October National News (I)

Felipe on Drugs
In a surprising twist former President Felipe González stated his opinion that the international legalization of drugs would do away with the violence that plagues countries, such as Mexico, which seem unable to win any so-called War on Drugs.

He compared it to the ending of Prohibition in the US when alcohol became a legal and profitable business venture, thus ending the interminable problems with black-market boozing. “But,” he stressed, “it would have to be done at an international level; only one or a few countries embracing such an idea would lead to even greater problems.”

González said that this was the only way to deal with the ubiquitous drugs problem. Curious. I do know that I’ve always wanted to try heroin, legally, of course.

Rate Hike Electrics Bill
It’s not just that everything seems to be getting more expensive; it’s that everything is getting more expensive. From October onwards over twenty million small businesses and homes will see their electrics bill rise on average 4.8%. Owing to government control over the past number of years, the electric companies face a serious deficit, which they have been trying to claw back by more and more rate increases.

Minister of Industry, Tourism and Commerce, Miguel Sebastián, had initially wanted a 5.6% hike but settled for the lower figure. He defended the hike as a response to increased global fuel costs and the general rise in electrics consumption over the winter months.

Consumer rights group, FACUA, complained the increase has no justification, seeing as the electric companies are doing a pretty good business now while many consumers are suffering from the crisis.; it added that in the past few years the rate hikes have amounted to more than 30%. So remember: sweaters and blankets are cheaper!

Fatal Lapse
In an appalling moment of forgetfulness, the director of a Seniors Centre in Ciempozuelos, Madrid, left two elderly gents in the Centre’s van in which they died. Luis Miguel Aranda had picked up a number of people, and as was normal, dealt with those who needed help first in getting into the Centre, but then, either a telephone call or an unexpected discussion with a fellow worker (he couldn’t recall which), led him to forgetting all about the last two men in the van.

Their families came looking for them when nothing had been heard, which was when they were discovered inside the van, which was parked in the Centre’s parking area. “It all happened in the most simple but stupidest of ways,” the clearly repentant Director said. He has assumed full responsibility and apologised to the families of the men, but this will not stop the criminal charges laid against him.

Spain Admonished
Spain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), sets a bad example for other countries in regards to smoking policies. Well, du’uh. WHO claims that countries such as Turkey, Peru, Uruguay and Croatia, which had originally opted for strict no-smoking policies, eventually settled on the more liberal Spanish model.

This was brought into law in 2006, and stated that, for bars and restaurants of over 100 square meters, a separate smoking section was required, while for smaller establishments, the owners could decide whether to make their business completely smoking or non.

Most of course chose in favour of smokers, as smoking is still heavy in this country. This, along with smoking prohibitions in public places, such as government buildings and so forth, where a certain laxity has crept in as regards the law, has negatively influenced other countries in their attitudes towards the heinous activity.

WHO’s Armando Pergua, responsible for tobacco policies, lays the blame on the tobacco companies and sellers. He says they have manipulated and undermined other countries’ attitudes towards smoking by convincing them that Spain’s model was ideal in harmonising the existence of smokers and non-smokers. The only solution, he states, is a 100 percent smoke-free society. No smokers’ areas, no ventilation systems, and no smoking clubs.

If you smoke, this man – and many like him -clearly hate you: so you’ve been warned. As it is, Spain has been studying stricter laws that would bring the country into alignment with most of Europe where smoking is no longer tolerated. The Basques would even like to prohibit it in cars, should small children be inside (this should be common sense anyway on the part of smoking parents).

Different theories abound, but what does seem probable is that by the beginning of next year, Spain will ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. Other countries have done it and not imploded; Spain can do it too.

Taxing On-Line Betting
(DI) On-line betting is a hugely profitable business, which, last year, according to the president of the Spanish On-line Betting Association, generated over 3-billion euros. Such numbers are attractive, especially to governments in need of cash in these difficult times, which is why the government has announced they will now regulate the business with taxes.

The measure they say will protect the betting companies (from possible legal problems) and users, as well as safeguard children and those addicted to the game, this last a serious issue in this country. Elena Salgado, our Economy Minster, said the taxing would be handled by the autonomous communities, with the Central Government siphoning off their share. The new tax law is aimed at any form of betting through the Internet, television and telephone.

Disco Meca Controvesy
(DI) Mecca has decided to change its name after recent threats from Islamic jihadists… no, not that Mecca, but the Discoteca Mecca in Aguilas, Murcia. The Mecca has been around for yonks, is a typical disco, and yes, looks very Islamic, like a Nazarí palace, with minarets and cupolas, and inside it is replete with many forms and figures from Islam, although, the owners stress, nothing from the Koran is written anywhere.

The owners are taking the threats very seriously as they want no trouble, and claim they have no interest in offending anyone. They say they weren’t even aware of any possible offence.

Pending the name change, which will be decided by a contest, the owners are going to meet with various local Muslim leaders to sound out their feelings. The Spanish Union of Islamic Communities has already described the name as “provocative and in bad taste.” The disco won’t be closing though, not even temporarily. And as well as the name change, the owners are looking into removing the Islamic architectural references. The world gets more serious everyday.

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