Last year, Dr. Amaya Moro-Martin, an astrophysicist specializing in circumstellar disks and planetary systems, started a great deal of discussion in the astronomy community when she wrote an open letter to the Spanish Prime Minister explaining that she was leaving Spain because of the bizarrely oppressive bureaucratic policies of the Spanish government and their broken promises to scientific researchers. This year, she has written an opinion piece in Nature arguing that Europe's drastic research budget cuts are short-sighted. In response, the European Science Foundation (ESF) has threatened to sue her unless she retracts the statement that called an evaluation process supported by ESF "flawed".
The Spanish housing boom goes bust. "Some 65km from Madrid, in the quintessentially Spanish heart of a country riven by competing regional identities, Valdeluz – the notorious ciudad fantasma (ghost town) of the crisis – was conceived at the height of what is sometimes called Spain’s economic miracle. In a Catholic nation, whose faith has declined substantially during its three decades of democracy, there is an increasing reluctance to believe in miracles of any kind."
The UK has opened its first social supermarket as a means of combatting food poverty.* [more inside]
German newspaper Der Spiegel decided to take a look at Europe's oddest folk traditions and festivals. Perhaps you can have a metaphorical hard-on for the phallus festival of Tyrnavos, Greece. Maybe you're hungry for how a small Belgian town celebrates the practice of swallowing live fish. Or, alternately, you can look down on those bizarre practices... while chasing a giant wheel of cheese down a hill. [more inside]
It's the story that has Britain in uproar*: Cliff Richard and General Franco: the 1968 Eurovision mystery. Did General Franco scupper the judging? Exhibit A: Cliff's UK entry, Congratulations. Exhibit 2: Spain's winning entry by Massiel, La la la. For added measure, exhibit iv: here's Cliff's 1973 entry, which believe it or not also did not win, Power to all our Friends (though Cliff's spectacular moves should not sway your opinion on the controversy* in any way). [*not really].
Allí, ese 16 de marzo, Bush, Blair y Aznar decidieron sustituir al Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas y usurparon sus funciones para declarar por su cuenta y riesgo la guerra contra Irak.
Bush and Aznar pre-Iraq Invasion-- Transcript of their private conversations in Crawford, Feb 22, 2003: "Quedan dos semanas. En dos semanas estaremos militarmente listos. Estaremos en Bagdad a finales de marzo", le dijo a Aznar. ("2 weeks. In 2 weeks we will be ready militarily. We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March", he told Aznar.) Consider this historical documentation. Full transcript here, and audio clips in first link. [more inside]
An Islamic History of Europe: (90 minute BBC documentary on Google video.) Rageh Omaar uncovers the hidden story of Europe's Islamic past and looks back to a golden age when European civilisation was enriched by Islamic learning. When the Moors Ruled in Europe:(102 minute BBC documentary on Google video.) A look at the Islamic past of Spain and the influence it has on the present.
ETA declares permanent ceasefire. For more than 40 years the terrorist group ETA has been making life in Euskadi (Basque Country) and Spain a nightmare. After its political arm Batasuna dropped hints at wanting to resolve this conflict politically, rather than with bombs, ETA itself has finally come out and said the same. The majority of the Spanish population want to negotiate a peace, but not everybody. Can the terrorists be trusted?
Spain to legalize Same Sex Marriages. Fulfilling a campaign promise, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's socialist government is on the verge of making Spain only the third country in Europe to legalize same sex marriages after the Netherlands and Belgium. This and other progressive legislation has led angry bishops of the Spanish Church and other religious groups to start a campaign against Zapatero's “social revolution” that is converting Spain into one of the most liberal countries in all of Europe. [more inside]
And you thought US environmental policies were bad. Europe is facing a major environmental crisis that it seems unwilling or unable to act on -- deforestation, flooding, desertification and more. From the article: "One fifth of the land in Spain is already so degraded that it is turning to desert" -- and it's as bad if not worse elsewhere on the continent & in Britain.