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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Minimum wage increased by €50 a month
23 January 2020

SPAIN'S government has increased the minimum wage in line with its pledged scale of rises back in 2018, which aims for it to reach the European Union requirement of 60% of the national average wage by the year 2022.

The minimum gross pay a person working a full-time, 40-hour week can earn is now €950 per month in a 14-month year, up from €900 in 2019.

Traditionally, employees in Spain would receive a double pay packet in August and again at Christmas, and the minimum wage is always calculated on this basis, even though fewer and fewer firms follow this practice nowadays.

Over a 12-month year, the gross minimum wage sat at €1,050 a month until this week, and will now rise to €1,108.33.

As a result, the average worker on the minimum wage in a full-time job will have seen his or her monthly take-home pay, based upon 12 pay packets a year, rise from €964.50 to €996.80.

When the left-wing socialist government came into power in June 2018, the minimum wage was €735.90 a month over a 14-month year, or 12 monthly take-home pays of approximately €791.70.

During the right-wing PP government's reign from November 2011 to June 2018, the minimum wage only rose by a total of €94.50 in six-and-a-half years, or 14%.

It went up in 2013 by just €3.90 a month before tax, then two years later, by €3.30 a month, having been frozen in 2014.

Another €6.60 monthly increase was agreed in 2016, taking the minimum wage to €655.20 in 14 payments, or approximately 12 take-home pays of €700.

In the three years before the PP's reign, it had barely gone up, being above €600 but below €640 as a gross figure paid in 14 instalments.

The newly-announced increase means that in the past two years, the minimum gross monthly wage for a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job will have gone up by 29%, or by €214.

President Pedro Sánchez's coalition partners Podemos want to see it rise to a minimum of €1,000 in 14 payments, which will give 12 monthly take-home salaries of approximately €1,030.

This is expected to be the case by the beginning of 2021.



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'Earth sandwich': Planet 'filling' between bread in Andalucía and New Zealand
22 January 2020

TWO men have made a sandwich with the planet as its filling after finding each other on Reddit – each buttered the bread and laid it at exactly the same time and at exact opposite ends of the earth.

New Zealand-based IT student Étienne Naude, 19, studied the longitude and latitude of Bucklands Beach in Auckland to find the exact opposite point on earth, then started searching for a volunteer in the Antipodes of his home town – which turned out to be on the cusp of the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga.

Through Reddit, he found Ángel Sierra, 34, a chef, who was willing to lay the other slice of bread on the 'earth sandwich'.

They worked on locating the exact spot either side of the planet on Google Maps, to within a few metres, then zoomed in on Street View to make sure they were directly opposite each other to the millimetre.

As well as calculating precise distances to ensure the two slices of bread were level with each other 12,724 kilometres apart, they had to make certain they laid them at exactly the same time.

This involved some considerable coordination, since there is a 12-hour time lag between Auckland and mainland Spain during the northern hemisphere winter, the former being half a day behind.

Working out the precise end-to-end spot on earth is harder than it looks, Naude says – it was difficult to find a place 'which wasn't water' on the New Zealand side, or where public roads, paths and buildings did not get in the way.



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All Spanish towns of 50,000 or more must have 'Madrid Central' low-emissions zone
22 January 2020

ALL TOWNS and cities in Spain with a population of at least 50,000 inhabitants will soon be required by law to implement their own 'Madrid Central' in a bid to cut air pollution and slow down climate change.

President Pedro Sánchez had already proposed this in his July presidential investiture speech – when he failed to be voted in due to not securing enough support from the opposition for his minority government – but now he is officially in power thanks to a coalition deal with fellow leftists Podemos, the 'proposal' is set to become an 'obligation'.

'Madrid Central' was set up by the capital's former mayoress, Manuela Carmena, from Ahora Madrid, a branch of Podemos, and effectively bans traffic from the middle 'almond' of the city.

Emissions-free vehicles are allowed in, as well as those heading directly for a parking space, plus residents, public transport, and loading and unloading vehicles during certain times of day.

The move was introduced after Madrid and Barcelona, among a number of other cities across the continent, were hauled before the European Commission to explain what they intended to do about their air pollution problems.

Until then, Manuela Carmena had been staging impromptu traffic restrictions within the M-30 ringroad on days when pollution levels were high, some of which involved alternative-numbered registration plates – a difficult concept to police, especially where new car sales had been high during a given year and low in another, leading to a heavy bias towards one registration plate letter or another.



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Balearics bans 'happy hours', pub-crawls and open bars in popular holiday hotspots
21 January 2020

BOOZY holidays in the Balearics could soon become a thing of the past now that the regional government has outlawed all tourism and commercial activities that encourage excess drinking.

Cheap accommodation, flights and packages mean the islands' coasts are popular with young northern Europeans, typically groups of friends and often on one of their first holidays away from home, and the availability and inexpensive nature of alcohol creates a round-the-clock drinking culture in the spring and summer months in certain key resort towns.

Anti-social behaviour is usually rife in these areas at night in high season – vomiting, urinating and defecating in the streets, nudism, sexual acts in public, fights, noise and vandalism make life unpleasant for locals and lower the tone of the area, giving the Balearics an unjustifiably poor image as a bargain basement holiday destination.

In fact, the Balearic Islands are a huge hit with families, culture vultures, history and nature lovers, and have plenty to offer the discerning visitor at any time of year, but unfortunately, it has been the drunken antics of mostly-British young adults which have made international headlines.

The regional government has finally decided to take action to change all that.

Targeting the most tourist-heavy areas – Magaluf, Palma beach and the West End of San Antonio (Sant Antoni de Portmany) in Ibiza, authorities have passed a law which is described as 'pioneering in Europe': organised pub-crawls are now illegal, 'happy hours' and two-for-one and three-for-one promotions in bars are not permitted, automatic alcohol dispensers banned, shops prohibited from selling alcohol between 21.30 and 08.00, and hotels and restaurants are only allowed to let each customer have a maximum of three alcoholic drinks with a meal.



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Spain among world's best for gender equality, says Global Economic Forum
20 January 2020

'EQUALITY' is set to continue to be a hot topic for the decade of the '20s, and the planet's younger generations, especially, are unlikely to let their leaders get away with overlooking this crucial issue: in terms of gender, specifically, as this is a condition that none of us can escape.

And it's not just about women demanding to wield the whip and keep men down, as some sectors of society believe – it's about both men and women having access to the same rights and opportunities, and being subject to the same moral and legal duties, as each other.

Although it seems like a tired subject for some, 'feminism' or, better termed, 'gender equality' is actually quite a new battle in historical terms: plenty of adults from western cultures who are not even yet retired will remember a time when women could not take out loans or hire purchase, open a bank account or sign for a mortgage, without their husbands' permission; when men were denied the chance of being stay-at-home dads or to work part-time and become chief childcarer; when married women were barred from promotion at work or even forced to leave when they wed; when men would have been unable to apply for jobs as secretaries or nurses, or sure to be rejected in favour of women if they did.

Effectively, in all fields of the global economy and as little as 40 or 50 years ago, the ideas, talents and perspective of half the population was excluded – men's ideas and talents, as well as women's.

For today's young adults, the thought of a 'house husband' being the subject of a double-page magazine feature, or a woman earning less than a man for the same quality, amount and relevance of work, are unthinkable, or even laughable; but figures show that even in the first world, there is still plenty to achieve to close the gap and give males and females equal consideration and chances.

And Spain is the place where they can achieve all this – it's officially in the world top 10 for gender equality.

Here's how and why, and what Spain as a nation has accomplished so far this century.


How Spain managed to be world number eight

According to the Global Economic Forum's Gender Gap report, Spain is eighth-best in the world and has made massive leaps in the last year alone.

Whilst in 2018, the western Mediterranean country sat at number 29 in the world – still among the top 10% of the planet or 20% of countries studied – by the end of 2019, it had soared an eye-watering 21 slots up the ranking.

Overall, Spain has managed to close the gender gap in all areas by 79.5%, and the countries which are ahead of it in terms of progress are exactly those you would expect: the highly socially-evolved Scandinavian nations.

Iceland is the planet's most gender-equal country, having closed the sex gap by 88%, followed by Norway, at 84%, Finland at 83.2%, and Sweden at 82%.

Surprisingly, Nicaragua is above Spain – one of Central America's poorest nations, it nevertheless needs its women for survival and, like many regions in this area, men are more likely to emigrate to find work to feed their families, meaning it is the women who practically run the country.



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How did the dinosaurs become extinct?
17 January 2020

SCIENTISTS have come up with evidence of how at least 70% of the dinosaur population was wiped out in a study at Yale University, in which palaeontologist Dr Laia Alegret (pictured), took part.

The researcher from the Aragón Institute of Environmental Science, part of Zaragoza University, was one of the team which has concluded that the dinosaurs were largely wiped out by an asteroid.

In a debate spanning generations, researchers have never been able to agree on whether these giant reptiles became extinct because of a volcanic eruption and the global warming that came with it, or whether they were struck by an asteroid hitting the earth.

But the Yale team believes both factors came into play – although the asteroid was the main cause of extinction.

According to the article published in Science magazine, the volcanic eruptions which led to planetary warming started before, and finished after, the asteroid incident.

It is known that, around 66 million years ago between the end of the Cretacean era and the start of the Tertiary period, an asteroid of 10 kilometres (6.25 miles) in diameter crash-landed on the Yucatán peninsula in eastern México, giving off a massive amount of gases and molten mass into the atmosphere, which caused acid rain and huge quantities of acid in the surface of the oceans – a natural disaster of which the effects went on at least for days, but possibly even for years.


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Driverless electric bus piloted in Madrid university campus
17 January 2020

A DRIVERLESS mini-bus powered by electricity is about to be piloted as intra-campus student transport at Madrid Autonomous University (UAM).

Unveiled this month and due to be put into operation next month, the Z10 is the result of a joint effort between Madrid Regional Transport Consortium, the national traffic authority (DGT), ALSA coaches, and the university itself.

It has six seats and space for a further six standing passengers, and will travel a total circuit of 3.8 kilometres around the Cantoblanco campus.

At present, around 30,000 students and staff travel these same roads in over 6,000 conventional vehicles, the UAM says.

Although transport for 12 at a time will not make much of a dent in the emissions generated by these daily 30,000, if the new ALSA mini-bus works well, it is likely more and more of them will be used on campus – as a prelude to their starting to operate on mainstream roads and in towns.

The mini-bus, adapted for disabled users, has built-in sensors, cameras and other latest-generation technology to ensure it is safe to move around without a human driver.

For the moment, though, a separate bus lane has been set up, meaning it should not face any physical obstacles.

Test 'driving' is under way, and engineers are riding on it to monitor how it works and look out for potential incidents, such as double-parked cars in its way.



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Gold bread, fish-eye fritters, mushroom wine and other oddities from Madrid Fusión
15 January 2020

THE MOST expensive bread in the world contains gold, silver and flowers, and is made in Málaga – the latest unusual fact to come out of the Madrid Fusión culinary fair.

Created by Juan Manuel Moreno and costing €1,380 for a 400g chunk, the élite loaf was unveiled yesterday (Tuesday) at one of Europe's largest gourmet trade fairs.

Master baker Moreno says the 400g loaf contains a gram each of edible gold and silver, plus 20 grams of edible flowers, and uses salt which is hand-extracted from rocks in order to avoid having to 'blow them up', causing damage to the environment.

Moreno presented another VIP bread at Madrid Fusión last year, which was then one of the most expensive in the world – but 'only' a seventh of the price of this year's, at €200 a loaf.

Yesterday, he showcased two, of the same weight, price and ingredients, but the second also included quinoa and chia.

Moreno's Pan Piña in Algatocín, Málaga province, is considered one of the best bakeries in Spain and his regular clients include Arab Sheikhs and Chinese and Russian billionaire tycoons.

Other weirdness to come out of Madrid Fusión is Ángel León's sea-honey, sea-sugar and fish-chips.

Owner of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Aponiente, León showed how slow-boiling the marine plant ruppia – harvested from the coastal marshes in the province of Cádiz – could produce honey.

He and other chefs have started using a type of worm used for fishing and found in the marshes as main ingredients for some of their dishes, insisting that the public's repulsion at the idea of eating worms is 'purely cultural' and 'should be challenged'.

Last year, León presented a type of sugar he had created from sea water, but admitted later it had 'not gone down very well'.

In a bid to get kids to eat more fish, León has been working with school catering firm Compass to create foodstuffs that do not, in fact, look like fish – pieces that appear more like chicken, plus pasta, and even chips made entirely from fish with no potato in them.



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First-ever Oscar nomination for Antonio Banderas
15 January 2020

THIS year's Oscar Awards has brought three nominations for the Spanish film industry – and the first of his career for Hollywood legend Antonio Banderas.

Málaga-born Banderas, 59, has already received congratulations from his ex-wife Melanie Griffith, from whom he split five years ago – and although the Almodóvar veteran has five Golden Globe, four Goya, and an Emmy, a Tony and two Actors' Union nominations, he has never yet been in the running for an Oscar despite having been in the acting business since 1982.

He is up for Best Actor for his (pictured) rôle in Pedro Almodóvar's Dolor y Gloria ('Pain and Glory'), which is nominated for Best International Film.

The third nomination for Spain is for Klaus, produced by the country's third channel Atresmedia, broadcast by Netflix and directed by Sergio Pablos and Carlos Martínez López, for Best Animated Film.

Dolor y Gloria, nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe, is up against the South Korean black comedy-cum-psychological thriller Parasite, which is the favourite to win a Best International Film Oscar.



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Consumer group reviews in-store 'squeeze-your-own' juice: Clean, safe, full of vitamins and value for money
14 January 2020

FRESHLY-SQUEEZED fruit juice does not lose vitamin content unless it is drunk immediately, says one of Spain's leading consumer organisations, the OCU.

In a review of orange juice across the country's major supermarkets, the organisation tested the vitamin C content in each the moment it was extracted, a few hours later, then again at intervals of 24, 48 and 72 hours.

After this time, it is generally not suitable for drinking anyway, but the OCU says the levels of vitamin C remained the same at every test.

More and more Spanish supermarkets are offering a 'squeeze-your-own' service, where locally- and nationally-produced fresh oranges are piled into a giant machine, customers take an empty bottle, normally available in different sizes, and pump the juice into it themselves.

It is an ideal option for those who do not have juicers at home, and is more popular than the varieties sold by the carton – in fact, an increasing number of Spanish residents are tending to drink fresh juice rather than pre-packaged.

Some concerns have been raised among the public about the amount of additional single-use plastic this relatively new system generates, since as yet, no supermarket has a 'return' service for empty bottles, and reusing these after rinsing them out is strongly discouraged by stores – even though it is technically possible as the barcode reading applies to the product, not to individual bottles.

Customers who use the 'squeeze-your-own' machines are urged to reuse bottles for other purposes where they can, and afterwards, deposit them in the 'yellow bin', where plastic, cartons, tins and cans are recycled.

The OCU studied 24 samples in three different branches of each of the eight supermarkets it reviewed – Mercadona, Carrefour, Alcampo, Hípercor, Lidl, Aldi, Día, and Ahorramás.

Its first study addressed what turned out to be unfounded concerns among some consumers – whether the 'squeeze-your-own' machines were hygienic.



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