Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


older | 1 | .... | 486 | 487 | (Page 488) | 489 | 490 | .... | 559 | newer

    0 0

    The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

    1. Royal Mail has no future without a return to some Victorian values (Daily Telegraph)

    The trade unions destroyed its ability to harness technology and provide a public service, claims former Telegraph editor Charles Moore. This privatisation is necessary and overdue, but a bit sad.

    2. I'm getting older. So am I becoming more rightwing? (Guardian)

    Conservatism isn't necessarily an inevitable part of ageing, writes Jonathan Freedland.

    3. I salute Ed Miliband’s big, brave mission (Times) (£)

    For different reasons Blairites and Tories want Labour’s leader to fail in his bid to reform the union link, writes Matthew Parris.

    4. Don't believe Chancellor's 'mission accomplished' rhetoric, we need a recovery that lasts, for all (Independent)

    The Chancellor's "recovery" is neither stable, nor investment-driven, not equal, writes Prateek Buch.

    5. We have abandoned our children to the internet (Guardian)

    Young people are addicted to a virtual world that is designed to keep them hooked with little care for collateral damage, writes Beeban Kidron.

    6. Pressure on children is getting too cruel for school (Mirror)

    Parental and school-inflicted pressure has resulted in more mental health issues, such as anxiety and ­depression, than ever before, writes Fiona Phillips.

    7. Esther Rantzen: Why I’m setting up a 'ChildLine’ for old people (Daily Telegraph)

    Esther Rantzen on her new charity, The Silver Line, which aims to bring conversation to the silent lives of elderly Britons.

    8. If the Syrian talks are to progress, the US will have to include Iran (Guardian)

    Diplomatic imperatives require that Iran, Syria's main ally, is invited to the negotiating table, writes Michael Williams.

    9. Does anyone know of any impediment? (Times) (£)

    There is no good reason to stop Roman Catholic clergy marrying; the Church should rethink its toxic ban, writes Church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch.

    10. I’ll take Obama (and Hector) over the utopists and dreamers who’d have us in or out of Syria (Independent)

    I like the US President for his refusal to refusal to take an absolute stance, writes Howard Jacobson.


    0 0

    As the new book Scarcity shows, a severe lack of money systematically impairs our ability to focus, make decisions and control our impulses.

    On Monday Michael Gove landed himself in hot water when, after visiting a food bank in his Surrey Heath constituency, he claimed that the financial pressures which force people to go to food banks "are often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances."

    The implication of this is that some families run out of money, and thus need to resort to food banks, as a result of their own, avoidable, error. Needless to say, this caused quite a controversy and Labour was quick to denounce his comments as "insulting and out of touch".

    So, who is right? Are some families failing to make sensible budgeting decisions, or are they blameless? A new branch of psychology suggests that, paradoxically, both of these answers may be true. Scarcity, a new book co-authored by Eldar Shafir, a Princeton psychologist, and Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist from Harvard, investigates how the feeling of having too little affects the way we think. They report experiment after experiment demonstrating that a severe lack of time, friends, or money, systematically impairs our ability to focus, make decisions and control our impulses. All pretty important skills when you’re trying to develop, and stick to, a tight budget.

    Their findings are remarkably general, and the effects are severe. In one study they found that prompting poor people to think about money before conducting a reasoning task reduced their cognitive abilities by about the same amount as missing a whole night’s sleep. This is a remarkable finding - I probably couldn’t tie my own shoelaces in the morning if I missed a whole night's sleep.

    What’s worse, the feeling of scarcity causes us to focus on our most pressing needs, to the point that we disregard less immediate concerns. This 'tunnelling effect', for which Shafir and Mullainathan present a wealth of evidence, helps explain why the poor, be they in Manchester or Mumbai, regularly take out payday loans at exorbitant interest rates. Considerations about the additional costs of paying back the loan fall 'outside of the tunnel”, and en; up dragging people into further financial trouble, trapping them in scarcity.

    And here's the real kicker; when otherwise rich and successful people have scarcity imposed on them in a controlled experiment, they show very similar reductions in cognitive capacity. The poor don’t make these decisions because they are short-sighted, or lazy. The very fact that they are poor causes them to behave in predictably irrational ways. In other words, if Michael Gove was as hard up as some of his less fortunate constituents, he would be just as likely to end up at the food bank as the result of his own, avoidable, budgeting errors.

    To be fair to Gove, he made his incendiary remark as part of a more constructive point about the need to provide education in household budgeting and finance. But this misses the point. It’s not that poor people don’t know how to budget, in fact they have far more experience of managing a tight budget than the rich. The problem is the temporary reduction in cognitive capacity bought about by being hard-up. The authors argue that this makes traditional financial management courses particularly inappropriate. People who are consumed with worry about how they will pay the next bill are simply not in the right frame of mind to take a module on double-entry book keeping. Far better, perhaps, would be to design policies and financial tools in a way that takes into account the effect of scarcity on how we think.

    Some hard-up families probably do make bad budgeting deisions; but it’s hardly their fault.

    Sam Sims is a researcher at the Institute for Government


    0 0

    Ryan Gilbey reviews The Artist and the Model - the story of a reclusive sculptor in occupied France, whose artistic spirit returns when his wife spots a young homeless woman, loitering in the town square.

    The 83-year-old Jean Rochefort is an actor of great range. He can be vinegary and regal, dapper and musketeer-like, snivelling and Steptoe-esque. His default appearance is that of a disappointed crow. He has had a distinguished career in European cinema: he’d worked with Luis Buñuel, Claude Chabrol and Bertrand Tavernier by the time he was 50. But it was playing the lead in a wistful 1990 middlebrow hit, Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband, which turned him into a sort of art-house mascot. Decades later, in The Artist and the Model, he looks almost as spry as he was when he danced in the salon in Leconte’s film. He gives a wry, watchful performance as Marc, a sculptor in wartime France with sad, hopeful eyes and a silver broom-bristle moustache.
     
    Now in his eighties, Marc hasn’t worked in years, but the arrival of a young homeless woman in his small town in occupied France, near the border with Spain, provides him with a candidate for a new muse. It is his wife, Léa (Claudia Cardinale), who first spots Mercè (Aida Folch) scratching around the town square. She’s on the run. Léa offers her food and board. The accommodation comes with strings: Mercè will have to stay in Marc’s stone shack in the hills, where woodland shadows fall across the walls as owls hoot portentously.
     
    Mercè is warned not to interfere with so much as a speck of dust. (“If you touch a thing, he’ll fly into a rage! He lives on disorder!”) You sense she is merely a piece of red meat being left in the lion’s den. The promise of horror is increased by the way the camera usually shows the sculptures as a series of dismembered parts – an arm here, a head there. Would you be surprised to learn that while Marc is indeed gruff and suspicious at the outset, he and his new model enjoy a rapprochement? He bestows on her the benefit of his experience, while she encourages him to re-engage with a world from which he has recoiled after the shock of living through two wars.
     
    Rochefort the actor may be a fine-haired brush but the material he has to work with here is pure Dulux. That is not to suggest that this film lacks entertainment value – merely that its insights are splashed on largely without finesse, its lessons plainly soothing. (It is shot, for no apparent reason, in a lukewarm monochrome.) This is disappointing, given that the screenplay was co-written by Jean- Claude Carrière, best known for his collaborations with Buñuel, and by the film’s director, Fernando Trueba, who co-directed the seductive animation Chico and Rita.
     
    The idea of addressing wartime themes from an artist’s secluded studio, through which a German captain or a few Resistance fighters stray occasionally, is typical of Carrière. Examining the events of May 1968 in Milou in May, he restricted the action to the countryside, far from Paris. Stirred by the countercultural revolution, he focused in Taking Off on the parents rather than the rebellious hippies. The Artist and the Model does have a problem of emphasis but this has nothing to do with the war. It’s that the most interesting story – of Léa, a former model, now happy to pick her replacement to inspire her husband – lies off to one side, slightly overlooked, much like Léa herself.
     
    There was a similar dynamic at play in Jacques Rivette’s La belle noiseuse (1991), another film about an ageing artist and a young model. But, at four hours in length, its scale allowed for a depth of thought and technique which Trueba’s picture cannot attain.
     
    What The Artist and the Model does boast are generous performances and the odd flash of inspiration. A camera move that conceals Mercè’s first striptease is wittily choreographed. A sequence in which Marc discusses a Rembrandt drawing has passion and patience. Then there is Folch’s mouth, which is ever so slightly oversized. When she smiles, she looks giddy and a little out of control, like a child who has found herself at the wheel of a speeding Buick and is determined to enjoy the ride.

    0 0

    He goes out and buys a porsche, she goes to India to find herself. We are all familiar with the midlife crisis clichés, but does the midlife crisis really exist, and what is driving it?

    It’s a hoary old chestnut: the man who, on turning 40, dons a leather jacket and buys a motorbike he doesn’t know how to ride. The woman who hits her mid 30s and takes an Eat Pray Love-style journey to Asia to find herself. But there’s more to the midlife crisis than worn out stereotypes. The evidence shows that we do indeed suffer more between the ages of 35 and 55. Explaining why is more difficult.

    In the well-being report we’ve looked at well-being in children, teenagers and adults and found that there are three critical time points in life when well-being dips: mid-teens, midlife and in oldest old age. The first phase can be explained by personal, social and economic circumstances, but the latter two episodes cannot.

    Puberty blues

    As children go through secondary school their well-being progressively declines. Between the ages of 11 and 15, the proportion with low levels of subjective well-being increases by more than two-thirds from 14% to 24%. This is in line with recent findings from a Children’s Society’s inquiry, which found child well-being reached its lowest ebb among 14-15 year olds.

    Puberty is, of course, a critical stage in the life course, when there are many physical, emotional and social adjustments to be made. It would be easy to dismiss the dip in well-being as the inevitable consequence of hormones and physical change. But importantly, we found this is the result of social context and so could be responsive to changes in circumstances.

    For example, disruptive behaviour at school and being bullied were both linked to low subjective well-being, while feeling supported and sharing meals together as a family were critical to positive well-being among secondary school aged children. After controlling for these and other factors, the association between age and well-being was no longer significant.

    Stuck in the middle

    But what about the next dip – the midlife crisis?

    Confirming a widely reported “U-curve” in subjective well-being – we also found that adult well-being was particularly low from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties. However, unlike for children we did not find this dip was entirely explained by circumstances. Age remains a statistically significant predictor of well-being even when we statistically accounted for other factors.

     

    Wellbeing has been measured using the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale.

     

    We found this midlife drop in wellbeing was evident when looking at two different surveys that captured somewhat different aspects of life. The midlife crisis was apparent both when looking at all adults together and when analysing men and women separately. We used Understanding Society, a survey of 40,000 UK households, to focus in on the social aspects of life, looking in detail at relationships inside and outside the home with family and neighbours. We also used Health Survey for England data to look at predictors of well-being among men and women separately and including more detail on health.

    The latter analysis showed that the lowest dip occurred earlier among men, at the 35-44 mark. Among women, the lowest midlife dip was in the 45-54 age group and women’s well-being also drops off again in later life.

     

     

     

    Wellbeing has been measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale

     

    No answers

    The evidence is clear then, the midlife crisis is real. But what could be the reason for it; is it physiological or psychological? The short answer is we do not know what is driving it.

    There seems to be something in particular about the midlife crisis (and the old age crisis for women) that makes it less amenable to differences in circumstances than the troubled mid-teen years. Our analysis showed that the midlife crisis is not because it coincides with the children in the household being moody teenagers. Nor is it because of the quality of the relationship between partners, or indeed whether one has a partner at all. Neither is it explained by feeling unable to cope with the demands of work, being unsatisfied with work, leisure or income or even poor mental health. Midlife remained stubbornly linked with lower well-being when we controlled for all these and a whole bunch of other characteristics.

    Other research has suggested that the midlife crisis occurs due to unmet expectations; the realisation that one’s youthful aspirations have not and will not be achieved, and that as people adjust their expectations in later life wellbeing improves.

    That may be at least part of the explanation but we need more research to better understand this stage in life. We can’t stop the passage of time or the ageing process but we can try to understand what factors predict the onset of, and recovery from, the midlife crisis. The midlife crisis is not inevitable, and not everyone will experience a substantial drop in their wellbeing between the age of 35 and 54. But until we know more about the factors – other than age – associated with this drop, we cannot make any recommendations for how people might be able to reduce the risk of them experiencing it.

    Jenny Chanfreau does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

    The Conversation

    This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


    0 0

    Jackie Baillie says "you can expect an announcement relatively soon" as Lib Dem Shirley Williams brands the policy "a big mistake".

    To date, while stating that it would not have introduced the bedroom tax and condemning its effect on the vulnerable, Labour has stopped short of pledging to repeal the measure if elected. But as I recently reported, it will almost certainly promise to do so before 2015.

    The clearest signal yet that an announcement is likely in the near future came today from the party's Scottish welfare spokesman Jackie Baillie. Asked on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme whether "a Westminster Labour government abolish the bedroom tax?", she replied:

    We are very clear. Labour rejected this approach when it was put to them in government, for social landlords. We have campaigned for its abolition.

    Yes we will abolish it. My understanding is that you can expect an announcement relatively soon.

    In his recent speech on social security, Liam Byrne described the policy, which reduces housing benefit by 14% for those deemed to have one "spare room" and by 25% for those with two or more, as "the worst possible combination of incompetence and cruelty". He noted that "96% of those hit have nowhere to move to" (which means higher arrears and homelessness) and that it was "costing the public an extra £102.5 million to implement", concluding: "It should be dropped, and dropped now." If Labour can demonstrate that the policy is likely to cost more than it saves, it will be hard for the coalition to object to its potential reversal.

    At the Lib Dem conference on Monday afternoon, delegates will debate a motion (Making Housing Benefit Work for Tenants in Social Housing) calling for "an immediate evaluation of the impact of the policy, establishing the extent to which larger homes are freed up, money saved, costs of implementation, the impact on vulnerable tenants, and the impact on the private rented sector." The motion also calls for "a redrafting of clear housing needs guidelines in association with those representing vulnerable groups including the disabled, elderly and children."

    Until new guidelines are in place, it argues that there should be no withdrawal of housing benefit from those on the waiting list for social housing which meets the current guidelines and that there should be an exemption for those who "temporarily have a smaller housing need due to a change in their circumstances, but whose need will predictably return to a higher level (e.g. whose children will pass the age limits for separate rooms within that period)".

    While Nick Clegg and other Lib Dems ministers have defended the measure on the grounds that it encourages tenants to downsize, freeing up houses for those in overcrowded accomodation (the problem being the severe shortage of one bedroom properties), delegates are likely to back the motion, with a significant number calling for the immediate abolition of the policy. On the fringe, Shirley Williams has just been greeted with thunderous applause after describing it as "a big mistake".


    0 0

    The New Statesman will be heading to Glasgow to host a series of events and discussions during the Liberal Democrats autumn conference 2013.

    The New Statesman will be at the Liberal Democrats autumn conference this year in Glasgow to host a series of events and round table discussions. Highlights include an "In conversation" session with Minister of State for Care and Support, and Lib Dem MP, Normal Lamb at the Glasgow Science Centre tomorrow evening, a discussions on aid and advocacy between Menzies Campbell, Simon Hughes and Medical Aid for Palestinians Chief Executive Tony Laurance on Monday afternoon and a talk with David Laws, Minister for Cabinet Office and Schools on Monday evening. All events are free to attend and open to the public.

    There will also be a session with Lib Dem president Tim Farron, a possible future leader of the party, whose comments on Ed Miliband in this week's New Statesman were widely regarded as proof that coalition with Labour rather than the Tories after 2015 remains a distinct possibility. (The correlative came from Jeremy Browne in the same issue, a Lib Dem with less polite things to say about the Labour leader). 

    A full list of NS events at the Lib Dem conference can be found below:

    Liberal Democrat Part Conference 2013

     

    Sunday the 15th of September 

     

     

    Integration in an era of competition: Is it possible? 

    Speakers: Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP

                      Chris Hopskin, Chief Executive, Foundation Trust Network

                      Professor Clare Bambra, Durham University 

    Location: Clyde Suite, Glasgow Science Centre  

    Time: 13:30-14:30 

     

    What next for the criminal justice system?

    Speakers: Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice,

                      Steve Gillan, General Secretary, POA

                      Jerry Petherick, Managing Director – Custodial & Detention

                      - Services, G4S 

                      Tania Bassett, Napo Press, Parliament and Campaigns Officer

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre      

    Time: 13:00-14:00  

    Smart Grids: Is this the way of selling low carbon policy to skeptics?

    Speakers: Stephen Gilbert MP, PPS to Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP

                      - Secretary of State for Climate Change  

                      Jim Sutherland, Scottish Power Energy Networks 

                      Dr. Hongjain Sun, Lecturer in Smart Grids, Durham University 

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre  

    Time: 14:00-15:00

    Norman Lamb MP in conversation with New Statesman

    Speaker: Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre  

    Time: 18:15-19:15  

    Monday the 16th of September

     

    Home Front: the battle for a sustainable housing Market

    (invite only)

    Speakers: Rt. Hon Don Foster MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the

                      - Department of Communities and Local Goverment         

                      Stephen Gilbert MP, PPS to the Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP,

                      - Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change      

                      Lord Shipley          

                      Annette Brooke MP          

                      Lord Newby, Deputy Chief Whip 

    Location: Clyde Suite, Glasgow Science Centre   

    Time: 8.30-10:00

    Innovation, what does the NHS need to do?

    Speakers: Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support  

                      David Worskett, Chief Executive, NHS Partners Network

                      Professor Clare Bambra, Durham University 

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

    Time: 10.30-11.30

    Can aid be effective without advocacy? 

    Speakers: Rt. Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP

                      Rt. Hon Simon Hughes MP

                      Tony Laurance, Chief Executive, Medical Aid for Palestinians 

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre   

    Time: 13:00-14:00

    Endgames: The Lib Dems in the final phase of the coalition  

    Speakers: Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats  

                      Tavish Scott MSP      

                      Akash Paun, Fellow, Institute of Government  

                      Olly Grender, Deputy Chair, General Election Capmaign

    Location:Clyde Suite, Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

    Time: 18:00-19:00

    David Laws MP in conversation with the New Statesman

    Speaker: Rt Hon David Laws MP, Minister of State for Cabinet Office and Schools

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

    Time: 19:00-20:00

    Tuesday the 17th September

     

    Will competition and choice open up the banking sector?

    Speakers: Lord Newby, Government Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Chief

                      - Whip, Treasury Spokesperson in the House of Lords

                      Adrian Kamellard, Chief Executive, Payments Council

                      Jeff Salway, Freelance Journalist      

                      Richard Lloyd, Executive Director, Which?

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre 

    Time: 13:00-14:00    

    Why invest in UK life sciences?

    Speakers: Dr Julian Huppert MP

                      Andrew Powrie-Smith, Director ABPI, Scotland 

                      Mike Farrar, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation 

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre   

    Time: 13:00-14:00

    Tim Farron MP in conversation with New Statesman

    Speaker: Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats

    Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre 

    Time: 18:15-19:15   

    Is a cap on immigration a cap on growth?

    Speakers: Rt. Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State, Business

                      - Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade  

                      Mr. Neil Stevenson, Brand Executive Director, ACCA       

                      Dr. Adam Marshall, British Chamber of Commerce        

                      Professor Christian Dustmann

    Location: Clyde Suite, Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre        

    Time: 19:00-20:00


    0 0

    In a New Statesman blog earlier this week, Gavin Kelly suggested that the Low Pay Commission could set out "the path of future increases in the minimum wage over a number of years".

    To coincide with the opening of the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, Vince Cable has called for an increase in the minimum wage as a step towards restoring its real-terms value (now back to its 2004 level). He suggests that the Low Pay Commission could set out a process under which the increases would be staged over two to four years, stating that he is in a sense providing "forward guidance" (the term recently popularised by Mark Carney to describe his policy of not considering any rise in interest rates until unemployment has fallen to 7%).

    All of which suggests that the Business Secretary has been paying close attention to the New Statesman website. In a piece published on Thursday, Gavin Kelly, the chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, wrote:

    Given that the wage floor has already fallen back below the level it was at in 2004, there are some who would favour an immediate hike, perhaps up to the level of the Living Wage, regardless of the fragility of the labour market. Many others worry about the impact of a higher minimum wage on unemployment (even if it is falling a bit) and future job growth. Faced with these competing pressures, policy-makers remain locked-in to the status quo in which the Low Pay Commission (LPC) takes an evidence-based, incremental, and typically cautious look at the level of the wage floor every 12 months.

    One possible route through this bind would be to set out how the minimum wage would increase over time if, and only if, the recovery is sustained. If this sort of conditional approach towards policy-making sounds familiar it’s probably because it echoes the much hyped ‘forward guidance’ for monetary policy which has been introduced by Mark Carney at the Bank of England.

    In relation to low pay, forward guidance could mean the LPC setting out the path of future increases in the minimum wage over a number of years so long as the recovery is maintained and unemployment falls. If, however, the economy weakens the LPC would revert to setting the minimum wage a year at a time. This approach would mean a shift from the established pattern of annual uplifts but it wouldn’t be wholly exceptional (the LPC has in the past set out its intention to increase the minimum wage above average earnings over a number of years).

    With both the Tories and the Lib Dems now discussing the possibility of major increases in the minimum wage, the onus is now on Ed Miliband to offer greater policy detail on issues such as the living wage. While the party will not pledge to introduce a compulsory version, as many activists would wish, it is likely to promise to take significant steps to increase its use in the private and public sector. This could include making it compulsory for all government departments and contractors to pay the living wage and establishing "living wage zones". As outlined by the Resolution Foundation and the IPPR, the zones would operate by transferring some of the savings received by the Treasury through the payment of the living wage (lower benefit payments and higher tax revenues) to local authorities to help them work with businesses to increase wages to living wage levels.


    0 0

    The deputy PM was due to say "I know that some people in our party don’t like us being too nasty to Labour" after the Lib Dem president said he didn't want to "diss" Ed Miliband.

    In a much-noted interview with me in this week's New Statesman, Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president and the standard bearer of the party's left, lavished praise on Ed Miliband. He told me: "I really like Ed Miliband, so I don’t want to diss him. I don’t want join in with the Tories who compare him to Kinnock."

    He added: "I think he is somebody who is genuinely of the Robin Cook wing of the Labour Party, from their perspective what you’d call the 'soft left'. Somebody who is not a Luddite on environmental issues, somebody who’s open minded about modernising our democracy, somebody who’s instinctively a bit more pluralistic than most Labour leaders and a bit more internationalist as well."

    In what some Lib Dems saw as a gibe at Nick Clegg, he also remarked: "For all that I think he could have done a lot more on the AV campaign, he did at least have the backbone to come out and back it. He wouldn’t share a platform with Nick [Clegg], so he ended up with me, poor thing. I like the guy."

    In his speech at the conference launch rally tonight, Clegg was due to issue a coded criticism of Farron. The version of his speech emailed out to journalists beforehand included a passage in which he said:

    "Now I know that some people in our party don’t like us being too nasty to Labour, so in the spirit of cross-party cooperation, I’m going to help them make a start. If the Eds are watching, here is the first thing they should do to win back the trust of people. Apologise."

    The line highlighted above was an obvious reference to Farron's comments on Miliband ("I don't want to diss him"). But in the version delivered by Clegg it was amended to:

    "But let's not be too nasty about Labour."

    For the sake of party unity, Clegg retreated from an attack on his most likely successor as leader - and wisely so. When Farron signals his preference for Labour over the Tories, he speaks for most Lib Dem members. As a recent Liberal Democrat Voice poll showed, by 55% to 18%, members would prefer a post-2015 alliance with Labour than one with the Tories. If Clegg is to retain the faith of his activists, he needs to avoid giving the impression that he would rather form a second coalition with David Cameron than open the door to Miliband.


    0 0

    The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

    1. Bobbing Obama leaves Putin holding the Syrian powder keg (Sunday Times) (£)

    Obama achieved far more by the threat of force, than by using force, writes Andrew Sullivan.

    2. The question that the Lib Dems are desperate not to answer (Observer)

    The party is split in so many ways over whether it would prefer to govern with Labour or the Tories, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

    3. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put Russia back on the top table (Independent on Sunday)

    World View: Deal in Geneva shows the Kremlin’s influence is at its greatest for more than 20 years, writes Patrick Cockburn.

    4. The Lib Dems know their future lies in power-sharing (Sunday Telegraph)

    One of Nick Clegg’s greatest strengths is his ability to think strategically. Thanks to him, no one can now claim that coalition governments are a recipe for disaster, writes Matthew D'Ancona.

    5. Yarl's Wood affair is a symptom, not the disease (Observer)

    Increasing numbers of vulnerable people are being denied redress under our criminal justice system, writes Nick Cohen.

    6. Miliband should stop, wait and let the coalition fail (FT) (£)

    The Labour leader should keep his head down and his party united, according to Robert Ford.

    7. Two-state illusion (IHT)

    The idea of a state for Palestinians and one for Israelis is a fantasy that blinds us, writes Ian S Lustick.

    8. Clegg looks doomed but the cavalry are coming (Sunday Times) (£)

    If Clegg can stay standing, the polls indicate his party are due a recovery, writes Adam Boulton. 

    9. My veil epiphany (Observer)

    Just what was Birmingham Met thinking of when it tried to stop women wearing the niqab? asks Victoria Coren.

    10. Tina Brown leaves journalism in her wake (FT) (£)

    The media’s most irrepressible trend-surfer was the editor who was always bigger than her cover stories, by John Gapper.


    0 0

    Labour has a 14-point lead in the 32 most marginal Tory-Labour seats, while the Lib Dems are just three points behind the Conservatives in the eight most competitive Tory-Lib Dem seats.

    After the return of economic growth and the narrowing of Labour's poll lead prompted some Tories to talk of a "glide path to victory", Lord Ashcroft's marginals poll has provided a much-needed dose of realism. The survey of the Conservatives' 40 most vulnerable constituencies shows that the defection of Tory supporters to UKIP means that Labour now enjoys a 14-point lead in the 32 seats where it is in second place, compared to a national lead of just five in Ashcroft's poll. In short, the party is gaining support where it matters most. Labour is on 43% (down one since 2011), the Tories are on 29% (down six), UKIP is on 11% and the Lib Dems are on 8%. That lead is large enough for Miliband's party to win the 32 most competitive Con-Lab marginals and a further 66 off the Tories if the swing is replicated elsewhere, putting it on course for a comfortable majority.

    But it isn't just Labour and UKIP that have cause to be cheerful; there's also some rare good news for the Lib Dems. In the eight most marginal Con-Lib Dem seats, Nick Clegg's party is just three points behind David Cameron's, with a swing of only 0.5% to the Tories since 2010. The Conservatives are on 32%, with the Lib Dems on 29%, Labour on 18% and UKIP on 12%. For the Lib Dems, it is further evidence that their vote is holding up where they are competitive. Rather than merely defending their existing 57 seats, the surge of UKIP (which draws around 60% of its support from 2010 Tories) means that the Lib Dems could yet hope to dislodge the Tories in seats where they are vulnerable.

    The poll will gladden Labour hearts and darken Tory ones but it's important to remember, as Ashcroft says, that it is "a snapshot", not a prediction. It tells us what would happen were a general election held today, not what is likely to happen in 2015. Governments invariably gain support in the run-up to a general election as voters stop treating opinion polls as a referendum on the government (2010 was typical of this), so Labour needs a large cushion of support to be confident of victory. A similar poll conducted by PoliticsHome in September 2008 suggested the Conservatives would win a landslide majority of 146 seats, while another, carried out in October 2009, pointed to a Tory majority of 70. Just seven months later, Cameron was left with no majority at all. In other words, 18 months out from the general election, only the most optimistic Labourite or the most pessimistic Tory would treat this poll as a reliable indicator of the result.


    0 0

    In Ozeki's novel, A Tale for the Time Being, a games interface developer is confronted by the possibility that the military will use his software to creating user-friendly weapons technology. It is a conflict some in the gaming industry are desperate to avoid.

    As you read this, your present shall be my past. I might have written an hour ago, a month, a year, ten years ago. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re here now, reading. Our connection is the premise for Ruth Ozeki’s Booker shortlisted novel A Tale for the Time Being, an interlocking narrative connecting the lives of a 16-year-old diarist, Nao, and her reader, Ruth, who discovers the journal a decade later. But it is the presence of death, not life, which ultimately fuels the story.

    Harry – Nao’s father – is plagued by thoughts of death; of both his own, and of the thousands of deaths for which he could be responsible. He works in interface development for the gaming market, and the problem is, he’s good at it. So good, in fact, that the US military show an interest in the enormous potential of his research for drone weapon technology. In an email to Ruth, Professor Leistiko of Stanford University explains Harry’s moral dilemma: “what ma[kes] a computer game addictive and entertaining would make it easy and fun to carry out a massively destructive bombing mission”.

    Ozeki’s subplot is an example of fiction’s ability to highlight pertinent issues in the real world. This summer, the US Army conducted an experiment. It incorporated Epic Games, Inc’s award-winning Unreal Engine to create a game to train its infantry, to combat the expenses of field training. But like Harry’s drone interface, this too raises some questions of conscience. Will this encourage a war culture where it’s acceptable to rejoice Boom, headshot! after every successful death?

    Applying game engine technology to a military setting isn’t exactly new. Michael Brooks's article, “If you can fly a video game, you can fly a drone”, illustrates this. He writes:

    Control technology is becoming ever more similar to that used in modern video games. A recent recruitment ad for the British army features a soldier explaining UAV use while using an unbranded Microsoft Xbox controller to fly his drone over a troop of patrolling soldiers.

    It is this technology that Harry is in conflict with. But it’s easy to see why it’s piqued the interests of the military. The gaming interface offers a distancing effect between the pilot and victim, turning deaths into killstreaks by making the art of war as enjoyable – and playable – as possible.

    The $60 million 2013 deal, forged between Intelligent Decisions (US Government) and Epic Games, is the next development of Harry’s interface. You don’t have to be a gamer to recognise the titles of games that the Unreal engine has conceived: Batman: Arkham City, BioShock, Gears of War and Medal of Honour. Until now, Intelligent Decisions have used Bohemian Virtual Battlespace Engine, but Unreal is a first attempt for a more immersive virtual reality. In this new simulation, avatars can use hand signals, tilt weapons and shoot around corners, allowing for a more realistic environment in which to train.

    A Tale for the Time Being is full of questions without answers: does Ruth finally track down Nao? Has Nao followed through with her suicide pact? How about her father – a man who commits (and fails) suicide before chapter one – does he finally succeed? The one question I’d like a definitive answer to concerns Harry and his problem:

    He was trying to figure out if there was a way to build a conscience into the interface design that would assist the user by triggering his ethical sense of right and wrong and engaging his compulsion to do right.

    Let’s hope Intelligent Decisions has the answer.


    0 0

    News stories from around the web.

    Summers withdraws from Fed race (FT)

    Lawrence Summers has taken himself out of the running to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve after a bloc of key Democratic senators indicated they would oppose his nomination.

    Chrysler goes for IPO as last resort (FT)

    Chrysler is planning to file documents for its initial public offering this week after majority owner Fiat and the healthcare trust that owns the rest of the US carmaker failed to agree a market price in a long-running dispute.

    Bank account switchers 'could save £600' (BBC)

    The UK's 46 million bank customers are being told they could save up to £600 by switching their current accounts to another provider.

    From Monday, it should also be faster and easier to move to another bank.

    Jaguar Land Rover: £1.3bn Tata gamble pays off as big cat purrs at last (Telegraph)

    The shock success of JLR is silencing the doom-mongers, writes Roland Gribben

    Leigh-Pemberton to be new head of UKFI (Telegraph)

    The Treasury will on Monday name James Leigh-Pemberton as the new chief executive of UK Financial Investments, the body that oversees the taxpayer’s stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds.


    0 0

    James Leigh-Pemberton will be the fourth boss of the financial body since 2009.

    HM Treasury will name James Leigh-Pemberton, currently the UK head of Credit Suisse, as the new CEO of the UK Financial Investments (UKFI).

    Leigh-Pemberton will succeed Jim O'Neil, who announced his retirement in April to take up a position at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

    Leigh-Pemberton, who is the son of former Bank of England governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton, will be the fourth head of UKFI since 2009. His appointment will be effective October.

    Commenting on the appointment, George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “Leigh-Pemberton’s significant experience in the financial services industry, gained over two decades, makes him the right person to take us through the next phase of our plan for the recovery of Britain’s banking system.”

    “I’d also like to record my sincere thanks to both Jim O’Neil and Robin Budenberg for their invaluable contributions towards building a stronger banking system that supports Britain’s economy, businesses and consumers,” Osborne added.

    Leigh-Pemberton will also become executive chairman, when Robin Budenberg, the current chairman of UKFI, leaves at the end of 2013, reported the Guardian.

    UKFI will also reveal the appointment of Oliver Holbourn as the head of its capital markets today, reported the Financial Times. Holbourn is currently the head of equity capital markets origination in the UK, Ireland and South Africa for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

    UKFI was created in November 2008 to manage the British government’s investments in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds and UK Asset Resolution (UKAR). The government owns an 81 per cent of interest in RBS and a 39 per cent stake in Lloyds.


    0 0

    The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

    1. The Lib Dems left me disillusioned. Labour has made me hopeful again (Guardian)

    After leaving the Liberal Democrats I did not think I would join another party, says Richard Grayson. But in fact I couldn't not join Labour.

    2. Summers’ end leaves Yellen out in front (Financial Times)

    Frontrunner has done everyone a favour by withdrawing, writes Edward Luce.

    3. Why is Ofsted lashing out against primary schools? (Guardian)

    Swingeing reports by the inspection body are forcing primaries into academy status and tarnishing its independent reputation, writes John Harris.

    4. Germany’s election is vital to Europe (Financial Times)

    If the SPD and Greens won outright, they would move faster than Merkel on crisis management, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

    5. What Nick Clegg can learn from François Mitterrand (Guardian)

    The party faithful should not be dismayed by their leader's unpopularity, says Chris Huhne. History shows the Lib Dems will bounce back.

    6. The decline and fall of Barack Obama (Times)

    A presidency that began with such high expectations is confirming America’s decline as a world power, says Tim Montgomerie.

    7. What Nick Clegg can learn from François Mitterrand (Guardian)

    The party faithful should not be dismayed by their leader's unpopularity, says Chris Huhne. History shows the Lib Dems will bounce back.

    8. There is something deeply cynical about this chemical weapons ‘timetable’ (Independent)

    Even if it succeeds, Syrians will be left to kill each other as before - only without sarin, writes Robert Fisk.

    9. Labour's plan to eject squatters won't fix Britain's broken housing system (Independent)

    It is the causes - not the symptoms - of the housing crisis that Labour needs to crush, says Owen Jones.

    10. Condescending Lord Clegg, the invincible loser of British politics (Daily Telegraph)

    Luckily, there’s every chance the Lib Dems will be out of office after the next election, says Boris Johnson.

     


    0 0

    With Cable planning to stay away from the key Lib Dem conference vote on the economy, Clegg says: "I don't run a bootcamp, I don't tell people when they have to turn up for a meeting."

    Vince Cable's decision not to take part in today's crunch debate on the economy at the Lib Dem conference is a decided snub to Nick Clegg and the Deputy Prime Minister couldn't help sounding rather helpless on the Today programme this morning. He said:

    I'm the leader of the Liberal Democrats, I don't run a bootcamp, I don't tell people when they have to turn up for a meeting.

    That Clegg feels unable to persuade or force his party's pre-eminent economic voice to speak in the most important debate of the conference reveals much about his lack of authority.

    Cable's excuse is that he will be preparing to deliver his speech at 12:30pm (the debate runs from 10-11:40am) but he has also expressed sympathy for the rebel amendments put forward by the Social Liberal Forum against "Osbornomics". The party's left believes that the Lib Dems need to do more to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives by promising to adopt a slower pace of deficit reduction and to remove the limits on council borrowing to enable the building of an extra 300,000 homes a year, including 50,000 for social rent. But Clegg, who will, unusually for a leader, conclude the debate, is more concerned with ensuring the party takes its share of the credit for the economic recovery. To do so, he believes that the Lib Dems must avoid appearing overly discontent at the path pursued by the coalition.

    In an attempt to marry these two priorities, Cable suggested at the weekend that a compromise could be struck. He told the Guardian: "Some of the stuff is perfectly good, such as on housing and indeed the idea that as an independent party we are going to have to have a different approach to the economy during the election. That is all good stuff.

    "What is then the argument? I am not an expert on conference procedure but there is this ancient art of compositing where people gather together the good elements in competing motions and we proceed.

    "I would be surprised if there is a big bust-up, maybe not even a vote. I don't know enough about procedure to judge it. But I would think intelligent people can reconcile these approaches."

    It is Clegg's refusal to compromise, rather than Cable's need to prepare his speech, that most likely explains the absence of the Business Secretary. With Saint Vince on the sidelines and the party membership keen to demonstrate its independence from the leadership at some point, some senior activists are now predicting defeat for Clegg.


    0 0

    Bad people, bad management and institutional failure all contributed to what happened at the Yarl's Wood detention centre.

    You hear a lot of things when you’re a journalist. And ninety-five per cent of the time, you know they’re not true, or wildly exaggerated. And every so often you think they might be true, but you don’t know how on earth you’re going to stand them up, and you also know that unless you’ve got a watertight case, you’re going to get your publication’s arse sued off.

    That smoking gun: who knows when it’ll turn up? All you can do is keep making inquiries, bide your time, report on other things - and maybe your biggest fear is ending up like one of those old Fleet Street soaks on the documentaries about Jimmy Savile: “Sure, we all knew, but what could we do? We were just journalists.”

    The public doesn’t have a lot of time for this sentiment. Maybe the public’s right. Dunno. Most hacks I know try their best. But then they’re also idiots, myself included. Dogs chasing cars, to quote a famous film villain. Or these days more likely to be sniffing each other’s arseholes on social media.

    So: Yarl’s Wood. I’d heard plenty of murmurs from solicitors and campaigners before this weekend. But I hadn’t heard explicit details such as those laid out in the Observer’s front page story. To quote Nick Cohen’s accompanying comment piece:

    According to Tanja's account, a male guard locks the door. He pulls out his earpiece, perhaps to make sure he is not disturbed, and after some initial touching, he pushes his penis in her face. He laughs when he ejaculates in her mouth – so confident is he that he can escape punishment.

    I’d written about Yarl’s Wood many times before, but found it frustrating because I couldn’t really write about what I suspected to be a regular occurrence. I remember one former inmate talking to me on the phone from there last year: these words in her thick African accent - “They are BAD people. They are BAD people,” again and again. She’d come here from a war zone. What was going on? “I don’t like to say. They are BAD.”

    Let’s quote Cohen again:

    The corporate guards confine her and can punish her. One starts thrusting himself on her. What does she do? She could think that she has to go along with him or he'll put her on the next plane out. Or she could believe that if she does what she is told she will be in a relationship with an Englishman and that somehow this "affair" (if that is not too romantic a word) will allow her to stay in the country.

    Bad people. But I couldn’t prove it, and there was plenty else to cover. I could have written a piece a week about the sort of people we send there. Only a couple of days ago I received an email about Evenia Mawongera, who has just been sent there pending deportation to Zimbabwe. She’s an outspoken critic of the Mugabe regime, and has been living in Leicester with her children and grandchildren for the past 10 years. 

    On 22 August, she received a special commendation in the Good Neighbour Awards in recognition of her contribution to the community. She’s a member of the Zimbabwe Association Choir and is one of the people who performed for the Queen when she came to Leicester in June 2012 to mark the start of her Diamond Jubilee tour. She has no family in Zimbabwe. Her children and grandchildren, with whom she has been living for the past 10 years, are British citizens.

    That’s the kind of person we keep sending to Yarl’s Wood.

    And I know what Evenia faces. I’ve written about the history of the place. About a woman who was dragged out of her room naked in order to force her removal, and a resulting hunger strike among the detainees. About the woman suffering from kidney failure who was left sitting in her own piss in the van on the way to the centre. About the treatment of pregnant women in there. And so on.

    So I’m glad the smoking gun eventually appeared - from a source, as Cohen points out, that very soon will cease to exist:

    We would not have published a word about Yarl's Wood were it not for the heroic efforts of Harriet Wistrich, the best feminist lawyer I know. But she will not be able to carry on bringing cases like these to the public's attention for much longer.

    The legal aid cuts are not directed against fat cat lawyers, who continue to make their fortunes in the City, but against solicitors such as her, who do well if they make £40,000 a year. More seriously, they are directed against their clients.

    ***

    Some commenters on my previous pieces about Yarl’s Wood have complained about my apparent left wing bias. If only I took politics that seriously. I just tend to write about things that aren’t working. Like most writers who’ve spent enough time following our political elite, I believe that when you vote, you’re choosing between slightly different styles of management. And the most important distinction in the management isn’t between left or right - it’s between good and bad. And on many issues - perhaps most - you’ll get much the same kind of good and bad from all the parties.

    Bad management doesn’t sound all that serious. But once the system malfunctions, the results can be despicable. Hillsborough, Mid Staffs, a vulnerable young woman in a detention centre giving blowjobs she doesn’t want to give. For evil to thrive, all that has to happen etc.

    And we’ve dealt with immigration badly whoever’s in power. In part - and it’s the same story with crime - that’s because our lawmakers know that managing the public perception is far more important than whatever’s going on in reality.

    We’re a funny lot when it comes to this issue. I guess as a nation we’re summed up by one encounter the TV chef Lorraine Pascale described on Twitter: “Landlord said to me all 'n words' should go home & were not welcome. He said I could stay though as his wife liked my cakes.”

    As I once wrote here, in recent years the rate of immigration to Britain has increased – as has the rate of migration around the world. It’s hardly surprising this should spark concerns on a small island with a grandiose history, an uncertainty about its future standing in the world, and an obscenely subtle set of cultural nuances.

    But then T S Eliot was right about humankind not being able to stand too much reality. Send those scrounging foreign bastards/job thieves (delete as applicable; or maybe keep both) home, except for that nice old Indian couple who live up the road and that Spanish bloke in our local footy team. Damn the EU opening the floodgates, right up until we retire to the Algarve.

    We’re a nation of tedious hypocrites. And that means our politicians have felt they have to be seen to be doing the right thing, even if they’re not. That’s how you end up with the crass hilariousness of the “racist van” patrolling the streets while the Border Agency staggers from one crisis to another, ruining lives in the process, until the coalition finally put it out of its misery.

    At the time Theresa May said it was “secretive and defensive”. It was, but it was also unsure of itself, and like many government entities, it felt the safest option was to give contracts to the giant corporations, put the dirty jobs at arm’s length - how bad could it be? They know what they’re doing, right? Institutional failure. It’s an object lesson in how evil happens.

    Sorry for the indulgent trip down commentary lane: back to chasing cars now. If the weekend’s taught me anything, it’s that it’s the right thing to do.


    0 0

    Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen may be facing the biggest threat yet to his 28-year rule.

    Anti-government protests in Cambodia have left at least one protester dead, and have prompted talks between prime minister Hun Sen and his rival, Sam Rainsy. The protestors accuse Hun Sen of rigging July’s elections to secure his majority. Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest serving leaders, having been in power for 28 years, and the Human Rights Watch has accused him of unlawfully detaining or killing political opponents and activists.

    One of the side-effects of government censorship and the suppression of free speech is that it’s hard, for both government and outsiders, to understand the strength and extent of anti-government feeling. But when I visited Cambodia just a few weeks ago, I was struck by how candid Cambodians were about their political frustrations – particularly if they were speaking in a private place.

    “Everyone here wears Hun Sen t-shirts, but no one voted for him,” one charity worker in the small town of Pailin, near the border with Thailand, told me. Pailin’s political landscape is particularly fragmented as the town was the final stronghold of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime. Some of its inhabitants are ex-Khmer Rouge rebel fighters and political leaders, others grew up in refugee camps having fled internal fighting. But the Cambodia People's Party billboards featuring a smiling Hun Sen, which are placed at regular 100m intervals along every road in Pailin, provide no evidence of any diversity of opinion.

    On one farm I visited, the farm owner was especially keen to speak to a journalist. “Before the elections, all the election campaigners promised better salaries, but of course after the election nothing happens,” he said. “To become a leader of the country you shouldn’t just think about power, you need to think about the economy and the people.” He was frustrated that farmers' incomes were decreasing year on year, and angered by wealthy government officials who are taking advantage of the lack of formal property rights to seize farmland from local owners and develop large-scale plantations.

    I asked him if he was worried about criticising the government in front of a journalist, and he said he didn’t care. “I want to express myself. In Cambodian society, people don’t like to say anything, but staying silent is not the way to do it.”

    If political discontent is running as high as my recent visit to Cambodia suggests, Hun Sen may be facing one of the biggest threats to his political power for 28 years.

     

    UPDATE: The article was changed to correct mistakes. The original incorrectly referred to the Cambodian People's Party as the Cambodian Communist Party, Khmer Rouge was misspelled and Hun Sen is prime minister not president of Cambodia.
     


    0 0

    So now we're all on tenterhooks until 18th Sept.

    So now we're all on tenterhooks until 18th Sept., when we hear if the Federal Reserve has decided to reduce, (‘taper’), its monthly bond purchases. Traders, Treasurers, pension pot holders, emerging market Finance Ministers-this is what we’ve been waiting for since Bernanke first warned us in May/June it may be coming.
    However, this certainly will be no surprise-this is not 1994 with its surprise Fed hike and bond market rout. The Fed has done a fantastic job of delivering an unpopular message-the start of the end of cheap money-in a manner designed to cause the least possible market volatility, and maybe the still buoyant level of the S&P 500 is eloquent testimony to their success. The reasons for the S&P's resilience are important.
    Developed market countries' stock markets have retained their poise because US bonds yields have been going up for a good reason-and that is the return of growth and optimism, not just in the US, but also in Europe and China. The rise in 10-yr US Treasury yields from 1.4% to 3.0% is best described as a healthy normalisation, as it has been driven by a reduction in the all-pervading fear which has gripped the market since the Lehman bankruptcy, first, and then the emergence of the Eurozone crisis, once the depth of Greece's fiscal mess became clear.
    This basic human response to seek safe-haven has played an equally important part as that of QE in keeping yields subdued.
    Only in the last six months have we started to return to the 'normal' modus operandum, in which long term yields are the sum of compounded short rates and the risk premium, the latter being investors' judgement of future liquidity, credit, and fiscal and monetary policy uncertainty over the life of the bond.
    Paradoxically, desperate safe-haven flight far outweighed those factors for US Treasuries, and collapsed the risk premium. We have now returned to a normal state of affairs, with the Eurozone crisis also contained, as we all belatedly came to appreciate that political will would easily overcome any economic maladies.
    This has lead me to the scary conclusion that while the FOMC's pronouncements on 18th may prompt a temporary rally in US Treasuries, (especially as there is a 50 per cent probability that they will lower the employment threshold for rate rises from 6.5 per cent to 6 per cent), but that will be a great opportunity to sell bonds.
    This is a bond bear market-and companies like Verizon are very wise indeed to lock in cheap borrowing. Growth is on the rise worldwide, (even rather anaemically in Europe), and I'm afraid the Fed won't have any room for hesitation driven by concerns over the effect of tapering on emerging markets, as was made abundantly clear by a couple of senior Fed officials at the Jackson Hole conference. No wonder; the Fed-haters in the Senate would have a field day if the FOMC seemed to be managing other countries' economies for them. (Of course, those Senators give no thought for the potential negative feedback effects that an EM crisis could have on the US).
    Let's say the Fed doesn’t actually taper QE at all, that will send stock markets soaring and give business confidence another boost-quickly pushing yields higher anyway.


    0 0

    The Lib Dem leader could face defeat this afternoon after he argues against changing "one very specific symbolic tax rate" in opposition to the party president.

    Alongside this morning's debate on whether to support "Osbornomics", the Lib Dem conference will vote later today on whether to back the reintroduction of the 50p tax rate. While the main motion favours maintaining the current 45p rate, an amendment argues that the party should support the 50p rate, subject to a review concluding that the measure would raise more than it costs. Since the 50p rate, contrary to what some claim, raised £1bn in its first year (and would have raised more had George Osborne allowed it to operate for longer), the case for a Yes vote is a strong one. It would enable the Lib Dems to reclaim ownership of a policy they proposed long before Labour (abandoning it under Ming Campbell's leadership in 2006) and provide a powerful dividing line with the Conservatives.

    When I interviewed Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, for the New Statesman last week, he told me: "My view is that we should have that [the 50p rate] in our manifesto and while it raises an amount of money, it’s also a really important statement that we are all in it together." Polling by Liberal Democrat Voice has shown that 90% of party members support the principle of a 50p rate.

    But asked on the Today programme this morning whether he favoured the move, Clegg said: "To drive home the message of tax reform I think changing one very specific symbolic tax rate is not really the key part of the matter." He suggested, however, that he was relaxed about the prospect of defeat: "Of course if the party votes to take a decision, that’s one of the joys of the Liberal Democrats...we still retain this thing called democracy and I’m very proud of the fact that I’m, in a sense, just one voice among many and that this is decided democratically."

    In arguing for the retention of the 45p rate, Clegg will be aided by Vince Cable, who is due to speak in the debate, which begins at 3:30pm. With the party's pre-eminent economic voice publicly supporting the motion, many will be less inclined to vote for the 50p rate. But the weight of opinion in favour of it means that this could still be the moment that the grassroots choose to deliver a bloody nose to the leadership.


    0 0

    A growing fad.

    The barefoot running revolution has taken another stride across the Atlantic this week. Dr Mick Wilkinson, a barefoot runner himself and one of the first people to finish the Great North Run completely barefoot in 2011, told the attendees of the British Science Festival that he would advise anyone taking up running for the first time to run barefoot.

    This is welcome news for barefoot running fans as most of those who choose to run barefoot, or even in minimalist shoes, still turn heads in the park or on the track and could really use some good scientific evidence in support of the idea, instead of the same old poor arguments.

    Barefoot running has experienced a surge in popularity in the US over recent years thanks to a book called Born to Run and popularity is beginning to grow in the UK.

    This advice from Dr Wilkinson came with the sensible caution that people should build up slowly to barefoot running, perhaps moving first on to very lightweight flat-soled flexible footwear while their feet become used to the practise. A sudden switch to barefoot running can cause a difference of an inch in your normal footfall from regular footwear.

    The research carried out by Dr Wilkinson, a sport and exercise scientist at Northumbria University in Newcastle, found that while you need a gradual start you should begin barefoot running right on to a hard surface such as a running track, ignoring the instinct to sick to grassy softness.

    Dr Wilkinson went on to warn that parents should steer clear of expensive trainers, saying that old-fashioned flat soled plimsoll shoes are preferable as they teach children to run in a more natural manner on the middle part of the foot. Once children learnt to run in fat bottomed shoes it’s a difficult habit to break as adults have to be weaned off them slowly.

    The running shoe industry has grown substantially over the last few decades with companies spending vast amounts on researching ever more hi-tech trainers, but surprisingly levels of running injuries have not fallen.

    The belief among barefoot running advocates is that the heavily cushioned heels of regular trainers are detrimental to people’s feet as the shape of the shoe causes us to hit the ground heel first, in what has come to be known as "heel striking".

    The reputation of barefoot runners in the US is not always a pleasant one, with general opinion being that they act superior, lording it over runners who choose to wear traditional training shoes. Hopefully this is one characteristic that will not make it across the pond as the movement grows.

    While perhaps we will soon see the fall of the traditional inflated trainer, named as gaudy dinghies by Harry Mount in the Telegraph, don’t expect this change to happen over night (or even within the next generation).

    The only realistic solution is that parents and schools recognise the benefits of unheeled sports shoes. If children are started on them early then perhaps they will be able to avoid developing the bad shoe habits that we as a society have sadly stepped into over the last century.


older | 1 | .... | 486 | 487 | (Page 488) | 489 | 490 | .... | 559 | newer