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Editorials | The Guardian

Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice

Published: Sat, 18 Nov 2017 03:02:34 GMT2017-11-18T03:02:34Z

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

The Guardian view on climate talks: Brexit’s heavy weather | Editorial

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 19:14:34 GMT2017-11-17T19:14:34Z

If Brexit goes ahead, Britain will need to shape a green politics with devolution and social justice at its core. And make sure that politicians cannot renege on our international obligations

The tragedy of climate change, as the governor of the Bank of England has put it, is one of the horizon. The catastrophic impacts of altering the atmosphere impose an enormous cost on future generations that the current generation creates but has no incentive to fix. To focus the minds of today’s decision-makers the 2015 Paris agreement sent a clear signal that the era of fossil-fuel-powered growth was coming to an end. The signatories agreed to limit global warming to no more than a two-degree celsius rise, the threshold of safety, beyond which climate change is likely to become irreversible. The real genius of Paris is not that it is rooted in science but its timing and its structure. While the 2C target was binding, the national targets agreed by each nation were not. Those non-binding targets do not add up to a 2C world – they would, if followed to the letter, lead us to a 3C one, unthinkable in terms of the devastation it would cause. So upping them was part of the point of this year’s UN climate meeting in Bonn, which closed on Friday, and will be the main issue at next year’s, and the year after next.

The US under Donald Trump reneged on the deal before this year’s talks began. There is some solace in the fact that Washington cannot formally withdraw until 4 November 2020, the day after the next presidential election. The rest of the world, rightly, is moving on. Given what is at stake, it is worth pausing to consider where – and how quickly – the globe is going. Backwards – if one considers that China will almost single-handedly cause global emissions of carbon dioxide to grow in 2017. Canada and Britain, meanwhile, began a new 19-nation alliance in Bonn aimed at phasing out the use of coal power by 2030. This sounds like an important move until one realises that members of the “powering past coal alliance” account for less than 3% of coal use worldwide. Germany, which is not a member, held the climate talks an hour’s drive from a village that is being demolished to make way for a coalmine. These green talks, which are fundamentally about ethical concerns, are nevertheless becoming more like discussions about trade. In the case of climate change these involve transitions from one way of producing, distributing and consuming energy to another, cleaner way of doing so. It would be good if this could be seen only as a process of mutual support. However, as the talks in Bonn show, they are also hard-nosed negotiations which revolve around the exchange of concessions.

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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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The Guardian view on the austerity budgets: end the social and economic failure | Editorial

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 19:44:10 GMT2017-11-16T19:44:10Z

Labour successfully made the case that tax-and-spend policies will revive the UK’s flatlining economy – and even some Tories now agree. Unfortunately the Treasury remains wedded to a failed ideology of spending cutsWhen Philip Hammond stands up to deliver his first autumn budget next week, he will be acutely aware that it could also be his last. Recent chancellors bestrode the political scene and their colleagues were in no doubt that their fortunes rested on the whims of Treasury. This is not Mr Hammond’s fate. In the run up to this year’s events it is clear he is an isolated figure, upstaged in cabinet by rivals who want his job and challenged in the media by ministers unafraid to question him over spending restraint. The Treasury has briefed against the prime minister – whose instincts were momentarily against state-shrinking, me-first Thatcherism – over her grasp of economics. The chancellor remains in place because his boss seems weaker than he is and because the economy is facing a Brexit-sized threat. It is not because of Mr Hammond’s political acumen. He has taken no initiative over a major policy, nor does he appear to have a substantial agenda beyond blunting the worst impacts of Britain’s foolish charge out of the European Union. Mr Hammond is a “small c” Conservative politician: he is in favour of the status quo. That explains his lonely and reasonable attempt to stave off a hasty, chaotic Brexit. It also explains his lonely and unreasonable attempt to resist the retreat from a programme of damaging and unnecessary fiscal austerity.The public is fed up with seven years of cheese-paring in the name of fiscal rectitude and promises of growth that never materialises. While it is not unusual for the run-up to a budget to see pressure for more public spending, there have been stark warnings from the head of the NHS, headteachers and counter-terrorism police about whether the arms of the state can survive further rounds of cuts. The human cost is becoming all too apparent: academics say that reductions in health and social care spending since 2010 can be linked to nearly 120,000 excess deaths. If allowed to continue with a programme of welfare cuts, by 2022 child poverty will rise to record levels. Austerity has not just been a social failure, it’s been an economic one too. The policies pursued since 2010 left the country deeper in debt, with productivity and wages flatlining. Weak demand almost certainly had a role in deterring firms from investing and innovating. As the Bank of England drily noted, the pace at which the economy can grow without generating inflation has fallen. Lower output will push up forecasts for public borrowing. Mr Hammond’s target to balance the books by the middle of the next decade, requiring even more spending cuts, should be junked along with a failed ideology. Continue reading...[...]

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The Guardian view on Twitter’s blue ticks: a conflict of interest | Editorial

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 19:14:15 GMT2017-11-16T19:14:15Z

Social media companies must accept that their duties to democracy rival their commercial incentives

In the early days of the digital revolution, it seemed the old hierarchies might be eliminated. The lone blogger could challenge the media giant. The idealism did not last long. Old corporates learned how to exploit the new market; new tech companies acquired huge empires, with their own hierarchies. People with more “friends” and “followers” have more impact. More significantly, the people who run Facebook and Twitter wield phenomenal and mostly invisible power over their realms.

Sometimes, the new digital overlords are forced out of the shadows. So it was this week when Twitter rescinded “blue tick” verification from accounts belonging to far-right activists, including Jason Kessler, a US white supremacist, and Tommy Robinson, founder of the English Defence League. Those who have been “de-verified” complain that Twitter is subjecting them to political discrimination. Twitter says that verification, designed to show that high-profile accounts belonged to the named owner and not impostors, had come to be interpreted as approval. The company didn’t want to be seen giving that kudos to hate-mongers.

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The Guardian view on Zimbabwe: the Crocodile bites Mugabe | Editorial

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 19:44:15 GMT2017-11-15T19:44:15Z

Robert Mugabe vowed to stay in power until he was 100. But his decision to favour his unpopular wife Grace and sack his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as ‘the Crocodile’, sparked Wednesday’s military intervention

“We wish to make it abundantly clear this is not a military takeover of government,” announced the uniformed officer who popped up on Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster in the early hours of Wednesday. President Robert Mugabe was in military custody and tanks were rolling through Harare’s streets. In a fluid, confusing and opaque situation, the fact that a coup was taking place was one of the few certainties. But only the head of the African Union dared venture near the four-letter word, suggesting “it seems like a coup”.

The military has indicated that its power seizure is, by design, short-lived – a “bloodless correction”, in one splendid euphemism. The man they are removing scorns democracy; his heir apparent – his 52-year-old wife – looked a great deal worse than him. Mr Mugabe’s 37 years in power appear to be over – even if he still clings to his title for a while, and even if he remains within his gilded cage, the presidential residence, rather than going into exile. But if all goes as expected, he will be replaced by another politician, his former vice‑president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, rather than a general. For reasons good and bad, people hope to work with the new leadership. Calling this a coup would complicate engagement, and the African Union and Southern African Development Community would have to suspend Zimbabwe as a member. So internationally, calls for calm, restraint and dialogue dominated.

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The Guardian view on ‘the mutineers’: protecting parliament | Editorial

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 19:43:50 GMT2017-11-15T19:43:50Z

They are presented as a threat to democracy. But all MPs who challenge the government play a part in strengthening it

The “mutineers”, the 15 Conservative MPs pictured on the front of Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph, looked more like new members of a golf club than a clique determined to undermine the will of the people. But this was not meant as a joke, and it had consequences that were not in the least amusing. The 15, all of them potential rebels against the government’s decision to write the EU exit date on to the face of the withdrawal bill, were the victims of another disreputable move in the same bullying spirit as the Daily Mail’s infamous “Crush the saboteurs” headline. The paranoid Brexit-supporting media persists in trying to entrench the idea that parliamentary scrutiny of government proposals is not the core duty of MPs but in fact a lightly veiled attempt to undermine democracy. In that vein, it was rightly condemned by ministers, including Steve Baker, who is piloting the bill through its committee stage in the Commons. It was also, although rather less roundly, criticised by Theresa May at prime minister’s questions, who said the government was “listening carefully”. None of that was enough to stop at least one of those named, Anna Soubry, receiving threats sufficiently alarming to report to the police.

There is not yet a date for the vote on the amendment introducing the EU departure deadline, but with a handful more rebels (the latest figure is 21), the government faces defeat. Ministers’ difficulty in explaining why it was necessary to write the date into the bill, when it is implicit in the two-year timescale dictated by article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, only added to speculation that it was intended as a piece of performative legislation, to send reassuring signals to committed Brexiters that the transition period, conceded by Mrs May in her Florence speech, would not stretch out into in an infinite period in limbo. It is true that it clarifies exactly when the so-called Henry VIII powers, which give ministers the ability to change the law without parliamentary scrutiny, will come into effect. But that slight improvement must be set against the fear, expressed most powerfully in Tuesday’s debate by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, that the date might instead become a dangerous barrier to flexibility just as the negotiations approach their climax.

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The Guardian view on Theresa May and Russia: keep pouring the sunshine | Editorial

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 19:29:20 GMT2017-11-14T19:29:20Z

The prime minister’s annual speech on foreign affairs might have highlighted Brexit or the disruptive effect of Trump. But it was vital to call out Russia’s propaganda war too

Britain’s prime minister makes a sharp and critical speech about Russian attempts to undermine the UK’s institutions. In one sense, not much new there. This is what British prime ministers do, and have done for decades, before, during and after the cold war. This is the UK’s default setting. So when Theresa May made the prime minister’s annual speech to the lord mayor’s banquet this week, a speech traditionally about UK foreign policy, it is not entirely surprising that she used it to mount an attack on Vladimir Putin and his propaganda war against the west. The real surprise might have been if she had done otherwise.

Mrs May pulled no punches. She said the alliances that maintain the global rules-based order must be defended. (It was less clear from her speech in what way, if at all, Brexit contributes to this worthy effort.) But the chief threat to the rules-based order was Russia. Mr Putin’s actions threaten that order, she said, in Crimea, in the Donbass, and through cyber-espionage and disruption. Russia has violated the national airspace of several countries, meddled in elections, hacked the Danish defence ministry and the German Bundestag. In the most striking lines of the speech, Mrs May said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing.”

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The Guardian view on the museums review: where’s the cash? | Editorial

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 19:28:39 GMT2017-11-14T19:28:39Z

Museums are at the heart of national and local culture. But they have been starved of funding for a decade

There are obvious things that lend a place its identity: the cathedral or the town hall, or the canal and the old warehouses. And then there are the identifiers that are often overlooked, yet which contain the essence of a locality. The local museum embraces the entirety of a particular human experience. From the Romans – often from earlier times – the marks made by man and woman, their loves and their wars, their beliefs and their work, their idea of beauty and their way of birth and death and all the stages in between are represented in artefacts that have once had meaning to someone who passed through that place. These keepers of the past – from the Derwent pencil museum in Keswick to Cornwall’s museum of withcraft – are woven out of their area’s identity. But those funded by their local authority have spent the last decade locked in a fight for resources, where councils who must keep the heating on in care homes cast jealous eyes over the assets represented by their local cultural institutions.

On Tuesday the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published its Mendoza review of museums, which was commissioned in 2016 partly to address the funding crisis in the museum sector. It was less than two years ago, but it was a different era, before the referendum, before the election, when it seemed the economy might finally be emerging from recession. In this much less optimistic age, its recommendations reflect admiration for the role the sector plays in the life of both local and national cultural life, without being able to make any big offer on the single most important challenge that, in this tenth year of steeply restricted funding, almost every museum is facing: the pressure on the core funding that pays for the curators’ and the storerooms and the permanent displays. When there is always a tension between the false choice of “essential services” and the apparent luxury of cultural institutions, the review has the virtue of making the argument for the real value that museums represent in return for what – compared with, say, the bill for adult social care – is a tiny investment.

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The Guardian view on school funding: pay fair | Editorial

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 19:04:31 GMT2017-11-13T19:04:31Z

The worst intergenerational unfairness starts with 18-year-olds leaving school without the right qualifications through no fault of their own

A well-aimed, well-founded campaign from the chalk face of the school system can put the chancellor under more pressure than any political assault. Jules White, a headteacher from West Sussex, has been coordinating a letter backed by up to 5,000 fellow heads of primary and secondary schools. They are all from counties that are at the lower end of the per-pupil funding league: they stretch from Cornwall to Cumbria, and on Tuesday they will call on the chancellor, to point out exactly what the Department for Education’s new national funding formula will mean in practice to their budgets. Conservative chancellors are often swift to dismiss such protest as producer interest, but if this is producer interest, it is what producers should be interested in – and what any parent would want their child’s teachers to be campaigning for: the resources available to the children that go to their schools. In the summer, more money was found to smooth the introduction of a scheme that, when it was shown to then prime minister David Cameron, was rejected instantly as an electoral disaster in the making. In fact this is a reform that is long overdue. It needs to work. For that reason alone getting it right should be high in Philip Hammond’s priorities, as he sweats through the final days of budget preparation.

The new national funding formula is meant to end the unintended unfairness of some schools getting very much more cash per pupil than other similar schools in a different part of England. It ends local councils’ power to use their own formula to fund schools, and it is meant to stop the postcode lottery. Yet because of the way the system tries to limit the losses any one school can be hit with, the new formula will still see some schools getting up to 60% less than a similar school in a better-funded borough. And many schools are already struggling financially because their budgets have not allowed for rises in costs like pensions and national insurance contributions, or inflation. Nor was there extra cash for a 1% teachers’ pay rise. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that schools are set to lose nearly £2bn by 2020.

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The Guardian view on money: enough is enough | Editorial

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 19:04:20 GMT2017-11-13T19:04:20Z

Could anyone possible deserve a salary of £217m a year?

Denise Coates is probably the most successful entrepreneur you have never heard of. She started a business, Bet365, in a Portakabin in a Stoke car park 17 years ago which is now the second largest bookmaker in Britain and one of the largest online operations in the world. She and her family, who still live in Stoke, are now worth between them perhaps half as much as the annual economic output of everyone else in the town. But is she – is anyone – really worth the £217m salary she paid herself this year? That made her Britain’s highest-paid executive by an astonishing margin: the previous record salary had been held by the advertising man Martin Sorrell, who was paid a comparatively pathetic £48.1m last year. For comparison, the chairman of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, made only $22.3m – and by far the greatest part of that was in stock options. Cristiano Ronaldo, the best-paid sportsman in the world, is arguably overpaid for what he does, with an estimated annual income four times as much as the banker – but that isn’t even half Ms Coates’s.

By all accounts she is a modest and decent person. She built the business from nothing, through hard work and a willingness to make bets rather more sensible than those of her customers. She does not represent the most rapacious and damaging forms of the industry, the fixed-odds betting terminals. Unlike her rivals, she has not moved operations abroad to dodge tax. But to take nearly half the year’s profits as salary for herself is a cause for bogglement. It outrages any egalitarian instinct. There comes a point where the sheer quantity of money defeats the imagination. How much work would be needed to spend all that, and, to spend it all again next year? Her success makes a serious point about inequality. If anyone deserves to be so rich, she does. Yet instinct tells us no one does, and instinct here is right.

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The Guardian view on homophobia in church schools: let a thousand tutus bloom | Editorial

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 19:04:10 GMT2017-11-13T19:04:10Z

A sensible report on letting all children be themselves in school should not become an occasion for transphobic hysteria

The religious use of the word “Tutu” used to be a reference to the archbishop of Cape Town and tireless campaigner against injustice, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This week a “tutu”, if you read the rightwing papers, appears to be the compulsory dress for all boys at Church of England primary schools, along with perhaps a tiara to say their prayers in. To judge from the fuss, the end times are upon us. The Church of England matters in education. It runs about a quarter of all the primary schools in England, which may be a scandal in itself. But the latest fuss is not a real cause for scandal.

It stems from a report on how to combat bullying in schools, which appeared three years ago, and was updated at the weekend to cover the bullying of children for being gay, bisexual, or trans. The passage on tutus and tiaras comes in the context of childhood as a time for imaginative play, in which children may very well explore all kinds of roles and identities. The whole report is saturated with a desire to make children feel welcome and valued for themselves, whatever their family background or orientation may be.

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The Guardian view on the trade bill: bad law; bad plan | Editorial

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 18:28:00 GMT2017-11-12T18:28:00Z

Another shoddy power grab exposes ministers’ contempt for parliament and fear of proper Brexit debate

The practical implications of Brexit escaped much scrutiny when Britain voted to leave the EU. But the capacity of British ministers to strike trade deals with foreign states has long been central to Conservative Eurosceptic ideology. Reclamation of that particular portion of “sovereignty” was more important to many Tory leavers even than immigration control, although that worked more powerfully on public opinion. Liam Fox, international trade secretary, is meant to be lining up a banquet of deals for British exporters to feast on post-Brexit. In practice, not much can be achieved on that front before the UK’s end-state arrangements with the EU are settled. But a legal framework is needed in advance. That is the function of the trade bill that was published last week. It attracted little attention when Westminster was distracted by other scandals, but it is a document of paramount importance.

Like the withdrawal bill that continues its passage through the Commons this week, Dr Fox’s trade blueprint relies heavily on “Henry VIII powers” – effectively granting ministers the power to write law behind parliament’s back. It envisages an “appropriate authority” implementing legal changes and future agreements “by regulations”. That is a coded way of saying that Dr Fox reserves the right to do whatever he likes without pesky MPs getting in the way.

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The Guardian view on white nationalism: a rising danger | Editorial

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 18:27:32 GMT2017-11-12T18:27:32Z

Almost a century after the end of ‘the war to end all wars’, Europe is in danger of forgetting lessons from the 20th century

In Britain, 11 November is known as Armistice Day, but in Poland the same anniversary of the end of the first world war is remembered as Independence Day. In the west it is a memory of futile victory, but in the east it commemorates a moment of triumph, although one that would be followed by still more crushing defeat. The bright ideals of 1918 were built around a romantic conception of nationalism. Eastern Europe was to be freed from the multinational empires that had ruled it from Vienna and St Petersburg, and in their place would rise a host of little nations from Finland to Yugoslavia, to live in brotherhood and prosperity under the aegis of the League of Nations. It was a patchwork that would within 25 years disintegrate into the most terrible war – and genocide – of European history, followed by ethnic cleansings of the survivors all across eastern Europe as the old nations were reconstituted as homogenous prison camps.

The end of the second world war gave rise in the west to a very different ideal of nationhood. The European Union was built on the hope that national boundaries might become very much less salient, preserved as wrinkles on the gentle face of history rather than its fixed expression; and after the fall of the Berlin Wall it seemed that this pattern must in time spread east, even into the former Yugoslavia. If there was one lesson that every European – and not just Jewish ones – had learned from the first half of the 20th century, it was “never again”.

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The Observer view on the family unit | Observer editorial

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:05:40 GMT2017-11-12T00:05:40Z

Social and demographic shifts have profound implications for the way we live at home

Flying the nest has long been regarded as a key cultural marker of the transition to adulthood. A century ago, it might have been marked by a young person entering domestic service or leaving home to get married in their late teens. Fifty years ago, people came of age in rosy times of full employment and cheap housing, making the ultimate step towards independence eminently affordable. In recent decades, growing numbers of young people have moved away from home via university. But is this marker starting to lose its salience?

New figures from the Office for National Statistics last week show one in four 20- to 34-year-olds is living at home with their parents; up from one in five 20 years ago. For young men, it’s even higher: one in three lives in the parental home.

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The Observer view of Britain’s shambolic Brexit negotiations | Observer editorial

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 20:41:58 GMT2017-11-11T20:41:58Z

It is in Britain and Europe’s best interests to stop the clock on our withdrawal before yet more damage is done

A huge conflict may be brewing in the Middle East. This time, it is not about Iraq, Syria or Israel and Palestine. It is about the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s leading Sunni and Shia Muslim powers, and it could potentially suck in all the above countries, plus Russia and the US. The Trump administration has sent senior envoys to Riyadh and other capitals. Moscow is deeply involved. Last week, Emmanuel Macron made an urgent visit to Saudi Arabia. The French president, speaking for Europe, stressed the need for stability after Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, precipitously resigned.

Related: Theresa May faces defeat by MPs demanding vote on final Brexit deal

Related: Restaurants fear Brexit will turn boom to bust

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The Guardian view on the Paradise Papers: not all is lost | Editorial

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 18:59:00 GMT2017-11-10T18:59:00Z

The tax avoidance revelations have unleashed a demand for reform and social justice. Only a rash government would ignore it

Bono owns a bit of a Lithuanian shopping centre. The Queen finances a whisker of BrightHouse, the household goods business accused of exploiting its customers. Lewis Hamilton dodged VAT on his private jet with the finesse of an F1 champion. These are just a few of the headline details that have emerged this week out of the Paradise Papers, a leak of 13.4m files from the offshore law firm Appleby. They show the world’s super rich employing legions of accountants to legally avoid paying the tax they owe to the country where they live. And all over the world, jaws have dropped in astonishment.

The Guardian was one of 95 media organisations with whom the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shared data obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The papers are a reminder of how erratic and sometimes downright obstructive the British government has been in its attitude to reforming domestic taxes, and in supporting international attempts to tighten up transparency and accountability rules. Less than a fortnight out from a budget that is set to maintain the cap on public spending, the discovery of so many who are so willing to flout the rules by which most of us live has provoked the kind of outrage that should be a watershed.

Related: Contact the Guardian securely

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The Guardian view on Lebanon: great power rivalry in a tiny state | Editorial

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 18:58:31 GMT2017-11-10T18:58:31Z

The regional contest for influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia is pushing Lebanon into a new phase of instability, with Israel unlikely to remain a spectator

Lebanon, “the house of many mansions”, has endured an apparently endless series of wars and crises. Now its foundations are shaking once again. The tectonic plates have shifted anew with Iran’s rise, and now this tiny, fragile state is at the heart of the struggle between the two great regional powers and other major players.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately after days of tensions that broke through the surface last weekend with the shock resignation of the prime minister, Saad Hariri, who blamed Iranian influence and said he feared assassination. That he made his uncomfortable statement from Riyadh – and remains there – reinforced the assumption that he had been strong-armed into doing so. On the same night came the announcement that a missile had been shot down close to Riyadh. Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, but Saudi officials quickly drew the line to Hezbollah and its patron Iran for this “act of war”. There are fears the standoff could escalate into an outright military clash.

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The Guardian view on Trump in China: a bromance unlikely to run smooth | Editorial

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 19:27:04 GMT2017-11-09T19:27:04Z

The US president has been gushing about the Beijing stretch of his Asian tour. But strains in the bilateral relationship are growing with China’s ambitions

Mao once observed that a revolution is not a dinner party. Neither are great power relations – even if they manifest temporarily as a lavish meal in the Forbidden City. Wednesday’s feast for Donald Trump was the first time the palace in central Beijing had hosted a banquet for a foreign leader since the Communist party took power in 1949. Beijing, adept at ladling on such flattery, pitched this leg of the US president’s Asia tour as a “state visit-plus” and arranged a greeting party of children to cry: “Welcome to China! I love you!”

It seems to have worked – for now. The visit’s arrangements were magnificent, incredible, beautiful, impressive, terrific and unforgettable, Mr Trump enthused. His description of his “great chemistry” with Xi Jinping – a “very special man” to whom he has “an incredibly warm” feeling – made it sound like a fully fledged bromance. (He too was presumably soft-soaping – but which leader seems more easily swayed?) The man who accused China of raping the US economy and promised to label it a currency manipulator on his first day in office (he still hasn’t) said the trade relationship was unfair: but he blamed his predecessors, not Beijing. He tweeted that he is looking forward to building “an even STRONGER relationship”.

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The Guardian view on data protection: privacy is not enough | Editorial

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 19:25:46 GMT2017-11-09T19:25:46Z

Rights over our personal data are only a start. The imbalances of power online must be tackled in other ways too

We entered the age of surveillance capitalism blindly over the last decade, without understanding what we were doing to ourselves, and almost without the conceptual tools to understand it either. Now we have woken up to the situation where a handful of giant companies have grown unfathomably rich by processing and then selling on our personal data. We are increasingly conscious of all the ways in which the big data companies know more about us than we know ourselves, and certainly more than we would willingly expose to anyone. Social networks have come to be seen as a way to turn personal information into money, but the data is yours and the money is some squillionaire’s in Silicon Valley.

The data protection bill, which is back in the Lords now, is an attempt to redress this imbalance, or at least to give teeth to the idea that we own our own data. It originates in the EU’s general data protection regulation, which will become law in 2018. We are going to have to adopt the data protection regime of our neighbours if we want to do business with them – 75% of the UK’s data transfers are with EU member states.

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The Guardian view on pesticides: give bees a chance | Editorial

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 19:25:33 GMT2017-11-09T19:25:33Z

It may be hard to tie the neonicotinoid group of chemicals directly to the global bee decline but they do cause widespread harm. A ban is the right call

Michael Gove, the leading Brexiter who’s now in charge of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is a natural iconoclast, sometimes a valuable characteristic in government. His education revolution left a damaging legacy of unaccountability and underfunding. But in his year as justice secretary, he won fans across the prisons sector for his plans for radical reform. They were subsequently disappointed to find there was little to show for them after he left. Now he is ploughing up old Defra policies and on Thursday he made his first significant intervention. Writing on the Guardian website, he announced support for the EU’s plan for a total ban on the neonicotinoid group of pesticides. Evidence has been steadily growing of the debilitating harm these chemicals, the most widely used pesticides in the world, cause to pollinators, particularly bees. A paper published in Science last month reported that three quarters of honey from around the world contained some neonicotinoids; they appear to linger in the soil, can leach into waterways, and – through contaminated pollen – spread further than intended. Supporting the EU ban will antagonise the farming lobby and Mr Gove’s Brexiter fanbase. But it offers a future that gives bees a chance.

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