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Chatter: More austerity for Spain

Spain gets a steaming second helping of austerity, Japan and China squabble over islands, and Hamas loosens up in the Gaza Strip.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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Need to know:
Spain is set to get a fresh helping of austerity, as part of efforts to cut the national budget by €65 billion, or $80 billion.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has unveiled money-saving measures including cuts to unemployment benefits, a bonus freeze in the public sector, and a three-percent hike in sales tax. In return, Spain will get a bank bailout from the rest of the euro zone, and an extra year to meet its deficit-reduction targets.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Spain's citizens will agree to swallow yet another bitter pill. Even as the PM was announcing today's cuts, Spanish miners were marching in Madrid in protest at the loss of the government subsidies keeping their industry running.

And what about the soccer in all this? Should the government decide to sacrifice the generous tax breaks enjoyed by Spain's clubs, the world's best footballers could be the next victims of the debt crisis.

Want to know:
Islands are troublesome things. After stand-offs in the South China Sea, now it's the East China Sea that's the arena for marine posturing: China has courted Japan's anger by sending three patrol boats to a disputed island chain.

The uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are believed to be rich in mineral resources. Both countries claim them as part of their "inherent territory" – so it was no surprise that China's decision to send three fishery patrol boats there early this morning provoked a swift Japanese response.

Japan has summoned the Chinese ambassador to register its displeasure, and will no doubt have more to say on the matter at the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum in Cambodia.

Dull but important:
Hillary Clinton has arrived in Laos
, becoming the first US secretary of state to visit the Southeast Asian country in almost 60 years.

The last senior US diplomat to visit Laos was John Foster Dulles in 1955. "It's a pretty big deal for the Laotians," said one US official.

Clinton will spend the day in talks with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, as well as his deputy and foreign minister. They're expected to discuss controversial dam projects on the Mekong river, and the regional legacy of Agent Orange

Just because:
"A few years ago, the police told me to never display a photograph or mannequin that reveals a woman’s body in the window," the owner of a women's lingerie shop in Gaza City tells GlobalPost, in front of a display featuring a mannequin clad in a white lace negligee. "But now, they're not concerned."

It's a sign of how more liberal the Gaza Strip has become since Hamas first seized power there, five years ago. Its Islamic police force once stalked the coastal terrority's streets and beaches, intimidating unmarried couples and shop owners selling "risqué" clothes.

But now, locals say, the movement appears to be abandoning its formal policy of imposing Islamic law. Could Hamas be adapting to its role and responsibilities as a government? GlobalPost reports from skinny-jean-wearing, water-pipe-smoking Gaza City.

Strange but true:
And now for a shameless attempt to make you feel good. A homeless couple in São Paulo, Brazil, found a bag stuffed with cash on the street – and turned it in to police.

Rejaniel de Jesus Silva Santos and Sandra Reina Domingues, who live together under a bridge, found some 20,000 reais ($10,000) abandoned near a bus stop. "The first thing that came to my mind when I saw all that money," Santos says, "was to call the police."

It turns out the money had been stolen from a nearby Japanese restaurant. The owners have offered Santos and Domingues an apprenticeship followed by a job in reward for their honesty.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-more-austerity-spain