The argument that nurses are ‘healthcare heroes’ who deserve a pay rise for going ‘above and beyond’ during the pandemic should be resisted. Decent pay shouldn’t be a prize for supererogatory acts. Nurses have long been underpaid, and their work has always been demanding and essential. Discourses of heroism are a poisoned chalice. ‘Heroism’ describes voluntary acts of undue risk or sacrifice. But nurses’ labour through the pandemic was not voluntary. They worked to pay their bills and put food on the table.
Marc Lopez and his wife have four grandchildren, aged between two and ten, who have been detained with their mother in a camp in north-east Syria for nearly two years. There are around eighty French women and two hundred children detained in camps in Rojava, the Kurdish-controlled region near the Iraqi border. All the women, alleged to have joined Islamic State, are wanted on an international arrest warrant issued by French magistrates. On 21 February, a dozen of them began a hunger strike ‘to protest against the stubborn refusal of the French authorities to organise their repatriation and the repatriation of their children’, according to a statement issued by their solicitors, Marie Dosé and Ludovic Rivière. They say the women ‘are only asking for one thing: to be put on trial for what they have done’.
The common law doctrine of joint enterprise allows for the conviction of ‘secondary parties’ to a crime committed by another, ‘principal’ offender. It can afford the courts a proper degree of subtlety: the getaway driver can be answerable for the bank robbery, not just a parking ticket. It’s a blunter instrument when the collective nature of the offence is less clear. Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University recently published a report into the criminalisation of women convicted under joint enterprise.
Last April, we began to see children admitted to hospital with a new inflammatory disease. Paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome temporally associated with Sars-CoV-2 infection (abbreviated to PIMS-TS in the UK or MISC-C in the US) can occur two to six weeks after an initial Covid-19 infection. Many of the children will have been asymptomatic, or have had very mild symptoms, and Covid swabs usually come back negative when they present with PIMS-TS. Antibody tests might show evidence of a recent Covid infection, but hospitals are not routinely testing for Covid antibodies. The symptoms were initially attributed to other inflammatory conditions. News began to come in from other parts of the world, however, confirming that what we were seeing was a novel illness. Cases have been rising again over the last two months.
According to a study published in Nature last month, oceanic shark numbers have declined by 70 per cent since 1970. Three-quarters of ocean-going shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction. Yet we are still more likely to feel that sharks are a threat to us than the other way round. Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws – both symptom and cause of that feeling – was published 46 years ago, in February 1974. Production of the movie version began that summer, filmed in the village of Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. A few years ago I went for a swim at the beach there. I had never considered myself afraid of sharks. But with every stroke I glanced backwards over my shoulder towards the open water.
Around fifteen years ago, a story emerged about Bartali’s activities during the Nazi occupation of Italy. It was said that the great cyclist had saved dozens, perhaps hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Jewish lives, by cycling the eighty-odd miles between Florence, where he lived, and Assisi, a node in an underground network that helped to protect Jews, with forged documents hidden in his bicycle frame.
Britain’s ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ has been described by ministers as the basis of our defence strategy for nearly seventy years. Tony Blair proclaimed that ‘our independent nuclear deterrent has provided the ultimate assurance of our national security.’ We have used US missiles to carry our nuclear warheads but ministers of both main political parties have insisted that the nuclear weapon itself was British and designed at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston. After all, we first exploded an A-bomb in 1952 and H-bombs in 1957-58 without help from the US or other state. Yet last year a defence minister hinted at the truth for the first time: Britain’s nuclear warheads are of American design.