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Wang Jianlin: does China’s richest man have a plan to take over Hollywood?

The Chinese real estate billionaire is storming into the film industry, but his ties to the Communist party have some suspecting a bid for cultural influence

Chinas richest man, Wang Jianlin, didnt mince words in a major address to Hollywood on Monday. Hollywood, which is famous for its storytelling, apparently is not as good as it used to be in telling stories, he said, citing the industrys obsession with sequels and remakes.

Those sequels might have worked before, but Chinese audiences are more sophisticated now. If you want to participate in the growing Chinese market, you must improve film quality.

To those familiar with Wang, the chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group, a sprawling real estate company attempting to transform itself into a global entertainment brand, the forceful tone didnt come as a surprise.

Since acquiring AMC Entertainment, the second-largest cinema chain in the US, for $2.6bn in 2012, Wang, who is worth an estimated $32.5bn and has ties to the communist Chinese government, has been aggressively staking his claim on the industry. So far, hes snapped up Europes biggest cinema group, Odeon and UCI, purchased the US production house Legendary Entertainment (the company behind the Dark Knight trilogy and Jurassic World), and boasted that he intends to soon buy one of the six major US studios. Currently, Wang is said to in preliminary talks to purchase Dick Clark Productions, producer of the Golden Globe Awards, American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards.

Following introductions from Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti (he referred to Wang his friend), Wang launched into his companys plans to offer a 40% production rebate for foreign and local films and television shows at his huge new film studio in eastern China (expected to cost $8.2bn and open in 2017). This metropolis will actually increase opportunities for Hollywood, Wang said. This is an opportunity for Hollywood, not competition for Hollywood.

Wangs takeover of Hollywood, however, has attracted a fair share of scrutiny from US lawmakers concerned that he is providing the Chinese government a platform to promote communist ideologies.

Expanding Chinas cultural influence and cultural soft power around the world is a goal of the party, says Michael Forsythe, a Hong Kong-based New York Times journalist who has spent years investigating the billionaires business dealings. I dont think anybody would dispute that. And he is certainly doing that. Its pretty clear that is what he is doing.

Forsythe claims Wang, who has been a member of the Communist party since 1976, was quick to react to a meeting of top party leaders in October 2011, which focused on ways to boost the countrys cultural soft power overseas. Just a few months later, Wang closed the deal to buy AMC Entertainment.

Last month, 16 US congressmen signed a letter to encourage greater scrutiny of Chinese investment in American industry, citing Wandas investments in AMC and Legendary Entertainment. In the letter, John Culberson, the chairman of the House subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies, asks assistant attorney general John Carlin to consider changes to the Foreign Agents Registration Act that would allow US authorities to monitor Wandas acquisitions more closely citing Wangs close relationship with the Chinese government and Communist party. The affiliation has profound implications for American media, the letter reads.

The letter and editorial arrived months after Richard Berman, a lawyer and public relations executive, launched a campaign called China Owns Us, which paid for a billboard on in the heart of Hollywood that reads: Chinas Red Puppet: AMC Theaters. The groups underlying concern, per its mission statement, is that Chinas investments in the United States coincide with the promotion of pro-China propaganda at Americas expense.

Not everyone is buying into the fear stoked by the backlash to Wangs move into Hollywood. Adam Minter, who serves as an Asia-based columnist at Bloomberg View, argues that Wang has no business case in exporting Communist dogma to Hollywood.

Unless you can give me a business case for why Wanda would do this, it just seems to me bringing propaganda to the US that doesnt sell in China is about as good a business model as bringing spoiled food to the US that wouldnt sell in China, says Minter. Chinese people arent interested in it and neither are Americans.

To prove his point, Minter points to The Mermaid, Chinas biggest ever film. The blockbuster is a wholly original comic fantasy with no propagandistic undertones. And although Beginning of a Great Revival: The Founding of a Party, a retelling of how Chinas first communists banded together to change a country humiliated by foreign powers, performed well in China in 2011, reports allege that cinemas were ordered to secretly inflate their sales, ensuring the propagandist epic was a hit.

Wang Jianlin: If you want to profit from what is destined to become the [worlds] largest film market, you will have to understand the Chinese audience. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Stanley Rosen, a USC political science professor and China expert, agrees, noting that if Wang were to attempt to put overt communist ideology in US films, Americans would react negatively. That would hurt the studios, he says. If Wang were to own another major studio, hes smart enough to know that economics is important, and so hes not going to damage his brand.

A more valid concern, argues Bill Bishop, publisher of the Sinocism China newsletter, is the self-censorship cropping up in Hollywood products to appease Chinas notoriously strict censor board. Its a view even shared by Wang, who told CNN that any change to Hollywood content was a result of US studios adding local elements to court the Chinese film market and not the other way around.

Films ranging from Transformers: Age of Extinction to Oscar-winner Gravity have pandered to China, or featured huge amounts of Chinese product placement. In 2011, the Hollywood studio MGM went so far as to change the Chinese villains into North Korean ones in its Red Dawn remake. This year, Marvel is rumored to have changed the ethnicity of a Tibetan character in forthcoming superhero epic Doctor Strange, by casting British actor Tilda Swinton in the part of the Ancient One, to avoid upsetting China.

Studios appear willing to go to extraordinary lengths to keep local authorities happy and avoid the damaging withdrawal of a Chinese theatrical release date in a country that only allows 34 international films to screen in cinemas each year.

Its subtle and insidious, Bishop says of the popular trend. Whats getting taken out of movies [to appease China], what actors arent being given roles? There are so many changes being made to movies.

Look at the case of Warcraft, Legendarys $160m blockbuster based on the popular video game, which made only $47.2m in US during its entire theatrical run, but racked up a whopping $156m in its first five days in China. The reason: China is estimated to be home to about half of the worlds World of Warcraft players, making interest among Chinese gamers a given. The films China tally helped set a record for the biggest disparity between domestic and foreign receipts, leading to industry rumors that a planned sequel might forego a US release altogether, to open only in China.

If you want to profit from what is destined to become the [worlds] largest film market, you will have to understand the Chinese audience, Wang stressed to Hollywood in his closing remarks. Some politicians in the US are demanding for films to be politically independent, but such a view is against the common sense of business. That is why my point is that business is business. We better not make it political.

The China effect in five blockbusters

Transformers: Age of Extinction Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

The franchises new director, Jon M Chu, cast the Taiwanese star Jay Chou (who is largely unknown in the US) in the sequel, and filmed a significant portion of the film in the Chinese region of Macau. Chu told Vulture these decisions werent on his part a conscious effort to appeal to Chinese audiences, but admitted Lionsgate was no doubt pleased by his choices. Tellingly, the magic caper scored a record opening day in China for the studio.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Michael Bays sequel, made in conjunction with Chinas official state broadcaster and a company that specializes in deals between Hollywood studios and Chinese investors, not only features rampant product placement (the Hollywood Reporter described the film as the shopping channel for the new middle class, and the rich, in China) it also goes to great pains to depict the Chinese government as benevolent. Members of US government agencies are meanwhile portrayed as indecisive and corrupt.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

The Chinese cut of the Marvel blockbuster ran four minutes longer to include a positive propaganda spin for Gu Li Duo, a popular milk drink brand that prior to Iron Man 3s arrival had come under fire after batches were found to contain mercury. Iron Mans nemesis in the film, the Mandarin, was changed from a Chinese-born villain to a man of mysterious origin played by the British actor Ben Kingsley.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Chinese star Li Bingbing was added to the ensemble to cater to her large fanbase, while half an hour of action took place in Hong Kong. A Chinese boyband also makes an extended cameo.

World War Z (2013)

The writers of the zombie apocalypse epic changed the origin of the virus from China in Max Brookss book to Russia in the Brad Pitt-led film.

Additional reporting by Tom Phillips

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Clinton campaign fends off questions about WikiLeaks ‘speech excerpts’

Kaine doubts accuracy of documents dumped by hacking organization while Giuliani leads Republican attack, saying: We have a person who is a liar

Leaders of Hillary Clintons campaign were forced on the defensive on Sunday, over apparent leaks from paid speeches the Democratic presidential nominee made to top bankers, whom she said she had fought for as a senator for New York and whose role after the 2008 financial crisis she said was misunderstood.

The leaked excerpts also exposed Clinton to uncomfortable questions about her true views on trade deals and the movement of labour, both hot-button issues in the presidential election against the Republican Donald Trump.

In interviews hours before the second presidential debate in St Louis, Clintons running mate, Tim Kaine, said he could not verify whether the candidate had actually said what was in the excerpts, which were released by WikiLeaks through hacked emails from members of the Clinton campaign.

According to the excerpts, which were released on Friday, Clinton told Brazilian bankers she had a dream of a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, and told Goldman Sachs bankers Americans had misunderstandings about the financial crisis.

I have no way of knowing the accuracy of documents dumped by this hacking organization, Kaine told CNN, noting that US intelligence officials have accused Russian security services of orchestrating the hack in order to influence the election. If that is in fact true, then you cannot accept as gospel truth anything they put in a document.

Pressed about Clintons positions, Kaine said: I have no way of knowing that.

The CNN host, Jake Tapper, insisted: You could ask her. Kaine replied: I havent asked her. But you asked me about her position on trade and her position on trade is very clear.

Clintons campaign manager, Robby Mook, similarly struggled to answer questions about the purported excerpts, including a 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs bankers which discussed Clinton having a separate public and a private position.

If everybodys watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous to say the least, Clinton told the bankers, according to the excerpt. So you need a public and a private position.

Mook told CBS: I think theres a distinction between what goes on in negotiations and what her positions are on the issues and have been on the issues.

He tried to argue that Clinton had fought for financial regulation before the crisis and recession.

Hillary Clinton went to the floor of the Nasdaq in 2008 and said that these swaps and derivatives, and what was going on with the mortgage lending market, was wrong and was going to crash the economy, Mook said. Shes called for closing the interest loophole for some time now.

Her public position and what shes going to fight for as president for are one and the same.

Clinton did deliver a speech in March 2007, in the early weeks of the financial crisis, blaming mortgage industry practices and recommending a few reforms. She mentioned derivatives and further reform in November that year and on the campaign trail in 2008, well into the crisis.

Years later, however, Clinton told her Goldman Sachs audience it was an oversimplification to blame our banking system causing this everywhere, the email excerpts show.

Theres a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened, she said in a 2013 speech, according to the leaked excerpts, with greater transparency, with greater openness on all sides, you know, what happened, how did it happen, how do we prevent it from happening?

You guys help us figure it out and lets make sure we do it right this time.

Throughout the Democratic primary, Clinton was accused of an overly comfortable relationship with Wall Street by her rival on the left, Bernie Sanders. He also mocked her for her refusal to release the text of the private speeches, saying: I kind of think if youre going to be paid $225,000 for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech.

On Saturday, Sanders reaffirmed his support for Clinton, saying: Whatever Secretary Clinton may or may not have said behind closed doors on Wall Street, I am determined to implement the agenda of the Democratic party platform, which was agreed to by her campaign.

Clintons campaign chairman, John Podesta, insisted that the excerpts had been taken out of context. There is nothing that she has said in private that she doesnt say in public, he told Fox News Sunday.

She has said all throughout this campaign that she will crack down on Wall Street, he said. She has put forward the most aggressive Wall Street plan of any candidate, really.

Referring to legislation passed in 2010 that took measures to re-regulate Wall Street after the 2008 financial collapse and recession, he added: She stands behind Dodd-Frank, while [Donald] Trump wants to rip it away.

People on Wall Street know how to game the system. What she wants to do is crack down on the system, make sure that there is no institution too big to fail and no person thats too big to jail. Thats why Bernie Sanders yesterday, after looking at those scripts, says that he stands behind her.

Although divided by their own candidate, some Republicans seized on the speeches as evidence of Clintons penchant for secrecy, in line with her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the top advisers in Trumps embattled campaign, said the excerpts would have been a deathblow to Clinton had they come out during the Democratic primary.

Had those come out, Bernie Sanders would be the candidate now that wed be running against, not her. She fought so hard to keep those secret we now know why, he told Fox News Sunday.

She pointed out in one of them that she is a different person to them [the bankers] than she has to be politically, he continued. So we have two Hillary Clintons, which says we have a person who is a liar. Because thats what she is. I mean, over and over again.

Giuliani then tried to draw an equivalence between the recently leaked video of Trump bragging about groping women and the hacked emails. Both, he said, were wrong.

So weve got two candidates who have flaws, he said.

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Donald’s misogyny problem: How Trump has repeatedly targeted women

Female politicians, journalists and actors have faced his verbal abuse, but the sexual allegations cause the greatest disquiet

Donald Trumps apology for the latest in a string of controversial comments about women came as no surprise to the political strategist and fellow Republican Ana Navarro. He is not fit to be the president, he is not fit to be the Republican nominee, he is not fit to be called a man, Navarro said on CNN. How many times does he get away with saying something misogynistic before we call him a misogynist? How many times does he get away with saying something sexist before we acknowledge that he is a sexist? It is time to condemn the man.

Ana Navarro (@ananavarro)

Trump’s a racist. Bigot. Misogynist. Boasts of grabbing a woman’s pussy. What the hell else do GOP leaders need to renounce this guy? What??

October 8, 2016

Navarro was not the only one to point to Trumps long history of seemingly misogynistic comments, and while the campaign tried to regain its footing this weekend, spectators revisited some of his most appalling outbursts: fat pigs, slobs and disgusting animals.

Having said in the 1990s that it did not matter what the media said about him as long as youve got a young and beautiful piece of ass, Trumps attitude appears to have remained unchanged during his bid for the Oval Office. Take, for instance, his attacks on the Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who grilled him over previous accusations of sexism. Trump called her a bimbo who was incapable of objectivity when there was blood coming out of her whatever – widely interpreted as a thinly veiled reference to her menstrual cycle.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

@timjcam: @megynkelly @FrankLuntz @realDonaldTrump Fox viewers give low marks to bimbo @MegynKelly will consider other programs!”

August 7, 2015

Other biological processes of women to have offended Trump include the need to take a toilet break – Clinton was branded disgusting for doing so during a Democratic debate – and breastfeeding a baby – opposing lawyer Elizabeth Beck was also disgusting for requesting a break to breastfeed her three-month-old daughter during a 2011 hearing over a failed Florida real estate project in which Trump was involved.

Trump has regularly targeted Arianna Huffington, the editor and co-founder of the Huffington Post, as being unattractive both inside and out. When the New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote about rumours of his bankruptcy, he sent her a copy of her own article with her picture circled and the face of a dog! written across it. More recently, when his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with battery for yanking Michelle Fields arm as she tried to ask questions, Trump was quick to accuse the reporter of changing her story.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

.@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.

August 28, 2012

He has also maintained a brutal verbal campaign against comedian Rosie ODonnell. In 2006, during an appearance on Entertainment Tonight, Trump said she was disgusting, both inside and out. If you take a look at her, shes a slob. How does she even get on television? If I were running The View, Id fire Rosie. Id look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, Rosie, youre fired. Were all a little chubby but Rosies just worse than most of us.

The verbal assault did not stop there, as he continued to attack her personal life and offend the LGBT community at the same time: Rosies a person whos very lucky to have her girlfriend. And she better be careful or Ill send one of my friends over to pick up her girlfriend. Why would she stay with Rosie if she had another choice? he said.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

@ForeverMcIn: @realDonaldTrump how much would it take for you to make out with Rosie O’Donnell?” One trillion, at least!

March 2, 2013

Of Angelina Jolie, Trump said: I do understand beauty, and shes not. Of the breakup of actor Anna Hathaways marriage to Rafaella Follierei following his financial and legal troubles, he said: So when he had plenty of money, she liked him. But then after that, not as good, right? And after the singer Chers criticism of Mitt Romney, he promised not to talk about your massive plastic surgeries that didnt work.

Nor have Trumps fellow politicians and their spouses been spared from the line of fire. He questioned whether anyone would vote for Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard boss and his Republican candidate rival, stating: Look at that face Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?

There was a major fallout after he insulted the appearance of Heidi Cruz, a partner at Goldman Sachs bank and the wife of his leading opponent Ted, by re-tweeting a supporters split-screen image featuring an unflattering picture of Heidi next to a shot of Trumps wife, Melania, a former model, from a GQ magazine photoshoot in 2000. A picture is worth a thousand words, the post said.

On policy issues, Trump was forced into a quick retreat after advocating some form of punishment for women who had abortions if the procedure became illegal. He previously supported the pro-choice lobby, but he has since said he believes individual states should be granted the right to ban the practice, except in cases of rape, incest or when the womans life is at stake.

Verbal indiscretions aside, perhaps what many fear most is the more serious allegations about Trumps conduct towards women. Jill Harth, a woman at the centre of sexual assault allegations against the billionaire, spoke for the first time in July about her personal experience with him. The makeup artist has accused Trump in a lawsuit of cornering and groping her in his daughters bedroom. She told the Guardian that she stood by her charges, which her lawyers described in the lawsuit as attempted rape.

Shortly after Trump announced his bid for president it emerged that his first wife, Ivana, had alleged in testimony during their divorce that he had raped her in 1989. When the allegation resurfaced in the Daily Beast, a lawyer and aide to Trump told a reporter that the claim was moot because you cannot rape your spouse. In a statement issued through Trumps lawyers, Ivana later said she did not want rape to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.

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Elena Ferrante and the trouble with anonymity

The supposed exposure of the much-feted novelists true identity has caused a lot of outrage this week. From Jane Austen to Banksy, countless artists have tried to stay in the shadows, but it only makes people want to know more

Some all-too-anonymous writers will look at this weeks exposure of the millionaire literary superstar Elena Ferrante and find that sympathy does not come out of them without a fight. Others will see a private artists freedom ruined for ever and weep for her. For writers, thats the trouble with being anonymous. It is difficult to be the right amount.

To bring you up to speed: Elena Ferrante is the nom de plume of an Italian writer (or at least a writer of Italian) whose true identity has been a mystery since her (or his) first novel, Troubling Love, was published in 1991. Until recently the mystery was confined to Italy, where various writers, translators and publishers have been proposed as possible Ferrantes. In the past three years, however, she has become a mythic figure all over the world following the success her Neapolitan novels, about two clever women who grow up poor in postwar Naples.

Then, last Sunday, the Italian investigative journalist Claudio Gatti published a new theory. By studying public real estate records, he found that a couple connected to Ferrantes Italian publisher, Edizione E/O, had bought an expensive apartment in Rome in 2000, then another one this summer. Gatti also has documents from an anonymous source that he says show inexplicably large payments from the publisher to one member of the couple, more or less at the time you would expect Ferrante to be getting her big international royalties, and more or less in the right proportions as her sales increased. No one so far has seriously suggested he is wrong. No one likes him, either.

A mythic figure Two of Elena Ferrantes Neopolitan novels on sale in a bookshop in Rome. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

You will have noticed that I have not named the person Gatti identifies. In many interviews by email, Ferrante has said that being anonymous is crucial to her writing. I have gained a space of my own, she told Vanity Fair last August, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful. If so, then Gatti may have strangled any future Ferrante novels, a serious crime if you admire her work. At the very least, he has probably made her suffer.

In August 2006, when the Sunday Times was about to expose Zoe Margolis as the Girl With a One-Track Mind, whose explicit blogs about her sex life had attracted tens of thousands of readers every day, their acting news editor, Nicholas Hellen, sent her an email. According to Margolis, it explained all the details that identified her, including her mothers job and address. It added that they had photographed her outside her flat, but the picture was not particularly flattering. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image, Hellen allegedly said. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and makeup. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.

Margolis cried, and did not answer. There was no reason to reveal my identity, she says now. No reason to destroy the anonymity I had, other than to titillate their readers. Im still disgusted by their completely unjustified behaviour and I stand in solidarity with other writers who have gone through similar experiences. Months of fallout followed. Her work in the film industry became impossible. Often she had to field calls from friends who were being pestered by reporters.

Daniel Defoe, whose book Robinson Crusoe was first published under its lead characters name. Photograph: Hulton Getty

Richard Horton had the same experience. He was the police officer behind NightJack, which won the Orwell blogging prize in 2009. Like Margolis, he had begun writing anonymously because it let him be truthful without damaging his life. Like Margolis, he never planned to reveal who he was. Then he was exposed by the Times in his case, because his email was hacked. We had photographers camped outside the door and people trying to phone me at home, says Horton. The experience scared his wife and children. We had to go away for a few days until things died down. I regret what happened to them as a result of my identity coming out more than anything else.

Legally, Ferrante has no good options. As an Italian, which Gatti says she is, she would have the right to respect for her private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to bring a claim against Gatti or his publishers, however, she would need to demonstrate specifically that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to her real name. I dont think that public interest justifies the exposure, says Jeremy Clarke-Williams, a specialist in privacy and defamation law at Slater and Gordon, but I dont think we reach that stage, because I dont think Elena Ferrante would be able to show that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Gatti sharing details of her finances might put her on stronger ground, but she would only lose more privacy by going to court. If she wants this to go away, Clarke-Williams says, or quieten down at least, its probably better for her to do nothing, rather than launch a court case where the media can sit back and enjoy the show.

It is interesting that writers cannot reasonably expect to keep their names unpublished, given how many have down the years. Daniel Defoe published as Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift as Lemuel Gulliver (with phoney portrait). Aphra Behn published pseudonymously. So did Henry Fielding. Samuel Richardson was anonymous and Jane Austen was just a Lady. Horace Walpole, all three Bronts and George Eliot all had noms de plume, and Eliots stuck. Even today, the famously anonymous are everywhere you look. Theres the world-famous artist Banksy, and one of the worlds most famous computer scientists, Satoshi Nakamoto, who invented bitcoin (and is probably not Craig Wright). The Old Bailey has just convicted one of Britains most famous journalists Mazher Mahmood, or the Fake Sheikh of conspiring to pervert the course of justice with one of his pseudonymous stings. Then there are the bloggers, including the Gay Girl in Damascus (who turned out to be none of those things). The Guardian itself has spawned the Secret Footballer, Secret Teacher, Secret Actress and Secret Policeman. It is clear that people often do expect to express themselves anonymously. Perhaps it is just not reasonable to expect things to stay that way.

It was pretty hard to have to keep such a big secret from people family, friends, colleagues, lovers, Margolis says. When I got my publishing deal, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but had to remain quiet. That was hard. To be so proud of something and not be able to share it is quite tough. The technical aspects are scarcely any easier. Brooke Magnanti is a research scientist who blogged as the call girl Belle de Jour until 2009 when, fearing that her identity was about to be revealed in a newspaper, she revealed it herself in a different one. She had managed six years of anonymity under intense pressure, and her own guide to online privacy shows it wasnt luck.

Highlights of the Magnanti method include: changing your email account twice a year and knowing which providers to avoid; knowing how to remove metadata from text documents and media files; learning how to use VPNs and Tor, and how to tell if your IP address is accessible; setting yourself up as a silent partner in a new company run by your accountant. At one point Magnanti installed a keystroke logger (which makes a secret record of all the buttons pressed on your computer) and found that someone close to me was spying on me when they were left alone.

Journalist Mazher Mahmood, AKA the Fake Sheikh, who conducted pseudonymous stings on public figures, after his conviction at the Old Bailey this week. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

Gattis justification for his scoop is vague. It centres on Ferrantes new book not a novel, but a collection of letters, essays and other pieces of nonfiction called Frantumaglia. According to its publisher, it answers many of her readers questions, but if Gatti is right, some of the answers are lies specifically that Ferrantes mother was a Neapolitan seamstress who spoke the Naples dialect, and that Ferrante herself grew up in the city until she ran away. He also contends that she is lying with a purpose: These crumbs of information seemed designed to satisfy her readers appetite for a personal story that might relate to the Neapolitan setting of the novels themselves.

To unmince those words, Gatti is saying that Ferrante wants people to believe she rescued herself through education from the slums of Naples, just as the Elena in her novels does. If people believe this, it would make the novels more than just the story of a woman overcoming poverty and patriarchy; it would make them an example of it happening for real. Seen this way, buying Ferrante becomes a kind of vote for feminism, and attacking her almost a vote against it; thus concocted sisterliness, not literary quality, explains the books success.

Whatever you believe, Im sure theres no need to explain why a man implying this would raise such fierce feelings. Even at the best of times there is a widespread view that female novelists are considered great more grudgingly than male ones. In any case, Gatti does not get close to proving that Ferrante had a scheme to deceive her readers, and proof is meant to matter to investigative journalists. Certainly, Ferrante is no Rahila Khan.

Who? In 1987, Virago published Down the Road, Worlds Away, a book of stories by a little-known British Muslim woman. Khans work, mostly about the hardship of Asian teenagers in modern Britain, had been broadcast on BBC Radio and much praised. An article in the Times Educational Supplement said that her first story almost persuaded me that literature still has some relevance to life.

Khan was shy about her fame, perhaps not surprisingly, although she took her shyness awfully far, never meeting or even speaking to her radio editor, her publisher or even her agent. There turned out to a simple explanation. She was the Reverend Toby Forward, an Anglican vicar in Brighton who believed that fiction by vicars wasnt taken seriously. When Virago found out, they were outraged, and withdrew the book from sale. Forward now writes childrens books, and has always argued, as Lionel Shriver did so shockingly at the Brisbane Writers festival last month, that fiction writers are supposed to imagine being other people. That doesnt mean you get it right, however. For instance, he imagined that Virago wouldnt mind.

Ferrante has no need to justify her anonymity. She can do whatever works for her. Interestingly, Clarke-Williams thinks that not even proven hypocrisy on her part would legally justify her exposure in the public interest. All shes doing is writing fiction which has struck a chord, and she may or may not have had the personal experience I think a writer of fiction is expected to make things up!

The late Harper Lee never hid her identity, but did manage to stay out of the public eye for much of her life. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Even so, it is worth considering her other choices. JD Salinger, Harper Lee and Thomas Pynchon have all shown that novelists need not conceal their names in order to be little-known. On the contrary, by making her identity a secret, Ferrante inevitably made it much more interesting, not least because it gave people cause to wonder whether she had something autobiographical to hide. She seems to have been drawn into all those interviews in an effort to explain herself.

She has mentioned being inspired by Jane Austen, whose anonymity made a great impression on me as a girl of 15, but Charlotte Bront is instructive, too. She published Jane Eyre as Currer Bell, with her sisters Emily and Anne being Ellis and Acton. Besides being averse to personal publicity, they had chosen pseudo-male names because of a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; indeed, rather than spending all its energy on Jane Eyre, the world spent much more on guessing who Currer Bell was, and especially which sex. This just made Charlotte more reluctant to reveal herself, which was torture when she realised that several of her literary heroes Dickens, Thackeray, Martineau were eager to meet her if she would just drop by. By the time her next novel, Shirley, was published, she was worried that her mail would be opened at the local post office. (A reminder that hacking was not invented with computers.) In the end, she gave in.

The point then, as now, as always, is that you cant seek attention for your work and hope that none seeks you. You cant choose absence. You can only choose to be yourself, or to be a mystery, and people who dont love mysteries cannot love novels either. Besides, of course it matters who the author is, at least eventually. Otherwise there could still be someone saying that Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, even Pride and Prejudice, were too good to be written by a woman.

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Chinese people see US as ‘top threat’ to their country, poll shows

Pew survey finds most suspect US of seeking to keep China from reaching an equal level of power but majority of young people see US positively

Chinese people believe the United States is the top threat facing their country, a new poll shows, with most suspecting the worlds number one economy of trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power.

A survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center revealed 45% of Chinese people consider US power and influence to be a major threat more than economic instability (35%), climate change (34%) and Islamic State (15%).

However, half of the 3,154 respondents in the survey had a favourable opinion of the US including 60% of those aged between 18 and 34.

The news comes as Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads over Chinas territorial claims in the South China Sea, with the US urging China to adhere to the rule of law and Beijing accusing the Americans of interference.

The vast majority of Chinese people (75%) believe their own country plays a more important role in world affairs than a decade ago, compared with only 21% of Americans, 23% of Europeans and 68% of Indians.

However, this confidence in Chinas international stature contrasts with a growing sense of unease among many, the survey showed, with about three-quarters of respondents saying their way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence up from 64% in 2002.

Despite Chinas increasing diplomatic influence, 56% of Chinese people said they wanted their leaders to focus on the countrys own challenges, such as official corruption, which most said was a problem.

Growing inequality is also a concern, with 37% describing the gap between rich and poor as a very big problem.

Other worries include: food safety (74%), the countrys choking air pollution (70%) and rising prices (74%), as many Chinese people struggle to get a foothold in the real estate market.

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Canada closes tax loophole to cool down overheated housing markets

Finance minister outlines measures to rein in foreign speculators after house prices in Vancouver and Toronto have doubled in last decade

The Canadian government has announced a handful of measures aimed at dampening demand in its red-hot housing markets, including closing a tax loophole used by some foreign speculators.

Canadian authorities are facing growing pressure to address frothy housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto, where home prices have more than doubled in the past decade. Earlier this year, Justin Trudeau, Canadas prime minister, pointed to an influx of capital from Asia as partly responsible for the soaring prices.

Overall, I believe the housing market is sound, Bill Morneau, the countrys finance minister, said in Toronto on Monday. I want to make sure that were proactive in assessing and addressing the factors that could lead to excess risk.

Currently, Canadian homeowners who sell their principal residences do not have to report the sale or pay taxes on any profit earned. Amid reports suggesting that some non-residents have been taking advantage of the same exemption, the government will now step up scrutiny of principal residences, said Morneau.

We know that there is a principal residence tax exemption and that should only be applicable to people who own their home in Canada and live in that home in Canada.

In Vancouver, where housing prices have risen 249% since 2005, a 15% tax was introduced in August on all home buyers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Its introduction saw home sales in the Vancouver region drop 26% in August while the average price of detached properties fell to C$1.47m ($1.1m), a decrease of 17% from one month earlier.

With an eye on increasing housing affordability, the city of Vancouver has also vowed to launch a tax on empty homes by 2017 and is currently exploring measures to curb short-term rentals through sites such as Airbnb.

On Monday, the Canadian government said it would also introduce a stress test for insured borrowers in hopes of injecting greater stability into the countrys housing market. Starting in mid-October, the test will ensure would-be homebuyers some of whom are rushing to gain a foothold in the market amid fears of being priced out down the road would be able to afford their mortgage if interest rates were to rise, said Morneau.

Low interest rates have gradually changed the way both borrowers and lenders view debt and indebtedness in this country, said the finance minister. As these attitudes and behaviours have changed, some households began carrying high debt loads and pockets of risk have begun to emerge.

A recent report by the Swiss bank UBS looked at 18 financial centres around the world and singled out Vancouver as most at risk of a housing bubble.

Mondays announcement received a mixed reaction. Josh Gordon, a professor at Vancouvers Simon Fraser University, described the government measures as prudent.

The tax change, he said, sent a clear signal to foreign investors and others looking to speculate on real estate. I do think it will have an impact on its own, but I think the bigger point is the message, he said. Because it suggests that the federal government does believe that foreign demand is an issue and its willing to tackle that.

Others argued that the shored-up tax requirement would do little to dissuade investors, whether it was foreigners or local people who have been using the exemption to avoid payments on profits earned from selling secondary residences. Its not going to dampen the market, said Bob Aaron, a Toronto real estate lawyer. If people think they can make money on flipping real estate, they will.

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Elena Ferrante: literary storm as Italian reporter ‘identifies’ author

Claudio Gatti says he has solved one of modern literatures biggest mysteries but fans criticise his report as an intrusion

It is, arguably, the biggest mystery in modern literature: the true identity of novelist Elena Ferrante. But when one of Italys investigative journalists claimed to have unmasked her on Sunday, the response of many in the literary world was to ask why he had felt the need to do so.

Writing for the New York Review of Books and Il Sole 24 Ore, journalist Claudio Gatti said he had been able to identify the author of My Brilliant Friend and the rest of the highly acclaimed Neapolitan series as a Rome-based translator who once helped run a publishing imprint of Italian writers.

But her publisher and high-profile authors asked why Gatti had acted the way he did. Sandro Ferri, Ferrantes publisher and one of the few people who is known to know her identity, said he was appalled by the attempt to unmask a woman who has purposely steered clear of the limelight and has always said that she only wanted to write books.

We just think that this kind of journalism is disgusting, he told the Guardian. Searching in the wallet of a writer who has just decided not to be public.

Readers called the alleged scoop an intrusion into the life of one of the worlds most influential female writers. Some were afraid it would stop Ferrante from ever writing again, saying the story had been driven by the ego of the reporter and the New York Review of Books.

Some said there were far more worthy targets of investigative journalism.

Pamela Paul (@PamelaPaulNYT)

Who else here would rather uncover Trump’s taxes than Elena Ferrante’s identity?

October 2, 2016

Kimberly Burns (@kimberlyburnspr)

Shameful. If Elena Ferrante doesn’t write another book, it is because of the attention-hungry egos of Claudio Gatti & @nybooks editors.

October 2, 2016

Jojo Moyes, the British author who wrote Me Before You, said the issue boiled down to something very simple: that Ferrante may have had good reason to write under a pseudonym.

Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes)

Re those last RTs. Maybe Elena Ferrante has very good reasons to write under a pseudonym. It’s not our ‘right’ to know her.

October 2, 2016

Gattis conclusion was based on his review of payments that were allegedly made by Ferrantes publisher, Edizione E/O, which Gatti said showed that the main financial beneficiary of Ferrantes extraordinary success was Anita Raja.

Rajas name will be familiar to those who have long followed the speculation over Ferrantes identity, as it has been raised in ruminative Italian press reports for years never with any solid evidence.

In his piece, Gatti pointed to Italian real estate records that allegedly showed Raja and her husband, Domenico Starnone, buying multimillion euro properties in Rome around the time that Ferrante became an international sensation.

Gatti reported that neither Raja nor Starnone had responded to repeated requests for comment.

In response to the criticism, Gatti said Ferrante was arguably the most well-known Italian figure in the world, and that there was a legitimate right for readers to know … as they have made her such a superstar.

He said Ferrante and her publishers acknowledged as much when they agreed to publish a autobiographical work called Frantumaglia, which Gatti said was full of untruths about Ferrantes personal story.

In it, Ferrante points to a quote from Italo Calvino: Ask me what you want to know, but I wont tell you the truth, of that you can be sure, saying she liked the passage.

I believe that by announcing that she would lie on her own autobiographical essay, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown, Gatti told the Guardian in an email.

Indeed, she and her publisher seemed not only to have fed public interest in her true identity but to have challenged critics and journalists to go behind the lies. She told us that she finds them healthy. As a journalist, I dont. In fact it is my job to expose them.

While dozens of articles have been written over the years speculating about Ferrantes true identity, Ferrante has always zealously guarded her anonymity, saying it gives her the protection she needs to write in the sometimes brutally honest style that millions of people have been drawn to.

Anita Raja, a Rome-based translator and allegedly the author Elena Ferrante. Photograph:

Readers and critics particularly admire Ferrante for her ability to capture the inner lives of women, a feat that the author has always suggested requires her to be shielded from public scrutiny.

Asked by the Guardian in an email interview earlier this year why she protected her anonymity, Ferrante said it was partly to shield the Neapolitan community from which she drew her inspiration. But there were other reasons, too.

The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become ones public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies, she wrote.

When asked in a 2015 email interview in the Financial Times about her characters emotional breakdowns, experiences that are described as dissolving, Ferrante said she had seen the phenomenon in her own mother.

We experience too many ties that choke our desires and ambitions. The modern world subjects us to pressures that at times we are not able to bear, she said.

In another passage, she explains the sometimes savage world she grew up in, where men could be violent to correct women.

In comments that could resonate in the media storm surrounding her identity, she wrote: Today much has changed but I still think the men who can really be trusted are a minority maybe (and this is what I tend to believe) its because male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, is still bent on subordinating us. Too many women are humiliated every day and not just on a symbolic level.

According to Gatti, Raja has worked as a German translator for Edizione E/O and helped to run an imprint there, Collana degli Azzurri, in the 1990s, which published about four books by Italian writers, including Ferrantes first novel. Among other works, Raja has translated the works of German writer Christa Wolf.

If Ferrantes identity is ever confirmed and it may never be it would at least end speculation, particularly in the Italian press, that Ferrante is actually a man.

In an article by journalist Rachel Donadio published in the New York Review of Books in 2014, Donadio said the suggestion was more telling about contemporary Italy than about Ferrantes work, before repeating the assertion that it could be Domenico Starnone, Rajas husband, or Raja.

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New Yorkers left in a pickle by news famous Carnegie Deli to close

Restaurant in shadow of Billionaires Row was setting for a Woody Allen masterpiece but legal beefs and business pressures grew too much for owner

Theyre calling it pastrami on cry: after nearly eight decades of serving 4in-high sandwiches to hungry New Yorkers and tourists, the Carnegie Deli has announced that it will close its doors at the end of 2016.

The Jewish delicatessen, open since 1937 and known for its gruff wait staff and massive sandwiches its motto: If you can finish your meal, weve done something wrong announced its impending closure in a Facebook post on Friday.

Speaking to staff in an emotional address, owner Marian Harper Levine said the stresses of running a restaurant in New York City had grown too much to bear.

The restaurant business is one of the hardest jobs in New York City, she said. At this stage in my life, the early morning to late-night days have taken a toll, along with my sleepless nights and gruelling hours.

On Seventh Avenue at West 55th, in midtown Manhattan and in the shadow of rising towers on Billionaires Row, the Carnegie is one of few businesses surviving from an era before rampant corporate investment and rising commercial rents. Recently, though, times have been hard.

In 2014, the delis owners were ordered to pay a $2.65m settlement to 25 employees who alleged they had been cheated out of fair wages. Harper then went through a contentious divorce, in which she claimed her husband, Sandy Levine, had shared secret recipes with his girlfriend, whose family allegedly launched a rogue Carnegie Deli in Thailand.

From April 2015, the deli was closed for more than nine months after the utility firm Con Edison discovered an illegal gas line hookup that had been working for six years, similar to a hookup that caused an explosion in the East Village, killing two people and destroying Pommes Frites, another famous restaurant. A fine and a backdated utilities bill of more than $40,000 followed.

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Donald Trump’s debate transcript: analyzing his claims issue by issue

The Republican nominee made a lot of definitive-sounding statements on Monday night, on everything from race and policing to Isis and cyber warfare

Republican nominee Donald Trump made a lot of definitive-sounding claims in the first presidential debate on Monday night. We unfurled some of those long-winded statements and took a closer look, issue by issue.

On race and policing

We have endorsements from, I think, almost every police group, very I mean, a large percentage of them in the United States.

Trump was endorsed last week by the Fraternal Order of Police, the nations largest union of rank-and-file officers, after eagerly courting the group. He met with leadership and completed an extensive questionnaire about his views, while Hillary Clinton demurred on both counts.

His draconian plans have, however, alarmed many others in law enforcement. Earlier this year, a coalition of dozens of police chiefs and prosecutors from across the US urged Trump in an open letter to instead pursue a policy of reducing arrests and imprisoning fewer Americans.

Though this may seem counterintuitive, we know from our experience as law enforcement officials that over-relying on incarceration does not deter crime, said the letter.

I think maybe theres a political reason why you cant say it, but I really dont believe in New York City, stop-and-frisk, we had 2,200 murders, and stop-and-frisk brought it down to 500 murders. Five hundred murders is a lot of murders. Its hard to believe, 500 is like supposed to be good?

New York Citys annual murder total did peak in 1990 at about 2,200, amid a crack cocaine epidemic and increased gun crime. It did fall sharply, however, under the Democratic mayor David Dinkins, who hired thousands more police officers and focused on the kind of community policing Hillary Clinton championed during the debate.

This steep decline continued under Dinkinss successor, Republican Rudolph Giuliani, who from 1994 ushered in an aggressive, data-driven form of policing including the stop-and-frisk tactic of halting and searching pedestrians for weapons or drugs on a lower standard of proof than the probable cause typically needed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg carried this on.

Analysts, however, have not found clear evidence Giuliani-style policing was responsible for New Yorks crime reduction. Crime fell elsewhere in the US through the 1990s during an economic boom.

As the NYPDs top spokesman pointed out during Mondays debate, murder and violent crime continued to fall even as police drastically cut down on stops as a judge ruled in 2013 the tactic was being applied unconstitutionally. Murder numbers in New York did rise last year, as in other major cities, but are on course to fall again in 2016. Even in 2015, the total stood at 352 30% less than the 500 total Trump cites. JS

On climate change

Clinton: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think its real.

Trump: I did not. I did not. I do not say that.

Trump did say that in November 2012: The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

In January, Trump was asked about this tweet and said obviously I joke, but his dismissal of climate science is consistent, if not always as outlandish as suggesting that it is a Chinese conspiracy. Climate change has been variously described by the real estate developer as a hoax, bullshit and a canard.

She talks about solar panels. We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster. They lost plenty of money on that one. Now, look, Im a great believer in all forms of energy, but were putting a lot of people out of work.

Trump is referencing Solyndra, a California-based manufacturer of solar cells that got a $535m federal government loan and then went bankrupt. The company is regularly touted by Republicans as evidence that the government shouldnt subsidize clean energy (which somewhat ignores the enormous support received by fossil fuels).

Trump has donned a miners helmet when campaigning in West Virginia, casting himself as a friend of coal and the key to its renaissance. But his promise to bring back coal jobs will be a tough one to keep, given the market, as well as environmental, obstacles it faces. OM

On women

You know, Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials. Some of its said in entertainment. Some of its said somebody whos been very vicious to me, Rosie ODonnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.

But you want to know the truth? I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, I cant do it. I just cant do it. Its inappropriate. Its not nice. But she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. Theyre untrue. And theyre misrepresentations. And I will tell you this, Lester, its not nice. And I dont deserve that.

This was Trumps response after Clinton dug into him for calling women pigs, slobs, and dogs, opposing equal pay laws, and mocking a Latina Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, by calling her Miss Housekeeping and Miss Piggy.

Clintons campaign has spent millions although not multiple hundreds of millions, not yet on ads against Trump that are not very nice. But his claims that the ads are untrue are hard to square with the reality that many of Clintons ads almost exclusively consist of audio of Trumps own remarks.

On Tuesday morning, Trump explained what he meant by his cryptic remarks that he wanted to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family.

I was talking about the affairs the many affairs that Bill Clinton had, he said on Fox and Friends. When she hit me at the end with the women, I was going to hit her with her husbands women. In that vein, in the run-up to Monday nights debate, Trump threatened to invite Gennifer Flowers famous for sleeping with Hillarys husband in the 1980s as his guest. Trump explained he held back because the Clintons daughter, Chelsea, was in the auditorium. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trumps running mate, said on Tuesday he was so proud of Trumps restraint.

This also marks the second time, in a presidential debate, that Trump made excuses for his name-calling by saying he was talking about Rosie ODonnell. In August 2015, when Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump to explain why people should vote for someone who has called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals, Trump joked, Only Rosie ODonnell. Trump clearly feels this to be exonerating. Last summer, as he faced criticism for his exchange with Kelly, Trump noted, That was the biggest applause in the evening actually, so it was sort of interesting.

On Monday night, Trump endured Clintons accusations of sexism by muttering, I never said that and I didnt say that. On Tuesday morning, Trump could be found gamely criticizing Machados weight on Fox News. MR

On national security

Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, shes very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint.

I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, theyre old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.

I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, its over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I cant take anything off the table.

Russia is modernizing its nuclear forces, particularly with new intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuke-launching submarines. Both programs are years from completion and follow a generation-long lag in Russian military modernization following the collapse of the Soviet Union .

By contrast, the Obama administration has begun a $1tn modernization of US nuclear forces submarines, missiles and bombers slated to last 30 years. The upgrade has caused major concern within the arms-control community. The planned US investment in nuclear forces is unrivaled by any other nuclear power, said Kingsman Reif, the director of disarmament at the Arms Control Association.

Beyond that, Trump in three short sentences, reversed decades of declared US nuclear policy and then appeared to reverse himself.

I certainly would not do first strike is a commonsense position that the complexities of nuclear deterrence render a potentially catastrophic declaration, since it creates doubt among both allies and adversaries about the USs commitment to its ultimate weapon. Nevertheless, it has been the undeclared policy of the United States for generations. Barack Obama reportedly mulled adopting the position Trump stated on Monday, only to have his cabinet secretaries express alarm at a shift that might worry allies located near a resurgent Russia and aggressive North Korea. The proposal appears dead within the Obama administration.

But then Trump seemed to revert to the defense establishments consensus position, that being prepared for such a war represents the most effective deterrent to facing a nuclear holocaust. I cant take anything off the table is a formation far more consistent with traditional US nuclear policy, though Trumps diametrically opposed public musings on nuclear weapons raise new questions about how a President Trump would steward the USs deadliest arsenal. SA

On guns and the NRA

The African American community because look, the community within the inner cities has been so badly treated. Theyve been abused and used in order to get votes by Democrat politicians, because thats what it is. Theyve controlled these communities for up to 100 years.

Conservatives often blame Democratic mayors when talking about inner city violence. But a FiveThirtyEight analysis of 2015 murder trends found murders rose in big cities led by both Democrats and Republicans, and that murders increased at about the same pace in both sets of cities.

When a person is on a watch list or a no-fly list, and I have the endorsement of the NRA, which Im very proud of. These are very, very good people, and theyre protecting the second amendment. But I think we have to look very strongly at no-fly lists and watch lists.

The National Rifle Association has been one of Trumps strongest supporters. The group opposes legislation that would simply bar people on government terror watch lists from buying guns a position shared by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Polls have found a majority of Americans support no fly, no buy legislation, even though groups on both the left and right have criticized the measure as an infringement of civil liberties.

Does Trump agree with the NRA and the ACLU, or does he agree with Clinton that people on watch lists simply should not be allowed to buy guns? His comments last night were, once again, ambiguous. After the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Trump tweeted he was going to meet with the NRA about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.

Later, a Trump campaign spokeswoman said that Trump stands with the NRA on the issue, and the NRAs chief lobbyist told ABC News there is not a difference between what Mr Trump is saying and what the NRAs position is. Thats a media-created diversion there. LB

On Isis

Shes telling us how to fight Isis. Just go to her website. She tells you how to fight Isis on her website. I dont think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much See, youre telling the enemy everything you want to do. No wonder youve been fighting no wonder youve been fighting Isis your entire adult life.

Trump accuses Clinton of giving away her strategy to Isis and claims that second world war general Douglas MacArthur, whom he often likes to cite, would not approve. He states Clinton had been fighting Isis all her adult life, even though she turned 18 in 1965 and Isis took on its present form in 2013. DS

On cyber warfare

I dont think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. Shes saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I dont maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

Despite strong evidence linking Russia to the hack of the Democratic National Committee, Trump cannot resist mounting a defence of Moscow, and by extension President Vladimir Putin. He tries to muddy the waters by trying to blame China without a shred of proof and then, incomprehensibly, somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds a remark that underlines his tendency to insult people who are overweight.

We have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is it is a huge problem. I have a son. Hes 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, its unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe its hardly doable.

Yet another comment from the school of the surreal. Trump referencing his son unfortunately echoes Jimmy Carter who, in 1980, said he spoke about nuclear arms control with his 12-year-old daughter, asking her what the most important issue was. DS

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Trump v Clinton: 10 awkward debate questions to put candidates on the spot

Can the Republican be trusted with the nuclear codes? Why is the Democrat so secretive? These and other questions must be asked if not answered on Monday in New York

For Donald Trump

How can you be trusted with the nuclear codes?

A symbolic question, but one that goes to the heart of concerns about Trumps suitability for the job of commander-in-chief. He has made a number of erratic comments appearing to suggest a cavalier approach to nuclear proliferation; he has also threatened to undermine both Nato and a longstanding commitment to non-nuclear allies in Asia. Combining all this with a general belligerence that terrifies even generals, Trump has much to do to reassure voters he is not a dangerous loose cannon.

Did you support US intervention in Iraq and Libya?

Trump has tried to have his cake and eat it on the subject of Middle East policy, attacking Clinton for backing regime change in Iraq and Libya while implying he was opposed to both wars at the time. But though this real estate investors foreign policy views were not then widely sought out, there is a plenty of evidence to suggest he kept any opposition very quiet. Asked if he backed the invasion of Iraq, he said: I guess so.

Why would Mexico pay for you to build a wall?

The flagship policy of building a physical wall on the southern border is frequently embellished with a boast that Trump would make sure Mexico paid for its construction. A recent meeting with the Mexican president, however, made clear that this is highly unlikely. Trump appeared to mislead supporters almost immediately afterward and continues to ignore evidence that Mexican net migration into the US has dropped to near zero in recent years. The mechanics of his deportation policy are even vaguer.

Is there anyone you regret offending?

An open question that could lead Trump into uncharted territory. For over a year, the Republican nominee has outraged Muslims, African Americans, women, Latinos and disabled people with a series of ever-more outrageous comments. Any attempt to hold him to account for offensive language was dismissed as mere political correctness. Attacking the family of a Muslim war hero after the Democratic convention finally seemed to damage Trump in the polls, though, and prompted a half-apology. Who else will he say sorry to?

What evidence do you have against climate change?

Like many Republicans, Trump has repeatedly suggested that action to prevent man-made climate change is unnecessary because he does not believe it is real. He is even threatening to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord. Yet in the face of overwhelming evidence from world scientists, surely the onus is now on skeptics to prove their claims with facts and numbers of their own. What proof does Trump have that climate change is a hoax?

Trump is doing well if

he can convince viewers at home that he is not crazy. This low bar for success is a big cause for concern among Democrats. Trump has come a long way despite erratic and unpleasant behaviour on a unprecedented scale in modern politics. If he can walk offstage with people thinking he is not quite as erratic or rude as they thought, then it could make all the difference.

For Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton speaks in Philadelphia. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

What single policy should your campaign be known for?

Harder than it sounds, or should be, this question gets at a weakness which many critics feels lies at the heart of the campaign. Instead of one signature issue, Clinton has dozens of detailed policies on a host of subjects. It may make her a great president one day, but for now voters struggle to understand what slogans such as stronger together mean in practice. If Clinton were forced to pick one concrete thing for viewers to remember her for, what would it be?

Do you believe in globalisation?

Over many years in public life, the former secretary of state has understandably embraced an evolving set of economic positions. But few have come further than Clinton on the subject of free trade deals and the damage they may or may not have done to American manufacturing. She says she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership now proposed by Obama, but is it a principled opposition or a mere pragmatic response to Trump? Are there limits to the benefits of globalisation for US workers?

How would your counter-terrorism policy differ from Obamas?

In the face of continued terrorist attacks, the issue of defending America will be top of Mondays agenda. Yet Clinton risks being caught between defending the legacy of an Obama administration in which she served and acknowledging that not everything is working out well right now. How would she defeat Islamic State? Would she be more or less hawkish in Iraq and Afghanistan? If nothing changes, then Trump may be able to pin her to a range of foreign policy failures.

Why are you so secretive?

From emails to pneumonia, Clinton has repeatedly got herself into trouble by going out of her way to hide information from the public. The obvious question is: what does she have to hide? The usual explanation is that Clinton has been on the receiving end of so many smears over the years that she has learned to be cautious, but this should also teach her to be wary of cover-ups. Why should someone who ignores medical advice to rest, or legal advice to keep email on government servers, be trusted to take wise decisions in office?

How would you reduce income inequality?

Supporters would argue that Clinton has provided many answers to this question: from infrastructure spending and a jobs program to minimum wage increases and taxing the rich. Yet many still wonder if a campaign so heavily funded by Americas rich and powerful really understands or is committed to helping its middle class. Her answers may be more nuanced than Trumps crude protectionism, but they need to cut through with voters if she is to blunt his appeal in the rust belt.

Clinton is doing well if

Americans finish the debate with a clearer sense of what she stands for. Increasingly, the campaign has become defined by what it stands against principally Donald Trump. While this is highly effective at motivating Democrats, it remains to be seen if this is enough to win over independent voters. Clinton needs to show them, not tell them, that she is on their side.

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