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Leaderless but united by racist ideology that has been supercharged by social media, extremists have built a web of real and online connections that worry officials.Credit...Jason Andrew for The New York TimesJan. 24, 2021Updated 6:37 a.m. ETBERLIN — When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in Washington this month, far-right extremists across the Atlantic cheered. Jürgen Elsässer, the editor of Germany’s most prominent far-right magazine, was watching live from his couch.“We were following it like a soccer match,” he said.Four months earlier, Mr. Elsässer had attended a march in Berlin, where a breakaway mob of far-right protesters tried — and failed — to force their way into the building that houses Germany’s Parliament. The parallel was not lost on him.“The fact that they actually made it inside raised hopes that there is a plan,” he said. “It was clear that this was something bigger.”And it is. Adherents of racist far-right movements around the world share more than a common cause. German extremists have traveled to the United States for sniper competitions. American neo-Nazis have visited counterparts in Europe. Militants from different countries bond in training camps from Russia and Ukraine to South Africa.For years far-right extremists traded ideology and inspiration on societies’ fringes and in the deepest realms of the internet. Now, the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol have laid bare their violent potential.In chatter on their online networks, many disavowed the storming of the Capitol as amateurish bungling. Some echoed falsehoods emanating from QAnon-affiliated channels in the United States claiming that the riot had been staged by the left to justify a clampdown on supporters of President Donald J. Trump. But many others saw it as a teaching moment — about how to move forward and pursue their goal of overturning democratic governments in more concerted and concrete ways.It is a threat that intelligence officials, especially in Germany, take seriously. So much so that immediately after the violence in the United States, the German authorities tightened security around the Parliament building in Berlin, where far-right protesters — waving many of the same flags and symbols as the rioters in Washington — had tried to force their way in on Aug. 29.President Biden has also ordered a comprehensive assessment of the threat from domestic violent extremism in the United States.ImageCredit...Omer Messinger/Getty ImagesFor now, no concrete plans for attacks have been detected in Germany, officials said. But some worry that the fallout from the events of Jan. 6 have the potential to further radicalize far-right extremists in Europe.“Far-right extremists, corona skeptics and neo-Nazis are feeling restless,” said Stephan Kramer, the head of domestic intelligence for the eastern German state of Thuringia. There is a dangerous mix of elation that the rioters made it as far as they did and frustration that it didn’t lead to a civil war or coup, he said.Meeting online and in personIt is difficult to say exactly how deep and durable the links are between the American far right and its European counterpar
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7.00am EST 07:00 Seems to be a delay in the teams coming on to the field, as the ground staff try to clear up the snow. The two teams come out from different entrances and there is no sign of Luton’s players. 6.57am EST 06:57 Frank Lampard speaks. It’s a competition I always give a lot to. I was lucky to have success in it as player and went close last year. They’ve a very capable manager and good players who have the desire to win so we have to be at out best. We need to find form individually and as a team. When you are in a tough moment every game is an opportu
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Big economic shocks tend to do for prime ministers. Jim Callaghan was finished after the winter of discontent, and the writing was on the wall for John Major once the Bank of England lost its fight with George Soros and his fellow speculators on Black Wednesday. Gordon Brown would have had a decent chance of beating David Cameron had it not been for the financial crash.Brown’s defeat in 2010 was the start of a run of four election defeats for Labour, something that last happened between 1979 and 1992. Since it became a party of government in the 1920s it has never lost five in a row.A year a
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As she watched America’s inauguration ceremony last week, Aziza Jones switched back and forth between her social media and her television, hoping the extra energy use didn’t generate a power outage – a setback she said can be common in St Croix, US Virgin Islands. From her home, the non-profit worker thought of her parents as she witnessed Kamala Harris – the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India - become the United States’ first vice-president of Caribbean descent. “Everyone was excited to have another Caribbean woman fighting for us,” she said, pinpointing the Virgin Islands congresswoman Stacey Plaskett as the other. “My parents would have wanted to vote for her so it was like making their dream come true.” As residents of the Caribbean territory, Jones’s parents are among the more than 100,000 Virgin Islanders who even as American citizens, are ineligible to vote in the general election. She said casting her absentee ballot as a resident of Illinois felt like giving them a voice. Nick Owen, a Howard University alumnus in Kingston, wore his custom shirt celebrating fellow Jamaican American and alumna Kamala Harris. In cities such as New York, Miami and Boston, the historic milestone saw many Caribbean Americans spend their inauguration day honoring Harris in family group and WhatsApps chats – similar to many Indian American celebrations shared on what is sometimes called Desi Twitter. For a diaspora representing a region of 45 million Caribbean people, including countries such as Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and Guyana, the buzz signified that an American voting bloc some have considered overlooked was finally getting due recognition. “There was an immense sense of pride from all over,” said Shurland Oliver, an organizer with Vote Caribbean, a Washington DC-based voter advocacy group. “Caribbean Americans saw [Harris] as one of our own – a symbol of the excellence we can achieve.” Kamala Harris with her paternal grandmother, Beryl, in Jamaica. Photograph: Courtesy of Campaign for Kamala Harris According to Migration Policy Institute, the Caribbean diaspora in the US consists of more than 8 million people who were either born in the region or reported having ancestry of a given Caribbean country, including an estimated 4.4 million immigrants. More than 90% come from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobag
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For many years it seemed that overpopulation was the looming crisis of our age. Back in 1968, the Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich infamously predicted that millions would soon starve to death in their bestselling, doom-saying book The Population Bomb; since then, neo-Malthusian rumblings of imminent disaster have been a continual refrain in certain sections of the environmental movement – fears that were recently given voice on David Attenborough’s documentary Life on our Planet.At the time the Ehrlichs were publishing their dark prophecies, the world was at its peak of population growth, which at that point was increasing at a rate of 2.1% a year. Since then, the global population has ballooned from 3.5 billion to 7.67 billion.But growth has slowed – and considerably. As women’s empowerment advances, and access to contraception improves, birthrates around the world are stuttering and stalling, and in many countries now there are fewer than 2.1 children per woman – the minimum level required to maintain a stable population.Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019.Wolves are among the animals making a comeback as human populations decrease. Photograph: AlamyIncreasingly this is also the case in middle-income countries too, including Thailand and Brazil. In Iran, a birthrate of 1.7 children per woman has alarmed the government; it recently announced that state clinics would no longer hand out contraceptives or offer vasectomies.Thanks to this worldwide pattern of falling fertility levels, the UN now believes that we will see an end to population growth within decades – before the slide begins in earnest.An influential study published in the Lancet last year predicted that the global population would come to a peak much earlier than expected – reaching 9.73 billion in 2064 – before dropping to 8.79 billion by 2100. Falling birthrates, noted the authors, were likely to have significant “economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical consequences” around the world.Their model predicted that 23 countries would see their populations more than halve before the end of this century, including Spain, Italy and Ukraine. China, where a controversial one-child per couple policy – brought in to slow spiralling population growth – only ended in 2016, is now also expected to experience massive population declines in the coming years, by an estimated 48% by 2100.It’s gro
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Here’s what you need to know about the week’s top stories.Jan. 24, 2021, 6:13 a.m. ET(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.ImageCredit...Ruth Fremson/The New York Times1. Even with a new president, the Trump legacy lingers over Washington.The House will transmit its article of impeachment for former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday. But under a deal struck between Senate leaders, the chamber will then pause until Feb. 9 to give the prosecution and defense time to draft and exchange written legal briefs.It will also give President Biden the time to put crucial members of his cabinet in place and push forward on a large coronavirus aid package.Mr. Trump, who was impeached for the second time earlier this month, is charged with “incitement of insurrection” for urging on a mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 to protest the results of the election.We looked at a crucial moment during the attack as the insurrectionists closed in on lawmakers and a Capitol Police lieutenant fatally shot a woman who was vaulting through a window. Our investigation showed a dire set of circumstances that left a lone officer to confront a mob.In the month leading up to the riot, Mr. Trump was devising his own plan: He and a Justice Department official plotted to oust the acting attorney general to try to advance baseless election claims, interviews showed, and only backed down after top department officials threatened to resign.ImageCredit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times2. President Biden got right to work this week.In his first 48 hours in office, Mr. Biden cranked out about 30 executive actions, 14 of which target a broad range of former President Trump’s executive mandates, with the remainder aimed at implementing emergency measures intended to deal with the pandemic and the economic crisis.While Mr. Trump came to rely on executive action for many of his achievements, Mr. Biden seems to understand that it is best used to repeal someone else’s legacy, not build his own, our White House reporter writes.Among Mr. Biden’s actions was a reversal of Mr. Trump’s so-called Muslim ban. Few foreigners welcomed Mr. Biden’s victory as much as the tens of thousands of Muslims who had been barred from the U.S.In his first days in office, Mr. Biden devoted more attention to issues of racial equity than any new president since Lyndon Johnson. Historians see the moment as a unique opening for change.ImageCredit...Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesImageCredit...Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times4. A year ago this weekend, Wuhan, China, went into lockdown.The city, the first epicenter of the coronavirus, offered the world a preview of the dangers of the virus. Now, it heralds a post-pandemic world where the relief of unmasked faces, concerts and daily commutes conceals the emotional aftershocks.“I always thought I wasn’t afraid of death,” one delivery worker said. “But I found out during the epidemic that I’m terrified of it.”ImageCredit...Nate Palmer for The New York Times5. 13,000 school districts. 13,000 approaches to teaching during a pandemic.To
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"Nintendo failed to mention an important fact in a representation made to a consumer." Nintendo is facing yet another class-action lawsuit for Joy-Con drift. On 15th January, Canadian firm Lambert Avocat Inc. filed an application to be permitted to bring a class action suit against Nintendo in a bid to "obtain a compensation for all Québec consumers who bought the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite gaming systems, as well as Joy-Con and Nintendo Switch Pro controllers". The paperwork says that "goods purchased must be fit for the purposes for which goods of that kind are ordinarily use
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Raspberry Pi Pico board was just launched last Thursday, but thanks to Cytron I received a sample a few hours after the announcement, and I’ve now had time to play with the board using MicroPython and C programming language.I went to the official documentation to get started, but I had to look around to achieve what I wanted to do, namely blinking some LEDs, so I’ll document my experience with my own getting started guide for Raspberry Pi Pico using a computer running Ubuntu 20.04 operating system. The instructions will be similar for Windows and Mac OS.Preparing the hardwareIn theory, we could just get started with the board alone, but since I got some headers with my board, I also took
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California this week became the first US state to record 3m Covid-19 infections. But, within its borders, Californians have been living through two different pandemics. As the north begins to see encouraging signs that the latest, most severe period of the crisis is beginning to abate, southern California and the central valley have continued to face a deluge. “For us, the pandemic has been coming like a slow drip, whereas in Los Angeles it’s been like an explosion,” said Dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. In LA county, which has recorded more coronavirus cases than any other county in the US by far, an estimated one in
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For those who have been dozing on the sofa this winter, London Hughes’s Netflix standup special, To Catch a D*ck, will likely bring you out of your snooze. In her one-hour routine, the London-born comedian, actor, writer and TV presenter, 31, who has stormed Hollywood this year, recaps the story of her life so far: basically the quest for a good seeing-to.To Catch a D*ck was originally a show which Hughes took to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, where it got her nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award. Its film version was executive-produced by American super-comic Kevin Hart, and signals Hughes’s acceptance in Hollywood’s upper echelons. In fact, ever since she moved to LA before the pa
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Obama-endorsed and wearing gold-clipped braids and Oprah-gifted earrings, 22-year old poet Amanada Gorman and her poem The Hill We Climb have been the talking point of Biden’s inauguration. Her five-minute poem, which started with the question “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”, explored grief, redemption and recovery, and wowed the world. Imperfect but fervent, it reminded us of something important: politics needs poetry.Gorman, born in 1998 in Los Angeles and raised by a mother who works as a teacher, graduated from Harvard university in 2020. She was the first US national youth poet laureate and its youngest ever inaugural poet. Ow
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In January 2019, Anne Helen Petersen’s BuzzFeed long read on millennial burnout went viral, attracting more than 7 million readers. My initial reaction was an eye-roll. I am a millennial. I know we’re all burned out, but I also know complaining about that only makes people hate us more. If there’s one thing more common than a complaining millennial, it’s a boomer complaining about complaining millennials.And anyway, I didn’t have time to read something that long. But pretty soon, I felt like I had to. Just to keep up with everyone else on my Twitter timeline.These reactions? Classic burnt-out responses. And the sort of thing Petersen now looks at in a book drawing on thousands of f
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A bioethics expert on the moral questions facing our vaccine rollouts.Ruth Faden, an expert in biomedical ethics with Johns Hopkins University, has helped vaccine drives answer some tough questions: Who should be ahead of whom? Do we prioritize speed or equity? And once people are inoculated, should they get “vaccine passports” allowing freer movement?She joins James Hamblin and guest host Maeve Higgins on the podcast Social Distance to assess how we’ve done so far—and what we could expect next.Listen to their conversation here:Subscribe to Social Distance on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or another podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they’re published.What follows is a transcript of the episode, edited and condensed for clarity:Maeve Higgins: How do you think vaccinations are going so far?Ruth Faden: Globally, or within particular countries?James Hamblin: Let’s start with the U.S.Faden: Because, globally, it’s a disaster. Within the United States, it’s not so great, but it’s way better than it is globally. Right now, we are really in a bad situation. We’ve hit the horrible 400,000 death mark. And while there is some indication that the death rate and the hospitalization rate may be flattening, it’s still not clear. And if it does plateau, it’s going to plateau at a really bad place, which is the place we’re in now.Recommended ReadingWe only have about 12.5 million doses administered to people. That’s not full courses, that’s doses, because we’re still dealing with the two-dose vaccine. And that’s nowhere near the pace we need to be able to get our arms around this terrible loss of life. We need to really pick up the pace in this country.Hamblin: In the months leading up to the actual rollout of the vaccine, there was a lot of discussion of how we created hierarchies and lists of who would get it when. How has that short supply—or less-than-expected supply—changed or put an emphasis on those difficult decisions about who should be vaccinated first?Faden: In the summer and into the fall, an awful lot of effort was put into coming up with prioritization frameworks, with a lot of attention to the ethics justification
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The third shelf in the kitchen cupboard is home to a collection of bottles and jars, seasonings and syrups, preserves and condiments. Some – the Marmite and the peanut butter – get what is pretty much a daily outing. Others see the light of day less often, but are no less essential in the right recipe. Among the chilli vinegars and mushroom ketchups, the smoke-scented salts and soy sauces, there is a bottle of dark, red-brown pomegranate molasses. This is the syrup I turn to when I want to introduce a subtle, mellow sourness, which nowadays is quite often.Today, this sticky brown syrup – the best being made with as few ingredients as possible – is for deepening the interest of a crunchy peanut crust I am spreading on to roasted pumpkin. I have previously used honey to balance the heat of the chillies and pungency of the garlic, but this is better, having not only sweetness but deep, fruity, almost wine-like notes, too. Pomegranate molasses is just as well suited to savoury dishes as sweet. I use it by the teaspoon, tasting as I go, except when I’m making a marinade for pork ribs when I use it by the bottle, along with honey or the darker, slightly more monotone notes of date syrup.While I have the bottle out, I shall include a little of this thick, tart syrup into the d
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Older Americans receive generous benefits, but the immigrants who support them receive little from the government.Professor of Latin American and Latino studies at UC Santa CruzLecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of BusinessAlicia Valeriano, originally from Mexico City, pictured at home in Freehold, New Jersey. Because she doesn’t have a social security number, her family did not qualify for aid under the CARES Act, even though she has paid taxes for 18 years.Ed Kashi / VII / ReduxSome of the couples eligible for coronavirus-relief stimulus checks last year, and who could receive up to $2,800 more under Joe Biden’s proposed plan, paraded in their golf carts in support of Donald Trump through the Villages, a Florida community for people over 55. Many are retired and living comfortably, their benefits protected by the government safety net. If they had lost jobs during the pandemic, they would have been eligible for expanded unemployment benefits.Many of the home-health aides and nursing assistants, some of them elderly themselves, who care for retirees in places like the Villages do not enjoy the same benefits. In Florida, more than 40 percent of these workers are immigrants, both authorized and unauthorized. This percentage does not include the groundskeepers, maintenance people, housekeepers, and food workers who keep retirement communities and nursing homes running. A growing number of all of these workers are now struggling, turning to food lines around the country.According to a Pew Research poll, many Americans in the Silent Generation believe the myth that immigrants burden, rather than strengthen, the United States, when, in fact, the opposite is true. Our aging population depends on immigrants, not just for elder care but for health care (immigrants are playing a huge role in caring for COVID-19 patients), technological innovation (think Zoom, created by a Chinese immigrant), agriculture, and other aspects of a dynamic economy.Recommended ReadingThe Biden administration must work to narrow the gap between what older Americans and the immigrants who support them receive from the government. And older Americans, including the two of us, must ackno
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A senior police officer cleared of misconduct over the high-profile death of a mentally ill black man is to face fresh disciplinary proceedings because of failings in the original case, the Observer can reveal.After a misconduct meeting last year the officer – who has not been named – was told they had “no case to answer” over the death of Kevin Clarke, who was restrained by up to seven officers in south London in 2018.Clarke’s family and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) were, however, not notified about the hearing, where they would have been legally entitled to ask questions.Now the officer – after initially refusing – has signed an order agreeing to have the high court quash the original verdict, paving the way for fresh disciplinary proceedings.Clarke, 35, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a teenager, had been observed by police officers for 13 minutes while suffering a mental health episode as he lay on playing fields in Catford, south-east London. When he attempted to get to his knees he was restrained and handcuffed.Police video reveals Clarke repeatedly told officers: “I can’t breathe.” An ambulance was called and Clarke was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Lewisham hospital.An inquest verdict last October concluded the decision to restrain Clarke was inappropriate and contributed to his death.Cyrilia Davies Knight, solicitor for the Clarke family, said: “The family are pleased that the misconduct meeting will now take place again allowing them the opportunity to exercise their right to be present and ask questions.“But it was outrageous that the officer initially disputed the application to quash the misconduct decision, despite knowing there was a clear breach in the regulations.”His family also want other officers involved in the restraint of Clarke to face misconduct proceedings, saying they were “shocked and dismayed” this had not happened despite the evidence that emerged during the inquest.The development in the Clarke case coincides with a submission of evidence into the UN’s investigation into “systemic racism” and rights violations committed by police against black peop
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Winter 2020 in Wuhan, China: ground zero for the coronavirus epidemic. This urgent fly-on-the-wall documentary, shot in four hospitals during the 76 days of lockdown in Wuhan, shows the “fearless soldiers”, as one grateful patient describes the doctors and nurses, on the frontline of a battle with a then unknown foe.It is, at times, harrowing. The film doesn’t shy away from grief at its rawest, fear at its most paralysing. There are moments – the swollen fingers of an elderly patient clinging to the hand of a stranger invisible behind layers of PPE – that are wrenchingly sad. But crucially, there’s also an element of hope and even humour in this affecting tribute to healthcare workers everywhere. On Dogwoof on Demand and other digital platforms Watch a trailer for 76 Days
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Over the course of four days in 2017, Kat Araniello was raped three times, once at knifepoint, by a man she had briefly dated.“Ben* was attentive, charming and attractive,” said Araniello, a 44-year-old HR professional. “He showed me his Metropolitan police warrant card when we first met. Because he was a police officer I immediately felt safe with him.”But after a few weeks, Ben began to display signs of jealously and possessiveness. During an evening at Araniello’s flat he “flipped”.“He smashed my phone, punched me hard on my head, pulled out my hair and tried to break my hand,” said Araniello. “And then he raped me.”She was too scared to ask Ben to leave in case it provoked even worse violence. “On the Sunday night, he appeared out of nowhere with a massive knife
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My heart went out to Jonathan Agnew, having to commentate on England’s first Test by watching the television in his attic instead of being in Sri Lanka’s Galle stadium, because of a Covid travel ban. “You don’t feel in the game,” Aggers told a BBC news reporter, after opening Test Match Special from his home. I know how he feels, but there are compensations to on-screen experiences.This week, from my attic, I’ve been watching short films commissioned by the London international mime festival’s ever resourceful directors, Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig, reacting to current restrictions by moving events online. For the first time since its 1977 debut, people worldwide can experience the crazy diversity of work for which the festival is justly famous.In Toby Sedgwick… Is Bernard Knowes, War Horse choreographer Sedgwick is a cap-wearing, prosthetic-nosed, clown-like character. His zany antics are playfully spliced with home videos from Sedgwick’s childhood and shots of him transforming into a mother figure, donning pinny and wig. These palimpsest-like images set off psychological/emotional resonances; comic sketches become poignant.Watch Toby Sedgwick… is Bernard
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The death of Pedro Calderón de la Barca – soldier, priest and one of the finest dramatists Spain has produced – continues to prove almost as turbulent and unpredictable as his long and improbable life.Four centuries after Calderón died in Madrid aged 81, researchers believe they could be close to finding his remains, thanks to the deathbed testament of a priest, a key long guarded by the playwright’s family and the latest in ground-penetrating radar.Calderón, whose most famous play, La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream) is a violent examination of fate, free will and the nature of reality, died in 1681 and was buried by his priestly brotherhood, the Congregation of St Peter the Apostle, in a church in the centre of Madrid.His wanderings, however, did not end there. Over the centuries, the writer’s remains were moved to five locations before they, and the ornate casket that housed them, were eventually installed in another of the congregation’s chapels in 1902.The final transfer was a huge public event, attended by the great and the good of the time. As the carriage bearing the remains passed Madrid’s Teatro Español, actors showered it with petals.Calderón’s bones didn’t have long to rest in their new home in a marble urn atop a plinth. The church, Our Lady of Sorrows, was targeted in the furious wave of anti-clerical violence which began after Franco launched the coup that triggered the Spanish civil war.Portrait of 17th-century dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Photograph: Dea Picture Library/GettyIn late July 1936, several of the parish’s priests were murdered and the building was devoured in an arson attack that left the church burning for two
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Tesla has fired and sued software engineer Alex Khatilov for alleged trade secret theft and breach of contract. The electric automaker claims its former employee copied thousands of files to his personal Dropbox account just days after being hired. The complaint [PDF], filed on Friday in US District Court in San Jose, California, claims Khatilov, also known as Sabhir Khatilov and Alex Tilov, was hired as a senior quality assurance engineer on December 28, 2020, and began copying company files without authorization just days later. "Within three days, he began stealing thousands of highly confidential software files from Tesla’s secure internal network, transferring them to his personal cloud storage account on Dropbox, to which Tesla has no access or visibility," the complaint contends. "The files consist of 'scripts' of proprietary software code that Tesla has spent years of engineering time to build." Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, Khatilov said he was unaware of the lawsuit and insisted what happened was a mistake, the result of Dropbox automatically copying Python files he installed as part of his onboarding process. According to the complaint, Khatilov, of San Bruno, California, was hired to write scripts to help automate Tesla's Environmental Health and Safety systems. The company relies on quality assurance engineers to automate various business
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Europe|Pro-Navalny Protest Photos: Wave of Anger Rolls Across RussiaCredit...Jan. 24, 2021Updated 5:01 a.m. ETMOSCOW — Russians rallied in support of the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny in more than 100 cities on Saturday, the biggest protests in the nation since at least 2017.It was a wave of anger that rolled through the country’s 11 time zones, starting at port cities on the Pacific and moving to the streets of Siberia. The biggest protests, which drew well over 10,000 people, were in Moscow, the capital, where riot police officers in camouflage, body armor and shiny black h
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The BBC started its compulsory impartiality training last week and I’m concerned not to have been asked along. Is that a bad sign about my career or do I not qualify for a more benign reason? As someone who quite often features on the BBC’s TV or radio stations, I still find it hard to work out whether I’m officially part of it. Or, indeed, who is.Everyone seems to talk about “the BBC” – usually complaining, about anything from how it’s biased against Brexit, to how it hates Jeremy Corbyn, to how it ruined The Archers, to how it won’t let you have a kettle in your office any mo
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After taking the oath of office last Wednesday, Joe Biden felt the need to condemn an increasingly weaponised field of national conflict: broadcast news. Encouraging his fellow Americans to focus on the distant mirage of unity in his inaugural address, the new president warned against a “retreat into competing factions”, and distrust of those who “don’t get their news from the same sources you do”.Now Britain is on the brink of a similarly oppositional era of television news coverage. Two services, both designed as challenges to the cosy status quo, are to be launched upon a largely
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You wrote Breathtaking towards the start of the pandemic when you couldn’t sleep. Did you envisage that the world would still be looking the way it does almost a year later?No, I truly did not. I started writing the book as a forlorn kind of nocturnal therapy at a time when cases were going down, it was midsummer, there was hope and optimism in the air. And although I was sure there would be a resurgence, never for one second did I imagine this, with the deaths worse than they have ever been. It’s just shattering.How does what you are seeing inside hospitals today differ from what you saw last spring?In the first wave, the NHS threw all it had at trying to manage Covid, so everything else shut down. This time, the NHS has been desperately trying to catch up on all the other non-Covid a
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It took just 60 minutes at daybreak for the seven patients to die, asphyxiated as coronavirus swept back into the Brazilian Amazon with nightmarish force.“Today was one of the hardest days in all my years of public service. You feel so impotent,” sobbed Francisnalva Mendes, the health chief in the river town of Coari, as she remembered the moment on Tuesday when its hospital’s oxygen supply ran out.“We need to get back to the fight – to carry on saving lives,” Mendes insisted as she digested losing a third of her town’s 22 Covid-19 patients in one fell swoop – four of them in their 50s. “But we all feel broken. It was such a hard day.”Coari was at the centre of Latin America’s latest coronavirus catastrophe last week after a surge in infections linked to a new and see
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Nicaragua DispatchCatching spiny lobsters is a stunningly dangerous pursuit for the mostly Indigenous fishermen along the country’s Caribbean coast, requiring deep plunges with subpar gear.A diver off the coast of Nicaragua returning to the surface with his catch: sea cucumbers, star fish and lobsters.Credit...Jan. 24, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETPUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua — Every time he is out at sea, the lobster diver says a prayer just before he drops into the water in what has become a steadfast ritual since he nearly lost his life on a hunt three years ago.“God, help me one more time,” pleads the lobsterman, Edmundo Stanley Antonio. “Accompany me in this water.”There are a lot of worries bundled into that simple appeal. That the makeshift air hose he’s tethered to doesn’t spring
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A huge coalition of activist groups had been working together since the spring to make sure that Joe Biden won and that the “election stayed won” amid Donald Trump’s subterfuge.Credit...Ruth Fremson/The New York TimesJan. 24, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETThe video call was announced on short notice, but more than 900 people quickly joined: a coalition of union officials and racial justice organizers, civil rights lawyers and campaign strategists, pulled together in a matter of hours after the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.They convened to craft a plan for answering the onslaught on American democracy, and they soon reached a few key decisions. They would stay off the streets for the moment and hold back from mass demonstrations that could be exposed to an armed mob goaded on by President Donald
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Michelle Burford has carved out a niche helping famous Black women like Cicely Tyson, Alicia Keys and Gabby Douglas write their memoirs. But she can tell many kinds of stories, including her own.Credit...Gioncarlo Valentine for The New York TimesJan. 24, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETMichelle Burford has a fuzzy, purple ski hat, and when she puts it on, she can channel voices.It’s a magic she has manifested many times, most recently in helping the actress Cicely Tyson write her memoir “Just as I Am,” which HarperCollins is publishing on Tuesday. The New York Times Book Review praised the “firm, warm, proud, reflective voice on the page” as Burford’s creation.Normally we would call such a person a ghostwriter, but Burford can’t stand the term.“Historically, to be a ghostwriter was to be
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A popular radio station in Manhattan has become a haven where conservative hosts like Rudolph Giuliani can defend Donald Trump.Credit...Jacquelyn Martin/Associated PressJan. 24, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETHis president and No. 1 client, Donald J. Trump, is no longer in office. His claims of election fraud, unfounded and disproved, were dismissed in courts across the country. He may still face criminal charges, and now there is a move to disbar him in New York.But Rudolph W. Giuliani still has a voice, amplified by a 50,000-watt radio station nestled in Midtown Manhattan. And there, Mr. Giuliani is his usual, unrestrained self.Think Mr. Trump lost the election? Mr. Giuliani vehemently disagrees.“He won that election,” Mr. Giuliani said last week on his radio show on WABC-AM (770). “You give m
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It has been hidden from view for thousands of years, and its whereabouts never proved. But if the Ark of the Covenant indeed rests in a chapel in northern Ethiopia, this extraordinary religious treasure could be at grave risk from fighting in the area. The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, which reputedly houses the ark – a casket of gilded wood containing stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, according to the Bible – was the scene of a recent massacre of 750 people, reports filtering out of the country say. International experts have raised the alarm over the security of the ark and other religious and cultural artefacts as a result of escalating conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Among those voicing concern are academics from the Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian
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TOKYO -- SoftBank Group's attempt to sell U.K. chip designer Arm to U.S. chipmaker Nvidia is hitting regulatory roadblocks in major markets, as the blockbuster deal has raised antitrust and national security concerns among policymakers.SoftBank announced in September plans to sell Arm to Nvidia in a cash and stock deal worth up to $40 billion, generating buzz in the tech world.It was clear from the beginning, however, that the sale of Arm, which is owned by the London-headquartered SoftBank Group Capital and the SoftBank Vision Fund, to the American semiconductor company, best known for supplying chips that render images in video games, would attract the attention of antitrust regulators and national security officials in the countries where it needs to be approved.Experts well-versed in
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Anyone wishing to appear grander than they are in 2021 might buy a house with a pediment and columns. For the Dutch architect Abraham Salm in 1887, building a house (one of five) on a site by the Amstel river, east of Amsterdam’s city centre, it meant a liberal sprinkling of coats of arms on mantelpieces, iron grates and glass panel doors.“We unearthed stained-glass windows depicting knights jousting, during the renovation,” laughs Elmar Krop, the fashion photographer who bought the house four years ago. “Perhaps this was to suggest he came from a much older family than he actually had, because the house was intended to look like it was from the 17th century, when actually it was built 200 years later.”Previously converted to four apartments and an office, it was very run down an
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It’s a Sin (Channel 4) | All 4Finding Alice (ITV) | ITV HubThe Bay (ITV) | ITV HubThe Investigation (BBC Two) | iPlayerBack (Channel 4) | All 4It’s a Sin arrived complete with ready-made culture row, creator Russell T Davies having done a little stoking by saying he’d like gay men to be played by gay actors. Cue huffing in predictable quarters, chiefly along these lines: would Hannibal Lecter need to then be played by a convicted cannibal? An argument I normally like to consign to the category “technically valid, but you might want to grow up a bit and have a wee word with yourselves”. And to let this particular tower of babble overshadow any of the subsequent creation would indeed be a sin.It is, on the evidence of the first episode (of five), mainly a joyous, gleeful, rambuncti
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Leading figures in the UK Jewish community are using Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January to focus on the persecution of Uighur Muslims, saying Jews have the “moral authority and moral duty” to speak out.Rabbis, community leaders and Holocaust survivors have been at the forefront of efforts to put pressure on the UK government to take a stronger stance over China’s brutal treatment of the Uighurs.In a recent letter to the prime minister, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “As a community, we are always extremely hesitant to consider comparisons with the Holocaust.”However, there were similarities between what is reported to be happening in China and what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s, she said. Urging Boris Johnson to take
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Dame Kelly Holmes is well qualified – perhaps overly so – to lead online exercise classes. For one thing, she has the energy, as she puts it, of “a Duracell bunny, jumping around like a madwoman”. For another, she is one of Britain’s greatest Olympians, having won gold in the 800m and 1500m at the 2004 Athens games. Holmes, now 50, started offering free sessions on Instagram last year, but has just launched Lunch Date With Kelly on YouTube, 20-minute live workouts at 12.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. She lives in Kent, where she has a small herd of alpacas.What can we expect from Lunch Date With Kelly?The biggest thing is I just want to energise people in the middle of their day. Lift their spirits: get them moving and feeling good about themselves. And I want
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At first glance Lissie Harper’s artfully curated Instagram page reflects an idyllic life. Photographs of her cuddling her cat and walking in meadows sit alongside others featuring holidays abroad, her hen night and her wedding to her childhood sweetheart, Andrew. Yet, the words accompanying some of the posts reveal her true story, one of grief and loss which began 18 months ago when Andrew, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty.Next to a picture of herself staring out to sea, Lissie notes: “Grief is like living two lives. One is where you pretend that everything is all right, and the other is where your heart silently screams in pain.” Accompanying a photo of her and Andrew kissing on their wedding day, posted on the anniversary of his funeral, she’s written: “‘I miss you’ doesn’t even come close to the hollowness that has encapsulated me these past 14 months. My life is missing its brightest spark.”The future she had envisaged as they exchanged vows in a stone temple in the grounds of a Georgian manor house in front of family and friends in July 2019 was obliterated a month later when Andrew was called out to reports of a quad bike theft in Sulhamstead, Berkshire. As he tried to stop three teenagers, his feet became tangled in a tow rope attached to the back of their getaway car and he was dragged along country lanes for more than a mile, suffering catastrophic, unsurvivable injuries. He was 28 years old.On a biting cold January afternoon, Lissie, is curled up on the sofa in her cosy 17th-century cottage in Oxfordshire explaining to me over Zoom how she’s coped in the aftermath. She lets out a long sigh. “I had two choices: sit and rock i
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Celebrity primatologists and scientists have been urged not to post selfies with chimpanzees, orangutans and other primates on social media to help conservation efforts for threatened species.Cuddling baby monkeys on camera and sharing Instagram posts interacting with primates at sanctuaries is strongly discouraged under new guidelines aimed at scientists, researchers and TV presenters from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on protecting the natural world.Experts fear that images of primatologists interacting with animals can undermine conservation efforts by inadvertently driving demand for the illegal primate pet trade and encouraging the public to take selfies with monkeys, orangutans and lemurs.Studies have found the use of primates in commercials – such as the chimpanzees in PG tips adverts from the 1950s to 1970s – can distort the perception of an animal’s conservation status, and there are concerns that social media images of humans interacting with nonhuman primates are having the same effect.Of the 514 primate species assessed by the IUCN, around two-thirds are threatened with extinction, driven by agriculture, hunting, human infrastructure and the climate crisis.Siân Waters, a macaque specialist at Durham University, heads the IUCN specialist group for human-primate interactions that devised the guidelines. Waters said she had noticed the effect of social media posts and magazine articles in her work studying the endangered Barbary macaque.“Sometimes people will ask us if we can get them a pet macaque. We noticed an increase in the number of people asking us that whenever there was a picture in the paper of
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In the middle of a dark January, nine months into a pandemic, at the height of a second wave, with the consequences of Brexit finally becoming apparent, what was the great, burning issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind last week? According to housing minister, Robert Jenrick, the critical red button issue of the moment was the fate of the nations’ statues.Last summer, when the statue of Edward Colston was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol, there were two clear lessons that could be drawn. One was that Britain was a country that urgently needed to confront the chapters of its history that for centuries have been brushed under the carpet. The other was that those same histories could be weaponised for political gain. It’s not difficult to work out which of those two options caught the government’s eye.The immediate challenge facing the political strategists, however, is that most of us – locked down in our homes – haven’t even laid eyes on a statue in 2021, never mind contemplated pulling down one. Beyond wars and revolutions, statue toppling tends to be a summer phenomenon. But with so much going wrong and the need for political distraction so acute, the housing minster was sent out to bat, his task to desperately try to kickstart the statue wars of last summer by promising a new law to protect them.Yet this is not really about statues and never has been. It is not even about history, as the concept of history the government claims to defend is one that most historians would struggle to recognise. What ministers and, more significantly, the government’s campaign strategists are seeking to evoke and champion is something called “Our History”, the sole and sacred property of “The People” – the “us” whose identity is supposedly threatened by “them”, what Jenrick calls the “baying mobs” and “woke militants”. Even one of the Tories’ own peers, the former minister Lord Vaizey, felt compelled to denounce this crude, culture war provocation, describing it as “pathetic”.While Jenrick was blathering on about statues, another group of culture warriors in Washington was fighting an offensive of its own, or
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Substantial work still needs to be done to protect houses from flood damage and to ensure homes do not dangerously overheat in summer as climate change intensifies storms and heatwaves in the UK. That is the key message from one of the country’s leading experts on climate change adaptation.Speaking on the eve of the Climate Adaptation Summit, which opens tomorrow in the Netherlands, Julia King told the Observer that although some improvements had been made to Britain’s preparations for dealing with global heating, some important protection was still lacking.“We have to do more to make houses more resilient to flood waters and we also have to deal with the issue of properties becoming worryingly overheated in summer,” said King, who is a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC). “These issues need to be addressed as key priorities as global warming continues.”Emergency services evacuate care home residents stranded by flood water in Northwich, Cheshire, last week. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesKing’s warning comes after many parts of the country were battling to recover from the devastating impact of Storm Christoph, which last week inundated swathes of northern England and Wales, destroying bridges, flooding retirement homes and forcing thousands
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Pls Like (BBC Three) has a problem: how do you spoof the unspoofable? The quick and quick-witted mockumentary, written by and starring Liam Williams, spent two series teasing YouTubers and the like, but now, in the age of TikTok, you have to wonder how it will manage to make comedy out of something with such a rapid turnover. To spend 10 minutes on TikTok is to be bombarded with gags and jokes and memes and viral trends that either refuse to make sense as a point of principle, or only make sense if you know the galaxy of stuff that went before it.Williams has made a smart choice here, by focusing on the influencer industry – with the emphasis on industry – as much as he does on the surreal, rapid-fire humour of the influencers themselves, although he does have plenty of fun with that, too. After the first two series, “greying millennial” Williams (the Pls Like character, not the real one) has decided to reinvent himself, moving away from documenting vlogging culture into the more demanding field of political films, with the ultimate goal of making a feature film called Squad Coals. However, there is not quite the audience he anticipated for his no doubt visceral work on John Prescott, so he attempts to figure out how he himself can become an influencer and get people to pay attention to his serious art.It’s clever, because mocking influencers alone would have been swinging at low-hanging fruit. Instead, Williams mostly focuses on teasing himself as an outsider who thinks he is above it all, and the grim machine around it. Tim Key returns as the execrable James Wirm, owner of Beam Industries, the country’s largest influencer agency, and there’s a winningly daft political subplot involving the new minister for influencers, Mungo Slate (Graham Dickson).The past year may have been disastrous for many, but influencers, reports Williams, are doing just fine. (That’s more than can be said for the employees of Beam Industries, who have been ruthlessly “streamlined” by Wirm.) He takes on a number of challenges to see if he is cut out to be one, including creating an elite holiday experience for young people on a budget, putting on an exhibition of inf
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There are few consolations to Covid, but it is at least interesting having a celebrity disease. We’ve become objects of fascination to friends and family who’ve not yet had it, and who’ve taken to quizzing us on our symptoms as if they’re small-town yokels who’ve heard we’re in Disneyland.One small mercy of Covid’s lethargy is that it has reduced – though not ceased – my Twitter use, since focusing on backlit screens has been taxing, and it’s surprising how much my brain has enjoyed the break from doom scrolling. Luckily, others are on hand to inform us of every new stat, graph and grim tiding.Weirdly, I’d not noticed that every single person I know has spent the past year doing a correspondence course in epidemiology and each now knows more about the symptoms – our symptoms – than we do. At every stage, and with something not entirely disconnected from glee, we’ve been reliably informed that the worst is probably yet to come. On Day 4, I was solemnly informed, ‘Day 5 is where it gets messy,’ and a few days later: ‘Beware day 8.’ Having now regained just a little get-up-and-go around day 14, I was today reminded that, ‘It’s the two-week point you have to watch out for’.‘The gorillas in San Diego zoo have it now,’ I was told by several people the day that news became public, either in the hopes I’d abandon long-held plans to visit the poor primates, or challenging me to provide an alibi for said transmission. Most simply want to know how we’re doing, and scan us for symptoms. Many seemed not just intrigued but positively delighted by the idea we might lose our sense of taste and smell, and have been sorely disappointed each time we’ve reported that both remain intact. There’s usually a pause on the phoneline in such instances, as if we’re miserly cheapskates, who came home with the £19.99 Basic Coronavirus Package – fatigue, soreness, complaining – rather than the £49.99 Covid+ Deluxe deal – no smell, coughing up random bones, all Sky Sports and Movie channels.For the most part, it’s been nice to hear from people, since we haven’t left the house in any form for two weeks. This has been quite easy
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Conditioned by its DIY wing, trad indie rock tends to look askance at musicianly filigree. But Toronto’s Kiwi Jr know their way around a rock’n’roll piano, some well-oiled harmonica, interlocking guitars and a host of other non-DIY flourishes. That’s what hauls this foursome clear of their solid but over-familiar templates: fey jangle pop, punky melodics, the Modern Lovers and Pavement.There’s some seething organ, or bejewelled piano, on many of the songs on this 13-track album – calling to mind how the Hold Steady brought Springsteen’s wildly sentimental keys to post-hardcore. S
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For the 55 years that Tim Fox has worshipped at St Peter-on-the-Wall, his only neighbours have been a farm and a birdwatchers’ shelter.Now, the tranquil surroundings of the salt marsh and the Essex sea wall at Bradwell-on-Sea are threatened by a new arrival: a sprawling nuclear power station, Bradwell B.If all goes to plan, the Grade I-listed St Peter-on-the-Wall, built in an abandoned Roman fort in about 660 during the Saxon settlement of Britain, will be an ideal place to watch 10,600 construction workers building the nuclear reactor. “My parents brought me here in 1965 when I was four y
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You would have to possess a heart of stone not to weep with laughter at some of those who are now suddenly complaining about Brexit. It is a bit late for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party, those lusty sponsors of the great experiment with the UK’s prosperity, to be wailing that they have been betrayed. I smiled to see that Roger Daltrey, the Leave-supporting lead singer of the Who, has joined the chorus of rock stars furious that the post-Brexit visa rules will ruin their prospects of touring across the Channel. Mr Daltrey will have to sing Won’t Get Fooled Again to himself before moving on to Boris the Spider and I Can’t Explain.It is particularly rending for the soul to witness the rightwing press discovering that the cause they so noisily championed is not the nirvana that they sold to their readers. They were cheering when Boris Johnson flourished the Brexit deal that he concluded on Christmas Eve and proclaimed: “This is a cakeist treaty.” The UK would be having the sweet stuff and eating it by gaining lots of shiny new benefits from being outside the EU while still enjoying the historical advantages of frictionless trade with its closest neighbours.All those acquainted with Mr Johnson and his casual relationship with the truth will have taken that with a juggernaut of salt. Consider the prime minister’s specialist subject of cake. Anyone trying to take a fresh cream cake across the Channel now does so at the risk of having it impounded at customs because it is a dairy product. A Dutch TV report, which has since gone viral, shows border officials confiscating sandwiches from motorists arriving in the Netherlands from the UK. One driver agrees to surrender the meat in his sandwich, but pleads to be allowed to hang on to the bread. The frontier guard responds: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to the Brexit, sir.” Comedic tales of travellers being deprived of their snacks are the funnier side of an otherwise deadly serious story. The bill for Mr Johnson’s Brexit is coming in and that bill is a punishingly steep one. It is being paid by the fishing fleets in Scotland and the West Country that are tied up because they are unable to export their catch. It is being paid in a slump in activity at Welsh ports because the trade they used to handle is being diverted to France and Spain. It is being paid in billions of pou
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Shortly after breaking’s inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympics sent heads spinning across the globe, Sebastian Coe was asked for his gut reaction. “Hmm,” the former head of London 2012 said. “Yeah, it’s in there.” There was an awkward silence before Coe, now the president of World Athletics and an IOC member, eventually conceded: “You probably have to be a pretty good athlete to be a breakdancer.”Pretty good? A few seconds watching Britain’s best B-boys and B-girls, including Sunni Brummitt, Roxanne Milliner and Vanessa Marina, perform a dizzying array of spins, flips and freezes to a thudding beat – a sonic fusion of strength, gymnastics and dance – provides a rapid panacea to such sniffy attitudes.“Perhaps because breaking is an urban art form, people think its a little bit less serious and strenuous,” says the 24-year-old Brummitt, who has competed in breaking’s most prestigious event, the Red Bull BC One World Finals, on four occasions.“They don’t comprehend what goes into it. I train five days a week, four to six hours every day. I think you could put a top-tier B-boy with a top-tier gymnast and they’d be doing the same training regimes. The difference is we don’t have support or funding; we are doing it without coaches, nutritionists and an infrastructure in place.”Coe may have sounded curmudgeonly but such attitudes are hardly uncommon. Breaking has come a long way since it emerged in New York in the early 70s as a way for rival street gangs to settle disputes, yet many still roll their eyes at suggestions that it is a sport, let alone one worthy of an Olympic spot.Brummitt understands why some are sceptical. All he is asking fo
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This novel has been greedily anticipated by Francis Spufford’s many fans – I’ve had a copy of it sitting temptingly on my desk like the promise of a treat to come. Yet there is one thing we know about Spufford: you cannot second-guess him. He began as an elegant writer of nonfiction – historical, theological, autobiographical – before producing, aged 52, Golden Hill, a novel of exuberant virtuosity about an English chancer in 18th-century Manhattan. A gorgeous escapade of a read, it was hard to believe it was a first novel. In an interview at the time, Spufford said he had just been waiting to be “on reasonable terms” with his own psyche before turning his hand to fiction. But Golden Hill set the bar so high that I had wondered if he might offer us something unriskily modest with which to sneak past the famously challenging second novel post.Not a bit of it. If anything, Light Perpetual is even bolder than Golden Hill while in no way resembling it. It is a new departure – a brilliant, attention-grabbing, capacious experiment with fiction. The idea came to Spufford as he was walking down London’s New Cross Road towards Goldsmiths, where he teaches, past a branch of Iceland on the site of which, in November 1944, a German V2 rocket fell. A plaque commemorates the killing of 168 people, including several children, in what was then Woolworths. Thinking about the lives cut short, he decided to make his novel about five working-class children, allowing them to sur
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On Sunday afternoon, the US will reach the 100th hour of Joe Biden’s presidency. Already, there has been a blitz of executive actions and a bewildering pace of change. Four years after Donald Trump set about undoing Barack Obama’s legacy, Obama’s vice-president appears to be returning the gesture with interest. Here are the key developments: Unity Biden’s inaugural address was a soulful plea to come together after four years of division. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge and unity is the path forward,” he said, promising to be a president for all Americans. The pared-down ceremony at the US Capitol, stormed by a mob just two weeks earlier, was a bipartisan affair that included outgoing vice-president Mike Pence. Trump, who falsely claimed he won the election, was conspicuously absent. Climate Biden lost no time in rejoining the Paris climate agreement, earning Republican criticism. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the move indicated Biden was “more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh”, contending it would destroy thousands of jobs. The president also revoked the Keystone XL oil pipeline permit and instructed the Environmental Protection Agency and transportation department to reestablish fuel efficiency mandates weakened by Trump. Coronavirus Biden pledged a “wartime undertaking” to combat a pandemic in which more than 400,000 have died. He released a 198-page Covid-19 strategy and signed 10 executive orders and other directives. These included a mandate requiring anyone visiting a federal building or land or traveling on a plane, train, ship or intercity bus to wear a mask. There are stricter protocols at the White House, to avoid any repeat of Trump’s “superspreader” events. Biden ordered agencies to speed up manufacturing and delivery of personal protective equipment, directed officials to provide guidance on the reopening of schools and reversed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, returned to the White House briefing room after months of near banishment. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what the evidence, what the science is and let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” he said. Economy Before taking office, Biden sent Congress a proposed $1.9tn stimulus package. That remains the priority but he has ordered actions including a 15% boost to a programme for families whose children miss meals due to school closures. Nearly 30 million last week said they did not have enough food, according to the White House. Biden is seeking to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures. He also wants a longer pause on student loan payments and interest. In a preview of demands from the left, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “OK, now let’s cancel them.” Immigration Biden sent Congress a bill overhauling the system and offering an eight-year pathway to citizenship for nearly 11m people without legal status. The president told the homeland security secretary to preserve and strengthen Deferred Ac
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These are difficult times for anyone hoping to get on the housing ladder. The pandemic has made getting mortgages more onerous, while house prices have been climbing – the average cost of a property in the UK reached a record high last month.But there may be some hope for first-time buyers in England with the latest version of the government’s help-to-buy scheme, which is aimed solely at them, offering a different level of help depending on where you want to buy.How it worksThe original help-to-buy equity loan scheme was launched in 2013 and runs until March. Almost 280,000 homes had been bought using it by last summer.The new version offers similar terms – a loan of between 5% and 20% (40% in London) from the government to put towards a new-build house or flat – but, crucially, only first-time buyers can use it.A buyer cannot have owned a home in the UK or abroad before. They must have a deposit of 5% and a mortgage of at least 25%. Homes could be reserved from last month and buyers can move in from 1 April.Where you are buying dictates the maximum property price for which you can use the scheme. In London, it is £600,000, while in the north-east, it is £186,100. The figure is 1.5 times the average first-time buyer price in the area.The loan is interest-free for the first five years and there is a £1 monthly management fee. In year six, buyers will be charged interest of 1.75%. This then rises every year by being multiplied by the consumer price index (CPI) plus 2%. The equity loan must be repaid when the mortgage is repaid, if the home is sold, or after 25 years.If, for example, a home in the north-west was for sale at £200,000, the buyer would have to raise a £10,000 deposit. They could then take out a help-to-buy loan worth £40,000 and borrow the final £150,000 from a mortgage lender.Homes England, the government housing body that administers the scheme, says builders have to adhere to more stringent conditions in this new phase. Previously, developers were accused of inflating the price of new-build homes.Now, all those involved have to sign up with the New Homes Ombudsman, which is expected to launch this year, and follow a code of customer care, among other conditions. Homes England says there were 313 reservations under the new scheme last month, and that it expects there will be £25bn loaned by 2023.Is it right for you?The last year has been hard for anyone with a limited deposit. In January 2020, there were 140 mortgages available with a two-year fixed term for buyers with a 5% deposit. This was down to one last month, according to financial information firm Moneyfacts, showing how very limited the options are.But that trend is changing, albeit slowly and at a price. “In recent weeks lenders have been dipping back into this arena, which is a positive sign for borrowers looking to secure a deal,” says Rachel Springall of Moneyfacts.“However, the cost of these mortgages is higher, on average, than it was a year ago, so borrowers would be wise to seek advice to compare deals carefully to ensure it is the most appropriate choice.”Barratt Developments, the UK’s biggest housebuilder, says that it is seeing strong
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Only Frank Underwood could amass as much power in such a short space of time. Nearly eight years after Netflix used House of Cards as the launch of its global empire, the streaming service announced last week that it now had more than 200 million subscribers. The pandemic has hastened the company’s transformation from a debt-laden digital upstart into an essential part of the TV landscape in homes across the world.In 2013, when Netflix’s first original series made its debut, the company had 30 million (mostly US) subscribers. This was six years after it moved from being a DVD-by-post business to a streaming pioneer. Since then it has added 170 million subscribers in more than 190 countri
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For anyone involved in the construction of small electric vehicles it has become a matter of great interest that a cheap high-power electric motor can be made from a humble car alternator. It’s a conversion made possible by the advent of affordable three-phase motor controllers, and it’s well showcased by [austiwawa]’s electric bicycle build video (embedded below). The bike itself is a straightforward conversion in which the motor powers the rear wheel via an extra sprocket. He tried a centrifugal clutch with limited success, but removed it for the final version. Where the interest lies in this build is in his examination of Hall effect sensor placement. Most altern
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Sir John Bell, who is at the centre of Britain’s Covid vaccination programme, spent a year in hospital with polio as a child. That setback, he said last week, helped him to become successful: “If stuff comes at you, you just have to get on and do what’s best.” Bell thinks that, similarly, the experience of the pandemic will give this generation of young people an inoculation of resilience. “You might well end up with a generation of high achievers,” he said.He was speaking in the same week that the Prince’s Trust warned of the lockdown’s “devastating toll” on the wellbeing of young people, especially those not in education, employment or training. The trust’s youth inde
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Jeremy Hunt cut a controversial figure during his tenure as Britain’s longest-serving health secretary. Reviled by junior doctors for his proposed reforms to their training contracts, he also won affection for championing patient safety from those who lost relatives in scandals such as Mid-Staffs, where many died as a result of substandard care. He has undergone an unlikely transformation since his rival in the Tory leadership race, Boris Johnson, sacked him from the Foreign Office, refashioning himself into a critic of the government’s pandemic response as chair of the parliamentary health select committee.He believes the government must do more to combat the more infectious variant of
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Last Wednesday in Washington was magnificent – the alchemy of a great republic’s democratic rituals, inspiring sentiments that did not fall into schmaltz, and the best of pop culture. Then there was the small matter of getting rid of the perpetrator of the Big Lie and welcoming a president who promised a new dawn, personified in Joe Biden’s dignity and decency.“Democracy has prevailed,” he declared. “There is truth and there are lies told for power and profit… each of us has a duty and responsibility to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.” It was the more extraordinary because it was all happening in the place threatened only a fortnight earlier by the ex-president’s m
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Led by two prominent African American congresswomen, 35 Democrats have urged Joe Biden to commute the sentences of all 49 federal prisoners left on death row – days after the Trump administration finished its rush to kill 13 such prisoners.Early last Saturday Dustin Higgs, 48, became the last of those prisoners to be killed, after Trump lifted a long-standing moratorium on federal executions. Biden entered the White House on Wednesday.According to the Death Penalty Information Center, of the 49 people still on federal death row, 21 are white, 20 are black, seven are Latino and one is Asian.Among those prisoners is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted of planting pressure-cooker bombs on the route
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From the moment it began in 2016, The Crown, Netflix’s hugely successful, much admired and occasionally controversial royal soap, has never put a foot wrong when it comes to casting – to the point where its stars have sometimes seemed to save it from itself. But even its producers were worried about the prospect of finding someone to play Princess Diana. Dust down the annals of Di-based drama and they tell a pretty desperate story: of a role that is irresistibly tempting and yet, utterly impossible to pull off. Was she out there somewhere, the woman who could bring her to life? And if she wasn’t, what would this mean for their series? “I was so nervous about being able to find someone capable of doing it, I was prepared to consider cancelling the show and simply not continuing, rather than getting it wrong,” admits its creator and writer, Peter Morgan.For Morgan and his colleagues, though, the stars would somehow align. In 2018, when season three was still being cast (Diana would not appear until season four), a young unknown called Emma Corrin was asked to come in and help out with a “chemistry” reading as the search for someone to play Camilla Parker Bowles opposite Josh O’Connor’s Charles continued (the part went, in the end, to Emerald Fennell). Corrin, whose agent had instructed her that this was definitely not an audition, went down well with the director: after she’d read as Diana, he took her outside and asked if she would like to work on the character a bit – and eight months later, she got a call asking if she would like to audition properly for Morgan. “In a way, it’s unfair to say that Emma was born to play Diana,” he writes to me in an email. “Because I believe she will have great and lasting success as an actor playing many roles. That said, I do believe – and I think a small part of her might also believe – that she has an uncanny, fated connection to the character and was born to play this part.”Watch a trailer for season four of The Crown.Does she agree? On my computer screen – Corrin is talking to me via Zoom from her home somewhere in north London; she is wearing a cream sweater, many rings, and could not look less like the Princess of Wales if she tried – smiles her adorable smile. Not really, though she remembers telling her agent that “something shifted in the room” when she first read as Diana: “‘Oh my God,’ I said. ‘I think he liked me! He wants to work with me!’” She drops her voice a little, so that it sounds stern. “But my agent said: ‘Emma! Do not do this to yourself. Don’t even think about it. You met some great people who might want to keep you in mind for other things, that’s all.’” And what does she feel about her role now? All she can do is offer me the response of her friends: “They said they were worried about not being able to lose themselves in this series because it was me. But weirdly, after I showed them an episode, it was as if it wasn’t me there [on screen].” This, she observes, is what acting is about: only by making yourself invisible is it possible truly to inhabit a character.Her performance has been widely acclaimed. Corrin
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I am forever getting into trouble with gardening’s gatekeepers. To date, perhaps the most surprising instance was the really quite lively backlash that occurred when I called gardening “exciting” in an industry talk. According to a flurry of blogposts and social media messages, this was a terrible, even irresponsible, word choice. Gardening apparently is not “exciting”, rather merely “engaging” or “absorbing”. This suggests that, for large parts of the gardening old-guard, there is not only one correct way to garden, but also only one emotion to feel when you are doing it.To
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Clap for carers, clap for heroes. Clap for teachers, clap for bin collectors, clap for postmen, clap for chemists, clap for shelf stackers, clap for police. Clap for neighbours dropping off medicine for former enemies, leaving the bag only slightly in the rain. Clap for freelancers working eight days a week to prevent their old routines of pornography and fretting being exposed by a flatmate. Clap for the woman trudging out into the world on a daily walk where every footstep is another curse uttered. Clap for the couple crossing the road, veering away from oncomers as if absolutely pissed at b
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The submission by Bosnia-Herzogovina for this year’s international feature Oscar is a slow-burn drama with a palpable sense of growing dread, set during the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered by units under the command of General Ratko Mladić, now facing a life sentence having been convicted of crimes against humanity. Yet if that makes Quo Vadis, Aida? sound like an unbearably tough prospect, be reassured that in the hands of writer-director Jasmila Žbanić, who won a Berlin Golden Bear for her 2006 debut feature, Grbavica, this horrifying tale is lent a profoundly human heart, ensuring that we keep on watching, a notable achievement for a movie that is centrally concerned with the spectre of looking away.Jasna Đuričić, feted for her role in 2010’s White, White World, is utterly convincing as Aida, a translator working at a UN base near Srebrenica, who sees first hand the failure of peacemakers to prevent an unfolding catastrophe. “Will anyone in the world witness this tragedy, this unprecedented crime?” pleads a voice on a radio. Yet it’s clear that, despite being an alleged “safe zone”, nobody is ready or willing to protect this area. Instead, thousands are forced to flee to the UN encampment, where the Dutch authorities promptly close the gates on thousands more.Having struggled to get her husband and sons in under the wire – an early indication of future conflicts of interest – Aida is forced to maintain an outward appearance of calm as Mladić (played with an air of reptilian contempt by Boris Isaković) engages in a grotesque pantomime of “negotiations”, commanding a camera crew to record his actions as he promises “the safety of all innocent people”. Meanwhile, his forces enter the camp, handing out bread and chocolate in a chilling scene to which Žbanić lends quietly apocalyptic undertones.From the biblical allusions of the title to a scene in which Aida climbs up to survey the lost tide of humanity before her, our anguished heroine is cast in a role that evokes both the wilderness of exile and the burden of tortured responsibility. Time and again, cinematographer Christine A Maier’s cameras capture her rushing through the labyrinth of the camp, frantically attempting to save her own family (the tension is amplified by Jarosław Kamiński’s taut editing) while simultaneously dealing with the wider disaster that she cannot prevent. Meanwhile, flashbacks to a party in happier times sit alongside present encounters with former neighbours turned tormentors, lending pointed emotional weight to unfathomable horrors.There’s a hint of Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda in the understated evocation of an approaching atrocity, the sense of something terrible playing out in full view of a world that does nothing. Both films manage to balance the enormity of dreadful historical events with the emotional specificity of individual stories, allowing the audience to engage even as they are appalled and outraged. Inspired by the book Under the UN Flag: The International Community and the Srebrenica Genocide by Hasan Nuhanović, Žbanić crucially describes her film as portrayin
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Vulnerable children are facing an increasing wave of hidden abuse since the start of the pandemic, according to ongoing evidence of a slump in the numbers being identified by social services.The impact of the pandemic since March has intensified issues such as domestic violence, parental mental health and alcohol and substance abuse – all factors that put children at greater risk. However, there has been a significant fall in referrals to council children’s services of 10% between the end of April and November, according to research by the Office for the Children’s Commissioner in England.It has raised concerns that some children at risk have become “invisible” during the pandemic. It comes at the same time as an increase in serious incidents involving child death or serious harm, where abuse or neglect is known or suspected. Official figures show there were 285 serious incident notifications between April to September, an increase of 27% on the previous year. Some 119 of the notifications related to child deaths.The repeated closures of schools and a fall in attending GP and hospital appointments are thought to be behind the drop in referrals, as schools and health services often flag possible cases of abuse. More informal child care settings, like children’s centres, have also been affected by closures. Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said: “This survey rings a lot of alarm bells. We know children have become far more vulnerable under Covid for a catalogue of reasons, yet we are seeing fewer coming to the attention of children’s services. There’s a major disconnect between the harm they are facing and the protection they are getting – and, with school closures, children are slipping even further out of sight. Councils must be given more support to do everything in their power to find these invisible children in their areas.”There appears to be serious regional variation, raising the prospect of blackspots where abuse is being missed. The children’s commissioner is pushing for all areas to urgently invest in identifying vulnerable children who are not coming to the attention of services through the normal routes.Even before the Covid-19 pandemic began, there were nearly 2.2m children in England living in households affected by domestic abuse, parental drug and alcohol dependency and severe parental mental health issues. During the pandemic, alcohol sales have risen, while major domestic abuse charities have reported increased calls. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has raised concerns about declining parental mental health.The Local Government Association has called for the urgent reinstatement of £1.7bn for early intervention that was stripped from council budgets between 2010-11 and 2018-19. Sarah Tough, from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “Local systems to support children and families have remained in place throughout the pandemic but it is clear that this period has intensified a range of challenges and pressures, as well as disrupted access to the formal and informal support networks that children and families rely on, from health visitors to grandpar
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An announcement from Oxford signals that it is still very much the go-to university if you’re a tax-averse billionaire, eager for serious recognition but concerned that academic sensibilities might somehow come between your £100m and a place alongside Duke Humfrey, Godfrey Sheldon and more recent donors Wafic Said and Leonard Blavatnik. Other than welcoming its latest big benefactor, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, on a day likely to be eclipsed by the presidential inauguration, there was no indication that, recalling the objections that followed its acceptance of £150m from the US private equity magnate Stephen Schwarzman, the university feared a similar reaction to its acceptance of £100m from the chairman of Ineos. Thanks to Ratcliffe’s concern for the accuracy of the Sunday Times Rich List, where he ranks fifth, we can appreciate that this £100m gift is only some tens of millions short of approaching 1% of his wealth: £12.15bn. His company’s tax savings, now Ratcliffe has moved to Monaco, have been estimated at £4bn. While historical racism has become impossible for the university to ignore, Oxford’s tradition of venerating the rich is still embraced by the vice chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson. She approached Schwarzman, a Trump donor loyal through Pussygate and Charlottesville, in 2017. Other institutions may be cowed by demands that scruples be applied to donations or chilled by resignations at MIT following its mutually rewarding relationship with Jeffrey Epstein; Oxford likes to see the big picture. Maybe it’s still not too late for Philip Green College, the Jeff Bezos Chair of Reputation Management. Now that Brexit, of which Ratcliffe was a fervent advocate, deprives universities of millions in funding, academic competition for any redirected tax savings promises to be, at least for the non-squeamish, yet more intense. Pushing for Brexit, Ratcliffe incidentally stimulated competition for his own patronage. “This is a wonderfully generous gift for which we are very grateful,” says Richardson, of the Ratcliffe money, which will pay for the Ineos Oxford Institute researching antimicrobial resistance. And Sir Jim? He tells us, presumably from Monaco, that Ineos, a chemicals business, “in its 22 years has become the largest private company in the UK, delivering large-scale, ambitious technical projects with impactful results”. One notably impactful result was Ratcliffe’s 2020 request, from tax exile, for a £500m taxpayer loan. An earlier landmark Ineos moment: in 2010, he asked for a deferral of a £350m VAT bill and, when the (Labour) government would not oblige, moved his firm to Switzerland. As with Oxford’s Stephen A Schwarzman Centre, which will specialise in ethics and AI, the Ratcliffe-funded research will widely be considered important enough to dispel uneasiness. Celebrity endorsements on the Schwarzman Centre website offset protests including an open letter from staff and students that mentioned “the proceeds of the exploitation and disenfranchisement of vulnerable people across the world”. By the time, last September, that Oxford announced its new Schwarzman-funded ethics team, composed of seven Sch
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Credit...Bridget Bennett for The New York TimesFirmly linking teen suicides to school closings is difficult, but rising mental health emergencies and suicide rates point to the toll the pandemic lockdown is taking.“He felt disconnected,” said the mother of a 14-year-old freshman in Las Vegas who expressed suicidal thoughts. “He felt left behind.”Credit...Bridget Bennett for The New York TimesJan. 24, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ETThe reminders of pandemic-driven suffering among students in Clark County, Nev., have come in droves.Since schools shut their doors in March, an early-warning system that monitors students’ mental health episodes has sent more than 3,100 alerts to district officials,
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The organizers of the Australian Open promised local residents that the tournament would not set off a coronavirus outbreak. Making good on that promise is very complex.Credit...Asanka Ratnayake/Getty ImagesJan. 24, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ETMELBOURNE, Australia — The intricate ballet begins at sunrise and ends after dark, a complicated series of movements requiring the utmost precision for what has long been a very simple task — getting tennis players to and from the courts so they can practice ahead of a professional tournament.There is a strict routine to enforce social distancing: a series of knocks on hotel doors every five minutes, checking and rechecking that hallways are clear and that p
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Support exists for other reforms, including further non-custodial schemes, but removal of trial by jury is opposed Documents are pushed to the Royal Courts of Justice last week, which now contains two emergency crown courtrooms for jury trials. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty More than half of people would prefer offenders to be electronically tagged and serve community sentences instead of being jailed for short periods as calls grow for radical reform to ease the huge backlog of court cases. A survey published on Sunday also found strong public support for virtual court hearings and for certain crimes to be reported online rather than
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The self-taught musical genius Lionel Bart was the Londoner who first successfully challenged the long-established dominance of Broadway shows. When he launched Oliver! on the West End in 1960 it took first Britain and then America by storm, breaking records and becoming a classic of musical theatre and then a beloved film. But Bart never reached such commercial heights again, despite his talent.Now music from the lost show once set to relaunch Bart’s career as he struggled with ill health and debt is to be performed for the public for the first time.Next month Dame Maureen Lipman will sing one of the songs Bart wrote with his collaborator, Roger Cook, for a musical the two composed in the
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Hero of the week, at the front of an exceptionally competitive field – the 22-year-old inauguration poet Amanda Gorman, the health workers who have been heroes for almost a year – has to be the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Not only did he voluntarily return to the country where he was almost killed by poisoning, but he marked his immediate arrest by getting his team to release the most politically devastating home makeover show of all time. The unwilling recipient of his Kevin McCloud treatment was President Vladimir Putin, the man who conceivably had something to do with Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment, who will be riled beyond measure by the film. It states that mo
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42 is an end-to-end analytics stack for retailers & brands!Whether it's store managers running a/b tests on new product placement, CEOs looking at their global store performance, or merchandisers planning the next season, our platform enables retailers and brands to get instant visibility in their business.The majority of retailers don't have the in-house expertise to spin up data infrastructure. Instead, they piece together reports in excel on a daily basis. This works fine for small eCommerce brands, but not for retailers in the $100M-$5B range. That's where we come in.We offer our customers:Retail-specific dashboard: best-practice metrics / visuals are built-in & customizableNo integratio
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I love winter. Frosty mornings and dark days hold no fear for me, while summer means prickly heat and freeform anxiety, chafed thighs and bad fashion. But this winter has been… well. You know, you were there, we all were. We still are, it has lasted five decades already. With little to do and no scope for planning ahead, the 4pm sunset sends my mood into freefall. Mornings are equally bad: the duvet feels like a buffalo has died on my chest and getting out from under it requires an act of will and strength that seems beyond me. Instead, I extend a listless arm for my phone and scroll until rising cortisol levels and the dog’s bladder force me vertical. My diet is beige and brown things on other beige and brown things, and like those frogs that slow their metabolism to nothing in freezing temperatures, I am as inert as a stone. If only we could press fast forward and skip over the next few weeks of wet greyness, just this once, pleading exceptional circumstances. Malmesbury has the right idea: the Hope Springs Eternal project dreamed up by residents of the Wiltshire town has seen homes and businesses erupt with evocations of spring: painted butterflies, fresh foliage, pompoms, brightly coloured bunting and plastic bunnies. But what about the rest of us, looking out on pewter skies and slushy pavements where pigeons squabble over discarded burgers rather than crocheted chicks? The days are getting longer and the world is reawakening, but right now, it’s hard to see or believe. My sap is not rising: it is thick, sluggish and quiescent, like treacle. What we need is a sense of continuity and renewal; the faith that the dark times are not stasis, but preparation. For me, the answer is in the natural world. Duh, you may say, more fresh air and forest-bathing clichés. But understanding I am an animal reacting to the inexorable roll of the seasons and seeing that mirrored in other parts of nature truly makes the dark times easier to bear. These are some natural remedies that work for me, both inside and out. While staying indoors… Given we are stuck at home most of the time at the moment, bringing the outside in helps. I don’t want to sound like some unhing
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In my mind’s eye, I see F Scott Fitzgerald in white flannels on some Riviera beach, or at the wheel of a flashy car, its metallic curves in sharp contrast to the waistless girls all around. Forever a shiny figure, irrespective of what I know of his struggles with booze, outwardly he could not be more different to his literary idol, John Keats, with his curls, his cough and his mud-spattered boots. If both men were permanently in motion, comets blazing, Keats by design as well as necessity was a tramper: in 1818, he walked for 600 miles across Britain. Whatever the connections between them, the parallels of biography and sensibility, I can no more imagine he and Fitzgerald together than I can see them in silvery old age (Keats was 25 when tuberculosis killed him; Fitzgerald died of a heart attack aged 44).This may be why I find the ambition of Jonathan Bate’s new book a little on the mad side. Crikey, but this is daring. Attempting to squeeze the short, dazzling lives of Fitzgerald and Keats, already so much written about, into one short volume, he asks a huge amount of himself, and of his reader. Flipping between 19th-century Hampstead and 20th-century Los Angeles, between Keats’s mooning after the barely outlined figure of Fanny Brawne and Fitzgerald’s tortured relations
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The creature comes into view quite slowly. It’s like staring into the bushes, realising there is something there, then picking out its parts, assembling the whole that, suddenly, magically, comes alive and steps gently forward. A giant tortoise. Mary-Anne, our guide, laughs: “A tortoise’s mouth always remind me of my grandmother.” As if hearing this, the animal’s wrinkled lip curls slightly, into a sad old grin. The panels on its shell catch the light and the shadows under the leading edge deepen, catching subtle flashes of magenta and ultramarine. I would never have noticed such details without Mary-Anne pointing them out.“There,” she says, “I think we’re finished.” And puts down her brush.A trip to the Galápagos Islands would be a very fine thing in these times, wouldn’t it? And I am there, at least in spirit, visiting virtually on a four-day journey – on Zoom – with a group of artists led by Mary-Anne Bartlett, the founder of Art Safari, who has been to the archipelago several times. During the pandemic she has switched to offering virtual tours and workshops. But can such a visit give any satisfaction, anything like the pleasure of actually going? It is certainly a heck of lot cheaper, but would the relatively small fee be better saved up for an actual trip?One immediate similarity to real travel is quickly self-evident. On day one I am sitting in front of my laptop with a motley collection of art equipment, feeling conspicuously like that person who lands in the tropics wearing a woolly jumper and thick socks. The watercolour paper I bought at the last minute on Amazon is half the size I thought it would be; the lead inside my pencils is broken; the paintbrushes are moulting. Not only that, there’s an incomprehensible foreign language to learn: gouache, gesso, brusho. Plus words that seem to have taken on new and precise meanings that I need to master. What is a flat wash? The opposite of a bumpy bath?The writer on a virtual art class in the Galápagos Islands. Photograph: Kevin RushbyMary-Anne soon dispels all these new-arrival problems and we are whisked – via the magic of PowerPoint – to Puerto Ayora on the island of Sant
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Earlier this month, WhatsApp issued a new privacy policy along with an ultimatum: accept these new terms, or delete WhatsApp from your smartphone. But the new privacy policy wasn’t particularly clear, and it was widely misinterpreted to mean WhatsApp would be sharing more sensitive personal data with its parent company Facebook. Unsurprisingly, it prompted a fierce backlash, with many users threatening to stop using the service.WhatsApp soon issued a clarification, explaining that the new policy only affects the way users’ accounts interact with businesses (ie not with their friends) and does not mandate any new data collection. The messaging app also delayed the introduction of the policy by three months. Crucially, WhatsApp said, the new policy doesn’t affect the content of your chats, which remain protected by end-to-end encryption – the “gold standard” of security that means no one can view the content of messages, even WhatsApp, Facebook, or the authorities.But the damage had already been done. The bungled communication attempts have raised awareness that WhatsApp does collect a lot of data, and some of this could be shared with Facebook. The BBC reported that Signal was downloaded 246,000 times worldwide in the week before WhatsApp announced the change on 4 January, and 8.8m times the week after.WhatsApp does share some data with Facebook, including phone numbers and profile name, but this has been happening for years. WhatsApp has stated that in the UK and EU the update does not share further data with Facebook – because of strict privacy regulation, known as the general update to data protection regulation (GDPR). The messaging app doesn’t gather the content of your chats, but it does collect the metadata attached to them – such as the sender, the time a message was sent and who it was sent to. This can be shared with “Facebook companies”.Facebook’s highly criticised data collection ethos has eroded trust in the social network. Its practices can put vulnerable people at risk, says Emily Overton, a data protection expert and managing director of RMGirl. She cites the example of Facebook’s “people you may know” algorithm expos
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Roy Mehta took this photograph of a barbershop in Harlesden, north-west London, in 1991. He was an art student at the time, and the picture was one of thousands of images he took in the borough of Brent, where he grew up. Brent was the most multicultural district of any city in Europe, but Mehta understood it more as a single community. His father had a one-man GP practice in Harlesden for many years and as a kid Mehta would sit after school in the waiting room, already intrigued by the faces.In the 30 years of his photography career since then, he’d hardly looked at those formative pictures – he had boxes of negatives that he had never printed. When Brent was nominated as borough of culture for 2020, however, Mehta was invited to put together images from that archive for an exhibition
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Teething troubles? Bumps in the road? Pull the other one, Mr Gove. As the daily news from fishing crews, farmers, road hauliers, wine merchants, musicians and thousands of businesses up and down the land – not least in Northern Ireland – confirms, Brexit tier 3 is indeed a disaster. Far from having teething troubles that disappear, many of these businesses are having their commercial teeth extracted.It becomes increasingly manifest by the day that this is a Conservative act of conscious economic self-harm which, in an ideal world, would be rescinded before things get a lot worse. Not to put too fine a point upon it, Brexit is not only a disaster: it is also plain stupid.The great Johnson/Gove/Frost “deal” is unravelling in front of their own eyes – and, indeed, in front of the ey
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Sign up for the Guardian's First Thing newsletterWhen the back wheels of Air Force One finally lifted off the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews on Wednesday bound for Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s White House-in-exile in West Palm Beach, cheers erupted in millions of households across America and around the globe.Four years of screeching tweets and ugly divisiveness were over, and for many it felt like the hope of a calmer, more civil world had swept in.In one respect, though, the acrid, bitter smell of Trump continues to hang in the air: he left the presidency having never conceded that he lost the election to Joe Biden.Trump’s decision to shun Biden’s inauguration – the first outgoing president to do so in 152 years – can be explained away as the hissy fit of a sore loser. But there’s a darker side to it. By forgoing the ritual of the peaceful handover of power that has been a pillar of American democracy since the country’s founding, he leaves a black cloud over the incoming administration.Trump’s refusal formally to pass the baton means that the terrible events of 6 January are unfinished business. The armed mob of Trump supporters and white supremacists who stormed the
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2020 begins: An ominous warningThe World Health Organization begins tracking the disease we now call Covid-19. On 14 January it finds its first case outside China, in Thailand. Human-to-human transmission seems likely, and on 30 January WHO warns this is a “public health emergency of international concern” – the highest level of alert that WHO can issue.January 2020: First UK cases are confirmedThe first confirmed cases in the UK are discovered at the end of January when two Chinese nationals fall ill at a hotel in York. A week later, a British businessman in Brighton is diagnosed after catching the virus in Singapore. This case was later linked to five others in the UK. Covid-19 has arrived.March 2020: ‘An older patient has died’On 5 March, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, reports that “an older patient” had died after testing positive for Covid-19 which was contracted in the UK. At the time, this was thought to be Britain’s first Covid death. Subsequent studies have suggested that some deaths may have already occurred. Boris Johnson at a Downing Street briefing. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/EPALockdown 1: was it too little, too late?On 23 March, prime minister Boris Johnson announces a national lockdown to contain Covid-19, having resisted, for many days, mounting pressure from scientists to take action. Later analysis indicates that if lockdown had been imposed one week earlier it would have saved 21,000 of the lives that were subsequently lost to the disease.A member of the intensive care team treats Covid-19 patients at Craigavon Area hospital in Co Armagh, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Niall Carson/PAMay: The death tol
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Imagine 100 people are ill with Covid-19. “90% efficacy” means if only they’d had the vaccine, on average only 10 would have got ill. Vaccine efficacy is the relative reduction in the risk: whatever your risk was before, it is reduced by 90% if you get vaccinated. There is a lot of confusion about this number: it does not mean there is a 10% chance of getting Covid-19 if vaccinated – that chance will be massively lower than 10%.Researchers estimate efficacy by comparing numbers of new cases in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, best done through a “randomised control trial”. All volunteers receive an injection but, at random, either the actual vaccine or a placebo.They don’t know which they are getting.In the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, there were eight cases in the 22,000 people who got the real vaccine, compared with 162 cases in the 22,000 people who got the dummy vaccine. Researchers allocated people at random, so we can be sure the vaccine caused this difference. Since 8/162 = 5%, we estimate the efficacy of the vaccine as 95%, but there is some uncertainty around these estimates. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has an estimated efficacy of 70% for stopping symptomatic disease (30 v 101 cases).The trials were not about estimating efficacy in preventing severe disease and death. Limited data suggest efficacy may be even higher for these more serious outcomes. These efficacies hold from one or two weeks after two doses have been given. Based on additional
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I marked a grim anniversary in an unexpected manner last week. On 18 January last year, I wrote my first story about a mysterious disease that had struck Wuhan, in China, and which was now spreading around the world. More than two million individuals have since died of Covid-19, almost 100,000 of them in the UK.Remarkably, 12 months to the day that the Observer published my story, I was given my first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, allowing me to follow nearly six million other newly immunised UK residents who are set to gain protection against a disease that has brought the planet to a standstill.
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Are you an early riser? I wake up between 5.30am 6.30am. I can never lie in – politics gave me that. I start the day with a stylised coffee-making ritual that involves grinding coffee beans. But coffee isn’t breakfast. That comes mid-morning after a fasted run – if I’m feeling virtuous! I’ll cook bacon, lean sausages, mushrooms and eggs, or a cheesy omelette, so whoever’s in the house gets a really good breakfast.Sunday soundtrack? I’ll listen to jazz or the John Wilson Orchestra – they do big numbers from Hollywood films like Oklahoma. I read voraciously and I’ve run out of
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What determines how productive you are at work? Whether or not you are home schooling is obviously the main answer now. But it’s an important question for normal times and one recent research paper set out to answer by examining the impact of cash payments on the productivity of factory workers in India.Workers receiving their cash payments earlier worked faster and produced more. This wasn’t because payments made them healthier or more positive. The key effect was to reduce how distracted workers were by financial worries; as a result, they not only produced more but did so with fewer mis
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He was the brilliant lawyer whose brutal 1895 cross-examination of Oscar Wilde in one of the most famous trials in British history led to the Irish dramatist’s imprisonment for homosexuality, and to his ultimate ruin. Now a previously unpublished letter reveals that Sir Edward Carson’s attack on Wilde in the Old Bailey was partly personal – a loathing that went beyond his job in defending the Marquess of Queensberry in the ill-fated libel case. Long after Carson’s death in 1935, the son of one of his friends confided in a 1950 letter: “I was never able to get Carson to admit that Wilde possessed any ability at all. ‘Ah,’ he used to say angrily, ‘he was a charlatan.’” Carson’s disdain left no room for even a grudging acknowledgement of the genius whose comic masterpie
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Asia Pacific|Chinese Miner Pulled to Surface 2 Weeks After Underground ExplosionRescuers have made contact with one group of 10 miners trapped 2,000 feet below ground in the blast. Others are still missing.Credit...Aly Song/ReutersJan. 24, 2021, 1:34 a.m. ETHONG KONG — Two weeks after an explosion left a group of miners trapped 2,000 feet below ground in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, one was found alive and lifted to the surface on Sunday, a bright spot in a grueling rescue effort.The miner was brought to the surface at about 11:13 a.m. Sunday, according to officials in Yantai, a city near the small town where the mine is located. Rescue personnel applauded as he was brought to the surface, according to video broadcast by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The miner, wearing a
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Jeff Bezos — a strong Democratic supporter — and Amazon are aiming to postpone a unionization vote at one of its warehouses in Alabama, the Wall Street Journal reports. Interestingly, Amazon has requested that the National Labor Relations Board reconsider allowing mail-in voting, claiming that the mail-in voting process has “serious and systemic flaws.” Got that? Bezos and Amazon are doing all they can to prevent any shady activity when workers cast their ballots for unionization, and they are particularly concerned about the integrity of mail-in ballots. You are likely trying to figure out how that adds up, right? The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, called any claims of mail-in voter fraud by Donald Trump and his supporters dangerous and inexcusable. Amazon e
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In normal times Paris’s famous Place du Tertre – the “artists’ square” – is packed with tourists and visiting out-of-towners, even on a chilly January afternoon. In the time of coronavirus, however, the square, home to painters, portraitists, caricaturists and silhouette artists, is almost entirely deserted.The cafes and brasseries are closed, their terrace chairs chained up, and only a handful of the more optimistic artists have braved the cold for a few hours before the 6pm curfew kicks in.Bruno Zem, 70, a portrait artist, is one of the few. He has been working on the Place du Tertre for 50 years, and has never known a time like it.“It’s a hard time for everyone, but it’s especially depressing here,” he says. “Usually, this place is better than a studio because you
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I’ve always said “no-makeup makeup” is a total swizz. We’re led to believe that it takes 15 seconds to achieve it when the reality is more like 15 steps. However, on this occasion, this model (Balmain SS21) is actually not wearing very much at all. All you need is a powder foundation – the new ones don’t sit in creases, a brow product that makes even overgrown brows look groomed, and a balm for the lips. For anyone who can’t be bothered with a full-on maquillage, it’s perfect.1. Shiseido Synchro Skin Soft Blurring Primer £32, shiseido.co.uk 2. Anastasia Brow Freeze Clear Brow Wax £24, cultbeauty.co.uk 3. Crabtree & Evelyn Renew + Nourish Lip Balm £14.50, crabtree-evelyn.co.uk 4. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Powder Foundation £27, boots.com 5. Illamasqua Foundati
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It’s rum what people have been doing to the language during these seemingly never-ending lockdowns. Only last week, I was ticked off for “browsing” in Robert Dyas. And there was me thinking I was “shopping”.And you can’t move for “experts” hurling the word “vector” around as if they were competing in the Olympics. One talking head on Radio 4’s In Our Time managed to use it twice in two minutes. As the programme was about the plague of Justinian, it didn’t seem altogether germane. Then there’s “guidance”. Witness the following from Derbyshire police: “In situations where people are breaching the guidance not to travel out of their local area but are not breaching regulations, officers will encourage people to follow the guidance.”How about explaining exactl
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Quarantined tennis star Dayana Yastremska’s arrival in Australia has come under fire again after her appeal against a provisional doping suspension was rejected.The world No 29 from Ukraine sparked controversy when she was filmed on a Tennis Australia charter flight to Melbourne for the Australian Open, starting on 8 February, despite testing positive to a banned substance in an out-of-competition sample.She was then placed in a hard 14-day lockdown after a passenger on that flight returned a positive test of their own.Her situation worsened when the International Tennis Federation released a statement on Sunday saying that an independent tribunal had denied 20-year-old Yastremska’s application to have her provisional ban lifted.It has left the Ukrainian locked in a Melbourne hotel wit
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A miner has been rescued from a gold mine in northern China and rushed to hospital for treatment, state broadcaster CCTV said, after being trapped 14 days below ground by an explosion.The miner was “extremely weak”, according to a post on CCTV’s Weibo microblog site. TV footage showed the exhausted miner, a black blindfold across his eyes, being lifted out of the mine shaft and covered in a blanket before being carried away by rescue workers.Twenty-two workers were trapped in the Hushan mine by the 10 January blast in Qixia, a major gold-producing region under the administration of Yantai in coastal Shandong province.Rescuers have been battling difficult conditions to help the workers amid rising waters following the explosion.Contact was first established a week ago with a group of
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Alexei Navalny is everything Vladimir Putin is not: courageous, charismatic, highly intelligent, witty and politically savvy. Little wonder that Russia’s charmless president cannot bring himself to utter the name of his nemesis. Instead, he pretends Navalny does not exist, while surreptitiously having him jailed, beaten, harassed and, in August, poisoned with a Salisbury-type chemical nerve agent. Putin denies doing this, of course. Does anyone really believe him?Denying Navalny’s existence – and the very real challenge he poses to a corrupt, repressive regime – became a lot harder this weekend. Despite fearsome official warnings and prohibitions, thousands of Russians in up to 100 cities and towns took to the streets across the country to protest at Navalny’s latest arrest last
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Spring shoots, like a dead man’s hand. The first narcissi have broken through their winter grave. A pot full of fingers, reaching for the future. Hope is buried here.My first bulbs were hyacinths, dangling over water in clear glass, a gift for mothers from primary school. Blue for boys, pink for girls. Much later I grew amaryllis. We don’t have indoor plants any more, but there was once a living-room glade of fig and yucca. My daughter Kala has them now, every few years a more extravagant pot to fit them in. She has the gift of it.This Christmas my mother-in-law gave me a mother-in-law’s tongue: Dracaena trifasciata in the family Asparagaceae, maybe more commonly known now as the snake plant. I worry about it alone at the beach hut, though it thrives on little care and water. Our nei
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Sixty million doses of Covid vaccines have been administered worldwide. That’s the good news. The bad news? All the people who have received a jab in Africa could fit comfortably on the top deck of a London bus. According to the World Health Organization, just 25 people, in a continent of 1.3bn, have been vaccinated. The 25 – in Guinea – are the only people in any low-income country to have received a Covid vaccine.Some middle-income countries, most notably India, have set up ambitious vaccination programmes, but poorer countries have lost out. The Covax facility was set up to make vaccines globally available. It claims to have secured 200m doses from manufacturers and hopes to acquire 2bn doses in total. So far, none has been delivered.Part of the problem is vaccine hoarding. The ri
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Sam Cowley, 41, had just come out of rehab for alcohol addiction when lockdown was imposed in March. He was sitting alone in a room in a dry house in Essex, contemplating how he’d lost his wife, children, job and house, when he came across a life-drawing class online. He decided to give it a go and hasn’t looked back.“I did my first class and I felt a warmth and excitement. For an addict, being on your own is a hard thing. I did that session and felt so inspired. I started to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. I’m passionate about life drawing now,” he says.Cowley is among a growing number of people who have taken up life drawing since the pandemic began. He credits it with saving his life. “If I hadn’t found life drawing and that community, I don’t know what would have
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The dust jacket is long gone and the title-embossed spine flaps free. Naturally, many of the pages are sauce-stained: honourable marks of our stove-side adventures together. New British Classics by Gary Rhodes may be more than 20 years old, but the marks of battle are clear. It remains one of my most consulted cookbooks. When I need cooking times for a rib of beef it’s where I go. When I want the perfect recipe for Yorkshire puddings or a steak and kidney pie, I know where to look. Rhodes died suddenly in 2019, but here he is still holding my clumsy hand. This is just one of the glories of cookbooks. They enable a nerdy conversation, whether the author happens to be alive or dead.And so, while restaurants remain closed it is to cookbooks such as New British Classics that I will be turning. Each week in this column, I’ll choose a classic volume from my own collection. I’ll celebrate its recipes. I’ll explore its influence on how we eat in general, and on restaurants in particular, and I’ll have a crack at a few key dishes. What could possibly go wrong?My cookbook collection is selective. I’m privileged to be sent vast numbers for free on publication. I’m so privileged that I discard many. If I flick through and find over-art-directed colour photography, of a sort my efforts could never match, the local charity shop gets a delivery. Those are less instruction manuals than over-engineered invitations to fail. I keep the ones containing recipes for dishes I want to eat, but I look for other things, too. They must be strong on broader methods. They must have tips that will make me a better cook. They must be well written.New British Classics, which was gifted to
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Incredible Journeys With Simon Reeve8pm, BBC TwoReeve has been confined to his sofa for the majority of this pastyear, just like the rest of us, and so this new series provides somewelcome wanderlust in revisiting clips from the many journeys he hastaken over the last 15 years. This opening instalment focuses on thepeople he has met on his travels, including the brave Burmese humanrights campaigner who led him undercover into the country in 2010, aswell as an emotional encounter with a Bangladeshi child worker. Ammar KaliaBillionaire Cruise Ship: Paradise Island7pm, Channel 4The private island of Ocean Cay in the Bahamas is an unspoiledtropical paradise – until 5,000 passengers are shipped in on a luxurycruise. As staff feed, clean and dance to deliver the demands of theirboss, they also recruit locals to set up a not-very-authentic craftmarket for the tourists. Hannah VerdierThe Trump Show: The Downfall9pm, BBC TwoThe final days of Trump’s presidency were just as measured as thepreceding four years. Before November’s election, this series trackedthe Trump shambles as it unfolded. With America on the cusp of a sanerera, it returns for a rummage through the rubble of US democracy. Phil HarrisonFinding Alice9pm, ITVAfter the cosy chaos of the Durrells, Keeley Hawes’s latest ITVproject is an off-kilter delight, veering from authentically raw griefto goofiness via some blackly comic one-liners. Episode two of theseries sees Alice (Hawes) grappling with her late husband Harry’ssecrets and recoiling from traditional funeral plans. Graeme VirtueLance10pm, BBC TwoThis two-part doc on the life and career of cyclist Lance Armstrongprovides a fascinating insight into the f
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Dustin Poirier stopped Conor McGregor with a flurry of punches midway through the second round Sunday, avenging his loss to the Irish superstar with a knockout victory at UFC 257.Poirier (26-7) caught McGregor with a series of shots to the head before buckling his knees with two left hands. Poirier then sent McGregor to the canvas with a short right hand and finished it swiftly, setting off stunned excitement among the few thousand screaming fans allowed inside the Etihad Arena on Yas Island.In his first fight in a year, McGregor (22-5) had a strong first round before he was stopped by punches for the first time in his mixed martial arts career. McGregor, whose previous four losses all came by submission, stayed on the canvas for several moments afterward, gathering himself after his second loss in three fights since 2016.“You know, it’s hard to overcome inactivity over long periods of time,” said McGregor, who hadn’t fought since beating Donald Cerrone last January. “I just wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be, but Dustin is some fighter. If you put in the time, you’re going to get cozy in here. I have to dust it off and come back, and that’s what I will do. ... I’ll take my licks, but I’m gutted.”McGregor and Poirier met for the first time in September 2014 as featherweights, and McGregor won by knockout in just 106 seconds during his incredible early-career success. McGregor became the featherweight champion 15 months later, while Poirier rebuilt his career with just one loss in his next 11 fights.With a second chance to derail McGregor while boosting his own hopes of regaining the lightweight title, Poirier didn’t miss.Sporting a shaved head and a beard, McGregor pushed the action early against Poirier, who landed an early takedown before getting backed against the cage for stretches of the first round. In the second, Poirier bothered McGregor with leg kicks before throwing the punches that ended it.In the co-main event at UFC 257, three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler made a stunning UFC debut with a violent knockout of New Zealand’s Dan Hooker midway through the first round.Chandler could be the next matchup
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Thermal drones, K9 tracker dogs, stake-outs and desperate pleas from Pixie Lott, Jennifer Saunders and Anita Rani: the hunt for Cookie the whippet – lost in Epping Forest since November – is gathering pace.The 18-month-old sighthound went missing eight weeks ago in the 6,000-acre forest, after spotting a herd of deer and chasing after her quarry at 30mph.Wearing a distinctive black dog-fleece jumper, she has since been sighted frequently all over the forest – most recently last Thursday – and is believed to be surviving on rabbits, wood pigeons and roadkill.“Normally, she has amazing recall and is really well trained, but she saw that herd of deer … and that was it: she bolted off,” said her owner, Leonie Freeman, who lives 20 minutes away from the forest in north-east London. There was no way to know where she had gone, and she didn’t come back. “If you’re a dog owner, this is your greatest fear.”Freeman, her husband and their two “distraught” children – Milo, eight, and Nancy, four – spent hours in the forest that day trying to find her, while constantly hearing that she was being spotted in different places. “It was an absolute nightmare.”Cookie the whippet with four-year-old Nancy, owner Leonie Freeman’s daughter. Photograph: Leonie Freeman
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The dilemma I am terrified of having children. Not childbirth, but the thought of potentially bringing up absolutely horrible kids.I recently entered my late 20s and have been married to my older, lovely, husband for more than a year. When we first met we dreamed of our future family, but I feel the older I get the more comfortable and happy I am in my carefree, albeit selfish, life. He, on the other hand, cannot wait to be a father. Yet all I read and hear about, all day, every day, is how horrendously hard parenting is. And how a woman loses not only her identity, but her body, soul and spirit, and then also the intimacy of her partner.This new trend of open tell-all parenting blogs and podcasts has turned me completely off the idea. It sounds awful. What if we produce an appalling child like in all the tales I read? Will this all-consuming child take away my happy life – a life I worked really hard for? Don’t get me wrong, I am a fiercely loving person and would put my child before anything else, I am sure. Yet I feel I am at a crossroads. It seems too high a cost for something that could be so dreadful.Mariella replies You have a point. There you are, recently married, enjoying the newfound pleasures of settled coupledom – why would you want anything to come between you? There’s definitely a surfeit of information about childrearing out there, and little of it is celebratory. Then again, who writes a diary when they’ve had a remarkably pleasant day?I can’t reassure you that parenthood won’t irrevocably change your life and, were I to have embraced it at your age, some of those changes would certainly have been unwelcome. Having kids is not a passport to permanent happiness, nor a one-way ticket to hell. It’s a biological ability that most women are born with and for a minority of women in the world today it’s a privileged choice. Aren’t you lucky that it’s a topic you can dwell on, discuss with your husband and make a decision about that is entirely subjective and yours to make? In so many other parts of the world it’s a life sentence – a straight line between puberty, marriage, sex and motherhood that continues on a loop until you
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Douglas Laing Timorous Beastie Highland Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (£40, Waitrose) Is it possible to address a haggis via zoom? I guess a few of us are going to find out tomorrow night – and there’s no reason, with all the experience of socially distanced virtual celebrations that we’ve accumulated over the past year, that Burns Night 2021 can’t provide its usual burst of cosy wintry revelry. The whisky’s the thing, and, with apologies to the many superb distillers of Japan, Canada, Sweden, Wales et al, it really does have to be Scotch. Where to start? With its reference to Burn’s most famous poem, the name and packaging of independent bottler Douglas Laing’s blend of Highland malt whiskies (from distilleries such as Blair Athol, Dalmore, Glen Garioch and Glengoyne) is almost too cute – too much aimed at the kind of part-time whisky drinker who will only buy a dram for Christmas and Burns Night – to be taken seriously. But it’s actually really beautifully put together – a richly full-flavoured, candied barley sugar-like character with a delightful silky texture.Highland Black Blended 8 Year Old Scotch Whisky (£12.99, Aldi) For a more than decent dram on a budget, there are two whiskies that have stood out for me in recent years, one apiece from the arch-four-letter discounters Aldi and Lidl, and both well under the 20 quid barrier where whisky generally starts to get interesting. The first is Aldi’s excellent serial awards-botherer, a classic blend of various Speyside and Highland malts with Lowlands grain from Girvan that has a winningly straightforward tropical fruitiness with a touch of cream and honey and plenty of warming depth for the money. This would be my choice for mixing in simple gingery classics such as the Whisky Mac (with ginger wine) or the Ginger Highball (with ginger ale). The second is Lidl’s stylishly put-together Ben Bracken Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (£16.49), which comes on like vanilla ice topped with golden syrup, nuts and cream and which is, in fact, very good indeed served with that very dessert.Laphroig Lore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (from £65, Waitrose; Master of Malt; The Whisky Exchange)
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The sudden lurch from Trump to Biden is generating vertigo all over Washington, including the so-called fourth branch of government – chief executives and their army of lobbyists.Notwithstanding Biden’s ambitious agenda, dozens of giant corporations have said they will no longer donate to the 147 members of Congress who objected to the certification of Biden electors on the basis of Trump’s lies about widespread fraud, which rules out most Republicans on the Hill.After locking down Trump’s account, social media giants like Twitter and Facebook are policing instigators of violence and h
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Exactly a year after the Chinese city of Wuhan went into the world’s first coronavirus lockdown, the Covid-19 death toll continues to mount. In the UK, we are losing more than 1,200 people a day to the virus and the total number of people who have died is almost 100,000. Countless people have lost someone they loved to this disease. It is a national tragedy whose scale would have been unthinkable in early 2020.Most governments have been struggling to contain this virus. The new variant circulating in the UK, thought to be 30-70% more infectious, and which scientists think might be more deadl
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The art-music-technology collective “Electronicos Fantasticos!” (commonly known as Nicos) is the brain child of artist/musician [Ei Wada] in Japan. They revive old, retired and out-dated electrical appliances as new “electro-magnetic musical instruments” creating not just new ways to play music, but one that also involves the listener as a musician, gradually forming an interactive orchestra. They do this by creatively using the original functions of appliances like televisions and fans, hacking them in interesting ways to produce sound. The project started in the beginning of 2015, leading to the creation of a collaborative team — Nicos Orchest-Lab — around the end of that year. They have since appeared in concerts, including a performance at “Ars Electronica”, the world’s largest media arts festival in 2019. For us hackers, the interesting bits can be found in the repository of their Work, describing sketchy but tantalising details of the musical instruments. Here are a few of the more interesting ones, but do check out their website for more amazing instruments and a lot of entertaining videos. CRT-TV Gamelan – A percussion instrument made from old CRT monitors. Coloured stripes projected on the screen cause changes in static-electricity picked up by the players hands, which then propagates to an electrical coil attached to their foot. This signal is then patched to a guitar amplifier. Electric Fan Harp – They take out the fan blade, and replace it with a “coded disk” containing punched holes. Then they shine a bulb from under the rotating disk, and the interrupted light is picked up by an optical receiver held by the player. Controlling the fan speed and the location of the receiver pickup, they can coax the fan to produce music – based on the idea “What if Jimi Hendrix, the god of electric guitars, played electric fans as instruments?” Barcoder – This one is quite simple but produces amazing results, especially when you pair up with another Barcoder musician. The output of the barcode reader is pretty much directly converted to sound – just wave the wand over printed barcode sheets. And it works amazingly well when pointed at striped shirts too. Check out the very entertaining videos of this gizmo. This led to the creation of the Barcodress – a coded dress which creates an interactive music and dance perfor
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12.54am EST 00:54 “It’s hard to overcome inactivity over long periods of time,” McGregor says. “That’s just it. I just wasn’t as comfortable as i needed to be. ... I have to dust it off and come back and that’s it and that’s what I will do.” Will he be back in 2020? “Of course,” McGregor says. “I need activity, guys, come on. You don’t get away with being inactive in this business and that’s the way it is. I’ll take me licks. “It’s a tough one to swallow.” 12.53am EST 00:53 “I’m happy but I’m not surprised,” Poirier says. “I put in the work. Conor took this result very professionally. He’s a pro. We’re 1-1. Maybe we have to do it again. I’m just happy. I’m happy in the place I’m in. I’m happy with the person I see in the mirror.” 12.42am EST 00:42 Dustin Poirier has knocked out Conor McGregor in the second round! Round 2 Poirier continues to attack McGregor’s leg from distance and the leg appears dead. Poirier is getting a lot more confident boxing from this distance. A now a massive left from Poirier snaps McGregor’s head back and he’s hurt! McGregor is hurt badly and Poirier is raining down blows. Poirier is pouring on the punishment, landing one shot after another ... and it’s over! Referee Herb Dean has waved it off and Conor McGregor has been knocked out in the second round. UFC (@ufc) January 24, 2021 Updated at 12.44am EST 12.37am EST 00:37 Round 1 McGregor sprints from his side and beings shooting left hands one after another. Poirier times him well and lands a flush counter right. Poirier sprints in and gets an early takedown. McGregor immediately back
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Throughout the pandemic, NHS trust leaders have argued for appropriate restrictions on social contact to bring Covid-19 under control. It is they and their teams who have to deal, in a distressing and direct way, with the daily death and harm that this dreadful virus brings. They know that, until we can vaccinate our population, restrictions on social contact are the only way to prevent unnecessary deaths, reduce patient harm and give the NHS the best chance to treat all the patients it needs to.So it should be no surprise that, as discussions start on loosening the current round of restrictions, trust leaders remain deeply cautious. There can be no simple, blanket approach to decision-making here. Each phase of the pandemic has its own characteristics and dynamics. Any relaxation will need to be evidence-based and take account of significant local variations in infection rates. And trust leaders have always been clear that these must be decisions for elected politicians as only they can balance the complex and difficult trade-offs required using the evidence and advice they receive. But trust leaders believe there are a number of reasons to be very cautious at this point.First, the new variant is behaving in very different ways from the virus in the first phase. We know it’s significantly more transmissible. But there’s a lot we don’t know. There are, for example, good reasons to believe that the drop in case numbers will be significantly slower than in the first phase
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Karl Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian author, born in 1968, who lives in London and Sweden. He gained worldwide fame, and notoriety, with his six-volume series of autobiographical novels entitled My Struggle (or Min Kamp in Norwegian), which dissected his life and relationships in often merciless detail. The Wall Street Journal described him as “one of the 21st-century’s greatest literary sensations”. He is also the author of the Seasons Quartet and, most recently, the essay collection (translated by Martin Aitken) In the Land of the Cyclops (Harvill Secker).1. NovelShuggie Bain by Douglas StuartDouglas Stuart, winner of the 2020 Booker prize for fiction for his book Shuggie Bain. Photograph: Martyn Pickersgill/AFPI started reading Shuggie Bain last weekend and I’m really, really stunned by it. It’s so good. I think it’s the best first book I’ve read in many years. The characters have so much space around them – normally plot narrows character but that’s not the case here. It’s set in working-class Glasgow in the 1980s, focusing on the relationship between a son and his mother, who is turning into an alcoholic. It’s a heartbreaking story, and quite hard to read at times, but it’s almost like it’s uplifting on behalf of literature. And it’s written with great warmth and compassion for the characters.2. AlbumPhilip Glass: Piano Works by Víkingur ÓlafssonVikingur Olafsson: ‘simplicity that is almost majestic’. Photograph: Antonio OlmosWe got this as a Christmas present from my father-in-law, who’s a pianist and musicologist, and I think it’s one of his favourite records. Ólafsson is an Icelandic pianist and here he’s playing works by Philip Glass, for whom repetition is a big thing. The album has a simplicity that for me becomes almost majestic in the end. It’s so precise and so clear – it feels almost mathematical but also very soulful. You listen to it for a little while and new details keep emerging. I’ve been playing it all the time since we got it.3. TVThe Bureau (Canal+/Amazon Prime)‘Incredibly well done’: The Bureau. Photograph: AmazonI’m a sucker for spy novels, but when it comes to movies and TV shows, there aren’t many spy stories that I really like. My favourite has always been the BBC adaptation of Smiley’s People from the 1980s. But then I got switched on to The Bureau and we’ve been binge-watching it – we’re now on the last season of five. It’s about the French intelligence services as they’re investigating al-Qaida, or Russia, and it’s very much focused on the bureaucracy of it. I really admire the writing and the acting is absolutely superb. It’s incredibly well done, one of the best TV series I’ve seen, not that I’ve watched much TV.4. ArtMamma AnderssonDead End, 2010, by Mamma Andersson. Photograph: © Mamma Andersson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bildupphovsrätt, Sweden Courtesy the artist and David ZwirnerThis is a Swedish artist I really love. She’s a really brilliant figurative painter. Her paintings are mysterious, enigmatic, but still kind of everyday life-ish. They show people in empty rooms; she also paints forests and landscapes whe
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The credit for the title goes to Jeff Moserware and his excellent post which he authored in 2008. He basically discussed the dangers of improper localization and took a clever approach, stating «“The Turkey Test.” It’s very simple: will your code work properly on a person’s machine in or around the country of Turkey?”». The Turkish alphabet is based on Latin letters but there are few interesting properties of the Turkish alphabet such that Jeff proposes if your code works fine in Turkish culture, then chances are good it is resilient to possible localization problems in other cultures using the Latin alphabet. Perhaps this is a bit overstatement as there are too many different languages and alphabets. However, unless we have a specific focus in a particular language or have dedicated people working on each language, in practice it’s next to impossible to have bug-free localization in our applications. In that aspect, I believe the Turkey test is a low effort way to do basic smoke test on localization for your development process. In his post, Jeff discusses the localization problems mostly from a .NET point of view. In this post, however, I will try to follow Jeff’s footprints but from a JavaScript point of view. Dotted and dotless I Well, the obvious question is why “Turkey”? One of the main reasons to use the Turkish alphabet for testing is that that the Turkish alphabet has two “I” letters. One with a dot and one without. Namely the upper case “I” and “İ and lower case “ı” and “i”. And yet there is even a dedicated Wikipedia [article] about it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dotted_and_dotless_I). The challenge with these “I”s usually occurs when you try to do a case insensitive equality comparison. As a Turkish, I have been burned very badly because of “I” issues. Problems with Oracle (fixed a long time ago) One particular case I remember is I was developing an application for a bank. We had done extensive testing of the application in the local development environment. But once we deployed the application to the bank’s prod machines, it immediately crashed. After 13 hours of investigation (at that time my debugging skills wasn’t so sharp so I mostly relied on the logs), I realized my query was in the form of “select description from …” and Oracle database will always capitalize the column names in its results returning a column with “DESCRIPTION”. The developers of ODP.NET were aware of this inconsistency so as a workaround they were calling ToUpper to match the column names from your query. However, if your code runs within Turkish culture then ToUpper call will transform the column name to “DESCRİPTİON” and boom! your code would bail out with a cryptic exception. Luckily only 3 years later Oracle has fixed the issue by using ToUpperInvariant instead of ToUpper JavaScript world Having reiterated the problem on .NET, let’s explore the situation with the browsers. The browsers take the current culture from the operating system on macOS and Linux. And on windows depending on the browser they may obey “preferred language
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Amid a rising American atmosphere of political death threats and violence, some are calling for a secret vote to determined Donald Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial to protect senators’ safety. The idea was discussed last time around after Trump’s first impeachment in 2019. Some argued that Republicans were unable to vote their conscience because of pressure from their party and constituents. Secret votes, however, run contrary to a principle of transparency and senators’ accountability. Critics on Twitter complained Republicans would claim they voted one way, while actually voting exactly the opposite. I like this idea in theory, but I also want to know if my senator actually vote
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Democrats plan to move quickly on one of the first bills of the new Congress, citing the need for federal election standards and other reforms to shore up the foundations of American democracy after a tumultuous post-election period and deadly riot at the Capitol. States have long had disparate and contradictory rules for running elections. But the 2020 election, which featured pandemic-related changes to ease voting and then a flood of lawsuits by former President Donald Trump and his allies, underscored the differences from state to state: Mail-in ballots due on Election Day or just postmarked by then? Absentee voting allowed for all or just voters with an excuse? Same-day or advance-only
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At Home|Savor Soup Made From ScratchWith this foundation of vegetables and water, delicious, homemade soup doesn’t have to be complicated. Adding personality is up to you.Credit...Joel Goldberg for The New York TimesIf a pot of homemade soup brings to mind a big kettle of many ingredients simmering for hours, think again. There’s an easy formula for preparing vegetable soups that requires only a few ingredients and minimal cooking time, yet yields the same rich comfort that soup is intended to provide. You need about a pound of fresh vegetables, three cups of water and a blender or a food processor (though a potato masher can be pressed into service). The result will be two generous port
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A 56-year-old woman has tested positive for Covid-19 in New Zealand, after being released from government managed isolation following two negative tests.It is the first community case in the country since 18 November.The woman arrived in Auckland on 30 December after travelling in Spain and the Netherlands for four months. She returned two negative Covid tests while staying in government-managed isolation at the Pullman hotel.The woman was released from the Pullman on 13 January and travelled around south Northland with her husband, visiting as many as 30 locations, including popular holiday spots, AirBnbs, and shops.In the last week, the woman began experiencing very mild symptoms, includin
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Conservative, anti-Trump attorney George Conway warned that Donald Trump must suffer the consequences of his acts, or the nation is doomed to be victimized by presidents unrestrained by the law in the future. Conway, the husband of Trump’s former White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway, presented a lengthy examination in an op ed piece in The Washington Post of Trump’s suspected misconduct and even possible criminal behavior in a variety of actions in the White House — and before his presidency. They include suspected campaign finance violations and possible collusion in the 2016 election with Russia (Robert Mueller did not exonerate the president, despite what Trump has claimed, noted C
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Data visualization is an important tool, and there’s been many cases where I’ve found myself wanting to visualize data from a CSV file. As I’ve been learning F# in the New Year, I thought that plotting a chart would be a great exercise to help sharpen my F# skills. This is especially true as once I finish porting the iRacing SDK to F#, the next step will be to record my lap times and visualize the telemetry data. Fortunately, charts can be created fairly easily in F# by using the XPlot library in conjunction with Plotly. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll be using the Spotify Dataset from Kaggle, specifically the data by year file. From this file, we’ll be looking to
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