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  • Corrections and clarifications
    by Corrections and clarifications column editor on December 15, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Sibelius review• The original headline on a review of works by Sibelius, performed in London to mark the 100th independence day of Finland, has been changed online to “Holding out for a hero: the spirit of Sibelius is summoned to celebrate Finland’s centenary” (Finland’s hero Sibelius looks more Swedish than ever, 9 December, page 42). Any offence caused by the original headline and article was unintended and is regretted.• Other recently corrected articles include: Continue reading... […]

  • Literary fiction is in crisis. A new chapter of funding authors must begin | Claire Armistead
    by Claire Armitstead on December 15, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Competition from smartphones and readers sticking to well-known writers means novelists are suffering. We must find ways better ways to enable themFinally it’s official: literary fiction is in crisis, and writers across the land are burning the midnight oil in their garrets, teaching or slogging away in unrelated jobs to keep the fire ablaze in the grate. This Dickensian picture was revealed by Arts Council England today in a report that suggests it may have to shift its funding priorities in order to save a population whose economic and cultural solvency has been chipped away over the years.So why has it come to this, and how much does it really matter? The first thing to be clear about is that people are not necessarily reading less – print sales of books across fiction, nonfiction and children’s titles rose almost 9% in the UK last year, while on Tuesday market analysts Nielsen BookScan will reveal that sales over the all-important Christmas period have risen 20% since 2013. Related: Literary fiction in crisis as sales drop dramatically, Arts Council England reports Continue reading... […]

  • Theresa May to back Brexit compromise to quell rebellion over date
    by Anushka Asthana, Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin on December 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    To avoid second Commons defeat, PM will throw weight behind amendment giving MPs power to amend deadline if EU27 agreeTheresa May is ready to throw her weight behind a Brexit compromise from Conservative MPs in order to quell a growing rebellion over the government’s attempt to enshrine the date of Britain’s EU departure in European law. The prime minister will support an amendment that leaves the Brexit deadline in place but gives MPs the power to push it back if the EU27 agree, in order to avoid a second humiliating Commons defeat. Staying in the single market and customs union Related: Running out of wriggle room: what do future Brexit talks promise for UK? Continue reading... […]

  • Martin Rowson on the progress of Brexit talks – cartoon
    by Martin Rowson on December 15, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Continue reading... […]

  • While you’re looking the other way, Trump is changing America for decades to come | Jonathan Freedland
    by Jonathan Freedland on December 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    The president’s incendiary tweets and the Russia scandal distract us from decisions that are reshaping the internet, the environment and democracyNow twice as long, his tweets are half as good. The early-morning dispatches from the iPhone of Donald Trump, often sent while he lies in bed, propped up on a pillow, lack the poison punch they packed in the 140-character era. They ramble a bit now, losing focus. But they still command attention and dominate the news to an extent no one on the planet can match. Related: US regulator scraps net neutrality rules that protect open internet 91% of Trump’s judicial nominees are white and 81% are male, reversing decades of steady progress Continue reading... […]

  • How investing in solar energy can create a brighter future for Africa
    by Rupert Jones on December 15, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    A new scheme aims to lighten the lives of millions who live without electricity, with the promise of a possible 6% returnHow would you like to earn a return of up to 6% on your cash while at the same time providing families in countries such as Kenya with “life-changing” access to clean, affordable solar energy?Energise Africa is a new ethical investment scheme which aims to raise £20m to provide a brighter future for more than 110,000 families and small businesses in sub-Saharan Africa over the next three years. Continue reading... […]

  • Poundland suppliers hit by insurance downgrade
    by Sarah Butler on December 15, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Credit insurers reduce cover for stock sold to discount retailer after £5bn accounting scandal at parent company SteinhoffPoundland faces potential difficulties with suppliers after an insurance company reduced its cover on credit for those selling goods to the cut price chain.The credit insurer Atradius reduced its cover relating to stock sold to Poundland earlier this week, according to the trade journal The Grocer, after an accounting scandal hit the British chain’s South African parent company Steinhoff. Continue reading... […]

  • Cryptocurrencies: City watchdog to investigate new fundraising trend
    by Jill Treanor on December 15, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    FCA to escalate scrutiny of initial coin offerings in currencies such as bitcoin, increasingly used by startupsThe City regulator is intensifying its scrutiny of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to establish if new rules are needed for the fast-growing market.Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Floyd Mayweather and Harry Redknapp have associated themselves with ICOs, which can be used to raise money for internet startups. Hilton, though, is reported to have deleted some of her tweets.Bitcoin is the first, and the biggest, "cryptocurrency" – a decentralised tradable digital asset. Whether it's a bad investment is the big question . Bitcoin can only be used as a medium of exchange and in practice has been far more important for the dark economy than it has for most legitimate uses. The lack of any central authority makes bitcoin remarkably resilient to censorship, corruption – or regulation. That means it has attracted a range of backers, from libertarian monetarists who enjoy the idea of a currency with no inflation and no central bank, to drug dealers who like the fact that it's hard (but not impossible) to trace a bitcoin transaction back to a physical person. Continue reading... […]

  • Peter Jackson: I blacklisted Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino under pressure from Weinstein
    by Molly Redden in New York on December 15, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Jackson said Miramax told him not to cast duo in Lord of the Rings seriesBoth actors refused Weinstein’s pressure to have physical relationshipsFilm director Peter Jackson has admitted to blacklisting actors Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino in response to a “smear campaign” orchestrated by accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. Related: What Salma Hayek’s Weinstein story reveals about Hollywood power and pay Continue reading... […]

  • Unilever sells household name spreads to KKR for £6bn
    by Jill Treanor on December 15, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Flora, Becel and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are among the brands sold as consumer goods giant seeks to overhaul its businessHousehold names such as Flora and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter have been sold by consumer goods giant Unilever to private equity house KKR in a £6bn deal.Unilever put the unit up for sale in April in a bid to rejuvenate its business, sparking a bidding war among buyout firms. Bloomberg calculations showed it was the biggest-leveraged buyout in Europe announced this year. Continue reading... […]

  • Alan Sinfield obituary
    by Jenny Bourne Taylor on December 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Pioneer of queer studies and Shakespeare scholar who related existing texts to current issuesAlan Sinfield, who has died aged 75, pioneered queer studies in Britain and added new dimensions to the understanding of Shakespeare. He made complex theoretical ideas accessible both in his teaching at the University of Sussex and in his writing, continually relating his readings of past texts to issues in the present.Much of his work, ranging from Elizabethan drama to popular culture, reaches beyond academia. It encompasses postwar literature, culture and politics; 20th-century theatre; Oscar Wilde, Tennyson and modern pop music. Running through it all is his concern with the relationships between cultural forms and political and economic power; with social exclusion and sexual identity; and with the collective potential to subvert or transform society and its cultures. Continue reading... […]

  • The Guardian view on the Brexit talks: nothing to applaud in Brussels | Editorial
    by Editorial on December 15, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    The EU and the UK have agreed to talk about their future relationship. Parliament should take back control of the processThere is one respect – but only one respect – in which the European council’s decision on Friday about the Brexit process should be welcomed. The council, consisting of the 27 EU member states, has now agreed that enough progress has been achieved in phase one of the talks between the EU and the UK to move on to phase two. Sufficient agreement on the departure terms thus allows discussion to start about the future relationship. This means that Britain has not crashed out of the EU without agreement, as the most fanatical Brexiters would have preferred. That would have been a disastrous event for the economy and for Britain’s wider interests. For this relief, much thanks.Yet there is nothing to cheer in the news from Brussels. The agreement that permitted Friday’s milestone to be reached was cobbled together at the 11th hour amid a political shambles with the DUP. The UK’s negotiators were badly led by David Davis, whose competence to carry out the trade talks next year is now deeply questionable. The agreement is full of major unresolved issues, above all in relation to the border with Ireland, about which Theresa May continues to talk with insouciant denial. Other British ministers like Mr Davis and Michael Gove have recklessly given the impression that the agreement can be changed or ignored. This is not a triumph for Mrs May. She may have got a round of applause from her fellow leaders in Brussels. But she deserves none at all from her own citizens for taking the country to this dire political place in this chaotic manner. Continue reading... […]

  • The Guardian view on Ryanair’s model: a union-friendly company? | Editorial
    by Editorial on December 15, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    It is wrong to assume that collective bargaining is incompatible with a modern economyThe decision by Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, to suddenly reverse decades of policy and recognise pilot unions for the first time is a good thing. For Mr O’Leary, who has never complained about being seen as a foul-mouthed bully, it is a welcome recognition that bulldozing your way through workers’ rights to make money doesn’t always work. Rather than attempt to break a strike by cockpit crew over Christmas, he has folded like a paper plane. It will probably mean the billion-pound profits of Mr O’Leary’s snarling creation will be now be a little more fairly shared. Mr O’Leary is not yet on the road to Damascus, but he could find it by recognising the rights of other workers to join trade unions and collectively bargain for better pay and conditions.In some ways the airline industry is a vivid example of what has happened in the wider economy. Competition and liberalisation has increased the number of routes, opened up destinations and in many cases lowered air fares. However, it has also led to layoffs, salary reductions and less favourable employment contracts. Profits boomed as working conditions deteriorated. If one aggregates similar experiences across different sectors, it’s clear what’s going wrong: precarious part-time work has grown, retirement is pushed back and average wages have flatlined. This process has been accelerated in the last 40 years by laws that have undermined unions while corporate power has grown. Continue reading... […]

  • The Guardian view on Christmas cards: stamp of approval | Editorial
    by Editorial on December 15, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    At this time of year, the only thing more insulting than being forgotten is to receive an electronic Christmas card. Keep it realMany people will sit down this weekend to write their Christmas cards, but the number taking part in this annual ritual gets smaller by the year. The reasons for the decline range from the cost of cards and stamps through the video messaging revolution to wider changes in culture. Yet without romanticising the annual licking and sticking, Christmas cards exemplify how the old ways can still sometimes be the best. Choosing which card to send and deciding what to write by hand involves, albeit in a limited way, having to think about your recipient friends rather than yourself. When their cards arrive through your own front door, provided they are not unwanted corporate ones, you know that all these same people have been thinking about you too. There’s a natural symmetry and equality in that, because a real card reaffirms a real link, sometimes vestigial and dutiful, conveniently distant in some cases, but a network of actual connections and obligations nonetheless. The effort and reward involved in real cards is modest, but the hour or two you may spend on them this weekend transcends all aspects of the soulless electronic Christmas card, the receipt of which is insulting by comparison. Real Christmas cards are an affirmation of our better selves. And they mean more job security for postal workers too. Continue reading... […]

  • EU to force firms to reveal true owners in wake of Panama Papers
    by David Pegg and Hilary Osborne on December 15, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Anti-corruption campaigners welcome move but criticise failure to include trusts in corporate ownership requirementsCompanies across the EU will be forced to disclose their true owners under new legislation prompted by the release of the Panama Papers.Anti-corruption campaigners applauded the agreement as a major step in the fight against tax evasion and money laundering, but expressed disappointment that trusts will mostly escape scrutiny. Continue reading... […]

  • Dark rumours in Westminster over Tory whips’ behaviour
    by Anushka Asthana Political editor on December 15, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Allegations include misdemeanour lists of troublesome MPs and pressure on those threatening to step out of line on BrexitDark rumours have been circulating around Westminster this week about the government whipping operation, with talk of misdemeanour lists to keep troublesome MPs in line, and alleged attempts to put pressure on those threatening to rebel on Brexit.The Conservative party was forced to deny the suggestion that one politician had been reduced to tears by “bullyboy tactics” before being gently steered through the desired voting lobby by a cabinet minister. Continue reading... […]

  • Essex police defend social media campaign on domestic violence
    by Alexandra Topping on December 15, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Force admits ‘clumsy language’ after criticism for encouraging people to stay in abusive relationshipsEssex police and county council have defended a social media campaign on domestic violence after critics accused it of encouraging survivors to stay with perpetrators. The police force came under fire on social media after posting a tweet about “Sheila” which told the story of a woman who “knew that the abuse in her relationship was wrong” but the couple had been supported and “stayed together but safely”. Related: Survivors of domestic abuse need a safe haven | Katie Ghose Wow, Essex Police. I just... have no words for what an irresponsible, silencing, diminishing campaign this is. Basically telling women to 'put up and shut up' re domestic abuse. In 2017. This is absurd. pic.twitter.com/aqZ9BLjy6c Continue reading... […]

  • In search of a university system that best serves society | Letters
    by Letters on December 15, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Readers and university staff respond to Simon Jenkins’ recent articleSimon Jenkins (Universities are bastions of privilege. That has to change, 14 December) takes aim at almost everything about universities and even manages to claim both that post-16 technical education is poor and that we should stop some young people from going to university. How could closing the only route many young people have to develop high-level skills be considered a positive step that will help them?How many universities has Jenkins actually visited? Judging from the article he might say “both of them”. But we are a diverse sector. At the University of Portsmouth we embed real-life work experience in most of our courses as well as the latest technology. For example, some of our students experience “virtual field trips”. The division between science and the humanities is also becoming obsolete – as is suggested by our own School of Creative Technologies. Indeed, in a world in which technology is challenging ethical and social norms, we need the humanities more than ever – and I say that as a professional engineer. Continue reading... […]

  • The Froome affair proves it: Team Sky is champion of misunderstandings | Marina Hyde
    by Marina Hyde on December 15, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Claim follows claim and now Chris Froome fails a drugs test. Fate is unkind to our premier cyclistsIt’s always exciting when something goes right down to the wire. And for many of us, the race to re-edit Chris Froome’s Sports Personality of the Year segment in time for Sunday’s show is easily as gripping as anything the seemingly bent sport of cycling can offer. Related: Clouds over Chris Froome and Sky will linger despite contrite response | Sean Ingle Related: Team Sky are hoist by their own petard with admissions of amateurism | Marina Hyde Continue reading... […]

  • We support Stephen Hawking’s legal action to save the NHS
    by Letters on December 15, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Melvyn Bragg, Richard Eyre, David Lascelles, David Owen, Jonathan Pryce, Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien, Paul Laverty, John McCarthy, Alan Bennett and Helena Kennedy join the fight against accountable care organisationsWe share Professor Stephen Hawking’s concern at changes being implemented to the NHS, most particularly the introduction of US-originated accountable care organisations (ACOs). These appear to be non-statutory, non-NHS bodies to run health and social services that could undermine the NHS’s fundamental principles. That the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and NHS England are doing this without primary legislation, proper public consultation or full parliamentary scrutiny adds to our concern. We support the CrowdJustice-funded legal action – www.crowdjustice.com/case/jr4nhs-round2 – by Professor Hawking and other prominent individuals (Report, 9 December) for a judicial review to stop the ACOs until these public and parliamentary procedures have been satisfactorily enacted.Melvyn BraggRichard EyreDavid LascellesDavid OwenJonathan PryceKen LoachRebecca O’BrienPaul LavertyJohn McCarthyAlan BennettHelena Kennedy• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com Continue reading... […]