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Europe World

Arctic Dining: Think Frozen Sashimi, With a Side of Reindeer Blood


YAR-SALE, Russia — The tundra at dusk looks like the open ocean, waves of shades of blue, gray and white.

Indigenous reindeer herders traverse this terrain, eking a nomadic living out of the barren land. The biting cold this time of year keeps their provisions perpetually frozen, but they sometimes lack the time — or the firewood — to cook them.

So, when Mikhail Khudi, a reindeer herder, is hungry, he likes to take a bit of raw, frozen fish or reindeer meat from his sled-top pantry and dunk it in mustard before it disappears, chewy then creamy, in his mouth.

Travel thousands of miles across Arctic Siberia — from the oil-and-gas heartland on the Yamal Peninsula just east of the Ural Mountains, to the nickel smelters of the lonely city of Norilsk, to the Gulag-haunted banks of the Kolyma River as you approach Alaska — and you will encounter Mr. Khudi’s snack: stroganina.

It is raw, frozen fish or meat, shaved thin with a sharp knife so that it curls off the blade. Hurry — you have to eat it before it thaws for the best flavor and texture, dipping the frozen shavings into a salt-and-pepper mix or your favorite sauce, then chewing lightly as they melt on your tongue, like a Popsicle version of sashimi or carpaccio.

You’ll rarely find stroganina on the menu in Moscow. But I am convinced this is one of Russia’s greatest delicacies. In Siberia, you’ll find people who are stroganina connoisseurs, critiquing the mustiness of frozen whitefish from smaller lakes or praising the clean leanness of the catch from the Gulf of Ob.

“I’m used to my Ob kind,” said Dmitry Kuybin, who fishes on that gulf, a 600-mile-long estuary along the eastern coast of the Yamal Peninsula that flows into the Arctic Ocean. “This lake stuff” — preferred by reindeer herders, he said — “tastes kind of mossy.”

For what to dip stroganina in, the possibilities are endless. Nellya Motysheva, who also lives on the peninsula, plans to collect her recipes in a book. What she calls “mom’s sauce” is vegetable oil, mustard powder and reindeer blood.

The Russian Arctic looks remote on the map, but more than a million people live here — far more than in the polar regions of Western Europe and North America. From the Bolsheviks’ forced collective farming and the gulag labor camps to the chaotic collapse of Communism, outside forces beyond local control have shaped the lives of its residents.

Now, places like the peninsula are synonymous with Russia’s rapid development of the oil-and-gas reserves in its northern reaches. Global warming is threatening traditional ways of life. The receding sea ice is turning the region into a theater of increased trade and intensifying geopolitical competition.

“Nevertheless, we’ve kept our passion for our traditional food,” said Zoya Safarbekova, the director of the Yamal District Museum in the town of Yar-Sale near the Gulf of Ob, after ticking off the external shocks that have befallen her Indigenous Nenets people over the last century. “In November, the freezing cold begins, and that’s it — you know you must eat stroganina.”

The name of the dish comes from the Russian word “strogat,” meaning “to whittle,” as a carpenter would. It is distinct from the less refined rubanina — from the word for “to chop” — which is a frozen fish pounded to bits with an ax.

The best stroganina, Yamal residents said, is produced when it is chilly outside — no warmer than 20 below Fahrenheit. That temperature flash-freezes the fish or reindeer meat and locks in the flavor.

It was, alas, relatively warm — around 5 below zero Fahrenheit — when we climbed on snowmobiles to follow Mr. Kuybin, the fisherman, for some 30 miles out of the Yamal village of Salemal as he checked his fishing nets.

We zoomed over the frozen Ob through the blowing snow, the location of the horizon line between sky and ice a matter of guesswork.

Mr. Kuybin, who works with his wife for the Salemal fish plant, didn’t bother to wear mittens or gloves. He donned rubber boots, camouflage pants and a hooded reindeer-fur cloak. Their daughter’s award certificates for good grades — “One Hundred A’s for Mom” — are posted on the wall of their fishing cabin.

In the summer, Mr. Kuybin’s wife is at the oars to keep their boat steady as he sets the net. In the frozen winter, the work is easier, so he goes out on his own.

The catch was meager this time. He laid a pike straight on the ice before it froze, guts and all, to allow for even and well-curled strips of stroganina.

He later acknowledged that eating frozen fish when it is freezing cold outside sometimes makes him even colder but, he said, he enjoys it anyway.

“It’s our own thing, you know,” he said.

The Yamal district put on a stroganina festival in December in the town of Yar-Sale, just north of the Arctic Circle and with a population of about 6,000. The district flew several Russian culinary celebrities to the regional center of Salekhard, and sent tundra-grade jeeps to take them on the five-hour drive over the frozen Ob.

Like many Arctic towns, Yar-Sale is accessible by ice road in winter and by boat in summer, and only by helicopter in the spring and fall.

There was a ball, cooking classes and a stroganina-making competition with separate reindeer and fish stages judged by local officials and the celebrity visitors.

The hardest part of the stroganina process seemed to be peeling the skin off the frozen fish. The best slices emerged thin and curly, shaved by slicing downward, rigid tail held tight.

If the feel of the frozen fish on the tongue recalled a light sorbet, the frozen raw reindeer was like a rich ice cream. In both cases, the flavor of the meat hits you as it thaws.

Three of the competitors brought along reindeer blood, a traditional stroganina dip. It tasted like the essence of rare venison steak — gamy, sweet, salty, smoky.

Young women carried the stroganina to the town square, where residents sampled the competitors’ handiwork and cast their own votes. Children played on a slide hewed out of ice and around ice sculptures of the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and the Parthenon.

The celebration was a reminder that Russia’s underground Arctic resources, made more accessible thanks to global warming, have created a cascade of wealth even as reindeer herders, hunters and fishermen complain of pollution and disruption from new oil wells and gas pipelines.

“You know, there used to be a time when I didn’t have enough bread,” said Khatyako Yezyngi, a district government official specializing in Indigenous issues. “If we didn’t have all this money, how would we be putting on the festival today?”

Ms. Motysheva, who makes the blood-and-mustard dip, won the residents’ vote competition. Her book of stroganina sauces will be called “Our Future Is with Our Ancestors.”

She said the dish was rooted in the Nenets’ nomadic past, a time when they could only survive on frozen raw meat in the barren tundra.

“If we start forgetting what we once had, we won’t have a future,” she said.

By the end of the two-day festival, I thought I had a fairly good grasp on Yamal’s culinary landscape, at least when it came to dishes served frozen. We spent our last evening on the peninsula in the village of Salemal. The energetic mayor, Maksim Karelin, 31, baked a fish stuffed with lemon, dill and nonfat mayonnaise, and then took us to his friend Sergei’s banya, or Russian sauna.

“Of course, stroganina isn’t the tastiest thing you’ve eaten here,” Mr. Karelin said as we dined at the table in his office.

“Well, the stroganina was pretty tasty.”

“You haven’t had kolodka?”

This, it turned out, was fish salt-cured under weights that pushed out the excess liquid, then left outside to freeze. Later that evening, at the banya, Sergei brought such a fish out of a black plastic bag. He sliced it into chunks alongside a mustard dip. While stroganina is served fully frozen, kolodka is best partially thawed.

In my mouth, the kolodka turned ethereally gooey, like soft taffy. But unlike Mr. Karelin, I prefer stroganina. Its bracing and freezing rawness, followed by its subtle tenderness, distills the wild, blustery, softly lit grandeur of the Far North.



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Asia Pacific World

Thai Navy SEAL Dies of Blood Infection a Year After Cave Rescue


BANGKOK — A Thai Navy SEAL who was part of the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave has died of a blood infection contracted during the risky operation, the Royal Thai Navy said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Bayroot Pakbara was receiving treatment, but his condition worsened after the infection spread into his blood, according to an announcement on the Royal Thai Navy’s Facebook page.

He is the second navy diver who lost his life in the high-profile operation that saw the boys and the coach extracted from deep inside the northern cave complex, where they were trapped for two weeks in June- and July last year.

Lt. Cmdr. Saman Gunan died while resupplying oxygen tanks on July 6, 2018.

According to the Bangkok Post daily newspaper, Petty Officer Bayroot was buried Friday at the Talosai mosque in southern Satun province. Local media quoted his mother as saying her son had been in and out of the hospital since the cave rescue.

The boys and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. Despite a massive search, the boys spent nine nights lost in the cave before they were spotted by an expert diver. It would take another eight days before they were all safe.

A team of expert divers guided each of the boys out of the cave on special stretchers. The operation required placing oxygen canisters along the path where the divers maneuvered dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.



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Culture

The Witcher review: Netflix’s painfully transparent attempt to fill the Game of Thrones void with more blood and boobs



Many years from now in the People’s Republic of Los Angeles, a group of writers will convene with the sole purpose of creating the next prestige televisual epic. And perhaps, as they sit in their office overlooking the twin statues of Greta Thunberg and Andrew Yang, their minds will alight upon the great struggle for fantasy supremacy. On the one hand, House HBO: a great lineage slowly brought to its knees. On the other, House Starz: a plucky underdog, never surrendering against enemies of superior coinage and regard. And then, finally, House Netflix: a late empire, crossing the seas with unlimited resources and little on its mind but high fantastical hegemony… 

So enters The Witcher, Netflix’s painfully transparent attempt to fill the Game of Thrones void with more blood and boobs. The series, adapted from the books by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski (though better known to English-speaking audiences from its video-game adaptations), follows Geralt of Rivia (played by Henry Cavill, a man who somehow manages to look simultaneously like he’s both wrought from pure granite and sculpted from clay), a semi-supernatural beast hunter who is shunned by society (despite being about 6ft 5in and looking like, well, Henry Cavill).

Around Geralt, the world is crumbling. Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) is on the run from the Nilfgaardians. Meanwhile, Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), a young woman with spinal abnormalities, is being enlisted into an order of witches overseen by a wild-eyed Lars Mikkelsen and dead-eyed MyAnna Buring. All their paths will cross as the series progresses.


The debut episode – “The End’s Beginning” – opens with Geralt slaying some anonymous water demon and carting its corpse into a nearby town. It’s gloomy and gothic, almost with a touch of humour (”Today isn’t your day, is it?” Geralt tells a maimed deer, moments before killing it). It is a taste of a show The Witcher is scared to be. From there, the show foregoes most opportunities to embrace its own absurdity or make a joke of its earnestness. Within minutes we meet Princess Renfri (Emma Appleton) and the wheels of plot start grinding, the actors around Cavill over-annunciating like they’re doing Shakespeare rather than a video-game adaptation. 

Still, at the heart of The Witcher is Geralt. Cavill – that love child of The Thing and Morph – has a naturally screen-easy charisma and sense of comic timing that make his sequences more than (though not by much) bearable to watch. His physicality in the myriad fight sequences is a thing to behold, and the plangent rumble of his vocal performance will have you dousing your TV in Calpol. Yet, despite his role being pre-eminently titular, by the second episode he has surrendered much of his screentime to the stories of Ciri and Yennefer.

Ciri is the heir to the throne of Cintra, a kingdom that is sacked in the first episode by the villainous, but completely under-developed, Nilfgaardians. Because The Witcher’s fantasy is high where Game of Thrones’ was low (magic and monsters abound and there is no sense of their world as analogous to our own), it is a struggle for the uninitiated to be thrown headfirst into a turbulent new world, without keys to unlocking its politics or geography. There is a feeling of being given a board game with a challenging number of pieces, without any hint of instructions.

While Ciri is on the run, Yennefer is being inducted into evil Hogwarts, where young women are verbally abused, have their hands withered to ash, or are inexplicably turned into eels, all in the hope that they will harness their magical powers. Yennefer is a hard character to like: she’s whining, selfish and, due to some dodgy prosthetics, always sounds like she has a mouth full of cotton wool. Due to an unfortunate liaison with a bloke who looks like he’s made from CGI, it is revealed that Yennefer has elven blood, making her as much of an outcast as Geralt. Of course, in this world of busting corsets and rippling abs, Yennefer doesn’t stay disabled for long: she is given an oddly titillating glow-up by Julian Rhind-Tutt’s preening magical obstetrician. 

Anya Chalotra’s performance as Yennefer is, sadly, just one of a number of quite grating turns. Joey Batey plays Jaskier, a bard who accompanies Geralt and is so annoying that you will mentally beg for his death (”There I go again just delivering exposition,” he says at one point, in a bafflingly solitary moment of meta-commentary). Anna Shaffer’s Triss, a fan favourite character, is also cringe-inducing in the seriousness with which she delivers very silly lines. A show where fight choreography and graphic body horror are done with so much panache is begging for performances that embrace the chaos.

If any of this description has lost you, it’s the fault of the show. Like Game of Thrones or Outlander, The Witcher is serving two masters – an audience transferring loyalties from other fantasy TV shows, and an audience already deeply committed to the Witcher lore. The latter group – as we are seeing from Star Wars fans – is a more vociferously critical caucus, and in pandering to them, The Witcher is a messy tangle of plotlines in a world underdeveloped to the point of obscurity. The experience is not unlike playing a video game, where deaths, diversions and reboots leave you constantly unsure of your exact position in the narrative. Sadly, for The Witcher, and House Netflix, their offering lacks even that modicum of fun.



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Accident

Parasitical toothed insects which sucked blood of dinosaurs discovered in 100-million-year-old amber



A previously unknown species of parasitic insect which dined on the blood of dinosaurs 100 million years ago has been discovered preserved in prehistoric amber.

The wingless bugs, found clinging to dinosaur feathers sealed inside two pieces of fossilised tree resin, provide new clues about the origins of lice which feast on modern-day birds.

The 10 insect nymphs were studied by Chinese and American biologists after being discovered in northern Myanmar’s Kachin province.

Researchers said the new species, Mesophthirus engeli, had similar bodies to modern lice and latched onto feathered dinosaurs with powerful jaws in the way present-day parasites bite into birds.

Creatures that feed on blood have previously been identified from both the Jurassic period – 201 million to 145 million years ago – and Cretaceous era, 145 million to 66 million years ago.

But despite the prevalence of feathered dinosaurs at this time, insects that fed on their feathers have not been reported until now.

Researchers from Beijing’s Capital Normal University and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC said their findings suggested feather-feeding parasites evolved around the same time as the diversification of birds and feathered dinosaurs.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, they said: “Most significantly, these insects are preserved with partially damaged dinosaur feathers, the damage of which was probably made by these insects’ integument-feeding behaviours.

“This finding demonstrates that feather-feeding behaviours of insects originated at least in mid-Cretaceous, accompanying the radiation of feathered dinosaurs including early birds.”

The discovery of the insects – which scientists said were remarkably well-preserved – echoes Jurassic Park, in which dinosaurs are cloned from DNA found in blood inside a mosquito sealed in amber.

But the real-world research will not lead to resurrection of the prehistoric reptiles as the molecules are too fragile to survive for millions of years. 



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Culture

Vienna Blood review: As rich and textured as the finest apple strudel



Even if Vienna Blood had nothing else going for it, it would still be worth watching simply for the superb, cinematic-quality evocation of a stunning wintertime Vienna. And not any old stunning wintertime Vienna; Vienna, circa 1906, the bohemian capital of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian empire, symbol and engine of the artistic, psychological and musical renaissance of continental Europe during La Belle Epoque, as well as its darker political undercurrents. Why, we even get cameos from Gustav Mahler, Gustav Klimt and, naturally, Sigmund Freud. I’m just waiting for Wittgenstein to appear, or maybe the unemployed painter Adolf Hitler to turn up for some wiener schnitzel and a chat. 

Many scenes are so well composed and so true to historical detail – fashions, props, waxed ‘taches – that they resemble period painting.

It’s a cop show, a police procedural, and it combines in a formulaic way the usual characteristics of all such stories and series. That’s not a bad thing, not at all, because it is the proven key to success – the viewers become co-detectives, sharing in the protagonists’ theories, disappointments and breakthroughs. When it is done well, as here, the results are exceptional and make for compelling viewing.

The makers of Vienna Blood, an Austro-British production as lavishly rich and carefully textured as the finest apple strudel, have certainly made the conventional into the exceptional. I can’t see how Steve Thompson’s adaptation of the Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis could be bettered. It’s pacy, thrilling, and imaginative, like the earlier series of the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Sherlock, on which Thompson also worked. I especially liked the animation of Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze to evoke a psychotic episode, and there is one exceptional scene of frantic rogering, memorable because it is so extravagantly squalid and satisfyingly unerotic.

Indeed, the dark, seedier side of the Hapsburg Empire adds a bit of much needed edge to the grand ballrooms, champagne receptions and atmosphere of overfed complacency. There is just enough antisemitism to reflect the attitudes of the day – “sinister, cunning, like the rest of your race” is one throwaway insult – but not so much as to render the thing unwatchable, like when reading the Twitter feed of an especially deranged Momentum activist. 

The uneasy teaming up of the two principal investigators may be a bit of a cliche, but it is well-judged. Thus we find the senior of the pair is a fairly predictable figure; the older, gruff, slightly insecure, tough and decidedly unintellectual police detective Oskar Reinhardt (Juergen Maurer in good form). As time goes on, we discover he has a troubled past, including a deceased daughter, though he seems to be laying off the booze for now.

Reinhardt’s bosses have decided that he must allow a promising young medical student to “observe” him at work, and so they foist upon him his near-opposite in outlook, background and temperament.

With considerable style, Matthew Beard plays the precocious Max Liebermann, from a wealthy British-Jewish family who have recently relocated to Austria with their “fabric emporium”. Leibermann sneaks off from his medical studies to listen to the lectures of a bloke named Sigmund Freud, and applies the new and “disreputable” science of psychoanalysis to the case he and Rheinhardt are tasked with solving. Max is the sort of chap who we hear thinking to himself: “The deeper my journey into other people’s madness, the less I know myself.” Reinhardt is more likely to kick a suspect up the opera house.

The rest of the procedural furniture is as per usual; the ratty police superintendent who winds up Reinhardt; the rival detective, von Bulow, who unnerves him; the glum pathologist drip-feeding the proceedings with clues from the dawn of forensic science; the cast of possible suspects, false leads and red herrings all present and correct. Max’s family and girlfriend are introduced to us too (Conleth Hill, Amelia Bullmore, Charlene McKenna, Luise von Finckh), though they don’t have much to do beyond being extremely bourgeois and making introductions to characters closer to gruesome events. 

The gruesome event in question is an apparent suicide, but one where there is no gun, no bullet and the room is locked from the inside. There are no witnesses and few clues.

Older, gruff, slightly insecure: Juergen Maurer in ‘Vienna Blood’ (BBC/MR Film/Endor)

The pair get to work. Max provides the psychological profile of the killer. They discover the girl was pregnant, and that the man who did it must have something to hide – and this be a man of means and influence (of a sort that Herr Liebermann senior might mix with, and does). Rheinhardt recalls how Austrian soldiers would run out of ammunition and they’d fill their antique pistols with bits of bone as a substitute for a bullet (hence no bullet in the cadaver). A pair of forceps was used to turn the key from the wrong side of the house. The connection is made between the dead woman’s dual career as a medium and as a blackmailer of rich adulterers, and her clientele.

The killer is cornered in a carriage on the Riesenrad, the giant Ferris wheel that overlooks the city, and we’re treated to a finely shot and surprisingly believable cliffhanger ending in which Liebermann and Rheinhardt get their man, a politician on the make by the name of Holderlien (his wife had sought solace after the loss of her sister from the dead woman/medium/blackmailer). 

It’s a satisfying end to a satisfying show, and – at 90 minutes – the best way to spend a dark, dank Monday night trying to escape the election. Sadly, there are only two more episodes of Vienna Blood in this run. We need much more.



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Asia Pacific World

South Korea Stops Stream of Blood From Culled Pigs


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said on Wednesday that it had successfully stopped a stream of red blood from tens of thousands of pigs possibly infected with African swine fever from reaching a river that provides drinking water for much of the population north of Seoul.

Residents living in towns between Seoul and South Korea’s border with North Korea were alarmed early this week when the local news media reported that a small stream had turned red in Yeoncheon, a county that borders North Korea.

It turned out that the blood came from 47,000 pig carcasses waiting on trucks to be buried. The animals were the last of the 160,000 hogs that the county authorities had culled to stop the spread of African swine fever, a highly contagious disease incurable for infected pigs but not dangerous to humans.

The carcasses were decaying and oozing with blood on the trucks because of a shortage of plastic burial containers when rain hit the area on Sunday. A stream there turned red with blood, raising fears that the blood might contaminate the Imjin River, which is 10 miles downstream and provides drinking water for many towns north of Seoul.

Officials built dikes and used pumps to stop the contaminated water from flowing downstream, while some towns downstream stopped pumping drinking water from the Imjin River.

On Wednesday, Environment Ministry officials said tests showed that the blood did not contaminate the river, and towns began pumping drinking water from it again.

African swine fever has been sweeping across Asia and Europe, devastating hog farmers.

South Korea has slaughtered 410,000 pigs, all of them in towns north and west of Seoul, since the outbreak was first reported in mid-September at a farm near the border with North Korea.

South Korean officials suspected that the deadly animal disease may have been spread to South Korea from North Korea by wild boars across the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas. North Korea reported its first outbreak of the disease in May at a farm near its border with China.

South Korea’s last and 14th pig farm infected with the disease was reported on Oct. 9, but its battle against the outbreak has not stopped, since wild boars are still being found with the virus. The country has employed military snipers and civilian hunters, as well as drones, to track and kill wild boars near the North Korean border.



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Music

Weyes Blood: ‘I think baby boomers are the most spoilt generation of all time’



Before she became the experimental rock musician known as Weyes Blood, Natalie Mering was a teenage misogynist. Growing up in Santa Monica, California, she would read books by male authors, hang out with her guy friends, and perform in hardcore bands with men. “I was misled,” she says. “I was thinking about women the way Hemingway and Bukowski would think about women, because those were the people I was looking up to. I was literally just like, ‘Women are weak, and that’s why I’m gonna pretend to be a man.’ I was 1,000 per cent a misogynist.”

It was an outlook that affected her early musical path. That, and the fact that the only shows happening in her town “were based on really intense, aggressive male energy, so if you wanted to be involved in a musical community, that was it”. She became the singer of a math-metal band called Satanized, and would mix bananas with fake blood, shove the red mulch up her shirt and rip it open onstage. If you were a woman, she says, displays of intense aggression were what gained you respect. “So, screaming and writhing around on the floor was really praised.”

It didn’t last long. “All of a sudden, I was like, ‘This is so boring,’” says the 31-year-old now, sitting in a London hotel room in a rust-coloured turtle-neck, elegant and eloquent despite her professed jet lag. “‘This scene is too loud, everybody is self-congratulating, it’s not going anywhere. All these guys are so hateful, and so bitter, and so dark, and I will never be a woman who doesn’t know how to play an instrument, who’s just gonna go in a band and scream.’ It wasn’t who I was.” So she reverted to the kind of music – and the name, Weyes Blood (pronounced Wise Blood) – that she dreamt up as a 15-year-old. “It was easy,” she says, “because it’s actually what I do best.”


Not that Mering reverted to something safe. Her music remains unsettling and quietly confrontational, combining Sixties folk, Seventies psych-rock, Karen Carpenter-like singing, and eerie, esoteric instrumentals. She released her debut album, The Outside Room, in 2011, and her second, The Innocents, in 2014 – but it was 2016’s mellifluous, soul-searching Front Row Seat to Earth that earned her the most critical acclaim. “The Kinks meet the Second World War, or Bob Seger meets Enya” is how she describes her fourth album, Titanic Rising, which is rife with radical ideas, peculiar instruments and luscious melodies. On it, atop slide guitars, violas and fairground organs, she attempts to reconcile the trauma of a radically changing world – one where technology is evolving as fast as the climate is collapsing.

On album opener “A Lot’s Gonna Change”, she longs to return “to a time when I was just a girl/ When I had the whole world gently wrapped around me/ And no good thing could be taken away”. It was around the turn of the century, says Mering, when she realised that the world was an unsafe, unstable place, and that climate change couldn’t be stopped by simply tidying our streets and shorelines.

“As a little girl, I really thought we just needed to clean things up,” she says. The kids TV channel Nickelodeon had a scheme called “The Big Help”, and Mering would volunteer hours to go on to the freeway to pick up trash. “It just felt like the whole world was on that tip,” she says. “And I was genuinely shocked around the year 2000 when I realised that environmentalism wasn’t cleaning things up, that we don’t have the technology to suck all the carbon out of the air, and that nobody really cared.”

The second trauma she experienced was “the paradigm shift from the cell phones”. Too quickly, the world transformed “from a culture where things had a certain, intrinsic value, like found photos of funny pictures, to one of disposability. I think people lost some of their personal value, too, from the isolation of constantly comparing themselves to other people through social media, and the disposability of it all.”

Does she want to go back to the way things were? “I just don’t think it’s possible,” she sighs. “I feel for the Luddites, and I identify with them, but they failed. The idea of smashing the technology and reverting to how things used to be has failed over and over again. So I wish that there was a deeper evolution to make the technology serve a greater biological purpose for humans, as opposed to draining them, distracting them, killing their attention spans. But it’s a baby technology. We’re all rooting for it to act less like a parasite and more like the tool that everyone hopes it could be. But I do want to go back in terms of environmentalism.”

She blames the baby boomers, many of whom are still clinging to power, for the state of the world that young people have inherited. Donald Trump – “a crook who could manipulate the next election and make it even less possible for things to change” – is a baby boomer, after all. “I think boomers are the most spoilt generation of all time,” she says. “They got to ride the biggest wave of natural resources, and they seem so stuck up and completely oblivious. And they were really spoilt by their parents, because their parents grew up in the depression and were so traumatised they just spoiled those kids so much.”

“The truth is,” she continues, “birth control and abortion wiped out thousands and thousands of people that would have been born. So the baby boomers are actually just physically bigger as a generation. Next generations are smaller because of birth control and abortion. And I’m totally pro-choice,” she adds, “I’m just saying, factually, they’re outnumbered.”

But surely that’s a good thing? The world is overpopulated as it is. “I dunno, man. What if Gen X was bigger than the boomers? What would they have done? What would they have changed? What would our reality be if we had a Gen X president? It might be cooler. S’all I’m saying.”

If it seems like there’s a misanthropic edge to Mering, she would disagree. “I really do believe in the benevolence of the universe,” she says – though that didn’t exactly come from her Christian upbringing. In the Seventies, her parents were both hippie musicians – her father even went on a few dates with Joni Mitchell before meeting her mother – but by the time Mering came along, they were born-again Christians. She was raised in a Bible Belt household in which the Smurfs were too homosexual and the Care Bears were too communist.

By the age of 14, Mering found herself questioning the doctrine she was being offered. “I could feel the puzzle pieces not fitting,” she says, “and I was just really blown away that Christians could convince themselves that they were living as a reflection of Jesus’s philosophies, yet they were capitalist pigs. I know what Jesus was. He was a hippie. He was a socialist. And if you’re gonna act like he was anything else, then it’s a scapegoat.” Feeling the holes in her faith growing, she looked to those around her to convince her that Christianity was worthwhile. “And nobody could,” she shrugs, “so I was like, ‘OK, I’m good. This is trash.’”

Still, she understands the desire for faith. “We all need something. There’s an impenetrable darkness within everybody. However you decide to escape that, it’s really hard for me to judge. Christianity really did save my parents, and it brings them a lot of joy. I would never want to take that away from them.”

So how does she escape that impenetrable darkness? She laughs. “I think through new age-y stuff. There’s a whole realm of things that we don’t understand and we don’t see, and in that realm, there is something connecting everybody. It’s not just all chaos and an accident. I believe the best for people.”

Weyes Blood plays at Electric Brixton tonight



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Lifestyle Style

Robert De Niro says Trump has blood on his hands over mass shootings in US



Robert De Niro has said that President Trump has blood on his hands in light of mass shootings in the US.

In an interview with British GQ, the actor addresses the fact that the suspect arrested for killing 22 people in a shooting in El Paso, Texas, in August mirrored Trump’s anti-immigration stance.

A message believed by US police officials to have been written by the gunman states a specific intention to target immigrants and prevent a “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.


When asked whether or not the US president has blood on his hands, De Niro replied: “Yeah. I think he does. And everyone is realising that now, more and more.

“It’s so preposterous that the NRA has a grip on the Republicans. It’s all about money. They’re beyond shame.”

The 76-year-old actor went on to link the increase of mass shootings to the president.

“Those [gunmen] are crazy people, but they’re inspired by Trump and what he’s allowed,” he said. 

“It’s all subtle but it’s all there. He’s allowed it. He starts it. He encourages it.”

De Niro has become famed for his eviscerating takedowns of Trump, previously calling him a “low life” and a “gangster”.

Speaking to Variety in a recent interview, the Taxi Driver star said: “I hope he gets impeached, it has to be followed through. He’s such a low life. He taints everybody around him.



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Accident

Cows found mutilated with sex organs removed and blood drained prompt alien and cult theories



Bulls have been found mutilated, killed and left with their blood drained and their sex organs removed, police in the US have said.

People living near the scene of the animal deaths in Oregon have speculated they could be part of an occult ritual or an alien invasion.

And while such outlandish suggestions have been routinely dismissed after similar cases in the past, experts say there is no obvious natural explanation and no indication the bulls were killed by either normal predators or poisonous plants.


The case has troubling connections to previous killings, which have remained unsolved for decades during which they have become a source of speculation about everything from the occult to extraterrestrials.

The first of the dead bulls was found – with no sex organs, tongue or blood – in a ravine in the Oregon countryside. In the few days that followed, four more of the animals were discovered nearby. 

(AP)There were no tracks around the bodies, or other clues as to how the killing happened, but police and ranch management believe that they were executed by someone rather than something.

Ever since the bulls were found over several days in July, Harney County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Jenkins said he had received many calls and emails from people speculating as to what, or who, might be responsible.

The theories range from scavengers such as carrion bugs eating the carcasses to people attacking the animals to cause financial harm to ranchers.

One person suggested that Mr Jenkins look for craters underneath the carcasses, saying this would be evidence the bulls had been levitated into a spaceship, mutilated, and then dropped back to the ground.

Mr Jenkins, who is leading an investigation that also involves state police, has run into only dead ends, with no witnesses. “If anyone has concrete information or knows of any cases that have been solved in the past, that would definitely be helpful,” he said from his office in Burns.

Colby Marshall, vice president of the Silvies Valley Ranch that owned the bulls, had another theory.

“We think that this crime is being perpetuated by some sort of a cult,” he said.

The case recalls mutilations of livestock across the West and Midwest in the 1970s that prompted widespread fear in rural areas. Thousands of cattle and other livestock were found dead with the reproductive organs, and sometimes part of their faces, removed, in territory ranging from Minnesota to New Mexico.

Ranchers began carrying guns and nearby residents said helicopters had been heard around the kill sites. A federal agency cancelled an inventory by helicopter of its lands in Colorado, worried that it would get shot down.

Two US senators urged the FBI to investigate, according to FBI documents. After saying it lacked jurisdiction, the FBI agreed to investigate cases on tribal lands. But the mutilations stopped.

Former FBI agent Kenneth Rommel, who headed the investigation, said there was no indication that anything other than common predators were responsible.

Cases have emerged sporadically since then. In the 1980s, a few cows were found dead and mutilated in eastern Oregon. More recently, there have been cases on a ranch near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Some of the mutilations can be attributed to natural causes. An animal drops dead, the blood pools at the bottom of the carcass, the carcass bloats and the skin dries out and splits. The tears often appear surgical. Carrion bugs, birds and other scavengers go for soft tissues like rectum, genitals, udders and eyes.

Dave Bohnert, director of Oregon State University’s Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns, said he believed people killed the Silvies bulls because there was no indication they were felled by predators or had eaten poisonous plants.

However, the state of the carcasses could be attributable to nature, said Mr Bohnert, who is not officially investigating the case.

If people killed the bulls, a motive could be to financially harm the ranch, he said, noting that breeding bulls cost thousands of dollars each, and the 100-plus calves each of them sire are collectively worth much more.

Mr Marshall doubts it was a malicious attack on the ranch, which employs 75 people, many from local communities. Silvies Valley Ranch covers 140,000 acres (57,000 hectares) of deeded and leased National Forest lands around a mile above sea level.

In 2006, a wealthy veterinarian bought the ranch and made it a combination working ranch and an elite destination resort. It has four golf courses, a spa, shooting ranges, fishing and luxury cabins going for up to $849 per night.

Mr Marshall suspects the bulls were killed to get the organs of the free-ranging bulls for some reason. The bull parts would be available cheaply or free at a slaughterhouse, but he believes some people are going to a lot of trouble to get these parts on the range.

There’s no sign that scavengers removed the organs of the bulls, and instead someone using a knife or scalpel probably did, Mr Marshall said.

“To lose a completely healthy animal would be an oddity,” Mr Marshall said. “To lose five young, very healthy, in great shape, perfect bulls that are all basically the same age … that is so outside the bounds of normal activity.”

Mr Marshall speculates the bulls were darted with a tranquiliser that knocked them out. While some people acted as lookouts, others bled the animals out by inserting a large-gauge needle into the tongue and into an artery, then removed the organs after the heart stopped beating, he surmised.

Mr Jenkins, the deputy, has a similar theory.

“Personally, I would lean more toward the occult, where people for whatever reason – whether it’s a phase of the moon or whatever rituals they’re going to do with their beliefs – are coming to different areas and doing that,” he said.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible. The ranch is offering $25,000.

Additional reporting by Associated Press



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Asia Pacific World

Imran Khan Warns of Kashmir ‘Blood Bath’ in Emotional U.N. Speech


Pakistan’s leader castigated India over its Kashmir crackdown from the podium of the United Nations on Friday, warning of a “blood bath” when and if Indian authorities lift a curfew over the disputed territory.

The speech by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the United Nations General Assembly was partly directed at his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, who in his own speech earlier Friday omitted any reference to Kashmir.

Last month India revoked the longstanding autonomy of the mountainous border region, the flash point of two wars with Pakistan since both achieved independence from Britain more than 70 years ago.

The Indian authorities arrested thousands of Kashmiris, severed most electronic access and imposed a curfew on the entire populace of about 8 million. While some curbs have been eased, the curfew remains in effect.

Mr. Modi and his subordinates have described their move as an internal domestic matter aimed at making the region more prosperous.

The Indian prime minister’s shift on Kashmir was welcomed by his base of Hindu nationalists, who have long wanted to exert power in the Muslim-majority region and have long accused Pakistan of supporting militant separatists there.

Mr. Khan has repeatedly denounced what he has described as Mr. Modi’s reckless disregard of Pakistan’s historic claims to the region.

The Pakistani leader has frequently reminded the world that Pakistan and India are both nuclear powers. He has used terms like genocide to describe India’s intentions for the disputed Kashmir region and has complained that Mr. Modi has ignored his entreaties for a dialogue.

In an interview with The New York Times Editorial Board on Wednesday, Mr. Khan said Mr. Modi was leading India down an irrational path, a theme he reiterated in his General Assembly speech.

“Is it arrogance that has blinded him from what is going to happen when the curfew is lifted? Does he think the people of Kashmir will quietly accept the status quo?” Mr. Khan said. “What is going to happen when the curfew is lifted will be a blood bath.”

The pent-up frustration of Kashmiris living under what Mr. Khan described as Indian military occupation would inevitably come back to haunt India, he said.

“Would I want to live like that?” Mr. Khan said. “I would pick up a gun.”

Mr. Khan, who has conspicuously avoided crossing paths with Mr. Modi while both are attending the annual gathering in New York, had said that he would be using his General Assembly speech to emphasize Kashmir and implore the United Nations to intervene.

Mr. Modi, in his speech, sought to portray India as a peace-loving nation that he said had given the world Buddha’s philosophy of serenity. His only reference to Pakistan and Kashmir was oblique, saying India had long been a victim of terrorism.

“Our voice against terrorism, to alert the world about this evil, rings with seriousness and the outrage,” Mr. Modi said. “It is absolutely imperative that the world unites against terrorism.”



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