Windrush compensation scheme: how the UK government is failing its citizens with this ’belittling and horrible’ process

The Windrush scheme was set up in 2018 to provide documentary confirmation of British citizenship and residency rights for the Windrush generation and other commonwealth citizens, and their children. This came in the wake of the growing scandal that had seen the Home Office, as a result of Theresa May’s hostile environment policy, repeatedly refuse existing residency rights to many people whose home had been the UK for decades.

In announcing the scheme, then home secretary Amber Rudd apologised for her government’s appalling treatment of the Windrush generation. People had suffered devastating harm. They had lost jobs and homes, and been deprived of healthcare. Many had been threatened with deportation. Some were deported to countries they had not visited since early childhood.

In the five years since, however, this scandal has only deepened.

The UK government set up the Windrush compensation scheme in 2019, to allow victims of the Windrush scandal to claim compensation for any losses suffered as a result of being denied the right to live in the UK. But even as the wider process has revealed the true impact of historical racist immigration laws, the compensation scheme has been marred by delays and controversies. Crucially, it has largely lost the trust of the people it was set up to serve.

This article is part of our Windrush 75 series, which marks the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain. The stories in this series explore the history and impact of the hundreds of passengers who disembarked to help rebuild after the second world war.

Despite extensive scrutiny and repeated calls for reform – from the all-party law reform and human rights organisation Justice, a home affairs select committee, the independent person appointed in 2021 by the government to assess the Windrush compensation scheme, and campaigners – very little change has occurred. In April 2023, the NGO Human Rights Watch said:

[The scheme] is failing and violating the rights of many to an effective remedy of human rights abuses suffered.

I work in the Windrush Justice Clinic alongside community groups, law centres including Southwark Law Centre, and several universities. We help victims receive the compensation they deserve through legal casework, outreach and policy reform.

My research compares the Windrush compensation scheme with other such schemes in a bid to gauge its effectiveness. The fact that the perpetrator of the harm caused – the Home Office – has primary responsibility for decisions and the rules of this scheme is a fundamental design flaw.

Many of the people applying to the scheme came to the UK as young children.
Tim Ring/Alamy

A humiliating process

In January 2022, Vincent McBean – an ex-serviceman who arrived in the UK from Jamaica with his brother Edwin when he was eight – sought help from the Windrush Justice Clinic. McBean’s children were born in the UK and lived here for a number of years, before he sent them to Ghana for their early schooling. Since 2010, he has been trying, unsuccessfully to bring them back.

Vincent and Edwin McBean in the 2000s.
Vincent McBean, CC BY-NC-ND

Vincent McBean’s British citizenship was only recognised through the Windrush scheme in 2019, and his brother’s was not recognised until July 2022. This long delay saw Edwin denied the care and supported accommodation he has needed subsequent to a lengthy hospital stay after contracting COVID.

The impact on the family has been devastating, and both brothers are seeking compensation. As Vincent puts it:

I have been forcibly separated from my children for many years and watched my brother suffer. Edwin lived in a cramped room completely unsuited to his health needs. There were points he had no carers, so I had to do everything for him, which also impacted my health. When I tried to resolve the situation, I found the system belittling and horrible. If you can imagine, I fought for England – [yet] I was treated like a second-class citizen.

A flawed system

The failure of the Windrush compensation scheme to deliver justice is down both to how it was designed and how it is being delivered. To Vincent’s mind, it is too complicated and bureaucratic, designed to stop people claiming compensation.

The application form is 44 pages long. The exacting standard of proof for claims has been somewhat revised, but applicants are still expected to provide extensive evidence to demonstrate the loss they have suffered – a standard that legal experts have likened to the criminal standard of proof. In April 2023, for example, Human Rights Watch reported that victims were being told letters from local councils demonstrating periods of homelessness were not deemed sufficient.

This is despite the architect of the scheme, Martin Forde, testifying in court that it was only ever meant to be “light touch on requirements for documentation”. Forde said he had expected Home Office staff to trust people:

I did not expect them to ask people in their seventies to do the legwork, and to provide documentation that they would obviously not have.

Protestors on a Windrush Day of Action rally in June 2019.
Janine Wiedel Photolibrary/Alamy

At the same time, the application form does not adequately cover all the suffering that people have experienced. They cannot claim for loss of pensions, savings and property, among other things.

The fraught nature of this initial application process is only compounded by the ineffectiveness and lack of independence of the appeals system. There is no right of appeal to an independent tribunal. Instead, applicants may challenge the amount of compensation awarded or a decision that they are ineligible by seeking a review. This “tier-1” review is undertaken by the Home Office.

If applicants are unhappy with this decision, they can seek a tier-2 review, which the government describes as being carried out by an “independent person”. In reality, it is carried out by HMRC – the UK’s tax authority, another government department. And it can only make recommendations.

In May 2021, the National Audit Office found that more than half of all Windrush compensation cases had been inadequately processed. It highlighted mistakes and inconsistencies in how caseworkers had calculated compensation, stating: “The department’s quality-assurance processes are not identifying all errors.”

As of March 2023, approximately 42% of the more than 2,000 applicants whose Windrush compensation scheme claims had been refused were seeking a review. And despite continuing concerns about the arbitrary nature of the decisions, only 7% of those applying for a final review of their claim had received an increase in compensation.

Insufficient support

The UK government has not made legal aid available for compensation claims, because its Legal Aid Agency believes the legal issues involved in these claims do not relate to relevant human rights. The Southwark Law Centre is currently challenging this position in court.

Instead of providing legal support to victims, the government funds a third-party training provider, We Are Digital. This provider cannot provide legal advice on the substance of the compensation application. However, it nonetheless purports to assist claimants in completing the application form with a maximum of three hours support – assistance that a report by Justice characterised as “of limited value”.

Experienced lawyers, in their evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, have reported spending an average of 45 hours on Windrush compensation claims. Comparable compensation schemes, including those where the application process is significantly less complex, have a system in place for victims to recover their legal costs – but nothing exists for Windrush claimants.

‘The revictimisation is profound.’
Steve Taylor ARPS/Alamy

The compensation scheme thus perpetuates the heavy evidential burden and culture of disbelief that has been emblematic of the hostile environment policy. The re-victimisation is profound. In research carried out in 2022, a Windrush victim said of his dealings with the Home Office in relation to the scheme:

It is almost like they are telling me: ‘We are really, really sorry for punching you in the face – however, we are sure you’ve recovered now, it wasn’t that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face but don’t worry about that one, because you’ve already recovered. Please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.’

Vincent McBean, who is president of the West Indian Association of Service Personnel, says many veterans have come to see him about their situations. He encourages them to make claims but says many won’t have anything to do with it, suggesting:

The government cannot be trusted. They have no integrity and they are making it very hard for people.

The Home Office has acknowledged that distrust in the government is one reason for the low uptake in the scheme. Estimates put the number of people eligible for compensation at between 11,500-15,000. And yet, as of February 2023, only 5,647 applications have been made, of which 2,012 (36%) have been refused and 1,520 (27%) received a payment.

In other words, four years after the compensation scheme was set up, only one in ten of the eligible cohort have received a compensation payment.

“By the time I get anything, I will be dead,” Edwin McBean recently told me. At least 23 people have so far died while waiting for a decision.

The system in place to deliver the Windrush compensation scheme is too slow, lacks independence, and is wholly unsuited to an ageing cohort. One senior civil servant working on the compensation scheme put it plainly in evidence provided to the home affairs select committee in 2021. This scheme, she said, is “systematically racist and unfit for purpose”.

The Home Office has been approached for comment. Läs mer…

Voices of Preston’s Windrush generation – when I first arrived, I said: ’Really? I thought there were no slums in this place!’

From the earliest arrivals of what would become Preston’s “Windrush generation”, the status of the Caribbean diaspora was hotly contested in this post-industrial Lancashire town, as elsewhere. Discrimination and prejudice dogged the daily lives of people from the Caribbean who made their home here.

In 1955, the pages of the Lancashire Evening Post hosted intense debates about whether a “colour bar” existed in the town. And segregation still endured two decades later, when the national Race Relations Board challenged discrimination at Preston Dockers’ Labour Club, where black people were being denied service. Because of its status as a private premises, the club won the case in 1975. New legislation would be required to overturn such discrimination.

Amid this febrile atmosphere, Preston’s growing Caribbean community organised independently, forming social networks through church congregations, sports teams and, latterly, community institutions.

Yet today, many of these inspiring stories of community strength and individual endeavour remain little acknowledged. As Clinton Smith, chair of the Preston Black History Group, put it:

A great deal has been written about Windrush – but much of the information was southern-based and related to large conurbations.

Seeking to address this “big city bias” regarding the Windrush story as it approached the 75th anniversary, members of the group – together with the Institute for Black Atlantic Research at the University of Central Lancashire – interviewed and photographed 11 proud black Prestonians in depth about their experiences as migrants arriving and putting down deep roots in this provincial town.

This article is part of our Windrush 75 series, which marks the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain. The stories in this series explore the history and impact of the hundreds of passengers who disembarked to help rebuild after the second world war.

Their recollections – collected in the ebook England is My Home: Windrush Lives in Lancashire and extracted here – offer a fascinating insight into the fears and hopes, the triumphs and ongoing challenges that Preston’s Caribbean community has experienced over the past 75 years.

At the heart of these memories are vital communal spaces such as the Jalgos club – founded in a house on London Road in 1962 by Jamaicans unified by a love of cricket – and the Caribbean Club, which opened in Kent Street a decade later and proved particularly popular with the Dominican community. In 1974, Preston’s island communities united to stage the town’s first Caribbean Carnival, a tradition that continues today.

Church, carnival and cricket: the three pillars of this vibrant local community – built in Preston by proud members of its Windrush generation.

Sylius Toussaint

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

I remember my paternal grandma had two posters in her house that my cousin had put on the wall. One said: “Belfast, the city without a slum.” Pure government propaganda. And the other was a scene of apprentices working in a factory, and it said: “Britain today is the land of opportunity for youth.” I will never ever forget that. I wish I still had that poster.

My aunt said to me: “Sylius, why don’t you go to England? You could work, study and whatever it is.” So I paid my passage and came – and here I’ve been for the last 60-plus years.

I left Dominica on May 29 and arrived in Barbados the following day. But while we were there, we discovered the boat to England was overbooked. So we were sent on an aircraft from Barbados to Bermuda, Bermuda to Newfoundland, then Newfoundland to Ireland.

My first impression was of cottages and things in rural Ireland, and I said: “This looks poor.” When you are in the Caribbean, you hear of England, you hear of Ireland and Europe, and you think it is affluent and rich. But then when you see this – really? That was the first surprise I had.

And when I finally landed in Preston, with its silly little two-up and two-down houses, I said: “Really? I thought there were no slums in this place! Two-up two-downs, outside toilet in the middle of winter …” And every house was smoking. “What’s this smoke?”

Preston has changed, wow. There were so many slums back then. And I thought winter [in England] was cold but sunny – but when a whole week went by and I never saw the sun, I said: “What have I come to?”

So, why am I happy for coming here? Because I’ve been able to help others. Initially it was my mum and other siblings. I arrived and within almost a year, I sent for [my wife] Bridgette and, before long, her brother and my sister. My sister lives down in London with her children … and some (not all) of them say:

Uncle Sylius, that’s the best thing you’ve done, sent for my mum, because I’m glad I’m here in England and life is so much better than if it was in the Caribbean.

Economically, England is a big boy whereas Dominica is still a child. So most of what I do [to help] is out there. And I say thank God I’ve been able to come here, and that me coming here has been of benefit to so many people.

If you ask me what are the industries in Preston, I don’t know. But the place seems to be getting on quite well. What surprises me is how the university has just expanded. From being an industrial town, we’ve become a university town now.

The two-by-twos have gone, and there aren’t any slums in Preston now. Of course, there are houses that may be neglected, but you watch the news and see the kind of housing that people have to live in in London and so on. We are not bad in Preston.

Joanett Hue

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

When I reached Preston, it was night. I had been driving from London and I saw all these houses and said to myself: “These look like a certain part of the ghetto in Jamaica – the area I don’t go in.” Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. Looking at the houses, I said: “My god, it’s no different.”

At that time, we lived in Avenham [in central Preston], the flats. When I went in there, [my husband] Joe said: “This is where I’m living – this is the kitchen, this is the bathroom.”

I couldn’t believe it. The house I was coming from [in Jamaica] was a seven-bedroom house, five bathrooms. Honestly, when my husband said this is where we would be living … I went into the bathroom and I cried, I cried. I said: “Why did I leave my house to come here?”

When I woke up in the morning, there were hailstones, it was raining. I couldn’t take it anymore. But then I just said to myself: “Well, I have my husband and when you come to Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

Vincent Skerritt

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

When I came to Preston, I was out of work for about three or four weeks, and I lived in Ribbleton Lane with a friend I got to know when I came here. Then I got a job at Leyland Motors.

Black people couldn’t get certain jobs. They couldn’t join the union and often it was much more physical work, like in the foundry, knocking iron and the engine blocks and the rest of it. I worked there for about ten months. It was purely nights, and I couldn’t handle the night work. Sometimes you would get up and wouldn’t know what day it was.

There used to be Teddy Boys here in Preston when I first arrived. Fortunately, I never experienced or got involved with them.

But there used to be a strategy with us. We would come to the Red Lion pub and drink the ale, but we also used to buy a bottle of Guinness and have a newspaper, and wrap it up nicely in it. So you walk in with a bottle knowing that if you’re attacked, you have something to defend yourself.

Some people used to have a little piece of iron metal, wrapped up nicely in a newspaper and you carry it under your arm. Fortunately, I never had to use it.

Glyne Greenidge

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

I got to 17 and had to find work [in Preston]. My mum’s husband wasn’t a very nice man, and my mum suffered all the way. I’m the oldest of seven children, so my stepdad kind of forced me out to work as soon as he could.

It was mainly in the cotton mills – that was the main work going in those days. The money wasn’t good but the work was plentiful. You could walk the streets and see little firms here or there. You could go in and ask them if there were any jobs going.

I worked nights, mainly. And I met one of my best friends, an English lad called Kevin. He’s died now. He became my best friend. We went out to get a drink, and we were similar ages – maybe he was like a year older than me. That’s where I started getting some racist remarks, and it upset me. And my mate Kevin sat me down and said: “Don’t let that worry you. If you let that worry you, you’re going to have a hard life. Ignore it.”

He was my mentor, you could say. Maybe he didn’t realise it. We’d become such good friends that we used to sleep at each other’s houses. He would come to my mum’s house, and we would stay there. We worked nights together and we would have dinner with my mum and whatever. And I would stay sometimes at his mum’s house and sleep. His dad had died so it was just him and his mum.

We built up that relationship, you know? And that was fantastic. Best friend I ever had. They were Irish people, you see. He didn’t look down on anybody. He saw people as people. So he never used any racist remarks. In fact, he would defend me and help me out at times if I felt low and depressed.

Later, I was working with this fellow, he was a fitter. He came from the docks because Aerospace was taking on a lot of people at the time, and a lot came from the docks when they were shedding labour. And me and him got on okay – in fact, we were good friends.

But one day we were having a debate or discussion and this racism came up. I can’t remember now word for word, but I said to Frank: “But you aren’t a racist then, are you?” And he said: “Yes, I am.”

I was a bit taken aback about that. But then again, I never let that spoil our relationship because we were friends, you know.

Gladstone Afflick

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

Preston is home – I’ve lived here since 1960. I left Jamaica on the July 28th and arrived in Preston on the 30th – a Sunday. To be honest, I’ve never, never thought of going anywhere else.

To me, Preston has come a heck of a long way since the sixties. Things have changed that much. As I said to one young guy in our Jalgos club only about a fortnight ago; he was shouting his mouth off and I said to him: “Don’t come in here and try to tell us what to do. You should be thinking how you are going to thank us for making it possible for you to walk and enter buildings in Preston [without fear of violence or abuse].”

There was about five pubs along Friargate, before the ring road. All them pubs along there, no black guys could go in them. One was called the Waterloo – that used to be the National Front headquarters. You could get into a fight seven days a week if you wanted, just by walking into town.

I’ve always done what I can for my community since I arrived in this country. For instance, we have the Jalgos Sports & Social Club – I was the person who dragged 11 fellows together to form a cricket team. And I dragged 11 guys together to found a football team, too.

When we started the football team, you’d be running and [opponents] would say: “Give the ball to the monkey because they don’t know what to do with it.” Those were statements made every Saturday.

But then, when they realised we were beating them, they stopped talking. You get the meaning? We were playing while they were talking, and they started trying to play but they couldn’t beat us. So in the long run … what did I call it? To overcome adversity. Yeah. We overcome it that way, by not arguing.

Jalgos is a community-based organisation – I am the chair of the club now. I say to people over and over, Jalgos is not only nationally known – we are internationally known. People in Jamaica know more about Jalgos than people in Preston.

I tried to unify, if that’s the correct word, the community. I said to them, irrespective of where you are from, first and foremost you are a West Indian. You can’t run away from that. You are a West Indian. Which island you come from is secondary. And if we think that way, I think we will achieve together what is desired by all.

Cherry McDonald

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

Sometimes I wonder, if I didn’t travel to England, what would my life be in Jamaica? Strangely, I always refer to Jamaica as home. I mean, I’ve been living here all these years but Jamaica is home. I don’t want to be disrespectful, but Jamaica is home.

I’ve got a good life here, though. Whatever I’ve achieved in life, I’ve achieved here in Britain. And I enjoy my life – me and my television. And if there’s something happening at Jalgos and they need my assistance, I come and help.

I’m ticking along nicely. I go for long walks, tend to the pots, go to church on Sunday in Longton, and read my bible at home.

However, I think Jalgos started going down when they banned smoking indoors. If I was a smoker, I would not be going outside to smoke a cigarette – in winter, anyway. The younger ones want to smoke there, and they don’t want anybody saying: “You can’t do that in here.”

It’s a shame really with this club, because we’ve had many, many happy occasions downstairs, before upstairs was made. Down here we used to have a jolly, jolly good time. My parents used to visit here and we’d have a wonderful time. My first daughter was married down here.

It is a shame when I look at this building now. The younger ones are not following in our footsteps. So that’s the beginning and the end of it.

Bridgette Toussaint

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

I didn’t want to go anywhere else but Preston. But sometimes, you have to know how to speak to the people here. When I speak nicely to them, they understand that this is a lady, she will respect me.

For example, in one job I did, a woman said to me: “Bridgette, I don’t understand, why did you leave your nice place and come here? Why do you have to come to steal our jobs?”

I said: “Steal your jobs? Because you’re lazy, that’s why they send for we black people to come to help to work. Because you’re lazy!”

Then she said: “Why don’t you go and dance with the monkeys in the zoo?”

And I said: “What? Where I come from, we’ve got cows, horses, donkeys, dogs – and snakes which are bad. So don’t you speak to me like that. If you are a white monkey, then go. There’s white monkeys – you can jump with them.”

Oh boy. Everybody said: “How dare she speak to you like that?” They were all for me and everybody was laughing at her, because she find herself to be stupid. I got up and said: “You can give but you cannot take, can you?”

But then she became my friend. That’s it. All you have to do is just calm down. She ended up being my best friend! Giving me a lot of things. I don’t really need it, but she was nice after.

Preston is not bad now. Not too good, but not bad. Where we are, we are happy. I would not go and retire to Dominica. I’ve got no reason.

David Coke

Tony Maiden/Preston Black History Group, Author provided (no reuse)

I’ve been back to Jamaica 11 times, and I’ve never had a bad experience. But I won’t go back to live there, because I have become so acquainted with the lifestyle I have in England.

I came here at 12 years of age, and got married at 22. But even before I married, I’d always said to my wife that I wouldn’t go back to Jamaica. And I said to my daddy more than once, and I said it to mum too – I thank God they had the vision to take us from Jamaica to here.

I’ve had an excellent experience in Preston. Anywhere I go in the world, I’m always wanting to come back to Preston.

I like the discipline in this country. I like its organisation. And I’ve heard my father say the same thing as well: there’s no better country than England. Yes, America may be more modern and faster, and you can progress in life there much quicker than you can in England. It’s true: I’ve been there and I’ve seen the accomplishment over a short period of time.

But I like the discipline here. I love the organisation. I know if I’ve got an appointment at eight o’clock, it’s eight o’clock – not ten minutes past eight as it is in Jamaica. It’s not perfect here and there’s a lot of terrible things happening in government. But as bad as it is, it’s better than where I come from.

Yes the sunshine in Jamaica is lovely, the food is lovely, you can get up in the night and walk naked in your house and you’re not shivering. It’s comfortable – in fact, too hot. I love that when I go back there.

But for me, Britain, England, is my home. I have enjoyed the 60-odd years that I have been here very much. I have no complaints at all. I’ve been to Australia, I’ve been to Africa, to Canada, and to the United States. No, it’s always back to England and back to Preston for me. Läs mer…

The Windrush generation: how a resilient Caribbean community made a lasting contribution to British society

As a young boy in 1962, I remember arriving in England from Jamaica on a BOAC jet plane. It seemed to me like I was going to the moon – the air hostess who accompanied me was the first white person I had ever seen. My father greeted me eagerly at London’s Paddington station, amid the swirling smoke of steam trains. It had been two years since we last met, but I recognised him immediately.

Fourteen years earlier, the arrival of the Empire Windrush at London’s Tilbury docks in 1948 was a pivotal moment in British history, marking the beginning of a significant wave of migration from the Caribbean. This became known as the Windrush generation, and signified a new chapter in the history of the United Kingdom. Since then it has assumed a symbolic status, commemorated annually on Windrush Day, observed on 22 June.

This article is part of our Windrush 75 series, which marks the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain. The stories in this series explore the history and impact of the hundreds of passengers who disembarked to help rebuild after the second world war.

The author in 1962.
Les Johnson, Author provided

This turning point reformed Anglo-Caribbean identities as the Windrush generation settled in Britain, leaving their mark on history, society and culture. The arrivals serve as a poignant reminder of the dynamic and fluid nature of migration, identity and societal transformation. But how did this momentous event come about, and what were the factors that led to the settlement of these British citizens?

The author’s first British passport.
Les Johnson, Author provided

These questions are important because Windrush history is not included in the UK school curriculum, resulting in an incomplete view of Britain’s history of cultural diversity. Race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, has described the Windrush story as “an integral part of British history”.

While there are now numerous celebratory events and commemorations on or around Windrush Day, once the festivities end, there is little permanence. There are no major collections or permanent Windrush exhibitions. There has been no museum dedicated to its history with the significance of other major British museums. And there is no major institution for children to view the legacies of the Windrush generation and their impact on Britain. These are just some of the reasons I recently founded the National Windrush Museum.

Coming to Britain

The British invitation to Caribbeans to come to Britain after the second world war can be traced back to the British Nationality Act of 1948. This conferred British citizenship and the right to settle in the UK on all people from the British colonies to help rebuild the country.

The Windrush generation refers to the people who migrated from Caribbean countries to the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971. However, Caribbean immigration did not cease after this period, and migrants have settled ever since, influencing Britain’s demographic composition.

Major urban centres like London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Preston became focal points for these communities, where they established vibrant neighbourhoods and thriving cultural institutions, contributing to the overall diversity and multicultural fabric of these cities.

Despite the open invitation, the reception the Windrush pioneers received was often hostile. Caribbean migrants were (and still are) subjected to poor housing conditions, with accommodation in hostels often overcrowded and lacking basic amenities. In 1948, an underground shelter in Clapham South tube station was used as temporary housing for people from the Caribbean.

The types of employment available to the Windrush generation were often limited to low-paying jobs such as cleaning, factory work and driving. Created the same year in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) has been an important source of employment for members of the Windrush community since its inception.

Many Caribbean migrants found work in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, playing a crucial role
in the development and functioning of the NHS. They contributed their skills, dedication and expertise, helping to shape and improve healthcare provision in the UK.

Some devised ingenious self-help micro-financing schemes such as the “partners” initiative, where small groups banded together and shared from the combined pot of money weekly. This is how many of the Windrush generation afforded air fares to send for their families – and how my parents were able to send for me.

The institutional racism and poor conditions endured by the Windrush generation led to people starting their own businesses: barbers and hairdressers, fashion and design, restaurants and cook shops, a variety of trades, market stalls, independent black churches and dancehall music. These businesses were important not just in generating a living, but also in developing flourishing communities and creating black British culture.

In addition to their contribution to the workforce, the Windrush generation and their descendants have made a significant social and cultural impact on British society. They brought with them their Caribbean culture, art, sports, traditions, and customs, enriching the cultural landscape of the United Kingdom. From food and music to fashion, literature, language, and even cricket, Caribbean influences became ingrained in British popular culture, fostering a sense of diversity and multiculturalism.

The Windrush pioneers

Sam King MBE.

Sam King MBE was one of the notable figures of the Windrush generation who played a significant role in the establishment of the annual Windrush Day on 22 June. Born in Jamaica in 1926, he served in the British Army during the second world war before coming to Britain in 1948. King went on to become the first black mayor of Southwark in London, and was involved in a number of community projects and organisations.

Diane Abbott was the first black woman elected to the British parliament in 1987.
Isabel Infantes/Alamy

Other important Windrush figures include Claudia Jones, a political and pioneering journalist; Stuart Hall, a cultural theorist and political activist; Bill Morris, a trade union leader who became the first black general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union; Diane Abbott, who became the first black woman to be elected to the British parliament; and Bernie Grant, who also served as a MP and was a prominent campaigner for racial equality and social justice.

Cultural theorist Stuart Hall.
Open University/Flickr, CC BY

Hall was a Jamaican-born British cultural theorist who played a significant role in shaping our understanding of race, identity and culture. Hall argued that identity is not fixed, but rather is constructed through social and cultural practices. He also emphasised the role of power and control in shaping culture.

In the context of the Windrush generation, Hall’s theories are particularly relevant, as they help us to understand the ways in which Caribbean migrants and in particular the Windrush generation identities were constructed and represented in British culture.

The Windrush scandal

One of the most shameful episodes in this history is the Windrush scandal, which saw people who had lived in the UK for decades – including some who had friends who arrived on the Windrush – being wrongly deported or denied access to public services like the NHS.

This British government scandal came to light in 2017, when British citizens of Caribbean descent who had migrated to the UK between 1948 and 1971 were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants. They then faced deportation, detention and some even lost their homes and livelihoods. This gross injustice has affected many lives, highlighting the systemic racism that exists in Britain. Its impact is still being felt today.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been instrumental in bringing attention to these issues, and its importance in highlighting the systemic racism in Britain cannot be overstated. The toppling of statues of figures linked to the slave trade and colonialism, such as Edward Colston in Bristol and Robert Milligan in London, sparked a wider conversation about decolonisation at all levels of society and the need to confront Britain’s colonial past.

The National Windrush Museum

According to the Museums Association there are about 2,500 museums in Britain. Yet there is no black culture museum or established school curriculum that focuses on the heritage of the Windrush generation. In 2021 I founded the National Windrush Museum which I chair. The museum plays an important role in collecting, researching, documenting and exhibiting artefacts and stories about the Windrush generation and those who came before and after them.

The museum provides a vital link to the past and a gateway to the future, enabling us to understand and appreciate the contributions of the Windrush generation to Britain. It will also serve as a valuable resource for schools and universities, providing an opportunity for collaboration in the development of curricula, research and study centres and libraries around the world.

Many stories and hidden narratives of the Windrush generation need to be unearthed, told and preserved. As part of the second wave of Windrush settlers and as an academic researcher who innovated the concept of cultural visualisation, this is important work. Cultural visualisation involves the visual research, portrayal and analysis of various aspects of culture, including music, film, fashion, visual arts, dance, literature and more.

My work looks at “doing culture differently” and I wanted this new venture to adopt the idea of “doing museums differently”. The National Windrush Museum provides a life laboratory in which to explore and develop this concept, which I hope will have a significant cultural impact on the heritage sector.

The 75th anniversary of the Windrush generation is a poignant opportunity to shed light on a momentous event in British history so often neglected in our schools. This milestone marks a transformative chapter that reshaped Britain’s fabric and ushered in a vibrant new culture.

The founding of the National Windrush Museum stands as a vital, moving and significant historical moment. By documenting, exhibiting and explaining the enduring legacies of the Windrush generation, the museum becomes a powerful testament to their contributions. Its ethos fills a crucial gap in our understanding of Britain’s history, ensuring that these stories are preserved and celebrated as integral parts of our national narrative. Läs mer…

Florida ’freakishness’: why the sunshine state might have lost its appeal

Florida is known worldwide for its beaches, resorts and theme parks, but has recently made headlines for a different reason. The state has been rocked by political controversies, bitter debates and fatal shootings at odds with its previously laid back holiday destination image.

In his 1947 book, Inside USA, writer John Gunther described Florida’s “freakishness in everything from architecture to social behaviour unmatched in any American state”. If Gunther had been writing today, he might be just as judgemental.

Florida’s recent political turmoil can be attributed to some highly contentious policies. The state has witnessed heated debates and legislative battles on issues including abortion, gun control, education, LGBTQ+ rights and voting rights.

Florida has been derided as “the worst state” in which to live, one of the worst in which to be unemployed or a student, and not a good place to die.

Even Donald Trump, who moved to his Florida Mar-a-Lago home during his presidency, has called it “among the worst states” to live in or retire to. This was an attack on Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination.

What was once considered by many to be a purple state – one that could either be Republican or Democrat – is now fiercely Republican. In recent years, the divide between those of different political beliefs has become toxic.

Importance of international image

International tourism and trade is huge business for Florida. In 2022, more than 1.1 million people visited Florida from the UK, the second largest group of international visitors on an annual basis. The UK is also Florida’s eighth largest trade partner with bilateral trade reaching $5.8 billion (£4.6 billion) in 2022. So state leaders might worry about tarnishing its image abroad.

Business leaders are already fretting about a fall in international visitor numbers linked to COVID and negative media coverage of the state. Around US$50 million was invested in marketing the state to tourists in 2023, this is expected to rise dramatically in 2024. The state’s ability to attract workers to keep its tourism and other industries going is weakening, reports suggest.

Heather DiGiacomo, chief of staff at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, told Florida senators that applications for jobs at state-run agencies were down and staff retention was down too. “These turnover rates … impacts the number of well-trained staff available to mentor new staff and puts additional strain on current staff without longer shifts in detention.”

Audriana Lima, 14, a current freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, visits a display of portraits of the 17 students and staff who were killed in a school shooting five years earlier.

Republican governor Ron DeSantis, now a presidential candidate, has been at the centre of Florida’s significant political divisions. The Republican state legislature’s controversial partisan bills, such as the recent redrawing of the electoral map to benefit the Republican party, was signed into law despite intense opposition.

While his conservative policies on taxes, regulation and immigration have won strong support from conservatives, critics argue that he prioritises partisan politics over the needs of all Floridians. His outspoken handling of the COVID pandemic sparked controversy, with accusations of downplaying the severity of the virus and prioritising economic interests.

Florida’s restrictive abortion laws have also attracted national and international attention. In April 2023, the state passed the foetal heartbeat bill, which prohibits abortions once a foetal heartbeat is detected, typically at around six weeks gestation. This law has faced significant backlash from reproductive rights advocates, who argue that many individuals may not even be aware of their pregnancy at such an early stage.

School shootings and gun laws

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act was passed into Florida state law after the Parkland school shooting in 2018, in which 17 people were killed. It was controversial because it did not place restrictions on gun ownership or introduce background checks before gun purchases, but allowed schools to employ armed “guardians”. Critics argued that it fell short of addressing the root causes of gun violence in Florida.

There were seven mass shootings in Florida in the first two months of 2023. Despite this, the state has just passed a law that will come into effect on July 1 that will allow anyone who can legally own a gun in Florida to carry one without the need for a permit.

Florida’s partisan divide has been exacerbated by the introduction and passage of several laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. These laws cover areas including adoption, education, and transgender rights.

This year a massive LGBTQ event in a Florida theme park, which typically attracts 150,000 people, is taking out extra security measures, after new “don’t say gay” state laws were introduced in 2022. These rules ban teachers from discussing topics including sexual orientation. More generally, travel advisory warnings have been issued on the risks of travel to the state for LGBTQ+, African American and Latino people. A recent federal ruling overturned municipal bans on conversion therapy.

Although the “don’t say gay” bill was originally only aimed at third grade students and under, the bill has since been extended by Florida’s Board of Education to apply to all school pupils.

DeSantis has also become embroiled in a long legal and political battle with the Walt Disney Company, a major state employer, over the “don’t say gay” legislation. Disney recently announced it was cancelling a US$1 billion office complex project in the state.

Bills that restrict transgender students’ participation in school sports teams consistent with their gender identity have also sparked heated debate.

Meanwhile, changes in voting laws brought in by the state, including stricter identification requirements and limitations on the drop boxes where voters can leave mail-in ballots, have been criticised for making it more difficult for some people to vote.

Florida’s recent political turmoil has thrust the state into the national, and global, spotlight. Its deeply partisan divide, controversial policies and gun laws have created a toxic political climate, which has the ability to significantly damage the sunshine state’s appeal. Läs mer…

Postnatal depression: what new fathers need to know – and how to ask for help

Many people think of postnatal depression as a condition that only affects women. But in reality, postnatal depression affects almost as many men as women – with some research estimating it occurs in up to 10% of fathers.

Yet despite how common postnatal depression may be in men, there still isn’t very much information out there about it. This can make it hard to know if you may have postnatal depression – and how to get help if you do.

Here’s what you need to know.

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

‘He is always there to listen’: friendships between young men are more than just beers and banter

Body image issues affect close to 40% of men – but many don’t get the support they need

Anxiety can lead to erection problems in young men – but reaching for Viagra isn’t always the solution

Why it happens

There are many reasons why postnatal depression happens. And, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just due to hormones. Even in women, hormones only play a small role in postnatal depression.

Instead, postnatal depression is typically due to a combination of risk factors – such as a previous history of depression, sleep problems after the baby is born, lack of social support or financial challenges. Postnatal depression can also happen at any age.

The symptoms of postnatal depression are quite similar to symptoms of depression. As such, symptoms of postnatal depression may include low mood, lack of motivation, poor sleep, feeling guilty or worthless, poor concentration, changes in appetite or weight, fatigue and thoughts of death or suicide.

The main difference between depression and postnatal depression is that these feelings tend to happen in the postnatal period (typically the first year or so after the baby is born).

It can be normal to struggle with your mental health somewhat after your baby is born. After all, it can be an overwhelming and emotional time, with nearly every aspect of your life changing – from your daily routine, your relationship with your partner, to the amount of sleep you get every night.

Consider speaking with your GP if symptoms have lasted more than a few weeks.
fizkes/ Shutterstock

But if you’ve been experiencing low mood and lack of motivation for more than a few weeks, and are finding these feelings are making it difficult to engage with your infant, you may want to consider speaking with your GP or a mental health professional. It’s also worth noting that postnatal depression can happen at any time in the first year or two after the baby is born – not just in the early months.

Getting help

Postnatal depression is not likely to go away on its own. If you suspect you may be struggling with postnatal depression, it’s important to seek support – not only for your wellbeing, but because postnatal depression can also affect your bond with your baby.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with needing help, and seeking support – either from loved ones, friends or a doctor – is nothing to be embarrassed by.It does not make you weak, nor does experiencing postnatal depression make you a “failure”.

While it can be difficult to know how to take the first step in getting support, a good starting point is simply acknowledging that this is a difficult thing to talk about. As simple as this sounds, it may just help you feel less awkward about sharing your experiences when you do speak to someone. It’s also worth remembering that when you do speak to someone, it’s important to say how you really feel – not what you feel you should say.

It’s also normal if you feel angry about feeling the way you do. Many young men who struggle with their mental health feel angry that they feel this way, or worry that they’ve let their loved ones down or that the system will not listen to them. To deal with that anger, be patient. Try to let the anger go – it may help you feel more at ease opening up about your other emotions.

You may also find it easier to talk about your experiences in certain settings. For example, while some people may find it easier to speak with their GP or in online chat groups, you may find it more comfortable to speak up in a less formal setting – such as while watching sports with friends. You can begin this conversation with something as simple as asking how others are doing, before sharing your own feelings and experiences. Or, if your friends are also parents themselves, you might ask if any of them experienced similar feelings during the postnatal period.

If you’re finding it hard to speak to loved ones, you could also consider using a mental health app. Some people find it easier to use an app to ask questions, find solutions and discuss how they’re feeling. Apps such as DadPad have a number of resources that can help you navigate fatherhood.

Postnatal depression in fathers is real and it does matter. Fortunately, compared to just a few years ago, there’s more awareness and help available than ever before. Läs mer…

Price caps on groceries are not the answer to the UK’s inflation problem

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is proposing a form of price caps on basic food items like milk and bread to slow their price increases. This is likely to set maximum prices which sellers are not allowed to exceed, though it appears it would be voluntary.

Price caps are loved by the public: 71% of UK voters supported them in a 2022 poll. But they are equally hated by economists: 75% oppose price caps even in emergency situations, according to another 2022 poll. Why is there such a divide? What are the downsides of price caps?

The UK government is reportedly considering a plan akin to what France did in the spring, where supermarkets were invited to voluntarily freeze or cut prices on selected items to the lowest level possible.

A concern is that voluntary price caps won’t do much. And the danger with introducing price caps below current levels is that some suppliers are likely to drop out of the market and stop supplying. That’s because the capped prices no longer cover their costs. Thus, food price caps could lead to empty supermarket shelves.

There are multiple examples from other countries where price caps have led to shortages:

Zimbabwe ordered price caps on basic goods such as groceries to fight hyperinflation in 2007. The resulting empty supermarket shelves forced shoppers to get in line at 5am to get the bare necessities before stocks ran out.
Hungary capped the price of petrol in 2020. As international oil prices surged after the Ukraine invasion, suppliers could no longer cover their costs. Imports to Hungary dried up, leading to a petrol shortage. Hungary was forced to abandon the price caps to restore supply.
After Berlin capped rents on properties in 2020, the number of flats on the rental market decreased dramatically. San Francisco had a similar experience in the early 1990s.


So what else could be done to bring food prices down? Representatives of the UK supermarkets argue that instead of capping prices, the government should reduce bureaucratic requirements for the industry such as border checks. But can less paperwork really reduce prices?

A London School of Economics study estimates that tougher Brexit border controls since January 2021 increased food prices by 6%. This number does not account for the entire food price increase of 19% within the last year.

Nonetheless, this part of the price increases is a choice. With or without Brexit, the UK could have avoided this problem by having a more liberal border policy, but it didn’t. The EU has erected similar trade barriers against the UK, but the UK is being hit harder because it relies on the EU more for imports than the other way around. This partly explains why UK inflation is the highest among G7 countries.

Consumer price inflation across the G7


EU import border controls are also scheduled to get even tougher by the end of 2023. If an Italian supplier exports Parma ham to a German supermarket, there are no forms to fill at the border. If the Italian supplier exports that same ham to a British supermarket, they will have to pay a veterinary doctor to fill out forms declaring the meat to be safe, get those forms checked at the border, pay inspection charges and so on.

More EU suppliers are then likely to stop UK deliveries, or increase prices to offset the additional compliance costs. UK food prices would then rise further, which the government could avoid by loosening its own border checks.

Increased border checks have previously caused delays at Calais and Dover.
PA Images/Alamy

Of course, red tape extends beyond border checks and imports. By reducing other regulations such as the ever increasing financial reporting requirements imposed on UK companies, the government could help reduce prices at least a bit. Every additional lawyer, accountant or administrator adds to food prices – without putting more items on supermarket shelves.

What would a doctor do?

An unconscious patient comes into A&E with a high temperature. “Ah,” says the novice doctor who is holding the fort, “we need to bring the temperature down”. He orders an ice bath. An hour later, the patient is dead. Focusing on the symptom, the underlying cause (perhaps an infection?) was left untreated.

The analogy of temperature and prices is crude but apt. Like a good doctor, economists distinguish symptoms from causes. Border controls are one cause of high food prices; others include higher energy costs and too few workers for the food industry.

It would therefore help if the government let fruit pickers in from abroad and encouraged inactive British workers back into the workplace. It could also speed up planning procedures for wind and solar energy generation to bring electricity prices for greenhouses down, albeit the benefits would take a while to feed through.

Together with loosening border checks for imports, this would be a more effective response than price caps. Merely focusing on the symptoms is not the way to get the patient on the road to recovery. Läs mer…

Car thieves are using increasingly sophisticated methods, and most new vehicles are vulnerable

Car theft is on the rise, according to AA Insurance Services. Worryingly, thieves are increasingly using high-tech tools to target weaknesses in the same sensors and computerised systems that were designed to help make our journeys safer and more comfortable.

In fact, as the market research company Technavio, noted in 2017, the significant growth of the automotive electronics sector was driven specifically by the need for added driver convenience and concerns about car theft. So, it’s a sobering thought that these same sensors, computers and data aggregation systems are what criminals now use to steal cars.

The convenience offered by the keyless entry system (KES), is one such example. KES enables drivers to passively lock, unlock, start and stop the engine by simply carrying the key fob along with its integrated signal transmitter. The basic function of the system is for the car to detect the signal from the fob.

If the signal is strong enough, generally when the fob is within one metre of the car, it will unlock and allow the engine to start, usually using a push-button system. Attacks on the KES typically use a method of amplifying and relaying the signal from the fob to the car. This “tricks” the car’s system into thinking that the fob is within one metre, and the system disarms.

Owners can attempt to prevent relay attacks of this type by storing their fobs in “Faraday pouches” when not in use. These pouches have conductive fibres in their lining that disrupt radio signals and are not very expensive.

Control modules

It’s also worth noting that the computers in our cars’ multiple Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) manage everything from the engine, transmission and powertrain – all the components that push the car forward – to the brakes and suspension. All of these ECMs are programmed with large volumes of computer code, which, unfortunately, can contain vulnerabilities.

In order to try and mitigate against such vulnerabilities, international safety standards like the SAE J3061 and ISO/SAE 21434 aim to guide manufacturers with regard to secure code development and testing. Regrettably, with such a large number of interconnected and complex systems, as well as the production deadlines and shareholders’ expectations that car companies have to deal with, vulnerabilities could still escape detection.

Some thieves have targeted the keyless entry system, but there are now more sophisticated ways to steal cars.
jirastudio / Shutterstock

Car thieves have still managed to gain access to cars’ electronic control units (ECUs), and even the on-board diagnostics ports, in order to bypass security. These ports are small computer interfaces located on most cars that provide technicians with quick access to a car’s diagnostic system.

This makes servicing faster, as the technician can simply plug into this standardised socket that allows access to all the car’s sensor data in one location. This, in turn, makes fault detection easier as any fault codes can be easily identified and other performance issues detected before they become serious. It also proves an attractive target for car thieves.

Deceptive damage

Recent reports have shown how car thieves can access ECUs. And even experts aren’t immune. Ian Tabor, cyber security consultant for the engineering services company EDAG Group, recently experienced what at first appeared to be an instance of pointless vandalism to his Toyota RAV4. However, when the car disappeared, it became clear that the damage had actually been part of a sophisticated car theft operation.

In this instance, car thieves removed the front bumper of Tabor’s car to access the headlight assembly. This was done to access the ECU, which controls the lights. This in turn allowed access to the widely used Controller Area Network (CAN bus). The CAN bus is the main interface designed to allow ECUs to communicate with each other.

In Tabor’s case, accessing the CAN bus allowed the thieves to inject their own messages into the car’s electronics systems. These fake messages were targeted towards the car’s security systems and crafted to make it appear as if a valid key was present.

The result was that the car doors unlocked and allowed the engine to be started and the car to be driven away – all without the key fob. Unlike the relay attack mentioned earlier, this new kind of attack cannot be thwarted by using an inexpensive Faraday pouch because the fob is not needed at all. The signal that the fob would have sent is now generated by the thieves.

To further add to the problem, Tabor’s investigations revealed that the equipment used by the thieves only cost about US$10 (£8). Worse still, the components used can be bought pre-assembled and programmed, so that all a would-be thief needs to do is simply plug into a car’s wiring.

These recent reports showed that the devices were disguised as an old Nokia 3310 phone and a JBL-branded Bluetooth speaker. This means that, at first glance, even if a car thief is stopped and searched, no obvious or conspicuous devices would be found.

As experts have noted, a permanent fix against this type of attack requires car makers or industry bodies to become involved. This would take time. In the meantime, cars vulnerable to this type of attack have no defence. And most new cars are vulnerable. Läs mer…

’Clubbing a bunny to death is very effective but it sure does look bad’: the inside stories of urban animal control

In July 2022, a walrus, affectionately nicknamed Freya, was culled near Norway’s capital city in the Oslo fjord – crowds of people approaching her meant there was a potential risk to human safety. The loss of this charismatic and seemingly peaceful animal sparked a global outcry. Last month, an online campaign funded the erection of a statue in Oslo in Freya’s honour.

But while some wild animal culls go viral, a great many more urban wildlife deaths go unnoticed and unchallenged. Rat carcasses, for example, are disposed of discreetly and urban residents even push for increased culling of deer that feed on their tulip beds or spread ticks.

To understand what determines the diverse reactions to animal culls, I interviewed and observed municipal cullers in Sweden. These cullers do the dirty work of disposing of wild animals that pose a threat to biosecurity, public safety and human infrastructure.

It seems that while the species of animal predictably mattered, factors such as the location, timing, methods used, people involved and the reasons for the cull also influenced whether cullers encountered public opposition. Any misjudgement made in the culling process could have repercussions in terms of social acceptance, further complicating future culls. This is especially relevant in today’s world as people frequently use their mobile phones to record and share what they see.

Freya the walrus sitting on a boat in Frognerkilen in Oslo, Norway.
Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo

What and where to cull?

Humans value some species over others (a concept called speciesism) and will defend them despite their damages being comparable. Rats and rabbits both chew wires and transmit diseases and parasites, but the cullers we interviewed mentioned that “people have a whole different outlook” on these two species.

They also stated that “the cuter the critters, the bigger the villains we are, and vice versa”. In one instance, cullers were rewarded with cake after removing wild boar from an area where they were recently introduced. The boars were deemed “big and ugly and in the way, scaring children”. By contrast, when called in to kill large carnivores like wolves that had sustained injuries in traffic accidents, cullers had to mask their identities and often relied on police escorts.

The grey wolf.
GTS Productions/Shutterstock

People’s treatment of individual animals from the same species can vary. If large birds are perceived as causing disturbances to both people and recreational activities, they are often culled without much consideration. In 2018, for example, a male swan living on a canal in the Swedish city of Malmö was shot dead by professional hunters after showing signs of aggression towards passers-by. But, as the swan was seen as a prominent feature of the city, the culler received death threats.

There are certain locations for which the killing of wild animals is deemed unacceptable by onlookers. The cullers we interviewed were expected to carry out their activities discreetly as they often faced criticism when culling animals in crowded areas.

Some cullers, for example, had experience killing rabbits and deer in kindergartens. One culler recalled having “to ask the kids to go inside” as it caused children distress to see animals being killed and regularly led to confrontation with teachers.

The killing of wild animals is deemed unacceptable in certain locations.
Rachel Blaser/Shutterstock

When, how and who?

In line with operating discreetly, cullers noted having to become as crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) as the animals they hunted. One culler noted receiving “a lot less yelling at me and fewer questions when you’re out at night and early mornings”.

Animal culling can also be unpalatable to the eye. Certain culls – particularly those involving brute force or the deaths of other animals – violate public standards.

One culler explained that “clubbing a bunny to death is very effective and it dies right away, but it sure does look bad”. By contrast, those who had carried out culls using a shot with a silencer from a vehicle had encountered much less criticism.

Having the wrong people carry out animal culls risks upsetting bystanders. During our interviews, cullers emphasised the importance of being locally recognised, with good people management skills to defuse conflicts. One said: “The last thing you want is some macho hunter to come in and finish the job, with no people skills.”

What’s the reason?

Some animals are simply unwelcome in cities. The mere presence of wild boars in urban areas of Sweden still triggers culls, regardless of what they are doing.

However, certain animals were deemed cullable only under specific circumstances. If an animal was perceived as being behaviourally or geographically out of line, such as a moose terrorising shoppers outside a shopping centre, then the public generally supported its removal.

People deemed certain animals such as moose (pictured) as cullable only under specific circumstances.
Birgit Ryningen/Shutterstock

But in another example, cullers recounted having to involve the police to remove a girl who was protecting a moose that had been hit by a car.

So the public can be contradictory in its defence of animals. But cullers also exhibited similar idiosyncrasies themselves. One culler, who was routinely called out to cull birds in his city “drew the line” at culling a nightingale that kept a resident up at night.

In some parts of the world, animal rights organisations call for lethal removals of problematic wildlife to be replaced by rescues or relocations. But the future is somewhat unpredictable. As cities continue to encroach on animals’ habitats, human interaction with wild animals will become increasingly common.

What’s clear, though, is that the situation calls for the development of a wildlife etiquette within the general public. This involves understanding how to behave in a manner that prevents the emergence of problematic wild animals in the first place. These animals are often faultless and have been conditioned to lose their shyness. Läs mer…

The Wes Anderson recipe – a detailed guide on how to recreate the director’s aesthetic

Wes Anderson’s films can often be boiled down to a single striking image. This approach began for Anderson the moment he had Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) step off the Green Line bus in his third film The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

This visual-led approach to cinema has spawned many fans who seek out the Anderson look everywhere in life.

The Instagram page Accidentally Wes Anderson, which was founded in 2017, became incredibly popular for its photographs of real-life places that coincidentally fit the aesthetics of a Wes Anderson film. For instance, a Milanese metro train is Andersonian in its symmetrical design, pastel blue walls and bright yellow handrails.

In recent months, a new trend has sprung up on social media where people are romanticising the everyday in the style of Anderson’s films. This was started by Ava Williams, who posted a video of a train journey on TikTok with the line “You better not be acting like you’re in a Wes Anderson film when I get there”.

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

TikTok’s Wes Anderson trend: why the quirky director’s style is ripe for social media parody

Swarm: Donald Glover’s new show is a dark meditation on fan culture from a decidedly Black female perspective

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power – a cheat’s guide to Middle-earth before you watch the new show

With a new film on the way, Asteroid City, social media is now sure to be flooded with more attempts at Anderson mimicry. But what we see with the current slew of pastiches is that they aren’t all successful.

The Wes Anderson style these media-savvy users are attempting to recreate is an elusive aesthetic that only emerges from a specific combination of features.

The ingredients of a Wes Anderson Film

Thinking of Anderson’s aesthetic in terms of a combination of features makes his style analogous to a recipe.

When baking a cake, simply listing a few ingredients isn’t enough, the correct quantity of each is needed. Numerous film scholars have identified the major features (ingredients) of Anderson’s style. These include:

head-on camera angle
tableau shot
symmetrical framing (including centred framing)
top (birds-eye) view
still camera or foregrounded camera movement
slow motion
montage sequence with a soundtrack (especially rock or quirky instrumental music)
harmonious colour palettes.

But to imitate Wes Anderson, you need to combine these ingredients in the right quantities. His typical combination of stylistic traits first emerged in his third feature film, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

This film is notable for its consistent use of tableau shots, where characters are formally arranged in the same plane facing the viewer. Such images are immediately recognisable because they create a striking composition and a dramatic effect.

Take the sequence where Anderson introduces us to his “cast of characters (22 years later)” (as the title card reads). The characters are all introduced while looking into mirrors. Here the camera takes the place of the mirror, which means that these characters look directly into the camera.

These tableau images are further strengthened by a static camera and by centred framing (the characters are positioned in the middle of the frame), which add symmetry and stillness to these shots.

Anderson creates different combinations of these tableaus.

The film opens with a static symmetrical tableau shot of a library book (called The Royal Tenenbaums) which is filmed from overhead (a birds-eye view), with the camera pointing directly down on the library counter. The opening shot, therefore, combines no less than five features: a head-on camera angle, tableau shot, symmetrical (centred) framing, a top (birds-eye) view and a still camera.

The uniqueness of Anderson’s style is not present in these features in isolation and only emerges when they are combined in a specific configuration.

Margot stepping off the Green Line bus

Another notable combination occurs when Margot meets Richie (Luke Wilson) as he disembarks from his sea voyage.

Margot exits the Green Line bus and walks towards the camera, which means walking towards Richie (who is located behind the camera). This shot again comprises a head-on camera angle, tableau shot and symmetrical (centred) framing. But this time it is combined with a moving camera (the camera tracks back to keep Margot in frame) and she is filmed in slow motion, complete with Nico on the soundtrack singing These Days.

Anderson’s consistent use of tableau shots throughout The Royal Tenenbaums (and subsequent films), in combination with several other stylistic features, add up to create a unified style.

The specific traits that he combines in his films are not arbitrary. Instead, they all serve similar functions: they draw attention to themselves and they distance the spectator from the characters.

Anderson rejects classical (invisible) storytelling techniques and instead adopts a reflexive type of filmmaking where the audience’s act of seeing is limited to a form of distanced, clinical observation of oddball characters inhabiting quirky story worlds.

So, if you want to present a snippet of your day online in the Anderson way, you should think about the story you’re telling and how to carefully and thoughtfully combine the eight ingredients that make a true Wes Anderson shot. Läs mer…

Dialogue is vital ’guardrail’ in dealing with China, Albanese tells international security forum

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has told a regional security forum that dialogue is a vital “guardrail” in dealing with China, and praised US President Joe Biden’s effort to establish “reliable and open” US-China channels of communication.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Friday night, Albanese said “the silence of the diplomatic deep freeze” only bred suspicion, making it easier for countries “to assume the worst of one another”.

But the forum, attended by defence ministers, officials and military chiefs, comes amid tensions after China declined an American request for a meeting on the sidelines between US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and his counterpart, Li Shangfu.

Austin has not spoken with Li since he became the Chinese defence minister in March. He had met with Li’s predecessor, General Wei Fenghe, on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue last year.

Albanese, in an address promoted as the most important he has made as PM on foreign policy, warned of the dangers where there was not “the pressure valve of dialogue”.

“If you don’t have the capacity – at a decision-making level – to pick up the phone, to seek some clarity or provide some context, then there is always a much greater risk of assumptions spilling over into irretrievable action and reaction.

”The consequences of such a breakdown – whether in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere – would not be confined to the big powers or the site of their conflict, they would be devastating for the world.

”That’s why as leaders in this region – and as citizens of it – we should be doing everything we can to support the building of that first and most fundamental guardrail.”

Albanese said Australia had put dialogue “at the heart of our efforts to stabilise our relationship with China”.

It was not naïve about the process or its limitations, he said.

“But we begin from the principle that whatever the issue, whether we agree or disagree, it is always better and more effective if we deal direct.”

Albanese said the government’s investments in new defence capability was “unapologetically about our national defence and our national sovereignty.”

“They are also an investment in regional stability, strengthening our capacity to contribute to the collective security of the Indo-Pacific.

”From shared peacekeeping missions such as the regional assistance mission in Solomon Islands, to providing essential support in times of humanitarian and environmental disaster, most recently in Vanuatu.

”Australia is determined to deepen this cooperation with more shared exercises, building on the recent success of Talisman Sabre and our flagship regional engagement activity Indo-Pacific Endeavour.

”In boosting our nation’s defence capability, Australia’s goal is not to prepare for war but to prevent it – through deterrence and reassurance and building resilience in the region.

”Doing our part to fulfil the shared responsibility all of us have to preserve peace and security.

”And making it crystal clear that when it comes to any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force: be it in Taiwan, the South China Sea, the East China Sea or elsewhere, the risk of conflict will always far outweigh any potential reward.”

Albanese on Saturday will travel to Vietnam for a two-day official visit before returning home. Läs mer…

How AI could take over elections – and undermine democracy

Could organizations use artificial intelligence language models such as ChatGPT to induce voters to behave in specific ways?

Sen. Josh Hawley asked OpenAI CEO Sam Altman this question in a May 16, 2023, U.S. Senate hearing on artificial intelligence. Altman replied that he was indeed concerned that some people might use language models to manipulate, persuade and engage in one-on-one interactions with voters.

Altman did not elaborate, but he might have had something like this scenario in mind. Imagine that soon, political technologists develop a machine called Clogger – a political campaign in a black box. Clogger relentlessly pursues just one objective: to maximize the chances that its candidate – the campaign that buys the services of Clogger Inc. – prevails in an election.

While platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube use forms of AI to get users to spend more time on their sites, Clogger’s AI would have a different objective: to change people’s voting behavior.

How Clogger would work

As a political scientist and a legal scholar who study the intersection of technology and democracy, we believe that something like Clogger could use automation to dramatically increase the scale and potentially the effectiveness of behavior manipulation and microtargeting techniques that political campaigns have used since the early 2000s. Just as advertisers use your browsing and social media history to individually target commercial and political ads now, Clogger would pay attention to you – and hundreds of millions of other voters – individually.

It would offer three advances over the current state-of-the-art algorithmic behavior manipulation. First, its language model would generate messages — texts, social media and email, perhaps including images and videos — tailored to you personally. Whereas advertisers strategically place a relatively small number of ads, language models such as ChatGPT can generate countless unique messages for you personally – and millions for others – over the course of a campaign.

Second, Clogger would use a technique called reinforcement learning to generate a succession of messages that become increasingly more likely to change your vote. Reinforcement learning is a machine-learning, trial-and-error approach in which the computer takes actions and gets feedback about which work better in order to learn how to accomplish an objective. Machines that can play Go, Chess and many video games better than any human have used reinforcement learning.

How reinforcement learning works.

Third, over the course of a campaign, Clogger’s messages could evolve in order to take into account your responses to the machine’s prior dispatches and what it has learned about changing others’ minds. Clogger would be able to carry on dynamic “conversations” with you – and millions of other people – over time. Clogger’s messages would be similar to ads that follow you across different websites and social media.

The nature of AI

Three more features – or bugs – are worth noting.

First, the messages that Clogger sends may or may not be political in content. The machine’s only goal is to maximize vote share, and it would likely devise strategies for achieving this goal that no human campaigner would have thought of.

One possibility is sending likely opponent voters information about nonpolitical passions that they have in sports or entertainment to bury the political messaging they receive. Another possibility is sending off-putting messages – for example incontinence advertisements – timed to coincide with opponents’ messaging. And another is manipulating voters’ social media friend groups to give the sense that their social circles support its candidate.

Second, Clogger has no regard for truth. Indeed, it has no way of knowing what is true or false. Language model “hallucinations” are not a problem for this machine because its objective is to change your vote, not to provide accurate information.

Third, because it is a black box type of artificial intelligence, people would have no way to know what strategies it uses.

The field of explainable AI aims to open the black box of many machine-learning models so people can understand how they work.


If the Republican presidential campaign were to deploy Clogger in 2024, the Democratic campaign would likely be compelled to respond in kind, perhaps with a similar machine. Call it Dogger. If the campaign managers thought that these machines were effective, the presidential contest might well come down to Clogger vs. Dogger, and the winner would be the client of the more effective machine.

Political scientists and pundits would have much to say about why one or the other AI prevailed, but likely no one would really know. The president will have been elected not because his or her policy proposals or political ideas persuaded more Americans, but because he or she had the more effective AI. The content that won the day would have come from an AI focused solely on victory, with no political ideas of its own, rather than from candidates or parties.

In this very important sense, a machine would have won the election rather than a person. The election would no longer be democratic, even though all of the ordinary activities of democracy – the speeches, the ads, the messages, the voting and the counting of votes – will have occurred.

The AI-elected president could then go one of two ways. He or she could use the mantle of election to pursue Republican or Democratic party policies. But because the party ideas may have had little to do with why people voted the way that they did – Clogger and Dogger don’t care about policy views – the president’s actions would not necessarily reflect the will of the voters. Voters would have been manipulated by the AI rather than freely choosing their political leaders and policies.

Another path is for the president to pursue the messages, behaviors and policies that the machine predicts will maximize the chances of reelection. On this path, the president would have no particular platform or agenda beyond maintaining power. The president’s actions, guided by Clogger, would be those most likely to manipulate voters rather than serve their genuine interests or even the president’s own ideology.

Avoiding Clogocracy

It would be possible to avoid AI election manipulation if candidates, campaigns and consultants all forswore the use of such political AI. We believe that is unlikely. If politically effective black boxes were developed, the temptation to use them would be almost irresistible. Indeed, political consultants might well see using these tools as required by their professional responsibility to help their candidates win. And once one candidate uses such an effective tool, the opponents could hardly be expected to resist by disarming unilaterally.

Enhanced privacy protection would help. Clogger would depend on access to vast amounts of personal data in order to target individuals, craft messages tailored to persuade or manipulate them, and track and retarget them over the course of a campaign. Every bit of that information that companies or policymakers deny the machine would make it less effective.

Strong data privacy laws could help steer AI away from being manipulative.

Another solution lies with elections commissions. They could try to ban or severely regulate these machines. There’s a fierce debate about whether such “replicant” speech, even if it’s political in nature, can be regulated. The U.S.’s extreme free speech tradition leads many leading academics to say it cannot.

But there is no reason to automatically extend the First Amendment’s protection to the product of these machines. The nation might well choose to give machines rights, but that should be a decision grounded in the challenges of today, not the misplaced assumption that James Madison’s views in 1789 were intended to apply to AI.

European Union regulators are moving in this direction. Policymakers revised the European Parliament’s draft of its Artificial Intelligence Act to designate “AI systems to influence voters in campaigns” as “high risk” and subject to regulatory scrutiny.

One constitutionally safer, if smaller, step, already adopted in part by European internet regulators and in California, is to prohibit bots from passing themselves off as people. For example, regulation might require that campaign messages come with disclaimers when the content they contain is generated by machines rather than humans.

This would be like the advertising disclaimer requirements – “Paid for by the Sam Jones for Congress Committee” – but modified to reflect its AI origin: “This AI-generated ad was paid for by the Sam Jones for Congress Committee.” A stronger version could require: “This AI-generated message is being sent to you by the Sam Jones for Congress Committee because Clogger has predicted that doing so will increase your chances of voting for Sam Jones by 0.0002%.” At the very least, we believe voters deserve to know when it is a bot speaking to them, and they should know why, as well.

The possibility of a system like Clogger shows that the path toward human collective disempowerment may not require some superhuman artificial general intelligence. It might just require overeager campaigners and consultants who have powerful new tools that can effectively push millions of people’s many buttons.

Learn what you need to know about artificial intelligence by signing up for our newsletter series of four emails delivered over the course of a week. You can read all our stories on generative AI at Läs mer…

Judging the judges: Scandals have the potential to affect the legitimacy of judges – and possibly the federal judiciary, too

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is no stranger to controversy.

In 1991, during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, Thomas faced accusations of sexual harassment from a former colleague and law school professor, Anita Hill.

More recently, Thomas’ personal relationship with a real estate billionaire, Republican donor Harlan Crow, has come under scrutiny. Crow paid for lavish vacations for Thomas and his wife. Thomas and Crow had undisclosed real estate deals. Crow also made tuition payments for Thomas’ grandnephew.

Nearly all of these gifts and financial dealings were absent from Thomas’ required financial disclosure forms. While there is uncertainty on the specific reporting requirements for the vacations and real estate deals, it seems likely that the tuition payments received on behalf of Thomas’ family would be subject to disclosure requirements as financial gifts.

These recent discoveries have prompted backlash, ranging from calls for ethics reform to demands for impeachment.

But scandal and controversy are not new to the federal courts. As political science professors, we study how scandals and other phenomena affect public support for the Supreme Court. Prior research finds that when citizens perceive the courts as legitimate, citizens are less willing to challenge judicial decisions – even those that individuals disagree with.

Ultimately, scandal has a strong potential to undermine public perceptions. And as legitimacy diminishes, judges are likely to face increased public scrutiny for their policy decisions.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been the focus of numerous recent revelations about his entanglements with a prominent and wealthy Republican donor.
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Judicial scandals different from political scandals

Beyond Thomas, other Supreme Court justices and their close family members have recently faced allegations of wrongdoing.

These range from Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault to a controversial real estate sale involving Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Recent history is replete with instances of judicial nominees and federal judges immersed in scandal and controversy – from taking bribes to tax fraud, from using illicit drugs with an exotic dancer to making court clerks watch obscene material.

These behaviors would be a problem in any government institution. Yet, unlike democratically elected officials, all U.S. Supreme Court justices and judges on the lower federal courts are unelected and insulated from direct electoral repercussions. Presidents nominate Supreme Court justices and federal court judges when a vacancy emerges. Once confirmed by a majority in the Senate, these individuals cannot be removed from the bench unless they are impeached by the House of Representatives and removed by a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.

Such institutional dynamics provide broad protections for federal judges, including those embroiled in scandal and controversy. Beyond the threat of impeachment and removal, no other recourse is available to sanction judges for improprieties or ethical controversies.

In fact, Congress has moved to impeach lower court federal judges in only the most extreme circumstances. To date, no Supreme Court justice has been impeached and removed from office, although Samuel Chase was impeached in 1801 but ultimately acquitted in the Senate.

No Supreme Court justice has been impeached and removed from office, although Samuel Chase, pictured here, was impeached in 1801 but ultimately acquitted in the Senate.
Stock Montage/Getty Images

Public opinion and federal court legitimacy

Given this reality, scholars, pollsters and commentators focus their attention on how the public may punish judges and the courts through another means: judgments of their legitimacy.

Since the courts are unable to enforce their rulings – they do not have a police force or a military at their disposal – they must rely on public support to ensure broad compliance and implementation of their decisions.

When citizens perceive that federal courts exercise power legitimately, they are unlikely to challenge decisions they disagree with or the judges who made them. The Supreme Court historically has a deep reservoir of goodwill among the public. Scholarly evidence suggests that the Supreme Court uniquely benefits from what’s called a positivity bias, which means that people tend to perceive it more positively compared to Congress and the president.

Yet the federal judiciary faces threats to its legitimacy across all levels, from the Supreme Court to district courts. These include political polarization, which can lead the public to see courts as blatantly partisan institutions. Political science research demonstrates that support for the Supreme Court varies depending on the partisan viewpoint of survey respondents. Studies also suggest that the public views the Supreme Court less favorably when the court is perceived as politically distant from one’s own partisan preferences. Researchers also find that perceptions that the court favors liberal policies result in lower job approval ratings.

What researchers have less insight on is whether the public alters its support for the judiciary in light of scandal. The potentially corrosive implications of scandal have been thrust into the limelight with the recent revelations of impropriety concerning several Supreme Court justices.

Punishment for scandals

Scandal holds the potential to shake the confidence and trust the American public has in its judicial institutions. Our research, which predates the recent media reports on Thomas, looks at whether scandals meaningfully diminish citizen support for members of the judiciary, and the court as an institution.

Relying on multiple survey experiments, we examined the effect of varying scandals – ethical, financial and sexual – among hypothetical Supreme Court nominees and hypothetical sitting lower court judges.

In both cases and across scandal types, we found that the public punishes individual nominees and judges through diminished support. That is, respondents provided lower levels of job approval for a hypothetical judge who faced accusations of scandal compared to a judge who faced no such accusation. Notably, however, scandals did not harm the public’s perceptions of the federal courts’ legitimacy.

In other words, we found no effect of hypothetical scandal on respondents’ beliefs that courts are generally fair and should retain the right to make controversial decisions, even when a majority disagrees. This suggests that while the public holds judges associated with scandal in low regard, the negative effects of individual scandals do not permeate the institution of the courts.

We cannot say whether the harmful effects of scandal persist over time. Perhaps, negative impressions of individuals immersed in scandal will dissipate. Additional research is needed to examine whether a spate of scandals – involving multiple judges, with greater degrees of perceived severity – would result in a critical mass that undermines the foundations of public support for the courts as esteemed institutions.

Yet so far, our findings suggest that the latest round of scandals and controversies surrounding justices’ personal behavior will have minimal effect on eroding public support for federal courts. Läs mer…

Moldova is trying to join the EU, but it will have a hard time breaking away from Russia’s orbit

Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, straddles Ukraine to its east and European Union countries to its west – placing it in an arguably vulnerable position in the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia.

But Moldova, a former Soviet republic, is increasingly signaling that it is aligning itself with the European Union.

Mimi Castle, a wine estate southeast of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, was the site of a June 1, 2023, political meeting of European leaders focused on security and stability in Europe. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who pressed for more Western aid in the fight against Russia, was among the leaders who attended.

Moldova’s Western-leaning government has accused Russia of trying to block its entry into the European Union. But a top EU leader said recently that the organization would welcome Moldova with “open arms and open hearts”.

“Moldova does not want to be blackmailed by the Kremlin,” Moldovan President Maia Sandu said during a pro-EU political rally in Chisinau on May 22.

“We don’t want to be on the outskirts of Europe anymore,” continued Sandu, who said her goal is that Moldova joins the EU by 2030.

One major complicating factor for Moldova, though, is that an eastern section of its territory, Transnistria, has been occupied by Russian troops since 1992.

As a researcher on Eastern Europe, I think it is important to understand the reasons Moldova might have a hard time breaking away from Russia’s orbit.

Moldova President Maia Sandu, second from left, stands with the Emmanuel Macron, president of France, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, prime minister of Ukraine, and Olaf Scholz, chancellor of Germany, at the European Political Community Summit in Moldova on June 1, 2023.
Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images

Moldova’s population is split

Moldova first applied to join the EU – a process that takes nine years, on average – in March 2022, shortly after Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine.

But the country’s population of roughly 3.4 million people is split on this move, according to the Moldovan polling company Magenta Consulting.

Approximately 48% of the population said in March 2023 that Moldova should join the European Union, while 34% expressed their support for maintaining ties with Russia.

Despite the citizens’ split sentiment, Moldova is already moving away from Russia. In May 2022, the government announced its desire to leave the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States, a regional political and economic group set up after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

However, Russia still has political influence in Moldova.

A pro-Russian politician, for example, won an election for governor in Gagauzia, an autonomous region in southern Moldova, in May 2022.

Sandu has also accused Russia of trying to overthrow Moldova’s government and replace it with a puppet regime picked by the Kremlin.

Resistance to corruption reform

There are different conditions that countries need to meet before they formally start negotiations with EU countries to become part of the organization.

The European Commission has spelled out nine reforms it wants Moldova to make – six of them are focused on fighting corruption in the justice sector. Corruption in Moldova is widespread.

The Moldovan government is now undertaking a comprehensive reform of its justice system, in advance of entering formal negotiations to join the EU by the end of 2023.

However, some Moldovan judges are resisting efforts to make anti-corruption changes, which would include a pre-vetting system for potential judges. As a result, there have been widespread resignations of judges, paralyzing the Supreme Court of Justice due to too few members remaining in office.

Pro-Russian demonstrators protest against the rising cost of living in Chisinau, Moldova, in March 2023.
Diego Herrera Carcedo/Andalou Agency via Getty Images

Lack of border control

Another complicating factor in Moldova’s bid for EU membership is Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region that separated from Moldova with the help of the Russian army after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Transnistrian government has de facto independence, but other countries and the United Nations simply recognize it as as part of Moldova.

People living in Transnistria are largely Russian speakers, and the government is run by pro-Russian separatists.

Russia also provides Transnistria with free natural gas and has supported older people in the region with pension money.

The presence of Russian troops in Transnistria prevents Moldova from fully controlling its own borders. If activated, combat-ready Russian troops in Transnistria could quickly destabilize the region.

One condition for EU membership is border and territorial control. Without this, Moldova cannot join the EU.

Cost-of-living crisis

Moldova’s heavy reliance on food and energy imports from Ukraine and Russia made it vulnerable to conflict-related disruptions to food and energy supplies from Ukraine and Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

Moldova’s inflation rate reached an all-time high of 34.6% in October 2022. The country’s inflation rate has since eased, but still stands at 18%. High living costs have sparked protests over the past several months, with people concerned about energy prices, but also about the ability to afford other necessities like milk.

Unstable energy sources is another concern for Moldova.

Ukraine cut its electricity exports to Moldova after Russian missile strikes targeted the country’s energy infrastructure in 2022. And Russia cut the daily gas it gave to Moldova by half in October 2022, resulting in electricity blackouts and concern about the country running out of power in the winter.

In an attempt to escape Moscow’s orbit, Moldova started importing natural gas from other international sources, mainly from Romania, in December 2022.

The influx of Ukrainian refugees to Moldova has resulted in additional financial costs. Over 800,000 Ukrainian refugees crossed the country’s eastern border – and 100,000 Ukrainians are now living in Moldova.

While the challenges faced by Moldova are significant, there is also reason to think it might join the EU. In April 2023, the European Union’s parliament reaffirmed its commitment to Moldova’s EU membership. But some of Moldova’s problems, like lack of full territorial control and deep-rooted corruption, are unlikely to fade quickly. Läs mer…

The allure of the ad-lib: New research identifies why people prefer spontaneity in entertainment

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Audiences love to see athletes and entertainers behaving spontaneously, according to our recent research, because ad-libbed lines, spectacular catches, improvised set lists and the like make performers seem more authentic and genuine.

We observed a preference for spontaneity in entertainment across several studies. First, we examined dozens of Buzzfeed articles from the past several years about spontaneity in film and TV, like “Here Are 21 TV Moments You Probably Didn’t Know Were Unscripted.” Compared with other Buzzfeed articles about entertainment that were published on the same dates, the pieces about spontaneity garnered nearly double the social media engagement in comments, likes and shares.

We also ran an online raffle in which people could win a real, customized Cameo greeting from a celebrity of their choice. The vast majority of participants – 84.1% – wanted their chosen celebrity to record a fully improvised, off-the-cuff message rather than a scripted personal greeting.

But what is it that accounts for this preference?

Across a variety of experiments, our results showed that people are drawn to spontaneity because they believe it provides a glimpse into a performer’s true self. Our findings reveal that people rate entertainers as more sincere, genuine and authentic when they act spontaneously, rather than when they plan, and authenticity is something that consumers hold in extremely high regard.

But our research also revealed that spontaneity has a cost: When people acted spontaneously, our participants thought the output could be lower quality, less poised and more error prone. For instance, while a chef who leverages spontaneity in their cooking may be seen as more authentic, people might expect their meals to taste worse.

So, although participants often preferred spontaneous moments in entertainment, we found that that preference went away when money was on the line. For example, in one of our experiments, when participants were gambling real money on a sporting event, they preferred players who stuck to the game plan.

When it feels like anything can happen, audiences are hooked.
John Howard/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Why it matters

U.S. adults spend around six hours per day interacting with video-based media and entertainment. And great entertainment often includes spontaneity: Think of ad-libbed TV moments (many of the most heart-wrenching sequences in “Succession”), impromptu concerts (The Beatles’ 1969 rooftop concert) and on-the-fly sports plays (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ trademark “flick” pass). Spontaneity-based entertainment, like improv comedy, reality TV and jazz soloing, continue to stand the test of time.

Our work illustrates that spontaneity can be a powerful tool to boost publicity and engagement and generate positive impressions. Working on a new project? Perhaps leave time for unplanned action. Promoting a new show or product? Consider talking about the unscripted, behind-the-scenes moments. On a first date? Maybe fight the urge to plan your talking points ahead of time. Coming off as truly yourself might mean that you are slightly less poised and articulate, but the trade-off can be worth it.

What’s next

In our studies, we told participants that performances were either planned or spontaneous and then measured their preferences. But what if we hadn’t told them which things were ad-libbed?

Moving forward, we’re interested in understanding if people can accurately tell whether an action is spontaneous just by watching it, and, if so, how they know. Are there social or behavioral cues, like eye contact, colloquial language or intense emotion, that signal spontaneous action?

Of course, being able to identify the “tells” of spontaneity might raise a concern that spontaneity – and, therefore, authenticity – can be faked. So another avenue we’re excited to pursue is understanding the moral and emotional implications of manufactured spontaneity. Läs mer…

How do credit scores work? 2 finance professors explain how lenders choose who gets loans and at what interest rate

With the cost of borrowing money to buy a home or a car inching ever higher, understanding who gets access to credit, and at what interest rate, is more important for borrowers’ financial health than ever. Lenders base those decisions on the borrowers’ credit scores.

To learn more about credit scores, The Conversation consulted with two finance scholars. Brian Blank is an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi State University with expertise related to how firms allocate capital, as well as the role of credit in mortgage lending. His colleague at Mississippi State, Tom Miller Jr., is a finance professor who has written a book on consumer lending, in addition to providing his expertise to policymakers.

Credit scoring assesses the likelihood of default

Lenders stay in business when borrowers pay back loans.

Some borrowers consistently make prompt payments, while others are slow to repay, and still others default – meaning they do not pay back the money they borrowed. Lenders have a strong business incentive to separate loans that will be paid back from loans that might be paid back.

So how do lenders distinguish between good borrowers and risky ones? They rely on various proprietary credit scoring systems that use past borrower repayment history and other factors to predict the likelihood of future repayment. The three organizations that monitor credit scores in the U.S. are Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

Although 26 million of 258 million credit-eligible Americans lack a credit score, anyone who has ever opened a credit card or other credit account, like a loan, has one. Most people don’t have a credit score before turning 18, which is usually the age applicants can begin opening credit cards in their own name. However, some people still have no credit later in life if they don’t have any accounts for reporting agencies to assess.

Credit scores simply summarize how well individuals repay debt over time. Based on that repayment behavior, the credit scoring system assigns people a single number ranging from 300 to 850. A credit score ranging from 670 to 739 is generally considered to be good, a score in the range of 580 to 669 would be judged fair, and a score less than 579 is classified poor, or subprime.

The two most important factors in credit scores are how promptly past debts have been paid and the amount the individual owes on current debt. The score also takes into account the mix and length of credit, in addition to how new it is.

Credit scores can help lenders decide what interest rate to offer consumers. And they can affect banks’ decisions concerning access to mortgages, credit cards and auto loans.

A good credit score is reason to celebrate because it means you have access to cheaper borrowing.
milan 2099/E+ via Getty Images

Recent improvements in consumer credit scores

Average credit scores in the United States have risen from 688 in 2005 to 716 as of August of 2021. They stayed steady at that level through 2022.

While credit card debt is at a record high, the average consumer was using just over a fourth of the revolving credit to which they had access as of September 2022.

As of 2021, nearly half of U.S. consumers had scores considered very good – meaning in the range of 740 to 799 – or excellent (800-850). Six in 10 Americans have a score above 700, consistent with the general trend of record-setting credit scores of the past few years. These trends might, in part, reflect new programs that are designed to note when individuals pay bills like rent and utilities on time, which can help boost scores.

During the first quarter of 2023, people taking out new mortgages had an average credit score of 765, which is one point lower than a year ago but still higher than the pre-pandemic average of 760.

Credit score evolution from the 1980s to the 2020s

Developed in the late 1950s, the first credit scores – FICO scores – were created to build a computerized, objective measure to help lenders make lending decisions. Before then, bankers relied on commercial credit reporting, the same system merchants used to evaluate the creditworthiness of potential customers based on relationships and subjective evaluation.

The FICO credit scoring system was enhanced over the 1960s and ‘70s, and lenders grew to trust computerized credit evaluation systems. Credit scores really began to exert an influence on American borrowers beginning in the 1980s as FICO become widely used.

A major goal of the credit score is to expand the pool of potential borrowers while minimizing the overall default rate of the pool. In this way, lenders can maximize the number of loans they make. Still, credit scores are imperfect predictors, likely because most credit models assume that consumers will continue to act in the same way in the future as they have in the past. In addition, some believe that various risk factors make credit scores imperfect. Credit modelers, however, continue to make progress by making continuous technological innovations. Even FinTech lenders, which strive to go beyond traditional credit models, heavily rely on credit scores to set their interest rates.

Recently, “Buy Now, Pay Later” accounts have been added to credit scoring, while medical debt has been removed.

Staying under 30% of your credit limit can help increase your credit score.

Credit scores might seem scary but can be useful

Borrowers with poor or limited credit have challenges building more positive credit histories and good credit scores. This challenge is particularly important because credit scores have become more widely used than ever because of the increasing availability of data and growing precision of credit models.

The availability of additional data results in more precise estimates of credit scoring, which can improve access to credit for consumers who repay bills consistently over time. These so-called “boost programs” factor in other payments that consumers routinely make on a monthly schedule. Think of the number of bills that you auto pay. Boost programs add points to your credit score for the bills that you pay consistently.

You can improve your credit score by making wise decisions

Two of the most important ways to improve credit scores are paying bills on time and ensuring that your credit report accurately reflects your payment history. Simply avoiding default is not enough. Timely payments are necessary. Someone who pays the bills every three months is “caught up” every quarter. But that consumer is 90 days delinquent four times a year. Being 90 days delinquent alarms creditors. So, someone who pays the bills every month will have a higher credit score at the end of the year.

Having more credit accounts can also positively affect your credit score because having these accounts shows that many lenders find you creditworthy. As a result, you might benefit from leaving credit accounts open if you make the wise decision not to access that credit. Warning! You must not use that extra credit access to spend more money and accumulate more debt. That decision is unwise.

Why? Because managing the ratio of debt to income is also critical to a good credit score. Debt-to-income ratios of 36% or less generally indicate individuals who have income to put toward savings, which is what all lenders are looking to see and one of the best ways to improve your credit. Läs mer…

Work requirements don’t work for domestic violence survivors – but Michigan data shows they rarely get waivers they should receive for cash assistance

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Very few people who have survived domestic violence are getting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) waivers from the work requirements and time limits tied to those benefits – even though they’re eligible for them, according to our new research.

State governments administer the federal TANF program, commonly known as welfare or cash assistance, in accordance with their own guidelines. Federal law allows states to grant domestic violence waivers to TANF recipients when time limits, work requirements and other policies increase their risk of abuse or would unfairly penalize victims of abuse. Without a waiver, people who receive these benefits can only get TANF benefits for a limited time, which can’t exceed a total of five years, and they must document the completion of up to 120 hours a month of “work activities,” according to a complex compliance formula.

We examined annual reports from Michigan to the federal government on the number of domestic violence waivers it issued from 2008 to 2021. Even when the number of approved TANF applications increased, as occurred at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of domestic violence waivers issued remained flat.

In recent years, an average of 12,600 families in Michigan received TANF benefits in a typical month. More than 75% were female-led single-parent households. Since studies have found that 25% to 50% of women who get these benefits have experienced domestic violence, we would expect at least 750 to 1,000 women getting this assistance to be experiencing domestic violence or to have recently left a violent relationship.

Instead, the state has only issued a total of from seven to 36 waivers per year for the past decade.

Our estimates of how many domestic violence waivers should be issued exclude men and transgender and binary people due to a lack of relevant research.

To better understand what causes this discrepancy, we conducted focus groups with TANF caseworkers in 10 Michigan counties. They said they got no training on what domestic violence does to survivors’ ability to work, or guidance on when to grant the waivers. They also said there were no standard screening practices.

They also told us that survivors typically have to request waivers – even though by offering the waivers, Michigan has agreed to certify that TANF applicants and recipients are notified that they are available.

The caseworkers also said that domestic violence survivors who didn’t meet TANF work requirements often lost their benefits.

Why it matters

People who have experienced domestic violence can have trouble finding and keeping jobs because of physical injuries and their abusers’ efforts to sabotage their employment.

Denying waivers to survivors can hinder their ability to gain financial independence and could place them at risk for returning to their abusive partner as a way to meet their housing and child care needs.

The debt-ceiling deal struck between the White House and Republican leaders now pending in Congress would exempt people who are experiencing homelessness, former foster youth and veterans from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements. Known as SNAP, that program provides low-income people with money they must spend on groceries.

Our findings show that even with exemptions in place for at-risk groups, people who are eligible for such exceptions do not automatically get them.

That same deal also includes provisions that may encourage states to further restrict TANF waivers by setting stricter overall work requirement goals for all parents who get this aid.

What other work is being done

In states with more lenient work requirements, such as not immediately stopping benefits when people miss work requirement targets, and more generous financial incentives, people who get TANF benefits tend to have better and higher-paying jobs when they exit the program. In contrast, recent research indicates that taking TANF benefits away from domestic violence survivors can increase the risk that they will experience further abuse.

What’s next

We plan to expand our analysis to include the entire country and to see how waivers can be successfully used to help domestic violence survivors escape poverty. Läs mer…

How teachers can stay true to history without breaking new laws that restrict what they can teach about racism

When it comes to America’s latest “history war,” one of the biggest consequences is that it has made many K-12 educators scared and confused about what they can and can’t say in their classrooms.

Since 2021, at least 28 states have adopted measures that restrict how teachers can teach the history of racism in the U.S. Many more states have proposals on the table. The laws have been portrayed in the media as measures that would prevent teachers from teaching “divisive concepts” or lessons that would cause “discomfort, anguish or guilt.”

As a historian who studies some of the most brutal aspects of American history – from anti-Black lynching in the South after the Civil War to the use of torture during the war on terror – I don’t believe teachers have as much to worry about as many may think. Some observers have posited that the wave of new education laws will have a chilling effect on how history is taught. But a close look at these laws shows that they are generally written so broadly that they can’t effectively stop teachers from teaching history in a way that’s fair, accurate and true.

Weaknesses seen

I’m not the first to make this point. For instance, one media critic has noted that coverage of the laws has “focused more on educators’ perceptions of and emotions about the legislation than on the actual language.” A law professor has argued that the mainstream media “distorts reality by mischaracterizing the laws” as bans against critical race theory, or CRT. Critical race theory is a concept that holds that racism is not just something that takes place among individuals, but rather has been embedded in American law and policy.

Some, such as law professor Jonathan Feingold, go so far as to say most of the laws actually call for more CRT, not less. I wouldn’t go that far. However, I do see a lot of leeway and loopholes in the laws. Here, I offer several examples of ways teachers can introduce difficult subjects that involve racism in the U.S. without violating the new laws that govern how teachers can discuss it.

Focus on the free market

In teaching about the history of American free markets, teachers would be justified to point out that slavery – and the associated industries of cotton and tobacco, to name just two – were all major components of the economy before the Civil War.

To make this more relatable to children, teachers could discuss something that every child understands: food and hunger. Historical records reveal that slaveholders cut costs by underfeeding enslaved children. They often did this until the children were old enough to become productive laborers. Slave owners also published extensive advice on how to reward and punish the people they had enslaved. Teachers can point out that for all the prowess of America’s free market, before the Civil War, that free market was largely dependent on the violence and forced labor that slavery involved.

Examining the concept of liberty

Considerable debate has taken place as of late over whether students should be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance – a daily school ritual that ends with the reciting of the words “and liberty and justice for all.”

Since liberty has been a long-standing pillar of American society, no teacher could be faulted for having students examine if and how the nation historically has lived up to the notion that liberty had truly been secured “for all.”

For instance, when Patrick Henry reportedly exhorted his fellow Virginians “Give me liberty, or give me death!” in an effort to persuade them to declare independence from Great Britain, he was himself a slaveholder. So were most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which famously describes liberty as an “inalienable” God-given right.

Teachers could also examine the starkly different visions of liberty that developed over time. For instance, students could compare and contrast the visions of liberty espoused by Confederates in relation to the views held by President Abraham Lincoln and other Unionists.

Paying homage to freed men in battle

In an effort to encourage patriotism, the “Stop Woke” law in Florida – adopted in 2022 – requires teachers to educate students about the sacrifices that veterans and Medal of Honor recipients have made for democracy. This serves as a great reason to teach about formerly enslaved men – including those who were awarded the Medal of Honor – who joined the Union army and helped defeat the Confederacy.

By studying these men and the reason they received these medals, students will learn the role that Black people themselves played in the abolition of slavery – the largest expansion of liberty in American history.

Given the current political climate in the U.S., there is no reason to assume more laws that govern what can be taught in public schools will not be passed. But based on how the laws are being written, there are still plenty of ways for teachers to tackle difficult subjects, such as racism in American society Läs mer…

Your LinkedIn doesn’t need to be perfect – four ways to build an authentic profile to boost your personal brand

The idea of a “personal brand” might seem like the purview of celebrities and influencers. But if you’ve spent any time on LinkedIn, you’ll know it’s something anyone can develop with well-crafted posts and engagement.

In recent years, students and young professionals have turned personal branding into a tool for success in competitive, global job markets. A personal brand is about both how you differentiate yourself from others, and about how others perceive you.

How you represent yourself online can have implications for your career prospects.
To learn more about how to successfully develop a personal brand, we interviewed those who are doing it well – Generation Z students in their final year of university. We also spoke with recruiters and a career advisor about creating personal brands on LinkedIn.

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

When what you type doesn’t mean the same thing to the (older) person you’re texting or tweeting

Trust is important if you want to succeed at work – here’s how to build it

Why menstrual leave could be bad for women

We found that Gen Z values a dynamic, interactive, work-in-progress style of personal brand, rather than one that feels overly curated and fake. They share their ongoing projects, struggles and challenges in the professional world, and ask followers to contribute ideas and give suggestions.

These may not necessarily show them as “perfect” but willing to share imperfections and weaknesses instead. One of the recruiters we interviewed said that this approach makes candidates “stand out from the crowd and makes me stop and look at them rather than just clicking to the next profile”. Here are some tips for creating your own personal brand:

1. Stay up to date

Employers expect young professionals to use platforms like LinkedIn to build an authentic and unique online profile. They use these profiles to evaluate potential hires’ talents and professional skills, but also their fit with company culture. The more current and detailed your profile is, the easier it will be for the right employer to find you. You likely won’t work for the same organisations throughout your career, so it’s important to maintain and refresh your online persona.

One career adviser told us that he was concerned students were “underselling themselves” on LinkedIn by only including mandatory information such as name and current job title. He recommended including specific details about achievements in a role, as well as asking people they have worked with to post endorsements and testimonials, which is something a CV won’t have.

A recruiter noted that some employers are turning to online profiles instead of CVs, because they allow for a more complete view of the applicant’s personal brand.

2. Don’t leave out your weaknesses

When building your online profile, it may feel natural to just include your strengths and successes. But our interviews reveal that taking the risk to showcase your weaknesses and imperfections can pay off.

Posts about challenges and struggles in learning or workplaces show potential employers what makes you unique, and that you are able to self reflect and grow from mistakes. Participants told us that these posts are popular with followers, help generate conversations, and result in stronger personal brands.

One student wrote a LinkedIn post about her writing skills and how she was seeking to improve them. The post attracted hundreds of likes and comments, including advice, encouragement and similar stories from people in her network.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – obsessing about creating a perfect personal brand can lead to procrastination, concerns about being judged or rejected, and may lead to disengagement with the job search overall.

Your challenges and weaknesses can be an important part of an authentic profile.

3. Engage with others

A good personal brand isn’t just about your own profile, it also involves engaging with others to show your dedication and interest in the profession. You should initiate conversations, collect thoughts and gather feedback from others in your field. As one student told us:

We’re all developing, and I don’t want to show employers a perfect, yet not ‘me’ image. Instead, I’ll show I’m a constant learner.

One way to do this is, like the student who wrote about improving her writing, to share stories about how you accomplished something or reached a goal. Posts with a strong narrative about the process of success (or failure) can spark discussion and debate, strengthen your personal brand and get the attention of recruiters or employers.

4. Keep your personal life separate

While authenticity can endear you to employers, you should still maintain professionalism. It is important to set clear boundaries between your work and private life, and make good use of privacy settings to maintain your personal brand.

Regular self-monitoring of social media profiles is important to manage your desired online persona. You should carefully tailor the choice of language and writing style on LinkedIn depending on the industry and company where you would like to work.

Your posts on professional sites can be personal, but from a professional context and not something you don’t want recruiters to see – for example, photos that show you partying. You may also want to, as some of our Gen Z participants did, search your name on Google or other social media platforms to see what images and posts appear, and monitor from there. Läs mer…

Eusebius McKaiser played a transformative role in talk radio in a democratic South Africa

South African broadcaster, author and political analyst Eusebius McKaiser passed away suddenly on 30 May 2023 at the age of 45. News of his death reverberated through media channels. Tributes bore witness to the impact of his voice and the enduring significance of radio as the medium through which many first encountered his outspoken, insightful commentary. McKaiser blazed a trail that helped inform public debate in contemporary South Africa.

Radio in South Africa has long been acknowledged as a significant arena for engaging in meaningful public discourse. This is extensively documented in scholarly literature. This includes my own work as a scholar of rhetoric in South African media.

McKaiser’s career played out in a particular historical context. South Africa’s airwaves were freed after democracy in 1994. Before this the state had tightly controlled radio during apartheid, silencing black voices and imposing strict censorship when they were eventually given airtime. As a medium that amplifies diverse voices and encourages active participation, radio has become a vital catalyst for social change. It empowers individuals to contribute to a more inclusive and democratic society. Talk radio, in particular, stands out as a means of engaging citizens in what scholars have termed “dial-in democracy”.

Within this landscape, McKaiser emerged on radio in 2010 as a transformative force. He transcended the boundaries of a traditional radio broadcaster to become known as public intellectual, knowledgeable and highly engaged in public issues and debates.

Public intellectual

As an openly gay person, McKaiser used his platform to staunchly advocate for the protection of same-sex rights. South African academic and author Pumla Dineo Gqola notes his role as an outspoken thinker on South African life:

On his show, he was unapologetic about naming white supremacist power no matter how hard it masked itself.

Describing his public cultural impact, Gqola has outlined McKaiser’s depth as a thinker, eloquence as a communicator and unwavering conviction as a citizen. She homes in on the important ways in which he helped confront the violence that characterises life in South Africa:

He modelled an unwavering determination to undoing violence in wide-ranging gestures. Whether he held fire to the feet of employers who expelled women who spoke out about sexual harassment, or refused to accept bureaucratic doublespeak while people were trapped in poverty, he was firm…

Talk radio career

McKaiser was a star academic scholar in philosophy and law, followed by work stints in corporate and academic spaces. His commercial radio career began with his late-night show Politics and Morality on 702, the largest English commercial station in South Africa with around 700,000 listeners. Here he introduced South Africans to his unique brand of persuasive moral philosophy, using words as tools of action to spark critical conversations.

The show prompted listeners to think deeper about their preconceived notions and engage in nuanced discussions on topics ranging from religion to politics. It mastered what some talk radio scholars describe as “a platform for deliberation which is akin to the idea of a public sphere”.

Read more:
Radio is thriving in South Africa: 80% are tuning in

McKaiser went on to host the popular Talk at Nine, simulcast on 702’s sister station Cape Talk. This was followed by The Eusebius McKaiser Show on talk radio station Power FM.

Through candid interviews with influential figures, compassionate dialogues with victims of injustice, and engaging discussions on books and popular culture, McKaiser deployed his eloquence and depth of thought to shape everyday dialogue and contribute to the cultural fabric of the time.

Social justice

His brand of broadcasting was what media scholars have termed the “advocative-radical”. These voices do not see themselves as neutral and objective observers, but rather “as ‘participants’ in political discourse” who bring their own particular worldview to the discussion. This compels them to act as adversaries and the voice of those whose voices have been muted. They strive to amplify ordinary people’s perspectives in mass media discourse.

One of the traits that set McKaiser apart was his ability to move beyond reliance on listener calls. He provided deep thinking, meaningful content of his own. His approach was not without critics. Some would accuse him of being confrontational and aggressive in his interviewing style. Others found fault with his tendency to make sweeping generalisations or oversimplify complex issues.

His departure from 702 in 2020, reportedly due to inadequate resource allocation, sparked passionate debates on social media. This demonstrated the impact he had on the public.

Even after his passing, people from all corners of society, including those who disagreed with him, continue to praise McKaiser’s insights and fearless approach.

Fortunately, his critical voice lives on through another powerful medium: podcasting.

Podcast star

In The Ring With Eusebius McKaiser provided a platform for McKaiser’s voice to continue to be heard when he left traditional radio broadcasting. Since its launch in 2021, the podcast has accumulated over 150 thought-provoking episodes, engaging audiences and challenging the norms of discourse.

Read more:
Radio in South Africa turns 100 – and collides with podcasting and streaming

The fact that a broadcaster of McKaiser’s stature turned to podcasting exemplifies how online audio platforms are reshaping the way broadcasters actively empower listeners to become co-creators of content, amplifying their voices and creating a more inclusive public sphere.


McKaiser’s own view of his broadcasting work was “to get public debate going about these issues which affect all of us in our private lives”. And he certainly did.

His journey as a radio broadcaster in South Africa exemplifies the power and potential of the medium to shape public discourse and deepen democracy. With activism coursing through his veins and intellect guiding his words, McKaiser demonstrated that the voice of the radio host could reverberate beyond the airwaves.

Reflecting on McKaiser’s radio career means to recognise the medium’s immense influence in shaping society, prompting citizens to question, engage, and ultimately contribute to a more inclusive and vibrant democracy. Läs mer…

Speaking up for the annoying fruit fly

Fruit flies can be truly annoying when they are buzzing around your living room or landing in your wine. But we have much to thank these tiny nuisances for – they revolutionised biological and medical science.

Flies and mosquitoes both belong to Diptera, the group of insects that have only two wings (from the Greek di meaning two and pteron meaning wing). However, just as most people accept the bothersome as well as the positive traits of their friends, we shouldn’t judge flies for their negative behaviour alone.

We should open our eyes to their enormous economic and environmental importance, as entomologist Erica McAlister argues in her book The Secret Life of Flies. For example, many plants (including the cacao plant that gives us chocolate) rely on Diptera as pollinators. Or try to imagine a world without flies to decompose dead animals.

I will argue from a different angle, though, to win your respect for one specific dipteran: the fruit or vinegar fly (Drosophila melanogaster).

Drosophila may be smaller than a fingernail but it can be a big nuisance in summer when it hovers over maturing fruit or emerges in swarms from litter bins. The species Drosophila was first mentioned by German entomologist Johann Meigen in 1830 and has since earned a celebrity status among scientists. It has become the best-understood animal organism on the planet and a powerhouse of modern medical research. Ten scientists working on Drosophila have been awarded a Nobel prize in physiology or medicine.

Science’s partnership with flies started during the early 1900s when biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University in New York decided to test evolutionary theories, such as how genetic mutations are linked to other characteristics, and the rediscovery in 1900 of Gregor Mendel’s theories of inheritance, published 1865. Mendel remains the acknowledged father of genetics today.

Helping science take off

Morgan was not the first to work with Drosophila. But his idea to harness the fly’s cheap husbandry (pieces of banana kept in milk bottles), and rapid reproduction (one generation in about ten days; about 100 eggs per female per day) would make it possible to study evolution in the laboratory. This is because it’s easier to see evolutionary changes in large populations of a species with high turnover.

His mass-breeding experiments with hundreds of thousands of flies led to the discovery of a single fly with white eyes, instead of the red eyes fruit flies normally have. Morgan and his team’s subsequent studies of its white-eyed progeny revealed that genes can mutate and are arranged into orderly and reproducible maps on chromosomes (a long DNA molecule). This new understanding founded the field of classical genetics as we know it. For example, it led to an understanding of how genetic disease is inherited.

In the 1940s, scientists, including George Beadle and Edward Tatum, established that some gene codes for proteins can facilitate chemical reactions and produce the molecules needed in cells.

Other researchers with fruit flies mapped the structure of the DNA helix. Through these developments, long-debated questions came into focus. For example, how genes regulate complex biological processes, such as the development of an entire organism from a single fertilised egg cell.

Scientists gradually established techniques using microscopes to study Drosophila embryos in their tiny 0.5mm transparent eggshells. The plethora of genetic strategies we’ve learned about in flies has turned into a powerful means to dissect mechanisms of fly development. Just like human gene mutations can cause body malformations in people, fly embryos also show such defects. For example, lacking their heads or tails.

Scientists can study mutant defects, even if the eggs never hatch, which can then inform us about the normal function of the affected gene. These kinds of genetic studies of Drosophila, combined with emerging technologies, such as gene cloning, helped us understand how gene networks can determine the development of a body and how they can sometimes cause inherited disorders. Gene networks are a set of genes, or parts of genes, that interact with each other to control a specific cell function. In 1995, three scientists won the Nobel prize for their contribution to this new understanding.

Fruit flies and humans have surprisingly similar biology.
Andreas Prokop, Author provided

A startling likeness

Eventually, it emerged that the entire genomes of flies and humans showed astonishing similarities, and mechanisms or processes discovered in flies often turned out to apply to more complex organisms. Many human genes can even take over the function of their Drosophilia equivalent when inserted into the fly genome.

The common ancestor that founded the evolutionary lines of flies and humans, half a billion years ago, appears to have been equipped with biology so well-designed that many of its aspects are still maintained, such as mechanisms of growth or neuronal function. Because we are so alike genetically, many aspects of human biology and disease have been explored first in Drosophila. Meanwhile, research on fruit flies is fast, cost-effective and extremely versatile. It’s ideal for scientific discoveries.

Once knowledge has been gained in a fly, that knowledge can accelerate research in more complex organisms. Today, over 10,000 researchers worldwide are estimated to work with Drosophila in many areas of science that relate to human biology and disease. It is used by neuroscientists for studying learning, memory, sleep, aggression, addiction and neural disorders. Not to mention cancer and ageing, processes of development, the gut microbiome, stem cells, muscles and the heart.

That said, flies are not mini-humans. They cannot be used to study personality loss seen in Alzheimer’s disease, for example. But they can be used to study why neurons die in such diseases and bridge important gaps in our understanding of this type of disease.

Fruit flies hovering in your kitchen might be aggravating, but hopefully you will see them in a different light now. Läs mer…