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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Thousands of passengers faced massive travel disruptions across Spain

Posted On 16:11 12 comments

 

Thousands of passengers faced massive travel disruptions across Spain on Saturday after domestic carrier Spanair cancelled all of its flights Friday night and prepared to file for bankruptcy. The abrupt collapse of the Barcelona-based carrier took place shortly after Qatar Airways walked away from talks to take over the money-losing airline after months of negotiations. "Due to a lack of financial visibility for the coming months, the company has had no option but to cease flying out of a duty of care for the safety of its operation and the well being of all concerned," Spanair said in a statement late Friday. "The appropriate next steps will be taken as soon as possible." More than 200 Spanair flights have been cancelled, affecting over 22,000 passengers. Spain's Public Works Minister Ana Pastor said on Saturday that the government may slap Spanair with about EUR9 million in fines and cancel its airline license due to the sudden cancellation of flights and failure to assist passengers. The Public Works ministry, which supervises the transport sector, said Spanair is required to assist customers and reimburse cancelled tickets. Many affected passengers complained on local television stations that Spanair was struggling to provide flight alternatives or even return the luggage from passengers who checked in shortly before all flights were abruptly cancelled on Friday night. A Spanair spokeswoman declined to comment on specific complaints from customers. The company said it has set up a customer service hotline, while Spain's airport authority AENA is providing passenger support services at the country's main airports. Flagship carrier Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA said it was accepting affected Spanair passengers in its flights and offering lower airfares. Other domestic carriers are also assisting Spanair customers. "The Company would like to apologize to everyone affected by this announcement and thanks the aviation authorities for their help and support," as well as other airlines that assisting affected passengers, Spanair said on Friday night. A company spokesman didn't immediately return calls seeking comment on Saturday. The government of Spain's Catalonia region is Spanair's main shareholder with a stake of 85.6%, while Spanair's former owner, Scandinavian airline SAS AB (SAS.SK), holds a stake of 10.9% of the troubled carrier. SAS issued a profit warning on Friday night. It said that following the decision of Spanair's board to apply for bankruptcy, it will write down EUR165 million of the outstanding debt and receivables on Spanair and set aside another EUR28 million in guarantees and costs linked to Spanair's bankruptcy. "SAS Group will follow customary procedures as a creditor in the upcoming bankruptcy process," the Scandinavian company said in a press release late Friday, adding that it had already reduced the value of its shareholding in Spanair to zero. Created in 1986 with SAS as top shareholder, Spanair was purchased in 2009 by a group of local investors led by Catalonia's regional government, moving Spanair's headquarters from the Balearic Islands to Barcelona. The company, which has more than 2,000 employees, struggled financially in recent years, particularly after the crash of one of its aircraft during takeoff in Madrid almost four years ago, killing more than 150 passengers. As the economic crisis intensified in Spain, the Catalan government sought to keep the Barcelona-based airline afloat as part of an effort to develop Barcelona's El Prat Airport as a regional hub. However, it decided months ago that it couldn't keep supporting the company at a time when the government itself is facing serious financial headwinds, with the Spanish economy mired in its worst crisis in decades amid a deep property bust. Catalonia's financial support also sparked complaints from rivals on grounds that Spanair was getting unfair government support, in violation of European Union rules. In addition to an unprecedented economic crisis with record high unemployment rates, Spanair faced cutthroat competition from discount carriers and the expansion of Spain's high-speed rail network.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

The UK could become a hub for smuggling the herbal stimulant khat,

Posted On 08:40 0 comments

 

European police and politicians have warned. The Netherlands is the latest country to outlaw the sale of the plant, which is now banned in sixteen EU member states and Norway. Khat is freely sold in the UK and observers say the UK's isolated stance could make it the main base for Europe's khat trade. The British government has commissioned a new review of khat use. Until announcing its ban earlier this month, the Netherlands was similar in its stance to the UK where the East African plant is legally imported, sold and consumed. In 2005 the UK Home Office commissioned a report by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) which concluded that "the evidence of harm resulting from khat use is not sufficient to recommend its control." In the UK, the drug is mainly consumed by people of Somali and Yemeni origin and the ACMD report concluded there was "no evidence of its spread to the general population." 'Social harm' Gerd Leers, Immigration and Integration Minister in the Netherlands, says he already has enough evidence of social harm caused by the drug to support a ban, which will come into force from June this year. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Those who argue against a ban don't know about the community and they can't see all the damage it is doing to families and individuals” Muna Hassan Sister of khat user Mark Lancaster, MP for Milton Keynes North, argued that khat should be outlawed in Britain in a speech he made in Parliament earlier this month. But others say that making khat a controlled drug could lead to further problems. "What worries me about the Netherlands is that once these legal Somali traders are criminalised and have their livelihood taken away from them - what are they going to do next?" says Axel Klein, an expert witness for the ACMD's 2005 report. "They have contacts, trading skills, financial acumen so it is very possible that they will start trafficking the khat and then diversify into harder drugs. "This is our main concern when looking at the UK as well. "Do we really want to create the opportunity for an organised crime syndicate to start-up from nowhere with long term consequences by banning khat?" Continue reading the main story Find out more Hear more on The Report on Radio 4 on Thursday, 26 January at 20:00 GMT. You can listen again on the Radio 4 website or by downloading the podcast Listen to The Report on the Radio 4 website Download The Report podcast Explore The Report archive Mr Klein argues that khat is chewed mainly by older men in the Somali diaspora and the practice will die out - rather like snuff has done in the UK. But British-Somali Muna Hassan is not so sure. She blames khat use for inducing her younger brother's paranoid schizophrenia. He has lived in the UK since the age of five and had a bright future ahead of him, studying at university, when he then started chewing khat. "The Somali community has a unified voice on this," she told Radio 4's The Report. "Those who argue against a ban don't know about the community and they can't see all the damage it is doing to families and individuals. We know," she says. 'Dangerous' drug Eleni Palazidou, a psychiatrist who has worked with the Somali community in east London, agrees. "For me it is a drug - no two ways about it. "Every patient that I have seen who chews khat, I have seen them worsening and it is impossible to get their condition under control. Continue reading the main story What is khat? Khat refers to the leaves and shoots of the Catha edulis - a flowering shrub native to the Horn of Africa and Arabian peninsula Khat has many names including 'qat' (Yemen), 'jad' or 'chad' (Ethiopia, Somalia), 'miraa' (Kenya) or 'marungi' (Uganda, Rwanda). Khat leaves are chewed and contain stimulant substances that have amphetamine-like properties. Khat contains cathine and cathinone which, as isolated substances, are banned in the UK, but in khat leaves are not. It is chewed mainly by men in khat houses known as Mafrishes, though there is anecdotal evidence of growing use by teenagers and women. In the UK it is an informal, legal trade so it is impossible to know exactly how much is imported. Estimates range from 10 to 60 tonnes a week. "What khat does to the brain is similar to amphetamines. I think heavy, regular use is dangerous. I have no doubt that khat has a major adverse effect on people's mental health and does cause psychological problems," she told The Report. The Netherlands' ban has been welcomed by Dutch citizens like Dagmar Oudshoorn, mayor of the village of Uithoorn, near Schipol, who says the khat trade has been a blight on her community. "Four times a week 200 cars arrive with people who want to buy khat and they fight - we had stabbing incidents - and they leave rubbish everywhere. "We want to refurbish our business area but because of the bad environment we lose investors and customers," she told the BBC. Neighbouring states, where the drug has long been illegal, have also put pressure on the Dutch government in The Hague because they have seen a sharp increase in khat trafficking from Holland. For Europe's Nordic countries, much of the khat arrives by truck across the Oresund bridge between Denmark and southern Sweden. Swedish police estimate that 200 tonnes is smuggled into the country each year, with a street value of 150 euros (£125/$190) a kilo. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote With the Eurotunnel you can get from London to Malmo in 15 hours. Britain will become the new hub in Europe that is for certain” Detective Stefan Kalman Swedish police After years of lobbying, Swedish MEP Olle Schmidt admits he was pleasantly surprised by the Dutch move to ban khat. "There is a shift in the Netherlands. They no longer want to be seen as a liberal country where tourists can come to smoke pot and buy drugs. "Now, of course, khat will come more extensively to the London airports and then be smuggled to the rest of Europe, because you can earn a lot of money with this drug," warns Mr Schmidt. Stefan Kalman, a senior detective in the Swedish drug squad, says customs officers catch smugglers on the border several times a week. "The couriers often have accidents because they drive so fast", he says. "Sometimes they shoot past the border controls without stopping because they are nervous - khat is quite bulky and you cannot conceal it like other drugs." They are also in a rush because the drug has to be consumed when it is fresh. Cathinone, one of the psychoactive agents in khat leaves, is highly unstable and loses its potency within three days of harvesting. With the door slammed shut in Holland, smugglers will turn to the UK despite the longer distances says Detective Kalman. "With the Eurotunnel you can get from London to Malmo in 15 hours. Britain will become the new hub in Europe that is for certain." The British government has commissioned a new review of khat use - the date of its publication is still to be confirmed.


3 years after US accident, boat washes up in Spain

Posted On 01:04 1 comments

 

As he swam toward the coast of Nantucket, Mass. in August 2008, Scott Douglas, 58, watched his yellow fishing boat disappear, carried away by the swelling surf. He thought it would be the last time he'd ever see the Queen Bee. But yesterday, more than three years after Douglas and his brother-in-law were tossed off the boat by a wave, the U.S. Coast Guard called to say the vessel had washed up on the Spanish coast. It was rusty and covered in barnacles, but intact. "It looks entirely different," Douglas said upon seeing the photos. "That's amazing." Douglas remembers the water was restless on the day he set out to sea, and the fish weren't biting. He tried to keep the boat stationary, bracing himself as huge rollers crashed into it. advertisement "At all times, it's a very sketchy area," Douglas told msnbc.com. "You wouldn't want to be dumped in the ocean there." But that's exactly what happened when a rogue wave knocked Douglas and his brother-in-law, Rich St. Pierre, off the boat and into a sink-or-swim fight for survival. Douglas remembers thinking the water was not too cold. "The only way I was going to survive was just to get started, not tread water," he said. But swimming didn't come as easy to St. Pierre, 68, who had gone through open heart surgery a year earlier. However, a survival kit containing an inflatable device had been knocked off the boat and floated to St. Pierre's side. It was a miracle, Douglas said, noting that the kit was the only item from the boat in the water with them.  Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Scott Douglas, 58, watched his yellow fishing boat disappear in 2008, carried away by the swelling surf. He thought it would be the last time he'd ever see the Queen Bee. Douglas swam for about an hour and made it to shore on Smith's Point, a beach off the coast of Nantucket. Dripping wet and exhausted, he walked up to a cabin and asked to use the phone to alert the Coast Guard. Not long after, he saw St. Pierre walking on dry land. "At the end of the day, it just wasn't our time," Douglas said.  While that marked the end of their ordeal, the Queen Bee's journey didn't end there.  Lt. Joe Klinker, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said the most likely scenario is that the boat somehow got across the continental shelf and into the Gulf Stream. "From there it may drift north off the coast of northern Canada and then east with the North Atlantic currents," Klinker told msnbc.com. He said it's rare, but not unheard of for an object off the coastline of the United States to drift across the Atlantic to Europe. But a boat? "I've never heard of anything like this," Klinker said. Smith's Point Llanes NRoad 1000 miles1000 miles 2500 km2500 km  It's not uncommon, he said, for the Coast Guard to locate derelict ships from Florida off the coast of Virginia, or vessels from Virginia off the coast of Massachusetts, but never in Europe.  The ability to withstand the hardships of the Atlantic has a lot to do with the make of the boat, Klinker said. The Queen Bee is a 26-foot center console fishing boat made by Regulator.  "It probably could have floated for another three years," Klinker said. The Spanish Coast Guard alerted their U.S. counterpart Tuesday. Based on salvage law, the boat now belongs to Spain. Douglas, who is now retired and lives in New Jersey, said he doesn't want the boat back. But with four grandchildren, he has thought about turning Queen Bee's story into a children's book.    "It's interesting to see what life takes and gives," he said.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Everest Poker Offering Seats to WPT Marbella

Posted On 23:18 0 comments

 

Standout online poker room Everest Poker have once again proven their great value to players of the world’s greatest game by offering seats at the forthcoming World Poker Tour (WPT) Marbella. Everest Poker are certainly kicking off the early months of 2012 in some style through their vast array of fresh promotions, with this latest prize of a WPT seat the highlight so far. The 30th of this month is definitely a date to circle on your calendar as that’s when Everest Poker start running a bewildering series of weekly satellites, as well as sub-qualifiers every day, that will eventually lead to numerous WPT Marbella packages valued at $4,000 being handed out. While finalised details of the Spanish event – the latest addition to the WPT – have still to be announced, Everest Poker’s packages are guaranteed to cover the main event buy-in, as well as hotel accommodation, flights and meals. Everest are, of course, well known for their backing of live tournaments, including the Spanish Poker Tour (SPT), but the poker room was also the only poker-related sponsor of the 2008 and 2009 WSOPs, with the website’s logo plain to see on the felt of every table in the Las Vegas tournament, as well as on banners and barricades. Who’ll Be Crowned King of the Ring? Everest Poker have been running some brilliant promotions recently, including King of the Ring – which sees players square off to score points that ultimately leads to the top 10 winning prizes from the $5,000 weekly pot. The overall tournament leaderboard winner will also be crowned Everest Poker champion and King of the Ring, while the genuine Everest Poker title belt they’ll also receive will be something to treasure forever. It’s all pretty straightforward when entering the event. There are also numerous $2 undercard satellites that can lead to a place in the main event. The Daily Grand is Great Way to Boost Bankroll Next up is The Daily Grand, when players are handed 30 chances – after their first deposit – over 30 days to win the $1,000 freeroll that will begin once they have signed up. Players just have to redeem their Super eTickets to enter the daily freerolls. If all that isn’t enough, maybe the pull of The Big Prime will attract you. The biggest tournament at Everest, there are numerous ways to qualify for every Sunday’s start through the same day’s 40-plus satellites from $1, sit and go step events from just $2, and via the another of the site’s promotions, The Winning 50. The Big Prime has only recently got even better for players, too, with the event guaranteeing a minimum of $75,000 in prizes – and where you might come up against one of the site’s three Team Everest Pros in Frenchman Fabrice ‘FabSoul’ Soulier, Portugal’s Catarina ‘katrinapt’ Santos and Hungarian wildcard Peter ‘majesz187’ Majoros. Turn $1 Into Incredible Vacations As is to be expected with such an innovative poker room, Everest Poker also offer out-of-the-ordinary prizes, including the $1 Vacation Tournaments, which can see successful players jetting off to almost anywhere on the globe.The $1 Vacation Tournaments run every day, with cash finishers being handed a $200 eTicket and $15 in cash. Thereafter, you can choose which event you fancy and directly enter – and maybe look forward to rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in poker at a lavish hotel and casino. Moreover, there are several other promotions to look out for, including $10 for $10. New customers can pick up 10 $1 eTickets when depositing at least $10 and they will then have the opportunity to enter 10 $1 buy-in events, such as the $1 Vacation, the Chip and a Chair tournaments or even one of Everest’s $1 Daily Satellites. Of course, the usual schedule of tournaments might be just as attractive to newcomers to Everest Poker, but don’t forget to check out every one of the poker room’s promotions…you might just be starting on the path to glory. Maybe you’ll even follow in the footsteps of 27-year-old Antoine Saout, who picked up $3,479,670 for finishing in third place at the 2009 World Series of Poker main event after the Frenchman qualified through an Everest Poker satellite.


Marbella hotel named best in Spain

Posted On 23:15 0 comments

 

Trip Advisor have announced the results of their Travellers Choice Hotel Awards 2012 and La Villa Marbella was named as one of the best hotels in the world. The hotel, situated in Marbella’s Old Town, was crowned as the Best Hotel in Spain for Service, coming fourth in Europe and seventh in the world. Speaking to The Olive Press before collecting his award owner Marcus Torres, 45, said “How can I put it into words? I’m delighted.” “I think it’s because of all the extra work we do. Many hotels focus a lot on providing the best facilities and equipment – which of course is important as well – but what makes us different is that we are really, really focused on service,” he added. The 150 year old building has been refurbished to the highest standard and has been running as a hotel since 2004. It has over 550 reviews on the Trip Advisor website from customers who describe their experience following their visit. “TripAdvisor is a really authentic reference for people to use,” said Marcus. While many review websites are compiled by professionals or journalists the reviews on the Trip Advisor website are written by members of the public who have actually stayed there and have first hand experience of the hotel. Marcus added that this makes the site reviews “very credible.” Other categories in the awards included Best Hotel, Best Beaches and Trendiest Hotel in which another Spanish hotel, the AC Hotel Palacio, Cordoba, came in eighth.


Eating fried foods didn't hurt the hearts of Spaniards who follow a Mediterranean diet

Posted On 17:26 0 comments

Eating fried foods didn't hurt the hearts of Spaniards who follow a Mediterranean diet, but the findings are too good to be true for Canadians, experts say.

A study in Wednesday's issue of the British Medical Journal suggests that frying foods in olive and sunflower oils is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or premature death.

The Mediterranean diet favours fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.  The Mediterranean diet favours fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. (iStock)

Prof. Pilar Guallar-Castillón from Autonomous University of Madrid and her co-authors surveyed the cooking methods of 40,757 adults aged 29 to 69 over an 11-year period. None of the participants had heart disease when the study began.

The people were asked in a typical week whether they ate food that was fried, battered, crumbed or sautéed. Their answers were divided into categories based on how much fried food they consumed.

During the follow-up period, there were 606 events linked to heart disease and 1,134 deaths.

"In Spain, a Mediterranean country where olive or sunflower oil is used for frying, the consumption of fried foods was not associated with coronary heart disease," the study's authors concluded.

The results directly apply only to Mediterranean countries where foods are fried in a similar way to Spain, the researchers noted.

Spanish participants more active

"When I look at the group of patients evaluated in Spain 10 years ago, they were much more active and fit than we are as Canadians nowadays," said Dr. Beth Abramson, a cardiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

And overall, people in the study ate a diet that was heart healthier than a typical North American diet.

The Mediterranean regime favours fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and whole grains.

"Occasionally having some fried food now and then isn't going to be harmful probably in the long run, but routinely frying food just adds to the chance that you're going to become overweight and out of shape," Abramson said.

The investigators only questioned participants about their diet at the start of the study, which isn't as reliable as checking in more often, Abramson said.

Floria Aghdamimehr, a wellness and life coach in Halifax who teaches people how to improve their diet, said the study confirms the value of using olive oil, though sparingly.

The nutritional content of foods changes when they are fried, Aghdamimehr said.

Nutritional changes with frying

"Most of the deep-fried foods people eat in North America … [uses] oil [that] is being recycled — reused several times,” Aghdamimehr said.

In Spain, fried food doesn't equal fast food from restaurants the way it often does in North America, the researchers said.

"Frying leads to an increase in trans fats and a decrease in unsaturated fats in foods," said Prof. Michael Leitzmann of the department of the epidemiology and preventive medicine at University of Regensburg in Germany in a journal editorial published with the Spanish study.

"Frying also increases the energy density of food and makes food more palatable, which may lead to the consumption of larger amounts."

The study was funded by the Fund for Health of Spain, five Spanish regional governments and the Catlan Institute of Oncology.


Did the King of Spain try to seduce Princess Diana?

Posted On 12:18 0 comments

 

WHEN Prince Charles and Princess Diana accepted an invitation to spend a summer holiday with the king of Spain the shadow of Camilla Parker Bowles already loomed over their marriage. Perhaps Diana confided in Juan ­Carlos or he simply sensed her vulnerability and unhappiness. In any case it’s claimed in an explosive new book that the king seized his opportunity when Charles’ back was turned and made a pass at Diana. The book alleges the seduction was attempted in Mallorca in 1987. At the time the royals of Britain and Spain regularly played happy families together but it’s now claimed both marriages were elaborate shams. Charles’ infidelity pales into insignificance alongside the behaviour of the Spanish king if the book The Solitude Of The Queen is to be trusted. It’s claimed Juan Carlos, 74, is a serial philanderer who has a loveless ­marriage to Queen Sofia, mother of his three children, and has used his power to sleep with 1,500 women. Intriguingly the allegations about the handsome Juan Carlos and the beautiful British Princess were first aired a few years ago by royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell. Prince Charles’ infidelity pales into insignificance alongside the behaviour of the Spanish king if the book The Solitude Of The Queen is to be trusted. She asserted that the pair were occasional lovers, also ­having a brief fling the previous year on a cruise, and that Diana fell into the king of Spain’s arms to take revenge on her own straying husband. Photographs from the period show Diana was clearly relaxed in the company of Juan Carlos. In one informal pose she’s seen sitting on a settee with him, wearing an off-the-shoulder dress, while Prince ­William sits between the king’s legs. During a 1987 visit, in which Charles and Diana went to Madrid, the king was pictured smiling as he kissed the Princess on the hand in a gesture that left Diana looking flustered. Rumours of an affair have always been derided but the new claim that Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, who celebrate their golden wedding in May, have not shared a bed for 35 years is bound to fan the flames. Normally the royal family in Spain is out of bounds for gossip columnists because an attack on the monarchy is regarded as an attack on democracy.


Rapist TV psychic Martin Smith found hanged in cell

Posted On 10:53 0 comments

 

A convicted paedophile, whose partner is accused of murdering their children in Spain, has been found hanged in his cell at HMP Manchester. Former TV psychic Martin Smith, 46, originally from North Shields, was jailed for 16 years in March 2011 for raping a girl aged under 16 in Cumbria. His partner Lianne Smith is in custody accused of murdering their two children in Lloret de Mar, Spain. Greater Manchester Police said his death was not thought to be suspicious. A spokesman said his body was found in his cell on Monday evening. Smith, who appeared on television as a medium five years ago on the Living Channel's Most Haunted programme, was extradited to the UK from Spain in spring 2010. After his return his daughter Rebecca, five, and Daniel, 11 months, were found dead in a hotel in Catalonia, north-east Spain. The couple, who share the same name but are not related, left the UK for Spain with Rebecca while Daniel was born in Spain. Smith was convicted at Manchester Crown Court of 11 counts of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault on his victim over a period of 10 years. His trial was told he used hypnotism and violence to groom and sexually abuse his victim. A Prison Service spokesman said the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman was investigating his death. No date has been set yet for Lianne Smith's murder trial in Spain, a spokeswoman for the Catalonia judiciary said.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Italian fugitive arrested in Almería

Posted On 20:24 0 comments

 

An Italian fugitive has been arrested in Almería on a European arrest warrant for pending sentences amounting to almost 10 years behind bars. His crimes include drug trafficking, violent robbery, illegal possession of weapons and falsifying documents. It’s understood from EFE that his criminal record goes back for more than 20 years. The man, named as Maurizio R. aged 56, was arrested in Almería City in the early hours of Friday after discovered that he had moved to the province.


Vladimir Putin is moving to Marbella

Posted On 20:20 0 comments

 

The Russian Prime Minister is currently buying a property in the luxury La Zagaleta urbanisation in Benhavís. Website Vanitatis reports Putin has been convinced of the charms of the area by the ex Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who already lives in the urbanisation which he describes as ‘my place in the world’, where he has planted fruit trees and install three hives which give ‘a fantastic honey’. Those who live in the urbanisation have the right to vote on whether or not to accept any new neighbour, and Vanitatis reports that some of the people who have been rejected include Julio Iglasias, Shakira and David Beckham. Hugh Grant was accepted however. Other residents are one of the most important leaders of Iran, Ak Kujala, who was indicted in the Ballena Blanca money laundering case, and the British businessman Sean Woodhall who has been found guilty of fraud in the UK linked to car sales. Putin looks likely to be the new Kashogui in Marbella, famous as he was for his luxury finca in Al Baraka with gold taps covered with rubies.


Monday, 23 January 2012

"Dangerous" inmate charged with murder on the run after prison van ambush

Posted On 15:07 0 comments

 

A dangerous prisoner charged with murder is on the run after three masked men ambushed a prison van. Advertisement >> John Anslow, 31, escaped following the attack on the prison van taking three inmates from Hewell prison in Redditch to Stafford Crown Court at about 8.20am. The van was stopped by three men wearing balaclavas who jumped out of a Volkswagen Scirocco. Two of the men were wielding sledgehammers and smashed the windscreen and the driver’s window of the GEO Amey prison escort van. The driver was also punched and reportedly threatened with a blade before the men drove off in the Scriocco. It is believed they switched to a silver Mercedes after stopping in Stoney Lane. The two other prisoners being carried in the van did not escape. West Mercia Police have now warned that Anslow, from Tipton, is considered "dangerous". He was one of five men charged with the murder of Richard Deakin, who was shot dead in Chasetown, Staffordshire, in 2010. The skip-hire boss was gunned down as he slept in his home in Meadway Street while his partner had taken their two daughters to school. CCTV images of the gunman calmly walking through their garden gate were screened on TV show, Crimewatch. Anslow was charged with murder alongside Mr Deakin’s brother-in-law Leigh Astbury. Hewell prison houses more than 1,400 inmates across three blocks holding category B, C and D prisoners. The incident is being investigated by officers from West Mercia Police. Anslow is described as white, 5ft 10ins tall, and of medium build with short brown hair. Police block the roads leading to Hewell Grange Prison in Redditch, after a prisoner escaped when a van taking inmates to court was ambushed A dangerous prisoner charged with murder is on the run after three masked men ambushed a prison van. John Anslow, 31, escaped following the attack on the prison van taking three inmates from Hewell prison in Redditch to Stafford Crown Court at about 8.20am. The van was stopped by three men wearing balaclavas who jumped out of a Volkswagen Scirocco. Two of the men were wielding sledgehammers and smashed the windscreen and the driver’s window of the GEO Amey prison escort van. The driver was also punched and reportedly threatened with a blade before the men drove off in the Scriocco. It is believed they switched to a silver Mercedes after stopping in Stoney Lane. The two other prisoners being carried in the van did not escape. West Mercia Police have now warned that Anslow, from Tipton, is considered "dangerous". He was one of five men charged with the murder of Richard Deakin, who was shot dead in Chasetown, Staffordshire, in 2010. The skip-hire boss was gunned down as he slept in his home in Meadway Street while his partner had taken their two daughters to school. CCTV images of the gunman calmly walking through their garden gate were screened on TV show, Crimewatch. Anslow was charged with murder alongside Mr Deakin’s brother-in-law Leigh Astbury. Hewell prison houses more than 1,400 inmates across three blocks holding category B, C and D prisoners. The incident is being investigated by officers from West Mercia Police. Anslow is described as white, 5ft 10ins tall, and of medium build with short brown hair. Detective Inspector Jon Marsden, of West Mercia Police, said: "Three men wearing balaclavas, two of whom were carrying sledgehammers, got out of a silver Volkswagen Scirocco, and smashed the windscreen and driver's window of the GEO Amey prison escort van. "The van driver was punched but no serious injuries were sustained by escort staff. There were two other prisoners in the van at the time, neither of whom were released." He went on: "Anslow has recently been charged with murder and is considered dangerous. "We are working closely with our colleagues from West Midlands and Staffordshire Police forces and a large number of officers from all three forces are involved in the search for him. "However we would urge any members of the public who sees him not to approach him directly, but to contact police immediately on 999." Last July, the trial of an alleged criminal gang which used guns and grenades to intimidate its rivals collapsed after two defendants escaped from a prison van on the edge of Manchester city centre. The gang made off and an international search was launched for the two men, with ports and airports in the UK monitored. And in September 2006, a "violent and dangerous" criminal escaped from a prison van in Redditch after being helped by two masked men armed with with a gun. Two men wearing balaclavas, or with their faces covered, used a firearm to threaten staff in a security van taking the prisoner back to Blakenhurst prison following an appearance before magistrates in Redditch. Detective Inspector Jon Marsden, of West Mercia Police, said: "Three men wearing balaclavas, two of whom were carrying sledgehammers, got out of a silver Volkswagen Scirocco, and smashed the windscreen and driver's window of the GEO Amey prison escort van. "The van driver was punched but no serious injuries were sustained by escort staff. There were two other prisoners in the van at the time, neither of whom were released." He went on: "Anslow has recently been charged with murder and is considered dangerous. "We are working closely with our colleagues from West Midlands and Staffordshire Police forces and a large number of officers from all three forces are involved in the search for him. "However we would urge any members of the public who sees him not to approach him directly, but to contact police immediately on 999." Last July, the trial of an alleged criminal gang which used guns and grenades to intimidate its rivals collapsed after two defendants escaped from a prison van on the edge of Manchester city centre. The gang made off and an international search was launched for the two men, with ports and airports in the UK monitored. And in September 2006, a "violent and dangerous" criminal escaped from a prison van in Redditch after being helped by two masked men armed with with a gun. Two men wearing balaclavas, or with their faces covered, used a firearm to threaten staff in a security van taking the prisoner back to Blakenhurst prison following an appearance before magistrates in Redditch.


Salsa in Buddha Marbella

Posted On 12:57 0 comments

 

ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT WE DANCE SALSA IN BUDDHA MARBELLA!   EVERY WEDNESDAY come and move your body to the rhythm of salsa music in Buddha (Marbella)! The whole Nicolas Valiente Dance Academy will be there too… You don’t want to miss it! Buddha Bar, Marbella Avenida del Mar marbella 29600


Spain's fast rail forestalled problems for farms

Posted On 11:39 0 comments

 

On a crisp Saturday morning last fall, Luis Valciente and Mercedes Martin enjoyed the quiet of their farm about 20 miles northeast of Seville. The retired husband and wife bought their patch of land in 1987, several years before Spain's first high-speed trains started running between Madrid and Seville. "It's very tranquil, which is what we like after all these years," Martin said through an interpreter. Without warning, a loud "swoosh" briefly interrupted the couple. It was one of Spain's AVE high-speed trains rushing on tracks about 100 feet from the rear of the couple's modest home. Within seconds, the noise subsided and the couple resumed their chat. To train passengers, the Valciente farm is little more than a blur about 10 minutes before they get to Seville, the southern terminus for the trains. Each arrival sends fresh activity through the station and a surge of cabs, cars and pedestrians onto the streets near the historic city's commercial center. Nearby restaurants, shops and rental-car agencies vie for attention from the arrivals. Spain's system connects urban centers and smaller provincial capitals while crossing fertile agricultural regions, much like California's planned high-speed rail system. In the countryside, Barcelona transportation engineer Andreu Ulied said, the Spanish government went to great lengths and expense to minimize the effect on farms. It skirted farmland where it could, built frequent overpasses and underpasses, and generously compensated owners who lost property to the project. In larger Spanish cities such as Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Cordova and Barcelona, stations for high-speed trains are in developed, central-city commercial districts. In Barcelona, preservationists' fears of a train tunnel under the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia forced extensive engineering measures to avoid damaging the iconic church. Most merchants near the stations say high-speed rail is good for commerce, but they are unsure whether it has directly helped their stores and restaurants. Ulied, economist Germà Bel and others say the prospects for economic gains by high-speed rail cities are murky at best, and at worst could bleed commerce from smaller cities between larger destinations. Valciente and Martin, who are in their 70s, tend to fruit trees and corn on their 6½-acre farm. The AVE trains speed by the farmstead several times an hour, "and it hasn't affected us at all," Valciente said. "We don't even feel them," Martin added. The trains create no wind turbulence, she said, and are less bothersome than slower, regional commuter trains. Conventional trains were there when Valciente bought the farm, but he doesn't think AVE trains affected his property value, and if neighbors have complaints, he hasn't heard them. High-speed rail raised little opposition from the agriculture industry. That experience stands in contrast to the objections by farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, where faith in the state rail authority and the economy are in short supply. Growers and ranchers say they fear losing farmland and homes, and worry the tracks will keep them from moving across their land. They also doubt they'll be fairly compensated for their property or troubles. Spanish officials worked with farmers to head off concerns, said Pedro Pérez del Campo, environmental policy director for ADIF, the government-owned company that runs the system. "It's in our interest to make it easier for the farmers," he said, noting the priority is to ensure farmers with divided property can reach all of the land. "About every 500 meters, there is the ability to pass from one side of the rail to the other. We are obligated that if the rails were to cross your property, we have to give you the ability to cross."


Spain workers lose bridge holidays in debt crisis austerity move

Posted On 11:35 0 comments

 

Considering how many of his friends are unemployed, electrician Javier Ramirez felt like he'd hit the jackpot when his company scored a contract for government buildings here in Spain's sprawling capital. He gets paid by the hour, and rewiring 250-year-old marble halls is a formidable job that should feed his family for years. The problem is, Ramirez worked only about half of last month, and the time off wasn't his choice. It was courtesy of Spain's slate of religious and municipal holidays — a generous 14 per year, 40% more than in the United States — and a beloved little tradition called the puente, or "bridge." Puentes result when a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday and, to make a long weekend, workers take off the Monday or Friday in between. Many employers tacitly acquiesce to an extra vacation day, and some close their offices altogether. Along with the siesta and three-hour lunches, puentes are one of the delicious little time-wasters that have the Spaniards thumbing their noses at more rigid schedules in northern Europe, efficiency be damned. But Europe's debt crisis has decimated Spain's workforce, and unemployment here tops 23%. Now, with northern leaders increasingly scolding the "layabouts" of the south, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says the puentes are something Spain can no longer afford. So, in a nearly $20-billion package of spending cuts and tax increases passed by the parliament this month, Rajoy took aim at the puentes. Starting this year, most holidays that fall midweek will be moved to Monday, limiting workers to a three-day weekend. A few holidays, such as Christmas and New Year's Day, will still be celebrated on fixed dates, but other fiestas that many Spaniards hold dear — the Day of the Blessed Virgin's Immaculate Conception, or the slightly more obscure Festival of St. Mary of the Head, to name just two — will be celebrated on Mondays, in much the same way Americans celebrate Labor Day or Memorial Day. It's too early to put a dollar figure on the potential savings, or to know how many Spaniards might take a vacation day in defiance or out of habit, and create a four-day weekend where they always had one. But the move could significantly boost productivity and outweigh potential losses for hotels, which benefit from domestic tourism with longer weekends, said Gayle Allard, an economist at Madrid's IE Business School who previously worked in Spain's banking sector. "We had problems being on the same schedule with other financial centers. Spaniards were working their traditional day, with the long lunch, and then they stay late at night," Allard said. "If they could kind of align working hours, drop the idea of the siesta and get rid of the puentes, it might actually be beneficial for Spaniards to work a more compact day and week, more similar to European hours." Many Spaniards lucky enough to have jobs these days are underemployed — law graduates working in restaurants, for example. And with a hiring freeze on public jobs, more and more Spaniards are working for hourly pay, with no benefits or job security. They're the ones who lose money on the puentes, among them electrician Ramirez, who doesn't get paid for time off. "I don't really want that relaxing day; I prefer to work," the 36-year-old said as he lined up to go through security early one recent morning to work at the Ministry of Public Works building in downtown Madrid. "I want to take my vacation when I want. So the puente, for me, it's an annoying thing." But for salaried workers, it's a different story. "The change doesn't really affect us office workers, because if we want a long weekend, we've still got plenty of vacation days," said Juan Carlos Yebra, a 38-year-old Web designer in Madrid. "But the puente is definitely a tradition here. Outside Spain, I have a feeling we might be famous for this," he said, laughing. "My co-worker, for example, is from England, and she's constantly saying, 'You're always on vacation!'"


Spain’s economy contracted in the fourth quarter and will shrink 1.5 percent this year,

Posted On 11:31 0 comments

 

Spain’s economy contracted in the fourth quarter and will shrink 1.5 percent this year, the Bank of Spain estimated, undermining government efforts to cut the budget deficit amid the second recession in two years. Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent in the quarter, the most in two years, and grew 0.3 percent from a year earlier, the Madrid-based Bank of Spain said today in its monthly bulletin. Economic output may decline this year as unemployment reaches 23.4 percent, returning to growth of 0.2 percent in 2013, the central bank said. The forecasts are based on the premise that the government will adopt additional austerity measures to meet its budget goals “strictly.” Spain’s new government, in power since Dec. 21, is aiming to reduce the budget deficit by about half this year even as the economy slumps. Spain is already in a recession, Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said on Jan. 18. Credit is shrinking at a record pace and the country has the highest unemployment in the European Union at 22.9 percent. “It’s going to be very difficult to meet the target but it all depends on what measures the government takes,” Jose Luis Martinez, a strategist for Spain at Citigroup Inc. in Madrid, said in a telephone interview. “The important thing is that brave steps are taken to allow for a stronger recovery.”


The King of Spain is a serial womaniser who once made a pass at Princess Diana while she was on holiday with Prince Charles, a book has claimed.

Posted On 09:39 2 comments


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Galicia offers attractive alternatives.

Posted On 19:17 0 comments

Since the Middle Ages, the Catholic faithful have flocked to Galicia in the far northwest of Spain to worship at the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.But a new sort of pilgrimage to Galicia is under way, this one prompted by the excellent potential of the region’s vineyards. As travelers along the Way of St. James know, Galicia can be a forbidding place. Before reaching Santiago, they have to cross mountainous badlands where temperatures can dip well below freezing. On the coast, the landscape turns green and fertile — thanks to torrential rains that can roll in off the Atlantic at any time.

But vines are hardy, often producing the best wines in extreme conditions. Those of Galicia are decidedly different from the stereotypical Spanish wines, those that ripen under a powerful Mediterranean sun, which packs them full of fruit and alcohol.

Rather than power, the wines of Galicia display a lively freshness and considerable elegance. They tend to be medium-bodied, with no more than 12 percent or 13 percent alcohol — unusually low at a time when reds with 16 percent are not uncommon and even whites sometimes top 14 percent. And they often contain a streak of what growers call “minerality” — a nebulous term that, to me, means the fruit doesn’t mask a sense of place.

As consumers grow weary of so-called blockbusters — big wines of indeterminate origin that stain your palate and leave you too dazed to drink a second glass — Galicia offers attractive alternatives.

“For people who say there are only blockbuster wines in Spain, this is the answer,” said Wim Van Leuven, an importer in Mol, Belgium, who specializes in Spanish wines. “It’s really the Atlantic side of winemaking in Spain.”

He added: “Galicia is like a laboratory for the new Spanish generation, even though you can’t make these kinds of wines elsewhere in Spain.”

One of the newcomers, Rafael Palacios, is a member of one of the proudest winemaking families in Spain, with its roots in the country’s best-known wine region, Rioja. An older brother, Alvaro, was the key figure in an earlier Spanish winemaking renaissance, in the 1990s, when he started making world-class reds in the Priorat region of Catalonia.

When Rafael Palacios saw the vineyards around O Bolo, a village in the rugged eastern stretches of Galicia, he saw a similar opportunity to raise the profile of the white wines of Spain.

Perched on precipitous slopes at altitudes of 800 meters or so, around 2,600 feet, these are among the most strikingly beautiful vineyards in Europe. They are also extremely difficult to work, requiring the construction and maintenance of an elaborate system of terraces to protect the soil against erosion. Over the years, many growers who were unable to make much of a living from wine had abandoned their vines.

But Mr. Palacios was convinced that he could make great wine here from the godello grape, a variety that is native to the mountains of Galicia. Godello is what is known as a “neutral” variety, without strong fruit flavors. Instead, in the hands of a skilled winemaker, it is a medium for the terroir to express itself.

After overcoming the suspicions of the locals, who saw Mr. Palacios as an outsider, he started buying up vineyards in O Bolo, the highest part of a wine-growing region called Valdeorras. Many of them contain old vines, which produce the most characterful wine; their gnarly beauty seems like a permanent feature of the craggy landscape.

Mr. Palacios set up his bodega, or winery, in 2004, and he now makes three wines, including an entry-level bottling and a premium offering that blends grapes from several top sites. With the 2009 vintage, he added a third wine, called Sorte O Soro, using grapes sourced solely from his favorite vineyard, near the highest point in O Bolo. (Sorte means “lot” in Galician.)

Tasting Sorte O Soro, which will not be available commercially until the spring, was a bit like spending a day in these vineyards. It is intensely flavored, with a structure and breadth reminiscent of good white Burgundy — a bit like the feel of the afternoon sun at these high altitudes.


UK ticketholder wins £41 Euromillions jackpot

Posted On 11:15 0 comments

 

Camelot said that the winner scooped the rollover jackpot of £40,627,241 in Friday night's draw although no one has yet come forward to claim the prize. A Camelot spokesman said: "This is fantastic news – we're absolutely delighted to have yet another huge EuroMillions win here in the UK. "We have plenty of champagne on ice and look forward to welcoming the lucky ticketholder into The National Lottery millionaires' club. "Over 2,800 people have become millionaires since The National Lottery began and, to date, our players have raised an amazing £27 billion and counting for National Lottery Good Causes." The success is the seventh biggest UK lottery win. The record is held by Colin and Chris Weir, from Largs, Scotland, who won £161 million on EuroMillions last July.


City drummer Robbie France dies aged 52

Posted On 08:02 0 comments

 

sheffield-born hard rock drummer Robbie France has died aged 52 at his home in south-east Spain, it has been reported. The Spanish national newsagency EFE quoted ‘family sources’ as saying that the musician, who played with such groups as Diamond Head, Alphaville, UFO, Skunk Anansie and Wishbone Ash, died on Saturday. It said he was buried on Wednesday at Puerto de Mazarron, in the province of Murcia, south of Alicante. Mr France had lived in the Costa Blanca resort for the past three years. He was born in Sheffield in 1959. In the 1970s he emigrated to Australia, returning to the UK in 1982 and joining the hard rock band Diamond Head. Three years later he became drummer with the UFO, replacing Andy Parker. He settled in Puerto Mazaron in 1998 after stints with Skunk Anansie and the German group Alphaville. Last year he published a novel, Six Degrees South, partly set in Mazarron. The report said that the family did not give the cause of death.


Pound Falls Versus Euro, Gilts Drop as France, Spain Sell Debt

Posted On 07:47 0 comments

 

The pound posted its biggest weekly decline against the euro in almost three months and gilts dropped as French and Spanish borrowing costs fell at their first debt auctions after their credit ratings were cut. The yield on 10-year gilts rose the most in four months as demand for the relative safety of AAA government bonds eased amid signs global growth hasn’t lost momentum. Reports this week showed U.K. retail sales rebounded in December while U.S. initial jobless claims fell to the least in almost four years. Further advances in gilt yields may be limited next week before a report predicted to show the U.K. economy contracted in the fourth quarter of last year. “There are worries that the U.K. economy is heading back into recession,” said Michael Derks, chief strategist at FXPro Financial Services Ltd. in London. “It would not be surprising to see further weakness of the pound against euro in the near term.”


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Ruling due in Costa del Sol bus crash

Posted On 10:43 0 comments

 

On Thursday afternoon, a Spanish court is to hand down the sentence in the case of a bus crash that left nine Finnish tourists dead in April 2008. The criminal court in Málaga is to sentence the driver of an SUV. The drunk driver caused the accident by crashing into the bus on a motorway on the Costa del Sol. Thirty-eight people were injured. The prosecutor is seeking a four-year prison term and a six-year driving ban for the man, who was 27 at the time.


A grisly event in South East Asia highlights the region's developing meth-driven drug war

Posted On 04:09 0 comments

 

The Mekong River in Thailand Photo via By Jed Bickman 10/11/11 | Share Uppers Rock the World New Life for Asia’s Golden Triangle China Unveils Radical New Approach to Drug Treatment Vietnam's Rehab Gulag Revealed Spinning to Cambodia! In one of the grisliest incidents of the drug war in South East Asia in recent memory, the corpses of thirteen Chinese sailors have been found by Thai authorities on the Mekong River. The victims, including two female cooks, were blindfolded, bound, and shot dead. They're believed to be the crew members of two Chinese cargo ships that were hijacked last week by Thai drug gangs—the boats were recaptured in a firefight with Thai police and 950,000 methamphetamine pills were discovered on board. It's unclear whether the meth was loaded onto the boats by the Thai gangs, or whether it was already being shipped from China. Thai military officials blame a drug trafficking ring led by 40-year-old kingpin Nor Kham—who operates out of northeast Burma and is a wanted man in both Burma and Thailand—for the attacks. Authorities speculate that the Chinese ships neglected to hand over protection money and paid the price. The Chinese government has reacted defensively, suspending cargo and passenger trips along the Mekong river. The region along the border of Burma, Laos, and Thailand—known as the “golden triangle”—is the center of methamphetamine production in Asia, although China has also produced vast amounts of meth since the 1990s. Ephedrine, the base of methamphetamine, is derived from a native Chinese herb—“mao,” AKA "yaba"—which has an important role in Chinese medicine. The UN estimates there are between 3.5 million and 20 million methamphetamine users in South East Asia: such a broad range only serves to illustrate how badly understood the problem is. In 2009, countries in South East Asia collectively reported a 250% jump in methamphetamine arrests, as well as an increasing trend of injecting methamphetamine, which leads to a corresponding jump in HIV and other diseases among users.


Arrested businessman had ‘double life’

Posted On 03:29 0 comments

 

A MAN, 36, was arrested in Albacete, southeast Spain, accused of the abduction and rape of several women. In Albacete, he was a respected businessman, with a wife and children, but in Madrid, he was wanted for the abduction of one woman, raping another and several robberies. His criminal ‘other life’ allegedly began in 2010 when he began to carry out burglaries when on business trips, mainly to obtain jewellery and cash, although he also kept ‘trophies’ from his victims. With time, he began to commit other crimes and in October he allegedly pointed a gun at a woman in the Chamartin district and kept her captive for 12 hours, threatening her to obtain her credit card numbers and sexually abusing her before letting her go. In November, wearing a balaclava he approached a woman at Barajas Airport, threatening her with a gun and forcing her into the boot of a car. She was able to alert a colleague and her husband with her mobile phone, and was rescued in the Madrid area of Torrejon de Ardoz. The attacker escaped but left behind a shotgun, an airgun and a machete. He was traced to a farmhouse he used to carry out his criminal activity which was guarded by six dogs. Police are now studying the ‘trophies’ he took to determine whether he was involved in other crimes. He has been remanded to prison charged with rape, illegal detention, robbery, illegal weapons possession, causing bodily harm and car theft. On the way to prison, he attempted to escape but was caught by police.


northern Spain is the place to go

Posted On 03:15 4 comments

Spain ranks as one of the most mountainous countries in Europe because – and this isn't obvious – the heart of the country sits on a huge plateau. Madrid is 2,100ft above sea level (which explains why the Spanish capital is so cold in the winter and roasting-hot in the summer).

 

But for impressive mountains, northern Spain is the place to go. If you're arriving here direct from the UK with Brittany Ferries – when you can bring your car to explore the region far and wide – the first thing to strike you as you approach the coast is the range of huge mountains that rears up behind the port of Santander.

The snow-capped peaks you're looking at are the Picos de Europa, one of the wildest and most unspoilt regions of Europe – superb walking country and a wonderful place for spotting wildlife.

Bears and wolves are said to roam here still, and you will almost certainly spot eagles soaring high in the sky. It's 'secret Spain', a holiday place far from the madding crowds of Benidorm or Torremolinos.

Here the accent is on a gentler-paced rural way of life. This is a Big Country in lots of ways – the coast, which runs from the French border in the east to the frontier with northern Portugal in the west – covers a distance of some 500 miles.

The northern provinces include some of the country's most historic places: Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Pais Vasco (Basque Country).

San Sebastian

Saints alive: San Sebastian can boast beaches - such as Concha Beach - every bit as inviting as the southern Costas

Together they make up what is known as Green Spain – green thanks to the large amounts of year-round rain. Unlike southern Spain, where good, unspoilt beaches are at a premium, along the northern coast you'll find endless stretches of long sandy ones, many of them hidden down coastal valleys of the sort familiar to anyone who has holidayed in Cornwall.

And inland, you'll be seduced by sweet countryside – small villages with traditional farms on green rolling hills flanked by mist-covered mountains. These are places steeped in Celtic tradition where the local version of the bagpipes provides a soundtrack to festivities, which are further enlivened by the region's potent cider and strong-smelling cheeses.

Northern Spain is also great wine country. This part of the country is, after all, home to the famous rioja grape variety. Rain in Spain actually falls mainly in the north and this helps produce some of the world's finest grapes – Professor Higgins would no doubt have been delighted.

Here are my five tips for a great holiday in northern Spain...

1. Paradors

The Spanish paradors are hotels offering good accommodation, most in buildings of historic or architectural interest, including former castles, palaces, fortresses, convents and monasteries.

Ones particularly worth seeking out in northern Spain include the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela – the finishing point for those who walk the Pilgrim's Way across northern Spain – and the popular Hostal San Marcos in Leon.

2. Seaside delights

In Santander, the seaside has a delightful Edwardian feel. Further along the coast to the east is San Sebastian, which has a Victorian elegance (it has been a favourite summer-escape destination for the Spanish royal family). All along the coast are a huge variety of small towns and fishing villages with great beaches (many with excellent surfing), lovely restaurants and good-value accommodation.

3. Great attractions

Bilbao has its own extraordinary outpost of the Guggenheim Museum; Santiago de Compostela boasts a cathedral with relics of St James; in the province of Cantabria you'll find arguably the best collection of cave paintings in the whole of Europe, with more than 50 sites, including some of enormous artistic quality and historical importance. They include Altamira, famous for paintings of boars, bison, deer and horses dating from the end of the Ice Age.

4. Take the train

Catch the FEVE narrow-gauge railway, one of the most spectacular lines in Europe. It runs along the coast between Bilbao in the east and El Ferrol in the west, travelling over dramatic viaducts and offering stunning views of the coast. The fares are cheap and travellers can jump off the train at picturesque bays and fishing ports.

Altamira cave

A load of old bull: Ancient paintings adorn the Altamira cave near Santander

5. Wonderful history

Discover cities that have fascinating historical connections with the UK.

Charles Wolfe's The Burial Of Sir John Moore After Corunna used to be a poem that British school children learnt by heart: 'Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, As his corpse to the rampart we hurried; Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot O'er the grave where our hero we buried…'

Nowadays Corunna is known as A Coruña. The city is a perfect short-break destination in its own right with great hotels and plenty of good restaurants and bars.

Travel Facts

Brittany Ferries (            0871 244 1400      www.brittanyferries.co.ukoperates luxurious cruise ferries to Spain with a choice of routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao. Travel to Spain with a one or two-night cruise on a luxury ferry and enjoy comfortable cabins and plenty of entertainment, including cinemas, swimming pool and quality restaurants.

Return fares for a car plus two people cost from £470 including en suite cabin accommodation.





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