Friday, February 01, 2008

Economic news: Automobile sales in Spain are down 13% over January last year, which does seem to point at an economic slowdown. Even Zap says there's one coming, though there's no reason to think it'll be catastrophic. Catalan savings bank La Caixa saw an 18% decline in its profits, though they were still a nice healthy €2.5 billion in 2007. At midday the Ibex 35 was up 1.1%, so it looks like the panic that started two Mondays ago has finished. The IMF is predicting that the euro's value will decline--it sure doesn't seem like it can go too much higher--and that this ought to help out Spain's trade deficit, since the high price of the euro makes Spanish goods less ocmpetitive.

Today's campaign promise: Zap says he'll spend €10 billion on the Barcelona commuter rail system, twice what he promised to spend on the Madrid commuter network.

Our friends on the anticlerical left are angry because the Church criticized the Zap government for negotiating with ETA. Seems to me that the Church should be a private organization that can say anything it wants. It's not, though, in Spain, since it receives government subsidies, in clear violation of the concept of the separation of church and state. The left tends to fantasize about an all-powerful Church, but I don't think it really has that much influence, expecially not over government or the economy.

They found a beer keg full of thirty kilos of explosives by the side of a rural road in the Basque town of Guecho. It's not a bomb, since it had no timer or detonator or anything like that. The cops figure that an ETA logistics cell dropped it off in an inconspicuous spot for an operational cell to pick up.

Everyone's talking about the demise of Tele 5's "Aquí hay tomate," the sleaziest celebrity scandal TV show in Spain, and one of the most popular. It was number one in the ratings for a long time, and got three million viewers an episode. "Tomate" was the most-sued program in Spanish TV history.

Don't worry, there's plenty more sleaze out there where it came from. Remember "Patricia's Diary"? After that scandal when the show managed to provoke a murder, they were on their best behavior for a couple of weeks, with nice stories about kitty cats and little kids. Then they went back to their old format, of course; their most recent triumph was some poor woman who was looking for her father, who had abandoned the family forty years ago. So they traced the guy down and invited the woman on the show for a surprise. The tension is building, as Patricia goes through the details of the father's life after he left, and the woman is all happy and ready for her dad to walk out on stage for a reunion--and Patricia then tells her that he's dead. The woman, of course, bursts into hysterical tears, and it's another good day for the ratings.

Although the Catalan university teachers say their students can't read or write in any language, the educational department plans to require university students to pass the First Certificate English exam to graduate. Yeah, right, when pigs fly. They're going to require that ten per cent of university classes be given in English. Yeah, right, when pigs fly. Get this: 45% of Catalans between 15 and 29 claim that they "dominate" English. Yeah, right, pigs are flying.

They analyzed the sewage at the El Prat water treatment plant, and discovered that it accumulates between 1.5 and 3.5 kilos of cocaine a day--and it only serves half the city. (The cocaine metabolizes in the body and is excreted through urination.) That means that up to 3% of Barcelonese citizens use cocaine daily. The analysis also discovered the presence of ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, and morphine, as well as pharmaceuticals: ibuprofen, antibiotics, and beta-blockers. The beta-blockers are killing some insects that are part of the Llobregat river food chain.

La Vanguardia again gave the first two pages of its international section to the US primary elections; Joaquin Luna calls McCain "a Republican candidate who is acceptable to European tastes." I may have to review my choice of candidate, on the grounds that if the European media likes McCain there must be something wrong with him.

Barça beat Villarreal 1-0 last night in a fairly good game to qualify for the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Cup. They face Valencia in the semis; the other semi will be Getafe-Racing Santander. You have to figure that Barcelona is the favorite to win out, but I don't think a Cup title will make up for two consecutive second-place League finishes. Ronaldinho played ten minutes at the end of the game, and Puyol got hurt again and is out for a month. His physical decline is appalling.

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