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The Guardian view on Heathrow’s third runway: climate loses out to growth | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/travelplay episode download
25 October, by Editorial[ —]
The decision is taken, but enacting it will be a fight between old-fashioned economics and the future of the planet

It is a sign of the British political world’s current priorities that Theresa May has finally made the decision to opt for a third runway at Heathrow. She promised it was a decision for “jobs and growth”, both of which may be scarcer in the post-Brexit era in which the new runway will come into service. Pumping hope into the economy is now considered worth alienating every Conservative council and MP whose voters live under the flightpath of planes using the new runway, including Mrs May’s own Maidenhead constituents. It is worth at least one backbench resignation (and maybe a lost byelection) and a novel reinterpretation of the convention about cabinet responsibility in order to accommodate public dissent from at least two ministers. It is worth what will probably be millions of pounds fighting legal challenges over air and noise pollution. Most of all, the decision puts old-fashioned economics firmly ahead of tackling climate change, which turned out not to be worth a single mention in transport secretary Chris Grayling’s opening statement to MPs.

The decision, which has now to be incorporated into a national policy statement on aviation that MPs will vote on some time in the next 18 months, comes heavily gilded with incentives to local residents to take the money and keep quiet. About 750 homes will be subject to compulsory purchase: £1.5bn has been set aside to pay compensation at the market rate for the unblighted value of each home and for the resettlement costs of the residents. At least another £1bn will be paid out for noise insulation in schools and improvements in public facilities. There will be a new community resource fund. Mr Grayling promised MPs that there would be a 50% increase in travellers arriving at Heathrow by public transport, and the cost of improving road access would fall not to the taxpayer but to the developers. The £17bn bill for development is to be picked up by the developers and not passed on to air passengers. A senior retired judge has been appointed to oversee the consultation period. “This is not expansion at any cost, but the right scheme at the right price,” Mr Grayling declared.

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The Guardian view on Asia-Pacific competition: risks and opportunities | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/obama-administrationplay episode download
25 October, by Editorial[ —]
The Philippine president’s vow to separate from the US has highlighted Washington’s rivalry with Beijing

After four months as president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte has become notorious for erratic and attention-grabbing statements. But his remarks on his country’s longstanding alliance with the United States make his other pronouncements appear a model of understatement and consistency. He announced that he was separating from the US “in military [and] economics also” and talked of a possible new troika “against the world: China, Philippines and Russia”. On Monday, he reversed course. Existing alliances were alive and there should be no concern about them changing; all he sought was trade and commerce with China, he said. By Tuesday, he was lashing out at Washington again. The US has said it is seeking clarity on his intentions; so, it seems, are his colleagues, and perhaps even Mr Duterte himself.

If his manner is sui generis, the strategic question he faces is not. Beneath the bluster appears to be an attempt to extract advantage from the rival ambitions of the US and China. Beijing’s growing economic and military power and increased confidence have produced a discernable shift in the region (helping to explain why Mr Duterte is downplaying his nation’s victory over China in a tribunal ruling on their South China Sea dispute). The situation has been complicated both by what the US has done, and what it hasn’t. In 2011, Barack Obama announced a “pivot to Asia” and stressed that the US was a Pacific power, a message bolstered by plans to station marines in Australia. Beijing saw that as an attempt to contain it, and efforts to gloss the message failed to undo the damage. But it alarmed China without achieving much: in reality, the Obama administration had little time to devote to the region. It has been too busy elsewhere. That seems unlikely to change significantly, even if a President Clinton proves more active and keener to make alliances count – especially given that she has renounced the pivot’s economic plank, the TPP trade deal including multiple Pacific nations but not China.

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The Guardian view on Brexit and the union: consensus not confrontation | Editorial

24 October, by Editorial[ —]
The first meeting of the leaders of the devolved administrations was not a good start. Mrs May must work for their support

Getting out of the EU without precipitating a constitutional crisis is going to be a severe test of the UK’s politicians and the political arrangements in which they operate. It will require tact, diplomacy, patience, and a willingness to try to reach a consensus. So far, there is little evidence of any of these qualities. Most of the blame for that must fall on the prime minister, since although all the participants – the leaders of the devolved assemblies and the UK parliament – have a role in this unprecedented process, she sets the tone: so far, it has been confrontational. She has little alternative but to accept the result, and to play for time while Whitehall works out what needs doing and in what order. But she has sounded high-handed on a hard Brexit, on engaging with parliament and now on the role of the devolved administrations that could lead, all too easily, to the break-up of the United Kingdom.

Today’s meeting of the joint ministerial committee of the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with Theresa May and her ministers – not only the first since the referendum, but the first for nearly two years – was an indication of how quickly it could all go wrong. After a morning of “robust” discussion, the first ministers emerged complaining about the government’s lack of transparency and its failure to make any concessions on their key demand of continuing access to the single market. While much of this is predictable and not entirely unrelated to domestic considerations, it underlines the importance – as a new report from the Institute for Government explains in detail – of reaching common positions as a basis for future negotiations with Brussels, through teamwork between Whitehall officials and the devolved administrations. London too should be part of this process; the absence of a specifically English regional voice is a weakness. A negotiation that goes as far as possible to reach a position that leavers and remainers can both accept is essential.

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The Guardian view on free speech: not just the icing on the cake | Editorial

24 October, by Editorial[ —]

The law should not compel anyone to say things they believe immoral – even when they’re wrong

The decision of the court of appeal in Belfast in the case of Ashers bakery cannot be welcomed by anyone who cares about free speech. Briefly, a gay couple asked a Christian bakery to make them a cake showing Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street with a message praising equal marriage. The bakery refused, saying the message was contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible. The couple sued, claiming they had been discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation. The bakers, in turn, felt discriminated against for their religious beliefs. If the case is understood as one that sets religious rights against sexual orientation then the decision against the bakers is understandable. There cannot be a blanket exemption against discrimination law because some people feel their conscience compels them to act unjustly. Although it is invidious to have to choose between religious and sexual identity, the law should, when in doubt, protect sexual minorities over religious ones.

But that is not the only way in which this question can be examined. We may well think that Ashers bakery are bigots or fundamentalists but the other principle at issue is one of free speech. The law against discrimination says that they may not refuse service to anyone because of their sexual orientation. That’s entirely right. It is further arguable that they should not be able to discriminate against anyone because of their political views. But what is at stake here – as Peter Tatchell has pointed out – is also a principle of free speech. They were being asked to make a statement in favour of gay marriage with which they profoundly disagreed. And here they ought to have had the right to disagree.

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The Guardian view on climate change: good news – but not yet good enough | Editorial

23 October, by Editorial[ —]
Eleven of the last 12 months have been the hottest on record. Though progress on cutting carbon emissions is encouraging, more must be done

The Montreal protocol is the most successful environmental treaty in history, and arguably one of the most successful of any international pact. It phased out the gases that were destroying the ozone layer, averting potential catastrophe and healing the hole that human activities had opened in our protective layer. Unfortunately, it had a side-effect overlooked when it was signed in the 1980s: some of the chemicals substituted for the ozone-destroyers had an effect on the climate thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide. This month, world governments agreed to address that by eliminating the substitute chemicals – called HFCs – potentially reducing rising temperatures by as much as 0.5C in a relatively short time. Scientists put the safe limit on future rises at 2C above pre-industrial levels by the middle of this century: beyond that, catastrophic and irreversible climate changes are judged likely. So the reduction agreed under the Montreal protocol could have an enormous, and swift, impact.

This is just the beginning of the good news. The International Civil Aviation Organisation agreed this month to measures to combat the impact of flying. Planes are not only a rising source of greenhouse gases, but also contribute through the vapour they produce, which – coming at such high altitudes – has a greater warming effect. This week, international shipping will debate similar rules to cut its impacts. This is a trillion-dollar business, and ships use particularly dirty fuel. Governments should take the simple measures needed. Altering the fuel to be less polluting, preventing outflow during shipping and harbourage, and improving monitoring to reduce emissions need not be costly and will be invaluable in the fight against marine and air pollution as well as climate change.

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The Guardian view on machine learning: people must decide | Editorial

23 October, by Editorial[ —]
Each advance in artificial intelligence increases the power of computer networks, but the responsibility for their use remains with human beings

Researchers working for Google have produced a new kind of computer intelligence which can learn in ways less immediately dependent on its programmers than any previous model. It can, for instance, navigate its way through a map of the London underground without being explicitly instructed how to do so. For the moment, this approach is less efficient than the old-fashioned, more specialised forms of artificial intelligence, but it holds out promise for the future and, like all such conceptual advances in computer programming, it raises more urgently the question of how society should harness these powers.

Algorithms in themselves long predate computers. An algorithm is simply a sequence of instructions. Law codes can be seen as algorithms. The rules of games can be understood as algorithms, and nothing could be more human than making up games. Armies are perhaps the most completely algorithmic forms of social organisation. Yet too much contemporary discussion is framed as if the algorithmic workings of computer networks are something entirely new. It’s true that they can follow instructions at superhuman speed, with superhuman fidelity and over unimaginable quantities of data. But these instructions don’t come from nowhere. Although neural networks might be said to write their own programs, they do so towards goals set by humans, using data collected for human purposes. If the data is skewed, even by accident, the computers will amplify injustice. If the measures of success that the networks are trained against are themselves foolish or worse, the results will appear accordingly. Recent, horrifying examples include the use of algorithms to grade teachers in the US and to decide whether prisoners should be granted parole or not. In both these cases, the effect has been to punish the poor just for being poor.

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The Observer view on Britain becoming mean and narrow-minded | Observer editorial

23 October, by Observer editorial[ —]
The post-referendum political debate has been besmirched by racism, bigotry and hatred

Just four years ago, Britain proudly projected the image of an open, tolerant, confident nation onto the international stage. We luxuriated in the glow of an Olympic opening ceremony that drew together the best of British: from Shakespeare to EastEnders the Queen to James Bond; the NHS to the internet.

It featured Dizzee Rascal and Rowan Atkinson, Arctic Monkeys and the London Symphonic Orchestra. It was, according to writer Jonathan Freedland, “a byword for a new approach, not only to British culture but to Britishness itself. Politicians would soon be referring to it, using it as shorthand for a new kind of patriotism that does not lament a vanished Britain but loves the country that has changed.” It was hailed abroad and Britain, it seemed, had shown itself to the world as a vibrant, open, confident, multicultural country.

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The Observer view on Congo and the failure of democracy in Africa | Observer editorial

23 October, by Observer editorial[ —]
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest country disintegrating because a leader wants to hang on to power

Two decades ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country, was engulfed in what became known as Africa’s Great War, a conflict that drew in half-a-dozen neighbouring countries and raged for five years from 1998.

The conflict and its aftermath cost the lives of an estimated 5.4 million people, mainly from starvation and disease. This epic disaster was largely ignored outside Africa, even though it was the developed world’s insatiable demand for the DRC’s mineral riches that helped to fuel it.

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The Guardian view on the US presidency: the time is right for a female leader | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/barack-obamaplay episode download
21 October, by Editorial[ —]

Hillary Clinton failed to take account of the populist anger and lost ground to the rightwing demagoguery of Donald Trump. But in belatedly recognising widespread frustration with elites, she deserves to win

The final presidential debate, thankfully the last set piece in a wretched campaign, revealed what is admirable and loathsome in American politics. Hillary Clinton displayed a razor-sharp intelligence and a quick wit. Her facility with facts trumped Donald Trump’s lack of them. Americans finally saw on Wednesday why Secretary Clinton had got rich from giving lectures after leaving office. Her fluency with words, which has earned her $22m in speaking fees, appeared to silence her opponent. Mr Trump, a boastful, thin-skinned billionaire who trades in racism and misogyny, was left squawking on the sidelines of the debate. His jibes revealed a man out of his depth. His answer was to plunge down deeper. By disgracefully refusing to rule out calling this a rigged election he gave up a fight he had by then lost.

Americans should vote for Secretary Clinton as an able and proven politician. A Trump presidency would be bad for America and dangerous for the world, so a vote for Secretary Clinton is the most effective way of preventing it. Mr Trump has been exposed for questionable tax arrangements, outrageous business practices and irregularities at his charity. The billionaire is a grabber and kisser of women who he presumed gave consent because he was famous. There are numerous allegations of sexual assault by Mr Trump. He has demonstrated that he has neither the conscience, training nor sense of history – and the desire to be judged well by it – to occupy the White House. Secretary Clinton possesses such attributes. She has a serious and sustained commitment on issues like education, healthcare and equality, and she has stood consistently for the rights of women, ethnic minorities, children and the disabled through her long career.

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The Guardian view on zoos: respect our animal relatives | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/david-attenboroughplay episode download
20 October, by Editorial[ —]
Kumbuka the gorilla’s escape from his enclosure at London Zoo has reignited arguments about keeping large animals in such institutions

Gorillas are not just animals, Sir David Attenborough said this week, explaining: “They are related to us; they get stressed. A gorilla is not a fish.” Leaving aside the fact that fish can also get stressed and are probably also related to us, albeit more distantly, he surely has a point. Humans, at this advanced stage in their evolution, may like nothing better than to parade themselves on Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor, but gorillas still value a bit of privacy and do not necessarily enjoy performing for visitors.

That, some think, may have been a factor in the escape of a dominant male gorilla called Kumbuka from his enclosure at ZSL London Zoo. The attraction went into lockdown while the gorilla was located – he was in a secure keepers’ area – and tranquillised, although not before he had downed five litres of undiluted blackcurrant cordial. It does not appear to have done him any lasting harm, and the zoo was able to give assurances that the public were never in any danger from his adventure. But the incident has been a public relations disaster, particularly because the management initially failed to explain how the animal was able to escape; the answer, it emerges, was two unlocked doors. Some commenters on social media enjoyed the spectacle of human visitors, who had been advised to seek sanctuary in secure buildings at the site, being locked up while an incarcerated animal had its hour of relative freedom, a reaction that should surely worry the zoo authorities.

Related: David Attenborough: zoos should use peepholes to respect gorillas' privacy

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