Italy’s populist government is failing its first big test over the Genoa tragedy | John Hooper

Why did the Morandi bridge collapse? The answers lie in the divisions within the populist coalition of Five Star and the League

Genoa’s Morandi bridge, which collapsed this week with the loss of at least 39 lives, was of exceptional strategic importance in Italy and beyond. The motorway it carried across the Polcevera stream was no ordinary road. It linked the two halves of Genoa. It was the corridor along which goods shuttled to and from Italy’s second-biggest port. And it was part of one of the main routes between Italy and France.

Why was the Genoa bypass not built? The answer tells us something about modern Italy

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Genoa bridge collapse: angry families threaten state funeral boycott

Some grieving relatives refuse to take part in ‘a farce of a funeral’ as frustration mounts

Rescue workers have used jackhammers and cranes to lift huge slabs of concrete from the collapsed Morandi bridge in Genoa, as anger mounted over the disaster and some families threatened to boycott a state funeral for victims.

A fire apparently caused by a spark from metal-cutting equipment delayed rescue operations for some hours on Friday, but more than 300 emergency workers, including firefighters using sniffer dogs and heavy machinery, soon resumed their search for the 20 people Genoa’s chief public prosecutor said are still unaccounted for.

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Northamptonshire proposes replacing councils with two unitary authorities

Stricken Tory county council says plan will take ‘some years’ to repay costs of transition from eight existing councils

Crisis-hit Northamptonshire’s county council and its seven district and borough councils have reluctantly proposed that they be replaced by two unitary authorities, but said it would not be a financial panacea.

The stricken Conservative-run county council, which has a budget shortfall of up to £70m, declared effective bankruptcy in February and the following month an inspector said the current structure should be torn up.

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Cracking summer: UK insurers expect rise in subsidence claims

Heatwave has caused damage to walls of homes, with south-east particularly susceptible

Insurers are bracing themselves for a spike in subsidence claims after this summer’s heatwave led to cracks appearing in walls across south-east England.

Several big-name insurers have reported that subsidence incidents are up 20% on this time last year. The fear is that that those returning from holidays will see fresh damage and in September there will be an influx of substantial claims.

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The Guardian view on Brexit and trade: the WTO is not a safety net | Editorial

Tory hardliners’ faith in the World Trade Organization as a viable alternative to EU membership is reckless fantasy

One of the most thoroughly debunked claims made about Brexit during the referendum campaign was that it would be easy. Leave campaigners said the terms of Britain’s future trade with the European Union and the rest of the world would quickly be settled. In July 2016, David Davis forecast that, within two years, the UK would have negotiated a new free trade zone “massively larger than the EU.” Mr Davis resigned as Brexit secretary without seeing that vision enacted.

In July 2017, Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, said that a post-Brexit deal with the EU “should be one of the easiest in human history.” Yet there is zero prospect of such a deal being complete by March next year, when membership of the single market – a trade partnership of unique depth and, very substantially, of British design – expires. Earlier this month, Mr Fox put the chances of the UK failing to strike any kind of deal in advance of that deadline at 60-40. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said yesterday that such an outcome would be cause for generations of regret (… for the EU, he clarified under duress).

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Revealed: asylum seekers’ 20-year wait for Home Office ruling

Charities say making people wait two decades in abject poverty is ‘utterly barbaric’

The Home Office has left some people waiting more than 20 years for decisions on their asylum claims, according to data obtained exclusively by the Guardian, in delays charities say are unacceptable and “utterly barbaric”.

Seventeen people received decisions from the Home Office last year on claims they had submitted more than 15 years ago, four of whom had waited more than 20 years for a decision. The worst case was a delay of 26 years and one month after the person initially applied for asylum.

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BDS has nothing useful to contribute to the Middle East peace process | Letter

Michael Freeman, counsellor for civil society affairs at the embassy of Israel in London, responds to Nathan Thrall’s article on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement

Nathan Thrall’s 10,000-word polemic on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (‘Something needs to happen’, Long read, 14 August) airbrushes the very nature of a movement whose leaders fundamentally “oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine”, even inside the 1967 lines that are often referred to by the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority as a starting point for negotiations.

UN secretary general António Guterres said last year that “a modern form of antisemitism is the denial of the right of the State of Israel to exist”. However, the BDS movement continues to exhibit an older, more familiar form of antisemitism, too.

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Don’t let menopausal night sweats get you down | Letters

I found night sweats could be ameliorated by wearing just a thick bathrobe in bed. This sounds counterintuitive but it soaks up the moisture and keeps the skin dry, writes Margaret Davis

I would like to pass on a suggestion to Rose George regarding her serious menopausal symptoms which might help one small part of them (Long read, 16 August). I found that night sweats could be ameliorated by wearing just a thick towelling bathrobe in bed. Of course this sounds counterintuitive; who needs a thick garment when one is so overheated? But it soaks up the moisture, keeps the skin dry and allows the body to remain warm rather than chilled by surface sweat on the skin.

I am no expert in dealing with symptoms but I have heard that women who are living the kind of life that suits their desires for fulfilment and overall satisfaction tend to suffer less. I went through the menopause while following a course to qualify me for an occupation I loved and which made me realise how unhappy I had been in my previous career. I suffered very little from the menopause – apart from night sweats. I send all good wishes to Rose.
Margaret Davis
Loanhead, Midlothian

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‘Natural substances’ and a natural woman | Brief letters

Chemicals | John Brennan | Aretha Franklin | Pet names

Irrespective of the safety or otherwise of glyphosate, the idea that “natural substances” are not chemicals and are consequently inherently safe is curiously persistent. Indeed Craig Sams’ letter (15 August) mentions the hazards of (natural) tobacco leaves. Biochar will unavoidably contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, formed “naturally” in charring processes, which are known carcinogens. But just don’t eat it (or inhale it).
Jonathan Clayden
Professor of chemistry, University of Bristol

• So John Brennan has had his security clearance removed for “lying” and his “erratic conduct and behaviour” (Ex-CIA boss says Trump denial of Russia collusion is ‘hogwash’, 17 August). Who said the Americans don’t understand irony?
Cherry Weston
Wolverhampton

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Tietje Ives-Scheenstra obituary

My mum, Tietje Ives-Scheenstra, who has died aged 99, lived an eventful life. Born into a tiny farming community near Wolvega in the Netherlands, as the youngest daughter of Grietje and Meint Scheenstra, Tietje chose a career outside the farm. At 18 she began nursing training in the city of Leeuwarden, and she continued to nurse in the northern provinces throughout the second world war.

From 1940 the Netherlands was under Nazi occupation. Tietje recalled seeing Dutch Jews assembling in the town square in Leeuwarden before being transported to the transit camp at Westerbork. She remembered delivering babies by kerosene light on canal barges.

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Gilla Gelberg obituary

My wife, Gilla Gelberg, a psychotherapist working for the NHS in Newham, east London, has died aged 63, after being knocked down by a bus outside her workplace in Stratford. She was the psychodynamic psychotherapy team leader, working with individuals from diverse backgrounds with complex issues in which social deprivation, family abuse and refugee status converged. Despite the stress and challenges, this was her dream job, the culmination of years of training and clinical experience.

Born in Bloemfontein, in apartheid South Africa, daughter of Misha Gelberg, who owned and ran a men’s clothing store, and Shula Machnes, a former dancer, Gilla moved to London in 1978. A professional jazz vocalist in the early 1980s, she had a much stronger drive to help people, especially children, with emotional difficulty and trauma.

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Gilla Gelberg obituary

My wife, Gilla Gelberg, a psychotherapist working for the NHS in Newham, east London, has died aged 63, after being knocked down by a bus outside her workplace in Stratford. She was the psychodynamic psychotherapy team leader, working with individuals from diverse backgrounds with complex issues in which social deprivation, family abuse and refugee status converged. Despite the stress and challenges, this was her dream job, the culmination of years of training and clinical experience.

Born in Bloemfontein, in apartheid South Africa, daughter of Misha Gelberg, who owned and ran a men’s clothing store, and Shula Machnes, a former dancer, Gilla moved to London in 1978. A professional jazz vocalist in the early 1980s, she had a much stronger drive to help people, especially children, with emotional difficulty and trauma.

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Come on, Jeremy Corbyn, give us the full Jack Nicholson. We can handle it | Marina Hyde

Corbyn should draw inspiration from Nicholson’s colonel in A Few Good Men – and make the speech that will set us straight

I wonder if Jeremy Corbyn has seen A Few Good Men? The cultural life of most politicians is fairly mysterious, with many saying they don’t have time for one. Boris Johnson occasionally claims his top movie is Dodgeball. I once asked Nigel Farage what his favourite film was, and he floundered so long that I eventually started chucking out suggestions like life-rings. Nigel was sufficiently desperate to be saved that he grabbed hold of Love, Actually. Yes, he said gratefully, Richard Curtis movies were his favourite movies. “English stuff, you know.”

Related: It’s time for Jeremy Corbyn to take on his critics with a major speech. Here’s what he should say | Gary Younge

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