Army colonel cleared of fraud over children’s private school fees


Powered by article titled “Army colonel cleared of fraud over children’s private school fees” was written by Steven Morris, for on Wednesday 14th November 2018 14.52 Asia/Kolkata

An army colonel who has claimed tens of thousands of pounds in allowances to send his children to public schools has been cleared of fraud.

A court martial board of five senior officers took just over two hours to find Col Roddy Lee, 52, not guilty after a seven-day trial in Bulford, Wiltshire.

Lee claimed the continuity of education allowance (CEA) to send two of his children to Marlborough College and two younger children to two prep schools in Wiltshire and Dorset.

CEA enables service personnel to send children to boarding school to prevent disruption to schooling caused by postings around the UK and abroad.

Prosecutors alleged Lee became ineligible for the allowance because he was posted in 2015 to army headquarters at Andover, Hampshire, which was less than 50 miles from his family home near Devizes, Wiltshire.

It was alleged that he tried to get around the rules by taking service accommodation at an RAF base – but it was claimed he did not really live there. He was caused of fraudulently claiming almost £100,000.

Speaking after his acquittal, Lee’s solicitor, Lewis Cherry, criticised the decision to prosecute him and described the investigation by Royal Military police as flawed.

Cherry said: “He has always protested his innocence and the trial has shown that he acted completely within the rules. I was astonished that this prosecution was brought at all, it went against sheer common sense.

“Although neighbours said they had seldom seen him or his wife [at the RAF base accommodation] and appear to have been the source of the tip-off that commenced the investigation, when the police raided their home they found the family dog in the house and his wife arrived home from work during the search.

“They [the police] failed to properly gather the information that would have shown the whole basis of investigation was wrong.

“The court heard that immediately after the initial arrest, his entitlement to the allowances was reviewed by the military authorities and deemed correct. They have been reviewed a further three times since then and continue to be paid.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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G20 nations still led by fossil fuel industry, climate report finds


Powered by article titled “G20 nations still led by fossil fuel industry, climate report finds” was written by Jonathan Watts, for on Wednesday 14th November 2018 10.30 Asia/Kolkata

Climate action is way off course in all but one of the world’s 20 biggest economies, according to a report that shows politicians are paying more heed to the fossil fuel industry than to advice from scientists.

Among the G20 nations 15 reported a rise in emissions last year, according to the most comprehensive stock-take to date of progress towards the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

The paper, by the global partnership Climate Transparency, found 82% of energy in these countries still being provided by coal, oil and gas, a factor which has relied on a doubling of subsidies over the past 10 years to compete with increasingly cheap wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

The G20 nations increased subsidies for fossil fuels from $75bn (£58bn) to $147bn (£114bn) between 2007 and 2016, although they pledged to phase them out more than 10 years ago.

Governments have said they will change, but on current commitments the world is on course for a 3.2C rise in average global temperatures, more than double the lower Paris threshold of 1.5C, which scientists have said represents the last chance to save coral reefs, the Arctic ecosystem and the wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people at risk of increased drought, flooding and forest fires.

“The gap is still very big,” said Jan Buerck, one of the authors of the report. “The G20 is not moving fast enough.”

Comparing the goals and policies of different countries, the paper found that only India was on course to stay below the upper limit set by the Paris agreement of 2C, while the worst offenders – Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – would take the world beyond 4C.

China, the world’s biggest emitter, stabilised its releases of carbon for a couple of years by reducing dependency on coal, but this positive trend slipped last year. Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina have promised to cut deforestation but the destruction rate of forests shows no sign of reversing.

Britain has made the fastest transition, with a 7.7% decline in the use of fossil fuels between 2012 and 2015, but the report warned that this could stall in the years ahead because the government had cut support for feed-in tariffs, energy efficiency and zero-carbon homes.

The authors said political pressures in the G20 countries, with more subsidies for fossil fuels, were working against effective climate action.

“There is a huge fight by the fossil fuel industry against cheap renewables. The old economy is well organised and they have put huge lobbying pressure on governments to spend tax money to subsidise the old world,” Buerck said.

These political pressures are likely to intensify as governments are called upon to extend emissions cuts to the transport and agriculture sectors. The report said G20 emissions needed to start declining in the next two years and halve by 2030 if the world were to avoid more than 1.5C of warming, though not one country in the group had set a credible target to do this.

The UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, in December –the COP24 conference – will start a two-year process for governments to deliver on their commitments to reduce emissions. Although there are national leaders hostile to tackling climate change, such as in the US and Brazil, there is still hope they will be open to taking their share of the responsibility.

Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change, said: “Global emissions need to peak in 2020. The Brown-to-Green report provides us with an independent stock-take on where we stand now. This is valuable information for countries when they declare their contribution in 2020.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Can Democrats ever win back white, rural America?


This article titled “Can Democrats ever win back white, rural America?” was written by Chris McGreal in Sioux City, Iowa, for on Sunday 11th November 2018 19.59 Asia/Kolkata

As JD Scholten walked forward to concede, defeat was written across the face of every Democrat in the room.

They all knew this had been their best shot at victory in a long time. The stars were apparently aligned in Scholten’s challenge against Steve King, an eight-term Republican congressman, in a district covering hundreds of square miles of rural north-western Iowa.

King’s racist provocations – he once predicted that white Americans did not have to worry about being a minority because blacks and Hispanics “would be fighting each other before that happens” – and flirtations with the European far right drew national condemnation. That prompted a flood of donations for Scholten. Even King’s own party leadership disowned him.

On top of that, there was the Trump factor. Some people had simply had enough of the president, or at least felt that a Democratic Congress was required to keep him in check.

Scholten criss-crossed the huge district, knocking on doors. Just about everyone knew who he was and what he stood for. He talked about affordable healthcare and how to reverse the decline of rural communities. His flush campaign coffers allowed him to outspend King in television advertising and social-media campaigns.

Yet on election night, it was the Democrat who lost. The words were rousing but Scholten’s demeanour resonated defeat.

“I did things no other Democrat has ever done in this district,” he said. “I’m damn proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish”.


He was right. It had been an accomplishment. He came within three points of defeating a candidate who won by 22 points two years ago. But Linda Santi, a Democratic activist, wasn’t taking much solace. She was close to tears as she considered the implications of the defeat for the 2020 presidential election and the challenge to Trump in a crucial swing state.

“There was a lot in JD’s favour,” she said. “We were up against that neo-Nazi. King was an easy opponent to criticise. King’s own leadership denounced him. There was a lot of money to spend. This really was our best hope. I’m not sure the stars will align again.”

This week’s midterms were a mixed bag for Democrats in Iowa and across parts of rural America that decide the balance of power in Washington. The party lost precious Senate seats in the Midwest, letting the Republicans expand their majority even as the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives with the help of important victories in Iowa, Kansas and other rural states.

As they consider the implications of those victories, losses and groundbreaking campaigns, Democrats are also being forced to confront the legacy of neglecting millions of rural voters who may yet prove crucial to winning back power.

For some strategists, Beto O’Rourke’s blazing challenge to Ted Cruz, which came unexpectedly close to unseating the Texas Republican senator, suggests that an unashamedly progressive campaign can get Democratic voters to the polls. Victories for a string of younger candidates in cities, including the first Muslim women elected to Congress and an avowed democratic socialist in New York, strengthens the hand of those who argue that the path back to the White House and working control of Congress lies in focusing on the urban vote.

The results in rural America offer a messier interpretation. The Democrats lost three important seats in the Senate – Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana. But they clung on to Senate seats in Wisconsin and other rural states, including Montana and West Virginia, in the face of strong Republican challenges.

The Democrats also won back a string of governorships lost nearly a decade ago. Among the defeats most celebrated by the Democrats was that of the union-bashing Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker.

Tom Vilsack, a Democratic former governor of Iowa who was Barack Obama’s agriculture secretary for eight years, thinks his party fell short of its potential and is failing to connect with the rural voters it needs to win the next presidential election.

“We won the House,” he said. “That’s great. But we got kicked in the Senate. We picked up some state legislative races and won some governorships. That’s a good thing. But we didn’t win Ohio or Florida where we need to win. It was a mixed bag.

Tom Vilsack was US agriculture secretary for eight years under Barack Obama.
Tom Vilsack was US agriculture secretary for eight years under Barack Obama.
Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

“The challenge is not to sugarcoat it. The challenge is to understand that if we expect to do better in 2020, if we expect to beat President Trump, we better pay attention to rural places in a meaningful real way. And if we don’t we may be quite disappointed in the outcome in 2020.”

‘The same damn mistake’

Rural votes carry outsize weight because of the structure of America’s political system. With each state electing two senators no matter the size of their population, Iowa and Kansas with just 3m people get to have the same representation as California, which has 40m. It’s that system that allows Republicans to take more Senate seats when the Democrats won nearly 13m more votes across the country.

It is also these states which prove critical in totting up the votes of the electoral college in the presidential race.

Vilsack said that Scholten worked hard but in the end was let down by the failure of the Democratic party, particularly its national leadership, to offer a vision to rural voters who feel the party has little to say to them and is focused on urban supporters.

The Democratic party retreated from fighting for large parts of rural America over the past two decades as support for the Republicans grew and in the belief that an increasingly liberal vote in the cities would hold sway.

That left the GOP to press home its tax and spending cut policies, underpinned by an anti-government ideology, while the Democrats failed to offer alternative visions for communities grappling with the rapid contraction of small family farms, the disappearance of factory jobs, and shrinking populations in small towns left with boarded up high streets and ageing residents. On top of that, large parts of rural America have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic which the Obama administration largely ignored.

“I don’t think our party leadership has understood the emotional toll all that is taking in rural places,” Vilsack said. “People watch their central business district hollow out. They watch their manufacturing operations close and shutter. And then most tragically of all they watch their sons and daughters and grandkids go someplace else.

“It’s just frustrating to me to to watch my party keep making the same damn mistake every single election. And they pay lip service.”

In Kansas, the Democratic leadership says it has learned that lesson in delivering an important victory this year. The state has been subject to the ravages of tax and spending cut ideology since the election in 2010 of Sam Brownback as governor on a promise that it would deliver a “shot of adrenaline” to the state’s economy. Instead the slashing of income and business taxes left a huge hole in the state’s finances which Brownback filled with severe cuts to education and infrastructure and accounting tricks that involved borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Brownback left office earlier this year to become Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Ethan Corson, executive director of the Kansas Democratic party, said the party’s failure to unseat Brownback four years ago woke it up to the need to fight for every vote and not just rely on urban support. Corson pushed the party back into the areas it had previously given up on, in support of the party’s candidate, Laura Kelly.

“We worked with Democrats in counties where in some cases there hadn’t been a real formal party organisation for 20 years,” he said.

It helped that Kelly was up against a vulnerable candidate in Kris Kobach, who closely aligned with Trump, and there was the legacy of Brownback to campaign against. But Democratic canvassers working their way through rural communities brought the message home and, Corson believes, helped turn out enough support to narrow the Republican margin of victory in party strongholds and stop it overwhelming Kelly’s support in the cities.

Kansas Democrats won another standout victory when Sharice Davids, a lesbian Native American, beat a four-term Republican in a district that includes part of Kansas City. Her campaign was notable for sidestepping issues favoured in less conservative regions, such as universal healthcare.

Vilsack acknowledged the problem for the party in balancing the demands of urban progressives with more conservative rural voters.

“As a Democrat you have to sort of thread the needle here to be able to appeal to the rural folks without necessarily selling your progressive values,” he said.

Sharice Davids speaks to supporters at a victory party in Olathe, Kansas.
Sharice Davids speaks to supporters at a victory party in Olathe, Kansas.
Photograph: Colin E Braley/AP

Vilsack thinks one way for the party to do that is to talk about rural challenges the way it talks about urban poverty, including a plan for a future beyond an extraction economy and the kind of jobs that will keep young families in rural towns. He also wants the party to challenge the GOP’s anti-government rhetoric by championing the role of federal programmes in helping rural communities by guaranteeing property loans, expanding access to clean water and reaching millions of people with broadband.

Corson disagrees with Vilsack’s claim that Democratic leadership still does not understand the importance of rural America, and praises the financial and logistical support he received from the national party

“I don’t think we’ve lost touch,” he said. “I would say we are getting back in touch. We need to continue to build those relationships, making sure they understand the Democrats care about all parts of the state and not just the urban and suburban. We’ve got a lot better.”

But Corson said it was also important that rural voters hear their concerns reflected.

“We want to be sure,” he said, “that in the national leadership – in the Senate leadership, in the House leadership, in the National Governors Association – that we’re hearing from Democrats in all parts of the country. I think is very very important.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Opinion, World

Murder, mystery and a media storm in West Cork


Powered by article titled “Murder, mystery and a media storm in West Cork” was written by Roy Greenslade, for The Guardian on Sunday 11th November 2018 19.30 Asia/Kolkata

This is a story about a murder and a journalist who was transformed from reporter to suspect. At its heart is a tragedy and, although there are elements of farce, they fail to elicit a smile, let alone a laugh. Little about the case makes sense. Truly, to quote Winston Churchill’s famous description of Russia, we are dealing with “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.

Just before Christmas 1996, a French woman, Sophie Toscan du Plantier, was battered to death outside her Irish holiday cottage near Schull in West Cork. The murder remains unsolved. Or, as a local barman who first tapped his nose and then requested anonymity, told me: “I think it’s more correct to say it remains unproven.”

Like many people I met during a visit to the area last month, he was sure he knows the culprit and wasn’t at all shy about identifying him. But there is no evidence against the man who continues to live under a cloud of suspicion in a place where everyone knows him and he knows everyone.

It has been like this for 22 years for Ian Bailey, a British journalist who lived not too far from du Plantier’s cottage and drew on his knowledge of the local terrain to brief reporters sent by the Irish Daily Star and a now-defunct Dublin-based paper, the Sunday Tribune, to cover the murder. He later explained that he declined to have bylines on the grounds of “local sensitivities”.

Within two weeks of the killing, the Irish police (An Garda Síochana) became intensely interested in Bailey’s briefings and soon treated him as the most likely perpetrator, demanding that he account for his movements and provide a sample of his blood. Despite there being no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, he was arrested.

He may have been his own worst enemy, admitting some of his statements to gardaí probably raised their suspicions. “I regret saying certain things,” he said. “I was very unwise to assume they grasped my use of irony and satire. It didn’t do me any good.”

He was released without charge, but the police remained sceptical and have regarded him ever since as the “chief suspect”, making no serious attempt to seek anyone else. He was rearrested two years later, in company with his partner, Jules Thomas, and, once again, was released without charge, as was she. Bailey’s public persona suffered a severe reverse when it was revealed he had twice assaulted Thomas, leading to her being hospitalised on one occasion. She refused to press charges, but it helped feed hostility.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed outside her Irish holiday cottage near Schull. Photograph: Rex Features

Now, in the latest twist, Bailey is to be tried for murder in France in absentia after fighting off an extradition warrant. He accepts he will be found guilty because he cannot offer a defence. Yet the French authorities appear to have no more information than that obtained by the gardaí in what must rank as one of the most incompetent murder investigations of all time.

According to the pathologist’s report, the attack was savage. The slightly built du Plantier, a 39-year-old producer of French TV arts programmes, was struck by a rock and a concrete block. Even so, she had put up a fight, sustaining more than 50 injuries in the bloody struggle. The crime scene should have yielded all sorts of clues.

But officers walked all over the house and the laneway, thereby negating the collection of forensic evidence. They failed to follow up with sufficient speed or determination a witness’s sighting of a blue car which he said had overtaken him at speed on the road passing du Plantier’s cottage. Some objects, such as a wine bottle, went missing after being removed by police. They even managed to lose the five-bar gate to her property, which was spattered with blood.

While it’s true to say that murder is so rare in West Cork no one can recall any instance within living memory, that’s no excuse for the inept handling of such a major case. Nor does it explain why gardaí became so convinced that Bailey was responsible. His attempts to prove his innocence make for an extraordinary narrative.

He has since obtained a master’s degree in law at Cork University. He sued eight newspapers for libel, winning some and settling others out of court. Then he took the unprecedented step of suing the Irish state for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and being the victim of a conspiracy to frame him. Following a 64-day Dublin high court hearing, he lost the case and then the appeal.

After his lawyer had lobbied the justice minister, the director of public prosecutions reviewed the police investigation and produced a report vindicating Bailey and, by implication, damning the gardaí. It is impossible to read it without wondering why Bailey was arrested and why no action was taken against some of the officers for their oversights and heavy handedness.

Unsurprisingly, the case has attracted a great deal of media attention and, like so many mysterious murders, has become the subject of a podcast exploring every aspect of the crime. In somewhat similar fashion to the Netflix true crime documentary, Making a Murderer, two English journalists, Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde, compiled almost eight hours of interviews. Their series of podcasts is called simply “West Cork”, and underlines the fact that many locals believe there’s no smoke without fire.

Now 62, Bailey lives on the margins. He runs a stall selling plants in Skibbereen and he sells pizzas in Schull. Last year, he self-published a book of his poetry.

Although no longer working as a journalist, he was attracted to the area by the coterie of Fleet Street newspaper people who lighted upon West Cork in the 1970s, spending summers at Crookhaven. They included the Daily Mail’s Vincent Mulchrone.

Vincent’s son, a former Daily Mirror reporter, lives in West Cork, and has done some freelance work which necessitated interviewing Bailey. He pointed me to an article in an Irish current affairs magazine, Village, which contends that du Plantier’s killer might have been a police officer who has since died.

But the evidence for that is circumstantial and no stronger than that against Bailey, who refuses to be cowed. “He seems to get off on it,” said my barman friend to the accompaniment of nods from drinkers. “We think he likes being the centre of attention. Whenever things get quiet he goes after more publicity.”

But Bailey, a handsome man back in 1996, now looks drawn and world-weary. And his bursts of laughter as he discusses his predicament sound hollow. It is hard not to conclude that this is an instance where a journalist got too close, far too close for his own good, to the story. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Armistice Day: silences mark 100 years since end of first world war – live updates


Powered by article titled “Armistice Day: silences mark 100 years since end of first world war – live updates” was written by Mattha Busby (now), Ben Quinn (earlier), for on Sunday 11th November 2018 18.57 Asia/Kolkata

The European Broadcasting Union, which operates Eurovision and Euroradio, will be holding a concert for peace at 2.30pm which shall be broadcasted live to audiences around the world to commemorate the centenary.


Derek Gregory aged 88 from Sidnouth, Devon, was holding his father’s medals from WW1. His father was Albert James Gregory who served with the South Wales Borderers in France where he was gassed, causing him to suffer from health problems in later life.

In disgust at the lack of welfare assistance available on his return from the war, he threw his medals in the coal hole from where his wife later managed to retrieve two of them. Today they are mounted and in frame.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Derek at the People’s Procession, accompanied by his daughter Lorraine Frost. “I think they should do it every year … It would be unforgivable if it all just faded away.”

Derek’s newborn great-grandson has been named Albert in his father’s memory.


The Irish President-elect Michael D Higgins has attended the Armistice Day centenary commemorations at Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery to pay tribute to the memory of the Irish men and women who died in the first world war.

In his speech he said that the events were not a “celebration of militarism”, before going on to criticise how some nations today “seek to embark upon a new arms race” which serves to “fuel fires of war in other lands”.

“Ours is not a celebration of militarism, nor a valorisation of martial spirit, but a simple recognition of our common humanity, as we recall the destruction of the promise and potential of a generation in the First World War, the lasting damage inflicted on the millions wounded and maimed, and the countless others who would go on to suffer mental anguish as a result of the horrors of their war experience,” he said, noting that 200,000 Irish men served overseas.

“Despite all the differences of religion, class and political aspiration, they were united by what would be a shared experience of war, with its comradeship, friendship and shared hardship whether it was on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, or in the Middle East.”

Higgins added that the world today had “the material capacity to abolish all forms of human poverty, to alleviate all unnecessary suffering, we are still devoting so much of our creativity, not to the preservation or achievement of peace, but to the prosecution of and preparation for war”.

“Amidst great human suffering, some nations now seek to embark upon a new arms race, increasing not only their own stockpiles, but exporting weapons of death and destruction to fuel the fires of war in other lands, in Yemen, in Syria, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.

President elect Michael D Higgins attends an Irish state ceremony at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin
President elect Michael D Higgins attends an Irish state ceremony at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin
Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

More than 47 countries were represented at the service, and officials laid wreaths at the Irish military plot, before the last post was played and the Irish flag returned to full mast.

Poetry from the first world war was read by the British, French and German ambassadors to Ireland, before prayer and a minute of silence.

The commemoration took place at 9am, hours before Higgins was to be inaugurated for his second term as President of Ireland.

Party leaders lay wreaths

The prime minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn have laid wreaths during the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall.

Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May.
Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May.
Photograph: David Hartley/REX/Shutterstock
Prime Minister Theresa May lays a wreath
Prime Minister Theresa May lays a wreath
Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lays a wreath
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lays a wreath
Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, right, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, center right, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, rear right, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, center, and former prime minister Gordon Brown, rear left, attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, right, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, center right, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, rear right, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, center, and former prime minister Gordon Brown, rear left, attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

Thousands of marchers have begun leaving the Mall in central London in a people’s procession that will bring people from across the country together as they pass the Cenotaph in what has been described as the “nation’s thank you” to all those who fought in the first world war.

Military veterans march across Horse Guards Parade during a National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph in Westminster, London, Britain, November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Military veterans march across Horse Guards Parade during a National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph in Westminster, London, Britain, November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Marion Lewis and her sister Dorothy Heslop are marching for their grandfather, Private John Waters of the 23rd Battalion Middlesex Regiment. He received a serious head wound at the Somme in October 1916 which left him missing part of his skull.

Eighteen people were killed, 11 were missing and 29 wounded from his battalion in the same action. As girls, it was an unspoken rule not to ask granddad about the war, they said. “They did not expect him to survive so they left him outside the medical tent and we think it’s the cold that probably saved him,” Heslop said.


Events are taking place across Belgium starting with a ceremony at the Belgian monument in Brussels attended by King Philippe who will later attend a last post ceremony in Ypres at 8pm.

The size of the crowds in Ypres for the last post ceremony on Friday night and the special ceremony on Saturday morning – “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” – were said by Benoit Mottrie, chairman of the last post association, the 24-strong voluntary organisation whose buglers have remembered the fallen at the setting of the sun every day at the gate for 90 years, to have been the largest he could recall.

People attend a special edition of the last post ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Ypres Memorial at the Menenpoort at Menin Gate, Ypres.
People attend a special edition of the last post ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Ypres Memorial at the Menenpoort at Menin Gate, Ypres.
Photograph: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga via ZUMA Press/REX/Shutterstock

A parade in the morning through the town included the band of the Devon and Somerset fire brigade, who will be performing at a concert in the main square this afternoon. Meanwhile in Mons, south-west Belgium, George Barkhouse, the great-nephew of Pte George Lawrence Price, a Canadian believed to have been the last British empire soldier killed in the war, is attending a liberation parade involving troops from Canada.

It was there that the 25-year-old was shot in the heart by a sniper, as he tried to move civilians out of a group of houses occupied by a German troops.

He was tended to by a Belgian nurse but died a minute later in her care. It was 10.58am. “He was engaged to be married. It is so important I am here,” Barkshouse, 89, told the Guardian. “Important to mark how my great-uncle has been honoured as the last man. We talk about him a lot in the family. We remember him.”


As Leigh Todd walks in the People’s Procession she will remember her great-aunt Nancy Allen, one of countless women who lost their fiancés and the future they had planned to the Great War.

“She was 21 and she had just got engaged. And then he was called up,” said Leigh, from Scarborough, walking with her husband Richard.

“The effect it had on her. After he was killed she never married. She never had children. Her life was spent looking after her parents.

“She never stopped wearing black and she kept the letters that he wrote to her in a chocolate tin.

“You don’t really think of these women. All the men were away. She lived in a pit village, Wheatley Hill, so I imagine there was nothing for her. There was no future.”

The couple, who have three children – the youngest aged 14 – always commemorate Remembrance Sunday. “We’ve brought the children up to think it is a very important day,” she said.

“I think it is brilliant that the descendants can be part of this centenary. I’m feeling really emotional being part of it.”

Leigh Todd with her husband Richard.
Leigh Todd with her husband Richard.
Photograph: Caroline Davies for the Guardian


Away from the big commemorations, today has a particular resonance in places like the Australian town of Gundagai in New South Wales, which suffered unimaginable losses in the first world war.

Naaman Zhou has filed this piece on how the grief – and names of those killed – live on.

Under a light-grey sky, eight buglers in greatcoats sounded the Last post. Silence fell among the many thousands gathered at Ypres’ Menin Gate, as Europe remembered the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”.

At the Gate’s inauguration after the war, a long line of ashen-faced mothers struggling to hold back the anguish, and fathers marching sternly with trembling lips, had snaked through this flattened town up to and under the gate.

Blinded veterans had run their fingers over the newly carved bone-white Portland stone to feel out some of the names of fellow soldiers who had lost their lives, and whose bodies had never been found.

“A more sacred place for the British does not exist in the world,” the then secretary of state for war, Winston Churchill, had intoned.

Today, at what will surely be the last great act of remembrance of the great war here, at least for the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of those who served and sacrificed in Ypres, a commitment was renewed to learn the lessons of the past in defiance at the fading in living memory of what happened on Flanders’ fields. (read on)

A special edition of the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Photograph: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga via Zuma Press/Rex/Shutterstock.
A special edition of the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Photograph: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga via Zuma Press/Rex/Shutterstock.
Photograph: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga via ZUMA Press/REX/Shutterstock


In his armistice speech to world leaders including America’s Trump and Russia’s Putin at the Arc de Triomphe, Emmanuel Macron warned against the rise of nationalism.

He said he was a patriot but “patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism”.

Suggesting that that nationalism and egotism was once again on the rise, he said: “Old demons are resurfacing. History sometimes threatens to take its tragic course again and compromise our hope of peace. Let us vow to prioritise peace over everything.”

He said the traces of the first world war had never been erased from Europe nor the Middle East and called on countries to stand together in “good will” – to “join our hopes together” rather than face-off because of our “fears”.

He said countries needed to join to fight new challenges such as climate change, poverty, famine and inequality.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the international ceremony for the centenary of the armistice.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the international ceremony for the centenary of the armistice.


The focus of this blog for the last little while has been on London and Paris, but it’s worth remembering that there are homes across the globe where families have been touched by the conflicts being marked by today’s events.


Kate Nicholl’s great-grandfather John Waugh was killed in action aged 28 in Flanders just two weeks before the armistice.

“Which makes it seem doubly senseless,” she said. He had been shell-shocked and was very traumatised but still had to fight.

As she joined the People’s Procession she was also remembering her great-grandfather’s brother Tommy, who survived the war. By remarkable coincidence Tommy and John met at a field hospital shortly before John was killed. Even more of a coincidence, their sister Violet was working there as a nurse.

“Tommy had been injured at the Somme. He spent three days in no man’s land hiding under dead bodies in order to survive,” she said. “Then he continued to Flanders.

“By 1918, both John and Tommy were serving in Flanders.” The meeting at the field hospital was only brief before John was on his way back to the front, never to return.

The family were from Nettlesworth in Co Durham, said Nicholls who lives in Ealing, west London. “It was one of countless villages where they would lose a whole generation.”

The People’s Procession was important, she said. “Because the generation who had first-hand knowledge are dying out, not just those who served but those they told.

“I think it would be a lovely thing to allow descendants to continue to hold true to those memories.”

Among those attending the People’s Procession in London was Kate Nicholl, whose great-grandfather John Waugh was killed in action aged 28 in Flanders just two weeks before the armistice.
Among those attending the People’s Procession in London was Kate Nicholl, whose great-grandfather John Waugh was killed in action aged 28 in Flanders just two weeks before the armistice.
Photograph: Kate Nicholl


As the wreath laying comes to an end and the service by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, has started at the Cenotaph.

Veterans attend the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial on November 11 at the Cenotaph.
Veterans attend the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial on November 11 at the Cenotaph.
Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

A wreath has been laid at the cenotaph by the German president, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the first time a German leader has done so at the site.

The Prince of Wales, President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Prince Michael of Kent during the remembrance service at the Cenotaph memorial.
The Prince of Wales, President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Prince Michael of Kent during the remembrance service at the Cenotaph memorial.
Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Prince Charles has also done so. Both are being followed by the political figures present.

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa may at the Cenotaph along with other political leaders.
Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa may at the Cenotaph along with other political leaders.
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
The Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of York during the remembrance service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London.
The Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of York during the remembrance service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London.
Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Armistice remembered in London

Big Ben, which has been silent since renovations to the Elizabeth Tower began in August last year, has been striking 11 o’clock to mark the hour the armistice was signed.

Two minutes of silence is now being observed.


The last notes of Elgar’s Nimrod has drifted off into the air down Whitehall as the ceremony at the Cenotaph gets underway.

Political leaders including Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and former prime ministers are lining up with wreaths now as senior armed forces officers also come forward.

From the royal family, Prince Charles will lay a wreath on behalf of his mother for the second year in a row while an equerry will lay a wreath on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh.

For the first time, a German leader will lay a wreath, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier performing the duty on behalf of his nation in an historic act of reconciliation between the two countries.

The Prince of Wales is now arriving with the German president.

In French, English and Chinese, young people have been reading out letters from combatants at the commemoration in Paris as dignitaries and others listen.

Aside from the representatives of what were the major powers at the time of the war, those gathered include leaders of states which had yet to come into existence.

They include Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland. Irish government archives indicate that almost 80,000 men enlisted into the British army during the first 12 months of the conflict, joining 50,000 Irishmen who were already serving in the army.

Armistice commemorations underway in Paris

In Paris, around 70 heads of state, prime ministers and foreign dignitaries are gathered with Emmanuel Macron, at the start of armistice commemorations at the Arc de Triomphe.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin was the last to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe, shaking hands with Macron and Angela Merkel. Putin then stopped to shake hands with the US president Donald Trump and gave Trump a thumbs up.

In the pouring rain, most heads of state arrived with Macron in coaches driven up the Champs Elysées from the presidential palace. They then walked slowly together under black umbrellas to the Arc de Triomphe, with Angela Merkel beside Macron.

This image of leaders walking together through the rain was described by French commentators described as a moving gesture about peace.

Some leaders were absent from this slow march, including the US president Donald Trump and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who both arrived at the Arc de Triomphe separately in their own security detail. Macron is to deliver a speech and then light a flame in honour of an unknown soldier.

Testimonies written by soldiers on 11 November 1918, as the ceasefire took hold, will be read later by high school students in French, English and German.


In London, the 10,000 people taking part in the People’s Procession are gathering on The Mall to take part in this unique march past the Cenotaph to mark the centenary.

Jackie Sheridan is marching for her great-great-uncle Oliver Davies who was killed in Palestine by a stray bullet while taking the horses to water. From Leicester, he was just 21 when he died on 2 December 1917 and was serving with the Royal Engineers. He was youngest of 13 children.

“He was a driver but I think he was also the captain’s groom,” said Jackie, also from Leicester, who is marching with her husband Steven.

She has the letter, now very fragile, sent by his captain on Oliver’s death, praising him as a “cheery” lad who was “loved by all” and “one of the best”. The captain had erected a cross for him at his grave 15 miles from Jerusalem. On her phone Jackie has picture of a sketch that was drawn of his grave.

“I’ve grown up with the story,” said Jackie, a scout leader marching in her uniform.

“I shall salute when we get to the Cenotaph.

“It’s important to show your respect. We are passionate that the younger generation know and learn that peace is so much more important than war.”

With first world war veterans long passed and second world war veterans fading, it was important to keep the commemoration going, she said. “I have a grandson who is only nine months old and I hope when he is old enough we will still carry on.”

Jackie Sheridan is marching with her husband, Steven, for her great-great-uncle Oliver Davies who was killed in Palestine by a stray bullet while taking the horses to water.
Jackie Sheridan is marching with her husband, Steven, for her great-great-uncle Oliver Davies who was killed in Palestine by a stray bullet while taking the horses to water.
Photograph: Jackie Sheridan


Seventy world leaders are gathering in Paris, where they have walked side by side to commemorate the war in a somber, rain-soaked line as bells finished tolling.

Arriving a few minutes late and in some cases struggling with umbrellas in the wind, they missed the exact moment to commemorate the armistice however. Fighter jets passed overhead as the leaders walked to the Arc de Triomphe.

French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, King Felipe VI of Spain, Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other heads of states and governments arrive to attend a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Dayin Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, King Felipe VI of Spain, Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other heads of states and governments arrive to attend a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Dayin Paris.
Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Macron is now making his way across to begin the official commemorations at this site.


The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

At Ypres, the Last Post has bee sounded at eleven minutes past eleven (local time), the moment when the armistice effect.

It’s worth noting that the armistice was signed much earlier in the morning and that many lost their lives in the hours afterwards.

An undated file photo of the cathedral in the town square of Ypres, Belgium, in ruins after bombing in World War One.
An undated file photo of the cathedral in the town square of Ypres, Belgium, in ruins after bombing in World War One.
Photograph: AP


Nora Anderson lost four sons to the Great War – Charlie, Ronnie, Teddie and Bertie.

The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood writes that that day their descendants will be one family among millions remembering those lost in the ‘war to end all wars’.

“I grew up with this story of the four boys who went to war and never came back,” said Robin Scott-Elliot, Bertie’s great-grandson. “The impact of their loss filtered down through generations.

“As I watch my children grow up, and I think that Bertie never had that, I feel quite emotional.” Bertie – Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Anderson – was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.


Away from the battlefields, the sacrifices at home and those who cared for the returning survivors of the carnage are also being remembered:

Trump criticised over no-show

There has been some criticism of US president Donald Trump for missing a military memorial event on Saturday due to the rain.

The UK veterans minister and former soldier Tobias Ellwood was among those chastising Trump after the cancellation of a visit to a US cemetery in Belleau, northern France, where American soldiers killed in the first world war are buried.

Attending in Trump’s place were the White House chief of staff, retired marine general John Kelly; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, marine general Joe Dunford and several members of the White House staff.

Meanwhile, others have been noting how the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, handled the rain in 2017 at an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe in France during the second world war:


France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, clasped hands on Saturday at a solemn ceremony at Compiègne as they marked the centenary of the armistice signing.

The Guardian’s Kim Willsher was there and writes that it was the first time since 1940 that leaders from the two countries had met at the historic site, where Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the western front, signed the ceasefire agreement with Germany in a railway carriage.

“We owe it to our soldiers,” said Macron afterwards. Symbolically, he and Merkel sat side by side and not face to face as the French and German representatives had in 1918 and 1940.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stand as they take part in a French-German ceremony in Compiegne
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stand as they take part in a French-German ceremony in Compiegne
Photograph: Jacques Witt/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

They then signed the visitors’ book in a replica of Foch’s railway carriage, known as the Compiègne Wagon, where in an act of revenge Adolf Hitler forced France to sign its capitulation in June 1940.

Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sign a guest book inside a replica of the wagon where the Armistice was signed in 1918.
Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sign a guest book inside a replica of the wagon where the Armistice was signed in 1918.


We have pieces exploring a range of facets about the conflict on our website today. They include this fascinating one by David Olusoga, the historian and broadcaster, on the black and Asian troops who fought beside white comrades but who experienced the return of racial subjugation after the armistice.

He writes:

When the guns fell silent in 1918, both victors and vanquished turned against the black and brown men who had fought in what the victory medals then being struck for each allied soldier called “The Great War for Civilisation”.

Among the forces sent to occupy the German Rhineland, under a clause of the armistice, were African American and French African troops.

Whereas German complaints about the deployment of black soldiers in the trenches of the western front had largely failed to arouse international sympathy, now the war was over the propaganda campaign that was launched against the black soldiers of the army of occupation was a profound success, eliciting sympathy from the press and the trade union movement in Britain, and within sections of the public in the US.

Read it in full here.


Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea begins

One of the most innovative commemorative events is already also underway on more than 30 beaches around the UK as part of filmmaker Danny Boyle’s UK-wide Pages of the Sea project for marking the centenary of the end of war.

On the beaches, a large-scale portrait of a casualty from the conflict will be drawn in the sand and washed away as the tide comes in. Full details are the Pages of the Sea website.

The high tide is due at around 10 o’clock in Folkestone, where an image of Wilfred Owen has been drawn in the sand. Hundreds of members of the public are also etching out silhouettes of fallen soldiers.


Here is a schedule of the most high profile events taking place on a global day of commemorations.


• 11am: two-minute silence followed by church bells ringing in unison across Britain.

Pages of the Sea event devised by Danny Boyle. The faces of first world war heroes will be sculpted in sand on 32 beaches.

• 11am: service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall; veterans’ march-past co-ordinated by Royal British Legion.

• 12.30-1.30pm: the ‘People’s Procession’ – 10,000 people who secured tickets in a public ballot to parade past the Cenotaph.

• 5-10pm: 10,000 flames light up the moat around the Tower of London.

• 6.55pm: buglers sound the Last Post at more than 1,000 locations across Britain, and in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, France, Belgium, Canada, the United States and Germany.

• 7pm: first world war beacons of light will burn across the country to signify the light of peace.

• 7.05pm: church and cathedral bells to ring out. 100 town-criers call for peace around the world.


• 10.30am: ceremony at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Somme.

• 10.40am: parade at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in Somme.

• 11am: remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, attended by French president Emmanuel Macron, US president Donald Trump, Russia president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

• 11am: ceremony at Newfoundland Memorial Park, near Beaumont-Hamel, Somme.


• 10.30am: remembrance ceremony at the municipal cemetery of Mons.

• 11am: Last Post service at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Flanders..


Commemorations have also already started in the UK, where more than 100 people gathered before dawn on Sunday in Enniskillen, the first town to hear of the armistice through a radio operator scanning the airwaves.

Those gathered this morning were accompanied by the sound of a lone piper playing ‘When The Battle’s O’er’, a traditional tune played after battle.

The Wilfred Owen poem Anthem For Doomed Youth was read before ministers from the four main churches in the town led prayers of reflection.

The Last Post was played on the bugle that sounded the charge of the 36th Ulster Division at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before a two-minute silence was observed.

The Queen’s representative, the Lord-Lieutenant for County Fermanagh, Viscount Brookborough gave the oration.

“All of our communities served willingly and suffered equally throughout the long years of that war and I am delighted to see so many people here this morning,” he said.

“The Armistice was signed a few minutes after 5am on that 11th day, and we are in Enniskillen, the western most point of this celebration this year.”

People attend a dawn Armistice Day ceremony at Enniskillen Castle in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.
People attend a dawn Armistice Day ceremony at Enniskillen Castle in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.
Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA


Commemorations in Australia and New Zealand

Ceremonies have already been taking place in Australia and New Zealand, where crowds have fallen silent to commemorate the of thousands of those from both countries who gave their lives in the First World War.

Thousands gathered for a national service of remembrance at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison led a minute’s silence at 11am (midnight Saturday GMT).

In Sydney, crowds gathered at the Anzac Memorial, an extension of which was unveiled by the Duke of Sussex during his recent trip with the Duchess of Sussex, while there was also a service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

Some 331,000 Australians served overseas during the first world war, the vast majority of whom fought on the Western Front alongside British soldiers and their allies.

Over 60,000 died in the conflict, more than two-thirds on the battlefields of Europe.

The new water cascade is filled with poppies thrown by visitors to the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park on 11 November 2018 in Sydney, Australia.
The new water cascade is filled with poppies thrown by visitors to the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park on 11 November 2018 in Sydney, Australia.
Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

Earlier, large crowds attended the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington for New Zealand’s main remembrance ceremony, where a minute’s silence was observed at 11am (10pm GMT Saturday).

Nearly 100,000 served in New Zealand units overseas, with around a fifth never returning home.


Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s liveblog coverage of the armistice commemorations.

Events today will mark the culmination of four years of events to commemorate the first world war and those who lost their lives in that conflict.

It’s going to a day of remembrance around Europe, with high-level events concentrated particularly in France, Britain and Belgium, but with countless smaller ceremonies and simple acts of commemoration in towns, villages, and homes.

International Armistice Day commemorations will be led by President Macron in Paris at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which lies at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe monument.

After that ceremony, Chancellor Angela Merkel will join Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, along with leaders and representatives of most of the countries that fought in the conflict at a reception in Versailles to celebrate the opening of the Paris Peace Forum.

In London, a procession of 10,000 people to the Cenotaph later today will remember those who laid down their lives in world war one. The Queen and German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be among those at Westminster Abbey for a service.

I’ll post a fuller schedule shortly, but in the meantime here is a piece from Esther Addley on how communities have been preparing for the armistice centenary.

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Food and Drinks

Four aromatic dal recipes from Karam Sethi


Powered by article titled “Four aromatic dal recipes from Karam Sethi” was written by Karam Sethi, for The Guardian on Saturday 10th November 2018 12.30 Asia/Kolkata

Tempering is a cooking technique used across India and south Asia, in which spices are dry-toasted and/or fried in ghee or oil, and used to flavour curries and dals.

Lasooni dal (pictured above)

Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

200g arhar dal (split yellow lentils)
100g strained yoghurt – about 140g natural yoghurt, strained for five hours
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp yellow chilli powder
15g garlic paste (peeled, finely chopped and ground to a paste)
10g ginger paste (peeled, finely chopped and ground to a paste)
45g ghee

To temper the dal
15g ghee
4 red chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
16 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

Wash the lentils under cold running water until it runs clear. Put in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the yoghurt in a small bowl and set aside.

Drain the lentils and put in a pot with the turmeric, chilli powder and two teaspoons of salt. Cover with about 800ml warm water, bring to a boil, then stir in the garlic and ginger pastes. Cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender – about an hour.

Stir in the yoghurt and ghee, cover the pot and leave to simmer for five minutes. Remove the lid, then season to taste.

To temper the dal, gently melt the ghee in a frying pan on a low heat. Add the whole chillies and stir until they begin to darken, then add the cumin and stir until it starts to crackle. Add the garlic and fry until it turns golden-brown.

Pour the tempering into the dal, cover again and simmer for 10 minutes, so the lentils take on the flavours. Adjust the seasoning to taste, and serve warm with roti or rice.

Tadke chane ki dal

Tadke chane ki dal

Prep 15 min
Cook 2 hr
Serves 4

200g split Bengal gram lentil (or chickpea lentils/chana dal)
2 black cardamom pods
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
10g ghee

To temper the dal
20g ghee
10g garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch asafoetida, also known as hing
20g ginger, finely chopped
7g green chillies, finely chopped
70g onion, finely chopped
140g tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garam masala
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Wash the dal under cold running water until it runs clear, then transfer to a pot. Add three times the volume of water, all the whole spices, salt, turmeric and ghee, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until tender – about two hours.

To temper the dal, heat the ghee in a small kadhai or wok. Add the garlic, asafoetida, ginger and chillies, and fry until they start to brown. Add the onion and fry until light brown, then add the remaining ingredients except the coriander leaves. Cook until the tomatoes are very soft – about 10 minutes.

Put the tempering into the dal pot and stir to mix. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves, season to taste and serve with basmati rice or roti.

Black dal

Black dal

Soak 3 hr
Prep 20 min
Cook 3-6 hr+ (or 20-90 min in a pressure cooker
Serves 4

200g urad dal (black gram lentils)
25g chana dal (chickpea lentils)

50ml vegetable oil, plus 1 tbsp extra for frying
2 tsp salt
1 big tbsp ginger paste (peeled, finely chopped and ground to a paste)
1 big tbsp garlic paste (peeled, finely chopped and ground to a paste)
1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp deggi mirch powder (Indian chilli powder)
160g tomato puree
100g unsalted butter
50ml single cream
2 tsp dried fenugreek leaf, lightly roasted and ground

Wash the dals under cold running water until it runs clear. Put in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for at least three hours.

Drain the dal, tip into a pan, add the oil and salt, then cover with 1.2 litres warm water and cook on a low heat until the grains split and go soft – black dal is like a small, rock-hard bullet, so takes a long time to cook, anything from three to six hours-plus (traditionally, it’s cooked overnight on a charcoal tandoor). Alternatively, cook it in a pressure cooker on medium until done – pressure cookers vary hugely: mine’s a

very old one with a whistle, and it takes about 90 minutes; more modern ones will be much faster.

Heat the tablespoon of oil in a heavy pan, add the ginger and garlic pastes, and stir on medium heat for two minutes, until they start to catch. Add the chilli powders and 100ml water, and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomato puree, cook for 10-15 minutes, then stir into the dal pot and cook for 30 minutes, until combined. Add 90g butter and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cream and fenugreek, cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, then adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with the remaining butter on top.

Yellow dal

Yellow dal

Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4

50g toor dal (pigeon peas)
50g masoor dal (split red lentils)
25g chana dal (chickpea lentils)
1 tsp salt
10g ghee
½ tsp ground turmeric

To temper the dal
1 tbsp vegetable oil
15g ghee
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp asafoetida (also known as hing)
3 red chillies, split lengthways
30g red onion, finely chopped
50g fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Wash all the dals under cold running water until it runs clear. Put in a bowl, cover with warm water, soak for around 30 minutes, then drain.

Tip the dal into a deep casserole, add the salt, ghee and turmeric, add water to cover, then bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and leave to cook until very soft and tender – about an hour.

To temper the dal, heat the oil and ghee in a frying pan, add the cumin and stir until it starts to crackle. Add the garlic, asafoetida and chillies, and stir for two minutes, until they begin to darken.

Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, until it turns golden brown. Stir in the tomatoes and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, for five to six minutes, until very soft. Add all the ground spices and about five tablespoons of water, and stir until the water evaporates and the spices begin to separate.

Tip into the dal pot, mix together and cook for a minute or two, just to combine. Season to taste, garnish with coriander and serve with basmati rice or naan.

Recipes by Karam Sethi, co-owner of Gymkhana, Hoppers, Brigadiers and Trishna restaurants © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Court challenge after Sri Lankan president dissolves parliament


Powered by article titled “Court challenge after Sri Lankan president dissolves parliament” was written by Michael Safi, for on Saturday 10th November 2018 19.07 Asia/Kolkata

The Sri Lankan president’s decision to dissolve parliament and call snap elections, his latest attempt to blast a political rival from the prime minister’s office, will be challenged in the country’s supreme court.

A political crisis in the Indian ocean nation deepened on Friday night when Maithripala Sirisena announced he was dissolving parliament, which opponents said was an illegal order.

A fortnight ago Sirisena purportedly dismissed the country’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. But the attempted switch failed after Rajapaksa’s forces failed to convince enough MPs to join their new coalition – prompting Sirisena to gamble on fresh polls.

The announcement has been condemned by foreign missions in Colombo and labelled unconstitutional by Sirisena’s opponents.

Mangala Samaraweera, the finance minister in Wickremesinghe’s cabinet, said the president had “kicked the constitution in the teeth”.

“We will go to the courts,” Samaraweera said in Colombo. “We will fight in the courts, we will fight in parliament and we will fight at the polls.”

The supreme court challenge will begin on Monday.

Sirisena had appeared to prepare the ground for fresh elections in past days, announcing he had taken over the country’s police department and the state printer, giving him control of the publication of decrees and proclamations.

He also appointed new ministers – giving them access to official resources in the run-up to any vote. If given legal go-ahead, new elections would be held on 5 January.

The US state department condemned the announcement. “The US is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis,” it said in a statement.

“As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.”

Australia also expressed its “concern and disappointment”. “We believe this action undermines Sri Lanka’s long democratic tradition and poses a risk to its stability and prosperity,” the country’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, said. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Spirituality, World

Top Catholic bishop to be questioned over child abuse scandal


Powered by article titled “Top Catholic bishop to be questioned over child abuse scandal” was written by Harriet Sherwood
Religion Correspondent, for The Observer on Saturday 10th November 2018 19.30 Asia/Kolkata

The Roman Catholic church in England will come under intense scrutiny this week over its handling of child sexual abuse and the cover-up of predatory priests by bishops and other senior figures.

Survivors of rape and assault will testify over five days at an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, along with church leaders, officials and child protection experts in a case study examining the archdiocese of Birmingham.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, will give evidence in person on Tuesday – the first time that the most senior Catholic in England has been cross-examined under oath. He was archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009. Bernard Longley, the current archbishop of Birmingham, will also be cross-examined. All other earlier archbishops of the diocese have died.

A series of scandals has shaken the global church this year, embroiling Pope Francis in the biggest crisis of his papacy. At a preliminary hearing in September Alexis Jay, who chairs the sex abuse inquiry, said it would examine “the extent of any institutional failures” by the church in Birmingham to protect children. Birmingham was chosen as a case study because it is the largest archdiocese in England, stretching from Stoke-on-Trent to Reading.

The hearing is expected to focus on the cases of Father Samuel Penney and Father James Robinson, who were convicted of child abuse, and two other priests against whom allegations were made.

Last weekend churches across the archdiocese read out a letter from Longley that said he and Nichols were “at one in our sense of shame and sorrow” over abuse.

Two reports commissioned by the archdiocese had highlighted serious past failures and current areas requiring significant improvement, Longley told parishioners. “We are acting promptly to put their recommendations into action.” The two archbishops were united “in our willingness to assist this public inquiry and to learn from its findings”, he added.

Longley’s letter followed one sent by Nichols in August to all parishes in the diocese of Westminster, in which he said he took personal responsibility for the church’s failures to protect children. “I am utterly ashamed that this evil has, for so long, found a place in our house, our church,” he wrote.

“I bear this shame in a direct way, for it is the direct responsibility of a father to protect his household from harm, no matter how difficult and complex that might be.”

Protesters against clerical sex abuse assemble at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street in Dublin during the pope’s visit in August.
Protesters against clerical sex abuse assemble at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street in Dublin during the pope’s visit in August. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

David Enright, who represents a number of survivors as head of the child abuse team at Howe & Co solicitors, said the church was “structurally incapable of implementing minimum uniform standards of child protection”. The safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be taken out of its hands.

“Not a week goes by where there is not yet another astonishing revelation about child abuse, both here and abroad, perpetrated within the Catholic church. That church is either directly or indirectly involved in the education of almost a million children in Britain, as well as care homes, playgroups, Sunday schools and a plethora of other spaces involving child care,” he said.

“The Catholic church, as currently constituted, in relation to child safeguarding, presents a clear and present danger to British children.”

The pope has come under increasing pressure on the issue this year. He was heavily criticised for his robust defence of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse, and was later forced to apologise and accept the bishop’s resignation.

He was slow to respond to a devastating 900-page grand jury investigation of clerical sex crimes in Pennsylvania, waiting almost a week before writing of the church’s shame.

He made a disastrous visit to Ireland in August, where he appeared unprepared for the hostility of survivors of abuse and the widespread sympathy for them.

A retired Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, publicly called on Francis to resign, claiming the pope had ignored widespread rumours about a former archbishop of Washington, instead favouring him as a papal emissary. Viganò’s incendiary claims were seized on by Francis’s enemies within the Vatican, triggering internecine warfare at the heart of the Catholic hierarchy.

Last month a survey found that Francis’s popularity ratings among US Roman Catholics had plummeted as a result of his perceived mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis.

Britain’s independent inquiry is expected to hold further hearings into child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England next year. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US midterms: campaigning intensifies with a week to go – live


Powered by article titled “US midterms: campaigning intensifies with a week to go – live” was written by Amanda Holpuch in New York, for on Tuesday 30th October 2018 19.10 Asia/Kolkata

A Republican congressman has called for the Democratic midterm election campaign to be “body-slammed.”

In a video posted online by Georgia Democrats, Georgia’s Republican congressman Jody Hice begins by telling an audience in Watkinsville that “the time has come” to stop Democrats, who are favored to regain control of the House of Representatives on 6 November.

Hice’s comments followed Donald Trump’s recent praise of an assault on the Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who was body-slammed to the floor and punched by the Republican congressman Greg Gianforte of Montana on the eve of his special election to Congress last year. After initially lying to the press and police about the attack, Gianforte pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to community service, anger management class and a fine.

Donald Trump’s agenda for today centers around his visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where an antisemitic massacre occurred on Saturday.

The first three funerals for those killed at the Tree of Life synagogue take place today, while residents and city leaders are divided on whether the president should visit.

Trump is scheduled to depart the White House at 2.30pm ET and arrive in Pittsburgh at 3.45pm ET. He is scheduled to return to Washington DC tonight.


This morning’s latest news is Donald Trump’s claim he is preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the US, which would require repealing the 14th amendment of the US constitution: not a small task.

The president cannot unilaterally undo constitutional amendments.

It is the second dramatic immigration-related action Trump has raised in the past 24 hours.

Last night, Trump announced he would deploy 5,200 troops to the US border with Mexico – compared to 2,000 US troops fighting Islamic State in Syria.

Together, these dramatic actions appear to be an effort to fire up his base ahead of the midterms.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said this of the birthright citizenship claim:

The president cannot erase the constitution with an executive order, and the 14th amendment’s citizenship guarantee is clear. This is a transparent and blatantly unconstitutional attempt to sow division and fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms.


Hello and welcome

Good morning and welcome to the Guardian US’s 2018 midterms live blog.

This time next week, Americans will head to their local polling place to cast ballots in the midterm elections. At stake is control of the two chambers of Congress, the House and the Senate. The party who wins will be able to check, or empower, Donald Trump’s agenda.

As the election draws ever closer, we’ll be blogging updates from our reporters on-the-ground, curated bits of the latest election analysis and news from the campaign trail.

Outside of Congress, there are more than 6,600 state jobs up for grabs and thousands of other local positions. Vying for all these local, state and federal seats are an unprecedented number of women, Latinos and educators.

To get you in the spirit of things, I recommend this superb article on how millennials are leading the fight for the soul of the US in Wisconsin, by Guardian US business editor, Dominic Rushe:

And if you want to start at square one, here’s our excellent guide to the midterms: © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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India, Judiciary

Indian minister resigns over #MeToo allegations


Powered by article titled “Indian minister resigns over #MeToo allegations” was written by Michael Safi, for on Wednesday 17th October 2018 20.40 Asia/Kolkata

An Indian minister accused of sexual harassment by more than 20 women has resigned as India’s #MeToo movement widens.

Mobashar Jawed Akbar, a junior foreign minister, submitted his resignation on Tuesday, saying it was appropriate to step down while he presses defamation charges against one of his accusers.

He filed criminal defamation charges on Monday against Priya Ramani, a journalist who wrote in an article last year about being sexually harassed by an unnamed former boss, whom she claimed on social media last week to have been Akbar.

In his court filing, Akbar, 67, a former newspaper editor, said Ramani had “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously” defamed him.

More than 20 women have come forward in the past fortnight accusing Akbar of sexual misconduct including inappropriate staring and touching, forcible kissing and insisting that job interviews be conducted on beds in hotel rooms.

They include Majlie de Puy Kamp, a journalist with CNN in New York, who claimed Akbar kissed her when she was an 18-year-old intern at his newspaper Asian Age in 2007. “What he did was disgusting, he violated my boundaries, betrayed my trust,” she told Huffington Post India.

Akbar has been a prominent figure in Indian public life for decades as a writer, the editor of national newspapers, a confidant of the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and as part of the prime minister Narendra Modi’s government.

He is one of the most prominent among many men accused in recent weeks of sexual harassment or abuse, including bestselling authors, senior journalists, comedians and actors.

The rush of accusations has prompted Indian unions and employer groups to seek guidance on how to manage sexual harassment in the workplace, according to industry sources.

Modi has remained silent as the accusations against Akbar have mounted, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata party’s president, Amit Shah, and several female ministers have acknowledged the allegations and said they are being examined.

The BJP has tried to fashion itself as a champion of Indian women, arguing that policies to improve sanitation and switch to more efficient cooking fuels have disproportionately benefited them.

In a video clip that went viral on Wednesday, a Modi government spokesman appeared to rush away from a press conference after the Akbar case was raised and ignored repeated questions on the issue.

Akbar was in Nigeria on government business when the first allegations emerged and was rumoured to be planning to resign when he returned on Sunday. Instead he claimed the allegations were a political conspiracy and launched criminal proceedings against Ramani.

His response failed to stem the accusations, with 17 women signing a statement on Tuesday accusing him of sexually harassing them.

Ramani said on Twitter:

Akbar’s resignation is a significant development in the country’s burgeoning #MeToo story, but it is unclear whether it will have ramifications for other politicians accused of sexual misconduct.

There are 48 members of parliament across India with cases registered against them relating to crimes against women, a quarter of them members of the BJP, according to statistics from the Association for Democratic Reforms thinktank. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US NEWS, World

UK joins chorus of disapproval after Trump praises assault on Guardian reporter


Powered by article titled “UK joins chorus of disapproval after Trump praises assault on Guardian reporter” was written by Jamiles Lartey in New Orleans, for on Saturday 20th October 2018 07.27 Asia/Kolkata

The British government has joined press freedom advocates and journalists in expressing dismay and disgust with Donald Trump’s remarks at a rally, where he praised the unprovoked assault on a Guardian US journalist by the state’s congressman, Greg Gianforte.

At the Republican rally in Montana on Thursday night, the president lauded and made jokes about the violent attack by Gianforte, when he was a candidate, on the Guardian’s political reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017.

A spokeswoman for the British prime minister, Theresa May, when asked about the president’s remarks, said on Friday: “Any violence or intimidation against a journalist is completely unacceptable.”

Journalists across the US launched into fierce criticism of the congressman, via social media.

“Gianforte is a criminal. He pled guilty to [assault]. The president is congratulating a criminal on committing a crime,” said the New York Times correspondent Binyamin Appelbaum on Twitter.

Trump’s comments “mark the first time the president has openly and directly praised a violent act against a journalist on American soil,” added the New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

Trump fondly reminisced about the physical assault that occurred on 24 May last year when Jacobs, the Guardian’s political correspondent, asked Gianforte a question about healthcare policy in the course of a special congressional election in Montana. At Thursday’s rally, Trump said that anyone who could perform a body-slam, as Gianforte did on Jacobs, was “my guy”, and that news of the attack, which occurred the night before the special election, probably helped Gianforte win.

Trump finished his account of the physical assault by saying of Gianforte: “He’s a great guy. Tough cookie.” The partisan crowd at the rally in Missoula in western Montana clapped and cheered.

On Friday afternoon, on his way to a rally in Arizona, Trump was asked if he regretted the comments. He said: “No, no, no, not at all,” according to a tweet from a CNN reporter traveling with the president. He labelled the rally a tremendous success and called Gianforte a “tremendous person”.

The writers’ organization PEN America, which had filed a lawsuit earlier this week against Donald Trump accusing him of violating the first amendment of the US constitution by using his powerful position to threaten press freedom, has also condemned the president’s encouragement for Gianforte’s attack.

In a statement issued on Friday, PEN America said Trump’s “explicit praise” for Gianforte’s assault “marks a startling new low in terms of the White House’s open hostility toward the press”.

It added: “Trump’s remarks are a chilling reminder that US global leadership on press freedom has collapsed utterly under the president’s watch. In its place is an attitude of contempt, excusing and now even applauding violence toward the press.”

Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, said on Friday: “At a time when reporters around the world are being harassed, arrested and even murdered these are incredibly irresponsible comments, which fly in the face of press freedom and send a dangerous message to autocrats and dictators around the world.”

She added: “The world’s press would welcome a clear statement from the US government that it remains committed to the rights of journalists everywhere to do their work without fear of violence or repression.”

The CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who was at the rally in Montana, observed: “The disturbing part of Trump’s jokes about Gianforte was the effect on the crowd. I saw one young man in the crowd making body-slam gestures. He looked at me and ran his thumb across his throat. I talked to him after the rally was over. He couldn’t stop laughing.”

A number of journalists pointed out how Trump’s comments are especially troubling this week, coming as evidence mounts that the Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is directly linked to the presumed murder of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul earlier this month.

“Tonight [Trump] celebrates an assault on a reporter in Montana at the same time as his Administration tries to minimize the murder of a reporter in Turkey. His words matter, and they reveal his character,” said the New Yorker and CNN contributor Jeffrey Toobin.

The Washington Post executive editor, Marty Baron, referenced a statement issued by the Guardian US editor, John Mulholland, on Thursday night soon after the event, noting that the president’s remarks run “the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world”.

Mulholland’s statement continued: “We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”

On Friday the White House Correspondents’ Association president, Olivier Knox, said: “All Americans should recoil from the president’s praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his constitutionally protected job. This amounts to the celebration of a crime by someone sworn to uphold our laws and an attack on the first amendment by someone who has solemnly pledged to defend it.”

Meanwhile, the president’s son, Eric Trump, defended his father’s comments during an appearance on Fox News. When asked to address the controversy Eric Trump told the host: “Oh, stop. He wasn’t the guy who body-slammed anyone. He can have fun.”

In an appearance on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Friday evening, Jacobs spoke for the first time about hearing the president praise his assault in front of the Montana crowd: “It’s mind-boggling and it’s still a little bit tough to wrap my head around.”

He added: “A tough cookie doesn’t attack someone out of nowhere, without provocation, for asking a question about healthcare policy.”

Asked by Cooper if he would like an apology from Trump, Jacobs replied: “My concern is not about my situation as much as it is with Jamal Khashoggi … [and] the signal this sends about how the United States and how the president of the United States views journalists.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Business Economy Finance, World

China growth slowest since financial crisis as trade war looms – business live


Powered by article titled “China growth slowest since financial crisis as trade war looms – business live” was written by Angela Monaghan, for on Friday 19th October 2018 12.57 Asia/Kolkata

Putting China’s growth figures in context, Neil Wilson at says growth of 6.5% is “a nice problem to have”.

Growth of 6.5% rather than 6.6% is a pretty nice problem to have but the trade war with the US, higher debt levels and a depreciating currency remain a concern.

Any bounce in Chinese stocks needs to be seen in the context of the three-year collapse in equities.

One of the weaker spots in China’s economy was industrial production, with growth slowing to 5.8% year-on-year in September, from 6.1% in August.

Freya Beamish, chief Asia economist at Pantheon, says:

The slowdown makes sense in the context of the sharp downtrend in the manufacturing PMIs in recent months.

The breakdowns available at this stage offer little sign of green shoots. In particular, cement production is falling again, though this could reflect environmental curbs, rather than suggesting that the construction sector is back in the doldrums, after its recent positive contribution.

China growth slows as trade war looms

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

China’s economy grew by 6.5% in the third quarter according to official figures published this morning.

It was the slowest rate since the depths of the financial crisis in the first quarter of 2009, and slightly below economists’ forecasts of 6.6% growth.

It followed growth of 6.7% in the second quarter, and the slowdown of the world’s second largest economy is expected to continue as the effects of China’s trade war with the US are increasingly felt.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, gives his take:

Official GDP growth slowed last quarter consistent with broader evidence that the economy is cooling. There are some early signs in the September data that policy support is starting to gain traction, but we think more easing will still be needed in order to stabilise growth.

Looking ahead, we doubt the latest pick-up in infrastructure spending will be enough to prevent the economy from cooling further in the coming quarters. Policy easing has yet to reverse the downward trajectory in broad credit growth, a key headwind to the economy, and front-loading by US importers means that the impact of tariffs has yet to be felt.

We anticipate a further loosening of both monetary and fiscal policy in the coming months, which should put a floor under growth by about the middle of 2019.

Also coming up today, UK public finance figures for September at 9.30am BST will provide insight into how much spending room the chancellor, Philip Hammond, might have ahead of his budget on 29 October.

Stay with us for updates on the latest news from business and markets. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Trans-Pacific Partnership bill passes the Senate – politics live


Powered by article titled “Trans-Pacific Partnership bill passes the Senate – politics live” was written by Amy Remeikis, for on Wednesday 17th October 2018 07.31 Asia/Kolkata

Scott Morrison was celebrating the TPP this morning ahead of it passing the Senate (as per the PMO transcript)

Can I tell you, I remember when the TPP-11, which now become … when the TPP was then made known. I was treasurer at the time and I was actually in Germany on some G20 business and the number of countries that came to us and said, “Are you still going to push ahead with this? Are you really going to keep going with this? Isn’t it a waste of time?” And I said, “Absolutely.”

The prime minister was saying at the time. And I can’t underscore enough how this agreement demonstrates our government’s commitment to expanding our trade markets.

It’s pretty easy to walk away from these sorts of things, and we saw the opposition um and ah over the China free trade agreement, we saw them actually parody this agreement. Parody what we’ve been able to achieve. And I think that says to every small and family business out there, every business out there, that when it comes to trade, we’ll back you in every time. We won’t walk away, we will always stand up. Australia is an open, trading nation, exporting quality products and services all around the world. We know that, we get that, we’ll back it in every single time.


Liberal senator James Paterson popped up on Sky to talk about why the Israel embassy should move to Jerusalem.

It’s no surprise he is in favour. It’s also a policy that is put forward by the branches at state and national level quite frequently. Until Tuesday, the parliamentary team response was “this won’t be happening”.

“ … It is Israel’s capital. The only question is, should we persist with the fiction, should we pretend it is not really Israel’s capital, or should we pretend another city, to the north is actually Israel’s capital? I don’t think there is any value in pretending, when we know what the truth is.

“ … I would be very surprised if it cost us a free trade agreement, because there are very good reasons for Indonesia to have that free trade agreement, just as there are very good reasons for Australia to have that agreement. It is in both our interests.”


TPP bill passes

The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has passed the Senate.

The Greens were against it, but Labor, despite internal division, supported the legislation, which meant it sailed through.

All five amendment attempts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership bill have been rejected and the Senate is voting on the bill.


Sarah Hanson-Young has put forward this amendment on the TPP debate the Senate is undertaking right now (given Labor’s support for the TPP, this debate is largely a tick and flick):

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (cell at table item 2, column 2), omit the cell, substitute:

If the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, done at Santiago, Chile on 8 March 2018, enters into force for Australia — the first day that:

(a) both of the following amendments of that Agreement are in force for Australia:

(i) an amendment with the effect that Chapter 9 of the Agreement, which deals with investor-State disputes, does not apply in relation to investments within Australia;

(ii) an amendment with the effect that labour market testing must occur in relation to contractual service suppliers entering, or proposing to enter, Australia from all parties to the Agreement; and

(b) another Act is in force that includes provisions with the effect that Australia must not, after the commencement of that Act, enter into a trade agreement with one or more other countries that:

(i) waives labour market testing requirements for workers from those countries; or

(ii) includes an investor-state dispute settlement provision.

However, the provisions do not commence at all unless all of the events mentioned in this item occur.

It was voted down.


More changes at the ABC:

And as I’ve just been reminded, Mark Latham and the Liberal Democrats parted ways in September.

From Rosie Lewis’s story in the Oz:

‘I’ve been a Liberal Democrats member for the past 16 months. In recent times the national executive has been discussing my possible nomination for political candidacy without resolution,’ Mr [Mark] Latham wrote to the LDP.

‘Given the nature of the impasse, I have been advised to run elsewhere. In the circumstances, it’s only fair and reasonable that I ask you to cancel my Liberal Democrats membership please.’

Still – stranger things have happened.


David Leyonhjelm has just got back to me.

He says nothing is final about his own move yet but it’s “likely”.

“Still a few variables to consider but if everything falls into place I will be going to NSW LC,” he said.

There you have it.


Fairfax is reporting David Leyonhjelm will mostly likely leave the federal Senate in February for a tilt at the NSW upper house.

That would make sense – he is up for re-election at the next federal poll and the normal Senate quota of 14. something % seems a lot more difficult for the Liberal Democrats to gain than the NSW legislative council quota, which is 4.22 % (or less, depending on preference flows).

What that means, if he does quit, is the Lib-Dems will have a casual vacancy. Could we see Mark Latham returned to the parliament, even if just for a few months?

Stranger things have happened.

We’ve sent a message to the senator, to see what’s up.


For those who haven’t seen Helen Davidson’s story on Nauru:

Nauruan authorities have arrested and ordered the removal of the senior medical officer for Australia’s immigration processing centre, an Australian doctor, according to sources on the island.

According to separate sources, Dr Nicole Montana, senior medical officer for Australia’s health contractor, IHMS, was arrested on Tuesday night and ordered to leave.

A spokeswoman for IHMS would not confirm the arrest but said Montana was stood down on Tuesday “for a breach of Regional Processing Centre rules”.

“She is departing Nauru today. A replacement senior medical officer is already in Nauru, there has been no impact on the services provided to transferees.”

Expect this to only turn up the heat on the call of the Australian Medical Association and others to bring children and their families to Australia for treatment.


As Katharine Murphy mentioned yesterday, Orthodox Jewish people will have already voted in Wentworth. Because you know, there is that little thing called the Sabbath, which tends to count Saturdays out.

Which makes the “discussion” we are having about moving the embassy in Israel even more ridiculous.

The pre-vote figures from the AEC play some of that out.


The diplomatic fallout from the “proposed discussion” is continuing on its merry way:


Just as a reminder, here is what Michael McCormack had to say about the Nationals’ leadership issues, which have begun swirling around again now that Barnaby Joyce has decided he has spent enough time in political purgatory:

I will never, ever, background a journalist, and I think there is a cancer in Canberra at the moment, and it’s people who background journalists. It’s no good for politics. It’s no good for parliament. It’s true, I have to say: there are people opposite who also background journalists. You’ll find out. You’ll find out for sure. You already are finding out.

But you know what? The Australian people expect better. They expect better from politicians. I see the member for Sydney nodding, because she agrees. Whether it’s the Nats or whether it’s the Liberal party or whether it’s the Labor party, you know what? The Australian public just want us to focus on what’s important to them.

It was a shot across the bow, for shizzle, but might have landed better if his party was listening. Parts of it seem to be. Just not maybe the parts he needs.


The government has again refused to table the Philip Ruddock-led review into religious freedoms to the Senate:

Mathias Cormann had this to say about it:

The Ruddock report was commissioned by cabinet for the express purpose of informing cabinet deliberations in relation to a range of matters related to religious freedom. It was provided to the government in May. In due course, cabinet will finalise its response to the report’s recommendations. As such, the deliberative processes of cabinet in relation to the report provided to the government by the expert panel have yet to be completed.

I hasten to add, again, that the deliberative process of cabinet does not just commence with the consideration by the full cabinet of a final submission with a final set of recommendations. The deliberative process of cabinet actually begins with the relevant minister or ministers putting together a draft submission, and the work leading up to the putting-together of a draft submission, which ultimately is destined to be considered by cabinet.

Clearly the document referred to in the motion is the central input into a deliberative process of cabinet. While the report and the response have not yet been considered by the full cabinet, the report has already informed and continues to inform the deliberative process of cabinet. As is well recognised in the Westminster system, it is in the public interest to preserve the confidentiality of cabinet deliberations, to ensure the best possible decisions are made following thorough consideration and discussion of relevant proposals within cabinet. The release of this document at this time would harm the public interest, in that it would interfere with the deliberative processes of cabinet and good decision-making.

The government will release the report in due course, following proper consideration of its recommendations by government through the deliberative processes of cabinet. Indeed, we will release the report together with the government’s response to it.


Parliament’s Gossip Girl Derryn Hinch is spilling the tea on Senate corridor movements:

XOXO indeed.

And it comes on the back of this:


Just for a change of pace, and because we need a little bit of inspiring news from time to time, this is also something that is happening from our little place on the hill:

Greg Hunt will be waving Alan Staines off on his walk tomorrow morning. Alan wants to raise awareness around Australia’s suicide rate, because of just how many lives it touches.

“Deaths in Australia due to suicide now exceed motor vehicle accidents, war, natural disasters and homicides combined. The hidden costs of suicidal behaviour are estimated to be $17 billion a year. And yet there is little attention given to the issue of suicide,” he said.

He’s not alone – there has been a concerted effort from organisations in the mental health and health sector to get the government to pay more attention to this.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636


We are three days out from polls closing on Wentworth, where the Liberal party are scrambling to hold on to its one-seat majority in the House of Reps.

Now, the polls are bad. Single-seat polls are notoriously difficult to get right because, well, the samples are a bit hinky and we have seen time and time again the polls predict the exactly wrong result.

But the Liberal party showed just how worried it is when Scott Morrison came out on Tuesday, having briefed parts of the media on Monday night, that he was open to the discussion that Australia should move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

That had nothing to do with Wentworth, we were told. Nothing at all. And it definately has nothing to do with the almost 13% of voters in Wentworth who practice Judaism. That would be an offensive conclusion to draw. He just wanted to discuss it because, you know, that’s what prime ministers do. Discuss potentially tearing up decades of foreign policy, and going against 90 % of the world a week out from a crucial byelection with a large Jewish population, just because.

The Liberals, thanks to Malcolm Turnbull, hold Wentworth by almost 18%. It was a 2.5% margin in 2007, so Turnbull not only worked that seat, he put his thing down, flipped it and reversed it.

And still the government is worried it could lose it. And with it, its majority in the parliament (although Cathy McGowan has confirmed she will still give the government confidence*).

Do they have a right to be so worried, given that margin?

Well, thanks to one of the wags who likes to sprinkle my days with fun political facts, and the occasional Kate Bushism, I can tell you that the three worst byelection results since the war were:

Bass (1975) – swing against the Labor govt was 14.6%

Canberra (1995) – swing against the Labor govt was 16.1%

Werriwa (1952) – swing against the Lib govt was 12.4% (though seat did not change hands)

In Bass and Canberra, the government also lost power.

After the 2015 Queensland election, where Labor went from nine seats to government, I would never underestimate voter anger. It just depends how angry the people of Wentworth actually are.

*oops, accidentally typed supply the first time. Well spotted.


And on that absolute masterclass in bell-endery (a few of you pointed this out in the comments last night), Luke Howarth, whose seat of Petrie sits smack back in One Nation territory, had a slightly different take on the issue during his Sky interview yesterday:

“At the end of the day, I think this has been blown out of all proportion,” he said.

… What we are seeing from Pauline Hanson and the Labor party in the House of Reps today [Tuesday] is everything people in my electorate hate about Canberra. So if you go to people in my electorate and say, ‘well, it’s okay to be white’, most people would have no idea what you are referring about. They’d go ‘well, of course it is’. But down here, they are in this little bubble where One Nation and Labor want to play games and the fact is people on the ground think ‘what the hell are you guys doing down there’.

On Scott Morrison coming out and saying it was “regrettable”, Howarth had this to say:

“Well, I believe that was a mistake by the government as well, we should have just let it die.”

… I believe the government should have just let it die yesterday [Monday] and I think the opposition were wrong to raise it again in the House of Reps again today [Tuesday].

They should have just come out and said straight forward that the reason why they voted for it was because when you read what Senator Hanson said by itself it is fine, but when you put it in the context of what the Labor party raised, saying it was from a white supremacist group in the US, and not being a US MP I wasn’t aware of it, it has [been] given it more air time.


Michelle Grattan, who checks, double checks and then checks her information again (as do we, but for context) wrote about the monumental stuff-up, which was the “administrative error” that saw the government vote yes when it meant no.

From her the Conversation article:

When these Senate motions – on average there are 50-60 every sitting week – come, the government asks the relevant ministerial office to advise. In this case, it was the office of Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Porter says his staff interpreted Hanson’s [motion] as “a motion opposing racism. The associations of the language were not picked up”. An email was sent – advising support – “without my knowledge”.

Porter put the blame on his staff – in fact two were involved – for misinterpreting the motion and so failing to “escalate” it up to him.

One would have thought ministerial staff would be particularly alert to Hanson motions, and think very carefully before concluding she was doing something as unlikely as putting forward an anti-racist one.

Porter’s office gave its first advice in September, when the motion was lodged.

But in a tactics meeting, Mathias Cormann, who is Senate leader, overrode the view from the Porter office.

The Senate leadership decided the Coalition would oppose the motion, accompanying its opposition with a statement that the government condemned all forms of racism.

The motion was expected to come to a vote on September 20 but the Senate ran out of time.

When the motion was looming this week, unbeknown to Cormann, fresh advice was sought from Porter’s office, which again declared it should be supported.

Cormann was paired and not in the chamber when it was dealt with; he only found out the government had voted for it after the event (it was defeated 31-28). Cormann hadn’t been informed that his earlier decision had been overridden by the latest advice from the Porter office. Another failure of “escalation”.

Cormann threw himself under the blame bus on Tuesday, but actually he’d tried earlier to stop the government being run over by the Hanson truck.

Which might explain why Cormann looked like he wanted to rock under a desk for most of yesterday. But at least he stepped up and took the blame. You know who we didn’t get a press conference from yesterday? Porter.


Who doesn’t love the smell of a diplomatic storm in the morning?

Despite numerous, numerous reports that Indonesia is pretty cranky at the suggestion we might even be considering moving our Israeli embassy, and the cloud that puts over the trade agreement we have signed with them, Scott Morrison says everything is fine.

The Indonesian trade minister has discounted that report. That doesn’t surprise me. We have been in close engagement with Indonesia and we share one important value in common – we both believe in a two-state solution and that is the basis of the comments I have made today.

Anyone who follows Indonesian foreign policy knows that ministers can say something, and then policy can change on a dime.

Which is why all our foreign policy wonks are warning us not to do it.


Speaking of Nauru and Manus Island, today’s press club address is by Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

He’s speaking on the “global trends of war and their humanitarian impacts”. Given that Australia is involved in some of those global trends of war, and knows exactly what the humanitarian impacts can be, it should be quite interesting.


Good morning

The Morrison government has woken to wall-to-wall bad headlines, featuring its allies warning it against walking away from a foreign policy Australia has held for decades, just days out from a byelection that will decide whether it holds on to its one-seat majority or not.

And it is an entire self-own.

Scott Morrison’s decision to have a “discussion” about whether or not Australia should move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem has gone down like a lead balloon with key trading partners and traditional allies.

The only one who seems happy, other than Israel, is America, with Donald Trump embracing the fact someone else might be following his path.

So now Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, who has been sent out over the past 24 hours to talk about how talking about this is not a bad talk to have, are now defending that talk, while batting away any mention of the “Wentworth byelection”.

The “proposed discussion” has been roundly criticised for it’s timing. Morrison is desperately trying to come up with reasons why it’s not about Wentworth, but given the announcement, which came out of the blue, and on the back of some bad polling for the Liberals, he is not having much luck.

We’ll follow that, and the latest on Nauru, with the parliament now waking up to the fact that the public probably isn’t so cool with leaving asylum seekers to sit in Nauru and Manus Island indefinitely. Members of the Liberal backbench – the same ones who were largely steamrolled by their more conservative colleagues on practically every issue under the sun – are now speaking up, loudly, that they want a solution too.

But it’s become snagged on the “lifetime ban” clause the government wants to put on the asylum seekers. Labor and the Greens say no and so do enough of the crossbench, that the legislation has been sitting there in the twilight zone.

Mike Bowers is still on assignment, so it’s just me and the Guardian’s brains trust this morning. I hope you have had your coffee, because if yesterday was any indication, it is going to be a doozy.


Let’s get into it.

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Australia mulls Jerusalem embassy move: what happened and why it matters


Powered by article titled “Australia mulls Jerusalem embassy move: what happened and why it matters” was written by Kate Lyons, for on Tuesday 16th October 2018 09.48 Asia/Kolkata

What just happened?

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has raised the possibility of moving Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognising Jerusalem as the country’s capital, in a move that would mirror Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy earlier this year.

Morrison said on Tuesday Australia remained committed to a two-state solution, “but frankly, it hasn’t been going that well. Not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

Why now?

The government says it is floating the idea because of the upcoming vote on the UN general assembly resolution on the Palestinian Authority chairing the G77 – a coalition of developing nations, which are able to negotiate as a bloc at the UN.

However, there is speculation the real reason lies closer to home: a byelection this weekend in the Sydney seat of Wentworth, once held by ousted PM Malcolm Turnbull.

If the reigning Liberal party lose the seat, as is possible, they also lose their one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, so they have thrown a huge amount of money and effort behind their candidate Dave Sharma. He is a former Australian ambassador to Israel. Wentworth has a significant Jewish population and the policy shift is being seen as an attempt to win over these voters.

Bishop George Browning, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, said it must be “the first time in Australian political life that a government has tried to shore up its chances in a byelection by using foreign policy”.

Why is this move so important?

Broad international consensus has been that Jerusalem’s status should be settled in a peace deal. In 1967, Israeli forces occupied and later annexed eastern parts of the city, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

As the Guardian’s former Middle East editor Ian Black wrote: “Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. The holy city has been at the centre of peace-making efforts for decades.”

Donald Trump’s announcement he would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year threatened “to smash a long-standing international consensus in a disruptive and dangerous way”, wrote Black.

Obviously, Australia is not nearly as important a player in the Middle East peace process as the US, but the move would be an example of a further weakening of this international consensus.

What happened when Trump moved the US embassy?

The new US embassy opened in Jerusalem in May this year, leading to protests and deadly reprisals. Fifty-eight Palestinians were killed and 1,2000 wounded during the protests in Gaza.

Who else has moved their embassy there?

The United States, Guatemala and Paraguay all moved their embassies to Jerusalem in May, though Paraguay moved its embassy back to Tel Aviv just three months later. Israel was furious and retaliated by closing its embassy in Asunción and recalling its ambassador.

What will the likely reaction be?

Israel is thrilled. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tweeted that he is “very thankful” to Scott Morrison for the announcement and that “we will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia”.

The head of the Palestinian diplomatic delegation to Australia, Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, called Morrison’s comments “deeply disturbing” and hosted an emergency meeting of representatives from 13 Middle Eastern embassies in Canberra to discuss the proposal.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, and one of Australia’s most important neighbours, is reportedly considering suspending a trade deal with Australia over Morrison’s comments. Morrison was asked about these reports in parliament on Tuesday and said he had discussed the subject with Indonesian president Joko Widodo and was “very pleased with the response that have received from President Joko Widodo”.

There has so far been no reaction from Donald Trump, though it seems likely he will be happy Australia has followed his lead. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Arts Culture Books Features

The Da Vinci mystery: why is his $450m masterpiece really being kept under wraps?


Powered by article titled “The Da Vinci mystery: why is his $450m masterpiece really being kept under wraps?” was written by Jonathan Jones, for on Sunday 14th October 2018 19.30 Asia/Kolkata

In May 2008, some of the world’s greatest Leonardo da Vinci experts stood around an easel in a skylit studio high above Trafalgar Square. The object they had been invited to scrutinise, in the conservation department of the National Gallery, was a painting on a panel of walnut wood. It showed a long-haired, bearded man gazing straight ahead with one hand raised in blessing, the other holding a transparent sphere.

“There’s a mixture of being excited but not getting caught up in it,” says Martin Kemp, the eminent art historian who was there that Monday. “I try to keep a gravitational pull going, saying, ‘This can’t be right.’” Yet the thrill in the room was tangible. The painting had “presence”, felt Kemp, and there was no dissent.

That day, a long-forgotten old picture was authenticated as Leonardo’s lost masterpiece, Salvator Mundi (Latin for Saviour of the World). Three years later, in November 2011, this portrait of Christ was unveiled for the first time in the National Gallery’s blockbuster Leonardo exhibition. Six years after that, it became the most expensive painting ever auctioned, when it sold at Christie’s for the stupendous sum of $450.3m (£342.1m).

Then, last month, something perplexing happened. Salvator Mundi had been purchased from Christie’s for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Its unveiling was scheduled for 18 September – a big moment. But at the start of September, this was suddenly and mysteriously postponed. “Further details will be announced soon,” said the official statement.

Record sum … excitement at Christie’s New York as bidding neared its end on 15 November last year.
Record sum … excitement at Christie’s New York as bidding neared its end on 15 November last year. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock

There has been no further announcement and my enquiries were met by just a resending of the statement. Kemp admits he’s in the dark but insists: “It isn’t a matter of cold feet.” That’s how it looks, though.

Even as the auctioneer’s hammer went down, a chorus of scepticism was creating uncertainty around Salvator Mundi. Had those experts at the National Gallery been taken for a ride? One insider summed up the situation to me bluntly: “It’s not very good.” Stories have emerged that complicate its provenance or history. Matthew Landrus, an Oxford academic, has even gone public with the claim that, far from being a Leonardo, this work was largely done by his third-rate imitator, Bernardino Luini.

But if the Louvre Abu Dhabi really has got doubts about Salvator Mundi, they will most likely be about its condition. For there really is a problem with this painting and it is there for anyone to see. If the Louvre – both its new outpost and its home in Paris, which has the most sophisticated conservation technology on Earth – has not yet spotted the issue, all its curators need to do is check out an Instagram post that materialised just after the painting’s sale last year.

Thomas Campbell, former director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, wrote: “450 million dollars?! Hope the buyer understands conservation issues.” The accompanying picture shows Salvator Mundi in the middle of its restoration. All the previous repaints have been cleaned off to reveal an image with streaky gaps, including a sizeable few running from top to bottom. The implication was that the painting as sold by Christie’s is over-restored. When challenged, Campbell added: “Was simply remarking, as so many others have, on extensive amount of conservation.”

Cancellation … the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which was due to show the work.
Cancellation … the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which was due to show the work. Photograph: AFP/Getty

In fact, the photograph was something of a bombshell, a glimpse of a painting that looks dramatically different from the restored version. Time had left Christ partly bald, with impaired eyes, yet the face was truly beautiful – smooth and harmonious but anatomically precise. It is completely different, in tone and feeling, from the smoky, ambiguous appearance of the painting today, after its full treatment by the respected restorer Dianne Dwyer Modestini.

The image in Campbell’s post was cropped and blurry but the Guardian is today publishing a high-definition version. If the scars of age are even more visible, so is the youthful beauty of Christ. He looks like just the kind of androgynous, long-haired model Leonardo loved to portray and, said his 16th-century biographer Vasari, surround himself with, in a workshop that was the Renaissance precursor to Warhol’s Factory.

It was Martin Clayton, curator of Leonardo’s drawings at the Royal Library in Windsor Castle, who suggested I check out Campbell’s post and drew my attention to the startling differences between the painting after it was cleaned and its appearance now. “Photographs seem to show that, before it was touched up, it was all Leonardo,” he says. “They show the painting mid-restoration – and it looks as if the subsequent retouching has obscured the quality of the face.” Clayton is not questioning the painting’s authenticity. He’s suggesting that a very pure Leonardo has been partly “obscured”.

I took this troubling theory to Robert Simon, the man who discovered Salvator Mundi along with two business partners. They bought this apparently insignificant picture at a Louisiana auction in 2005. Simon is passionate about Leonardo and, when he started to think this was something more than a bad copy, set about carefully researching its provenance, while bringing in Modestini to restore it. “The most important decision was not to treat this as a simple commercial decision,” he says. Instead, the work was carried out in accordance with “a very slow, prepared and not rushed plan”.

Timeworn beauty … full view of the cleaned-up painting.
Timeworn beauty … full view of the cleaned-up painting. Photograph: Courtesy Dianne Modestini / © 2011 Salvator Mundi LLC

It paid off when they showed the partly retouched painting to Nicholas Penny, who was then about to take over as director of the National Gallery in London. “He got it. He said, ‘I think you have an interesting problem: how do you approach something that seems almost impossible?’”

Penny was right. The discovery of a previously unknown painting by Leonardo does seem “almost impossible”. Only about 20 paintings by him survive. Others are known to have been lost or destroyed, but he was never prolific. Those few existing paintings have been treasured, making the reappearance of a forgotten one even less likely.

Penny’s solution was to bring the painting to the National Gallery and set up that expert viewing. Then it was shown for the first time in the uniquely authoritative setting of the gallery’s Leonardo exhibition. In 2013, just a year after the exhibition finished, Simon and his partners sold Salvator Mundi through Sotheby’s to a middleman for a Russian art collector, who later sold it for that record-breaking price.

Yet, even before it reached the National Gallery, the painting had been worked on. Simon confirms that it was partly “in-painted” before being shown to experts, including Penny. Why didn’t he leave the painting in its raw yet beautiful state after it was stripped down? Wasn’t that an incredible object in itself?

“The painting was powerful as it was without further treatment,” he says. “We considered leaving it, considered more limited restoration, as well as a more extensive one.” These were not casual decisions, he insists. “Part of our final decision was made with the understanding that to leave the painting ‘raw’ would inevitably cause viewers to focus on the losses and not on what survived.

“In the end, we decided to do what we felt was best for the picture. That might sound false or corny, but it was out of a profound respect for the painting itself that we felt that bringing it back to life as much as possible was the right way to go.”

Simon absolutely rejects the possibility of any “falsehood” being introduced. “I found [Campbell’s] comments both ill-informed and offensive,” he says. As for the repainting, he regards that as a loaded term. “‘Inpainting’ is the right way to describe what has occurred here – retouching restricted to areas of loss. In the restoration, no original paint was covered.”

Excessive restoration? … how the work looked at auction, when it became the world’s most expensive painting.
Excessive restoration? … how the work looked at auction, when it became the world’s most expensive painting. Photograph: Reuters

That last claim doesn’t seem right, however, when it comes to the hand of Christ raised in blessing. When the painting was cleaned, it turned out Christ had two right thumbs. This is what art historians call a “pentimento” – literally, a repentance, used to mean a second thought. If the artist had such a second thought, it’s regarded as evidence that this is an original, not a copy – as why would a copier have second thoughts?

This explains why the thumb was left with its pentimento when it was shown to those experts, even though some in-painting had been done. However, by the time of its public unveiling in 2011, Christ’s hand had just a single thumb. “Both thumbs,” says Kemp of the painting’s raw state, “are rather better than the one painted by Dianne.”

So a crucial piece of evidence that Leonardo painted Salvator Mundi also suggests that its restoration has been excessive and has muffled its power. Ironically, this seems to make the work both an original and, in my view, a kind of kitsch concoction.

Kemp has a further point to make. One of the rules of all public museums, he says, “is that you don’t exhibit something that’s on the market. The National Gallery received an assurance that it was not – but if it’s owned by three dealers, that doesn’t make a great deal of sense.”

Perhaps it was institutional embarrassment about the decision to work with a group of art dealers to authenticate a Leonardo that explains why no expert at the National Gallery – nor those involved with it who have since left – would be interviewed. Perhaps not.

An official statement said: “The National Gallery makes careful consideration before including any picture that is in private hands in an exhibition. It weighs up the advantage in including it – the benefit to the public in seeing the work, the advantage to the argument and scholarship of the exhibition as a whole. On that occasion, we felt that it would be of great interest to include Salvator Mundi in Leonardo da Vinci: Painter of the Court of Milan as a new discovery, as it was an important opportunity to test a new attribution by direct comparison with works universally accepted as Leonardo’s.”

It was indeed a haunting thing to see. Was I looking at something that was a work of genius, or a smoky imitation of Leonardo’s style that turns his brilliance to mush? Surely it would have been more true to the greatest artist who ever lived to let his timeworn masterpiece speak to us directly. Is the Louvre Abu Dhabi taking a closer look at what it has? I think it should.

Living with Leonardo: Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World by Martin Kemp is published by Thames and Hudson. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Rise of robots ‘could see workers enjoy four-day weeks’


Powered by article titled “Rise of robots ‘could see workers enjoy four-day weeks’” was written by Michael Savage Policy editor, for The Observer on Saturday 13th October 2018 21.32 Asia/Kolkata

A four-day working week could become commonplace in Britain as automation and artificial intelligence increase workplace efficiency, a new study has concluded.

If the benefits of rolling out such new technologies were passed on to staff, then they would be able to generate their current weekly economic output in just four days. The research, by the cross-party Social Market Foundation (SMF) thinktank, found that even relatively modest gains from using robots and AI had the potential to give British workers Scandinavian levels of leisure time.

The conclusions of the study will come as a boost to John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, who wants to look at reducing hours in the working week. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady used her speech to the organisation’s annual gathering last month to call for a four-day working week, saying that it should be achievable by the end of the century. She also attacked the likes of Amazon chief Jeff Bezos for overseeing a trillion-dollar company while “his workers are collapsing on the job exhausted”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell wants to look at reducing hours in the working week.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell wants to look at reducing hours in the working week. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

While Labour is prioritising policies to deal with the insecurities of the gig economy in its next manifesto, McDonnell told the Observer: “We are interested in the TUC’s proposals in how the benefits of automation, robotics and AI of the fourth industrial revolution are shared with the workers, both in rewards and potentially a shorter working week. Work-life balance is increasingly coming on to society’s agenda.”

British employees currently work longer hours on average than most of their European counterparts, while at the same time the UK has seen a slump in productivity. The typical British worker spends 42 hours a week at work but produces 16% less on average than counterparts in other leading economies, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The SMF analysis suggests that a 10% gain in workforce productivity could allow employers to produce the same output with a 38-hour week, assuming pay and employer profits remained the same. It would give British employees the same working week that Norwegians and Danes currently enjoy. A 30% productivity gain could allow the working week to fall to just 32 hours, or a standard four-day working week.

While new technologies could bring economic rewards for employers, the SMF also warned that without the right government policies the workforce may not see any benefits.

It called for big companies to be required to report their average profit per employee and to show how this is changing relative to wages. It also called on chancellor Philip Hammond to use his budget at the end of this month to give tax breaks to workers trying to improve their skills.

Scott Corfe, the SMF’s chief economist who authored the report, said: “Robots, AI and big data could dramatically change society for the better, addressing the UK’s productivity crisis and creating more enjoyable work as mundane tasks are automated. If we manage this revolution properly, workers will get new choices, including whether to reduce their working week and having more leisure time.

“However, it also brings challenges. Some firms are using new technologies to micromanage and monitor every movement of staff – including how long they spend in the toilet. We need to ensure that technology is rolled out in an ethical way that maintains the dignity of work, and that workers are properly consulted.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Sri Lanka, the land of the disappeared​ – a photo essay​


Powered by article titled “Sri Lanka, the land of the disappeared – a photo essay ” was written by Tim Adams, for The Observer on Saturday 13th October 2018 18.30 Asia/Kolkata

It is nearly a decade since the civil war in Sri Lanka ended, but for many families the long struggle will never be over. During the conflict, many thousands of people from the minority Tamil community in the north of the country were “disappeared”. Amnesty International estimates that there are at least 60,000 of these “missing” people, perhaps as many as 100,000. Their families do not know if they were killed or imprisoned by the government forces. Many were teenagers or young adults when they were lost.

The photographer Moises Saman travelled in the north of Sri Lanka earlier this year. His pictures are an attempt to photograph absence. They are haunted by the memory of the people who should be in them. You see those people, perhaps, in the empty rooms and the empty landscapes, in the ruined houses and the unslept-in beds.

They are certainly, brutally, present in the piles of long-discarded clothing in the fields outside the coastal village of Mullivaikal, the “safe zone” to which Tamil civilians were advised to retreat when the war between government forces and the ruthless guerrillas of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) reached its bloody conclusion in 2009.

Yesudasan Francisca, 70
Yesudasan Francisca, 70, whose son disappeared in 1996 during an army raid on her village on the outskirts of Jaffna. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
  • Yesudasan Francisca, 70, whose son disappeared in 1996 during an army raid on her village on the outskirts of Jaffna

A subsequent UN report estimated the 40,000 civilians were killed in the indiscriminate shelling in those final months of the war. The twisted piles of rags are one legacy of that loss. Above all, though, you see the missing in Saman’s photographs in the sloped shoulders and hollow eyes of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

Almost no one on Earth has got closer to the reality of war and its aftermath in recent years than Saman. The photographer, invited to join the Magnum agency in 2010, has spent nearly 20 years on the front line of conflicts across the world, working for the New Yorker, the New York Times and Human Rights Watch, among others. He photographed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, its long aftermath, and the war against Isis in Mosul and beyond. He covered the conflicts that followed the Arab spring, based for four years in Syria, Egypt and Libya. He has lately documented the state terrorism against the Rohingya people and their forced exodus from Myanmar.

Speaking on the phone from his current home in New York, he suggests that his photographs from Sri Lanka represent the developing theme of his work: the ways that wars leave their indelible traces, long after the world’s attention and the news cycle have moved on.

I wondered how easy it was to move around those northern provinces now and to get people to open up to him about their distressing personal histories.

The ruins of an outdoor theatre destroyed during the civil war in Point Pedro. The town came briefly under the control of the Tamil Tigers during the early 1990s.
The ruins of an outdoor theatre destroyed during the civil war in Point Pedro. The town came briefly under the control of the Tamil Tigers during the early 1990s. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
  • The ruins of an outdoor theatre destroyed during the civil war in Point Pedro. The town came briefly under the control of the Tamil Tigers during the early 1990s

“Like all stories,” he says, “it was not clear at the beginning how difficult it was going to be. But I was helped by the fact that there is currently this big protest movement led by the mothers of the disappeared, demanding to know what happened to their children. People were speaking out, so I was there at the right time, though it’s true that the north of Sri Lanka is still quite a militarised area. Many people remain fearful of the police and the army.”

Though there have been some official gestures toward reconciliation, he suggests that the situation surrounding the missing people is unlikely to be resolved and is hardly even being confronted. “A lot of what went on has been forgotten, certainly in the outside world,” he says. “When people think of Sri Lanka now, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not the civil war. It is the tourism, the beaches. It is a really beautiful place, but there is also this historical memory. While some agencies such as the UN are actively trying to find out what occurred there is little political will. There are still a few trials going on, but the truth is very hard to find.”

Having spent so long near the front lines of wars, I wonder if these kinds of assignments represent for him a desire to step back a little and to see a bigger picture.

“I am spending my time,” he says, “searching for the threads that connect the things I have seen. Part of that is the ambiguity of the relationship between victims and perpetrators – how does that work itself out? That post-conflict situation, watching history actively rewritten by the victors, is a complicated theme, but it is being on the ground for so long that allows you to see some of the forces at play.”

A makeshift memorial commemorating the massacre of Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan army near the end of the war.
A makeshift memorial commemorating the massacre of Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan army near the end of the war. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
  • A makeshift memorial commemorating the massacre of Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan army near the end of the war

The blueprint for this kind of looking, for Saman, came in his work in the Middle East. When he first went to cover the invasion of Iraq he did not imagine it would become a way of life. The work became more personal when he married an Iraqi-Kurdish woman, which, he says, “opened up a completely new set of questions for me”.

As that obsessive curiosity developed, Saman found himself close to the revolutions that began in Tunisia in late 2010. Many of the pictures he took in the Arab spring became a book called Discordia, an emotional, subjective response to the accepted narratives of those events.“Over these years,” Saman explained, of his book, “the many revolutions overlapped and in my mind became one blur, one story in itself. In order to tell this story the way I experienced it, I felt the need to transcend a linear journalistic language and instead create a new narrative that combined the multitude of voices, emotions and the lasting uncertainty I felt.” The book included a series of photo collages that explored the repetition of human gestures that Saman saw time after time, patterns of behaviour that went beyond the specifics of their time and place. He wants his work to be alive to those kinds of patterns, the quieter moments of a story that are not news driven.

“I am increasingly interested in what happens after the guns fall silent,” he says. “As I grow older [he is 44] this is where my interest lies.” Discordia was a change of direction or a statement of intent. “Putting that book together was a shift for me, into trying not to put all my focus into documenting the news as it happens. I am interested in trying to build a story in a series of pictures that are not all immediately eye-grabbing.” He has become more interested in ambiguity and doubt, rather than the black-and-white certainties of headline news.

An empty room in the village of Keppapulavu, northern Sri Lanka, now abandoned by its former Tamil owners.
An empty room in the village of Keppapulavu, northern Sri Lanka, now abandoned by its former Tamil owners. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
  • An empty room in the village of Keppapulavu, northern Sri Lanka, now abandoned by its former Tamil owners

The reality is, of course, that there is often less commercial appetite for such an approach: it requires patience, time on the ground, a willingness to stick around after the focus has moved somewhere else. News magazines can often no longer support such an investment, Saman acknowledges, so like many documentary photographers he pieces together a living from grant applications and partnerships with NGOs as well as editorial commissions. The Sri Lanka story was sponsored originally by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

The other difficulty with post-conflict – as opposed to conflict – stories is that they have no easily discernible end. Saman is working on a book about his 16 years covering the war in Iraq, which promises to be a definitive document of that long conflict. His problem is that “the ending remains unclear”. When do you say you have the final chapter? He is heading out again in search of it next month.

Do the extreme dangers of the work – at a time when journalists have apparently become legitimate targets of war – still trouble him or has he just got used to them?

“That hasn’t got any easier,” he says, “but the more you find yourself working in these environments it becomes something like second nature in picking up the mood around you. But that is obviously not guaranteed, as many very experienced reporters and photographers have found. Things are extremely unpredictable.”

A Tamil woman returns to her home years after the Sri Lankan army confiscated the property and land after the end of the war in 2009.
A Tamil woman returns to her home years after the Sri Lankan army confiscated the property and land after the end of the war in 2009. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
  • A Tamil woman returns to her home years after the Sri Lankan army confiscated the property and land after the end of the war in 2009

One advantage he has had, he suggests, is that he is hard to place. He was born in Peru, grew up in Spain, has lived in Tokyo as well as the Middle East and New York. “To some degree, that can help deflect attention,” he says. But the moment you open your mouth, that dynamic changes. “When you start interacting, if you are a foreigner, it very quickly becomes apparent.”

I can’t imagine living that life without a sense of vocation, I say, almost a compulsion to bear witness. Does he ever question that impulse in himself?

“There is a fair amount of truth in it [being a vocation],” he says. “Though I didn’t really set out to have this trajectory to my career. I wasn’t particularly interested in war and conflict when I began. But you find yourself having done a few stories and then more follow. It is hard to grasp and direct the way you want to go. But Discordia and the body of work I am engaged in are parts of that.”

Vivekamanththan Yeyalinkeswary, 43, whose daughter, Tanoja, was 16 when she disappeared during an attack by the Sri Lankan army on the village of Mullivaikal.
Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos
  • Vivekamanththan Yeyalinkeswary, 43, whose daughter, Tanoja, was 16 when she disappeared during an attack by the Sri Lankan army on the village of Mullivaikal. All images © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos with support from the Pulitzer Center

Having moved around so much, I wonder where he thinks of as home. “I think New York will be home for a while,” he says. “My wife and I are expecting our first child.”

How does he feel about living in the States just now?

“It is not easy here,” he says. “New York is obviously a bit of an island, a bubble from the rest of the country. However, having spent so much of my life in conflict areas, and seeing those patterns, it is troubling to see what is happening here.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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