Lets see menopausal women on screen in all their glory | Suzanne Moore

The absence of the menopause in popular culture shows that it remains taboo and women pay the price, tells Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore

A woman rushing out of the door for a job interview suddenly feels unbelievably uncomfortable. She has to down a glass of water, take off her scarf and fan herself. Why, she asks her daughter, when they can make pacemakers, can they do nothing for hot flushes?

They have a conversation about womanhood being marked with the start of periods. The woman, Aurore( Agnes Jaouie ), tells:” Now my periods have stopped, what am I ?”

What a question. The opening scene of the charming French romcom I Got Life pulls no punches. Aurore is 50, she is struggling in all sorts of ways: physically, with menopausal symptoms; at work, where she is no longer considered attractive enough to be a waitress; in looking for employment, as a single mom of two daughters.

Yet this movie, is administered by Blandine Lenoir, has a lightness of touch, and we root for Aurore all the way as she bumps into her first love and negotiates a labour markets that ensure little place for her.

Amy Schumer’s great sketch

She satisfies an employment adviser who is also overheating and losing the plot somewhat. Women of a certain age will relate to this because it is so rarely seen in cinema. Ageing, itself, is taboo for women. Actresses often have to start playing mothers of adolescents before they even hit 40.

Amy Schumer’s great sketch where she stumbles upon Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Julia Louis-Dreyfus feeing a loading of patisserie to celebrate Louis-Dreyfus’s” last fuckable day” skewered brilliantly the male gaze that rules cinema, that narrows representation. Women suddenly become too old to play objects of longing, unless they are Meryl Streep.

The love that flowed to Frances McDormand this year was partly because we are so unused to seeing a woman that age be complicated, difficult and angry– as seen in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri- to not be defined by what is considered “sexy”.

The actual process by which girls age remains largely taboo, which is why I Got Life is a breath of fresh air. The onscreen invisibility of the menopause is a form of denial. Women often feel very isolated at this time, for where can they look to see their experience represented? Is the menopause something only to be dreaded, hidden, medicated away and denied? How, in 2018, is it still embarrassing to speak of it?

This embarrassment means it’s only really comedians who can raise it: Patsy and Edina, in Ab Fab, years ago were persuaded by Saffy to go to a meeting of Menopause Anonymous. Patsy is having night sweats but growls:” I detest gynaecologists- a human who can always seem you in the vagina but never in the eye .” Samantha, in Sex and the City, is tooled up with her vitamins, her melatonin, her oestrogen cream, progesterone- and, of course, a touch of testosterone to keep up that famous libido. In the sequel she is denied her treatment on the border of the United Arab Emirates so she takes to moisturising her is confronted with yams. As you do. The plight of the menopausal woman is both funny and desperate.

Or it is a grotesque sign of weakness. In House of Cards, the president’s wife, Claire, pauses too long by the refrigerator and a friend tries to talk about hot flushes. Claire is steely, and refuses to. A Lady Macbeth character cannot “give in” or be brought low by female biology.

But if we never see this stage of our life represented, then how are we to talk about it except in whispers or rushed conversations with overloaded GPs? This terrible secret is part of ageing. The alternative to get old is dying. I Got Life presents a woman falling in love with men and maintaining a lovely solidarity with women. It’s absolutely feelgood- and why not?

The reality is not very feelgood. There are 3.5 million females over 50 in the workplace, and 45% of them tell they have suffered menopausal symptoms difficult to deal with; many have considered leaving run. Half of them said their symptoms had stimulated their working life worse.

This is an awful lot of women suffering in silence, then: physically uncomfortable and impression unsupported. As long as we don’t have any kind of representation of menopause, in all its glory, then it will continue to be seen as a sign that a woman is somehow redundant because she can no longer reproduce.

If we were to talk more openly, we would find instead that many girls feel liberated, full of energy, be permitted to take over the world, and finally free from the demands of a society that values merely youth. As the heroine of this movie kickings off her shoes, dances, gardens, makes love, becomes a grandmother and hangs out with her friends, life in its messy route continues.

The idea that females may indeed be less concerned about how others consider them and eventually become more of themselves remains a story rarely told.

* Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist

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I have prostate cancer. But I am happy | George Monbiot

The three principles that define a good life will protect me from hopelessnes, says Guardian columnist George Monbiot

It came, as these things often do, like a gunshot on a quiet street: shocking and disorienting. In early December, my urine turned brown. The following day I felt feverish and observed it was difficult to pee. I soon realised I had a urinary tract infection. It was unpleasant, but seemed to be no big deal. Now I know that it might have saved my life.

The doctor told me this infection was unusual in a human of my age, and hinted at an underlying condition. So I had a blood test, which revealed that my prostate-specific antigen( PSA) levels were off the scale. An MRI scan and a mortifying biopsy confirmed my distrusts. Prostate cancer: all the smart young men have it this season.

On Monday, I go into surgery. The prostate gland is interred deep in the body, so removing it is a major operation: there are six entry points and it takes four hours. The procedure will hack at the roots of my manhood. Because of the damage that will be caused to the surrounding nerves, there’s a high risk of permanent erectile dysfunction. Because the urethra needs to be cut and reattached to the bladder, I will almost certainly suffer urinary incontinence for a few months, and perhaps permanently. Because the removal of part of the urethra retracts the penis, it appears to shrink, at the least until it is feasible to stretched back into shape.

I was offered a choice: revolutionary surgery or brachytherapy. This means implanting radioactive seeds in the parts of the prostate affected by cancer. Brachytherapy has fewer side effects, and recovery is much faster. But there’s a catch. If it fails to eliminate the cancer, there’s nothing more that can be done. This therapy sticks the prostate gland to the bowel and bladder, constructing surgery extremely difficult. Once you’ve had one dose of radiation, they won’t give you another. I was told that the the opportunities of brachytherapy working in my suit were between 70 and 80%. The odds were worse, in other words, than playing Russian roulette( which, with one bullet in a six-chambered revolver, gives you 83% ). Though I have a tendency to embrace risk, this was not an attractive option.

It would be easy to curse my luck and start to ask,” Why me ?” I have never smoked and scarcely drink; I have a ridiculously healthy diet and follow a severe fitness regime. I’m 20 or 30 years younger than most of the men I see in the waiting room. In other words, I would have had a lower danger of prostate cancer only if I had been female. And yet … I am happy. In fact, I’m happier than I was before my diagnosis. How can this be?

The reason is that I’ve sought to apply the three principles which, I believe, sit at the heart of a good life. The first is the most important: imagine how much worse it could be, rather than how much better.

When you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your condition is ranked on the Gleason Score, which measures its level of aggressivenes. Mine is graded at seven out of 10. But this doesn’t tell me where I stand in general. I required another index to assess the severity of my condition, so I fabricated one: the Shitstorm Scale. How does my situation compare to those of people I know, who contend with other medical problems or family misfortunes? How does it compare to what might have been, had the cancer not been caught while it was still- apparently- confined to the prostate gland? How does it compare to innumerable other catastrophes that could have befallen me?

When I completed the exercising, I realised that this bad luck, far from being a cause of woe, is a reminder of how lucky I am. I have the love of my family and friends. I have the support of those with whom I work. I have the NHS. My Shitstorm Score is a mere two out of 10.

The tragedy of our times is that, rather than apply the most useful of English proverbs-” cheer up, it could be worse”- we are constantly induced to imagine how much better things could be. The rich listings and power lists with which the newspapers are filled, our wall-to-wall celebrity culture, the invidious billions spent on marketing and advertising, create an infrastructure of comparison that ensures we assure ourselves as deprived of what others possess. It is a formula for misery.

The second principle is this: change what you can change, accept what you can’t. This is not a formula for passivity- I’ve expended my working life trying to alter outcomes that might have seemed immovable to other people. The theme of my latest volume is that political failure is, at heart, a failing of imagination. But sometimes we simply have to accept an obstacle as insuperable. Fatalism in these circumstances is protective. I accept that my lap is in the lap of the gods.

So I will not rage against the morbidity this surgery might cause. I won’t find myself following Groucho Marx who, at persons under the age of 81, excellently lamented:” I’m going to Iowa to collect an award. Then I’m seeming at Carnegie Hall, it’s sold out. Then I’m sailing to France to pick up an honor from the French government. I’d give it all up for one erection .” And today there’s Viagra.

The third principle is this: do not let fear regulation their own lives. Dread hems us in, stops us from thinking clearly, and prevents us from either challenging persecution or engaging calmly with the impersonal fates. When I was told that this operation had an 80% opportunity of success, my first thought was ” that’s roughly the same as one of my kayaking trip-ups. And about twice as good as the chance of arising as a result of those investigations in West Papua and the Amazon “.

There are, I believe, three steps to overcoming fear: name it , normalise it, socialise it. For too long, cancer has been locked in the drawer labelled Things We Don’t Talk About. When we call it the Big C, it becomes, as the word suggests , not smaller, but larger in our intellects. He Who Must Not Be Named is diminished by being identified, and decreased further when he becomes a topic of daily conversation.

The super-volunteer Jeanne Chattoe, whom I interviewed recently for another column, reminded me that, merely 25 years ago, breast cancer was a taboo topic. Thanks to the amazing advocacy of its victims, this is almost impossible to imagine today. Now we need to do the same for other cancers. Let there be no more terrible secrets.

So I have sought to discuss my prostate cancer as I would discuss any other issue. I induce no apologies for subjecting you to the grisly details: the more familiar they become, the less horrifying. In doing so, I socialise my condition. Last month, I discussed the remarkable evidence suggesting that a caring community improves recovery and reduces mortality. In talking about my cancer with family and friends, I feel the love that I know will get me through this. The old strategy of suffering in silence could not have been more misguided.

I had intended to use this column to advise humen to get themselves tested. But since my diagnosis, we’ve discovered two things. The first is that prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. The second is that the standard appraisal ( the PSA blood test) is of limited use. As prostate cancer in its early stages is likely to produce no symptoms, it’s hard to see what humen can do to protect themselves. That urinary tract infection was a remarkably lucky break.

Instead, I urge you to support the efforts led by Prostate Cancer UK to develop a better exam. Breast cancer has attracted twice as much money and research as prostate cancer , not because ( as the Daily Mail suggests ) humen are the victims of injustice, but because women’s advocacy has been so effective. Campaigns such as Men Unitedand the Movember Foundationhave sought to bridge this gap, but there’s a long way to run. Prostate cancer is discriminatory: for reasons unknown, black men are twice as likely to suffer it as white humen. Receiving better testing and therapies is a matter of both importance and equity.

I will ride this out. I will own this disease, but I won’t be defined by it: I will not be prostrated by my prostate. I will be gone for a few cases weeks but when I return, I do solemnly swear I will still be the argumentative old git with whom you are familiar.

* George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

* Prostate Cancer UK can be contacted on 0800 0748383

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2017 was the deadliest year of Syrian war for children, says Unicef

Report advises generation faces psychological wrecking, with most vulnerable the hardest hit

A generation of Syrian children face psychological ruin and ever increasing peril, with child deaths rising by 50% last year and the number of young soldiers tripling since 2015.

A report by Unicef saw 2017 was the worst year of the war for young Syrians, with 910 killed in a conflict that has spared them no mercy and has taken a vastly disproportionate toll on the country’s most vulnerable people.

The figures undermine claims that the war, which will soon enter its eighth year, is losing steam. Those most at risk face escalating menaces of being permanently maimed by opposing, or emotionally scarred by a litany of abuses including forced labor, matrimonies, food scarcity and minimal access to health or education.

” There are scars in children and there are scars on children that will never be erased ,” said Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s director for the Middle East and north Africa.” The protection of children in all circumstances that was once universally embraced- at no moment have any of the parties accepted .”

Syrian children in numbers

More than 13 million people inside Syria need humanitarian assistance, more than half of whom are children, the UN says. Of the 6.1 million internally displaced, roughly half( 2.8 million) are children. Figures for last year depict an average of 6,550 people were displaced each day in Syria.

During the first months of 2018 there has been a sharp escalation in violence in Idlib, eastern Ghouta on the suburbs of Damascus and in Afrin on the Turkish perimeter. The Syrian regime and Russia have been besieging Idlib and east Ghouta, while Turkey and a proxy Arab force launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in January. There also remains a lethal threat from mines and unexploded bombs left over from opposing in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

In eastern Ghouta a besieged population of nearly 420,000 people, half of whom are children, are suffering a month of airstrikes from Russian and Syrian jets, which are attempting to oust opponent fighters and the communities that support them from Damascus’s doorstep. Calculated death tolls in Ghouta range from 1,000 to 1,300 people. Children are thought to account for at least several hundred casualties.

Reaching children in need has been relentlessly difficult, the UN has said, with requests to deliver aid to opponent communities routinely denied and convoys allowed to enter often stripped of essential medicines. Humanitarian access was denied 105 times in 2017 alone- a year marked by sieges of east Aleppo and east Ghouta, which had both been strongholds of the anti-Assad opposition throughout the war.

Healthcare facilities, including hospitals and ambulance basis, have been repeatedly targeted in eastern Ghouta, recurring a pattern set elsewhere in Syria. In opposition-held east Aleppo, the healthcare network was destroyed before the area was overrun by pro-regime forces-out in late 2016. Last year alone, there were 175 assaults on health and education centres, the Unicef report says.

Medecins Sans Frontieres tells 15 of the 20 hospitals and clinics it supports in eastern Ghouta have been hit by airstrikes or shelling. Local authorities inside the enclave say the healthcare system is being systematically targeted and the capacity to care for high numbers of wounded has shrunk tremendously as a result.

” Their[ Assad regime’s] strategy is brutally clear ,” said Ghassan Chamsi, a resident in the Douma neighbourhood of eastern Ghouta.” They want to terrorise everyone into running for the borders. Either submit, or die. But don’t expect to be treated by our own .”

On almost every economic indicator, children in Syria experienced worse conditions last year than in 2016. The scarcity of food has soared across the country, with the young again suffering most for the absence of adequate nutrition. Up to 12% of young Syrians are considered to be acutely malnourished, the report says.

The psychological impact on young generations who have spent at the least half their lives in conflict, deprived of adequate food, education and healthcare, is among the most difficult risk categories to gauge.

” Their conditions require specialised therapy and services ,’ said Cappelaere.” As children, their needs differ from those of adults: as their bodies and abilities change, so must their care. These children face a very real risk of being forgotten and stigmatised as the unrelenting conflict continues .”

With opposing raging in north and central Syria, the majority of the population displaced and regional powers now more deep invested in the war than before, there appears to be little hope of the humanitarian situation easing anytime soon.

Syrian refugee numbers

Russia and Iran have both strengthened their support for Bashar al-Assad, who was losing on the battlefield until Vladimir Putin sent the Russian us air force to prop up the Syrian leader in September 2015. Iranian-led ground troops have been central to clawing back lost ground, while opposition groups, splintered and divided , no longer pose a sustained menace to the regime.

However, Idlib and east Idlib, despite sustained assaults, remain formidable obstacles to a leadership that has pledged to return all of Syria to central control. As yet, there is no plan for what to do with eastern Ghouta’s population if they are forced to flee. In Idlib, more than 2.5 million people, many of them displaced from elsewhere in the country, are crammed into a small province faced with ever increasing humanitarian needs.

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Jeff Sessions says US prosecutors will not pursue small-time marijuana cases

Law enforcement lacks resources to take on routine cases and will focus on gangs and larger conspiracies, attorney general says

Federal attorneys will not take over small-time marijuana suits, despite the Trump justice department’s decision to lift an Obama-era policy that discouraged authorities from cracking down on the trade in countries where the drug is legal, Jeff Sessions, the us attorney general, said on Saturday.

Federal law enforcement lacks the resources to take over” routine lawsuits” and will continue to focus on gangs and larger conspiracies, Sessions told students after a speech at Georgetown law school.

In January, the Trump administration hurled the burgeoning marijuana legalization motion into uncertainty by reversing the largely hands-off approach of the Obama administration, saying federal prosecutors should instead handle marijuana suits however they see fit.

The Obama-era policy permitted the trade to flourish, with eight countries decriminalize marijuana for recreational use.

The reversal under Trump added to embarrassment about whether it’s OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where it is legal, since long-standing federal statute prohibits it. And it caused concern that prosecutors would feel empowered to jail someones for marijuana possession.

” I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States statute ,” Sessions said. But, he added, federal prosecutors” haven’t been working small marijuana instances before, they are not going to be working them now “.

Of particular interest are problems that federal authorities have tried for years to tackle, such as illegal marijuana-growing operations on national parklands and gangs that peddle marijuana along with most harmful drugs.

Some law enforcement officers in legal nations argue the legal trade has caused unintended problems like black-market marijuana growing and dealing by people who don’t even try to conform to the legal framework.

It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will seek to punish state-sanctioned industries. Some have indicated they have no plans to do so.

” Those are the kinds of things each one of those US attorneys will decide how to handle ,” Sessions said.

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Trade wars? Africa has been a victim of them for years | Afua Hirsch

The continent has borne the brunt of taxes and tariffs from the US and Europe. No wonder some believe Africa needs its own Donald Trump, says Guardian columnist Afua Hirsch

What Africa requires, a friend of mine is fond of saying, is an African Trump: an” Africa first” leader who is not afraid of scratching the rest of the world up the wrong way, person willing to rip up traditional alliances, forgo historic links, forge a unified and common purpose among Africa’s diverse nations, and then make their own wants- unambiguously- the priority.

It’s a surprising style to frame things, but these are surprising periods, and political ideologies are upside down. Protectionism is having a moment in the sunlight, in a useful reminder of the degree to which our perception is skewed of which countries practise competitive capitalism and which do not.

Protectionism is often associated with, and criticised in, the policies of poorer countries. It’s what Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Iran do, and “what theyre” ranked among the least competitive business environments. Yet it is these countries from which Trump now takes inspiration. Indeed, it was India’s fondness for protectionism- enforcing 100% duties on US motorcycles while the US had zero responsibilities on motorcycles imported from India- that ostensibly justified Trump’s renewed passion for tariffs on imported steel.

America, with the EU by its side- the narrative runs- is the ultimate free-trade pillar of western capitalism. But this is one of the greatest branding myths of all time. America’s history of protectionism is American history- from the McKinley Tariff of 1890, to Barack Obama’s ban on all foreign iron and steel for infrastructure projects.

And Trump- the businessman many see as the human show of white male capitalism- took things further, campaigning on a platform of not trusting globalisation. “Protection,” said Trump during the 2016 electoral campaign,” will lead to great prosperity and strength .” He pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and is no fan of the North American Free Trade Agreement( Nafta ). America is a possibility the force behind the establishment of the World Trade Organisation, but Trump has already been a painful thorn in its side, causing mayhem by blocking the appointment of magistrates, and publicly labelling it “a catastrophe”.

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Trump says US to impose steel, aluminium tariffs next week- video

As America turns its back on even the appearance of free trade, global ideology is ever more topsy-turvy. In Britain, remainers such as myself want Britain be left in the European union, but we are far away from cheerleaders for it. Nothing symbolises the EU’s problematic behaviour better than its own history of protectionism. According to one analysis, of the 7,000 harmful trade measures implemented by countries across the globe since 2009, more than half have come from the EU. If Africa needs a Trump, it’s in no small portion because of the ways in which the liberal, rights-loving EU has bolt it. The common agricultural policy( CAP) severely distorted commodity marketplaces, depressing costs for African maize, sugar and beef and eliminating the competitive advantage many African countries should have had in a free marketplace.

CAP reform, Economic Partnership Agreements( EPAs ), and other initiatives designed to rectify colonial hangovers in the uneven playing field between EU members and African nations will not solve the problem, so long as European producers are subsidised. In this, I find myself uncomfortably in agreement with Brexiteers such as the Conservative MP James Cleverly- whose mom connects him to Sierra Leone, as mine does to Ghana- who describes the use of European taxation subsidies to deepen African agricultural poverty as” morally repugnant “. Not merely should Africa be a breadbasket for the world, instead of- as it has been since 1973- a major importer of food, but agricultural growth has a disproportionate effect on poverty, since so many low-income Africans live in rural areas.

Africans can take matters into their own hands, and they are doing.” It’s not up to Brussels- we know the playing field is not level ,” Lanre Akinola, editor of African Business, told me. Countries such as Brazil show how dramatically a food importer can turn itself into a major exporter through policy, research and investment in the sector.

Yet there’s no denying that since the global fiscal crash G20 nations has systematically increased protectionism, with painful consequences for the same African nations they self-congratulate for sending aid to. According to the African Development Bank, the continent’s nations the brunt of measures including export taxes and tariff and non-tariff obstacles, as well as country aid.

Those who dislike the effects of protectionism on Africa are now advocating African countries do more of it , not less. Ethiopia, with its closed economy, is frequently cited as a role model. In a protectionist world, poor nations looking for growth will inevitably follow suit. Full exposure to the global but unfree market has already been tried and tested, as the disastrous experience of the 1980 s its own programme of structural adjustment resolutely proved. Now African countries are facing unprecedented levels of spiralling national debt.

This all leaves those with liberal instincts in a strange place. On the one hand, free trade is an appealing notion.( I say ” idea” because we have never lived in a world sufficiently free of protectionism to know what it would actually be like .) The worst-case scenario is the current one: the barbarism of the market for poor countries, and the might of protection- tariffs, subsidies and state bailouts- for the rich. A guaranteed unequal playing field, whose casualties we witness time and time again.

The future is guaranteed to be counterintuitive. There is someone in the White House who calls himself a” blue-collar billionaire “, for goodness sake. The man who should be a case study in what not to do is inspiring imitation in the unlikeliest of places.

Many Africans are quite rightly more focused than ever on the benefits of greater regional integration. The proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area– connecting the continent’s three regional trading confederations- is assured by many, including a number of British and American diplomats, as a significant step in the right direction. Britain, leaving Europe, and the US, leaving Nafta, are hardly practising what they preach.

The one ray of light in the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of today’s international relations is that the ruthlessness with which powerful nations protect their self-interest is transparent. An African Trump is not to my taste, but it’s no amaze there is a growing craving for merely that.

* Afua Hirsch writes a fortnightly column for the Guardian

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Exorcists are back and people are getting hurt | Deborah Hyde

The rise of exorcism to Catholic and evangelical churches is like a new Inquisition, says Deborah Hyde, editor of the Skeptic magazine

Exorcism is intrinsic to Christianity. From driving possessed swine into a lake to expelling a spirit from a boy who foamed at the mouth, Jesus was reasonable to be considered a therapeutic exorcist. So it’s hard to tell some churches to get real and rational- although, regrettably, that message is as relevant as ever.

The Vatican has just set up a new exorcism training course, following an alleged increase in demonic possession. According to the Sicilian clergyman and exorcist Benigno Palilla, be talking about Vatican Radio, there are half a million instances reported in Italy yearly, and demand for assistance has tripled. To claim that such a great number of Italians have been inadvertently contaminated by Satan, like some paranormal STD, is a significant aspersion on a nation of 60 million people. Palilla lays the blame on people who visit fortune-tellers and tarot-readers. These practises” open the door to the demon and to possession “.

A quick breeze around the Catholic Herald website certainly confirms that exorcism is a live topic. And in 2014, the Vatican officially recognised the International Association of Exorcists.

So what’s the problem? The first is that people get hurt. Really hurt. Recent UK government statistics suggest that almost 1,500 child-abuse instances a year are linked to the idea of witchcraft and demonic possession. The Metropolitan police’s Project Violet was set up to explore child abuse connected to spiritual belief. I have written about Nigeria’s ” witch children “. And there was the recent horrific lawsuit in Nicaragua of Vilma Trujillo, who died after being burned alive. This all demonstrates that the hazard is neither localised nor irrelevantly ancient.

Second, those diagnosed as “demoniacs” often get spiritual rather than medical attention. The 2015 suit of a GP struck off for taking a mental health patient to church for an exorcism is probably unusual in this country. But it should go without saying that distressed people benefit more from an evidence-based intervention than a belief that the Dark One is tormenting them.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are the traditional nominees for a false diagnosis of demonic infestation. The Catholic church includes psychiatric experts on its exorcism panels for balance and information. But there are other confusing conditions. Mental health charities estimate that between 5% and 28% of the adult population hear voices, and that most are not mentally unwell. Sleep paralysis is another common experience that can alarm the individuals who don’t know about it. In both cases, the subject will probably be absolutely fine on finding out that they are neither at the beginning of a personal disintegration nor the target of demons. Superstition is simply not the most constructive therapy.

But another thing bothers me: the class of specialists produced by exorcism courses and professional bodies. These specialists derive status from the practice of their “skills”, in the manner of Maslow’s hammer: when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. An investment in the intellectual models of demonic possession and exorcism can bring catastrophic momentum.

A quick look at history demonstrates how only one trained yet gullible buffoon can wreak havoc: in the witch-hunts of Labourd, in France, in 1609, Pierre de Lancre brought at the least 70 people to the stake. There are many more career witch-hunters of whom similar stories can be told.

The burning of an Anabaptist by the Inquisition in 1571, in an engraving by Jan Luyken. Photo: UIG via Getty Images

Even more worrying is the creation of a whole organization- in which occurrence the momentum becomes harder to stop. The Inquisition started as a body to root out heresy, but soon became a witch-hunting machine with functional specialists workforce- the Dominican order– topic merely to the pope. It generated human misery on a grand scale before it was stopped from burning witches.

I detect some ambivalence within the church itself about possession and exorcism. It must function as a political body that accommodates a very wide range of views. That doesn’t mean that every rector or bishop agrees with all of them.

The formal Vatican decree that approved the International Association of Exorcists recognised it as an organisation of Catholics , not operating in the name of the church, but having some accountability to the Vatican. This would be one way- in the event you couldn’t make the exorcists go away- of maintaining some kind of discipline over them. I hope I’m right in that interpretation.These days the most egregious cases of abuse associated with exorcism are from evangelical churches. This may be because that kind of religiosity appeals to the most isolated, marginalised, often disadvantaged and inward-looking communities.

So how do we balance freedom of speech and faith against possibilities for harm? I would focus on professional exorcists and their fees. The Customer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations cover clairvoyant services, but not exorcism. Where exorcism is charged for, it should be against the law. You shouldn’t charge for fairy dust, and you shouldn’t charge to expel demons.

This wouldn’t affect Catholic services, but it could be used against independent, evangelical “pastors”.( This is where ” respectable ” religion gets off softly compared with “frivolous” superstition .) To stop the faith proliferating, you have to denature the specialists.

* Deborah Hyde is editor of the Skeptic magazine

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A Fantastic Woman wins best foreign language film at Oscars 2018

The Chilean drama, featuring transgender performer Daniela Vega, predominated at the Academy Awards over Swedish entry The Square and Russian drama Loveless

A Fantastic Woman has won the Oscar for best foreign speech film at the 90 th Academy Awards, edging out Ruben Ostlund’s Swedish irony The Square and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russian fable Loveless. Directed by Sebastian Lelio and written by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, the movie marks the first Chilean entry for the foreign language Oscar since Pablo Larrain’s No, and the first ever Academy award for Lelio, in his follow-up to the acclaimed Gloria.

A Fantastic Woman follows Marina, a transgender woman played by Daniela Vega, who is in a relationship with Orlando, a man 30 years her senior. When Orlando dies of an aneurysm, Marina becomes an object of suspicion for his family, who see and treat her as a rogue, and she must figure out how to work through her heartache while external forces attain things even more difficult. Critics have showered the cinema with kudo, particularly for the performance of Vega, a transgender woman who appeared in only one film before A Fantastic Woman.

The foreign speech category was deemed something of a toss-up before the ceremony, the other strong competitor being The Square, Ruben Ostlund’s satirical drama about an art gallerist. In the Fade, Fatih Akin’s German drama, prevailed at the Golden Globes but was not nominated for an Academy award.

A Fantastic Woman also took home honours on the festival circuit, winning a Silver Bear for best screenplay at the Berlin film festival. At Sunday’s ceremony, Vega became the first openly transgender person to present an awarding at the Oscars.

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Queer Eye isnt just great fashion TV its the best show of the year

When I heard that Netflix had rebooted the gimmicky, stereotyped reality programme, I scoffed. But the new version is hilarious, fabulous and incredibly important

We are living through the golden age of Tv. Why isn’t there any decent coverage of style on it ?
Joanna, by email

I grew up as a devoted fan of CNN’s Style With Elsa Klensch, but after Elsa hung up one of her 10 m Geoffrey Beene coats in 2001 I pretty much gave up on manner Tv. After all, it so often reduces fashion to the two-dimensional visuals, when the real pleasure of style goes much deeper than that- and I’m not talking about Trinny and Susannah insisting that all Britain’s housewives need to cheer themselves up is more colorful V-necks in their cupboards.

Well, colour me incorrect, because- at last- a great way depict has arrived. But this show is about so much more than manner, as any great fashion depict should be. In fact, it is definitely the best TV prove to premiere in so far this year and one of the most important point TV depicts for a long, long time. I speak, of course, of Netflix’s Queer Eye.

” What? A gimmicky reboot of an already gimmicky reality Tv depict? Important? You’ve lost your intellect, Freeman !” I hear the readers weep as one. I, too, scoffed when I heard about Netflix’s revival of the depict- yes, scoffed, I said. After all, I detest reality TV and my feelings about the original Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, which aired from 2003 to 2007 and was predicated on the stereotype that lesbian men are stylish and straight humen are clueless schlubs, could largely be summed up as “meh”. Whatever charm the prove had came altogether from the personalities of the five gays male presenters.

But the new series is flat-out amazing. Only eight episodes long, I devoured it in two sittings. It takes on everything from Black Lives Matter to loneliness. What it is really about, though, is masculinity and the problems it causes- and it seems to me there is no more important topic on our planet right now.

But this is to construct Queer Eye audio highly po faced, when in fact it is hilarious and fabulous. Like the original demonstrate, it features five lesbian humen, AKA the Fab Five, each with his own speciality: interiors designer Bobby, who does the most impressive makeovers on the prove; silver-fox way expert Tan, who, in his Doncaster accent, is convincing American humen one at a time to toss out their combat shorts; the tongue-lollingly gorgeous Karamo, who is there for “culture”, but is essentially the therapist of the present and thus the source of some of its really amazing moments; scene-stealing grooming expert Jonathan, who has an endearing habit of dedicating exposition by asking a series of questions and answering them himself (” Did I realise this was my moment to glisten? 100%. Did I take it? Take a look !”); and” food and wine” guy Antoni, who can’t actually appears to cook. Sure, he will pronounce “tamale” with a lyrical Spanish accent, but the fanciest meal he makes is hot dogs. Now, there is a fine line between making things easy for the cooking-phobic guests who appear on the reveal and not being able to cook yourself, but Antoni looks suspiciously like the latter. Put it this way: he is no Ted Allen.

But what is really amazing about this show is its heart. I can’t remember the last time I exclaimed at a TV display and I have cried at nearly every damn episode of Queer Eye. There was Tom in the first episode, the self-described ugly redneck who wanted to win back his ex spouse, and Cory the cop in episode three, who maintains his late father’s old suits in his closet as a route to remain close to him.

But most of all there was AJ, gay and semi-closeted, who wanted to come out and stop dressing like the deputy director of a sofa store. I have now watched this episode three times and each time I have wept absolute buckets: there is so much emotional truth going on here and not for a second does it feel manipulated. It sums up the excellence of this display: it has political nous, it has heart, it has style and it feels utterly relevant to now. Fashion eventually has the Tv reveal it deserves and 2018 has the Tv it needs.

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Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say

Children need opportunities to develop hand strength and dexterity needed to hold pencils

Children are increasingly discovering it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive employ of technology, senior paediatric doctors have warned.

An overuse of touchscreen telephones and tablets is preventing children’s thumb muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly, they say.

” Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago ,” said Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust.” Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental motion skills.

” To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your thumbs,. Children require lots of opportunity to develop those abilities .”

pencil graphic

Payne said the nature of play had changed.” It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation abilities they need to grip and hold a pencil .”

Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly conferences with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.

His mother, Laura, blames herself:” In retrospect, I see that I dedicated Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the traditionally bred playthings. When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns: he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He merely couldn’t hold it in any other route and so couldn’t learn to write because he couldn’t move the pencil with any accuracy.

” The therapy conferences are helping a lot and I’m really strict now at home with his access to technology ,” she said.” I guess the school catch the problem early enough for no lasting damage to have been done .”

Mellissa Prunty, a paediatric occupational therapist who specialises in handwriting difficulties in children, is concerned that increasing numbers of children may be developing handwriting late because of an overuse of technology.

” One problem is that handwriting is very someone in how it develops in each child ,” said Prunty, the vice-chair of the National Handwriting Association who runs a research clinic at Brunel University London investigating key abilities in childhood, including handwriting.

” Without research, the risk is that we build too many premises about why small children isn’t able to write at the expected age and don’t intervene when there is a technology-related cause ,” she said.

Although the early years curriculum has handwriting targets for every year, different elementary school focus on handwriting in different ways- with some employing tablets alongside pencils, Prunty said. This becomes a problem when same the children also expend large periods of day on tablets outside school.

But Barbie Clarke, a child psychotherapist and founder of the Family Kids and Youth research agency, said even nursery schools were acutely aware of the problem that she said stemmed from excessive utilize to new technologies at home.

” We go into a lot of colleges and have never gone into one, even one which has espoused teaching through technology, which isn’t using pens alongside the tablets and iPads ,” she said.” Even the nurseries we go into which use technology recognise it should not all be about that .”

Karin Bishop, an assistant director at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, also acknowledged fears.” It is undeniable that technology has changed the world where most children are growing up ,” she said.” Whilst there are many positive aspects to the use to new technologies, there is growing proof on potential impacts of more sedentary lifestyles and increasing virtual social interaction, as children spend more time indoors online and less period physically participating in active occupations .”

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Antidepressants work but we need to talk, too | Rhik Samadder

A study proving the effectiveness of drug was no surprise. But the news that talking therapies can be as effective as medications was a striking detail

The results of a comprehensive, six-year study confirmed last week what I’ve known a long time: antidepressants work. I know this because half the people I know are on them- and that’s only the half I know about. Antidepressants saved my life, they tell me, and I believe them. I don’t say:” The only thing you’ve swallowed is propaganda, mate, straight from Big Pharma’s chalky teat .” I would have to be a maniac to do that. And I’m not a lunatic. At least , not in that way.

I’ve been on antidepressants at various points in my life. And I’ve always been one of the 80% who come off them within a month, looking for another way. I quickly tire of the tweaking of drugs and dosages required to find the appropriate prescription. I freak out at the initial side-effects- the flaccidness in my brain, the absence of ideas in my underpants. More than that, I’ve always had been uncomfortable accepting there is something medically incorrect with me.

To some extent, I stand by that. Our social structure perpetuate inequality, our media feeds feelings of inferiority, while our politics is an accelerated zoetrope of horror. I feel unnerved when I satisfy someone who isn’t depressed. What’s wrong with you, I want to ask. Still, while it’s not wrong to feel viscerally offended by many aspects of the modern world, when the strength of those impressions stops you living their own lives, it’s not a solution, either.

What struck me from that study, below the headline, was another of its findings: that talking therapies are equally as effective at treating moderate to severe depression. I’ve surely found that being open about my mental health- not just to professionals, but also people I trust- has been an incalculable force for good in my life. Whether you’re on medication or not, we should all be talking about feelings more. We should talk about them as much as we talk about Brexit or dirty burgers or Blue Planet II. We should talk about them route too much, only to get the habit.

Because, at first, it feels impossible. Sadness can wall you in and seem too vast to communicate. I recollect trying to explain that to person; to talk about my inability to talk. I felt like a robot, taking off his breastplate to reveal the fizzing, severed wires inside and a voided warranty stamp that simply read” All Broken “. But there are good reasons to keep trying.

First, the purposes of the act of being honest with yourself, while altering nothing externally, will change utterly everything. Being a fugitive from your own truth gives you no place to be at ease. Second, being honest with people in your life is a generous act. They will feel closer to you and better able to help. It also gives them a chance to be open with you. All my most important relationships have deepened, in run, relationship and love, after talking candidly about feelings. Even the ones I’m ashamed of. Especially those.

It’s astounding how many people can be down there with you, and you would never know. Since used to describe my depression, strangers of every background have written to me to share their experiences. It can be overwhelming to confront how much unhappiness we’re swimming in. There are no magic bullet, drug included. But for me, the connection that comes from expressing the problem is like a big part of the answer.

Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk and Karamo Brown of Queer Eye. Photo: Roy Rochlin/ Getty Images

Queer Eye’s view of the world is more than scalped deep

I wish there were a Tv channel dedicated to humen opening up emotionally. Clearing their throat while holding a photograph of their parent, losing control of their lower lip five hours into a Bruce Springsteen concert, bellowing at the births of their daughters. All of that stuff. In its absence, I will blithely rewatch the Netflix reboot of the makeover demonstrate Queer Eye.

In the indicate, five gay lifestyle consultants make improvements to the life of a usually straight man. The division of labour between the five is way out of whack, it has to be said. While Tan wades through decades of mountain-man plaid and male defensiveness and Bobby redecorates an entire house, handsome Karamo is in charge of” generally having a swaggy stance “. Food and wine expert Antoni’s main undertaking is to demonstrate the subjects what an avocado is, like Sir Walter Raleigh presenting the potato at court.

But it’s not really about avocado, or copper accents in the kitchen. What the presenters are really good at is emotional diagnosis and support. This series takes place in the US state of Georgia, full of self-described rednecks, and the resulting conversations between differently modelled different forms of masculinity are beautiful to watch.” You can’t selectively numb feeling. If you try to numb vulnerability you will also numb elation ,” is a typical thing that Jonathan, there to dispense pomade, might say.

That manipulative emotional “beat”- that surface improvements are a conduit to self-love- is part of all reality displays. But Queer Eye commits to the truth of it in a way that’s more than cosmetic.

There are challenging dialogues on Black Lives Matter, heterosexual stereotypes of homosexual relationships and why Nascar racing is the most boring sport ever devised; all delivered with compassion, sass and exfoliating tips-off. It’s the blueprint for a better tomorrow for us all.

Curler Alexander Krushelnitsky, an Olympic athlete from Russia. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/ Tass

Pointless in Pyeongchang: chemically-assisted curling

While we’re talking about controversial narcotics, I am confused by the story of Alexander Krushelnitsky, the Russian curler found guilty of doping. The component that mystifies me is which part of curling beg for chemical assistance. Shoving what looks like a cheddar truckle along a gently curved trajectory? Managing the little sweep? The part of it, which is all of it, that is basically shuffleboard on ice? It’s like having a bionic limb installed so you can drink a cup of tea more efficiently. And Krushelnitsky and his wife still finished third in the mixed doubleds, so not that efficiently. Utterly mystifying.

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