July 12th, 2010

Food Standards Agency to be abolished by health secretary

Victory for food manufacturers as health groups accuse Andrew Lansley of caving in to big business

The Food Standards Agency is to be abolished by Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, it emerged last night, after the watchdog fought a running battle with industry over the introduction of colour-coded "traffic light" warnings for groceries, TV dinners and snacks.

The move has sparked accusations that the government has "caved in to big business".

As part of the changes Lansley will reassign the FSA's regulatory aspects – including safety and hygiene – to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Its responsibilities for nutrition, diet and public health will be incorporated into the Department of Health.

"The functions of the FSA will be subsumed into the Department of Health and Defra," a source told Reuters.

Andrew Burnham, Labour's health spokesman, said: "Getting rid of the FSA is the latest in a number of worrying steps that show Andrew Lansley caving in to the food industry. It does raise the question whether the health secretary wants to protect the public health or promote food companies."

Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, said it was "crazy" to dismember the FSA. "It had a hugely important role in improving the quality of foodstuffs in Britain and it was vital to have at the centre of government a body that championed healthy food. This appears just the old Conservative party being the political wing of business," Fry said.

Tom MacMillan of the Food Ethics Council, said: "The agency was set up to earn public trust after a succession of food scares. Its wobbles, like the latest row over GM foods, have come when that commitment has wavered. Any departments absorbing the FSA's role should heed that lesson carefully, doing even more to invite scrutiny and banish the slightest whiff of secrecy, or the new government could face another BSE."

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, the organic food standard-bearer, which had several run-ins with the first FSA chair Lord Krebs on the issue, said: "Many NGOs campaigning on food thought for a long time the food industry has an unhealthy degree of influence over the Department of Health so the great risk is the corporate vested interests of the food industry will have too strong an influence on future policy."

In its green paper on health last year, the Conservatives said they would scale back the role and remit of the FSA and place the independent watchdog under ministerial control.

Last night the Department of Health would only confirm the FSA was "under review".

For the past four years the FSA, which was set up to protect consumers after the BSE crisis, has been at the centre of a regulatory battle that has pitted big food companies against consumer groups and public health professionals, with both sides accusing each other of misinformation campaigns and excessive lobbying.

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Source: The Guardian
franklin sherman

Supreme Court Justice’s nephew beaten, tased at hospital by cops

MARRERO - The nephew of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says he was tased and beaten at West Jefferson Medical Center.

24 year old Derek Thomas was admitted to West Jeff Thursday afternoon. Shortly after arriving, he was asked to put on a hospital gown. Thomas says he refused, and wanted to leave the facility. Within minutes, Thomas says things got very ugly, very fast. "The guy asked me, you're either going to do it or we're going to tase you" Thomas says.

Before being tased, Thomas says he was punched in the lip and had a fist full of his hair pulled out. To make matters worse, he is epileptic, and says he suffered a massive seizure as he was being tased. His sister Kimberly says he could've died. "This was not only put on his chart letting them know he already had a health condition … this should not have happened at a hospital" Kimberly Thomas comments.

Minutes after the incident allegedly happened Kimberly called her uncle. She says he was completely shocked and outraged. Justice Clarence Thomas will be coming to New Orleans this weekend to investigate what happened at the hospital.

Thomas meanwhile, says he will take legal action. "I would like to sue the hospital because it was uncalled for. Where in America can you go and, from you not putting on a robe, should the consequence be tased, punched in the face?"

Derek Thomas is also hoping his uncle, a man who is often the final word when it comes to right and wrong, can help to make sure this alleged abuse doesn't happen to anyone else.


More available here:
[Other] Bill Hader

'Barefoot Bandit' captured

Colton Harris-Moore, the 19-year-old "Barefoot Bandit" who allegedly stole cars, boats and airplanes to dodge U.S. law enforcement, was captured Sunday in the Bahamas as he tried to make a water escape and was brought handcuffed — and shoeless — to face justice, abruptly ending his two-year life on the lam.

By Jennifer Sullivan and Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporters

When Colton Harris-Moore appears at his arraignment in the Bahamas this week, he will enter a plea in a courthouse accustomed to an international spotlight.

"The last big thing the country had was the John Travolta matter; before that it was Anna Nicole [Smith]. This falls somewhere in between," said Mario McCartney, a Nassau criminal-defense lawyer.

The 19-year-old "Barefoot Bandit," on the lam since fleeing a Renton halfway house in 2008, was arrested about 2 a.m. on Harbour Island after a brief, high-speed boat chase.

"It was like something you might see in the movies," said Ellison Greenslade, commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

The capture unfolded at Romora Bay Resort and Marina. Resort manager Anne Ward said she was socializing with friends when she received a text message: "It was saying the 'Barefoot Bandit' is at your marina," Ward recalled.

She said she contacted Kenneth Strachan, the marina's security director, who was guarding the 40-slip facility.

"Kenny told me that, yes, yes, he had noted a young man come to the marina in a little getaway skiff, a 15-foot boat, and jump on the dock. He had khaki pants, a T-shirt, no shoes, a knapsack and a 9-mm [gun] on him," Ward said.

Ward said the youth told the guard, "They're after me, they're after me. They're going to kill me."

At that point, police were on the trail of Harris-Moore on the island of Eleuthera after recovering a 44-foot power boat stolen from a marina on Great Abaco Island, about 40 miles away.

Ward said Harris-Moore took off running down the dock, with the security guard, in his 50s, chasing him.

Harris-Moore ran off the dock and up a hillside staircase leading to some homes, Ward said.

Police on the island — there are about half a dozen — as well as the security guard and Ward, dispersed through the area to look for Harris-Moore.

By then, marina staff had cut ignition wires in the skiff in which the youth had arrived, just in case he returned.

He did.

Not able to start the skiff, Ward said, Harris-Moore jumped into a 30-foot boat "and somehow managed to get it started. He didn't get too far off. It was low tide, and he grounded it."

Police, meanwhile, along with the security guard, had jumped into two other boats at the marina and chased him.

Ward said they pulled up alongside Harris-Moore, who was trying to get the boat moving. Police officers shot the boat's engines.

Knowing the chase was over, she said, the youth then put the gun to his head.

"They talked him out of it," Ward said.

Read the rest of the article at the source
Sufjan Smile

Wealthy Reap Rewards While Those Who Work Lose

Times are tough for workers in the U.S. where a recession has a stranglehold on much of the economy, but life is perfectly rosy for those at the top.

The riches of the wealthiest North Americans grew by double digits in 2009, primarily from interest their money earned when it was invested in the stock market and elsewhere, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

Millionaires in the U.S. and Canada saw their wealth increase 15 percent in 2009, to a total of 4.6 trillion dollars, the report found.

Worldwide, 11 million - or less than 1 percent of all households - were millionaires in 2009. They owned about 38 percent of the world's wealth or 111 trillion dollars, up from about 36 percent in 2008, according to Boston Consulting Group.

About 4.7 million millionaires live in the U.S., four percent of the population and more than anywhere else in the world. Japan, China, Britain and Germany followed the U.S. in the number of millionaires.

Their fortune is a stark contrast to the lives of more than 15 million people in the U.S. who are unemployed and searching for work, and the eight million more who are just getting by with a part-time job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than two million more people were working prior to the recession but have now dropped out of the labour force.

Apart from the newly unemployed, about 39 million people in the U.S. are chronically poor and do not have enough food to eat, according to the U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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Source: IPS

"I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence." - Eugene V. Debs

Red, White, and Scammed

The used BMW was pretty, its silver paint gleaming, and the $17,000 price was reasonable. So, in March 2007, U.S. Army Spc. Diann Traina signed a contract, took out a loan, and traded in her pickup to buy the sedan at a dealership in Fayetteville, N.C., right outside the gates of Fort Bragg.

What she didn’t know was that the dealer had taken out a loan against his inventory and didn’t actually own the vehicle he sold her. Spc. Traina was never able to get the title to the BMW, so when the dealership shut down soon afterward, she was stuck—without a car and with an $11,000 debt. In the meantime, she had been deployed to Iraq, leaving her helpless to do much about it.

Like thousands of service members engaged in fighting America’s battles overseas, Spc. Traina had encountered a foe here at home. Young, inexperienced, and often drawing their first paychecks, enlisted men and women are easy marks for sleazy car dealers, insurance scammers, predatory lenders, and identity thieves. So pervasive are the rip-offs—and so troubling the debt incurred by military personnel as a result—that U.S. Department of Defense officials recently labeled the situation a threat to national security. “You don’t want them distracted while they’re out on the front lines,” says Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “But they will be if they’re worrying about what’s going on at home.”
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Book berry

A Green Retreat

A Green Retreat: Why the environment is no longer a surefire political winner.

Just three years ago the politics of global warming was enjoying its golden moment. The release in 2006 of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, had riveted global audiences with its predictions of New York and Miami under 20 feet of water. Within 12 months, leading politicians with real power were on board. Germany’s Angela Merkel, dubbed the “climate chancellor” by her country’s press, arranged a Greenland photo op with a melting iceberg and promised to cut Europe’s emissions by 20 percent by 2020. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who called climate change a scourge equal to fascism, offered 60 percent by 2050. In December 2007, the world got its very first green leader. Harnessing the issue of climate change, Kevin Rudd became prime minister of Australia, ready to take on what he called “the biggest political, economic, and moral challenge of our times.” Now, almost everywhere, green politics has fallen from its lofty heights.

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We are not lunatics: We prefer the term Patriotic Paranoid or Teanderthals/Teahadists.

Rand Paul Redefines Lunacy Sanity: Me!

Rand Paul: Tea Party Activists Have Been Mischaracterized As 'Right-Wing Lunatics' (VIDEO)

AP/Huffington Post - Speaking at a GOP rally in northern Kentucky on Saturday, Paul said tea party activists have been mischaracterized as "right-wing lunatics," but said most issues embraced by the movement have broad bipartisan support.

The Republican hopeful told hundreds of tea party supporters that they are being mislabeled as extremists.

In a 20-minute speech outside the state Capitol in Frankfort, Paul said the tea party is part of the political mainstream because of its emphasis on balanced budgets and congressional term limits. The libertarian-leaning Senate candidate said that those views are popular with Republicans and Democrats alike.

The Bowling Green eye doctor was joined at the rally by a lineup of prominent northern Kentucky Republicans, including Sen. Jim Bunning and Trey Grayson, who lost to Paul in a hard-fought Senate primary this spring.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that several speakers compared Paul to Bunning -- a connection that both the outgoing Senator and the Tea Party favorite welcomed:

"You must get together and elect this man, because he will vote the right way against spending that we don't have, and I guarantee you he'll stand up on his own, if necessary," Bunning said.

Paul praised Bunning, who will retire when his term expires at the end of the year.

"I aspire to be that kind of legislator - the kind of person that's not called a politician, the kind of person that's called a statesman," he said.

FF River

Switzerland, I am disappoint.

Switzerland rejects US extradition of Roman Polanski

Authorities in Switzerland have decided not to extradite film director Roman Polanski to the US to face sentencing for a case dating back to 1977.

Polanski, 76, has been under house arrest in his Swiss chalet since December 2009 pending the decision. He is wanted in the US over a conviction for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the "restrictions on his liberty have been lifted."

A Swiss official said the US cannot appeal the decision.

Polanski faces arrest over his conviction for unlawful sex with an underage girl in 1977 should he ever return to the United States. The director, who was originally charged with six offences including rape and sodomy, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex following a plea bargain. But he left the US in 1978, before he could be sentenced, and has never returned.

He was taken into custody in Switzerland in September last year as he travelled from France to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. Polanski, whose films include Rosemary's Baby and The Pianist, was moved from prison and placed under house arrest at his chalet in the resort of Gstaad in early December.

'National interests'

The Swiss government declared Polanski a free man on Monday after rejecting the US extradition request. The Swiss said US authorities failed to provide confidential testimony about Polanski's original sentencing procedure.

The Justice Ministry also said that national interests were taken into consideration in the decision.

A statement said: "The 76-year-old French-Polish film director Roman Polanski will not be extradited to the US. The freedom-restricting measures against him have been revoked." It added: "The reason for the decision lies in the fact that it was not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty a fault in the US extraditionary request."

Aubrey Beardsley

Obama to Outline Plan to Cut H.I.V. Infections

WASHINGTON — President Obama will unveil a new national strategy this week to curb the AIDS epidemic by slashing the number of new infections and increasing the number of people who get care and treatment.

“Annual AIDS deaths have declined, but the number of new infections has been static and the number of people living with H.I.V. is growing,” says a final draft of the report, obtained by The New York Times.

In the report, the administration calls for steps to reduce the annual number of new H.I.V. infections by 25 percent within five years. “Approximately 56,000 people become infected each year, and more than 1.1 million Americans are living with H.I.V.,” the report says.

Mr. Obama plans to announce the strategy, distilled from 15 months of work and discussions with thousands of people around the country, at the White House on Tuesday.

While acknowledging that “increased investments in certain key areas are warranted,” the report does not propose a major increase in federal spending. It says the administration will redirect money to areas with the greatest need and population groups at greatest risk, including gay and bisexual men and African-Americans. The federal government now spends more than $19 billion a year on domestic AIDS programs.

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From BP to the banks, Britain's delusions of grandeur have been cruelly exposed

We used to believe our nation punched above its weight. But now it's become clear that once-great Britain is a second-class state

In recent days Tony Hayward, BP's troubled chief executive, has been on the move: Moscow, Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi and Angola on a dizzying world tour of oil wealth. The details of the conversations are not publicised, only some of the presidents and sheikhs on his must-see list. This is a man scrambling to ensure the survival of his company. Meanwhile, as the oil billows from the Macondo well into the Gulf, analysts are weighing up BP's future: takeover, asset sale, injection of cash or bankruptcy. The odds on any of these fluctuate with every detail of the relief well operation and the imminent hurricane season. The fate of Britain's biggest company is being determined in the Gulf's murky waters and weather systems.

So far the story of the Deepwater oil rig disaster has been told as an environmental catastrophe. For the British, it has also been a threat to the security of their pensions in which BP shares have accounted for a large chunk of investment. Or it has been portrayed as a multinational scandal, as BP's record on health and safety is put under the spotlight: the finer details of the US occupational safety and health administration (Osha), once the preserve of oil industry geeks, has become shocking and compulsive reading. More later. But there is another aspect of this sorry saga that can be teased out: BP's travails feed into a broader pattern in which Britain's consolation myth of post-imperialism is disintegrating. The claim was that while Britain may no longer rule the waves, it still had disproportionate weight and influence in the world and could boast of big companies on a par with the biggest. In short, that little phrase which is well overdue critical examination: Britain punched above its weight.

There was no better exemplar of this concept than BP, that famous legacy of empire which appeared to have neatly reinvented itself as a globalised corporation. From a lagging company vulnerable to takeover in the early 90s, it moved into the new markets opened up by the fall of the Soviet Union and established a pivotal position in Azerbaijan. It went on to buy one of the big US oil companies, Amoco, and in the last decade negotiated multimillion-pound deals in Russia and Libya.

The then chief executive, Lord Browne, brought in a regime of cost-cutting and outsourcing to ensure competitiveness with the most profitable companies in the energy business. Over much of the last 20 years, BP showed an aggressive global ambition that ensured intense British government admiration – Conservative and Labour – and at every stage of the process these governments aided and assisted.

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Source: The Guardian

Curaçao Faces Friction With Chávez Over U.S. Planes

HATO, Curaçao — This small island in the Netherlands Antilles might go unnoticed by its neighbors if not for the importance of the foreign interests it hosts: an American Air Force installation pivotal in fighting the region’s drug trade and a huge refinery that turns Venezuelan oil into gasoline.

Chafing at the American military outpost just 40 miles from Venezuela’s coast, President Hugo Chávez is testing Curaçao’s nerves by repeatedly claiming that the Dutch government, which oversees defense issues here, is letting Washington use Curaçao as a base for planning a possible attack on Venezuela.

The assertions come just months before Curaçao, which has relied for centuries on trade with Venezuela, will gain greater autonomy from the kingdom of the Netherlands when the Netherlands Antilles is dissolved as a unified political entity this fall. The Dutch will continue to oversee aspects of Curaçao’s foreign policy, though a vocal minority here favors full independence, and Mr. Chávez’s talk could stoke that thinking.

“When you are small, you have to be wise, and when the big ones are in a quarrel, small countries have to stay out of that,” said Helmin Wiels, 51, the leader of Pueblo Soberano, a leftist party here that wants to expel the American surveillance planes.

But for now, the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles is expected to be a largely uneventful political reorganization in which the Netherlands will maintain its control of defense and foreign-relations issues for all the islands involved, including continuing to allow the American aircraft to be based at Curaçao’s airport.

The planes have used the airport since an agreement was signed in 2000. The agreement will expire this year, and the Dutch have said they plan to approve a five-year extension.

Lt. Col. Brian Bell, who commands the American outpost, said in an interview, “Curaçao is strategically located near major trafficking corridors, which is one of the reasons why we’d like to remain here.”


source has the entire article

Polanski and Unmitigated Gall

For Roman Polanski, the long, unspeakable nightmare of being confined to his three-story chalet in Gstaad, the luxury resort in the Swiss Alps, is finally over. The fugitive director is free once again to stroll into town, have a nice meal, maybe do a little shopping at the local Cartier, Hermes or Louis Vuitton boutiques.
Or he could just scurry like a rat into France or Poland, the two countries where he has citizenship -- and where authorities have a long history of acting as if Polanski's celebrity and talent somehow negate his sexual brutalization of a 13-year-old girl.
I'm betting on the rodent option, even though Swiss authorities are doing their best to convince Polanski that he can relax and enjoy the fondue without ever having to answer for his crimes. After all, they did force him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet for several whole months. The horror. The horror. After authorities announced Monday that they were denying the U.S. request to have Polanski extradited, one of the famed auteur's lawyers called the decision "an enormous satisfaction and a great relief after the pain suffered by Roman Polanski and his family." That statement should stand as the definitive textbook example of unmitigated gall.

Anyone tempted to feel Polanski's pain should take a closer look at the case. In 1977, when he was 43, Polanski lured a 13-year-old girl to a house in the Hollywood hills owned by Jack Nicholson -- the actor was not home at the time -- and plied her with drugs and champagne before having sex with her.
more at source

God, so much rage.
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Resist the Gay Marriage Agenda!

         It’s hard for us to believe what we’re hearing these days. Thousands are losing their homes, and gays want a day named after Harvey Milk. The U.S. military is continuing its path of destruction, and gays want to be allowed to fight. Cops are still killing unarmed black men and bashing queers, and gays want more policing. More and more Americans are suffering and dying because they can’t get decent health care, and gays want weddings. What happened to us? Where have our communities gone? Did gays really sell out that easily?       

         As young queer people raised in queer families and communities, we reject the liberal gay agenda that gives top priority to the fight for marriage equality. The queer families and communities we are proud to have been raised in are nothing like the ones transformed by marriage equality. This agenda fractures our communities, pits us against natural allies, supports unequal power structures, obscures urgent queer concerns, abandons struggle for mutual sustainability inside queer communities and disregards our awesomely fabulous queer history.      

         Children of queers have a serious stake in this.  The media sure thinks so, anyway.  The photographs circulated after San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2004 decision to marry gay couples at City Hall show men exchanging rings with young children strapped to their chests and toddlers holding their moms’ hands as city officials lead them through vows.  As Newsom runs for governor these images of children and their newly married gay parents travel with him, supposedly expressing how deeply Newsom cares about families: keeping them together, ensuring their safety, meeting their needs.  These photos, however, obscure very real aspects of his political record that have torn families apart: his disregard for affordable housing, his attacks on welfare, his support for increased policing and incarceration that separate parents from children and his new practice of deporting minors accused – not convicted – of crimes.  As young people with queer parents we are not proud of the “family values” politic put forth by these images and the marriage equality campaign. We don’t want gay marriage activism conducted in our name – we realize that it’s hurting us, not helping us.


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So  I know it's not "news", but with all this pride month stuff I'd be interested to hear what everyone thinks about the opposition to liberal same-sex reforms by queer activists who consider certain forms of legal change "normalising". Personally, I think that growing up queer in a queer household carries certain kinds of privilege - the knowledge that you will be accepted as a queer person - that are somewhat invisible. It's easy to see why someone raised in that context could fail to recognise the importance of mainstream acceptance for other queer kids.

But what do YOU think?


GM crop ban may be lifted in EU

The European Union will take a huge stride tomorrow towards freeing up the production of GM crops when the European commission proposes allowing national governments to make up their own minds on whether to permit their cultivation.

In a move which aims to resolve a 12-year deadlock that has resulted in a virtual freeze on the approval of GM farming, the commission will propose allowing pro-GM states such as Spain and the Netherlands to increase production, while also allowing others such as Germany and Austria to maintain restrictions.

The rare instance of Brussels handing back power to individual nations will likely present Britain's government with a delicate decision; caught between a robust GM industry lobby and a vocal protest movement.

While making it easier for states to ban GM crops, giving them the option of citing non-scientific grounds such as socio-economic or cultural reasons, Brussels is expecting a quid pro quo from opponents, that they will end what is seen as a strategy of stalling health and environmental approval by the EU.

"While it's up to member states to decide, we expect them to be more flexible from where they are now in terms of authorisation at the EU level," said one commission official.

GM cultivation in Europe has been in limbo since 1998, when a GM corn product developed by US giant Monsanto was approved, because of a deadlock between states that are for and against the biotechnology. The EU proposals are designed to appeal to both camps. On the one hand, they give anti-states broader rights to restrict GM crop cultivation on their own soil, in exchange for them softening their opposition to approval elsewhere. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, and Luxembourg have banned cultivation; Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Britain are in favour.

"The momentous thing the commission is doing is a very simple addition to the [GM] legislation – one single article," said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, of EuropaBio, the biotechnology lobbyists, "to allow an opt-out for political reasons".

"We hope this will break the deadlock over GM, but it's missing a defence of fundamental principles [of choice]. In some countries there might be more cultivation, but in many it will mean the end of the right of farmers to grow them at all."

Green groups are also opposed, but because they feel that the change "isn't worth the paper it's written on," according to Mute Schimps of Friends of the Earth Europe.

"It's going in two directions at the same time: ostensibly allowing more banning, but also easier authorisation at the EU level," she said.

"While the commission is seemingly offering countries the right to implement national bans, in reality the proposal does the opposite, opening Europe's fields to GM crops. Governments that try to ban GM crops in their countries will find the bans overturned in court by biotech lawyers due to the weak legal basis of this short-term proposal," she added.

In a mirror image of the pro-GM lobby, the anti-GM lobby says: "All European farmers have the right to be protected from GM contamination, not just some."

The expanded ability to ban crops, on the grounds of prevention of contamination, will go into effect immediately from tomorrow, while the long-term overhaul of existing regulations, allowing member states to prohibit cultivation on non-scientific grounds, could take up to two years following the usual legislative process in the European capital.

Source: The Guardian