Paddington Bear Condemned as an Unsustainable Tribute to Queen

(p. A12) Amid the outpouring of grief after the death of queen Elizabeth II at 96, Britons have laid many a tribute in parks and outside palace gates in England. But the charity responsible for all the royal acres in the land has a plea: Bouquets of flowers are ever so lovely, but please skip the teddy bears and balloons.

The charity, Royal Parks, asks well-wishers to bring only “organic or compostable material” . . .

Mourners have already contributed stuffed Paddington Bears, . . .

Paddington is an especially popular tribute because of a video released around the time of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee in June [2022], in which the queen and the bear have tea and discuss keeping marmalade sandwiches on hand for emergencies. (He keeps one in his hat; she, supposedly, kept one in her purse.)

But Royal Parks says mourners should choose their tributes “in the interests of sustainability.”

For the full story, see:

JOSEPH, YONETTE. “Flowers, Yes. But Bears? Please Don’t.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 13, 2022): A12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: after substantial search, I could not find that the article had been posted online by the NYT.)

Freedom of Speech Matters “Above All Liberties”

(p. C14) Today, Milton is best known for “Paradise Lost.” Long before writing that epic poem about the fall of man, however, he was a polemicist who participated in the political controversies of his day.

. . .

A bill in Parliament demanded that printers receive government approval for their publications, in part to guard against the supposed heresies of Milton and his fellow authors. For Milton, this licensing scheme was an illiberal outrage—and he said so in “Areopagitica,” which is now widely regarded as the world’s first important essay in defense of free speech.

The 1644 treatise takes its peculiar name from the Areopagus, a rocky mount just below the Acropolis in Athens. The ancient Greeks gathered there for debates and trials. It’s also the site of Paul’s sermon in Acts 17. Milton presented his essay in the form of a speech, though he never delivered it. That’s probably just as well: At nearly 18,000 words, it would have taken about three hours.

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” wrote Milton, in a line that has echoed across centuries.

. . .

A minor curiosity of “Areopagitica” is Milton’s brief mention of visiting “the famous Galileo grown old, a prisner to the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise then the Franciscan and Dominican licencers thought.” This is the only record of a meeting between the era’s greatest scribe and its greatest scientist, and it would have happened when Milton traveled to Italy in 1638.

For the full review, see:

John J. Miller. “MASTERPIECE; A Ringing Defense of Free Speech.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, May 07, 2022): C14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 6, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

A recent edition of Milton’s book is:

Milton, John. Areopagitica and Other Writings. New York: Penguin, 2016.

Spreading Smallpox Inoculation to Impress Voltaire

(p. A15) Dimsdale had been summoned by Catherine the Great to inoculate not only the empress herself but also her 13-year-old heir, the Grand Duke Paul.

. . .

As Lucy Ward dramatically relates in “The Empress and the English Doctor: How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus,” Catherine’s invitation was a high-stakes affair, a testament to Dimsdale’s writings on the methodology of smallpox inoculation and his reputation for solicitous care. His Quaker upbringing had encouraged a brand of outcome- rather than ego-led practice.

. . .

As devastating as smallpox was, for the empress herself and the grand duke who would succeed her to personally undergo inoculation was a risk to both patient and doctor. On the success side stood immunity from the disease, an almost holy example for Catherine’s people, and as-yet-untold riches for her nervous doctor. On the other side, not only the fact that all Russia would refuse the treatment if their “Little Mother” died, but also a disaster for Dimsdale and the son who had accompanied him. Geopolitics came into play too—if things went wrong, some would interpret it as a foreign assassination.

. . .

With a happy result for her and her less-robust son, Catherine sets about publicizing the success. Dimsdale receives the equivalent of more than $20 million and a barony. Bronze medals are cast of Catherine’s profile, reading “She herself set an example.” It helps that Catherine was competitive beyond reason: “we have inoculated more people in a month than were inoculated in Vienna in eight,” she wrote to Voltaire, determined to beat Empress Maria Theresa’s efforts.

For the full review, see:

Catherine Ostler. “BOOKSHELF; Inoculate Conception.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, June 23, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated June 22, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Empress and the English Doctor’ Review: Inoculate Conception.”)

The book under review is:

Ward, Lucy. The Empress and the English Doctor: How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus. London, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2022.

Hong Kong’s “Unofficials” Begged Britain to Bargain Better with Beijing’s Communists

(p. C4) In the 1980s and 1990s, the political scientist Steve Tsang conducted dozens of interviews with industrialists, bankers and lawyers appointed as unofficial members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council or Executive Council. Known as the “Unofficials,” they were advisers to the British government. The British Official Secrets Act prevented them from speaking about the negotiations during their lifetimes, but the interviews restore a vital, often anguished Hong Kong voice to the historical record.

. . .

The Joint Declaration provided for Hong Kong to be handed back to China in 1997 with its capitalist system intact and a Chinese pledge that its way of life should continue for 50 years. Hong Kong was to hold elections for its Legislative Council and chief executive, but there was no clear timeline for democracy or mechanism to ensure Chinese compliance. “If we cannot devise the right political system, then Hong Kong may not survive,” Chung warned, telling the British that “the Chinese concept of an agreement was worthless.”

Thatcher’s response to them, in January 1984, was frosty: “The Chinese could walk into Hong Kong at present but had not done so. We had to negotiate with the cards that we possessed.” . . .

In June, Chung traveled to Beijing with two other Unofficials to express their concerns directly to Deng Xiaoping: that in the future Hong Kong might be governed from Beijing instead of being administered by Hong Kongers; that Chinese officials might not accept Hong Kong’s lifestyle; and that China’s future leaders might follow “extreme left policies.”

. . .

Would it have made any difference if more attention had been paid to the Unofficials? In 2019, as protests roiled the city, I put this question to Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten. “I think it might have done, actually,” he said. He recalled that British policy in the 1980s “was driven by officials with only the most vestigial, shadowy input from ministers. The Cradocks and others, they didn’t listen to people in Hong Kong. They knew what Hong Kong required, and what Hong Kong, they thought, required was whatever would be acceptable with China for a quiet life.”

The dominant narrative in the British press in the run-up to the handover in 1997 was one of an honorable retreat. The Unofficials tell a different story: One of political expediency that set in motion the foreseeable—and foreseen—unraveling of one of the world’s greatest cities.

For the full essay, see:

Louisa Lim. “The Unofficial Story of the Handover of Hong Kong.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 23, 2022): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the essay has the date April 22, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The essay is adapted from Lim’s book:

Lim, Louisa. Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong. New York: Riverhead Books, 2022.

During Pandemic, Delayed Medical Procedures Rose from 4.6 to 6 Million in England’s Socialized Healthcare System

(p. A8) LONDON — Lara Wahab had been waiting for more than two years for a kidney and pancreas transplant, but months had passed without any word. So last month she called the hospital, and got crushing news.

There had been a good match for her in October [2021], the transplant coordinator told her, which the hospital normally would have accepted. But with Covid-19 patients filling beds, the transplant team could not find her a place in the intensive care unit for postoperative care. They had to decline the organs.

“I was just in shock. I knew that the N.H.S. was under a lot of strain, but you don’t really know until you’re waiting for something like that,” she said, referring to the National Health Service. “It was there, but it sort of slipped through my fingers,” she added of the transplant opportunity.

Ms. Wahab, 34, from North London, is part of an enormous and growing backlog of patients in Britain’s free health service who have seen planned care delayed or diverted, in part because of the pandemic — a largely unseen crisis within a crisis. The problems are likely to have profound consequences that will be felt for years.

The numbers are stark: In England, nearly 6 million procedures are currently delayed, a rise from the backlog of 4.6 million before the pandemic, according to the N.H.S. The current delays most likely impact more than five million people — a single patient can have multiple cases pending for different ailments — which represents almost one-tenth of the population. Hundreds of thousands more haven’t been referred yet for treatment, and many ailments have simply gone undiagnosed.

For the full story, see:

Megan Specia. “In Britain, an Ever-Growing Backlog of Non-Covid Care.” The New York Times (Thursday, January 27, 2022): A8.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated January 27, 2022, and has the title “‘I Feel Really Hopeless’: In U.K., Millions See Non-Covid Health Care Delayed.”)

Amazon Warehouse Jobs Give “Economic Boost” to English Town

(p. B4) DARLINGTON, England—Many retailers in this old market town have long held Amazon.com Inc. partially to blame for the closures of a raft of local shops in recent years.

Then, Amazon opened a warehouse here.

The facility, which opened in early 2020, employs 1,300 full-time staff, making it one of the town’s biggest employers. It hired 500 additional seasonal workers during the end-of-year holidays. Wages start at £10 (equivalent to $13.25) an hour, above the legal minimum, and benefits include private healthcare and an £8,000 education allowance available in installments over four years.

The new jobs have all delivered an economic boost for the Northern England town of 100,000, while sparking a reassessment of the U.S. e-commerce giant. Nicola Reading, a gift-shop owner, still blames Amazon for the demise of the local retail scene but now sees an upside, too.

“It feels like Amazon employs half the population of Darlington now,” she said.

Already America’s second-biggest employer, after Walmart Inc., Amazon has been advancing in Europe and the U.K., investing €78 billion ($89 billion) since 2010 in a continentwide expansion that has significantly accelerated over the past few years. Amazon employs over 55,000 full-time U.K. staff.

. . .

Local officials in Darlington have applauded Amazon’s arrival, which they say has benefited the town, chiefly by creating jobs. Amazon’s presence is also encouraging young university graduates to stay in the town and attracting other companies, said Mark Ladyman, the Darlington Borough Council’s assistant director for economic growth.

For the full story, see:

Trefor Moss. “The Small Town That Amazon Upended, Then Saved.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, January 22, 2022): B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 21, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Two Self-Made Mill Owners” in Golden Age of Capitalism Collected and Preserved “Literary Treasures”

(p. C6) A consortium of British libraries and museums has announced that it successfully raised more than $20 million to buy a “lost” library containing rare manuscripts by Robert Burns, Walter Scott and the Brontës, heading off an auction and preserving the collection intact.

. . .

“A collection of literary treasures of this importance comes around only once in a generation,” Richard Ovenden, the head of the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, said in a news release earlier this month announcing the deal.

. . .

Alfred and William Law, two self-made mill owners who grew up less than 20 miles from the Brontë home in Haworth (which is now the Brontë Parsonage Museum), began collecting what became the Honresfield Library in the 1890s.

. . .

In the announcement, Gabriel Heaton, the Sotheby’s specialist who organized the planned sale, called it “a collection like no other that has come to market in recent decades.”

For the full story, see:

Jennifer Schuessler. “$20 Million Raised to Preserve a ‘Lost Library’.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 25, 2021): C6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 24, 2021, and has the title “Group Raises $20 Million to Preserve ‘Lost’ Brontë Library.”)

Entrepreneur Wedgewood “Was Encouraged to Question Authority”

(p. C6) During this pandemic, the upper-middle class went bonkers over pots. They clanged them nightly on the street in homage to health care workers, and as soon as they were loosed from quarantine they marched into studios like eager kindergartners to create their own ceramics. Perhaps these hobbyists whose uneven, sometimes Seussian efforts fill Instagram “shelfies” — Seth Rogen, I’m talking to you — could find #inspo in a new biography of the 18th-century potter Josiah Wedgwood. It encourages the rest of us to look at our crockery more critically.

. . .

And production of the veddy English Wedgwood, which used to occur in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is now largely outsourced to Asia, the very continent it was founded to compete with.

. . .

Josiah was born the youngest of a dozen children into a primitive, churchy iteration of the business. He walked seven miles round-trip to school by the age of 6 — take that, TikTok tots — and was encouraged to question authority. The loss of one leg (weakened by smallpox, further damaged in a road accident and finally amputated and replaced with a wooden prosthetic) helped form his character, like Captain Ahab’s. Unable to labor at the wheel, Wedgwood would gravitate instead to design and labor reform: “a hands-on manager,” writes Hunt, who compares him to Steve Jobs, “overseeing his potbanks with a steely professionalism.”

. . .

More seriously, Hunt offers convincing evidence that Wedgwood, . . . , was a committed if somewhat armchair abolitionist, alert to the horrors of the triangular trade that undergirded his commerce, especially the sugar that was also known as “white gold.” His widely circulated and copied cameo featuring a kneeling slave with the motto “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” though regrettably generic, “deserves to be remembered as one of the most radical symbols in modern history,” Hunt argues. (Incorporated into snuffbox lids, bracelets and hair pins, it could also be seen as an early example of virtue signaling.)

On top of everything, Wedgwood was a devoted family man: “uxorious” to and solicitous of his wife and third cousin, Sarah, he helped to home-school their brood even though there wasn’t a pandemic at the time. (. . . ) Alas, he didn’t live to see the birth of his grandson: Charles Darwin.

For the full review, see:

Alexandra Jacobs. “A Master of Making Fine China, and a Firebrand Too.” The New York Times (Monday, October 25, 2021): C6.

(Note: ellipses, added; italics, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 24, 2021, and has the title “A Transporting and Cozy Biography of a Pottery Pioneer.”)

The book under review is:

Hunt, Tristram. The Radical Potter: The Life and Times of Josiah Wedgwood. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2021.

$80 Billion in 200 Large Projects to Develop Hydrogen as Clean Energy Source

(p. B1) SHEFFIELD, England — Rachel Smith has lived through green hydrogen’s bumpy journey from scientists’ dream to an industry that may be on the verge of a commercial breakthrough. An engineer, she started out two decades ago working in a converted barn on early devices for making the clean-burning gas.

Now she is part of a team racing to build giant machines that will use electricity to separate hydrogen from water for major companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Orsted, the Danish offshore wind developer.

“We have gone through those toddler years,” said Ms. Smith, an executive director at ITM Power, which is run out of an expansive new factory in Sheffield, a faded center for steel mills and coal mining. “We are playing in the grown-up world rather than in research labs.”

A consensus is forming among governments, environmentalists and energy companies that deep cuts in carbon emissions will require large amounts of a clean fuel like hydrogen.

Proponents of hydrogen have identified more than a score of potential applications of the element for cutting carbon emissions. It could be used to power long-haul trucks and train and air travel. Energy companies are experimenting with blending hydrogen with natural gas for home heating and cooking.

All told, more than 200 large-scale projects are underway to produce or transport hydrogen, comprising investments of more than $80 billion. Daimler and Volvo, the world’s largest truck makers, plan in a few years to begin mass producing long-haul electric trucks that run on devices called fuel cells that convert hydrogen to electricity. Water will be the trucks’ only emission.

“You could imagine an economy that is supported almost entirely by very clean electricity and very clean hydrogen,” said Ernest Moniz, secretary of energy in the Obama administration and now chief executive of the Energy Futures Initiative, a research organization.

(p. B5) But he warned that “a lot of things have to happen” for a gas now mainly used in specialty areas to become a “part of the backbone of the energy system.”

Among the obstacles that must be overcome: creating enough of the right sort of hydrogen, at a price industries and consumers can accept.

For the full story, see:

Stanley Reed and Jack Ewing. “The Race to Harvest Hydrogen.” The New York Times (Saturday, July 17, 2021): B1 & B5.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 4, 2021, and has the title “Hydrogen Is One Answer to Climate Change. Getting It Is the Hard Part.”)

James Dyson Persevered Through 5,127 Prototypes to Achieve Vacuum Cleaner Success

(p. C7) James Dyson was a less than stellar student at the boarding school he attended in Norfolk, England, where his father was a classics master. Yet he would become the founder of a family-owned global manufacturing empire. Mr. Dyson gained fame—and a peerage—as the inventor of a revolutionary vacuum cleaner that exploits the principle of the cyclone and never needs a replacement bag, among other novel domestic appliances.

. . .

It took Mr. Dyson four years and precisely 5,127 prototypes—as he reminds us in the first paragraph of this book’s introduction and in the last paragraph of its last chapter, as well as several times in between. He points out that his perseverance—abetted by subsequent and continuing failures in the form of rebuffs from the likes of banks, venture capitalists, government agencies, manufacturers, distributors and retailers—was rewarded with ultimate success. The idea of “accepting and even enjoying failure, but going on” is another theme carried throughout Mr. Dyson’s book.

. . .

With success achieved in the United Kingdom, Mr. Dyson looked to sell the fruits of his intellectual property beyond the sceptered shores. In America, he got legally tangled up with Amway, which he was convinced was infringing on his patents. The lessons learned from his failure to protect his patent rights for the Ballbarrow, however, steeled Mr. Dyson and his wife and business partner, Deirdre, against allowing this to happen a second time. Mr. Dyson sued Amway and, after five years of costly litigation, received a favorable settlement. The victory boosted the businessman’s growing reputation as a fighter and a winner.

. . .

. . . , Mr. Dyson tells a story of the struggles of entrepreneurship, and his arduous quests for private capital; suitable manufacturing facilities; building permits; talented and trained employees; and at least moral support from the British government. He reveals the many and continuing obstacles—financial, political, regulatory, sociological, cultural—that frustrated his attempts to expand his manufacturing enterprises within the United Kingdom. This challenge, he explains, eventually drove him to move the bulk of his business to Singapore, where Mr. Dyson’s company is now headquartered.

For the full review, see:

Henry Petroski. “The Inventor’s Dilemma.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Sept. 3, 2021, and has the title “‘Invention’ Review: James Dyson’s Dilemma.”)

The book under review is:

Dyson, James. Invention: A Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021.