World

The Observer view on Theresa May’s hateful ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Observer view on Theresa May’s hateful ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy” was written by Observer editorial, for The Observer on Sunday 22nd April 2018 10.36 Asia/Kolkata

History will judge Theresa May harshly. In recent weeks, the appalling stories about the impact of the government’s “hostile environment” policy reported by our sister paper, the Guardian, have continued to grow in number. They paint a shocking picture of a Kafkaesque state that has denied people who came to the UK from the Commonwealth as children their rightful entitlement to work, to housing and to healthcare.

The Observer is the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

 

May has maintained these are people who have been wrongly caught up in her 2013 decision as home secretary to create a “really hostile environment” for people living in Britain illegally. But their tragic stories are the direct consequence of a policy so punitive that it would inevitably make life intolerable for legal British residents.

People without a passport are now being required to provide an absurd level of proof – four pieces of documentary evidence for each year of residence – of their legal status.

Without this, they can no longer work, rent a home, open a bank account or access NHS care and may be detained and threatened with deportation. Doctors, bank clerks and landlords have become obliged to snoop on their fellow citizens by checking up on their immigration status.

The government has doggedly pursued a hostile environment as a cheap alternative to investing in the border force and a functioning programme of exit checks. But leave the rhetoric aside and there is no evidence it is effective in encouraging people in Britain illegally to leave; the number of voluntary departures has actually fallen from its peak in 2013. What it has achieved, however, is seeding discrimination: research has found that requiring landlords to check people’s papers makes them less likely to rent to people with foreign accents or names.

May’s initial response when the Windrush generation cases were first raised can only be described as callous. When Jeremy Corbyn wrote to her to raise the case of Albert Thompson, a man who moved to Britain from Jamaica as a child and whose mother worked as a nurse, but who has now been refused radiotherapy on the NHS, she first refused to intervene. Downing Street initially turned down a formal request to meet from 12 representatives of Caribbean countries. It has taken May months since the Guardian first reported on these cases to offer reassurances that the situation will be resolved for the Windrush generation and that they will be offered compensation.

Albert Thompson
Theresa May initially refused to help Albert Thompson, who had been denied NHS treatment for cancer.
Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

This does not go far enough. A wider group of lives is being blighted by the hostile environment. One case is that of Jay, a young black person born in the UK and taken into care as a baby and who was refused a passport. A state that was in loco parentis to him for almost 18 years threatened to deport him to a country he’d never even visited as an adult. Other children have lost their right to apply for British citizenship when they turned 18 because local authorities did not secure their citizenship while they were in their care.

There are countless other casualties of the hostile environment, such as families separated from their children because of the Home Office’s harsh rules.

Those who become caught up in this are confronted with a cruel Home Office bureaucracy that operates outside the principles of natural justice. Officials are incentivised to reject applications for the tiniest of technical errors; immigration application fees are so high they are generating profits of up to 800% for the state, and there is no longer any right of appeal or legal aid available in most types of immigration cases.

Children as young as 10 who were born in the UK are subjected to a “good character” test when they apply for citizenship; if they have been cautioned, their application can be refused.

The hostile environment will also have huge ramifications in the context of Brexit. EU citizens who have a right to remain in Britain but who cannot afford to secure the necessary papers will become similarly ensnared. We can expect EU leaders watching this crisis unfold to insist rightly on more robust guarantees for their citizens as a result.

Both the prime minister and the home secretary, Amber Rudd, must accept full responsibility. Rudd’s attempt to pass the buck to officials for implementing government policy last week was utterly disingenuous. But it was Theresa May who was responsible for developing this approach while she was home secretary. Were she still in that post, her position would have been untenable.

It is not enough to address the plight of the affected members of the Windrush generation. The government must dismantle the hostile environment altogether and restore a sense of natural justice to the immigration system; this should include relaxing its evidence requirements and slashing its application fees. Nobody who has grown up in Britain should be denied citizenship.

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Education Environment Health S&T, Health

Prostate cancer breakthrough as UK team develops more accurate test

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Prostate cancer breakthrough as UK team develops more accurate test” was written by Robin McKie Science editor, for The Observer on Sunday 22nd April 2018 12.35 Asia/Kolkata

Scientists have announced the development of a highly accurate and reliable technique for diagnosing prostate cancer. The Dundee University-based team say they have used an ultrasound process called shear wave elastography (SWE) to detect prostate tumours. The method is non-invasive and cheaper than current detection techniques.

Prostate cancer has become the most common cancer in men in the UK. One in eight men will develop the condition at some point in their lives with more than 47,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. Men aged 50 or over, men with a family history of prostate cancer, and black men are at greatest risk of developing the condition.

“Current diagnosis of prostate cancer is extremely inefficient, leading to unnecessary treatments for many patients,” said the Dundee University team’s leader, Professor Ghulam Nabi. “Our new method is far more accurate and also allows us to identify the difference between cancerous and benign tissue in the prostate without the need for invasive surgery.”

The prostate is a small gland in the male reproductive system and is normally about the shape and size of a walnut. Current methods for determining if a prostate has become cancerous include a physical examination of the prostate (known as a digital rectal examination or DRE), MRI scans, a biopsy or tests to determine levels of the chemical prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood.

Stephen Fry, who has had surgery to deal with a prostate tumour, says he is excited by the new diagnostic test.
Stephen Fry, who has had surgery to deal with a prostate tumour, says he is excited by the new diagnostic test. Photograph: HGL/GC Images

Each carries problems. PSA results can be unreliable; a DRE is not good at identifying which cancers are benign and which need treatment; MRI scans cannot always give a definitive answer; while a biopsy carries a risk of infection and is expensive.

The new method aims to get round the problems by targeting the prostate with ultrasound. Cancerous tissue is stiffer than normal tissue so shear waves are slowed as they pass through a tumour.

“We have been able to show a stark difference in results between our technology and existing techniques such as MRI,” added Nabi. “The technique has picked up cancers which MRI did not reveal. We can now see with much greater accuracy what tissue is cancerous, where it is and what level of treatment it needs. This is a significant step forward.”

The trial tests involved around 200 patients. “Now we need to use this on a wider scale to build more data but there is clearly the potential to really change the way we manage prostate cancer,” Nabi said.

SWE technology is already used in diagnosing breast cancer and liver diseases. However, to make it applicable to prostate cancer a special probe had to be developed by the team.

“The technique now needs to be tested in a much larger number of men to confirm just how well it can detect the aggressive cancers, while also ruling out those who do not have prostate cancer,” said Simon Grieveson, head of research funding at Prostate Cancer UK, which funded the Dundee project (with support from the Movember Foundation).

“With an average of one man dying every 45 minutes from prostate cancer in the UK, the need for a more reliable test that can identify dangerous forms of the disease earlier is greater than ever.”

In the past few years, a number of celebrities have revealed that they had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and have joined campaigns to raise awareness of the disease, including Michael Parkinson, Ian McKellen and most recently Stephen Fry, the comedian and former rector of Dundee University, who this year described how he had surgery to deal with a prostate tumour.

“This breakthrough comes at a time when prostate cancer is being pushed to the forefront of our consciousness in the UK, not least because of the disturbing upward trend in its prevalence,” said Fry. “It is therefore doubly exciting to hear of the new techniques in diagnostic imaging.

47,000

Number of cases of prostate cancer diagnosed every year in the UK

11,000

The number of men who die each year from the disease

1 in 8

Proportion of UK men who will get prostate cancer in their lifetime

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Food and Drinks, Lifestyle

Raw power: Britain’s changing appetite for veg

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Raw power: Britain’s changing appetite for veg” was written by Bee Wilson, for The Observer on Sunday 22nd April 2018 16.00 Asia/Kolkata

You can tell the story of modern British food through our changing attitude to vegetables. Once, we were a people who ate our greens while grumbling about them. Then, we became people who spoke admiringly of butternut squash without necessarily eating it. Now, there are glimmers of a new Britain, where, strange to tell, vegetables are both eaten and enjoyed.

For those of us who have lived through these changes, it’s startling to realise just how far we have come from boiled swede and grey stringy beans. Food writer Sejal Sukhadwala remembers eating as a vegetarian at a London school in the 1980s. “They gave me the same meat and two veg as everyone else, only without the meat.” A typical lunch would be sulphurous cabbage and mash. School dinners were a shock compared to the meals Sukhadwala ate at home. Her mother, a Gujarati vegetarian, cooked okra and gourds bought from markets in Wembley and Southall. She seasoned them with coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder, and cooked them using many different methods. By contrast, the school dinner vegetables were always plain boiled and unseasoned, as if it would be foolish to squander salt or butter on a carrot.

Fast forward to 2018 and Sukhadwala feels she is living through a “culture shift” in the British relationship with vegetables. We are having lunch together at Vanilla Black, an elegant restaurant in Holborn which happens to be vegetarian. Sukhadwala glances down at her starter of roasted Jerusalem artichoke with fermented turnip cake, a dark green puree flavoured with fresh curry leaf and pieces of crispy kale. “So many textures and techniques all on one plate,” she says.

Over the past decade, the British attitude to vegetables has altered. Suddenly, many of us are eating vegetables voluntarily and not just because we feel we should. This change can be seen in countless signs, from the success of vegetable-focused cookbooks (such as those by Anna Jones) and the vegan menus popping up in high-street restaurants to the presence in our supermarkets of low-carb alternatives to pasta and grains. One of the biggest transformations is the variety of techniques that cooks tend to use to prepare vegetables. They are pickled and grilled and seared and fried or shredded and eaten raw, rather than boiled on autopilot.

Who would have thought that cauliflower – which was traditionally served under what chef Jean Conil described in his 1953 book Haute Cuisine as “a merciful disguise of sauce” – might one day be so celebrated it would be served proudly whole and slow-roasted, like a prime cut of beef? For a while it felt as if the vegetables that inspired love in Britain were Mediterranean ones such as red peppers that were roasted and safely removed from anything we had grown up with. But there is a renewed appetite for locally grown root veg too. From 2016 to 2017, sales of beetroot in the UK grew by £34 million, an increase of 6% year on year. Still more startling is the rise in people who centre their entire diet on vegetables, gathering under the hashtag #plantbased. The number of self-declared British vegans has risen by more than 360% since 2006. When I interviewed a food market researcher about the most significant food trends, she said that one of the most surprising was the idea of vegetables as a main course.

Greens in Britain used to be the thing you pushed to the side of your plate, or the bitter mulch that you swallowed for your own good and to avoid a telling-off from grown-ups. They were not expected to be something delicious – that was what meat and potatoes and gravy were for. Many diners never imagined that broccoli might be charred with oil and lemon and garlic and chilli to such sweet loveliness that it was actually moreish. This has been called the Ottolenghi effect, after Yotam Ottolenghi, whose cookbooks – the first of which was published in 2008 – made his readers stop seeing vegetable-centred cooking as a form of dreary deprivation and start recognising the joyous luxury in something like an aubergine topped with saffron yogurt and pomegranate seeds.

The new vegetable love has many causes, particularly among millenials. Some of it is driven by ethical considerations about sustainability. Some of it is to do with health, as people try to copy the Instagram influencers who promote colourful leaves, legumes and pods. But there’s also the fact that a dinner of spuds and roots is a lot cheaper than steak. Whatever the cause, this vegetable revolution is not just a transformation in what we eat but a change in how we feel about plants. It is a shift, above all, from duty to desire. It is about salt-roasted celeriac and braised leeks; about pickled wild garlic and peas with ricotta on toast. I never thought I would see the day when “contains kale” would be a selling point rather than a threat. There is a romance to vegetable cookery now, which stands in contrast to the 1990s, a decade when we became so paranoid about not overcooking our veg that we often served squeakily understeamed green beans.

The question remains how deep and wide this vegetable conversion has spread. For all the appearance of variety in modern produce, it is true that in some ways we have gone backwards. In 2007, in his book The Last Food of England, food writer Marwood Yeatman remarked, “The disdain for vegetables with which the English are credited is hard to reconcile with the number of walled and market gardens, the allotments and the greatness of names like Scarlet Emperor, Kelvedon Wonder and Jersey Royal.” According to Yeatman, the number of vegetables in cultivation in the UK peaked at 120 varieties around 1500, “slumped after the Reformation” and reached an all-time low in the 1970s when it fell to under 50. Britain is currently less than 60% self-sufficient in vegetables and salads. Over the past 30 years, the area given over to vegetables has declined by 26%.

There has also – surprisingly – been a decline in the amount of veg that the average person eats. With the exception of a few specific items such as pre-cut stir-fry packs, vegetable consumption overall is still significantly lower now than it was during and after the second world war. Earlier generations may have boiled vegetables to oblivion, but they also saw eating them as a non-negotiable part of a meal. Survey data in Geoffrey Warren’s The Foods We Eat (1958) suggested the average British adult then ate around 400g of fresh vegetables a day – equivalent to the five-a-day that is now advised. Today, by contrast, the mean intake of vegetables is a mere 128g per person, which adds up to just over one and a half portions. The Ottolenghi effect has not reached everyone.

Beetroot

“People have very high awareness about eating vegetables,” says Anna Taylor of the Food Foundation, “but that doesn’t translate into consumption.” It was concern at Britain’s low vegetable intake that led Taylor to launch Peas Please, a three-year project working with 80 different organisations – ranging from growers and the NHS to supermarkets and caterers – to make it easier for everyone to eat veg, on all incomes. Taylor sees eating more vegetables as the single diet intervention that could have the most impact on both health and the environment. “It’s no good if it’s just purple carrots in a farmer’s market,” says Taylor.

Peas Please has extracted pledges from mass market businesses such as Sainsbury’s, which has promised it will always include vegetables in the store’s “fresh inspirational plinths” (a fancy way of saying the shelves at the end of the chilled aisles). Another business to pledge is Greggs the baker, which promises to sell an extra 15 million portions of veg between 2018 and 2020 in its sandwiches and salads. Taylor tells me she approached Greggs rather than Pret because she wants to drive change in vegetable eating “beyond the metropolitan elite”. The aim – which Taylor admits is a “massive, massive challenge” – is to get everyone in Britain eating an extra portion of vegetables every day.

Peas Please was launched at a vegetable summit in London’s City Hall in October 2017, which I attended (there were also parallel summits in Scotland and Wales).

One of the main problems discussed was the gulf in consumption between rich and poor in Britain. Some of us eat a whole rainbow; others eat less than ever. Anti-poverty campaigner Kathleen Kerridge pointed out that “vegetables on a low income are an added extra” which can be hard to justify buying, especially if there’s a chance that picky children won’t eat them.

There’s a widespread perception that eating vegetables will always be a middle-class habit, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Towards the end of the summit, Michael Marmot, professor of public health at University College London, gave a speech about how vegetable inequality “is not inevitable”. In Britain and many other western countries, you can draw graphs showing that the lower the social gradient, the less fruit and veg someone will eat. Yet there are countries such as Portugal and France where this is not the case, and vegetables are eaten regularly by rich and poor.

A lack of vegetable eating in Britain has three causes, said Marmot when I recently caught up with him over the phone. “The first is price. The second is the availability of tasty produce. And the third is culture. But cultural change and socio-economic change go hand in hand.” As Marmot comments, “If you can’t afford a healthy diet, you don’t eat a healthy diet.” One of the problems in Britain, as Marmot sees it, is that too many people are still stuck in the mindset that vegetables are “a penance rather than a reward for living”.

But this is changing. At the vegetable summit, Kerridge said her teenage daughter often begged her for pre-packed spiralised courgettes in the supermarket because she had seen it idolised on social media. The problem is that Kerridge can’t afford to buy it.

The signs are that low-income families are as likely as anyone to enjoy vegetables if the obstacles to eating them are removed. From 2013 to 2014, the charity Alexandra Rose gave 81 families vouchers for free fruit and veg at local markets through children’s centres in Hackney, east London. Vegetable cooking classes were offered to help those who wanted them. The benefits of the scheme were not just a short-term nutrition boost but a longer-term change in habits and tastes. The parents commented that they were now experimenting with different foods. Thanks to the Rose vouchers – which are now distributed in Hammersmith, Lambeth and Fulham as well as Hackney – families have found themselves choosing to buy veg they had never tried before. One mother said that both she and her child were now less fussy about vegetables. “Now I crave salad rather than kebab,” said another.

Tomatoes

We should remain optimistic about the British relationship with vegetables, says Marmot. His decades of research tell him that food habits change incredibly fast. “Do you remember when it was unusual to eat yogurt?” he asks. “And now it’s completely normal.” By the same token, there is every chance, he says, that “an Ottolenghi effect could be seen in the wider population” if vegetables could become affordable and accessible enough for more people to discover how good they can taste.

Someone who has observed this change of appetite in action is Jason O’Rourke, head teacher of Washingborough Academy, a primary school in Lincolnshire. O’Rourke and I are both part of a new group called Flavour School that offers children a sensory education in food, particularly vegetables. In a typical lesson, children might taste carrots in several different forms – raw sticks, raw grated and cooked batons – and talk about which texture they prefer. Or they might put on headphones and compare “loud and quiet” vegetables: the noisy crunch of celery compared with the silent softness of avocado.

Flavour School is still in the pilot stage – it was launched in a few UK schools in Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire in 2017, but will be trialled in a further 50 schools in Staffordshire this summer, through the Soil Association. The early signs are promising, as O’Rourke reports. At Washingborough, his teachers have found that the simple process of letting children interact with fresh produce at school can start to change the way that a whole family talks about vegetables. “Children who have done Flavour School are more willing to say to their parents, ‘Oh! That’s a butternut, I know what to do with that,’ which gives the parents the confidence to buy it.”

The British conversion to greens is far from complete. Ours may never be a fully vegetable-centric food culture such as Vietnam or Italy or India. But the fact that we are now selecting vegetables for their flavour is a profound shift. Taylor at the Food Foundation cites the low-cost but good tasting veg being sold by Aldi and Lidl as cause for optimism that our new liking for vegetables will continue to spread across all income groups. “Lidl do these small crunchy ridged cucumbers,” she remarks. What’s so different about them, I ask. “They actually taste of something,” she replies.

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How to grow spring kale as soft as lettuce

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “How to grow spring kale as soft as lettuce” was written by Alys Fowler, for The Guardian on Saturday 21st April 2018 15.30 Asia/Kolkata

Perhaps it is a little perverse to talk about kale when the season is finally allowing us to look ahead to summer. Why talk of winter vegetables when you can start thinking of sweet lettuce hearts? But we surely need to stop seeing kale as being only for the winter; sure, it is a cold-weather vegetable, but it can be as tender as any lettuce.

Kale is ancient stuff: it’s considered to be far closer to wild cabbage than, say, brussels sprouts or broccoli. In case you missed the millennial memo, kale is king of nutrition. It’s certainly the most nutritious vegetable you can grow at home. It’s one of the best sources of vitamin K, a rich source of vitamins A, C, B6 and folate, and a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin E. It’s a multivitamin, without the plastic pot.

Now, there’s a small rub to all these health benefits, which is that you need to eat your kale raw. Faced with a tough bunch of winter-hardy leaves, that’s a daunting task; but kale can be as tender as any other leafy green, as long as it is picked young and small. And the best way to grow it is as cut and come again.

The best leaves are somewhere between 5-10cm high. For a continuous supply, sow roughly every two weeks. Sow direct from now onwards and thin seedlings to 7.5cm apart. Cut and come again can be sown up until the end of July/beginning of August. If you want traditional big plants for winter, you need to sow by June and space plants to 45cm apart in either direction. You can raise kale microgreens on a windowsill year-round.

Although kale is more than capable of surviving periods of drought, that’s when you get tough leaves. If you are transplanting young plants to their final growing position, puddle them in with plenty of water and mulch. If your leaves are too tough to eat, massage with salt and oil and let them sit for 30 minutes before dressing with a vinegar or lemon juice; you’ll find they flop delightfully that way.

There’s a whole suite of new kales that are stunning to look at, both in the garden and on the plate. ‘Midnight Sun’ is a curly kale with bright magenta midribs; ‘Jagallo Nero’ has serrated blue-green leaves; ‘Emerald Ice’ is textured, ruffled and has ice-white midribs and new variegated new growth; ‘Red Ruble’ is a red, Russian-type kale for baby leaf production (the red fades as the plant matures); ‘Dazzling blue’ is a blue-green palm kale with striking pink midribs, and ‘Red Ruffled’ (both from Real Seeds) has tasty ruffled leaves with red veins.

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Food and Drinks, Lifestyle

Meera Sodha’s recipe for vegan jackfruit tacos with fried corn and hot cashew sauce

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Meera Sodha’s recipe for vegan jackfruit tacos with fried corn and hot cashew sauce” was written by Meera Sodha, for The Guardian on Saturday 21st April 2018 14.00 Asia/Kolkata

Jackfruit is a giant, gravity-defying tropical fruit that looks like an ancient weapon, with blunt, green spikes. It’s found in countries from India and Sri Lanka to Brazil, but is now also available in tins from supermarkets elsewhere. When jackfruit is fresh, it is sticky and sweet, but when it is brined and canned (as in this recipe), it tastes more like artichoke and has the texture of pulled pork (making it a popular ingredient among vegans). It’s perfect for stuffing into tacos.

Jackfruit tacos with fried corn and hot cashew sauce

Tinned jackfruit often comes in salted water, so season with care. You can buy ground chipotle in large supermarkets and online, but you could use hot smoked paprika instead. Tortillas made with Mexican masa are delicious, if you can find them – I get mine at coolchile.co.uk. You’ll need a blender to make the sauce.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 5 min
Serves 4

For the hot cashew sauce
100g cashews
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground chipotle powder

For the jackfruit
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tsp ground chipotle
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 x 400g tins jackfruit in salted water, drained

For the fried corn
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 x 195g-200g tins sweetcorn, drained
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp lime juice, or more to taste
¾ tsp ground chipotle

To serve
2 avocados, peeled and cubed
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges
16 small or 8 large corn tortillas

For the sauce, put the cashews in a pan, cover with 300ml water, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, turn off the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, blend with the oil, salt and chipotle powder, and scrape into a small bowl.

For the jackfruit, put the coriander and cumin seeds into a mortar and bash until fairly well ground. Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, add the ground seeds and onions, and fry for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft.

Add the garlic, fry for two minutes, then add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them between your fingers before dropping them into the pan. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens. Stir in the sugar, chipotle, salt and cinnamon, then add the jackfruit and 200ml water. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until the jackfruit is soft enough to smash with the back of a fork. Test the sauce for salt and chilli, adjusting it to taste.

For the corn, heat the oil in a nonstick pan on a high heat, then fry the sweetcorn for eight minutes, leaving it undisturbed for a couple of minutes at a time before stirring, so it blackens. Stir in the salt, lime and chipotle, then transfer to a bowl.

To serve, spoon the jackfruit into a bowl. Put the avocado, coriander and lime wedges in separate bowls, and heat the tacos. Put everything on the table and encourage guests to build their own.

  • Food styling: Amy Stephenson

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World

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cambridge Analytica scandal ‘highlights need for AI regulation’

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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