Monday, August 31, 2009


Living in Spain I subscribe to Canal Digital + which is an amalgamation of the former Canal + and Digital satellite services.

Hence I receive Canal Digital’s own programmes, the main Spanish broadcasters, BBC World, Fox News, Sky News and yes CNBC amongst many others.

Ok you expect some oddities in the bunch like Eurosport. This station always seems to me to feature sports that no other station wants such as skiing, the world’s strongest man, curling and pole sitting. However even Eurosport has left me stunned. Currently on Sky and CNBC there are commercials running for Eurosport inviting you to join the celebrations for their 20th anniversary in May. Next May it has to be! No last May!

Then there is Sky News. In between the standard programming when the UK takes commercials Sky puts out a graphic text and photo news, sport and weather round-up. Except more often than not the photos or text are missing and as for the weather map I have no idea when that refers to – May probably.

However the pick of the crop has to be CNBC. Now I understand that NBC has been taking a battering in the USA for some years now. I visited the WNBC radio station back in the early 1970s and have had a strong loyalty for it ever since. I adored Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in the 80s so was delighted to discover CNBC amongst my package.

Now CNBC is a serious business and financial broadcaster Monday to Friday and I am sure it is top notch. However at weekends it loosens its tie and relaxes a little – no it relaxes too much.

I latched on to it because it showed both Jay Leno’s Tonight Show and Conan O’Brien from New of course we just get Conan with little chance I guess of seeing Jay’s prime show when it starts in mid September.

Over the weekend CNBC brings us CNBC Life. Let me quote from the CNBC website: “CNBC Life is CNBC’s weekend block of ‘lifestyle’ programming in EMEA. Featuring eighteen hours of carefully selected premium programming, CNBC Life covers five areas: travel & leisure, sport, luxury, entertainment and current affairs.”

That frankly is a lie. Either CNBC are idiots or they think their viewers are – and its not the latter.

The lifestyle programmes on travel, luxury and leisure have been repeated ad nausea for the past two years or more.

I should add that the “carefully selected premium programming” means we have to sit through travel programmes that were recorded in, wait for it, 2002!

The travel programmes themselves have been edited to make fillers and a recent show about Greece had its edited version appearing in the midst of the main programme so I viewed everything twice.

More often than not the Conan O’Brien shows are repeated some over the same weekend or following weekend – the same professional scheduling was with us when Jay Leno did the show.

Now my point is this – as one of the world’s major broadcasters NBC has a huge library of current and recorded material at its disposal. So why is CNBC filling its schedule with programming that is anything but “carefully selected premium programming.”

And more pertinently – why is CNBC Life, CRAP?

Friday, August 28, 2009


It’s a problem I have never had to face but the whole point of the majority of investors placing their money in off-shore locations is to keep their financial affairs secret, especially from the tax man. Now that confidentiality is at risk, and professionals are being placed in a difficult position, by the Gibraltar Government’s policy of signing tax information exchange agreements in secret.

The pressure is on the Gibraltar Government to sign twelve tax information exchange agreements so that it can be removed from the ‘grey list’ of off-shore finance centres and move on to the ‘white list’. Failure to do so will see sanctions imposed and other actions taken plus of course it would give Madrid another stick to beat Gibraltar with.

However rather than this process being undertaken in full view it is being negotiated and signed in secret. Spain kicked up a fuss when Gibraltar signed a high profile agreement with the USA in London in April ahead of the G20 meeting arguing that the Rock was acting like an independent nation rather than a British colony (which is it no longer meant to be).

Critics argue that the current policy of arriving at accords in secret is merely bowing to Spanish pressure but it is also causing confusion amongst the Rock’s own financial centre. Indeed whilst I receive press releases from the Gibraltar Government on a whole raft of topics I have yet to receive one announcing a tax information exchange agreement.

Recently Gibraltar signed a very one-sided agreement with the German Government – an administration that operates a very aggressive tax collecting regime - but nobody on the Rock knew. German clients of financial institutions in Gibraltar were phoning to ask for information and the staff had to reply they knew nothing. The news was only made public when the German Finance Ministry announced the deal in Berlin. Now the same situation seems to have arisen with Australia.

Gibraltar’s GSLP/Liberal Opposition says it notes that the Australian tax authorities have announced that they have signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement overnight with Gibraltar.

The Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Fabian Picardo, commented on this development: “We support the execution of Tax Information Exchange Agreements by Gibraltar, but we criticise the fact that the Government is not making timely announcements about these agreements being entered into.

“Following press releases I have previously issued on this matter, reliable reports reflect that practitioners in the finance centre have been caught out advising clients in some jurisdictions with which agreements have been signed because the Government has not announced the fact that it has entered into these agreements.

“There is no reason for the Government not to announce that it has entered into these agreements; especially given that the counterpart jurisdictions are announcing the agreements. Keeping the finance centre here in the dark about these developments serves no purpose and can and is causing havoc for many practitioners.”

I also understand this lack of information puts finance centre professionals in a difficult position. They have a duty of confidentiality to the client, yet now have to supply this confidential information to the client’s government because secret accords have been signed which neither they nor they clients knew about. Hence they could be risking being exposed to legal action from their clients.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Turkeys and chickens seem to be in the news this week.

First I hear that police in Peru were stunned to find cocaine surgically implanted in two bloated turkeys. Apparently a little bird told them to stop a bus outside the city of Tarapoto. Officers were puzzled when they found the turkeys in the crate, but they didn’t find the expected cocaine until they noticed that the two turkeys were bloated. On examining the birds they found surgical seams on the chests and after an operation a vet extracted 11 plastic capsules containing 1.9 kilograms of cocaine from one turkey plus a further 17 capsules with 2.9 kilograms from the other.

It is not clear at this time whether anybody has yet been up before the beak and is serving bird for the offence.

Meanwhile Hans Larsson of the Canada Research Chair in Macro Evolution at Montreal's McGill University believes he can develop dinosaur traits that disappeared millions of years ago in birds. He told AFP that by flipping certain genetic levers during a chicken embryo’s development, he can reproduce the dinosaur anatomy. I understand the research could eventually lead to hatching live prehistoric animals, but Larsson said there are no plans for that now, for ethical and practical reasons as a dinosaur hatchery is “too large an enterprise.”

Ah, one for the birds then.

Finally talk of chickens and turkeys reminds me of a scam that was popular in pubs in Dublin in the 1970s. In the days before Christmas a man would enter a bar with a large bundle under his arm and a turkey’s neck protruding from it. He’d then tell one and all how he’d won the office lottery with a turkey as the prize but wouldn’t you just know it he already had a festive bird at home. Once he found a punter willing to take the turkey off his hands at a good price he’d quickly leave the bar. It was only when the hapless buyer got the bird home and unwrapped it that he found that the turkey’s neck had been sown on to the body of a small chicken.

A stitch up indeed!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


In my blog today I was going to vent my spleen over CNBC, the NBC business TV station that broadcasts in Europe and around the world. However I became sidetracked when thinking of New York so instead of ire I come to you with fond memories of one of the kindest and gentlest of men I have ever met, Walter Neiman.

I first met Walter in London in the early 1970s. He was then vice-president of WQXR, the classical music station of the New York Times. He gave a key note speech at a conference on commercial radio, a concept we were about to grasp in the UK so ending the domination of the BBC.

We had a long chat in London, corresponded and I then visited him in New York. He took extraordinary lengths to ensure that I had access to the many departments at WQXR and gave me the fullest briefing imaginable on how a commercial radio station operates – especially in a big city.

He took me to lunch at Sardi’s which impressed me immensely. First it was the only New York restaurant I had ever heard of, second the walls were bedecked with pictures of all the famous talents who had dined there and third, it was Italian, so it was food that I understood.

Our friendship continued over the years and when I visited New York in the early1980s Walter had been president of the station for a number of years. Although running the radio station of the New York Times is a major task in itself because of its importance on the city’s cultural scene Walter’s influence and talents were spread across many fronts including the Met.

We talked in his office about a radio programme I would record for WQXR with former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, with a special emphasis on the pending Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. That agreed we again retired to Sardi’s for lunch.

After we sat down Walter told me this would be our farewell lunch. I looked at him rather puzzled and he explained that he had a terminal heart condition and would not be around in many more months. Indeed in March 1983 the New York Times ran the rather bleak obituary headline – Walter Neiman of WXQR is dead.

He had passed away of the expected heart attack whilst in hospital. Yet our final lunch was far from a sombre occasion. It was the first time in my life that I had been confronted with a person’s mortality so head on. I thus spent the lunch in a state of shock, like trying to eat after being punched in the stomach. Either Walter had accepted his fate with good humour or was a superb actor but he spent the rest of the meal talking animatedly about WQXR, music and his wife with whom he had visited London on the way back from an Italian holiday when I had arranged for them to visit the House of Commons. Make no mistake, Walter was the master and I was the pupil yet never in any of our conversations – and certainly not then - did he treat me anything other than as an equal and a friend. That is the true measure of this man.

Thankfully when we came to part for the final time we both had meetings to rush to so no lingering farewell was endured. However I have to admit when I turned on to Broadway tears were rolling down my cheeks. When I next visited New York Walter had passed away but friends had kept various obituaries which showed just how valued and loved he was.

Our final lunch certainly taught me a very tough lesson – but 26 years on I still have only the fondest, warmest memories of a wonderful man, a fine mentor and a true friend.

Monday, August 24, 2009


There is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher will be seen as a major influence on the British and world political stage in the 20th century. First she was Britain’s first woman prime minister but she divided the country and historians are yet to decide whether she was a force for good or bad although many politicians have their entrenched opinions already. I suspect we will have to wait for the still formidable Baroness Thatcher to shuffle off this mortal coil before the historical views are publically spoken or put in print.

On Saturday I read an interview in the Daily Telegraph given by Jim Swire to Peter Stanford. Jim Swire lost his daughter in the 1988 Pan Am tragedy but he has been one of those who believed that Megrahi was not guilty of the bombing and that the bomb was placed on-board the Boeing 747 at Heathrow rather than a connecting flight from Malta via Frankfurt. If his theories are correct then the likely terror group responsible is pro-Palestinian based in Damascus with links to Iran.

This brings us to Margaret Thatcher because the widely respected Swire holds her in utter contempt. He told Stanford: “She refused even to meet me, as a representative of the families, to hear our request for a public enquiry. And then, in 1993, in her memories, she writes that after she backed the US bombing of Tripoli in 1986, Libya never again mounted a serious attack on the West. How can she write that if she believed Libya was behind Lockerbie two years later? Unless she knows something she is not saying.”

I know the freeing of Megrahi has caused widespread pain to the relatives of those on the Pan Am flight who are convinced of his guilt, especially in the USA. However I do wonder if the protests from the US Government and its agencies are motivated not because of a miscarriage of justice in freeing the Libyan but because his release might eventually mean the investigation is re-opened and another miscarriage of justice is uncovered.

And what, one may ask, is Baroness Thatcher’s take on all this? Indeed are there other murky secrets yet to be uncovered from her time in office?

Friday, August 21, 2009


For me the Lockerbie air disaster came close to being a personal tragedy. A very dear friend was booked on the Pam Am flight 103 in 1988 and literally escaped death at the eleventh hour when his business meeting in London overran so he had to re-book on a later flight.

Nor is the town of Lockerbie just a name on a map. In the years prior to the disaster I drove past the crash site on many occasions so the events in the air and the 11 deaths of the ground have a very real reference point.

Now the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, has been released from prison in Scotland and as I write this is in the bosom of his family in Libya were he awaits his own death sentence from cancer.

Megrahi was found guilty by a Scottish court sitting in Holland of murdering the 259 people on board the 747 flight and those on the ground. Some people argue that this was a convenient closure especially so for the governments in Washington and London.

What does appear clear is that some lawyers in Scotland are very unhappy with the conviction of Megrahi and wish the legal case to be re-opened. This could have been the case had he continued with his appeal against conviction.

Even more to the point many of the families of the victims in Britain do not share the view of their US counterparts and also have strong doubts over Megrahi’s conviction.

So we are faced with two tragedies: the slaying of 270 people by the explosion of the 747 over Lockerbie and that 21 years on we are still none the wiser over exactly what happened – perhaps we never will be.

Sadly the USA long ago ceased to be a reference point for compassion or justice so its government’s pressure counted for little in the Megrahi case and could even have been counterproductive.

Scottish Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill said Megrahi had shown no compassion to his victims, but added: “That alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.”

In the coming months Megrahi will join his victims in peace. However the torment will continue for those family members left behind and other perpetrators of this act of terrorism will still be amongst us because even if Megrahi was guilty, he certainly didn’t act alone.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Britons are having to come to terms with the fact that, once again, their promised barbeque summer has turned in to a couple of barbeque days.

The mind plays curious tricks. I remember the summer days of my childhood and long hot summers were the norm. Except they weren’t of course and although my childhood coincided with the exceptional summer of 1959 even those consecutive hot months was accompanied by heavy storms.

This year partly on the promise of a barbeque summer but more because of the economic crisis and sterling’s slide against the euro many Britons have opted to holiday at home. This is a blessing and a curse for the British holiday industry. It’s good to have the fully booked sign hanging from the holiday village, hotel, boarding house and camp site gate – but as the country is awash how many of these Britons will holiday at home next year? Very few.

Spain has been hit by the recession too because Britons and Germans make up a large quota of the incoming holiday traffic and this year their absence has been noted. It is the ‘national’ tourists who have saved the day but then for many Spaniards holidaying at home is the norm not the exception and often includes a return to the “pueblo” of their birth. I should add that for a Spaniard his or her “pueblo” is everything. It is their identity and their “pueblo” or the “barrio” of a city comes before their province, region and country.

Antonio lives in the valley where I had my house. He grew up on the hillside across from me where his father was the shepherd. He has a house in the village but developed a piece of land with a small dwelling, pool, vegetable plot and storage area for his building business. Apart from his honeymoon and military service he has never roamed from these parts. A few years back his young daughters demanded to spend the day in Puerto Banús. He reluctantly agreed to take them and then wished he hadn’t. The Costa del Sol was like a foreign land and as for the price of drinks... ¡Joder!

Last week my village held its feria. This is a signal for all jimenatos to return from wherever they may now live. As I went to the supermarket a very smart but casually dressed young woman with her two children went ahead of me. She certainly didn’t have the look of a village lass. As we entered the shop she was hailed by a man who asked why she wasn’t in Madrid (which explained her style) to which she proudly replied she had returned to “her pueblo” for the celebrations.

I close this blog at Cañete La Real in the Serranía de Ronda. Now whilst most of us celebrated Noche Vieja – New Year’s Eve – on December 31 the people of this village held their party last Saturday night. Many locals have moved from the village to other places in Spain and Europe but return for the month of August to their “pueblo”. Hence it was decided to hold the New Year’s Eve fiesta in their honour including, of course, a “Miss y Mister Emigrante” competition.

Oh those hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer!

Monday, August 17, 2009


One of the things that fascinates me about Spain, and I have touched on it here oft times before is religion.

When I grew up Spain was one of the most staunchly Catholic countries in Europe. Whilst most Spaniards would still probably consider themselves Catholics today, in the same way many Britons would say they were C of E, the fact it the modern Spain is a secular nation.

Coupled with that is the role of the Catholic Church in the pre Civil War years, under the Franco regime and to an extent in the post-dictatorship era. This leaves many Spaniards unwilling to enter a Catholic church or to have anything to do with a clergy so aligned with the Fascist past.

So it is not surprising that on Sundays or high days and holidays the Catholic Churches preach to a few. It is a situation well known in Britain.

However there is a profound change in the nation come Semana Santa when the Easter week parades take to the streets and the crowds flock to see the processions. The same can be said for when a town or village’s patron is duly honoured and the image is carried high to much local devotion.

What makes Spain such a special country is that if a large number of people are gathered in one place then it is seen as reason enough to have a party. Hence fiestas always accompany the days in which the patron is honoured.

Now make no mistake the honouring of the religious patron, be it one of the numerous ‘Virgens’ or a saint, is a serious and devout businesses. There is an unbreakable link between the people of a town, village or even small neighbourhood to their patron, they are ‘familia’ and it would be a foolish man or woman who treated such veneration with disrespect. Yet this devotion should not be confused with organised religion.

I have just been writing up a report on El Burgo in the Serranía de Ronda. There was much consternation in the village last August when during the annual fair the statue of San Agustín fell to the ground and was smashed injuring a woman in the process. The accident happened as those carrying the village’s patron performed a dancing movement accompanied by the municipal band. Apparently the throne on which San Agustín stands rotates to face all points of the compass but last year he crashed at the feet of the villagers before it could be completed. For such a small community of just hundreds this would have been seen as an exceedingly bad omen so it is no surprise that eight months of major restoration work have been undertaken to ensure the statue will be ready to again take to the streets on August 28.

Do the people of El Burgo flock to the church on Sundays? Of course not.

Will they be on the streets on August 28 to venerate their dancing saint? Of course – every one of them.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Word reached me after the banks closed on Friday that in central Italy a deposit of Parmesan cheese is enough to secure a loan.

Apparently this system dates back to the 1950s and is still used by four banks in northern Emilia-Romagna including one which holds around 400,000 rounds of the cheese.

I am reliably told that a round of Parmesan weighing 40 kilos is worth 300 euros so is not to be sniffed at.

The cheeses take about two years to mature but during these two years the producers have to cover a range of costs and continue to pay their suppliers. To allow them the necessary financing the banks in this region have diversified by creating Parmesan storage.

In cases of default, the banks recuperate their losses by selling the cheeses.

I am now busy raiding my fridge to find that packet of ancient, sorry mature, cheese slices and will be off to the bank as soon as it opens on Monday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Today I record the sad passing of Francis Cantos who was the Gibraltar Government’s Press Secretary and Media Director. He had been taking a well earned holiday in Sotogrande within sight of his beloved Rock when he suffered a fatal heart attack late on Wednesday night.

Francis Cantos, who was in his mid-50s, became the Gibraltar Chronicle’s first Gibraltarian editor in 1984. Previously he had been the newspapers chief reporter and had worked as a journalist both in the UK and on the Rock. After Chief Minister Peter Caruana’s GSD was elected to government in Gibraltar Francis Cantos joined his office in September 1996.

Gibraltar Chronicle editor Dominique Searle said: “The news has come as a great shock to all at the Chronicle, newspaper and printing works, who worked with him for many years. He was totally dedicated to his journalistic work and to playing a role in taking the project of Gibraltar forward. Our condolences go out to his family, wife Pamela and his two daughters.”

Gibraltar’s journalistic community is a small and tight one so there were also warm words from Joe Garcia editor of the rival daily Panorama. He stated: “I remember meeting Francis by chance at Gatwick airport when he was 18. He had got a job in a Kensington paper. He was on his way to Gibraltar, where he wanted to make journalism his career. I was the editor of the Gibraltar Post at the time and I approached Maurice Featherstone, who was the publisher, and Francis got his break locally. From there he went on to become editor of our contemporary the Gibraltar Chronicle, becoming Media Director for the Government in September 1996. He was a hard-worker who loved his profession. His death seems so unreal.”

I last met Francis Cantos outside the Rock Hotel in Gibraltar when he was coordinating events for the historic and controversial Tripartite meeting during which Spain’s Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, made the first visit by a Spanish Government minister to Gibraltar in an official capacity. He was as usual courteous and helpful in a job that I suspect had more than its fair share of stress. I pondered this morning why there had not been any official statement from the Gibraltar Government on his passing – then I realized that he hadn’t been there to organize it.

May he rest in peace.

(Francis Cantos, left, consults with senior police officers as the Foreign Ministers of Britain and Spain arrive at the Rock Hotel on July 21).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


It’s the height of summer and I guess my mind should be running to the state of Britain’s piers – Southend, Brighton, Blackpool every charred Weston Super Mare. Instead of a breezy walk along battered planks my attention turns to the man running the country, Peter Mandelson – a peer of the realm.

This is the man who was twice forced to resign from the government of Tony Blair – men who were soul mates if only in the political sense. A man Blair wanted us to learn to love as he tells us he did.

This is the man who was then sent to Brussels as one of Britain’s EU Commissioners. There he raised many an eyebrow over his political antics and no doubt his snake hips.

Then he is hauled back to Britain by his former arch political enemy – Premier Gordon Brown. Suddenly he is a peer, Business Secretary and the power behind Brown’s tottering throne. In the reshuffle he emerges as deputy prime minister in all but name and the most powerful unelected man in the country.

I believe that the whole basis of being a democracy is that the people elect the government and those ministers should answer to the country both at the House of Commons dispatch box and at the ballot box.

However Mr Mandelson lords it over us in his ermine, sends his minions to face the political fire and is hence accountable to no one except himself.

When Britain gets round to reforming its badly dented political system may one of the first changes be that all ministers should be elected politicians, sit in the House of Commons and have to face the electorate every four years. If the Prime Minister of the day wants advisers, so be it, but only elected MPs should run our country.

In the meantime we have a politically disgraced peer running the country. Very queer!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has visited Gibraltar to inaugurate the new supporters’ club premises.

Arguably Britain’s greatest ever soccer coach must have had mixed feelings about the trip. If my memory serves me right, and it rarely does, Sir Alex was in a legal rumpus with former horse racing friends over the ownership of a successful nag called ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. However I believe that for much of his racing career, Rock of Gibraltar ran in the colours of Sir Alex, who was named as a part-owner along with Susan Magnier, wife of Coolmore owner John Magnier. When the Rock of Gibraltar retired and was sent for a lucrative time at stud, Ferguson and John Magnier were involved in a dispute over the exact nature of the ownership of the horse which was eventually settled out of court.

Still that didn’t deter Sir Alex from going to the Mons Calpe Suite at the top of the Rock to meet local supporters and to sign various memorabilia for them, the GBC charity day and a sick lad who couldn’t be present.

If Man U had 30,000 people at Old Trafford for a match the alarm bells would ring but that is around the same number of people who live on the Rock. Of them 560 are supporters of the ‘Reds’ so it is to the club’s credit that not only Sir Alex but team legend Bryan Robson and Mike Phelan also made the trip.

By coincidence I was writing a brief history of Algeciras CF at the weekend. Algeciras lies just across the bay from Gibraltar and in the late 1890s and onwards it was soccer fanatics of the British Forces and dockyard workers who lit the flame for the sport in the Spanish town. Indeed after Algeciras CF was formed in 1912 their first match was against Gibraltar side, Alexandra – the result 0-0.

There is another link between Algeciras CF and Britain. When the club was looking for a strip there were no sports shops in the town. So off they went to the Rock and chose a very striking shirt – red and white stripes – the famous kit of Southampton United which they play in to this very day.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Samantha Orobator, a mere 20 years of age, has been returned to the UK from Laos to serve her life term for smuggling drugs.

Obviously Laos isn’t totally heartless.

In a statement on her arrival in the UK she told the media: “I am enormously relieved and happy to be back on British soil. It has been an unimaginable nightmare.”

Is that the same nightmare that would have been endured by those who used the drugs she was carrying?

She escaped the death penalty because she became pregnant in an all-female jail.

So the child wasn’t conceived from a loving relationship but the need of Samantha Orobator to escape her terrible fate.

I expect in years to come her child will look back on her life and declared: “It has been an unimaginable nightmare.”

My heart truly bleeds…


I accept that you dear reader may have your own opinion on this but let me say that as far as I am concerned I am no longer a twit.

It was Ron Callari of Kid Millenium who first suggested that I should sign up with Twitter. I duly did and each day posted my 140 characters worth of wisdom to a waiting cyber world.

Then I linked to the twitters from a leading, respected journalist who has worked with both the BBC and CNN. My first twit from him informed me of the state of his boiled breakfast egg. It may have been a yolk but he was a twit for sending it and was I a twit for reading it?

Hence I decided to twit no more.

Now I read that Twitter suffered major problems on Thursday from hacker attacks in a coordinated campaign against online social networks. The incidents are said to have “underscored the vulnerability of fast-growing Internet social networking sites that have been heralded as powerful new political tools to counter censorship and authoritarianism”.

I accept that Twitter became a key form of communication in Iran amid the protests and clampdown that followed the country’s disputed June elections. However the majority of messages are banal beyond belief and I cannot help think that the hacker did us all a favour even if the twits were only silenced for a couple of hours.

As my granny used to say – If you’ve got nothing useful to say – say nothing – and that would apply to most twitters. Thankfully she never read my blogs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The other day I received an email from a reader that purported to come from a doctor in Peru. May be it does – may be it doesn’t – however what it does do is raise some interesting questions over the Swine Flu Panic-demic.

The text is in Spanish and I have edited it for brevity but the email asks:

“What interests? What economic move is behind swine flu?

In the world, two million people die each year victims of malaria, which can be prevented by a mosquito net.

And the news says nothing of this.

In the world, two million children die every year from diarrhoea, and these boys and girls could be cured with an oral serum costing 25 cents.

And the news says nothing of this.

Measles, pneumonia and other diseases that can be cured with cheap vaccines cause the death of ten million people worldwide each year.

And the news reports nothing.

But then the famous bird flu appeared.

The global media was flooded; tons of ink was used spreading the news and alarm...

Not just an epidemic but the most dangerous of all... a pandemic.

And yet the avian influenza only caused the death of 250 people around the world - 250 killed during 10 years, which gives an average of 25 victims per year.

The common flu kills half a million people each year worldwide.

Half a million against 25.

The pharmaceutical transnational Roche with its famous Tamiflu sold a million doses to the Asian countries.

Although the Tamiflu is of dubious effectiveness, the British Government bought 14 million doses to protect to its population.

With chicken flu, Roche and Relenza, two large pharmaceutical companies sold these anti-virals, making billions of dollars in earnings.

As with the chickens and now with the pigs.

Yes, now begins the swine flu psychosis. And the world news speaks only of this.

Look at what Executive Laboratories Roche says:

We are concerned very much by this epidemic therefore we put to the sale the miraculous Tamiflu.

And for how much do you sell the "miraculous" Tamiflu?

Well, let's see... $50 the box.

What $ 50? What a box of pills?

Understand, Madam... miracles are very expensive.”

Well the email goes on to draw its own conclusions but I am sure you have conclusions enough of your own. I also have to say that the price of Tamiflu I found on the internet was far higher than $50.

What is certain is that the biggest distributor of swine flu is the world media intent on bringing this Panic-demic in to your homes. And who benefits financially? Certainly not me and I doubt if it’s you!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I return today to the subject of the Spanish Royal Family and the public’s right to free speech.

I should first state that whilst in Britain I would now describe myself as a Republican as a foreign resident in Spain I have a positive view of this country’s royal family although I accept that some Spaniards do not.

Recently the co-ordinator general of far-left Izquierda Unida, Cayo Lara, pointed the finger at the Royal Family accusing it of being a fiscal paradise. He argued that in recent years the Royal Family has operated as “an opaque fiscal paradise” with a lack of absolute transparency. He added that this has a very negative impact especially at this time of financial crisis.

In an interview with Europa Press the far left politician viewed positively the recent High Court ruling by Santiago Pedraz on the insults that were shouted at King Juan Carlos at the final of the Copa del Rey in Valencia. The judge viewed them as no more than a freedom of expression.

This contrasts with the case of the IU mayor of Puerto Real, José Antonio Barroso, who was fined 6,840 euros in June by judge José María Vázquez Honrubia in the High Court in Madrid. Barroso was answering a case brought by the Ministerio Fiscal that in April last year at a Republican Rally in Los Barrios he had made statements in his speech that were injurious to the king – Juan Carlos I.

So if a soccer crowd shouts insults at the King and boos the Spanish national anthem it is displaying freedom of speech and expression. However if Barroso states his clearly held views on the Spanish Royal Family and the King’s father that is deemed as slandering the monarch.

I am sorry there is something wrong here. Freedom of speech is not something you can turn on or off. Whilst I broadly support the Spanish Royal Family I accept the rights of others to voice their genuinely held views without fear of prosecution. Or if the King felt Barroso had gone too far then he should have gone to court to seek remedy and not the public prosecutor at our expense. After all if Lara is correct, Juan Carlos can well afford it!