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The antidote: your favourite weekend reads beyond coronavirus | World news

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Friday 3 April

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A middle-aged woman, shielded from him by a screen, sobbed as she described how as a 15-year-old girl she had attempted to run away in 1995, but that he had tracked her down, bound her wrists and ankles and driven her back. He had promised her parents in Samoa she would be educated in New Zealand but instead found herself cooking, cleaning and looking after his children. Her day started at 4am and often didn’t finish until 11pm.

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“You may not know the name John Langdon, who died on 23 March, but you’ll very probably have laughed at his jokes. When the story of BBC Radio Light Entertainment is written, his legend will feature large, not least because he wrote the famous sketch about Derek Jameson (“a man who thinks erudite is a type of glue”) for which the tabloid editor sued the BBC and lost. But to me, he was my best friend, my greatest encourager and, for over 35 years, my constant writing partner.”

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In Listener’s Digest, our writers help you explore the work of great musicians. In this instalment, John Harris considers the post-Beatles career of Sir Paul McCartney. “When the music coheres, you can hear the same boundless sensibilities that defined the long medley on Abbey Road, and a talent who could make magic out of the most unlikely ingredients.”

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“Tom Jones leads the choir with a lusty Bread of Heaven, stood alongside that cheeky bard of the valleys Max Boyce. The feeling shared among the Welsh is that something is afoot, that Graham Henry’s men could poop the party and deny England a grand slam at the site of their footballing brethren’s greatest sporting triumph, 1966 and all that. How wonderful that would be …”

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“For the past four days there has been a heavy police presence at the former home of Kenneth Ward. Ward, 72, was jailed in 2011 for indecent exposure and weapons offences after police found a huge haul of weapons including a loaded Luger pistol under his pillow and the cockpit of a second world war fighter plane with working machine guns at his remote cottage.”

Saturday 4 April

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“In 2017, I was invited to a residency in Lisbon. To cover the fee, I applied for a small literary grant. In my application, I wrote that the residency would give me the opportunity to present my work ‘within an international context’ for the first time. None of this was technically a lie. But it wasn’t the whole truth, either. My reason for being in Lisbon was to find court documents related to a sexual assault that had been committed against me in the city 11 years earlier, when I was 18 years old.”

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“The England shirt weighs heavy. So much time has passed without winning. ’66 is a problem because whenever a World Cup or Euros starts, they think they can do it again. Always, always, always. It’s important to play without that weight, with more freedom. A lot is psychology but, honestly, I think the problem England have is they arrive at tournaments tired. You play a lot of [club] games and your culture is: fight, fight, fight, never stop, even if you’re four down. I liked that.”

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‘As soon as the city kicks back into business again, the couple are expected to shoot to the top of everybody’s invite lists. “Ultimately, this is a city where royalty trumps celebrity,” says Melanie Bromley, chief news correspondent and head of news operations for E!. “They are potentially the most famous residents of Los Angeles – or at least they’re on the same level as Oprah, as that kind of celebrity, AAA list.”’

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“The leather industry is so misunderstood. People don’t think about where leather comes from, but it’s a natural by-product. The connection between the meat and dairy system and the leather industry has been forgotten, but they are inextricably linked. We’re repurposing a bi-product that comes from an inherently wasteful food system to make a material that’s biodegradable, natural and beautiful.”

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“I did say half-jokingly when we launched that I wanted to destroy capitalism with this programme. Give us one more series and capitalism will probably have destroyed itself by then. We’ll just be doing the clearing up.”

Sunday 5 April

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Keir Starmer securing the Labour leadership was undoubtedly yesterday’s key topic beyond coronavirus, with readers clearly wanting a deeper understanding of the victor. Yesterday’s list contained four Starmer pieces in the top five. I’ve pulled the others together here to give a little more variety to the list over all.

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“An imposing figure with flowing shoulder-length hair and a straggly beard, colourful waistcoats, shirts and trousers, often topped with a fez, he was a tabloid favourite, not only for his picturesque appearance and peculiar artistic tastes but for his string of mistresses, whom he referred to as his wifelets (he reckoned there to have been around 74 of them). He painted portraits of 69 of them and decorated a staircase at Longleat with them – one visitor remarked that the paintings all looked the same.”

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‘An influential conservative cardinal has established himself as a “parallel authority” to Pope Francis, according to a new book that depicts the pontiff as a prophetic reformer who is surrounded by opponents waging “guerrilla warfare” against him.’

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‘Karl writes that Trump told the meeting the Charlottesville protesters were unfairly treated and most had ‘good’ intentions, driven to the streets by opposition to the removal of a statue of Lee. The infamous tiki torch parade – and its chants of ‘Jews will not replace us’ – never really registered on his radar.”

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“We worked with the intelligence community over the years, and I’ve been playing somebody within it. It was hard not to feel real empathy and deep appreciation and loyalty. So when suddenly they were dismissed and undermined by a president, it was just so hard to believe.”

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Live Coronavirus Updates: Global Tracker

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As the pandemic took hold, most epidemiologists have had clear proscriptions in fighting it: No students in classrooms, no in-person religious services, no visits to sick relatives in hospitals, no large public gatherings.

So when conservative anti-lockdown protesters gathered on state capitol steps in places like Columbus, Ohio and Lansing, Mich., in April and May, epidemiologists scolded them and forecast surging infections.

And then the brutal killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25 changed everything.

Soon the streets nationwide were full of tens of thousands of people in a mass protest movement that continues to this day, with demonstrations and the toppling of statues. And rather than decrying mass gatherings, more than 1,300 public health officials signed a May 30 letter of support, and many joined the protests.

That reaction, and the contrast with the epidemiologists’ earlier fervent support for the lockdown, gave rise to an uncomfortable question: Was public health advice in a pandemic dependent on whether people approved of the mass gathering in question. To many, the answer seemed to be, “Yes.”

Of course, there are differences: A distinct majority of George Floyd protesters wore masks in many cities, even if they often crowded too close together. By contrast, many anti-lockdown protesters refused to wear masks — and their rallying cry ran directly contrary to public health officials’ instructions.

And in practical terms, no team of epidemiologists could have stopped the waves of impassioned protesters, any more than they could have blocked the anti-lockdown protests.

Still, the divergence in their own reactions left some of the country’s prominent epidemiologists wrestling with deeper questions of morality, responsibility and risk.

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France’s new prime minister to unveil reshuffled cabinet | World news

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France’s new prime minister, Jean Castex, is to unveil his cabinet, three days after President Emmanuel Macron gambled on a reshuffle to reboot his presidency and tighten his grip on government in the run-up to a re-election bid in 2022.

Analysts said Castex, a relatively unknown career bureaucrat and provincial mayor who successfully managed France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown, needed to move decisively to convince voters he was the right choice for the job.

The 55-year-old was named successor to the popular Édouard Philippe on Friday, as Macron seeks a fresh start with the country facing a deep recession forecast to shrink its economy by 11% and wipe out any gains from his pro-business policies.

The president tweeted on Sunday that he was aiming for a “new path” focused on “reviving the economy, continuing to overhaul social and environmental protections, re-establishing a fair republican order and defending European sovereignty”.

With the Élysée Palace promising “new faces and new talents”, several key ministers could be replaced, including the widely criticised Christophe Castaner at the interior ministry, economic minister Bruno Le Maire and Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly at foreign affairs and defence.

Environment will also be a key portfolio, given the recent strong performance of the Greens, who seized control of several of France’s biggest cities in last month’s municipal elections.

Observers have said that by replacing Philippe with Castex, who also hails from the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) party, Macron had taken a high-stakes gamble on taking fuller control of government in the final two years of his presidency.

With most of Macron’s efforts since 2017 to create jobs, boost investment and relax labour likely “to be buried by an avalanche of bad news”, the president “has decided, in effect, to be his own prime minister for the last two years of his mandate,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

Castex, who speaks with a marked south-west accent that the Élysée Palace hopes will connect with ordinary people, “will be the manager and de facto chief of staff, while Macron takes direct control of government in a lightning attempt to create a new record which he can present to the electorate in 2022”, Rahman said.

Bruno Cautrès, a research at the Cevipof thinktank, told French radio the president needed to move fast. “He is 60% through his mandate,” Cautrès said. “He has very little time to translate his policies into concrete differences in people’s daily lives.”

The new prime minister “will have to shift up a gear, especially on the economy, against a likely context this autumn of rising unemployment, young people arriving on the labour market … He has to show this change of prime minister was useful.”

Many analysts had predicted that Macron would choose his new prime minister from the more leftwing, pro-ecology side of French politics, especially after a disappointing performance by his centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party in the elections last month.

Much of the French left feels the president, having promised a politics that was “neither of the right nor of the left”, has drifted rightwards since sweeping to victory in presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017.

But centre-right voters have, in the main, applauded his firm handling of the anti-government gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests and supported LREM in last year’s European election. “He is counting on them, it seems to me, for re-election in 2022,” Jean Garrigues, a political scientist at the University of Orleans, told Agence France-Presse.

LREM failed to win a single big city in the local elections, depriving the president of a powerful local power base before 2022. The most notable win was Philippe’s convincing win in his Normandy bastion of Le Havre, from where he emerged as a potential Macron rival in years to come.

The president’s entourage has hinted that he plans to announce the key policy lines of the remainder of his mandate in a televised address, probably on Bastille Day, 14 July. Castex is likely to leave any detailed announcement to parliament of his government’s programme until the end of next week.

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Assessing the Real Coronavirus Death Rate: Live Updates

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In poorer countries, the number could help officials decide whether to spend more on oxygen concentrators and ventilators, or on measles shots and mosquito nets.

At present, countries have very different case fatality rates, which measure deaths among patients known to have had Covid-19. In most cases, that number is highest in countries that have had the virus the longest.

According to data gathered by The New York Times, China had reported 90,294 cases as of Friday and 4,634 deaths, a case fatality rate of 5 percent. The United States, which has had a record number of new daily cases six times in the past two weeks, has had 2,811,447 cases and 129,403 deaths, about 4.6 percent.

Ten sizable countries, most in Western Europe, have tested bigger percentages of their populations than the United States has. Their case fatality rates vary wildly: Iceland’s is less than 1 percent, New Zealand’s and Israel’s are below 2 percent. Belgium, by comparison, is at 16 percent, and Italy and Britain are at 14 percent.

Before last week, the World Health Organization had no official estimate for the infection fatality rate. Instead, it had relied on a mix of data sent in by member countries and academic groups, and on a meta-analysis done in May by scientists at the University of Wollongong and James Cook University in Australia.

Those researchers looked at 267 studies in more than a dozen countries and then chose the 25 they considered the most accurate, weighting them for accuracy, and averaged the data. They concluded that the global infection fatality rate was 0.64 percent.

That percentage of the world’s population equals 47 million people, including two million Americans.

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