The Gambia’s autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a “billion-year” mandate to rule, has conceded defeat after a shock election loss to a real-estate developer who once worked as a security guard in London. "Hello, are you hearing me?” Jammeh asked Adama Barrow, grinning widely on his mobile. “I wish you all the best. The country will be in your hands in January. You are assured of my guidance. You have to work with me. You are the elected president of The Gambia. I have no ill will and I wish you all the best.” [more inside]
Rocked by the phone-hacking scandal and haemorrhaging readers, the rightwing tabloids seemed to be yesterday’s news. But now, in Theresa May’s Brexit Britain, they look more powerful than ever, Andy Beckett, The Guardian
"In 2015 alone, Women on Web*, the Dutch not-for-profit, received more than 600 emails from US women looking for a way to end their own pregnancies. (The group does not send abortion drugs to the US, because the US does not outright ban abortion.) Women on Web agreed to share scores of these emails with the Guardian, providing an unprecedented window into the lives of women who feel they have no other option but to end their pregnancies themselves." [more inside]
Banned Books Week Launches With Call to Read Books the 'Closed-Minded' Want Shut [The Guardian] ““But librarians would argue that the best way to guide your children’s reading is to read with them, and talk about what you read. For every parent convinced that a book is evil, there are two other parents who think it’s wonderful. So you have the right to guide your own children’s reading – but not to dictate or suppress someone else’s,” said LaRue. “The truth is, [these] issues are already a part of many children’s lives, and suppressing books about them doesn’t help anyone. In fact, these books may tell children that they are not alone, that what’s happening to them is not unique, and it can be survived. The world can be a dangerous place, but reading about it makes it less so.”” [more inside]
Eighty years on from the day anti-fascists clashed with Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts in the Jewish East End of London, David Rosenberg tells the story of the long struggle to protect the giant mural. Link to the Brick Lane Bookshop's article, and to more info about the founding of Tower Hamlet's Art Project, which still seems to be going in some form in the middle of our current 'austerity'. The story of the mural touches on world history*, community involvement, political activism, shared values*, spirit of place, and continuity. It's a fine example of the interaction between local and global; and perhaps of the legacy of Britain's now threatened, always contested, post-war socialist idealism. [more inside]
One copy of the "John Doe files," Wisconsin's preliminary investigation into Scott Walker's campaign finances, survived destruction. [more inside]
le Carré on le Carré [The Guardian] The many lives of John le Carré, in his own words. An exclusive extract from his new memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel. Portraits by Nadav Kander. [Previously.] [more inside]
One Third of Parents Avoid Reading Children Scary Stories, Study Finds [The Guardian] “A survey of 1,003 UK parents by online bookseller The Book People found that 33% would steer clear of books for their children containing frightening characters. Asked about the fictional creations they found scariest as children, a fifth of parents cited the Wicked Witch of the West from L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the Child Catcher from Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang in second place. Third was the Big Bad Wolf, in his grandmother-swallowing Little Red Riding Hood incarnation, fourth the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and fifth Cruella de Vil, from Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians.”
Harry Potter and the Possible Queerbaiting: [The Guardian] JK Rowling’s Cursed Child has drawn fire over its story of male friendship, which some readers feel flirts coyly with gay romance – but it is a change from the usual stereotypes. [more inside]
Divers in Sweden Sniff Out 340-Year-Old Shipwrecked Cheese [The Guardian] Divers exploring a historic royal shipwreck off the south-east coast of Sweden have discovered what they believe is probably a chunk of exceedingly smelly, 340-year-old cheese. “We’re pretty sure it’s some kind of dairy product, butter or cheese,” said Kalmar county museum’s Lars Einarsson, who is in charge of the dive on the wreck of the Kronan, a 126-gun warship that sank in 1676. “It’s like a mixture of yeast and Roquefort, a sort of really ripe, unpasteurised cheese,” Einarsson told local media. He added that, while he was partial to cheeses “whose character lives on in their smell”, this one was “probably not for everyone”.
Big Dumb Objects: Science Fiction's Most Mysterious MacGuffins by Damien Walter [The Guardian] “When the unknown is also alien, the mystery only grows more magnetic. Think of that iconic opening to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: a family of apes wake one morning to find a black monolith looming over them; that had its origins in Arthur C Clarke’s short story The Sentinel. Did some super-advanced civilisation intercede in the early evolution of intelligent life on earth? Or was the monolith just filming a very special edition of Life on Earth? We don’t know, and never find out. But this shiny, looming thing is just one of many Big Dumb Objects [wiki] that have turned up in science fiction over the decades.”
As South Sudan tries to restabilize after the shaky resolution of the 2013 civil war, The Guardian turned over their African coverage to Sudanese and South Sudanese journalists to talk about more than just violence. [more inside]
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Celebration Reel [YouTube] Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. [more inside]
Man Who Claimed to Have Escaped Auschwitz Admits He Lied for Years [The Guardian] Joseph Hirt said he fabricated story of being sent to camp and meeting Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to ‘keep memories alive’ about history of the Holocaust. [more inside]
The Guardian presents a 5-part video series about people redefining how to live in busy urban centres. Listed: Toyko, New York City, London, Constitucion (Chile), Los Angeles.
Artist Anna Hoyle paints imaginary satirical book covers. (slTheGruaniad) [more inside]
X-Rays Reveal 1,300-Year-Old Writings Inside Later Bookbindings [The Guardian] The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink. Medieval manuscripts that have been hidden from view for centuries could reveal their secrets for the first time, thanks to new technology. Dutch scientists and other academics are using an x-ray technique to read fragments of manuscripts that have been reused as bookbindings and which cannot be deciphered with the naked eye. After the middle ages manuscripts were recycled, with pages pasted inside bindings to strengthen them. Those fragments may be the unique remains of certain works.
Mumbai is home to an estimated 20 million people ... and 21 leopards. The 250,000 residents with homes inside the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National Park find a way to live with their big-cat neighbours.
TS Eliot's rejection of Orwell's Animal Farm [The Guardian] Digitised for the first time by the British Library, Eliot’s rejection is now available to read alongside others including Virginia Woolf’s to James Joyce. Eliot’s letter is one of more than 300 items which have been digitised by the British Library, a mixture of drafts, diaries, letters and notebooks by authors ranging from Virginia Woolf to Angela Carter and Ted Hughes. The literary archive reveals that Orwell was not the only major writer to suffer a series of rejections: the British Library has also digitised a host of rejections for James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, showing how his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver attempted to find a printer for the novel she had published in serialised form in The Egoist. [more inside]
Long before Edward Snowden went public, John Crane was a top Pentagon official fighting to protect NSA whistleblowers. Instead their lives were ruined – and so was his. [more inside]
How Technology Is Changing Our Hands by Darian Leader [The Guardian] Doctors predict that our increasing use of computers and mobile phones will permanently alter our hands. What will this mean for the way we touch, feel and communicate? [more inside]
Kafkaesque: A Word So Overused It Has Lost All Meaning? by Alison Flood [The Guardian] On Monday night, Han Kang’s strange, disturbing, brilliant novel The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International prize. Shortly afterwards, dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster announced that searches for the word “Kafkaesque” had “spiked dramatically” in the wake of her win, because the novel “has been described by its British publishers (and by a number of reviewers) as Kafkaesque”.
Criticism leveled at Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of prime minister Justin Trudeau, dismissed as ‘sexist and spiteful’ after she says she needs more staff. [The Guardian] The wife of Canada’s prime minister has sparked a fierce national debate after saying she needs more help to expand her official role and take on more public duties. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau last week told a French-language newspaper that she wanted to do more, but struggled with just one staff member. [more inside]
The retired cops investigating unsolved murders in one of America’s most violent cities. by Christopher Pomorski [The Guardian] A former murder capital of the US, Camden, New Jersey has created its first cold case squad. Can solving old killings help restore an embattled community’s trust in law and order? [more inside]
Subway Reading: Taking Fake Book Covers on the Subway [YouTube] [Video] How would you react if you saw someone reading 'Getting Away With Murder for Dummies on public transport?' Comic Scott Rogowsky (@ScottRogowsky) took some pretend, provocative book covers on an underground operation. [via: The Guardian]
Truffles and Toffee Crisps: cooks on the ‘good’ food they hate – and the ‘bad’ food they love (slTheGrauniad)
Investors are pouring money into apps that allow women to track their fertility. Can tech companies use data to change the world of women’s reproductive health? (slTheGuardian)
San Francisco had been a place where some people came out of idealism or stayed to realize an ideal: to work for social justice or teach the disabled, to write poetry or practise alternative medicine – to be part of something larger than themselves that was not a corporation, to live for something more than money. That was becoming less and less possible as rent and sale prices for homes spiralled upward. What the old-timers were afraid of losing, many of the newcomers seemed unable to recognise. (slTheGuardian)
What should we do about paedophiles? by Sophie Elmhirst [The Guardian] They have committed unspeakable crimes that demand harsh punishment. But most will eventually be set free. Are we prepared to support efforts to rehabilitate them? [more inside]
The rats who sniff out tuberculosis. by Emma Young [The Guardian] The African giant pouched rat can be trained to sniff out tuberculosis more accurately than most lab tests. So why is the medical profession still sceptical? [more inside]
The Guardian reports on an accusation by a former Muskegon County, Michigan health official claiming that a Catholic healthcare provider forced five women between August 2009 and December 2010 to undergo dangerous miscarriages by giving them no other option. Catholic hospitals must follow the Ethical Health Directives issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with consolidation in health care providers, more and more Americans are affected. [more inside]
Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books. [The Guardian] James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has been described as many things, from a masterpiece to unreadable nonsense. But it is also, according to scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, almost indistinguishable in its structure from a purely mathematical multifractal.
“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” said Professor Stanisław Drożdż, another author of the paper, which has just been published in the computer science journal Information Sciences.
Jamie Love has spent years battling global drug companies, unshakable in his belief that even the world’s poorest people should have access to life-saving medicines. Is it time that our own government listened to him? [slguardian]
Stephen Leather accused of cyberbullying by fellow thriller writers. by Alison Flood [The Guardian]
Over the past week, the authors Steve Mosby and Jeremy Duns have each alleged that Leather is behind websites set up to attack them. On 4 January, Mosby blogged about the launch of the site fuckstevemosby.com, which featured an exhaustive collection of the times he swore online. Mosby claims that the site was set up by Leather. Duns, the author of the Paul Dark spy novels, then blogged a lengthy analysis of the reasons why he believes Leather is behind a series of sites abusing him – including the claim that the recently established site fuckjeremyduns.com briefly redirected to Leather’s own site about his character Spider Shepherd.[more inside]
"In an age when the line between childhood and adulthood is blurrier than ever, what is it that makes people grown up?" [more inside]
"Also, by dramatising the wildness of the outside, it fetishises the cosiness of indoors." Cabin porn: why hideaways are hot right now (Jess Cartner-Morley, The Guardian) [more inside]
“My Christmas in New York” by Harper Lee, Illustrations by Bill Bragg [The Guardian]
“Several years ago, I was living in New York and working for an airline, so I never got home to Alabama for Christmas – if, indeed, I got the day off. To a displaced southerner, Christmas in New York can be rather a melancholy occasion, not because the scene is strange to one far from home, but because it is familiar: New York shoppers evince the same singleness of purpose as slow-moving southerners; Salvation Army bands and Christmas carols are alike the world over; at that time of year, New York streets shine wet with the same gentle farmer’s rain that soaks Alabama’s winter fields. I missed Christmas away from home, I thought. What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming Joy To The World.”
A Darth Vader waffle maker? You really shouldn’t have…by David Mitchell [The Guardian]
“Star Wars, it turns out, is the most ambitious, enterprising and impressive exercise in the marketing of crap ever conceived by man. Crap, that is, apart from the toys. I have to make an exception for the toys because, as a child, I was an enthusiastic collector of Star Wars figures and spaceships. [...] But, toys aside, it really is crap. Anyone who enjoys their Stormtrooper single duvet cover set more than watching The Empire Strikes Back is a very odd person indeed – and unlikely ever to be in the market for a Stormtrooper double duvet cover set. These are all things that you either don’t need at all or you’d be slightly better off with a non-Star Wars version. And I say that as someone whose wife once gave him an R2-D2 eggcup as a present. Because if you love eggs, and you love Star Wars… you’ll still, in general, find yourself using a normal egg cup.”
Alan Dershowitz on the Defense (His Own) by Barry Meier [The New York Times]
Last month, demonstrators at Johns Hopkins University interrupted Alan M. Dershowitz as he was giving a fiery speech defending Israel. The disruption normally would not have fazed Mr. Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law School professor who thrives on controversy and relishes taking on opponents in and out of the courtroom. The protesters, however, were not challenging his Middle East politics. Instead, they held up a sign reading, “You Are Rape Culture.” Mr. Dershowitz knew what it meant. A decade ago, he had defended a friend, a money manager named Jeffrey E. Epstein, after authorities in Palm Beach, Fla., found evidence indicating that he was paying underage girls to give him sexual massages. The lawyer led a scorched-earth attack on the girls and, with a team of high-priced lawyers, cut a plea deal for Mr. Epstein that the local police said was too lenient.[more inside]
An all-white jury convicted Daniel Holtzclaw of rape. It's almost enough. [The Guardian]
It took 45 hours over the course of four days for an all-white jury in Oklahoma City to decide whether or not they should convict former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw of sexual assault on the word of 13 black women. On Thursday night, the jury opted to believe (most of) them. There is perhaps no bigger test of how blind justice could possibly be than asking any American jury – especially one that is all white and includes eight men – to believe 13 black women over a former police officer and supposed hero football player. It’s easy enough to point to cases where the police were acquitted. And yet, against all expectations this time, justice was blind.[more inside]
Four-day marathon public reading of War and Peace begins in Russia. [The Guardian]
A marathon four-day Russian public reading of Leo Tolstoy’s vast classic novel War and Peace kicked off on Tuesday morning, with more than 1,300 people in more than 30 cities preparing to make their contributions to the record-breaking project. Coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya, and featuring a number of cultural luminaries including the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, the readings are being streamed by Russian state television channel Kultura. One volume of Tolstoy’s fictionalised history of Russia during the Napoleonic campaign will be read each day.
Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life. [The Guardian] The editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling novel A Little Life has taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend his author from a review that claimed the novel “duped” its readers “into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”. [more inside]
As Johnny Depp goes bald for Black Mass, we hail the most startling cinematic metamorphoses. [slGuardian]
Marlon James, winner of this year’s Man Booker prize, believes that writers of color are “pandering to the white woman.” [The Guardian]
The 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James has slammed the publishing world, saying authors of colour too often “pander to white women” to sell books, and that he could have been published more often if he had written “middle-style prose and private ennui”.[more inside]
My son, the mass murderer: ‘What did I miss?’ [The Guardian] In 2006, Charlie Roberts walked into an Amish school in Pennsylvania and killed five young girls. His mother talks about trying to comprehend his actions.