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Blues Musician Johnny Winter Dead At 70

By Hubert Kahl, dpa

ZURICH — Blues musician Johnny Winter is dead at age 70, according to Zurich police.

Although no foul play was suspected in his death, which reportedly happened overnight into Wednesday, prosecutors have still ordered an autopsy, a police spokeswoman told dpa Thursday.

There was no mention of the musician’s death on his website or Facebook page, both of which are promoting his new album, “Step Back,” to be released on Sept. 2.

Born John Dawson Winter III, he grew up in Beaumont, Texas, frequenting traditionally black music clubs, according to his website. He formed his first band at age 15 with his brother, Edgar, who went on to become a famous musician in his own right. Both cut striking figures on stage, partially because of their albinism and long, flowing white hair.

After an attempt to break into the Chicago music scene, Winter returned to Texas and got his first break in 1968, when Rolling Stone magazine featured him in an article about the state’s music scene. That paved the way for a recording contract and hits like “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

He appeared at the Woodstock festival in 1969. But, despite some fans’ hopes that he would become a major rock star, he stayed true to the blues. He is one of a very few white performers to be honored in the Blues Hall of Fame.

After a string of hits in the 1960s and ’70s, with an interruption to recover from heroin addiction, Winter enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with multiple collaborations with performers such as Slash, Eric Clapton, and the Allman Brothers.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Felipe Sworn In As Monarch As He Professes Love For Spain

By Hubert Kahl, MCT

MADRID — Spain’s newly proclaimed King Felipe VI in a speech before parliament Thursday said he loved his country with all his heart, calling Spain a “great nation.”

“I will always have the common good (of the country) in mind,” the new head of state said after being sworn in a ceremony in Madrid.

King Felipe VI swore an oath in parliament shortly after receiving a ceremonial sash from his father Juan Carlos representing the receipt of the command of the country’s armed forces.

Prince Felipe became the new Spanish monarch on Thursday in the wake of the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos. The 46-year-old crown prince became King Felipe at midnight.

Juan Carlos’ nearly 39-year reign ended Wednesday when he signed an abdication law, which the Senate passed a day earlier. He appeared to choke back tears during the brief signing ceremony, in which he rose with the help of a cane to cede his seat to Felipe.

The 76-year-old monarch made a surprise announcement on June 2 that he would step aside for a “younger generation.” The move required parliamentary approval because no provision for abdication had existed under Spanish law.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Spanish King’s Abdication Passes First Hurdle; Coronation Date Sought

By Hubert Kahl

MADRID — Spanish King Juan Carlos’ decision to abdicate cleared its first procedural hurdle Tuesday as the Cabinet approved a law that would allow the king to step down.

The monarch, 76, surprised the world Monday with his plans to step aside for a “younger generation,” — meaning his son, Felipe, 46, who is in line to take the throne as Felipe VI.

Although the general consensus is that the king should be able to step down if he wishes to do so, there is no provision for abdication under current law. The constitution refers to a special law for such cases, but the relevant measure was never passed.

Following the Cabinet’s approval, the measure must now head to the legislature. It should be passed by June 18, said Jesus Posada, the president of the Spanish parliament.

According to Spain’s El Pais newspaper, the measure should meet little resistance in parliament. An absolute majority of lawmakers has to back the change for it to pass.

The legislation does not specify what Juan Carlos’ status will be after giving up the crown, nor does it address whether he will continue to enjoy immunity from prosecution as a former king.

No date has yet been set for Felipe’s coronation. It can only be decided after agreement between the royal family and the government.

The palace has said it expects the crown prince to be coronated as Felipe VI within three to six weeks.

Although the abdication decision has yielded an outpouring of support for the royal family, it also has prompted thousands to protest, demanding a referendum on whether the monarchy — which was installed by former dictator Francisco Franco — should give way to a republic.

Juan Carlos has been on the throne since 1975.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday that the vast majority of Spaniards still support the monarchy. He said anti-monarchists should focus their efforts on a constitutional change, if that is their goal.

The leader of the opposition Socialists, Alfredo Perez Rucalba, said such protests are a regular part of democracy. But he said that, although his party has a republican tradition, it would continue to back the monarchy.

AFP Photo

Scores Arrested As Barcelona Protesters Clash With Police

By Hubert Kahl, McClatchy Tribune News Service

BARCELONA, Spain — The number of people arrested in Barcelona while protesting over the right of a group of squatters to continue occupying a building rose to more than 60, authorities said Friday, after a fourth straight night of clashes with police.

Masked demonstrators in the Sants district of the city set one bank branch and numerous trash containers ablaze and threw stones and bottles at police. Multiple arrests were reported, though police were not able to provide a final number.

The building Can Vies, which is owned by the municipal transportation services TMB, had been occupied for 17 years by squatters who had set up a social center there that garnered the sympathies of the local community.

The building was scheduled Monday to be evacuated and partially demolished after negotiations between the city and the squatters failed. Protests spread throughout Catalonia, with local media reports of generally peaceful demonstrations at 50 locations.

Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias has proposed halting the demolition and starting new negotiations, but spokespersons for the squatters have rejected this. While distancing themselves from the nightly violence, they have called for the rebuilding of the already damaged portions of the building.

AFP Photo/Philippe Huguen