All posts tagged: World news

Retirees returning to Jamaica face extreme murder risk, say police

Returnees warned they are seen as soft targets following multiple killings of UK expats

Jamaican expats who retire there after decades in the UK face an extreme risk of murder, a former police chief on the Caribbean island has said, as official figures revealed that at least 85 Britons, Americans and Canadians have been killed in the country since 2012.

Senior police figures told the Guardian that returning residents were seen as soft targets by criminals and needed much more protection following the murders of three British retirees on the island in as many months.

Gayle and Charlie Anderson, aged 71 and 74, had only recently retired to Jamaica when they were fatally stabbed and their bodies burned following a firebomb attack at their dream home in Mount Pleasant, in the islands Portland parish, last Saturday.

The double murder followed the killing in April of 63-year-old Birmingham charity worker, Delroy Walker, incidents that have put renewed focus on the disturbing pattern of elderly returnees being violently targeted by Jamaican criminals.

Percival Latouche, the president of the Jamaica association for the resettlement of returning residents, said he had counted more than 200 British, American and Canadian expats murdered in the country since 2000 and had attended 165 funerals in that time.

It is not known how many of the Britons murdered were of the Windrush generation but a large proportion of those targeted were pensioners, like Charlie Anderson, who left Jamaica as a child and returned to the Caribbean to retire after decades working in the UK.

Gayle and Charlie Anderson had recently retired to Jamaica when they were fatally stabbed at their dream home in Jamaica. Photograph: FCO/PA

Mark Shields, Jamaicas former deputy commissioner of police, said returnees were seen as easy pickings by criminals, who see them as wealthy and naive to the countrys security risks. Ive always considered them to be an extreme risk, he said, adding that police chiefs had previously under-appreciated the scale of the crime but that it was becoming a major issue. Theres a significant risk to returning residents for robbery, fraud and the ultimate crime of murder, he said.

Shields, who now runs his own security firm in Jamaica, advised Jamaican expats to think very carefully about immersing themselves in local Jamaican culture in a rural community when they havent been back that much.

Some gangs are known to wait until retirees pensions land before striking, while others tail them in rental cars from Kingston or Montego Bay airports and rob them once they reach their destination. Undercover police officers patrol the two airports on the hunt for corrupt baggage handlers or taxi drivers, who have been known to tip off gangs about new arrivals returning to live in Jamaica.

One such gang was led by a police officer and convicted several years ago of 20 robberies, all involving returning residents, although it was suspected of having committed many more crimes over the course of a decade, said Cornwall Bigga Ford, a former senior superintendent who caught the group before he retired in 2015. Once returning residents come back they need support. They need good support, Ford said. They work so hard, buy these nice houses all over the place and some of the places are remote. They need security, they need to put up alarms, cameras and have dogs.

Both the Andersons and Delroy Walker are believed to have been exploited financially before their murders. Detectives told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that the Andersons, from Gorton in Manchester, were victims of a 50,000 credit card fraud which they reported to police before they were killed. One suspect has so far been arrested by police.

Steve Walker, a television technical operator from the Midlands, said his brother was murdered following a dispute about money with a painter who was decorating his retirement home near Tower Isle, on Jamaicas north coast. Delroy Walker died on 19 April after suffering multiple stab wounds. The painter and at least one accomplice have been charged over the murder.

If youre from Britain, the US or Canada, youre seen as having money, Walker told the Guardian. My brother might have agreed one price but they think you can surely afford another – thats what caused the grievance. People need to be aware of their security but there definitely should be a lot more communication with people who are thinking of returning.

Jamaica experiences twice as many murders in an average year than Britain, even though the UK has a population 20 times higher. Last year the country recorded 1,616 murders, the highest in six years and equivalent to 31 a week, as the homicide rate rocketed by 20% in just 12 months. So far in 2018 there have been more than 600 killings, mainly linked to gang activity, yet only 44% of homicides result in arrests.

At least 85 British, American and Canadian nationals have been murdered in Jamaica since 2012, a Guardian analysis of government data has found. Of those, at least 30 were British and eight were murdered in 2017, the highest annual murder toll of Britons on the island in at least five years.

There are thought to be around 30,000 returned residents in Jamaica although the number coming back each year has dropped substantially since the 1990s, a trend that has heightened concerns about the countrys troubled economy. The newly-appointed police commissioner, major general Antony Anderson, has suggested he will make the issue a top priority.

The commissioner knows the optics, he knows reputation, he knows how this can reduce footfall in Jamaica and reduce GDP, said Leroy Logan, a former Scotland Yard superintendent who met Anderson earlier this month and who runs the Jamaica diaspora crime intervention and prevention taskforce in the UK. There needs to be specific protections for returnees from the Jamaica constabulary force, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development while theyre in the UK and once they arrive. I dont think theyre doing a sufficient risk assessment in preparation for their return.

Latouche, a 77-year-old former London gas station operator who now runs the islands biggest returning residents group, said his warnings about the pattern had for years fallen on deaf ears. He met the Andersons four years ago in Manchester and was devastated by news of their murder. This country is anarchic, theres no law here, he said. Its going to have a devastating impact on the economy.

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Killing dogs for meat ruled illegal by South Korean court

Landmark decision against dog farm could pave way for eating of canines to be outlawed

A South Korean court has ruled the killing of dogs for meat is illegal, in a landmark decision that animal rights activists have said could pave the way to outlawing the eating of canines.

The meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine, with about 1 million dogs believed to be eaten annually, but consumption has declined and the practice is now something of a taboo among younger generations amid increased pressure from activists.

A ruling from the city court in Bucheon on Thursday, in a case brought by the animal rights group Care against a dog farm operator, said meat consumption was not a legal reason to kill dogs.

The group accused the man, who was convicted and fined 3m won (2,050), of killing animals without proper reasons and violating building and hygiene regulations.

It is very significant in that it is the first court decision that killing dogs for dog meat is illegal itself, said Kim Kyung-eun, a lawyer for Care.

The precedent paved the way for outlawing dog meat consumption entirely, she added.

Dog meat consumption is a grey area in South Korean law. Despite no specific ban, authorities have invoked hygiene regulations or animal protection laws that ban cruel slaughter methods to crack down on dog farms and restaurants ahead of international events such as the Pyeongchang Olympics.

A lawmaker from the ruling Democratic party introduced a bill in parliament this week that would effectively ban killing dogs for meat. There are about 17,000 dog farms in South Korea, and operators have called for the government to bring in laws explicitly to legalise dog meat consumption and license dog slaughter houses.

A survey last year found that 70% of South Koreans do not eat dog meat, but only about 40% believe the practice should be banned.

Care said it would track down dog farms and slaughter houses across the country with a view to filing similar complaints against them to judicial authorities. The dog meat industry will take greater heat because of the court ruling, said its leader, Park So-youn.

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Guatemala volcano: rescuers battle boiling ash to recover Fuego’s dead

In San Miguel Los Lotes close to Guatemalas most active volcano, firefighters are working hard, but hope is slim

A rescue crew emerges from an immense cloud of fine grey dust carrying two stretchers that hold bodies recovered from houses engulfed by blistering lava from the nearby erupting Fuego volcano.

The recovered bodies are tightly wrapped in dusty white sheets. One barely fills half the stretcher a young victim of the most deadly volcanic eruption to hit Guatemala in decades.

The official death toll from the Fuego disaster is 69 but the final number is likely to be far higher, with scores of people missing from dozens of communities cut off by the devastation.

It is terrible up there

In the rural community of San Miguel Los Lotes, a group of municipal firefighters pulled out out 15 bodies on Monday morning, including four children and their pregnant mother who didnt have time to escape the powerful pyroclastic flows fast-moving mixtures of gas and volcanic matter discharged by the exploding volcano.

Another rescue team recovered 14 people, including several children, and reported encountering eight- to 10-metre high mounds of volcanic ash. The most common cause of death was asphyxia, followed by burns.

The houses became ovens, and the village a crematorium. There are no survivors, says volunteer firefighter Francisco Flores.

The ash-covered landscape in the aftermath of the eruption of Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala. Photograph: Juan Diego Alvarez

There is so much ash its like a massive beach but with trees and rocks thrown in, its terrible up there, adds Flores while taking a break to eat a sandwich and close his eyes for a few minutes by the side of the road.

Even the maize crops and vegetation bordering the snaking highway are covered in a dense layer of the grey ash that has turned the lush landscape into something that resembles a post-apocalyptic scene from a science fiction film.

Beside Flores rests Angel Solis, another volunteer, who is comforting a terrified puppy the crew found hiding under a bed in a house where the rest of the family were killed. On Monday, rescue workers tenderly carried out to safety several injured dogs, a pig, ducks and chickens, but no humans.

This entire hillside community has been devastated by Sundays eruption which took place without warning just before midday. The toxic mix of lava, ash and gas engulfed entire houses inside which dozens and dozens of people are feared to have been trapped as they prepared to eat lunch.

Those who managed to escape have sought refuge in makeshift shelters set-up in churches and schools in the nearby town of Escuintla.

People carry the coffins of seven people who died during the eruption of the Volcan de Fuego. Photograph: Luis Soto/AP

Shall I go to the morgue?

Isabel Pineda, 25, spent all morning going from shelter to shelter looking for her younger sister who lived in a small house on the main road into San Miguel. But she could not find Patricia Pineda, 21, a business administration student, and her phone is switched off. No one has heard from her since the volcano erupted.

From the cordon, Pineda points out where the house was, but in its place is nothing but clouds of grey dust. Beyond the dust, the road is ruined and inaccessible. No one is coming out of there alive, they should check in the morgue, says one rescue worker in a hushed tone.

Fuego which means fire in Spanish is located less than 50km west of the capital Guatemala City and is one of the most active volcanos in Central America. Sundays eruption was the second so far this year.

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People flee as black cloud of volcanic ash towers above them in Guatemala – video

The build-up of energy inside the volcano generated an explosion that resulted in a second, lower crater forming alongside the spewing Fuego basin. The torrent of molten lava stretched at least five miles long crushing bridges, roads and buildings in its path. The lava reached record temperatures of about 700C.

Employing a mix of heavy machinery, shovels and picks, the rescue workers have cleared narrow paths in order to try and safely access houses, but 24 hours after the initial eruption a hundred or so homes in this village alone remain blanketed in volcanic matter and too dangerous to enter.

Every time we lift off a metal roof a huge gush of steam rises out of the building, rescue worker Juan Diego Alvarez tells the Guardian. The ash is just too hot for us to work. Nearby lie several pairs of abandoned burnt boots, melted by the boiling ash.

The rescue efforts have been hampered by further eruptions, poor visibility, rain and the unbearable heat trapped within the volcanic ash. The fate of dozens of smaller settlements constructed on higher plots around the volcano remains unknown as the conditions are too dangerous for rescuers to attempt to get close.

Image of an ash-covered town in the aftermath of the eruption of the Fuego volcano Photograph: Juan Diego Alvarez

Authorities fear that heavy rains expected later this week could turn tonnes of ash into rivers of mud strong enough to hurl bodies and debris down the foothills.

Meanwhile the morgues are filling up.

Juan Ortiz, 60, cycles towards the cordon where hundreds of soldiers, police officers, firefighters and volunteers are waiting for conditions to improve so they can resume the search for victims. His 28-year-old son is missing. Earlier, Ortiz snuck through security to reach his sons house. Its completely covered in grey sand, the whole house, do you think the authorities will find him or shall I go to the morgue?

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Mountain bikers in fatal cougar attack did everything right, authorities say

Surviving cyclist in satisfactory condition in hospital as official says bikers tried to scare the mountain lion and then hit it

A mountain biker who was killed by a cougar near Seattle and his friend who escaped after the animal attacked him did everything right, authorities have said.

The two men were riding on a trail in the Cascade Mountain foothills on Saturday when the mountain lion began following them. Authorities said they did everything state guidelines advise: getting off their bikes, making noise and trying to scare the animal away. One even smacked it with his bike, after it charged.

The cougar ran off but returned and attacked when the men got back on their bikes. It bit one the survivor on the head and shook him. The second cyclist ran and the animal dropped the first victim and pounced, killing its victim and dragging him back to what appeared to be its den, Sgt Ryan Abbott of King county sheriffs department said.

They did everything they were supposed to do, Abbott said on Sunday. But something was wrong with this cougar.

The survivor was still in hospital on Sunday. A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman, Susan Gregg, said the 31-year-old man was in satisfactory condition.

Authorities would not confirm the names of the cyclists until the man who died, a 32-year-old Seattle resident, was formally identified. That was expected on Monday.

The attack near North Bend, 30 miles east of Seattle, was the first fatal cougar attack in Washington state in 94 years. The first man managed to get on his bike and ride off, looking back to see his friend being dragged into the trees, Abbott said. The cyclist rode for two miles before he could get a cellphone signal to call 911.

When rescuers arrived, it took about half an hour to find the second victim, who was dead with the cougar on top of him in what appeared to be a den-like area. An officer shot at the animal, which ran off. Several hours later, state fish and wildlife agents used dogs to track the cougar to a nearby tree. They shot and killed it.

Authorities planned to match DNA taken from the animal with DNA from the victims to be certain they killed the right cougar. They also plan to examine the cougar to see what might have been wrong with it.

There are an estimated 2,000 cougars in Washington. Until the 1960s, the state paid hunters a bounty for killing them. Now it allows 250 to be hunted in 50 designated zones. While they are sometimes known to kill livestock or pets, and though one even found its way into a park in Seattle in 2009, encounters with people are rare.

Attacks have become more common, though, as people encroach on the animals territory. In North America, there have been about 25 deadly attacks and 95 non-fatal attacks reported in the past century, but more attacks have been reported in the US west and Canada over the past 20 years than in the previous 80.

Experts say people encountering the big cats in the wild should stop and pick up small children immediately. Because running and rapid movements can trigger the animals prey drive, people should not run. Instead they should face the cougar, speak firmly and slowly back away, appearing as large as possible by standing on a rock or stump or opening a sweatshirt or jacket.

People should also become more assertive if the cougar does not back off. If it does attack, people should fight back.

The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey but a potential danger, Washington state fish and wildlife advises on its website.

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How the resurgence of white supremacy in the US sparked a war over free speech

The long read: With neo-Nazis marching in American cities, the national faith in absolute free expression is breaking down even inside the organisation sworn to defend it, the ACLU

Late last summer, the American Civil Liberties Union faced a mounting crisis over its most celebrated cause, which many consider the lifeblood of democracy: freedom of speech. For nearly a century, the ACLU has been the standard-bearer of civil liberties in the US, second only to the government in shaping Americans basic rights. Although the organisation has been at the vanguard of many of the countrys most hard-fought legal battles desegregation, reproductive rights, gay marriage the argument among its staff last summer, over whether to continue representing white supremacists in free-speech cases, was more intense than anything the organisation had seen before.

After Donald Trump was elected, the ACLU had positioned itself as a leader of what it calls the resistance, suing the administration over voting restrictions, illegal detentions, and the Muslim travel ban. It recruited celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali and Tina Fey to raise money and reassure worried Americans. The ACLU has had your back for almost a hundred years, one ad declared. We got this. In the nine months after the election, the organisations paying membership quadrupled to more than 1.5 million people, and it received more than $80m in donations.

Then, on 10 August, the organisations Virginia chapter sued to prevent the city of Charlottesville from relocating a white-nationalist rally to a safer location outside the city centre. The ACLU claimed the move would violate the organisers constitutional rights to freedom of speech and public assembly. Two days later, when a white supremacist injured 19 people and killed the anti-racist protester Heather Heyer in a car attack during the rally, many people, including Virginias governor, blamed the ACLU. One response in particular became a symbol of the larger backlash: I cant facilitate Nazis murdering people, an ACLU of Virginia board member declared, in a series of viral tweets announcing his resignation.

Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has helped make the US home to arguably the most freewheeling, unregulated public discourse in the world. And it has done this partly by defending, in the courts of law and public opinion, the speech rights of racists and fascists. The ACLU asserts that laws guaranteeing freedom of speech must embrace everybody (think the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis) if theyre going to protect anybody (think organised labour, anti-war protesters and Black Lives Matter). The same laws or regulations used to silence bigots can be used to silence you, its website explains.

Over the course of the 20th century, the ACLU largely won the country over to its vision, making freedom of speech one of the most widely accepted principles in US political life. A 2015 report from Pew Research Center found that Americans are more supportive of free expression than any other people in the world. By some measures, theres more accord in the US about protecting speech than about protecting the air we breathe.

But the rise of the far right has given new weight to longstanding questions about the wisdom of the ACLUs approach to free speech and, by extension, Americas. Critics say the ACLUs insistence on defending some extremist speech impedes the long fight for civil rights, hobbling the pursuit of social and political equality. The legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron told me that the US has polluted its civic environment with the slow-acting poison of hate. One Yale law scholar has even recently wondered if free speech could wreck the American experiment.

In the face of its critics, the ACLU which employs about 1,800 staff, spread between its national office and 53 semi-autonomous affiliate offices across the country has always soldiered on with its support for the right to say even the most appalling things. But Charlottesville was different. Inside the ACLU, the violence propelled the fiercest debate over racial justice and free speech that the organisation has ever experienced. By the end of August, hundreds of its own staff had signed a letter to the national executive director, Anthony Romero, claiming that the organisations mission of advancing justice and civil liberties was being undermined by our rigid stance on defending white supremacists.

According to a staff member who dissents from the organisations traditional position, the debate represents a tipping-point moment for the ACLU. Staff of colour have been feeling a lot of things, an ACLU lawyer in California told me last year. Im working at this organisation that is protecting groups that believe that I shouldnt exist, that question the very existence of people of my race. What does that mean personally, and what does that mean for the organisation as a whole, and its own structural racism?

For many supporters, however, the debate constituted something of a mutiny against the soul of the organisation. On the same day that the staff letter to Romero began circulating, nine senior members of the organisation wrote to the board condemning the possibility that the ACLU might reverse its historic role in defending freedom of speech. Every major news outlet in the US reported on the conflict. Journalists from the left and right who cover the free-speech beat, including Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept and Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic, argued that curtailing white-supremacist speech would ultimately harm liberal causes. (Greenwald described the attacks on the ACLUs position as warped and indescribably misguided.) In an email to staff, Romero acknowledged that many members and allies of the organisation feared its internal debate means that our principles and our legacy are now in jeopardy.

The fact that these debates have divided even the staff of the ACLU is a sign of how acute they have become in the country at large. A long-time consensus has been breaking down, the legal historian Laura Weinrib, who has written an important new history of free speech in 20th-century America, told me. One study suggests that many liberals have become increasingly intolerant of racist speech. Several other studies show that support for free speech is weakening, especially among millennials. I think this generation perhaps doesnt fully apprehend just how hard fought-for the right to freedom of speech was, Romero told me recently. Partly as a result of these trends, free-speech defenders of all political stripes believe that the principle is under greater threat than it has been for generations. We confront a real crisis now about the future of free speech in this country, Wendy Kaminer, a former member of the ACLUs national board, told me.

Last fall, the ACLUs president, Susan Herman, told the organisations national leadership conference: We need to consider whether some of our timeworn maxims the antidote to bad speech is more speech, the marketplace of ideas will result in the best arguments winning out still ring true in an era when white supremacists have a friend in the White House. She later added: If we at the ACLU cannot figure out how to bridge our different experiences, and work together and do the critical work we need to do, what hope is there for the rest of the country?

In the US, free speech has long been akin to American football a cherished contact sport. As the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr once suggested, even your uncle, submerged in his La-Z-Boy armchair, thinks he knows everything there is to know about it. Arguments over who can say what seem to be breaking out all over the US these days. Can black athletes kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice without being fined or losing their jobs? Is it an unacceptable form of censorship to no-platform ones political opponents, or to boycott companies that advertise on their television shows and websites? Should corporations be free to spend mind-boggling sums of money to flood the media with campaign spots for their pet political candidates?

Charlottesville inflamed two of the most urgent free-speech questions in the US. Should the law tolerate extreme forms of hate speech, which seek to deny people human dignity on the basis of characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation or religion? And who in the US given its legacies of oppression and its growing inequality is really free to speak?

Americans are often suspicious of attempts to re-evaluate beliefs about free speech, as if any doubt is a chink in the ramparts of freedom into which the crowbar of totalitarianism will be forced. But the fact that many lawyers and activists who have dedicated their lives to civil liberties and civil rights are reconsidering these beliefs might give pause to those who wish to dismiss such ideas out of hand. If these questions could change even the ACLU, they might also change the nation.

The debate unfolding across the US seems to stem, in part, from a growing conviction on the left that free speech, as we have been taught to imagine and mythologise it, does not in fact exist.As children, Americans learn that free speech is fundamentally egalitarian a level playing field on which all ideas may be heard and strenuously contested.And, on the face of it, public discourse in the US is almost completely no-holds-barred. Private organisations, such as social media platforms, can largely set their own rules on speech, but the government and public institutions are not, in theory, permitted to muzzle people, no matter what they are saying.

White supremacists march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Though many countries enacted hate-speech laws in the decades after the second world war, the US did not. The rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals with placards that say God Hates Fags and Pray for More Dead Soldiers have been upheld. In many cases, it is legal to advocate violence to achieve your political ends. The concept of free speech has been stretched so far that it now welcomes under its tent the corporate financing of political campaigns, as well as fetish videos of small animals being crushed to death under stiletto heels. Alongside this expansive legal position, a cultural norm has developed that pretty much any viewpoint has a moral right to be aired.

But critics insist that what really counts is the power to be heard. And for many Americans, that often proves to be difficult, dangerous or incredibly expensive. Speech is a luxury of class, K-Sue Park, a legal scholar at UCLA, told me. And of course class is completely racialised in this country. If you want an idea of how unequal free speech can be in the US, compare the passive policing in Charlottesville where armed white supremacists were able to beat and even shoot at counter-protesters to the teargas, police dogs and rubber bullets deployed against black protesters in Ferguson in 2014, where residents were demonstrating against the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

One important part of the free-speech consensus that now appears to be breaking down is the belief that the KKK and other white supremacist organisations are operating within the bounds of acceptable political discourse rather than as, say, terrorist organisations and therefore have a moral right to be heard. The mantle of free speech in the contemporary political context has somehow been claimed by the white supremacists, Ahilan Arulanantham, the legal director and director of advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California, told me. To Weinrib, the historian, the conflict surrounding the ACLU is largely about the extent to which defending these groups is perceived to legitimate their ideas.

To critics of the ACLUs approach, there is something hopelessly naive about deploring the views of white supremacists while celebrating their right to express themselves freely, and thereby influence the political debate. Defenders of the USs free-speech status quo often paint its detractors as snowflakes whose primary objection is that hateful speech hurts peoples feelings. But to thinkers such as the literary theorist Stanley Fish who once wrote a book titled Theres No Such Thing as Free Speech And Its a Good Thing Too the promotion of white supremacists rights represents a failure of political realism. The only way to fight hate speech or racist speech is to recognise it as the speech of your enemy, Fish told an interviewer in 1998, and what you do in response to the speech of your enemy is attempt to stamp it out.

There are strong arguments for far-reaching free speech rights, but a number of fictions have also helped to preserve the American orthodoxy. One is that free speech as we know it today was born fully formed in 1791, with the first amendment to the US constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (I copied those 45 words out of a handy edition of the constitution, published by the ACLU, which fits snugly in the back pocket of my jeans.)

The problem with the way people talk about the first amendment now is that they think its an abstract, timeless principle, Park said. No serious legal scholar believes that. For much of American history, free speech remained largely theoretical unless you were a property-owning white man. Liberty was not a licence to rise above ones station. For over a century after the first amendment was ratified, Weinrib writes in a forthcoming paper, public officials regularly suppressed speech they regarded as threatening, blasphemous, antisocial, and even uncivil, and the judiciary rarely intervened.

It was the ACLU that helped to move freedom of speech off the faded parchment of the Bill of Rights and into American life through public advocacy, legal briefs and the representation of silenced citizens in lawsuits against the government. For the core group of ACLU founders, however, free speech began as a means to an end, not a solemn credo. The organisation was established by a small cadre of Ivy League-educated activists and lawyers with radical sympathies who wanted to advance the cause of workers. In order to promote the interests of the downtrodden in a relatively conservative society, they presented the ACLU as an unbiased advocate for the rights of folks across the political spectrum.

In doing so, Weinrib writes, they invoked and even pioneered the now-standard defences of free speech: that open debate advances democratic legitimacy, encourages political participation, and produces better policy outcomes. As one ACLU affiliate staff attorney recently told me, they were so good at this argument for free speech that they fooled themselves, and now fully believe that it wasnt tactical, it was moral.

From the beginning, the ACLUs hardline position fuelled controversies similar to the ones raging today. Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU, told me that free speech is under perpetual siege. For years after its release, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) clashed with the ACLU over the film The Birth of a Nation, which valorised the founding of the Ku Klux Klan a half-century earlier, sparking the Klans re-emergence as a lynch mob and political force. In the 1940s, labour advocates claimed that the ACLU had forgotten about the material conditions that preceded free speech bread and water roots in the community respite from fear, as one put it. In the 1970s, the ACLU alienated much of its membership, and a good portion of the country, when it defended the right of a group of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, a Jewish community where thousands of Holocaust survivors lived. Even so, David Goldberger, who represented the neo-Nazis as a young ACLU lawyer, told me the staff in the late 1970s was solid to the core on its first-amendment position. (Consensus may have been easier then, when the ACLU was a much smaller organisation.)

But by the early 1990s, new doubts were being raised about whether all speech should be free. Its naive to say the solution to racist speech is just more speech, one member of the ACLUs executive committee told USA Today. Over the previous decade, there had been an increasing focus on the unfulfilled promise of the US constitutions 14th amendment, ratified after the end of the civil war, which was supposed to have made all Americans equal before the law. Fresh debates broke out on the left about how unbridled expression, from ethnic slurs to pornography, might perpetuate racial and gender inequality. Summarising the critique in 1993, Henry Louis Gates Jr, himself a supporter of expansive free-speech rights, wrote: Liberalisms core principle of formal equity seems to have led us so far, but no farther. That same year, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein found that the country was in the midst of a dramatic period of new thought about the meaning of free speech in America, and raised doubts about the extent to which the first amendment was serving American democracy.

To some observers, what appears to have happened since then is that large swathes of the left and the right have switched positions on freedom of speech. Many liberals, concerned about the threats that certain kinds of expression especially hate speech and campaign financing by corporations pose to human dignity and democratic participation, came to endorse some limitations on speech. By doing so, they occupied the position that moral conservatives had once held, albeit for different ideological reasons. The Catholic critic William Donohue once said that the ACLU was so intoxicated with the idea of individual rights that it was destroying the moral foundation of American society. Today, some on the left agree. Theres a fetishisation of first-amendment absolutism within the ACLU, says Olga Tomchin, a civil rights attorney who resigned in protest from the ACLU of Northern California board in September.

Meanwhile, conservatives, who had once sought to silence communists and anti-war activists, realised that first-amendment-based protections for corporations could strengthen the hand of business. They also learned to use the rhetoric of free speech to push back against what they saw as an increasingly powerful liberal establishment ruling over universities and the media. Yet despite portraying themselves as staunch defenders of free speech, many Republicans have also campaigned for legislation that tends to restrict the political expression of poorer Americans and people of colour, such as onerous voter registration and ID laws.

With Trump in the White House and racist violence permeating the culture from Ferguson to Charlottesville, debates over who has the power to speak have taken on an even greater urgency. We havent seen, in the last 50 years, such alignment between white supremacist organisations and the government of the US, said Vince Warren, a former senior staff attorney at the ACLU, who is now executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal advocacy organisation that does not represent white supremacists. That alignment requires us all to have a new strategy with respect to what level of tolerance were going to have with white supremacist ideas.

Were now battling the original sin of this country, which is slavery and the subjugation of people of colour, Warren continued. Its a battle for the soul of America.

After Charlottesville, the ACLU struggled to navigate the faultlines of identity, speech and power that have divided the country. A number of emotional and often angry conference calls were held between hundreds of staff across the country, and there was a flurry of internal communications arguing over the ACLUs position. The whole organisation is trying to grapple with this question, an ACLU organiser told me, and were not doing a great job of it. The dissenting staff member said the leadership was just thinking everything was going to blow over, and not fully realising yet the gravity of what had happened. Anthony Romero, reflecting on the period recently, told me he was focused on managing the public fallout. I was reliving the Skokie moment, when members of the organisation abandoned it en masse, he said. What I hadnt fully apprehended was what kind of existential question this would raise for some members of the staff.

In late August, the ACLU tweeted a picture of a blond toddler in a onesie with FREE SPEECH printed across the chest, waving an American flag. The caption read: This is the future that ACLU members want. To some observers, in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville, it evoked the white-power slogan known as the 14 Words: We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children. As the tweet began to attract criticism, Romeros communication staff called him. Were looking like [were saying] that the future of America is a white baby, Romero recalled being told. Im like well, tweet a picture of a brown baby screaming! You know, tweet a picture of an Asian baby screaming!

Around this time, an open letter from staff to the national leadership began circulating, which was signed by roughly 400 people more than a quarter of the organisation at the time. The letter stressed the staffs commitment to racial justice and free speech, but demanded a reconsideration of the ACLUs approach to representing white supremacists. We believe white supremacy presents a grave threat to the full enjoyment of other constitutional rights, such as equality before the law, the letter said, and indeed to the lives of many people of colour. In many cases, it added, the ACLUs representation of white supremacists furthers their aims.

The ACLU marching in the 2017 Pride March, New York City. Photograph: Taylor Hill/WireImage

The flare-up after Charlottesville was by no means the first such disagreement among ACLU staff. In 2008, shortly after the election, some objected when the organisation spoke out for the speech rights of four students who spray-painted Hang Obama by a Noose and Lets shoot that nigger in the head at North Carolina State university. A more recent source of tension has been over the ACLUs defence of the Washington Redskins football teams right to retain its name, which many staff members consider so offensive they refuse to utter it. Theres a lot of discontent, especially among staff of colour, across the country, an ACLU lawyer in California told me.

Over the past two decades, the ACLU has expanded significantly, hiring younger and more diverse staff. By doing that, they have ushered in a different way of thinking about the work, Vince Warren, who was a senior staff attorney at the ACLU from 1999 to 2006, told me. The national office employs roughly 400 people, 40% of whom are people of colour. Were moving toward an honest examination of the limits of the first amendment and its place in the uneven structure of our society, the ACLU lawyer in California said.

On 22 August, Romero wrote to staff to express his hope that the internal conversation about representing white supremacists could be had without the glare of outside media. But in public, the ACLU leadership vigorously reaffirmed the organisations traditional approach. Central to the ACLUs defence of expansive free speech is an argument often known as the marketplace of ideas, which holds that the best way to combat ones political enemies is out in the open. The more speech there is, the argument goes, the easier it will be for the best ideas to gain acceptance, and for the worst ideas to be consigned to the proverbial rubbish heap.

This argument is ubiquitous, and beloved of many free-speech defenders, but it rests on uncertain foundations. What is the actual ground for believing that the best ideas will prevail? asked K-Sue Park, the UCLA legal scholar. Last summer, Park argued in the New York Times that the ACLU should expand its approach to free speech beyond the first amendment and consider the many ways speech is suppressed in America. As in any marketplace, the marketplace of ideas is shaped by power imbalances such as racial and financial inequality and ignoring them is not the best way to ensure that the best ideas prevail, Park said. The analogy to the market is even ridiculed by some within the ACLU. As the affiliate attorney put it, Im a fucking lawyer. Ive had people explain to me the marketplace of ideas, that more speech is the answer to bad speech, etcetera. I mean its painful, its literally painful. There are far more sophisticated ways to think about these things.

A second argument that the ACLU made in its public statements after Charlottesville is that government cant be trusted to regulate speech. If we were to authorise government officials to suppress speech they find contrary to American values, it would be Donald Trump and his allies in state and local governments who would use that power, David Cole, the national legal director of the ACLU, wrote. Even if other bodies, such as the judiciary and civil society, were involved in deciding what speech is protected or suppressed, Cole argued that it would still be virtually impossible to articulate a standard that would allow us to suppress all the bad speech and none of the good, however we construe that. If the record of campus speech policies and European hate-speech laws are any indication, he may be right. In one troubling recent case in France, highlighted by Glenn Greenwald, 12 activists were convicted of violating hate-speech laws for wearing T-shirts that read Long live Palestine, boycott Israel.

But the question, as Henry Louis Gates Jr once pointed out, has always been where, not if, to draw the line. We have long penalised certain kinds of expression, such as genuine threats and defamation, and it would be very difficult to imagine society operating without some such limits, however imperfect they may be. There is a tendency on the part of some first-amendment absolutists to imagine free speech not as part of a complex system of competing values, but as a binary state of purity or pollution as if political speech in general is poisoned as soon as legal antidotes are created for any kind of speech whatsoever. As Waldron, the legal philosopher, once put it: Its as though one betrays free speech by even raising the issue.

There is a famous quote often misattributed to Voltaire and trotted out in many defences of free speech: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. In some peoples eyes, that is exactly what the ACLU, and the US, is doing: suicidally defending the speech of racists and fascists. We risk obsolescence, because Americans rights are defined by their level of privilege often their level of racial privilege, the dissenting staff member said. And if we cant take that into account in our work, what is our role in America other than propping up the institutional and structural racism that already exists?

While many commentators focus on whether we should change speech laws, almost all the people I spoke to stressed that the debate at the ACLU is about racial justice and free speech more broadly. For some, the abstract discussion of first-amendment principles can itself seem like a tactic to shift the conversation away from pervasive injustice. The New Yorker writer and Columbia professor Jelani Cobb calls this the free-speech diversion. The default for avoiding discussion of racism is to invoke a separate principle, one with which few would disagree in the abstract, Cobb wrote in 2015, as the counterpoint to the violation of principles relating to civil rights.

If the ACLU really cared about racial justice, some critics say, it should continue defending free speech but stop privileging the rights of white supremacists. Fascists seemingly get to skip the line when it comes to who the ACLU represents, the former ACLU affiliate board member Olga Tomchin said a criticism I also heard from several staff members. In turn, this harms the ACLUs relationship with the marginalised communities it is also working to support and defend. The ACLU can have a proactive first-amendment stance without giving free legal services to Nazis, the affiliate staff attorney told me. We can still let them riot at this park, but were not going to let them jump the list of literally hundreds of requests for representation.

And if the ACLU really cared about freedom of speech, critics of its traditional approach add, it should focus more on the forms of oppression that prevent people from having a voice in US society, such as the fact that 3 million formerly incarcerated Americans remain stripped of the right to vote even after serving their sentences. If the ACLU wants to say that its invested in the first amendment and not freedom of expression in the wider world, thats one thing, K-Sue Park said. But it cant claim to be a defender of free expression if its only concerned with defending the first amendment.

Thats absurd, Romero said, when I asked him about the impression among some staff that the ACLU puts more into representing white supremacists than defending people of colour. And its just not borne out by the facts. A spokesperson for the ACLU said that, nationwide, the organisation dedicates more time and resources to fighting mass incarceration than any other issue. Other priorities include immigration, LGBT rights, national security issues and voting rights. It has filed at least 150 legal actions against the Trump administration.

When I asked Romero what accounts for the misapprehension that the ACLU spends so much of its time defending white-supremacist speech, he said: Its an important issue for the country and for the organisation. But it gets an outsized amount of attention. He cited an example from Columbus, Ohio, where the ACLU has a lawsuit pending against the police department for pepper-spraying peaceful anti-Trump protesters. Theyre pro-immigrant, theyre anti-Trump, they get pepper-sprayed no ones writing anything about that case, right?

A memorial to activist Heather Heyer and those affected by the violence in Charlottesville, August 2017. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

One difficulty the ACLU faces, Romero said, is that other organisations do not have a mandate to defend free speech and advance racial justice and pursuing both ideals at the same time can be exceptionally challenging. You know, it would be much easier if I went to go run the NAACP or the Puerto Rican Legal Defence Fund which is the one I could be possibly qualified for, because Im not black but Im Puerto Rican, right. It would be very easy to say we dont defend the white supremacists, he said. What makes it really, really hard, he added, and really exceptional and really fantastic, is the fact that we do both, and that we have done both from the inception.

Is structural racism a problem in America? Yes, Romero went on. Is the ACLU immune from unconscious bias and prejudice among its workforce and volunteers? No. But he pointed to several efforts to address the issue, such as the organisations ongoing, successful push to diversify its staff, including at the most senior levels. Any other organisation that goes through an internal staff kerfuffle like the one we saw last August wouldnt lean in in the same way that we have, Romero said.

Despite this, there is a sense within the ACLU that young people and people of colour need more of a voice, said Ellen Yaroshefsky, a distinguished professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University and a board member of the ACLUs New York affiliate. After Charlottesville, the dissenting staff member told me, Our leadership made it clear that theyd prefer to only have one side of the story out there. Other staff members described an ironic chill on the speech of the ACLUs own employees. Theres a deep understanding among staff across the country that you cant individually speak about these things, the affiliate staff attorney told me. If the ACLU leadership really believed in the marketplace of ideas, the attorney added, then they would love staff to say contentious things publicly. Even about the issue theyre actually talking about, they dont believe their own arguments. (A senior communications officer at a large California affiliate told me staff attorneys were not allowed to speak to the press without their bosss approval. My request to interview several of their staff attorneys was declined; I asked why, but got no reply.)

Romero told me there were no consequences for staff members who disagreed with the ACLU publicly. But he also suggested that, ultimately, the dissent would not lead him to change the organisation. I understand that reasonable people will differ, he said. Im also not running a kibbutz. I think its important to hear the divergent viewpoints and to engage them, but what the organisation stands for, and longstanding positions of the organisation, is not open to a staff plebiscite. That is a decision made by my board.

On 1 May, after a half year in which the focus of Americas free speech debates moved away from the ACLU and back onto the football field, social media and campus, a committee set up in the wake of Charlottesville, and headed by David Cole, quietly released a new set of guidelines for how the organisation would decide to take free speech cases. The guidelines formalised something the ACLU leadership had declared publicly after Charlottesville that it will not represent groups marching with guns. They also stated that the ACLU will consider how the cases it takes affect the people and partner organisations in the communities where those cases arise.

The dissenting staff member described the guidelines as a step in the right direction, rather than something that gets us all the way there, but the affiliate staff attorney thought that view of the guidelines was naive. Its a status-quo memo, the attorney said. This squared with what the ACLU leadership told me that only the board could change policy, and the guidelines merely codify existing best practices.

The guidelines lack two things in particular, the dissenting staff member said. The first was a power analysis that encourages the organisation to look at who already has power in society when they make their case selections. The second was an attempt to turn the mirror inward to look at the structural inequalities within the ACLU. But some affiliates are creating their own guidelines for taking cases involving white supremacists, and several are looking at how their own institution is shaped by the same injustices that warp American society. The commitment to racial equity cannot be a side gig, the staff member said. Its part and parcel of how the ACLU must shift its view in a changing America where everything is racialised in order to protect civil liberties.

Both Romero and Cole, however, feel that the crisis at the ACLU is past, and that the argument has largely been won. Cole pointed out that no one has objected to the new guidelines or asked the board for a change of official policy. (The staff letters after Charlottesville only called for a sustained conversation.) This type of substantive disagreement is par for the course at the ACLU, said Ahilan Arulanantham, the ACLU of Southern California legal director, who has been with the organisation for 15 years. From his perspective, he stressed, Charlottesville has not led to long-lasting and deep divisions within the ACLU.

What will happen in the country as a whole is uncertain but one lesson of Americas free-speech history is that entrenched norms do change. Jeremy Waldron, the legal philosopher, already sees things evolving. Theres been a greater willingness on the part of free-speech advocates to concede the serious harm and evil that free speech can do, he said. People no longer talk in heroic terms about todays neo-Nazis the way they did about the neo-Nazis marching in Skokie. The debate on both sides, he feels, has become slightly less hysterical, a bit more concessive.

Will the first amendment survive without the ACLU being the counsel for white supremacists? Vince Warren asked. I think the answer is yes. The question, he went on, is how the ACLU will defend more precarious constitutional principles, like the 14th amendment commitment to equality before the law. The ACLU affiliate staff attorney agreed: Theres a movement afoot for justice and we can be a part of it, or we can watch and cling to the model we had 40 years ago.

Main illustration by Nathalie Lees

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Lula’s ‘heir’ sets his sights on becoming Brazil’s youngest president

Guilherme Boulos, only 35, has a slim chance in the October election, but hes already seen as a potential successor by Lula himself

It sounds like the longest of long shots.

Guilherme Boulos has never stood for political office of any kind, but he is somehow now aiming for the very top job.

Clearly, its a David v Goliath battle, the 35-year-old social activist admits of his unlikely quest to become Brazils youngest ever president. But its something that we must face.

Polls leave no doubt that Boulos who is running alongside indigenous activist Snia Guajajara for the leftist Socialism and Liberty party has a wafer-thin chance of achieving his goal when Latin Americas biggest democracy votes on 7 October.

In the longer term, however, the So Paulo-born politicians prospects look far brighter. As Brazils crisis-stricken left comes to terms with the sidelining of its torchbearer, former president Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, Boulos is being touted as a potential successor not least by Lula himself.

In his last public speech before being jailed last month, Lula clutched Bouloss hand and urged supporters to take note of this companheiro of the highest quality. Turning to Boulos next to him on stage, Lula added: Youve got a bright future, brother, just dont ever give up.

Boulos poses for photographs with artists and activists during a recent visit to Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Lula made no fewer than five allusions to the activist during that parting address, Piau magazine noted in a recent profile proclaiming Boulos o herdeiro or the heir: Nobody was mentioned or praised as much.

Boulos, who shares Lulas eventually relinquished love of smoking and the Corinthians football club as well as his legendary charisma, has downplayed that nickname, while recognising parallels between his 16-year struggle for social justice with the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and Lulas championing of the poor. Only the dead have heirs, Boulos said during a high-profile television interview this week.

But that widely applauded TV appearance only intensified chatter over Bouloss status as Lulas inheritor. In an article headlined The Star is Born, political journalist Luis Nassif celebrated the birth of a national leader. Leonardo Boff, a leftist theologian and longtime Lula confidant, seconded the emotion, tweeting: You are a new leadership in Brazil.

During a recent interview with the Guardian conducted while clattering around Rio in the back of a silver Honda compact Boulos spoke of his desire to lead a long-term renewal of Brazils left, a movement at a crossroads after losing its leader of nearly four decades.

He insisted his presidential bid was a genuine attempt to gain power and hoped the anti-systemic frustrations rippling across the globe might boost his campaign. People are tired of the the same old marketing tricks. People no longer have faith in the old ways of doing politics. This opens up an possibility, said Boulos. This is an election in which anything is possible.

Boulos, president of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), speaks after occupying the housing department in So Paulo on 6 December 2017. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters

Boulos said combating pornographic levels of inequality would be his priority as president. Brazil is the worlds seventh biggest economy and yet also one of the 10 most unequal, he said as his car sped past Jacarezinho, a vast redbrick favela, on its way to the family home of murdered Rio councillor Marielle Franco.

Brazil isnt just one country, Boulos added that afternoon. Brazil is a fissure. Brazil is an abyss.

He also vowed to build a new kind of politics reconnecting citizens with their detached and discredited political leaders. So often we see the left, all over the world, claiming to speak for the people, in the name of the people, doing programs for the people, he said. Whats harder to find is the left standing together with the people, listening to the people [and hearing] their most fundamental demands for change.

On the campaign trail, Boulos, who holds a masters in psychiatry from one of Brazils top universities, has been doing plenty of that.

After spending the morning with Francos sister and parents, he set off for a round table discussion with leftwing artists and activists who served up a bewildering smorgasbord of demands.

One called for academic quotas for Brazils transgender community; another demanded action against tyrannical media oligopolies; a third protested that the swimming pool of a local state school had become a dumping site for old sofas and dead dogs.

We must roll up our sleeves, hang our pants on the washing line and demand from the government what is ours! a fourth petitioner bellowed to furrowed brows and giggles.

Boulos hugs the niece of murdered Rio councillor Marielle Franco during a recent visit to her family home. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Throughout the meandering session Boulos sat attentively taking notes before ending with a brief but rousing address delivered in a silky baritone not unlike that of his incarcerated political patron.

The would-be president railed against corruption, racism, gender discrimination, the stupid war on drugs and the failings of Brazils inward-looking left which spent too much time preaching to the converted.

Were in a moment of transition. Were entering a new cycle, intoned Boulos, whose purple T-shirt carried the words of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht: Nothing should seemimpossibletochange.

When Lulas increasingly apparent heir concluded he was cheered off the stage and mobbed for selfies.

Back in his Honda and heading to Rios airport, Boulos said his travels around Brazil had convinced him the country needed a leader capable of hearing the clamour of the people.

Perhaps one of the characteristics of our failed political system is that it is deaf Politics is full of people who can come out and make big speeches but someone who wants to govern a country must really know that country and listening is essential to knowing.

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How did we let modern slavery become part of our everyday lives? | Felicity Lawrence

Society abhors exploitation but we are complicit. The cheap goods and services consumers expect makes exploitation inevitable, says Guardian special correspondent Felicity Lawrence

Since the Modern Slavery Act of 2015, British companies over a certain size have been required to report on slavery in their supply chains. Their statements are both shocking and admirable. Shocking because they make clear that the incidence of slavery has become normalised once again and not just in criminal operations such as the illegal drugs trade or trafficking for prostitution, but in the mainstream economy. The declarations are prefaced with management expressions of abhorrence, of course, but there they are, another note alongside the annual accounts. They are admirable, however, in that transparency must be the first step to tackling this phenomenon.

Last month the National Crime Agency reported a 35% annual rise in the number of suspected slavery victims found in the UK, with more than 5,000 people referred to the government mechanism that supports them in 2017. Labour exploitation, rather than sexual exploitation, was the most common type of modern slavery cited.

The list of high-risk sectors for slavery declared in company statements is long: temporary workers in distribution and office cleaning; agency labour in logistics operations; subcontracted car-washes cleaning company vehicles; construction workers building and renovating company premises; outsourced security staff. A catalogue of the casualised workforce, in other words. It is hardly surprising that the most egregious forms of exploitation should appear where economic, legal and moral responsibility has been deliberately diffused. Modern slavery is the flipside of the coin that has seen corporates offshore their profits and dodge tax. Both represent a sloughing-off of what were seen in the past as important obligations to society.

Then there are the more specific areas of production, where big high-street retailers statements acknowledge that forced or trafficked labour, often of refugees, is a well-known and recurring issue: the British and Irish fishing fleets, the UK meat and poultry processing industry, Leicester garment manufacturing, the Thai prawn supply chain, the Italian tomato industry, the Spanish horticulture sector, the Assam tea chain, and the Turkish garment sector.

Separate from corporate reporting, the Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority was given powers in April 2017 to investigate exploitation beyond its original narrow remit of food and agriculture. The more it looks, the more it finds, and some of this new activity accounts for the increasing numbers of suspected victims of modern slavery. (Another factor is the statutory defence introduced in the Modern Slavery Act for those forced into criminal activity such as drug dealing: increasing use of that defence in drug cases probably accounts for British victims unusually making up the largest number by nationality this year. Albania, Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Romania, Sudan, Eritrea, India and Poland make up the rest of the top 10 source countries.)

The main concentrations the GLAA sees are among migrant workers in hand carwashes, nail bars, domestic building projects such as basement excavations, the hospitality trade, hotel cleaning, takeaway restaurants and domestic cleaning.

How did slavery, which we thought was abolished, reach into our everyday consumption? While it is quite right that companies should have their reputational feet held to the fire for abuse that arises out of their economic model, there are also uncomfortable truths here for affluent consumers of personal services.

Things that were until recently luxuries manicures, clothes that change fashion every few weeks, regular holiday breaks to hotels, eating out frequently, having your car hand-valeted, using manual labour to dig out a basement under your house are now presented to us as affordable, everyday even. Where they have become so, it is in large part thanks to other people being badly paid at best, or victims of modern slavery at worst. The squeezed middle has been bought off by the illusion that it can share the consuming habits of those with runaway incomes at the top; but it cant not without squeezing those further down the chain.

In a world where the state has often absented itself from the enforcement of employment law, and where so many human interactions are reduced to financial exchanges at whatever rate the market will take, people have become commodities to use or sell. When competition and austerity are king, it is every man and woman for themselves and their family. Too often, we close our eyes and try to protect our own.

People-traffickers target the vulnerable including those with learning disabilities or raised in care, homeless people, those with alcohol and drug problems or previous convictions. They are the people easiest to control and least likely to attract sympathy. Anti-immigration sentiment has encouraged people to see these victims as foreign, as other. How else to explain why neighbours, work colleagues and customers so often fail to notice modern slavery?

Take the group of trafficked Lithuanians working brutal hours on egg farms around the country who were kept under control in their Kent ganghouses by threats and fighting dogs. What did farm managers and local residents on the same quiet streets see and hear? Alarming antisocial behaviour, and fights in a foreign language that made them want to turn away and keep their heads down, or fellow human beings suffering intolerable abuse and anaesthetising themselves from the trauma with drink?

Both the National Audit Office and the parliamentary select committee for work and pensions have highlighted serious shortcomings in the support for victims of modern slavery once they have been identified. The anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, also pointed out to the committee that every time a suspected victim of slavery is referred to the national referral mechanism, a crime is being alleged. Yet there is only a one-in-four chance of these cases being recorded as a potential crime, let alone investigated. If there were 4,000 rapes in the UK and only one in four was recorded by the police, there would be an outcry, he said. These failings need state remedies.

Meanwhile, we all need to recognise the signs. Where workers are putting in excessive hours, where they have no language to communicate with customers or where employers seem quick to speak for them, where they live in houses of multiple occupancy, we should be alert to the possibility of modern slavery.

If you are being offered a service for much less than you would expect to pay for it, someone is almost certainly being exploited. A car wash that takes six men 15 minutes and costs 10 does not pay the legal minimum wage. If something seems too cheap to be true, it probably is.

Felicity Lawrence is a special correspondent for the Guardian

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Mumbai beach goes from dump to turtle hatchery in two years

Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings spotted after cleanup of Versova beach by Afroz Shah and volunteers

Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades on a Mumbai beach that was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.

At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach in the past week, protected from wild dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who slept overnight in the sand to watch over them.

Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the worlds largest beach cleanup project over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline.

The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.

Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings in a container as they are helped by wildlife conservationists to reach the Arabian Sea on Versova beach in Mumbai. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The moment we got that news I knew something big was going to happen, he told the Guardian. Last Thursday, some of his volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nests.

He called the forest department and then went down to the beach with about 25 others, guarding the area while the tiny creatures hobbled across the sand, making sure not one hatchling suffered a death, he said.

The Olive Ridley species, thought to be named for the olive-green hue of its upper shell, is the smallest and most abundant sea turtle in the ocean, but is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mothers of the species lay eggs in an enormous mass-nesting process known as arribada. Last month on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously at the Rushikulya rookery.

Though they nest elsewhere in Mumbai, none had been sighted on Versova beach in decades, due to the acute pollution problem there, Shah said. I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean.

Sumedha Korgaonkar, who is completing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles with the Wildlife Institute of India, said it was possible small numbers of the turtles had been nesting on the beach in past years. We cant say for sure since regular patrolling for turtles nests is not done in Mumbai, she said.

Clean-up at Versova beach. Photograph: Shashi S Kashyap/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles. Many beaches which are major nesting sites are cleaned prior and during the nesting season by villagers, which increases the chances of getting nests [there].

For more than two years, Shah has been leading volunteers in manually picking up rubbish from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste practices to villagers and people living in slums along the coastline and the creeks leading into it.

About 55,000 people live along the beach and the waterways that feed it in the crowded megacity. Shah said he taught them by example, offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish himself before he ever sought their help.

For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined, he said. Then two men approached me and said, very politely, Please sir, can we wear your gloves? Both of them just came and joined me. Thats when I knew it was going to be a success.

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He said the team had cleaned 13m kg of debris from the beach in the past two years and are still going, though their campaign was briefly abandoned in November because of administrative lethargy and harassment of volunteers.

India has some of the most polluted waterways and beaches in the world due to rapid, unplanned urbanisation, overpopulation and neglectful attitudes, including to public littering.

There has been a loss of a sense of belonging, Shah said. You can have laws, policies, regulations in place, but if the community doesnt have a sense of belonging, you can see what happens.

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

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Steve Bannon tells French far-right ‘history is on our side’

Former Trump adviser addresses Front National as Marine Le Pen attempts to relaunch her party

Donald Trumps former adviser Steve Bannon has told Frances far-right Front National that, history is on our side and will bring us victory in an address to the partys conference.

Announced as a surprise speaker at the event, Bannon said: You are part of a movement that is bigger than that in Italy, bigger than in Poland, bigger than in Hungary.

As Bannon entered the hall to cheers and applause, the US flag was unfurled above the stage.

Although no longer a White House staffer, Bannon, who has been doing a tour of European cities including Zurich, Milan and Rome, praised his former boss.

Our dear President Trump said: Weve had enough of globalists, he told FN members.

Todays politics cannot be summed up by the left-right divide. During the 2008 financial crisis, the governments and banks looked after themselves above all, they saved themselves and not the people.

Bannon said Trump had three main concerns: stopping massive immigration; persuading manufacturers who had left for China to return to the US; and pulling the US out of the quagmire conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You recall the evening of the American election, the traditional medias were shocked. They could never have believed that the Americans had finally voted in their own interests.

You fight for your country and they call you racist. But the days when those kind of insults work is over. The establishment media are the dogs of the system. Every day, we become stronger and they become weaker. Let them call you racists, xenophobes or whatever else, wear these like a medal.

Bannon ended his discourse with: God bless America and vive la France.

At the two-day conference in the northern city of Lille, FN president Marine Le Pens is attempting to re-found her rightwing party, announcing a change of name to be revealed on Sunday and validated by a members vote to show the FN has come of age, shaken off its controversial past and is ready to govern.

Le Pen is also trying to reassert her personal and political authority after a drop in popularity following her crushing defeat by Emmanuel Macron in last years presidential election. Many in the party blame Le Pen for her chaotic and bizarre performance in a pre-final vote debate with Macron.

Le Pen is under investigation on claims she misused European Union staff for FN business, and facing defiance from her estranged father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the FN in the 1970s, but who has since been thrown out of the party for xenophobic and racist comments. He was stripped of his honorary president role in a change of rules at Saturdays congress.

Marine Le Pen also faces a possible future challenge from her niece, Marion Marechal Le Pen, who announced she was temporarily withdrawing from politics after the 2017 presidential election but is seen to be waiting in the wings.

Critics suggested inviting Bannon was hardly a sign of political maturity.

Jean-Marie Le Pen said: Its the big bosss surprise. I think Bannons OK but its not exactly the definition of de-demonising [the party] and its a bit of a paradox given that Steve Bannon was supposed to be Trumps most radical adviser, he said. But who knows. She [Marine] may end up coming round to my way of thinking.

Marine Le Pen said Bannon was interesting to listen to for those who are fighting against anything goes in their country.

FN spokesman Sbastien Chenu said Bannon symbolised voters rejection of the establishment.

He has also been the architect of a victory, that of Donald Trump, on whom nobody would have bet, particularly European media and politicians. So he can explain how victory is possible and how to bring it about. I find its always interesting to hear from someone who has won an election.

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Romanian film about fear of sexual intimacy wins Golden Bear at Berlin film festival

Surprise win for Touch Me Not means Wes Andersons Isle of Dogs has to settle for best director prize

Touch Me Not, a Romanian film about fear of intimacy and achieving sexual liberation was the unexpected winner of the Golden Bear, the Berlin film festivals top award at the festivals concluding ceremony on Saturday.

Directed by Adina Pintilie, Touch Me Not was picked ahead of 18 other films, including Wes Andersons Isle of Dogs and Utoya July 22, by a jury headed by German director Tom Tykwer, best known for Run Lola Run. Based around an English womans attempt to overcome her intimacy issues, and ranging across everything from disability to sex clubs, Touch Me Not blends fiction and documentary and is Pintilies first feature film.

Touch Me Not director Adina Pintilie with the Golden Bear. Photograph: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

The runner-up grand jury prize went to Mug (AKA Twarz), from Polish director Magorzata Szumowska, about a building worker who needs a face transplant after a gruesome accident. Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw described it as a strange, engaging film well and potently acted and directed, delving as it does in questions of national identity that are currently convulsing Poland.

Isle of Dogs was not completely ignored by the jury however: Anderson was given a Silver Bear for best director for his stop-motion animation about a pack of dogs living in a dystopian near-future Japan, which the Guardians Jonathan Romney said shows an indefatigably fertile imagination letting rip in inimitable style in a four-star review. Bill Murray, who voices one of the dogs, accepted the award on Andersons behalf.

The two Silver Bears for acting went to Ana Brun, star of The Heiresses, a Paraguayan film directed by Marcelo Martinessi about two apparently-prosperous women in a lesbian relationship who run into financial troubles, and Anthony Bajon as a junkie trying to beat his addiction in a priest-run retreat in the Cdric Kahn-directed drama The Prayer.

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