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Preview: The Guardian newspaper: Comment & debate | guardian.co.uk

Opinion | The Guardian



Latest opinion, analysis and discussion from the Guardian. CP Scott: "Comment is free, but facts are sacred"



Published: Mon, 25 Sep 2017 21:05:50 GMT2017-09-25T21:05:50Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



The New York Times had an anti-Hillary Clinton agenda? That's untrue | Jill Abramson

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 10:00:11 GMT2017-09-25T10:00:11Z

Despite claims made in her recent book, the news editors at the paper were never hostile to Clinton. The only proof I have is that I was there

  • Jill Abramson is the former executive editor of The New York Times

In her book, Hillary Clinton says the news media has not done enough soul-searching about its role in her loss.

Her argument boils down to this: too much firepower was aimed at her emails, part of a long pattern of unfair scandal mongering over the years. Unfair press coverage fueled the “lock her up” frenzy and created doubts in the minds of some undecided voters.

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Memo to Trump after his NFL rant: sport is, and always has been, political

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 10:30:42 GMT2017-09-24T10:30:42Z

Even by his standards, the President’s rhetoric when calling for protesting footballers to be fired, was crude, and cruel. And it played to our worst instincts

Politics and sport have been bedfellows since at least the birth of the ancient Olympic Games some 28 centuries ago, when city states that vied year-round for finite resources came up with a venue of bloodless competition to keep themselves from killing each other.

Related: Donald Trump blasts NFL anthem protesters: 'Get that son of a bitch off the field'

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Think Paul Manafort is about to sink the White House? Hold your horses | Walter Shapiro

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 10:00:13 GMT2017-09-23T10:00:13Z

In legal terms, maybe all that Trump is guilty of is terrible taste in campaign advisers and bad luck with his son-in-law

When Paul Manafort, a Ronald Reagan veteran, moved to take charge of the amateur-hour Donald Trump campaign in early April 2016, the press coverage was respectful, even a bit fawning.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was quoted in the New York Times calling Manafort’s ascension “a step in the right direction” and in the same story Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio hailed the move as welcome evidence that Trump knew that he needs to hire “experienced and seasoned hands.”

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The week in patriarchy: Ivanka Trump continues to disappoint | Jessica Valenti

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 12:00:15 GMT2017-09-23T12:00:15Z

She won’t have to worry about her children being denied the healthcare because she is wealthy. What about the rest of us?

This week, Ivanka Trump came out about having postpartum depression after the births of each of her three children. Struggling with mental health challenges after childbirth is common, and terrible, and I feel awful for anyone who had to deal with it.

However, it’s a bit ironic that the same week Ivanka is talking about her experience, her father is pushing for a healthcare repeal bill that would gut pregnancy and mental health protections for Americans.

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Shame on Harvard for welcoming Sean Spicer – but spurning Chelsea Manning | Francine Prose

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:00:44 GMT2017-09-22T10:00:44Z

Its time to withdraw support from the university after it invited Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski, but rescinded a fellowship for Chelsea Manning

I graduated from Harvard in 1968. (Officially, my diploma was from Radcliffe, the now disbanded women’s college, but all of our classes were at Harvard.) That year, Harvard’s graduation speaker was the shah of Iran, and many of us wore black armbands and boycotted the ceremony to protest against the oppressive Iranian government’s human rights violations.

In 1993, I returned for our 25th reunion. The graduation speaker was Colin Powell, the defense secretary, who had supported the Clinton administration’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay members of the military. And my class (along with the rest of the audience) gave him a standing ovation.

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The 1% are uncomfortable with their wealth. But what good does that do? | Jamie Peck

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 13:00:48 GMT2017-09-22T13:00:48Z

In Rachel Sherman’s new book Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence, the rich are conflicted about their power. Here’s what they can do to fix it

In our post-Occupy Wall Street world of rampant and glaring inequality, it can be tempting – even understandable – to hate the rich. From the Real Housewives franchise to the first family, American culture is brimming with examples of ostentatious wealth for the rest of us to feel simultaneously jealous of and contemptuous towards. But what if all that moralizing is distracting us from the real problem?

In her new book Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence, sociologist Rachel Sherman explores how Manhattan’s palace-dwelling, private school attending elite feel about themselves, with the goal of correcting our approach to inequality.

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Is Trump about to repeat George W Bush's worst mistake? | Michael Fuchs

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 10:00:15 GMT2017-09-20T10:00:15Z

In 2002, Bush used his UN speech to argue for action against Iraq. Let’s hope Trump’s first UN speech isn’t the opening salvo in a preventable war with Iran

In 2003, the United States initiated perhaps the greatest strategic disaster in US history by diverting attention from a necessary war in Afghanistan to an unnecessary war in Iraq. The Iraq war resulted in hundreds of thousands dead and wounded, untold economic catastrophe, states in the Middle East in complete ruin, and the rise of Isis – all while the effort to go after terrorists in Afghanistan languished.

President Donald Trump’s first speech before the United Nations general assembly this week made clear that Trump wants to take America down a similar path by diverting much-needed attention from North Korea to starting an unnecessary conflict with Iran.

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Angela Merkel would get my vote. Mutti’s the leader all Europeans need | James Hawes

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 12:48:45 GMT2017-09-22T12:48:45Z

The German chancellor is as unglamorous and reliable as a Miele washing machine. I want her to win on Sunday because she can steer the west to safety

Novelists of the future will surely do a Hilary Mantel on Angela Merkel – try to recreate the secret gyroscopes of her mind, in her time. Here’s my advice to them: look west. For that, above all, is what Mutti – Mummy – as she is known to every German, whether they like or loathe her, believes in.

How could she not, with her life-story? Unlike almost everyone else in East Germany, she was there not because of bad luck and barbed wire. Her father, a Lutheran pastor, moved of his own free will from Hamburg to East Germany shortly after her birth in 1954, becoming a senior figure in the state-tolerated church. The Berlin Wall went up when she was seven. By then, whatever innocence there might once have been in East Germany was dead. She must have grown up knowing that she could have been a West German; she can hardly have failed, as a rather brilliant young woman and scientist, to feel every day, directly, the effects of Papa Merkel’s deluded utopianism. At 35, she lived the triumph of the West not only as simple, literal freedom but also as mental freedom, at last, from the lies into which millennial ideas inevitably descend.

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Meet your new workplace role model: the chef giving up his Michelin stars | Stefan Stern

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:13:50 GMT2017-09-22T11:13:50Z

A celebrated French chef wants to cook food without constant scrutiny and performance review. Managers and workers, take note

Maybe life is too short to stuff a mushroom after all. That is one conclusion to draw from the news that Sébastien Bras, a three-star Michelin chef, has decided to renounce the usually longed-for accolade and choose a simpler existence in the kitchen instead.

“I want to give a new meaning to my life … and redefine what is essential,” he said earlier this week in a Facebook video message. He still wants to cook, it seems, just not quite so much of the fancy stuff and not under the pressure of constant scrutiny.

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Climate optimism has been a disaster. We need a new language – desperately | Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:24:21 GMT2017-09-21T13:24:21Z

The extreme weather of the past months is a game-changer: surely now the world is ready to talk about climate change as a civilisation-collapsing catastrophe

In 1988, when the scientist James Hansen told a senate committee that it was “time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here”, those who took him seriously assumed that if they just persisted with emphasising that this terrible fact would eventually destroy us, action would be taken. Instead, the opposite happened: when confronted with the awful reality of climate change, most people tended to retreat into a panglossian vision of the future, or simply didn’t want to hear about it.

Related: Stop talking right now about the threat of climate change. It’s here; it’s happening | Bill McKibben

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The Guardian view on Catalonia: step back from the brink | Editorial

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:53:14 GMT2017-09-21T18:53:14Z

Madrid has badly mishandled a deliberately provocative referendum

The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, writes in the Guardian that “a de facto state of emergency” has ended Catalan home rule just weeks ahead of a planned referendum on independence. Madrid appears deaf to the argument that its heavy-handed attempts to stop the vote will only ultimately strengthen support for secession. A judge sent in the police to arrest a dozen local officials; the Guardia Civil seized millions of ballot papers; the central finance ministry took over the region’s finances to prevent public money from being used in the vote. All the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has achieved by being so oblivious to public sentiment in Catalonia is to harden opinion in the region and draw thousands onto the streets.

If nothing is done to work towards a compromise, a political train wreck threatens in the EU’s largest southern member state. This situation has been long in the making. A key tipping point came when Spain’s constitutional court in 2010 knocked down parts of a revised “statute of autonomy” – the result of a compromise reached four years earlier between Madrid’s then Socialist prime minister and the then centre-right Catalan nationalists. That was a document which boosted Catalonia’s already impressive levels of self-government. But Mr Rajoy’s conservative People’s party had lambasted the agreement as a dagger aimed at the heart of Spain’s 1978 constitution, and appealed to the constitutional court. Their victory there caused a reaction: the Catalan political leadership shifted towards separatism.

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Bears Ears is sacred to Native Americans. But heritage isn't all equal for Trump | Julian Brave NoiseCat

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 10:00:14 GMT2017-09-19T10:00:14Z

While Trump is quick to defend his Confederate forefathers, he has been equally swift to desecrate places held sacred by Native Americans

History and heritage are powerful words in American politics. In the United States, the Founding Fathers are second only to the apostles; the Constitution comes just after the Bible on the bookshelf and the Declaration of Independence is nearly as important an origin story as Genesis.

Just days after bloody white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville last month, Donald Trump argued that a growing chorus of voices calling for the removal of Confederate statues would inevitably lead to the removal of monuments honoring the Founding Fathers – tantamount to heresy.

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Who’s the world’s leading eco-vandal? It’s Angela Merkel | George Monbiot

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 19:12:46 GMT2017-09-19T19:12:46Z

Ignore her reputation for supporting green initiatives. The German chancellor’s record on environmental policy has been a disaster

Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.

Related: Germany won’t lead the free world. It barely looks beyond its own borders | Natalie Nougayrède

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It's time to take the 'great' white men of science off their pedestals | Yarden Katz

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 05:00:08 GMT2017-09-19T05:00:08Z

Yes, the Oxford statue of Rhodes should fall but why not novelist HG Wells, a eugenics enthusiast, and J Marion Sim, the ‘father of gynaecology’ who experimented on slaves, too

Science’s most elite magazine, Nature, published an editorial recently arguing that calling for monuments to figures such as J Marion Sims – often called the “father of gynaecology” – to be removed amounts to “whitewashing” history. Sims is widely praised for developing techniques in gynaecological surgery and founding a women’s hospital in New York in the mid-1800s. But Sims experimented on enslaved black women and infants, operating up to 30 times on one woman to perfect his method. Last month, women wearing bloodied hospital gowns staged a protest by Sims’s statue outside the New York Academy of Medicine.

Related: A battle with prejudice: why we overlook the warrior women of ancient times | Natalie Haynes

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History will judge those who don't stop sex trafficking | Rob Portman

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 10:00:14 GMT2017-09-19T10:00:14Z

For too long, websites like Backpage, that knowingly run ads selling underage girls, have escaped justice. We can fix that flaw now – if we want to

On Christmas Eve 2016, while Yvonne Ambrose should have been enjoying the company of her family and celebrating the holiday, she was instead grappling with the news that her 16-year-old daughter, Desiree, was found murdered in a parking garage that morning.

As the heartbroken mother has described, Desiree was being sold for sex on Backpage.com – the leading website for online sex trafficking – when she was murdered. Yvonne is, sadly, one of many mothers whose daughters have been exploited on the internet.

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How would Trump handle a terror attack? | Aziz Huq

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 10:49:56 GMT2017-09-18T10:49:56Z

His responses to Syria, North Korea and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma offer a glimpse into how the White House would deal with a domestic attack

On a sunny day, on a crowded urban street, a heavy van leaps suddenly onto the sideway. It accelerates. It kills and injures dozens. Or an improvised bomb explodes on public transport, injuring many. A perpetrator, apprehended quickly due to CCTV footage, professes allegiance to Isis but claims to have acted alone.

A version of this awful scene was replayed in Barcelona and just days ago in London – but what if it were to happen in the US? How would its government respond?

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Why Fox doesn't want Americans to see NFL players protesting about race | Ameer Hasan Loggins

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 18:04:16 GMT2017-09-14T18:04:16Z

The channel deliberately chose to hide black NFL players protesting police brutality over the weekend, and the reasons are all too clear

Did you notice that during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins firmly raised his fist, as a symbolic gesture of black opposition to various forms of systemic oppression? No? Did you see Rodney McLeod and Chris Long alongside Jenkins in solidarity with the cause in which he is standing for? No? You are not alone. Viewers at home did not see any of this – not by accident, but by design.

Fox kept the cameras off of the players, blacking out their protest against racial injustice. While Fox screened an interview before the game with a black player – Michael Bennett – about why he was protesting, the fact that the network hid the actual protest irked many NFL fans.

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Trump lied about 'voter fraud' ... now he wants to steal people's votes | Lawrence Douglas

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 18:06:29 GMT2017-09-14T18:06:29Z

When Trump claimed that millions ‘voted illegally’ in 2016, it laid the groundwork for a voter commission that looks set to restrict rights to minorities

Of the hundreds of whoppers that President Trump has told since his election, an early one remains the most toxic. In days following his electoral college victory, Trump claimed that he would have also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump later refined this claim, insisting that three to five million undocumented voters threw the popular election for Clinton.

By way of proof, the president waved at an outlandish story: that golfer Bernhard Langer – a German citizen, barred from voting in the in the US – had had his path to the voting booth clogged by men and women, who by skin color and accent were obviously fraudulent voters.

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Trump wants to bring jobs back. Fixing the opioid crisis is part of that task | Rakeen Mabud

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 15:40:52 GMT2017-09-16T15:40:52Z

In a new paper, labour economist Alan Krueger finds that employment dropped in areas where more opioids are prescribed. Our so-called ‘jobs president’ must act

By all accounts, we are living in a humanitarian and public health crisis. Deaths from prescription opioid overdose have quadrupled in the last 15 years, and data show that as of June 2017, the number of opioid deaths has surpassed the peak of the HIV/Aids crisis in 1995.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Profit-seeking by pharmaceutical companies is ultimately behind the rise of opioid prescriptions – and all the broken lives that result from this epidemic.

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Hillary Clinton's book has a clear message: don't blame me | Thomas Frank

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 09:00:31 GMT2017-09-12T09:00:31Z

Hillary Clinton simply cannot escape her satisfied white-collar worldview. This prevents her from understanding the events of 2016

How do you lose the presidency to a man like Donald Trump? He was the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time, compounding blunder with blunder and heaping gaffe upon gaffe. Keeping him from the Oval Office should have been the single-minded mission of the Democratic party. And it should have been easy for them.

Instead they lost, and now their 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton comes before us to account for this monumental failure, to tell us What Happened. Unfortunately, her new book is less an effort to explain than it is to explain away.

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Universal healthcare in America? Not a taboo now, thanks to Bernie Sanders | Ross Barkan

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 10:00:39 GMT2017-09-14T10:00:39Z

Once radical and taboo in mainstream Democratic circles, endorsing universal healthcare coverage is now de rigueur

There was a time, not too long ago – the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter all existed – when the two leading Democratic candidates for president of the United States didn’t support the right of gay people to marry.

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” that inspiring tribune of hope and change, Barack Obama, declared in 2008. His rival, Hillary Clinton, concurred. Gay people shouldn’t be able to marry.

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Stop talking right now about the threat of climate change. It’s here; it’s happening | Bill McKibben

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 04:59:04 GMT2017-09-11T04:59:04Z

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, flash fires, droughts: all of them tell us one thing – we need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and fast

For the sake of keeping things manageable, let’s confine the discussion to a single continent and a single week: North America over the last seven days.

In Houston they got down to the hard and unromantic work of recovery from what economists announced was probably the most expensive storm in US history, and which weather analysts confirmed was certainly the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the country – across much of its spread it was a once-in-25,000-years storm, meaning 12 times past the birth of Christ; in isolated spots it was a once-in-500,000-years storm, which means back when we lived in trees. Meanwhile, San Francisco not only beat its all-time high temperature record, it crushed it by 3F, which should be pretty much statistically impossible in a place with 150 years (that’s 55,000 days) of record-keeping.

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If Mark Zuckerberg runs for president, will Facebook help him win? | Katherine Haenschen

Sat, 09 Sep 2017 10:00:05 GMT2017-09-09T10:00:05Z

Facebook can shift elections. That’s why, with rumors swirling that the social media CEO might run, transparency is needed now more than ever

Despite his protestations to the contrary, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been acting like someone planning to run for office. He hired a pollster, visited a Detroit auto plant and other swing-state locations, and gave a high-profile commencement speech.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been under intense criticism for its role as a vector of misinformation in recent elections. This week, Facebook admitted that Russian accounts purchased $100,000 in political ads in 2015 and 2016. This disclosure comes only two months after the platform refused to disclose who is paying for advertising on the platform and where they’re running.

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Donald Trump stabbed his party in the back. It might just pay off | Joe McLean

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 10:00:03 GMT2017-09-11T10:00:03Z

Americans are fed up with political gridlock. If President Trump continues to makes deals with Democrats, the rewards would be high – but there are risks

The mainstream, “establishment” Republican leadership made a cynical calculation to tolerate Donald Trump’s dangerous faults, believing they could use him to rubber-stamp their long-sought conservative legislative agenda. They made a bargain with a con man, and now he has betrayed them.

His deal last week with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on debt limits and disaster spending is a huge political betrayal. But make no mistake: for Trump, it’s good politics.

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Are elite universities 'safe spaces'? Not if you're starting a union | Thomas Frank

Sat, 09 Sep 2017 10:00:05 GMT2017-09-09T10:00:05Z

For all their trigger warnings and safe spaces, places like Yale and Columbia are not very democratic when it comes to unions

It’s back-to-school season in America, and that means it’s the time of year when the pundit class is moved to lament the sad state of elite higher education. Over the next few weeks, our thought-leaders will scold this year’s class of overly sensitive Ivy League students, what with their safe spaces and trigger warnings.

Tough-minded columnists will sputter against fancy colleges that are covering up offensive sculptures and censoring offensive speakers. Readers will be invited to gape at the latest perversity served up by our radicalized professoriate and to mourn the decline of their dear old alma mater. What, oh what is this generation coming to, they will cry.

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Why Verrit, a pro-Clinton media platform, is doomed to fail | Michael Paarlberg

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 15:02:04 GMT2017-09-08T15:02:04Z

The website has been blasted for its unsubtle propaganda. There is a reason it works for Republicans and not Democrats

  • Michael Paarlberg is an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University

The set of facts you get, on your TV or your Facebook feed, is increasingly a question of how you align politically. That the chief beneficiaries of this self-sorting trend have been conservative media is not lost on liberals. We need our own echo chamber, they say, to fight fake news with real news. Or memes, at least.

Enter Verrit, the most ill-conceived startup since Juicero. Brainchild of Clinton hyper-loyalist Peter Daou, the “media venture for the 65.8 million” (referring to Clinton’s popular vote tally) offers up treacly quotes and random factoids, readymade for social media and “verified” by the site, so that you can be sure Clinton really did say “America is once again at a moment of reckoning.”

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The Guardian view on heresy: is the pope Catholic? | Editorial

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 17:48:19 GMT2017-09-25T17:48:19Z

Pope Francis has been accused of heresy for his efforts to liberalise the church’s understanding of divorce

A group of conservative clerics has accused Pope Francis of heresy for his attempts to liberalise the church’s treatment of divorced people. This raises an interesting question: how long must a pope be dead before his opinions can safely be ignored? For many people the answer is “no time at all”: it is not just humanists, Muslims and Protestants, but the vast majority of the world’s Catholics who take little notice of Catholic doctrine when they disagree with it. The Catholic right ignores more than a hundred years of consistent papal teaching against the excesses of capitalism, along with more recent denunciations of the death penalty, of wars of aggression and of environmental destruction. The Catholic left ignores the pope’s teachings on sexuality – and everyone ignores the ban on contraception.

Popes themselves, however, are meant to take their predecessors very seriously even though neither party is writing infallibly. Papal encyclicals read like legal documents, buttressed with footnotes to prove that doctrine has not changed, and that they are just repeating what their predecessors meant, even when they contradict what was plainly said. Those magnificent robes conceal some very fancy footwork at times. It is an article of faith – literally – that doctrine can never change, only develop, and the eye of faith can clearly see the subtle differences between change, development and decay. So the 19th-century denunciations of democracy and freedom of thought and conscience are now ignored, but pope John Paul II’s refusal to admit women priests looks certain to stand for another couple of centuries at least.

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The Guardian view on Germany’s elections: Merkel’s victory | Editorial

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 18:14:29 GMT2017-09-24T18:14:29Z

It is worrying that a xenophobic nationalist party will have a parliamentary presence but the mainstream parties will dominate the government

With her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leading today’s vote, Angela Merkel is set to remain Germany’s chancellor, for a fourth consecutive term. This comes as no surprise. Her popularity has remained high. While her party captured a lower percentage of votes than in 2013, she was dominant throughout the campaign while her main opponent, the Social Democrat Martin Schulz, failed to mount a convincing challenge. Just a fifth of voters backed the Social Democrats (SPD), and Mr Schulz announced that he would not renew the grand coalition with Mrs Merkel, who will now open talks with the pro-business FDP liberals (at 10%) and the Greens (at 9%).

Europe’s most powerful leader has delivered yet more proof of her political resilience. Key to Mrs Merkel’s longevity is what some observers have called her strategy of “asymmetric demobilisation”: by co-opting many of her mainstream adversaries’ policies, whether on nuclear energy, minimum wage or gay marriage, she has left them very little space indeed. What space has opened up is on the extremist, nationalist fringe. By reaching 13%, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has come out stronger than many had anticipated during the campaign. For the first time in decades, a xenophobic and rabidly anti-European movement will be represented in the Bundestag.

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The Guardian view on the Kurdish referendum: a fair question | Editorial

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 17:32:40 GMT2017-09-22T17:32:40Z

The vote by Iraqi Kurds on their desire for independence, due to take place on Monday, poses real risks in an unstable region. But their case deserves to be heard

If not now, when? This is the obvious and reasonable question of Iraqi Kurds seeking to exercise the right to self-determination – enshrined by the UN charter, though often ignored – in a referendum on Monday. They already enjoy a high degree of autonomy. They believe their key role in the fight against Islamic State demands recognition, giving them leverage over western powers; and that the alternative is continued, subordinate membership of a broken and divided Iraq, a century after the Sykes-Picot carve-up.

The response has been overwhelmingly negative. The rest of Iraq, the US, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UK, the EU and the Arab League all oppose the vote thanks to concerns ranging from Kurdish secessionism within their own borders and the furthering of ethnic divisions to the immense dangers it poses in a perilously unstable region – particularly given that voting covers the disputed territories the Kurds have gained in the fight against Isis. The US and others want the vote postponed, understandably. But “later” is almost as unsatisfactory an answer as “never” to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and his supporters – and that too is understandable.

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The Guardian view on markets: buyer, beware | Editorial

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:40:32 GMT2017-09-21T18:40:32Z

The world of fixed prices is giving way to one of constant, invisible auctions

Virgin trains has launched an app so that passengers can upgrade from standard by bidding for a seat in first class. For a minimum offer of £5, the free drinks and the antimacassars can be yours. It is your judgment against your fellow passengers’. Virgin’s airline businesses already do the same thing on their flights, through an app called Plusgrade, which is used by a score or more other airlines. The relationship between buyer and seller is becoming increasingly dynamic: the tactics of the bazaar facilitated by technology. The world of fixed prices and set margins is giving way to an endless unseen auction where what the buyer is willing to pay is assessed by an algorithm based on where the potential purchaser is located and what they have spent in the past. There is an asymmetry here: the advantage that the web appears to give to shoppers by enabling them to compare prices has been covertly subverted by sites like Amazon that have complete control over what prices appear to be available to any given buyer. Like Uber’s surge pricing, charging according to demand is a technique as ancient as the first commercial exchange. Yet it is also a betrayal of the idea of a fair price fixed by the cost of materials and labour modified by what the market will bear. The idea of a plush ride to Edinburgh for just a few pounds more than the basic fare is one thing. But when the middleman controls the price, neither producer nor consumer wins.

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The Guardian view on children’s mental health: not an optional extra | Editorial

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:05:18 GMT2017-09-20T23:05:18Z

The latest research shows the crisis is even worse than anyone realised. Wellbeing must be put back where it belongs – at the heart of what schools do

Adolescence is notorious for its moments of misery that at least for the fortunate are unequalled in later life. Almost every adult looks back on the eruption of spots and the inexplicable weight gain, the exam pressures and the mishandled relationship crises with sympathy for their earlier selves. So it is no surprise to discover that in any given fortnight, many teenagers have felt low. The shock is just how low, and how many. Nearly one in four 14-year-old girls and almost one in 10 boys the same age, say they have felt inadequate, unloved, or worthless. That means that hundreds of thousands of young teenagers are experiencing a range of feelings that amount to a diagnosis of clinical depression; worst of all, the numbers are disproportionately higher in poorer families. The link between poverty and depression is well established. Now it is clear that long before children from low-income families even start their first job, they are at greater risk. The crisis in children’s mental health is even more extensive than anyone realised.

Related: Primary school teachers 'not trained to deal with mental health issues'

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The Guardian view on Trump at the UN: bluster and belligerence | Editorial

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:02:25 GMT2017-09-19T18:02:25Z

The US president is wrong to think that nations acting in their own self-interest would on their own create a more stable world. Countries need to work together under rules to which they agree to adhere

Whatever its difficulties, the United Nations must surely be cherished. Founded in 1945 under US leadership after the defeat of Nazism and imperial Japan, the UN remains the central pillar of the global order. At its core has stood the ambition that peace, international security and human rights would be better protected than they were by the 1930s League of Nations (whose founding treaty the US Senate refused to ratify). The UN is the only existing forum where the representatives of all nation states can be brought together to try to address crises and common challenges.

Donald Trump’s first address to the organisation’s annual general assembly was anticipated with dread by many – and rightly so. This US president is after all the first in history to have made heaping scorn on the UN something of a pastime. His views on the subject have ranged from crude hostility to abject ignorance. The speech he delivered was scripted – not the ramblings of a maverick whose taste for rash tweets and cheap provocations have become an almost daily routine. It was deeply worrying all the same. Unlike his eloquent predecessor, President Trump trades in crass belligerence. His speech will be remembered for its ominous language.

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The Guardian view on the Lib Dem conference: keeping calm and carrying on | Editorial

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 17:59:04 GMT2017-09-19T17:59:04Z

Vince Cable’s party is positioning itself for a change in the political weather

For a party so badly scorched by its experience of power, and with only a fifth of the seats it held three years ago, the Liberal Democrats had some cause for optimism as they gathered in Bournemouth this week. In Vince Cable they have a new yet experienced and well-respected leader. The vote for Brexit gave them a renewed sense of purpose and encouraged a surge in members, taking their numbers to over 100,000. Despite their poor showing in this year’s general election, they boast a markedly stronger parliamentary team, including Sir Vince, his deputy Jo Swinson and newcomer Layla Moran.

The leader highlighted their two opportunities in his speech on Tuesday. Labour’s divisions over the EU created the Liberal Democrats’ opportunity with remainers; but the more recent evolution of its policy gives them hope that a hard Brexit can be avoided if “political adults” work together. Though Sir Vince has pledged that his party will not be “Ukip in reverse”, he hopes its pro-European stance will place it on the right side of history, as opposition to the Iraq war did.

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The Guardian view on car finance: risky credit | Editorial

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 17:56:50 GMT2017-09-19T17:56:50Z

Too many motorists have been seduced into credit-fuelled purchases by the thought of having ever-flashier marques. These have left buyers increasingly vulnerable to a drop in used-car prices

The idea that one can get something for nothing underlies much of modern-day marketing. This patter has been used to lure motorists into opening their wallets for vehicles they perhaps had considered beyond their reach. As our series on debt shows, personal contract purchase agreements, PCPs, now account for 80% of new cars sold. Drivers think they have chanced upon an extraordinary bargain: it is cheaper to pay for a brand new BMW than purchase a secondhand Ford Focus. They are motivated, no doubt, by the idea that the model and marque of car they drive will move them up in the pecking order of life. Mercedes has doubled its UK sales since 2010.

In reality nothing in life is free. PCP monthly payments are lower than hire purchase ones because they do not cover the whole cost of the car. What consumers are “buying” is the difference between the current value of the car – less any deposit – and the expected value of the car at the end of the contract. When the PCP agreement is over, most drivers still need a car. Their options are either: pay an agreed hefty lump sum to keep the car; hand the keys back and start again; or use the value of the current car to start again with a new finance deal on a different car. It’s the last option that drivers have been taking, relying on rising used car prices to provide equity that allows them to purchase a flashier motor or a deposit to reduce the next set of payments.

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The Guardian view on Saudi Arabia: the seventh son rises | Editorial

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 18:30:30 GMT2017-09-18T18:30:30Z

A crackdown on dissent by the youngest heir apparent in Saudi history will not help the desert kingdom find a way out of an economic mess at home and misguided entanglements abroadThe ascension in June of Muhammed bin Salman as crown prince of Saudi Arabia was an instant Rorschach test for observers of the desert kingdom. Is he a reformer prepared to drag his kingdom, a repressive regime that writes very large welfare cheques, into the 21st century or a callow princeling whose rise to power could destabilise the region? The 31-year-old prince has undoubtedly amassed great power and dominates Saudi economic, diplomatic and domestic policy. The crown prince, known as MBS, is also the architect of the bloody quagmire of the Yemen war and a hardliner in the current Gulf row with neighbouring Qatar. His father, King Salman, 81, is not in good health, walks with a stick and suffers from brain fades in meetings. By anointing his seventh son as the youngest heir apparent in Saudi history, the ailing monarch has signalled a decisive break with the past.If the first few months are a reliable guide, then the omens for the future are not good. The palace coup that saw MBS take power was bloodless. In the summer’s Game of Thrones, his powerful uncles and rivals were either sidelined or placed under house arrest. The sense of how riven the Saudi royal house is could be gleaned from reports, sourced from within the court, claiming the other leading contender for the throne had a drug problem. Last week it emerged that Saudi authorities had launched a crackdown on dissent, targeting Islamic thinkers, public critics and political rivals. Two prominent clerics were taken away for failing to publicly declare their support for the crown prince’s stance toward Qatar. Neither cleric is reflexively conservative – one famously declared homosexuality a sin but added that it shouldn’t be punished in this world. Both are popular with the Saudi public, with millions of Twitter followers. Another journalist has been banned from writing opinion columns, while human rights activists have been given outlandish eight-year prison sentences for peaceful campaigning. Whatever MBS’s public face, this intolerance of dissent is almost paranoid. Continue reading...[...]


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Streets in St Louis – and everywhere – belong to us. Not brutal cops | Steven W Thrasher

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:37:45 GMT2017-09-21T19:37:45Z

When the state fails to address the law enforcement crisis, agitating in the streets is the only way to move forward

America has been rocked by countless protests over the past few years. One chant that has been heard from activists time and time again is: “Whose streets? Our streets!” That’s why it was so jarring when, this week, police in St Louis marched the streets shouting the line as they broke up a legitimate protest and arrested 80 people, including a journalist covering the events.

Sadly, St Louis isn’t the only place plagued by a high-profile police killing this week. A student was killed by campus police in Georgia, and a deaf Hispanic man was killed by police in Oklahoma (despite calls that “he can’t hear”). Still, St Louis has, once again, emerged as the place where the national crisis of American police violence against black people has come into the clearest focus.

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Why is the government stifling the free speech of a private citizen? | Jessica Valenti

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 20:17:09 GMT2017-09-15T20:17:09Z

It’s a chilling time for this country for many reasons, writes Jessica Valenti in this edition of The Week in Patriarchy

As I write this, the internet is aflame with attacks on Jemele Hill – a reporter at ESPN who dared to call the president what he is: a racist and a white supremacist. In response, an incredible amount of hate and harassment has been directed at Hill, and the White House has called for her firing. (Where are those conservative ‘free speech’ absolutists when you need them?)

It’s a chilling time for this country for many reasons. But when the government attempts to stifle the speech of a private citizen and journalist because she criticized the president … this is a new level of horror.

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Ice agents are out of control. And they are only getting worse | Trevor Timm

Wed, 31 May 2017 10:00:21 GMT2017-05-31T10:00:21Z

The agency is so harmful to civil rights, there’s a good argument it should be disbanded altogether. Unfortunately they are only becoming more emboldened

With arrests of non-violent undocumented immigrants exploding across the country, it’s almost as if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents are having an internal contest to see who can participate in the most cruel and inhumane arrest possible. The agency, emboldened by Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, is out of control – and Congress is doing little to stop them.

Last week, Ice agents ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant, complimented the chef on their meal and then proceeded to arrest three members of the restaurants kitchen staff, according to the owner.

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