Someone, or possibly a cartel of someones, was impersonating influential figures in the publishing industry to get access to unpublished manuscripts. They would pretend to be a heavyweight literary agent, say, or an editor, and would send convincing-looking emails to publishers asking that they send on the soon-to-be released novels of an array of writers, some famous and some not. Sometimes they’d approach the writers themselves. They’d make such underhand moves as changing a letter or two in their email address (e.g. @randornhouse.com instead of @randomhouse.com), using great sneakiness and considerable amounts of time and energy to do – what? To read a book slightly earlier than everyone else did.

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25 January 2022

Party Man

Linsey McGoey

The Metropolitan Police announced this morning that they would after all be ‘investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations’. It was unusual, the Met commissioner said, to investigate ‘retrospectively’, but there was a need to consider whether ‘there was evidence that those involved knew or ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence.’ In other words, ignorance is now, rather conveniently, a possible excuse. If Boris Johnson didn’t ‘know’ he was committing an offence, he could be cleared. Funny how this hasn’t been a valid excuse for others.

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21 January 2022

Two-Tier Citizenship

Sadakat Kadri

Though I was born in Parsons Green, my father grew up in Pakistan, which acknowledges citizenship by descent. That means the home secretary could annul my Britishness, without even telling me, on the strength of a foreign entitlement I wouldn’t know what to do with. Apologists for executive discretion often argue that the innocent needn’t worry, but that complacent assumption misses the point. It isn’t only the notional risk of a despotic home secretary that’s disturbing. It’s the injustice of knowing that most citizens face no risk at all.

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20 January 2022

They didn’t need warrants

Saleem Vaillancourt

Forty years ago the Islamic Republic of Iran admitted that it had executed my great-uncle. He was 65 years old. Mehdi Amin-Amin was survived by his wife, daughter, two grandsons and three siblings, including my grandmother. If I’d known him, I would have called him Mehdai-joon, a contraction of Mehdi and the Persian words dai (‘maternal uncle’) and joon (‘dear’). He was arrested and killed because he was a Baha’i: a member of Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. More than two hundred were executed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Today Baha’is suffer discrimination in every part of their lives.

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18 January 2022

Touchdown, Jackpot

Tom Stevenson

A straight line can be drawn between celebrations of ‘precision’ air weaponry and airstrikes in civilian areas. The inability of US drone operators and targeters to find and identify individuals accurately has led to a strategy based on volume. Drop a lot of bombs, accept that many civilians will die, and occasionally you will kill someone you meant to.

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17 January 2022

Beautiful Handwriting

Arianne Shahvisi

Those who wish to defend statues of dead white men on free speech grounds invariably undermine their case by failing to support that right for living people, especially those with marginal identities who say things they don’t like. Free speech isn’t just about who can speak, or whose statue stands or falls; it’s about who chooses not to speak because the consequences aren’t worth it, and who disappears from history without being heard at all.

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14 January 2022

Perfect Storm

Forrest Hylton

The holiday season hit Brazil like a tsunami: on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, after five years of record drought, two dams burst, as record rains and flooding put at least 116 communities underwater, killed 21 people, displaced at least 50,000, affected more than 417,000, and destroyed infrastructure (and vaccines) throughout southern Bahia; a flu epidemic broke out nationwide at the moment that Omicron arrived. The unseasonal rains led to an increase in mosquitos: though Zika and dengue fever numbers are still down, Chikungunya is way up.

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