Saturday, September 27, 2014

International meeting of expats to discuss Catalan independence question

"An event is to be held on October 1 at 7:30pm at the Fabrica Moritz in Barcelona: a discussion among the expat community about the independence of Catalonia and how it affects [expats] in particular, followed by a networking session to relax and chat more informally.

The panel discussion will include Maarten de Jongh, Corporate Finance Advisor, originally from the Netherlands; Krys Schreiber, International Press and Communication Consultant, originally from Germany; Martha Moreo, Business Administration and Musician, originally from Argentina of Italian origin and it will be chaired by Liz Castro, editor of What’s up with Catalonia?, originally from the United States.

There is a $5 cover charge at the door which includes two beers, and covers the expenses of the hall.

See flyer poster above for more general information."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homeless in Barcelona

Matthew Tree

Matthew Tree's beautiful, simple opinion piece in El Punt Avui on the weekend...

"Yolanda Aguila lives on the street - on my street, in fact. I started talking to her a week ago. (For seventeen weeks she has had no home).
She did live in an apartment with other people until the council made an inspection and the owner - instead of doing the renovations necessary to get a new certificate of habitability - made them all move out.
Therefore, Yolanda is newly homeless. In fact, when you talk to her, if not for the fact that the conversation takes place on a piece of sidewalk occupied by her and her only suitcase, you would not guess that she has no fixed address.
Despite a difficult past (taking antidepressants) and poor health (suffering from fibromyalgia and calcification of the bones) she is doing (very) well, mentally.
She is 45 years old, likes historical novels (now for example, she is reading Victus by Albert Sánchez Piñol) and eats regularly, thanks to a bar that gives her unsold sandwiches every day.
Yolanda tries to give some of this food to other people who are living in her area without a roof over their heads, but most of them do not want to eat, only to drink, in an attempt, she guesses, to kill themselves slowly.
She has tried every charity, but most just offer a meal or clothes when what you really need back, above anything else, is a room to rent.
Life on the street for her is especially uncomfortable because she suffers from diseases. The last time I saw her, she was crying in frustration.

How is it that this woman is on the street when it costs so little to get her off the street? 

If Alícia Sánchez-Camacho [the leader of the Catalan branch of Spain's ruling Popular Party] - who says that we must confront the real problems of the people - sold one of her black crocodile skin handbags, there would be enough money to get a room for Yolanda Aguila.

Anyway, if anyone has any suggestions please contact me through El Pinu/Avui at

Sunday, September 21, 2014

W.H.O. targets a trans fat-free Europe

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for a complete ban on trans fats throughout Europe as part of a new action plan on diet and health.

More at source here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Season of free Australian films in Barcelona

This week is the start of an Australian Film Season, hosted by Barcelona's RMIT in conjunction with ASBA (the Australia Spain Business Association.)

The season comprises 10 films. There will be one film each week, on Thursdays at 7.30pm, with the exception of 2 October.

The premiere will take place this Thursday 18 September at 7.30pm, and will be attended by the Australian Ambassador to Spain, Ms Jane Hardy. The screening will be followed by a cocktail reception.

The screenings will take place at RMIT in C/Minerva 2. This street runs off Diagonal and is very close to Passeig de Gracia.

Admission is free to all screenings.

The list of films and their dates appear below...

18/9 Priscilla Queen of the Desert 
25/9 Picnic at Hanging Rock 
9/10 The Year of Living Dangerously 
16/10 Lantana 
23/10 Rabbit Proof Fence 
30/10 Gallipoli 
6/11 The Lighthorsemen 
13/11 Wake in Fright 
20/11 Breaker Morant 
27/11 Animal Kingdom

Personally, I highly recommend Lantana. Though I haven't seen Rabbit Proof Fence or Wake in Fright, they are many other people's favourites.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, visits Jerusalem's Wailing Wall

The trip was made [last weekend] by a group made up of Spanish political parties, Izquierda Plural (with six Euro deputies) and Podemos (with five).

They visited Ramala after Israel had denied the delegation entry to Gaza two days earlier.

The delegation held meetings with Palestinian leaders, among them the Prime Minister of the United Nation Transitional Government, Rami Hamdala, and with the top Palestinian diplomat, Raid al Malki.

The group also met with Israeli pacifists and left-wing groups such as Rabbis for Democracy, and they visited the old city of Jerusalem.

More from original source here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Legislating liberties" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

Photo: Javier at [sic]
While we were (hopefully) enjoying sun and slumber over the summer it was easy to miss some disturbing international developments (or should I instead call these events disturbing steps back towards some of the worst aspects of the previous century.)

In a ruling barely even mentioned by most mainstream media (and opposed by the Obama White House) the Supreme Court of the USA declared that "companies whose shares are held by a small number of shareholders can refuse to provide health care plans that include contraception coverage, if they have a religious objection." 

This decision is important largely because it logically means that corporations – not only individuals – have the right to religious freedom. It also creates situations where they can legally exercise this freedom at the expense of those who do not own business, ie. working people. 

Meanwhile the same USA has re-formed it´s diplomatic alliance with previously "evil" Iran, who are also working hard to undermine women´s rights.

There, the national leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is heading the charge to put a ban on vasectomies and other birth control surgeries. 

His reasoning is that the population of his country needs to be doubled so that "national identity" becomes stronger. 
Proposed laws have already been approved that would throw doctors who perform these kinds of operations into prison for five years.

Closer to our part of the world, it is apparent that intolerance against many minority groups (including Jews and Gypsies) is on the rise across Europe. 

The latest example of this trend is a recent European Court of Human Right's verdict that upheld a French law banning the wearing of the [Muslim] full-face veil in public.
The vague use of "security concerns" as the rationale for the ban makes it clear that the issue is still being used (particularly by right-wing politicians) as a distraction from political failings.
My understanding is that Muslim women are happy to show their face for an identity or passport check, provided this is done with another women only in a private area. This is a very simple request to accommodate as a matter of routine.

Personally, I just don’t accept that having a law against covering your face means that people will not do it when they are about to commit a crime, as those advocates of the new law argue.
Let’s say I’m going to rob a bank. (I may have to actually do this if I don't get a pay rise soon.) Do I decide to not cover my face to avoid my identity being recognized through the security cameras simply because there is a law against it? 

No, instead a robber will simply break two laws instead of just one because they believe they will not get caught anyway.

To my mind, there’s way too much public debate about clothing and not enough discussion of the other factors involved in religion and discrimination.

To me, the hijab/niqab/face covering debate is a trivialisation of the bigger issues. Surely, what someone wears is largely a personal choice, except where women are ‘forced to cover-up’ to varying degrees.

Some Muslim women are in fact much more interested in improving their everyday rights than they are about how much they cover or don’t cover of their heads and faces.

The veil gets media and public attention because it is such an easily visible thing in our fashion-conscious times, as opposed to the more dramatic health and quality of life threatening problems such female genital mutilation (which is also still practised by some non-Muslims, such as Coptic Christians in Egypt as well.)

Clearly, a law should exist to protect women who want to defy those who want to force them to dress against their will. 

Equally though, another law should exist allowing women to cover as much as they like, whether any of us thinks that hiding a face is a sad reflection of a culture or not.
The result of any banning of the veil is very likely to be that more Muslim women are kept at home by their controllers: extremist, fundamentalist men. 

This leads very rapidly to a situation where a law that is supposed to make Islamic women somehow more free actually has the opposite effect.

Sometimes I think that social progress is just a thing of the past.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, Sept. 2014.]