India, Judiciary

Indian minister resigns over #MeToo allegations

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramani said on Twitter:

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

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

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US NEWS, World

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Economy Finance, World

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Freya Beamish, chief Asia economist at Pantheon, says:

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

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

China growth slows as trade war looms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay with us for updates on the latest news from business and markets.

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World

Trans-Pacific Partnership bill passes the Senate – politics live

 

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

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

Updated

TPP bill passes

The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has passed the Senate.

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

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was voted down.

Updated

More changes at the ABC:

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

From Rosie Lewis’s story in the Oz:

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

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

Still – stranger things have happened.

Updated

David Leyonhjelm has just got back to me.

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

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

There you have it.

Updated

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

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

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

Stranger things have happened.

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

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

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

Updated

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

Mathias Cormann had this to say about it:

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

XOXO indeed.

And it comes on the back of this:

Updated

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

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Bass and Canberra, the government also lost power.

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

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

From her the Conversation article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

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

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

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

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

Updated

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

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

Updated

Good morning

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

And it is an entire self-own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready?

Let’s get into it.

Updated

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World

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

 

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

What just happened?

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

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

Why now?

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

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

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

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

Why is this move so important?

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

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

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

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

What happened when Trump moved the US embassy?

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

Who else has moved their embassy there?

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

What will the likely reaction be?

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

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

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

There has so far been no reaction from Donald Trump, though it seems likely he will be happy Australia has followed his lead.

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Arts Culture Books Features

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with Leonardo: Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World by Martin Kemp is published by Thames and Hudson.

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Lifestyle

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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World

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Features

When I was growing up, newspapers were deemed too boring, upsetting or costly

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “When I was growing up, newspapers were deemed too boring, upsetting or costly” was written by Coco Khan, for The Guardian on Friday 12th October 2018 18.30 Asia/Kolkata

One of my earliest memories of reading a news article in print was a tabloid story about a woman who gave birth to a frog. Except she hadn’t given birth to it she’d gone swimming in a pond and, in my memory at least, a rogue bit of spawn attached itself to her – a horror she discovered when a trip to the bathroom resulted in a tadpole in the bowl. A perfect story, I thought in my 11-year-old mind. The twists! The turns! The drama!

t I set about memorising the tale to retell it in the playground. I had it all planned out: I would build up the suspense (“She was just minding her own business”); add colour through mime (the swimming bit, maybe a frog jump); throw in some poor toad puns (“Surprised she didn’t croak it!”). But when it came to delivery, my story was met with nonchalance.

“Yawn, already heard it,” one of my friends said. “That story’s three weeks old, mate.”

“Mum strikes again,” I thought.

You see, when I was growing up, there weren’t many newspapers around – they were deemed too boring, upsetting or controversial. Plus, you had to pay for them, which in my perpetually skint family ruled out all broadsheets, no matter how much we kids begged.

I will never forget Eid 2004, when my Auntie B wrapped up a copy of the Observer and gave it as a gift to my cousin Amir. I can still see it now: Amir, confused, forced a grateful smile, while Auntie B declared proudly, “It’s got all the supplements!”

The best we’d get was the chance to read an old paper at the doctor’s surgery or the hairdresser, which Mum might bring home if they were throwing them out (hence the three-week-old frog pregnancy story). Perhaps my desire to get into journalism stemmed from this, a yearning not just to have pointless information, but to have up-to-date pointless information.

It’s a quirk that has persisted. I recently appeared on the Guardian’s front page for the first time, and a number of friends messaged me to say that my mother must be proud. And she would be, if she had seen it. Let’s just say it will be very big news in the Khan family in about three weeks, once Mum has been to the hairdressers.

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Books

Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to literacy and numeracy, study finds

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to literacy and numeracy, study finds” was written by Alison Flood, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th October 2018 20.01 Asia/Kolkata

Growing up in a home packed with books has a large effect on literacy in later life – but a home library needs to contain at least 80 books to be effective, according to new research.

Led by Dr Joanna Sikora of Australian National University, academics analysed data from more than 160,000 adults, from 31 different countries, who took part in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies between 2011 and 2015. All participants were asked how many books there were in their homes when they were 16 – they were told that one metre of shelving was equivalent to around 40 books – and went through literacy, numeracy and information communication technology (ICT) tests to gauge their abilities.

While the average number of books in a home library differed from country to country – from 27 in Turkey to 143 in the UK and 218 in Estonia – “the total effects of home library size on literacy are large everywhere”, write Sikora and her colleagues in the paper, titled Scholarly Culture: How Books in Adolescence Enhance Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Technology Skills in 31 Societies. The paper has just been published in the journal Social Science Research.

“Adolescent exposure to books is an integral part of social practices that foster long-term cognitive competencies spanning literacy, numeracy and ICT skills,” they write. “Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education or own educational or occupational attainment.”

Teenagers in a home with almost no books went on to have below average literacy and numeracy levels, the researchers found. Having approximately 80 books in adolescent home libraries raised levels to the average, while once the library size reached 350 books, it was “not associated with significant literacy gains”. The same was true for ICT skills, but the gain was not as steep.

According to the paper, teenagers with only lower levels of secondary education, but who came from a home filled with books, “become as literate, numerate and technologically apt in adulthood as university graduates who grew up with only a few books”. The university graduates who grew up with hardly any books around them had roughly average literacy levels, said the researchers. So did those whose schooling ended in the equivalent of year nine (13-14 years old), but who grew up surrounded by books. “So, literacy-wise, bookish adolescence makes for a good deal of educational advantage,” the authors claim.

The same was found to be true for numeracy, leading the academics to claim that “adolescent exposure to books compensates for shortcomings not only in adult literacy but also numeracy: its impacts are equivalent to additional years of education.”

Sikora said: “As expected, respondents’ education, occupational status and reading activities at home are strong predictors of superior literacy nearly everywhere, but respondents clearly benefit from adolescent exposure to books above and beyond these effects. Early exposure to books in [the] parental home matters because books are an integral part of routines and practices that enhance lifelong cognitive competencies.”

The paper raised the possibility that the move towards a digital culture could reduce the impact of printed books, but said that “for now … the beneficial effects of home libraries in adolescence are large and hold in many different societies with no sign of diminution over time”.

“Moreover, home library size is positively related to higher levels of digital literacy, so the evidence suggests that for some time to come, engagement with material objects of scholarly culture in parental homes – ie books – will continue to confer significant benefits for adult ICT competencies,” concludes the report. “For the time being … the perception that [the] social practice of print book consumption is passe is premature.”

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Business Economy Finance, World

IMF warns global economic stability at risk from no-deal Brexit

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “IMF warns global economic stability at risk from no-deal Brexit” was written by Phillip Inman in Bali, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th October 2018 19.31 Asia/Kolkata

A no-deal Brexit would send shockwaves through the global financial system and is one of the main risks to economic stability, the International Monetary Fund has said.

Echoing concerns from the Bank of England, the Washington-based organisation said the potential for millions of financial contracts between City banks and their counterparts across rest of Europe to collapse in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal was a major worry.

The warning puts further pressure on the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs to justify a no-deal Brexit over a compromise negotiated by the prime minister that includes an agreement on cross-border financial contracts.

Theresa May is seeking a settlement that at the very least would provide the legal framework for planes to fly across the channel, medicines to be imported from the continent and trillions of pounds worth of cross-border financial contracts to be maintained.

A no-deal scenario has the potential to undermine legal contracts and disrupt trade with the result that the UK would suffer a post-Brext recession, the Treasury has argued. The IMF said its central forecast remained that by the end of the year Brussels and London would agree a path towards a deal on trade in goods and services.

But it warned in a report for its annual meeting, which is staged this year in the Indonesian resort of Bali, that the failure to make progress not only had implications for the UK and eurozone economies but could also drag down the global economy.

“A rise in political and policy uncertainty could adversely affect financial market confidence,” the IMF said in its financial stability report. “For example, growing anxiety about a breakdown in Brexit negotiations could give rise to contractual and operational uncertainties in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.”

It added: “In general, the likelihood and severity of financial stability risks will be reduced by a closer relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU during the transition period and beyond, but will be heightened in the event of a hard Brexit.”

The importance of London as a financial centre was emphasised by the Bank of England on Tuesday when it said that the EU’s lack of planning for Brexit had created growing risks for almost £70tn of complex financial contracts. London boasts more foreign banks than any other financial centre and ranks as one of the world’s three most important hubs for trading and asset management along with New York and Tokyo.

Threadneedle Street said Brussels had made only limited progress to protect the financial system and time was running out, with little more than six months before the UK is due to leave the EU.

EU firms have about £69tn of outstanding derivatives contracts that must be settled in London. It is estimated that as much as £41tn will mature after Britain exits the bloc in March 2019.

The Bank has also estimated that £55bn worth of insurance contracts sold by UK insurers across the EU could be disrupted should they lose their authorisation to service these contracts.

Such is the scale of the potential threat to the financial system that the IMF said central banks should stand ready to provide their own commercial banks with extra borrowing facilities. It also warned that London-based banks worried about the implications of a no-deal Brexit could send funds abroad, triggering a flight of capital and upending stock and bond markets.

“Central banks should be prepared to use available instruments as needed. On the external side, a disorderly exit could lead to capital outflows. Authorities should closely monitor such developments and be aware of the potential for sharp asset price moves,” it said in its report.

The ERG has argued that a no-deal Brexit may be a better option than one that kept Britain aligned with EU rules, but prevented the government signing trade deals with other countries, especially the US.

It has dismissed concerns that the EU would block cross-border financial transactions from being processed in London in the event of a no-deal Brexit, saying this would be an act of self-harm.

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US NEWS

Nikki Haley resigns as US ambassador to UN, shocking fellow diplomats

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Nikki Haley resigns as US ambassador to UN, shocking fellow diplomats” was written by Julian Borger in Washington, for The Guardian on Wednesday 10th October 2018 05.31 Asia/Kolkata

Nikki Haley has resigned as the US ambassador to the United Nations and will leave her post in January, in a move that stunned allied diplomats and other senior officials.

Haley and Donald Trump announced her departure in the Oval Office. The timing came as a surprise to her colleagues at the state department and at the UN security council.

Both the president and the outgoing envoy heaped praise on each other, to emphasise that she was not leaving on hard terms.

Haley portrayed her departure as the act of a conscientious public servant. “I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job,” she said.

Asked about Haley’s successor, Trump said there were “a number of people that would very much like to do it”, saying Haley had made it “a more glamorous position”.

Early speculation that Ivanka Trump might step into the role appeared to be shut down by a tweet by the president’s daughter, saying she would not take the job.

Trump told reporters on the way to a rally in Nebraska that he had a shortlist of five contenders to replace Haley.

 

The only name on the list he mentioned was his former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, who spent last weekend with Haley and their families on a boat in South Carolina. “Dina would love it,” he said.

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany who spent eight years at the mission to the UN, has been tipped as a contender by conservative commentators. Trump said Grenell was not his shortlist, but was willing to consider him.

“He is doing so well in a position that is so important,” the president said. “Ric is doing so well that I wouldn’t want to move him. I’d personally rather keep Ric where he is.”

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the national security adviser, John Bolton, are reported to have been taken unawares. But the president claimed he had been informed well in advance.

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Trump said: “She told me probably six months ago. She said: ‘You know, at the end of the year, at the end of a two-year period, I want to take some time off, I want to take a break.’”

It is unclear why Haley made the announcement before the midterm elections.

She rejected speculation that she was leaving to take a run at the presidency, saying she had no plans to stand in 2020 and would be campaigning for Trump. In her resignation letter, published by the Washington Post, Haley said she was going back to the private sector, though she said she expected to “speak out from time to time on important public policy matters”.

The resignation letter was dated 3 October, the day after Trump appeared at a political rally in Mississippi and mocked Dr Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused Trump’s nominee for the supreme court of sexual assault. Haley has portrayed herself as a defender of women’s rights, though there is no evidence Trump’s derision of Ford was the immediate trigger for her decision.

A former governor of South Carolina, Haley has been one of Trump’s most high-profile lieutenants, acting as the international face of the administration. However, she pursued an outspoken policy direction that was sometimes at odds with the White House, particularly on the subject of Russia.

While Trump has been reticent about criticising the Kremlin, Haley was a persistent, trenchant critic of Russian policy in Syria and Ukraine, and over the chemical weapon attack against a former Russian spy in the UK in March. In April she was humiliated when she announced imminent sanctions only to be contradicted by the White House which suggested she had been suffering from “momentary confusion”.

Haley fired back icily: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

She also spoke out on human rights issues more frequently and fervently than others in the state department.

On other issues – unconditional support for Israel (the Israeli army took the unusual step of tweeting thanks for her “service”), unflinching hostility to Iran, North Korea and Venezuela – she was the most articulate exponent of hardline positions.

Earlier this year, she announced that the US was withdrawing from the United Nations human rights council, which she described as a “cesspool of political bias”.

The timing of Haley’s departure caught diplomats at the UN by surprise. She appears not to have given any indication of her intentions to colleagues on the security council.

But few of the diplomats she worked with expected her to stay in the UN role for the full four years of Trump’s presidential term. She was universally seen as a politician using the UN post to burnish her image and bide her time while it served her presidential ambitions.

“I thought she would go after two years, but two years isn’t up. Why would she go before the midterms?” a senior diplomat said.

The diplomat speculated she could have her eye on a South Carolina Senate seat, or that her departure could have been influenced by recent demands for an enquiry into her use of private jets last year provided by a South Carolina businessman, but expressed doubt over whether the allegations were serious enough to trigger an early departure.

Her departure will raise anxiety levels for US allies at the UN. Despite her pointed rhetoric – warning any country who voted against the US that she was “taking names” – she succeeded in convincing Trump that the UN served a useful purpose for US national interests.

However, her relative position within the administration had been diminishing since the arrival of Pompeo at the head of the state department. Under Pompeo’s predecessor Rex Tillerson, Haley had a free hand, as Tillerson took a low-key approach to his job and was frequently at odds with Trump, who often ignored him.

Pompeo, by contrast, quickly became the primary spokesman for Trump’s policy, and Haley’s importance faded. Bolton, meanwhile, is said to have clashed with Haley when she tried to defend the UN as an institution. Haley also lost a battle with the White House hardliner Stephen Miller over the administration’s refugee policy.

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World

Sajid Javid: English tests for people seeking UK citizenship will get harder – Politics live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Sajid Javid: English tests for people seeking UK citizenship will get harder – Politics live” was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd October 2018 17.18 Asia/Kolkata

Scottish Tory MPs have launched a campaign to help thwart a leadership bid by Boris Johnson, claiming that having him as leader or prime minister could shatter the party’s revival in Scotland.

The Daily Record reports they have nicknamed their efforts “Operation Arse”, quoting one anonymous source as saying “We called it that so we’d all be clear who we were talking about.”

They point to polling by Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer, which shows that with Johnson as leader, support for Labour and other parties would surge, losing the Tories the 12 Scottish seats which secured Theresa May’s wafer-thin election victory last year.

An unspoken subtext is that a Johnson leadership could also boost the Scottish National party campaign for independence and a second referendum: he is hated so much north of the border, it would undermine the fragile case for the union after Brexit.

The Record and Herald report the organisers of this Scottish counter-coup want Tory MPs to vote against Johnson in any leadership contest and lobby their constituency associations to do likewise.

The Herald said one MP at the party’s in Birmingham said the prospect of the Tories being led by Johnson was “a nightmare scenario for Ruth” which would “leave her badly exposed. The Nats and Labour in Scotland would have a field day.”

These briefings imply this campaign is backed by Ruth Davidson, the combative Scottish Tory leader who became a key Conservative spokesperson for remain and has been extremely blunt about her views of Johnson.

It is, however, far from clear whether there will be unanimity in Scottish Tory ranks. While many MPs are loyal to Davidson, some like John Lamont (MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) fiercely so, there are others who are staunch leave campaigners such as Ross Thomson, the MP for Aberdeen South.

Thomson has ignored Davidson’s appeal for her group to stop undermining Theresa May’s Brexit stance; he told the BBC earlier this year he and Davidson “had agreed to disagree” over the Chequers plan. “I don’t clear anything with anybody, thank you,” he added.

Javid has just finished his speech. Here is his peroration.

I speak with feeling about this country …

because for my family, Britain was a choice.

They came here for freedom, security, opportunity and prosperity.

It is because of these strengths that I have always been an optimist about Britain’s future.

And now it is my duty as their son, and a child of this country,

to help secure for this generation –

and for future generations –

all of the things that make this country a beacon for the world.

Together, we will build that stronger home.

Sajid Javid is delivering a reasonably meaty speech, but, as the Manchester Evening News’ Jennifer Williams points out, he is addressing a half-empty hall.

Everyone is queuing for Boris Johnson.

In his speech Javid has just managed to get the Conservative conference to applaud Diane Abbott, saying that she deserves credit for being the first black woman elected to the House of Commons. That line in his speech came as a bit of a surprise, but the audience did applaud properly.

Javid says English language tests for people seeking UK citizenship will get harder

Javid is also announcing two changes to the process by which people apply for citizenship.

The Life in the UK test that people have to sit will be updated, he says. (This seems sensible. Some of the questions are quite obscure. In fact, they are so difficult that Ed Miliband included a whole round based on current Life in the UK questions in the World Transformed pub quiz at the Labour conference last week.)

According to the Tories, there will be a consultation onputting British values at the heart of Life in the UK test” and updating the handbook.

More significantly, perhaps, Javid is going to make the language test for citizenship harder. In their press notice the Tories say:

We are raising the level of language proficiency expected for adults seeking to naturalise as British citizens. Language ability is a key skill which aids the effective integration of adults and their families into the UK and promotes positive outcomes. We want to see people who want to become citizens to make a commitment to their integration by investing in the skills they need to integrate as quickly as possible …

There is [currently] no difference in the English language requirement for settlement and for citizenship … This fails to recognise the greater significance of British citizenship, or give the incentive for those who have settled here to continue developing their English language skills.

Updated

Sajid Javid announces measures to tighten laws on forced marriage

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, is speaking now. The Conservative party has just sent out a news release saying Javid will be announcing a series of measures tightening the law on forced marriage. It says Javid will be:

Consulting to include an explicit reference to forced marriage in the immigration rules to demonstrate that forced marriage is unacceptable in the UK. This will give us the means to refuse entry where there is evidence that the marriage is forced.

Consulting on introducing a mandatory reporting duty for forced marriage to help us tackle this appalling crime. This will ensure that where a crime is committed it is reported to the police, leading to more perpetrators paying for their crimes.

Working to ensure anonymous evidence of forced marriage can be admissible as closed evidence in the visa appeals process. Where someone is being forced to sponsor a spousal visa as part of a forced marriage we will always protect their anonymity. However, we want to ensure this evidence can be used to refuse a visa and that this refusal withstands an appeal in court.

Consulting on refreshed multi-agency statutory guidance on forced marriage to help ensure professionals understand forced marriage. Professionals also need to understand risk factors, their responsibilities, and what action they can take to protect and support victims.

Launching a communications campaign to raise awareness and understanding of forced marriage. The campaign will highlight the many ways people are forced to marry. This will be complemented by a series of roadshows for frontline professionals to promote the use of forced marriage protection orders.

Forced marriage is already an offence, with a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

Updated

David Gauke, the justice secretary, has delivered his speech to the conference. It contained a series of low-key announcements.

  • Gauke said he was setting up a unit to seize money from people who deal drugs in jail. He said:

And to further crack down on drugs and violence in prison, this month we are launching a new Financial Crime Unit which will track and seize the money that criminal kingpins use to deal drugs in prison. My message to them is this: we are already blocking your phones, putting you in isolation and now we will make sure you can’t access your money. Dealing drugs in prison will no longer be profitable because we will find your assets and we will seize them.

  • He said he was launching new measures to improve education in prisons.

Today I can announce that:

… We have successfully opened up the market for prison education, increasing the number of potential providers from four to twelve…

… We are systematising offender training and employment in prison industries such as cooking, cleaning and maintenance across the prison estate. This builds on the success of the approach within custody and community which we have developed with organisations such as the Clink Charity.

And, we have agreed a formal partnership with the construction industry, led by CITB and Lendlease, to fill skills gaps in the industry and help more prisoners do a working day during their sentence and find work on release.

  • He said the government would spend £5m on Britain’s first “secure school” at Medway.

Secure Schools are a radical new concept that places education and healthcare at the heart of youth custody. They will be run by not-for-profit academy trusts, bringing genuine expertise, knowledge and innovation into the youth custody sector.

More from the Boris Johnson queue. This is from my colleague Pippa Crerar.

Chlorine-washed chicken is ‘clean chicken’, former Brexit minister says

Much of the talk about a possible UK-US trade deal has focused on whether or not British consumers would be willing to buy chlorine-washed chicken – chicken treated by a process banned in the EU not because it is dangerous to consumers (it isn’t, even though chlorine sounds like something you would not want to ingest), but because it could excuse lower animal welfare standards.

But in an interview on the Today programme this morning Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister and a leading figure in the European Research Group, which is pushing for a harder Brexit, said chlorine-washed chicken was just “clean chicken”. He explained:

Nobody is proposing to reduce standards in the UK and I don’t think anyone believes that there is any kind of constituency in the UK for a reduction in food standards, but if you go over to the US and raise this issue of chlorinated chicken nobody knows what you’re talking about because it’s just not an issue … in a sense what people are objecting to is clean chicken.

Baker also said Theresa May’s continuing support for the Chequers plan was a “cause of considerable alarm” to Tory Brexiters. Asked about May sticking to Chequers, he said:

Well that is the position at the moment and it is a cause of considerable alarm to us. Yes, it takes off the table all of the benefits of an independent trade and regulatory policy, something which countries around the world are looking forward to.

Civil partnerships to be extended to straight couples, May announces

Heterosexual couples will be able to get civil partnerships, the government has announced. In an interview with the London Evening Standard Theresa May said:

This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalise their relationship but don’t necessarily want to get married.

As home secretary, I was proud to sponsor the legislation that created equal marriage. Now, by extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life.

This follows a supreme court ruling earlier this year saying that the current law that restricts civil partnerships to same-sex couples is discriminatory.

Updated

Sinn Féin has reacted angrily to Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, saying the Good Friday agreement is not “sacrosanct”. (See 10.36am.) Sinn Fein president, Mary Lou McDonald, said:

Today’s comments by DUP leader, Arlene Foster, on the Good Friday agreement are unacceptable and reveal a reckless disregard for the peace process, prosperity and progress.

Foster made her comment in an interview in the Daily Telegraph. She said:

It has been deeply frustrating to hear people who voted remain and in Europe talk about Northern Ireland as though we can’t touch the Belfast agreement. Things evolve, even in the EU context. There has been a lot of misinterpretation, holding it up as a sacrosanct piece of legislation.

Updated

Cap on number of high-skilled migrants workers allowed into UK could go, says Javid

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has said he will consider lifting the cap on high-skilled migrants coming to the UK as part of the post-Brexit shake up of migration policy. Speaking at a fringe event ahead of his speech, Javid fleshed out some of the details trailed this morning, adding he will be looking at “better ways” of controlling migration than a restrictive cap.

Current policy is to allow 20,700 high-skilled workers into the UK each year on Tier 2 visas. Javid in June excluded medical professionals from the skilled migration cap. His speech today comes after the Migration Advisory Commitee (MAC) published a report with recommendations to scrap the cap on high-skilled migrants and move to a system that prefers high-skilled to low-skilled entrants.

In response to a question from the Guardian, he said:

The MAC report recommended that we look at scrapping the cap so I will consider that. We’ve not made a decision yet.

Their suggestion is … you might have better controls in other ways, not just salary, but there might be some other methods you can use so it’s worth looking again at what the best way is to control migration.

Javid said he would also be looking at where the salary threshold would be set. The current salary threshold for such visas is £30,000, which the MAC said should be retained.

Addressing concerns raised over exclusion of so-called low-skilled migrants, Javid said:

All good policy is rooted in evidence. When it comes to the immigration system this is a unique opportunity for the first time in decades as a home secretary I’m able to design the immigration system almost from scratch because we will not have those obligations to the EU. Doing that we need to look at the evidence.

Updated

Boris Johnson is speaking at a fringe meeting at 1pm. People are queueing already, as the Evening Standard’s Joe Murphy points out.

Updated

CBI says May’s post-Brexit immigration plans will be ‘self-defeating’

The CBI says the government’s post-Brexit immigration plans will be “self-defeating”. This is from Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director general.

Freedom of movement is ending and firms understand that. But the prime minister’s proposals for a new system have taken a wrong turn. By dismissing the importance of low skilled workers to the UK economy, the government risks harming businesses and living standards now and in the future.

All skill levels matter to the UK economy. Today’s proposals risk worsening labour shortages, already serious in construction, hospitality and care. Restricting access to the workers the UK needs is self-defeating.

Just weeks ago the Migration Advisory Committee confirmed that EU workers – at all skill levels – pay in more than they take out. They have not reduced jobs, wages or training for UK workers.

The signals on people and trade deals are disappointing. Though mobility will be part of negotiations, this is not enough. To secure the best deals around the world the UK must be willing to put migration on the table – starting with the EU, our most significant trading partner.

It is also disappointing that the biggest flaw of the UKs current system – the net migration target – will remain. This target means that every day workers with skills the UK needs are turned away and jobs left unfilled. Employers all over the UK will continue to urge its abolition to show the world Britain means business.

This is from Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman, who is not happy about Theresa May’s immigration plans.

At a fringe event this morning Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said he was thinking of scrapping the cap on high-skilled immigration. This is from my colleague Jamie Grierson.

Javid was also flaunting his credentials as a possible future leader, Jamie says:

Updated

Parts of Good Friday agreement might have to change under no deal Brexit, says DUP

The DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said that elements of the Good Friday agreement will have to be changed if there is no Brexit deal.

As Theresa May was being interviewed by the BBC, Donaldson told RTE that the party was “not seeking to alter” the peace agreement but parts of the north-south co-operation would change if Britain crashed out of the EU.

His remarks came after the party’s leader, Arlene Foster, said the peace deal was “not sacrosanct”.

The DUP was the only major political party not to support the Good Friday agreement when it was sealed in 1998 and it is not the first time Foster has said the peace deal could change. Donaldson told RTE:

We are not seeking to alter that agreement, but Arlene was simply reflecting reality that if we do end up with a no-deal scenario we would be deluding ourselves if we did not think that would have consequences in the way we do business.

One consequence he cited was the single electricity market across the island, a direct result of the peace deal. This would have to be re-negotiated under a no-deal Brexit.

Updated

Theresa May’s morning interviews – Summary

Here are the main points from Theresa May’s morning broadcast interviews.

  • May conceded that Britons might have to fill in Esta-style visa waiver forms to visit the EU after Brexit. Asked if this would happen, she said:

The question of business travel, the question of tourism, will be part of the negotiations with the European Union.

We have put forward a set of proposals that would enable people to continue to travel for tourism to the European Union and for tourists from the EU to come here.

When it was put to her that the UK plans envisage EU nationals having to fill in Esta-style visa waiver forms to come to the UK (see 8.05am), and that it would be surprising if the EU did not demand the same, she replied:

We have put forward a proposal that is based on a reciprocal arrangement.

  • She said there would be no general exemptions from the new post-Brexit immigration rules for industries reliant on low-skilled labour. Asked about industries that rely on a lot of low-skilled EU migrants, such as the care sector, she said:

There is one area where we have said we will look at a system, which is agricultural workers. We have already said we are putting a pilot scheme into place in relation to agricultural workers. But those are seasonal workers. Those are people who come here for a limited period of time. The agricultural industry has said that they would like to see a further scheme, and we have listened to that and we are putting a pilot into place.

But I’m not saying that suddenly there are going to be lots of different sectors of the economy which are going to have exemptions, which means actually that you no longer have an immigration policy. What we are doing is setting an immigration policy which I believe reflects what people in this country want, which is they want to see an end to free movement and they want to ensure that people who come here are contributing to our economy.

  • She suggested that EU workers could still get some preferential treatment when coming to the UK under the terms of a post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal. But she claimed that a mobility arrangement was not same as the immigration system, which she said would not give EU nationals priority. Asked if a trade deal could give EU workers preferential treatment, she said:

The trade negotiations with any country always include an element that’s called mobility. The point I was making was that is different from the overall immigration policy that we are setting …

The immigration rules are not part of our detailed discussion with the European Union in the future. That’s the point I’m making. We will be deciding what our immigration rules are.

  • She said the government remained committed to its target of getting annual net immigration below 100,000. She said:

We retain our commitment to bring net migration down as we have promised in our manifesto.

This is from my colleague Jamie Grierson, the Guardian’s home affairs correspondent.

  • She delivered a partial rebuke to Jeremy Hunt, saying that the EU and the Soviet Union were not the same. Asked about the comment in his speech on Sunday (see 9.32am), she said:

As I sit around that table in the European Union, there are countries there who used to be part of the Soviet Union. They are now democratic countries. I can tell you that the two organisations are not the same.

But she also defended the broad argument that Hunt was making.

I think the point he was making was an important one. It was that we’ve had the biggest democratic exercise in this country’s history – the referendum vote in 2016 – and we should be respecting and delivering on that referendum. Across the European Union, I think it’s important for people to recognise that vote and to deliver on that vote.

  • She accused Labour of “playing politcs” with Brexit. She said:

My message to the Labour party is that they’ve got to stop playing politics with this and start acting in the national interest.

We’ve seen the Labour party saying basically that they won’t accept any deal that I bring back from the European Union regardless of how good it is for the United Kingdom, but they would accept any deal Europe offers them, regardless of how bad it is for the United Kingdom.

That’s playing politics with this issue, it’s not acting in the national interest. I’m acting, the government is acting, in the national interest.

  • She said she was in office “for the long term”. Asked how long she expected to stay as leader, she said:

I’m in this for the long term, not just for the Brexit deal but actually for the domestic agenda we are setting out at this conference.

  • She said holding an early general election was “not in the national interest”.
  • She brushed aside questions about whether Boris Johnson was trying to undermine her. She said she expected Johnson’s fringe meeting today to be “very lively”. Asked about the photograph of Johnson running through a field, which seemed staged as a bid to mock May, she replied:

At this conference, what I feel is that I and this government and this party are getting on with the important job of getting a good deal for the UK when we leave the EU. But also working on the opportunities for this country and people in this country when we leave the EU. That’s what I’m focusing on.

(Maybe it’s just me, there does seem something odd about Johnson’s undercarriage arrangements in this picture. It is as if he’s trying to make a point about a hard Brexit.)

Updated

Leading MEP and key Merkel ally says Hunt should apologise for his EU/Soviet Union comparision

One of the most senior MEPs in the European parliament said this morning that Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, should apologise for what he said in his conference speech on Sunday implicitly comparing the EU to the Soviet Union. Manfred Weber, a German MEP and Angela Merkel ally who leads the centre-right European people’s party, the largest group in the parliament, told MEPs at a meeting in Strasbroug this morning:

Now we experience a new level of populism when the foreign minister of Great Britain, Hunt, is comparing the European Union with the Soviet Union.

Weber quoted the Polish former foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who said: “Please Mr Hunt, show us the gulag, please Mr Hunt show us the Soviet Union army troops in your country, please show us the Stasi system in your country.”

Weber went on:

So Sikorski is right. Mr Hunt, you should apologise for what you have said.

Sikorski also posted this on Twitter.

As a reminder, this is what Hunt said in his speech on Sunday:

What happened to the confidence and ideals of the European dream? The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving.

The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish it will grow.

This came shortly after a passage in which Hunt also spoke about what Latvia suffered under Soviet occupation.

In some respects Hunt’s speech was similar to Michael Portillo’s famous SAS one at the Tory conference in 1995. That went down a storm with members on the day, and was seen as boosting his leadership chances, but the defence community (Portillo was defence secretary) was horrified by his comments (just as diplomats have been by Hunt’s), and eventually Portillo realised the speech was a big mistake.

Manfred Weber speaking in the European parliament this morning.
Manfred Weber speaking in the European parliament this morning. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

Updated

Q: Is HS2 definitely going ahead?

May says it is an important project for the UK. It needs that extra capacity.

Q: And your voice is fine this year?

May says she will be speaking strongly tomorrow, not just about Brexit, but about opportunities in the UK.

And that’s it.

I will post a summary of what we’ve learnt from the interviews shortly.

Q: What do you think Boris Johnson is up to?

May says she is concentrating on what is important, which is getting a good deal for the UK.

Q: Boris is trying to take over the conference, isn’t he?

May says she thinks his fringe event will be lively. But the conference is about what the government is doing for the future.

Q: Do you agree with what Digby Jones said about Boris Johnson being offensive and irrelevant? You took part in a standing ovation?

That was at the end of Jones’s speech.

Q: So you don’t think Johnson is offensive and irrelevant?

May ducks the question, and goes back to talking about the domestic policies announced.

Ferrari plays music from The Chase, a TV programme that May was filmed watching for the BBC’s Panorama documentary. One of the stars of the The Chase asks a question: what will happen if there is no deal?

May says she is working for a deal, but the government is preparing for the possibility that one might not happen.

Updated

May’s LBC interview

Nick Ferrari is interviewing Theresa May.

Q: Is being in the EU like being in the Soviet Union?

May (who sounds a lot more cheerful being interviewed by Ferrari than Husain) says he is referring to what Jeremy Hunt said. Hunt spoke about the importance of honouring the EU referendum result. She knows that the EU is not like the Soviet Union.

Q: Many of my listeners felt you were very badly treated by the EU leaders at Salzburg, mostly men. What did your husband, Philip, say about it?

May says she can’t remember. He probably poured her a stiff drink.

She says she has treated the EU with nothing but respect.

Updated

In the Today post-match summary, Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editors, says that listeners won’t have been able to see May’s arched eyebrows when asked about Boris Johnson.

It sounds as if Mishal Husain was exposed to the famous May death stare.

I will post a summary after the LBC interview, which is coming up soon.

Q: The front pages are full of pictures of Boris Johnson. He is mocking you, even though it is not a field of wheat (it’s dry grass). How do you feel about that?

May says she is getting on with the job of getting a good deal for the UK as it leaves the EU.

Q: But, as you walk around here, people are constantly talking about the problems with the Chequers plan. It is not just Boris Johnson. Do you feel like John Major (who described his Eurosceptic opponents as “bastards”).

May reverts to talking about Labour, saying they should stop playing politics with this.

And she says her message to the conference is that they must unite and get th best deal for the UK.

Q: How long will you stay?

May says she has said she is in this for the long term. It is not just about Brexit; it is about the domestic economy too.

That is what we are focusing on.

And that’s it.

May says she is not opposed to a backstop.

But it is only meant to be there if there is a delay in introducing the end arrangements.

Q: Could the backstop remain permanently?

May says the government will not agree to something that keeps the UK in the EU permanently.

She says, when MPs vote on the final deal, they will need to know what the future relationship will be.

Q: Will you compromise on the Irish backstop?

May says she hopes to get a backstop that never needs to be used.

Her Chequers plan would ensure that there was no hard border in Ireland, and hence no need for the backstop.

Q: Would you consider light-touch regulatory changes on goods crossing the Irish Sea?

May says she thinks a solution can be found that preserves the integrity of the UK.

The government will bring forward proposals in due course, she says.

May does not rule out Britons having to apply for Esta-style visa waiver forms to visit EU after Brexit

Q: Will travel to the EU become harder?

May says this will be part of the negotiations.

Q: But you are proposing Esta-style visa waiver forms for EU visitors coming to the UK. So you would expect them to do the same for us?

May says she expects these arrangements to be reciprocal.

  • May does not rule out Britons having to apply for Esta-style visa waiver forms to visit the EU after Brexit.

Q: Will your plans cause problems for employers dependent on low-skilled immigrant labour?

May says the government wants to train people to do the jobs available?

Q: But will some employers get an exemption?

May says the government will consider the demands of the economy, but it wants to train workers.

Q: So there might be exemptions?

May says the government is considering this for agricultural workers. It is putting a pilot scheme in place.

But these are seasonal workers, she says.

She says she is not proposing widespread exemptions.

  • May rules out widespread exemptions to the new immigration rules for employers dependent on low-skilled workers.

May says getting net immigration below 100,000 remains a target

Q: Will these proposals enable you to meet your target of getting net migration below 100,000 year?

May says: “We retain our commitment to that target.”

She says these plans will give the UK control over immigration.

  • May says getting net immigration below 100,000 remains a target.

Updated

May’s Today interview

Mishal Husain is now interviewing Theresa May on Radio 4’s Today.

Husain starts by summarising the immigration announcement.

And she points out that May has lost six cabinet ministers since last year’s conference.

Q: What will your plans mean for parts of the economy dependent on low-skilled migration?

May summarises the plans first.

She picks up the point about trade deals. In any trade deal, there are terms relating to things like the movement of business people.

But, if conditions like that are included in the EU trade deal, other countries would be able to get the same terms from a trade deal.

She says immigration rules are different from these mobility rules that get included in trade deal.

  • May accepts that EU trade deal could include “mobility” concessions for EU workers. But she insists that immigration rules are different, and that these will not prioritise people from the EU.

Q: Could high-skilled immigration rise?

May says the government is committed to bringing immigration down.

More details of May’s plans for post-Brexit immigration policy

Here are more details of the post-Brexit immigration policy plans announced by the Conservatives overnight. (See 7.41am.) This is how the party explains them in a press release.

The proposals follow a report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that recommended high-skilled workers are given priority over visa applications from low-skilled workers. The report was based on an immigration policy that had a level playing field for EU nationals and applicants from other countries.

A white paper detailing how the new system will work will be published this autumn, ahead of an Immigration Bill next year.

Under the shake up there will be routes for short-stay business trips and tourists and for those who want to live and work for longer in the UK.

Under plans being developed people arriving for a short stay would see passports scanned at e-gates in airports, train stations and ports, for so-called ‘fly-in, fly-out’ visitors. Currently EU citizens get fast-tracked through e-gates while tourists or businessmen from countries like Japan and Australia have to queue for passport control.

All security and criminal records checks would be carried out in advance of visits, cutting down red tape for travellers. These in-country security checks would be a similar system of prior authorisation to that operating in the United States.

For those wanting to live and work in the UK longer term, there will be a new immigration system for applicants with the skills that help meet Britain’s needs.

Applicants will need to meet a minimum salary threshold to ensure they are not competing for jobs that could otherwise be recruited in the UK.

Successful applicants for high skilled work would be able to bring their immediate family but only if sponsored by their future employers.

The new system will not include a cap on student visas, which are a separate system to work visas and are granted on the basis of academic ability, the ability to speak English and the ability of students to support themselves financially.

The ability of people from trading partners to deliver services and student exchange programmes will form part of future trade agreements.

The government has already announced rights for the existing three million EU citizens already living and working in the UK will be safeguarded – even in the event of no deal.

When the MAC published its report two weeks ago, making recommendations that are the basis of May’s policy, business groups and professional organisations reacted badly, claiming that shutting out low-skilled workers could lead to labour shortages.

The MAC also said that offering concessions on immigration to the EU could be sensible, because this would be “potentially something of value to offer in the negotiations”, although it did not formally recommend this.

May insists the government is taking action to stop pollution caused by plastics.

But it is not just a matter of banning things. It is about working with industry to stop these products getting into the environment in the first place, she says.

And that’s it.

We’ve got at least two more May interviews coming – Today at 8.10am, and LBC at 8.30am.

May insists EU and Soviet Union not the same in bid to defuse row triggered by Hunt

Q: How damaging was what happened at Salzburg? You don’t seem to be getting much respect?

May says the EU has put two offers on the table, neither of which are acceptable to the UK.

That is why the UK put an offer on the table. The EU likes some aspects, but has concerns about others. Let’s hear those concerns.

Q: You talk about respect. Do you agree with Jeremy Hunt about the EU being like the Soviet Union?

May says Hunt was right to say that the government must deliver on the rest of the EU referendum.

She says she sits around the table at EU meetings. There are countries there that used to be in the Soviet Union. She knows the EU and the Soviet Union are not the same.

  • May attempts to defuse row triggered by Hunt’s Soviet Union comparison, saying the EU and the Soviet Union are not the same. That could be read as a partial rebuke to Hunt, although Hunt would say he was not making a direct comparison.

Q: How are relations with Boris Johnson?

May says she is sure his fringe meeting will be “lively”.

Updated

Q: What will you do if you can’t get the Chequers plan through parliament?

May says, if she gets a deal, she will bring it back to parliament.

She says her message to Labour is that they should stop “playing politics” with this and act in the national interest.

Labour has said it will reject any deal she brings back, regardless of how good it is, she says. But Labour will accept any deal offered by the EU regardless of how bad it is. That is playing politics with the national interest, she says.

Q: Will you rule out a general election?

May says it is not in the national interest to have a general election.

On the subject of a second referendum, she says it is important that the government delivers on the result of the EU referendum.

May’s BBC News interview

Theresa May is being interviewed on BBC News.

Q: How can you claim to be the party of business if you are ignoring their concerns about Brexit?

May says she is listening to the concerns of business.

Theresa May gives details of post-Brexit immigration policy

Good morning. Theresa May is about to do a round of morning interviews, and she will be asked about plans announced overnight to stop EU workers having priority in the post-Brexit immigration system.

Here is an extract from the party’s news release.

The prime minister, Theresa May, today set out details of how Britain will take back control of its borders and reduce immigration to sustainable levels through a new post-Brexit system.

In the biggest shake-up in decades, high-skilled workers who want to live and work in Britain will be given priority while low skilled immigration will be curbed.

There will be a new single immigration system that treats EU countries the same as non EU countries.

And the UK is looking at introducing a swift system of e-gate visa checks for tourists and visitors coming to the country for short stay business trips from all low risk countries.

This confirms what we reported after the cabinet signed off this plan on Monday last week.

But it is still not clear whether EU workers could be offered exceptions as part of a post-Brexit trade deal.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Session on “a stronger, fairer United Kingdom”, with speeches from ministers including David Gauke, the justice secretary, and Sajid Javid, the home secretary.

1pm: Boris Johnson speaks at a fringe event.

2pm: Session on “high-quality public services”, with speeches from Damian Hinds, the education secretary, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary.

6pm: Sajid Javid is interviewed by Katharine Viner at a Guardian fringe event.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments BTL but normally I find it 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 direct questions, although sometimes I miss them or don’t have time.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.

Updated

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Education Environment Health S&T, ENVIRONMENT, World

Indonesia tsunami: food and water run out as death toll tops 1,200

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Indonesia tsunami: food and water run out as death toll tops 1,200” was written by Hannah Ellis-Petersen, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd October 2018 13.20 Asia/Kolkata

Anger and desperation are growing in parts of Sulawesi as residents faced a fourth day without food and drinking water after the Indonesian island was devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami.

On Tuesday the official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,234, according to disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. It is still expected to climb steeply in the coming days.

Signs propped along roads in Sulawesi read “We Need Food” and “We Need Support”, while children begged for cash in the streets. Queues for fuel, which has almost run out in the area, were miles long and the national police and troops were deployed to guard petrol stations and food shops.

Around 50,000 people have been displaced by the twin disaster, with many still trying to escape the devastated region. Over 3,000 people flocked to Palu’s airport on Monday, trying to board military aircraft or one of the few commercial flights leaving the airport, which has suffered severe damage. Video footage showed crowds screaming in anger because they were not able to get on a military plane.

“We have not eaten for three days,” one woman yelled. “We just want to be safe.”

Damage from tsunami

Desperation exploded into anger in Donggala, the town closest to the epicentre of the massive earthquake and tsunami, with residents begging Indonesia’s president to help them as hungry survivors crawled into stores and grabbed boxes of food.

“Pay attention to Donggala, Mr Jokowi. Pay attention to Donggala,” yelled one resident in footage broadcast on local television, referring to president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. “There are still a lot of unattended villages here.”

Most of the attention so far has focused on the biggest affected city, Palu. Donggala and other outlying areas have received little assistance largely due to impassable roads and many have been forced to take food from stores.

“Everyone is hungry and they want to eat after several days of not eating,” said Donggala’s administration head Kasman Lassa. “We have anticipated it by providing food, rice, but it was not enough. There are many people here. So, on this issue, we cannot pressure them to hold much longer.”

On Monday, in Ulujadi district in western Palu, residents deprived of food and water blocked roads to intercept trucks carrying food supplies, with police officers reportedly unable to restrain the crowds. In Tawaeli district in central Palu, crowds gathered at the port to intercept government aid arriving on boats.

Map

The process began on Monday of burying the bodies, which had begun piling up in the local army hospital, in a mass grave measuring 100m long. Photos were taken of the corpses before they were buried so they could be identified by relatives.

Sutopo admitted that search teams were still struggling to reach and evacuate the worst hit areas in Sulawesi. Many in Palu complained bitterly at the failure of rescue teams, overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, to make it to their neighborhood in time.

A major problem is that the earthquake fractured and destroyed many of the roads, leaving some areas isolated and inaccessible. Heavy equipment needed for the rescue operations only began arriving on Monday.

Many people are also believed to still be trapped under shattered houses in Palu’s Balaroa neighborhood, where the earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently “I and about 50 other people in Balaroa were able to save ourselves by riding on a mound of soil which was getting higher and higher,” resident Siti Hajat told MetroTV, adding her house was destroyed.

President Joko Widodo urged survivors to be patient as they wait for aid to be distributed upon arriving in Palu.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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ENVIRONMENT, World

Indonesia tsunami: death toll rises to 844 as rescuers struggle to get to victims – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Indonesia tsunami: death toll rises to 844 as rescuers struggle to get to victims – live” was written by Matthew Weaver (now) and Hannah Ellis-Petersen (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 1st October 2018 17.18 Asia/Kolkata

Here’s video of the scenes at Palu airport as thousands of people try to get a flight out.

 

A crowd of people gather at the airport in Palu in the hope of fleeing
A crowd of people gather at the airport in Palu in the hope of fleeing
Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Local television said around 3,000 residents had flocked to the Palu airport trying to get out, AP reports.

Footage showed some people screaming in anger because they were not able to board departing military aircraft. The airport has resumed only some commercial flights.

“We have not eaten for three days!” one woman yelled. “We just want to be safe!”

In his press conference disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said conditions in the Petobo neighbuorhood of Palu city were particularly bad because the quake caused a phenomenon called liquefaction, AP reports.

This occurs when loose water-filled soil near the surface loses its strength and collapses.

Nugroho said authorities estimate that “there are still hundreds of victims buried in mud” in the area.

Villagers who pulled out loved ones alive and dead over the weekend expressed frustration that rescue teams had only reached Petobo on Monday.

On Sunday Sutopo tweeted terrifying video purporting to show liquefaction taking place in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Other videos claiming to the show the phenomenon have also emerged.

Updated

Lian Gogali, one of the first aid workers to reach the devastated district of Donggala north of Palu, says the homes of hundreds of people have been destroyed.

She tweeted an image of an area covered in debris that she said was home to 600 families.

Reuters said she reached the area by motorcycle.

She told the agency that hundreds of people are facing a lack of food and medicine were trying to get out, but evacuation teams had yet to arrive and roads were blocked.

Members of the Indonesian Red Cross carry the body of a tsunami victim from a collapsed house at Talise beach in Palu, central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Members of the Indonesian Red Cross carry the body of a tsunami victim from a collapsed house at Talise beach in Palu, central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photograph: Mast Irham/EPA

Aid supplies that have reached the stricken areas are a “drop in the bucket” of what’s required, the International Federation of the Red Cross has warned.

Jan Gelfand, head of the IFRC’s country cluster support office in Jakarta, said the agency now had 178 aid workers on the ground.

Speaking to the the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme he said:

We have field kitchens we have things coming in by sea. We have 25 water tankers coming in, but this is a drop in the bucket to what the need is.

So we are having to find very creative ways to get there. We don’t even know what some of the damage is in the areas that are more remote. Our teams took 12 to 15 hours to get in and so it is going to be a while before even the assessment is done before we get a true picture of the situation.

We are doing what we can. Things are opening up a little bit more but the need is great. The event is very serious and this is a longterm process.

A man takes a photo of a car lifted into the air with his mobile phone following a massive earthquake and tsunami at Talise beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
A man takes a photo of a car lifted into the air with his mobile phone following a massive earthquake and tsunami at Talise beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photograph: Tatan Syuflana/AP

Updated

As Hannah mentioned earlier fuel shortages are hampering rescue efforts.

Queues at petrol stations on the approaches to Palu stretch for kilometres, according to Reuters.

Survivors line up at a service station to get gasoline in Palu
Survivors line up at a service station to get gasoline in Palu
Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Indonesian police carry the body of a tsunami victim during a mass burial in Palu, Central Sulawesi
Indonesian police carry the body of a tsunami victim during a mass burial in Palu, Central Sulawesi
Photograph: Tatan Syuflana/AP

Distressing images and descriptions have emerged of victims in body bags being buried in a mass grave in Poboya in the hills above Palu.

AFP has this:

At Poboya – in the hills above the devastated seaside city of Palu – volunteers began to fill a vast grave with the dead, with instructions to prepare for 1,300 victims to be laid to rest.

Authorities are desperate to stave off any disease outbreak caused by decomposing bodies, some now are riddled with maggots.

Three trucks arrived stacked with corpses wrapped in orange, yellow and black bags, an AFP reporter on the scene saw. One-by-one they were dragged into the grave as excavators poured soil on top.

AP quoted local army commander Tiopan Aritonang as saying that 545 bodies for the grave would be brought from one hospital alone. It added:

The trench dug in Palu was 10 meters by 100 meters (33 feet by 330 feet) and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

“This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons,” he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.

Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery can hold 1,000 bodies. All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried. Video footage showed residents walking from body bag to body bag, opening the tops to check to see if they could identify faces.

A view of a mass grave for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
A view of a mass grave for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photograph: Antara Foto/Reuters

What we know so far

  • The death toll has risen to 844. However, this still doesn’t account for some of the worst hit areas in the region, such as the city of Donggala and the Balaroa region, where an entire housing estate home to 900 people sunk into the ground. Rescue teams have not been able to reach these areas yet to begin evacuations and body counts.
  • Some 600 people have been hospitalised and more than 48,000 have been displaced.
  • Electricity is still down in the affected region, hampering rescue efforts, and there is a major shortage of fuel.
  • Teams began work burying the bodies in mass graves in the hills above Palu to prevent the spread of disease. A 100-metre long grave has been dug in preparation for 1,000 bodies.
  • Palu airport will be open for a single flight a day to another area of Sulawesi.
  • 1,425 prisoners are now missing from local jails.

Updated

The official death toll did not increase as much as some had expected, mainly because some of the worst hit areas have still yet to be accessed by rescuers. The heavy machinery needed to lift up and uncover bodies from the rubble is also only just arriving into the area.

Of the 844 casualties, most recorded deaths were in the city of Palu- 821 people- which is the area most rescue teams are currently located. In the Parigi Moutong region 12 people have died and in Donggala the death toll still stands at 11. A total of 744 bodies have been identified.

The press conference has now ended. We will post a summary of the updates shortly

One of the points most severely affected by the earthquake was Balaroa National Park in Palu. When the earthquake struck, the land, which was heavily occupied, moved up and then sank down by 5 metres, said Sutopo.

“We do not know how many victims have been buried here, we estimate in the hundreds,” he added.

The bodies of the six-man paragliding team who had been staying at a hotel in Palu for a local competition have not been found, said Sutopo

Sutopo said that the damage and death at Talise beach, in Palu, was “severe”. Hundreds had been gathered on the beach for the Nomini music festival, when the tsunami wave hit. Sutopo said many bodies had been found amongst the debris but they were still waiting on an official death toll from the area.

Sutopo contradicted earlier reports that the government had given the residents of Palu permission to loot food from the shops.

“The Minister of Home Affairs did not legalise looting in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi,” he said.

“Hundreds of residents have queued up outside the airport, because they are traumatized so they wanted to leave Palu,” said Sutopo.

The new flight schedule will only be one flight a day, between Palu and Makassar, on an aircraft which seats 70 people. Departures will approximately be at 7-9 am.

Updated

Palu airport will be re-opened for limited flights.

Updated

Sutopo said evacuation of Balaroa, an area where hundreds lived in a housing complex which sank five mtres into the ground during the earthquake, was proving difficult for rescue teams because of lack of access.

“In the Patobo it is estimated that hundreds of victims have died from being buried in mud,” he added

Updated

144 foreign nationals who were in Palu and Donggala during the earthquake and tsunami, according to Sutopo.

Updated

Sutopo emphasised that the disaster agency still had “limited data, information and access” to affected areas. “The electricity and communication conditions for Palu, Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong are also paralysed,” he said.

“Heavy equipment has arrived” said Sutopo, “but a large amount is needed to evacuate victims hit by debris and buried in mud.”

Sutopo has arrived and is now addressing journalists with updates. The official death toll has risen only slightly, to 844.

Updated

It appears that the scheduled press conference with Sutopo has been delayed. More information when we have it.

Rescue teams were still working on Monday to pull 15-year-old Nurul out of the ruins of the Balaroa National Housing building in Palu. Most of her body has been trapped in deep mud and concrete for 48 hours, with only her head visible. The body of her mother, Risni, who died in the collapse, is trapped next to her.

Speaking to Tirto, Yusuf, Nurul’s father who has sat by her side since he found her alive, said: ““Everything went fast. The land collapsed instantly.”

He added: “I found my daughter was buried under the ruins and puddle,”

90 of their neighbours who also lived in the building are still reported missing.

Pope Francis led a prayer on Sunday at the Vatican for the earthquake victims, expressing his “nearness to the people on the island of Sulawesi”.

“I pray for the deceased – which are unfortunately numerous – for the wounded, and for those who have lost their homes and employment. May the Lord console them and sustain the efforts of those who are taking part in the relief efforts,” he said.

The flow of aid into the worst-hit areas continues to face obstacles due to destroyed roads and the slow decision by the Indonesian government to accept foreign assistance.

“No aid has arrived. We have lost everything,” one resident told the BBC.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP), will be giving an update on the disaster and death toll at around 1:30pm Jakarta time. Stay tuned for live updates.

The death toll is expected to increase sharply, as there were certain hard-hit areas rescue teams could only reach by Sunday night. The official number of casualties from the city of Donggala and surrounding villages has yet to be announced.

Updated

According to reports by AFP, in Poboya – in the hills above Palu – volunteers have been digging a 100 metre-long grave to bury the dead. The mass grave was originally said to be for only 300 bodies but instructions have been given to prepare for 1,300 victims to be laid to rest.

The official death toll stands at 832 and this is a further indicator that the number of casualties has risen overnight. An update is due at 1:30pm.

Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery on a hill can hold as many as 1,000 bodies. All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried.

Updated

Footage has emerged of the devastation in Donggala, which was one of the worst hit areas by the earthquake and tsunami. Homes lie mangled, the tarmac of the road has been so uprooted it sits on top of rooftops and cars have been thrown upside down

 

According to the Director General of Corrections, Sri Puguh Budi Utami, the structural damage done to prisons by the earthquake allowed for a massive prison break across the area. 1,425 prisoners are now missing from jails.

In Palu prison, which previously had 581 inmates, there are now only 66 left, and in Palu detention centre, which had 463 prisoners, only 53 remained in custody on Monday

Updated

One of the biggest issues hindering rescue efforts is the lack of fuel in the area. It is estimated it will take three days to restore electricity to Palu and in the meantime, generators- powered by fuel- are essential.

“The supply of fuel, (given) current circumstances, is very limited. The lack of fuel has caused mobile electricity generator units, vehicles and water pumps to remain idle,” said Sutopo.

Trucks carrying petrol were driven from Poso, a four-hour drive away, to Palu overnight under military escort. In Poso, miles-long queues began to build up at petrol stations

This video from the Indonesian Red Cross shows how the coastal town of Donggala was decimated by the force of the tsunami. Barely any houses left standing, and people picking through the ruins of their lives

The force of the earthquake smashed homes and tower blocks to smithereens, mangled a metal bridge, ripped the concrete walls off shopping malls and reduced roads to dust and rubble. Here is a gallery illustrating the scale of the devastation on the coast of Sulawesi:

On the ground in Palu, people continue to flock to the army hospital, where the corpses are being to be brought for identification, as they desperately look for their loved ones.

Some are posting on social media in an attempt to locate missing friends and relatives. One Facebook group had almost 10,000 members by Monday and was filled with photographs and pleas for information and even instructions should people recognise their family members among the dead. “If someone locates her dead body, please do not bring her to the mass grave because we will pick her up,” said one Facebook post

Others took to twitter, such as a post below where a woman was looking for information about her brother Syifak, who was last seen in Palu on Friday evening.

Updated

People survey the damage outside a flooded shopping mall in Palu
People survey the damage outside a flooded shopping mall in Palu
Photograph: Tatan Syuflana/AP
An aerial view shows the earthquake and tsunami in Palu
An aerial view shows the earthquake and tsunami in Palu
Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
This aerial photo shows people driving past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu
This aerial photo shows people driving past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu
Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the massive scale of the devastation, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the government had not deemed the earthquake to be “a national disaster” because the Central Sulawesi regional government is still functional.

He told Kompas that the situation was different from the Aceh tsunami in 2004. “Aceh’s government was paralyzed. [In Palu] the governor is still there, the regent is still there, is still running,” said Kalla, who is also the Chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI),

What we know so far

  • The death toll of the earthquake and tsunami currently stands at 832, but is expected to rise sharply again today. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP) will be proving an official update at 1pm
  • A 14-day state of emergency has been declared in Sulawesi
  • In some of the smaller villages and subdistricts around Palu, it is feared entire communities of up to 2000 people have been killed after mudslides submerged and crushed their homes.
  • In Palu, authorities are preparing a large mass grave for the burial of the bodies which have been piling up over the weekend. The grave, which will be 10 metres by 100 metres, is being dug for 300 victims and can be enlarged if needed. According to Sutopo, this is a temporary measure to stop disease spreading
  • Indonesia has confirmed it will accept international assistance for the disaster, and put out calls for help. Australia and Thailand have already offered support
  • Heavy machinery needed to move rubble has still not reached the area, so search and rescue efforts are being done primarily by hand
  • Efforts continued to save up to 40 people trapped in Palu’s Roa Roa hotel, where victims could still be heard screaming from the rubble on Monday morning. Only one survivor has been pulled out alive.
  • Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency has said they ended the tsunami warning for Sulawesi after the third wave had hit the shore of Palu, not before as some had alleged
  • Some telecommunications had been restored to the area but there continues to be no power in Palu

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) is standing by their decision to end the tsunami warning during the first hours of the earthquake. The agency has come under fire for removing the warning just 34 minutes after the earthquake hit.

Speaking to the Jakarta Post, BMKG chairwoman Dwikorita Karnawati said the warning was removed after the third and final tsunami wave had hit the coast of Palu, not before.

“According to our analysis, three waves hit Palu’s beach around dusk, with the third one and the highest sweeping away houses and kiosks. The waves hit the beach within a span of 2.5 minutes,” Dwikorita said to the Jakarta Post. She said the tsunami alert ended at 6:37 p.m., minutes after the third wave hit land.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo last night authorised the country to begin accepting international aid for the disaster, news which will come as a relief to aid workers on the ground who expressed frustration yesterday that the earthquake had been classed as only a “province level disaster”, meaning international funding and supplies were blocked.

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison released a statement pledging support. “As a close neighbour, Australia stands ready to support government of Indonesia response efforts, if required,” said the joint statement.

Updated

With bodies building up in Palu at an unmanageable rate, Sutopo confirmed on Sunday that once identified, the corpses would be buried in a mass grave as a temporary measure and given “proper burials” later.

Tweeting this morning, he released images of the inspection of Paboya public cemetery, where the mass burials will begin today. “The burials will be carried out immediately due to public health concerns,” he said.

Updated

It is feared that around 2,000 people in the Petobo subdistrict in South Palu have died after being caught up in a fatal mudflow caused by the tsunami, their homes washed away entirely. Speaking to the Jakarta Post, one local resident said the mud had been “rolling in like waves”.

Another subdistrict in West Palu district appeared to have sunk into the ground, with thousands also feared dead.

Updated

Video footage from Palu shows terrified families fleeing their homes as the earthquake caused “liquification”, when the surface of the earth moves like liquid, making buildings topple.

Updated

Residents queue to board a Hercules aircraft belonging to the Indonesian Air Force, as they are being evacuated from Palu
Residents queue to board a Hercules aircraft belonging to the Indonesian Air Force, as they are being evacuated from Palu
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Indonesian rescuers work on the collapsed hotel Roa Roa as they try to find survivors in Palu
Indonesian rescuers work on the collapsed hotel Roa Roa as they try to find survivors in Palu
Photograph: Mast Irham/EPA

Sulawesi island

Sulawesi, the world’s 11th largest island, is located east of Borneo, comprising of several long peninsulas extending from a mountainous centre. It is popular with tourists for its coral reefs and dive sites, including the Wakatobi Islands in Southeast Sulawesi and Bunaken Island at the northern tip of Sulawesi.

Palu city is the capital of the province of Central Sulawesi and lies at the head of the long, narrow Palu Bay. Donggala is a regency along the coast of Central Sulawesi. The capital of Donggala is Banawa, normally about a 30-minute drive north from Palu. More than 300,000 people live in Donggala.

Palu, also home to 300,000 people, is considered an emerging tourist destination.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth. It lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Many have therefore questioned why a more effective tsunami warning system was not in place in Sulawesi. It has emerged that there were plans to install an early warning system in the area, after the 2004 tsunami which killed almost 250,000 people. However, intergovernmental disagreements meant the project has still not been completed.

“To me this is a tragedy for science, even more so a tragedy for the Indonesian people as the residents of Sulawesi are discovering right now,” said Louise Comfort, a University of Pittsburgh expert in disaster management who worked on the early warning system.

Text messages that were supposed to warn people in Palu of the possibility of a tsunami also did not go out as planned because telecommunications went down immediately after the earthquake

Updated

Over 1,400 survivors of the earthquake and tsunami have been evacuated to Makassar, South Sulawesi, since Saturday, according to the Jakarta Post. They were transported by a C-130 Hercules military aircraft.

One survivor, Mesda, 40, told the Jakarta Post that she would continue her journey to Manado, North Sulawesi. “Our home was destroyed. We have nowhere to live,” she said.

Meanwhile, with telecommunications still down, hundreds of people were desperately waiting at the Makassar air base, looking for an opportunity to fly to Palu with the rescue teams, to locate their family members caught up in the disaster.

Updated

Indonesian president Joko Widodo visited Palu yesterday to inspect the devastation. According to Sutopo, his presidential directives were:

  • prioritize evacuation of victims
  • heavy equipment immediately sent
  • logistical assistance immediately sent with special aircraft
  • emergency handling to be expedited.

Power generators were flown to Palu this morning as there is still no electricity in the area after pylons and power stations were destroyed and uprooted by the earthquake

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, talks with tsunami survivors in a temporary shelter in Palu
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, talks with tsunami survivors in a temporary shelter in Palu

Updated

On Sunday, rescue efforts in Palu had focused on the Roa Roa hotel, which collapsed entirely with an estimated 50 people trapped inside.

Reports of voices heard screaming for help were still reportedly heard on Monday morning, with around 30 to 40 people still thought to be in the ruins.

Updated

Indonesian rescuers try to free a 15-year-old earthquake survivor, Nurul Istikhomah from the flooded ruins of a collapsed house in Palu
Indonesian rescuers try to free a 15-year-old earthquake survivor, Nurul Istikhomah from the flooded ruins of a collapsed house in Palu
Photograph: Arimacs Wilander/EPA
An overview of an earthquake devastated residential area in Palu
An overview of an earthquake devastated residential area in Palu
Photograph: Arimacs Wilander/EPA
Family members carry the body of a relative to the compounds of a police hospital in Palu
Family members carry the body of a relative to the compounds of a police hospital in Palu
Photograph: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images
Indonesian President Joko Widodo looks at the damage following earthquakes and a tsunami in Palu)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo looks at the damage following earthquakes and a tsunami in Palu)
Photograph: Agus Suparto/AP

The efforts to find survivors among the wreckage of buildings has been slow work, with teams lacking heavy machinery needed to move the rubble. Most rescue teams were working by hand.

Sutopo said the disaster agency rescue teams working on Sunday had pulled 13 bodies and two survivors from the wreckage of Palu city’s malls and hotels.

The death toll from the 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday currently stands at 832, but is expected to rise sharply again today.

Rescue teams were still attempting to reach some of the worst hit areas, such as Donggala, yesterday and so the full extent of the devastation in unknown. In the city of Palu, where rescue efforts were focused on Sunday, efforts began to identify the hundreds of bodies, many which had been collected from along the beaches, and would be temporarily buried in mass graves.

Read our latest story here.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP), will once again address journalists at a press conference at 1pm Jakarta time with an update on the growing death toll and rescue efforts. Stay tuned for updates.

Updated

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Lifestyle

Go for gold: autumn colours for your make-up

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Go for gold: autumn colours for your make-up” was written by Eva Wiseman, for The Observer on Sunday 30th September 2018 10.30 Asia/Kolkata

Without going full Bond girl, this season you can afford to splash around a bit of gold. Fenty girls wore it on the catwalk in slashes across their cheekbones, the ultimate sunset glow; at Chanel it was a more gentle sheen. Whether you go for a bronzer to mimic the last of the summer tans, dab it on in drops, puff on powder or smudge it from a glistening stick, make sure you blend like crazy and stick to muted shades where possible. As autumn approaches, it’s worth going for gold.

Get the look

1. Spotlight Palette in Gold £26, smashbox.co.uk
2. Guerlain Terracotta Summer Glow Highlighter £37, selfridges.com
3. Sun Beam £22, benefitcosmetics.com
4. Christian Louboutin Goldomania Loubilaque £65, harrods.com
5. Stila Heaven’s Hue Highlighter £28, cultbeauty.co.uk
6. Design Makeup Chubby Highlighter Stick in Tenacious £9, asos.com
7. Glow For It Illuminator Drops £7.99, modelsownit.com
8. Highlighting Powder in Fort De France £28, narscosmetics.co.uk
9. Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife £26, harveynichols.com
10. Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting £42, spacenk.com
11. Maybelline FaceStudio Chrome Extreme Highlighter £8.99, boots.com

American beauty

The simplest hair update from New York Fashion week? A scrunchie. Hair accessories were everywhere, from clips to turbans – Tom Ford models wore silky head wraps tied at the nape of the neck, Kate Spade’s and Derek Lam’s wore scarves in a neat bow under the chin.

Home straight

Still straightening your hair? You could do worse than invest in the world’s first ‘smart straightener’ ghd’s Platinum+, which responds to your hair, and controls heat, with smooth results after a single stroke. £175, ghdhair.com.

Line of beauty

Gucci has launched a new Instagram account (@guccibeauty) for its beauty line dedicated to Alessandro Michele’s ‘vision of beauty’. Rather than flat product pics, expect art, including ancient portraits of imposing women, and analysis of beauty.

Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

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Education Environment Health S&T, Health

Health chiefs to set social media time limits for young people

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Health chiefs to set social media time limits for young people” was written by Toby Helm and Andrew Rawnsley, for The Observer on Sunday 30th September 2018 02.14 Asia/Kolkata

The government is to produce the first official guidelines on the maximum amount of time young people should spend on social media, health secretary Matt Hancock says today, amid growing concern about the links between its excessive use and mental health problems among children.

In an interview with the Observer before the Conservatve party conference, which opens this weekend in Birmingham, Hancock says he has instructed the UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to draw up advice as soon as possible that he hopes will become an accepted “norm in society”, like that on recommended maximum alcohol consumption for adults.

Hancock, who has three children under 12, says he is seriously alarmed by evidence of links between mental health problems in young people and unlimited social media use.

He suggests that turning off phones at night when children go to bed would be one “absolutely standard, straightforward way of limiting the damage”.

He said: “I am, as a father, very worried about the growing evidence of the impact of social media on children’s mental health.

“Unrestricted use [of social media] by younger children risks being very damaging to their mental health. So I have asked the chief medical officer to bring forward formal guidance on its use by children.” This would, he believes, “empower” parents and teachers as they struggle to enforce sensible limits and explain them to children. “As a parent you want to be able to say, ‘the rules say you shouldn’t use social media for more than a certain period of time’. This is why we have a chief medical officer: to set a norm in society, make judgments on behalf of society, so that individual schools or individual parents don’t have to decide.”

He also wants Davies to bring forward guidance on the minimum ages at which young people should be able to use certain sites. Many big social media companies issued advice but did nothing to enforce it, he said.

“The terms of reference of Facebook and Instagram say you shouldn’t be on it if you are under the age of 13. But they do nothing to police that. The guidelines for WhatsApp say you shouldn’t be on it unless you’re 16. But again, they don’t lift a finger.”

Concern is also growing in government and medical circles about the effect of “recreational” screen use on children’s ability to learn and acquire knowledge. A study published last week in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, based on a survey of children in the US, found higher levels of cognition in children whose “recreational screen time” was less than two hours a day.

A separate US study of people aged 18 to 24 found last year that 41% of social media users thought it made them feel sad, anxious, or depressed.

A report for Ofcom last year found that children aged between five and 15 in Britain spent an average of 15 hours a week online and half of 12-year-olds had a social media profile.

In academic circles, debate continues over whether social media has more negative than positive effects.

A report last year by the Education Policy Institute found a link between social media use and mental health issues. It cited figures showing that while 12% of children who spent no time on social media had symptoms of mental ill health, the figure rose to 27% for those who were on the sites for more than three hours a day.

The use of mobile technologies such as smartphones had, it said, also been linked to anxieties about conforming with social norms and the need for “likes” – external validation of personal content posted online.

However it concluded that because young people were increasingly conducting their lives online, it would probably be “futile” to attempt to protect children and young people from all online risks.

“This indicates that the focus of public policy should be on how to develop resilience in young people to maintain their emotional and mental wellbeing and live safe digital lives.”

Some tech companies have recognised that parents need control over how much time their children are spending online. Apple has introduced a new “screen time” feature that allows parents to restrict the amount of time children spend in front of their screens online. Facebook recently introduced a number of new tools to help users manage their time on Facebook and Instagram.

These include an activity dashboard showing average time spent on each app, a daily reminder to give users an alert when they have reached the amount of time they want to spend on that app, and a new way to limit notifications.

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Education Environment Health S&T, Health

Pret allergy death: Parents describe final moments with their daughter

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pret allergy death: Parents describe final moments with their daughter” was written by Jamie Doward, for The Observer on Sunday 30th September 2018 02.30 Asia/Kolkata

“Tashi, I love you so much, darling. I’ll be with you soon. I’ll be with you.”

These were the last words that Tanya Ednan-Laperouse spoke to her daughter, Natasha, who lay dying 800 miles away in a hospital in France.

Tanya’s husband, Nadim, had placed his mobile phone on the pillow by their daughter’s ear when it became apparent that the 15-year-old, who had suffered a catastrophic allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger baguette, was not going to live. “You’ve got to say goodbye to her now,” Nadim urged his wife, who was waiting at Stansted airport for a flight out to be at their daughter’s side. “Don’t lose time. She’s going to die any minute. Say something. Do it right now. She might hear it.”

Natasha’s parents broke their silence on Saturday to reveal their final minutes with their daughter after a five-day inquest that is expected to trigger a major shake-up in food safety regulations and the emergency treatment of people suffering severe allergic reactions.

Coroner Dr Séan Cummings criticised the sandwich chain for failing to properly alert customers to potentially fatal allergens, warning that its signs were “inadequate”.

In July 2016, Natasha, who was extremely allergic to sesame, bought an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from a Pret store at Heathrow airport. It did not have any allergen advice on its wrapper because, as it was made on the premises, it was not required by law.

Cummings said he would be writing to the company and to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, calling for an overhaul of the current labelling system. Natasha’s family are now considering launching a civil claim against Pret.

Natasha’s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse.
Natasha’s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse. Photograph: Ian McIlgorm

“We now know she didn’t die on our watch,” her mother said. “She died on Pret’s watch, and all thanks to the absence of two little words on the packaging of her sandwich. If the label had listed sesame seeds Natasha wouldn’t have touched it and she’d still be alive.”

Natasha’s father, who injected his daughter with adrenaline from two EpiPens as she became unwell having boarded a British Airways flight to Nice for a holiday, said he blames himself for her death “because I love my daughter – I really love my daughter, in a way that’s like one flesh. As a parent I would die a thousand times, crucified, for her to live. I spent 15 years nurturing the most precious thing in my entire life. As a human being, there’s nothing more important than that. In that moment, how could it be that I failed her? I will live with that until I die.”

He described seeing his daughter in the mortuary. “You go into a cubicle and she was lying there, stone cold. She’d been in a fridge. It didn’t look like her. It wasn’t her. Where was she? I hugged and kissed her. The shape’s the same but the colour’s wrong. She was gone. You really believe in a soul when you see that. But her body was all I had left.”

Tanya said they had not been able to touch Natasha’s room. “Her clothes are still on the floor. Her homework’s on the table. We haven’t unpacked her school bag or the bag she took that day.”

The couple’s decision to speak out came as it emerged that the coroner would be writing to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the manufacturer of EpiPens to highlight issues relating to their dosage and needle length. At the inquest, an expert witness explained that the technology was “developed for the first Gulf war to give antidotes to chemical warfare” and was initially meant to be used on “lean male army recruits”.

The inquest heard how both the EpiPens used on Natasha had 16mm needles and contained 300 micrograms of adrenaline. Even some individuals of normal weight and BMI (body mass index) might find a 16mm needle insufficient for the adrenaline to reach their muscle, the inquest heard. According to Resuscitation Council guidance “a 25mm needle is best and suitable for all ages”.

The expert explained that it was unclear how much adrenaline had entered Natasha’s system but noted that people suffering anaphylaxis in hospital were given 500 micrograms in a single dose in severe cases.

In the year before Natasha’s death, the inquest heard that Pret had been contacted by other customers who had suffered severe allergic reactions.

“The coroner found that Pret’s procedures for recording and monitoring reports of problems with foods or items purchased at Pret were inadequate and incoherent,” said Jill Paterson, of law firm Leigh Day, which represented Natasha’s family.

“They screwed up, yes,” Tanya said of Pret. “But they could lobby for change to our labelling laws. They could help this happen. Now they know it can’t continue. If they try to they’ll have a big fight on their hands, certainly from us.”

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