Sunday, July 31, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Humans of New York

Humans of New York (HONY) is a photoblog and a bestselling book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City. Started in November 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton, over 6,000 portraits have been gathered thus far. Humans of New York has developed a large following through social media, and has over 13.7 million followers on Facebook and over 3.3 million followers on Instagram as of July 2015.

Stanton, who grew up outside of Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia, came to New York after a three-year stint as a bond trader in Chicago. Having started his career as a bond trader in the year 2008, Brandon Stanton decided to pursue his passion of photography professionally after he lost his job in 2010. He started to take candid portraits on streets which became a hit on his Facebook page. Stanton is most known for his photoblog Humans of New York, started in 2010. This is the human behind Humans of New York:

How to sleep in the Spanish heat

Ciudad Real, central Spain, July 17, 11pm: outside it’s 32.8ºC, according to the AEMET Spanish state meteorological agency. At that temperature the bed sheets cling, pajamas are too heavy, and cool air is notable by its absence. It’s impossible to sleep. Your first reaction is to turn on the air con, if you have it. But often it’s not worth the cost to have it running the whole night, so you decide to turn it off again.
But is it possible to sleep coolly in the Spanish summer without air conditioning? Tradition says yes. Ancient Egyptians used to moisten their bedclothes to sleep better and combat heat waves, which pose a serious risk to public health. According to the results of a scientific study carried out by the Spanish National Research Council, mortality rates for those aged over 75 increase 20.1 percent for each degree that the maximum daily temperature rises above 36ºC.
1. Be creative. Come up with methods to stop hot air from entering the room. For instance, point a fan toward the windows, or place a bowl full of ice or very cold water in front of the fan to cool the air further. A damp sheet placed over the window also helps.Our ancestors have passed down to us a long legacy of tricks for staying cool. You can sleep under cotton sheets, for example, which aid perspiration. At the same time you can also put your sheets in the fridge or freezer inside a plastic bag for a few minutes before sleeping – they won’t stay cool the whole night, but it will be long enough for you to fall asleep – or fill a hot water bottle with cold water to cool down your bed. Here are a few more suggestions.
2. Wear light pajamas. That’s the advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though you can also sleep naked if you like. It’s a question of preference. According to a study by the Association of American Cotton Producers Cotton USA carried out in the UK, 57 percent of people who sleep naked are happier in their relationship with their partner.
3. Apply compresses dipped in lukewarm water on parts of the body most sensitive to heat, such as the neck, elbows, ankles and the backs of the knees. The contact with cool water has a refrigerating effect that triggers a narrowing of the blood vessels, heating up the skin. In turn, the heat cools you down as a result of the difference in the surrounding temperature, explains the CDC.
5. Shower in warm water to reduce your body temperature. This is a good tip for feeling fresh and clean. Many people say that, even though the shock of a cold shower produces an instant feeling of coolness, it reactivates your body and energy consumption, which makes you feel the heat more quickly afterwards than if you had showed in warm water, explains the Biological Health Institute. Also, be sure to keep your feet cool as heat enters the body here. Washing them before you turn in for the night or sleeping with them outside the bed are two good tips.
4. Sleep alone. It’s the best thing to stay cool. Sleeping alongside someone else increases your body temperature and makes the bedclothes cling, explains, a website devoted to sleep problems. What’s more, doing so at floor level will make you even cooler as hot air tends to rise.
6. Eat salad for dinner. Avoid big meals and hot dishes such as stews, soups and roast chicken. These force the body to produce more heat in order to digest them. A yoghurt, salad or that Spanish summer favorite, cold gazpacho, are perfect for summer nights. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, the WHO says: the body uses it to get rid of heat.
7. Turn off all lights and electronic gadgets completely. Putting them on standby is not enough: they go on using energy and giving off heat, according to the International Energy Agency – between five and 10 percent of what they would use when switched on. Also: replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, which produce the same amount of light but use a fifth of the energy and give off less heat, according to the emergencies center in Arlington, Virginia.
Lastly, if you are able to sleep out in the open air, do so. Set up a camp on the roof or head out into the country to sleep close to a place next to water (the moisture in the air has a cooling effect), turning a night of stifling heat into one of adventure.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Another summer swimming among scum and rubbish

Rubbish appears in and out of the water on beaches along the Costa del Sol due to anti-social habits and a lack of adequate sewage treatment


Another summer swimming among scum and rubbish
Rubbish left on the beach in Pedregalejo. (Fernando González)
The Costa del Sol is a tourist destination par excellence. It attracts millions of visitors every year, mainly due to its beaches . However, at any point along Malaga’s 161 kilometres of coastline, if people were asked whether they have ever encountered scum or something even more unpleasant in the sea while swimming, the beaches would be filled with upraised hands.
This summer is no exception, and it is really negative for the Costa del Sol brand. This endemic problem is the result of the anti-social behaviour of those who flush wet-wipes, sanitary pads, cotton buds and condoms down the lavatory without realising, or caring, that this type of rubbish blocks the sewage pipes. These items are normally removed, but when there is heavy rain or when the population increases in the summer the pipes can’t always cope; they overflow and release all their contents, including solid waste. Once that happens, the currents move the floating rubbish around for months.
Some people also have a habit of throwing used frying oil down the sink or the toilet. Approximately eight out of every ten litres end up down the drain. In the best of cases, if the oil is channelled to a treatment plant, 10 per cent of the fats end their journey in the sea. What happens in places where the waste is not treated is easy to deduce.
“Many people still think anything can be thrown down the toilet, you just flush the loo and that’s that, but even though there are numerous treatment plants in this province, there are still some places where the waste isn’t treated, and then the sea currents spread it all along the coast,” warns Jorge Gil, who works for Acosol, the company which manages water supplies on the western Costa del Sol.
Pablo Temboury, the director of industrial facilities at Emasa, the water company for Malaga city, places special emphasis on the damage caused by wet wipes. “They are advertised as being biodegradable, but they’re not. Anyone can test that at home, by leaving one in a glass of water for several days. They will see that it just stays there, because it is cotton. Toilet paper is different, it changes consistency,” he says.
Guadalhorce river
Some people’s behaviour leaves much to be desired, but so does the attitude of the authorities when it comes to sorting out once and for all something which has been a major problem for tourism on the Costa del Sol for four decades.
In the inland region of Malaga province there are still about 30 small municipalities whose sewage ends up in rivers or streams with no previous filtering, but there are two black spots in particular. The most visible is Nerja, which still holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only large coastal town where the sewage is not treated. In 2014 work began on the construction of a sewage plant, but there have been several delays and now it is due to come into operation in mid-2017. When fully operative, it will treat the sewage of the 125,000 people who reside in the area in the summer.
There is a second black spot of which fewer people are aware because it is not by the sea, but it is just as damaging for the environment, if not more so: the Guadalhorce river, which has become the dump for the waste generated by 100,000 people, before it flows into the sea.
Two treatment plants were planned for this area over a decade ago but have never been built: one for Coín, Pizarra and Álora, and another to treat much of the sewage from the metropolitan area, including Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama.
Juan Jesús Martín, a biologist at the Aula del Mar, makes it clear: “Untreated waste from numerous rural areas goes into the Guadalhorce river. That contravenes European regulations and affects not only tourism but also marine life, especially plastic residues and wet wipes, because they don’t dissolve,” he explains.
In addition to the seemingly never-ending task of providing effective sewage treatment for the whole province, there is a need to expand the capacity of the collectors to ensure that they can cope at peak periods and, above all, to improve the marine outfalls, most of which have deteriorated due to storms and the passage of time and some of which are almost 40 years old.
These are the pipes which take the sewage out to the point at which it is released into the sea, sufficiently far away from the coast. The distance is usually between 850 metres and two kilometres. More important than the distance, however, is the fact that the treated waste has to be correctly diluted by the salt water, a process which depends on the type of treatment process and the depth of the underwater pipes (the further down, the better the dilution).
Another problem altogether is the scum, because there are several factors which cause this including the characteristics of the Alboran Sea, which is enclosed and makes it difficult for its waters to be refreshed.
“It is difficult to tackle the problem of the scum because we don’t know exactly what causes it. The only thing we have been able to ascertain is that it is mainly formed by sand. Whether it is due to a lack of waste treatment, ships, used oil or even swimmers themselves is difficult to determine,” says Antolín de Benito, of Axaragua, the company responsible for the water in La Axarquía region. Sometimes, the cause is natural, from the action of waves on the fine sand and sediment on the sea bed, but hydrocarbons from ships have also been detected and, of course, contamination from sewage.
Juan Jesús Martín explains that there is a human cause, which is when people throw used frying oil down the drain, because ten per cent of this escapes treatment. “From about 12 or one o’clock the fats emulsify because the water temperature rises close to the shore,” he says.
There is another problem, too. As José Carlos Báez, biologist and researcher at the Oceanography Centre in Malaga explains, there are large areas of the Mediterranean where plastic accumulates and enters the food chain of turtles and tuna. This then passes into the human food chain and is a cause of cancer.
“Plastic in the sea is a serious problem, but we don’t take any notice of it unless it affects us directly,” he says.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Coñazo de Brexit_by Forges

5 Ways to Disconnect (Technologically) This Summer

You're on holiday! Isn't it time to take a break from all the workday routine? Then why don't you forget about your computer and your cell phone and enjoy the sun? Here are five suggestions for disconnecting, as much as possible, from technology:

  1. Leave everything organized at work. If you can wind up all pending matters, the office won't bother you during your vacation. Learn how to delegate responsibility among your colleagues. As the saying goes, "You can do the same for me some time."
  2. Turn off your cell phone at lunchtime. Yes, those people who sit down with you at the table are family. Use your vacation to calmly converse with them. Any phone calls or WhatsApp messages can surely wait a little longer.
  3. E-mails can wait. There is no need to check your incoming box every five minutes. Give yourself a break and enjoy your rest. Consulting your e-mails once a day will be sufficient.
  4. Leave your device in the hotel. There are few things more pleasant than enjoying a day in the country or at the beach without worrying about the phone, the tablet or the computer.
  5. Be reunited with paper. Read a book again, leaf through a newspaper. You don't need electronic devices to enjoy a good story. And what about bringing back that custom of sending postcards? It's a more romantic way to use the "social networks".

Life's A Beach

What is it about that magical mix of sun, sea and sand that keeps us coming back for more? Jane Szita tests the waters.

Summertime means that many, if not most, of us will be heading for the beach to recharge our batteries. Whether we go to Spain or to the Seychelles, Brighton or Bondi, Kerala or Cape Town, the experience will be remarkably consistent as we relive treasured seaside memories, childhood adventures, teenage romances and perfect moments spent alone on deserted shores. An annual dose of beach culture has become a fixed feature in our calendar, but what lies behind our mass migration to the seaside? What explains the beach’s appeal, across generations and cultures?

ROMAN BEACH BUMS. Traditionally, the beach was seen as a hostile zone, and the dangerous workplace of fishermen. Island cultures, from the ancient Minoans to the modern Balinese, often shunned the beach, seeing it as the home of monsters and demons. It took a highly urbanized people, the Romans, to invent beach culture as we know it today –even down to the bikini, which is depicted in ancient mosaics. Wealthy Romans escaped the summer heat by flocking to the bay of Naples, where they swam by day and partied by night. The top resort, Baiae, was the Rio of its day. “Baiae, the golden shore of blessed Venus, the bewitching gift of proud nature!” was how the Roman poet Martial described it. The more sober Roman thinker and writer Seneca the Younger dismissed it as a “resort of vice”. Even today, the beach retains this ambiguity: natural and wholesome on the one hand, indulgent and naughty on the other.

IT’S GOOD FOR YOU. In cool climates, it was the pursuit of health that started a craze for sea bathing, in 18th-century England. At first, such jaunts were confined to the rich, but the Industrial Revolution soon created a new class of factory workers, keen to escape briefly each year to the beach resorts that now mushroomed around the coast. The beach became synonymous with health, relaxation and leisure, “nature’s most potent antidepressant”, as Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker call it in The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth.

This is no empty claim. Sea air is rich in particles known as negative ions, which increase our ability to absorb oxygen, refreshing mind and body. They also help to balance our levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical. In addition, just listening to the sea crashing onto the shore seems to alter brainwave patterns in an effect remarkably similar to meditation, lowering blood pressure, slowing the pulse rate, and reducing anxiety.

SOCIAL STRIPPING. Nevertheless, health alone hardly explains the beach’s key place in modern life. More powerful is the beach’s role as a social liberator. The sand is a blank canvas, washed clean by the tide each day, where we can paint whatever reality we want. We escape the city, shops, the normal rules of dress, eating and so on. We leave formality for a self-regulating world of freedom where work is impossible. The beach forces us to do nothing –and we don’t even have to feel guilty about it.

The beach is also a great leveller. You find anyone and everyone there, stripped of all the trappings of power, money and social status. The atmosphere is unique: people are at leisure, not hurrying, not competing (unless in terms of pure physical beauty, or possibly, swimwear), playing, and relaxing. There are no authority figures, unless you count deckchair attendants or lifeguards, so beach culture organizes itself, and it does so beautifully and peacefully –the reason why sociologists have flocked to study our behaviour on the shore.

EDEN ON EARTH. One of them, Orvar Lofgren, professor of European Ethnography at Lund University, Sweden, sees the modern beach holiday as the ultimate search for Utopia. According to him, the beach is “a cultural laboratory where people are free to experiment with new aspects of their identities, their social relations, or their interaction with nature, and also use the important cultural skills of daydreaming and mind travelling.”
The beach, it seems, is a modern Eden –a kind of paradise lost in the everyday world of corporations and commerce. Though it is used to sell a range of products, most of which have nothing to do with it, the beach is a refreshingly brand-free zone. No wonder then, that we not only keep coming back, but even try to take it with us. Some cities, like Paris, have built artificial beaches to relieve the stress of the urban summer. Japan’s Seagaia on Kyushu Island is a 700-hectare indoor paradise that maintains tropical beach conditions all year round. And, if all else fails, we can wear our surf brands and flip-flops in the city, eat beach-style barbecued food, drink fresh juice cocktails, and indulge our imagination –until it’s time to hit the beach once more.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The thick-blooded Spaniards

Dogmatism is a feature of any debate in Spanish society, which tends to ideologize everything from politics to bullfighting. The recent repeat elections are a prime example


One of the characters in the 1986 movie Half of Heaven notes at one point that genuine Spaniards have thick blood running through their veins.
While this singularity is hard to pinpoint, the assertion underscores Spaniards’ characteristic obstinacy, extreme partisanship and at times, outright sectarianism. From this perspective, every debate is reduced to personal interests and individual perspectives, constrained by a conceptual short-sightedness that excludes other people’s criteria.
A recent and colorful example is the trial against Barça player Leo Messi. The public debate should be restricted to tax-related and legal matters, yet this kind of rigor is completely lost in the belligerence of the overlying cause: Catalan nationalism. Catalan sports media are defending the player from blasphemy, as though the Argentinean were a totem, while his club fuels speculation about institutional harassment from Madrid, where anti-separatist sentiment prevails.

In TV debates, the scene almost always ends dramatically with two fronts expressing themselves with great vehemence and predictable exaggeration

In other words, the issue becomes black and white, as is often the case with other court-related episodes. The Noós trial involving Cristina de Borbón is a battleground pitting royalists against republicans, and other issues such asbullfighting, the environment or the solutions to Islamist terrorism are equally tinged with ideology and brotherly hatred.
It’s all about taking a stand and turning it into dogma, as recently demonstrated by the failed negotiations that followed the general election of December 20.The old-fashioned logic of bloc versus bloc was caught unawares by a new era that required parties to reinforce supporter loyalty, exacerbate differences and work together. And this is where sectarian thought finds its most favorable environment.
This feature of the Spanish character can be seen in the vindictive mentality of populism. Podemos has gone so far as to split into followers of leader Pablo Iglesias – the pablistas – and supporters of number-two official Iñigo Errejón – the errejonistas – in their own internal battle over whether to negotiate with the Socialists or not.Rather than encourage a culture of dialogue, confrontation and tension have been stimulated instead. It is plain to see in the belligerence of Spanish patriotism versus regional nationalism – the dispute over theesteladas (unofficial Catalan flags used by separatists) at the Copa del Rey final was a telling example.
On December 21, 2015 Spain awoke to an Italian-type parliament, albeit one steeped in Spanish sectarian mentality. Nobody was prepared to be flexible. Personal interests came ahead of the collective emergency requiring a new government, proving true the old statement by Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, who said that Spanish politics lacked finezza (refinement). As a matter of fact, the stalemate took us right back to Goya’s 1820s painting Fight with Cudgels, an allegory of immobility in which two thick-blooded Spaniards beat at each other while mired knee-deep in mud.
Cool heads rarely predominate in debates here, and Spanish sectarianism often reflects its dictionary definition by the Royal Academy: “Fanaticism and intransigence in the defense of an idea or ideology.”
The sociologist José Juan Toharia attributes the problem to a lack of tolerance and the absence of a real emotional education in Spain. “Both traits are derived from the culture under Franco, making Spaniards particularly disinclined to go back on their own statements. What prevails is a staunch defense of one’s own positions, even if recent surveys show different attitudes, as though we said one thing and then did something else.”
A Metroscopia survey showed tremendous sensitivity to other people’s opinions, with 89% of respondents believing that a nation’s prosperity requires respect for other ideas and lifestyles, and 98% stating that anyone can say whatever they want, as long as everyone’s opinions are respected.
But that is certainly not the sense one gets from political debates on television, where the scene almost always ends dramatically with two fronts expressing themselves with great vehemence and predictable exaggeration. That would explain why audiences identify with one or other of the entrenched positions, as though these televised debates were an extension of their own bipolar conversations at the local bar. It reminds one of Antonio Machado’s verse: “Españolito que vienes al mundo, te guarde Dios, una de las dos Españas ha de helarte el corazón”. (Little Spaniard who is coming into this world, may God keep you safe, for one of the two Spains will freeze your heart.”)
El País in English, 27 June 2016. English version by Susana Urra.