United Nations does not currently enjoy the best reputation. In fact, it has become an object of dislike across the political spectrum. Only recently Melanie Phillips has called it ‘morally bankrupt’ in her belief that it kowtows to dictators and despots. Founded in 1945 as a way of both preserving and enforcing peace, the United Nations was designed by the future permanent Security Council members – the five policemen of the UK, USA, Russia, France and China - to fix problems where its predecessor the League of Nations failed. It was the league’s inability to check the ambitions of Italy, Germany and Japan that led it to be seen as a byword for impotence in terms of international peacekeeping. The UN is now being characterised in much the same way, seen as toothless, impotent and even irrelevant. However, like the league before it, the UN record is not one of unmitigated failure.
Plenty has changed since the Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury in 1948. The Windrush Generation have transformed Britain: they've lived, worked, and married here; they've paid their taxes; they've woven their rich threads into our shared cultural tapestry. The Windrush Generation didn't just transform the fields of music, gastronomy and culture; some of them had already bled for Britain on the fields of Europe, Africa, and Asia during the World Wars. David Lammy's powerful speech in the Commons stated that 'despite slavery, despite colonisation, 25,000 Caribbeans served in the First World War and Second World War alongside British troops. When my parents and their generation arrived in this country under the Nationality Act of 1948, they arrived here as British citizens.’
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I’m sick to death of concentrating on tweets by left-wingers—and yet here I am again, mostly leftists. Why? Maybe it’s because I dohold the Left to a higher standard than the Right, not in spite of being a socialist, but because I am a socialist. We’re the Left! We’re supposed to be on the right side of history, be the forces of progress, the movers of justice, the users of reason and the empirical. We should always hold ourselves to a higher standard—or else history will not. It also goes without saying, that when we have shut down our facilities of self-criticism in the past, very bad stuff has tended to happen.
The homelessness epidemic faced in developed countries has been described as a humanitarian crisis unfolding in our streets. There’s a direct correlation between the rising cost of living in cities and the severity of homelessness. This crisis has reached a point where it’s drawn comparisons to poverty in developing nations, as homelessness jumps to record-breaking levels in the U.S. and further afield. If we look at Los Angeles alone, municipal leaders have revealed that their surveys counted over 55,000 homeless people in the area — a 25 percent increase from last year. California and Washington state homelessness numbers have also been rising, and Hawaii is up by over 30 percent since 2007. Alameda County’s figures increased by 40 percent over 2015, and Seattle and San Diego’s numbers are also much higher.
President Trump echoed his plan Monday to meet with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in two months or so. “We’ve been in touch with North Korea; we’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June," Trump told reporters before a Cabinet meeting Monday. As Trump pressures other countries to cut off economic aid to North Korea until it gives up nuclear weapons, Trump said that "I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties" at the prospective meeting. "Hopefully, we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea," Trump said. Trump spoke after weekend reports that Kim had pledged to discuss denuclearization, though analysts said it was unclear whether he was referring to just his country or to both North and South Korea.
More people than ever are devaluing Britain’s most popular, hallmark product — an overpriced home — by accepting discounted offers for their flats and houses. Brits should hold the line. Many will, thank goodness, but the ones who don’t undermine the country and London most of all. We must do our best to prevent market democracy discovering the proper value of our homes. There are already big problems at the top end of the London housing market. Hundreds of luxury homes, often complete with swimming pool, gym, and cinema, are lying empty. Hikes in Stamp Duty, uncertainty over Brexit, and the recent spotlight shone on tax havens and money laundering may be putting off buyers. Oh well. The property slowdown is not a national rout — yet — but prices are “moving South” which means “bad” in the lingo of the City of London and, to be fair, many parts of Northern England.
It is probably one of the silliest phrases used in politics. Whether it be votes at 16, trans rights, foreign policy, it replaces an argument. Usually, it is Corbyn supporters proclaiming their man their man to be on it throughout his career. It is ‘the right side of history’. The righteousness presupposes its victory. If only history worked that way. Unfortunately, there is only what happened and what didn’t happen. Following events in Syria, it will be phrase that is used much in the next few weeks and months. The chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town in Douma was horrific. Some 500 were sent to medical facilities. We have no idea as yet the wider loss of life and injuries. The pictures of those suffering or dead leave a scar on our our consciousness. If they don’t, they should.
No-one seems able to agree when the British Empire began. It could have been when the Normans invaded Ireland in the 12th Century. Or, perhaps, when Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland in 1583. Or maybe when Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement outside of the British Isles since Calais, was founded in 1607. However, there is no doubt over when it ended: 30 June 1997, when Britain handed Hong Kong over to Chinese rule. Yet, this was not the end of Britain’s connection to her former colonies, particularly Hong Kong. Since the handover of Hong Kong, there have been consistent concerns about China flouting the rules set by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Lord Patten, the last British governor of the province, warned last year that Britain was selling her honour for Chinese trade deals by ignoring its treatment of Hong Kong
This Week on Planet Trump: Syrian Chemical Attack Causes a Rift with Putin and Warning for ‘Animal Assad’
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the possibility of meeting at the White House during a phone call last month, the White House confirmed on Monday. "As the President himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the 'not-too-distant future' at a number of potential venues, including the White House," White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement. Shah's comment came after Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Putin, said Trump "offered to hold the first meeting in Washington, in the White House."
The website for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is supposed to be a resource for people from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation. Until recently this was the case, but it appears that the current administration is trying it’s very best to make anyone who identifies as anything other than heterosexual invisible. The most recent attack comes in the form of removing a page from the women’s HHS website — specifically, the lesbian and bisexual resources page. The lesbian and bisexual resources page vanished from the women’s HHS website sometime between September and October of 2017, though the disappearance has just gone public. The page, when live, had information that specifically related to female LGBT individuals, offering answers about the kinds of health risks that lesbian and bisexual individuals face.
This Week on Planet Trump: President Acts Tough on Russia and Guns, but Plays to his Base on Immigration
President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats the US identified as intelligence agents and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, the most forceful action Trump has taken against Russia to date. Of those being expelled, 48 of the alleged intelligence agents work at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 are posted at the United Nations in New York, senior administration officials said. Trump took the action after the US joined the United Kingdom in accusing Russia of attempting earlier this month to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter using a nerve agent in the town of Salisbury, England. The action comes just 11 days after the Trump administration leveled the first sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Yep people, yet more Judenhass. It just keeps coming and coming. If it’s not Corbyn attempting to deflect from “accidentally” endorsing a blatantly mural depicting Jewish caricatures (even though he knew exactly which mural it was), it’s Louis Farrakhan quoting Billy Graham to support his conspiracy of Jewish power, barely a couple of weeks after Women’s March coordinators attempted to defend him. Antisemitism fuelled the pan-Germanist ideology that led to both World Wars, fed into Cold War hysteria on both sides of the Iron Curtain, has ended up defining the vengeful politics of the Arab world (which in turn buttresses the worst of Israeli politics), and infests the critique of modern capitalism.
With the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party has become - in numbers terms - the largest political party in Western Europe, with over 600,000 people signed up as Labour members. It is commendable that thousands of people - outraged by the injustices of Conservative government - have been motivated to engage in Labour politics. But the party’s expansion has proven to be a double-edged sword. It inevitably includes individuals who harbour ugly viewpoints, the most visible being the dark scourge of antisemitism. The Labour Campaign against Antisemitism has described a party in chaos, overrun by complaints of antisemitism by its members. This has unsurprisingly left Labour as the least trusted party amongst Britain’s Jewish community.
President Donald Trump’s White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said the president isn’t planning to quash special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, even after another lawyer for the president said the probe should end. Cobb’s comments contradicted the position of Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, who said Saturday that Mueller’s investigation should be stopped. Dowd is defending Trump against the probe examining whether the president has obstructed justice and his campaign aided the Kremlin’s interference. Trump has questioned the appointment of Mueller since last May, after the special counsel was established by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein following the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Having avoided a “Scary Skripal Special” last week, at the suggestion of Justin Greves on Twitter, I’ve ended up doing a “Hatgate special” for this week. Mass social media hysteria has not played out over such a lengthy period of days since… well, the previous week. But there seems to be something about this particular scandalous non-scandal that highlights a deep divide, firstly on the Left, and then across British politics as a whole, between those who are desperate to deal with the substance of issues, and those obsessed with the “imagery” of political discourse to a paranoid level.
The UK economy is the world’s sixth largest...at least for now until it’s the size of Wales like so much else I can’t think of. It dangles by a thread. Because of Brexit, we’re sleepwalking towards the grandmother of all crises. Aren’t we? Most of the population looks likely to leave the country on Brexit day when it comes around next year. There will be no one to look after us. The average age of the residual population will shoot up to 87 creating a statistical singularity which will overwhelm the ONS. The emotionally 87 years old who voted for Brexit should be pleased with this. Although they don’t know how to look after themselves after 40 years of EU rule, now is the time all of us learnt how to do without adult social care imported from overseas. Independent living.
The long campaign for 3rd May’s local elections has begun. Taking a cue from the exchange at PMQs between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, it will be a dull one: the detail of local government is Byzantine, and both parties deal in partial statistics. Do not expect enlightenment in the campaign. Were we honest, we would admit most of this will fly over the heads not only of voters but political observers. While voters see bin collections reduced, or care bills for elderly relatives increased way beyond inflation due to council shortages, they will also have national matters in their heads. The tradition is that the governing party gets a damn good thrashing.
The opposition was eliminated in advance, ballots were stuffed and Vladimir Putin duly “won” the farcical Russian “election”, with a share of the vote slightly above the 70% percent he had modestly decreed for himself beforehand. Now that charade is over, attention turns to what next for Putin. He may have less choice in the matter than he would like. Not for the first time, informed rumours persist that Putin would like to make this his last term in office. Such stories circulated previously in 2007 before Putin handed over the Presidency to his mini-me, Dmitry Medvedev. At that time in Moscow, Putin’s motorcade was seen less often speeding from his suburban mansion to the Kremlin. When he did appear, he seemed disengaged with the wearying day-to-day business of despotism.
As news publications go, The Economist is not exactly what you'd call a supermarket tabloid. The London-based news magazine dates back to 1843. It's up there with the New Yorkers and Mother Joneses of the world as a credible journalistic operation. So when The Economist downgrades the U.S. government from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy,” as they did in January 2018, it is reason to stand up and take notice. It’s an indicator authoritarianism is gaining a foothold. Two recent U.S. court decisions precisely underline that trend. Imagine you’re stationed at a U.S. government facility in third-world territory far from the protection of American authorities, and conditions are reprehensible.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have concluded their year-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Their key finding: Neither President Donald Trump nor anyone involved in his campaign colluded with Russia. That directly contradicts the US intelligence community’s assessment from January 2017, which clearly states that Russia wanted Trump to win. It also contradicts special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for working to help Trump win by sowing divisions via the internet.
People you have no idea how close this column came to being a “Scary Skripal Special” given the amount of low-grade conspiratorial crap on Twitter over the past week, but even then some other stupidities couldn’t help but break through. We often deal with “fake news” here, but really, the big issue this time is not false information but the callous attitude that many have towards information that is in some way ‘inconvenient’ for them. The people demanding “evidence” are demanding it not because they genuinely need more but because they are, it seems, being awkward on purpose—they seem to not be able to accept that there has been a Russian attack on British soil, or give a modest baseline of support to the position of a government they otherwise despise.
To paraphrase the great football manager Brian Clough; we are not yet sure where the Putin regime sits on the list of suspects for the nerve agent attack on Russian defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia – but it is probably in the top one. It is hard to imagine who else might have carried out this sickening crime. Ordinary gangsters cannot realistically acquire or handle nerve agents. Few states have them either. Of those that do, only Russia appears to have a motive for attempting to murder Mr Skripal. It also has a record of being immoral and reckless enough to risk harming British police officers, medical personnel and other innocent bystanders.
This Week on Planet Trump: President Goes High Risk With Trade Aggression and Olive Branch to Kim Jong-un
President Donald Trump on Monday dangled the possibility of lifting the new steel and aluminum tariffs he's imposed if NAFTA is renegotiated to terms more favorable to the US. "We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed," Trump tweeted Monday morning. Trump has said he is imposing a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN Sunday that no country will be excluded from the tariffs.
I apologise for my absence, but when you can no longer breathe properly either lying down or sitting up straight, nor walk down the street without having an overwhelming urge to faint, a little medical respite becomes paramount. Being laid up with your second pneumothorax (a collapsed lung in lay terms) in four months, along with a case of pneumonia in the same lung, that infernal draining tube threaded through your torso like a rogue stitch in a cheap face cloth, you end up lying there in the hospital bed (re-)considering the most important things in life, which a lot of the people below simply don’t seem to have done at any point, ever. Imagine wasting your life acting and thinking like this all the time
Supporters and opponents alike may not like to admit it but Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are politicians with a lot in common. Both were teenage enthusiasts of politics. Both came to leadership late and unexpectedly. Neither can think on their feet terribly well in debate, nor are natural public speakers - in the manner of Blair or Obama - who appeal much beyond their core supporters. Both have paradoxical characteristics of indecision, stubbornness and resilience. Now, both have given speeches laying out their positions as Britain enters the crucial next stage of Brexit. Their speeches were mirror images of one another. Both were pretty poor, but their analyses were strong. Corbyn made the case for European cooperation: it was a speech that would have gone down well before the referendum.
Between the continual trumpet of “America First,” Britain leaving the EU and the rampant nationalism we see from places all over the world, it’s easy to assume that every man is an island. In reality, that’s far from the case. 2017 was marked with distressing news. The United States — currently led, much to our dismay, by climate-change denying President Trump— left the Paris Agreement. The Larsen C ice shelf also broke off of Antarctica, creating the largest iceberg known to exist. Hurricanes like America had never seen before drenched swaths of the South and the Caribbean islands, while many countries in Africa dealt with severe water shortages. The coral reefs continued to bleach, Australia continued to lose its Great Barrier Reef and arctic animals continued to be forced further south and out of their native ranges.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was preparing to visit the U.S. and meet with President Donald Trump until a phone call last week devolved into a testy exchange over Trump's proposed border wall, two senior administration officials confirmed to ABC News. The plans for Peña Nieto to visit were in an early planning phase, according to both officials, with one saying the call was supposed to lay the groundwork for a formal invitation for a visit during which the two leaders would sign a series of agreements on "broad-based" issues like security and energy. But according to one official, Trump went off script and brought up the wall. Peña Nieto said Mexico would not support the wall, while Trump reiterated his campaign position that it would. Both sides then concluded together that now was not the right time to move forward with a visit, according to the other official.
The British prime minister Theresa May did what she had to do in the House of Commons on Wednesday at her weekly questions. “No UK prime minster could ever agree to it,” she told the braying Brexiteers of the green benches. Thankfully nobody was impolite enough to point out that she had already agreed to most of it two months ago. In December, a breakdown in the negotiations between the UK and the EU was avoided when the two sides made a political agreement which EU leaders judged to mark “sufficient progress” in the first phase of the talks. As ever in this process, it was the UK that conceded. That enabled the talks to move to the second or “future relationship” phase, which crucially includes the trade relationship between the UK and the EU, as the UK had been impatiently seeking.
If nationalisation were a singer, it would be Frank Sinatra. If it were a band, it would be Status Quo. If it were a movie franchise, it would be Jaws. Every time you think it has disappeared, some new revival, comeback or sequel is announced. Each new reincarnation is inferior to the one before. And, if we’re truthful about it, the original was pretty shit in the first place. (Frank Sinatra was a far better actor than singer. Discuss.) Political tribes have a problem. They hark back to their “Greatest Hits” rather than forwards to new solutions. Privatisation is to the Tories what nationalisation is to Labour. The Coalition Government privatised the Royal Mail despite Labour’s modernisation allowing greater commercial freedom being relatively successful.
It is a vignette beloved of political observers. Upon hearing news of the death of the celebrated French statesman, Charles Talleyrand, the Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich asked, “What did he mean by that?” Following a rare foray into Brexit politics, one might ask the same of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Leader’s Coventry speech was well trailed. Few were surprised by the words he spoke - though some were that he made the case for Remain far more forcefully than he did at any time in 2016. At its heart was a call for a new Customs Union with the EU that would give Britain a voice in future trade deals. What kind of voice he was slightly more hazy about though.
It is telling that, in the same week, The Daily Express can publish both a gushy review proclaiming Churchill the ‘saviour of the Western world’ and an article lauding the Italian politician, Matteo Salvini, as a ‘FIREBRAND’ and ‘rebel’. This celebration of both the symptom of contemporary fascism’s entry into the Italian mainstream and the supposed vanquisher of this political movement’s ancestor is hardly surprising. One suspects that The Express would express its sympathy for anything right-wing and vaguely Eurosceptic. The paper’s obsession with Europe has led to its hero-worship of this man it calls ‘Italy’s Farage’, Salvini, whose Euroscepticism is largely auxiliary to his cultivation of a rampant racist nationalism.
There is a cliche of fiction and film where the hero intervenes at the last minute to turn events dramatically and decisively in a positive direction. So, as Labour once again considers its position on Brexit, it has been tempting for supporters to see this as a seminal moment in the Brexit debate. This narrative goes that Jeremy Corbyn has been waiting for the right moment to plunge the Remain dagger into the government’s Brexit policy. This may be the case. Or not. The omens do not look good. In the week leading up Jeremy Corbyn's big speech, spokespeople have given off different signals as to policy. More often than not they have hinted that Labour is prepared to negotiate towards remaining in “a customs union”.
The Week on Planet Trump: Pathetic on Guns and Pursued by Mueller, No Wonder He’s Rated Worst President Ever
Donald Trump is America's worst president, says a New York Times opinion piece that's based on a survey of 170 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section. The survey was conducted by Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, and Justin S. Vaughn, an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University. Their op-ed, was posted Monday in the Times, showed Barack Obama faring much better than Trump. Obama shot into the top 10, up from 18th when a previous survey was conducted in 2014.
A bus emblazoned with the alleged economic cost of quitting the bloc began a tour of the country on Wednesday. The crowd-funded bus cites a leaked government estimate of a 5 percent hit to GDP over 15 years to arrive at a figure of 2,000 million pounds ($2.8 billion) a week. “There is so much new information that has come out about the costs of Brexit,” said Virginia Beardshaw, an organizer of the “Is it Worth It?” bus campaign. “We need to present people with the facts and let them make up their own minds.” Buses have a surprisingly central place in the Brexit story. During the 2016 EU membership referendum, “leave” campaigners emblazoned a red bus with the claim that the U.K. pays the bloc 350 million pounds a week, money that could instead be spent on the National Health Service.
Jeremy Corbyn to the left of her, John McDonnell to the far left of her, boldly rode into the Valley of Death Theresa May. Perhaps not since the famously immortalised Charge of the Light Brigade has a leader gone so willingly into a fight in which the option lose is the most optimistic of scenarios. If we constructed an elaborate analogy where tuition policy was a paper bag and the prime minister were inside that bag fighting to get out, the money would be on the bag to win. So, is the Maybot once again malfunctioning? Yes and no. Observers are still working out what happened at the last general election but everyone agrees that something happened. Whether it was a case that Labour’s pledge led to a full-throttled charge to the polling booths by young voters or was just enough to entice them to listen to the party, something happened.
Few challenges we face as a society are more confusing than the threat of public shootings. Crime rates in America have been declining for years. We recognize that as a win. We understand causality — for example, we have chosen to recycle and drive greener cars so that we can enjoy a clean living environment. But we still haven't seen enough gun violence to take a stand against this problem. In the aftermath of the horrific recent shooting at Florida school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, citizens are once again asking — how far does this have to go? How many must die before we actually do something?
The Week on Planet Trump: Trapped by Mueller, POTUS Rants at FBI as Florida Survivors Demand Gun Control
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump told the “forgotten men and women of our country” that he would champion them. As evidence that he was a different kind of Republican, he promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit poor and middle-class families. On Monday, President Trump proposed a budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit.
One measure to improve democratic participation is compulsory voting, as in Australia and Belgium, but this is objected to on civil liberties grounds. Lowering the voting age to 16 would not only expand suffrage, but it would be a bold move to encourage the long-term political engagement of new generations. It would require a more rigorous teaching of politics in schools and colleges. This would be academically influential, ingrain a sense of responsibility and might inspire young people - from all backgrounds - to become representatives themselves.
Not writing leaves a writer listless. Supressing the need to write leaves a writer unfulfilled. That does not mean that writing comes easily. Great writing - and I make no claims here - is often achieved by complete accident, but basic competence is always a hard acquired skill. Self-editing can take up to four or five times as long as the writing itself, and even then is no guarantee of avoiding textual errors. Every writer knows it’s going to take time to get better, and even then there’s no further guarantee of any tangible success. My point in talking about the writing process is that a lot of these people simply don’t seem to take the time to think about what they’re tweeting.
How far can the United Kingdom deviate from the rules of the European Union (EU) without losing its free access to this market of 500 million inhabitants? While Theresa May fails to answer this crucial question, her foreign minister , Boris Johnson, has added a layer of fog and challenged the prime minister again by delivering a long speech on Tuesday, February 14 in London. Certainly, the former leader of the pro-Brexit campaign considers the divorce with the Twenty-Seven as "a considerable opportunity" and "a manifestation of the national genius" British. But he also admitted that "in terms of European standards for washing machines or hairdryers (...), it might be wise for us to stay aligned".
The Times report that Oxfam aid workers in Haiti had used their positions to pay for sex from locals has stunned and appalled in equal measures. What has been more distressing has been the allegation of a cover up. There will always be rotten apples in any organisation. That is, sadly, not surprising. Is it surprising that senior executives of a major international charity saw fit to pretend, effectively, that none of this happened? Some would say yes. I am not so sure. The latest revelations follow the collapse of Kids Company a few years back after years of mismanagement that trustees did not spot. It also follows recurring stories of impropriety in the charity fundraising world where outsourcing to private companies put charities beyond the Charities Commission.
Vice President Mike Pence heads to Japan and South Korea this week, stepping into what has become an increasingly comfortable role for him, that of President Donald Trump's interpreter in chief. With all eyes on South Korea ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics on Friday in PyeongChang, Pence will carry an uncompromising message towards Kim Jong Un and will deride any notion of normalizing North Korea's relationships with the outside world when he leads the US delegation at the Olympics. North and South Korea agreed to send a North Korean delegation to the Olympics. Both countries' athletes will march under a unified flag during the opening ceremony on Friday, athletes from the two countries will train together before the Olympics begin, and a joint North and South Korean women's ice hockey team will compete during the games.
The Conservative government has left the National Health Service in a humanitarian crisis. Their flagship welfare reforms - Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments - are in disarray and being reversed in the courts. Homelessness is on the increase, partially due to the lack of a serious housing policy. Theresa May is being held hostage by her party’s hard-right. Boris Johnson openly challenges the prime minister’s authority. To appease the hardliners May has backtracked on forming a post-Brexit customs union with the EU. This threatens damaging trade barriers and puts Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. Cabinet ministers rebuffed May’s compromise to remain halfway in the European single market. A wide majority of voters disapprove of May’s handling of the EU negotiations.
Well, we’re now on the tenth column in the “Tweet Checking” series, and let me tell you people, it doesn’t get any easier. As Poe wrote: “Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform.” I’ve found that I’ve concentrated on anti-Semitism much more than I intended to, not because I necessarily find it to be the worst problem affecting society, but perhaps because it is so often assumed not to be problem at all in contemporary society, making it actually very easy to get away with and slip under the radar. People are so imbued with the idea that anti-Semitism is only delivered by swastika-engraved jackboots but anti-Semitism, like any form of bigotry, can come in multiple forms, from across the political spectrum.
Every day of Donald Trump’s reign as US President seems to bring a new drama, with the details of his misdeeds being poured over. Public scrutiny and the rule of law are, of course, crucial aspects of a healthy democracy. In this case, though, there is a grave danger of missing the wood for the trees. Clearly, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia must continue unhindered to its conclusion. But the legal process is also inadvertently diverting political attention from what is already known about Trump’s actions. The US law enforcement agencies established beyond doubt a year ago that Russia interfered massively in the 2016 Presidential election.
George Soros is being talked about again. This time not in Hungary, where the Hungarian-American investor has long been made by the ruling Fidesz party to a dominant campaign theme - but in the UK. The conservative British daily The Telegraph on Thursday reported that the billionaire is supporting an anti-Brexit campaign. The initiative "Best for Britain", which is calling for an exit from the Brexit and a new referendum, have therefore received in recent months, a sum of 400,000 pounds (about 450,000 euros) on Soros' foundation "Open Society Foundation". With funding from Soros and many other donors, "Best for Britain" plans to launch a publicity campaign in the coming weeks to mobilise the public against Brexit and convince British parliamentarians against the finalized Brexit treaty to vote. According to Telegraph, Soros recently met the spokesmen for the campaign at his home in London's Chelsea district
Lebanon is now close to breaking point. If people in the UK complain about the supposed impact of just a few incomers on housing, employment and public services such as health and education, imagine the strain created by a sudden influx equating to one-fifth of the total population. In the case of Lebanon, this pressure is being placed on a small country with far weaker and less well-established public institutions than Britain.
For years, the USA Gymnastics Board was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against Dr. Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and professor of sports medicine at Michigan State University. They knew that the mental and emotional lives of young women were at stake. The allegations were so sweeping in scale they had every reason to launch a full investigation on their own.
The day after he fired James Comey as director of the FBI, a furious President Donald Trump called the bureau's acting director, Andrew McCabe, demanding to know why Comey had been allowed to fly on an FBI plane from Los Angeles back to Washington after he was dismissed, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.
Continuing to read Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality (hey, I’m a slow reader, sue me), I reached the essay “Falsification and Consensus”, which is perhaps the most prescient piece in the book. As a semiotician, Eco is fundamentally interested in what signifies the difference between the “real” and the “fake”, but this has become an increasingly harder task because people have ceased to either care about the difference, or may in fact prefer the fake to the real; falsifications become the only means of discourse, and the only way to react to falsifications becomes “other falsifications, spreading false news about everything, even about the falsifications”, vengeance against the original lies.
Bulgaria, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, warned British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday about any plans to offer different residency schemes to EU nationals after Brexit. Lilyana Pavlova, Bulgarian Minister for the EU Presidency, said she was "worried" about May's statements in an interview with AFP. Mrs. Pavlova, a close friend of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, hopes that "in the end, support for citizens will be considered more important than popularity". "The European acquis (laws, ed) should be applied during the transition period, it should be followed completely," insisted the minister.
In 2017, Britain’s National Health Service was beset by a “humanitarian crisis” that saw Red Cross volunteers stepping in at overcrowded accident and emergency units. At the beginning of 2018, we have witnessed a system not just at breaking point but practically snapping at the seams. Scheduled surgeries have been cancelled en masse due to bed shortages. Hospital corridors have become makeshift wards lined with untreated patients abandoned on trollies and sleeping on floors. Ambulance staff, forced to monitor patients, are unable to attend other emergencies - contributing to numerous preventable deaths. Even cancer treatment is now subject to rationing.
The creation of the BBC is one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th Century. It ranks up there with the formation in the NHS. BBC Radio 4 is Britain’s great cultural contribution to the world. The esteem in which it is held is seen by the trust of voters. It is not perfect. It can be infuriating. The BBC does get things wrong - just not in the sense that people usually think. On Tuesday, Iain Duncan Smith appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to discuss the leak of the government’s Brexit impact reports that showed every form of Brexit left the country worse off. Duncan Smith’s whole purpose was to poo poo experts. “What did economists know about economics?” was his thesis. They were wrong before, they will be wrong again, said the sage of Chingford.
I like to think that should anyone declare that Theresa May were her own worst enemy, Boris Johnson, a handful of Tory backwoodsmen, and 90% of Twitter - echoing Ernest Bevin - would declare: “Not while I’m alive she ain’t.” Maybe even Jeremy Corbyn would join in. Yet there is a good case to be made that the prime minister more sins than is sinned against. After all, this crisis in her leadership began when she called an unnecessary election for which she was woefully unprepared. It is less than two months since she negotiated Britain into Phase Two of Brexit talks, aided by a nervously sympathetic European Union. Despite losing her deputy to a sex scandal, she went into the Christmas period with her authority ebbing back. So what changed?
The US will open its embassy in Jerusalem by the end of 2019, US Vice President Mike Pence said Monday in Israel's parliament, confirming that the controversial move is speeding up after officials earlier said it could take three to four years. Pence told Israeli lawmakers that Jerusalem was "the capital of the state of Israel," reiterating President Donald Trump's change of policy last month. The US' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has prompted concerns that it could derail any attempts to restart a peace process, and cast further doubt on the likelihood of any two-state solution being reached. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly condemned and rejected Trump's decision, saying, among other things, that it would aid extremist organizations to wage holy wars.
Reading the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco’s 1986 book Travels in Hyperreality, I was struck by how much the essay “The Return of the Middle Ages”, despite being written in the late ‘70s, essentially describes the situation we have today: postmodernity has come to resemble a hyperaccelerated medieval era. Former superstates have become fractured and reduced to the same level as the trading guilds—or corporations as we call them today. People walk around preaching apocalypse or the need for a new crusade or pogrom (and as you’ll see in this week’s selection, the targets are still the same). Fanatics terrify us but we can do little to stop it before they do severe damage—try for example comparing the Munster rebellion with the short-term conquests of the Islamic State (even if the former is technically a Renaissance-era event).
This week, Donald Trump will become the first sitting US President to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos since Bill Clinton in 2000. There could be no clearer symbol of the failure of the assembled plutocrats and their political enablers during the intervening years. At the turn of the century, Clinton was the evangelist-in-chief for globalisation as the path to future prosperity for all. Trump is the product of the damage the Davos crowd’s job off-shoring, tax dodging and bonus guzzling ways have done to Clinton’s optimistic vision. The attention-hungry organisers of the WEF appear untroubled by this or Trump’s assorted outrages. All publicity is good publicity remains the rule for them.
Political original sin. We should talk about it more. You do not have to believe in God to believe in political original sin. In fact, it is probably better if you do not. David Cameron was its most dramatic victim. In 2005, when he stood for the leadership he was a no hoper. Cameron won, not only by astonishing with an energetic conference speech but by promising to take the Tories out of the EPP. His admonition about the Tories “banging on about Europe” was one given as he fed the eurosceptic beast. Eleven years on, one could see the fear etched into Cameron’s face as he campaigned against his own party to remain in the European Union. Win or lose, his sin had caught up with him.
The Prime Minister has been given a warning. Nick Boles, the former minister and modernising Tory, has told her that she needs to raise her game. In a tweet, he accused the government of timidity and “lack of ambition” Six months on from the disastrastrous Brexit general election, few could disagree. A sense of perspective is needed. Brexit could play out to be disastrous for the country both in the short-term and the long-term. Many of the portents issued by worried Remainers might turn out to be understated. However, it is too early to describe Theresa May’s ministry as “the worst government ever”, as some have done.
President Trump told reporters late Sunday that "I am not a racist” and denied reports that he referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” Trump made the denial as he arrived for dinner with House majority leader Kevin McCarthy at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. Asked if he is a racist, Trump said: "No, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed." Trump denied making the “shithole countries” comments during discussions about whether to include immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries in an immigration bill on Thursday.
Imagine being in the hospital, about to have a baby. This special day should go down in your memory as a magical, wonderful time, and ideally the birth of your child is a dream come true. Then imagine that dream turning into a nightmare as the healthcare professionals you turn to for help in delivering your baby assault you. While this may seem unimaginable, obstetric assault is an all-too-common and real issue. Obstetric assault blankets several types of obstetric violence, both verbal and physical. Obstetric assault can occur at any time during a woman's pregnancy, but some of the most egregious examples of this sort of violence take place during childbirth. Verbal obstetric assault may include slurs, put-downs and humiliation.
The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard theorised the theme park — Disneyland in particular — as a place of ‘hyperreality’, where the boundary between reality and the simulation of it can no longer be fully distinguished, becoming impossible to separate in the mind of the subject. On the other hand, George Saunders, whose CivilWarLand in Bad Decline contains four theme parks or resorts, somewhat reverses this: the bizarre theme park becomes the direct representation of the worst of our reality rather than something separate or transcendent of it. The theme park is a camp of corporate exploitation, worker pitted against worker, humanity commodified, false advertising (or fake news?), and the embodying of an artificial reality (which we know is fake, but give into anyway).
French president Emmanuel Macron has told Britain that its financial services sector cannot enjoy full access to Europe unless it accepts the jurisdiction of European courts and other single market rules. Speaking during a joint press conference with Theresa May at the Sandhurst military academy on Thursday, Mr Macron said the choice lay in Britain’s hands. “I’m not here to punish or reward. I want to make sure that the single market is preserved because that’s very much at the heart of the European Union. So the choice is on the British side, not on my side. But there can be no differentiated access for financial services. If you want access to the single market, including financial services, be my guest. But it means that you have to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction,” he said.
Before they made any great decision, the city states of ancient Greece would famously consult the oracle at Delphi. According to Plutarch, originally the oracle could only be consulted once per year on the 8th Bysios. In time, this changed: the first recorded year we can prove year-round consultations was 480 BCE - the year of Xerxes’ invasion and when the Athenians were advised to trust the “wooden walls". The role of oracles has always been one of mystery. But, whether intentional or not, it had one effect: decision-making became slower. Yet if the ancient world was impossibly slow by our standards, is it not the case that the world we inhabit is impossibly fast?
The most formidable critique of the concept of human rights comes from the German reactionary (and avowedly Nazi) legal scholar Carl Schmitt who insisted in his book, The Concept of the Political, that the politicising of the concept of “humanity” in an attempt to transcend the idea of the “political” (sovereign power) meant that the modern liberal state relegates its enemies to a status of non-humanity: “At the expense of its opponent, it tries to identify itself with humanity in the same way as one can misuse peace, justice, progress, and civilisation in order to claim these as one’s own and to deny the same to the enemy.” The consequences of the monopolisation of “humanity” subsequently has “certain incalculable effects, such as denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most extreme inhumanity.”
Goethe famously wrote in his Elective Affinities: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” It’s an aphorism worth keeping in mind; however, the flipside to remember is that those who believe themselves hopelessly enslaved— even if they are relatively free — will end up following any messiah who promises freedom, regardless of the cost. Political-ideological cults, just like religious ones, make people believe and do irrational things, as we will see…
Anticipating that special counsel Robert Mueller will ask to interview President Donald Trump, the president's legal team is discussing a range of potential options for the format, including written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down, according to three people familiar with the matter. Lawyers for Trump have been discussing with FBI investigators a possible interview by the special counsel with the president as part of the inquiry into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. The president has continueed to insist publicly that he is not under investigation and has described the Justice Department investigation as a "hoax" and a conspiracy cooked up by the FBI in concert with his political opponents.
At Sunday night’s Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. On a night where actresses wore black to protest sexual assault, Oprah gave an impassioned speech, promising girls that a “new day is on the horizon” and warning abusive men that their “time is up”. She was dignified, poised and…well, presidential. Sure enough, #OprahForPresident and #Oprah2020 were soon trending. Some comments were tongue-in-cheek; many people, though, were genuinely stoked by the idea of Oprah in the White House. Realistically, though, is that the best way of defeating Trump? I get it – American politics is pretty shameful right now. All we see from the Oval Office are tantrums and grandstanding from a man who would be an autocrat if only he had a little more intelligence.
Recently, my father sent me a link to a petition. Signing it is not enough, he said with that kind of familial authority parents manage to convey even electronically. The petition he shared concerned the so-called Lychee and Dog Eating Yulin Festival, China. The festival is “celebrated” annually during the summer solistice in June. Over ten days, dogs are carried through the city in crates and metal cages after which they are skinned alive and boiled for consumption by residents and festival goers. Estimates of the numbers killed range from 10,000 to 15,000 to a staggering 50,000. These dogs are not just stray dogs taken from the streets. Some are domestic pets stolen from homes to be slaughtered. They are kept before the festival in wire cages without space or even access to food or water. Thousands die before the festival of starvation and dehydration.
So far, Trump has proposed reducing U.S. contributions to the U.N. by forty per cent, and pressured the General Assembly to cut six hundred million dollars from its peacekeeping budget. In his first speech to the U.N., in September, Trump ignored its collective spirit and celebrated sovereignty above all, saying, “As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.” China’s approach is more ambitious. In recent years, it has taken steps to accrue national power on a scale that no country has attempted since the Cold War, by increasing its investments in the types of assets that established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid, overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new technologies, such as artificial intelligence
Despite the Christmas break, the tidal wave of vicious stupidity on Twitter continued. The agents of appeasement and whataboutery were in full force this week as Iranians erupted into protest about economic deprivation and political oppression (“Iranians don’t have souls of their own! This is obviously a Zio-CIA plot to distract us from the BDS protest at Arizona State!”). The empty words “elite” and “establishment” were yet again tossed around with gay abandon (I think they might both mean “I disagree with you and you have some ill-defined power so therefore you’re wrong and evil.”). Old conspiracies about the powers of Freemasonry were unearthed, giving people who would otherwise be attacking Jews something different to hate this week.
Christmas is over. I had a break, ate my bodyweight in cheese and drank a whole lot of booze. Now I’m back and, surprise surprise, I’m mad as hell again. The subject of my ire this time will come as little surprise to anyone who has spent more than five minutes in my company. Yes, its Toby Young. I’m not here to deride the personality of a man I’ve never met. I’m not going to dwell on general concerns about the apparent Tory croneyism at play: others have done an admirable job. I’m not even going to go into the fact that there is hardly any student representation in this new ‘Office for Students’. No, I’m going to talk about Young’s shameless sexism.
Pregnancy and childbirth are supposed to be some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring events in a woman’s life, but for working mothers, this milestone is often at the cost of their position at work or even their entire career. This is due in large part to maternity discrimination. Many women are penalised or treated poorly for making the choice to have children, even if their pregnancy does not affect their job performance, and they may find that their position has been made redundant or even eliminated entirely upon their return from maternity leave. Why are these behaviours continuing to rise, and what can we do to help to eliminate maternity discrimination?
One thing is certain in 2018: hysteria. There will not be a setback for the government where someone does not predict a snap election or the collapse of the government. The prime minister will not stumble without a chorus of “Crisis!” Every Remain-inclined poll will be met with predictions that the tide has turned and every government negotiating concession with warnings of betryal. For all the noise, what really changed in 2017? A divided country remains divided. A government intent on Brexit is still intent on Brexit. His supporters call him Prime Minister Corbyn but what has this esteemed prime minister actually achieved? The truths that stood in the way of the hysteria remained and will remain despite the hysteria.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.
Khalek in my experience has a history of tweeting an article with an inflammatory comment before moving onto the next tweet, while the article linked tells a different story. The minister in question, Sigmar Gabriel, is not so much concerned with general opposition to Israel as an event related in the article itself: some 2,500 demonstrators marched through Berlin's Neukölln district burning “flags with the Star of David”, supposedly in “protest against the United States' decision last Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.” Here is the full section from the article dealing with Gabriel’s comments:
House conservatives are already indicating that they're prepared to block some of the key legislative promises that Senate Republicans demanded in exchange for their votes on tax reform legislation. Those promises materialized in the frantic final hours of the tax debate last week, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) assurances that some of their personal legislative priorities would be dealt with in exchange for their votes. Collins said she received a promise that the Senate would consider two bipartisan pieces of legislation that would ostensibly mitigate the negative effects that could come from the tax bill’s repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.
Subjected to an ultimatum breaking EU Theresa May sold on the main outstanding issues to be able to announce on Friday 8 December at dawn from Brussels, an agreement was concluded for a crucial advance for future of the British economy: the opening of negotiations on future trade relations with the European Union . "I very much welcome the next move to the next phase of the Brexit trade and security talks ," said the British Prime Minister with a smile that had not been seen in recent days . The EU had given until Sunday to M me May to makenew proposals, after the humiliation she suffered Monday when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland had torpedoed the announcement of an agreement.
Given the nature of the payments between Russian state institutions and people tied to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s investment ventures to spread propaganda through Facebook and Twitter, it seems perfectly prudent to check Trump’s personal bank records. We also know Kushner got emails regarding WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” before forwarding them on to another official in the Trump campaign. Direct ties between Trump and Russia are now so well-documented they have their own Wikipedia page. This goes down to the level of Trump Tower being a place for Russian organised crime to congregate, and this appears to extend to enterprises in Panama.
Kremlin spokesmen have described Russia’s banning from the 2018 Winter Olympics as a “humiliation”. For once, they are telling the truth. They should try to get used to the pressure because the underlying fragility of President Putin’s regime could soon be exposed. The Olympic ban is the punishment for Russia’s massive state-sponsored doping programme at the last Winter games, which it hosted in Sochi. A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation uncovered the scandal. It proved that Russia’s athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs in accordance with a strategy directed by government ministers.
In G.K. Chesterton’s neglected 1904 masterpiece The Napoleon of Notting Hill, an insane civil servant called Auberon Quin rises to the office of King, and divides London into dozens of competing quasi-independent statelets, which fosters a growth of bizarre micro-nationalisms. In attempting to analogise its most extreme proselytiser, Adam Wayne’s passionate patriotism for his native Notting Hill, Chesterton says: “All this he knew, not because he was a philosopher or a genius, but because he was a child. Any one who cares to walk up a side slum like Pump Street, can see a little Adam claiming to be the king of a pathing-stone. And he will always be proudest if the stone is almost too narrow for him to keep his feet inside it.”
Before the EU referendum, pollsters found that immigration was the number one concern for voters. The economy, public services and British sovereignty were frequently mentioned. One topic that received scant discussion, though, was the Irish border. As negotiations have progressed, however, it’s rearing its head, to become one of the thorniest factors in our withdrawal from the EU. As the failure to reach a deal in Brussels this week on “sufficient progress” demonstrated, Theresa May’s situation is impossible. Adopting a hard Brexit – i.e. leaving the single market and customs union – requires a border between the UK and other EU member states. That might not be a concern for mainland Britain thanks to our island status, but across the sea it will result in a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
As talks collapsed between the EU and Britain, it was the most dramatic day in British politics since the general election. Close to a deal, May’s hand was forced by the DUP and she walked away. The wording of the leaked text infuriated the DUP whose ten MPs the Conservatives need for their majority. However, Corbyn should not be shining his shoes in case of a call from Buckingham Palace. Nor will May be losing much sleep over the prospect. To use her words: “Nothing has changed.” Rhetoric is slowly converging with reality. The impossibility of maintaining a soft border between the North and the Republic of Ireland while also leaving the Customs’ Union etc. is becoming clearer. EU understands that May’s government is pathetically weak, but that does not mean it will collapse.
The last two quarters of 2017 are proving monumentally important for women right now — both women of the past and those of the future. And of course, important for any men who have sexually assaulted or abused a woman in their lives. Since the initial few allegations were made about movie producer Harvey Weinstein, including his shocking sexual assaults on women in the industry, hundreds of further reports have been made against other men, both in and out of the public eye. And so sprung the #MeToo movement. It’s sort of ironic that the discourse on women and society’s apparent ownership of their sexuality is shifting, but it’s shifting under a president who himself is a prime example of what the fight is against. The fact Donald Trump was elected despite the sexual abuse and harassment allegations made against him says the unthinkable about society’s view of women and highlights why we need #MeToo more than ever.
President Donald Trump will not travel to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore ahead of the December 12 special election, the White House said Monday, citing conflicts with his schedule. With a little more than two weeks left in the race, the President has sought to boost Moore's Senate bid, citing his denials of accusations that he sexually assaulted women as young as 14 years old when he was in his 30s and criticizing his Democratic opponent Doug Jones. In recent days, Trump has cited Moore's denials when asked if having an accused child molester in the seat is better than a Democrat not aligned with his agenda. Trump has also accused Jones, who successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan who killed four young girls when they bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, of being "soft on crime."
The term “Eurabia” is coming back again after going AWOL for a few years—it seems that ethnic slurs go in cycles. It is one of those Alt-Right (formerly just Hard Right) myths that just will not die, no matter how many times it is debunked. This particular way of putting it—a way popular amongst Leavers in the run-up to the referendum last year—makes a strange assumption: that pretty much every single Turk in Turkey, upon accession to the EU, will up sticks and move to Western Europe. Well, you can hardly blame them given that the whole of Poland and Romania have emptied out and…oh wait. That didn’t happen. The only example I can find of an entire population voluntarily leaving its homeland to move to another country is (allegedly) that of the Angles.
The proposition that Britain could have its cake and eat it during Brexit, as the foreign secretary Boris Johnson once said, was always dismissed as a fiction by opponents. On Wednesday, it was quietly interred by the government as it capitulated on the amount it will have to pay for a divorce settlement. And this was not Britain’s first capitulation over Brexit, nor — almost certainly — will it be the last, analysts said. What Mr. Johnson was saying was that Britain could secure the economic benefits of membership in the European Union without paying a penalty or being subject to its rules, particularly on the free movement of labor within the bloc. On Wednesday, Britain reportedlyagreed in principle to a divorce check of around $47 billion to $53 billion in the hope of securing the start of talks on a future trade arrangement with the 27 nations.
Michael Gove told us to ignore the experts, but it turns out they were right to be anxious about a vote to leave the European Union. The impact of Brexit is already proving palpable, contributing to an economic downturn of worsening living standards, sluggish productivity and stagnant wages. Philip Hammond made his party’s priorities clear by allocating £3 billion towards Brexit in the budget. Yet Hammond is a hate figure among Conservative backbenchers for his ideological impurity, while MPs who want to moderate their party’s position are derided as traitors. A divided government provides easy pickings for the opposition. But Labour has also been criticised for a lack of clarity. Jeremy Corbyn once argued that Brexit requires leaving the European Economic Area - the single market and customs union that harmonise European trade and free movement - ruling out a so-called “Soft Brexit”.
Why is anyone surprised that this president of the United States retweets misleading videos purporting to show Muslim violence against white Westerners? This is a president who has attacked London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, while London was still under terrorist threat; he has drawn equivalence between alt-right, white supremacist protesters and those protesting against them; one of his central election pledges was a ban on travel into the United States from Muslim countries and he has proposed a US register of Muslims residents. He has talked about sexual harrassing women. He has defended an alleged sexual predator who is standing for the US Senate. He, and his presidential campaign, is under investigation for crimes that might amount to treason.
This government is a shambles. Since losing their majority, May & co. have presided over a dumpster fire of u-turns, uncertainty and warring egos. They’re bound together by little more than a fear of Labour, and are riven apart by the nauseating helter skelter of Brexit negotiations. Why, then, do they have such a solid standing in the polls? Labour have maintained momentum since bouncing back in June with the biggest poll surge in modern political history. They’re constantly campaigning, and style themselves – not unfairly – as a government-in-waiting. And yet, according to YouGov, 41% of voters would still vote Conservative; only 2% less than Labour. ICM pegs both parties at an even 41%. If the Tories really are so weak, why aren’t Labour 20 points ahead?
When Cyntoia Brown was sixteen years old she shot and killed 43 year-old Johnny Allen. In her own words, she executed him. Brown ended up in that room with a man more than twice her age because her abusive ‘boyfriend’ Garion McGlothen prostituted her. In between raping her and getting her high, he also choked her and threatened her with guns. Allen waxed lyrical to her about his career as a sharp shooter in the army, after he had driven her to his empty house and showed her his gun collection. She has never denied what she did, stating that she thought he was reaching for a gun and so she killed him in self-defence. After being judged fit to be tried as an adult in Tennessee, she was held for two years waiting for trial.
Twitter may have helped bring about such radical transgressions as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, but it’s also helped birth some of the worst reactionary calamities to have struck Western civilisation in the past two years. “Post-truth”, “post-factual”, “fake news”, “MSM”, “establishment”, and many more buzz-phrases are bandied about even more and more while meaning less and less. As such, there is an overbearing need to rigorously defend the actual facts in a cybernetic public sphere that has become utterly senseless. Unfortunately, that means digging through the webbed muck to find the most egregious examples of bite-sized disregard for truth (and feasibility).
On Sunday, it was LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo Ball, one of three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China on shoplifting charges. Trump had helped secure their release during his recent trip to China, announcing his involvement in a tweet. “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” Not content to go after just one famous black person, President Trump started his Monday with a jab at NFL player Marshawn Lynch.
Oh dear. It begins. The inevitable backlash of women defending men. Lena Dunham has accused a woman of lying about rape. Don’t believe the hype in her retraction. Dunham, in a published statement said: “Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year … We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.” Well, obviously, it wasn’t all they were going to say once the hail of women’s justifiable fury started raining down on this dangerous and cruel statement.
When commentators claimed that 313,000 Labour members and affiliates were holding British politics hostage, they meant that so long as they sustained their support for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, British politics would remain a one-party game. It turned out differently. In fact, it turned out worse. Labour are not holding British politics hostage, they are keeping it in a fantasy land. Two simultaneous events occurred on Monday night. BBC Two screened The Summer That Changed Everything, a documentary clearly commissioned with Labour’s demise in mind. The film turned out to be a moment when Corbynistas could relive their moments of vindication when the pundits called it wrong.
President Trump, in Manila on the last leg of his tour of five Asian nations, only briefly touched on the question of human rights with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a deadly extra-judicial war on drugs that has left thousands dead. Duterte's brash demeanor and untempered language have earned him the nickname "Trump of the East." Trump, in turn, has praised Duterte — telling him in an April phone call that he was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." Duterte took the stage for an impromptu duet with local pop star Pilitia Corrales, which he later said he had done "upon the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States."
In a widely expected result, Richard Leonard has been elected as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Yorkshire-born Leonard - a GMB trade union organiser who entered the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in 2016 - defeated former deputy leader Anas Sarwar with 56 percent of the vote. The Glaswegian Sarwar was described as the centre-left candidate, but both MSPs praised Jeremy Corbyn and promoted him as a future UK Prime Minister. Leonard is considered a Corbynite but he refuses to be pigeonholed as such. Upon his victory Leonard praised Sarwar and in the spirit of unity pledged that his adversary will play a “vital role” in his leadership. Leonard is taking on a tough job.
Talks between officials from Britain and negotiators for the European Union have progressed slowly, and are now at a near-stalemate. The EU has given Britain a deadline of two weeks to agree on a figure for the so-called "divorce bill" -- the money May's government must pay into the EU budget as part of its membership obligations. As negotiations with the EU reach the crunch point, May's government is finding itself in ever-deeper trouble over its attempts to push through the legislation that will allow leaving the EU to happen at all. Lawmakers from all parties have put forward hundreds of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, and debates and votes are expected to take a month.
A narrative has formed over the last few months. Theresa May spends her time clinging to the curtain rails of 10 Downing Street, in permanent fear that one day a metaphorical pearl-handled revolver will be delivered and she will be told to do her duty. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have formed a government within a government; the same Johnson is a diplomatic without the powers of diplomacy nor compensating decency; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at loggerheads with just about everybody; the EU - already exasperated at Brexit chaos - is preparing for Theresa May to fall. They do not just have rebels, they have mutineers! That is how bad they are. This is the worst government ever.
Russia wants Britain to leave the EU - and it would be delighted if more countries would follow. It is easy to see why. The Kremlin has long viewed the union as an existential threat, one that has empowered Russia’s former satellites and substantially reduced Russia’s own sphere of influence. To a country that still sees the world in terms of ‘great powers’ and the need for national prestige, it should not be surprising that there is a lack of harmony between Russia and the EU. Along with NATO, the EU is one of the main players that have thwarted Moscow’s ambitions by arguing and promoting sanctions. After Russia’s the illegal annexation of the Crimea, it was the EU that took the lead in travel bans, asset freezes and restrictions on investment, financing and trade with Russia.