Long stories short
- Donald Trumpâs attorney general repeatedly told him his claims of electoral fraud in 2020 were âbullshitâ, according to a US congressional committee.
- Two British citizens and a Moroccan who fought for years in Ukraineâs armed forces were sentenced to death as mercenaries by a court in Russian-held Donetsk.
- Ikea Norway said it wanted to help couples choose baby names based on those it uses for flat-packed furniture.Â Â
âWeâre golfers, not politicians,â says Graeme McDowell, the former US Open winner.
âThis is my job. I do it for money,â says Lee Westwood, European golfer of the year for four years including 2020.
For most of the 1970s and â80s the world punished South Africa for its racial apartheid with a sports boycott that prevented its teams and stars taking part in top-flight international competition. For most of the past century Saudi Arabia has enforced a form of gender apartheid of sometimes extreme severity on half its population. Much of that remains in place. It also holds public executions, jails and disappears political dissidents and has murdered and dismembered one noted regime critic.
Yet rather than boycott Saudi Arabia the sports world is embracing it.
- Newcastle FC has accepted a Saudi-backed $400 million takeover.
- Formula 1 has accepted $600 million to stage a race in Jeddah.
- And now golf has accepted $2 billion from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the countryâs main sovereign wealth fund, to stage a rival to the PGA and European tours worth $25 million per tournament.
The first LIV Golf tournament is happening this weekend.Â
Yesterday the PGA tour suspended all 17 of its players who are taking part.Â
- The tournament is not taking place in Saudi Arabia, but at the Centurion course near Hemel Hempstead, north of London.
- Reforms enacted in the past five years have begun to lift the burden of male guardianship laws that used to constrain every aspect of Saudi womenâs lives, and they have been allowed to drive.
But discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia is still systemic. As Human Rights Watchâs World Report for 2022 notes, women still need a male guardianâs permission to get married. They face discrimination âin relation to family, divorce and decisions relating to children, including child custody,â and can be sued by male guardians for âdisobedienceâ.
Despite this the LIV tournament is going ahead with the participation of 48 of the worldâs top golfers and almost no mention of womenâs rights. Human rights more broadly have been discussed in the build-up to yesterdayâs PGA Tour suspensions, but
- the only specific crime mentioned by critics or players in that discussion has been the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a government-backed Saudi hit squad in Istanbul;
- and the conduit for the Saudi money now pouring into the sport, Yasir Al Rumayyan of the PIF, has barely been confronted on his countryâs record. Asked about âsportswashingâ, he told the BBCâs Dan Roan heâd look it up, and left to play golf.
Of the Khashoggi murder, Greg Norman, who is the public face of the LIV tour, has said: âLook, we all make mistakesâ.
Whoâs in:Â besides McDowell and Westwood, players signed up to the Saudi-backed tour include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson (the highest-ranked player at 15), Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia. Mickelson, winner of six major PGA championships, seemed opposed in February, when he noted Saudi Arabiaâs âhorrible human rights recordâ and asked why he would even consider the LIV offer, but has since come around to it as a âonce-in-a-lifetime opportunityâ. With career earnings to date of around $300 million, he will reportedly earn another $200 million for taking part.
Whoâs out:Â Most of the worldâs highest-ranked players including Rory McIlroy and the current world no. 1, Scott Scheffler. Tiger Woods, still recovering from injury, has also turned LIV down despite what Norman said was a âhigh nine-figureâ offer.
To note:Â rights groups say discrimination against women is even more severe in Qatar than Saudi Arabia. The world will descend on Doha in November even so for the World Cup.
Itâs not just the government thatâs in crisis
âEngland is the mother of parliamentsâ: so the radical reformer, John Bright, famously said in a speech in Birmingham in 1865. What would he make of the state of parliament today? Bright would conclude, I reckon, that England â or, more accurately, the United Kingdom â had been a particularly neglectful parent.
CAPITALÂ ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE
Last year a noted UK think tank urged Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to protect the Treasury against the risk of rising interest rates by converting nearly ÂŁ1 trillion worth of government debt into long-term, low-yield bonds. He didnât, and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research reckons that has cost the taxpayer ÂŁ11 billion as rates duly rise. The Treasuryâs response, when asked about this by the FT, was to claim it has a âclear financing strategy to meet the governmentâs funding needsâ and to note that the Bank of England is independent. The trouble for Sunak is that heâs repeatedly used warnings about the rising debt service costs as a reason to prioritise the health of the public finances over investment. He gave himself one job, you might say if you were feeling uncharitable, and botched it.Â
CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING
Turkeyâs campaign to rebrand itself with a more authentically Turkish spelling and pronunciation of its name is gathering steam. In January it launched a promotional campaign for Turkish tourism under the banner âHello TĂŒrkiyeâ. Last week it asked the UN to adopt the new spelling, which the world body did at once. Now itâs making the same request of individual countries, and they will require clarity on pronunciation. The APâs phonetic rendition is âTur-key-YAYâ. The FTâs is âtooh-key-ehâ, which is fundamentally different and less helpful in that it offers no guidance on which syllable to stress. A free Tortoise membership is hereby offered to the Turkish embassy in London in return for authoritative arbitration.
TECHNOLOGYÂ AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS
If Mark Zuckerberg was ever in love with news, he may be falling out of it. Heâs moved his former head of news to a new role overseeing media partnerships but also sports and entertainment tie-ups, and heâs conspicuously failed â so far â to renew a set of three-year deals with big US news publishers to compensate them for putting their stories on his site. The WSJ says the deals were worth more than $20 million a year to the NYT and Dow Jones (of which the Journal is a part) and more than $15 million to the Washington Post. Smaller sums were paid to smaller outlets that will miss the extra revenue sorely if indeed Zuckerberg has decided to cut it off. The Journal is especially attuned to this story because News Corp, of which Dow Jones is a part, led a long fight with Facebook and other platforms to stop them using its material for free. Americaâs big papers will survive, but 1,800 smaller ones have closed since 2004.
The 100-year lifeÂ health, education AND GOVERNMENT
730 more dead
730 Americans have been killed with a gun since 19 children and two teachers were murdered in Uvalde two weeks ago. 22 of those 730 were children, 66 were teenagers. There have already been 248 mass shootings âÂ when at least four people, not including the shooter, are killed or injured âÂ so far this year. The numbers are stark, but not stark enough to move the dial in Congress. Republican Senators have insisted on maintaining current gun access despite Democratsâ best efforts. Matthew McConaughey, who grew up in Uvalde, told the White House in an emotional plea âwe want gun laws that wonât make it so easy for the bad guys to get the damn gunsâ. But you donât need Hollywood to ramp up the horror of what is happening in US schools and almost every state.Â
Our planetÂ CLIMATE AND geopolitics
Life off earth?
Japanese scientists analysing a tiny quantity of rock and dust brought back from an asteroid 300 million kilometres from Earth say it contains some of the building blocks of life. They say the 5.4 grams of material brought back from 16213 Ryugu, visited by Japanâs Hayabusa2 space probe in 2020, contains âamino acids and other organic matter that could give clues to the origin of life on Earthâ. Crucially, Ryugu has never been exposed to Earthâs biosphere, so this organic matter must have come from outer space or at least from elsewhere in the solar system. This doesnât necessarily mean life on Earth was seeded from space â there are solid theories about how it could have evolved from nothing but salt water crashing against rocks, struck occasionally by lightning â but it does make the idea harder to rule out.
Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what weâve missed. News tips and story ideas are welcome. Email them to email@example.com.
With additional reporting by Phoebe Davis.
Photographs Getty Images
in the tortoise app today
Britainâs airport chaos
Flights are being cancelled and people are queuing for hours at Britainâs airports. Whatâs causing the chaos and how long will it last?