Friday, 30 September 2011

 

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

 

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

Thursday, 29 September 2011

 

Police and customs officers from 81 countries have seized 2.4 million doses of counterfeit medicine sold over the Internet during a one-week operation, international police body Interpol said Thursday. Fifty-five people were arrested during the September 20-27 operation, codenamed Pangea 4, and more than 13,000 websites closed down, Interpol said. More than 100,000 illegal doses were seized in France, over half of which were for supposed to be for treating male erection problems, France's medical security agency that took part in the operation, AFSSAPS, said. The operation was carried out for the fourth successive year in an effort to inform the public about the risks of buying medicines online. "Interpol's member countries and partners have shown through the success of Operation Pangea IV the Internet is not an anonymous safe haven for criminals trafficking illicit medicines," said Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble. The agency said it had targeted Internet service providers, online payment companies and delivery companies during the operation, in order that the whole supply chain of fake drugs be broken down. "We cannot halt the illicit online supply of medicines without a consistent, constant and collective international effort involving all sectors," said Aline Plancon, head of Interpol's fake drugs department. "The operation itself was only made possible thanks to a combined effort involving the 165 different participating agencies sharing and exchanging live information via Interpol's headquarters in Lyon," she said. Interpol has also posted messages on Internet video sharing sites warning punters "Don't Be Your Own Killer" by buying unlicensed pharmaceuticals.

 

The speed limit on Britain’s motorways is set to rise to 80mph but with a big expansion in the number 20mph zones in cities and towns, The Independent has learnt. As part of a deal negotiated with the Liberal Democrats the Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond is expected to announce the Government’s intention to bring in the new speed limit at the Conservative conference. Ministers will then consult on the proposal later in the year along with plans to significantly expand the number of areas in Britain covered by 20mph zones.

 

Rio Ferdinand has lost his privacy action over a "kiss and tell" story. The England and Manchester United centre back was not at London's High Court to hear Mr Justice Nicol dismiss his claim against MGN Ltd. Ferdinand, 32, brought his case for misuse of private information over an April 2010 Sunday Mirror article in which interior designer Carly Storey gave her account of their 13-year relationship in return for £16,000. The judge said: "Overall, in my judgment, the balancing exercise favours the defendant's right of freedom of expression over the claimant's right of privacy." Ferdinand had branded the piece - "My affair with England captain Rio" - a "gross invasion of my privacy", and said he had not seen Ms Storey for six years by the time it appeared. At a hearing in July, his lawyers asked for a maximum of £50,000 damages and a worldwide gagging order. Afterwards, Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver said in a statement: "The Sunday Mirror is very pleased that the court has rejected Rio Ferdinand's privacy claim. "The judge found that there was a justified public interest in reporting the off-pitch behaviour of the then England captain and discussion of his suitability for such an important and ambassadorial role representing the country. "There has never been greater scrutiny of the media than now, and we applaud this ruling in recognising the important role a free press has to play in a democratic society."

Monday, 26 September 2011

Teewave AR.1 concept

This concept sports car was built, from initial sketches to working prototype, in just nine months.

(Credit: Gordon Murray Design)

 

Creating a new car can take years of development, but Gordon Murray Design put together a running prototype electric sports car in just nine months. The Teewave AR.1 was commissioned by Toray Industries to show off its carbon fiber production.

Toray says that its process can make carbon fiber components in just 10 minutes. The Teewave AR.1 uses Toray carbon fiber for its chassis, crash structures, body, and interior. Other Toray materials make up interior surfaces and components of the car.

 

Teewave AR.1 concept

Gordon Murray Design opted for a modest electric powertrain in the Teewave AR.1, meaning sluggish acceleration.

(Credit: Gordon Murray Design)

 

Those light carbon fiber elements make the overall weight of the Teewave AR.1 just 1,874 pounds. The lithium ion battery pack for the car makes up 530 pounds of that weight.

Gordon Murray Design did not specify the supplier of the electric power train, but its specifications are fairly standard for new electric cars hitting the market. Range is listed as 116 miles using the New European Driving Cycle test procedure, and charging time is 6 hours.

The Teewave AR.1 does not push the boundaries of electric car performance. Its electric motor, driving the rear wheels, only produces 63 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. That means acceleration of 11.4 seconds to 62 mph.

You won't be able to buy a Teewave AR.1 anytime soon. The car will be used by Toray to demonstrate its carbon fiber capabilities. But Toray says its carbon fiber components will scale from a car as small as the Teewave AR.1 to any other size of vehicle.

What this concept also demonstrates is how quickly a new car can, from sketches to a working prototype, can be built. Components such as the electric drive train and suspension are modular, while the carbon fiber can be formed from molds rather than the more time-consuming stamping process for steel, which involves more tooling.




It was quite a good idea for Mini to make a coupe version as the fifth body derivative in the model line-up because the earlier variations basically covered the widest customer expectations possible.

If you loved the Mini for what it has always been, you'd easily go for the classic Hatch. Want more fun and there's the Convertible. Need to be a little pseudo and the Clubman awaits you. Crave for family practicality and the Countryman's yours.

But if you needn't any of those values but want a genuinely good looking and driving Mini for yourself, the Coupe is the perfect choice.

The removal of the compartment for rear passengers has allowed Mini to put in place a three-box profile to give the Coupe a nice coupe profile. Adding more fun is a helmet-style roof distinctively coloured from the body.

But that's just about it when it comes to the cosmetic test because the rest of the Coupe is plainly a Mini.

There's no differentiation when it comes to the lights or front grille. Simply, it's the roof that holds the key to your liking of the Coupe.

The fascia is just like in any other Mini: fun but flawed to use.

Despite the booted appearance, the Coupe's boot lid opens in a hatch manner (together with the rear windscreen) which, in essence, makes the Coupe more of a liftback.

No rear perches means that the Coupe has that kind of boot space rarely seen in any Mini. Mini has also taken the opportunity to design the interior boot cover with stylish twin cowls. In functionality terms, the Coupe is all what two people at most would ever need.

And turning to aesthetics again, the interior reaches the same dead end as the exterior in which distinction is only confined to the rear bit. The front seats, steering wheel and fascia are like in other Minis, with the latest aspect being fun in appearance but flawed in ergonomic terms.

But you really can't blame Mini for the vast similarities the Coupe bears to its other siblings.

It's a diversification of a specific model, in the first place, and not entirely all-new on its own. Hence, the need to share as many parts as possible.

The pop-up spoiler has both visual and dynamic benefits.

So if you're expecting the Coupe to feel distinctively special on the move, prepare to frown because it doesn't. However, that can never be considered a bad thing since Minis have always been known to be cars that are great to drive.

The running gear of the Coupe is predictable enough: the engines and transmissions are the ones you have seen around since the Mini's facelift in second-gen form with no changes in power and torque outputs.

The one highlighted here for the Coupe test drive in Germany this month is the range-topping 211hp 1.6-litre petrol-turbo and six-speed manual gearbox for the so-called John Cooper Works guise.

The chassis setup is basically just like in other Minis including a sporty tuning. Absence of rear seats has also allowed engineers to place a cross-member in their place to further increase body rigidity for even better handling.

With this in mind, the Coupe drives very much like the Hatch. Performance is brisk in a straight line and impressive when picking up from low engine revs and when exiting corners.

There's no doubting the Coupe's handling, too. This is as sporty as a car of this small size gets, and the way it grips at high speeds when slamming down the autobahn to its top speed is quite amazing. Special thanks go to a new rear spoiler that pops up at over 80kph (and disappearing again when dipping below 60kph).

Ah, that spoiler, the item much talked-about in the Coupe which many critics have described as more a cosmetic gimmick rather than one for dynamic reasons. But as things turned out during the international driving trials, there seems to also be much weight leaning towards the latter factor.

The Coupe also goes around into corners with the same conviction as the Hatch: superbly agile, finely balanced and virtually free of understeer. It's equally as capable as a rear-drive sports car like the Mazda MX-5, unless your idea of looking out from the car is through the side windows.

There’s some stow space behind the front seats... and more of it in the boot.

Speaking of the driving view, the Coupe does feel different from the Hatch in the sense that the front windscreen is more slanted and not as upright as in the Hatch or Clubman. And the Coupe's rear view is limited, although the view of the spoiler (and the stripes painted on it) looks cool.

A more serious downside (in terms of marketing and not engineering) is the unavailability of an automatic gearbox. Mini still insists that JCW cars must be manual. This means that Thais won't be getting this powerful JCW, unless they order it.

Instead, the Cooper S and Cooper variants will come at the year-end with six-speed slushers, the prior spec having steering-mounted paddle-shifters. There wasn't the chance to sample the Cooper S, but it's fair to say _ based on previous driving experiences of other Minis _ that the Coupe with this power treatment will still be a fast car to drive.

You need not have suspicions about the Coupe's ride: the underlying firmness of the chassis makes for a stiff ride, even on the slightest of potholes on German roads. We'd easily say that the ride on Bangkok streets would be terrifyingly hard.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

 

Saudi Arabia will allow women to stand for election and vote, the king announced on Sunday, in a significant policy shift in the conservative Islamic kingdowm. In a five-minute speech, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud said women will also take part in the next session of the unelected, advisory Shura Council, which vets legislation but has no binding powers. "Because we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama (clerics) and others... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term," he said in a speech delivered to the advisory body. "Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote." Women's rights are regarded as a litmus test for the government's appetite for social and political reform. Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict version of Islamic law that enforces the segregation of the sexes. "This is great news," said Wajeha al-Huwaider, a Saudi writer and women's rights activist. "Women's voices will finally be heard. "Now it is time to remove other barriers like not allowing women to drive cars and not being able to function, to live a normal life without male guardians."

 

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

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Prince William (pic: Handout)

Prince William (pic: Handout)

THE Queen gave Prince William the go-ahead to rip up the official guest list for his wedding to Kate Middleton, he has revealed.

He told how he never knew a soul on the official paper of hundreds of people and was not happy with the line-up.

“They said: ‘These are the people we should invite’. I looked at it in absolute horror and said: ‘I think we should start again’.”

The 29-year-old said: “I came into the first wedding meeting, post-engagement. And I was given this official list of 777 names, dignitaries, governors, all sorts of people, and not one person I knew.

William told how he then approached the Queen for help. He added: “I rang her up the next day and said: ‘Do we need to be doing this?’

“And she said: ‘No. Start with your friends first and then go from there’. And she told me to bin the list.

“She told me there are certain times when you have to strike the right balance.”




Friday, 23 September 2011

 

A Spanish prison screened a short film made by inmates Friday with one missing ingredient -- a key actor in the jail-house drama is on the run. Inmates spent months making "Guilty", about a murderer haunted by his victim, to show in an annual festival behind bars in Leon, northern Spain, a prison official and media here said. "Among the inmates taking part, there was one in the final stages of his sentence who was allowed out regularly with leave, but who did not come back from one of those leaves," said a prison service spokeswoman. Prisoners completed the film without the missing actor who disappeared at least two months ago, said the spokeswoman for the Secretary General of Penitentiary Institutions. She denied reports he had the leading role. "He may have had some more important scenes but he was not not necessarily the hero." The actor is being sought for breach of a six-year drug-dealing sentence, which had been due for completion in 2012, she said, stressing that he was not considered a danger.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

 

U.S. deep-sea explorers must turn over to the Spanish government 17 tons of silver coins and other treasure recovered from a sunken Spanish galleon in 2007, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. But Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey Marine Exploration has vowed to continue the protracted legal battle over the cache, which could be worth as much as $500 million. In a statement Wednesday, the company said it would take the next step in the appeals process, requesting a hearing before all the judges of the 11th Circuit Circuit Court of Appeals. That came after a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit had issued its ruling in a case that could case spill over to treasure hunts for years to come. "We are certainly disappointed by the 11th Circuit's ruling," said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey's vice president and general counsel. "We believe the U.S. Constitution and all other applicable laws give jurisdiction to the U.S. courts to determine the rights of Odyssey, Spain and all other claimants in this case." Attorneys for Odyssey asked the three-judge panel to overturn a lower court ruling and uphold the "finders keepers" rule that would give the treasure hunters the rights to coins, copper ingots, gold cufflinks and other artifacts salvaged in April 2007 from the galleon found off the coast of Portugal. Spain's lawyers countered that U.S. courts are obligated by international treaty and maritime law to uphold Spain's claim to the haul. The ship, called the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, was sunk by British warships in the Atlantic in 1804 while sailing back from South America with more than 200 people on board. Odyssey created an international splash in May 2007 when it announced that it had recovered more than 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts from the wreck and flew the treasure back to Tampa. Spain went to the U.S. District Court in Tampa, where the company is based, claiming ownership. Odyssey disputed the Spanish government's ownership of the valuable cargo. James Goold, a Washington attorney who represented the Spanish government in court, called the appeals court decision "a complete and much-deserved victory." "The court recognized that stripping the sunken Spanish ship of coins to sell to collectors is no more appropriate than to do that to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor," Goold said. "We are pleased and gratified that the court recognized U.S. obligations under international law, just as Spain respects the sanctity of sunken U.S. Navy ships." A federal judge sided with Spain in the first round of the tug-of-war in June 2009, accepting the Spanish government's argument that it never surrendered ownership of the ship and its contents. Attorneys argued the case before the 11th Circuit panel in May. Odyssey had argued that the wreck was never positively identified as the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. And if it was that vessel, then the ship was on a commercial trade trip — not a sovereign mission — at the time it sank, meaning Spain would have no firm claim to the booty. International treaties generally hold that warships sunk in battle are protected from treasure seekers.

 

LA TASCA RESTAURANTS LTD IS RE-LAUNCHING THEIR 65 STRONG CHAIN THROUGH THE NEW CONCEPT LA TASCA SPANISH TAPAS BAR & KITCHEN. The first to see the change were Windsor and Leeds, which have had the complete overhaul into the new concept. The change is set to bring a more contemporary, sincere approach to the brand and deliver a fresh new menu, which has halved in size and is sourced from Spain where possible to enhance provenance. La Tascas' customers remain a central focus for the future of the business, Simon Wilkinson CEO said: "We want to keep our current customer base but attract plenty of new ones too, it's been a frantic but very exciting few months, and we can't wait to roll out another six before Christmas for people to enjoy." The change also brings an innovative approach to its people within the business, focusing on a new training programme, recognition and reward and re-instating the value of being part of the La Tasca family. David Pepper, people director said: "People are the core cog of the business and drive every aspect of its success. Implementation of innovative training with flow, a new training manager and people development strategy in place are just the beginning of what we want to do for our 'family' at La Tasca." Today a new website launched as part of the evolvement of the brand, allowing customers to engage more via social media, enhance the online guest experience with a simplified booking system and new features in the form of a customer gallery, what's on and a bigger focus on careers for the business. This innovative approach brings the people and its customers back to the heart of the business and both Windsor and Leeds restaurants have been a test bed of which the successful elements will appear next in Glasgow, St Martins Lane- London and Bluewater. La Tasca Restauarants became a private company in March and is operated by CEO Simon Wilkinson. Prior to this the company had 3 previous owners including most recently Bay Restaurant Group, which is now Stonegate Plc. The first La Tasca opened in 1993 in Manchester and now has 65 UK restaurants spread over all regions and five in the USA and aims to double its estate in the next three years.

Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo (CAM), a Spanish savings bank seized by the Bank of Spain, said more than half of its loans for property development were in default. Of 12.7 billion euros ($17.2 billion) lent to developers, 6.4 billion euros were classed as doubtful, the lender said in explanatory notes to its first-half earnings published late yesterday. Another 1.3 billion euros of those loans were classed as “substandard,” the lender said. The Bank of Spain is looking for a buyer for CAM, which was seized in July. It posted a 1.14 billion-euro first-half loss as its default ratio more than doubled to 19 percent since December. Selling the stricken lender is a priority for the regulator as it seeks to bolster confidence in a banking industry pummeled by defaulted loans to developers. Auditors KPMG said yesterday that the bank’s viability depends on the success of a plan put together by the government’s rescue fund. The Alicante-based lender said 5.4 percent of its 1.1 billion euros of mortgage loans to individuals were in default. Property development and business-services loans accounted for 29 percent of its loan book, the lender said.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The 10-storey hotel includes luxury apartments, a gymnasium and a 35,000 sq ft M&M’s store

The 10-storey hotel includes luxury apartments, a gymnasium and a 35,000 sq ft M&M’s store

Al Faisal Holding Company, one of Qatar’s largest conglomerates, said on Wednesday it was behind the purchase of a top London hotel.

Through its subsidiary Al Rayan Tourism & Investment Company (ARTIC), it said it has exchanged contracts with Northern Irish developer McAleer & Rushe to acquire the W London Hotel, Leicester Square for close to £200m ($313m).

Launched in January, the Starwood-operated 192-bedroom hotel is on the corner of Leicester Square, the internationally famous and highly popular pedestrianised square of London’s West End.

In addition to the hotel, the ten-storey, 90ft glazed building houses one of the most exclusive branded apartment schemes in London, featuring 11 luxury duplex branded W Residencies. The development is also home to Mars’ 35,000 sq ft M&M’s World store, the first in Europe.

 

Designer clothes owned by Hollywood legend and fashion icon Elizabeth Taylor, including haute couture by Chanel, Yves St. Laurent and Dior, will be sold at auction in New York, Christie's said on Wednesday. The silk chiffon dress that the Academy Award winning actress wore for her first wedding to actor Richard Burton will be among the nearly 400 times included in the four-day series of sales in December. "One of the many great treasures within Elizabeth Taylor's vast collection is her extraordinarily well-preserved wardrobe," said Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie's Americas. "The stunning outfits she wore to galas, award ceremonies, AIDS benefits and even her own weddings to Richard Burton are all here, lovingly maintained along with the handbags, shoes, hats and other accessories that completed her superstar looks," he added in a statement. The December 13-16 sales, which span over 50 years of fashion, will follow a global three-month tour which will also includes Taylor's renowned jewelry, fine art and memorabilia. It will be the second in a series of auctions from the estate of the legendary film star who died in March. Nearly 6,000 people viewed the collection this month when it was displayed in Moscow. Stops in Los Angeles, London, Dubai, Geneva, Paris, Hong Kong and New York will follow. Meredith Etherington-Smith, Christie's' curator for the fashion auction, described the items as "a highly personal collection." "This is not a red carpet wardrobe edited by stylists but a treasure trove of looks chosen by the last of the great movie stars. Many of the pieces in this lifetime collection were couture, custom made for Ms. Taylor by designers who became her close friends, including Valentino Garavani, Gianni Versace and Gianfranco Ferre." Some 68 of Taylor's most iconic looks will be auctioned at a gala evening sale on December 14, followed by hundreds of other fashion items and accessories in other sales. Highlights will include a Versace beaded evening jacket arrayed with portraits of the actress in some of her famous movie roles, which is estimated to sell for up to $20,000. The sunflower yellow dress by Hollywood designer Irene Sharaff that Taylor wore to her 1964 wedding to Burton has an estimated sale price of $40,000 to $60,000. Taylor's estate was valued at up to $1 billion when she died of congestive heart failure at age 79. A portion of the proceeds from the exhibitions, events and publications related to the auction will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which the actress founded in 1991. The series of Taylor sales are individually devoted to jewelry, haute couture, fashion and accessories, decorative arts and memorabilia from Taylor's Bel Air home, and Impressionist and modern art.

Ernest Hemingway’s final visits to Spain are remembered at a new exhibition in Rioja.

Hosted and created by Bodegas Paternina at its Conde de los Andes winery in Ollauri, the exhibition entitled “Tinta, Sangre y Vino” – “Ink, Blood and Wine” – celebrates the writer’s visit to the winery 55 years ago and marks 50 years since his death.

However, the exhibition does not focus solely on Hemingway’s visit to Paternina in 1956.

Making use of never-before-seen photographs and working with the Hemingway family, Paternina’s exhibition is more of a look at Hemingway’s association with Spain in the final years of his life.

Greater attention is given to his passions for wine in general, bullfighting, writing, fiestas and good company. Carlos Eguizábal, CEO of Paternina, spoke to the drinks business at the opening ceremony in Ollauri.

“We felt the exhibition was appropriate because of his relationship with wine and Rioja in general,” he said.

“There is a connection between wine, culture, bullfighting and literature which Rioja encapsulates and which underpinned his love of Rioja and Paternina. It’s a celebration of his life.”

Hemingway’s daughter-in-law Valerie and grandson John were also at the opening of the exhibition and Valerie tolddb about the author and his connections with wine.

“He was always looking for what was good,” she said. “Not always the best but what he could enjoy. He didn’t follow trends or labels or vintages but wine was part of the fabric of his life.”

As for his reputation as a heavy drinker (and at worst a drunk), Valerie countered: “He was very disciplined with his drinking and never drank because he ‘needed’ the drink. He would also never write after drinking, saying: ‘Anything you write after drinking is worthless’.”

Much of the exhibition centres on Hemingway’s return to the bullfights between 1956 and 1960.

His visit to Paternina in 1956 coincided with the coming of age of Antonio Ordóñez son of the bullfighter Cayetano Ordóñez also a friend of Hemingway and model for the character Pedro Romero in The Sun also Rises.

Antonio was on a tour of the Basque country and Rioja in 1956 and Hemingway followed his fights in cities such as Bilbao, Pamplona, Haro, Logroño and Calahorra.

It was on this trip that the two of them visited Paternina and a great many of the unseen photographs in the exhibition show the pair being shown around the cellars – and tasting wine.

Hemingway would follow Antonio on subsequent returns to Spain between 1956 and 1960.

These, along with the mano a mano contest between Antonio and his great rival and brother-in-law Luis Miguel Dominguín in 1959, formed the basis of Hemingway’s last series of articles for Life magazine, The Dangerous Summer.

To help commemorate the event, Paternina’s winemaker Carlos Estecha has designed a special edition label for the 2006 Conde de los Andes reserva.

The exhibition runs from Tuesday to Sunday – with more limited opening times on Sunday – until 15 April 2012. Admission with a tasting is €3, €2 for over 65s and under 18s and free for under 14s.

 

Emilio Botín is a billionaire Spanish banker renowned for running a tight ship. He asks that his top credit officers at Santander — one of Europe’s largest banks — make a trek to his vacation home each summer to report on loan exposures. And he queries the head of his charitable foundation, euro for euro, on its smallest donations. Enlarge This Image Daniel Ochoa De Olza/Associated Press A Spanish court is investigating whether the family of Emilio Botín, the head of Banco Santander, paid too little taxes. Add to Portfolio HSBC Holdings PLC Barclays PLC Go to your Portfolio » Enlarge This Image Nacho Cubero/Reuters Emilio Botín is head of Banco Santander, which is based in Madrid. Readers’ Comments Share your thoughts. Post a Comment » Read All Comments (30) » Yet, there is one not-so-small matter that Mr. Botín (pronounced bo-TEEN) has failed to keep tabs on: a Swiss bank account secretly opened long ago by his father that grew to such a size that when Spanish authorities discovered its existence last year, Mr. Botín and other family members paid 200 million euros (about $273 million currently) in taxes to avoid tax evasion charges. At the request of tax fraud inspectors, a Spanish national court is investigating whether the payment is enough, given the amount that was stashed abroad; tax experts in Spain say that the account could reach two billion euros. The court has also said that officials need more time to sift through the blizzard of documents that the family submitted and will consider whether a criminal charge of document fraud should be brought. A lawyer for the Botíns, Jesús Remón, said the family was cooperating with the investigation and was “fully in compliance with its tax obligations following their voluntary filing” last year. He added that no family member had been charged with wrongdoing. Mr. Botín’s tax problems come as debate intensifies over whether struggling governments should demand more tax revenue from the rich. On Monday, President Obama called to end some tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers in the United States. Last Friday, the Spanish government reintroduced a wealth tax that it had abolished three years earlier, hoping to collect an estimated 1.08 billion euros from taxpayers with more than 700,000 euros in declared assets. Spain’s wealthiest have so far not publicly endorsed calls for higher taxes, and Mr. Botín on Friday told reporters that “it seems to me very bad to reintroduce” the wealth tax. More so than in other European countries, where bankers are largely anonymous figures, Mr. Botín holds sway in Spain. Although he avoids social events and his public utterances are few, his influence is seen as wide-ranging. And he has been able to retain control of Santander despite his family’s controlling just 2 percent of its shares. Neither the judiciary nor the family has provided details about how much money the Swiss bank account contained or how the amount grew over time. Nor would Mr. Remón, the lawyer, comment on whether Mr. Botín had been aware of the account. What is known is that Mr. Botín’s father, also called Emilio, left Spain with part of his wealth in late 1936, after the start of the Spanish Civil War, fearing, like many other Spaniards, what might come. The elder Mr. Botín spent a few months in London before moving to Basel, Switzerland, and eventually returning to Spain to resume leadership of the bank that he had run since 1933. But while he returned to Spain, the money he salted away in Switzerland did not. The senior Botín died in 1993. Last year, the French government passed on to Spain data that it had obtained from Hervé Falciani, a former employee in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, naming almost 600 Spanish holders of secret bank accounts. Among those was one belonging to the estate of Mr. Botín’s father. In his opening summary, the judge in charge of the case, Fernando Andreu, highlighted “the complexity of the hereditary structures” of trusts, foundations and other companies set up to oversee the account. The closest he came to explaining what was in the account was to say that it also included a 12 percent stake in Bankinter, a midsize bank in which Jaime Botín, Emilio’s brother, is a leading shareholder. That holding, at current stock market value, would be worth about $310 million.

Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage.com

 

Cheryl Cole was all smiles at the Olivier National Theatre in London on Monday night, where the ousted X Factor judge was celebrating her newest venture -- fabulous footwear!

 

To celebrate her partnership with U.K. fashion website, Stylistpick.com, the 28-year-old Brit showed off her amazing figure through the sexy cutouts in her scarlet mini dress. She styled her hair into a voluminous bouffant accessorized with a gold headband and sported smoky eye makeup.

 

The stylish star finished off her look with a pair of sparkling, sky-high heels. But despite their fabulous appearance, weren't such a walk in the park.

"Girls..Don't you just love taking your foot out of a heel and into your slippers..The best! Feels like my feet are having a cuddle.. X," the Girls Aloud singer tweeted after the event.

Cole's limited-edition footwear collection is due to hit stores in December just in time for the holiday season.

 

"Cheryl is the style icon and is amazingly warm -- a quality that has made her the nation's sweetheart," Stylistpick's CEO, Juliet Warkentin, said. "We believe that the launch will have a huge fashion impact, establishing fashion's greatest influencer as a major force in fashion design."

Cole will also curate her own picks on the site as well as give style tips to users.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

 

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

 

British man has broken his hip in yet another case of ‘balconing’ on the Baleares. The 29 year old, who was said to be very drunk, fell from the first floor of his hotel when trying to cross to the neighbouring balcony. It was a fall of some 3 metres and happened in Avenida Isidor Macabich in Sant Antoni. He was taken to the Can Misses Hospital where he is expected to stay for a few days. The Guardia Civil is in charge of the investigation, although the Local Police also attended the incident.

 

Some 1,200 people were evacuated overnight as their homes in the Roca Llisa urbanisation in the town of Santa Eulàra des Riu were threatened by the fire. The fire was declared at 8pm on Sunday afternoon in Cala Llonga, but given the size of the blaze in the early hours of Monday, 16 men from the Emergency Military Units UME were scrambled to the scene to reinforce the fire crews already working. They arrived on the island overnight on two helicopters. 160 fire fighters brought the fire under control on Monday morning, and there are no reports of any injuries. A total of 115 hectares were affected. In a separate incident a fire at Marratxí on Mallorca has affected some 5 hectares and is now also under control.

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Monday, 19 September 2011

 

The Home Office has said it is considering the possibility of not displaying gender on passports. The proposals follow changes to Australian passport rules, which mean that intersex people who identify as neither gender can be listed as ‘X’, rather than having to choose between male or female. A Home Office spokesman said: “We are exploring with international partners and relevant stakeholders the security implications of gender not being displayed on the passport.” Currently, transgender people can obtain passports in their new gender. But intersex people – those born with chromosomal or genital ambiguity – must pick whether they are male or female. Supporters of gender-neutral passports say there is little need for passports to list gender and argue that other forms of ID do not state the information. Intersex rights campaigner Jennie Kermode told PinkNews.co.uk last week that the change would be easy to implement. She said: “The passport offices in the UK will not issue passports with the ‘X’ option now, although they could do so without, as I understand it, any necessary change in UK laws.” Another campaigner, Jane Fae, said: “The issue of documenting gender goes much wider than the ‘feelings of trans and intersect people’. In fact many in the trans community would oppose the removal of gender as its inclusion on passports is vital to ensure safety when travelling abroad. “Many non-trans individuals would be happier not declaring gender for all sorts of reasons. It should be optional for all.”

 

Located on the Southern Spanish Costa del Sol, in the heart of the 'Golden Mile' only 5 minutes to Old Town Marbella and Puerto Banús, with 320 days of sunshine and a mild year round average temperature of 21ºC). Open year round, the renowned Marbella Club Hotel, was once the private residence of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe. The 121 luxury bedrooms and suites, spread over the beach front resort, harmonize with 14 Andalusian-Style villas throughout 42,000 square meters (452,083 sq. ft.) of lush subtropical gardens. Each guest room is decorated with the finest fabrics and Mediterranean interior design, reflecting the surrounding elements and has furnished balcony / terrace and spacious luxurious bathrooms with separate shower and bath. The 14 charming villas are in the unmistakable style of the Hotel, faithful replicas of traditional Andalucían architecture, blending harmoniously with their surroundings, and are ideal for families and guests seeking to enjoy more space and privacy. The 2, 3 or 5 bedroom villas have their own private garden and heated pool, providing guests with both comfort and privacy during their stay. Both of the 2 outdoor heated swimming pools, one with seawater invite you to relax in the surrounding gardens or to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean through the palm trees of the famous beach club.

 

Even celebrities are having a hard time selling their mega-mansions. More on DIS Fan Cam: The Next Sports Cash Machine?Jay Rasulo, Senior Executive Vice President And Chief Financial Officer, The Walt Disney Company, To Speak At The Goldman Sachs 20th Annual Communacopia ConferenceBond Funds See Huge Spike in Inflows Market Activity The Walt Disney Co| DIS Mommy-to-be Hillary Duff has put her first mansion that she purchased while starring in Disney's Lizzie McGuire up for sale with an asking price of $6.25 million. But according to The Real Estalker, Duff also attempted to sell the estate last year, listing for $7 million last time around. Real estate records reveal Duff bought the 9,277 square-foot house in Toluca Lake, Calif., in March 2004 for $3.5 million. Mark Wahlberg, a.k.a. Marky Mark, also recently re-listed his Beverly Hills estate with a $2 million price cut. Wahlberg originally listed the property in 2008 for $15.9 million. The 1.41-acre home is now listed for $13.9 million. The executive producer of Entourage purchased the mansion in 2001 for just $5 million, later remodeling it. Earlier in the summer, Christina Aguilera reduced the price on her home in the Hollywood Hills to $5.5 million from $8 million, while Jodi Foster's Beverly Hills mansion was brought down to $8.9 million from $10 million. The housing market continues to wobble with few consumers taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates. Sales of newly built homes are expected to be at their worst levels for decades this year, while sales of previously occupied homes are on pace for their poorest showing in nearly 15 years

 

One aspect of a plan to restore wealth tax in Spain makes no sense but there's nothing the government can do about it, the finance minister said Saturday. Elena Salgado spoke from Poland where she was attending a meeting of euro zone counterparts. The tax stems from the central, Socialist government but is collected by regional administrations. It was suspended in 2008 to stimulate growth as the global economic crisis started to bite in Spain. But the Madrid government has kept compensating regional governments for the lost revenue. Now, regions stand to get the money twice: once from high-earning taxpayers under a decree passed Friday and again from the central government because the compensation must continue under a separate law that has a higher status than a decree. Salgado said "this does not seem reasonable" but there's no way around it. "With a decree, there is nothing you can do to avoid it," she said. Her comments were the latest in a sea of confusing government statements about the wealth tax, which is levy on a person's net worth: assets minus debts. The flip-flops concerned the wealth level at which it will kick in and how much revenue it will raise. In the end, if passed by Parliament next week, the levy will apply to taxpayers' net worth above euro700,000 ($963,000), or an estimated 160,000 people, and raise euro2 billion in revenue. It is temporary, and will be in effect only in 2011 and 2012. The government says the tax is aimed at getting richer people to chip in more as Spain struggles with a 21 percent jobless rate, anemic growth and a high deficit. But it has been criticized by the conservative opposition as a populist nod to leftist voters angry over deficit-cutting austerity measures as Nov. 20 general elections approach. The ruling Socialists are projected to lose badly. Salgado's remarks seemed to contradict some made just Friday by government spokesman Jose Blanco, who said no region would get the wealth tax money twice. Salgado said Blanco really meant the same thing she did: that it seems unreasonable for regions to get the money doubly.

 

The Bank of Spain has promised to cover up to 20 billion euros ($27 billion) in losses at Caja Mediterraneo as it seeks to offload the troubled savings bank, a newspaper said Monday. The Bank of Spain took control of the bank in July and is now trying to sell it off. According to the daily El Mundo, the central bank let investors know it would cover up to 20 billion euros of losses, the estimated amount of property-related assets at risk in Caja Mediterraneo (CAM), if necessary. If confirmed, the central bank intervention would be "the costliest for the public treasury in Spanish financial sector history," the newspaper said, without identifying its source. The price tag could unnerve financial markets -- it is equal to a government estimate of the maximum cost of recapitalising Spain's entire banking sector. Contacted by AFP, Bank of Spain officials were unable to respond immediately to the report. The Bank of Spain injected 2.8 billion euros and opened a three-billion-euro line of credit for the CAM when it took control of the institution in July. But in early September CAM revealed a first-half loss of 1.136 billion euros and a high 19-percent ratio of bad loans, mostly property-related credits whose recovery was doubtful. The average bad loan ratio for the Spanish banking sector was 6.416 percent in June. According to El Mundo, the Bank of Spain is trying to complete the sale before general elections set for November 20. It said rival banks Santander, BBVA and CaixaBank, as well as a union of three Basque banks, were among candidates to buy the CAM, with Santander the favourite.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

 

Swiss bank UBS on Sunday increased the amount it said it had lost on rogue equity trades to $2.3 billion and alleged a trader concealed his risky deals by creating fictitious hedging positions in internal systems. UBS stunned markets on Thursday when it announced unauthorised trades had lost it some $2 billion. London trader Kweku Adoboli was charged on Friday with fraud and false accounting dating back to 2008. "The loss resulted from unauthorised speculative trading in various S&P 500, DAX, and EuroStoxx index futures over the last three months," UBS said in a brief statement. "The loss arising from this matter is $2.3 billion. As previously stated, no client positions were affected." Global stock markets have been extremely volatile in recent months, plunging on concerns over euro zone and U.S. debt crises and then rebounding on hopes for their resolution. The loss is a disaster for the reputation of Switzerland's biggest bank, which had just started to recover after it almost collapsed during the financial crisis and faced a damaging U.S. investigation into aiding wealthy Americans to dodge taxes. "Loss even more. Reads like they're making excuses," said Helvea analyst Peter Thorne of the UBS statement. The new scandal has prompted calls for its top managers to step down and for its investment bank to be split into a separate unit from its core wealth management business. Chief Executive Oswald Gruebel, who was brought out of retirement in 2009 to turn the bank around, was quoted in a newspaper on Sunday as saying he is not considering quitting over the crisis, but said it was up to the board to decide. In a memo to staff on Sunday, he said: "Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I and the rest of senior management are responsible for dealing with wrongdoing." Swiss newspapers quoted unnamed insiders as saying the UBS board and important shareholders such as the Singapore sovereign wealth fund were still backing Gruebel, with immediate changes at the top the last thing the bank needed. Gruebel is widely expected to present plans to drastically cut back the investment bank at an investor day in November. INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION The bank, whose three keys logo symbolise "confidence, security, discretion," has pulled its "We will not rest" global advertising campaign for now, that was designed by advertising agency Publicis to try to rebuild its image. Meanwhile, UBS client advisers have been writing to customers to reassure them of the underlying financial strength of the bank despite the trading loss, a spokesman said. "That we now suffer this setback at this point in our efforts to improve our reputation is very disappointing. This incident also sets us back somewhat in our capital-building efforts," Gruebel said in his memo. "However, I wish to remind you that our fundamental strengths as a firm remain intact... we remain one of the best capitalized banks in the industry. UBS said its board of directors had set up a committee chaired by independent director David Sidwell, former chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley, to conduct an independent investigation into the trades and the bank's control systems. The bank said it had covered the risk resulting from the unauthorised trades, and its equities business was again operating normally within previously defined risk limits. It said the trader had allegedly concealed the fact his trades violated UBS risk limits by executing fake exchange-traded fund (ETFs) positions. "Following inquiries directed to him by UBS control functions that were reviewing his positions, the trader revealed his unauthorised activity," the bank said. "The positions taken were within the normal business flow of a large global equity trading house as part of a properly hedged portfolio," UBS said. "However, the true magnitude of the risk exposure was distorted because the positions had been offset in our systems with fictitious, forward-settling, cash ETF positions." The Sunday Times cited unnamed insiders saying the trader placed bets worth $10 billion before his losses were detected. ETFs are index funds listed on an exchange and can be traded just like regular stocks. They try to replicate index performances and offer lower costs than actively managed funds, but regulators have warned about risks from some complex ETFs. In the past three months, DAX futures have fallen 22 percent, Eurostoxx 50 futures have dropped 20 percent and S&P 500 futures have dipped 4 percent. The instruments involved in the UBS case are similar to those that Jerome Kerviel, the rogue trader at Societe Generale, traded when he racked up a $6.7 billion loss in unauthorised deals in 2008. Christoph Blocher, vice-president of the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) -- the country's biggest -- renewed his calls for a splitting off of the investment bank. "One has to seriously examine a ban on investment banking for commercial banks," he told the SonntagsZeitung, adding his party might team up with the center-left Social Democrats to push for such a move.

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