Comment: Hundreds of years later, this rose still has thorns

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After seeing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor there was only one thing I wanted to talk about.

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One of the most famous time travellers in pop culture: “So, The Doctor was married to Elizabeth I? But that wouldn’t necessarily have made him the King of England. In fact, if Elizabeth had married, her husband would probably have been a consort, like Victoria’s husband Albert. I often wonder if Elizabeth never got married because-“

There has been enduring fascination with the Tudors since they ruled England 500 years ago, and from Shakespeare onwards popular culture has catered to this obsession with a never-ending flow of art and literature inspired by their lives. Just this year saw the release of several books, and two new television series based on the dynasty.

Even during the reign of Victoria, one of the other great monarchs of English history, the Tudors dominated popular culture. Harrison Ainsworth’s The Tower of London, and Delaroche’s The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (on the throne for just 9 days after the death of boy-king Edward VI) captured public imagination in mid-1800s.

Another revival occurred in the mid-1900s, with the romance novels of Jean Plaidy, based on the lives of the Tudor women, lending colour and drama to the dreary post-war period.

Best known for their scandalous private lives, the Tudors reshaped not just English society and religion but also oversaw the start of the English conquest of the world, when Elizabeth sent explorers to establish English colonies in the Americas. When the Tudors came to power after the War of the Roses, England was a feudal backwater and merely an afterthought to the great powers of Europe. By the time the dynasty came to an end with the death of Elizabeth I, Britain was well on its way to Empire status.

As compelling as the political side of the Tudors is, it will always be secondary in the public imagination to their personal lives. The six wives of Henry VIII, two of whom lost their heads on charges of treason and adultery; an entire state religion abolished because of a love affair; a Virgin Queen, who ruled alone despite the unquestioned patriarchy, and was rumoured to have had numerous lovers.

Are the Tudors so enduringly popular because we recognise ourselves in their stories of sex and power, betrayal and intrigue, lust and politics? Is that why their reputations transcend both time and space, making them the most enduring time lords of all?

Some Tudoresque recommendations:

Literature

Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, told from the point of view of Henry VIII’s advisor Thomas Cromwell.

CJ Sansom’s Shardlake series, starting with Dissolution. Set during the period of the Reformation, when Henry VIII broke from Rome and established the Church of England.

Historian David Starkey is renowned for his Tudor scholarship, bringing accuracy to the soap opera history of Tudor legend. Another well-known English historian, Peter Ackroyd has undertaken to write a six volume history of England, the second of which is entitled Tudors. The first volume was Foundation, if that gives any indication as to the importance of the dynasty to English history.

Television

Elizabeth I (2005) miniseries on the later years of Elizabeth’s reign, starring the queenly Helen Mirren.

The Tudors (2007-2010) historical inaccuracies aside, this is one of the most opulent, attractive and extensive renderings of the life of Henry VIII in modern popular culture.

The White Queen (2013), set during the War of the Roses, and Reign (2013) both focus on the lives of Tudor women – the latter on Mary, Queen of Scots, who Elizabeth I had executed for treason. She later named Mary’s son James as her heir.

Film

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) if only for Richard Burton as Henry VIII.

Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) starring Cate Blanchett as the Virgin Queen, and written by Matthew Hirst, who also created The Tudors TV series.

Anne Treasure works in communications, is a recent survivor of the book industry, and exists mainly on the Internet.

Govt slates PPP investment targets

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The federal government will seek guidance on setting national targets for public-private infrastructure investment.

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As part of its 15-year national plan the coalition will make a submission to a Productivity Commission inquiry into public infrastructure, assistant minister Jamie Briggs told a meeting of stakeholders in Sydney on Thursday.

“If we were to set economy-wide investment targets, this could deliver more certainty and, with it, a pipeline of projects,” Mr Briggs said.

Investment subject to fiscal challenges and therefore uncertain, can lead to project cost blowouts while deterring future offshore spending, Mr Briggs said.

A public-private partnership benchmark would send a very clear message to the market that not only is there a project pipeline, but it’s backed by financial certainty, he said.

The coalition has made it a priority to attract private sector investment and while it acknowledges the support of global banking and financial institutions, the government wants a broadened investment base.

“I would like to see greater involvement by our locally-based super funds which manage billions of dollars of Australians’ retirement savings,” Mr Briggs said.

The Productivity Commission is due to release an initial issues paper on infrastructure financing options later on Thursday with a final report expected in May.

Meanwhile, the government continues to champion its idea of a tax incentive plan for states and territories which sell off public assets and put the money into new “economically-productive” infrastructure.

But the Electrical Trades Union said the move was a cash grab.

“Sure, a state government can pocket a one-off windfall through selling, but that would be wiped out within a decade once you take foregone income into account,” union national secretary Allen Hicks said.

Kenya, Ethiopia in barren CECAFA draw

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Kenya have held Ethiopia to a barren 0-0 draw in the opening match of the East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Challenge Cup at the Nairobi Nyayo National stadium.

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The home side started the Wednesday match on a high note with Allan Wanga coming close to giving them the lead in the third minute after being put through by his striking partner Edwin Lavatsa.

But Wanga’s feeble shot at the Ethiopia goal narrowly missed the target.

The Ethiopians, who fielded an entirely new outfit to the one that lost to Nigeria in the World Cup play-offs, twice raided the Kenyan goalmouth in the opening half hour but were denied by the experienced hands of the Kenyan goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng.

Ochieng first halted Gebremichael Yakob’s header in the 30th minute and, nine minutes later, he went full stretch to punch out a dangerous shot from Ethiopian skipper Fasika Asfew.

Kenyan assistant coach James Nandwa said he was disappointed with the result but promised to make amends in the next match against South Sudan on Saturday.

“We plan to make some changes in the midfield for the match against South Sudan. We need to stay with the ball more to be competitive,” said Nandwa, who deputised for head coach Adel Amrouche, who was not feeling well.

The day’s other Group A game ended in a 2-1 win for Zanzibar against South Sudan.

Suleiman Kassim put the Zanzibaris in the lead after five minutes and Saleh Ahmed added the second in the 65th minute only for substitute Fabiano Loko to pull one back for the losers two minutes later.

The Zanzibari coach Salum Nassor blamed Nairobi’s high altitude weather for slowing down his players, who had been expected to trample their inexperienced opponents – playing in only their second CECAFA championships.

Non-mining investment picking up pace

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Business investment is surprisingly strong across all of the sectors of the economy, which may mean there won’t be a central bank interest rate cut in the coming months.

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Business investment rose by 3.6 per cent in the September quarter, Australian Bureau of Statistics official figures show, better than the 1.2 per cent fall the market was expecting.

Capital expenditure in mining sector rose four per cent, manufacturing was up 2.5 per cent and the “other selected sectors” category gained 3.1 per cent.

“For the mining sector, manufacturing and the services sector things were probably as good as you could hope and maybe a little bit stronger than three months ago,” Macquarie Bank senior economist Brian Redican said.

“We have seen an improvement in business confidence and that seems to have underpinned the investment outlook.”

Mr Redican said the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) likely would wait for the next capital expenditure data release before deciding whether to cut the cash rate.

“The Reserve Bank did downgrade its investment outlook in November, so after these numbers they won’t be further downgrading the numbers,” he said.

“The key test for the Reserve Bank will come in February when we get the first estimate for planned (business) spending for 2014/15. I think that will be far more influential in terms of the interest rate outlook.”

RBC fixed income and currency strategist Michael Turner said the pickup in non-mining investment was encouraging, as it would be needed when mining investment eventually falls.

“The non-mining components will provide the RBA an opportunity to assert that there are signs of non-mining investment picking up – albeit slowly,” he said.

“The more recent fall in the exchange rate is also likely to provide some reason for optimism on this front.”

Mr Turner said he was reluctant to believe mining investment was rising and maintained his forecast of a cash rate cut in the second quarter of 2014.

Commonwealth Bank economist Diana Mousina said business investment was still in good shape and a fall in mining and resources spending was still a way off.

“We’re seeing this peak in mining investment but the peak is not kind of falling off the cliff as some had been anticipating,” she said.

“It’s really showing that this peak in mining investment is more of a plateau and that really means you’re going to have more time for the non-mining economy to make a stronger contribution to growth.”

The closely-watched figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics cover investment in capital goods which includes things like buildings and equipment.

The fourth estimate for capital expenditure in 2013/14 is $166.832 billion, which is two per cent lower than investment in 2012/13.

AAP jcc/cdh

Comment: Suu Kyi on democracy, human rights and national reconciliation in Myanmar

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By Fron Jackson-Webb, The Conversation

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded an honorary doctorate from UTS and the University of Sydney, in her first official visit to Australia.

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Along with the addressing the rule of law and ethnic conflict, Suu Kyi said amending the constitution was a key battle in ensuring Myanmar could become a truly democratic nation. 

Here, we publish her formal speech in full.


Aung San Suu Kyi:

Now, first of all I’d like to thank all of you for your tremendous support. I would like to say that throughout our years of struggle we have been encouraged by friends from all over the world.

The honorary degrees which were presented to me earlier, these were not just honorary degrees. These were signs that the world was with us, that we had not been forgotten in our struggle and for this I would like to thank all of you – all of you in Australia and all over the world.

Now, the subject I had chosen to speak on formally for the next ten minutes, is Burma’s future. Not Burma’s future as predictions or even Burma’s future as hopes but for Burma’s future as choices – the choices that we have to make for the future of our country.

Now, as I said earlier, I’m a politician. I am practical, I hope, and pragmatic and I try to be honest so I want to talk about the choices that we have made – we the National League for Democracy and our supporters with regard to the future of our country and to ask for your support to help us make sure that these choices can be made as soon as possible.

The very first choice that we made with regard to our future was more than 20 years ago when we opted for democracy. Even when there was a very, very brutal – one has to be honest – military regime in power, we never let go of that choice. We were going to opt for democracy, the kind of democracy that was rooted in strong institutions and in respect for human rights but along with our dedication to democracy and human rights we never forgot the need for national reconciliation.

So these were the three pillars of the National League for Democracy – democracy, human rights and national reconciliation – because we did not want either of those three pillars to be built up at the expense of any of the other two. These three we need that our country might be the kind of union of which we had dreamed for very many decades.

Those of our leaders who fought for independence, including my father, dreamt of such a union. They wanted to see Burma as a union of many peoples who were strong in their dedication to the idea of a nation that worked together for its people, that was bound together by dedication to the best principles of nationhood.

We decided to follow that path. This was a choice we made. I have often said that I find it embarrassing when people talk about the sacrifices that I have made and I always try to point out that those were not sacrifices but choices. Throughout my life I feel I have made the choices that I thought were best and we have been wrong and we have been right. But those choices were mine and I would bear responsibility for them and accept whatever consequences came thereby. So those are the choices we made back in 1988.

In 2012 last year we had to make another choice. We had to make the choice to contest the by-elections and to work as far as possible together with the existing system to carry on with our quest to realise democracy, human rights and national reconciliation.

 

The National League for Democracy has been conducting public meetings across Myanmar to acquaint the locals with the issue of the constitution. EPA/Lyn Bo Bo

 

When we contested the elections we had an election platform built on three main planks which were rule of law, eternal peace and amendments to the constitution.

Rule of law because for very many decades Burma had been under authoritarianism which knew nothing about rule of law. It knew a lot about law and order but that is quite different from rule of law. Especially as law and order translates very unhappily into Burmese.

Now the literal translation is [spoken in foreign language] which means quiescent, crouched, crushed and flattened.

I don’t want our people to be crouched and crushed and flattened.

I want them to be able to lift up their heads in the security of rule of law. So rule of law is very important for our country especially because we have hardly any judiciary to speak of. We have a judiciary which is totally limited by the constitution which places it under the authority of the executive.

The second plank of our election platform was internal peace. That is see an end to ethnic conflict, eternal conflict. I think that I hardly need to explain why we want peace, why we want an end to all internal conflict. That is necessary if ours is to be a truly peaceful and strong union.

Then the third plank was amendments to the constitution. Some may ask why. Because this constitution is preventing our country from becoming a truly democratic nation. Those of you who think that Burma has successfully taken the path to reform would be mistaken. If you want to know why you are mistaken you only have to study the Burmese constitution. Not a pleasant task, I can tell you.

But if you read it carefully you will understand why we cannot have genuine democracy under such a constitution.

I usually mention just one point about it because that drives home it’s lack of democratic principles far more effectively than going through a number of other sections. The provision for amendments to the constitution is, I’m told, about the most rigid to be found anywhere in the world. In order to make any major amendment more than 75% of the members of the legislature must vote for it. That’s just the first step.

Now I don’t know how many of you are aware that 25% of the members of the legislature are from the military. That means that in order for the constitution to be amended the members of the military, I always say at least one brave soldier but actually more than one because we don’t have the full quota of 75% civilian electorate representatives. So the military must support any amendment of any consequent for it to go through.

This is not all. All the military members are appointed by the Commander in Chief. He alone decides who the members are going to be. Not only that, they can be changed at any time. They are not appointed for the lifetime of the parliament.

So the Commander in Chief at any time can decide who represents the military in the legislature. That means in effect that the Commander in Chief decides whether or not the constitution can be amended. Because if he says yes then the military representatives will vote yes. If he says no then they will vote no.

So I put this to you very simply, how can you call a constitution democratic when it can be amended or not amended in accordance with the will of one man who is in an unelected post. Because the Commander in Chief is not there by election. Now this is just the beginning of a series of sections in the constitution which make it totally undemocratic.

If Burma is truly to be on the road to democracy we have to amend this constitution.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘We want everybody in our country to be part of the process that will take us forward to genuine democracy’. EPA/Nyein Chan Naing

 

Now my time is almost up so I will just conclude by saying that in recent months, my party has been conducting public meetings all over the country to acquaint our people with this issue. First of all what a constitution is. Secondly, how it affects the lives of every one of its citizens. Thirdly, the history of our constitutions; we’ve had three, this is a third one. How this one was adopted. How this one was written up and why it is not democratic and why we want it amended.

We have found that the moment our people understand what is really at stake, the great majority of them – I would say that at the public meetings we find that more than 80% of them – are very much in favour of constitutional amendment.

Now, don’t think that the remaining 20% or so are against amendment. What those people want is a total rewrite of the constitution.

So this is our choice for Burma’s future. A genuine democratic constitution that will help us to uphold democracy, human rights, and we want to achieve these amendments through national reconciliation. Never forgetting that all our citizens belong to our country and the whole country belongs to all our citizens.

It’s not just the military that owns a country and we do not want the military to be left out either. We want everybody in our country to be part of the process that will take us forward to genuine democracy.