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29 Mar 2012

Baggage handlers to strike at Easter

 

Baggage handlers at Stansted Airport are to strike over Easter in a row over pay, the GMB union announced today. The move follows an overwhelming vote in favour of industrial action by 150 GMB members employed by Swissport after the union claimed that shift changes would lead to wage cuts of up to £1,000. The GMB said strikes will be held on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday, threatening disruption to passengers flying on holiday for the holiday break. GMB official Gary Pearce said: "GMB members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and for action short of a strike. "Up to now the company has been intent on imposing these changes without agreement and this is completely unacceptable, as this vote shows. "GMB has offered several alternative shift patterns and working arrangements but the company refuses to listen so far. "I have notified Swissport of the ballot result and I have asked them for more talks to try to avert action over these pay cuts. "GMB members consider that Swissport is attempting to make savings at their expense and they are not willing to agree to this. "Unless there is urgent talks and a settlement, this vote for action this will result in disruption over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. "The travelling public need to be aware that it has been this aggressive move by Swissport to cut our members pay at a time of high inflation that has led to this strike vote. "If the strike goes ahead, Swissport is entirely to blame for the disruption."

28 Mar 2012

Shawn Tyson guilty of murdering two Britons in Florida

 

An American teenager has been found guilty of the first degree murder of two British tourists in Florida. James Cooper, 25, from Warwickshire, and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, were shot dead on a public housing estate in Newtown, Sarasota. The pair, who met at Sheffield University, were killed after drunkenly wandering into the estate in the early hours of 16 April 2011. The court heard Shawn Tyson, 17, killed them after trying to rob them. Tyson, who was tried as an adult despite being 16 at the time of the shooting, faces life in prison with no chance of parole. 'Shattered soul' The families of Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris were not in court but said in a statement they were satisfied with the verdict. They added: "It is a fact that we were given a life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken from us. "Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul." Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper had been out drinking in downtown Sarasota before they were shot The families also criticised the Sarasota court system that freed Tyson after a judge warned he was a danger to the public. Hours before he shot the two Britons, Tyson was arrested for a separate shooting incident in which no-one was hurt. In the statement the families said: "The evil of the killer is one thing, but the fact is, he would not have been on the streets had instructions to keep him incarcerated been passed from one judge to another." Killer's boast When the mistake came to light the Mayor of Sarasota, Kelly Kirschener, vowed the city's prosecutors would never let anything similar happen again. During the trial jurors heard how Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper had been out drinking in downtown Sarasota before getting lost and wandering into the Newtown area in the early hours. The prosecution said they were confronted by Tyson who tried to rob them and then shot them when he realised they had very little money. The court heard Tyson had boasted to his friend Latrece Washington, who testified against him, that one of the men had begged for his life but he shot him anyway.

French judges seek arrest of Equatorial Guinea leader's son

 

Two French judges sought an international arrest warrant for the son of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema on money laundering charges, a judicial source said on Tuesday. The two judges, Roger Le Loire and Rene Grouman, consider there are grounds to suspect that Teodorin Obiang, who is agriculture minister in the small, oil-rich central African country, acquired real estate in France by fraudulent means. The warrant will not be released until a prosecutor has reviewed the request and decides whether to proceed. Teodorin is frequently seen enjoying an extravagant lifestyle abroad with multi-million dollar mansions, jets and yachts. Billboards in the capital Malabo seek to show him at work and in touch with the people, but diplomats and analysts cite his playboy lifestyle as a cause for concern. The French judges, who have been handling the case since 2010 on the basis of "concealment of embezzled public funds," suspect that the properties were purchased with public money from Equatorial Guinea. The judges had previously sought permission from the government of Equatorial Guinea to question Teodorin, but that request was rejected, Olivier Pardo, lawyer for the oil producing nation, told Reuters in Paris. "Unless one wishes to violate the sovereignty of the State of Equatorial Guinea and harm relations between France and Equatorial Guinea, it is absurd to want to launch an arrest warrant," he said. As part of the investigation, French police raided a building belonging to Equatorial Guinea in a wealthy area of Paris in February. After three days they removed art works and fine wines worth several million euros. The building was valued at about 150 million euros and investigators say it housed a nightclub and hairdressers, which suggested it was not being used as a diplomatic residence. Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International had filed the original legal complaint against Teodorin Obiang. On March 1, Teodorin filed for defamation against Daniel Lebegue, the president of the French arm of Transparency, denying he had embezzled funds. President Teodoro Obiang has ruled the former Spanish colony for more than three decades, making him the longest-serving African leader following the demise of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, with rights groups labelling his regime one of the world's most corrupt. The country produces about 240,000 barrels of oil per day. In January, Teodorin asked a U.S. court to dismiss attempts by the Obama administration to seize some $71 million worth of his assets, denying charges that they were obtained with allegedly corrupt funds taken from his country. He argued he had not violated U.S. or Equatorial Guinea law and called the corruption allegations "character assassination" against him and his country. Equatorial Guinea in October said it wanted to appoint Teodorin as its deputy permanent delegate at U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in Paris, a position that would give him diplomatic status in France. Until now the agency has not received any official documentation to proceed further with that request.

25 Mar 2012

Iberia Express takes off on Sunday

 

The new low-cost airline, Iberia Express, takes off on Sunday with launch prices from 25 €. The airline, which has been the focus of protests, twelve so far, from SEPLA pilots in the main airline, will start with four routes from Madrid – to Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, Málaga and Sevilla. The inaugural flight will be between Madrid and Alicante. There will also be 45 € flights to the Canary Islands which start in June and 59 € flights to European destinations which will start between June and September. The there will be 17 routes. Iberia Express will operate four Airbus A320, a number which will progressively increase to reach 13 craft by the end of the year. The CEO, Luis Gallego, has promised the same quality of service as Iberia. Tickets go on sale next week on www.iberiaexpress.com

Woman who is promoting a cannabis plantation in Catalan village is arrested

 

The woman who recently put forward the idea of the creation of a cannabis plant in the village of Rasquera in Tarragona, has been arrested for alleged drug trafficking in Barcelona. The regional police, Los Mossos d’Esquadra, recovered 1.3 kilos of marihuana worth 5,700 €. The arrested woman is a manager on the Barcelona Self-Use Cannabis Association and four workers in the group have also been indicted. Meanwhile back in the village a referendum is to be held on April 10 to decide on the plantation. The Mayor, Bernat Pellisa, said political pressures will not influence the final decision of the Town Hall, and noted the coverage of the story was as if they had spent 2.4 million € on advertising.

General Strike minimum services agreed for transport

 

After ten hours of talks, the Ministry for Development has reached agreement with the unions on minimum transport services during the General Strike on March 29. They are almost identical to the minimum services during the last General Strike in 2010. Trains – Cercanias – Local lines 25% off peak, and 30% in peak times between 6and 9am Long Distance train services over 500 kms – 20% of normal levels. AVE and long distance trains will see 20% service. Airports – 1,240 flights would take place on a normal day, but the 29th will see 10% of national flights, 50% of flights to the Canaries and Baleares from the mainland, and 20% of flights with destinations in the E.U. International flights outside Europe will see 40% services. It is hoped that more detailed will be available for each airline and flight shortly. Coach – Services will be 25%. Ferries – between 50% and 100% for routes between the Baleares and the mainland, and 100% between the mainland, Melilla, Canaries and Ceuta. Coastguard services will not be affected. After the meeting the Secretary of State for Transport, Infrastructure and Housing, Rafael Catalá, said he was satisfied with the agreement. He said a balance between the right to strike and the services for the citizens was guaranteed. Secretary General of the Public Services of the CCOO union, Enrique Fossoul, said the 2010 stoppage levels were now acting as a precedent for this time round.

Cheap drugs abroad could pay for break

HOLIDAYMAKERS can pay for the cost of a break in the sun by buying their prescription drugs while abroad. Legally they can purchase their prescribed drugs -- at a fraction of the cost here over the counter -- in Malaga, Marbella , Faro or Lisbon. Those on long term medication and covered by the Drug Payment Scheme, who cough up €132 a month, can particularly benefit. For example, a patient on holiday in Marbella recently bought the three main elements of her prescription. Prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and to reduce risk of cardiovascular problems they cost her almost four times as much in Dublin as in Spain. The products -- Lipitor, Cozaar Comp and Tritace -- in their generic form came to €108.13 in Dublin for a month's supply. In Marbella the same medicines are sold under a different name for €63.72 for two months' supply. That is a saving of €152.54 for two months. On that basis a six month prescription for the three tablets would cost €648.78 in Dublin as against €191.16 in Spain -- a staggering saving of €457.62. The Irish Medicines Board and the Revenue Commissioners both confirmed that medication, prescription and non prescription, bought for personal use within the EU or outside may be brought back in to the State legally. imported They agreed that travellers are permitted to import on their person or in their baggage "a reasonable amount of such medicines for personal use". "Anyone entering the State may bring their personal medication with them and that personal medication should be no more than any amount that may be obtained on a prescription, for example up to a three months supply. "Any amount being imported above a level that would be considered to be normal personal use, could be considered to be a commercial quantity and for business purposes." This "personal use" exemption does not apply to products imported by other means, ie. in the post, by express couriers or in merchandise. Revenue said that the law of the country where you are visiting will dictate whether your Irish prescription will be accepted or whether you will require a doctor's prescription from that country. They advised it is always a good idea to have a copy of your prescription in your possession so that customs officers can verify it by contacting the dispensing pharmacy and the doctor who issued it.

24 Mar 2012

Sex is a multibillion-dollar industry in Spain, with colorfully lit brothels staffed mainly by poor immigrant women from Latin America, Africa and eastern Europe lining highways throughout the country

Pimps Arrested in Spain for 'Barcoding' Women

Police in Spain arrested 22 alleged pimps who purportedly tattooed women with bar codes as a sign of ownership and used violence to force them into prostitution.  Police are calling the gang the "bar code pimps." Officers freed one 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with a bar code and an amount of money — €2,000 ($2,650) — which investigators believe was the debt the gang wished to extort before releasing her. The woman had also been whipped, chained to a radiator and had her hair and eyebrows shaved off, according to an Interior Ministry statement.All those arrested were of Romanian nationality and had forced the women to hand over part of their earnings, the statement said. The women were tattooed on their wrists if they tried to escape, the statement said. Police also seized guns and ammunition. It was not immediately clear when the raids took place. Police seized €140,000 ($185,388) in cash, which had been hidden in a false ceiling, a large amount of gold jewelry and five vehicles, three of which were described as luxury cars. The gang was made up of two separate groups, referred to as "clans" in the statement, each dedicated to controlling prostitution along fixed stretches of a street in downtown Madrid. One of the alleged ringleaders who was identified only by the initials "I.T." is wanted by authorities in Romania for crimes linked to prostitution, the statement said. The women were controlled at all times to ensure "money was taken off them immediately," the statement said.   Sex is a multibillion-dollar industry in Spain, with colorfully lit brothels staffed mainly by poor immigrant women from Latin America, Africa and eastern Europe lining highways throughout the country. Prostitution falls in legal limbo: it is not regulated, although pimping is a crime. The northeastern city of Barcelona plans to introduce regional legislation in coming weeks banning prostitution on urban streets.

Russian banker shot six times had testified over murder plot


The banker was left for dead by a lone gunman as he returned to his home in Canary Wharf on Tuesday evening. Scotland Yard detectives are investigating the attempted assassination, which Mr Gorbuntsov’s lawyer believes was a retaliation attack after the banker gave evidence in a 2009 attempted murder case. Mr Gorbuntsov, who fled to London because of his fear of reprisals, had recently submitted new evidence to Russian police about the attempted murder of Alexander Antonov, another Russian banker. The case was closed three years ago when three Chechen men were jailed for attempted murder. But police have never discovered who organised the attempted hit. Officers re-opened the case on March 2 this year after Mr Gorbuntsov submitted his new testimony.

Serbian mafia 'put gangster in mincer and ate him for lunch'

Milan Jurisic

Gang that assassinated Serbian prime minister admits making 'face mask' out of member's skin

A GANGSTER who helped orchestrate the Serbian prime minister's assassination in 2003 was allegedly made into a stew and eaten by his associates after falling out with his gang leader.
 
Police believe Milan Jurisic (above) was beaten to death with a hammer, skinned and boned with a sharp knife and then put through a meat grinder at a flat in Madrid in 2009.
 
The Zemun clan, a notorious faction of the Serbian mafia that once had connections with the Serbian government, police and media, allegedly made a face mask from Jurisic's skin before turning him into stew and eating him for lunch.
 
It apparently took the gang five days to clean up what is being described as "the house of horrors".
 
Sretko Kalinic, nicknamed 'The Butcher' and known as the gang's hitman, confessed to the crimes when he was arrested in Croatia last year, according to the Daily Mail. Kalinic admitted that he "literally dismembered" Jurisic and then threw his remains into Madrid's Manzanares river.
 
This week, Spanish officers discovered documents at the scene of the crime supporting The Butcher's account. They also found 50 bones in the river and are currently awaiting identification from forensics.
 
Jurisic was one of 12 men found guilty of arranging the 2003 murder of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was killed by a sniper as he approached a government building in Belgrade.
 
Jurisic was on the run when he was murdered, having been convicted in his absence to 30 years' jail by the Belgrade Special Court for Organised Crime.

It is believed Jurisic had fallen out with the leader of the Zemun cklan, Luka Bojovic, either over money or a woman.
 
As the BBC reports, Bojovic himself was arrested in a restaurant in Valencia, Spain last month, wanted for more than 20 murders in Serbia, the Netherlands and Spain. He is also suspected of involvement in the 2003 assassination. · 




23 Mar 2012

Spain moves toward freedom of information law


Freedom of information in Spain came one step nearer Friday after the recently-elected government agreed to introduce a bill in response to widespread disgust over corruption and mismanagement by elected officials of both main political parties. The country's Cabinet agreed to put forward legislation that will allow Spaniards to find out more about how their money is spent by government. Spain, which is struggling to get its public finances under control, is one of Europe's few countries without wide-ranging freedom of information legislation. "It is a law whose main goal is improve the credibility of and trust in our institutions, especially government ones," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said. The legislation will take months to come into effect, after an unprecedented 15-day period in which the general public can make suggestions on what should be accessible to them and how the law should work. After that, the bill has to be go through normal Parliamentary procedures. Though the salaries of the prime minister and government ministers are already public information, as are the national budget and much other money-related data, not all of it is easy to access. But under the new bill, information on subjects including senior public servants' salaries and detailed data on government contracts and subsidies will be published online. Spaniards will also be able to file requests for other kinds of information providing it does not breach national security or personal privacy. The goal of the new law is to make public officials at all levels much more accountable for how they spend taxpayer money. People will be able to get information just by the click of a mouse. "It is a law that tries to give rigor to compliance with budget and financial obligations that were unknown until now, but will serve to restore credibility to all levels of government," Saenz de Santa Maria said. News of the Cabinet's support for a package that should make for more open government comes as the country struggles to avoid the same fate as other indebted European countries. The newly-elected conservative government is trying to convince investors that it has a strategy to deal with its debts so it won't follow Greece, Ireland and Portugal in needing a bailout. Concerns have swelled recently after figures showed the country's borrowing last year was way more than expected, due in large part to overspending by regional governments but also because the economy is shrinking and laying siege to tax revenues. And a new code of good governance included in the law will make it easier to fire government officials — and ban them from serving anew for up to 10 years — if they do things such as fail to set or meet deficit-reduction targets under a balanced budget law, planned for 2020.

Spain's Iberia starts low-cost airline

Spanish carrier Iberia on Friday launched a new low-cost airline, Iberia Express, which aims to claim a stake in the highly competitive no-frills sector of the European market. The new airline is part of a plan by parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group to increase profitability after the merger of its component parts, British Airways and Iberia. Iberia Express will initially cover Vigo, Santiago and Granada on Spain's mainland and its island destinations of Minorca, Ibiza, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma. It will expand internationally to Ireland, Italy, Greece, Latvia and Netherlands, chief executive Luis Gallego said at a news conference. "The containment of costs will allow Iberia Express to grow and compete with the low-cost operators," said Gallego, adding that although the new airline will be managed independently, it will employ Iberia's maintenance and other services. Inaugural flights will take off Sunday, although the company's website was not up and running Friday afternoon. Prices begin at (euro) 25 ($33) one-way with a surcharge for checking in luggage and booking seats in advance. The new company employs 500 staff and has a fleet of four Airbus 320 planes, although there are plans to increase this to 14 aircraft by the end of the year and up 40 by 2015. The airline is the subject of a protracted labor dispute between Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA and Spain's main pilots' union, Sepla — which held 12 days of work stoppages in December and January to protest the low-cost airline. Sepla pilots argue Iberia Express would mean job losses among the 1,600 pilots who work for the main airline — a claim disputed by Iberia. Sepla had announced nine days of strikes in April and May but called them off following government mediation and has agreed to negotiate further with Iberia.

19 Mar 2012

18 Best Places to Retire Overseas

When choosing a place to spend your retirement years, the cost of living is important. But it is only one consideration. The ideal retirement spot is a place where you can live a rich life filled with friends, travel, discovery, physical and intellectual distractions, and opportunities for growth. A super-low cost of living is great, but more important is the quality of life your retirement budget is buying you. Many of the best options for enjoying an enormously enriched retirement lifestyle on even a very modest budget can be found overseas. Here are the world’s 18 top retirement havens, where an interesting, adventure-filled lifestyle is available for a better-than-reasonable cost. The Americas 1. Panama. Panama is the world's top retirement haven. Panama City no longer qualifies as cheap, but other spots in this country certainly do. Panama continues to offer the world's gold standard program of special benefits for retirees. The currency is the U.S. dollar, so there is no exchange rate risk if your retirement savings and income is in dollars. The climate in Panama City and on the coasts is tropical, hot, and humid. However, the climate in the highlands can be temperate and tempting. Panama is the hub of the Americas, meaning it's easily accessible from anywhere in North and South America and Europe. 2. Belize. Belize is a great place for reinventing your life in retirement. This tiny, under-developed, sparsely populated country offers two distinct lifestyle options: Ambergris Caye is the best of the Caribbean at a discount, while the Cayo is a frontier where independent-minded pioneers can make their own way and do their own thing, peacefully and privately. The climate is tropical, warmer on the coast, and cooler in the mountainous interior. The official language is English, so there’s no foreign language barrier for Americans. You’ll find a well-established and welcoming community of expats in San Pedro and on Ambergris Caye, and an emerging community of expats in the Cayo around San Ignacio. 3. Colombia. Medellin, a city of springtime and flowers, is the unsung jewel of Colombia. This city is pretty, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, safe, and affordable. Perhaps the most appealing advantage in Medellin is the cost of real estate. It's an absolute global bargain. You can buy property in a good neighborhood for as little as $1,000 per meter. Medellin’s second biggest appeal is its climate, which is spring-like year-round, thanks to the high elevation. Medellin is a more developed city than you might imagine, with five of the best hospitals in Latin America, universities, museums, art galleries, and an efficient and reliable metro system. It also has international-standard shopping and many interesting nightlife options. If you fancy Paris or other Continental city choices, but don't want or can't afford Europe, I strongly recommend you take a look at Medellin. This city is one of the best places in the world to hang your hat. 4. Uruguay. It seems that the more troubled the rest of the world becomes, the more people are finding appeal in Uruguay, a stable commodity-based economy with a sound banking system. Uruguay is neither an aggressor nor a target of aggression in the world arena, and it's not a high-stakes player in world politics. Costs have risen in recent years thanks to the strength of the Uruguayan peso and the sinking value of the dollar. But, even as the cost of living and of real estate rose, Uruguay has become even more popular as a lifestyle and retirement destination. Accordingly, people are coming to Uruguay in record numbers, with residency applications up over 300 percent since 2007, many of these coming from the United States. 5. Ecuador. Ecuador is perhaps the best choice in the Americas for a retiree looking to enjoy a rich and interesting quality of life on a limited budget. I recommend Cuenca, the former Inca and Spanish capital, a current UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the intellectual heart of Ecuador. Cuenca is home to about 1,500 full-time residents from North America. This is not a big number compared with some more recognized Mexican retirement choices, but Cuenca clearly qualifies as an expat-friendly city, offering one of the most interesting retirement lifestyles available anywhere. Amenities include theater, orchestra, shows, restaurants, broadband Internet service, reliable electricity and telephone, and drinkable tap water. Cuenca’s appeal as a retirement haven is expanding in important ways, thanks to a recently developed program promoting the city as a medical tourism destination. The city's five top hospitals have joined together to offer bundled programs of medical tests, procedures, and services available for from $66 to $401. Costs for comparable services in the United States would be multiples of these amounts. In addition, Cuenca is now offering nursing care of a standard suitable for and appealing to the expat retiree at a cost of just $450 per month, including 24-hour doctor and nurse attendance, food, laundry, personal care, and occupational and rehabilitative therapy. 6. Nicaragua. Another top choice for a retiree with a very limited budget is Nicaragua. This country’s Pacific coastline is every bit as dramatically beautiful as that of neighboring Costa Rica. Infrastructure is under-developed in both countries, but the cost of living and especially real estate are noticeably lower in Nicaragua, making the pot-holed roads easier to bear. Nicaragua also boasts two of the top Spanish-colonial cities in the Americas: Granada, a pretty and romantic city that everyone should see once, and Leon. Both places were founded in the early 16th century by Cordoba. 7. Roatan, Honduras. I’m not a big fan of mainland Honduras, which is under-developed and, in some places, unsafe. However, the Bay Island of Roatan is a world apart and one of my two top picks for affordable retirement in the Caribbean (the other is Ambergris Caye, Belize). 8. Argentina. Argentina is a dynamic and charming nation that rides perpetually between crisis and boom. This rich country boasts abundant natural resources and offers many appealing retirement lifestyle choices, including the eclectic and cosmopolitan neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the provincial capitals, a finca in the countryside, and a boutique vineyard in Mendoza. Retirement life in Argentina could be many things, but never dull. The downside is a rising cost of living, thanks to local inflation and the falling value of the U.S. dollar versus the Argentine peso. 9. Mexico. This is historically one of the most recognized retirement havens for Americans. But Mexico today is suffering from a lot of bad press thanks to its drug wars. However, Mexico is a big country, and the drug goons haven’t overtaken it entirely. It continues to offer some of the best coastal lifestyle and retirement options in the Americas, including Puerto Vallarta, my number-one choice for an affordable life of luxury on the Pacific. A couple could enjoy a a five-star retirement in this beautiful and romantic coastal town of marinas, golf courses, yacht clubs, and fine dining on a budget of as little as $2,500 per month. 10. Chile. Chile is a developed, First World destination that is also quiet, safe, and stable. Unlike its more scandalous neighbor, Argentina, Chile offers a cultured, comfortable lifestyle that is relatively calm. Santiago is a city of classic-style architecture, cobblestoned streets, and cafes with outdoor seating, in many ways reminiscent of Paris or Barcelona. This city of 7 million is also remarkably clean and friendly and boasts a diverse and expanding property market that is affordable on a global scale. You could own property at some of the city’s best addresses for less than $2,000 a meter. One important downside to retirement in Santiago is the air pollution, which is a serious problem, especially during the winter months. A better option could be the country’s beautiful Lake District to the south of Santiago, which is a favorite retirement choice among Chileans themselves. Europe 11. France. France is a land of superlatives. Its capital has been called the most beautiful, most romantic, and most touristed city on earth. It also boasts some of the world’s best wines, cheeses, restaurants, shopping, castles, gardens, parks, beaches, museums, cafes, galleries, vineyards, and architecture. The typical concern for anyone who has ever dreamed of a new life in France is that it's too expensive for the average retiree to consider seriously. Not so. Paris isn't cheap. But elsewhere in France you can find realistic options, even if your retirement budget is modest. Perhaps the most retirement friendly region in this country is in the southwest, north of Spain, where small country towns offer a way of life that is quintessentially French and also very affordable. 12. Italy. The cost of living in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Tuscany might be beyond the limits of your retirement budget. But that doesn't mean you should take Italy off your list entirely if this is the country that stirs your imagination and speaks to your soul. A retiree on a budget interested in Italy could look at Abruzzo. From this beautiful Old World base, within a half-day's drive of both the coast and the mountains, you could plan excursions to Italy's better-known and more expensive outposts as often as you liked. 13. Ireland. Americans have long dreamed of retirement on the Emerald Isle and with good reason. Ireland is safe, peaceful, relaxed, welcoming, friendly, hospitable, and English-speaking, making it an ideal retirement choice for many. Ireland today is also more affordable than it has been in more than a decade, and its property market has fallen off a cliff. Real estate prices are down 50 percent or more in many markets and are still falling. If you, like so many others, have dreamed of wiling away your retirement years on your own little piece of the Auld Sod, this could be the best time in your lifetime to think about making that purchase. 14. Spain. Spain is known among expats for its Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, especially its infamous (and unfortunately over-developed) Costa del Sol. But there's more to this country than its costas. Barcelona, for example, is a world-class city on the ocean, perfect if you're looking for a cosmopolitan life near the water. Real estate prices in this country have fallen tremendously since the highs of four or five years ago. If retirement in Spain appeals to you, this could be the time to search for a great deal on Spanish retirement digs. 15. Croatia. Croatia, a country with an extraordinarily complicated history and an extremely open-minded, forward-looking population, is at another turning point in its long history. Countries at turning points are interesting places to be. I recommend the country’s Istrian Peninsula, which serves up some of the most delightful scenery on the planet. The land seems to rise up to embrace you, and everywhere you look, something nice is growing like olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins, blackberries, and wildflowers. Even the buildings seem to be part of the earth, built of its white stone and red clay. This sun-soaked region offers one of the most appealing lifestyle options in Europe today. Asia 16. Thailand. Thailand boasts both really cheap and developed and comfortable lifestyle choices. It is also noteworthy as being one of the few countries in this part of the world that offers formal options for long-term and retirement visas. Hua Hin is one of the few classic retirement havens in Southeast Asia, complete with golf courses, factory outlets, and gated communities. Foreigners make up approximately 15 percent of that population, and most of them are retired. With 12 golf courses in operation and another 3 under construction, this is definitely the place to go if you're a golfing enthusiast. Hua Hin is a place where, if you were so inclined, you could live a North American lifestyle and never have to involve yourself more than superficially with the local Thai culture. This could be a plus or a minus for you, but it is worth noting when discussing options in this typically exotic part of the world. 17. Vietnam. While Thailand is well-established as an interesting option for expats and foreign retirees, Vietnam is an emerging choice, which could get a lot more attention in the coming few years. Nha Trang offers an interesting coastal retirement option for adventuresome retirees. Nha Trang’s total population of more than 200,000 includes an expat population of about 1,000 people, meaning foreigners here are still pioneers. You'll find no organized activities for foreigners, such as expat clubs or softball leagues. The lack of a big foreign population makes it easier to have meaningful interactions with the locals. The major attraction in Nha Trang is its cost of living, which can amount to much less than $1,000 per month for a retired couple. If you're a budget-minded retiree with an interest in Asia, this town should be on top on your list. 18. Malaysia. After Thailand, Malaysia is the easiest country to navigate in this part of the world. The country's capital, Kuala Lumpur, is a city of contrasts. The shining stainless steel Petronas Towers, two of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, anchor a startlingly beautiful skyline that is truly unique to this city. Modern, air-conditioned malls flourish, selling everything from beautifully handcrafted batik clothing to genuine Rolex watches and Tiffany jewelry. In the shadows of these ultra-modern buildings, the ancient Malay village of Kampung Baru still thrives, with free-roaming roosters and a slow pace of life generally found in rural villages. Less than a 20-minute walk from the city center, you can find yourself conversing with monkeys in the city-jungle surrounding one of the highest telecommunications towers in the world. A walk of less than 30 minutes leads you to Chinatown and Little India, where merchants offer their wares, foods, and culture in happy neighborhoods that showcase the amazing diversity of the city. Unlike some places in Asia, foreigners are genuinely welcomed in Kuala Lumpur. Language isn't a problem, as almost everyone speaks adequate English. Immigration is easy, and it is possible to stay for an extended period with a simple tourist visa. Although Kuala Lumpur is more expensive than rural Malaysia, it can be marvelously inexpensive by Western standards. You can realistically expect to cut your living expenses by a third and still enjoy a lifestyle comparable to what you are accustomed to now.

5 Top Ways Stars Lose All Their Cash

Last week Gary Busey passed a mandatory online financial management course in an attempt to convince a U.S. Bankruptcy court he'll start sensibly managing his money.  The veteran actor recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But in Hollywood, going broke is just about as as common as a leaked nude photos; just ask Toni Braxton, Larry Wilcox, Vince Neil, Mike Tyson, and Stephen Baldwin, all of whom have recently filed for bankruptcy. Not to mention Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, who was forced to put their Bel Air mansion on the market last year to pay the ailing star’s medical bills; Wesley Snipes, who was imprisoned for three tax-related misdemeanor convictions; and Nicolas Cage, who lost one of his homes to foreclosure and has been plagued by IRS issues. So how is it that some of the most well-paid people on the planet can end up with next to nothing? We talked to financial management experts and they ticked off the top five ways rich celebs lose it all (or close to it). 5. They have no idea how money management works.  “Most celebrities have extremely creative minds. But in my experience, the most creative folks tend not to want to spend time dealing with business issues,” tax and business expert Joseph M. Doloboff, Partner at Blank Rome LLP in Los Angeles told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. But don’t famous folks hire financial planners and business managers to take good care of their millions? “Most of them do, but at the end of the day, these accounts are still in a celebrities’ name, which gives them ultimate control over their wealth,” said Certified Financial Counselor for Financial Advice for the Artist, Erin Elizabeth Burns. Which can mean big spending, big mistakes and… 4. Bad advice.  Pete Krainik, Founder and CEO of The CMO Club, a networking resource for top marketing executives, noted that some celebrities do not have the skill sets to identify and determine the right business/financial managers for their needs. “Because they don’t think of themselves as brands, they don’t put the efforts or plans in place to maximize their value for endorsement deals,” he explained. “They should have themselves significant additional revenue streams – it is not just about getting the next role, but getting the next deal.” But some such "additional revenue streams" can also run in the red.. Last year, the Las Vegas rendition of Beso – the restaurant/nightclub co-owned by Eva Longoria – filed for bankruptcy to restructure nearly $5.7 million in debt and other liabilities. Prior to that, the Jay-Z owned 40/40 sports bar in Sin City shut its doors a mere eight months after opening. Britney Spears’s southern-inspired Nyla Restaurant reportedly hit monetary blows before she also severed ties, and both Jennifer Lopez’s “Sweetface” clothing line and restaurant Madres went dark. 3. Theft and fraud.  Hollywood's highest profile people are actually human, which means they too are susceptible to being screwed by business managers, badly worded deals and corrupt advisors. Just ask Kevin Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick, who were taken to the cleaners by Ponzi schemer Bernie Maddoff. Doloboff also said prominent factors in a celeb’s financial crumbling is their tendency to bring "friends" -- or family -- into the fray as business partners or employees. “Many professional athletes and entertainers want to help their friends while simultaneously helping themselves,” he said. “The best advice is to refrain from doing business with friends. True friends don’t condition their friendship upon doing business together.” Comedian Dan Cook will probably adhere to that – in 2010, his half-brother Darryl McCauley was ordered to pay the comic $12 million in restitution after pleading guilty to embezzling funds from him. McCauley allegedly stole $12,500 a month as Cook’s business manager. Friends and fraud – double whammy! 2. Drugs, booze, and bad habits. Stars are known to fall when the temptations of drugs/alcohol/hard partying turns into a dangerous addiction. It can also be more than an expensive habit, as addiction often impacts other areas. “You are far more likely to make poor decisions when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When you’re dealing with celebrities, the problem is that their support groups, (friends, family, entourages, et al), often consist of enablers,” explained Richard Taite, the Founder and CEO of rehab center Cliffside Malibu. “It comes as no surprise that a successful celebrity can face financial destitution if they are abusing drugs or alcohol and are left to their own devices.” 1. Ridiculous overspending. Last but not least, some beautiful yet broke folks just lead foolishly fabulous lives (we're talking to you, MC Hammer) and refuse to accept that fame (and its fortune) can be fleeting. “Most celebrities have luxuries such as a cook, a driver, a personal stylist, a personal assistant etc.,” said Burns. “They become accustomed to this lifestyle, but when their contract isn’t renewed, or when the films offers stop coming in, they are still living this life of luxury with the expectation that they will always be in demand.” Yes, sadly, not every Hollywood tale has a happy ending. But with some good financial advise, the ending doesn't have to be tragic.

At least four people, including three children, were killed, when a man on a scooter opened fire outside a Jewish school in Toulouse in southwestern France


At least four people, including three children, were killed, when a man on a scooter opened fire outside a Jewish school in Toulouse in southwestern France on Monday, officials said. The attack also left several injured, two of them seriously, and followed the killing of three soldiers in two separate shootings in the same region last week by a man who escaped on a scooter. BFM TV news channel said that the gun used in the attack at the Ozar Hatorah school was of the same calibre as that used in the soldiers’ shootings, but a spokesman for the interior ministry could not immediately confirm this. President Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled other appointments and was on his way to Toulouse on Monday morning, accompanied by Education Minister Luc Chatel and the president of the CRIF French Jewish association, Richard Prasquier. “I saw two people dead in front of the school, an adult and a child … Inside, it was a vision of horror, the bodies of two small children,” a distraught father whose child attends the school told RTL radio. “I did not find my son, apparently he fled when he saw what happened. How can they attack something as sacred as a school, attack children only sixty centimetres tall?” Several other people were injured, two of them seriously. A rabbi at the school, identified as Rahamim Sabag, told Israel’s channel two television that the dead were a 30-year old rabbi who taught at the school, the rabbi’s five-year-old son and two eight-year old children, one of them the daughter of the school’s principal. A spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, expressed outrage at the killings: “We are following with great shock reports coming from Toulouse and we trust the French authorities will solve this crime and bring those responsible to justice.” A spokesman for the interior ministry said that security was being tightened at all Jewish schools in the country. About 50 investigators are already looking into the killings of two soldiers on Thursday in the town of Montauban, close to Toulouse, as they tried to withdraw money from a cash machine close to the barracks of the 17th parachute regiment. A third soldier was killed the previous weekend in Toulouse. Investigators had already confirmed on Friday that the same weapon had been used in both incidents.

Spain's Unicaja, Caja Espana savings banks merge


Spanish regional savings banks Unicaja and Caja Espana have merged following the government's recent requirement that banks raise substantially their provisions set aside to cover toxic real estate exposure. The merger, in which Banco Caja Espana-Duero (Banco Ceiss) is effectively absorbed into Unicaja Banco, creates a group with approximately (EURO)80 billion ($104.9 billion) in total assets and a turnover of (EURO)120 billion ($157.4 billion), according to a joint statement released late Friday. The deal must first receive Finance Ministry and central bank approval and would require (EURO)850 million ($1114.86 million) of state aid, which is added to (EURO)525 million ($688.59 million) already injected into Caja Espana in 2010 by the Bank of Spain's restructuring fund (FROB).

German taxpayer would be obliged to subsidise the wages of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

When faced with the prospect of the Spanish government waiving the collective €752m debt the nation's football clubs owe to the country's tax authorities, the reaction in Europe last week was one of outrage. The German tabloid Bild even asked how long the German taxpayer would be obliged to subsidise the wages of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. What they meant was that while the European Union members bailed out the Spanish economy, successful Spanish clubs were failing to meet their own tax obligations. Strictly speaking, Real Madrid have no tax debt among the €170m debt that the club carry, but Barcelona owe €48m of their overall €364m debt to the Spanish taxman. Uli Hoeness, the outspoken president of Bayern Munich, got to the point rather more quickly when asked about the proposal to excuse Spanish clubs their tax debt. "This is unthinkable," he said. "We pay them hundreds of millions to get them out the shit and then the clubs don't pay their debts." It is a uniquely modern European dilemma, encompassing EU bail-out funds and the competitiveness of the continent's respective leading clubs, all of which ultimately adds another fiendishly complex element to the concept of Financial Fair Play, as proposed by Uefa president Michel Platini. It is further proof that while Spanish football is undoubtedly top dog in Europe, with five teams in the quarter-finals of the two Uefa competitions, it is not without problems. As The Independent's Pete Jenson reported in these pages on Saturday, a government report in Spain last week disclosed that the equivalent of £625m is owed by Spanish clubs to the country's public purse, with £353m of that due from 14 of the 20 clubs in the top division. This is not money owed to banks, investors or owners. It is owed to the Spanish people. On a sporting level it is "financial doping" at its very worse. On a social level it is nothing short of a disgrace in a country where youth unemployment currently runs at 50 per cent. Not all top Spanish clubs are culpable and it was reassuring to read in the breakdown of club debt by AS newspaper that Athletic Bilbao, the team of largely home-grown Basque stars who left English football spellbound with their schooling of Manchester United last week, do not owe the taxman a cent. So too Real Sociedad, Getafe, Villarreal and Sporting Gijon. On the other hand, Atletico Madrid, currently eighth in La Liga and drawn against Hannover 96 in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, owe the Spanish public purse €155m (£128m), more than any other club. The money from the €50m sale of Sergio Aguero to Manchester City last summer went straight to the tax authorities. Valencia, who play AZ Alkmaar in the same stage of the competition, owe €6m in unpaid tax. When Hoeness expressed German football's bitterness that their government is, indirectly, subsidising the success of Spanish clubs it is the likes of Hannover he was talking about. Atletico's big signing was Falcao from Porto last summer, a £33m signing financed by third-party ownership deals. Hannover bought Mame Biram Diouf from Manchester United. Enough said. No one would pretend that British football is the perfect financial model, especially given Rangers' and Portsmouth's debts to HMRC. Even the Germans have had their problems with Borussia Dortmund and Schalke. But unpaid taxes at a time when public services are being cut and jobs lost are particularly repugnant. Real Betis, Real Zaragoza, Racing Santander, Levante and Mallorca (denied a place in last season's Europa League because of their finances) owe a total of €118m to the Spanish tax authorities between them. There are also suggestions that unpaid social security contributions by some Spanish clubs rival those eye-watering figures for unpaid tax. In the past, Spanish football has been protected by the assumption that punishing badly-run clubs would cause such a backlash against government by voters that it would not be politically expedient. There is no points penalty in Spain for going into the equivalent of financial administration as there is in England. But attitudes are changing. The governing political group Partido Popular has described the situation as "intolerable". The government was forced to disclose the figures of unpaid tax because of an official request by Caridad Garcia of the Izquierda Unida (IU) party. A spokesman for IU, José Luis Centella, made the connection last week between the financial hardship felt by the Spanish people and the clubs' failure to pay. "This is bad news for all the people who have lost homes and suffered from the cutbacks while there is this tremendous generosity towards football." Wisely, the Spanish sports minister Miguel Cardenal announced last week that the government had dropped any consideration of giving football clubs a clean slate on their tax debts. There has even been a call from the centre-left party PSOE to ban clubs with tax debts from competing in the league, a rule that, already in place in Italian football, would change the face of La Liga overnight. Were the Spanish tax authorities to call in their debts tomorrow, Barcelona would surely be able to find, or borrow, the €48m they owe. Atletico, on the other hand, would find themselves in the kind of dire situation currently enveloping Rangers. There is a lesson for English football that in the risky game of investment and borrowing that most clubs enter as they attempt to fulfil the ambitions of supporters and owners, there are certain obligations that are non-negotiable. Football clubs command such loyalty and affection that they are too often cut slack, but, as the situation in Spain is starting to show, there is always a limit. Ridicule of Richards the last straw Down the years, Sir Dave Richards has given every appearance of being invulnerable to criticism or error of judgement. He has survived adversaries in the Football Association such as Lord Triesman and Ian Watmore in recent years. The financial problems of Sheffield Wednesday, where he was chairman, do not seem to have had an impact on his reputation. He walked out on the 2018 World Cup bid in a huff and it all blew over. Which makes it all the more incredible that an ornamental fountain, and a slightly unhinged but largely irrelevant speech on football, should prove his undoing. It just goes to shows that a divisive figure in football administration can survive a great deal but once their mistakes start to make people laugh – it's over. Will City seize their chance to get Mourinho? When Manchester City meet Chelsea on Wednesday, the shadow of one man falls over both clubs. Jose Mourinho is the last card that the most ambitious football club owners can play. If all else fails, then give Mourinho the job and if that does not bring success then you really are out of options. In Spain, the mood is that Mourinho may stay at Real Madrid in the penultimate year of his contract next season or he may go back to England if the right job presents itself. Is that Chelsea or could it be City? If Roberto Mancini fails to win the title this season and Mourinho is willing to come then it places an idea in the heads of City's owners. It is not as if he is available every summer.

17 Mar 2012

Health board owed £130k for treatment of foreign nationals


FOREIGN nationals not entitled to free treatment are said to owe Swansea Bay's ABM University Health Board more than £130,000 — the second highest figure in Wales. According to figures obtained by the Welsh Conservatives, only Cardiff and Vale UHB is owed more, at just over £200,000. ​ Darren Millar AM The Welsh Government has now said it is looking at further measures to help health boards recoup their costs. Figures obtained by the Tories following a Freedom of Information request show the money owed to the NHS in Wales more than doubled between 2008 and 2011. Of the £380,000 that was unpaid, at least £199,311 is still outstanding to Wales's seven health boards, while a minimum of £185,700 was written off after bosses exhausted efforts to be reimbursed. Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar AM expressed concern at the figures, arguing the Welsh NHS was in no position to be owing substantial sums of money. He said: "There are strict guidelines in place for explaining details of charges to patients who are required to pay. "The Welsh Government should look carefully at how well these rules are followed. "Any money written off by the NHS is regrettable when budgets are being squeezed so hard. The big rise evident in these figures is of great concern." The figures show that, in 2008/09, £70,815 had not been paid back. In 2010/11 that had increased to £257,713. And the Tories also claim there was been a downward trend in the rate of collecting money owed, down from 71 per cent in 2008/09 to 43 per cent in 2010/11. Some treatments, such as medical emergencies at A&E or compulsory psychiatric care, remain free of charge for everyone in Wales — regardless of where they are from or how long they have lived in the country. Other procedures, which include non-life-threatening outpatient care, are supposed to be paid for by non-EU residents. But the process and guidelines are far from straightforward as some countries have signed healthcare agreements with the UK. This makes its citizens exempt from some charges. ABM officials could not be contacted for comment. A Welsh Government spokesman said: "All visitors to Wales requiring NHS treatment are assessed as to their eligibility for free NHS treatment. "All treatment received in an accident and emergency department is free to all. "We have issued clear guidance to NHS organisations which states that they should recover the cost of caring for overseas patients who are not entitled to free care. "We are looking at what further measures can be introduced to support NHS organisations recover costs."

Spanish state will need outside help – or even go bankrupt.

 

If the negative development in the Spanish housing market continues, it can – worst case – lead to renewed concern over that the Spanish state will need outside help – or even go bankrupt. Banks might face several hundred billion Euros in losses on the Spanish real estate market. This will mean a recapitalization of the Spanish banks – capital that can only come from the Spanish state. Now there is nothing new in that; but what is interesting is the free admission of a need to nationalize the Spanish banks. If you glace at the graph you will see the Danish housing market has dropped between 22% and 30% from the top – time and actual drop depending on market segment. As Danske Bank is roughly half the Danish finance sector it is hard to escape the conclusion that Danske Bank is in at least as big trouble as the banks in one of the more notorious frivolous and irresponsible economies in Europe. Danske Bank will presumably peg their flag to the difference in unemployment figure (Spain hovers around 20%). True as that may be; but unemployment figures are notoriously difficult to compare between countries. Not only do criteria differ; but the criteria differs over time – according to political convenience. It is kind of discussing distress on board the Titanic: “It’s only your end that is under water! I’m fine!!” That is the nearest to a Freudian slip admission of life threatening financial distress we can expect from Danske Bank. But it is time to bust a few myths before they come too much of age – and be established as “truths” – and draw some conclusions. 1)    Looking at the graph again prices on condominiums/flats/apartments had begun to drop way before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Two years in fact. That was more due to a temporary rise in interest rates that made the calculations of monthly payments  – even to the least lunatic bank manager – clearly unrealistic. 2)    Generally sales were falling from mid 2007 – I trust the reader is can see through the regular seasonal variation to distinguish the trend. 3)    The collapse of Lehman Brothers and the perhaps inept handling of the resulting Credit Default Swap disaster had indeed nothing to do with the much deeper issue of banking irresponsibility and incompetence. Alan Greenspan has been quoted for saying that what surprised him was that banks had not taken preventive measures in their own interest. The forces of the free market self-regulating controls do NOT apply in the financial sector. 4)    The next major meltdown – which clearly is underway (Spain will not be able to meet the budget target agreed upon by Rajoy) – will in essence have nothing to do with the Greek debacle. Greece was/is – all things considered – handled more effectively than the collapse of Lehman Brother. To be fair: There was more advance warning and the cacophony of idiotic optimism had been quenched by German lack of sentimentality. 5)    You can see the lack of linkage to the Greek situation by the fact that the Danish and Spanish drop in housing prices (and lack of trade) is simultaneous. Danish banks were not exposed to Greek sovereign debt to ANY appreciable extend. Furthermore Denmark has a reasonably healthy export which is more than can be said about Spain. Still a near similar and at least simultaneous price drop in Denmark and Spain points to a factor nobody has wished to mention: The banks of both countries are to all intents and purposes deceased and with no future without state ownership.

Spain has been surprised at the magnitude of this property down slide. thinking thought it would be around 10 percent.

Home-owners in Spain received yet another blow when figures released by the National Statistics Institute (INE) show that house prices fell even further in the last quarter of 2011.
House prices in Spain have been in free-fall since the start of the economic crisis with the construction industry coming to a virtual standstill. The figures show that the price of new build properties dropped by 8.5 percent in the final quarter of 2011 compared to The equivalent period in 2010. Those trying to sell their used homes are suffering even further with a drop of 13.7 percent.Analysts are blaming the recession, unemployment and uncertainty about Spain's economy as major factors, according to a report in El Pais. Property expert Julio Gil said:
“We have been surprised at the magnitude of this down slide. We thought it would be around 10 percent.”
With more and more people defaulting on their mortgages, the banks are being left with huge stockpiles of homes that they can't sell, even at knock-down prices, whilst the immigrants from Northern European countries that helped create the property boom in Spain have all but disappeared. This is the worst quarterly drop since the INE started recording the statistic, with Madrid the worst affected region.
Logo of action group aiming to help families facing eviction.
Stop Desahucios
Logo of action group aiming to help families facing eviction.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Spanish banks now hold "more than €400 billion worth of loans to the construction and real estate sector, " an amount that is equivalent to 40 percent of gross domestic product for Spain. Early figures show that the price drop is continuing in this first quarter of 2012.The personal tragedies behind the stark figures are very sad. An action group, called 'Stop Desahucios', has been formed to try and stop people being forcibly evicted from their homes. With unemployment rising at an alarming rate, many more people are finding themselves unable to pay their mortgages and discover that the banks are less than sympathetic to their plight, despite the fact the banks are overloaded with properties they can't sell. The action group try everything to help the families and if that fails they literally stand in front of the homes preventing officials from getting in to evict the families, many of whom have small children.Many foreigners with homes in Spain, whether permanent or holiday, just hand in the keys to the bank and head home leaving huge debts behind them.What is certain is that property prices in Spain will continue to spiral downwards and it will be some years before the property market begins to recove



Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/321327#ixzz1pOewnM7S

Prosecutors charge Catholic nun in alleged stolen baby scheme at Madrid hospitals


A Catholic nun has been charged with being part of a child stealing operation that ran over four decades in Spain. Sister María Gómez Valbuena is the first person to be indicted in connection with the probe into more than 100 cases of babies snatched from hospitals between the 1950s and 1980s. She was subpoenaed to testify before investigators recently but refused to answer questions, according to sources at the Madrid prosecutor's office. Identity crisis: Randy Ryder as a baby being cradled in a Malaga hospital in 1971 by the woman who bought him Her name has surfaced in dozens of complaints filed by mothers who claim they were robbed of their babies after giving birth at San Ramón and Santa Cristina hospitals in Madrid. Sister María was the assistant to Dr Eduardo Vela Vela, whose name also appears in the complaints filed by mothers. Prosecutors have decided that there is sufficient evidence to file charges against Sister María in one case, based on a woman's testimony that her daughter was taken from her in 1982 after she gave birth at the Santa Cristina Hospital.   More... The doctor who broke up families: Psychiatrist who damned hundreds as 'unfit parents' faces GMC probe Is legend of St Patrick just a bit of blarney? He was a runaway tax collector turned slave trader, says expert The woman, identified as María Luisa, states that she was told that her baby had died at birth but claims she was actually given to another family. Shortly after giving birth, María Luisa saw an ad published in a magazine taken out by a nun — Sister María Gómez Valbuena — who offered her services to help single mothers. María Luisa was separated at the time and had another daughter. When she went to see her, María Luisa discovered that the nun was actually offering to take her daughter away to give to a family. Reunited: Randy Ryder with Manoli Pagador, who believes she may be his real mother The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties. Hundreds of families who had babies taken from Spanish hospitals are now battling for an official government investigation into the scandal. Several mothers say they were told their first-born children had died during or soon after they gave birth. But the women, often young and unmarried, were told they could not see the body of the infant or attend their burial. In reality, the babies were sold to childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents. Official documents were forged so the adoptive parents’ names were on the infants’ birth certificates. In many cases it is believed they were unaware that the child they received had been stolen, as they were usually told the birth mother had given them up. Experts believe the cases may account for up to 15 per cent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989. It began as a system for taking children away from families deemed politically dangerous to the regime of General Franco, which began in 1939. The system continued after the dictator’s death in 1975 as the Catholic church continued to retain a powerful influence on public life, particularly in social services. It was not until 1987 that the Spanish government, instead of hospitals, began to regulate adoptions. The scandal came to light after two men, Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, discovered they had been stolen as babies. Mr Moreno’s ‘father’ confessed on his deathbed to having bought him as a baby from a priest in Zaragoza in northern Spain. He told his son he had been accompanied on the trip by Mr Barroso’s parents, who bought Antonio at the same time for 200,000 pesetas – a huge sum at the time. DNA tests have proved that the couple who brought up Mr Barroso were not his biological parents and the nun who sold him has admitted to doing so. When the pair made their case public, it prompted mothers all over the country to come forward with their own experiences of being told their babies had died, but never believing it. One such woman was Manoli Pagador, who has begun searching for her son. A BBC documentary, This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies, followed her efforts to discover if he is Randy Ryder, a stolen baby who was brought up in Texas and is now aged 40. In some cases, babies’ graves have been exhumed, revealing bones that belong to adults or animals. Some of the graves contained nothing at all.

€500 REWARD is on offer to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the people who broke into a Marbella clothing store.

 


jeans-factory
€500 REWARD is on offer to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the people who broke into a Marbella clothing store.

 

The incident took place at The Jeans Factory Outlet around 5.30am last Friday and around 600 pieces of clothing were stolen worth €45,000.

“My alarm company called me straight away,” said Dutch owner Roy Samshuyzen. At first Roy thought it might be a false alarm as was the case a few months ago.

“Looking at the camera system from home I could not see anything so I headed straight over, still in my pijamas.

When I arrived five minutes later there were around seven police cars already there with the alarm company.”

This would have given the three burglars less than three minutes after the alarm went off to make off with their bounty.

“Since the glass is 8mm thick, like that of a bank’s, the burglars must have rammed it with a truck with a metal bar on the front.” Although the glass was replaced that same afternoon, Roy estimates that it will take “between eight and nine weeks to recover the losses from the robbery.”

The Jeans Factory Outlet is located on the main road on the approeach to Marbella coming from Malaga direction, so Roy believes there is a “good possibility that someone saw something,” hence the reward offer.

Roy was surprised that the “gang ignored the expensive jeans including Ed Hardy, Tommy HiIlfinger and Guess and took around 35 pairs of Antony Morato jeans and pairs from his own brand that are sold exclusively in the store”.

Roy thinks this could be because the gang saw a security screen and cameras on the side of the shop were the more expensive items are kept, but the cameras cover the whole store.

CCTV footage clearly shows three men, one of them wearing a hood covering his face, grabbing as many clothes as they can.

Roy will be heading down to the various markets over the coming days to see if he can find any of the 600 pieces of clothes, which he says would have retailed at about €45,000.

“The frustrating thing is that since it will be on the black market they will only be sold for around €50 to €10 each. Roy is “fed-up” at the unfairness of the situation.

“We do everything by the book, do everything to protect yourself and then sh*t like this happens”.

“I am not worried about the robbery; the money or the damaged store front. All of these things can be taken care of through the insurance.

It is the future of Marbella and of the world I am worried about. I worry for my five-year-old son, what is the world going to be like when he grows up. What kinds of things will he have to deal with?"

Meanwhile, although Roy has never had his business broken into before, his Mercedes Benz car was stolen from outside the store last year.

He was “talking to two men inside the shop about buying a pair of jeans.”

One of them “slipped away and somehow he managed to get behind the store desk and take the car key off the ring".

Police plans to fire rubber bullets in London

 

Scotland Yard authorised the deployment of rubber bullets ready for use on the streets of London 22 times in the past two years, The Independent can reveal. The figure suggests the Metropolitan Police had considered ordering its officers to open fire during public disorder incidents far more frequently than previously thought. The Yard yesterday refused to say on what dates and during which situations it ordered some of the nearly 3,000 baton rounds it possesses to be distributed to firearms teams. It said the release of such information could endanger future policing operations. The revelation that the Met authorised the distribution of the non-lethal rounds on average almost once a month in 2010 and 2011 follows the disclosure earlier this week that senior officers wanted to fire rubber bullets at rioters in south London last summer – but firearms specialists could not reach the trouble spots in time. The Met has now promised to make "more agile use" of the weapons. Although they have been used in Northern Ireland for many years, baton rounds have never been fired on the British mainland. Even in the extreme circumstances of last August's riots their use would have been seen as a significant escalation in police tactics and a move away from Britain's consensual policing model. The figures, obtained by the Liberal Democrat peer Dee Doocey, are an indication of an increasingly muscular response to what police believe is the increased threat to officers and the public from gangs or individuals bent on violent disorder. But campaigners argue that the use of non-lethal firearms in crowd control has no place in policing on the British mainland. The Yard was criticised last year when it released a statement saying that baton rounds – referred to by police as attenuating energy projectiles (AEPs) – might be deployed if extreme disorder occurred during a protest in London against tuition fees. In a written answer to a question last month from Baroness Doocey, the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, confirmed on behalf of the Met Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, that the force had "authorised the movement" of rubber bullets 22 times in 2010 and 2011. But he said details of the incidents would only be given under conditions of secrecy because, if made public, they could compromise future operations. Lady Doocey, a member of the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority until it was replaced with a new body in January, said the disclosure of the precise dates was in the public interest. She told The Independent: "I have long believed rubber bullets have no role in policing demonstrations in London. This secrecy over their potential use merely confirms that view. It is simply wrong for the Met to be silent when on so many occasions the use of rubber bullets was being considered." Rubber bullets are designed to offer a non-lethal alternative to conventional firearms and police argue modern AEPs pose less threat of serious injury. Between 2006 and October 2011, the Met Police bought 2,700 AEP rounds. It said it could not produce figures for baton round deployments in previous years, adding that it followed strict guidelines designed to protect life and prevent serious injury. Opinion about rubber bullets remains divided within police ranks. A Met Police review of last summer's riots revealed officers dealing with violence in Enfield and Brixton decided against deploying the weapons because they believed it would escalate the confrontation. During the rioting, Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said he did not consider the deployment of rubber bullets in London to be sensible in "any way, shape or form".

16 Mar 2012

Spain Approves Canary Islands Oil Exploration


The Spanish government approved Friday a controversial permit to explore for oil offshore the Canary Islands, in an area that could become by far the largest source of oil production in a country heavily dependent on crude imports. Approval of an exploration license marks the latest move in Spain's shift away from a policy of subsidy-dependent renewable energy projects as it seeks ways to improve its trade balance and steady its budget, but will likely face opposition from environmentalists and local government officials concerned about the threat of damage to the island's tourist-friendly, white-sand beaches.

Spain's public debt soars to record high


Spain's public debt soared to a record high at the end of 2011, Bank of Spain figures showed Friday, as Madrid struggled to slash costs and escape the eurozone debt crisis. Public debt amounted to 734.96 billion euros ($960 billion), equal to 68.5 percent of annual economic output at the end of 2011 -- up from 66 percent three months earlier and 61.2 percent at the end of 2010. The accumulated debts breached the European-Union agreed limit of 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) but was still below the eurozone average, which approached 90 percent in the third quarter last year. It was the highest public debt ratio recorded in Spain since statistics in the current format were first published in 1995. Spain's public debt is rising fast because of runaway annual public deficits that have shot past EU-agreed targets, in part owing to high spending by regional governments. The previous Socialist government, ousted by the conservative Popular Party in November elections, had forecast a debt of 67.2 of GDP for the end of 2011, aiming to curb it to less than 70 percent in 2014. But the European statistics unit Eurostat was not so optimistic. It forecast a public debt of 69.6 percent in 2011, 73.8 percent in 2012 and 78 percent in 2013. Spain's conservative government, which took power in December, has yet to announce a new public debt target. The public debt ratio has grown without interruption since the first quarter of 2008 when, after nearly a decade of fast growth and budget surpluses, which trimmed the debt, it amounted to 35.8 percent of GDP. The situation in the 17 regions is particularly worrying: at the end of 2011 their accumulated debt rose to 140.1 billion euros, or a record 13.1 percent of national GDP, from 11.4 percent a year earlier. Municipal debts, however, eased over the year to 35.4 billion euros or 3.3 percent of GDP. Regional governments enjoy a high level of autonomy, prompting concerns in financial markets that their spending could compromise the central government's deficit-cutting goals. Spain had agreed to cut its annual public deficit to 6.0 percent of GDP in 2011 but it overran that target by a wide margin and ended up reporting a deficit of 8.51 percent of GDP. After winning a slight relaxation from Brussels in its goals for this year, Spain is now aiming for an annual deficit of 5.3 percent in 2012 and 3.0 percent in 2013. But the regions are not entirely to blame. The central government's finances also deteriorated in 2011, as its public debt rose to 52.1 percent of GDP at the end of the year from 46.4 percent a year earlier.

Two hours waiting for Ryanair take off with no air conditioning

 

Travellers on Thursday’s 12.35 Ryanair flight from Málaga to Barcelona have been complaining about the treatment they received. Diario Sur reports that many passengers have complained after they had to stay on board the plane for nearly two hours on the runway at Málaga because of a breakdown. They were not allowed to leave the plane despite the fact that the air conditioning was not working. Announcements only in English upset many Spaniards who could not understand. After the safety demonstrations were carried out as usual the plane started to taxi, but then stopped. Doors opened and technicians arrived. The passengers asked for water, only to be told the bar was closed, but later they were able to purchase small individual bottles for 3 € each although that is reported to have made some of the passengers more nervous and angry. One traveller said that everything was very confused with children and some pensioners having a particularly bad time. At one point they were told they would be put on another plane. Finally the children and pensioners swapped seats to be at the front of the plane where the doors were open so that they got some air. Many asked to go down the steps but this was not allowed. At 2-15 the plane finally took off. A Ryanair spokesman, when asked about the incident, replied that the company operates 1,500 flights a day and does not give information on punctual cases.

Cadíz second bridge delayed until at least 2013


The Ministry for Development has announced a delay in the opening of the second road bridge into Cádiz which will now not be open to traffic until 2013. Minister, Ana Pastor, said that not with all the money in the world could a 2012 opening be achieved. 2012 was the target date so that it coincided with the bicentenary of the 1812 Spanish Constitution which was signed in the city on March 19 1812. The General Courts of Spain were transferred there while in refuge from the Peninsular War. The Minister added, ‘It will take at least another 15 months, and that only if there is no wind’. The Ministry of Development says the suspension bridge is now 75% complete, but a fundamental part of the project, linking to the 13 pivot bases which are already showing in the middle of the Cádiz Bay is still to be done. The bridge is the largest road infrastructure project in Spain and has a cost of about 300 million € and will link Cádiz with Puerto Real. It will be known as the Puente de la Constitución de 1812, and not the ‘Puente de la Pepa’ which was the name given by the previous Minister, Magdalena Álvarez.

Place your bets on Euro Vegas

IT MAY just be the single largest contrarian bet in the euro zone. Sheldon Adelson, a casino tycoon, is expected soon to choose between Madrid and Barcelona for a €16 billion ($21 billion) gambling resort. The euro-zone turmoil does not faze him: “It will take us four to five years,” he told Forbes magazine. “By then everything will be solved.” Mr Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands (LVS) hopes to create a “Euro Vegas”, capable of attracting the 1 billion people who live in the 50 countries within a five-hour flight from Spain. He chose the country because of the weather and because its unemployment rate, now at 23%, “assures us the support of the government”. The numbers are certainly eye-popping. LVS would invest €6 billion in a first phase to build four hotel strips—eventually reaching 12—as well as casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses and convention centres. LVS says the project could create 260,000 indirect and direct jobs, enough for nearly half the unemployed in Madrid. Spain is already the fourth-largest holiday destination in the world, but LVS reckons Euro Vegas would attract 11m new tourists on top of the 57m a year Spain already gets, increasing tourism spending by €15.5 billion over the next ten to 15 years. In this section News of the world Good for you, not for shareholders Zimplats happens Watch this space »Place your bets on Euro Vegas Luxury on the cheap Nazis in space The view from Liverpool Reprints Related topics Gambling Barcelona Madrid Spain Madrid and Barcelona, used to battling it out on the football pitch, have won a promise of neutrality from the central government. Barcelona admits that Madrid has the edge so far, since it has been talking to Mr Adelson on and off since 2007. But Barcelona has not given up. Mr Adelson recently visited a beach-front site near the city’s El Prat airport, which like Madrid’s Barajas has plenty of spare capacity. National and local leaders are keen on the project but opponents are sceptical of LVS’s claims about job creation, and worry that the casino will become a “fiscal and legal paradise” of tax breaks and exemptions from labour laws—a charge which regional officials deny. However, LVS is thought to be seeking a relaxation of Spain’s ban on smoking in public places, and lower gambling levies. Whichever city won would also have to bear the cost of such things as transport links to the resort. Given Spain’s precarious public finances, and considering that, as Mr Adelson puts it, there are “tens of billions to be made” from the resort, the authorities ought to resist any temptation to splash out taxpayers’ money to win the deal. They will have to assuage public fears of encouraging gambling addiction, infiltration by organised crime and the environmental impact of such a giant construction project. As in Singapore, where LVS recently opened a big casino resort, Spanish officials play down gambling as a small part of the overall package. Another worry is that the project will not happen at all. Spain has had its share of unrealised property developments. A €17 billion casino complex in the desert of Aragon, proposed in 2007, remains unbuilt. But LVS has withstood the global downturn pretty well, and the success of its Macao and Singapore operations gives it plenty of financial firepower. LVS boasts that its Marina Bay Sands development has “moved the needle” in Singapore, with record tourism figures one year after its opening. Euro Vegas would be much larger. A casino resort may lack the prestige of, say, a technology cluster, but Spain will have to take a few gambles to get its soaring unemployment under control.

15 Mar 2012

55 security guards arrested with fake qualifications

 

55 false security guards working in sensitive positions have been arrested in Madrid, Toledo, Cuenca and Badajoz. The National Police arrested the 55 who have all be established to have been working fraudulently, and some with jobs looking after explosives or acting as bodyguards. A statement from the National Police said those arrested lacked the necessary preparation for the work and were employed because of falsified qualifications. Some of them have a previous criminal record.

The Spanish Government is to increase the tax on diesel vehicles

 

The Spanish Government has revealed that it wants to increase the tax on diesel vehicles because they ‘contaminate more’. The change will be a modification on the vehicle matriculation tax. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Federico Ramos, gave the news after meeting with the environment experts and said that in principle the regional administrations are in agreement. The local City and Town Halls say they now want to first analyse the financial consequences for them. Diesel vehicles not only pollute with CO2 but also emit Nitrogen Dioxide, and particles in suspension.

The ex Mayor of Alcaucín in Málaga, José Manuel Martin Alba, who was arrested for a second time with seven other people


The ex Mayor of Alcaucín in Málaga, José Manuel Martin Alba, who was arrested for a second time with seven other people on Tuesday in the ‘Tristan case’, which comes from the ‘Arcos operation’, made a statement on Wednesday to the investigators of the UCO central operations unit of the Guardia Civil. La Opinión de Málaga reports that he denied knowing the land registry civil servants that he allegedly manipulated with false data to obtain the classification of building land. These plots were often purchased by foreign investors with the idea of building on them. However, the Guardia Civil has said that the land was not buildable and therefore a crime of fraud had taken place, and this part of the investigation is still under reporting restrictions. The declarations continue from the arrested civil servants from the land registry, some in payments, others in Hacienda, as well as three management auxiliaries. The Guardia Civil says that the civil servants, ‘coordinated by a lawyer, modified the data base of the land registry with the end of introducing the false information to give legal coverage to the construction of homes on non-buildable land. The Guardia Civil contends that in exchange they received illegal commissions. Rafael Yus from the Nature Studies Group GENA said that he was not surprised by the ex-Mayor’s new arrest. He said the modification to the land registry was ‘part of what they do here’ and claimed it was ‘a corruption which extends to other municipalities, but which it difficult to demonstrate’.

Families in Spain face eviction over stranger loans

 

Fighting eviction for failing to pay the mortgage on his home in Spain's capital, Nelson Castillo is now grappling not only with his own debts but also those of a family he does not know. The 39-year-old and his wife acted as guarantors of another Ecuadoran family's loan under a programme run by an agency that negotiated loans for immigrants. In return, that family acted as the guarantor for Castillo's loan. Now, both families are in arrears. And each of them is legally responsible for its own loan and for the loan it guaranteed. "We were two families and we did not know each other. Ecuadorans are like that. We had to sign the papers and that's it. Goodbye, and each side went its own way," said Castillo. Dozens of anti-eviction activists had gathered outside his Madrid apartment building on Tuesday to prevent court clerks and bank officials from ejecting Castillo and his family from their home. Inside the apartment a volunteer psychologist tried to comfort Castillo's wife, 40-year-old Kelly Herrera, who sat in distress on the couch while the couple talked to police. The couple were given until March 30 to pay their debt of 222,000 euros ($291,000) claimed by the bank. And they are still liable for the loan given to the other family. "Today they are demanding my loan. But later on they will demand the second," said Castillo. The couple's lawyer Rafael Mayoral had requested that the eviction be blocked for "humanitarian reasons" because their two children are minors and a knee injury prevents Herrera from working at the moment. But above all the lawyer argued that the couple are "victims of a swindle". The couple and nine other families are suing an agency, Central Hipotecaria del Inmigrante, which ran a system of "cross guarantors" for loans among people that did not always know each other. "It was a pyramid scheme of financial risk management," said Mayoral. Despite the investigation under way into the agency, the courts have refused to issue a moratorium on evictions. Last week the government approved a voluntary "code of conduct" for banks that aims to help poor homeowners settle their debts and reduce a wave of evictions brought on by Spain's economic crisis. For families whose members are all out of work and have no other source of income, the code obliges signatory banks to restructure their mortgage debt by for example lengthening the term of the loan or reducing its interest rate. The goal is to reduce the number of evictions in Spain, which amount to about 300,000 since the collapse of a property bubble in 2008. But the new code will not help Castillo and his family. "The bank did not give me any option, I wanted to give them the apartment in exchange for clearing my debt but they were not interested," he said. Castillo, a waiter, said with pride that he "only spent a few months out of work" since he moved to Spain in 1996. In 2006 he and his wife decided to buy an apartment while Spain was still in the midst of a property boom. The couple took out a mortgage with a variable rate that started out with a monthly payment of 900 euros. But as Euribor interest rates rose, their monthly mortgage payment shot up to 1,420 euros. "It became impossible to pay. I earned 1,000 euros a month and my wife also did not earn much. Things became complicated. I tried to reach an agreement with the bank but it was not possible. I stopped paying," said Castillo. Castillo said he did not know if the family which signed as the guarantor of his loan has suffered any consequences because he stopped making his mortgage payments. "I only met them the day we signed the papers," he said.

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