Long stories short
- Joe Biden described US gun violence as a public health epidemic after a shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs killed at least five people.Â Â
- The UN said â€śwhoeverâ€ť was behind continued shelling at Ukraineâ€™s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was playing with fire.Â
- Nine World Cup captains decided not to wear â€śone loveâ€ť rainbow armbands in Qatar for fear of being booked.
Why Qatar gently weeps
Never in 92 years of World Cups had the host nation lost their opening match until Qatar went down 2-0 to Ecuador on Sunday. It took 90 minutes to acquaint the tiny gulf stateâ€™s rulers with sporting reality. A $200 billion infrastructure spend canâ€™t win you games if your team is outclassed and trepidatious.
An eccentric performance by Qatarâ€™s goalkeeper accentuated the problem with thinking World Cups can be transplanted into countries with no football heritage. When the construction, PR and future-proofing stops, you have to send 11 people across the white line to score and stop goals. Qatarâ€™s chosen ones were so out of their depth that the BBCâ€™s pundits resorted to banter to fill the post-match analysis slot. â€śYou can tell itâ€™s been a rubbish second-half by the way weâ€™re trying to run down the clock,â€ť admitted Alan Shearer.
At half-time, when Ecuador already led 2-0, reporters noticed an exodus of bored or disillusioned local spectators. A third left before the hour mark and the Al Bayt Stadium was half empty by the finish.
Money canâ€™t buy you love. Or results (in theory). Qatar recorded no shots on target and three touches in the oppositionâ€™s penalty box. They now face Senegal and the Netherlands with little hope of progressing beyond the group stage: a warning to Saudi Arabiaâ€™s Mohammed bin Salman, who sat beside the Fifa president Gianni Infantino, the self-proclaimed everyman of the oppressed (read on). The Saudis covet the 2030 World Cup, in league with Greece and Egypt.
Opening night was predictably wince-inducing.Â
- The authorities had relaxed alcohol restrictions but hit reverse gear 48 hours before the opening ceremony, banning booze at stadiums. Like Bud Zero? Itâ€™s all youâ€™ll get at England v Iran today. Ecuador supporters chanted â€śwe want beer.â€ť
- Reports say migrant workers have developed a remarkable affection for countries they donâ€™t actually come from, flowing through the streets to proclaim new allegiances. Concession stall staff said they had waited outside the stadium without water, food or toilets for up to seven hours.
- In the game itself, VAR controversially ruled out a third minute goal by Ecuador for offside. Analysts were baffled, conspiracy theories flowed and no explanation was given to the watching billions around the world. The foot of Ecuadorâ€™s Michael Estrada was eventually shown to be offside: not a â€śclear and obvious error,â€ť which was meant to be VARâ€™s raison dâ€™etre.
Enjoyment might have been felt most keenly by the 2010 Fifa Executive Committee, which awarded this World Cup to Qatar. Except that 14 of its members were indicted by US law enforcement, which alleged â€śrampant, systemic and deep rootedâ€ť corruption at world footballâ€™s governing body. Even Sepp Blatter, the overlord of that dark era, has called the choice of Qatar â€śa mistakeâ€ť.
Infantino has inherited Blatterâ€™s messiah complex. On Saturday his attempt to identify with victims of discrimination was derided. He said: â€śToday I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.â€ť If half the worldâ€™s population felt left out, Infantino doubled back to add them: â€śI feel like a woman too.â€ť Iranâ€™s leaders, watching todayâ€™s game against England as they lock up women protesters back home, will be glad to know.
The football will improve. Over the next four days England, Argentina, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Brazil and Portugal will ride to Qatarâ€™s partial rescue. But normalising a tournament in a country where same-sex relations are illegal and human rights are suppressed is harder than the ruling Al Thani family imagined. Their football team isnâ€™t finding it any easier. This was Qatarâ€™s first World Cup finals match (they qualified as hosts). It showed.
Donâ€™t walk into the Brexit elephant trap, Mr Starmer
Last weekâ€™s autumn statement was meant to hem in Labour on fiscal policy. Now, Rishi Sunak is trying to tempt the Opposition leader onto lethal ground of a different sort.
CAPITALÂ ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE
Want your house price to hold up reasonably well? Buy in northern Sweden, where abundant hydropower is keeping energy prices down and property values more or less stable. Further south theyâ€™re in their most severe decline since the early 1990s, and a bellwether for house prices in comparable economies including the UK. October data reported by Bloomberg shows Swedish prices down for the seventh straight month and down 14 per cent so far this year. Rising mortgage costs and retail price inflation are the other factors depressing property markets, in which peak-to-trough slumps of up to 20 per cent are forecast for the US, UK and New Zealand. Nowhere is immune. Canadian house prices are down 10 per cent this year. File it under: global headwinds. Behind it all: the war.Â
TECHNOLOGYÂ AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS
There is no calm after the FTX storm. The crypto exchange that went bankrupt on 11 November owes more than $3 billion to its creditors and has confirmed cash holdings of only $565 million, according to a filing in the Delaware bankruptcy court. That ($565 million) may seem a lot for an outfit reported to have popped like a balloon, especially given a) the administrators still have at least 70 bank accounts to check and b) a claim by the new FTX CEO that it has many subsidiaries with â€śsolvent balance sheets [and] responsible managementâ€ť. But that same CEO, John Ray III, the insolvency specialist who picked up the Enron pieces in 2001, said last week he had â€śnever seen such a complete failure of corporate controlsâ€ť as at FTX. The more-in-sorrow-than anger brigade is naturally having a moment, led today in the FTâ€™s Henry Mance interview with Stephen Diehl, author of Popping the Crypto Bubble. He says the entire sector, for all its 14-year life, has been a solution in search of a problem. â€śThe commoditisation of populist anger, gambling and crime.â€ť A scam.Â
The 100-year lifeÂ health, education AND GOVERNMENT
A third of adults found it difficult to access NHS services during the pandemic, pushing about two million people to turn to private healthcare services, according to a report earlier this year from the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research. Post-pandemic, the waitlist for treatment is only getting longer, while the NHS is breaking records for ambulance and A&E waiting times due to lack of staff and a shortage of social care. Against this backdrop, the BBC reports that NHS leaders in Scotland discussed a â€śtwo-tierâ€ť health service, in which people who can afford it would pay for private treatment, in draft minutes from a meeting in September. The discussion also included pausing development of new drugs unless they can save the NHS money and cutting some free prescriptions. Jeremy Hunt said in last weekâ€™s Autumn Statement that people must ask â€śchallenging questionsâ€ť about how to improve public services. This report shows how fundamental some of these questions will be.Â
Our planetÂ CLIMATE AND geopolitics
Loss and damage
As Cop27 wound down the UN Secretary-General said the planet was still in the emergency room. The question after the conferenceâ€™s failure to set new fossil fuel abatement targets, let alone agree on how to enforce existing ones, is whether Earth is now in fact in palliative care. That is an inference to be drawn from the Sharm conferenceâ€™s only â€śsuccessâ€ť â€“ an agreement in principle on compensation for poor and low-lying countries suffering the worst impacts of a climate crisis visited on them by rich ones. There was nothing new on cutting emissions even though this was supposed to be the â€śimplementationâ€ť conference, agreeing on how to put Paris (net zero) and Glasgow (no more than 1.5 degrees of warming) into practice. Instead the hosts slipped support for more gas into the final communique, along with support for more renewables. The Cop process isnâ€™t fit for purpose, one veteran told the Sunday Times, but itâ€™s the only one weâ€™ve got. Really? Remember Gfanz, the $130 trillion Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero? Time to step up.
CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING
Swiss-style trial balloon
UK government sources floated the idea of a new deal with the EU at the weekend. 80 per cent of checks between Northern Ireland and the UK mainland would be eliminated. Access for the whole country to the EU single market would be eased. There would need to be payments to the EU and alignment with many of its sanitary and phytosanitary rules, but there would be no need to sign up to freedom of movement. The new relationship with Brussels would be a bit like Switzerlandâ€™s. The story ran in the Sunday Times. Brexiters instantly shot it down. Steve Barclay, the last Brexit Secretary, said he didnâ€™t recognise it. Lord Frost, who negotiated the current deal that isnâ€™t working, said the government had better revise its revisions fast. Nigel Farage said he might reenter politics if Brexit was about to be betrayed. There are signs the Brexit fever is breaking; signs of common sense creeping up on the inside as ideology flags. But all that means politically is that the old fight within the Conservative party over Europe is still being fought. The rest of the country will have to go on waiting till one side wins, or seize the moment and talk frankly about the emperorâ€™s clothes.
21/11 â€“ Rishi Sunak to speak at Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in Birmingham; England face Iran and Wales play the US in football World Cup in Qatar; Shamima Begum appeals removal of British citizenship, 22/11 â€“ Keir Starmer to address CBI conference; South African president Cyril Ramaphosa in London for state visit, 23/11 â€“ Supreme Court to rule on whether Scottish parliament can call second referendum on independence; Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives evidence on Autumn Statement to Treasury committee, 24/11 â€“ Royal Mail staff take two-day strike action; Ofgem announces quarterly price cap change; Scottish teachers go on strike, staff at 150 universities go on strike, 26/11 â€“ train drivers across 12 companies go on strike.
21/11 â€“ Joe Biden pardons a turkey ahead of Thanksgiving; UN Security Council meets to discuss North Korea; Twitter offices due to reopen, 22/11 â€“ OECD to publish its Economic Outlook report with projections for world economy; FTX bankruptcy hearing, 23/11 â€“ Vladimir Putin to take part in CSTO summit in Armenia, 24/11 â€“ Thanksgiving Day public holiday in US; UN Human Rights Council holds special session on Iran protests, 25/11 â€“Â Black Friday.Â
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Additional reporting by Giles Whittell and Jessica Winch.
Photographs Getty Images
in the tortoise app today
Inside Unite: the union, Liverpool and the ÂŁ100m hotel
One of Britainâ€™s biggest trade unions has built a hotel in Birmingham at vast cost. Following the threads which explain why it became so wildly expensive leads inevitably to a surprising place: to Liverpool. And to questions which could hurt the Labour party.