Evil rapist Larry Murphy returns from Spain to get replacement passport

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GARDAI are on high alert today after convicted rapist Larry Murphy returned to Ireland. Brutal Murphy (46) is staying in a Dublin B&B after flying in from Spain to obtain a replacement passport.

He is now under 24-hour garda surveillance and sources say he has agreed to stay in contact with officers for the duration of his visit.

The rapist has been roaming around Europe for the last eight months but Spanish police only realised the extent of his crimes after he went to a police station to report the theft of his passport.

Looking sun-kissed and slimmed down, Larry made his way through airport security and was collected by Fr Ciaran Enright, a prison chaplain and his main contact in Ireland.

Fr Enright previously urged Murphy to engage with the Probation Service in Ireland because he was unable to find somewhere to live independently.

But he decamped to the Netherlands and later Spain, where he has been doing odd jobs for cash and working as a labourer while staying in hostels and cheap hotels.

Murphy's own family, based in Baltinglass, Wicklow have publically disowned him and his brother Thomas said that he was “not welcome” in his home.

“I want nothing to do with him. He can stay away from me,” Thomas said.

“I don't care if he is tanned and relaxed or how well he looks. I don't want anything to do with him.

Dad-of-two Thomas said that some locals have turned against him due to his connection to the rapist.

“I can't begin to tell you the stress he has caused me and my family,” he said.

“I have absolutely no friends any more and the attention has even started to affect my children's lives.”

“He has brought so much stress on my life. I don't want to say anything to him, through the media or not.”


The notorious criminal was convicted of a brutal attack on a woman in the Wicklow Mountains was also a suspect in the disappearance of several young women in the 1990s, served 10 years of a 15 year sentence.

Before he boarded a flight in Girona in Spain, the criminal expressed concerns about his reception at home as he returned to tie up loose ends and receive a new passport.

He told a friend that there were “no problems” before boarding the Ryanair flight.

“I hope it'll be alright over there,” he said. “I'll see you on the other side.”

He arrived at Girona airport, near Barcelona, four hours before the 10.10pm Ryanair flight on Wednesday.

Murphy spent his time reading a newspaper, scribbling in a small address book and texting.

And as he boarded the flight, Murphy attempted to conceal the identity of his temporary passport from other passengers.

Garda sources outlined that the thug, who abducted, raped and beat a young mother, would only be in the country for a few days in order to arrange for his new passport to be issued, after which he would return to Spain.



Drug Trade Flourishes in Spanish Port Town

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In the police station of Barbate, a port town in the southern region of Andalusia, officers have pinned a poster to the wall that reads “they owe us April,” referring to the late payment of their salaries.

At the same time, they are having to combat a pickup in illegal drugs trafficking — another consequence, some say, of the tough economic times.

“It’s a disastrous and chaotic situation here,” said Rafael Romero, one of the officers. “We need more boats, vehicles and everything, but there’s not even money to repair two broken surveillance cameras.”

Barbate, in fact, has found itself caught in a perfect storm: a fiscal crisis that has sunk public finances, a dwindling fishing industry that has exacerbated one of Spain’s worst unemployment situations, and a revival of the drug smuggling that has long plagued this area because of its proximity to North Africa. Powerful rubber boats need only about 40 minutes to cross over, loaded mainly with hashish from Morocco.

The mayor of Barbate, Rafael Quirós, garnered national attention during his recent re-election campaign by suggesting that a young person who could not find a job and turned to drug dealing should not automatically be called a delinquent. “A youngster has absolutely zero chance right now of finding a fixed job here,” he said during an interview in the Town Hall. “The politicians in Madrid who consider my views on youngsters occasionally dealing drugs to be those of a caveman either don’t understand or don’t care about how much people are struggling here.”

Responding by e-mail to questions about the mayor’s views, the Spanish Labor Ministry said it was deeply concerned about the level of youth unemployment, but that “we cannot start to give value to individual opinions that do not add anything constructive.”

Mr. Quirós said that the drug activity had revived in the area since the start of the crisis, although it remained below what it was a decade ago.

Then, “there was just complete impunity here,” he said. “You can nowadays get sentenced to five years in jail, so it does make some people think twice, however desperate their economic situation.” Still, around 300 of Barbate’s 22,000 inhabitants are now sitting in jail because of drug trafficking, according to Mr. Quirós. Five years ago, before the onset of the financial crisis, there were about 160 in jail on drug cases.

Andalusia has the highest unemployment rate among Spain’s 17 regions, 29.7 percent at the end of the first quarter, according to the National Institute of Statistics. That compares with a national jobless rate of 21 percent, double the European Union average.

Barbate itself ranked as the town with the second-highest joblessness in mainland Spain at the end of 2010, behind Ubrique, which is also in the Andalusian province of Cádiz, according to a separate study published this month by the savings bank Caja España-Caja Duero.

To help create jobs, Mr. Quirós is trying to develop alternatives to fishing, an ancestral occupation that has fallen about 80 percent over the past 20 years amid stricter quotas, intense competition from foreign boats and a recent decline in domestic fish consumption.

A light bulb factory is due to open later this year, employing about 200 people, as well as a fish farm with a work force of 270. A few hotel projects are also earmarked, but “this isn’t exactly the easiest time to find investors,” the mayor said. Fishing still represents about 60 percent of the local economy.

Despite the national criticism over his remarks, Mr. Quirós’s seems to have struck a chord with voters. On May 22, he was one of the few Socialist mayors of Andalusia to win re-election, in what proved to be an unprecedented debacle for his party in regional and municipal elections across Spain.



Britain updated its travel advice to Portugal on Monday to warn against the risk of violent attacks after a tourist was killed in a suspected gang attack

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Ian Haggath, 50, from the Dunston area of Gateshead, was beaten up in the Portuguese town of Faro two weeks ago and died from his injuries on Wednesday.
The Foreign Office in London said it was providing consular assistance and warned Britons of the possibility of attacks.
"We are concerned about the possibility of violent attacks and take this matter very seriously," it said in a statement.
"We have updated our travel advice to warn against the possibility of violent attacks and are in contact with the police and local authorities."


EXPAT customers of one of Spain’s leading banks are protesting over claims that it has misled them over their savings.

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Michael Davenport, 61, insists he was lied to when he opened what he thought was a standard savings account at La Caixa’s Calahonda branch in 2007.

But when the businessman tried to access some of his savings three years later, he was told he would have to wait for at least another six years.
Indeed, scouring the small print, Davenport, originally from Cheshire, discovered that the money was tied up in mortgage bonds until 2016.
“And I was told that the only way I could access it was if someone bought the bonds on the secondary market, which would incur commission charges,” he told the Olive Press.
The father-of-one, who runs Davenport Investments in Calahonda, has now discovered that there are many others who have also lost out.
Various forums and a dedicated Facebook page is full of investors, who claim they have been similarly misled.
These include a 77-year-old woman who is not able to access her savings until 2017.
“I am amazed that they didn’t give us the full facts,” said Davenport. “I signed the paperwork in good faith. I didn’t have any reason to suspect that they would lie to my face.
“I think people need to be warned,” added Davenport, who is now protesting outside the bank each week.
A financial expert Gwilym Rhys Jones told the Olive Press: “These are sophisticated investment products designed for sophisticated investors. The customers should have been given the copy documents at the time of signing the contract.”
Last night La Caixa said: “We have a formal complaints procedure for customers to follow.”


The world's biggest outbreak of a deadly form of E.coli bacteria has claimed another life as it continues to spread across Europe.

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Health officials say the virus, believed to have originated from organic cucumbers imported from Spain, has killed 10 people and infected hundreds more in Germany.
The epicentre of the outbreak has been in the country's north with more than 270 people contracting the disease in recent weeks - four times the normal annual figure of about 60.
Three cases have also been reported in Britain, a further 25 in Sweden and seven in Denmark.
In Austria there have been two cases, while the Netherlands and Switzerland have each had one suspected case.
All of the cases are understood to have been linked with travel to Germany.

Cucumbers were still being sold in markets in Spain despite the outbreak
Experts said the outbreak of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which affects the blood, kidneys and, in severe cases, the nervous system, was the largest ever in Germany - and the biggest of its kind worldwide.
An 86-year-old woman was the latest victim of the bug after she died in the University Hospital Luebeck on Saturday.
Her husband is among about 70 patients being treated for the bacteria at the northern Germany hospital, whose doctors say they expect to see 10 new cases a day in the coming weeks.
Health officials have advised people in affected areas in Europe to avoid eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.
Some of these products have been removed from shop shelves.
But the Food Standards Agency has confirmed that the offending cucumbers have not been on sale at any outlets in the UK.


Spain is the biggest exporter of strawberries worldwide

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Spain is the biggest exporter of strawberries worldwide, with an industry worth more than 400m euros (£345m) a year, which supports around 50,000 jobs. Intensive agricultural methods mean the fruit can be grown all year round.

Nine out of 10 strawberries are exported to Europe. Germany imports more than a third of Spanish production, closely followed by France.

But the "red gold", as some Spaniards call it, has transformed not only European supermarket shelves, but also the landscapes of southern Spain.

Driving through the fruit-farming area close to the town of Lucena del Puerto in Huelva, the land is lush and green.

Domes made out of white plastic sheets spread as far as the eye can see. Beneath them are strawberries. This region accounts for almost 90% of production in Spain.

But there is not enough water to supply this huge industry. According to the local water agency, as many as half of all strawberry farms in this region are taking water illegally.

Strawberries are known as "red gold" in Spain
The conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says there are more than 1,000 illegal boreholes in the area, pumping water from deep underground.

But that water is also what feeds one of Europe's most important wetlands, the Donana National Park.

Wildlife at risk
Donana is home to rare species like the Iberian lynx, and settled by migratory birds from Africa. It has been designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve.

Its marshes are fed by underground aquifers. But the water supplied by one of the main streams has fallen by half in the last 30 years.

"This is a very important threat, because water is important for all in the park - for animals and even for vegetation," says Dr Carmen Diaz Paniagua, from Donana's research station.

There are jobs here. We cannot put an end to people's lifestyle overnight”

Juan Manuel Lopez
Environment Authority, Huelva
Spain is a country already facing severe pressure on its water supplies. Droughts, water shortages, and forest fires have been rife in recent years.

But illegal water use has long been ignored - largely because of pressure from local mayors who see only the economic benefits, says Felipe Fuentelsaz, local officer for WWF.

"There are a lot of boreholes and they have not been closed in the last few years because strawberries create jobs," he says.

"WWF wants a sustainable plan. We need to work with the fact that there are strawberries in the area - but at the moment the amount of land cultivated is far too much.

"We need to reduce it in order to make the soil sustainable, preserve the aquifer and create a balance between agriculture and the environment in Donana National Park."

Lack of will
Juan Manuel Lopez, Huelva's Environment Authority delegate, says it will take time to come to an agreement between farmers and environmentalists.

"I wouldn't call it illegal extraction of water. It's a transitional period toward legalisation and land reorganisation," he said.

"We are going to close more than 900 boreholes and bring water from elsewhere so we can keep the Donana aquifer untouched.

"There are jobs here. We cannot put an end to people's lifestyle overnight."

Freshuelva, the association representing the majority of strawberry farmers here, declined to be interviewed.

But farmers who play by the rules - like Juan Maria Rodriguez, manager of Flor de Donana - blame the authorities for not enforcing the law.

"Of course it bothers us that there are farmers who water their crops illegally. But the fact that there are people who know about it and don't stop it is more disturbing," he says.

"They are a minority and there are many people doing a good job in Huelva. Actually the farmers have been asking the government to put order in all this for five years now."


forest fire is burning on the island of Ibiza and has already affected 1,500 hectares of pine.

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forest fire is burning on the island of Ibiza and has already affected 1,500 hectares of pine. The fire is believed to have been started deliberately and one arrest has been made, a man understood to be charged with ‘imprudence’.

What is expected to end up as the worst fire ever seen on the Baleares, broke out after noon on Wednesday in the Sierra de la Morna, in Sant Joan de Labritja, and has been declared to be level 1 risk because of the closeness of homes in the NE of the island. The fire has been moving overnight to the area of Portinatx and San Vicent de sa Cala. Dozens of villas have been affected by smoke and evacuated. Some 100 local residents have been evacuated.

As many as 40 firefighters continued to work overnight, and three fire fighting planes and five helicopters are being used to fight the flames, but their work is being complicated by the wind. More air support may be sent from the mainland today, and a military emergency unit of more than 150 men has joined the operation.

Last summer Ibiza saw the previous largest forest fire to be seen on the Baleares since 2000. In that case 354 hectares was destroyed.


11 families sleeping on the street

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ELEVEN families have been evacuated from their homes in the 80 Viviendas area of Vera due to damages caused when carrying out work in one of the flats. The gypsy families spent Friday night sleeping outdoors but complain that the mayor did not pay them a visit. Their spokeswoman, Maria Salinas, says that cracks have appeared in the pillars and beams which they believe may have been worsened by the earthquake in Lorca on May 11.

One of the residents began to carry out work in the bathroom and found part of the structure began to collapse.

The Local Police cordoned off the homes but the families refused to go to the local sports centre where they had been offered shelter because they claim they were “being asked to sleep on inflatable mattresses on the floor like dogs”. They also refused to leave their belongings behind.

Salinas says the mayor has promised them keys to other houses, but they are not sure if this will happen as they have not paid their water bills for up to 15 years, some people owing more than €7,000.

The Junta de Andalucia Public Works and Housing Department has announced it will assign three homes in a recently built complex, while specialists from the town hall determine the extent of the damage and whether the houses can be repaired.

The houses were built more than 30 years ago and since then, no repairs or refurbishment has been carried out. Salinas says they paid 45,000 pesetas (€270) for them when they were first allowed to live there, and since then, no-one has asked them for any more money or rent, and they haven’t been given the deeds.



Carol Anne Sievwright is being investigated by authorities in Spain over a crash which left two of her friends dead.

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A Scots woman faces a manslaughter probe after two pals in the hire car she was driving died in a Spanish road crash.
An investigating judge quizzed Carol Anne Sievwright, 58, at a private court hearing in Alicante yesterday after she allegedly jumped a red light and was hit by a bus.
Passengers Jean Hardy, 71, and Margaret Clarke, 62, died instantly when the bus smashed into their Fiat Panda around 11pm on Monday.
Mrs Sievwright, originally from Auchencairn, Dumfriesshire, suffered shock and bruising.
Another female passenger, Sheila Johnson, from Suffolk, was also injured.
The dead women were travelling in the back of the hire car, which ended up on its roof after being hit by the bus.
Police said they believed the car driver had jumped a red light and was crossing the main carriageway to try to change direction when the accident occurred.
The four British women, thought to live in San Fulgencio, are believed to have driven from nearby Alicante airport.
Dramatic TV images showed the car on its roof by the side of the road and the dead women's bodies wrapped in blankets near an ambulance. No one on the passenger bus was injured.
A police spokesman said: "Our understanding is a bus hit a car which was trying to change direction and had jumped a red light.
"Four British women were in the car. The bus hit the back of the car, which was where the two women who died were seated.
"The front seat passenger was injured along with the driver.
"The driver, who was not seriously hurt, has been handed over to a judge heading a double manslaughter probe."
A source close to the case added: "The circumstances are still being investigated. But it may be that the women took a wrong turn and jumped the light in their confusion.
"The car was a hire car and it's possible the driver was unfamiliar with the area."
Mrs Sievwright was released on bail after giving a statement to the investigating judge yesterday.
She is thought to have told the court she remembers little about the accident - and wasn't aware she had allegedly jumped a red light.
She passed a breath test at the crash scene.
Mrs Sievwright is expected to be called back to the court at a later date to give more evidence before the investigating judge makes a recommendation on whether she should face trial.
She has not been charged with any crime at this stage.


Specialist hotel real estate broker, Soric International, told OPP this week that it is “seeking a luxury brand and management deal for the 105-room Mountain Spa Marbella, a proposed luxury mountain resort development in Istan,

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Specialist hotel real estate broker, Soric International, told OPP this week that it is “seeking a luxury brand and management deal for the 105-room Mountain Spa Marbella, a proposed luxury mountain resort development in Istan, 15 minutes from the Mediterranean coast.”

The site overlooks Lake Concepcion to the hills of the Sierra Real Natural Park and, says Soric, “a flexible master plan and all essential planning permissions and licences are in place for a proposed four-star plus resort of up to 24,000 square metres. The Málaga regional government planning authority granted planning permission on the site in 2004.”


Soric managing director Mark Blick told OPP that because of the “lack of comparable luxury properties in the area, the Mountain Spa Marbella provides an opportunity to exploit a niche in the market. The site would be particularly well suited to a luxury, boutique brand.”


The 105-room full-service resort will have 64 bedrooms in the main hotel and 41 detached one, two and three-bedroom suites of 140 square metres to 217 square metres, each with its own infinity pool.


There will be a large luxury spa with tiered pool, a number of bars and restaurants and a boat house on Lake Concepcion. Guest activities will include a range of water sports, fishing, cycling, horse riding and walking.


The facts and figures behind the opportunity, according to Soric are an “ADR set at €325 in year one, inflated by 5% in year two and 3% per annum thereafter.” And then “sales and marketing is set at 4% of total revenue and includes any assumed centralised marketing fee from the operator. A base management fee of 3% of total revenue is included. A management incentive fee of 8% of adjusted gross operating profit is also included.”


The area is a 15 minute drive from Marbella and Puerto Banus. The Manolo Santana Racquets Club and many of the Costa del Sol’s premier golf courses are also within easy reach says Soric and Málaga International Airport is 45 minutes away by car.


Soric International specialises in real estate, investment, branding, operational and related advisory services to the mid-scale and luxury hotel sector.


Currently, the company is working in Sardinia, Rome, London, Milan, Paris, Marbella, Madeira, Bucharest, Dubai, Cote d’Azur and Vienna. The company has offices in Paris, London, Milan and Dubai. A new office is expected to open in Dakar in 2012.


Fernando Alonso has revealed that he is no longer a resident of tax-free Switzerland, having elected to migrate back to homeland Spain

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Fernando Alonso has revealed that he is no longer a resident of tax-free Switzerland, having elected to migrate back to homeland Spain. It is believed the move will cost the Ferrari driver an estimated 50 million pounds in taxes.

Born in Oviedo, Asturias, Alonso’s move to Switzerland boosted his financial situation. However, it is being predicted by The Mirror that the homecoming will cost a third of his new £150m contract with Ferrari, which stretches to the end of 2016.

“It's great to go home,” the 29-year-old is quoted as saying by the British newspaper. “I'm happy to pay the money. I'm not poor - just a little less rich now.”


Jose Luis Garcia Maseda, 69, is being grilled along with 11 associates – including one Briton – over an alleged fraud that saw him take millions from a string of clients, the majority of whom are British.

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Jose Luis Garcia Maseda, 69, is being grilled along with 11 associates – including one Briton – over an alleged fraud that saw him take millions from a string of clients, the majority of whom are British.
His arrest follows a lengthy investigation that began in 2009 sparked by a joint action involving dozens of expats scattered around Andalucia.
There are now upwards of 45 victims who have joined forces to pursue Maseda in the courts in a case that already amounts to 1.4m euros.
But lawyers believe the number of victims could be ‘as many as 200’.
Lawyer Juan Carlos Carrasco García who is leading the case on behalf of 25 clients said: “This is the culmination of years of hard work and is great news.
“It is an important case in the fight against the corruption that exists on the Costa del Sol.”
Appearing at Torremolinos court last week Maseda pleaded not guilty, blaming the recession for his precarious financial situation.
But, according to lawyer Carrasco, five of his associates, including his son and wife, confirmed that houses and possessions in their names were actually purchased by Maseda.
Police have also questioned Briton Michael Braban, 67, who is assisting the police in their investigation.
The owner of property company Spanish Partners, from Mijas, added: “ I’m one of the victims myself.”

The Olive Press first reported in 2009 how Maseda, who claimed to be a lawyer, financial consultant and tax advisor, convinced hundreds of clients to invest their money from his Eurobrokers office, in Arroyo de la Miel.
Most accounts were strikingly similar, with smooth-talking Maseda having been recommended to them via a series of third parties, or even local banks.
In many cases he even persuaded his victims – using perfect English – to sign over power of attorney ‘to lighten the paperwork’ which enabled him to take out massive mortgages in their
Victims only became aware when instalments began to be charged monthly or in some cases when they were contacted by the banks for defaulting on repayments.
The Olive Press spoke to over a dozen expatriates, some of whom now claim to be facing financial ruin.
One client, from London, claims he is owed 80,000 euros after investing the money in the controversial Valle Rosario del Golf development, near Antequera, through Maseda five years ago.
Another expatriate handed Maseda 75,600 euros for the same golf development in which ‘not one brick was laid’.
BMW-driving Maseda, who was born in Madrid, disappeared in 2009, but was tracked down to an exclusive estate near Malaga by the Olive Press last year.
The investigation is now ongoing and could take up to a year.
“It is going very well and I hope to be able to recover all my clients monies,” explained Carrasco.



Coin expat launches town hall legal battle

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expat is suing his town hall after authorities withheld 12,000 euros from the sale of his house, over a license he insists he had already paid in full.
Alan Dens, 63, is adamant he paid 3,600 euros for the Licence of First Occupation, after buying the property near Coin in 2001.
But after selling the house in January last year, Dens was informed by Coin Town Hall that the money was being withheld as he had not paid for the licence.
The lions share of this was in fines.
After his lawyers served the town hall with papers demanding the return of the funds, including the original receipt, he was told that the town hall had no money.
Then he was told that, in fact, he should have paid more for the licence in the first place.
“We are absolutely disgusted with the situation,” Dens told the Olive Press. “Apparently they can get away with it.”



Spanish and European markets reacted negatively Monday to the news of a heavy defeat for the ruling Socialist party in local and regional elections

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Spanish and European markets reacted negatively Monday to the news of a heavy defeat for the ruling Socialist party in local and regional elections Sunday, amid growing calls for a general election later this year.

Spain's stock market was Europe's top loser in early trade, and at 1122 GMT was down 1.4%.

At the same time, the spread between Spanish and German 10-year bonds, a key measure of risk, was 14 basis points higher at 257 basis points, up 20% from last week--despite being relatively narrower compared with the spreads for Portugal and Greece.

The Socialists' debacle, which makes Spain's political landscape less certain, also contributed to pushing the euro lower Monday.

Other news weighing on the euro included Standard & Poor's outlook downgrade on Italian government debt and Fitch's downgrade of Greek debt by three notches Friday.

In a note to investors, Nomura analysts said Spain's political situation is a critical issue for the European Union as a whole, as the EU's capacity to deal with severe political and financial stress in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy is in question.

Meanwhile, Bank of Spain Governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said Monday that the country's government must now push forward with economic reforms to lower its unsustainably high borrowing costs. He added that a 200 basis point spread with German bonds is not sustainable, and called on the government to follow through with its deficit-cutting commitments and address the country's soaring unemployment rate.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has come under fire as he has moved to cut the budget deficit in recent months after years of higher spending, late Sunday ruled out calling elections before his term expires in early 2012.

However, calls for early elections persisted Monday, with several national newspapers making such demands.

The polls were marked by discontent with the country's dire economic situation and unemployment at 21.3% of the workforce. This boiled over into nationwide protests, and hundreds remained camped in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square early Monday after the number of protesters rose to tens of thousands across the country over the weekend.

With all votes tallied, the opposition Popular Party, or PP, led by Mariano Rajoy, won 37.5% of the municipal vote across the country, nearly 10 percentage points more than the Socialists. That is the largest difference between the two parties since the local elections of 1991.

But it was Bildu--a Basque independence coalition including former members of the political wing of terrorist group ETA--that posted the most surprising results in the election, becoming the second-largest group by votes in the Basque Country.

Bildu was close to being banned from the election, an issue that caused friction between Zapatero's Socialists and their Basque nationalist allies PNV, which in the event got the most votes in the region.

PP spokeswoman Ana Mato said Monday the party has been calling for an early general election for some time, and still believes that Zapatero--who has already said he won't stand for reelection--should step down, the sooner the better.

"Yesterday it wasn't us who called for an early general election, it was the Spanish people," Mato said.

The ruling Socialists also lost control of key regional governments, including those of Balearic Islands and Castilla La Mancha, a significant development as economists say a change of power there may lead to the disclosure of higher budget deficits than previously reported.

This might have an effect on the central government's effort to cut Spain's overall budget deficit to 6% of gross domestic product this year, from just over 9% of GDP last year.


Another volcanic eruption has shut down airspace around Iceland and is threatening to disrupt travel across Europe

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Another volcanic eruption has shut down airspace around Iceland and is threatening to disrupt travel across Europe in the coming days.
The eruption at Grimsvotn was much stronger than the Eyjafjoell eruption further south that shut down the airspace across Europe in April last year and disrupted the travel plans of millions of passengers.
Air safety officials said ash from the latest eruption may reach north Scotland by Tuesday before sweeping across Britain to hit France and Spain two days later.
Experts say, however, the impact should not be as far-reaching as in 2010.
The latest eruption started with some small earthquakes around the glacier at the foot of Iceland's most active volcano.
What happened next was the biggest eruption at the site since 1873.
But so far its effects are only being felt at home, with all flights in and out of Iceland's main Keflavik airport cancelled.
The plume of ash shot 20 kilometres into the sky, turning day into night and blanketing many surrounding towns and villages.
Ash coated cars and buildings, while residents are being urged to wear masks and stay indoors.
While it is still too early to be certain and winds are currently mild, meteorologists in Europe are hopeful that the travel disruption can be contained to Iceland.
BBC forecaster Simon King says it may not be until later in the week that the UK experiences any disturbances from the eruption.
"Assuming the volcano continues to erupt at the same pace and the same concentration as it is now and if we look at the upper-level winds, it's towards the end of the week where we'll start to see if there could be a problem or not for the UK," he said.
Last year's eruption closed Heathrow and virtually every other northern European airport for six days, throwing the travel plans of around 10 million people in to chaos.
It was estimated airlines lost around $200 million a day.
But experts say the eruption at Grimsvotn is unlikely to have such a dramatic impact this time.
Professor Hazel Rymer is a vulcanologist at the UK's Open University and says the situation is a lot different this time around.
She says the volcano is erupting a different type of ash.
"For a start what's different this year is this particular volcano is erupting slightly different ash. It's rather denser. The slightly larger particles are mainly what's coming out," she said.
"That means they're going to fall out quicker. They're going to fall out perhaps before they get into European airspace.
"[The] second thing is the weather is a little bit different at the moment. Principally the plume is going over towards the east. So it's not coming down into our airspace at the moment, although of course this may change."


New flight chaos fears as Iceland volcano erupts

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Authorities shut Iceland’s airspace on Sunday after the country’s most active volcano began spewing ash cloud 20 km into the sky, raising fears of a repeat of last year’s flights chaos.

While experts said the impact of the Grimsvoetn eruption should not be as far-reaching as the 2010 crisis, ash deposits were being sprinkled over the capital Reykjavik some 400 km (250 miles) to the west.

Residents living near Grimsvoetn said the skies had turned black in an eerie echo of the impact of last year’s eruption of the smaller Eyjafjoell volcano, which led to the biggest global airspace shutdown since World War II.

“It’s just black outside, and you can hardly tell it is supposed to be bright daylight,” Bjorgvin Hardarsson, a farmer in the nearby village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur said.

Grimsvoetn, Iceland’s most active volcano located at the heart of its biggest glacier Vatnajoekull, began erupting late Saturday.

Ash soon covered nearby villages and farms and by Sunday morning invisible deposits had reached the capital, prompting Iceland’s airport authority, Isavia, to announce the main airport Keflavik was shutting.

The airspace closure “affects pretty much all of Iceland right now... flights to and from Iceland are shutting down,” Isavia spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said, adding that flight routes to the north of the North Atlantic island nation might also be affected.

Gudmundsdottir said the closure would remain until at least 6:00pm (1800 GMT).

However, she stressed, the fact that winds were blowing the ash to the north were far better than last year’s eruption of Eyjafjoell, when a massive cloud of ash was blown to the south and southeast over mainland Europe.

Elin Jonasdottir, an aviation expert at the Icelandic Meteorologist Office, said that while the eruption had lost some of its initial intensity, it was too soon to predict how long the danger would last.

“The latest update is that the eruption is still going strong. The plume is now at an altitude of about 10 km,” she said.

Jonasdottir said although the current altitude was only half of its height on Saturday, the plume usually hits a peak after an eruption begins and so it was not an indication that it was tapering off.

“The plume is reaching above the tropopause (the atmospheric boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere) where most of weather happens, so there is still a danger that the ash can travel.



The Spanish Revolution grows

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Protestors have decided to keep up their camp in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid after voting in the local and regional elections on Sunday, despite the decision of the Junta Electoral to ban marches on Saturday and SundayPuerta del Sol at dawn on Thursday - EFE

There are now thousands of people concentrated in the Puerta del Sol in the centre of Madrid, ever more convinced that Sunday, the day of the local and regional elections, will not be the last day of their protest.

One key policy has emerged from the protestors – they want changes to the electoral law, and are calling for open candidate lists and a law of political responsibility. The latter would bring an end to indicted candidates being placed on lists. They want to see politicians’ wages controlled and large law changes submitted to referendum.

As they bring the wide range of ideas together, a spokesman said that they are now compiling their list of demands, with an assembly held on Thursday generating wide debate. They want to see fiscal reform that favours those on a low income, they demand dignified housing, and the ability to cancel mortgage debt if the property becomes embargoed.

They want to see a single constituencies arranged proportionally to the number of votes in each area, and want blank voting slips to be counted and considered as an option. They demand an end to private funding of political parties, and have even come up with some ideas for reform of the Senate and the regional governments.
They want an end to temporary work agencies, rubbish contracts, and want to see the minimum wage increased to 900 € a month. They demand that financial rescues be directed at families facing eviction rather than at the banks.

The ‘Democracia Real Ya’ protestors, also known as the 15-M group, now say they can be known as ‘Toma la Plaza’.

As numbers swelled in the Puerta del Sol on Thursday

night as a demonstration set for 8pm got underway, the chants rang out against the two political parties. ‘PSOE, PP it’s all the same shit, they don’t represent us’.

It would be wrong to think that it is only the youth which is demonstrating. Fathers with their sons and grandparents with their grandchildren are also on the streets.
Simon Hunter from El País reported one pensioner was heard speaking to a punk youth next to him, ‘I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how we are here again after everything we went through during the dictatorship. Now it’s your turn. No you represent me. Not them’.

The Junta Electoral has meanwhile ratified their decision declaring the camp in Puerta del Sol to be illegal. The protests were in the hands of eight magistrates and five professors, and news came late on Thursday that demonstrations planned for Saturday are also banned. Five voted in favour of the decision, four against and there was one abstention.

The police have said that they have not moved in to clear the plaza as ‘there are too many people’. Sociologists have warned that protests will swell even more if there are attempts to end the current gatherings. One protestor was heard to comment, ‘This movement is independent and above prohibition’.

Attention is now focussed on the Deputy Prime Minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who when asked about the police’s decision not to intervene on Wednesday, said the decision was ‘appropriate’. He is yet to comment on the decision over Saturday’s marches.

The Constitutional Court considers, looking at previous rulings, that demonstrations can be prohibited on the day of reflection only if their aim is to capture votes, and that does not seem to be the case here, in fact almost the opposite.

Those who have been sleeping in the square say they will continue to do so ‘indefinitely’, remaining after Sunday’s elections. More than 52,000 signatures have been collected calling for an ongoing protest. Teams to share out food and on cleaning duties have been organised. Tonight the weathermen say it will not rain.

The group has also called a series of demonstrations to be held on Saturday, the day of reflection before voting when political activity is generally banned. They say they should be allowed to march to express their freedom of speech.

In Barcelona more than a thousand people have remained in the Plaza de Cataluña despite a call for them to move on. At one point an Argentinean style Cacerolada was held, as protestors banged pots and pans. A similar event in Valencia attracted some 150 people.

There have also been demonstrations in Zaragoza where some are camping in the Plaza del Pilar, in Oviedo in the Plaza de la Escandalera,

In Sevilla about 1,500 protestors took to the streets on Thursday evening, and a protest in the Plaza de la Encarnación attracted about 300 despite torrential rain.

There is also a new international aspect to the protests, being spread across borders on Twitter with many hastags including #spanishrevolution. Rome, Milan and Florence also all saw protests on Thursday night. Events are also planned in Brussels, Copenhagen, Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

Response from Spain’s political leaders to the protests has been varied, to say the least...
Mariano Rajoy, PP leader, commented that ‘Things like this week’s protests did not happen when his party was in power’. He also commented that ‘democracy is taking the votes away from Government when it is not up to the job.

The Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, said that ‘The protestors should be listened to because they have reasons to be discontent’. However he also told them that change and improvements are obtained by working and voting.

PP Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, commented that it is not the system that has failed, but the Government, while the Socialist candidate for the Madrid region, Tomás Gómez, said the only thing anti-system there is, is called Esperanza Aguirre, the name of his PP rival.

Speaking from Cannes where he was questioned by journalists about the protests, Spanish film maker Pedro Almodóvar, said he energetically supported the citizens movement. ‘It is a pacific movement which is being born, but it will last for a long time. The people have taken to the streets to tell the politicians to stop looking at their belly-buttons, and take care of the people for once. It’s the best critic of all Spanish critics seen in the democracy’.

One thing that is for sure, the camp in Puerta del Sol has totally eclipsed the politicians on their usual quick fire visits and party rallies. It remains to be seen if the movement does indeed have a life after the votes are cast on Sunday.



The Indian Bollywood film industry is doing a remake of the Spanish film by director Alejandro Amenábar, ‘Mar Adentro’, which won an Oscar and stared Javier Bardem.

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The Indian Bollywood film industry is doing a remake of the Spanish film by director Alejandro Amenábar, ‘Mar Adentro’, which won an Oscar and stared Javier Bardem.

The true story of the quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro and his fight to be granted the right to die is now called ‘Guzaarish’ –‘The request’.

Some of the scenes of the Indian film are an exact replica of the original, with the obvious difference that the rolling films of Galicia are replaced with the exotic land of Goa. However so far the copy is failed to recoup its budget of 750 million rupees, (11.7 million €) although its recent launch on DVD is doing well.


A man is missing presumed dead after falling overboard a cruise ship in the English channel, French officials say.

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French emergency workers have called off a search and rescue operation after unsuccessfully searching for the man through the night.

The man fell from the Celebrity Eclipse, which was off the French coast, at about 2215 BST on Friday.

It is not known if he was a passenger or crew member. His nationality is yet to be confirmed.

Very cold
"Unfortunately there was a man in the sea. We searched for him extensively but we could not find him," a French coastguard official said.

"We deployed our resources to find him but it was to no avail and we can now presume that he is dead.

"The water was very cold and there is no hope for him."

Solent Coastguard Maritime Rescue confirmed it had received information that a person onboard the cruiser had fallen overboard but did not know if he was British.

The Celebrity Eclipse is owned by travel company Celebrity Cruises. It is believed to have been travelling between Cherbourg and Southampton when the incident occurred some eight miles north of the French port.

Celebrity Cruises offer trips around Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as the Antarctic. The Eclipse cruiser, a Solstice class vessel, joined the fleet last year, according to the company's website.


Investors looking to get hold of property in Spain could be encouraged by news that one of the country's largest banks is planning to sell over $2 billion worth of property, land plots, hotels and commercial space.

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Investors looking to get hold of property in Spain could be encouraged by news that one of the country's largest banks is planning to sell over $2 billion worth of property, land plots, hotels and commercial space.

Bancaja Habitat will be hosting a one-off investment seminar in Dubai next week, which will see the firm host to one of the largest disposals of bank assets.

As a result of the popularity of Spanish property from buyers located in the Middle East, the event is expected to be popular.

To further attract potential buyers, the bank has also announced that it will be releasing some incredible investment opportunities - available to those who attend on the day.

The deals include property discounted by up to 62 per cent.

It follows comments made by Peter Mindenhall, researcher at IPINGlobal.com, who stated that the average Spanish real estate prices will fall further once the country's banks reveal the backlog of distressed property on their books.


Hidden-debt concerns now play a central role in campaigning in regions like Castilla-La Mancha, where the Socialist party risks losing its 30-year hold on power

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Weekend elections that threaten to drive Spain's ruling Socialist party from power in several regions and cities also promise a potentially nasty surprise: the revelation of piles of undisclosed debt in local governments that could undercut the country's drive to avoid an international bailout.

Five months ago, a government change in Spain's Catalonia region revealed a budget deficit more than twice as big as previously reported. Now, a growing chorus of economists, local politicians and business leaders say that new governments are likely to discover, as Catalonia did, piles of "hidden debt" owed to health clinics and other suppliers.

(This story and related background material will be available on The Wall Street Journal website, WSJ.com.)

Economists, analysts and anecdotal reports from companies that supply local governments suggest there is widespread, unrecorded debt among once-free-spending local governments. Some companies are complaining that fiscally frail administrations are pressuring them to do business off the books and not immediately bill for goods and services, said Fernando Eguidazu, vice president of the Circulo de Empresarios business lobby group in Madrid.

Such bills could add tens of billions of euros to the official debt figures reported by local and regional governments. If such skeletons come out of the closet in coming weeks, Spain's cost of funding could continue to rise--throwing the country back into the limelight after it has struggled to demonstrate it doesn't need to be bailed out like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

"Investors are worried about the regions, given that there has a been precedent in Spain and other countries of debt not being recorded properly," said Luigi Speranza, a BNP Paribas economist.

Sunday's elections, which will be held in 13 of the country's 17 regions and its more than 8,000 municipalities, threaten to be hard on Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists. Polls show Socialist-led governments could be unseated in Castilla-La Mancha, the Balearic Islands, Asturias and Extremadura regions. Undermined by a 21% unemployment rate and a perceived slowness in reacting to the country's economic crisis, the Socialists could also lose control of the municipal governments of Barcelona and Seville, the country's second- and third-largest cities.

The social fallout from the poor economic conditions is evident in Spain this week as waves of protests swept the country. Young people took to main squares in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia on Thursday to protest unemployment among those in their 20s and 30s, which has reached 50% in some areas, and the government's austerity program. Demonstrators are hoping their ranks will swell over the weekend.

Nearly a year ahead of March 2012 Spanish national elections, a poll last month by the state-owned Center of Sociological Investigations, or CIS, forecast the opposition Popular Party could capture 43.8% of the vote, while the Socialists could get 33.4%.

Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado has told journalists there are no "hidden deficits" on the accounts of Spain's regions. Spain lately has steadied--if not dismissed--concerns about its finances by slashing its budget deficit to 9.3% of gross domestic product in 2010 from 11% of GDP in 2009.

But most of the reduction was thanks to central-government cuts. Regional and municipal governments, which piled on debt during the economic boom years that followed Spain's adoption of the euro in 1999, control half of spending in Spain, and have so far made little progress on this front.

They also got into the habit of paying their suppliers late to free up funds for other spending projects. According to Spanish central bank data, regional and municipal governments had around EUR21 billion ($29.9 billion) in unpaid invoices on their books in 2010, equal to about 13% of current outstanding debt and nearly double the amount in 2003.

The "hidden debt" problem first popped up in Catalonia after elections in the fall that resulted in moderate Catalan nationalists unseating a Socialist-led coalition. In December, the central finance ministry said the region's debt-to-regional-GDP ratio was 1.7% as of the third quarter. The old government, in an outgoing report, later disclosed the full-year deficit could be as high as 3.3%.

The new government found that the 2010 deficit was actually 3.8%, thanks to lower-than-anticipated tax revenues as well as millions in unrecorded late payments to suppliers. Among them: EUR852 million in unpaid bills to health-care providers such as hospitals, according to the current government's spokeswoman.

In response, the new Catalonian government drafted a draconian 2011 budget that foresees a 10% cut in expenditures and includes downsizing of public-sector companies and cut backs in health services. Now, the fear is that the Catalonia phenomenon will be repeated.

Following the Catalonian elections, reports surfaced in Spanish newspapers that the government of the east-coast region of Valencia had EUR1.3 billion of unpaid bills to health-care suppliers that "were put in a drawer" and not counted as part of that region's 2010 deficit. Valencia officials declined to comment on the reports.

"If [new governments] want to force changes, they are going to have recognize the debt," said Luis Garicano, professor of economics and strategy at the London School of Economics.

Mr. Garicano, who worked on a 2009 study on the Spanish health-care system with McKinsey & Co., estimates that unrecorded payments to providers of health products and equipment may be just under EUR10 billion.

While that amount would add only about 1% to the country's debt-to-GDP ratio, such a widespread payment backlog, which Mr. Garicano says often reaches 600 days of delay, "is a massive problem to a whole range of businesses," he said, and would crimp the economic growth Spain urgently needs.

Regional and municipal governments are benefiting from European Union rules that allow them to keep much of the debt of public-sector companies, such as utilities, off their books. Lorenzo Bernaldo de Quiros, a Madrid economist, calculates that around EUR26.4 billion of debt isn't being recorded, even though local governments are ultimately on the hook for it.

Hidden-debt concerns now play a central role in campaigning in regions like Castilla-La Mancha, where the Socialist party risks losing its 30-year hold on power. In an April survey, the Center of Sociological Investigations forecast the PP will win 46.3% of the vote to the Socialists' 45%.

According to the PP and local business leaders, the region hasn't booked 90,000 unpaid invoices of around EUR1 billion. A local businessman said a lengthy payment authorization process lets regional authorities delay recording invoices they receive, that they are booked as expenses only when the region is nearly ready to make payment. Regional government officials wouldn't comment on the claim.

In an interview, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, the PP's candidate to be the next president of Castilla-La Mancha, predicted a new regime would find hidden debts and promised to clean them up. "It's time to face this problem," she said, adding the first thing she will do if elected is commission an audit of Castilla-La Mancha's accounts. She also says she will close more than half of the region's 95 public-sector companies and privatize the local television station, which she said loses EUR70 million a year.


Drought-Hit Spain Seeks Early Farm Subsidies

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Spain has become the latest country to apply for early European farming support subsidies this year as poor weather continues to threaten harvests across the region, a spokesman for the European Commission said Friday.

The European Union's executive arm has already approved in principal France's request for an advance on the Common Agricultural Policy, which would pay farmers around €4 billion ($5.72 billion) on Oct. 16, rather than in December.

But commission spokesman Roger Waite said Spain also had applied for early support for its producers, which could total up to €2.6 billion, while "Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg are expressing an interest, and Hungary too."

Europe is in the grip of the worst drought to hit the region for decades, with some parts receiving only around 40% of their average rainfall between February and April.

France's Ecology Minister has declared "a state of crisis" and imposed restrictions on the use of water in 28 out of 96 administrative regions due to the lack of rainfall.

In Spain, however, unseasonably heavy downfalls have stopped farmers planting this year's tomato crop, delaying the start of the season.

Analysts forecast output from the key producing region of Extremadura could fall 22% compared with 2010 to 1.38 million metric tons, while Andalusia could lose 35% of its crop compared with last year.

Mr. Waite said the commission is likely to decide on the early payments in June or July. The Oct. 16 deadline is imposed because it is the start of the new budget year, and advances couldn't be paid before then, he said.

But he added that under the EU's state aid regime, farmers could be paid up to €7,500 ($10,733) in extra support over a three-year period.



Expat developments in Spain mean that many towns now have electorates where locals are in the minority

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impassioned Colin Timms was on the campaign stump in Rojales, eastern Spain, just around the corner from The George pub and a shopping street packed with bars offering Tetley's beer, all-day British breakfasts, karaoke nights and evening quizzes.

"The British do not forget and that is why we put the socialists out at the last election," he told an audience of silver-haired expats in Ciudad Quesada, a residential estate with signs advertising a British dental surgery, Danny's Garage and the cheddar cheese sold at The Chop House butchers.

"You are the people who will decide," he insisted, as he urged them to vote in Sunday's Spanish municipal elections. "You can break or break the whole of Rojales."

Timms is one of a new breed of local politicians in Spain – those who deliver a British vote that is decisive in towns where huge expat residential estates have dramatically altered local demographics, sometimes turning native Spaniards into a minority.

The vote will almost certainly make Timms deputy mayor of a town where Britons make up some 40% of the 7,000-strong voters' register and where his local Independent Rojales Group (GRIP) party's two councillors already holds the balance of power on the council.

This time they should get at least four of the 24 council seats, he said, though he needs reluctant expats to drag themselves away from Sky television or the bowls club and get to the voting booths.

"Some Brits are bloody lazy," complained Timms, a retired lecturer whose party has gone into coalition with the town's ruling conservative People's party (PP). "It's hard to get them off their arses to vote."

The mayor, Antonio Martínez, who has taken his PP party into coalition with Timms, knows the importance of British voters, who often speak only very basic Spanish. "Excuse me. I speak Spanish. I no speak English. I'm sorry," a bashful Martínez stuttered to the same audience.

Martínez's campaign literature – like that of the candidates for his party – comes in Spanish, English, German, French and Dutch.

Some local British politicians want to become mayors of their Spanish towns.

"Some people think we are going to change the language of the town hall, but that is not true," said Jeff Wiszniewski, a 60-year-old former Scottish police officer. He founded the new Independent Party of the Nationalities (PIPN) to fight for the mayor's job in San Fulgencio, where British voters outnumber locals.

As in many towns where a wave of concrete swept over previously undeveloped countryside, both San Fulgencio and Rojales are split between the original old town and the vast new urbanizaciones – the foreign-dominated residential estates.

Wiszniewski rejected the idea of an "expats against locals" problem in San Fulgencio. But he complained that while the urbizaciones provided much of the town hall income, the money was mainly spent on the sleepy old town – which lies two miles away across a flat agricultural plain.

The deputy mayor, Mariano Martí, denied that the town, where asphalt spreading machines were this week giving streets a pre-electoral brush-up, was hogging resources. He admitted, however, that locals and foreigners barely mixed.

"They don't come down here to shop and people from the town don't go up there to go out," he said. "Language is a problem, because the waiters up there often only speak English."

Wisznieski admitted that his own faltering Spanish – though far better than that of most expats – was a potential problem at council meetings but said he would take a translator if necessary.

Martí said the job required someone who could represent the town in meetings with provincial authorities. "If he can't speak Spanish, then he can't defend the town's interests."

Not all Britons are keen to see a British mayor. "There might be one eventually," said Bob Harlow, a PP supporter in San Fulgencio. "But this is their country. It doesn't seem right for us to come and impose ourselves."

That may explains why only a quarter of 280,000 expat Europeans in Alicante have registered to vote. As a result only San Fulgencio and the village of Lliber, further north, have a majority of foreign voters.

Some expats privately admit it would be hypocritical to want to govern San Fulgencio, when immigration was one of the reasons they left Britain. And, indeed, Britain's own ethnic minorities are virtually invisible in San Fulgencio and Rojales.

Mainstream Spanish parties, having ignored expats in the past, are now working hard to attract European voters. "The British are key," said Marisun Prieto, a local PP strategist.



2,000 young people angry over high unemployment have spent the night camping in a famous square in Madrid as a political protest there grows.

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2,000 young people angry over high unemployment have spent the night camping in a famous square in Madrid as a political protest there grows.

A big canvas roof was stretched across Puerta del Sol square, protesters brought mattresses and sleeping bags and volunteers distributed food.

The nature of the peaceful protest, including Twitter messages to alert supporters, echoed the pro-democracy rallies that revolutionised Egypt.

The Madrid protests began on Sunday.

On the first evening, police dispersed the protesters, but on Tuesday they let them stay overnight.

Spain's 21.3% unemployment rate is the highest in the EU - a record 4.9 million are jobless, many of them young people.

Spanish media say the protesters are attacking the country's political establishment with slogans such as "violence is earning 600 euros", "if you don't let us dream we won't let you sleep" and "the guilty ones should pay for the crisis".

The atmosphere in the square has been quite festive, with the crowd singing songs, playing games and debating.

They are demanding jobs, better living standards and a fairer system of democracy.

About 50 police officers are deployed in side-streets off the iconic square and outside the Madrid municipal government building.

The protesters are not identifying with any particular political party, Spanish media say, but they are getting more organised.

In another echo of the Cairo rallies that eventually forced President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, the Spanish protesters have set up citizens' committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters.


Mother wants justice for daughter murdered in Spain

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Laura Cerna, a 49-year-old single mother and teacher, was murdered on Monday, August 30, 2010 while living in Seville, a city with a population of over 700,000 people in the south of Spain, in Andalusia, about 340 miles southwest of Madrid.

The 49-year-old attractive woman with a smile described by those who knew her as "lighting up a room", was brutally stabbed multiple times in her chest, kicked and beaten, then decapitated, dismembered, and placed in garbage bags thrown into the Guadalquivir River by 30-year-old Antonio Gordillo, a person with a previous violent arrest record, who confessed to cutting up her body and trying to conceal her death, as reported by WSVN-TV Miami, Diario de Sevilla, El Correo, and other news sources.



Jamie Dempsey, is being held in connection with a 90 million euro cocaine empire.

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Jamie Dempsey, is being held in connection with a 90 million euro cocaine empire.
Dempsey, 33, from Essex, was arrested during a raid on a property in Benahavis, Marbella for allegedly conspiring to supply 299 kilos of cocaine in spring 2009.

It follows Dempsey’s appearance on the wanted list, issued by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in February.
Dave Cording, of Crimestoppers, said: “This is another great result which means that now 50% of the most recent batch of wanted individuals have been arrested.
“Not only is the campaign successful in tracking people down in Spain, but it displaces them as well.”


A man accused of beheading a British grandmother was on the run from police when the attack was carried out. Police had warned he was a danger to the public

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A man accused of beheading a British grandmother was on the run from police when the attack was carried out. Police had warned he was a danger to the public and should not be allowed on the streets, but he was freed on bail after a short spell in a psychiatric clinic.

Three days before Jennifer Mills-Westley, 60, of Norfolk, was beheaded in a supermarket, a judge ordered the arrest of the Bulgarian vagrant who allegedly killed her and paraded her head through the street.

On May 10, Magistrate Nelson Diaz Frias issued a warrant for the arrest of Deyan Deyanov, 28, for an unprovoked assault on a night security guard.


Police are hunting Edinburghborn Richard Bain after he failed to appear in court in Malaga on fraud charges on May 9.

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Bain, 46, is linked to Toni Muldoon who faces more than four years in jail over the racket which fleeced cash from people with unwanted Costa del Sol properties.
Bain was previously arrested in the UK on charges of theft and fraud under the name Richard Thompson.
He is alleged to have conned timeshare victims in Spain by offering legal assistance to recoup their losses but then disappeared with their cash.
Lawyer Antonio Flores, who represents 160 British claimants, said: "This was a multimillion pound scam."
Timeshare owners were conned into paying upfront fees of around s1200 for selling their Fuengirolabased companies linked to Muldoon between 2001 and 2006.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Bain, Muldoon's wife and five others.
One rippedoff Scot from Balerno, Midlothian, said: "They got me the first time. It was quite an operation. You could hear a lot of phones going off in the background."
At Monday's court hearing in Malaga, 10 gang members were given suspended sentences of up to two years.
Six people, including Muldoon, pleaded guilty to fraud while four admitted charges of illicit association.
The court ordered that s438,000 defrauded from 300 Scottish and English claimants be paid back.
Bain's firm, Conectese was also reportedly not registered with Spanish authorities.


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TIMESHARE crook Toni Muldoon, who robbed hundreds of Britons in a long-running multi-million-pound scam, has finally been found guilty of fraud.
Costa del Sol-based Muldoon, 64, and his wife Kim were accused of leading an operation that conned £9million from hundreds of timeshare owners.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Kim Muldoon, believed to have headed to Turkey, and six other members of the gang after they missed a court hearing in Malaga, Spain, brought by 300 mainly British claimants.
Maidstone-born Toni Muldoon and nine other defendants were given suspended sentences of under two years on condition that they repaid £438,000 within two years. Six pleaded guilty to fraud, the rest agreed to charges of illicit association and received a one-year suspended prison term.
The scam was run from call centres in Fuengirola from 2001 to 2006. Britons seeking to offload overpriced timeshares were contacted by telesales staff from companies including Screenit and Platinum Properties and offered an enticing rate after being told a buyer was interested.
An upfront fee of about £1,200 was then demanded for the sale management, never to be seen again. Twenty-six other companies, all linked to Muldoon, presented a fresh front for the racket, allowing it to run unchecked. A follow-up scam by company Conectese, run by Scotsman Richard Bain, saw the timeshare victims offered “legal assistance” for £250 to get their money back.
Lawyer Antonio Flores, of Marbella firm Lawbird, who represented 160 British claimants, said: “The amount the claimants were defrauded is considered only a fraction of all those who were swindled. This was a multi- million-pound scam. Muldoon is just horrible. He’s a natural-born conman.”
Victim Victor Jacobs, 89, of Hauxton, Cambridgeshire, said he was conned by “crooks”. The former engineer and his wife Peggy, also 89, received a call in 2001 from a Muldoon-linked company offering to sell their timeshare.


British woman who was decapitated by a homeless man in Tenerife had sought protection from a security guard minutes before she was killed.

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The 60-year-old woman reported the threatening behaviour of her attacker, a 28-year-old Bulgarian named Deyan Valentinov Deyanov, to a security guard. Minutes later the Bulgarian reportedly hacked her to death claiming to be a "prophet of God".
The woman's name has not yet been made public but The Sunday Telegraph understands she divided her time between the Spanish island and the UK.
Police are investigating reports that she spent several minutes inside the Social Security Office in the popular seaside resort of Los Cristianos while the Bulgarian ranted at the door. He had been refused entrance because of his "aggressive manner" towards her. She waited until he had moved on before emerging from the building and entering a discount store next door.
It was there that just minutes later her attacker allegedly snatched a large kitchen knife for sale at the store and stabbed her at least 14 times.
The man then hacked off her head and ran from the store carrying it by the hair.

The same security guard, named locally as Juan Antonio Hernandez Delgado, heard the commotion, and chased him down the street and wrestled him to the ground.
Locals said the man had been well-known in the area for his threatening and often violent behaviour and had reportedly recently been released from a psychiatric clinic where he was undergoing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.
He once punched a local shopowner who refused to tell him the time, smashing out his teeth. Witnesses said the man, who is not thought to have any connection to the victim before their encounter on Friday morning, had been heard muttering "I am a prophet of God, I will do his justice on earth".
Mr Deyanov was believed to be a 28-year-old homeless Bulgarian man with a police record. He was reportedly discharged from a hospital in February having received treatment for violent behaviour.
Manuel Reveron, a local councillor said: "Apparently this gentleman without any motive or any reason, although for this there is no reasoning, entered the shop and then cut this woman's neck and took the head in his hand outside up to the sidewalk."
An expatriate Briton, Colin Kirby, said: "I thought someone had fainted or something and walked on, then I heard screaming and looked behind and saw a scruffy, unkempt man of about mid 20s holding a head by the hair," he said.
"It had blood on it and I thought at first it was a sick joke stunt, the man was muttering and shouting and more people started screaming as I quickened my pace."
Another witness told broadcaster Cadena Ser that he saw the man drop a bloodstained woman's head on the pavement after coming out of the shop.
"I was parking my car outside the supermarket and I saw this man running out with something bloody in his hands," the witness said.
"It was a head. He had it in his hands. The security guards chased him and threw him to the floor and overpowered him."
Dominica Fernandez, a government official, said the suspect had "chosen his victim by chance".
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Tenerife and are urgently investigating."


A British woman has been beheaded in front of horrified tourists in a supermarket on the Spanish holiday island of Tenerife, allegedly by a man who claimed he was a 'Prophet of God'.

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The woman, who was described as being in her 60s, was in a shop in the town of Arona, about 10 miles from the popular beach resort of Los Christianos, when she was stabbed and then decapitated.
According to witnesses, the attacker, who is thought to be a homeless man of Bulgarian origin, entered the store, grabbed a knife and launched a frenzied and unprovoked assault.
The attacker, who apparently had a history of violent behaviour, then decapitated her before leaving the store carrying her head. Today Spanish newspapers said police had arrested a 28-year-old man named locally as "Deyan Valentinov D", declining to give his full surname.
It was also claimed that he had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and thought he was a "Prophet of God". Local news website site CanariasalDia.com quoted the local mayor, José Reverón, as saying that the man, who lived in a semi-derelict house, had shouted: "God is on Earth".
Mr Reverón added that the attacker was known to local police for his often threatening behaviour in the street, and had once knocked a man's teeth out, raising questions as to why he had not been kept him under closer supervision.

Holidaymakers and locals on the Spanish island described their complete shock and horror after witnessing the scene, which took place at around 10.30am local time (9.30am GMT) on Friday.
British journalist Colin Kirby, 50, who lives in Tenerife, was walking past the store when he saw the attacker emerging.
He said he saw the man walking away carrying what he thought was a joke head and only realised the true horror of what he was witnessing when members of the public and security officers apprehended the man.
Mr Kirby said: “It looked like he was carrying a prop from the Clash of the Titans but then I realised it wasn’t a joke.
“He went to walk across the road and then some security spotted him and managed to grapple him to the ground. They had to fight off some of the locals who were trying to get to him.”
Christina Perez, a legal representative at a nearby court, said a group of lawyers witnessed the man sprinting out of the store, carrying the head.
“They saw the man running out of the supermarket with the head in his hands.
"A security man from the complex ran after him and jumped on to him so he fell, and then he threw the head on to the road," she said.
Ms Perez, 38, added that her frightened colleagues darted indoors for safety.
“They were shocked. Some of them ran to the office and locked themselves in,” she said.
“Everybody is shocked. It's a very safe area. You can usually go anywhere you want in the day or at night. This is really not normal.”
Another witness described seeing the attacker drop the woman’s head to the pavement before he was detained by security officers and police.
The woman said: “I saw a man running out with someone in his hands and a security guard chasing him. He threw it to the ground, it almost hit me, and what he had been carrying was a woman’s head.”


11,000 residents will not be able to return to their homes in Lorca for months.

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11,000 residents will not be able to return to their homes in Lorca for months. Public Works technicians have confirmed that 165 or 12% of buildings have suffered structural damage and are uninhabitable following the earthquakes which hit the town last week. 52% of homes have been affected to some extent.

The other priority for the town is for the 6,600 children to return to school. The regional councillor for Education, Constantino Sotaca, said that 12 schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, although three will be able to run their infants services. It means that many pupils will be redistributed to other schools and institutes.

The Government is to revise construction regulations following the quake. Experts say that what happened in the town was the sum of much bad luck. Paloma Sobrini, from the COAM Official College of Madrid Architects, explained that the two tremors were very superficial, the first one 10km down and the second one just 1km down, making it far more destructive. She told 20 Minutos the 2002 legislation on earthquake resistant construction in Spain is ‘phenomenal, and so good that it is being adopted in many Latin American countries’.

Despite those positive comments, a three story block, built in 2001, came down, while older blocks around it remained standing, and questions are being asked as to whether the architects college and Town Halls are doing their job in supervising that regulations are being met.


emotion and pain as Lorca has said goodbye to its nine dead, killed in Wednesday’s earthquake.

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The Prince and Princess of Asturias led mourners in the funeral on Friday morning, held in the local fairground. Some 3,000 locals attended the ceremony which saw only four coffins following the express wishes of the families. The other five victims will see small intimate family ceremonies.

The Bishop of Cartagena, José Manuel Lorca Planes, said it was a tragedy which ‘nobody can explain’ and called on the locals to resist the consequences of this ‘dry punch of nature which has generated a scene of anguish and tears’. He called on public institutions and private companies to support the resurrection of this municipality of Murcia.

The Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, was also present and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría represented the Partido Popular.
Minister visited the La Viña part of the town, where most of the damage was seen.
‘The earthquake was strong’, he said, ‘but the will to reconstruct will be stronger’. He praised the coordination which had been achieved between administrations since the tragedy, and spoke to some of the residents who observed his visit in silence.


local vagrant has walked into a shop in a commercial centre in Los Cristianos, Tenerife and decapitated a British customer in her 60’s

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man known to be a local vagrant has walked into a shop in a commercial centre in Los Cristianos, Tenerife and decapitated a British customer in her 60’s. It appears the man entered the Chinese supermarket and chose his victim by chance.

The Mayor of Arona, José Alberto González Reverón, said the closed circuit recording of the shop showed that the man did not speak at all to his victim, and after picking up a large knife, decapitated her.

The Councillor for Safety from Arona Town Hall, Manuel Reverón, has said that witnesses report that the man cut off the head of the British woman, and walked out of the shop at 1025am on Friday in Avenida Juan Carlos I, with her head in his hand.

The agressor was caught and held down by members of the public when he slipped and fell on the pavement outside. The head fell to the pavement and was quickly covered with a sheet. The public managed to hold him down until the police arrived and made an arrest.
National and local police rushed to the scene with two ambulances from the Canaries Emergency Services.

The man, a 28 year old named as Deyan Valentinov D. has been arrested and has found out to be Bulgarian. Reports indicate that he has been under psychiatric treatment, at the La Candelaria Hospital following previous violent episodes, and that he was allowed home after that treatment was considered to have been completed last February. He is known to have been living in a semi-abandoned property, and was known by locals for often shouting aloud that he was ‘God on earth’.


A platform created against plans to build a test track circuit for high speed trains in Antequera will be in Málaga City

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A platform created against plans to build a test track circuit for high speed trains in Antequera will be in Málaga City on May 19, distributing locally-grown produce to the public.

The platform considers that, despite the thousands of jobs which will be created by the project, the damage it will cause to what is the most fertile district of Málaga province will be irreversible.

La Opinión de Málaga reports that more many local businesses, associations and environmental organisations are against the project.

The 80 km testing track will consist of three loops, with 55 kms of the circuit to be used to test trains up to a speed of 520 kms and hour. There will also be smaller circuits for the testing of metro and tram trains.


FIREMEN in Estepona have been forced to dip into their own pockets to keep their fire engines on the road.

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It has been revealed that fire crews paid 700 euros of their own money to maintain their vehicles after the town hall ran out of cash.
Now, in a further incident, it has emerged that one crew has been banned from using their rescue ladder because their vehicle failed its ITV test (MOT).


Mr Marbella’ will kick off his new show by chatting to guests including Jeffrey Archer and Max Clifford, before opening the phone lines for listeners.

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Maruellous Marbella Mix 1
MAURICE Boland is back on air for the first time since the scandal over his alleged affair with a teenagerThe Irishman’s new slot begins this afternoon on Heart FM, where he has signed an initial three month contract.
The show had originally being slated to start on May 1 but was rescheduled after the station experienced technical difficulties.
Boland has worked since the 1980s in Marbella, interviewing famous names including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Cliff Richard and Jay Leno.


300,000 Spanish residents could have no entitlement to free healthcare.

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Spain’s public health law – that anyone resident in Spain has the right to free medical care – was introduced in 1986.
But the condition for – that anyone resident in Spain has the right to free medical care – was introduced in 1986.
But the condition for this free access – that the patient must pay into the Social Security system – means that hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to take out private health insurance.
According to the Health Ministry there are officially 180,000 people currently left out of the public health system.

But some experts believe the recession could mean a staggering 300,000 people now fall into this group.
It includes those who have never worked or the unemployed who no longer receive any state benefits, but have an income exceeding the Spanish minimum wage of 641 euros a month.
And most early retirees – even from other EU countries – could find themselves faced with a hefty bill after care.his free access – that the patient must pay into the Social Security system – means that hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to take out private health insurance.
According to the Health Ministry there are officially 180,000 people currently left out of the public health system.
But some experts believe the recession could mean a staggering 300,000 people now fall into this group.
It includes those who have never worked or the unemployed who no longer receive any state benefits, but have an income exceeding the Spanish minimum wage of 641 euros a month.
And most early retirees – even from other EU countries – could find themselves faced with a hefty bill after care.


Two earthquakes struck southeast Spain in quick succession today, killing at least seven people, injuring dozens and causing major damage to buildings, officials said.

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The epicentre of the quakes - with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 - was close to the town of Lorca, and the second came about two hours after the first, an official with the Murcia regional government said on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

The prime minister's office put the death toll at seven but did not say how many people were injured, although news reports said there were many.
 At least six people have been killed in an earthquake in southern Spain, with damage
Several buildings were destroyed by the pair of earthquakes in Lorca, with the aftermath
The Murcia regional government said a hospital in Lorca was being evacuated, dozens of injured people were being treated at the scene and a field hospital was being set up. It said the seven deaths included a minor and occurred with the second, stronger quake.
Large chunks of stone and brick fell from the facade of a church in Lorca as Spanish state TV was broadcasting live from the scene. A large church bell was also among the rubble.
The broadcaster reported that schoolchildren usually gather at that spot around that time, and if it had happened 10 minutes later, a 'tragedy' could have occurred.


woman has been arrested for stabbing the man in Alicante on Saturday

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National Police from Alicante arrested a middle aged woman on Saturday after she allegedly stabbed a 41 year old man from Eastern Europe, apparently over a debt of 500 €.

The victim was attended to by a mobile SAMU unit in the doorway of the block where the stabbing happened in Calle Berenguer de Marquina at 1430.

While the emergency services were carrying out their work, the woman came down to the doorway and asked for her knife back saying she wanted to peel an onion. Witnesses and neighbours said she was obviously drunk. She was then arrested and taken for questioning by the police. She is claiming that the man stabbed himself, but reports say the police think that unlikely.



Partaloa town plan stripped of illegal homes solutions

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During a recent meeting between town hall officials and AUAN it was confirmed that the Junta has insisted that large areas included in the proposals by the council are unacceptable. The area of La Canada is to be completely excluded, and the designation of urban land in Partaloa town, Retamar, Cerro Gordo and Piedra Amarilla must be considerably reduced. All other areas were never considered for inclusion in the proposed plan.

The plan fell foul of two restrictions in the planning laws (POTA and LOUA) which limit the rate at which urban land can be increased and stipulate that new urban spaces must be created next to existing urban nuclii or settlements of long standing.

Provisional approval must now be given to a much reduced plan and a further period of public consultation is required due to the significance of the changes. Approval is unlikely to be given until the end of the year.



The Spanish government claims price falls since 2007 mean now is the time to snap up bargains – but many analysts say the country's property crash is far from over and prices have further to drop. The government says:

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■ about one million homes are on sale in Spain, of which 700,000 are empty new-build flats and houses which have never been lived in;

■ some 420,000 of the empty homes are on the Costas;

■ Spanish house prices have fallen an average of 15.4% nationwide but up to 40% in second home areas like Marbella.

The housing minister insists "the market is recovering" and "at the current rate of transactions, after two to three years will reach equilibrium between supply and demand". But many experts disagree and the Madrid government's own figures suggest a different picture.

The government's price index show Costa del Sol values down another 8% in the year to late March, while "recent interest rate rises are likely to put further downward pressure on prices" says Mark Stucklin, a Barcelona-based analyst who writes an online market guide, Spanish Property Insight.

A Reuters poll of economists and property experts shows a strong majority forecasting two more years of price falls. Investment bank Morgan Stanley predicts prices will drop another 10% this year alone, while business consultancy PWC says it could take a decade before the market stabilises.


STRING of Hollywood stars is being touted to feature in a film that has the Costa del Sol at the centre of the action.

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Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Spader have all been approached to play the lead role in The Enigmatic Mr Phelps, based on a series of novels inspired by Nerja.
Meanwhile British star Edward Fox has asked to have a role in the movie based on international fraudster Oscar Phelps, who uses Nerja as a frequent base.
Author David B Green, who now lives in Canada, spent three years as a resident of the town in the 1990s and still has a soft spot for the area.

“The atmosphere in Nerja is different to the rest of the Costa del Sol, it hasn’t been touched by development in the same way and has retained much of its character from the 60s and 70s,” Green told the Olive Press.
The film, described as ‘a classic crime mystery thriller with all the ingredients of the genre’, spans 14 years in the life of Phelps, a loveable rogue and cold-blooded killer.
Now Green expects the film, that is being made by Astral Media, will use Nerja as one of its main bases.
“Lots of action would take place around town and all of the old town would be used, including The Church of El Salvador,” explained the father-of-seven, who works in healthcare.
“The name for my first book 32-Red is inspired by the fabulous 34 Carabeo restaurant, which I always thought would be a great place for Phelps to be based,” he added.
The film, which could also feature scenes in Marbella, Malaga and Motril, is still in the early stages of development, with the cast selection process due to get under way next month.
“The company are already touting it as similar to The Talented Mr Ripley, which was a huge hit a few years ago,” said Green.


Brits packing for their stay at villas in Spain need to make sure they keep their passport safe before travelling.

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Figures released by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) have revealed that more than 10,000 people a year throw their passports out with the rubbish by accident.

More than 162,500 passports are replaced for men annually, while 112,000 women require a replacement each year.

A wild night out prior to jetting off to villas in Spain could prove problematic, as 10,000 passports of the 110,000 lost by twenty-somethings go missing in a bar or club.

Sarah Rapson, chief executive of the IPS, said: "Your passport is not only increasingly attractive to fraudsters, but it will cost you at least £77.50 to replace, so it's really important that you keep it safe."

Travel insurance is also important when planning a holiday and a new guide offers advice on how to choose the perfect policy.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has launched consumer guidance aiming to help holidaymakers determine exactly what is covered by their policy before jetting off to villas in Spain.


A Premier League footballer has been detained by police after a car crash which killed a female passenger.

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Bolton Wanderers’ full-back Marcos Alonso is said to have been driving through the streets of Madrid when his car ‘flew off the road’ and hit a wall.

The 20-year-old, who escaped with minor injuries, was detained by police after failing a breathalyser test at the scene of the accident, according to Spanish newspaper reports. It is also reported that Alonso refused to take a second test, claiming he was suffering an anxiety attack.

He could now face a charge of negligent homicide.

A spokesman for Bolton Wanderers confirmed Alonso had been involved in an accident but refused to elaborate on the case.

The woman, who was one of five people in the car, died in hospital after suffering a heart attack and serious brain injuries. All three other passengers suffered serious injuries.

Alonso, a Spain under-19 international, signed for Bolton from giants Real Madrid in July 2010 on a three-year deal.


Pearls of Aphrodite 'white caviar' captures imagination

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Joan Trobalon is proud of his small patch of land in the hills above Barcelona, where lovingly-tended fruit trees and strawberry plants sit alongside lettuces, tomatoes and peppers. But his is no ordinary Spanish finca.
Pushing open the door of a large, plastic-framed barn, Mr Trobalon shows off the surprising jewel in his farming crown: pens full of slithering snails.
The animals – 6,000 of them – are kept to feed the latest gastronomic trend sweeping Europe: "white caviar", or snails' eggs. A kilo of the pearl-like eggs retails for €1,800 (£1,600), and Mr Trobalon, a former pest control expert, admits surprise that he has gone from killing snails to actively cultivating them.
"It's funny how things turn around," he said. "I used to sell 80 tonnes of chemicals a year to kill snails. And now I'm rearing them."
Chefs throughout Spain and Europe are rediscovering the highly-prized delicacy, which centuries ago starred in banquets for wealthy Romans, Egyptians and Greeks. The tiny eggs, which taste slightly earthy and are recommended marinated in herbs, are also known as "Pearls of Aphrodite" for their supposed aphrodisiac quality.



An explosion that killed 15 people in Marrakesh was triggered by a remote control device, not a suicide bomber as previous reports suggested, France's interior minister said in an interview published on Saturday.

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The blast on Thursday ripped through a popular cafe overlooking Marrakesh's Jamaa el-Fnaa square at lunchtime on Thursday. Western security analysts attributed the attack to Islamist militants bent on ruining Morocco's tourism industry.

Two residents at the scene said they saw a suicide bomber. An Arabic news web site said the attack was committed by a suicide bomber who had recently got out of prison. But Moroccan officials have not said who was responsible.

"Contrary to what was being said earlier, there was no suicide bomber," Claude Gueant told weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. "Somebody dropped a bag on the ground and the bomb was detonated remotely."

The bomb contained nails, ammonium nitrate and a high explosive called TATP that was also used in a series of bombings on the Paris underground system in 1995, he said.

The attack increased the challenges facing Morocco's King Mohammed at a time when he is trying to prevent uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world from reaching his country, which is usually seen as a haven of stability in a volatile region.

Gueant said seven of the 15 dead were French nationals but that the attack was not aimed at France.

Moroccan officials said on Friday that they had identified seven foreigners among the dead including two French nationals, two Canadians, a Dutch national and two Moroccans.

"I have spoken to my Moroccan counterpart who explained that identification was difficult because some of the bodies were very badly damaged," he said.

"The toll for now is 15 dead of which seven French people and about 10 injured including two very badly wounded."

Moroccan officials said previously that 23 were wounded.

France has been on high alert for a terror attack over the past year after Islamist militants took five French nationals hostage in the Sahel region of Africa and al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden singled out France in an audio recording.

Stringent anti-terror laws have helped to avoid an attack on French soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. But militants are increasingly targeting French assets abroad, particularly in Africa.

Al Qaeda's north African branch released messages this week from four French hostages it kidnapped last September in Niger calling for France to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan -- repeating Bin Laden's call. [ID:nLDE73Q05S]

Asked if France was targeted by the attack on Thursday, Gueant said: "Nothing suggests it". But, he added, the attackers were aware of Marrakesh's popularity with French tourists.


Spain website encouraging wives to have affairs angers husbands

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An advertising campaign inviting married women to sign on to a website that will allow them to find men they can have affairs with has provoked an angry reaction in the Spanish capital Madrid.

The posters from the victoriamilan.es company on street advertising boards in Madrid invite women to "Relive your passion. Have an affair!" They are accompanied by a photograph of a smiling woman with her arms around an illicit lover.

"You should be ashamed of promoting infidelity," one angry contributor, Diego Gascón, wrote on the Spanish website's Facebook page.

"This site makes me sick. What kind of morality are you trying to promote?" wrote another contributor, Loles Falkner Falgueras, a digital marketing director, on the same wall. "I hope this sort of business does not prosper and you have to close down because there are people who do believe in family, in their partners, in love and it is already hard enough work to keep a family together."

But the website is obviously looking for a different kind of clientele.

"You only live once as they say, and we want to help you live it to the fullest by establishing this exciting friendly meeting place to privately spice up your everyday life," it promises. The company claims to have created the first dating website in Europe to target people who are married or already in a relationship.

"We offer an atmosphere in which you can have fun, flirt, get to know someone and have an affair either close to home or far away," claims the website, which gives its address as a PO Box in Oslo, Norway.

It boasts that it can find both cyber-lovers and real ones from as far away as Sweden, Norway and Denmark. "You don't know what you are missing until you try it."

The site also included testimonies that it claims come from happy clients. "I've already found several men to flirt and have fun with!" declares "Isabel, steady relationship, aged 31."

"I quickly found a sweet and passionate lover," adds a 43-year-old married woman.