Month: May 2019

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30th May 2019

Since first entering the cultural lexicon in the mid-1970s, burnout has rapidly become an everyday reality for many—if not the majority—of those working a 9-to-5 job. And now, the term is officially being recognised as an “occupational phenomenon.” According to the World Health Organization, the agency that guides many health providers and organisations, burnout is the direct result of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Sound familiar?

The World Health Organization says that burnout can be diagnosed if a patient exhibits the following symptoms: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; reduced professional efficacy. While the new definition only begins to explain the complex condition, health experts are hopeful that this acknowledgement will help bring more awareness to the issue, as well as legitimise the feelings of those who suffer from burnout. Plus, it will hopefully inspire companies to look inward and prioritise a healthier work-life balance for employees. After all, the stakes are high.

“Sixty to 90 per cent of doctor visits are due to stress, which evokes a series of genetic and physiological changes that can be tremendously harmful to health if sustained, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, breath rate, and muscle tension,” explains Dr. Herbert Benson, M.D., a professor of mind and body medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, who underlines that work-related stress is further exacerbated by excess screen time. In that sense, the onus is also on individuals who may suffer from burnout to be proactive about unplugging and incorporating stress-relieving activities into their downtime.

To begin tackling chronic work-related stress, Benson recommends building up a “Relaxation Response,” a term that describes the opposite of the fight-or-flight response that stress causes within the body, which he coined in his pioneering book of the same name. You can start by doing 10 to 20 minutes of a regenerative daily activity, such as exercise or meditation, to break the chain of everyday thinking, he explains. It can feel like a tall order in the age of work addiction—or “the best-dressed mental health problem,” as psychologist Bryan Robinson likes to call it—but reconsidering stress, much like the medical community’s official recognition of burnout, is an important first step.

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30th May 2019

Gucci shows are so laden with intricate references, decoding one is like unfurling a lavish rug, or examining a complex painting up close. The brushstrokes are there, but so numerous, and so visually overwhelming that it requires several approaches to shake out. At Gucci’s resort 2020 collection held at the Museo Capitolini in Rome, there was the pure aesthetic punch, tick, next the subtle clues—signs and symbols that slip you a wink and invite a closer look—then the third, perhaps the most potent layer on this outing: the experiential window into Alessandro Michele’s world. 

It went like this: guests arrived from all over the world to be treated to an insider’s look at Rome, Michele’s home town and creative base. To retrieve the show’s invite a visit to one of the Gucci creative director’s favourite bookstores was required—Antica Libreria Cascianelli, in the historic centre—where invitees ventured into the back of the store to choose from a lucky-dip pile of different books wrapped in orange paper. Seeing the store, which houses curios that would not seem out of place as props in one of the house’s campaigns—a Victorian hat pin here, old pocket bibles and taxidermy there—felt like Michele sharing one of his hotspots of inspiration, a private and personal location with real meaning to the designer. 

Next were tours of both the Gucci sponsored exhibition at Rome’s Maxxi Museum of Italian photographer Paolo di Paolo, and Biblioteca Angelica, one of the oldest libraries in Europe founded by an Augustinian Bishop in the 16th century. Housing maps, literature, books on medicine, botany and astrology, the latter is a well of inspiration for Michele, as similarly di Paolo’s work is; working throughout the golden age of Italian cinema capturing Cinecitta stalwarts, artists and reportage of Italy in a time of flux as modern post-war progress swept across the country. 
Film, music (more on that), art, photography and Rome then, all converged at the museum in the Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio. All surmounted to a real opening of Michele’s world and echoed the sentiment behind both the museum and Biblioteca Angelica: beauty and knowledge for everyone, the designer seemed to reason through these forums, there should be no velvet rope behind which lies the riches of the past or future. 

So then the clothes, which transmuted most loudly: freedom. It came in flowing toga-like fabric swathes, guitar cases, 70s-inflected tailoring, roomy jumpsuits, and the off bare-footed model. Then extravagant headpieces like the opening look that featured a Bob Mackie-inspired headress in jet black. The loudest message was also the boldest – ‘My body my choice’ on the back of a jacket – (consider the proximity to the Vatican) and underscored Michele’s willingness to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to supporting individualism, especially as abortion rights are being picked over and threatened in the United States at the moment. 

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The final layer came in the post-show celebrations. Taking to the stage in an elaborate room under a filigreed ceiling, inside a Roman palazzo, Michele welcomed guests and introduced Stevie Nicks, who then introduced Harry Styles, the pair performing an emotionally charged ‘Landslide’. Styles made an appearance at the show to cheer on his friend, though he tried to fly under the radar, taking a backseat to Nicks as she performed, no doubt borne of his respect for her as an artist. Earlier fans camped outside the show screaming ‘Harry!, Harry!’, which at one point turned to ‘Al-e-ssan-dro! Al-e-ssan-dro!’ who came out to wave hello. Everyone got their glimpse. You got the feeling he would have all of them along for the Gucci experience, if he could. 

Vogue’s ultimate guide to Shanghai

May 31, 2019 | News | No Comments

Image credit: Emily Malan. 

With its booming creativity and status as China’s fashion capital cemented, Shanghai is one of Asia’s most exciting destinations right now. Its vibrant creative landscape and hyper-modern gourmet and nightlife scene are ready to be explored. Here, interviews local fashion insiders to discover the most exciting hotspots in the Paris of the East.

Image credit: Getty Images. 

Stay: Find a room with a view

Whether it’s in the bustling downtown or the more leisurely suburbs, a gold-rated Shanghai hotel is all about a room with a view. In the downtown area, The Middle House, with its classical-cum-contemporary interiors designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni, offers a rare quiet haven. “The whole space looks modern and warm; it has a homely intimacy,”  says influencer Candice Wang. The Edition Shanghai, which opened in November 2018 with a panoramic view of the Bund and stylish decor in line with Ian Schrager’s other global Editions, is Sherry Li, China’s digital editor’s, new favourite. She also recommends the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, which has 16 of its 18 stories built below ground level on the site of an 88 metre-deep quarry. “The building is a pioneering work,” she says. “You live literally underground. It’s not like any other hotel – it’s a real wonderland.”

Image credit: Beast Bling Bling. 

Shop: Buy the local curations

Shanghai has its own iterations of Dover Street Market and Colette. Located in the leafy boulevards of the old French Concession, Labelhood Pillar is a must-visit for anyone who wants to discover up-and-coming local designers such as Xu Zhi, Ms Min and Uma Wang. The newly opened Le Monde de SHC, founded by Eric Young, a former media veteran and current fashion PR guru, is an art-deco-inspired boutique with a compelling curation of Young’s favourite fashion, homeware and books from around the world, as well as a salon for his hip friends in the industry. “The place is dedicated to representing Shanghai chic, to wow those well-informed international fashionistas,” he says. The Beast Shop, meanwhile, which started as a viral online flower shop (the bouquets were customised by clients’ personal stories) is now a chain of boutiques divided into four concepts: you can buy the bouquets inspired by Van Gogh at The Beast Shops; find the most exciting new beauty products at Little B; purchase selected modern homeware and furniture at T-B-H; and discover the most stylish fashion jewellers at Beast Bling Bling.

Image credit: Fu He Hui. 

Eat: A fusion of flavours

Shanghai’s embrace of diverse cuisines makes it a gourmet capital for foodies, but what sets it apart is its creativity when it comes to fusion cooking. China’s Li favours La Maison, a restaurant located in a villa previously owned by the Chinese Al Capone, Du Yuesheng, in the 1930s. Famous for updating traditional Shanghai classics, such as scallion noodles and sweet and sour ribs made from Iberian pork, its beautiful garden is the perfect spot for a romantic summer dinner. The upcoming stylist Audrey Hu who contributes to i-D, likes the casual eatery Bloom. “They present exquisite fusion dishes – the sea urchin wheat risotto Sakura cocktail is stunning,” she says. “Plus, it has a hidden but enchanting view.” For vegetarians, the Michelin-starred Fu He Hui is a temple to haute vegetarian cuisine using traditional Chinese ingredients.

Image credit: 44KW. 

Going out: Dance and drink all night

Shanghai is a city that never sleeps – and the fashion crowd has its own secret spots for fun at night. Womenswear designer Min Wu recommends 44KW, owned by fashion photographer Puyuan Guo. The club comprises a front area with bar and ping-pong tables, a lounge space and a back room with a sound system that will blow your mind. Adam Chen, editorial director of China and Sisi Li the mastermind behind music agency S.T.D., say Arkham is the place to go for the best music (from techno to house) and DJs in Shanghai. Both clubs see the best parties during fashion weeks, but if your tastes veer towards cosy and intimate, Speak Low is considered to be the best bar in China, and the second best in Asia. A Japanese-style speakeasy, it is hidden behind a secret door in a bartending equipment shop and each of its four floors has a unique design concept. Expect classic cocktails as well as some creative originals, including one made with local Wang Lao Ji tea.

Image credit: Sukothai. 

Detox: Try traditional therapy

Shanghai’s best spas are havens of traditional Asian therapies. The Green Massage chain is a favourite of many insiders, including influencer Wang. “You feel so revived after the signature detox treatment. The traditional Hanfang therapy and Chinese massage always have long waiting lists, too,” she says. The newly opened The Retreat at The Sukhothai hotel offers a raft of mindful ritual treatments, including Himalayan warm stone massages and green tea facials. “The interior design and the fragrance in the air make you feel relaxed just walking in,” says Hu. “Chinese massage, cupping and scraping are all worth trying.” You’s Acupuncture may not look particularly fancy on the outside, but it is the go-to choice of Jun Zhou, one half of the design duo behind the fashion label Pronounce. Zhou tells he always goes there after staging a fashion show. “The meridians massage and hot mud with moxibustion treatment literally make you feel warm inside and out, and give you your energy back,” he says.

Image credit: The Tank. 

See: The contemporary art scene

According to Lingjie Tang, creative director of The Beast Shop and a former arts journalist, Shanghai is becoming the contemporary art hub of China, with several museum openings in recent years creating a vibrant new art scene in the city. Sitting on the banks of the Huangpu River, Power Station of Art is Shanghai’s equivalent of Tate Modern. The contemporary art museum has hosted Shanghai biennales, visiting exhibitions from The Andy Warhol Museum and the Centre Pompidou, and a memorable Cai Guo-Qiang solo show. And its current exhibitions, including and , are must-see shows. Tank Shanghai, which only opened in March, is already a blockbuster – the 60,000 square-metre art park’s debut show was an immersive exhibition by art collective teamLab, and during Shanghai Fashion Week it hosted Labelhood, a platform showcasing upcoming fashion design talent. It is also currently exhibiting Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas’s debut show in China. Prada Rong Zhai, a replicate of the Italian luxury house’s Fondazione in Milan, is another new power player in the city. After a six-year renovation, the once garden mansion of Rong Zongjing, a late Qing Dynasty industrialist dubbed “The King of Flour”, is now an exquisite East-meets-West art space. The latest exhibition, curated by Goshka Macuga, showcases the identity issues of humans and robots in a fictional, post-apocalyptic universe.

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31st May 2019

If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing George and Amal Clooney in the flesh — because quite frankly, we all have — then the reality that you could be sitting down for lunch with Hollywood’s favourite power couple at their luxurious Lake Como villa will no doubt blow your mind.

But how? Courtesy of Omaze, a fundraising platform known to give away everything from meet-and-greets with the  cast, to a private screening of  with Emilia Clarke, the Clooneys are giving one lucky fan and a friend the chance to join them in Italy for lunch, just for showing their support of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.

While you don’t actually have to donate in order to enter or win the ultimate lunch date prize, those who do, will receive bonus entries depending on the size of their donation. And when you consider that each donation goes towards helping the Clooneys’ campaign for human rights, who wouldn’t want to do their part? 

George announced the news via a video, published on Omaze’s official Twitter account. “To benefit the Clooney Foundation for Justice, we’re inviting you and a guest to go on a double date with Amal – a world-renowned human rights lawyer, law school professor, and a leading thinker on the concept of justice throughout the world – and me, an actor,” he says. 

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“Just picture it, you and Amal, wine in your hand, discussing current affairs while her husband quietly serves lunch,” he continues. Don’t deny the image that just popped into your head wasn’t one you’d want to turn into reality. 

“Amal is one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and impressive people you’ll ever meet, and I am the two-time Sexiest Man Alive,” George adds.

He then goes on to list the projects he’s worked on in an attempt to convince viewers of why they should want to join himself and his wife at their home; however, there’s no denying he had us from the start. 

“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “I also have Brad Pitt’s home phone number, which… I could give you.”

While we have no doubt George has already sold you on why you should be entering the competition, there’s actually more. On top of the intimate double date, the Omaze site confirms the winner and friend will be flown to Italy for the occasion and put up in a four-star hotel. If George’s pitch has piqued your interest, follow the links and enter before July 14 for your chance to win.

Many people were understandably relieved by the results of last weekend’s European elections, which saw the rise of the far right somewhat contained, at least for now. In Britain, France, Hungary, and Italy, nationalist parties that have embraced Euroskepticism did well. But, in Austria, Germany, and Spain, they won a smaller share of the vote than they did in the most recent national elections, and in Denmark and the Netherlands they suffered big setbacks. When the new Parliament gathers, an assortment of xenophobic right-wing parties will control about a quarter of the seats, making them a potent force but not a dominant one.

Among the winners of the election were two pro-European groups: the Greens, who took about nine per cent of the vote over all, and the centrist liberal-democrat bloc, which was strengthened by the presence of Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance alliance. An optimistic reading of the outcome is that, with the Greens on the rise and the centrists emboldened, the new Parliament will be able to provide the leadership that Europe so desperately needs after a decade of political crises and economic stagnation. On Tuesday, Macron, whose alliance gained 22.4 per cent of the French vote—one percentage point less than the far-right National Rally, which was formerly known as the National Front—outlined an agenda for European renewal, which includes addressing climate change, creating more jobs, and strengthening the E.U.’s economic institutions.

Sadly, though, there are reasons to be skeptical about whether the election, by itself, will make much of a difference. For one thing, the European Parliament still occupies a subservient position to the real power centers in the E.U.: the European Commission, an administrative body that proposes legislation and runs things day to day, and the European Council, which comprises the heads of state of all the member countries and also the Council’s president (Donald Tusk) and the president of the Commission (Jean-Claude Juncker). Decades ago, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the French President, commented dismissively that the Parliament “does not have any political power.” Things have changed a bit in recent years, but the scope for the Parliament to influence the over-all direction of the E.U. remains strictly circumscribed. And because the chamber is now even more fragmented than it was—the Web site Europe Elects lists twelve different groups that will be represented—it may have some difficulty exercising the powers it does have, which include helping to allocate the E.U.’s budget, conduct oversight, and make appointments.

As always in the E.U., any real change will have to be pushed through from the national capitals, particularly Paris and Berlin. But, with the union now comprising twenty-eight members, it is more difficult than ever to get agreement on significant reforms. Even the core eurozone, which has nineteen members, seems unable to do more than muddle through from crisis to crisis.

Although the number of asylum seekers has fallen sharply since 2016, no permanent solution to the migrant issue, which the parties of the far right are always eager to exploit, has been found. The eurozone’s economy has rebounded from the debt crisis of a decade ago, but the recovery has been modest and uneven. Since 2008, G.D.P. growth has averaged less than one per cent a year. To many Europeans, particularly in the southern countries, the E.U. still looks like an austerity trap. Its common currency and arbitrary fiscal rules rob individual countries of policy autonomy, and the lack of a fiscal union precludes the sort of large-scale federal transfers and guarantees that exist in the United States. As long as this economic structure prevails, Europe will be vulnerable to recessions, banking crises, and political upheaval.

The next showdown may well be in Italy, which has the third-largest economy in the E.U. On Tuesday, Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and head of the far-right League—which took more than a third of the vote in the parliamentary election—called for a big tax cut to boost the somnolent Italian economy. Citing two of his inspirations, he said, “We need a Trump cure, an Orbán cure, a positive fiscal shock to restart the country.”

Strictly on economic grounds, Salvini has an argument to make. In inflation-adjusted terms, Italy’s G.D.P. is still about five per cent below its 2008 level, and the jobless rate remains above ten per cent. Clearly, there is spare capacity and inadequate demand. To be sure, the Italian economy has other problems, too, including scant productivity growth, an inadequate education system, and a high level of public debt, but these hardly justify asking the Italian population to endure another lost decade. Still, the E.U. authorities are refusing to back off. Even before Salvini’s statement, they were threatening to fine Italy billions of euros for having breached the eurozone’s fiscal rules already. Pointing to a rising ratio of government debt to G.D.P., an official at the European Commission told the Financial Times, “The numbers are clear-cut.”

The rise of the European far right can’t be reduced entirely to conservative economics. In some countries, such as Poland and Germany, extremist parties have risen in popularity despite decent rates of G.D.P. growth. Migration, racism, demagoguery, and the development of social media have all played significant roles. But the ultimate promise of the European project was peace and liberty buttressed by rising economic prosperity, and, during the past decade, this last leg has buckled.

Two years ago, when Macron was elected President of France, there were hopes that he could forge a grand bargain with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, which would address some of the eurozone’s shortcomings, such as the lack of a common fiscal policy. Many German officials weren’t keen on this idea to begin with, however. As electoral setbacks for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union weakened her position and eventually prompted her to step down as party leader, hopes of any big changes have receded.

On Tuesday, Merkel, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, acknowledged the rise of “dark forces”—nationalism, populism, and anti-Semitism—in Germany and other European countries. “We must face up to the spectres of the past,” Merkel said. “We have to tell our young people what history has brought over us and others.” But the Chancellor, who has also said that she won’t stand for office again in 2021, didn’t articulate any great vision or policy agenda to reinvigorate the E.U.

That task may be left to those who, last weekend, rejected the slogans of the right and embraced European ideals, such as Greens in Germany and Ireland, social democrats in Spain and Sweden, liberal democrats in France and Denmark, and backers of a People’s Vote in Britain. Despite all of the E.U.’s problems, there is still a strong reservoir of support for the values it embodies, and prophets of its doom have repeatedly been proved wrong. Europe has great strengths. It also needs to work better.

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“When They See Us” is a four-episode dramatized Netflix series, directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay, about the Central Park Five. That byname, by the nature of DuVernay’s project, almost immediately comes to seem not merely inadequate but unjust. The phrase presses five teen-age boys into a faceless gang, or a multiheaded monster, and the miniseries insists that we state their names: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise. The boys, four of whom were black and one of whom was Latino, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989, when a female jogger named Trisha Meili was beaten, raped, and left for dead—and it is also the United States of America anytime since its founding.

In revisiting this infamous miscarriage of justice, the miniseries presents an odd compound of memorable political art and misfired entertainment. Like “13th,” DuVernay’s excellent documentary about the legacies of slavery, “When They See Us” is guided by a strong historical analysis. But unlike “Selma,” her drama about Martin Luther King, Jr., it can seem awkwardly sermonic, relaying its ideas by way of familiar tropes. It unsteadily treads the line between the effectively excruciating and the plainly tedious. Viewers with a lick of conscience will know what to think, but the score keeps swelling to tell them how to feel. Its bluntest images—a rat in a prison cell, for instance—do a disservice to its many graceful characterizations.

The series is lyrical in its fleeting visions of the children’s shattered lives and deadeningly prosaic in its deconstruction of how those lives were shattered. The first five minutes sketch the boys’ personalities as they enjoy moments of teen freedom on the eve of spring break: a burger with a father, a stroll with a sibling, a bit of banter with a witty girl. A gorgeous green dusk falls as they swell the ranks of a group of thirty or forty kids who enter the park to make a ruckus, which a blurry selection of them escalate into a small rampage of hassling bicyclists and mugging pedestrians. Kevin, the most tender of the five boys, watches, appalled, as roughnecks in the group beat a passerby; then a cop clobbers him in the head and calls him an animal.

Around the same time as these boys were witnessing the criminal misdeeds of their peers and scurrying away from trouble, Meili suffered a vicious attack—very approximately around the same time. The prosecutor in charge of the sex-crimes unit—Linda Fairstein, played by Felicity Huffman—massages the police department’s time line of events to resolve a forty-five-minute discrepancy and place the teen mob at the site of the attack. One of the series’ nice notes of ambiguity concerns whether Fairstein’s drive to convict these kids, despite copious evidence calling for their exoneration, is strictly a matter of careerism or of sincere beliefs, suggested by her avid megaphoning of the “animals” refrain. Either way, the authorities intend to quickly author a story of order restored and vengeance achieved. The boys’ fate as fall guys is sealed when a local-TV-news van pulls in among the cruisers parked outside of the precinct house. “When They See Us” is rich in such moments of quiet juxtaposition, with, say, the matter-of-fact set dressing of a DARE poster in the background, gesturing beyond the story to the drug war. It’s also compelling as a meta-narrative about the control of story lines, as when the chatter of talk radio sounds like a chorus calling for the blood sacrifice of scapegoats.

If this were not based on a true story, you could call the motion of it schematic: it is a procedural of injustice. In the first episode, with its depiction the coerced confessions, good-cop-bad-cop routines come to seem routine quite quickly. The second episode, in which the defense lawyers, with their cheap suits and high ideals, are outmatched by the connivances of the district-attorney’s office, moves all too easily from the poignant specifics of each boy’s feelings, and of Meili’s halting turn at the witness stand, to the generic territory of courtroom drama. The third episode features many reprises of the opening sequence. Initially, it’s poignant to see these flashbacks to the unspoiled boyhoods of incarcerated men (and, later, frustrated parolees)—a welcome jolt of warm humanity amid scenes featuring sadistic inmates. But, by the fourth episode, when a memory of an innocent dalliance with a girlfriend flowers into a fantasy sequence set among the amusements of Coney Island, it’s cheap.

When the narrative arc has bent toward justice, with the confession, in 2002, by the actual rapist and the vacating of the convictions, and the present-day faces of the five real men appear onscreen, you may feel that a more satisfying miniseries would have focussed closely on any one of them. As it is, the many excellent small performances in “When They See Us” feel especially small because of the series’ ambitious sweep. There are a lot of full characters here, but we only get partial views of them, and the interplay between the poetic evocations of these individual souls and the grand indictment of the criminal-justice system is rarely as compelling as one might like.

Maybe it’s asking a lot, these days, to expect one’s preferences in social-justice essayism and narrative art to be satisfied by the same story. The series represents an important act of witness—strange to say, considering the fame of the case and its rehashing in memoirs, popular histories, and a Ken Burns documentary. Significantly, we’ve been forced to revisit it on account of the rise of Donald Trump. In May of 1989, in an early phase of his eruption from local nuisance to global menace, Trump took out a full-page newspaper ad agitating for the execution of these five children. This incident takes up a lot of oxygen in the second episode. “They need to keep that bigot off TV,” one character says. It is relevant to the plot and necessary to the atmosphere that this “real-estate hustler” should rear his head. But, seeing the series in the cold shadow of Trump’s Presidency, we find ourselves doubly fatigued, watching a nightmare still going on, at a larger scale, while the need for urgent action overwhelms the desire for subtlety.

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In July of 2016, Lucrecia Hernández Mack, a forty-two-year-old public-health advocate, became the first woman to head Guatemala’s Ministry of Health. Her background was in think tanks, not politics, and Mack was cautious about accepting the position. Her mother, the indigenous-rights activist Myrna Mack, had been assassinated by the Guatemalan military, in 1990, during the decades-long civil war, and the country’s newly elected President, a former television comedian named Jimmy Morales, was a controversial figure among Guatemalan progressives, owing to his conspicuously thin credentials. Many of Mack’s friends and associates warned her against joining his administration. Yet years of government mismanagement and corruption had led to a public-health crisis—hospitals and health clinics across the country were short on medications, supplies, and vaccines, and preventable illnesses were spreading—and Mack felt that she had no choice. Before taking the job, though, she extracted a promise from Morales that the ministry would be hers to run without interference.

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“Within the first week, it became clear just how deep the corruption ran in the ministry,” Mack told me recently. She and her staff discovered more than a thousand pending requests from politicians to give various ministry positions to friends, relatives, and associates. Public clinics were paying up to three times more for food and soap than they cost on the open market, because of inflated contracts with private sellers. For a decade, funds in the ministry’s annual budget had been allocated for a hospital in the department of Huehuetenango, in the western highlands, but all that existed of it were the outer walls. The actual hospital was never built.

Mack immediately filed complaints with both the Attorney General’s office and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known as the CICIG, an independent anti-corruption agency overseen by the United Nations and supported by the United States. Staffed with Guatemalan and international investigators, the group was founded in 2006, in an effort to root out a group of repressive state-security agencies that had formed during the civil war, which had ended ten years earlier, and it went on to help prosecute more than a hundred cases, leading to charges against nearly seven hundred people involved in more than sixty criminal networks nationwide. “The Guatemalan government could not clean itself up on its own,” Adriana Beltrán, of the Washington Office on Latin America, told me. “It needed the CICIG to help fix its institutions.” In 2015, Guatemala’s Attorney General, Thelma Aldana, working with the CICIG, charged President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice-President Roxana Baldetti with racketeering and fraud, and both resigned. (Pérez Molina is in jail awaiting trial; Baldetti, who was convicted last year, is serving a fifteen-year sentence.) Their resignations paved the way for the election of Morales, who ran as an outsider. His slogan was “Not corrupt, nor a thief.”

As Mack started to remake the Health Ministry, with assistance from the CICIG, she came under attack by politicians and businessmen who had profited under the old order. They accused her of embezzlement and nepotism and launched smear campaigns against her and her staff, online and in the media. “We went in knowing the work would be hard, and we still underestimated the force of the opposition,” she said. Morales was tolerant of Mack’s efforts at first—“he had a health crisis he needed us to fix,” she told me—but within months he and his family had come under investigation by the CICIG for campaign-finance violations and money laundering. He began to criticize the anti-corruption campaign as a usurpation of his power, and he distanced himself from Mack’s efforts in the ministry. In August, 2017, Morales announced that he was expelling the CICIG’s commissioner, a Colombian named Iván Velásquez, from the country, and Mack resigned.

Next month, Guatemala will hold a general election, and Mack is running for Congress under the banner of an anti-corruption party called Movimiento Semilla.“The lesson we learned at the ministry was that if you want to implement health policies, you need healthy institutions,” she said. Last year, Morales announced plans to curtail the CICIG’s operations, claiming that it had engaged in “selective criminal prosecution with an ideological bias.” He attempted to cancel the investigators’ visas and suspend their diplomatic credentials. When a Guatemalan court blocked him, Morales responded by attacking the judges and briefly detaining one of the commission’s investigators. In January, he tried to shut down the CICIG altogether, and the court intervened once again to stop him. Velásquez, the commissioner, remains barred from the country. The CICIG has continued to operate anyway, albeit in reduced form. Its mandate, which was renewed two years ago, is due to expire in September.

By the time the Presidential campaign began in full, earlier this year, seventy per cent of Guatemalans supported the CICIG, and one of the leading candidates for President was Thelma Aldana, who had worked closely with the group for the four years that she was Attorney General. Last year, she decided to forgo running for another term and, like Mack, she eventually joined Movimiento Semilla. Among the front-runners for President, Aldana was the only one to vow to support the CICIG and continue its mission.

The campaign against Aldana began even before she declared her candidacy. When Aldana left the Attorney General’s office, Felipe Alejos, the leader of a rival political party and the vice-president of the National Congress, filed a raft of lawsuits against her, alleging corruption and influence peddling. (Aldana had brought charges against Alejos when she was Attorney General.) According to the Salvadoran news site El Faro, Aldana had personally led some five hundred investigations into businessmen, drug traffickers, mayors, members of Congress, and government ministers during her tenure. Now some of them were trying to cripple her candidacy. There were accusations that she had overseen the improper purchase of a government building while in office and that she had overpaid cronies with public funds. Some of the claims (including the building purchase) were promptly disproved; others were harder to rebut because charges were brought under special proceedings, and Aldana was not permitted to publicly contest the evidence against her. Mack told me, “If I was in government for thirteen months, trying to clean house at the health ministry, and I made all the enemies that I did, then just imagine what it must be like for Aldana, who spent four years working with the CICIG.”

In March, while Aldana was in El Salvador for a meeting, a Guatemalan judge issued a warrant for her arrest, on charges of paying a consultant for a nonexistent job at a national university, when she was Attorney General. She denied any impropriety, but, because of the charges, her certification as a candidate was revoked. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court upheld the suspension of her candidacy. She can appeal to the Supreme Court, but not in time to get a ruling before the elections, so the decision has effectively ended her Presidential bid. “This is an enormous step back,” Álvaro Montenegro, an activist who helped organize national protests against government corruption in 2015, told me. “It’s hard to know where we go from here.”

American politicians are not in the habit of paying much attention to what happens in Guatemala, but the recent developments should be cause for concern. For one thing, the United States bears some responsibility for the CICIG’s precarious standing and for the latest bout of impunity that has resulted. For the first decade of the CICIG’s existence, from 2006 to 2016, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress saw political corruption in Central America as a major driver of drug trafficking and migration to the southern U.S. border. During those years, the United States gave close to forty-five million dollars to CICIG, and the State Department defended its mandate against the opposition to it that arose in Guatemala. That began to change under the Trump Administration, however.

In late February, 2017, Morales and a group of political aides and influential businessmen met at a condominium in Guatemala City to devise a strategy to sully the CICIG’s reputation in the United States. Within a few months, this group had expanded to include members of the Guatemalan National Congress, and, according to an investigation by Nómada, a Guatemalan news site, they began paying tens of thousands of dollars each month to two American lobbying firms. One, Barnes & Thornburg, is managed by Robert Grand, who had been a major fund-raiser for the Indiana gubernatorial campaigns of Vice-President Mike Pence; the other, Greenberg Traurig, had multiple offices in Florida, the home state of Republican Senator Marco Rubio. The American hedge-fund manager Bill Browder had also taken interest in the CICIG and had mounted his own campaign to lobby members of Congress against it. A strong and vocal proponent of sanctions against Russia, Browder learned of a Russian family that fled to Guatemala after Russian banks had seized the family’s business. The CICIG launched an investigation into members of the family for alleged passport fraud, and they were later arrested and given lengthy prison terms. To Browder, this was proof that the CICIG was in league with Vladimir Putin. By May, 2018, congressional Republicans were holding hearings on potential investigatory abuses committed by the CICIG; in the Senate, Rubio and the Republican Mike Lee, of Utah, led a push to suspend U.S. aid to the group.

The State Department was also abandoning its previous position. That month, following the Trump Administration’s example, and despite international condemnation, Morales moved the Guatemalan Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Nikki Haley, then the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., travelled to Guatemala to personally thank Morales. The embassy move “helps explain our full-throated defense of Morales, even in the face of corruption charges and his efforts to abolish the CICIG,” a former State Department official told me. Morales’s rhetoric on how the CICIG had “overreached” in Guatemala was taking hold at the State Department, as a recent report in Foreign Policy documented. Another former State Department official told me that “there was a significant gap between how career people”—diplomats with expertise in the region—“saw the implementation of the U.S. anti-corruption program in Guatemala and how political appointees did.” The political appointees, who entered government with the Trump Administration, kept claiming that “the CICIG was a violation of Guatemalan sovereignty,” the official said. They eventually won out: the Americans remained quiet when Morales announced that the Guatemalan government would end the CICIG once its mandate officially lapsed.

All of this raises questions about American interests in the region. What does the Trump Administration want, exactly? Earlier this week, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, travelled to Guatemala to sign a new security pact with the Guatemalan government, in an effort to curb rising emigration. McAleenan has maintained that the United States needs to address the “root causes” of migration through targeted aid, a position that is at odds with President Trump’s announcement, in March, that he will cut all foreign aid to three Central American countries. Either way, binational security compacts seem unpromising if the State Department is unwilling to call out the corruption of American partners.

One of the paradoxes of the U.S. reversal on the CICIG is that it directly undercuts the Administration’s goal of limiting immigration. Entrenched corruption—obvious impunity, in particular—is a widely recognized cause of emigration. Last month, more than a hundred thousand migrants were apprehended at the southern border while trying to enter the United States, most of them seeking asylum; the largest share of those people was from Guatemala. “Corruption is what prevents the state from forming and implement public, social, and economic policies that can improve the conditions of the population,” Lucrecia Hernández Mack told me. “When there aren’t highways or productive infrastructure, when we don’t have a health-care or education system in place that responds to the needs of the population, or that can even provide them with some measure of security . . . people are forced to look for better opportunities elsewhere, like in the U.S.”

In March, the CICIG partnered with Nómada and the Myrna Mack Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Guatemala City, to produce a detailed report about “illicit networks and the political crisis” in Guatemala. The specific focus was on the Congress and how a “core group” of legislators voted in blocks to further private interests. According to the analysis, some two thousand federal contracts for a range of public spending projects, worth roughly 1.9 billion quetzales, were affected by corruption schemes between January, 2016, and April, 2017; that could mean anything from bribes to kickbacks or special deals. The regions with the highest rates of poverty and emigration did not receive the largest amounts of federal funding, but much of the money that did reach such regions was siphoned off, anyway. Huehuetenango, for instance, has the highest number of people leaving for the U.S. each year. In 2017, the federal government allocated three hundred and twenty-seven million quetzales to the department, fifty-four per cent of which was, according to the report, “captured” in some special-interest deal.

Thelma Aldana has yet to return to Guatemala, and the Presidential race continues without her. There are currently more than twenty candidates and no clear front-runner. The person expected to benefit most from her absence is Sandra Torres, a former First Lady who is in the lead in the most recent polls. The country’s current Attorney General has an open investigation into Torres, as well, but she had declared her candidacy before the charges were brought, and, by Guatemalan law, political candidates are immune from prosecution. At present, a hundred and fifty other candidates running for national office next month have been cited for campaign irregularities; some of them face charges ranging from receiving suspicious government contracts to drug trafficking. In Aldana’s case, a constitutional court ruled that the charges against her were filed before she declared her candidacy but were only made public afterward. The time line is obviously suspect. To Guatemalans, the muddled outcome comes as no surprise.

LGBTQ+ people have gradually, if inconsistently, been getting better representation in films in recent years. The Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals offer LGBTQ+ specific awards and according to a study by GLAAD, 13 per cent of films released by major studios in 2017 featured characters that identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer – this was, however, down by almost six per cent from the previous year. Given the success of Oscar-winning and nominated productions like ? and all of which depict LGBTQ+ characters with varying degrees of success; while most notably was criticized for its “straightwashing” of Freddy Mercury’s homosexuality – hopefully that figure is set to increase in 2019.

When it comes to the diversity of LGBTQ+ film characters there is still work to be done; queer characters of colour are even more scarce on screen. There are, of course, exceptions: and all made waves at international film festivals and awards ceremonies in recent years. To mark the arrival of Pride month in June, here is the edit of 10 LGBTQ+ films that have paved the way for better representation in cinema.

Moonlight (2016)

While the furore around the announcement of Best Picture at the 89th Oscars – mistakenly awarding , before quickly correcting to (above) – might have initially distracted from the film’s subject matter, it deserves to be recognised for its enduring relevance and impact. Based on a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, it focuses on themes of race, masculine identity and sexuality, following a young man as he grows into adulthood. Director Barry Jenkins was hailed at the time as a talent to watch and has proved critics right more recently with , his award-winning adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name.

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

This drama, by Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, stars Daniela Vega as a trans woman (above) dealing with the sudden death of her older boyfriend, charting the transphobia she faces from her late lover’s relatives and the police throughout her grieving process. Vega’s acting debut was one of the standout performances of the year, and although she didn’t receive any nominations herself, the film won Best Foreign Language picture and Vega became the first openly trans actress to present an Oscar in the Academy’s 90-year history.

Paris Is Burning (1990)

Fans of the FX series – which premiered in 2018 – need look no further. The true inspiration behind the show lies in Jennie Livingston’s documentary , a documentary that captures the ballroom and drag culture of 1980s New York. Featuring interviews with the real-life key players of the Vogueing scene, including Dorian Corey and Willi Ninja, the viewer is schooled in queer terminology, much of which (see “reading” and “shade”) is now used in mainstream culture.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

Gay conversion therapy centres may sound archaic, but this story is set in relatively recent history (1993), featuring Chloë Grace Moretz as a lesbian teenager (above) sent to one such centre by her devout Christian mother. Assured direction from Desiree Akhavan not only brings out one of Moretz’s best performances, but more importantly sheds light on a practice that’s still prevalent today. A 2015 study conducted by Stonewall found that 10 per cent of health and care staff in the UK have witnessed colleagues expressing the belief that lesbian, gay and bi people can be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation. Hopefully Akhavan’s work (along with the likes of Joel Edgerton’s (2019), based on American writer Garrard Conley’s memoir of gay conversion therapy) can help to change this damaging perception.

Nowhere (1997)

Sex, a 1990s wardrobe to die for and giant space lizards – those familiar with director Gregg Araki’s work will feel right at home with this dark comedy. In keeping with Araki’s other cult offerings, , and , ’s eye-popping visuals are matched by its outrageous dialogue and often explosive violence. Araki’s directing style may not be for the faint hearted, but it’s gained him a devoted fan base and several accolades. His 2010 queer sci-fi fantasy, , won the first ever Queer Palm award at Cannes for its contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. More recently, in March 2019, he turned his hand to television with – an eight-episode sex-positive series set in Los Angeles that follows the character Ulysses as he navigates the world of dating and hook-up apps.

120 Beats Per Minute (2017)

Set in 1990s Paris, this French political drama (above) follows the early efforts of the Act Up movement – founded in New York in 1987, and Paris in 1989 – a reaction to the glacial response of governments to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The story is told via the blossoming relationship between HIV-positive veteran activist Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and HIV-negative newcomer Nathan (Arnaud Valois), as they protest against corporate pharmaceutical companies and the French health service who are withholding vital medication. Powerful, immersive and often heartbreakingly sad, the movie stays with the viewer long after the closing credits and shines a light on the lesser known Act Up movement in Europe.

Pariah (2011)

From director Dee Rees, focuses on a young African American woman exploring her identity as a lesbian in NYC. American actress Adepero Oduye plays the lead, Alike, a burgeoning 17-year-old poet who develops feelings for her close friend Bina (played by Aasha Davis), but struggles with the hostility she faces from her family. Through a female gaze, the film not only considers the subjects of feminism and lesbian identity, but also self-worth and acceptance.

God’s Own Country (2017)

British film-maker Frances Lee’s directorial debut (above) tells the story of a Yorkshire sheep farmer, Johnny (Josh O’Connor), and his relationship with a Romanian shepherd, Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu). Living with his aging parents and looking after both them and the farm, Johnny’s outlook is bleak; until the arrival of Gheorghe who injects a sense of vitality into his life, with affection and courage. Both actors hold the screen with powerful intent, nuanced gestures and little dialogue that speaks volumes. For his next act, O’Connor is set to play a young Prince Charles in the latest series of Netflix’s ; while Lee’s upcoming feature, , tells the story of 19th-century palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and her romance with another woman, played by Saoirse Ronan.

Rafiki (2018)

The story surrounding Kenyan film-maker Wanuri Kahiu’s is as dramatic as the tale that unfolds onscreen. It’s basic premise – a lesbian teen romance set in a provincial Kenyan town – may not seem scandalous to some audiences, but it turned out to be a strong political statement. Days after it was selected for Cannes, the film was banned in Kenya – where homosexuality is illegal – by the Film Classification Board for its “clear intent to promote lesbianism”. Despite online trolling and threats of arrest, Kahiu refused to be silenced; the film debuted at the 2018 festival and, following a successful lawsuit against the Board, the ban was lifted briefly to screen in cinemas across Kenya for seven days, making it eligible for the 2019 Academy Awards (although it missed out on a nomination). Now, the 39-year-old film-maker is suing the Kenyan government for infringement of freedom of expression.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s novel captured the minds and hearts of cinemagoers around the world when it was released in 2017. Set against the backdrop of a long, languorous summer spent in northern Italy, the chemistry that develops between Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) is so palpable that the audience feels every moment of frustration, desire, love and heartbreak along with them. But the story doesn’t end there. October 2019 will see the release of Aciman’s sequel, , which Guadagnino has expressed an interest in directing, promising to ignite the shared literary and filmic fandom once more.

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29th May 2019

Just last week, Net-A-Porter hosted the ultimate fashion retreat on the Peloponnese coast in Greece. The three-day escape celebrated its Jet-A-Porter vacation edit, with VIP guests proving that it is in fact possible to have a holiday and stick to your beauty and workout regimes, all the while looking like you’ve just walked off the streets of fashion week.

Nicole Warne, Georgia Fowler and Maria Borges were among the attendees welcomed to a sunset soirée overlooking the Aegean Sea. Following the event, Victoria Secret Angel Romee Strijd, who was also in attendance, revealed to Vogue her top tips when travelling – because the model sure knows a thing or two about long-haul flights. Strijd has spent countless hours flying to and from shows, fittings and photoshoots, so it should come as no surprise that she has a few jet-setting tricks up her sleeve.

When quizzed on how she survives a long-haul flight, the model says the answer is hydrating. “A super-rich cream, or even…a hydrating mask,” is key for your skin and to keep your insides hydrated, the model says “Drinking a lot of water, hydration is the most important.” If the plane’s dry air isn’t motivating enough to encourage you to lather your skin with love like you would at home, invest a little time into pampering yourself because being stuck mid-air is the perfect excuse to indulge in a little TLC.

Once you’ve landed, the last thing you generally feel like doing is completing an entire skincare and beauty regime, so don’t. Instead, take a leaf out of Strijd’s book and keep it minimal. The model tells Vogue her beauty essentials for a summer getaway are only “SPF from EltaMd, lip balm from Sisley, Cactus [and Ginseng] Hydrating Mist from Kiehls and The Rich Cream [from] Augustinus Bader.” Limiting the amount of products you travel with means less time spent in the bathroom and more time by the pool. It also cuts down on luggage space and allows you to let your skin breathe.

As for the model’s top tip when it comes to packing for a getaway? Pre-plan what you want to wear. “I love making outfits beforehand, so I take a day to try everything on, take a quick pic on my iPhone (and) put them all in a folder called vacation outfits. Saves you time,” she shares.

We all know the benefits of exercise are vast and varied, so it’s also important to give yourself time to fit in a little training while travelling. “Do [exercise] outside, bring bands, and jump rope,” says Strijd. “Do 30 minutes a day before breakfast so you can enjoy your day after.”

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