Tragedy update: Now they're talking 20,000 dead in China and 100,000 dead in Burma, with 1.5 million people in danger of death from hunger, disease, and exposure. When are we going to start bombing Burma with parachute-loads of rice and medicines? To hell with the junta and what they want us to do. Slate has two pieces worth reading, an Anne Applebaum denunciation of the Burmese junta and an explanation of how disaster casualties are estimated.
Al Qaeda is making Internet threats to carry out bombings in Switzerland and Austria during this summer's soccer Eurocup. Let me point out that both Switzerland and Austria are constitutionally neutral nations, that neither has troops outside its borders, that neither is a member of NATO or an American ally, that neither is participating in the Iraq or Afghanistan occupations, and that neither is especially pro-Israeli. Many people in Spain still don't get the basic fact that Islamist terrorism wants to kill us all or force us to submit. Zap: Spain is still a target and don't forget it.
Spain news: Rajoy and Zap are making a show of unity in the wake of the ETA bombing in Alava. We'll see how long this lasts. Maria San Gil is not going to get on the bus: she had a meeting with Rajoy and told him that she has no confidence in his leadership. The price of rented flats in Spain increased by almost exactly the inflation rate, 4.2%, over the last year, so while sale prices are dropping, rental prices are holding.
The water wars continue: Aragon wants the Zap administration to halt construction of the aqueduct that is to carry water from the Ebro to Barcelona. The European Central Bank says the eurozone countries are going to go through "a prolonged period of inflation." Remember that Alan Greenspan said it might be necessary to sacrifice growth in order to hold inflation down. Fallout from the housing market: The Barcelona real estate agency Don Piso, which belongs to the developer Habitat, is going to close the 120 offices it owns and fire 350 people. They will keep their 140 franchised offices open. Habitat's yearly sales are down 66%, they lost €444 million in 2007, and they're expected to take further losses in 2008 and 2009.
Remember a few weeks ago when La Vanguardia ran a photo taken in the US of a joke sign reading "No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again," and everybody went wild about gun-nut Americans and their violent society? Well, today they ran a photo taken in Sant Boi of a sign reading "All dogs that shit here will be exterminated," that was then rectified to "The owners of all dogs that shit here will be exterminated." No one is going wild about how violent Catalan society is, though.
Speaking of violence, I came across this Wikipedia entry; it's a list of murder rates around the world, and it includes a color-coded illustrative map. According to Wikipedia, these are the most recently available national murder rates per 100,000 people; they're from between 2004 and 2006. I've selected a few of them:
El Salvador 55
South Africa 41
United States 5.9
United Kingdom 2.0
So Spain is actually more violent than the UK, and not that far behind the US. By the way, many countries are not included in the list, including China and India, as well as most of Africa and a good part of Asia.
The homicide rate in the US is actually a good bit lower than it was in the "good old days." Except for an unusually peaceful period between 1947 and 1968, the American murder rate has always been high. In 1916 it was 6.5, in 1921 it was 8.1, in 1928 8.6, in 1933 9.7, in 1939 6.4, in 1946 6.4, in 1969 7.3, in 1974 9.8, and in 1980 10.2. It declined dramatically in the mid-1990s to more or less the current level.