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More welfare cuts needed to save public sector, says IFS

More welfare cuts needed to save public sector, says IFS | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Fresh curbs on welfare spending for those hit hardest by George Osborne's autumn statement will be needed to spare Whitehall departments from the full impact of £27bn in savings needed in the next phase of the government's eight-year austerity programme, Britain's leading experts on the public finances have warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that without further savings – either from benefits or tax increases – some areas of the public sector would be faced with "inconceivable cuts" in the next parliament...
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Barcelona manager Luís Enrique hails Bobby Robson, a man of passion - The Guardian

Barcelona manager Luís Enrique hails Bobby Robson, a man of passion - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
On the fifth anniversary of the former England manager’s death, one of his greatest players recalled his spontaneity, flexibility and commitment to attacking football

 

Luís Enrique has paid tribute to Sir Bobby Robson on the fifth anniversary of his death, saying his former manager’s passion for football was inspirational.

 

The new Barcelona manager played under Robson at the Camp Nou in the 1996-1997 season, when José Mourinho was also at the club, and said it was the Englishman’s spontaneity, flexibility and commitment to attacking football that impressed him most.

“It was a year where we won three trophies, one Cup Winners’ Cup, one Kings Cup, one Spanish Super Cup,” Enrique told TheFA.com on Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day. “It was a difficult season because it was the year after [Johan] Cruyff had left, and Barcelona decided to sign the services of Robson and his great experience. I think he reached the full expectations

 

“As a manager, he had very clear ideas, with an attacking concept of play and an easy and clear philosophy. His natural way of doing things, being very spontaneous, being capable of managing a group, being able to adapt himself to the high expectations of a big team with different circumstances. I remember that at half-time he used to grab some plastic glasses to show us the tactics and movements he wanted to see. He was a very talented and easy going person.”...

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Spain fails to reach agreement over Catalan independence vote - The Independent

Spain fails to reach agreement over Catalan independence vote - The Independent | AC Affairs | Scoop.it

The Spanish and Catalonian governments are no closer to preventing a crisis over a planned independence vote for the north-eastern region in November, after their two leaders failed to reach agreement following talks today.

 

“The Prime Minister told [the Catalan President] Artur Mas that the consultation is not legal and will not take place,” Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, who is head of the premier Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party in Catalonia, told a news conference.

 

Ms Sanchez-Camacho noted that Spain’s Constitutional Court had reiterated in March that regional governments may not hold referendums on self-determination, and that in April the national parliament turned down a request by Catalonia to hold what it calls a “consultation” on independence.

 

However, she said Mr Rajoy was prepared to work with Mr Mas on using regional funds to help Catalonia overcome the economic crisis, from which Spain is only beginning to emerge after six years.

“We are determined, as I told him a year ago, to hold the consultation,” Mr Mas meanwhile said at a news conference in Madrid.

 

“We understand that in the situation in which relations between Catalonia and the rest of the state have come to, either it is solved by a consultation or there won’t be a stable solution,” he added...

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Spanish PM and Catalonia leader hold talks over referendum plan - The Guardian

Spanish PM and Catalonia leader hold talks over referendum plan - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Artur Mas says meeting with prime minister Mariano Rajoy was 'quite positive' and two sides are willing to keep talking

 

Spain's prime minister and the secession-minded leader of Catalonia have begun talks amid a bitter dispute over the wealthy north-eastern region's plans for a referendum on independence in November.

 

The Catalan president, Artur Mas, said the two-and-a-half-hour closed-door session with Mariano Rajoy "wasn't the end of anything, and that in itself is quite positive". There was a willingness on both sides to keep talking, he said.

 

His press conference was slightly delayed by a man who yelled "Long live Spain!" in Catalan repeatedly until being forced to leave by the police.

 

With about three months before Catalonia's referendum, the meeting was widely seen as a last-ditch opportunity for the political adversaries to find common ground and ward off a potential crisis between Madrid and Barcelona.

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Lionel Messi to be prosecuted for alleged tax evasion - The Guardian

Lionel Messi to be prosecuted for alleged tax evasion - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
A Spanish court will push ahead with prosecuting the Barcelona forward Lionel Messi for alleged tax evasion despite a recommendation from the public prosecutor the charges be dismissed
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Europeans with an eye on Edinburgh - BBC

Europeans with an eye on Edinburgh - BBC | AC Affairs | Scoop.it

Voters will go to the polls in September to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country. But what other Europeans are pressing for independence and how closely are they watching Scotland?

 

1. Catalonia


The Catalan regional authorities have a long history of fighting the central authorities for greater autonomy, with many Catalans believing their language, culture and identity cannot be properly represented in Spain.

 

The region in north-east Spain already enjoys a wide degree of autonomy, and, until recently, few Catalans wanted full independence. But Spain's economic crisis has seen a surge in support for separation as many believe the affluent region pays more to Madrid than it gets back.

 

At the same time, the political base of support for Catalan self-determination has broadened from its traditional preserve of the left and been embraced by the centre-right.

The Catalan government plans to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November 2014, asking voters if they want Catalonia to be a state, and if they want it to be an independent state.

Spanish MPs overwhelmingly rejected a request to hold the referendum earlier this year, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declaring it "illegal".

Recent opinion polls suggest people in Catalonia are evenly divided over independence.

 

Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, a columnist for Spanish newspaper El Pais, says people are keeping an eye on Scotland.

He says: "Whether they vote yes or no doesn't really matter - the fact a referendum has been granted and is going ahead is seen as hugely significant.

 

"What remains to be seen is whether the Catalan government will merely use the threat of a referendum as a tactical tool - or whether they will go through with it, which would mean facing sanctions from Madrid."

 

It is also worth noting that Mr Rajoy has implied that Spain could veto an independent Scotland's membership of the EU, widely interpreted as a warning to Catalan separatists. The Scottish government argues Scotland could remain in the EU as it is already a member as part of the UK...

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Spain is better together with Catalonia, say Spanish celebrities - The Guardian

Spain is better together with Catalonia, say Spanish celebrities - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
A group of prominent Spaniards say it would be the right of all Spanish citizens to vote in a Catalan independence referendum
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The incredible story of Di Stefano's Barça transfer - BBC

The incredible story of Di Stefano's Barça transfer - BBC | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Alfredo Di Stefano 'signed' for Barcelona and played in a pre-season friendly, so how did he end up moving to Real Madrid?

 

Having been the brightest star in a team that won the European Cup in the competition's first five seasons, Alfredo Di Stefano is almost unanimously regarded as the greatest player in Real Madrid's history.

 

As current club president Florentino Perez noted in his emotional tribute,  in a symbolic way, Di Stefano simply is Real Madrid. His presence looms so large that he came as close as anybody ever will to the status of being "bigger than the club".

 

But football history could have been different - very different indeed. Because when the magical Argentine forward first opted for a move to Spain, he appeared to be destined not for Real but their eternal rivals Barcelona.

 

The story of Di Stefano's transfer to Los Blancos is a fascinating and complex web of claims, denials, counter-denials and conspiracy theories involving five clubs in three countries. There are allegations of treachery, a mysteriously ripped-up contract and - possibly - the personal intervention of a dictator...

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Joan Fontcuberta: false negatives - The Guardian

Joan Fontcuberta: false negatives - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
He's a photojournalist who fakes miracles, a terrible photographer who's won one of the profession's top prizes, a 'bullshitter' who loves the truth … Stuart Jeffries enters the upside-down world of Joan Fontcuberta

 

In 1968, during a routine space walk, the Russian cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov and his dog went missing. When Soyuz 3 was dispatched to find them, its crew found only a vodka bottle containing a note, floating outside the empty, meteorite-damaged ship.

 

Nothing was heard about Istochnikov for nearly three decades: it was as though the Soviet authorities had airbrushed their cosmonaut from history. Then, in 1997, Catalan photographer Joan Fontcuberta investigated Istochnikov's disappearance, exhibited documentary evidence about his life and published a book called Sputnik – the Odyssey of the Soyuz II, which included photographs of the Istochinikov family, meteorite fragments and the dented spacecraft. Others took up the story. Why, asked Spanish journalist Iker Jiménez on his TV show Cuarto Milenio in 2006, was Istochnikov deleted from history? Had he annoyed the Soviet government?

 

What Jiménez didn't realise is that "Ivan Istochnikov" is a Russian translation of "Joan Fontcuberta" (both surnames mean hidden fountain). What's more, if he'd looked closer at the Istochnikov family photos he would have noticed that the Russian cosmonaut was really a Catalan photographer. The whole thing was a hoax, elaborately documented by an artist ("I prefer to think of myself as an activist," Fontcuberta corrects me when we meet) to expose the construction of reality masked by the putatively neutral nature of documentary photography. There was no meteorite, no cosmonaut, no conspiracy, and – happily – no dead dog drifting eternally in space like a canine George Clooney...

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Catalans Trump Scots With V-for-Victory as Rajoy Shuns Debate - Bloomberg

Catalans Trump Scots With V-for-Victory as Rajoy Shuns Debate - Bloomberg | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
is losing the independence debate on the streets of Catalonia.

 

Support for secession in the country’s biggest regional economy has been above 45 percent for the past year compared with 28 percent when the premier took office in 2011, according to regional government pollster Centre d’Estudis d’Opinio. The premier this week ruled out talks with the Catalan government unless it withdraws the referendum planned for Nov. 9.

 

Felipe VI makes his first visit to Catalonia as king today after making an indirect appeal to the region to remain part of Spain in his proclamation speech last week. A fluent Catalan speaker, Felipe is trying to hold onto a region that accounts for 10 percent of Spain’s tax revenue and a quarter of its exports.

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First test for Felipe after snub from Catalan nationalists - The Times

First test for Felipe after snub from Catalan nationalists - The Times | AC Affairs | Scoop.it

Only days after his coronation - and with public support for the monarchy seemingly on the rise at last - Spain's new king will be plunged into a crisis this week when he comes face to face with those calling for his abolition.

Felipe VI will travel with Queen Letizia to the city of Girona in Catalonia - a bastion of Catalan nationalism whose city council declared in a vote last week that he did not represent them.

The snub is symbolic of growing support for republicanism and Catalan separatism, two of the main challenges facing the king in a country where the popularity of the monarchy has fallen drastically because of a series of corruption scandals.

Catalan nationalists have promised to stage a referendum on independence in November but the government in Madrid has refused to allow what it calls an illegal vote. The stand-off has left many looking to Felipe to try to find some kind of solution before the country splits in two.

In his coronation speech, the king promised to be a symbol of unity in a country mired in economic crisis, saying: "There is room for all of us in a united and diverse Spain" - a clear reference to Catalan nationalist aspirations. He also spoke a few words in Catalan.

It did not impress Artur Mas, the Catalan regional president, who refused to applaud, insisting the address contained nothing new.

As such, the king's trip to the city on Thursday for a business conference will assume far greater importance than it ordinarily would, being regarded as a first crucial test of his unifying qualities.

Yet, in spite of his difficulties, Felipe may take heart from a raft of polls yesterday suggesting that the monarchy was getting a much-needed surge of support in Spain after years of gains for the republican movement.

A poll for El País newspaper found that 59 per cent of Spaniards felt "more secure" with their new monarch than with King Juan Carlos, who abdicated after 39 years on the throne. The same poll found that 75 per cent hoped Felipe could help solve the political crisis over the rich region of Catalonia.

Others disagree. "The Spanish monarchy is anti-democratic and out of date," Lluc Salellas, from the Catalan nationalist CUP party in Girona, said, vowing to campaign for its abolition...

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Spain's popular prince must charm Catalonia as king - Reuters

Spain's popular prince must charm Catalonia as king - Reuters | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
MADRID (Reuters) - Many Spaniards are hoping for a lot more than polish and glamour from new King Felipe VI when he takes the throne on Thursday after his father's surprise abdication.The new monarch
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Spain’s Catalan crisis will be Felipe’s first big test - FT

Spain’s Catalan crisis will be Felipe’s first big test - FT | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Can a new king help solve Spain’s Catalan crisis? It is a question that has been raised with growing frequency, ever since Juan Carlos announced his decision to abdicate earlier this month. In some quarters, Crown Prince Felipe is already being
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How to make a country for everybody - The Economist

How to make a country for everybody - The Economist | AC Affairs | Scoop.it

“PER un país de tots, l’escola en català,” reads the sign on the Barcelona schoolhouse gate: “For a country for everyone, school in Catalan.” It is a pointed and, to some, ironic symbol of two very different views of language in Spain. 

 

Johnson recently travelled through three regions where Catalan has three different statuses. Catalan is spoken informally in southern France, but the region is dominated officially by French. Nearby Andorra, a microstate sitting between Spain and France, is the only officially Catalan-speaking state in the world, and despite mass tourism, public signage tends to be only in Catalan.

 

It is in Spain that Catalan is the most controversial. Catalan is the official language of the autonomous province of Catalonia. (Nearly identical Valencian is spoken in Valencia.) Speakers of Castilian Spanish tend to make two grumbles regarding Catalan. One, linguistically impossible to justify, is that it isn’t a real language. Spanish-speakers can read Catalan without much difficulty, provided they know a few crucial words that differ quite a bit (Spanish con, “with”, is amb in Catalan, for example, and solo, “only”, is només.) Linguists, however, usually say two varieties are separate languages rather than mere dialects when the speakers of one cannot understand normal full-speed speech in the other. By this standard, Catalan is clearly a language: if you speak Spanish, note how much easier this news item is to read than even the careful, slow speech of Catalonia’s premier is to understand. (Would you happily take a quiz on the contents of his speech?) So Catalan is a real language—and in fact was a literary language before Castilian had risen from obscurity.

 

The second complaint is that Spain has given Catalan more and more privileges in the semi-autonomous province of Catalonia, and yet the Catalans keep asking for more. Schooling in Catalonia is in Catalan, and pupils from other regions are expected to learn quickly from immersion. Yet Catalan politicians are angling for a vote on full sovereignty. The government in Madrid insists that this is illegal under the constitution, which declares the indivisibility of the nation....

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Spain and Catalonia fail to narrow divide over breakaway quest - FT

Spain and Catalonia fail to narrow divide over breakaway quest - FT | AC Affairs | Scoop.it

The leaders of Spain and Catalonia launched a last-ditch attempt on Wednesday to halt an escalating confrontation over the north-east region’s political future.

 

The talks failed once again, however, to find common ground on the core of the conflict – a Catalan plan to hold an independence referendum later this year.

 

The keenly awaited meeting between Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and Artur Mas, the Catalan government president, was billed as one of the last opportunities to discuss a political settlement.

Mr Mas and his government say they are determined to hold a non-binding independence referendum in November to test the region’s support for a historic break with Spain.

 

Madrid is fiercely opposed, however, and has made clear that it regards any independence plebiscite as illegal.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first between Mr Rajoy and Mr Mas for almost a year, highlighting an erosion of trust as well as the intense pressure both leaders face from their core supporters.

 

It started with the frostiest of handshakes, as both men strained to look away from each other. But the Catalan president emerged from the Moncloa Palace in Madrid more than two hours later, hailing a new “climate of open dialogue” between Madrid and Barcelona – and pledging more talks in the weeks ahead.

 

Mr Mas said his government was not budging from its referendum plan, stressing that it enjoyed wide support in both Catalan society and the regional parliament. But he also highlighted a new list of 23 political and financial demands that he said had nothing to do with the plebiscite.

The list includes calls for an overhaul of Spain’s system of regional financing, in which Catalan tax revenue is used to subsidise poorer regions, and for a rollback of a new education law that many Catalans fear will undermine the status of the Catalan language...

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Mas Looking for Rajoy to Propose a Plan for Catalan Concerns - Bloomberg

Mas Looking for Rajoy to Propose a Plan for Catalan Concerns - Bloomberg | AC Affairs | Scoop.it

Regional President Artur Mas said he’s looking for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to propose a plan to address Catalans’ concerns they aren’t getting a fair deal out of Spain.

 

Rajoy repeated his stance that the Catalan government’s plan to hold a referendum on independence in November is illegal and won’t be allowed to go ahead in a two-hour meeting with the Catalan leader today, Mas said in a televised press conference.

 

“I had a certain idea that beyond saying that everything is illegal there would be some kind of proposal on the table from the Spanish government,” Mas said. “Let’s see if the Spanish government has any ideas.”

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Barcelona train at St George's Park ahead of the new season - video - The Guardian

Barcelona holds a training session at St George's Park in Burton upon Trent on Monday
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Catalan corruption may end Mas’s moral edge on Rajoy - Bloomberg

Catalan corruption may end Mas’s moral edge on Rajoy - Bloomberg | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Catalan President Artur Mas’s summit
meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is being
overshadowed by his mentor’s confession of tax evasion only
months before a planned vote on secession by the region.
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Catalan Separatists Say Debt Investors Can Help Campaign - Bloomberg

Catalan Separatists Say Debt Investors Can Help Campaign - Bloomberg | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Catalan leaders pushing for a
referendum on independence from Spain say investors might help
force Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to yield.

 

With a majority of Catalans demanding a chance to vote on their constitutional future, the Spanish government needs to find a way of addressing their concerns or risk a political backlash that could rattle markets, said Oriol Junqueras, leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the separatist party that won the regional vote in May’s European election.

 

“The Spanish government owes 1 trillion euros and someone has to pay this debt,” Junqueras, 45, said in an interview. “It’s not a good idea to stop the Catalan people voting and it’s not good for international markets.”...

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Luis Suárez unveiling at Barcelona blocked by Fifa until the end of his ban - The Guardian

Luis Suárez unveiling at Barcelona blocked by Fifa until the end of his ban - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Barcelona will not be allowed to publicly unveil new £75m signing Luis Suárez while he remains banned for biting, Fifa has confirmed

 

Suárez is due to complete his move from Liverpool in the next few days, and the Catalan club has previously introduced star signings including Neymar and Cesc Fàbregas to packed stadiums. There have been suggestions Barcelona could hold a similar event for Suárez in a non-football venue to get around the four-month ban imposed on the Uruguay striker for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, but Fifa has now confirmed that any such event will not be permitted while the ban remains in force.

 

Fifa’s head of media Delia Fischer said: “The ban relates to all football-related activity. He cannot be in a football-related public event irrespective of the venue. He cannot even be involved in a football-related charity event.”..

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Mas may be ready to delay Catalan vote if Rajoy will talk

Mas may be ready to delay Catalan vote if Rajoy will talk | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Catalan President Artur Mas said he may be prepared to pause the countdown to November’s referendum on independence for talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, so long as he gets the backing of the other pro-vote parties.
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Airbnb fined €30,000 for illegal tourist lets in Barcelona - The Guardian

Airbnb fined €30,000 for illegal tourist lets in Barcelona - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Website among eight fined for breaching law requiring any property rented to tourists to be on Catalonia's tourism registry

 

They boast magnificent city views, proximity to shopping and nightlife and the chance to live like a local.

But what some of the Barcelona properties listed for rent on Airbnb don't have, at least according to the government of Catalonia, is legality. The regional government announced on Monday that it was slapping a €30,000 (£24,000) fine on the website over what it calls a "serious" breach of local laws.

 

Founded in 2008, Airbnb now lists more than half a million private properties in 192 countries for stays as short as one night and is valued at an estimated $10bn. Catalonia has figured prominently in its growth, with Barcelona consistently ranking as one of the site's largest markets, and the company launched a Catalan version of its website last April.

The fine – the San Francisco-based firm's first in Europe – was for breaching local laws that state any flat rented to tourists must be registered with the Tourism Registry of Catalonia. Regional laws also prohibit the renting out of rooms in private residences.

 

Airbnb was one of eight letting sites fined by the Catalan government, but its success has made it the focus of widespread opposition to private tourist lets in Barcelona, where recent years have seen hundreds of thousands of private lets are on offer to cater to a growing number of tourists. Hoteliers have taken aim at the flats over what they deem unfair competition; while several neighbourhood associations blame private lets for driving up housing prices in central districts...

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Crisis of trust as economic downturn in Spain ends - FT

Crisis of trust as economic downturn in Spain ends - FT | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
When Spaniards speak about “the crisis” these days, it is no longer clear which crisis they are referring to.

 

Until recently, it was obvious that la crísis could only mean the brutal economic downturn triggered by the bursting of Spain’s housing bubble six years ago. Today, however, the word may just as easily refer to the deepening political and institutional crisis that has engulfed the country.Until recently, it was obvious that la crísis could only mean the brutal economic downturn triggered by the bursting of Spain’s housing


Symptoms of this second Spanish crisis have, of course, been visible for some time, and are closely linked to the bitter economic hardship suffered by millions of Spanish families in recent years.

 

Now, however, they appear with greater frequency, and in ever more sensitive parts of the body politic. Rebuilding trust in the state and its institutions will take a Herculean effort, and this time neither the European Commission nor the European Central Bank nor the International Monetary Fund will be there to help.

 

“The economic crisis has made people realise our political system is less perfect than they thought. Trust in our institutions has collapsed,” says Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Teneo Intelligence, a consultancy.

 

Politicians, parties and parliament, the government and the judiciary, the monarchy and the constitution, business and the unions – they are all facing hostile scrutiny as never before.

In the region of Catalonia, meanwhile, more and more people say they want to have nothing to do with the state of Spain. Secessionist pressures are on the rise, and will come to a head in November, when the regional government plans a referendum on Catalonia’s political future.

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World Cup 2014: were Spain too reliant on Barcelona players? - The Guardian

World Cup 2014: were Spain too reliant on Barcelona players? - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Does a World Cup team benefit or lose out from fielding players from the same clubs? We analysed the data
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Spain's new king under pressure to tackle Catalonia stalemate - The Guardian

Spain's new king under pressure to tackle Catalonia stalemate - The Guardian | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
Catalan leader Artur Mas, who will attend coronation, says Felipe should be given time to address independence issue
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Pope signals Scotland, Catalonia should take care on independence - Reuters

Pope signals Scotland, Catalonia should take care on independence - Reuters | AC Affairs | Scoop.it
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis suggested on Friday that Scotland and Catalonia must think carefully about breaking away from their national unions, making a distinction between seeking independence
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