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30 Sep 2011

Spanish sailors to be decorated after rescuing French woman taken hostage by pirates


The Defence Minister, Carme Chacón, announced that Spanish forces from the amphibious assault ship, ‘Galicia’, are to be decorated for rescuing a French woman who was taken hostage with her husband by Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen earlier this month. Evelyne Colombo was rescued on September 10 two days after the catamaran she and her husband were sailing had been attacked by pirates. Her husband, Christian Colombo, was murdered and his body thrown into the sea during the pirates’ assault. The Galicia was on patrol with the EU anti-piracy mission Operation Atalanta when it intercepted the skiff which was transporting the 55 year old French woman. Operation Atalanta command ordered the Galicia to open fire on the skiff’s engines and the pirates responded by shooting at the Spanish ship. The pirate skiff capsized after the gun battle, but the hostage was rescued and seven pirates were arrested.

El Hierro still on yellow alert, but no fears of an imminent eruption


UME Emergency Military Unit was deployed to El Hierro on Wednesday as the island remained on yellow alert amid fears of a volcanic eruption. The Defence Minister, Carme Chacón, was also due to travel there on Wednesday afternoon to supervise their work, and spoke of the UME’s deployment as a preventive measure to assist emergency services in any evacuation over the increased seismic activity on the island. EFE indicates that there is a 15 percent probability of an imminent eruption, but the island’s government has ruled out any need to evacuate the island. The President of El Hierro’s Cabildo, Alpido Armas, said, ‘That’s not going to happen. We will not need to evacuate 4,000 people. If there is an eruption, it will not be a violent one and the worst that can happen is that a 200 metre mountain emerges’. Fifty three people were evacuated from Frontera due to the seismic activity and it’s understood that they will not be allowed home for the moment. Local schools there were also closed as a precaution because of the risk of landslides. The last volcanic eruption on El Hierro was in 1793, when the Lomo Negro volcano erupted. The last on the Canary Islands was just 40 years ago on La Palma.

Wanted Belgian fugitive arrested in Alhaurín El Grande


wanted Belgian fugitive has been arrested in Alhaurín El Grande after a marijuana plantation was discovered at a property in the town. He was found there with a man and a woman, and all three are believed to have been part of an organisation which cultivated the drug for distribution in Europe. The Civil Guard found 55 marijuana plants on the property plus a 9 calibre revolver. One of the group was identified as F.V.B., who was wanted on a warrant for extradition to Belgium to serve a prison sentence of four and a half years for armed robbery. EFE indicates that he took part in an armed hold-up of a goods lorry in Wervik in 2009, where the lorry driver was assaulted with an electric shock weapon and left handcuffed and tied up by the neck.

Franco mass grave found in Jerez


It has been a local rumour for many years, that the El Marrufo estate in Jerez de la Frontera had been used to bury hundreds of people shot under Franco. The rumour was well known in nearby Cortes de la Frontera, Jimena de la Frontera and Ubrique. But the investigations made by archaeologists over the summer have confirmed the site, the size of ten football pitches, filled with bones and bullet casings. There were so many casings the archaeologists said they were like seeds, labelled ‘Piritécnica Sevilla 1936’. Jesús Román, one of the archaeologists working at the side says they think it could be ‘one of the largest mass graves away from an official cemetery, and think there are between 300 and 600 bodies present. The El Marrufo Estate was used as a detention, torture and execution centre, dealing with about ten people a day. Women and children as well as men were killed at the site.

Ferronats, a company formed by Spanish construction firm, Ferrovial and British air traffic controllers, Nats, has won 10 of the 13 tenders to run control towers at Spanish airports


Ferronats, a company formed by Spanish construction firm, Ferrovial and British air traffic controllers, Nats, has won 10 of the 13 tenders to run control towers at Spanish airports as AENA privatises 49% of the company. It will control Alicante, Valencia, Ibiza, Sabadell, Sevilla, Jerez, Melilla, Cuatro Vientos, Vigo and A Coruña. The remaining three towers on the Canary Islands at Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Palma have been awarded to the Sacerco company. AENA estimates savings of 46.6% as a result, with Ferronats bidding 70.4 million, and Sacerco bidding 20 million.

Iberia to launch new low cost airline next week


Iberia is planning to launch a new low cost airline next week. The Iberia board is expected to approve the project on Tuesday 4 October, to launch the low cost airline for the company’s short and medium distance services. The new airline is expected to take up 37 of the 69 A-320 aircraft the airline currently has in service. Iberia is now merged with British Airways to create the IAG, the International Airline Group, and the IAG board would have to ratify the decision on Thursday. Iberia has been holding talks with the pilots’ union SEPLA on the conditions for them in the new airline. The airline contends that it needs a structural reorganisation, but the union considers that all the flights should remain under the Iberia brand, and considers maintenance would be cheaper with a single company. An earlier leasing of six planes to Vueling, the budget airline with a 45.85% Iberia shareholding, proved unsuccessful with Iberia passengers complaining they were being put on Vueling flights. Five of those six planes are now back with Iberia. The expected name for the new airline, Iberia Express, was first mentioned back in October 2009.

Belgian couple spot the men who stole their car in Belgium on a Spanish beach


Sometimes it a very small world. A Belgian couple who had their car stolen at gunpoint in Belgium some months ago could not believe it when they recognised their attackers when on holiday in Alicante. They saw them on the beach in Guardamar, Alicante last Monday, and made no hesitation in calling the Spanish police. While they were waiting for the police to arrive, the couple found their own car parked nearby, and the owner decided to puncture the tyres to ensure that the thieves could not take it again. After the police arrived a search of the car revealed a simulated pistol. The two men, 47 year old L.J. and 20 year old G.C.D., were taken into custody and it’s now known that there was an international search and capture order in force against them. One of them has served time for serious sexual crimes against children. They have now both been passed to the National Court ahead of being extradited to Belgium.

Major heroin haul in Algeciras


The second largest ever haul of heroin in Spanish history has been seized at the port in Algeciras, from a container which was on route to the Ivory Coast from Pakistan. The consignment of heroin was found in three hundred cylinders, each weighing half a kilo, which had been hidden in the cargo of iron oxide powder. The Agencia Tributaria Tax Authority had tracked the container until it arrived at the port, where it was searched on Wednesday. There has been no announcement of any arrests in connection with the find as yet. Spain’s biggest ever haul of heroin was in Sitges, Cataluña, three years ago, where more than 300 kilos were seized.

Ex Ronda Mayor released on bail in corruption case


Antonio Marín Lara, the ex Socialist Mayor of Ronda who was amongst seven people arrested on Tuesday in an operation against alleged planning corruption, dubbed ‘Operación Acinipo’, has been released on 150,000 € bail. He was freed on Thursday after questioning by the judge and is charged with perversion of the course of justice, bribery, money laundering, misappropriation of public funds and influence peddling. It’s understood that he has 15 days to pay his bail. Marín Lara left the court in Ronda at around 5pm, five and a half hours after he arrived there under police escort. The six remaining suspects who were arrested on Tuesday have also been released from custody, but all have been charged. Two other people have been questioned at courts in Madrid and Valencia and face similar charges as the ex Mayor. The four Socialist councillors, including the ex-Mayor, among those arrested on Tuesday have now resigned from the PSOE party. The party had previously suspended the four.

29 Sep 2011

UK pressure group set up to help Spanish property victims


While there are similar groups already in existence in Spain, this group is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to raise awareness and pressure the UK Government and MEPs into taking action. Many thousands of Britons are believed to have bought property in Spain and through the actions of various levels of Spanish government, property developers and banks, find themselves unable to enjoy the rights to these properties. The Protection of Property Purchased in Europe (POPPIE) is run by husband and wife team Chris and Angela Beattie, who have first hand experience of the issues that surround buying in Spain. In 2004 they spent €150,000 on an off-plan Andalucian villa that was supposed to back onto a golf course, hotel and villa complex. After a building delay of two years, the house was finally built, although the surrounding complex was not. Due to the developer not having planning permission to build their home, they remain unconnected to mains water and electricity supply and are unable to sell the property.

26 Sep 2011

Irish expat charged with prostitutes' murder in Spain


The 42-year-old man, who is believed to be Irish, was arrested near his home in the resort of Mijas Costa, near Marbella on Spain's southern coast on Friday. The suspect's girlfriend and her mother were also being held over possible involvement in the serial slayings. Police suspect him of stabbing two prostitutes to death, the first in August and the second a month later. The killer was dubbed the "10 murderer" because both women were killed on the tenth of the month. The first woman, said to be 45 years old and of Argentine origin, was found dead in her apartment in the nearby resort of Calahonda. She had been stabbed at least 15 times and was found by her son with a pillowcase tied round her neck and a cushion over mouth. A month later police discovered the body of a 47-year-old Ecuadorian born woman at her home in San Pedro near Marbella. She had 12 stab wounds to her chest and neck. Both women reportedly advertised their services through local newspapers. Post mortem evidence suggested the two women shared the same killer. Police are investigating whether the suspect could be linked to other unsolved murders across Spain.

Blasts hit ex-home of Franco-era politician


A Spanish official says two homemade explosive devices detonated outside the childhood home of Manuel Fraga, the last surviving member of the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco. No one was hurt. An official with the Interior Ministry office in Lugo province in northwest Spain says Monday's blasts broke windows and damaged the facade of the house, which is being turned into a museum by the conservative Popular Party, which Fraga founded. The devices were composed of explosive power of the kind used to make fireworks and butane gas canisters used for camping stoves. The official said there was no immediate claim of responsibility. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules. Fraga is 88 and has a seat in the Senate.

Spanish police hold suspected 'Irish serial murderer'


SPANISH police were last night reported to be holding an Irishman on suspicion of stabbing two women to death in their Costa del Sol homes. Leading Spanish TV station Telecinco described the suspect as Irish. Last night speculation was mounting that detectives were treating him as a suspected serial killer and looking to link him to a series of other unsolved murders across the country. Detectives established a link between the deaths of two women reported to have worked as prostitutes advertising their services through papers. A 45-year-old Spanish woman of Argentine origin was found in her luxury apartment in the Costa del Sol resort of Calahonda on August 11. She had been stabbed 15 times. A month later, police discovered the body of a 47-year-old Ecuador-born woman at her rented home near Marbella. She had bled to death after being stabbed up to 12 times in her chest and neck. Secrecy Due to the investigating judge granting a secrecy order on the case, spokesmen from Spain's National Police and Civil Guard were unable to confirm the name and nationality of the suspect or discuss local media reports he had been carrying false ID when he was arrested. A spokesman for the National Police said: "I've seen the reports suggesting the suspect is Irish and I've also seen other newspaper reports he's from central Europe, but I cannot give you any details about the man who is in custody." His Moroccan girlfriend and her mother were also being held. The man being held in custody was arrested on Friday at a gym near his home in Riviera del Sol near Fuengirola. The block where he was arrested is just a stone's throw from the home of missing Amy Fitzpatrick's mum, Audrey. Police are believed to have arrested him after stolen credit cards belonging to one of the victims was used to withdraw cash from ATMs in the area.

25 Sep 2011

El Hierro prepares for a possible volcanic eruption


Canary Island of El Hierro is preparing for a possible volcanic eruption as the Canaries have lifted the alert level to yellow for the first time in the recent history of the archipelago following a group of ever-stronger earthquakes. Saturday night saw a 3.4 quake among a total of 48 seen over the weekend. The fear is that there could be a possible volcanic eruption on the island of El Hierro, but the Councillor for Security, María del Carmen Morales, called for calm. ‘These seismic movements are normal given that we are on a yellow alert and we have never seen a similar crisis’. She said that more movements were expected over the next few days given that the magma has been estimated to be active 15 kms below the surface. They estimate the possibility of a volcanic eruption to be 15%. Despite the low possibility the regional government are carrying out an information campaign in case evacuation of the island is needed. They say there will be plenty of time, in the case of an eruption, to evacuate the population to a safe place.

Canadian gold diggers look to Coruña


Canadian company, Edgewater Exploration, are to reopen an old gold mine in Coruña and say they will employ 100 people in Cabanas de Bergantiños in the efforts to extract a million ounces of the metal. An ounce of gold is currently 1,800 € on the market. The Las Médulas mines have a long and distinguished past, and were responsible for ten percent of the Roman empire, as 96,000 kilos of gold was taken over 250 years as the Romans used thousands of slaves to find the metal. The new gold fever is the first in the area for 2,000 years. Despite their advanced plans the company is still waiting for a licence to proceed from the Xunta de Galicia.

Two British swimmers cross the Strait


British swimmers, Edward Thedore Cox and Frazer Lloyd-Jones managed to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar on Saturday. A third Briton, Richard Woodrup Skelhorn, had to abandon his attempt halfway, being unable to keep up with the other two. The two successful swimmers, both aged 34, left La Isla de Tarifa at 0910 and arrived at Punta Almansa at 1357, helped by calm seas and weak westerly winds. A Moroccan police patrol inspected the documentation of the participants without any problem on their arrival on the Moroccan coast.

Arrested man admits to killings on the Costa del Sol


An alleged serial killer, who has been operating on the Costa del Sol and who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of two women, has been arrested. The crimes were on August 11 and September 10 in Calahonda and San Pedro de Alcántara, and in both cases the women had Spanish nationality but were of Latin American origin, and both were stabbed. Preliminary reports from the autopsies show certain similarities between the crimes. The 42 year old man, who has been revealed to be a foreigner although his nationality has not been announced, was arrested in Mijas, and the man’s mother and girlfriend have also been arrested to determine their possible implication in the crimes. The arrest took place on Friday night in a gymnasium near the suspect’s home in Urbanisation Riviera del Sol in Mijas Costa, and he was taken for questioning at the Fuengirola Civil Guard Barracks, while the two women were taken for questioning by the police in Marbella. The investigation was carried out jointly by the Guardia Civil and the National Police. They say that they cannot rule out other victims in other parts of Spain or in other countries, and they will continue to investigate over the next few days to try and establish if the suspect has taken part in other killings. On Saturday they said that the arrested man could have committed two more crimes, and believe that the tortures his victims before death. Latest reports indicate that he has admitted to the two crimes on the Costa del Sol.

Spain 'a Top Choice' For Those Thinking Of Moving Abroad


Spain has been named among the top five destinations that people would consider moving to if they were going to leave the UK, new research has found. A survey conducted by Post Office International Payments revealed that the European nation, which was the fourth most popular location named in the poll, was a possible choice for ten per cent of those questioned. The firm also pointed out that it was the highest-placed nation where English is not the first language. One of the top reasons given for buying a property in Spain or elsewhere in the world is the chance to have a better quality of life, while other reasons to move included warmer weather, discovering a new culture and the adventure of emigrating. Mortgage provider Conti published figures earlier this month showing that it has received seven per cent more enquiries about relocating to Spain so far in 2011 than last year. Overall, the country accounts for 31 per cent of all queries handled by the organisation, with only France garnering more interest.

23 Sep 2011

Costa del Sol’s oldest magazine shuts its doors


The Costa del Sol’s oldest magazine is reported to have closed down after running its final edition on Friday. The Friday-Ad – which continues to run a UK operation boasting over 1 million readers a week – had produced a Costa del Sol edition out of its Gibraltar offices since 1975. The reason behind the decision to close remains unclear. When the Olive Press attempted to contact the publication’s office, the number failed to connect. However, a member of staff in the UK office confirmed that it was their understanding that the Costa del Sol edition had closed. “As far as I am aware that was the plan (to close on Friday) but you will need to call back in 10 minutes to speak to someone who can confirm that,” she said.

Barcelona's last bullfight marks end of an era in Spain


When Spanish bullfighter Serafin Marin plunges his sword into the back of a bull's neck in Barcelona on Sunday, he will be marking the end of an era. The bull will not only be the last of six killed in the bullfight, but the last-ever to be killed in Barcelona's Monumental bullring, which is nearly a century old. The closure of the Monumental - in keeping with a bullfighting ban in the north-eastern region of Catalonia - reflects the decline of bullfighting in Spain, though fans of the country's 'national fiesta' vow to fight on. 'We have lost a battle, but not the war,' Marin told the daily El Mundo. But animal rights campaigner Aida Gascon said, 'Now that we have achieved (the end of bullfights) in Catalonia, we shall try to finish with them in the rest of Spain.' Catalonia, a wealthy region of 7.5 million people, has spearheaded the campaign against bullfights, or 'corridas,' in a country where animal rights activism is on the rise. The Catalan capital of Barcelona declared itself an 'anti-bullfight' city in 2004. Dozens of other municipalities followed suit, and finally in July 2010 the regional parliament outlawed bullfights from January 1, 2012. The Canary Islands had already done so in 1991, as part of a more general animal protection law, but that decision had gone largely unnoticed. The Catalan opposition to bullfights is explained not only by animal rights activism, but also by Catalan nationalism, many of whose representatives see 'corridas' as an expression of Spanishness. The region with separatist currents 'wants to eliminate everything that represents Spain,' Marin said. Bullfighting remains an important industry in Spain with an annual turnover of more than 2.5 billion euros (3.5 billion dollars), contributing to 0.25 per cent of gross domestic product. It provides direct employment to 200,000 people, including bullfighters, or 'toreros,' bull breeders, managers and others. Yet gradually the spectacle that once inspired artists and writers such as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway is losing its appeal. Only 37 per cent of Spaniards are interested in bullfights, while 60 per cent dislike them, according to a 2010 poll. 'Corridas' are least popular among young people. Animal rights campaigners see the event, in which darts are stuck into the back of the animal's neck before the 'torero' kills it with his sword, as torture. Some observers attribute the decline also to other causes, ranging from Spain's economic crisis to an alleged deterioration of the race of the Iberian 'brave bull.' Not only are bulls' horns 'shaved' to make them less dangerous, but they are also losing their fighting spirit, some bullfighting commentators complain. Another important reason for the decline of 'corridas' is their image as an old-fashioned form of entertainment. 'Young people do not choose an anachronistic spectacle,' anti-bullfight campaigner Helena Escoda said. Even Catalonia, however, has not outlawed other bull spectacles, such as bull runs. Some Spanish regions have come out in defence of the 'corrida,' describing it as a part of their cultural heritage. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government placed bullfights under the responsibility of the Culture Ministry, instead of the Interior Ministry. The opposition conservative People's Party, which is expected to win the November 20 parliamentary elections, has taken legal action against the Catalan bullfighting ban at the Constitutional Court. Catalan bullfighting enthusiasts have also collected 300,000 signatures in defence of the fiesta. Yet it is far from certain that such initiatives will stop what many see as an inevitable social development. Catalan bullfighters, in the meantime, are planning to face the bull elsewhere in Spain or in the south of France.

Spain fears pain as Ratón the killer bull prepares to enter ring for last time

Raton the bull at a festival in Sueca,near Valencia, Spain
Ratón the bull at a festival in Sueca, Spain. Photograph: Alberto Saiz/AP

It is the end of a long career, deemed venerable by those who admire Spanish fighting bulls.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the half-tonne 11-year-old killer bull known as Ratón, or Mouse, will feel a bullring's sand under his hooves and sniff the scent of commingled human adrenaline and fear for the last time.

Those who pay their €2.50 (£2.20) in Canals, eastern Spain, will witness the final chapter of a life spent chasing, and occasionally goring, people. Fans are expected to arrive from around the country.

Many will be secretly hoping Ratón, who has killed two and reportedly gored five others in his career, will draw blood at his valedictory outing in the small town near Valencia. A fiesta poster promises "a show with the presence of the famous Ratón" starting at 12.30am. It does not mention that Ratón killed a spectator in nearby Xátiva last month and another man in 2008.

Canals mayor, Ricardo Cardona, claims to have been unaware of Ratón's bloody past when hiring him. He has asked the bull's owner, Gregorio de Jesús, to prevent members of the public coming face to face with the beast.

Four professional recortadores, or bull-taunters, will instead dodge in front of him in the bullring, encouraging him to chase them over obstacles for up to half an hour.

"It is when someone jumps in spontaneously that things inevitably happen," De Jesús said this month.

Police and security staff will try to prevent enthusiastic amateurs jumping into the ring with Spain's most infamous bull.

The future of Ratón, who is past retirement age, remains uncertain. De Jesús wants to clone the bull but is waiting to hear if he will receive local government funds to pay for it.



22 Sep 2011

Europe leaves Bulgaria, Romania out in Schengen cold


Europe left Bulgaria and Romania out in the cold Thursday, when Finland and the Netherlands blocked their entry into the passport-free Schengen travel area. The Dutch and the Finns refused to let them in, at a meeting of EU interior ministers dogged by concerns about illegal migration, citing poor progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime. "Two member states today made it impossible for us to make a decision on Schengen enlargement," Polish Interior Minister Jerzy Miller, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, lamented after the talks. "This leads me to a rather sad conclusion regarding mutual trust among the member states," Miller added, saying Bulgaria and Romania were promised a place in Schengen when they joined the European Union in 2007. "Today the promise has been broken," he said, adding that Romania and Bulgaria had made "huge progress." But the Dutch and Finnish governments disagreed. "What we wanted to avoid was to take a decision today that we would later regret," said Dutch Immigration Minister Gerd Leers. "Imagine you have a door with eight of the best locks in the world. But before that door is standing someone who lets everybody in -- then you have a problem," he said. The ministers did not vote, sending a decision to an EU summit in October, but the Dutch minister said his government was unlikely to change its mind. Schengen's enlargement requires unanimous consent. Poland sought to convince EU peers to accept a two-step solution that would allow Romanian and Bulgarian air and sea borders to open by October 31, while a date on opening land borders would be put off to next year. All nations backed the compromise except for the two opponents, diplomats said. "We don't have complete confidence that these countries will be able to secure outer EU borders because of corruption, among other issues," said Finnish Interior Minister Paeivi Raesaenen. Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told national radio that Finland and the Netherlands "presented abstract arguments" against the bids and were "isolated compared to other EU members." Schengen, an area stretching from Portugal to Poland, through which road, rail and even air travellers need only basic identity papers to move freely, has come under growing strain this year over fears about illegal migration. Greece's struggle to police its porous border with Turkey, fears that the Arab revolutions could unleash a wave of boatpeople, and rising populism in some nations have sparked calls for a shake-up of the whole system. Romania has accused the Dutch centre-right government of being held hostage to the far-right. The Dutch centre-right government rules with the backing of Geert Wilders' far-right Freedom Party (PVV). In Finland, the far-right True Finns made major gains in recent elections. After the Dutch indicated their likely stance in advance of Thursday's talks, Romanian border authorities this week blocked Dutch trucks carrying tulips from the Netherlands -- officially over a bacteria scare. Romanian daily Adevarul linked the move to the Schengen dispute, calling it the "war of the flowers." The trucks were finally allowed into Romania on Thursday.

French court fines women for wearing veils


France's fines on women for wearing the full-face covering niqab veil, imposed for the first time by a court on Thursday, are a "travesty of justice," Amnesty International says. Police have issued several on-the-spot fines since the ban came into force in April but the hearing saw the first two court-issued fines, and the Muslim women vowed to appeal their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. "This is a travesty of justice and a day of shame for France. These women are being punished for wearing what they want," Amnesty International's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia John Dalhuisen said in a statement. Advertisement: Story continues below "Instead of protecting women's rights, this ban violates their freedom of expression and religion." The court in the northern cheese-making town of Meaux ordered Hind Ahmas, 32, to pay a 120 ($A163) fine, while Najate Nait Ali, 36, was fined 80 euros. It did not order them to take a citizenship course, as the prosecutor had wanted. The women were arrested when they brought a birthday cake for local mayor and lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope, who is head of President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party that pushed through Europe's first anti-burqa law. France is not the only country to try to ban the Muslim full-face veil - Belgium and some Italian cities have similar laws, while other countries are planning to follow suit - so a European ruling could have broad effect. French officials estimate that only around 2,000 women, from a total Muslim population estimated at between four and six million, wear the full-face veils traditionally worn in parts of the Arab world and South Asia. Many Muslims and rights activists say the right-wing president is targeting one of France's most vulnerable groups to signal to anti-immigration voters that he shares their fear that Islam is a threat to French culture.

Spanish consumers have appetite for grass-fed lamb


Spanish consumers have rated English Quality Standard grass-fed lamb highly in blind taste tests carried out by Eblex. Consumers at three different Spanish locations with a tradition of high lamb consumption rated English lamb equally to Spanish lamb, with no clear preference between the two. It is hoped the research, carried out with 476 people in Catalunia, Aragon and Extremadura, will encourage more Spanish buyers to consider fast-growing breeds of lamb reared on rain-fed pastures, which they have traditionally shunned out of a perception that it has too strong a taste compared to their milder, grain-fed domestically produced lamb. Jean-Pierre Garnier, Eblex head of export services, said: “Traditionally, we have faced a wall with some Mediterranean countries, particularly in Spain, who believe the lamb produced in northern Europe is not to the liking of their palate. They have a preference for their own grain-fed lamb.   “This has been a real barrier to trade, but something we felt was based on historic perception rather than people actually tasting the difference, so we put this to the test.” Consumers were asked to rate the lamb on tenderness, juiciness, flavour and overall acceptability. A small majority (51%) of the tasters in Catalonia and Aragon preferred the English lamb, while a small majority in Extremadura (58%) preferred the Spanish lamb, suggesting that there was no real preference between the two. “This really does show that the Spanish consumer has an appetite for grass-fed lamb and we hope this will encourage more Spanish importers to look to buy from countries like England that use this system,” added Garnier.

21 Sep 2011

Bullfighting to end in Spain's Catalonia,


Bullfighting fans will shout "Ole" for the last time in Barcelona's Monumental bullring on Sunday before a ban on the sport takes effect across the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. The regional legislature banned the centuries-old tradition -- which pits a sword-wielding matador in a skin-tight shiny suit and red cape against an enraged bull -- last year after Catalans signed a petition against it. The bullfighting industry is still convinced it has a chance to overturn the ban and bring back the "toros" next season to Catalonia, the only mainland region in Spain that has blocked the sport -- or the art as its fans see it. "I think the politicians will think twice about the ban and bullfighting will live on. And thank God because Catalonia has plenty of serious bullfighting fans and in a democratic country they should be able to go to a bullfight," said Moises Fraile, 64, owner of El Pilar, the breeder supplying bulls for Sunday's spectacle. Some 20,000 spectators are expected to fill a sold-out Monumental -- the only bullring still operating in Catalonia -- for Sunday's blockbuster corrida starring celebrated Madrid "torero" Jose Tomas. Tomas retired in 2002, but came back in 2007 at a bullfight in Monumental, his favorite ring. Since then he has made sporadic appearances and is the only bullfighter who can still sell out Monumental.

Celebrity Cruises Taps Top Chef to Join Culinary Team


Known for its culinary leadership and commitment to offering guests a modern, luxurious experience during their precious vacation time, Celebrity Cruises has expanded its already robust culinary talent by naming 2010 James Beard Foundation "Rising Star Chef" nominee and 2007 "Rising Star Chef of American Cuisine" John Suley as its director of Culinary Operations. Tapped by Celebrity's charismatic Vice President of Culinary Operations Jacques Van Staden – himself a James Beard-nominated Master Chef – Suley is widely regarded as one of the country's top "up and coming" chefs. Prior to joining Celebrity, he worked in the star-studded, international dining scene as executive chef at the South Florida incarnation of three-time James Beard honoree Alfred Portale's famed "Gotham Bar & Grill" (New York), "Gotham Steak" at the chic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. Suley's wealth of experience also includes work at the Ritz Carlton-South Beach, the Waldorf Astoria and St. Regis hotels, and with many of the world's most accomplished chefs, including Daniel Boulud, and Celebrity's Van Staden himself, at some of the finest restaurants in the dining mecca of Las Vegas. Suley is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. At Celebrity, Suley joins Van Staden in leading the line's continuing quest to achieve the highest levels of consistency, quality and innovation in the culinary experience. "John Suley is known for his edgy and innovative cooking style, and is a genuinely unique chef," said Van Staden, "Having known him for 12 years, and observing the amazing contributions he made during the recent debut of our newest Solstice Class ship, Celebrity Silhouette, I am confident he will be an inspirational and creative leader within Celebrity's innovative culinary team, and will make tremendous contributions as we continue to prove to vacationers around the world that we can treat them to a dining experience that is easily comparable to the best on land." About Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises' iconic "X" is the mark of modern luxury, with its cool, contemporary design and warm spaces; dining experiences where the design of the venues is as important as the cuisine; and the amazing service that only Celebrity can provide, all created to provide an unmatchable experience for vacationers' precious time. Celebrity sails to Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Bermuda, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal, South America, and year-round in the Galapagos Islands. Celebrity also offers immersive cruisetour experiences in Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Europe and South America.

IMF cuts growth forecast for UK for 2011 and 2012


The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecasts for the UK, in a report warning that the global economy is in a "dangerous new phase". UK gross domestic product is predicted to grow 1.1% in 2011, down from the 1.5% forecast in the IMF's previous World Economic Outlook report in June. The growth forecast for 2012 has been slashed from 2.3% to 1.6%. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK had the "discipline and determination" to tackle its deficit. But shadow chancellor Ed Balls called them "deeply concerning forecasts for both the UK and world economy". Independent economists are currently forecasting average UK growth of 1.3% in 2011, slower than the IMF, and 2% in 2012, ahead of the IMF figure. The IMF's UK forecast for 2011 falls behind projections for Germany, France, the US and Canada. Germany is forecast to grow 2.7% in 2011 while France is expected to show 1.7% growth. The US should advance 1.5% and Canada 2.1%. However, UK growth in 2012 should surpass both Germany and France, whose forecasts have been cut to 1.3% and 1.4% respectively. A spokesman for the Treasury said the Government remains committed to its deficit cutting plan. He said: "It is welcome that the IMF have forecast that the UK will grow more strongly than Germany, France and the euro-zone next year. "But it is clear that the UK is not immune to what is going on in our biggest export markets, with every major economy seeing lower forecasts for growth this year and next. "The Government remains committed to implementing the deficit reduction plan which has delivered stability, a policy stance that Christine Lagarde described as 'appropriate' earlier this month." Mrs Lagarde, head of the IMF, said the UK's budget deficit stance remained "appropriate" but "the heightened risk" meant a need for a "heightened readiness to respond".

Debt Crisis Infects Companies via Bank Loan Costs


Banks in Spain and Italy are curbing loans and charging customers more as aftershocks from the sovereign debt crisis drive their own borrowing cost higher. “They can’t lend what they don’t have, I suppose,” said Francesc Elias, the owner of Bomba Elias, a pumps and filters maker near Barcelona, which shelved a 100,000-euro ($144,000) plan to open a Bahrain office when it couldn’t get an affordable bank loan. “The banks are very clever about finding new ways to charge us more.” Spanish and Italian government bond yields surged to euro- era records this quarter as Greece struggled to avoid default, driving the cost of insuring against nonpayment by the region’s banks to a record and making it harder for them to sell bonds. Spain pays 5.35 percent for 10-year money, up from an average of 4.07 percent in the first half of 2010, while Italy pays 5.65 percent compared with a 4.05 percent average last year. As a result, banks such as Banco Santander SA, Spain’s biggest lender, are passing higher funding costs on to their customers. Santander’s return on Spanish loans rose to 3.63 percent in June from 3.37 percent in December, as the yield it pays on deposits fell to 1.32 percent from 1.54 percent. UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest lender, said on Aug. 3 it’s being more selective about who it lends to and levying higher rates. One out of three companies asking for credit in the second quarter period didn’t get it or obtained less than they asked for, according to Confcommercio, an Italian retailers’ lobby group. ‘Increasingly Stringent’ “The cost of financing our current activities has increased significantly,” said Riccardo Illy, chairman of Italian coffee maker Gruppo Illy SpA. “We don’t have any problems accessing credit because we’re large enough, but we know many businesses that are having trouble because banks’ requirements have become increasingly stringent.” Spanish banks including Santander and Bankia SA are shrinking their loan books after being pummeled by a collapse in credit demand for real-estate and surging loan defaults. Santander’s Spanish lending shrank an annual 7 percent through June, mirroring a trend in the Bank of Spain’s data that show a 1.9 percent annual drop in lending to companies and individuals. Lending at Bankia, the third-biggest lender formed from a merger of seven savings banks, was down 2.3 percent from December. The average interest rate on new company loans of as much as 1 million euros rose to 4.70 percent in July from 4.57 percent in June and 3.88 percent in December, according to the Bank of Spain. Companies took out 15.9 billion euros of those loans in July, down from 18.7 billion euros in the same month a year ago and 39.2 billion euros in July 2007, according to the central bank. ‘The Bottom Line’ “In our case, it’s not so much the issue of access to credit that’s the problem, it’s the fact that it costs more,” said Luis Zapatero, chairman of Bodegas Riojanas, a Spanish winemaker, which needs to finance putting wine aside to create reserve vintages that may not go on sale until several years after bottling. “Our financial costs have increased 15 percent and that goes straight to the bottom line.” Banks face a dilemma when trying to pass on increased funding costs in full because they risk driving more borrowers into default, said Barclays Capital’s Pascual. Bad loans in the Spanish banking system are near 7 percent of total lending, the highest since 1995. Increased Caution “Banks are more cautious in giving long-term loans because it has become more difficult to transfer increasing funding costs to customers,” said Giovanni Bossi, chief executive officer of Banca Ifis SpA, an Italian bank specializing in short-term loans to companies. As lending slides in Spain and banks struggle to finance themselves, the outlook for growth is worsening, said Antonio Ramirez, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods in London. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Sept. 14 that Spain might miss its 1.3 percent growth target this year because of the “situation of financial tension and economic uncertainty, mainly because of Greece.” Banks, meantime, are struggling to sell bonds. The last benchmark-sized issue of 1 billion euros or more of debt by a Spanish bank was a sale of public-sector covered bonds by Santander in June. UniCredit paid a record spread for Italian covered bonds when it raised 1 billion euros from a sale of 10- year notes that yielded 215 basis points more than the benchmark mid-swap rate. ‘Negative Feedback Loop’ “It’s the negative feedback loop between what’s happening to the sovereign and the effect on banks and the economy,” said Antonio Garcia Pascual, chief southern European economist at Barclays Capital in London. “To a large extent, the problems facing Spanish lenders also apply to Italy.” As financing costs rise in Italy, analysts have started revising down their growth estimates for that country. Nomura International Plc economists revised their Italian gross domestic product growth estimate for 2012 last month to 0.5 percent from 0.8 percent previously. “The increased financial costs will become more evident in the dynamics of the economy,” said Giada Giani, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in London. “I definitely think that the deterioration of financial conditions is a key factor in the macro-economic picture.” A survey by Spain’s national statistics institute published in May showed that one in every four companies that sought loans in 2010 failed in the attempt, compared with 10 percent in 2007. Half of the companies surveyed said they’d been able to line up the credit needed, compared with 80 percent in 2007, according to the survey. Meanwhile, Spanish banks are also demanding higher fees from customers, Bank of Spain data show. The average six-month charge for a retail customer current account jumped 15 percent to 25.80 euros at the end of August from 22.36 euros in December, according to the regulator. “There’s a double effect because commissions have also increased dramatically,” said Elias, the owner of the pumps and filter maker, who has cut his workforce to 12 from 20 in the past year. “It affects any kind of investment plan.”

20 Sep 2011

Spanish schools hit by strike over staffing cuts


Thousands of public school teachers went on strike Tuesday in Madrid to protest staff cuts as anger over government austerity measures spread to Spain's education system. The work stoppage in some 300 schools is to last at least two days and perhaps three, and teachers elsewhere in the country also plan strikes or protests this month against budget cuts. Teachers say education should be spared as Spain tightens its belt to resurrect its economy, allay fears it might need an international bailout and reinvent itself for the future with a modern, educated workforce after the collapse of an economy fueled largely by a real estate bubble. "We are on strike to improve state education. It is not true that we are on strike because we have to work more. The timetable is the same as we had last year. What we want is better conditions for public teaching," Pilar Hortal, a 57-year-old English teacher standing at a picket line in Madrid, told The Associated Press. The teachers' branch of the UGT union said 65 percent of the teachers in Madrid were honoring the strike and up to 85 percent in outlying areas. The Madrid regional government put the overall figure much lower, about 43 percent. Education in Spain is in fact largely run by regional governments, many of which are debt-laden. The one in Madrid hopes to save €80 million ($110 million) with staffing cuts. It and the others making budget cuts are mostly run by the conservative Popular Party. The central government of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which has enacted austerity measures of its own, opposes education cuts. The strike's immediate trigger was an order from the Madrid regional government forcing teachers to give two extra hours of classwork per week. Their actual work week remains unchanged at 37.5 hours. Unions say the extra classroom hours mean several thousand backup or temporary teachers will not be hired this year. Teachers will have less time to prepare classes or meet with students and parents, and can't use auxiliary colleagues to break big classes up into smaller groups. Unions say some teachers are being assigned to teach subjects they know nothing about. Spain, meanwhile, easily raised €4.45 billion ($6 billion) in an auction of short-term debt, although higher borrowing rates reflected investor worries over the impact of Europe's debt crisis. The Treasury had wanted to sell between €3.5 billion and €4.5 billion in the auction. It sold €3.59 billion in 12-month bills at an average interest rate of 3.59 percent, up from 3.34 percent at the Aug. 16 auction. Demand outstripped the amount actually sold by a ratio of 2.8. Spain also sold €870 million ($1.2 million) in 18-month bills at an average yield of 3.8 percent, compared with 3.59 percent on Aug. 16. The oversubscription rate was 2.7.

Georgia jets out ... just as Calum arrives here


GEORGIA Salpa was flying out to Marbella today to get over Calum Best -- just as the infamous bad boy was landing in Ireland for the week. The half-Greek model is taking some time out from the spotlight and relaxing with her Celebrity Salon co-star Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace. A source said Georgia (26) really needed this break to clear her head. "Georgia needs to take time to sort her head out and finally decide what she wants," the source said. "Georgia will be staying in Spain for about a week. At the same time Calum is in Dublin for a few days doing some promotions so thankfully there will be no awkward meetings." Even though it looks like the top model is looking to start afresh, a close pal says going to Marbella may bring back some old memories of her relationship with Calum. "The last time she holidayed in Marbella she bumped into Calum, it was right after they filmed Celebrity Salon, so the visit might stir up some old memories. Either way she needs some time to relax in the sun." Rift This isn't the first time AR model Georgia has jetted out of the country after a break-up. Last year the model headed to Spain with pals Daniella Moyles, Leah O'Reilly and Emily Mackeogh when she split with DJ Barry O'Brien. This was the same trip that apparently caused a rift between Georgia and her former best pal Nadia Forde.

Charlie Sheen to pocket $25 million from settlement over ‘Men’ firing

Charlie Sheen to pocket $25 million from settlement over ‘Men’ firing   	Washington: Looks like Charlie Sheen is close to settling his 100-million-dollars legal dispute with Warner Bros. over his firing from the hit sitcom ‘Two and a Half Men’.



A person familiar with the talks, has revealed that the studio is wrapping up a deal to end the litigation.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Sheen is expected to receive about 25 million dollars from the Hollywood studio. The figure represents Sheen’s participation in profits from the show.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Warner Bros. denied there is a settlement and declined to comment further. 


Strong dollar and low inflation make UAE expats a happier lot


The global economy may not be giving out the brightest of signals (don’t even look towards Europe), but expatriates in the UAE are keeping their fingers crossed as a stronger US dollar – to which the UAE dirham has a fixed peg – and a low inflation rate, thanks to declining rents, are heralding a feel-good factor they’d all but forgotten in the past few years. The US dollar has gained significant momentum in the past few months, and has led to the UAE dirham appreciate in tandem against currencies in which expats remit money home, leading to welcome monthly savings by expats. At Rs13.11 at 9.30am this morning, the Indian rupee, for instance, is trading at a two-year low against the dirham (the INR last traded at the same level against the UAE dirham in late September 2009). The Pakistani Rupee (PKR), on the other hand, is at an all-time low against the dirham, with Dh1 fetching as many as PKR23.9 as of Tuesday. The British pound, too, has lost ground against the US dollar – in effect, against the UAE dirham – and is currently trading at AED5.78 for £1, a level not seen since mid-January this year. Similarly, the Philippines Peso is trading at PHP11.90 vs Dh1, its lowest level since mid-March this year. Rental relief While the strong US dollar implies that expats with fixed monthly commitments back home – be it mortgage payments or family sustenance allowances – are making incremental savings on their remittances, what is really adding to their bank balance is perhaps the lower annual rental payments, which have declined substantially over the past two years. From the crazy days of early 2008, rents in the UAE – though still high compared to other property markets at a similar stage of development – have declined by 50 to 60 per cent in certain cases. With a vast majority of UAE expats living in rented accommodation, this has led to a substantial boost to their finances while at the same time pushing down debt levels in the country. Banking on growth According to UAE Central Bank statistics, bank deposits rose to an all-time record of Dh1.126 trillion in the first half of 2011, compared with Dh985.4b in the first half of 2010 – a growth of 17 per cent year-on-year. At the same time, overall bank lending (including loans to businesses) are witnessing a slowdown too, with loans and advances by banks up just 3 per cent in the same 12-month period. On the other hand, personal loans availed of by residents inched up by less than 1 per cent during the same period, from Dh245.6b in June 2010 to Dh248b in June 2011 – indicating that we are saving more and borrowing less now. Spending vs saving While this may bode well for the residents in the short-term, Keynesian economics suggests excessive saving, i.e. saving beyond planned investment, is a serious problem, encouraging recession or even depression. According to experts, excessive saving results if investment falls, perhaps due to falling consumer confidence and/or demand, over-investment in earlier years, or pessimistic business expectations, and if saving does not immediately fall in step, the economy declines, or stops growing. Saving in effect means not spending all of one’s income. Thus, it means insufficient demand for business output, unless it is balanced by other sources of demand, such as fixed investment – a recurring savings account or a fixed deposit in a bank, for instance. While such an account is ‘savings’ for one person, it gives the bank the freedom to lend the same money to another individual or a company for business purposes, plugging liquidity back into the general economy, which boosts growth. But in case of a lack of borrowing demand – as seems to be the case now – excessive saving corresponds to an unwanted accumulation of inventories, or what classical economists called a general glut. This glut in inventory eventually leads businesses to decrease production and then employment levels, leading to a fall in household income levels, and the beginning of a new recessionary cycle. A number of residents who saw their friends or friends of friends lose jobs or generally get into financial trouble in the recent past with the economic slowdown went into auto-savings mode – fearing the worst, they downsized their expenses and started saving for the rainy day. They became prudent in their expenditure. But at some point in their savings spree, prudent became paranoid – weekly grocery shopping bills began being overanalysed (did we really need the room freshener?); in some cases, non-working spouses returned to their home countries along with the kids to avail of complimentary (or at least less expensive) schooling there, and working individuals shifted to smaller accommodations, further cutting down on rents. But with things improving (incrementally and relatively), it may be time to stop being ‘paranoid’ and start being ‘prudent’ about your finances again. We are certainly not suggesting that you start splurging now in a bid to boost the overall economy – far from it – but do relax those purse-strings a little bit to once again enjoy some of the things that money can buy.

Spanish banks hit by spike in bad loans


Bad loans from Spanish banks, a major source of concern to financial markets, rose in July to the highest level in 16 years at nearly seven per cent, the Bank of Spain said on Monday. Bank loans whose recovery is in doubt amounted to 124.7 billion euros ($A166.5 billion), or 6.94 per cent of total assets, in July, the central bank said in a report - the highest ratio since February 1995. That compares to a revised bad loan ratio in June of 6.69 per cent. The central bank had previously said the bad loan ratio was 6.42 per cent that month. Advertisement: Story continues below Bad loans at Spanish lenders, especially its regional savings banks which account for half of all lending, have risen steadily since the collapse of the property sector at the end of 2008. The bad loan ratio at Spanish banks stood at 3.37 per cent at the end of 2008. Earlier this month Spain's struggling Caja Mediterraneo, under state control since July, reported a bad loan ratio of 19 per cent, fuelling concerns about the state of balance sheets across the banking sector. The financial health of Spanish banks is at the heart of market fears that Spain could follow the example of Ireland, Greece and Portugal in seeking a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The government and Bank of Spain have forced a wave of consolidation in the sector this year and are requiring banks to quickly increase the proportion of core capital they hold to above international norms. In July, Moody's threatened to lower the ratings of four Spanish banks, including the euro zone's largest, Santander, as well as the country's confederation of savings banks. The three other banks concerned are BBVA, CaixaBank and La Caixa.

18 Sep 2011

Roche threatens to stop supplying Spanish hospitals


multinational pharmaceutical company, Roche, has warned Spain that it may stop supplying its products to Spanish hospitals and clinics. It comes as the company has stopped supplying medicines to Greek hospitals because of the debt they are owed, and that say that what they are owed by some regional administrations in Spain is ‘at the limit’. CEO of the company, Severin Schwan, made the revelation to the New York Times, and El País then asked Roche España for comments. The response was ‘As is happening in other countries, the crisis situation and the debt in Spain is significant and some regional administrations are at their limit’. Regions such as Castilla y León are now paying medical suppliers after two years, but Roche reports delays of 900 days are now happening, while Andalucía, Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha has an average payment time of more than 600 days.

Moroccan cops seize Scot caught with £500k of cannabis resin


holidaymaker is being held in a hell-hole Moroccan jail after being caught in a camper van with £500,000 of hashish. Daniel Healy, 66, was arrested last week as he tried to drive across the border from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The police discovered the 100kg stash of cannabis resin hidden in aluminium boxes stashed in a water tank. Since then, Healy – who is from Glasgow – has spent six nights in the violent and cramped Tetouan prison. Friend Graham Boszormenyi, 46, claimed that Healy was unaware of the hidden drugs. Ex-Royal Navy submariner Graham said: “Daniel is a good friend of mine and I know that he had no knowledge of what he was carrying. “I spoke to him a couple of days ago and he said he plans to plead guilty because he’s been told he’ll only get one year. “But I know the system in Morocco and I don’t believe it for a minute. “I’ve been through this before. Twice they’ve had me in Morocco and I think he could end up getting four to six years – and he’s too old for that. “He’s in the worst prison possible, where there are 60 people in a cell with one shared toilet. “He’s a harmless old man who is known by lots of people around the world. He’s a noisy drunk but he’s not any kind of criminal. “I know the people who are behind this and I think they will help by coming forward to the UK authorities and telling them that he knew nothing about it. “I have spoken to his family in Scotland and they are understandably very worried. “He has been sucker-punched. He had no idea that these people had just used him. It’s backfired on everyone, especially him. “He was travelling under a different name, John McLeish. I don’t know why. He’s due to be tried on Tuesday.” Healy was driving the Spanish- registered camper van when he was stopped on the border between Morocco and Ceuta. He had been expected to get a ferry from Ceuta across the Mediterranean to the Spanish city of Algeciras. Healy’s daughter Siobhan is a celebrated glass artist with a studio in Glasgow’s Dennistoun. The 34-year-old – whose clients include the Scottish government, the BBC and many councils – said: “I don’t know anything about this. “It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing my dad would be involved in.” Officials from the British embassy are expected to make the 215-mile trip from the Moroccan capital Rabat to offer Healy assistance. A US state department report on Moroccan jail conditions said: “They generally did not meet international standards. “Prisons were overcrowded, resulting in poor hygienic conditions and are prone to violence.” A Moroccan police spokesman said: “We arrested a Scottish man and he is now in prison. We can’t tell you anything else.” A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the arrest of a British national in Morocco."

17 Sep 2011

Saudi prince's wife denies Spain rape allegations


The wife of billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal denied Saturday claims her husband raped a model on a yacht in Spain in 2008, saying she was with him in France when the alleged crime took place. "I was with my husband outside of Spain the day these allegations took place in Ibiza," Amira al-Taweel was quoted as saying by the prince's chief of staff, Kholud al-Dussari. "Quite simply we were not there. We were together in the French city of Cannes. I was with him all the time, and we were with at least 30 people," she said. "Hundreds of witnesses can confirm that we were in Cannes, just as there are dozens of proofs that we were not in Ibiza in 2008." A Spanish court has reopened a probe into the allegations, according to a ruling seen by AFP on Wednesday. Prince Alwaleed is a nephew of King Abdullah and one of world's richest men. He is being asked to respond to a complaint of sexual assault against him in August 2008 by a model who was 20 at the time. In a statement, Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding Co. denied the allegations and said he only heard of them on Tuesday. "These allegations are completely and utterly false. The alleged encounter simply never happened. Indeed, the events could not have happened," said the statement published on the company's website. A judge on the Balearic island of Ibiza ordered the case closed in May 2010 for lack of evidence. But a provincial court overturned that ruling on May 24 and a court in Ibiza on July 27 reopened the proceedings to formally request assistance from the Saudi authorities to take a statement from the prince. The prince, 56, has holdings in Citibank and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Forbes magazine lists him as the 26th richest person in the world with assets of $19.6 billion (14.4 billion euros).

Mijas Fire NOT arson Bonfire


BONFIRE not been properly extinguished near a stream in Entrerrios, Mijas, was the cause of the wildfire which started on Sunday (12th September) night destroying a vast stretch of land. This was the conclusion reached by the regional government’s fire investigation unit, Brigada de Investigacion de Incendios Forestales, on Monday (12th September). Remedios Martel, from the Junta de Andalucia, dismissed rumours suggesting the fire was an act of arson. Five homes were damaged, two of which were completely destroyed by the fire. But witnesses say minor damage has affected several other houses in urbanizations including El Soto de Marbella, Elviria, set in a UNESCO designated nature reserve.   Jan Mansi, former president of Phase 2 at El Soto de Marbella Urbanization described the landscape after the fire as “a skeleton of what it was.” “People mainly come to live in the area for the greenery,” she said. But residents at El Soto should consider themselves very lucky, she said, as the flames spread to just metres from the properties. The blaze affected 6.8 million square metres of in Mijas, Ojen and Marbella – the equivalent of 958 football pitches – according to Infoca, the regional fire department. Around 300 properties were evacuated in these areas but occupants were able to return to their properties on Monday. Twenty five patients at a drug rehabilitation centre in Mijas were also evacuated after the staff were told by Guardia Civil they were at risk due to strong winds, according to Paloma Alonso from the facility. They spent the night at the Las Lagunas sports centre being allowed to return on Monday afternoon. The fire was brought under control at 9am Tuesday, and declared completely extinguished at 10pm. Five hundred people participated in the effort to extinguish the blaze, as well as 11 fire engines, and 22 planes and helicopters. This is the biggest fire in Mijas since 2001 when a car blaze led to a wildfire that affected 700 hectares of land.

Torremolinos shooter pushed wife off Eiffel Tower


THE man, 79, accused of killing another in Torremolinos town centre served time for pushing his wife off the Eiffel Tower in 1963, according to a Spanish daily. He was 31 at the time, she was 28, and they had emigrated to France and were working in a factory on the outskirts of Paris. Although he denied the accusations, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Last week he was arrested for shooting a man of the same age outside the Entreplazas office building in Torremolinos and has since remanded to prison without bail. Apparently some years ago the victim wanted to sell an apartment and spoke to the other man who found him a buyer, although the transaction did not go ahead at the time, but later, in 2006. The shooter asked for commission and although the victim gave him some money, the attacker wanted €12,000, and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007 for stabbing the buyer. He was released in January 2009 and began to threaten the victim, who reported him to the police last month. When he was caught by police after the shooting he claimed that a bag containing the weapon which he was carrying was not his.

THE seventh edition of the Marbella Classic poker series was won last weekend by a visitor from the beautiful Emerald Isle, Mr Thomas O’Shea.


THE seventh edition of the Marbella Classic poker series was won last weekend by a visitor from the beautiful Emerald Isle, Mr Thomas O’Shea. A highly delighted Thomas picked up a very handy €11,500 for his troubles after beating some of the local poker pros into submission, including last year’s series winner Julian Galan, Miguel Cortijo, Marco Palazon and the very charismatic Pedro ‘El grande’, Spain’s answer to super Mario. Congratulations must also go out to former Marbella Mob Poker founder member Sir Nigel Goldman. In his first European Poker Tour event two weeks ago in Barcelona, he managed to secure his expenses and a little bit more by getting a very respectable 66th place from a record starting field of 817. A nice cheque from the casino for €12k and a jolly decent stay in the fabulous Arts Hotel were just what the doctor ordered. Well done Sir N. Closer to home, the local games are just throwing up amazing hand over amazing hand. Not quite as dramatic as the back to back straight flushes a couple of weeks ago, but none the less very remarkable. How would you feel if you flopped quad tens only to have the monster overturned by a royal flush? Pretty sick eh, actually this is the second time in less than a week that poor Gary has come up against the 650,000 to 1 shot as last week his full house got done by the Royal flush of clubs. Last night his quads got beaten by a royal flush in, guess what? Clubs again!! To specifically hit a royal flush in clubs is a 2,598,960 to 1 chance. He had better buy his lottery ticket now as he’s got more chance of hitting the jackpot than what’s happened to him.

Des O'Connor is in Marbella topping up his tan.

Des O'Connor is in Marbella topping up his tan. He’s only been here two days, but already he’s an improbable shade of mahogany. 

‘Look at this,’ he says, flashing a generous glimpse of sun-burnished chest.

‘I only have to look at a travel brochure and I go brown. My neighbours see me and say: “Here he comes, the Singing Tan”.’ 

'My wife has mentioned having another baby. But it would be a bit selfish of me at my age, even though I'm in reasonably good nick,' said Des O'Connor

'My wife has mentioned having another baby. But it would be a bit selfish of me at my age, even though I'm in reasonably good nick,' said Des O'Connor

Here we have the measure of Des, 79, one of the nation’s best-loved entertainers: his capacity for self-mockery is matched by an irrepressible facility for fun. 

Inducing laughter in others is a compulsion. And in a world where vulgarity and foul-mouthed parody pass as comedy, Des’s brand of humour is remorselessly clean.

He’s never said a word worse than ‘piddle’ during an act. He doesn’t go in for gratuitous insults. Once he made an unkind joke against Christine Hamilton, wife of the ex-Tory MP Neil, and felt so bad about it after he resolved never to be hurtful towards anyone again. 

Yet when his old friend Eric Morecambe routinely disparaged him on the Morecambe And Wise Show, he joined in the laughter. Each week, there would be a fresh assault on his voice.

Super Heavy: Mick Jagger's motley crew


What can the Rolling Stones, Eurythmics and the blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire possibly have in common? More than you think -- at least that's the bet behind Super Heavy, a five-strong supergroup fronted by Mick Jagger whose new album comes out Monday. Five stars from the worlds of rock, soul, pop, reggae and world music -- Jagger, Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, soulwoman Joss Stone, Bob Marley's youngest son Damian and AR Rahman who scored the "Slumdog" soundtrack -- have brought their eclectic styles together for the occasion. The motley make-up of Jagger's new supergroup, the term used when musicians team up on the model of Cream in the 1960s or Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, has raised some eyebrows in music circles. But Jagger insists the resulting album -- titled simply Super Heavy -- is "not all weird". Super Heavy was the brainchild of Dave Stewart, who said he was inspired by the mish mash of sounds he heard wafting through the window of his home above Saint Ann's Bay in Jamaica. "It's kind of the jungle, and sometimes I'd hear three sound systems all playing different things. I always love that, along with Indian orchestras," Stewart told Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year. "I said to Mick, ?How could we make a fusion?'" A few phone calls later and plans for the troupe -- who together claim 11 Grammy Awards -- were in the works, with a first jam session held in Los Angeles six months on, in early 2010. "We didn't know what the hell we were doing," said the Eurythmics founder and co-writer of such 1980s hits as "Sweet Dreams" and "Talking to an Angel". "We were just jamming and making a noise. It was like when a band first starts up in your garage. We might have a 22 minute jam, and it would become a six minute song." Jagger -- who plays the guitar and harmonica as well as singing on the album -- has warned it is "a different kind of record than what people would expect." "It's not all weird and strange though," he told Rolling Stone of the result, a concentrate of musical styles drawn from around the planet. The rhythms and vocals of Damian Marley, who has worked with some of the top names in US hip-hop, leave a strong mark, along with AR Rahman's Bollywood-tinged melodies, some of them sung in Urdu. Joss Stone's deep voice adds a touch of glamour and emotion, while Mick's own performance is Jagger to the hilt. The first single off the album, "Miracle Worker," went on sale online on July 7 and the AZ record label, part of the Universal music group, releases the full album worldwide on Monday. The idea of a supergroup stems back to the 1960s when Cream brought together Eric Clapton of the Yardbirds, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce of the Graham Bond Organisation in 1966 -- becoming a rock monument in its own right. Two years on, David Crosby of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of The Hollies split from their bands and reformed as Crosby, Stills and Nash, producing its now-classic vocal harmonies and folk guitar, sometimes with Neil Young. Less of a hit despite an A-list cast, the Traveling Wilburys was set up in 1988 by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, US rockers Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra. The supergroup trend has resurfaced in recent years, spurred in part by the globe-trotting tastes of Blur frontman Damon Albarn, the creative mind behind both the Gorillaz music project and the 2007 supergroup album "The Good the bad and the Queen." Jack White of The White Stripes also helped found two supergroups in the past decade, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. And in 2009, Them Crooked Vultures brought together rock legend Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and the multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin fame.

16 Sep 2011

Saudi Arabia: Pretty Maids From Morocco Seen as Threat


Back in early September, the recruitment committee of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry announced that recruitment companies would be established and will be licensed to bring in housemaids from Morocco, East Asia and South Africa. The move has caused outrage in unusual places. The reason for this recruitment move, according to a Saudi chamber official, was that they were turning to Morocco and other countries to get its domestic workers following a dispute with the Philippines and Indonesia, the largest suppliers of housemaids to the Gulf countries. The dispute has centered on pay and conditions, but Indonesia had earlier this year also criticized the Saudi government for beheading an Indonesian maid. Of the 1.2 million Indonesians working in Saudi Arabia, over 70% are domestic helpers. The ban on maids from Indonesia and the Philippines hit Saudi households hard, causing many to resort to hiring illegal maids over Ramadan. The Saudis are reliant on foreign workers to perform their household tasks for them and very few Saudi women will work in such menial positions despite high unemployment, as they would be looked down on by other Saudis. The ban came into effect following the two countries attempts to introduce regulations for the work conditions of their nationals. Trade Arabia said both countries demanded better working conditions for their employees. Saudi walked away from the negotiations abruptly and decided to look for domestic employees from countries such as Morocco who they perceive as not as concerned about imposing regulations to protect their workers. It also became clear that lower rates of pay could be offered to other nationals. Right from the beginning the scheme ran into problems in respect to recruiting maids from Morocco. The recruitment committee said that the immediate employment of Moroccan maids could prove an issue as there were no official recruitment offices in Morocco to process the papers of prospective domestic helps. It was suggested that there could be a way around the problem with Saudi citizens being given work visas to bring housemaids from Morocco on their own. The whole issue of Saudi maids has been at the centre of international protests for years, especially in regard to exploitation, sexual harassment and torturing of foreign housemaids. The notion that individual Saudi's could fly to Morocco and find a young woman and take her back to Saudi, is truly worrying and will, no doubt, offend our readers. The chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, warned Saudi citizens against contacting any offices claiming to be able to send housemaids from Morocco to the Kingdom. "They are all fake. You should not heed the false claims of these fake offices." he warned prospective employers. The spokesman of the Labor Ministry, Hattab Al-Anzi, said the recruitment offices would grant citizens work visas for housemaids from Morocco. "It is now the responsibility of the citizen to look for authorized private recruitment offices to bring workers from Morocco," he said. Then, suddenly, the plan to import maids from Morocco ran into even more problems. Those fighting to stop the "maid-trade" got support from an unlikely source - Saudi women. They objected to the importing of Moroccan girls, not because they didn't think they would work hard, or that they were against the exploitation of young foreign women. No - it was because they thought the Moroccan women were too beautiful. At first it sounded like a sick joke, but the Saudi women were serious.     "Many Saudi woman have objected to plans to import domestic workers from Morocco…they say the Moroccan women are beautiful and this will cause continuous anxiety and concern in Saudi families,” - 'Sharq' Daily It is a relatively rare for the voices of Saudi women to be raised in protest. This year there have been notable exceptions as some women protested for the right to drive, whilst others demanded the right to vote. Now they have another common cause - to ban female domestic maids from Morocco. It started slowly, but over a few days the protests grew to the point where the Saudi women inundated the government with complaints that Moroccan women are just too beautiful and may lure their husbands away. According to the website Emirates 24 the Shura Council was “deluged by demands from Saudi women” "Moroccan women are so attractive that their husbands could easily fall for them…others said Moroccans are good at magic and sorcery and that this could enable them to lure their husbands.” - 'Sharq' Daily If the women of Saudi Arabia fail to stop this "maid-trade" then it is imperative that the Moroccan government scrutinize the contracts and conditions of every maid taken to Saudi. They should also take steps to educate Saudi women to understand that while Moroccan women may be beautiful, they are not dangerous.

15 Sep 2011

British man arrested in Martorell facing paedophile charges


British man has been arrested in Martorell, near Barcelona, accused to taking photographs of and abusing youngsters in the locality. The complaint against him was made by a shop owner who saw how the man was taking photographs of his children in his shop. Closed circuit television in the shop confirmed the behaviour of the suspect who visited the shop every day and who told the children how to pose, including showing their underwear. The shop owner also alleges that touching took place. The 54 year old Briton has not been named in reports, but is said to live in Burjassot, Valencia, and faces charges of involvement in child pornography and also the sexual abuse of children, according to the regional police, Los Mossos d’Esquadra. They found some 40,000 paedophile archives on the man’s computer at his home and the suspect is being held in prison ahead of appearing in court

Boxer Scott Harrison released from Spanish jail


SHAMED Scottish boxer Scott Harrison is a free man after being released from a Costa del Sol prison. Harrison, 34, walked free from the notorious Botafuego jail near Algeciras after serving two and a half years for assaulting a policeman, and factory worker Jose Manuel Ortega in 2006. The former WBO title holder was jailed in 2009 for the assault – which took place in Alhaurin el Grande – but could still face extra jail time for another alleged attack in a Costa del Sol brothel in May 2007. He and cousins David McGill, 37, and Edward McGill, 39, were accused of battering bar boss Rafael Sainz Maza, 31, with Harrison facing three counts of assault. Following his release on Saturday, the Glaswegian spent time with his family at an apartment in Estepona’s Albayt Resort before strolling along Bermuda Beach with his fiancee Stacey Gardner, 27, and two-year-old son Jack. The father-of-three returned to the UK on Sunday, flying from Gibraltar in a possible bid to avoid the Spanish airport authorities. In 2009, Harrison told the Olive Press of his determination to rebuild his career once he was released. “I can tell you now that Scott Harrison will be back. I want to repay the fans for the faith they have shown in me,” he said. “I have never been so focussed and determined in my entire life. Being locked up helps develop that. “I’ll have a clean slate – a new start and the determination to show everyone I’m back.”

solutions to the expat Spanish property scandal


Entering the Andalucian property market is like entering a minefield. Some will emerge unscathed and others will step on the unexploded bomb. There is no reliable map to guide you. The tripwire for the unlucky is a poorly-policed system for urban planning and land management, which has resulted in an estimated 300,000 illegal buildings in this region of Spain alone. The consequences of owning an illegal property are many and varied, ranging from unexpected and expensive urbanisation costs to land grab, court proceedings, fines, denial of access to basic services or in the worst case scenario, demolition of your property. Since the problem emerged over a decade ago, the regional government has made efforts to cauterize the wound. It has introduced new regulations which attempt to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. However, it has thus far failed to effectively tackle the stockpile of illegal housing which continues to stink up the market place. Its latest legal manoeuvre, a draft decree, describes a complex, sometimes ambiguous, lengthy and expensive solution which fails to bring any immediate relief to those facing demolition or denied access to basic services. More decisive action is required in my view. The market demands it and the homeowners desperately need it. As president of AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora, NO), an association of some 700 British homeowners who have become trapped in this mess, I have a fairly detailed perspective on the problem and its possible solutions. I believe that the following should be done. Change the law The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be returned or ignored. The regional government must create a complete and up-to-date legal framework to deal with illegal constructions. This requires changes to the planning laws, rather than clarification of its finer details via various decrees. For example, current planning law does not recognise the existence of a house in the countryside unless it is associated with farming or is more than 25 years old. This does not conform to the needs of rural communities, the demands of the market or the current reality of homes in the countryside. Current planning law does not permit the segregation of a rural parcel of land to create a building plot. In reality, such parcels exist in large numbers, and must be dealt with to solve pressing problems with title to land and the property on it. Introduce interim measures Realistically, a properly-ordered solution will take years to implement. In the meantime, prosecutors are obligated to seek demolition of illegal properties and service providers are obligated to deny access to basic services such as electricity and water, creating untenable situations for the homeowner. Interim legal measures are required whilst fair and just solutions are put in place. Remove planning powers from small town councils In my experience small councils lack the funding and the technical expertise to prepare complicated town plans. There is also the frequently irresistible temptation to rezone the land of friends and family as lucrative building land at the expense of the wider community. A centralised function would create economies of scale and be more impartial. Act decisively against illegal construction It is easy to find examples of continued illegal construction. There are less than 50 planning inspectors in Andalucia for a land mass of 33,694 square miles. The complicated intermingling of politics, business, wealth and favours in small Spanish towns makes it unlikely that such activities will be reported. Citizens alerting the authorities to illegal construction need a means to protect their anonymity. Compensate Create a fund to compensate those whose homes have been demolished through failings in the system rather than any wrongdoing on the part of the unsuspecting homeowners. Divert money from marketing campaigns for this purpose. It will do more good. The government of Andalucia has complete control over planning matters within its borders. This gives them the power to amend the law to solve the problem. One can only hope that they heed the demand for change not only from Spanish nationals who are similarly affected and who will have their say in the coming elections, but also from the thousands of foreign homeowners who were encouraged to settle here only for their investment to be wiped out and their dreams shattered. If Spain wishes to remain the premier choice for European retirees and to bring in much needed new investment, it needs to make changes that will offer the security demanded by purchasers. If it continues to ignore the mistakes of the past or papers over the cracks with piecemeal legislation, consumers and the property industry as a whole will continue to be badly served.

Fitch downgrades five Spanish regions


Fitch Ratings has downgraded the credit of five Spanish regions, including the powerhouse of Catalonia, warning they will struggle to cut deficits in a weak economy. The red ink running through the accounts of Spain's regional governments is a major concern for the markets, which fear it could compromise the central government's goal to cut the annual public deficit. Fitch cut the ratings of Catalonia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Murcia and Valencia a week after official figures showed most regions missed their deficit targets for the first half of 2011.  Lower credit ratings tend to make it more expensive to borrow on the debt market. Fitch also kept the long-term outlooks on all of them at "negative." The budget deficit for the 17 regions amounted to 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product in the six months, already nearly reaching the full-year target of 1.3 per cent, the government said last week. "Fitch Ratings has downgraded five Spanish regions following a comprehensive review," the credit rating agency said in a statement. "The downgrades reflect the sharp fiscal deterioration seen in recent years which has led to sharp increases in debt levels." The agency said it believed the regions would take all possible steps to cut spending but it expected the weak economic recovery would limit any growth in their revenue. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero tipped economic growth in the third quarter of this year would be "similar" to the 0.2 per cent quarterly rate recorded in the second quarter. Uncertainty because of the Greek debt crisis could impact that prediction, he warned. "Fitch is of the opinion that considerable efforts will still need to be undertaken by the regions, particularly in the area of cost control, to ensure adherence to the established limits," the agency said. Fitch said it expected that most regions would be able to break even on their annual budgets by 2013 given a renewed focus on spending cuts. "Nonetheless, the negative outlooks reflect the still difficult fiscal and economic environment and the execution risks in implementing some of the cost cutting measures announced," it said. Fitch trimmed the rating for Andalusia and the Canary Islands by one notch each to A-plus from AA-minus; Catalonia and Valencia by one notch each to A-minus; and Murcia by two notches to A. The overall accumulated debt in the 17 Spanish regions, 121 billion euros ($161.34 billion), is also a concern. Deepest in debt are Valencia, with a debt equal to 17.4 per cent of GDP, and Catalonia at 17.2 per cent. Spain is seeking to slash the total public deficit to 6 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of 2011 from 9.2 per cent in 2010. It aims to reach the EU-agreed ceiling of 3.0 per cent by 2013.

Expat fraud suspects arrested in Spanish mountain retreat


According to Spanish local media, police estimate that the couple, known as John and Amanda Treagust, may have netted up to £150,000 by advertising bogus Spanish rental properties, complete with pictures, on their website, Costa Blanca Live. Up to 60 holidaymakers, including Britons, French, Portuguese, Italians and Belgians, are alleged to have fallen for the scam and paid upfront for properties that weren't, in reality, available for rent, or had been rented out to multiple people. The pair ran a blog entitled Life on the Costa Blanca, and boasted of growing their business from a "small project" in 2007 to "a busy and bustling company.....with over five thousand properties managed directly by us, meaning you have the peace of mind that should anything go wrong, or should you have any concerns, we are here to help." Amanda Treagust, referred to as the company's commercial director, is described on the blog as "never resting until her clients are settled into that perfect property and are enjoying the Spanish lifestyle she has come to love and adore". The Treagusts were arrested at a small property in the mountains of Mojacar, Almeria, after an eight-month police operation following an initial complaint lodged back in February. Originally from the Chorley area of Lancashire, John Treagust used to run the Last Orders pub in Wallagate, Wigan. On the pub's Facebook page, created by Treagust, he says: "I had three happy years there, now running a property business in Spain." An online forum about the couple's business dates back to March 2009 and has been inundated with 23 pages of comment, containing more than 200 threads. One comment, posted on August 20 this year, read: "13 girls put down a deposit for a hen weekend away in a villa in Los Balcones also and were informed two days before that the villa was double-booked. As it was a special occasion we have to find somewhere else very quickly and pay the additional fees. "We have still not received any money back and are still chasing. We all want to take action and stop others suffering in the same way." Spanish police were unable to comment on the ongoing investigation.

14 Sep 2011

Thief who swallowed diamond is caught on X-ray


The theft happened when two British women entered a restaurant in the luxury southern resort of Marbella and one of them left her handbag on the floor by her chair, police said in a statement. "Two well-dressed men came in, one sitting at the bar and the other next to the woman," it said. When the men left, the woman discovered that her handbag, containing 2,000 euros (£1,700) and £400 cash, a mobile phone, a pendant with a diamond worth 12,000 euros (£10,400) and other valuables, had disappeared. Hours later, police stopped a car at a routine checkpoint and found the four occupants had criminal records. Inside the vehicle they also discovered a handbag as well as valuables and cash, which they later identified as belonging to the British woman. All that was missing was the diamond. "During the operation, officers noticed one of the men putting his hand to his mouth," police said. "This gesture and the fact that they had found the pendant without the diamond made the police think he may have swallowed it. "To find the stone, those arrested were taken to a medical center where they underwent X-rays, and the diamond was located inside the stomach of one of them, who admitted swallowing it."

Duchess 'is no trendsetter' say NY fashionistas


While her closely-watched outfit choices may send clothes flying off the shelves in Britain, fashionistas in the Big Apple say no one would look at her twice on the streets of Manhattan. Related articles Duchess of Cambridge: Stylish Kate combines sartorial flair with patriotic diplomacy Duchess of Cambridge expected to fuel sales of £5 face cream Kate Middleton turns to the high street for her engagement photograph outfits One style guru at New York fashion week suggested that it was only because of her fame as a royal that people are interested in what she wears. Elle fashion news director Anne Slowey told the Daily Mail: "Is she a style icon of the likes of a Kate Moss? Absolutely not. Is she in the public eye? Are people going to become obsessed with everything she wears regardless of what it is? Yes." Gregg Andrews, a fashion director at leading US department store chain Nordstrom, said: "She is stylish but she's not setting trends, she's following trends. "If you take Kate out of the Royal Family, put her on a street in New York, you wouldn't look at her twice. She's a beautiful woman, but she blends into a crowd." On a positive note, however, fashion writer Jill Martin predicted that the Duchess's wedding dress, by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, would be a style followed by many brides next spring. The 29-year-old royal has won plaudits in the UK for mixing high street and designer looks and her public appearances in various outfits have seen sales rocket.

For Long Sweet Life


Whether for its unique taste, it versatility when used for cooking or its antioxidant phenolic compounds, maple syrup is a local product that is greatly appreciated and that never ceases to amaze. Maple syrup has already begun its interesting breakthrough with the international scientific community, and consumers everywhere, especially in Japan, are widely interested in the product. Indeed, the Japanese, always on the lookout for natural foods that play a role in disease prevention, love 100% pure maple syrup from Canada and are particularly interested in its various benefits. Dr. Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences led a study that showed that maple syrup could promote a healthier liver. The study established that healthy laboratory rats fed a diet in which some of the carbohydrate was replaced with 100% pure maple syrup from Canada yielded significantly better results in liver function tests than the control groups fed a diet with a syrup mix1 containing a similar sugar content as maple syrup but without the beneficial compounds of maple syrup. The results will be published in the November, 2011 issue of “Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry.” Although most healthy individuals take liver function for granted, liver health is of great importance because of the hundreds of vital functions it performs that are essential to human life, which include storing energy (glycogen) and regulating blood glucose, the production of certain amino acids (building blocks of protein) and filtering harmful substances from the blood. According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, there are over 100 liver diseases affecting approximately one out of ten Canadians, including men, women and children. These health diseases show up most often in middle aged people who are overweight, have abnormal blood lipids and diabetes or insulin resistance—conditions when grouped together, are known as metabolic syndrome. “It is important to understand the factors leading to impaired liver function– our lifestyle choices including poor diet, stress and lack of exercise, as well as exposure to environmental pollutants,” says Dr. Melissa Palmer, clinical professor and medical director of hepatology at New York University Plainview. “The preliminary results of this research are encouraging and emphasize the importance of choosing a healthy diet to help counteract the lifestyle and environmental factors that may impact liver function, even our choice of a sweetener. In addition to Dr. Abe’s recent findings, published research suggests that 100% pure maple syrup may prove to be a better choice of sweetener because it was found to be rich in polyphenolic antioxidants and contains vitamins and minerals,” notes Palmer . The animals were evaluated using the latest analytical methods including gene expression profiling called nutrigenomics. In the study, rats were fed diets consisting of 20% pure maple syrup, or 20% syrup mixture with similar sugar content as maple syrup but without the beneficial compounds of maple syrup. After 11 days, the rats on the maple syrup diet showed significantly decreased levels of liver enzymes AST, ALT and LDH in the blood, standard biomarkers for evaluating liver function. The gene expression profiling observations suggest a mechanism whereby the maple syrup diet caused genes involved in the production of harmful ammonia in the liver to down-regulate, that is, to be less active. “This research contributes to our growing understanding of the incredible health potential of maple syrup,” remarked Serge Beaulieu, President of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. “We learned previously that maple syrup contains antioxidant compounds that may actually help regulate glucose metabolism and increase insulin release, possibly aiding in the management of type 2 diabetes. And now, Dr. Abe is exploring the relationship between maple syrup consumption and liver health. Her current findings give us even more reason to enjoy our maple syrup.”


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