Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain for a few months in the Spring
'Fair and softly goes far' - Miguel de Cervantes

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Paris Terrorist Outrage

(Please see UPDATE at end)



An attack on well-known satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has killed at least 12 people, including the editor and 3 other cartoonists and 2 police officers, with at least 4 seriously and a number of others less-gravely injured. It has been reported that two (later amended to three) gunmen used assault-rifles to kill those in the office before engaging in a gunfight with police outside and using a vehicle to escape, later found abandoned in a northern Paris street. The magazine obviously lampoons many targets, but it seems clear that its satirical cartoons mocking Moslem extremists have provoked this latest awful outrage. Free speech must be defended and maintained and terrorists not permitted to prevail!

Fuller details may be read in the BBC website here, with a regularly updated news and comment feed here.

I have added this awful outrage to the permanent memorial page in my main personal website; the list of crimes marked there grows ever longer unfortunately.

(NB/ This article is cross-posted from my main blog Bill's Comment Page)

UPDATE (Sunday 11JAN2014 14.15 GMT) Events moved swiftly after the first killings on 7th January, so this update attempts to summarise concisely the events of the next two days until resolution of the initial and later outrages was achieved. Summary - death toll in 4 separate locations; 17 victims and 3 of the terrorists. It began on 7th January with an attack on well-known satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed, including the editor and 3 other cartoonists and 2 police officers, with a further 11 injured. The attack was carried out by three (two?) Moslem extremist gunmen and after a hide-and-seek operation across a wide area north-east of Paris, two were cornered in a printing works in Dammartin-en-Göele (Seine-et-Marne) and very close to the main Paris airport of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle two days later; they were killed by police when they exited the building firing weapons. On 8th January a police officer was shot dead in the Paris suburb of Montrouge by one or two terrorists. On 9th January, two different terrorists took hostages in a Kosher (i.e. Jewish) grocery store, resulting in the deaths of 4 of the hostages. One of these two terrorists was shot dead, the other has escaped and is being searched for although various reports indicate she may already have left France and perhaps have travelled to Syria. Free speech must be defended and maintained and terrorists not permitted to prevail by intimidating us into silence!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Toll motorway charges in Spain for 2015

The Ministry of Development ('Fomento') has [mostly] frozen motorway toll fees in Spain for 'autopistas' under its control for 2015 at the same levels as applied during 2014, the first time this has been done for five years. Full details are available in .pdf links for each toll motorway sector n the 'Fomento' website here.

The Aucosta website still shows a page labelled 2014 (* - see at end) for the Cartagena-Vera section of the Ap-7 'autopista' (toll motorway) but these tariffs will continue to apply during 2015, so that for example the toll charge for the Mazarron to Cartagena sector (in either direction) will remain €5.80.

You can download full details of the 2014/2015 tariff for the AP-7 Cartagena-Vera sector from the Aucosta website by clicking on the link above - then click on "Peajes y Tarifas", then then "Tarifas" and finally "Cuadro tarifas peaje 2014" to see the relevant .pdf document (and you can click here to download the full tariff table).

Similarly you can visit various pages in my own Spanish website (click on "Location") to see toll fees for selected segments (for example here, here and here - scroll to the bottom of these pages) in a more readily-accessible format.

It is I think a welcome development that the Government has frozen toll motorway tariffs; this may at least encourage a few more people to use the toll motorway network, to provide some probably badly-needed revenue to help to support essential expenditure.

The fact that toll fees for 2015 were [mostly] to be frozen at 2014-levels was first indicated in announcements published on around 8th December last, for example here, but more recent announcements have confirmed this decision, for example here; this latter link provides greater detail and in particular gives details of five exceptions where toll fees will in fact rise - the affected routes are:
- Santiago-Alto de Santo Domingo (increment of 0.51%);
- Alicante-Cartagena (increment of 1.01%) (if I have understood correctly, this will mean that the tariff for the La Zenia/Torrevieja-Cartagena section will be €2.05 for example);
- R3 Madrid-Arganda, R4 Madrid-Ocaña and R5 Madrid Navalcarnero (in all three cases the increment will be 1.96%).

* - the Aucosta tariff page has now (as at 27JAN2015) been updated to show 2015, but there are of course no changes to the actual tariff.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Head of Police Narcotics Squad in Murcia arrested for drug trafficking

I rarely write in this blog any more about the sordid minutiae of corruption in Murcia Region and other parts of Spain; of late I generally mention this kind of incident in Twitter (there is an embedded feed of my tweets in the right column here), but this latest incident did startle me, although I must admit I am not enormously surprised.

It is being reported that the Head of the Narcotics Squad of the police in Murcia Region has been arrested on charges of drug trafficking, together with another Police official in Murcia and five other persons, suspected drug traffickers. The charges have been brought as a result of investigations by the Department of Internal Affairs (El Departamento de Asuntos Internos); it seems the accuseds' involvement is not related to the activities of the Police itself. Other details of the case are under a 'gag' ('bajo secreto de sumario') - probably equivalent to what would under English Law formerly have been called 'sub judice', since replaced by the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (specially Section 2 of the Act).

This really comes under the heading of: You couldn't make it up!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Public Holidays for 2015 - Murcia Region and local to Mazarrón

I have added a list of Public Holidays for 2015, applicable to the Murcia Region of Spain and including local public holidays in Mazarrón and nearby municipalities in the Region. You can find the list, which is available for download in .pdf format, in the Links page, under 'Public Holidays', of my personal Spanish website here (where you will also find a link to download public holidays for the current year, 2014, as this may still be useful for the remainder of the year), or you can also download the .pdf file for 2015 by clicking here.

For those who are interested, there are links in my own website to the official Spanish source documents for this information.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Exhibition of Paintings - "Vínculos" ("Links") by Celestino Agüera - Old Town Hall Mazarrón

There is an interesting exhibition of paintings currently on display in the Old Town Hall (Casas Consistoriales) in Mazarrón. I visited the exhibition this morning and as the paintings are for sale I have my eyes on one of them, so will probably visit again tomorrow to ask for it to be reserved for me; forgive me if I don't give any indication here of what the painting that interests me is - perhaps if I do manage to reserve and acquire it, I'll write about that in due course.

(Read more about the exhibition in the murcia.com [Portal de Mazarrón] website - Spanish original version, or English translation)


Exhibition of Paintings - "Vínculos" ("Links")
by Celestino Agüera

Old Town Hall (Casas Consistoriales), Mazarrón
- 26 September to 14th November 2014 -

The exhibition may be viewed:
Monday to Saturday - 10am to 2pm
Thursdays and Fridays - 5pm to 8pm
(NB/ Closed on Public Holidays and on the final
Saturday of each month)


Click here to see an enlargement plus other images
from the exhibition leaflet.




Click here to see an enlargement plus other images
from the exhibition leaflet.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Decline in local water levels reversed by a week+ of rain

It is perhaps too soon to know if it is a mere "blip", but the Segura river basin, which supplies water in the Murcia region of Spain, has recorded its first positive weekly change in recent months after what has reportedly been a long and hot and very dry summer, with the rains in the area over the past week. Most northern Europeans, me included, tend to consider "good weather" as being rain-free and of course sunny, but of course in the semi-desert conditions locally, different criteria govern a comfortable existence - and a part of that has to include some rain, even if locally that tends to mean violent swings between lengthy droughts and much briefer periods of intense rain and the accompanying flooding and damage as rain runs off dry and hard ground.

Be that as it may, over the past week water reserves in the Segura river basin have risen by 0.2% to 59.5%, after several months of steady reduction. As an indication, when I started to record weekly water reserve data in the middle of July, the local figure was 72%.

Until earlier this year, another locally-maintained website (by another owner at the same development where I have my holiday-home) had provided very useful weather data over the past approximately 9 years, but with the return to the UK of this owner and the passing on of the maintenance of his website to another owner (not known to me), some of the more useful aspects of this weather data recording seem to have been discontinued, although current weather conditions are still being reported.

As a non-resident owner, I am not able to record locally-gathered daily data about rainfall and temperature, but weekly information about water reserves nationally across Spain and in various regions (for the different river basins) is fortunately available on-line, so once I noticed a few months ago that local weather data was no longer being collected and tabulated so meticulously in this other local website, I decided that I could at least record water reserve data on a weekly basis, to give some indication of weather trends, because I missed being able to turn to the other website for this historic information. You can find this information in the "Spanish Info[rmation]" part of the Links page (http://www.casabill.net/links01.htm) in my Spanish website - or you can go direct to the water reserve data by clicking here.

Water reserves nationally are still declining, although to a much lesser extent than during the height of the summer. One of the [few "good"] effects of the economic downturn in Spain since 2007/2008 is that the significant use of water by the construction industry (and the largely immigrant or at least non-local labour force it employed) has dropped dramatically, so there is not the extreme pressure on scarce water resources that once existed, when massive water transfers from other more abundantly-watered parts of Spain had to be done every so often, with all the regional political rivalries that ensued; there has also been a reduction in the land used for agricultural production (until perhaps very recently), with land being given over to solar power generation and the introduction of new desalination plants, all of which have reduced pressure on water resources, even though this has been accompanied by cost increases. For example, during the height of the construction boom until 2007/2008, water reserves locally in the summer often dropped to a low of around 12%, basically the muddy sludge in the bottom of water channels and storage reservoirs, which required emergency transfers from other parts of the country (accompanied by political ructions) if the basic needs of the human population were to be satisfied, with the costs of water for agricultural usage rising significantly and resulting in significant acreage being taken out of production. At least the recent rainfall has added a little to the water table.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Referendum on Scottish Independence - 18th September 2014 - the results

(This article is cross-posted from both my personal website and my main blog; although it has nothing directly to do with Spain it is of great personal importance to me. It may also perhaps be relevant for parts of Europe where secessionist movements exist, such as Spain in relation to Catalonia.)

The referendum held yesterday to decide whether Scotland would remain a part of the United Kingdom, or whether it would become a separate/independent country has now concluded with the final result being announced officially earlier today. In brief the "Yes" campaign has been defeated and therefore Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom, a decision that pleases me greatly. The results for the "no" vote were 2,001,926 votes (55.3%), with the "yes" side of the debate receiving 1,617,989 votes (44.7%). However, there are going to be significant constitutional changes both in Scotland and in other parts of the UK (specially as they affect England) that if successful are likely to ensure that this ugly problem does not rear its head again anytime soon and that people's reasonable democratic expectations are addressed throughout the whole country. The "Devolution settlement" concocted by the last Labour government in 1997/8 was defective and has in my opinion led us directly to this impasse and its current efforts to deny English voters sole say in domestic English matters, for purely partisan political reasons, must be resisted at all costs, otherwise the amended settlement currently being negotiated is unlikely to be very durable. Whatever else may be said about this referendum exercise, it has on the whole been conducted in a civlised manner, with only the 'aggressive' tactics of some of the "yes" supporters marring this; it seems clear that many countries around the world have looked on with some amazement both that such a referendum for a part of a country to 'secede' was ever held in the first place, specially in a country that has existed for so long and been as stable as the United Kingdom, but that it was actually permitted in the first place, not to mention that it was mostly carried out in a peaceful, civilised manner. It was also completely honest and transparent, as all elections have been in this country for a very long time, so the pre-referendum agreement of all to accept the result will be honoured without question. What this really shows is that the home of modern democracy, the UK, has demonstrated once more how secure and self-confident we are in our democratic beliefs and credentials. Full results of the referendum can be found in the dedicated BBC website page here.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Jellyfish sightings off Spanish coasts almost non-existent so far this year

Jellyfish sightings off the Spanish coast have been virtually non-existent so far this summer, according to the Spanish Institute of Oceanography ("Instituto Español de Oceanografía" - IEO).

Ignacio Franco, researcher at the Murcia Oceanographic Institute ("Centro Oceanográfico de Murcia") has confirmed that the jellyfish situation this year so far is "very quiet" and that so far no sightings of Portuguese "man o' war" jellyfish (Physalia physalis) have been reported. He clarified that this is in fact a migratory species, topped by a flotation chamber in which it makes and stores gases that make it subject to wind currents, unlike other species of jellyfish, and that whether it moves into the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean (usually from the months of February to June) depends on whether there have been westerly winds blowing in the area near the Straits of Gibraltar. Although there remain significant numbers of these jellyfish in the Atlantic, with some incidence of westerly winds, the prediction is that it is unlikely there will be significant further transfers into the Mediterranean this year, although it cannot be ruled out entirely.

As this species can inflict a painful sting, and occasionally give rise to additional severe medical problems, it is best to avoid being stung if possible and to observe any precautionary notices that may be issued.

The situation this year is an improvement on when I last wrote about this problem in April 2010, when around a dozen of these jellyfish were spotted off the Murcian coast, so is likely to be a more pleasant and risk-free summer for swimmers.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Briton detained in Mazarrón in connection with convictions for sexual assault and corruption of minors

A Briton aged 34 has been detailed in Mazarrón in connection with convictions for sexual assault and corruption of minors.

He was convicted in a British court in 2012 and sentenced to 12 years in prison, on offences committed between 2006 and 2009. The arrest was made under an arrest warrant issued in the UK and executed through Interpol Madrid.

Read full story (in Spanish)  here.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The King is NOT dead, Long Live the King

This is my perhaps whimsical way of marking the announcement a short time ago that the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, has decided to abdicate, largely because of his failing health, in favour of his son Prince Felipe, Prince of Asturias.

The King, who is now 76, has been in failing health for some time, so his decision to abdicate is not entirely a surprise, although the recent travails of his daughter (Princess Cristina) and her husband have perhaps contributed both to his health problems and his lessening personal popularity amongst the Spanish people, although in general he has been extremely popular and his intervention during the attempted military coup of February 1981 is believed to have been a major factor in foiling it and cementing the post-Franco modern Spanish democracy we know today.

Crown Prince Felipe is the third of King Juan Carlos's three children, but the only male, so became heir apparent in accordance with Spanish law; he is 46 and has two children, both daughters, currently aged 8 and 7. I am not yet aware of how Crown Prince Felipe will be 'styled' once he ascends the throne.