Police record rising violence and drunkenness in traditional folkloric festivities
Goat-horned half-demons with scraggy coats of fur, lolling tongues and threatening bundles of birch branches are no one’s idea of a welcome guest on a winter’s night.
In Austria, however, the figure of the Krampus has been part of pre-Christmas folklore for centuries, with men in costumes roaming the streets to scare children and grown-ups from the end of November to the middle of December.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ report on the manifestos may be dull but that doesn’t mean it’s not important
What sort of response do the words “Institute for Fiscal Studies” evoke in you? Do you think: “Ooh, interesting! I wonder what those guys have got to say!”? If so, I reckon you’re unusual. My reaction is closer to Homer Simpson’s when The Boring World of Niels Bohr comes on TV. I become almost frightened at the prospect of the forthcoming guilt-infused stultification.
The name is remarkably unremarkable. Never have two nouns and an adjective run each other so close in a competition to be least interesting. It’s hard to think of any replacement for “Institute”, “Fiscal” or “Studies” that wouldn’t slightly jazz up the organisation’s image. I’d give honourable mention to strong contenders such as “Management”, “Chartered”, “Committee” and “Actuarial”, but I really don’t think they could make it sound any more dull. The most interesting word in its name is “for”.
Peace prize winner will lead her country’s defence against claims at court in Netherlands
A momentous legal confrontation will take place at the UN’s highest court this week when the Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi appears in person to defend Myanmar against accusations of genocide.
Once internationally feted as a human rights champion, Myanmar’s state counsellor is scheduled to lead a delegation to the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was nervous about his narrowing lead in opinion polls ahead of Thursday's election but pledged to deliver a "transformative" Brexit on Jan. 31 that would allow lower immigration.
Human rights groups fear change of stance by Foreign Office might lead to executions
Fears are growing that the Foreign Office has paved the way for British Islamic State captives held in Syria to be handed over to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is accused of war crimes including mass torture and executions.
Human rights groups argue that, as they face pressure to repatriate Britons detainedin Syria, ministers’ inaction may result in the transfer of UK nationals to Assad’s forces.
Dozens of species are now at risk but a conference this week will showcase new technology that could help stop the illegal trade
The two young women who arrived at Heathrow in February 2014 en route to Düsseldorf were carrying nondescript luggage. Customs officers were suspicious nevertheless and looked inside – to find 13 iguanas stuffed into socks inside the cases. Astonishingly, 12 of the highly endangered San Salvador rock iguanas had survived their transatlantic journey.
“There only about 600 of these animals left in the wild, in the Bahamas, and these animals were being taken to a private collector somewhere in Germany. Incredibly, we were able to return 12 of them, alive, to their homeland – on San Salvador island,” said Grant Miller, who was then working for the Border Force’s endangered species team.
Undocumented workers who rebuilt the city after Hurricane Katrina remain unrecognized and have seen their home become hostile
The sight of the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel is impossible to escape on the busy Canal Street corridor downtown. Slabs of broken gray concrete form a frozen landslide 18 stories above the ground, and the arm of a massive crane stands almost upright after a botched removal effort left it embedded in the sidewalk below.
Nearly three months after the deadly collapse, the bodies of two victims – José Ponce Arreola, from Mexico, and Quinnyon Wimberly, from New Orleans – still remain inside the wreckage.
With the climate emergency putting our mental health at risk, Emma Beddington presents an everyday guide to eco wellbeing
Much like the planet, people have a tipping point. Mine came last summer, when a respected scientist told me matter-of-factly that he thought it was “at least highly unlikely” that his teenage children would survive beyond late middle age. At that point, three decades of climate unease crystallised into debilitating dread, and I’m far from alone.
From Israel’s hostility to Trump’s withdrawal of US funding, the UNRWA faces unprecedented challenges. Timely financial and diplomatic support is key
Today, on the 70th anniversary of its founding, the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN’s main refugee agency serving Palestinians, is facing unprecedented challenges.
It has become a key battleground in Donald Trump’s war against multilateralism and his unilateral attempts to redefine the Middle East peace process along a track proposed by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Union Carbide factory explosion remains the world’s worst industrial accident – but as its dreadful legacy becomes increasingly apparent, victims are still waiting for justice
The residents of JP Nagar have no way to escape their ghosts. This ramshackle neighbourhood, on the outskirts of the Indian city of Bhopal, stands just metres away from the chemical factory which exploded just after midnight on 2 December 1984 and seeped poison into their lives forever. The blackened ruins of the Union Carbide plant still loom untouched behind the factory walls.
Against a decade-old Tory government led by a charlatan, Labour should be confident of winning, not praying for a last-minute miracle
One of my colleagues recently recalled that, in advance of the 2015 general election, we spent quite a lot of time preparing a run of spreads about what to expect from the Ed Miliband premiership. That Labour government happened only in his dreams and our abandoned page plans. This reminds us that the results of all of our recent elections have surprised expectations. This is not just because pollsters find it harder to get an accurate read on the electorate, pundits are often poor at deciphering the runes and voters have become less anchored to traditional allegiances. It is also because Britain’s archaic electoral system means that fluctuations in the intentions of small numbers of people can have a wildly disproportionate impact on the outcome.
Troubling issues of consent and pleasure – and the role of pornography – need to be approached more critically and more explicitly
I’m wary of writing about sex and porn for many reasons, the first being it’s rude. And as an upright suburban mother with two pairs of Uggs and a self-imposed curfew of 10pm, it is surely more appropriate for me to be exploring such topics as ideas for leftover porridge and the best heated clothes airers than, for eg, the ethics of violent porn.
The second reason is that writing about sex and porn is a delicate journey that often veers off-road into bushes of politics and shaming, the latter being something I’m keen to avoid – I very much respect sex-people, their creativity, their energy, their playful ways with a brush.
Thousands of black-clad protesters from all walks of life thronged the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a sign of broad support for anti-government demonstrations that have roiled the Chinese-ruled city for six months.
Updated version of James Graham and Josie Rourke’s play to begin in last hours of polling
The play The Vote, a 2015 theatrical experiment that also went out live on television on election night in 2015, is to be revived in updated form this week, the playwright James Graham and his co-creator and producer, Josie Rourke, have told the Observer.
Stars Catherine Tate and Mark Gatiss will be back together on the evening of the general election this Thursday to perform Graham’s 2019 version, along with a full cast including Bill Paterson and Nina Sosanya, for one night only in central London.
Abuse was so severe that ‘Laura’ has been placed in a psychiatric unit on suicide watch
The children’s commissioner has been called on to intervene in the case of a vulnerable teenager alleged to have been the victim of a catalogue of failures at the hands of social workers, medical authorities and police.
Laura*, 16, who nearly four years ago is thought to have been the youngest child ever to be placed in a secure hospital in England, has allegedly been sexually abused since she was 12 – always while supposedly under the protection of children’s social care in Sheffield. She is now confined to the seclusion unit of a psychiatric hospital under suicide watch.
Absurd claims, ducking, swerving and urinating in the street – our pick of the election lowlights so far
From the stream of misinformation to the absurd pledges, the 2019 election was the campaign that shame forgot – and the electorate wished they could do likewise.
It has seen Labour and the Tories fight over whether antisemitism or Islamophobia was the less appealing quality in a potential party of government. So divorced from reality have some protagonists become that one Tory minister said he didn’t know whether Jeremy Corbyn actually planned to shoot rich people (it seems unlikely – the Labour leader has pledged to grow 2 billion extra trees and they aren’t going to plant themselves).
Royal Melbourne's composite course has been a happy hunting ground for United States captain Tiger Woods and his Internationals counterpart Ernie Els but both skippers will urge caution when their players tee off at the Presidents Cup.
A hung parliament represents our best chance of halting Britain’s steep decline
The British electoral system is both cruel and crude. In a winner-takes-all, first-past-the-post setup, many votes are wasted, the main parties are overrepresented in the House of Commons and if people want to make a difference, they often have to ignore their first preference and vote tactically for their second. It’s a third-rate system, but it’s the one we have.
Twenty two years ago, when I edited the Observer, we published polls in 20 key constituencies on the Sunday before the 1997 general election, urging voters to put aside their first preference and vote tactically for the most likely challenger to the incumbent Conservative party. Our work did make a difference, triggering the Michael Portillo moment, for example, when one of the leading Eurosceptics lost his ultra-safe seat as Lib Dem voters set aside their first preference because of the evidence that Labour was the challenger.
Tony Finau's ancestral roots lie not too far from Melbourne in the South Pacific but he bleeds Red, White and Blue and could not be more motivated to play for Tiger Woods at this week's Presidents Cup.
A biennial tournament that has struggled for relevance under a heavy weight of American supremacy will roar back into life when Tiger Woods returns to the Presidents Cup as a playing captain at Royal Melbourne this week.
The Labour party leader is failing Jewish members and tolerating antisemitism
Who would have thought that antisemitism – and the way it has infected and toxified the Labour party – would become a dominant theme of an election campaign?
The party’s problems over this are wholly self-inflicted. It isn’t just because in one interview Jeremy Corbyn refused four times to apologise for his abject failure to tackle the issue, straight after refusing to acknowledge the trope of “Rothschild Zionist” conspiracy as racist against Jews. But these serve as good metaphors for the wider issue.
A decade after publishing his vivid account of the places and people most affected by the US-Mexican ‘war on drugs’, Ed Vulliamy returns to the frontline to see how life has changed
If you drink the water in Ciudad Juárez, there you’ll stay, goes the saying – Se toma agua de Juárez, allí se queda. It’s not a reference to the quality of drinking water (about which polemic abounds because it is so dirty) but to the beguiling lure of this dusty and dangerous yet strong and charismatic city. It’s a dictum that might be applied to the whole 2,000-mile Mexico-US borderland of which Juárez and its sister city on the US side, El Paso, form the fulcrum.
Ten years ago, I returned from several months’ immersion along that frontier, reporting on a narco-cartel war for this newspaper and eventually writing a book, Amexica, about the terrain astride the border, land that has a single identity – that belongs to both countries and yet to neither. A frontier at once porous and harsh: across which communities live and a million people traverse every day, legally, as do hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of goods annually.
Where else is there to go if you, like me, want a tolerant and inclusive society?
My generation’s coming of age has coincided with coalition and Conservative governments. Austerity, which has shaped our formative years (I’m now 22), was framed as a fiscal necessity. But the severe cuts to government spending made an impact on healthcare, youth services, education and many other public services. These aren’t just abstract spending cuts – they are viscerally felt on the ground. In Camden, the London borough where I attended school, the council’s budget has been reduced by £169m since 2010. It was highly noticeable while growing up.
The sense of dissonance between the priorities of the Conservative leadership and younger generations is glaring
One of Britain’s leading pollsters identifies the best choices for Remain voters at key general election battlegrounds
On current trends, voters will deliver a contradictory verdict on Thursday night. The Conservatives are on course for an overall majority in parliament – but most voters will back parties that want to block an early Brexit. If turnout is similar to last time, the 14 to 15 million who will support the Conservatives or Brexit party will be outnumbered by the 16 to 17 million who will vote Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, SNP or Plaid Cymru.
Tactical voting is not new, but it has a special significance this week. If it happens in enough constituencies, it can ensure that the two-million majority opposed to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan is reflected in the new House of Commons.
A Tory majority, Labour win or hung parliament would all have implications beyond Brexit
After five weeks of campaigning, the Tories are ahead of Labour in the polls – but few experts dare predict the result. The surprise outcomes of the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2017 general election stung pollsters and pundits alike.
Last week, the polling expert Sir John Curtice said Boris Johnson was by no means home and dry, pointing out that if Labour could increase its share of Remain voters by polling day it could yet spring a surprise.
Leaders of Malaysia's ruling party on Sunday renewed a push for Anwar Ibrahim to lead the country, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dithers on the timing of the planned power transition he had promised to his former rival-turned-ally.
Here are comments from some protesters at a pro-democracy rally on Sunday that is expected to gauge broad support for anti-government demonstrations that have roiled the Chinese-ruled city for six months.
The California senator pulled out this week and the next debate stage looks set to be minority-free. Progressives see a problem
When Democrats won a Senate seat in Alabama two years ago, their chairman declared that “black women are the backbone of the Democratic party, and we can’t take that for granted”. #ThankBlackWomen began trending andthe “backbone” metaphor has been an applause line ever since.
Yet when Democratic candidates for president debate in Los Angeles later this month, there will be no black women on stage following the sudden exit of Senator Kamala Harris of California. Unless something changes quickly, there will be no candidates of colour at all.