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

Opinion | The Guardian



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



Published: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:35:54 GMT2017-08-17T17:35:54Z

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



Did you visit this anti-Trump site? The US government wants your IP address | Trevor Timm

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:00:45 GMT2017-08-17T10:00:45Z

The Department of Justice wants 1.3 million IP addresses of people who visited distruptj20.org. Is reading about protest illegal now?

In an unprecedented and dangerous move, Donald Trump’s justice department is threatening to violate the first and fourth amendment rights of over a million people by issuing an overboard surveillance request aimed at identifying alleged anti-Trump protesters.

The justice department is demanding that web hosting provider DreamHost hand over, among many other things, 1.3m IP addresses – essentially everyone who has ever visited an anti-Trump protest site called disruptj20.org that was organizing protests surrounding Trump inauguration in January.

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The United States was never immune to fascism. Not then, not now | David Motadel

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:00:45 GMT2017-08-17T10:00:45Z

It has never been more important to acknowledge the history of fascism and neo-fascism in America

  • David Motadel is an assistant professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science

America is currently experiencing a wave of increasingly aggressive far-right and neo-fascist activism. Observers have routinely considered fascism an ideology alien to American society. Yet it has deeper roots in American history than most of us have been willing to acknowledge.

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I’ve seen how perilous life in Sierra Leone can be. We cannot ignore this disaster | Hannah Mitchell

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:51:54 GMT2017-08-17T12:51:54Z

As the weather gets more extreme, the poorest suffer the most. As well as helping the mudslide’s survivors, we must face up to the effects of climate change

• Hannah Mitchell is a doctor who has been working in Sierra Leone

“We have lost everything,” my friend cried as we talked on the phone. I had last seen her the week before, after returning home after a year working as a doctor in Sierra Leone. She described water suddenly rushing through her house in the early hours of Monday. With her five children she managed to escape on to the roof, where she waited to be rescued. The flood took all of their possessions, apart from the clothes they wore. And she was one of the lucky ones.

Estimates of those who have perished in the mudslide and flash flooding that hit Freetown on Monday put the number at more than a thousand. As the enormous mudslide from Sugar Loaf mountain tore through Regent, the people sleeping had no chance: 400 corpses have already been retrieved by rescue teams; 109 of them were children. There are more than 600 people still missing. The Red Cross, which is working tirelessly at the scene of the disaster, estimates about 3,000 people are homeless.

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The president of the United States is now a neo-Nazi sympathiser | Richard Wolffe

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 02:37:24 GMT2017-08-16T02:37:24Z

Donald Trump’s press conference was a grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. At least it united the Republicans in disgust at their president

Donald Trump the neo-Nazi sympathizer has achieved what Donald Trump the president has singularly failed to do: unite the nation.

An immensely fractured country – riven by race, class, culture and politics – finds itself transfixed by one grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. These are the same violent racists whom White House aides previously called, in remarks that Trump read out loudly and very carefully: “Criminals and thugs.”

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With every sneer, liberals just make Trump stronger | Simon Jenkins

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:03:53 GMT2017-08-16T18:03:53Z

Critics seem obsessed with attacking the president. They would better off reaching out to his supporters

Did I tell you Donald Trump is a vulgar, foul-mouthed, meat-faced, 71-year-old redneck buffoon? To be honest, he is a fossil-fuel guzzling, Big Mac-eating, pussy-grabbing, racist dick. He has hubris syndrome with paranoid narcissistic disorder. Do you read his tweets? The English is dreadful. How can a man run the country who is so uncouth, with that hair, those ties, those baggy suits? He is a Ba’athist generalissimo, the president of a banana republic. He is anti-Christ. There. Does that make you feel better?

All the above phrases are culled from a brief Google scan on the current American president. They reflect a melange of national shame, liberal trauma, snobbery and class hatred. They extend across the Atlantic and around the world. They assume two things. One is that Trump is so appalling it is inconceivable he could win a second term in office. The other is that deploying the same language as he did to win office is the best way to send him packing.

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Centrists attack the left, but they are the true ideologues | Owen Jones

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 06:00:00 GMT2017-08-17T06:00:00Z

So-called Labour moderates refuse to diagnose their failures. No wonder they’re out in the cold

If a new so-called centrist party is to be set up, why not call it Denial, or perhaps Hubris? Self-described centrists believe that they are the besieged remnants of political sanity in a world gone mad. To be a centrist, so this story goes, is to be above ideology: pragmatic, focused on “what works”, being grown up. They are the moderate stabilisers, or according to this narrative it is their marginalisation that has opened the way to the extremes. In this centrist worldview, the xenophobic, racist or indeed fascist right are deemed to be politically and morally equivalent to the radical left.

Related: Charlottesville: Trump reverts to blaming both sides including 'violent alt-left'

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In America, bias, hate and racism move from the margins to the mainstream | Al Sharpton

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 18:56:42 GMT2017-08-14T18:56:42Z

President Trump has often sowed the seeds of division for his own advancement. But his lack of leadership after Charlottesville leaves many disgusted

This weekend, the world watched tragedy unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia. A young woman, Heather Heyer, lost her life and at least 19 others were injured when a car rammed into a crowd of people gathered to counter white supremacist protesters. What occurred in Charlottesville is a horrific example of hatred unleashing itself on American streets in 2017.

But what we must keep in mind is that Charlottesville is a symptom and we must deal with the cause: hate, bias and racism have been empowered and taken from the margins into the mainstream. Now we must come to terms with the fact that the president of the United States has played a role in emboldening these hate groups to come out of the shadows.

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Diversity is the great rightwing scapegoat for working-class woes | Maya Wiley

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 13:07:18 GMT2017-08-15T13:07:18Z

Trump’s base will not get the education or jobs they need, nor will anyone else, by blaming immigrants and minorities. They are starting to see that

Donald Trump has crossed the 200-day mark since his inauguration. It was a raucous run-up to this milestone, and true to his campaign style, the president has aggressively behaved as the race-baiter-in-chief.

He encouraged police brutality at a speech in Long Island, New York, using gang violence as a justification for draconian immigration crackdowns, and a few days later announced support for a Senate proposal to restrict legal immigration into the US.

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Don't blame addicts for America's opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits | Chris McGreal

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 10:00:10 GMT2017-08-13T10:00:10Z

America’s opioid crisis was caused by rapacious pharma companies, politicians who colluded with them and regulators who approved one opioid pill after another

Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.”

The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said.

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Poison once flowed in America's waters. With Trump, it might again | Peter Gleick

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 10:00:39 GMT2017-08-14T10:00:39Z

Over the past four decades, a huge amount of effort has gone into cleaning America’s heavily polluted waters. Is all of that progress about to be undone?

  • Peter Gleick is a member of the US National Academy of Science and the president-emeritus of Pacific Institute

As a scientist working for decades on national and global water and climate challenges, I must speak out against what I see as an assault on America’s water resources.

I grew up in New York in the 1960s hearing about massive Polychlorinated Biphenyl – a toxic chemical used as a coolant – contamination in the Hudson River and the threatened extinction of bald eagles and ospreys from eating contaminated fish.

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Charlottesville started with a statue. Will Americans confront their history now?| Steven W Thrasher

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 15:05:23 GMT2017-08-14T15:05:23Z

It is fitting that all of this racial violence originated at the statue of our third president. ‘White Lives Matter’ is a good summation of Jeffersonian thought

On Friday evening, a group of white supremacists marched across the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and surrounded a statue of Thomas Jefferson to scream: “White lives matter! White lives matter!” It was the start of what would be a bloody and tragic weekend of white supremacy and violence.

At a counter demonstration on Saturday afternoon, Heather Heyer, a white woman, was killed by a car allegedly driven by a white man, James Alex Fields. Around the same time, a police helicopter flying to monitor the white race riot crashed, killing two white police officers. President Trump initially chose not to blame white supremacists but “many sides” for this white-on-white crime spree.

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Most Americans want universal healthcare. What are we waiting for? | Bernie Sanders

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 14:32:37 GMT2017-08-14T14:32:37Z

Establishing a Medicare for All single payer program will improve the health of the American people. It is the right thing to do

As Americans, we need to answer some fundamental questions regarding the future of our healthcare system.

First, do we consider healthcare to be a right of all people, or a commodity made available based on income and wealth? Today, people in the highest-income counties in America live, on average, 20 years longer than people residing in the poorest counties. There are a number of reasons for that disgraceful reality, but one of them has to do with grossly unequal access to quality healthcare.

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Americans once carpet-bombed North Korea. It's time to remember that past | Bruce Cumings

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 15:28:31 GMT2017-08-13T15:28:31Z

The US air force subjected North Koreans to three years of ‘rain and ruin’. It was a living nightmare – one that still haunts the country to this day

As they always do on the anniversary of the armistice, North Koreans celebrated their “victory” in the Korean War on 27 July. A few days later, President Donald J Trump remarked that if the North Koreans made any more threats, they “will be met with fire and fury, and frankly, power the likes of which the world has never seen”.

No American president has uttered words like this since Harry Truman warned the Japanese, between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, either to surrender or face “a rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which has never been seen on this earth”. Trump’s nuclear bluster, made off-the-cuff between golf rounds, was widely condemned, but a few days later he doubled down on it.

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America is still hooked on the drug of white supremacy | Carol Anderson

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 18:56:57 GMT2017-08-13T18:56:57Z

The violence in Virginia shows that the nation is gripped by a deep malaise – and is writhing under its disastrous effects

  • Carol Anderson is the author of White Rage

The United States is in a tailspin. White supremacists are on the march – and have left a trail of blood and destruction in their wake. A march in Charlottesville, Virginia, filled with torches, Nazi flags and chants of “White Lives Matter” culminated in violence that claimed at least one life, and left many more injured.

This is just what many feared the Trump presidency would unleash. David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, supported that view when he said on Saturday that the march “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back”.

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Finally, Democrats are looking in the mirror. That's reason for optimism | Thomas Frank

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:00:34 GMT2017-08-10T10:00:34Z

One of the awesome things about the Democratic manifesto? It is a tacit admission by the party that it needs to change course

At the end of July, the leadership of the Democratic party bestirred themselves from their comfortable Washington haunts and paid a visit to a small town in Virginia, where they assumed a populist guise and announced before the cameras of the world that they were regular folks just like you.

The occasion for this performance was the launch of a Democratic party manifesto that bears the uninspiring name, A Better Deal. Its purpose, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer wrote in the New York Times, was to “show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people”.

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Trump won't stop Americans hitting the Paris climate targets. Here's how we do it | Michael Bloomberg

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:00:56 GMT2017-08-11T10:00:56Z

Forget the White House, a new coalition of cities, businesses and universities are taking a lead role in fighting climate change

  • Michael Bloomberg is a former mayor of New York City

The global effort to confront climate change was hobbled for many years by the mistaken idea that only national governments and international rules could solve the problem. The Paris agreement, which recognizes and supports voluntary carbon-reduction efforts by cities, regions and businesses, was an important step in the right direction. Ironically, no one has done more to demonstrate the agreement’s strengths than its most prominent critic: Donald Trump.

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The Trump administration's solution to climate change: ban the term | Bill McKibben

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 09:00:35 GMT2017-08-08T09:00:35Z

The US Department of Agriculture has forbidden the use of the words ‘climate change’. This say-no-evil policy is doomed to fail

In a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture – guardians of the planet’s richest farmlands – has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words.

Under guidance from the agency’s director of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, a list of phrases to be avoided includes “climate change” and “climate change adaptation”, to be replaced by “weather extremes” and “resilience to weather extremes”.

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Salma Hayek is right: compared with women, men are lazy and entitled | Julie Bindel

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:36:24 GMT2017-08-11T12:36:24Z

Despite decades of feminism, the sexes are still profoundly unequal, in everything from appearance to pay, housework to childcare

The fact that men are paid more than women for doing the same or similar job is well-known. Feminist organisations have campaigned to close this gap, and also to make it clear that women are not standing for it. One recent analysis estimated that at the current pace of change, the UK pay gap will not be eradicated until 2069, which would be 99 years after the Equal Pay Act became law.

Now the actor Salma Hayek has spoken out against this sexist discrimination and has added her own delicious caveat: that not only do men “do a lot less” for more pay, but feel entitled to more.

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Trump is ignoring the Minnesota mosque bombing. We know why | Moustafa Bayoumi

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:20:55 GMT2017-08-10T14:20:55Z

The response to the bombing shows the administration is more than willing to sacrifice different segments of the American public to keep itself in power

Early in the morning of 5 August, an assailant hurled a bomb through a window at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. The device detonated, causing extensive damage to the building. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blast.

What would a caring society do after such a frightful event? A caring society would investigate the attack, as the FBI currently is. The chance that this was an act of terrorism in a Minneapolis suburb remains high. A week earlier, swastikas and other hate-filled graffiti (“leave you R Dead”) had been found scrawled at a Muslim cemetery in a nearby township.

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Taylor Swift is tough, cool and in control. Unlike Donald Trump | Arwa Mahdawi

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:09:51 GMT2017-08-11T17:09:51Z

When the pop star testified against the DJ David Mueller, whom she accuses of sexual assault, she was admirably cool, calm and composed

My musical solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should Donald Trump act unwisely. And guess who’s at the top of my “Motivating Music for a Nuclear Winter” playlist? Taylor Swift.

The last few days have seen a temperamental Trump tweet the world closer to world war III. The president has been emotional, voluble and reckless – traits one would tolerate in a toddler but which are treacherous in a head of state.

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Trump's apocalyptic threats demand a moral case for disarmament | Daniel José Camacho

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:20:15 GMT2017-08-11T14:20:15Z

It’s easy to understand why Trump is potentially one of the worst people to be in charge of our nation’s nuclear codes. Yet, the problem runs much deeper

Martin Luther King Jr once said: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” Now, it appears Donald Trump might be the man who makes us pay for our country’s moral gap.

Trump has rekindled fears of war and nuclear strikes by threatening North Korea, saying: “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” True to form, Trump’s words flew out of his mouth without much thought or preparation. In turn, the North Korean government has threatened to fire missiles near the US territory of Guam.

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Why the Democratic Socialists of America is experiencing a boom | Douglas Williams

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 17:29:15 GMT2017-08-12T17:29:15Z

Bernie Sanders revived a political current that seemed dead in the US. But working-class Americans’ isolation from mainstream politics helped, too

For the Democratic Socialists of America, there has been a silver lining in this dark year dominated by Trump. Thanks to a post-election membership boom, the organization is now 25,000 people strong. The DSA has become the largest socialist organization since the heyday of Eugene Debs and the Socialist Party of America at the turn of the 20th century.

Most of the new members of the organization have been young people, whose affinity for socialist ideas – or at the very least for a rejection of capitalism – has been growing in recent years as the punishing blows of neoliberalism have placed them in a more precarious place than ever before.

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Pregnancy can kill. No one should be forced to give birth against their will | Jessica Valenti

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 10:00:05 GMT2017-08-09T10:00:05Z

Everyone should be able to decide whether to risk maternal mortality. Limiting access to birth control and abortion makes that impossible

Marqwetta Johnson, a 42-year-old mother of seven, died in Oklahoma due to complications from ectopic pregnancy. Krystine Toledo-Gonzalez, a nurse in Georgia, passed away from a staph infection brought on by childbirth. Amy Bartlett, a spokeswoman for Yellowstone national park, died after giving birth to her third child from a heart condition brought on by pregnancy.

These women aren’t statistics or sad stories – they were people with lives and families and dreams. People who were loved and who are missed. These women’s names have been running through my mind for some time, since ProPublica published its incredible investigative project on maternal mortality in the United States.

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God save us from Donald Trump's fire and fury | Richard Wolffe

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 12:48:18 GMT2017-08-09T12:48:18Z

Many analysts have noted that Trump’s line about fire and fury sounds much like North Korean state media: an uncanny echo that is less than reassuring

Both had the power to kill large numbers of people, if not blow up the world several times over. Both suffered from delusions of power around the presidency. Both believed the old rules didn’t apply to them. Both believed they could reshape the world by brute force, if only the bureaucrats, diplomats and lawyers would get out their way. And both truly loved their own performance on camera.

Related: North Korea v the US: how likely is war?

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Michael Brown was shot three years ago. America still hasn't changed | Steven W Thrasher

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 20:36:00 GMT2017-08-09T20:36:00Z

We, as an American society, owe a lot to Michael Brown. The protesters in Ferguson stood up for him – the rest of us must do more to honor his short life

Three years ago, Michael Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. He was left in the street for hours to bleed. This not only allowed him to die in public without medical aid, but also traumatized his neighbors and sparked outrage across the world.

Three years later, America has not changed enough to redress the killing of that teenager. Officer Wilson was never even indicted – most police officers who kill never are. And since Michael Brown’s death, police killings have continued at an alarming rate, with 1,134 in 2015 and 1,093 in 2016.

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The west is gripped by Venezuela’s problems. Why does it ignore Brazil’s? | Julia Blunck

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:58:51 GMT2017-08-10T12:58:51Z

Reporters ask Jeremy Corbyn if he will condemn Nicolás Maduro. But the undemocratic abuses of Michel Temer aren’t flashy enough for the news cycle

Venezuela is the question on everyone’s lips. Rather, Venezuela is the question on reporters’ lips whenever they see Jeremy Corbyn: will he condemn the president, Nicolás Maduro? What is his position on Venezuela, and how does it affect his plans for Britain? The actual problems of Venezuela – a complex country with a long history that does not start with the previous president Hugo Chávez and certainly not with Jeremy Corbyn – are largely ignored or pushed aside. This is nothing new: most of the time, Latin America’s debates are seen through western lenses.

Related: Brazil's president keeps job as congress votes against corruption charges

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Trump could be out of office within a year – but the US’s problems would be just beginning | Paul Mason

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 16:21:38 GMT2017-08-07T16:21:38Z

The ultra-right will have a tough choice between sticking with Trump or switching to a socially conservative, libertarian presidency headed by Mike Pence

A brief list of the “known unknowns” suggests Donald Trump’s presidency will not survive 12 months. We know that a grand jury has been sitting for weeks, with the power of subpoena, to consider evidence of Kremlin involvement in the Trump campaign. We know that Donald Jr received an email from an intermediary offering a meeting as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”, and that, when this became public, the president personally dictated a false account of that meeting.

We know, too, that special counsel Robert Mueller is not just investigating the Russian dealings of former campaign chief Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. In the past week, it has become clear that Mueller is also investigating links between Russian oligarchs and Trump’s businesses, described by investigative journalist Craig Unger as a “laundromat” for the dirty money of Russian mobsters.

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump: beyond the moral pale | Editorial

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:46:55 GMT2017-08-16T18:46:55Z

The US president has gone even further than before in condoning the racist right. He must pay the price, at home and abroad

In his angry and undignified press conference on Tuesday night, Donald Trump deliberately and shockingly crossed the line that separates the acceptable and the unacceptable in the conduct of an elected democratic leader in a multiracial society. Mr Trump must now face the consequences of this momentous and inexcusable decision. Those consequences should include the way that the leaders of multiracial European nations, including Britain, conduct their dealings with the US president from this moment on.

On Saturday, Mr Trump had already equivocated between America’s white racists and its anti-racists, after clashes in Charlottesville in which an anti-racist protester was killed by a car driven by a neo-Nazi activist. Mr Trump’s evasions drew widespread and instant condemnation, not least from within his own party. On Monday, he then read out a statement, clearly written by others, that sought to repair the damage. But the very next day, speaking with his own voice, he trashed his own retraction.

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The Guardian view on vaginal mesh implants: trust data and patients | Editorial

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:40:38 GMT2017-08-16T18:40:38Z

The devices have benefited a large number of women – but thousands have suffered serious adverse effects

The numbers tell their own tale. Thousands of women have undergone surgery to have vaginal mesh implants removed after suffering complications. Around one in 15 of those fitted with the most common type of mesh have required operations, according to NHS data obtained by the Guardian. In short, the problems are much more widespread than previously acknowledged. The removal rate was previously estimated at less than 1%.

But numbers are not enough. Each case is a woman with a disturbing story; and listening is as important as tallying them. Carolyn Churchill had to give up work after she was left in agony, with persistent bleeding. Yet she said she was made to feel like a baby for complaining. Others describe being left unable to walk or have sex – and of being assured that the implant was not responsible. So even this data under-represents the problem. Women may not be referred for removal, or may decide against it given the risks.

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The Guardian view on India at 70: Democracy in action

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 19:01:27 GMT2017-08-14T19:01:27Z

India’s pluralistic democracy – which, like the EU, works because no single culture or language is central to its identity or unity – is under threat from rightwing Hindu extremists

When the British departed from the subcontinent 70 years ago, the most appropriate epitaph was probably provided by an Indian official who remarked: “You British believe in fair play. You have left India in the same condition of chaos as you found it.” The months that followed the partitioning of British India seemed to confirm the nature of the gift of independence. The subcontinent endured a lawless, bloody anarchy that encompassed some of the 20th century’s greatest migrations and crimes. Born in blood were two newly created nations of mostly-Hindu India, and Pakistan, a Muslim homeland in south Asia, as well as about 500 feudal autocracies, which ranged from princely states – some as large as a European nation – to village-sized chiefdoms. When the British predicted there would be many more partitions, it was because the former colonial masters thought “no one can make a nation out of a continent of many nations”.

In Pakistan, that forecast came partly true, thanks largely because of an attempt to impose a single language – Urdu – on its most populous province, East Bengal. By 1971, after a civil war in which India played a part in stoking, Pakistan had been cleaved in two. The unfinished business of princely states remains: continuing revolts – in Pakistan’s Baluchistan, India’s Kashmir and Manipur – are rooted in identities distinct from the nations that swallowed them up. However, gloomy prophecies of fragmentation have been proved wrong decade after decade in India despite the poverty and diversity. It is perhaps India’s greatest achievement that one-sixth of humanity now cast their votes regularly in free and fair elections.

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump and racism: a moral failure that shames America | Editorial

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 18:32:03 GMT2017-08-13T18:32:03Z

No previous US president of modern times would have failed to condemn his country’s white nationalists. This one did

As George W Bush’s speechwriter put it this weekend, it is one of the “difficult but primary duties” of a political leader to speak for a nation in traumatic times. A space shuttle explodes, a school student goes on a shooting spree, a terrorist flies a plane into a building, a hurricane floods a city. When such things happen, Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, “It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul.” Yet if Donald Trump’s words about the violent white extremist mobilisation in Virginia on Saturday – which an under-pressure White House was desperately trying to clarify on Sunday – are an expression of its soul, America may be on the road to perdition.

The original United States of America was built on white supremacy. The US constitution of 1787 treated black slaves as equivalent to three-fifths of a free white and gave no rights at all to Native Americans, who were regarded as belonging to their own nations. After the civil war, Jim Crow laws enforced segregation across the defeated south and comprehensively disfranchised African Americans for nearly a century. Writing Mein Kampf in the 1920s, Adolf Hitler praised America’s institutional racism as a model from which Nazi Germany could learn. Only in the postwar period, and then slowly and incompletely, was meaningful racial equality pursued by the land of the free.

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The Observer view on best medical practice for pregnant women | Observer editorial

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 23:07:01 GMT2017-08-12T23:07:01Z

The ideal birth is the one that is safest for mother and baby

The announcement by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) on Saturday that it will finally abandon its “normal birth” campaign is overdue but welcome. By promoting “normal” over medical births, the campaign has for too long dangerously implied that a non-medical birth is superior to one in which doctors are involved. Given that we have had firm evidence for more than two years that, in the very worst cases, normal birth ideology has contributed to the tragic and unnecessary deaths of women and babies, the only question is why it has taken the RCM so long to act.

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The Guardian view on nudity: grin and bare it | Editorial

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:19:52 GMT2017-08-11T18:19:52Z

The German tradition of nudist beaches shows us the flawed glory of the human body. It should not be sexualised

The veteran German leftist politician Gregor Gysi wants his compatriots to take off more of their clothes. He is angry that the long German tradition of therapeutic nudity in the open air is being undermined. Only this summer the nudist portion of one of the beaches in Berlin was brutally shortened by the authorities, and the mostly elderly users are furious. They are right. Mr Gysi argues that public nudity can be much less erotic than a bikini and that the beaches he remembers his mother taking him to in his East German youth were places where women of all shapes and ages could enjoy their bodies for their own sake.

It was, he says, the “pornographic gaze” of westerners after reunification that destroyed the pleasure of nude bathing, which had always been more widespread in East Germany and – he claims – something promoted more by women than by men. Of course the east was then a tyranny in which there was little frivolity or choice on offer. For all but the most confidently young and gorgeous it is more fun to choose a bathing costume than to make do with what nature has provided, so in a consumer culture this is now what people do.

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The Guardian view on oral history: the power of witness | Editorial

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:42:08 GMT2017-08-10T18:42:08Z

Great historic moments are brought to life with vivid authority by the personal testimony of those who were there

This August is a month of anniversaries – the 100th year since the opening barrage was fired at Passchendaele, and 70 years since Indian independence and the terrible trauma of partition. And the narrative of each historic event has been illustrated by the voices of people, mostly long dead, who lived through it. The magical power, the tingle, of hearing the authentic voice, catching each pause, the particular pitch of bravado and the tone of remembered horror: this is not the history of document and textbook, it is not the word of money or power; it is what happened to working men and women.

Oral history, the collection of the reminiscences of ordinary people as a valued part of the story of a time or an event told from the perspective of those who were caught up in it rather than from the view of the elite that orchestrated it, is younger than either of the two anniversaries commemorated this month. It has developed only since the 1950s, dependent on portable recording equipment and an appetite for a new, democratic history pioneered by Charles Parker’s radio ballads. He, with the folk musicians and activists Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, recorded the working lives of fishermen and steelworkers, railmen and miners, and the women who worked alongside them. They produced a series of radio documentaries quite unlike anything the BBC had ever produced before: a mix of voice and song with nothing else to break the spell of time and place.

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The Guardian view on North Korea: careless talk costs credibility, and perhaps lives | Editorial

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 19:09:55 GMT2017-08-09T19:09:55Z

Donald Trump’s warnings of ‘fire and fury’ will only make it harder to tackle the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme

It is not reassuring when the US secretary of state has to reassure his country that it is not on the brink of war. “I think Americans should sleep well at night,” Rex Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday. He was playing down the incendiary words of his president, who had promised “fire and fury like the world has never seen” in response not to an attack but to mere threats from North Korea. It was “language designed to send a strong message” to Pyongyang, Mr Tillerson said.

A few hours later, the defense secretary, James Mattis, weighed in: North Korea should cease “actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people … [it] would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates”. Starker words than Mr Tillerson’s, but similarly designed to shift towards a more traditional message of deterrence: actions (not just threats) have consequences. Most likely this storm will soon pass. The armistice has held since 1953. The dire warnings after China and others joined the nuclear club proved unfounded. The previous North Korea crises have fizzled out; not least because nuclear weapons concentrate most minds.

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The Guardian view on South Africa: Zuma goes on – but at what cost? | Editorial

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 18:16:57 GMT2017-08-08T18:16:57Z

The president has survived yet another vote of no confidence. But he has damaged his party as well as his country

Jacob Zuma’s shortcomings cannot shock anyone; nor can his ability to survive them. Since his election as president of South Africa in 2009, he has ridden out criminal investigations and corruption allegations (he may still face several hundred such charges). Last year the top court ordered him to repay the country for lavish upgrades to his home, and the then ombudsman warned of “state capture” by business interests. His sacking of the respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March was followed by further revelations of links between his family and allies and the Gupta business empire, appearing to detail improper dealings in government contracts.

Yet he has seen off multiple no-confidence votes; on some reckonings, Tuesday’s was the eighth of his nine lives. This time, MPs were allowed to vote in secret: dozens of ANC members rebelled, more than expected – but not enough to oust him.

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The Guardian view on slavery today: product of greed, prejudice and war | Editorial

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 19:05:14 GMT2017-08-07T19:05:14Z

There are more people enslaved now than over four centuries of slave-trading. Little wonder as it generates 25 times the profits made two centuries ago. We must act to end this trade in misery

It is a terrible and cautionary tale. A young British woman gets duped into a modelling assignment in Milan and is then kidnapped by a gang who it is claimed wanted to auction her to the highest bidder for sex. Behind the tabloid headlines appears a sobering reminder that slavery has not gone away. This appears a case of an attempted trafficking of a UK citizen for sexual exploitation. It is also not a typical story of modern day slavery. Today’s slave tales are about the subjugation of vulnerable, often poor, people who lack basic protections afforded by a functioning legal system. Despite being outlawed in almost every nation, slavery remains a business – and the business of slavery is thriving. It is estimated that between 21 million and 46 million people are enslaved around the world. By comparison about 13 million people were captured and sold as slaves by professional traders between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Slaves today are those coerced to work or to sell their bodies or to part with their organs. They are not strictly chattel or property. Their freedom is constrained. They can be said to be effectively “owned” by an employer and treated as a commodity. They can be construction workers in the Persian Gulf, girls from Nepal trafficked into prostitution in India, or fishermen on Thai ships. Many are young children. Prostitution rings are a form of slavery. Slavery is found in homes, even in the UK, that employ domestic workers.

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Will 2017 be Rupert Murdoch's summer of despair? | Jill Abramson

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:00:36 GMT2017-08-16T10:00:36Z

While the mounting sexual misconduct cases are problematic, the shameful Seth Rich story that Fox propagated could be the coup de grace for the Sky deal

  • Jill Abramson is a Guardian columnist

If 2016 was Rupert Murdoch’s summer of discontent, this could be the summer of his despair. It was a little more than a year ago that the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal erupted. Then came a cascade of related sexual misconduct lawsuits against various Fox on-air personalities and executives. Ailes died earlier this year.

The future of Murdoch’s media empire and his company, 21st Century Fox, could depend on the pending approval of his $12bn takeover of Sky News. But the deal must clear Ofcom, the British regulatory authority over broadcasting. The endemic allegations of sexual misconduct inside of Fox may, justifiably, have caused Ofcom to think twice about approving the deal and giving the Murdochs greater global reach over the news.

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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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Trump was sleazy with a reporter. Her awkward laugh felt all too familiar | Jessica Valenti

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:50:11 GMT2017-06-29T10:50:11Z

Women know from experience that, if a man says something sexual or inappropriate, calling him out is not always the best move

If there’s one thing women know how to do well, it’s deftly handle lecherous men. That’s why it didn’t surprise me when reporter Caitriona Perry laughed and smiled as Donald Trump made inappropriate comments toward her in the Oval Office. She was doing what we’ve all done, so many times over – trying to defuse an uncomfortable situation.

Trump, who was on the phone with the Irish prime minister at the time, asked Perry to come toward his desk while he called her “beautiful” and remarked on her “nice smile”. He then said to newly elected Leo Varadkar: “I bet she treats you well.”

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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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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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