Good seabird news from Spain


This video is about Látrabjarg seabird colony in western Iceland.

From BirdLife:

Great step forward for seabirds in Spain

By Elodie Cantaloube, Tue, 22/07/2014 – 16:17

Spanish landmark legislation increases 20-fold marine protected areas

Spain has officially established 39 new marine protection areas. The new sites are ‘Special Protection Areas for Birds’ (SPAs), designated under the European Birds Directive. The SPAs will offer protection to seabirds whilst they are at sea, complementing the existing network of sites on land.

Spain, with its Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines and islands, is extremely important for European seabirds. This includes Europe’s most threatened seabird – Balearic Shearwater, and other species endemic to the Mediterranean, such as the Yelkouan Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull.

The announcement is the culmination of many years of hard work by BirdLife’s Spanish Partner SEO/BirdLife, who has played a major role in this process: each of the 39 sites closely mirrors the Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas identified by the organisation, following nearly a decade of scientific research.

Previously, Spain’s network of protected sites for seabirds was made up mostly of small sites at colonies and along coasts and islands. These sites mostly protect seabirds whilst on land, but do not protect them in the environment where they spend the majority of their time: out at sea. These new sites, many of which are large in size, and include areas offshore, will add an additional 50,000km2 to Spain’s protected area network for birds, a whopping 20-fold increase.

“The announcement is extremely important”, said Asunción Ruiz, Director of SEO/BirdLife “Now seabirds can be protected when they venture away from the Spanish coast. Carefully managed, these sites could make a real difference to the recovery of our threatened seabirds.”

The ground work carried out by SEO/BirdLife to identify these sites, involved many years of research tracking seabirds and understanding their behaviour at sea. The information on Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas is collated on BirdLife’s Marine E-Atlas. Across Europe, these sites act as a ‘shadow list’ of sites which should be protected under EU law.

“It is extremely promising that Spain has moved to designate offshore sites and it is imperative for seabird conservation that other countries in Europe follow their example”, added Marguerite Tarzia, European Marine Conservation Officer at BirdLife “the addition of these sites means that Spain has gone from lagging behind other EU countries, to being one of the regional leaders in seabird protection at sea. It is important that the next steps include strong and effective management of sites, to ensure that the positive gains made today are followed through for real conservation outcomes.”

London solidarity with Spanish women


This video from Belgium is called Thousands protest in Brussels on planned anti-abortion law in Spain.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Human rights group targets Spanish embassy over abortion Bill

Saturday 28th June 2014

HUMAN rights activists descended on the Spanish embassy yesterday in protest at the right-wing Madrid government’s plan to roll back abortion rights.

Dozens of campaigners from My Belly is Mine have taken action against Spain’s anti-abortion draft Bill discussed in the country’s parliament on Friday.

This video from London, England says about itself:

British Spanish Society Reception at Spanish Embassy, London Wednesday 25th of July

On Wednesday the 25th of June, 2014, the Spanish Ambassador in London, Federico Trillo, hosted a reception for the British Spanish Society. We turned up uninvited alongside direct action feminist group Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the Spanish Women’s Assembly from the 15M movement in London. We wanted to remind the ambassador, his guests and passersby that the rights of women are under serious threat in Spain.

The Morning Star article continues:

“Women have fought for their rights with great spirit and determination,” said one of the organisers Jade Hope. “For their rights to now be taken away from them is a disgrace.”

The campaign has emphasised how almost 50,000 women die after unsafe and regulated abortions every year across the globe.

Ms Hope added that abortions should be exclusively a woman’s choice.

“No one else has the right to impact on such a tough decision and the Spanish government thinking they can is to deny human rights,” she said.

Women’s rights activists in Britain stood alongside protesters in Berlin, Vienna and Lisbon in solidarity with Spanish women.

Neanderthals ate vegetables, new research says


This video is called Neanderthals Decoded (full documentary).

From PLOS One:

The Neanderthal Meal: A New Perspective Using Faecal Biomarkers

Ainara Sistiaga, Carolina Mallol, Bertila Galván, Roger Everett Summons

Published: June 25, 2014

Abstract

Neanderthal dietary reconstructions have, to date, been based on indirect evidence and may underestimate the significance of plants as a food source. While zooarchaeological and stable isotope data have conveyed an image of Neanderthals as largely carnivorous, studies on dental calculus and scattered palaeobotanical evidence suggest some degree of contribution of plants to their diet.

However, both views remain plausible and there is no categorical indication of an omnivorous diet.

Here we present direct evidence of Neanderthal diet using faecal biomarkers, a valuable analytical tool for identifying dietary provenance. Our gas chromatography-mass spectrometry results from El Salt (Spain), a Middle Palaeolithic site dating to ca. 50,000 yr. BP, represents the oldest positive identification of human faecal matter. We show that Neanderthals, like anatomically modern humans, have a high rate of conversion of cholesterol to coprostanol related to the presence of required bacteria in their guts.

Analysis of five sediment samples from different occupation floors suggests that Neanderthals predominantly consumed meat, as indicated by high coprostanol proportions, but also had significant plant intake, as shown by the presence of 5β-stigmastanol. This study highlights the applicability of the biomarker approach in Pleistocene contexts as a provider of direct palaeodietary information and supports the opportunity for further research into cholesterol metabolism throughout human evolution.

Spanish republicans organize referendum on monarchy


This video is called Spaniards insist: ‘Referendum now’.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Spanish activists launch street referendum over future of monarchy

Unofficial poll in days before coronation of Prince Felipe will ask Spaniards if they want an elected head of state

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

Friday 13 June 2014 11.23 BST

Emboldened by the tens of thousands of Spaniards who have taken to the streets to demand a say in the future of Spain‘s monarchy, activist groups have announced they will be holding their own referendum in the five days leading up to the coronation of Prince Felipe.

The idea came about on the night King Juan Carlos announced his abdication, after an estimated 20,000 people dressed in the red, yellow and purple of the former Spanish republic descended upon the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid calling for an end to the monarchy.

“It seems absurd to us that in a democracy nobody is asking the citizens if they want a monarchy or a republic,” said Kike Castelló of ¡Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!), one of the dozen or so collectives involved in organising the referendum.

The referendum will begin on Saturday morning and run until 19 June, the day of the coronation. About 60 polling stations staffed by volunteers will be set up along major streets in cities across the country, with voting also taking place online.

A recent poll for El País found that 62% of Spaniards believe a referendum on the monarchy should be held “at some point”. Nearly half, said the poll, would prefer a monarchy headed by Felipe, while 36% would support a republic.

Participants will be asked to answer yes or no to two questions: whether they agree that the head of Spain should be elected and if they agree that a constitutional process should be opened so that citizens can decide how the Spanish state is governed.

“We just want people to express their opinion – whether it’s for a monarchy or for a republic. We want to hear what Spaniards want for their country,” said Castelló.

He brushed aside concerns about the legality of the referendum. “Asking people for their thoughts isn’t illegal,” he said, pointing to a line in the Spanish constitution that stipulates that “transcendent decisions can be put to a consultative referendum”.

Under Spanish law, he added, permission is not needed for this kind of initiative. The only obligation is that those setting up polling stations notify the delegate from the central government in the region. The necessary forms are provided on the group’s website, he said.

Measures are being put into place to avoid people voting more than once, said Eduardo Robles Elvira, who is working on the technical aspects of the poll. Independent organisations are being recruited to monitor and tally the results. “We’re doing all of this so that it’s the most transparent and legitimate referendum possible,” he said.

The group has yet to decide what exactly they will do with the results, said Castelló. “We know that the government isn’t going to say, ‘hey, look how many people want a republic, let’s do that.” He said he saw the effort to take the pulse of the streets as more symbolic than anything else. “We want people to realise that it’s possible for us to have a say in how our country is run.”

The plebiscite is open to Spaniards living anywhere in the world, and a group in Paris has signed up to host a polling station on the streets of the French capital. “Spaniards are the ones who will be affected by this monarchy. If you want one as well for the British, we can organise one for your Queen,” Castelló joked. “But that might seem a bit weird.”

More than 85% of the Spanish parliament on Wednesday voted to move forward with the law that will pave the way for the crown to be handed from King Juan Carlos to Prince Felipe. The law will now move to the Spanish senate where it is expected to be approved early next week.

As leftist deputies waved signs calling for a referendum, Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, defended the monarchy during the debate, saying: “Spain is a parliamentary monarchy with deep roots because Spaniards want it to be so.”

Football World Cup, Dutch and Spanish fans’ songs, and history


This music video from the Netherlands is the song De Zilvervloot (starting about 0:30 after the start of the video). It is a nineteenth century song about seventeenth century Dutch admiral Piet Hein, who captured the treasure fleet with the silver being transported from South America to Spain in 1628.

Tonight in Brazil, the 2014 football world cup will start with a match between the host country and Croatia. Tomorrow, Spain, one of the favourite teams, and the Netherlands, not one of the favourite teams, will play each other. One of the songs Dutch fans will sing probably then is De Zilvervloot, about Piet Hein.

The subject of the song is from the time when the Dutch Republic was at war to become independent from the Spanish monarchy. Fortunately, today Spain and the Netherlands don’t wage war against each other; they just play football. There is more chance of worsening conflict between Spain and Britain about Gibraltar; and between the Spanish monarchy plus political establishment and most Spanish people who want a choice between monarchy and republic in a referendum.

The Dutch-Spanish 1568-1648 war, the eighty years war, is remembered much more often in the Netherlands than in Spain.

One reason why quite some Spaniards still remember that war is famous seventeenth century painter Diego Velázquez.

This video, in Spanish is called Las Lanzas (La Rencición de Breda), about a famous Velázquez painting.

The painting is known in English as The Surrender of Breda. Its subject is the conquest of the Dutch city Breda by Genoese-Spanish general Ambrogio Spinola, in 1625. Velázquez finished the painting in 1635. Two years later, in 1637, Breda was recaptured by the Dutch republic, and in 1648 it was finally ceded by Spain by the Treaty of Westphalia.

Back from war and painting to football and music. Spanish football teams, like teams in other countries, sometimes have musicians among their fans in stadiums. One of the songs they play is Valencia.

This music video is Valencia, by composer Padilla. Like the Dutch Zilvervloot song, played in a concert hall; not on football bleachers.

In Valencia city there is also a well-known football club, with a bat in its coat of arms.

Coat of arms of Valencia with bat

The city has also a bat in its coat of arms.

According to legend, the bat is in the coat of arms because a bat helped a medieval king of Aragon win a battle. Which reminds me of a Central American Mayan legend about the resplendent quetzal bird.

Which takes me back to Costa Rica; also one of the football teams present at the World Cup in Brazil.

World Cup: Africa Firmly Behind Its Teams: here.

Spanish pro-republic demonstrations again


Spanish demonstrators with slogan No more kings, referendum! Photo by Jessica van Spengen / NOS

From AFP news agency:

Thousands join republican march in Spain

June 8, 2014, 5:38 am

Madrid – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday to demand a referendum to abolish Spain’s monarchy, just days after King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son.

“Spain, tomorrow, will be republican,” they chanted, waving the red, purple and gold flags of the country’s second republic, proclaimed in 1931 then overthrown eight years later by General Francisco Franco at the end of the country’s catastrophic civil war.

It was only a few hours after the 76-year-old king announced his abdication on June 2 that a wave of republicanism spread across the country.

On Saturday, dozens of left-wing political parties and citizens organisations came together to demand “A referendum now!” on the future of the monarchy.

Forty-six-year-old Crown Prince Felipe is due to be coronated, probably on June 19, in a joint session of parliament, whose members, both in the ruling party and in opposition, overwhelmingly support the monarchy.

But a spate of scandals over the past three years have caused a dramatic drop in the monarchy’s popularity, which has also been hit by the general loss of faith in Spain’s institutions that has accompanied its economic crisis.

Those feelings were evident in the results of the European Parliament elections on May 25 which saw a collapse in support for the two traditional parties.

Among the insurgent new left-wing parties was Podemos, a new party that emerged from the “Indignants” protest movement of 2011.

“We want to give a voice to the people. Why is it a problem to organise a referendum? Why is it a problem to give Spaniards the right to decide their future?” asked one of the party’s leaders, Pablo Iglesias.

“If the People’s Party and Socialist party think that Felipe has the confidence of the citizens, he should submit to a referendum,” Iglesias said.

The republican wave has mostly engulfed the young, who were not around when Juan Carlos took the throne on November 22, 1975. It was two days after Franco’s death and the young king oversaw a dramatic period of transition to democracy.

In announcing his abdication, Juan Carlos said he hoped for a “renewal” of the monarchy.

Crowned in November 1975 after the death of Franco, Juan Carlos won wide respect for his role in building modern Spain.

But a corruption scandal struck his family in 2011 at the height of an economic crisis and undermined his popularity.

The following year he sparked fresh outrage by hunting elephants in Botswana while ordinary Spaniards struggled through a recession.

Years of economic crisis “have awakened in us a desire for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes and open the way to a decidedly better future,” the king said in a televised address.

“Today a younger generation deserves to step into the front line, with new energies,” he said.

Although Felipe has been spared the opprobrium that has engulfed his father, he faces a daunting task in rebuilding the legitimacy of the crown.

A poll conducted by the El Pais newspaper showed yesterday that most Spaniards want a say on the royals. Nearly two-thirds called for a vote on whether to ditch the monarchy and return to its much-loved republican aspirations: here. And here.

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US army killing of Spanish cameraman in Iraq investigated


This video from the USA is called Leaked Cables: US Pressured Spain to Drop Case of Journalist Killed in Army Attack in Baghdad 1 of 2.

And this video is the sequel.

From Al Jazeera:

Spain can probe camer[a]man’s killing by US tank

Spanish court rules criminal investigation into killing of Jose Couso by a US tank shell in Iraq in 2003 can be pursued.

Last updated: 07 Jun 2014 10:27

Spain’s High Court has ruled that a criminal investigation into the killing of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso by a US tank shell in Iraq in 2003 can be pursued, despite a new law placing limits on judicial powers in international cases.

Judicial authorities have sought the arrest and questioning of three US soldiers accused of involvement in Couso’s death.

Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed by the shell that crashed into a Baghdad hotel.

A law passed by Spain’s centre-right government in March curbed the powers of judges to prosecute human rights cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The High Court must now rule on the legality of all pending cases one by one.

Cases now must be dismissed if they do not meet the new legal requirements that those accused of alleged human rights abuses must themselves be Spanish citizens.

Despite the alleged perpetrators of Couso’s death not being Spanish, the High Court ruled on Friday that the case could be continued under terms of the Geneva Convention, which defines the rights and protection afforded to civilians in war zones.

In November 2004, a US Defence Department report stated that US forces bore “no fault or negligence” in the shelling of the hotel, where about 100 international journalists were staying at the time.

Pinochet arrest

Universal jurisdiction, the principle that crimes such as genocide and torture are so serious they can be prosecuted across borders, was pioneered by Spain in 1985.

It led to the detention in London of the former Chilean military ruler General Augusto Pinochet in 1998 through an arrest warrant issued from Spain.

“It’s been said that when people could not find justice, they came to Spain,” said European University of Madrid law professor Nieves Noval.

He said about 13 cases in areas from El Salvador to Rwanda were being processed in Spanish courts.

However, China, Israel and the United States have all bristled at Spanish judicial investigations into allegations of genocide, rights abuses or war crimes.

Critics say this led to the tightening of the law to prevent diplomatic disputes.

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