“This is where we go to find bodies,” says David Garcia. The desert spreads out, vast and silent, all around us. Jagged mountain ridges rise in the distance. “There are lots of them out there.”
Previously on ‘From the archive’
The residents of Eden returned to real life in March 2017. As participants on the Channel 4 show they had been assigned the task of building a community from scratch in the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula of the Scottish Highlands. Cut off from the world, they will have been surprised to learn about the geopolitical turmoil of the past year and – maybe most shockingly – Eden’s cancellation in August 2016, after only four episodes.
The evacuation of eastern Aleppo got underway at noon on Thursday 15th December with the departure of 13 ambulances and 20 green buses. The most severely injured went first, along with their families and other civilians. By the end of the day, about 3,000 civilians had been moved out of the devastated Syrian city. As the operation began, Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser for Syria, estimated the total number of citizens requiring evacuation at 30,000.
The Ailuropoda melanoleuca, or giant panda, is a complete design failure. A carnivore by taxonomic designation, it has chosen to exist by eating 99 per cent bamboo – a diet so low in nutrition that it must be consumed almost constantly, with up to 14kg a day shovelled in just to achieve basic sustenance.
The limited energy supplied by this diet requires the panda to avoid exercise of any kind. So, despite the fact that its natural habitat is disappearing fast, it cannot, of its own volition, go off in search of a better environment. Estimates of the wild population of pandas range from 1,500 to 3,000, clustered in the dwindling mountain countryside of a nation (China) with a fairly hefty population (1.3 billion people) that’s becoming increasingly industrialised and urbanised. The panda contents itself with eating a bit more bamboo, and defecating up to 40 times a day.
In 2011, Tom Watson MP – now deputy leader of the Labour party – was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which was examining allegations about the illegal practice of breaking into private voicemail accounts carried out by members of the UK press.
Three months after the most outrageous example came to light – in which the News of the World was caught having hacked into the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler – Watson spoke to Delayed Gratification about the moment the story broke, and the emerging scandal that would come to engulf the shamed tabloid and appal the nation…
On 4th June 1989, the name Tiananmen Square became synonymous with the ruthlessness of the Chinese government. The brutal crackdown on the protestors who assembled at the Beijing landmark to call for reform and freedom of speech was the defining event of recent Chinese history. And yet, type “Tiananmen Square”, “Tinananmen Massacre” or “June 4th” into a search engine anywhere in China and the results will be unrelated to the event (a Google Images search bizarrely turns up a picture of a grinning Michael Phelps) or blocked entirely.
Public gatherings to commemorate those who died in the massacre (unofficial estimates of the dead range from several hundred to thousands) are strictly forbidden. Everywhere, that is, but Hong Kong.
It took me two years and 36 hours to get to Tokelau. Two years to get a visa and 36 hours to make the 580-kilometre boat trip from Samoa. I’ll never forget seeing Fakaofo, one of the three atolls that make up Tokelau, for the first time – one of the islands looked like a fortress.
It is a really low-lying atoll, just three metres above the water, and to protect themselves from high waters caused by storms from cyclones, its people have enclosed Fale, the islet they live on, with a five metre-high sea wall. The message is clear: we will do everything we can to protect our land.
Everyone in India remembers where they were on 8th November – and exactly how much cash they had in their wallets at the time. Abdul Qadr was flicking through TV channels at home and waiting for his wife to serve dinner when his attention was caught by a breaking news bulletin. “I had 5,000 rupees [£60], all in 1,000s and 500s,” he says. “When I saw the announcement, I was very worried.”
The news was that prime minister Narendra Modi had abolished 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, rendering 85 percent of the cash in circulation in India unuseable with immediate effect.
On the night of 14th April 2014, 276 female students were abducted from their dormitory in a government-run secondary school in Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria. Their captors, later revealed to be Boko Haram militants, fled north with the girls to the Sambisa forest. Fifty-seven students escaped along the way: the remaining 219 disappeared without trace.
In 2016 the sporadic chatter about automation became a persistent, unavoidable roar. In January, a report presented at Davos claimed that more than five million jobs will be lost to robots by 2020, in a “revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen”. In July, a major report from management consultancy giants McKinsey gave an industry-by-industry breakdown of the carnage to come. The biggest losers will be “welders, cutters, solderers and brazers”, nine in ten of whom can expect to have their job stolen by a robot in the next few years.
On 2nd October, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced that his organisation believes automation threatens 69 percent of jobs in India and 77 percent in China. That roughly translates to 934 million Indians and Chinese joining the unemployment line in the future. A week later, on 11th October, the World Economic Forum founder and chairman Klaus Schwab addressed what he sees as the current global malaise. “Globalisation and capitalism are seen as the main reason for people’s anger, but the most profound anxiety comes from disruptive new technologies such as robotisation… society is facing the ‘new unknown’, adding to the general morosity.”
As the Gambian election results trickled in on 2nd December, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh was watching with his heart in his mouth. The first constituency declared at around 2am and it was won by Yahya Jammeh, the brutal dictator who had ruled the West African country with an iron fist for 22 years. The second – Jammeh, again. Dr Janneh sighed. History appeared to be repeating itself.
But then the third, fourth and fifth results came in and they were all wins for Jammeh’s unlikely rival Adama Barrow, a little-known political novice, father of four and former security guard at a north London branch of Argos. Pacing the floor in his home in Hinesville, a small city in Georgia in the southern United States, Dr Janneh allowed himself to start hoping again.
Stari Trg mine,
Trepca mining complex, northern Kosovo,
Tuesday 28th February 1989
The miners knew their battle was coming to an end. They lay listless and hungry in the dark on the floor of a narrow tunnel, 850 metres below the earth. The temperature hadn’t dropped below 50 degrees Celsius for seven long, punishing days and nights. And now the clean water was gone.
The Kosovar miners had called their underground strike as a protest at the treatment of their countrymen. Serbia’s nationalist leader, Slobodan Miloševic, was asserting historic Serbian claims over the autonomous province of Kosovo. Powers had been stripped from its capital, Priština, Kosovar politicians arrested and state workers purged.
As conditions in Kosovar society worsened under pressure from Belgrade, the miners believed that the Trepca mining complex was their strongest bargaining chip. It was Kosovo’s single most important asset, comprising 40 mines that contained billions of dollars’ worth of lead, iron, zinc, silver and gold and accounted for two thirds of Kosovo’s entire GDP. A strike would cripple Kosovo – but damage Belgrade too.
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