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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: Sat, 25 Nov 2017 02:09:26 GMT2017-11-25T02:09:26Z

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



Sinclair's vast media merger threatens democratic ideals. Congress must fight it

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 11:00:03 GMT2017-11-24T11:00:03Z

Sinclair’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media has sparked fears of a Trump-aligned national TV giant. But the real problem is a threat to free speech

Many liberals and progressives fear that Sinclair Broadcast Group’s attempt to buy Tribune Media will result in a new, all-powerful, Trump-aligned national TV network and deepen the conservative movement’s existing dominance of radio. To be sure, Sinclair’s existing programming is to the right of Fox News.

Related: 'The most dangerous US company you have never heard of": Sinclair, a rightwing media giant

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Tech capitalists won’t fix the world’s problems – their unionised workforce might | Lizzie O’Shea

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 13:04:07 GMT2017-11-24T13:04:07Z

Workers in the US tech sector are organising. They, not their billionaire bosses, provide hope that technology will improve the lives of the many

De-industrialisation and the Reagan-Thatcher years made trade unions seem like a 20th-century artefact. But evidence of a revival in workplace organising can be found in one of the most modern corners of the global economy: the US technology sector.

After the election of Donald Trump, thousands of technology workers signed a pledge against building government databases for targeting individuals based on race, religion, or national origin. The effect was immediate, with numerous companies publicly declaring they would not cooperate with such a policy. Tech workers organised a protest outside Palantir, the data analytics company that received seed funding from the CIA and boasts Trump-supporting billionaire Peter Thiel as a founder and board member.

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I shut down an oil pipeline – because climate change is a ticking bomb | Emily Johnston

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 09:00:00 GMT2017-11-24T09:00:00Z

Normal methods of political action and protest are simply not working. If we don’t reduce emissions boldly and fast, that’s genocide

A little over a year ago, four friends and I shut down all five pipelines carrying tar sands crude oil into the United States by using emergency shut-off valves. As recent months have made clear, climate change is not only an imminent threat; it is an existing catastrophe. It’s going to get worse, and tar sands oil—the dirtiest oil on Earth—is one of the reasons.

We did this very, very carefully—after talking to pipeline engineers, and doing our own research. Before we touched a thing, we called the pipeline companies twice to warn them, and let them turn off the pipelines themselves if they thought that was better; all of them did so.

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A moment that changed me: dressing as a woman for the first time at 69 | Robin Pickering

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 08:00:25 GMT2017-11-24T08:00:25Z

I don’t know why my feminine side lay undiscovered for so long, but finding the ‘other’ me has been a revelation

A couple of years ago, I was invited to take part in a murder mystery party with a script written by a friend, and we were asked to invent our own characters. I informed him straightaway that I would be a cross-dressing artist, and would attend in my female persona. Well, as an artist, I was already halfway there… The writer was sworn to secrecy.

I can’t say for certain what prompted me to choose that role. I had an establishment upbringing; my father was a military man and Tory county councillor, my mother a product of the Raj. After a public school education, I went into teaching, marrying and having children in my 20s. Although I soon enough forswore conservatism, becoming something of a contrarian and loving a flowery shirt, I had never consciously questioned my gender. Before that evening. At nearly three score years and ten.

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Anti-Trump protesters risk 60 years in jail. Is dissent a crime? | Yael Bromberg and Eirik Cheverud

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 07:00:13 GMT2017-11-22T07:00:13Z

More than 200 people who were arrested on Trump’s inauguration day risk up to 60 years of jail. Meanwhile, the white supremacists in Charlottesville walk free

On the morning of President Trump’s inauguration, police trapped and arrested more than 230 people. Some were anti-Trump demonstrators; some were not. The next day, federal prosecutors charged them all with “felony rioting”, a nonexistent crime in Washington DC. The prosecution then launched a sweeping investigation into the defendants’ lives, demanding vast amounts of online information through secret warrants.

Prosecutors eventually dropped a few defendants, like journalists and legal observers, but simultaneously increased the charges against everyone else. The most recent indictment collectively charged more than 200 people with felony rioting, felony incitement to riot, conspiracy to riot, and five property-damage crimes – all from broken windows.

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Watch out, manspreaders: the womanspreading fightback starts now | Radhika Sanghani

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 18:36:29 GMT2017-11-23T18:36:29Z

The #MeToo resistance is getting physical. I’m one of many women determined to reclaim my space

“Cross your legs.” “Don’t sit like that.” “Be more ladylike.” Like most women, I’ve been subjected to these kinds of messages since I was a child. Everyone from my mum to primary school teachers and distant relatives has chastised me to “sit like a lady”. Translation: rest your legs together, Duchess of Cambridge-style, and take up as little space as possible.

After spending my childhood and teen years being told to 'sit properly, for God’s sake', I decided to rebel

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Why a rush to elections would only hurt Zimbabwe | Basildon Peta

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 09:13:31 GMT2017-11-23T09:13:31Z

Mugabe is gone but the Mugabe state lives on. The early poll British ministers and others are demanding would strengthen Zanu PF’s stranglehold on power

To fully understand the euphoria that greeted the news on Tuesday night that Robert Mugabe had finally resigned as president of Zimbabwe, consider the case of Mathanda Mbo-Dube. A few years ago, Mbo-Dube was enjoying a drink with friends when Mugabe, then 88, appeared on a TV screen in a sports bar near Bulawayo. Mbo-Dube commented that the president was “too old”. Overheard by members of Mugabe’s secret police, Mbo-Dube was arrested and jailed for the crime of “undermining and insulting the president”.

Mugabe’s removal after nearly 40 years is currently uniting all shades of opinion in celebration. But what will it take to move the country forward now, after decades of crisis?

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Too right it's Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet | George Monbiot

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 06:00:12 GMT2017-11-22T06:00:12Z

Growth must go on – it’s the political imperative everywhere, and it’s destroying the Earth. But there’s no way of greening it, so we need a new system

Everyone wants everything – how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.

Related: UK environment department using 1,400 disposable coffee cups a day

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Germany’s crisis means uncertainty for Europe. But it won’t be fatal | Natalie Nougayrède

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:20:54 GMT2017-11-21T19:20:54Z

The continent has been rattled at a time when it has so many unresolved issues. Macron’s plans, however, will be key – and Merkel is not finished yet

The collapse of Germany’s coalition talks is the latest shock to hit Europe. No one saw it coming. Of course the blow is of a different nature from the banking crisis, the war in Ukraine, the refugee crisis, Brexit, Trump, Poland and Hungary’s democratic backsliding, or Catalan secessionism. Germany’s politics look upended but the fundamentals are still in place: the postwar democratic set-up is hardly under threat. Still, this is rattling stuff. Europe’s powerhouse is in unknown political territory at a time when so much remains unresolved across the continent. And Germany’s political uncertainty means yet more uncertainty for the EU. Yet doomsayers shouldn’t assume that this crisis has to be fatal.

Nowhere outside Germany is the political breakdown being watched more closely than in France. Emmanuel Macron had set his sights on the German election as the starting point of his plan for a European “renaissance” alongside Merkel. On Monday, Macron did not hide his concern, saying it was not in France’s interest that “things become tense” in Germany. “We must move forward,” he added. But the worries go deeper than Germany’s internal problems. If Merkel was supposed to be the leader of the free world in the era of Trump and Brexit then what might the future look like without her? Far-right websites have been humming with glee at the news that Merkel has now run into deep difficulty.

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The right uses natural disasters to push through their agenda. So should the left | Aman Banerji and Jeremy Mohler

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:34:51 GMT2017-11-21T14:34:51Z

Naomi Klein showed in The Shock Doctrine how disasters are often exploited by business at the expense of local communities. It doesn’t have to be that way

Months before a one-two punch of September storms slammed Puerto Rico, a financial manager living on the island quipped: “The only thing we need now is a hurricane.” With the US territory mired in a debt crisis, the manager told an interviewer that she had redirected her clients’ assets from public debt to stocks. She recommended investing in Home Depot, as devastation from a hurricane would surely bring federal aid, much of which would flow to the construction industry.

While quite absurd, this anecdote demonstrates an increasingly predictable phenomenon, one popularized by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: disasters are good for business.

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Instagram Stories has turned life into a slideshow of content | Sam Wolfson

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 17:54:17 GMT2017-11-21T17:54:17Z

Features on Instagram and Snapchat that share videos and photos in brief reels that disappear after 24 hours have earned them hundreds of millions of users. It’s competitive fun – and rapidly changing our behaviour

“Disruptive” is a horrible buzzword, beloved by vape-huffing Silicon Valley types, because it implies that whatever bit of nonsense they are making is changing people’s lives rather than just an update. Truly disruptive innovations don’t happen in a flash but percolate over time until you barely remember what life was like before: such as when you had to plan what time your taxi was going to pick you up three hours before you wanted to leave; or sit on a train with a crossword book because there was nothing else to do.

The problem with supposedly disruptive technology is often not the tech itself but the people using it. Apple, for example, can make all the epoch-defining updates to sync our watch to our toaster, but most of us won’t experience them because we have three different iCloud accounts and keep forgetting the passwords.

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Republican tax cuts will hurt Americans. And Democrats will pay the price | Bruce Bartlett

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:10:56 GMT2017-11-20T14:10:56Z

The consequences of the tax program will shelve support for the Republicans, but once in power the Democrats’ hands will be financially bound for years

I think many Democrats and independent political observers are puzzled by the intensity with which Republicans are pursuing their tax cut. It’s not politically popular and may well lead to the party’s defeat in next year’s congressional elections. So why do it?

The answer is that Republicans are pushing the tax cut at breakneck speed precisely because they know they are probably going to lose next year and in 2020 as well. The tax cut, once enacted, however, will bind the hands of Democrats for years to come, forcing them to essentially follow a Republican agenda of deficit reduction and prevent any action on a positive Democratic program. The result will be a steady erosion of support for Democrats that will put Republicans back in power within a few election cycles.

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Why is Donald Trump launching a withering attack on nonprofits? | David Callahan

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:59:14 GMT2017-11-20T13:59:14Z

The administration’s tax proposals are a blunt attack on civil society that will ultimately damage American life

Not so long ago, conservative thinkers and Republican leaders were strong champions of private charity. George HW Bush talked about a “thousand points of light”, while his son created a new White House office to engage nonprofits.

But lately the right’s love affair with philanthropy and civil society has fizzled. Donald Trump – whose claims of generous giving were debunked during the campaign – has shown no interest in forging partnerships between government and philanthropy since taking office. He has wooed a parade of business executives and minor celebrities while largely ignoring leaders from the nonprofit world – save for allies on the religious right such as Jerry Falwell Jr.

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Drug traffickers taught the rich how to hide money in tax havens | Roberto Saviano

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 10:00:29 GMT2017-11-18T10:00:29Z

Legal capitalism has learned from criminal capitalism that in the world of money, only rule breakers survive, writes mafia expert Roberto Saviano

It was only 19 months ago that the Panama Papers were released. Now, it’s the Paradise Papers that are filling the front pages of English and European newspapers. Back when the Panama Papers were released, I wrote that if David Cameron’s name hadn’t been in those documents, the news probably wouldn’t have had the same impact. Today I think that if Queen Elizabeth’s name hadn’t come up, we likely wouldn’t be discussing it either.

The mechanisms are the same. Only the consulting firms involved and the islands where the news originated have changed. In the Paradise Papers there’s a bit of everything: from the legitimate—though ethically questionable—creation of offshore companies to lower tax liabilities to shell companies that could hide assets of a criminal origin.

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Truck drivers like me will soon be replaced by automation. You're next | Finn Murphy

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:00:07 GMT2017-11-17T08:00:07Z

Innovators like Elon Musk – who have long worked to get self-driving trucks on the road – are poised to remove the last humans left in the modern supply chain

I’ve been driving big trucks since shortly after my 21st birthday in 1980 and I always figured I’d be able to stay on the road until retirement. Now I’m not so sure. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Daimler, Tesla, Uber, Ford and Toyota are all investing billions of dollars in driverless vehicles.

I’m sure about one thing, though: driverless trucks will be here before driverless cars because that’s where the early money is going to be made. With some of the world’s most aggressive and best capitalized companies racing to be first with a viable driverless vehicle, I don’t give myself very good odds on choosing when to hang up my keys.

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I released 2,000 minks from a fur farm. Now I'm a convicted terrorist | Kevin Johnson

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:00:01 GMT2017-11-15T07:00:01Z

The FBI says animal rights activists are America’s greatest domestic terrorism threat. This endangers activists – but makes big pharma and agriculture happy

People usually laugh when I tell them I am a convicted terrorist.

I try not to open with that – it seems a little bit forward. First, I explain how my friend Tyler and I entered a fur farm in the dead of night. I describe the unspeakable suffering we found there. I tell people how Tyler and I opened every single cage and released 2,000 mink to save their lives. And once they have the context, I segue into the terrorism thing.

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Colin Kaepernick was named citizen of the year. How ironic | Ameer Hasan Loggins

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 19:52:07 GMT2017-11-16T19:52:07Z

For black Americans, citizenship has always been incomplete and fraught. Kaepernick knows this better than anyone else

It’s been a couple of days, and the news of GQ magazine naming Colin Kaepernick its Citizen of the Year has brought forth both love from some and loathing from others.

Fox News host and columnist, Todd Starnes ventilated his vitriolic views that GQ should have named Kaepernick its “coward of the year”. Starnes couched his claim in his belief that Colin Kaepernick’s protesting racialized systemic oppression in America is “not citizenship – that’s cowardice”.

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Salvator Mundi went for $450m. But you can have the real thing for free | Loose canon

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 15:24:37 GMT2017-11-16T15:24:37Z

The only way out of the trap of the human condition is to admit our moral incapacity and call on God for help

A painting by Leonardo da Vinci, circa early 1500s, has just been sold for $450m. That makes it the most expensive painting ever. It is called Salvator Mundi, and depicts Christ, hand raised as if about to give a priestly blessing. He is the saviour of the world, says Leonardo. It was probably only a few years after Leonardo finished this great work that, on the other side of the Alps, a German monk would come up with an idea about this act of salvation that would totally transform the intellectual landscape of Europe.

Generally, the beginning of the Reformation is regarded as being marked by Martin Luther’s posting on the door of All Saints’ Church, Wittenberg, a long list of demands to the Roman church on the subject of its financial corruption. But Luther’s key intellectual breakthrough had occurred several years before. Living as a monk, Luther wrestled with the thought that, despite his rigorous standard of living, nothing he was capable of as a human being would ever be good enough for God. And that, if God was entirely just – that is, if God judged us according to our merits – then all of us are in deep trouble. Hamlet makes the same point in a conversation with Polonius: if you treat everyone as they deserve, “who shall ’scape whipping?”

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Feminist reading really can help beat anorexia. It worked for me | Kate Leaver

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:05:57 GMT2017-11-16T14:05:57Z

A study says that anorexic people feel less to blame for their condition after reading feminist theory. In my case, I have Susie Orbach to thank

According to a new study, feminist theory can help treat anorexia. That comes as no surprise to me, based on my own experience of trying to vanish, one skipped meal at a time. Researchers at the University of East Anglia trialled a 10-week programme with seven inpatients at a centre in Norwich. They used Disney films, social media, news articles and adverts to talk about the social expectations and constructs of gender, how we view women’s bodies and how we define femininity. They spoke about the way we portray appetite, hunger and anger, as well as the ways we objectify women’s bodies.

Researchers published a paper in the journal Eating Disorders that suggested patients improved because they felt less to blame for their own condition. This makes complete sense. When I was 15 years old, I spent six weeks in an eating disorders clinic in Sydney. Staring at those pallid pistachio-coloured walls on my own in a cell-like room, I felt as though I may never recover. My emaciated companions and I were under the care of a former prison warden turned eating disorders nurse, who made sure we stuck to our strict daily routine of three meals, three snacks, two therapy sessions, no taking the stairs. I wasn’t alone in that fear of eternal sickness; recovery is elusive for many sufferers, and perhaps the cruellest part of the process is that anorexia convinces you that you don’t even want to get better.

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Yes, we can halt the rise of the international far right | Timothy Garton Ash

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:00:05 GMT2017-11-17T06:00:05Z

The ugly nationalist march in Poland is part of an alarming global trend. It is for all of us – not just politicians – to resist it

Every journalism school should show its students the video clip of the moment on Saturday when a chirpy Polish state television reporter asked a man decked out in red and white national colours what it meant to him to participate in a march celebrating Poland’s independence day. “It means,” replied the man, “to remove from power … Jewry!”

Related: This weekend’s march in Poland proves the far right isn’t going away without a fight | Paul Mason

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President Trump, please listen to a Sandy Hook mom on gun reform | Nicole Hockley

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:03:03 GMT2017-11-15T07:03:03Z

There is also much that federal and state legislation can do to prevent violence, writes Nicole Hockley. We need leaders to embrace sustainable solutions

Like all Americans, I am devastated by the senseless massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that claimed the lives of 25 people, including 14 children. The idea that anyone could intentionally plan to kill and hurt so many people is impossible to comprehend. The anguish, shock and heartbreak felt by the victims’ families, survivors and their entire community is impossible for most people to imagine.

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Congress must end its complicity with the gun lobby | Senator Richard Blumenthal

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:26:52 GMT2017-11-15T13:26:52Z

Communities across the US want action to prevent yet more senseless deaths. The commonsense legislation I have proposed would do just that

The Sunday before last, a convicted domestic abuser used an illegally obtained AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to murder 25 parishioners worshipping at the First Baptist church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The Sutherland Springs shooter was far from the first killer to have a history of domestic violence. According to a July report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of female homicide victims are murdered by their intimate partners. Women are five times more likely to die as a result of domestic violence when there is a gun in the home.

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The Guardian view on productivity: the robots are coming | Editorial

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 19:21:58 GMT2017-11-24T19:21:58Z

The rise of the machines will make us richer. But to keep our humanity we need fundamental changes to our economic system

A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker. That’s why Nobel laureate Paul Krugman concluded that productivity isn’t everything – but in the long run it is almost everything. Instead of wasting the nation’s time focusing on the non-existent threat of the deficit, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, this week conceded the “everything” that Mr Krugman had identified: British productivity has stalled and as a result workers’ real wages will be lower than when the recession began. Before the crash, we would have expected living standards to double every 40 years. Now that will take 80. That means lost decades for millions of ordinary people.

It’s easy to become overly pessimistic. The epoch of enormous economic progress that characterised the 20th century is not over; we are suffering from seven years of government failure where ministers thought their job was to watch the economy and suffer passively from capitalism’s inevitable cycles. Rather than take a view of the economy and by fiscal action seek to secure prosperity for all, ministers embarked on a highly ideological agenda of dismantling the state and the protections afforded to workers – arguing erroneously that these were holding back the state. Mr Hammond has been forced to alter course because his party’s reckless policies had jeopardised the long-term improvement in the national standard of life.

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The Guardian view on Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump’s values? | Editorial

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 19:08:35 GMT2017-11-24T19:08:35Z

The world’s biggest pop star is not simply a product of the age but seems a messenger for its disturbing spirit

In the year since Donald Trump was elected, the entertainment world has been largely united in its disdain for his presidency. But a notable voice has been missing from the chorus: that of Taylor Swift, the world’s biggest pop star. Her silence is striking, highlighting the parallels between the singer and the president: their adept use of social media to foster a diehard support base; their solipsism; their laser focus on the bottom line; their support among the “alt-right”.

Swift’s songs echo Mr Trump’s obsession with petty score-settling in their repeated references to her celebrity feuds, or report in painstaking detail on her failed romantic relationships (often, there is crossover). The message is quintessentially Trumpian: everyone is out to get me – but I win anyway. Seeded with clues to the identities of her famous associates, her lyrics reel in and solidify a hardcore fanbase – usually young, female followers known as “Swifties” – who passionately defend her honour on social media by attacking her detractors.

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The Guardian view on cryptocurrencies: blockchain of fools | Editorial

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 19:15:16 GMT2017-11-23T19:15:16Z

The only value of cryptocurrencies today lies in the expectation that someone else will buy them. But the supply of bigger fools must run out one day

One of the few men to get out in time before the Wall Street crash of 1929 did so – legend has it – because he was offered a stock tip by the boy who shined his shoes. He immediately sold all his holdings. If the mania for gambling on the stock market had reached down to the children on the streets, the bubble must have been due to pop at any moment. The corresponding moment for the cryptocurrency bubble will only be discernible in retrospect, but we have some pretty strong candidates already. The endorsement of one project by the reality TV star Paris Hilton has already happened. Posters have appeared on the London underground urging people to gamble in bitcoin futures on the margin. The production – or “mining” – of bitcoins now uses more electricity than Ireland or Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the notional price of the main cryptocurrencies continues to shoot upwards in a way that makes nonsense of the idea that they have any value as a medium of exchange. Even if they were widely accepted by legal merchants, it would at the moment be lunatic to exchange them for anything but real money. Bitcoin itself is trading at more than $8,000, more than 10 times its price a year ago, and more than double what it was three months ago. Since it is only widely used as a currency in drug deals or for ransom payments, there is either a huge boom in criminal activities outside the world of cryptocurrencies, or one within unregulated exchanges where these tokens are traded.

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The Guardian view on cheering health news: wake up and drink the coffee | Editorial

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 19:15:05 GMT2017-11-23T19:15:05Z

Consuming three cups a day is associated with more benefits to health than problems, for most people

Let me drink three cups a day, the rebellious daughter demands in Bach’s Coffee Cantata. Her unreasonable father has attempted to ban the bean. Now it emerges that science is on her side. People who drink three to four cups are more likely to see health benefits than problems, according to an umbrella review of 200 studies by a team at the University of Southampton. That level of consumption is associated with lower risks of premature death and heart disease and other conditions compared with those who abstain. (Whether drinkers will “shrivel up like a piece of roast goat” without their fix, as Bach’s heroine warns, is not stated.)

This is a rare piece of cheering research on consumption – for as the daughter also sings, coffee is lovelier than a thousand kisses; and all the more so as the temperature drops. No one is proposing mainlining it in the manner of Honoré de Balzac; the novelist boasted that he drank up to 50 cups a day, which helps to explain the volume and energy of his work but also, some have suggested, sped his death at 51. Nor, as spoilsport researchers remind us, will an accompanying cake improve our health. But there is no need to sacrifice that afternoon cortado for a camomile tea quite yet. The research indicates that, in moderation, our espressos, flat whites and americanos are fine for our bodies as well as – experience suffices here – a tonic for our souls. Coffee drinkers everywhere will raise a cup to that.

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The Guardian view on war crimes trials: justice for Srebrenica’s victims | Editorial

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:31:39 GMT2017-11-22T19:31:39Z

It took years to bring Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić to trial. His conviction should give renewed impetus to the pursuit of other perpetrators

The arc of the moral universe is long and, in the case of Ratko Mladić, it has finally bent towards justice. More than two decades since the Srebrenica massacre, more than five years after his trial began, and following evidence from almost 600 witnesses, the “butcher of Bosnia” was sentenced to life imprisonment by a UN tribunal at The Hague on Wednesday for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, hailed it as a warning to other perpetrators. “They will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take. They will be held accountable,” he said.

(June 1, 1991)  The breakup of the former Yugoslavia

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The Guardian view on Mugabe’s resignation: the end of an era in Zimbabwe | Editorial

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:22:22 GMT2017-11-21T19:22:22Z

Zimbabweans cheered and sang as they learned that their president’s 37-year rule was over. But they understand the dangers ahead

Robert Mugabe’s removal from power on Tuesday was greeted as his ascension to it 37 years earlier had been: with jubilation. In Harare there was dancing and singing, honks and cheers, and tears of joy. Many of those celebrating have known no other ruler. Once he was a liberation hero to his people. When he lost their support he hung on by every means at his disposal. Now his brutal reign is over. But the hope is shaded this time by deep concern about what lies ahead.

Forcing his resignation was hardly simple: it took much manoeuvring, a military intervention and the opening of impeachment proceedings before he had to bow to the inevitable. What comes next is murkier still, though Emmerson Mnangagwa, his recently fired vice-president, is expected to take over. There is not much exultation on that score, except among “the Crocodile’s” relieved allies. They had attempted to brand a transition effected primarily by the military and factional interests in Zanu-PF, intent on preserving their own power and resources, as “a new era” – to understandable scorn. Mr Mnangagwa understands that he is not a popular figure in the country, even if the military seem to like him. He does not share Mr Mugabe’s liberation aura, yet is branded by their terrible record in power. His role in removing Mr Mugabe may lend him a degree of credibility, but his best hopes will rest on reviving the economy – and, perhaps, on deferring next summer’s elections for as much as three years.

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The Guardian view on Black Friday: a triumph of imagination | Editorial

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:18:55 GMT2017-11-20T19:18:55Z

Recreational shopping is not about collecting objects so much as experiences

On Thursday, nothing out of the ordinary will happen in Britain. Millions of people will get up and go to work as normal; families will remain widely dispersed; shops will be open as usual; and at the end of the day the nation will gather for its traditional meals of takeaway and microwaved convenience foods eaten in front of a screen. In the US, by contrast, it will be the feast of Thanksgiving, when the whole country shuts down and families gather from across vast distances for a ritual meal celebrating America’s founding myth. An anthropologist might well suppose that this was the most important festival of the year, far more so than Christmas. No one would dare declare a war on Thanksgiving. So it makes a kind of sense that the day after be given over to the frenzy of shopping.

It makes no sense at all for Black Friday to be transplanted to Britain. There is nothing at all special about the day in the British social calendar. Even in the retail calendar it falls squarely in the middle of the runup to Christmas, which nowadays starts some time in early October, so that there are already angels watching over the crowds in Oxford Street in central London, while in Bradford the Christmas decorations went up even earlier.

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The Guardian view on Germany’s political crisis: the start of the post-Merkel era? | Editorial

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:55:34 GMT2017-11-20T15:55:34Z

The failure of the three-party coalition talks in Germany may make it difficult for the chancellor to stay on

Nearly two months after Germany’s general election, talks aimed at forming a three-party coalition between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), the Free Democratic party and the Greens have collapsed. The FDP walked out of a late-night round of negotiations on Sunday, saying it had been impossible to reach a compromise on migration and the environment. Unless the three-party deadlock is somehow ended, Germany could go one of three ways: Mrs Merkel might try to form a coalition with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), which the SPD has ruled out; she might form a minority government, presumably with only one other party, which would be a new experience for postwar Germany; or, new elections might eventually be called.

This is an important moment. Each of these scenarios produces considerable political uncertainty in Europe’s powerhouse. The reverberations are sure to be felt not just in Germany itself, where the impact could be destabilising or could shock the country back together in some way. It is also certain to impact on the EU’s prospects of rebooting its project, at a time when the eurozone, security, migration, Vladimir Putin’s meddling, relations with Turkey, democratic backsliding in Poland and Hungary, and Brexit all need attending to. Monday’s nervous market reaction hinted at some of what is at stake.

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The Observer view on Saudi Arabia, the US and Yemen

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:05:46 GMT2017-11-19T00:05:46Z

While Yemen starves, Trump moves ever close to its tormenter, the headstrong ruler of Saudi Arabia

Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, is a young man in a hurry. So, too, is Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Together, they make a dangerous combination. By all accounts, the two men have become firm friends, forging a strong bond melding youth and power. Kushner, 36, made his third visit to Saudi Arabia this year at the end of October. He reportedly talked late into the night with Salman, 32, at the latter’s desert ranch.

Shortly after the meeting, three things happened: Salman began a sweeping purge of wealthy royal rivals; he launched a silent coup in Lebanon; and the Saudi armed forces imposed an aid blockade on Yemeni ports, which (though now partly eased) threatens a humanitarian catastrophe. The White House, supportive of its Saudi friends, made no criticism. Trump tweeted support for the purge. Thanks in part to Kushner, his first foreign trip was to Riyadh, where he was feted by the autocratic regime. He feels a connection.

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The Guardian view on Yemen: a catastrophe that shames Britain | Editorial

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 19:13:35 GMT2017-11-17T19:13:35Z

The world’s worst humanitarian crisis is deteriorating as a Saudi blockade prevents desperately needed food, fuel and medicine from entering the country. London’s unstinting support for Riyadh makes the UK complicit

Twenty years ago, Tony Blair acknowledged the British government’s responsibility for the Irish famine that killed one million people: a healing gesture needed because, even after a century and a half, pain and anger endured and the responsibility of “those who governed in London” remained glaring. Now we are on the brink of another famine – perhaps the worst for decades, says a UN aid chief – and Britain must again bear blame. The UN called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis even before Saudi Arabia decided to blockade the country a week and a half ago, shutting out food and medicine. Now the heads of three key agencies have warned that millions are on the brink of starvation. Unicef fears that 150,000 children could die by the end of the year. A cholera outbreak that has already affected 900,000 is expected to flare up again, as the lack of fuel shuts off water and sewage systems. Twenty million people, more than two-thirds of the population, are in urgent need of humanitarian supplies.

An impoverished country has been destroyed by what is both a civil and a proxy war. Houthi rebels, allied to Iran, drove out the internationally recognised president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, allying with his predecessor who had been ousted in the Arab spring. Since then, 10,000 lives have been lost, many to heavy bombing by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition, with arms and military support from the US, UK and others. The blockade has taken this terrible, futile conflict to a new depth. It seeks to starve a population into submission – a crime against humanity horrifically familiar from its ongoing use in Syria as well as elsewhere. Britain’s staunch support for Riyadh makes it complicit.

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Have we reached zero tolerance for sexual misconduct? | Jill Abramson

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 13:55:20 GMT2017-11-19T13:55:20Z

I see a wide gulf between Harvey Weinstein, facing rape allegations, and Franken’s admitted misconduct, writes Guardian columnist Jill Abramson

Have we arrived at a zero tolerance moment for sexual misconduct by powerful men? Al Franken could be the test case.

In 2006, he is alleged to have forcibly kissed a woman. There is also a photo of him posing, like a jackass, appearing to grope her breasts as she slept. The photo, posted by the woman on Twitter, is already a classic of the #MeToo movement.

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Baldwin Nothing Personal

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 12:00:27 GMT2017-11-16T12:00:27Z

The author’s contempt for the media of his day was excoriating and it continues to sting in an age when a reality TV star is president

Before he rose from bed some mornings, James Baldwin would watch black and white television “to distract myself”. It was a depressing experience, which forms the entry point to Nothing Personal, the novelist and social critic’s 1964 collaboration with photographer Richard Avedon.

The book, republished this week, leaves one feeling Baldwin would have been even more depressed by modern TV. It is a point that has been on my mind since I saw the film I Am Not Your Negro, where, over footage of a game show, Baldwin muses that “to watch the TV screen for any length of time is to learn some really frightening things about the American sense of reality”. Cut 50 years into the future and that sense has thrust a TV star into the White House, who evades accountability to reality, even as he threatens to destroy it for millions by nuclear annihilation.

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We're still aghast at Donald Trump – but what good has that done? | Thomas Frank

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 16:38:07 GMT2017-11-12T16:38:07Z

Declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House, writes Thomas Frank

It has been one year since the US slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and chose as its leader the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time. Every now and then you get a bracing reminder of the crazy that has been transpiring ever since.

One of these came to me while I was flipping through Donald Trump’s 2015 campaign book, Crippled America, the cover of which displays his proud pompadour and the first few pages of which assert that “As for the presidency and the executive branch” – meaning the executive branch of Barack Obama – “the incompetence is beyond belief.”

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It's easy to take the simplest things for granted | Jessica Valenti

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 13:22:45 GMT2017-09-30T13:22:45Z

I was reminded of this as communities in Puerto Rico, Mexico and beyond struggle with devastation

Today is the seventh anniversary of the day my daughter first breathed without medical assistance. It was six weeks after she was first born, and to be able to see her face – without tubes, without fear that she would stop breathing and turn blue – was one of the best moments of my life as a mother.

I’ve been thinking about this day a lot these last few weeks, as the latest Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare failed, and as communities in Puerto Rico, Mexico and beyond pulled together to try to help each other in the aftermath of devastation.

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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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