Remarkably, as I found out when I worked on a long feature on the subject, there isn’t any agreement on what gender identity is or how it relates to the physical body. Which means that transitioning children are receiving an untested treatment for an undefined condition. Medicine often involves a surprising degree of idiosyncrasy and guesswork, but this uncertainty both about what is being treated and the effects of the treatment should be a cause for caution. While many who transition find it wholly positive, not everyone does: doubt and detransition happen, and these stories tell us that the quickest path to reassignment is not always the best treatment for someone presenting with dysphoria.

Sometimes, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria might mask a different underlying cause to a child’s distress. Psychiatrist Susan Bradley reports that children with cross-sex identification are often (not always) either responding defensively to a violent background or engaging in the obsessive behaviours associated with autistic spectrum disorders. A policy of “watchful waiting” – listening to the child, supporting them and giving them freedom to experiment and develop – is vital if we are to give children the kind of help they really need. But in an environment where anything short of total and immediate reinforcement is deemed abusive, “watchful waiting” is not an option.

One more problem: if gender dysphoria is conceived as the problem, and gender reassignment as the solution, then transition represents the summation of a process which should in theory resolve everything. In practice, newly-transitioned young people (especially those crossing the threshold from child and adolescent mental health services to adult provision) can find themselves stranded, no longer in receipt of the support they had during transition. We simply aren’t getting the treatment of transgender children right if we’re only treating their gender.

The consequences extend well beyond children who identify as trans, of course. Schools are suffused with sexual harassment and sexual violence, yet girls are expected to accept a child they previously knew as a boy as female like them, or be called bigots. The naturalisation of sex-stereotypes in parental narratives of transition surely has a limiting influence on other children’s conception of sex-appropriate behaviour. For some gender-nonconforming children, the cultural celebration of transition leads to anxiety about whether they themselves should be trans, even if they’re happy in their bodies. Certainly, many gay and lesbian adults have looked back on their own childhoods and remarked nervously that their behaviour then would qualify them as trans now.

If we’re not able to address these issues, then we’re manifestly failing children. But addressing them is incredibly difficult: practitioners who privately mention their doubts about current approaches to gender noncomformity are afraid to ask questions publicly, anticipating personal attacks and the loss of their jobs.

They’re not wrong to do so. After announcing the Dare to Debate event, the NSPCC was put under sustained pressure, I was persistently abused, and following the withdrawal of the other panelist, the charity cancelled the event. Previous installments in the series have looked at child sexualisation, foetal alcohol syndrome, and asked whether the investigation of child sexual abuse has tipped into “hysteria”, but apparently it would be just too daring to talk about gender. Doctrine so bitterly defended that it must even be protected from good-faith debate is a kind of restrictive garment for the intellect. Wearing it can ease our mental pangs. But the damage it does besides is very real.


For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

By Mark Watson from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement


Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 



Artemis Monthly Distribution Fund: opportunities in volatile markets...

By Artemis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The Artemis Monthly Distribution Fund is a straightforward portfolio that combines bonds and global equities with the aim to deliver a regular income. It is run by James Foster and Jacob de Tusch-Lec. James also manages the Artemis Strategic Bond Fund whilst Jacob also manages the Artemis Global Income Fund. Whilst past performance is not a guide to the future, the Monthly Distribution Fund has returned 76.7%* since launch in 2012. Its current yield is 3.9%. It is also the top performing fund in its sector.*

Political uncertainty and the actions of central banks continue to create market volatility. In this article, James Foster talks about the opportunities this has provided and which areas of the market he considers most attractive.


The approach of the European Central Bank (ECB) has been both broad and radical. The increase to its quantitative easing (QE) programme has helped to push the yields on an even wider range of government bonds into negative territory. The cheap financing it offered to banks was less expected. To date, however, it has done little to ease fears that European banks are in trouble. The performance of bank shares across Europe (including the UK) has been abominable. Returns from their bonds, however, have been more mixed.

Bonds issued by banks and insurers are an important part of the portfolio. We increased our positions here in February but reduced them subsequently, particularly after the UK’s referendum on the EU in June. Our insurance positions have increased in importance. New Europe-wide solvency rules were introduced at the beginning of the year. They make comparisons easier and give us more comfort about the creditworthiness of these companies.

As part of its QE programme, the ECB announced that it would start buying corporate bonds with the aim of reducing borrowing costs for investment-grade companies. After months of preparation, the purchases began in June. The mere prospect of the ECB buying corporate bonds proved as significant as the reality. The implications, however, could be even more profound than they initially appear. Bonds of any investment-grade issuer with a European subsidiary are eligible.

Moreover, the ECB has changed the entire investment background for bonds. Companies are more likely to do their utmost to retain their investment-grade ratings. The financial benefits are so great that they will cut their dividends, issue equity and sell assets to reduce their borrowings. We have already seen RWE in Germany and Centrica in the UK undertaking precisely these policies.

High-yield companies, meanwhile, will do their utmost to obtain investment-grade ratings and could also lower their dividends or raise equity to do so. This creates a very supportive backdrop to the fund’s bonds in the BBB to BB range, which comprise around 28% of the portfolio.

The backdrop for higher-yielding bonds – those with a credit rating of BB and below – has also been volatile. Sentiment in the first quarter of 2016 was weak and deteriorated as the risk of recession in Europe increased. These types of bonds react very poorly to any threat of rising default rates. With sentiment weak in February and March, they struggled. However, the generosity of the ECB and stronger economic growth readings helped to improve sentiment. Default rates are higher than they were, but only in the energy sector and areas related to it.

We felt the doom was overdone and used the opportunity to increase our energy related bonds. Admittedly, our focus was on better quality companies such as Total, the French oil company. But we also increased positions in electricity producers such as EDF, RWE and Centrica. In a related move, we further increased the fund’s exposure to commodity companies. All of these moves proved beneficial.

One important area for the fund is the hybrid market. These bonds are perpetual but come with call options, dates at which the issuer has the option to repay at par. They have technical quirks so they do not become a default instrument. In other words, if they don’t pay a coupon it rolls over to the following year without triggering a default. In practice, if the situation is that dire, we have made a serious mistake in buying them. These hybrids have been good investments for us. Their technical idiosyncrasies mean some investors remain wary of these bonds. We believe this concern is misplaced. For as long as the underlying company is generating solid cashflows then its bonds will perform and, most importantly, provide a healthy income, which is our priority.


In equities, our response to the volatility – and to the political and economic uncertainties facing the markets– has been measured. We have been appraising our holdings and the wider market as rationally as possible. And in some cases, the sell off prompted by the Brexit vote appeared to be more about sentiment than fundamentals. We will not run away from assets that are too cheap and whose prospects remain good. We retain, for example, our Italian TV and telecoms ‘tower’ companies – EI Towers and Rai Way. Their revenues are predictable and their dividends attractive. And we have been adding to some of our European holdings, albeit selectively. We have, for example, been adding to infrastructure group Ferrovial. Its shares have been treated harshly; investors seem to be ignoring the significant proportion of its revenues derived from toll roads in Canada. It also owns a stake in Heathrow Airport, which will remain a premium asset whose revenues will be derived from fees set by the regulator whether the UK is part of the EU or not.

In equities, some European financials may now be almost un-investable and we have lowered our risk profile in this area. Yet there are a handful of exceptions. Moneta Money Bank, for example, which we bought at the initial public offering (IPO). This used to be GE’s Czech consumer lending business. The Czech Republic is a beneficiary of the ongoing economic success of Germany, its neighbour, and unemployment is low. The yield is likely to be around 8%. And beyond financials, prospects for many other European stocks look fine. Interest rates that are ‘lower for longer’ should be seen as an opportunity for many of our holdings – notably real estate companies such as TLG Immobilien  and infrastructure stocks such as Ferrovial – rather than a threat.


For high-yield bonds the outlook is positive. For as long as the ECB continues to print money under the guise of QE it will compel investors to buy high-yield bonds in search for income. The US economy is also performing reasonably well, keeping defaults low. Despite the uncertainty created by Brexit, that oil prices have risen means we can expect default rates to fall.

At the same time, there are a number of legitimate concerns. The greatest, perhaps, is in the Italian banking system. A solution to the problem of non-performing loans needs to be found without wiping out the savings of Italian households (many of whom are direct holders of Italian bank bonds). Finding a solution to this problem that is acceptable both to the EU and to Italian voters will be hard. Other risks are familiar: levels of debt across Europe are too high and growth is still too slow.

* Data from 21 May 2012. Source: Lipper Limited, class I distribution units, bid to bid in sterling to 30 September 2016. All figures show total returns with dividends reinvested. Sector is IA Mixed Investment 20-60% Shares NR, universe of funds is those reporting net of UK taxes.

† Source: Artemis. Yield quoted is the historic class I distribution yield as at 30 September 2016.



Source: Lipper Limited, class I distribution units, bid to bid in sterling. All figures show total returns with net interest reinvested. As the fund was launched on 21 May 2012, complete five year performance data is not yet available.


To ensure you understand whether this fund is suitable for you, please read the Key Investor Information Document, which is available, along with the fund’s Prospectus, from

The value of any investment, and any income from it, can rise and fall with movements in stockmarkets, currencies and interest rates. These can move irrationally and can be affected unpredictably by diverse factors, including political and economic events. This could mean that you won’t get back the amount you originally invested.

The fund’s past performance should not be considered a guide to future returns.

The payment of income is not guaranteed.

Because one of the key objectives of the fund is to provide income, the annual management charge is taken from capital rather than income. This can reduce the potential for capital growth.

The fund may use derivatives (financial instruments whose value is linked to the expected price movements of an underlying asset) for investment purposes, including taking long and short positions, and may use borrowing from time to time. It may also invest in derivatives to protect the value of the fund, reduce costs and/or generate additional income. Investing in derivatives also carries risks, however. In the case of a ‘short’ position, for example, if the price of the underlying asset rises in value, the fund will lose money.

The fund may invest in emerging markets, which can involve greater risk than investing in developed markets. In particular, more volatility (sharper rises and falls in unit prices) can be expected.

The fund may invest in fixed-interest securities. These are issued by governments, companies and other entities and pay a fixed level of income or interest. These payments (including repayment of capital) are subject to credit risks. Meanwhile, the market value of these assets will be particularly influenced by movements in interest rates and by changes in interest-rate expectations.

The fund may invest in higher yielding bonds, which may increase the risk to your capital. Investing in these types of assets (which are also known as sub-investment grade bonds) can produce a higher yield but also brings an increased risk of default, which would affect the capital value of your investment.

The fund holds bonds which could prove difficult to sell. As a result, the fund may have to lower the selling price, sell other investments or forego more appealing investment opportunities.

The historic yield reflects distribution payments declared by the fund over the previous year as a percentage of its mid-market unit price. It does not include any preliminary charge. Investors may be subject to tax on the distribution payments that they receive.

The additional expenses of the fund are currently capped at 0.14%. This has the effect of capping the ongoing charge for the class I units issued by the fund at 0.89% and for class R units at 1.64%. Artemis reserves the right to remove the cap without notice.

Any research and analysis in this communication has been obtained by Artemis for its own use. Although this communication is based on sources of information that Artemis believes to be reliable, no guarantee is given as to its accuracy or completeness.

Any forward-looking statements are based on Artemis’ current expectations and projections and are subject to change without notice.

Issued by Artemis Fund Managers Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


Who'll win the Richmond Park by-election?

By Stephen Bush from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

There are three known unknowns that will decide the contest. 

It’s official: Zac Goldsmith has resigned as the Conservative MP for his Richmond Park seat, and has triggered a by-election there, where he will stand as an independent candidate.

Will it be a two-way or a three-way race?

The big question is whether the contest will be a three way fight between him, the Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney, and an official Conservative candidate, or if CCHQ will decide to write the thing off and not field a candidate, making it a two-horse race between Goldsmith and Olney.

There are several Tory MPs who are of the opinion that, given that latitude to disagree on Heathrow has been granted to two Cabinet ministers, Boris Johnson and Justine Greening, similar leeway should be extended to Goldsmith. It’s win-win for Downing Street not to contest it, partly because doing so would put anti-Heathrow MPs, including Johnson and Greening, in an impossible position. Theresa May isn’t averse to putting Johnson in a tricky spot, but Greening was an early supporter of her leadership bid, so her interests come fairly high up the prime ministerial radar.

But the second reason not to contest it is that Goldsmith’s chances of re-election will be put in a serious jeopardy if there is a Tory candidate in the race. Everything from the local elections in May or the Liberal mini-revival since Brexit indicates that in a three-way race, they will start as heavy favourites, and if a three-way race results in a Liberal Democrat win there will be bloodletting.

Although people are talking up Goldsmith’s personal vote, I can find little hard evidence that he has one worth writing home about. His performance in the wards of Richmond Park in the mayoral election was actually a bit worse than the overall Tory performance in London.  (Boris Johnson didn’t have a London seat so we cannot compare like-for-like, but Sadiq Khan did four points better in Tooting than he did across London and significantly outperformed his general election performance there.) He did get a big swing from Liberal to Conservative at the general election, but big swings from the Liberal candidate to the Tory were a general feature of the night, and I’m not wholly convinced, given his performance in Richmond Park in 2016, that it can be laid at Goldsmith’s door.

If he wins, it’ll be because he was the Conservative candidate, rather than through any particular affection for him personally.

But will being the Conservative candidate be enough?

Although on paper, he inherits a healthy majority. So did Robert Courts, the new MP for Witney, and he saw it fall by 19 points, with the Liberal Democrats storming from fourth to second place. Although Goldsmith could, just about, survive a fall of that magnitude, there are reasons to believe it may be worse in Richmond Park than Witney.

The first is that we already know, not just from Witney but from local council by-elections, that the Liberal Democrats can hurt the Conservatives in affluent areas that backed a Remain vote. But in Witney, they barely squeezed the Labour vote, which went down by just over two points, or the Green vote, which went down by just under two points. If in Richmond Park, they can both damage the Tory vote thanks to Brexit and squeeze Labour and the Greens, they will win.

Goldsmith's dog-whistle campaign for the London mayoralty will particularly help squeeze the Labour vote, and thanks to Witney, the Liberal Democrats have a ready-made squeeze message. (In Witney, Green and Labour votes would have been more than enough to elect Liz Leffman, the Liberal candidate.)

But their good performance in Witney and Goldsmith's mayoral result may not be enough on their own.  Ultimately, the contest will come down to the big question that will decide not just the outcome in Richmond Park but the future of the Liberal Democrats.

Have the voters forgiven the Liberal Democrats for going into coalition?

We know that Brexit can help the Liberal Democrats at the direct expense of the Conservatives. What we don’t know is if Brexit is enough to convince 6,000 Labour voters in Bath to vote tactically to get Ben Howlett out in exchange for a Lib Dem, or for 7,500 Labour voters to back a Liberal candidate in Hazel Grove to defeat William Wragg.

One of the reasons why the Liberal Democrats lost votes directly to the Tories in 2015 was fear: of uncertainty and chaos under an Ed Miliband government propped up by the SNP. That factor is less live in a by-election but has been further weakened due to the fact that Brexit – at least as far as Remain-backing Conservatives are concerned – has brought just as much uncertainty and chaos as Miliband and the SNP ever would have.

But the other reason was disgust at the Liberal Democrats for going into coalition with the Conservatives. If they can’t win over enough votes from the parties of the left, we’ll know that the party still has a way to come before we can truly speak of a Liberal revival. 

Photo: Getty

African economies are growing at very different speeds

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

HOW are sub-Saharan African economies doing? It depends on where you look, says the IMF in its latest survey of the continent, which was published this week. Regional growth will slow to just 1.4% this year, the most sluggish pace for two decades. Things look grim in Nigeria, which is mired in recession. But the Ivory Coast, a short flight away, is thundering along at a growth rate of 8%. Similar contrasts are found across the continent. Better to talk of two Africas, says the IMF, moving at different speeds.

The big divider is resources. As commodity prices have slumped, so too have the fortunes of big exporters. As a group, resource-rich countries will grow on average by 0.3% of GDP, says the IMF. Take oil-rich Angola, once the fastest-growing country on the continent: it will not grow at all this year, and is wrestling with inflation of 38%. Commodity-exporting countries saw the value of their exports to China almost halve in 2015. Public debt is rising sharply. Exchange rates are falling. Private consumption has collapsed.

Things look very different in countries which are less resource-dependent. They will grow at...Continue reading

Heathrow decision: 6 things we learnt about the third runway plans

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Affected homeowners will get 25 per cent extra for their homes. 

After years of ferocious campaigning by both Heathrow and Gatwick to be the site of a new airport runway, Heathrow has triumphed. The government has accepted the recommendations of the Airports Commission and backed a third runway at Heathrow.

Confirming the decision, the Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “The decisions taken earlier today are long overdue but will serve this country for generations to come."

So what happens now? Here is what we learnt:

1. It’ll be a while

Grayling said the draft policy statement will be published early in 2017. There will then be a full public consultation, before MPs get a chance to debate the details and vote on the proposals.

Only after that, will Heathrow be allowed to submit a planning application for the third runway.

2. Affected homeowners get a bung

Building a third runway will require the destruction of local homes, and Grayling said these homeowners can expect to be paid 25 per cent above the market rate. All associated costs, like stamp duty and legal fees, will be covered. 

3. So will the local communities

The government is promising £700m for insulating homes against noise, and it is floating the idea of a Community Compensation Fund that would make a further £750m available to local communities, although the details will be confirmed through the planning process. 

4. No flying at night

The government is demanding that flights are banned for six and a half hours a night to give locals some peace. Heathrow will also be expected to continue to give local residents a timetable of aircraft noise.

5. Air quality matters

Heathrow’s successful proposal included an ultra-low emissions zone for all airport vehicles by 2025. The airport can only get planning approval if it can meet air quality legal requirements. 

6. There will be a by-election

Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park, is to resign in protest at the decision, and is expected to run again as an independent candidate. Speaking in the Commons, he warned that the decision to choose Heathrow was full of legal complexity and "will be a millstone around the government's neck". 


A loyalist rebranded: will Ségolène Royal run again to be the French President?

By Philip Kyle from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The French press is speculating about Ségolène Royal replacing François Hollande as the Socialist candidate.

“I will lead you to other victories!” Ségolène Royal told the crowds gathered in front of the French Socialist party’s headquarters on 6 May 2007.

Many at the time mocked her for making such an odd statement, just after losing to Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential election. But nearly ten years on, she might just be the candidate the French left needs to win the upcoming presidential election.

There is growing speculation that the current President François Hollande – who was Royal’s partner for 30 years and the father of her four children – will not be in a position to run again. His approval ratings are so low that a defeat in next May’s election is almost inevitable. His own party is starting to turn against him and he can now only count on a handful of faithful supporters.

Royal is among them. In the past, she probably would have jumped at the opportunity to stand for election again, but she has learned from her mistakes. The 63-year-old has very cleverly rebranded herself as a wise, hard-working leader, while retaining the popular touch and strong-willed character which led to her previous successes.

Royal has an impressive political CV. She became an MP in 1988 and was on several occasions appointed to ministerial positions in the 1990s. In 2004, she was elected President of the Poitou-Charentes region in western France. In 2006, Royal won the Socialist party’s primary by a landslide ahead of the presidential election.

She went on to fight a tough campaign against Sarkozy, with little support from high-ranking members of her party. She ended up losing but was the first woman to ever go through to the second round of a French presidential election.

After that, it all went downhill. She split up with Hollande and lost the election to be party leader in 2008. She was humiliated by only getting 6.95 per cent of the votes in the 2011 Socialist presidential primary. She hit an all-time low when in 2012 she stood as the Socialist party’s official candidate to become MP for La Rochelle on the French west coast and lost to Olivier Falorni, a local candidate and Socialist party “dissident”. Royal then took a step back, away from the Parisian hustle and bustle. She continued to serve as the Poitou-Charentes regional President but kept largely out of the media eye.

Royal was very much the people’s candidate back in 2007. She drew her legitimacy from the primary result, which confirmed her huge popularity in opinion polls. She innovated by holding meetings where she would spend hours listening to people to build a collaborative manifesto: it was what she called participatory democracy. She shocked historical party figures by having La Marseillaise sung at campaign rallies and Tricolores flying; a tradition up until then reserved for right-wing rallies. She thought she would win the presidency because the people wanted her to, and did not take enough notice of those within her own party plotting her defeat.

Since then, Royal has cleverly rebranded herself – unlike Sarkozy, who has so far failed to convince the French he has changed.

When two years ago she was appointed environment minister, one of the highest-ranking cabinet positions, she kept her head down and worked hard to get an important bill on “energy transition” through Parliament. She can also be credited with the recent success of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Above all, she has been impeccably loyal to the President.

Royal has reinforced her political aura, by appearing at Hollande’s side for state occasions, to the extent that French press have even labelled her “the Vice-President”. This has given her a licence to openly contradict the Prime Minister Manuel Valls on various environmental issues, always cleverly placing herself on virtue’s side. In doing so, not only has she gained excellent approval ratings but she has pleased the Green party, a traditional ally for the Socialists that has recently turned its back on Hollande.

The hard work seems to have paid off. Last Sunday, Le Journal du Dimanche’s front-page story was on Royal and the hypothesis that she might stand if Hollande does not. She has dismissed the speculations, saying she found them amusing.

Whatever she is really thinking or planning, she has learned from past errors and knows that the French do not want leaders who appear to be primarily concerned with their own political fate. She warned last Sunday that, “for now, François Hollande is the candidate”. For now.


Why do we refuse to accept that a Kardashian could also be a victim?

By Anna Leszkiewicz from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Something is wrong when violent and intrusive crimes are seen as quirks of a life lived in the public sphere.

By now, we’re used to the regular appearance of the Kardashians in the news cycle. This morning, two new stories have made headlines. First, Kim Kardashian West dropped a lawsuit against a publication that claimed she faked her own armed robbery, after the website published a retraction. Second, a man was cleared of stalking her younger sister Kendall Jenner outside her home (instead, he was convicted of trespassing and could face up to six months in jail).

Both these incidents – Kardashian West’s robbery and Jenner’s discovery of a stranger at her home – are intensely traumatic experiences, the kind that can leave victims with lifelong post-traumatic stress disorder.

When testifying against the accused, Jenner told the court, “I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Kardashian West, usually happy to share her emotions with her fans, has receded into silence – she has posted nothing on her social media channels, and has said nothing to the public since the robbery on 3 October.

But, institutionally, these incidents haven’t been treated as such. Instead, they’ve been seen as quirks of a life lived in the public sphere. Why?

One strand of public opinion has been quick to blame the Kardashians themselves for such incidents. The family have been accused of sharing too much of their lives, flaunting their wealth, revealing too many details of their whereabouts, and showcasing their extravagant possessions.

The tenants of modern fame are seen as the root cause of the actions of other irresponsible and/or malicious individuals. Put simply, the public, the media and the law are still struggling to understand fame in the 21st century, and how to respond to it.

As some of the biggest celebrities in the world, the Kardashians have been dehumanised – we’ve seen their pixelated faces so many times that it’s hard to envisage the vulnerable human behind it. Sadly, life for many people cannot be free of violation and humiliation – particularly those less financially and socially privileged than the Kardashians. But Kim and Kendall are real, breathing people. They still deserve protection.

The conflict in Yemen is a civil war by numbers

By Iona Craig from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Amid the battles, a generation starves.

Ten thousand dead – a conservative estimate at best. Three million internally displaced. Twenty million in need of aid. Two hundred thousand besieged for over a year. Thirty-four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia. More than 140 mourners killed in a double-tap strike on a funeral. These are just some of the numerical subscripts of the war in Yemen.

The British government would probably prefer to draw attention to the money being spent on aid in Yemen – £37m extra, according to figures released by the Department for International Development in September – rather than the £3.3bn worth of arms that the UK licensed for sale to Saudi Arabia in the first year of the kingdom’s bombing campaign against one of the poorest nations in the Middle East.

Yet, on the ground, the numbers are meaningless. What they do not show is how the conflict is tearing Yemeni society apart. Nor do they account for the deaths from disease and starvation caused by the hindering of food imports and medical supplies – siege tactics used by both sides – and for the appropriation of aid for financial gain.

Since the war began in March 2015 I have travelled more than 2,500 miles across Yemen, criss-crossing the front lines in and out of territories controlled by Houthi rebels, or by their opponents, the Saudi-backed resistance forces, or through vast stretches of land held by al-Qaeda. On those journeys, what struck me most was the deepening resentment expressed by so many people towards their fellow Yemenis.

The object of that loathing can change in the space of a few hundred metres. The soundtrack to this hatred emanates from smartphones resting on rusting oil drums, protruding from the breast pockets of military fatigues, or lying on chairs under makeshift awnings where flags denote the beginning of the dead ground of no-man’s-land. The rabble-rousing propaganda songs preach to the watchful gunmen about a feeble and irreligious enemy backed by foreign powers. Down the road, an almost identical scene awaits, only the flag is different and the song, though echoing the same sentiment, chants of an opponent altogether different from the one decried barely out of earshot in the dust behind you.

“We hate them. They hate us. We kill each other. Who wins?” mused a fellow passenger on one of my trips as he pressed green leaves of the mildly narcotic khat plant into his mouth.

Mohammed was a friend of a friend who helped to smuggle me – dressed in the all-black, face-covering garb of a Yemeni woman – across front lines into the besieged enclave of Taiz. “We lose everything,” he said. “They win. They always win.” He gesticulated as he spoke of these invisible yet omnipresent powers: Yemen’s political elite and the foreign states entangled in his country’s conflict.

This promotion of hatred, creating what are likely to be irreversible divisions, is necessary for the war’s belligerents in order to incite tens of thousands to fight. It is essential to perpetuate the cycle of revenge unleashed by the territorial advances in 2014 and 2015 by Houthi rebels and the forces of their patron, the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. This demand for retribution is matched by those who are now seeking vengeance for the lives lost in a UK-supported, Saudi-led aerial bombing campaign.

More than 25 years after the two states of North and South Yemen united, the gulf between them has never been wider. The political south, now controlled by forces aligned with the Saudi-led coalition, is logistically as well as politically severed from the north-western territories under the command of the Houthi rebels and Saleh loyalists. Caught in the middle is the city of Taiz, which is steadily being reduced to rubble after a year-long siege imposed by the Houthi-Saleh forces.

Revenge nourishes the violence, but it cannot feed those who are dying from malnutrition. Blowing in the sandy wind on roadsides up and down the country are tattered tents that hundreds of thousands of displaced families now call home. Others have fled from the cities and towns affected by the conflict to remote but safer village areas. There, food and medical care are scarce.

The acute child malnutrition reported in urban hospitals remains largely hidden in these isolated villages, far from tarmac roads, beyond the reach of international aid agencies. On my road trips across Yemen, a journey that would normally take 45 minutes on asphalt could take five hours on tracks across scrubland and rock, climbing mountainsides and descending into valleys where bridges stand useless, snapped in half by air strikes.

Among the other statistics are the missing millions needed by the state – the country’s largest employer. Workers haven’t been paid in months, amid fears of an economic collapse. This is apparently a deliberate tactic of fiscal strangulation by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government-in-exile. The recent relocation of the central bank from the Houthi-controlled capital, Sana’a, to the southern city of Aden is so far proving symbolic, given that the institution remains devoid of funds. The workforce on both sides of the conflict has taken to the streets to protest against salaries being overdue.

Following the deaths of more than 140 people in Saudi-led air strikes on a funeral hall on 8 October, Saleh and the Houthi leader, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, called for yet more revenge. Within hours, ballistic missiles were fired from within Houthi territory, reaching up to 350 miles into Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, in the Red Sea, Houthi missile attacks on US warships resulted in retaliation, sucking the US further into the mire. Hours later, Iran announced its intention to deploy naval vessels in the area.

Vengeance continues to drive the violence in Yemen, which is being drawn ever closer to proxy conflicts being fought elsewhere in the Middle East. Yet the impact on Yemeni society and the consequences for the population’s health for generations to come are unlikely to appear to the outside world, not even as annotated numbers in the brief glimpses we get of this war. 


Pete Burns: too abrasive to be a national treasure, his talent made him immortal

By Bob Stanley from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The musician's vulnerability and acute individualism made him hard to pigeonhole but ensured endless media fascination.

When Dead Or Alive's “You Spin Me Round” was number one in 1985, the singer Pete Burns found himself trapped in a limousine by screaming schoolgirls. It's a common enough occurrence — overnight success, autograph hunters, fans wanting a piece of you — but in this case Burns was in his hometown of Liverpool and the schoolgirls were screaming “We’re going to kill you, you fat poof!” From the moment Burns hit the public eye, his untethered wit and unapologetic appearance had the ability to inspire, inflame, and get under society's skin.

In 1985, freshly famous, Burns was already a familiar face about town. Liverpool's centre is compact, and he traversed it every day in the early Eighties to work in Probe Records, the city's equivalent to Rough Trade. Behind the counter, working alongside possibly the most caustic shop assistants in the country, Burns was the most approachable. His demeanour was something quite different, though – hair teased up into a dark lion's mane, a cloak dragging behind him decorated with bells that jangled ominously whenever he moved (he could be audible streets away), and black contact lenses for added horror. 

He looked like a star in waiting, but was in the shadow of Liverpool's Crucial Three: Ian McCulloch, Julian Cope and Pete Wylie. The relentless electro pulse of “You Spin Me Round” was light years away from the first Dead Or Alive single in 1981, an extraordinary slice of neo-psychedelia called “Flowers”, on which Burns' booming, vibrato-loaded voice seemed to be urging us to travel on a gothic time-travelling galleon back to San Francisco: “What's wrong with this world?” he roared, over shrill organ and sheets of echoed guitar. Liverpool's brief but iridescent pop revival at the turn of the Eighties – a dark strain of melodicism that linked Echo & the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes, Wah! Heat and early Dead Or Alive — would later be succinctly demystified by Burns: everybody took acid, they all pretended they were living on the West Coast in 1967 rather than Toxteth in 1980, and they all listened to the Doors.

By the time “You Spin Me Round” hit number one in March '85, Burns' acid tongue and working class glamour were a necessary corrective to a year which would make stars of such catastrophically dull acts as the pop duo Go West. He was just what the media wanted after Boy George acquired a destructive heroin habit and fell from grace.

Neither was ever likely to happen to Pete Burns. He felt uncomfortable around anyone out of control on booze or drugs as it reminded him of his upbringing. His mother had escaped Nazi Germany, married a Scottish soldier, and settled in Liverpool. She became a depressive alcoholic after discovering what had happened to her Jewish family during the Holocaust in Germany. Burns made several suicide attempts, he said, to keep her focused and alive.

This vulnerability was combined in childhood with an acute individualism. He wore an American Indian headdress to primary school one day and refused to take it off. He fought compromise and conformity at every turn, and didn't care a hoot if schoolgirls called him a “fat poof”. He was never off, not even for a tea break; he was Pete Burns, full time. A friend of mine recalls being in the queue for a Liverpool club called the System in 1982 — Burns passed him, pulling full-on dance moves when he was only halfway down the steps, which led directly onto the dancefloor — he hadn't even paused to say hello to anyone.

As a pop star, Burns clearly couldn't give a shit, and wouldn't play ball with radio, record companies or the press. Fame didn't tighten his tongue, though it did allow him to be outrageous on a heightened level. After Haircut 100's Nick Heyward gave Dead Or Alive a pasting in a Melody Maker, the group burst into a toilet cubicle and sprayed Heyward with five fire extinguishers. On tour in America, Burns called his press officer's house at 3am in the morning, screaming “I need a plug! A rubber plug! For this fucking bath!” The upshot of the conversation was that Burns had never seen a bath plug operated by a plunger rod.

Pop stardom in Britain, then, was brief. The PWL team that gave him “You Spin Me Round” (their first number one, and unarguably their best) quickly cooled on him, following it with lukewarm soundalikes – only the luxuriant “In Too Deep” came close to matching its fire. Dead Or Alive's next truly great record wouldn't be until 1988 with “Turn Around And Count 2 Ten”, another poppers-at-the-ready electro-blitz which only reached number 70 in the UK but made him a superstar in Japan.

Burns' vulnerability later resurfaced in endless, much documented plastic surgery – he said that the only part of his body that hadn't had work were the soles of his feet. He was always too abrasive to become a national treasure, but he must have known that “You Spin Me Round” had effectively made him immortal — uncoverable, perfect, a saturated record on which it is impossible to add anything. It's so euphoric, so very full of life.


Reflections on Pete Burns:

Gary Kemp, musician and actor

"Pete was one of a triumvirate of cross-dressed boy stars, brought up on a diet of glam rock, who stormed the barricades of macho rock in the Eighties. He also created one of the best white dance records of all time."


Julian Cope, musician and author

"In a sense I’m relieved for him, he was in such pain and was never happy with how he looked… there was something so inevitable about his death, but it’s important that he’s remembered as a truly significant cross-cultural figure

I think the gender fluidity that exists today is really fucking useful — if Pete had become famous now he would have been fine… he was a pioneer. I think he had hero qualities.

He knew so much about music, especially underground stuff, but when other people were around he would revert to his thick babe persona. He wanted to appear superficial, but he was no more superficial than [Andy] Warhol. He was a deep mother fucker.

Pete was forced in a novelty direction by the time he lived in. He demanded that the rest of the world look at, not away from, people who were different.

Pete tried to live in freedom and at least where’s gone to he will find peace."



Did Titantic do more for climate change than Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary?

By India Bourke from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Sex, icebergs and individual plight: the actor’s earlier outing teaches us more about vast disasters than his new docufilm about global warming’s impact, Before the Flood.

“Now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me . . . in every way that a person can be saved.” Or did he? For Titanic actor Leonardo DiCaprio, there is one way in which Jack never did rescue Rose: from the threat of climate catastrophe. 

Over the last 15 years, DiCaprio has made the issue a personal mission. Yet even in his role as UN climate ambassador, he stills feels far from heroic:

“If the UN really knew how I feel, how pessimistic I am about our future . . . I mean to be honest, they may have picked the wrong guy.”

So begins his new documentary, Before the Flood. A quest for answers on climate change, the film sees Leo racing around the world, marvelling at the sound of endangered whales, despairing at the destruction caused by tar-sands – “it looks like Mordor” – and interviewing a series of concerned experts, from professors to Barack Obama to the Pope.

There are plenty of naysayers to stand in his way and put him down. “Who better to educate world leaders on made-up climate change and a crisis that doesn't exist, than an actor with zero years of scientific training?” mocks one commentator from Fox News.

But if DiCaprio can gather enough evidence to believe in himself – AND believe that there are viable solutions out there – then so can we. Or so the story arc promises. His journey thus stands as a guide for our own; a self-education that will lead to salvation for all. 

It's all a little messianic. The film is even named after a biblical painting. And will those who don't already know who DiCaprio is even care? 

The sad fact is that, while DiCaprio’s lasting popularity still owes so much Titanic, the 1997 box-office smash that made his name, his new documentary fails to recapture the dramatic wisdom that put him there. It doesn’t even quip about the icebergs.

This is an oversight. Titanic didn’t win 11 academy awards for nothing. As well as a must-see rite of passage (pun intended) and soundtrack for infinite school discos, it taught me something invaluable about storytelling. Though I was not initially a DiCaprio fan, over the years I’ve come to accept that my lasting love of the film is inseparable from my emotional investment in Leo, or at least in his character, Jack. What Titanic showed so brilliantly was that the fastest way to empathise with suffering on a vast scale – be it a sinking ship or a sinking planet – is to learn to care for the fate of one or two individuals involved.

Every part of Jack and Rose's story is thus intimately linked with the story of the ship. Even that famed sex scene gains its erotic force not from the characters alone, but from their race through the blazing engine room (situated as it is between the foreplay of the naked portrait and the famous post-coital ending in the back of the cab).

And such carefully crafted storytelling isn't only essential to great entertainment but to great activism too. It can literally inspire action – as evidenced by fans’ desperate attempts to prove that both Jack and Rose could have climbed to safety aboard the floating piece of wood.

So would Before the Flood have been better if it had been a little bit more like Titanic and less like An Inconvenient Truth? Yes. And does that mean we should make climate films about epic polar bear love stories instead? Not exactly. 

There are many powerful documentaries out there that make you emotionally invested in the lives of those experiencing the consequences of our indirect (fossil fuel-burning) actions. Take Virunga, a heart-wrenching insight into the struggle of those protecting eastern Congo’s national park.

Sadly, Before the Flood is not one of them. Its examples of climate change – from Beijing air pollution to coral reef destruction – are over-familiar and under-explored. Instead of interviewing a Chinese official with a graph on his iPad, I would have preferred visiting a solar-panel factory worker and meeting their family, who are perhaps suffering from the effects of the smog in a way I can't yet imagine.

If you want a whistlestop tour of all things climate change then this necessary and urgent film is the movie for you. But those hoping it will give new depth to climate activism will be disappointed.

DiCaprio's distant relationship with the effects of climate change leave him stranded at the level of a narrator. He makes for a great elderly Rose, but we need a Jack.

Before The Flood is in limited theatres from 21 October and will be shown on National Geographic on Sunday 30 October.


Zac Goldsmith to quit as Tory MP after Heathrow decision announced

By Julia Rampen from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The environmentalist is expected to stand as an independent candidate.

Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, and a committed environmentalist, has announced his resignation after the government backed a third runway at Heathrow. 

He has told his local Conservative association of the decision, according to The Huffington Post. The group has reportedly agreed to back him as an independent in a by-election.

Goldsmith tweeted: "Following the Government's catastrophic Heathrow announcement, I will be meeting my constituents later today before making a statement."

Goldsmith had previously pledged to resign if the government went ahead with the decision. By quitting, he will trigger a by-election, in which he is expected to stand as an independent candidate. 

Speaking in the Commons, he said the project was "doomed" and would be a "millstone" around the government's neck. He said: "The complexities, the cost, the legal complications mean this project is almost certainly not going to be delivered."


However, there is no guarantee it is a by-election he will win. Here's Stephen Bush on why a Richmond Park and Kingston by-election could be good news for the Lib Dems.

After years of speculation, the government announced on Tuesday it was plumping for Heathrow instead of Gatwick. Transport secretary Chris Grayling called it a "momentous" decision.

The announcement will please business groups, but anger environmentalists, and MPs representing west London constituencies already affected by the noise pollution. 

In a recent post on his constituency website, Goldsmith highlighted the noise levels, the risk of flying so many planes over densely-populated areas, and the political fallout. He declared: "I promised voters I would step down and hold a by-election if Heathrow gets the go-ahead and I will stand by that pledge."

Once a Tory "nice boy" pin up, Goldsmith's reputation has suffered in the past year due to his campaigning tactics when he ran against Sadiq Khan for London mayor. Advised by strategist Lynton Crosby, Goldsmith tried to play on racial divisions and accused Khan of links to extremists. Despite enjoying support from London's Evening Standard, he lost.

The former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, once declared he would lie down "in front of those bulldozers" but has toned down his objections since becoming foreign secretary.

Green MP Caroline Lucas urged him to follow Goldsmith and resign, so he could team up with her in opposing the extension at Heathrow.

Labour, in contrast, has welcomed the decision. The shadow Transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “We welcome any decision that will finally give certainty on airport expansion, much needed in terms of investment and growth in our country." He urged the government to provide more detail on the proposals.

But London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan accused the government of "running roughshod" over Londoners' views. He said: "Heathrow expansion is the wrong decision for London, and the wrong decision for the whole of Britain."


Why the Ed Stone continues to haunt Labour

By Media Mole from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The party has been fined a record £20,000 for undeclared election spending.

It’s one of the great unsolved political mysteries of our time. What really happened to the Ed Stone? Was it smashed in to little tiny pieces or is it still gathering moss in a warehouse? For those of you who have been living under a rock, or in this case a giant tablet, since last year’s general election — the Ed Stone was the much-mocked policy plinth which the former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, promised to place in the rose garden of Downing Street if he won.  

It was unveiled amid much fanfare only to spark a wave of viral humiliation for the beleaguered Miliband. The Mole remembers peering painfully through its paws and trying to ignore the smirks of its fellow rodents. Now, the spectre of the ill-fated tablet has arisen to cause the Labour Party one final humiliation.  

An investigation by the Electoral Commission has revealed that two sums totalling £7,614 were spent on the Ed Stone which were missing from the party’s election return. The report found that in total Labour failed to correctly declare 74 payments worth £123,748 of campaign spending “without a reasonable excuse”. They were also missing 33 separate invoices totalling £34,392.

The commission said Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, who is also its registered treasurer, had committed two election offences and imposed a record £20,000 fine — the biggest since it began operating in 2001.

All of which has left the Labour Party red-faced once more, and the mole feeling slightly nostalgic for the days when politics was simple and the news was full of amusing images of politicians smearing bacon sandwiches across their faces and striking the odd biblical pose in front of a giant stone. Don’t forget, if the Ed Stone was standing proudly in Downing Street today, then Brexit would just be a bad dream.


Gael blown: how cultural appropriation went hand-in-hand with the Highland clearances

By Mark Cocker from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

Madeleine Bunting’s account of her travels in the Hebrides reveals an often-overlooked history.

In the opening pages of this excellent book, Madeleine Bunting tries to provide a justification and rationale both for her Hebridean journey and then her wish to write about the most complex of Britain’s archipelagos. As she points out, the Hebrides comprise no fewer than 270 islands and islets, 51 of which are permanently inhabited, and the Hebridean coastline, at 2,500 kilometres, is almost three-quarters that of England’s.

It transpires that Bunting’s connection to the nation’s north-western extremities really began when her parents went for holidays to a fragment of what she rather archly refers to as the Gàidhealtachd, the cultural territory of Scotland’s Gaelic-speaking, predominantly croft-working population.

Yet the Buntings’ “Promised Land”, as she calls their summer retreat, was nowhere near the Hebrides. It was in a hamlet called Amat at the heart of the salmon-rich Strathcarron, in Sutherland, near Scotland’s north-eastern coast. These visits were intermittent and happened only in her childhood, since when the author, Yorkshire born and bred, has migrated to London and become a committed metropolitan as well as a senior journalist with the Guardian. What right, one wonders, does she have to des­cribe her travels along Scotland’s Atlantic shoreline as in any way a “search for home”?

The answer is time and commitment. It has taken Bunting eight years to write this book and she made one excursion after the other in order to assemble her thoughts of these beautiful, storm-battered islands. That depth of engagement gives authen­ticity to the writing and substance to her arguments. In truth, she never really claims the Outer Isles as her own but she does ­inquire deeply into the Hebridean people’s own passionate devotion to place. She also illuminates how these islands, but more especially Celtic culture and identity, were instrumental in shaping all of Britain’s, and especially England’s, sense of self.

A critical moment for this came in 1765 with the publication by James Macpherson of The Works of Ossian. These were translations of Gaelic poetry and folk tales that went down a storm in literary Europe and alerted many to the overlooked oral culture of northern Scotland. The Works of Ossian are not without controversy – Samuel Johnson infamously dismissed them as fake and sneered at Gaelic as the “rude speech of a barbarous people” – but the book had a huge impact on Romanticism.

Imbued with Rousseau’s notions of the noble savage and antipathetic to the effects of industrialisation, writers such as Keats and artists such as Turner were suddenly alive to the savage beauties and the more authentic life-ways of the Scottish west coast. Bunting shows that behind this Romantic engagement with Hebridean life was a kind of cultural imperialism that developed through a series of opposites. If Celts were depicted as imaginative, idealistic and wild, then, almost by definition, the Anglos were utilitarian, pragmatic and civilised. If the Gael was backward-looking and melancholic, the Saxon must be optimistic and forward-thinking. Above all, the English were utterly dominant.

The author demonstrates how such cultural appropriation was intimately connected to territorial dispossession. Bunting takes us on a brief tour of the Clearances; the retelling still has the power to enrage, and she shows how the treatment of Hebridean crofters was identical to British imperialism in Africa or Asia. As she puts it tellingly, this is a “history which will not go quietly into the past”. Yet she also demonstrates that it was not Hanoverian England alone which suppressed the Gàidhealtachd. Much of the dirtiest work was done by former clan chiefs who had simply reinvented themselves as London-based grandees.

Bunting further points out that this colonial exploitation has hardly ceased. The recent plans to build a vast windfarm on Lewis, involving 234 turbines with sails the size of jumbo jets, and the 1990s quarry scheme to dismantle whole mountains on Harris to build English roads, are further demonstrations of how the centre plunders resources from its Atlantic periphery.

If I have a small disappointment in Love of Country, it is that Bunting makes too little of the Hebridean natural environment, which involves the most harmonious transaction between human beings and wildlife now found anywhere in Britain. The shell-based coastal lawns known as machair are among Europe’s richest habitats, still smothered in orchids and resounding to the sounds of lapwing display and curlew song.

At times one feels that Bunting thinks much harder than she looks. Occasionally she betrays her metropolitan roots. She describes rivers as being “the colour of manuka honey”, and of a chorus of birds like nothing she had heard before, she writes that “the air vibrated . . . setting all my senses alert”. The prose, however, is always most elevated when she engages the formidable clarity of her intellect. It is the almost perfect marriage of physical travelogue to the inner landscape of political ideas and cultural reflections that makes this such a super read. I cannot think of a more intellectually challenging or rewarding travel book in recent years, except perhaps Jay Griffiths’s Wild.

Love of Country is in every way a richer, more mature work than Bunting’s award-winning 2009 memoir, The Plot. I expect it to bring her prizes and fame.

Mark Cocker’s books include “Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet” (Vintage)

Love of Country: a Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting is published by Granta Books (368pp, £18.99)


The Sellout makes us question how far equality has come – and still has to go

By Philip Maughan from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

American author Paul Beatty’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel shows how “equal justice under law” remains an abstract concept for much of black America.

At the start of The Sellout, one of two American novels which were shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, a man is called before the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, charged with “abject violation” of “the Civil Rights Acts . . . the Equal Rights Act of 1963, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, and at least six of the goddamn Ten Commandments”. The defendant, the son of “the esteemed African-American psychologist F K Me”, shows his contempt for the highest court in the land by stuffing a pipe full of home-grown weed and getting thoroughly, brazenly, blazed. The police officer beside him offers up her lighter as the man tells us that he has “been charged with a crime so heinous that busting [him] for possession of marijuana on federal property would be like charging Hitler with loitering and a multinational oil company like British Petroleum with littering”.

“N****r, are you crazy?” blurts out the lone black judge on the bench, unsure how to interject formally, never having done it before. The fulminating justice wants to know “how it is that in this day and age a black man can violate the hallowed principles of the Thirteenth Amendment by owning a slave” and how that same man could “wilfully ignore the Fourteenth Amendment and argue that sometimes segregation brings people together”.

Over the course of his fourth novel, Beatty – who teaches creative writing at Columbia University in New York – deconstructs this surreal tableau to show the many ways in which “equal justice under law” remains an abstract concept for much of black America, making a return to the bad old ways seem somehow pragmatic, perhaps even humane. “It’s illegal to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre, right?” the defendant notes, on his first appearance in court. “Well, I’ve whispered ‘racism’ in a post-racial world.”

This takes us to the book’s central dilemma: schooled in “liberation psychology” and “the plight of the black race” by his eccentric father in Dickens, a ghetto community on the outskirts of southern LA, our narrator is deemed a “sellout” by his girlfriend, Marpessa, and by Foy Cheshire, the leader of the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals, the “local think tank” and the “closest thing the city had to a representative government”. He is a sellout because despite “countless California cruelties and slights against the blacks . . . like Propositions 8 and 187, the disappearance of social welfare, David Cronenberg’s Crash, and Dave Eggers’s do-gooder condescension”, he hasn’t uttered “a single word” in opposition. In an age when “social activists have television shows and millions of dollars”, and to argue that “it isn’t race that’s the problem but class” is to acquiesce – this is just not acceptable.

The removal of the “Welcome to Dickens” sign from the roadside is apparently all that is required for the city to be forgotten altogether. After the Sellout’s father is gunned down while fleeing two LAPD officers – “Just because racism is dead don’t mean they still don’t shoot n****rs on sight,” the son imagines him saying, half expecting his father to stand up, dust himself off and offer up his death as a lesson to “inspire” him – our narrator is forced to ask some difficult questions. Specifically: “Who am I? And how can I become myself?”

This is the emotional core of Beatty’s powerful, poignant book. While the courtroom drama may boil down to the question of “whether a violation of civil rights law . . . results in the very same achievement these heretofore statutes were meant to promote” (as one smart justice finally seems to twig), the Sellout’s journey is better understood as a personal journey, a welcome reminder that identity is forged amid overlapping private and communal experiences and cannot be uniformly enforced.

How else to explain the view espoused by Hominy Jenkins, a Sancho Panza to the Sellout’s Don Quixote, that “true freedom is having the right to be a slave”? (Hominy is a former child actor-turned-“race reactionary”, who hopes to repay his “massa” for saving his life by literally owing him his life through indentured servitude.) How else to explain the counterintuitive pride taken when the duo tour Dickens handing out “No whites allowed” signs to local restaurants and beauty shops, in part attracting the attention that finally gets the city reinstated on the map? “The customers love it,” the proprietors explain. “It’s like they belong to a private club that’s public!”

The Sellout is a compelling act of demonstrative rhetoric, a masterful show of verbal energy that questions just how far equality has come and where it hopes to go. 


Boris Johnson isn't risking his political life over Heathrow

By India Bourke from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The anti-Heathrow campaigner was never a committed environmentalist. 

A government announcement on expanding London’s airports is expected today, and while opposition forces have been rallying against the expected outcome - a third runway at Heathrow - the decision could also be a divisive one for the ruling Conservative party. A long consultation period will allow these divisions to fester. 

Reports suggest that up to 60 Conservative MPs are against expansion at the Heathrow site. The Prime Minister’s own constituents are threatening legal action, and the former London mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, has promised to step down as MP for Richmond rather than let the airport develop.

But what of Boris Johnson? The politician long synonymous with Heathrow opposition - including a threat to lie down “in front of those bulldozers” - is expected to call the decision a mistake. But for a man unafraid to dangle from a zipwire, he has become unusually reticent on the subject.

The reticence has partly been imposed upon him. In a letter to her cabinet ministers, Theresa May has granted them freedom from the usual rules of collective responsibility (under which cabinet ministers are required to support government positions). But she has also requested that they refrain from speaking out in the Commons, from “actively” campaigning against her position, and from calling “into question the decision making process itself”.  

Johnson is not about to start cheering for Heathrow. But unlike Goldsmith, he is no committed environmentalist - and he's certainly a committed politician.  

Boris’s objections to the expansion at Heathrow have all too often only extended as far as the lives of his London constituents. These local impacts are not to be belittled – in his role of mayor of London, he rightly pointed to the extreme health risks of increased noise and air pollution. And his charisma and profile have also boosted community campaigns around these issues. 

But when it comes to reducing emissions, Johnson is complacent. He may have come a long way since a 2013 Telegraph article in which he questioned whether global warming was real. Yet his plan to build an alternative “hub” airport in the Thames Estuary would have left the question of cutting UK aviation emissions worryingly un-resolved. This lack of curiosity is alarming considering his current job as foreign secretary. 

And there are reasons to be concerned. According to Cait Hewitt at the Aviation Environment Federation, the UK fails to meet its targets for CO2 reduction. And the recent UN deal on aviation emission mitigation doesn’t even meet the commitments of the UK’s own Climate Change Act, let alone the more stringent demands of the Paris Agreement. “Deciding that we’re going to do something that we know is going to make a problem worse, before we’ve got an answer, is the wrong move”, said Hewitt.

There is a local environmental argument too. Donnachadh McCarthy, a spokesperson from the activist group “Rising Up”, says the pollution could affect Londoners' health: "With 70 per cent of flights taken just by 15 per cent of the UK's population... this is just not acceptable in a civilised democracy.”

The way Johnson tells it, his reason for staying in government is a pragmatic one. “I think I'd be better off staying in parliament to fight the case, frankly," he told LBC Radio in 2015. And he's right that, whatever the government’s position, the new “national policy statement” to authorise the project will likely face a year-long public consultation before a parliamentary vote in late 2017 or early 2018. Even then the application will still face a lengthy planning policy stage and possible judicial review. 

But if the foreign secretary does fight this quietly, in the back rooms of power, it is not just a loss to his constituents. It means the wider inconsistencies of his position can be brushed aside - rather than exposed and explored, and safely brought down to ground. 


Are America's Small Towns Really Struggling?

By Deborah Fallows from Best of The Atlantic. Published on Oct 25, 2016.

The job market in the United States is constantly shifting—especially in small towns that were once totally reliant on large factories for jobs. While politicians focus on failing industries, things looks different from the local perspective. Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows and contributing writer Deborah Fallows travelled to Pennsylvania, California, and Kansas to understand what transformations were happening in various industries. “These perceived weaknesses are actually our strength,” says one young resident of Erie, Pennsylvania.

This documentary was produced for American Futures, an ongoing reporting project from James and Deborah Fallows. The couple has spent three years exploring small town America by air, “taking seriously places that don’t usually get registered seriously.”

Anxiety is not cool, funny or fashionable

By Eleanor Margolis from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

A charitable initative to encourage sufferers to knit a Christmas jumper signalling their condition is well-intentioned but way off the mark.

The other night, I had one of those teeth-falling-out dreams. I dreamt I was on a bus, and every time it stopped one of my teeth plunked effortlessly out of my skull. “Shit,” I said to myself, in the dream, “this is like one of those teeth-falling out dreams”. Because – without getting too Inception – even in its midst, I realised this style of anxiety dream is a huge cliché.

Were my subconscious a little more creative, maybe it would’ve concocted a situation where I was on a bus (sure, bus, why not?), feeling anxious (because I nearly always feel anxious) and I’m wearing a jumper with the word “ANXIOUS” scrawled across my tits, so I can no longer hyperventilate – in private — about having made a bad impression with the woman who just served me in Tesco. What if, in this jumper, those same men who tell women to “smile, love” start telling me to relax. What if I have to start explaining panic attacks, mid-panic attack? Thanks to mental health charity Anxiety UK, this more original take on the classic teeth-falling-out dream could become a reality. Last week, they introduced an awareness-raising Christmas “anxiety” jumper.

It’s difficult to slate anyone for doing something as objectively important as tackling the stigma around mental health problems. Then again, right now, I’m struggling to think of anything more anxiety-inducing than wearing any item of clothing that advertises my anxiety. Although I’m fully prepared to accept that I’m just not badass enough to wear such a thing. As someone whose personal style is “background lesbian”, the only words I want anywhere near my chest are “north” and “face”.  

It should probably be acknowledged that the anxiety jumper isn’t actually being sold ready to wear, but as a knitting pattern. The idea being that you make your own anxiety jumper, in whichever colours you find least/most stressful. I’m not going to go on about feeling “excluded” – as a non-knitter – from this campaign. At the same time, the “anxiety jumper” demographic is almost definitely twee middle class millennials who can/will knit.

Photo: Anxiety UK

Unintentionally, I’m sure, a jumper embellished with the word “anxious” touts an utterly debilitating condition as a trend. Much like, actually, the “anxiety club” jumper that was unanimously deemed awful earlier this year. Granted, the original anxiety jumper — we now live in a world with at least two anxiety jumpers — wasn’t charitable or ostensibly well intentioned. It had a rainbow on it. Which was either an astute, ironic comment on how un-rainbow-like  anxiety is or, more likely, a poorly judged non sequitur farted into existence by a bored designer. Maybe the same one who thought up the Urban Outfitters “depression” t-shirt of 2014.

From Zayn Malik to Oprah Winfrey, a growing number of celebrities are opening up about what may seem, to someone who has never struggled with anxiety, like the trendiest disorder of the decade. Anxiety, of course, isn’t trendy; it’s just incredibly common. As someone constantly reassured by the fact that, yes, millions of other people have (real life) panic meltdowns on public transport, I could hardly argue that we shouldn’t be discussing our personal experiences of anxiety. But you have to ask whether anyone would be comfortable wearing a jumper that said “schizophrenic” or “bulimic”. Anxiety, it has to be said, has a tendency – as one of the more “socially acceptable” mental illnesses — to steal the limelight.

But I hope we carry on talking anxiety. I’m not sure Movember actually gets us talking about prostates, but it puts them out there at least. If Christmas jumpers can do the same for the range of mental health issues under the “anxiety” umbrella, then move over, Rudolph.


You are living in a Black Mirror episode and you don’t care

By Amelia Tait from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is likely to become law later this year, but barely anyone is resisting the dystopian surveillance it will bring.

“They’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we're clumsy,” explained Charlie Brooker when asked to describe the concept behind his science fiction series Black Mirror. When series three was released on Netflix last week, this sentiment was reiterated over and over. “Omg, it’s just like Instagram!!!!” squealed individuals in their masses after watching episode one, “Nosedive”, set in a world where everyone rates one another out of five after their interactions. The parallel with social media is easy, obvious, and intentional, but it doesn’t teach us much. The real ways in which our world is like a dystopian sci-fi are, in fact, much more boring.

There will be no suspenseful songs or dramatic jump cuts preluding the third reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Lords next week. The “snoopers’ charter” is likely to become law after it passed through its House of Commons readings with a few amendments, with 444 MPs voting in favour and 69 against. In short, the Bill will give the government unprecedented surveillance powers, allowing them to intercept and collect your communications, collect a list of the websites you visit and search it without a warrant, and force your internet service provider to help them collect your data.

Even though this is highly comparable to the dark visions of the future offered by Black Mirror, no one cares. Though the Bill faced initial resistance when it was announced in 2015, it has passed through its readings relatively unscathed. Black Mirror should provide a prime opportunity to discuss issues around privacy, but people prefer to compare dystopias to things they already hate. Lord help us all if we take selfies or stare at a device which is simultaneously an encyclopaedia, a newspaper, a book, a map, a bank, a radio, a camera and a telephone for more than ten minutes.

Yet the Investigatory Powers Bill does hold many parallels to the last episode of Black Mirror series three, “Hated in the Nation”. In it, the government use autonomous drones shaped like bees to spy on its people, which are then hacked to murder hated public figures. “Ok! The government’s a c**t, we knew that already,” says DCI Karin Parke, moving on to the real issue – not that the government spies on its citizens, but that the spying device can be hacked by those naughty, naughty citizens themselves.

The hacker – Garrett Scholes – has programmed the bees to kill whoever gets the most votes on Twitter via the hashtag #DeathTo. Then, in a Jon-Ronson-worthy twist, he sets the bees on the people who used the hashtag in the first place. The actual, moral, wake-up-sheeple message of “Hated in the Nation”, then, is that we should be careful who we wish death upon on social media. But it is precisely this freedom that we should be protecting. Under the Investigatory Powers Bill, your emails and search history could be used to argue that you really want to kill Katie Hopkins, rather than were just blowing off steam.

Yet it’s hard to blame anyone for ignoring the Bill, which is off-putting not because it’s not an episode of Black Mirror, but because it is long and confusing. Breaking through the terminology is hard, even in the handy fact sheets provided, and the government can claim transparency while using alienating language and concepts.

“Some of the powers in the Bill are deeply intrusive, and with very little possible justification,” warned former MP Dr Julian Huppert last week, “the cost to all of our privacy is huge.” The good news is that you don’t have to worry about metal bees spying on you, and the bad news is that this is because the government will soon have permission to do it the easy way.


Now listen to a review of the new series of Black Mirror on the NS pop culture podcast, SRSLY:


AT&T deal merits close look from regulators

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

Takeovers in the telecommunications sector carry competition worries

Unconvinced by Ken Loach’s benefits story? That says more about Britain than the film does

By Anoosh Chakelian from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

The director has clashed with a film critic about his representation of the welfare state in I, Daniel Blake.

I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s new film, has kicked off a row between the director and The Sunday Times’ film critic, Camilla Long.

Published on Sunday, the review – which called the film a “povvo safari for middle-class do-gooders” – has led to Loach and some audience members rowing with Long online.

Long also describes the film – which is an unforgiving drama about the cruelty of welfare bureaucracy – as “misery porn for smug Londoners”.

Her contention is that it is “condescending” and “patronising” to benefits claimants, partly because it will mainly be seen by affluent audiences, rather than “the lowest part of society” – so acts as a vehicle for middle-class guilt rather than an authentic reflection of people’s lives.

I’ve seen the film, and there are parts that jar. A reference to the Bedroom Tax feels shoe-horned in, as if screenwriter Paul Laverty remembered last-minute to tick that box on his welfare scandal checklist. And an onlooker outside the Jobcentre’s rant about the Bullingdon Club, Etonians and Iain Duncan Smith also feels forced. (But to me, these parts only stood out because the rest of the script is convincing – often punishingly so.)

A critic is free to tear into a film they didn’t enjoy. But the problem with Long’s review is the problem with the way Britain in general looks at the benefits system: disbelief.

For example, Long calls it “a maddening computer error” and “a mysterious glitch” that Daniel Blake – a 59-year-old carpenter who has been signed off from work by his doctor after a heart attack – is denied his disability benefit.

Actually it’s because he’s been found “fit to work” after an agonising tick-box phone assessment by an anonymous adviser, who is neither a nurse nor a doctor. This is a notorious problem with work capability assessments under a welfare system constantly undergoing cuts and shake-ups by successive governments.

Both the Personal Independence Payment (which replaced the Disability Living Allowance in 2013 under the coalition) and Employment and Support Allowance (which replaced the Incapacity Benefit in 2007 under New Labour) have seen backlogs and delays in providing financial support to claimants, and work capability tests have repeatedly been under fire for being intrusive, inappropriate, or just wrong. Funding for those in the “work-related activity group” who claim ESA – in which you work if you are deemed able to during continual interviews with an adviser – also suffered a 30 per cent cut in last year’s budget.

Also, when people claiming ESA believe they have wrongly been found “fit for work” and appeal – as Blake does in the film – more than half of decisions are overturned when they reach a tribunal.

It’s a system that puts cost-cutting above people’s welfare; Jobcentre staff are even monitored individually in terms of how many sanctions they impose (Blake’s friend Katie is sanctioned in the film), making them feel as if they are working to targets.

The situation for disabled, sick or broke people claiming welfare is unbelievable in this country, which is perhaps why it’s so difficult for us – or for some watching Loach’s portrayal of the cruel system – to believe it at all. At best, it’s because we would prefer to close our eyes to a system that we hope we never have to grapple with. At worst, it’s because we don’t believe people when they say they cannot work, and demonise them as “shirkers” or “scroungers”.

By all means question Loach’s cinematic devices, but don’t question the point of telling the story at all – and the story itself. After all, it’s the very inability of people who rely on the state to have their voices heard that means they are always hit the hardest.


The eurozone economy regains some vitality

From Financial Times - FT View. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

Governments need to support further growth with fiscal easing

Will the collapse of the EU/Canada trade deal speed the demise of Jean-Claude Juncker?

By Anonymous from New Statesman Contents. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

The embattled European Comission President has already survived the migrant crisis and Brexit.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the embattled President of the European Commission, is likely to come under renewed pressure to resign later this week now that the Belgian region of Wallonia has likely scuppered the EU’s flagship trade deal with Canada.

The rebellious Walloons on Friday blocked the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The deal for 500 million Europeans was at the final hurdle when it fell, struck down by an administration representing 3.2 million people.

As Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, walked out of talks in tears and declared the deal dead, fingers were pointed at Juncker. Under pressure from EU governments, he had agreed that CETA would be a “mixed agreement”. He overruled the executive’s legal advice that finalising the deal was in the Commission’s power.

CETA now had to be ratified by each member state. In the case of Belgium, it means it had to be approved by each of its seven parliaments, giving the Walloons an effective veto.

Wallonia’s charismatic socialist Minister-President Paul Magnette needed a cause celebre to head off gains made by the rival Marxist PTB party. He found it in opposition to an investor protection clause that will allow multinationals to sue governments, just a month after the news that plant closures by the world’s leading heavy machinery maker Caterpillar would cost Wallonia 2,200 jobs.

Juncker was furious. Nobody spoke up when the EU signed a deal with Vietnam, “known the world over for applying all democratic principles”, he sarcastically told reporters.

“But when it comes to signing an agreement with Canada, an accomplished dictatorship as we all know, the whole world wants to say we don’t respect human right or social and economic rights,” he added.  

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to arrive in Brussels on Thursday to sign CETA, which is backed by all EU leaders.

European Council President, Donald Tusk, has today spoken to Trudeau and his visit is currently scheduled to go ahead. This morning, the Walloons said they would not be held to ransom by the “EU ultimatum”.

If signed, CETA will remove customs duties, open up markets, and encourage investment, the Commission has said. Losing it will cost jobs and billions in lost trade to Europe’s stagnant economy.

“The credibility of Europe is at stake”, Tusk has warned.

Failure to deliver CETA will be a serious blow to the European Union and call into question the European Commission’s exclusive mandate to strike trade deals on behalf of EU nations.

It will jeopardise a similar trade agreement with the USA, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Commission claims that an “ambitious” TTIP could increase the size of the EU economy by €120 billion (or 0.5% of GDP).

The Commission has already missed its end of year deadline to conclude trade talks with the US. It will now have to continue negotiations with whoever succeeds Obama as US President.

And if the EU cannot, after seven years of painstaking negotiations, get a deal with Canada done, how will it manage if the time comes to strike a similar pact with a "hard Brexit" Britain?

Juncker has faced criticism before.  After the Brexit referendum, the Czechs and the Poles wanted him gone. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban muttered darkly about “personnel issues” at the Commission.

In July, it was reported that Angela Merkel, the most powerful politician in Europe, was plotting to oust Juncker. Merkel stayed her hand, and with German elections looming next year is unlikely to pull the trigger now.

When he took office in November 2014, Juncker promised that his administration would be a “political Commission”. But there has never been any sign he would be willing to bear the political consequences of his failures.

Asked if Juncker would quit after Brexit, the Commission’s chief spokesman said, “the answer has two letters and the first one is ‘N’”.

Just days into his administration, Juncker was embroiled in the LuxLeaks scandal. When he was Luxembourg’s prime minister and finance minister, the country had struck sweetheart tax deals with multinational companies.  

Despite official denials, rumours about his drinking and health continue to swirl around Brussels. They are exacerbated by bizarre behaviour such as kissing Belgium’s Charles Michel on his bald head and greeting Orban with a cheery “Hello dictator”!

On Juncker’s watch, border controls have been reintroduced in the once-sacrosanct Schengen passport-free zone, as the EU struggles to handle the migration crisis.

Member states promised to relocate 160,000 refugees in Italy and Greece across the bloc by September 2017. One year on, just 6,651 asylum seekers have been re-homed.

All this would be enough to claim the scalp of a normal politician but Juncker remains bulletproof.

The European Commission President can, in theory, only be forced out by the European Parliament, as happened to Jacques Santer in 1999.

The European Parliament President is Martin Schulz, a German socialist. His term is up for renewal next year and Juncker, a centre-right politician, has already endorsed its renewal in a joint interview.

There is little chance that Juncker will be replaced with a leader more sympathetic to the British before the Brexit negotiations begin next year.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv, an online EU news service. 


Islamic State’s messianic apocalypse is postponed

By The Economist online from Middle East and Africa. Published on Oct 24, 2016.

Waiting for the end

THE fate of a small rural town in northern Syria might seem inconsequential when faced with a multinational assault on the group’s main stronghold, Mosul. But few places were more central to the image of Islamic State (IS). The jihadists lauded Dabiq as the locus, as cited in an obscure Hadith, or saying of the Prophet Muhammad, of the battle of the end of days; in their vision it would be the site of an apocalyptic showdown between the self-styled caliphate’s faithful and Western crusaders. It named its glos