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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.

Spain's 'Robin Hood' budget: More tax for wealthy, wages up and free pre-school places
15 October 2018

SPAIN'S president Pedro Sánchez and leader of left-wing Podemos, Pablo Iglesias have finally shook hands on the details of next year's State budget after a long meeting following weeks of debate.

Iglesias' support is crucial for Sánchez to be able to get the budget through Parliament, given his minority government of just 84 seats out of 351, so the compromises reached between the two party heads are a major step forward.

If enough votes in favour allow the 2019 budget to become reality, this is what residents in Spain can expect from January 2019.

Minimum wage to rise to €900

Unlike the previous PP-led government, which planned to increase the minimum wage for a full-time 40-hour week to €850 a month by the year 2020, Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias have agreed to up it to €900 from the start of 2019. Minimum wages are referred to in 14-month years – with a double salary at Christmas and in August – so for the majority who earn 12 monthly salaries a year, this means they cannot be paid less than €1,050, or the pro-rata equivalent if they work part-time.

It is not clear if this figure is gross or net, but on a before-tax wage of €900 a month in 14 payments or €1,050 in 12, based upon an unmarried adult with no dependants and not registered disabled, the monthly take-home would be €964.50 in 12 payments or €884 in 14.

Podemos wanted the minimum wage to be €1,000 rather than €900, and the aim is to work towards this for 2020.



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A place to stay in Spain: Bubble, cube, castle, monastery or tree-house?
15 October 2018

WHEN is a hotel not a hotel? When it's a bubble, a cave or a castle, naturally.

Or perhaps a prison.

Even though our priorities when picking a place to stay are usually along the themes of free wi-fi, central location, decent room service, and so on, a hotel doesn't have to be just a bed for the night, however luxurious.

If you want to add a touch of quirkiness to your holiday that the usual chains can't offer, Spain has a whole catalogue of options ranging from 'just wow' to just plain weird.


Capture the castle

If it's historic splendour you're after, look no further than Spain's nationwide network of Paradores – a State-owned chain of 97 unique, very individual hotels set in stunning, stately buildings. Hand-picked for their heritage value, historical significance and amazing architecture, very few make the grade but those which do are highly sought-after. The first Parador out of the 97 was the Gredos hotel in the centre-northern province of Ávila, in an ancient palace, and which triggered the whole thing 90 years ago. Many are set in castles – like the Parador de Cardona, built into the 9th-century fortress of the same name; the eponymous Parador in Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca province, in the 14th-century Enrique II Castle; the Carlos V Castle in Fuenterrabía in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa; the 9th-century Lorca Castle in the Region of Murcia; the Parador de Alarcón in an eight-century castle on top of a mountain in the province of Cuenca...and that's just a few picked at random.

Other Paradores are based in old convents, including the 17th-century Rosario Convent in Lleida, Catalunya and the huge San Marcos Convent in the city of León, which is a tourist attraction in itself. Two are built in monasteries - the San Pedro de Villanueva Monastery in Cangas de Onís and the San Juan Bautista Monastery in Corias, Asturias – plus a handful in palaces, and even one in a church. The Jesús Nazareno Order building in Mérida, Extremadura, started life as a convent in the early 18th century, but later became a parish church – until the State was forced to sell off huge swathes of its Holy assets to pay its debts in the grim 19th-century economic crisis known as the Desamortización.

And if you stay there, your check-out receipt upon leaving will literally be your get-out-of-jail card: after the church was sold off, it served as the local prison until 1933 when it took in its first paying 'inmates'.


Living in a bubble

Slap-bang in the centre of a field of wheat in the Bardenas nature reserve near Tudela in the northern region of Navarra, the Hotel Aire de Bardenas lets you spend your holiday on the moon. Literally. The lunar landscape of the reserve provides the perfect backdrop, the  patio adds authenticity, and you can choose between a box or a bubble as your 'space station'.

Here, you can actually stay in a self-contained, ball-shaped room with a glass roof that gives you the illusion of sleeping under the stars and which, by night from the outside, could easily be a spaceship on the moon. They're pretty large, too – you'd be amazed at how much 'space' a bubble's interior can provide you with...



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Spain's healthcare 'most efficient in Europe', and when it's free, productivity rises
15 October 2018

ONCE again, Spain's healthcare system is the best in Europe – it's official.

And State medical services in the country are the third-most efficient on earth, beaten only by those of Hong Kong and Singapore respectively.

The annual ranking compiled by Bloomberg covers 56 national health services in total, and Bulgaria sits at the bottom with the USA, where medical treatment availability depends upon patients' insurance covering it, is second from bottom, below Azerbaijan.

Even some countries in the European Union fare very badly in the Bloomberg ranking: perhaps surprisingly, Germany is among the least efficient at number 45 out of 56, having fallen six places from last year and beaten by Kazakhstan and Ecuador, whilst Hungary sits at 42.

Denmark, a nation far ahead of the rest of the world in many aspects including quality of life and employment, and generally among the most modern countries on earth, comes 41st out of 56, climbing one place up from last year and beaten by Venezuela and Iran.

Belgium, at 38, ranks worse than Romania, and even Perú where crowded A&E departments and medical treatment coming at a cost to the patient mean even natives consider the service poor.

And if anyone was in any doubt about whether the NHS in the UK was as inefficient as mass media claims and was getting worse, its ranking of 35th out of 56, a fall of 14 places on last year's 21 putting it behind Slovakia and Algeria, appears to be confirmation – and professionals fear the slide will continue if European staff carry on leaving as a result of the uncertainty of their post-Brexit future, and EU citizens' emigration to Britain is restricted after the end of March 2019.



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Spain's 'National Festival': A public holiday with a chequered past and a topical present
12 October 2018

HOPEFULLY, you'll have realised today (Friday) is a national public holiday before going out shopping and finding everywhere closed – although if you're in Catalunya, you'll probably still be able to pick up the weekly groceries without any problems.

Historically called Día de la Hispanidad, or 'Hispanic Day', and now more often referred to as the Fiesta Nacional de España ('National Festival of Spain'), the countrywide day off work has had its fair share of controversy as well as celebration.

In Aragón, as it coincides with the saint's day for the Virgen del Pilar – which is why you'll often see it referred to as the Puente del Pilar or 'Pilar Bank Holiday Weekend' – residents in the tongue-shaped region which stretches from the Pyrénées to about a third of the way down the mainland to the east of the centre will normally speak of October 12 in these terms, escaping any concerns about political correctness.

For the rest of the country, however, it's mainly just treated as a bonus day off to break up the working month – except by residents in and visitors to Madrid, who get to enjoy the pomp of a full military parade with paratroopers and aerobatics, as well as a close-up glimpse of the King and Queen.

Brave new world

It is said to be October 12 when, in the year 1492, Christopher Columbus' Crown-funded voyage from Cádiz ended on dry land, reputedly in what is now Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic.



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Podemos calls for full ban on corporal punishment of children
11 October 2018

LEFT-WING party Podemos wants to ban any type of physical violence against children or teenagers, starting with the most socially-acceptable forms: smacking hands or bottoms, shaking, or similar 'disciplinary contact'.

Spain's third-largest political force wants the government to agree to the new law proposal in the next few months, since otherwise it may not be able to come into force until after the next general elections.

According to the text of the motion, any 'use of physical force' which is 'aimed at causing a certain level of pain or at least discomfort, however mild' should be outlawed, and would include 'slapping, punching, smacking, kicking, shaking, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or ears, hitting with a rod or other object, forcing [children] into uncomfortable positions [such as standing in a corner with their hands on their heads for a prolonged period], producing burns, etc'.

Prior to the year 2005, parents or guardians had the right, by law, to use 'reasonable and moderate' physical methods of discipline, but the socialist government led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero – in power from March 2004 until November 2011 – axed this from the Civil Code.

Zapatero was following Council of Europe recommendations which have cited scientific evidence to show smacking and other forms of physical punishment is harmful in the short and long term to children.


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Rafa Nadal opens his academy for flood victims to sleep in
10 October 2018

WORLD number one tennis star Rafa Nadal has thrown open his eponymous tennis academy in Manacor as emergency accommodation for Mallorca flood victims.

About 50 residents on the island spent last night at the Rafa Nadal Sports Centre in the pearl-factory town, and will continue to have beds if they need them from tonight onwards.

Nadal, who was born in Manacor, was desperate to help his home islanders after some of the worst torrential rain and flash floods in living memory hit the town of San Llorenç des Cardassar this week.


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Dengue fever detected in Spaniards who have never been in the tropics
10 October 2018

TWO cases of dengue fever have been confirmed in Spain for the first time ever – and experts say they are 'not surprised' it has put in an appearance in the country.

A tropical disease passed on by mosquitoes, dengue causes high fever, general body aches and pains, and vomiting.

There is no vaccine, and anyone who travels to rural areas in the tropics is normally advised to use strong fly repellent with DEET as one of its ingredients.

The confirmed cases are two Spaniards from the same family who live in Alhama (Murcia) and are said to be in their 50s or early 60s.

Neither had ever travelled to a high-risk area, and it is believed the disease may have been passed on by the so-called 'tiger mosquito', which has a sting that causes much greater irritation than 'mainstream' mosquitoes.

A third case, within the same family, has not been confirmed, but the patient is around the same age and has not travelled outside of Spain recently.

All three were in Cádiz when they contracted the infection.

Spanish health authorities say the two definite dengue cases are a man and a woman who live together in Alhama, but are not partners, and that the third possible patient lives in Madrid.



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Altamira, Cantabria: 150 years since world's first cave art discovery
08 October 2018

A DOG, a weaver, an eight-year-old girl and a landowner with a spade formed the cast.

The opening line was: “Look, daddy! Oxen!”

And the setting: a communal home, uninhabited and forgotten for over 13,000 years.

Cantabria, on Spain's blustery northern coast, was sitting on a future UNESCO heritage site that, half a century on, would start to accumulate queues of camera-clicking tourists from every continent.

If María Sanz de Sautuola y Escalante could have lived to the age of 148, she would have seen her oxen (which was actually a bison) in motion for the first time a week ago on Tuesday, galloping across the Google 'doodle of the day', to mark the anniversary of the discovery of the Altamira Caves, on September 25, 1868 – although, in practice, it is she who should take the credit for being the first person in the world to see the first prehistoric cave paintings on earth ever uncovered in the Anno Domini era.

Because when Modesto Cubillas, a weaver from Cantabria's western neighbour, Asturias, first clambered into an unremarkable hole in the ground to free his trapped dog, he just assumed it was yet another grotto in the hillside, of which there were hundreds near the coastal town of Santillana del Mar.



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Puerta del Sol clock to chime twice for New Year to include Canary Islands
08 October 2018

FOR THE first time in its 150-year history, Madrid's famous Puerta del Sol clock will strike twice on New Year's Eve – once at midnight and once at 01.00 on New Year's Day.

Practically anyone who is in Spain and watching for the chimes on the TV on December 31 will be viewing the clock in the Puerta del Sol square in the centre of the capital – in fact, it serves as the Spanish answer to Big Ben on Old Year's Night.

And traditionally, people in Spain eat 12 grapes, one on every chime, supposedly to ensure 12 months of good luck in the year to come.

But residents in the Canary Islands have to rely on their watches or mobile phone clocks, as they are an hour behind and will still be in 2018 for an hour whilst the rest of the country is already in 2019.

This time, however, after Canary Island regional president Fernando Clavijo met with his Greater Madrid counterpart Ángel Garrido, it has been agreed that the archipelago's New Year will also be chimed in by the country's capital.



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Fines for cars in Madrid not showing 'emissions stickers'
08 October 2018

DRIVERS in Madrid without traffic authority emissions stickers in a prominent place will be fined in six months' time, warns the city council.

Although residents will now have time to acquire their stickers, issued by the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) from the post office, where this leaves visitors to the city is unclear.

Hire cars will already have them in place by the time the six months is up, but people from other parts of Spain spending the weekend in Madrid will have to be careful.

In principle, it is not thought that areas outside the central 'almond', or the metropolitan area within the M-30 ringroad,will be affected, meaning driving to the airport from elsewhere in Spain may not cause a problem.

Fines for not displaying the stickers will be set at €90, or reduced to €45 if paid within 20 days.

For the moment, the stickers are voluntary and it is recommended that they be fixed to the windscreen.

They come in yellow, blue, green or 'eco' – which is blue and green – with the blue carrying a 'zero' for 'emission-free', the yellow a B and the green a C.

'Eco' stickers are for hybrid vehicles with an autonomy – or battery life – of less than 40 kilometres, or those which run on compressed or liquid gas or liquid petroleum gas, whilst the 'zero' stickers are for those with no emissions at all, such as electrically-powered cars with an autonomy or battery life of more than 40 kilometres



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