The Spanish proposal to crack down on dangerous walking by reclassifying pedestrians as ‘users of the road’ is the latest salvo in an old turf war between cars and the people they hit
Guardian.com–Drunk tourists staggering down Spanish streets at night might need to pay more attention this summer. In a crackdown on dangerous walking, Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic plans to introduce breathalyser tests for pedestrians. They also suggest introducing an off-road speed limit for joggers. The proposals, buried among other road safety suggestions, would give pedestrians responsibilities akin to drivers – and ought to inspire other new laws in their footsteps.
Might we see other similar laws follow on their heels? Shortsighted people could be charged for leaving the house without their glasses, for instance. Walking and texting (and the associated crime of “moving like a robot”, as one Australian study described the result) might see you fined. You could get a ticket for wearing any clothing that is eye-catching enough to distract drivers – something Rome already gamely tried to introduce in its aborted 2008 miniskirt ban.
News Yahoo.com, Barcelona (AFP)–Specialising in forgotten literary gems and little-known writers, small independent publishers are flourishing in Spain while the big houses are forced to merge to survive. In one of the paradoxes of Spain’s recent economic crisis and the digital revolution, small “guerrilla” publishers are sprouting in the gaps as the big guns manoeuvre. Among the new players is Jan Martí, a 33-year-old philosophy graduate who founded Blackie Books in late 2009 in Barcelona, the hub of Spanish publishing. That was just when the crisis was at its height and the rise of e-books was shaking up the traditional publishing industry.
“At first people said we were crazy or suicidal,” he said with a smile. “They would invite me to book fairs so they could see the weirdo who still believed in the future of print.” From a roomy attic overlooking the Bohemian Gracia district, he has so far published 70 books, from US counterculture novels to children’s stories to self-help guides. Martí was working for another publisher when he fell in love with a manuscript. He secured the rights to publish it himself and his publishing venture was born. That first title was “Things the Grandchildren Should Know”, a memoir by Mark Oliver Everett, the lead singer of US rock group Eels. It sold 30,000 copies — not bad for a small, first-time publisher. Martí took on four more staff.
ABC News.go.com–U.N. human rights experts on Monday urged Spain’s Senate to reject two proposed bills, saying they threaten fundamental rights and freedoms. The five experts issued a statement expressing concern about the Public Security Law and the Penal Code projects and called on Spain to take steps to guarantee fundamental rights and public freedoms. The statement, issued in Geneva, said the Public Security Law, which it referred to as the “gag law,” violates the very essence of the right to assembly. The bill proposes the summary expulsion of migrants caught entering the country’s North African enclaves illegally and hefty fines for protests outside parliament buildings and strategic installations.
The experts echoed criticism by Spanish opposition parties and rights groups that the bill is an attempt by the conservative government to muzzle protests over its handling of the economic crisis. Maina Kiai, U.N. special expert on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, said the reform “unnecessarily and disproportionately restricts basic freedoms such as the collective exercise of the right to freedom of opinion.” In reference to the North African enclaves, the statement said the reform could pave the way for on-the-spot deportation of people at risk of torture, contrary to international human rights.
Guardian.com–Spain’s gastronomic maridaje – the marriage of food and wine – is a definite threesome in Jerez de la Frontera, where all life is fuelled by sherry and tapas, but marches to a flamenco beat. The annual flamenco festival is its peak – not only for larger ticketed events, but also for free performances in thepeñas (social clubs), tabancos (old-style bars), and late at night in the plazas. In fact, all the city’s many festivals and ferias are accompanied by a flurry of flamenco activity – it’s just that, rather frustratingly, it’s not easy to sweep in and locate it.
Several of the tabancos actually have regular, scheduled events (and flyers for one-offs elsewhere). Best-known, and popular with locals and tourists, is Tabanco el Pasaje (C/Santa María 8) where guitarist and singer face the cramped bustle from Thursdays to Sundays. Another good option is Tabanco el Guitarrón de San Pedro (C/Bizcocheros 16) with performances on Saturday afternoons, participation flamenco on Sunday nights and, amazingly given the tight space, a cadre (guitars, singing and dancing) on Thursday nights.
Business Times.com–Spanish five-star hotels are serving up white rice for breakfast as Spain offers quicker visas and seeks more direct flights from China to tap into the surging wave of Chinese tourists. When Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited China in September, he announced that visa applications from the country’s travellers would be processed within 48 hours. The government is also in talks with Asian airlines to boost traffic through Madrid’s underused airport by offering reduced fees and promoting Spain as a hub for travel to Latin America.
So far only one airline, Air China, offers direct flights between Spain and China seven times a week. In contrast, Italy has 28 direct weekly flights to China, France has 70 and Germany 87. While Chinese travellers usually visit several countries during a trip to Europe, they are unlikely to include Spain if they land in another country because of its geographic location, said University of London lecturer Keven Lathan, author of a book on Chinese tourism in Europe. “Spain’s location is less central. You have to add two to three days to make it feasible. There is not much you can do about it,” he said at a recent tourism fair in Madrid.
A history of the first head-on collision between Europe’s major conflicting ideologies
Economist.com–The Spanish civil war, which began in 1936, three years before the second world war, was far more than a local scrap between reactionary Roman Catholic traditionalists and domestic left-wingers of multiple shades. To say it was the Vietnam, Korea or Afghanistan of its time is to sell it short. Yet the global war that followed drowned out the echoes of what was, in effect, one of its principal opening acts.
Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer prize-winning American popular historian, reminds readers that this was an international war from the start. Hitler and Mussolini made decisive contributions of arms and men to the future dictator, General Francisco Franco, a man who boasted of preferring blood and bayonets to “hypocritical elections”. Stalin, with less enthusiasm, backed the republic, while the Soviet-controlled Comintern channelled communism’s global ambitions. The most shameful absence was of the eventual victors in the 20th century’s long war of ideologies—the fence-sitting liberal democracies led by Britain, France and America that failed to support an elected republican government against Franco’s military rebels, thereby emboldening their backers.
Emma Anderson writes for Independent.co.uk–Sitting in Zaldiaran, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the owner, Gonzalo Antón, is talking about a “crisis” in the Spanish restaurant scene. “Everything has changed. These days it’s trendy to go out and have five different pintxos with two types of wine, so people don’t come to this type of restaurant as much,” he says. “Look at [chef] Martin Berasategui – he has seven Michelin stars, but if you go to his restaurants, you’ll still find a seat.” Antón may be right – and certainly the days of booking a year in advance for restaurants like El Bulli are gone – but it looks like the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz will roll with the punches. The capital of the southern Basque region of Alava has long been in the shadows of showier San Sebastian and Bilbao, but it’s quietly been building up its credentials as a destination in its own right.
Food has played a major part in that. This year it steps into the limelight as Spain’s Gastronomy Capital (a national award judged by culinary leaders), and it’s a role it wears rather well. Vitoria (as it is usually abbreviated) spirals out from its old quarters – known as the Medieval Almond – which sit prettily on a hill.
British chef, restauranteur and culinary correspondent extraordinaire, Rick Stein, is back with more research into Spanish cuisine and customs. Stein’s appeal in his Spanish work–and everywhere else he visits–is that his programs are based on what real local people eat, which is usually the best that a country has to offer. This is an hour long video, so turn off the tele, put the image on full screen and learn to travel Spain creatively and to cook salt cod the way the Spanish do it.
Just a year after its founding, it’s the country’s leading party
The Nation.com–If the current poll numbers hold, Spain’s next prime minister will be Pablo Iglesias, a pony-tailed 36-year-old political scientist who cut his teeth in the Communist Youth and the anti-globalization movement—but whose party, Podemos, wants “to change the rules of the political game,” Iglesias told the journalist Jacobo Rivero. Left and right, he added, are metaphors that are no longer “useful in political terms”: “the fundamental divide now [is] between oligarchy and democracy, between a social majority and a privileged minority.” Or, as Podemos likes to put it, between la gente and la casta, the people and the caste.
Podemos was founded only a year ago and, in May, it stunned Spain’s political establishment by winning five seats in the European Parliament (1.25 million votes, nearly 8 percent). In many respects, the party—whose name translates as “We can”—is the Spanish sibling of Greece’s Syriza. Central to its still-evolving platform is a broad set of economic-stimulus measures that buck the European obsession with austerity as the only way out of the continent’s economic crisis. Among other things, Podemos proposes a restructuring of the national debt, a “deprivatization” of essential services such as healthcare and energy, and a form of universal basic income that would provide a road back into Spain’s anemic economy for the millions of unemployed—officially nearly 24 percent of the workforce, and as high as 54 percent among those 18 to 25.
Curious about the Spanish economic crisis? This Wikipedia article will bring you quickly up to date. One of the most egregious consequences of the recession is the 50% youth unemployment rate.
Wikipedia.org–The Great Recession in Spain began in 2008 during the world financial crisis of 2007–08. In 2012 it made Spain a late participant in the European sovereign debt crisis when the country was unable to bailout its financial sector and had to apply for a €100 billion rescue package provided by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The main cause of Spain’s crisis was its enormous housing bubble and the accompanying artificial and unsustainably high GDP growth rate. One side effect was that ballooning tax revenues (from the artificially high GDP growth rate) concealed the Spanish government’s expenditures, which were unsustainably high, until 2007. The Spanish government supported the critical development by relaxing supervision of the financial sector and thereby allowing the banks to violate International Accounting Standards Board standards. So the banks in Spain were able to hide losses and earnings volatility, mislead regulators, analysts, and investors, and thereby finance the Spanish real estate bubble. The results of the crisis were devastating for Spain, including a strong economic downturn, a severe increase in unemployment, and bankruptcies of major companies.