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Little-Known Black Human Rights Hero Celebrated in New Historical Fiction Novel



New York, New York–(Newsfile Corp. – February 10, 2022) – Author Joey O’Connor continues to fascinate readers with his riveting portrayal of William Sheppard, a little-known Black human rights hero, in Among Kings: The Amazing Adventures of the Congo’s African American Livingstone and the Courageous People who Toppled King Leopold II. While Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States to commemorate black heroes of the past, Sheppard is hardly discussed despite his contributions.

Inspired by true events, this meticulously researched novel draws upon the pasts of real-life heroes to deliver a powerful account of how even the most unassuming of men can topple a monarch. In the novel, readers follow the life, loves, journey, and adventures of William Sheppard who overcomes racial prejudice and adversity in a fight for human rights in the Congo. Risking his life, Sheppard’s brave actions helped to end King Leopold II’s slavery in the Congo, changing the course of history for the world.

Book cover of Among Kings

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Among Kings follows Black missionary William Sheppard from Virginia to the Belgian-controlled Congo, joined only by a white colleague, Samuel Lapsley. Traveling by steamship 1,000 miles up the Congo River, the novice missionaries face dangerous animals, disease, cannibal tribes, and King Leopold II’s Force Publique army. Sheppard becomes known across the world for his travels, discoveries, and adventures. When tragedy strikes, Sheppard returns to America to marry his fiancée, only to be horrified by the newly implemented Jim Crow laws.

Upon their return to the Congo, Sheppard is stunned to realize that King Leopold II has enslaved the entire country to work in the rubber trade. Armed with only a camera and the steel of his resolve, Sheppard risks his life to expose the atrocities of the Belgian king to the world. Researchers now state Leopold is responsible for the world’s fourth largest genocide, estimated at eight to twelve million people.

O’Connor’s work is perfect for fans of historical fiction and novels that dissect the racism of the Great Scramble for Africa era, as Colson Whitehead explored the Jim Crow period in The Nickel Boys. O’Connor’s visual storytelling depicts a rich story world in a clash of historic turn-of-the-century events. The Great Scramble for Africa, Industrial Revolution, and Jim Crow periods display dramatic backdrops for this powerful story. Reviewers and fellow authors praise Among Kings as an incredible contribution to the genre. Thomas Locke, best-selling author of Trial Run, writes, “The clarity of O’Connor’s drama, the strength of the plotting, the vivid characters, and above all the excellent writing suggests an author at the very apex of his career.”

Among Kings is also an excellent classroom resource that explores the historical intersection of religion, African culture, and the global abuses of Western colonizers. The friendship between Sheppard and Samuel Lapsley highlights the dynamics of interracial friendship during this time. Among Kings includes photos and book club questions to guide discussions and foster engagement about race relations, Black history, colonialism, and racial reconciliation.

As one of the most celebrated missionary-explorers of his time, William Sheppard spoke at both white and Black churches all over America. As a hunter, missionary, explorer, art collector, author, and human rights hero, Sheppard’s accomplishments in the Congo earned him the praise of kings, chiefs, queens, and presidents. In modern times, Sheppard is little-known during Black History Month, making Among Kings a necessary work to remind readers of our age that there are many voices in the chorus that calls for a freer, more just world. O’Connor states, “William Sheppard needs to be included in the human rights conversation.”

O’Connor first learned of William Sheppard fifteen years ago when Ken Straw (his brother-in-law) shared a book about Sheppard’s life. O’Connor and Straw formed the new Congo Reform Association non-profit organization to assist in ending the Congo Conflict.

O’Connor stated, “As we researched the Congo, we learned that in the past twenty years, over six million people have died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to two Congo wars and mineral rights conflicts. ” O’Connor even traveled to the Eastern Congo to work with his friends, Camille & Esther Ntoto, founders of Africa New Day.

When asked about new books, O’Connor said he is writing a modern-day Congo thriller about human rights, cryptocurrency, and a global conspiracy to control the world’s mineral resources. “Most of the world does not know that many of the minerals that power our cell phones come straight from the Congo. The Congo is in everyone’s pocket.”

Among Kings: The Amazing Adventures of the Congo’s African American Livingstone and the Courageous People who Toppled King Leopold II is available for purchase on and Barnes & Noble.

Joey O’Connor is the award-winning author of twenty-one books and screenplays. He is the co-founder of the Congo Reform Association, whose mission is to inspire social action through story, film, and social media to end the Congo Conflict and create a self-sustaining, thriving Congo. O’Connor lives and writes in San Clemente, California.. Congo Reform Association  or

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Expressions of Interest for Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development




The Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, is inviting Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified candidates to be considered as Ireland’s Director of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The remunerated position of Director is an important post with a demanding workload. A full-time residential position, it is based at Bank headquarters in London.

The Minister’s nominee is expected to be appointed by the EBRD, with the agreement of Ireland’s Constituency partner countries, for a three-year term from 1 August 2024.

Minister McGrath commented:

“This is an exciting opportunity to represent Ireland (and our Constituency partners Denmark, Lithuania and Kosovo) as a Director on the Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development overseeing the policy-making and governance of the Bank. The EBRD is a unique International Financial Institution supporting projects across three continents. By investing in projects which otherwise would not be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and sustainable market economies. I am keen to ensure our Irish representative has the ability, education, vision, and experience to make a significant contribution to the Board and brings a range of skills and diverse perspective to the deliberations of the Board.

My nominee will need high competence in economic and financial matters. Expertise can come from notable or significant achievements in the corporate or financial sector, academia, policy-focused institutions, or public service. Importantly, they will have the highest ethical standards, a strong sense of professionalism and commitment, and dedication to serving the interests of all the shareholders and be able to make themself readily available to the Board in the fulfilment of their duties.”

Expressions of interest will be accepted up to 3pm on 27th March 2024

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Council adopts regulation on instant payments





The Council adopted today a regulation that will make instant payments fully available in euro to consumers and businesses in the EU and in EEA countries.

The new rules will improve the strategic autonomy of the European economic and financial sector as they will help reduce any excessive reliance on third-country financial institutions and infrastructures. Improving the possibilities to mobilize cash-flows will bring benefits for citizens and companies and allow for innovative added value services.

The instant payments regulation will allow people to transfer money within ten seconds at any time of the day, including outside business hours, not only within the same country but also to another EU member state. The regulation takes into consideration particularities of non-euro area entities.

Payment service providers such as banks, which provide standard credit transfers in euro, will be required to offer the service of sending and receiving instant payments in euro. The charges that apply (if any) must not be higher than the charges that apply for standard credit transfers.

The new rules will come into force after a transition period that will be faster in the euro area and longer in the non-euro area, that needs more time to adjust.

The regulation grants access for payment and e-money institutions (PIEMIs) to payment systems, by changing the settlement finality Directive (SFD). As a result, these entities will be covered by the obligation to offer the service of sending and receiving instant credit transfers, after a transitional period. The regulation includes appropriate safeguards to ensure that the access of PIEMIs to payment systems doesn’t carry additional risk to the system.

Under the new rules, instant payment providers will need to verify that the beneficiary’s IBAN and name match in order to alert the payer to possible mistakes or fraud before a transaction is made. This requirement will apply to regular transfers too.

The regulation includes a review clause with a requirement for the Commission to present a report containing an evaluation of the development of credit charges.


This initiative comes in the context of the completion of the capital markets union. The capital markets union is the EU’s initiative to create a truly single market for capital across the EU. It aims to get investment and savings flowing across all member states for the benefit of citizens, businesses, and investors.

On 26 October 2022 the Commission put forward a proposal on instant payments that amends and modernises the single euro payments area (SEPA) regulation of 2012 on standard credit transfers in euro by adding to it specific provisions for instant credit transfers in euro.

Source: European Council

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FCA highlights need for enhanced competition in wholesale data markets





The FCA has unveiled the outcomes of its in-depth study into the wholesale data market, focusing on the sectors of credit ratings data, benchmarks, and market data vendor services.

Despite deciding against major regulatory actions due to the risk of unintended consequences that could affect the data’s availability and quality—a crucial resource for global investors—the FCA has pinpointed several areas where competition could be significantly improved.

The study’s revelations indicate that the current state of competition in these markets may lead to users incurring higher costs for data than would be the case in a more competitive environment. This concern is particularly pressing given the critical role that such data plays in supporting effective investment decisions across the financial sector.

In a move to address these findings, the FCA has proposed initiatives aimed at ensuring wholesale data is distributed under fair, reasonable, and transparent conditions. This approach forms a part of the regulator’s broader strategy to ‘repeal and replace’ assimilated EU law, reinforcing the UK’s status as a premier global financial hub fostering investment, innovation, and sustainable growth.

Sheldon Mills, the FCA’s Executive Director of Consumers and Competition, emphasised the importance of quality and accessible wholesale data for the efficiency of financial markets. “The quality and availability of wholesale data is integral to well-functioning wholesale financial markets,” Mills stated. He further clarified, “Our market study found that firms can access the data they need to make effective investment decisions. We do not believe the case has been made for significant interventions. However, we will examine ways to help support wholesale data being provided on fair, reasonable and transparent terms.”

In its commitment to fostering a competitive and fair marketplace, the FCA will continue to scrutinize allegations of anti-competitive behavior across all markets, including wholesale data markets, leveraging its powers under the Competition Act to address any such issues.

Source: Fintech Global


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