Last week in the middle of the night, that famous Pillar of Shame statue at the University of Hong Kong marking the Tiananmen Square massacre was removed while guards patrolled. No surprise given the fact that Beijing has increasingly been cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong. The 8-meter (26-foot) tall statue which depicted 50 torn and twisted bodies piled on top of each other was created by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt to symbolize those students killed during the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. For years Hong Kong has been one of few places in China that allowed public commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests - a highly sensitive topic in the country. In fact no one born on the Mainland after 1989 has been taught about what the government calls“the June 4th incident”. The dismantling of the sculpture came days after pro-Beijing candidates scored a landslide victory in the Hong Kong legislative elections, after amendments in election laws allowed the vetting of all candidates to ensure that they are "patriots" loyal to Beijing. The removal also occurred during the same week that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam traveled to Beijing to report on developments in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, where authorities have silenced dissent following the implementation of a sweeping national security law that appeared to target much of the pro-democracy movement following mass protests in 2019. Since Beijing implemented that law in Hong Kong, over 100 pro-democracy activists have been arrested. It outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs. Critics claim it rolled back freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it was handed over to China by Britain in 1997. The Pillar of Shame monument was erected over two decades ago. At first it was placed at Hong Kong's Victoria Park, but was eventually moved to the University of Hong Kong on a long-term basis. Each year on June 4, members of the now-defunct student union would wash the statue to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre. Hong Kong and Macao, were previously the only places on Chinese soil where commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown was allowed.
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FAPA PRESIDENT’S AWARDS
“Deep Waters“, the third in the Sammy Greene series won 2 Silver Medals for the Florida Authors and Publishers Association’s President Award – one for Mystery/Suspense and one for Thriller.
Each year the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) sponsors the FAPA President’s Book Awards, which recognizes book publishing excellence and creativity in design, content, and production for authors and publishers. This year we have opened the competition from North America only to the English-speaking world. We hope to encourage entries from all who share our complex and wonderful language.
Finalists are chosen by publishing professionals and librarians from both within and outside of Florida and are announced at the President’s Book Awards Banquet the last weekend of July.”
Exciting news: my historical thriller, Rabbit in the Moon, has been selected as one among best books on modern China’s myths, religions, politics, and culture. Check out the site. The novel is available in print, eBook and Audiobook.
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My historical thriller, Rabbit in the Moon, was published almost two decades after the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989. I waited to write the story of the short-lived Student Democracy Movement, hoping that with the passage of time the Chinese government might be more open to the truth of what happened there.
That was not to be. The massacre was renamed the “June 4th incident”, my book was banned on the Mainland, and as I traveled to China over the years, it became clear that the government was more determined than ever to ban any discussion of the deadly crackdown- in schools, on the street, even from the Internet.
While Mainland citizens were subject to the ban for decades, Chinese living in Hong Kong and Macau were allowed to hold yearly candlelight vigils to commemorate the anniversary. That is until last year.
Today marks 32 years since Chinese soldiers killed hundreds if not thousands of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.
Authorities in Macau and Hong Kong have banned the vigil for the second year in a row saying it would violate local criminal laws and citing corona virus issues.
Despite last year’s ban, tens of thousands of people defied the police, knocking down barricades that had been erected around Victoria Park where citizens had been gathering each June 4th for 30 years to mark the anniversary. This year, however, police closed off Victoria Park entirely. Thousands of officers have been placed on standby to stop any attempt to hold the event.
Several pro-democracy activists have been arrested including Chow Hang Tung who is the vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance which has been organizing the annual vigils. Arrested for promoting unauthorized assembly, she continued to call on residents to commemorate the anniversary in their own ways.
“Turn on the lights wherever you are – whether on your phone, candles or electronic candles,” she posted on Facebook a day before her arrest.
This year’s anniversary is the first since a new controversial security law was approved for Hong Kong, aimed at ending the city’s pro-democracy movement and criminalizing dissent. At least 100 people have been arrested since the law was enacted in June.
Already brave students from Hong Kong University have been photographed washing a statue titled the Pillar of Shame.
What the government’s response will be remains to be seen.
Sammy Greene, investigative reporter and radio host visits Thessaloniki, Greece in Deep Waters. Thessaloniki was the home of thousands of Sephardic Jews who left Spain in the 15thcentury. They were the majority in the city until World War II, and their social and cultural influence was captured in the city’s nickname, “la madre de Israel”, mother of Israel.
Tragically, after the Nazis invaded and occupied Greece in 1941, they rounded up 54,000 Jews and sent them north to concentration and labor camps, from which only ~5000 survived. A few escaped by hiding among the Gentile community, and some were protected by Greek Orthodox clergy. Two survivors of the Nazi genocide, Mois and Sara Bourla in Northern Greece became the parents of Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, oin 1961. Known as “Akis”, Bourla shared his family’s story with Sephardic Heritage International on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
“Remembrance. It’s this word, perhaps more than any other, that inspired me to share my parents’ story. That’s because I recognize how fortunate I am that my parents shared their stories with me and the rest of our family.
Many Holocaust survivors never spoke to their children of the horrors they endured because it was too painful. But we talked about it a great deal in my family. Growing up in Thessaloniki, Greece, we would get together with our cousins on the weekends, and my parents, aunts and uncles would often share their stories.
They did this because they wanted us to remember. To remember all the lives that were lost. To remember what can happen when the virus of evil is allowed to spread unchecked. But, most important, to remember the value of a human life.”
The story of Bourla’s harrowing tales of his family’s tragedy and survival are quoted in Kathimerini, Greece’s premier newspaper:
Bourla and his sister grew up in Thessaloniki. An animal lover, the bright young man entered the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and graduated with a PhD in veterinary medicine. After working as a veterinarian, Bourla joined Pfizer, the mega-pharmaceutical company, in 1993, serving as a doctor of veterinary medicine and then as technical director for the company’s animal health division in Greece. Bourla went on to embrace many roles at Pfizer, including serving as Group President of Pfizer’s Global Vaccines, Oncology, and Consumer Healthcare business, helping to launch the anticoagulant Eliquis, and the breast cancer treatment drug Ibrance.
In 2020, Bourla pushed Pfizer employees for the fast development of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with BioNTech of Germany. He was quoted that “financial returns should not drive any decisions” with regards to the vaccine. To have vaccine ready for shipping immediately, he launched production of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine before the Emergency Use Authorization was approved by the FDA.
Today, Bourla and his family share homes in New York and Northern Greece. In April of 2019, Bourla was honored as the “Preeminent Greek Leader” of the global pharmaceutical industry by United States Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt, at the Prix Galien Greece Awards ceremony.
In 2020, Institutional Investor ranked Bourla as America’s top CEO in the pharmaceutical industry. His company’s Pfizer vaccine is one of the three vaccines available in the US and is helping millions stay safe and healthy around the world during this horrible pandemic.
Efharisto, Dr. Bourla! And, if you’re interested, you can read more about Greek Jewry and Thessaloniki as you follow Sammy Greene into Deep Waters!
–by Linda Reid
Imagine my big surprise when I caught up with MacGyver this weekend!
It seems as if Rogue CIA Agent Albert Miller from our award-winning novel Devil Wind, published in 2011 and set in the anxious era of Y2K managed to spread the word about his lethal weapon “The Resonator” to the villains of the global terror group Codex fighting the Phoenix Foundation “good guys”.
Yes, the very machine that uses the earthquake damage prevention system that includes base isolation to dampen earthquake waves for tall buildings/skyscrapers; made its debut on the CBS show today. Just like Agent Miller had done to LA University’s gleaming new hospital, the Codex villains manipulated the system to magnify the waves, making the building weave and shake more and more, and endangering the young heroes for 44 minutes.
Nice to know that Sammy, Gus, and their friends raced to keep hundreds of people in LA safe; and kept the resonator out of the hands of dramatic malefactors and LA TV scriptwriters for 20 years!
-by Linda Reid, co-author of the award-winning thriller Devil Wind
I’ve been self-isolating for the past year because of the pandemic, so I had no idea that Doc’s All American had been closed after 70 years! Located in Delray Beach, Florida, this has been more than an ice cream and burger jointS. It is a true historical landmark. Since its opening in 1951, young and old are rarely able to pass by the Atlantic Avenue without stopping for one of Doc’s famous hand-dipped cones. I certainly couldn’t and neither could two of my characters, Sam and Mackenzie, in my medical thriller Silent Survivor. In fact it was sharing burgers and fries at Doc’s that sparked their romance!
When I read in this week’s newspaper that after sitting empty since last February, the new owner, MDG Partners, is planning to refurbish and reopen, I was delighted. Apparently that is dependent on registering Doc’s as an historic designation which the city of Delray supports. If all goes through, the new Doc’s will include indoor seating.
So keep fingers crossed that they bring back the best of Doc’s because. believe me, there is nothing as good as Doc’s chocolate sprinkles on a swirl.
Deep Waters, the third in the Sammy Greene series, was set in Greece. In researching the setting, Linda Reid (my co-author) and I learned about the Romaniote Jews who are among the oldest (dating back 2000 years) and least-known of all the Jewish communities of the diaspora. Then in my travels, I met someone- now a good friend- who is a descendent of this group.
According to oral tradition, following the destruction of the 2ndtemple in 70 AD, the Jews of Palestine were sent on a slave ship to Rome. Instead, a storm forced them to land in Greece where they developed unique ethnic and religious customs.
Neither Sephardim (from Spain) or Ashkenazim (from Eastern Europe), this group traces its roots back to the Roman Empire. They are considered “Hellenizied” or Greek Jews, Their distinct language was actually Judaeo-Greek, a Greek dialect which contained Hebrew along with some Aramaic and Turkish words known as Yevanic.
Historians believe that those Romaniotes who were able to remain intact for so many centuries did so because the people adopted the language and customs of the Greek civilization as their own while maintaining their distinct Jewish identity, i.e. acculturating, but not assimilating.
That was especially true of Ioannia (Janina), a small city in NW Greece. Many other Romaniotes in Greece were absorbed into the much larger Sephardic community, adopting its Ladino language.
The Jews of Janina made their living as merchants, tradesmen and craftsmen. Theirs was a patriarchal society of arranged marriages, large families and strict Jewish orthodoxy.
While strict in their faith, the Romaniote were not isolated from the larger community. For example, during the High Holidays Christian townspeople of Janina often used to attend celebrations of Jewish New Year. Sometimes local officials also came to watch and share the joy of their Jewish fellow citizens.
On March 25, 1944 1860 men, women and children were rounded up, loaded into trucks and deported to Auschwitz. Only 200 survived.
Pre- World Qard II, large Romaniote communities were located in Thessaloniki, Janinia, Arta, Preveza, Volos, Chalkis, Thebes, Corinth, Patras and the islands of Corfu, Zakynthos, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes, Cyprus among others. Eight-five percent of all Greek Jews perished and the historic Romaniote communities in Greece were largely destroyed during the Holocaust.
After the war, a majority of the survivors emigrated to Israel, the US, and Western Europe. Today there are still functioning Romaniote synagogues in Chalkis, a town on the Greek island of Eubie, Janina, Athens, NewYork and Israel.
Interesting, second and third generation Romaniote immigrants in New York city have good knowledge of Greek. In the beginning of the 21st century 90% asserted that they understand Greek while 40% could speak Greek comfortably. Over a third could read Greek fairly well.
The Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue in Manhattan has struggled to maintain its millennium-old traditions. Designated a historic landmark by the city of New York in 2004, it still operates in its original form.
Today between 4500 and 6000 Jews remain in Greece, only a small percentage are Romaniotes who live mainly in Thessaloniki, Chalkis, Janina and Athens.
Victor Aquista, physician, author, and fellow Mystery Writers of America member, has a wonderful podcast program called Pdfobler Productions which features selections from various authors’ work. Victor recently chose my medical thriller Silent Survivor, recording the Prologue and First Chapter. Click and take a listen.
Although the voice (Victor’s) is different from the Audiobook’s narrator (Laura Mooney Wills), I think it is a wonderful rendition.
Notorious Minds? A rogue secret agent stealing a weapon to kill thousands of innocent victims? Has to be fiction—a heart-stopping thrill ride in a hellish Hollywood, battered by Devil Winds, fiery-hot Santa Ana’s that spark an inferno in the lush hills hiding the garish mansions of the rich and famous. Devil Wind, by Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid, is one of TWENTY exciting thrillers and mysteries included in the Notorious Minds Boxset, transporting your imagination to worlds beyond your door.
Venturing into a world of danger is best left to the imagination in today’s pandemic era. The COVID-19 virus has devastated our world, locking us into silos of isolation and loneliness, even as it claims the lives of family, friends, and neighbors as its victims. As physicians as well as authors, Dr. Shlian and I had hoped that the antibiotic and anti-viral era would prevent a feared pandemic such as the one that decimated WWI survivors in 1918. Yet, even with 21stcentury medical knowledge and expertise, we have met a viral enemy that we are struggling to conquer. Many of us are seeking answers as to how we can remain healthy and safe, and others are searching for reasons to explain why this virus took hold—transferring from the realm of fiction to a dangerous reality.
Theories abound, and it may take us years to understand the complete story. Meanwhile, everyone hopes and wishes that the damage and death from COVID-19 can be limited, and that we can soon return to our lives, work, and personal social connections. Reading and writing can be solace for many whose path to recovery, whether from the virus, or its social and economic damage are difficult to surmount. Devil Wind’s protagonists, investigative reporter and talk-radio host Sammy Greene and her grizzled friend Gus Pappajohn pair up for a journey that begins from despair, and aims for the light of new hope, in a gritty Los Angeles universe familiar to fans of Michael Connelly and Lee Child.
The promise of hope, of a brighter future, inspires many writers to pen novels to delight readers; however, many other authors turn to imagining dystopias that serve as a warning for our societies about where we are headed and “what not to do”. Faced with choices in an unknown scenario, we may revisit the projections and ideas of renowned futurists, such as Orwell and Huxley, and even Michael Crichton, for answers and fears about “what’s next”. Truth be told, though elements of authors’ works may resonate with today’s crises, we have tools at our disposal that we can use to opt for better outcomes than they predicted, such as scientific research, critical and strategic thinking, innovation, and free will. Let us hope and pray that our future guides us toward progress and not purgatory.
And let us enjoy adventures that exist in our imaginations, and from the imaginative fiction writers who are included in the Notorious Mind boxset, now available for pre-order from Amazon:
Be healthy and well, and enjoy our books!
Co-author of the award-winning Sammy Greene Thriller series, Dead Air, Devil Wind, and Deep Waters
Author (as Y S Pascal) of the award-winning Zygan Emprise Trilogy