Joshua Wong, the 20-year-old who leads the Chinese "empire"

Image result for 20yr old joshua wongHong Kong, June 30 (EFE) .- A few hours ago he was released from his last arrest for protesting against Beijing and he is remarkably fatigued, but Joshua Wong, the young man who leads the Chinese regime, does not give up. “Not everything is under the control of Emperor Xi”, he assures in reference to the president of the country.

The cameras chase him. With only twenty years, Wong has become one of the most influential young people in the world, making room in prestigious magazines such as TIME; and the foci that crowd today on him give credit for it.

“Start, start …”, urges Efe while the press officer of the party of which he is secretary, the liberal Demosisto, takes him out of a barrage of international cameras to bring him to his first individual interview in the afternoon.

Wong has a tail and little time, and is aware of it. “I have been illegally detained for 33 hours”, a clear and concise denunciation as soon as I started talking with Efe.

The young man and 25 other activists were arrested Wednesday after occupying a statue of the city. It was one day before President Xi Jinping arrived in the city for his first visit as head of state and it was his chance to make noise.

“Freedom for Liu Xiaobo”, the Chinese Nobel Prize winner conditionally released for terminal cancer; “democracy for Hong Kong”, were his claims prior to the arrival of the leader.

“We lost time in police station,” complains Wong. He and his other comrades reported today to the press that the agents “abused their power” by holding them for longer than necessary to avoid inconveniences during Xi’s tour of the city.

“But tonight I will be in the protest in front of the exhibition center”, where Xi will attend an event, warns Wong, whose rise to the top of political activism was confirmed during the “Revolution of the Umbrellas” of 2014, the pro-democracy protests where he played a central role.

Not everything is under the control of the Communist Party, according to the young man, but for the moment Xi is managing to avoid confrontation.

Although both share the same scenario, Xi will not cross paths with Joshua Wong or the demonstrations in favor of democracy and even independence that multiply in the city. The communist leader is focused on his goal: to celebrate the 20 years of Hong Kong in China after the return of the territory by the British.

But for Wong and his contemporaries there is no reason to celebrate, because the anniversary shows the “broken” promises of the regime.

When Margaret Thatcher’s executive returned Hong Kong to China, Beijing signed a series of commitments until 2047: among them, allowing the city to enjoy unthinkable freedoms in other parts of the country, such as judicial independence or freedom of expression, and guaranteeing suffrage universal in the future.

“We have the right to determine our destiny In the long term, the Hong Kong society will regain the right to elect its politicians,” the student leader affirms in an optimistic tone, despite the battles lost.

The “Umbrella Revolution” ended after almost three months of protests without achieving its goal, universal suffrage, and since then Beijing’s interference on the island has been increasing, according to liberal groups.

This has infected with pessimism many young people who participated in that movement and now consider leaving the city.

“If there was pessimism, Nathan Law would not have become the youngest deputy in history” of the Hong Kong Parliament, refutes the young man, in reference to his party partner, who got a seat in the Legislative in 2016.

“Young activism is the way out, it can still bring about changes in society,” he maintains.

With the new head of the regional government, Carrie Lam, who will take office on Saturday, Wong predicts that Chinese control of Hong Kong will go further. He is a “puppet of Beijing,” he says, but “we will try everything possible to make it clear that Hong Kong is not under his control.”

His goal is democracy and he says he will not stop until he gets it: “We do not want to have a case like that of Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong.

The euro celebrates ten years with existential doubts

 

A decisive year begins for Europe to continue to weigh in the world

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Simon & Garfunkel are back in fashion among European diplomacy. His metaphor for the bridge over turbulent waters has become a commonplace these days in diplomatic circles for 2012 , a year in which the European Union’s horizon is especially uncertain.

The aggravation of the debt crisis is compounded by the serious internal fracture that has arisen between (almost) the entire EU and the United Kingdom, which refuses to participate in the new phase of fiscal integration promoted by Germany and France. It can not be ruled out that this anger, whether due to the pressure of British public opinion or internal politics, degenerates into a sudden exit from the community club of its most reluctant partner.

Diplomatic bridges over the English Channel were broken at the last European summit of the year, the past 8 and 9 December. That appointment did deserve the hackneyed historical label, although probably for the wrong reasons. David Cameron was left alone exercising his right of veto: against what he expected, the rest of the countries that remain outside the euro zone did not support him. “Stubborn child,” says the Parisian press that French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Cameron when he refused to sign the Merkozy plan.

From Brussels, the analysis is unanimous: the one who loses the most in his position of splendid isolation is London. Unlike the rest of the countries outside the eurozone, it will not be able to influence the change of direction that the Merkozy duo wants to print to Europe. Nor can it intervene in the new financial legislation that the eurozone approves, however much it affects its financial sector. If the exit from the EU is consummated, the economic consequences would be enormous for the British.

“In the short term, the situation for the United Kingdom is negative, but on the other hand British public opinion is so contrary to the EU that sooner or later they have to redefine their relationship with it,” says Michiel van Hulten, consultant on European affairs and former leader of the Dutch Labor Party (PvdA).

Within the EU, however, the consequences of the fracture are also feared. “Like it or not, in foreign policy we depend a lot on the United Kingdom, because it is the country that acts as a bridge with the United States, because it is the one with the largest army … We are too interconnected, they can retaliate in many ways”, admit European sources. London, in fact, has already avenged itself by refusing to participate in the European Union’s plan to lend money to the IMF so that it, in turn, transfers it to the eurozone if it needs it.

Germany to handle the situation

Image result for germanyThe bilateral relations between Paris and London are still at a minimum, but Germany is willing to assume the role of good cop to redirect the situation. “We want to build bridges over turbulent waters, we have mutual interests in the EU and a common future,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in London a few days ago after meeting with his colleague William Hague. Will the United Kingdom end by signing the new fiscal compact? “With good will, it’s feasible,” Westerwelle said. “We can and must change the current situation,” he concluded. Hague, for his part, remains committed to scratching guarantees on financial regulation for the City.

Many in Brussels trust that in the end the problem will be solved “with some typical community rinsing” so as not to break ties with London and continue advancing as 27.

“It is difficult to predict what will happen, but I would not be surprised if the new treaty went ahead with less than 26 countries, that not only the United Kingdom would be left out, but it will be inevitable to look for ways to continue working together”, says Van Hulten, who predicts problems to ratify the new treaty both in France and in the Netherlands, especially if the text is negotiated behind closed doors, as is customary.

The transfer of sovereignty demanded by the new treaty, warns this expert, may also be difficult to digest in other countries. “In the Netherlands, as the time comes to ratify the new treaty in Parliament, the opposition will increase until a referendum is called or there are early elections.”

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, however, have warned that they want to advance to “forced marches” and the first draft of the new treaty attests to their intentions: it will come into force as soon as nine countries approve it. That is, they will not wait for anyone. No country can block it alone, as Ireland, Poland or the Czech Republic did in the past.

In the midst of this panorama, Denmark assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1 and a few days ago its European Affairs Minister, Nicolai Wammen, did not resist summoning Simon & Garfunkel to describe his ambition: “We want to be a bridge over the turbulent waters of Europe, “he declared in Brussels.

So murky are the waters on which it is now moving, that it is possible that more than one country stays on the road if before the draft is not corrected with a more drastic solution to the fiscal problems of the euro zone.

There is no time anymore. Europe shrinks and the rest of the world gives less and less importance

The sudden end of the Templars

The sudden end of the Templars

The Acre disaster and the subsequent Christian retreat to Cyprus, completed in August 1291, fell like a jug of cold water in Rome. Pope Nicolás IV was forced to take measures and put on the table the recovery of the Holy Land, but also the unification of military orders. The failure to defend the Holy Places ended up convincing the Pontiff that the rivalry between Templars and Hospitallers should be ended , as well as making more effective use of their resources in the military mission of the Latin East. However, the death of Nicolás IV postponed the question of the reform of the orders. Aware of their precarious situation, the Templars decided to move the file. The grand master of the order, Jacques de Molay, traveled to Europe to promote a new crusade, despite knowing their limited chances of success.

When the Mamluks delivered the final blow to the last Christian strongholds in the Holy Land, the military orders did not expect anyone to come to their aid. At that time, Europe had other priorities. England and France were at war in Aquitaine, Germany without emperor and the papacy worried about the loss of their influence in Sicily. For the same reason, Molay did not achieve the firm commitment of European monarchs and Pope Boniface VIII with the cause crossed.

His chances waned even more when the pontiff rained down his troubles after getting entangled in a bitter dispute with the King of France, Philip IV the Fair. What initially was a dispute over the collection of taxes to the French clergy became one of the greatest conflicts between the temporal and spiritual powers of the Middle Ages. Crown and papacy were engaged in a war of slanders and bulls that lasted seven years and culminated with the threat of excommunication to the French sovereign and the forced captivity of the pontiff in his court in Anagni (Italy). Boniface VIII was finally freed, but he was so moved by it and died shortly afterward, in the turn of the 14th century.

His successors, the ephemeral Benedict XI and the weak Clement V, inherited a papacy in crisis. Questioned by the most powerful monarch of the time, he was also discredited by his squabbles in Italy and Sicily and his inability to help Latin Christians in the East. To make matters worse, the political situation in Rome was so critical that Clement V had no choice but to accept Philip IV’s offer to take refuge in France. He settled in Poitiers, under the watchful and interested gaze of the king.

Neglected, the Templars persisted on their own in the attempt to reconquer the Holy Land . They occupied the island of Aruad, off the Syrian coast, but the Mamluks again expelled them two years later. The reverse made Molay concentrate his efforts on trying again to England and France to start the crusade. But Edward I had to quell a revolt in Scotland, and Philip IV put as conditions that France was privileged in the expedition and that he himself played the leading role. The demands of the French monarch stirred up the other European kingdoms and the company was parked. Nor did the Templars in Cyprus have better luck, where King Henry II viewed with suspicion the pretension of the order to use his domains as the center of operations.

Clement V reopened the debate on the reform of military orders and the organization of the crusade.

Clement V reopened the debate on the reform of military orders and the organization of the crusade.

Recovered certain tranquility, Clement V could reopen the debate of the reform of the military orders and the organization of the crusade. Jacques de Molay opposed the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčunification on the grounds that the rivalry between the orders had been beneficial for Christianity, since both competed to defend it better. He also warned that the unification would raise quarrels within the orders, since many officers would lose their position. In reality, the rejection of the grand master obeyed other fears. The identity of the Temple would be diluted in the new order and, worse yet, this could be exploited by the civil power , a risk more than likely, given the vehement stance of Philip IV regarding the crusade. Molay could not know it then, but if he had accepted and expedited the merger of the orders, perhaps he and his brothers would have been saved from their tragic fate.

In the end, the papal project to unify the orders and undertake the crusade never materialized . But the fact that the Church still wanted to have them – that is, reformed – shows that military orders were still well considered in Europe, despite their responsibility for the loss of the Holy Land, its ultimate raison d’être. They had their detractors, who accused them of having moved away from their original vocation and accumulating wealth, but not the bad reputation and unpopularity that has always been blamed on them. The Templars, for example, continued to receive donations and, after almost two centuries of activity, they formed an important and respected part of the Christian world, both civilian – they were common in all European courts – and religious.

Harassment and demolition

Harassment and demolition

Therefore, the arrest of all the brothers of the order in France caught almost everyone by surprise. Certainly not to Philip IV, who ordered the arrest, nor to his faithful chancellor, Guillaume de Nogaret, the true architect of the operation. The origin of such a sudden attack was the accusations of blasphemy and sodomy poured into the Temple by Esquieu de Floyran, a former Templar expelled from the order. Nogaret and the agents of the King gathered alleged evidence that justified before Felipe the arrest and the beginning of the prosecution of the Templars by heretics.

Philip IV wanted the money and possessions of the Templars, but not so much for greed as to finance his ambitions for glory.

It is not known for sure if the sovereign believed in the truth of the accusations, if he was deceived by Nogaret or if he was deceived by him. In any case, it was convenient for him to attack the Templars. Continuing a long family tradition of religious fanaticism and service to the Christian cause, Philip could not allow heresy in his domains. But neither that the refusal of the Temple to merge with the other military orders would ruin its plans to control the resulting order and lead the great crusade to reconquer the Holy Land. Felipe wanted the money and possessions of the Templars- that same year he had asked for a loan-but not so much out of greed as to finance his ambitions for glory. It was also the perfect occasion to end an organization exempt from the payment of taxes and thus cease in its pulse of power with the papacy. As already happened with Boniface VIII, Felipe IV asserted his status as the most powerful ruler and Christian king of Europe .

However, the Crown did not have the power to judge the members of a religious order that was also under the direct jurisdiction of the pope. So Nogaret persuaded the Dominican Guillaume de Paris, inquisitor of France and loyal confessor of the sovereign, that he should investigate the Templars. The French Inquisition proceeded to the interrogation of the detainees, who were guarded in the royal prisons. They were charged with more than a hundred charges, from renouncing Christ and spitting on the cross at the ceremony of admission to the order to exchange obscene kisses in that rite, practice sodomy, worship an idol, dishonor mass or excessive secrecy. All these “errors of faith” were false. They derived from medieval popular beliefs about heresy and magic or were crude manipulations of the practices of the order. Many Templars preferred to die rather than confess, but most, subjected to torture, pleaded guilty . Those who were not tortured, as the Grand Master Molay was in France at that time, ended up admitting the charges to fear for their integrity.

A slipstream of the king

A slipstream of the king

Clement V protested before Philip IV and rebuked the inquisitor for acting without his consent. He said he had heard of the rumors that were running against the order and that he planned to start his own investigation, a dubious allegation, since he had done nothing about it. Feeling unauthorized, the Pope tried to take charge of the situation . He ordered all the Catholic kings to arrest and interrogate the Templars, but his request was met with a dilatory attitude in England and Aragon. Suspicious of the intentions of Felipe IV, the monarchs Enrique I and Jaime II did not give credit to the accusations to the templarios, an order to which they trusted a good part of the administration of their kingdoms. Meanwhile, in France, Clemente sent a delegation to Paris. Jacques de Molay and the other high officials of the order took the opportunity to retract their confessions, alleging that they had done them for fear of being tortured. The pontiff was not convinced of the guilt of the order and suspended the inquisitorial process to interrogate the Templars personally.

Felipe IV was not intimidated and launched a campaign of intoxication against the Temple and the Pope, as he did in his day with Boniface VIII. He obtained the legal support of the University of Paris and the public of the three estates of his kingdom in the States General, gathered in Tours. Then he tried to mislead Clement V by sending Poitiers to 72 specially chosen templars to confess their alleged crimes in the presence of the pope, while confining Molay and the other leaders of the order in Chinon. But Clement was finally able to meet with them and acquitted them , after they formally repented and asked for the forgiveness of the Church. Faced with the doubt that some members of the order might have committed certain abuses, he decreed that the Templars be tried individually by diocesan commissions. A pontifical commission would be in charge of studying whether the order as a whole was guilty or not, while the pontiff would judge the responsibility of the high dignitaries.

The papal investigation spread throughout Europe and even to the East. In Portugal, Castile, Aragon, Germany, Italy and Cyprus, the Templars were declared innocent. In France, on the other hand, many diocesan commissions were directed by bishops committed to Philip IV and considered the previous confessions valid. They limited themselves, however, to condemn the repentant guilty to various canonical punishments, including life imprisonment. Those who tried to defend the order before the pontifical commission, retracting their confessions, ran worse luck. The ministers of Philip IV could not consent to the discovery of the iniquity of the first interrogations of the Templars, carried out by the inquisitor at the dictation of Nogaret. They indicated to the archbishop of Sens, brother of the chamberlain of the king and maximum authority of the diocese of Paris, that he accused of heretics relapses (recidivists) to the Templars who disdained . The penalty reserved for the relapses was death at the stake , so the archbishop ordered the burning of 54 of them. The result was as expected: the other Templars declined to speak in favor of the order or decided to plead guilty.

The pope made a Solomonic decision in his bull: he did not condemn the order, but he dissolved it.

The pope made a Solomonic decision in his bull: he did not condemn the order, but he dissolved it.

In October 1311 the council convened by Clement V to decide the future of the order began in Vienne (France). There it was stated that the guilt of some Templar, even manifested, did not imply that of the order as a whole. Nor could it be proved that the Temple professed any heretical doctrine or that its rules were secret or distinct from official ones. Despite this, since most of the delegates were favorable to the maintenance of the order, the pope made a Solomonic decision in his bull: he did not condemn it, but he dissolved it . Why? No doubt the presence of Felipe IV and his army in Vienne influenced, in clear sign that he was not going to allow the continuity of the order. But on the agenda of the conflict between the king and the pontiff there was an even more important grievance than the unjust trial against the Templars. The monarch intended that Clement V condemn his predecessor Boniface VIII for heresy, which would have been the dishonor of the papacy. Clement refused, and chose to sacrifice the Templars in what was his only and pyrrhic victory against Philip IV.

In another bull, the Pope decreed the transfer to the order of the Hospital of all the goods of the Templars, except in the Iberian Peninsula , where their properties would end up passing into the hands of two new orders, that of Christ in Portugal and that of Montesa in the Crown of Aragon. The Temple brothers declared innocent, as well as confessed of their guilt but reconciled with the Church, would receive a pension and could live in the old houses of the order or join another military order. Those found guilty but who had not confessed their guilt and relapses would be tried.

Among the latter were the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and three commanders of the order in France, imprisoned in Paris. In March 1314 a commission of cardinals appointed by the pope condemned them to life imprisonment for relapses. Upon hearing the sentence, Molay and the commander of Normandy, Geoffroy de Charney, proclaimed their innocence shouting. The cardinals, astonished at the recidivism of the accused, resigned to issue a final verdict and left the last word to the pontiff. But Felipe IV decided for him that same night. After consulting with his advisors, he delivered the coup de grace to the ill-fated order: Molay and Charney, with another 35 members, were burned at the stake .

According to a narrative attributed to the chronicler Geoffroy of Paris, Jacques de Molay predicted before dying: “God knows that my death is unjust and a sin. Well, before long, many ills will fall on those who have condemned us to death. God will avenge our death . ” Whether this testimony is true or not will never be known, but the truth is that Clemente V died a month later, Nogaret in May and Felipe IV in November. Written around 1316, Geoffroy’s story in Paris concludes: “You can deceive the Church, but you can not deceive God. I do not say more. Draw your own conclusions. “

 

Acrylamide: a dangerous compound that is difficult to leave behind

Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has commented on the implications of the incorporation of acrylamide in the diet on the health of consumers. I imagine that at this point you will be thinking that, speaking of “acrylamide” I will be referring to the umpteenth contaminant or by-product of the chemical industry that in one way or another poisons us from unprocessed processed foods or bad-bad packaging with Bisphenol A and those things … The truth is that if your head goes down that road you’re wrong.

What is acrylamide?

Acrylamide

It is a chemical substance that is formed naturally in those foods that contain carbohydrates when they are subjected, in the most mundane and habitual way possible, to high temperatures above 120ºC in low humidity conditions. That is to say, it is a substance generated spontaneously when certain foods (the great majority) are fried, baked, roasted, sautéed … Obviously, acrylamide is also produced in many industrially produced products.

In essence, acrylamide is the product of the well-known and appreciated Maillard reaction in which carbohydrates and amino acids (especially one called asparagine) react with each other in the aforementioned conditions (high temperatures and low humidity) to generate a compound brown (roasted) that is highly valued in various culinary techniques as it gives the product a peculiar aroma and flavor . That reaction is what for example gives rise to the crust of bread when baked , crispy fried potatoes , the genuine aroma (and texture) of freshly made cookies , and so on.

Is there a risk of exposure to acrylamide beyond food?

Of course yes. Notably, acrylamide is present in tobacco smoke , which means that in the case of smokers this is its most important source of exposure to acrylamide beyond that of the foods they consume. Not forgetting that passive smokers are also exposed to the tobacco acrylamide of smokers. In addition, acrylamide has a wide variety of non-food uses, for example in the industrial field and, for this reason some people may be exposed in their work to acrylamide either by cutaneous absorption or inhalation.

At what risk are consumers subject to acrylamide?

As I told you, last week the EFSA published a scientific opinion (the result of a draft that contains much more information on this subject) in which after evaluating all the scientific literature on the exposure to acrylamide was concluded in a way Synthetic the following:

  • Studies in animal models confirm that acrylamide in foods increases the risk of developing cancer for all consumers of any age group.
  • Children are the most exposed age group and therefore vulnerable given their lower body weight.
  • Based on the current exposure of consumers to acrylamide, other possible harmful effects of this substance, such as its effects on the nervous system, the impact on pre and postnatal development and male fertility, should not be taken as a concern.
  • The most important food groups at the time of contributing to the exposure of acrylamide are those that are acquired fried based on potatoes, coffee, cookies, crakers and those crispy breads, as well as bread.
  • Both the characteristic ingredients of a certain product, as well as the storage conditions and the way they are processed (especially the temperature at which they are cooked) greatly influence the formation of acrylamide in foods.
  • Cooking habits in homes can have a significant impact on the amount of acrylamide to which citizens are exposed.

Is there a tolerable amount of acrylamide that does not take risks?

Image result for acrylamide in food

 I’m sorry to say but it’s time for the bad news, acrylamide and its metabolites are genotoxic and carcinogenic . This means that with any level of exposure there is a potential risk of causing damage to our genetic material and causing cancer. That is, the EFSA scientists conclude that they can not establish a tolerable daily intake for the inclusion of acrylamide with food . However, the EFSA warns us that although the studies that observe the current consumption of acrylamide are incomplete and inconclusive we can see that this is a case with important public health connotations, especially in the health of the youngest children .

Therefore, it would be highly recommended that consumers take the initiative to reduce this exposure to acrylamide, taking into account that its total elimination is practically impossible . To do this, in addition to controlling, not to abuse, regarding the amount of food of the groups already mentioned (especially in the case of the smallest) from the EFSA is suggested not toast too much food and make the variety of culinary technologies at home a healthy practice and for this alternate the ways of preparing food (boil, cook, steam, sauté, fry, roast, stew, etc.).

In any case the thing is complicated, to such an extent that the EFSA ends up making this kind of quite broad and unspecific recommendations:

“Balanced diets usually reduce the risk of exposure to potential risks related to food contamination. Balancing diet with a wide variety of foods (for example, meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, even foods rich in carbohydrates that can generate acrylamide) could help consumers reduce their acrylamide intake. “

In short, you know that acrylamide is there and that it will be difficult for you not to say it is impossible to avoid it … but now that you know where to find it, it controls its presence.