Archive for May, 2018

Trump Should Play the Long Game on Trade

May 31, 2018

While the U.S. fixates on steel, China seeks to dominate 21st-century technology.

People work on machines in Foxconn factory in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China, May 28.
People work on machines in Foxconn factory in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China, May 28. PHOTO: ALEKSANDAR PLAVEVSKI/EPA-EFE/REX/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

If Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s goal when he flies into Beijing Saturday is merely to pressure the Chinese to buy more American goods, the Trump administration is wasting an opportunity.

A pledge by China to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S. is difficult to enforce and easily discarded. It distracts from the underlying problems in the U.S. trading relationship with China while giving the Chinese more time to dominate the technologies of the future.

Rather than short-term tweaks to the balance of trade, the administration should seek long-term policy changes that level the playing field and strengthen the rule of law. This requires focusing on four critical issues.

First, the U.S. should insist on an end to China’s trade-related investment measures. The Chinese use TRIMs to pressure foreign companies into transferring intellectual property to Chinese partners or licensing it on a noncommercial basis as a condition of doing business in China. TRIMs amount to a sophisticated shakedown with Chinese bureaucrats playing the role of white-collar extortionists.

Second, the U.S. should demand the elimination of limits on foreign ownership of Chinese companies. These foreign-equity caps provide another avenue for the seizure of U.S. intellectual property. The Chinese joint-venture partner, often aided by a TRIM, may coerce the transfer of a foreign partner’s technology.

Third, the U.S. should press for changes in Chinese procurement rules that require goods sold to the Chinese government to be made in China. For U.S. companies, this can only be done in combination with a Chinese partner, which then gains control of any technology used in the manufacturing process.

Rules prohibiting practices like these are routinely included in trade agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the European Union’s free-trade agreements. Working with allies, the U.S. can and should extend them to China.

Finally, the U.S. must press—both in bilateral negotiations with China and in the World Trade Organization—to end China’s trade-distorting subsidies to state-owned enterprises. China has been clear about its desire to dominate key technological domains with long-term economic, military, and strategic significance. The “Made in China 2025” targets include artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced semiconductors, 5G, the Internet of Things, robotics and electric vehicles.

China provides key companies with low-cost capital, energy and other resources that give them an unfair advantage over non-Chinese enterprises, especially in sales to the Third World. Because they have state subsidies, for example, Huawei and ZTE already undercut companies like Ericsson, Fujitsu and Nokia , grabbing business across the globe that would go to non-Chinese businesses if the playing field were level and enhancing Chinese dominance in telecom.

While China aims to command the industries of the future, the Trump administration is pursuing trade policies to reclaim America’s share of the last century’s economy by fixating on goods like steel, aluminum and internal-combustion cars. While important, these industries employ an ever-declining number of Americans and generate a diminishing share of gross domestic product. Instead of trying to protect these industries by taxing American businesses and consumers with high tariffs, the administration should safeguard the U.S. competitive edge in the digital economy, data analytics, biotechnology, nanotechnology and other likely drivers of 21st-century economic growth.

The Chinese are happy to engage in drawn-out discussions about limiting steel and aluminum sales to the U.S. and reducing tariffs on imported American automobiles. This buys them time to develop crushing advantages in technology that will matter much more in the coming decades. Chinese negotiators would be smart to tell Mr. Ross they are reducing their 25% tariff on imported U.S.-made automobiles. That—combined with a promise to buy more U.S. goods packed with valuable technologies—would be a small price to pay to keep the Trump administration’s attention away from more important issues.

U.S. policy makers should remember that 70% of Americans see foreign trade as “an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports,” according to Gallup’s February 2018 World Affairs poll, while only 25%—the lowest since the question was first asked in 1992—see it as “a threat to the economy from foreign imports.”

America’s trade negotiators should play the long game. The Chinese are. One lesson of American history is that U.S. workers and innovators have always been able to compete with anyone when the rules are fair. That should be the Trump administration’s principal trade goal.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).


American health-care workers are committing suicide in unprecedented numbers

May 31, 2018

As America focuses on one epidemic — the opioid crisis — another goes entirely ignored. American health-care workers are dying by suicide in unprecedented numbers. Earlier this month, a medical student and a resident at NYU medical school completed suicide less than a week apart.

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My junior colleague took her life just 11 days before her 35th birthday. I had supervised her as she transitioned into practice from fellowship. She said that the way I said her name foretold if the conversation pointed to a weakness or a strength in her patient assessment. My last sight of her was as she drove off to her new job. Less than six months later, she made a life-ending choice.


A scan of her suicide note, asking that I be notified, was emailed to me. I did not show it to anyone. The news of her suicide was announced by an email in the department. We all went about our business, as if suicide by a young colleague is usual. And perhaps, in a way it is.

After all, physician suicide — and more broadly health-care worker suicide — is a huge issue in the U.S. In my own experience, I have lost six colleagues to suicide — five physicians and one physician assistant. That does not include the suicides that I have heard about through the whisper network at work.

My junior colleague was among an estimated 400 physicians who took their lives in 2016. Many physicians know more doctors than patients who have taken their lives. Physicians and nurses complete suicide more often than do average Americans; rates are even higher for women in both professions. Respect, fear and love for our colleagues often leads us to list the cause of death differently on death certificates. We frequently self-medicate, so suicides may instead be listed as accidental. Phrases to describe the scope like “an entire medical school class a year” or “a doctor a day” have particularly ominous meanings for physicians.

All of the physicians that I knew who took their lives were American medical graduates, a worrisome statistic if it reflects the general trend. A full 24 percent of physicians in the U.S. are international medical graduates; my specialty, pathology, is about 40 percent international graduates.

Although a recent report of suicides among residents does not suggest differential suicide rates among international and American medical graduates, the data may be limited by the nature of the study. The number for nurse or other health-care worker suicide is unknown, since we do not even track these numbers. Earlier this year, the National Academy of Medicine released a paper to raise awareness of nurse suicide, calling for a closer look at another facet of this epidemic. The high suicide rates correlate with the high rates of depression among physicians and nurses.

Why physicians and health-care workers are more likely to complete suicide is unknown. It perhaps has to do with a work-related mental health syndrome called disengagement and burnout, which has reached epidemic proportions in health-care providers and nurses. Excessive pressures and expectations at work, paired with seemingly unattainable goals for quality and productivity as well as societal loss of trust in physicians, has led to a loss of meaning of work and of self for physicians. This is not the norm that physicians or nurses expected when we answered the call to be care-providers.

Regardless of why medical workers tend to die by suicide, there needs to be a call to arms to do something about it. Health-care organizations need to more proactively report suicide in their workforce, so we can begin to understand the drivers for suicide in health-care workers. The information needs to be granular enough to identify risks by specialty and work-type.

More immediately, institutions need to develop procedures and processes for grief recovery support for colleagues of the deceased. Many institutions shy away from even mentioning suicide at the workplace. There is concern for suicide contagion, an increased tendency toward suicide in the already predisposed upon hearing of a suicide. There is stigma to talking about suicide among leaders, and fear that it will cast a shadow on them or their organization.

But, that is the wrong response. Colleagues suffer when one of their own is lost to suicide. One spends a third of one’s life at work. Sustained relationships at work are particularly important in an environment that is so stressful. The responsibility for another’s well-being and the ever-present risk for potential harm to another from a misjudgment extracts a heavy emotional toll on health-care providers.

We perhaps even blame ourselves more when we lose a colleague to suicide. Why did I not see it? Could I have done something to prevent it? One wonders about one’s self worth and one’s ability to care for patients when one fails a colleague and friend. One institution at least, UCSD, has heard this call to action and created the Healer Education and Assessment Referral program, which promotes self-assessment for depression and provides support for all health-care workers in the setting of a coworker’s suicide. But more needs to be done — at a department level, at an institutional level and at a national level.

Postvention programs to provide support for survivors of a co-worker suicide need to be developed in the profession. Structured prevention strategies to reduce suicide need to be developed as has been done for the police and military — two other at-risk professions for suicide. Leaders need to be trained to give support to their providers, so providers can heal and continue in their job of caring for their patients, after one of theirs is lost to suicide.

Vinita Parkash M.D. is an associate professor of pathology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is a Public Voices fellow with the OpEd Project, which is an organization that focuses on increasing the number of women thought leaders contributing to key commentary forums and media outlets.




America’s Teens Are Choosing YouTube Over Facebook

May 31, 2018

Snapchat and even Facebook’s own Instagram are getting more clicks from the kids these days than the aging social network.


Three years ago, Facebook Inc. was the dominant social media site among U.S. teens, visited by 71 percent of people in that magic, trendsetting demographic. Not anymore.

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Now, only 51 percent of kids between 13 and 17 use Facebook, according to Pew Research Center. The world’s largest social network has finally been eclipsed in popularity by YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook-owned Instagram.

Sarah Frier


Facebook is no longer the dominant social network among American teens. YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram are ahead, according to Pew 

“The social media environment today revolves less around a single platform than it did three years ago,” the researchers wrote in a survey published Thursday. Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube is the most popular, used by 85 percent of teens, according to Pew.

The U.S. is by far Facebook’s most lucrative advertising market, where it makes a staggering $23.59 in quarterly revenue per user. But that doesn’t mean growth can continue forever. The company said in its most recent earnings call that it’s effectively saturated the market in America and Canada, counting 185 million users in those two countries combined.

The new study demonstrates how difficult it may be to keep up that level of dominance, and how important the 2012 Instagram acquisition has been for Facebook’s future.

Instagram is slightly more popular than Snapchat overall, Pew said, with 72 percent of respondents saying they use the photo-sharing app compared with Snapchat’s 69 percent. But Snap Inc. is holding its own, despite Instagram’s frequent parroting of its features. About one-third of the survey’s respondents said they visit Snapchat and YouTube most often, while 15 percent said Instagram is their more frequent destination.

Meanwhile, only 10 percent of teens say Facebook is their most-used online platform. The Pew analysis was based on a survey of 1,058 parents who have a teenager between 13 and 17, as well as interviews with 743 teens themselves. Interviews were conducted online and by telephone from March 7 to April 10.

Pew noted that the biggest change since its last teen survey, besides Facebook’s fall from dominance, was just how ubiquitous smartphones have become among young people. Ninety-five percent of teens own a smartphone or have access to one, and 45 percent say they are online “on a near-constant basis.”

So in some ways, all the apps are winners.

As Trump Starts Talking Heathcare Again, Is There Solace from The UK’s National Health Service (NHS)?

May 31, 2018

Deficit for NHS trusts in England double the amount planned

HospitalImage copyright PA

NHS trusts in England have reported a combined financial deficit that was nearly twice the amount planned.

There was a deficit of £960m in the last financial year compared with the £496m they had planned for, the regulator NHS Improvement said.

Acute hospitals were largely responsible, mainly because of increased patient demand, it said.

All other providers, including ambulance and mental health trusts, had collectively underspent, it added.

The latest reported deficit is reached after taking account of extra financial support provided by the government.

Therefore, the Nuffield Trust think tank argued that the true underlying figure was much worse, as the finances had to be patched up with one-off savings and emergency extra cash.

Senior policy analyst Sally Gainsbury said: “Given the huge pressures on NHS providers, it is not at all surprising that the reported deficit for 2017-18 is £960m.

“As we have previously warned, there is a widening gap between what we are asking the NHS to do and what we are funding it to do.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers which represents various services, said a 5% annual increase in NHS funding is needed to match European levels of care.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Everywhere you look you get a sense of the NHS under real pressure.”

He said his proposed funding increase equates to an extra 9p on income tax or 7% on VAT, adding: “We need to be realistic about what the nation can afford.”

‘Substantial money’

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Theresa May and Philip Hammond cannot allow this financial knife-edge to continue.

“Whether the chancellor announces the extra funding in time for the NHS anniversary this summer or waits until the autumn Budget, it must be both substantial and genuinely new money.”

The report also highlighted that more than 2,600 patients were waiting longer than 12 months for non-urgent treatment in March – a 75% increase over the year before.

And half of the nation’s 10 “best performing” accident and emergency departments were unable to meet waiting time standards in January, February and March, according to the latest quarterly performance figures.

‘Incredible resilience’

NHS Improvement said acute hospitals had faced a surge in demand within A&E, particularly over the winter months. Some also spent more to cover vacancies and sickness absence.

It pointed out that 156 of the 234 trusts finished the year either reaching or exceeding their financial targets.

Chief executive Ian Dalton added: “Despite epic challenges, NHS staff up and down the country displayed incredible resilience and saw more patients than ever before within four hours.

“More than two-thirds of providers ended the year on budget or better than planned. Given rising demand and record vacancies, this is an important achievement.”

Ministers have promised a new long-term financial plan for the NHS, which is expected within weeks.

In March, Prime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to get away from annual “cash top-ups” and would come up with a blueprint later this year to allow the NHS “to plan for the future”.



NHS report reveals sharp rise in waiting times for care

Quarterly performance figures from the NHS provider sector show more than 2,600 people have waited over a year for treatment.

Newcastle, UK - February 10, 2016: The NHS (National Health Service) logo on an entrance sign for the Royal Victoria Infirmary, a teaching hospital which includes an accident and emergency department...Part of an NHS hospital entrance sign in Newcastle, England.
Image:The NHS Mandate states that 95% of patients attending A&E should be seen within four hours

There has been a sharp rise in the number of patients who have waited more than a year for NHS care in England, according to a new report.

The latest quarterly performance figures of the NHS provider sector show more than 2,600 people have waited over a year for treatment.

The figures from NHS Improvement also reveal half of the nation’s “best performing” A&E departments are unable to meet waiting time standards.

The NHS Mandate states that 95% of patients attending A&E should be seen within four hours.

But only five A&E departments managed to meet the 95% target during January, February and March, and half of the 10 “best performing” units didn’t even meet the four hour target.

:NHS ‘must do more to tackle white privilege’, trust chief says

More than five million people attended A&E during January, February and March – which led to more than 1.1 million hospital admissions.

Meanwhile, the NHS provider sector ended the financial year with a deficit of £960m – £464m more than the target set for the year.

The report also highlights that NHS providers in England did not meet targets for diagnostic tests, referral to treatment times and some cancer care targets.

The document, which covers the “most challenging winter periods that the NHS has had”, shows that at the end of March 2018, 2,647 patients were waiting over a year for treatment compared to 1,513 the previous year.

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Image:NHS providers in England did not meet targets for diagnostic tests

It also is a “large increase” from the 2,179 waiting in February 2018, the report says.

The report also highlights that the NHS provider sector ended the year with a “challenging level of vacancies” of more than 92,000 posts.

But NHS Improvement argued that the figures show NHS staff displayed “incredible resilience” in meeting demand during a “challenging year for the NHS”.

It said that the NHS as a whole has “broadly achieved financial balance for the year” after NHS England provisionally reported that it had managed a £955m underspend for the commissioning of healthcare services in 2017/18.

Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, said: “Hundreds of thousands more patients have been to A&Es this year but the NHS did not buckle under the pressure.

:: Britons believe NHS is in decline, says Sky Data poll

“Despite epic challenges, NHS staff up and down the country displayed incredible resilience and saw more patients than ever before within four hours,” he said.

“More than two thirds of providers ended the year on budget or better than planned. Given rising demand and record vacancies, this is an important achievement.”

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, warned that Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond “cannot allow this financial knife-edge to continue”, adding that the health service needs “genuinely new money”.

More from NHS

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  • Thousands call helpline after breast cancer screening failure

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and Jeremy Hunt have committed to a long-term plan with a sustainable multi-year settlement for the NHS to help it manage growing patient demand, which will be agreed with NHS leaders, clinicians, and health experts.

“It is testament to the hard work and dedication of staff that despite ever rising demand and significant winter pressures, 277,150 more patients were seen within four hours in A&E in 17-18 compared 16-17, and the majority of trusts’ finances are in good order.”

US to impose steel, aluminum tariffs on EU, Canada, Mexico

May 31, 2018

The United States said Thursday it will impose harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada, Mexico at midnight (0400 GMT Friday) — another move sure to anger Washington’s trading partners.

The announcement by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was sure to cast a long shadow over a meeting of finance ministers from the world’s Group of Seven top economies that opens later in the day in Canada.

© AFP/File / by Heather SCOTT, with Jurgen Hecker in Paris | US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on Thursday

Ross said talks with the EU had failed to reach a satisfactory agreement to convince Washington to continue the exemption from the tariffs imposed in March.

Meanwhile, negotiations with Canada and Mexico to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement are “taking longer than we had hoped” and there is no “precise date” for concluding them, so their exemption also will be removed, Ross told reporters.

The announcement was confirmed by presidential proclamation shortly after Ross addressed reporters.

Despite weeks of talks with his EU counterparts, Ross said the US was not willing to meet the European demand that the EU be “exempted permanently and unconditionally from these tariffs.”

“We had discussions with the European Commission and while we made some progress, they also did not get to the point where it was warranted either to continue the temporary exemption or have a permanent exemption,” Ross said.

Ross downplayed the threats of retaliation from those countries, but said talks can continue even amid the dispute to try to find a solution.

And President Donald Trump has the authority to alter the tariffs or impose quotas or “do anything he wishes at any point” — allowing “potential flexibility” to resolve the issue.

Trump imposed the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum using a national security justification, which Ross said encompasses a broad array of economic issues.

South Korea negotiated a steel quota, while Argentina, Australia and Brazil have arranged for “limitations on the volume they can ship to the US in lieu of tariffs,” Ross said.

“We believe that this combined package achieves the original objectives we set out, which was to constrict imports to a level to allow those industries that operate domestically to do so on a self-sustaining basis going forward.”

– Not a western –

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned before the announcement that the EU would take “all necessary measures” if the US imposed the tariffs.

“World trade is not a gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” Le Maire quipped, referring to a 1957 western movie

“It’s not everyone attacking the other and we see who remains standing at the end,” he said, declaring that the stiff taxes would be “unjustified, unjustifiable and dangerous”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU would respond in a “firm and united” manner to the tariffs.

“We want to be exempt from these tariffs” which were “not compatible” with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, Merkel told a press conference with Portuguese premier Antonio Costa in Lisbon.

by Heather SCOTT, with Jurgen Hecker in Paris

India fails to drum up bids for national carrier in privatisation blow

May 31, 2018

Not a single company has expressed an interest in buying Air India from the Indian government, New Delhi has admitted, after the deadline passed for potential bidders to come forward.

An hour after the deadline passed for expressions of interest in the highly-indebted national carrier, the ministry of civil aviation admitted that nobody had come forward in the window provided. The news deals a heavy blow to what would be India’s biggest ever privatisation.

The ministry tweeted on Thursday afternoon: “As informed by the Transaction Adviser, no response has been received for the Expression of Interest floated for the strategic disinvestment of Air India. Further course of action will be decided appropriately.”

By Kiran Stacey 


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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, June 1, 2018 — “Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you.”

May 31, 2018

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Art By Valentin de Boulogne – Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple


Memorial of Saint Justin, Martyr
Lectionary: 351

Reading 1 1 PT 4:7-13

The end of all things is at hand.
Therefore be serious and sober-minded
so that you will be able to pray.
Above all, let your love for one another be intense,
because love covers a multitude of sins.
Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another
as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God;
whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies,
so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ,
to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you,
as if something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.

Responsorial Psalm PS 96:10, 11-12, 13

R. (13b) The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

Alleluia SeeJN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MK 11:11-26

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area.
He looked around at everything and, since it was already late,
went out to Bethany with the Twelve.The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.
Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf,
he went over to see if he could find anything on it.
When he reached it he found nothing but leaves;
it was not the time for figs.
And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”
And his disciples heard it.They came to Jerusalem,
and on entering the temple area
he began to drive out those selling and buying there.
He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves.
He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.
Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written:My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?
But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it
and were seeking a way to put him to death,
yet they feared him
because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.

Early in the morning, as they were walking along,
they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.
Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look!
The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that what he says will happen,
it shall be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer,
believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.
When you stand to pray,
forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance,
so that your heavenly Father may in turn
forgive you your transgressions.”

Image result for fig tree, photos
Homily Ideas for Mark 11:11-26 From Servants of the Word

Why did Jesus curse a fig tree? Fig trees were a common and important source of food for the Jews.  Bad figs or a decaying fig tree was linked with evil deeds and spiritual decay.  The unfruitful fig tree symbolized the outcome of Israel’s unresponsiveness to the word of God.  The prophets depicted the languishing fig tree as signifying the desolation and calamity of Israel due to her unfaithfulness to God (see Joel 1:7,12; Habakuk 3:17; and Jeremiah 8:13). The history of Israel is one long preparation for the coming of the Promised One.  But the promise is unfulfilled in those who reject Jesus through unbelief. (See also Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13:6-9).   Jesus’ cursing of a fig tree is a prophetic action against the faithlessness of those who rejected his message. For faith to be fruitful and productive, it must be nourished with the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16; Col. 3:16)and be rooted in love (Galatians 5:6).

Image result for Jesus and the money changers in the temple, art, pictures

Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was another prophetic action. In this incident we see Jesus’ startling and swift action in cleansing the temple of those who were using it to exploit the worshipers of God. The money changers took advantage of the poor and forced them to pay many times more than was right–  in the house of the Lord no less! Their robbery of the poor was not only dishonoring to God but unjust toward their neighbor. In justification for his audacious action Jesus quotes from the prophets Isaiah (56:7) and Jeremiah (7:11). His act of judgment aims to purify the worship of God’s people and to discipline their erring ways.

 After this incident Jesus exhorts his disciples to “have faith in God”.  They are to pray with expectant faith  no matter how difficult the situation may be. The phrase “to remove mountains” was a common Jewish expression for removing difficulties.  A wise teacher who could solve difficulties was called a “mountain remover”.  If we pray with faith God will give us the means to overcome difficulties and obstacles.  If we want God to hear our prayers we must forgive those who wrong us as God has forgiven us.  Do you pray with expectant faith?

“Lord increase my faith and make my fruitful and effective in serving you. Help me to forgive others just as you have been merciful towards me”



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
01 JUNE, 2018, Friday, 8th Week, Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Peter 4:7-13PS 96:10-13MK 11:11-26 ]

What is sin?  In Greek, the biblical word for sin is “harmatia”, which means to miss the mark, to go astray or to be lost.  So sin is simply the failure to become what we are called to be.  Sin is more than simply an act or even a thought.  It includes not just the sin of commission but also the sin of omission.  The failure to become the glory of God is sin.  St Paul said, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Rom 3:23)  Sin is therefore more than just failing to be a devoted parent, a holy priest or a teacher or good student.  It is the failure to be what we are, sons and daughters of God.

This was the case of Israel.   She failed to live up to the promises of God given to her.  She was chosen by God among all peoples to be His Chosen People so that they can be a light to all the nations.  God spoke through the prophet, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  (Isa 49:6)  Instead of being the Chosen People of God, they were unfaithful to the covenant.  Instead of worshipping the Lord, they worshipped power, money and practiced social injustice.

The cleansing of the Temple is but a symbolic illustration of the sins of Israel.  The Temple of Jerusalem was supposed to be a place of worship, the glory of Jerusalem pointing to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Instead of helping people to worship God, it was used by the priests and officials to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor people.  They charged exorbitant fees when they had to change foreign currency to the Temple currency.  They would find fault with those who bought the animals for offering and worship outside the Temple, since all animals must be without blemish.  But they would sell them at a price much higher than those from the market.  Such corrupt and unjust practices deprived the poor from offering sacrifices and worship to God.

Indeed, the sin of Israel was the sin of the political and religious leaders.  How true it is in life that the higher you rise in the social, economic, political and religious ladder, the more corrupt we get!  Many who are in power use their office and position to enrich themselves instead of offering themselves for the service of the people.  It is not uncommon for those who are rich and powerful to bribe the junior officials to do their bidding and carry out their evil and corrupt deeds.  Otherwise, they would threaten to hurt their loved ones or to remove them from their jobs.   It is always the ordinary people who strive so hard to earn an honest living that are discredited, made use of, abused and then dumped.   Whilst the innocent and good people suffer, the evil ones seem to get richer and more powerful.  This has been and still is the sad reality of life caused by incompetent and self-seeking leaders.

The parable of the Fig Tree in today’s gospel is Jesus’ attempt to highlight the tragic state of the People of God.  It is not meant to be understood literally but allegorically.  The people of Israel were given the Promise but they failed to bring it to fruition and realization.  Promise without fulfillment is not the work of God but the failure of man!   God has always intended Israel to be great and to be a leader for all to come to God by living a covenanted life of love, unity, charity and a life of virtue and integrity. Israel was supposed to be a model nation for how one could live a life of communion with God and with each other so that she could prosper, not just economically and politically but most of all, religiously. But like the Fig Tree, there were only leaves but no fruits. The consequence for failing to bear fruit is that eventually, like Israel, we will wither and die, if not we will be chopped down.  (cf Lk 13:9Mt 7:19)  This is the warning of Jesus for those who are not responsible with the gifts given to them.  They will eventually destroy themselves.

Truly, many people with good prospects in life end up as failures.  Some even commit suicide because they do not know how to manage their lives properly with the gifts given to them.  Instead of using their talents for good, either they are irresponsible and squander their talents, wealth and time away or they use what they have for evil, dishonest and selfish pleasures or gains.   This is the greatest tragedy that can happen to anyone.  If we are poor or do not have such privileges, no one can blame us.  We can live with a clear conscience and with dignity that we have done all that we could within our limitations.  But those who have been blessed with much but given little back to society not only do society a disfavor but most of all, themselves and their loved ones.

For this reason, St Peter urges us to use our gifts in such a way “that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever.”   Indeed, whatever gifts we have come from God and must be used for His greater glory.  The Benedictines’ Motto is “in omnibus glorificetur Deus”, that is, “in all things may God be glorified!”  We too must use all that we have for the glory of God.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Mt 5:16)

Consequently, St Peter reminds us of our grave responsibility to make good and proper use of our gifts.   He wrote, “Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others.  If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders.”  In all that we do, we must remember that we are acting on behalf of God.  We are called to serve God in His people.  As His agent and messenger, we are to mediate His love, compassion, and bring His word to others.   In the final analysis, it is God whom we are serving; not even His people.  St Paul also wrote, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.”  (Col 3:23f)

All gifts must be employed for the service of love.  St Peter exhorts us, “Above all, never let your love for each other be insincere, since love covers over many a sin.  Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling.”   When we do everything in love and for love, we will avoid sinning like the Israelites and the Jews.  When we use all we have for the good of others, there will be no danger of being tempted to corruption, injustice and greed for money or power.   Love also covers a multitude of sins because we will overlook the sins and imperfections of others.  By so doing, we will exercise compassion, sensitivity and forgiveness towards those who fail us.  That is why Jesus speaks of the importance of forgiveness in relation to prayer.  “And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.  But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings.”  When we do not forgive, then we will not be able to love our brothers and sisters sincerely.

But prayer is not only linked to forgiveness and charity, it is connected to faith in God’s power.  Jesus asks us to pray so that we can be docile and receptive to the power of God and His grace for us.  We must pray in faith as Jesus said, “have faith in God. I tell you solemnly, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Get up and throw yourself into the sea,’ with no hesitation in his heart but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours.”  Prayer is to believe that the promise He has made us would be fulfilled.  This was how Abraham prayed.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” (Heb 11:8)  Hence, the author said, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Heb 11:1)  In faith, let us live out the promise given to us!

Finally, there is a warning.  If we do not use the gifts of God well, there is an inevitable judgment and condemnation.  It will not be so much God who will condemn us but we will condemn ourselves for failing to be what the Lord meant us to be.  St Peter said, “Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind.”  We will be ready to face our end and the judgment of history if we have lived an honest and responsible life.  But if we pass the test, then St Peter says, “If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.”   Let us then be purified by the fire of love so that this Temple of ours, the body of the Lord will be holy and glorify God.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

Deutsche Bank’s U.S. Operations Deemed ‘Troubled’ by Fed

May 31, 2018

Rare censure last year has influenced lender’s moves to reduce risk taking and required the bank to seek approval for U.S. hiring decisions

A flag for Deutsche Bank flies outside the bank's New York offices.
A flag for Deutsche Bank flies outside the bank’s New York offices. PHOTO: MARK LENNIHAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Federal Reserve has designated Deutsche Bank AG’s sprawling U.S. business in “troubled condition,” a rare censure for a major financial institution that contributed to constraints on its operations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Fed’s downgrade, which took place about a year ago, is secret and hasn’t been previously made public. The “troubled condition” status—one of the lowest designations employed by the Fed—has influenced moves by the bank to reduce risk-taking in areas like trading and lending to customers.

It also means the bank has had to clear decisions about hiring and firing senior U.S. managers with Fed overseers. Even reassigning job duties and making severance payments for certain employees require Fed approval, the people said.

The punitive action by the Fed, the bank’s primary U.S. regulator, has rippled through Deutsche Bank’s relationships with other regulators, including the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which has pressured the lender to improve controls and oversight, people familiar with those relationships said.

The U.S. system for rating banks is called “CAMELS,” which stands for capital adequacy, asset quality, management, earnings, liquidity, and sensitivity to market risk. A bank’s topline rating, from 1 to 5, takes into account all those categories. The best rating is “1.” Troubled banks are rated either “4” or “5.” Scores aren’t made public.

A downgrade by the Fed has also landed the bank’s FDIC-insured subsidiary, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, on the FDIC’s “Problem Banks” list of at-risk institutions, according to people familiar with the matter. The FDIC doesn’t detail the membership of the list, but does say how many banks are on it and the combined value of their assets. The list’s asset total rose by $42.5 billion in the first quarter; Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, the bank’s well-capitalized American deposit-taking unit, had $42.1 billion in assets as of March 31, according to regulatory filings.

Banks are added to the list after they receive a “4” or “5” overall rating from their primary regulator. How those banks fare later shows how firms do sometimes recover from harsh ratings.

Of the 1783 institutions designated “problem banks” between January 2008 and March 2017, 854 recovered and shed the label, 523 failed, 294 merged, and 112 remained in problem status, the agency said in its history of the financial crisis.

A Fed spokesman declined to comment. An FDIC spokesman declined to comment.

A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman said the bank doesn’t discuss “specific regulatory feedback.” She said that Deutsche Bank AG, the parent company, “is very well capitalized and has significant liquidity reserves.” The relevant U.S. subsidiaries are “DB USA Corp, Deutsche Bank Trust Corporation, and Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, our principal U.S. banking subsidiary, which has a very robust balance sheet as disclosed in our annual and quarterly regulatory filings.”

The bank spokeswoman added: “We have previously indicated that our regulators have identified various areas for improvement relating to our control environment and infrastructure. We are highly focused on addressing identified weaknesses in our U.S. operations.”

The problems that spurred the downgrade, and the complexity it injected into daily decision-making and long-term planning, help frame one of Deutsche Bank’s biggest challenges. The bank is struggling to curtail costs and risks in a huge market where, according to the bank’s executives, it must be present to maintain its global reach.

But obstacles to making money in the U.S. have become tougher as Deutsche Bank has piled up legal settlements and raced to improve outdated technology. The added scrutiny that comes with the Fed’s “troubled” label brings headaches that other banks don’t have to contend with.

For Deutsche Bank, the effects of disappointing the Fed continue to reverberate in recent decisions under new Chief Executive Christian Sewing to pull back from certain kinds of lending and trading activities, some people close to the bank said.

Mr. Sewing was named CEO in early April with the ouster of John Cryan after three consecutive full-year losses. The new German boss said last week Deutsche Bank will cut thousands of jobs, and reiterated plans to reduce the lender’s global equities business and other investment-banking activities.

Groundwork for the risk pullback was laid last year as Deutsche Bank’s performance lagged. Fed supervisors grew exasperated with its shortcomings in systems and controls and the slow pace of improvements, people familiar with internal discussions said.

Deutsche Bank’s U.S. operations have drawn regulatory ire for years. They received a stinging rebuke from the New York Fed in 2014 about repeated financial-reporting failuresand lack of follow-through on promised fixes, The Wall Street Journal detailed.

Deutsche Bank U.S. operations failed the Fed’s stress tests in 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 was the subject of multiple Fed enforcement actions for perceived lax controls tied to currency trading, money laundering, and Volcker-rule trading restrictions. Deutsche Bank has also paid billions of dollars to settle allegations stemming from U.S. Justice Department investigations.

Last year, the Fed repeatedly cited concerns privately to the bank about its controls around measuring financial exposure to clients and valuing collateral that backed loans, according to people close to the bank.

Portions of the Fed’s criticisms suggested to Deutsche Bank executives they needed to pull back on so-called repo financing—short-term lending typically based on securities-repurchase agreements—to hedge-fund clients and other banks. Within the investment bank last year, some executives privately complained that repo exposures were less risky than the Fed depicted them, spurring debate over how much to dial back, some of the people with knowledge of internal discussions said.

The Fed also reupped its criticism of Deutsche Bank’s financial documentation. Examiners expressed frustration at what they described as the bank’s inability to calculate, at the end of any given day, its exposures to what banks and other clients it had in specific jurisdictions, and over what duration, some of the people said.

Write to Jenny Strasburg at and Ryan Tracy at

In Syria, Putin and Netanyahu Were on the Same Side All Along

May 31, 2018

Putin is ready to ditch Iran to keep Israel happy and save Assad’s victory

.Putin and Netanyahu toast during a reception in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018.
Putin and Netanyahu toast during a reception in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018.Alexei Nikolsky/AP

As Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman meets his Russian counterpart Thursday in Moscow to discuss the arrangements for keeping Iran and its proxies away from Israel’s border with Syria, they will be merely formalizing an understanding between the two countries that has long been in the making. It should have been clear from the beginning of the Russian involvement in Syria nearly three years ago that, when forced to choose between Israel and Iran, Vladimir Putin would come out on Israel’s side.

This has little if anything to do with Putin’s own special brand of philo-semitism. The Russian president is not the sentimental type. He favors Israel because it is currently the only regional power capable of ruining his plans. Putin, who wanted to ensure that the Bashar Assad regime survived in Syria, had a shared interest with Iran, which sees Syria as part of its axis of influence in the region. Iran supplied the ground forces to prop up the Assad regime, which in mid-2015 was very close to collapse. Not so much its own troops, but its proxy Lebanese militia Hezbollah and tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, who were paid or press-ganged into joining the Fatemiyoun brigades, that Iran financed, armed and sent to Syria.

Putin, for political reasons, did not want to risk too many Russian soldiers in Syria. Coffins coming home would have eroded his popularity. Moscow supplied the air-power and the combination of Russian Sukhoi fighter jets bombing rebel enclaves from thousands of feet, and Iranian-paid Shi’ite fighters mopping up the survivors, saved Bashar Assad. Now that the war in Syria has been decided in Assad’s favor, the Russians have less need for Tehran’s boots on the ground.

File photo: Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018.
File photo: Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

>> To get Iran out of Syria, Israel and the U.S. must cooperate with Putin | Analysis

Russia of course has no plans to leave Syria. It is its client state and thanks to the Assad regime, Russia has its coveted warm-water ports on the Mediterranean. Iran wants to remain as well, but Israel sees the Iranian long-term presence as a strategic threat and since Russia has little need for Iran either, the choice is clear.

Throughout Russia’s presence in Syria, Israel didn’t attack the Iranian-backed ground forces – just the convoys and depots of advanced missiles that could be used in the future by Hezbollah or Iranian officers to strike Israel. Jerusalem’s circumspection in not targeting the elements that Russia needed to prop up Assad, along with Israel’s assurances to Moscow that it has no intention in intervening in the battle for power in Damascus, ensured that the two countries were never on opposite sides of the war.

Now that Assad is back in control of most of Syria and rolling back the few remaining pockets of rebels, Putin is keenly aware that the only regional force that can seriously ruin his plans, should it choose to do so, is Israel. Iran can’t and won’t jeopardize Assad. In addition, Iran can’t turn against Russia since it needs its commercial ties with Moscow more than ever, now that the Trump administration has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Moscow meeting Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shvigo on  May 31, 2018.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Moscow meeting Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on May 31, 2018.Ariel Harmony / Ministry of Defense

The week after the first Russian aircraft landed at Syria’s Khmeimim airbase in September 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow, agreeing on ground-rules with Putin. Ever since, Israel has continued carrying out its periodic airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah assets in Syria, with barely an occasional bland diplomatic protest from the Kremlin. Effectively Israel was allowed free rein to attack targets that were ostensibly under Russia’s air-defense umbrella. The understanding was clear – Israel would not do anything that could hamper Russia’s campaign to save Assad. Everything else was fair game.

Netanyahu was the first to understand that as soon as former U.S. President Barack Obama had broken his own commitment and decided not to respond to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian citizens, the United States had ceased to become a serious player in the region. Putin inserted himself into the vacuum created by Obama and Netanyahu moved quickly to establish his own arrangement with the Russian leader. As the Sukhois landed in Syria, many Israeli security officials and experts fretted that Israel’s freedom of operation over Syria was over. But one of their colleagues in Moscow said: “You’ll see. Putin respects Israel’s military force. And Putin and Netanyahu understand each other. They will find a way to get along.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Moscow meeting Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shvigo on  May 31, 2018.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Moscow meeting Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu on May 31, 2018.Ariel Harmony / Ministry of Defense

Anthony Hopkins: ‘I’m happy I’m an alcoholic. It’s a great gift’

May 31, 2018

“We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator.” — “Just be grateful to be alive.”
Alcoholism and ambition fuelled the actor’s rise. He talks masculinity, fame and ‘King Lear’
Mon, May 28, 2018, 09:04

Anthony Hopkins is joined by a star-studded cast in the BBC’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Video: BBC
Image may contain: 1 person, beard, eyeglasses and closeup

For anyone who looks toward their later years with trepidation, Sir Anthony Hopkins (“Tony, please”) is a proper tonic. He is 79, and happier than he has ever been.

This is due to a mixture of things: his relationship with his wife of 15 years, Stella, who has encouraged him to keep fit, and to branch out into painting and classical composition; the calming of his inner fire, of which more later; and his work.

Hopkins loves to work. Much of his self-esteem and vigour comes from acting – “Oh, yes, work has kept me going. Work has given me my energy” – and he is in no way contemplating slowing down. You can feel a quicksilver energy about him, a restlessness. Every so often, I think he’s going to stop the interview and take flight, but actually he’s enjoying himself and keeps saying, “Ask me more! This is great!”

We meet in Rome, where he is making a Netflix film about the relationship between the last pope (Benedict) and the current one (Francis). Hopkins is playing Benedict, Jonathan Pryce is Francis.

He is enjoying this – “We’re filming in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow!” – and we are both relishing the lovely view across the city from the penthouse suite in the hotel where he’s staying. Still, he declares that the film we are here to talk about, the BBC’s King Lear, filmed in England and directed by Richard Eyre, is the piece of work that has made him truly happy.

“I felt, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ I can do this sort of work. I didn’t walk away. And it’s so invigorating, because I know I can do it, and I’ve got my sense of humour, my humility, and nothing’s been destroyed.”

He’s played the part before, at the National Theatre in 1986, with David Hare directing. “I was… ” – he counts in his head “… 48,” he says. “Ridiculous. I didn’t realise I was too young. I had no concept of how to do it. I was floundering.”

Now, he feels he’s got Lear right, and few would disagree. In a star-studded cast – Emma Thompson plays Goneril; Emily Watson, Regan; Jim Broadbent, Gloucester; Jim Carter, Kent; Andrew Scott, Edgar – it’s Hopkins who dominates. He is fantastic: his white hair close-cropped, his manner like a heavy-headed bull, a scary tyrant losing his powers, a drinker who flips into terrifying rage.

Hopkins’s theory is that Lear’s wife died giving birth to Cordelia, and Lear brought her up, his favourite, as a tomboy. Of the older two daughters, Watson said, “and I agree with her, that they have become monsters, because he made them so”.

Hopkins believes that Lear is terrified of women, can’t understand them. Hence the awful specificity of the curses he rains on his older daughters, damning their wombs. He seeks refuge in men, surrounding himself with a boisterous male army. The scenes where Lear wants to bring his retinue to Regan’s house are reminiscent of an awful, all-boys-together drink-fest.

“I come from a generation where men were men,” Hopkins says. “There’s nothing soft or touchy-feely about any of us, where we were from in Wales. There’s a negative side to that, because we’re not very good at receiving love or giving it. We don’t understand it. After Richard Burton died, his brother Graham invited me to the Dorchester where they were all having a get-together, the wives and the men, all the sisters and brothers. All pissed. And I noticed the women were sipping their ports and brandy, but all the men were, ‘Come on, drink! Drink!’ I thought, ‘There’s something very Greek about this.’ Men together. You know, like the bouzouki dancers. It’s not homosexuality, but it is a sexuality, a kind of bonding. That’s what I was thinking of.”

Hopkins often uses his past to find his way into a character. Small incidents that stick in his mind, real people who inform. In the scene with Kent, Edgar and the Fool, as Lear descends into madness, he has all three line up on a bench and addresses them with the wrong names. Hopkins decided that Lear had seen his father drown three puppies when he was young and believed his friends to be those dogs.

“Cruelty to an animal stays with you for the rest of your life,” he says. “I once witnessed something like that, but I can’t think of it too much, it’s too upsetting. But that little kernel of an event doesn’t go. It grows with you.” When he portrays deliberately scary people – such as Hannibal Lecter or Robert Ford in the Westworld series – he plays them quietly, emphasising their sinister control. His Lear, though, is explosive. “He’s completely bonkers – he laughs at the storm. That’s what I like about him.”

In the film, Hopkins uses a horseshoe as his crown. He asked a friend, Drew Dalton, a props guy on Westworld who is also an Idaho farmer, to get it for him, and he told him it was from an old horse, born in 1925. When Hopkins talks about this horse, he gets a little teary. “I carry the horseshoe with me wherever I go now. I still get emotional about it – the power, and the loneliness, and the pain of that horse. That’s Lear.”

Tears come easily to him, especially when he talks about hard work, old age, masculinity. His father, Dick, was a baker, a tough, practical man, born of another baker. But, Hopkins says, as he got older, small things would upset him, “like if he made a mistake in his car and drove off a ramp instead of getting it just right, he’d break down crying. Towards the end of his life, he used to drink, and he was unpredictable. Never violent, but sudden turns of rage, and then deep depressions. Turned on my mother, turned on me. I was old enough, so it didn’t bother me. We didn’t speak much before he died. He resented me for something. I understood it, I could get it, and I thought, ‘What a terrible, lonely horror, for people at the end of their lives.’”

It’s easy to see how he drew on this for Lear. Hopkins has a daughter, too, Abigail, from his first marriage, but they don’t have a relationship, so there was no inspiration there. “No. I accepted it years ago. It’s her choice and she must live her life. I say to young people, ‘If your parents are giving you trouble, move out.’ You’ve got to let go. You don’t have to kill your parents, but just leave if it’s holding you back.”

Lear came out of another BBC film, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, also directed by Eyre and broadcast in 2015. Hopkins was the ageing, belligerent actor Sir, who is preparing to play Lear; Ian McKellen was Norman, his dresser. Hopkins had wanted to do the play since picking up a copy in a bookshop in Los Angeles, where he lives: “It opened the valves of nostalgia.”

When he first became involved in the theatre, in the late 1950s, Hopkins was a stage manager, touring northern towns, meeting “old, wrecked, alcoholic, wonderful” vaudeville comedians who’d worked during the war, talking to stage hands who knew the technique of dropping the curtain for comedy (fast) and tragedy (very slow). Then he joined the National in the time of Olivier and Gielgud. He was impatient for success. “Oh,” he says, “I had non-speaking parts, messengers and God knows what, and I was very disgruntled, because I wanted to be bigger. So I went to the casting director and said, ‘Who do you have to sleep with to get a part around here?’ I’d only been there three weeks!”

The casting director was taken aback, but mentioned him to Olivier, who gave him a part as an IRA man in Juno And The Paycock. Hopkins knows now that his hubris was ludicrous, but he was anxious to get to the action, and still is. “I think, with life, just get on with it, you know?” he says. “We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator.”

I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess
At the National, he met the actors Ernest Milton, Donald Wolfit and Paul Scofield, and he drew on these memories to play Sir (Harwood had been Wolfit’s dresser). He surprised himself by how much he enjoyed making The Dresser. It was a sort of revelation. “When I was at the National all those years ago, I knew I had something in me,” he says, “but I didn’t have the discipline. I had a Welsh temperament and didn’t have that ‘fitting in’ mechanism.

“Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful, had it, but I didn’t. I would fight, I would rebel. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t belong here.’ And for almost 50 years afterwards, I felt that edge of, ‘I don’t belong anywhere, I’m a loner.’ I don’t have any friends who are actors at all. But in The Dresser, when Ian [McKellen] responded, it was wonderful. We got on so well and I suddenly felt at home, as though that lack of belonging was all in my imagination, all in my vanity.”

He’s always called himself a loner – “alone, loner, solitary”, he says to me – and in past interviews his outsiderdom has become almost his headline characteristic. But he and McKellen bonded, regaling each other with old stories instead of rehearsing. Having felt, for all those years, unwanted by the establishment, the establishment was making him welcome. He also realised that he wanted to do Lear for real.

Not on stage, though. Despite his nostalgia, Hopkins hates the theatre. In 1973, he walked out of Macbeth mid-run at the National and moved to LA. The last stage play he was in was M Butterfly, in the West End in 1989. It was a torment, he says, the tipping point being a matinee where nobody laughed, “not a titter”. When the lights came up, the cast realised the entire audience was Japanese. “Oh God,” he recalls. “You’d go to your dressingroom and someone would pop their head round the door and say, ‘Coffee? Tea?’ And I’d think, ‘An open razor, please.’”

He can’t stand being unproductive, working without a point; it drives him mad. David Hare once told Hopkins he’d never met anyone as angry: “And this was when I was off the booze!” He gave up drinking in 1975. For a while, he tried to quieten down his personality (“I was ever so careful”), but his mother told him it wasn’t working. “She said, ‘Why don’t you just be the bastard that you really are?’ She said, ‘I know what you’re like, you’re a monster.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Well, okay then, be a monster.’

“But the anger, you begin to channel it,” he says. “I’m very happy I’m an alcoholic – it’s a great gift, because wherever I go, the abyss follows me. It’s a volcanic anger you have, and it’s fuel. Rocket fuel. But of course it can rip you to pieces and kill you. So, gradually, over the years, I have learned not to be a people-pleaser. I don’t have a temper any more. I get impatient, but I try not to judge. I try to live and let live. I don’t get into arguments, I don’t offer opinions, and I think if you do that, then the anger finally begins to transform into drive.”

Now, if he’s not acting, he paints, or plays the piano. He released an album of classical compositions, Composer, performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2011, which was well-received. “Hopkins writes with considerable flair and confidence,” said one critic, while Amazon gives it four stars. He began painting at the behest of Stella, who saw how he decorates his scripts. He goes over his lines around 250 times, until he can recite them backwards, sideways, in his sleep. Every time he reads them, he draws a doodle on his script, and the doodles, which start as small crosses, grow enormously large, covering all the blank space. Stella saw this and got him to paint “favours”, little presents for their wedding guests.

“She said, ‘Well, if they don’t work, no one’s going to put you in jail,’” he says. And nobody did, because his paintings are pretty fine; they sell for thousands of dollars. He shows me some on his phone. They’re expressionist, full of bright colours – “South American colours: Stella is Colombian” – and he’s working towards a show next year in St Petersburg, which he’s very excited about.

“Ask me more questions!” he says. He doesn’t want to waste time sitting around while the photographer sets up. We talk animals. He and Stella collect stray cats and dogs. We talk politics. He doesn’t care about Trump; he doesn’t vote. He takes a widescreen approach to politics, because focusing on the detail makes him too unhappy.

“I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess, and we’re very early in our evolution. Look back throughout history: you have the 20th century, the murder of 100 million people, barely 80 years ago. The 1914-18 war, the civil war in America, slaughter, bloodshed… I don’t know if there’s a design in it, but it is extraordinary to look at it and get a perspective. I think, ‘Well, if it’s the end, there’s nothing we can do about it, and it’ll blow over, whatever happens.’”

He remembers talking to his father on the phone during the Cuban missile crisis (“and I was a raving Marxist then”) and his father remarking that the bomb would be dropped on London, so Hopkins would be all right, “because the bomb will drop on you, so you won’t know much about it. But in Wales, we’ll suffer the fallout.” His dad also once said to him, about Hitler and the second World War, “Six years later, he was dead in a bunker. So much for the Third Reich”, which makes me laugh.

Now he avoids news and politics, for his peace of mind. “In America, they’re obsessed with healthy food,” he says. “They tell you, if you eat junk food, you get fat and you die. Well, television is run by money and corporate power and sponsorship. It’s junk food for the brain. Toxic.” If he’s not busy, he orders books online and sends them to friends – Wake Up And Live! by Dorothea Brande, The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight – or watches old films and TV on his iPad. He was obsessed with Breaking Bad, and wrote a lovely letter to Bryan Cranston extolling his acting; now, he likes watching Midsomer Murders, The Persuaders and Rosemary & Thyme.

We talk a bit about the #MeToo movement . Hopkins says, about Harvey Weinstein, “I did know about the person you are referring to, about his sexual stuff. I know he is a rude man and a tyrant. But I avoided him, I didn’t want anything to do with people like that. Bullies.”

And actually, despite his desire to live and let live, Hopkins often calls bullies out: when John Dexter, the director of M Butterfly, started shouting at everyone in the cast, Hopkins told him to stop.

“I said, ‘John, you don’t need to do this. You’re a great director. Stop it.’ And he cried. I mean, I understand if people are bullies. They’ve got their problems. I can’t judge them, I won’t make fun of them at awards. It’s correct for women to stand up for themselves, because it’s unacceptable. But I don’t have a desire to dance on anyone’s grave.”

He understands that we can all be terrible, and we can all be kind. Fame and power have nothing to do with it. I tell Hopkins something the singer Tony Bennett once said – “Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough” – and he is delighted. “How extraordinary. What an amazing thing to say! You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be famous, and I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there’s nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive.”

He shows me a picture on his phone. It’s of him aged three, with his dad on a beach near Aberavon. His dad is grinning. Hopkins is a cherubic child, with golden curls, caught somewhere between laughing and crying. “I was upset because I’d dropped a cough sweet.” He keeps it because it reminds him of how far he’s come.

“I think, ‘Good God, I should be in Port Talbot.’ Either dead, or working in my father’s bakery. For some inexplicable reason I’m here, and none of it makes sense. And I look at him and I say, ‘We did okay, kid.’” – Guardian

‘King Lear’ is on BBC2 on Monday May 28th