The secret negotiations that sealed Hong Kong’s future

Hong Kong (CNN)The two leaders sat several feet apart at a long table covered in green silk.

The crowd behind applauded as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang signed large red-bound documents with black fountain pens and then shook hands.
With that, on December 19, 1984, the end of more than 150 years of British rule over Hong Kong was sealed and a timeline put in place for China to assume sovereignty over the city on July 1, 1997.
The people of Hong Kong were not party to the discussions, nor were they consulted about the final decision,which had a profound effect on their futures and freedoms.

Treaty territory

The UK acquired the territory that is now China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region via three treaties. Following the defeat of the Qing Empire in the first and second opium wars (in 1842 and 1860 respectively), the territories of Hong Kong and Kowloon were ceded to the UK.
In 1898, London agreed to lease what became known as the New Territories from the Qing, drastically expanding the amount of land governed by the Hong Kong colony, but also setting in motion the end of British rule.

While the Qing Empire — and its successors, the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China — had given up claims for Hong Kong and Kowloon, the lease for the New Territories was set to expire on 30 June 1997.
“We can only maintain sovereign powers in the New Territories up to 1997 in any case and the rest of the territory is not viable on its own,” a 1982 UK Foreign Office memo warned Thatcher.
In his memoirs, David Akers-Jones — chief secretary of Hong Kong from 1985 to 1987 — wrote that following the war and the gradual collapse of the British Empire, “Hong Kong recognized that the uncertain future would last until it was known what would happen when the lease of most of the colony, the New Territories, expired.”
That future would not include independence, as it did for most other British colonies. After the People’s Republic of China joined the United Nations in 1971, Beijing successfully pushed for Hong Kong (along with neighboring Macau, then a Portuguese colony) to be removed from a list of “non-self-governing” territories for whom all steps were to be taken by the UN “to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.”

Secret talks

In 1982, Thatcher visited Beijing, becoming the first UK Prime Minister to enter Communist China, and formally established negotiations on the future of Hong Kong.
Initially, London hoped to maintain significant control over the city, even if it ceded legal sovereignty to China.
In secret discussions among Thatcher’s cabinet — since declassified — it was suggested land leases in the New Territories could be converted to indefinite ones in order to “make it possible for British administration to continue beyond 1997 if the Chinese so wish.”
That proposal was rejected by Beijing as “unnecessary and inappropriate” in what British ambassador to China Sir Percy Cradock described in a September 1979 memo as a “disappointing reply.”
As Thatcher prepared to visit Beijing three years later, a briefing document prepared for her said “there will be strong expectations that Hong Kong’s future will be discussed, if not decided” during her time there.
Despite this however, UK Foreign Ministry officials were still operating on the basis that British administration, if not rule, would continue. “Confidence in the territory, particularly among investors, is likely only to be maintained if autonomy is guaranteed by the administration continuing on the same lines, i.e. through the British,” a March 1982 memo said.
British law requires most cabinet documents to be declassified 20-30 years after they were initially created. While the documents do quote Chinese officials extensively, few accounts of Beijing’s side of the negotiations have been made public.

Prosperity vs stability

By April 1982, the future legality of Hong Kong was starting to come into place.
In a meeting between former British Prime Minister Edward Heath and Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, Deng said that a new Chinese constitution would “specifically allow for the creation of special administrative zones,” where different legal and economic systems could operate.
“Heath said that Britain received nothing from Hong Kong and suggested that Britain managed Hong Kong for the benefit of China and of mankind,” Cradock wrote in a secret memo to Thatcher.
Around this time, Deng put forward the principle that now governs Hong Kong, of “one country, two systems,” by which the city would retain its “capitalist” economy and limited democratic freedoms, but sovereignty would pass to Beijing.
On September 23, 1982, Thatcher met with Zhao Ziyang at the Great Hall of the People. “(Zhao) said that there were two principles (at stake) — sovereignty, and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” a record of the meeting said. “If it came to a choice between the two, China would put sovereignty above prosperity and stability.”
The following day, Thatcher met with Deng, during which the old revolutionary warned her “in no more than one or two years time the Chinese government would formally announce their decision to recover Hong Kong.”
Talks continued after Thatcher left Beijing, and would eventually result in the Sino-British Joint Declaration that she and Zhao signed on that day in 1984.

No consultation

Throughout the discussions held by Thatcher’s cabinet, the chief concerns expressed in the secret memos were retaining market “confidence” in Hong Kong, and avoiding a situation like the Falklands, over which Britain went to war with Argentina in 1982.
Emily Lau, former chairwoman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, said Hong Kongers knew that “all (the British) cared about was trade … and the well being of the Hong Kong people was of secondary importance.”
She too pointed to the Falklands, but to make a very different point. “There were only 1,800 people and hundreds of thousands of sheep” on the islands, Lau said, but nevertheless the Falklanders were given a seat at the table in negotiations between the UK and Argentina during the 1970s, before the failed Argentine invasion of 1982.
By comparison, Hong Kongers “could not play any part” in handover talks, though they were involved after the deal was done in drafting the city’s mini-constitution, Basic Law.
“The British and Chinese governments had already jointly decided to impose their agreement on the territory and were not willing to make amendments to it,” according to historian Ian Scott. Last ditch efforts in 1983 of Hong Kong legislators to represent the views of the city — which largely did not favor rule by China — “were fruitless.”
While Hong Kongers were invited to publicly comment on the negotiations, the secret nature of them made doing so nigh impossible.
“Both the Chinese and British governments have openly invited the people of Hong Kong to express their views,” lawmaker Wong Lam said in a session of the city’s parliament in March 1984. “Yet how can they express their views if they have very little or no knowledge of what is going on?”

Push and pull

The treatment of Hong Kongers during the negotiations has left a great deal of residual anger towards the British from parts of the city’s pro-democracy movement.
“I think the British have a lot to answer for,” Lau said. “(Both in) not giving us democratic elections, and not allowing Hong Kong British citizens to go and live in the UK. We were third class citizens.”
After signing the treaty, Thatcher visited Hong Kong, where Lau, a journalist at the time, accused her of delivering “over five million people into the hands of a Communist dictatorship.”
Thatcher responded that Britain had “done everything we could for Hong Kong,” adding that Lau was likely the only person in the city unhappy with the deal.
Declassified documents from long before handover negotiations even began show that some British officials did seek to introduce more democracy in Hong Kong but were angrily rebuffed by Beijing.
Allowing Hong Kong people to govern themselves would be a “very unfriendly act,” premier Zhou Enlai reportedly told British officials in 1958. Another Chinese official in 1960 threatened potential invasion if the UK attempted to introduce greater democracy to the colony.
Chris Patten, the last colonial governor, did expand the amount of directly elected lawmakers in a 1995 parliamentary vote, over vociferous complaints from Beijing and promises to replace the newly returned legislature with an appointed body. It was the first and last time the city has had a majority pro-democracy parliament.
On July 1, 1997, after Patten sailed away on the yacht Britannia, the elected legislators sneaked onto the balcony of the city’s parliament building. Speaking to a large crowd below, Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee and his colleagues promised the crowd they would return.
“The flame of democracy has been ignited and is burning in the hearts of our people,” he said. “It will not be extinguished.”

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/18/asia/hong-kong-handover-china-uk-thatcher/index.html

Gideon: The Sound and The Glory

Story Summary:

Unsung heroes and murderous villains, hidden forever in ancient shadows, now leap to life – blazing onto the pages of revelation. Gideon, a lowly woodcutter, is blessed by an angel to be the savior of all Israel. He does not know why or how and shrinks from this dangerous mission. The commandment to conquer the Midian Empire as one man seems all but impossible. But Gideon’s confidence grows as God guides his every step until he stands fearless and faithfully fulfills his destiny as, “A mighty man of valor.” The fierce warriors, burning towers and devastated cities contained in Gideon’s Journey, are but silver threads that weave into a sweeping tapestry of ancient intrigue. Running through and stitching together the entire saga is The Lord of the Covenant, or The Baal-Berith, also known as Gideon’s mysterious Ephod of Gold.

Seattle Book Review – 4 Stars
https://seattlebookreview.com/product/gideon-the-sound-and-the-glory/

Warriors and violent battles are present throughout Biblical times and beyond. Fueled by hatred of other tribes, the struggles for land, treasure, and resources permeate the landscape. The warrior Barak wages a vicious battle to take the village of Ophrah. With a little help from a female warrior named Jael, the tide of the battle turns. He is successful, but casualties are many. The casualties include the brothers of Gideon, a smart, unassuming woodcutter. Nothing much is expected of him; he is married to a woman who his father picked out. He is enamored of a young woman he encounters in his village named Drumah. She is set to be sacrificed to the God Baal. Gideon is visited by an Angel with a message from God. Gideon destroys the altar and saves Drumah from certain death. Gideon is chosen to fight for the Israelites. Gideon assumes command of his fellow people in battles against the people from the East such as the Midianites, who have fought for land in many pitched battles. Gideon is motivated by his brothers’ brutal deaths. He fights despite hunger and refuses help from cowering tribes. Gideon and his rag-tag group emerge victorious in their skirmishes. He takes vengeance on those who refused to help, emerging as a hero in his village. He takes Drumah as his concubine, along with many women he saved as well as widowed. He also sires many offspring, but his victory comes at a price that will echo throughout the coming years and decades with the Ephod of Gold. The worship of a new idol curses the family of Gideon, where one son engages in tyrannical rule. The son’s reign is typified by fear and power plays which include the wholesale slaughter of many brothers. By the time of the emergence of the underdog David, will the curse of this idol be broken?

Gideon: The Sound and the Glory is a vivid and violent take on the religious strife that spanned the BC era. Greed, paranoia, jealousy, and lust are the overwhelming characteristics running through the veins of the men who highlight this book. Violence is seen as a necessary means to an end, whether in war or in power-grabs. The false idol that is worshiped only brings about doom and destruction to the worshiper. An interesting historical fiction read that will make a companion read to the Bible. A-!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4LNPMU

Taking his own path: The world’s leading maze designer – BBC News

Image copyright Adrian Fisher
Image caption Adrian Fisher sitting in one of his mirror mazes

Have you ever walked through a maze and wondered who makes them?

Adrian Fisher is the world’s leading maze designer, having created more than 700 mazes across 32 countries since 1979.

“I really do love my job,” says the 65-year-old. “It’s like I’m a big kid, and creating things that people can play in all day long – who wouldn’t want to do that?”

From his studio in Dorset, in south-west England, Mr Fisher has spent the past 38 years designing mazes in a wide variety of forms.

From classical hedge mazes, to vast maize mazes and mirror mazes full of special effects, he continues to be much in demand.

And there seems to be no job too small, or too outlandish, as his work ranges from tiny finger mazes that you can trace with a single digit, to an entire side of the 210m (689ft) tall Al Rostamani Maze Tower that was completed in Dubai in 2011.

But how do you ever become a maze designer? For Mr Fisher it was a lucky turn in the maze we all walk through in life.

Image copyright Adrian Fisher
Image caption Hedge mazes have to be grown for a number of years before they can open

Mr Fisher first made a maze as a child, when he and his dad build one in their garden just for fun, but he “never thought it would turn into a career”.

Instead he started his adult life working as an accountant, while designing mazes as a hobby.

His lucky break came aged 27 when he had a chance meeting with the late Lady Elizabeth Brunner, who said she wanted a maze built at her home Greys Court in Oxfordshire, which she had donated to the National Trust.

Mr Fisher managed to land the gig, and he co-designed and built the “turf maze”, a paved path cut into grass, with fellow maze designer Randoll Coate.

From there Mr Fisher never looked back and he quit the world of accountancy.

His business Adrian Fisher Design has four permanent employees, with a further 15 people typically working with them at any given time, including illustrators, designers and builders.

Image copyright Adrian Fischer
Image caption He designs everything from finger mazes to giant cornfield mazes

Over the past decade he says that modern technology and particularly the internet has made his job much easier.

“I work with animators in Spain and designers in Asia, and things like Skype make it so easy to feel like you’re in the same room as them.

“This has really allowed me access to worldwide collaborators and markets including the US and [Asian cities such as] Kolkata, Shanghai and Yokohama.

“This gives us the flexibility to adjust production methods and timescales to suit each project. Also, local fabrication minimises import duties within our principal markets.”

The cost of each maze varies greatly. A simple finger maze can be commissioned for just 100, but Mr Fisher’s biggest projects, such as huge hedge mazes, will set you back more than 1m.

Image copyright Adrian Fisher
Image caption Mr Fisher’s mazes are installed around the world, such as this one in the Czech Republic

In addition to deep pockets, patience is also required, particularly for the hedge mazes, which can take years to grow before they can be used.

One such project, the Murray Star Maze at Scone Palace in Scotland, is made of beech trees which took seven years to grow into hedges of sufficient height.

Some 90% of Mr Fisher’s business is overseas, and he says that so far the UK’s decision to leave the EU has had a beneficial impact on his company.

“Brexit has been positive even in the short term, since with a keener pound we are winning more export deals.”

Image copyright Adrian Fisher
Image caption Mr Fisher works with designers and other workers around the world to make his creations

In terms of competitors, Mr Fisher says he has around 20. “But many of them just concentrate on one type of maze, and we do pretty much it all.”

Mr Fisher has also built up his profile with some record-breaking exploits, and has held the world record for the world’s largest cornfield maze no less than six times.

Earlier this year, his Butterfly Maze in Ningbo, China set the world record for the largest permanent hedge maze, with a total area of 33,565 sq m (8.3 acres) and total path length of 8.38 km (5.2 miles).

In addition he has written 12 books about mazes, and gives both after-dinner talks on the subject, and talks to design students.


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Design expert Ania Choroszczynska, founder of London-based Anya Fennet Design, says Mr Fisher has taken mazes to “new levels”.

“They [Adrian Fisher Design] understand the scope of the industry and the demands of the consumer or client, and create designs that have had a great reaction,” she says.

Image copyright Adrian Fisher
Image caption Mr Fisher has held the record for the world’s largest cornfield maze six times

With technology playing an increasing role in people’s lives, does Mr Fisher feel that physical mazes will have a lasting future?

“We’ll always have competition from new computer games etc, but nothing beats solving a real puzzle. Plus, it’s a bonding experience as a group of people have to make choices and act together on the collective decision.”

But if anyone has ever got lost in a maze and panicked, Mr Fisher can empathise. When his yew tree maze opened at Leeds Castle in Kent in 1988 he was leading a royal party including Princess Alexandra (a cousin of the Queen) around when he couldn’t find his way out.

“Unfortunately since my previous visit the head gardener had closed a gap in one place,” he says. “With such confidence I led them into the maze but then got us all stuck. Thankfully I got us all out of there though.

“Somehow I managed to regain my composure and say it was so difficult a puzzle that even a maze designer could get lost.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39998551

Blockchains are the new Linux, not the new Internet

Cryptocurrencies are booming beyond belief. Bitcoin is up sevenfold, to $2,500, in the last year. Three weeks ago the redoubtable Vinay Gupta, who led Ethereums initial release, published an essay entitled What Does Ether At $100 Mean? Since then it has doubled. Too many altcoins to name have skyrocketed in value along with the Big Two. ICOs are raking in money hand over fist over bicep. What the hell is going on?

(eta: in the whopping 48 hours since I first wrote that, those prices have tumbled considerably, but are still way, way up for the year.)

A certain seductive narrative has taken hold, is what is going on. This narrative, in its most extreme version, says that cryptocurrencies today are like the Internet in 1996: not just new technology but a radical new kind of technology, belittled or ignored by by most, which has slowly and subtly grown in power and influence over the last several years, and is about to explode into worldwide relevance and importance with shocking speed and massive repercussions.

(Lest you think Im overstating this, I got a PR pitch the other day which literally began: Blockchains 1996 Internet moment is here, as a preface to touting a $33 million ICO. Hey, whats $33 million between friends? Its now pretty much taken as given that were in a cryptocoin bubble.)

I understand the appeal of this narrative. Im no blockchain skeptic. Ive been writing about cryptocurrencies with fascination for six years now. Ive been touting and lauding the power of blockchains, how they have the potential to make the Internet decentralized and permissionless again, and to give us all power over our own data, for years. Im a true believer in permissionless money like Bitcoin. I called the initial launch of Ethereum a historic day.

But I cant help but look at the state of cryptocurrencies today and wonder where the actual value is. I dont mean financial value to speculators; I mean utility value to users. Because if nobody wants to actually use blockchain protocols and projects, those tokens which are supposed to reflect their value are ultimately well worthless.

Bitcoin, despite its ongoing internal strife, is very useful as permissionless global money, and has a legitimate shot at becoming a global reserve and settlement currency. Its anonymized descendants such as ZCash have added value to the initial Bitcoin proposition. (Similarly, Litecoin is now technically ahead of Bitcoin, thanks to the aforementioned ongoing strife.) Ethereum is very successful as a platform for developers.

But still, eight years after Bitcoin launched, Satoshi Nakamoto remains the only creator to have built a blockchain that an appreciable number of ordinary people actually want to use. (Ethereum is awesome, and Vitalik Buterin, like Gupta, is an honest-to-God visionary, but it remains a tool / solution / platform for developers.) No other blockchain-based software initiative seems to be at any real risk of hockey-sticking into general recognition, much less general usage.

With all due respect to Fred Wilson, another true believer and, to be clear, an enormous amount of respect is due it says a lot that, in the midst of this massive boom, hes citing Rare Pepe Cards, of all things, as a prime example of an interesting modern blockchain app. I mean, if thats the state of the art

Maybe Im wrong; maybe Rare Pepe will be the next Pokmon Go. But on the other hand, maybe the ratio of speculation to actual value in the blockchain space has never been higher, which is saying a lot.

Some people argue that the technology is so amazing, so revolutionary, that if enough money is invested, the killer apps and protocols will come. That could hardly be more backwards. Im not opposed to token sales, but they should follow If you build something good enough, investors will flock to you, not If enough investors flock to us, we will build something good enough.

A solid team working on an interesting project which hasnt hit product-market fit should be able to raise a few million dollars or, if you prefer, a couple of thousand bitcoin and then, once their success is proven, they might sell another tranche of now-more-valuable tokens. But projects with hardly any users, and barely any tech, raising tens of millions? That smacks of a bubble made of snake oil one all too likely to attract the heavy and unforgiving hand of the SEC.

That seductive narrative though! The Internet in 1996! I know. But hear me out. Maybe the belief that blockchains today are like the Internet in 1996 is completely wrong. Of course all analogies are flawed, but theyre useful, theyre how we think and maybe there is another, more accurate, and far more telling, analogy here.

I propose a counter-narrative. I put it to you that blockchains today arent like the Internet in 1996; theyre more like Linux in 1996. That is in no way a dig but, if true, its something of a death knell for those who hope to profit from mainstream usage of blockchain apps and protocols.

Decentralized blockchain solutions are vastly more democratic, and more technically compelling, than the hermetically-sealed, walled-garden, Stack-ruled Internet of today. Similarly, open-source Linux was vastly more democratic, and more technically compelling, than the Microsoft and Apple OSes which ruled computing at the time. But nobody used it except a tiny coterie of hackers. It was too clunky; too complicated; too counterintuitive; required jumping through too many hoops and Linuxs dirty secret was that the mainstream solutions were, in fact, actually fine, for most people.

Sound familiar? Today theres a lot of work going into decentralized distributed storage keyed on blockchain indexes; Storj, Sia, Blockstack, et al. This is amazing, groundbreaking work but why would an ordinary person, one already comfortable with Box or Dropbox, switch over to Storj or Blockstack? The centralized solution works just fine for them, and, because its centralized, they know who to call if something goes wrong. Blockstack in particular is more than just storage but what compelling pain point is it solving for the average user?

The similarities to Linux are striking. Linux was both much cheaper and vastly more powerful than the alternatives available at the time. It seemed incredibly, unbelievably disruptive. Neal Stephenson famously analogized 90s operating systems to cars. Windows was a rattling lemon of a station wagon; MacOS was a hermetically sealed Volkswagen Beetle; and then, weirdly beyond weirdly there was

Linux, which is right next door, and which is not a business at all. Its a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the other. But they are better than Army tanks. Theyve been modified in such a way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for free.

Customers come to this crossroads in throngs, day and night. Ninety percent of them go straight to the biggest dealership and buy station wagons They do not even look at the other dealerships.

I put it to you that just as yesterdays ordinary consumers wouldnt use Linux, todays wont use Bitcoin and other blockchain apps, even if Bitcoin and the the other apps build atop blockchains are technically and politically amazing (which some are.) I put it to you that the year of widespread consumer use of [Bitcoin | Ripple | Stellar | ZCash | decentralized ether apps | etc] is perhaps analogous to the year of [Ubuntu | Debian | Slackware | Red Hat | etc] on the desktop.

Please note: this is not a dismissive analogy, or one which in any way understates the potential eventual importance of the technology! There are two billion active Android devices out there, and every single one runs the Linux kernel. When they communicate with servers, aka the cloud, they communicate with vast, warehouse-sized data centers teeming with innumerable Linux boxes. Linux was immensely important and influential. Most of modern computing is arguably Linux-to-Linux.

Its very easy to imagine a similar future for blockchains and cryptocurrencies. To quote my friend Shannon: It [blockchain tech] definitely seems like it has a Linux-like adoption arc ahead of it: Theres going to be a bunch of doomed attempts to make it a commercially-viable consumer product while it gains dominance in vital behind-the-scenes applications.

But if your 1996 investment thesis had been that ordinary people would adopt Linux en masse over the next decade which would not have seemed at all crazy then you would have been in for a giant world of hurt. Linux did not become important because ordinary people used it. Instead it became commodity infrastructure that powered the next wave of the Internet.

Its easy to envision how and why an interwoven mesh of dozens of decentralized blockchains could slowly, over a period of years and years, become a similar category of crucial infrastructure: as a reserve/settlement currency, as replacements for huge swathes of todays financial industry, as namespaces (such as domain names), as behind-the-scenes implementations of distributed storage systems, etc. while ordinary people remain essentially blissfully unaware of their existence. Its even easy to imagine them being commoditized. Does Ethereum gas cost too much? No problem; just switch your distributed system over to another, cheaper, blockchain.

So dont tell me this is like the Internet in 1996, not without compelling evidence. Instead, wake me up when cryptocurrency prices begin to track the demonstrated underlying value of the apps and protocols built on their blockchains. Because in the interim, in its absence of that value, Im sorry to say that instead we seem to be talking about decentralized digital tulips.


Disclosure, since it seems requisite: I mostly avoid any financial interest, implicit or explicit, long or short, in any cryptocurrency, so that I can write about them sans bias. I do own precisely one bitcoin, though, which I purchased a couple of years ago because I felt silly not owning any while I was advising a (since defunct) Bitcoin-based company.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/28/double-double-cryptocoin-bubble/

Elmina’s Fire by Linda Carleton

Story Summary:

What happens when a troubled young woman dares to follow the stirrings of her soul in turbulent times? Elmina begins life with a troubled childhood in a medieval French town-a childhood that turns her into a spiritually seeking young woman who dares to follow the stirrings of her soul. Her idealism and love lead her to leave a Cathar school and follow the man who will become Saint Dominic. As the world around her erupts into the Albigensian Crusade, Elmina finds herself complicit in its horror, and her spiritual and emotional life begins to unravel. With the aid of the counsel of her wise prior, Brother Noel, Elmina learns to paint her experiences within a sacred circle- a practice that helps her discover the origins of her lifelong fears and wrestle with questions that are as divisive today as they were eight centuries ago: the nature of God, the purpose of creation, the nature of evil, and the possibility of reincarnation.

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/2qfb4eA

 

YouTube Link -https://youtu.be/1PB5TSsdd5w

YouTube Embed – <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/1PB5TSsdd5w?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

5 Star Good Reads Review- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1975193677

Historical fiction at it’s best! Women of Medieval times had few options, marry, or be a nun. As a troubled child of an impoverished family Elmina found the Cathars, a sect that supported her idealism and the seeking of her soul. Her love and devotion for the man who would become Saint Dominic led her to follow him and help him start his own monastery, setting the stage for division in her family. Her sister stayed with the Cathars. Elmina watched helplessly as the Albigensian Crusade rolled onward, she lost her sister and her spiritual and emotional life began to unravel. Elmina learns to paint her experiences within a sacred circle ȉ a practice that helps her discover the origins of her lifelong fears.

Read this book if you wrestle with questions about the nature of God, the purpose of creation, the nature of evil, and the possibility of reincarnation.

Taiwan’s same-sex marriage ruling could cement its place as Asia’s liberal beacon

Landmark court case this week is likely to determine the success or failure of draft laws currently before parliament

Chi Chia-wei will find out on Wednesday if his decades long fight to make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage has been a success.

Chi, 59, a pioneering Taiwanese gay rights activist, is the celebrated face behind one of the most controversial legal cases the island democracy has seen in recent years, where 14 judges must rule if the civil code, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

The constitutional courts landmark ruling will not only determine the success or failure of draft new parliamentary laws to introduce marriage equality, but could cement Taiwans reputation as a beacon of liberalism in a region where the LGBT community faces increasing persecution.

Chi, an equal rights campaigner since he first came out as a gay teenager in 1975, remains pragmatic about making civil rights history. If it doesnt work out this time, Ill keep on fighting for the people, and for human rights, he said in an interview with The Guardian.

But he is determined that one day, the fight will be won.

Somebody has to do it. I dont want to see any more people commit suicide because they dont have marriage equality, he said.

Last October the suspected suicide of French professor, Jacques Picoux, who was unable to marry his Taiwanese partner of 35 years, Tseng Ching-chao, became a rallying call for Chi and other LGBT activists.

His struggle is also personal. Chis lawsuit, launched two years ago and supported by the municipal government in the capital, Taipei, is the latest of several attempts to get legal recognition for his 30 year relationship with his partner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

In 1986, when the nation was still under martial law, Chi was imprisoned for five months after submitting his first petition asking for gay marriage to be recognised.

As a flag bearer for equality, he hopes to inspire other LGBT activists fighting a crackdown across Asia.

On the eve of Taiwans court ruling, two gay men face a public caning in Indonesia. In South Korea, the military has been accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against gay recruits. In Bangladesh, 27 men were arrested last week on suspicion of being gay, a criminal offence.

Back in Taiwan, the political stakes of Wednesdays decision are also high.

When President Tsai Ing-wens ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed the first draft of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in December, it prompted a fierce conservative backlash.

The issue has split Taiwanese society and vocal protests from a coalition of religious and right-wing family groups have caused many legislators to have second thoughts.

The fate of the legislation, soon to face a second reading, now lies in the hands of the court, believes Yu Mei-nu, the DPP parliamentarian who drafted it.

If the court ruled clearly in support of same-sex marriage and President Tsai offered her unequivocal support, it would embolden wavering legislators to vote in favour of the new laws, she argued.

If the grand justices make a decision that is not very clear, and it depends on a legislative yuan [parliament] vote, then it will be difficult. I think most legislators will abstain, she said.

We want her (Tsai) to be braver. If she can come out and say yes I support it then it will be passed.

Ahead of her election last year, Tsai voiced her support for marriage equality in a Facebook video. In the face of love, everyone is equal, she said.

But as she marked the first anniversary of her inauguration this weekend with low public approval ratings, Tsai faced criticism from all sides over her handling of gay marriage.

Its a little bit depressing for us. Before the election, she was really pro-gay rights. But now she has kind of disappeared, said student Vic Chiang, 23, at a Taipei rally last week on the International Day Against Homophobia.

Meanwhile, Robin Chen, a spokesman for the Coalition For Happiness of Our Next Generation, which links support for gay marriage with increased HIV infections, criticised the government for rushing the laws through.

The majority of the population does not know whats happening, he said. We need to discuss things on different levels because family is the foundation of society.

His fears were shared by Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference, who believes the court will likely back gay marriage. There is no debate, he said. Its a one-sided game.

Nerves are frayed ahead of the ruling, with both sides intending to demonstrate outside the court.

But for

Chi, the choice is simple.

To legalise marriage would mean that Taiwans civil code and constitution will say that gay people are people, he said. If the law can be changed, Taiwans gay community will have human rights.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/22/taiwans-same-sex-marriage-court-ruling-asias-liberal-beacon

She Came From Afar – Courtney Lindberg – New Book

5 Stars From San Francisco Book Review – https://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/she-came-from-afar/

Each family is different, and this is especially true for families who have adopted children. Not only do they have to deal with all the typical struggles of raising a child (sometimes from infancy), but they also need to face questions from the people around them and from their own children. It is a trial, but a common enough one that there are many adoption stories, several of which are beautiful and filled with the grace of parents who manage to pass through the trials and keep their heads held high. She Came From Afar is one such story.

The book begins with the author dreaming that she holds a dark-skinned baby as a voice tells her that this child is hers. The author wakes with the certainty that she will adopt a child from Africa, though her husband is less certain. After all, they already have two children, Seamus and Nolan, and when their third child is born, they learn that she has holes in her heart that require surgery. Still, the author is gripped by the idea that she is meant to adopt a child from Africa, and although her husband disagrees, she does research into various countries that she could adopt from. When her husband admits that he is ready to adopt, the author pushes forward with her plan.

Not everything goes perfectly, as one might expect. The author’s dream featured a baby boy named Ndume, but the child who comes to her home is a little girl whom she calls Eden. When the author’s husband goes to Ethiopia to meet Eden, he finds that she is malnourished and ill, and just before he is able to return home, he falls ill as well. When he does bring Eden home, the family faces all the uninformed questions and remarks any white family adopting an African child would. Through all that, and through the trials of raising four children who are close in age, the family carries on, displaying a grace that would make anyone proud.

She Came From Afar is a short, beautiful book that will appeal to anyone who has looked after children. I was deeply moved by the author’s story, and though I am not a parent myself, I’ve helped look after some younger kids, and I found myself smiling knowingly at the little descriptions the author gave of how her children interacted with each other. I’m glad I read this book, and I would happily read it again.

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2rP6mWe

The Uncanny Valley by S.W. Campbell – New Book

Story Summary:

We all know a Paul. A person who seems to see stuff that isn’t there. The type the polite call quirky and the blunt call nuts. Conspiracies? He’s got a few. He’s got his finger on how the world really works. He knows what kind of shit is coming down the pipe. Flee across the West Texas desert to Mexico? Makes sense to him. Feel like you’re being watched? You bet your ass someone is watching. Best turn off your cell phone. Troubles? Of course, that’s just part of life. Doubts? No time for doubts. Shit is getting real. Get in, buckle up, crack open a beer. The only real question is, how far down the rabbit hole are you willing to follow? Paul is an every man gone off the rails. Fearing the tightening noose of government surveillance he sets out with his family on a twisting psychological jaunt to break free of society’s restrictions, no matter what the cost. Hero and villain. Culprit and victim. Paul is stuck in a world he wants no part of. Sacrifices are made and connections are severed. As his world collapses around him, Paul perseveres in his quest, unsure about his way forward, but increasingly feeling that there is no way for him to turn back.

5 Stars Seattle Book Review https://seattlebookreview.com/product/the-uncanny-valley/

[The Uncanny Valley] is far more complex than it appears at first. It’s a magnificent, gripping tale, one which you will find yourself hard-pressed to put down.”

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2rfCeGx

Tim Pigott-Smith obituary

Stage and screen actor best known for his role in the TV series The Jewel in the Crown

The only unexpected thing about the wonderful actor Tim Pigott-Smith, who has died aged 70, was that he never played Iago or, indeed, Richard III. Having marked out a special line in sadistic villainy as Ronald Merrick in his career-defining, Bafta award-winning performance in The Jewel in the Crown (1984), Granada TVs adaptation for ITV of Paul Scotts Raj Quartet novels, he built a portfolio of characters both good and bad who were invariably presented with layers of technical accomplishment and emotional complexity.

Tim
Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role of Mike Bartletts King Charles III at the Almeida theatre in 2014. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

He emerged as a genuine leading actor in Shakespeare, contemporary plays by Michael Frayn in Frayns Benefactors (1984) he was a malicious, Iago-like journalist undermining a neighbouring college chums ambitions as an architect and Stephen Poliakoff, American classics by Eugene ONeill and Edward Albee, and as a go-to screen embodiment of high-ranking police officers and politicians, usually served with a twist of lemon and a side order of menace and sarcasm.

He played a highly respectable King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011, but that performance was eclipsed, three years later, by his subtle, affecting and principled turn in the title role of Mike Bartletts King Charles III (soon to be seen in a television version) at the Almeida, in the West End and on Broadway, for which he received nominations in both the Olivier and Tony awards. The play, written in Shakespearean iambics, was set in a futuristic limbo, before the coronation, when Charles refuses to grant his royal assent to a Labour prime ministers press regulation bill.

The interregnum cliffhanger quality to the show was ideal for Pigott-Smiths ability to simultaneously project the spine and the jelly of a character, and he brilliantly suggested an accurate portrait of the future king without cheapening his portrayal of him. Although not primarily a physical actor, like Laurence Olivier, he was aware of his attributes, once saying that the camera does something to my eyes, particularly on my left side in profile, something to do with the eye being quite low and being able to see some white underneath the pupil. It was this physical accident, not necessarily any skill, he modestly maintained, which gave him a menacing look on film and television, as if I am thinking more than one thing.

Born in Rugby, Tim was the only child of Harry Pigott-Smith, a journalist, and his wife Margaret (nee Goodman), a keen amateur actor, and was educated at Wyggeston boys school in Leicester and when his father was appointed to the editorship of the Herald in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1962 King Edward VI grammar school, where Shakespeare was a pupil. Attending the Royal Shakespeare theatre, he was transfixed by John Barton and Peter Halls Wars of the Roses production, and the actors: Peggy Ashcroft, with whom he would one day appear in The Jewel in the Crown, Ian Holm and David Warner. He took a parttime job in the RSCs paint shop.

At Bristol University he gained a degree in English, French and drama (1967), and at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school he graduated from the training course (1969) alongside Jeremy Irons and Christopher Biggins as acting stage managers in the Bristol Old Vic company. He joined the Prospect touring company as Balthazar in Much Ado with John Neville and Sylvia Syms and then as the Player King and, later, Laertes to Ian McKellens febrile Hamlet. Back with the RSC he played Posthumus in Bartons fine 1974 production of Cymbeline and Dr Watson in William Gillettes Sherlock Holmes, opposite John Woods definitive detective, at the Aldwych and on Broadway. He further established himself in repertory at Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham.

Tim
Tim Pigott-Smith as the avuncular businessman Ken Lay in Lucy Prebbles Enron at the Minerva theatre, Chichester, in 2009. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

He was busy in television from 1970, appearing in two Doctor Who sagas, The Claws of Axos (1971) and The Masque of Mandragora (1976), as well as in the first of the BBCs adaptations of Elizabeth Gaskells North and South (1975, as Frederick Hale; in the second, in 2004, he played Hales father, Richard). His first films were Jack Golds Aces High (1976), adapted by Howard Barker from RC Sherriffs Journeys End, and Tony Richardsons Joseph Andrews (1977). His first Shakespeare leads were in the BBCs Shakespeare series Angelo in Measure for Measure and Hotspur in Henry IV Part One (both 1979).

A long association with Hall began at the National Theatre in 1987, when he played a coruscating half-hour interrogation scene with Maggie Smith in Halls production of Coming in to Land by Poliakoff; he was a Dostoeyvskyan immigration officer, Smith a desperate, and despairing, Polish immigrant. In Halls farewell season of Shakespeares late romances in 1988, he led the company alongside Michael Bryant and Eileen Atkins, playing a clenched and possessed Leontes in The Winters Tale; an Italianate, jesting Iachimo in Cymbeline; and a gloriously drunken Trinculo in The Tempest (he played Prospero for Adrian Noble at the Theatre Royal, Bath, in 2012).

The Falstaff on television when he played Hotspur was Anthony Quayle, and he succeeded this great actor, whom he much admired as director of the touring Compass Theatre in 1989, playing Brutus in Julius Caesar and Salieri in Peter Shaffers Amadeus. When the Arts Council cut funding to Compass, he extended his rogues gallery with a sulphurous Rochester in Fay Weldons adaptation of Jane Eyre, on tour and at the Playhouse, in a phantasmagorical production by Helena Kaut-Howson, with Alexandra Mathie as Jane (1993); and, back at the NT, as a magnificent, treacherous Leicester in Howard Davies remarkable revival of Schillers Mary Stuart (1996) with Isabelle Huppert as a sensual Mary and Anna Massey a bitterly prim Elizabeth.

In that same National season, he teamed with Simon Callow (as Face) and Josie Lawrence (as Doll Common) in a co-production by Bill Alexander for the Birmingham Rep of Ben Jonsons trickstering, two-faced masterpiece The Alchemist; he was a comically pious Subtle in sackcloth and sandals. He pulled himself together as a wryly observant Larry Slade in one of the landmark productions of the past 20 years: ONeills The Iceman Cometh at the Almeida in 1998, transferring to the Old Vic, and to Broadway, with Kevin Spacey as the salesman Hickey revisiting the last chance saloon where Pigott-Smith propped up the bar with Rupert Graves, Mark Strong and Clarke Peters in Davies great production.

He and Davies combined again, with Helen Mirren and Eve Best, in a monumental NT revival (designed by Bob Crowley) of ONeills epic Mourning Becomes Electra in 2003. Pigott-Smith recycled his ersatz Agamemnon role of the returning civil war hero, Ezra Mannon, as the real Agamemnon, fiercely sarcastic while measuring a dollop of decency against weasel expediency, in Euripides Hecuba at the Donmar Warehouse in 2004. In complete contrast, his controlled but hilarious Bishop of Lax in Douglas Hodges 2006 revival of Philip Kings See How They Run at the Duchess suggested he had done far too little outright comedy in his career.

Tim
Tim Pigott-Smith as King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Television roles after The Jewel in the Crown included the titular chief constable, John Stafford, in The Chief (1990-93) and the much sleazier chief inspector Frank Vickers in The Vice (2001-03). On film, he showed up in The Remains of the Day (1993); Paul Greengrasss Bloody Sunday (2002), a harrowing documentary reconstruction of the protest and massacre in Derry in 1972; as Pegasus, head of MI7, in Rowan Atkinsons Johnny English (2003) and the foreign secretary in the Bond movie Quantum of Solace (2008).

In the last decade of his life he achieved an amazing roster of stage performances, including a superb Henry Higgins, directed by Hall, in Pygmalion (2008); the avuncular, golf-loving entrepreneur Ken Lay in Lucy Prebbles extraordinary Enron (2009), a play that proved there was no business like big business; the placatory Tobias, opposite Penelope Wilton, in Albees A Delicate Balance at the Almeida in 2011; and the humiliated George, opposite his Hecuba, Clare Higgins, in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf, at Bath.

At the start of this year he was appointed OBE. His last television appearance came as Mr Sniggs, the junior dean of Scone College, in Evelyn Waughs Decline and Fall, starring Jack Whitehall. He had been due to open as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in Northampton prior to a long tour.

Pigott-Smith was a keen sportsman, loved the countryside and wrote four short books, three of them for children.

In 1972 he married the actor Pamela Miles. She survives him, along with their son, Tom, a violinist, and two grandchildren, Imogen and Gabriel.

Timothy Peter Pigott-Smith, actor, born 13 May 1946; died 7 April 2017

  • This article was amended on 10 April 2017. Tim Pigott-Smiths early performance as Balthazar in Much Ado About Nothing was with the Prospect touring company rather than with the Bristol Old Vic.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/apr/09/tim-pigott-smith-obituary

Leadership Reflections by Dr. Lisa Aldisert – Self Help Book

Book Summary

Do you think of yourself as a leader? Leadership starts with a mindset, not a title. Leaders influence. They share keen insight. They command respect without demanding it. Leaders inspire achievement of successful outcomes, whether leading people, projects, or processes. You’ll relate to the real-world vignettes in this book as they represent typical challenges leaders face as they navigate the wilds of the workplace. This book is a collection of short essays on leadership and relationship management written by Dr. Lisa M. Aldisert, a seasoned management consultant. Not only has she advised hundreds of clients on these issues, but she has faced these situations directly in her businesses. This book will provide you with anecdotes and examples that you can apply on the job every day.

Amazon link – http://amzn.to/2ryP7uN

Leadership Reflections: 52 Leadership Practices in the Age of Worry

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