All posts tagged: World news

Sergei Skripal’s cat and guinea pigs die after police seal house

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Two guinea pigs found dead at Salisbury home of ex-spy while a cat needed to be put down

Two guinea pigs belonging to Sergei Skripal died and his cat was put down after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the government has revealed.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the dead guinea pigs and a distressed cat were discovered when a vet was able to enter Skripals home, which had been sealed off during the police investigation. Defra said it believed the guinea pigs had died of thirst.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in hospital more than a month after the attack on 4 March. In its latest update, NHS England said the former Russian spys condition was critical but stable.

On Thursday, Yulia Skripal released a statement through the Metropolitan police in which said she was getting stronger by the day.

A war of words has continued between Britain and Russia over claims that the Kremlin was responsible for the attack using the nerve agent novichok.

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Russia tells Britain ‘you’ll be sorry’ at UN meeting – video

On Thursday, in heated exchanges at the UN security council, Russias UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, dismissing the allegation that Russia was behind the poisoning as absurd, questioned what had happened to Sergei Skripals two cats and two guinea pigs.

What happened to these animals? Why doesnt anyone mention them? Their condition is also an important piece of evidence, he said.

The highest concentration of novichok was found on the front door of Skripals home.

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, had also raised the fate of the pets. Where are the animals? What state are they in? she asked on Wednesday.

Why has the British side not mentioned this fact? We are talking about living organisms, and if toxic agents were used then living organisms must have suffered.

After Defra, released a statement about the deaths of the animals, Zakharova continued to suggest that an alleged cover-up by the British authorities also extended to Skripals pets. Is that normal practice? she asked in a Facebook post, claiming the guinea pigs and cat could have been important evidence in this poisoning case. She also remarked that Porton Down, the government research facility nearby, had experimented on guinea pigs over the years. The more we know, the worse the picture looks, she wrote.

The Russian embassy in London also released a statement on Friday, claiming: This is however the sort of answer that brings about still more questions.

Claiming that it is said unofficially that the cats were incinerated at Porton Down, it demanded to know if the animals had been tested for toxic substances and added that it believed there was a second cat that was unaccounted for.

The whereabouts of the second one are still unknown, the statement said. The Embassy continues to request answers to these questions, however inconvenient they may seem. And we demand full cooperation.

The Sun reported that Skripals black cat, Nash Van Drake, was put down after being tested at Porton Down, where he was found to be severely malnourished.

A Defra spokeswoman said a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the cat to alleviate its suffering, and that it was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare.

She did not mention the second cat referred to by Nebenzia.

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Shoestring expedition returns with wild photos of Sumatra

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A shoestring expedition to one of the remotest places in Sumatra has returned with stunning photos of tigers, tapirs, clouded leopards among other rare species, large and small. Will they find orangutans next?

Last year a motley crew of conservationists, adventurers and locals trekked into one of the last unexplored regions of Sumatra. They did so with a mission: check camera traps and see what they could find. The team organized by the small NGO, Habitat ID came back with biological gold: photos of Sumatran tigers, Malayan tapirs, and sun bears. They also got the first record of the Sunda clouded leopard in the area and found a specimen of a little-known legless reptile called Wegners glass lizard. But most tantalizingly of all is what they didnt find, but still suspect is there: a hidden population of orangutans that would belong to the newly described species, Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).

The trek into the interior was fraught with hordes of leaches, wasps, cliffs, river-crossings, and trackless jungle, and it pushed everyone on the team to their limits, Greg McCann, the head of Habitat ID and a team member, said, clearly relishing the adventure to an undisclosed area they call Hadabaun Hills.

The plateau, called Dolok Silang Liyang in the ethnic Batak language, means the mountain where the wind rustles the leaves of the trees, he continues. What we found there was a wet and misty world of mosses, lichens, and liverworts, of fallen trees and rotten logs and eerie silence. Sometimes we would fall up to our waists into bog-like earth of organic matter.

A Sumatran tiger caught on camera trap in Hadabuan Hills. There are only a few hundred Sumatran tigers left on Earth. Photograph: Habitat ID

The team found that this remote area is especially important for Sumatras wild predators. In addition to tigers and clouded leopards, they recorded golden cats and marble cats.

The single game trail that rings the 1,300-meter plateau seems to have been formed almost purely by the heavy footpads of tigers and also those of sun bears and golden cats, says McCann.

McCann who headed the expedition along with tiger expert and local conservationist, Haray Sam Munthe, said they believe there might be 20-25 tigers in the region.

The team climbs treacherous terrain. Photograph: Arky

The Sumatran tiger is listed as critically endangered and is believed to have a global population of less than 600. But that estimate is eight years old and recent years havent been good to Sumatran tiger as there are continual records of poaching and ongoing habitat destruction.

Considering the perilous state of the Sumatran tiger today, as well as that of many other wild cats, the photographic evidence obtained by these camera traps set up in an ecosystem that has no official status should constitute a major discovery, McCann said.

Few places have changed more radically in the last few decades than Sumatra. Half the island lowland forest has been lost, largely due to ever-expanding oil palm and pulp-and-paper plantations. Meanwhile, its species are declining to near-extinction levels. The Sumatran rhino only survives in a few tiny populations that, in total, numbers anywhere from 30 to 100 animals. In recent years, the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran elephant and the Sumatran orangutan have all been uplisted to critically endangered.

The newly-uncovered Tapanuli orangutan is also desperately close to extinction. Experts estimate there are fewer than 800 left. Given this, a hidden population in Hadabaun would be very welcome news.

Julia Mrchen, an orangutan expert who accompanied the expedition, said the probability of orangutans in Hadabaun Hills was high. And she believes, if there, they probably belong to the newly described species though they may no longer be able to connect with the main population.

It is likely that during the increasing agricultural development and human encroachment of the past decades in North Sumatra, the fragmentation of forests have led to the isolation of a small portion of orangutans, she said.

Mrchen has spoken to two local individuals who have said theyve seen orangutans, heard their calls and spotted their nests.

Two Malayan tapirs in one photo one of them is possibly pregnant. The Malayan tapir is listed as endangered. Photograph: Habitat ID

Hadabaun Hills home to at least seven other primates, seventy bird species (so far recorded) and ample fruit-bearing trees is also prime habitat for orangutans, albeit at upper limits of their elevation preferences, according to Mrchen.

To find out if orangutans are really there, Mrchen says they need funding for an orangutan-specific expedition, which would include following local people to areas where the great apes have allegedly been encountered.

The more time we have, the higher the chances to encounter them. I suggest a minimum of fourteen days, better to spend a month in the area, she said.

Yet, even as we study Sumatras great mammals, we know next to nothing about many of the islands smaller animals, such as Wegners glass lizard. Currently, Wegners glass lizard is listed as data deficient by the IUCN Red List, which means scientists dont have enough information to even determine if the species is at risk of extinction. But given that its only found in Sumatra and rarely encountered, its likely imperiled. This makes the discovery of this species on Hadabaun Hills all the more important.

A two hour boat journey up river. McCann said it felt like something out of Apocalypse Now. Photograph: Arky

The team also photographed the Sumatran laughingthrush on the forest floor a rare behavior for this endangered species.

However remote, there are few if any areas left in Sumatra untrodden by poachers. During their expedition the team came on a poachers camp. They also photographed hunting dogs on their camera traps.

Unlike many conservation groups, Habitat ID is largely self-funded and operates on next-to-nothing. But McCann, a professor who lives in Taiwan, has long had a passion for unexplored places in Asia. Hes conducted similar camera trap surveys in Virachey National Park Cambodia, where he found elephants, Sunda pangolins and dholes all in a protected area abandoned by bigger conservation groups.

I rely greatly on the generosity of people who I have never met and who have never been to the places where I work but who have a curiosity about these places and this planet, says McCann, who depends partially on crowdfunding to keep the camera trapping and expeditions going.

McCann is returning to Hadabaun Hills at the end of the month to check the cameras and set new ones. He hopes for photos of a tiger with cubs or a tapir with babies something that could rally the government to turn this place into a protected area. Habitat ID is also working the with the People Resources and Conservation Foundation to reach out to local people in the area, remove snares and stop further encroachment by the palm oil industry.

There are few places like this remaining in Southeast Asia, says McCann, places where the rarest of rare species still lurk and prowl in secret retreats that only the craziest of explorers would try to reach.

Mumbai’s leopards have killed humans but could they also be saving lives?

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Leopards roaming the Sanjay Gandhi National Park could be helping to control the citys dangerous stray dog population, study suggests

A fleeting glimpse of the black spots and gold fur of a leopard is not an uncommon sight at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Leopards are often thought of as a threat to humans, but rather than being a problem in Mumbai, they may actually be helping their human neighbours even saving their lives as we argue in our paper published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Recent studies suggest there may be as many as 41 leopards roaming the 40 square mile park. Thats about two to three times the leopard density youd find in some of the most productive savannahs in Africa or Sri Lanka.

Mumbais leopards live alongside people, mostly in informal settlements, and they hunt and kill dogs in and around their villages. On average, dogs make up about 40% of a Mumbai leopards diet.

There are an estimated 95,000 stray dogs in Mumbai. Nearly 75,000 dog bites are recorded annually. Photograph: Steve Winter/National Geographic/Getty Images

So what, you might ask. Leopards are one of the worlds most adaptable big cats, feeding on more than 100 prey items worldwide, so arent they just doing what an opportunist would do?

A city of dogs

If youve ever visited Mumbai, youll probably remember a few incredible sights: the Gateway of India, Mumbais bustling city, teeming traffic and its dogs.

Hundreds and thousands of dogs. On every street corner, in every alley. Recent surveys have shown that about 95,000 dogs roam Mumbai.

We wanted to delve deeper into the uncanny relationship Mumbais leopards have with the dogs. And what about bites, we asked. Do dogs bite people, and what about rabies risk?

After sifting through about 40 newspaper articles and online reports, we found that nearly 75,000 bites are recorded annually in the city (although many more are likely unreported). More than 420 people in Mumbai have died from rabies as a result of stray dog bites over a 20-year period.

It was at that point we wondered whether leopards help to protect people from dog bites by keeping the dog population down especially around the park where their diet is dominated by dogs.

Researchers suggest leopards who feed on dogs help keep the population down.
Photograph: Steve Winter/Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

Surveys performed by population biologist Lex Hiby and Nikit Surve of the Wildlife Institute of India around the park suggest that the answer is yes. Dog densities there are lower and, according to our analyses, citizens might experience only 11% of the bites compared with people who live further from the park.

Moreover, by consuming between 800 and 2,000 dogs per year, we calculate that the leopard population saves the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai about US$18,000 (13,000) in sterilisation costs (or 8% of the municipalitys annual sterilisation budget).

If you remove the leopards

The final piece of the puzzle was to model what a park with no leopards would look like a sad prediction if increased urbanisation, deforestation and conflict occur over future decades.

Under one set of assumptions, we found dog bites could increase by between 140 to more than 5,000 per year as dog populations would grow in and around the park area. The medical costs for these bites could total as much as $200,000 per year.

Our research puts a new twist on a large predator that has been persecuted for millennia, and which has generally been viewed as a nuisance to stock farmers globally and those living on the edge of Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Leopards are believed to have disappeared from about 63-75% of their global range. We have to think of large predators in a broader sense they can at times be helpful to farmers, ecosystems and even insurance companies.

Over the last 20 years, more than 420 people in Mumbai have died from rabies as the result of a dog bite. Photograph: Steve Winter/Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

The big challenge in Sanjay Gandhi National Park is not only leopard attacks on the odd pig or cattle calf leopards here sometimes kill people. Leopard attacks on people peaked at 25 cases in 2002. Most of these were attributed to leopards who moved from other forest patches into Sanjay Gandhi, a kind of catch-and-dump scheme by local governments for problem animals.

Its thought this had a chaotic effect on leopard home ranges and social structures as leopards are territorial. But leopard attacks came to an almost complete halt for four years until 2017 when residents were angered by a spate of new attacks.

The big challenge is to evaluate the benefits of these leopards and similar large carnivores; its equally important to assess the costs of these species to local communities. The real issue is navigating the costs with the benefits, and identifying those cases of net benefit.

Christopher OBryan is a PhD candidate in the school of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Queensland. Alexander Richard Braczkowski is a PhD candidate and wildlife cameraman at the University of Queensland.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, where you can read the original article.

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Jaguars killed for fangs to supply growing Chinese medicine trade

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Demand from Chinese workers raises demand for skin and body parts of endangered species

Conservationists who have uncovered a growing illegal trade in jaguar fangs in South America are linking it to Chinese construction projects that could be threatening wildlife globally.

Experts say major Chinese power plant, road and rail works in developing nations are key stimulants of illicit trade in the skins, bones and horns of endangered animals.

Local people find out that Chinese construction workers have an interest in buying animal bones, horns and body parts for their supposed medical properties and an illicit trade is established. Essentially, these projects act like giant vacuum cleaners of wildlife that suck everything back to China, a conservation researcher, Vincent Nijman, of Oxford Brookes University, said last week. It is a realworry.

The problem in South America is of particular concern. More than 100 jaguars a species whose numbers are dwindling may have been killed in less than a year to supply a trade in their body parts with China. As tiger parts which are prized by practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine are becoming scarcer, so a market is opening up for organs from other big cats, including the jaguar.

Two examples of jaguar deaths are given in the current issue of Nature. It reports that on Boxing Day last year, the body of a jaguar was found floating in a drainage canal in Belize in central America.

Its body was mostly intact, but the head was missing its fangs, says the report. Then, on 10 January, a second cat this time an ocelot that may have been mistaken for a young jaguar turned up headless in the same channel.

The extent of the trade was also highlighted by Thas Morcatty, a wildlife researcher based at Oxford Brookes University who has worked in South America. Last year, there were more than 50 seizures of packages that contained jaguar parts in Brazil. Most of them appear to have been destined for Asia and China in particular. It is also worth noting there are major Chinese communities in Brazil, she added.

Jaguars once roamed across much of the southern US, central America and South America. Today their numbers have been drastically reduced because of deforestation and by farmers shooting animals that attack their livestock. The prospect of them being used to supplement Chinese traditional medicine now threatens to reduce their numbers even further.

However, it is the global threat posed by this sort of trade that worries conservationists. For years, Chinese companies have been setting up vast construction project deals with more than 60 countries to construct ports, power stations, rail lines, roads, tunnels and bridges in the developing world. Examples include a $5.8bn power planet in Nigeria, an 835-mile-long railway in Angola and a six-lane, 680-metre-long bridge in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

These projects are manned by Chinese workers and they go back and forth with local people and also send things back to their families in China, said Nijman. Among the things they send back are illicit bones, horns and skin valued by traditional medicine. There is not much sign of them using restraint. At the end of the day, almost anything that can be killed and traded will be.

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Bento the Keyboard Cat, internet sensation and YouTube star, dies

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The beloved feline star of the popular meme has died age nine. But does this really mean the end?

Tonight hes jamming with Kurt and Jimi. Keyboard Cat, the internet meme that bookended a thousand pratfalls, is dead.

In April 2009, thanks in part to a single tweet by Ashton Kutcher, videos of a cat playing a junky little Casio riff became the de rigeur way to play out any footage of, say, a man falling down an escalator in a wheelchair, a singing woman collapsing a table, or just a mortar round misfiring.

The cats owner, Charlie Schmidt, posted the news on Keyboard Cats Facebook page, with its 820,000 followers.

The original Keyboard Cat.

Only, that isnt quite the story. Schmidts original clip of a musical cat the one youre most likely to have seen was shot in 1984. Hence the grainy VHS quality, which made the vaporwave-obsessed internet of 2009 fall in love with it. The cat in that video was called Fatso. He died in 1987.

The recently deceased Bento, born in April 2009, just as the Keyboard Cat phenomenon was hitting its peak, was already a remix. It seems that Keyboard Cats can spontaneously regenerate whenever a few million dollars are dangled in front of them.

Schmidt used Bento to make a second Keyboard Cat video, plus any number of side adventures: a parody of Miley Cyruss Wrecking Ball, an ad for Wonderful Pistachios, all the way up to a spoof on Banksys Exit Through The Pet Shop.

Bento taking on the starring role of Keyboard Cat.

You can hardly blame Schmidt for needing a physical product. Grumpy Cat is reputed to have a net worth of $100m. Within days of the first post to a Reddit thread, Grumpy Cats Red Lobster waitress owner was able to quit her job and go full-time. She shares a manager with Keyboard Cat, and with fellow celebrity felis catus, Lil Bub, and with animated cat meme Nyan Cat. Lil Bub generates enough that owner Mike Bridavsky can give away $200,000 a year to animal charities.

Hamilton, the moustache-toting Hipster Cat, had a web series, appeared in commercials, and had his own calendar line. Henri, a black cat, who appears, subtitled, in black-and-white, in French, like a cat Sartre, earns a $1,000 a week just from his online store. Appearance fees can be far greater. Maru, a Japanese-owned Scottish Fold, is the most watched cat of all time, with 325m YouTube views of him doing very basic cat stuff, like getting slightly freaked out by boxes.

Keyboard Cats spoof on Banksys Exit Through The Pet Shop.

The internet cat-industrial complex is vast. Cat food company Friskies flew Grumpy Cat, real name Tardar Sauce, first class, to South by Southwest. They paid for a chauffeur, a personal assistant, and unlimited food. At a conference with Al Gore and Elon Musk, she was the star. The 2013 documentary Lil Bub and Friendz began when the makers witnessed 10,000 people turn out to the Internet Cat Video Film Festival.

How do you make a smash like Keyboard Cat? You start with $850 of cat piano lessons, Schmidt once quipped. Certainly, it helps if the cat has bodily issues. Keyboard Cat is notable among the truly great cats of the internet for being just a standard moggy, who had to work his way up on his boogie-woogie skills alone. Grumpy Cat has an underbite and feline dwarfism. Lil Bub a short lower jaw, toothlessness and osteopetrosis. Pop Tart Cat (Nyan Cat) has a pop tart for a body. Hipster Cat has a strange white moustache.

Bentos generation is getting long in the tooth. Perhaps not for nothing has Marus owner adopted and begun showcasing a second cat in addition to the 10 year old. The death of a cat is a private tragedy. The death of an internet cat is an economic catastrophe.

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Offended by Koreans eating dog? I trust youve never had a bacon butty | Chas Newkey-Burden

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Frightened animals being caged, killed and turned into food wed never dream of such evils in the western world, writes journalist and author Chas Newkey-Burden

Offended by Koreans eating dog? I trust youve never had a bacon butty

Frightened animals being caged, killed and turned into food wed never dream of such evils in the west would we?

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Smile! Grumpy Cat wins 500,000 over copyright breach

Owners of internet sensation with permanently gloomy face win payout from US coffee group

Smile! Grumpy Cat wins 500,000 over copyright breach

Owners of internet favourite with permanently gloomy face win payout from US coffee group

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Christian Bale: ‘I was asked to do a romantic comedy. I thought theyd lost their minds’

The actor, famous for playing brooding, damaged men, is back playing, well, a brooding, damaged man in the gritty western Hostiles. He talks about why the film industry has to change, balding up to play Dick Cheney and why he will never, ever, do a romcom

The interviews first surprise is that a chubby, grungy figure is occupying the Beverly Hills hotel sofa reserved for Christian Bale. The impostor sports a shaved head, heavy paunch, worn black T-shirt and khaki camouflage trousers. He looks like a bouncer, maybe, or a resting football hooligan, but certainly not the man who pops up on lists of the sexiest stars alive. But Bale it is, sunk into the seat, inhabiting his latest physical transformation. I ate a lot of pies, he says.

The actor is well known for going to extremes gorging, starving, bodybuilding which reshape his physique from Olympian to emaciated to portly and back. He has just done it again, packing on the pounds and going near-bald to play Dick Cheney. At the age of 43, these transformations are not getting easier. Ive got to stop doing it. I suspect its going to take longer to get this off, he says, indicating the belly.

But the chances of Bale not going all the way for a role are, on the basis of the ensuing interview, negligible. He may be from the small Pembrokeshire town of Haverfordwest and speak with an emphatic, non-posh English accent, but he is Americas Zelig: a versatile talent who incarnates his adopted countrys dreams and nightmares with singular physicality and intensity.

A driving force, apparently, is insecurity. The fact anybody hires me is surprising, says the Oscar-winner (for The Fighter in 2011) hired by Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and David O Russell. It could be false modesty, but Bale seems genuinely worried that someday the work on average one or two films a year over the past two decades could dry up. That could be really short-lived.

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Watch the trailer for Christian Bales new film Hostiles video

Bale reputedly has a temper. He was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister at the Dorchester hotel in London in 2008. The authorities did not press charges, citing insufficient evidence. The same year, he launched an expletive-filled tirade against a director of photography on the set of Terminator: Salvation in 2009. A leaked audio recording zinged across the internet.

Both are ominous portents that set up the interviews second surprise: today, Bale is affable, chatty, relaxed. He chortles. Possibly it is because of a cold he is under the weather and sips lemon tea but it comes out as a wheezing gurgle that for all the world sounds like Muttley, the cartoon dog.

Asked if the nearly decade-old on-set meltdown dogs him it is the butt of jokes and parodies he shrugs. People dont mention it to me, but that doesnt mean it doesnt follow me around. Im not aware of it if it does.

Bale has brought glamour, angst and taut menace to memorable roles ranging from Batman to Patrick Bateman, the axe-wielding yuppie of American Psycho (2000). He plays spoiler alert another brooding, damaged, hyper-masculine character in the powerful film Hostiles. As a US army captain, he is tasked with escorting a Cheyenne chief through 1892 western badlands. Blood flows as Bales character shoots, stabs, suffers and mourns.

Bale in American Psycho Id no idea people saw it as anything other than satire. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

The actor rivals Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis for diving deep physically and psychologically. He doesnt do it for fun. There is a much easier way, but I cant do it. I dont know if its because I dont have any training. I see actors who can just be themselves and then switch and give these really incredible performances, and then switch back to being themselves. I find I start laughing because Im too aware that its still me. So I try to get as distant as possible. Otherwise, I cant do it.

Hence the metamorphoses. Its helpful not to look like yourself. If I look in the mirror and go, Ah, that doesnt look like me, thats helpful. Bale vowed to not pack on weight again after playing a conman in American Hustle (2013), only to bloat anew to play Cheney in the biopic Backseat (shot after Hostiles), leaving him now, days after wrapping, facing another extreme diet. These pants are one of the few pairs Ive got that have these straps on the side so I can still fit into em. A fluctuating waistline, he says, has consequences. Im not big on shopping, so you end up with a lot of elasticated things.

He is calmest, he says, during extreme fasting, such as the time he lost 27kg (60lb) for The Machinist in 2004 (makes De Niro look like an uncommitted wuss, Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardians review). Its an amazing experience doing that. When youre so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs youre, like, this being of pure thought. Its like youve abandoned your body. Thats the most Zen-like state Ive ever been in my life. Two hours sleep, reading a book for 10 hours straight without stopping unbelievable. You couldnt rile me up. No rollercoaster of emotions. Alas, it doesnt last. As soon as you start putting the food back in your stomach, the rollercoaster comes back.

Sipping his tea, admiring the afternoon sunshine seeping through a canopy of palm trees, Bale ranges over a variety of topics: the USs polarisation, Hollywood scandals, feminism, the horror of romantic comedies.

Bale in the Machinist Its like youve abandoned your body. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount

First, there is a film to promote. Bale calls Hostiles a western with brutal, modern-day resonance. Based on an unpublished manuscript by the late screenwriter Donald Stewart, it is written, produced and directed by Scott Cooper, who previously directed Black Mass, Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace.

It opens with the massacre of a white family by Comanches, then shifts to Captain Joe Blocker, a grizzled, racist veteran of the genocidal Indian wars who is forced by political masters to escort a former foe, a dying Cheyenne chief played by Wes Studi, on a 1,000-mile odyssey to his tribal homeland.

The arc of polarisation and redemption grabbed Bale from the outset. It was a gut feeling of reading it, wanting to read it again and thinking: theres really something here that I can obsess with for a number of months. Its an incredible story of American history from the point of view of a man who is absolutely consumed with bigotry and hatred, finding his way back to being human.

Speaking Cheyenne dialogue was nerve-racking, but uplifting, says Bale. Its a beautiful language; very poetic, with a wonderful rhythm to it. Chief Phillip Whiteman, a Cheyenne consultant who tutored Bale, says the actor nailed it: The joy that it brought me to hear our language being preserved through a spirit such as Chriss, this made me emotional. This is going to live on for ever, captured by this big screen.

The film, shot on location in Colorado and New Mexico in the summer of 2016, ended up reflecting Trump-era themes, says Bale. We didnt think that when we started it, but it just started becoming clear as we saw what was happening in America seeing how comfortable people were becoming in expressing contempt for the other.

Revelations about sexual misconduct in Hollywood underscore the films observation that everything is run by old white men, he says. The richness that we could all enjoy if we started embracing a much wider variety of sources of storytelling from women, from minorities. Worthy hopes, but some critics complain that in Hostiles the native characters are ciphers.

Nonetheless, Bale reckons the cascade of post-Harvey Weinstein scandals will permanently change Hollywood. I cant see that this will become a footnote and be swept under the rug. It does feel like it will change. Since moving to Los Angeles in the 90s, he has worked on dozens of films, indies such as Laurel Canyon, blockbusters such as Exodus: Gods and Kings, and garlanded fare such as The Big Short. But he says he was unaware of sexual misconduct in the industry.

Some people might call me almost reclusive. Nobody gossips with me. I was clueless. If Im not making a film, I dont really socialise with that many people who make films. The casting couch, yes, Id heard of that. But specifics? No, nothing at all. Do I believe that it has all been happening? Absolutely.

Surprising Bale fact: he is Gloria Steinems stepson. His now-deceased father married the feminist author in 2000. It was news to me; I was in Germany, says Bale, wheeze-chortling anew. I found out about it afterwards. He has not discussed Hollywoods scandals with her, he says, but considers himself a feminist. If were talking equality, absolutely.

Asked about Ridley Scott expunging Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World, Bale pauses. Ridleys a very smart man, a friend of mine. I imagine hes made exactly the right choice. He says he has been too busy shooting Backseat to say more. I dont know if the allegations were so egregious that it was a moral choice of Ridleys or if it was a purely business choice.

In Empire of the Sun with John Malkovich. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

In playing Cheney, Bale sought pathways to understanding George W Bushs vice-president. What you discover when you start investigating any person is nobody is singularly bad or singularly good. Hes a wonderful family man, by all accounts. He didnt hesitate for a second when his daughter Mary announced that she was a lesbian despite the fact that was complete anathema to his party at that time.

Bale withholds his own views on Cheneys politics. I dont want to do this as a nudge-nudge, wink-wink performance. I dont want to be revealing my own political leanings and then making a little joke. Its totally irrelevant what I think. Im an actor, Im a vessel of that character.

Bale was born in 1974 to atypical parents. His mother, Jenny, was a circus performer and his father, David, an entrepreneur and talent manager. They moved frequently Bale remembers an idyllic stint in Portugal. The future Batman broke into acting aged eight in a commercial for the fabric softener Lenor. Two years later, he was on the West End in London, playing opposite Rowan Atkinson in The Nerd. At 13, he landed the starring role in Steven Spielbergs adaptation of JG Ballards memoir Empire of the Sun.

Overnight, he became famous and the familys main earner, which prompted a love-hate relationship with acting. There was nobody (else) to make any money. At that age, it was, Oh, Christ, Ive got to be the breadwinner. That was no fun. So theres always been a bit of loathing because of that.

After his parents divorced, he moved with his father to Los Angeles. American Psycho, based on Bret Easton Elliss novel, established Bale as a leading man with a very sharp edge. When I read the book, I was laughing straight away. Id no idea people saw it as anything other than satire.

Then came acclaimed performances in Chris Nolans Batman trilogy, though Bale is self-critical. He wanted the superhero, for once, to be more interesting than the villains. Then Heath Ledger turned in a sublime performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, leaving the caped crusader relatively vanilla by comparison. I didnt achieve what my plan was there.

Bale has admitted conflicted feelings over Ben Affleck inheriting the role, but withholds any verdict on Batman v Superman and Justice League, saying he hasnt seen either.

His two children the product of his marriage to Sandra Blai have not seen his own films, but mock his thespian efforts during games at home, he says. They think Im the worst actor ever. My daughter cant believe that anyone pays me.

Times up, so a final question: has he considered romantic comedy?

Bale bats the question back with what sounds like a challenge. Have you ever enjoyed a romantic comedy? I pause and he presses the point. Have you ever enjoyed a romantic comedy?

A few, I say, but my mind blanks.

Can you name em?

Er, When Harry Met Sally.

Thats going back quite a ways, isnt it? Youre hard pressed. He shakes his head. I was asked to do a romantic comedy recently and I thought theyd lost their minds. Cats have those insane half hours every evening. I think it must have been that for the production company. I dont know why anyone would ever offer me a romantic comedy. I find American Psycho very funny.

Hostiles is released in the UK on 5 January 2018

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Turkey: where pampered cats are top dog

A nation split along fault lines of national identity, religion and ethnicity is united by one thing: a love of felines

Selim can often be spotted surveying his neighbourhood, a stones throw away from the Galata tower and down the hill from bustling stiklal avenue. He looks content, his expanding belly and long orange hair neatly combed.

A resident of historic Istanbul, he endures with mild distaste the tourists who every day photograph him as he mills about in his shop, a handmade leather store called Moria.

Selim is a cat, and of course he thinks he owns the neighbourhood. All of Istanbul, its winding hilly roads and back alleys and cafes could be said to belong to its hundreds of thousands of stray felines, symbols of a city steeped in history.

But it is winter now, and they begrudgingly have to accept help from the humans who frequently interrupt their naps on the chairs of busy coffeeshops. As the harsh cold, rain and snow of Istanbul draws near, winter cat houses pop up all over the city, some provided by local municipalities, others by citizens.

Tuana Ekin ahin playing the violin to raise money for stray cats in Istanbul. Photograph: Kareem Shaheen

Turkey is a polarised nation, one split along fault lines of national identity, religion and secularism, and ethnicity. Half of the country recently voted against granting sweeping new presidential powers to Recep Tayyip Erdoan, and the other half voted for the proposal. But one thing that unites Turks of all stripes is affinity for cats.One activist, frustrated by the polarisation of Turkeys political scene, mused that the only thing that could make an Islamist, a secularist and a socialist agree on anything was to kick a cat and wait for the inevitable beating.

Mustafa Efe has gone one step further than a mere cat house, typically a painted wooden structure akin to an oversized dollhouse, with space in it for three or four strays. Across the Bosphorus on the Asian side of the city, the imam of the Aziz Mahmud Hudayi mosque in skdar has opened the gates of his house of worship for the strays to take shelter, becoming a social media sensation in the process. In one viral video on his Instagram account, he playfully wags his finger at a kitten as he sits inside the mosque in mock admonishment, and she leaps and bites it.

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‘Unclear, unfunny, delete’: editor’s notes on Milo Yiannopoulos book revealed

Court submissions over far-right provocateurs memoir reveal concerns over weak arguments, boasting and racism

Court documents filed in the US have revealed the editorial concerns of the publisher Simon & Schuster about the manuscript of the alt-right controversialist Milo Yiannopouloss autobiography Dangerous.

Having reportedly secured the book for an advance of $255,000 (200,000), Simon & Schuster cancelled the deal in February after a recording emerged that appeared to show Yiannopoulos endorsing sex between younger boys and older men.

In July, Yiannopoulos set out to sue Simon & Schuster for $10m for breach of contract. As part of the case, Simon & Schuster have submitted documents that reveal the problems they had with the book. Among other criticisms, the publishers notes say Yiannopoulos needed a stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats and that another chapter needs a better central thesis than the notion that gay people should go back in the closet.

In addition to the documents, a full copy of an early manuscript of the book, complete with the Simon & Schuster editor Mitchell Iverss notes, is available to download from the New York state courts website.

Court document from New York County reveals the editors notes on the manuscript for Milo Yiannopoulos cancelled book Photograph: New York Unified Court System

The tone is set in notes on the prologue to the manuscript. Ivers writes to Yiannopoulos: Throughout the book, your best points seem to be lost in a sea of self-aggrandizement and scattershot thinking, and adds: Careful that the egotistical boasting doesnt make you seem juvenile.

Add something like this only less self-serving reads another comment early in the manuscript.

Ivers frequently calls on Yiannopoulos to back up his assertions in the text. In the first nine pages of chapter one, notes include: Citations needed, Do you have proof of this?, Unsupportable charge and Cite examples.

Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter in 2016 after his role in the online harassment of the Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones. The editor makes several notes asking the author to tone down racism in the text. Delete irrelevant and superfluous ethnic joke, Ivers writes of a passage about taxi drivers. Lets not call South Africa white is another request, while elsewhere Yiannopoulos is reprimanded for using the phrase dark continent about Africa.

Yiannopoulos, who was filmed singing America the Beautiful while the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer and others gave the Hitler salute in the audience, is also criticised for attempting to suggest that the Hollywood left is more racist than Nazis. I dont like using Nazi analogies. Ever, is the editors note.

Yiannopoulos is repeatedly warned his choice of words is undermining any argument he is attempting to make. The use of phrases like two-faced backstabbing bitches diminishes your overall point, reads one comment. Too important a point to end in a crude quip is another. Unclear, unfunny, delete, reads another.

The early sections of a chapter on feminism prompt the note: Dont start chapter with accusation that feminists = fat. It destroys any seriousness of purpose. Yiannopoulos goes on to criticise contemporary feminism as merely a capitalist con-job a money-grab designed to sell T-shirts to Taylor Swift and Beyonc fans with asinine slogans. Um like your MILO SWAG? the editor responds.

Iverss evident exasperation becomes clear by page 84, where Yiannopouloss call for lesbians to be thrown out of academia altogether simply elicits the all-upper-case comment: DELETE UGH.

On Wednesday, Ivers retweeted without comment Publishing Perspectives Editor-in-Chief Porter Anderson pointing out that Ivers overall review described the book as at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues.

Mitchell Ivers (@MitchellIvers)

Retweeted without comment.

December 27, 2017

However, the emergence of the notes have not allowed Simon & Schuster to escape continued criticism for their initial striking of a deal with Yiannopoulos, or their editorial efforts to make his ideas more palatable to the market.

Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith)

The publisher knew who Yiannopoulos was when they gave him a $255,000 advance. The editors brutal comments are somewhat entertaining, but none of this should distract from the fact that they sought to make his bigotry both digestible and marketable.

December 28, 2017

The comments from Ivers came to wider attention when excerpts were posted to Twitter by software engineer Sarah Mei, who suggested some of them might make great observations to use in the future.

Sarah Mei (@sarahmei)

Will immediately start using if you want to make a case for [fucking ridiculous thing], youre going to have to employ a lot more intellectual rigor than you use here.

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