How the Nation of Luxembourg Is Racing to Privatise Space

Arkyd 6 spacecraft
Arkyd 6 spacecraft

Mining asteroids is the new old game, though no longer science fiction. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg – which has all the square footage of an asteroid and, with a population up to slightly over half a million – has earmarked €200m to fund NewSpace companies that join its new space sector. In July, the parliament passed its law – the first of its kind in Europe, and the most far-reaching in the world – asserting that if a Luxembourgish company launches a spacecraft that obtains water, silver, gold or any other valuable substance on a celestial body, the extracted materials will be considered the company’s legitimate private property by a legitimate sovereign nation.

Should space benefit “all of humankind”, as the international treaties signed in the 60s intended, or is that idealism outdated? How do you measure those benefits, anyway? Does trickle-down theory apply in zero-gravity conditions?

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

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The British Hacker’s Fight for His Life

Lauri Love is charged with masterminding a 2013 attack by Anonymous on US government websites. He has not protested his innocence – he only points out that, without seeing the evidence, which the US Department of Justice refuses to reveal until he is on US soil, he cannot say one way or the other. But he had the means, motive and opportunity to carry out the crimes of which he stands accused. Even if Love is guilty, however, there are important legal and moral questions about whether he should be extradited to the US – a nation that has prosecuted hackers with unrivalled severity, and one where Love could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. Had Love been allowed to stand trial in the UK following his initial arrest, and had he pled guilty to every charge, he would have spent a maximum of 18 months in prison. Four years after his initial arrest, Love has nearly exhausted his legal options. His extradition to the US is now perilously close. In September 2016, a district judge refused to block Love’s deportation.

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The Neo-Nazi Murder Trial and Germany’s Darkest Secrets

National Socialist Underground (NSU) perpetrated random attacks between 2000 and 2007 throughout Germany, leaving ten people dead and one wounded. Primary targets were ethnic Turks but also Kurds, though the victims also included one ethnic Greek and one ethnic German policewoman. They were murdered in daylight with gunshots to the face at close range with a silenced CZ 83 pistol.
The NSU murder investigation trial suggest that the organisation may have been carefully supported and protected by German state intelligence agency, known as the BfV, and its state-level branches, known as the LfV. The agency allegedly either turned a blind eye to the NSU murders or supported the group’s aims.
The BfV has long been regarded as right-leaning: it was founded after the second world war by the Americans, who welcomed Nazis and former Gestapo members into its ranks. Its mission was to spy on and root out the KPD, as the German communist party was known, as well as members of the Social Democratic party. The first head of the organisation, Otto John, defected to East Germany in 1954, citing the overwhelming number of Nazis in the organisation. His successor was Hubert Schrübbers, a former member of the SS. For now, neither police nor trial investigators have the right to subpoena BfV documents that may contain vital evidence about the NSU killings.
The German ministry of the interior counted around 14,000 far-right-related crimes in 2015, about 30% more than in the previous year. By April 2016, police counted three attacks per day against housing facilities for asylum seekers. Last year, a small group – one woman and two men – threw a molotov cocktail into a Zimbabwean child’s bedroom at an asylum centre in Lower Saxony.
Written by Thomas Meaney and Saskia Schäfer, read by Ruth Barnes and produced by Simon Barnard
Photo: Neo-Nazis march under police protection in Dortmund in 2008

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 23rd January 2017

 

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Alan Yentob: the Last Impresario

For decades, Alan Yentob was the dominant creative force at the BBC – a towering figure in British culture. So why did many applaud his very public slide from power?
“…there has been, over the years, something borderline obsessive – and therefore something sociologically revealing – about the pursuit, and eventual toppling of Yentob. No one I spoke to for this article wanted to be the first to mention antisemitism, but pretty much everyone did in the end. “A posh Jew poncing around at the public expense,” said his friend Hanif Kureishi, the writer. “What is not to hate?”
Beyond that, however, there is also a sense that outsized figures such as Yentob, paid for by the nation to make culture for the nation, may simply not be welcome in British society any more. The stitching that once held them in place has gone. Political and social faith in public broadcasting is in decline. Subsidy of the arts and education is much weaker than it was a generation ago. People who work in those sectors find themselves assailed by market forces, low-grade ministers and a sceptical rightwing media all at the same time.
Seen from the end of 2016, the reason for Yentob’s resignation and disgrace – the closure of Kids Company, a charity he chaired for 12 years – appears oddly contrived, hysterical even. Watching him interrogated by MPs and paraded before the media, colleagues at the BBC, outside the news division anyway, smelled an air of retribution for crimes that were understood but never quite spelled out.”
Written and read by Sam Knight. Produced by Simon Barnard

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 16th January 2017

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Is Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives?

The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age. And yet more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have. The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. You’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 13th January 2017

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Inside Italy’s Ultras: the Dangerous Fans Who Control the Game

A key figure in a powerful ‘ultra’ group killed himself in July. Police suspected the mafia was using the ultras to get into the game.

Every major club in Italy has its own ultra group and most have dozens. The firms have spent years splintering, regrouping, renaming and reinventing themselves – all in order to take possession of the centre of the curva. This area, behind the goal, has traditionally been the place where a club’s poorest, but most devoted, fans assemble. The curva is every bit as territorial as a drug dealer’s corner, and ultras stake out their turf in similar ways: fights, stabbings, shootings and, sometimes, by making alliances and business deals. There are 382 ultra groups in Italy today, of which some are still explicitly political – 40 far-right and 20 far-left.

Written by Tobias Jones, read by Andrew McGregor and produced by Simon Barnard

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 16th December 2016

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How the Education Gap Is Tearing Politics Apart

how-the-education-gapEducation has become the greatest divide of all – splitting voters into two increasingly hostile camps – with the educated on one side and the less educated on another. “It points to a deep alienation that cuts both ways. The less educated fear they are being governed by intellectual snobs who know nothing of their lives and experiences. The educated fear their fate may be decided by know-nothings who are ignorant of how the world really works. Bringing the two sides together is going to be very hard. The current election season appears to be doing the opposite.”

Written by David Runciman, read by Andrew McGregor and produced by Simon Barnard. Illustration by Thomas Nast. 

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 29th November 2016

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The Ruthlessly Effective Rebranding of Europe’s New Far Right

the_ruthlessly_effective“Across the continent, rightwing populist parties have seized control of the political conversation. How have they done it?”

These parties “have made a very public break with the symbols of the old right’s past, distancing themselves from skinheads, neo-Nazis and homophobes. They have also deftly co-opted the causes, policies and rhetoric of their opponents. They have sought to outflank the left when it comes to defending a strong welfare state and protecting social benefits that they claim are threatened by an influx of freeloading migrants.

…Brexit was just the start. Europe’s new far right is poised to transform the continent’s political landscape – either by winning elections or simply by pulling a besieged political centre so far in its direction that its ideas become the new normal. And when that happens, groups that would never have contemplated voting for a far-right party 10 years ago – the young, gay people, Jews, feminists – may join the working-class voters who have already abandoned parties of the left to become the new backbone of the populist right.”

Written by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, read by Andrew McGregor and produced by Simon Barnard

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 25th November 2016

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The Cult of the Expert – and How It Collapsed

Led by a class of omnipotent central bankers, experts have gained extraordinary political power. Will a populist backlash shatter their technocratic dream?

When the history is written of the revolt against experts, September 2008 will be seen as a milestone. The $85bn rescue of the American International Group (AIG) dramatised the power of monetary gurus in all its anti-democratic majesty. The president and Congress could decide to borrow money, or raise it from taxpayers; the Fed could simply create it. And once the AIG rescue had legitimised the broadest possible use of this privilege, the Fed exploited it unflinchingly. Over the course of 2009, it injected a trillion dollars into the economy – a sum equivalent to nearly 30% of the federal budget – via its newly improvised policy of “quantitative easing”. Time magazine anointed Bernanke its person of the year. “The decisions he has made, and those he has yet to make, will shape the path of our prosperity, the direction of our politics and our relationship to the world,” the magazine declared admiringly.
Written by Sebastian Mallaby, read by Alice Arnold and produced by Simon Barnard
Photo: Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before Congress in October 2011, by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 11th November 2016

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Is China’s Gaokao the World’s Toughest School Exam?

“For two days in early June every year, China comes to a standstill as high school students who are about to graduate take their college entrance exams… Construction work is halted near examination halls… ambulances are on call outside in case of nervous collapses, and police cars patrol to keep the streets quiet. Radio talkshow hosts discuss the format and questions in painstaking detail, and when the results come out, the top scorers are feted nationally… That score is the most important number of any Chinese child’s life, the culmination of years of schooling, memorisation and constant stress… The students who do best can look forward to glittering careers and even good marriage prospects. But for the less successful, the system is brutal.”
Written by Alec Ash, read by Andrew McGregor and produced by Simon Barnard
Photo by Zhou Chao / Epa

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 4th November 2016

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