The Guardian 6 April 2018

Trump administration hits 24 Russians with sanctions over 'malign activity'

Government officials and oligarchs are among those sanctioned, in US retaliation for alleged election meddling and other actionsThe United States hit seven Russian oligarchs and 17 Russian government officials with sanctions on Friday for what it called “malign activity” around the world, as the Trump administration tried to show that Donald Trump is taking tough action to stand up to Moscow.A dozen Russian companies owned by the oligarchs were also targeted, along with a state-owned arms-dealing company and a subsidiary bank, the treasury department said. Continue reading...

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Sergei Skripal no longer in critical condition and 'improving rapidly'

Former spy poisoned with nerve agent is responding well to treatment, says Salisbury hospitalSergei Skripal is “responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition”, doctors at Salisbury district hospital have said.Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director at the hospital, said: “Following intense media coverage yesterday, I would like to take the opportunity to update you on the condition of the two remaining patients being treated at Salisbury district hospital. Continue reading...

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South Korea: former president Park Geun-hye sentenced to 24 years in jail

Court finds Park colluded with ‘Rasputin’ figure Choi Soon-sil to accept bribes and abuse positionThe former South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for abuse of power and corruption, in a scandal that exposed webs of double-dealing between political leaders and conglomerates, and the power of a Rasputin-like figure at the top of government.Park, 66, was not present for the ruling on Friday, citing sickness, and has boycotted the proceedings since October. Park has one week to appeal the litany of charges against her that range from corruption to maintaining a blacklist of artists. Continue reading...

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Zuma in the dock: South Africa's ex-president faces corruption charges

Ex-president who was ousted in February faces money-laundering and fraud charges linked to 1990s arms dealFormer president Jacob Zuma has appeared in court in South Africa to face corruption charges relating to a multibillion-dollar arms deal that took place 20 years ago.Zuma, who was ousted as head of state in February, attended a brief preliminary hearing at the high court in Durban, a city on the south-east coast. Continue reading...

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Hundreds wounded in Gaza border protests

UN secretary general had urged Israeli forces to use ‘extreme caution’ amid fears of fresh violenceTwo Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 250 wounded by Israeli fire on the Gaza border, a week after 18 Palestinians were killed at similar demonstration. Five of those wounded were said to be in a critical condition. The renewed violence came despite a call on Israel by UN secretary general, António Guterres, to exercise “extreme caution” echoed by the UN human rights spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell that unjustified recourse to live fire could amount to wilful killing of civilians - a breach of the Ffourth Geneva convention. Continue reading...

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David Trimble: Ireland risks provoking paramilitaries over post-Brexit border

Former Northern Ireland first minister says any special deal to keep region in Europe would destroy key tenet of Good Friday agreement David Trimble, whose support was critical in creating the Good Friday agreement, has warned that the Irish government risks provoking loyalist paramilitaries with its stance on the border after Brexit.In a wide-ranging interview to mark the 20th anniversary of the agreement, Lord Trimble said any special deal to keep the region within Europe would destroy a key tenet of the agreement that there would no constitutional change without majority consent in Northern Ireland. Continue reading...

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EU to Moldova: sort out corruption or €100m funds will stay blocked

Moldovan government still failing to meet EU conditions on voting system and crackdown on corruption, says EUMoldova has been warned that €100m (£87m) of EU funds will remain blocked until the government rethinks a law on the voting system and cracks down on rampant corruption.Siegfried Mureşan, vice-chair of the European parliament’s budget committee, said Moldova’s EU funds would remain frozen because the government had failed to meet conditions on respect for the democratic process. Continue reading...

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Puigdemont calls for dialogue with Spain as he leaves jail on bail

Ex-Catalan president freed from German prison after court rejects extradition on rebellion chargeThe former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has called for dialogue with the Spanish government as he left a German prison after being granted bail. The Schleswig-Holstein district court had rejected an extradition request on a charge of rebellion for Puigdemont’s role in the campaign for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, but said extradition was possible on a lesser charge of misuse of public funds. Continue reading...

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Facebook using secret tool to delete messages from executives

Company says change was made after Sony Pictures hack but lack of disclosure has angered usersFacebook has been using a secret tool to delete messages sent by its executives from the inboxes of their recipients, without disclosing the deletions to the recipients or even recording there was ever a message in the first place.Effectively, this means if you send Mark Zuckerberg a Facebook message, he has a copy for ever. But if he sends you one, he can reach into your inbox and pluck it out of existence. Continue reading...

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Former postman found with 400kg of undelivered mail in Italy

Man who quit his job in Turin in 2017 says he didn’t deliver any mail for three years because his salary was too lowA former Italian postman is facing charges after police found 400kg of undelivered mail stashed in his home in the northern city of Turin.Police said the 33-year-old, who has not been named, told officers he did not deliver any mail for three years because his salary was too low. He quit the job in 2017. Continue reading...

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'You cannot negotiate with Orbán': Hungary's hardline PM seeks fourth term

Populist expected to win vote on platform of hostility to migration and pursuit of ‘moral amends’Hungary’s Viktor Orbán rallies his troops from atop a white horse, before they advance in their thousands to slaughter an army of orcs, made up of the Hungarian prime minister’s political opposition and led by the billionaire George Soros.The video, a crudely altered Lord of the Rings scene, was posted by a pro-Orbán media outlet on Monday, and provoked sniggers among opposition-minded, liberal Hungarians. But the military imagery and demonisation of the opposition are an apt reflection of an election campaign that has been marked by brutal rhetoric and occasional threats. Continue reading...

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'We know we may be killed': the rangers risking their lives for Virunga's gorillas

The huge national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most dangerous conservation projects in the world. But thanks to the efforts of a committed force of rangers, populations of endangered species are recovering and locals say the park offers hope for the whole regionIt is dawn on the shores of Lake Edward and the sun is rising over the volcanoes on the eastern skyline. Mist lies over the still water. In the forest there are elephant, hippopotamus and buffalo. Guarding them are 26 rangers in a single fortified post. Then the silence is rudely broken. There are shouts, scattered shots, volleys from automatic weapons. Waves of attackers rush through the brush and trees. Some are close enough to hurl spears and fire arrows. Continue reading...

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Alice in Wonderland and Midsomer Murders: Moscow's alternative theories for Skripal case

Russia’s irreverent explanations for Salisbury attack may play to Kremlin’s favour in boosting domestic supportMoscow’s explanations for the Salisbury nerve agent attack last month have been irreverent and numerous; Russian officials appear to have hurled alternative versions of events at the wall just to see what sticks.Russian polemics at the UN security council have alluded to Alice in Wonderland and the TV series Midsomer Murders, suggesting that Sweden synthesised the poison or that it was a “false flag” attack by British authorities, among more than a dozen other theories. Continue reading...

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'He was a great man. I was just pretty': photos tell story of Jane and Serge

Exhibition in Calais captures intimate moments from Birkin and Gainsbourg’s relationshipThe English singer and actor Jane Birkin met Serge Gainsbourg in 1968 when she was 22, and left the French singer and songwriter more than half a lifetime ago in 1980 – yet at 71 her name is still rarely mentioned without being bracketed with his.As an exhibition of photographs – called, inevitably, Jane & Serge – opens in Calais, she seemed philosophical about the oversight. Among scores of glamorous images of the couple, the largest photograph by far, blown up to the size of a barn door, is of his handsome if haggard features cradling not Birkin but their dog Nana. Continue reading...

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'The third era of Zuck': how the CEO went from hero to humiliation

The Facebook chief has carefully crafted his image of boy genius turned mature leader. Now he’s losing controlAt this time last year, it seemed reasonable to assume that Mark Zuckerberg was taking the first steps on a journey toward Washington DC – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to be precise. The Facebook chief executive had just completed one leg of a whistlestop tour around America that was fueling rumors of a Zuck 2020 presidential run. His Facebook profile was serving up a stream of photographs featuring Zuckerberg in a variety of politically symbolic encounters wearing politically appropriate facial expressions: serious and engaged at a boardroom table with military leaders; warm and open at lunch with military spouses; respectful and besuited at a black church in Charleston; confident and manly at a Nascar racetrack. Continue reading...

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Roseanne backs Trump. But don’t let that put you off her show | Emma Brockes

After 20 years, the Conners are back – and still funny. This sitcom may provide that rare space where both sides can laughWatching the new season of the TV sitcom Roseanne, which rebooted in the US last month after a 20-year hiatus, has been like finding an old school friend on Facebook: full of affection and nostalgia and thrilling suspense as one waits to discover if she turned out to be awful. In the case of Roseanne Barr, that question had already been answered in pre-publicity for the show in a way that, for many people, left no room for doubt or discussion: Trump supporter, case closed.Many of Barr’s old tweets have been deleted, but for a while she was a reliable disseminator of nutty pro-Trump conspiracy theories Continue reading...

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Hungary’s war on democracy is a war on democracy everywhere | Owen Jones

As Hungarians vote on Sunday, Britain is shamefully courting the Orbán regime as it tries to get a favourable Brexit dealIs Hungary still a democracy? It was a question I posed to Nóra Köves, an activist with the pro-democracy Eötvös Károly Institute, in the Castro Bistro café in central Budapest. “I wouldn’t say that, no. Not, I think, any more. We are heading to a kind of dictatorship, but we are not there yet. We are somewhere between.” Related: 'You cannot negotiate with Orbán': Hungary's hardline PM seeks fourth term Continue reading...

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The fight goes on to ensure healthcare is not a privilege reserved for the rich | Lucy Lamble

The World Health Organization is 70 years old on 7 April. But is it still in good shape to tackle the huge inequalities in treatment across the world?On this World Health Day, 7 April, the World Health Organization marks its 70th anniversary.It has notched up some notable achievements such as the efforts to eradicate diseases like smallpox, a convention on tobacco control and a framework to prevent flu pandemics. Alongside this runs coordinating work on global standards and guidelines for essential drugs, diagnosis, treatment and health workers. Continue reading...

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The Masters 2018: second round – live!

Hole by hole commentary of day two at Augusta NationalOfficial Masters leaderboardLarry Mize’s 35 years at the MastersAny comments? You can email Scott Murray 2.55pm BST Another birdie chance for Fred Couples. This one’s on 2, set up by a nerveless flop over sand to six feet. But he leaves this one high on the right. It was never going in. A couple of half-decent putts away from a very fast start, but it’s par-par and he remains at level. Li meanwhile cradles his long birdie putt to a couple of feet, and that’s another fine par for the young Chinese star after a couple of extremely wild drives. 2.52pm BST Ian Poulter is out early. The new Houston Open champion shot a two-over 74 yesterday, but he’s moving in the right direction today with birdie at 2. Doug Ghim continues to entertain. The amateur responds to that opening-hole double bogey with birdies at 2 and 3 and a bogey at 4. He’s +1. The 2016 PGA champ Jimmy Walker birdies 2 to move to level par for the Tournament. Cameron Smith drops a stroke at 5; he’s -1 again. And the 2008 champion Trevor Immelman continues to struggle, following up yesterday’s dismal 78 with bogeys at the opening two holes: he’s +8. Continue reading...

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Conor McGregor charged with assault following UFC backstage melee in New York

McGregor charged with three counts of assault, NYPD confirmsIrish MMA fighter also charged with criminal mischiefMcGregor filmed attacking a van containing other fightersConor McGregor has been charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief following a rampage at a UFC press event in Brooklyn on Thursday, the New York Police Department has said. The 29-year-old turned himself in to police on Thursday evening after the violent incident, and the New York police department has now confirmed the charges. Continue reading...

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Different strokes: how 'our Usain Bolt' Adam Peaty rules the pool

With a female coach and fighter’s spirit, the UK swimmer’s rivals say he is redefining breaststrokeIn the midmorning sunshine on Australia’s Gold Coast, the most dominant swimmer in British history launched his hulking frame through the water, easing to victory in the heats of the 100m breaststroke. A self-proclaimed ginger kid from Uttoxeter, Adam Peaty looked effortless despite the 26C heat and unfamiliar surroundings of the outdoor pool. He did the same in the semi-finals and in Saturday’s final is one of the biggest gold medal certainties at these Commonwealth Games.The former world champion swimmer Mark Foster is in no doubt of the names Peaty deserves to be uttered alongside. “He is our Michael Jordan or Usain Bolt,” he told the Guardian, “as long as he doesn’t get injured he will not be beaten until he retires in my opinion.” Continue reading...

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Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Everton look to take advantage of Liverpool’s crowded fixture list, West Brom hope for a bounce, and City aim to seal the title in derbyFor Liverpool it’s a case of after the lord mayor’s show, another lord mayor’s show and then another. Jürgen Klopp is angry about the scheduling of the Merseyside derby as an early Saturday kick-off in between each leg of a Champions League bout with Manchester City but the question is what is he going to do about it other than complain? He has two choices: rejig his team or risk using the players who swarmed all over City in the first leg and will probably be asked to do so again in the second. Chances are Klopp will make a lot of changes. Mohamed Salah will not play at Goodison and Liverpool could omit a raft of others who would normally feature, possibly paving the way for a long-awaited return for Nathaniel Clyne and a first appearance for Conor Masterson, the 19-year-old centre-back who, in the event of another injury, might otherwise find himself making a debut against Sergio Agüero and a City side pursuing a historic comeback. It has been nearly eight years since Everton beat Liverpool – they have a big opportunity to end that wait. PD Continue reading...

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Portugal futsal kings follow Ronaldo’s lead and offer lessons for England

Jorge Braz, head coach of Portugal’s Euro 2018 winning side, has plenty of good advice for the English FA to popularise the game‘There are no magic recipes,” declares Jorge Braz, head coach of Portugal’s futsal Euro 2018 winning team. Maybe not but certain ingredients can be familiarly potent: two European behemoths slugging it out for glory, the standout superstar forced off with injury, momentarily crushing the belief of Portugal’s Seleção, only for the team to regroup and wilfully, skilfully snatch a first European title.Portugal’s futsal squad repeated the exploits of the 11-a-side national team to make history in the small-sided game in February in Slovenia, edging out the serial Euro champions Spain. Continue reading...

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Mauricio Pochettino says Daniel Levy’s £6m salary is good for Tottenham

• Spurs coach believes revelation on chairman’s pay is ‘positive news’• Stoke trip deemed more important than last week’s Chelsea gameMauricio Pochettino has responded to revelations over the salary of Tottenham’s chairman, Daniel Levy, by saying it is good news for the club. Related: Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend Continue reading...

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Noisy neighbours: other Manchester derbies that really mattered

With City playing for the title at home to United on Saturday, we look back at meetings memorable for more than local prideIn a season that finished with Everton winning the title, both Manchester clubs were mired in relegation trouble and met at Maine Road for a derby that could scarcely have had more at stake for the 52,424 present. City, a goal up and looking good for the win, conceded a needless equaliser when Dave Wagstaffe’s backpass was intercepted by Denis Law, prompting the goalkeeper, Harry Dowd, to bring the United forward to ground in the penalty area. Albert Quixall scored from the spot, earning United a point that helped them stay up, while City ended up two places below them and were relegated. United went on to win that season’s FA Cup, their first major trophy since the Munich air disaster five years previously. City remained in the Second Division for three years until they were marched out as champions by Joe Mercer. Continue reading...

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'We threw chorizo at the walls!' Inside Madrid's buzzing garage rock scene

Spain’s teens, reared on Europop, were oblivious to DIY rock. But a feeling of helplessness amid their country’s economic collapse has been the catalyst for Hinds, Baywaves, the Parrots and others to kick out the jamsI had never been to a gig before and I paid €3 to get in and discovered a culture I never knew existed,” Hinds singer Carlotta Cosials says of the day of her graduation, when she accepted an invitation to see a theatre group pal’s fledgling garage rock band. “People were swaying and smashing into each other. It was like being in a movie. I thought: ‘Where has this stuff been all my life?’”Shortly afterwards, Cosials took her friend Ana Perrote, now Hinds’ guitarist, to see another emerging Madrid garage band, Los Nastys, and she also had an epiphany. The pair had grown up in a Spanish culture dominated by Europop and Julio and Enrique Iglesias, and had always thought that only British or American teens formed bands. But Perrote remembers thinking: “Everything that is happening at this gig, I want to happen at mine.” Continue reading...

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Has The Assassination of Gianni Versace been a disappointment?

Ryan Murphy’s look at the murder of and world around the fashion mogul has had a tough time critically, but it dives to depths the campier OJ v The People didn’t dareJudged on chatter alone, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story is an immense disappointment. Ratings have been down. Reviews have been mixed. It hasn’t reached the mainstream crossover event-TV status of its predecessor The People Vs OJ Simpson. People have been infuriated that – spoiler alert – in an entire series of television called The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Gianni Versace gets assassinated in the very first scene of the very first episode. Things are looking bad. Not quite True Detective 2 bad, but the consensus is that this did not go the way it should have.In short, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story needs a defender. Reader, I am that defender. Because the chatter is nonsense. This is an astonishing, bold piece of television. By some distance, it’s the best of the year so far. Continue reading...

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How to eat: lasagne

This month, How to Eat has a lasagne in the oven. But will you be eating it with salad, garlic bread, chips – or even boiled potatoes?It originated in ancient Rome (as a nauseating miscellany of thrush, tripe and raisin wine), and the al forno/alla bolognese form of the dish most common in northern Europe was perfected in Emilia-Romagna. But nonetheless, in the UK, we have a deep love for lasagne. We have made this month’s How to Eat subject our own.An early version of “loseyns” features in the 14th-century English cookbook, The Forme of Cury, while, in 2016, the Good Housekeeping Institute found that, 700 years later, it was still Britain’s second most popular ready-meal. That is some staying power, and may explain why lasagne has become an unexpected bit player in so many political bridge-building exercises. Left or right, it seems, leave or remain, we all adore lasagne. Continue reading...

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My life in sex: ‘After three decades of marriage, my husband announced he was gay’

The wife whose husband came outMy husband was always very tactile and loving but rarely wanted to have sex with me, even in the early stages of our relationship. He eventually stopped altogether after about four years. He was vague about the reasons and never brought up the subject himself. I begged him to have therapy, and he always agreed, but he never did.I read a lot about sexless marriages but nothing seemed to apply. I felt undesired and undesirable. It was a use it or lose it situation; I eventually stopped thinking about sex and was fairly content. But then, after three decades, the penny dropped and the truth dawned; he announced he was gay, and left. Continue reading...

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I feel unlovable – men always choose my close friends over me

This has happened with every man I’ve liked in the past decade. It’s disheartening and I’m starting to resent my friendsI was secretly in love with a friend for more than a year. When I confessed my feelings, he said he felt the same way but that it was bad timing – he had recently got out of a relationship. However, a month later he said he couldn’t see us progressing romantically. I recently found out that, around that time, he began seeing one of my best friends. She’s a lovely person, and a model, so it didn’t surprise me. The problem is that every man I’ve liked in the past decade has chosen one of my close friends over me. It is incredibly disheartening and I feel utterly unlovable. Worse still, I am starting to resent my friends. What can I do to stop feeling so bitter?• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed. Continue reading...

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Rotterdam in the spotlight: from dismal mega-port to 'Dutch Brooklyn'

Unilever’s new HQ has shed its mundane image with jazzy architecture and a commitment to sustainability. Even Amsterdammers are interestedIf Unilever plc’s recent announcement about moving its corporate HQ out of London rang with the dread air of Brexodus, it was drowned out by the buzz already emanating from the company’s new home: Rotterdam. The Netherlands’ gritty second city once struggled to maintain even that ranking in Dutch hearts, as revealed by the well-worn motto: “Amsterdam to party, Den Haag to live, Rotterdam to work.” But the last decade has put paid to that dismissal, with showstoppers such as Rem Koolhaas’s De Rotterdam and the horseshoe-shaped Markthal bulwarking the city’s reputation for adventurous architecture, cheap rents pulling in the creative crowd, and the rest of the world finally clueing up to life beyond the container port. Vogue recently called the city nothing less than “the Dutch Brooklyn”. Continue reading...

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Meme explained: why do I keep seeing the same two angry men on social media?

Stills of row between father and son on 2000s reality show American Chopper become internet hitsIf you’ve been on social media over the past few days you may have found yourself unable to escape two men arguing. What’s new, you may ask, but this is two specific men: Paul Teutul Sr and Paul Teutul Jr.The pair starred in a US reality TV show in the late 2000s called American Chopper. The programme was based on their business manufacturing custom chopper-style motorbikes. Continue reading...

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France to unveil €340m plan to improve rights of people with autism

State’s treatment of autistic people had been denounced by UN and described as being ‘50 years behind’ rest of worldThe French government is to launch a €340m (£297m) strategy in an effort to make amends for the scandalous state treatment of children and adults with autism that has been denounced by the United Nations as a “widespread violation” of citizens’ rights. President Emmanuel Macron, who made the need to improve the education and rights of people with autism a part of his election campaign, said he wanted everyone “to be included in school and everyday life”. Continue reading...

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Tanesha Melbourne-Blake killing: man arrested on suspicion of murder

Arrest comes as Scotland Yard meets community groups to find joint solution to spate of knife and gun crimeA man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the killing of 17-year-old Tanesha Melbourne-Blake as Scotland Yard holds emergency talks over the recent wave of violent crime in London.The Metropolitan police said that a 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder in Hackney. He was taken to a police station and remains in custody. Continue reading...

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‘Saheed is no gunman’: hundreds protest in New York against police shooting

Demonstrators condemn killing of Saheed Vassell, who was wielding a metal pipe when he was shot nine times by policeHundreds of people have marched through the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Crown Heights to protest against police for shooting an unarmed black man.Saheed Vassell, 34, was shot and killed by police on Wednesday afternoon. The New York police department said it had received calls that a man was wielding a gun, but it turned out to be part of a welding torch. Continue reading...

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Sergei Skripal's cat and guinea pigs die after police seal house

Two guinea pigs found dead at Salisbury home of ex-spy while a cat needed to be put downTwo guinea pigs belonging to Sergei Skripal died and his cat was put down after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the government has revealed. A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the dead guinea pigs and a “distressed” cat were discovered when a vet was able to enter Skripal’s home, which had been sealed off during the police investigation. Defra said it believed the guinea pigs had died of thirst. Continue reading...

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Experience: I was shot five times

A white Chevy pickup truck came screeching in. In my sideview mirror I saw the driver jump out. He was agitated and hiding somethingEverything was grey. I could hear my friend Priscilla screaming and voices all around me, but I couldn’t see anything. The paramedics lifted the gurney – “One, two, three” – and that’s when I came to.I wasn’t supposed to be there. I live in Fayetteville in Georgia, and I was going to Barnesville, 15 miles away, for my first client meeting for my new business. The night before, I decided to make a quick detour, to help prep my friend Priscilla for a job interview. Continue reading...

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‘Messy attics of the mind’: what’s inside a writer’s notebook?

Scribbled observations, dinner party conversations, flashes of perception ... inspired by Henry James’s jottings, Paul Theroux, Susie Boyt and Amit Chaudhuri share their note-taking habitsThe mystique of a writer’s notebook seems still to be with us in this digital age. Perhaps it’s because a handwritten original is unhackable – other than by traditional means, such as burglary. But it’s no doubt a matter too of the way notebooks seem to offer access to hidden origins, and to the creative processes by which works we value come into being. Notebooks record early versions and impulses, and though sometimes the writer has an eye to posterity, the privacy of self-communing allows things that can’t be shared with others to be said, within what Coleridge, one of the great notebook-keepers, called in 1808 a “Dear Book! Sole Confidant of a breaking Heart”. For Virginia Woolf, her notebook helped to “discover real things beneath the show”; flashes of perception, phrases, half-formed and potential ideas – and of course stray bare thoughts (see Kafka: “Never again psychology!”; or Mark Twain: “Wife perfect but blamed if she suits me!”). Continue reading...

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Develop and conquer! The teen game prodigies taking India by storm

The game-makers behind studio Vague Pixels used to squeeze in coding after their homework. Now they’re hoping that their frenetic action game Alter Army takes offJaipur has a population of around three million people, but only one video game development studio – or so Vague Pixels claims. Founders Mridul Bansal and Mridul Pancholi are set to release their debut game, the frenetically paced action platformer Alter Army, at the end of the month. An early build of the game shows enormous potential – it’s a little rough-hewn, as you’d expect from an unfinished version, but it’s energetic, characterful and boasts an entertainingly hard challenge. What makes it more remarkable is that it’s been created in less than two years by 16-year-olds with no game design experience.In fact, as Bansal explains to me over a patchy Skype connection, the pair were barely 14 when they started working together. He had recently moved schools when he met Pancholi; they were classmates, but rarely spoke. “One day we heard each other talking about computers and game development, and we thought we should discuss it,” Bansal recalls. “I went to his house and we decided to start a project so we could polish our skills.” Continue reading...

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Owen Jones goes on a Russian dirty money tour: 'We need to hit kleptocrats in their wallets'

Amid the recriminations over the Sergei Skprial poisoning, questions have been raised about how the UK government deals with Russia. Is expelling diplomats enough? Or would clamping down on the use of offshore accounts and money laundering to invest in London properties hurt the Kremlin more? Owen Jones takes a bus trip around London to find out Continue reading...

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