Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stock market news: The Ibex 35 was down 2.6% today at noon. Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Milan are all down a couple of points. La Vanguardia points at European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet, who said this morning that controlling inflation was more important than lowering Euro interest rates. Investors, therefore, figure there will be no rate cut and thus no cheaper credit. However, it looks like the panic has been headed off at the pass.

Both political parties are trying to make hay out of the citizens' worries about the economy (which, I repeat, is not doing too badly, though things could be better). The PP is blaming everything on the Socialists, and the Socialists are blaming everything on the Americans. Both, of course, are wrong.

The Spanish government is going to begin the legal process of banning ETA-front political parties PCTV and ANV, under the Political Parties Act, on Friday. This means that they will not be able to run in the March 9 general election. Good. They've got evidence that these parties have the same funding structure as the already-banned front party Batasuna; among other things, notorious jailbirds and Batasuna bosses Arnaldo Otegi and Joseba Permach were using a PCTV credit card for their own nefarious purposes.

Get this: we had another major blackout in Barcelona this morning that affected 70,000 households in the city itself and its northern suburbs Badalona, Santa Coloma, and Sant Adrià. The power was off for twelve hours after a fire at the Badalona substation. They've jerry-rigged electrical supply again, but it'll take them fifteen days to repair all the damage. The infrastructure here in Barcelona really is crappy. The usual suspects say it's all Madrid's fault, of course.

The Guardia Civil arrested five members of the GRAPO's legal team this morning on charges that they're members of the organization. The Interior ministry says they were involved in "propaganda, financing, recruiting, proselytism, training, international relations, and information-gathering" for the terrorist group, which is Spain's leftover from the 1970s days of the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhofs. These guys are no joke; they've killed some 50 people in their career. The cops believe that they broke up the GRAPO's last functioning cell last year.

The judge released on bail two of the fifteen suspected Al Qaeda terrorists arrested last week in Barcelona. The rest of them get their hearings today.

Finally the Spanish press has an article on the death penalty that isn't full of hypocritical blasts at the US: La Vanguardia has a piece on capital punishment in Japan, where 46 death sentences were issued last year and nine criminals were hanged. They add that in Japan, the criminal's family is not informed of the execution until it is carried out, in secret. La Vangua says that the US, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are the only democracies that use the death penalty; what about India? And do Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand count as democracies or not?

La Vangua also has a full-page piece on the South Carolina Democratic debate. Their reporter's take is that Obama was the loser: "(Obama) has a serious problem connecting with the lower-middle class and the Hispanics. His message is beautiful, but too intellectual and ethereal. He is a candidate who may captivate many Europeans, but will have a more difficult time with the Americans."

What they seem to be forgetting around here is that there are two political parties, and whoever gets nominated by the other one has a good chance at beating either Clinton or Obama. It's not just a Hillary-Obama horse race.

Local news: Wild pigs (jabalíes) are becoming a pest in the Barcelona suburbs and even on the fringes of the city near Collserola. I like them, myself, but the same thing is happening here now that happened in the US 20 years ago: wild animals, like deer, raccoons, Canada geese, and even black bears, have moved in with us because our nice, safe, green suburbs make an excellent habitat, with plenty of food and few predators. It seems, by the way, that the wild pigs' favorite foods are corn and sunflowers, but they also like pretty much any sort of human garbage.

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