A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘united kingdom

[ISL] “Talks to secure Cyprus reunification enter ‘final stages'”

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The Guardian‘s Helena Smith reports on the prospects for peace and eventual reunification in Cyprus. I only hope that the negotiating parties will not decide to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

After 18 months of intensive negotiations to settle inter-ethnic divisions, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı will attempt to finesse the details of a peace deal in Geneva this week by poring over maps and discussing territorial trade-offs before tackling the potentially explosive issue of security.

Asked if he was optimistic as he arrived at the UN’s European headquarters on Monday morning, Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, said: “Ask me when we are finished.”

For an island the finer skills of peacemakers has long eluded, the talks are seen as a defining moment in the arduous process of resolving what has long been regarded as the Rubik’s cube of diplomacy.

On Sunday, the new UN secretary general, António Guterres, described the talks as a historic opportunity. In Nicosia officials on both sides of the buffer zone spoke of “the best and last chance” for a settlement. Other experts described the talks as the endgame.

“This is the final phase of the final phase,” said Hubert Faustmann, a professor of history and political science at the University of Nicosia. “It will be the first time since 1974 that Turkey and the Greek Cypriots will hold direct talks at the negotiating table.”

A week of fierce horse-trading lies ahead before Greece, Turkey and former colonial power Britain – the island’s three guarantors under its post-independence constitution – convene on 12 January to address the issues of troop presence and security in an envisioned federation. Both are seen as crucial to ensuring 1974 is never repeated.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 9, 2017 at 9:30 pm

[LINK] “Massive drop in London HIV rates may be due to internet drugs”

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The New Scientist‘s Clare Wilson reports on a massive drop in new HIV infections in London that is more easily explained by growing use of PrEP, the prophylactic use of new HIV drugs to prevent infections.

Gay men who defied medical advice seem to have changed the course of the HIV epidemic in the UK – for the better.

Four London sexual health clinics saw dramatic falls in new HIV infections among gay men of around 40 per cent last year, compared with 2015, new figures show.

This decline may be mostly due to thousands of people buying medicines called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which cut the chance of catching the virus, online.

“We need to be very cautious at this stage, but I can’t see what else it can be,” says Will Nutland at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has set up a website that gives people information on how to give themselves PrEP. “Something extraordinary has happened in the last 12 months because of a bunch of DIY activists working off our kitchen tables.”

The medicine has been approved in the UK as a drug for preventing HIV infection in both men and women, but it isn’t yet available on the National Health Service.

“People say, ‘Why don’t gay men just use condoms?’,” says Mags Portman of the Mortimer Market Centre in London, one of the clinics that has seen large declines in diagnoses. “They do, but not all the time. Straight people don’t use condoms all the time either.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 9, 2017 at 9:15 pm

[LINK] “The discovery of medieval Trellech and the plucky amateurs of archaeology”

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At The Conversation, Ben Edwards writes about the discovery of the lost medieval Welsh city of Trellech, and the import of its recent rediscovery by an amateur archaeologist.

The tale of how an amateur archaeologist’s hunch led him to uncover a lost medieval town and spend £32,000 of his own money to buy the land, would stand to be the archaeological discovery of any year. On the border between England and Wales, the site of the medieval town of Trellech reveals much about a tumultuous period of history – and how the town came to be lost.

The story begins in 2004, when archaeology graduate Stuart Wilson began his search for this lost medieval town in Monmouthshire, south-east Wales, near where now only a small village bears the name. In the face of scepticism from academic archaeologists, Wilson’s years of work have been vindicated with the discovery of a moated manor house, a round stone tower, ancillary buildings, and a wealth of smaller finds including pottery from the 1200s.

The town could turn out to be one of the largest in medieval Wales, and while there is more work to be done, the evidence is building. The large number of finds – including metalwork, cooking vessels and decorated pottery – point to a large settlement, and are essential in helping archaeologists date the site. What they suggest is a short-lived but intensive period of occupation between the 12th and early 15th centuries, during which the town was founded by the De Clare family as an industrial centre and later destroyed during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion in 1400. This was a period of instability on the Welsh border, with conflict between rival Welsh princes and the English throne. Settlements like Trellech would become the focus of such clashes, culminating in Glyndwr’s rebellion.

What makes the lost city of Trellech so important is its rarity and the quality of its preservation. Most large medieval settlements in England and Wales are still towns and cities to this day. This means archaeological investigations of medieval London or York for example are difficult and expensive, and can only occur piecemeal as urban redevelopment allows excavation of small areas. If Trellech turns out to be an extensive town, it will be a unique and important site. As archaeology is key to understanding the lives of everyday people who are ignored by the histories of the great and the good, sites like Trellech are the only way we gain these insights.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 9, 2017 at 8:45 pm

[LINK] “George Michael and Me”

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Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s short piece at the LRB Blog looking at the importance of Wham!, including George Michael, for him as a British schoolboy of South Asian background growing up in northern England in the early 1980s, is superb. This is how important pop music can be.

I used to listen to Wham! in secret. It was 1984 and I was nine. My school was in a white and mostly working-class village in Lancashire. I knew only one other Wham! fan and, though it’s been thirty years since we last met, he was the first person I contacted after I heard George Michael had died. He once claimed to have reached the singer on a secret number he found in a magazine and had a hilarious conversation with him. I still wonder if this might have been true. We used to listen to the albums over and over at one another’s houses, but at school we kept our adoration to ourselves. It was normal for boys to like Duran Duran. They said Wham! were ‘poofs’. George Michael was loved by older girls, teenagers, but in my class the girls hated him too (they liked Madonna). ‘He loves himself,’ they said. ‘He looks at himself in shiny floors when he’s dancing.’

I didn’t understand the appeal of Duran Duran, with their pale, sullen look, the sallow, understated maleness of English post punk. It felt so far away from the black American singers I also used to listen to in secret – Michael Jackson, Prince – and so far away from Wham! In contrast to the dull, rainy, post-industrial landscape around me, they always looked as if they were having the time of their lives. They were young, beautiful, tanned, and made spectacular pop music. Their first two albums were called Fantastic and Make It Big. After their first number one single, George Michael performed on Top of the Pops in a T-shirt with ‘Number 1’ embroidered in gold on it; in the video, he wore one with ‘Choose Life’ printed on it in bold black letters. In gloomy, northern, cold, racist England, this was what I wanted to hear. I wanted hope. I wanted fun.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 31, 2016 at 9:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • Bad Astronomy shares a video imagining of how Cassini will meet its end with Saturn.
  • Cody Delistraty shares an interview with Rebecca Solnit.
  • Far Outliers reports on Margaret Thatcher’s unorthodox campaign in 1979.
  • Joe. My. God. shares Hillary Clinton’s thanks to her 66 million voters.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at gender stereotypes among scientists.
  • The NYRB Daily talks about the visual art of Pipilotti Rist.
  • Otto Pohl commemorates the 73rd anniversary of the deportation of the Kalmyks.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests China might follow Russia’s Crimea strategy in invading Taiwan, and looks at the latest on controversies about Tatar identity and genetics.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Beyond the Beyond notes how astronomers are now collecting dust from space in their gutters, without needing to go to Antarctica.
  • blogTO notes the many lost dairies of mid-20th century Toronto.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at how volatiles freeze out in protoplanetary disks.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper considering the exploration of ocean worlds.
  • Far Outliers links to a report of a Cossack mercenary working in North America for the British in the War of American Independence.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the grave and the life of Homer Plessy.
  • Steve Munro looks at some possibly worrisome service changes for the TTC.
  • pollotenchegg notes trends in urbanization in post-1970 Ukraine.
  • Strange Maps looks at a scone map of the British Isles.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Apostrophen’s ‘Nathan Smith writes about Christmas cards and memory.
  • blogTO notes the impending expansion of the Drake Hotel.
  • The Broadside Blog describes a documentary, The Eagle Huntress, about a Mongolian teenage girl who becomes a hunter using eagles, that sounds spectacular.
  • Crooked Timber asks readers to help a teenager who has been arrested by the LAPD.
  • Dangerous Minds notes some weird monsters from Japanese folklore.
  • The Dragon’s Tales suggests that the Hellas basin hides the remnants of its ocean.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the finding that Russia was trying to get Trump elected.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the issue of hate speech and immigration.
  • Window on Eurasia quotes a former Ukrainian president who argues Russia does not want to restore the Soviet Union so much as it wants to dominate others.
  • The Yorkshire Ranter notes how the Daily Telegraph is recommending its readers use tax shelters.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the language of side-eye and stink-eye.