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British woman with Ebola is cured after taking new drug

Posted 27/03/2015

Anna Cross was the first Ebola patient in the world to be given MIL 77

A British military health worker who became infected with Ebola while in Sierra Leone has been declared free of the virus.

A radiograph film showing Ebola virus protein | Image: Cliff Owen / Associated PressA radiograph film showing Ebola virus protein | Image: Cliff Owen / Associated PressAnna Cross (25) was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital on March 12th, and was the first Ebola patient in the world to be given the experimental drug MIL 77.

Speaking at a press conference in London after she was discharged from hospital, Corporal Cross thanked the medical team who looked after her.

"They are an absolutely incredible bunch of clinicians; incredibly skilled, incredibly intelligent," she said. "Thanks to them, I am alive."

Cpl Cross, from Cambridge, also praised the NHS, which she works for, as well as the Army. She joined the Army Reserves in 2013 as a staff nurse and volunteered to help care for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, arriving there last month.

She was evacuated back to the UK in an RAF plane on March 12 after becoming the third Briton to test positive for the virus.



Ms Cross had been working at a British built Ebola crisis centre in Kerry Town, southwest of the capital Freetown when she was diagnosed with Ebola.

Describing the moment she found out she had the disease, Ms Cross said: "I was diagnosed by one of the military doctors out there. They did a blood test on me, then they came and told me personally."

"It was somebody that I knew really well, and I knew they were gutted to tell me."

Ms Cross said she had no immediate plans to return to Sierra Leone, but that she was planning to return to military service again.

"I would love to go back and do things with the military but I have to do a lot of physical work, it is going to take me a long time," she said.
British nurses Pauline Cafferkey and Will Pooley both survived the disease, after being treated in the UK.

They also contracted the highly-contagious disease while treating sufferers in Sierra Leone. The outbreak has killed more than 9,500 people in West Africa.



A tragedy on our SoilGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo

Posted 24/03/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

As we a constantly assured, statistically flying is by far the safest way to travel. However one cannot feel that this mantra is of little comfort to the families and friends when such a tragic event occurs.

The last eighteen months have not been so good for the aviation industry internationally, and this crash as yet to be investigated obviously, will not assuage those with a fear of flying.

The skies over Europe are the busiest in the world with the number of fights increasing yearly, due to demand and aggressive competition particularly between ‘low-fares’ airlines. I am not suggesting for a moment that their safety standards are any less rigorous than the larger carriers, but the traffic in our skies is getting denser all the while. When the clouds pass over Brussels where I live, I sometimes get an idea of the number of flights vying for airspace over my head, as you see from the photo.

Now that it seems to be confirmed, 150 have died as Germanwings jet 'disintegrated' in the French Alps.

The Airbus A320 with 150 people on board came down into a mountainous region, at an altitude of around 6,500ft, between Barcelonnette and Digne.

After taking off at 9:55am, central European time, a distress signal was issued for flight 4U 9525 at 10:47am after it found itself in an "abnormal situation" on its route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf.

The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said a helicopter had managed to land near the crash site but found no survivors.

Gilbert Sauvan, of the local council, told Les Echos newspaper: "The plane disintegrated. The largest debris is the size of a car." A Germanwings plane waits at the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany. 


In a statement, Lufthansa said: "We must confirm to our deepest regret that Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf has suffered an accident over the French Alps."

"The flight was being operated with an Airbus A320 aircraft, and was carrying 144 passengers and six crew members."

"Everyone at Germanwings and Lufthansa is deeply shocked and saddened by these events, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew members."

It added that the Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr and representatives of the German government are on their way to France.
French President Francois Hollande said: "It's a tragedy on our soil."

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, said 45 of those on board are thought to be Spanish. Germanwings said there were 67 Germans on board.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was "deeply shaken" by news of the crash, her spokesman said.

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said debris from the crash had been found at an altitude of 2,000 metres.

He added that he expected "an extremely long and extremely difficult" search and rescue operation because of the area's remoteness.

Emergency workers were not expected to reach the scene for several hours.

Eric Ciotti, the head of the regional council, said search-and-rescue teams were on the way to the crash site at Meolans-Revels.

Flight-tracking data indicated the aircraft plummeted from 40,000ft to 6,200ft in less than eight minutes before it crashed.

French aviation authorities said that the plane, operated by Lufthansa's budget airline, did not issue a distress call and that air traffic controllers had raised the alarm.

The plane it is said was 24-year-old. A spokeswoman for the German town of Haltern said there was reason to believe the passengers included 16 pupils and two teachers from one school.

Media reports in Germany said earlier that the schoolchildren and teachers were from Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium high school in the town in North Rhine Westphalia state.

The headmaster of the school has sent students home, and parents gathered at Dusseldorf Airport where the Airbus A320 was scheduled to arrive, Halterner Zeitung reported.

At a press conference, airline Germanwings said there were two babies on the flight, which had left Barcelona bound for the city.

Germanwings chief executive Thomas Winkelmann told a news conference the pilot had more than ten years’ experience, including more than 6,000 flight hours on A320s.

He said the firm would do everything possible to establish the cause of the crash.

The owner of a campground near the crash site, Pierre Polizzi, said he heard the aircraft making strange noises just before it crashed.

"I heard a series of loud noises in the air," he said. "There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside, but I couldn't see any fighter planes. The noise I heard was long - like eight seconds - as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise after about 30 seconds."

Weather conditions were calm at the time the plane came down and Mr Valls said the causes of the crash were not yet known.

Reports suggest debris at the crash site is not scattered, indicating there had been no mid-air explosion.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a tweet: "Our thoughts are with those who have to go through the worry that their relatives may be among the victims."

Spain correspondent with The Times, Graham Keeley, in Barcelona, said the sense of shock is palpable. The plane crash in the French Alps with 150 people on board is the worst air disaster in mainland France in 40 years. The tragedy came nearly 15 years after Concorde flight 4590 from Paris to New York crashed just after taking off on 25 July 2000, killing 113 people, sounding the death knell for commercial supersonic travel.
US President Barack Obama has been briefed on the crash.

Mr Obama was briefed on the crash of the Germanwings Airbus 320 by his assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.

"US officials have been in touch with French, German, and Spanish authorities and have offered assistance. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and loved ones," she said.


By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator




Canarian wrestling – Lucha CanariaRandall CalvinRandall Calvin

Posted 19/03/2015

By Randall Calvin

Spanish text below - Versión en español abajo

Although I lived in Spain for many years, and thought I knew everything about Spanish cultural traditions, I had never heard of Canarian wrestling or Lucha Canaria. Seeming like a cross between Judo and Sumo, the event was organized by Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato and his staff from the EPP Group at the European Parliament.

The event lasted for just less than two hours but there were many bouts including female wrestlers. The event closed with a fine buffet of Spanish wine and excellent tapas.

Canarian Wrestling is a form of folk wrestling, originally from the Canary Islands, where it is known as Lucha Canaria.

Wrestlers start in the middle of a sand circle, called "terrero".           The object is to make their opponent touch the sand with any part of their body, except the feet. To accomplish this, they use different techniques called "mañas" to throw their opponent off balance. Two falls are required to win a bout. A match ends when all the members of one team have been defeated.

Canarian wrestling comes from the history of the Guanches, the earliest known natives of the Canary Islands, although with limited contact between the islands, each island then developed different rules.

In 1420, shortly after the Spanish conquest, Alvar García de Santa María first recorded the wrestling techniques, including the use of referees, or “hombres de honor”. Only some of these early rules and techniques have survived to modern times. After the Conquest, the sport became part of the islands’ folklore, only usually being fought at celebrations or local festivals.

The modern rules were first laid down in 1872, making it one of the earliest defined forms of wrestling. In the 1940s several provincial federations were formed, leading to formation of the “Federación Española de Lucha” in 1984. As it needs a sand circle, lucha is usually fought on special pitches, and important matches, particularly inter-island contests, are covered by local Canarian TV.


"Mañas", moves, or a series of moves, can be divided in three groups.


The wrestler may grasp any part of the opponent's body to try to un-balance and knock down the opponent.


The wrestler can block a move by his opponent, and use his strength to un-balance his opponent.


The wrestler can move his body to deflect a move by his opponent, and use the opponent's strength to un-balance him.

Illegal Moves

Punching, hitting and strangling are not permitted.

For more and a demo of the wrestling see our video above!



A pesar de que viví en España durante muchos años, y pensaba que lo sabía todo acerca de las tradiciones culturales españolas, nunca había oído hablar de la Lucha Canaria. Parece una combinación entre judo y sumo, el otro día asistí a un evento excepcional en el Parlamento Europeo, el cuál fue organizado por el eurodiputado español Gabriel Mato y el personal del Grupo del PPE.

El evento duró poco menos de dos horas pero tuve la ocasión de contemplar varias rondas entre los luchadores y luchadoras. El evento se cerró con un bufet de vino español y excelentes tapas.

La Lucha Canaria es una forma de lucha popular, originaria de las Islas Canarias.

Los luchadores comienzan en la mitad de un círculo de arena, llamado "terrero". El objetivo es hacer que su oponente toque la arena con cualquier parte de su cuerpo, a excepción de los pies. Para lograr esto, se utilizan diferentes técnicas llamadas "mañas" para desequilibrar a su oponente. Se requieren dos caídas para ganar un combate. Un partido finaliza cuando se han derrotado a todos los miembros de un equipo.
La lucha canaria viene de la historia de los guanches, los primeros habitantes que se conocen de las Islas Canarias, aunque con un contacto limitado entre las islas, cada isla desarrolló diferentes reglas.


En 1420, poco después de la conquista española, Alvar García de Santa María registró por primera vez las técnicas de lucha, incluyendo el uso de los árbitros o "hombres de honor ". Sólo algunas de estas tempranas reglas y técnicas han sobrevivido a los tiempos modernos. Después de la conquista, el deporte se convirtió en parte del folclore de las islas, por lo general sólo se libra en celebraciones o fiestas locales.

Las normas actuales se establecieron en 1872, por lo que es una de las formas más temprana definidas de la lucha libre. En la década de 1940 se formaron varias federaciones provinciales, lo que lleva a la formación de la "Federación Española de Lucha" en 1984. Ya que se necesita un círculo de arena, la lucha se celebra en campos especiales, y en los combates importantes, en particular los concursos entre las islas, están cubiertos por la televisión canaria.


"Mañas", son la serie de movimientos, las cuales se pueden dividir en tres grupos

Mañas de Agarre

El luchador puede agarrar cualquier parte del cuerpo del oponente para tratar de desequilibrar y derribar al oponente.

Mañas de Bloqueo

El luchador puede bloquear una jugada de su oponente, y utilizar su fuerza para desequilibrar a su oponente.

Mañas de Desvío

El luchador puede mover su cuerpo para desviar una jugada de su adversario, y el uso de la fuerza del oponente para desequilibrarle.

Movimientos ilegales

No se permiten puñetazos, golpes y estrangulamiento.


Para obtener más información y una demostración de la Lucha Canaria ver nuestro video!


By Randall Calvin



The Guardia Civil at the European Parliament

Law enforcement against terrorism 

Posted 14/03/2015

By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo

EN – Versión en español abajo

In a week when the European Parliament (Strasbourg) discussed subjects from the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the rise of anti-Semitism, islamophobia and violent extremism, to the dark issue of sexual abuse on the internet; the EPP Group hosted a delegation from the Spanish policing and law enforcement services. The purpose of their visit was to show a three-part exhibition honouring the past victims of terrorism particularly the 243 Guardia Civil officers killed on duty.

The visit also marked the 11th anniversary of the train bombings in Madrid on the 11th of March 2004, since then the day has been commemorated as the European Day for Remembrance of the Victims of terrorism. In their own words “the history of the Guardia Civil runs parallel with the history of terrorism, stained with blood, shed in the name of freedom.”

The impressive and emotionally intense expo aimed to pay tribute to all Spaniards, and to honour the memory of the victims.

The Guardia Civil was founded as a national police force in 1844 during the reign of Queen Isabel II of Spain, and since that time its role has expanded to cover areas from highways, roads, and-or traffic, national border patrol, security integrity – also coastal patrol, marine border protection, marine search and rescue and much more besides. For an outline of its structure and to see EU Spectator’s coverage of the event see our video.

En la misma semana en la que el Parlamento Europeo (en Estrasburgo) discutía temas como el asesinato del líder de la oposición en Rusia Boris Nemtsov, el aumento del antisemitismo, la islamofobia y el extremismo violento, así como los abusos sexuales en internet; el Parlamento Europeo recibía una delegación de los servicios de policía y las fuerzas del orden españolas organizada por el Grupo Popular europeo.

El objetivo de su visita era mostrar una exposición en tres partes para conmemorar a las víctimas del terrorismo, en particular los 243 guardias civiles asesinados en servicio. La visita estuvo marcada por el undécimo aniversario de los atentados de Madrid del 11 de marzo de 2004, día tras el cual se marca el 11 de marzo como el Día Europeo en Memoria de las víctimas del terrorismo. En sus propias palabras, "la historia de la Guardia Civil ha estado marcada por la huella del terrorismo; teñida por el rojo de la sangre derramada en busca de la libertad".

La impresionante exposición, cargada de emoción, rendía homenaje a todos los españoles, conmemorando la memoria de las víctimas.

La Guardia Civil fue fundada como una fuerza del orden en 1844 durante el reinado de Isabel II de España, y desde aquel momento, su papel se ha ampliado para cubrir tanto el área de carreteras/caminos y-o tráfico, patrulla fronteriza nacional, la integridad de la seguridad – así como la patrulla costera, la protección marítima, búsqueda y rescate en costas, junto con otras áreas. Para mayor información sobre la estructura y organización de la Guardia Civil y la cobertura del evento por UE Spectator, podéis ver nuestro video.


By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo 



French dilemma threatens to shake Eurozone, say experts

Posted 08/03/2015

Paris facing challenges in seeking to cut its deficit without raising taxes, economists.

The French government faces a dilemma in finding  € 4 billion in the next three months in order to meet the European Commission's 2017 deficit target, after it was recently granted an additional period of two years to reduce the figure.


France, Europe’s second-biggest economy, could face sanctions under EU rules if it fails to cut its budget deficit from a projected 4.1 percent of GDP in 2015 to below three percent within two years.

But the French government, which has to present details of its intended reforms to the EC in April, has dismissed increasing taxes, vowing to achieve budget consolidation through savings "in all sectors" except defence, where spending has been ring-fenced.

However, Grégory Claeys, an associate researcher at the Bruegel think tank, said, he was skeptical that France could cut its deficit in three months without increasing taxes amid very low growth and zero inflation. "It's not the right time to not raise taxes," he said.


'Devastating consequences'

He added that the European Commission had already been "flexible" with France after it postponed the imposition of budget deficit criterion from November 2014 to March 2015.

"For the EU Commission, France would not be a country too big to fail, in the same way as large banks whose failure would have devastating consequences for the markets, but it is a country with which it is too big to clash," he said.


Fredrik Erixon, the director of the ECIPE - European Centre for International Political Economy -- said the French government would not be able to find the savings in needs in the coming months "without creating a political controversy, such as the recent economic reform bill, dubbed 'Macron's law.'

The controversial reform package proposed by Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron is a potpourri of measures, touches on politically sensitive areas of the economy and has irritated some among the ruling Socialist party's ranks.

'Messy finale'

Matthias Bauer, a senior economist at ECIPE said: "France is too big to be bailed out by the rest of the Eurozone and it is not the new Greece yet, but its public debt-to-GDP ratio is constantly rising with no end in sight."

Bauer said there would not be any cuts in spending or rises in taxes before the 2017 elections if bond markets keep calm. He said: "There’s only one budget constraint, which is financial markets. If financial markets all of a sudden enforce market discipline on the French government, things might end up messy."

He said  that the European Central Bank would then probably seek to calm markets, but Bauer went on: "Then we will observe the same political debates we have seen in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. And since nationalist political forces are strong in France, the debate might also circle around the exit of France from the Eurozone."




Britain wins court ruling against ECB

Posted 04/03/2015

Europe's highest court has overturned an ECB rule requiring clearing houses which trade in euro to be based in the eurozone.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that there is no explicit requirement in EU law which gives the ECB oversight on such activities.

The ruling has been eagerly awaited since a finding in favour of the ECB rule could have had major implications for the City of London.

The case had been taken to the ECJ by the British government, which has been fearful that rules explicitly for the eurozone, would prevail over the entire single market to the detriment of the UK's financial services centre.

The ECB had ruled that it would not be able to provide adequate oversight of the euro's clearing system if large parts of it were based outside the common currency area.

However, in this morning's ruling the ECJ held that the ECB did not have the competence under EU law to explicitly act as overseer of clearing houses, which deal in trades denominated in euro.

For such an oversight to be required, the ECB would have to request the EU to change Article 22 of the EU treaty.

This morning's ruling will be seen as a considerable boost to those arguing that Britain remain within the EU.