Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Franco did for the Holocaust

The reality wasn’t just that the dictator’s propaganda was entirely untrue. He had in fact been very tempted to play his part in resolving the “Jewish problem in Europe.”

At the end of World War II, Franco largely succeeded in convincing the world that he had contributed to saving thousands of Jews from extermination at the hands of the Nazis.

Thanks to the patient work of a Jewish journalist, Jacobo Israel Garzón, the only document addressing the issue that still survives has surfaced in the National Archive’s collection. It was originally issued by the regional government of Zaragoza. It has since been published in the history magazine Raíces. This is the story behind it
[in Spanish from El Pais.]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sant Juan: un noche cuando...

Una cosa que me chocó poco después de venirme a vivir aquí fue que muchos padres españoles están demasiado viciados con dejar que sus hijos jueguen con petardos. Personalmente, en mi primera celebración de la verbena de San Juan, fui testigo de un caso bien desagradable.

Un niño de (entonces) 5 años, amigo de mi hijo, había estado jugando con petardos solo durante varias horas, con muy poca supervisión directa por parte de sus padres. Este niño estaba muy cerca de una pequeña hoguera que ardía en la plaza donde estábamos, y lanzó algún petardo dentro. Tal y como era de esperar, éste explosionó, hiriendo a una niña que estaba cerca además de herirle a él mismo la cara y los ojos. Mi mujer tuvo la suficiente presencia de ánimo como para echarle agua en los ojos; se lo llevaron rápidamente a un hospital para que recibiera tratamiento.

Si lo tuviéramos que juzgar únicamente por el tamaño de la explosión que salió del fuego, yo diría que el niño fue muy afortunado de no haber sufrido daños permanentes en el ojo. (Quizá el único resultado positivo que podemos extraer de ello es que nuestro hijo, al ver lo que le pasó a su amigo, todavía tiene miedo de los petardos años después de que sucediese).

Otra persona que comparte estas preocupaciones es Juan Pedro Barret, jefe de la unidad de quemados del hospital Vall d’Hebron de Barcelona. El doctor Barret está cansado de ver heridas causadas por el mal uso de los petardos, entre las que se incluye la necesidad de amputar dedos, manos o pies.

Él cree que la noche de San Juan es una de las peores que te pueden tocar de guardia en el departamento de urgencias. Según él, hay un flujo constante de personas heridas, pero que, desde que se introdujeron medidas de seguridad a mediados de los años noventa, el número de heridos graves ha descendido ligeramente.

En una votación (entre 2165 personas) que llevó a cabo el periódico El País, el 70% estaban de acuerdo en que se establecieran medidas restrictivas en cuanto a la celebración de festivales con pirotecnia debido al peligro.

Sant Juan: An explosive night to remember

One thing that shocked me soon after moving here was that many parents in Spain are quite blasé about letting their children play with fireworks. I personally witnessed a very nasty example of this at our first Sant Juan’s Day celebrations.

A (then 5 year old) friend of my son’s had been allowed to play with firecrackers by himself for several hours and with little direct supervision by his parents. This boy was standing very close to a small bonfire in the square where we were and he threw some kind of cracker into. As was likely, it exploded, injuring a girl nearby as well as damaging this boy’s face and eyes. My wife had the presence of mind to throw water in his eyes and he was rushed screaming to a hospital for treatment.

Judging purely from the size of the blast from the fire, I would say the boy was quite fortunate to have not suffered permanent eye damage. (Perhaps the only pleasing result from that is that because our son also saw this happen to his friend, he still has a strong fear of firecrackers years after the event.)

Another who shares these concerns is Juan Pedro Barret, the head of the burns unit at the Vall d'Hebron hospital in Barcelona. Doctor Barret is fed up of seeing injuries caused by the misuse of fireworks, including the need for hands, fingers and feet to be amputated.

He believes that the night of Sant Juan is always one of the worst times to have to be on duty in the accident and emergency department. According to him there is a constant flow of injured people but that after the mid-nineties when safety measures improved the number of those seriously harmed has decreased somewhat.

In one El Pais newspaper poll (of 2165 people) 70% supported the placement of restrictions on festivals with fireworks due to danger.

Please let me know what you think…

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oil and water don't mix

This November will mark 8 years since the devastating oil spill on the coast of Spain’s Galicia region.

This linked image represents the size of the current catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico as if it had happened across the Barcelona region.

Mean while, speaking about the disaster President Obama does little more in this video than make an appeal to some higher power, saying: “And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.”

It is no longer "Yes, we can!" It is: "Maybe The All-mighty can..."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Coming to a town near you! Some of the world’s most powerful people…

There were some particularly “special visitors” to the beach town of Sitges (where I work part-time) earlier this month.

As usual, the elite Bilderberg group went to extreme lengths to avoid any publicity and equally extreme lengths to make sure that the agreements made in these meetings remained secret.

What would be worse? If high powered decision makers did get together to make high powered decisions, or if they didn’t meet at all?

It’s not difficult to conclude that the world financial crisis would be even worse is if there had not been some kind of international co-ordination behind it.

But how is it that these public figures can get away without any explanation of the results of these discussions? It took the publication of a guest list in an article by Victor González in the leftist Extremadura Progresista to alert world media to the existence of this year’s annual event.

If there is any truth to the suggestion that the Bildberbergers are not just a think tank, and that they in fact exist to ensure that the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful due to the labour of millions of poorer working folk, then we should know a lot more about this.

It is seems likely to me that the powerful do not just waste their time talking about ideas. These 7 Spaniards and 63 others would not give up their days to simply gasbag with each other (as the group has been doing every year since 1954) if there was not some exercising of heavy power that came from it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An idea whose time has come

Finally, someone with (at least a bit of) power has spoken out with a logical proposal to make irresponsible greed in the finance world more difficult.

The EU internal market commissioner [and politician] Michel Barnier stated recently that to prevent future financial crises, there should be a network of national funds should be introduced so the cost of bank failures are not met by the taxpayer.

But as one commentator argues, the big problem with this (and similar) proposals is that it fails to tackle the problem of 'moral hazard', whereby banks take excessive risks, knowing that they have the protection of a safety-net. Indeed, by reducing the consequences of excessive risk-taking, these bail-out funds could have the opposite effect to that intended.

I believe there must first be a way to ensure that any new levies are not simply passed on to consumers in the form of higher fees or in-built secretive charges.

Similar measures have also been put forward to restrict European hedge funds and this is also a step in the right direction.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Spanish mother speaks about her son surviving Israel's deadly boat raid

I am David Segarra’s mother. It is 5am, June 2, and I wake up in Valencia learning that all the kidnapped victims in Israel have been freed, including my son.

I don’t harbor any hard feelings toward Israel at this time. And it isn’t because of some noble or religious cause but purely egotistical reasons.

Hate destroys, and Israel is showing a good example of this. I don’t want to detail the personal hell that I have gone through these past few days. It would be ridiculous to compare it to what Palestinian mothers go through each day. I am fortunate because my son David has survived the massacre aboard the Mavi Marmara and will be coming home safe and sound.

The Israeli soldiers may have destroyed his only lethal weapon: a video camera. But they forget that human beings have eyes, ears and mouths to tell the world of the horrors they have witnessed.
— Cristina Soler Crespo. Valencia. [From a letter to El Pais.]