A reader sends me an article about AI (not the sauce, that's A1) and how it's going to be taking away many of our jobs. AI being Artificial Intelligence. I told him that AI has been writing the editorial at my news-bulletin Business over Tapas for years. Why, I asked, did he think we called it BoT?
He said, if it wasn't for the spelling mistakes, he might have believed me.
El Mundo ran a front-page article recently, purporting to show how easy it would be to plant a story with an AI program, using a mock-up picture of two politicians at daggers drawn, apparently photographed by a clever paparazzi to be holding hands. One of their examples was Pablo Iglesias and Santiago Abascal, commie and nazi, hugging each other and smiling for the camera.
It's a fake, right enough, but we are all taken in by a good photo, which of course is well worth a thousand words.
While El Mundo graciously acknowledged that the images (they had four of them) were bogus, designed by artificial intelligence (under the instruction - at least for the time being - of a human operator), it also shows how easy it would be for a less - ah - scrupulous news-source to take things a step further.
And while a tricked-out photo is one thing; how about a fake video, with the victim saying something, with his real voice, that he never really said. Perhaps the President with a declaration that will cause a major international crisis; all at the hands of a fellow hunched over a laptop and wearing a hoodie, or maybe a swastika.
After all, half of us will believe anything we are told.
This is nothing new - Frederick Remington, the famous western artist, drew a notorious anti-Spanish pictures for his boss the newspaper tsar Randolf Hearst back in 1898, helping to back the US war with Spain over Cuba. Imagine what could be done today.
In other fields, AI is proving to be a fascinating tool. A black and white portrait of two women won the Sony World Photography Awards a few weeks ago - until the artist, a programmer, fessed up and turned down the prize. No cameras for him.
I was watching a clever little film earlier this week, designed and scripted by AI, of aliens attacking the Earth. It's called Last Stand. The voice of Joe Biden - why, it sounds real! There's another video out there called 'I am not Morgan Freeman'. Well, you sure look and sound like him, Buddy.
And then, there's AI music. All it needs is a 'prompt' - a suggestion of what the programmer is looking for - and away it goes. For example, there's Freddy Mercury singing 'Yesterday' (he recorded it last week). How about Donald Trump crooning a prison ballad?
A (half-humorous) quote from a Hollywood composer runs 'It may be a good time for me to switch careers to brick-layer. That is, until they have AI brick-layers'.
Anyway, give it another year or two. when the home computer decides it's had enough of looking at porn or going on Facebook and suddenly locks the front door and deactivates the cell-phone.
The hep word at present is ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). We read that 'ChatGPT can't "think" on its own or offer opinions. It can only respond to incredibly specific directions. Once the user gives it the go-ahead along with some other details, ChatGPT engages in complex problem solving and executes tough tasks, like writing an essay, in seconds...'
Like this one.
"What is happening in the Pyrenees is that an attempt has been made to adapt the sun and beach tourism model to this territory," says a local businessman. "They built the ski resorts as tourist infrastructure, but the bulk of the business consists of building houses - second homes - whose value enhancement does not depend, in this case, on being on the beachfront, but on the slopes," he adds.'. Público says that there is a call locally to declare the area a national park and that 'They are hoping to shield the Pyrenees so that it does not become another Benidorm: "We don't all fit anymore!"'.
From Catalan News here: 'Spanish government to guarantee 20% of mortgage for those aged 35 or under. Measure will benefit families with children and less than ?37,800 in annual income'.
From SVI here: 'Spain considers either doubling minimum investment for Golden Visas or abolishing the program'.
'The Government will finance 50% of Interrail (here) and apply discounts of up to 90% for young people to travel through Spain. "Many young people know more about Europe than their own country", declared Sánchez last Saturday in Murcia. The president says that Spain is the second most visited country in the world, but it still has unknown corners for many Spaniards'. elDiario.es says that '.The measures announced by Sánchez are aimed at young people between 18 and 30 years of age and can be enjoyed between June 15 and September 15. In addition to the 50 percent discount on Interrail tickets, young people will be able to access a 90 percent discount on trains and buses that depend on the State for trips in Spain, as well as a 50 percent discount on High Speed trains.'.
From Noticias de Almería here: 'Andalucía tourism is unequally spread around the region, with just 5.6% of visitors to the region choosing Almería in the first quarter of 2023'.
Portuguese Men o'War (Wiki) have been found off the Costa Blanca beaches of El Campello, La Vila and Dénia - apparently. The story here.
From The Corner here: 'The population over 64 in Spain is now more than 20%, outnumbering that of the under-20s'. The article says '.Demographic projections point to a greater imbalance between generations in the coming decades, which poses a challenge insofar as the groups expected to show solidarity - i.e. mutual cooperation and generosity - have resources that place them in very different positions. Today, it is the older generations who absorb most of the national income channelled through European welfare states. They also tend to have the most financial and real estate wealth and, because of their demographic weight, they are decisive actors in electoral results.'
'The number of unemployed registered in the offices of the State Public Employment Service (SEPE), fell by 73,890 people in April to leave the total at 2,788,370, figures not recorded since 2008, according to the Ministry of Labour' says The Corner here.
From La Razón here: 'Isabel Díaz Ayuso: "It is time to evict Sánchez and his partners. They are leading us towards Peronism (Wiki)". The president of the Community of Madrid warns that never before have the twin pillars of unity and coexistence in Spain been put under such threat'. We read that Ayuso said in a recent speech (with video) that: '"We have been working for twenty years and renewing the Community model presided over by equal opportunities, the joy of living and freedom"'. Ayuso is well-known for her Communism or Freedom meme (here). Meanwhile, elDiario.es wonders how much of this enthusiasm shown by La Razón and others comes from a recent select campaign of almost a million euros from the Madrid Regional Government in institutional advertising to support the region's record on its residences for the elderly.
*Today I learned that, despite having held early regional elections in Madrid back in May 2021, a rule in the regional statutes means that they will be voting again this May 2023.
The campaign slogan for the municipal and (some) regional elections from the PP is 'Derogar el Sanchísmo' - Remove the policies of Sánchez. Which, says Infolibre in an opinion piece here, appears to be all that they've got. Maybe instead, we could go back to the remunerative politics of M.Rajoy.
Another conservative news-source, El Español, puts the PP leader Núñez Feijóo as being close to the middle ground in politics - at 6.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. Sánchez is a hopeless 2.3 on the same calibration (Santiago Abascal gets a 9). The figures come from a survey (which says that the Spanish see themselves on the same scale as being closest to Ciudadanos).
While everyone is aware that Sumar and Podemos divided will lose votes and deputies for the far left in the General Elections of December (Sumar is not presenting candidates before then), the two parties remain sundered (pretty much down to a position taken by the Podemos leaders, fearful perhaps of losing protagonism). The Minister of Labour Yolanda Díaz, the leader of Sumar, joined the Podemos candidates for Madrid (both municipal and regional) on Wednesday in a pre-campaign meeting (you can't legally 'ask' for the vote until two weeks before the elections).
There'll be two types of municipal elections on May 28. (1) Those for the pueblos, where everyone knows the candidates, went to school with them, or went to the fiestas with their children, or bought pan from their parents. Many voters will decide along family lines (it's useful having an uncle who is mayor). The siglas (party) won't be important: it's the person we are voting for. (2) Then there are the large cities. Much will be made following their results to discuss the field leading to the General Elections of December. Juanlu Sánchez has a podcast on this subject: 'Elecciones locales, Consecuencias nacionales' here.
From Catalán site BeTeVé with video ('Neighbours against Touristic Invasion') here: 'Residents block the access to Parque Güell in Barcelona (Wiki) in another protest against tourism. The demonstrators have made a tour of the neighbourhood to protest against the "theft from the public of historic spaces"'.
From EuropaSur here: 'The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, discussed last week the importance of closing an agreement on Gibraltar's relationship with the European Union after Brexit "as soon as possible". Both leaders "agreed on the importance of advancing in the negotiations towards a treaty between the United Kingdom and the EU," following a telephone conversation said a spokesman for Downing Street, the official residence of the British head of government.'
Cronica Libre has been publishing various articles recently regarding what they describe as a kind of mafia within a major publishing group called Grupo Planeta (Wiki). The investigative site says that the publisher had the help of a judge within the anti-corruption prosecutor's office, who allegedly was occupied in creating false proofs until 2017 against a rival. More, says the site, still to come. Including this on Wednesday.
The anti-corruption prosecutor's office has information, says El Debate here, on four 'elite' soccer referees who have mysteriously made themselves a fortune along the way.
From elDiario.es here. 'The salary that judges and prosecutors are asking to bring 'up to date' with the implicit threat of a strike: 75,000 gross euros on average per year! Five of the six judicial associations (all but the 'progressive one') are demanding improvements in salaries that are above those of several of their European colleagues'. The open-ended strike is planned to begin on May 16th. In Spain, there are 5,343 judges and 2,553 prosecutors.
A campaign in the right wing media (and visible in the social media) claims that the Government is demolishing dams for some nefarious reason ('have us on our knees', etc). From Maldita here: 'Misinformation about the demolition of dams and standing water in Spain'. It says: A false narrative links the drought in Spain to the demolition of dams, whereas, the capacity of reservoirs in mainland Spain has increased in recent years. The demolished barriers were in disuse or had to be destroyed by law at the end of their concession, according to the experts consulted. Most of them are also barriers: small structures that do not accumulate water'. From an elDiario.es editorial here: 'One of the lies that circulates the most these days has it all: even a plot involving Morocco. It's being spread by the Voxxers and their sympathisers, taking advantage of the drought, and hunting for the rural vote. They assure us that the Government -in its infinite evil- is destroying hundreds of reservoirs to annoy poor farmers and thus favour Moroccan vegetable exports'.
Ana Rosa Quintana, the Telecinco version of Tucker Carlson, has been given the afternoon slot on that channel which had been the perch for Sálvame (a kind of risqué celeb news show) over the past fourteen years. The apparent object, says La Marea here, is to get 'all the TV media to talk right-wing politics in their afternoon-slots'. Público writes here of 'The Tele-sewage of Ana Rosa'. It says '.Ana Rosa Quintana's trash TV is much more harmful, poisonous and indigestible than Sálvame's talking circus, firstly, because it mixes lies and half-truths, and secondly, because people believe it to be a respectable program.'.
A journalist who hasn't done as well as Ana Rosa - Jesús Cintora (Wiki) - presented a book called No quieren que lo sepas ('They Don't Want You to Know') (Amazon) that he wrote last year, at a forum in Ibiza this week under the heading. "There is a credibility crisis because there are people constantly lying in the media". He talks to CadenaSer here.
BarçaTV is to close after 27 years of operation says FESP here, with the loss of 120 jobs.
The Guardian says that there are currently some fifty web-pages out there providing news written by Artificial Intelligence. Much of it rather corny. But give it a year or two.
Well, let's see: how many golf courses are there in Spain? Apparently there are 398. How much water does a golf course need: '.Excluding the Canary Islands, golf courses in Spain have an average consumption of 8,200 m3 /ha-year'. Diario 16 has a story here about how the real amount of water consumed by the 31 Madrid golf courses is hidden by the regional government.
How many swimming pools are in Spain? 'Over 1.27 million, or one for every 37 people', which works out, says the INE, at the equivalent of just 2.5% of the total annual household water use. (August 2022 figures). In Andalucía (where it's hotter) there are over 300,000 pools, says Diario de Sevilla here - that's one for every 28 people.
From EuroNews here with video: 'Murcia's farmers fear for the future as Spain cuts water supplies from River Tagus (el Tajo in Spanish)'. The article says '.as Spain faces the realities of climate change with three-quarters of the country at risk of desertification, the government has decided to limit the flow of water from the Tagus to the southeastern Levante. "There are many thousands of hectares that are cultivated here, as soon as you cut that (the water supplies) by half, well, everything that is not cultivated will be desert, in a few decades, in a few years," a local farmer explains.'. Also in Murcia, Efe Verde reports that 'Fifteen people (apparently in the pig-rearing business) have been arrested in relation to illegal extraction of groundwater and irregular dumping of pig-waste'.
'More than 250 illegal wells are discovered in an operation against irregular water management in the Axarquía (Eastern Málaga)'. Diario Jaén has the story here. A report on Canal Sur TV the other day showed the ingenuity of the farmers in hiding their illegal wells.
From El Español here: 'The Andalusian Parliament will not continue discussion over the PP's Doñana water-law until after the municipal elections have been held. President Juanma Moreno nevertheless insists that he will not withdraw the rule "if there is no alternative on the table"'.
Water-leaks are the bane of any water company. It's water (income) lost, it can cause damage and it looks bad. In Badalona, the water company there is losing 180,000 litres of potable water per day - and has been doing so now for eighteen years! In all, Spain loses some 20% of all its piped water due to spillage and leakage (700,000 million litres a year says the RTVE).
Ideal has a story about the municipal elections which deals with Almería, but can be extrapolated to any other area with a foreign population. It says 'Only around 20% of the Brits who live in Almería with the right to vote have asked to do so'. And no doubt, not all of them would did, will. The foreigners in general - including those who can and those who can't vote - number 55.000 in Almería, but only 12,844 will be welcome at the polling stations on May 28. Four years ago, 16,300 had the vote. The final question being - how many will be voting at all - is of interest to the local parties as, if there aren't many votes in play, then there are other more rewarding sectors of the public to make empty promises to.
A group of romería enthusiasts didn't want to miss the Pentecost and Rocío celebrations to be held on the election weekend, so they formed their own political party, put themselves on the party papeleta, the list, and that way they avoid the bother of being called to do the Sunday election duty. Unidos por Mazagón is the party, if you happen to be on the local electoral roll in Palos de la Frontera, Huelva.
How about a forty-page party political pamphlet written solely in the Andalusian vernacular? El Español brings us "Lenguahe incluçibo en tôh lô documentô" from Adelante Andalucía for the municipality of Dos Hermanos in Seville.
'The curious case of the missing Spanish afternoon. The slippery concept of 'la tarde', which spans the hours from lunch to late evening, brings a sense of chaos to daily life' - Opinion from the Financial Times here.
After the Spanish Civil War was over, life went on as best it might, with scarcity, rationing, the black market and hunger as natural consequences. An article at Público here provides some recipes from those days 'where the main ingredient was ingenuity'. The useful word sucedáneo comes from that time, where the cook would be obliged to use substitutes for the pot. There's a book just out called Las Recetas del Hambre (here): The Hunger Recipes.
From Design You Trust here, some 'Vintage Propaganda Posters of the Spanish Civil War in 1937'. Some stirring work on show here. ('Teach Your Comrade to Read!')
Back in 1978, the country was divided into autonomous regions with their own governments, politicians and funcionarios. Madrid was due to become part of Castilla - La Mancha, but the representatives of the good people from that region - Toledo, Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Guadalajara - told the madrileños to go fry an egg. Madrid became (like Murcia, who no one wanted to be with either, and a few others) a single autonomy and province. El País (June 1981) has the story here.
A visit to the Castillo in Belmonte, Cuenca, with YouTube here.
Today, the shopkeeper spoke to me in hopelessly unintelligible English. I answered in my superb Castilian Spanish for a while, but he carried on with his yesberywellfandangüi. In the end, I gave up. Two, I said, showing him a couple of digits. We parted friends. Sometimes, you have to give up and just be a Brit...
Here's Enrique Iglesias (our parrot is named after him) with Bailando on YouTube.