A jazz masterpiece! Miles Davis, Gil Evans, George and Ira Gershwin.

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Autonomy vs. state paternalism

The latest development in Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” saga occurred last week, when a group called “Silent Majority for HK” posted a video on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEH_TdDwXjo#t=15) stating that they (the protesters) can “kill this city.”
 According to its webpage, the group was established by “deeply concerned citizens” in August 2013 and intends to “raise public awareness about the potential damage that the Occupy Central might bring to HK’s economy, law and order and the livelihood of the population.” In the video, the group states that the effects of thousands of people protesting in Hong Kong’s Central District will have a serious impact on road traffic and public transport.
“When they paralyze Central, traffic blockage will spread at six minutes to one kilometer,” the video claims. As a result, “400,000 people will be blocked,” meaning that they will be unable to commute from home to work. Based on traffic and transport studies commissioned by the group, they claim that 1.3 million people will be stuck in HK Island alone, and that blockages will spread to Kowloon and other areas in the HKSAR. “Like dominoes, our traffic system collapses” and “catastrophic overcrowding will occur” in the MTR, the group claims. They continued by claiming that emergency medical services will be paralyzed, endangering lives, before hinting at the possibility of robberies and looting. The video ends with a menacing message and diabolic laughter in the background (no, I’m not making this up): “Occupy Central: they can kill this city. The question is: do we let them?”    
The alarming video earned a swift reply from Chan Kin-man, an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and one of the Occupy Central organizers. He told the New York Times that the video overstates the disruption caused by the protests.
“We’ve made it very clear that although we would block traffic in Central, we would reserve roads for emergency vehicles, and would avoid roads that block access to people’s residences,” he said.
As is the case in Macau, there are two types of protesters active in the neighboring region. The type that causes the most discomfort to governments are the legitimate protest movements such the Occupy Central movement, which demands an electoral reform allowing citizens to genuinely vote on their next Chief Executive (like in Macau, the HK leader is picked by a pro-Beijing committee). Other legitimate examples include the protests of May 25 and 27 in Macau, which caught the local authorities by surprise.
Occupy Central has remained legitimate because it hasn’t turned violent (although some speculate that it may yet become vicious), and because people are able to have a say in what they believe is best for HK’s future. This raises fear in the conservative factions of society and seemingly also in Beijing, which issued the controversial “white paper” asserting the Central Government’s authority over the SAR.
Unfortunately, in HK, we often see protests that are not so civilized and turn violent. The most recent episode happened last week and is related to a proposed development in the north-eastern New Territories. Opponents tried to storm into the Legislative Council (Legco) building with bamboo poles, and the scene ended in chaos, forcing lawmakers to abort the vote. The police resorted to pepper spray to subdue the crowd.
Inside the Legco, it is normal to see radical lawmakers hurling projectiles at speakers (especially if the speaker is the Chief Executive CY Leung) and interrupting proceedings.
This kind of behavior doesn’t benefit the democratic cause. On the contrary, it only hurts it and allows a paternalistic approach, like the one advocated in Beijing’s “white paper.” “See what happens if we let them loose. They will cause chaos and misery. They will ruin our city,” we clearly hear in the aforementioned video and read between the lines in the  “white paper.”
In Macau, there are some professional activists who attend all the protests (whatever their nature) with surly faces and sour looks. Beware of them. When asked for an interview, they will refuse because they don’t like non-Chinese media (and foreigners in general) and, of course, they have nothing to say. I wonder who backs these local ‘confusionists.’
Let’s just hope that they will not be able to contaminate (although they will surely try) a potentially powerful movement like the one awoken on May 25.
(By PB; published in MDT)



THIS documentary by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha's life. Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists, including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and the Dalai Lama. Join the conversation and learn more about meditation, the history of Buddhism, and how to incorporate the Buddha's teachings on compassion and mindfulness into daily life.

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GRANDE reportagem do Guardian que foca um assunto dramático. Como pode acontecer isto no "país dos sorrisos"? Incrível e inaceitável.



ESTE texto do meu amigo Joaquim Magalhães de Castro espelha muito bem as minhas impressões da viagem (mágica) que fiz ao Japão em 2011.

Destaco: "Quem poderá alguma vez esquecer o cenário multicor das ameixeiras em flor, ou o festival de cores que é o Outono bem retratado nas colinas arborizadas de todo o País? Quem poderá ignorar um povo que, por essa altura do ano, cumpre o ritual de fazer piqueniques sob as cerejeiras floridas na esperança de ser bafejado pelo seu pólen, ou que sai para o campo, de máquina a tiracolo, para registar para a posteridade esse momento único? Quem poderá ignorar o prazer de mergulhar num sento(banho de água termal), de pernoitar num ryokan (pensão tradicional) ou degustar os maravilhosos pratos da cozinha nipónica?"

"Em que outro país, tudo o que encontramos – montra de restaurante ou simples livro – obedece às regras do bom gosto e sentido prático? Em que outro país do mundo há semelhante respeito pela propriedade colectiva, pelo espaço e privacidade do parceiro e eficiência nos serviços públicos?
Uma visita ao País do Sol Nascente deve, sobretudo, ser encarada como uma experiência única. Aprecie-se ou não, o Japão e as suas especificidades dificilmente podem ser ignoradas."



Talk about nothing

“I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.” This famous Oscar Wilde quote could illustrate many of the issues brought up for public debate in Macau.
That would be all right if we accept Emil Cioran’s assumption: “By all evidence, we are in the world to do nothing.” The Romanian-born writer also conjectured: “Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?”
Had the “philosopher of despair” lived in the MSAR, he would probably write an essay about the emptiness of both public discourse and official responses to issues of substance. There are so many examples of this hapless behavior that it is difficult to know where to start - but allow me to enumerate a few cases.
When the Electoral Affairs Commission for the Chief Executive announces with solemnity that it has decided to introduce an electronic voting method for the upcoming election of the 400 Electoral College members, they are talking about nothing. What they should explain to the people, clearly and without formalisms, are the criteria used to pick those eligible to be part of the Electoral College, which almost unanimously and predictably elects the CE. And why is there only one candidate foreseeable to take the top post in the MSAR?
The Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) is talking about nothing when, in highly publicized announcements, it denounces petty cases like the one involving the person “suspected of having reaped the benefit of the MSAR government’s resources over a long period” who was, in fact, using an official car for personal matters, with the pretext of service duties… Shouldn’t CCAC be investigating the important cases of corruption that surely abound in Macau?
The so-called graveyard scandal emerged in 2010 when suspicions were raised that the former Provisional Council of Macau had illegally awarded ten graves under a perpetual lease to their applicants. Secretary Florinda Chan denied having giving instructions to the Council, asking them to do a favour for the mother of one of her advisors by granting her the concession of one “perpetual” grave at the cemetery of “São Miguel Arcanjo.” The ongoing trial of this case has caused rivers of ink to flow in the local press. It would provide a great script for a Theatre of the Absurd play. Indirectly involving Florinda Chan and directly the former president of IACM, Raymond Tam, the trial has been about questioning witnesses about their knowledge of boxes containing folders labeled as “permanent graves,” and about the whereabouts and content of certain documents that nobody recalls ever having seen. This trial is simply talking about nothing and will certainly end up in nothingness.
When we hear the Transport Bureau director, Wong Wan, saying that private vehicles are currently the bureau’s worst nightmare and then enumerating policies that would smooth traffic and reduce the crowdedness of daily public transport, we know for a fact that his talk means nothing.
“The government’s first priority is to provide good conditions for public transportation services. Now, we are focusing on bus services and the next step will be the taxi service. However, we also discovered that we have to limit the number of vehicles on our streets,” Wong Wan told the Times in an interview published in July 2011. What has happened since then regarding traffic conditions?
And what about the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA)? I came across these reasonable comments from JTM’s journalist Helder Almeida regarding the bureau, a body which is supposed to supervise the region’s environmental issues:
“Only now, I’m completely sure that DSPA doesn’t serve any purpose. I admit that it plays a role by employing persons that could otherwise be jobless. Hence, DSPA helps Macau to have an unemployment rate of practically null. After several weeks and some emails exchanged with this department, in order to gather more information about the toxic waste exported to Macau by a Canadian company, behold, I call and someone tells me in English that DSPA knows nothing about the issue, and that I should contact ‘other governmental departments,’ and that even if I insist, the answer will always be the same.” These lines say it all.
I end with an additional thought:  The statements and actions enumerated above exist to distract people from the things that really matter. As the Roman poet Juvenal put it: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – who will guard the guardians themselves?”
(By PB;  published in MDT

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FABULOUS and newly released documentary about the '89 crackdown as seen by the foreign journalists in Beijing (reported by Mike Chinoy). 

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25 years after, interview with US journalist Mike Chinoy, one of the foreign journalists present at Tiananmen Square when the dramatic events of June 4, 1989, unfolded.

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Em Macau: Em Lisboa:
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