Eurasian nuthatch in Spain


This 2 February 2019 shows an Eurasian nuthatch in Spain. Featuring a blue tit.

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Spanish Francoist neofascists VOX and their opponents


This 4 December 2018 video from Spain says about itself:

Thousands of demonstrators swept through Seville on Monday night after the far-right Vox party won 12 seats in regional elections. Protesters forced their way inside the city’s university before marching on the official seat of the Andalusian government. A number of spontaneous demonstrations have been held in key cities across the region, including Granada and Malaga.

On 19 January 2019, Dutch daily NRC published a report by Koen Greven on Spanish extreme right party VOX. Its title is, translated, ‘Right-wing machos fight leftist achievements‘.

The article says VOX is based on nostalgia for the (Franco dictatorship) past. Translated:

A Spain where abortion was illegal, no gay marriages took place, bullfighting was not questioned, migrants played no significant role and the Catalans were oppressed.

Greven interviewed political science professor Fernando Vallespín of the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid. According to Vallespín, VOX differs from some xenophobic parties in other European countries as they are not anti-European Union at all.

VOX in Andalusia say they will continue to demand deportation of 50,000 immigrants from the region.

In recent weeks, the anti-immigration party, also opposed to feminism, has been massively protested against in virtually all major cities. The party refuses to endorse a widely supported pact on combating domestic violence and sexual aggression against women. In Seville, the capital of Andalusia, last Tuesday a crowd of angry women tried in vain to prevent the parliamentarians of Vox from being appointed. They waved banners and called for the departure of “the fascists of Vox“.

The women are afraid that the right to abortion or gay marriage will be threatened again. “We do not want those Vox fascists in our parliament. they want to take away the rights that we have fought for for years”, says Victoria Bautista from the coastal city Cádiz, in front of the parliament building. “LGBTQ people would no longer be able to marry. Migrants would be deported. Women will become outlawed. We live in the 21st century. We will not take a step back. I will always be a socialist and will keep fighting for a better Spain!”

A group of retired socialists, who play bowls in front of Sevilla’s Santa Justa station, attributes part of the rise of Vox to the socialist PSOE. “The last time I did not vote”, Francisco Ortiz admits. The man next to him nods. He did not either. Ortiz: “The socialists have ruled for forty years in Andalusia. That is not good. Then you will get used to power. … Do not get me wrong: Vox is nothing for us at all.”

“We are going to make Spain great again“, says the slogan of Vox party leader Abascal. In a campaign film he drives gallop across an empty prairie. Accompanying text: ‘The Reconquista starts in Andalusia’.

The Reconquista were medieval wars, resulting in the kiling or expulsion of all Muslims and Jews from Spain.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people joined a protest called by Spain’s main right-wing parties in Madrid’s Plaza de Colon. The Popular Party (PP), Citizens, and the far-right Vox party had chartered hundreds of buses to bring right-wing supporters from across Spain, calling to “throw out” social-democratic Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over his talks with the Catalan nationalists. Between 20,000 and 45,000 people attended the protest, listening to speeches from right-wing politicians. Also participating were groups like the neo-Nazi Hogar Social (Social Home); the Spanish Falange; España 2000; and Spain’s main police union, the United Police Union. The role of this last organisation underscores the critical role of the state machine in promoting the protest and the broader rise of neo-fascistic, anti-Catalan agitation: here.

Yesterday, after the show trial of Catalan nationalists began in Madrid, Catalan nationalist legislators declined to support the minority Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) government’s budget. PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s budget failed by 191-158. After meeting with his council of ministers on Friday, he is expected to call elections this spring: here.

Rubens sketch discovered


Newly discovered sketch by Rubens, photo Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Sketch by Peter Paul Rubens discovered

Six people look upwards in worship. They stand between two pillars and in the background an angel looks down on them. An oil sketch with this image that was for sale last year at an art shop in The Hague appears to have been painted by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).

Art historian Emilie den Tonkelaar, working for art dealer Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, first saw the canvas and soon thought that it might be a Rubens. “First and foremost because of the details, we see an incredible expertise in them. But an infrared photograph made by the owner was decisive. Under the painting the word adorans can be read, which means worshipping. Rubens often wrote on a panel the subject of his sketch, so he knew which image it would be.”

The work has been given the name The secular hierarchy in worship. Rubens painted it as a design for a tapestry series he made at the beginning of the 17th century for a Franciscan monastery in Madrid. That is why we do not see where the people so full of worship look at: that is visible on another work. They look at a monstrance, a holder in which a host is exhibited.

The people in the painting are the political protagonists of that time: Emperor Ferdinand II [of the Holy Roman Empire], King Philip IV [of Spain], his wife Elisabeth of France and the sponsor of this series of tapestries, Isabella of Spain.

Biggest project

The tapestry series, Triumph of the Eucharist, according to Rubens expert Friso Lammertse belongs to the most beautiful works of the painter’s oeuvre. “It was one of the biggest projects in the life of Rubens.” Of the series of twenty tapestries, up to now 17 oil sketches were known. The newly discovered sketch is number eighteen. The tapestry series is still visible in the monastery.

Where the canvas has been for all these years before the current owner bought it is not known. “We know that Rubens found these sketches so important that he kept them until his death”, says Den Tonkelaar. “So what has happened after that, we do not know. But that this is happening is incredibly rare, really very special.”

The sketch is not in good condition. It is partially overpainted. … “What we are going to do first is to contact the owner to discuss what he wants to do with it”, says Den Tonkelaar. “At least we will have to think about a realistic value for insurance.”

The newly discovered Rubens sketch

Meanwhile, the Dutch royal family intends to sell a drawing by Rubens at Sotheby’s. Instead of offering it to a Dutch, or Flemish, museum, for a reasonable prize, this masterpiece may now end up in a private collection where the public won’t be able to see it and experts won’t be able to study it.

‘Center’ right-neofascist right coalition in Spain


This 2000 Associated Press video says about itself:

Anti-fascist demonstrators clashed with police in the Spanish capital, Madrid, on Sunday as the country commemorated the 25th anniversary of death of fascist dictator General Franco.

Police baton charged around 2000 protesters in the centre of the city. Elsewhere in Madrid, neo-fascist supporters of the former leader gathered to commemorate the anniversary.

Sunday’s activities followed a remembrance ceremony by some five thousand people the previous night at a Mass at the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen). Franco – who died on November 20, 1975 – had the mausoleum sculpted out of a mountain side near Madrid for his burial place.

Franco became western Europe’s longest reigning dictator this century, ruling Spain with an iron fist after unleashing one of the continent’s bitterest civil wars. But 25 years after his death, the few thousand who joined the memorial ceremonies were further testimony that the vast majority of Spaniards have no desire to cherish his memory.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Spain’s far-right Vox party backs right-wing coalition government in Andalusia

14 January 2019

The far-right Vox party has agreed to back the bid of the right-wing

sometimes called euphemistically ‘center right‘ or ‘moderate right’

Popular Party (PP) and Citizens (Cs) to rule Andalusia, the second-largest and most populous region in Spain. This marks the first time a far-right party promoting the legacy of fascist dictator Francisco Franco has helped form a government in Spain since the Francoite dictatorship fell 40 years ago. The deal is poised to end 36 years of uninterrupted Socialist Party (PSOE) rule in the region and sets a precedent for a possible national coalition government between PP, Citizens and Vox.

PP’s Manuel Moreno is to become the new regional premier, despite having obtained the PP’s worst-ever electoral results in the region. An investiture debate is scheduled for this week.

Last week, Vox agreed to support a PP-Cs government—dropping its calls to expel 52,000 migrants, repeal of laws on gender violence and gender equality, and scrap LGBT anti-discrimination policies. After obtaining widespread media coverage based on these demands, Vox then renounced them. Its leader, Santiago Abascal, had committed the party to an alliance with the PP and Cs soon after the elections, stressing that Vox would not be “an obstacle to political change in Andalusia.”

Other points in Vox’s 100-issue manifesto included abolishing the 17 regions to recentralize Spain as under Franco, outlawing separatist parties, slashing taxes, and banning undocumented migrants.

Right-wing newspapers welcomed the deal. El Español cheered Vox’s “exercise of pragmatism”, and El Mundo defined the agreement as reflecting Vox’s “wisdom of consensus”. The ultra-Catholic La Razón rejoiced that Vox “has renounced their most extreme demands.”

The government programme combines the promotion of the legacy of Francisco Franco, the fascist butcher of the Spanish Civil War, the defense of the wealth of the financial aristocracy, and appeals to nationalism and anti-Muslim hatred. It includes a “concord law” to replace the region’s Historical Memory Law, which condemns Franco’s regime and allows for exhumations of the remains of victims of the fascists in the Civil War.

The agreement is an unabashed defense of the banks’ austerity diktat. It calls for slashing income tax, estate tax and inheritance tax. The estate tax is only paid by 17,700 people (0.2 percent of the population), while inheritance tax is only paid by those inheriting over 1 million euros. The indebted region will thereby reduce its income, providing a pretext for even more social cuts. The regional government will audit its expenditure to cut “superfluous” spending, eliminate subsidies that do “not meet obvious public and social purposes” and de-fund the public media.

The agreement also opens the door to attacks on public education, asserting “freedom and the right of parents to choose the model they wish for their children, avoiding any interference by public authorities in the ideological formation of students.”

Appealing to the ultra-Catholic sections of the population, the agreement calls for tax incentives to families to drive up the birth rate, the creation of a Family Ministry and forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to receive “extra information” to dissuade them from having abortions. It calls for promoting flamenco and Holy Week celebrations, protecting bullfighting as “a source of wealth and jobs”. and changing Andalusia’s regional day to commemorate the end of the Christian reconquest of Spain, and the start of the expulsion of Muslims and Jews, in 1492.

The agreement calls for a mass crackdown on immigrants, calling on the State Security Forces to “protect borders, guaranteeing an orderly, legal immigration, respectful of our western culture.”

The PSOE received its worst-ever result of 28 per cent after slashing education, health and social spending at the national and regional levels. After its 36-year rule, and the worst capitalist crisis since the 1930s, over a quarter of Andalusia’s population is unemployed; tens of thousands depend on the Minimum Social Rent subsidy of €400. Nearly 42 percent of Andalusians live at risk of social exclusion.

In the six months of PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s rule from Madrid, the government has continued the austerity and militarist policies of its PP predecessor and its repression of Catalan nationalist political prisoners.

The PSOE has reacted to Vox’s victory by shifting further to the right. PSOE regional candidate Susana Díaz blamed her defeat on the lack of Catalan-bashing during her campaign. PSOE regional premier of Castilla-La Mancha, Emiliano García-Page, raised the prospect of banning all secessionist parties.

The speed with which the PP and Cs have moved towards incorporating the fascist programme of Vox is a warning to workers and youth across Spain and Europe. The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, has already said that the agreement in Andalusia is a “preamble of what will happen in May in Spain”, referring to local and regional elections.

Vox’s fascistic programme does not enjoy mass support. Like other far-right parties in Europe, Vox is acquiring influence far beyond its actual strength, based on support not in the population, but in the ruling class, the army, and other capitalist parties.

It was founded in December 2013 by ex-PP members who wanted the PP government to take a harder line for pro-business tax policies and against Basque and Catalan nationalists and migration. They contested the 2014 elections but failed to win seats. Today most Vox voters are rich or upper middle class former PP voters.

The Spanish ruling class used the Catalan crisis of October 2017 to catapult Vox to prominence. A marginal party until the fall of 2017, it received widespread coverage based on its extreme anti-Catalan rhetoric and demonstrations. It only obtained 395,978 votes in Andalusia (10.97 percent), four mayors out of 8,122, 17 town councilors out of 67,611 and 12 seats in the Andalusian parliament out of 109. Nevertheless, it has set the tone since the Andalusian elections, as the ruling elite in Spain—as across Europe—tries to channel growing political discontent in a fascistic direction.

… Podemos number two Irene Montero called on women to “fill the streets and ballots” to stop Vox.

Spanish neo-fascists love Franco, sexism, bullfighting


This 23 November 2014 video says about itself:

Spain: Watch Nazi-saluting supporters celebrate General Franco [at] 39th anniversary [of his death]

W/S Far-right activists doing Nazi salute
M/S Far-right activists doing Nazi salute
C/U Swastika
M/S Spanish flag
W/S Stand selling Spanish flags
SOT, Miguel Menendez Pinar, grandson of [Franco era fascist MP] Blas Piñar (in Spanish):

“It has been the [‘center right’ Partido Popular] PP who has ended with the right of the workers, a conquest achieved by Franquismo”
C/U Supporters clapping and chanting Blas Piñar
W/S Priest chatting to elderly man
C/U Priest chatting to group of people
M/S Protest sign reading (in Spanish) “Right to decide – [Catalan independist] Artur Mas is a son of a whore? yes, yes, yes”
SOT Manuel Canduela, Democracia Nacional leader (in Spanish):

“The communism of Podemos is the salvation of Spain, the salvation of Spain is a man whose name is Pablo Iglesias (Iglesias means church[es] in Spanish) but his name must be Pablo burn Iglesias”

M/S Audience listening to Canduela speak [CUTAWAY]
M/S Journalist filming the speech [CUTAWAY]
W/S Man waving [Mussolini‘s] Italian Social Republic flag
W/S Police M/S Police van
W/S Rally held, Royal Palace of Madrid in the background [CUTAWAY]

SCRIPT Around 300 far-right activists gathered on Orient Square in Central Madrid to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of General Franco, Sunday. The Spanish leader lost his life on November 20, 1975.

Organised by several far-right political parties and nationalist organisations including Nudo Patriota Español, Movimiento Católico Español and Patriotas, the event also marked the anniversary of the death of Jose Primo de Rivera, the founder of [fascist party] Falange Española who was executed by the Spanish republican government on November 20, 1936.

During the rally, officials from the different parties gave speeches about the current situation in the country, targeting the rise of leftist political party Podemos as a cause for of concern. Swastikas and other fascist symbolism were on display, including one attendee waving the flag of the Italian Social Republic [of Mussolini].

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The new far-right Spanish party Vox demands the expulsion of 52,000 [so-called] illegal immigrants from Andalusia. Vox is willing to support a new center-right government in this state only if this happens.

Vox … participated in elections for the first time in December and received, to everyone’s surprise, ten percent of the votes= in Andalusia, in the south of Spain. As a result, the anti-immigration party holds the key of the new regional government in their hands. The center-right Partido Popular and the liberal

rather: neoliberal right-wing, anti-Catalan nationalist

Ciudadanos have already decided to cooperate, but they can not manage to form a government without Vox’s tolerance.

Deportation

The expulsion of 52,000 [so-called] illegal immigrants is a prominent point on the list of conditions of Vox. In addition, the party wants to abolish subsidies for Islamic centers and associations, feminist organizations and other ‘ideological’ NGOs.

There must also be more [so-called] help to pregnant women to stop them from having abortions, and there must be a revision of biology lessons in schools so that they do not teach ‘scientifically unproven things’.

Meaning evolution biology.

A number of local laws can also be abolished as far as the party is concerned. This includes a law that recognizes the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. The party also demands that a law on the Franco past should disappear, a law allowing excavations of victims of the dictatorship.

Bullfighting

Vox further suggests that there should be a new holiday to celebrate the Reconquista (the [medieval] reconquest of Spain from the Moors). A new law must also be adopted to protect bullfighting.

Today, representatives of Vox and the PP met at a secret location in Madrid, with the aim of completing the agreement for a new government in Andalusia.

Spiders of Spain, new study


This 9 July 2015 video shows a jumping spider on a garden table in Gaucin, Southern Spain.

From the University of Barcelona:

Broading the biodiversity catalogue of spider populations in the Iberian Peninsula

Iberian arachnology: An area to be explored

December 18, 2018

Summary: The biodiversity catalogue of the Iberian Peninsula spiders is now adding the discovery of a dozen new species — from seven different families — that are mainly found in edaphic environments (soil), according to a new article.

The new study, covering the largest study area on this animal group in peninsular territory, is now published in the Biodiversity Data Journal. Other participants in the study are the experts from the Experimental Station of Arid Zones (EEZA-CSIC) and the University of Helsinki (Finland).

A sampling of more than 20,000 spider samples

The scientific team has studied a total of 20,539 samples of different Iberian spider species -with 8,521 adult specimens corresponding to 190 genera, 39 families and 376 species- in the oak woodlands of National Parks in Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, Ordesa i Mont Perdut, the Peaks of Europe, Monfragüe, Cabañeros and Sierra Nevada.

These forests with temperate climate -where arboreal species and deciduous trees are abundant- represent the most appropriate natural habitat “to study the biogeographic patterns of spiders at a peninsular scale”, says Professor Miquel Àngel Arnedo. “In a broader sense, oak woodlands are a few of the forest communities that are represented in all National Parks building up our study. These are natural habitats of interest regarding conservation, and show a high level of endemism and their evolutionary history is quite well known.”

Iberian arachnology: an area to be explored

The degree of knowledge on the geographic distribution of Iberian spiders is still very little compared to other Mediterranean countries. “The lack of tradition in natural history studies in the country and the reduced amount of admirers of arachnology could explain these differences”, says Arnedo, member of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the Faculty of Biology and IRBio.

The research team has found eleven new spider species -so far more than 1,300 species were known in the peninsula and the Balearic Islands- apart from other twenty species whose taxonomic identification is still pending. According to the experts, some of the new species could be especially vulnerable to the environmental factors (in most of the cases, only one or a few individuals have been discovered in one geographical place or even one parcel).

Moreover, the experts add seven new spider species to the peninsular biological inventory -and three more in Spain- with the identification in the area of species such as Dictyna pusilla, Philodromus buchari, Pseudeuophrys nebrodensis, Euryopis flavomaculata, Titanoeca schineri, Dipoena torva and Sardinion blackwalli, some of them described in the scientific bibliography since the late 19th century. “None of these species can be considered as rare -notes Arnedo- since they had been identified in other places such as France, Portugal and Central Europe.”

“There are still many spider species to be found”, adds Arnedo. “These results show there is a lack of systematic samplings in the arachnological biodiversity in Spain and are a good example of the few things we know about our own fauna.”

Reconstructing the evolutionary history of peninsular spiders

The sampling technique for spider specimens in the natural environment has followed the standardized protocol COBRA. This methodology -applied in studies of terrestrial arthropod communities worldwide- enables researchers to create an inventory of the species in a specific area and brings data to extrapolate the amount and abundance of species that can live in a geographical area.

Moreover, the methodology based on content such as DNA barcoding -that is, the use of a short and standardized DNA fragment as the identifier of a species- is the innovating technique for applied comparative genetics to speed up the identification of species and improve the resolution of the analysis of biodiversity in this animal group. “This methodology enables developing high-resolution bioinformatic tools to help automatizing the classification and identification of species, even in populations of the same species in different places,” says Arnedo.

“For instance, young individuals cannot be classified as species through morphological criteria, which in many cases they only reach the family taxon. With the DNA barcoding we can categorize them under specific species. This technique also helps to identify different vital stages in the same species -even remains such as exuvia or overlayers, excrements or environmental DNA- which would be impossible to distinguish otherwise.

Knowing the natural heritage to protect biodiversity

Loss of natural habitat, invasive species, environmental pollution and global warming are threats that put the conservation of peninsular arachnological fauna in danger. Some spider species tolerate environmental perturbations better than others -these are generalist predators and adapt to changes- but other groups are more sensitive to environmental factors. In the future, samplings will need standardized protocols and wider taxonomical data with nuclear molecular markers, the morphological studies and ecological information as well to know about the evolutionary and biogeographic history of peninsular spiders to guarantee their conservation.

“Like the other organisms, spiders are submitted to variations in their environmental and biological environment. We are all in the same boat and with the same destination, the difference is that we are the in charge of this destiny”, concludes Professor Miquel Àngel Arnedo.