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Opinion | The Guardian

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

Published: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 15:11:48 GMT2017-04-30T15:11:48Z

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

The American people – not Big Oil – must decide our climate future | Senator Bernie Sanders and Mark Jacobson

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 10:00:27 GMT2017-04-29T10:00:27Z

We must aggressively transition our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy solutions. And we need to do so now

The debate facing our world today is not whether we need to address climate change. That debate is far, far behind us. The issue is how to address climate change – as quickly and effectively as possible.

Virtually the entire scientific community – more than 99% of peer-reviewed studies – has concluded that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And the impacts are devastating.

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Congratulations, Mr President, on your wild romp through all norms and rules | Richard Wolffe

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 10:00:27 GMT2017-04-29T10:00:27Z

No other president has come close to your horrendous record, and all future presidents will clear the bar you have set. For that alone, you are exceptional

Donald Trump has notched up some truly impressive achievements in the first 100 days of his presidency. We’re not talking about the humdrum stuff of other presidents. All those pesky to-do lists are far too conventional for this out-of-the-box thinker.

How unconventional is his thinking? It’s best if we leave it to the great man to explain this, as he described to the Associated Press the awesome nature of his presidency.

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Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity | Lawrence Torcello

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 14:51:04 GMT2017-04-29T14:51:04Z

There can be no greater crime against humanity than the destruction of conditions that make human life possible

Most of us have wondered about the human context of past crimes against humanity: why didn’t more people intervene? How could so many pretend not to know? To be sure, crimes against humanity are not always easy to identify while they unfold.

We need some time to reflect and to analyze, even when our reasoning suggests that large scale human suffering and death are likely imminent. The principled condemnation of large scale atrocity is, too often, a luxury of hindsight.

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The lesson from Donald Trump’s first 100 days: resistance is not futile | Jonathan Freedland

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:35:26 GMT2017-04-28T18:35:26Z

We already knew the president is a bigot, a liar and a threat to world peace. But now we’ve learned he can be thwarted

Is anyone surprised that Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have confirmed him to be a dangerous, reckless bigot; a kleptocrat who puts the financial interests of his family first, closely followed by the wealth of his fellow billionaires; a serial liar whose view of the wider world hovers between frightening and incoherent?

Related: Donald Trump's first 100 days were a stress test for democracy | Lawrence Douglas

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This Yemeni city risks becoming the next Aleppo. Will America be complicit? | Maged Al-Madhaji

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:30:50 GMT2017-04-28T15:30:50Z

Houdeidah’s port is Yemen’s lifeline. The US shouldn’t be supporting any Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led military attacks to take it back

My life in Yemen is dominated by fear. As director of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, and one of the few remaining independent voices in Yemen, I have been detained, seen colleagues assassinated, and buried friends killed by Saudi airstrikes. Now, half of my country faces famine.

Even as Defense Secretary James Mattis calls for a political solution to the war in Yemen, he has not warned Saudi Arabia and the UAE against taking the critical Yemeni port city of Houdeidah, which is currently controlled by Houthi forces. Although debated within US policy-making circles, attacking Houdeidah would be a catastrophic error because it would expand the war and deepen the humanitarian crisis. It would allow al-Qaida and Isis to expand their influence in Yemen’s coastal areas. For the United States, that would amount to a strategic defeat.

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Barack Obama has a powerful voice. He shouldn't use it for paid speeches | Jill Abramson

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:00:03 GMT2017-04-27T10:00:03Z

A Wall Street firm will pay the former president $400,000 for a speech. This kind of kowtowing to the billionaire class has left the Democrats morally bankrupt

It’s still early, but so far Barack Obama’s post-presidency has been a disappointment. On Monday – during his first public appearance since Trump’s inauguration – Obama touched on income inequality. But as is becoming glaringly obvious to all, Obama is now firmly in the 1% himself – thanks in no small part to corporate America.

The optics of some of Obama’s decisions since leaving office have been damaging. We learned this week that he will be paid a whopping $400,000 speaking fee from Cantor Fitzgerald LP, a bond firm known for dealing in credit default swaps, the fancy financial instruments that helped trigger the 2008 financial meltdown.

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The Democrats' Davos ideology won't win back the midwest | Thomas Frank

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:21:10 GMT2017-04-27T21:21:10Z

The party has harmed millions of their own former constituents. If they change course, they can reverse their losses

The tragedy of the 2016 election is connected closely, at least for me, to the larger tragedy of the industrial midwest. It was in the ruined industrial city of Cleveland that the Republican Party came together in convention last July, and it was the deindustrialized, addiction-harrowed precincts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that switched sides in November and delivered Donald Trump to the Oval Office.

I am a midwesterner too, and I like to think I share the values and outlook of that part of the country. I have spent many of the last 15 years trying to understand my region’s gradual drift to the political right. And I have spent the last three weeks driving around the deindustrialized midwest, visiting 13 different cities to talk about the appeal of Donald Trump and what ails the Democratic Party. I met labor leaders and progressive politicians; average people and rank-and-file union members; senior citizens and Millennials; sages and cranks.

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How would Donald Trump's tax plan benefit him? Let us count the ways | Michael Paarlberg

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:10:10 GMT2017-04-27T15:10:10Z

Taking Trump at his word that he’s ‘really rich’, it’s safe to say he’d personally benefit from several marquee features of his plan. Here’s how

It’s a kind of truism that politicians often turn out to be the best poster children for the sins they rail against, whether government waste or adultery. Consider rent-seeking, the use of politics for personal enrichment by special interests, which is how Republicans regard most regulations. There’s a whole branch of economics, favored by conservatives, called public choice theory, which analyzes politicians as fundamentally selfish economic actors, similar to businesses, and policy as the product of their profit-maximizing motives, rather than anything so quaint as “the public interest”.

It’s hard to imagine a better living embodiment of this theory than Donald Trump, or a better example of rent-seeking than his tax plan, from which he stands to potentially gain tens of millions of dollars a year.

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Donald Trump's first 100 days were a stress test for democracy | Lawrence Douglas

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:00:03 GMT2017-04-27T10:00:03Z

We’ve learned a crucial lesson in the past few months: our democracy is not as easily ‘deconstructed’ as Steve Bannon might have hoped

We have learned one crucial lesson since January 20 – we are not Germany in 1933. I shared the fear that Trump represented an existential threat to American democracy. I am not convinced those fears have been entirely allayed. But the first hundred days of the Trump presidency have demonstrated that American institutions and traditions of democratic constitutionalism are not as easily “deconstructed” as Steve Bannon might have hope.

We should be proud of the resistance shown by our civil society. Ordinary citizens have taken to the streets in record numbers; we have confronted our representatives in town-hall meetings; we have flooded members of Congress with letters and emails; we have organized ourselves into groups such as Daily Action, mobilizing the energies of millions unwilling to quietly acquiesce in the destruction of American democracy.

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How long can millennials keep living with their parents? This isn't sustainable | Jamie Peck

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:54:58 GMT2017-04-27T14:54:58Z

Some will no doubt attribute this to the unique moral depravity of the Kardashian generation. But don’t blame the crisis of capitalism on us

You’ve heard all the stereotypes about the “baby boomerang,” a generation of milk-fed “emerging adults” who, by choice or necessity, live in their parents’ basement while they work, study or watch Girls in their underwear.

Now a new report from the US census bureau confirms it: for the first time since the government started tracking such data, living with one’s parents is the most common domestic arrangement for Americans in the 18-34 age bracket.

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The Handmaid's Tale is timely. But that's not why it's so terrifying | Jessica Valenti

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:45:53 GMT2017-04-27T15:45:53Z

Hulu’s new series based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood has been keeping me up at night because of its portrayal of everyday sexism

When Hulu released a trailer for their adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale, some conservatives didn’t realize the series was based on a decades-old novel – they thought it was created in response to Trump’s presidential win.

The confusion makes some sense. Much of the show feels familiar in today’s political climate: children being wrenched from their parents’ arms at borders. A lesbian tortured in order, she’s told, to cure her unnatural appetites. Women forced to carry pregnancies after they’ve been raped.

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No one sabotages Donald Trump better than Donald Trump | Joshua Matz

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:15:52 GMT2017-04-26T15:15:52Z

Yet another executive order by the US president was blocked by the courts, in part because of his own words. His tweets are a political doomsday device

Welcome to the age of presidential sabotage. Since assuming office, President Donald J Trump has shown little inclination to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”, as commanded by the US constitution. Instead, he has openly declared his intention to wreak havoc in key programs.

He has appointed officials known to be sworn enemies of their own agencies. He has gutted protections for students, consumers, women, workers, and the environment. And he has threatened to inflict staggering damage on US insurance markets – unless opponents bend to his will and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

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Ivanka Trump can't be white-washed with 'women's empowerment' talk | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:53:35 GMT2017-04-25T16:53:35Z

It’s fitting that she was booed at the W20 summit on Tuesday but really, it’s time that she was booed off the world stage

Ivanka is basically the new Malala, isn’t she? It can’t be long now until an inspirational movie is made about her life (He Named Me Ivanka) and she is awarded the Nobel peace prize for her tireless struggle to empower women and fight for women’s rights.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. On Tuesday, the first daughter was loudly jeered at the W20 summit on women’s economic empowerment in Berlin. Speaking on a high-profile panel which included Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Ivanka Trump drew groans and laughter when she defended her father’s attitudes toward women and described him as “a tremendous champion” of working families.

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Does Canada have its own Donald Trump on the horizon? | Matthew Hays

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:16:03 GMT2017-04-26T14:16:03Z

Right-wing populist candidates in Conservative party’s leadership contest are finding appeal. Canada is not immune to trends upending politics elsewhere

Seeing how Americans perceive Canada is a fascinating spectator sport for Canadians. Long a supporting character in the films of Michael Moore, we have been utopianized as the land with sane gun control, universal healthcare, a more cautious approach to war and no death penalty.

This romance, of course, has only been enhanced given the stark contrast between our two leaders: Justin Trudeau has embraced refugees from the Middle East – even greeting them at the airport as they arrived – and welcomes free trade while talking up environmental protection. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ludicrously photogenic.

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Confederate memorials have no place in American society. Good riddance | Steven W Thrasher

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:37:13 GMT2017-04-25T14:37:13Z

City officials in New Orleans are finally removing Confederacy-era monuments. But this is not a call for collective amnesia about our past

Under the cover of darkness early on Monday morning, workers in Louisiana took down the first of four Confederate memorials in New Orleans, which city officials had decided to remove in 2015, shortly after the Charleston shootings. Good riddance.

It was fitting that the workers wore black, bulletproof clothing, donned masks which hid their identities, and were protected by police snipers. Their outfits speak to the history of racial violence these monuments evoke and idealize, a history propagated by Ku Klux Klan members who wore white clothing and masks to hide their identities (often in collusion with the police).

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Call the state department's ad for Mar-a-Lago what it is: a plea for corruption | Ross Barkan

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 15:44:16 GMT2017-04-25T15:44:16Z

The state department touted the virtues of the US president’s private members club. It was emblematic of all that is wrong with our times

No sitting president in American history has been so engrossed with personal profit as Donald Trump. Moving into the White House has not altered his lifelong obsession with making money. He is still trying to trademark his name in dozens of countries. Foreign diplomats can buy influence at his hotels and golf courses. He has not divested from his businesses or released his tax returns.

Now the state department wants to sell Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s waterfront Florida estate. Or wanted to, until public backlash forced a rare reversal for a Trump administration seemingly immune to shame.

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Rivers vanishing into thin air: this is what the climate crisis looks like | David Suzuki

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 09:00:15 GMT2017-04-21T09:00:15Z

A Canadian river was the first observed case of ‘river piracy’. When nature’s thresholds are passed, landscapes can transform in the blink of an eye

The Slims river in northern Canada gained infamy, not for its fishing or pristine waters, but for vanishing in a matter of four days in May 2016. This week we learned that it fell victim to “river piracy” – and climate change was almost certainly to blame.

The river – which stretched up to 150 meters at its widest points and averaged depths around three meters – lost its water source to another nearby river during a period of intense melting affecting one of Canada’s largest glaciers. As a result, the Slims was reduced to a trickle in less than a week.

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The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment | Cornel West

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:15:41 GMT2017-04-24T19:15:41Z

The time has come to bid farewell to a moribund party that lacks imagination, courage and gusto

The distinctive feature of these bleak times is the lack of institutional capacity on the left – the absence of a political party that swings free of Wall Street and speaks to the dire circumstances of poor and working people. As the first 100 days of the plutocratic and militaristic Trump administration draw to a close, one truth has been crystal clear: the Democratic party lacks the vision, discipline and leadership to guide progressives in these turbulent times.

Related: Everyone loves Bernie Sanders. Except, it seems, the Democratic party | Trevor Timm

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The doom-mongers got it wrong: the centre is holding in Europe | Joris Luyendijk

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:00:41 GMT2017-04-25T07:00:41Z

The populist explosion hasn’t happened, and the EU – while still not out of the woods – seems safe. There is reason for cautious optimism

How many more European elections before Brits and Americans stop projecting Brexit and Trump on to Europe? Ever since British voters stunned the country, the world and – probably – themselves by voting to leave the EU, the British press has all but reduced politics in Europe to the “who’s next?” question. After Donald Trump’s election those parts of the American media still interested in the EU joined the fray: surely if America and Britain can bring populists to power, this must now be a trend that the rest of the west will follow?

But then Europeans started to vote. First Austria chose a Green president over a nationalist one. Then the populist PVV party of Geert Wilders received a paltry 15% of the vote in the Dutch general elections. And now the unapologetically Europhile Emmanuel Macron has come out on top in the first round of the French elections, setting him on course for victory against Marine Le Pen next month. The next European elections are in Germany, where all traditional parties are solidly pro-EU. The new Eurosceptic party Alternative für Deutschland is mired in divisions, infighting and confusion.

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10 things we’ve learned from the French presidential elections | Suzanne Moore

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:31:56 GMT2017-04-24T11:31:56Z

Emmanuel Macron now faces Marine Le Pen. But from polls to patriotism, there’s so much more we can discern from the first round than just the result

1) Never mind who actually won more votes in the first round, Marine Le Pen of Front National is described as storming into the final straight of the French election. Glancing at many British papers today would make us think she is the victor or the preferred candidate – when in fact it looks like a shoo-in for Emmanuel Macron. The tacit support from our rightwing press for a fascist is more than alarming. She is described as simply culturally and economically protectionist – but is profoundly anti-immigrant, and speaks of a clash of civilisations. Only recently she denied French involvement in the wartime rounding-up of Jews to be murdered in the camps. This is reminiscent of her father’s dismissing the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.

Related: French election: Macron and Le Pen go to second round – live coverage

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North Korea won't bow to Donald Trump's threats. It needs assurances | Lawrence Douglas

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:00:16 GMT2017-04-24T10:00:16Z

Brinkmanship won’t convince Kim Jong-un to negotiate. It can serve only to strengthen North Korea’s belief in the indispensability of its warheads

Anyone who harbors the illusion that Donald Trump will be able to threaten North Korea into peacefully giving up its nuclear weapons should think about Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi was the Kim Jong-un of his day, an exceptionally eccentric leader of a rogue state that managed to make itself a pariah among the nations of the world. Gaddafi famously traveled in the company of an all-female security force, advocated the destruction of Switzerland, and also, for a time, sought to turn Libya into a nuclear stronghold.

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How can we execute people if 1 in 25 on death row are innocent? | Austin Sarat

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:45:00 GMT2017-04-21T15:45:00Z

Arkansas rushed to put to death Ledell Lee despite widespread concerns around the use of capital punishment in America

Arkansas executed Ledell Lee on Thursday night, after it fought and won a complex and sometimes confusing legal battle. The state executed him in spite of Lee’s insistence that he was not guilty of murdering Debra Rees, a crime committed more than 20 years ago. It did so despite doubts about whether he had sufficient intellectual capacity to be “eligible” for the death penalty.

The state rushed to put Lee to death before its supply of midazolam expired, claiming that it had a compelling interest in carrying out the “lawful” decision of the jury which sentenced him and that the execution would bring closure to the Rees family. Yet the way it went about doing so hardly seems likely to bring consolation to those who grieve at that family’s terrible loss – and raises many concerns about the potential miscarriage of justice.

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Trump is president. That's reason enough not to go to war with North Korea | Isaac Stone Fish

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 10:00:24 GMT2017-04-20T10:00:24Z

If Trump strikes North Korea, God help us. He is uniquely unsuited to serve as commander-in-chief in the event of a war with a nuclear-armed country

Famous quotes sometimes become cliches that insult one’s intelligence. Consider, for example, the oft-cited phrase “know your enemy, and know yourself”, from the fifth century BCE Chinese general Sunzi. How can ignorance about one’s own ability and capabilities, and the enemy’s, be anything but harmful?

Fast forward 2,500 years, to a 17 April interview on Fox, when Donald Trump twice referenced “this gentleman” in North Korea, who “outplayed” presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – to explain that he, Trump, would not be fooled. The problem, however, is Trump didn’t seem to understand that the “gentleman” Kim Jong-il, who frustrated Trump predecessors, died in December 2011.

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Bill O'Reilly is vile. His departure from Fox is long overdue | Moustafa Bayoumi

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 16:01:28 GMT2017-04-20T16:01:28Z

The alleged sexual intimidation tactics of his off-air life mirror his on-air persona as an ideological bully. Common decency celebrates his departure

Is anyone looking to hire an alleged sexual harasser who is a falsehood-babbling, pathologically bloviating, sanctimonious sac of conservative bile? If so, I may know someone!

Bill O’Reilly has been fired, and not a moment too soon. O’Reilly is, of course, the host of Fox New’s The O’Reilly Factor and is one of cable TV’s most successful personalities. He is a man who must have “leftwing conspiracy” tattooed on the inside of his eyelids since he sees them so often.

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon should be French president. Here’s why | Olivier Tonneau

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 12:59:21 GMT2017-04-19T12:59:21Z

The leftwing politician is not out to destroy Europe: he is out to save it. La France Insoumise proposes a peaceful revolution towards a fair democratic society

Four days before the first round of the French presidential election, Europe is terrified by the prospect of a runoff between Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Whoever wins, we are told, the wheat will grow thin, nuclear winter will fall over the continent, and frogs will rain down from the sky. Whatever differences there may be between the radical left and the far-right candidates, they mean nothing compared with their similarities: they are both Eurosceptic demagogues tapping into the base instincts of their compatriots.

I support Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and have done for years. I have co-authored a cartoon adaptation of his programme, spoken at meetings of his movement, La France Insoumise (France Defiant), and run a blog dedicated to explaining our policies and dispelling endless rumours and falsehoods. You can imagine how I feel when we are conflated with our worst enemy, and I would like to set the record straight. We are not out to destroy Europe: we are out to save it. And we might very well be the last opportunity to do so.

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Why Jon Ossoff – a symbol of the Trump backlash – offers Democrats hope | Ross Barkan

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 14:58:20 GMT2017-04-19T14:58:20Z

The small donor-backed candidate, who is drawing support in the Republican heartland, shows that not all is lost for liberals in America

If Democrats somehow storm back to take the House in 2018 and throw Donald Trump out of office, Tuesday, 18 April may be remembered as the day the resistance truly took shape. In a Georgia district once held by Newt Gingrich, the fiery former House speaker, a 30-year-old Democrat named Jon Ossoff surged far ahead of a crowded Republican field and captured, for a moment, the progressive imagination across the US.

The former congressional staffer and documentary film-maker raised a stunning $8m for his race, largely thanks to the kind of small-dollar, online donations that powered the Bernie Sanders campaign. Had it come along just a few years ago, a candidacy like Ossoff’s in a suburban Atlanta district would have gone nowhere. The fact that he’s a threat to swipe a district most recently represented by Trump’s health and human services secretary, Tom Price, makes his potential victory all the more savory for the left.

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Is America's love affair with capital punishment ending? | Austin Sarat

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 15:35:23 GMT2017-04-18T15:35:23Z

The drama over a series of planned executions in Arkansas points to a crisis behind America’s most brutal and controversial punishment

The unfolding drama in Arkansas – in which a string of executions is going full steam ahead one moment and on pause another – is not just an Arkansas problem. It is indicative of the larger situation of capital punishment in the United States, played out in stark relief.

The United States is in a period of national reconsideration of capital punishment. Indications of doubts about the death penalty abound. Among the most important of these are the dramatic declines that have taken place over the last two decades in both the number of death sentences and the number of executions.

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Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet | Bill McKibben

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 10:00:20 GMT2017-04-17T10:00:20Z

Donald Trump is a creep and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite when it comes to climate change

Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it’s hard to look away – especially now that he’s discovered bombs. But precisely because everyone’s staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don’t believe me? Look one country north, at Justin Trudeau.

Look all you want, in fact – he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band. And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over.

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The Democratic party is undermining Bernie Sanders-style candidates | Jamie Peck

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 15:28:51 GMT2017-04-13T15:28:51Z

In Kansas, the Democrats barely lifted a finger to help James Thompson, a progressive who came painfully close to winning. That’s a losing strategy

Since losing the presidency to a Cheeto-hued reality TV host, the Democratic party’s leadership has made it clear that it would rather keep losing than entertain even the slightest whiff of New Deal style social democracy.

The Bernie Sanders wing might bring grassroots energy and – if the polls are to be believed – popular ideas, but their redistributive policies pose too much of a threat to the party’s big donors to ever be allowed on the agenda.

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The war on drugs is racist. Donald Trump is embracing it with open arms | Steven W Thrasher

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 10:00:20 GMT2017-04-17T10:00:20Z

Drugs have long been used to scapegoat black and Latino people. With Jeff Sessions doing Trump’s bidding as Attorney General, things will only get worse

When I first read the Washington Post story that the US attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, wants to “bring back” the “war on drugs”, I thought to myself: bring back? Where did it go? Is General Sessions himself on drugs? Because, despite a few modest reforms, somebody would have to be high to think the war on drugs has really gone away.

But the framing of an impetus to “bring back” the drug war is the same as Donald Trump’s fantasy of making America “great again” and must be understood for exactly what it is: a white power grab to control black and brown people couched in the restoration of past glory.

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Erdoğan’s referendum victory spells the end of Turkey as we know it | Yavuz Baydar

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 09:35:58 GMT2017-04-17T09:35:58Z

My country has voted for greater authoritarianism. What we saw yesterday was the revenge of those on the periphery of Turkish society

With the result of Sunday’s referendum on its constitution, Turkey as we know it is over; it is history.

The architecture of its governance designed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – Turkey’s founder – has, after a wobbly series of experiments with the military and a secular elite in charge, been dismantled by the leader of the Justice and Development party (AKP). The collapse of the rule of law that took place in slow motion after the Gezi Park protests has been followed by the erosion of the separation of powers and the annihilation of the independent media.

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Let's stop calling North Korea 'crazy' and understand their motives | Isaac Stone Fish

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 10:00:01 GMT2017-04-13T10:00:01Z

The world knows little about the palace politics in North Korea, the world’s most opaque country. Yet it seems like Kim is acting intelligently

Like his predecessors, Donald J Trump is trying to figure out how to handle North Korea’s provocations – the country may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test – and how to compel China to help constrain Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

On Sunday, the Pentagon deployed a strike group moving towards the western Pacific, because “it is prudent” to have the ships near North Korea, said national security adviser HR McMaster. In response, on Tuesday North Korea’s state media threatened that they could “hit the US first”, adding that “pre-emptive strikes are not the exclusive right of the United States”.

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The west used colonies as laboratories for weapons. It's not different today

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 15:10:58 GMT2017-04-14T15:10:58Z

From Italian colonialists in Libya to imperial Britain’s bombings in Iraq, the west has often tried out new and terrible ways to kill ‘uncivilized’ people

The United States has dropped its largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat against Isis targets in Afghanistan. But why drop such a gargantuan bomb in the first place? No one can have any sympathy for Isis and its murderous offshoots, but you don’t need to be a military expert to suspect something strange might be going on here.

Since the US’s stated objective was to destroy underground tunnels, wouldn’t so-called bunker buster bombs, which can also be huge and dig deep into the earth, serve the aims of this mission just as well, if not better?

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The White House forgets the Holocaust (again) | Timothy Snyder

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 01:48:47 GMT2017-04-12T01:48:47Z

Remember how the Trump administration deliberately ignored Jewish victims of the Holocaust? That is key to understanding Sean Spicer’s gaffe

In a press conference on Tuesday, Sean Spicer claimed before an incredulous room of journalists that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical agents to kill people during the second world war. Beneath this stunning factual error lurks a horrifying moral one.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in world war two. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” the White House press secretary said. When asked to clarify his comments, he added: “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” Spicer then went on to refer, in weird phrasing, to “Holocaust centers” – a seeming reference to Nazi concentration camps.

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Identifying Donald Trump's foreign policy – a quiz with no right answers | Lawrence Douglas

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 14:31:13 GMT2017-04-12T14:31:13Z

Attempting to study the US president’s foreign policy is akin to taking a test full of trick questions. He doesn’t have one

a) Our ally in the war against Isis.

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It's not just Syria. Trump is ratcheting up wars across the world | Trevor Timm

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 12:18:15 GMT2017-04-10T12:18:15Z

From the expansion of official US war zones in Yemen and Somalia to a spike in drone strikes, conflicts are heating up on several fronts

Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria have attracted worldwide attention (and disgraceful plaudits) in recent days. But much less airtime is being given to his administration’s risky and increasingly barbaric military escalations on several other fronts across the world.

Let’s put aside, for the time being, that the Trump administration openly admits it has no clue what it is going to do in Syria next. Or that key members of Congress and in the administration are clearly eager for “regime change” in Syria with no plan for the aftermath. And the fact that hardly anyone seems to care that Russia’s former president Dmitry Medvedev said over the weekend that Syrian strikes put the US “on the verge of a military clash with Russia” – a nuclear power with thousands of warheads.

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Trump's senseless Syria strikes accomplish nothing | Moustafa Bayoumi

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 06:11:52 GMT2017-04-07T06:11:52Z

The US bombing of a Syrian airfield is flip-floppery at its worst. And it signals to America’s foes that Trump can be easily dragged into military quagmires

Donald Trump, the man who just over a month ago wanted to bar entry of all Syrian refugees into the United States, now wants us to think that he cares deeply about Syrian children. I don’t believe it.

What I do believe is that our president is a bad actor. He was a bad actor on his old television show, and he’s still a bad actor today. And he’s a bad actor in both senses of the term, which is to say his actions are poorly executed and morally questionable.

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Ivanka Trump thinks she is in Beauty and the Beast: more like Macbeth | Jill Abramson

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 10:06:39 GMT2017-04-06T10:06:39Z

The first daughter likes to sell herself as the moral conscience of her father’s administration, but the deep ethical stains are on her hands too

You can’t have it both ways, Ivanka, especially now that you have new, embossed White House stationery with an official title, assistant to the president.

Related: No, Ivanka Trump will not moderate her father. She will just strengthen him | Kate Aronoff

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The Observer view on the future of Israel and Palestine | Observer editorial

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 23:10:12 GMT2017-04-29T23:10:12Z

Unless both sides bend, there can be no resolution. Imaginative leadership is essential

It has long been considered axiomatic, at least on Europe’s political left, that Palestine lies at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that lasting peace in the Middle East depends, first and foremost, on resolution of this decades-old struggle. In recent years, such thinking has been overtaken by events. The problem has been sidelined. Yet as the region approaches the 50th anniversary of the six-day war that left Palestinian land under permanent occupation, and as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners begin their third week on hunger strike in Israeli jails, fears of a new intifada are growing. It is time to refocus attention on this dangerous stalemate before it again explodes into open, violent confrontation.

Related: Wife of jailed Fatah leader tells of her fears for hunger strikers

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump: 100 days of failure | Editorial

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:49:02 GMT2017-04-28T18:49:02Z

It is no surprise dissembling has been the defining feature of his first 100 days. If he admitted the truth of his shambolic presidency, it would shorten its span

On Saturday Donald Trump will have been in the White House for a hundred days, and he has been a disaster for American democracy. His narcissism and incompetence has allowed little time for reflection and self-correction. His megalomania is such that he views himself as hounded by “enemies of the people”. In his contract with America, candidate Trump told voters that he would “restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities and honesty to our government”. These words, like much Mr Trump has said, have proved worthless. In terms of probity, there’s the matter of the FBI investigating whether and how the Trump campaign may have colluded with Moscow’s efforts to influence the presidential election. The ethics of the presidency are constantly called into question because Mr Trump, his family and his appointees insist upon maintaining their investments in various businesses, while at the same time conducting official US government policy.

On security Mr Trump’s cruel, stupid and bigoted travel bans, which were designed to hurt and divide, have been blocked by federal courts not once but twice. Mr Trump’s rash and self-defeating campaign promise to pull the US out of Nafta, the trade agreement he once described as a “total disaster”, was dropped after Mr Trump realised that it would decimate jobs and industry in the farm belt that voted for him. One has to wonder about how a country, let alone the world’s richest, can be governed in such a way for much longer.

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The Guardian view on Tony Harrison: a people’s poet | Editorial

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:22:16 GMT2017-04-28T18:22:16Z

In embracing the past as a way of tackling the present, he remains a constant reminder of the power of words to tell us about the world we all live in

The 80th birthday of the poet Tony Harrison brought scholars from all over the world to London this week for a two-day conference topped off by an evening of recitals and reminiscences. There were fond anecdotes from the golden era of the National Theatre when he commanded the main stage with fiery demotic adaptations of world classics such as The Oresteia and The Mysteries. As emcee Melvyn Bragg pointed out, such productions were not only a high point for public poetry but for state education. When, before or since, might one witness the domination of one the UK’s most prestigious national institutions by a stationmaster’s son from Suffolk, a bus conductor’s son from Greenock and a baker’s son from Leeds (directors Peter Hall and Bill Bryden and Mr Harrison, respectively)?

Maybe it was a different, more rebellious, socially mobile time. True, all three rose through selective education. But to become misty-eyed about the glory days of grammar schools, and the public figures they created, is to miss the point of Mr Harrison, who remains a politically abrasive presence and has always embraced the past as a way of tackling the present. For more than a decade he was the Guardian’s own unofficial poet laureate, invoking figures from Greek myth to frame furious responses to wars in the Gulf, Bosnia and Iraq. His poem Iraquatrains, published in April 2003, a month before the “dodgy dossier” scandal hit the news, urged readers to “Go round to Downing St, get Tony Blair’s hard disc”. Coincidentally, Mr Harrison’s birthday week also marked another cause for celebration among those who believe in the power of old-fashioned literary values, with a report from the Publishing Association that sales of physical books were up 8% year on year, while those for consumer ebooks had dropped by 17%.

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The Guardian view on the last PMQs: now the unnecessary election | Editorial

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:29:44 GMT2017-04-26T18:29:44Z

The shortest parliament for 45 years ends next Tuesday. Now make Theresa May answer for her actions

The business of the shortest parliament since 1974 is nearly done. It all ends at midnight on 2 May, just 25 days before its second anniversary, in an unnecessary election imposed on a reluctant country by a prime minister who disguises her political objective of a greatly enlarged majority behind a spurious narrative of damaging division. It is important, as the campaign progresses, to bear in mind Theresa May’s real purpose: to establish herself as the unchallenged interpreter of Brexit.

There was something of this ruthlessness in this afternoon’s final prime minister’s question time. Behind the rowdiness and the fuzzy sentimentality of a final session, Mrs May was rarely rattled and never surprising. In the set piece exchange with the Labour leader, the words “strong”, “strength” and “stability” featured in every answer. She and Jeremy Corbyn operated on entirely separate tracks, he spattering her with questions on the NHS, taxes, pensions and the housing crisis, all of which she ignored in order to launch her prepared attacks.

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The Guardian view on Apple-Uber affair: reasons to tame Silicon Valley | Editorial

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:23:34 GMT2017-04-26T18:23:34Z

The dealings of two of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies shows that there remains an urgent political task to bring a rogue culture to heel

The taxi-hailing company Uber brings into very sharp focus the question of whether corporations can be said to have a moral character. If any human being were to behave with the single-minded and ruthless greed of the company, we would consider them sociopathic. Uber wanted to know as much as possible about the people who use its service, and those who don’t. It has an arrangement with, a company which offered a free service for unsubscribing from junk mail, to buy the contacts customers had had with rival taxi companies. Even if their email was notionally anonymised, this use of it was not something the users had bargained for. Beyond that, it keeps track of the phones that have been used to summon its services even after the original owner has sold them, attempting this with Apple’s phones even thought it is forbidden by the company.

Uber has also tweaked its software so that regulatory agencies that the company regarded as hostile would, when they tried to hire a driver, be given false reports about the location of its cars. Uber management booked and then cancelled rides with a rival taxi-hailing company which took their vehicles out of circulation. Uber deny this was the intention. The punishment for this behaviour was negligible. Uber promised not to use this “greyball” software against law enforcement – one wonders what would happen to someone carrying a knife who promised never to stab a policeman with it. Travis Kalanick of Uber got a personal dressing down from Tim Cook, who runs Apple, but the company did not prohibit the use of the app. Too much money was at stake for that.

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The Guardian view on Barack Obama: don’t go chasing Wall Street cash | Editorial

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:19:17 GMT2017-04-26T18:19:17Z

He doesn’t really need the money and it will allow his opponents to claim he is a creature of moneyed interests. Give the cash to charity

There’s little doubt that President Obama was a historic leader of the world’s most powerful nation. In his eight years in office, the economy was steered clear of a looming depression. His healthcare reforms are established as a totemic policy in American politics. In global affairs he looked for no new dragons to slay. He can also claim credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal and the opening up of Cuba. When he reappeared in public life, after three months off, it was to encourage young people to participate in political life. Yet now it has emerged that he is to be paid $400,000 to speak at a Wall Street conference. This is a mistake. He should give the fee to charity.

What message does this send to young people? That a career in politics is a way of getting rich? Tony Blair has destroyed his reputation by chasing money. Hillary Clinton’s standing among leftwing voters was sunk by her highly-paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. Mr Obama should not allow populist critics to paint him as a pawn of moneyed interests. He doesn’t need the money: he and Michelle have a two-book deal worth $65m. Mr Obama won many of the white suburban or post-industrial counties that Mrs Clinton lost in 2016. His success rested on the symbolism of hope. Don’t tarnish it now.

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The Guardian view on Venezuela: a country in pain | Editorial

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 18:33:25 GMT2017-04-25T18:33:25Z

People are dying from shortages and state violence as Nicolás Maduro clings to power

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro has failed his country. Picked by Hugo Chávez as successor just before his death in 2013, President Maduro has been an incompetent leader in hard times. He has failed to address the economic crisis triggered when the fall in the price of oil exposed the weaknesses of Chavismo, his predecessor’s ambitious experiment in poverty alleviation and social ownership. Now, in what was once South America’s richest country, more than four households in five are in poverty, twice the level of when he came to power. Babies and children die for lack of access to commonplace medicines. Murder and kidnapping for ransom are rife. Inflation is running above 800%; the economy is contracting sharply. Democracy itself is being eroded as the president defends his faltering grip on power. Weeks of protests have been met by state violence, semi-official vigilantes and, increasingly, counterattack from some opposition groupings. There is a wretched stalemate; and there is a real fear that violence could soon escalate out of control.

Like many of its neighbours, Venezuela’s democrats have to overcome a troubled history of rule by elites with little concern for lifting people out of poverty or shared economic growth. For more than a decade, Chávez seemed to offer a better prospectus: decent housing, proper wages and a fairer future. But after his premature death, the fall in oil prices laid bare the old divisions. His detractors point to a mixture of corruption and his failure to set up a Norwegian-style wealth fund to invest some of an oil income that approached $1tn as causes of the crisis. His defenders accuse the old ruling elite and its supporters of sabotaging the revolution.

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The Guardian view on France’s election: a win for Macron and hope | Editorial

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 19:49:03 GMT2017-04-23T19:49:03Z

In the first round in the race for the Élysée, the postwar parties have been humbled. France has voted for change

The storming of the Bastille in 1789 sets the bar high. As a result, few phrases should be used with more circumspection than “French revolution”. But the result of the first round of France’s 2017 presidential election is an epochal political upheaval for France all the same. For the first time in the nearly 60-year history of the Fifth Republic the second-round contest on 7 May will be between two outsider candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Neither of the candidates of the established parties of left and right will be in the runoff. Whichever of the second-round candidates emerges as the winner in two weeks’ time, France is set upon a new political course, with major implications for itself and for the rest of Europe.

The defeat of the established parties is a humiliation for modern French party politics of left and right. The Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, representing the party of the outgoing president François Hollande, received a mere 6.2% of the votes, according to early estimates. The conservative candidate François Fillon, carrier of the tarnished Gaullist baton, did better, with 19.7%. Yet this is the first time that an official centre-right candidate has failed to get into the second round since General de Gaulle created modern France in 1958. Given the scandals about his use of public funds, it was remarkable that Mr Fillon did so well. Even so, between them Mr Hamon and Mr Fillon took only a quarter of the votes. Instead three French voters out of four, in a turnout of 78%, voted for change.

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The Guardian view on the French presidency: hope not hate | Letters

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:41:38 GMT2017-04-21T17:41:38Z

The presidential poll takes place after a terrible terrorist attack and will decide politics far beyond the nation’s borders. If we had a vote it would be for Emmanuel Macron to turn back the tide of xenophobia

Thursday night’s terrorist attack on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, just three days ahead of the first round of France’s presidential election, has sown fresh fear and confusion in an already tense country. That the shooting of a police officer occurred on Paris’s most famous street only added to the shock for a country that is still deeply shaken by the 2015 and 2016 terrorist attacks that killed more than 230 people. An already unpredictable presidential campaign just got a bit more so.

In the wake of the attack, national security instantly became the topic of the campaign’s closing day. Yet this presidential vote is not, and should not, be about terrorism, however serious a danger it unquestionably is. France is at a momentous crossroads: the choice voters will make has immense consequences not just for one country’s economy, institutions and social cohesion.

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The Guardian view on prosecuting WikiLeaks: don’t do it | Editorial

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:39:10 GMT2017-04-21T17:39:10Z

The freedom to embarrass the powerful, even in a bad cause, is vital to journalism and to a free society“I love WikiLeaks,” President Donald Trump last year told an adoring crowd on the campaign trail. At around the same time, one of his supporters, Representative Mike Pompeo, tweeted triumphantly that emails from the Democratic National Committee provided “further proof … the fix was in from President Obama on down”. To give his lies authority, he added: “Leaked by WikiLeaks.” Those cloudy and insubstantial allegations have been widely credited with helping Mr Trump win his election, but times are different now. Mr Pompeo is director of the CIA and has denounced WikiLeaks as “a non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia” – something entirely obvious to the rest of the world back when Russia was, in the opinion of many, conspiring to help Mr Trump and Mr Pompeo to attain their present eminence.This would be just another example of the shameless dishonesty of the Trump administration, if there were not credible reports that the US Department of Justice is considering an attempt to prosecute WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. This would threaten one of the core freedoms of the press. Mr Assange is in many ways an unattractive champion of liberty. But he is right to claim that at least sometimes his organisation serves a journalistic function and should be protected in the US by the first amendment. Some of the documents that WikiLeaks has published, and that other media organisations, including the Guardian, have also used, were obtained by means that may have been illegal. But there is a longstanding principle that this does not in itself make their publication illegal. If we, as journalists, had to rely solely on public-spirited and scrupulously honest sources, some very important stories would be missed. Key stories that hold the powerful to account in a democracy would no longer be heard. The defence of a free press is that it doesn’t necessarily make its participants virtuous, but it harnesses some of their vices to the public good. The dumping of unredacted documents, as WikiLeaks did with the Turkish ruling party’s internal emails, is wrong, and so is the apparent refusal to offend powerful patrons. Nonetheless offending or embarrassing the wealthy and the influential – even if they are your friends – is an important function of journalism. It is also constitutionally protected in the US. Continue reading...[...]

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Sadly it was money – not morals – that forced Fox to boot Bill O'Reilly | Lucia Graves

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 15:29:26 GMT2017-04-20T15:29:26Z

In an era where politicians are unresponsive to citizens’ demands, Americans can still score wins against corporate America through boycotts

It would be less accurate to say that Bill O’Reilly’s career ended amid allegations of sexual harassment than to say it ended amid an advertising boycott. The network has been aware of his behavior since at least 2004. That he’s only leaving now is not a testament to the Fox News Network’s newly found conscience. It happened because millions of Americans decided it wasn’t OK.

Even after the New York Times reported O’Reilly had paid $13m in settlements to five different women, the network re-upped his $18m annual contract anyway. But corporate America had its eyes on Twitter and its hand on its wallet. By the time O’Reilly resigned, no fewer than 80 companies had pulled ads from the network under pressure from consumers, according to the watchdog group Media Matters.

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The best new releases to watch during Black History Month

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 12:00:29 GMT2017-02-02T12:00:29Z

With Oscar nominated films such as Fences and Hidden Figures, and a new three-part series on Nelson Mandela, this month has plenty to offer

If you’ve ever seen or read an August Wilson play, you know that writing is how the late playwright processed the world around him – a magnificently black world filled with funk and nuance in which language plays a central role. For Wilson, though, learning how to work with that language as a writer didn’t happen overnight. “For the longest time I couldn’t make my characters talk,” Wilson told me several years ago before his death in 2005. “I thought in order to incorporate the black vernacular into literature, the language had to be changed or altered in some way to sound more clear … until I realized that it’s no less romantic and meaningful to say, ‘It’s cold outside.’” As a play, Wilson’s Fences, which tells the story of a working-class black man – who was denied a baseball career in the major leagues – trying to raise his family in mid-century Pittsburgh, gives us that blunt romance and powerful meaning. As a movie, it gives us Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Enough said.

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Can black celebrities shake America out of its racial justice slumber? | Syreeta McFadden

Thu, 28 Jul 2016 11:30:05 GMT2016-07-28T11:30:05Z

African American stars are using their large platform to demand equal protection of black life in America – just as their forbears did

Once again, this is turning out to be a summer marked by prominent police killings of innocent black men. Black popular artists in American culture are complicating things for those fans who would prefer to remain silent or choose not to engage in the most significant civil rights issue of our time. These artists are shaking moderates out of complacency and extending our awareness to this crisis – just as their forebears did during the civil rights struggle in the 1960s.

Black musicians and artists are key partners in dramatizing equality and justice for black citizens. The cynical among us may presume that artists who call for action against systemic, racialized police violence are simply jumping on a cause célèbre – or that their earned privilege no longer affords them the right to be outraged. But that is a selective and ahistorical reading.

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Chelsea Manning: to those who kept me alive all these years, thank you | Chelsea E Manning

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 16:54:23 GMT2017-02-13T16:54:23Z

When I was afraid, you taught me how to keep going. When I was lost, you showed me the way

To those who have kept me alive for the past six years: minutes after President Obama announced the commutation of my sentence, the prison quickly moved me out of general population and into the restrictive housing unit where I am now held. I know that we are now physically separated, but we will never be apart and we are not alone. Recently, one of you asked me “Will you remember me?” I will remember you. How could I possibly forget? You taught me lessons I would have never learned otherwise.

When I was afraid, you taught me how to keep going. When I was lost, you showed me the way. When I was numb, you taught me how to feel. When I was angry, you taught me how to chill out. When I was hateful, you taught me how to be compassionate. When I was distant, you taught me how to be close. When I was selfish, you taught me how to share.

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The new side of Sheryl Sandberg is something to celebrate | Emma Brockes

Wed, 18 May 2016 17:09:06 GMT2016-05-18T17:09:06Z

In a moving post and a commencement address, the Facebook COO showed how her mind has been broadened. Let’s hope this rubs off on Silicon Valley

Sheryl Sandberg gave the commencement speech at UC Berkeley last weekend, during the course of which she said many stirring things about the future awaiting the class of 2016. She also built on her much-commented upon Mothers’ Day Facebook post, in which she spoke for the first time about life in the wake of her husband’s death last year. These two elements, the motivational speaking and the personal reflections on grief, combined to do something that has so far eluded Sandberg and the corporate world generally: the acknowledgement that people are human.

Related: The best commencement speeches: from Jill Abramson to Neil Gaiman

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The week in patriarchy: holocaust centers and other horrors | Jessica Valenti

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 18:12:38 GMT2017-04-14T18:12:38Z

There were plenty of terrible things that happened this week, but I’d like to focus on one that got too little attention: the San Bernardino shooting

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When you’re trying to summarize a week’s worth of news in the age of Trump, it’s hard to know what to include. From mega-bombs in Afghanistan to “Holocaust centers”, there’s never a lack of horrors to relay. But instead of getting lost in the fray, I want to focus on one thing that happened this week that isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves: the shooting in San Bernardino, California.

This was a domestic violence killing that left one woman, an elementary school teacher and her student dead. Most mass shootings in the United States are domestic violence attacks, yet we almost never discuss them as such. The victims deserve better than that.

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Almost everyone gets Russia wrong – apart from Obama | Trevor Timm

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 11:00:31 GMT2016-09-08T11:00:31Z

Those itching for conflict like to portray Putin as a grandmaster. In reality, his country is weak and his strategy is one of desperation

These days it is en vogue in Washington DC to be itching for conflict with Russia. Politicians and pundits alike are outdoing each other for how they can describe the supposed threat Putin now poses to the west. To his credit, Barack Obama seems to be the only politician not playing into the cold war 2.0 hysteria.

In little noticed comments last week, Hillary Clinton suggested that the US should start preparing “military” responses to cyber-attacks allegedly perpetrated by Russia on the DNC and voter registration files. And her campaign has also spent the last few weeks ratcheting up the fear-mongering that the Trump campaign is secretly a Russian plant of some sort.

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A split supreme court means contraception is more likely to remain a right | Scott Lemieux

Wed, 23 Mar 2016 20:16:31 GMT2016-03-23T20:16:31Z

Some religious employers have railed against including contraceptive coverage in health plans. Without Justice Scalia, though, they’re unlikely to prevail

On Wednesday, the US supreme court heard oral arguments in Zubik v Burwell. The case challenges the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers include contraceptive coverage in taxpayer-subsidized health plans, with potentially negative ramifications for women nationwide should the court rule against the government.

The arguments suggest, however, that the issue will remain unresolved by a shorthanded court likely to split 4-4, which may well be the best-case scenario under the circumstances.

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All-day podcasts and brick-sized books. Or, why 2015 was the year the long form fought back

Sat, 02 Jan 2016 08:00:05 GMT2016-01-02T08:00:05Z

Digital-age culture was meant to be bite-sized. But novels are getting longer, and I have learned to enjoy Wilbur SmithShortly before Christmas, Wilbur Smith, the writer of airport novels, gave an interview to a Sunday newspaper in which he spoke of his four wives in the following tender terms: “Two of them died on me, the first one hates me, and this one loves me, so I’ve covered the whole spectrum.” He no longer saw his children, he added: “They’ve got my sperm, that’s all … it’s sadder for them than it is for me, because they’re not getting any more money.” Perhaps the most charitable response was to observe that at least Smith was being consistent here: the real people in his life seemed as two-dimensional, judging from these descriptions, as the typical Smith hero, who is a rugged outdoorsman with a passion for hunting, hard liquor, and no-strings sex. (Oh, and for avoiding the gaboon adder, the deadly African snake Smith calls upon, with amusing frequency, when a character needs to die.) But my sneering’s a bit hypocritical, really. I only know about Smith’s cardboard-cutout characters because 2015 was the year I read two of his brick-sized novels, along with several similar vast works by Frederick Forsyth and Ken Follett: the kind of books, as one friend put it both succinctly and snobbily, that you find in self-catering holiday cottages. A further confession: mainly, I enjoyed them.In publishing at large, it was a year of very long works: of Franzen and Knausgård and Marlon James, if you have some kind of problem with gaboon adders and prefer literary fiction instead. A survey in December confirmed that novels in general are getting bigger: the average number of pages in a bestseller, it found, had grown by 25% since 1999. This is unexpected. Digital culture was always supposed to fragment our attention spans, eroding our powers of concentration with addictive interruptions and bite-sized stimuli – and it often does. But it’s also the case that e-readers make very long books much more practical: the 400-plus pages of Smith’s Eye of the Tiger (in which, by the way, a killer shark is destroyed by being induced to swallow a stick of gelignite hidden inside the body of a Moray eel) added no weight to my Kindle. Continue reading...[...]

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