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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: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 16:49:59 GMT2018-04-19T16:49:59Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018
 



High-speed pig slaughter will be disastrous for everyone involved | Deborah Berkowitz and Suzanne McMillan

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:13:30 GMT2018-04-17T14:13:30Z

A new rule in the US would eliminate food inspectors and lift limits on how quickly pigs can be killed. The impact on workers, animals and consumers would be disastrous

The Trump administration has proposed a radical change in food safety protection. They’re misleadingly calling it the “Modernization of swine slaughter inspection rule”, but what it really does is roll back progress on protecting the public from serious and sometimes fatal diseases such as salmonella.

The proposal drastically reduces the number of trained government food inspectors in pork plants, turns over food safety functions to untrained plant managers, and by allowing for an unlimited increase in slaughter line speeds, puts public health, worker safety and animal welfare at risk.

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Trump is made of Teflon: I wouldn't rule out a second – and third – term | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 12:15:12 GMT2018-04-17T12:15:12Z

Reports of the US president’s imminent demise are comforting but wildly optimistic. As long as he keeps enriching the powerful, Trump’s here to stay

The nightmare is almost over. Trump is going down! According to a widely shared New Yorker article, published on Sunday, we are “entering the last phase of the Trump presidency”. The article posits that the recent FBI raids on Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and confidant, represent a significant turning point in the president’s political fortunes.

It’s a comforting prognosis. However, I’m afraid it is wildly optimistic. While the president is clearly rattled by the Cohen raid, I’m not sure we are anywhere near the end of Trump’s presidency. Quite the contrary. As long as he doesn’t keel over from all the stress, I believe that not only will Trump see out his term, he’s likely to win another one. Heck, he might even win a third term! He has flirted with the idea, after all. Last month, Trump praised the elimination of the two-term presidency limit in China and joked that maybe the United States will “give that a shot some day”. Indeed, a Trump dynasty, in which Ivanka eventually takes over the reins of power, isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. If you’re tempted to dismiss it as farfetched, I’d urge you to cast your mind back to 2016, when the idea of a Trump presidency seemed ludicrous. What we consider normal can change quickly.

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A YouTube-inspired prank ruined my daughter's life

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 10:00:36 GMT2018-04-17T10:00:36Z

Millions have watched videos in which an unsuspecting person has their ears blasted in an air horn prank. But it is no innocent fun

I had never heard of the “trickster” Rick Lax. But an awful lot of people have. A video on one of his Facebook pages, entitled “How to get your girlfriend to put her phone down,” has an astounding 246m views. Apparently the video was made by a prankster pal of his named Ryan Hamilton, whose YouTube channel is at Hammy TV.

In six scenarios, Hammy’s girlfriend is on her phone – and he sneaks up to blast her with an air horn. Hilarity ensues.

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I'm a millionaire who creates zero jobs. Why do I pay less tax than you? | Morris Pearl

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 10:00:37 GMT2018-04-17T10:00:37Z

Our tax code is deliberately designed to reward money over work, and the corporate tax cut financially rewards companies for moving money and jobs overseas

In 2013, just a few years after the 2008 financial crisis, I was part of BlackRock’s Financial Markets Advisory Group working for the Greek Central Bank, assessing the capital requirements of the bailouts of the Greek banks. I was on the top floor of a bank building in Athens with about 20 bank executives taking a lunch break, when I glanced out the window and saw a huge crowd of people on the street.

For a moment I thought it was a parade, and then I realized it was something between a protest and a riot. As I looked out the window to the heated crowd below, and looked behind me to the well–fed bankers at the table, I wondered if I was actually helping anyone beyond the people having lunch with me.

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Landlords are social parasites. They’re the last people we should be honouring | Rhik Samadder

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 10:01:42 GMT2018-04-16T10:01:42Z

The ‘landlord of the year’ is being announced but most buy-to-let opportunists make their tenants’ lives hell – giving them a prize is like giving Stalin a humanitarian award

The landlord of the year award is announced on Monday, bestowed by the home insurance provider Home Protect. “Landlords often get a bad rap,” the CEO explains on its website, and I’ll stop him there. They don’t get a bad enough rap.

When they do make the news, you already know the story. Tory landlords dragging their absentee, ancient arses into parliament solely to vote down a bill that says rented properties should be “fit for human habitation”. “Lockdown” landlords bleeding councils dry, installing vulnerable people in micro-units, with inadequate fire provisions, so they can soak up treble the housing benefit. Who can forget the competition in the Daily Mail that offered up a buy-to-let property as top prize? This, from a paper that crucifies scroungers. Scroungers being people who live off others, and shirk their responsibilities. But back to landlords, eh?

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The Syria bombing is a disgraceful act disguised as a noble gesture | Moustafa Bayoumi

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 14:42:24 GMT2018-04-14T14:42:24Z

The US-led barrage shows just how little interest the global powers have in ending Syria’s ghastly war

The bombing of Syrian government targets by the United States, Britain, and France is a disgraceful and ineffectual act masquerading as a noble gesture. Far from preventing a more vicious war, the bombing instead legitimizes the continuation of the conflict. In fact, what this barrage of weapons really reveals is how little interest the global powers have in ending Syria’s ghastly war.

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Democrats can win by tackling race and class together. Here's proof

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 08:00:17 GMT2018-04-14T08:00:17Z

The party is often asked to choose between courting white working-class voters and fighting racism but our research shows it can do both

We’ve heard this line over and over again: Democrats need to woo the white working class. Of course, Democrats should endeavor to reach these voters – just as a basketball team that wants to win should score every possible basket. But the people arguing this position aren’t merely mouthing a truism about elections. They’re staking a position in an increasingly contentious debate.

Arguments for courting white working-class voters are bound up with a corollary, often unspoken, claim: Democrats must choose between non-college white voters and voters of color. Baked into this is the conviction that appealing to one group necessarily imperils Democratic chances with the other.

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How the American economy conspires to keep wages down | Gabriel Winant

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 10:00:34 GMT2018-04-13T10:00:34Z

The economy is growing but our paychecks are not. That’s because employers have, over decades, built a political apparatus to hold down pay

When unemployment goes down, wages are supposed to go up. That’s just supply and demand. Quite puzzlingly, though, this mechanism seems not to be working today. Unemployment stands at a modest 4%, but paychecks aren’t growing. Although today’s is the best-educated workforce in history, employers just insist that workers need more training.

In other words, they’re gaslighting us. Meanwhile, over decades, employers have built and maintained a massive collective political apparatus to hold down wages. To call it a conspiracy would be only slight embellishment.

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Is your friend getting a cheaper Uber fare than you are? | Arwa Mahdawi

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:39:19 GMT2018-04-13T16:39:19Z

We have no idea how much data tech firms have on us – but more companies are using it to personalize their prices

We all know that ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft operate dynamic, or “surge”, pricing: they change their prices in real time, according to supply and demand. But is there something else behind these fluctuations in fees? Is your taxi fare actually being personalized according to how much the company thinks you are willing to pay?

I’ve long had the hunch that this might be the case. Partly because I’ve occasionally noticed that I’m being quoted a different price than a friend who happens to call an Uber to the same place at the same time. Other people have had similar observations.

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I can chart my life by the things random men have told me about my body | Hadley Freeman

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 08:00:17 GMT2018-04-14T08:00:17Z

It started aged 13 when I was teased for being flat-chested

There has been much talk of late, online and off, about how much male writers love to describe women, and how bad they are at doing so. There have been witty Twitter threads mocking such descriptions (“She wasn’t perfectly thin, nor voluptuously curvy, but what she lacked in general body shape she more than made up for with her breasts.”) US culture website Vulture.com recently listed how 50 female characters were described in their screenplays (“Sarah Connor is 19, small and delicate-featured. Pretty in a flawed, accessible way.”) And it is a truth universally acknowledged that being an appalling sexist is no bar to a man being celebrated as a great writer of the universal human spirit, as the reputations of John Updike and Ernest Hemingway prove; two writers who preferred to describe women, not as whole individuals, but as disparate anatomical parts then specify how those anatomical parts made them feel.

These kinds of discussions are especially amusing for those of us with a connection to the women described by the aforementioned men. I’m named after Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife who he dumped about five minutes after becoming successful. Long after Richardson had happily moved on with her life, Hemingway celebrated her in A Moveable Feast in classic Hemingway style, writing about “her beautiful, wonderfully strong legs” and “her hair red gold in the sun, grown out all winter awkwardly and beautifully”.

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There’s no good option in Syria. But there’s a way to make Assad pay | Jonathan Freedland

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:35:21 GMT2018-04-13T16:35:21Z

All-out bombardment is not a solution to the crisis. But nor can we watch the brutal dictator slaughter his own people

We are caught between a rock, in the form of the recklessness of Donald Trump, and a hard place, shaped by the cruelty of Bashar al-Assad. This is the choice that now confronts citizens and their representatives in Britain, France and the US. The reasons to resist signing up for any project led by Trump should be obvious, with the newly published testimony of James Comey, the FBI director he fired, providing a fresh reminder.

Related: Look at Syria, and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars | Simon Jenkins

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Trump's enemy is not your friend: why we shouldn't defend Amazon | Thomas Frank

Sat, 07 Apr 2018 05:00:52 GMT2018-04-07T05:00:52Z

Why must we choose between the worst president of our lifetimes and one of the most rapacious corporate enterprises in the country?

President Trump last week resumed his campaign of critical tweets about the online retailer Amazon, which he accuses of paying too little in taxes and of getting too good a deal from the United States Postal Service, which delivers many of its packages. Along the way he also asserted that the company used the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, to lobby for Amazon’s interests. The price of Amazon shares fell on the news.

Related: Kimmel on Trump v Amazon: 'He's jealous because Jeff Bezos is actually a billionaire'

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump’s Korean diplomacy: progress without purpose | Editorial

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:32:16 GMT2018-04-18T17:32:16Z

The revelation of face-to-face talks between Kim Jong-un and Mike Pompeo shows that things are changing, but it doesn’t prove that Trump’s way is working

One function of Donald Trump’s swagger is to give cover to his retreats. It is not the US president’s style to admit that he compromises. He professes a zero-sum world view, where concession is weakness. Yet, in relations with North Korea, Mr Trump has promised the country’s dictatorial leader, Kim Jong-un, a gift – the status boost of a summit meeting – while receiving nothing in return.

The seriousness of White House intent regarding the encounter was confirmed this week by news that Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director and Mr Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, held secret face-to-face talks with Mr Kim over Easter. That is the highest-level bilateral contact since Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, travelled to Pyongyang in 2000.

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The Guardian view on artificial intelligence: not a technological problem | Editorial

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 17:30:51 GMT2018-04-16T17:30:51Z

The dream of a computer system with godlike powers and the wisdom to use them well is merely a theological construct

The House of Lords report on the implications of artificial intelligence is a thoughtful document which grasps one rather important point: this is not only something that computers do. Machine learning is the more precise term for the technology that allows computers to recognise patterns in enormous datasets and act on them. But even machine learning doesn’t happen only inside computer networks, because these machines are constantly tended and guided by humans. You can’t say that Google’s intelligence resides either in its machines or in its people: it depends on both and emerges from their interplay. Complex software is never written to a state of perfection and then left to run for ever. It is constantly being tweaked, increasingly often as part of an arms race with other software or networks that are being used to outwit it. And at every step of the way, human bias and human perspectives are involved. It couldn’t be otherwise. The dream of a computer system with godlike powers and the wisdom to use them well is a theological construct, not a technological possibility.

The question, then, is which forms of bias and which perspectives are desirable, and which we should guard against. It is easy to find chilling examples – the Google image recognition program that couldn’t distinguish between black people and gorillas, because it had been trained on a dataset where almost all the human faces were white or Asian; the program used by many American jurisdictions to make parole descriptions turns out to be four times as likely to recommend that white criminals be freed than black ones when all other things are equal. Without human judgment we are helpless against the errors introduced by earlier human judgments. This has been known for some time, but the report discusses these dangers very clearly.

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The Guardian view on bombing Syria: a decision for parliament | Editorial

Sun, 15 Apr 2018 17:37:27 GMT2018-04-15T17:37:27Z

Theresa May has decided to break with parliamentary convention and not seek approval from MPs for military action. This is a mistake

Theresa May’s decision to authorise British military action over the skies of Syria by royal prerogative rather than obtaining the backing of parliament was the wrong thing to do. Even if the prime minister thinks it was done for the right reasons. It was wrong because the government’s plans should have been articulated so that MPs could have had a chance to endorse – or reject – a motion to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s weapons factories. It was wrong because there was no emergency – an exception used when after a debate MPs retrospectively endorsed action against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. It was wrong because only prime ministers can recall parliament – and there was time to do so. It was wrong because decisions about how to police the unlawful use of weapons of mass destructive terror in Syria turn upon judgment rather than available facts.

Parliament is the best place to assess whether the use of military force serves the overall interests of a nation in such cases. This is especially true of a government without a majority of its own. Jeremy Corbyn’s resurrection of an old idea for a war powers act, which would force the PM not to authorise the active and large-scale deployment of British forces overseas without the approval of the House of Commons, ought not to be dismissed. But it should be accompanied by a wider recognition that the days of self-regulation of cabinet government are over. Observing the parliamentary convention would be better than creating an act where fractious disagreements over the precise nature of the circumstances in which the law is to be applied – especially in a situation as fluid and volatile as war – prevail.

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Pity lonely James Comey. Republicans aren't joining his fight for decency | Jill Abramson

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 15:59:56 GMT2018-04-18T15:59:56Z

Plenty of high-level Republicans privately think Trump should be removed from office. But they remain silent, even as the former FBI director tries to lead the way

James Comey clearly hoped his televised interview on Sunday would be a go-signal for other principled Republicans to break away from Donald Trump and denounce him. In the interview, Comey declared Trump to be “morally unfit to be president”, and compared him to a mafia don, someone without a scintilla of decency. He provided evidence to support these harsh words.

The word “decency” has never been more vital than in this toxic political moment. If James Comey’s book means anything, it is an urgent plea for those in power to come to the defense of decency.

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Sexual freedom is at risk from these damning new bills passed by Congress | Steven W Thrasher

Thu, 29 Mar 2018 12:40:33 GMT2018-03-29T12:40:33Z

Craigslist closed its personal ads due to Congress’s patriarchal, homophobic bid to control sex workers. It won’t stop there

Craigslist shut down its personals section entirely last week. This left me shaken – for what it portends about my own sexual history with Craiglist’s “M4M” personals, about the safety of sex workers, and about the growing surveillance of sexual freedoms in the US.

The reason for the shutdown? The US Congress had just passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta) and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (Sesta) bills. Donald Trump seems likely to sign these anti-sex bills into law, even as the nation hears all about him allegedly getting spanked by adult film star Stormy Daniels.

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The week in patriarchy: women are strong when we stick up together | Jessica Valenti

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 15:00:01 GMT2018-01-13T15:00:01Z

This week reminded me that #MeToo isn’t going anywhere, and that anyone who tries to punish the leaders will be stopped

What a week it’s been. Between the Golden Globes and Times Up, Oprah and the slew of new allegations against powerful men … it’s a lot. But I have to say that this week gave me hope.

In particular, the quick and furious response of feminists online when Harper’s magazine was said to be outing the creator of the Shitty Media Men list. Notorious anti-feminist and backlash opportunist Katie Roiphe was said to be writing the piece, and so within hours women online coordinated to protect the anonymous woman’s identity.

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James Comey helped Trump win. Now he wants to undo his mistake | Richard Wolffe

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 04:01:13 GMT2018-04-16T04:01:13Z

Having helped deliver the Trump presidency, Comey is now going out of his way to deliver the Trump impeachment proceedings

James Comey’s book is called A Higher Loyalty. But judging from his blockbuster interview with ABC News, it should have been called The Art of the Possible. If only as the logical sequel to The Art of the Deal.

Did Donald Trump consort with a golden shower of prostitutes in a Moscow hotel? “I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

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