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'Financial Times' falls in love with Madrid plaza

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A SQUARE in a Madrid suburb has captivated writers at The Financial Times and been named one of their favourite places for enjoying the fresh air once the pandemic is under control and the public can go back to a restriction-free life.

A close-up of the famous fountain in the Plaza de Olavide, in Madrid’s Chamberí neighbourhood (photo: Vida en Madrid, via Vidaenmadrid.com)

In its article Many happy returns: The city spaces that bring joy to our correspondents and writers, the British daily ranks the Plaza de Olavide in the capital’s Chamberí neighbourhood along with London’s Dulwich Park and Hong Kong’s Hoi Ha Wan Bay as one of the 22 top places to chill out.

Each of the FT’s correspondents have chosen their go-to outdoor relaxation hotspot, and the Plaza Olavide, with its famous ornamental fountain, is described by Spain-based journalist Simon Kuper as being flanked by ‘beautiful bourgeois apartments and pedestrianised side-streets’.

Kuper points out to readers that although mornings in Madrid at the time of writing – autumn – can be cold, the bright lunchtime sunshine feels closer to 20ºC.

Another view of the Plaza de Olavide, by Antonio Jaén on Pinterest

He writes how he is ‘sitting on a terrace’ at one of the Plaza’s pleasant but ‘unremarkable’ restaurants, which serves up a full lunchtime menu ‘at the ridiculous price of €13’ for the standard three-course menú del día with drink included, with a glass of Albariño white wine.

The ‘octagonal’ and ‘tree-lined’ Plaza has, ‘like all the best Spanish plazas’, a children’s play-park, so parents can ‘de-stress’ while the kids ‘go crazy’.

Kuper says it is ‘moments like this’ when Spain is the most liveable country in the world, and that the ‘European dream’ is ‘right here’.

The Plaza de Olavide is set to get greener and more brightly-coloured in 2022, as the regional government of Madrid plans to invest €4 million in an ambitious makeover of the borough of Chamberí as a whole, which will include a revamp of the garden areas in the square.

ElPais

Controversial Hotel Project In Spain’s Cabo De Gata Natural Park Gets New Push

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A controversial hotel project in Spain’s Cabo de Gata-Níjar natural park, in the southeastern province of Almería, is one step closer to going ahead. The project aims to transform a run-down cortijo (a farmstead typical of southern Spain) into a 30-room hotel with 70 parking spaces in the heart of the protected ecosystem. Consisting of several buildings that were formerly used as a rope factory and a farm, the hotel would stand about 900 meters from Los Genoveses beach, one of the best-preserved environmental gems in the Andalusia region.The regional Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development department has granted Unified Environmental Authorization (AAU) to a project that aims to renovate the old Las Chiqueras cortijo.The regional government has made its approval conditional on the developers obtaining authorization for the reuse of treated water and also on the project being declared of public interest, formalities that should go smoothly given the Andalusian government’s support. The plan has, however, been condemned by numerous environmental associations and over 250,000 people have protested against it on the petition platform Change.org.Los Genoveses beach in Cabo de Gata (Almería) EUROPA PRESS (Europa Press)But the government’s conditional go-ahead on January 12 will inevitably move forward a project that was first proposed in the summer of 2016. The regional environment chief, Carmen Crespo, who is herself from Almería province, has defended the initiative on several occasions, insisting that it is “a restoration” and that the action is legal. However, her position is far removed from that of organizations such as Ecologists in Action or Greenpeace, both of which believe the hotel will attract mass tourism into an area with fragile and protected ecosystems.The Andalusian authorities stress that it is now up to the municipality of Níjar to give the final green light to the project. The regional government has also made clear that it is the municipality’s responsibility to declare the hotel of public interest. “What the regional department says is that the project complies with the regulations, now Níjar has the last word,” said a regional government source.The issue has generated more than one row in the Andalusian regional parliament due to opposition from the left. Andalusian premier Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla of the Popular Party (PP), who took up the job in January 2019 after four decades of Socialist Party (PSOE) rule, has boasted of a “green revolution” for Andalusia. But the Cabo de Gata hotel is just one more on a list of environmental controversies in the region, such as the proposal to transform almost 1,500 hectares of land around Doñana natural park into irrigated farms; speeding up the paperwork for the construction of hotels in Marbella that require rezoning; and the revival of a project for a large residential estate and golf course in Barbate (Cádiz).In the past, the mayor of Níjar, Esperanza Pérez, has repeatedly stated that her hands are tied because the approval of the hotel “depends exclusively on the regional government,” stressing that the property is located in “specially protected undevelopable land.” Now, the regional authorities are insisting that it is Níjar’s responsibility to take the ultimate decision, and believe Pérez is trying to wash her hands of the responsibility.Red tapeDuring the early proceedings in 2016, the local Níjar council claimed that the hotel’s approval did not fall within its remit. In November 2019 the regional government, by then under PP administration, opposed the construction of 13 new rooms and the expansion of the parking area while approving the rest of the project. The project’s developers made the appropriate changes, eliminating the new parking area and relocating the rooms to the existing buildings. The developer was then forced to present a new environmental impact report, which was blasted by Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, the Conservation and Cultural Association Friends of the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, the green party Equo, the environmental group Mediterráneo and the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO-Birdlife). But their objections fell on deaf ears. In the summer of 2020, the regional government declared the project “viable,” triggering uproar in Níjar.Now, with its favorable decision, Andalusia’s environmental department allows a period of five years for construction to start and imposes a series of technical conditions such as integrated access to the hotel and issues linked to waste management and infrastructure. The department has stipulated that the new buildings and the renovation of the existing ones must maintain “essential exterior aesthetics compatible with the traditional construction style of the area,” – single-story buildings, aesthetic buttresses and wooden exterior carpentry. The resolution also requires the developers to respect the existing vegetation and bans the opening of new roads or tracks in the surrounding area. They must also ensure that emissions are minimized while complying with the legal specifications for noise and light pollution. A series of requirements have also been established for waste management to ensure that the water supply and sanitation will not contaminate the ground with waste water in the event of plumbing problems.The project plans to use almost 27,000 square meters of land classified as a Common Regulation Zone (for land traditionally used by humans for cultivation within the park) to the north of Los Genoveses beach. The cortijo was built in the early 20th century and one of its storage buildings was restored a decade ago to be used as an eco-museum that will, if the project goes ahead, remain open. The rest of the complex consists of scattered buildings, which will be used to house 30 rooms as well as a restaurant, while swimming pools will use the spaces in between. The renovation includes the remodeling of the current parking area to accommodate 70 vehicles, with permission to recondition, though not to pave, the road surface. The project also includes 950 square meters of photovoltaic panels for electricity supply and a water purification system.

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ElPais

Not-So-Natural Disasters And International Trade

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The number and frequency of natural disasters have markedly increased in recent decades, with climate change being one of the factors affecting this trend, especially in terms of hydro-meteorological disasters such as floods and droughts. The figure is close to 12,000 disasters in the period 1980-2018, and the economic cost of these disasters exceeds three trillion dollars, according to the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT).By country, although the US ranks first in terms of frequency and economic damage caused, followed by China and India, the impact of disasters per capita or as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) indicates that the smallest and most vulnerable economies suffer the greatest losses. These account for up to 2% of GDP per year in Caribbean countries, while least developed countries (LDCs) are the most affected income group. When the frequency of such events increases, it acts as a brake on economic development, which is closely linked to external openness. An important question is how natural disasters – especially those induced by climate change – and international trade interact.According to a recent study commissioned by the World Trade Organisation, such disasters interact with international trade in a very complex way. From a macroeconomic perspective, a natural disaster triggers resource destruction and a supply shock, leading to a reduction in output and employment. From the micro perspective, it affects all economic agents: companies have to face the destruction of their physical and human capital, workers face health problems and job losses, and finally, the state has to contribute to financing the losses suffered by both parties.Trade enters into this puzzle on the supply as well as the demand side of the economy. Clearly, reduced production means that exports fall, not only due to the damage suffered by exporting firms, but also to the destruction of transportation infrastructure. In terms of demand, imports can temporarily act as a buffer, replacing domestic production and facilitating recovery. However, falling exports and rising imports would imply a deterioration of the trade balance. Moreover, if the economy that suffers the disaster is integrated into global value chains, indirect effects are generated for the members of these chains, the intensity of which depends on the position in the chain and the productive specialization of the affected country. For example, small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries that specialize in intermediate inputs can create bottlenecks in value chains.Both international trade and trade policy can be good ingredients for mitigating the effects of climate change-related natural disastersJust as trade helps in the face of supply shortages in the country concerned, having a diversified supplier network is an advantage for all chain actors. An open trading system, therefore, favors resilience to natural disasters, and countries with integrated and competitive markets. Similarly, sectors that are not dependent on a single supplier are found to recover faster. As illustrated in the case of the European Union, not being highly dependent on the outside world is an advantage.In terms of what trade policy actions can help the recovery of the affected country, the immediate response could involve offering special preferences to lower the cost of imports. Similarly, technical assistance could be offered to facilitate trade. For example, the EU temporarily eliminated tariffs on imports from Pakistan following the 2010 floods. Also, graduation from LDC status, which implies a withdrawal from the Generalized System of Preferences, has been postponed in several countries that have experienced natural disasters (the Maldives following the tsunami in 2004, Samoa in the aftermaths of a tsunami and a tropical cyclone). Finally, measures to build resilience should be based on enhanced international cooperation that goes beyond trade policy. In this regard, the Sendai Framework for Action 2015-2030 aims to reduce disaster risk and losses and promote an international disaster management plan to increase the resilience of value chains.In short, both international trade and trade policy can be good ingredients for mitigating the effects of climate change-related natural disasters. While progress on initiatives at the international level is positive, there is a need for greater coherence and coordination between programs by building bridges between disaster risk management and multilateral trade policies.

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Abuelos

¿Qué Opinan Las Abuelas De Los Aperitivos Asiáticos Más Extraños?

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Rollitos de alga, soja fermentada, pescado seco, deditos de gallina… nuestro equipo de señoras que prueban cosas se enfrenta a su reto más difícil. Con ustedes, las abuelas ‘asian extreme edition’. Las abuelas que prueban cosas en El Comidista han sobrevivido a los retos más difíciles. Empezaron catando moderneces gastronómicas, siguieron enfrentándose a productos asiáticos y veganos, y en su última aparición, se las vieron con distintas brutalidades de comida rápida. De todos esos lances salieron indemnes, después de quedarse bien a gusto criticando lo que no les gustaba (y engullendo lo que sí). La nueva cata abuelera que os traemos hoy es quizá la más extrema. Nos intrigaba saber qué opinaban estas mujeres curtidas en la cocina tradicional de los picoteos más radicales que se suelen encontrar en los supermercados de comida china. Si quieres reírte un rato viendo cómo reaccionan al probar rollitos de algas, patitas de gallina, barritas de soja fermentada picante, pescado seco y otras delicias del Oriente, no tienes más que dar al play en el vídeo de arriba.

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