Barter and dollars the new reality as Venezuela battles hyperinflation

As inflation soars, Venezuelans have been forced to find new ways to pay for essentials – when the power supply allows

“Barter” reads a simple sign on Angelica Monasterios’s stall in Cupira, a town on the main road east from Caracas. Her niece painted the sign for her in early February, after spiralling inflation and vanishing reserves of hard cash made it hard to do business.

Related: ‘A city of shadows’: fear as Venezuela’s crippling blackout enters day four

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What is the mysterious ‘global Hum’ – and is it simply noise pollution?

Up to 4% of people are said to hear a strange low-pitched noise known as the Hum, but no source has ever been found. City life is one possible cause

“Whenever I wake up it is there and it is unbelievably loud. When nobody else can hear it you think you are going nuts, and it just wears you down,” says Simon Payne, 55, from Cambridgeshire. Payne is a hearer of the mysterious global phenomenon known as the Hum. “I have been desperate to get away from it, so I have stayed with friends – and even moved house.”

The Hum is experienced as a consistent, low-pitched noise, much like the sound of a large truck idling in a nearby parking lot. Hearers tend to report experiencing it in urban areas – leading some to conclude that it is, in fact, a form of noise pollution screened from most people by the general city soundscape.

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Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’

One day last summer, aged 15, she skipped school, sat down outside the Swedish parliament – and inadvertently kicked off a global movement

Greta Thunberg cut a frail and lonely figure when she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament building last August. Her parents tried to dissuade her. Classmates declined to join. Passersby expressed pity and bemusement at the sight of the then unknown 15-year-old sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner.

Eight months on, the picture could not be more different. The pigtailed teenager is feted across the world as a model of determination, inspiration and positive action. National presidents and corporate executives line up to be criticised by her, face to face. Her skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate) banner has been translated into dozens of languages. And, most striking of all, the loner is now anything but alone.

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Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’

One day last summer, aged 15, she skipped school, sat down outside the Swedish parliament – and inadvertently kicked off a global movement

Greta Thunberg cut a frail and lonely figure when she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament building last August. Her parents tried to dissuade her. Classmates declined to join. Passersby expressed pity and bemusement at the sight of the then unknown 15-year-old sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner.

Eight months on, the picture could not be more different. The pigtailed teenager is feted across the world as a model of determination, inspiration and positive action. National presidents and corporate executives line up to be criticised by her, face to face. Her skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate) banner has been translated into dozens of languages. And, most striking of all, the loner is now anything but alone.

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Revealed: pill still most popular prescribed contraceptive in England

Nine in 10 are prescribed pill, but experts raise concerns women are not given options

More than 50 years since it became widely available in the UK, the pill remains the most popular form of prescribed contraceptive among women in England, research by the Guardian shows.

A flurry of articles have claimed that many women are shunning oral contraceptives, as studies have emerged warning of links to everything from depression to difficulties reading the emotions of others. Meanwhile, the rise in use of fertility apps and period trackers suggests women are keen for a hormone-free form of birth control.

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Rail passengers and taxpayers ‘paying price for DoT failures’

Damning report by MPs says more problems lie ahead after 2018 ‘year from hell’

Rail passengers and taxpayers are paying the price of costly mismanagement of the railways by the Department for Transport, according to a scathing report.

The public accounts committee warned that more problems lie ahead for train users in 2019 after a “year from hell”, marked in particular by the chaos following the introduction of a new timetable in May.

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The EU must resist impatience with Britain – for its own sake | Timothy Garton Ash

I can understand why many in Brussels are growing frustrated, but they may repent at leisure what they decide in haste

“I will celebrate,” said an emphatic German voice behind me, while some dignitary on stage mouthed the conventional polite platitudes of regret about Britain’s departure from the EU. “I will celebrate when it’s over at last.” A week spent talking to politicians, officials and opinion-makers on the continent tells me that this captures the prevailing mood among Britain’s frustrated and increasingly contemptuous European partners: just get the negotiated withdrawal agreement across the line and Britain out of the door – then we can go back to fighting the real battles for Europe, starting with the European elections.

While I understand all the feelings and calculations behind this view, it is profoundly shortsighted. It abandons those of us still fighting for Europe in Britain and underestimates the EU’s role in deciding Britain’s future. A divided country in the midst of a collective nervous breakdown is painfully dependent on the reaction of its now much stronger EU negotiating partner. This explains why every tweet from Donald Tusk, every hint from Jean-Claude Juncker, every nuance from Michel Barnier, is pored over in the British media with almost Sovietological attention. The EU is a major actor in the British debate, not merely a reactor to it. The conclusion is clear: it’s not just Britain that faces a big choice over Brexit, it’s also Europe.

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Israel’s first lunar lander blasts into space from Florida

The unmanned robotic capsule, called Beresheet, will land on the moon in mid-April

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has blasted off from Florida carrying Israel’s first lunar lander on a mission that if successful will make the country only the fourth nation to ever to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon’s surface.

The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet – Hebrew for the biblical phrase “in the beginning” – soared into space from the Cape Canaveral air force station on Thursday night local time on top of a nearly 100m (328ft) tall rocket.

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Jacinda Ardern tells Scott Morrison Australia’s deportation policy ‘corrosive’

New Zealand takes a dim view of deporting people who moved to Australia as children, Ardern says

Australia’s policy of deporting New Zealand citizens with criminal records has become “corrosive” to the relationship between the two traditional allies, Jacinda Ardern has said, in her strongest warning yet to Scott Morrison.

The Australian prime minister arrived in Auckland on Friday morning for a brief official meeting with Ardern and New Zealand officials, forgoing the traditional weekend stay prime ministers of both countries usually bestow upon each other.

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Britain needs more time on Brexit, but we shouldn’t entrust it to Theresa May | Gary Younge

The prime minister must not be allowed to bounce the country into a version of Brexit it doesn’t want

Time, they say, heals all wounds. They also insist that once lost it is never found again because, like tides, it waits for no man. Indeed, of the many things people have said about time, nobody has ever endowed it alone with the capacity to solve intractable diplomatic entanglements, reverse bad decisions or provide an antidote to postcolonial hubris. Time, it has never been said, can find a unicorn.

So when Theresa May asks for more time to negotiate with the European Union over Brexit, we would be wise to be sceptical. Not because Britain doesn’t need more time. It does. Hopelessly out of its depth, the country is neither ready to make a deal nor to crash out without one. As more than 40 former ambassadors argued in a joint statement this week: “We should not leave the EU when we have no clarity about our final destination. Instead we must use the mechanisms at our disposal, above all we must seek to extend the article 50 negotiating period.”

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New Zealand wildfires set to worsen as thousands flee

Week-long blaze engulfs 2,300ha on South Island, leading to largest aerial firefight in country’s history

Strong winds are expected to fan forest fires that have been burning for a week through New Zealand’s South Island, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

Early on Sunday, 155 firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground with air support from 23 helicopters and three fixed wing planes, making it the largest aerial firefight on record in New Zealand.

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I own my home with my parents – what happens to it when they die?

Neither of my parents have a will, so does ownership of the house automatically come to me?

Q I own my home with my parents. It’s jointly owned between me, my mother and my father. Also living here are my husband and my son (who are not named as joint owners).

My parents haven’t got wills. What happens to my home if I’m still living here when they die? Does the property automatically come to me or does it go to probate?

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Indonesia seeks to ban negative ‘foreign’ influences on music

Artists concerned that draft bill, which follows outcry over K-pop band, will destroy freedom of expression

Musicians in Indonesia have lashed out against what they say is a ludicrous draft bill that could “destroy” repress freedom of expression.

Among the most contentious aspects of the draft is Article 5, which outlaws “negative foreign influences” as well as blasphemous or pornographic content, punishable by imprisonment or a fine.

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How Facebook robbed us of our sense of self

Fifteen years ago, the social network site was set up to connect people. But now, with lives increasingly played out online, have we forgotten how to be alone?

‘Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges. We have opened up Thefacebook for popular consumption at Harvard University. You can use Thefacebook to: search for people at your school; find out who are [sic] in your classes; look up your friends’ friends; see a visualization of your social network.”

On 4 February 2004, this rather clunky announcement launched an invention conceived in the dorm room of a Harvard student called Mark Zuckerberg, and intended to be an improvement on the so-called face books that US universities traditionally used to collect photos and basic information about their students. From the vantage point of 2019, Thefacebook – as it was then known – looks familiar, but also strange. Pages were coloured that now familiar shade of blue, and “friends” were obviously a central element of what was displayed. However, there was little on show from the wider world: the only photos were people’s profile pictures, and there was no ever-changing news feed.

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How Facebook robbed us of our sense of self

Fifteen years ago, the social network site was set up to connect people. But now, with lives increasingly played out online, have we forgotten how to be alone?

‘Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges. We have opened up Thefacebook for popular consumption at Harvard University. You can use Thefacebook to: search for people at your school; find out who are [sic] in your classes; look up your friends’ friends; see a visualization of your social network.”

On 4 February 2004, this rather clunky announcement launched an invention conceived in the dorm room of a Harvard student called Mark Zuckerberg, and intended to be an improvement on the so-called face books that US universities traditionally used to collect photos and basic information about their students. From the vantage point of 2019, Thefacebook – as it was then known – looks familiar, but also strange. Pages were coloured that now familiar shade of blue, and “friends” were obviously a central element of what was displayed. However, there was little on show from the wider world: the only photos were people’s profile pictures, and there was no ever-changing news feed.

Continue reading…


How Facebook robbed us of our sense of self

Fifteen years ago, the social network site was set up to connect people. But now, with lives increasingly played out online, have we forgotten how to be alone?

‘Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges. We have opened up Thefacebook for popular consumption at Harvard University. You can use Thefacebook to: search for people at your school; find out who are [sic] in your classes; look up your friends’ friends; see a visualization of your social network.”

On 4 February 2004, this rather clunky announcement launched an invention conceived in the dorm room of a Harvard student called Mark Zuckerberg, and intended to be an improvement on the so-called face books that US universities traditionally used to collect photos and basic information about their students. From the vantage point of 2019, Thefacebook – as it was then known – looks familiar, but also strange. Pages were coloured that now familiar shade of blue, and “friends” were obviously a central element of what was displayed. However, there was little on show from the wider world: the only photos were people’s profile pictures, and there was no ever-changing news feed.

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Australia’s generous aid to Yemen mustn’t be undermined by its weapons sales | Jason Lee

Military exports to Saudi Arabia should cease if we are serious about ending the four-year war that has killed 85,000 children

Almost 15 months ago to the day I landed in Yemen, home to the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet. I’ve been an aid worker for more than a decade, deployed to emergencies in places like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Timor Leste. But nothing prepared me be for this.

The suffering in Yemen is on a scale that’s hard to fathom.

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Brexit is a mess – what would Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey do? | Jonathan Lynn

I emailed my old friend and asked what he would do if he were still head of the civil service. Here is his reply

“What is the function of the civil service? To help the government implement its policies. But with Brexit – the most important constitutional issue for decades – every cabinet minister has his or her own policy. Without a written constitution and with only norms, traditions and precedents to guide us, this unprecedented situation has made everyone in government into a headless chicken.

“I was merely a humble vessel into which ministers, the people’s representatives, poured their thoughts and hopes. My job was to help turn this jumble into workable policies – no mean task. We were loyal to each government and each prime minister in turn, supporting their manifestos, their hopes and their dreams where practicable, whatever our private opinions.

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Brexit is a mess – what would Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey do? | Jonathan Lynn

I emailed my old friend and asked what he would do if he were still head of the civil service. Here is his reply

“What is the function of the civil service? To help the government implement its policies. But with Brexit – the most important constitutional issue for decades – every cabinet minister has his or her own policy. Without a written constitution and with only norms, traditions and precedents to guide us, this unprecedented situation has made everyone in government into a headless chicken.

“I was merely a humble vessel into which ministers, the people’s representatives, poured their thoughts and hopes. My job was to help turn this jumble into workable policies – no mean task. We were loyal to each government and each prime minister in turn, supporting their manifestos, their hopes and their dreams where practicable, whatever our private opinions.

Continue reading…