DOZEN GOOD DOWNPOURS NEEDED

10 November, 2008

A spokesman for the Cuenca Mediterranea Andaluza (Mediterranean Water Board) said last week that Malaga needs another dozen downpours like the recent ones ten days ago or six weeks of steady rain to end the drought that has been affecting the province for the past four years. Antonio Rodriguez Leal said the province would need 40% more rain above the annual average of 560 litres per square metre, that is, 800 litres per m2 to fill the reservoirs, which are still too low.


FINES BRING LITTER BUGS TO HEEL

10 November, 2008

After a 15-month campaign costing 150,000 to persuade the residents of Marbella to keep their streets clean, the Town Hall has taken off the kid gloves and started fining litterbugs, god owners who do not clean up after their pets and people who leave their rubbish in the street outside the allotted hours of 9-11 pm. Since a plain-clothes policeman and a team of “tecnicos (experts)” began patrolling the streets on September 15th, they have handed out 84 fines ranging for €25 (for dog owners) to €600 for hotels and stores, for a total amount of more than €32,000. The biggest fine – €2,400 – is reserved for the owners of dogs belonging to dangerous breeds who do not wear muzzles when walking them in public. A Town Hall spokesman said dog owners are now becoming “more aware” since the fines started.


BIKERS IN BARRIER PROTEST

10 November, 2008

Some 10,000 motorcyclists blocked the streets in the centre of Madrid last Saturday when they staged their 3rd National Motorbike Demonstration to back their demands for the removal of safety barriers which they claim are fatal for motorcyclists. As if to highlight their claim, a motorcyclist died after he crashed into a safety barrier just outside Madrid only hours before the demonstration started. Before setting out from the Santiago Bernabeu football stadium, the participants observed a minute’s silence for that death and the 500 motorcyclists who died on Spain’s roads in the past 12 months. Their other demands included the use of non-slip paint on the roads, a general resurfacing and the suppression of the new €1,500 motorbike purchase tax. A spokesman for Unidad Motera (Motorcyclist Union) said the latest measures adopted by the Traffic Authority, such as raising the minimum age for driving a motorbike to 16 or a tougher driving test, only made owning a bike more expensive without teaching the driver the necessary skills. Smaller demonstrations were held in other cities across the country.


FIRST SHOW FALL

3 November, 2008

The first snow of the winter was spotted early Sunday morning on the mountains behind Coin and Malaga city, to cap a week of steady rain and gusting winds. Last week’s rain has gone a long way to replenishing the reservoirs but still more is needed before the four-year-long drought can be declared officially over.


LET THEM EAT POTATO

3 November, 2008

Dozens of international scientists met last month at Neiker Tecnalia, a 200-year-old potato research centre, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque country, to discuss advances in potato farming that could be used in poorer countries. They said potatoes have a lot going for them. They are a good source of protein, starch, vitamins and nutrients like zinc and iron, and as a crop, they require less energy and water to grow than wheat, taking just three months from planting to harvest. Since they are heavy and do not transport well, they are not generally traded on world financial markets, making their price less vulnerable to speculation. They are not generally used to produce biofuels, a new use for food crops that has helped drive up grain prices. When grain prices skyrocketed, potato prices remained stable. With governments having trouble feeding the growing number of hungry poor and grain prices fluctuating wildly, food scientists are proposing a novel solution for the global food crisis: Let them eat potatoes. A decade ago, the vast majority of potatoes were grown and eaten in the developed world, mostly in Europe and the Americas. Today, China and India – neither big potato-eating countries in the past – rank first and third, respectively, in global potato production. When the United Nations announced last year that 2008 would be the Year of the Potato, few took it seriously. That was before grain prices doubled and the United Nations World Food Program announced that it needed an extra half billion dollars to buy grain. So now the potato is coming into its own. It is no longer a food fit for peasants and pigs but a serious nutritional aid and an object of scientific study.


FIRST BROWN BEAR ROAD KILL

3 November, 2008

The first case of a brown bear being killed on the road was confirmed last week by the foundation set up to protect the species. The Brown Bear Foundation said a young male was hit by a lorry early last Tuesday morning on the A-6 highway in Trabadelo, Leon province. Apparently the animal had climbed over the fence protecting the bear sanctuary in Alto Sil. A spokesman for the Brown Bear Association said: “The young males love exploring and it’s not unusual for them to stray.” He said there are only 130 brown bears in the north of Spain and that Alto Sil was a major reproductive area.


APES CULLING CONDEMNED

3 November, 2008

Helen Thirlway, UK Director of the International Primate Protection League, has strongly condemned the Gibraltar government’s culling of around ten of the world-famous “Barbary apes”, even though her organisation and a coalition of animal welfare and conservation groups had found somewhere to relocate them. The groups had been working beghind the scenes to save the apes since April, when the government announced plans to cull around 25 of them. The groups had succeeded in finding a home for the condemned primates back in May and were still discussing the terms of a relocation plan with the Gibraltar government when the killings allegedly took place. Ms Thirlway said: “The government assured us that they were culling because they could not relocate. We found a home for the monkeys, and offered our assistance in moving them, and now we have been informed by a reliable source that half of the group have been culled anyway. We can only assume that the motivation for this unethical decision was a financial one; we can find no other explanation and all we have had from the government is a damning silence on the matter.” She added: “We urge the people of Gibraltar to demand that culling stops once and for all. The authorities know exactly what needs to be done; they need to employ wardens, enforce the feeding ban, cover rubbish sites, and invest in a more comprehensive contraception programme. So why do they not simply do so? Is this really about looking after the people of Gibraltar, or is it simply about protecting the interests of a few wealthy property developers?”