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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.

'Nul points' from Belarus due to Eurovision computer error
24 May 2019

SIX points given to Spain's Eurovision Song Contest entry performed by Miki (pictured) by the former Soviet State of Belarus have been cancelled thanks to an IT error, leaving the country with a total of 54 from Saturday's show instead of 60.

According to the European Radio Broadcasting Union (UER), points from each country are given jointly by public votes and a panel of independent judges, none of which is able to vote for its own national entry.

Anecdotal evidence from each year's contest seems to point to most countries giving their neighbouring nations the most points, ranging from one to 12.

But the judges' panel in Belarus was fired just before the Eurovision was televised, as it revealed which countries were getting its votes and for how many points before these were broadcast live on the programme.

Although the public vote total has not changed, 'human error' meant the recalculation of what should have been the judges' points was upside-down.

The unusual situation of the judges' having been sacked just before the live screening meant the UER opted to take the average scores from countries bordering Belarus to calculate what the now-invalid votes ought to be.

But the system recorded these average scores backwards.

Whilst Israel was the country scoring the lowest points from the panels of judges in Belarus' nearest nations, the computer on the night gave it 12 – and Malta was the one attracting the most points from these regions, but was erroneously given the lowest score.

Spain's six points were granted in error, and when the system issue was corrected, turned out to have been awarded none at all.



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Children exposed to nature 'have better mental health as adults', study claims
24 May 2019

CHILDREN exposed regularly to nature may be less likely to suffer mental health problems in adulthood, according to research led by La Caixa bank's scientific unit.

Data were extracted from 3,600 people from areas of four countries – Barcelona, in Spain; Stoke-on-Trent, UK; Doetinchem, The Netherlands, and Kaunas, Lithuania, says the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal).

According to the results published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, a positive correlation was found between time spent in non-urban outdoor areas in childhood and better cognitive development and mental and physical well-being.

This correlation has been found to have a more or less immediate effect – nature and fresh air have long been thought to be beneficial for mind and body – but had not hitherto been tested for its longer-term qualities, or its impact on adulthood when exposed to it in childhood.

Also, prior studies have focused almost exclusively on 'green areas' – parks, gardens and woodlands – and rarely on 'blue areas', as the research terms them, such as ponds, streams, canals, rivers, lakes and beaches.

The investigation formed part of the European Phenotype Project – 'phenotype' being the combination of genes, or genotype, with the environment, seen in physical, mental and behavioural features that are part nature and part nurture – and involved a questionnaire for adult participants about how often they were exposed to nature as children.



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Sustainable mobility in Spain: Bilbao is best; Valencia and Sustainable mobility in Spain: Bilbao is best; Valencia and Barcelona close behind close behind
23 May 2019

THE BASQUE port city of Bilbao is the 'most sustainable' in Spain in terms of mobility – or has made the greatest efforts in providing clean transport facilities, according to Canadian environmental charity Greenpeace.

Factors such as pedestrianised areas, pollution and noise, town planning, transparency, and management and provision of trains, buses, taxis and cycle lanes, among other yardsticks, were taken into account.

One of Bilbao's greatest environmental positives is the fact that nearly two-thirds, or 64% of travel around the city is on foot, although public transport is efficient enough that the standard one-car, one-person system can largely be avoided, keeping pollution to a minimum.

And speed limits have been dramatically reduced in 87% of Bilbao's streets, reducing noise, air contamination, and risk to pedestrians.

Out of 10, Greenpeace gives Bilbao (pictured) 6.9, and said it would give it a higher grade if it promoted cycling more, whilst warning the city council to keep on top of pollution levels and ensure they do not rise.

Another point in Bilbao's favour is its 'women-friendly' public transport system: taxis required by local bye-law to wait and ensure female passengers are safely indoors before departing, and bus stops set up closer together so women do not have to walk so far to get to their homes or work after alighting.

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Happy anniversary, King Felipe and Queen Letizia
22 May 2019

IT'S exactly 15 years ago today (Wednesday) since Crown Prince Felipe of Asturias and the famous face of the ten o'clock news on Spain's first channel, TVE – reporter Letizia Ortiz – tied the knot in front of millions of television viewers at Madrid's Almudena Cathedral, a day which saw the accomplished journalist suddenly thrust into the spotlight and analysed by the media.

A commoner, a divorcée, granddaughter of radio DJ Menchu Álvarez del Valle – her grandmother, who is still living and aged 91 – a media graduate with a bachelor's and a master's from Madrid's Complutense University who has worked for ABC, Bloomberg TV, CNN, EFE, various newspapers in her home city of Oviedo, Asturias and the Diario Siglo XXI in Guadalajara, México where she studied her unfinished PhD, the brand-new Princess Letizia was inevitably compared and contrasted with the late Princess Diana following her 2004 wedding to the future King of Spain.

Even Letizia's friends did not know just how famous her fiancé was, and constantly badgered her to tell them more about her 'mystery man' – although the woman who is now Queen of Spain cryptically and repeatedly told them they would 'find out soon enough'.



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Quique Dacosta to open 'paella' restaurant in London
22 May 2019

VALENCIA-BASED celebrity chef Quique Dacosta's London restaurant is set to open on June 7 in the up-market Fitzroy neighbourhood, offering dishes largely based on the region's star recipe: paella.

Dacosta, who has three Michelin stars and two eponymous restaurants in Valencia city and in Dénia (Alicante province) – the latter of which was once named the top eatery in Spain – says his new premises at 64 Eastcastle Street in the UK capital is his first venture abroad.

“I'm very excited about being able to bring part of our tradition and cuisine to one of the five biggest capital cities in the world,” Dacosta says.

Its name says it all – Arròs QD – being the valenciano word for 'rice', followed by the chef's initials.

What non-Spaniards often term 'paella' is better known to Valencians as 'rice dishes', of which there are literally hundreds of recipes, paella making up just a handful of them and being probably the most-associated with Spanish food outside the country.

The extent of Dacosta's menu at his new London premises will give British diners an idea of just how many 'paellas' really exist a two-hour flight from their doorstep.

Other dishes will be served, of course – a selection of bespoke starters, vegetables, fish and roasted meat, plus dessert, using both Valencia rice and UK produce.

The wine list will be replete with Spanish varieties as well as from elsewhere in the world, helping to give wine from Spain a much-needed boost in the UK, where the only name really known is Rioja and where other varieties tend to be unbranded and cheap, giving an incorrect impression of the country's huge array of home-made drinks.

Also on the drinks front, 'creative' versions of classical cocktails will be served up in the exclusive lounge-bar area.

The restaurant is 1,000 square metres and has space for up to 140 diners on two floors and in four different settings.

Customers will be able to see the rice dishes being cooked on a wood fire before they eat.

Quique Dacosta is widely held to be one of the greatest experts in rice dishes on earth and published a book in 2005, Arroces contemporáneos ('Contemporary rice dishes').



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Spanish chef offers job to dinner lady fired for giving pupil free lunch
21 May 2019

SPANISH celebrity chef José Andrés has offered a job to the dinner lady fired for letting a schoolboy have a US$8 lunch he was unable to pay for.

Andrés (pictured), who famously turned down a lucrative contract to run a restaurant at Trump Towers hotel in response to the then presidential candidate's negative comments about Latin Americans, has called canteen worker Bonnie Kimball a 'hero'.

A teenage boy at the Mascoma Valley Regional High School in Cannan, New Hampshire, did not have any money, so Ms Kimball said he could have his lunch anyway and pay for it when he was able.

His parents sent him to school with the cash, the equivalent of €7.16, the very next day, but Ms Kimball was sacked by the franchise offering school lunches, Café Services, for her decision, which the firm qualified as 'theft'.

Andrés, 49, who is from Asturias but has lived and worked in the USA for well over 20 years, tweeted: “If [Bonnie Kimball] needs a job we have openings at The Think Food Group. If you know her, let her know!”

The Think Food Group is a chain Andrés is about to open, adding to his existing restaurants in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, México DF and the island of Puerto Rico, where he dished out free food to help the victims of Hurricane María.



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Ten things Spain does better than any other country
20 May 2019

SPAIN may have had little success in the Eurovision Song Contest – poor Miki said last night that he and his team 'sang and danced their hearts out' and deserved a top 10 place, something the country has not achieved since Pastora Soler squeezed into it in 2010 – but it doesn't hurt for Spain to step aside and let another nation do something better. After all, there's plenty our country achieves that beats the rest of the world, or not far off.

We can list you 10 of these off the top of our heads, but there are almost certainly more we could add.



Holidaymakers have always been among the biggest contributors to Spain's economy, but in the last few years its popularity has continued to soar. The number of foreign tourists who visit the country every year double that of the resident population – and not just those from the north seeking sunshine, beaches, cheap alcohol and outdoor swimming pools. Indeed, many other countries close by offer all this at a lower price – like Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt – and beach weather is only, at a push, five months of the year. Spain attracts tourists for many, many other reasons: highly-affordable skiing breaks, with many resorts suitable for beginners, novices or the nervous; beautiful countryside ranging from desert to water meadows, pine forest and mountains to rolling, emerald hills, huge, modern cities to crumbling, remote villages that still use working donkeys and plough by hand and where running water did not arrive until the 1970s, and some of the most stunning and unusual monuments on earth. For this reason, Spain is the second-most popular destination for tourism in the world – ahead of the USA, and only beaten by France.



It's official: however frustrated you may be stuck on a waiting list for a consultation, this is probably only an issue in your own area health department, and Spanish law states that you are free to choose another if you require in any case. With ongoing advances in technology and techniques, some of the most talented medical scientists in the world and an attitude that 'if you need it, you'll get it' – no excuses dished out because a certain treatment is 'too expensive', and nobody 'shamed' for going to A&E or booking an appointment because they 'should have known it was nothing' or 'it's not serious enough to warrant taking up health service time', it's unsurprising expats find being treated under the Spanish healthcare system a refreshing change. Spain's medical services are focusing more and more these days on prevention rather than cure, and whatever your age, you'll normally be expected to go to your GP for a blood test and general check-up at least once a year, even if you've never had so much as the common cold. Mammograms are provided automatically to all women aged 45 to 65 and bowel cancer screening from age 50 to70, but can be requested without issue before or after these ages.



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Spanish coins found in Utah desert may pre-date Columbus
20 May 2019

COINS found in the Utah desert may be evidence of Spanish settlers on the American continent at least 200 years before Christopher Columbus arrived – or they may merely be a hoax.

A hiker from Colorado found what he thought were two shards of scrap metal whilst out walking in the Arches National Park close to the Marina Holls Crossing, near Lake Powell, but on examining them closer at home, realised they had imprints which could have historic significance.

He took the two coins to the US National Parks Service for investigation, says the organisation's archaeologist Brian Harmon, and they are now at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Page, Arizona, where they are still being studied eight months later.

“We're trying not to touch them and contaminate them with our hands,” says Harmon.

“They appear to be very well-preserved. They're very thin; we think one is probably silver and the other copper.”

The coins were found in a touristy part of the park which had been underwater on occasions in the decades following the construction of the Glen Canyon dam in 1966.

If they turn out to be genuine, the next step is to try to solve the mystery of how they made it to Utah.

It is well-documented that two Spanish priests, Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Veles de Escalante went on an evangelising mission to that part of the American continent in 1776, but did not get close enough to the national park to have dropped the coins, and in any case, the inscriptions on them appear to date back much farther than the late 18th century.



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Four candidates with Down Syndrome stand for local elections
16 May 2019

FOUR young adults with Down Syndrome are standing for the local elections on May 26, each in different regions.

Blanca San Segundo, 29, is number eight on the list for the centre-right party Ciudadanos in Godella (Valencia province) and stresses that 'people with mental disability are not ill' and in fact 'tend to have more empathy', which she says is 'necessary' in politics.

“You need to be able to put yourself in other people's shoes,” says the special education worker.

“People confuse mental disability with mental illness, and it's not the same.”

Blanca is just about to graduate from Valencia University with a degree in Occupational Therapy, and has not needed extra learning support or an adapted curriculum to do so.

She says she has 'never been given any special concessions' in any area of life and has achieved everything she has 'through effort and consistency', which are values she believes should be present in any level of government.

“For a disabled person to be able to defend his or her ideas and for these ideas to reach local politics is important,” Blanca argues.



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Prices capped for calls and texts between EU member States
16 May 2019

A DRAMATIC drop in the cost of mobile phone calls and text messages between European Union member States has been brought in from today (Wednesday), potentially saving travellers up to 70%.

Thanks to the newly-effective European Electronic Communications Code (CECE) and the Organisation of Electronic Communications Regulators (ORECE), calls between the 28 countries may no longer cost any more than 19 cents per minute, and SMS messages, six cents a minute.

These prices do not include IVA, or VAT, since this varies from nation to nation.

It comes just a year and 11 months after the EU dropped roaming charges for mobile phones used in member States other than those in which they were registered, but is not the same concept.

Roaming fees meant general data use, such as internet connection via an operator, was much more expensive outside the country of origin of the mobile phone – to such an extent that most travellers would put their phones into 'flight mode', disabling all connections, whenever they left their national borders, and only used them when they were in a WiFi hotspot.

But now, the costs for using a mobile phone, other than calls and text messages, are the same anywhere in the EU, as long as the phone is run via an operator in an EU country.

SMS messages and calls will not cost the same from one country to the next, but a strict cap has been placed on charges, reducing these – in the case of Spanish mobile operators – by around 70%.



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