On the A-1 highway north of Madrid, Ford Spain’s press fleet manager, Eusebio Ruiz, locks his car’s radar onto another vehicle perhaps 75 meters ahead. An outline of the car appears on the dashboard with a few red bars behind it indicating the target distance. Deep memories of the film Top Gun and years of flight-simulator play kick in, and I reach for the joystick to arm my Sidewinder missiles. But the Ford Kuga is armed with neither Sidewinders nor a joystick. I sigh, click my pen, and continue taking notes as Ruiz fiddles with buttons on the steering wheel.
A Spanish HIV/AIDS researcher is facing a hefty fine for violating clinical trial regulations. A court of appeals has upheld most of a lower court’s verdict against Vicente Soriano, a physician at the Hospital Carlos III here and a well-known clinical researcher with hundreds of publications to his name.
Soriano is liable for €210,000 for conducting a clinical trial without approval from the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products, failing to obtain insurance for the trial, and informing participants he had his hospital’s ethical approval when he did not, according to the ruling, which was published 14 January. But the court overturned a €6000 fine for obstructing the initial investigation, which took place in 2010.
Around this time of year in the Sierra de Guadarrama, a snow-capped mountain range outside Madrid, the snow is starting to melt. Below the tree line, the melting water soaks the earth in dense stands of pine trees. Further down, holly, oak and ash trees line the banks of mountain streams, and goats graze between granite rock formations.
Rubén Bernal, a guide at Guadarrama National Park, knows his trees. Walking down the mountain, he points out junipers, oaks, alders, honeysuckles, blackthorns, wild privets, butcher’s brooms – and the wild apple, which he said is the most protected. “Buckthorn, madrone – everything near the water,” Bernal said.
Bernal explained that the forests here were burned to make charcoal, or to clear land for sheep to graze – once common practices throughout Spain. When the government first took stock of the damage in the late 19th century, it estimated that 5 or 6 million hectares – or about 10 percent of the country’s land area – would need to be replanted.
The reforestation work continues to this day.
You don’t have to step into the street for Madrid’s roads to pose a hazard to your health: air pollution from cars in the city might just knock you over. Scientists are finding links between the gases and disease.
Pollution is not quite a top-ten killer – in Western Europe, lifestyle choices such as smoking, lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet pose a bigger risk. Yet strikingly, the diseases linked to particulate air pollution may be the hardest to avoid if you cannot avoid the pollution itself.
In Madrid, three quarters of air pollution comes from motor vehicles. On bad days, a brown cloud sits on top of the city – prompting residents to call the smog cloud “boina” or beret because it looks like the city is wearing a cap.
More objective measures of the city’s air pollution show that it regularly exceeds European-mandated levels of gases and particles.
Madrileños – or Madrid residents – walking around Atocha, one of the city’s biggest roundabouts, offer a variety of solutions for tackling the pollution problem.