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The Guardian view on children’s mental health: not an optional extra | Editorial

21 September, by Editorial[ —]
The latest research shows the crisis is even worse than anyone realised. Wellbeing must be put back where it belongs – at the heart of what schools do

Adolescence is notorious for its moments of misery that at least for the fortunate are unequalled in later life. Almost every adult looks back on the eruption of spots and the inexplicable weight gain, the exam pressures and the mishandled relationship crises with sympathy for their earlier selves. So it is no surprise to discover that in any given fortnight, many teenagers have felt low. The shock is just how low, and how many. Nearly one in four 14-year-old girls and almost one in 10 boys the same age, say they have felt inadequate, unloved, or worthless. That means that hundreds of thousands of young teenagers are experiencing a range of feelings that amount to a diagnosis of clinical depression; worst of all, the numbers are disproportionately higher in poorer families. The link between poverty and depression is well established. Now it is clear that long before children from low-income families even start their first job, they are at greater risk. The crisis in children’s mental health is even more extensive than anyone realised.

Related: Primary school teachers 'not trained to deal with mental health issues'

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The Guardian view on British cinema: shockingly white and male | Editorial

20 September, by Editorial[ —]

The UK film industry is full of talent – but the figures show its stories and perspectives are limited. It’s time for change

Given the brilliance of female British talent in film, it is sometimes possible to imagine that the British film industry is well on its way to a state of gender parity. There are actors too numerous to mention, and, though fewer in number, directors too of the likes of Gurinder Chadha, Sophie Fiennes, Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard. But the numbers, for the first time rigorously crunched by a team at the British Film Institute (BFI), tell a different story. British film, the figures show, is in a parlous state when it comes to representing the stories of women, to drawing on the perspectives of women, and to harnessing the talents of women behind and in front of the camera.

Female actors, for example, account for only 30% of the casts of the British films made so far this year. When the BFI looked at the overall proportion since 1913, it found the figure was virtually the same, at 32%: no progress, then, and possibly even a backsliding. The figures for women in crews are even grimmer. Only 5% of those working in music are women; only 6% of those working in photography or sound are women. It is true that the overall proportion of women behind the camera is gradually rising (34% in 2017 as opposed to 16% over the years 1913 to 2017). But progress is still painfully slow and women are more often found in what the prime minister might call “girl jobs” (hair, makeup, costumes, publicity) than “boy jobs” (director, director of photography).

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The Guardian view on Trump at the UN: bluster and belligerence | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/iranplay episode download
19 September, by Editorial[ —]
The US president is wrong to think that nations acting in their own self-interest would on their own create a more stable world. Countries need to work together under rules to which they agree to adhere

Whatever its difficulties, the United Nations must surely be cherished. Founded in 1945 under US leadership after the defeat of Nazism and imperial Japan, the UN remains the central pillar of the global order. At its core has stood the ambition that peace, international security and human rights would be better protected than they were by the 1930s League of Nations (whose founding treaty the US Senate refused to ratify). The UN is the only existing forum where the representatives of all nation states can be brought together to try to address crises and common challenges.

Donald Trump’s first address to the organisation’s annual general assembly was anticipated with dread by many – and rightly so. This US president is after all the first in history to have made heaping scorn on the UN something of a pastime. His views on the subject have ranged from crude hostility to abject ignorance. The speech he delivered was scripted – not the ramblings of a maverick whose taste for rash tweets and cheap provocations have become an almost daily routine. It was deeply worrying all the same. Unlike his eloquent predecessor, President Trump trades in crass belligerence. His speech will be remembered for its ominous language.

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The Guardian view on the Lib Dem conference: keeping calm and carrying on | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/liberal-democrat-conference-2017play episode download
19 September, by Editorial[ —]
Vince Cable’s party is positioning itself for a change in the political weather

For a party so badly scorched by its experience of power, and with only a fifth of the seats it held three years ago, the Liberal Democrats had some cause for optimism as they gathered in Bournemouth this week. In Vince Cable they have a new yet experienced and well-respected leader. The vote for Brexit gave them a renewed sense of purpose and encouraged a surge in members, taking their numbers to over 100,000. Despite their poor showing in this year’s general election, they boast a markedly stronger parliamentary team, including Sir Vince, his deputy Jo Swinson and newcomer Layla Moran.

The leader highlighted their two opportunities in his speech on Tuesday. Labour’s divisions over the EU created the Liberal Democrats’ opportunity with remainers; but the more recent evolution of its policy gives them hope that a hard Brexit can be avoided if “political adults” work together. Though Sir Vince has pledged that his party will not be “Ukip in reverse”, he hopes its pro-European stance will place it on the right side of history, as opposition to the Iraq war did.

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The Guardian view on car finance: risky credit | Editorial

19 September, by Editorial[ —]
Too many motorists have been seduced into credit-fuelled purchases by the thought of having ever-flashier marques. These have left buyers increasingly vulnerable to a drop in used-car prices

The idea that one can get something for nothing underlies much of modern-day marketing. This patter has been used to lure motorists into opening their wallets for vehicles they perhaps had considered beyond their reach. As our series on debt shows, personal contract purchase agreements, PCPs, now account for 80% of new cars sold. Drivers think they have chanced upon an extraordinary bargain: it is cheaper to pay for a brand new BMW than purchase a secondhand Ford Focus. They are motivated, no doubt, by the idea that the model and marque of car they drive will move them up in the pecking order of life. Mercedes has doubled its UK sales since 2010.

In reality nothing in life is free. PCP monthly payments are lower than hire purchase ones because they do not cover the whole cost of the car. What consumers are “buying” is the difference between the current value of the car – less any deposit – and the expected value of the car at the end of the contract. When the PCP agreement is over, most drivers still need a car. Their options are either: pay an agreed hefty lump sum to keep the car; hand the keys back and start again; or use the value of the current car to start again with a new finance deal on a different car. It’s the last option that drivers have been taking, relying on rising used car prices to provide equity that allows them to purchase a flashier motor or a deposit to reduce the next set of payments.

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The Guardian view on Saudi Arabia: the seventh son rises | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/saudiarabiaplay episode download
18 September, by Editorial[ —]
A crackdown on dissent by the youngest heir apparent in Saudi history will not help the desert kingdom find a way out of an economic mess at home and misguided entanglements abroad

The ascension in June of Muhammed bin Salman as crown prince of Saudi Arabia was an instant Rorschach test for observers of the desert kingdom. Is he a reformer prepared to drag his kingdom, a repressive regime that writes very large welfare cheques, into the 21st century or a callow princeling whose rise to power could destabilise the region? The 31-year-old prince has undoubtedly amassed great power and dominates Saudi economic, diplomatic and domestic policy. The crown prince, known as MBS, is also the architect of the bloody quagmire of the Yemen war and a hardliner in the current Gulf row with neighbouring Qatar. His father, King Salman, 81, is not in good health, walks with a stick and suffers from brain fades in meetings. By anointing his seventh son as the youngest heir apparent in Saudi history, the ailing monarch has signalled a decisive break with the past.

If the first few months are a reliable guide, then the omens for the future are not good. The palace coup that saw MBS take power was bloodless. In the summer’s Game of Thrones, his powerful uncles and rivals were either sidelined or placed under house arrest. The sense of how riven the Saudi royal house is could be gleaned from reports, sourced from within the court, claiming the other leading contender for the throne had a drug problem. Last week it emerged that Saudi authorities had launched a crackdown on dissent, targeting Islamic thinkers, public critics and political rivals. Two prominent clerics were taken away for failing to publicly declare their support for the crown prince’s stance toward Qatar. Neither cleric is reflexively conservative – one famously declared homosexuality a sin but added that it shouldn’t be punished in this world. Both are popular with the Saudi public, with millions of Twitter followers. Another journalist has been banned from writing opinion columns, while human rights activists have been given outlandish eight-year prison sentences for peaceful campaigning. Whatever MBS’s public face, this intolerance of dissent is almost paranoid.

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The Guardian view on Stanislav Petrov: an unsung hero | Editorial

18 September, by Editorial[ —]

At the height of the cold war, one man did his bit to save the world, and no one knew

It takes about half an hour for a nuclear missile to travel between the population centres of Russia and the US, its warheads freighted with the end of the civilised world. At the height of the cold war, when detection systems were less sophisticated than today, there would have been as little as 15 minutes for the other side to react in. On a couple of occasions the world brushed past such a catastrophe – once in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, when a captured Russian double agent, Oleg Penkovsky, gave Gervase Cowell, his Secret Intelligence Service handler at the British embassy in Moscow, the agreed signal that a nuclear attack was under way. Cowell, experienced and crafty, decided that his agent had been arrested and did not pass the message on to his superiors. Had he done so, the ambassador would have had to ring London and someone there would have had to make the fatal decision under terrible pressure of time.

The other hero whose name is known to history was the Russian colonel Stanislav Petrov, the news of whose death has just reached the west. In September 1983, at a time when the Soviet military really believed that Ronald Reagan might launch a nuclear assault, Col Petrov was the only officer on duty at a control centre for the Soviet early warning satellites when the computers told him that first one, and then five more, missiles had been launched from the US towards Russia. He decided on his own authority that these were false alarms: if there was to be a first strike, he reasoned, it would have more than five missiles. So he warned no one. An accidental Armageddon was averted. We can’t know whether anyone higher up the chain of command would have made the same judgment – with less time, and under even more pressure – but both stories show that it’s not just discipline that keeps nuclear weapons under control. Judgment and well-timed insubordination have sometimes saved us, too.

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Editorial | The Guardian view on Ryanair: the low expectations airline

18 September, by Editorial[ —]
The forced cancellation of 400,000 people’s flights is bad for them and for the business too

Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, once told an interviewer that he was born “with bullshit on tap” – a rare case of his giving the media a story they already had. On the other hand, he was certainly telling the unvarnished truth then, in a way unusual among his publicity stunts. He has not actually brought in standing room only flights, charges for using the lavatories, or even charges for employees who charge their phones at work, all of which he has from time to time threatened to do. The underlying disdain for both passengers and employees is genuine, too. Sometimes it spills over into the real world, at the moment in the fiasco over his pilots’ holiday entitlement, which has left 18 million customers in an anxious limbo while they wait to find whether their flights booked over the next eight weeks will be cancelled. Around 400,000 of them will learn tonight if they have been unlucky; 80,000 will have to wait a day or more for replacement flights. It’s a mess. It’s also a natural consequence of the way that Ryanair does its very successful business.

Anyone who uses its website knows that every transaction, every click, is an attempt to win an advantage. Most customers believe they can come out ahead and the company is still usually cheaper than its competitors. “Our booking system is full of people who swore they would never fly with us again,” boasted Mr O’Leary yesterday. But cheapness has its price. The Ryanair model is part of a more general move towards a world where the customer has only themselves to blame. The cancellation and rescheduling of a flight has normally a chain of consequences – cars have been hired, hotel rooms booked – for which Mr O’Leary disclaims all responsibility. The present problems may be symptomatic of deeper troubles. The rerostering of pilots’ holidays suggests a workforce stretched too far. So do recent problems with punctuality. The low-cost airline risks becoming the airline of low expectations.

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The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s pitch: a ludicrous fantasy | Editorial

17 September, by Editorial[ —]

The foreign secretary’s job application for prime minister promises an impossibly good deal from Brexit

Her Majesty’s secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Boris Johnson, is an accomplished confidence man. Like all conmen, he appeals to the larceny in the blood – the wish of the mark to get an impossibly good deal. Mr Johnson’s 4,000-word job application (he wants to be prime minister) in last Saturday’s Telegraph is a masterclass in doublespeak and smarm. Almost everything it says about the prospects of a deal is palpably false, but that hardly matters. It would be worrying in any other foreign secretary, but we know better than to expect this one to share the truth, even if he is in possession of it. However, it is enormously revealing about the state of opinion in the Conservative party. He smells the larceny in the party’s blood; he knows how it wants to be seduced.

The members of the Conservative party who might still make him prime minister want to believe Britain is “the second-greatest power on Earth after America”, or at least that it was that as late as “the early years of this century”.

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The Guardian view on Germany’s election: slow and steady | Editorial

17 September, by Editorial[ —]
Angela Merkel is fighting a campaign almost entirely on domestic issues, but the results are vital to the rest of Europe

Germans head to the ballot box next Sunday. If polls are anything to go by (in Germany they’re deemed reliable), Angela Merkel is heading comfortably for a fourth term in office. The economy is doing well, confidence is high, and Mrs Merkel’s main opponent, the Social Democrat Martin Schulz, has failed to land any damaging blows on her.

So the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) is steady in the polls at 37%, and the SPD (Social Democrats) can only muster 20%. Most of the suspense centres on what kind of coalition might emerge under Mrs Merkel this time. The CDU and the SPD have been in coalition since 2013; will that be renewed? Or will a different pattern emerge, perhaps one excluding the SPD but combining the CDU with the liberal, business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), 9.5% in the latest polls, and the Greens, currently at 7.5%? Few now expect the kind of political upheaval which might produce a coalition between the SPD, the Greens, and the former communists of Die Linke.

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