SPAIN – Youtube tries to ban bull fighting

image798aBullfighting aficionados are upset that YouTube has banned bloody images of bulls being killed in the ring labeling it “animal abuse.”

The online giant closed down channels devoted to Spain’s “national fiesta” provoking immediate outrage from fans of the spectacle who declared it amounted to “censorship” and “a lack of respect for a much loved tradition.”

YouTube confirmed it had removed content showing bulls being dispatched with the matador’s sword because such videos contravened one of its guidelines which states: “Don’t post videos showing bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, or bomb making.” A spokesman for the company said it “reserved the right to remove any video which does not comply with these terms and conditions.”

It said it would still allow uploads of videos of other moments of the corrida such as when the matador uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes but that “bloody scenes with the picadors and sword” would be removed.

An online petition was started on Thursday calling for YouTube to reinstate channels removed because of their bullfighting content. It collected more than 2,000 signatures within the first 24 hours.

“Bullfighting is art and culture, it is a magical rite of life, a just and honourable way of life where man and bull combine to create unique and unrepeatable moments,” wrote one signatory on the petition. “Bullfighting is totally legal in Spain, we can’t allow such arbitrary censorship by YouTube,” wrote another.

Last month Spain’s parliament agreed to debate a motion to declare bullfighting a national cultural treasure, a step towards giving it greater legal and financial protection as a national asset. Such a move could see the overturning of a ban on bullfighting introduced in January 2012 across the Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia.

Animal rights activists campaigning for a total ban on the “cruel spectacle” of bullfighting welcomed the YouTube decision. “Little by little we are going to rid this country of the shame of these events,” wrote one on a message board devoted to the subject.

FRANCE – Police used tear-gas on protesters opposed to same-sex marriage

image800Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Paris on Sunday to protest against a hugely controversial bill to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in France. 

The Paris police had turned down a request from the protest organizers to march on the famous Champs-Elysees on the grounds it would be a threat to public order, partly because it borders the French presidential palace. The demonstrators instead lined a three-mile route from the Paris business district of La Defense to the roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe is located.  When approximately 200 protesters tried to enter the Champs Elysees, police sprayed them with tear-gas, AFP photographers reported.

The hugely controversial bill to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption has been passed by the lower chamber of parliament by a large majority and will go to the Senate for review and approval in April.  It is expected to be passed by the upper house.  [Both houses are controlled by President Francois Hollande’s Socialist party.]

The protestors are asking the government to withdraw the bill and instead put the issue of same-sex marriage and adoption to a referendum (a vote of the people).

The demonstrators highlighted France’s flagging economy, beset by mass layoffs and spiralling unemployment, accusing President Hollande’s government of ignoring pressing issues while pushing ahead with his election pledge of “Marriage for All.” Banners held up from balconies read: “We want work not gay marriage,” and “No to gayxtremism.”

Organizers said that at least 1.4 million had taken part but police put the number at around 300,000.

A campaign orchestrated by the Catholic Church and belatedly backed by the mainstream centre-right opposition has steadily gathered momentum. But President Hollande’s support for the legislation has not wavered and his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has revealed that the president will be attending the marriages of gay friends once the legislation is on the statute books.

Gay men and women can already adopt as individuals in France if approved by social services. A separate law on providing medically assisted conception to gay couples, already extended to heterosexual couples unable to conceive, will be debated later in the year.

CYPRUS – EU finance ministers approve Cyprus bailout deal, funded by government confiscation of private bank accounts

image777aThousands of large depositors in Cyprus learned Monday morning that the government secured a $13 billion bailout from the European Union to avert imminent financial meltdown by agreeing to close the country’s second-largest bank and confiscate part of large savings holders’ accounts.

The deal came as euro ministers in Brussels threatened to cut off crucial emergency assistance to Cyprus’ embattled banks after business on Monday if no agreement was reached.

Without that EU funding, Cyprus’ banks would have collapsed, dragging the country’s economy down with them and threatening the small Mediterranean island’s membership of the 17-strong group of European Union countries that use the euro — all of which would have sent the EU’s markets spinning.

Under the deal, Laiki, the country’s second-largest bank, will be restructured, with people with more than 100,000 euros [$130,000] in their accounts facing significant losses [the government could confiscate up to 40% of the money in these private accounts to pay off the country’s debt]. The bank will be dissolved immediately into a bad bank containing its uninsured deposits and toxic assets, with the guaranteed deposits being transferred to the nation’s biggest lender, Bank of Cyprus.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the meetings of the eurozone’s finance ministers, said it was not yet clear how severe the losses would be to Laiki’s large bank deposit holders, but he noted that it is expected to confiscate 4.2 billion euros overall — or much of the money that Cyprus needed to raise to secure the bailout. Analysts have estimated investors might have up to 40 percent of their money taken by the government.

Without a bailout deal by Monday night, the tiny Mediterranean nation would have faced the prospect of bankruptcy, which could have forced it to become the first country to abandon the euro currency. It is thought that that would have sent the region’s markets spinning.

The eurozone finance ministers accepted the plan after hours of negotiations in Brussels between Cypriot officials and the so-called troika of creditors.

To secure the rescue loan package from the EU, the Cypriot government had to find ways to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) on its own. The bulk of that money is now being raised by seizing bank assets from large deposit holders, with the remainder coming from tax increases and privatizations.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at NY Daily News on March 22, France 24 on March 25 and Fox News on March 25.)   


1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:

a) capital
b) location/the countries that share its borders:
c) the religious breakdown of the population:
d) the type of government:
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:
f) the population:

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to for a list of continents.]

2. For SPAIN:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Consider much of the content youtube allows to remain posted. Do you think it is hypocritical of youtube management to attempt to block videos of traditional bullfighting? Explain your answer.

3. For FRANCE:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Were you surprised by the large number of people opposed to same-sex marriage in France?  Explain your answer.
c) What were the protesters asking the government to do?
d) Do you think this is an unreasonable request?

4. For CYPRUS:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Is the threat of government bankruptcy a good reason to confiscate bank account holders’ money?  Explain your answer.
c) Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the meetings of the eurozone’s finance ministers defended the eurozone’s approach of making deposit holders take heavy losses, saying the measures “will be concentrated where the problems are, in the large banks.” Do you agree with this assertion?  How would you respond to a person who said Mr. Dijsselbloem’s was not a logical explanation?

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