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Letter: John Weeks obituary

2 décembre, par Richard Jolly[ —]

While he was at Sussex University John Weeks did much to bring the concept of the informal sector to world attention. At the time, it was limited to a single study – of illegal brewing in Ghana – by Keith Hart. In the ILO Kenya Report on Employment, Incomes and Equality (1972), Weeks contrasted the popular view of informal sector activities as “primarily those of petty traders, street hawkers, shoeshine boys and other groups underemployed” on the streets of the big towns with the evidence he had found. The bulk of employment in the informal sector was economically efficient and profit-making, though small in scale and limited by simple technologies. Carpenters, masons, tailors and other tradesmen, along with cooks and taxi drivers, provided goods and services for a large though often poor section of the population.

“From the vantage point of central Nairobi, with its gleaming skyscrapers, the dwellings and commercial structures of the informal sector look indeed like hovels,” he wrote. “For observers surrounded by imported steel, glass and concrete, it requires a leap of the imagination and considerable openness of mind to perceive the informal sector as a sector of thriving activity and a source of Kenya’s future wealth.”

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The Guardian view on Poland’s Catholics: losing faith in their church | Editorial

2 décembre, par Editorial[ —]

Zealous clerical backing for the government’s culture wars is alienating a growing number of the faithful

During the five years in which the Law and Justice (PiS) party has governed in Poland, the lines between politics and religion have become, to put it mildly, blurred. In a sermon last week, for example, the archbishop of Kraków, Marek Jędraszewski, offered episcopal backing for the government’s refusal to sign off on the European Union’s Covid recovery fund.

By linking the fund to a controversial “rule of law” clause, Archbishop Jędraszewski said, Brussels was seeking to impose a “neo-Marxist vision of a new order that rejects God’s kingdom”. The clause, he claimed, was a Trojan horse that would be used to impose abortion on demand, gender “ideology” in schools and other assorted liberal heresies. Bishops and prelates have also lined up alongside the government during its culture wars over Muslim refugees and LGBTQ+ rights. As clerics and ministers operate in authoritarian symbiosis, Poland has at times resembled a theocracy in the heart of the EU.

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Labour’s dilemma over backing Tory Brexit deal | Letters

2 décembre, par Letters[ —]

Shaun V Soper says Keir Starmer is in danger of making the same mistake as Jeremy Corbyn by publicly supporting something he does not believe in. Plus letters from Les Bright and Magi Young

Keir Starmer needs to think very carefully before he decides to support any Brexit deal the prime minister puts before parliament (Starmer prepares to reopen old Labour wounds over Brexit deal vote, 28 November).

He is in danger of making the same mistake as Jeremy Corbyn – publicly supporting something he does not believe in. Corbyn was afraid to alienate the majority “anti-Brexit” members of his party and so decided to sit on the fence while paying lip service to the remain cause. In doing so, he let his own side down (Brexit supporters mainly), thereby alienating many Labour supporters.

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Puberty blocker ruling will not help trans teens | Letters episode download
2 décembre, par Letters[ —]

There is already a suitable competency test in medical law for children under the age of 16, writes Steven Walker, while the mother of a transgender child fears the impact the court decision will have on her daughter

The high court ruling that those under the age of 16 are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment for gender dysphoria will cause much harm (Puberty blockers: under-16s ‘unlikely to be able to give informed consent’, 1 December). The Gillick competence test is used in medical law to decide whether a child under the age of 16 is able to consent to their own treatment, without the need for parental permission or knowledge.

In the area of child and adolescent mental health, there is an increasing demand for help from very disturbed, anxious, and unhappy children feeling trapped inside the “wrong” body. Clinicians do not make hasty judgments and they bend over backwards to keep open communication with parents and engage children in long, comprehensive tests and counselling sessions before embarking on treatments. Sixteen is an arbitrary age because children mature at different rates. Each case should be decided on its separate merits. The danger is that this new ruling will be used unilaterally and set an unhelpful precedent, and end up doing more harm than good.
Steven Walker
Former head of child and adolescent mental health, Anglia Ruskin University

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Post-Brexit Britain will have to do better than this to curb the power of big tech | Michelle Meagher

2 décembre, par Michelle Meagher[ —]

The government has announced a flurry of initiatives around digital regulation. But does it grasp the scale of the challenge?

High-street shops have been shuttered as Amazon deliveries continue apace; cinemas have been closed while viewers stream more content from Google-owned platforms; citizens across the world have flocked to publishers for information about Covid-19 while their advertising revenues are eaten by Facebook. The tech giants have been strengthened by the global pandemic. Their power grows with every click, as does their influence over policy. But if our regulators only really listen to the titans, how can they curb their power?

Last week the government said it was setting up the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) to address the multiple challenges and threats that tech platforms pose. This is part of a flurry of initiatives: the government has also launched a Digital Markets Taskforce to help the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) design better policy, and commissioned a broader review of UK competition policy under John Penrose, which is due to report by the year’s end.

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The inevitable collapse of Arcadia is a cautionary tale for British capitalism | Larry Elliott

2 décembre, par Larry Elliott[ —]

Philip Green favoured making a fast buck over investing in response to retail’s changing landscape – and he paid the price

Philip Green wasn’t much cop at capitalism. That may sound a strange way to describe a very wealthy man who lives on an ocean-going yacht moored in the tax haven of Monaco. It perhaps sounds doubly weird given that Arcadia consists of some of the best known names on the high street: Topshop, Wallis, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins among them.

Related: From fashion forward to slightly awkward: the mixed bag of Philip Green brands

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Cutting UK overseas aid could harm the fight against future pandemics | Matthew Baylis and Fiona Tomley

play episode
2 décembre, par Matthew Baylis and Fiona Tomley[ —]

In our age of emerging pathogens, funding for global research into zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola and Sars is vital

This year, we’ve seen how a previously unknown animal virus can spill over into the human population in one country, pass rapidly between people, and spread across the world in days. With nearly 1.5m reported deaths from Covid-19, the virus is a startling indication of how the health of the world’s human population is inseparable from animals and the environment that we share with them.

Treating health in a way that recognises these interdependencies is called the One Health approach. Rather than studying human health in isolation, this approach considers how the health of people, animals and the environment are intimately related. Zoonotic diseases that we catch from animals emerge most frequently in places where humans and animals interact closely, while the globalisation of trade and international travel, the intensification of agriculture and ecosystem destruction all contribute to the increased risk of animal pathogens infecting humans. Instead of leaving the job of protecting human health exclusively to medical experts, the One Health approach shares responsibility across veterinary, biological, environmental and social sciences.

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Covid has shown me what lies beyond boredom: post-boredom | Joel Golby

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2 décembre, par Joel Golby[ —]

What are we going to do when all our former comforts induce juddering flashbacks to lockdown?

I have already started practising my small talk for Christmas. “Good, thanks. You?” I keep saying into a mirror, fully aware that in the past eight months I have more or less completely lost the ability to make conversation with humans. “What did I do with the time? Wow, the year has gone so quickly, hasn’t it?”

At this point I pause meaningfully because I know I have about two minutes of material to stretch over a five-day festive period with fewer people than usual, so I really need to make it last. “Let’s see, umm … got really into jigsaws for a bit. Rearranged the spare room into an office. Learned to make this one really good curry recipe from the BBC website. Uh … got 11 solo wins and about 24 duo wins on Fortnite.” Is that good?, they’ll ask, and I’ll have to admit that no, not particularly. “It’s a game for 12-year-olds that I play compulsively,” I’ll explain. “Every day I log in and let adolescents embarrass me in an online world that allows them to dance joyously on the remains of my corpse.” Oh, they’ll say. I think there’s something – I think there’s something happening in the other room. I really ought to…

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Being cautious is the best thing you can do this Christmas | Devi Sridhar

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2 décembre, par Devi Sridhar[ —]

The government’s ambiguous Covid advice has pushed decisions on to individuals. For all our sakes, safety must come first

  • Prof Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh

Few times of the year are as challenging or stressful for families and relationships as Christmas. This year we face the additional pressures of the pandemic and the government’s ambiguous Covid-19 Christmas guidance, which seems to encourage families and friends to meet in their homes and travel over a five-day period, while at the same time pushing the responsibility for those decisions on to individuals themselves. It’s both confusing to know what to do and clear that although the government has permitted us to do certain things, this doesn’t necessarily mean we ought to.

As a public health expert, I’ve repeatedly been asked what families should do over the holidays. I’m torn between giving people the emotionally reassuring and comforting answer they want to hear or sticking bluntly to the best scientific evidence we have about transmission and suppression. While independent scientists are one of the few groups who can be unpopular and forthright, politicians are stuck in an unenviable dilemma: tell people what they need to hear based on the facts, or tell them what they want to hear based on emotion.

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