The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority will close its St. Thomas business office and payment windows at Beltjen Place…
On Thursday, April 25, the St. Thomas community was enjoying J'Ouvert when the celebration was shattered by gunshots which injured three people. Public safety officials immediately canceled the remainder of J'Ouvert.
Mark Hirsch publishes images taken using his smartphone through the changing seasons in a book called That Tree
• That Tree: an iPhone photo journal – in pictures
It was a sight so familiar it was almost beyond noticing: a bur oak – though an old and particularly gorgeous specimen – towering above the corn fields that Mark Hirsch drove past daily on the road into town.
Then Hirsch, a photographer with a studio in Dubuque, Iowa, got his first iPhone. A friend challenged him to use the camera feature, and Hirsch decided to spend the next year photographing the bur oak that was such a feature of his daily commute.
The result is That Tree, a year-long photo diary of the life of the tree.
As far as the tree was concerned, it was a year of dramatic occurrences: 2012 saw a historic drought across the mid-west as well as a punishing winter. At the height of summer, after a string of 38C-plus days, the leaves on the tree curled up and crumbled away into the dried-out corn fields.
In the depths of winter, after a terrible blizzard, the tree was surrounded by snow, nine or 10 inches deep, and broken only by the tracks of a deer.
It was a year of transformation for Hirsch as well.
Before taking on the tree, he had never really worked as a landscape photographer. And while he describes himself as a "quiet environmentalist" and a keen hunter, hiker, and outdoorsman, who lives on 200 acres on the other side of the Mississippi river from his studio in the state of Wisconsin, he had never looked that closely at the natural world.
After about two weeks, he feared he had run out of ways to photograph the tree. He had exhausted all the angles that immediately came to mind. "I thought: oh my gosh? How am I going to do this for a year?" he said.
The iPhone imposed additional limitations. The time of day prized by photographers, the pre-dawn early morning hours or those minutes when day turns to dusk, were often too dark for the iPhone's camera.
Hirsch would take some pictures, drive home to view the images on his computer and be forced to return and try again because the light was not good enough.
In time, he learned to look out for the smaller changes, to watch the leaves grow on the branches or the acorns accumulate on the ground beneath the tree. He grew fascinated by the tracery made by Japanese beetles devouring the leaves.
Those small biological changes – none of which he would have much noticed in the past – formed a large body of the work in the book.
"It made me a way better photographer," Hirsch said. "As a photojournalist you run into a situation and document a specific topic and an inanimate object that just sits on a landscape is a passive subject. I just really had to change my way of thinking, and my way of looking at the world and it has really had an incredible impact on me."Suzanne Goldenberg
How likely are you to see a piece of art in a London gallery created by a woman? An audit of London art galleries by the East London Fawcett Group has attempted to find out
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An audit of more than 100 commercial galleries in London has found that only 5% represent an equal number of male and female artists.
East London Fawcett's (ELF) art audit also found that not a single woman appeared on the top 100 auction performances list in 2012. The audit which looked at works from April 2012 – April 2013 gathered data on 134 commercial galleries in London, which collectively represent 3,163 artists.
Of this total, just 31% of the represented artists were women, with 78% of the galleries representing more men than women. Kira Cochrane writes today:
Here's a teaser. How many women artists featured in the top 100 auction sales, ranked by price, last year? Gemma Rolls-Bentley, an independent curator, decided to find out.
One day, not long ago, she sat down with the 2012 list, "and spent a couple of hours writing M next to the artists. I got to the end and there wasn't a single F." Some of those artists were alive, some were dead, all were highly valued - clearly considered "great" or "genius" - and all were men.
ELF, the East London branch of the Fawcett Society, also turned their attention to gender representation in solo shows featured in the exhibition programmes of 29 non-commercial galleries in London. Nearly a third of the galleries presented no female solo shows during this period and only one of the gallery programmes featured all female shows.
Public art also came under scrutiny from the ELF audit. Of the 386 public works of art that were recorded in Westminster and the City of London, a mere 8% were created by female artists. That may not come as much of of a surprise if you take into account that a large proportion of the pieces of art date back many years.
So if we look at the modern day, do female artists fare better? A quarter of the artists selected for the Fourth Plinth, situated in the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square, were female, as Kira Cochrane writes today "far from brilliant, but much better than those other statistics for public art".
Frieze Art Fair, an annual showcase of leading international artists, provided some interesting results. 27.5% of the artists represented at the art fair in 2012 were women. The results are a reflection of a survey that took in 3,441 artists across 135 international galleries that were represented in the commercial section of Frieze Art Fair 2012.
However, 23.3% of solo exhibitions hosted by commercial galleries in the capital during Frieze week presented female artists – an increase on the 11.6% figure that Laura McLean- Ferris found in 2008 when she conducted a similar survey.
Gemma Rolls-Bentley, arts director at ELF, is optimistic despite the gender split displayed by the results:
The ELF art audit results provide statistical evidence that gender inequality still persists in London's art world. However, these results also demonstrate that significant positive progress has and is being made.
By raising awareness of the challenges specific to female artists, we hope that the campaign will widen the dialogue around this issue and that as a result the gender balance will continue to improve. The art audit's message is one of optimism.
Campaign group, UK Feminista, published results in 2010 of a similar piece of research looking at gender inequalty in the art world. They found that 83% of the artists in the Tate Modern and 70% of the artists in the Saatchi Gallery were male.
But the gender gap is the reverse when you look at university stats. In her Datablog piece examining the gender gap at universities by institution and subject, Rebecca Ratcliffe found that 61.7% of the undergraduate creative arts and design intake in UK universities in 2011-12 was female. So why are so few female artists being represented in art galleries? We'd love to hear your views in the comments below.Ami Sedghi
The greatest threat to US freedom of the press isn't incarceration or even a White House investigation, it's indifference
It's difficult to say who's happier about the recent spate of troubles in the Obama White House, specifically the revelations about administration investigations into the activities of news organizations and individual journalists. Is it the Republicans, whose glee has finally found a source that doesn't coincide with the misery of every day Americans? (That's the problem with pegging your campaigns to Obama's inability to get the economy going – you have to actively block his attempts to get the economy going). Or is it the press that's the truly delighted party here, as they have finally found a narrative that is as critical of the Obama administration as it is laudatory of their own role in the great pageant of democracy?
President Obama and his team may overstep its bounds in attempts to squash individual stories, but it's the cozy culture of Washington favor-trading that makes the protections of the First Amendment irrelevant.
Most of the time, being a reporter means taking crap from people. I've never held to the truism that pissing off "both sides" means you're somehow doing the job correctly. For one thing, it suggests that there's just two sides to any story, and while I do think the world can be divided into just two groups if you want, it's not the "left and right" that matter so much as the "haves and have-nots".
But it is true that doing the job correctly does not directly translate into praise. A reporter that's regularly doing a really great job reporting is mostly tolerated by the powers that be and largely unnoticed by the public at large. The kinds of information that are the greatest threat to those in power don't have to do with secrets so much as process; they detail the crimes against democracy that take place daily, not in the cover of night. They are not blockbuster stories; they are largely sleepers.
Indeed, Project Censored's annual list of "most censored" stories is, invariably, a collection of articles that were censored so much as to be passed over: the role of slave-wage labor in the US economy (and how the military abets it), the widening gap in wealth between our elected representatives and those that elected them, the way that private philanthropy has usurped parents in shaping public education.
Covered primarily by special publications, none of these stories drew the attention of federal investigations, though they are arguably just as damning as any single foreign policy misdeed. Yes, the Obama administration has continued – and in some ways improved on – the cold war between any given party and the journalists that cover it. But administrations don't have to censor a press that simply doesn't report. The greatest threat to freedom of the press in America isn't incarceration, it's indifference.
The ambitions of journalists are shaped by a sensitivity to what the American people are interested in. Those interests consist mainly of pop stars, diets, and sensational murders, so political journalists adapt to the warped priorities of insular Washington. Access and flattery are the chief currencies, so while most reporters at mainstream media outlets have personal worldviews more in line with the Obama administration than with the Republican members of Congress, the constant harping by conservatives on the MSM is a kind of informational picket line. When a story comes along that suggests that conservatives and reporters have a common enemy, it's the beginning of the kind of awkward romance: "See, we're not so different!" Reporters get to engage in the self-flattering fantasy that their craft can be separated from agendas; conservatives feel vindicated for their martyrdom.
But read between the lines of any until-now private correspondence between the leaker and the leakee and what's consistent is the same exchange of flattery and influence that characterizes what's happening on the front pages right now: Fox News reporter James Rosen gushed to his source constantly: "You are most perceptive and I appreciate your inquiry". He wrote, and signed one email, "Hugs and kisses". And the obsequiousness extended to policy; his most insidious lure was a promise to use leaked information to "force the administration's hand to go in the right direction," not exactly a fair or balanced notion.
Reporters digging down from a different location on the ideological spectrum act no differently: During the Bush administration, a House committee report unearthed an email from then-AP reporter Ron Fournier to then-White House adviser Karl Rove complimenting Rove for his part in maintaining American military might:
"The Lord creates [heroes] like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight."
More recently, NBC's David Gregory held out to the press office of Mark Sanford the guarantee of a "fair shake" and "put[ting] all this" – you know, adultery and abuse of his office – mostly aside for coming on "Meet the Press".
The flattery, the massaging of ego, the promise of tit for tat – these are the constants of access journalism, and reminders that ultimately it's not antagonism that chills free speech, but chumminess. Systematically, the only difference between what James Rosen said to State Department source Stephen Jin-Woo Kim and what White House reporters regularly say to White House sources is that Kim was not as disciplined.
Reporters' eagerness for access is regularly used to advance agendas. Sometimes that agenda coincides with unfettered information/the national good, sometimes it interferes with an administration's agenda, and sometimes it advances a specific ideology/policy. Often, the only reason these relationships come to light is that either the reporter or the source got burned. Most of the time, the reporter and the source both walk away happy, but it's the American public, if not democracy itself, that suffers. The lazy, daisy-chain-of-comforting-fictions that led up to the Iraq War a case in point.
My regretful suspicion is that we can't stop leaks and we can't stop government investigations into the leaks that displease those in power. We can only pay more attention. Think about those Project Censored stories: if more reporters were more well-rewarded (with attention as well as more tangible success) for the kind of tedious stories that expose quotidian abuses of power rather than the happily more infrequent outrageous violations, then government might develop a habit of honesty, rather than a fitful manipulation of the truth.
But what do I know? As White House press secretary Jay Carney told the assembled press corps Wednesday, maybe the issue isn't that the media and officials are so jointly invested in a mutual admiration society, maybe "the problem is that there are a lot of you and you are good at your jobs and you're smart and we almost invariably do not anticipate every question that you ask".
An audit of the art world shows that every artist in the top 100 auction sales last year was a man, and just 8% of public art in central London was created by women. But things are changing
Here's a teaser. How many female artists featured in the top 100 auction sales, ranked by price, last year? Gemma Rolls-Bentley, an independent curator, decided to find out. One day, not long ago, she sat down with the 2012 list, "and spent a couple of hours writing M next to the artists. I got to the end and there wasn't a single F." Some of those artists were alive, some were dead, all were highly valued – considered "great" or "genius" – and all were men.
Her count was part of a major project that began more than a year ago, in a packed church hall in Bethnal Green. East London Fawcett, a feminist group, had set up an event on women in the arts, and the turnout was large and vocal. "People were saying: 'I find I can't even have this conversation about equality in the art world'," says Rolls-Bentley, "because so many people think it's already been achieved. Because figures like Tracey Emin have defied the statistics, their rare success misleads people into thinking women get an equal shot."
As the arts director of ELF, she had come armed with statistics gathered by the campaigning group UK Feminista in 2010. These showed 83% of the artists in Tate Modern were men, along with 70% of those in the Saatchi Gallery. The conversation became even more heated.
A group of volunteers decided to do their own wide-ranging audit. The results are published today, and they make interesting reading. The auction statistic surprised Rolls-Bentley the most, but she was also struck by the low proportion of public art created by women. In east London, of 43 public works of art, 14% were created by women. In Westminster and the City of London, of 386 public works of art, the proportion created by women is just 8%.
Given that many of those commissions date back years, these numbers reflect women's marginalisation in art history – it's often estimated that only around 5% of the work featured in major permanent collections worldwide is by women. The National Gallery in London, for instance, contains more than 2,300 works; an information request made by the women's activist Tim Symonds at the start of 2011 revealed that only 11 of the artists in that enormous collection are women.
Rolls-Bentley and the other ELF volunteers were inspired in their audit by the self-styled "conscience of the art world", the feminist activist group Guerrilla Girls, who started highlighting sexual and racial inequality in the arts in 1985 – while dressed in gorilla masks. Perhaps their most famous poster came in 1989, and featured the female nude from Ingres's Grande Odalisque, wearing a gorilla mask, alongside the question: "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female."
Has anything improved in the nearly three decades since the Guerrilla Girls started? Some areas of the ELF audit suggest they have. When they looked at the proportion of women artists selected to exhibit on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, for example, they made up 25% of the total – far from brilliant, but much better than those other statistics for public art.
They also looked at the artists represented by 134 commercial galleries in London and found that 31% were women – a figure reflected exactly in the proportion of solo shows by women at the city's non-commercial galleries. Given that women make up a majority of art students, the fact that they account for just fewer than one in three of the artists exhibited in, and represented by, London galleries might not seem much cause for celebration. But in the context of art history, it does suggest a step forward.
Rolls-Bentley recognises that there are still problems but is hopeful that we're seeing improvements, and flags up one specific point of comparison to illustrate this. The ELF audit found 23.3% of solo exhibitions hosted by commercial galleries during the Frieze Art Fair last year were by women – when the Art Review journalist Laura McLean-Ferris investigated this in 2008, that figure was 11.6%.
The question remains how many of the female artists shown in London galleries will go on to be celebrated as true greats – and how many will be scuppered by that familiar tangle of boys' clubs, motherhood and cultural expectations. On this last point, the auction statistics suggest it is still all-male at the top, as does the assertion by the feminist artist Judy Chicago that only 2.7% of art books concern female artists. When I spoke to Chicago last year, she pointed out: "The monographs on artists, permanent collections and major exhibitions are really the path into history, and that's what is important to look at, and not be deceived by the many women showing at entry level in smaller and regional museums and galleries."
The glass ceiling in art still exists, then – but campaigners are determined to break it. The audit was set up to put this issue on the map, says Rolls-Bentley; to encourage the art world to consider gender balance much more frequently and freely. If that becomes second nature, the many brilliant women at the start of their careers today, putting on shows in small galleries, might have a genuine shot at history.Kira Cochrane
Czech-German composer's satire on Adolf Hitler, The Emperor from Atlantis, to be staged at former SS and Gestapo HQ
It is a small operatic gem that was written under tortuous circumstances and almost failed to see the light of day when its composer was dragged off to the gas chambers before even being able to hear it performed. But it lives on thanks to a professor of philosophy who survived Theresienstadt concentration camp where it was written and who preserved the manuscript.
Now a Berlin orchestra and an American conductor are to revive The Emperor from Atlantis by Czech-German composer Viktor Ullmann on a more than unusual stage – the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo in the German capital, known as the Topography of Terror. "We wanted to reinforce the immediacy of the genocide of Ullmann and whole schools of composers of that time and this is a far more effective mis en scene than an opera house would be," said John Axelrod, the US conductor who is leading the project.
Ullmann, who was Jewish and had been a pupil of the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, wrote the operatic satire on Adolf Hitler knowing full well that it would lead to his death. The blatant irony of its contents were not lost on the SS authorities of Theresienstadt who soon after the final rehearsal of the work, which took place in March 1944, deported Ullmann to Auschwitz, along with his librettist Peter Kien, where he was murdered on 18 October aged 46.
"Ullmann clearly set out to make an anti-Nazi piece, in which art should hold up a mirror to what the Nazis were doing," said Axelrod, in between rehearsals with the musicians from the Kammersymphonie Berlin. The one-hour opera is an energetic mix of jazzy interludes, touches of cabaret, Bach-style chorales and sweet lyricism. It serves, according to Axelrod, as a bittersweet tribute to the long lineup of musicians whose murder or expulsion from Europe "destroyed much of the continent's musical legacy".
He points to the direct cribbing in Ullmann's opera of many of the works of the great composers of the German-speaking world who were either classified as degenerate because of their Jewishness by the Nazis and their music banned – as was the case with Mahler, Mendelssohn and Weill – or whose music was commandeered for propaganda purposes like Brahms or Wagner.
"He's using the opera to ask, what happened to German enlightenment and its key ideal 'all people become brothers?'" Like many musicians, Ullmann who was considered one of the leading composers of his day, was sent to Theresienstadt in what is now the Czech Republic. The concentration camp was presented to the outside world as a pristine model fortress town whose "inhabitants" – so Nazi authorities were keen to show – were treated decently, to the extent that they were able to carry on their musical, acting or artistic careers. In reality tens of thousands were murdered there and for more than 150,000 others it was a holding camp from which they were taken by rail transport to death camps elsewhere.
At a rehearsal this week before the first performance on Friday, the somewhat unusual array of instruments in the orchestra, including a guitar, banjo and saxophone, poignantly reflected the fact that Ullmann had to write his opera around whatever musicians were available to him in the camp. There are no female voices among the singers. Rather tellingly Eva Braun, Hitler's longtime companion, is represented by the drums. Despite his musical prominence in his lifetime, most of Ullmann's music was lost during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. That The Emperor of Atlantis survives at all is thanks to Emil Utiz, a Prague professor who was Theresienstadt's librarian and took the score out of the camp when it was liberated.
It was first performed in Amsterdam in 1975, parts of it having been lightly edited after a spiritualist who claimed she could contact dead composers, said she had received communication of the changes directly from Ullmann.Kate Connolly
Our coverage of the day's events in the UK and around the world
Using his iPhone 4S, Mark Hirsch photographed a tree in Platteville, Wisconsin, every day for a year
British foreign secretary says there is no 'Plan B' and warns of consequences of failure of US mission to revive peace process
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, has warned of the risks of failure of the US-sponsored mission to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, suggesting that it was the last attempt possible at reaching a two-state solution to the conflict and there was no realistic "Plan B".
On the second day of his brief trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Hague told reporters that the consequences of failure would be very severe, and the chances of a Palestinian state were slipping away.
US secretary of state John Kerry's drive to restart talks was "a moment of opportunity that won't easily come round again," Hague said on Friday. He later repeated the point: "If this doesn't work, there is not going to be another moment in American diplomacy that is more committed and energetic to bring about negotiations. So it's very important – in weeks, not months – to make the most of this opportunity."
Three times during a 20-minute press conference, Hague said "bold leadership" was required on both sides for Kerry's mission to succeed. Many western diplomats are sceptical about the Israelis' frequently stated commitment to resume talks, given their unwillingness to curb the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are seen as an impediment to peace talks by most of the international community.
"The two-state solution is slipping away, it doesn't have much longer to go. We never like to say it's the last attempt at anything, but we're getting near the last attempt at this," Hague said. "It is vital for all sides to make the necessary compromises for negotiations towards [a two-state solution] to succeed."
Hague was reluctant to be drawn on what diplomatic alternatives there were in the event of Kerry's failure to bring the two sides back to negotiations. "I don't think it's helpful to speculate publicly about Plan Bs, except to say there isn't any Plan B that comes anywhere near to Plan A. There isn't a Plan B that resolves the problem."
Kerry has produced no tangible results so far, despite four visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah in two months as well as numerous high-level meetings elsewhere. Progress was hard to measure, Hague said, but added: "I don't think we're in a position to say that necessary compromises have already been made, but I think minds are being concentrated. But unless the bold leadership is there to make the most of this opportunity, then we face a truly bleak situation in the Middle East."
He said both the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, were "intensively engaged" with the Kerry mission, but faced immense pressures. "We're getting nearer to everyone having to decide if they're really serious about this. That moment is quite close."
Israel had lost support in Britain and Europe as a result of its settlement activity, Hague said. However, "boycotts and delegitimisation" were not the answer.
Shinzo Abe's 'Abenomics' involved a push for a Nikkei rise. This week's plunge shows you can't legislate for human psychology
The Nikkei 225, Japan's primary stock market, plunged by over 7% on Thursday, from 15,942 (the highest it's been in over five years) to 14,483. That's a precipitous fall; but it takes on a rather different character when you look at it in the context of the last five months, since the Liberal Democratic party's Shinzo Abe became prime minister. Even including yesterday's fall, the Nikkei is still up almost 45%; its rally has until now been one of the most bankable things in finance.
The reason for this extraordinary surge seems to lie with the sweeping economic reforms implemented by Abe, in an attempt to beat the problems plaguing the country for a decade and a half. It's come to be known as the country's "lost decade", and while the accuracy of that phrase is long gone, it conveys the lack of hope that many feel. Nearly every conventional economic measure that can be implemented has been, and yet still the country experiences low levels of growth, rarely higher than 2% a year in the boom times, and averaging -0.7% a year since the recession.
Whether it's a cause or a symptom of Japan's problems remains debatable, but the failure of the country's monetary authorities to beat deflation – the phenomenon of average prices falling – has led to understandable anger. And so Abe, who stood for election with an explicit promise beat it once and for all, has one of the strongest mandates ever to follow unconventional economic policies.
Since then, he's launched a £70bn stimulus package and enacted a quasi-nationalisation of the country's industrial stock (with plans for the state to build new factories and lease them to manufacturers), in order to boost investment in the country; he's appointed a maverick new governor of the Bank of Japan, Haruhiko Kuroda, who has begun a "qualitative and quantitative easing" programme worth nearly £2tn, in order to return inflation to its target rate of 2% in the next two years; and, perhaps most novel of all, his economic and fiscal policy minister, Akira Amari, announced an explicit target for the stock market, telling reporters that, "It will be important to show our mettle and see the Nikkei reach the 13,000 mark by the end of the fiscal year (March 31)", according to the Japan Times.
In the end, the Nikkei missed that target, not breaking 13,000 till a week into April. But even that was an astonishing rise, of 17% in less than two months; and it's crucial to the success of Abe's policy, which has come to be called Abenomics, because it's all about management of expectations.
If people do not expect inflation, then businesses don't raise prices, employees don't negotiate for pay increases, and, sure enough, inflation doesn't happen. It's a vicious cycle, which needs something to step in from outside and kick it into a new groove; and all this talk of unlimited easing, and doing "whatever it takes", to end deflation, could be enough. But it is, fundamentally, a high-stakes mind game.
Which brings us back to the Nikkei plunge. Because the problem with mind games is that if everyone realises that they're playing them at once, the effect can evaporate. And that is what traders, fitfully waiting for the market to reopen, will have been worrying about on Thursday night. Is it just a blip, a bear trap, in an otherwise ongoing rise? Or is it Japan collectively losing its hope?Alex Hern
Douglas Flint says sorry to investors at annual meeting and talks of damage to bank's reputation from series of scandals
The chairman of HSBC has apologised to shareholders for the bank's role in a series of "extremely damaging" scandals, including rigging the Libor interest rate, PPI mis-selling and money laundering for Mexico drug cartels and terrorists.
Douglas Flint told investors at the bank's annual meeting in London that HSBC had already "apologised unreservedly" to stakeholders and has paid "huge penalties both in monetary cost and reputational damage". But said he wanted to "apologise again in person".
"As you will all be acutely aware, the last two years have been extremely damaging to HSBC's reputation and to our own perception of ourselves," he said. "We experienced serious historical failings both in the application of our standards and in our ability to identify, and so prevent, misuse and abuse of the financial system through our networks."
He said the bank had been given a "huge wake-up call" and HSBC was "determined to play a leading part in restoring the reputation of the industry and thereby regaining society's trust".
"We need to prove that a strong economy needs a strong banking sector," he said. "More important than apologies, however, are the steps being taken to prevent recurrence.
"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform banking and the broader financial industry.
"We need to demonstrate that the business model of banking is fair, transparent, sustainable and meeting its core purpose of serving society."
The bank has created a new financial system vulnerabilities committee of five experts to "identify areas where HSBC may become exposed to financial crime or system abuse".
"Their expertise includes the combating of organised crime, terrorist financing, narcotics trafficking, tax evasion and money laundering as well as expertise in intelligence gathering and international payments systems," Flint said.
The bank had agreed to pay a $1.9bn (£1.6bn) fine to US authorities to settle money laundering charges, but the deal has been delayed by a row between the justice department and the judge overseeing the case.
The deal – known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) – meant HSBC was exempt from prosecution and triggered a storm of criticism. Judge John Gleeson is now believed to be considering rejecting the deal, a move that could leave HSBC facing a criminal prosecution and the threat that its charter to do business in the US could be revoked.
US authorities reached the deal with HSBC last December after uncovering evidence that the bank had illegally conducted transactions on behalf of Mexican drug lords, terrorists and customers in Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma – all countries that were subject to US sanctions.Rupert Neate
A man who claims to know one of the suspects in the Woolwich attack says his friend was 'preaching peace' when he first converted to Islam
Indian women with diabetes still play 'caretaker role' in the family and prioritise the health of others above their own
The disease itself may not discriminate on the basis of gender, but when it comes to healthcare for patients with diabetes, women in India find themselves at a disadvantage compared with men.
This is the conclusion of a study, Impact of Gender on Care of Type 2 Diabetes in Varkala, Kerala, which analysed gender roles, norms and values in a household and found women patients to be more vulnerable.
This vulnerability influences all phases of diabetic care, according to the paper by Dr Mini P Mani at the Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies (AMCHSS) in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the southern state of Kerala.
Even when they suffer from diabetes, women cannot abandon the "caretaker role" in the family and have to continue to prioritise the health of other family members above their own, the study found. Inequitable access to resources prevents early diagnosis of the disease in women.
Women pay more attention to the health of the men and children in the family, leaving them with less time to devote to their own wellbeing, said Rosy Raphy, who teaches at a school in Munambam, near the central Kerala town of Kochi.
"As someone who has lived with diabetes for 26 years," Raphy told IPS, "I can say that I was not aware of the disease and did not take due care because I was preoccupied with matters of the family. As a result, my case got aggravated."
Of particular concern to women and gynaecologists in the country is gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a form of the disease that affects pregnant women. The incidence of GDM has grown fourfold in the past 10 years, according to Dr B Rajkumar, a doctor of Indian systems of medicine at the Keezhariyoor government ayurveda dispensary in the state's northern coastal district of Kozhikode.
"Earlier, pregnant women would engage in physical activity while doing housework. Today, the lifestyle of women has changed. Lack of exercise affects the body. And obesity, too, is a cause of gestational diabetes," he said.
One in five pregnant women in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat were found to have GDM, according to a study by the Diabetes Care Institute, whose results were reported in February. Women with GDM were at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life, warned an earlier study in Kerala's neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, conducted by a group of doctors led by endocrinologist Dr V Seshiah.
"They are the ideal group to be targeted for lifestyle modification or pharmacologic intervention in order to delay or postpone the onset of overt diabetes. Hence, an important public health priority in the prevention of diabetes is to address maternal health both during the ante- and post-partum period," the study said.
Medical researchers believe that the disease, earlier considered an ailment of the rich, is on the rise in India. Nearly 70 million people – half of them women – in a population of 1.21 billion have diabetes, and the number is predicted to rise to 101 million by 2030.
Nearly 60% of diabetics in India have never been screened or diagnosed due to a lack of awareness, according to a 2012 report published by the Brussels-based International Diabetes Federation, an umbrella organisation of diabetes associations in 160 countries. The study said nearly 63% did not even know the complications that arise from the disease.
Doctors attending the four-day World Congress of Diabetes in April, organised by Diabetes India in Kochi, suggested India-specific treatment guidelines for helping the rapidly growing number of patients in the country.
Dr Jothydev Kesavadev, the organising secretary for the fifth edition of the congress and the moderator for glucose monitoring consensus guidelines, told IPS that low-income patients suffer the most as they lack medical insurance.
"Though there are international guidelines for the treatment of diabetes, there is an urgent need for country-oriented guidelines," he said, "especially in areas of glucose monitoring and use of insulin in hospitals, besides taking into consideration the socioeconomic status of a patient and the country."
Healthcare experts say a combination of dietary pattern, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and genetic predisposition puts Indians at a unique risk of acquiring diabetes. Dr Meenu Hariharan, director of the Indian Institute of Diabetes in Thiruvananthapuram, told IPS that Indians were more prone genetically to diabetes than Europeans.
"Reduced physical activity and obesity accelerate the onset of diabetes in genetically predisposed people," she said. Starch-rich diets and increased intake of tinned foods with a high content of preservatives are other culprits. Studies and screening programmes have highlighted the fact that diabetes is spreading fast across India.
Cases of diabetes are higher in the four southern states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala – than in other states, according to the results of a countrywide blood-testing campaign conducted under the national programme for prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and strokes by the health ministry.
In Tamil Nadu, 11.8% of people tested positive for diabetes, 10.2% in Karnataka, 8.8% in Kerala, and 8.7% in Andhra Pradesh, compared with only 3% in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, which reported the lowest incidence of the disease.
Alarmingly, rural areas are also seeing a rise in diabetes rates, as a fallout of rapid urbanisation. However, the incidence of the disease remains higher in cities than in villages, according to Dr V Ramankutty, a health activist and professor at AMCHSS.
Talking to IPS, he charted the rise in the incidence of the disease. A survey in the early 1970s, he said, found only 2.3% of the urban population and 1.5% of the rural population to have diabetes. But by 1992, the proportion had risen to 8.2% and 2.4% for urban and rural areas, respectively. A repeat survey after five years found an even higher prevalence of the disease in urban areas, at 11.6%.
But insulin-deficient diabetes in children is less common in India than in western countries, said Dr GD Thapar, former director of the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi. In his book How to Lead a Healthy Life Despite Diabetes, he emphasised how crucial breastfeeding is to prevent the disease in children.
Ten-episode drama series starring Clive Owen will focus on staff at New York's Knickerbocker hospital in 1900
Steven Soderbergh will make his long-heralded move into TV with a period medical drama series starring Britain's Clive Owen for HBO sister channel Cinemax, Deadline reports.
The Knick will comprise 10 episodes, all set in New York in 1900 and all directed personally by the Oscar-winner, who has declared himself disinterested in continuing his feature film-making career. Soderbergh has already built a relationship with HBO after the US pay-TV network funded his Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, which stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and is currently screening in competition at Cannes. Observers had expected his first small-screen ventures to emerge via the channel, but this arrangement will instead help boost the profile of Cinemax, which has often languished in the shadow of its better-known Time Warner stablemate.
The Knick will centre around the pioneering surgeons, nurses and staff at Knickerbocker hospital as they push the boundaries of medicine during a time of horrifically high mortality rates, prior to the proliferation of antibiotics.
Meanwhile, there is still a chance for European audiences to experience the old Soderbergh magic in cinemas one last time before the 50-year-old director retires from the big screen for good. Behind the Candelabra, about the tempestuous six-year relationship between the flamboyant piano player and his much younger lover, Scott Thorson, is getting a UK release from 7 June.Ben Child
Former employees of Willy Selten plant say horse and putrid meat were added to beef for at least five years
"Everything passed through my hands: beef, horse, old meat that stank, sometimes even 'fresh' meat but it wasn't exactly fresh … Yes, I cut horse. I suspected there was something wrong but I just did what I was told to do," Jan Kowalski told us.
Kowalski (not his real name) is one of 85 Polish migrant workers who were employed at a meat processing plant in the Netherlands that was raided by the Dutch authorities in February as part of their investigation into horsemeat fraud.
Guardian interviews with Kowalski and a Polish workers' union representative have thrown new light on how thousands of horses allegedly entered the food chain in place of beef over many years at the Willy Selten factory in Oss, south of Rotterdam.
They said that the horsemeat was processed at the end of the day, after the normal shift had finished and the plant had been cleaned down, and that workers were tasked with cutting and mixing beef, some of it defrosted from consignments with labels as old as 2001, with horse deliveries. They had to cut out "green" putrid beef, which smelled so bad that they could keep working only by tying towels around their faces. They also described having to endure brutally tough working conditions and filthy, overcrowded accommodation.
The firm has been required by the Dutch food safety authority (NVWA) to recall 50,000 tonnes of meat that was distributed from the factory to more than 500 companies across Europe, including eight in the UK and one in Ireland, in the past two years, because it was unable to show its origin. The NVWA is still investigating and on Thursday Dtuch police arrested the owner Willy Selten.
A spokesman for Willy Selten, the firm's owner, denied that horse had ever been relabelled as beef. "It never happened," said Selten's lawyer, Frank Peters. However, the NVWA revealed this month that its tests on more than 150 samples of meat labelled as beef from his factory had found horse DNA in 21% of them.
Michiel Al, organiser for the Dutch meat workers' union FNV, said Polish workers had told him that the mixing and repacking of horse had gone on for at least five years at the Selten plant. Kowalski said he had been involved in repacking horsemeat for two and a half years. The horse trucks would come in from England and Germany, and for every 10-15 parts of beef about four of horsemeat would be mixed in.
"The worst meat was always processed in overtime or on Saturdays, not on the normal shift. We'd do it to earn a bit extra. Overtime was paid in cash in envelopes," Kowalski said.
The meat would then be repacked and relabelled, some of it as organic beef, the Polish workers claim.
The workers were on zero-hours contracts and paid about €500 a month less than the minimum required by Dutch regulations for the meat sector, according to Al. The union is preparing a claim against Selten for unpaid wages.
Kowalski and other workers described regular accidents at the factory in which employees were seriously injured by butchering knives. They alleged that a Dutch worker would treat injuries in the canteen but that the company made no effort to take employees to hospital when necessary, leaving this to their Polish colleagues.
The employees were housed by Selten in mobile homes on a campsite or in a rented farmhouse in the village of Nistelrode, where the Dutch businessman has his own home. No one answered at Selten's upmarket house when the Guardian visited.
When the factory was raided, the Polish workers suddenly found themselves without a job and without money, although they were still required to pay rent. At that point, 50 of them joined the union, which has been supporting them since. Some have found other work in the Netherlands; several have returned to Poland.
Al said that conditions were very poor and overcrowded when he visited the Poles in their accommodation. Six to eight workers slept in bunk beds in each mobile home. At the farmhouse, walls were brown with grime and the floor was crammed with mattresses. Kowalksi said there were up to 30 workers living in the four-bedroom house and in a neighbouring property.
The landlord, Adrie van den Berg, a former pig farmer, said he thought there were 12 per house and blamed the Polish men themselves for not being clean, and for chain-smoking and drinking beer.
Peters rejected several of the workers' allegations. Horse had been mixed with beef to meet specific orders but only for 10 months and it had never been relabelled as beef, he claimed. Where meat was old it was being recycled for pet food, he said, adding that workers were paid the legal minimum wage and wanted the flexibility of zero-hours contracts and cash for overtime.
He said that small injuries were treated in the canteen but in serious cases workers went to the doctor with a colleague. The Polish workers were responsible themselves for cleaning their accommodation and "some had stayed for years without complaints".
He said all the workers were invited and came to family and company parties. "The atmosphere was top!" he said.
The UK and the Dutch authorities have refused to identify who was taking horses to, and meat from, Selten's factory, while their investigations continue, but the Guardian revealed last month that horses had been regularly delivered from the Red Lion abattoir in Cheshire.
John Young, a spokesman for the Turner family that owns Red Lion, said horse deliveries had been properly labelled as such and were legal, although he admitted that one horse had been the subject of a recall, having tested positive for bute, the horse drug banned from the food chain.
All horses processed at the Red Lion site had been passed for slaughter by official vets, he said.Felicity LawrenceJohn Domokos
Though fantasy and sci-fi have invented hundreds of new words, only a few pass muster to make it into the dictionary
Water cooler conversation at a dictionary company tends towards the odd. A while ago I was chatting with one of my colleagues about our respective defining batches. "I'm not sure," he said, "what to do about the plural of 'hobbit'. There are some citations for 'hobbitses', but I think they may be facetious uses. Have any thoughts?"
I did: "We enter 'hobbit' into the dictionary?" You learn something new every day.
Pop culture is a goldmine of neologisms, and science fiction and fantasy is one rich seam that has been contributing to English for hundreds of years. Yes, hundreds: because what is Gulliver's Travels but a fantasy satire of 18th-century travel novels? And what is Frankenstein but science fiction? The name of Mary Shelley's monster lives on both as its own word and as a combining form used in words like "frankenfood". And Swift's fantasy novel was so evocative, we adopted a number of words from it, such as "Lilliputian", the tongue-twisting "Brobdingnagian", and – surprise – "yahoo".
Don't be surprised. Many words have their origins in science fiction and fantasy writing, but have been so far removed from their original contexts that we've forgotten. George Orwell gave us "doublespeak"; Carl Sagan is responsible for the term "nuclear winter"; and Isaac Asimov coined "microcomputer" and "robotics". And, yes, "blaster", as in "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."
Which brings us to the familiar and more modern era of sci-fi and fantasy, ones filled with tricorders, lightsabers, dark lords in fiery mountain fortresses, and space cowboys. Indeed, we have whole cable channels devoted to sci-fi and fantasy shows, and the big blockbuster movie this season is Star Trek (again). So why haven't we seen "tricorder" and "lightsaber" entered into the dictionary? When will the dictionary give "Quidditch" its due? Whither "gorram"?
All fields have their own vocabulary and, as often happens, that vocabulary is often isolated to that field. When an ad executive talks about a "deck", they are not referring to the same "deck" that poker players use, or the same "deck" that sailors work on. When specialized vocabulary does appear outside of its particular field and in more general literature, it's often long after its initial point of origin. This process is no different with words from science fiction and fantasy. "Tricorder", for instance, is used in print, but most often only to refer to the medical diagnostic device used in the Star Trek movies. It's not quite generic enough to merit entry as a general vocabulary word.
In some cases, the people who gave us the word aren't keen to see it taken outside of its intended world and used with an extended meaning. Consequently, some coinages don't get into print as often as you'd think: "Jedi mind trick" only appears four times in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. That corpus contains over 450 million indexed words.
Savvy writers of each genre also liked to resurrect and breathe new life into old words. JRR Tolkien not only gave us "hobbit", he also popularized the plural "dwarves", which has appeared in English with increasing frequency since the publication of The Hobbit in 1968. "Eldritch", which dates to the 1500s, is linked in the modern mind almost exclusively to the stories of HP Lovecraft. The verb "terraform" that was most recently popularized by Joss Whedon's show Firefly dates back to the 1940s, though it was uncommon until Firefly aired. Prior to 1977, storm troopers were Nazis.
Even new words can look old: JK Rowling's "muggle" is a coinage of her own devising – but there are earlier, rarer "muggles" entered into the Oxford English Dictionary (one meaning "a tail resembling that of a fish", and another meaning "a young woman or sweetheart"), along with a "dumbledore" ("a bumble-bee") and a "hagrid" (a variant of "hag-ridden" meaning "afflicted by nightmares").
More interesting to the lexicographer is that, in spite of the devoted following that sci-fi and fantasy each have – of the top 10 highest-grossing film franchises in history, at least five of them are science fiction or fantasy – we haven't adopted more sci-fi and fantasy words into general use. Perhaps, in the case of sci-fi, we just need to wait for technology to improve to the point that we can talk with our co-workers about jumping into hyperspace or hanging out on the holodeck.
Or it may be that, as genres, sci-fi and fantasy are not just huge, but hugely varied. It may not seem like it when you go to your favorite bookstore, where there are entire sections devoted specifically to "Teen Paranormal Romance" or Jane Austen-horror mashups. But who, after all, would say that Michael Crichton and HP Lovecraft, or JRR Tolkien and Jonathan Swift, are members of the same literary genre?
One thing is certain: Jonathan Swift would have had some nasty things to say about "hobbitses".Kory Stamper
Medea Benjamin's opinions on drones and Guantánamo 'worth paying attention to', president tells audience after interruptions
Barack Obama acknowledged that the views of an anti-war protester were "worth paying attention to" after she repeatedly interrupted his speech on counter-terrorism by heckling criticisms of his record on drone strikes and Guantánamo Bay.
Medea Benjamin, founder of the women's anti-war movement Codepink and author of a book on drone warfare, urged the US president to "take the drones out of the hands of the CIA" as she was led away from the auditorium at the National Defence University in Washington.
During the speech, Obama pledged to end the "boundless war on terror" by granting judicial oversight on targeted assassination. He also announced steps to speed up the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre and urged Congress to lift restrictions on the transfer of detainees.
Benjamin, whose heckles were recorded in the official White House transcript of the event, urged the president to use his power as commander-in-chief to close the detention centre immediately.
Obama departed from his prepared script by responding: "Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I'm willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it's worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that."
As Benjamin was led away she asked a series of rhetorical questions on drone strikes. In a video of the incident she can be heard saying: "Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologise to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent families?"
After she was led out of the auditorium, Obama was applauded when he said: "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to."
He added: "Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn't listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong."
Benjamin was questioned by federal agents after the incident, but was released without charge.
Explaining her actions, she said: "We have been so disappointed with Obama; we expected him to make serious changes like taking drones out of the hands of the CIA, stopping the signature strikes, apologising to innocents who have been killed, families of the innocent, and announcing that he, as commander-in-chief, would close Guantánamo, so when he did not I felt compelled to speak out."
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Benjamin claimed she would have been arrested if she had staged a similar protest in Congress. "I must say, I do really appreciate that I live in a country where if you interrupt the president you don't get beaten and tortured and thrown inside a prison for a year."Matthew Weaver
VKontakte founder Pavel Durov clashed with authorities for providing forum for activists to protest against Putin regime
Russia's leading online social network was banned briefly on Friday in a move dismissed as a "mistake" but which follows intensifying official pressure on the company as President Vladimir Putin consolidates his power.
VKontakte, Europe's largest homegrown social network with 210 million registered users, was put overnight on a "blacklist" of sites barred from distributing content inside Russia. Hours later, the ban was lifted.
The company's founder, Pavel Durov, has clashed with the authorities in the past for providing a forum for opposition activists to organise protests against Putin.
"This happened by mistake," said Vladimir Pikov, a spokesman for Roskomnadzor, the state communications regulator.
"In this case, someone checked a box against the address of the social network. The site has been removed from the list and restrictions on access to it have been lifted."
Durov, 28, founded VKontakte in his native St Petersburg in 2006 and his success in building the network – which attracts 47 million users daily – has drawn comparisons with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.
Durov refused to comply with an order by the Federal Security Service, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, to close groups used by activists to organise protests over the December 2011 parliamentary election, which handed victory to Putin's ruling United Russia party.
Last month, he was implicated in a traffic incident in the city of St Petersburg in which a policeman was slightly injured.
Durov has denied being involved in the accident but, instead of agreeing to testify as a witness, he left the country, say sources close to him. He has not been seen in public or posted on his VKontakte page since 24 April.
The executive's difficulties coincided with a change of ownership at the company, in which a private equity fund with Kremlin connections bought a 48% stake from the founding partners who backed Durov.
The day before the deal closed on 17 April, VK's office and Durov's home were searched by investigators.
The buyer, United Capital Partners, controls assets worth some $3.5bn (£3bn) and is run by financier Ilya Sherbovich, who sits on the board of three large state firms including Rosneft, the oil firm run by Putin's former chief of staff, Igor Sechin.
"It's a meticulous and methodical effort to bring the network under the control of the Kremlin," science fiction writer and blogger Dmitry Glukhovsky, creator of the Metro 2033 video game, told Reuters this week of the pressure on VK.
"It's too important a resource to stand independently from the 'siloviki'," he added, referring to Putin's allies that share the Russian leader's security-service background and are now in the political ascendant.
Sherbovich, in an interview, has denied fronting for the Kremlin and said he wanted Durov to stay on as chief executive of VKontakte.
A source close to the company said it held a board meeting in Switzerland this week that was attended by Durov.
Durov owns 12% of VK, but under a shareholder pact he also votes on behalf of the 40% holding owned by Mail.ru, the London-listed internet group backed by Uzbek-born tycoon Alisher Usmanov, Russia's richest man.
No comment was available from representatives for VK, United Capital Partners or Usmanov.
At issue, say internet watchers, is control over user-generated content frowned on by the authorities. Friday's ban, despite being quickly lifted, could be a shot across VKontakte's bows to ensure it tightens its monitoring.
The network has also been accused by Russia's ombudsman for children's rights of hosting images of child abuse. At least one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had a page on VKontakte.
After Putin rose to power in 2000, the Kremlin reined in Russia's print and broadcast media, encouraging trusted business "oligarchs" to buy strategic stakes. A similar scenario, in which loyal investors ensure internet content is screened, may now be unfolding, say some commentators.
"All big media have been brought under the control of the Kremlin, and VK is the last medium that is free," journalist Nickolay Kononov, author of biography The Durov Code, said in a recent interview.
This revival of the 1974 adaptation of Mordecai Richler's novel proved a wonderful shop-window for the young Richard Dreyfuss
Just a year shy of its 40th anniversary, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz has been proudly spruced up and reissued; an act of reclamation, in some level, for a film that back in the early 70s, was one of the first Canadian features to make an international impact. Adapted from Mordecai Richler's 1959 novel set in a Jewish area of Montreal about a bustling young man furiously angling to get ahead – the missing link, if you will, between Budd Schulberg's What Makes Sammy Run and Philip Roth's Goodbye Columbus – Duddy Kravitz is an affectionate picaresque detailing the push-pull impact of the new world on émigrés from old Europe. Clan loyalty contends with ruthless self-advancement; expediency with tenderness; ambition with gullibility.
The film also provided a tremendous showcase for a mid-20s Richard Dreyfuss, whose blazing, restless performance marked him out as a major talent. Dreyfuss wasn't exactly a newbie at the time – he'd already done American Graffiti – but this was his first proper lead and he nailed it, pure and simple. (The boiling charisma he exudes in every second of the film has the slightly unfortunate effect of sucking all the acting oxygen out of every scene: everyone else in the film seems pretty colourless in comparison.)
The opening scene sets the mood: Kravitz is part of a cadet marching band (the flag leading them out, incidentally is the Union Jack; the maple leaf wasn't adopted until 1965, six years after the film's setting) and spends his time tripping up his fellow cadets, blowing up condoms, until finally diving into the cab of a convenient truck to escape. Kravitz then proceeds to embark on a number of money-making schemes – from working as a waiter in a fancy resort to hiring a washed-up documentary-maker (played by, of all people, Denholm Elliot) to support a business filming weddings and barmitzvahs. In fact, the sequence in which an irate Elliot tackles his first barmitzvah as if he's Robert J Flaherty is arguably the funniest of the film – and the "artistic" documentary he produces is shown in its entirety.
What is perhaps most interesting, four decades on, is the extent to which Kravitz and his contemporaries are so mired in the complications of their ethnic identity. His older brother Lenny is drawn to the high Anglo world around them, to the extent he calls himself "anti-semitic"; Duddy, himself, resents the intellectual socialism of his rich uncle, deriding its essentially submissive nature. Duddy – or "Doody", as most of his contemporaries seem to call him – exemplifies the youthful ethnic energy that had revolutionised American cinema since Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate; Dreyfuss' Kravitz is a twitchier, sweatier, more Philistine version, but one equally capable of grabbing the imagination. Dreyfuss would go on to bigger things, but not all of them better.Andrew Pulver