Tuesday, December 27, 2011

X-mas interview on ABC Radio Australia

I was interviewed again on Christmas Day for an early morning radio audience in Australia. I told them how we do it here, how others do it here and how it isn't done at all.

Amongst a few other more important things, I mentioned the importance of volunteers and how hospitals are increasingly giving patients so-called "informative invoices" to show how much their 'free' operation would cost if it had to be paid for directly.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

200,000 reasons to join the protests

The Catalan government continues to provide an ugly model for the new Spanish PP government when it comes to ways to cut services and public servants work conditions.

This week thousands of public servants took to the streets of Catalonia on Wednesday to protest upcoming cuts that will affect over 200,000 people and save regional coffers around 625 million euros.

These include pay reductions and fewer social benefits for workers, such as six vacation days for personal matters rather than nine, no more government contributions to the workers' pension fund, and no more restaurant coupons for personnel.

In the city of Girona, three of the fifty teritary students who confronted Catalan President Mas about university cuts were arrested.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

If you are Spanish and reading this…then you are probably a man

Latest news: women in this country have better things to do (or at least other things) than using the Internet.

Read more here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mini-jobs for mini-pay

The faceless, unelected of the European Central Bank (ECB) have told the new Prime Minister-elect Mariano Rajoy what to do and he will happily do as they say.

The ECB wants wage cuts and the creation of "mini-jobs" to address the issue of youth unemployment in exchange for buying Spanish government bonds. These "mini-jobs" would pay salaries below the minimum wage, which in Spain is 541 euros a month.

Rajoy told union leaders that he would also use the letter from the ECB as a road map for policies aimed at ensuring that Spain remains in the vanguard of the euro zone.

Just the latest step in turning the Euro zone into a low-wage zone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A hole in the wall for Barcelona’s unwanted babies

Up until only a few years before the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s…

Hiding inconspicuously in the heart of El Raval is a small wooden inlet that was once attached to the House of Mercy. Although it looks like ornamentation, or a small shrine of sorts, the inlet was in fact a rotating wooden, turntable used to anonymously drop off donations for the church, including unwanted infants.

Originally founded in the late 16th century, the building at 17 Ramelleres became an orphanage in the 19th century. Like many other orphanages and convents at the time, a main feature of the building was its wooden turntable, which allowed the destitute to place their babies on it and anonymously spin them into the arms of a staff member inside the home.

Active from 1853-1931, the turntable saw hundreds of babies come through its portal into the orphanage. Other donations were occasionally dropped off including money and groceries, but mostly, babies were left by parents that did not or could not take care of them. Today, a small wooden inlet is the only remnant of Barcelona's walk-up orphanage and baby drop-off.

[Source: here.]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Spanish literature prize goes to 94-year-old 15-M protestors' role model

It takes two 90-year-old men to show the doubters that the protests across Spain and Europe are not just young people complaining.

A 94-year-old writer, economist and humanist...José Luis Sampedro is this year's winner of the National Literature Prize because of his defense of a "more human, more caring economy that is able to help develop people's dignity."

Sampedro, who says the terms "productivity, competitiveness and innovation" should be replaced with "distribution, cooperation and recreation," has turned into an intellectual and moral role model for the members of the 15-M movement (which inspired Occupy Wall Street and other social protests across the globe). The nonagenarian author and thinker gained recent notoriety among a younger audience by writing the foreword for the now-famous protest essay, Time for Outrage! by [Nazi concentration-camp survivor] Stéphane Hessel, also 94 years old.

[Photo of José Luis Sampedro by ULY MARTÍN, El País.]

Paying homage to the Catalan singer Serrat

An interesting new musical release this week, some of the biggest names in flamenco have collaborated to honour the great Joan Manuel Serrat.

"Cantares" (You will sing) gets it's title from one of the most emblematic songs of this singer-songwriter and includes such luminaries as fellow-Catalan Mayte Martin, Jose Mercé, Carmen Linares, Josemi Carmona, Tomatito and Enrique Melcho.