I've been pretty much completely without Internet access for about 12 days and checked the Guardian today to see that Harold Pinter had died and Israel has killed hundreds more civilians in Gaza. The Guardian reports that they may be about to invade the Palestinian territory.
I can't write much now but I will note that Israel seems to have learned from the US invasion of Iraq: starve your enemy to death for months or years, all the while attacking them with air strikes and then you get the ground troops in. So much easier that way.
Let's hope that the hundreds of Palestinians killed in the last 48 hours will go some way to repaying the FIFTEEN dead EVER from the Qassam rocket attacks they are supposed to be preventing.
Oh and don't forget that the political wing of Hamas is not a proscribed terrorist group in the UK… just a political party.
Looking forward to tonight's Clásico derby between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. As I'm something of a curse on Barça, I've avoided watching many games live (when I do, they do badly), but I've been using my PlayStation 3 to record them (this works very well indeed). Barça have done very well while I've been doing this.
However, I sort of think that tonight will be either a draw or a Madrid win. Not sure why… just that the Clásico is often surprising. For that reason, I'll watch the game on La Sexta at 2200 and I hope for another goleada for Guadiola's FC Barcelona.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seen by many as the great triumph of Enlightenment thinking and neo-liberal democracy.
But the failure of the major powers to simultaneously achieve any pact on international justice has meant that the first achievement was rendered utterly useless.
While the UN will no doubt be celebrating today, they'd probably be better off considering just how many people have had their rights abused or eroded, in just about every country in the world, in the last sixty years.
Whatever your political leaning, there's no denying that the time of giving is upon us, as heralded by its usual horsemen, the municipal lights and the piped carols.
If you're thinking about making a charitable donation this Christmas, and you haven't yet chosen a suitable recipient, allow me to offer a suggestion.
Joyce is a 16 months-old Kenyan who'll die if she doesn't get heart surgery soon… and she needs to go to the US to get it. I read about her on a travel blog site. Her story's very moving and I figure that if enough of us donate a few Euros, we could help this little girl get the medical attention she needs.
Read more about Joyce here… better still, make a donation here.
The results of the last poll were pretty clear (79% in favour of removing crucifixes from state school classrooms), so I thought I'd open another one today.
The ICV-EUIA (Green United Left) section of Catalonia's tripartite government has decided that it wants to eliminate plastic bags from Catalonia and to support its plan has proposed that a €0.20 charge be levied on each one offered to customers in Catalan shops. Naturally, some shopkeepers and householders will be up in arms over the idea but personally, I'm glad to hear something from ICV-EUIA that I heartily agree with.
My hometown in England is Modbury and Modbury was the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags entirely. All the town's shops agreed to a 3 month trial a couple of years back and it proved so successful that the ban became permanent. Some shopkeepers were hesitant at first but after they attended a meeting held by Modbury resident Rebecca Hoskins on the environmental impact of these awful things, they agreed to the plan.
I'm proud that Modbury has been at the vanguard of the anti-plastic bag movement and I've been considering making a proposition to Cerdanyola del Vallès Ajuntament that they do something similar (though translating policy from a town of under 1,500 people to a town of over 50,000 wouldn't be easy). What do you think? Is this a fuss about nothing or time the authorities moved to restrict the use of plastic bags? I've made the question 'Catalonia specific' because that's where the ICV-EUIA's proposal would take effect… but feel free to comment with any non-Catalonia opinions or news about similar plans elsewhere!
Some website chat follows. If you're not interested in the ins and outs of such things, I wouldn't bother reading on.
The other day I received a comment on a post which was not only off-topic and pretty rude but also made with a false email address (I wrote the commenter a polite email asking him to rein it in a little bit and the email bounced back immediately). There was no doubt that I'd remove the comment but even as I did so, it annoyed me a bit that I had to. I don't like removing comments comments from this blog unless they're obvious spam, because it always feels somewhat dictatorial.
So I thought I'd refine and simplify my comments policy to make it a little clearer exactly what you need to do to get your comment removed, and what you should do if you think a comment was removed unfairly.
I also want to make it absolutely clear that (a) I'm always very open about my identity when commenting on other blogs and in my own 'about me' section; (b) I'm annoyed when other blogs ("lifeincatalonia", for example), use the comment moderation tool to suppress criticism, argument or clarification – in my opinion, not the way to promote debate on your pages; and (c) that I find it rather creepy when I get three or four different comments from the same IP address using different names, emails and websites… not creepy enough to make me delete your comments but creepy enough to take note.
This story has been fairly well covered in the British press but if you didn't hear about it, it's a classic.
Consumer Direct has received over 2,000 complaints about a Christmas-themed attraction park that failed to live up to its promises. The Lapland New Forest park promised an exciting Christmas experience, with reindeer, a bustling Christmas market, huskies and Father Christmas. The reality left a lot to be desired, given that it consisted of little more than a muddy yard with some fair-ground attractions, a hideous nativity scene, a 'magical tunnel of light' which turned out to be a few white Christmas trees with fairy lights on and a pen full of howling dogs.
While this sounds like something out of a hilarious comedy, the sad thing is that a lot of people seem to have been misled out of quite a lot of money (£30 per person). I can imagine I would have been utterly furious if I'd paid to go to this place.
There has been some controversy over recent weeks about the decision of a Valladolid judge to order that crucifixes must be removed from state school classrooms as their presence contravenes the Spanish constitution which declares that the state must be wholly secular.
Faith was arguably the most obvious divide in the 'two Spains' of the past, but most observers feel that the relevance of the Church in social and political issues has shrunk since democracy. What do you think? Should the crucifixes be removed or allowed to remain?