Long stories short
- UK consumer prices rose by 4.2 per cent in the 12 months to October 2021, the biggest rise in a decade and more than double the Bank of England’s target rate.
- Xi Jinping warned Joe Biden that the US was “playing with fire” over Taiwan, but also stressed that “humanity lives in a global village” and faces shared challenges.
- Amazon said it would stop accepting Visa credit cards in the UK due to high transaction fees.
It’s hard to think of a worse day for English cricket. Yesterday the former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq spent close to two hours giving evidence to a committee in parliament in London. He painstakingly outlined the “inhuman” treatment he received as a player for Yorkshire cricket club, saying he’d heard similar stories from other teams. He called the sport “institutionally” racist.
Rafiq alleged that
– he was held down and forced to drink red wine when he was 15, even though he is Muslim;
–he was regularly referred to as “P***” and “Raffa the Kaffir” in the dressing room and in public;
–Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon “tore a strip” off him the day after Rafiq returned to work following the stillborn death of his son; and
–Asian players were addressed as “elephant washers”.
He accused the England player Gary Ballance of calling people of colour “Kevin”, adding that it’s thought another player, Alex Hales, named his dog Kevin because it was black. He said the former England captain Michael Vaughan told Asian players “there’s too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” – an allegation denied by Vaughan but substantiated by two teammates.
The background. Last year Yorkshire produced an independent report that found Rafiq, who contemplated suicide, had experienced repeated instances of racism. But the club chose not to discipline anyone, determining that the use of P*** was made “in the spirit of friendly banter”. The CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) told the select committee he left it up to Yorkshire to decide if they were racist because they “were very clear they wanted to run this investigation themselves”.
Baroness Warsi told the BBC this morning the racism experienced by Rafiq was the tip of an iceberg. Part of the reason more cases haven’t come to light is the chilling effect of defamation laws. Azeem Rafiq was covered in this regard by parliamentary privilege, which let him speak without threat of legal reprisal. How many others might come forward now without such protection remains to be seen.
What next? Freedom granted by parliament doesn’t guarantee accountability. Ballance, Vaughan and Moxon are among those still just about employed despite the allegations made against them. The ECB’s chief executive has promised a “hard listening exercise”, whatever that means. Meanwhile, Rafiq, who now runs a fish and chip shop in Barnsley, said: “Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes I do.”
To note: 30 per cent of recreational cricketers in England and Wales, but only 4 per cent of professionals, are British Asians.
belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries
Eighteen jurors were whittled down to 12 to decide the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two men during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake last August. Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty on grounds of self-defence, arguing that he was trying to protect property and only fired at people who attacked him. He’s helped by the trial being in the state of Wisconsin, where laws put the burden on prosecutors to negate self-defence beyond a reasonable doubt – a tough thing to do. Judge Bruce Schroeder has courted attention for shouting at prosecutors and asking the courtroom to applaud a defence witness who was a veteran. But it’ll now be up to the seven women and five men – all but one are white – who make up the final jury panel to determine whether Rittenhouse was a vigilante killer or someone who legitimately feared harm.
New things technology, science, engineering
Here be aliens
There has been an almighty fight in the past few years over the provenance of the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. The Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has cut a lonely figure among boffins with his supposition that Oumuamua, which hurtled past the Sun at nearly 200,000 mph in 2017, might be an alien spacecraft. He argues that the interloper didn’t act like an asteroid nor look like a comet, and that it just happened to pass into our very limited field of vision – suggesting it was sent on purpose. Loeb doubled down in his book Extraterrestrial, and now he’s tripled down: he’s co-published a paper in New Astronomy refuting a popular theory that Oumuamua was a chunk of nitrogen that had broken off another planet. Loeb calculated that there wouldn’t be enough nitrogen in all the stars in the Milky Way to create the number of icebergs needed to explain the discovery of the object. The mystery continues.
The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY
Scientists moved closer to an Alzheimer’s breakthrough after developing a vaccine that appeared to reverse memory loss in mice. Previous treatments to dissolve the amyloid protein plaques associated with the disease have either failed or made things worse. So researchers instead identified an antibody in mice that could deal with shortened, soluble versions of the protein but ignore the normal ones required by the immune system. They found the antibody they had generated was binding to a previously unknown hairpin structure within the protein, neutralising the amyloid as a whole. They engineered a version of this fragment as a vaccine and struck gold again by triggering an immune response. The antibody treatment and vaccine have yet to be tested on humans or at any kind of scale. But this is definitely progress.
Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics
Nord Stream on hold
Germany’s energy regulator suspended certification for the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2, insisting the company transfers its assets and employees to its German subsidiary. Some are worried Russia will use the pipeline – which would pump tens of billions of cubic metres of gas under the Baltic Sea every year – for strategic ends. The project bypasses Ukraine’s lucrative pipelines and potentially strengthens Russia’s position as Europe’s largest gas supplier. Germany’s slow-rolling of Nord Stream 2’s certification is supported by Ukraine but could backfire if Europe’s energy crisis meets a cold winter – in which case the continent is back to the status quo ante of dependence for gas on Russia and Ukraine.
Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity
Storm clouds over China
The South China Morning Post has a fascinating snapshot into how the wealthy are faring under Xi Jinping. Falling property prices, a ban on private tutoring, and Xi’s rhetoric on wealth distribution are among factors threatening their vision of a good life and encouraging them to consider ways out. But the story identifies a more existential problem than the dissatisfied rich. Amid a two-decade decline in China’s birth rate, nearly 80 per cent of young people surveyed by Southwestern University of Finance and Economics never plan to have children. Investment flight and a shortage in productive workers could together spell trouble for the economy.
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Edited by Giles Whittell and produced by Phoebe Davis.
Photographs UK Parliament TV, Getty Images, Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg, NASA/ESA/STScI