Joe Biden talks a lot about restoring America’s standing in the world. But the truth is that if he now has the chance to reshape America’s relationships for a new era, it’s because Donald Trump has already done the awkward stuff. The question is: can Biden and his team swallow their collective pride and build on Trump’s legacy, or will vanity and partisanship send the American Atlas tumbling to his knees?
Trump won the 2016 election by forcing the difficult questions on to the national agenda.
At the end of October, just before I started as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, the inspectorate and Ofsted visited Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. Rainsbrook was built by the Blair government to house the increasing numbers of children imprisoned as a result of policing targets and tough-on-crime policies and it was one of four centres contracted out to private providers. The great hope was that these better-funded centres would provide a more humane alternative to Young Offender Institutions.
It may be time for Father Christmas to look for a new home, before the Russians kick him out. ‘This is our Arctic,’ declared the Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov when he went to the North Pole in 2003. Four years later, another Russian expedition, again led by Chilingarov, planted a titanium flag on the seabed 2.5 miles below the Pole. It was a symbolic gesture of a geopolitical ambition. The jingoistic Chilingarov proclaimed: ‘Our task is to remind the world that Russia is a great Arctic and scientific power.
It was one of those forgettably historic moments at the United Nations. The year was 2015, the UN’s 70th anniversary, and China’s President Xi Jinping was in New York, speaking in person to the UN General Assembly. In festive spirit, Xi announced that China would set up a $1 billion trust fund to be dispersed over ten years to ‘support the UN’s work’ and ‘contribute more to world peace and development’.
So began the Peace and Development Trust Fund, one of China’s more insidious projects to co-opt the UN, its logo and its global networks.
Belle Delphine lives in a mock Tudor house in a gated community in Hove. It’s necrotic, and soothing. You could be anywhere, and this is apt. Belle lives on the internet, where she entertains her subscribers, who pay $35 a month through the website OnlyFans. She is 21, and she grew up on the internet. ‘It raised me,’ she says.
I watch one of her films before we meet. It shows her dressed as a Disney princess in a long pink wig and small clothes.
A friend of mine went for a walk in the Cotswolds last weekend with his wife. At around four o’clock, tired but happy, they fetched up at a country pub. ‘You’ll have to eat a substantial meal,’ said the landlady, crossly. ‘But it’s four o’clock,’ said my friend. ‘We’re not hungry.’ The landlady tutted and showed him a long and expensive menu. My friend and his wife turned around and walked out of the pub.
This, I think we can safely say, represents one end of the Tier 2 pub spectrum.
Our heavily laden taxi turned off the main highway from Tirana and started to negotiate the rough, one-track road. The road wound its way around the edges of the mountains until we reached the ruins of Spaç prison, once a slave labour camp in the communist era of Albania. Two three-storey buildings housed the large cells where 54 men at a time had lived and slept. They were required to work gruelling shifts, filling metal wagons with copper ore and pushing the along uneven rails, some of which were under water.
As darkness falls, a group of mainly middle-aged men set up traps of various shapes and sizes — some sophisticated and expensive-looking, others more Heath Robinson-like — in gardens and fields across the country. These are moth enthusiasts: a largely unknown and, by their very nature, unseen group of hobbyists. They are mostly fanatical birdwatchers too, and from backgrounds that include journalism, the civil service, the Royal Mail and the NHS.