Churchill by Andrew Roberts review is it possible to break through the myth? – Trending Stuff

Churchill by Andrew Roberts review is it possible to break through the myth? – Trending Stuff
The myth lives on Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in the Oscar-winning 2017 film Darkest Hour. Photograph: Jack English/AP

For him, what Churchill got right outweighs the many things he got wrong. Summing up, he writes: When it came to all three mortal threats to Western civilisation, by the Prussian militarists in 1914, the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s and Soviet Communism after the second world war, Churchills judgment stood far above that of others. This is not an original argument, but Roberts presents it in more detail and with more flair than many previous biographers.

Yet repeatedly in the book the dark episodes of Churchills career, often the consequences of his prejudices, are too easily dismissed. His rejection of an offer of food aid from Britains wartime allies, which would have gone some way to alleviate the disastrous Bengal famine, is covered in just a few pages. And throughout, Churchills racism and paternalism are treated merely as typical of his era and generation which they were, but only to some extent. In Churchills case those prejudices cost lives and had consequences that have lasted until today.

His leadership skills are undeniable, and his ability to inspire and energise his nation utterly vital, but there was also a brutality to him, a love of war that he occasionally admitted to, and an obsession with terror weapons. Churchills passionate support for the aerial bombardment of Iraq in the interwar years, and his deployment of similar tactics on a vaster scale against German civilians during the second world war, his strong advocacy of the use of chemical weapons all have been studied in detail by historians in recent years. This growing body of scholarship reveals a man capable not just of error but of vindictiveness, much of it influenced by his racial views.

Yet Churchills popular reputation is unassailable. His standing in the Britain of 2018 is arguably higher than it was in the war-battered nation of 1945, when the majority of the electorate cast him back into the political wilderness, voting him out of office in favour of Labour and a welfare state. Today the legend is near sacred and almost inviolable. He has been voted Person of the Century and Man of the Millennium. In 2002, the BBC2 audience voted him the Greatest Briton of all time. Fighting the second world war was of course essential, but it has come to be seen as a holy crusade, and is examined less critically by 21st-century Britons than it was by the generation who fought it.

The war of Churchills great speeches, the battle of Britain and the blitz spirit is also the war in which more than 1 million Indians subjects of the empire Churchill so loved were left to die of starvation. Britain and Churchill fought not solely in the name of liberty and democracy, but also with the intention of maintaining the empire, defending vital interests and remaining a great power. Perhaps no biographer, of whatever political persuasion and no matter how even handed, can get beyond the Churchill legend, so long as our devotion to a mythic version of the conflict that defined the man and his century remains so resolute.

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts (Allen Lane, 35). To order a copy for 30.10, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of 1.99.

Caroll Spinney to retire from playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – Trending Stuff

Caroll Spinney to retire from playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – Trending Stuff
Then first lady Hillary Clinton speaking with Big Bird about the benefits of public broadcasting. Photograph: Jamal Wilson/AFP/Getty Images

During the 2012 presidential election campaign Big Bird became a surprise talking point when Republican candidate Mitt Romney said he did not want to fund PBS during a debate. I like PBS, I love Big Birdbut Im not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for, he said.

The Obama campaign then used Big Bird in some of their political spots. Spinney appeared as Big Bird on Saturday Night Live to discuss the furore, but said he has no political affiliations as he didnt want to ruffle any feathers.

In 2014, Spinney was the subject of a documentary, I am Big Bird, about his life playing the characters. It revealed Nasa considered putting Spinney on the doomed Challenger space shuttle, but eventually decided against the idea.

Spinney continued to perform inside the bird suit well into his 70s, but in 2016 after he was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological condition that can limit movement, other puppeteers were used and Spinney just provided the voices for the characters.

Spinney was the subject of a documentary, I am Big Bird, about his life playing the characters.

In a New York Times profile this week, Spinney announced he would also be retiring from that role. He will perform vocal duties for the final time on Thursday.

Eric Jacobson, who currently plays Miss Piggy and Bert, will take on the role of Oscar the Grouch. Matt Vogel, who has been Spinneys understudy since the mid-1990s, will now take on the role. He told the Times it was daunting and important.

The Swedish 15-year-old who’s cutting class to fight the climate crisis – Trending Stuff

The Swedish 15-year-old who’s cutting class to fight the climate crisis – Trending Stuff
Greta Thunberg and friends outside the Swedish parliament Photograph: Michael Campanella for the Guardian

Her teachers were telling her to turn off the lights and save paper, then flying off to New York for a holiday. For Greta, this was just not good enough: Everyone believes that we can solve the crisis without effort, without sacrifice, she wrote in an article widely circulated on social media and translated into English.

While on strike, she has done a lot of homework and read three books, her father says.

She is supposed to be in school, we cannot support her action. But we respect that she wants to make a stand. She can either sit at home and be really unhappy, or protest and be happy.

Greta has Aspergers syndrome, which in the past has affected her health, he says. She sees her condition not as a disability but as a gift which has helped open her eyes to the climate crisis.

The best thing about my protest has been to see how more and more people have been coming and getting involved, Greta says.

I dont care if I get into trouble at school. I believe that one person can make a difference.

El Chapo’s lawyers accuse government of ‘an inquisition’ as trial nears – Trending Stuff

El Chapo’s lawyers accuse government of ‘an inquisition’ as trial nears – Trending Stuff
Guzmns wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, leaves after a pretrial hearing at Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on 14 August. Photograph: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The vast amount of evidence prosecutors have assembled to back up their story of Guzmns two decades at the top has now landed with the defence, a dump in their opinion, and assembled with no rhyme or reason.

If the governments evidence against Guzmn is as good as it claims it is, Lichtman argued, why are they treating El Chapo in this fashion? Its making me think that maybe the evidence is not so good and theyre going to rely on the evidence of people whove spent their entire lives selling drugs and lying, he said.

Exacerbating the problem of sifting through that material, the defence claims, is being denied sufficient access to a client who does not speak English and whose ability to participate in his defence is hampered by the harsh conditions of his 17-month confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.

Hes in isolation 24 hours a day and his condition is deteriorating, said Lichtman. He has no contact with other prisoners and very little contact with jailers, who dont speak Spanish. He has no ability to speak to his family and gets two calls from his sister totaling half-an-hour a month.

Though the judge, Cogan, has indicated hes not inclined to allow testimony about dozens of assassinations Guzmn allegedly ordered between 1989 and 2014, jurors will likely hear the story of a lowly marijuana farmer who rose to create a smuggling empire with annual revenues of $3bn and which, at its peak, was responsible for 25% of all illegal drugs entering the US from Mexico. Guzmns own fortune, prosecutors estimate, is in excess of $1bn.

After he was hauled from a drainage ditch in the coastal city of Mochis by Mexican federal authorities in January 2016, Guzmn told Mexican prosecutors that he was just a farmer who earns 20,000 pesos a year ($1,500) growing corn, sorghum and safflower. He did not, he claimed, belong to any cartel or have any cartel.

Part of the governments rationale for keeping Guzmn under conditions of maximum detention, his legal team concedes, may be rooted in Guzmns proven ability to escape from maximum-security prisons in Mexico once, according to his lore, secreted in a laundry cart and, in a second successful bid for freedom, via a mile-long tunnel that connected to the shower of his cell.

We have to be realistic, A Eduardo Balarezo argued. Were in a secure facility in downtown Manhattan. Does the government have so little faith it its own security that they think something like that could happen again?

As the government lays out Guzmans rise and fall at trial, much of the evidence will come in direct testimony from as many as 40 witnesses, among them Colombian drug lords, couriers, enforcers and accountants some of who may be allowed to testify under aliases.

One likely prosecution witness is Dmaso Lpez, Guzmns former right-hand man who was extradited to the US in July. One figure who might be called by the defence is actor Sean Penn.

Months ago, prosecutors petitioned the judge to exclude any mention of Guzmns sit-down interview with Penn for Rolling Stone magazine in 2015, which came shortly before the arrest that led to Guzmns extradition. Penn has denied his contact with Guzmn could have tipped off US or Mexican authorities to his whereabouts.

Asked if he believed Penns involvement led to his clients arrest, Balarezo said simply: I have no doubts about that.

Iranian female photographer banned from stadium covers match from nearby roof – Trending Stuff

Iranian female photographer banned from stadium covers match from nearby roof – Trending Stuff
Pourtaherian says her dream is for women to be able to cover matches in Irans big football stadiums. Photograph: Courtesy of Parisa Pourtaherian

Pourtaherian studied industrial design at Tehran University but her interest in sports made her pursue photography. She currently works for Photoaman news agency, which specialises in covering sporting events. She has become established in Iran and has covered games in other countries such as Sweden, Germany and Austria.

But covering a football match at home from inside a stadium remains a dream. My first wish is for us women to be allowed to cover matches in my countrys big football stadiums alongside my male colleagues, she said.

I also have another big personal wish, and that is to be able to cover even at least for one time in my life a match by my childhood favourite Manchester United in the Old Trafford stadium. Ill do everything for this dream to come true.

‘I knew there was more to my story than most’ – Trending Stuff

‘I knew there was more to my story than most’ – Trending Stuff
MC5 in 1967. Photograph: Leni Sinclair/Getty Images

If MC5s actions landed them on government watch lists, they had little support from leftist groups either. When a limo came to greet them at their Fillmore East show, they were cast as sellouts, exploiting the movement for profit. People that were grounded in Marxist analysis found it easy to attack us, Kramer said. The people at the underground radio stations and the underground press had some cynicism about the MC5 too. I had expected trouble from the establishment. But I didnt think people in our own community would attack us too!

While the band were friendly with the Black Panthers, the partys newspaper labeled them psychedelic clowns.

The band even fell out with John Sinclair once he was arrested and sent to prison for up to 10 years for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. After the band imploded, felled by drugs, in-fighting and poor sales, Kramer became a full-time addict and dealer who later ended up in a federal prison. The later part of the book details his ongoing push for prison reform, elaborated by the group he founded, Jail Guitar Doors, named for a song the Clash wrote about him in 1977. After many more wayward years, Kramer got his life together. He became a solo artist, a creator of film and TV soundtracks and, incredibly, a first-time dad at 65. Thats how long it took me to stop being a child, he said with a laugh.

In the last decade, Kramer has become an idol to stars such as Eddie Vedder to Tom Morello. Likewise, MC5 are seen as pivotal role models for punk. Yet, Kramer finds the genre lacking. I kept thinking, Ive heard that sound before, he said. I hear more original things in hip-hop.

He also finds fault with all three MC5 albums. The live one didnt catch us on a particularly great night, he said. The second was too restrained and the third, High Time, pointed to the future of the band that, unfortunately, had no future.

Kramer will feature improved takes on songs from all three albums on his upcoming tour. Its taking place at a time when the political scene seems eerily similar to that of MC5s heyday. Trump and Nixon same old, same old, said Kramer. Again, we have an undeclared war on the other side of the world against people that are no threat to the US and theres across the board corruption. The similarity could cause anyone to be cynical. But we have to guard against that. We always need to strive for something better.

the lab teaching sworn enemies to have decent conversations – Trending Stuff

the lab teaching sworn enemies to have decent conversations – Trending Stuff
Protesters on each side of the abortion debate clash in front of the US supreme court in June 2016. Photograph: Allison Shelley/Getty Images

The contrast with the other conversations was clear. People who get stuck, they collapse into negativity. Everything the other person says is wrong and stupid. Its an emotional collapse and a cognitive collapse because they stop being able to process anything that the other person is saying.

Is this determined by the temperament of the people involved? Or is something else at work, something that could be induced in stressed out Americans?

One condition that matters is subtle but logical: It turns out that when people build up even a small buffer of goodwill, their conversations go much better. Specifically, people need to have about three moments of positive feelings for every one moment of negativity. (The marriage expert John Gottman has found that married couples need a slightly higher ratio of about five good moments for every bad one more evidence that marriage is harder than politics.)

This 3:1 ratio is the first critical lesson in inducing complexity: goodwill is the gateway drug for listening. People need to have some balance of experience, of feeling like theyre heard, [to be told] thats an interesting point they made, Coleman says. Then they stay in the more complex, nuanced place.

Looping for understanding

So complexity can be cultivated. But how do you generate goodwill in a debate about abortion with a stranger who vehemently disagrees with you?

Gary Friedman has mediated more than 2,000 conflicts in his career. To create goodwill, Friedman practices a strategy called looping for understanding. You distill the essence of what the other person is saying, and then play it back to them. Theres no need to agree with the person or even to pretend to like them. The point is not to convince, nor to contradict, nor to take exception to, nor explain away, as Friedman writes in Challenging Conflict, which he co-authored. The point is to understand.

We are wrong more often than we think. To understand what someone really means requires a lot of double-checking. It seems obvious, a bit contrived, but it works like magic. Training with Friedman and a dozen other mediators earlier this year, I practiced looping and being looped, over and over again. I was humbled by how often I thought Id understood the person, but had missed some important nuance.

Later, as an experiment, I tried looping my 11-year-old son when he complained about having to go to bed. Youre really frustrated that you cant stay up later, I told him. He went to bed.

Using techniques like looping to build goodwill is helpful and important in our own conversations, but it cant compete with the impact of cable news and talk radio. Is there a way to induce complexity at scale, regardless of how much goodwill we each can generate?

You can handle the truth

Back at the Difficult Conversations Lab, researchers tried another experiment. Before participants met, they were given one of two versions of an article to read about a controversial issue such as immigration.

One version laid out both sides of the issue, for and against immigration. The other contained the same information, but included more complexity, offering a spectrum of opinions. It read less like a traditional news story and more like an anthropologists field notes.

Psychologists call this process priming preparing participants to think in certain ways. The idea here was to prime one set of participants for complexity.

And it worked.

Again and again, people who read the more complicated article went on to have richer conversations. They asked more questions, proposed higher quality ideas and left the lab more satisfied with their conversations.

They dont solve the debate, Coleman says, but they do have a more nuanced understanding and more willingness to continue the conversation. Complexity is contagious.

The lesson for journalists like me was clear: embrace complexity. Highlight nuance, contradiction and ambiguity wherever you can find it. For one thing, complexity leads to a fuller, more accurate version of reality. It also increases the odds that new information will be taken seriously.

But journalists almost always do the opposite. Reporters cut the quotes that dont fit the narrative, or our editor cuts them for us. We look for coherence, which is tidy and natural.

But in a time of high conflict, coherence is bad journalism, bordering on malpractice. Tidy narratives gently warp reality until one side looks good and the other looks evil. Then our audiences soothe themselves with the knowledge that all Republicans are racist rednecks or all Democrats are precious snowflakes who hate America.

In reality, racist beliefs cross party boundaries. One in four supporters of Hillary Clinton in 2016 believed black people were lazier than white people. That doesnt mean racism didnt influence the election, only that it interacted with other forces, in many ways, in all kinds of people.

In other words: its complicated.

  • Reporting for this story was supported by the Solutions Journalism Network
  • This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the worlds most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at [email protected]

children wait in cages at south Texas warehouse – Trending Stuff

children wait in cages at south Texas warehouse – Trending Stuff
People whove been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, 17 June. Photograph: AP

In Texas Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the US, Border Patrol officials argue that they have to crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others.

When you exempt a group of people from the law that creates a draw, said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrols chief agent here. That creates the trends right here.

Agents running the holding facility generally known as Ursula for the name of the street its on said everyone detained is given adequate food, access to showers and laundered clothes, and medical care.

People are supposed to move through the facility quickly. Under US law, children are required to be turned over within three days to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Padilla said agents in the Rio Grande Valley have allowed families with children under the age of five to stay together in most cases.

An advocate who spent several hours in the facility on Friday said she was deeply troubled by what she found. Michelle Brane, the director of migrant rights at the Womens Refugee Commission, met a 16-year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage thought the girl was two years old.

She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper, Brane said.

Brane said that after an attorney started to ask questions, agents found the girls aunt and reunited them. It turned out that the girl was actually four. Part of the problem was that she did not speak Spanish but Kiche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.

She was so traumatized that she wasnt talking, Brane said. She was just curled up in a little ball.

Brane said she also saw officials at the facility scold a group of five-year-olds for playing around in their cage, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or books. But one boy nearby wasnt playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mothers ID card.

The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions, Brane said. If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other five-year-olds, theyd be held accountable.

Exit polls point to landslide vote to relax Irish abortion laws – Trending Stuff

Exit polls point to landslide vote to relax Irish abortion laws – Trending Stuff

The Irish abortion referendum

Ireland is set to vote on abortion law reform on Friday 25 May. In a the referendum, voters will decide if they want to repeal an article in the republics constitution known as the eighth amendment.

The amendment, or article 40.3.3 of the constitution, gives unborn foetuses and pregnant mothers an equal right to life and is, in effect, a ban on abortion. Currently, terminations are allowed only when the life of the mother is at risk, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison for breaking the law.

The government in Dublin has promised to introduce legislation allowing for abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if the vote goes in favour of repeal.

Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/X03756

Melania Trump wears ‘I don’t care’ jacket on plane to visit child detention center – Trending Stuff

Melania Trump wears ‘I don’t care’ jacket on plane to visit child detention center – Trending Stuff
The jacket as it appears on the Zara website. Photograph: PR Image/Zara

According to a pool report, Trumps communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told a reporter via email: Its a jacket. There was no hidden message. After todays important visit to Texas, I hope the media isnt going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.

Melania Trump: How can I help reunite these families? video

However, a tweet from President Trump later suggested that there was meaning behind the jacket, saying his wifes coat was referencing the media rather than traumatised children.

He tweeted: I REALLY DONT CARE, DO U? written on the back of Melanias jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

I REALLY DONT CARE, DO U? written on the back of Melanias jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!

June 21, 2018

Some commentators were taking Melanias choice of attire as a politically calculated move.

Amnesty Internationals US branch tweeted they were shaken by the blatant lack of empathy the first lady demonstrated when she chose to wear the jacket.

The actor and outspoken Trump critic Patricia Arquette tweeted Melania Trump just won worst dressed for the century.

Many have praised Trump for seeming to diverge from Donald Trumps attitude on separating children from their families.

On Sunday, while the president was still defending the policy, her communications director released a statement saying the first lady hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.

Its not clear whether this jacket is a nod to those concerned that she is being too soft on immigration, sending some sort of message as her husband claimed, or was some sort of wardrobe malfunction.

It is, however, unusual for Melania Trump to wear inexpensive clothes when on public business. At the G7 summit last year, she wore a floral coat worth $51,000. While arriving back from a trip last June, she was spotted carrying an overnight bag: a Herms Birkin bag worth $13,500.

Despite the controversy it caused, when Melania returned to Andrews air force base later in the afternoon she was still wearing the jacket in front of reporters.