Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Thoughts from a Boat: 13.11.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Politics
  • Well, that didn't take long. But, then, execution concentrates the mind, as they say. They couldn't manage it last time round over several months but, chastened by Sunday's results, the parties of the Left have agreed on a formal coalition in the space of a few hours. But it's still a minority administration needing the support of smaller parties to get anything done.
  • Reader María here addresses here the spectre haunting us all in the longer term.
  • The New York Times has a good overview of this here, and the estimable Guy Hedgecoe notes the 3 main election takeaways here. In brief:-
  1. A governing majority will be elusive
  2. There's been a re-ordering of the Right, and
  3. The Catalan crisis will continue to dominate political debate.
  • Think Spain gives us here the 10 key 'foundational' aspects of the PSOE-Podemos coalition, on which there will be 'discussions'.
  • Here's quite a bit from El País on the execrable Franco family.
Spanish Life 
Galician Life 
The UK
  • That the government will allow a few serious epilepsy and multiple sclerosis sufferers to get cannabidiol medicine to relieve their symptoms is good news. That is all that can be said. Once more a decision emerges from the caverns of Britain’s NHS that reveals the evils of a politicised, centralised, deadened health service. More here.
The USA/Nutters Corner
The Way of the World
  • One useful aspect of having many hours to kill on a boat is that you can tidy up your files. Here's a couple of articles I've been meaning to read for a while:-
  1. How can I remove Google from my life? See the first article below.
  2. The Overton window is the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse.  . . . .It contains the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office in the current climate of public opinion. See the 2nd article below on how powerful folk try to limit the breadth of this window. Or click here.
Finally . . .
  • And we thought we had problems with wild boars . . . Wild boars dig up and destroy £17,000 worth of cocaine stashed in forest in Tuscany.

How can I remove Google from my life?  Jack Schofield

Google’s motto used to be “Don’t be evil”, but in the eyes of some it has now taken on the mantle of the “evil empire” from Microsoft, which Bill Gates and crew inherited from the IBM mocked in the Mac’s launch advert in 1984.

The EU has fined Google €2.4bn (£2.2bn) for abusing its search monopoly by favouring its products. Most recently, Google was fined €4.34bn for “very serious illegal behaviour” in using Android “to cement its dominance as a search engine”, according to the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, a charge the company contests.

Google started by taking over the search engine market. It now dominates smartphone operating systems (Android), browsers (Chrome), web-based email (Gmail), online video (YouTube) and maps. It is also challenging in other areas with its own cloud platform, an online office suite, Chromebooks, Waze, Nest and so on. Google is far advanced in driverless cars (Waymo) and artificial intelligence (DeepMind). Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Google’s web

We can probably agree Google has won by delivering high-quality products, and more than 40 corpses in the Google Graveyard – soon to be joined by its awful social network, Google+ – prove it doesn’t always win. But there are other problems.

First, Google now controls web development to the point where not even Microsoft can compete, as shown by the latter’s recent decision to replace its EdgeHTML browser engine with the open source Chromium on which Google’s Chrome browser is based. Users were supposed to benefit from competition between rival implementations of open web standards, but today Chromium and therefore Chrome is the standard.

As Firefox-developer Mozilla has pointed out, “from a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective, ceding control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible”.

Second, many of us have problems with Google’s business model, which the Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff has called “surveillance capitalism”. Google finances its free services by tracking users and targeting them with advertisements. In fact, it tracks you across the web even if you never visit any Google properties because other websites commonly use Google AdWords, AdMob, DoubleClick, Google Analytics, and its other tracking or advertising products.

From your searches and site visits, Google probably knows more about you than your mother or your spouse, and there’s no telling where that information will eventually end up.

If you use an Android phone, Google can also track your physical location, and if you turn that off, you lose directions, “find my phone” and other features.

So, remember that avoiding Google products is only part of the problem. You will need to protect your privacy in other ways, too.

Easy does it

The simplest way to avoid most Google products is to switch to the Microsoft or Apple equivalents, in whole or in part. Some would see this as jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. However, Satya Nadella’s new Microsoft is different from the old one, and driven by other metrics (usage instead of units). It is building a broader cross-platform ecosystem than either Google (everything online) or Apple (everything on Apple).

The web-based email service is still not as good as Gmail, but you can use it from a desktop email client, and there’s a decent Mail app in Windows 10. There are also plenty of alternative services, including FastMail and ProtonMail.

Android smartphones are a problem because Google controls the system. However, you can run the Microsoft Launcher and dozens of Microsoft apps on Android, and connect it to Your Phone in Windows 10. Apple’s iPhones are less of a problem because they are not preloaded with Google apps, though Google does pay Apple billions to be the default search engine. Again, Microsoft provides dozens of apps for iPhones and you can also connect your iPhone to Windows 10.

Cyanogenmod, an open source ROM to liberate Android phones, bit the dust a while ago, but the project is continuing as LineageOS.

Browser choice

Google controls the browser market, so the best alternative to Chrome is Mozilla’s Firefox. With Opera and now Microsoft capitulating, Mozilla is the only major provider still committed to building its own standards-based browser.

Fortunately, Chrome’s rendering engine has open source origins – Apple forked KHTML to create WebKit for Safari, then Google forked WebKit to create Blink for Chrome – so the base code is available in the form of Chromium. This has enabled lots of companies to build browsers based on Chromium, without the proprietary stuff that Google adds to create Chrome. Opera and Vivaldi are the most obvious examples, though you should also look at the privacy oriented Epic, among others.

You will not be entirely free of Google, as you would be with Firefox, but it seems to me an acceptable compromise.
Either way, I avoid using Chrome because now when you sign into a Google site, it signs you into the browser as well, unless you deactivate the feature.

Search here

Google still has the best search engine, but Bing and DuckDuckGo are viable alternatives for the majority of searches. If you can’t avoid Google search completely, you can certainly reduce your usage.

DuckDuckGo is a good choice because it is privacy oriented, and you can run Google searches from DDG by using a !bang command. (A bang is an American exclamation mark.) However, DDG’s sources include other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo and Yandex.

StartPage – formerly ixQuick – is a Dutch-owned privacy-protecting search engine, while Qwant is a French one. Both get some results from other search engines, but Google still won’t know about you. (Qwant seems to be pretty good.)
Mojeek is a British search engine that has its own web crawler, called MojeekBot.

For image and reverse image searches, I recommend Yandex, which is Russian, Bing and TinEye.

YouTube kills it

Almost every attempt to avoid Google products dies a painful death when it comes to online video, where YouTube reigns supreme. There are plenty of long-running online video sites including Vimeo, Dailymotion and Facebook, but YouTube is unbeatable for its breadth of content. And there’s no way around that.

There have been plenty of websites that will download the videos you want to watch without you having to go to YouTube. Years ago, I used KeepVid. However, this approach does not suit Google because you never see any adverts. Also, these sites – which could be flaky to start with – tend to stop working properly, and/or pop up multiple ad pages.

The indirect approach does not suit users either because the whole idea is that you go to watch one YouTube video then get sucked into watching another dozen through random browsing.

Web traffic statistics suggest there’s one property with both the technology and the capacity to take on YouTube, and that’s PornTube, but it’s not quite the same.

2. The Incredible Shrinking Overton Window: Caitlin Johnstone

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” Noam Chomsky

The plutocrat-owned narrative managers of the political/media class work constantly to shrink the Overton window, the spectrum of debate that is considered socially acceptable. They do this by framing more and more debates in terms of how the oligarchic empire should be sustained and supported, steering them away from debates about whether that empire should be permitted to exist at all.

They get people debating whether there should be some moderate changes made or no meaningful changes at all, rather than the massive, sweeping changes we all know need to be made to the entire system.

They get people debating whether they should elect a crook in a red hat or a crook in a blue hat, rather than whether or not they should be forced to elect crooks.

They get people debating violations of government secrecy laws, not whether the government has any business keeping those secrets from its citizenry in the first place.

They get people debating how internet censorship should take place and whom should be censored, rather than whether any internet censorship should occur.

They get people debating how and to what extent government surveillance should occur, not whether the government has any business spying on its citizens.

They get people debating how subservient and compliant someone needs to be in order to not get shot by a police officer, rather than whether a police officer should be shooting people for those reasons at all.

They get people debating whether or not a group of protesters are sufficiently polite, rather than debating the thing those protesters are demonstrating against.

They get people debating about whether this thing or that thing is a “conspiracy theory”, rather than discussing the known fact that powerful people conspire.

They get people debating whether Tulsi Gabbard is a dangerous lunatic, a Russian asset, a Republican asset gearing up for a third party run, or just a harmless Democratic Party crackpot, rather than discussing the fact that her foreign policy would have been considered perfectly normal prior to 9/11.

They get people debating whether Bernie Sanders is electable or too radical, rather than discussing what it says about the status quo that his extremely modest proposals which every other major country already implements are treated as something outlandish in the United States.

They get people debating whether Jeremy Corbyn has done enough to address the Labour antisemitism crisis, rather than whether that “crisis” ever existed at all outside of the imaginations of establishment smear merchants.

They get people debating whether Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren would win against Trump, rather than whether either of those establishment lackeys is a worthy nominee.

They get people debating whether politicians should have corporate sponsors, rather than whether corporations should be allowed to interfere in the electoral process at all.

They get people debating if the US should be pursuing regime change in Iran or Syria, rather than whether the US has any business overthrowing the governments of sovereign nations to begin with.

They get people debating how many US troops should be in Syria, rather than whether that illegal invasion and occupation was ever legitimate in the first place.

They get people debating whether to kill people slowly by sanctions or kill them quickly with bombs, rather than whether they should be killed at all.

They get people debating whether or not some other country’s leader is an evil dictator, rather than whether it’s any of your business.

They get people debating the extent to which Russia and Trump were involved in the Democratic Party’s 2016 email leaks, rather than the contents of those leaks.

They get people debating what the response should be to Russian interference in the election, rather than whether that interference took place at all, and whether it would really matter if it did.

They get people debating how much government support the poor should be allowed to have, rather than whether the rich should be allowed to keep what they’ve stolen from the poor.

They get people debating what kind of taxes billionaires should have to pay, rather than whether it makes sense for billionaires to exist at all.

They get people impotently debating the bad things other countries do, rather than the bad things their own country does which they can actually do something about.

They get people debating what should be done to prevent the rise of China, rather than whether a multipolar world might be beneficial.

They get people debating whether western cold war escalations against the Russian Federation are sufficient, rather than whether they want the horrors of the cold war to be resurrected in the first place.

They get people debating what extent cannabis should be decriminalized, rather than whether the government should be allowed to lock anyone up for deciding to put any substance whatsoever in their own body.

They get people debating whether or not US troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan, rather than whether or not there should be any US troops outside of the US.

They get people debating whether or not Julian Assange is “a real journalist”, rather than whether or not they should set legal precedents that necessarily criminalize acts of journalism.

They get people debating the subtle details of bail protocol, political asylum, embassy cat hygiene and leaking rather than whether it should ever be legal to imprison a publisher for exposing government war crimes.

They get people debating what the punishment should be for whistleblowers, not what the punishment should be for those they blow the whistle on.

They get people debating whether Fox or MSNBC is the real “fake news”, rather than whether the entirety of mainstream media is oligarchic propaganda.

They get people debating about how the things everyone is freaking out over Trump doing were previously done by Obama, rather than discussing why all US presidents do the same evil things regardless of their parties or campaign platforms.

They get people debating what should be done with money, not whether the concept of money itself is in need of a complete overhaul.

They get people debating what should be done with government, not whether the concept of government itself is in need of a complete overhaul.

They get people debating whether the status quo should be reinforced or revised, rather than whether it should be flushed down the toilet where it belongs.

They get people angrily debating things they can’t change, rather than constructively working on the things that they can.

They get people shoving against each other in opposite directions, while they swiftly build a cage around us all.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Thoughts from a Boat: 12.11.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Politics
  • The general election couldn't have led to a worse scenario, says someone here. And will mean - as on this boat - a bumpy ride ahead.
  • Sic transit . . .  So, it's Goodbye to the leader of the (f)ailing Ciudadanos party and Hello to his even prettier successor. Who might or might not turn round its fortunes. But I suspect not. 
  • Meanwhile, all eyes are now on the latest upstart, the neo-Francoist Vox party.
The Spanish Economy  
  • The VP of the European Commission is said to be perplexed at the small amount of solar energy installed in Spain, given its potential. Aren't we all. Except we know that the last PP government reversed its policies and cut subsidies, leaving many investors high and dry. And perhaps a bit cautious when the policy was reversed again.
Spanish Life 
  • You might expect otherwise but the Spanish have long been excessive users of water. Which is possibly why they're contravening international treaties and denying some of it to poor Portugal. Not very neighbourly.
  • The national debate on defence policy is 'brain-dead', says Político here
  • There's said to be a 'factional rift' among Trump-supporting conservatives that's been growing rapidly in recent weeks. Some, it seems, are further to the Right of others and accuse their Ffartist fellow-travellers of being, effectively, traitors. I'm sure, though, there are good people on both sides . . .
  • It’s difficult to imagine a more tone-deaf group than the Trump family. Born with silver spoons in their mouths, each and every one of them, they view themselves as the ultimate victims of every dark conspiracy they can conjure. More here.
  • Passing through the countryside near Winchester, I noticed that several small villages had 'Worthy' in their name. This turns out to have originally meant a single-family farm. It's said to be rather common in North Devon.
Finally . . 
  • This Brittany Ferries boat is rather smaller than the one I've usually been on at least once a year for the last 19 years. But at least it has a Reading Room, with wifi that works. Annoyingly, there's a woman disturbing the peace in it by having a long and loud phone conversation. Surprisingly, she's British, not Spanish. Perhaps a Devonian descendant of a shipwrecked sailor from the 1588 Armada . . .

Monday, November 11, 2019

Thoughts from Royal Leamington Spa, England: 11.11.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Politics
  • All as predicted in yesterday's elections. The dramatic difference was the huge surge in votes for far-right Vox, led by a gender-violence denier who wants to clamp down on immigration and makes repeated calls for 'patriotism'. In April, Vox gained 24 seats but this has now more than doubled to 52, making it the 3rd political force in the country.
  • The big loser was the once-rising 'centrist' party, Ciudadanos, whose total fell from 57 in April to just 10, putting its future in jeopardy. The question is - Which party will its rump voters shift to? Probably, I guess, to several of the bigger boys, Left and Right.
  • In a word . . . The result means that neither the left-wing bloc nor the right-wing bloc have enough seats to pass the threshold required for a majority. It means the PM will have to reach agreements with other parties to be invested on the first vote. Which he didn't succeed in doing the last time round and probably won't this time either. Meaning continued deadlock. Or. As the Times puts it this morning: Spain’s political system was left more fragmented and polarised after an election that was intended to return stability.  And: The number of parties represented in parliament rose from 13 to 17.
  • Here's the electoral map. Note the blue sector in the (conservative) NW
  • And here's profile of the Vox leader. A taster: "If you look at polls, he's very popular amongst his voters but it's not his charisma that is driving voters," said Ignacio Jurado, a politics expert at Madrid's Carlos III University. "What has made the party successful is the crisis with Catalonia and the fact that the mainstream parties were unable to address it."
  • A Spanish perspective: If governance was difficult before and leaders apparently lacked the ability of forming stable alliances, now the picture is even more complicated. In fact all the leaders except VOX and the separatists have failed, although no one admits it or takes responsibility. . . . The thesis of mediocre governments that describe democracies these days is perfectly fulfilled in the Spanish case. More here.
  • Finally, here's The Local on the 'meteoric rise of Vox.
The Spanish Economy  
  • I guess Spain may benefit from the decision - notwithstanding the damaging collapse of Thomas Cook  - to enter the package holiday market.
The UK
  • Talking of mediocre governments and oppositions . . . The December elections in the UK will almost certainly result in another hung parliament and continued uncertainty - a word which classifies for the term 'famous British understatement'.
  • Talking of labels for Brits . . . British reserve is as much a part of the national stereotype as excessive tea drinking and complaining about the weather. Now research shows that it is accurate: more than half of us secretly admit to being a wallflower. But . . . The findings suggest that we should stop worrying about what other people think of us, as they are too busy worrying about themselves.
The Way of the World
  • Fewer than half of British students consistently support freedom of speech and 40% favour censorship and no-platforming of controversial speakers. A “culture of conformity” may also be having an effect on undergraduates, who are often too intimidated to espouse unpopular views on campus. The danger is that academic freedom is being significantly violated due, in particular, to forms of political discrimination.
  • Dear Dog: Amazon plans for a future where Alexa is everywhere – and runs our lives. Alexa may already be capable of controlling more than 85,000 smart home products but in future, there'll be a far brainier Alexa - which will intuitively understand our needs and desires and become a proactive companion, prodding us into things we should or shouldn’t do rather serving us as a passive assistant. Time to bankrupt Amazon by mass avoidance/desertion??
Social Media 
  • Back to British reserve . . . The growth of social media may be exacerbating shyness, particularly among the young, as they have fewer opportunities to hone interpersonal skills because they communicate more online.
  • Why 'wallflower'? Wiki: This flower grows on old walls.  The colloquial sense of "A woman who sits by the wall at parties, often for want of a partner" is first recorded 1820.
  • Driving south yesterday I was musing, as you do, on Northern English accents and wondering how much they owe to Scandinavian influences of a thousand years ago. So, I was naturally interested in the article below.
  • I do wonder if the Danish invaders/settlers all called each other 'Love', as virtually everyone in the North West - and other northern outposts - does.
Finally . . .
  • Heading south on the M6, I noted that, even on 'quiet' Sunday, there are inevitably long jams in both directions. Not helped by the many miles of roadworks engendered by the transformation of the M6 into a 'smart motorway'. Jams, like the poor, are always with us. At least for some years yet.

Our dialects are the last surviving bridges back into England’s past

One of the star exhibits at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is a small bottle of silvered glass, sealed with wax. Attached to it is a handwritten label recording that it was collected in 1915 from an old lady living in Hove, who remarked, “They do say there be a witch in it, and if you let him out there’ll be a peck of trouble.” The peck as a unit of volume became obsolete in 1826, but the term evidently lingered in metaphorical form almost a century later

Do old ladies in Hove still speak of “a peck of trouble”? Does the term “deediiy”, recorded as a “genuine Hampshire” by Mary Russell Mitford in Our Village, survive to this day? We are about to find out, for in 2021, researchers from the University of Leeds will embark on the largest survey of English dialect since the 1950s.

The original survey, conducted across 313 mostly rural sites, favoured “old men with good teeth” as the most likely repositories of dialect terms, and its field workers encountered vexing obstacles to their research: one reported having to wear old clothes to gain the trust of wary villagers.

The 21st-century dialect hunters will probably not find it necessary to outfit themselves in ancient cords held up with baler twine; nor will they confine their attention to greybeards with gleaming gnashers. Instead they will go in search of what the survey’s leader, Dr Fiona Douglas, called “language that allows you to bridge the gap of time”.

More of it may survive than we imagine. Such romantic chroniclers of rural life as John Stewart Collis, and more recently Robert Macfarlane, whose book, Landmarks, celebrates “the power of language to shape our sense of place”, tend towards the dying fall when recording the decline of regional vocabulary. “Language deficit leads to attention deficit”, Macfarlane warns.

Yet as Dr Douglas points out, people have been issuing some version of that dire prediction since the 18th century. Language has the quicksilver power to adapt to change, almost before we are aware of it; yet change is not necessarily loss. There is a faint whiff of taxidermy about the glossary of arcane place-words collected in Landmarks; but when the Leeds survey is complete, it will be intriguing to discover how much of local linguistic idiosyncrasy survives, in a realm now so intensely preoccupied with the assertion of its distinctive national identity.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thoughts from Heald Green, Cheshire, England: 10.11.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Politics
  • This writer thinks Spain has a controversial approach to ‘justice’, and that ‘The whole of Spanish society is moving towards a more regressive policy, not only on the right-wing but also on the progressive left. Against which, Basque society, he says, is forced to react. Worrying.
Spanish Life 
  • There was a report a month or 2 ago about someone being charged for ice. The Bar owner claimed it'd been a joke. But had it? . . . More people have come forward to the Olive Press about strange charges – extra cost for ice, and salt and pepper. We have had dozens of tourists and expats complain about strange charges for everything from tap water to salt and pepper and mayonnaise.
The UK
  • A plague on both/all houses.
  • No surprise to read that Ffart has long had dealings in Ukraine, despite this being - according to him - a hot bed of corruption that the Bidens should never have exposed themselves to. In fact . . . The Trumps were looking to erect luxury resorts across the former Soviet republics, and Ukraine seemed like a promising location. But doing so meant navigating a landscape that had long struggled with corruption. And as part of its overtures, the Trump Organization engaged developers Dmitry Buriak and felon Felix Sater, both of whom have had business interests in Russia.
  • According to a White House official: Trump was never completely hinged. The trip from where he was to unhinged, as he is now—that was not a long trip.
  • Maybe we should feel sorry for the man. He's all alone in the WH. 
Nutters Corner
  • “Coach” Dave Daubenmire is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and his views are a jumbled mess of bigotry, ignorance and outright stupidity. Showing that his reading comprehension skills are non-existent, he claimed that the First Amendment to the Constitution says Christians should be in charge of the country.
Finally . . .
  • I did try last night to get a Renfe rail ticket, and got this all-too-familiar message: En estos momentos no podemos atenderle. Por favor vuelva a intentarlo pasado unos minutos. Disculpe las molestias. 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Thoughts from Heald Green, Cheshire, England: 9.11.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Politics
  • Plenty of articles on Spain's predicament(s) and tomorrow's elections, of course:-
  1. A nice one from Bloomberg.
  2. Below, The collapse of old certainties. The reference to the disgusting wave of PP corruption reminded me that this has now been published in Spanish. But we'll have to wait until January for the English version. How poorly Spain has been served by its politicians down the ages.
  3. Político on Spain's political deadlock
  4. Your elections lexicon from The Local.
 Spanish Life 
  • Here's The Local on how to tackle the winter like a Spaniard.
  • Good news for some of us. And some warnings.
  • I sometimes wonder if the choice in the USA is between insane people on the Right and equally insane people on the Left. Much as in the UK right now, I guess. Though perhaps slightly less insane at each end of the UK spectrum. Except for Jeremy Corby. Oh, and John McDonnell.
The Way of the World
  • To her nearly 700,000 followers on Instagram, Clemmie Hooper came across as a bubbly mother of four with an idyllic jetset life and a close-knit group of friends. The 34-year-old midwife-turned-‘mumfluencer’ used her Mother of Daughters account to share envy-inducing images of sun-drenched holidays and scenes of wholesome family life in her perfect Ramsgate home, interspersed with intimate confessions about marriage and motherhood. However, she has now revealed a darker side to the seeming perfection as she admitted she has been living a parallel life as an abusive troll, anonymously attacking other bloggers - and reportedly even her own husband.
  • When I was at school we were taught that a 'true fact' was a good example of tautology. Now it isn't.
Social Media 
  • Google is making tens of millions of pounds from scammers who are using its search engine to lure savers to invest in high-risk or potentially fraudulent schemes, a Times investigation has revealed. The tech giant is taking huge fees for promoting accounts from unscrupulous companies that advertise eye-catching savings rates aimed at those looking for the best cash Isas.
Finally . . .
  • This is a distillation from an article entitled How not to catch a cold: the food rules:-
- Grandma was right, chicken soup really does work
- Up your zinc by eating seeds, nuts, wholegrains and seafood
- Yoghurt can ward off a cold
- Eating berries can boost your immunity by a third
- If you do catch a cold, you should try a warm blackcurrant drink.
- Orange juice isn’t as effective as you think
- Add fresh ginger to your cooking
- And take these supplements - Zinc and Vitamin D. But don 't bother with echinacea

OK, this is food advice but surely the main rule is: Avoid people . . .


Spanish election: Old certainties that bound nation together are under threat: Isambard Wilkinson, Times

Exhuming General Franco’s body a fortnight before tomorrow’s election could act as a metaphor for Spain’s political crisis. After the fascist’s death in 1975, Spain passed a constitution that steered it from dictatorship to modern democracy. “After that Spain had the best four decades for 300 years,” Salvador Illa Roca, manager of the Socialist Party’s campaign in Catalonia, said.

However, that consensus is being challenged and there are fears that the relative harmony of the post-Franco years may be ending as, like El Caudillo’s remains, the old pacts that held Spain together are being dug up and their status reassessed.

Mr Illa points to populism and the collapse of centrist parties in Europe as part of the reason for the upheaval, but others are unique to Spain. Buffeted by one of its worst political crises since 1975, the country is riven by separatist protests in Catalonia and a rapidly rising far right.

Disillusion with the political system has grown as voters go to the polls for the fourth time in as many years.

As well as mirroring political trends elsewhere in Europe, “the combination of Spain’s economic crisis from 2008 to 2014 and a wave of corruption scandals was politically toxic,” Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, a professor of social science at the Charles III University of Madrid, said.

That led, he said, to the Indignados anti-austerity movement in 2011-15, new parties and, arguably, the Catalan crisis.

As the economy slows and much-needed economic and social reforms stall, experts disagree about the damage done by the political impasse. “We have a left wing-government ruling with the budget of the [centre-right] PP and yet we are not doing that bad economically,” Ignacio Torreblanca, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said. “But essential reforms in pensions, education, digital, climate are being postponed and if [a] crisis hit, budgetary cuts will be needed and it’s hard to see how Pedro Sánchez [the acting prime minister] would get a budget approved.”