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The Observer view on Venezuela’s need for profound change, not a sham poll | Observer editorial

20 May, by Observer editorial[ —]
The country is on its knees and Nicolás Maduro, its president, seems ill-equipped to offer salvation

Is the Trump administration fomenting a military coup in Venezuela? It would not, after all, be the first time the US has been implicated in attempts at regime change there. In April 2002, Venezuela’s elected president, the late Hugo Chávez, was briefly deposed and arrested by the army, before a supporters’ revolt rescued him. The Bush administration denied involvement, but subsequent independent investigations, including by the Observer, suggested “senior officials in the US government” were not only aware of the plot but privately assured its organisers of Washington’s support.

The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

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The Observer view on the global threat to access to abortion |Observer editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/society/contraception-and-family-planningplay episode download
20 May, by Observer editorial[ —]

Women’s reproductive rights are under widespread threat, not least in America. This is no time for complacency

During his eight years in the White House, one of the themes President Obama frequently reflected on in speeches was the non-linear nature of social progress. “Progress doesn’t travel in a straight line,” he told Rutgers students in his commencement address in 2016. “It remains uneven and at times for every two steps forward, it feels like we take one step back.”

The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

Related: Trump administration to revive Reagan-era abortion 'gag' rule

If American women are denied a safe abortion, it will send a terrible moral signal to the rest of the world

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The Guardian view on the royal wedding: have a lovely day | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/raceplay episode download
18 May, by Editorial[ —]
Today’s ceremony in Windsor will rightly cause great pleasure and will be widely enjoyed. But it should not be weighed down with wider significance

First things first – and let us say straight away that they are also obvious and sincere first things. We all offer Prince Harry and Meghan Markle congratulations on their wedding day. We send best wishes for a long and happy married life together. We hope, as everyone does before any wedding, royal or otherwise, that the day goes wonderfully well for them in every way. We hope, once the big day is over, that the royal couple and their relatives can look back on it with nothing but happiness. It would also be kind if they were all now allowed a bit more privacy than they have had lately as they get used to these big changes in their lives.

The Guardian is unrepentantly a republican newspaper. We wish the British people to have sovereignty, through parliamentary democracy, over our constitution, laws and alliances. These issues may soon come to a head as the post-Elizabethan era arrives. Yet it would be idle to pretend that royal weddings are not inclusive national events. Today’s in Windsor will be no exception. Royal weddings are always interesting, both as theatre and because they tell us something about the kind of nation we have become. If we can cut through the dense thickets of overinterpretation and sycophancy that attach themselves to such events, they also say something about the condition of the monarchy itself.

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The Guardian view on North Korea: no art as Trump seeks deal | Editorial

18 May, by Editorial[ —]
The US president boasts of a possible peace deal with North Korea, but the prospects of success at next month’s planned summit in Singapore look worse than ever

It is not clear whether Donald Trump set out to threaten Kim Jong-un with Muammar Gaddafi’s fate. It is not even certain that he realises he did so. In his rambling remarks on Thursday he appeared to confuse Libya and Syria. He took his national security adviser John Bolton’s remarks on the “Libya model” to refer to the military intervention of 2011, rather than the negotiated removal of its nuclear programme in 2003. It is even possible that he intended to reassure: “That model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy,” he said.

So making sense of this administration’s pinball trajectory towards next month’s possible summit is a fool’s errand. Yet that is what Pyongyang, and the rest of us, must do. North Korea had already warned that it might not attend, but in calibrated terms, taking aim at Mr Bolton for pushing the Libya model and insisting on “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards”. Intentionally or not, Mr Trump doubled down by spelling out the prospect of regime change and “total decimation” if no deal is reached. This is precisely why the North wants its WMDs: leaders without them are more easily removed. The advance of Mr Bolton and Mike Pompeo, and then the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, have made it still less likely that the North can either achieve or trust a security guarantee.

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The Guardian view on fixed-odds betting terminals: the bookies lose, at last | Editorial

17 May, by Editorial[ —]
The promise to slash the maximum stake is welcome – but more must be done to tackle problem gambling

The government’s promise to slash the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to just £2 is both welcome and long overdue. Matt Hancock, the digital, culture, media and sport secretary, was right to describe the UK’s 33,000 machines as a “social blight” preying on some of the most vulnerable in society.

A bit of fun? A little flutter? Hardly, when users can wager £100 every 20 seconds in the grip of an anxious, joyless compulsion. The government’s evidence is damning: in England, 13.6% of players of such machines are problem gamblers – the highest rate for any major gambling activity. Players are disproportionately likely to live in areas of high deprivation. And those who are unemployed are more likely to most often stake £100 than any other socioeconomic group. The buzz of gambling depends on uncertainty, but these machines have ensured two things: huge profits for the high street bookmakers that house them, and misery for a significant number of their users – and those gamblers’ families. In a single year, there were more than 233,000 cases of individual gamblers losing more than £1,000.

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The Guardian view on the cabinet and Brexit: beyond a joke | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/jacob-rees-moggplay episode download
17 May, by Editorial[ —]
Downing Street says that ministers have agreed a customs regime strategy. That’s stretching the facts. The EU, MPs and the voters may also have their own views on the matter

There was a time, perhaps, when the government’s ineptitude over Brexit was almost funny. There is nothing funny about it now. For 15 months Theresa May has groped her way towards an approach that could reconcile her party’s Europe-loathers with her party’s Europe-pragmatists. All too predictably, none of her efforts have succeeded. Mrs May now has a month before the June European council at which the UK and the EU are due to review progress. She has five months before some kind of deal is struck. Progress? Deal? These words have lost all meaning. Getting two pandas to mate in captivity turns out to be a cinch compared with getting the Conservative party to agree what it wants.

Mrs May’s latest suggestions for turning Brexit dross into an agreement that can be marketed as golden is a so-called “time-limited goods arrangement”. Essentially, this is an attempt to keep the UK within the EU’s external tariff system after Brexit until it can come up with an effective technological alternative to a post-Brexit hard border in Ireland. That way, the loathers would get their Brexit, the pragmatists would get something they could call a frictionless Irish border, Mrs May would have a united party for a few weeks and the UK would not crash out of the EU unprotected.

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The Guardian view on renationalising rail: give it a chance | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/business/travelleisureplay episode download
16 May, by Editorial[ —]
Corporate bungling means the state will run the east coast mainline. It should be left in government hands to better observe the relative merits of public and private ownership

The U-turn is a difficult manoeuvre to perform on rails, but Chris Grayling has managed it. The transport secretary did not look comfortable on Wednesday, informing the House of Commons that the east coast mainline would be brought under government control. He tried to present renationalisation as something other than a 180 degree reversal of previous policy. He emphasised the temporary nature of the measure and underlined his belief in the superiority of private enterprise over state control. It was still a volte-face. The line has been run as a franchise by Stagecoach and Virgin since 2015, but unprofitably. The operators promised to pay £3.3bn to run the line for eight years. Within three, they have breached the terms of their contract. It is a familiar pattern: private providers making unrealistic bids, confident that the government must play backstop if they fail, which they did last year. The challenge then facing the transport secretary was to settle on a form of intervention that was politically acceptable to rail users and ideologically palatable to himself and his party.

The two requirements pulled in opposite directions. A straight bailout would look like a reward for failure, transferring taxpayers’ money to corporate bunglers who should foot the bill for their own incompetence. Mr Grayling has been at pains to point out that the franchise holders are paying a price – in terms of damaged reputation and forfeited cash (around £200m). But he has been equally reluctant to accept that the line might be better off in public hands. This has been an ideological hurdle. Mr Grayling is a dogmatic free-marketeer, allergic to the idea of public sector management in anything that might also be privately run. The east coast mainline conundrum forces him to swallow something he finds intellectually discomfiting: private sector failure invites public ownership as a legitimate alternative.

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The Guardian view on the Bank of England: keep the menopause out of economic theory | Editorial

16 May, by Editorial[ —]
Let’s talk about the economy without repeating misogynist myths

The economy, according to a newspaper headline, is “at a menopausal moment”. The deputy governor of the Bank of England, former Goldman Sachs banker Ben Broadbent, has been quoted as comparing the current slump in productivity to a similar, and much debated, spell of stagnation in the late years of Queen Victoria’s reign. This period was identified in 1952 by the economist Henry Phelps Brown as “the climacteric of the 1890s”. Broadbent, asked to explain what was meant by a “climacteric”, said that it was a biological word meaning “menopausal, but can apply to both genders … it means you’re past your peak, you’re no longer potent”.

And with that Mr Broadbent, to use another bodily metaphor, fell flat on his face. Anyone equipped with basic common sense, leave alone in possession of a prominent position in public life, ought to be ashamed of the claim that the menopause means that a woman is over the hill and lacks “potency”. Such ideas are, plain and simple, misogynist myths.

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The Guardian view on Carillion’s collapse: a question of when not if | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/rachel-reevesplay episode download
16 May, by Editorial[ —]
A corporate strategy based on greed and deception was running large parts of the state. This was a scandal

Carillion’s sudden rise and its spectacular collapse is a story of greedy recklessness shrouded in corporate deception. As two select committees point out in a joint report today its business model was a “relentless dash for cash, driven by acquisitions, rising debt, expansion into new markets and exploitation of suppliers”.

This disaster capitalism was enabled by dodgy accounts and executive avarice. In the end Carillion, which held £16bn of government contracts, was unviable. In retrospect the surprise was not that it went under but that it lasted so long. The public is left holding the bill: 2,000 have lost their jobs; 27,000 current and former employees will get smaller pensions; and £150m of government cash has been spent to prop up essential contracts.

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The Guardian view on Brexit and devolution: wanted – joined-up thinking | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/liberaldemocratsplay episode download
15 May, by Editorial[ —]
Brexit is not only about the hard/soft argument. It is also about who gets the last word in the different nations of Britain

Britain’s Brexit argument began life as a dispute between remaining in the European Union and leaving it. After the vote to leave in 2016, that original dispute has gradually been overlaid by the battle between a hard and soft Brexit. The House of Lords debates on the EU withdrawal bill, which have significantly softened the bill, and which come to an end on Wednesday, can best be understood in that hard/soft context. When the bill returns to the Commons (Conservative factions are still squabbling over the terms) the arguments will continue along this same hard/soft axis.

However, hard/soft is not the only axis. In the devolved nations there is a different issue. This asks which should have the final word on Brexit: Westminster or the devolved governments – and in what combination? The answers differ in each devolved country. Though Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, its unionist leaders have backed Theresa May for a hard Brexit. After initial objections to Mrs May’s centralist approach, the Welsh government won concessions that were reflected in a government climbdown; it has now struck a deal. The Scots, however, said those were insufficient, so dispute still rages unresolved there. On Tuesday the Scottish parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the Brexit bill altogether, with the Conservatives dissenting.

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