Europe’s Other Secessionists

In the face of staunch opposition from the Spanish government, which declared the act unconstitutional, some 2.3 million residents of Catalonia turned out on Sunday to vote in a non-binding referendum on independence from Spain. Over 80 percent voted “yes”:

Because the straw poll did not contain the electoral guarantees of a true referendum, and was organized and promoted entirely by pro-sovereignty groups, it was largely expected that those opposed to independence would not turn up to vote (and indeed, the percentage of returns against both statehood and independence was a mere 4.5%; an additional 10% voted in favor of statehood—meaning greater autonomy within a federal-style system—but rejected independence). If yesterday’s poll is indeed an accurate reflection of what Catalonia could expect in a binding referendum with greater electoral guarantees and a high level of participation, then somewhere between 40 and 50% of the total eligible population would vote in favor of independence.

Bershidsky interprets the vote as a message to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who “has consistently refused to deal with the political, rather than the legal, side of the issue”:

Rajoy has signaled his willingness to negotiate with the Catalan government, but only from a position of strength. That’s no way to approach a region where close to 2 million people are unhappy with the way they are being governed from Madrid. Spain is the only European country where people feel a stronger regional than national identity, according to the World Values Survey. That makes centralization a bad idea. The best option for the Spanish government is to go back to the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, which was passed by the parliament and approved by 2.5 million Catalan voters — but then emasculated in 2010 by the Constitutional Court. By granting Catalans exactly as much independence as they have always asked for, that would effectively put an end to the secession movement.

Diego Muro also urges Madrid to listen:

Madrid’s approach has been needlessly adversarial. Rather than resist Catalan’s aspirations, the Spanish government should welcome its commitment to a democratic process. After all, Spain has a long history of nationalist groups―most notably the Basque nationalist group ETA―turning to terrorism, rather than the ballot box, to pursue their goals. Madrid has chosen to portray its disagreement with Catalonia in legalistic terms. But the crux of the matter is a political problem: how to accommodate the region’s aspiration for independence within Spain’s existing national framework. The sooner the Spanish government recognizes the true nature of the problem, the sooner it can restore calm throughout the country.

The Bloomberg View editors believe Catalans would opt for union in the end, provided Rajoy abandons his disdainful approach to their concerns:

The first step to persuading Catalans to stay in Spain would be to map out a legal, constitutional route to giving them their say. Catalonia’s proposed secession would be even more fraught with risk than was Scotland’s. It would carve away about 20 percent of Spain’s economy, compared with 8 percent for the U.K. Investors in Catalonia’s bonds certainly believe independence would be at least as bad for the region as for the rest of Spain. So in a real campaign, in which voters are confronted with the realities of assuming up to 200 billion euros ($250 billion) of Spanish debt, the case for unity should be winnable.

How Not To Handle An Ebola Patient

Barbie Latza Nadeau remarks on how Spain bungled the case of Teresa Romero Ramos, the nurse who contracted Ebola, noting that “now Europe is grappling with its worst fear—the threat of an Ebola outbreak. And even the authorities can’t argue it won’t happen”:

That Romero was allowed to mingle in public after reporting a fever when she was within the known incubation period for the virus is unacceptable.  But what makes Romero’s case particularly troubling is that Spanish health authorities and the hospital where she worked appear complicit in not immediately isolating her. … According to Spanish press reports quoting the Spanish nurses’ union, Romero called Carlos III hospital several times between September 30 and October 2 when her fever finally hit the 38.6 threshold.  Still, it took until October 6 when she had become so deathly ill she was begging for an Ebola test before anyone at the hospital where she worked reportedly reacted.

Then, rather than immediately isolating her and rushing her to the special ward used to treat the previous Ebola patients, they told her to go to the nearby emergency room at Alcorcón, where press reports say she sat in the public waiting room for several hours absent of any protective gear. “I think I have ebola,” she reportedly told anyone who would listen.  But no one took notice until her first test came back positive. By then, dripping with fevered sweat, she would have been inarguably contagious.

And now the Spanish government wants to euthanize her dog – but not if the Internet can help it:

Excalibur, a 12-year-old rescue with soulful brown eyes, was left at home by the nurse’s husband, Javier Limón, as he checked into a quarantine unit. Before leaving, he left the dog water and 33 pounds of food — enough to last it through any observation period — while spreading pleas to help the dog on social media. “The dog is fine. He has the whole house to himself, with the open terrace so he can do his business,” he told Spanish paper El Mundo. “Are they going to put me to sleep, too?” The pleas were heard. A Change.org petition to spare the dog received more than 190,000 signatures within a day. …

Excalibur was fine and at home as of Tuesday night in Madrid. The hashtag #SalvemosaExcalibur is trending locally on Twitter.

Jazz Shaw relays some research that helps explain the concerns over Excalibur:

The coverage on CNN this morning clearly missed something (as did I) in terms of transmission through dogs. A reader notes that a study was already done on this and some dogs can, in fact, be infected.

Naina Bajekal has more:

The researchers concluded that “dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks,” but they did not test their hypothesis that human infection could occur through licking, biting or grooming. Instead, the study assumed dogs would transmit the infection in the same way as other animals observed in experiments; those animals excreted viral particles (in saliva, urine, feces) for a short period before the virus was cleared. David Moore, an expert in infectious diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that since no dogs showed symptoms of the Ebola virus “there is absolutely no evidence to support a role for dogs in transmission.”

By the way, like the Spanish nurse, the case of Thomas Eric Duncan, who today became the first person to die of the disease in the US, was hardly handled in the best way:

[He] started developing symptoms of the disease once he arrived in the US. He went to a Dallas emergency room and told a nurse that he had recently been in West Africa — a region that has been ravaged by an unprecedented Ebola epidemic — but that information was not “fully communicated” to the rest of his medical team. Duncan was diagnosed with a minor infection and sent away from the hospital. He returned days later via ambulance, when his symptoms had worsened considerably.