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Me Too founder Tarana Burke: Movement not over now Weinstein is in jail

Words: - BBC News - 01:19 09-07-2020

Sexual abuse activist Tarana Burke says Harvey Weinstein being jailed this year was "astonishing" but far from the end of the Me Too movement.

Tarana began using the phrase "Me Too" in 2006 to raise awareness of women who had been abused.

Eleven years later, the movement found global recognition after a viral tweet by actress Alyssa Milano.

Milano was one of the women who accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.

Investigations led to his imprisonment earlier this year, but how has that affected the wider Me Too movement?

"Harvey Weinstein is a symbolic case. To see a high profile, rich white man be convicted of a crime in general is always astonishing," Tarana tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

But the 46-year old says seeing what "celebrity goes to jail or not, is not sustainable as a movement".

What Tarana sees as a victory for Me Too is helping people not blame themselves for sexual violence committed against them and lead fuller lives.

"What we need to be talking about is the everyday woman, man, trans person, child and disabled person. All the people who are not rich, white and famous, who deal with sexual violence on everyday basis.

"We need to talk about the systems that are still in place that allow that to happen."

Tarana says it's about dismantling the misuse of power and privilege which can also lead to racism and sexism.

This is something, she believes, recent Black Lives Matter protests have been addressing.

Tarana Burke says when the media loses interest in movements is when the real work starts.

Tarana says there are similarities between Black Lives Matter and Me Too.

"They're about fighting against injustice. Both movements are predicated on undoing systems of oppression."

Tarana says she feels like the deaths of black men in police custody still get more attention than black women - "not to diminish anything about those black men who unjustly lost their lives," she adds.

She brings up the example of Breonna Taylor, a health worker shot eight times by police who entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky on 13 March - two months before George Floyd's death.

Black Lives Matter supporters have campaigned for action over Breonna Taylor's death

Activists were calling on people to "say her name" as part of a movement to remember black women whose deaths have not attracted the same attention as men.

In 2016, a police officer in Oklahoma was jailed for life for sexually assaulting 13 black women.

"If you're a black woman who was on the street, fighting, screaming, chanting, marching, protesting and fighting back to show the world that Black Lives Matter, we don't just mean black men's lives."

"If you're a black woman you have to deal with excessive force, the possibility of being killed by police and sexual harassment at the hands of the police."

Charmed star Alyssa Milano's tweet was shared over 200,000 times

Even though Tarana founded the Me Too movement in 2006, she admits it wouldn't have had the same attention without a Hollywood actress tweeting about it in 2017.

"It's not just social media, it's who brought it to social media, and how it was brought to social media," she says.

"Those women who got up and came forward around Harvey Weinstein had no idea that it was going to spark a global movement."

Skip Twitter post by @Alyssa_Milano

If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.

— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017


Tarana says she didn't feel like her work was ever "hijacked" by people who were more powerful, but does believe that's something the media may have done.

"People didn't know who I was, and people still don't know who I am. What do you do with a 46-year-old black woman from the Bronx, who's not polished, who doesn't look anything like even a black woman in Hollywood."

Tarana and Alyssa have met and discussed the Me Too movement in public since the actress first tweeted about it.

"If Alysssa Milano didn't say: 'Wait a minute, I didn't start this. This black woman named Tarana Burke started this', people would not know my name."

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The papers: 'Meal deal chancellor' and £30bn rescue plan

Words: - BBC News - 05:27 09-07-2020

The chancellor's summer statement dominates the front pages, with many of them featuring a photo of Rishi Sunak serving meals in a restaurant. "Sunak serves up £30bn rescue", says the Times, which reports the spending on coronavirus support now outstrips last year's health budget.

"Come dine with me", says the Daily Telegraph, highlighting the chancellor's plan to pay half the cost of a meal out for everyone to support the hospitality industry. The paper's analysis is that Mr Sunak "shows his backbone" with a bold statement.

Metro urges readers to "grab a £10 Rishi dishi", referring to the cap on the half-price discount that the chancellor is offering. The paper quotes Mr Sunak saying: "This has never been tried in the UK before but we need to be creative."

It's all "chicken feed" to the Daily Mirror, however, which points out the discount only operates three days a week in August. The paper quotes unions saying the chancellor should have promised a pay rise for millions of key workers earning less than £10 an hour, rather than a "dining out discount for the well-off".

For the i newspaper, Mr Sunak is the "half-price meal deal chancellor". The paper says Tory backbenchers hailed his statement but are concerned about high spending.

Fears of mass unemployment persist following the statement, the Guardian says, with Mr Sunak being warned he will need to "act far more decisively". The paper quotes the Unite union saying the refusal to extend the furlough scheme means a "tsunami" of job losses is looming.

The Financial Times says Mr Sunak "gambled on borrowing vast sums" to minimise the long-term economic damage. Jobs support, a VAT cut for the hospitality sector and help for the housing market will push the UK's borrowing over £350bn this year, the paper says.

"Lunch is on Rishi!" exclaims the Daily Mail, before adding: "But we'll ALL have to pick up the tab." The paper calls the "massive cash injection" a "break with Tory orthodoxy".

For the Daily Express, it is a "Budget of hope" and the chancellor "paved the way for Britain's recovery".

Meanwhile, the Daily Star focuses on the ongoing libel trial involving Hollywood star Johnny Depp, who is suing the Sun for calling him a "wife-beater". The paper says the latest "Depp shocker" is a claim that he threatened to put a dog belonging to ex-wife Amber Heard in the microwave and "joked" he would burn Ms Heard's corpse.

The papers are dominated by the chancellor's mini-budget, and gorge on the opportunities for food-related headlines that his discount-dining scheme offers.

"Grab a £10 Rishi Dishi" says the front page of Metro - with the trade body UK Hospitality telling the paper the initiative is a "huge bonus".

"Rishi Dishes up £30 billion budget of hope" is the headline in the Daily Express.

The Daily Mail says though lunch may be on the chancellor, "we will all have to pick up the tab". It calls his policy announcements a "feast of freebies", and describes it as a definite "break from Tory orthodoxy."

The Times spells out just how expensive that feast is. When added to the other measures to support the economy , it means £189bn is being spent "nursing" the country through the Covid crisis.

The chancellor broke with Tory orthodoxy, according to the Daily Mail

That's more than the government spends on actual nurses and indeed the entirety of the health service, the paper says.

The Financial Times calculates borrowing of £350bn will be needed this year to pay for it all. It predicts the deficit will balloon to twice the level seen in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Even so, the Daily Mirror wanted Mr Sunak to do more. "Chicken Feed" is its headline, as it quotes Labour criticism that the country was "promised a New Deal" but was instead "delivered a meal deal".

The Sun admits some doubts as to whether the strategy will work, but nonetheless praises it as a "staggering package of giveaways" which will "go down a treat with our readers".

Camilla Tominey, in the Daily Telegraph, considers the chancellor's remarkably rapid rise. "It is still hard to believe that less than a year ago, he was leading a government consultation on the accessibility of disabled lavatories", she writes.

Paul Waugh, in HuffpostUK, says there's considerable support in the party for Mr Sunak's approach. It says he ended yesterday to the sound of Tory MPs on the 1922 Committee banging their desks in approval.

That from a body, he points out, which is "not normally in favour of borrowing-fuelled spending sprees".

Nonetheless, the Financial Times argues, at some point the Chancellor must ultimately stabilise the public finances. "Mr Sunak will not be able to play Santa Claus forever", it says.

The main story for the tabloids is the latest evidence from the High Court involving the Hollywood actor, Johnny Depp, who is suing the Sun newspaper for libel for its description of him as a "wife-beater."

The Sun itself reports how Mr Depp was accused in court of "kicking and slapping" his former partner, Amber Heard, on a "drink- and drug-fuelled rage on a private jet." Mr Depp denies ever being violent towards Ms Heard; the case continues.

Johnny Depp denies being violent towards ex-wife Amber Heard in a libel case against the Sun

The so-called Great Firewall of China - the vast apparatus that limits free use of the country's internet - appears to have "descended on Hong Kong", the Guardian reports.

It says the free and open access to websites which was previously one of the territory's most important advantages now appears in "dramatic decline".

The Guardian describes many people in Hong Kong "rushing to erase their digital footprint" of any signs of dissent, or support for the last year of protests.

As well as private citizens, the FT, says the censorship of the internet has left western tech companies with big questions about how much leeway they will have.

They must now ask themselves whether they will have to abandon Hong Kong, with Singapore looking like the most obvious refuge in Asia, the FT reports.

It says it has learned at least one Big Tech company is considering a "total retreat from the territory".

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The Whiteleaved Oak has stood near Eastnor Castle, in Herefordshire, for 500 years, the Times reports, and was venerated by pagans who favoured it as a site to observe the summer solstice.

Seemingly it wasn't treated with such reverence by campers last weekend however. They left a fire unattended and set the tree ablaze.

All that remains, says the Times, is a "charred stump".  It was a "fantastic tree", the local fire chief says, with its demise reinforcing a message he have been trying to get across: in this dry weather "have barbecues at home in your own garden".

Endangered New Zealand shore plover

Finally, the Guardian reports on the faltering attempts to help the world's most endangered species of plover.

During lockdown, 29 of the birds were taken to a specially selected, predator-free island in New Zealand, but now appear to have "absconded".

The conservationist leading the attempts to boost shore plover numbers explains: "It is frustrating, we can give them strict instructions, but they choose not to obey." He adds: "We persist."

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George Floyd: Officer told dying man to 'stop yelling'

Words: - BBC News - 04:27 09-07-2020

George Floyd repeatedly told the police officers who detained him that he could not breathe

The US police officer accused of George Floyd's murder told him to stop talking as he repeatedly gasped under the man's knee, according to court documents.

The unarmed black man cried out for his late mother and children as he said the Minneapolis policeman would kill him, transcripts from body-cam footage show.

They were disclosed in court by lawyers for one of the four officers involved.

The documents offer the clearest picture yet of Mr Floyd's last moments. His death in May sparked global uproar.

It led to a wave of anti-racism protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement, and stirred debate and reflection in the US over the country's history of slavery and segregation.

All four officers involved in taking Mr Floyd into custody were fired and arrested. Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck, faces several charges including second-degree murder, while the other three - Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao - are charged with aiding and abetting murder.

The transcripts were made public on Thursday as Mr Lane's lawyers asked for the case against him to be dismissed.

Warning: Some readers may find the content below distressing.

Until now, eyewitness footage shared on social media revealed most of what was known about Mr Floyd's arrest and his final moments.

The new transcripts give a more detailed account, shedding light on significant parts of the encounter, from the time Mr Lane and Mr Kueng arrived at the scene, to the point where Mr Floyd was given CPR in an ambulance.

Transcripts of footage recorded by body cameras fitted to Mr Lane and Mr Kueng show Mr Floyd said more than 20 times he could not breathe as he was restrained by the officers in a Minneapolis street.

They confronted him outside a convenience store where he was suspected of having used a forged $20 note to buy cigarettes.

At one point, a handcuffed Mr Floyd, while pinned down on the road next to the police car, gasps that he cannot breathe, adding: "You're going to kill me, man."

Mr Chauvin, who is shown in bystander footage appearing to kneel on Mr Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes, replies: "Then stop talking, stop yelling.

"It takes heck of a lot of oxygen to talk."

The transcripts show Mr Floyd appears co-operative at the beginning of the arrest, repeatedly apologising to the officers after they approach his parked car.

Mr Lane asks Mr Floyd to show his hands at least 10 times before ordering him to get out of the vehicle.

In response to one of the demands to see his hands, Mr Floyd says: "Man, I got, I got shot the same way, Mr Officer, before." It is not clear what he is referring to.

At one point Mr Lane says: "Why's he getting all squirrelly and not showing us his hands and just being all weird like that?"

The officers then handcuff Mr Floyd and try to put him into the back of their police car. As they do, Mr Floyd becomes agitated, repeatedly pleading that he is claustrophobic.

Mr Lane asks if he is "on something". Mr Floyd replies: "I'm scared, man."

According to another document, Mr Lane told investigators that once in the car, Mr Floyd began "thrashing back and forth"

Officers then pulled him out of the car and to the ground. Pinned on the floor, according to the transcript, Mr Floyd cries out a dozen times: "Mama."

He says: "Can't believe this, man. Mom, love you. Love you.

"Tell my kids I love them. I'm dead."

Thomas Lane was just days into the job when the incident happened

At one point, when Mr Floyd continues to plead he can't breathe, Mr Lane asks Mr Chauvin: "Should we roll him on his side?"

The officer responds: "No, he's staying put where we got him."

Mr Chauvin's lawyers have not commented on the documents since they were made public.

The transcripts were released in support of a legal bid to dismiss the criminal charges against Mr Lane, a rookie officer who was days into the job when Mr Floyd's death happened.

Mr Lane's lawyer Earl Gray, who filed the documents, argued that it was "not fair or reasonable" for his client to stand trial on the charges.

The new court documents include a transcript of Mr Lane's interview with investigators from Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

In the interview, Mr Lane talked through the first crucial moments of his encounter with Mr Floyd.

Mr Lane said he pulled his gun out and ordered Mr Floyd to show his hands after approaching his car and seeing him "sitting with his hands down below the seat".

Pictures from inside the car Mr Floyd was sitting in before his arrest show two crumpled $20 bills that, according to Mr Gray, were counterfeit.

Hennepin County District Court

Mr Lane's lawyer said two fake $20 bills were found in the car Mr Floyd was sitting in

At the end of the interview, one of the investigators asked Mr Lane if he felt either he or Mr Chauvin had contributed to Mr Floyd's death.

"I object to that. You're not going to answer that," Mr Gray said.

The incident and the bystander videos that exposed it highlighted deep wounds over racial inequality in the US. For many, the outrage over Mr Floyd's death also reflected years of frustration over socio-economic inequality and discrimination.

Protests erupted and have continued since, across many US cities and also internationally.

Police forces, governments and businesses pledged reforms in recognition of the racial inequality that fuelled the protests.

Monuments of historical figures with links to the slavery in the US and other countries were re-assessed. Some were toppled or vandalised, others were taken down by authorities and institutions.

Mr Floyd's death followed the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement in recent years.

25 May 2020

George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe". He is pronounced dead later in hospital.

26 May

Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.

27 May

Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting "I can’t breathe". Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.

28 May

President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet.  He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for "glorifying violence".

29 May

A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.

Derek Chauvin charged with murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

31 May

Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested.  Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.

1 June

President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and "defend their residents" he will deploy the army and "quickly solve the problem for them". Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.

2 June

Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.

4 June

A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis.  Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.

7 June

As the US saw another weekend of protests, with tens of thousands marching in Washington DC, anti-racism demonstrations were held around the world.

In Australia, there were major protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians. There were also demonstrations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. In Bristol, protesters tore down the statue of a 17th century slave trader and threw it into the harbour.

9 June

A funeral service for George Floyd is held in Houston, Mr Floyd’s home town. Just over two weeks after his death in Minneapolis and worldwide anti-racism protests, about 500 guests invited by the Floyd family are in attendance at the Fountain of Praise Church.  Many more gather outside to show their support.

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Pop music is getting faster (and happier)

Words: - BBC News - 01:13 09-07-2020

Hits by Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Doja Cat are bucking the trend for slower, melancholy songs

"This is my dancefloor, I fought for," Lady Gaga sings euphorically on Free Woman, a track from her new album, Chromatica.

She's not alone. The charts are suddenly crammed with pop songs that celebrate joy and sensuality and precipitous thrill: Dua Lipa's Physical, Doja Cat's Say So, Harry Styles' Watermelon Sugar and Gaga's own Stupid Love.

At the same time, music is getting faster.

The average tempo of 2020's top 20 best-selling songs is a pulse-quickening 122 beats per minute. That's the highest it's been since 2009.

Average tempo of a hit song Based on the Top 20 best-sellers each year

The outbreak of euphoria is as sudden as it is unexpected.

For the last few years, pop has been getting slower, as artists like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish incorporate the leisurely cadences and rhythms of southern hip-hop and trap music into their songs.

Lyrics have taken a darker turn, too, with expressions of loneliness, fear and anxiety becoming increasingly common.

In 2017, a Californian mathematician called Natalia Komarova was so shocked by the negativity of the songs her daughter listened to, she decided to investigate.

Using the research database AcousticBrainz - which allows you to examine musical properties like tempo, key and mood - she and her colleagues at the University of California Irvine examined half a million songs released in the UK between 1985 and 2015.

They found a significant downturn in the positivity of pop songs. Where 1985 saw upbeat tracks like Wham's Freedom, 2015 favoured more sombre music by Sam Smith and Adele.

"'Happiness' is going down, 'brightness' is going down, 'sadness' is going up," said Komarova of her results, "and at the same time, the songs are becoming more 'danceable' and more 'party-like'."

"So it looks like, while the overall mood is becoming less happy, people seem to want to forget it all and dance."

In other words, Komorvoa had identified the rise of the "sad banger", a song whose instrumental sets you up for good times, only to sucker punch your heart with lyrics of Biblical sadness.

For that, we can thank Swedish pop star Robyn, whose hit single Dancing On My Own influenced a generation of songwriters.

Released in 2010, it documented the brutal moment you see your ex kissing their new partner on a night out, and your world falls apart while everyone around you is having fun.

Lorde called it "perfect", Christine & The Queens said she could "only marvel" at the song's emotional impact, Sam Smith observed that it made Robyn "a huge part of the LGBTQ community because we get to dance our pain away".

Turning heartbreak into a fist-pumping emotion was Robyn's masterstroke - and as the 2010s progressed, her fingerprints were all over hits like Rihanna's We Found Love, Taylor Swift's Out Of The Woods and Dua Lipa's New Rules.

At the same time, however, pop was decelerating.

By 2017, the average tempo of a hit single in the UK was 104 beats per minute, down from a high of 124bpm in 2009. In the US, where hip-hop is more prevalent on the charts, it fell as low as 90.5 bpm.

"People were burnt out on uptempo, super poppy stuff like they were with hair-metal bands back in the day," songwriter Bonnie McKee told Rolling Stone magazine in 2017.

"Then as the sociopolitical climate got darker, people just weren't in the mood to hear some upbeat bop."

Just three years later, the trend is in reverse.

"I'm looking at the top 20 now and, if you were to play the chart in order, you wouldn't think the world is going through a crisis," says pop star Raye, who has written for the likes of Beyonce, Little Mix and Stormzy alongside her solo hits.

"You would expect political or emotional music matching the aura of the time to be more prevalent, but it's actually the opposite - which shows how we're coping in the UK especially.

"Tempo, pace, escapism: Music that draws you out of the reality of what is going on right now; and transports you to somewhere more positive and uplifting."

Music journalist Charlie Harding, who hosts the Switched On Pop podcast, agrees there's been "an important psychological change" in people's listening habits.

"During moments of great distress, music provides hope. A pop song gives us permission to access joy, even when the world is burning.

"But music is more than just escapism. It can help us imagine a different way of life. Protest anthems motivate us to keep marching in the streets even when our feet are tired. Dance songs help us blow off steam at home, especially when we can't go dancing out on the town.

"This upbeat shift happened during the great depression and during World War Two. Once again we need sounds that help us forge a path to the world we want to live in, not the one we're inhabiting today."

That last point is important, because the new wave of upbeat pop wasn't written specifically for the bizarre circumstances of 2020 - it just happened to be ready at the right time.

Dua Lipa's escapist pop opus Future Nostalgia was finished late last year, while Lady Gaga's decided to make Chromatica a "fun" and "energetically pure" dance album back in 2017.

It followed a period where the star eschewed pure pop to try on new guises - jazz chanteuse, country crooner and Oscar-baiting balladeer. In that period, the average tempo of her singles dropped below 100bpm.

But Chromatica isn't pure escapism. It's possibly Gaga's most personal record to date, discussing topics like her sexual assault, the antipsychotic medication she's been prescribed, and the fibromyalgia which leaves her in chronic pain.

If you run the lyrics through linguistical analysis software, you'll find that positive emotional words only slightly outweigh the negative ones (accounting for 3.36% vs 3.12% of the overall total word count).

Combined with the album's accelerated beats, the lyrical tension ultimately creates a feeling of rejoice and release - as Gaga puts her problems behind her and struts onto the dancefloor.

"We knew that Stupid Love felt good, and the other songs we were writing gave gloomy, hard, tearful days bright endings," said music producer BloodPop, who worked on 12 of the record's 16 tracks.

"You could physically see dance music healing this person in real time so it just became obvious very quickly that that's what we had to do," he told Rolling Stone.

Dua Lipa's record was cathartic in a different way - written to "get away from pressures and anxieties and opinions from the outside world," as she tried to follow-up her hugely successful debut.

Releasing it during the pandemic gave the music an added sense of urgency.

"I wanted to give people some happiness during this time, where they don't have to think about what's going on and just shut off and dance," she said.

Dua and Gaga aren't the only stars putting ecstasy back into the equation - and Spotify can (sort of) prove it.

The service helpfully collects metadata on the 50 million songs in its database, rating them for things like "danceability", "energy" and "acoustic-ness". But the measure we're interested in is called valence - and it rates a song's positivity.

Tracks with high valence sound more positive (happy, euphoric), while tracks with low valence sound more negative (sad, angry). It's not a perfect measure. Pharrell's Happy gets a score of 96%, as you might expect, but so does Aloe Blacc's I Need A Dollar - a story of unemployment and poverty.

You could argue it's really measuring jauntiness - but that's still a reasonable indicator of music's prevailing mood.

We looked at the valence for the UK's top 20 best-selling singles every year of the last decade. As you would expect, the score tends to hover around the half-way point.

The decade's happiest year was 2017, as listeners sought refuge from political turmoil in songs like Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You and Luis Fonsi's Despacito, dragging the average valence up to 62%.

After a couple of years decline, poptimism is back. The 20 best-selling songs so far this year score 57% on the happiness scale.

Average happiness of a hit song Based on the Top 20 best-sellers each year

If you zoom in on individual artists, the pattern becomes even more pronounced.

Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift are all on an upwards curve after releasing albums that were introspective or downbeat or fuelled by revenge in the mid-2010s.

Even Drake, an artist so perennially miserable that there are 84 separate playlists called "Sad Drake Songs" on Spotify, has become more optimistic.

His latest hit, Toosie Slide, has a valence of 84%, making it the "happiest" of the 58 singles he's released so far.

Notably, the song was written specifically to go viral on TikTok, the video sharing app that's become an increasingly important way for artists to share their new music.

Eight of the top 20 best-selling singles in the UK this year were boosted by their presence on the platform - and those songs tend to have a higher valence, scoring an average of 69% positivity, compared to 49% for the remaining 12 tracks.

How happy are our pop stars? Whatever prompted the shift, pop star Charli XCX is in favour of it.

"I feel like everything was so hip-hop infused for so long that maybe it's fun for it to be about it being so sugary and pop and happy," she told Billboard's Pop Shop podcast.

"That Doja Cat song makes me feel so happy. And same with the Dua song - it feels like I'm in a rom-com. I think that's really joyous and cool because I feel like there was a lot of darkness in pop for a long time."

Where pop's biggest names go, imitators will inevitably follow. But Raye says writing rose-tinted pop hits during the lockdown has been a challenging experience.

"It's a real battle between do I address how I feel and what's going on, or do I just create something that feels the opposite?" she says. "But I think if we were to be sitting on Zoom writing ballads, we'd just feel depressed, so it kind of makes sense to channel this upbeat 80s vibe."

Raye's hits include You Don't Know Me and Secrets

Meanwhile, Becky Hill, whose top 10 hits include Wish You Well and Gecko (Overdrive), says aspiring writers should be cautious about trying to capitalise on the happy pop revival.

"I try not to compare myself or my music to anyone else because music takes so friggin' long to get released," she says.

"So if you're writing for a trend, you've got to look at that song to not be coming out for the next, at least, eight weeks. And by that point everyone's probably moved on to something else."

But singer-songwriter Kamille, the Brit Award-winner behind Little Mix's Shout Out To My Ex and Mabel's Don't Call Me Up says that, when she writes upbeat songs, she's mostly writing for herself.

"Music is a haven and an escape," she says. "When I'm on streaming services, I'm listening to something that's going to make me feel good and give me energy, because I've got so little of it at the moment."

She says that cueing up a track like A-Ha's Take On Me can alter the course of her day.

"Immediately, my mood changes and I feel excited and my heart starts to race. It's like a little natural high."

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Inside the turbulent relaunch of Okayplayer: 'It all just came tumbling down'

Words: - BBC News - 06:52 08-07-2020

Rachel Hislop became editor-in-chief of Okayplayer in 2017

June was an unforgettable month for Rachel Hislop. Just not in the way she expected.

For the last two years, she's been plotting the relaunch of the ground-breaking and influential hip-hop website Okayplayer.

Once one of America's most popular online music destinations, its reputation had dipped in recent years; and Hislop, who'd made her name working with Beyoncé, was brought in to make it relevant again.

By the start of 2020, plans were in place. New writers had been hired, photoshoots were booked and interviews were scheduled,

Then Covid-19 hit and scattered her staff.

Then the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor irrevocably changed the site's editorial goals.

Then her CEO, Abiola Oke, was forced to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment and creating a toxic work environment.

"It all just came tumbling down," Hislop tells the BBC.

We spoke to the editor-in-chief twice for this article. The first interview took place a few days after Okayplayer's relaunch, when Hislop was tired but excited at having pulled together the new site through "the fog of fatigue and trauma".

The second came a week later, after the allegations against Oke had come to light. That time, she was more reserved. The intervening seven days had not been easy.

"I learned of the allegations as they rolled out on Twitter," she says. "And, you know, as someone who has dealt with similar situations in my personal life, it knocked me clear off of my feet.

"It was really, really disappointing."

The importance of Okayplayer in the early days of online music culture is hard to overstate.

Established by The Roots' drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and author Angela Nissel in 1999, it was one of the first places where fans could interact directly with artists online - four years before MySpace and six before YouTube.

Initially conceived as a promotional tool for The Roots and their associated acts, it thrived because of its messageboards, where topics included "The Lesson", a deep dive into music history; "Pass The Popcorn," for movie discussions; and "Okay-activist," which centred around political activism.

"OKP was the first place where you could talk to other black people from all over the country who shared your experiences and interests," rapper Phonte Coleman, a regular poster on the message boards, told The Undefeated earlier this year.

Questlove originally set up Okayplayer to promote The Roots. The name even appeared on their album Things Fall Apart before the site had been programmed

"OKP removed the stigma of talking to strangers on the internet because we had the shared bond of music. If you were a Prince fan, you could be on a forum of other Prince fans. OKP is where you can find bigger music nerds than me. And I'm a big music nerd."

The community, like many early internet chatrooms, was unusually supportive. Members organised interstate carpools, promoted each other's art and formed political action groups.

But as the conversation around music and black culture moved away from blogs and messageboards to Facebook and Twitter in, the site began to feel stale.

That's where Hislop comes in.

Born and raised in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn to working-class immigrant parents, she'd fallen in love with magazines as a child. Her mother, who worked for the union that serviced the L'Oreal building in New York, would bring home copies of 17 and Cosmo Girl.

"I remember being like, 'What is this world? Who are these cool people in these pages?'" she says.

"It just was so far-fetched for me because I grew up in Brooklyn and everybody was very blue collar. I'd never seen anyone who looked like me doing these types of things. But my mom would be like, 'Write letters to the addresses in there.' So I was like, 11 years old writing letters to the editor!

"It wasn't until I was in my senior year of high school that I took a journalism class, and was like, 'Oh, this is a thing! I love editing people and this red pen gives me power! This is amazing!'"

While studying journalism at university, Hislop took a summer internship at the fashion magazine Nylon. She quickly realised that, every time she returned to the office, the print team was dwindling while the website was growing - and started enrolling in classes that taught Photoshop and the web design software Dreamwaver.

"And that was kind of like my edge, like, 'I know I'm young, but I know the internet really, really well - please just give me a chance!'"

Hislop (second right) at an Oscars' screening of Menace II Society in 2017

Her first job came at the Global Grind website, where she secured an exclusive interview with Dr Dre by walking up to him at a "really fancy party wearing these pants that I had bought at the Gap for $7".

"I just approached him like, 'Hey I'm a reporter, would you mind if I just asked you three questions?' and he was really welcoming."

What she didn't realise, as she sat on the bus ride home, filing the story on her mobile phone, was that Dre hadn't spoken to the press for three years. His quotes - which covered his ambitions for the Beats headphone brand, and a then-unknown rapper called Kendrick Lamar - would go around the world.

Hislop was quickly promoted to style editor at Global Grind. Soon after, though, she received "a mysterious call about a mysterious job for a mysterious person".

That person turned out to be Beyoncé. Hislop was hired to run all of the star's websites and social media channels, and she helped mastermind the online strategy for her 2016 album, Lemonade, which highlighted messages of social justice and black empowerment.

Lemonade was launched as a visual album on HBO, and its hard-hitting messages became an online phenomenon

"At the time, celebrities were on social media but they weren't really using it to make statements," recalls Hislop.

"We were able to work together to think about how we can use her digital voice for philanthropy, for everything, to really expand those messages about who she was as a person."

Although the job was successful and rewarding ("it was like really intense grad school," she says), Hislop was itching to get back into journalism.

So when Okayplayer came knocking in 2017, she saw an opportunity to take all the lessons she'd learned about digital storytelling and apply them to a "legacy brand".

As editor-in-chief, she wants to steer the site away from "rolling news" - the video premieres, gossip and squabbles that play out in real time on social media - and commission more coverage of culture, political, and social reform.

"In the past we focused just on the music," she says. "We don't have that luxury any more.

"Now, we have to have enough information for our readers to be fully informed, to understand the scope of the music that we're presenting to them. They have to have the backstory."

Neo-soul group Chloe x Halle are the first cover stars of the new edition of Okayplayer

When the Covid-19 lockdown took effect in March, Hislop found herself reconfiguring Okayplayer from her teenage bedroom.

There, she commissioned digital cover stories with reggae artist Buju Banton and stars-in-the-making Chloe x Halle, reflecting her vision of a site that could "provide the bridges that tie legacy to the new age".

But just as the team were about to hit the publish button, George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, triggering a huge wave of Black Lives Matter protests.

Hislop paused the relaunch and asked her staff a question: "What is our role in this protest moment?"

It was a shrewd point. The 1960s civil rights movement helped establish black-owned magazines like Ebony and Jet, which in turn helped set the tone of the conversation for black communities. But in 2020, citizens are mobilising and organising online. Where does a site like Okayplayer fit into that landscape?

"It's something I think about a lot," says Hislop.

"There are different ways to lend a voice right now. Some people need to be in the street, some people need to be on Twitter and some of us need to be documenting the things that are happening and making sure that we're elevating the voices that are enacting that change."

Her approach was eventually inspired by the original incarnation of Okayplayer, which put the audience at the heart of the conversation.

"I can't sit here and say that I know exactly what a low income person in Flint, Michigan is going through right now - but I do have a platform where we can reach out to people who are living those realities and allow them the space to write about these things from their point of view."

The protests have taken place in the background of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected African Americans

She adds that discovering and supporting new voices, especially minority voices, has got to become a priority for media companies across the board.

"A lot of young black journalists burn out really early in their careers and it's really because that mentorship is missing," she says.

"It takes real systematic change within organisations to make sure that the black and brown people who are on the staff, that are telling these stories, feel supported. That their ideas feel like they're respected and that they're not shut down all the time."

She says young writers, of any background, "might not come in with the cleanest first draft, but that's okay because they need these opportunities to understand what it's like to be edited, and to understand what it's like to get that first click and then build from there.

"We have to continue to get people in positions of power so that they can lift as they climb."

Hislop is in such a position right now - which is why it's been so demoralising to have her achievements overshadowed by the exit of Okayplayer's CEO.

Abiola Oke resigned as soon as the accusations against him became public

The accusations against Abiola Oke surfaced just days after the website relaunched.

Ivie Ani, a former writer, posted a statement on Twitter, saying that black female employees had suffered "a lack of support and resources, below market salaries, inadequate leadership, targeting and sabotage, slander, verbal abuse, inappropriate behaviour, gaslighting, lack of empathy, manipulation, rationalising poor or unethical conduct and wrongful termination".

Other people came forward with similar allegations, including one woman who claimed Oke sexually harassed her.

He resigned the next day; and later posted a lengthy statement saying he was "deeply sorry" for making black female colleagues "feel invisible or silenced". He also "emphatically and unequivocally" denied sexual assault.

Hislop also responded, saying the accusations were "a gut check", and acknowledging her own failures in speaking up for the victims, two of whom reported directly to her.

Behind the scenes, she went to the board of directors with a list of demands from her editorial team. "If they're not met," she told them, "I'll step down."

Those demands were met and published online. Among the provisions were the inclusion of black women to the board, and establishing an external, independent investigation into the company's culture.

Skip Twitter post by @okayplayer

— Okayplayer (@okayplayer) June 25, 2020


"I regret not doing it sooner," she says, "But I'm doing my best right now to create a better environment for the people that are here, and an environment that they're proud to create work in.

"There's no right answer, and there's no answer that pleases everyone, but I'm just trying to lead with humanity and compassion and hope that this brings us where we need to go."

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Thursday briefing: Brexit – we're not ready, trade secretary warns

Words: Warren Murray - The Guardian - 05:31 09-07-2020

Thu 9 Jul 2020 01.31 EDT

Last modified on Thu 9 Jul 2020 01.38 EDT

Good morning – Warren Murray here to catapult you into the heart of current events.

A cabinet row over Brexit has erupted into the open with Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, warning in a leaked letter that the PM’s border plans risk smuggling, damage to the UK’s international reputation and a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization. Truss wrote to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Michael Gove on Wednesday warning of four “key areas of concern” over their plans for the border next January. Gove has unveiled a border regime for traders whereby customs and health checks for goods from the EU would not be imposed immediately and instead be phased in over six months. But Truss warns it would “be vulnerable” as the WTO could object to EU goods being treated differently to those from elsewhere which incur tariffs and quotas. She also raises concerns over smuggling because full checks will not be in place from 1 January.

The letter suggests the government has not addressed the complexities of distinguishing between goods moving into Northern Ireland and staying there, and others moving on to the island of Great Britain. “HMRC are planning to apply the EU tariff as a default to all imports in NI from 1 January 2021 … This is very concerning as this may call into question NI’s place in the UK customs territory,” Truss wrote. Labour’s Rachel Reeves said Truss’s letter “confirms fears that several ministers have been making things up as they go with a lack of awareness of the real world consequences of border policies they’ve had four years to develop”.

‘Fundamental change of circumstances’ – In breaking news this morning Australia has offered Hongkongers visa extensions of five years and cancelled its extradition treaty with the city after China imposed a draconian national security regime. Canberra has also advised its citizens in Hong Kong to consider returning home. Last week Boris Johnson said Britain would also go ahead with a promise of visas and a path to citizenship for about 3 million Hong Kong citizens who hold British visa rights and their family members. The Australian PM, Scott Morrison, said in the last hour that his government believed the national security law “constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances”. Canada has announced similar measures.

strongRishi Sunak has been warned he will need to act far more decisively to prevent mass unemployment this autumn after unveiling a £30bn mini-budget designed to kickstart spending. The chancellor announced a short-term cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism and an August “eat out to help out” discount scheme worth £10 a head. He announced measures to revive the housing market with a nine-month stamp duty holiday – raising the threshold in England and Northern Ireland to £500,000 – as well as creating subsidised jobs for young people and providing targeted support for the sectors hit hardest by the lockdown.

But economic experts, trade unions and Labour questioned whether enough is being done to tackle a looming jobs crisis. Garry Young, from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, said: “The new measures look to be badly timed and could precipitate a rapid increase in unemployment. The incentives offered to employers look too small to be effective. Many employers have been topping up the pay of furloughed workers and are expected to bear more of the cost of the scheme from next month. They will be reluctant to do this now they know that the scheme won’t be extended.”

strongThe chief executive of Hillingdon hospital in Boris Johnson’s constituency, which has shut its A&E unit after a coronavirus outbreak, has blamed “irresponsible” staff for flouting the rules by not wearing face masks at work. Sarah Tedford wrote in a message to staff: “I am told some of you are not wearing appropriate masks and you are not adhering to social distancing. This has resulted in an outbreak on a ward where our staff have contracted Covid-19.” As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US reached 3m, and another daily record fell with more than 60,000 new cases, Donald Trump insisted the US was “in a good place” and admitted he “didn’t listen to my experts”. Latest developments as always at our global live blog.

‘Palace letters’ out on Tuesday – Previously secret correspondence between the Queen and the former Australian governor general Sir John Kerr surrounding the dismissal of Gough Whitlam as prime minister will be released in full on Tuesday morning, Australia’s national archives have confirmed. The public will be able to access the entirety of the so-called palace letters, a series of more than 200 exchanges between the Queen, her private secretary and Kerr, the then governor general, in the lead-up to the politically explosive 1975 dismissal of Whitlam amid a deadlock in parliament. A historian, Jenny Hocking, won a court battle for their release. Hocking has previously found evidence that the palace knew of Kerr’s intention to dismiss Whitlam and was involved in deliberations. She believes the palace letters could reveal what the Queen said and whether she influenced Kerr’s actions.

Pick of the board – Clacton pier has been crowned pier of the year in what its co-owner called a “perfect morale booster” at a difficult time. Clevedon pier came second and Brighton Palace pier third. The National Piers Society said the award recognised a decade of improvements made by Clacton pier’s owners, Billy and Elliot Ball.

When they bought the 1871-built pier in 2009, just over a third of the space was in use. It now boasts many rides including a helter-skelter and two-tier adventure golf course, with a rollercoaster and log flume due to be added. It is the largest pleasure pier in Europe by surface area, covering more than 26,300 sq metres, said the NPS.

A spike in cases of Covid-19 in Leicester has led Guardian reporter Archie Bland to its garment factories. He discusses a story that goes beyond the pandemic and into workers’ rights, appalling factory conditions and the ethics of fast fashion.

Aisha Wakil knew many of the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram’s fighters as children. Now she uses those ties to broker peace deals, mediate hostage negotiations and convince militants to put down their weapons – but as the violence escalates, her task is becoming impossible.

The crisis enveloping British Gymnastics has intensified with the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lisa Mason calling for the resignation of the chief executive, Jane Allen, in the wake of the abuse scandal, and the four-times Olympic medallist Louis Smith accusing the governing body of not wanting to taint its image by alerting the public to complaints against coaches. Dominic Sibley went for a duck as rain dominated England’s first day against the West Indies, with the hosts notching 35 runs with only 17.4 overs possible.

Manchester City have cantered 5-0 to a win that ended Newcastle’s unbeaten four-game run since the restart of the Premier League. Jürgen Klopp said Liverpool will not take for granted breaking Manchester City’s record points tally despite edging closer to the historic target with victory at Brighton. Saracens, Harlequins, Northampton and Worcester are among the clubs with confirmed cases of coronavirus following Premiership Rugby’s first round of testing. PRL announced that of the 804 tests, six players and four members of staff have yielded positive results, bringing into sharp focus the main threat to the resumption of the season in mid-August.

Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher following gains for major US tech stocks. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Australia have risen. The pound is coming in at $1.262 and €1.111 while the FTSE is set to open higher.

Rishi Sunak has unmasked his fiscal response to the coronavirus – but neglected to cover his face when he served up meals at Wagamama for a photo op, as the Guardian points out in its caption. Our paper leads with “Mass unemployment feared despite Sunak’s plan for jobs”.

There is no getting away from culinary themes for mini-budget coverage: “Grab a £10 Rishi dishi” rhymes the Metro. The i calls Sunak the “Half-price meal deal chancellor” – is the paper casting aspersions there? “Come dine with me” – says the Telegraph, letting its hair down; the Times has “Sunak serves up £30bn rescue”, ho ho.

The Express says “Rishi dishes up £30bn budget of hope”, a headline that in present company feels like it fell at the final hurdle. “Lunch is on Rishi – but we’ll ALL have to pick up the tab”, the Mail cautions. The Mirror shows its loyalties, greeting the summer statement as “Chicken feed”. Finally let’s all rinse our palates with the FT’s comparatively bland rendering: “Sunak’s scheme to revive economy will push borrowing past £350bn”. Someone’s going to be doing a lot of dishes …

The Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.

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