Heretics welcome! Economics needs a new Reformation | Larry Elliott

Neoclassical economics has become an unquestioned belief system and treats those challenging the creed as dangerous

In October 1517, an unknown Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther changed the world when he grabbed a hammer and nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The Reformation started there.

The tale of how the 95 theses were posted is almost certainly false. Luther never mentioned the incident and the first account of it didnt surface until after his death. But it makes a better story than Luther writing a letter (which is what probably happened), and thats why the economist Steve Keen, dressed in a monks habit and wielding a blow up hammer, could be found outside the London School of Economics last week.

Keen and those supporting him (full disclosure: I was one of them) were making a simple point as he used Blu Tack to stick their 33 theses to one of the worlds leading universities: economics needs its own Reformation just as the Catholic church did 500 years ago. Like the medieval church, orthodox economics thinks it has all the answers. Complex mathematics is used to mystify economics, just as congregations in Luthers time were deliberately left in the dark by services conducted in Latin. Neoclassical economics has become an unquestioned belief system and treats anybody who challenges the creed of self-righting markets and rational consumers as dangerous heretics.

Keen was one of those heretics. He was one of the economists who knew there was big trouble brewing in the years leading up to the financial crisis of a decade ago but whose warnings were ignored. The reason Keen was proved right was that he paid no heed to the equilibrium models favoured by mainstream economics. He looked at what was actually happening rather than having a preconceived view of what ought to be happening.

Somewhat depressingly, nothing much has happened, even though it was a crisis neoclassical economics said could not happen. There was a brief dalliance with unorthodox remedies when things were really bleak in the winter of 2008-09, but by late 2009 and early 2010, there was a return to business as normal.

The intellectual monopoly is something of an irony given how central the idea of competition is to orthodox thinking, but it is a sad fact as the preamble to the 33 theses notes that the neoclassical perspective overwhelmingly dominates teaching, research, advice to policy, and public debate.

Many other perspectives that could provide valuable insights are marginalised and excluded. This is not about one theory being better than another, but the notion that scientific advance only moves ahead with a debate. Within economics, this debate has died.

That debate needs to be rekindled. A more pluralist approach would take account of the complexity of markets, the constraints imposed by nature and rising inequality. So what needs to be done?

Firstly, listen to consumers, because it is pretty obvious that they are unimpressed with what they are getting. The failure of the economics establishment to predict the crisis and its insistence that austerity is the right response to the events of a decade ago has meant the profession has rarely been less trusted.

Of course, there were economists who got it right and some of them Paul Krugman, for example wielded real influence. But it should have come as little surprise that when it came to the Brexit referendum, voters took the warnings from the UK Treasury, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of England with a very large pinch of salt. After all, not one of these august bodies armed as they were with their general equilibrium models saw the deepest recession since the second world war coming, even when it was already under way.

It is welcome news that discontent is bubbling up from below on university campuses. True, the prestigious academic journals remain in the hands of the old order and in economics faculties there is strong resistance to change but increasingly students are showing their frustration at being told to learn and regurgitate economics that is not just narrow and of little relevance, but also plain wrong. Of the 33 theses pinned to the LSE, five involved the teaching of economics, with demands to be taught history and economic thought, and for the monopoly of the status quo to be broken.

One of the theses demands that economics must do more to encourage critical thinking, and not simply reward memorisation of theories and implementation of models. Students must be encouraged to compare, contrast, and combine theories, and critically apply them to in-depth studies of the real world. The fact that students feel the need to say this is a terrible indictment of the way economics is being taught, and their discontent negates the idea that this is just whingeing from aggrieved Keynesians.

Secondly, we should stop treating economics as a science because it is nothing of the sort. A proper science involves testing a hypothesis against the available evidence. If the evidence doesnt support the theory, a physicist or a biologist will discard the theory and try to come up one that does work empirically.

Economics doesnt work like that. Theories can be shown to work only by making a series of highly questionable assumptions such as that humans always behave predictably and rationally. When there is hard evidence that disputes the validity of the theory, there is no question of ditching the theory.

Thirdly, economics needs to be prepared to learn from other disciplines because when it does the results are worthwhile. One example is the way in which auto-enrolment has increased pension coverage. If humans were truly economically rational, it would make no difference whether their employers automatically enrolled them into pension schemes: they would decide whether to join schemes on the basis of whether they deemed it worth deferring consumption until they had retired. Yet, basic psychology says this is not the way people actually act. They are far less likely to opt out of something than they are to opt into something.

Fourthly, economics needs to be demystified. One of the big battles between Catholics and Protestants in mid-16th century England was over whether the bible should be in Latin or English, a recognition that language matters. The easy part of an economic Reformation is to attack the current establishment; the difficult part is to present a compelling story without resorting to jargon. Control of the narrative as George Osborne realised when he criticised Labour for failing to mend the roof while the sun was shining is crucial.

At the launch of the 33 theses last week, Victoria Chick, emeritus professor of economics at University College London, put it this way: The economics mainstream has the hallmarks of certain religions. They think they have the truth. But read for yourself and think for yourself. Change has occurred before and it can occur again. Shes right. It can.

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Political chemistry: Scientists running for office in age of Trump

(CNN)Geologist Jess Phoenix says she doesn’t mind being an underdog.

“The work I do, working on volcanoes, you’re always an underdog when you’re in a dangerous situation like that. You’re working with and sometimes against a force of nature,” Phoenix said. “I don’t mind long odds.”
But the force of nature Phoenix is currently up against is unlike her past scientific endeavors. She’s facing a new kind of unpredictability: voters.
    Phoenix is running to represent California’s 25th district, and she’s just one of several people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds who have raised their hands looking to get more involved in politics.
    President Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House has galvanized many in the scientific community who oppose his administration’s policies on health care, climate change and research funding. The sentiment was on display on April 22, when people in more than 600 cities around the world gathered for The March for Science.
    “We can’t rely on Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Regular, everyday scientists have to get excited about their work in a public facing way,” Phoenix said.
    Trump’s win was what sparked Harvard-educated pediatrician Mai-Khahn Tran to run.
    “As a mother, as a daughter, as a woman, I didn’t want to get up the next morning,” Tran said about the day following Trump’s victory.
    “But, you know, I did.”
    Tran said the first patient she met on the day following Trump’s victory was a child who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
    While meeting with the patient, Tran said she and the child’s mother cried in her office together, knowing her patient’s health care was most likely going to be affected under the policies of the new administration.
    “We just didn’t know how quickly or how much,” Tran recalled.
    Congress’ handling of health care reform is ultimately why Tran said she decided to change course — she’s now challenging Republican Rep. Ed Royce for California’s 39th Congressional District.
    314 Action — “314” after pi — is apolitical action committee aimed at recruiting and assisting scientists to run for office as Democrats.
    Naughton, the founder of 314 Action, was a “chemist by training,” and she worked in breast cancer research and drug discovery before changing course to work for her family’s business. In 2013, she decided to run for Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. However, Naughton said she found it difficult to tap into traditional political resources and party funding coming from a non-traditional political background.
    In need of outside funding, Naughton looked to the STEM community for support.
    The 314 Action network now consists of more than 225,000 people, including STEM professionals, grassroots supporters and political activists, according to the group.
    “I think voters are hungry for authenticity and are hungry for real people,” said Joshua Morrow, the executive director of 314 Action.
    The organization launched a training program in January, and since the start of the program, 314 Action said it has had more than 6,000 individuals show interest. The group said it initially expected around 1,000 by April.
    One of those 6,000 was Hans Keirstead, a neuroscientist who most recently has been working on stem cell research and is now looking to unseat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th Congressional District.
    “I think scientists are extremely well-suited because we work in a very complex problem in very complex dynamic systems … and that’s what you do in Congress,” Keirstead said.
    Health care and defunding of the Environmental Protection Agency are two issues Kierstad said he thinks are at risk under the current administration and Congress.
    314 Action has now endorsed Kierstad for Congress, as well as Chrissy Houlahan, who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th District against Rep. Ryan Costello.
    Houlahan’s background includes an engineering degree from Stanford and a master’s degree in Technology and Policy from MIT. A retired Air Force captain, she was also a high school science teacher, among other things.
    “Politicians are unashamed to meddle in science and I think the way we push against that is to get more scientists into public office and claim a seat at the table,” Naughton said.

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    Theresa May buys time with apology to Tory MPs over election mess

    Beleaguered PM is contrite and genuine in crunch meeting with 1922 Committee, promising to build consensus on Brexit

    A contrite Theresa May bought herself time with Conservatives MPs by apologising for failing to secure an overall majority, while cabinet sources indicated that the prime minister would pursue a more conciliatory approach on Brexit to shore up her leadership.

    May addressed a packed session of her partys backbench 1922 Committee on Tuesday with what was described as an upfront mea culpa. She declared: I got us into this mess, and Im going to get us out of it.

    Senior insiders added that one of the ideas actively being considered to win backing across parliament was not to major on the controversial no deal is better than a bad deal position taken by May before the election.

    Also under consideration is whether to exclude overseas students from the immigration numbers and even possibly to abandon the target to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. Although nothing has been agreed, any softening of the position on immigration could maximise the chance of a closer economic relationship with the EU.

    May also admitted that the manifesto promise to make people pay more for their social care had been a mistake and said there would be no weakening of LGBT rights as the Tories attempted to secure an electoral pact on Tuesday with the socially conservative Democratic Unionist party.

    The prime minister said more would be done to reach out to young voters and those working in the public sector. She was contrite and genuine, but not on her knees, said one senior MP who attended the meeting, adding that May had shown a warmer side. There was none of the Maybot, the person added, claiming that any talk of a leadership challenge had been silenced, for now at least.

    Speaking after the meeting, MPs made clear that the prime minister had bought herself time with hopes that she could make it to the end of Brexit talks in two years.

    A cabinet member admitted that work was under way on how to achieve a deal with the EU27 that could pass through a much more finely balanced parliament, involving seeking areas of compromise with other parties. Reports in the Telegraph and Evening Standard claimed that secret talks had already begun between cabinet ministers and some Labour MPs.

    Any shift in tone will be seen as a coup for advocates of a soft Brexit, although those who campaigned to leave the EU are also offering their support to the prime minister.

    Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, who has won more influence after the party took 13 seats in Scotland, said she was pushing for an open Brexit with maximum economic access after a private meeting with May in Downing Street. Davidson added that the party needed to reach out: I do think that there can be changes in the offer of Brexit as we go forward.

    Downing Street is also preparing to put forward a skeleton version of a Queens speech, as the parliamentary mathematics threatens to bring domestic policymaking to a halt unless the Tories reach out to opposition parties.

    The annual list of legislation, which may be delayed from 19 June, will have two big-ticket items of Brexit and counter-terrorism policy, but see most of the domestic agenda ditched, according to one source. Mays plans for a sweeping shakeup of education including new grammar schools could be boiled down to a few pilots, they said.

    However, despite jitters within the party and suggestions that Mays days are numbered, her performance in front of the 1922 Committee appeared to reduce anger about the shock result. After the vote stripped the Conservatives of their majority and plunged the government into instability and the need for coalition talks with the DUP, Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, said the prime minister would be gone within six months.

    However, after the 1922 meeting, Allen who has fought her own party over disability benefit cuts and tough positioning on Brexit said: I saw an incredibly humble woman who knows what she has to do, and that is be who she is and not what this job had turned her into. She has lost her armadillo shell and we have got a leader back.

    Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who has been an outspoken proponent of Brexit, said: It was very positive to hear her take very firm responsibility for not being able to crystallise some of the seats wed hoped to win. I felt she had very deeply considered over the weekend whether she should continue and came to us to say: I will continue for as long as you want me to do so. And I think thats exactly what we all hoped she would say.

    MPs said there was a tacit acceptance of the need to build a better consensus. A broader backing for Brexit has to be built and I think she recognises that, one former minister said. She was clear she was responsible. She agreed on the need to listen to all the wings of the party on Brexit.

    One remainer on the left of the party was teary-eyed as they expressed their renewed support for the prime minister, while a hardline Brexiter agreed, describing her as very, very humble and saying: She has bought herself time. She showed a side of her that was very appealing. A warmer side.

    At the centre of the debate were concerns about the manifesto. MPs admitted that it had been a disaster with voters, particularly the so-called dementia tax and the decision to press ahead with school funding cuts. Public sector workers felt very strongly about austerity, a former cabinet minister said. We have to offer a message of aspiration, which is a very Conservative word.

    Jeremy Corbyns massive gains with public sector workers appear to have driven anti-austerity into the centre of political debate, even among Conservatives. May acknowledged several warnings from MPs who described meeting people who said they could not vote Tory because of cuts to hospitals, schools or failure to increase public sector wages in real terms.

    Anna Soubry told the Guardian it had been an issue she repeatedly encountered on the doorstep. Writing in a local newsletter, she added: We need a kinder Conservatism that recognises the very real concerns about reduced school budgets, a shortfall in NHS and social care funding, and that some of our most valued public servants such as nurses, have had their wages cut.

    Others argued that it was OK for the Tories to keep their position but that they had failed to make the economic argument during the campaign. Soubry said it was outrageous that the chancellor, Philip Hammond, had not been given a bigger role in the campaign.

    Several MPs told May they had had difficulties rebutting questions over school funding on doorsteps and in local hustings. May said that Justine Greening would address the concerns, and sources stressed that the education secretary had been making the case for better funding for schools for some time.

    Tories banged on the tables for about 30 seconds as May arrived for the crunch meeting in a roasting hot room packed with members of the House of Lords as well as MPs. May took questions, but one MP described them as more like speeches.

    There was no appetite for a leadership election, the MP said. Thats the last thing the country needs. She said she would serve us as long as we want her, and that shes been a party servant since she was 12 years old, stuffing envelopes.

    MPs were pleased that the prime minister had removed her joint chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, as she pointed instead to her new top aide, the former Tory MP Gavin Barwell, and the chief whip, Gavin Williamson. One MP said that the party had faith in the two Gavins.

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    These are the 100-day accomplishments Trump is touting

    Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office comes Saturday, and despite his downplaying of the significance of the marker, his team is prepped and ready to tout his accomplishments.

    In a memo obtained first by CNN, the White House highlights job creation efforts, regulation cuts and national security measures, among others.
    But not all the initiatives have been unqualified success — Trump’s travel ban, which is listed, is currently stalled in the court system.
      Further, the bulk of Trump’s accomplishments have been made through executive action or memorandum, something Republicans decried Obama for doing during his second term. There are 37 points in this list and 23 (62%) were accomplished by executive order or memorandum.
      100 Days Of Accomplishments

      • Energy Independence Executive Order
      • Revocation Of Federal Contracting Executive Orders
      • Reexamination Of CAFE Standards
      • Review Of Waters Of The United States Rule
      • Creation Of Regulatory Task Forces
      • Eliminating Stream Protection Rule
      • Eliminating Regulations On Extraction Companies
      • One-In-Two-Out Regulation Reform
      • Minimizing Affordable Care Act

      • Buy American, Hire American Pipeline
      • Dakota Access Pipeline
      • U.S. Material In Pipeline Construction
      • Partnering With Private Sector

      • Withdrawal From The Trans-Pacific Partnership
      • Trade Enforcement
      • Comprehensive Reports On The Causes Of U.S. Trade Deficits
      • Federal Hiring Freeze
      • New Ethics Commitments On Political Appointees

      • Strike On Syrian Airfield
      • Travel Restrictions On Select Countries
      • New Iran Sanctions
      • Defense Spending In Budget
      • F-35 Cost Savings

      • Immigration Enforcement, Including Constructing A Wall
      • Sanctuary Cities Funding
      • New Hiring To Enforce Immigration
      • Prioritizing Criminal Immigration Enforcement And Hiring More Immigration Judges

      • Commission On Opioid Crisis
      • Protecting Law Enforcement Officers Crime
      • Tackling International Cartels

      • HBCU Initiative
      • Canada-United States Council For The Advancement Of Women Entrepreneurs
      • Promoting Women In Entrepreneurship Act
      • Women And Space Exploration
      • Nominating And Confirming Gorsuch


      Energy Independence Executive Order: On March 28th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order To Promote Energy Independence And Economic Growth, Which Suspended, Revised, Or Rescinded Four Obama Executive Actions That Stifled American Energy. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Promoting Energy Independence And Economic Growth,” 3/28/17)
      Revocation Of Federal Contracting Executive Orders: On March 27th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Revoking The Federal Contracting Executive Orders Put In Place By The Obama Administration. (The White House Press Office, 3/27/17)
      Reexamination Of CAFE Standards: On March 15th 2017, The EPA And The Department Of Transportation Announced The Reexamination Of Emission Standards For Cars And Light Duty Trucks. (Environmental Protection Agency, “EPA To Reexamine Emission Standards For Cars And Light Duty Trucks — Model Years 2022-2025,” 3/15/17)
      Review Of Waters Of The United States Rule: On February 28th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order That Directed The Review Of The “Waters Of The United States” Rule. “Sec. 2. Review of the Waters of the United States Rule. (a) The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (Administrator) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Assistant Secretary) shall review the final rule entitled “Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States,'” 80 Fed. Reg. 37054 (June 29, 2015), for consistency with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and publish for notice and comment a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule, as appropriate and consistent with law.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Restoring The Rule Of Law, Federalism, And Economic Growth By Reviewing The ‘Waters Of The United States’ Rule,” 2/27/17)
      Creation Of Regulatory Task Forces: On February 24th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Requiring Every Executive Agency To Establish A Regulatory Reform Task Force To Eliminate Costly And Unnecessary Regulations. “Sec. 2. Regulatory Reform Officers. (a) Within 60 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency, except the heads of agencies receiving waivers under section 5 of this order, shall designate an agency official as its Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO). Each RRO shall oversee the implementation of regulatory reform initiatives and policies to ensure that agencies effectively carry out regulatory reforms, consistent with applicable law.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Enforcing The Regulatory Reform Agenda,” 2/24/17)
      Eliminating Stream Protection Rule: On February 16th 2017, The President Signed Into Law H.J. Resolution 38, Which Eliminated A Burdensome Energy Regulation That Grew The Federal Bureaucracy And Put Upward Pressure On Energy Costs (H.J. Res. 38, Signed 2/16/17)
      Eliminating Regulations On Extraction Companies: On February 14th 2017, The President Signed Into Law H.J. Resolution 41, Which Eliminated A Costly Regulation That Threatened To Put Domestic Extraction Companies At A Disadvantage. (The White House Press Office, “Remarks By President Trump At Signing Of H.J. Resolution 41,” 2/14/17)
      One-In-Two-Out Regulation Reform: On January 30th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order To Expand Regulatory Review With The Goal Of Revoking Two Regulations For Every New Regulation Put Forward. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Reducing Regulation And Controlling Regulatory Costs,” 1/30/17)
      Minimizing Affordable Care Act: On January 20th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order “Instructing Federal Agencies To Minimize The Burden” Of The Affordable Care Act. “On his first day in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to minimize the burden of his predecessor’s signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, pending congressional repeal.” (The White House Press Office, “Executive Order Minimizing The Economic Burden Of The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” 1/20/17)


      Buy American, Hire American: On April 18th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Outlining New ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Policies That Protects American Industry From Unfair Competition, Favors American Made Products, And Makes Certain Open Jobs Are Given To Americans. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Buy American And Hire American,” 4/18/17)
      “It Shall Be The Policy Of The Executive Branch To Maximize…The Use Of Goods, Products, And Materials Produced In The United States.” “(a) Buy American Laws. In order to promote economic and national security and to help stimulate economic growth, create good jobs at decent wages, strengthen our middle class, and support the American manufacturing and defense industrial bases, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to maximize, consistent with law, through terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards and Federal procurements, the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Buy American And Hire American,” 4/18/17)
      “It Shall Be The Policy Of The Executive Branch To Rigorously Enforce And Administer The Laws Governing Entry Into The United States Of Workers From Abroad.” “(b) Hire American. In order to create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad, including section 212(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(5)).” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Buy American And Hire American,” 4/18/17)
      Keystone Pipeline: On March 24th 2017, The President Announced The Approval Of The Keystone XL Pipeline. (The White House Press Office, “Remarks By The President In TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Announcement,” 3/24/17)
      On January 24th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Memorandum Initiating The Process To Begin Construction Of The Keystone XL Pipeline. “I hereby invite TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. (TransCanada), to promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a major pipeline for the importation of petroleum from Canada to the United States.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction Of The Keystone XL Pipeline,” 1/24/17)
      Dakota Access Pipeline: On January 24th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Memorandum Declaring The Dakota Access Pipeline Serves The National Interest And Initiating The Process To Being Remaining Construction. “I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” 1/24/17)
      U.S. Material In Pipeline Construction: On January 24th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Memorandum Ordering That All New Pipeline Construction And Repair Work Use U.S. Materials And Equipment Produced In The U.S. “The Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with all relevant executive departments and agencies, shall develop a plan under which all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired, or expanded pipelines, inside the borders of the United States, including portions of pipelines, use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law. The Secretary shall submit the plan to the President within 180 days of the date of this memorandum.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction Of American Pipelines,” 1/24/17)
      Partnering With Private Sector:
      Exxon Mobil Announced It Was Investing $20 Billion In A Program To Create 45,000 Construction And Manufacturing Jobs In The United States Gulf Coast Region. “President Donald J. Trump today congratulated Exxon Mobil Corporation on its ambitious $20 billion investment program that is creating more than 45,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in the United States Gulf Coast region.” (“President Trump Congratulates Exxon Mobil For Job-Creating Investment Program,” White House Statement, 3/6/17)
      Charter Communications Announced Their Plans To Add 20,000 Jobs And Invest $25 Billion Over The Next Four Years From The White House. “The latest company to deliver good job creation news from the Oval Office: Charter Communications. The Stamford, Conn.-headquartered company pledged, over the next four years, to invest $25 billion in broadband infrastructure and hire 20,000 U.S. workers, ending any use of offshore call centers that handle customer service. A new call center in McAllen, Tex., has already hired 100 of a planned 600 new jobs and will be the company’s first fully bilingual call center, said Kathleen Mayo, Charter’s executive vice president for customer operations.” (Mike Snider, “Trump Touts Charter’s Four-Year Plan To Add 20K Jobs And Invest $25B,” USA Today, 3/24/17)
      Accenture’s CEO Julie Sweet Said The Company Is Creating 15,000 Highly Skilled New Jobs In The Next Four Years And Invest $1.4 Billion To Train Its own Employees. “North American CEO Julie Sweet told Fortune Thursday that the company is planning to open ten new innovation hubs in cities around the U.S. in the next four years, and create 15,000 highly skilled new jobs in the process. It also plans to invest $1.4 billion in training its own employees in new technologies.” (Alan Murray, “Accenture Joins Trump’s Job Creation Drive,” Fortune, 2/17/17)
      President Trump Hosted The CEO Of Intel, Brian Krzanich, Who Announced Plans Invest $7 Billion To Build A New Factory That Will Provide “3,000 Direct High-Paying, HighWage, High-Tech Jobs” “And Over 10,000 Jobs” For Support Staff. INTEL CEO BRIAN KRZANICH: “It’s an honor to be here today representing Intel and to be able to announce our $7 billion investment in our newest, most advanced factory — Fab 42 in Chandler, Arizona. We’ll be completing that factory to make the most advanced 7-nanometer semiconductor chips on the planet… And Fab 42 is an investment in Intel, but also the U.S.’s future in innovation and leadership in the semiconductor industry. Fab 42 will employ approximately 3,000 direct high-paying, high-wage, high-tech jobs at its peak, and over 10,000 people in the Arizona area in support of the factory.” (Brian Krzanich, Remarks By President Trump And Intel CEO Brian Krzanich On U.S. Jobs, Washington, DC, 2/8/17)
      Fiat Chrysler Announced It Will Invest $1 Billion To Modernize Two U.S. Plants, Creating 2,000 Jobs. “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) said it will invest $1 billion to modernize two plants in the U.S. Midwest and create 2,000 jobs, and possibly move production of a Ram heavy-duty pickup truck to Michigan from Mexico.” (Bernie Woodall and David Shepardson, “Fiat Chrysler To Add U.S. Jobs As Trump Puts Spotlight On Industry,” Reuters, 1/9/17)
      General Motors Annouced A Plan To Invest $1 Billion In Several U.S. Factories, Creating Over 1,000 New Jobs. “General Motors Co. this week will announce plans to invest at least $1 billion across several U.S. factories, two people familiar with the plan said, a move aimed at underlining its commitment to U.S. manufacturing jobs in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the auto maker’s imports from Mexico. GM’s announcement could come as early as Tuesday, the people briefed on the plan said. The company will cite a number of new jobs in excess of 1,000 stemming from the investment but doesn’t plan to specify which of its factories are in line for more work, one person said.” (Mike Colias, “General Motors Plans At Least $1 Billion In Fresh U.S. Investment,” The Wall Street Journal, 1/16/17)
      GM’s Announcement Comes After Trump Has Pressured Auto Makers To Invest In The United States. “GM’s announcement would follow a familiar pattern of auto makers publicly outlining U.S. investment and job-creation plans in the wake of Mr. Trump’s criticism of imports while insisting they would have moved ahead with them anyway.” (Mike Colias, “General Motors Plans At Least $1 Billion In Fresh U.S. Investment,” The Wall Street Journal, 1/16/17)
      President-Elect Trump Spoke With GM CEO Mary Barra In January, Talking With Her About GM’s “Commitment To Competitive Manufacturing In The U.S.” “Mr. Glidden confirmed that Ms. Barra spoke with Mr. Trump early this month following his tweet, which said companies that import from Mexico should pay a ‘big border tax.’Mr. Glidden, who was briefed on the conversation, said the two discussed trade policy and GM’s ‘commitment to competitive manufacturing in the U.S.’ He said Mr. Trump also ‘seemed interested’ in whether there are regulatory reforms that could benefit auto makers.” (Mike Colias, “General Motors Plans At Least $1 Billion In Fresh U.S. Investment,” The Wall Street Journal, 1/16/17)
      CNN Headline: “Ford Cancels Mexico Plant. Will Create 700 U.S. Jobs In ‘Vote Of Confidence’ In Trump.” (Heather Long and Poppy Harlow, “Ford Cancels Mexico Plant. Will Create 700 U.S. Jobs In ‘Vote Of Confidence’ In Trump,” CNN, 1/3/17)
      Ford CEO Mark Fields: We Are “Encouraged By Pro Growth Policies, Particularly Reform Around Tax And Regulatory Policies” Of The Incoming Trump Administration. (Heather Long and Poppy Harlow, “Ford Cancels Mexico Plant. Will Create 700 U.S. Jobs In ‘Vote Of Confidence’ In Trump,” CNN, 1/3/17)


      Withdrawal From The Trans-Pacific Partnership: On January 23rd 2017, The President Signed An Executive Memorandum Ordering The U.S Withdrawal From The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement And Negotiations. “Based on these principles, and by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct you to withdraw the United States as a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to permanently withdraw the United States from TPP negotiations, and to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal Of The United States From The TransPacific Partnership Negotiations And Agreement,”1/23/17)
      Trade Enforcement: On March 31st 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Establishing Enhanced Collection and Enforcement of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties and Violations of Trade and Customs Laws. “Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative, develop a plan that would require covered importers that, based on a risk assessment conducted by CBP, pose a risk to the revenue of the United States, to provide security for antidumping and countervailing duty liability through bonds and other legal measures, and also would identify other appropriate enforcement measures. This plan shall be consistent with the requirements of section 4321 and section 1623 of title 19, United States Code, and corresponding regulations.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Establishing Enhanced Collection And Enforcement Of Antidumping And Countervailing Duties And Violations Of Trade And Customs Laws,” 3/31/17)
      Comprehensive Reports On The Causes Of U.S. Trade Deficits: On March 31st 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Directing A Review And Report On Major U.S. Trade Deficits. “Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, Defense, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, and the heads of any other executive departments or agencies with relevant expertise, as determined by the Secretary of Commerce and the USTR, shall prepare and submit to the President an Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits (Report).” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order Regarding The Omnibus Report On Significant Trade Deficits,” 3/31/17)


      Federal Hiring Freeze: On January 23rd 2017, The President Signed An Executive Memorandum Ordering A “Freeze On The Hiring Of Federal Civilian Employees” Across The Executive Branch. “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order a freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch. As part of this freeze, no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Memorandum Regarding The Hiring Freeze,” 1/23/17)
      New Ethics Commitments On Political Appointees: On January 28th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Establishing New Ethics Commitments Required For Executive Branch Appointees. “Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee…” (The White House Press Office, “Executive Order: Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Appointees,” 1/28/17)


      Strike On Syrian Airfield: On April 6th 2017, The President Ordered A Targeted Military Strike On The Airfield In Syria That Was Used To Carry Out Chemical Weapon Attacks. (The White House Press Office, “Statement By President Trump On Syria,” 4/6/17)
      Travel Restrictions On Select Countries: On March 6th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order That Implemented New Protections For The United States Against Foreign Terrorist Entry. (The White House Press Office, “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” 3/6/17)
      On March 6th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Memorandum That Outlined The Implementation Guidelines For New Protections For The United States Against Foreign Terrorist Entry. (The White House Press Office, “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” 3/6/17)
      New Iran Sanctions: On February 3rd, 2017, The Department Of The Treasury Sanctioned 25 Entities And Individuals Involved In Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program. “Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned multiple entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). This action reflects the United States’ commitment to enforcing sanctions on Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the region and is fully consistent with the United States’ commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).” (“Treasury Sanctions Supporters Of Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program And Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force,” U.S. Department Of The Treasury, 2/3/17)
      Defense Spending In Budget: President Trump’s First Budget Proposal Seeks To Increase Defense And Security Spending By $54 Billion. “President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will look to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion and cut roughly the same amount from nondefense programs, the White House said Monday.” (Dan Merica, Jeremy Diamond, and Kevin Liptak, “Trump Proposes Defense Spending Boost, $54 Billion In Cuts To ‘Most Federal Agencies,'” CNN, 2/27/17)
      F-35 Cost Savings: The President’s Negotiations On The F-35 Saved “More Than $700 Million…” “Defense giant Lockheed Martin has agreed to sell 90 new F-35 fighter jets to the US Defense Department for $8.5 billion — a deal that amounts to more than $700 million in savings over the last batch of aircraft delivered. Lockheed Martin credited President Donald Trump for helping to ‘accelerate negotiations’ and ‘drive down the price’ of what is already the most expensive weapons program in history.” (Zachary Cohen, “After Trump Attack, Lockheed Martin Slashes F-35 Cost,” CNN, 2/4/17)


      Immigration Enforcement, Including Constructing A Wall: On January 25th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Outlining Border Security And Immigration Enforcement Measures. “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) (INA), the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109 367) (Secure Fence Act), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104 208 Div. C) (IIRIRA), and in order to ensure the safety and territorial integrity of the United States as well as to ensure that the Nation’s immigration laws are faithfully executed, I hereby order as follows.” (President Donald J. Trump, Border Security And Immigration Enforcement Improvements, 1/25/17)
      The Executive Order Included Directives To Begin Construction On A Southern Border Wall. “Secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism… remove promptly those individuals whose legal claims to remain in the United States have been lawfully rejected, after any appropriate civil or criminal sanctions have been imposed.” (President Donald J. Trump, Border Security And Immigration Enforcement Improvements, 1/25/17)
      The Executive Order Included Directives To Begin The Removal Of Illegal Immigrants Who Have Committed Crimes. “…detain individuals apprehended on suspicion of violating Federal or State law, including Federal immigration law, pending further proceedings regarding those violations …remove promptly those individuals whose legal claims to remain in the United States have been lawfully rejected, after any appropriate civil or criminal sanctions have been imposed.” (President Donald J. Trump, Border Security And Immigration Enforcement Improvements, 1/25/17)
      Sanctuary Cities Funding: On January 25th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order To Enhance The Public Safety Of The Interior The United States Through Enforcement Of Immigration Laws. “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), and in order to ensure the public safety of the American people in communities across the United States as well as to ensure that our Nation’s immigration laws are faithfully executed, I hereby declare the policy of the executive branch to be…” (President Donald J. Trump, Enhancing Public Safety In The Interior Of The United States, 1/25/17)
      The Executive Order Included The Directive To Strip Federal Funding For Sanctuary Cities And Other Areas That Do Not Follow U.S. Immigration Law.” “Ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.” (President Donald J. Trump, Enhancing Public Safety In The Interior Of The United States, 1/25/17)
      New Hiring To Enforce Immigration: Secretary Of Homeland Security John Kelly Issued A Memorandum Directing The Director Of Immigration And Customs Enforcement To Hire 10,000 Agents And Officers As Quickly As Possible. “To enforce the immigration laws effectively in the interior of the United States in accordance with the President’s directives, additional ICE agents and officers are necessary. The Director of ICE shall-while ensuring consistency in training and standardstake all appropriate action to expeditiously hire 10,000 agents and officers, as well as additional operational and mission support and legal staff necessary to hire and support their activities. Human Capital leadership in CBP and ICE, in coordination with the Under Secretary for Management and the Chief Human Capital Officer, shall develop hiring plans that balance growth and interagency attrition by integrating workforce shaping and career paths for incumbents and new hires.” (Secretary John Kelly, “Memorandum for Enforcement Of The Immigration Laws To Serve The National Interest,” Department of Homeland Security, 2/20/17)
      Secretary Of Homeland Security John Kelly Issued A Memorandum Directing The Commissioner Of CBP To Hire An Additional 5,000 Border Patrol Agents. “CBP has insufficient agents/officers to effectively detect, track, and apprehend all aliens illegally entering the United States. The United States needs additional agents and officers to ensure complete operational control of the border. Accordingly, the Commissioner of CBP shallwhile ensuring consistency in training and standards- immediately begin the process of hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, as well as 500 Air & Marine Agents/Officers, subject to the availability of resources, and take all actions necessary to ensure that such agents/officers enter on duty and are assigned to appropriate duty stations, including providing for the attendant resources and additional personnel necessary to support such agents, as soon as practicable.” (Secretary John Kelly, “Memorandum For Implementing The President’s Border Security And Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies,” Department of Homeland Security, 2/20/17)
      Prioritizing Criminal Immigration Enforcement And Hiring More Immigration Judges: On April 11th 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions Announced The Prioritization Of Criminal Immigration Enforcement And The Hiring Of More Immigration Judges. “In his remarks, the Attorney General announced that he has issued the attached memo to United States Attorneys that mandates the prioritization of criminal immigration enforcement. The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus on particular offenses that, if aggressively charged and prosecuted, can help prevent and deter illegal immigration. Additionally, the Attorney General revealed that the Department of Justice will add 50 more immigration judges to the bench this year and 75 next year. He also highlighted the Department’s plan to streamline its hiring of judges, reflecting the dire need to reduce the backlogs in our immigration courts.” (Department Of Justice, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions Announces The Department Of Justice’s Renewed Commitment To Criminal Immigration Enforcement,” 4/11/17)


      Commission On Opioid Crisis: On March 29th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order Establishing The President’s Commission On Combating Drug Addiction And The Opioid Crisis. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order Establishing the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis,” 3/29/17)
      Protecting Law Enforcement Officers: On February 9th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order To Prevent Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, And Local Law Enforcement Officers. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers,” 2/9/17)
      Task Force On Violent Crime: On February 9th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order To Direct The Attorney General To Establish A Task Force On Crime Reduction And Public Safety. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On A Task Force On Crime Reduction And Public Safety,” 2/9/17)
      Tackling International Cartels: On February 9th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order To Instruct The Attorney General To Form A Comprehensive Approach To Transnational Criminal Organizations And International Traffickers. (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On Enforcing Federal Law With Respect To Transnational Criminal Organizations And Preventing International Trafficking,” 2/9/17)


      HBCU Initiative: On February 28th 2017, The President Signed An Executive Order That Repositioned And Strengthened The HBCU Initiative In The White House. “A White House Initiative on HBCUs would: advance America’s full human potential; foster more and better opportunities in higher education; strengthen the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education; provide equitable opportunities for HBCUs to participate in Federal programs; and increase the number of college-educated Americans who feel empowered and able to advance the common good at home and abroad.” (The White House Press Office, “Presidential Executive Order On The White House Initiative To Promote Excellence And Innovation At Historically Black Colleges And Universities,” 2/27/17)
      Canada-United States Council For The Advancement Of Women Entrepreneurs: On February 13th 2017, The President And Prime Minister Trudeau Hosted A Roundtable With Women Entrepreneurs To Announce The Launch Of The Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs. (The White House Press Office, “Remarks By President Trump And Prime Minister Trudeau Of Canada In Roundtable With Women Entrepreneurs,” 2/13/17)
      Promoting Women In Entrepreneurship Act: H.R. 255 — Promoting Women In Entrepreneurship Act Authorizes “The National Science Foundation To Encourage Its Entrepreneurial Programs To Recruit And Support Women To Extend Their Focus Beyond The Laboratory And Into The Commercial World.” “(Sec. 3) This bill amends the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act to authorize the National Science Foundation to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.” (H.R. 255)
      Women And Space Exploration: H.R. 321 – Inspiring The Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, And Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act. “(Sec. 3) This bill directs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), pursue careers in aerospace, and further advance the nation’s space science and exploration efforts through support of the following initiatives: NASA GIRLS and NASA BOYS; Aspire to Inspire; and Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research. (Sec. 4) NASA shall submit to Congress a specified plan on how NASA can best facilitate and support both current and retired astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators, including early career female astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators, to engage with K-12 female STEM students and inspire the next generation of women to consider participating in STEM fields and to pursue careers in aerospace.” (H.R. 321)


      Nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch To The United States Supreme Court. “Today, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. The nomination of Judge Gorsuch comes after a selection process marked by an unprecedented level of transparency and involvement by the American voters.” (White House Office Of The Press Secretary, 1/31/17)
      On April 10th 2017, The President Gave Public Remarks At The Swearing-in Of Justice Gorsuch To The Supreme Court. (The White House Press Office, “Remarks By President Trump And Justice Gorsuch At Swearing-In Of Justice Gorsuch To The Supreme Court,” 4/10/17)

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      Whats next for the womens movement?

      After the success of the Womens March, its International Womens Day on Wednesday 8 March. Here, 15 influential women, from Lena Dunham and Nicola Sturgeon to Susie Orbach, nominate a crucial next step towards equality

      Lena Dunham: keep on protesting

      I think the activism and organisation thats happening now is showing protest matters, calling your representatives matters, becoming involved in community organisations matters, sending your donations every month matters. It has never mattered more to show up with your money, with your body, with your time and with your voice than it does right now. Lots of people had valid criticisms of the Womens March, but it was the largest global protest weve seen and thats because every single person made the choice to take time off work, to give of themselves, to give their bodies and fill space and show they wanted to say no. That scares people and even if right now were not seeing the result we want, the government has been warned. They understand they are not supported. They are fighting an uphill battle against women and allies of equality in all of its forms.
      Lena Dunham is an actor, writer, producer and director

      Nicola Sturgeon: great childcare is where it starts

      Its a source of frustration that, decades on from legislation that was supposed to pave the way for equality of the sexes, too many gaps remain. I have made equality a key feature of my government, with a gender-balanced cabinet, one of very few in the developed world.

      However, if there is one specific policy area which can permanently advance the cause of gender equality, I believe the answer lies not in the workplace itself, but in the early years. Delivering high quality childcare as widely as possible is, I believe, fundamental to achieving the kind of equal society that empowers women.

      It is a simple fact that, for many women, the barrier to career advancement comes when they are faced with juggling the competing demands of a job and raising a family. And in too many cases, the lack of adequate childcare becomes a decisive factor in preventing women from continuing their careers.

      Improving access and affordability in childcare is not an easy challenge and of itself will not solve all gender equality issues. But it is a challenge which must be met if we are to deliver a society which truly has equality of opportunity for men and women.
      Nicola Sturgeon MSP is First Minister of Scotland

      Signs of the times: protesters on the Womens March in London take a breather. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

      Naheed Farid: introduce bottom to top economic development

      I represent women in the Afghanistan parliament, in a country that is one of the worst places to live as a woman. We suffer from violence, insecurity and lack of access to basic rights, such as education and health. We tried many things, such as investing in civil society organisations, education and democratic processes, but still Afghanistan stays the same. My analysis is that in order to ensure womens rights and equality in Afghanistan, and generally all around the world, we need to involve women in the production process, empowering women economically. We also need policies to make sure that the process of development is bottom to top, completely the opposite of what is practised right now. Womens inclusion in political, economic and social aspects of development can stabilise society by consistently empowering women and involving them in high-level decision-making processes.
      Naheed Farid was elected MP in 2010 at the age of 27

      Nomboniso Gasa: civil action to defend our freedom from misogynistic world leaders

      As I watched Donald Trumps inauguration, I noticed something familiar in the body language between him and Melania. My mind flipped back to President Jacob Zumas inauguration in 2009. He didnt even look back to see whether his wife was comfortable. She trotted behind, with shoes that were too big for her. She could have tripped and he would not have noticed.

      People have written about Trump and Zumas disdain for the judiciary, the constitution, media and civil liberties. But they are similar in other ways, including their public devaluing of women. Trumps tape about women throwing themselves at you, if you are famous, reminded me of Zumas statement when accused of rape. I am not afraid of women. They are attracted to me. Why would I rape? Zuma must be envying Trump, though. He is unable to reverse the Constitutional Court decision enabling women to make choices about reproductive rights, bodily integrity and freedom of choice. His ANC is unlikely to garner enough votes to change the Bill of Rights.

      Contesting these men requires a careful unmasking of their devious narratives, combined with civic action in defence of our freedoms. This must be a well-planned and sustained struggle against misogynistic bullies.
      Nomboniso Gasa is a South African researcher, writer and analyst on land, politics, gender and cultural issues

      Laura Bates: sex and relationships education for all schoolchildren

      There is a single, clear action that experts agree could make a substantial difference. For the past decade, campaigners, teachers, parents and pupils alike have urged successive governments to implement compulsory sex and relationships education (SRE) for all young people, including topics such as consent, healthy relationships, pornography, gender stereotypes and LGBT rights and relationships. Schools are currently only obliged to teach the biological basics of reproduction by the age of 15, with no compulsory coverage of issues, such as consent.

      This would help protect vulnerable children who may already be experiencing sexual abuse. It would create change for the many girls who report unwanted sexual touching a form of sexual assault. And, by educating young people about their rights and responsibilities, it could have an impact on the broader problem of sexual violence. With 85,000 women raped annually and two women per week killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales, this is an urgent priority.

      We know that young people today face a bombardment of influences, from sexting to pornography. If we teach children how to read maps so they can find their way, and how to do maths so they can work out their change in a shop, why do we leave them shockingly ill-equipped to navigate sexual relationships, a similarly universal life experience? With 43% of young people reporting they dont receive any SRE at all, we are failing them and letting wider society down as well.
      Laura Bates is founder of the Everyday Sexism Project

      Join the gang: women hold hands and share personal stories during the Dress Like A Woman rally and march, held to support womens rights and to protest against Donald Trump, in Seattle. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

      Anne-Marie Imafidon: more women in science and tech jobs reflected in TV soaps

      Ive always watched a lot of TV and when I was younger watched EastEnders. As an east Londoner it felt close enough to reality that I would get excited when they filmed on location trying to point out landmarks and guess the road. Soaps dont fully reflect reality, but they do try to stay current. These days most characters have a mobile phone and technology sometimes features in storylines.

      In the battle for gender equality Id like to see the soaps embrace some new careers for their characters particularly the female ones.

      Wheres Dot?

      Oh, shes just taking air quality measurements in the square for her PhD thesis, shell meet us at the Queen Vic.

      Normalising science and tech-related careers can start with a female character or two deciding to leave work at the chippy for a job at a digital start-up. Someone in Hollyoaks might strike up an affair with someone theyve met on an evening coding course (affairs happen all the time on soaps). Seeing these characters have breakfast, and fight with family while enjoying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) careers will work against the one-sided portrayals of Stem characters that we see in films and on TV. The small screen can do what Hollywood is beginning to do with films, like Hidden Figures the story of African-American women who helped Nasa.
      Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE campaigns to get women into science, technology, engineering and maths

      Li Maizi: create an international force against the censoring of womens voices

      The answer for me is chasing gender equality in China. It has become my daily life, making noises against all the discrimination. And when we meet the backlash, we have to stand together and fight back. As a woman, I have no country: my country is the whole world. So I will also criticise Donald Trump, who is a straight man cancer.

      In China, the space for civil movement is becoming more narrow. One of the most powerful Weibo [Chinas Twitter] accounts, Feminism Voice, has been blocked for publishing an article about the planned womens strike against Trump in the US. Thus, no single issue belongs to one country, we must fight together against the censoring of womens voices.
      Li Maizi is one of Chinas feminist five, detained for more than a month in 2015 for organising a protest against sexual harassment on buses and subways

      Catherine Mayer: champion more shared parenting

      Theres no single fix because the mechanisms keeping women down are intertwined. However, one of the seven core objectives of the Womens Equality Party equal parenting and caregiving is capable on its own of creating huge change. If we can shake the idea that childcare is primarily a mothers responsibility, if we learn to value the unpaid labour now primarily undertaken by women, then we also unpick some of the causes of the gender pay gap. There are also ways to speed the process. In 1975, when 90% of Icelandic women left jobs and homes for the day, their male compatriots learned just how much women do. Iceland now ranks as the worlds most gender-equal country. Im helping to organise a Womens Day Off in the UK next year.
      Catherine Mayer is the co-founder of the Womens Equality Party and author of Attack of the Fifty Foot Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World!

      Magic circle: protesters chant against gender-based violence at their camp on La Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: EPA

      Stella Creasy: dont be a click-avist, get stuck in

      The change we need to make is mobilisation. We have to sound the alarm. The worst thing we can do is despair. My message is, dont stand aside, get stuck in. Dont be a click-avist. Keep asking: What next? If you go on a march and think: Thats the job done, they win. A backlash is a reaction, so we have to keep taking action. I keep saying to people, I adore Martin Luther King, but he was wrong when he said: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards progress. It doesnt, unless you fight for it.
      Stella Creasy is MP for Walthamstow. Join her Feminist Action Network (

      Liv Little: economic autonomy for women of colour

      The face of feminism Im surrounded by is young and fresh. Feminism has the potential to be a bright, vibrant movement. But its difficult. There are so many pressing issues for women. Whats really important is economic empowerment. I think as a woman of colour its important that we are running our own businesses, able to support each other and generating our own income to support other young women of colour who are coming up in the world. As a black female graduate youre likely to earn a lot less than your white male counterparts. Youre increasingly seeing women of colour in positions of power, but there are still not enough of us in prominent positions.
      Liv Little is editor-in-chief at gal-dem

      Caitlin Moran: embrace our weakness and silliness

      You know what make us strong? All the things you think are a hindrance. Our strength is our weakness. Our love of silly things to wear. Our love of jokes. On the Womens March, there were millions of weak women with buggies, with elderly relatives women who are disabled, or from minority groups wearing pink hats and holding placards. And our strength is, you cant send armed police into a crowd like that. Theres no way to spin that footage. You cant pretend its violent, radical extremists. Theres no excuse to break it up. The weaker, sillier and funnier we are, the more impossible it is to demonise us, or stop us, as so many protests have been stopped and demonised before. As things go backwards, we think: We cant fight this, and the answer is we mustnt fight it.

      Fighting is how its always been done before. They know how to stop fighters. But these old, white, straight, angry men? They dont know how to stop joy, humour, knitted pink hats and buggies. We are the force theyve never seen before. They have nothing in their box to counter this. This is our strength. And we have it in endless amounts. We are the 52%. And we can knit and joke the fuck out of the revolution.
      Caitlin Moran is an author and columnist

      Stepping up: women on the march in Montevideo, Uruguay. Photograph: Raul Martinez/EPA

      Susie Orbach: defeat the merchants of body hatred

      In a time of threat, the places we might be able to call home, our bodies, are being ripped apart by commercial pressures. They bear down on labias (too messy), faces (too tired), lips (too small), eyes (too hooded), breasts (too small, droopy or large) For each of these crazy designations, there are surgeries sold as empowering, sold as safe, sold as solutions. But whats the problem and who is generating it? Control girls and womens bodies whether by the purveyors of beauty, the cultural enforcers of female genital cutting, the anti-choice gang in the White House and insecurity is induced. Give girls as young as three cosmetic surgery games that divert their dreaming and imaginative energy into pursuits that hurt what it means to be a girl, and you ensure big profits and big body preoccupations for a lifetime. Its time to dare to feel OK in our bodies as they age and change.
      Susie Orbach is a psychotherapist, analyst and writer

      Paris Lees: real feminism excludes nobody

      If your push for social justice excludes women of colour or disabled women, trans women, sex workers, Muslims, Jews, poor people you dont want equality, you want privilege. Promoting women of the same class and colour while ignoring and speaking over women less privileged than yourself isnt feminism. Its supremacism. I come from a mixed-race family. I like to think I know a little bit about racism. But Im not black. So I listen. I follow feminists from minority backgrounds on social media: Reni Eddo-Lodge, Nesrine Malik, Janet Mock, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Fatima Manji, Roxane Gay. Most women voted for Hillary in the US election, but a significant proportion white women without a college degree voted for Trump. In the end, their votes swung it. This is what can happen when women dont pull together. So lets pull together. Fascism is back. Women are leading the resistance, but if we really want decency to prevail, its time to revive another idea from the mists of time: solidarity.
      Paris Lees is a journalist and transgender rights activist

      Getting the message: a wall of signs outside the White House in Washington. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

      Mariella Frostrup: include boys in the conversation

      Ive been a feminist since my lungs first filled with air, but Im weary of war and eager for a coalition. In my small corner of the western world its hard to find a man who doesnt believe his daughter, his wife, his sister, his mother or his colleagues to be his equal, yet we continue to mark out our battle lines on a gendered basis. No social revolution in the history of mankind has succeeded without the participation of both sexes so its time to invite the guys aboard. Instead of car ads that accept a woman can control a vehicle (doh!) Im more hopeful for one that entices a man to try a vacuum cleaner. Our ability to participate in a mans world is beyond dispute, but the jurys still out on our success in enticing men into what was once our domain. The proportion of women doing the worlds unpaid work has barely changed. The only difference is that most women today are holding down two jobs. It is stress levels, not our incomes, that are rising. Expectations of both sexes have changed beyond measure and the conversation needs to stop being so one-sided, which is why weve set up Great Men, opening conversations with boys in secondary schools exploring masculinity and gender issues. If we want to eradicate misogyny, we need to make sure boys are given the support and emotional investment they need.
      Mariella Frostrup is a broadcaster, columnist and co-founder of the Great Initiative

      Lisa Randall: end the fear women feel

      An issue for women throughout the world that is implicitly played down by lack of adequate attention is fear. The topic is broad and the specifics are difficult to address through existing systems, but whether it is physical violence, online stalking, harassment, or unwanted encounters at work or in schools, women are prevented from living their best possible lives and from contributing in the most significant ways. Current systems address only very explicit danger. Even when the attacks are merely upsetting, the resultant loss of diverse voices online and elsewhere because of womens reluctance to be subject to insults or insinuations, is a loss to us all.
      Lisa Randall is professor of science at Harvard University

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      Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media

      With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing American computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network

      Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the worlds press before him and told them they were liars. The press, honestly, is out of control, he said. The public doesnt believe you any more. CNN was described as very fake news story after story is bad. The BBC was another beauty.

      That night I did two things. First, I typed Trump in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasnt how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of Go Donald!!!!, and You show em!!! There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the FAKE news MSM liars!

      Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what Ive been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled mainstream media is And there it was. Googles autocomplete suggestions: mainstream media is dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media we, us, I dying?

      I click Googles first suggested link. It leads to a website called and an article: The Mainstream media are dead. Theyre dead, I learn, because they we, I cannot be trusted. How had it, an obscure site Id never heard of, dominated Googles search algorithm on the topic? In the About us tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center, which a click later I learn is Americas media watchdog, an organisation that claims an unwavering commitment to neutralising leftwing bias in the news, media and popular culture.

      Another couple of clicks and I discover that it receives a large bulk of its funding more than $10m in the past decade from a single source, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. If you follow US politics you may recognise the name. Robert Mercer is the money behind Donald Trump. But then, I will come to learn, Robert Mercer is the money behind an awful lot of things. He was Trumps single biggest donor. Mercer started backing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the presidential race he threw his money $13.5m of it behind the Trump campaign.

      Its money hes made as a result of his career as a brilliant but reclusive computer scientist. He started his career at IBM, where he made what the Association for Computational Linguistics called revolutionary breakthroughs in language processing a science that went on to be key in developing todays AI and later became joint CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets.

      One of its funds, Medallion, which manages only its employees money, is the most successful in the world generating $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns all Republican and another $50m to non-profits all rightwing, ultra-conservative. This is a billionaire who is, as billionaires are wont, trying to reshape the world according to his personal beliefs.

      Donald Trumps presidential campaigned received $13.5m from Robert Mercer. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

      Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial thinktank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich mans plaything the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trumps campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting liberal bias is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.

      It was $10m of Mercers money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. Its bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. Its the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.

      Prominent rightwing journalist Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site but died in 2012, told Bannon that they had to take back the culture. And, arguably, they have, though American culture is only the start of it. In 2014, Bannon launched Breitbart London, telling the New York Times it was specifically timed ahead of the UKs forthcoming election. It was, he said, the latest front in our current cultural and political war. France and Germany are next.

      But there was another reason why I recognised Robert Mercers name: because of his connection to Cambridge Analytica, a small data analytics company. He is reported to have a $10m stake in the company, which was spun out of a bigger British company called SCL Group. It specialises in election management strategies and messaging and information operations, refined over 25 years in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In military circles this is known as psyops psychological operations. (Mass propaganda that works by acting on peoples emotions.)

      Cambridge Analytica worked for the Trump campaign and, so Id read, the Leave campaign. When Mercer supported Cruz, Cambridge Analytica worked with Cruz. When Robert Mercer started supporting Trump, Cambridge Analytica came too. And where Mercers money is, Steve Bannon is usually close by: it was reported that until recently he had a seat on the board.

      Last December, I wrote about Cambridge Analytica in a piece about how Googles search results on certain subjects were being dominated by rightwing and extremist sites. Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, who had mapped the news ecosystem and found millions of links between rightwing sites strangling the mainstream media, told me that trackers from sites like Breitbart could also be used by companies like Cambridge Analytica to follow people around the web and then, via Facebook, target them with ads.

      On its website, Cambridge Analytica makes the astonishing boast that it has psychological profiles based on 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters its USP is to use this data to understand peoples deepest emotions and then target them accordingly. The system, according to Albright, amounted to a propaganda machine.

      A few weeks later, the Observer received a letter. Cambridge Analytica was not employed by the Leave campaign, it said. Cambridge Analytica is a US company based in the US. It hasnt worked in British politics.

      Which is how, earlier this week, I ended up in a Pret a Manger near Westminster with Andy Wigmore, Leave.EUs affable communications director, looking at snapshots of Donald Trump on his phone. It was Wigmore who orchestrated Nigel Farages trip to Trump Tower the PR coup that saw him become the first foreign politician to meet the president elect.

      Wigmore scrolls through the snaps on his phone. Thats the one I took, he says pointing at the now globally famous photo of Farage and Trump in front of his golden elevator door giving the thumbs-up sign. Wigmore was one of the bad boys of Brexit a term coined by Arron Banks, the Bristol-based businessman who was Leave.EUs co-founder.

      Cambridge Analytica had worked for them, he said. It had taught them how to build profiles, how to target people and how to scoop up masses of data from peoples Facebook profiles. A video on YouTube shows one of Cambridge Analyticas and SCLs employees, Brittany Kaiser, sitting on the panel at Leave.EUs launch event.

      Facebook was the key to the entire campaign, Wigmore explained. A Facebook like, he said, was their most potent weapon. Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.

      Steve Bannon, Donald Trumps chief strategist, is an associate of Robert Mercer. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

      It sounds creepy, I say.

      It is creepy! Its really creepy! Its why Im not on Facebook! I tried it on myself to see what information it had on me and I was like, Oh my God! Whats scary is that my kids had put things on Instagram and it picked that up. It knew where my kids went to school.

      They hadnt employed Cambridge Analytica, he said. No money changed hands. They were happy to help.


      Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Robert Mercer introduced them to us. He said, Heres this company we think may be useful to you. What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information. Why wouldnt you? Behind Trumps campaign and Cambridge Analytica, he said, were the same people. Its the same family.

      There were already a lot of questions swirling around Cambridge Analytica, and Andy Wigmore has opened up a whole lot more. Such as: are you supposed to declare services-in-kind as some sort of donation? The Electoral Commission says yes, if it was more than 7,500. And was it declared? The Electoral Commission says no. Does that mean a foreign billionaire had possibly influenced the referendum without that influence being apparent? Its certainly a question worth asking.

      In the last month or so, articles in first the Swiss and the US press have asked exactly what Cambridge Analytica is doing with US voters data. In a statement to the Observer, the Information Commissioners Office said: Any business collecting and using personal data in the UK must do so fairly and lawfully. We will be contacting Cambridge Analytica and asking questions to find out how the company is operating in the UK and whether the law is being followed.

      Cambridge Analytica said last Friday they are in touch with the ICO and are completely compliant with UK and EU data laws. It did not answer other questions the Observer put to it this week about how it built its psychometric model, which owes its origins to original research carried out by scientists at Cambridge Universitys Psychometric Centre, research based on a personality quiz on Facebook that went viral. More than 6 million people ended up doing it, producing an astonishing treasure trove of data.

      These Facebook profiles especially peoples likes could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. Michal Kosinski, the centres lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someones personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves, says Kosinski.

      But there are strict ethical regulations regarding what you can do with this data. Did SCL Group have access to the universitys model or data, I ask Professor Jonathan Rust, the centres director? Certainly not from us, he says. We have very strict rules around this.

      A scientist, Aleksandr Kogan, from the centre was contracted to build a model for SCL, and says he collected his own data. Professor Rust says he doesnt know where Kogans data came from. The evidence was contrary. I reported it. An independent adjudicator was appointed by the university. But then Kogan said hed signed a non-disclosure agreement with SCL and he couldnt continue [answering questions].

      Kogan disputes this and says SCL satisfied the universitys inquiries. But perhaps more than anyone, Professor Rust understands how the kind of information people freely give up to social media sites could be used.

      Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is a friend of the Mercers. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

      The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. Its what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. Its how you brainwash someone. Its incredibly dangerous.

      Its no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People dont know its happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.

      Mercer invested in Cambridge Analytica, the Washington Post reported, driven in part by an assessment that the right was lacking sophisticated technology capabilities. But in many ways, its what Cambridge Analyticas parent company does that raises even more questions.

      Emma Briant, a propaganda specialist at the University of Sheffield, wrote about SCL Group in her 2015 book, Propaganda and Counter-Terrorism: Strategies for Global Change. Cambridge Analytica has the technological tools to effect behavioural and psychological change, she said, but its SCL that strategises it. It has specialised, at the highest level for Nato, the MoD, the US state department and others in changing the behaviour of large groups. It models mass populations and then it changes their beliefs.

      SCL was founded by someone called Nigel Oakes, who worked for Saatchi & Saatchi on Margaret Thatchers image, says Briant, and the company had been making money out of the propaganda side of the war on terrorism over a long period of time. There are different arms of SCL but its all about reach and the ability to shape the discourse. They are trying to amplify particular political narratives. And they are selective in who they go for: they are not doing this for the left.

      In the course of the US election, Cambridge Analytica amassed a database, as it claims on its website, of almost the entire US voting population 220 million people and the Washington Post reported last week that SCL was increasing staffing at its Washington office and competing for lucrative new contracts with Trumps administration. It seems significant that a company involved in engineering a political outcome profits from what follows. Particularly if its the manipulation, and then resolution, of fear, says Briant.

      Its the database, and what may happen to it, that particularly exercises Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician and data activist who has been investigating Cambridge Analytica and SCL for more than a year. How is it going to be used? he says. Is it going to be used to try and manipulate people around domestic policies? Or to ferment conflict between different communities? It is potentially very scary. People just dont understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.

      There are two things, potentially, going on simultaneously: the manipulation of information on a mass level, and the manipulation of information at a very individual level. Both based on the latest understandings in science about how people work, and enabled by technological platforms built to bring us together.

      Are we living in a new era of propaganda, I ask Emma Briant? One we cant see, and that is working on us in ways we cant understand? Where we can only react, emotionally, to its messages? Definitely. The way that surveillance through technology is so pervasive, the collection and use of our data is so much more sophisticated. Its totally covert. And people dont realise what is going on.

      Public mood and politics goes through cycles. You dont have to subscribe to any conspiracy theory, Briant says, to see that a mass change in public sentiment is happening. Or that some of the tools in action are straight out of the militarys or SCLs playbook.

      But then theres increasing evidence that our public arenas the social media sites where we post our holiday snaps or make comments about the news are a new battlefield where international geopolitics is playing out in real time. Its a new age of propaganda. But whose? This week, Russia announced the formation of a new branch of the military: information warfare troops.

      Sam Woolley of the Oxford Internet Institutes computational propaganda institute tells me that one third of all traffic on Twitter before the EU referendum was automated bots accounts that are programmed to look like people, to act like people, and to change the conversation, to make topics trend. And they were all for Leave. Before the US election, they were five-to-one in favour of Trump many of them Russian. Last week they have been in action in the Stoke byelection Russian bots, organised by who? attacking Paul Nuttall.

      Politics is war, said Steve Bannon last year in the Wall Street Journal. And increasingly this looks to be true.

      Theres nothing accidental about Trumps behaviour, Andy Wigmore tells me. That press conference. It was absolutely brilliant. I could see exactly what he was doing. Theres feedback going on constantly. Thats what you can do with artificial intelligence. You can measure ever reaction to every word. He has a word room, where you fix key words. We did it. So with immigration, there are actually key words within that subject matter which people are concerned about. So when you are going to make a speech, its all about how can you use these trending words.

      Wigmore met with Trumps team right at the start of the Leave campaign. And they said the holy grail was artificial intelligence.

      Who did?

      Jared Kushner and Jason Miller.

      Later, when Trump picked up Mercer and Cambridge Analytica, the game changed again. Its all about the emotions. This is the big difference with what we did. They call it bio-psycho-social profiling. It takes your physical, mental and lifestyle attributes and works out how people work, how they react emotionally.

      Bio-psycho-social profiling, I read later, is one offensive in what is called cognitive warfare. Though there are many others: recoding the mass consciousness to turn patriotism into collaborationism, explains a Nato briefing document on countering Russian disinformation written by an SCL employee. Time-sensitive professional use of media to propagate narratives, says one US state department white paper. Of particular importance to psyop personnel may be publicly and commercially available data from social media platforms.

      Yet another details the power of a cognitive casualty a moral shock that has a disabling effect on empathy and higher processes such as moral reasoning and critical thinking. Something like immigration, perhaps. Or fake news. Or as it has now become: FAKE news!!!!

      How do you change the way a nation thinks? You could start by creating a mainstream media to replace the existing one with a site such as Breitbart. You could set up other websites that displace mainstream sources of news and information with your own definitions of concepts like liberal media bias, like And you could give the rump mainstream media, papers like the failing New York Times! what it wants: stories. Because the third prong of Mercer and Bannons media empire is the Government Accountability Institute.

      Bannon co-founded it with $2m of Mercers money. Mercers daughter, Rebekah, was appointed to the board. Then they invested in expensive, long-term investigative journalism. The modern economics of the newsroom dont support big investigative reporting staffs, Bannon told Forbes magazine. You wouldnt get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. Were working as a support function.

      Welcome to the future of journalism in the age of platform capitalism. News organisations have to do a better job of creating new financial models. But in the gaps in between, a determined plutocrat and a brilliant media strategist can, and have, found a way to mould journalism to their own ends.

      In 2015, Steve Bannon described to Forbes how the GAI operated, employing a data scientist to trawl the dark web (in the article he boasts of having access to $1.3bn worth of supercomputers) to dig up the kind of source material Google cant find. One result has been a New York Times bestseller, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, written by GAIs president, Peter Schweizer and later turned into a film produced by Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon.

      This, Bannon explained, is how you weaponise the narrative you want. With hard researched facts. With those, you can launch it straight on to the front page of the New York Times, as the story of Hillary Clintons cash did. Like Hillarys emails it turned the news agenda, and, most crucially, it diverted the attention of the news cycle. Another classic psyops approach. Strategic drowning of other messages.

      This is a strategic, long-term and really quite brilliant play. In the 1990s, Bannon explained, conservative media couldnt take Bill Clinton down becausethey wound up talking to themselves in an echo chamber.

      As, it turns out, the liberal media is now. We are scattered, separate, squabbling among ourselves and being picked off like targets in a shooting gallery. Increasingly, theres a sense that we are talking to ourselves. And whether its Mercers millions or other factors, Jonathan Albrights map of the news and information ecosystem shows how rightwing sites are dominating sites like YouTube and Google, bound tightly together by millions of links.

      Is there a central intelligence to that, I ask Albright? There has to be. There has to be some type of coordination. You can see from looking at the map, from the architecture of the system, that this is not accidental. Its clearly being led by money and politics.

      Theres been a lot of talk in the echo chamber about Bannon in the last few months, but its Mercer who provided the money to remake parts of the media landscape. And while Bannon understands the media, Mercer understands big data. He understands the structure of the internet. He knows how algorithms work.

      Robert Mercer did not respond to a request for comment for this piece. NickPatterson, a British cryptographer, who worked at Renaissance Technologies in the 80s and is now a computational geneticist at MIT, described to me how he was the one who talent-spotted Mercer. There was an elite group working at IBM in the 1980s doing speech research, speech recognition, and when I joined Renaissance I judged that the mathematics we were trying to apply to financial markets were very similar.

      Read more:

      How statistics lost their power and why we should fear what comes next | William Davies

      The Long Read: The ability of statistics to accurately represent the world is declining. In its wake, a new age of big data controlled by private companies is taking over and putting democracy in peril

      In theory, statistics should help settle arguments. They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone no matter what their politics can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here.

      Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various experts that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some peoples sense of political decency.

      Nowhere is this more vividly manifest than with immigration. The thinktank British Future has studied how best to win arguments in favour of immigration and multiculturalism. One of its main findings is that people often respond warmly to qualitative evidence, such as the stories of individual migrants and photographs of diverse communities. But statistics especially regarding alleged benefits of migration to Britains economy elicit quite the opposite reaction. People assume that the numbers are manipulated and dislike the elitism of resorting to quantitative evidence. Presented with official estimates of how many immigrants are in the country illegally, a common response is to scoff. Far from increasing support for immigration, British Future found, pointing to its positive effect on GDP can actually make people more hostile to it. GDP itself has come to seem like a Trojan horse for an elitist liberal agenda. Sensing this, politicians have now largely abandoned discussing immigration in economic terms.

      All of this presents a serious challenge for liberal democracy. Put bluntly, the British government its officials, experts, advisers and many of its politicians does believe that immigration is on balance good for the economy. The British government did believe that Brexit was the wrong choice. The problem is that the government is now engaged in self-censorship, for fear of provoking people further.

      This is an unwelcome dilemma. Either the state continues to make claims that it believes to be valid and is accused by sceptics of propaganda, or else, politicians and officials are confined to saying what feels plausible and intuitively true, but may ultimately be inaccurate. Either way, politics becomes mired in accusations of lies and cover-ups.

      The declining authority of statistics and the experts who analyse them is at the heart of the crisis that has become known as post-truth politics. And in this uncertain new world, attitudes towards quantitative expertise have become increasingly divided. From one perspective, grounding politics in statistics is elitist, undemocratic and oblivious to peoples emotional investments in their community and nation. It is just one more way that privileged people in London, Washington DC or Brussels seek to impose their worldview on everybody else. From the opposite perspective, statistics are quite the opposite of elitist. They enable journalists, citizens and politicians to discuss society as a whole, not on the basis of anecdote, sentiment or prejudice, but in ways that can be validated. The alternative to quantitative expertise is less likely to be democracy than an unleashing of tabloid editors and demagogues to provide their own truth of what is going on across society.

      Is there a way out of this polarisation? Must we simply choose between a politics of facts and one of emotions, or is there another way of looking at this situation?One way is to view statistics through the lens of their history.We need to try and see them for what they are: neither unquestionable truths nor elite conspiracies, but rather as tools designed to simplify the job of government, for better or worse. Viewed historically, we can see what a crucial role statistics have played in our understanding of nation states and their progress. This raises the alarming question of how if at all we will continue to have common ideas of society and collective progress, should statistics fall by the wayside.

      In the second half of the 17th century, in the aftermath of prolonged and bloody conflicts, European rulers adopted an entirely new perspective on the task of government, focused upon demographic trends an approach made possible by the birth of modern statistics. Since ancient times, censuses had been used to track population size, but these were costly and laborious to carry out and focused on citizens who were considered politically important (property-owning men), rather than society as a whole. Statistics offered something quite different, transforming the nature of politics in the process.

      Statistics were designed to give an understanding of a population in its entirety,rather than simply to pinpoint strategically valuable sources of power and wealth. In the early days, this didnt always involve producing numbers. In Germany, for example (from where we get the term Statistik) the challenge was to map disparate customs, institutions and laws across an empire of hundreds of micro-states. What characterised this knowledge as statistical was its holistic nature: it aimed to produce a picture of the nation as a whole. Statistics would do for populations what cartography did for territory.

      Equally significant was the inspiration of the natural sciences. Thanks to standardised measures and mathematical techniques, statistical knowledge could be presented as objective, in much the same way as astronomy. Pioneering English demographers such as William Petty and John Graunt adapted mathematical techniques to estimate population changes, for which they were hired by Oliver Cromwell and Charles II.

      The emergence in the late 17th century of government advisers claiming scientific authority, rather than political or military acumen, represents the origins of the expert culture now so reviled by populists. These path-breaking individuals were neither pure scholars nor government officials, but hovered somewhere between the two. They were enthusiastic amateurs who offered a new way of thinking about populations that privileged aggregates and objective facts. Thanks to their mathematical prowess, they believed they could calculate what would otherwise require a vast census to discover.

      There was initially only one client for this type of expertise, and the clue is in the word statistics. Only centralised nation states had the capacity to collect data across large populations in a standardised fashion and only states had any need for such data in the first place. Over the second half of the 18th century, European states began to collect more statistics of the sort that would appear familiar to us today. Casting an eye over national populations, states became focused upon a range of quantities: births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, harvests, imports, exports, price fluctuations. Things that would previously have been registered locally and variously at parish level became aggregated at a national level.

      New techniques were developed to represent these indicators, which exploited both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the page, laying out data in matrices and tables, just as merchants had done with the development of standardised book-keeping techniques in the late 15th century. Organising numbers into rows and columns offered a powerful new way of displaying the attributes of a given society. Large, complex issues could now be surveyed simply by scanning the data laid out geometrically across a single page.

      These innovations carried extraordinary potential for governments. By simplifying diverse populations down to specific indicators, and displaying them in suitable tables, governments could circumvent the need to acquire broader detailed local and historical insight. Of course, viewed from a different perspective, this blindness to local cultural variability is precisely what makes statistics vulgar and potentially offensive. Regardless of whether a given nation had any common cultural identity, statisticians would assume some standard uniformity or, some might argue, impose that uniformity upon it.

      Not every aspect of a given population can be captured by statistics. There is always an implicit choice in what is included and what is excluded, and this choice can become a political issue in its own right. The fact that GDP only captures the value of paid work, thereby excluding the work traditionally done by women in the domestic sphere, has made it a target of feminist critique since the 1960s. In France, it has been illegal to collect census data on ethnicity since 1978, on the basis that such data could be used for racist political purposes. (This has the side-effect of making systemic racism in the labour market much harder to quantify.)

      Despite these criticisms, the aspiration to depict a society in its entirety, and to do so in an objective fashion, has meant that various progressive ideals have been attached to statistics. The image of statistics as a dispassionate science of society is only one part of the story. The other part is about how powerful political ideals became invested in these techniques: ideals of evidence-based policy, rationality, progress and nationhood grounded in facts, rather than in romanticised stories.

      Since the high-point of the Enlightenment in the late 18th century, liberals and republicans have invested great hope that national measurement frameworks could produce a more rational politics, organised around demonstrable improvements in social and economic life. The great theorist of nationalism, Benedict Anderson, famously described nations as imagined communities,but statistics offer the promise of anchoring this imagination in something tangible. Equally, they promise to reveal what historical path the nation is on: what kind of progress is occurring? How rapidly? For Enlightenment liberals, who saw nations as moving in a single historical direction, this question was crucial.

      The potential of statistics to reveal the state of the nation was seized in post-revolutionary France. The Jacobin state set about imposing a whole new framework of national measurement and national data collection. The worlds first official bureau of statistics was opened in Paris in 1800. Uniformity of data collection, overseen by a centralised cadre of highly educated experts, was an integral part of the ideal of a centrally governed republic, which sought to establish a unified, egalitarian society.

      From the Enlightenment onwards, statistics played an increasingly important role in the public sphere, informing debate in the media, providing social movements with evidence they could use. Over time, the production and analysis of such data became less dominated by the state. Academic social scientists began to analyse data for their own purposes, often entirely unconnected to government policy goals. By the late 19th century, reformers such as Charles Booth in London and WEB Du Bois in Philadelphia were conducting their own surveys to understand urban poverty.

      Illustration by Guardian Design

      To recognise how statistics have been entangled in notions of national progress, consider the case of GDP. GDP is an estimate of the sum total of a nations consumer spending, government spending, investments and trade balance (exports minus imports), which is represented in a single number. This is fiendishly difficult to get right, and efforts to calculate this figure began, like so many mathematical techniques, as a matter of marginal, somewhat nerdish interest during the 1930s. It was only elevated to a matter of national political urgency by the second world war, when governments needed to know whether the national population was producing enough to keep up the war effort. In the decades that followed, this single indicator, though never without its critics, took on a hallowed political status, as the ultimate barometer of a governments competence. Whether GDP is rising or falling is now virtually a proxy for whether society is moving forwards or backwards.

      Or take the example of opinion polling, an early instance of statistical innovation occurring in the private sector. During the 1920s, statisticians developed methods for identifying a representative sample of survey respondents, so as to glean the attitudes of the public as a whole. This breakthrough, which was first seized upon by market researchers, soon led to the birth of the opinion polling. This new industry immediately became the object of public and political fascination, as the media reported on what this new science told us about what women or Americans or manual labourers thought about the world.

      Nowadays, the flaws of polling are endlessly picked apart. But this is partly due to the tremendous hopes that have been invested in polling since its origins. It is only to the extent that we believe in mass democracy that we are so fascinated or concerned by what the public thinks. But for the most part it is thanks to statistics, and not to democratic institutions as such, that we can know what the public thinks about specific issues. We underestimate how much of our sense of the public interest is rooted in expert calculation, as opposed to democratic institutions.

      As indicators of health, prosperity, equality, opinion and quality of life have come to tell us who we are collectively and whether things are getting better or worse, politicians have leaned heavily on statistics to buttress their authority. Often, they lean too heavily, stretching evidence too far, interpreting data too loosely, to serve their cause. But that is an inevitable hazard of the prevalence of numbers in public life, and need not necessarily trigger the type of wholehearted rejections of expertise that we have witnessed recently.

      In many ways, the contemporary populist attack on experts is born out of the same resentment as the attack on elected representatives. In talking of society as a whole, in seeking to govern the economy as a whole, both politicians and technocrats are believed to have lost touch with how it feels to be a single citizen in particular. Both statisticians and politicians have fallen into the trap of seeing like a state, to use a phrase from the anarchist political thinker James C Scott. Speaking scientifically about the nation for instance in terms of macroeconomics is an insult to those who would prefer to rely on memory and narrative for their sense of nationhood, and are sick of being told that their imagined community does not exist.

      On the other hand, statistics (together with elected representatives) performed an adequate job of supporting a credible public discourse for decades if not centuries. What changed?

      The crisis of statistics is not quite as sudden as it might seem. For roughly 450 years, the great achievement of statisticians has been to reduce the complexity and fluidity of national populations into manageable, comprehensible facts and figures. Yet in recent decades, the world has changed dramatically, thanks to the cultural politics that emerged in the 1960s and the reshaping of the global economy that began soon after. It is not clear that the statisticians have always kept pace with these changes. Traditional forms of statistical classification and definition are coming under strain from more fluid identities, attitudes and economic pathways. Efforts to represent demographic, social and economic changes in terms of simple, well-recognised indicators are losing legitimacy.

      Consider the changing political and economic geography of nation states over the past 40 years. The statistics that dominate political debate are largely national in character: poverty levels, unemployment, GDP, net migration. But the geography of capitalism has been pulling in somewhat different directions. Plainly globalisation has not rendered geography irrelevant. In many cases it has made the location of economic activity far more important, exacerbating the inequality between successful locations (such as London or San Francisco) and less successful locations (such as north-east England or the US rust belt). The key geographic units involved are no longer nation states. Rather, it is cities, regions or individual urban neighbourhoods that are rising and falling.

      The Enlightenment ideal of the nation as a single community, bound together by a common measurement framework, is harder and harder to sustain. If you live in one of the towns in the Welsh valleys that was once dependent on steel manufacturing or mining for jobs, politicians talking of how the economy is doing well are likely to breed additional resentment. From that standpoint, the term GDP fails to capture anything meaningful or credible.

      When macroeconomics is used to make a political argument, this implies that the losses in one part of the country are offset by gains somewhere else. Headline-grabbing national indicators, such as GDP and inflation, conceal all sorts of localised gains and losses that are less commonly discussed by national politicians. Immigration may be good for the economy overall, but this does not mean that there are no local costs at all. So when politicians use national indicators to make their case, they implicitly assume some spirit of patriotic mutual sacrifice on the part of voters: you might be the loser on this occasion, but next time you might be the beneficiary. But what if the tables are never turned? What if the same city or region wins over and over again, while others always lose? On what principle of give and take is that justified?

      In Europe, the currency union has exacerbated this problem. The indicators that matter to the European Central Bank (ECB), for example, are those representing half a billion people. The ECB is concerned with the inflation or unemployment rate across the eurozone as if it were a single homogeneous territory, at the same time as the economic fate of European citizens is splintering in different directions, depending on which region, city or neighbourhood they happen to live in. Official knowledge becomes ever more abstracted from lived experience, until that knowledge simply ceases to be relevant or credible.

      The privileging of the nation as the natural scale of analysis is one of the inbuilt biases of statistics that years of economic change has eaten away at. Another inbuilt bias that is coming under increasing strain is classification. Part of the job of statisticians is to classify people by putting them into a range of boxes that the statistician has created: employed or unemployed, married or unmarried, pro-Europe or anti-Europe. So long as people can be placed into categories in this way, it becomes possible to discern how far a given classification extends across the population.

      This can involve somewhat reductive choices. To count as unemployed, for example, a person has to report to a survey that they are involuntarily out of work, even if it may be more complicated than that in reality. Many people move in and out of work all the time, for reasons that might have as much to do with health and family needs as labour market conditions. But thanks to this simplification, it becomes possible to identify the rate of unemployment across the population as a whole.

      Heres a problem, though. What if many of the defining questions of our age are not answerable in terms of the extent of people encompassed, but the intensity with which people are affected? Unemployment is one example. The fact that Britain got through the Great Recession of 2008-13 without unemployment rising substantially is generally viewed as a positive achievement. But the focus on unemployment masked the rise of underemployment, that is, people not getting a sufficient amount of work or being employed at a level below that which they are qualified for. This currently accounts for around 6% of the employed labour force. Then there is the rise of the self-employed workforce, where the divide between employed and involuntarily unemployed makes little sense.

      This is not a criticism of bodies such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which does now produce data on underemployment. But so long as politicians continue to deflect criticism by pointing to the unemployment rate, the experiences of those struggling to get enough work or to live on their wages go unrepresented in public debate. It wouldnt be all that surprising if these same people became suspicious of policy experts and the use of statistics in political debate, given the mismatch between what politicians say about the labour market and the lived reality.

      The rise of identity politics since the 1960s has put additional strain on such systems of classification. Statistical data is only credible if people will accept the limited range of demographic categories that are on offer, which are selected by the expert not the respondent. But where identity becomes a political issue, people demand to define themselves on their own terms, where gender, sexuality, race or class is concerned.

      Opinion polling may be suffering for similar reasons. Polls have traditionally captured peoples attitudes and preferences, on the reasonable assumption that people will behave accordingly. But in an age of declining political participation, it is not enough simply to know which box someone would prefer to put an X in. One also needs to know whether they feel strongly enough about doing so to bother. And when it comes to capturing such fluctuations in emotional intensity, polling is a clumsy tool.

      Statistics have faced criticism regularly over their long history. The challenges that identity politics and globalisation present to them are not new either. Why then do the events of the past year feel quite so damaging to the ideal of quantitative expertise and its role in political debate?

      In recent years, a new way of quantifying and visualising populations has emerged that potentially pushes statistics to the margins, ushering in a different era altogether. Statistics, collected and compiled by technical experts, are giving way to data that accumulates by default, as a consequence of sweeping digitisation. Traditionally, statisticians have known which questions they wanted to ask regarding which population, then set out to answer them. By contrast, data is automatically produced whenever we swipe a loyalty card, comment on Facebook or search for something on Google. As our cities, cars, homes and household objects become digitally connected, the amount of data we leave in our trail will grow even greater. In this new world, data is captured first and research questions come later.

      In the long term, the implications of this will probably be as profound as the invention of statistics was in the late 17th century. The rise of big data provides far greater opportunities for quantitative analysis than any amount of polling or statistical modelling. But it is not just the quantity of data that is different. It represents an entirely different type of knowledge, accompanied by a new mode of expertise.

      First, there is no fixed scale of analysis (such as the nation) nor any settled categories (such as unemployed). These vast new data sets can be mined in search of patterns, trends, correlations and emergent moods. It becomes a way of tracking the identities that people bestow upon themselves (such as #ImwithCorbyn or entrepreneur) rather than imposing classifications upon them. This is a form of aggregation suitable to a more fluid political age, in which not everything can be reliably referred back to some Enlightenment ideal of the nation state as guardian of the public interest.

      Second, the majority of us are entirely oblivious to what all this data says about us, either individually or collectively. There is no equivalent of an Office for National Statistics for commercially collected big data. We live in an age in which our feelings, identities and affiliations can be tracked and analysed with unprecedented speed and sensitivity but there is nothing that anchors this new capacity in the public interest or public debate. There are data analysts who work for Google and Facebook, but they are not experts of the sort who generate statistics and who are now so widely condemned. The anonymity and secrecy of the new analysts potentially makes them far more politically powerful than any social scientist.

      A company such as Facebook has the capacity to carry quantitative social science on hundreds of billions of people, at very low cost. But it has very little incentive to reveal the results. In 2014, when Facebook researchers published results of a study of emotional contagion that they had carried out on their users in which they altered news feeds to see how it affected the content that users then shared in response there was an outcry that people were being unwittingly experimented on. So, from Facebooks point of view, why go to all the hassle of publishing? Why not just do the study and keep quiet?

      What is most politically significant about this shift from a logic of statistics to one of data is how comfortably it sits with the rise of populism. Populist leaders can heap scorn upon traditional experts, such as economists and pollsters, while trusting in a different form of numerical analysis altogether. Such politicians rely on a new, less visible elite, who seek out patterns from vast data banks, but rarely make any public pronouncements, let alone publish any evidence. These data analysts are often physicists or mathematicians, whose skills are not developed for the study of society at all. This, for example, is the worldview propagated by Dominic Cummings, former adviser to Michael Gove and campaign director of Vote Leave. Physics, mathematics and computer science are domains in which there are real experts, unlike macro-economic forecasting, Cummings has argued.

      Figures close to Donald Trump, such as his chief strategist Steve Bannon and the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, are closely acquainted with cutting-edge data analytics techniques, via companies such as Cambridge Analytica, on whose board Bannon sits. During the presidential election campaign, Cambridge Analytica drew on various data sources to develop psychological profiles of millions of Americans, which it then used to help Trump target voters with tailored messaging.

      This ability to develop and refine psychological insights across large populations is one of the most innovative and controversial features of the new data analysis. As techniques of sentiment analysis, which detect the mood of large numbers of people by tracking indicators such as word usage on social media, become incorporated into political campaigns, the emotional allure of figures such as Trump will become amenable to scientific scrutiny. In a world where the political feelings of the general public are becoming this traceable, who needs pollsters?

      Few social findings arising from this kind of data analytics ever end up in the public domain. This means that it does very little to help anchor political narrative in any shared reality. With the authority of statistics waning, and nothing stepping into the public sphere to replace it, people can live in whatever imagined community they feel most aligned to and willing to believe in. Where statistics can be used to correct faulty claims about the economy or society or population, in an age of data analytics there are few mechanisms to prevent people from giving way to their instinctive reactions or emotional prejudices. On the contrary, companies such as Cambridge Analytica treat those feelings as things to be tracked.

      But even if there were an Office for Data Analytics, acting on behalf of the public and government as the ONS does, it is not clear that it would offer the kind of neutral perspective that liberals today are struggling to defend. The new apparatus of number-crunching is well suited to detecting trends, sensing the mood and spotting things as they bubble up. It serves campaign managers and marketers very well. It is less well suited to making the kinds of unambiguous, objective, potentially consensus-forming claims about society that statisticians and economists are paid for.

      In this new technical and political climate, it will fall to the new digital elite to identify the facts, projections and truth amid the rushing stream of data that results. Whether indicators such as GDP and unemployment continue to carry political clout remains to be seen, but if they dont, it wont necessarily herald the end of experts, less still the end of truth. The question to be taken more seriously, now that numbers are being constantly generated behind our backs and beyond our knowledge, is where the crisis of statistics leaves representative democracy.

      On the one hand, it is worth recognising the capacity of long-standing political institutions to fight back. Just as sharing economy platforms such as Uber and Airbnb have recently been thwarted by legal rulings (Uber being compelled to recognise drivers as employees, Airbnb being banned altogether by some municipal authorities), privacy and human rights law represents a potential obstacle to the extension of data analytics. What is less clear is how the benefits of digital analytics might ever be offered to the public, in the way that many statistical data sets are. Bodies such as the Open Data Institute, co-founded by Tim Berners-Lee, campaign to make data publicly available, but have little leverage over the corporations where so much of our data now accumulates. Statistics began life as a tool through which the state could view society, but gradually developed into something that academics, civic reformers and businesses had a stake in. But for many data analytics firms, secrecy surrounding methods and sources of data is a competitive advantage that they will not give up voluntarily.

      A post-statistical society is a potentially frightening proposition, not because it would lack any forms of truth or expertise altogether, but because it would drastically privatise them. Statistics are one of many pillars of liberalism, indeed of Enlightenment. The experts who produce and use them have become painted as arrogant and oblivious to the emotional and local dimensions of politics. No doubt there are ways in which data collection could be adapted to reflect lived experiences better. But the battle that will need to be waged in the long term is not between an elite-led politics of facts versus a populist politics of feeling. It is between those still committed to public knowledge and public argument and those who profit from the ongoing disintegration of those things.

      Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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      Our nine-point guide to spotting a dodgy statistic

      Brexit is just the latest instance of politicians bending figures to match their agenda

      I love numbers. They allow us to get a sense of magnitude, to measure change, to put claims in context. But despite their bold and confident exterior, numbers are delicate things and thats why it upsets me when they are abused. And since theres been a fair amount of number abuse going on recently, it seems a good time to have a look at the classic ways in which politicians and spin doctors meddle with statistics.

      Every statistician is familiar with the tedious Lies, damned lies, and statistics gibe, but the economist, writer and presenter of Radio4s More or Less, Tim Harford, has identified the habit of some politicians as not so much lying to lie means having some knowledge of the truth as bullshitting: a carefree disregard of whether the number is appropriate ornot.

      So here, with some help from the UK fact-checking organisation Full Fact, is a nine-point guide to whats really going on.

      Use a real number, but change its meaning

      Theres almost always some basis for numbers that get quoted, but its often rather different from what is claimed. Take, for example, the famous 350m, as in the We send the EU 350m a week claim plastered over the big red Brexit campaign bus. This is a true National Statistic (see Table 9.9 of the ONS Pink Book 2015), but, in the words of Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority watchdog, it is not an amount of money that the UK pays to the EU. In fact, the UKs net contribution is more like 250m a week when Britains rebate is taken into account and much of that is returned in the form of agricultural subsidies and grants to poorer UK regions, reducing the figure to 136m. Sir Andrew expressed disappointment that this misleading claim was being made by Brexit campaigners but this ticking-off still did not get the busrepainted.

      George Osborne quoted the Treasurys projection of 4,300 as the cost per household of leaving the EU. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

      Make the number look big (but not too big)

      Why did the Leave campaign frame the amount of money as 350m per week, rather than the equivalent 19bn a year? They probably realised that, once numbers get large, say above 10m, they all start seeming the same all those extra zeros have diminishing emotional impact. Billions, schmillions, its just a Big Number.

      Of course they could have gone the other way and said 50m a day, but then people might have realised that this is equivalent to around a packet of crisps each, which does not sound soimpressive.

      George Osborne, on the other hand, preferred to quote the Treasurys projection of the potential cost of leaving the EU as 4,300 per household per year, rather than as the equivalent 120bn for the whole country. Presumably he was trying to make the numbers seem relevant, but perhaps he would have been better off framing the projected cost as 2.5bn a week so as to provide a direct comparison with the Leave campaigns 350m. It probably would not have made any difference: the weighty 200-page Treasury report is on course to become a classic example of ignoredstatistics.

      Recent studies confirmed higher death rates at weekends, but showed no relationship to weekend staffing levels. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

      Casually imply causation from correlation

      In July 2015 Jeremy Hunt said: Around 6,000 people lose their lives every year because we do not have a proper seven-day service in hospitals. and by February 2016 this had increased to 11,000 excess deaths because we do not staff our hospitals properly at weekends. These categorical claims that weekend staffing was responsible for increased weekend death rates were widely criticised at the time, particularly by the people who had done the actual research. Recent studies have confirmed higher death rates at weekends, but these showed norelationship to weekend staffinglevels.

      Tom Blenkinsop and David Cameron on nurse numbers at PMQs, December 2014

      Choose your definitions carefully

      On 17 December 2014, Tom Blenkinsop MP said, Today, there are 2,500 fewer nurses in our NHS than in May 2010, while on the same day David Cameron claimed Today, actually, there are new figures out on the NHS there are 3,000 more nurses under this government. Surely one must bewrong?

      But Mr Blenkinsop compared the number of people working as nurses between September 2010 and September 2014, while Cameron used the full-time-equivalent number of nurses, health visitors and midwives between the start of the government in May 2010 and September 2014. So they were both, in their own particular way,right.

      Indicator hopper: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photograph: PA

      Use total numbers rather than proportions (or whichever way suits your argument)

      In the final three months of 2014, less than 93% ofattendances at Accident and Emergency units were seen within four hours, the lowest proportion for 10 years. And yet Jeremy Hunt managed to tweet that More patients than ever being seen in less than four hours. Which, strictly speaking, was correct, but only because more people were attending A&E than ever before. Similarly, when it comes to employment, an increasing population means that the number of employed can go up even when the employment rate goes down. Full Fact has shown how the political parties play indicator hop, picking whichever measure currently supports their argument.

      Is crime going up or down? Dont ask Andy Burnham. Photograph: PA

      Dont provide any relevant context

      Last September shadow home secretary Andy Burnham declared that crime is going up, and when pressed pointed to the police recording more violent and sexual offences than the previous year. But police-recorded crime data were de-designated as official statistics by the UK Statistics Authority in 2014 as they were so unreliable: they depend strongly on what the public choose to report, and how the police choose to recordit.

      Instead the Crime Survey for England and Wales is the official source of data, as it records crimes that are not reported to the police. And the Crime Survey shows a steady reduction in crime for more than 20 years, and no evidence of an increase in violent and sexual offences lastyear.

      Exaggerate the importance of a possibly illusory change

      Next time you hear a politician boasting that unemployment has dropped by 30,000 over the previous quarter, just remember that this is an estimate based on a survey. And that estimate has a margin of error of +/- 80,000, meaning that unemployment may well have gone down, but it may have gone up the best we can say is that it hasnt changed very much, but that hardly makes a speech. And to be fair, the politician probably has no idea that this is an estimate and not a headcount.

      Serious youth crime has actually declined, but thats not because of TKAP. Photograph: Action Press / Rex Features

      Prematurely announce the success of a policy initiative using unofficial selected data

      In June 2008, just a year after the start of the Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP), No 10 got the Home Office to issue a press release saying the number of teenagers admitted to hospital for knife or sharp instrumentwounding in nine police force areas fell by 27% according to new figures published today. But this used unchecked unofficial data, and was against the explicit advice of officialstatisticians. They got publicity, but also a serious telling-off from the UK Statistics Authority which accused No 10 of making an announcement that was corrosive of public trust in officialstatistics. The final conclusionabout the TKAP was that serious youth violence had declined in the country, but no more in TKAP areas thanelsewhere.

      Donald Trump: Am I going to check every statistic?
      Photograph: Robert F. Bukaty/AP

      If all else fails, just make the numbers up

      Last November, Donald Trump tweeted a recycled image that included the claim that Whites killed by blacks 81%, citing Crime Statistics Bureau San Francisco. The US fact-checking site Politifact identified this as completely fabricated the Bureau did not exist, and the true figure is around 15%. When confronted with this, Trump shrugged and said, Am I going to check every statistic?

      Not all politicians are so cavalier with statistics, and of course its completely reasonable for them to appeal to our feelings and values. But there are some serial offenders who conscript innocent numbers, purely to provide rhetorical flourish to theirarguments.

      We deserve to have statistical evidence presented in a fair and balanced way, and its only by public scrutiny and exposure that anything will ever change. There are noble efforts to dam the flood of naughty numbers. The BBCs More or Lessteam take apart dodgy data, organisations such as Full Fact and Channel 4s FactCheck expose flagrant abuses, the UK Statistics Authority write admonishing letters. The Royal Statistical Society offers statistical training for MPs, and the House of Commons library publishes a Statistical Literacy Guide: how to spot spin and inappropriate use ofstatistics.

      They are all doing great work, but the shabby statistics keep on coming. Maybe these nine points can provide a checklist, or even the basis for a competition how many points can your favourite minister score? In my angrier moments I feel that number abuse should bemade a criminal offence. But thats a law unlikely to be passed bypoliticians.

      David Spiegelhalter is the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge and president elect of the Royal StatisticalSociety

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      Hillary Clinton celebrates victory

      (CNN)Hillary Clinton embraced her moment in history Tuesday, becoming the first woman in the 240-year life of the United States to lead the presidential ticket of a major political party.

      “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone,” she said during a speech in Brooklyn. “Tonight’s victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”
        After three decades at the center of American politics as a pioneering — and deeply controversial — feminist icon, the victory brings Clinton, 68, within reach of finally cracking the “highest, hardest glass ceiling” she lamented eight years ago when she conceded the Democratic race to Barack Obama. The former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state will now face presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a general election battle that is already shaping up as one of the nastiest campaigns in modern U.S. history.
        Clinton has pounced on Trump’s business record, character and tendency to use his platform to wage personal grudge matches to try to define him early on in the minds of voters as unfit for the presidency. Trump, for his part, is aiming to portray Clinton as a consistent liar who can’t be trusted.
        Though Clinton already has Trump in her sights, she has work to do to unify her own party after a grueling battle against Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator spoke before a roaring crowd of his own in California to declare “the struggle continues.” The Vermont senator pledged to stay in the race through next week’s primary in Washington, D.C., and to fight on for social, economic, racial and environmental justice at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

        Obama’s call

        President Barack Obama, who waited until voting ended in the last six primary states to weigh in on the race, called both candidates to congratulate them for “running inspiring campaigns that have energized Democrats,” according to a White House statement.
        But the President, who will meet with Sanders Thursday at the Vermont senator’s request, clearly sided with Clinton by lauding her for “securing the delegates necessary to clinch the Democratic nomination for President.”
        “He wants to win by stoking fear and rubbing salt in wounds and reminding us daily just how great he is.”
        Clinton also signaled a robust challenge to Trump resonating with gender and personal themes. She spoke of how her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, taught her “never to back down from a bully.”
        Sanders faces an existential campaign question. He is grappling with whether to honor his vow to fight on to the Democratic National Convention next month or accept the electoral mathematics that give him no viable path to victory and join Clinton to unite a party divided by a much more competitive primary race than expected.
        CNN’s Brianna Keilar reported that the campaign managers for Clinton and Sanders are in touch, keeping the lines of communication open so they can eventually unify the party, according to a source familiar with the conversations.
        The New York Times reported the Sanders campaign is about to undergo a significant reduction in staff. A top campaign official would neither confirm nor deny the report to CNN. But notably, as the campaign reaches the end of the primary season, the campaign has not moved to staff key battleground states and little appears in the works beyond recent promises to fight to the convention.

        Trump’s controversy

        For Trump, the question Tuesday was how he would extricate himself from the political hole opened up by his controversial comments about a judge of Mexican descent who is overseeing a lawsuit aimed at Trump University. His accusation that the judge is biased because of his ethnicity has horrified senior GOP leaders who recently reluctantly endorsed him. He tried to neutralize the furor with a statement Tuesday saying his comments had been “misconstrued.”
        Amid the furor, Trump, who won the Republican contests Tuesday, delivered a more conventional speech that seemed a departure from the free wheeling approach he often takes. Using a teleprompter — notable for someone who has blasted Clinton for being scripted — Trump attacked Clinton and called for GOP unity. For one night at least, it seemed that the unpredictable billionaire had heeded calls by the GOP establishment — which he built a campaign on vilifying — to rein himself in for the good of the party.
        “We are only getting started and it is going to be beautiful,” he said.
        He didn’t mention the judge during his speech and instead sought to convey that he understood his new role as the leader of the GOP.
        “I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never, ever let you down,” he said.
        A top campaign adviser told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump’s speech was “very important to recovering from these five bad days.”

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