Tuesday, 21 June 2016


A quick glance through the Colombian (Bogotá-centred ones anyway) newspapers or sitting down to watch the main TV news here and it's unlikely you'll read or hear much, if anything, about Zika. Indeed, most Bogotá residents have probably forgotten what it is. (In case you need reminding, it's that mosquito-spread virus which can be particularly dangerous, it is believed, if contracted by pregnant women as it can lead to severe brain malformations in the fetus and other birth defects. Such complications, though, may not be as bad as first feared, going by the findings of a recent study.)

Zika: It's not that bad ...
Sure it could be worse ... (Image from Facebook.)
After it being in the headlines constantly at the end of December last year and early this year, it pretty much seems to have gone off the radar for Colombian media — save for that new, slightly more positive report, linked above, questioning Zika's adverse effects on the fetuses of late-term pregnancies.

From a personal (and male) point of view, the furore it had created, and seemingly still creates in many Western countries, had been and is a little over the top. For most relatively healthy human beings, those who aren't pregnant anyway, being struck down with Zika isn't a major deal. The symptoms are pretty mild by all accounts. There would appear to exist far worse infections for us to be concerned about.

Of course, that it hasn't been a topic of conversation or cause for worry in Bogotá isn't at all surprising. This is because the mosquitoes that transmit the disease aren't found in these parts due to the city's lofty altitude. Granted, you only need to travel a short distance outside Bogotá or go to most of Colombia's other major cities and towns to come into 'Zika range', something that a good number of the capital's residents do on a regular basis. (Alas, that hasn't been my case this year, but that has nothing to do with Zika fears; a trip outside the metropolis is badly needed.) Nonetheless, the pandemic isn't causing consternation among the masses. (For the record, as of April this year, there were 65,726 cases of Zika reported in Colombia.)

In fact, were it not for a phone call from a concerned older cousin in Europe who is considering visiting Colombia, Zika wouldn't have entered my mind. Apparently all the advice he's getting in the West is to be very careful if he visits here due to the disease. Again, it's fair to say there are greater worries — be they from man, beast or insect — than Zika for anybody coming to Central or South America.

Now maybe there's a bit of that renowned laid back Latino attitude at play in all of this. Perhaps all of us living here should be a little more concerned about Zika, especially so those planning to have children due to that fetal abnormality issue.

Yet, from the 'safe' heights of Bogotá it's a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. No point worrying about something that can't get to you, really. Now as for Colombia's dragged-out peace process, that's another story.
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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Bring on Brexit

Let's face it, the United Kingdom — the parts of it that matter in England and Wales anyway — has never really been that pushed on the European Union. One foot in, one foot out kind of job. So should the UK's electorate do the, um, honourable thing and decide to leave the European Union, a Brexit as it's being called (a bit unfair to Northern Ireland, situated on the island of Ireland as it is), a whole raft of exciting, new opportunities looks set to come their way. Here we take a look at some of the standout ones:

Brexit: abandoning a failed EU?
Going down! (Image from Facebook.)
Eurovision: 'Eur havin' a laff!'
Europe's annual song contest, an event that has been running since 1956, used to have a bit of prestige — it did introduce the world to ABBA remember, while the UK had memorable winners in Brotherhood of Man, Bucks Fizz and even Katrina and the Waves. However, in recent years it seems to have become less about the quality of songs and more about ridiculous on-stage antics. A Brexit would give the UK the perfect excuse to stand aside and leave those crazy eastern Europeans to it. (Perhaps Ireland could follow suit?)

Flood the Channel Tunnel
If the UK's relationship with Europe has been a bit love-hate its, nay England's, relationship with France has been much more hate than love down through the centuries. The Channel Tunnel / Eurotunnel that connects the two countries might be seen as a symbol of European integration and togetherness. Sod that. England should be erecting barriers to keep the French et al. out, not allowing them an easy route in. In the aftermath of a Brexit, Donald Trump will be on hand to help out in keeping those nasty foreigners at bay.

United England (and Wales)
Speaking of foreigners, the reality is that the heartbeat of the United Kingdom has always been England, with Wales in tow. Those guys on the peripheries, namely the Scots and Northern Irish, have generally been unstable nuisances. Voting to leave the EU could give the opportunity to do a bit of overdue pruning. The parsimonious Scots would have more reason to go it alone after chickening out a couple of years back. As for the Northern Irish, they might realise they've more in common with their southern brethren, finally putting an end to that 'damned Irish question' for Westminster.

Football's coming home
The English — the essence of the UK as we've already deciphered — invented football (or soccer if you will) as we know it (China doesn't count). Why then, should they have to pander to the likes of Uefa and Fifa? They should be dictating things, like the old empire used to do in many spheres back in the day. Exiting the European political union could open the door to re-evaluate how England does business with the rest of the continent from a football perspective. For example, if you'd all English referees at the European Championships, none of these diving prima donnas from the continent would get away with their antics and England would probably win the thing outright (or fail gloriously in a penalty shoot-out; plus ça change). Or if tournaments were just held in England, the country's football hooligans could engage in their regular, just-for-a-laff 'show of strength' without having to put up with all the, um, over-the-top international castigation.

Sticking with sport, a Brexit could also pave the way for a return to golf’s original Ryder Cup, that of Great Britain versus the USA. Heck, even if it was just English players on their own, they'd easily dispose of the States these days.

So there you have it; the future's looking bright, the future's Brexit.
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