Friday, 27 July 2012

Gangs of highway robbers are targeting British tourists on holiday in Spain.

Posted On 14:20 11 comments

Hundreds of visitors in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their possessions, passports and money taken in ‘quick and slick’ distraction muggings.

The thieves typically trick their victims with loud noises, apparent accidents, supposed vehicle problems or pleas for help – before stealing bags and belongings from their vehicles. 

Thieves: Hundreds of visitors in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their possessions, passports and money taken in 'quick and slick' distraction muggings

Thieves: Hundreds of visitors in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their possessions, passports and money taken in 'quick and slick' distraction muggings

As millions of families begin their summer breaks, the Foreign Office has warned British-registered cars are ‘an easy target’ for motorway thieves. 

The number of British tourists ambushed on Spanish roads has soared as the euro crisis has deepened, with the British Embassy in Madrid reporting a 10 per cent rise in the first quarter of this year.

 This is likely to increase further as the peak holiday season begins. 

A spokesman for the embassy said:  ‘Motorists may be driving along the motorway and not notice there’s a car close up behind. 

‘Someone in the other car throws a stone at their vehicle which creates a loud bang. The British drivers pull over to see what has happened and the gang is behind them. 

‘They cause a distraction to steal from them or simply mug them. It’s a growing problem.’

Warning: As millions of families begin their summer breaks, the Foreign Office has warned British-registered cars are ¿an easy target¿ for motorway thieves

Warning: As millions of families begin their summer breaks, the Foreign Office has warned British-registered cars are ¿an easy target¿ for motorway thieves

A hotspot for the gangs is the AP7 motorway between the French border and the Alicante region in southern Spain. 

More than 140 cases of theft on this route were reported to British Consulates last year. 

However, a spokesman said there were likely to be ‘hundreds more’ attacks going unreported across Spain because victims usually contact a British consulate only if they have lost their passport. 

Dave Thomas, consular regional director for Spain, said: ‘Be on your guard against anyone who attempts to stop you or ask you for help.

‘They may well be part of a  gang operating a scam in which an unseen accomplice will rob you of your things.’ 

Stephen and Helen Robinson, from Desford, Leicestershire, had their bags stolen from their Audi Q5 as they stopped to walk their labrador retriever Polly at a service station between Barcelona and Valencia. 

The couple, who are in their 50s, were standing at the boot of their car when a man on a mobile phone asked them how to say something in English. 

While he distracted them, their belongings were taken from the front of the car, despite Polly being inside. 

Mrs Robinson said: ‘It was quick and slick. You may be more tired and therefore more vulnerable when you’ve been travelling, so separate your valuables into different places in the car, and when you stop be aware you may be being watched. You won’t see the accomplice of the person who is distracting you.’ 

In a separate incident, Joy and Alan Horton, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, were driving a Ford Focus hatchback through Spain when they heard a loud bang and pulled over.

A car that had been travelling close behind them also stopped, and while the driver talked to them, his accomplice stole their possessions without them noticing.

Mr Horton said: ‘If you think your car may have been in a collision and you pull over, lock the car as soon as you get out and mount a guard on both sides of the vehicle. Keep all bags and valuables in a locked boot.’ 

Professor Stephen Glaister, of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘Drivers need to remember to stay alert and be ready for unwelcome surprises just as they would be at home.’

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The biggest fines in British maritime history were handed down to a group of Spanish fishermen on Thursday, for illegal fishing in UK waters.

Posted On 14:46 2 comments

Leo blog : Romanian fishermen are cleaning up their net from small dead fish
 Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Some of the biggest fines in British maritime history were handed down to a group of Spanish fishermen on Thursday, for illegal fishing in UK waters.

Two companies owned by the Vidal family were fined £1.62m in total in a Truro court, after a two-day hearing, in which details emerged of falsified log books, failing to register the transfer of fish between vessels, false readings given for weighing fish at sea, and fiddling of fishing quotas.

Judge Graham Cottle said the family were guilty of "wholesale falsification of official documentation" that amounted to a "systematic, repeated and cynical abuse of the EU fishing quota system over a period of 18 months".

He said: "[This was a] flagrant, repeated and long term abuse of regulations. The fish targeted [hake] was at that time a species of fish on the verge if collapse and adherence to quotas was seen as crucial to the survival of the species."

The Spanish fishing vessels had been sailing under UK flags and were landing fish based on quotas given to British fishermen under the EU's common fisheries policy. Two vessels were involved, but the companies own several other large vessels, capable of industrial-scale fishing.

The offending fishermen, who admitted their guilt earlier this year, were not in court to hear him, having been given leave to return to Spain last night. The offences, dating from 2009 and 2010, relate to two companies, Hijos De Vidal Bandin SA and Sealskill Limited, both owned by the Vidal family. They were fined £925,000 on a confiscation order, plus £195,000 in costs, and an additional fine of £250,000 levied on each of the two companies. Two skippers who were acting under the family's instructions were fined £5,000 each.

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, who was present for the trial and judgement, said that the fines, while welcome, did not go far enough. "This group of people should never be allowed near UK fishing quota again," she said. "The Vidal's right to fish should be removed completely."

She said the offences showed the vulnerability of the EU's fishing quota system to fraud. "The system that allowed this to happen needs to be fixed," she said. "This case is not a one off. It's a symptom of Europe's farcical fishing rules. The Vidals were permitted to fish under UK flags, using UK quota, and receive huge EU subsidies, with none of the proceeds ever feeding back into the UK economy. The system is skewed in favour of rich, powerful, industrial-scale fishing companies, when really it should be supporting low-impact, sustainable fishermen."

There are currently moves under way in Brussels by the fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, to reform the EU's common fisheries policy. The proposed reforms – which include the ending of the wasteful practice of discarding healthy and edible fish at sea – have met stiff opposition, particularly from the French and Spanish fishing industries. Spain has the biggest fishing fleet in Europe and receives the lion's share of the subsidies available for fishing within the EU. A historic agreement was reached among member states last month on the proposals, but they must now pass the European parliament, which is expected to consider the proposals later this year.

Paper Passion, a scent from Geza Schoen for Wallpaper magazine, makes its wearers smell like freshly printed books

Posted On 10:36 3 comments

Paper Passion, a scent from Geza Schoen for Wallpaper* magazine, makes its wearers smell like freshly printed books. I suppose it can be alternated with "In the Library," a perfume that smells like old books.

Paper Passion fragrance by Geza Schoen, Gerhard Steidl, and Wallpaper* magazine, with packaging by Karl Lagerfeld and Steidl.

“The smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world.” Karl Lagerfeld. 

It comes packaged with inside a hollow carved out of a book with "texts" by "Karl Lagerfeld, Günter Grass, Geza Schoen and Tony Chambers."

Monday, 23 July 2012

It will cost two million € to connect the electricity, and nobody wants to pay.The empty Guadalhorce Hosptial in Cártama

Posted On 02:59 6 comments

The Guadalhorce Hospital has been completed in Cártama on the Costa del Sol, but it has been empty for several months with no opening date planned.

To continue installing the equipment in the hospital it has to be accepted as meeting requirement, and to show that hospital is as planned, but for that to take place it must be connected to the electricity supply.

The problem is that will cost two million €, although the originally quoted price was 300,000 €, to install the electrical connection required. Endesa say the problem is that to supply the hospital an electrical substation at Villafranca del Guadalhorce will have to be expanded.

Cártama Town Hall has said they cannot meet the extra cost, which has put the budget up five fold. Mayor Jorge Gallardo says he thinks the electricity company is ‘making the most of the circumstances’. 

However the Junta say they think the 2 million bill should be met by the Town Hall. They say the electricity contract was undertaken by Cártama Town Hall.

The Guadalhorce Hospital has been built thanks to an agreement between the Málaga Diputación, the Junta de Andalucía and the Cártama Town Hall, to give the district its long-wanted hospital. Many foreigners live in the inland area and have complained about the time to get to a hospital in Málaga.

Spain wildfires: Three killed

Posted On 01:22 0 comments


Forest fires in the county of Alt Emporda, in north-east Catalonia, on 22 July 2012Officials say the flames have been fanned by strong winds

Forest fires raging in Spain's north-eastern Catalonia region have left three people dead, officials say.

Two French nationals drowned in the sea close to the border with France while trying to escape the flames, Catalonia's interior minister said.

Strong winds gusting up to 90km/h (55mph) have rendered one fire "out of control", he said.

All residents of the county of Alt Emporda - about 135,000 people - have been ordered to stay indoors.

The area is a main link for holidaymakers travelling to and from southern France. Traffic on the cross-border AP-7 motorway was reported to have been severely disrupted on Sunday.

Cardiac arrest

The two French victims were among several people who were trapped by fire as they travelled along the N-260 main coastal road near the town of Portbou and tried to reach the sea by climbing down cliffs, according to Catalan Interior Minister Felip Puig.


The victims were a 60-year-old man and his 15-year-old daughter, Spanish media reported.

A 75-year-old man died after suffering a cardiac arrest in Llers, north-west of the area's main town, Figueres.

At least another 19 people have been wounded, including a French national who suffered burns on 80% of his body when he was caught in his car by the flames.

The fire near Portbou has been brought under control, according to media reports, while a much larger blaze further inland, around the border town of La Jonquera, was still spreading late on Sunday, Felip Puig said.

The fire, travelling at about 5-6km/h, came within 10km of Figueres, Mr Puig said.

A total of about 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of forest are estimated to have been devastated in the area, according to the authorities.

Spain Scraps Siesta as Stores Stay Open to Spur Spending

Posted On 01:12 4 comments

The Spanish shopping siesta may be about to become the latest victim of the sovereign debt crisis. To stimulate spending after a 23 percent drop in retail sales since 2007, the euro region’s fourth-largest economy this month approved measures that allow shops of more than 300 square meters (3,229 square feet) to open for 25 percent longer a week. The new rules may encourage the outlets to sell during the traditional afternoon snooze from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and on an additional two Sundays or holidays a year for a total of 10. “When everything was fine, nobody complained, but now that things have gone awry, then it’s another story,” said Carmen Cardeno, director general for domestic commerce at the nation’s economy ministry, which created the rules. “We need to evolve and be more flexible.” Spain is following its European neighbors in trying to liberalize shopping hours that have traditionally been checked by governments in the region to protect religious observances, for rest and on behalf of smaller retailers that have fewer resources to staff shops around the clock. England has allowed retailers to open for longer on Sundays during the Olympics than the six hours usually allowed. In France, food shops can be open 13 hours a day and stores located in tourist areas have the right to open on Sundays. Spanish shops are allowed to open for less time than anywhere else in Europe, according to its government, which was asked by retail associations to allow large stores to open 16 Sundays or holidays a year. Some smaller merchants opposed the extension, arguing that the bigger stores would have the necessary manpower and they wouldn’t. The new measures allow stores 18 additional business hours a week and will permit merchants to decide when to cut prices in sales instead of only twice a year. Siesta Time The country’s regions will get to decide how to implement the rules, though they usually follow the lead of the central government. In Madrid, which is an exception, stores have been able to open for as long as they want since July 15. Outlets of less than 300 square meters also have no restrictions on opening hours, though the Spanish tradition of eating at home and having a siesta means most shopkeepers keep their businesses closed for about two hours in the middle of the day. The new measures may not be enough to offset shrinking demand in Spain’s 217 billion-euro ($264 billion) retail industry, which is worsening each year the crisis goes on in a nation where one in four people is out of work. The number of companies seeking bankruptcy protection rose 22 percent from a year earlier to 2,224 in the first quarter, according to the nation’s statistics institute, with commerce being the third- largest contributor behind construction and housing firms and industrial and energy companies. ‘Almost Insignificant’ Javier Millan-Astray, director general of retail association ANGED, said the approved loosening of restrictions on opening hours doesn’t go far enough. “The government’s reform is almost insignificant,” Millan-Astray told reporters in Madrid, when retail groups pushed for 16 Sunday openings. The associations’ “new proposal would help boost consumption and create more jobs because when we open on a holiday, people come and shop. It’s unbelievable that amid this crisis, we have to keep our stores closed.” Spain has been wrestling with the dilemma of preserving its culture and modernizing the industry for decades. The socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2004 rolled back liberalization of opening hours instituted by his predecessor, bringing them back to rules from the 1990s and leaving the country with the tightest regulations of any European country. Job Creation Even with the latest proposals, “retail regulation is hurting both business and customers in Spain,” said Fernando Fernandez, a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid. “Both big and small retailers would benefit from fewer restrictions. When big retailers such as Ikea or Zara open a store, all small shops in that area benefit from that.” Ending the restrictions completely would create 337,581 jobs across all industries and add 17.2 billion euros to economic growth this year, according to a study commissioned by the government, which examined the implications of several scenarios. The nearest of those to the current proposals, under which stores open on 16 Sundays or holidays, could have added 47,945 full-time retail jobs, the study found. About 1.8 million people worked in retail in the first quarter, 0.3 percent less than in the year-earlier period. Stores are also bracing for change as the government looks to the retail industry to help boost tax revenue. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will increase the most common rate of sales tax to 21 percent from 18 percent on Sept. 1, putting an additional brake on consumers’ ability to spend. previous

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Spain king ousted as honorary president of World Wildlife Fund branch after elephant hunt

Posted On 21:37 13 comments

The World Wildlife Fund’s branch in Spain has ousted King Juan Carlos as its honorary president — a title he’d held since 1968 — after deciding his recent elephant hunting safari was incompatible with its goal of conserving endangered species. The announcement Saturday was the latest in a string of bad news for Spain’s royal family, which has been embarrassed by legal and other scandals. The fund said in a statement that “although such hunting is legal and regulated” it had “received many expressions of distress from its members and society in general.” It said members voted at a meeting Saturday in Madrid to “to get rid of the honorary President” by a substantial majority of 226 votes to 13. The Royal Palace declined immediate comment on the announcement. Many Spaniards were dumbfounded when news broke in April that the king had made a secret journey to hunt elephants in Botswana even though it was widely known he was president of the Spanish branch of the fund. Such an opulent indulgence also angered Spaniards at a time when national unemployment hovers around 25 percent, the economy is contracting and there are fears the country may need an international financial bailout. The Spanish public learned of the safari only after the king had to fly back in a private jet to receive emergency medical attention for a broken hip suffered during the trip. In an unprecedented act of royal contrition, a sheepish Juan Carlos apologized, saying as he left the hospital: “I am very sorry. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” It was a poignant moment because the royal family had been under intense media scrutiny for all the wrong reasons. The king’s son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, is a suspect in a corruption case, accused of having used his position to embezzle several million euros in public contracts through a supposedly not-for-profit foundation he’d set up. Over Easter, the king’s 13-year-old grandson, Felipe Juan Froilan, shot himself in the foot with a shotgun, even though Spanish law dictates you must be 14 to handle a gun. The king on Tuesday decided to take a pay cut in solidarity with civil servants who are to lose their traditional Christmas bonuses as part of the government’s most recent austerity drive. The salaries of Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe will be reduced about 7 percent — to about 272,000 euros ($334,000) and 131,000 euros ($160,000) respectively — in line with government policy, the Royal Palace said. The king and prince acted voluntarily in cutting their salaries, the palace said.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Spanish miners dig in for prolonged protest

Posted On 10:08 1 comments

Spanish miners and sympathizers have clashed with riot police on one of Madrid's most famed avenues, and six demonstrators were hospitalized after police fired rubber bullets. The violence on Wednesday came after the miners marched for nearly three-weeks from the remote regions. In Madrid they were joined by other Spaniards incensed with the nation's seemingly endless austerity cutbacks. Some miners walked from northern and eastern mining regions into Madrid, where they received a hero's welcome by thousands lining La Castellana avenue outside the Industry Ministry building. The miners detonated deafening fireworks as they marched, then hurled them at the police riot vans guarding the ministry, which oversees the mining industry. Police fired rubber bullets at the ground as a warning, and opened fire on the protesters after they threw more fireworks and rocks and bottles at officers, witnesses said.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Spanish Tourism Industry Prepares for Difficult Summer

Posted On 21:09 1 comments

Spain's tourism industry is bracing itself for a painful slowdown in bookings this summer, driven by a steep decline in local tourism, according to the country's leading hotel association. Reservations by Spanish vacationers for the month of July are 30% lower than last year, amid persistently high unemployment and a protracted economic recession, said Juan Molas, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations. An influx of visitors from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe has compensated somewhat for the decline in local tourism, but weak local demand is expected to weigh on an industry that accounts for about 11% of Spain's annual economic output. Hotel owners are concerned that the government may raise the industry's value-added tax to 18% from the current 8%, in a bid to reduce its yawning budget deficit, making Spain less attractive to foreign tourists compared with other less expensive destinations "If the VAT rises to 18%, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the sector," Mr. Molas said at an event Thursday in Madrid. Spain's government is working to secure €100 billion ($126 billion) in aid for its struggling banking sector from the European Union and plans to meet with EU officials next week to discuss new measures to improve its public finances. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has already implemented €45 billion in austerity measures, but weak tax revenue threatens to undermine his administration's goal of trimming its shortfall this year to 5.3% of gross domestic product from 8.9% last year. Sentiment in the hospitality industry is at its lowest level since 2009, according to an index developed by the hotel association and consulting firm PwC. Based on a survey of hotel firms, 57% of operators expect international tourism will hold steady this year, while 76% expect domestic tourism to decline. "The parts of the country that will suffer the most are those that cater to national tourists," Mr. Molas said.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Beware of missed call to check SIM cloning

Posted On 08:03 1 comments

Next time if you get a missed call starting with +92; #90 or #09, don't show the courtesy of calling back because chances are it would lead to your SIM card being cloned. The telecom service providers are now issuing alerts to subscribers —particularly about the series mentioned above as the moment one press the call button after dialing the above number, someone at the other end will get your phone and SIM card cloned. According to reports, more than one lakh subscribers have fallen prey to this new telecom terror attack as the frequency of such calls continues to grow. Intelligence agencies have reportedly confirmed to the service providers particularly in UP West telecom division that such a racket is not only under way but the menace is growing fast. "We are sure there must be some more similar combinations that the miscreants are using to clone the handsets and all the information stored in them," an intelligence officer told TOI. General Manager (GM) BSNL, RV Verma, said the department had already issued alerts to all the broadband subscribers and now alert SMSes were being issued to other subscribers as well. As per Rakshit Tandon, an IT expert who also teaches at the police academy (UP), the crooks can use other combination of numbers as well while making a call. "It is better not to respond to calls received from unusual calling numbers," says Tandon. "At the same time one should avoid storing specifics of their bank account, ATM/ Credit/Debit card numbers and passwords in their phone memory because if one falls a prey to such crooks then the moment your cell phone or sim are cloned, the data will be available to the crooks who can withdraw amount from your bank accounts as well," warns Punit Misra; an IT expert who also owns a consultancy in Lucknow. The menace that threatens to steal the subscriber's information stored in the phone or external memory (sim, memory & data cards) has a very scary side as well. Once cloned, the culprits can well use the cloned copy to make calls to any number they wish to. This exposes the subscribers to the threat of their connection being used for terror calls. Though it will be established during the course of investigations that the cellphone has been cloned and misused elsewhere, it is sure to land the subscriber under quite some pressure till the time the fact about his or her phone being cloned and misused is established, intelligence sources said. "It usually starts with a miss call from a number starting with + 92. The moment the subscriber calls back on the miss call, his or her cell phone is cloned. In case the subscribers takes the call before it is dropped as a miss call then the caller on the other end poses as a call center executive checking the connectivity and call flow of the particular service provider. The caller then asks the subscriber to press # 09 or # 90 call back on his number to establish that the connectivity to the subscriber was seamless," says a victim who reported the matter to the BSNL office at Moradabad last week. "The moment I redialed the caller number, my account balance lost a sum of money. Thereafter, in the three days that followed every time I got my cell phone recharged, the balance would be reduced to single digits within the next few minutes," she told the BSNL officials.

France brings in breathalyser law

Posted On 01:24 1 comments

New motoring laws have come into force in France making it compulsory for drivers to carry breathalyser kits in their vehicles. As of July 1, motorists and motorcyclists will face an on-the-spot fine unless they travel with two single-use devices as part of a government drive to reduce the number of drink-drive related deaths. The new regulations, which excludes mopeds, will be fully enforced and include foreigner drivers from November 1 following a four-month grace period. Anyone failing to produce a breathalyser after that date will receive an 11 euro fine. French police have warned they will be carrying out random checks on drivers crossing into France via ferries and through the Channel Tunnel to enforce the new rules. Retailers in the UK have reported a massive rise in breathalyser sales as British drivers travelling across the Channel ensure they do not fall foul of the new legislation. Car accessory retailer Halfords said it is selling one kit every minute of the day and has rushed extra stock into stores to cope with the unprecedented demand. Six out of 10 Britons travelling to France are not aware they have to carry two NF approved breathalysers at all times, according to the company. The French government hopes to save around 500 lives a year by introducing the new laws, which will encourage drivers who suspect they may be over the limit to test themselves with the kits. The French drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - substantially less than the UK limit of 80mg.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The number of Britons arrested overseas is on the rise, official figures have shown.

Posted On 14:42 3 comments

 The Foreign Office (FO) handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals abroad between April 2011 and March 2012. This was 6% more than in the previous 12 months and included a 2% rise in drug arrests. The figures, which include holidaymakers and Britons resident overseas, showed the highest number of arrests and detentions was in Spain (1,909) followed by the USA (1,305). Spanish arrests rose 9% in 2011/12, while the United States was up 3%. The most arrests of Britons for drugs was in the US (147), followed by Spain (141). The highest percentage of arrests for drugs in 2011/12 was in Peru where there were only 17 arrests in total, although 15 were for drugs. The FO said anecdotal evidence from embassies and consulates overseas suggested many incidents were alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular holiday destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, the Balearics (which include Majorca and Ibiza), Malta and Cyprus. Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne said: "It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. "The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. While we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country's legal system. "We find that many people are shocked to discover that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot get them out of jail. We always provide consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison."

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