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It's fine to talk about your abortion – but don't mention your elective caesarean

19 August, by Hadley Freeman[ —]

The ‘normal birth’ campaign may have come to an end, but ‘natural’ childbirth is still seen as the ideal by far too many

It is a striking quirk of this country that childbirth and breastfeeding have become more politicised than abortion. We are now at a point where you could announce to a crowded room that you had two abortions in your 20s and chances are most people would shrug. But mention that you’re having an elective caesarean, or are giving your baby formula milk from birth, and too many will look at you as if you are advocating heroin for infants.

Strangely, you never hear people insist that the only way to have root canal surgery is with “natural dentistry”, or that you simply must opt for a “natural colonoscopy” to experience things as nature intended. Nor will you hear many acknowledge how much medical advances have helped reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in Britain, which have declined sharply in the past century. Instead, the theory that so-called “natural” childbirth is the ideal has become so established that it is a genuine shock to realise that the Royal College of Midwives’ “normal birth” campaign, in which women are strongly urged to think of birth without medical intervention as the goal, has only been going for 12 years. It is even more shocking to think this could now change.

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Forget Brexit, people. We’ve got to get Big Ben sorted | Marina Hyde

play episode
19 August, by Marina Hyde[ —]
Theresa May has finally grasped the urgency of the UK’s situation. But not the situation we had in mind

“I think it’s mad. I’d forgotten, of course – I’ve been out of government for a lot of years – I’d forgotten how long it takes to get approvals for this and approvals for that. There’s a sort of rude phrase which I will shorten to ‘just get on with it’ … Just get on, just do it, don’t faff.” Pop quiz: is David Davis talking about his spectacularly unprepared Brexit negotiating approach, or is he talking about a big bell?

Yup, it’s the big bell. News that Big Ben may be silenced for a few years during renovation works on the Houses of Parliament shocked Westminster this week, causing a welter of politicians to ignore the clock that IS ticking in favour of wetting their pants about one that might stop. If sovereignty is serving as your own punchline, we’ve already aced Brexit. If not, we must accept that creating auto-satirical metaphors could soon be our last great manufacturing industry.

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Are Australia's proud memorials to racism under threat from leftwing fascists? | First Dog on the Moon

https://www.theguardian.com/world/raceplay episode download
18 August, by First Dog on the Moon[ —]

One day we will see the monuments to mass murderers and genocidal maniacs toppled. I look forward to the alt-right whining and hurt racist feelings

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The Guardian view on attacks in Spain: fighting terror means protecting freedom | Editorial

18 August, by Editorial[ —]
Terrorism will win unless defending freedom is part of the answer

Most Europeans have rarely lived amid such peace and plenty, and take prosperity and security for granted. It is that assumption of established wellbeing that makes a terror attack the more shocking, and the fear it inspires the more contagious. This is most true on the streets of a place like Barcelona, whose ancient buildings belie its reputation as one of the youngest, liveliest and loveliest of European cities.

It is partly this international, cosmopolitan character that makes it a terrorist target: what happened here on Thursday afternoon has not only left a city in mourning. The waves of terror and grief for children, mothers, fathers, lovers and pensioners ripple out to the 34 different countries from which they came, and far beyond. After a related attack along the coast in Cambrils, holidaymakers of every nationality, faith and ethnicity will be more anxious, more fearful and less trusting.

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The Guardian view on Confederate statues: they must fall | Editorial

18 August, by Editorial[ —]
Toppling symbols of hate is not an assault on the past but a defence of the future

One Friday afternoon in September 1994, a statue was pulled down from in front of provincial government offices in what was then the Orange Free State in South Africa. It depicted Hendrik Verwoerd, the country’s prime minister from 1958 to 1961, administrative architect of “apartheid” and a vicious racist. No one who grasps the barbarism that his doctrines imposed laments the removal of monuments in his honour.

Is the morality of statues honouring heroes of the Confederacy in the US civil war any more complicated? The south fought to preserve a social order founded on white racial supremacy, and economically dependent on industrial-scale slavery – a vast crime. Monuments now targeted for removal were erected not in ignorance of that atrocity but in defiant celebration of it. Their message was simple: while the law now forbids slavery, the oppression of African-Americans, their exclusion from civil rights and intimidation by a culture of casual and institutional racism will endure. It is precisely because that message has a willing audience in the US that the statues are so toxic.

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Centrists and the left in a polarised world | Letters

18 August, by Letters[ —]
Readers respond to recent articles by Guardian columnists Owen Jones and Simon Jenkins

The most effective deceits are those that are wrapped up in a kernel of truth and Owen Jones is certainly right that postwar consensus-based politics has been damaged by the weakening of the role of the state in a mixed economy and the acceptance of increasing inequality (Centrists attack the left, but they are the true extremists, 17 August).

But that political central ground is defined by the acceptance that there is not a monopoly on truth and thus a willingness to compromise to try to find common ground with those who share core attitudes of openness, toleration and respect for all in our society. That feeds into solid commitments to parliamentary democracy, gradualism, internationalism and the similar seeking of common ground and partnerships with open societies in Europe and elsewhere.

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Why are coffee house teas such bad brews? | Letters

18 August, by Letters[ —]
Outpourings of frustration at the quality of high-street tea-making from readers Craig Wright and Roland Hill

The reason that the coffee chains sell so little tea (A little steep: why are there no tea bars in the UK? 14 August) is that they appear incapable of making a decent cup of English breakfast tea. I recently ordered a tea in one such emporium. Despite my drinking in-house, the tea bag was put into a cardboard cup, the water was clearly not boiling; I had asked for it with milk, which was added along with the water.

The result was an awful cup of tea costing well in excess of £2. I eventually took it back to the counter and to their credit they gave me a fresh cup, made to my instructions and with a separate small cup of cold milk for me to add myself.

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Statues row is casting Robert E Lee as the villain | Letters

https://www.theguardian.com/world/raceplay episode download
18 August, by Letters[ —]
Amid the furore over Confederate statues in the US, letters from Geoff Clinton and Francis Blake defend the reputation of Robert E Lee, while Barry Butler suggests a way of defusing the anger

While I admire Jason Wilson’s examination of the origins of the current Confederate statues controversy (G2, 17 August), I feel that the opposing arguments have failed to recognise, or give due credit to, Robert E Lee’s actual military reputation. As a brilliant field commander, he often makes it onto military historians’ “top 20 generals of all time” lists, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Napoleon and Alexander the Great. With very limited resources and ill-trained troops, Lee delivered a succession of stunning victories against better-equipped and numerically superior forces. At Gettysburg he came incredibly close to winning the civil war.

Lee, who was personally unsympathetic to slavery, would not have recognised the term “white supremacist”, which – in the way we interpret it today – could equally be applied to many leading figures on both sides, including Abraham Lincoln. In London, we have a statue of Oliver Cromwell in military uniform in the grounds of our Houses of Parliament. Cromwell could, arguably and by the standards of today, have been indicted for war crimes in Ireland. Lee, by comparison, could not remotely be said to have fallen into that category of generalship.
Geoff Clifton
Solihull, West Midlands

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Venezuela’s opposition is not so innocent | Letters

https://www.theguardian.com/world/saudiarabiaplay episode download
18 August, by Letters[ —]
Brendan O’Brien says opposition violence is clear though largely unreported in the media, while Kevin Bannon says Theresa May should be condemning Saudi Arabia

Professor Jean Grugel, a scholar of Latin American politics and Labour member, calls on party members to condemn the violence of the Maduro government in Venezuela (Letters, 17 August). I am a Labour member, not a scholar, but have taken a serious interest in Venezuela for a long time. The response of the Venezuelan government to street protest looks restrained compared with what would happen in many other countries. Imagine, for example, the response in the US if “peaceful demonstrators” blocked all the roads around the White House and could only be moved by force. Opposition violence (improvised bomb attacks on the police, grenade attacks on government buildings, people burned alive in the streets) is however very clear though largely unreported in the mainstream media. The respectable opposition leaders are at best silent. I call on the UK government to condemn the violence of the opposition in Venezuela.
Brendan O’Brien

• Politics is comparative. When is the Conservative leader going to condemn Saudi Arabia for not tolerating any protests, for having neither elections nor voters, for its regular beheadings and for its bombing of Yemeni civilians?
Kevin Bannon

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