Thursday, 29 March 2012

 

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

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

 

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

 

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


The captain of a JetBlue plane screamed "They're going to take us down!" and rambled about al-Qaida as passengers pinned him to the floor while another pilot took charge to make an emergency landing. An off-duty airline captain who was a passenger on the flight entered the cockpit, locked the door and landed in Amarillo, Texas, the airline said in a statement. JetBlue Airways said the original pilot on flight 191 from New York's John F Kennedy international airport had been taken to hospital after suffering a "medical situation" on board. The captain had earlier stormed through his plane rambling about a bomb and threats from Iraq until passengers on the Las Vegas-bound flight tackled him just outside the cockpit, passengers said. He had seemed disoriented, jittery and constantly sipped water when he first marched through the cabin, then began to rant about threats linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan after crew members tried to calm him down. "They're going to take us down! They're taking us down! Say the Lord's prayer!" the captain screamed, according to passenger Tony Antolino. Josh Redick, who was sitting near the middle of the plane, said the captain seemed "irate" and was "spouting off about Afghanistan and souls and al-Qaida". Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, told the Amarillo Globe-News: "He started screaming about al-Qaida and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down." "A group of us just jumped up instinctually and grabbed him and put him to the ground," Antolino said after arriving in Las Vegas later Tuesday. "Clearly he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown." Antolino, a security executive, said he and three others pinned down the captain as he ran for the cockpit door and sat on him for about 20 minutes until the plane landed at Rick Husband Amarillo international airport at 10am. Shane Helton, 39, who was seeing off his son at Amarillo airport, said: "They pulled one guy out on a stretcher and put him in an ambulance." The flight had left New York around 7am and was in the air for three and a half hours before landing in Texas. The passengers completed their journey to Las Vegas several hours later on another flight. The FBI was co-ordinating an investigation with the police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration, said FBI spokeswoman Lydia Maese in Dallas. She declined to comment on arrests. Earlier this month an American Airlines flight attendant took over the public address system on a flight bound for Chicago and spoke for 15 minutes about 9/11 and the safety of their plane, saying: "I'm not responsible for this plane crashing," passengers said. She was wrestled into a seat while the plane was grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth international airport. The attendant was taken to hospital. In 2008 an Air Canada co-pilot was forcibly removed from a Toronto to London flight, restrained and sedated after having a mental breakdown. A flight attendant with flying experience helped the pilot make an emergency landing in Ireland. None of the 146 passengers and nine crew members on board were injured. In August 2010 JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater pulled the emergency chute on a flight from Pittsburgh after it landed at John F Kennedy international airport. He went on the public address system, swore at a passenger, grabbed a beer and slid down the tarmac. He was sentenced to probation, counselling and substance abuse treatment for attempted criminal mischief. An aviation expert remembered only two or three cases in 40 years where a pilot had become mentally incapacitated during a flight. John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, said incidents in which pilots become mentally incapacitated during a flight were "pretty rare". He said he could only recall two or three other examples in the more than 40 years he has been following commercial aviation. Airlines and the FAA strongly encouraged pilots to assert themselves if they thought safety was being jeopardised, even if it meant contradicting a captain's orders, Cox said. Aviation safety experts had studied several cases where first officers deferred to more experienced captains with tragic results. In Tuesday's case the FAA is likely to review the unidentified captain's medical certificate, which must be renewed every six months to a year.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

 

CANNABOOST plant food is one of the best selling products at the Hydroexpress hydroponics store in Stirchley, a working-class part of Birmingham. The small shop, its windows filled with graffiti-style posters, also sells fertilisers with names like “Nirvana” and “Bud Candy”, alongside strong lights and giant rolls of tin foil to line greenhouses. In one corner, a couple of juicy-looking tomato plants grow in a demonstration set-up. But the youth behind the counter guesses that his customers are “not all growing tomatoes”. Birmingham now has 58 hydroponics shops, up from 42 just a year ago. Whether aided by the latest plant-growing technology or not, cannabis production is soaring. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the number of cannabis factories detected each year increased from around 800 in 2004 to 7,000 in 2010. Birmingham is one of the most fertile areas; West Midlands Police, which set up a Cannabis Disposal Unit in 2010 to tackle the problem, dismantled more than 500 factories last year. Your correspondent visited one recently closed by police; the gardener was a cocaine-addicted woman growing a few plants in a spare room in the hope of earning a cut. Other set-ups have been found in tents in the bedrooms of high-rise council flats and in the lofts of terraced family houses. Many growers are simply feeding their own habits. As one officer on the West Midlands Police drugs team says, “It’s becoming the most popular cottage industry in the country.” In this section A big splash with little cash Falling flat Earning a hearing The worst job in the world Constituency of the world Mother tongue Money for old metal »Legal high A rock and a hard place The Notting Hill budget Reprints Related topics United Kingdom Birmingham, England Small growers are squeezing out both importers and the well-connected, often Vietnamese, gangs that once dominated domestic production. The big cannabis factories set up by the latter, with their telltale heat hazes, are fairly easy to spot. Smaller operations are often uncovered only when the electric lights start fires, or when local teenagers mount a burglary. The police and the courts can neither keep up with the surge in small-scale production, nor are they desperately keen to do so. Last month the government published new sentencing guidelines that advised judges to treat small cultivators less strictly. Attitudes to smokers are softening, too. The reclassification of cannabis in 2009, from class C to the more stringent class B, was oddly accompanied by a more liberal approach to policing consumption. Users caught on the street are rarely arrested; rather, they are issued “cannabis cautions” (a reprimand which doesn’t appear on a criminal record) or fined. In Brixton, a south London neighbourhood, an open-air cannabis market exists within ten minutes’ walk of the underground station. The dealers are frequently moved on but they soon regroup elsewhere. As one dealer admits, his competitors are a bigger hassle than the police. “They get to fightin’, over money and things,” he says in a deep Caribbean drawl. Violence is far more likely to get a dealer into legal trouble than business. Strangely, this lackadaisical approach is not encouraging people to take up the reefer habit. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the proportion of people who admit to having used cannabis in Britain has fallen more quickly than in any other European country over the past few years. Just 6.8% of adults told another survey that they used cannabis in 2010, down from 10.9% eight years earlier. The herb is now ubiquitous and effectively tolerated—and, perhaps as a result, not all that alluring.

 

Cat-sized rats are causing trouble in the Florida keys. A pack of Gambian giant pouched rats have been breeding in the keys despite officials’ efforts to eradicate them. NBC Miami reports that Officials are worried about the vermin making it over to the mainland, saying that the hungry species could wipe out crops and upset the delicate ecological balance in Florida. Scort Hardin, the exotic species coordinator for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said: “We thought we had them whipped as of 2009…. In the early part of 2011, a resident e-mailed me and said he saw one of the rats. We were skeptical but went back and talked to people and [saw] there were rats that we missed.” Hardin believes that there are less than two dozen giant rats roaming Grassy Key where they were trapped during multiple efforts last year. The Wildlife Conservation Commission will set out once again this July in an attempt to trap the Gambian giant pouched rats. Hardin told Keys Net: “I would not imagine there’s more than another couple of dozen at most. We’ve caught them all within a half-mile of each other… We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced.” MSNBC reports that the cat-sized rats were introduced to the island by a local rat breeder more than a decade ago. The rats have moved into the wild where they are now breeding and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

 

Forget friending. A new Facebook app allows users of the social network to identify and share people, places and things as “enemies” for all to see. The app, called EnemyGraph, lets you list anything with a Facebook presence — ranging from “friends,” to foods, to products, movies or books — as an enemy. Since the app launched March 15, it’s seemed to appeal especially to users with a liberal bent. Some of its most-selected nemeses so far include Rick Santorum, Westboro Baptist Church and Fox News. The app was developed by a professor and two students at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dean Terry, who directs the school’s emerging media program, helped conceptualize the project, while graduate student Bradley Griffith and undergraduate Harrison Massey built the app. Griffith said EnemyGraph has so far accumulated some 400 users. But more importantly, its creators say, press coverage has helped meet the team’s goal of sparking a larger conversation about the nature of social media and Facebook in particular. “One thing that has always struck me is the enforced niceness culture,” Terry told Mashable. “We wanted to give people a chance to express dissonance as well. We’re using the word enemy about as accurately as Facebook uses the word friend.” But the app has utility beyond simply sparking a philosophical debate, Terry adds. Researchers and marketers have long gathered information on social media users based on what they support, but at the expense of possibly overlooking another valuable data source. “You can actually learn a lot about people by what they’re upset about and what they don’t like,” Terry says. “And the second thing is that if you and I both don’t like something, that actually creates a social bond that hasn’t been explored in social media at all, except with Kony and some big examples like that.” Terry and Griffith teamed up last year to create Undetweetable, a service allowing Twitter users’ deleted tweets to be uncovered posthumously. That project gained some attention as well but Twitter quickly forced it to shut down. Terry wouldn’t be surprised if EnemyGraph meets a similar fate from Facebook. “My guess is it goes against their social philosophy and purpose,” he says. “It is a critique of their social philosophy for sure.” Do you like the EnemyGraph idea? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, 26 March 2012

 

A  study has discovered a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and how much of a “socially disruptive narcissist” you are—giving us one more reason to tone down our Facebook addictions. Researchers at Western Illinois studied 294 college students and found that those with more friends on Facebook tended to score higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire. They tended to respond more aggressively to comments, change their profile pictures more often, and updated their news feeds more regularly than others. This may not be all that surprising, but it does provide a bit of motivation to re-evaluate what Facebook does for you, if you fit into one of these categories (and if not, at least you can stop feeling bad about not having very many Facebook friends—it’s probably a good thing). None of this is to say Facebook is inherently bad, of course. It’s still a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, especially after you’ve fixed all of its annoyances—you might just want to dial back on all the photo tagging. While you’re at it, you can also move some of those friends to your Acquaintances list using Facebook’s new tool, which will hide them from your news feed more often.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

 

Singer Whitney Houston's death last month from accidental drowning from the effects of cocaine use and heart disease throws bright light on a dark corner of the world of celebrities who wrestle with substance abuse.  Living on the edge: Whitney Houston's longtime drug habit eventually played a part in her death. Whitney Houston's longtime drug habit eventually played a part in her death. The toll of celebrity addiction — to street drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol or a mix — is long and mournful, and seems particularly heavy right now thanks to the deaths of Houston, 48, and Amy Winehouse, 27 . And not just them: In recent years, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith have succumbed to overdoses; going back further, the list includes John Belushi, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Judy Garland. Americans these days can't escape the steady stream of news about celebrities and their controlled substances. Take Lindsay Lohan, 25. After years of erratic behavior, multiple arrests and five stints in rehab, Lohan says she's finally cleaned up her act. She promises to stay away from drugs and alcohol , and even completed her comeback gig hosting Saturday Night Live March 3 (the ratings were good but the reviews were mixed). Recent weeks also brought news that Scottish actor Gerard Butler (300), 42, and comedian Artie Lange,44 , both successfully completed rehab for addiction and are back working. But actress Demi Moore, 49, who was hospitalized after smoking something that gave her convulsions , sought "professional assistance" for her problem. And Australian actor Alex O'Loughlin, star of CBS's Hawaii Five-0, has announced he would take time off to get "supervised treatment" for pain drugs prescribed after a recent shoulder injury. This sort of thing is not uncommon in Hollywood: Actress Tatum O'Neal, 48, who comes from a family of addicts and has long battled to overcome substance abuse, also is in "supervised treatment" to prevent a recurrence of addiction, to painkillers recently prescribed for back surgery. "She will always seek supervision when taking prescription medication that has addictive potential," according to a statement issued by her manager, Angela Cheng Caplan. But it's fair to ask: Is there a fatal attraction between celebs and controlled substances? Why do some survive and some die? How do you step away from addiction when the spotlight is always on? "It's that caustic mix of sudden celebrity and being strung out and it being condoned by the people around you," says Duff McKagan, 48, the original bass player for rock band Guns N' Roses and a longtime drug and alcohol addict who had to nearly die from an exploding pancreas in 1994 at age 30 before he was motivated to get help. His mother weeping in her wheelchair over her youngest child, and his eventual discovery of the physical and spiritual strengths of martial arts also helped, he says. Houston's death brought up painful memories for daytime talk-show host Wendy Williams, who walked away from her secret cocaine addiction years ago because she wanted a better life, because it was breaking her parents' hearts and because she knew that otherwise she was headed to an early grave. "Whitney and I, same age, and both plagued with the demon of substance abuse," Williams said tearfully on her show shortly after Houston's death. "It's been almost 15 years since I smoked last from a crack pipe. It's been almost 15 years since I waited on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx for my drugs." Williams, 47, a former radio star whose three year-old talk show has been renewed for two more years and is syndicated in more than 150 markets, started dabbling in drugs when she was in college, but later fame and success didn't prevent her escalating habit. She looks back on those years now with her signature mix of humor and sharp self-awareness. A middle-class girl with middle-class values, she says she could not have survived the "TMZ era" of salacious attention on celebrity addiction. "I never wanted to shame my family so I just stopped. It was a slow stop," she says. "The unspoken disappointment of the people closest to me was tearing me apart. That girl who went through that, it made me the woman I am today, but I would have ended up dying. "And if I hadn't died of dying, I would have died of embarrassment! I would have lost my job or been written up in the New York Post!" Addiction experts say it's a misleading assumption that celebs are more prone to addictive behavior, because anyone can inherit that DNA. "Addiction does not discriminate, it cuts across all socioeconomic classes," says Kevin Hill, addictions psychiatrist in charge of drug abuse treatment at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital. "People use according to psycho-social stressers. Celebrities might have slightly different stressers, such as fame, but they use drugs like regular people — they just use better drugs." What actors, singers, athletes, even CEOs have that regular people might not have is more access to drugs, more time to indulge, more money to pay for it, and often a horde of enabling hangers-on who are financially dependent on them and thus more motivated to supply substances for them. It adds up to a situation hard to walk away from, McKagan says. "Some can do (drugs) and move on and some do it and get stuck," he says. "In the last year before ending up in the hospital, I had given up, I said I can't stop this," says McKagan, author of the memoir, It's So Easy (And Other Lies). "I had to be scared to death." Winehouse's demise in her London home last July was likely due to accidental alcohol poisoning, according to the coroner's report. Her grieving parents are setting up a foundation in her memory to help people overcome addiction. Houston was found submerged in a Beverly Hills Hotel bathtub last month, with bottles of prescription pills found in her room. Her family said she was taking anti-anxiety drugs, and she was seen drinking the night before. Appearing on CNN last month, one of the Republican presidential candidates, Rick Santorum, said celebrities such as Houston are "the royalty of America" who set a bad example by their deaths by drug use. "Ridiculous," scoffs Hill. "He implies that she chose to suffer such a fate, when in fact she made multiple efforts to treat it. To say that someone makes a conscious decision to have her life go down the drain is preposterous." But one of Houston's close friends, R&B legend Chaka Khan, a recovering drug addict herself, said on CNN that her best memories of Houston involve getting high with her and Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown. "Talking crazy and having a really, really, really good laughing, and a really, really good time," she said. With the non-stop coverage of Houston's death and also Michael Jackson's drug overdose death in 2009, it's easy to forget that there are more survival stories than tragedies among celebrity addicts. Rocker/American Idol judge Steven Tyler, 63, who came close to dying from drug abuse, appeared with the other members of Aerosmith on 60 Minutes , talking about the ravages of addiction on bodies, band and relationships. But after 40 years, and lots of rehab, they've managed to make it into their 60s; they're still rocking, about to tour the U.S., about to make another album. Tyler told People he's been transformed. "I'm on Idol now — the last thing I'd want the world to see is me slurring my words," he says. "I don't ever want to be a bad example again." Actress Kirstie Alley, 61, was "way into drugs" when she was Lohan's age, she recently told Access Hollywood. "If you don't die doing them, you just screw up your life sort of royally," she said. Actor Robert Downey Jr., 46, may be Exhibit A for the possibility of a successful celebrity comeback from addiction. Not so long ago, he was looking glum, wearing an orange jumpsuit and being sentenced to jail for drug-related offenses; now he's out, he's recovering and he's a bigger star than ever with lead roles in the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes movies. Actress Mackenzie Phillips, 52, was so drug-addled (she was first exposed to drugs at age 11) that she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on cocaine, lost jobs and lovers, used while pregnant with her son, watched as close relatives died from drug abuse, and was even reduced to a years-long incestuous relationship with her equally drug-addled father, iconic '60s rock musician, John Phillips, of The Mamas and the Papas. She should be dead, she says, giving herself credit for battling back from the brink. True, most of her family cut her off because she spilled the creepy beans about her now dead father, but she feels she's finally escaped her past. "At last I'm living the health and happiness that I always described but never experienced," she wrote in her 2009 memoir, High on Arrival. "I'm living my life instead of watching it happen. I'm free." There's nothing new about celebrity addiction. Billie Holiday, the great jazz singer who died in 1959, may have been one of the first major celebrities to go to her grave too early (she was only 44) because of the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction. Nor is there anything new about addiction among non-celeb Americans. According to the government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 23.5 million people aged 12 or older needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem in 2009, but only 2.6 million actually were treated at a specialty facility (aka rehab). As for addiction deaths, those happen among ordinary people, too, but we just don't hear about them because they're not celebs. What is new is that increasingly Americans — celebrity and regular folks — are getting hooked on prescription drugs, and ending up dead or close to it by accidentally taking too much or mixing them with alcohol. The number of overdose deaths from painkillers more than tripled from 1999 to 2006, to 13,800 deaths that year, according to Center for Disease Control statistics released in 2009. Take rightwing radio king Rush Limbaugh, 61. Prescribed powerful painkillers after back surgery, he ended up hooked in 2003, got caught trying to acquire them illegally, was arrested and spent a month in rehab. Prescription drug addiction has become "an epidemic" in recent years, says psychiatrist Marc Galanter, director of alcoholism and substance abuse treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center/Bellevue, and former president of addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry groups. "There's a whole new raft of (narcotic) drugs available that will compromise you and you don't have to be a celebrity to afford them — middle-class people can afford them," Galanter says. "Some people get them (initially) for medical procedures, and before they know it they're addicted. And because it's not 'illegal,' as it were, it's easier to feel it's OK." Why do people who are rich, famous, beautiful and talented feel the need for drugs and alcohol? Life coach and family advocate Lisa Nkonoki, who says she helped Ray Charles Jr. overcome his addictions, has offered her services to her longtime friend, Bobby Brown, father of Houston's teen daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who as the child of addicts is at risk of stumbling down the same path. Nkonoki says that celebs, like anyone else, can become addicts because they don't feel strong or good about themselves at some level. "It's an escape (from) the persona people want them to be instead of the person they truly are," she says. Successfully stepping away from addiction, she says, comes only after accepting that it's a disease. "No one wants to wear this badge, no one wants to go through this struggle. But when you get this disease, you have to deal with it, manage it, emerge from it and move on." The key factor in treating addictions, celebrity or otherwise, is recognizing that there's usually an underlying mental-health issue, says Kathleen Bigsby, CEO of The Canyon at Peace Park, an expensive, exclusive and super private comprehensive treatment center in Malibu that has treated celebrities (no names, she says) for addiction and "co-occurring disorders." "Just addressing the addiction isn't enough — there's anxiety, depression, trauma," Bigsby says. "Addicts need a new skill set to learn how to manage their stress." Actress/writer Carrie Fisher, 55, was addicted to drugs and drink (and food) almost from the time she became a star at 19 playing Princess Leia in Star Wars. Was it fame that made her a mess? Probably not, since she's also bipolar and her wacky childhood as a Hollywood princess (daughter of Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher) left her plagued by insecurity and despair. But fame didn't help. Fisher turned her difficulties into successful comic memoirs and stage shows, writing in her latest book, Shockaholic, that she tried everything to cure herself over the decades — therapy and retreats, overeating and fasting, 12-steps, meditation, re-birthing, walking over hot coals, jumping out of airplanes, climbing up mountains, floating down the Amazon, speaking in tongues…you get the picture. And yet, "I still did not feel — how shall I put this — mentally sound," she writes. So she turned reluctantly, fearfully, to electroshock therapy, which to her surprise seems to have worked. True, it erased some of her memory but at least she's still alive and recovering. And writing. The problem for celeb addicts is they have to struggle and recover in public, in the glare of social media and the 24/7 celebrity-media industrial complex, Bigsby says. Nowadays even D-list celebs are in the spotlight, unlike in Billie Holiday's era. "There's always been curiosity about celebrities, knowing about their personal lives and their experiences with pain and suffering," says Bigsby. In the old days of Hollywood, they were protected. "Now we're seeing even more about their struggles because we know more about them through social media. Now they're out there texting and tweeting every thought, so there's instantaneous exposure to everything." Meanwhile, tragic deaths can sometimes be educational, sometimes not, says addiction expert Galanter. "It alerts people to the danger but can also make it attractive, because if a celeb is doing it, people think maybe they can risk it, too," he says. "Deaths might sober people up, but it depends on how sensible people are. I hope so."

 

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

 

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

 

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

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Pimps Arrested in Spain for 'Barcoding' Women

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


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

Milan Jurisic

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

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

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




Friday, 23 March 2012


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

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

 

Brian Regan found fame playing loveable rogue Terry Sullivan in the Liverpool soap opera Brookside. In the show's 1980s heyday, his character's antics were regularly watched by up to seven million viewers a week. But when Regan left the soap in 1997, his acting career petered out and he plunged into a life of drug dealing and addiction. Now he is behind bars, serving a five-year jail sentence for lying to police over his role in the murder of Iranian doorman Bahman Faraji and selling drugs. Regan's jail sentence can now be reported following the conviction of Jason Gabbana, 29, for ordering Faraji's murder. Details emerged in court of the actor's descent into drugs and supplying members of Liverpool's criminal underworld. During the trial, Regan told Liverpool Crown Court how he started taking cocaine at weekends at the end of his Brookside career. It was through his use of cocaine he became involved with Edward Heffey, convicted of murdering Mr Faraji with a sawn-off shotgun in a quiet Liverpool street. Simon O'Brien, who played Damon Grant in Brookside, said Regan's involvement with drugs was a "slow burn". Snorting cocaine "It is a very difficult place when you're acting, particularly on something as high-profile as a soap, because fame and infamy attract each other," he said. "Actors and gangsters, for some reason, almost get off on each other. It's a really strange mutual attraction because I think the hard man gives the actor a kind of security out in public and the actor gives the gangster kudos. "The two worlds often get intertwined and when that happens, inevitably drugs become involved. So it was kind of a slow thing from what I remember, it was a slow burn." Regan was charged with Mr Faraji's murder and was cleared - but he was convicted of giving a false alibi to police about where he was on the night in February 2011. Actor and presenter Simon O'Brien said actors and gangsters get off on each other" During the trial, he told Liverpool Crown Court he supplied Heffey with cocaine "about three or four times a day". When Heffey asked him for a lift on the night of the killing, he said he thought he was taking him to collect a debt so he could pay for the drugs. In fact, once they arrived in Aigburth in Regan's Ford Escort, Heffey got out, walked round the corner and shot Mr Faraji in the face with a sawn-off shotgun. Regan told the court he knew nothing about the incident - because he was waiting in the car, snorting a line of cocaine. He said he then "drove away normally" from the scene and took Heffey home. Regan was cleared of murder at his trial which ended in January. 'Lose control' However, when he was first interviewed by police he lied about driving Heffey to the pub, but CCTV evidence put him at the scene and he was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Mr O'Brien, 46, who was friends with Regan in their Brookside days, said getting involved in drugs was a tragedy that is "not uncommon" in the entertainment industry. "Brian is just one example of what happens when you're in the limelight and everything is flying and you lose control," he said. "You feel you're invincible when you're at the top of the game and you're not. "Sadly, if anyone wants to know what happens if you get involved in taking cocaine, this is an example of someone who was at the top of the tree and because of cocaine, he ends up behind bars."


There may be a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and just how much of a “socially disruptive” narcissist you are, according to a recent study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences. Facebook habits of 294 students between the age of 18 and 65 were studied by researchers at Western Illinois University. They also measured two of what they describe as  ”socially disruptive” elements of narcissism- grandiose exhibitionism (GE- having to be at the center of attention), and entitlement/exploitativeness (EE-  having a sense of self entitlement/deserving of respect) of the students. The study found that those who scored highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire changed their profile pictures more often, responded more aggressively to negative comment about them on their Facebook walls, tagged themselves more often, and updated their news feeds more regularly. Carol Craig, a social scientist and chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being stated: “Facebook provides a platform for people to self-promote by changing profile pictures and showing how many hundreds of friends you have. I know of some who have more than 1,000.” According to the Guardian, Christopher Carpenter, who ran the study, said: “If Facebook is to be a place where people go to repair their damaged ego and seek social support, it is vitally important to discover the potentially negative communication one might find on Facebook and the kinds of people likely to engage in them. Ideally, people will engage in pro-social Facebooking rather than anti-social me-booking.” Are we really narcissistic? Or could it simply be we are just bored? Or maybe just really friendly and outgoing, looking to meet new people? Do you think these researchers are reading just a little too much into it?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Every player featured in the list tops the £10m barrier for their earnings in the last 12 months with former Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero also managing to break into the top 10 list.

Here are the top ten in reverse order:

10) Philip Lahm

In 10th comes Bayern Munich full-back Philip Lahm whose controversial book is sure to have aided the £11.9m he made last year.

9) Kaka

In 9th place comes Real Madrid midfielder Kaka, perhaps one of the nicest, most honest men in football today.

So whiter-than-white is the 2007 World Player of The Year that who can begrudge the £12.9m he earned in the last 12 months? Bless him.

 

8) Fernando Torres

To the surprise of many footy fans, Chelsea’s Fernando Torres comes in at eighth place. Yes, that is the same Torres who went over 24 hours without a goal to his name.

But hey, who cares when you have a total of £13.9m to play with this year? I could do a better job for a fraction of that money. In fact, somebody call the Chelsea scouting network now…

7) Yaya Toure

6) Kun Aguero

Seventh place is Yaya Toure who earned £14.7m in the last year whilst his Manchester City team-mate Sergio Aguero earned £15.7m. That’s all good, but where is that maiden Premier League trophy?

5) Wayne Rooney

How could ‘Wazza’ be omitted from the list when he earned £17.2m over the last 12 months? You see, holding your club and manager hostage helps. Just suggesting.

4) Samuel Eto’o

Having made a controversial move from Inter Milan to Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala, Cameroon ace Samuel Eto’o comes in at fourth place with a cool £19.4m. Dirty oil money presumably helped him gather such a sum.

3) Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo comes in at third with £24.3m. Perhaps he uses some of that to further preen himself in front of very clean mirror.

2) David Beckham

Second is none other than ‘Golden Balls’ David Beckham who earned a cool £26.2m in the last 12 months. So that is a fattened buffet meal for wife Victoria guaranteed.

1) Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi comes in at first place with a whooping £27.5m. So not content with being the best player on planet Earth, he is also now the richest. Life isn’t fair.

Sigh…and I thought making £8-per-hour was good. God, why didn’t you make me a footballer?!


Take one black Ferrari, a snowy night in Beijing, a crash so bad the driver is dead and that Ferrari is in two pieces. In China, it’s the makings of a mystery that says a lot about government censorship and the treatment of the “Rich2G” — the wealthy second generation of China’s moneyed class. According to the Beijing Evening News and the state-run newspaper The Global Times,  the crash took place on the North Fourth Ring Road, close to Baofu Temple at 4:24 a.m. on Sunday. The car was ripped in half and the engine was in flames.  The driver was dead and a 31-year-old female passenger sustained head injuries.  A second woman said to be “in her 20s” sustained severe facial burns. The fact that the crash involved a Ferrari immediately sparked online speculation on the identification of the driver.  In the U.S. the paparazzi would have beaten the authorities to the scene.    Instead, there were no photos.  Within 24-hours any mention of the word Ferrari had been blocked on China’s microblogs. China Daily posted a list of additional banned terms which illustrate both how savvy micro-bloggers are in creating an online vernacular to enable information sharing within the cyber community and how quickly the government catches on.  The banned words include: “Shangshu” (a government official title in Imperial China), North 4th Ring Road + car accident, Baofusi + car accident, and “falali” which is the phonetic Chinese pronunciation of the word Ferrari. Blocking search terms is the equivalent of dangling a carrot in front of information seekers here.  Doing so is the government’s “no comment,” but it actually means “thou shall not comment either.”  Most people wondered whether the driver was the son of a wealthy individual, possibly the latest in a string of incidents of bad behavior by the Rich2G? The identifications of the deceased driver and injured passengers are still under wraps, but the conversation about rich kids in this country has been given an adrenaline shot amid the increasingly glaring divide between China’s wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of this massively populated country. The government has taken pains to admonish the misbehavior of the Rich2G.  In September 2011, the 15-year-old son of a very famous singer made the front pages for a road rage incident.  Li Tianyi was driving a black Audi A6, another car that is a symbol for the rich, with an 18-year-old buddy trailing him in a black BMW without plates.  Reports are that a couple ahead of them in a Buick were driving too slow for their tastes.  The two young men got out of their cars, got the couple out of the Buick and proceeded to beat them while their young child watched, wailing, from the back seat. In response to the public outcry that ensued Li Tianyo’s father, the singer Li Shuangjiang visited the injured couple in the hospital.  State-run media carried their photos as well as Li Shuangjiang’s mea culpa. “I did not raise my son properly and I’ve wronged both of you. I’d rather you give me a beating with a stick,” she told the battered couple. There are other signs China is trying to address the Rich2G delinquency issue.  Consider how difficult it is to obtain literature here in book form.  Of all the books not approved for release here, in 2011 the government gave the green light to Life Is What You Make It by Patrick Buffet.  He is the son of Warren Buffet, the famously frugal businessman.  In his early 20s, Patrick Buffet inherited only $90,000.  He used the money to start a career as a musician, telling China Daily before its release, “I knew I had to make it on my own.” By some estimates in the next five to 10 years, as many as 3 million enterprises will come under new leadership as China ages.  According to the group Red-Luxury, “as many as 90 percent of bosses of private companies hope to pass their enterprises on to their children.” Those children, and they are often the couples’ only child, need to be ready. In China, one needs only to look at things from a business perspective to learn more.  And in China there is a booming business in finishing schools for the rich.  Again from Red-Luxury: “The goal of schooling is to produce the next generation of young rich who have the right qualities to take over their parents’ companies.” According to Professor Qu Jun at Peking University, which runs such a program, 95 percent of the trainees enrolled were there at their parent’s request. And so a story that looks on the surface to be about “spoiled brats” and the deadly crash of a fancy car, becomes a conversation about what to do with a generation of extremely rich young men and women who stand to inherit not only wealth but responsibility that could greatly define a country built on business in the years to come.


Two police officers were injured in a shoot-out in Toulouse on Wednesday with a gunman claiming links to al Qaeda and who is believed to responsible for the killing of four people at a Jewish school and three soldiers in southwest France. Interior Minister Claude Gueant said that the 24-year-old man had made several visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan and had said that he was acting out of revenge for France’s military involvement overseas. “He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al Qaeda,” Gueant told journalists at the scene of the siege. “He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions,” Gueant said. Heavily armed police in bullet-proof vests and helmets cordoned off the residential area where the raid was taking place, in a suburb a few kilometres from the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where Monday’s shootings took place. Reuters witnesses at the scene heard several shots at about 04:40 a.m. British time. Gueant said that police were also talking to the brother of the gunman, who is a French citizen from Toulouse. Police sources told Reuters that a man had been arrested earlier on Wednesday at a separate location in connection with the killings. The gunman’s mother had also been brought to the scene of the siege in a northern suburb of Toulouse to help with negotiations, Gueant said. “Negotiations with the suspect are ongoing, gunfire has been exchanged,” the minister said. He said that France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy had been informed of the situation at 03:00 a.m. (02:00 a.m. British time), when the raid began. Authorities believe that the gunman in Monday’s school shooting is the same person responsible for killing three soldiers of North African origin in two shootings last week in Toulouse and the nearby town of Montauban. The same Colt 45 handgun was used in all three attacks and in each case the gunman arrived on a Yamaha scooter with his face hidden by a motorcycle helmet. The killings come just five weeks before the first round of France’s presidential elections in which immigration and Islam have been major themes as Sarkozy seeks to win over voters from far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

 

French police are engaged in a siege with a man they are reportedly "confident" was responsible for the killings of seven people in the south west of the country. Two elite officers reportedly suffered minor injuries during a shoot-out with suspects in the ongoing pre-dawn raid in the Croix-Daurade district of the city of Toulouse. AFP news agency - which said up to six shots were heard in the raid - is reporting that police believe the gunman responsible for three attacks that killed three children, a rabbi and three soldiers is inside the target building. Four people were killed during the shootings at Ozar Hatorah school A source linked to the probe also told the news agency that a man claiming to be linked to al Qaeda was holed up in the building. The agency said the suspect being sought was 24 and had previously travelled to the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has been known to house al Qaeda safehouses. French news channel BFM TV said the suspects were linked to an Islamist group which it identified as Forsane Alizza. Sky News' Robert Nisbet, in Toulouse, said: "We know that someone is inside the building. It could one person, it could be more than one person. "I understand this is a relatively poor suburb of Toulouse. Obviously, there is an intense pressure on French police to solve this crime." The killings atOzar Hatorah Jewish school on Monday followed the shootings of four soldiers - three of them fatal - in two attacks over the previous eight days. All three of the soldiers killed were of North African descent. All of the attacks were apparently carried out by an assailant using the same gun and scooter. The victim's backgrounds had led to fears the killer was specifically targeting members of minority communities. Chief prosecutor in Paris, Francois Molins, who is monitoring the investigation in Toulouse, had warned there could well be more killings. "At this stage, everything is being done to identify, find and stop the perpetrator, of these three killings as fast as possible," he said. "In these exceptional circumstances, I think it is obvious that we are up against an extremely determined individual, who knows he's being hunted, who could strike again."

 

   The source said the raid began at 3am local time (2am GMT) and was ongoing, but did not provide further details.     French news channel BFM TV said the suspects were linked to an Islamist group which it identified as Forsane Alizza but it was not immediately possible to confirm this.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

 

Oscar-nominated director Danièle Thompson is looking for 800 men and women to play Saint Tropez’s jet-set elite in her new feature-length production. So if you are keen to be on the big screen, head to Cogolin next week for your chance to be in the limelight! Thompson’s up and coming film ‘People who kiss’ (Des gens qui s’embrassent) needs an extras cast made up of almost one thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 65. “Sexy, fashionable, elegant... that’s what we’re looking for,” said Thompson, who assures that previous experience isn’t necessary. Over five days of casting, Thompson and her team will whittle down an expected 3,000 applicants to just 800, who will make up the audience of a classical music concert. To register for auditions, head to the Maurin des Maures culture centre in Cogolin from Monday 26th until Thursday 29th. The selection process will begin on Saturday at 10am. All you need to do is turn up looking fabulous! The two days of filming are scheduled to take place sometime between 21st May and 8th June this summer.

Monday, 19 March 2012

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

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

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