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Found 330 results

  1. Michael Sandford, who had a UK driver’s license, was arrested after grabbing at the holster and handle of a gun at the hip of an officer providing security Nicky Woolf in San Francisco Tuesday 21 June 2016 07.21 BST
  2. Success of Five Star Movement’s Virginia Raggi and Chiara Appendino in mayoral elections is setback for PM Matteo Renzi Rosie Scammell in Rome Monday 20 June 2016 12.43 BST
  3. Husband of Batley and Spen Labour MP calls for fight against ‘the hatred that killed her’ as politicians mourn victim of shooting and stabbing outside constituency surgery Robert Booth, Vikram Dodd, Nazia Parveen and Helen Pidd Thursday 16 June 2016 21.04 BST
  4. Chris Murphy, who led Democrats in holding floor for more than 14 hours, says deal was struck with Republicans for vote on background checks and terror watchlist Warren Murray and agencies Thursday 16 June 2016 08.11 BST
  5. Convicted terrorist Larossi Abballa fatally stabbed couple in front of their son and posted video of attack on Facebook Angelique Chrisafis in Paris and Kim Willsher in Magnanville Tuesday 14 June 2016 12.45 BST
  6. Uefa expresses ‘disgust’ and threatens England and Russia with expulsion Police say 35 people were wounded in clashes before and after Euro 2016 game Owen Gibson in Paris Sunday 12 June 2016 15.32 BST
  7. Police notifying next of kin before names released Barack Obama declares mass shooting ‘an act of terror’ Father of Omar Mateen condemns Orlando attack Amanda Holpuch and Alan Yuhas Monday 13 June 2016 14.40 BST
  8. The sexualities of those murdered in Orlando shouldn’t be glossed over. This was the worst mass killing of LGBT people in the west since the Holocaust Monday 13 June 2016 12.02 BST By Owen Jones
  9. With voters set to reject their nominee, Republicans could lose control of Congress, ushering in a progressive era Sunday 12 June 2016 00.05 BST By Michael Cohen
  10. Democratic frontrunner attacks Trump’s ‘personal feuds and outright lies’ in blistering speech that questions GOP candidate’s suitability for the White House Rory Carroll in Los Angeles Thursday 2 June 2016 21.37 BST
  11. Mainak Sarkar also killed his mentor, William Klug, on campus yesterday A second UCLA professor on the ‘kill list’ is unharmed Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Maria L La Ganga in San Francisco Thursday 2 June 2016 18.17 BST
  12. New polymer fiver lasts up to five years and can withstand punishment from ‘claret, cigar ash, bulldogs and the washing machine’, boasts Mark Carney Angela Monaghan Thursday 2 June 2016 16.52 BST Last modified on Thursday 2 June 2016 17.54 BST
  13. Tens of thousands of children believed to be victims of live-streaming abuse, some of it being carried out by their own parents Tuesday 31 May 2016 03.11 BST By Oliver Holmes in Manila When Philippine police smashed into the one-bedroom house, they found three girls aged 11, seven and three lying naked on a bed. At the other end of the room stood the mother of two of the children – the third was her niece – and her eldest daughter, aged 13, who was typing on a keyboard. A live webcam feed on the computer screen showed the faces of three white men glaring out. An undercover agent had infiltrated the impoverished village two weeks before the raid. Pretending to be a Japayuki, a slang term for a Filipina sex worker living in Japan, she had persuaded a resident to introduce her to the children, who played daily in the gravel streets. Her guise was intended to put them at ease, to show them she worked in the same industry; she was one of them. She became close to the eldest, referred to as Nicole although that is not her real name. After a few days of chatting, Nicole causally told the agent about their “shows”. “It was the first time we heard of parents using their children,” said the middle-aged woman. Authorities considered that operation in 2011 to be a one-off case. But the next month, another family was caught in the same area. Then more cases of live-streaming child abuse appeared in different parts of the Philippines. Now, the United Nations says, there are tens of thousands of children believed to be involved in a rapidly expanding local child abuse industry already worth US$1bn. In some areas, entire communities live off the business, abetted by increasing internet speeds, advancing cameraphone technology, and growing ease of money transfers across borders. And while perpetrators used to download photos and videos to their hard drives – providing authorities with a virtual paper trail and usable evidence – criminals have found anonymity in encrypted live-streaming programs. International police agencies are mobilising. The Virtual Global Taskforce, a partnership of international law enforcement agencies and Interpol, has dedicated 2016 to combatting the live-streaming of child abuse. Next month, Unicef will launch a campaign to educate young people about the risks of the online world. The UK’s #WeProtect project, an international alliance to fight online child abuse, has promised £10m to the campaign. ‘It is big money’ Stephanie McCourt, the south-east Asia liaison officer for the UK’s National Crime Agency, said the Philippines provided a perfect storm to allow the crime to develop, with its entrenched poverty and high level of internet access for a developing country. But there is one thing that she said was absolutely key: a widespread knowledge of the English language. “They can communicate with offenders. After we’d been scratching our heads, the penny dropped,” she said. “That’s not to say that it won’t move to other countries … There is probably a huge amount we don’t know.” It is hard to estimate the size of an industry involving small anonymous payments, roughly $5-$200 a show, conducted in people’s homes and mostly operated by families rather than large crime syndicates. “We think that what we are seeing, what we are dealing with, is a small part of what is out there,” she said. “It is big money. Big business.” Children are made to perform around the clock, with morning live-streams catering to Europeans and Americans, and later in the day, an Australian-based clientele. The number of ongoing live-streaming criminal cases in the Philippines is rising, from 57 in 2013, growing to 89 in 2014, and up to 167 in 2015. But those numbers belie the true scale, according to Det Supt Paul Hopkins, the head of the Australian Federal Police team in Manila who has spent the past two years investigating the crime. Wearing a short-sleeved, Filipino-style shirt, he described the size of the trade as “monstrous”. One indication of how much is being missed is the number of “cybertips”, reports of sexual exploitation against children collected by the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). In 2015 alone, NCMEC forwarded nearly 15,000 tips to the Philippine Office of Cybercrime and 80% referred to the online exploitation of children. . That is not to say the perpetrators are only based there. The Dutch NGO Terre des Hommes analysed the industry by constructing a virtual 10-year-old Filipino girl called “Sweetie” and used the computer model to entrap more than 1,000 adults who paid for her to perform sex acts. The charity identified adults from more than 71 countries seeking out Sweetie’s services. “If you do any research you’ll see it is from anywhere,” Hopkins said. Yet the business is nearly always immune to policing and almost never results in a conviction. In the Philippines, there have been only two convictions for this type of abuse. All other cases are still pending. Unlike previous forms of child sexual abuse, there are no photos uploaded to the internet that police can track. Instead, the conversations are live and encrypted through Skype, and payment is made by anonymous wire transfers. And while children have historically testified against sex traffickers in court, they have proved unwilling to incriminate their parents. Children see abuse as normal In the 2011 case, the police thought the children would welcome the operation. But the undercover agent says Nicole did not feel rescued; she felt betrayed. “I know that she is angry with me,” the woman said. Apart from the scene witnessed as the raid took place, police say they had a video showing the mother sexually abusing her children. It was submitted by an anonymous source from a western country who used his phone to film the abuse on his computer screen. All six of the mother’s children – three boys and three girls – were moved to a rescue centre, a row of one-storey houses on a quiet path set back from the noise of the main roads. Trees surround the houses, and the staff have planted orchids by the path. In front of the children’s house is a small playground. The day they arrived, the children played on the swings. Unlike others at the shelter, they showed no overt signs of abuse, their social worker explained. The staff, who had never dealt with a case like this before, wondered if they should be kept in the same shelter as other children who had been physically abused by paedophiles. The children appeared oblivious to the fact that they had been exploited and it could affect them badly to realise they were abused like others around them. The three-year-old continued to do “sexualised dancing” in front of other children, who complained to the staff. “It was a struggle for the children to try to understand what their parents did,” said the social worker, sitting in the house where they live. “When one would start crying, the other children would collectively cry. They always converged in a small huddle.” Directly after the arrest, the eldest boy, 16 at the time, did appear to be in shock, the psychologist Rosemarie Gonato said, but not from the abuse. “He was quite traumatised by the rescue operation.” The two younger daughters had no idea that the abuse was anything but normal. “They said it was a business in the neighbourhood. It seemed natural to be involved in this as the other children were doing it,” she said. Police found that it was the children who first heard about live-streaming as a money maker when playing with their friends. While the children have flourished – on the wall are photos of them, the two eldest beaming while wearing graduation hats and gowns – they are still unable, five years later, to understand the crime. One child, now 14, told the Guardian her parents wanted the best for them. “I’d like to stay here and finish my course. Then I’d like to go home,” she said. Gonato said: “In all the sessions I had [with the children], they still wanted their parents to get out of jail.” A couple of years after the raid, the children wrote a letter to Gonato, which read: “We hope you find the ability to forgive our parents.” ‘I accept that I have to suffer’ Five years after her arrest, and only a few miles from the family home, the mother of the children lives in the female quarters of a prison. Wearing a yellow T-shirt, blue eye makeup, lipstick and earrings, she gave birth to her seventh child behind bars. She denies the charges against her. In her account, the children were naked as they were getting ready for a bath before school. Nicole was on Facebook, she said. “I don’t think about the case. I have faith in God,” she said in the first interview since her detention. However, she added, “I accept that I have to suffer”. Her two eldest children, including Nicole, have visited every Christmas and, last year, a judge allowed all six to come for the first time. “It was a joyful occasion,” she said, breaking in to tears in the small jail office where she is guarded by an officer. Money she earns through a prison work programme is sent to the children. Live-streaming has turned policing on its head. Interpol currently has an eight-step process to identify victims of child abuse, with step two being that the crime is documented by the abuser with photos and videos. Such documentation does not exist with live-streaming. “When we see a money transfer from the Netherlands to the Philippines of €20, in court we might be able to prove it was for a webcam session. But the other side can say it was with an adult woman,” said the Dutch police attache in Manila, who asked to remain anonymous to comply with Netherlands police procedure. Even when there is video evidence, such as in the 2011 case, the Philippines’ strong privacy laws make convictions hard to achieve. The anti-wiretapping act means evidence collected from computers – even video footage of the abuse – cannot always be used in court. And a police offer can only get permission for a warrant if they have personal knowledge of the abuse. This is why the undercover agent had to confirm that the parents were abusing their children. Victims entangled in own abuse On top of that, there are questions about whether a parental conviction is the best outcome for the victims. Both Gonato and the paediatrician who treated the children, Naomi Navarro-Poca, believe it is in the children’s interests to be reunited with their parents and live at home rather than in a shelter. Even the prosecutor, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity to protect the identities of the children, said she was hoping for a plea bargain to get a reduced sentence. “We really want reunification with the family,” she said, adding that the minimum sentence for the parents would be 12 years, with five already served. The youngest child would be eight when they were released. How the parents would be prevented from reoffending is not known. A plea bargain rests on the mother admitting to the crime, a move the prosecutor said she hoped to achieve this year by asking Nicole to convince her mother. Yet cooperation with the children is proving frustratingly hard to achieve. The social workers, doctors, police, legal team and psychologists working with the children initially assumed they were trying to protect their parents out of love. But it became apparent there were other reasons for them holding back, especially the eldest. Several factors about the crime did not make sense. For one, the parents are unable to speak the level of English needed to communicate with perpetrators abroad, even though they are considered to be the instigators of the crimes. And in therapy sessions, the eldest boy said their lives had changed for the better since they started the “shows”: the family had more money, they could eat at the local fast food chain Jollibee, and their mother could stop working in a factory. Slowly, what had happened became apparent. “They saw the neighbours making money. They suggested it to their parents,” the prosecutor said. And at 13, it was Nicole who spoke to the paedophiles online, not her mother. There were even times when the children did it without their parents present, the prosecutor said. “It is such a sad story. Such a poor family needing money,” said Hopkins. “Mum was educated to grade one. This is the irony of it – the mother was just as vulnerable. The eldest daughter had a higher level of education. “I’ve heard of other cases where the elder kids had very much been part of it. They need psychological support to know that it is wrong.” While no blame can ever be attributed to children in these cases, the Philippines is struggling to understand how to punish crimes where the victims are deeply entangled in their own abuse, especially if parents are putting pressure on them to find an income. “Children will do anything for their parents,” said Lotta Sylwander, the Unicef representative to the Philippines who is leading the online safety campaign. “We need to raise awareness and vigilance of this issue, so that parents and others understand that child abuse – in any form – is not just morally wrong, it is also extremely harmful to children’s health and development. “Unfortunately, at the moment the situation is getting worse, not better.” Rescued children in the playroom of the child protection unit at Philippine General hospital. Photograph: Andy Brown/Unicef Philippines An anti-child abuse sign by a school in Cebu. Photograph: Oliver Holmes for the Guardian
  14. Humanitarian specialist Michiel Hofman says permanent members of UN security council are complicit in killings by supporting countries in conflict Kareem Shaheen in Beirut Wednesday 1 June 2016 07.00 BST The targeting of hospitals and humanitarian workers in war is quickly becoming a “new normal”, a top official at Médecins Sans Frontières has said, describing permanent members of the UN security council as complicit in the killing of medics. Michiel Hofman, a senior humanitarian specialist at the charity, offered a grim analysis, saying instead of rebel groups it was conventional armies that were repeatedly violating the laws of war. He chided the permanent members of the security council, four of whom are engaged in conflicts where medics are targeted, saying such a situation had not occurred since the Korean war in the 1950s. He described the fighting in Syria as a “dirty war”, saying both the government of Bashar al-Assad and the rebels have targeted hospitals while adding that the greater destructive firepower was held by states. “When we talk about the bombing of hospitals, bombing means air forces,” he said. “Rebel groups don’t have air forces, so this is exclusively states who by definition have much larger firepower [...] and they are the ones that actually signed these conventions.” On Monday night, the national hospital in the opposition-held Idlib city was put out of service after multiple airstrikes hit the area, killing at least two dozen civilians in the latest attack on health services in the conflict. Last month, an MSF and International Committee of the Red Cross-supported hospital in Aleppo was destroyed in an airstrike by the Syrian government, killing one of the only paediatricians left in the ruins of the rebel-held east of the city. Three days later a maternity hospital was partially destroyed in rebel shelling of a government-controlled area in the city’s west. These were only the latest incidents in a series of attacks on medical facilities that amount to a systematic targeting of aid workers in the war. As early as 2013, the UN independent commission of inquiry investigating alleged war crimes in Syria said attacks on medical facilities were being used systematically as a weapon of war by the Assad regime. The civil war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition backs the government against Shia Houthi militia and forces loyal to a deposed president, has also seen attacks on medical facilities. The security council unanimously passed a resolution on 3 May demanding an end to attacks on medical workers and hospitals in war zones, but Hofman said those who passed the resolution, including the UK, are themselves complicit in the killing of medical workers. Hofman was referring to the military and logistical support provided by four of the permanent members of the security council to countries and coalitions that have bombed hospitals. The US has provided logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, reportedly including targeting data, while the UK and France have both sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the launch of the Yemen campaign, decisions that have been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups. Russia intervened on behalf of Assad’s regime in Syria, saving it from collapse and has been repeatedly accused of killing civilians in its aerial campaign. Referring to the May agreement, Hofman said: “That’s never a good sign, resolutions that pass unanimously are usually the ones that get disregarded. [The security council members] are responsible because they’re part of coalitions that are part of bombing campaigns. Like Russia they didn’t bomb the hospital in Aleppo, but they’re part of a coalition with the Syrian government that is doing that. “Maybe we should use the format of an open letter to the president of China saying, as the only remaining permanent member of the security council who is currently not bombing anyone, could you please remind your colleagues?” In February, an MSF report identified 94 airstrikes and shelling attacks on hospitals across Syria. In February last year, the NGO Physicians for Human Rights said it had documented 224 attacks on 175 health facilities since the start of the conflict, and 599 medical personnel had been killed. An anti-terrorism law passed in 2012 by the Syrian parliament declared illegal any medical facility operating in opposition-held areas without government approval, effectively making them legitimate targets for Assad’s air force. Since then, clinics in the rebel-controlled parts of the country have gone underground, sometimes literally in caves and basements, and have refused to share their GPS coordinates for fear of being targeted. “Essentially since 2012, the Syrian army disregarded any kind of protective status to hospitals,” Hofman said. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has questioned the neutrality of MSF’s hospitals, saying Houthi fighters were also being treated there. “In this case, the Saudi coalition, which has the air forces, is using a similar logic where most of their bombings are quite indiscriminate and so the hospitals are not given any protective status,” he said. “In the conversations, we’ve been challenged as to how far these hospitals are being neutral or not.” Hofman said medics operating in combat zones had “the right and the duty to treat everyone, including combatants, and that is being challenged by a lot of states at the moment”. An MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, hit by an airstrike. Photograph: Dan Sermand/MSF People inspect the damage at the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Aleppo, Syria. Photograph: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters
  15. 'When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering' Max Bearak 4 hours ago 29 comments The Dalai Lama, widely known for his compassionate views, has said that "too many" refugees are seeking asylum in Europe, according to German news. Speaking to reporters in the de facto capital of Tibet's exiled government, he said: "Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country," in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Germany is Germany. There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult." It was an unexpected extension of sympathy for a sentiment that has found fertile ground among nationalist groups. The Dalai Lama, who often speaks of humanity's need to acknowledge its "oneness", is a refugee himself. After Tibetans rose up against Chinese limitations on their autonomy in 1959, the current (and 14th) Dalai Lama led tens of thousands of his followers to India, where they and their descendants have lived since. An estimated 120,000 Tibetans live in India, and those born in the country can vote. "From a moral point of view, too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily," the Dalai Lama said. The bulk of Arab refugees he was referencing are fleeing Syria's brutal and seemingly endless civil war, and its spillover into Iraq. Germany has a population of 80 million people and has accepted over 1 million refugees. Beyond the skepticism, the Dalai Lama did convey his characteristic compassion. "When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering," he said. "The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries." Sorry....Wrong section
  16. Thousands of protesters turn out on streets of French capital as refineries and nuclear power stations across the country come to a halt Angelique Chrisafis in Paris Thursday 26 May 2016 18.45 BST Riot police arrested 16 people and fired teargas in violent clashes with protesters marching in Paris as striking workers continued to blockade refineries and nuclear power stations in an escalating stand-off over labour reforms. Tens of thousands of people marched across France in protest against François Hollande’s planned labour bill, which aims to make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers and was forced through parliament without a vote this month following more than ten weeks of protests. Police fired teargas at about 100 people on the edge of a protest march through Paris. Several masked people charged shop windows, smashing them, and cars were damaged near the route of the march. There were skirmishes at Place de la Nation as riot officers cordoned off protesters, some of whom complained of heavy-handed policing. In Caen in Normandy, the website Normandie Actu filmed what it called a case of police violence as an officer appeared to repeatedly kick a demonstrator on the ground. The police described the incident as legitimate defence. Police estimated between 18,000 and 19,000 people took to the streets in Paris, an increase on the last national demonstration day against the labour reforms. Unions put the figure at 100,000. Street marches took place in towns and cities across France, including Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes. Striking French workers continued to disrupt oil refineries and nuclear power stations, halted some air traffic and trains and prevented almost all national newspapers from printing in the growing industrial action. Union activists blocked roads and bridges in northern France while some train drivers and air traffic controllers joined the action. With just two weeks to go before France hosts around 2 million visitors at the showpiece Euro 2016 football tournament, the government is under increasing pressure to find an end to the dispute and stage some kind of climbdown. More disruption is expected next week and unions have called for rolling strikes on the Paris Metro to start on the day of the opening Euro 2016 football match on 10 June. But the government vowed to stand firm and refused to abandon its reforms. The prime minister, Manuel Valls, insisted the law would not be withdrawn, but said it might still be possible to make “changes” or “improvements”. He told the Senate: “You cannot blockade a country, you cannot attack the economic interests of France in this way,” branding the CGT union “irresponsible”. He brushed aside signs that some in the ruling Socialist party were buckling, such as the finance minister Michel Sapin, who suggested the most contested part of the legislation could be rewritten – namely a contentious clause that gives individual companies more of a free hand in setting working conditions. Hollande has framed the labour reforms as a crucial loosening of France’s famously rigid labour protections, cutting red-tape and slightly tweaking some of the more cumbersome rules that deter employers from hiring. This would, he argued, make France more competitive and tackle stubborn mass unemployment that tops 10% of the workforce. But after more than two months of street demonstrations against the labour changes, the hardline CGT union has radically intensified its strategy and is now trying to choke-off the nation’s fuel supply to force Hollande to abandon the reforms it sees as a betrayal of workers’ rights. Members of the CGT union continued to insist they wanted the reforms scrapped entirely, not merely modified. “It’s inadmissible,” Arnaud Pacot of the CGT union in the Aube region of eastern France told BFM TV from a nuclear plant being blocked by activists. A third of petrol stations across France were empty or dangerously low on fuel after several days of blockades at refineries. The government has started using its strategic fuel reserves and forcing depots to reopen, but supplies are still limited and purchases are being rationed. Five of the country’s eight refineries are still either halted or operating at reduced capacity. Many motorists were still in long queues around petrol stations across France. Companies ranging from gardeners and hauliers to florists trying to deliver flowers for French Mother’s Day this weekend complained about the impact on business. The CGT said all but three of France’s 19 nuclear power stations had voted to stop work in a country that gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power. RTE, the body overseeing the national power network, said the stoppages had not had an immediate effect on the electricity supply, but “if it worsens, it will have an impact on the management of the network”. Tens of thousands of people marched across France in protest against François Hollande’s planned labour bill Photograph: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images French riot police officers arrest a man in Paris. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images
  17. What three decades in journalism has taught me about the persistence of racism in the US Wednesday 25 May 2016 06.00 BST By Howard W French Over the course of 2014, America seemed to reawaken to one of its oldest preoccupations: the reality of how race is lived in the United States, and in particular the many stark disparities that persist between black and white people. The continued existence of racial inequality in the United States was not exactly news – but the shocking deaths of a series of unarmed black men at the hands of the police made the issue impossible to ignore. The killing of Eric Garner, who was wrestled to the ground and choked to death by police on a New York City sidewalk in July 2014, confronted the public with a disturbing question: how was it possible that a black man could be killed for the trifling infraction of selling loose cigarettes? Garner’s dying words – “I can’t breathe” – captured on video, would soon become the rallying cry of a nascent movement, Black Lives Matter. When Michael Brown was killed by a policeman the following month, enormous protests erupted, and the attention of the entire country – and much of the world – turned to Ferguson, Missouri. Television news was filled with scenes of mostly black protesters surrounded by heavily armoured riot police, evoking images from an era that American liberals liked to believe was long in the past. Brown’s death, in the heat of the summer, produced a huge swell of anger and a fierce debate, but a tentative conclusion soon emerged: though his death had first seemed disturbing, many came to see him as a flawed victim. Brown had not led an unblemished life: he had shoplifted minutes before his demise, he had smoked pot, and investigators insisted that he had resisted arrest, tussling with the policeman who shot him. He was “no angel”, in the uncharitable words of a New York Times story published two weeks after his death. This tone could be heard in much of the coverage of Brown’s killing and the ensuing protests in Ferguson – and not just at that newspaper. What this tone suggested was that a black person who died at the hands of police needed to have been perfect, and utterly blameless, to justify outrage at their death and national attention to the problem. But such a case came along soon enough, when police officers in Cleveland, Ohio, encountered Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun on a deserted playground. What ensued was captured on video, otherwise many would have dismissed an objective account of the incident as the product of fevered black imagination. A white officer is seen jumping out of his car and without pausing even to exchange words, immediately opening fire, leaving the child dead. Here, for all those who had demanded it, was the immaculate victim. A grave problem, it seemed, could no longer be denied. By late 2014, newspapers and TV networks had begun to dedicate substantial time to the subject of excessive force routinely used by police against black people, and to the protest movement that grew in the wake of these incidents. Television news channels – even the very conservative Fox News – devoted hours of their nightly broadcasts to discussions of this problem, often heated, and to a consideration of its roots. Not coincidentally, minority voices suddenly proliferated on the air. Having rediscovered the crisis of American race relations, there were reasons to hope that the media might make the colour line, as the eminent early-20th-century black American intellectual WEB Dubois famously called it, the focus of even deeper and more serious ongoing attention. But the attention of US journalism – and along with it, the attention of the nation – soon drifted away. What happened? The easy part of the answer is that 2015 marked the start of a seemingly endless season of obsessive American political coverage, in the long run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Journalists descended on Baltimore to cover the protests over the death of Freddie Gray in April, but in the months that followed, reporters started to turn their focus to places such as Iowa and New Hampshire, where Republican candidates were already visiting county fairs and meeting voters in greasy spoons. But what was less predictable, and much more striking, was the brazen way that the Republican candidates competed in pandering to white voters using racial themes. Perhaps they sensed that, after two terms under Barack Obama, many Republican primary voters were incensed by the appearance of cracks in what might be called the hegemony of whiteness. Donald Trump led the way, and provided the most famous examples – describing immigrants from Mexico as criminals and rapists, proposing to ban Muslims from entering the country – but he was far from alone. Only months after the country had begun a tentative interrogation of its history of racism, that had all been forgotten. Early on, Trump was criticised for the unusual crudeness of his racial appeals, but by the time the candidate had eliminated the last of his Republican rivals, in early May, the media seemed inured to Trump’s rhetoric. But even as the US media has devoted vast time and resources to covering every twist and turn of the primary campaigns, almost none of this journalism has posed deeper questions about the social pathology of racism that makes nativist demagoguery so appealing to white voters. Instead, this fact is simply taken for granted – much like the persistent disparity in rates of unemployment and incarceration between black and white people, or the staggering gap in household wealth between the races. One could say much the same about the crude contempt for Barack Obama that has become a powerful undercurrent in Republican politics over the last seven years. With Trump all but certain to be the Republican nominee, all signs point towards a tense and extraordinarily racialised campaign – and one that will pose a severe test for American journalism, which has been as beset by the crisis of race as the society it claims to rigorously examine. The intersection between America’s age-old race problem and the crisis of race in journalism takes two forms. The first is a simple failure of integration: the news organisations that have traditionally comprised “mainstream” journalism have done little to welcome or encourage African-Americans, who are substantially underrepresented by comparison to their numbers in the overall population. This problem is obvious to anyone who cares to look – and it has become sufficiently embarrassing for a number of publications to make sporadic but ultimately ineffectual efforts to redress it. As soon as one or two hires are made, attention inevitably shifts elsewhere, much as the focus of the press drifted away from racial bias in the criminal justice system once a whiff of the campaign season could be sensed in the air. But the second and more subtle issue is a persistent problem of typecasting – a deeply embedded view that regards certain topics as “black” and the rest as “white”. Those black people who make their way into the business are heavily concentrated in stereotypical roles. This has meant sport, entertainment and especially what is euphemistically called urban affairs, often meaning reporting on black people. By contrast, there are very few black journalists writing about politics and national security, international news, big business, culture (as opposed to entertainment) or science and technology – they are essentially absent from large swaths of coverage, and even more sparsely represented among the ranks of editors. This is not a trivial matter, or a subject of concern solely to journalists: the overwhelming whiteness of the media strongly but silently conditions how Americans understand their own country and the rest of the world. These problems are not new, and they are not unknown: they have been confirmed by survey after survey measuring diversity in the country’s newsrooms and on its airwaves, but this is not how I discovered them. The lessons I received in the matter all came through direct experience, inside what many consider America’s foremost news organisation. When I first arrived at the New York Times in 1986, fresh from freelancing in West Africa, I was as eager as anyone can possibly imagine – but more than a little bit nervous about trying to break into the big time of American journalism at the age of 27, as a new father working in a city I had never lived in before. I had never worked in a newsroom; I had never even worked under the close supervision of editors. So there was much to learn. I would have been lying if I had said I was looking forward to covering what seemed to me mundane things such as cops and courts – but, looking back, there is no doubt that my three years in New York gave me an education in journalism I could not have received anywhere else. This was not the only invaluable education I received in New York – far from it. As an idealistic young black man there was a whole universe of knowledge to be acquired about how this industry handles the question of race in America, and this was vital to one’s survival. One quickly learned that the newsroom was a place rife with powerful networks, which nurtured and anointed a few golden boys – and occasionally, although much less frequently back then, golden girls. These networks took shape along lines of educational pedigree, social status and religion – all categories that helped make it appear that race was not relevant. Indeed, to the casual onlooker it all passed for merit. Some of my first lessons came while paying my dues, working weekends in the nearly-empty newsroom, where I was asked to monitor the police blotter for noteworthy crimes. Early on, I was bluntly reproached by an editor for bringing the uptown murder of a black person by another black person to his attention, as if I didn’t know that these were “penny crimes”, in his words, meaning things that could never rise to the level of interest of New York Times readers on a Sunday. If a black man had killed a white man, or if there was white-on-white murder, he explained, this, of course, would be a different matter. This was not the only kind of race logic common in the business, as I was just discovering at a place that was regarded – and regarded itself – as a bastion of liberalism. I had watched in surprise one winter evening, when a power outage in the Bronx sent editors casting about the cavernous old newsroom for black reporters, something that immediately made painfully clear how few of us there were. In a cast of hundreds, it seemed that it would not take much more than two hands to count us on. It was freely said that white reporters were uncomfortable venturing to that part of the city in the dark – the first of many times I would hear such thinking in my career. These were the high-crime, crack cocaine years, and so off black reporters were sent, based on the theory that even dressed in business suits and ties, as nearly all the staff were in that era, we would be safer and more comfortable in the dark of a ghetto. Around that same time, I was sent to cover the aftermath of a huge shootout in the Bronx between a notorious drug dealer, Larry Davis, and the police, in which the suspect briefly escaped. My reward, after Davis was captured, was being assigned to cover one of his trials, which an editor advised me not to take too seriously, regarding it as a foregone conclusion – despite Davis hiring a famous civil rights attorney, William Kunstler, who tied the prosecution up in knots by emphasising what most black people intuitively knew or suspected: a rich history of police abuse and procedural irregularities. After this, I was briefly assigned something called “the race beat”, which was basically intended to mean covering black civil rights complaints against the city in that highly polarised era. This was in keeping with perhaps the oldest tradition in the business, since its integration began tentatively in the 1960s: let black people cover black topics, which were perceived as impenetrable, if not outright dangerous. In those days, a tiny coterie of black reporters often huddled together to fume over coverage of the 1988 presidential race by an all-white political staff, whose dismissive treatment of Jesse Jackson, the sole black candidate, often bordered on insulting – repeatedly describing him with code words such as “street smart”. Early one morning, a pair of black colleagues successfully goaded me into challenging the brilliant and deadly serious managing editor, Joseph Lelyveld – then the second-most-powerful person in the newsroom – over one story’s description of Jackson as “flamboyant”, which seemed to us gratuitously pejorative. Approaching Lelyveld to challenge him was as forbidding as seeking an audience with the Wizard of Oz. My friends stood in the wings, watching as the two of us, side by side, looked at the definition of “flamboyant” in a giant tabletop dictionary, which led Lelyveld to admit our complaint was correct. My big break came when I was sent on a series of short-term deployments to cover a series of military coups and popular uprisings in Haiti – on the same logic that had seen black reporters dispatched to cover the Bronx. There was a white correspondent covering Haiti at the time, who was very good at gaining access to diplomats and political sources, but seemed to shun the frequently chaotic events in the streets, which were filled with angry and presumably dangerous black protesters. I had been lobbying my editors for nearly three years for a full-time foreign assignment of my own, enrolling in Spanish classes, reading histories of India, and visiting Mexico. When the call came to tell me I had finally been named as the fourth black foreign correspondent in the long history of the newspaper, it was to inform me that I was being sent to cover the Caribbean. This was neither what I had hoped for nor imagined, but it was an innovation of sorts; the traditional move had been to send people like us to Africa. Black colleagues on the staff were proud of me nonetheless, so much so that a fistfight nearly broke out when one of them, a friend named Don Terry, overheard a white reporter who was roughly our age grumbling openly that I had unjustly benefited from affirmative action. This was a standard complaint, a claim that filled the air with every word of our advancement: never mind that I had performed well enough in Haiti to repeatedly win in-house prizes at the paper, or that I spoke excellent French and was already becoming passably fluent in Creole. By this time, I was far enough along in my apprenticeship so as not be surprised by such sentiments. In his memoir, My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times, Gerald Boyd, one of the first black people to rise to a senior management position at the newspaper, recalled that when he was first hired, in 1983, a senior editor told him: “I really enjoy your clips – they’re so well written. Did you write them yourself, or did someone write them for you?” As he rose through the ranks, he was frequently told by his superiors that he would be “our Jackie Robinson” – the man who broke the colour barrier in professional baseball in the late 1940s. Like me, Boyd was assigned to the “urban affairs” beat, and then to Atlanta, a job he was told was perfect for him, since he could “cover the South as a black man”. Boyd overcame these indignities to rise to the number-two job at the paper – inducing resentment among some white peers. Finally, he was brought down by a scandal involving a young black reporter, Jayson Blair, who had fabricated information in a string of stories. Boyd was forced to resign along with the paper’s top editor, Howell Raines, and suggested in his memoir, which was published after his death in 2006, that he had been judged guilty by association, simply because he and Blair were both black. These experiences were not in any way unique to the New York Times. In Volunteer Slavery, her memoir of working at the Washington Post in the same era, Jill Nelson describes joining the paper’s prestigious new Sunday magazine after a successful freelance career, only to find its culture dominated by white editors with no interest in people of colour. “For the average white newspaperman, those worlds beyond the narrow one he inhabits exist primarily as paths to career development,” Nelson writes. “When it comes to black folks, we exist mostly as potential sociological, pathological, or scatological slices of life waiting to be chewed, digested, and excreted into the requisite number of column inches in the paper.” In 1994, after four years of covering continuous tumult in Haiti and the winding down of the cold war in Central America, I received a call asking me to do what the paper’s three previous black foreign correspondents had all done: to go – or go back, in my case – to Africa. It was an extension of the race beat into the world of international coverage. From my earliest days at the paper, I had told my editors that although I was determined to work overseas, I did not want to be sent to Africa. To be clear, this was in no way due to a lack of interest in the continent on my part, but rather because the news business itself accorded such little attention to Africa, and when it bothered to it tended to cover it in only the most sporadic and stilted ways, as if Africans were as impossible to grasp as extraterrestrials. It didn’t help when a white senior editor at the paper who had himself been a correspondent in Africa tried to encourage me by saying that between the episodic hard news provided by the occasional conflict or coup, one could amuse oneself there scribbling postcards about the exotic and primitive, or what he called “oogah-boogah”. But the paper pressed hard for me to accept the posting, and I complied, covering the continent again for four-and-a-half years – during which the biggest stories were the ferocious wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and especially Zaire (now Congo). Late in this African stint, an unexpected call came from my editor in New York. Where would I like to go next, he asked? With little more premeditation than a gut sense of which bureaux were likely to be opening up soon, I blurted “Tokyo!” To which, after an awkward moment’s pause, he replied stutteringly, “Really? Could you do that? How would you cover Japan?” I told him to give me a chance to study the language first and I would manage, and to his credit I was soon given the job. Many years later, I learned that my closest black colleagues in New York had celebrated this news, with one of them, Michel Marriott, exclaiming, “Howard has reached the river!” Someone had escaped, or so it seemed, what we sometimes called the “corporate ***** calculus” – the careful tending of our presence, never dramatically expanding our numbers but also never letting them fall too low, all the while keeping us employed in predictable roles, while breaking the pattern every so often with the occasional exception. To be clear, the New York Times did not stand out in this regard. Few other publications did any better. Michel revealed to me that his strategy in those early years was to focus on subjects that he knew white peers would find unattractive – which frequently meant doing things that required going deep into black communities, often during moments of violence or trauma. “You would try to do a really good job, to really bring it, and hope that this would win you some recognition,” he said. Michel was already an extraordinary journalist, and this strategy and his talents led him to cover racial tensions in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, where he reported on the 1992 riots with distinction. The limits of his political approach to race within the paper became apparent, though, when he successfully pushed to cover computers, games and consumer electronics during the technology boom of the 2000s. There was immediate pushback from his white colleagues, who claimed he had no background in tech and was not the right person for the job. A black man occupying this space did not fit preconceptions, any more than me heading to Tokyo did, and perhaps even less. Implicitly, it also meant depriving a white person of a coveted job covering a hot sector, and the ensuing resentment, much like the howls against supposed affirmative action that I had faced upon ascension to the foreign staff, laid bare the limits of liberal generosity in our profession. As a black reporter, one had little choice but to get used to lots of little insults; many of them came from unexpected places. From my earliest days as the New York Times bureau chief in Tokyo, I struggled with a veteran Japanese office manager in late middle age, who had almost immediately begun to defy me at every turn. I learned from his fellow Japanese office employees, for example, that they should run by him all my requests for research on stories, before doing anything to assist me. Little by little I learned that he resented that the Times had sent a black man with an African wife to cover Japan, interrupting an endless line of white bureau chiefs, many of whom had Ivy League educations and academic backgrounds in Asian affairs. He took it as a sort of implicit downgrade of his country. Naturally enough, the history of black people in journalism shadows the history of race in America itself, which across the ages has slowly and ever reluctantly ceded space to people of African ancestry. In the public sphere, this happened first in entertainment, meaning song and dance, then in sport, all areas where black people still enjoy heavily disproportionate representation. The opening eventually reached journalism, which for most of its history in America had been a strictly segregated industry. In the 1950s and 1960s, very much belatedly, it was decided that black people should be allowed to write about race in the mainstream press. A sudden urgency attached to this discovery after violent attacks on civil rights demonstrators in the South, and especially after the urban riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. A great uncle of mine, Simeon Booker, had been in the forefront of this wave, as the first African American reporter hired by the Washington Post, in 1952. Booker says the publisher, Phil Graham, told him: “If you can take it, I’m ready to gamble.” The roles newly granted to black people in the press were often dressed up in euphemisms of various kinds, with terms such as “urban affairs”, and in their own way they constituted a new ghettoisation. When I joined the New York Times, there were no black reporters covering presidential campaigns. Thirty years later, to its credit, the Times, which remains America’s leading newspaper, has its first black editor-in-chief, Dean Baquet. But in a year of open and often shrill racism on the campaign trail, there is only one black reporter, newly hired, covering the presidential elections – and similar circumstances can be found at other top newspapers. Looking at the traditional media industry as a whole, there are relatively few organisations where things are dramatically better. This is not to say that black people have not come to penetrate previously off-limits areas of the American media. In small numbers, with great perseverance, they have. Television news, in particular, seems to have grown more diversified, with the inclusion of black commentators, for example, now de rigueur on many networks. In the newspaper industry overall, however, the numbers of African Americans have been dwindling, from 5.4% of employees in 2003 to 4.8% in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center. Though the history of race in America makes this an especially important issue in the US media, there are comparable narratives in many other societies – mirroring the way that an entrenched majority only reluctantly cedes any authority to a growing minority in the business. British journalism, for example, has by any objective measure done even less to integrate than American news organisations, especially at the highest levels of the profession. It must be said that in the past few years, a small number of prestige publications – often magazines such as the New Yorker, New York magazine, and the New York Times magazine – have made visible efforts to hire high-profile black writers. This has taken place amid a broader democratisation of the media, owing to the proliferation of online publications with national ambitions – which has allowed many new non-white voices to emerge. But it’s still difficult to tell whether this marks the beginning of an important shift, or is simply a short-term trend. For decades it has been clear that space is made in the firmament for a tiny number of black journalists at any given time, if mostly to write about race. These figures, however brilliant, find themselves transformed into unwilling emblems of inclusivity – the journalistic and literary equivalent of a black president, a figure whose ascendancy can be cited by white people as proof that we don’t have a race problem any more. For the past few years, this role has been thrust most of all upon Ta-Nehisi Coates – especially since the publication, in May 2014, of his blockbuster cover story in the Atlantic, The Case for Reparations. This was clearly a work of enormous ambition, and it announced itself as such: “American prosperity was built on two-and-a-half centuries of slavery, a deep wound that has never been healed or fully atoned for – and that has been deepened by years of discrimination, segregation, and racist housing policies that persists to this day. Until America reckons with the moral debt it has accrued – and the practical damage it has done – to generations of black Americans, it will fail to live up to its own ideals.” For Coates, the oppressive regime that black people were subjected to, first in the American South and later in northern industrial cities, such as Chicago, was nothing less than a “kleptocracy”, one that worked zealously to keep black people in “debt peonage”. This all flew in the face of a cherished and prevalent idea in the US: that the place of African Americans in the society has been transformed dramatically for the better – first through the arrival of legal equality, thanks to the 1965 Voting Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws dating to the 1950s and 1960s, and then by decades of state investments in social welfare programmes. In the popular imagination, this happy narrative concludes, finally, with the exclamation point of a black president, Barack Obama. Coates’s work firmly rejected that sunny narrative – which made its popularity all the more astounding: the venerable Atlantic boasts a rich journalistic history, but it has not been known for provocation, and yet The Case For Reparations quickly became one of the most-read online pieces in the magazine’s history. A year later, in the summer of 2015, Coates published his second book, Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America, which takes the form of a letter to his teenage son. In it, Coates expounds more on his unsparing vision of race in America, denouncing what he calls “an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much”. An extraordinary deluge of plaudits began raining down on Coates with the publication of this book. The many prizes and honours that he won in quick succession included a MacArthur fellowship – known popularly as the “genius grant” for its no-strings-attached $625,000 prize, paid over five years – and the prestigious National Book award for nonfiction. Suddenly, the exceedingly white cream of the American book and humanities world were seemingly falling over themselves to celebrate a black man whose work, without too much of a stretch, could be described as a giant thumb in their eye. (“I don’t know why white people read what I write,” Coates has said. “I didn’t set out to accumulate a mass of white fans.”) This, to be sure, was great work being celebrated, and yet at the same time it was hard to avoid the feeling that we were witnessing the re-enactment of an old, insidious ritual of confinement, even though it was being carried out via fulsome praise. Coates was doing, after all, the one thing that black writers have long been permitted – if not always encouraged – to do: write about the experience of race and racism in the world and in their own lives. The media industry has long been selective in opening up spaces for African American people, while silently reserving all the rest for members of the white majority – and the showering of great prizes on black writers such as Coates, however deserved, was in a way a celebration, by the people who maintain this exclusion, of their own enlightenment and generosity. There is a tradition of elevating a single tenor for the entire race, or less commonly, a small number of people who were deemed worthy of the attentions of a national audience. This is where the James Baldwin comparisons that have so often been drawn with Coates become interesting. Baldwin, like Coates, occupied this carefully guarded stage. To be sure, neither of them were asked their feelings about this, and if they had been, neither could have approved. Coates, for his part, has rejected the very mantle of the public intellectual. Baldwin, before him, had clearly understood this trap and rebelled against it, vowing not to allow himself to become “merely a *****, or even, merely a ***** writer”. This process of assigning discrete bandwidth to a singular black figure for a limited, if indeterminate period of time (the whims of the majority will decide) is ultimately a mechanism for feeling good about oneself. That figure can always be pointed to, cited at cocktail parties, maybe even invited, as evidence that black opinion is being heard, even better, perhaps, if it is angry, because that demonstrates white forbearance. That singular figure, then, quickly becomes the start and finish of any belated attempts to demonstrate one’s efforts at “diversity”. I witnessed this dynamic in action last year, during a staff meeting at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where I am now a professor. There was a discussion under way about the need to achieve more diversity in the classroom, and one of my white colleagues earnestly explained that he had tried hard to address this problem. “We invited Ta-Nehisi Coates to speak,” he protested. “But he was fully booked up.” The importance of diversity in the media – as in other sectors of society – is not about scoring points in some imaginary scale of civic virtue. It has nothing to do with the granting of favours – or even concessions – by a white majority. It is akin to restoring vision to a creature with impaired sight, making it whole and allowing it to function at the full limits of its perceptive and analytical capacity. The majority cannot understand this – cannot realise that it is partly blind – because its own provincialism has persisted uninterrupted for so long. I am reminded of a conversation I had with an editor when I left West Africa for Asia, and was replaced by a Canadian reporter of Japanese heritage, Norimitsu Onishi. When I expressed excitement that a non-white person would be filling this job, in a region where coverage has so long been dominated by unchallenged white paradigms of race, the editor was puzzled. “Really, do you think that would make a difference?” the editor asked me. “I had never thought of it that way.” The tokenism of various kinds that still represents the media’s best efforts at diversity remains a sort of mockery of the term. Going beyond this requires more than hiring non-white reporters and editors – though that is necessary. Meaningful diversity, of a sort that changes how news organisations see the world, requires boosting the number of non-white figures in positions of editorial decision-making from top to bottom. The industry employment statistics are disheartening enough, but in many ways they understate the scale of the problem: the people whose decisions shape the news Americans read and watch are almost all white – as I was reminded, almost by accident, last year. One nearly snowed-in weekend afternoon, I returned to my university office to fetch a book I had forgotten there. In doing so, I stumbled into a milling crowd of editors who had gathered there to vote in various committees for the prestigious National Magazine awards. Surprised by what I found, I lingered a few moments to take in the scene: except for a lone woman of Asian descent spotted in the elevator, everyone else I chanced upon was white. As if in a deathbed experience, in that instant, my entire career flashed before my eyes. This little microcosm consisted of the people who hire and fire throughout the American magazine world. They decide what will be commissioned and published, and exactly where this content will appear. Careers rise and fall on the basis of their judgments. Here, they were gathered to decide what was the most important work in American journalism over the last year, and they were quite nearly all white. •
  18. Planning minister Romero Jucá was recorded saying ‘We have to change the government’ as the only means to stop a sweeping corruption investigation Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro Monday 23 May 2016 22.08 BST The credibility of Brazil’s interim government was rocked on Monday when a senior minister was forced to step aside amid further revelations about the machiavellian plot to impeach president Dilma Rousseff. Just 10 days after taking office, the planning minister, Romero Jucá, announced that he would “go on leave” following the release of a secretly taped telephone conversation in which he said Rousseff needed to be removed to quash a vast corruption investigation that implicated him and other members of the country’s political elite. It is unlikely to be the last blow for the interim president, Michel Temer, whose centre-right cabinet includes seven ministers implicated by the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation into kickbacks and money laundering at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Temer took power earlier this month after the senate initiated an impeachment trial of Rousseff, who is suspended for up to six months pending the upper house’s verdict on allegations that she manipulated government accounts before the last election. Supporters of the Workers’ party leader say the charges are a pretext for a “coup”. Temer’s allies counter that the impeachment was constitutional and necessary to address political paralysis and the worst recession in decades. But the dubious motives and machiavellian nature of the plot to remove Rousseff are apparent in the transcript of a phone conversation between Jucá – a powerful ally of Temer’s in the Brazilian Democratic Movement party (PMDB) – and Sérgio Machado, a former senator who until recently was the president of another state oil company, Transpetro. After discussing how they are both targeted by Lava Jato prosecutors, Jucá says the way out is political: “We have to stop this ****,” he says of the investigation. “We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding.” Machado concurs: “The easiest solution would be to put in Michel [Temer].” The conversation took place just weeks before the lower house voted to impeach Rousseff, according to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, which published the transcript. At one point, Jucá appears to mock the Lava Jato investigators for their high-mindedness and determination to tackle all corrupt senators and congressmen. “[They want to] put an end to this political class so [a new one] can rise, to build a new breed [that will be] pure.” He then says the “penny has dropped” on this threat not just for him, but for the leaders of the Social Democratic party, such as former presidential candidate Aécio Neves, Senator Aloysio Neves, José Serra and Tasso Jereissati – all of whom are now either in the cabinet of the interim government or key supporters of the coalition. Later in the conversation, Juca says he talked about his plans to supreme court justices, who told him the “****” (referring to the corruption investigation and its media coverage) would never stop as long as Rousseff remained in power. He also said he received “guarantees” from military commanders that they could prevent disturbances from radical leftwing groups such as the Landless Workers Movement. Jucá – who took the influential post of planning minister in the interim government – admitted on Monday that the conversation had taken place, but he said his words were taken out of context. He argued that he was referring to economic losses when he talked about “the bleeding”. His lawyer, Almeida Castro, reiterated this: “At no time was Jucá speaking against Lava Jato or seeking to interfere with the operation.” But Machado, who was the source of the recording, is already reportedly negotiating a plea bargain with prosecutors. According to reports in local media, Jucá has said he will stay on leave until prosecutors decide whether he has committed any crime. During the Lava Jato investigation, Jucá was named in a plea bargain by former senator Delcídio Amaral as a beneficiary in a 30m reais (£5.7m...$8.2M) kickback scheme from inflated contracts for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon. He has denied the charges, which are being considered by the supreme court. The Workers’ party has also been deeply implicated in this and other wrongdoing, though Rousseff – who has not been charged with any crimes – allowed the Lava Jato investigation to continue while she was in charge. Temer has insisted that he too would not interfere. But many fear his new justice minister, Alexandre de Moraes, will reduce the scope of federal police activities. Moraes has previously been a defence lawyer for Eduardo Cunha, the suspended lower house speaker who is a chief target of Lava Jato investigators. In an interview with the Guardian last month, Jucá denied that he, Cunha, Temer and other members of the PMDB were planning to rein back the Lava Jato investigation for the sake of stability. “On the contrary, I think it’s necessary to accelerate Lava Jato,” he said. “You need to separate the wheat from the chaff, separate the guilty from the innocent. Political stability will be created by the innocent and by the credibility of politics for society. Today, credibility is low and the level of representability of politicians and parties is very low. We have to recover politics, which is an instrument to diminish conflicts and set a direction for the country.” But the interim administration he helped to create has shown little sign of reducing tension or restoring credibility. The all-male, all-white cabinet has been heavily criticised as unrepresentative of the country, its austerity policies are unpopular and its leader has already backed down on removing the ministerial status of the culture ministry in the face of protests by leading artists, musicians and film-makers. Romero Jucá, the recently appointed planning minister, was recorded saying: ‘We have to stop this ****. We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding.’ Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images
  19. Isis claims it carried out suicide and car bomb attacks in Jableh and Tartous, which until now had escaped worst of conflict Martin Chulov Monday 23 May 2016 14.11 BST Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a series of blasts that killed more than 120 people in a loyalist coastal enclavethat has remained the most tightly controlled part of Syria throughout the civil war. The attacks targeted Tartous, which hosts a Russian naval base, and Jableh, 50 miles to the north. Both cities had been spared the destruction that has laid waste to other parts of the country over more than five years. Isis announced that the explosions were its work within hours of sending suicide bombers and car bombs into the area. Four blasts, several carried out by suicide bombers, caused chaos in Jableh, killing more than 70 people, while three more detonated near a petrol station in Tartous, killing about 50 people and maiming scores more. The terror group said it was targeting supporters of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and gatherings of the Alawite sect, to which Assad and many of Syria’s ruling class belong. Assad has been heavily backed by Russia since the war began. Moscow’s backing had become more resolute over the past seven months, after Vladimir Putin launched a large-scale intervention last October against rebel groups and jihadis, which has since laid waste to many opposition-held areas in northern Syria. The Russian naval base in Tartous has been Moscow’s largest naval fixture outside the former Soviet Union for more than 40 years. Moscow also maintains a large listening post in the area and has built an airbase near Latakia. While Tartous and Jableh had previously been hit by rocket fire, neither Isis nor other jihadi groups, nor the mainstream Syrian opposition, had managed to launch a large-scale attack in the area. Isis has a small presence in the countryside near Hama to the immediate east of Tartous; however, it operates mainly to the east of Aleppo, several hundred miles away. Much of Syria’s north-west coast, including Latakia, has remained loyal to Assad and he retains considerable influence there and in the adjoining Alawite heartland, from where many senior military officers and establishment figures have been drawn over the 45 years that the Assad family has ruled Syria. The attacks are highly symbolic for Isis, which has been battered on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria over recent months, losing up to 30% of the territory it held in late 2014, after the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, anointed himself as the leader of a new Islamic Caliphate that straddled the borders of both countries. A US-led air campaign has pushed the group out of much of northern Iraq, and a Russian-backed land offensive in March ousted it from the ancient city of Palmyra, north-east of Damascus. Despite the losses, Isis retains pockets of influence across the country, which it uses to spark clashes along the Lebanese border, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, near Hama to the west and close to Deraa near the Jordanian border. As it has lost control of geographical areas, the terror group has increasingly tried to assert itself by launching co-ordinated bombings, which have been signature ploys throughout all the group’s incarnations. Attacks similar to the Tartous strikes have been launched in Shia neighbourhoods of Baghdad in recent weeks, where more than 200 people have been killed. Scores died in similar bombings in Damascus and near Homs earlier this year. Talks aimed at ending the fighting in Syria stagnated in Vienna last week. Earlier talks in Geneva met the same fate. A joint US and Russian effort to bring together warring parties, excluding Isis and a separate jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra, has failed to generate momentum. Opposition groups, which are nominally led by an exiled political administration, accuse the Assad regime and Russia of bombing communities controlled by opposition fighters with impunity, and paying scant attention to Isis. Russia has claimed there is little distinction between jihadi fighters and opposition groups who are fighting to oust Assad.
  20. SFPD boss Greg Suhr resigns just hours after officers fatally shot a 27-year-old black woman and as the police department faces a bigotry scandal .... In a statement on their Facebook page, the activists who held a hunger strike, known as the Frisco 5, called for further action, including a meeting with the acting chief to discuss “real reform” and the resignation of the mayor.
  21. Smarter artificial intelligence is one of 21st century’s most dire threats, writes Yuval Noah Harari in follow-up to Sapiens Ian Sample Science editor Friday 20 May 2016 13.20 BST It is hard to miss the warnings. In the race to make computers more intelligent than us, humanity will summon a demon, bring forth the end of days, and code itself into oblivion. Instead of silicon assistants we’ll build silicon assassins. The doomsday story of an evil AI has been told a thousand times. But our fate at the hand of clever cloggs robots may in fact be worse - to summon a class of eternally useless human beings. At least that is the future predicted by Yuval Noah Harari, a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, whose new book says more of us will be pushed out of employment by intelligent robots and on to the economic scrap heap. Harari rose to prominence when his 2014 book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, became an international bestseller. Two years on, the book is still being talked about. Bill Gates asked Melinda to read it on holiday. It would spark great conversations around the dinner table, he told her. We know because he said so on his blog this week. When a book is a hit, the publisher wants more. And so Harari has been busy. His next title, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is not out until September but early copies have begun to circulate. Its cover states simply: “What made us sapiens will make us gods”. It follows on from where Sapiens ends, in a provocative, and certainly speculative, gallop through the hopes and dreams that will shape the future of the species. And the nightmares. Because even as the book has humans gaining godlike powers, that is only one eventuality Harari explores. It might all go pear-shaped, of course: we sapiens have a knack for hashing things up. Instead of morphing into omnipotent, all-knowing masters of the universe, the human mob might end up jobless and aimless, whiling away our days off our nuts on drugs, with VR headsets strapped to our faces. Welcome to the next revolution. Harari calls it “the rise of the useless class” and ranks it as one of the most dire threats of the 21st century. In a nutshell, as artificial intelligence gets smarter, more humans are pushed out of the job market. No one knows what to study at college, because no one knows what skills learned at 20 will be relevant at 40. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not through chance but by definition. “I’m aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It’s basically the boy who cried wolf,” says Harari. “But in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time.” The way Harari sees it, humans have two kinds of ability that make us useful: physical ones and cognitive ones. The Industrial Revolution may have led to machines that did away with humans in jobs needing strength and repetitive actions. But the takeover was not overwhelming. With cognitive powers that machines could not touch, humans were largely safe in their work. For how much longer, though? AIs are now beginning to outperform humans in the cognitive field. And while new types of jobs will certainly emerge, we cannot be sure, says Harari, that humans will do them better than AIs, computers and robots. AIs do not need more intelligence than humans to transform the job market. They need only enough to do the task well. And that is not far off, Harari says. “Children alive today will face the consequences. Most of what people learn in school or in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50. If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be relevant to what is happening, people will have to reinvent themselves again and again, and faster and faster.” Even so, jobless humans are not useless humans. In the US alone, 93 million people do not have jobs, but they are still valued. Harari, it turns out, has a specific definition of useless. “I choose this very upsetting term, useless, to highlight the fact that we are talking about useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system, not from a moral viewpoint,” he says. Modern political and economic structures were built on humans being useful to the state: most notably as workers and soldiers, Harari argues. With those roles taken on by machines, our political and economic systems will simply stop attaching much value to humans, he argues. None of this puts us in the realm of the gods. In fact, it leads Harari to even more bleak predictions. Though the people may no longer provide for the state, the state may still provide for them. “What might be far more difficult is to provide people with meaning, a reason to get up in the morning,” Harari says. For those who don’t cheer at the prospect of a post-work world, satisfaction will be a commodity to pay for: our moods and happiness controlled by drugs; our excitement and emotional attachments found not in the world outside, but in immersive VR. All of which leads to the question: what should we do? “First of all, take it very seriously,” Harari says. “And make it a part of the political agenda, not only the scientific agenda. This is something that shouldn’t be left to scientists and private corporations. They know a lot about the technical stuff, the engineering, but they don’t necessarily have the vision and the legitimacy to decide the future course of humankind.” An iCub robot learns how to play from a child. Photograph: Dr Patricia Shaw/EPSRC/PA ‘Most of what people learn in school ... will be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50,’ says Yuval Noah Harari.
  22. Global poll finds 10% would take in refugee – rising to 29% in UK – with Australia fifth on Amnesty index despite hardline policies Ben Doherty in Sydney Thursday 19 May 2016 01.01 BST The people of China, Germany and the UK are the most welcoming to refugees in the world, according to an Amnesty International survey on attitudes towards those fleeing war and persecution. In a global survey of 27,000 people across 27 countries, nearly 70% said their governments should being doing more to help refugees, while 80% said they would accept refugees living in their country, city, or neighbourhood. One in 10 would welcome a refugee to live in their own home, with the figure rising to 46% in China and 29% in the UK. China and the UK were first and third respectively on Amnesty’s Refugees Welcome Index, with Germany in second place. Refugees Welcome Index ( check link for chart) In Germany, a country that received 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015, almost every respondent (96%) said they would accept refugees in their country, while only 3% said refugees should be refused entry. And 76% of German respondents said their government should be doing more to assist refugees. Of UK respondents: 84% agreed that “people should be able to take refuge in other countries to escape war or persecution”. 7o% believed the government should do more to help refugees fleeing war or persecution. 82% would welcome refugees living in their city, town, or village. 76% would welcome refugees living in their neighbourhood. 29% would welcome refugees living in their own home. Would you personally accept people fleeing war or persecution in your home? (check link for chart) In many cases the response of people appears at odds with their country’s political culture, such as in Australia, which is fifth on Amnesty’s index. While the country has hardline policies towards people seeking asylum on its shores, including mandatory and sometimes indefinite detention in remote island camps overseas, seven in 10 people believe the country should do more to help people displaced by war or persecution. The Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton, claimed, in the midst of an election campaign this week, that Australia could not accept more refugees because most were what he described as uneducated, illiterate, and would take Australian jobs or be a drain on the welfare system. “For many people, they won’t be, you know, numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare.” Dutton’s own department commissioned a report which found refugees make valuable economic and social contributions to Australia. “The research found the overwhelming picture ... is one of considerable achievement and contribution,” the department said in its own summation of the findings. Should people be able to take refuge in other countries to escape from war or persecution? (check link for chart) The overwhelming majority – 86% – of the world’s refugees do not live in industrialised nations, but are hosted in developing countries, usually close to the one they fled. In those countries, attitudes to asylum seekers are overwhelmingly positive, according to the Amnesty research. In Jordan, a country that already hosts 650,000 Syrian refugees, 84% of people believe their government should do more to assist refugees fleeing war or persecution. A quarter of Lebanon’s population are refugees and 69% of that country’s citizens believe their government should do more to assist. Should your government do more to help refugees fleeing war or persecution? (check link for chart) “These figures speak for themselves,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general. “People are ready to make refugees welcome, but governments’ inhumane responses to the refugee crisis are badly out of touch with their own citizens’. “The Refugees Welcome Index exposes the shameful way governments have played short-term politics with the lives of people fleeing war and repression. “Governments cannot allow their response to the refugee crisis to be held hostage by headlines. Too often they use xenophobic anti-refugee rhetoric to chase approval ratings. This survey suggests they are not listening to the silent majority of welcoming citizens who take the refugee crisis personally.” National leaders and delegates will meet at the UN-convened world humanitarian summit in Istanbul next week, where countries are expected to make commitments to resettle more refugees, particularly those displaced by ongoing conflict in the Middle East. People wait for food in a makeshift refugee camp near the Hungarian border in Serbia. Photograph: Darko Vojinovic/AP A pro-refugee rally outside the state library in Melbourne. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP
  23. Greek TV reporting that large objects found in search for passenger jet that is beileved to have crashed in the Mediterranean with 66 people on board Hollande confirms EgyptAir flight crashed over Mediterranean Q&A: key questions about missing EgyptAir flight MS 804 Claire Phipps and Matthew Weaver Thursday 19 May 2016 14.22 BST 28m agoPossible debris found 33m ago‘Terrorism more likely than technical failure’ 1h ago 2h agoGreece issues timeline 3h ago'Sudden swerves' before crash 3h agoHollande's statement 3h agoHollande confirms crash Live feed
  24. Nicolás Maduro remains defiant in face of parliament’s attempts to unseat him and worsening economic situation Emma Graham-Harrison and agencies Wednesday 18 May 2016 13.54 BST Venezuela’s political crisis has deepened after the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, predicted that the opposition-controlled parliament would soon “disappear” while his political rivals prepared for a day of protests in the capital to demand a recall vote. Both sides have intensified the rhetoric as they vie for control of a country wracked by food shortages, looting, power cuts, spiralling violence, a shrinking economy and the world’s highest rate of inflation. Maduro, who says the country’s problems are the result of a plot by rightwingers and foreign interests to destabilise the country and end his rule, decreed a state of emergency on Friday. But parliament refused to pass it, with opposition leaders instead pushing for a referendum to recall Maduro for mismanagement. They have collected enough signatures to trigger a broader recall petition under the constitution, but the president dismissed the referendum as “optional”. For now, Maduro has the upper hand, because the supreme court and election authorities are broadly supportive of his government, and can overrule parliament on the state of emergency and obstruct efforts to organise a recall vote. If Maduro can put off a referendum until next year, losing would have a more limited impact. An ousting this year would trigger an election, while next year it would simply allow his deputy to take power. But opposition leaders warned against ignoring popular discontent. “What will happen if they block the democratic route?” asked Henrique Capriles, who is championing the push for a referendum. “We don’t want a social explosion in Venezuela nor a military solution.” Maduro did not detail any plans for parliament, which the opposition took over with a landslide victory in December elections, but accused legislators of wanting to destroy the economy. “[it] has lost political relevance; it’s a question of time until it disappears, I believe,” he said in a news conference on Wednesday. There is deep frustration about Venezuela’s slide towards chaos even among people who voted for Maduro or supported his populist predecessor, Hugo Chávez. People are forced to queue for hours for basic goods, and still their children go hungry. “This is unbearable,” Wilson Fajardo, 56, a mechanic whose three children ate only bread for dinner the previous night, told Reuters this week. “We voted for Maduro because of a promise we made [to] Chávez, but that promise has expired. Either they solve this problem, or we’re going to have to take to the streets.” Public servants are on a two-day week, there are regular rolling blackouts and the murder rate has soared. The number of people killed in Venezuela in the first three month of this year has outstripped the civilian toll of Afghanistan’s war in all of 2015, the New York Times noted in an editorial damning Maduro’s rule. Previous protests about the recall vote turned violent, with demonstrators throwing stones and police using teargas on protesters and pepper spray on Capriles, and Caracas is bracing for another day of unrest. Maduro addresses reporters at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA
  25. Death of New Yorker, whose secret to long life was plenty of sleep and no alcohol, means just one person born in 19th century still lives ..... Thomas Scharf, professor of social gerontology at Newcastle University, said that as the general population ages the likes of Morano should be celebrated and learnt from. “Within 30 to 40 years there will be half a million people over 100 [in the UK] and there will be more people on that list of super-centenarians,” he said. Emma Morano poses next to a picture of her younger self. Photograph: Antonino Di Marco/AP Misao Okawa was the oldest person in the world before Jones. Photograph: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images
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