Friday, 27 April 2012

The First Lady's whirlwind tour of Spain in 2010 better have been a once in a lifetime trip, because her getaway cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars.

The highly controversial and lavish trip drew ire at the time, but the White House assured the public that the Obamas picked up the tab on their own.

But new information from Judicial Watch, a public interest group that investigates government corruption, detailed the extensive security costs to the United States Air Force and Secret Service.

The Obamas' highly publicized and polarizing vacations may cost even more to the First Family, as voters appear to be disheartened by their extravagance. 

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Inquisition

Inquisition: New documents revealed that Michelle Obama's trip to Spain in 2010 cost taxpayers $500,000

'The American people can ill afford to keep sending the First Family on vacations around the globe,' Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

'There needs to be greater sensitivity to the costs borne by taxpayers for these personal trips.'

In 2010, Mrs Obama visited the Spain's picturesque coastal towns, shopped, toured and even had a lunch date with the country’s King and Queen. 

 

Her every move was highly documented and scrutinized by the press, which called her trip 'tone-deaf' during tough economic times. 

'It is hypocritical for President Obama to fire GSA officials for wasteful conference spending, while his family went on a luxury vacation in the Costa del Sol Spain that cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars,' Fitton said.

The New York Times previously reported that Mrs. Obama brought along her daughter Sasha, 'two friends and four of their daughters, as well as a couple of aides and a couple of advance staff members.'

Shopper's Paradise:

Shopper's Paradise: The five-day trip included loads of shopping and sight-seeing. In this photo, Michelle Obama, left, visits the Alhambra and the Palace of Charles the 5th

The five day trip cost at least $467,585, according to Judicial Watch.

The total cost of flying Michelle Obama from Camp Andrews to Malaga and then to Mallorca and back to the United States was $199,323.75. 

That tab is based on just 17 hours and 15 minutes of total flying time.

The White House said that the First Lady would reimburse only the equivalent of first-class commercial tickets for herself and her daughter Sasha, since the rest of the seats were occupied by Secret Service. 

Her friends flew on separate commercial flights, the New York Times reported. 

Queen Sofia
Queen Sofia

Royal Excursion: While on the trip, the First Lady met with the King and Queen of Spain for a lunch date

The Gang's All Here:

The Gang's All Here: Mrs Obama brought along her daughter Sasha, two good friends and four of their daughters, as well as a few aides and a couple of advance staff members

 

The 15-member flight crew stayed at Tryp Guadalmar, a nearby motel where group's lodging cost was $10,290.60 and car rental costs were $2,633.50.

In addition, their food cost was $876.30, which included an American indulgence of $57.68 for four bottles of maple syrup and a package of pancake mix.

Secret Service records, meanwhile, show that the costs to the agency for the vacation were $254,461.20. 

This total includes $26,670.61 for a chauffeur tour of Costa del Sol and $50,078.78 for a travel planning company SET P&V, S.L.

Though her trips may cost taxpayers money, they could also cost President Obama his job.

Inquisition

High Price: New polls conducted by Republican researchers reveal that the First Family's extravagant lifestyle makes undecided voters sour

Top-tier Republican pollsters, organized by Resurgent Republic, traveled to 11 battleground states to host focus groups.

The spoke to independent and swing voters who were Obama supporters in 2008, but are now undecided.

'They don’t like Obama using their tax dollars to benefit himself,' pollster John McLaughlin said to the Washington Examiner.

The lesson from the sessions, McLaughlin said, is that the first family 'is out of touch' with working class voters.

And they well may be - the First Lady revealed today that one of her secret 'fantasies' is to sneak away from the Secret Service's watchful eye, a move that would no doubt cost taxpayers a pretty penny.

'It is hard to sneak around and do what you want,' Michelle Obama said today at a 'Take your child to work day' event

'I have done it a couple of times. But you know one fantasy I have, and the Secret Service they keep looking at me because they think I might actually do it, is to walk right out the front door and just keep walking.'

She also revealed her political future, or lack of one, depending on how you read her response.

When asked if she would ever go after her husband's job, the First Lady responded with a resounding 'Maybe.'

'Being president is a really hard job and it’s an important job,' Mrs Obama said. 

'I think one of the things you learn about yourself as you get older are what are your strengths and what are your interests. And for me it’s other stuff that is not being the president. So I probably won’t run. But that’s a great question.'

IS THE TAXPAYER FUNDING PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN? FURY AS OBAMA USES $180,000-AN-HOUR AIR FORCE ONE TO FLY TO FUNDRAISERS

By Toby Harnden

Flight Plan:

Flight Plan: President Barack Obama disembarks from Marine One on the South Lawn. His use of official vehicles for fundraising trips has caused concern

President Barack Obama has already held more than twice as many re-election fundraising events than President George W. Bush did in his entire 2004 re-election campaign.

According to Mark Knoller of CBS News, unofficial keeper of presidential statistics, Obama has held 124 fundraisers - about one every three days - since he launched his re-election bid last April compared to the 57 Bush held to raise cash for his re-election bid eight years ago

Obama’s frenetic fundraising schedule had prompted the Republican National Committee (RNC) to lodge a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) about misuse of taxpayer money.

The Obama campaign dismissed the complaint as a ‘stunt’ and the White House said that it would follow the same rules as previous administrations and refund the appropriate amounts.

According to the Pentagon, the Boeing 747 that normally serves as Air Force One costs $179,750 an hour to operate.

In the complaint, Reince Priebus, RNC chairman, wrote: ‘Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as 'official events,' thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his re-election efforts.'

John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, today demanded that Barack Obama ‘pony up and reimburse the Treasury’ for what he said were are campaign trips to battleground states dressed up as presidential travel.

He accused the Obama campaign of manufacturing a phony fight about student loans and then using Air Force One to hold what amounted to re-election rallies in swing states.

‘Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House … for the president to make a campaign issue about it and then travel to three battleground states,’ he said.

'This one does not pass the straight-face test. You know it, and I know it. It’s time for the Obama campaign to pony up and reimburse the Treasury.’

He added that ‘the president keeps trying to invent these kind of fake fights because he doesn’t have a record’ and ‘the emperor wears no clothes’.

Priebus said that the Obama campaign ‘has been cheating the American taxpayer by using taxpayer dollars to fund their general election efforts’ and had ‘held more campaign events in three-and-a-half  years than any other president did in their full term’.

'It’s time for the Obama campaign to pony up and reimburse the Treasury.’

John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives

He pointed to Obama's current trip to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa, all key battleground states, to discuss extending lower interest rates on student loans as examples of this tax-payer funded campaign travel.

‘One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont,' his complaint said.

Priebus told reporters: ‘This President and Air Force One seem to have a magic magnet that only seem to land in battleground states in this country.’

He added that a trip to Florida a fortnight ago, when an official speech was added to a day’s programme of fundraising, was suspect. ‘This speech was high on class warfare, slogans, and divisive campaign style rhetoric. It was low on substance that would benefit the populace at large.’

 

 



Spanish King Juan Carlos underwent surgery for a second time, the royal palace said, after suffering a broken hip during a much-criticised Botswana hunting trip and receiving a prosthesis. Juan Carlos, 74, "was operated on this evening at the hospital USP San Jose for a dislocated right hip which he suffered in the afternoon as a result of a wrong movement," the palace said in a statement. The monarch was "recovering satisfactorily in the hospital where he will spend the night," the statement said. The Spanish king -- who is widely respected for leading his people to democracy after decades of dictatorship and foiling an armed coup plot in 1981 -- faced unusually strong criticism when it emerged he went on the expensive hunting trip while his country suffers from a recession. The trip came to light because the king broke his hip in Botswana and was rushed home for surgery on April 14, during which he received a hip replacement.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

  The ramifications would be enormous, including: reduced odds of Barack Obama’s reelection, assuming a weaker U.S. recovery; less political cohesion and more social unrest in Europe (even now, the European Union’s unemployment rate is 10.2 percent); and growing pressures in many countries for economic nationalism and protectionism.

Spain is suffering a hangover from what economist Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute calls “the mother of all housing booms.”

Just so. At the peak in 2006, “Spain started nearly 800,000 homes — more than Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom combined,” noted a 2009 IMF report. Construction workers representedone in eight jobs (the U.S. figure at the height of the American real estate bubble was one in 18). Even after correcting for normal inflation, Spain’s home prices more than doubled from 1995 to 2006.

One cause was a prolonged period of low interest rates coinciding with the introduction of the euro in 1999, says economist Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute. Another was that many property and construction loans were funneled through Spanish savings banks,cajas, “that were controlled by local and regional governments that had an interest in economic development,” says Jeffrey Anderson of the Institute of International Finance, an industry think tank.

The bubble’s collapse crippled the economy, left cajas with large losses and vastly expanded government deficits. Unemployment is almost 24 percent; among those under 25, it’s 50 percent. Tax revenue has dropped sharply. In 2011, the budget deficit was 8.5 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). For 2012, the IMF projects a deficit of 6 percent of GDP compared with a target of 5.3 percent.

Spain’s predicament is agonizing. To borrow at reasonable interest rates requires convincing financial markets that huge deficits are being reduced. But cutting spending and raising taxes risk deepening the slump, widening the deficit and fostering more street protests. The dilemma is plain: Austerity may produce more austerity, while the absence of austerity may produce a crisis of confidence. In addition, Spain’s banks need more capital. Who will provide that?

Previously, Greece, Portugal and Ireland succumbed to similar predicaments. After interest rates soared on their bonds, they had to be rescued by loans from other European countries, the European Central Bank and the IMF. The trouble is that Spain’s economy is twice as big as Greece’s, Ireland’s and Portugal’s combined. And financially precarious Italy has an economy that’s 50 percent larger than Spain’s. Is there enough money to bail out these countries?

In truth, no one has a neat solution to end Europe’s financial nightmare. Maybe Spain and Italy will escape calamity. Or perhaps more last-minute loans will buy time until the rest of the world economy revives and pulls Europe from the abyss.

Or perhaps not.

The weaker Europe becomes, the more it may drag down the rest of the world through three channels: damaged confidence and investment, fewer imports, and less credit to businesses and households. Remember: Europe is about one-fifth of the world economy, roughly equal with the United States. The 27 members of the European Union are the world’s largest importer (excluding exports to each other), just ahead of the United States. And European banks operate globally.

The foreboding is undisguised. “For the last six months, the world economy has been on . . .a roller coaster,” Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist, said last week. “One has the feeling that, at any moment, things could well get very bad again.”

Sunday, 22 April 2012


Fashion and Luxury Return to Puerto Banus for 2nd Edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend
Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, this year’s edition will put the accent on quality and design.

Puerto Banus will be hosting the 2nd edition of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, scheduled to be held from 31 May-3 June. Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, the Marbella Luxury Weekend is all set to welcome back those hankering after style and elegance.

During the four-day show, not only will the shops and boutiques extend their opening hours until well into the night, but the port will also be alive with music, fashion shows and passacaglias attracting hundreds of visitors from all over the world.

There will be two spacious VIP areas catering to all the needs of the most select guests in a magical ambience. Other exclusive activities will take place both inside the numerous boutiques participating in the event and in the marquees erected in front of them along the promenade. And besides Puerto Banus’ shops and boutiques, this first event to welcome in the summer will also include the marina’s top restaurants, which will be preparing special dishes for the passersby.

In addition, the Cars & Arts Luxury Show, a sports and luxury car exhibition, will be must for car enthusiasts and other visitors, alike. The Guarnieri Group’s Malaga Porsche Centre will be exhibiting the "Gomez Collection" exclusively at the Marbella Luxury Weekend. This collection comprises 24 Porsche 911 GT2 bonnets that the Argentinean collector Jorge Gomez commissioned from 19 plastic artists, who used them as aluminum canvasses for their works of art. The bonnets have previously been exhibited at the Stuttgart Porsche Museum and at three venues in Buenas Aires: the Alvear Hotel, the Maman Gallery and the Autodromo.

Brand and trend forum
As part of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, the 1st La Zagaleta "Brand and Trend" Forum will take place at the Marbella Congress Centre from 1-2 June. 

During the two-day forum, executives from L’Oréal, Skype, Starwood Hotels, UBS, Melia Hoteles, KPMG, Tiffany and Inditex, among others, will be participating in a number of roundtable discussions so as to share their strategic, business and marketing vision as regards the hospitality, service, leisure, luxury, technology and fashion industries. 

Fashion and luxury return to Puerto Banus for 2nd edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend

 


Fashion and Luxury Return to Puerto Banus for 2nd Edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend
Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, this year’s edition will put the accent on quality and design.

Puerto Banus will be hosting the 2nd edition of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, scheduled to be held from 31 May-3 June. Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, the Marbella Luxury Weekend is all set to welcome back those hankering after style and elegance.

During the four-day show, not only will the shops and boutiques extend their opening hours until well into the night, but the port will also be alive with music, fashion shows and passacaglias attracting hundreds of visitors from all over the world.

There will be two spacious VIP areas catering to all the needs of the most select guests in a magical ambience. Other exclusive activities will take place both inside the numerous boutiques participating in the event and in the marquees erected in front of them along the promenade. And besides Puerto Banus’ shops and boutiques, this first event to welcome in the summer will also include the marina’s top restaurants, which will be preparing special dishes for the passersby.

In addition, the Cars & Arts Luxury Show, a sports and luxury car exhibition, will be must for car enthusiasts and other visitors, alike. The Guarnieri Group’s Malaga Porsche Centre will be exhibiting the "Gomez Collection" exclusively at the Marbella Luxury Weekend. This collection comprises 24 Porsche 911 GT2 bonnets that the Argentinean collector Jorge Gomez commissioned from 19 plastic artists, who used them as aluminum canvasses for their works of art. The bonnets have previously been exhibited at the Stuttgart Porsche Museum and at three venues in Buenas Aires: the Alvear Hotel, the Maman Gallery and the Autodromo.

Brand and trend forum
As part of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, the 1st La Zagaleta "Brand and Trend" Forum will take place at the Marbella Congress Centre from 1-2 June. 

During the two-day forum, executives from L’Oréal, Skype, Starwood Hotels, UBS, Melia Hoteles, KPMG, Tiffany and Inditex, among others, will be participating in a number of roundtable discussions so as to share their strategic, business and marketing vision as regards the hospitality, service, leisure, luxury, technology and fashion industries. 

Fashion and luxury return to Puerto Banus for 2nd edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend

 


Fashion and Luxury Return to Puerto Banus for 2nd Edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend
Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, this year’s edition will put the accent on quality and design.

Puerto Banus will be hosting the 2nd edition of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, scheduled to be held from 31 May-3 June. Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, the Marbella Luxury Weekend is all set to welcome back those hankering after style and elegance.

During the four-day show, not only will the shops and boutiques extend their opening hours until well into the night, but the port will also be alive with music, fashion shows and passacaglias attracting hundreds of visitors from all over the world.

There will be two spacious VIP areas catering to all the needs of the most select guests in a magical ambience. Other exclusive activities will take place both inside the numerous boutiques participating in the event and in the marquees erected in front of them along the promenade. And besides Puerto Banus’ shops and boutiques, this first event to welcome in the summer will also include the marina’s top restaurants, which will be preparing special dishes for the passersby.

In addition, the Cars & Arts Luxury Show, a sports and luxury car exhibition, will be must for car enthusiasts and other visitors, alike. The Guarnieri Group’s Malaga Porsche Centre will be exhibiting the "Gomez Collection" exclusively at the Marbella Luxury Weekend. This collection comprises 24 Porsche 911 GT2 bonnets that the Argentinean collector Jorge Gomez commissioned from 19 plastic artists, who used them as aluminum canvasses for their works of art. The bonnets have previously been exhibited at the Stuttgart Porsche Museum and at three venues in Buenas Aires: the Alvear Hotel, the Maman Gallery and the Autodromo.

Brand and trend forum
As part of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, the 1st La Zagaleta "Brand and Trend" Forum will take place at the Marbella Congress Centre from 1-2 June. 

During the two-day forum, executives from L’Oréal, Skype, Starwood Hotels, UBS, Melia Hoteles, KPMG, Tiffany and Inditex, among others, will be participating in a number of roundtable discussions so as to share their strategic, business and marketing vision as regards the hospitality, service, leisure, luxury, technology and fashion industries. 

Fashion and luxury return to Puerto Banus for 2nd edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend

 


Fashion and Luxury Return to Puerto Banus for 2nd Edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend
Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, this year’s edition will put the accent on quality and design.

Puerto Banus will be hosting the 2nd edition of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, scheduled to be held from 31 May-3 June. Following the success of the first edition of the show, with the participation of the most prestigious luxury firms of this exclusive part of town, the Marbella Luxury Weekend is all set to welcome back those hankering after style and elegance.

During the four-day show, not only will the shops and boutiques extend their opening hours until well into the night, but the port will also be alive with music, fashion shows and passacaglias attracting hundreds of visitors from all over the world.

There will be two spacious VIP areas catering to all the needs of the most select guests in a magical ambience. Other exclusive activities will take place both inside the numerous boutiques participating in the event and in the marquees erected in front of them along the promenade. And besides Puerto Banus’ shops and boutiques, this first event to welcome in the summer will also include the marina’s top restaurants, which will be preparing special dishes for the passersby.

In addition, the Cars & Arts Luxury Show, a sports and luxury car exhibition, will be must for car enthusiasts and other visitors, alike. The Guarnieri Group’s Malaga Porsche Centre will be exhibiting the "Gomez Collection" exclusively at the Marbella Luxury Weekend. This collection comprises 24 Porsche 911 GT2 bonnets that the Argentinean collector Jorge Gomez commissioned from 19 plastic artists, who used them as aluminum canvasses for their works of art. The bonnets have previously been exhibited at the Stuttgart Porsche Museum and at three venues in Buenas Aires: the Alvear Hotel, the Maman Gallery and the Autodromo.

Brand and trend forum
As part of the Marbella Luxury Weekend, the 1st La Zagaleta "Brand and Trend" Forum will take place at the Marbella Congress Centre from 1-2 June. 

During the two-day forum, executives from L’Oréal, Skype, Starwood Hotels, UBS, Melia Hoteles, KPMG, Tiffany and Inditex, among others, will be participating in a number of roundtable discussions so as to share their strategic, business and marketing vision as regards the hospitality, service, leisure, luxury, technology and fashion industries. 

Fashion and luxury return to Puerto Banus for 2nd edition of Marbella Luxury Weekend

 

Saturday, 21 April 2012


The British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been visiting the Department of Work and Pensions benefits and healthcare team in Madrid. He warned Britons living abroad not to break the strict rules on what benefits they can and cannot claim. People who are pretending to live in the UK so they can collect benefits, but in fact are living overseas cost the British taxpayer 43 million pounds last year. Most of the reports of such benefit fraud came from Spain. Iain Duncan Smith commented, “We are determined to clamp down on benefit fraud abroad, which cost the British taxpayer around £43 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves overseas. The vast majority of British people overseas are law abiding, but fraudulently claiming benefits while living abroad is a crime and we are committed to putting a stop to it.” He also encouraged Britons to use the dedicated Spanish hotline to report benefit thieves. 900 554 440 or you report a benefit fraud here. The hotline has resulted in 100 people being sanctioned or prosecuted, and 134 more cases are currently under investigation. 3.1 million pounds in over payments of benefit have been identified and will be reclaimed. Source – UK in Spain - http://ukinspain.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=754530182 Duncan Smith made the most of his visit to Madrid and took the chance to meet with Health Minister, Ana Mato, and the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella. They discussed the response to the crisis with Duncan Smith calling for an end to the culture of ‘unemployment and dependency’, increasing the control on public spending and eliminating ‘the subsidies which don’t resolve problems because in some cases ‘they trap the poor’.

 

The State Attorney General, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, has said that there are plans to designate ‘one or two prosecutors’ more to the specialist Anti-Corruption section in the province of Málaga. He made the comment at an event where Juan Carlos López Caballero took possession as Chief Prosecutor for Málaga, a job which he was sharing with his post as Delegate from the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, where three prosecutors work. There have been complaints from prosecutors that only 8% of civil servants who work for the administration of justice do so in the prosecutors’ office, a number described as ‘totally insufficient’.


The cabinet on Friday decided to crack down on foreigners using the Spanish Health Service as part of an additional 7 billion € of cuts. They intend to toughen the conditions for inclusion on the Padrón census. Minister for Health, Ana Mato, said ‘We are going to end the abuses committed by some foreigners’. She is going to change the Ley de Extranjería which intends to put a limit to the so-called ‘health tourism’, which has seen family members of foreign residents to come to Spain ‘exclusively’ to receive health attention. Ana Mato insisted that from now it will not be so easy to come to Spain, sign the Padrón census, and obtain a health card, as it has been. ‘Just getting on the Padrón they all had the right to the health card’, said the Minister. ‘Now there will be a series of additional requirements when the Padrón is issued’. She said to guarantee the universality of the Health Service ‘for all the Spaniards’ it was necessary to stop the illegal and undue use which some foreigners have been making of this service. On Thursday the Minister met with the regions and they agreed on a new article which will ‘explicitly prohibit a person moving regions in search of health attention'. The Minister considers these measures will do away with health tourism and save 1 billion €. Ana Mato also said that she was going to revise some international conventions on the matter, given that ‘many’ countries do not repay the money they owe Spain for the health attention given here to their citizens. Among the other measures approved, the end of paying for some medicaments ‘with little therapeutic value’. A list of included medicines accepted nationally is to be prepared. The Minister said ‘We all have to collaborate with those who having a worse time’.

 

Millions of its passengers – who have already booked and paid for their flights in full – may now be asked to pay an extra fee upon departure, or be told they are not allowed to board. The airline sent an email to customers this week warning them of the backdated fare. “We may be forced to debit passengers for any government imposed increases in airport charges prior to your travel date,” its message read. “If any such tax, fee or charge is introduced or increased after your reservation has been made you will be obliged to pay it (or any increase) prior to departure”.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

 

A study of mobile phone calls suggests that women call their spouse more than any other person. That changes as their daughters become old enough to have children, after which they become the most important person in their lives. The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports. It also shows that men call their spouse most often for the first seven years of their relationship. They then shift their focus to other friends. The results come from an analysis of the texts of mobile phone calls of three million people. According to the study's co-author, Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University, UK, the investigation shows that pair-bonding is much more important to women than men. "It's the first really strong evidence that romantic relationships are driven by women," he told BBC News. "It's they who make the decision and once they have made their mind up, they just go for the poor bloke until he keels over and gives in!" But the data shows that women start to switch the preference of their best friend from about the mid-30s, and by the age of 45 a woman of a generation younger becomes the "new best friend", according to Professor Dunbar. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Human societies are moving back to a matriarchy” Prof Robin Dunbar Oxford University "What seems to happen is that women push the 'old man' out to become their second best friend, and he gets called much less often and all her attention is focussed on her daughters just at the point at which you are likely to see grandchildren arriving," he says. Prof Dunbar also claims that the findings suggest that human societies are moving away from a patriarchy back to a matriarchy. The aim of the project was to find out how close, intimate relationships vary over a lifetime. This kind of anthropological study is normally very difficult to do because it is hard for researchers to get such a big picture of people's lives. But by looking at an at an extremely large mobile phone database, they were able to track these changes extremely accurately. They had access to the age and sex of the callers, who between them made three billion calls and half a billion texts over a period of seven months. Intensely focussed The team wanted to find out how the gender preference of best friends, as defined by the frequency of the calling, changed over the course of a lifetime and differed between men and women. They found that men tend to choose a woman the same age as themselves - which the researchers presumed to be their girlfriend or wife - as a best friend much later in life than women do, and for a much shorter time. This occurs when they are in their early-30s, possibly during courtship, and stops after seven years or so. Women, however, choose a man of a similar age to be their best friend from the age of 20. He remains for about 15 years, after which time he's replaced by a daughter. The pendulum between the two sexes is swinging back towards women, says Prof Dunbar The researchers say that a woman's social world is intensely focussed a on one individual and will shift as a result of reproductive interests from being the mate to children and grandchildren. According to Prof Dunbar, the data suggests that "at root the important relationships are those between women and not those between men". "Men's relationships are too casual. They often function at a high level in a political sense, of course; but at the end of the day, the structure of society is driven by women, which is exactly what we see in primates," he explains. Many anthropologists argue that most human societies are patriarchal on the basis that in most communities men stay where they are born whereas the wives move. But Professor Dunbar and his colleagues are arguing that this only occurs in agriculturally based societies. "If you look at hunter-gatherers and you look at modern humans in modern post-industrial societies, we are much more matriarchal. It's almost as if the pendulum between the two sexes, power-wise, is swinging (back) as we move away from agriculture toward a knowledge-based economy," he says.


Type in "sex tourism" and "Brazil" in Google, and the first site that comes up is not a news report or academic study, but advice on going rates and how to hire prostitutes. But ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, officials are starting to clamp down on the country's image as a haven for sex tourism. Brazil's Tourism Ministry recently said it identified more than 2,000 sites advertising the South American giant's sex industry, many of them hosted in the US. To counter the reputation, the tourism ministry has stepped up efforts to advertise Brazil's natural beauties like beaches and the Amazon, instead of bodies for sale. And they have circulated information reminding visitors that sexual exploitation of minors is a crime.  Brazil's preventive efforts seem more crucial than ever after the scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, during the Sixth Summit of the Americas last weekend. Some 11 US Secret Service agents were sent home for allegedly hiring prostitutes in the steamy colonial city, also a major destination for sex tourism.  “Large events create an obvious clientele and traffickers recognize an opportunity to make money,” says Heather Smith-Cannoy, who teaches international relations at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. “I think that in many places around the world there is a 'boys will be boys' attitude about the patronizing of prostitutes," Ms. Smith-Cannoy says. But when considering the combination of large profits for traffickers, and pimps or hustlers, and a relaxed cultural attitude about visiting prostitutes "we can begin to understand both the supply and the demand side of this industry,” says Smith-Cannoy. The trafficking–tourism link Sex “tourism" is nothing new. By some accounts it dates back to the 15th century, with Columbus's arrival to the Americas. As the middle class grew in industrialized nations, and the opportunities to travel with it, the formal industry was developed.  Prostitution is tolerated to varying degrees in Latin America, but it is the human trafficking associated with sex tourism, especially that of minors, that alarms officials most. (The case of Cartagena did not involve minors.) According to the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC), 500,000 women and girls from Latin America and the Caribbean are sexually exploited each year. Not all prostitution involves sex trafficking, a multibillion dollar industry, but the nongovernmental organization World Vision estimates that up to a quarter of women in prostitution have been trafficked.  At the same time, the majority of human trafficking victims — 79 percent — are brought into the sex trade, according to the United Nations. Countries in Asia, notably Thailand, have long been at the center of the problem, but Latin America is starting to play a larger role. “While most trafficking victims still appear to originate from South and Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union, human trafficking is also a growing problem in Latin America,” writes Clare Ribando Seelke in a 2012 Congressional Research Service report. Poverty, displacement from rural areas, and increased demand for prostitution all play a role in the growth of sexual exploitation, says Humberto Rodriguez, the communication officer of Fundacion Renacer, a Colombia-based group that combats the sexual exploitation of youths in the country. Anywhere the tourism industry grows, he says, so does the opportunity for sexual tourism. 'Not enough is being done' Within sex tourism, the exploitation of children is the biggest concern.  According to the US State Department 2011 report on the trafficking of persons, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua all have significant child sex tourist industries. Colombia, it says, is also “a destination for foreign child sex tourists from the United States and Europe, particularly to coastal cities such as Cartagena and Barranquilla.” Countries around the globe have addressed the problem of human trafficking in general since the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, was adopted in 2000, but many say not enough is being done. The US State Department assesses efforts around the globe to combat human trafficking. In 2010, 80 percent of countries in South America were placed on the Tier 2 list, which means they were not fully complying with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, while 60 percent of countries in Central America and the Caribbean were on the Tier 2 Watch List. Cuba fell to the lowest level of cooperation, Tier 3. The State Department says that prostitution of children over 16 is legal in Cuba, leaving those over the legal age vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Venezuela fell to Tier 3 in the 2011 report. Colombia sits on the Tier 1 list, and while the case of the US Secret Service agents does not fall into Fundacion Renacer's work — as it did not involve children — Mr. Rodriguez says the case may not have generated so much attention in the past. “People are paying attention to it now,” says Rodriguez. Through their work and an international certification program called The Code, which brings tourism operators into the fight to prevent the use of children in sex tourism, society in general is more aware of prostitution, he says. Efforts like these are particularly important as countries become hosts to big events like the Summit of the Americas, or as crises occur.  An increased demand for prostitution increases human sex trafficking rings, says Cannoy-Smith. She and a co-author have researched the impact of UN peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sierra Leone on trafficking. “When the UN intervenes in civil conflicts, the peacekeepers themselves have often been linked to running and patronizing trafficking rings,” Smith-Cannoy says. “Again, I think that poverty, desperation, the specter of large profits, and relaxed cultural attitudes make these dynamics possible.”

 

They don't spread disease and they can't be sold into sex slavery. Those are just two of the advantages of robot prostitutes, which will be edging out their human competition in the sex tourism market by the year 2050, according to an article published in the journal Futures. The Dominion Post, which found the study, writes that sex tourists will shell out about $10,000 Euros for services ranging from massages and lap dances to intercourse, according to the article. The researchers lay out why this scenario will be the future of sex tourism: Human trafficking, sexual transmitted diseases, beauty and physical perfection, pleasure for sex toys, emotional connection to robots and the importance of sex in Amsterdam are all driving forces. But some are not so sure that robots will be replacing female sex workers any time soon. CBS Las Vegas spoke to Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nev. “Those Australian researchers ought to come to the Bunny Ranch to see what real American sex is like – there’s no way to duplicate it,” Hof told CBS Las Vegas. “At the Bunny Ranch, we say ‘it’s not just the sex, it’s an adventure’ – and often times it’s more about the adventure than it is the sex.”

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Rap mogul and entrepreneur Sean 'Diddy' Combs has topped Forbes magazine's annual hip-hop rich list. The star is worth $550 million, according to the publication. New dad Jay-Z comes in second with an estimated $460 million fortune. Coachella festival headliner Dr. Dre, Bryan 'Birdman' Williams and 50 Cent round out the top five.

Get well soon card
'People really did feel the need to reassure me that my hideousness was plain to see.' Illustration: David McCoy for the Guardian

What no one ever tells you about serious illness is that it places you at the centre of a maelstrom of concerned attention from family and friends. Of course it does. That's one of the nice things. It's actually the only nice thing. But it's also a rather tricky challenge, at a time when you may feel – just slightly – that you have enough on your plate. Suddenly, on top of everything else, you are required to manage the emotional requirements of all those who are dear to you, and also, weirdly, one or two people who you don't see from one year to the next, but who suddenly decide that they really have to be at your bedside, doling out homilies, 24 hours a day. It's lovely to hear from people when you're ill. But it's also lovely when they add: "No need to reply." The biggest shock, when I was diagnosed with cancer the summer before last, was quickly observing that people can be quite competitive in their determination to "be there for you", and occasionally unable to hide their chagrin when some other chum has been awarded a particularly sensitive role at a particularly sensitive medical consultation. Nobody means to be intrusive or irritating. It's all done with the finest intentions. But, God, it's a pain. Yet by not saying 10 simple things, you too, can be the friend in need that you want to be.

1 "I feel so sorry for you"

It's amazing, the number of people who imagine that it feels just great to be the object of pity. Don't even say "I feel so sorry for you" with your eyes. One of my friends was just brilliant at mimicking the doleful-puppy-poor-you gaze, and when I had been subjected to a sustained bout of it, I used to crawl over to the local pub for lunch with him, just so that he could make me laugh by doing it. Don't say "I feel so sorry for you" with your hand either. When someone patted my thigh, or silently rested their paw on it, often employing the exasperating form of cranial communication known as "sidehead" at the same time, I actually wanted to deck them. Do say: "I so wish you didn't have to go through this ghastly time." That acknowledges that you are still a sentient being, an active participant in your own drama, not just, all of a sudden, A Helpless Victim.

2 "If anyone can beat this, it's you"

Funnily enough, it's not comforting to be told that you have to go into battle with your disease, like some kind of medieval knight on a romantic quest. Submitting to medical science, in the hope of a cure, is just that – a submission. The idea that illness is a character test, with recovery as a reward for the valiant, is glib to the point of insult. Do say: "My mum had this 20 years ago, and she's in Bengal now, travelling with an acrobatic circus." (Though not if that isn't true.)

3 "You're looking well"

One doesn't want to be told that one's privations are invisible to the naked eye. Anyway, one is never too ill to look in a mirror, and see a great big moon-face, bloated with steroids and sporting the bright red panda eyes that are triggered by that most aggressive and efficient of breast-cancer drugs, Docetaxel. I knew I looked like death warmed up, not least because I felt like death warmed up. Nobody wants to be patronised with ridiculous lies. They are embarrassing for both speaker and listener. If your sick pal wants to discuss her appearance, she'll ask you what you reckon. It'll be a leading question, so take your cue from her.

4 "You're looking terrible"

 

I know it sounds improbable. But people really did feel the need to reassure me that my hideousness was plain to see. One person told me that while I'd put on a lot of weight, I'd of course be able to go on a diet as soon as I was better. I wouldn't have minded quite so much, if she hadn't arrived bearing a giant mound of snacks and cakes, a great, indiscriminate pile of stuff that suggested she'd been awarded four minutes in Whole Foods by Dale Winton, in a nightmarish haute-bourgeois version of Supermarket Sweep. And, in fact, I haven't gone on a diet. Somehow, being a size 10 doesn't seem tremendously importantany longer. On the other hand, when I said: "Don't I look monstrous?" I was asking people to help me to laugh at myself – which many did – and to tell me that this too would pass. One of my friends took photographs of me, behind a curtain in the hospital, looking comically interfered with by surgeons, and festooned with tubes and drains full of bloody fluid. We laughed so much that I probably came nearer to death right then than at any other point.

5 "Let me know the results"

 

Oddly, one doesn't particularly want to feel obliged to hit the social networks the moment one returns from long, complicated, stressful and invasive tests, which ultimately delivered news you simply didn't want to hear. Of course, this request is made because people are worried. But, a bit of worry is easier to bear than the process of coming to terms with news that confirms another round of debilitating, soul-crushing treatment. If people do want to talk about such matters, they really need to be allowed some control over when, how and to whom. Contacting their very nearest and dearest instead is fine, as is volunteering to spread the bad tidings to others who are also anxious.

6 "Whatever I can do to help"

Apart from anything else, it's boring. Everybody says it, even though your assumption tends to be that people do want to help, of course. That doesn't mean that help should not be offered. But "Can I pick the children up from school on Tuesdays?" or "Can I come round with a fish pie and a Mad Men box set?" is greatly preferable to: "Can I saddle you with the further responsibility of thinking up a task for me?" If you do happen to be on the receiving end of "whatever I can do to help", be shameless. Delegate with steely and ruthless intent.

7 "Oh, no, your worries are unfounded"

Especially when those worries are extremely founded indeed. Like a lot of women, when I was first diagnosed, I was disproportionately focused on the prospect of losing my hair. One friend, every time I tried to discuss this with her, would assert – baselessly – that this wasn't as likely to happen as it used to be. Actually, it's still very likely, and indeed it came to pass. But the crucial thing was this: I didn't want to talk about how pointless it was to be fearful. I wanted to talk about how sorely I dreaded the day when I was bald. When people want to talk about their fears, they want to talk about their fears, not to be told, quite blatantly, that their fears are imaginary. Even when they are imaginary, there are more subtle ways of offering assurance than blank rebuttal. Usually, an ill person brings something up because they feel a need to discuss it. Denying them that need is a bit brutal.

8 "What does chemotherapy [for example] feel like?"

 

It is staggering, the number of people who find it impossible to restrain their curiosity. Swaths of folk appear to imagine that exactly what you need, in your vulnerability, is a long and technical Q&A during which you furnish them with exhaustive detail pertaining to the most shit thing that's ever happened to your body in your life. If someone wants to talk about their procedures or their symptoms, they will. If you have to ask questions, that's prima facie evidence that this is not what they'd discuss, if only they could be gifted with just a smidgeon of control over the conversational initiative. Again, the golden rule is: take your lead from the person undergoing the experience. I tended to want my mind taken off all that stuff, and have a nice chat about nice things. One of my friends, asked by another what she had been up to lately, found herself saying she'd had a great time visiting Deborah in hospital after her mastectomy. It had indeed been a lively visit. Eight lovely people had turned up all at once, and it had been quite the rambunctious gathering. When she told me that it had been an absurd social highlight for her, I felt fantastically proud.

9 "I really must see you"

Don't say it, particularly, if you are then going to indulge in some long and complicated series of exchanges about your own busy life and the tremendous difficulty you have in finding an actual window, even though this appointment is so awfully important to you. At one point, I was sitting in a chemotherapy suite, large and painful cannula in the back of my hand, pecking out texts to somebody who had to sort something out this week, and wouldn't take "Let's do this later" for an answer. When I reluctantly picked a particular time from the list she had bossily pinged over, she replied that she'd have to bring her toddler son with her if itreally had to be then. I knew I couldn't handle a tiny visitor (and wasn't sure about the ability of the tiny visitor to handle it either), so we then arranged something else. A few days later, at the very time of predicted childcare crisis, I saw a tweet from her, declaring that she was wearing a new cocktail dress and held up in traffic on her way to a long-anticipated and very glamorous do. She had clearly just buggered up her dates and didn't want to say: "Whoops. Actually, I'll be at a PA-A-ARDEEEEE." Fair enough. Sweet, really. Nevertheless, the planning thing is an arse. I liked it when people just said, "Can I come by after work this evening?" or, even better, "I've got tickets to the theatre on the 25th. Tell me on the day if you can face it."

10 "I'm so terribly upset about your condition"

One friend, when I told her the initial news, blurted out: "I can't cope without you!" and unleashed a flood of tears. (I hadn't sobbed myself at that point. I never did.) Ages later, when she emerged from the loo at the pub I had designated as Telling People HQ, she explained that she'd been caterwauling unrestrainedly when a kind lady asked her what was wrong. Having sketched out her troubles, she got this reply, or something like it: "What? You're weeping in the lavatory, while your friend is in the bar having breast cancer? Pull yourself together, and get out there." This had inspired another torrent of waterworks. And that is the most important thing to remember, when your friend is facing a frightening and possibly fatal illness: it's not, not, not about you. If you're too upset to be in a position to comfort your friend, send cards, send flowers, send presents. But don't send your ailing chum a passionate storm of your own wild grief, personally delivered. It's a little too needy, under the circs.

If you recognise things that you have said or done yourself within this list, don't feel bad about it, at all. I most certainly have, and I've said and done much, much worse too; it took being on the receiving end before I realised what it could feel like. The thing is this: giant illness is a time of great intensity, and even the most cack-handed expressions of support or love are better than a smack in the face with a wet tea-towel. People feel helpless when they see that their friend is suffering. Sometimes – often – they say the wrong thing. But they are there, doing the best that they can, at a terrible, abject time. That's the most important thing of all. I look back on those grisly moments of ineptitude and clumsiness with exasperated amusement and tender, despairing, deep, deep fondness. The great lesson I learned from having cancer, was how splendid my friends were, whatever their odd little longueurs. They all, in their different ways, let me know that they loved me, and that is the most helpful thing of all. I'm so lucky to have them.

 

The Police Commissioner in Marbella, Agapito Hermés de Dios, is to be disciplined for spying on the Vice President of the Madrid region, Ignacio González, in what is now considered to have been an ‘illegal’ investigation according to the Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz. Agapito Hermés has presented his resignation from the Marbella Police Station and will now be destined to a district of Madrid. He was subjected to an internal investigation regarding how he dealt with an enquiry into an attic which Ignacio Gonzalez enjoyed in Marbella. The Interior Minister announced publically in the Senate that the investigation was ‘illegal’ and ‘irregular’ as it was carried out without judicial authorisation and without complying with the protocols on intervention established by the Police.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

 The Standard newspaper reported Tuesday that Joseph Lau, the fifth richest person in Hong Kong, and Steven Lo, chairman of BMA Investment and South China Football Club, were named in the third trial of convicted former official Ao Man-long. Shares of the property developer Chinese Estates Holdings, which is controlled by Lau, were suspended from trading in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning. Macau’s highest court heard the previous day that an unnamed company controlled by Lau and Lo allegedly paid a bribe of 20 million Hong Kong dollars ($2.6 million) to the former Secretary for Transport and Public Works in 2005 to acquire land on the Cotai Strip, opposite Macau’s airport. The plots were developed by Chinese Estates, which recently began selling the first batch of apartments from the project that will eventually comprise nine towers with a total of 899 units. Ao is facing six corruption and three money laundering charges, while already serving a 28.5-year sentence from dozens of previous convictions that involved bribery, money laundering and abuse of power among others. The maximum prison sentence in Macau is 30 years. At the time of his arrest in December 2006, Macau’s Commission Against Corruption, discovered Ao had amassed assets totaling 800 million Macau patacas ($100 million). Lau is a longtime fixture on the Hong Kong Rich List. His wealth was most recently valued at $6.5 billion. The real estate magnate is well known for his impressive collections of art and wine, whereas Lo’s interests lie primarily in the entertainment industry with music and movie productions. This latest set of revelations from Macau follows the arrest of the billionaire brothers Raymond and Thomas Kwok in March. The joint chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) were taken into custody along with Rafael Hui, a former top government official, in connection with an investigation into alleged bribery. Charges in the case have yet to be filed.


Qatar signed a deal Monday to buy the operator of four luxury resorts and other properties on the island of Sardinia as the wealthy Gulf emirate looks to bolster ties with Italy. The purchase coincided with a visit to Rome by the country’s emir. It is the latest deal in a European shopping spree that has given the natural-gas rich state a stake in European banks, energy companies and some of the continent’s best known brands. 0 Comments Weigh InCorrections? Personal Post State-owned Qatar Holding, an arm of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, said it will acquire resort operator Smeralda Holding from Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm Colony Capital. The deal includes the Cala di Volpe, Pitrizza, Romazzino and Cervo hotels, a marina and shipyard, a golf club and a 51 percent interest in 2,290 hectares (5,660 acres) of undeveloped land nearby. Qatar Holding plans to keep Smeralda’s existing management, and said Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. will continue to run the hotels. Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal must still be approved by Italian regulators. The deal was announced as Italian Premier Mario Monti held talks with Qatar’s emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani at a government villa in Rome. Monti hailed the visit as way for the countries to strengthen their friendship. “I am very happy for this meeting because it was (an) occasion to consolidate a strategic relationship between the two countries,” Monti told a news conference after the talks. The emir told reporters that Qatar’s sovereign fund is looking for ways to invest in Italy. When asked what factors discouraged investment in Italy, the emir said “corruption, first of all,” according to Monti. Among the accords signed Monday was one aimed at boosting efforts to fight graft and crime. Another raises the number of passenger flights between the countries from 14 to 35 weekly, and cargo flights from two to seven, Monti said. Monti promised Italian help to Qatar as it prepares to host soccer’s 2022 World Cup. “Italy has unique know-how and can contribute to the success” of the sporting event, the Italian leader said. Over the past several years, Qatar has used its vast energy wealth to amass a diverse portfolio of European properties. Its holdings on the continent include stakes in Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group, Volkswagen AG, and the London Stock Exchange. It acquired stakes in Spanish power utility Iberdrola SA and electric company Energias de Portugal last year. Qatari investors control French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish club Malaga, while the logo of state-sponsored nonprofit Qatar Foundation graces the jerseys of another Spanish team, Barcelona.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Torremolinos has been popular since the late 50's and early 60's, especially amongst the rich and famous, including John Lennon and Frank Sinatra. Tourists flock here every year for its wonderful sandy beaches, restaurants and famous nightlife. These days, it is more of a "package holiday" destination but still retains it's attraction. Torremolinos is 12 kms from Malaga city and the international airport. The town has a railway station, where it is possible to catch the Renfe train which runs between Malaga city and Fuengirola, giving easy access to the other resorts in the area. There are also numerous buses, both local and long-distance, giving more transport options. Close by resorts are Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella - great for days out during your stay. The beaches are just gorgeous. Torremolinos's coast covers more than 6 kms and is divided into six beaches: Los Alamos, Playamar, Bajondillo, Carihuela, Montemar and Del Saltillo.

For most of people, getting in shape for a holiday involves a last minute bikini crash diet a few days before our muffin tops greet the beach.

But the problem with being able to gallivant abroad every two seconds, mean you have to be prepared all year round.

So when Peter Crouch whisked wife Abbey off on yet another foreign trip, she looked typically super svelte on Spanish shores in Marbella.

It's a tough life: Peter Crouch & wife Abbey dine out in Puerto Banus during short weekend in Marbella

It's a tough life: Peter Crouch & wife Abbey headed to Marbella for a short break

 

The mother-of-one displayed a sunkissed glow in a multiple strap frock.

 

 

 

Abbey's red mini dress skimmed her thighs, showing off her ultra trim legs.

The former Britain's Next Top Model contestant teamed the garment with large feather drop earrings as she tottered along on in elegant heels.

Feeling full: The sunkissed pair ate dinner at Route 66

Feeling full: The sunkissed pair ate dinner at Route 66

Peter also sported a rather healthy complexion, with his crisp white shirt in stark contrast to his radiating tan.

And it seems like the lovebirds relived some of their wedding memories, as Scouse beauty Abbey, 26, tweeted from their vacation.

She wrote: 'Sun rose wine wedding song = good times x'

Their first dance, at their ceremony last July, was to U2's Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own.

Battle of the blondes: Abbey poses with a friend outside the restaurant, where she is on holiday before Peter's next game on Monday

Battle of the blondes: Abbey poses with a friend outside the restaurant, where she is on holiday before Peter's next game on Monday



PORSCHE PANAMERA GTS PRESENTATION  The sleek, sporty new Porsche Panamera GTS was recently unveiled before a group of over 150 international journalists, who travelled to the Costa del Sol for the presentation, held at the five-star Vincci Selección Aleysa Boutique & Spa Many of those attending the event and the test runs at the Ascari Race track in Ronda chose to stay at the Vincci Selección Aleysa, famed for its luxurious spa installations and services.

 

MedWeddings are organising an informative wedding workshop on Friday, April 27 from 4:30pm to 9:30pm at the Eliott Hotel in Gibraltar. The event will encompass every aspect of the big day, from logistics (location, travel bookings, invites, guest lists) right through to design (colour schemes, hair styles, make-up, flowers, the cake, table décor and dresses) and entertainment (music, DJs, bands, photography, video, etc.). The cost is £35 for brides-to-be and £20 for each additional guest.  Suppliers, speakers and sponsors can sign up from as little as £50.

Princess Stephanie at Da Bruno

Princess Stephanie recently visited Marbella for a short holiday, and she chose the popular Da Bruno Sul Mare restaurant for an authentic Italian dinner.

She received a warm welcome from the staff and personalised attention from Bruno and Giuseppina. Stephanie was wearing a gorgeous bracelet designed by Christian-Rex Nielsen (pictured on her right).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Spain's King Juan Carlos, 74, underwent surgery after an accident while he reportedly hunted elephants in southern Africa.

The King appeared on the web page of the safari company, Rann Safaris, beside an elephant he killed earlier during the trip 

He was operated on for four hours to replace his hip at a hospital in Madrid on Saturday morning, after suffering a triple fracture which the Royal Palace said was "linked to arthritis".

The accident happened in Botswana during what the palace described as a private hunting trip.

Many Spaniards reacted with anger, with criticism of his expensive hobby at a time when his nation is mired in economic crisis with high unemployment and real suffering, especially for the young.

Adding to the embarrassment for the royal family, a few days ago on Monday his eldest grandson, Felipe Juan Froilán Marichalar y Borbón, 13, shot himself in the right foot with a shotgun during target practice at a family estate north of Madrid.

His father was questioned by police for allowing his son to use a firearm without a license, which can only be issued in Spain to those over 14 years old.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Loved-up: Alesha & Azuka leaving the Shanti Som Hotel in Marbella Alesha & Azuka leaving the Shanti Som Hotel in Marbella
JK Press

Britain's Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon has found love again with a professional dancer.

Pop star Alesha, 33, has struck up a romance with Azuka Ononye, 31, who she first met six years ago when he was one of her backing team.

Friends of Alesha say she has been spending all her time with Nigerian Azuka, known as Az, in recent months and that he has helped her to finally get over the heartache of her marriage to MC Harvey, 32, who she dumped after he cheated on her.

The smitten couple spent a long weekend at a five-star yoga retreat in ­Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol last year, the Sunday Mirror can reveal.

The friend said: “Alesha and Az love spending time together. They’ve certainly got tongues wagging.

“Everyone’s really excited that Alesha has found love again. They get on brilliantly and Alesha likes the fact Az isn’t a celebrity and is just a normal, down-to-earth guy. Alesha’s obviously really busy with BGT but they see each other a lot.

The friend added: “Alesha’s put the past behind her and is focused on the future. Her life’s been ­really crazy ­recently.

 

Azuka Ononye is 2nd left. Black dancer with his face just showing and wearing a black beret type hat. He is at the back of the stageBeret good news: Alesha sings with Azuka (2nd left) wearing a black beret
Xposurephotos
 

 

“Not only has she been filming Britain’s Got Talent but she’s been in the studio ­recording new music.”

Alesha first met Az in 2006 while she was launching her solo music career when her hit band Mis-Teeq broke up.

He was booked as one of her backing dancers and they got on well and quickly became firm friends. But it wasn’t until he joined her on stage in 2010 as she promoted her last album, The Entertainer, that ­Alesha and Azuka started spending more and more time in each other’s company.

He was in her team of backing dancers when she performed at the Miss World 2010 final in Incheon, South Korea and last September, they enjoyed their getaway to five-star yoga retreat Shanti-Som on the Costa del Sol.

They spent time in the ­upmarket town of Puerto Banus shopping and eating out, as well as meeting friends who were on holiday at the same time.

Handsome Az has also danced for X Factor star ­Alexandra Burke and Brit-winning rapper Tinie Tempah. He has worked as a model and starred in a TV advert in ­Nigeria several years ago.

Alesha married MC Harvey (real name Michael Harvey Jnr) in 2005 at a private ceremony at stately home Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire.

 

The First night afterparty for 'Dady Cool', held at Floridita. Among those attending: Michael Junior Harvey and his wife Alesha DixonHappier times: Alesha with loverat ex MC Harvey
GoffINF
       

 

 

They had been dating for five years and she was devastated when she discovered he had been having an affair with Popstars: The Rivals reject Javine Hylton, 29. The pair had a daughter ­together, now four, but broke up after he cheated 
on her too.

Alesha briefly went out with West Ham United and Norwegian ­international John Carew but they split in 2008.

In a frank interview last year, the former ­Strictly Come Dancing judge spoke openly about her love life and ­heartbreak over her failed marriage. She said she wanted to remarry if she met the right ­person.

Alesha said: “I’m fussy because ­somebody has to be really worth me giving my heart to.

“If I’m dating, then cool. If not, it’s cool.

“You just never know what’s going to happen. But I still ­totally believe in it.”

 

SURF AIR, a Californian start-up, has a novel business model: for a monthly fee you can fly with the airline as much as you want. Is buffet-style air travel the wave of the future? JetBlue and Sun Country Airlines have both already tried offering all-you-can-fly passes, but so far no carrier has built its business model exclusively on a buffet plan. The idea isn't bad, but some scepticism is warranted. At $790 a month, Surf Air's flying plan will probably only appeal to business travellers who often go to the same places and rich Californians in long-distance relationships. Will that customer base allow Surf Air to make a profit? Maybe: 20m frequent flyers jetted between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2011, according to the company's numbers. The airline plans to launch with service between Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, but it still needs to secure regulatory approval, according to a company press release. Frequent flyers make up a huge portion of the business-traveller population, and almost every airline relies on business travellers to get (and stay) in the black. There is surely some group of private-jet-sharing business travellers who might be attracted to an all-you-can-jet airline as a cheaper alternative. A lot will depend on how many flights and how much convenience Surf Air can offer, and how quickly it can expand service. The company's promises certainly seem attractive: [Surf Air will offer] its members 30-second booking and cancellations, travel to and from uncongested regional airports, and an easy arrive-and-fly process with no hassle, no lines and no extra fees. It's easy to make promises, though. It's much harder to run a profitable airline. As Gulliver often notes, the American airline sector overall has never really made any money—in fact, total earnings over the entire history of the industry are minus $33 billion. That, of course, suggests that existing airlines might be doing it wrong. Maybe all-you-can-fly really is the way to go. It's at least worth a shot. I'll be eager to see what people think of the final product—assuming regulators give the go-ahead.

It evolved in humans along with intelligence to make them more adept at avoiding danger. A study of 42 people found the worst sufferers of a common anxiety disorder had a higher IQ than those whose symptoms were less severe. Scientists say their findings published in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, suggest worrying has developed as a beneficial trait. Psychiatrist Professor Jeremy Coplan, of SUNY Downstate Medical Centre in New York, and colleagues found high intelligence and worry are linked with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in the white matter of the brain. He said: "While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be. "In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species." The researchers made the discovery by monitoring activity in the brains of twenty six patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and eighteen healthy volunteers to assess the relationship between IQ, worry and the metabolism of choline. In the control group high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with GAD it was linked with more. The correlation between IQ and worry was significant in both the GAD group and the healthy control group. But in the former it was positive and in the latter negative. Previous studies have indicated excessive worry tends to exist both in people with higher and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been suggested people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life. Worrying has also been shown to lessen the effect of depression by countering brain activity that heightens the condition.

 

Dieters often dismiss them because of their high fat content, but research suggests that snacking on nuts can help keep you slim. A study found that those who consumed varieties such as almonds, cashews and pistachios demonstrated a lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to non-consumers. They were also at lower risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Experts are now recommending a daily intake of 1.5 ounces, or three tablespoons of nuts as part of a healthy diet. Lead researcher Carol O'Neil, from Louisiana State University, said: 'One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to non-consumers. 'The mean weight, BMI, and waist circumference were 4.19 pounds, 0.9kg/m2 and 0.83 inches lower in consumers than non-consumers, respectively.' In the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers compared risk factors for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome of nut consumers versus those who did not consume nuts.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Vinnie Jones is heading to Marbella for a role as a twisted garrotte killer. The British actor and ex-footballer – who was once given a yellow card after just three seconds on the pitch – will play a lead in gangster movie Shill, to be filmed entirely on the ‘Costa del Crime’. “Jones plays Branch, a guitar-playing nutter who chokes his victims with his strings,” said Shill writer and producer Paul Grimshaw, who based the film on his own experiences. The Shill actors will meet investors at Marbella Film Festival in October this year, with filming set for spring 2013. “We’ll be filming over a six-week period which will be a chance for some real star-spotting in Marbella,” said Grimshaw, who has worked as an estate agent in Marbella for 20 years. The film – also likely to star Tom Hardy – focuses on ‘shill bidding’, online fraud which involves falsely inflating prices of goods sold on auction sites such as eBay. Having made ten million pounds in cash, the team embark on a spending spree to Marbella to hide the money from the law. But after Shill makes a deal with crime baron Drake, a bloody and brutal mutiny is unleashed

Saturday, 7 April 2012

 

A man will appear in court charged with attempted murder following a bottle attack at a celebrity-packed party thrown by smartphone company BlackBerry. A 37-year-old man remains in a critical condition in hospital following the incident at Pulse nightclub in Southwark, central London. Ashley Charles, 25, of Nevanthon Road, Leicester, will appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court in connection with the incident. The party on Tuesday night was attended by journalists, celebrities including rapper Wretch 32 and stars of The Only Way Is Essex and BlackBerry competition winners. Brit award-winning singer Jessie J had been performing at the party before the bloody brawl and spoke of her shock on Twitter.


Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic is under mounting pressure to explain how an insider was apparently able to pass the confidential flight details of as many as 70 celebrities to a major paparazzi agency. Emails sent to the Big Pictures agency in 2010 and 2011 contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities, including Madonna, Princess Beatrice and Sienna Miller. Some of the figures alleged to be affected are friends of Sir Richard and his family and the allegations could prove hugely embarrassing for the tycoon, who is known for his close ties to the world of show business. A senior employee is understood to have resigned on Thursday after initial allegations that she passed on the flight details of eight celebrities including the singer Cheryl Cole and her former husband, the Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole, singer Robbie Williams and actress Scarlett Johansson. The airline launched an internal investigation and insisted it had "robust processes in place to ensure that passenger information is protected". But yesterday another cache of emails came to light that suggested that dozens more famous passengers may have been subject to the privacy breach. Emails seen by the Press Gazette contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities ranging from film stars Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet to Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May. The emails, sent over several months, suggest a degree of familiarity between the two correspondents. In one, Big Pictures allegedly wrote to the Virgin insider, understood to be a supervisor of Upper-Class passengers, saying it was "trying to sort you out some money with accounts". One email, reportedly containing details of a return flight from Heathrow to Newark taken by Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his actress wife Isla Fisher, included the comment: "They're in economy!!!!!!" Big Pictures also appears to have been given an anonymous tip-off about a flight taken by people referred to as "Madonna's kids". In a statement issued on Thursday, Virgin Atlantic called the allegations "extremely serious" and said it had launched an immediate investigation. Virgin Atlantic's spokeswoman could not confirm whether Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson would be personally apologising to the celebrities affected and refused to comment any further pending the outcome of an investigation. The allegations are hugely embarrassing for an airline that markets itself as a glamorous alternative to other long-haul carriers and is known to be popular with the rich and famous. Branson is yet to comment publicly. Others who appear to have been affected include Rihanna, Russell Brand, Rob Brydon and Jonathan Ross. Legal experts said that such disclosures may not be a criminal offence. However, solicitors for Ashley Cole and Sienna Miller said they were taking legal instructions over the allegations. No representative of Big Pictures, owned by the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant Darryn Lyons, was available to comment.

Friday, 6 April 2012

 

Virgin Atlantic employee has resigned following allegations she routinely fed information about the airline's celebrity clientele — from Madonna to Sienna Miller — to a paparazzi agency. The employee was a junior member of the team that looks after high-profile clients, Virgin said Friday. She quit Thursday before reports published in the Guardian and the Press Gazette alleged that she had passed the booking information of more than 60 celebrities on to the Big Pictures photo agency. Among those allegedly targeted: Britain's Princess Beatrice; singers Madonna and Rihanna; actors Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe and Miller; comedians Sacha Baron Cohen and Russell Brand; and a slew of U.K. celebrities and sports figures. The Guardian and the Press Gazette cited messages allegedly sent by the employee to someone at Big Pictures Ltd. as the basis for their stories. The Associated Press had no immediate way of verifying the authenticity of the messages, but the Guardian said it had carried out checks confirming that at least some of the celebrities had traveled to the destinations mentioned in the emails. Calls and emails to representatives of around a dozen of the celebrities mentioned went unreturned Friday, a public holiday in Britain. A representative for Princess Beatrice declined comment, while Kate Winslet's publicist, Heidi Slan, said the star wasn't reachable. In a statement, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. called the allegations "extremely serious" and said it had launched an investigation. The airline, which is majority-owned by billionaire adventurer Richard Branson, confirmed that high-profile clients were involved but declined to comment on the British newspapers' figures. A man who answered the phone at London-based Big Pictures hung up when an Associated Press reporter identified himself as a member of the media. Emails sent to company founder Darryn Lyons' personal assistant weren't immediately returned, and no one answered the door at Big Pictures' central London office. The Press Gazette said Big Pictures was first approached for comment more than 48 hours ago but has yet to respond. Neither Virgin nor the newspapers identified the employee in question. The Guardian said it had contacted her on Wednesday and that she had declined comment. It was not clear Friday if authorities had become involved. Virgin refused to say whether it had called in the police and a Scotland Yard spokesman said he wasn't aware of the leak. The Information Commissioner's office — which investigates data breaches in Britain — said in a statement that the agency will need to make further inquiries "to establish the precise nature of the alleged incident before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken." The past year has seen the sometimes underhanded methods of Britain's media thrust into the spotlight by a scandal over phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World. Paparazzi have come under particular scrutiny, with public figures including Miller alleging aggressive, intimidating or illegal behavior on the part of celebrity-obsessed snappers. Miller, who testified before a judge-led inquiry into media ethics set up in the wake of the scandal, said she had been terrorized by photographers stalking her every move. "I would often find myself — I was 21 — at midnight running down a dark street on my own with ten big men chasing me and the fact that they had cameras in their hands meant that that was legal," she told the inquiry. "But if you take away the cameras, what have you got? You've got a pack of men chasing a woman and obviously that's a very intimidating situation to be in." Lyons, the founder of Big Pictures, told the same inquiry he had "no reason" to believe his photographers broke rules in pursuit of pictures, batting away suggestions that paparazzi victimize their targets. "The fact of the matter is that celebrities court publicity when they want to court publicity and then all of a sudden they want to switch it off very, very soon after," he told the inquiry. "If you are in the public eye, you are looked up to," he added. "We live in a world of voyeurism."

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