Thursday, April 30, 2009

The research aircraft “Polar 5” today concluded its Arctic expedition in Canada. During the flight, researchers measured the current ice thickness at the North Pole and in areas that have never before been surveyed. The result: The sea-ice in the surveyed areas is apparently thicker than scientists had suspected.

Normally, newly formed ice measures some two meters in thickness after two years. “Here, we measured ice thickness up to four meters,” said a spokesperson for Bremerhaven’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. At present, this result contradicts the warming of the sea water, according to the scientists.
(original in German here)

Mr. Gore, call your office!

I THINK IT'S SAFE TO SAY that Michael Scheuer is mad at Obama for the torture memo release.

LET'S SEE if they pay so much attention to this scientific consensus as they do to "the other one:"
As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza -- at least in its current form -- isn't shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

THIS PIECE by the AP on Obama's statements during his town hall meeting yesterday in Arnold, Missouri, is almost a full-blown fisking.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I TOLD YOU that the swine flu scare was hysterically overblown, didn't I? Well:
A member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world.

Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths - all in Mexico - and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.

Frightened Woman

Spain's top investigative magistrate opened an investigation into the Bush administration Wednesday over alleged torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Judge Baltasar Garzon said documents declassified by the new U.S. government suggest the practice was systematic.

Garzon said he was acting under Spain's observance of the principle of universal justice, which allows crimes allegedly committed in other countries to be prosecuted in Spain.

Garzon's move is separate from a complaint by human rights lawyers that seeks charges against six specific Bush administration officials they accuse of creating a legal framework to permit torture of suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. detention facilities.

SIMON JENKINS is totally spot on in The Guardian:
Despite the hysteria, the risk to Britons' health is tiny - but that news won't sell papers or drugs, or justify the WHO's budget
The same can be said, of course, about Spain, the U.S., or any other country.

YET MORE PERSPECTIVE on the swine flu outbreak and the surrounding alarmism.

UPDATE. This is what panic looks like:
The commotion began when AirTran Flight 85 from Cancun, Mexico, radioed ahead to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport that two passengers were had nausea and fever, said airport spokesman Jonathan Dean.

"The airport's fire and rescue department responded," Dean tells WTOP.

"They evaluated the passengers and determined that there was no public health threat.

"They were actually ill before boarding."

The two men were isolated and examined, said David Paulson, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said they simply had too much to drink.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

THE WORLD'S OLDEST PROFESSION caught by Google Street View showing their wares in Madrid...

A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE on the swine flu outbreak.


UPDATE II. A look back to 1976.

Monday, April 27, 2009

15 WONDERS of the LEGO world.

SO THIS IS how the swine flu started...

I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE incensend over the swine flu hysteria:
How many times are we going to cry wolf over these things? Remember bird flu? The rush to stock up on Tamiflu? Gee didn't the Swiss drug maker Roche do well out of that one.

Sars anyone? The Millennium Bug? Let's face it, we love a good crisis and the media enjoys it more than anyone. Scaring the pants off the public is great fun, and sells newspapers.

So let's just get this latest crisis straight. "Up to'' 80 people have died in Mexico from a variant of Influenza A, which is being dubbed swine flu. A bunch of Americans and Canadians are thought to have caught it, though none of them have died or are even very sick.

Ten Kiwi kids apparently have the "deadly new swine flu'' after a school trip to Mexico recently. So far they're all OK too.

Now, I'm not suggesting for a minute that influenza isn't a nasty virus. Or that health authorities shouldn't take precautions until we know more about it.

But let's have some perspective, shall we? Every year, the flu kills an estimated 500,000 people around the world. There are up to five million cases. People die and are hospitalised right here in New Zealand from the flu every year as well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

YOU CAN SURE NOTICE the new freedom in the air of Obama's America in which, unlike under the fascist Bush, civil liberties are expanded. Yeah:
The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule a 23 year-old decision that stopped police from initiating questions unless a defendant's lawyer is present, the latest stance that has disappointed civil rights and civil liberties groups.

I LOVE this photoblog at the WSJ.

WHEN SPAIN'S UNEMPLOYMENT reached 3 million, the Zapatero government angrly fired back at observers who thought the country would reach the 4-million mark before the end of the year. There's no way we're going to ever reach 4 million unemployed, the Labor minister Celestino Corbacho said, much less before the end of 2009. He, Zapatero himself, other cabinet members and administration officials started a media appearances barrage accusing those observers not just of being wrong, but of actually wishing the unemployment to skyrocket in order to damage Zapatero. That they preferred the country to go into tatters if that meant that they could stick a fork in the prime minister's eye. (interestingly, they had been criticizing Bush for questioning the patriotism of his critics...)

Today, April 24 2009, the Spanish government had to officially confirm that already in March 31, that is, only three months into the year,the number of unemployed in Spain reached the figure there was no way whatsoever it was going to reach not even before the end of the year. Welcome to the country of 4 million unemployed, which is a staggering rate 17.36 pct.

And Zapatero is still boasting that Spain's economy is one of the world's best equipped for the recovery. Meanwhile, no meaningful measures are adopted; just spending in non-productive works that create a handful of temporary jobs that will be over in two or three months. But hey, when Obama fixes the American economy, the tide will lift all boats, right?

Wrong. Spain has very specific problems that will drag the country from that recovery unless they're fixed. And they won't be fixed if the government not only refuses to see the problems, but bullies anyone who mentions them.

We couldn't have a more incompetent administration at the worst moment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

HISTORIC JUSTICE: IDF jets flying over Auschwitz.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ABSOLUTELY FRIGGING HILARIOUS (knee-jerk feminists without a sense of humor abstain, though). Let me introduce you the Shii, the version of the Wii for women:

NOW THAT'S what I call a heck of a music box...

GOOD THING THAT, once Bush is out of the White House, everyone will be freer and gone are the times when the government was looking at everything you do:
Law enforcement officials are vastly expanding their collection of DNA to include millions more people who have been arrested or detained but not yet convicted. The move, intended to help solve more crimes, is raising concerns about the privacy of petty offenders and people who are presumed innocent.
To be filed in the "If Bush Had Done This" folder.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vice is making a comeback in this city once famous for 1,001 varieties of it.

Gone, for the most part, are nighttime curfews, religious extremists and prowling kidnappers. So, inevitably, some people are turning to illicit pleasures, or at least slightly dubious ones.

Nightclubs have reopened, and in many of them, prostitutes troll for clients. Liquor stores, once shut down by fundamentalist militiamen, have proliferated; on one block of busy Saddoun Street, there are more than 10 of them.
Keep reading, especially those of you who said that nothing would ever change there.

"UNDER COVER OF WAR" is the latest report by Human Rights Watch on Hamas' political violence in Gaza. In case anyone had any doubt of what the "philantropic" organization is about.

A REAL TREASURE TROVE for TV lovers: here you can find literally hundreds of scripts, bibles, discarded pilot scripts, and much more. Amazing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Security forces in France on Saturday arrested the suspected military chief of ETA, the third top leader of the Basque separatist organisation to be captured in the last six months, Spanish national radio said.

Jurdan Martitegi was detained along with two other ETA suspects in the vicinity of the southern French city of Perpignan in an operation carried out in cooperation with Spanish security forces, the radio said, quoting anti-terrorist sources.
However, one thing is not "good:" When will English-language media stop calling ETA a "separatist organization"? It's a terrorist organization, for chrissakes. It's not what they pursue -- separatism --, which is legitimate. It's the methods they use to reach that goal -- terrorism -- what makes them criminals.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I TOLD YOU that it was not over yet:
On Thursday, Spain's attorney general said Garzon should dismiss the complaint brought by human rights lawyers calling for the officials to be prosecuted.

In a ruling on Friday, Garzon ignored this advice but also avoided a direct confrontation with the attorney general's office by submitting the case to a lottery system which will now assign it at random to one of the six high court judges.

"Let it be assigned to the corresponding court," Garzon said in the ruling.

The judge who gets the case will now have to decide whether to go ahead of it. Under the system, Garzon will have a one in six chance of getting the case back.

Friday, April 17, 2009

THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT is not only incompetent; it's also a bully. The Bank of Spain's governor -- a highly respected economist who knows a thing or two about the economy -- made some sensible comments about the prospects of the Social Security system and the future of pensions, in a moment when unemployment is skyrocketing and people are living longer, saying that it may enter into deficit some time in the future if reforms aren't done, and this is what he got:
Spain's Labour Ministry has dismissed a Bank of Spain warning the country's social security system could enter deficit, marking the latest clash between the government and central bank over fiscal policy. Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho said the comments by Bank of Spain Governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez were alarmist and social security accounts would remain in surplus. "You can't question the stability of a system that works, nor play with the peace of mind of more than 8 million pensioners," said Corbacho in comments to Spanish national radio late on Thursday. "I hope it's the last time I have to disagree (with Fernandez-Ordonez)."
Easy, Don Vito, easy. Listen to Fernández Ordóñez and you may learn a little about the problem from someone who can teach you (after all it's not like you are a money expert: before being the Labor minister, you were a mayor of a town outside Barcelona, and macroeconomics is not your strong point). It's not a good idea to dismiss the downside of things. You may get the citizenry happier (the happiness of the ignorant) but the problem is still there.

(It's not the first spat between the government and Fernandez Ordoñez -- incidentally, a Socialist too --. A few weeks ago, the latter suggested that the extremely rigid labor system -- still based on the Franco era, over paternalistic on workers, who are almost impossible to fire... and consequently, companies think twice or thrice before hiring them -- should be made more flexible. He was instantly shouted down by the government and the trade unions).

The US President is weak, the Spanish leader is dim, the German Chancellor is clinging on to France’s coat-tails and the head of the European Commission is irrelevant.

That, at any rate, is the world according to President Sarkozy, who has spent the week airing his unvarnished opinions of Barack Obama and an array of international politicians — abruptly ending France’s honeymoon with the US and needling Washington on several strategic issues.

GLASS HALF FULL: "One-third Of ETA Prisoners Back End To Armed Struggle"

Glass half emptier: that still leaves two thirds backing armed struggle. And that's still a lot of guys.

GERALD WARNER is spot on: there's no reason why Spain should apologize for expelling the Muslims -- in the Middle Ages, mind you:
Let's start with the massive Islamic invasion of Spain by Arabs, Syrians and Berbers in 711, which conquered the entire country by exemplary brutality within five years. Would Morocco like to start the ball rolling by apologising to Spain for that?

Then there was the little incident at the Battle of Tours on October 10, 732 when Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, governor-general of al-Andalus, the Muslim kingdom of Spain, was finally stopped in his tracks by Charles Martel, 12 miles north of Poitiers - not what you would call a traditionally Islamic area. The signs are these chaps were not going to stop even at the Watford Gap, unless somebody took drastic action. How about an apology to France for that incursion?

It took the Christians of Spain 800 years to recover their country in the bloody and relentless campaign known as the Reconquista, completed only with the fall of Granada in 1492. During those centuries, along with such atrocities as salting dissidents' decapitated heads as trophies for the Caliph, the Mediterranean populations were dragged in their hundreds of thousands to the slave markets of North Africa. Any apologies on offer?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

IF THERE'S ANYTHING YOU NEED TO READ on the crucial election in India, taking place since yesterday through the next month, it's with no doubt this.

GOOD THING Bush is gone and now it's Obama in the White House. Oops:
The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.
Where's the protests by civil libertarians?

SOME SANITY AT LAST (which I doubt would have happened if Bush was still in the White House...)
Spanish prosecutors will recommend against opening an investigation into whether six Bush administration officials sanctioned torture against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the country's attorney-general said Thursday.

Candido Conde-Pumpido said the case against the high-ranking U.S. officials — including former U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales — was without merit because the men were not present when the alleged torture took place.

"If one is dealing with a crime of mistreatment of prisoners of war, the complaint should go against those who physically carried it out," Conde-Pumpido said in a breakfast meeting with journalists. He said a trial of the men would have turned Spain's National Court "into a plaything" to be used for political ends.

Prosecutors at Spain's National Court have not formally announced their decision in the case, but Conde-Pumpido is the country's top law-enforcement official and has the ultimate say.

While an investigative judge is not bound by the prosecutors' decision, it would be highly unusual for a case to proceed without their support.
Well, when the investigative judge is Baltasar Garzón -- as is now the case -- you can expect just about anything, no matter how unlikely. It wouldn't be the first time the crusading judge doesn't follow the prosecutor's decision; precisely there's a well-publicized case of alleged corruption in the conservative Popular Party that he's pressing on despite the state's attorney saying once and again that there is no substantive evidence (it'll help you understand why if you're aware that Garzón was once No 2 candidate for the Socialist party in a general election during Felipe González times)

UPDATE. More by Jules Crittenden.

ONE IN SIX SPANIARDS marries a foreigner, according to a study. Great news, but to me the most interesting part -- I haven't read the study -- would be to know why such a big increase, so fast besides the boilerplate the guy says about "hospitable Spanish character" and "Spaniards are open to integration." Any sociologist in the room?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Evidence from fossil coral reefs in Mexico underlines the potential for a sudden jump in sea levels because of global warming, scientists report in a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that a sudden rise of 6.5 feet to 10 feet occurred within a span of 50 to 100 years about 121,000 years ago, at the end of the last warm interval between ice ages.
And, as everybody knows, we greedy capitalists mankind were all, 121,000 years ago, driving our gas-guzzling SUVs while factories (we consumerists!) were manufacturing all out superfluous products while spitting tons of CO2 to the atmosphere.

See? Antropogenic global waming finally proven, for all skeptics out there! Good thing Al Gore was around then to warn everybody.

THE FAKE economic recovery.

YESTERDAY, FEEDBURNER WAS AWFUL; it took hours to update the RSS feed of this blog. If you follow Barcepundit through an RSS reader, it's not too bad, since you'll see yesterday's entries anyway. But if you read it via an aggregation page of some kind, the posts may be a bit buried down. If that's the case and want to read yesterday's entries, please go to the home page and scroll down. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

President Barack Obama's budget plan illustrates the degree to which he wants to reconstruct the U.S. economy. So radical are the changes of Obamanomics, and so at odds with historical experience, that the next few months may very well decide the economic future of the United States for a generation.

[...] If the president is wrong, which history and experience tells us he will be, it will mean the waste of trillions of dollars of resources, a massive increase in the nation's deb, and all the negative effects of a slow growing economy: higher unemployment, less job creation, less investment and ultimately less hope for the future.

CHEAP OIL FOREVER: why prices will keep falling.

GEE, WE ARE SMALL! Some perspective is always helpful to remind what we really are. (via TED's Chris Anderson)

THIS ARTICLE in the New York Times saying that it's good to pay taxes because birds do it, bees doint, even educated fleas do it, is stunningly stupid. All the examples the author gives are of species that help their fellow members. But it's one thing that there's a sense of solidarity among a species, and that the collective frowns upon one of their members bailing out, and another very different one is forced solidarity enforced by an elite, chosen or not. What the article presents should be compared, say, with voluntary help and philantropy which, particularly in the US, is virtually a must.

ANYONE SURPRISED that a man with this face would be found guilty? Creepy guy.

An alleged mastermind of the March 2004 Madrid train bombings which killed 191 people escaped arrest three months after the attacks because Spanish police failed to recognize him, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Monday.

"They did not recognize him, otherwise he would have been arrested," he told reporters, confirming a report published in daily newspaper El Mundo.

GREAT MOMENTS IN NANNYSTATISM: Dog owners in the Spanish city of Girona have been told they must walk their animals for at least 20 minutes a day or face fines of up to 400 euros ($531)

THIS IS FOR my Italian friends... no offense, of course. After all, it's not like Spaniards are much different!

Monday, April 13, 2009

GOOD NEWS FOR OBAMA! Our ears may have built-in passwords. I have to say that for me too it's good news...


OBAMA compared to other presidents at the 100-day mark. You'll be surprised.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

THE SPANISH OBAMA, Zapatero, in trouble:
Spain's main opposition party has taken the lead in opinion polls before European parliament elections in June as rising unemployment turns voters away from the governing Socialists.

The conservative Popular Party edged to a 4.5 point lead over the Socialists in opinion polls published in Spanish newspapers on Sunday ahead of the June 4-7 election.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

GREAT PICTURES of Holy Week all over the world.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

IMPRESSIVE PICTURES of the quake aftermath in Italy.

Almost half of French people believe it is acceptable for workers facing layoffs to lock up their bosses, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

MADRID -- The relationship between the Spanish film industry and the Socialist government here looked set to improve dramatically Tuesday as the president of the Spanish Film Academy was named the country's new culture minister.
That's for an industry that, last year, got €87 million from the government, for a grand total box office of just €81 million (link in Spanish). Those guys are BEING subsidized for supporting Zapatero (look at the pic in the link) and being a part of the agit-prop machine in his favor, while making crappy films which attract millions of fewer viewers every year. Wonder how can anyone think of an even better deal.

Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven't sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The recession may have taken some Spaniards by surprise, but its consequences will be felt for many years. After posting average annual gross domestic product growth of 3% over the past decade, Spain's economy is now expected to contract by around 3% this year. Unemployment already stands at 16%—the worst in the European Union—and many economists reckon the level could hit 20% by 2010, the highest since the early 1990s.

"The crisis is getting worse and worse," says Fernando Ballabriga, director of the economics department at ESADE business school in Barcelona. "If things don't pick up in three or four months, companies will run out of money. People are now in a panic"

The severity of the crisis is forcing policymakers to take a hard look at the country's growth model.
Keep reading. Meanwhile, Zapatero is readying a cabinet shuffle:
Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, the prime minister, could announce the move midweek following weeks of speculation. Mr Solbes, who has held the economy portfolio since the socialists came to power in March 2004, has faced growing criticism over what was perceived as attempts to downplay the economic crisis.

Newspaper reports on Monday said he would leave the government to be replaced by Elena Salgado, the minister for public administration.
No surprise that the Economy minister is going away after his disastreous management. But we may go from Guatemala to Guatepeor (in English that would be from Islamabad to Islamaworse): Elena Salgado, who is allegedly going to replace Solbes, doesn't have any economy experience whatsoever. Which means that when the government would need to focus itself on the economy, Zapatero raises the political component of his cabinet, instead of the economic one. The man is a genius.

UPDATE. Spanish media are reporting that Zapatero has been at the Zarzuela palace, King Juan Carlos' official residence, earlier this morning to inform him of the changes in the government: although the King doesn't have any executive powers as Spain is a constitutional monarchy as, say, the UK, it's costumary that everytime there's a change in the cabinet, the prime minister meets with him prior to announce the changes publicly.

Zapatero will appear in a press conference at 1:15pm local time (7:15am Eastern) to announce who the new ministers will be.

(I have a lunch meeting that I cannot move, so I won't be able to blog about this until later in the afternoon; if anyone needs me for a perspective on this, send me an email and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. If you have my phone number, feel free to call)

UPDATE II. Back in really late; lunch meeting was long, then it took me hours to get back home since traffic was totally crazy: pouring in Barcelona, and some weird thing on my street, was cut by police, lots of cruisers with lights on etc (haven't been able to learn what it's all about). Had to answer all the email and do some work, so no time to blog today, sorry.

OBAMA really goes on a bit: "The Obamas have handled their trip well and in their public appearances have been a credit to their country. But I'll wager that within a year or so he'll be marked down as a wind-bag."

Monday, April 06, 2009

OBAMA SAYS he doesn't speak Austrian. It's unkown if he can speak Argentinian or Brazilian but, to his credit, his American is way better than his English.

UPDATE. Welcome, Instapundit readers; feel free to also visit the homepage, and to follow me on Twitter!

FULL TABLES IN SPAIN, but not where you would want them, like in fancy restaurants. In soup kitchens:
Every day at lunchtime, a pioneering new soup kitchen set up in the Madrid suburb of Mostoles specifically aimed at feeding the swelling ranks of Spain's unemployed fills up to capacity.

Unlike soup kitchens that target the homeless, those who flock to the canteen each day are not made to wait in line outside to get in so as to avoid curious glances from others out running errands or making their way to work.

SAN FRANCISCO, 1906, after the big quake: a spectacular 19-megapixel photograph. (via Jerry Michalsky)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

YEAH, stocks have been going out. But don't uncork the champagne yet.

The active ingredient in marijuana appears to reduce tumour growth, according to a Spanish study published on Wednesday.

The researchers showed giving THC to mice with cancer decreased tumour growth and killed cells off in a process called autophagy.

Spain’s economic crisis will deepen over the coming months and unemployment will top 19 percent next year as global demand remains weak and companies invest much less in capital goods, the Bank of Spain said Friday.

The central bank predicted that the Spanish economy would shrink by 3 percent this year, nearly double the drop of 1.6 percent forecast by the government. The bank said the economy would contract another 1 percent next year.

“The Spanish economy is immersed in a period of deep contraction, where the unemployment rate, unless measures are taken, will rise to a very worrying level,” the Bank of Spain’s governor, Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, said Friday, according to Reuters.
Maybe "clueless" is not the best word: it's also quite possible that he's fully aware of the situation but thinks that by repeating positive words over and over again, saying that the country will overcome the crisis, all will be fine, etc, (like the attitude in a lame soap opera: "don't worry, darling, you got paralized in a car crash on your way to chemotherapy for your Stage 4 cancer, but everything will be fine") the situation will magically solve itself, including the 'freeriding' of the economic situation of other countries. This is not only stupid, it's also dangerous. It means that while other countries are adopting real measures in making market more flexible, promote economic activity, etc, Spain won't and, therefore, will not ride the stream up when the bad moment passes.

Friday, April 03, 2009

THIS VIDEO makes you head spin (except the last but, which is a bit silly):

SOME SANITY, AT LAST? Spanish prosecutor ask the judge to shelve the case against Israeli officials for alleged war crimes in Gaza back in 2002:
The prosecutors justified the move on the grounds that, according to information in their possession, the alleged crimes against humanity in question are already the subject of a legal procedure in Israel, a judicial official told AFP.

Spain assumes the principle of universal jurisdiction in alleged cases of crimes against humanity, genocide, and terrorism but only if the alleged crimes are not already subject to a legal procedure in the country involved.
It's not totally over, though; first, the judge has to agree (without no prosecutor, well, prosecuting, the case would go anywhere, though), and second, they didn't ask to drop the whole complaint in case there's new developments in the future.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

THE MAN WHO DIED yesterday during the G20 protests in London couldn't be assisted when he collapsed by police medics dispatched to the scene: they were "welcomed" with a barrage of bottles and assorted missiles from the brave protestors.

HOW TO SPIN THE NEWS: "Rise in Spanish jobless total 'slows in March'," says an AFP headline. So things are going better, right? Well, not if you keep reading:
The number of unemployed in Spain registered the weakest gain in six months in March compared to February, but the overall jobless total rose to 3.6 million, the highest since 1996, the labour ministry said Thursday.

By the end of March there were 3,605,402 unemployed workers in Spain, up 3.5 percent or 123,543 from the previous month and the highest number since 1996 when the current method of calculation was introduced, the ministry said in a statement.
So, if the March jobless rate is lower than February but the yr/yr data is rising, it means that the March 09 figure is way higher than March 08, which is what should have been compared. March is usually a good month on the employment front in Spain, so losing 125K jobs is terrible. And it doesn't mean that joblessness is slowing, but exactly the opposite.

I KNOW DANIEL HANNAN is popular, and I loved what he did to Gordon Brown the other day, but it's nonsense to say that Spaniards never speak of the Civil War that ended 70 years ago. Not only it's always been a regular topic in conversations, with hundreds of books exploring the subject -- it's not just Hugh Thomas, no --, but it has actually increased since Zapatero is in power. To begin with, Spain's prime minister always insists that he felt the call for politics from his grandfather, who was killed by the Franco regime. He's been quoting all the time the farewell letter he wrote on the eve of his execution; he even did so in his inauguration speech, and says he always carries it in his wallet.

One thing is true, though: while everyone brags about their, and their family's, 'fight against the Franco regime', few discuss the fact that many present politicians and public figures are descendants of powerful elements in the dictatorship. And, unlike what could be expected, it's not just on the right. For example, Zapatero's other grandfather, his grandfather in law, or the grandfather of the deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, several ministers, the Parliament's chairman, and so forth (to his credit, the latter has never hidden it). It's much like in post-war France, where suddenly many post-fact anti-Nazis appeared.

Every few weeks, gay Arab men from all over Israel gather for a party at a rented nightclub on Tel Aviv’s Herzl Street. The highlight of the evening is a drag show, with heavily made-up amateur performers dressed as sexy, pouting Arab pop stars. They are followed by Raafat, a performance artist from Jaffa, who lip-syncs old-fashioned Palestinian nationalist songs. Nearly all these men lead double lives; if they were to reveal their sexual orientation in their conservative communities, they would risk ostracism or even death. But in Tel Aviv they are free to celebrate their Palestinian, gay identity — at a club located on a street named after the founder of modern Zionism.
Keep reading this great piece by Lisa Goldman.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

OK, GUYS, start practicing your jokes: "Men really can laugh women into bed, because a sense of humour makes them seem more intelligent, psychologists have found."

Spain may have to intervene in more small and medium-sized banks if the global crisis drags on and the country must prepare better for any further bailouts, Bank of Spain Governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said.

On Sunday, Spain launched its first bank rescue of the global financial crisis to prevent solvency problems at savings bank Caja Castilla la Mancha (CCM).

‘Although large institutions may be able to get through the crisis without help, it’s clear – as the case of CCM shows – that if the international crisis drags on, it could certainly be necessary to restructure some small and medium-sized institutions,’ Ordonez said yesterday in a speech to the Cinco Dias financial forum.

NEW WINDS BLOW in Spain's Basque country:
A new era appeared to be dawning Wednesday in the Basque region, which had sought to loosen its ties to Spain for three decades. An agreement signed by socialists and conservatives in the Basque parliament paved the way for the region of 2.1 million residents to get its first government unreservedly defending its unity with Spain.

The deal between the two parties, which are rivals on the national level, will allow for Basque socialist leader Patxi Lopez to be sworn in as prime minister in May, following the regional elections on March 1.

The region had not had a non-nationalist government since it was granted broad autonomy in 1979, four years after the death of Spain's dictator Francisco Franco.

The region beset with the violence of the militant separatist group ETA had been governed for 29 years by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which was founded on an ideology of defending Basque identity and culture.

Outgoing regional prime minister Juan Jose Ibarretxe, for instance, wanted to stage a referendum-like vote on the Basques' "right to decide" their own future in relation to Spain.

I CAN'T BELIEVE the Spanish government is so clueless. Turns out that they were bragging that Obama was going to be at the meeting of the Alliance of Civilization in Turkey at the end of this week, but no, Obama is voting present (unclear whether he bailed out or he simply hadn't confirmed 100%). So, what do Zapatero's people do? Well, blame the neocons and the jooooos, of course!

Charlemagne has it right:
In other words, Mr Obama has not even landed yet, and we are straight back to the same old same old. It is true that some prominent conservative commentators had issues with Mr Obama going to the Alliance event in Istanbul. But imagine you were a Spanish "government source" preparing your prime minister's first ever meeting with Mr Obama, especially a few days after Spain annoyed NATO mightily by announcing it was pulling its troops out of Kosovo without telling its allies first. I would hesitate to brief the local press that the man is a patsy of neocons and shadowy Jewish lobbyists.
Maybe this is the Jews' fault too...

HAPPY APRIL FOOL'S DAY: for example.

UPDATE. Am I the only one that thinks that Jeff Jarvis swallowed it? ("as I predicted"... heh) Not sure a "was just following the joke" will work... To his credit, he wasn't the only one.