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29 Feb 2012

The economic disaster that heavily indebted Spain has found itself in is clearly a consequence of Spain joining the euro


The economic disaster that heavily indebted Spain has found itself in is clearly a consequence of Spain joining the euro, insists economist Dr. Manuel Balmaseda. When Spain joined the euro, the EU Central Bank settled overly low interest rates, resulting in Spain receiving “enormous amounts of credit which increased Spanish indebtedness, particularly foreign”. Cheap money created financial bubbles, for instance in real estate. When the 2008 economic crisis came, the bubbles burst, many companies went bankrupt and the whole overheated economy blew up, explains the professor. Madrid now needs more flexibility to curb deficit as the EU introduces new rules on budget discipline. Spain appears to have become the first country to test them. Madrid is desperately trying to negotiate a higher 2012 fiscal deficit target than that set by the European Commission. The austerity measures taken by the new conservative government of the eurozone's fourth largest economy will bear no fruit, believes Dr. Balmaseda, “because the problem is in the euro.” “There are great expectations that a new government is going to arrange the problem,” the professor says, stressing that the honeymoon of the Spaniards with the new government will not last for more than six to nine months. Dr. Manuel Balmaseda, Professor at the ICAI School of Engineering, is certain that the futures of Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy lie outside the eurozone. He also believes that the countries remaining in the eurozone will not be very happy without their breakaway partners. Exit from the eurozone would mean a default for Spain, which is unacceptable for French and German banks that hold up to half of Madrid’s €900 billion foreign debt. These banks are interested in returning the money, whatever the cost for Spaniards. The professor believes that leaving the eurozone does not necessarily mean leaving the EU. “Nobody would chase Spain out of the EU,” he says. Dr. Manuel Balmaseda believes that the eurozone crisis is not just caused by governmental overspending. “The origin of the problem is the euro, the lack of competitiveness that the euro brought to Spain”. Spain is following the path of Greece with a two-year delay, believes the professor, because more austerity measures and further cuts of public spending are only pushing countries like Greece and Spain deeper into recession.

Bailed Kyle Thain and James Harris return from Spain


Two men from Essex accused of attempted murder in Spain have returned to England. Kyle Thain, 24, and James Harris, 29, had been in Spain for the past seven months after being accused of attacking two men in an Alicante bar in July 2011. The pair, both from Southend, were held in a Spanish prison for four months without charge. They have now been allowed to return to England on strict bail conditions. Mr Harris returned to the UK on Tuesday and his friend Mr Thain arrived at Stansted Airport on Wednesday evening. New lawyer As part of the conditions of their return to the UK, both men must sign in at the Spanish consulate in London twice a month. Speaking before her son Mr Thain's arrival, Sharon Harris, said: "I am so excited and nervous at the same time. "I still can't believe it. I won't be happy until I've got my arms around him at the airport." Both men have protested their innocence and have said they can prove they were elsewhere at the time of the attack. They were released from jail in November and given their passports back after each paid £6,000 in bail, but were told they could not leave the country. A new lawyer has now negotiated their return home. Pablo Sebastian, a Spanish lawyer working in Alicante with offices in Hadleigh in Essex, has been helping the boys' families secure their release. "We are very relieved to have them home," he said. "It is an improvement because they are back with their friends, family and at their jobs." 'Lives disrupted' Mr Sebastian said the men's "impeccable behaviour" while on bail in Spain had persuaded the Spanish judge to allow them back to the UK. It is thought the men's families have paid about £25,000 to cover travel, accommodation and legal costs since the pair were arrested. The men must now wait to hear if they must return to Spain for a trial. Richard Howitt, MEP for the East of England, is now calling for a change in European law to ensure minimum standards of justice across all member states. "The idea they have been several months in prison, outside the country and suffered such a huge financial loss is unacceptable," he said. "If we had a system whereby you respect and uphold each other's system of justice, then Kyle and James could have come home seven months ago. "But their lives have been totally disrupted, as have their families', which is why we need better standards of judicial co-operation at European level."

Mercadona Rocked As Own Label Linked To Canine Deaths


Mercadona is in the middle of a public relations disaster after its ‘Compy’ own label dog food brand was linked to the deaths of several pets across Spain, after having caused kidney failure in the animals. . The deaths were initially recorded by pet owners in Andalucia, Murcia and Alicante, but new reports have claimed that similar cases have been found along the Costa del Sol. Several pet owners insisted that the deaths were caused after their pets ate the own label product, and following intense pressure, Mercadona has removed two variants of the ‘Compy’ range from select stores. The chain said it is now studying whether there indeed is a connection between the product and the deaths. It would not comment on whether the problem was caused by a recent shift in packaging of the product from tins to cartons. Mercadona added: “At this stage we have only removed the product as a precaution and we are waiting for the results of the analysis. We do not know with any certainty if the food is to blame”.

28 Feb 2012

Spanish government will try and secure the 'gold on the Rock'


With the Odyssey gold back in Spain, the Spanish keep referring to more gold that remained in Gibraltar. It is being reported in Spain that the Spanish government will try and secure the 'gold on the Rock' through what they term a European order. They say that although Gibraltar likes to play a dual role, it is in fact part of the UK and thus Madrid is knocking on the UK's door to get them to urge Gibraltar to hand over the gold. Bilateral talks are said to be taking place. It is said that there are 59 artefacts still in Gibraltar, apparently stored by Odyssey. A Spanish heritage official was critical of the way the Oddysey gold left for the USA via Gibraltar,which is a joint sovereignty airport, adding that it was far from being dignified. This happened in 2007, a year after the signing of the Cordoba Agreement. The British Embassy in Madrid has confirmed that it is in touch with the Spanish foeign ministry, saying it was not clear if part of the consignment was in Gibraltar. Two military planes laden with 17 tons of silver and gold coins from a Spanish warship that sank during a 1804 gunbattle with the British is now back in Spain. It followed a 5-year legal battle between the Spanish and the American Odyssey company. On Thursday the Peruvian government made an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to block transfer of the treasure to give it more time to lodge its claim as the rightful owner of the gold. Peru says the gold and silver was mined, refined and minted in that country, which at the time was part of the Spanish empire. But the appeal obviously arrived too late, as the gold was flown to Madrid by the two Spanish military aircraft.

Tarragona village wants to grow marihuana to get out of the recession


village in Tarragona has come up with a way to beat the recession. They propose to plant marihuana. A smokers’ club in the village of Rasquera and say the plantation would create jobs. They say they will not sell it, rather it will be for the use of the club members and also for ‘therapeutic ends’. A cannabis association in Barcelona that uses the drug for therapeutic reasons has offered to pay 36,000 € to the club and sign a deal with the Town Hall, and then promises to pay 550,000 € a year each July for the land rental, legal and judicial costs, and security which make up the project, noting the Town Hall won’t have to pay a penny. For now the local Town Hall is to hold a meeting and vote on Wednesday to decide on what to do; they have requested a report to see if the idea is legal or not. The Mayor of Rasquera, Bernat Pellisa, told the EFE news agency that they are studying the proposal which he said was ‘developed and an opportunity, and certainly not frivolous’. There are about 1,000 inhabitants in the village, and while they admit they could never have imagined it, the crisis is such they say they are prepared to grow whatever is needed.

Renounce your British Citizenship?

Britain ignores its citizens who live abroad. James Preston, a businessman in Spain angrily declares he will renounce his British citizenship. Yet he feels sick at feeling forced to do so. Why does he do it? He is denied representation at Westminster (the vote!) because he has lived outside of Britain for more than 15 years. He has fought before the High Court his demand to be represented as a Citizen in the British seat of power – the Parliament at Westminster. His case and his appeal have been rejected. James Preston resents having the door slammed in his face. Britain denies him the basic democratic right of representation. He writes “We have concluded, therefore, that the contract between the State and my wife and I – the citizens – has been broken. We moved to Spain, an EU country, to represent British interests and find work, and not continue to claim unemployment benefit.” James Preston in his despair, intends to renounce his British citizenship and take out Spanish citizenship. Britain, in this, acts as a dictator State which regards the citizen abroad as ‘subjects’ and not as free people with democratic rights. The Government of Britain will not listen to the citizens abroad but still expects their obedience to the laws of Britain. These are strong words but are they not true? James Preston, is undoubtedly proud of his British (English) Ancestry which he can trace back for over 400 years. He left Britain in 1995. He was then unemployed but found work with a British company in Madrid, and has worked for British companies ever since. He stills considers his soul is British, but in Spain you cannot hold dual citizenship. Because Britain will not grant him representation in Parliament he therefore feels that he has no alternative but to turn his back on Britain. But still the clammy mechanical claw of British bureaucracy might well hold claim on his estate at his death. British Tax Law could still claim to his dying day that he is ‘domiciled in Britain’, because it says he will retain his British domicile of birth! You may think this outrageous and you are right to think so. It is difficult to cut yourself loose from the British State if you are born British. The fact that his children are educated in Britain, and extraordinarily, the very fact that he has taken a case before the High Court in London to claim the right to vote displays in the eyes of the Revenue his ‘attachment’ to Britain. It is incredible but true that for these reasons the estate he leaves could well be subject to taxation by the British State, even though he would die a Spanish citizen. Mr. Preston also tells me that his children do not have full British Citizenship but are considered as 'Spanish of British descent' because they were born in Spain. If they had been born in the UK they would be fully British. If they then marry British spouses and have children born outside of Britain, his grandchildren would not be British citizens at all. But if they were born in the UK they would be British. It is a crazy stupid mixed up world. It is the last straw that, after having been insultingly refused the right to Representation, Britain could still claim a pound (£) of ‘flesh’. It beggars belief that Britain, claiming to lead the world in Democracy so treats its own citizens who dare to live abroad. It cannot desire, can it, that every British Citizen living abroad should renounce their citizenship? Should not Britain be proud of us who live abroad? To our neighbours we are the image of Britain. Why are we ignored by our own country? We want to be ambassadors for Britain, but Britain does not want us – except perhaps our money.

Prison and no bail for Moroccan man who planned to poison tourist complexes in Spain

37 year old Moroccan man who was arrested in La Línea de la Concepción because of alleged links to Al Qaeda has been ordered to prison without bail. Police now believe that Abdellatif Aoulad Chilba, who is married to a Spanish woman, was planning to poison the water in tourist complexes in the area. It has been revealed that a phone call he made to his wife, who lives in Girona, on the 12th of this month, sounded as if it was a goodbye. National Court judge, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has charged him with belonging to a terrorist organisation and for conspiracy to carry out a terrorist act. The Moroccan had expressed his wish to carry out such an attack against the ‘infidels’ in several internet forums which were also being used to recruit new members for different Islamic cells. It was on one such forum that he asked for the formula for a mortal venom. One person responded with how to produce a botulism toxin.

Spain and Morocco to establish joint police stations in Tangiers and Algeciras


Spain and Morocco have agreed to open joint commissioners’ offices in Tangiers and Algeciras from May. The interior ministers from both countries gave the announcement on Tuesday in Rabat. Jorge Fernández Díaz and his Moroccan counterpart, Mohand Lanser, did little detail about the composition of these ‘centres of police cooperation’. Morocco is the first country outside the EU with which Spain has come to such an arrangement. There are already similar offices established with France and Portugal. The talks between the interior ministers today centred on illegal immigration, organised crime and drug trafficking. Fernández Díaz underlined the ‘support’ of the Spanish Government for the process of ‘political and democratic reforms which are being brought in by King Mohamed VI’ in Morocco, and described them as ‘an example for the Arab world and many other countries’.

Four members of 'Anonymous' arrested in Spain


National Police has arrested four members of the Anonymous collective in Spain as part of an international operation against cyber-crime. Two of them are currently in prison thought to be behind DDos attacks, and the other two have been released. They are allegedly linked to attacks on the UPyD webpage, as well as for revealing personal data from the GEOS security personnel. A man known as ‘Thunder’ or ‘Pacotron’ was F.J.B.D. arrested in Málaga, J.M.L.G. known as ‘Troy’ was arrested in Madrid, J.I.P.S was also arrested in Madrid with a 16 year old close collaborator, J.M.L.G. thought to be part of the international hacking group known as ‘Sector 404’. 25 computers have been impounded along with hard discs and other storage devices, following four searches in Spain and these are now being analysed. The case has resulted in two servers being blocked in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic and has developed with the help of Interpol.

Search for a lorry driver after man and his niece are found dead in Zafra

The Guardia Civil are searching for a lorry driver following a double homicide in Zafra, which they consider was the settling of scores. The family of the man shot dead, a businessman Manuel Borallo, along with his niece, Verónica Gordillo, say that the crime could have been committed by a lorry driver from Algeciras whose whereabouts are now unknown. It’s thought however that he could have been in Zafra when the crime was committed in an industrial estate on Monday. The dead businessman had denounced the lorry driver to the Guardia Civil previously for using his company’s name without permission and also for using lorries with no ITV test or insurance. It seems the lorry driver had travelled to Zafra on Monday to ask for explanations. The only thing the family know is they were talking by phone with the niece, Veronica, when some bangs were heard and the line went dead. They say the last thing she said was she had to go because the man had come to see the papers. An autopsy is being carried out on the two bodies in the Anatomic Forensic Institute in Badajoz.

27 Feb 2012

Son-in-law of King Juan Carlos of Spain admits he defied orders in corruption trial


The Duke of Palma, the husband of the King's youngest daughter Cristina, appeared in court in Majorca over the weekend, subpoenaed to give evidence in a case that has turned the spotlight on Spain's royal family. The Duke, a former Olympic handball medallist who received the title when he married in 1997, has stirred latent antimonarchist sentiments in Spain with the suggestion that he used his royal influence to feather his own nest. The Duke, 44, is implicated in a case that alleges the embezzlement of public funds through the Noos Institute, a non-profit organisation that arranged sporting and cultural events for the regional governments of Valencia and the Balearics, and which the Duke was chairman of between 2002 to 2006. Prosecutors believe up to 5.8 million euros could have misappropriated and have uncovered evidence of funds being squirrelled away to offshore accounts in Belize, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. Under intense questioning the Duke conceded the King had ordered him to stand down as chairman of the Noos Institute in 2006, shortly after questions were raised over a 1.2 million euro (£1m) contract from the Balearic government.

Sacha Baron Cohen pulls Oscar stunt for The Dictator


Sacha Baron Cohen was escorted off the Oscars red carpet after a publicity stunt for his new film, The Dictator. The British comedian arrived in character as a middle eastern leader and claimed to be carrying the ashes of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. In an interview with US TV host Ryan Seacrest, he said it was Kim's dying wish "to be sprinkled over the red carpet and over Halle Berry's chest". He then tipped the urn over the host, covering his tuxedo in white dust. Baron Cohen, who is known for outrageous publicity stunts in films like Borat and Bruno, was bundled off the red carpet by security guards. Turning to the camera, Seacrest said: "Anything can happen and it most certainly did, all over my lapel.'' Baron Cohen's film is expected to be released in March. He was invited to the Oscars as a cast member of Martin Scorsese's multiple award nominee Hugo. There had been reports during the week that he had been forbidden to attend the ceremony after asking to arrive in character as Admiral General Aladeen - which the Academy denied. In response, the comedian posted a statement to General Aladeen's Twitter account. "VICTORY IS OURS! Today the Mighty Nation of Wadiya triumphed over the Zionist snakes of Hollywood. "Evil and all those who made Satan their protector were vanquished and driven into the Pacific Sea. What I am trying to say here is that the Academy have surrendered and sent over two tickets and a parking pass! TODAY OSCAR, TOMORROW OBAMA!" After the red carpet stunt, Moneyball actor Jonah Hill, who was up for best supporting actor, said: "I guess the Oscars isn't the best place to sell your movie. I think he's a funny guy, though." "Ryan's mouth dropped open on live TV," laughed Jackie Collins. "But that's what makes live TV good. "I don't think Ryan was very pleased, but I don't think I'd be very pleased." Piers Morgan commented it was "just another day in Hollywood". 30 Rock actress Tina Fey saw the funny side, and crossed herself over the ashes as she walked past. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, US chat show host Jay Leno said, "only in Hollywood does that dictator override Libya" as a major news story. "And somehow that's more shocking. "It's certainly worse than anything Gadaffi or Assad could possibly have done." Comedian Steve Martin said: "I love Sacha Baron Cohen", and joked that the red carpet shouldn't be sacred ground. "It should be 12% respect, 23% levity and 13% joy," he said. It is not the first time Baron Cohen has used industry events to promote his movies.

25 Feb 2012

A glamorous French politician is set to become France’s first ever ‘MP for Britain’ to represent more than 100,000 Gallic expats living in the UK.

A glamorous French politician is set to become France’s first ever ‘MP for Britain’ to represent more than 100,000 Gallic expats living in the UK.

Emmanuelle Savarit, 39, is leading the race to be elected to France’s newest overseas constituency - based in London’s well-heeled Kensington.

The member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party is the clear frontrunner among five hopefuls vying for the seat of northern Europe.

Hopeful: Emmanuelle Savarit, 39, is leading the race to be elected to France¿s newest overseas constituency - based in London¿s well-heeled Kensington

Hopeful: Emmanuelle Savarit, 39, is leading the race to be elected to France's newest overseas constituency - based in London's well-heeled Kensington

The radical plans to create 11 foreign constituencies to represent French abroad were approved by the Paris parliament three years ago.



Britain is part of the northern Europe constituency, which also includes the Irish Republic, Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

But within the new seat, 113,655 French voters are registered in the UK, compared with 27,076 in all the other countries put together.

Divorced mother-of-two Ms Savarit’s main rival is equally glamorous 36-year-old socialist Axelle Lemaire, a London-based lawyer.

Competition: Divorced mother-of-two Ms Savarit¿s main rival is 36-year-old socialist Axelle Lemaire, a London-based lawyer

Competition: Divorced mother-of-two Ms Savarit's main rival is 36-year-old socialist Axelle Lemaire, a London-based lawyer

But the French media predict the right-winger’s victory will be ensured by wealthy expats based mainly in west London when the first election takes place in June.

Ms Savarit, who has a doctorate in Psychology, describes herself
on her campaign website as ‘a tough cookie’, but adds: 'That’s not necessarily a fault when you’re in politics.'

The new foreign constituencies are the brainchild of former French interior affairs minister Alain Marlaix.

Vital: The importance of the French expat vote was highlighted when President Sarkozy came to London to give a speech to thousands of French voters ahead of his 2007 election campaign

Vital: The importance of the French expat vote was highlighted when President Sarkozy came to London to give a speech to thousands of French voters ahead of his 2007 election campaign

He said: 'This is the first time in any country in the world that something like this had been done.

'The new overseas MPs will have identical status to any other MP based in France, and vote in parliament in Paris.

'They will be elected in the same way and speak for the French expatriates they represent.'

Government advisor Herve Fabre-Aubrespy, who is overseeing the new constituencies, said: 'It is a challenge for us, because nothing similar has ever been done anywhere.

'No one has carved the world up into constituencies in this way.'

The new constituencies are part of a larger parliamentary shake-up, with seats being merged or enlarged across France so that the total number of 577 MPs still remains the same.

The importance of the French expat vote was highlighted when President Sarkozy came to London to give a speech to thousands of French voters ahead of his 2007 election campaign.

But French socialists have claimed the new overseas seats are ‘closet gerrymandering’ - where constituencies are created to the benefit of the ruling party.

A socialists’ spokesman said: 'Studies show French people living abroad are more likely to vote for a centre-right party than a left wing one.
'This is being proposed as something that is good for French expatriates, but in fact it is just a way for the government to give itself another 11 safe seats.'

Six of the 11 new constituencies will be in Europe, but others are based in Canada and the US, central and South America, the Middle East, Arica and Asia, representing more than million French people living abroad.

Italian Wives ban their husbands from visiting Italian cafe where busty barmaid serves up drinks in skimpy outfits

After eight years running a bar, Laura Maggi suddenly found men beating a path to her door.

Not for the quality of her coffee  and aperitifs, but because she had started appearing for work in highly revealing outfits.

Hundreds of male customers flocked there day and night, leaving their cars double parked in the surrounding streets.

Congestion became such a problem that the lady mayor announced she was considering an emergency bylaw to limit traffic in the area.

Causing controversy: Laura Maggi, 34, who runs a bar called Le Cafe, has dominated newspapers and TV chat shows, after pictures of her dressed in barely anything appeared on the internet

Causing controversy: Laura Maggi, 34, who runs a bar called Le Cafe, has dominated newspapers and TV chat shows, after pictures of her dressed in barely anything appeared on the internet


Sexy barmaid 2
Sexy barmaid

Pulling more than a pint: The women folk of Bagnolo Mella, near Brescia, which is where Manchester City ace Mario Balotelli is from, are up in arms and said that they had banned their partners from going to Le Cafe


Main attraction: On the walls of Le Cafe there are pictures of Laura, dressed in a bikini on holiday while in other snaps she is wrapped in an American Stars and Stripes flag, while others of her semi naked have been turned into a calendar

Main attraction: On the walls of Le Cafe there are pictures of Laura, dressed in a bikini on holiday - while in other snaps she is wrapped in an American Stars and Stripes flag. Yet more pictures of her, semi-naked, have been turned into a calendar

You're not going anywhere: Bagnolo's mayor Cristina Almici has also banned her husband from going to Laura's bar and said: 'We have received several complaints from women in the town about the bar'

You're not going anywhere: Bagnolo's mayor Cristina Almici has also banned her husband from going to Laura's bar and said: 'We have received several complaints from women in the town about the bar'

Now women in the small northern Italian town of Bagnolo Mella have declared Le Cafe out of bounds to their menfolk – and 34-year-old Miss Maggi has become a national celebrity.

Yesterday she was a guest on the Italian equivalent of This Morning and said: ‘I don’t see what the problem is – it’s just a bit of harmless fun. 

‘If the guys come here what can I do?

'I know I have upset the women but that’s not my problem.

'It’s not my fault if guys want to come and have a drink in my bar.’

She added that some customers were travelling up to 70 miles just to have a coffee in her bar.

On the walls of Le Cafe are pictures of Miss Maggi in a bikini on holiday. 

She has 5,000 new friends on Facebook while a local poll found that 46 per cent of respondents said partners of her male customers should be ‘asking themselves why their partners prefer Laura to them’.

Several wives from the town have been on TV to complain. One said: ‘It is outrageous and should not be allowed.



‘This town is quiet and respectable. Now we are known across the whole country because of the little amount of clothing this barmaid is wearing to serve drinks. 

‘The women in town are not very happy and we have complained to the council.’


Enjoyment: 'I don't see what the problem is - it's just a bit of harmless fun. I like to dress in an attractive way and I like to have fun,' Laura said on an Italian TV show


Selling point: 'If the guys come here what can I do. I know I have upset the women but that's not my problem,' said the bar owner

Selling point: 'If the guys come here, what can I do? I know I have upset the women but that's not my problem,' said the bar owner

Bagnolo’s mayor Cristina Almici said: ‘We have received several complaints from women about the bar and we are looking at what we can do with regard to public order.

‘There has been a huge influx of traffic into the town since the news of Laura started to spread and this has led to incidents of bad parking and some minor acts of vandalism.

‘We can’t stop people from going to her bar and I know it is very popular with men in the town – personally I don’t see any problem with how she looks or dresses. 

'If anything, it’s the men who go there who have a problem.’

She added, however: ‘My husband is certainly not allowed to go there.’

Crowd pleaser: 'People have been turning up from 100km away just to have a drink here,' says the proud bar lady

Crowd pleaser: 'People have been turning up from 70 miles away just to have a drink here,' says the proud bar lady

barmaid 5

No blame: 'It's not my fault if guys want to come and have a drink in my bar,' says the owner 

Quiet town of Bagnolo Mella: An online poll in the local Brescia newspaper asked readers what their opinion was and the majority, 46%, said that women should be 'asking themselves why their partners prefer Laura to them'

Quiet town of Bagnolo Mella: An online poll in the local Brescia newspaper asked readers what their opinion was and the majority, 46%, said that women should be 'asking themselves why their partners prefer Laura to them'

24 Feb 2012

ENVELOPES full of cash, drug habits funded by EU grants and police taking payments to legalise prostitutes – you name it, it has happened in Spain.


 Add to those a snail-paced justice system and, a law society in Malaga that fails to scrutinize bent lawyers, and things start to look distinctly cloudy. Consider too that last week Spain’s top anti-corruption lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, was suspended from his post for illegally tapping the phones of lawyers, and most will come to the same conclusion. “Yes, corruption is certainly endemic in Spain,” says Gwilym Rhys-Jones, an Estepona-based financial expert. “Sadly there is a tradition of it and it became institutionalised since the late 1980s as nobody was dealing with it from the top down.” There is certainly nowhere better to highlight the problem than here on the Costa del Sol, where in Marbella for over two decades you could only get anything done if you were prepared to pay for it. Under the current Malaya corruption trial, centred around Marbella Town Hall, which has been going for over a year. Over a hundred councillors, mayors, businessmen and civil servants are currently on trial for taking backhanders totalling up to 2.4 billion euros. And sadly, the same state of affairs was taking place at hundreds of town halls around the country, with a central government apparently prepared to turn a blind eye. It led to hotels and golf courses being built in national parks, developments installed in river flood plains and hundreds of thousands of illegal – and unsellable – homes around the country. It comes as no surprise then that Transparency International has listed Spain as more corrupt than Uruguay, Chile and Qatar, and almost on a par with of Botswana – quite a feat for the fourth richest nation in the European Union. And while some might like to point the finger at the right or the left, the range of cases shows that bending the rules for personal gain goes right across the spectrum. The Conservative PP party has often been in the spotlight – most recently thanks to the Gurtel case, in Valencia – but the PSOE socialist party, particularly with the ERE pension scandal in Andalucia, certainly takes some beating. Even the royal family may have dipped its toes in the murky waters, with King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law about to stand trial for a misuse of public funds and embezzlement. So where did it all begin? Franco regarded it as the ‘necessary lubrication for the system’, according to historian Stanley Payne. While central government appears to be largely free of endemic corruption, in the regions it is quite a different story. In Andalucia, for example, UGT trade union leader Manuel Pastrana believes as many as 75 per cent of the region’s town halls are corrupt. This is partly down to the fact that much of Spain’s corruption is linked to illegal planning, which is said to be more profitable than drug dealing – mainly because tourism is the biggest earner on the Costa del Sol. It’s a simple tale, and sadly all too common. Developers purchase non-urban, rural land for knock-down prices, then pay corrupt town hall mayors to reclassify the land as available to develop. This leaves the developers to build whatever they like – and it is arrangements like this that explain the illegal 411-bedroom Algarrobico hotel in Almeria’s Cabo de Gata natural park – which will thankfully be demolished any day now. The question is, why are so many mayors and councillors tempted to the dark side, considering the possible environmental and criminal consequences? Aside from describing Spain as having the ‘slowest justice system in the known world’, investigator Rhys-Jones argues that it is human nature to be tempted by money once it’s dangled in front of you. “When people see a massive amount of money, they can’t help but steal it. It’s human nature,” he says, using the unscrupulous former Marbella mayor Jesus Gil as his example. Jesus Gil was described as the bad apple that spoilt Marbella’s bunch “Gil was a crook, but he started out with good intentions. Marbella was a mess in the 1980s. Property wasn’t selling. It was a dump filled with drugs and hookers. So Gil started a political party, the GAL, to try and sort it out.” But this apparent do-gooder turned resident evil, with many describing Gil – who was convicted in 2002 – as being the bad apple that spoiled Marbella’s bunch. Either way his legacy was a disaster and has led to the following three mayors – as well as his main cohort, planning boss Juan Antonio Roca, who became the svengali of the operation – all facing prison. Much of the corruption comes down to backgrounds and a lack of education, believes Marbella-based lawyer Antonio Flores. “A lot of mayors have previously had rural-based jobs, without the ability to make any money,” he explains. “The moment they have responsibility, the temptation to make money becomes too great. After four years in power, they’ll often have to go back to their tractors,” he says. A classic example of a rags-to-riches mayor is Julian Munoz, also heavily implicated in the Malaya case, who worked as a waiter before running Marbella Town Hall in 2002. Roca, too, had been on the dole before going on to pilfer 30 million euros. Planning boss Juan Antonio Roca, the main man in the Malaya case Flores compares town hall councillors with more prominent politicians in central government who are less reliant on get-rich-quick methods: “It’s not so difficult to get another job when you’re in a higher political position,” he says. The good news is that most commentators agree that corruption in Spain is on its way out. “The Malaya case was where the mentality changed,” estimates Flores. “It was a turning point for corruption and the Marbella run by thugs completely collapsed when they were all arrested. “As Spain becomes more civilised, we are slowly getting rid of corruption,” he continues. “But it has definitely not gone completely,” argues Rhys Jones. “That will take quite a few more decades.” As for shamed Judge Garzon, opinion remains firmly divided on whether he too was a man who let power corrupt him… or whether he has been silenced by a country whose corruption will be harder to iron out than some may hope. Big cases Malaya Planning chief Juan Antonio Roca is at the heart of this 2.4 billion euro scandal in Marbella. The unelected Roca operated a cash-for-permissions scheme, which saw over 18,000 homes built illegally. Gurtel Businessman Francisco Correa gave money to PP bosses in Valencia in return for lucrative contracts with the regional government. ERE The Junta is being investigated in a 647m euro retirement scandal, where posts were created in non-existent companies in order to defraud public funds. Ballena Blanca One of the largest money laundering cases in Europe, with 21 people accused of investing proceeds from drug trafficking and prostitution in property via over a thousand companies.

EU clampdown on unregulated financial advisers in Spain


The European Commission is to consider setting up an ombudsman to help expat victims reclaim against unregistered financial firms. It comes after a local pressure group, that represents over 1,000 victims, sent a dossier of information to Brussels. The Costa del Sol Action Group demanded action against the advisers who, it claims, have lost their clients over €120 million (£102 million). “It is good news as something has to be done about this bunch of rogues,” said group founder David Klein. “The current Spanish regulatory system is totally inadequate and ineffective. Dealing with the authorities is a constant game of ping-pong. Anyone can come to Spain and be a financial adviser; they could have been selling fish before they came here for all anyone knows." This situation could soon be coming to an end, after the European Commission confirmed it was to begin "a preliminary investigation of the problem". Foreign Office plans evacuation of expats 18 Dec 2011 It has asked for more information and the action group has called on all victims to write to the European Parliament outlining their experience. “This problem is causing untold stress and heartache in the expatriate community and it cannot be allowed to continue,” explained Klein. The European Commission is to study how investors would be able to make an official complaint against Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs). At present, there is no effective means for victims to make a complaint against product providers who work with unregistered IFAs. The group was also highly critical of the local media for its willingness to accept adverts from unregulated financial firms in a bid to maximise advertising revenue. To highlight the problem, the group included testimonials by members who were allegedly defrauded by one specialist investment brokerage, which it claims is "not regulated or registered". It said the company was able to trade, "collecting unsuspecting clients who are soon relieved of their money". One Costa del Sol-based financial adviser, Richard Alexander, said he was pleased with the EU’s response. “Bring on the review,” he said. “I have seen too many sad stories of people being turned over, badly advised or grossly over-charged by unregulated independent financial advisors in Spain. "It is entirely possible to provide professional, quality advice without the client losing out.”

Poor men and lonely wealthy women

I see so many lonely women out here in the world today. Of course, there are lonely guys as well. But, in my opinion men react and respond differently to their problems. We almost never actually admit that we are alone, except when our self-esteem is compromised. We just go with the flow. But for women, it is a totally different story. “I am so alone,” was what she would say. I hear this all the time from the opposite sex. Why is this so in the modern-day world? Are we men not doing our jobs?   This brings me to the recent lonely end of soul-siren Whitney Houston and UK Amy Winehouse in 2011 respectively, whose public battles with drugs and alcohol often overshadowed their music success. May their musical souls rest in peace! These are glaring examples of lonely women. It is an open secret that Whitney had been a ‘druggy’ for years, which had become more pronounced after her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, whom she divorced before her death. Rumours had it that Amy was killed by lack of love, not a drug addiction. I think this is probably true. Another example is that of Lady Gaga, who recently admitted in an interview, “Yes I’m lonely, but I’m married to my loneliness.” It is quite interesting to know so much about her. She has said loneliness is the only thing she loves the most. Nevertheless, I wish her good luck! Now, you may wonder what the situation is Namibia?  One of the most well-known examples of this ‘loneliness phenomenon’ is the infamous middle finger gesture employed by a well-known personality in Namibia’s showbiz last year.    Was that a sign of loneliness?  Well, without risking my poor miserable life I’ll leave that to the reader to figure out. Today, with the advent of equal opportunities and interventions, our ladies in the ‘Land of the Brave’ have made great strides in business, politics, TIPEEG, BEE, Namdeb, highly skilled professions and the list goes on, which makes them wealthy but ‘lonely.’ You will agree with me that successful women are multiplying in Namibia, but sadly, success has been unsettling for some as they are struggling to keep their ‘unemployed’ boyfriends or husbands, who feel that they can’t compromise on their self-esteem and would leave relationships in which they can’t cope with the rich lifestyle of their girlfriends or women – and therefore rendering many women lonely. I know many of them. Rich women have difficulties managing fulfilling relationships and therefore end up being lonely. My advice to these lonely Eves is simple; do not pride yourself in intimidation, aggression and power. No man will accept to be controlled by a wife just because he is poor. Instead, a rich wife must remain strong but be humble and respect her husband to make him stronger. No matter how much wealth a woman can attain, she will still long for a person she can share her life with; not to mention her wealth with. Although money can be friendly, rich women still need someone who will be there for them and just simply love them. We do not want a Whitney or Amy Winehouse situation to play off in our country or do we?. Until then, Eewa!

Spain's banking sector set to shrink to about 10 lenders

This year, Spain’s banking sector looks set to shrink to about 10 lenders from more than 40 before the economic crisis, as the government forces banks to recognise steep losses from a housing crash. Small and medium-sized banks will scramble to join forces to meet capital requirements implicit in a new law demanding lenders write down up to 80 per cent of the book value of real estate assets on their balance sheets.  Click here for Cloud Computing     Also Read   Related Stories News Now - 24-hr deadline for Kingfisher to submit revised schedule - Kingfisher assures to restore normal schedule in 5-7 days - Indian banks eye assets of European counterparts - It is time to take money off the table: Jim Walker - Swiss solicits tourists from India amidst EU crisis - Abheek Barua & Shivom Chakravarti: Risk-on in a sweet spot Particular focus would rest on the country’s fourth-largest bank by market value, Bankia. Fears persist over its ability to fund losses from its heavy exposure to the property sector. Only a handful of banks — international leaders Santander and BBVA, domestic lender CaixaBank and Basque Country savings bank Kutxa — are considered strong enough to remain independent and cover capital holes with their own profits. Bankia has insisted it does not plan a link-up with Barcelona-based counterpart CaixaBank, but market sources say it would be hard for the bank to go it alone. "It’s true there were overtures towards CaixaBank, but that has gone cold. It seems CaixaBank is the only one interested in Bankia. BBVA and Santander do not seem up for it," said one banking source. Another expressed doubt Bankia could deal alone, with Euro 3 billion of capital needs with annual net operating profits of Euro 1.67 billion and with its parent company BFA still owing Euro 4.1 billion of state loans given out last year. "The numbers simply don’t add up," the second banking source said. If Bankia opts for a tie-up, it could win more time to write down losses related to real estate. The government has given banks one year to write down losses, but would extend it to two years for lenders involved in a merger process.

23 Feb 2012

Juan Antonio Roca has face to face showdown in court with Marisol Yagüe

A face to face declaration in the Malaya case in Málaga on Wednesday brought sparks between the ex Marbella Town Hall real estate assessor, Juan Antonio Roca, and the ex Mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe. Roca said to Yagüe – ‘Darling, I deeply lament disagreeing, but I did give you money’. To that Yagüe said ‘You are looking for a way out of jail’. The conversation between the two came after she denied to the prosecutor that she had received envelopes, in the form of backhanders, from Roca. Judge José Godino then ordered a face to face ‘careo’ between the two which lasted just over a minute. ‘When did I ask you for money, Juan Antonio?’ she spat ‘I paid you always on the orders of Jesús Gil’, he replied, adding that the payment was for ‘maintaining cohesion’ in the three way government of which she was Mayor. The payments to Yagüe and the rest of the councillors took place between January 2004 and 2006, according to Roca’s own notes, which he has collaborated repeatedly in court. He says the ex Mayor received 1.8 million €. Yagüe told the court that Roca knows she loves him a lot, and that she wants him to get out of jail, ‘but it is not as he says’, she said, looking directly into his eye and grabbing his forearm. She also denied that he had supplied funds for the purchase of a luxury flat in Madrid in the Argüelles district. She faces 20 years in prison and a 3.8 million € fine in the case on charge of bribery, perversion of the course of justice, fraud and the misuse of public funds. The questioning continues on March 5.

Libyan land being freed for development in Marbella


A large real estate project which the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank wanted to place in Marbella is back on the road. The project was frozen because of the death of Muamar El Gaddafi, but now the lawyers for the development say it is active again. The lawyer Ignacio Pérez de Vargas said the plans are for 1,915 homes, a golf course and a congress hall to be built in La Resinera, the finca owned by the Libyan in Benahavís which stretches to 6,900 hectares across the municipalities of Benahavis, Estepona, Pujerra and Júzcar. Part of this is in the Sierra de las Nieves, declared a Biosphere Reserve, but the PGOU urban plans shows 500 hectares which can be built on in Benahavís. Construction could start as early as December. The Spanish Government blocked all the assets owned by the Libyan Government in Spain, or related to Gadaffi, when the fighting started in Libya. There is another plot in Nerja also owned, as nearly all the Libyan assets, by the Libyan Foreign Bank. Now the politicians and ambassadors of the two countries have been talking, and the Libyan Ambassador commented ‘Soon we will know what is going to happen to our properties in Spain. We have asked for meetings to find out what we can do with them. Now we will try to complete the arrangements so the projects we initially had in mind can go ahead.

Ex Marbella Mayor, Isabel García Marcos, found guilty of corruption


The ex Mayor of Marbella, Isabel García Marcos, has been handed down her first conviction for real estate corruption. Penal Court 10 in Málaga fined her 3,600 € and banned her from holding public office for ten years. Three other ex councillors were given the same sentence, José Jaén and Carmen Revilla among them, and another 11 ex-councillors were given a year’s prison sentence and a ten year ban. These include Julián Muñoz, Rafael González and Marisa Alcalá. José Luis Fernández Garrosa, Alberto García Muñoz and Pedro Reñones were all given nine month prison sentences and a nine month ban from office. The case relates to April 2002 and a licence for the construction of 20 luxury villas on a plot of land in Trapiche.

22 Feb 2012

Zumba Fitness is the only Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music


Zumba Fitness is the only Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music, created by Grammy Award-winning producers, and contagious steps to form a "fitness-party" that is downright addictive. Since its inception in 2001, the Zumba program has grown to become the world's largest – and most successful – dance-fitness program with more than 12 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking weekly Zumba classes in over 110,000 locations across more than 125 countries.

Zumba's Latin rhythms on the move in the fitness world


On a rooftop parking lot, with temperatures in the chilly low 50s, a crowd of all ages shimmied and shook, sweated and smiled as DJ Francis played an eclectic mix of dance music. But this wasn't just another wild South Florida party. It was a special Zumba class for charity, led last month by the creator of the global craze, Alberto "Beto" Perez. The charismatic Colombian in cargo pants — who has become a rock star in the fitness world — climbed onto the roof of a Chevy minivan that doubled as a stage. He demonstrated salsa steps, the merengue march and many other Latin-inspired dance moves — all while also cuing the drummer and the bongo player. For an hour, 75 of his adoring fans — and even the minivan — moved to the beat. "Everybody loves it; everybody has fun," Perez said while posing for pictures with his Zumba faithful, some of whom had traveled from as far as Canada. Two days later, Perez flew to New York to appear on the TV morning show "Live! with Kelly." "You must be so rich by now," host Kelly Ripa gushed to Perez, 41. Perez's Zumba classes, with the motto "Ditch the Workout, Join the Party," were strictly a South Florida phenomenon 10 years ago. Today, Zumba Fitness has become the largest branded fitness program in the world, with about 12 million people taking Zumba classes weekly at 110,000 locations in at least 125 countries, according to company spokeswoman Allison Robins. The private company won't reveal information about the company's finances or its net worth. But at a time when most of the world is struggling economically, Zumba Fitness' empire appears to be flourishing. It is doing so on the strength of a growing army of certified instructors who spread the Zumba gospel to such distant outposts as Iceland, Papua New Guinea, Nepal and even Afghanistan — at the Kabul Community Center. Many fitness crazes have come and gone. Staying power is tough in the ever-evolving fitness industry. John Figarelli, founder of the National Fitness Hall of Fame Museum and author of "The History of Fitness: Fads, Gimmicks and Gadgets," said: "I think the owners of Zumba did a great job of getting it going from a business standpoint." Zumba Fitness does not charge gyms to carry its classes. Instead, it trains instructors and gives them the license and use of the trademark if they join the Zumba Instructor Network. "We're helping the instructors to become entrepreneurs and make a living out of it," said company co-founder Alberto Aghion. Exercise as a business It's a sound strategy, said Figarelli, whose book covers 100 years of working out, from 1900 to 2000. "Most group-exercise instructors will just go with the next popular class. But if Zumba is your business, instructors will stay with that." Ensuring instructors are successful has become the company's main mission. "We have three people who all they do is call up gyms all day and try to find instructors employment," said company co-founder Alberto Perlman. The company has made Zumba instructors easy to find, with a worldwide listing that includes all of their network instructors' classes regularly updated on the company's website. Instructors also receive new music and choreography about every two months. The music department now creates music just for Zumba classes, with original songs that include "Zumbalicious," "Que Te Mueve" and "Caipirinha," which was a No. 1 song in Israel. Zumba Fitness makes its money on its instructors academy, instructors courses, monthly fees from instructors in its network and on all its brand merchandise. The company has built its own line of hip, colorful clothing and footwear, workout DVDs, two video games, original music and a lifestyle magazine, Z-Life. This was not the business model when Zumba Fitness was founded in Aventura, Fla., in 2001 by the "three Albertos" — creator Perez and boyhood friends Perlman and Aghion, both entrepreneurs in their mid-20s and natives of Colombia. The trio's original plan was simple: produce VHS workout tapes of Perez's popular South Florida classes to sell around the country on infomercials. An inspired ad-lib Perez fell in love with dancing at age 7 by watching a VHS tape of the 1978 movie "Grease," starring John Travolta. At age 16, he was teaching aerobics classes for $1 an hour. One day, he forgot his prepared music. All he had in his backpack was a cassette tape of merengue and salsa music he'd recorded off the radio. His morning class was full of moms who had dropped their kids off at school. "I can't say, 'Hey sorry, I forgot my music,' " Perez said. "I say to the people, 'I have a new class I prepared for a long time.' It was not true. I improvised for one hour." The moms loved the dancing exercise. Perez turned it into a regular class in Cali. He soon moved to the Colombian capital of Bogotá, where he continued those classes and became a choreographer for Sony Music and Shakira. In 1999, Perez came to the United States for the first time. He pounded the pavement on South Beach, going from gym to gym. Nobody was interested in this new dance exercise class by a guy who couldn't speak English. On his fourth trip to Miami he landed a job at the swanky Williams Island Spa in a development where several Colombians lived. Some had even taken classes with him in Bogotá. Within a year, Perez was in demand, teaching 22 classes all over South Florida. At the same time, Perlman and Aghion were looking for a new business venture after the dot-com bubble burst, bringing down their Internet company, Spydre Labs, an incubator for Internet startups related to Latin America. Enter Raquel Perlman. While Alberto Perlman was telling his mom about how badly he was feeling for laying off people, she was telling him about how happy she was taking Perez's classes, where were then called Rumbacize. "You should meet Beto and maybe start a gym together," she told her son. "He's the talk of Aventura." Perlman watched a class and was reminded of people having fun at a nightclub, but without the drinking and pickup lines. "Beto, have you heard of Billy Blanks' Tae Bo? Why don't we do VHS tapes and sell them on television?" Perlman said he told Perez. In August 2001, they and Aghion founded Zumba Fitness. To create a demonstration video to show investors, the three stayed up all night laying down boards to create a dance floor on the beach outside a Sunny Isles hotel. About 200 of Perez's students paid $20 each for the class, raising an additional $4,000. When the infomercial began running on TV, people rang the call center in Ohio to buy the videos, and a few also asked how to become Zumba instructors. Those callers were forwarded to Zumba's office — at Aghion's home. After a few 2 a.m. wakeups, Aghion realized this was another business opportunity. Zumba Fitness also has greatly benefited from Internet advertising and social media. Many people discovered Zumba via YouTube videos. Zumba Fitness started a Facebook page about a year ago and now has more than 3 million fans. Zumba is mentioned every 11 seconds in social-media platforms, Robins said. It's not clear yet if Zumba will have a long shelf life or be added to the long list of exercise fads, said Walter R. Thompson, professor of exercise science at Georgia State University. He'll watch to see how it fares over the next few years in a worldwide survey that ranks fitness trends. "I hope it stays around," he said. "It's motivating a lot of people to exercise."

Morocco yoga courses: Stretching out on a yogic break in soothing Berber country

Dust clouds sway like ghosts dancing to an inaudible tune across miles of Moroccan dessert. I’m only 15 minutes south of Marrakech, but the soil’s already darkened to a deep, blood-clot red that clashes violently with the cobalt sky above. Spindly Argan trees feature goats that have clambered into the branches and nibble on the fruit (yes, really), a snapshot of surreal comedy against nature’s stark, beautiful reality. It’s my first up-close and personal foray into Morocco’s rural centre, despite having fallen head over heels for mad old Marrakech eight years beforehand. Rustic retreat: Lalla Abouch offers yoga courses set in the beautiful Moroccan countryside There’s something intoxicating about the swirling, jasmine-soaked souks, the thrill of losing yourself in the medina only to wind up on a rooftop drinking pomegranate martinis hours later. I’ve returned several times since to enjoy the city’s myriad hidden bars, supper clubs and late night lounges. But this time I want a different kind of escapism, one that’s less hedonism, more health. 'We’ve the perfect place', Rosena, the Irish founder of Moroccan concierge experts Boutique Souk, assures me before arranging a car to drive me the three-hour journey south into Morocco’s Berber country. Thirty miles south of the colonial port city of Essaouira, our jeep turns inland, swerves sharply at a junction and turns up an invisible, potholed dirt road through fields of carefully irrigated vegetable patches and chicken coops. A donkey brays ‘hello’ as I clamber out, the only contender to shatter the silent calm of our weekend lodgings. Named Lalla Abouch after ‘Lady Argan‘ and Morocco’s famous Argan tree, the guesthouse embodies what many ‘boutique’ lodgings strive for yet often fail to achieve. Chic and rustic, it proffers the perfect balance between comfort and style – the home from home I’ll never replicate no matter how many Elle Decoration subscriptions I sign up for. Taking the plunge: The refreshing pool is lined with plants and a traditional stone wall Beaming Lucreiza, the Italian who runs this hideaway, gives me a tour of the farm’s intimate selection of cosy rooms, all located around a bougainvillea-splashed courtyard, before ushering me onto the farm’s charming alfresco terrace for fresh mint and ginger tea. Terracotta pots trickle fresh water into a plunge pool overlooking acres of lovingly tended vegetable patches, whilst wild tortoises sunbathe lazily in the afternoon rays as kitchen hands gingerly navigate them whilst plucking robust courgettes for the evening meal. Food is a big draw at Lalla Abouch - so don’t go thinking this is yoga with all the normal detox-wheatgrass-deprivation tags. Lunch, though simple, is lip-smackingly good: home-plucked bitter leaves; creamy local goats cheese; cumin-crusted courgettes, caramelised carrots; a fuchsia pink beetroot dip; wholegrain couscous studded with ruby pomegranate seeds. Each bite radiates with energy and (forgive the hippy hyperbole) is offered up with love. Lucreiza beams as I eat. 'We like to give an alkaline, vegetarian diet during the retreats', she explains. 'It’s a good for body cleaning and rejuvenation.' I come away from the meal feeling more satiated than many of my finest dining experiences back in the UK. Unusual sights: Goats love to climb the Argan trees, while Lalla Abouch has plenty of quiet corners for relaxing Besides intensive, twice daily yoga and meditation sessions lasting two hours a go, Lalla Abouch offers a real (and rare) opportunity to totally unplug from daily life. As Lucreiza concedes, 'the natural elements are deep and strong', so the entire operation of the farm and its retreats has been designed to really embrace the local surrounds – and the produce found within it. Better still, my experience isn’t marred by the constant checking of Blackberry’s or broadband; connectivity here is slim to none. Sure, it’s a little disconcerting at first, but after several hours our entire party agrees we’re happy for the forced technology amnesty. With no one to tweet or CC, I instead sink into an indulgent afternoon of reading in the farm’s huge hammock, slung beneath the boughs of the Argan tree. I doze, stirring only when the attention seeking donkey’s comical eey-awww or Lucreiza’s quiet, smiling kitchen hands water the fragrant herb garden. I’ve done no yoga yet, but I can already see why Moroccan specialists Boutique Souk thought they’d 'struck gold' when stumbling upon the farm.

20 Feb 2012

Hospitalised, robbed, arrested – new TV series follows consular staff as they help Brits in distress


How the staff of British Consulates in Spain help citizens in distress is to be highlighted in a new TV documentary series to be broadcast next month on the UK’s Channel 4.UK in Spain The new TV series, filmed last summer, reveals how consular staff come to the rescue of Britons who find themselves in trouble. From helping victims of crime to advising Brits arrested by the police, the series also follows consular staff as they visit holidaymakers who end up in hospital and meet expat residents to hear their property concerns. In a three part series, ‘Our Man In…’, provides unprecedented access to the work of British consular staff. It will be shown on the UK’s Channel 4 on Thursdays 1st, 8th and 15th March at 22.00 GMT (23.00 CET). The first programme features Mallorca and Ibiza, the second follows the team in Alicante and the third covers Tenerife and Barcelona. “The series shows the hard work and professionalism of our staff in helping British expats and holidaymakers as well as highlighting the serious issues that Brits can face abroad”, says Paul Rodwell, British Consul in Alicante. “Some of the less serious cases can be avoided and I would encourage people to read our travel advice and have a look at the information we have on our ukinspain website.” The series reveals the consequences of failing to prepare properly for a holiday. Even if you’re staying with friends and family, travelling without insurance could cost you many thousands of pounds if you’re injured abroad. “Losing your passport will cost you time and money”, says Paul Rodwell. “And without an EHIC health card, you’ll find it harder to get medical care. By taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid a dream holiday turning into a nightmare.” The programme in Alicante, about life on the costas, shows the pro-active face of the consulate, with staff seeking out Brits caught up in a forest fire, organising outreach events to hear residents’ property concerns, and working with local police to manage an invasion of Scottish football fans for a big game against Spain. On the party island of Ibiza, consular staff tackle the fall-out from a new drug on club scene - the so-called 'pink pill'. A young tourist is found lost, nearly naked, and unable to recall anything but his name. Then the Brit dealers who supply the pills also need help after they're arrested. In Mallorca, staff deal with a young Brit who's been tasered by overzealous police. A holidaymaker from Essex has been run over by a drunk driver, and lies seriously injured in hospital. And a Lancashire couple's holiday is transformed by the arrival, nine weeks early, of their tiny baby son. In Barcelona and Tenerife, crime has its effects on visitors and on the workload of the Consulates. Street robberies and stolen passports lead to inconvenience, distress and unexpected costs for holidaymakers. Meanwhile consular staff are also busy helping some of the people who need it most – expat prisoners & homeless Brits who simply want to go home. ‘Our Man In…’ was filmed mainly in August and September last year and is produced by Screenchannel Television, a London-based independent production company. The executive producers are Emma Barker, a former commissioning editor and controller at ITV, and Peter Lowe, a former executive producer and programme editor at BBC Television and controller at Carlton Television.

No date set for Málaga's second prison to come into service

Construction appears to be funded, but the problem is how to find the money for the staffThe entrance to the Alhaurin prison  There is concern over when a new prison being built in Archidona, Málaga will be able to accept inmates. 70% of the construction, which is budgeted at 117 million, has been done, and there is a date of the end of this year or the start of next for completion. However to start accepting inmates the prison has to employ some 600 people, and there has been no advertising of any jobs as yet. Union CCOO think the new Director of Prisons, Ángel Yuste, wants to delay the reception of the installations as long as possible as there is no money, and noting that the maintenance of the facility could be more than five million a year. The new prison will have 1,008 cells. We will probably better know if there is funding to open the prison after we have seen the State Budget for 2012 which the PP is to reveal next month. Thankfully the prison population has fallen slightly, falling by 1.6% in Andalucia in 2010. The latest figures show 17,215 inmates in 9,445 cells. At Málaga’s prison in Alhaurín de la Torre which was designed for some 1,000 prisoners, it is now holding 1,400, and has held as many as 1,900 inmates at times in the past.

19 Feb 2012

Secret lives of the movie legends


In an era before Twitter, paparazzi, gossip websites and the voracious appetite for the scandal and sex lives of the rich and shameless, Hollywood was swinging with the kind of wild sexual liberation that can still seem shocking today. Post-war Hollywood was churning out the family-friendly, conservative-values movies that chimed with the politics and repressed sexuality of the '40s and '50s. But the unacknowledged irony was that these motion pictures were being made by actors, writers, directors and studio chiefs who were engaged in lifestyles that could not have been more different from those they created on screen. Two decades before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Los Angeles was already a sexual playground for movie stars and the international jet set, who were protected by a powerful studio system that could keep their more outrageous behaviour out of the public eye. Stars such as Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant -- and non-industry figures like the former King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson -- had a sexually licentious lifestyle within the closed Hollywood community. And where you have rich, sexually voracious movie stars and powerful men, you will also need pimps, procurers and a steady stream of young men and women. Scotty Bowers, a handsome, bi-sexual, former Marine paratrooper, became a part of this underworld when he relocated to Hollywood following service in the Second World War. The ex-Marine became the go-to guy for those who wanted sexual adventure, building up a network of "friends" who traded in sex with the greatest stars of the era. Now, Bowers has revealed all, in Full Service -- My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, an autobiography that claims to tell the true story behind the rumours and scandal that have filtered down from the closeted era of sex and the stars. Written with the collaboration of Emmy-winning writer Lionel Friedberg, Full Service is published as Bowers prepares to celebrate his 89th birthday. In Scotty's own words, he became a Hollywood insider, or at least a fixer of sexual liaisons, almost by accident when he moved to Los Angeles immediately after the war and began working in a gas station. A chance encounter with the actor Walter Pidgeon, who stopped by to have his tank filled, led to an afternoon of sex with the then-happily married Pidgeon and a male friend. Handsome, friendly and totally relaxed when it came to sex (Bowers attributes this to his wartime experiences and his Illinois farm-boy background), the ex-Marine quickly gained a reputation for knowing a lot of young men and women who were prepared to "trick" for as little as $20. However, throughout his memoir, Bowers is at pains to point out that he was neither a pimp nor a prostitute. "When it came to my own sexual liaisons, I was always more than happy to pocket the tip that anyone offered me for a night of sex," he says. "But I never charged for my matchmaking services when hooking-up other people. I would set up the trick and then the two of them went off together and money changed hands between them. "It was only fair. My operation -- if you want to call it that -- was not a prostitution ring. I was only providing a service to those who wanted it and, as recorded history has shown, throughout the ages there has always been a need for high-quality sex". To hear Bowers tell it, the '40s and '50s in Los Angeles were golden decades of sexual experimentation, where stars and their willing acolytes enjoyed never-ending pool parties under the Californian sun. Sex was an obsession and a currency for stars young and old. Mae West, even as she was in her late-60s, kept a string of young bodybuilders on call 24 hours a day. Bowers got to know Rock Hudson, whose homosexuality was an open secret in Hollywood, in the mid-'50s and also knew his wife, Phyllis Gates, a lesbian who had been persuaded to marry Rock to quell the gossip magazine whispers about his sexuality. "This phony marriage must have been hell on them both. Rock had a voracious, almost uncontrollable sexual appetite. In later years he cruised the streets every night, picking up vagabonds, strangers and young men all over town," says Bowers. The Los Angeles police vice squad was a constant threat, with LA Confidential-style shakedowns, blackmail rings and the vicious persecution of gay men in particular (or at least those who couldn't afford high-powered lawyers and the protection of the studio bosses). Pay-offs to the right cops, the activities of studio fixers and the complicity of the media ensured that very little scandal leaked out. Bowers' memoirs read like a roll-call of just about every major star in the studio system of the time and he cheerfully dishes the dirt. He claims Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were never really involved in a great love affair, painting Hepburn as a sexually voracious lesbian who needed Tracy as a cover for her lifestyle. The list of stars who get the Bowers treatment includes Edith Piaf, Vivien Leigh, Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Bob Hope and William Holden (to name but a very, very few). Non-industry figures like Edward and Wallis Simpson, FBI boss J Edgar Hoover and Beatles manager Brian Epstein, flit in and out of the picture, indulging in a wild array of pan-sexual activities. Bowers had been friendly with the movie star Tyrone Powers since their days together in the Marine Corps and once they met up again in Los Angeles, they "enjoyed quite a few sexual shenanigans together". "Women swooned over him and he bedded quite a few of them, but he much preferred men," says Bowers. "Some of his sexual tastes were rather odd and offbeat, but none of the guys seemed to mind." The sexual exploits of the golden- era stars still fascinate, and readers may never look at classic movies like The Wizard of Oz or Bringing Up Baby in the same way again. It can't all have been glamorous pool parties in the Hollywood Hills and smiling, handsome film stars driving around in Cadillacs and Bentleys. But to hear Bowers tell it, after surviving the Depression and then World War Two, the young Americans who flocked to California in the '40s and '50s had little concern for the kind of sexual puritanism apparently making a comeback in the US.

Piranha Women who trap well-off men are pure myth


The dangers of daily life for modern men are manifold, it seems. Alongside transfats in foods and oestrogen in drinking water, they must also beware 'Piranha Women'. Or so says divorce lawyer Diane Benussi. In her daily life overseeing the unraveling of families' personal lives, she claims to have observed a new breed of avaricious woman. This lady, according to Ms Benussi, is manipulative and devious to the core -- a romantic mercenary in a mini-skirt. Increasingly, Ms Benussi observed to a tabloid newspaper, beautiful young women, disinclined to make an honest living, are targeting vulnerable wealthy men in a bid to win a share of their assets. Their weapon of choice is their fertility. They lure unsuspecting gentlemen into unprotected sex and then fall pregnant, using the resulting progeny as a siphon on the unsuspecting man's bank account. Poor love. As anyone knows, well-off men in middle age represent one of society's most vulnerable minorities. Not only that, but they are, apparently, completely incapable of taking care of something as simple as contraception. I don't know about you, but personally, in my three decades on earth, I've never met a Piranha Woman. This pantomime trope of a scheming madam who uses sex purely as strategy exists for me only in fairytale. There are women, sure, who find an affluent man who can prove his worth as a provider and an alpha male attractive. But I don't know a single female who has used her womb as a honey trap in order to save herself the bother of buying lottery tickets. I have, on the other hand, met plenty of men who are convinced that they must protect themselves against female strategy and acquisitiveness. One, whom I dated briefly in college, told me outright one evening that he knew as a successful, ambitious guy (at this point he was still a student) he had to beware the advances of ladies with alluring eyes and sinister agendas. His mother, he informed me gravely, had warned him that he was exactly the kind of man that women would try and become pregnant by. Thus, he must be extra careful with contraception. Needless to say, that comment was turn off enough to have me on the next bus home to my own bed. Contrary to what he and his mother thought, I was rather less convinced than they were of the value of his precious sperm. It's possible, of course, that there are a few Piranha Women out there. But I'd guess that they are an extremely rare species. There's a cultural precedent for this belief, of course. (Not to mention a great history of paranoia on the part of many men about the dark arts of female sexuality). That precedent is called a WAG. In an era when we have become more than familiar with women winning fame, wealth, and cultural influence on the strength of their association with rich men, it's not a far stretch to create the myth of the Piranha. We know well that the WAG seeks out partnerships with wealthy footballers, within which a transactional trade-off of beauty for lifestyle and luxury is transparently part of the deal. The notional Piranha simply takes this a step further, by, we are told, using her sex appeal to cut out the romance and go straight for the cash, by way of a baby. This, says Ms Benussi, has become an accepted way for a woman to make a living. One could argue that, as a divorce lawyer, she's likely to know. But I don't believe it. There's a huge leap between falling in love with a fit, rich, attractive young footballer and seducing a wealthy singleton with middle-aged spread to get straight to his bank balance. Sure, there are plenty of women who consider affluence to be an attractive attribute in a man. It bespeaks success, competence and a certain capacity for influence and agency in the world -- all sexy qualities, let's be honest. But outside of a pure sex-for-money transaction -- from which, for most women unlucky enough to have to resort to it, pregnancy as a result is usually the least desirable outcome -- I have never met a woman myself who would put it above sexual desire and a genuine emotional bond. The invention of the storybook villain Piranha Woman seems suspiciously like dredging up bitter old cliches in order to further divide the genders around issues of separation and divorce. Relationships are rarely so simple. And perpetuating these kind of tropes and stereotypes serves no one except the divorce lawyers.

'Kinky' nuns and tattooed Christs spark controversy for Spanish gallery


Catholics and conservatives have denounced as blasphemous two recent exhibitions in Madrid featuring kinky nuns in lingerie and tattooed and near-naked Christs, demonstrating outside one gallery. Catholic group AES called a demonstration for Friday evening outside the Fresh Gallery in Madrid against its latest exhibition: "Obscenity", a collection of photographs by Canadian artist Bruce LaBruce. The 50 pictures on display include a portrait of Spanish actress Rossy de Palma in a black and white habit and see-through corset with a rosary between her teeth. One shows a well-known singer, Alaska, dressed as a sexy saint with a communion wafer on her tongue, while in another she hugs a tattooed Christ to her breast in a kinky tribute to Michaelangelo's Pieta sculpture. Around 50 protesters demonstrated outside the Fresh gallery Friday evening bearing placards reading "For a unified and Catholic Spain" and "God Exists". LaBruce himself was unrepentant. "How can fascists attempt to assert any sort of moral authority over anything?" he said. LaBruce, 48, whose work has often sparked protests and censorship, wrote on the gallery's website that "the lives of the saints are full of ecstatic acts of sublimated sexuality."

'Kinky' nuns and tattooed Christs spark controversy for Spanish gallery


Catholics and conservatives have denounced as blasphemous two recent exhibitions in Madrid featuring kinky nuns in lingerie and tattooed and near-naked Christs, demonstrating outside one gallery. Catholic group AES called a demonstration for Friday evening outside the Fresh Gallery in Madrid against its latest exhibition: "Obscenity", a collection of photographs by Canadian artist Bruce LaBruce. The 50 pictures on display include a portrait of Spanish actress Rossy de Palma in a black and white habit and see-through corset with a rosary between her teeth. One shows a well-known singer, Alaska, dressed as a sexy saint with a communion wafer on her tongue, while in another she hugs a tattooed Christ to her breast in a kinky tribute to Michaelangelo's Pieta sculpture. Around 50 protesters demonstrated outside the Fresh gallery Friday evening bearing placards reading "For a unified and Catholic Spain" and "God Exists". LaBruce himself was unrepentant. "How can fascists attempt to assert any sort of moral authority over anything?" he said. LaBruce, 48, whose work has often sparked protests and censorship, wrote on the gallery's website that "the lives of the saints are full of ecstatic acts of sublimated sexuality."


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