Tuesday, 31 January 2012

 

Snoop Dogg launched an foul-mouthed attack on Kim Kardashian in a new web video. The 40-year-old rapper, who uses his Nemo pseudonym in the clip, calls the 31-year-old 'cold blooded' and uses a series of misogynist terms to describe her. In the video, which is running on the Hollywood Reporter, he claims to be giving 'advice' to her ex husband Kris Humphries, telling him he’s just one of many men who have be burnt by the reality TV star.

 

The "X Factor" news came fast and furious on Monday night -- first, that host Steve Jones would not be returning, then that judge Nicole Scherzinger was exiting and finally that Paula Abdul also would be shown the door. Now The Hollywood Reporter has learned that all of these major show decisions are coming from one key confab being held in the U.K.   According to a show source, a series of X" Factor" season 2 offsite meetings are currently taking place wherein show creator Simon Cowell has assembled his team and creative brain-trust for a postmortem. The purpose: detailing what went wrong and what was done right on season 1 of the Fox singing competition.   Among the brash verdicts, says the source: that Abdul's role was seen as "irrelevant to the mix," in part through no fault of her own (as mentor to the groups, her contestants were picked off early in the competition).   Still, Abdul was not without her controversies on the show. Many blamed her for the dismissal of show favorite Rachel Crow, precipitated by advice Abdul gave to Scherzinger to let the decision be made by the public vote. America then sent the 13-year-old packing.   As for Jones and Scherzinger, another show insider says the "X Factor" host was notified by a show producer around 7:30pm on Monday evening that his option was not being picked up. (Cowell did not call Jones personally to deliver the news.) Soon after, Scherzinger was informed that her contract also would not be renewed. The host and judge did not receive an explanation for the decision, but a source close to the show says Cowell has decided that the show needs a bigger celebrity on the panel next season.   A source says LA Reid, the fourth judge on the "X Factor" panel, has not been informed of any change to his status as judge.   Representatives for Fox, Abdul and Fremantle have not responded to THR's request for confirmation of the shake-up on the show.

 

Disgraced former RBS boss Fred Goodwin was told this afternoon that his knighthood is being removed by order of the Queen. The unprecedented step was taken on the recommendation of a secretive Whitehall body which is responsible for ensuring the honours system does not fall into disrepute. The forfeiture committee, made up of senior civil servants and Government lawyers, met to consider the case after the Daily Mail highlighted growing cross-party pressure for Mr Goodwin’s knighthood to be rescinded. Mr Goodwin was telephoned by Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the home civil service, at 3pm to be given the shattering news. There is no right to appeal. It is a humiliation for the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, who has never spoken publicly about his role in the biggest corporate disaster in British history which cost the taxpayer £45bn, and whose lawyers succeeded in getting some direct criticism of him removed from an official report into the collapse of RBS. Honours are very rarely revoked, and it took years of campaigning for hated Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to lose his knighthood. The most recent high profile case was that of Jean Else, a Manchester superhead who was made a Dame on the recommendation of Labour but was later accused of mismanagement and nepotism at her school. She was stripped of her damehood after a ruling by the forfeiture committee.

 

He may have already popped the question twice to girlfriend Hayley Roberts, but her snubs didn't put David Hasselhoff off asking the pretty blonde again - this time on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And it seems the Baywatch actor's toygirl may have said yes, judging by the picture the Baywatch actor posted on his Twitter page. Hasselhoff was seen on bended knee as he asked Hayley, 32, to marry him, before kissing the Welsh beauty in a passionate embrace.

 

Screen nudity and explicit love scenes have never been a problem for Keira Knightley. She filmed her first nude scene when she was only 15 in The Hole and since then has appeared topless, naked and in various stages of undress in Silk, Atonement, Domino and The Edge of Love. Yet the 26-year-old actress balked at what director David Cronenberg wanted her to do for her latest film, A Dangerous Method, because she thought the scenes were too outrageously explicit. But then, she says, after talking at length with Cronenberg and her co-star Michael Fassbender, she changed her mind and went through with them, helped by inhibition-easing shots of vodka. In the fact-based film she portrays a hysterical, tic-ravaged mental patient with masochistic tendencies who becomes sexually involved with her psychoanalyst, Dr Carl Jung, played by Fassbender. As well as some explicit sex scenes, the script also called for her to enjoy being tied to a bed and spanked with her breasts exposed. “When I first read it I loved the script and really wanted to play the character, but I didn’t want to do those scenes, and I phoned David Cronenberg and said I was going to have to turn the role down,” she recalls. “He said he really wanted me to play the part so he would take the scenes out but I said, 'Whoa!’ because I knew they were incredibly important to the story. “He said he didn’t want the scenes to be sexy or voyeuristic; he wanted them to be clinical and a complete exploration of what she was feeling. So we kind of came to an agreement with Michael as well because he had questions about the scenes, too. I wanted it to be as shocking as possible without going over the top.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

 

Spanair ceased operations late Friday after a regional government in Spain announced it could no longer fund the airline, officials said. Spanair’s financial woes were exacerbated by a 2008 crash that killed 154 people. Eighteen people survived what was Spain’s worst aviation disaster in 25 years. In a statement, the airline said its “last commercial flight will land at” 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Jan. 27. 0 Comments Weigh InCorrections? inShare ( Manu Fernandez / Associated Press ) - Passengers wait at a Spanair check-in desk of El Prat airport in Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The Spanish air carrier Spanair announced on January 27, 2012 the cessation of the company and the suspension of flights. The regional government of northeastern Catalonia, which had been investing in the country’s No. 4 airline since its 2008 purchase from SAS Scandinavian Airlines System International, said in a statement that it could no longer bankroll Spanair. The Catalan government said the “current economic climate” and “European legislation concerning competition” made it impossible for it to continue financing the small carrier, whose hub was Barcelona airport. Spain’s Development Ministry also published a statement requiring Spanair to “fulfill its obligations with passengers.” The airline advised passengers who had booked flights with it to consult its website where it said “full information” would be displayed. However, from just before 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) the website read only “Website access not available.” Spanair said it had communicated its decision to Spain’s air authorities and had been coordinating its demise with AENA, the country’s airport authority, and with the Development Ministry, which is responsible for civil aviation. Spanair has a fleet of 36 mainly aging aircraft and flew to 19 domestic and 24 international destinations, which included Algeria and Poland. The airline, which also ran a commuter service between Madrid and Barcelona, was in trouble financially before Spanair Flight JK5022 — an MD-82 jet — crashed on takeoff on Aug. 20, 2008 as it tried to leave Madrid bound for the Canary Islands. In December 2008, SAS sold the airline to tourism group Consorci de Turisme de Barcelona and Catalana d’Iniciatives, a private equity group.

Spanish airline Spanair ceases operations after running out of funds - The Washington Post

Spanair ceased operations late Friday after a regional government in Spain announced it could no longer fund the airline, officials said. Spanair’s financial woes were exacerbated by a 2008 crash that killed 154 people. Eighteen people survived what was Spain’s worst aviation disaster in 25 years. In a statement, the airline said its “last commercial flight will land at” 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Jan. 27. 0 Comments Weigh InCorrections? inShare ( Manu Fernandez / Associated Press ) - Passengers wait at a Spanair check-in desk of El Prat airport in Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The Spanish air carrier Spanair announced on January 27, 2012 the cessation of the company and the suspension of flights. The regional government of northeastern Catalonia, which had been investing in the country’s No. 4 airline since its 2008 purchase from SAS Scandinavian Airlines System International, said in a statement that it could no longer bankroll Spanair. The Catalan government said the “current economic climate” and “European legislation concerning competition” made it impossible for it to continue financing the small carrier, whose hub was Barcelona airport. Spain’s Development Ministry also published a statement requiring Spanair to “fulfill its obligations with passengers.” The airline advised passengers who had booked flights with it to consult its website where it said “full information” would be displayed. However, from just before 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) the website read only “Website access not available.” Spanair said it had communicated its decision to Spain’s air authorities and had been coordinating its demise with AENA, the country’s airport authority, and with the Development Ministry, which is responsible for civil aviation. Spanair has a fleet of 36 mainly aging aircraft and flew to 19 domestic and 24 international destinations, which included Algeria and Poland. The airline, which also ran a commuter service between Madrid and Barcelona, was in trouble financially before Spanair Flight JK5022 — an MD-82 jet — crashed on takeoff on Aug. 20, 2008 as it tried to leave Madrid bound for the Canary Islands. In December 2008, SAS sold the airline to tourism group Consorci de Turisme de Barcelona and Catalana d’Iniciatives, a private equity group.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nicanor Rodriquez is one of the characters that created many of the exciting bandit stories that dot the West and filtered into the Pioche area. Nicanor, generally referred as Nicanora, was the son of a high government official in Spain who came to the United States and settled in Missouri. At the young age of 16, Nicanora left home and headed West for California, more than likely looking to get rich in the gold fi elds, but where he ended up joining a band of stage robbers. He was in the process of robbing a stagecoach when he was captured and sentenced to 10 years in prison. After serving a few months, he was released because of his tender young age but he continued his life of crime. For the next few years he wandered around California and, for a time, it is believed he rode with the famous outlaw Joaquin Murietta. Located off state Route 322, this canyon is about two miles northeast of Eagle Valley Resort near the entrance to Spring Valley State Park. As a now wealthy man he made his way into the Nevada gold fields settling in the Virginia City area. He lived a double life, robbing stages and also passing as an affluent mining man. He was handsome and attractive and would entertain important people with his charm and wit at lavish dinners. He came to be known as the Spanish King. With his fertile brain, he would set up daring robberies and he would rifle the quartz mines. One robbery placed him in the presence of the infamous Baldy Green as he was loading three large gold bricks onto a stage. Nicanora joined the driver up top as a passenger. When Baldy stopped to water the horses, Nicanora threw off the gold bricks. Remembering the spot, he later returned for the gold. He took it to an assay office to be melted down but never returned for the gold, probably fearing an arrest. This led Nicanora to flee to the Ely area in Eastern Nevada and eventually to Pioche where he resumed his smaller robberies of stage coaches and payroll coins. Pioche was booming and Mexicans had been imported to work in the mines. Feeding the growing town became a problem and the price of beef soared. This need led to the rustling of cattle ranches in the Spring Valley area and also from across the Utah border. Nicanora formed his first gang of Mexican bandits. He also ran with a gang of robbers, Al Wing, Nate Hanson and Idaho Bill, who terrorized the Stateline and Desert Springs, Utah area. However, his luck ran out when he robbed a stage of $2,000 worth of payroll and passenger jewelry. He was arrested but acquitted with the alibi his gang was able to provide for him. At this point Nicanora fled to the mountains, possibly living in a cave along with his group of bandits. History tells us that he negotiated a deal with the Wells Fargo Co. to pay him $2,000 a month and he wouldn’t bother them again. As new owners took over, the money ceased and holdups resumed. Nicanora was again arrested. His name appears on the jailer’s record of the Million Dollar Courthouse in June of 1874. Somehow with the help of two other prisoners he struck a guard as he made his rounds, fled the jail and vanished on a stolen horse, supposedly heading for Utah. The history books tell us that Nicanora did venture into Utah robbing one more stagecoach, killing the driver and stealing some horses. He then headed for Mexico to spend the remainder of his life on a sprawling ranch and lived out his life in elaborate luxury. I’ll bet you thought that was the end of the story. Well, not so, at least for those of us who know and believe the local legend that continues to exist about this notorious character. Into this saga enters an early pioneer of Spring Valley by the name of Althie Meeks. He homesteaded a 200-acre ranch in the Spring Valley area and raised cattle and milk cows and he also freighted. He would sell his cattle in California and Utah. He became a prime target for Nicanora and his gang of outlaws. As Meeks and his daughter made their way through the Spring Valley Canyon by buckboard, Nicanora and his pal Al Wing had hidden in a canyon behind some brush waiting for a potential holdup. When Meeks reached that spot, action started and shooting began. Meeks was wounded but played possum and when Nicanora and Wing approached the wagon, Meeks opened fire, killing Nicanora and wounding Wing, who was able to escape. Meeks’ daughter remained in the wagon and was unhurt. Thus ended the life of Nicanora Rodriquez. Of him they always said no jail could hold him, no wealth could satisfy him, and no life had value. Many Nevadans say that every mill in Nevada was looted at one time or another by Rodriquez. For a while he was the most famous bandit in the Silver State. As for Meeks, he feared retaliation from the remaining members of Nicanora’s gang of bandits and made up his mind he did not want anymore shooting scrapes. He sold his ranch and moved back to Utah where he hoped things would be more peaceful. According to history, the cattle rustling and bandit activity continued to plague the area for many more years. Horsethief Gulch is the main campground at Spring Valley State Park and got its name because it was a favorite corridor for the rustlers to drive their stolen cattle through. Nicanora Canyon is not marked on any map nor is there a sign pointing to its entrance. It lies midway between Ursine and Eagle Valley Reservoir and it has become a campground and picnic area maintained by the BLM. Many of us are aware of the tragedy that happened in that tiny little canyon but are glad that the days of cattle rustlers and bushwhackers are gone. The legend and name of the canyon lives only within the minds and hearts of those of us who are aware of the history. We can now enjoy the sweet and beautiful spot with peace and contentment knowing we live in a safer time and place.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

In an interview with Antenna 3 this week Garcia-Margallo said that “now that I am Foreign Minister I have not forgotten the claim over Gibraltar. We are going to change the policy towards Gibraltar.” The remarks are likely to be discussed by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo when he meets in London for the first time since the General election with Europe Minister David Lidington. “Up to 2002 there was the tripartite forum where UK, Spain and Gibraltar sat. And Gibraltar tried to talk about sovereignty, about jurisdiction, about things that are the preserve of the main countries. I told the minister (Hague) that on sovereignty and jurisdiction the interlocutors are UK and Spain” Garcia-Margallo said in the interview. The Spanish minister said that he had added that if they were going to talk about co-operation “which seems good to me as it favours both sides of the fence (reja) then Spain, UK, the Junta de Andalucía and Gibraltar will be present. That should be the symmetry.” But he added that “we will progress on that as we progress on sovereignty matters. We are not going to be talking permanently of co-operation if we do not advance on the fundamental issue of sovereignty”.

Liam Neeson is considering converting to Islam, according to newspaper reports. The desire to convert has sprung from spending time filming in Turkey, according to The Sun. The Northern Ireland actor, who comes from a Catholic background, told the newspaper that the call to prayer in Istanbul drove him to distraction for the first week of filming but he then began to find it "the most beautiful, beautiful thing". Neeson, a former altar boy in Ballymena, said: "There are 4,000 mosques in the city. Some are just stunning and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim." The actor has been nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA and three Golden Globe Awards during his career. He has starred in a number of notable roles including Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List and Michael Collins. Neeson was married to actress Natasha Richardson for 15 years before her death on 2009, when she suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident at the Mont Tremblant Resort, in Quebec. It’s not the first time Neeson has spoken about religion. The 59-year-old faced criticism in 2010 after refuting claims by author C.S. Lewis that Narnia lion Aslan is based on Christ. Neeson – who voiced the character in the film adaptation – instead claimed Aslan was based on other spiritual leaders including Mohammed and Buddha. “Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries,” he said at the time. “That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.”

 

Europe's second largest low-cost carrier said on Thursday revenue jumped 16.7 percent to 763 million pounds ($1.2 billion) in the three months to December, as passenger numbers rose 8.1 percent to 12.9 million in its first quarter. Analysts at UBS had expected sales of 730 million pounds. The Luton, southern England-based company said costs per seat, excluding fuel, fell 1.6 percent during the quarter, and it expected its seasonal first-half loss to be roughly the same as in 2010/11. "Assuming no significant disruption in the second quarter, easyJet expects to recover most of the 100 million pounds increase in its first-half fuel bill and contain first-half losses to between 140 million pounds and 160 million pounds compared to the 153 million pounds loss reported in the first half of last year," chief executive Carolyn McCall said. Shares in easyJet, which have risen 12 percent in the past three months, were up 7 percent at 432.2 pence by 3:45 a.m. ET, valuing the company at around 1.7 billion pounds. "Carolyn McCall's second full year in charge is off to a good start, helped by the mild winter weather. Both pricing and cost control have been strong," said Charles Stanley analyst Douglas McNeill, who retains a "hold" rating on the stock. EasyJet's European peers have struggled to overcome high oil prices and sluggish demand in recent months, with low-cost airlines expected to pick up more business as struggling European consumers trade down. German group Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) have cut profit forecasts after being battered by fuel costs and slashed plans to expand in 2012. Industry body IATA recently said it expected airlines to suffer this year due to waning consumer confidence, sluggish international trade and high fuel prices. McCall said she was "cautiously confident" in the outlook for the business, despite the tough economic environment and the negative impact of a weak euro. Last year, easyJet agreed a string of deals aimed at giving it a larger share of the business travel market. The airline said some 200,000 more business passengers flew with the carrier in the quarter year-on-year, despite a general decline in business travel. EasyJet, the largest airline at London's Gatwick airport, expected to grow seats flown by around 3 percent for its first half and by around 5 percent for the full year. It said around 70 percent of available seats for the first half were already booked.

Monday, 23 January 2012


It also alleges that Juan Carlos is a ‘professional seducer’ who has had numerous affairs and has not shared a bed with his wife for the past 35 years.

And it reveals that age has not stopped  the 74-year-old, with the monarch regularly receiving vitamin injections and anti-ageing treatments. 

Tactile: Princess Diana being kissed in 1987 by the King of Spain, who according to a new book, is a serial womaniser

Tactile: Princess Diana being kissed in 1987 by the King of Spain, who according to a new book, is a serial womaniser

Together: Diana, Prince Charles and their boys with King Carlos, Queen Sofia and members of the Greek royal family onboard a yacht in August 1990

Together: Diana, Prince Charles and their boys with King Carlos, Queen Sofia and members of the Greek royal family on board a yacht in August 1990

The Solitude of the Queen by Pilar Eyre, which is likely to prove controversial in the Catholic country, claims the king made a ‘tactile’ advance to Diana while she and Charles were on holiday in Majorca in the 1980s. 

It follows much-derided allegations made in 2004 by Lady Colin Campbell that the princess had a fling with Juan Carlos while on a cruise in August 1986 and then again the following April. 

Controversial: The Solitude of the Queen by Pilar Eyre claims the king made a ¿tactile¿ advance to Diana while she and Charles were on holiday in Majorca in the 1980s

Controversial: The Solitude of the Queen by Pilar Eyre claims the king made a 'tactile' advance to Diana while she and Charles were on holiday in Majorca in the 1980s

During a 1987 visit, in which Charles and Diana  went to Madrid, the king was pictured smiling as he kissed the princess on the hand – a gesture which left Diana  looking embarrassed.

Miss Eyre’s book also alleges that Queen Sofia has not slept in the marital bed since 1976 and only remains in the marriage out of ‘a sense of duty’.

She even claims the queen stumbled upon her husband with one of his alleged  lovers, the Spanish film star Sara Montiel, at a friend’s country house in Toledo in 1976.

Sofia, now 73, was forced to attend a football match the day afterwards ‘as protocol demanded’, before storming out of the  Zarzuela Palace, their official residence, with her children.

Advised to stay with her husband, she was told a break-up would mean she would ‘end up being paid to liven up the parties of the newly rich’.

Miss Eyre adds: ‘The role of the queen is sad, she is the loneliest woman in Spain.’

Distant: Carlos and Queen Sofia have allegedly not slept in the marital bed together since 1976

Distant: Carlos and Queen Sofia have allegedly not slept in the marital bed together since 1976

She also told Spanish gossip magazine  Vanitatis: ‘Queen Sofia is a woman betrayed and hurt with a married life that has been a real tragedy. The king’s closest friends I have spoken to say they don’t like her.’

And she alleges that, as recently as last year, when the monarch was recovering from the removal of a benign lung tumour, he was seeing a 25-year-old German translator.

After writing the book, Miss Eyre was informed she would no longer appear on Spanish TV channel Telecinco.

She said she was told: ‘The station has banned talk about your book and does not allow you to continue working. You are banned, Pilar, we are sorry.’

 

Monday, 16 January 2012

 

The National Court will not be investigating the mortgage fraud which was reported last year by twenty foreign residents of the Costa del Sol and which affected victims all along the Spanish coastline. Most of the banks and foreign financial advisors involved were from Denmark who informed their clients that, if they died without a mortgage on their Spanish property, their heirs would be subject to hefty inheritance taxes which they would never be able to pay. They were then offered a mortgage on their property, with the money invested outside Spain, mainly in Luxembourg. El Mundo reports that the investments did not however go well, and the victims are now in danger of losing their homes. The Málaga victims are represented by the Marbella law firm Lawbird, who told El Mundo, ‘This is complete judicial apathy from this court, which considers the complaint as lacking in relevance.’ ‘It contrasts,’ they said, ‘with the rapid response from the Danish government which has announced that it will investigate the manoeuvres which invested the funds from the loans in fiscal paradises.’

 

Mr Msungubana was swimming with a group of friends in shallow water off Second Beach in Port St Johns, a town on the country’s southeastern coast, when the attack took place. John Costello, local station commander for the National Sea Rescue Institute, said he sustained “multiple traumatic lacerations to his torso, arms and legs” where the shark bit him repeatedly. His death marks the sixth in just over five years at the beach, making it the most dangerous in the world for fatal shark attacks. In South Africa, one in five attacks by the ocean predators ends in the death but every single attack at Second Beach has proved fatal. Zambezi or bull sharks, known as the “pitbulls of the ocean” for their ferocity, have been blamed for most of the incidents. Experts from the nearby Natal Sharks Board have been brought in to investigate the phenomenon and the town authorities have closed the beach to swimmers. Pictures taken on Sunday show lifeguards wading nervously into the sea to pull the badly-injured Mr Msungubana to safety. They placed him on a surfboard to bring him to shore where, Mr Costello said, he was treated by a doctor who had been on the beach before paramedics arrived.

 

A professional tax adviser from Bedfordshire has been convicted of trying to defraud honest taxpayers of £70 million, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said. David Perrin spent his cut of the stolen cash on expensive second homes, exotic holidays, works of art and luxury cars, a spokeswoman said. The 46-year-old, of Leagrave, Luton, Bedfordshire, was found guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court and will be sentenced next month, she added. Perrin, deputy managing director at Vantis Tax Ltd, devised and operated a tax avoidance scheme which he sold to wealthy taxpayers in order to exploit the law on giving shares to charity, she said. The scheme allowed him to pocket more than £2 million in fees from unsuspecting clients. He used a network of finance professionals to advise more than 600 wealthy clients to buy shares, worth a few pence each, in four new companies he had set up, the spokeswoman said. He then listed the companies on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange and paid people money from an offshore account to buy and sell the shares simply to inflate their price. The share owners then donated 329 million shares to various unsuspecting registered charities and tried to claim £70 million tax relief on a total of £213 million of income and company profits. This was based on the shares being worth up to £1 each, rather than the pennies they were originally bought for. Perrin also used the bogus scheme to claim money back, the spokeswoman said. The scheme proved so popular that Vantis employees performed a smug celebratory song at their annual conference, to the tune of I will Survive, she said. It included the verse: "They should have changed that stupid law, they should have buggered charity, but they have left that lovely tax relief, for folks to pay to me." Jim Graham, HMRC criminal investigator, said: "With his knowledge of the tax system, Perrin thought that he was one step ahead of both HMRC and the law. "This cynical fraud not only stole millions of pounds from taxpayers, but also conned innocent charities into accepting gifts of virtually worthless shares, just so Perrin could inflate his own criminal earnings." Perrin was charged with cheating the revenue by dishonestly submitting and dishonestly facilitating and inducing others to submit claims for tax relief which falsely stated values of shares which were gifted to charities. He will be sentenced on February 9 and confiscation proceedings are under way, the spokeswoman said.

 

One of Australia's former leading art dealers, Ronald Coles, faces up to 10 years in jail after being charged today with 87 offences relating to an alleged multimillion-dollar investment art fraud scheme. Mr Coles, 64, was ordered to appear at Gosford police station at 10am today. Fraud Squad detectives formally charged him following an "extremely protracted and legally intricate" two-year investigation into his business affairs. Under the Crimes Act, Mr Coles was charged with 77 counts of "larceny as a bailee" and a further 10 counts of "director/officer cheat or defraud". For more than 30 years, Mr Coles specialised in fine art by some of Australia's most celebrated artists, including Sir Arthur Streeton, Eugene von Guerard, Brett Whiteley and Norman Lyndsay. Advertising on national radio and television, he offered clients an opportunity to boost their life savings through the purchase of investment art, which he bought and sold on their behalf, using their superannuation funds. NSW Police launched Strike Force Glasson in January 2009 after a Fairfax investigation unearthed dozens of investors who were missing millions of dollars in lost art and money, all allegedly retained by Mr Coles. Today's police charges relate to more than $8 million in financial loss to a total of 43 clients nationwide. Mr Coles failed to make conditional bail of $50,000. It is understood he offered a car and paintings as surety but they were refused. He is due to appear at Gosford Local Court shortly.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


 

A luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia leans on its side after running aground the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, 

They're often billed as the ultimate in worry-free vacations. But cruise critics say these floating hotels -- some as high as 12 storeys tall -- aren't nearly as safe as claimed.

Fire, power failures, crime and tragic overboard deaths are common on cruise vacations, said Ross Klein, a Memorial University sociologist and author of two books on the cruise industry.

The ships, which can carry more than 4,000 passengers, are as big as towns, Klein said, packed with strangers often bent on having a good time. Many passengers wrongly let their guard down.

"People should go on cruise ships with their eyes wide open, to be aware that there can be accidents." Klein told CTVNews.ca.

Last year, 22 people fell overboard on cruise ships, Klein said. Some were accidents. Others were suicides. The vast majority were fatal, said Klein, who compiles cruise accident data for his website www.cruisejunkie.com.

Fires and power failures are also common, though rarely reported in the mainstream media.

Incidents include:

  • In September 2010, an explosion aboard the Cunard's Queen Mary 2 caused a power failure as it approached Barcelona, causing it to drift off the Spanish coast.
  • In November 2010, a drunken passenger dropped an anchor on a cruise enroute to Tampa from Mexico.

According to data Klein collected, the risk of sexual assault is nearly 50 per cent greater on a cruise ship than on land in Canada. He used data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and internal industry documents used in lawsuits between 2003 and 2005.

"I believe passengers should go on to a ship well informed," Klein said.

"The industry markets itself as . . . . one of the safest modes of commercial transport in the world. And they want passengers to believe that if they come on a cruise ship they are virtually safe."

An umbrella group for the cruise industry says it's monitoring the latest accident off the Italian coast, where three people have died and dozens are missing.

The website for the Cruise Lines International Association said the group "would like to reassure other cruise passengers that all CLIA member lines are subject to the highest safety standards around the world and according to international maritime requirements."

CTVNews.ca called the association on Saturday, but there was no answer at its Florida office.

U.S. maritime lawyer Jim Walker once represented the cruise industry but switched sides about 15 years ago. Since then, he's represented dozens of passengers and crew members in lawsuits against cruise lines.

Mr. Walker represented the family of George Smith, who vanished from a Royal Caribbean ship while on his honeymoon in 2005. His family suspected foul play and claimed the cruise ship failed to properly investigate the disappearance. His family won a US$1.3 million suit against the cruise line.

Walker also represented a 35-year-old woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a crew member on a Royal Caribbean vessel. Walker said the woman's case resulted in tough reporting rules aboard cruise ships.

Walker urged passengers to be vigilant about crime and safety.

Despite potential dangers, Klein said he loves ocean travel and has taken 30 cruises.

"I love being at sea," he said. "I like to look at the horizon." At sea, he said, "time stands still. It's a wonderful feeling."

Saturday, 14 January 2012

 

Another of the large projects in the Valencia region is in trouble as the company which runs the Ciudad de la Luz film studios in Alicante, Agua Amarga de Gestión S.L., has applied for bankruptcy protection. It comes as the regional government has failed to pay four million € as the promoter of the project. Mercantile Court 2 in Alicante accepted the application on December 16 2011. The centre has amassed a total debt of more than 190 million €, and now the Valencia Government wants to privatise the operation despite spending 160 million € on it. The project was an idea of Eduardo Zaplana, an ex Partido Popular President of the Valencia Government who thought it would compensate the city for the Terra Mítica park in Benidorm. The studios cover a 320,000 square metre site. El País reports that a new agreement between the regional government and the company could be round the corner. The company says that would need the payment of the debt. They note that in 2005 when the first productions were carried out at the facility, there were in that year 59 productions in total which brought an income of 174 million €, saw jobs for 4,757 workers and more than 3,000 contracts with other companies. It also gave rise to some 150,000 overnight hotel stays in Alicante.


According to Tom Mueller, author of a new book on the subject, Extra Virginity: The Sublime And Scandalous World of Olive Oil, not all virgins are as pure as they might seem — and the world of olive oil is increasingly beset with fraud, smuggling and even poisoning.

The problem is that where there’s money, there’s crime, and olive oil is a very valuable commodity. 

Olive oil is graded into several different types for sale, the most common of which is extra virgin

Olive oil is graded into several different types for sale, the most common of which is extra virgin

In July, Spanish police arrested the leader of a gang responsible for the theft of more than a million litres of the stuff, siphoned from storage tanks in Murcia, and shipped under false paperwork to Italy for sale. 

Italian newspapers regularly report producers being robbed at gunpoint by drivers who arrive in the middle of the night with tankers.

A few years ago, Bertolli, the biggest olive oil brand in the world, suffered a multi-million euro theft at its plant near Milan — with sophisticated thieves using jammed security cameras, guns and lorries to secure their bounty. 

 

 

Olive oil occupies a unique place in culinary history. Humans have been eating the fruits of these gnarled and tenacious trees for as long as the two of us have coexisted on this planet. 

But since then, too, the olive oil industry has been dogged by fraud. 

Clay tablets found at Ebla, in Syria, describe the activities of a 2,500  year-old anti-fraud squad who were responsible for ensuring the purity of oil, while the classical philosopher and doctor Galen complained of unscrupulous traders adulterating their olive oil with liquid lard to make it go further. 

But ancient foodies were lucky — the Roman Empire had strict controls in place to minimise such double dealing. 

Two thousand years later, olive oil regulation is back in the Dark Ages. 

Olive oil doesn't come cheap - beware of anything under about £6 a litre

Olive oil doesn't come cheap - beware of anything under about £6 a litre

As Mueller’s book observes, when you buy wine, you can usually trust that the contents match the label: if it says Chateau Margaux 1949 on the bottle, you’re not going to find last year’s Chilean Malbec inside. 

Olive oil labels, by contrast, give very little information to the consumer: an oil costing £20 a bottle will look, on the shelf, very similar to one retailing at a tenth of the price.

And with one former producer claiming 98  per cent of what is sold in Italy as extra-virgin olive oil is actually nothing of the sort, how on earth can shoppers tell what they’re getting?

In theory, it should be easy: olive oil is graded into several different types for sale, the most common of which is extra virgin. 

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality, made from the very best olives. 

Virgin oil, meanwhile, is made with slightly riper olives and so is deemed to have a less superior flavour.

European legislation dictates that any oil labelled virgin must have been extracted from the olive by physical means, such as pressing, rather than by chemical refinement. It also has to pass a taste test conducted by EU experts.

Rigorous enough, you might think — if only the law was properly enforced.

Olive oil doesn’t come cheap —beware of anything under about £6 a litre — and many have succumbed to the temptation to cut a few corners.

The most common fraud involves diluting extra virgin oil with a lesser grade — such as lampante, or lamp-oil, judged unfit for human consumption because of its high acid content.

Another option is to substitute a different type of oil entirely, often originating outside the EU where production is cheaper. 

Last year, two Spanish businessmen were sent to prison for selling extra virgin olive oil that turned out to be 75 per cent sunflower oil, while Mueller recounts the story of a shipment of Turkish hazelnut oil which, after a voyage around Europe, arrived in southern Italy in September 1991 with papers declaring it was Greek olive oil. 

There it was mixed with the real thing, and sold to unsuspecting customers including Nestle, owners of Buitoni oil, and Bertolli for use in their products. 

The substantial profits associated with such fraud, Mueller says, enable crooks to bribe low-paid customs officials and police to turn a blind eye to such arrivals. But this deception isn’t just confined to smugglers and gangsters. 

In 2004, an olive oil producer called Andreas Marz, concerned about the declining quality of Italian olive oil, decided to conduct his own test. 

He bought 31 different kinds of extra virgin olive oil from German supermarkets, and sent them to three expert tasting panels in Florence for analysis. 

Only one was judged to meet extra virgin standards, nine were downgraded to virgin, and the rest, including offerings from several major Italian brands, were graded as lampante.

When Marz published the results, those involved in the revelations found themselves hit with lawsuits by Carapelli, makers of ‘Italy’s most beloved extra virgin olive oil’, who seemed to have friends in some very high places indeed. 

In fact, ‘intimidation’ is the word used by one of the experts concerned. 

No wonder, then, that Marz’s shocking findings changed absolutely nothing. Such adulteration is deceitful, certainly, but pales in comparison to the toxic oil scandal which killed more than 1,000 Spaniards, and seriously injured 24,000 others, in the Eighties. 

They fell ill after consuming rapeseed oil intended for industrial use, which had been rendered inedible by the addition of a toxic compound called aniline, used in the production of plastics.

Only virgin oils can claim the full range of health benefits attributed to olive oil, because the refining process strips lesser oils of its vitamins

Only virgin oils can claim the full range of health benefits attributed to olive oil, because the refining process strips lesser oils of its vitamins

Unscrupulous traders had taken advantage of the low price-tag, repackaged it as olive oil, and sold it for culinary use.

Even companies which act within the law are happy to appropriate the premium image of Italian olive oil for lesser blends. 

Don’t be fooled by Italian flags or Tuscan olive groves on a label. Italy is one of the world’s largest importers of olive oil, much of which is then blended, stuck into suitably Italian packaging and re-exported.

About 80 per cent of the oil produced in Jaen, southern Spain, for example, is shipped to Italy, where it can be packaged and sold by Italian brands as ‘packed’ or ‘bottled in Italy’, for a far higher price than poor old Spanish brands can get. 

Indeed, Bertolli, for all its rustic Italian advertising, tells Mueller it actually imports about four-fifths of the oil it uses, mostly from Spain, North Africa and the Middle East. 

While it doesn’t really matter, from a health point of view, whether our olive oil comes from Tuscany or Tunisia, the much vaunted advantages of this cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet — its apparent ability to help protect the body from some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease — depend very much on the quality of the oil. 

Only virgin oils can claim the full range of health benefits attributed to olive oil, because the refining process strips lesser oils of its vitamins.

But until the EU imposes tighter controls of the kind in place for wine, there seems little incentive for the olive oil industry to clean up its act.

In the meantime, there are a few things the consumer can do to help ensure that the oil they’re buying is of the quality that they’d expect it to be. 

Go for virgin or extra virgin oil, where the golden rule is that sadly, if it seems too cheap to be true, it probably is. 

Look for dark bottles, which will protect the contents from damaging UV rays that make it rancid, and search out the longest sell-by date you can.

Olive oil may be sacred to many British foodies, but it’s not immune to corruption.

It seems that, for the unwary consumer at least, healthy eating is a very slippery business.



 

At this time, 3 people are confirmed dead in an accident involving the cruising ship Costa Concordia. The ship left Civitavecchia for Savona yesterday at 7:30 PM and ran aground near the Isola del Giglio. According to Coast Guard sources, the situation is still confused. The ship has been boarded by Coast Guard rescue personnel, firefighters and a Costa officer and checked top to bottom to confirm that everybody has been evacuated. A portion of the passengers was taken on other vessels to Porto Santo Stefano while other went to Livorno by helicopter. The cause of the accident has not yet been ascertained. The grounded ship suffered a blackout just before running aground. . .

 

Holidaymakers from France, Italy, Germany and Britain were forced to flee the 1,500-cabin Costa Concordia in lifeboats when it hit a reef less than two hours after leaving port. Some leapt overboard and swam to shore as the ship started to sink into the waters near the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast. Francesco Paolillo, the coastguard spokesman, said that at least three bodies were retrieved from the sea and at least three more were feared dead. Pregnant women and young children were among the 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew on board. Passengers' dinner on Friday night was interrupted by a loud boom at around 8pm and a voice over the loud-speaker system initially claimed that the ship was suffering an electrical failure, before ordering everyone on-board to don life-jackets.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

 

A furious row broke out between two passengers on a packed jumbo jet after one reclined his seat as the man behind was about to eat. The pair almost came to blows at 40,000ft as shocked travellers looked on. It started when an 18-year-old sitting in economy class moved his seat back to sleep. Air rage: The drama happened on board an Emirates 517-seat Airbus A380 - the world's biggest commercial airliner - from Dubai into Manchester Airport The 38-year-old passenger sitting immediately behind him was about to eat his in-flight meal at the time. And when he asked the youth to put his seat back up while he ate a major row broke out.   More... Airline passenger is stunned three times with a Taser gun after after he refuses screening check and runs into secure area Car-sized robotic explorer fires its thrusters for next stage of journey to Mars - and will land there in August The pair traded insults and leapt up from their seats in a head-to-head confrontation. As the argument became more heated cabin crew were called and attempted to defuse the incident. Stunned travellers watched as the two men continued to shout abuse at each other while standing in the aisle before they were finally persuaded to calm down. The drama happened on board a 517-seat Airbus A380 - the world’s biggest commercial airliner - operated by Emirates from Dubai into Manchester Airport. Close: The row broke out as one passenger reclined his seat while the man behind was about to eat The pilot of flight EK17 was so concerned he radioed ahead and police were informed. Officers went to the gate at Terminal 1 after the flight landed to meet the two passengers at around noon on Tuesday. A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police confirmed officers ‘spoke to’ two men, aged 38 and 18. No further action was taken as neither man wanted to make a formal complaint, and both also admitted they had been ‘in the wrong’, say police. A spokesman for the airline said: ‘Emirates does not tolerate this kind of behaviour from passengers and safety will not be compromised.’ They confirmed there had been an ‘altercation’ on board the flight and, although no blow had been exchanged, cabin crew had been called to calm the passengers. One traveller who uses the route said: ‘I have recently flown with Emirates to the Far East. This trip was split into two separate flights and lasted 20 hours. ‘Like a lot of people on the second leg of the trip I wanted to sleep. There is a system in place where you can indicate that you do not want the meal and to be left alone to sleep, which is what I did. My seat was reclined to the limit allowed. Welcome party: Police officers were waiting at the gate at Manchester Airport's Terminal 1, pictured, to meet the two passengers involved ‘When it came time for the meal I was woken up by the person behind asking me to sit up, so they could enjoy their meal. I was a little p***** off that I had been woken up. 'I hadn’t reclined it whilst he was eating, I was doing what I wanted to do, sleep, in a position that the seat was allowing me. I didn’t make a fuss and accepted it.’ He said: ‘This is only a problem in the "cheap" seats and perhaps the airlines can have an area in this class for passengers who want to sleep in the reclined position. 'No meals would be served to these passengers, so the problem will be removed. By sitting in this area you accept no meals and the seat in front may be reclined.’ The double-decker plane first started flying into Manchester Airport in September 2010 after around £10m had been spent on changes to the airfield to accommodate it. Its introduction was part of a huge boom in the number of people flying in and out of Dubai,

 

A National Police operation has seized more than 4 million € in cash and a treasure trove of gold ingots from a group of drug traffickers based in the north west of Madrid which was finalising a deal to sell off half a ton of cocaine. Three suspects from Colombia have been arrested, who also face charges of money laundering. The Interior Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday that the drugs were brought into Spain by air and the laundered proceeds from their sale were then sent to Colombia in the same way. Police began their investigations last month and swooped on the luxury apartments which were used by the gang early on the morning of January 5, seizing more than 3.5 million € and three kilos of highly pure gold. The gold was made up of ingots each weighing a quarter of a kilo. A further half a million € was discovered when the suspects’ vehicles were searched.

 

An arrest has been made in the case of the woman who was found dead, wrapped in plastic and a blanket, beneath a bridge in Los Boliches, Fuengirola, on Monday morning. She was identified as E.U.G, a woman who was born in Almería in 1980. She is believed to have been killed last Saturday, two days before her body was found. The autopsy has now confirmed the cause of death as asphyxiation, and it’s understood there were also signs that she had been hit on the head. There was no sign of rape, or that any of her personal possessions had been stolen. All that’s known on the suspect is that he was known to the victim. La Opinión de Málaga said he was arrested in Fuengirola.

 

Another twist in the Malaya case with the owner of the real estate promoter, AIFOS, Jesús Ruiz Casado, telling the court on Wednesday that, despite his declaration on Tuesday that he had never made any payments to the Marbella Municipal Real Estate Assessor, Juan Antonio Roca, that in fact he did make the payment ‘of some amounts’ through his commercial director, Francisco García Lebrón. Casado explained that he had found a 135,000 € mismatch in a report on the accounts of his company which had been presented to the Court, and that there was a 90,000 € coincidence with the notes in the computer archives of Juan Antonio Roca. He said he told his commercial director to make a payment to support the Town Hall sponsorships and fiestas. ‘I did not control this matter sufficiently’, he said and said he pleaded guilty to avoid prison, and admitted making payments of 4.8 million € for town planning favours between 2004 and 2006, for which he is accused.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

 

.The mid-Andalusian coastline began to lure Northern European types, weary of their long, dark winters and eager to bask in the region's ever-present sunshine. First came the super-rich and famous (think Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Laurence Olivier), after Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg opened the aristocratic Marbella Club in 1954. The demi-rich and B celebs followed, and gradually the masses—as is their wont—caught wind of the fun and sun, subsequently descending in droves. Through it all, the gays came too, establishing their beachhead at Torremolinos in the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately, the switch from sleepy-fishing-village-dotted seashore to frolicksome touristic playground proved too rapid for the area to bear seamlessly. Unsavory types like on-the-lam Brits, the Russian mob, and Arab arms traffickers crept in, earning the region the unwelcome nickname Costa del Crime in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Unsavory Marbella politicians meanwhile took advantage of the instability, pushing through scores of corrupt construction projects before being stopped and ultimately jailed. Now, however, with a clean political slate and hot on the heels of a highly publicized summer 2010 visit to the area by Michelle Obama, the Costa del Sol is back with a vengeance. A new generation of hip tourists, a large faction of them gay, are now discovering the 300-plus days of sun, the warm Mediterranean beaches, the bargain-to-luxury shopping, the excellent spas, the delectable food, the rich history, the effervescent culture, and yes, those scrumptious southern Spanish men of the delightful Costa del Sol. By far, most international visits to the Costa del Sol start in Málaga, and more specifically at its Pablo Ruiz Picasso International Airport. Low-cost carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet have turned this into Spain's fourth busiest airfield, with scores of carriers now serving over 60 countries. The airport's newly opened third terminal is expected to accommodate the growing number of travelers in the coming years. Thanks to an extension of Spain's high-speed AVE train line in 2007, it's now also possible to get from Madrid to Málaga by rail in just about two and a half hours. While many Málaga arrivers scurry off to nearby beachside resort towns, any proper visit to the area requires a healthy dose of the beautiful city itself. With about 570,000 inhabitants, this is Europe's southernmost metropolis, not to mention one of the world's oldest towns, with an historical center dating back more than 3,000 years. In this now fully modern and vibrant city, remnants of previous civilizations are around every bend, with Phoenician, Roman, Moorish, and Reconquista Christian sites especially visible—and more still being found all the time. In 1951, during the construction of a new library, a fantastic first century B.C.E. Roman Theater was unearthed, and it's now one of Málaga's main attractions. More recently, during the construction of the Vincci Selección Posada del Patio Hotel on Pasillo Santa Isabel, remains of both the Roman and Arab walls of the city were found, and can be viewed by all from a specially designed underground walkway. THE INSIDERS GUIDE WHERE TO STAY WHERE TO PLAY WHERE TO EAT WHAT TO DO Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas are two of Málaga's most famous sons, and while you have a slight chance of seeing the latter on one of his frequent visits to town, you certainly won't miss homages to the former, known to his mother and many a modern tour guide as Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. The fabulous Museo Picasso, while just one of three major museums devoted exclusively to the artist's work (the others are in Barcelona and Paris), contains perhaps the most intimate and revealing collection, with more than 220 works donated directly by Picasso's daughter-in-law and grandson. Also worth a visit is the Museo Casa Natal (Birthplace House Museum), which features thousands of works by Picasso, his contemporaries, and those he influenced. Just up the hill from the Roman Theater is the Alcazaba, a Moorish fort started in the eighth century but mostly taking its present form in the mid-11th century. Farther up the hill (but further forward in time) is the Castillo de Gibralfaro, where the Moorish people of Málaga famously waged a three-month battle (albeit ultimately unsuccessfully) against the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1487. Inside the castle is a small but interesting archaeological museum, but most visitors come for what's outdoors: breathtaking views of the city below. For a royal hotel stay, the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro, part of Spain's exceptional state-owned Paradores system, is actually attached to the castle itself. Continuing onward chronologically, Málaga's post-Reconquista city center Cathedral is known locally as La Manquita, or "one-armed lady," thanks to her clearly missing second tower, a victim of depleted coffers in the 18th century. She's still stunning, and her one beautiful outstretched arm manages to crop up in photos all around the old town. CLICK FOR SLIDESHOW OF COSTA DEL SOL When you're ready for a break and some Málaga tapas, the nearby La Moraga is unparalleled, the local outpost of Michelin-starred chef Dani García's growing gastronomic family. Once sustained, try out Málaga's plentiful shopping options, especially the city center pedestrian street Calle Marqués de Larios, which is lined with chic shops, boutiques, and cafés. Málaga also has a Corte de Inglés (part of the much-beloved, Spanish, one-stop, department store chain), as well as several malls and countless specialty stores spread across the city. One of Málaga's most famed festivals is its vivid Holy Week (or Semana Santa), during which massive ornate tronos (thrones, or floats), made of gold and silver and often weighing more than five tons, are carried through the streets, accompanied by music and song. Things turn especially dramatic on Good Friday, when shops and streetlights go dark to better showcase the solemn procession. Antonio Banderas sometimes still takes part in the festivities, as he did here in his youth. The festival dates back more than 500 years to the Catholic Reconquista, and its long history is commemorated at the Museo de la Semana Santa (Holy Week Museum). Somewhat less holy but even more famous is the Feria de Málaga, a nine-day, mid-August festival that's one of Spain's largest. Shops and offices close so everyone can enjoy the food and drink. Meanwhile, traffic is stopped so the streets can fill with music and dancing. Traditional costumes are everywhere, with many women in colorful flamenco dresses and many men dressed as sexy vaqueros (or cowboys). While it's not nearly as big as Holy Week or Feria, Málaga has its own Pride event as well called Hoy Málaga es Gay (Today Málaga is Gay), taking place annually in late June. LGBT life is thriving in Málaga, which boasts a growing number and variety of gay bars and clubs, many situated around Plaza de la Merced. For a fun dip into the local queer scene, start out with the lively Bohemian loungy-ness of El Carmen, then move on to the throbbing disco action of Reinas (Queen). The refreshingly small (just 50 rooms) and colorful Room Mate Lola Hotel is a great place to lay your head in Málaga, with cool design, a central location, a hip clientele, and a friendly staff. Even more centrally located (right next to the Cathedral) is the AC Málaga Palacio Hotel, which boasts a rooftop pool and restaurant/bar with 360-degree views of the city, making it a consummate setting for that impromptu Spanish same-sex wedding. For venturing beyond Málaga proper and onward to the splendid Costa del Sol, your best bet is to rent a car. This can be ridiculously cheap, as low as $60 a week depending on when you travel, your vehicle preference, and Euro conversion rates. Taxis are plentiful, but distances between towns are fairly large, so fares can be high. Buses are available as well, but they run sporadically. Trains, running about every 30 minutes, also connect Málaga to Torremolinos and Fuengirola, but the latter is only about halfway to Marbella, so you'll still need a cab or car to take you the full distance there. Less than ten miles south of Málaga lies Torremolinos, long the gay capital of the Costa del Sol region. Though it began like many towns in the area as a sleepy fishing village, people were here and queer as early as the late 1950s. By 1962, Toni's Bar, Spain's first-ever gay bar, had opened. Even during the oppressive Franco regime, homosexuals were mostly given wide berth to behave as they liked in Torremolinos—as long as they spent their tourist pesetas while doing so. By the early 1970s, gay life was booming here, centered (as it still is) around La Nogalera in the heart of town. Torremolinos lost much of its cachet in the mid-70s when down-the-coast Marbella came into full bloom, but with the decriminalization of homosexuality in Spain later in the decade, the town began to attract more and more gays from all over the country, and eventually from across Europe. After an upswing in the 1980s and much of the 90s, another downturn followed just before the millennium, as Eurogays bored of a destination that'd become too routine and gone stale. Somewhat surprisingly, Torremolinos has undergone yet another powerful resurgence in the last few years, proving it a gay Spanish phoenix that simply refuses to go quietly. As Spain's magnetism draws in more and more international LGBT travelers, Torremolinos, virtually unknown to Amerigays until recently, is now finally being discovered by those looking beyond the tried and true Madrid-to-Barcelona-and-Sitges route. Interestingly, Torremolinos also draws many heterosexual Nordic and British types, leading to odd amalgams like a Finnish bar atop a gay disco, as in the case of the popular and very fun Home. Other current LGBT hotspots (among some 20 in Torremolinos) include Parthenon and Passion discos, both always packed on weekends. Since Torremolinos isn't yet exactly teeming with upscale lodging options, many visitors choose to stay in Málaga and make the journey by taxi at club time—in fact, it's what many Malagueños themselves do every weekend. For those who'd rather be able to stumble home, Hostal Guadalupe is a solid Torremolinos choice. Beyond the packed nightclubs and visible renovations around town, another clear indication that Torremolinos' star is again on the rise was the 2010 debut of Expo Gays, an international gay business expo that drew some 180 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors to the city's 60,000-square-foot Palace of Congresses and Exhibitions over three days in mid-October. Of course, one of the main reasons people flock to Costa del Sol is to soak up the ever-present local sun. Torremolinos itself has several lovely stretches of sand, including the once gay but now mixed Poseidon Beach. Most locals will assure you, however, that the best gay beach in Costa del Sol is farther down the coast, between Calahonda and Marbella at Cabopin. While this naturist beach isn't exclusively gay, it boasts a large pink stretch (commencing about 200 yards to the west of the parking lot) that includes a very cruisy and action-packed dune area. Whether you lay or play, Cabopin makes for a nice rejuvenating stop on the journey south from Torremolinos or Málaga to Marbella.

 

Indian households should completely switch to olive oil as a cooking medium as its nutritional value is very high, it is rich in monounsaturated 'good' fats and, when used daily, can bring instant and easy wellness to a family's diet, celebrity chef and noted cookery expert Nita Mehta says. "Even though we have such a wide range of olive oils in our market, people don't seem to use them because of their mental block that the flavour of olive oil doesn't gel with Indian flavors," Mehta said at the launch here Satuday her latest book, "Indian Cooking With Olive Oil".

 

top Spanish former official went on trial Monday at the start of legal proceedings into a raft of corruption scandals in which King Juan Carlos' son-in-law is also accused. Jaume Matas, the ex-head of the regional government of the Balearic islands who had also served as environment minister, appeared at a court in Palma de Majorca alongside three other suspects. They have been charged with embezzlement, fraud, falsifying documents and influence peddling. Matas was charged in March 2010 and was released after paying a record bail of 3.0 million euros ($3.8 million). Prosecutors are demanding an eight and a half years jail term. Matas served as president of the government of the Balearic Islands between 1996-1999 and then between 2003-2007. He was environment minister between 2000-2003. The so-called "Palma Arena affair" as the Spanish press has dubbed the corruption scandal centres on the suspected embezzlement of public funds during the construction of a velodrome in Palma de Majorca between 2005-2007. An investigation concluded that the cycling track had an unjustified cost overrun of 41 million euros. That led authorities on the archipelago to uncover other cases of suspected embezzlement of public funds, including one allegedly involving royal son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin. The 43-year-old ex-Olympic handball player is scheduled to appear in court on February 25 as part of a probe into corruption at a non-profit organisation, Instituto Noos, which he headed between 2004 and 2006. The probe centres notably on a payment of 2.3 million euros to Instituto Noos for organising a tourism and sports conference in 2005 and 2006. Urdangarin, who has the title Duke of Palma and is married to the king's youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, has denied any wrongdoing. Last month the royal family suspended the the duke from official engagements and the palace's highest official, Rafael Spottorno, gave an unprecedented rebuke, telling Spanish media his behaviour "does not seem exemplary".

 

Banco Santander SA Chairman Emilio Botin lost a bid at Spain’s National Court to block three groups’ ability to file complaints against him over accusations he broke national tax laws by hiding funds in Switzerland. Appeals by Botin, his brother Jaime Botin and other people contesting a November decision to allow the complaints by the three groups were rejected, the Madrid-based court said today in a ruling sent by e-mail. In Spain, any citizen can make a so- called popular accusation in legal proceedings even if they are not directly involved in the matter. The court said in June it would investigate Botin and 11 family members after tax officials received information on clients at HSBC Holdings Plc’s Swiss private bank from French authorities. The Botin family, in a statement distributed by Santander at the time, said it has put its tax affairs in order “voluntarily,” has met all its tax obligations and hopes the case will be cleared up in court. A spokesman for Spain’s largest bank, who asked not to be identified in line with company policy, declined to comment today in a phone interview. The complaints were made by three groups called Ciudadania Anticorrupcion, Asociacion Contra La Corrupcion Sistemica Y En Defensa Del Libre Ejercicio De La Acusacion Popular and Manos Limpias, the court said.

 

Spanish home sales declined in November for a ninth month as the economy contracted and unemployment surged. The number of transactions fell 14.4 percent from a year earlier, the National Statistics Institute in Madrid said in an e-mailed statement today. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the People’s Party leader whose government took over from the Socialists on Dec. 22, has said he will restore a tax rebate for the purchase of homes to spur the market as a 23 percent unemployment rate weighs on demand. Spain is struggling to work through an excess of 700,000 new homes after the collapse of a building boom saddled banks with 176 billion euros ($225 billion) of what the Bank of Spain calls “troubled” assets linked to real estate. Spain’s economy contracted in the final months of 2011 as tourism and exports, the drivers of a recovery in the first-half from a three-year slump, weakened, the Bank of Spain said on Dec. 29

Sunday, 8 January 2012

 

Buildings which are more than 50 years old are to be obliged to have a so-called ITV/MOT inspection from July. The new legislation affects buildings older than 50 years in towns of more than 25,000 inhabitants. Buildings will be obliged to display a certificate before any flats can be sold. The ITE Inspección Técnica de Edificios has been in existence for some time, but only from July 7 2012 will it become obligatory. The buildings will be subjected to a complete technical inspection by a competent architect or engineer who will draw up a report on the state of the building, indicating any deficiencies detected and whether they are serious or not. In the case that work needs to be done, a further inspection is needed when the work is completed. Fines of 1,000 – 6,000 € are envisaged for those who don’t comply. The process will have to be repeated every ten years.

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