World

Pyongyang calling: North and South Korean leaders get hotline as stage set for summit

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pyongyang calling: North and South Korean leaders get hotline as stage set for summit” was written by Justin McCurry in Tokyo, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th April 2018 09.14 Asia/Kolkata

A hotline between the leaders of North and South Korea goes live on Friday as they prepare for next week’s historic summit on the border that has separated their countries for more than six decades.

As preparations for their meeting gather pace, South Korean media reported that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, would talk over the phone before they meet next Friday.

The summit will take place on the southern side of the demilitarised zone, a heavily armed strip of land that that has divided the peninsula since hostilities in the Korean war ended in 1953.

The hotline will connect the South Korean presidential Blue House and North Korea’s state affairs commission, which is headed by Kim, Yonhap news agency said.

Officials from the two countries were due to test the hotline ahead of a conversation between Kim and Moon, although no date has been set for their call.

Located near the village of Panmunjom, the Joint Security Area is the only point along the roughly 250km-long demilitarised zone where North and South Korea stand opposite each other. The site was created at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War as a meeting point to discuss the uneasy truce that ended the conflict.

There are six buildings that straddle the border, three of which are painted United Nations blue, where talks between the two sides occasionally take place. It is also a major tourist destination and visitors can technically cross into North Korea inside the buildings. Outside, there is a raised concrete curb that marks the border.

Before two American soldiers were killed in 1976, the entire area was neutral and personnel from the North and South move freely throughout the zone. Since the murders a hard border bisecting the area has been enforced. In 2017, it was the sight of a dramatic escape by a North Korean soldier who was shot while fleeing to the South.

 

North Korea has not commented on Moon’s claim on Thursday that Kim would not demand the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons during his meeting with Donald Trump in late May or early June.

“North Korea is expressing a commitment to a complete denuclearisation,” Moon, a left-leaning liberal who has long favoured engagement with the North, told media executives. “They are not presenting a condition that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of the American troops in South Korea … North Korea is only talking about the end of a hostile policy against it and then a security guarantee for the country.”

North Korea could offer some indication of what it expects in return for denuclearisation later on Friday at a plenary session of the central committee of the ruling workers’ party.

The state-run KCNA news agency said the committee would discuss “policy issues of a new stage” in response to the current “important historic period”.

Some analysts speculated the body would revise Kim’s dual “byongjin” policy of pursuing economic and nuclear development before his summits with Moon and Trump.

“There is a high possibility that North Korea could unveil a new policy line, revising its byongjin policy at the plenary session,” Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, told Yonhap. “A new line will likely contain North Korea expressing its willingness to join denuclearisation talks and resolve to improve ties with the South, the US and Japan, as well as to seek peace and coexistence.”

Kim’s apparent concession on US troop withdrawal has taken many by surprise. Traditionally, North Korea has justified its nuclear programme as a necessary counter to Washington’s “hostile policy” of basing tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan, and guaranteeing its north-east Asian allies’ security through its nuclear umbrella.

With just a week to go before Kim and Moon become the first North and South Korean leaders to meet in more than a decade, officials were trying to ensure the summit would proceed without incident or embarrassment.

Earlier this week they met to discuss details, including plans to broadcast live TV coverage of the leaders’ shaking hands at the start of their talks, which will take place at the Peace House on the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom.

It will be the first time a North Korean leader has visited the South since the end of the Korean war, and only the third time any South or North Korean leaders have met.

The two previous inter-Korea summits, held in 2000 and 2007 in Pyongyang, involved the then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

Moon and Kim are expected to discuss a formal end to hostilities between their countries, 65 years after the Korean war ended with an armistice, but not a peace treaty.

Trump told reporters this week the Koreas “have my blessing” to secure a peace treaty and bring an end to the conflict.

Six senior South Korean officials will accompany Moon to the summit, including his chief of staff, spy chief, national security adviser and unification, defence and foreign ministers, a presidential spokesman said.

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Arts Culture Books Features, Books

The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla review – funny and fascinating

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla review – funny and fascinating” was written by Bernardine Evaristo, for The Observer on Monday 16th April 2018 13.30 Asia/Kolkata

Nikesh Shukla has recently risen to prominence as a diversity champion for literature, setting up various initiatives that offer opportunities for underrepresented writers. But we mustn’t forget that, first and foremost, he is a powerful chronicler of British lives with Asian roots. In his fabulously funny 2014 novel, Meatspace, he captured the zeitgeist with his protagonist, Kitab Balasubramanyam, a young man whose online persona masks his real life and personality. Shukla was particularly adept at portraying Kitab’s difficult relationship with his widowed father, who, to his annoyance, had more online dating success than himself. In this new novel, he shines a light on a wider Gujarati family settled in Bradford with roots in Kenya. This family is inter-generationally doomed, it appears, by fate. To what extent, it asks, are our lives predestined? And what are the consequences on those left behind when young lives are tragically cut short?

Shukla deftly orchestrates the multiple voices beginning with Mukesh, a seemingly gormless teenager from Kenya who arrives in Bradford in 1966 and falls in love with Nisha, the girl across the road. Within weeks he has stood up to a racist mob intent on murder, and proved his heroic credentials to Nisha. When his son, Raqs, accuses him years later of not integrating, he replies: “Why integrate into a country that wanted me annihilated?” Mukesh bemoans his son complaining about “micro-aggressions” and “white girls wearing bindis at festivals”, when he himself was almost killed because of the colour of his skin.

Whereas much contemporary British fiction is a racism-free zone, Shukla does not shy away from the subtle and brute realities of it, past and present, which Raqs both exposes and exploits in his routine as a standup comic. Hipster Raqs is twin brother to Neha, whose own tragic narrative is heart-rending. An emotionally repressed computer geek, she matches her father’s courage when facing terminal cancer head-on and alone. She has the crazy idea of trying to hack into her family medical records to see if she can uncover the patterns of bad DNA that run in the family. She eventually concedes: “You cannot combat fate. It is the override code.” She’s disconnected from her brother and thinks of her father as a buffoon until she finds out about another brave act of defiance and begins to respect and understand him more.

Lurking in the shadows is the mystery of the twins’ grandmother back in Kenya. She is remembered by them fondly, but neither knows what happened to her. At the end of the novel, she appears to fill in the gaps.

This is as much a tale of our times as it is about the way the past encroaches on it.

The novel sprawls between Bradford, Kenya and Brooklyn, where Raqs has some gigs lined up. He meets Rakhee, a super-cool New Yorker working in a cafe with “chai tea” on the menu. He tells her: “It’s cultural misappropriation. Chai means tea, right?”

“I remember a guy said ‘namaste’ when I walked past a yoga studio,” she responds, “I was like, guy, what the fuck man, you wanna say hello to me? Say hello. Don’t think you’re being all spiritual and shit.”

Shukla’s exploration of trauma and intergenerational relationships is nuanced and fascinating. Characters who at first appear to be pigeonholed quickly transcend reductive cultural assumptions. Neha muses on the idea of a good immigrant being one who avoids the stereotypes of “‘benefit scrounging and job stealing”. She has decided not to try and “outstrip race”, accepting her fate as British-Asian. Both she and her brother really come of age when they are able to put themselves in the shoes of their parents’ generation and understand why they chose not to raise their heads above water.

In this novel, the threat of death and the reality of societal inequality are never far beneath the surface, encouraging us to remember previous struggles and reconsider how far progress has taken us.

Bernadine Everisto’s latest novel is Mr Loverman (Penguin)

• The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla is published by Atlantic (£14.99). To order a copy for £12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

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World

Cambridge Analytica scandal ‘highlights need for AI regulation’

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Cambridge Analytica scandal ‘highlights need for AI regulation'” was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Monday 16th April 2018 04.31 Asia/Kolkata

Britain needs to lead the way on artificial intelligence regulation, in order to prevent companies such as Cambridge Analytica setting precedents for dangerous and unethical use of the technology, the head of the House of Lords select committee on AI has warned.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, Lord Clement-Jones said, reinforced the committee’s findings, released on Monday in the report “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”

“These principles do come to life a little bit when you think about the Cambridge Analytica situation,” he told the Guardian. “Whether or not the data analytics they carried out was actually using AI … It gives an example of where it’s important that we do have strong intelligibility of what the hell is going on with our data.”

Clement-Jones added: “With the whole business in [the US] Congress and Cambridge Analytica, the political climate in the west now is much riper in terms of people agreeing to … a more public response to the ethics and so on involved. It isn’t just going to be left to Silicon Valley to decide the principles.”

At the core of the committee’s recommendations are five ethical principles which, it says, should be applied across sectors, nationally and internationally:

  • Artificial intelligence should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity.
  • Artificial intelligence should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness.
  • Artificial intelligence should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families or communities.
  • All citizens should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside artificial intelligence.
  • The autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence.

The goal is not to write the principles directly into legislation, Clement-Jones said, but rather to have them as a broad guiding beacon for AI regulation. “For instance, in the financial services area it would be the Financial Conduct Authority” that actually applied the principles, “and they would be looking at how insurance companies use algorithms to assess your premiums, how banks assess people for mortgages, and so on and so forth.

“Basically, these regulators have to make the connection with the ethics, and this is the way we think they should do it,” Clement-Jones said. “Of course, if in due course people are not observing these ethical principles and the regulator thinks that their powers are inadequate, then there may be a time down the track that we need to rethink this.”

In a wide-ranging report, the committee has identified a number of threats that mismanagement of AI could bring to Britain. One concern is of the creation of “data monopolies”, large multinational companies – generally American or Chinese, with Facebook, Google and Tencent all named as examples – with such a grip on the collection of data that they can build better AI than anyone else, enhancing their grip on the data sources and creating a virtuous cycle that renders smaller companies and nations unable to compete.

The report stops short of calling for active enforcement to prevent the creation of data monopolies, but does explicitly recommend that the Competition and Markets Authority “review proactively the use and potential monopolisation of data by the big technology companies operating in the UK”.

Clement-Jones said: “We want there to be an open market in AI, basically, and if all that happens is we get five or six major AI systems and you have to belong to one of them in order to survive in the modern world, well, that would be something that we don’t want to see.”

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Opinion

The Guardian view on bombing Syria: a decision for parliament

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on bombing Syria: a decision for parliament” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Sunday 15th April 2018 23.07 Asia/Kolkata

Theresa May’s decision to authorise British military action over the skies of Syria by royal prerogative rather than obtaining the backing of parliament was the wrong thing to do. Even if the prime minister thinks it was done for the right reasons. It was wrong because the government’s plans should have been articulated so that MPs could have had a chance to endorse – or reject – a motion to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s weapons factories. It was wrong because there was no emergency – an exception used when after a debate MPs retrospectively endorsed action against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. It was wrong because only prime ministers can recall parliament – and there was time to do so. It was wrong because decisions about how to police the unlawful use of weapons of mass destructive terror in Syria turn upon judgment rather than available facts.

Parliament is the best place to assess whether the use of military force serves the overall interests of a nation in such cases. This is especially true of a government without a majority of its own. Jeremy Corbyn’s resurrection of an old idea for a war powers act, which would force the PM not to authorise the active and large-scale deployment of British forces overseas without the approval of the House of Commons, ought not to be dismissed. But it should be accompanied by a wider recognition that the days of self-regulation of cabinet government are over. Observing the parliamentary convention would be better than creating an act where fractious disagreements over the precise nature of the circumstances in which the law is to be applied – especially in a situation as fluid and volatile as war – prevail.

This is a politically significant move by Mrs May. David Cameron became the first British prime minister to see his war plans foiled by parliament since 1782 when 30 of his own MPs in 2013 rebelled against the motion to bomb Syria. It was a humiliating and embarrassing moment but it reflected the weight of British public and political feeling against him. After the style of decision-taking on the road to the Iraq war of 2003, it was commendable that Mr Cameron sought to do something so unpopular as a matter of principle. A year later MPs backed his offensive against Islamic State in Iraq.

Mrs May took military action despite public sentiment. She has not carried voters or MPs. She ought to have persuaded the country, if she believed it, that Britain stood to gain in a punitive action of limited duration. If her defence was that this was unlikely to put Britain’s armed forces in harm’s way, she should have said so. Mrs May should have made parliament own the argument that western allies were making sure their red lines were addressed rather than trying to damage the Assad regime. In not doing so she makes her government culpable for the conduct of a murderous dictator. If Mr Assad decides to use nerve agents or chlorine again to kill and terrify his own people, the onus will be on Mrs May to react.

The Syrian president will see no threat to his hold on power and no change on the trajectory of the Syrian war. Even worse, ordinary Syrians will wonder why the west acted after 1,900 people were killed by chemical weapons when 400,000 have lost their lives to conventional weapons in the grisly civil war. Syria will continue as a zone of instability as long as Mr Assad remains in place, with minority Alawite rule – backed by Baathist-favouring Russia and Shia Iran – entrenched over Sunni Arab heartlands. This weekend’s action might prevent Mr Assad’s total victory, but it will not hasten his defeat. Mrs May should have been honest about this to both the public and parliament before dropping bombs.

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Arts Culture Books Features

Objects of desire: the design delights of my favourite things

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Objects of desire: the design delights of my favourite things” was written by Genevieve Fox, Chris Hall, Joanne O’Connor, Kate Finnigan, for The Observer on Sunday 15th April 2018 11.30 Asia/Kolkata

Will Self, writer: ‘This old typewriter used to belong to my mother’

The Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter This is widely regarded as the greatest typewriter of all time. It’s the best ergonomically; it has a light action on the keyboard, but it still has a rhythm. It has an amazing set of features for a tiny machine. It has a half space insertion so you can delete a five-letter word with Tippex and then type it in again; if it’s one letter longer you can do a half space and squeeze up words. It’s also got much more sophisticated tabulation

I didn’t take possession of this olive green one until 1988 after my mother died. I have two of them and they were both hers. One my eldest brother in America sent to me. I think he had the one with the US keys rather than the UK keys. I move between the two. This one is from the early 50s so it’s nearly 70 years old. That’s a hell of an age for a machine to be in regular use.

As a kid I was always going out to get typewriters. When I started to get obsessed about “writing” when I was nine or 10, you could go to a charity shop and get an old Underwood for a quid, at the point people were getting rid of them.

I used to have a little collection of typewriters. I had three or four Imperial Good Companions, which is the typewriter Beryl Bainbridge used – a beautiful machine from the late 30s that really looks steam punk. Then I got obsessed by Groma Kolibris, which are in the film The Lives of Others. I love the thinness of it. It’s a beautiful machine.

I was seriously thinking of getting a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball – Nietzsche had one. It looks like a porcupine with the keys in a ball all around it. I was becoming obsessed by super-early typewriters, super-tiny typewriters. But then I got rid of them all. I could see the beginning of the end of the whole typewriter shtick. They’re great machines, but they’re old. The Olivettis are the only two I have left.

Shalom Simons really is the last typewriter repairman left in London. I haven’t been in touch with him for three or four years so I’m not even sure if he’s retired. This Olivetti does need work now, and may not last me the next book. I think: “Come on, Will, you’ve got to reconcile yourself with moving on and writing some other way.” It would be fine to write longhand and then type it up on a non-wireless enabled computer.

I never learned to touch-type – I still have to peck to this day. The problem with writing on computers now is that it’s unbounded – you feel that the world is with you in your creative life and that’s not helpful. I like the noise of the typewriter and then the silence. When you work on a computer you have a continual ultrasonic whine of some kind. When you’re working on a typewriter you have these little bursts but then you stop and… silence.

I’m not given to sentiment, but I felt very moved to be working on James Ballard’s old Olympia machine a few years back, to be channelling him to some extent. I’ve written a novel about my mum, How the Dead Live, and I’m always thinking about my mum in one way or another – she’s always lurking around and, just as with our parents we’ve got phrases that come up all the time, I’m sure there are lots of phrases in my novels that relate to her on the typewriter. It’s very evocative.

Ashish Gupta, fashion designer: ‘The tap has quite a Liberace vibe to it’

Water pressure: Ashish Gupta with his kitchen tap.
Water pressure: Ashish Gupta with his kitchen tap. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

Solid brass swan kitchen tap I like finding unique things and surrounding myself with objects I’ve collected. A lot of my kitchen, which I renovated myself, is salvage. The cupboards are butterfly cabinets from the Museum of Natural History and the tops are from an old chemistry lab – there’s a section that has some rude graffiti on it, which I love. I got the handmade Portuguese tiles while I was in Lisbon. They were once in the Ritz Hotel there.

When the kitchen was nearly finished, everything was held up by the tap. I didn’t have one. I didn’t want a modern, clinical tap, I wanted something weird. I’m quite a control freak, for want of a better word, and I must have spent two weeks visiting every single bathroom shop in London and going on eBay at 2am. I was like a crazy person. Then I saw a picture of a golden swan tap in an old fashion shoot somewhere and I thought: “That’s the tap!”

It was only about $30 on eBay. I think it’s 1970s or 80s. It’s got quite a Liberace vibe. Water comes out of the beak. Swans are quite aggressive and there’s something quite sexy about that. Of course, the builders said they couldn’t fit it because it wasn’t compatible with the pipes, but they had to sort it out because I said: “This is the only tap I’m having.”

It’s solid brass and ornate and feels a little Indian. I grew up in India and my family is there. There is a famous Indian painting by Raja Ravi Varma with a swan in it and the tap always reminds me of that. The swan is the vehicle of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and creative arts. I have an image of her in the hallway. As a kid I used to read a lot of mythology and fairy tales so it reminds me of my childhood.

After the kitchen was finished I bought the flat downstairs. But I loved everything about the kitchen upstairs so the builders had to move it all down, piece by piece. They told me the swan tap was broken on the inside and I totally panicked. I found a second one. This time it was almost £200, but I didn’t care. Then it turned out the other one wasn’t broken, so now that one is in the laundry room and I have two golden swan taps.

Ashish Gupta’s fashion label is Ashish

Julia Peyton-Jones, curator and gallery director: ‘To live with this chair and table is a joy’

Pull up a chair: Julia Peyton-Jones.
Pull up a chair: Julia Peyton-Jones on her Grcic seat. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

Medici chair and table by Konstantin Grcic and MEME CCLII 2013 by Antony Gormley My abiding mantra is Gilbert and George’s “To be with art is all we ask,” and I have chosen three objects which I live with and look at every day: a Medici chair and table by Konstantin Grcic, an incredible designer, and a beautiful sculpture given to me by Antony Gormley when I left the Serpentine Gallery in 2016.

To live with this chair and table is a joy. It is a gorgeous design and made of American walnut. If you live in London, as I do, it is very nice to see nature transformed into this glorious structure. I have two Medici chairs. They sit against the window in my sitting room, which looks on to playing fields, the table between them. My daughter’s toys sit beside them. I sit in one of the chairs every day, to read or write. There are no arms; the chair feels very expansive. It is very comfortable, and that is unexpected; it makes you do a double take. I am continually amused and surprised by that. When I look at it, I play with the angles. I think of constructivism and the great abstract artists and how they play with form. The chair is one of the most basic utilitarian objects, yet Konstantin has made it sublimely different.

The Gormley lives in the same room. The figure, taken from the series MEMES, 2009-2015, is kneeling with its head on the ground and its arms crossed. It is contemplative – homage, that is the word that comes to mind. There are 33 positions in this series, called MEMES after Richard Dawkins [who coined the term “meme” in The Selfish Gene]. It comes from the Greek word meaning “imitated thing”.

It is 39.5cm in length and made of solid iron, which naturally degrades. It is incredibly heavy relative to its size – its weight is a shock every time and somehow appropriate, given its incredible trajectory from ancient Greece to now. I am fascinated by the formal aspects of the sculptor’s work, its completeness and its scale. There is a novel, a short story, a poem, a haiku. This is a haiku – an extremely difficult thing to be able to do.

I never touch it, partly because the weight of it makes it rooted, but I tweak the chairs. I want them to look their best, to show their better angles. The iron is a rich burnt red, but it is not uniform. The surface is slightly pitted; it feels kind of gravelly. It is rough to the touch in the same way that the Medicis are silky smooth, like glass.

The Gormley is tender. Can a chair be tender? No. But it can be so sensitively made that it gives the user an optimum experience of using it. That takes enormous consideration and care and sensitivity. Genevieve Fox

Julia Peyton-Jones is Senior Global Director: Special Projects at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (ropac.net)

Isamaya Ffrench, make-up artist: ‘The person who gave me this became my boyfriend’

Get me out of here: Isamaya Ffrench with her precious resin block.
Get me out of here: Isamaya Ffrench with her precious resin block. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

Fungi in resin An old specimen of a bug trapped in amber, that’s what my two mushrooms preserved in resin look like. I love fungi. With these two, you can still see the soil at the base of each, and their gills, too. They are like fine, golden hairs. The resin block is 9cm high and 5.5cm wide. The colour is a bit de-saturated – it’s a sort of yellow. It catches the light.

Mushrooms have mysterious qualities and a very interesting symbiosis with trees and plants. They grow like a neural network; the mushroom itself is just the fruiting body of the organism that lives beneath the ground.

These two were sent to me in the post by a mystery person. I opened up the parcel and I was shocked. It was like a gift from beyond. It was the best way to woo me. The sender, who I’d only met on Instagram, later became my boyfriend.

When I first got into make-up, after studying industrial design at uni, I read a lot about fungi’s psychotropic effects and their possible links with the birth of religion, and also about Carl Jung and the symbolism of objects.

Fungi seemed to be a bridge between life and death. Because of their mind-expanding properties, they also represent new ways of looking at the world. I am not into drugs, but my own work is an organic process and this object is also symbolic of a connection between it and nature. I absolutely love nature.

My resin mushrooms live in my bathroom on one of three shelves filled with objects I have collected from around the world. It’s a little museum space.

My work is concept-led and it’s about building a character and having a narrative. I use make-up as a tool to communicate a person and their life. It’s why this object is one of the most precious things I own – there is such a big back story to it.

Tom Ford Beauty’s Extrême Collection with Isamaya Ffrench is available at Selfridges

Renni Eddo-Lodge, writer: ‘I like my things to be clean, tidy and functional’

Wired for sound: Renni Eddo-Lodge with her headphones.
Wired for sound: Renni Eddo-Lodge with her headphones. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

Kitsound Ribbon in-ear wireless headphones I am a restless person. I’m on the move a lot, even in my house. I like to be entertained at all levels of life and to take in information via news programmes and podcasts and things like that.

I don’t really like silence, unless it’s filled with my thoughts. Design is something that seamlessly slots into your life: my clothes, the tech I use, the bike I ride, kitchenware. I try to prioritise function; I am not someone who thinks about beauty that much. I like things to be clean, tidy and functional. If it looks good, that’s a bonus.

What would I feel lost without? Headphones. I carry them with me every day. But they break after a while, as my old ones did, and it’s normally the wire. I’d been thinking about getting a wireless pair for a while, but I didn’t want to sink a whole lot of money into them. These cost me less than £15.

They make life easier for me. I no longer feel restricted. They are moulded plastic and black. Incognito. I don’t like my things to stand out. They are super small and super convenient; they slip into a pocket. I’ve noticed that if I am listening to something really interesting I won’t take them out when I get home, like I used to do with my old headphones. I keep listening. They are part of me.

Renni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race is £7.64 from guardianbookshop.com

Hannah Weiland, fashion designer: ‘I can’t sleep without him. Weird, as I’m quite old now’

Enjoying a cuddle: Hannah Weiland with DogDog.
Enjoying a cuddle: Hannah Weiland with DogDog. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

Teddy dog cuddly toy DogDog is a teddy dog, my sleeping toy, and my most prized possession ever. I got him when I was five. I find him aesthetically very pleasing. I like his shape – the simplicity of his roundness, and of his markings. I sleep with him in between my neck and my shoulder. Every night. I can’t sleep without him. Weird, as I’m quite old now.

DogDog inspires my work 100%. He’s in my 2018 Resort collection, he’s embroidered on a PVC biker jacket, he’s printed on silk. You’ve got to find him in there. Faux fur is the basis of my brand. DogDog had a plush fur coat back in the day, like a fluffy sofa. Now it feels like very short sheepskin. I like the transition, the wear of him. He’s very textural.

As a designer, I love symmetry – asymmetrical hems are my pet hate. DogDog has a patch on one eye, but otherwise he is very symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. He’s never had a plastic nose or hard, plastic eyes – his are far apart, which is a sign of beauty.

If you took him apart, you could make a beautiful pattern, a huge cut-out with fluid lines.

I love my designs to be out there and quirky, but I have a limit to how many things I put together.

I might design something in aqua blue and black, then put in a cream lace. Looking at DogDog, he is perfect like that: he has a two-tone element, his sandy, camel body, and the surprise of his eye patch. Otherwise, he is quite simple, quite chic. I can imagine him in a beautiful apartment in Tokyo, or in a calming villa in the south of France with whitewashed walls and lavender dried in bags. He would wear a straw hat in the sun.

People say I should to go Tokyo, that there I would be normal. Everyone walks around with their teddies.

On the shoot I changed positions with him. I got really excited that I could sit in his lap for once, in his arms.

Hannah Weiland’s fashion label is Shrimps

David Morrissey, actor: ‘My mask is slightly quizzical, which I love’

Masked ball: David Morrissey with his holiday souvenir.
Masked ball: David Morrissey with his holiday souvenir. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

Venetian brass mask This little mask is so small you could hold it in the palm of your hand. It has nil value. It has no function. But whenever I look at it, I remember the time I slept in Venice railway station at the end of a long trip – a time of introspection.

During my first summer break from Rada I decided to go Interrailing. I must have been about 21. I’d moved to London from Liverpool – I knew from early on in my life that I needed to get away from home, which was not a particularly happy place for me – and I found London difficult. It was expensive and unfriendly.

I had one of those wonderful tickets where you could go anywhere and I planned a route through Holland, Belgium, France, Austria, Germany. I had the Rough Guide with me but when I got to Venice, I couldn’t find anywhere to sleep. There was a sort of homeless section outside the station, so I stayed there. I felt vulnerable. I worried about closing my eyes.

Walking around Venice, there were strange masks everywhere, flat-faced masks with big noses, masks worn with monkish robes. They were almost scary in their absence of design.

I didn’t know anyone in Venice. I had to make myself known to people, step outside of myself. When you are travelling, you are finding out who you are and trying on different personalities and attitudes to life. I bought the mask to remind me of that time.

It’s about the size of a decent pebble, and there’s something about its weight I like. It lives in a large printer’s drawer that’s hung on the wall of my study.

This mask really has character. Its surface is not smooth – it has real crinkles – and its inside is unfinished and sandpapery. Its expression is surprised, slightly quizzical, which I love. Its eyes are far too close together. When it looks at me, or when I look at it, rather, its expression changes, depending on my mood, or the light, or what day it is.

Taking it down for the shoot felt really terrible. I felt sort of disloyal to the other objects. Like, why take that? I took it because I knew it would survive. It is the most solid thing there. Also, it marked the furthest point I got to in Europe – though it was not the end of the journey.

I know exactly how to put it back – there is a patch of dust around its place – and I can’t wait to take it back, to complete the picture.

The City and the City starring David Morrissey is currently on BBC2

Angela Hartnett, chef: ‘I’ve been using this coffee pot since I was a teenager’

Daily grind: Angela Hartnett with her old coffee percolator.
Daily grind: Angela Hartnett with her old coffee percolator. Photograph: Franck Allais for the Observer

1950s Italian coffee percolator When my grandmother passed away I got quite a lot of her stuff and this 1950s Italian coffee-maker is something I still use regularly. It’s an old-fashioned aluminium stove-top percolator. You put the boiling water in the bottom and the coffee on top, then you turn it upside down, and the water percolates through – basically it was a long-drip style coffee-maker before its time.

My grandmother was Italian and I grew up drinking coffee so I’ve been using this since I was a teenager. I’d much rather have an espresso than a cup of tea. My grandmother moved to Wales from Bardi when she was 19, so I imagine she bought it on one of her trips back to Italy.

I’m not into new gadgets. My kitchen is full of old clutter. I’ve just bought a load of Richard Ginori plates from Florence and an antique turbot cooker. I collect Poole Pottery and Elizabeth David cookbooks, too. We’re such a throwaway society. Things aren’t built to last a lifetime and I think it’s a tragedy. It’s nice to pass things on.

Angela Hartnett is chef-patron of Murano

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CRIME, World

French couple irate at UK police failure to solve son’s hit-and-run death

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “French couple irate at UK police failure to solve son’s hit-and-run death” was written by Holly Watt, for theguardian.com on Sunday 15th April 2018 16.30 Asia/Kolkata

A French couple whose son was killed in a hit-and-run accident in the UK six months ago have spoken of their devastation that police have still not charged anyone with his death, as backlogs in the forensics system mean the suspected driver has still not been identified.

Patrice Ippolito was 25 when he was killed in Wapping, east London, last October, and three teenagers were arrested after the crash. They were subsequently released because of lack of evidence about who was driving at the time of the incident.

The couple criticised delays in DNA testing that might reveal the identity of the driver, caused by backlogs at the laboratories the police use following the series of terrorist attacks last year.

Celine Ippolito said it was unbelievable that she still did not know what had happened to her son, who worked as a sommelier at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill restaurant in Chelsea.

Two 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old were travelling in the car that hit Patrice, propelling him 30 metres (90 feet). He died before he reached hospital.

Celine Ippolito said she understood two cars had been travelling together when her son was hit and the three teenagers were subsequently arrested for dangerous driving.

“I don’t understand how the people in the car can live with themselves,” she said. “I don’t understand how they can sleep at night. I don’t understand how they can bear knowing that we, his family, do not know what happened to our son, because they won’t speak up.”

In a recent letter to the family, a police officer explained that laboratories had been overwhelmed with items requiring analysis following four major terrorism incidents last year and the Grenfell Tower fire in June.

“The results are taking ages to come back,” said Celine Ippolito. “The wait is terrible. We know that our son will never come back, we know he is dead, but we want the person who did it to admit what they did.

“I want to ask the people in the car: ‘How can you live with yourselves?’”

Patrice’s father, Serge Ippolito, said French law made it a crime to abandon someone in danger. Under the law, the three teenagers could have been tried for abandoning the Patrice.

As home secretary, Theresa Mayannounced in 2010 that the Forensic Science Service, a public body that providedservices to the police, would close. Serious concerns have since been raised about DNA tests.

Celine and Serge Ippolito live in the Drôme region of southern France, and have two other children.

They said Patrice had loved London after moving to the city in 2012. He worked first in Le Boudin Blanc in Mayfair before taking a job at Ramsey’sMaze Grill. He is believed to have been walking home when he was killed.

“He was joyous. He lived life to the full, every day,” said Celine Ippolito. “He was a lovely man with a great future. He brought happiness with him. He loved life, and he was full of life.

“We are so angry at the people in the car. To me, it’s not possible that people can behave like this. If they would speak, it would let us move on. It is unbearable, not knowing. Patrice helped everyone, and these people won’t help in this small way.”

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World

Assad’s brutal strategy survives regardless of Trump’s victory tweet

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Assad’s brutal strategy survives regardless of Trump’s victory tweet” was written by Patrick Wintour Diplomatic Editor, for theguardian.com on Sunday 15th April 2018 18.01 Asia/Kolkata

“Mission Accomplished!” tweeted Donald Trump, in an ill-chosen echo of George W Bush’s hubristic declaration of victory in the Iraq war. “Mission Accomplished?” ran the sceptical headline of the Gulf News, the Dubai-based newspaper, in a reflection of the mood across the Arab world at the modest scale of the western strikes delivered on Bashar al-Assad’s war machine.

Before the strikes, leading human rights campaigners in the Syrian opposition such as Fadel Abdul Ghany had said they wanted to see the west attack the entire Syrian air force, including all its airfields. His hopes were dashed.

“If this is it, Assad should be relieved,” said Randa Slim rom the Washington-based thinktank the Middle East Institute. The Syrian government sent out a video of Assad turning up for work in the presidential palace as normal. The not-very-subliminal message was “it’s business as usual”.

The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has suggested an extra benefit of the strikes might be that they encourage Vladimir Putin to bring Assad to the negotiating table. But it is hard to identify the strategic factors likely to change that would make negotiations any more likely to succeed, and in particular make Russia any more likely to put pressure on Assad to make concessions.

Greater US engagement does not appear to be one of them. Buried in Trump’s statement announcing the strikes was a rejection of US ambition and engagement. “No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East. It’s a troubled place,” he said. Trump promised to “try to make it better”, but he repeated: “It is a troubled place.”

The one Trump administration speech setting out a long-term strategy for Syria, delivered by Rex Tillerson, has been removed from US state department website. The US went out of its way not to threaten Russian positions inside Syria, knowing to do so would risk a wider conflagration, and risk Russia’s self-appointed position as the power broker in Syria.

Donald Trump announces the strikes on Syria
Donald Trump announces the strikes on Syria: ‘No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East.’
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

It largely leaves the British Foreign Office starting again to try to work out what Trump intends to do in Syria, and whether the remaining 2,000 US troops deployed there against Islamic State will remain as a bargaining chip, or instead have been firmly put in the departure lounge by Trump.

Theresa May, a prime minister who, beset by Brexit, has so far shown little interest in Syria save as a counter-terrorism issue, has repeatedly stressed British involvement had nothing to do with regime change or the civil war.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has invested more heavily in the region, recently inviting to the Elysée Kurdish leaders under assault from Turkey in northern Syria. But he is clear nothing better than Assad is on offer in Syria. Indeed, some have argued Macron’s red line on chemical weapons had acted as a smokescreen for his absence of a wider strategic policy. He had hoped Assad would never overstep the line.

“Just as interesting is what the strikes were not,” said Richard Haass, president of the the New York-based thinktank the Council on Foreign Relations. “They were not intended to unseat the Assad regime or directly protect the Syrian people. Although President Trump expressed his disappointment with Russian and Iranian support for Assad, the strikes took care not to engage them directly.”

(March 1, 2011)

Unprecedented protests demand civil liberties and the release of political prisoners after four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family. The regime represses demonstrations in Damascus and the southern city of Deraa but protests continue.

(July 1, 2011)

Defecting army colonel Riad al-Asaad sets up the Turkey-based rebel Free Syrian Army. Islamist groups join the revolt.

(March 1, 2012)

Regime forces take control of the rebel stronghold in Homs after a month of bombardment. Other bloody operations are carried out, notably in the central city of Hama, after massive anti-regime protests.

(July 1, 2012)

FSA fighters launch a battle for Damascus but the government holds firm.

(August 1, 2013)

More than 1,400 people die in a chemical weapon attack on rebel-held districts near Damascus.

(September 1, 2013)

The US and Assad ally Russia agree a plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, averting punitive US strikes against the regime.

(January 1, 2014)

Hostilities between jihadists and rebel groups turn into an open war in the north. The group that will become known as Islamic State takes Raqqa – the first provincial capital to fall out of regime control – from rebel forces.

(September 1, 2014)

A US-led coalition launches airstrikes against Isis in Syria. The strikes benefit Kurdish groups, which since 2013 have run autonomous administrations in Kurdish-majority areas.

(September 1, 2015)

Russia launches airstrikes in support of Assad’s troops, who are on the back foot. Russian firepower helps turn the tables for the regime, which begins to retake rebel-held territory.

(December 1, 2016)

The regime retakes Syria’s second city, Aleppo.

(January 1, 2017)

Russia and Iran, as backers of the Syrian regime, and Turkey, a supporter of the rebels, organise talks in Kazakhstan, between representatives of both sides. The process leads to the creation of four “de-escalation zones”.

(April 1, 2017)

A sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun kills more than 80 people, prompting Washington to attack a regime airbase.

(January 1, 2018)

Further complicating an already drawn-out conflict, Turkey launches an operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units which, with US support, played a key role in beating back Isis.

(February 1, 2018)

Regime launches a ferocious assault on the remaining rebel-held enclave near Damascus, eastern Ghouta. In under four weeks, the Russian-backed onslaught kills more than 1,200 civilians.

 

The agenda of the Geneva peace process remains in the same place as it was before the strikes – a universal acceptance amongst the interlocutors that the Assad regime remains in power but his delegation refusing to engage on the potential constitutional constraints on which the regime operates, both in a transition and thereafter, the degree of federalism and the possibility of UN-supervised elections.

A draft UN resolution from western powers, due to be discussed at the security council on Monday, calls on all sides to negotiate, but the Syrian government delegation to Geneva refuses to discuss these issues and will feel under no new pressure to engage. Indeed, Russia has said the attacks would damage Geneva. A Russian-led process of setting up a new committee to draw up a postwar constitution for Syria is making snail-like progress.

Assad, a master of the waiting game, knows he can starve and bomb the Syrian opposition from its remaining redoubts so long as he does not resort to chemical weapons again.

“The regime’s illegal, indiscriminate use of conventional weapons are the biggest killer of civilians,” said a statement from official Syrian opposition negotiating team. “As long as Assad can pursue his military strategy through conventional weapons, Syrians will continue to die and there will be no resolution to the conflict.”

The Assad strategy, with the help of Iran and Russia, is to expel what it regards as the terrorists town by town until they are corralled and destroyed in Idlib, a province of 2 million people in north-west Syria that the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, at the weekend identified as the next humanitarian disaster. Tens of thousands have been displaced to Idlib, partly from previous Assad victories.

Displaced Syrian families arrive at a checkpoint
Displaced Syrian families arrive at a checkpoint manned by Syrian soldiers and Russian forces allied with the Syrian regime in Idlib province.
Photograph: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images

But that does not mean the conflict has a linear path to a single conclusion, since Syria is now the cockpit for a series of civil wars.

Israel, unwilling to tolerate the Iran-backed Shia militia Hezbollah close to its borders, said at the weekend it would continue to attack positions inside Syria. The Arab League meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday also adopted a strongly anti-Iranian position after being urged by Trump on Friday to ensure that Tehran does not profit from the eradication of Isis. He added: “We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region.”

Turkey, a Nato member, still has ambitions to drive Kurdish forces farther from its southern borders. Russia and Iran are at best ambiguous about Turkish intentions, fearing Syria’s dismemberment.

That leaves the west with ever-reducing leverage save the offer of reconstruction money. The EU will hold a Syria reconstruction conference on 24-25 April, but

the last week appears to have shown that so far as the west is concerned, Assad can press ahead with this brutality, so long as does not use chlorine or Sarin in the process.

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World

Why the politicians must set their sights on Facebook

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Why the politicians must set their sights on Facebook” was written by Emily Bell, for theguardian.com on Sunday 15th April 2018 18.30 Asia/Kolkata

In a tumultuous week in US politics, seven hours of testimony in Congressional committees about the data and privacy practices of a social platform nevertheless held the interest of the press and public almost to the exclusion of all else.

Mark Zuckerberg – 106.9 million Facebook followers – is a person of intense interest not only to the US legislative process, but to a wider population whose lives he touches in some way every day through Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Over two days and through more than 600 questions, the Facebook founder ran the gamut of politicians’ outrage and curiosity. If the hearing proved one thing, it was that the activities tech firms are now involved in puts them out of the reach of legislative comprehension, and immediate action.

The hearings were down to Facebook’s apparent lack of due diligence with the private data of tens of millions of people being used without authorisation by the marketing company Cambridge Analytica. The micro-targeting firm – partly owned by the rightwing billionaire Robert Mercer and used by the Trump campaign in the 2016 election – uses psychometric data to persuade people to vote or buy things in certain ways (though the company says the unauthorised Facebook data was not used in its work for Trump). The covert nature of persuasion on the social web means that effective marketing is no longer something you can see or even perceive, but rather something which through a thousand “touch points” might subtly change your behaviour without you noticing.

The data protection of tens of millions of Americans is at the heart of the issue, but how it was used drew only fleeting attention. The politicians questioning Zuckerberg were in an unusual position. Never before had Congress had to call to account a business on which so many of their own communications strategies and campaigns rely. Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina who asked Zuckerberg the tougher questions about its monopolistic behaviour, was very clear that he thinks the days of self-regulation are over for Facebook.

“I expect the regulatory regime for a company like Facebook will be challenging and difficult. The regulatory tools available to us today may or may not work with Facebook. It could possibly take the creation of new laws and regulations to deal with this platform. But I do believe this. Continued self-regulation is not the right answer when it comes to dealing with the abuses we have seen on Facebook,” the Senator – 167,000 followers – wrote on his own Facebook page.

“I am concerned about how much Facebook values transparency,” the Californian senator Kamala Harris – 972,262 followers – wrote on her Facebook page after her more effective questioning. Billy Long, the Republican from Missouri – 5,923 followers – was so pleased with his question about “Facemash”, Zuckerberg’s embarrassing “hot or not” site he first created in his dorm room at Harvard, that he posted a news item about it to his very modest band of followers.

The $11m (£7.7m) in lobbying that Facebook spent on Capitol Hill last year went almost entirely into targeting legislation rather than paying lawmakers directly, but its influence in US domestic politics goes far beyond issues of psychometric targeting. One of the most dramatic moments of the two-day hearing was a line of questioning opened by the Democrat congressman John Sarbanes about the “embeds” from Facebook who worked with political campaigns.

“The Trump campaign had sales support,” said Zuckerberg. “I am going to call them embeds,” shot back Sarbanes – 19,769 followers – who went on to suggest that “sales support” might translate into an unauthorised “in-kind” donation toward campaigns. Donald Trump’s campaign had 5.9m ads approved while Hillary Clinton’s had 66,000, pointed out Sarbanes, who suggested “a lot of Americans are waking up to the fact that [Facebook] is becoming a self-regulated super structure for political discourse”, before being cut off by the chairman. The video of the exchange is available on Sarbanes’ Facebook page.

The advertising purchased on and through Facebook is often protected by contractual clauses with advertisers, putting the public in the bizarre position of not being able to actually see what publicity is being targeted at them. When last week Facebook removed related accounts and posted a few samples of the advertising that the Internet Research Agency puts on the network, they showed that “ads” often mean what we might think of as posts that have been paid to reach a wider audience. And the advertising expenditure only tells part of the story.

A tactic deployed by partisan groups involves setting up apparently innocuous or independent “news media property” – in other words a Facebook page that publishes news – ahead of key campaigns or election issues, which gather likes and follows from constituents who thereby expose their interest in, or thinking on certain subjects. These are the kind of shell news operations which substitute for the local news organisations that are rapidly closing down in rural and urban America. For these tactics to be effective, Facebook data doesn’t have to be misused, but the public is nevertheless being misled.

Outside the US the kind of social media asymmetry that congressman Sarbanes was scratching at has far more dramatic consequences. The most serious and well-covered of these has been the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, and the repression of Rohingya Muslims. Facebook has a disproportionate share of attention across all media, official pages have huge followings and independent journalists can struggle to be verified. Ahead of his grilling on Capitol Hill, Zuckerberg wrote to human activist groups in the country who are outraged by the company’s negligence. It was mentioned by only a small number of politicians in the hearings, but the dynamics of Facebook in small unstable markets around the world is of overwhelming significance.

If the threads of regulation that Congress started to very gently pull on lead anywhere, it must be to more than just the protection of US user data, important though that is, and it must go beyond the concept of political persuasion and advertising into the broader areas of influence, power and money. This would mean perhaps as much self-examination as it does questioning Zuckerberg. For that to happen we might be waiting for quite some time.

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