News from Portugal: They're holding a referendum today on legalizing abortion; they need a 50% turnout for the referendum to be valid, and it looks like it'll be in the high 50s. All the surveys point to a Yes vote. Currently abortion is completely banned in Poland, Ireland, Malta, and Portugal; most other EU countries have some restrictions, though in the UK and Netherlands it's abortion on demand up to 24 weeks. It's estimated that some 20,000-40,000 illegal abortions are performed every year in Portugal; also, thousands of Portuguese women abort every year in Spain, where a loophole in the restrictions is easily exploited. There are two abortion clinics in Badajoz, five kilometers from the Portuguese border, that do 80% of their business in Portuguese women.
The trial of the 29 accused for the March 11, 2004 bombings in Madrid begins on Thursday. There is absolutely no question that the accused are linked up with both Al Qaeda and the terrorists currently operating in Iraq. Several of those going on trial are known to have recruited jihadis for Iraq, including Basel Ghayoun and Hassan el Haski. Daoud Ouhnane, who fled and for whom a warrant is out, was one of the actual bombers; he is believed to be in Iraq right now. Another of the March 11 bombers, Mohamed Afalah, suicide-bombed an Italian convoy in Iraq in 2005, killing 19 Italian troops. So why aren't the Spaniards screaming for the defeat of the terrorists in Iraq who are not only fighting the country's legitimate government, but also the armed forces of Spanish allies Italy, the US, and and UK, and who committed the murder of 191 people in Spain's capital not even three years ago? Let me repeat: THE SAME PEOPLE are behind both the Iraqi "insurgency" and the Madrid bombings. They are so clearly the enemy of all of Western civilization that you really have to be pretty damn dense not to see it. And, Spain, Western civilization includes us too.
Interesting little stink: Oleguer got dumped by his shoe company, Kelme, for his pro-De Juana Chaos statements made at an official FC Barcelona press conference and his article in a pro-ETA newspaper. Of course, the company has the perfect right to hire and fire whoever it wants to represent it. I will say one thing in Oleguer's favor: he's not a hypocrite. He's a total idiotarian, but he at least does not live the glittery football-star lifestyle.
Seems that the perceived crime wave in Spain is at least partly for real. In 2006, there were 8566 home invasions in Spain, 5.6% more than in 2005. I keep hearing people talking about how they want to get a gun. In Spain, there are basically two ways to get hold of a firearm. The first is if you have a hunting license. I figure that the biggest game around here is the jabalí, the wild pig, and that it would take a deer rifle to take one of those things down. That ought to do you for home protection. The second, get this, is to take up pistol target shooting. Right now you have to be a member of a club and have a license, but you're allowed to take your target pistol home with you. The guy in Lleida who shot the two criminals (who broke into his house and tied up his son) is a licensed target shooter, and he hit those two right between the eyes with his target pistol. Pretty good shooting.
Racial tension continues in Badalona, where the neighborhood of La Salut wants to expel the Romanian gypsies who have taken up residence there. It doesn't seem to be mere racism, since the Pakistanis and Chinese and Moroccans who live there all want to kick the gypsies out, too.
There's still no agreement about what to do with the cargo ship Marine I, which is drifting off the West African coast with nearly 400 illegal immigrants aboard, mostly Pakistanis. Supposedly it will reach the Mauritanian port of Nouadibuh today, but who knows what will happen to the people on board.
No official cause of Erika Ortiz's death has yet been announced.
The Anna Nicole Smith media feeding frenzy has just begun. I predict it will be as big as the OJ trial, which you may remember was the next-to-last frivolous media frenzy before 9/11. This will be the first post-9/11 return to the good old days before most of us had heard of Osama bin Laden. I remember seeing the Anna Nicole TV show a couple of years ago and deciding that the woman was nuts and heading for a breakdown. I do not remember her as any sort of pop-culture icon, as some over-heated commentators are already bloviating about.
Let's hope that this trial puts to rest the absurd conspiracy theory that blames the Zap government for the bombings.