A man has been convicted in relation to the death of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, more than 10 years after she was found dead on a beach in Goa.
Fiona MacKeown, Scarlett’s mother, who described the past 11 years as an absolute nightmare, said she was shocked but delighted.
“It’s still a bit hard to take it in, that this might actually be the end of it all for us,” she said. “It has been traumatic for the children every time I’ve had to go to Goa, and for me, it’s put me into huge debt. It’s been an absolute nightmare for 11 years.”
At a hearing on Wednesday, the high court in Goa reversed an earlier acquittal to convict of Samson d’Souza of culpable homicide, criminal assault and outraging a woman’s modesty, providing narcotics to a person with knowledge that it could cause serious harm or death, and destruction of evidence. He was also convicted under the Goa children’s code for not providing a safe environment for a child.
It is expected D’Souza will be sentenced on Friday or Saturday, when he could face decades in prison. A second man, Placido Carvalho, accused of abetting a crime, had his acquittal upheld.
Scarlett’s bruised and half-naked body was found on the popular Anjuna beach in the north of Goa after a Valentine’s Day beach party.
Police initially said her death was an accidental drowning, but MacKeown insisted on a second autopsy. A postmortem examination showed there was ecstasy, cocaine and LSD in the teenager’s body. It also showed 50 cuts and bruises and evidence of sexual assault.
It was alleged that D’Souza plied her with drugs, raped her and left her unconscious face down on the beach.
The CBI also said the judge had wrongly concluded that there was a delay in recording witness statements.
The investigation into Scarlett’s murder was fraught with setbacks including years of delays in India’s sluggish justice system, a change of prosecutor and the failure of a key British witness to testify. MacKeown also accused the police of corruption.
Michael Mannion, a British witness, told police he had last seen the schoolgirl hours before, lying in the car park of nearby Lui’s Bar, with local bartender D’Souza lying on top of her. Mannion did not testify during the trial in 2016.
Scarlett’s murder attracted global media attention. MacKeown has faced intense scrutiny, including questions over her decision to allow her daughter to travel alone to Anjuna while the family toured further along the coast.
She has had to endure coverage of her daughter’s drug use and sex life, and close scrutiny of her own lifestyle. Scarlett’s death also became the subject of a Bollywood film, which was made without her mother’s consultation
Vikram Varma, MacKeown’s advocate, welcomed Wednesday’s verdict. “The children’s court acquitted him on all accounts, so here the high court has reversed the entire judgement of the child court in relation to D’Souza,” he said.
“It was a really tough case from day one … The most important thing is to get justice for this girl,” said Varma.
A clear majority of Americans say President Trump’s tweets targeting four minority congresswomen were “un-American,” according to a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. But most Republicans say they agreed with his comments, an illustration of the nation’s sharp partisan divide on issues of patriotism and race.
More than two-thirds of those aware of the controversy, 68%, called Trump’s tweets offensive. Among Republicans alone, however, 57% said they agreed with tweets that told the congresswomen to go back to their “original” countries, and a third “strongly” agreed with them.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo says his state, along with New Jersey and Connecticut is suing the Trump Administration over the so-called Salt (State and Local Tax deduction) policy in a 2017 tax overhaul, calling the law an “economic civil war”.
The changes lowered the deductions taxpayers could claim for taxes paid to state and local governments, and functioned to raise taxes on many in higher-tax, Democratic-leaning places like New York.
Four progressive democrats known as “The Squad” have revealed the source of their militaristic moniker – they gave it to themselves at a photo shoot.
“Someone said, `Oh you should do a hashtag or something #squadgoals and then it morphed into whole other thing,” Congressmember Ayanna Pressley told Gayle King Wednesday on CBS This Morning.
“It’s not just about dismantling – we’re also intentional about building and fostering,” the Massachusetts congresswoman explained. “The reality is anyone who is interested in building a more equitable and just world is a part of The Squad.”
Airplane giant Boeing is the focus of a House hearing on aviation safety
today that will include testimony from family members of victims of the deadly Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash.
All of the manufacturer’s 737 MAX jets have remained grounded since March when a fatal flaw in the plane’s software was implicated in two separate crashes.
You can watch live below:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is looking on the bright side of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric this morning.
The Washington Post report Ocasio-Cortez shared notes that in multiple federal cases, Trump’s own words on Twitter have been used by judges to discredit the administration’s racially or ethnically neutral rationale for a policy.
In 2017, for example, “Judge Derrick K. Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii viewed Trump’s comments as evidence of the real reason for travel restrictions — religious animus rather than national security.”
It happened again during the administration’s failed quest to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Vote on articles of impeachment against Trump scheduled for Wednesday
Texas representative Al Green will force a vote in the House on articles of impeachment for Donald Trump later this afternoon.
Green is bringing the vote using a procedural mechanism Tuesday known as a privileged resolution which allows any member of the House to try and force an impeachment vote.
Green has attempted this twice before, unsuccessfully. Republicans controlled the House both times and tabled the measures.
It just seemed to me that we should bring these articles before the House of Representatives, so that we could not only condemn him, but impeach him, so that he will understand that there are some boundaries because, as we speak now, there don’t appear to be boundaries, or at least it appears that the president doesn’t perceive any boundaries,” -Rep Al Green
MSNBC’s Morning Joe revealed old footage Wednesday morning of Donald Trump partying with accused human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein that’s sure to dial up the cringe factor on your day.
While their discussion is mostly inaudible, at one point Trump is seen pointing toward the women and appears to say in Epstein’s ear: “Look at her, back there. She’s hot.” Epstein appears to agree, then Trump says something else that makes Epstein double up with laughter.
The video is from the same year in which Trump hosted a party with a guest list of himself, Epstein, and “28 girls,” according to reporting from The New York Times.
Trump said of his relationship with Epstein last week: “I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him .. I was not a fan.”
Federal prosecutors indicted Epstein this month, charging him with sex trafficking and accusing him of using his fortune to “create a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.”
Presidential candidate and California senator Kamala Harris swiped back at Trump for his remarks about the Democratic congresswomen late on CNN Tuesday, saying that the president “needs to go back where he came from and leave that office.”
Harris said also called the comments “un-American” and “unbecoming of the President of the United States.”
”I think it defiles the office of the United States,” Harris said. “It is irresponsible. It is hateful. It is hurtful. And he has taken the presidency to a new low.” -Kamala Harris
Harris is one of the few 2020 challengers to break through at all, according to an analysis from Axios which found that online interest in the candidate field plunged over the past week as attention turned to Jeffrey Epstein, women’s soccer and Trump’s racist tweets.
According to Axios: “In the week ending Sunday, when Trump began his tweet rant, articles about the Democratic candidates generated just 6.5 million combined social media interactions (shares, likes, comments) — the fewest since mid-January.”
Good Morning and welcome to the politics live blog for 17 July. We’ll kick off this morning with the ongoing skirmish between Donald Trump and four progressive Democratic congresswomen, which has consumed the political news cycle for the better part of the week now, with no signs of dying down soon.
In the interview, Tlaib called Trump the “the biggest bully [she’s] ever had to deal with”. Ocasio-Cortez joined her colleague in condemning Republicans for not standing up to the president over his social media posts.
America has always been about the triumph of people who fight for everyone versus those who want to preserve rights for just a select few… There is no bottom to the barrel of vitriol that will be used and weaponized to stifle those who want to advance rights for all people in the United States.” – Ocasio-Cortez
The interview comes a day after the US House voted to condemn Trump for the remarks that sparked the conflict, in which the president suggested the four non-white US citizens “go back” to where they “came from”. Just four Republicans joined Democrats in approving the resolution.
It says a lot about British actor Archie Panjabi that the best piece of advice she says she ever received was when an Indian agent told her that an Indian woman would never make it in Hollywood. It’s a story that would leave most of us shaking our heads at the sheer state of things. But for Panjabi, a gauntlet was thrown down. “It made me realise how hard it would be,” she recalls. A decade on from that advice, she is in London to promote her latest star-studded show, Departure, in which her ethnicity is as irrelevant as her stellar Hollywood status is germane.
Panjabi’s fans, of course, won’t be surprised. The actor has a 25-year-long, Atlantic-spanning film and TV career under her belt, as well as a reputation for philanthropic clout. She guest-edited last year’s special race issue of the UK National Geographic; she’s been consistently vocal about women’s rights, working on everything from Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign to the 10×10 project to promote education for girls. While she is more effusive and gentle in person than most of the roles she’s famous for would suggest (at one point her PR sneezes during our interview; she’s instantly asking if he’s ok, offering him a drink, handing out throat lozenges …), you sense she’s as tough as any of the characters she’s portrayed.
Of course some characters stay with you more than others. For many people, Panjabi will always be Kalinda Sharma, the scene-stealing private investigator she played on The Good Wife. Tight-lipped, fiercely loyal and utterly ruthless in her red leather biker gear, Kalinda trampled all over a multitude of stereotypes (racial, female, professional) to become one of TV’s most enigmatic and memorable figures.
It’s odd, then, that not 12 minutes into Departure, Panjabi appears on screen as … a tight-lipped private investigator in red leather biker gear. “It’s nice to know it was spotted,” says Panjabi when I mention this nod to her former character. But how could it have been missed? Daniel Lawson, the costume designer on The Good Wife, once tweeted his department had “approximately 60” jackets for Kalinda. The throwback here gave Panjabi a way of injecting some personality – “a bit of a rock chick” – into what could have been just another stern-faced security operative at work.
A gripping six-parter with a timely premise, Departure opens with a passenger plane going missing over the north Atlantic. Panjabi’s character, recently widowed aviation investigator Kendra Malley, is tasked by her boss, head of the Transit Safety and Investigations Bureau Howard Lawson (Christopher Plummer) with finding it. She rallies her troops – some of whom resent her being the first woman to head an investigation – and faces off with Howard, her mentor, when his loyalties seem divided between the truth and corporate games.
Despite some clunky dialogue (“You’re the only one that can find this plane!”), Departure proves a great whodunnit, expertly helmed by Orphan Black director TJ Scott.A Canadian-British co-production, the show is set mostly in London but is decidedly transatlantic in tone. Britain’s post-EU place in the world is intriguingly imagined. The airline under investigation is not BA, but British Global Air, while the aircraft is a product of the fictional Windsor Aeronautics. The conspiracy-theory-style plots take in Saudi and Chinese money, Russian meddling and Mossad impunity, with lots of gleaming metal and crisp power suits.
There are moments of welcome local flavour, too, some of which Panjabi threw in herself. “When I messed up a line, I said, ‘Bollocks.’ And the writers kept it in as a character thing.” The gruffly affectionate “Come on, soldier” with which Plummer addresses her wasn’t scripted either, and it instantly suggests the kind of bond only forged through long hours of hard slog.
As Kendra’s team pieces together the story of the crash, her painful backstory rears up. Panjabi relished grappling with such internalised trauma. As an actor, she is the master of doing an awful lot with very little – silence, stillness, the subtlest facial movements. “I never like a lot of dialogue,” she says. Where some actors explicitly stipulate ‘no closeups’ in their contracts, she is a fan. She likens them to a secret language, an umbilical cord between her and her audience, a way for them to get inside her head.
She’s also a fan of what one might call ‘fromances’ between female characters: platonic chemistry, so often lauded between male colleagues on screen, is rarely afforded to women. There isn’t much of the latter in Departure, but she thinks the relationship between Kalinda and Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, was central to The Good Wife’s appeal. The women weren’t pitted against each other, or “portrayed as bitchy or nagging”. It might also explain the enduring interest in that relationship – on screen and off – despite the show’s demise.
For years, beady-eyed fans have pointed out that the two actors didn’t share a scene for two and a half seasons (over 40 episodes) and that when they finally did seem to, for a farewell scene in a Chicago bar, it was an inexplicable split-screen mashup. Panjabi, who left the show in its penultimate season, won’t be drawn on what happened – and whether the persistent rumours of a feud are true. “Well, I think, my God, it’s so many years ago now,” she says, adding that she has addressed it before. Which is as much as Margulies has ever said too.
When she does expand on the topic she is evasive and careful with her words. “We had created so much intrigue around Kalinda, around my relationship with Alicia, I felt it was the right time, after six years, to go. And there still is a level of intrigue. Every journalist asks me about it now. And it amuses me. Because I feel like, yeah, she’s, you know, she’s still very much present.”
Panjabi was born in north London. When she was growing up, she says, “there was nobody who looked like me on TV”. Her parents’ qualms about her chosen vocation were always, ‘how can you have a career where there is nobody to look up to?’ So when EastEnders introduced a regular Asian character, shop-owner Naima Jeffery, it gave her, and them, a ray of hope. “I could be the next Indian girl.”
She was in her early teens when she was called – three times – to audition for the soap and remembers being heartbroken when she was rejected (for not having a union card). However, the UK was just a stepping stone: it was the US that properly opened the door for her. She got to do a lot more film, working with everyone from Fernando Meirelles (on the Constant Gardner) to Angelina Jolie on Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart. Not getting on EastEnders “didn’t turn out too badly.”
Panjabi embarked on that National Geographic race issue last year just as she was promoting ITV’s Next of Kin. It was her first lead role in a British TV show and the chance to portray what she described in the magazine’s intro as “a solid, interracial marriage”. By 2044, she wrote, non-Hispanic whites will make up less than half of the US population. “What would media that truly reflect our diverse world look like?”
She hasn’t always been this vocal about the need for change. She worked incredibly hard, she says, to get recognition for being an actor, not an Asian actor. But she relishes how #MeToo is now creating “a social conscience”. When people embark on a project these days, she says, they know they have to be diverse, otherwise they’ll be criticised. Panjabi’s outlook, though, is resolutely upbeat, idealistic even. Diversity, for her, isn’t just about black or white: “It’s about people with ginger hair. It’s about people who have speech impediments.” It’s about getting to a point, she says, “where there is no such word as ‘diverse’ on TV, [where] we don’t talk about differences.”
Stormzy’s Pyramid Stage headline show at Glastonbury last month, where the British rapper highlighted the diverse dance initiative Ballet Black, felt like a big moment in that regard, I say, especially for a new generation. She concurs, with the kind of steady, steely gaze that says she is in this for the long haul. “I know people say we need to have more, but it takes time. Sometimes we need to stand back and see these changes are actually occurring right now. We’ve got to be grateful for them. And we’ve got to keep pushing.”
Theresa May’s state of politics speech – Snap verdict
Shortly before Tony Blair stood down he gave a speech on the media. It did not “land” happily. He said the press could be like a “feral beast” and, unsurprisingly, when they wrote it up the following day, the newspapers took a dim view. In some ways it was a gutless speech – he singled out the Independent for criticism, but not the Daily Mail – but some of its analysis was sound, and it was vindicated by the Leveson inquiry.
Theresa May has also given a valedictory speech on a general topic, the state of politics. Her general point, that opinion in Britain and elsewhere is becoming increasingly polarised and that this is making compromise harder, was a sound. In fact, it is one of the great truths of our time. And yet the speech was a whole was exceptionally poor, mainly for two reasons.
First, as many people have been pointing out on Twitter (round-up coming soon), May refused to accept any responsibility at all for this state of affairs. As a speech, it was striking for its lack of self-awareness. You can understand why a prime minister might not want to telegraph their flaws at the start of their premiership, but with just seven days left in office to go, an element of contrition would have been welcome. It would be wrong to claim that May is wholly to blame for our Brexit deadlock (it is possible that no other PM could have found a compromise acceptable to parliament), but May herself played a part in entrenching divisions by pandering to the Brexiter right in her first few months in office, when she was laying down red lines that made subsequent compromise much harder. This was the period when Nigel Farage found it hard to fault a word she said. When she was asked to address this in the Q&A, she just reacted angrily. (See 3.39pm.)
The second problem with the speech, partially related to the first, was that it was almost devoid of analysis. May painted a recognition of a world where opinions are increasingly divided and extreme, but had nothing to say about how we’ve got here. Is it social media? Loss of faith in neoliberalism, or capitalism generally, to deliver rising prosperity? A backlash against multiculturalism? A rise in nationalism? Russian meddling? I don’t know. But May does not seem to know either, and she supposedly has access to the finest minds in government. The absence of an analytic framework in the speech also meant its prescriptions were rather meaningless. We should all be a bit nicer to each other and compromise, she said. But if she had worked out the cause of the problem, she would have been better placed to argue for a solution.
Q: How worried are you about what is happening in the US? How should your successors handle this relationship?
May says the special relationship will remain, regardless of who is in the White House.
She says the US should accept the need for multilateral organisations.
And that’s it. The speech is over.
I will post a verdict and reaction shortly.
Q: What advice do you have for your successor in terms of dealing with China?
May says the UK wants good economic ties with China. But the UK will continue to express its concerns over matters like the joint declaration for Hong Kong.
Q: Have you left the country and your party in a better or worse state? And you do not seem to take any responsiblity for the effects your own words have had, like talking about EU nationals as queue jumpers?
May says she did accept that she should not have used the phrase about EU nationals jumping the queue.
She says it is a matter of deep regret that she has not been able to get Brexit over the line. She did everything she could, including putting her own job on the line.
She says the Tory party has rising membership.
(That is probably largely to do with people joining over the last few months because they knew a leadership election was coming.)
Q: What is your message for investors thinking about the future?
Come to the UK, says May.
She says investment in the UK had held up despite the Brexit negotiations. She says that is a tribute to the underlying strength of the British economy.
May is now taking questions from non-journalists.
Q: You set up Women2Win to get female candidates selected for the Tories. But progress has been glacial. Will you come back and help?
May says she will continue to champion this cause. She says you get better decisions with greater diversity.
Q: Did you play any part in the extradition of Hashem Abedi to the UK over the Manchester bombing?
May says this is an important moment for the investigation.
Q: Who were you referring to when you spoke about absolutism? Did you mean President Trump or Boris Johnson?
May says she was making a general point.
Q: Boris Johnson says the backstop is dead. He wants to sort out the border issue after the UK has left. Is this sensible?
May says it will be up to her successor to decide how they proceed.
She says the Belfast/Good Friday agreement contains an essential compromise. People in Northern Ireland can have Irish citizenship, and cross the border easily. That is why she thought that was important.
Q: Philip Hammond said today that he is terrified of how people close to Boris Johnson think a no-deal Brexit would not harm the economy. Are you terrified to?
May repeats her point about wanting a Brexit deal.
Q: Do you share any responsibility for this? You are spoke about citizens of nowhere and used glib language, like referring to a red, white and blue Brexit. Is the naughtiest thing you have ever done still running through a wheat field?
May says the stupidest thing she has done is answering this question.
She says not all the language she has used has been perfect. But there has been a coarsening of language, she says.
She says people should not ascribe bad motives to people who disagree with them.
Q: To what extent do you think the Tory leadership contest has illustrated your arguments about extremism?
May says she was not talking about the leadership contest. She says her speech reflected ideas she has been considering for some time.
Q: Could you accept a no-deal Brexit?
May says she thinks it would be best for the UK to leave the EU with a deal.
May stressed the need to reclaim the middle ground.
If we can do this, we can live together peacefully, she says.
May says Dwight Eisenhower planned D-day from the building she is in.
She quotes him saying people talk about the middle of the road as being a bad place. But it is where you can make progress, he said. The extremes are in the gutter.
May says being prepared to compromise means knowing when not to compromise, and when to stand firm, as the UK did after the Salisbury poisoning attack by Russia.
From MLex’s Matthew Holehouse
May says the UK is the first country trying to put forward a comprehensive set of standards for internet companies.
May says compromise is needed to address the Brexit impasse.
She says some people think she should have gone for a no-deal in March. Some people wanted Brexit stopped. But most people wanted Brexit done with a deal, she says.
She says the problem was that politics retreated into its binary, pre-referendum positions.
May says the far left wants to scrap the free market.
But it is free and competitive markets that drive innovation, she says.
May says Vladimir Putin claims liberalism is redundant.
That is a falsehood, she says.
But if we are to stand up for our values, we must rebuild support for them, she says.
She calls for a politics of “pragmatic conviction”.
May says we are living through a period of profound change.
Technology is expanding opportunities, she says.
But people are also feeling anxious about their prospects in the future.
May says international institutions, like the UN, were also built by compromise. Only a mission from the US to Stalin persuaded the Russians to drop their demand for an all-encompassing veto. The Russians back down. And that compromise meant the UN could operate.
May says it is easy to assume these international agreements will endure. But they should not be taken for granted, she says.
May says the NHS was a joint effort.
It was the idea of a coaltion government. The white paper proposing it was announced by a Conservative minister. Then a Labour government introduced it.
When Churchill’s Conservative government returned to power, it built on what had been achieved.
May says this is not just a domestic problem.
International politics is increasingly adversarial too, she says. She says politics is seen as a zero-sum game.
This is not what politics should be about, she says.
She says it is important for there to be common ground. This does not have to mean abandoning principles, she says.
May says political debate has descended into ‘rancour and tribal differences’
May says getting things done, rather than getting them said, requires qualities that have become unfashionable.
One is being willing to compromise, she says.
She says persuasion, team work and a willingness to make concessions are features of politics at its best.
But today people are unwilling to compromise.
She says our whole political discourse seems to be heading down the wrong path.
There is an element of absolutism in this, she says.
People are losing the ability to disagree honourably.
She says the debate has descended into “rancour and tribal differences”.
May says applicants at Tory selection meetings always used to be asked if they were conviction politicians, or pragmatists.
She says she never accepted the distinction. She thought politics was about implementing one’s convictions.
May says state of politics is matter for ‘serious concern’
May says this could be a crucial century.
Democratic politics, free speech and the rule of law have provided the nexus for progress over the last century.
On that basis, today there are grounds for “serious concern”.
Theresa May is speaking now.
She says she has lived politics for 50 years, starting as an activist stuffing envelopes.
In every job she has done she has been inspired by the potential of politics.
Looking at the world and this country, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
Extreme poverty and child mortality have been halved.
People are richer and healthier than before.
There is more concern for the environment.
There are more women in positions of power than every before.
When she was born, homosexuality was illegal. And casual bigotry has common. That has changed, she says.
Robin Niblett from Chatham House is introducing the prime minister.
He says the PM will take questions afterwards.
Theresa May’s speech on the state of politics
Theresa May is about to give a speech on “the state of politics domestically and internationally”. There is a live feed at the top of the blog.
Unusually, Number 10 has not given any steer at all as to what she will say.
But we have been told that the speech will be quite long.
Which is not necessarily very surprising. If she is determined to cover everything wrong with politics at the moment, we could be here until Friday …
Blair expresses new doubts about whether decision to invade Iraq was correct
In journalistic terms the Iraq war almost counts as ancient history. The invasion took place 16 years ago. But it still affects political thinking in Britain profoundly (it helps to explain Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader, for example) and so it is surprising that an interview given by Tony Blair to Prospect magazine has not attracted more attention.
Blair does not go as far as to admit that the decision to join the US invasion of Iraq was wrong. But in the interview he does seems to go further than he has ever done before in suggesting that, if he had his time again, he would have taken a different decision.
Few speeches by a British prime minister have been as influential, so the tests are worth recapping: “First, are we sure of our case? […] Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? […] Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? […] And finally, do we have national interests involved?”
Calling a question a test, however, doesn’t make the answer to it any less subjective—or contentious. While there was relatively little opposition to Britain’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and in Sierra Leone a year later, the same could not be said for Iraq. Blair still won’t admit that Iraq missed his tests, although many others certainly do. But in talking, he did admit for the first time that “there were elements that were missing” from his original doctrine. He now wanted “very strongly” to add two more tests, narrowing the circumstances in which going to war is wise.
The first—and most controversial—is to consider “if you’re going into a country, where there are going to be strong, Islamist influences at play… whose very purpose is to destabilise what you’re trying to do… who are prepared to kill and die in pursuit of that.” This, he said, is “what we found in Iraq and Afghanistan, what the Russians and Iranians and others found in Syria, and what the [Saudi-led] coalition forces are finding in Yemen.” His use of the very specific word “Islamists,” when “insurgents” would make the same point more generally, is telling.
Blair’s second new test is public opinion at home. “I think it is difficult to do this if it’s going to be a long-term project, and your own country is divided about it.” Especially, he added, if there is a change in government “and the people who come after you have no particular interest in seeing that long-term project through.” These extra tests might seem almost custom-made to acknowledge the disaster of Iraq. All he wants to say about that conflict however is that it was “not a bad or ignoble mission.”
From this account Blair seems unwilling to publicly acknowledge the implications of his two new tests. The Iraq invasion did have public support in 2003, but that support was shallow and did not last long, and soon the invasion was unpopular. So on the public opinion test, given what Blair says about a “long-term project”, Iraq would fail. And obviously it would fail on the “Islamist influences” test. Blair seems to be implying the UK should not have participated, even if he does not want to so explicitly.
I’ve phrased it like that because, as Jon Davis and John Rentoul argue in their excellent new book on the Blair government, Heroes or Villains? The Blair Government Reconsidered, Blair is treated as if he were single-handedly responsible for what happened in Iraq, when in fact George W Bush was determined to invade anyway. Davis and Rentoul explain:
In fact, the US government had already decided to invade Iraq and the decision for the British government was whether United Kingdom forces would join them. If it had decided that they should not, the invasion would have gone ahead anyway … Nothing the British government decided would have made much difference to what happened in Iraq, or to the bloodshed that followed the invasion, or to subsequent events, such as the rise of Islamic State across the Iraqi-Syria border …
Indeed [if the UK had not participated in the invasion] British troops would probably have been sent to Iraq as part of the UN-endorsed occupation afterwards, and the situation would have been roughly the same as it is today.
This is what John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, told the Press Association this morning about the advert placed by Labour peers attacking Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism.
Adverts in the Guardian are quite expensive … they could have used it on a Jewish charity tackling antisemitism, for example.
But that’s the way they want to communicate, they’ve done it. I’d have rather they just picked up the phone and came and met Jeremy.
This is what Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman said about the antisemitism row after PMQs.
I think the polling shows it is completely rampant among members of the Conservative party, who are currently choosing Britain’s next prime minister, on a scale far, far, far bigger than the incidents of antisemitism in the Labour party.
And I think as a matter of anti-racist commitment it’s essential that that is properly dealt with and at the moment there is no sign of that taking place.
‘What would Attlee, Bevan and Benn think?’ – May accuses Corbyn of ‘dodging responsibility’ over antisemitism
This is what the Press Association has filed about PMQs exchanges between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn trashed each other’s record in dealing with allegations of racism within their parties during Prime Minister’s Questions.
May switched focus on to Labour’s approach to antisemitism after Corbyn began by asking about the government’s record on climate change.
Labour leader pushed back with criticism of the Conservative party’s response to Islamophobia and the views of some of its members.
On climate change, he also claimed that at the current rate the government will not meet its 2050 net zero emissions target “until 2099” – warning at this point it will be “too late for our planet and our children”.
Speaking in the Commons, Corbyn started by asking why the government had been accused of “coasting” over climate change, to which the prime minister replied: “The government has a fine record on climate change, including our recent legislation on net zero emissions.
“But there is an issue that needs to be addressed in this house, and before [Corbyn] stands up and parades himself as the champion of climate change or the champion of the people or the defender of equality and fairness, he needs to apologise for his failure to deal with racism in the Labour party.”
May held up a newspaper advertisement, telling MPs: “Just today, 60 distinguished members of the Labour party have written in the newspapers ‘the Labour party welcomes everyone … except, it seems, Jews. This is your legacy Mr Corbyn. You still haven’t opened your eyes. You still haven’t told the whole truth. You still haven’t accepted your responsibility. You have failed the test of leadership’.
Corbyn replied: “This party was the first to introduce anti-racist legislation into law in Britain.
“This party totally opposes racism in any form whatsoever.
“Antisemitism has no place in our society, no place in any of our parties, and no place in any of our dialogue. Neither does any other form of racism.
“And when 60% of Tory party members think Islam is a threat to Western civilisation, and the prime minister has said she will act on Islamophobia within her own party, I hope she does.
“I look forward to that being dealt with as we deal with any racism that occurs within our own party as well” …
In his final remarks, Corbyn said: “Air pollution levels breached legal limits in 37 of the 43 areas of this country.
Two-thirds of our children are growing up in an area where pollution breaches legal limits.
This crisis is literally suffocating our children and damaging their health.
Once again, this government is dodging its responsibility, while Labour leads the way.
May, in her reply, highlighted tens of thousands of new jobs linked to renewables and clean growth before warning she would not take “any lectures” from Labour on the issue.
She went on: “He talks about dodging responsibility – the person who has been dodging his responsibility during this PMQs is [Corbyn].
“The real disgrace is his handling of racism in the Labour Party.
PMQs – Snap verdict: By recent standards, that went rather well for Theresa May. It wasn’t a glorious triumph, and even on the Tory side there is precious little evidence of MPs willing to credit her with a legacy (if Roger Gale is the best you can get when looking for a character reference, see 12.25pm, you’re not doing well), but in the key encounter with Jeremy Corbyn, May assailed him unremittingly. You can argue that PMQs is meant to be about the PM defending her record, not the leader of the opposition defending his, but that rather misses that point that PMQs it not so much a career performance evaluation as a contest for political authority, and that means attacks on the opposition can be fair. Given the unusual circumstances, Labour peers taking out a newspaper advert to rubbish their own leader, May’s decision to go on about it was reasonable. Corbyn did not allow himself to be wholly derailed, and on air quality more than climate change, he had May in real difficulty, because she did not seem to have any defence to the points he was putting. But he was on the defensive throughout. In response to May’s jibes about antisemitism Corbyn could probably have made more of the point about 60% of Tory members thinking Islam is a threat to society (it wasn’t enough to raise the point – he should have challenged May to say whether she agreed with them) and the whole racism row eclipsed the arguments he was seeking to make. To the public at large it may not have been very edifying – two politicians arguing who’s the more racist – but May seemed to leave her MPs quite cheered by the exchanges, whereas Corbyn didn’t, and so on that metric she came out top.
In recent PMQs Corbyn has said little about the probable next Tory leader, Boris Johnson. The SNP’s Ian Blackford has been much more willing to focus on the opponent his party will be facing in the autumn, and we saw that again today when he referenced Boris Johnson’s history of using racist language in newspaper columns. But it was only a short reference, and mostly what was strange about today was about how little was said about the Tory leadership contest, or the Brexit crisis that is likely to erupt soon afterwards. Earlier, after Philip Hammond labelled some of the Brexit thinking prevalent in the Johnson camp “terrifying” (see 10.29am), I said this was bound to come up at PMQs. It didn’t. It is almost as if the Commons is in denial about what might happen next. Perhaps that’s just as terrifying.
Labour’s Kerry McCarthy asks about a constituent with spinal muscular atrophy. Recently May expressed the hope that he would be able to get the drug Spinraza. But he has not had a response yet, she says. Will May ensure he gets a response?
May says she will ensure that McCarthy gets a response before she leaves office.
And that’s it.
The SNP’s John McNally asks about the seafood industry in Scotland. Longer delays for exports will lead to insurance costs going up, he says.
May says her Brexit deal would have protected jobs. But the SNP did not support it, she says.
The SNP’s Neil Gray asks about someone with learning difficulties who has had their disability benefit cut. Disability benefits have been cut four times faster than other benefits under this government, she says.
May says spending on disability benefits is at a record high. And the number of disabled people in work has increased, she says.
The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman says May has no right to be proud of her record on modern slavery. She says records show, according to a BuzzFeed investigation, only 16 out of 326 victims had their applications to stay in the UK approved.
May says she makes no apologies for passing the Modern Slavery Act. Her government took this seriously when others did not.
Nigel Evans, a Conservative, asks what the government is doing to promote LGBT rights abroad.
May says she raised this issue at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting last year. She urged countries to change their laws, and she offered them UK support with this.
The SNP’s Patrick Grady says the hostile environment of migrants will be May’s legacy. How can she spend millions on a marketing campaign saying Britain is great when for many traders from Africa the UK is closed.
May says visas are an important tool to tackle illegal immigration. Visa applications from African nationals are at their highest level since 2013, she says.
The SNP’s Chris Stephens asks May to intervene to stop asylum seekers being made homeless in Glasgow.
May says the government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers seriously. She says in Glasgow Serco has been providing accommodation to asylum seekers at its own expense. Those people then have to move on, she says.
George Freeman, a Conservative, asks May if she agrees that Brexit should be a moonshot moment for British science.
May says one of the first receptions she held at Number 10 was for Tim Peake, the astronaut. She says the UK is a global leader in science.
Robert Halfon, a Conservative, says he recently met constituents who moved into Help to Buy homes build by Persimmon. The houses are shoddy, he says. He says his constituents view Persimmon as “crooks, cowboys and con artists”.
May says developers should be building good quality housing under this scheme,
Labour’s Virendra Sharma asks if May will work to ensure that the next government sticks not just to the letter of the 0.7% aid spending commitment, but its spirit too.
May says she is proud of the government’s aid record. And this target is now in legislation, she says. She says the Conservatives committed to maintain it in their election manifesto.
Rachel Maclean, a Conservative, asks about local prostate services in her constituency.
May says she will consider the point raised.
Labour’s Paula Sherriff says rail passengers in the north asks which has been delayed the longest – the Northern Powerhouse or the next train. Does she back renationalise the railway?
May says the Northern Powerhouse is there. There is a record level of funding for transport in the north.
Labour’s Sharon Hodgson says thousands of families will be worried about how to feed their childen over the school holiday, let alone take them on holiday. Will she ensure people who qualify for free school meals get free meals over the summer?
May says a programme giving free meals and activities to children who get free school meals is being expanded this summer.
Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative, says May is one of only three PMs on whose watch the world cup has been brought home. Will May allow herself the luxury of thinking history will treat her captaincy more kindly than those who have campaigned against her?
May thanks Gale for his support. And she turns to the World Cup (which was not the point of Gale’s question.)
The Tory Daniel Kawczynski asks about a health reorganisation in his constituency.
May says the government thinks clinicians should have the final say.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, says May finally did the right thing this week when she criticised President Trump’s racist tweets. Will she now finally condemn her own racist ‘go home’ vans?
May says she said at the time that those were too blunt an instrument. But the public expect the government to deal with immigration.
Blackford says the Tories were silent when May implemented a hostile environment policy for immigrants. And they were silent about Boris Johnson’s racist newspaper columns. Isn’t the Tory MP Guto Bebb right to criticise the party for appealing to nationalism. Scotland looks on in horror.
May says the only party appealing to blatant nationalism is the SNP.
Corbyn says if all emissions were counted (ie, using the Labour approach), emissions would be more than 60% higher. The government promised to take action on air pollution in poorer areas. What action has been taken?
May says the government’s air quality strategy is ambitious.
Wonderful words, says Corbyn. But he says air pollution limits are broken in 37 out of 42 areas in this country. The Labour mayor of London is leading the way on better air quality. She says May promised action, but has not delivered. She has effectively banished onshore wind. When will this government face up and get a grip on this crisis.
May says more than 400,000 jobs have been created in the renewable energy market. But she will not take any lectures when the last Labour government incentivised diesel. And Corbyn talks about dodging responsibility. But the real person dodging responsibility is Corbyn. What would Labour heroes like Attlee and Bevan think? What Corbyn is doing to Labour he must never be allowed to do to the country.
Corbyn says May should look at her own record. She introduced “go home vans” when she was home secretary. He says the government will not meet its zero emissions target until 2099 at the current rate of progress.
Still no apology, says May.
She says the government has outperformed on some of her zero emission targets. Her party is acting on climate change, she says. She is dealing with the issues that matter to people. Corbyn needs to deal with the issues that matter to her party.
Corbyn says Labour passed climate change legislation. He says the government has cut measures to help renewable energy. Labour would measure total UK emissions, including what is funded abroad. Will May match that?
May says her government uses the international definiton.
She says last year renewable energy use hit a record level.
Jeremy Corbyn also congratulates the England team, but adds some praise for the New Zealand team too.
Why did the Climate Change Committee accuse the government of coasting on climate change?
May says the government has a good record on climate change.
Switching subject, she says Corbyn must apologise for his record on antisemitism in the Labour party. She mentions the advert placed by Labour peers. She holds it up, and quotes from it.
Corbyn says Labour was the first party to pass anti-racist legislation. Antisemitism has no place in the party he says. And he says 60% of Tory members think Islam is a threat to civilisation. He hopes May will deal with Islamphobia in her party, as he will deal with racism in his party.
Going back to climate change, he quotes again from the Climate Change Committee.
May quotes the committee chairman praising the UK’s record.
She goes back to antisemitism. She says she deals with Islamophobia in her party. Any allegations are dealt with, unlike antisemitism in Labour. Corbyn can say what he wants. But last week Trevor Phillips, the former equalities commission chair, said Labour was like a textbook case of institutional racism.
Sir Peter Bottomley, a Tory, asks about the a book looking at the involvement of criminals in the Olympics. And he asks about this report on the topic.
May says police should investigate allegations of crime and corruption fairly.
Theresa May starts by congratulating all those who she said took part in “a great weekend of sport”. She welcomed the England cricket team to Downing Street on Monday, she says. She says she told they they represented the best of Britain.
Labour’s Lilian Greenwood says Notts County, the world’s oldest professional football club, is facing extinction. Will May urge the FA, the Football League and the national league to see if they can help.
May says the government is not complacent. It will hold the football authorities to account. Inquiries should be made into the suitability of owners, she says.
Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.
PMQs is starting in five minutes.
EU fishermen may still be allowed into UK waters under no-deal, Barclay says
The Brexit committee hearing is about to wrap up.
Hilary Benn, the chairman, ends with some final questions.
Q: If there is a no-deal Brexit, will EU fishermen lose the right to fish in British waters immediately?
Steve Barclay says there is a difference between the legal position, and what the UK would seek to arrange.
Q: Would the government ban French fishing waters from UK waters on 1 November under no-deal?
Barclay says, legally, the UK would have control. But the government would try to agree a “continuity approach”. It would be in the country’s interests to have reciprocal arrangements.
Barclay says, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government would seek to agree a ‘continuity approach’ on fishing, allowing EU boats continued access to British waters.
Q: Why should firms prepare for no-deal if Boris Johnson is saying the chances of that are just a million to one?
Barclay says the legal default is no-deal.
In the committee Andrea Jenkyns, the Tory Brexiter, is asking the questions now.
Q: What impact do you think the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen as the new European commission president will have on the Brexit process?
Barclay says Von der Leyen has been German defence minister. She has a good understanding of what the UK can contribute to Europe’s security, he says.
Here is the Labour MP David Lammy on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Telegraph article about a no-deal Brexit. (See 10.29am.)
Barclay says no-deal Brexit is more likely than people assume
Barclay says the government has been doing a lot of work warning people about the prospects of no-deal.
Q: You seem to be saying the chances are rather higher than one million to one.
Barclay says there are 24 sitting days for the Commons in September and October. The withdrawal agreement bill is complicated, he says. He says you cannot programme business in the Lords.
Q: What is your assessment of the likelihood of no-deal?
Barclay says he thinks no-deal is “underpriced”.
Barclay says no-deal Brexit is more likely than people assume.
He refuses to back Boris Johnson’s claim that the chances of a no-deal Brexit are just one million to one. (Barclay is backing Johnson for the Tory leadership.)
What Barclay said about his meeting with Barnier
This is what Steve Barclay told MPs about his meeting with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, at the start of today’s hearing. (See 10.04am and 10.07am.)
In terms of the withdrawal agreement, what I said was that the house had rejected it three times, including the third time by a significant margin; that the European election results in my view had further hardened attitudes across the house and that the text, unchanged, I did not envisage going through the house. I don’t think that was a particularly controversial observation.
Barclay also claimed a lot of “misleading information” about his meeting had been published.
The Labour MP Stephen Timms is asking questions now.
Q: Would the UK lose access to EU police databases from day one under a no-deal Brexit?
Barclay says that is a matter for discussion. The legal position is yes. But he says he thinks, if a no-deal looked as if it were going to happen, he thinks there would be a “renewed focus” on finding a solution. For example, he says the European arrest warrant system is used more by EU countries than by the UK.
Barclay suggests British access to EU police and criminal databases could be maintained in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Car manufacturers and sheep farmers could get compensation in event of no-deal, Barclay says
In the committee John Whittingdale, the Tory Brexiter, is asking the questions now.
Q: Are Defra drawing up plans to compensate sheep farmers in the event of tariffs being imposed under a no-deal Brexit?
Steve Barclay says a “significant amount” of work has been done. The government is “acutely aware” of the potential problems.
Barclay confirms car manufacturers (see 10.16am) and sheep farmers could receive compensation in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Back in the committee, Steve Barclay was asked about Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt saying any withdrawal agreement containing a Northern Ireland backstop would be unacceptable.
Barclay said it was not just Johnson and Hunt saying this. He said they were reflecting the views of parliament.
Hammond says it’s ‘terrifying’ that leading Boris Johnson ally thinks no-deal won’t harm economy
Turning away from the Brexit committee for a moment, the Tory Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg has written an article in today’s Telegraph attacking claims that a no-deal Brexit will make the UK poorer. Here is an extract.
Last week, the chancellor, Philip Hammond warned against a no-deal Brexit, suggesting it would cost the UK economy £90 billion. It is disappointing to see his predictions still so heavily reliant on the Treasury’s “Project Fear” economic model first published in November 2018 – especially when several recent models employed by economists independent of the government, notably the World Trade Model developed at Cardiff University, have found the opposite: that the total positive impact of no-deal could be in the region of about £80 billion.
This £170 billion discrepancy can be accounted for by examining the assumptions fed into the Treasury model, which range from the absurd to the merely dubious. The most egregious is the failure to include the annual savings from no longer paying the £20 billion annual gross budget contribution to the EU. This omission tells you all you need to know about the Treasury’s pessimistic mindset …
Put simply, the idea that we will be poorer in the long-term and even in the short-term after Brexit is a myth.
In response Hammond has posted a tweet saying it is “terrifying” that someone this close to the next government (Rees-Mogg is one of Boris Johnson’s leading parliamentary supporters, and could be offered a job in a Johnson government) can make these claims.
We will be hearing more about this at PMQs, almost certainly.
Peter Bone, a Tory Brexiter, goes next.
Q: Does “no-deal” mean there would be no deals at all?
No, says Barclay. He says there are some agreements in place that would operate in the event of no-deal. People use no-deal to mean the UK leaving without a withdrawal agreement, he says.
Barclay says some side agreements with the EU would be in place in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.
Q: Is the government considering buying extra roll-on, roll-off ferry capacity?
Barclay says a framework is in place to enable the government to purchase extra capacity.
Barclay says that figure represents a cost going up to 2035. And it does not take into account any mitigating measures the Treasury might take.
Q: Would the government compensate car manufacturers from the impact of tariffs that would be imposed under no-deal?
Barclay says the government has been in discussion with the car industry.
He says other policy decisions would have to be taken into account. The picture is “more nuanced” than Benn suggests, he says.
What I’m saying is we are having extensive discussions with the industry, including the prime minister this week, because it is more nuanced …
Of course there will be impact, but the future trend is into areas such as electric vehicles and there’s a huge amount the government can do in those areas, it’s not just what we have got in terms of the status quo.
Q: But a 10% tariff is not a nuance. It is a cost.
Barclay says 80% of goods would be tariff free under the new regime. But the car sector would be affected. He says the tariffs on parts being imported would not be as high as Benn implies.
Q: You imply this problem can be managed. But the evidence we have had from these sectors shows they are not relaxed. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says a no-deal Brexit is not an option.
Barclay says it is factually incorrect to say no-deal is not an option.
It would be disruptive, he says. But there would be mitigating things the government could do. They would not be a panacea, he says.
He says the government would have to look at what support it could give to the industry.
Barclay suggests the government is considering compensation for the car industry to make up for the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Barclay says the government has been talking to the farming sector about this. He admits that some sectors of the economy would be damaged by a no-deal Brexit.
Hilary Benn, the Labour MP who chairs the Brexit committee, asks about the Times’ story. (See 10.04am.)
Steve Barclay says his meeting with Michel Barnier has been misrepresented. He says he was just making the point to Barnier that the withdrawal agreement as it stands would not get through parliament. He says all members of the committee would agree with this assessment.
Brexit secretary Steve Barclay questioned by MPs
Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, has just started giving evidence to the Commons Brexit committee. There will be a live feed here.
Barclay is going to to be asked about his meeting with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, in Brussels last week. According to the Times’ Bruno Waterfield, the encounter was acrimonious. Here is an extract from his story (paywall).
Brussels is preparing for “brutal” talks with the next prime minister after the Brexit secretary told Michel Barnier five times during a bad-tempered meeting that the withdrawal agreement was dead.
Stephen Barclay left Mr Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, astonished and dismayed in a “confrontational” exchange last Tuesday.
“He told Barnier that the withdrawal agreement was dead — not once but five times,” a senior EU diplomat said. “If this is what is coming then we will be heading for no deal very quickly” …
One senior diplomat close to the negotiations said it was the most hostile encounter in three years since the Brexit referendum, adding that Mr Barclay had seemed to “tear up the previously constructive approach taken by Theresa May”.
“It worked like a megaphone but it has hardened attitudes,” the diplomat said. “It is not the smart thing to do if a new prime minister is serious about getting a withdrawal agreement across the line. I guess Barclay is applying for a job in the Johnson cabinet.”
These stories keep appearing. It doesn’t matter how often I deny them, they keep appearing. I will not be joining the Liberal Democrats.
Bebb also confirmed that, if necessary, he might be willing to vote against the government in a no confidence debate to stop a no-deal Brexit. He explained:
My farming community would be devastated by a no-deal Brexit. So I’ll say very clearly, I was not elected to see a quarter of all the farmers in my constituency [Aberconwy] disappear. So I have been very clear. I would not want to do it [vote against the government on a no confidence motion]. But if I have to do something of that nature in order to stop the destruction of communities in my constituency, then it might have to come to that.
On the Today programme this morning Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiter former leader of the Commons who is backing Boris Johnson for the Tory leadership, said she would not support any move to prorogue parliament to stop MPs trying to block a no-deal Brexit. Johnson has not ruled out trying this strategy. Leadsom said she would not back him if he did, although she also stressed that in practice she did not think it would happen. She said:
I don’t think that prorogation is the right thing to do and I don’t think a prime minister would choose to do that.
Asked if she would support Johnson if he did try this, she replied: “No, I don’t believe I would and I don’t believe it will happen.”
McDonnell sets out Labour’s three strategies for ending in-work poverty
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is giving a speech this morning setting out the three strategies Labour would use to eliminate in-work poverty in the first term of a Jeremy Corbyn government. According to the briefing sent out in advance, he will set out three strategies the party would adopt.
1) Structural changes to the economy: including industrial strategy, a network of regional public banks, expanded trade union rights, a £10ph real living wage, workers on boards and public investment across the country
2) Public services free at the point of use paid for through taxation: ending austerity in existing public services, free school meals, free buses for young people, free childcare, restoring funding for public libraries, leisure centres and parks;
3) A strong social safety net: stopping the universal credit roll-out and fundamental review of our social security system, including an end to sanctions, establishing the principle of universalism and looking after each other in times of need.
Behind the concept of social mobility is the belief that poverty is OK as long as some people are given the opportunity to climb out of it, leaving the others behind.
I reject that completely, and want to see a society with higher living standards for everyone as well as one in which nobody lacks the means to survive or has to choose between life’s essentials.
A rejection of the belief that it’s OK if your local factory closes, as long as you have cash transfers from the finance sector in the south east or a new warehouse opening on the edge of town paying minimum wage on its zero hour contracts.
Ending poverty won’t just be done in the workplace: we need to make sure the essentials of life are never denied to people because of their circumstances.
So parents aren’t forced to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their children or the unemployed teenager doesn’t give up on job interviews because they cost £5 in bus fares each time.
Labour has already committed ourselves to ending sanctions and bringing work capability assessments in-house by medical professionals. But we also are asking ourselves more fundamental questions.
We need a structurally different economy, a social safety net of shared public service provision, and of course a financial safety net as well.
Without any one of these three elements, we will not be able to achieve the sustained eradication of poverty, the dramatic narrowing of inequality, and the transformation of people’s lives that will be the central purpose of the next Labour government.
McDonnell will be speaking at the launch of the Resolution Foundation’s annual living standards audit. You can read the full report here, and Larry Elliott’s write-up here.
9.45am: Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, gives evidence to the Commons transport committee
10am: Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Brexit committee.
12pm: Theresa May faces Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.
Afternoon: May gives a speech on the state of politics.
Late afternoon: Peers start debating the Northern Ireland (executive formation) bill. They are expected to vote on a move to beef up an amendment to the bill intended to stop the next PM proroguing parliament in the autumn to facilitate a no-deal Brexit.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary when I wrap up.
If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.
England’s small towns are set to swell with increasing numbers of elderly people as they reject city living amid a hidden housing crisis caused by a lack of appropriate homes for a rapidly ageing population, a new study reveals.
Bexhill in East Sussex, Corby in Northamptonshire and Denton in Greater Manchester are forecast to see the biggest increases in populations aged 55+ during the next two decades, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Centre for Towns thinktank.
Failure to improve housing options for the elderly could add hugely to care and NHS costs, with the Building Research Establishment forecasting that inappropriate housing for the over-55s will cost nearly £20bn by 2041. Hip fractures caused by falls on stairs, excess cold and overcrowding are among the threats.
Bexhill, and Hartley in Kent, are set for a 19% increase in their over-55 populations by 2041. By contrast, cities and large towns are proving a turn-off for older home movers, with just one in five willing to consider an urban move compared with a third who want to move to a small town, polling commissioned for the study reveals. A lack of space and accessible and adaptable ground-floor homes were among problems cited.
The forecasts raise the prospect of increasing generational polarisation, with the young increasingly prevalent in cities and unavailable to help look after their elders in towns and villages, where the “dependency ratio” between people aged 65 and over and those aged 15-64 is forecast to rise. The sharpest increases will be in the Yorkshire towns of Ilkley, Catterick and Knaresborough, Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire and Frimley in Surrey.
“Well-designed places can ensure that older people can continue to contribute economically and socially for longer,” the report says. “Isolation and not feeling like valued members of the community are major issues that particularly affect older people. Failure to get to grips with this will have severe consequences.”
After years of housing policy focused on first-time buyers, the Riba is now calling on ministers to make it mandatory for all new homes to be accessible for older and disabled people, for councils to allocate sites for “age-friendly” housing and for estate agents to clearly label accessible housing in marketing materials.
It argues this could free up family housing. A third of the UK’s homes are thought to have two or more spare bedrooms, according to analysis of 2011 census figures. But the retirement and older-age housing currently on offer is not proving sufficiently attractive to persuade people to sell up.
Maria Brenton, a founder of Older Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH), which has built 25 homes in Barnet, north London, said the choice of older-age housing appeared to be based on the idea that “we can cram their lives into 48 sq m and they don’t need room for hobbies or having family to stay”.
She added: “You don’t entice people out of their three-bedroom family houses by offering them a small box.”
OWCH features spacious apartments, designed with wide doors and few steps to accommodate disabilities, and gives control to the residents. Hedi Argent, 90, a retired social worker, said she had looked at retirement villages but “didn’t want to be told how to live; I wanted to make the rules”.
The homes are designed in a horseshoe shape with balconies overlooking shared gardens tended by the residents. There is a large common living room and laundry, but otherwise the flats are self-contained.
“It is liberating to choose how you’re going to live and who you are going to live with,” said Jude Tisdale, who moved in in late 2016.
“It is not a seaside town like Eastbourne – heaven’s waiting room,” added her neighbour Josie Pearse, 64, a fiction writer. “Bugger that.”
Most of the women are either widowed or separated and men cannot live in the complex apart from as temporary guests. Their women-only arrangement is perhaps a sign of things to come as actuaries currently predict that women aged 65 will live two and a half years longer, to 87, than men.
“If there were blokes here, they might want to take charge or be looked after,” said Argent. “A lot of us have been in relationships or been married and a lot of us have thought, well, we’ve done that.”
Lisa Nandy, a Labour MP and co-founder of the Centre for Towns, said: “An ageing population and a widespread failure to understand and deliver the type of housing we need is causing a crisis. A decent, suitable home in your own community is one of the best ways to combat loneliness and prevent conditions like dementia from deteriorating.”
“Our current housing stock is among the oldest in Europe, and only 7% of existing homes meet basic accessibility requirements,” said Dr Anna Dixon, the chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better. “Most new housing caters to first-time buyers and families. Most people in later life want to live in mainstream housing and stay in the communities where they currently live.”
This week it has been gratifying to watch Americans – specifically, American men – grapple on social media with a concept long cherished by the British as a thing we love to hate. If our characters are organised as much around that which we despise as revere, it is safe to say that the ancient British revulsion for Being Up Oneself is a central force in national life that, until this week, many Americans claimed to find mystifying. And then along came Megan Rapinoe.
Traditionally in the United States, being up oneself has been a default attitude practically enshrined in the constitution. As an American, you are obliged to at least pay lip service to the idea that anything is possible, and all that stands between you and your dreams is your own winning hustle. Self-deprecation, that sly old song of Europe, is neither appreciated nor understood. There is no integrity, in the US, in hiding one’s light.
At least that is the official line. The truth of the matter, of course, is that as with everything else in this life, who gets to be up themselves and still come out smelling of roses – the differing reputations of, say, Barry Manilow and Barbra Streisand, two people with what might be described as equally healthy egos springs to mind – is very much up for debate.
Well. While a man who has never, knowingly uttered a modest statement about his vanishingly small talents squats in the White House, Rapinoe’s victory utterance triggered howls of protest from Donald Trump’s supporters. “Obnoxious”; “rude”; “egotistical”. On it went. The you-go-girl end of American positive thinking was never, actually, intended to unleash the female ego in this way but rather to act as a piece of marketing designed to remind people – women in this case – that there are no structural or political disadvantages in the US, only personal liability.
Throughout all this, Rapinoe appeared entirely unconcerned. There was something amazing about her defiance. Feminism is not, we know, about women simply aping men’s bad behaviour, but there was a context for Rapinoe’s “rudeness”. It was a correction to every shuffling, downward-looking, unequal-pay-earning posture adopted by women through the ages. Certainly, a woman who is not only a lesbian but is openly so, unapologetically strutting about in the limelight, had an almost medicinal effect on a culture traumatised by the bigot in Washington. Not even Trump could get away with calling this woman a loser.
She went on: “I think that we need to have a reckoning with the message that you have and what you’re saying about ‘Make America great again’. I think that you’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone. It might have been great for a few people. Maybe America is great for a few people right now. But it’s not great for enough Americans.”
Brazenness plays out differently in women than in men, we know this, and Rapinoe’s self-assurance these past few weeks has felt like a balm. As more details of the financier Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking come out and rape allegations continue to dog the president, simply to see a woman standing on a field staring down a crowd with a “what’s your point?” look on her face has huge symbolic value.
Rapinoe’s detractors on Twitter called her attitude monstrous, a piece of egotism that took away from the team. For many women watching, however, her intent was clear. Rapinoe’s win and her subsequent attitude to winning was, in fact, purely one for the team. My God, it felt good.
A 17-year-old boy has been dramatically cleared of murdering a private school pupil in an affluent suburb of Greater Manchester.
The teenager, who cannot be named, was accused of stabbing to death his friend Yousef Makki, 17, following a botched attempt to rob a drug dealer.
There were angry scenes in Manchester crown court as the defendant, referred to as Boy A, was found not guilty of both murder and manslaughter.
Makki’s father, Ghaleb Makki, exploded in fury and shouted expletives as the judge cleared the courtroom. “Where’s the justice for my son? Where’s the justice?” he asked. Another voice was heard saying “Are you joking?” as the not guilty verdicts were returned. Makki later reportedly collapsed in the public gallery.
Boy A puffed out his cheeks and closed his eyes as he was acquitted before hugging his tearful family. A second 17-year-old, Boy B, was cleared of perverting the course of justice by allegedly lying to police about what he had seen.
The trial heard that Makki was stabbed in the heart with a flick knife after getting into an argument with his friends in the upmarket Cheshire village of Hale Barns, a suburb popular with footballers and television stars.
Makki, who came from an Anglo-Lebanese family and lived in Burnage, had won a scholarship to attend Manchester Grammar school, and had dreamed of becoming a heart surgeon.
On 2 March, Makki was with the two defendants when they allegedly tried to rob a dealer of £45 worth of cannabis on a farm track. However, their attempted robbery failed and Boy A was attacked and had his bicycle thrown over a hedge.
Boy A then later pushed Makki, who called him a “pussy” and punched him in the face, the court heard. The defendant told the jury Makki pulled out a knife and he responded by also taking out a knife, then accidentally stabbed his friend.
Boy A then got rid of the knives before, in a panic, realising how serious the injury was, trying to staunch the blood pouring from his wounded friend’s chest as he lay dying in the street.
Boy A’s barrister, Alastair Webster QC, told the jury that the two teenage defendants led “double lives” and that, despite being from privileged backgrounds, they spoke and acted like “middle class gangsters”.
Calling each other “Bro” and “Fam”, the defendants smoked cannabis, listened to rap or drill music and Boy A posted videos on social media posing with his “shanks” or knives.
Wesbter said: “What’s going on with a whole generation of children with the advantage of good families and good education? They appear to have led double lives, living out idiotic fantasies. Talking in stupid jive talk. Idiotic, juvenile, pathetic, but not sinister – stupid.”
Boy A denied murder claiming he acted in self-defence because Makki had pulled out a knife. He admitted perverting the course of justice by lying to police and possession of a flick knife.
Boy B was cleared of perverting the course of justice by allegedly lying to police about what he had seen but also admitted possession of a flick knife. Both were also cleared of conspiracy to commit robbery in the lead up to Yousef’s death.
In a statement, Boy A’s family said they welcomed the verdicts and that the jury had come “to a proper conclusion on the evidence”. They added: “There are, however, no winners in this case. Yousef’s death was a tragedy and our son will have to live with his responsibility of his role for the rest of his life.
“But the Makki family’s hurt and loss are infinitely greater. Nothing we can say can make up for that or change it.”
Federer says: “Rafa has improved so much over the years on this surface. He’s also playing very differently. I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points.
“We have a lot of information on Rafa, as does he on us. So you can dive into the tactics like mad, or you say: ‘It’s grass-court tennis so I’m going to come out and play my tennis.’ I’m excited to play him again.”
Prediction time. I’m conflicted. My heart says Federer – this is his tournament, after all – but my head says Nadal. He’s arguably been the better player this fortnight. And he’s usually the better player when these two meet, leading the head-to-head 24-15. Though we probably shouldn’t read too much into Nadal’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Federer at the French Open four weeks ago given it was on clay. I’m going for Nadal, probably in four, as is Greg Rusedski:
Which gives you enough time to read this. And perhaps watch this. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about that match.
There’s a 30-minute break between the semi-finals, by the way, so Federer and Nadal will be on court in around 10 minutes’ time.
Here’s Simon Cambers’s match report:
I’m back. Thanks for seeing that out John. It was a tasty enough appetiser to the main event. Things were in the balance after two sets but then Djokovic did what Djokovic does. He’s just so damn hard to beat. The world No 1 seems to have fully recovered from the disappointment of losing in the French Open semi-finals last month when his bid for a second Novak Slam ended, and whoever wins between Federer and Nadal next, Djokovic will be the favourite to win a fifth Wimbledon title – which would draw him level with Bjorn Borg – on Sunday. As for Bautista Agut, having just gone four sets with the world No 1, including that 45-shot rally, he’ll now have to find some energy for his stag.
This has been a dream tournament for me as a child, to be in the final is a dream come true. Playing finals at Wimbledon is something different.
I had to dig deep. He was not overwhelmed with the stadium and occasion. The first set he was probably managing his nerves but at the beginning of the second he established himself. I got a bit tight.
It was a very close opening four or five games of the third set. I’m glad it went my way.
Of course I’ll watch [Federer v Nadal]. It’s one of the most epic rivalries of all time.
Djokovic wins 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 6-2!
That was harder work than expected, but the job is completed. Bautista Agut initially lets Djokovic off with a failed forehand winner. Then comes an ace. The celebrations are temporarily delayed by a scrabbling winner from the Spaniard. A whipped smash that sends his opponent the wrong way takes Djokovic takes him to match point. But…a brilliant passing shot evades his dive. Then, a drop shot forces a run from Bautista Agut and his own drop volley. It’s called out. But is challenged and we are back to deuce. Then comes a wide service return to force another match point, and that’s not taken up when Djoko hits the net cord. We go again, for a third match point after a weary backhand. OK, here it comes..no, failed attempt at an ace. Then there’s another save. Four match points saved, in fact. Then an ace on second serve forces a FIFTH match point. Then it comes, as his serve cannot be returned. The champion is into the final once more and has the chance of a fifth title.
Ok, cue Roger and Rafa. And Bautista Agut’s stag do can be properly convened.
A dead cat bounce? Bautista Agut recovers some lost pride with three points in a row, including an ace to make it 40-0. Then a decent second serve forces mistake from Djokovic. Bautista Agut holds to love and all credit to him.
No mistake made here, with Bautista Agut looking bereft of spirit. A serve volley takes it to 30-0, then a wild ground shot takes it to 40-0. Then comes an ever wilder attempt at a forehand winner. Two successive service games to love from Djokovic.
Oh dear, this one looks over. Bautista Agut could not afford to lose this one, but his serve fails him as he double faults to make it 30-30 and give Djokovic the glimpse of another break. Then another of those disastrous drop shots hands Djokovic that break point. Djokovic steps up to bully his way to seizing it. Bautista Agut needs a miracle.
First break of the fourth set. Djoko is making far better use of the drop shot than his opponent. There is a gasp as Djokovic falls to the ground as he is beaten by a forehand winner. No harm done, and he is swiftly back on his feet. It goes to 30-30, and then another failed Bautista Agut drop shot is chased down to force a break point. Then the Spaniard goes long, too long when Djokovic ramps up the pressure with some fierce baseline hitting.
Djoko begins the game a little lazily once more. Then finds his gears to chase Bautista Agut all over the court. Bautista makes a challenge on a shot that would have made it 15-30 but he had misjudged the flight of the ball. He then misses a winner that would have given him break point. Djokovic serves his way to levelling the score in the fourth set.
This was a marathon. A hold. Just. Djokovic looks a little weary after blasting through that last set but he takes Bautista Agut to deuce with a shot right to the apex of the court. Bautista Agut a little wobbly on his serve, and even wobblier when he plays a drop shot after a long rally. Djokovic was lost, but the ball came off the net to hand over a break point. The Spaniard serves and volleys his way out of that. Djoko calls to the heavens and his prayers are answered with his execution of a far better drop shot. Another break point, but “vamos” from Bautista Agut indicates that one is saved. Then a drop volley offers the Spaniard a way out but after missing his first serve he is out-rallied by the defending champion. Then he makes a mess of a another drop volley, getting his angles all wrong. Yet another break point. Saved yet again with a crashing overhead slam dunk. Then a forehand winner to force another advantage by the server. Then a serve and volley – only his fourth of the entire tournament – means Bautista Agut holds his serve.
John Brewin is here to take you through the fourth set. Over to you, John …
Djokovic wins the third set 6-3
Bautista Agut has enough in the tank after that draining duel to hold comfortably, forcing Djokovic to serve this out. A rare sign of frustration from Bautista Agut as he slaps the net with his racket after slipping 30-0 down. He’s soon 40-0 behind. Three set points for Djokovic. Djokovic steps up to the plate … and produces only his second double fault. It matters not, though, because he secures the set on the next point with a cross-court volley, aided by a net cord. So they’re even after Bautista Agut’s good fortune at the end of the second. But there’s nothing even about the score, with Djokovic potentially a set away from his sixth Wimbledon final.
Third set: Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 5-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
However a tennis player is always at their most vulnerable just after they’ve broken and the world No 1 is no different. 15-40. Two break-back points for Bautista Agut. The first comes and goes. The second is a more drawn-out affair, neither is willing to budge, neither wants to pull the trigger … it goes on … and on … and on … I’m not sure how they’re still breathing, I’m not. Djokovic eventually settles matters on the 45th shot! And has the energy to turn to the crowd and put his finger to his ear. Deuce. After the longest rally of the match, Djokovic is grateful for a free point on his serve. His advantage. Bautista Agut rifles his return long and Djokovic roars once more. He maintains his breathing space.
Third set: Djokovic* 6-2, 4-6, 4-2 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
David Beckham is in the Royal Box this afternoon, after all. Perhaps Fergie has gone for a break. Djokovic, with his elastic limbs at full stretch, gets to 15-30 on Bautista Agut’s serve. He’s kicking himself when he lets Bautista Agut recover to 30-all. Djokovic always seems in control of the fifth point, setting it up for a simple put-away at the net. A first break point of the third set. And Djokovic’s first since the first set. Djokovic carves Bautista Agut up with several slices before sticking the knife in with a one-two punch and a defiant smash. He roars in delight. He’s managed to ride out the storm and has the break.
Third set: Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 3-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
My colleague Jacob Steinberg and I were just wondering whether that ankle Djokovic rolled in the fifth game of the match is causing him problems. Something is awry. As if to illustrate the point, Djokovic then misses a forehand he could make in his sleep. It’s 40-30. Make that deuce. A defiant Djokovic takes the next two points to hold.
Third set: *Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 2-2 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Djokovic holds to 30, though the highlight of the game was a brilliant backhand from Bautista Agut, perhaps his best of this contest so far. With the score level at one set all, this is effectively a three-set match now. And we know Bautista Agut’s already won two of those this year against Djokovic. What Djokovic would give for Bautista Agut’s friends to jump out of the box and bundle him on to a plane for that stag do right now. But I’m rambling. Bautista Agut holds to 15, showing no signs of dropping his level from the second set.
Third set: *Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 1-1 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Having let out a bit of frustration on the crowd, Djokovic then releases some more with a dismissive hold. He’s soon pushing on Bautista Agut’s serve, but at 30-all Bautista Agut pulls off a forehand winner down the line with laser-like precision. 40-30. Djokovic goes long, before almost taking a chunk of grass out of the court with his racket. He pulls away at the last moment, which is probably wise given Serena Williams’s fine this tournament for damaging the sacred grass. There again what’s a $10,000 fine to a man who’s earned more than $130m in prize money?
Bautista Agut wins the second set 6-4
So Bautista Agut is serving for the set. This is usually the moment when Djokovic laughs in the face of danger and breaks. But he slaps into the net at 15-all. A nervous-looking Bautista Agut fails to land a timid first serve, makes the second, before Djokovic takes the point by wrong-footing his opponent and blocking the ball for a winning volley. 30-all. 40-30, set point, with Bautista Agut allowing himself a little fist pump. That’s probably the first emotion we’ve seen from the Spaniard today. And he’s both celebrating and apologising moments later when his shot clatters into the top of the net and just trickles over! Djokovic, meanwhile, is bizarrely telling the crowd to applaud. We’re all square.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 4-5 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
This is such a crucial game. If Djokovic can hold and find a way to break Bautista Agut and go on to win the set, this will surely be over in three. But if Bautista Agut seizes the second, then we may be here for some time. Djokovic comes through to 30. The crowd, it has to be said, are rather quiet. Perhaps they’re thrown by the way this match has changed. Perhaps they’re not sure who to support. Or perhaps they’re saving themselves for Federer and Nadal. Whatever it is, it won’t help Djokovic feel loved. And all he wants – well, apart from another grand slam title – is to be as loved as those two.
Second set: *Djokovic 6-2, 3-5 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
A massive miss from Djokovic on the opening point, that was so far out it probably landed on Wimbledon Common. He quickly puts it out of his mind for 15-all. Djokovic has taken his cap off as he tries to get down to business, but it’s just not happening for him in this second set. An error-strewn game from the Serb and Bautista Agut remains in charge of this set, holding to 15.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 3-4 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic appears in control at 40-15. But Bautista Agut scraps to 40-30, and then strikes his way to deuce when the pair trade forehand after forehand after forehand, with Djokovic then hitting beyond the baseline. Djokovic runs to his chair, hoping a change of racket will change his fortunes. It does the trick, but he needs another deuce before advancing.
Second set: *Djokovic 6-2, 2-4 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Oohs and aaahs and cheers after a drop shot/lob showdown on the second point. Bautista Agut emerges victorious, much to the delight of his stag do friends in his box. They probably thought they’d be catching a flight back to Ibiza at 3pm given the way the first set went. But Bautista Agut is determined to make a match of this and holds superbly to love.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 2-3 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Bautista backs up the break with the minimum of fuss, one netted shot the only blot in an otherwise perfect game for the Spanish 23rd seed. However there’s a risk his momentum could be checked, when a spectator is taken ill. Both players sit down for a few minutes. But when they’re back under way, Bautista Agut starts exactly where he left off, with a ferocious forehand. 0-15. Which is soon 15-40! Two points for a double break. Well, well. Bautista Agut blazes a backhand well wide. Djokovic drills down an ace. Deuce. The pair are moving each other this way and that way and t’other way on the next point, it’s the longest rally of the match at 23 shots, and Bautista Agut blinks first. Djokovic’s advantage. Djokovic’s game. The world No 1 dug himself out of a hole there but he’ll still have to find his way out of a bigger one if he’s to win this set.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 1-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Distracted by Federer’s sweat, I look up and realise Bautista Agut has not only one but two break points. He had a bit of luck to get there, with Djokovic’s string breaking at 15-30. There’s nothing fortunate about the way Bautista Agut breaks though. He flashes a forehand winner past a stranded Djokovic and the stag do crew are on their feet. Their man has his first break!
Second set: Djokovic* 6-2, 1-1 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Two straightforward holds get the second set under way. Meanwhile in far a more newsworthy development: proof that Roger Federer does actually sweat. Such is the effort he’ll put in on the practice courts before his meeting with Nadal later.
Djokovic wins the first set 6-2
Djokovic looks ready to pounce at 30-all. But instead of going straight for the jugular, he bides his time on the next point, eventually working his way to the net. It puts Bautista Agut off and the Spaniard nets. 40-30, set point. A strong serve, but a Djokovic return on the spin bamboozles Bautista Agut, who fires out!
First set: Djokovic 5-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Time for some emails. “Although it feels like the same-old same-old, this is the first time the Big Three have reached the semis of the same Wimbledon since 2007. The heart wants Federer or Nadal, but the head says Djokovic. As for a Big Three name, I rather like Fedalvic,” writes Greg Phillips. And this from krishnamoorthy: “I wrote this blog in June 2011 after Nadal destroyed Federer yet again. Eight years on, Federer is still playing and Nadal is still playing, and they are competing as fiercely as ever. Only one word for them: respect. And one word for me, having written this blog eight years ago: moron.”
A lightning hold from Djokovic, meanwhile, leaves Bautista Agut needing to hold serve to detain the world No 1 in this set for any longer.
First set: *Djokovic 4-2 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
With the sun shining brightly, both players have got their caps on, which makes it slightly difficult for spectators to differentiate between them. Djokovic’s trademark spinning and sliding helps them out on the second point though, however his defensive scrambling isn’t enough to prevail. 30-0. Djokovic comes back at Bautista Agut for 30-all. Bautista Agut produces a big first serve just when he needs it, surely 5-1 would be too big a mountain for him to climb. 40-30. Deuce, Djokovic finishing off an absorbing point with a stop volley. Advantage Baustista Agut. Game BA.
First set: Djokovic 4-1 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Gasps from the crowd when Djokovic slips on the grass while attempting to charge towards the net. 15-30. A glimmer for Bautista Agut? No, because Djokovic slams the door shut with a brutal backhand down the line backed up by a colossal cross-court forehand. 30-all. 40-30. Game.
First set: *Djokovic 3-1 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Bautista Agut’s players’ box is looking rather crowded, with the friends who had flown to Ibiza for his stag do arriving en masse here to watch him in action. But Centre Court must feel like a lonely place for the Spaniard right now, he really needs a game on the board. And that he does, squeezing through from deuce to get off the mark after the longest game of the match so far. Brad Gilbert, though, has already written this set off:
First set: Djokovic 3-0 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic doesn’t have it all his own way, with Bautista Agut getting to 30-all, but yet another failed forehand and it’s game point for the Serb. Bautista Agut’s favoured shot is his forehand so he really needs to get that going if he’s to stand any chance this afternoon. He shows fight to get to deuce, but then chops wide. Advantage Djokovic. Game Djokovic, after a delightful angled half-volley.
First set: *Djokovic 2-0 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
The crowd are appreciating Bautista Agut’s effort early on, as he sprints forward to Djokovic’s drop shot, putting it away with a tightly angled winner. 15-all. But Djokovic is already applying the pressure on the Spaniard’s serve at 15-30, and he gets two break points when Bautista Agut slaps into the net. That’s four forehand errors from the Spaniard already, who may well become known as BA for RSI-preventing purposes if this match is long. No indication yet that that’s going to happen; Djokovic gobbles up the first break point and the defending champion’s already making it clear who’s the boss.
First set: Djokovic 1-0 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Bautista Agut wins the first point for 0-15 on Djokovic’s serve. “He’d like the match to end right there,” parps John Inverdale on the BBC commentary. A longer second point plays out, and the Spaniard eventually makes the error. Expect plenty of long rallies; Bautista Agut loves nothing more than scampering around, getting everything back, much like his now-retired fellow Spaniard Daveeeed Ferrrerrrrrr and much like the opponent he’s facing this afternoon. But can he out-Djokovic Djokovic? He can’t in this opening game, which Djokovic wins to 15 with a forehand winner.
Bautista Agut says: “The difference to previous years is that I’ve put in even more hard work. I have always had a will to progress, to improve my game. My goal has always been to become a more complete player. Not wanting to stop being a better player has brought me here now.
“[Djokovic] is very solid from the baseline. He likes to play a lot of rallies. Well, I like to play against opponent like this, to play a match with a lot of rallies. Against Novak, that’s what we do.”
Djokovic says: “I’ve been playing [my] best tennis in this tournament in the last two rounds, fourth round and [quarter-final]. The ball all of a sudden looks and seems larger than it actually is. It’s a good feeling, I must say.
“[Bautista Agut’s] been definitely playing some very, very high-quality tennis in this tournament. He has won twice against me so far this year. That’s certainly going to give him confidence.
“Obviously playing on grass, it’s different. [It is the] semi-finals of grand slam, [so I am] going to try to use my experience in being in these kinds of matches, get myself tactically prepared. Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”
It may seem as if Bautista Agut is here to make up the numbers today, but he has beaten Djokovic in both of their meetings this year and in three of their past five. So perhaps he’s Superman’s kryptonite. Though those were best of three, this is best of five on the biggest stage of all. And Djokovic has had an aura of invincibility this fortnight.
Here they are, Bautista Agut making his way on to Centre Court for the match of his life with his head down, perhaps looking a little nervous, just a few steps ahead of the defending champion and world No 1, who is smiling and appears extremely relaxed.
It’s one o’clock. No sign of Djokovic and Bautista Agut yet.
Laver’s among the big guns in the Royal Box this afternoon. The names include Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir David Attenborough, Hugh Grant, Bear Grylls, Jude Law, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, Michael Stich and Pat Cash. David Beckham was also on the list originally handed out in the press centre but his name has now mysteriously disappeared. Maybe Fergie came armed with a flying boot.
1 Stephane Houdet (FRA) or Nicolas Peifer (FRA) 6 vs Gustavo Fernandez (ARG)  8
COURT 17 – 11am
1 Shingo Kunieda (JPN)  1 vs Stefan Olsson (SWE) 4
2 Aniek Van Koot (NED) 5 vs Yui Kamiji (JPN)  8
3 Gustavo Fernandez (ARG) / Shingo Kunieda (JPN) 3 vs Joachim Gerard (BEL) / Stefan Olsson (SWE)  4 (DM)
4 Diede De Groot (NED) / Aniek Van Koot (NED)  1 vs Yui Kamiji (JPN) / Jordanne Whiley (GBR) 2 (DW)
MATCHES TO BE ARRANGED
NOT BEFORE 5pm
1 Wesley Koolhof (NED) / Kveta Peschke (CZE)  33 vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Latisha Chan (TPE)  or Evan Hoyt (GBR) / Eden Silva (GBR) 60
2 Colin Fleming (GBR) / Ross Hutchins (GBR) vs Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) / Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) (RR)
The release of Nelson Mandela. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The inauguration of President Obama. Just some of those “where were you when …” moments in history. And if any tennis match merits a place on such lists, surely it’s that Wimbledon final of 2008.
The match widely seen as the greatest of all time had it all: a five-times defending champion against a fierce rival who he had beaten in the past two Wimbledon finals but had just denied him the French Open title for the third consecutive year; the contrast in styles between the calm and artful Swiss and the punkish and piratical Spaniard, all fist pumps and jumps and whose game plan was to wear his opponent down and drive him to despair; a quite staggering level of play punctuated by two rain breaks that added to the drama; a recovery from two sets to love down and the saving of two championship points to force a decider; and a 9-7 final-set finale in near darkness in which a new champion was crowned after the longest Wimbledon final in history. This wonderful piece from Andy Bull is well worth a read if you want to relive the spectacle.
Now here Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are again, meeting at Wimbledon for the first time in 11 years. The fact they’re still going so strong, aged 33 and 37 respectively, ranked second and third in the world and having shared the past 10 grand slam titles along with Novak Djokovic (Nadal has four, Federer and Djokovic three), is almost as staggering as that final itself. For all the talk of the so-called Next Gen, this great tennis triumvirate just keep going on, and the gap between them and the rest of the field is arguably wider than ever.
Which brings us on to the great subplot to this Wimbledon finale: the battle to be the greatest of all time. A third Wimbledon triumph for Nadal, who added the 2010 title to his 2008 crown, would move him only one behind Federer’s tally of 20, which would be the closest he’s ever been to the record holder. Meanwhile victory for Djokovic would put him on 16 and, at the age of 32, with plenty of time to out-GOAT the GOAT.
In the context of all of this, spare a thought for the odd man out today, Roberto Bautista Agut, who’s appearing in his first grand slam semi-final. Being a 30-something, he does at least have something in common with Fedalovic – if SerAndy/Murena is bestowed on Serena Williams and Andy Murray, surely the Big Three deserve a combined name of their own? – while Bautista Agut will take comfort from the fact he’s beaten Djokovic twice already this year, in Doha and Miami.
Defeating a fully focused Djokovic in the best of five sets at a grand slam is an entirely different proposition, however, and the world No 1 was in devastating form in the quarter-finals against David Goffin, dropping only six games. Bautista Agut has had to rearrange his stag do to be here today, but if his opponent is in a similar mood to Wednesday, things could get just as messy for the Spaniard as a week partying in Ibiza.
R Kelly will be charged with racketeering and sex-related crimes against women and girls, in a sweeping New York federal indictment.
The 52-year-old R&B singer was arrested in Chicago on Thursday night on 13 federal sex crime charges and is being held at the Metropolitan correctional center in the city.
Joseph Fitzpatrick, a US attorney spokesman, said that the indictment against Kelly handed down in federal court for the northern district of Illinois also contained charges that revolve around child abuses images and obstruction of justice.
“The counts include child porn, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that further details would be released later on Friday. Fitzpatrick said Kelly’s arraignment date and time had not yet been set.
The charges appear to stem from allegations made by Faith Rodgers, one of Kelly’s main accusers, who has claimed Kelly manipulated her in a year-long relationship in which he locked her up in rooms and vehicles as “punishment” for “failing to please” him.
Rodgers sued Kelly in Manhattan in 2018 claiming he forced her to have “non-permissive, painful and abusive sex” in a New York hotel in 2017, and knowingly infected her with herpes.
“I trusted him and he betrayed my trust,” Rodgers told reporters at a news conference in January. “Once I recognized my worth, I knew I had to walk away.”
New York police department (NYPD) investigators met in January with Rodgers. Her lawyer, Gloria Allred, said at the time that her client was “doing her duty to provide information”.
The Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois involving four women, three of whom were minors when the alleged abuse occurred. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail.
The new charges, including one of aggravated sexual assault, carry a potential prison sentence of up to 30 years.
The charges came just weeks after the celebrity Los Angeles attorney Michael Avenatti disclosed he had a VHS tape he said showed Kelly having sex with a minor girl.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, that tape appears to be the basis for the charges against Kelly involving a girl, identified in court papers only as TJ, who allegedly had sex with the singer sometime between 1998 and 2001, when the girl would have been 14 to 16 years old.
The latest federal charges against Kelly were rumored to be in the pipeline for several months.
Ae former Sun-Times music journalist, Jim DeRogatis, who has doggedly reported on allegations against Kelly for nearly two decades, wrote in the New Yorker magazine that the FBI and IRS were investigating Kelly and that a human-trafficking investigation by the Department of Homeland Security also was under way.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan also was investigating Kelly, DeRogatis reported.
Darrell Johnson, a publicist for Kelly, said he planned to deliver a statement at a Friday morning news conference in Atlanta. He declined to comment before then.
Kelly has faced mounting legal troubles this year after Lifetime aired a documentary Surviving R Kelly, which revisited allegations of sexual abuse of girls.
The series followed the BBC’s 2018 R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, which alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult”.
Soon after the release of the Lifetime documentary, the Cook county state’s attorney, Kim Foxx, said her office had been inundated with calls about the allegations in the documentary. Her office’s investigation led to the charges in February and additional counts in May.
Kelly avoided prison after similar allegations were made more than a decade ago.
A jury in 2008 acquitted him of child abuse images charges that stemmed from a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who was due to testify in Congress on Wednesday, is not going to testify next week, according to Politico.
Instead, he could testify on 24 July and would speak longer than originally planned.
It’s worth noting that both these reporters (Sherman from Politico; Beavers from the Hill) have used the words “fluid” and “tentative” to describe the change.
For the second time this week, the House oversight committee is investigating the government’s treatment of migrant children.
The hearing just began and will focus on family separation – a policy that officially came to an end in June 2018 amid a cloud of secrecy about how families were being tracked and how children were being cared for.
While mass family separations have come to an end, family separations happened at a smaller scale before the policy was announced in April 2018 and continue today.
We’ll be posting updates from that hearing through the morning, including testimony from human rights advocates who have met with children on the border and the former Trump official who helped oversee family separation, Thomas Homan.
Speaking next to Alexander Acosta, Donald Trump said Acosta was a “great labor secretary not a good one,” according to the White House pool.
Trump also said he did a “very good job.”
He said Acosta explained his decision about Epstein in an hour-long press conference this week.
Labor secretary Alexander Acosta resigns
Alexander Acosta, the US labor secretary under fire for having granted Jeffrey Epstein immunity from federal prosecution in 2008, after the billionaire was investigated for having run a child sex trafficking ring, has resigned, according to the White House pool.
The president told reporters Acosta called him this morning and that it was the secretary’s decision.
Some great background reading on the furore around Acosta here:
This analysis appears inspired by Trump’s recent reuse of his claim that he is a “stable genius.”
WHAT’S GOING ON? It’s doubtful the president has changed much, and you can no longer say the Mueller investigation is weighing on him. Here’s a theory: Past aides were skilled at reading his intentions, understanding what to ignore and knowing how to redirect his whims. But recently, the administration has been unable to keep up with a president whose unstructured decision-making process has him in different positions in a few hours. For White House reporters, just trying to pin down basic facts of what the administration is doing from day to day has become a funhouse of mirrors — adding to the confusion.
Here’s the full look at Paul Ryan’s comments in excerpts of American Carnage published Thursday in the Washington Post.
As House speaker, Ryan pushed through Donald Trump’s agenda in Congress. Before Trump was elected, Ryan was critical of Trump’s fitness to be president. Now, Ryan, who doesn’t hold political office, is back to being critical.
“We’ve gotten so numbed by it all,” Ryan says. “Not in government, but where we live our lives, we have a responsibility to try and rebuild. Don’t call a woman a ‘horse face.’ Don’t cheat on your wife. Don’t cheat on anything. Be a good person. Set a good example.”
“I told myself I gotta have a relationship with this guy [Trump] to help him get his mind right,” Ryan recalls. “Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government . . . I wanted to scold him all the time.”
“Those of us around him really helped to stop him from making bad decisions. All the time,” Ryan says. “We helped him make much better decisions, which were contrary to kind of what his knee-jerk reaction was. Now I think he’s making some of these knee-jerk reactions.”
Good morning and happy Friday
Donald Trump, the first president to routinely bully critics on social media, followed up his social media summit last night by attacking former house speaker Paul Ryan on Twitter.
Ryan said the nation had grown “numb” to the president In a book excerpt from American Carnage published on Thursday. Ryan also said it was not good for a government official to call a woman “horse face”, as Trump, while president, has done.
The president ignored it and let his record … just kidding, the president of the United States responded by tweeting some insults about Ryan.
Trump will be at a fundraiser today in Wisconsin, which Ryan represented in Congress. The president will then give a speech about a North American trade agreement, then off to Ohio for another fundraiser.
Meanwhile in DC, the House oversight committee will hold a hearing this morning on family separation – two days after the same committee questioned migrants, advocates and government officials about conditions for children in migrant detention. We’ll have rolling updates and analysis from that hearing today.
The old passeth and a new order cometh in Haryana, the State where the action is. Senior bureaucrat Keshni Anand Arora, IAS, took over as Chief Secretary following the retirement of D.S.Dhesi.
Mrs.Arora belongs to the 1983 batch of Haryana Cadre.
It must be mentioned that her father, J.C. Anand was Professor at Panjab University Chandigarh and both her elder sisters, also bureaucrats, also served as Chief Secretaries of Haryana.
Meenakshi Anand Chaudhary, IAS (Retd.) was of 1969 batch while Urvashi Gulati, IAS (Retd.) was of 1975 batch. While Mrs. Chaudhary remained Chief Secretary from November 8, 2005 to April 30, 2006, Mrs. Gulati served as Chief Secretary from October 31, 2009 to March 31, 2012.
Mrs. Keshni Anand Arora is the topper of the batch, besides being a topper in M.A. (Political Science) and M. Phil. She is M.B.A from University of Western Sydney, Australia.
She was appointed the first lady Deputy Commissioner of Haryana since the formation of the State of Haryana and she served as Deputy Commissioner of Yamunanagar from April 16, 1990 to July 1, 1991.
She played an important role in implementation of adult literacy by voluntary organizations in the district and in handling law and order situation during Mandal Commission.
She has served as Special Secretary, Industries and Home Departments, Director of Information Technology; Director, Food and Supplies; Director, Rural Development; Director, Supplies and Disposals and Institutional Finance and Credit Control etc. as well as Managing Director of many prestigious Corporations namely Haryana Financial Corporation, Haryana Tourism Corporation and HARTRON. As Managing Director, HARTRON, she conceptualized and finalized the detailed project for Haryana SWAN and Haryana was the first state to implement SWAN in India.
She also served as Principal Secretary to Government of Haryana, Tourism and Housing, Forests and Wild Life Departments, Transport and Civil Aviation Departments. As Principal Secretary Tourism, she introduced an online system for reservation of Haryana Tourism rooms and facilities with online payment gateway, which was replicated by other States/Central Government Organizations.
She also worked as Deputy Director General, UIDAI, Regional Office, Chandigarh with Government of India, wherein she was instrumental in implementing Aadhar and Aadhar applications in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh (U.T.), Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, especially pilots of MGNREGA, Aadhar at birth and linkage of Aadhar with LPG. She was instrumental in speeding up Aadhar enrolments and Aadhar seeding in beneficiaries databases in the Northern region.
Mrs. Arora also worked as Additional Chief Secretary to Government Haryana, School Education Department, Chairperson, Board of School Education, Haryana, Bhiwani and Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation (HARTRON). She was directly associated with preparing the online Teachers Transfer Policy for school teachers. This was implemented as first of its kind initiative in the country and many States/Central Organizations replicated this initiative.
She also worked as Additional Chief Secretary, Electronics and I.T. Department. She streamlined the implementation of e-District project Haryana, which was ranked as No.1 by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India along with a few other states.
As Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, she conceptualized and implemented many innovative e-Governance projects like First-in-First out in e-Registration, mandatory e-Stamping, online PAN verification, NOC under section 7-A of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975 for deed registration and so on. The implementation of these e-Governance initiatives and close monitoring helped the State in the collection of Rs. 5679.45 crores as registration fee and stamp duty in the year 2018-19, which is Rs. 1414.27 crore higher than 2017-18 (more than 33 percent) and highest in the history of Haryana.
In October last year, an American entrepreneur named Eliza Blank raised $5m in venture funding for the Sill, a New York brand described on its website as “A modern plant destination for the modern plant lover.” Blank established the Sill in 2012, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. “We want to make it fun and easy to own a plant!” she wrote then. It had not been fun and easy for Blank up to that point. Every time she moved from one city apartment to another, she would “try to integrate plants into my home,” she says, but, “I would just kill every single one of them.” She noticed friends facing similar struggles: they neither knew of convenient places to buy plants nor, crucially, how to look after them. Monsteras slowly dwindled; peace lilies faded to stem; fronds slumped to an unhappy limp… You couldn’t call it a bloodbath, really, but there was slaughter.
“Plants are assuredly good!” Blank says. But where to buy them in the city and how to become a dutiful plant parent? “I asked: ‘Why isn’t there a consumer brand that can elevate this to commodity status?’” She became frustrated at first, then excited, the way entrepreneurs do, I suppose, when landing on a new growth opportunity. She would sell plants online! Bird’s nest ferns. Cheese plants. Moss balls… then offer consumers helpful information about how to not kill them.
Blank’s Kickstarter campaign raised $12,632, hardly big money, but enough as a seedling. She was banking on houseplants becoming rising stars of commerce – snake plants as retail phenoms. The market was ripe, she thought, or at least ripening, because she had noticed houseplants appearing more frequently online. And she was right. In the years since the Sill launched, business has grown month by month, in tandem with the increased standing of the houseplant as an arbiter of millennial taste. The American gardening industry alone is now worth $48bn, according to the National Gardening Association. That is big business and it is getting bigger. Younger fingers in particular are becoming greener. Last year Blank sold more than 100,000 plants, more than 270 a day, predominantly to millennials, pulling in around $5m in revenue, she says – profits succulent enough to keep investors chirpy.
To meet consumer demand, the brand recently opened three bricks-and-mortar stores, two in New York and one in Los Angeles. It is no great leap to assume that the yucca you just “liked” on Instagram, positioned carefully in the corner of a Brooklyn loft, or a Manhattan brownstone, or even some condo in Middle America – the Sill does not discriminate by postal code – comes from Blank’s stock.
Plants were not one of Blank’s childhood passions. Before launching the Sill, she worked in marketing, and she thinks like a retail strategist: how can we best reach consumers and ensure they’re happy? How can we convince our customer base of the must-have status of the kentia palm?
The same can be said of Freddie Blackett, also a former marketeer, also once not so green-fingered. In 2015 Blackett launched Patch, an online platform that sells houseplants to homes in London. By his own admission, he had few horticultural credentials before setting Patch up, but he too sensed an opportunity: how the millennial interest in technology, wellness, the climate and interior design might converge to transform the houseplant into a valuable commodity. Last year, Blackett sold 120,000 plants, more than 320 a day, and created a video series that helps customers care for their recent purchases. In my experience, the videos have gone viral in a kind of traditional sense. They pop up in my Instagram feed like troublesome weeds.
In the millennial mode, the Patch website is easy to use but idiosyncratic enough to be inviting and the brand’s packaging is elegant and simple. The same is true of the Sill. Sometimes the delivery is as much a draw as the product itself. In an unboxing video posted online, one YouTuber described a package as “kinda big” but “really cool”. “We’re in a new era of e-commerce,” the YouTuber says, with excitement, “where everyone is questioning what can and can’t we ship through the mail. The Sill is proving that you can ship a beautiful houseplant to you safe and sound!” A message on the delivery reads: “Plants Make People Happy.”
Both the Sill and Patch focus a large part of their marketing on a curious fiction: that plants are somehow active care-givers, able to alleviate all sorts of modern ills: anxiety, loneliness, indoor air pollution, the problem of great social-media content. An article posted on the Sill’s website titled, “Why You Need Plants in Your Life” includes a list of benefits that the brand says are backed by scientific studies. In an age of mental fatigue, houseplants “boost mood, productivity, concentration and creativity”. In an era of climate disaster, they “clean indoor air by absorbing toxins”. As work continues to define us, they “reduce stress”, and can prevent “sore throats and colds”. Plants “are therapeutic,” one line reads, “and cheaper than a therapist”.
This language is savvy enough to acknowledge the fact that millennials, craving comfort, have been widely reported to be relying on houseplants to fill a vacuum. We are struggling to connect with each other. We are struggling to connect with our planet, which is not-so-gradually falling to pieces. We are invited to think: might a houseplant help?
Blackett, in a clever early move, decided to baptise Patch products with human names – Chaz, the Swiss cheese plant (from £14); Fidel, the fiddle-leaf fig (from £12) – so as to rely less on Latin terms, which he worried might become a stumbling block for consumers, but also, you’d have thought, to suggest a more personal connection between houseplant and owner. Somehow, not long ago, the phrase “plant parenthood”, often prefixed with a hashtag, entered the lexicon as a legitimate term. It is no longer unusual to nourish and attend to a parlour palm as if it were offspring. “My fussy calatheas are starting to get brown tips because they lack humidity,” one Twitter user wrote recently. “I mean, seriously girls? It’s been hella humid!”
Can a houseplant fill so big a void? The answer, really, is hardly. A peace lily will never replace a partner, nor a child, nor even a pet (though sometimes you wonder). As far as I’m aware, no proud plant parent has launched an Instagram account dedicated to his cute monstera, in the way pet lovers frequently do for their animal dependents. And it’s doubtful whether a houseplant can affect the air to the degree necessary to create human benefit, though the marketeers will try to sell you on it.
Both Patch and the Sill include links to lists of “air-purifying plants” – “Grow your own fresh air” – though neither seems to agree on which plants are most purifying. “In theory, the claims are true,” Curtis Gubb, a PhD student in environmental health at the University of Birmingham, who is investigating how effective housplants are at removing harmful indoor pollutants, told me. Plants have been found to remove all kinds of pollutants, he said, “but just because a plant removes something doesn’t mean it’s affecting the room. You’d need 100 plants in a small room,” to have a significant effect. He added that, really, houseplants are “very unlikely to clean the air.” The science, he says, is well behind the claims.
Most of us can agree that plants are good, fundamental to our existence somehow, though often the benefits are subjective. In a recently published essay, the late neurologist Oliver Sacks praised the “healing power of gardens”. “As a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible,” he wrote. “In 40 years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.” A line on the Sill reads: “Even brief exposure to nature has been shown to make us more altruistic and co-operative,” and later, presumably to hammer home the point: “It’s true when we say plants make people happy.”
A few months ago, I ordered a peace lily from Patch. It arrived wrapped in plastic and planted in a distressed ceramic pot I’d bought as an add-on. I placed it immediately in my bathroom, because I’d read somewhere, rightly or wrongly, that it would thrive in all that after-shower humidity. When a couple of weeks later I went on holiday with my family, strict care instructions were given to my neighbour. To my surprise, the plant was the first thing I checked when we arrived home. Was it still alive? Had it missed me? Yes, it was thriving – my neighbour had done an excellent job of not killing it. And, no, of course it hadn’t missed me. I am not too proud to admit I felt a little disgruntled. I might need the plant, I thought, but the plant does not need me.
Evidence that Parkinson’s disease may start off in the gut is mounting, according to new research showing proteins thought to play a key role in the disease can spread from the gastrointestinal tract to the brain.
The human body naturally forms a protein called alpha-synuclein which is found, among other places, in the brain in the endings of nerve cells. However, misfolded forms of this protein that clump together are linked to damage to nerve cells, a deterioration of the dopamine system and the development of problems with movement and speech – hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease.
The latest findings, which are based on studies in mice, back up a long-held theory that abnormally folded alpha-synuclein may start off in the gut and then spread to the brain via the vagus nerve – a bundle of fibres that starts in the brainstem and transports signals to and from many of the body’s organs, including the gut.
“It supports and really provides the first experimental evidence that Parkinson’s disease can start in the gut and go up the vagus nerve,” said Ted Dawson, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University school of medicine and co-author of the research.
The researchers say the way the misfolded alpha-synuclein spreads in the brains of the mice, and the animals’ symptoms, closely mirrors the disease in humans.
“We have what we think is a really accurate [animal] model that can be used to work out mechanisms – but also to test therapies,” said Dawson, saying one possibility may be to interfere with the misfolding of alpha-synuclein in the gut to stop Parkinson’s disease in its tracks.
Writing in the journal Neuron, Dawson and colleagues describe how they conducted a series of experiments involving more than 100 mice.
First, the team injected abnormally folded alpha-synuclein into the gut of healthy mice and tracked where the protein turned up.
After one month the misfolded protein was present in several structures within the brainstem, while at three months it was also found in other regions of the brain including the amygdala and part of the midbrain rich in dopamine neurons. After seven months it was present in even more areas.
The team say that fits with the way markers of Parkinson’s disease are distributed throughout the human brain at different stages in the disease.
Further work revealed the mice showed a drop in dopamine levels in the brain, followed by a progressive loss of dopamine neurons from seven months. They also showed problems in their motor skills – such as having difficulties in building a nest – as well as memory, anxiety and behaviour problems.
The team repeated the injection of misfolded alpha-synuclein both in mice with a severed vagus nerve as well as mice genetically engineered to be unable to produce normal alpha-synuclein. Neither type of mice ended up with the misfolded protein in the brain, damage to their dopamine system or any motor, memory or behavioural problems .
The team say these results suggest misfolded alpha-synuclein travels to the brain via the vagus nerve, with the injected proteins triggering normal alpha-synuclein in the mice to become misfolded, resulting in a sort of domino effect that leads to misfolded proteins reaching the brain.
However there are some curiosities. For example, while problems with smell is an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease in humans, the olfactory system was not affected in mice until several months after injection of the misfolded alpha-synuclein into their gut.
And mysteries remain, including why some people have clumps of the abnormal protein in the brain but no symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – and how alpha-synuclein becomes misfolded in the first place.
Dr Beckie Port, research manager at the charity Parkinson’s UK, said the latest research builds on previous studies.“This study adds support to a growing base of evidence [implying] that changes in the gut play a key role in the initiation of Parkinson’s, although it is not believed to be the only place where the condition may start,” she said.
“By identifying and halting these changes before they reach the brain, we may be able to prevent the majority of Parkinson’s symptoms ever appearing and improve the lives of people who will be affected.”
In an interview shared yesterday, USA soccer player Megan Rapinoe scoffed at the notion of going to the White House after a potential women’s world cup victory.
Trump heard and responded characteristically, in a series of Tweets:
Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is “not going to the F…ing White House if we win.” Other than the NBA, which now refuses to call owners, owners (please explain that I just got Criminal Justice Reform passed, Black unemployment is at the lowest level… in our Country’s history, and the poverty index is also best number EVER), leagues and teams love coming to the White House. I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! We haven’t yet…invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”
One problem. Trump initially tweeted his reply to the wrong account.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s air chief—who has been leading the Trump administration’s rollbacks of rules for pollution and climate change—is departing amid a congressional probe of a possible ethics violation.
Bill Wehrum, a lawyer who has represented energy interests, came under scrutiny after meeting with two former clients and taking part in a decision in favor of a former client, the power company DTE Energy, according to the Washington Post.
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler did not say why Wehrum is leaving but commended him for “his service, his dedication to his job, the leadership he provided to his staff and the agency, and for his friendship.”
Wehrum was confirmed in November 2017.
Two Republican senators say allegation against Trump should be investigated
Joni Ernst of Iowa said Trump and Carroll should be questioned about the alleged assault. “I think anybody that makes an accusation like that, they should come forward,” Ernst said when asked if Carroll should be believed. “But obviously there has to be some additional information. They need to interview her. They need to visit with him.”
Mitt Romney of Utah said there needs to be an “evaluation” but that he didn’t know what entity should conduct it, “whether it’s Congress or whether it’s another setting, I’m not sure.
“It’s a very serious allegation,” Romney said. “I hope that it is fully evaluated. The president said it didn’t happen and I certainly hope that’s the case.”
A Senate hearing on the “unprecedented migration at the US southern border” is just getting underway and you can watch live here.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the committee holding the hearing, said in his opening remarks: “We’ll hear stories of [migrants who] probably have already been placed into involuntary servitude. We have records of people being beaten, and videos taken and sent back down to their home countries demanding payment.”
Johnson expressed concerns that the system for processing migrants at the southern border is completely overwhelmed, sentiments that were echoed by Brian Hastings, Chief of the Law Enforcement Operations Directorate of US Border Patrol.
“Three weeks into the month, we’ve already passed the apprehension level for every June since 2007,” Hastings said. “The flow continues to overwhelm resources throughout the immigration system.”
The hearings come as a photograph of a father and his 23-month-old daughter face down along the banks of the Rio Grande is being published around the world as a grisly representation of the dangers that migrants face on the border.
The Hill is reporting that Code Pink activists have been granted a permit to fly the “Baby Trump balloon” just blocks from the White House during Trump’s July 4 celebration.
With news coming yesterday that special council Robert Mueller will be testifying before Congress next month, Trump took his televised interview as a chance to make unfounded broadsides at him – accusing him of illegally disposing of evidence during the investigation.
I love Nikki, she’s endorsed me, she’s my friend, but Mike has been a great Vice President…I love Nikki…but you can’t break up a team like us, we get along together.”
-Donald Trump on running mate questions.
On the escalating tensions between the US and Iran after a US drone was shot down last week Trump says he “hopes” the two countries don’t go to war, but “we are in a very strong position… it would not last long… I’m not talking boots on the ground… just saying if something happened it wouldn’t last long.”
Good morning and welcome to the politics live blog for Wednesday the 26th of June. We kick off this morning with Fox Business channel, where Donald Trump started off the morning by attacking his Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, on national television.
Trump’s remarks came in the midst of a wide-ranging interview with host Maria Bartiromo. he president
Trump and Powell have been at loggerheads over the chairman’s raising of interest rates while Powell has made a public display of touting the bank’s independence from the president’s wishes.
Other recipients of Trump attacks this morning include Twitter, Trump’s preferred means of public communication, who he says is “biased” against him, Google, who Trump says is “trying to rig the election” and German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who, without mentioning her by name, Trump claims “hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met.”
SIMPLY trying to lead a normal life amid the severe realities of modern society will not enable you to change your karma. Breaking the chains of one’s karma requires great energy similar to the thrust needed by a rocket to break the pull of Earth’s gravity and to be launched into outer space. What provides us with this tremendous power is the Mystic Law.
AS far as the fundamental teachings of Buddhism and the Gosho are concerned, I hope that regarding them as absolutely correct, you will first and foremost strive to put them into practice. I urge you to do so because this is the shortest route to understanding the essence of Buddhism from the depths of your life.
TAKING care of the tasks at hand is important. The main thing is to make your goals clear and then set about achieving them one by one with steady and thorough efforts. It is only through such continuous efforts that we can open up the path before us. We must also never neglect small details.
BEHIND each of us stand not just four billion years of kindness from the Earth, but the compassion of the entire universe since time without beginning. Therefore you must not slander or devalue your life. Life is the most precious of all treasures. Each of you has been given this invaluable gift and each of you is irreplaceable.
BY working for kosen-rufu, we become healthy; we become filled with vitality and life force. The great path of eternal hope and victory lies in a life dedicated to kosen-rufu.
Donald Trump was repeatedly warned that his aggressive policy of escalating military and economic “maximum pressure” on Iran risked triggering war by accident. Last week, the long-predicted miscalculations duly occurred and, for a few scary hours, the world tottered on the brink. Both sides in the Gulf made mistakes, although US commanders appear more at fault. But the biggest mistake of all was made in 2016, when Americans picked a dangerous fool for president.
The sequence of events that led Trump to order airstrikes on Thursday evening, then pull back with minutes to spare, began with the shooting down by Iran of an unmanned US surveillance drone. Threats and insults had been flying back and forth for months. In the preceding week, Washington accused Tehran of attacking oil tankers – and sent more troops to squat around its borders. But it was the drone incident that brought matters to a head.
The Pentagon said the drone was flying in international airspace when hit by a missile. Iran hotly denied that, saying its sovereign airspace was being violated. The US produced maps. So, too, did Iran, which was so sure of its case that it vowed to take it to the UN security council. Yet, as the White House struggled to explain why the strikes were called off, questions emerged about its account.
The Pentagon’s images of the drone’s route initially included an incorrect description of its flight path. On Friday, US officials belatedly confirmed Iran’s assertion that a second, manned plane – a US navy P-8A Poseidon – was present during the incident, a fact they had previously failed to mention. Iran, meanwhile, published photographs of wreckage allegedly retrieved from its territorial waters.
In tweets and interviews on Friday, Trump and his backers claimed, variously, that he halted the strikes to save human life, that a local Iranian commander opened fire without authorisation, even that the on-off strikes were a cunning ploy. But a senior administration official, speaking anonymously, seems to have come closer to the truth when he said the strikes were halted due to “concerns” that the drone, or another US drone, or the navy P-8A, had indeed strayed into Iranian airspace “at some point”.
This degree of confusion and incompetence in US military operations should not come as a total surprise. In Afghanistan and Iraq, systemic blunders, notably by the US airforce, have cost thousands of civilian lives, as UN figures show. The US record in the Gulf is little better. In 1988, a US navy missile cruiser shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people. The Pentagon initially denied responsibility, then claimed the plane posed a threat. In 1996, the US finally paid compensation.
What is more surprising, even shocking, is how chaotic was last week’s Oval Office decision-making process. Why on earth was Trump not informed earlier of the likely death toll? (Perhaps he was.) What did his hawkish advisers think the strikes would achieve? How did Trump plan to respond to inevitable Iranian retaliation against US and allied forces in the Gulf or in the Iraq, Syria-Israel or Saudi-Yemen theatres? Is it really true that a Fox News host, reportedly a presidential confidant, persuaded Trump to press pause?
This Carry On up the White House would be comical if it were not so deadly serious. The latest episode of Trump buffoonery was a desperately unfunny near-miss for the Middle East and global stability. It underscores the urgent need for a return to honest diplomacy, and the reaffirmation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. It is a wake-up call for Congress, which must accelerate current efforts to curb presidential war-making powers. And it shines new light on Trump’s unique unfitness for office.
Trump says he doesn’t want a war. The way he is behaving, war may become unavoidable.