A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘spain

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of some Neanderthal skeletons showing signs of having had the flesh carved off of them.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the messages carried by the New Horizon probe.
  • Crooked Timber makes the case for the continued relevance of Bob Marley.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at recurrent streams on Mars carved by perchlorate-laced water.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh argues that Spain is still digging out of the long crisis.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the story of a Louisiana trans man fired from his job for not detransitioning.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that China is not really a revisionist power.
  • Justin Petrone looks at ways in which young Estonian children are demonstrating and developing a fear of Russia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the failure of the Dragon rocket.
  • Towleroad notes that the Russian-language version of Siri is quite homophobic.
  • Understanding Society looks at the criticial realist social theory of Frédéric Vandenberghe.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at trends in violence in the North Caucasus and warns of Central Asian alienation from Russia.

[ISL] “Happily Obscure: the Kingdom of Macaronesia”

Frank Jacobs of Strange Maps has an enlightening post looking at Macaronesia, the collection of North Atlantic islands off the European and African coasts that includes the Portuguese Azores and Madeira, the Spanish Canaries, and the independent and ex-Portuguese Cape Verde islands. I wrote about this 2005, there noting how despite its independence Cape Verde was moving as quickly as poissible towards the European Union and its Macaronesian peers. The very idea of the region, Jacobs argues, is still obscure.

In its most common definition, Macaronesia consists of four island groups, belonging to three different countries: the Azores, the Madeira Islands [5] (both Portuguese possessions), the Canary Islands (Spain), and the independent archipelago of Cape Verde.

The name refers to the Fortunate Islands, a.k.a. the Islands of the Blessed (makaron nesoi), situated by ancient Greek legend beyond the Pillars of Hercules, in the Atlantic Ocean. As is the case with Atlantis, the precise mix of fact and fiction is hard to untangle in the case of the Fortunate Islands.

Perhaps those Greek legends were based on actual knowledge of the Canaries or other nearby islands. But their location beyond the horizon of the Greek world provided them with mythical qualities: island paradises rich in fowl and flowers, last resting place of heroes. According to Pliny the Elder, the only drawbacks were the “putrefying bodies of monsters, which are constantly thrown up by the sea.”

In later centuries, the Greek legends of happy faraway lands beyond the sea were conflated with similar Celtic legends (Avalon, Tir na nOg), with Viking explorations of Vinland and even with the Antilles.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 9, 2015 at 10:58 pm

[LINK] “Catalan Leader Hopes EU Will Convince Spain to Discuss Split”

Bloomberg’s Sangwom Yoon and Esteban Duarte write about how the Catalonian president wants the European Union to encourage Spain to negotiate Catalonia independence, so avoiding a more disruptive unilateral declaration of independence.

Catalan President Artur Mas said he hopes to avoid a unilateral declaration of independence by leaning on the “biggest” European Union countries to convince Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate the split.

“Some European countries will get involved in the affair” if the central Spanish government continues to refuse to collaborate on Catalonia’s independence, Mas, 59, said in an interview in New York. They could try “to convince the authorities in Madrid that it is always better to negotiate and to reach agreements because the economy is at stake.”

The Catalan leader made the two-day visit to persuade asset managers and business executives to keep investing in Catalonia and support its secession because separation will guarantee a better economic future for both the Catalans and the Spanish. He also delivered a speech at Columbia University, in which he invoked American poet Robert Frost by likening Catalonia’s path to independence as the road less traveled.

Mas said he will begin the process of separating from Spain if pro-secession parties win a majority in the Sept. 27 elections, even though the Spanish government calls any such moves illegal. The Catalan leader agreed Mar. 31 on a road map toward independence with Oriol Junqueras, the leader of his separatist allies Esquerra Republicana, another political party.

While no European countries have voiced support for Catalonia, their neutrality on the matter is a positive signal for the Catalans, Mas said.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 9, 2015 at 10:50 pm

[LINK] “Banking Enclave of Andorra Shaken by U.S. Accusations”

Bloomberg’s Macarena Munoz depicts the effect on Andorra of accusations from the United States that some in its substantial banking sector are laundering money.

Juan Ovelar made a quick decision when he heard the U.S. government had accused his Andorran bank of money-laundering, and immediately withdrew most of his funds.

“I’m worried that everyone will do the same as I did and there will be a knock-on effect that could affect other banks,” said Ovelar, 27, a computer expert from Argentina, in an interview outside the headquarters of Banca Privada d’Andorra in the capital Andorra La Vella.

The U.S. Treasury named Banca Privada d’Andorra, the country’s fourth-largest bank, a “primary money-laundering concern” on March 10. That led to its seizure by Andorran authorities, the arrest of the chief executive officer and a run on customer funds at the lender’s Spanish unit.

The bank’s fate sent tremors through Andorra, a 181-square-mile (469 square-kilometer) Catalan-speaking microstate in the eastern Pyrenees with an economy based on skiing, tax-free shopping and banking. The scandal raises risks for its financial industry, which makes up almost a fifth of the 1.8 billion-euro ($2 billion) economy and is too big to be bailed out by the state, said Xavier Puig, a professor at Barcelona’s Universidad Pompeu Fabra.

Customers lined up at the bank’s branches to take out their money after it limited cash withdrawals to 2,500 euros a week, starting March 16. The bank’s new management, appointed by local regulators, imposed the limit after international banks severed credit lines, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2015 at 11:00 pm

[LINK] “‘Ni Boisekoa naiz’: Keeping Basque alive in Idaho”

Ryan Schuessler of Al Jazeera America depicts the efforts of many Americans of Basque descent, concentrated in (among other areas) Idaho, to keep fluency in the Basque language going.

Standing against the wall of the crowded Leku Ona (Good Place) bar, Dave Asumendi took a sip of his wine as he watched a group of young people dancing in circles, moving to the music of a band that kept switching between Basque folk songs and accordion-infused Johnny Cash tunes.

It was Thursday night on Boise’s Basque Block, a small stretch of Basque-American businesses and cafes in Idaho’s capital. Asumendi had just arrived from the intermediate Basque language course taught at the cultural center across the street.

“It’s always been a lifelong burn to learn the language,” he said.

Asumendi, whose grandparents immigrated to the United States from Spain, is one of the many Basque-Americans who have mobilized to learn their unique ancestral tongue, which now has fewer than 1 million speakers worldwide. In recent years, the autonomous Basque government in Spain has invested significantly in language education, looking to boost the number of Basque speakers in Spain and in Basque diaspora communities.

One of the least likely beneficiaries of that largesse has been Idaho, which hosts one of the most active and vibrant communities of Basque-Americans in the U.S. and one where many community members are dedicated to keeping the language going. There are Basque classes for all ages and abilities — often taught by teachers paid by the Basque regional government — and even a Basque immersion preschool, plus a Basque studies department at Boise State University.

Idaho has the highest percentage of Basque speakers in the U.S. and is home to five of the top nine counties where Basque is spoken. In two of those counties — Lincoln and Owyhee — Basque is the third-most-common language spoken in the home, after English and Spanish.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2015 at 10:58 pm

[DM] “Why Is Spain’s Population Loss An Economic Problem?”

Demography Matters co-blogger Edward Hugh has posted there, and posted at A Fistful of Euros, an analysis of Spain’s economic future taking dire demographics into account. With high unemployment driving emigration, combined with a very low birth rate, Spain’s future seems challenged.

The most obvious result of having such a high level of unemployment over such a long period of time – Spain’s overall rate won’t be below 20% before 2017 at the earliest – is that people are steadily leaving the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere. Initially this new development was officially denied, and since there is little policy interest in the topic we still don’t have any adequate measure of just how many young educated Spaniards are now working outside their home country. Anecdotal evidence, however, backs the idea that the number is large and the phenomenon widespread. All too often articles in the popular press are misleading simply because journalists have no better data to work from than anyone else. On the other hand work like this from researchers at the Bank of Spain (Spain: From (massive) immigration to (vast) emigration? – 2013) only serves to illustrate how little we know, especially about movement among Spanish nationals.

On the other hand, when it comes to migration flows among non Spanish nationals we do have a lot better quality information due to the existence of the the municipal register electronic database. Everyone who wishes to be included in the health system needs to register with it (whether they are a regular or an irregular immigrant), and non Spanish nationals need to re-register with a certain frequency (so the authorities know if they leave).

More than an economic phenomenon, Spain’s property boom was a demographic one. Since births only just exceeded deaths, between 1980 and 2000 Spain’s population rose slowly, by just over 2 million people. Then between 2000 and 2009 it suddenly surged by 7 million. This was almost entirely due to immigration, with workers coming to the country from all over the globe attracted by the booming jobs market. Then in 2008 the boom came to an abrupt end, and unemployment went through the roof causing the trend to reverse. Since 2010 more people have left the country every year than have arrived, with the consequence that the population is now falling. Given that in 2015 the statistics office forecast that for the first time deaths will exceed births, it is most likely that this decline will continue and continue.

In fact the overall migration number – a net 251 thousand people emigrated in 2013 according to official data – only tells part of the story. The majority of young Spanish people working abroad are not included in these numbers (unless they have explicitly informed the Spanish authorities they are leaving, and few do this, partly because they do not consider themselves “emigrants”), but just as importantly the net balance masks very large movements in both directions. According to the national statistics office over half a million people (532 thousand to be precise) emigrated from Spain in 2013, while 285 thousand people entered the country as immigrants. So the net migration statistic covers over what are really very large flows.

The number of annual births in Spain has been steadily falling since the mid 1970s. They accelerated again slightly in the first years of this century, partly due to the shadow effect of an earlier boom in the 1970s, and partly because the incoming immigrants had a slightly higher birth rate. Coinciding with the outbreak of the crisis births peaked again in 2008 (after an initial peak in 1976 – ie 32 years later, average age at first childbirth is now just above 30) , and now the statistics office forecast a continuous decline.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 17, 2015 at 1:48 am

[LINK] “Independent Catalonia Would Have Investment Grade: Study”

Bloomberg’s Esteban Duarte reports on a study claiming that an independent Catalonia would be quite financially sound, at least so long as it stayed in the Eurozone.

Catalonia would recover its investment-grade credit rating if it reached an agreement on independence from Spain, according to study to be presented today by an economists’ group from the region.

The region’s government would merit an A+ rating, Standard & Poor’s fifth-highest grade, if it was released from its obligations to the rest of Spain, according to the study carried out by Joan Elias Boada, a former economist at La Caixa, Spain’s third-largest lender, and Joan Maria Mateu, a former finance director for southern Europe at German industrial company Weidmuller GmbH & Co. KG. That’s seven steps higher than the region’s current junk rating of BB, and would put it on a par with Israel and Korea.

“The credit rating of an independent Catalonia, consolidated as a new European state and a member of the European Union, would be logically even better,” Elias Boada and Mateu wrote in the study for the Col·legi d’Economistes de Catalunya.

Catalan President Artur Mas this month called regional elections for Sept. 27 as he seeks a mandate to negotiate a split from Spain. The region transfers about 8.5 billion euros ($9.7 billion), or 4.35 percent of its gross domestic product, per year to the rest of Spain, as tax collection exceeds the public-sector expenditure, according to a July study for the Spanish Budget Ministry.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2015 at 11:39 pm

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