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Sunday, 29 April 2012

former TOWIE star is on holiday in Marbella and made a big show of being sun safe during a day on the sand.

Posted On 23:55 9 comments


Maria Fowler appeared to have gotten a little distracted by her own assets as she slathered herself in sun cream on the beach today.

The former TOWIE star is on holiday in Marbella and made a big show of being sun safe during a day on the sand.

Maria, 25, ensured every last inch of skin was covered, requiring her to twist and turn to every angle - giving nearby photographer quite the view.

See something you like? Maria Fowler gets to grips with her cleavage during a day on the beach in Marbella

See something you like? Maria Fowler gets to grips with her cleavage during a day on the beach  in Marbella

Miss Fowler perched on a stone wall as she applied the sun cream to her body, clad in a skimpy leopard-print swimsuit.

 

 

Maria appeared rather in awe of her chest at one point, push her cleavage together and gazing downward.

Despite being on the beach, the reality star was fully accessorised with dangly earrings, bangles, and perfectly painted red nails.

Must be sun safe: The reality star ensured every inch of skin was protected with sun cream
Must be sun safe: The reality star ensured every inch of skin was protected with sun cream

Must be sun safe: The reality star ensured every inch of skin was protected with sun cream

Maria got a helping hand from a friendly passer-by across the hot sand, reaching back to ensure the cameras didn't catch too much.

Later, Maria appeared to be attempting to change from her leopard bikini into a pink one without getting undressed.

While switching swimsuits the bikinis became tangled, pulling down her bottoms to reveal a hint of cheek.

Can anybody give me a hand? Maria ensured absolutely every inch of skin was covered

Can anybody give me a hand? Maria ensured absolutely every inch of skin was covered

Maria is living it up in Spain in the aftermath of her break-up from footballer boyfriend Lee Croft.

And a holiday rebound romance appears to have perked her up again following the split.

Maria was pictured indulging in a passionate kiss with another sportsman last night in a nightclub in the holiday spot.

Bum note: Miss Fowler got a lift across the sand, before getting into a spot of bother with her wayward bikini bottoms
Bum note: Miss Fowler got a lift across the sand, before getting into a spot of bother with her wayward bikini bottoms

Bum note: Miss Fowler got a lift across the sand, before getting into a spot of bother with her wayward bikini bottoms

She was pictured getting hot and heavy with Liverpool striker Nathan Eccleston, before the pair left the bar, TIBU, hand in hand.

Maria jetted out to the Spanish hot spot on Thursday in a bid to try and get over the break up from Croft, who she had been dating since last year.

And by the looks of things - her plan has certainly worked.

Sun lover: The 25-year-old insisted she was tiring of the WAG lifestyle but obviously has a thing for footballers as she cosied up to Nathan
Sun lover: The 25-year-old insisted she was tiring of the WAG lifestyle but obviously has a thing for footballers as she cosied up to Nathan

Getaway: The 25-year-old jetted to Marbella this week in a bid to get over her split from ex-boyfriend Lee Croft

 

Post break-up body: Maria is showing off her slimmer physique after dropping pounds following the split from Lee

Post break-up body: Maria is showing off her slimmer physique after dropping pounds following the split from Lee

A source close to the reality star told MailOnline that the pair instantly hit it off and plan to meet up when they return home.

The source said: 'They got on so well, they just clicked. He is so much nicer than her last boyfriend. But she didn't go out to snag a footballer, she didn't even realise he was one. I am not sure if she knows now.

Maria revealed on Wednesday that she had split from Derby County player Lee two weeks ago, when he told her he wanted 'time to himself'.

 

 

Girl time: Maria has been joined by supportive girlfriends on the sunshine break

Girl time: Maria has been joined by supportive girlfriends on the sunshine break

 

She revealed how they were planning children and a wedding, while she admitted she was struggling to get over the split.

She said: 'It's been a really tough time for me. I changed my whole life to be with Lee and moved up to Scotland to be with him when he was signed by St Johnstone on loan.

'I thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together but Lee is not ready to settle down yet.'




Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Reopen Madeleine case, police urge

Posted On 15:38 0 comments

Scotland Yard has urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for Madeleine McCann as detectives said there are 195 potential leads to finding her alive. The detective leading the Metropolitan Police review said the case can still be solved before officers released a picture of what she might now look like as a nine-year-old. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said he believes her disappearance was a stranger abduction, as he said there are 195 "investigative opportunities". Police refused to say what evidence they had uncovered to suggest Madeleine is alive. Mr Redwood confirmed that his team of more than 30 officers involved in the case had been out to Portugal seven times, including a visit to the family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz. It will be five years ago next week since the three-year-old went missing as her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined with friends nearby. A spokesman for the McCanns said the family was pleased with the image. Mr Redwood said his 37 officers had dealt with 40,000 pieces of information but the "primacy still sits in Portugal" in the attempt to find her. Commander Simon Foy said: "Most significantly, the message we want to bring to you is that, on the evidence, there is a possibility that she is alive and we desperately need your help today to appeal directly to the public for information to support our investigation." Mr Redwood said "evidence that she is alive stems from the forensic view of the timeline" that there was the opportunity for her to be taken. Investigations show "there do appear to be gaps", he added. Detectives in Portugal are also understood to want the case reopened but must gain judicial approval via the courts.


Insecure websites to be named and shamed after checks

Posted On 15:26 0 comments

Companies that do not do enough to keep their websites secure are to be named and shamed to help improve security. The list of good and bad sites will be published regularly by the non-profit Trustworthy Internet Movement (TIM). A survey carried out to launch the group found that more than 52% of sites tested were using versions of security protocols known to be compromised. The group will test websites to see how well they have implemented basic security software. Security fundamentals The group has been set up by security experts and entrepreneurs frustrated by the slow pace of improvements in online safety. "We want to stimulate some initiatives and get something done," said TIM's founder Philippe Courtot, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of security firm Qualys. He has bankrolled the group with his own money. TIM has initially focused on a widely used technology known as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Experts recruited to help with the initiative include SSL's inventor Dr Taher Elgamal; "white hat" hacker Moxie Marlinspike who has written extensively about attacking the protocol; and Michael Barrett, chief security officer at Paypal. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade” Philippe Courtot Many websites use SSL to encrypt communications between them and their users. It is used to protect credit card numbers and other valuable data as it travels across the web. "SSL is one of the fundamental parts of the internet," said Mr Courtot. "It's what makes it trustworthy and right now it's not as secure as you think." Compromised certificates TIM plans a two-pronged attack on SSL. The first part would be to run automated tools against websites to test how well they had implemented SSL, said Mr Courtot. "We'll be making it public," he added. "Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade." Early tests suggest that about 52% of sites checked ran a version of SSL known to be compromised. Companies who have done a bad job will be encouraged to improve and upgrade their implementations so it gets safer to use those sites. The second part of the initiative concerns the running of the bodies, known as certificate authorities, which guarantee that a website is what it claims to be. TIM said it would work with governments, industry bodies and companies to check that CAs are well run and had not been compromised. "It's a much more complex problem," said Mr Courtot. In 2011, two certificate authorities, DigiNotar and GlobalSign were found to have been compromised. In some cases this meant attackers eavesdropped on what should have been a secure communications channel. Steve Durbin, global vice president of the Information Security Forum which represents security specialists working in large corporations, said many of its members took responsibility for making sure sites were secure. "You cannot just say 'buyer beware'," he said. "That's not good enough anymore. They have a real a duty of care." He said corporations were also increasingly conscious of their reputation for providing safe and secure services to customers. Data breaches, hack attacks and poor security were all likely to hit share prices and could mean they lose customers, he noted.


Anti-depressants likely do more harm than good, study suggests

Posted On 13:44 0 comments

Commonly prescribed anti-depressants appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the entire body. See Also: Health & Medicine Pharmacology Birth Defects Mental Health Research Mind & Brain Depression Disorders and Syndromes Psychiatry Reference COX-2 inhibitor Psychoactive drug Seasonal affective disorder Anti-obesity drug "We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs," says Paul Andrews, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University and lead author of the article, published recently in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology. "It's important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they're safe and effective." Andrews and his colleagues examined previous patient studies into the effects of anti-depressants and determined that the benefits of most anti-depressants, even taken at their best, compare poorly to the risks, which include premature death in elderly patients. Anti-depressants are designed to relieve the symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, where it regulates mood. The vast majority of serotonin that the body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion, forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction and development. What the researchers found is that anti-depressants have negative health effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin. The findings include these elevated risks: developmental problems in infants problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly The authors reviewed three recent studies showing that elderly anti-depressant users are more likely to die than non-users, even after taking other important variables into account. The higher death rates indicate that the overall effect of these drugs on the body is more harmful than beneficial. "Serotonin is an ancient chemical. It's intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it's going to cause some harm," Andrews says. Millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants every year, and while the conclusions may seem surprising, Andrews says much of the evidence has long been apparent and available. "The thing that's been missing in the debates about anti-depressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects," he says. "Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue." In previous research, Andrews and his colleagues had questioned the effectiveness of anti-depressants even for their prescribed function, finding that patients were more likely to suffer relapse after going off their medications as their brains worked to re-establish equilibrium. With even the intended function of anti-depressants in question, Andrews says it is important to look critically at their continuing use. "It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs," he says. "You've got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects -- some small, some rare and some not so rare. The issue is: does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?"


Madeleine McCann, the British girl who went missing while on holiday in Portugal half a decade ago, could still be alive, Scotland Yard said on Wednesday.

Posted On 11:32 0 comments

Madeleine McCann as she might look aged 9
Madeleine McCann as she might look aged 9  Photo: Teri Blythe

Detectives released a new “age progression” image of the toddler, which they said showed what she would look like today at the age of nine.

On Wednesday, Britain’s biggest police force said that as a result of evidence uncovered during a review “they now believe there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive”.

Officers have so far identified nearly 200 new items for investigation within historic material and are also “developing what they believe to be genuinely new material”.

Scotland Yard urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for her amid the new "investigative opportunities".

Police said the image, created ahead of what would have been her ninth birthday on May 12, had been created in “close collaboration with the family”.


Dengue Fever Asian Mosquito Could Invade UK

Posted On 08:30 0 comments

Asian Tiger Mosquito

The mosquito can carry dengue and chikungunya viruses

 

A mosquito that spreads tropical diseases including dengue fever may be poised to invade the UK because of climate change.

The Asian tiger mosquito has already been reported in France and Belgium and could be migrating north as winters become warmer and wetter.

Scientists have urged "wide surveillance" for the biting insect across countries of central and northern Europe, including the UK.

The mosquito can carry dengue and chikungunya viruses, both of which cause high fevers. The infections usually occur in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America.

Scientists led by Dr Samantha Martin, from the University of Liverpool, used climate models to predict how changing conditions might affect Asian tiger mosquito distribution.

They wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface: "Mosquito climate suitability has significantly increased over the southern UK, northern France, the Benelux, parts of Germany, Italy, Sicily and the Balkan countries."

The research shows that parts of the UK could become hot-spots of Asian tiger mosquito activity between 2030 and 2050.

The mosquito has been introduced into Europe from Asia via goods shipments, mainly used tyres and bamboo.

Climate change is now shifting conditions suitable for the insect from southern Europe to central north-western areas.

The mosquito could survive in water butts and vases, and may find winter protection in greenhouses, said the researchers.


Europe Spain economy domino

Posted On 08:10 0 comments

Just when you thought the world economy might be improving, along comes Spain. It's Europe's next economic domino, struggling to cope with big budget deficits, massive unemployment and an angry public. Will it fail -- and, if so, with what consequences? As it happens, the $80 trillion world economy splits roughly 50-50 between advanced countries (the United States, Europe, Japan and a few others) and developing countries (China, India, most of Asia, Africa and Latin America). Since the financial crisis, the advanced economies have struggled. In 2012, they will grow a meager 1.4 percent, forecasts the International Monetary Fund. Much of Europe is in recession; the United States (up 2.1 percent) and Japan (2 percent) grow slightly. Although developing countries have done much better, their economies are now slowing, too. The reason: Rapid growth raised inflation. In China, inflation went from 3.3 percent in 2010 to 5.4 percent in 2011. India's inflation peaked at 12 percent. So central banks in these and other countries (their Federal Reserves) boosted interest rates to dampen price increases. Robert Samuelson Recent columns Related More syndicated columnists and views Join the conversation on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Topics Spain Europe Finance See more topics » If Spain's crisis deepens Europe's recession, it could tip the entire world economy into a stubborn slump. The ramifications would be enormous, including: reduced odds of Barack Obama's re-election, 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."


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

exploding the common myths about which foods are good for us

Posted On 04:59 0 comments

Myth: Salt in your diet causes high blood pressure

In the 1940s, Walter Kempner, a researcher at Duke University, North Carolina, became famous for using salt restriction to treat people with high blood pressure. Later, studies confirmed that reducing salt could help reduce hypertension. But you don't have to avoid salt entirely, says Sara Stanner, of the Nutrition Society. "Adults need a small amount of sodium in their diet to maintain the body's fluid balance."

Average salt intakes have come down in recent years, mainly due to product reformulation. But it's still the case that many of us consume too much salt – around 9g a day instead of the maximum recommended dose of 6g per day – around 75 per cent of which is in processed foods such as soups, sauces, sandwiches and processed meat.

"People often think it's really bad to add salt into cooking or on to your plate, but that forms no more than 10 per cent of your total intake," says Stanner. "So you can get people who never have salt at their table, but have a very high salt intake, while others put salt on most meals, but have a lower intake."

Myth: Carbohydrates are bad for you

"Carbohydrate-rich foods are an ideal source of energy. They can also provide a lot of fibre and nutrients," says Sara Stanner. "Potatoes, for instance, are one of the best sources of vitamin C, yet potato consumption in the UK has fallen considerably."

One of the main reasons carbohydrates have fallen out of favour is that they are perceived to be fattening. "Foods high in carbohydrates have had a rough time in the past few years, thanks to the success of low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet," explains Juliette Kellow.

"But there's no proof that carb-rich foods are more likely to make us gain weight than any other food. Ultimately, it's an excess of calories that makes us pile on the pounds – and it really doesn't matter where those extra calories come from. More often than not, it's the fat we add to carbs that boosts the calorie content, such as butter on toast, creamy sauces with pasta and frying potatoes to make chips."

Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy

In a study by the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, slimmers on low- calorie diets which included cheese, yoghurt and milk lost more weight than those on low-dairy diets. Those on the diet including dairy also had the least stomach fat, lower blood pressure and a significantly better chance of avoiding heart disease and diabetes.

Dairy products are packed with essential nutrients that help keep us healthy, says Juliette Kellow. "As well as being good sources of protein, zinc and some B vitamins, dairy products are packed with calcium, a mineral that helps to build strong, healthy bones – and the stronger the bones are, the less likely you'll be to suffer from osteoporosis in later life."

There are loads of low-fat versions of dairy, such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurts and reduced-fat cheeses, she says – and low-fat versions don't mean less calcium. "Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk actually contain slightly more calcium than full-fat milk."

Myth: Red meat is bad for you

Publishing what it called "the most authoritative ever report of bowel cancer risk" last year, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended that people limit their intake of red meat to 500g a week, or just over a pound in weight. The net result of such studies is always the same – people panic.

But 500g is roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork. "Red meat is a valuable source of minerals and vitamins, particularly iron, and we know that large numbers of women have such low intakes of this nutrient that they're at risk of anaemia. There's no need for people to think, 'I should be eating fish' when they have a steak,' provided they eat it in moderation," says Sarah Schenker.

Another myth about red meat is that it's high in fat, says Juliette Kellow, dietitian and advisor to Weight Loss Resources. "Thanks to modern breeding programmes and new trimming techniques, red meat is now leaner than ever.

Processed meat of all kinds, however, should be avoided.

Myth: Fresh is always better than frozen

Frozen fruit and vegetables can be more healthy than fresh. "Research shows that freezing vegetables such as peas as soon as they're picked – when they are at their nutritional peak – means they retain higher levels of vitamins, particularly vitamin C," says Sarah Schenker. "Once frozen, the deterioration process stops, locking in goodness. The fresh variety often travel long distances and sit on grocery shelves and along the way, heat, air, water and time can lead to a significant loss of nutrients."

Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can also be as nutritious as fresh ones, if not more so. Again, they are often packaged within hours of being picked, retaining their nutritional value. "Always check salt and sugar levels though by comparing labels," says Sarah Schenker, of the British Dietitic Association. Even dried fruit can be healthier than fresh. "When you eat dried fruit you usually eat more than the fresh equivalent – for instance six dried apricots instead of three fresh ones. This is more calorific but you get a bigger amount of nutrients," says Schenker.

Myth: Soy eases menopausal problems

For years, the fact that Asian women have fewer menopausal symptoms has been attributed to high levels of soy in their diet. Soy products such as tofu contain natural plant oestrogens and there have been increasing claims that these might help women going through the menopause whose own oestrogen levels are dwindling.

But a University of Miami study has found that soy does nothing to abate hot flushes and bone-density loss. In fact, the women given soy appeared to experience more hot flushes than those given a placebo.

Experts including Dr Malcolm Whitehead, a menopause expert at King's College Hospital in London, aren't surprised. "In my clinical experience, women say this doesn't work for them," he says, adding that HRT is a safe and effective treatment for most women.

Others point to previous studies showing that soy can work, but the British Dietetic Association's Sarah Schenker, says, "This research has always been weak. People got excited about those early small studies, but the more research that was done, the more doubts appeared."

Myth: Brown bread is better for you than white

A darker loaf of bread does not necessarily mean it's made with whole grains – it could simply contain caramel colouring or such a small amount of whole wheat that its nutritional benefits are no different to white bread. "The real health benefits come from eating wholemeal bread instead of white," says Sarah Schenker.

Wholemeal is made from flour containing all the goodness of wheat grains. The outer husk has not been removed, so the resulting bread is much richer in fibre, protein and vitamins B1, B2, niacin, B6, folic acid and biotin. Brown bread, in contrast, is made from finely milled wheat, from which the bran has been extracted.

Look for the words "whole grain" or "100% whole wheat" on packaging and ensure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, oats, whole rye, whole grain corn, barley, quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice. Seeded bread is even better, since it contains even more vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

Myth: Everyone needs a lot of protein

Protein is essential for growth and development, but experts agree that most people eat far too much of it. "The Department of Health recommends that protein should make up around 10-15 per cent of your daily diet – that's around 55g for men and 45g for women," dietitian Azmina Govindji says. "Yet, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, men are probably munching their way through an average of 88g and women around 64g."

So what's fuelling this notion that we need so much? "Some diets, such as the Atkins diet, advocate speedy weight loss on cutting the carbs and piling on the proteins", Govindji says.

Another contributory factor is that in the past, it was believed nobody could eat too much protein. In the early 1900s, people were told to eat well over 100g a day and in the 1950s, health-conscious people were encouraged to boost their protein intake. But high protein can put a strain on liver and kidneys and other bodily systems.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

police hunt for Michael Brown's missing millions

Posted On 22:09 0 comments

British police are still trying to trace £18m allegedly stolen by the Liberal Democrats' fugitive donor Michael Brown, who is expected to be extradited to Britain within the next 10 days. Brown, 46, was in a holding cell near Madrid airport on Sunday, having been deported from the Dominican Republic, where he had been on the run from UK authorities for three years. Brown, who gave £2.4m to the Liberal Democrats before the 2005 general election, is not expected to challenge a formal move to extradite him to London which has already been set in motion. He was convicted of theft and false accounting in his absence in Britain in 2008 and sentenced to seven years in jail. Detectives are still trying to trace around £18m of Brown's stolen money, which had been moved between his accounts in the US, Britain and Switzerland, the Guardian understands. Brown was estimated to have stolen more than £60m in a number of frauds. Most of his assets have been accounted for in property deals, a Bentley, a yacht and the private jet once used to fly senior Lib Dems across the UK. However, more than £18m has not yet been accounted for. "The file at Interpol on Brown and his associates remains open," a source told the Guardian. Brown's return will be another embarrassing development in the long-running saga over the Lib Dems' biggest single donation. The party has refused to compensate any of Brown's victims, claiming it received the money in good faith and spent it on the 2005 election campaign. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg welcomed Brown's return to Britain but said on Sunday that the party would not be returning his donation because the Electoral Commission had concluded the money had been received in good faith. The deputy prime minister, who pointed out that the donation was made before he was elected to Westminster, told BBC1's Sunday Politics: "I'm very pleased he's coming back to serve his sentence. This is a convicted fraudster. "I should stress that this is something which happened as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned before I was even an MP, yet alone leader of the Liberal Democrats. What I've been told is that the Electoral Commission in 2009 looked at this exhaustively – as far as the receipt of that money by the Liberal Democrats from one of his companies. They categorically concluded that the money was received in good faith and all the controls, all the checks that should have been made were reasonably made by the Liberal Democrats at the time. If we'd been shown wanting on those accounts then of course we should pay the money back." But Brown's return will increase focus on the Electoral Commission inquiry into Brown's donations. The inquiry failed to call the Lib Dems' former treasurer, Reg Clark, who resigned over Brown in 2005 and warned advisers to the former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy that Brown should be treated with extreme caution. One of Brown's victims said the Lib Dems should return the money. Tony Brown, managing partner at law firm Bivonas which represents US attorney Robert Mann who lost more than $5m (£3m), said Brown may be asked to give evidence as part of his client's claim against the Lib Dems. "The Lib Dems have refused to repay this money to our client even though they know that this is the proceeds of crime. The Electoral Commission has failed to investigate this properly in our view. So now that Brown is returning to the jurisdiction, we can investigate again and establish the basis on which the Lib Dems received this money." Brown is expected to appear before a Spanish court to confirm his name and will then appear before an extradition hearing within 10 days. City of London police, who first uncovered Brown's fraud, confirmed his deportation. Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart said: "We hope that him facing justice will bring some closure to the victims who suffered as a result of his frauds." A close friend of Brown's told the Guardian on Sunday that he had arrived in Spain on Saturday after "volunteering" for deportation from the Dominican Republic, where he has been hiding for three years under the name of Darren Nally. "He asked to return to Britain. He is going home to face the music," the friend said. Brown appeared to come from nowhere when the party was paid £2.4m in the runup to the 2005 election from his company 5th Avenue Partners. A fast-talking and brash Glaswegian, he had walked into the party's then headquarters in Cowley Street and offered it money. He was not registered to vote, had no interest in politics and had never been a party member, but said he was giving the money to create an even playing field. Brown wined and dined with Charles Kennedy and other party grandees, and used his private jet to fly Kennedy across the country during the election campaign. Former Lib Dem insiders say he dazzled them with stories of Gordonstoun public school, St Andrews University and his connections with royalty and the US government. The truth was that he had attended his local school and completed a City and Guilds in catering at Glasgow College of Food Technology. He had no US government links – although he was wanted in Florida for cheque fraud. He was arrested in late 2005 after four former clients said he had duped them out of more than £40m in a high-yield fraud. His victims included Martin Edwards, the former Manchester United chairman, who had invested £8m with 5th Avenue Partners. The court would later be told that 5th Avenue Partners was wholly fraudulent and Brown had given money to the Lib Dems to give himself an air of respectability while duping his victims. The party had been used as part of his cover story, a judge said. In June 2008, while awaiting trial, Brown fled and a warrant was issued for his arrest. In the weeks before he disappeared, from his Hampstead bail address in north London, he changed his name on the electoral roll to Campbell-Brown and allowed his hair to turn grey. He travelled to the Dominican Republic where he enjoyed a millionaire's lifestyle while on the run. He lived in gated communities yards from some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, drove a series of 4x4 vehicles and was a regular at exclusive golf courses. In Punta Cana, an exclusive resort on the eastern tip of the island, he could often be seen walking his dog – named Charles, after the former Lib Dem leader. He was arrested in Punta Cana in January on unrelated fraud allegations.


Donaldson enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Marbella and Tenerife, trafficking accused found hiding in loft with £70k in cash

Posted On 11:52 0 comments

 A SUSPECTED drug trafficker was found by police hiding in a farmhouse loft in Scotland with a bag stuffed with £70,000, a Spanish court was told last week. Ian Donaldson, 32, is accused of helping fund an international drugs ring smuggling cocaine and speed from Spain to Scotland The former amateur racing driver – who drove a Lamborghini with the distinctive Lambo 88 plate – was tracked down to the farm by officers from the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency. Donaldson – who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Marbella and Tenerife– is one of six Brits facing court in Madrid accused of making millions from the drugs trade. Detective Inspector James Wallace of the SCDEA told the court: “I arrested him on February 27, 2009. He was hiding in a loft area in a farm building. We also found £70,000 hidden in a bag.” Eight SCDEA detectives gave evidence to the National Court in the Spanish capital last week via a video link from Edinburgh. The court heard Scottish police mounted a surveillance operation after Donaldson, from Renton, Dunbartonshire, was released on bail. Detectives watched him in a series of meetings in Glasgow and Hamilton in April 2009, as he tried to hide the origins of his fortune, prosecutors allege. Donaldson met with fellow accused Mary Hendry and Joseph Campbell and was observed discussing large sums of money and swapping paperwork for a nightclub in Gran Canaria. It was alleged they were secretly plotting to make it look like Donaldson had made some of his wealth from the club. Meetings took place at supermarkets in Glasgow and Hamilton and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. DI Wallace told the court: “We saw he (Donaldson) was creating a defence for the Spanish charges. “I believe they (Hendry and Campbell) were both subservient to Donaldson, who instructed them on what to do.” The detective said Donaldson and his company IRD Services were also investigated for money- laundering in Scotland. He added: “There is evidence he purchased seven vehicles in Scotland, worth up to £900,000, between 2006 and 2008.” Mary Hendry told the court she only met Donaldson twice for legitimate business meetings. She said: “Joseph Campbell introduced me to Ian Donaldson because I was trying to sell my restaurant. “I met him the next day and he said he was not interested. I never saw him again.” It is alleged Donaldson was the money man for a gang of drug smugglers based in Tenerife and Marbella, led by Glaswegian Ronald O’Dea, 45. The gang are alleged to have spent millions on luxury villas, fast cars and yachts. In October 2008, police seized a a haul of amphetamines worth £660,000 heading to Scotland after stopping a lorry in Oxfordshire. Donaldson, Hendry and O’Dea share the dock in Madrid with fellow Scot James MacDonald, 62, and Londoners Steve Brown, 45, and Deborah Learmouth, 49. The gang face charges ranging from drug-trafficking to money-laundering. They deny all charges. Two other defendants – Brian Rawlings and Joseph Campbell – failed to show up at the trial. The judges will give their verdict at a later date.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Health Minister announces crackdown on foreigners using the Spanish Health Service

Posted On 00:59 0 comments


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’.


Ryanair threatens surcharge on flights to Spain

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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”.


Friday, 20 April 2012

France and Germany want to suspend the Shengen Agreement

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They say they want a temporary suspension while the crisis continues. Spain will being introducing border restrictions during the European Central Bank meeting in Barcelona at the start of May.Angela Merkel and Nicolás Sarkozy - The Interior Ministers of France and Germany have written a joint letter in which they call for the reform of, and ‘temporary suspension’ of the Schengen agreement which allows for the free movement between most member states of the EU. They say the change is necessary ‘to control the massive flow of immigrants’. The call comes just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the treaty this coming Monday, although many countries signed up in March 1995. France and Germany consider that a ‘temporary suspension’ is needed during the crisis, and Paris and Berlin speak of ‘provisional’ closure of frontiers, and only when a country in the Schengen space cannot control the flow of immigrants. They say they will give the details to their European partners at the next conference. Meanwhile Spain has announced the suspension of the Schengen Treaty and the re-establishing of frontier controls with France ahead of the European Central Bank meeting which is to be held in Barcelona on May 3. It has not yet been decided how long the border restriction will remain in place, but say it will allow the authorities to act if there is ‘a serious threat to public order or interior security’. The measure will only affect the frontiers between Spain and France from the Basque Country to Cataluña. Reports indicate that it was the Catalan Government to step up the controls in the face of possible disturbances and the arrival of anti-system protestors from other countries in Europe.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Phone data shows romance 'driven by women'

Posted On 17:27 0 comments

 

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.


Secret Service scandal sheds light on sex tourism in Latin America

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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.”


Sex Robots Will Revolutionize Sex Tourism,

Posted On 00:44 1 comments

 

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

10 things not to say to someone when they're ill

Posted On 17:00 6 comments

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.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Energy-rich Qatar seeks la dolce vita with purchase of luxury resorts on Italy’s Sardinia isle

Posted On 08:44 0 comments


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.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Surf Air: Can an all-you-can-fly airline possibly work?

Posted On 07:25 2 comments

 

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.


Worrying is good for you and reflects higher IQ

Posted On 07:07 0 comments

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.


Eating nuts can help stave off obesity, says study

Posted On 06:58 0 comments

 

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 heads to Marbella

Posted On 14:48 0 comments


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


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Pensioner shoots himself at Greek Parliament, refuses to 'search for food in garbage'

Posted On 15:38 0 comments


77-year-old Greek man has committed suicide in central Athens by the nation’s parliament, shooting himself with a handgun in apparent financial desperation. Eyewitness reports say that the man shouted “So I won’t leave debts for my children” before turning the gun on himself. Others claimed he said nothing. Greek state media reports the man left a suicide note saying “The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival. And since I cannot find justice, I cannot find another means to react besides putting a decent end [to my life], before I start searching the garbage for food." Georgios Tsolakoglou headed the Greek collaborationist government during the German occupation of Greece in the Second World War. The note has been widely regarded as drawing a parallel between Lucas Papademos’ current collaborationist government and Tsolakoglou’s regime because of the economic crisis in the country. The incident occurred around 9 am (local time) in Syntagma Square, just outside a metro station, when the area was filled with people and commuters. The man took his life behind a big tree, which concealed him from most eyes. Two people sitting on a bench some 10 meters away have been questioned by the police. An investigation into a motive has been opened. The pensioner, whose name is not yet released, appears to have been a pharmacist who owned a drugstore in Athens, which he later had to sell, Lourantos Costas, the head of the Attica Pharmacist’s Association told the Greek daily The City Press. The shocked Greek community is issuing calls for a "Syntagma afternoon" later on Wednesday. Motorcyclists are planning a protest ride around the capital starting at 17:30 local time (14:30 GMT). ‘Who’s next?’ People are bringing flowers to the tree under which the desperate old man took his own life. They also leave messages on the tree: "Austerity kills," "Not a suicide; a murder” or “Who’s gonna be next?” The number of suicides has dramatically increased in the country since the beginning of the economic crisis, shows data released by the Greek Health Ministry. Prior to the economic downturn Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 for every 100,000 inhabitants. Now, this figure has almost doubled, with police reporting over 600 suicide cases in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Attempted suicides are also on the up. Just on Tuesday, a 38-year-old Albanian man killed himself on the island of Crete. He had been unemployed for some time. The financial hardship made him jump off his second-floor balcony, reported local news. The private sector is proving to be no safe haven either, as in the last few months several businessmen have fatally shot themselves. To secure loan payments to foreign investors, Greece has been forced to drastically cut state spending by slashing public salaries and pensions by almost 40 per cent, while the unemployment rate has hit 21 per cent. But so far the Greek government has failed to pull the country out of its three-year economic downturn and continues to rack up austerity measures to qualify for EU bailout packages.


New info about statin safety affects millions

Posted On 07:07 1 comments


U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new safety information about these cholesterol-lowering drugs that are prescribed to millions of Americans to lower the risk of heart disease. If you're among them, you should understand what the FDA's new guidance means for your health. "Before anyone gets too concerned, you should know that statins are so widely used because they have a long track record of safety and effectiveness," says Dr. Mark Taber, a cardiologist with SSM Heart Institute at St. Joseph Health Center. "All in all, statins have a very high benefit to risk ratio. The widespread use of the drugs, when indicated, probably accounts to a significant degree for the improvement in life expectancy in this country." The FDA called attention to the threat of liver damage as a rare side effect of statins and advised that regular liver enzyme testing is no longer considered useful in predicting or preventing liver injury. "Actually, in general they liberalized the follow up needed for liver function tests on patients taking statins, due to the very low incidence of true liver issues," Taber says. The main warnings related to a slightly higher incidence of developing diabetes while on statins, and a poorly substantiated claim that statins could result in cognitive impairment. Taber points out that cognitive problems, such as confusion or memory problems, were not documented in clinical studies, only by patient reports to the FDA website. "By stating these concerns, the FDA is raising awareness about the potential side effects of statins, but cardiologists already know that there are inherent risks, and we monitor patients appropriately to help ensure that side effects do not occur or are dealt with quickly," Taber notes. "If there is any evidence of a side effect that could be problematic, we can change the medication. But the fact remains that it's important to decrease risk of heart disease, and for many people statins are needed when diet and exercise alone don't result in acceptable cholesterol levels." Whenever a new prescription medication is started, you should look over the package insert to learn about potential side effects. Signs of liver damage, for instance, include fatigue, loss of appetite, right upper abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice. Any of these symptoms should be reported to your doctor for evaluation. It is important to remember that you should not stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first. Discontinuing use of a prescribed drug can be far more dangerous than the side effect you're worried about. "All the side effects listed by the FDA are rare, and the risk of heart attack is far more concerning," Taber says. "Some patients may need extra monitoring or may need to try more than one statin before we find the optimal choice, but in general statins are very well tolerated and don't cause problems for the people who take them." The advice above is universal when it comes to your health. Concerns should be discussed with your doctor, and decisions should always be made as part of a team approach to creating a healthy life.


Why don't GPS warn you that statins can harm your memory?

Posted On 06:58 0 comments


John Holliday had been on a higher 40mg dose of cholesterol pills for only a few weeks when he started to lose his concentration. ‘I’d be watching TV and suddenly find myself unable to follow the plot of a drama,’ says John, 52, a telecoms project manager who lives in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, with his wife Jill, 51, and their two children Adam, 20, and Emma, 16. ‘I’d have to read the same page of a book over and over because I couldn’t take any information in. ‘I’d always been known for my amazing memory — I was great on trivia and had total recall of events that happened 20 years ago, but suddenly I couldn’t remember things and my brain felt fuzzy.’ Just like up to seven million other people in Britain, John had been prescribed a statin to lower his blood cholesterol levels. The drugs are credited by the British Heart Foundation as contributing towards the dramatic 50 per cent fall in deaths from heart attacks in the past ten years. But while there is consensus that statins are lifesavers for people who have previously had a heart attack, concern is growing over their debilitating side-effects. They include muscle weakness, depression, sleep disturbance, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain and damage, gastro-intestinal problems, headaches, joint pains and nausea. Now, official bodies here and in the U.S. have ordered that the drugs must carry warnings for cognitive problems, too. Worryingly, it’s claimed GPs are failing to warn patients of the effect statins can have on the mind — meaning they may mistake them for signs of ageing or Alzheimer’s. ‘When I went back to my doctor after six weeks for a blood test, I told him how dreadful I was feeling,’ says John. ‘But he just said all drugs had side-effects and didn’t mention reducing the dose.’ It's claimed GPs are failing to warn patients of the effect statins can have on the mind - meaning they may mistake them for signs of ageing or Alzheimer's Things came to a head when a friend showed John an electrical circuit he’d built for his car. ‘I’d worked with circuits since I was 16 but it made no sense,’ he says. So John insisted on seeing his doctor again and repeated his concerns about his rapidly declining memory. This time the GP told him he could start on another type of statin when he felt well enough, and so John stopped taking the drugs immediately. ‘It took a few months, but gradually my memory returned and I’ve got my concentration back. I can’t say for sure statins caused these problems, but it seems like too much of a coincidence.’ Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. ordered statins must carry warnings that some users have reported cognitive problems including memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion. This followed a decision by the UK’s Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to add memory problems to the list of  possible statin side-effects in late 2009. The FDA said reports about the symptoms were from across all statin products and age groups. Those affected reported feeling fuzzy or unfocused in their thought process — though these were found to be rare and reversible. The FDA also warned, following U.S. research, that patients on statins had a small excess risk of developing Type 2 diabetes — but stressed that the benefits of taking a statin still outweigh this. The MHRA had 2,675 reports for adverse drug reactions connected with statins between 2007 and 2011. Officially, side-effects are rare —affecting only 1 per cent of people on the pills — but some doctors say they are under-reported. Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP and author of The Great Cholesterol Con, says he frequently sees patients suffering from mental confusion in his job in hospital intermediary care for the elderly. ‘Many of the patients I see will have been admitted to hospital after a fall or similar crisis,’ he says. ‘If they appear confused I’ll often advise taking them off statins to see if it has any effect — in my experience, about 10 to 15 per cent of people who appeared to have memory problems experienced an improvement in their memory symptoms after being taken off the drug. ‘I had one dramatic case where a lady was admitted to hospital on 40mg a day of simvastatin with such poor memory function her family asked me about power of attorney. 'I suggested taking her off statins and within a week her memory had returned to normal. She went home a fit and independent 83-year-old.’ Dr Kendrick says cholesterol is the main constituent of synapses (structures that allow signals to pass between brain cells and to create new memories) and is essential for brain function. ‘It is still not proven that statins have a significant effect on mortality — it has been calculated that a man who has had a heart attack who took a statin for five years would extend his life by only 14 days. 'Too many statins are being given to people at low risk. ‘Even in the highest risk group you need to treat 200 people a year with statins to delay just one death. 'One day the harm these drugs are doing is going to be obvious — the benefits are being over-hyped and the risks swept under the carpet.’ While Dr Kendrick’s controversial view is in the minority, one large review of 14 studies by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published by the highly respected Cochrane Library last year, concluded there was ‘little evidence’ cholesterol-lowering drugs protect people who are not at risk of heart disease. This review has been criticised by other doctors who say side-effects are rare and that there are still benefits even for people at lower risk who do not have established heart disease. These defenders of statins include Professor Colin Baigent of the Clinical Trial Service at Oxford University, who published research in 2010 showing statins reduced deaths from all causes by 10 per cent over five years. ‘There is relatively little evidence of cognitive impairment — what evidence there is all comes from observational studies.  ‘People read about side-effects and then put two and two together and blame the statins for their muscle pain or other health problems — it’s just not reliable evidence. ‘If you look at the best-quality randomised controlled trial where patients don’t know if they are taking a statin or placebo, there is no evidence of memory problems. 'Even the FDA says the risks of cognitive problems are very small and go away when statins are discontinued. ‘We’re in danger of forgetting just how effective these drugs are.’ Dr Dermot Neely of the charity Heart UK, and lead consultant at the Lipid and Metabolic Clinic at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, agrees side-effects with statins are rare. ‘I’ve been dealing with patients on statins since 1987 and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number whose memory symptoms turned out to be caused by statins.’ However, he said he often saw patients who had not been told about side-effects. ‘It’s important GPs are clear about the drugs statins can interact with, such as certain antibiotics, as this can get overlooked. ‘If a patient notices an adverse effect after starting statins, they should discuss this with their GP —but not stop their drugs suddenly because this can be dangerous.’ Sonya Porter, 73, decided to stop taking statins after her memory problems became so bad that she walked away from a cashpoint leaving her money behind. ‘I was permanently fuzzy-headed and just couldn’t seem to concentrate,’ says Sonya, a retired PA from Woking, Surrey. Then I started to get scared I might have Alzheimer’s. After reading about memory problems associated with statins, I thought it was at least a possibility. I decided to come off the pills to see if it made any difference. ‘I didn’t ask my GP, I just did it — I’d rather die of a heart attack than Alzheimer’s disease. Within a month I felt normal again and didn’t have any problems with memory. ‘I’m terrified that I could have been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s.’ John Holliday is also reluctant to go back on statins. ‘I wouldn’t rule it out completely — my latest test showed my cholesterol levels have gone up,’ he says. ‘But on balance, I’d rather take my chances with heart disease than feel as confused as that again. It’s all very well living slightly longer — but it’s about quality of life, too.’


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