Monday, 30 January 2012

Amsterdam Hells Angels leave clubhouse

 

The Amsterdam chapter of the Hells Angels motor club have left their clubhouse at the H.J.E. Wenckebachweg. The club handed over the keys to the building to city officials at 1030 on Monday morning. A wrecking machine arrived immediately afterward to demolish Angel Place later on Monday. The clubhouse on the H.J.E. Wenckebachweg was home to the Hells Angels for more than 40 years. The city council wanted to redevelop the area and initiated an expropriation procedure. However, the judge ordered the council to pay the Amsterdam Hells Angels 400,000 euros in compensation. It is not yet known if and where they will open a new clubhouse. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said he will do anything in his power to prevent the motor club from finding a new place in the capital. He added that Amsterdam is willing to help nearby municipalities bar the Hells Angels following their expulsion. Many of the neighbouring municipalities are concerned the Hells Angels may move into their area. The motor club is suspected of organised crime including drugs trafficking and blackmailing restaurants and cafés. The town of Diemen has already announced the Hells Angels are not welcome there. Daniël Uneputty Unu will resign as president of the Amsterdam Hells Angels on Monday. He said the name of his successor is already known internally, but that the person in question will himself announce his appointment when he is ready to do so.

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Spain Declares War on Online Pirates

 

As 2012 began—and less than two months after winning control over the Spanish parliament—the right-leaning Partido Popular passed a controversial new anti-Internet-piracy law that will impose strict penalties on website owners who fail to remove copyrighted material from their sites. Sound familiar? The law, named after the former culture minister, Ángeles González‑Sinde [above], gives the Spanish government nearly the same broad-ranging authority found in the equally controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) now wending its way through the U.S. Congress. Owners of the material can now complain to a government commission that can issue an order to block a website's service. The Spanish law was initially brought up for consideration and rejected in 2010. Evidence obtained by the Spanish paper El País suggests that the United States has been pushing hard for a reevaluation of the measure ever since, using trade agreements as leverage to prod the Spanish government to resurrect it. It's no surprise that the United States has shown such interest. Piracy is epidemic in Spain. Thirty percent of the population uses file-sharing sites, often to download Hollywood movies. But there are good reasons to think that the Sinde law will only encourage more of this behavior. Because the law goes after only the content provider and leaves intact an individual's right to a digital copy, it may actually encourage Spanish citizens to use peer-to-peer file sharing, says Rosa María Garcia Sanz, a professor in the department of communication law at the Complutense University of Madrid. In fact, there is little evidence to suggest that the enforcement strategies called for by the new law actually work to stop illegal downloading. France passed a law in 2009, known as Hadopi, or the "three strikes" law. It gives the government the authority to interrupt service for individuals who are caught downloading illegal content after they've received two warnings. Plenty of people took the legislation more as a challenge than a threat; many immediately began avoiding detection, thereby sidestepping the regulation, with the aid of virtual private network servers. The Sinde law will be just as tough to enforce, according to Professor Sanz: "Even blocking domain name system [DNS] sites," she says, "would just encourage users to use alternative and unregulated DNS servers. In other words, there is a real problem of applying the law because it [is] so easy to circumvent the technical barriers used to block users from reaching the websites." The same will likely be true in the United States, where SOPA has been held up in the House Judiciary Committee since last year, and a far-flung group of individuals and organizations have targeted companies that have come out in support of the antipiracy measure. Even the Obama administration has suddenly taken an under-the radar position against SOPA. Developers are already providing tools to circumvent the legislation. The Firefox add-on DeSopa was written as a proof of concept, but if the law is implemented, the add-on would allow users to resolve blocked domains by obtaining an IP address through foreign DNS servers. But these kinds of solutions, which would certainly become popular if SOPA is enacted, carry serious security concerns. They would most likely increase the incidence of DNS hijacking, whereby an attacker redirects queries to a faulty, and potentially malicious, IP address. Security analysts at Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, raised these concerns in response to both the Senate and House versions of the bill, calling the DNS filtering mandate a fruitless " 'whack-a‑mole' approach that would only encourage users and offending websites to resort to low-cost work-arounds." It's unclear how seriously members of Congress are taking this advice. Indeed, the Obama administration's opposition may make SOPA moot. As U.S. lawmakers pause to catch their breaths after the first rounds of this battle, they might consider taking an even bigger step back to watch how the Spanish effort plays out—to see whether legislation actually brings about the hoped-for result.

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How clothes retailer Peacocks ran up £750m debts

 

The retailer Peacocks is the biggest company in Wales to have collapsed in recent years. There are not many firms with a headquarters in Wales with a turnover of more than £700m. A number of reasons have been cited for the failure, including the role of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) during talks to restructure its debts. But the reality is that Peacocks was brought down by the deal that allowed a management buyout in 2006. The context is important here, in 2005 Peacocks was a plc and expanding strongly. A few years earlier it had bought the Yorkshire-based retailer Bonmarche, which had 350 outlets. There were already 418 Peacocks stores at the time. But the chief executive Richard Kirk felt it was not being taken seriously enough by investors in London and he led a management buy-out so the firm could expand at a faster rate. In order to do it, the company borrowed £460m. Heavily criticised The last official company accounts we have date from 2010, and they show that by then the company's overall borrowings had risen to £596m. The administrators KPMG now say the overall debt stands at £750m. That debt is around the same as the overall sales of the group. It means that every pound being taken at the tills is ultimately owed to someone else. The debts became too much for Peacocks which went into administration last week after talks on restructuring part of the debt collapsed. Administrators KPMG say the overall debt stands at £750m The taxpayer-owned RBS was one of the lenders which refused to pump any more cash into the business. Despite being heavily criticised by some local MPs and many of the staff, RBS insists it was not alone in refusing to invest any more. The reason Peacocks' debt rose so much was because of part of its borrowings called Payment in Kind or Pik notes. These have high interest rates, in this case 17% charged on a compound basis, but the interest is deferred and rolled over for repayment later on. When the times are good, they allow companies to grow quickly by putting off repayment. But eventually they have to be dealt with. At the time of the management buyout in 2006, Peacocks owed £150m pounds in Pik notes. In 2010, that debt had risen to £300m. 'Mountain of debt' Before the company went into administration, those Pik notes were said to be worth close to £400m. In a business selling relatively cheap clothing where there are tight profit margins, the banks could not see a way where Peacocks could get close to paying off this debt. In defence of Peacocks' directors, the management buy-out which saddled the company with so much debt was a deal done at the height of the buy-out boom when many similar deals were being signed off. The model works if the company is sold off after a few years at a higher price but in this case the credit crunch and the recession made that difficult. Sadly, it shows that in recent years, the success of one of Wales' most high profile and biggest companies was built on a mountain of ever-increasing debt.

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UBS trader denies gambling £1.5 billion in Britain's biggest banking fraud

 

Mr Adoboli, 31, east London, will go on trial accused of losing the cash while working for Swiss banking giant UBS. He spoke only to enter not guilty pleas to two counts of fraud and two counts of false accounting as he appeared in the dock at Southwark Crown Court. Adoboli, wearing a tailored grey suit and dark blue tie, sat forward in his seat and took notes as pre-trial arrangements were made. He said "Thank you, your honour" as Judge Alistair McCreath set a provisional trial date of September 3. "I remand you in custody," the judge told Adoboli. "I or some other judge will hear some application for bail."

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Britain's banks slashed $50 billion (£31.8 billion) from their exposure to France, Italy and Spain during the summer as financial institutions ran scared

 

Britain's banks slashed $50 billion (£31.8 billion) from their exposure to France, Italy and Spain during the summer as financial institutions ran scared from Europe's debt crisis, according to the Bank for International Settlements. The latest figures from the Basel-based BIS, "the central banker's bank", revealed that UK banks' total exposure to the three European strugglers had fallen to $430.4 billion at the end of September, against $479.9 billion at the end of June. UK banks' stocks of French, Spanish and Italian sovereign bonds were unceremoniously dumped as bond markets turned on vulnerable European nations. The BIS figures revealed UK bank holdings of French, Italian and Spanish sovereign debt dived 32% to $55.5 billion over the quarter, with holdings of Italian bonds suffering the biggest sell-off. Banks sought safety in German bunds, boosting their holdings by more than $40 billion during the period. The European Central Bank's December move to pump nearly €500 billion (£420 billion) into ailing financial institutions for three years eased the immediate threat of a damaging credit crunch. However, France was stripped of its triple-A credit rating this month, Italy's debt-laden economy is heading into recession and Spanish unemployment broke through five million.

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Spain seen heading for recession as economy shrinks

 

Spain's economy looks set to slip into recession after contracting for the first time in two years in the last quarter of 2011, highlighting the challenge for EU leaders as they meet to find ways to boost growth while cutting budgets. The leaders are meeting in Brussels on Monday with the goal of helping Europe's economy but they have to balance austerity with the need to help countries struggling with dismal economic performance. The finances of neighboring Portugal faced fresh scrutiny by markets on Monday and Spain's prime minister said this year's official growth goal would be missed. Gross domestic product in Spain shrank 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter from zero growth the previous quarter, preliminary data from the National Statistics Institute showed, in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll. Spain has massive unemployment -- around a third of the euro zone's unemployed are Spanish -- and a banking sector that has been hobbled by a collapsed property sector.

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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale

 

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale, police say. The RCMP have seized tonnes of illicit synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and methamphetamine being shipped abroad after being “cooked” in make-shift labs in apartments, homes and businesses in the GTA. Police are now seizing more chemicals and synthetic drugs, which they say is favoured by young people, at Canadian border checks rather than the traditional cocaine, heroin or hashish that officers call drugs of “a last generation.” Most of the Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), meth or ketamine, a hallucinogenic used in “drug cocktails,” are smuggled from Canada by trucks, air cargo, human couriers or courier services to a network of traffickers. The U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are the world-wide targets of these highly organised criminal syndicates, the Mounties said. Two Japanese students were arrested at Vancouver International Airport in 2009 after 47,000 Ecstasy pills with the “Chanel” logo were seized from their luggage. And, in November that year 400,000 tablets and 45 kgs of pot were seized in Michigan as it was being transferred from a small Canadian aircraft to a vehicle. The RCMP is working to stamp out the problem and have created a Chemical Diversion Unit (CDU) to target “rogue chemical brokers” who import and sell chemicals to organized crime cells to “bake” synthetic drugs for export. The force also created a Synthetic Drug Operations (SDO) whose members target clandestine drug labs in the GTA that are operated by crime cells and traffickers. “We execute search warrants once we locate a clandestine lab,” said SDO Sgt. Doug Culver. “These labs are dangerous with toxic chemicals and our members are specially trained to handle them.” His officers use hazardous material suits to enter a suspicious lab to ensure it is safe from corrosive chemicals before uniformed officers can enter. Police said an Ecstasy tablet, that usually features a harmless-looking logo, is sold for up to $15 each at Toronto nightclubs and the potency can last for about 10 hours. The tablets used to sell on the street for about $40 each two years ago. Supt. Rick Penney, who is in charge of an RCMP-GTA Drug Squad, said tonnes of chemicals and synthetic drugs are being seized by his officers. “We are talking tonnes and not kilograms,” Penney said. “This is becoming a matter of routine for us and it concerns me.” Penney said Canadian-made Ecstasy and meth are popular in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.S. and some European countries. “Canada is a player on the global market,” he said. “We see a lot of synthetic chemicals passing through the Canadian border or going out of province.” He said some of the chemicals are purchased by criminals on the Internet from suppliers in China or India. “The majority of the drugs we seize in Ontario are for export,” Penney said. “This is a global problem and Canada is a big player.” The drug officers said Canada exports as much Ecstasy and chemical drugs as Colombia ships out cocaine. Police said synthetic drugs are the choice of young people because it is cheap, with a pill being made for 50-cents and sold for up to $15; lasts a long time; can be easily hidden and a tablet appears relatively harmless with a “cute” imprinted logo. Sgt. Brent Hill, of the Chemical Diversion Unit, said rogue brokers use fake names, companies or addresses to import the chemicals into Canada. Some use the name of legitimate companies and give fake delivery addresses, he said. He said the imported chemicals are resold by rogue brokers at exorbitant profits to organized crime groups originating from China, Vietnam and India, including criminal bike gangs in Canada. The chemicals are “cooked” into synthetic drugs. The CDU monitors more than 100 chemicals entering the country. Some are for legitimate industrial uses ranging from industrial cleaners to pharmaceutical products. Others are strictly for “baking” drugs. Hill shows a make-shift laboratory that was seized in a 2007 Scarborough bust in which three people were arrested. Officers seized two million units of Ecstasy and bags of chemicals at a residence on Pipers Green Ave., in the Brimley Rd. and Finch Ave. E. area. Jian Yao Quan, 24, and Yan Shi, 46, both of Scarborough, and Wan Shun Ling, 55, of Brooklyn, New York, were convicted of drug-related offences and will be sentenced on Feb. 14. A warrant has been issued for Wei Quan Ma, 43, of Toronto, who’s believed to have fled to China. During that raid, police found a 22-litre round-bottom heating mantle filled with chemicals being baked as vapors flowed through a hose taped at the top of the container to a large can filled with cat litter, that helps to absorb toxic gases to avoid leaving smells behind, police said. Hill said the mixture leaves a cloud of corrosive chemical hanging over the area that is harmful to people and is the reason why officers wear haz-mat suits to enter drug houses. “These labs pose a serious threat to the safety of the public and emergency first responders such as police, fire and ambulance workers,” Hill said. “Most chemicals in a clandestine drug lab are highly toxic, corrosive, explosive or flammable “ He said some unsafe labs can cause a fire or explosion that can lead to environmental pollution. Police said its common to find an Ecstasy pill containing a combination of controlled substances including methamphetamine or other controlled or non-regulated psychoactive substances. Some doses can be lethal and kill users. Officers point to the deaths of five B.C. young people since last August from Ecstasy laced PMMA, the same lethal chemical linked to deaths in the Calgary area. There have been about 18 Ecstasy-related deaths in B.C. in two years. “Some of these drugs are dangerous cocktails,” Hill said. “Crime groups are putting more addictive chemicals in some of the mixtures to get kids coming back for more. “These brokers are aggressively targeting the legitimate chemical industry. They continue to expand in a highly-lucrative market selling legal chemicals, regulated precursors and non-regulated psychoactive substances.” Officers said some unscrupulous brokers establish fake front companies, or claim to be legitimate companies to import chemicals into Canada. They fill out paperwork required by the Canada Border Services Agency but usually provide false information, police said. “The acquisition of chemicals is the choke point,” Hill said. “We are fully engaged with the legitimate Canadian chemical industry and monitor suspicious chemical transactions.” He said its a crime under Bill C-475 to possess, produce, sell or import “anything” if the person involved knows it will be used to produce methamphetamine or Ecstasy. “Crime groups with links to south-east Asia continue to dominate chemical-brokering operations,” the Mounties said. “There are criminal enterprises including individual operators and semi-legitimate companies that are brokering or procuring chemicals for synthetic drug production.” Police said some chemical shipments imported into Canada for industrial use are stolen by crime gangs to produce drugs. “Global demand for Ecstasy remains high,” Hill said. “Ecstasy continues to be the most sought-after and widely available controlled synthetic drug in the Canadian illicit market.”

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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Prostitute in French footballer sex scandal launches own underwear range

The prostitute at the centre of the French footballer sex scandal has transformed from call girl to cover girl with a new underwear range. Zahia Dehar made headlines last year when she alleged that top France stars Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Sidney Govou had paid thousands of pounds for sex with her when she was just 17. Now 19, she has launched a new line of lingerie at Paris couture week with none other than designer Karl Lagerfeld shooting her lookbook. Advertisement >> Following the scandal, which ruined the reputations of the three stars involved, demand for Zahia soared and she became a lingerie model appearing on the covers of top fashion magazines. Now she has enlisted the help of top French designers including François Tamarin, Bruno Legeron, and Jean-Pierre Ollier to create the couture pieces for her collection. On her Twitter page, Zahia said that working with Lagerfeld had been a ‘dream come true’ while the designer was quoted as saying: “It was fun to do her.” He reportedly added: “She is very French courtesan, like Liane de Pougy or the Belle Otéro.” Ribery, 28, Benzema, 23, and Govou, 31, all faced three years in prison and fines of up to £40,000 for having underage sex. All three eventually escaped jail. Speaking after the scandal, the former prostitute said that Ribery, Benzema and Govou had all treated her “with utter respect” and should be left alone.
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Protein Rich Diet Good For Losing Weight,

 

A recent research has revealed that a diet rich in proteins can prove helpful in making a woman to lose weight. The research was conducted by the researchers of the Sydney University. It has further been pointed out by the researchers that a change in the diet plan can lead to improved lifestyle. For the research, a number of women were recruited. The participants of the research were divided into two groups. The first group was provided with the rich carbohydrate diet plan and the other with rich protein diet. Moreover, the participants of the study were advised to meet their dietician regularly and were also asked to go for walk for at least 30 minutes a day. During the study, it was found that the women who relied heavily on a protein diet were successful in losing a significant level of body weight. The participants on protein diet reported of experiencing improved self esteem. Moreover, the iron level of the participants was also good as compared to the women relying upon carbohydrate diet. The researchers are of the view that their findings would bring a revolution in the way the women follow certain diet plans to lose weight. A large number of women are said to rely on carbohydrate diet for losing weight. A diet rich in protein can not only help a woman in losing weight but also helps in improving the immune system as the diet is rich in essential mineral, vitamins and nutrition which are essential for the over al growth of the body. These days, obesity has become a graver issue as many countries are struggling to deal with it. In the previous studies, the obesity has been linked with life threatening diseases like diabetes and heart diseases.

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rich Irish still live life with a bang!

 

Not everybody is going broke in Ireland these days. While the bankruptcy courts continue to clog with casualties of the recession, like the Stokes brothers, there still remains a wealthy sector of society flying well above the financial carnage. Preferring to indulge in luxury jaunts outside the country rather than display any largesse at home, they head to places far beyond Irish shores for treasured moments they'll never boast about in the society columns. One such pair headed first class Down Under for a specially organised New Year's Eve treat for two, high atop the Sydney Opera House to view the biggest fireworks display on the planet. It was the ultimate night to remember for the middle-aged couple, and all organised by their personal concierge service -- where discretion comes as part of the package. Though the ranks of Ireland's rich and famous have been severely thinned out by the economic downturn, there are still plenty of low-profile millionaires out there willing to spend big on the finer things in life. Quintessentially, the international concierge service with an office in Dublin, is one such agency facilitating the whims of a wealthy Irish membership -- but nowadays without the flash and brash. The service, opened in Ireland in 2006, is surviving well, despite the downturn. "Our membership numbers in the hundreds," says managing director Wayne Cronin. "Many are entrepreneurs and business executives who travel across different timezones on a weekly basis and want personal assistance at the end of a phone wherever they are." The age demographic runs from 30 to 55 years old, with a 70-30 male-to-female split. The low-profile pleasures of today's rich are a long way from the excess of a 2004 Quintessentially members survey showing the Irish ranked first in the world for spending on property, private jets, cars and the trappings of a luxury lifestyle -- ahead of even the Middle East, Russia, China and the USA. Wishes granted to affluent Celtic tigers in those halcyon days included having a member's prized Aston Martin shipped to South Africa just for a week's holiday. Another client with romance on his mind requested, and got, a private jet painted lurid pink for a unique marriage proposal on a Caribbean island. Quintessentially, started in 2000, is the brain-child of Ben Elliot, a nephew of Camilla Parker Bowles, and film producer Aaron Simpson. Offering "a golden Rolodex capable of lifting velvet ropes worldwide," the operation, built on the personal touch, now has branches in 64 cities around the globe. General annual membership costs up to €1,600 a couple with access to 'all lifestyle requests', with dedicated membership running from €3,250 for a single to €5,200 for a full-time Lifestyle Manager. Elite Membership, costing up to €30,000, is by invitation only and provides an exclusive team of dedicated personal managers in each Quintessentially territory -- a kind of Jeeves for the jaded. Discretion prevents Wayne Cronin from hinting at who Quintessentially's Irish members might be, but stars like Sophie Dahl and Coldplay have been fulsome in their praise over the years. Elton John, David Bowie, J K Rowling and Kate Moss have also been associated with the company. "I rely on Quintessentially mainly in times of crisis. They help me jump the queue," Jemima Khan once observed. Other unusual demands made by wealthy Irish members recently included: sending an entire circus troupe to a client's home for his child's birthday party. And at another kid's party, the company sourced a dozen live penguins to add to the merriment. In the realm of boys' toys, one thirtysomething received the ultimate in high-testosterone gifts taking the controls of an Air Force fighter-jet at 43,000ft. On the other extreme, one couple wanted to celebrate a significant anniversary with a romantic private dinner on an iceberg in New Zealand -- which they got, with first-class tickets out and back. Cronin cites another recent instance where he organised an assistant to travel to Paris to exchange a dress for a client who didn't have the time to go herself. "Time is money to people at this level, and it's clearly worth it to have somebody else do chores like this for them," he said.

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Spain takes legal action against Spanair

 

Spain's government has launched legal action against the now-defunct airline Spanair for allegedly violating the country's aviation regulations by suddenly ceasing operations, a minister said Saturday. An estimated 22,000 passengers who had booked seats on more than 220 canceled flights have been left looking for alternative arrangements and instructions on how to seek reimbursements. Spanair, owned by a consortium based in the northeastern region of Catalonia, shut down its operations late Friday because of a lack of funding. The legal proceedings begun by Spain's government could lead to Spanair being fined euro9 million ($11.8 million) for two "serious infringements" of aviation security legislation, Development Minister Ana Pastor said. The alleged infractions related to obligations linked to continued service and passenger protection. Chairman Ferran Soriano said the airline had failed to attract inward investment and consequently the regional government of northeastern Catalonia took the decision to stop providing funds. Spanair, whose hub was Barcelona airport, employed around 2,000 people and used the services of about 1,200 ground staff. Spanair's financial woes were exacerbated by a 2008 crash that killed 154 people. Eighteen people survived what was Spain's worst aviation disaster in 25 years. The airline, which also ran a commuter service between Madrid and Barcelona, was in trouble financially before Spanair Flight JK5022 -- an MD-82 jet -- crashed on takeoff on Aug. 20, 2008 as it tried to leave Madrid bound for the Canary Islands. In 2010 Spanair, which was Spain's No. 4 airline, reported an operating loss of euro115 million ($151.2 million) and had survived thanks to finance provided by the Catalan government and some private investors. The Catalan government cited the "current economic climate" and "European legislation concerning competition" as the major factors influencing its decision. In Brussels, the European Low Fares Airline Association said those of its members flying overlapping routes with Spanair would offer specially discounted fares to enable stranded passengers to return home. Offers are subject to seat availability, said the organization of budget airlines -- which includes Ryanair and EasyJet. The association's secretary-general, John Hanlon, said in a statement the aim was to assist Spanair passengers who were experiencing difficulties with travel plans. National carrier Iberia Spanish Airlines SA said it had also offered to help.

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Pilot Strike Affects Scores Of Travelers

 

Ten thousands travelers were left stranded at Spanish airports Friday due to a new strike by pilots of Iberia, the flag carrier of Spain. The strike, part of protest activities that started on Wednesday against the airline’s plan launch a branch for low-cost flights, forced rescheduling 93 out of 277 domestic and international flights, according to a statement by the company. The company affirmed that its new branch “Iberia Express” would affect neither the working conditions or the pay of pilots. The branch, meant to cover the costs of short and medium routes, would generate more revenues and create new jobs, it added. Meanwhile, the airline’s pilot association said it would stage another strike on Monday unless their employer scrapped the low-cost flight plan which would turn the company into a mere provider of cheap service. The pilots staged similar strikes on December 18 and 29, 2011, and on January 9 and 11, 2012, thus forcing some 55,000 passengers of 422 Iberia flights to find alternatives to airline.

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Spain's 4th largest airliner goes broke

 

Spain's fourth largest airliner, Spanair, has stopped operations after failing to seal a last minute deal aimed at rescuing the company from financial bankruptcy. Spanair ceased operations on Friday night after failing to negotiate a deal with Qatar Airways who sought to buy a stake in the airline, according to the Catalan regional government in Spain. Over 3,500 employees have lost their jobs as a result of the decision. Moreover, at least 22,000 passengers have been affected as 380 domestic and international flights have been cancelled this weekend alone. Experts report that Spanish regional governments which hold a controlling stake in Spanair have been under pressure to cut costs to help the central government reach budget cut goals this year. Spanair has tried for some years to compete with low-cost carriers operating in the country. Since the economic crisis in Europe began, Persian Gulf oil-producing states have been investing in eurozone companies. There are fears that more delays in resolving the eurozone debt crisis, which began in Greece in late 2009 and infected Italy, Spain and France last year, could push not only Europe but also much of the rest of the developed world back into recession.

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Thousands of passengers faced massive travel disruptions across Spain

 

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

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Recession causes 2,000 heart attack deaths

 

Since 2002 the number of people dying from heart attacks in England has dropped by half, the study conducted by Oxford University found. But within that, regional data revealed there was a 'blip' in London that corresponded to the financial crash in 2008 and continued through 2009. Heart attack deaths have dropped due to better prevention of heart attacks in the first place with fewer people smoking and improvements in diet through lower consumption of saturated fat. The treatment of people who do suffer a heart attack has also improved leading to fewer deaths with faster ambulance response times, new procedures to clear blocked arteries and wider use of drugs such as statins and aspirin. The research published in the British Medical Journal showed around 80,000 lives have been saved between 2002 and 2008 as deaths from heart attacks declined.

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News International offices searched as four more men are arrested

 

Four men, including a serving police officer, have been arrested in connection with Scotland Yard's investigation into payments to police officers by journalists. Police are also carrying out searches of the News International offices in Wapping, east London, and the homes of the four people. A 29-year-old serving police officer was arrested at his place of work in central London on suspicion of corruption and misconduct in public office. The officer, of the Met's territorial policing unit, is the second police officer to be arrested under the Operation Elveden investigation. A 48-year-old man and a 56-year-old man were arrested at their homes in Essex. Another man, aged 48, was held at his home in north London. All three were arrested on suspicion of corruption and aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. Scotland Yard said the arrests were made following information provided by News Corp's own investigation team. Rupert Murdoch set up the management and standards committee in July following the escalation of the phone-hacking scandal. According to well-placed sources, it has been conducting a forensic analysis of payments by all journalists between 2000 and 2006. A statement from the Met police said: "The arrests were made between 06.00 and 08.00 by officers from Operation Elveden, the MPS [Metropolitan police service] investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police. "The home addresses of those arrested are currently being searched, and officers are also carrying out a number of searches at the offices of News International in Wapping, east London. These searches are expected to conclude this afternoon. "Today's operation is the result of information provided to police by News Corporation's management and standards committee. It relates to suspected payments to police officers and is not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately." All four men were being questioned at police stations in Essex and London, police said. Twelve people have so far been arrested under Operation Elveden. The operation is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and is being run in conjunction with Operation Weeting, the MPS inquiry into the phone hacking of voicemail boxes. It was launched after officers were handed documents suggesting that News International journalists made illegal payments to police officers. Others questioned as part of the inquiry include the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, the former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman, the former News of the World crime editor Lucy Panton and the Sun district editor, Jamie Pyatt. Brooks and Coulson are both former editors of the News of the World, which was closed in July at the height of the hacking scandal following revelations that the murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone was hacked. Deborah Glass, the deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: "It will be clear from today's events that this investigation is following the evidence. "I am satisfied with the strenuous efforts being made by this investigation to identify police officers who may have taken corrupt payments, and I believe the results will speak for themselves."

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Friday, 27 January 2012

The girlfriend who could finally endure no more

 

There is an old proverb which says: "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." Tammy Kingdon's folly was to return to Troy Mercanti on more than a dozen occasions during their tumultuous 16-year relationship. The final result was that she became, at least as far as the underworld is concerned, a dog - the derogatory term reserved for anyone who gives information to police. It was the prolonged brutality of Mr Mercanti's alleged attack on January 6 which turned the unerringly loyal Ms Kingdon against him. Her lawyers told the Perth District Court last year, after Ms Kingdon was convicted of stealing, that she was a victim of regular physical abuse and had once had her teeth knocked out and an eye socket broken. But she stayed with him anyway. This time it was different. She wasn't beaten because of a drunken quip or because of an argument. Police sources say Mr Mercanti believed Ms Kingdon had been cheating on him with another man. She was allegedly beaten mercilessly and degraded. Mr Mercanti went to Queensland to meet fellow Finks bikies after the incident, while Ms Kingdon stewed about it. Last Friday, she took the two boys she bore to Mr Mercanti and disappeared into police protection. When Mr Mercanti discovered Ms Kingdon and the children were missing, he went on a massive bender which ended when he was arrested on Sunday morning while trying to smash through the sliding glass door of a Duncraig home. He is in custody at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, under armed guard, and requires dialysis after his kidneys shut down. In the long-term, he needs a kidney transplant. But the next move is Ms Kingdon's. She has given police a statement in which she alleges Mr Mercanti bashed her three times in five years, including the attack on January 6. Will she continue with the claim or will she return to him as she has so many times before? The ramifications of her decision are dire. Bikies don't appreciate those who testify against them. And they rarely forgive and forget. Making matters worse for Ms Kingdon is that she has no visible means of support. Her assets consist of two properties - in Jurien Bay and Balga. Both are heavily mortgaged and the Balga property is the headquarters of the Finks. It's difficult to see them paying the rent while she is having their WA leader prosecuted. Just why Ms Kingdon continually returned to an allegedly abusive partner is something that a psychiatrist examined last year as part of the sentencing process after she was convicted of stealing. Dr Sam Febbo's report has been kept private, but the details of Ms Kingdon's life were revealed by her lawyer Stephen Shirrefs in court. Born on July 16, 1976, Tammy Cherie Kingdon grew up in Denmark, but her parents Norman and Faye separated when she was five. Ms Kingdon went to live with her father on a farm about 20km out of town and the District Court was told she was beaten and tormented by her stepmother. She had panic attacks at school because she feared going home. Ms Kingdon finished her schooling to Year 10 in Denmark before completing Year 11 at Albany. She then left to live on the Abrolhos Islands, near Geraldton, where she had a two-year relationship with a crayfisherman. When the relationship ended, Ms Kingdon, aged 18, moved to Perth and worked at the Wanneroo Tavern before moving to Kalgoorlie. There she met Mr Mercanti, then a nominee of the Coffin Cheaters bikie gang. They have been on-and-off ever since she was 19 and now have two children, aged 11 and 10. For a time, Ms Kingdon worked as a stripper, but these days she rarely works. Though she had said during last year's court case that she was leaving him and moving down south to be with family, she did not leave and has since travelled to the Gold Coast and Adelaide to be with Mr Mercanti. Few believe she could now return to Mr Mercanti after making the complaint to police. One said: "He's not the type to let sleeping dogs lie."

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Decapitated man John Grainger in Stockport 'was shot first' as two men quizzed

 

Mr Grainger's body was found by Greater Manchester firefighters as they tackled a blaze shortly after 5am in Wellington Street, near the Gala Casino. The 32-year-old's decapitated corpse, which is also thought to have suffered burns injuries, was found in the street - with his head nearby. A post-mortem examination has now concluded that Mr Grainger died from a blunt force head injury and a 'shotgun wound to the head'. John Grainger's decapitated body was discovered on a grass verge (Picture: PA) Two men, aged 29 and 31, are being held at a Greater Manchester police station, where they are still being quizzed on the circumstances surrounding the discovery. Police have said they were initially arrested on suspicion of possessing shotgun cartridges, before the body was found.. Superintendent Pete Matthews, from Greater Manchester Police, said: 'We have a team of dedicated detectives who are working hard to establish the exact circumstances surrounding John's death, so we can provide his family with some much-needed answers. 'We will be continuing with our inquiries and speaking to local residents. 'We also have extra officers in the area to offer reassurance and assist with the investigation.'

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Decapitation murder victim named

 

A man found decapitated has been named as 32-year-old John Grainger. Mr Grainger's body was discovered by firefighters in Stockport, Greater Manchester, at 5.10am on Thursday when they extinguished a blaze on a verge opposite Gala Casino. Police were called to Wellington Street and discovered Mr Grainger's head nearby. Two men, aged 29 and 31, who had been arrested on suspicion of possessing shotgun cartridges prior to the discovery of the body were later arrested on suspicion of murder. They remain in police custody for questioning. A Home Office post-mortem is ongoing to determine the exact cause of death. Superintendent Pete Matthews from Greater Manchester Police said: "We have a team of dedicated detectives who are working hard to establish the exact circumstances surrounding John's death, so we can provide his family with some much-needed answers. "We will be continuing with our inquiries and speaking to local residents. We also have extra officers in the area to offer reassurance and assist with the investigation. "People in the community are in shock at what has happened and I would encourage anyone with any information to contact the police." The crime scene in the town centre, near Stockport Magistrates' Court, was cordoned off as forensics officers scoured the area. Police said they understood a lot of rumours were circulating but said it would be wrong to speculate and insisted they were keeping an open mind.

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Ex-Navy man detained in U.S. for alleged drug smuggling in Japan

 

former U.S. Navy serviceman has been detained in the United States after Japanese police issued an arrest warrant for him on suspicion of leading a group that smuggled drugs into Japan in 2004 through the military mail service, Japanese investigative sources said Wednesday. Tokyo has been seeking his extradition, and a U.S. court has been deliberating whether to transfer him based on a bilateral extradition treaty, they said. The former sailor left Japan for the United States on Aug. 6, 2004, one day after police arrested two civilian men who worked at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on suspicion of being involved in drug smuggling, according to police. The three are suspected of shipping some 50,000 tablets of synthetic drugs, including ecstasy, from Canada to a post office box at the base using the military mail service in July 2004. The man sought by Japanese police was dishonorably discharged in 2003 for a separate drug offense committed on the base. His whereabouts in the United States were confirmed in 2009, the sources said.

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Survey reveals expat banking fears

 

The Expat Banking Poll was sponsored by Lloyds TSB International and conducted by expat website Just Landed. Expats in Spain were found to have the most problems with banking abroad. Almost two-thirds of those polled – 64 per cent – said that they do not trust local banks at all. Some of the most common problems cited by those who distrust banks abroad include unfair charges, trouble with the language barrier and money that was deducted from their account without any explanation. Briton Graham Hunt, who runs a Spanish property website and has written some hard-hitting blogs on banking in Spain, said: "Two years ago, there was a lot more trust in Spanish banks. "But the past couple of years have seen new charges for cards, account maintenance, transfer fees... this put people into the red in unused accounts, and they were then given an additional overdrawn charge. As a result, trust disappeared." Spain is happiest expat destination 19 Jan 2012 He also claims bank charges have increased "dramatically" recently and that lack of clear communication is the major problem for expats not speaking Spanish, and banks not employing people with language skills. "However my experience is that if you have a good relationship with the bank manager then any charges on the account can usually be got back," Mr Hunt said. "You just threaten to take your business elsewhere." Ali Meehan, who runs the Costa Women community network, said however there were many reasons expats wanted to use Spanish banking services. ""Many expats bank with Spanish financial institutions because they have mortgage products or loans locally," she said. "Some banks also offer special deals if you have your UK pension paid direct to Spain." More than 11,800 expats in total were surveyed for the Lloyds TSB International report. More than half of those, 59 per cent, said that they do trust their banks abroad, while only 22 per cent of respondents said they did not trust their banks "at all". In the United Arab Emirates, 74 per cent polled said they completely trust local banks; in Kuwait, this number is even higher, at 83 per cent. In Europe, German banks receive a similar score, with 68 per cent of expats polled completely trusting their services. UK banks – though facing many problems – are completely trusted by 52 per cent of respondents. And despite uncertainties over the British pound, 36 per cent of expatriates surveyed claim they would invest in sterling over any other currency. "While the poll demonstrated a lot of positivity, there are also some issues to be addressed," said Daniel Tschentscher, managing partner at Just Landed. "In the current climate, one would expect the level of trust to be lower, but that really doesn't seem to be the case at all."

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Identity fraud biggest threat as number of scams soars

 

UK fraud levels increased by 9% last year, new figures revealed today, with identity scams the biggest contributor. Over 236,500 cases of frauds were identified during 2011– the highest number ever recorded, according to CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service. Nearly half of all cases were incidents of identity fraud, with some 113,000 cases reported to the CIFAS – up 10% on 2010. Facility takeover fraud – where a fraudster gains access to and uses a victim’s bank account or credit card for example – meanwhile has surged by nearly 300% in just five years and now accounts for 18% of all fraud. This means two data driven frauds make up over 58% of all frauds identified, CIFAS said. What’s more, the number of victims of both types of fraud combined has risen by 10% since 2010. Richard Hurley, CIFAS communications manager, said: ‘All organisations must recognise this threat, and review how they try to prevent such frauds: whether that is by reviewing their security procedures and increasing identification requirements when dealing with applications, or by ensuring that individuals regularly change passwords and PIN numbers’. Incidents of misuse facility fraud – where an account has been legitimately obtained but later used fraudulently – also increased some 13%. The number of false insurance claims recorded, however, has fallen 23% from 537 to 396 cases. According to CIFAS, these figures confirm that as austerity bites, economic crime continues to be a stealthy, insidious danger.

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Costa del Sol opposes drilling for oil and gas

 

IGNORING longstanding local opposition, energy giants will continue the search for gas and oil deposits off the Andalucia coast. The first outcries were heard years ago from the tourist sector, coastal towns and environmentalist groups after the Ministry of Industry granted permits for offshore prospecting. Disapproval has now increased following authorisation for Canadian multinational CNWL to begin prospecting in the Mar de Alboran between Malaga and Granada. No date has been announced but work is expected to begin within a month over an area of 130,000 hectares off Almuñecar, Salobreña and Motril (Granada) and Nerja and Torrox (Malaga). Opponents to the project have intensified calls for the new central government in Madrid to revoke the licences and urged both the PP and PSOE to take action. Last year saw a wave of protests after Repsol YPF’s permits for prospecting off Mijas, Fuengirola and Marbella were extended until August 20, 2013. These initiatives, said Marbella’s lady mayor, Angeles Muñoz, were an attack on tourism “our principal source of income” as well as the environment. Professional fishermen are convinced that fishing grounds will be adversely affected and it would be still worse if gas or oil were eventually located and drilling authorised. This could spell ruin for the eastern Costa de Sol, predicted Jose Luis Guerrero, head of the Caleta de Velez fishing guild. Professor Juan Ignacio Soto of Granada University did not share Guerrero’s view, however. The system that would be used – known in Spanish as “air gun” because it uses compressed air – does not adversely affect marine life, he claimed. And while many Costa del Sol residents were horrified at the vision of oil rigs off the coast, others welcomed the possibility. “Wouldn’t this benefit the Costa del Sol and Spain?” was an often-repeated comment on Internet blogs. Meanwhile, retired engineer with 30 years experience in the offshore oil industry, now living in Axarquia, David M. Ritchie, 69. Ritchie said that in the case above there has been longstanding 'local' opposition. “One has to view this opposition carefully and try to ascertain whether it is well informed through good research or just some people, although dedicated to their cause, simply spouting uninformed hot air. I fear that on the Costa del Sol the latter applies.” “Evidently the tourist sector is to the fore in protest. One must ask why? I have read the comment that oil rigs are unsightly. In fact they are no more unsightly that container ships. ferries, oil/gas tankers and cruise liners.” “ One more different vessel will make no difference or do the tourist sector, coastal towns and environmentalist groups wish to ban all shipping?” he said. Opponents to exploration have evidently intensified their calls for the new government in Madrid to revoke existing licences and urge the two major parties PP and PSOE to take action. “My response to this is simply on what scientifically and engineering research do they base their protests?” he asked. “I suspect they have little or no knowledge of the exploration and exploitation of natural hydrocarbons industry. I fear that they simply feel they must protest without really knowing why.” Would not Spain benefit enormously from any oil and gas found off its coasts? In these days of worldwide recession would it be right for a nation to turn its back on income to benefit its people on the say so of a few noisy pressure groups? The answer must be a resounding no! “Let's really talk of protest groups/organisations. Consider one of the biggest or possibly the best known one, Greenpeace. There was a storage unit called the Brent Spar on the Brent oilfield in the North Sea. When it became redundant, the owner Shell wished to demolish it in situ. Greenpeace mounted a very effective campaign against this and Shell filling stations across the UK Europe were boycotted. Greenpeace told the world that the Brent-Spar contained so many dangerous chemicals which if released would wreak havoc with wildlife and humanity. Their campaign was so successful that Shell capitulated and towed the Brent-Spar to a fjord in Norway where it could be 'safely' demolished under close scientific monitoring and the death dealing chemicals could be identified and safely contained. What did these experts find? Nothing, absolutely nothing! All of Greenpeace's 'scientifically backed' predictions were proved to be nothing more than false and very loud posturing. Did Greenpeace go to any pains at all to tell the world that they had made a mistake? No! Not even the smallest 'oops'. Greenpeace were proved to be loud mouthed ignoramuses.” “I left the British Royal Air Force in 1969 and joined the fledgling offshore industry in early 1970. The offshore expertise in those days was American as they had been operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Within a very short time British expertise had left the Americans behind and British 'oilmen' became the crews of choice. It was in UK offshore operations where the present strict high operational standards were developed and honed. Development of safe practices went hand in hand with operational development and in the 30 years from 1970 to 2000 the whole industry became a safer one. But of course one can never eliminate accidents and the industry suffers from any accident being a major news item providing fodder for pressure groups who chose to ignore any statistics which in a global sense showed the offshore industry as a comparatively safe one. I have never been involved directly in any incident leading to injury or contamination. Likewise I have never seen any fishing adversely affected but have seen the opposite happen and fish stocks around an offshore installation increase. I agree with Juan Ignacio Soto of Granada University when he sees no problem from drilling operations or initial sonar type surveys. As a resident of Spain I welcome any exploration and exploitation of Natural hydrocarbon resources. Oil or gas finds turned into an industry would benefit the country and the people of Spain tremendously. To oppose the exploration for oil or gas is to deny a great source of income for the whole country, so I willingly oppose the opposers.”

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Spain Plans Budget Law as Drug Firms Owed $8.4 Billion by States

 

Spain pledged to set spending limits for regional governments in a new law tomorrow as the country’s pharmaceutical lobby said the regions owe companies $8.4 billion for drugs. The People’s Party Cabinet plans the budget-stability law to flesh out a constitutional amendment that the party helped the former Socialist government pass in September. Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said “early warning” and “automatic correction” systems will be set up to prevent overspending and sanctions will be strengthened. “The aim is to guarantee the budget stability of all administrations, boost confidence and strengthen Spain’s commitments to the European Union,” Montoro told a parliamentary committee today in Madrid. Spain’s PP government, in power since December, is trying to convince investors it can reduce its budget deficit by almost half in 2012 even as the economy suffers its second recession in two years. The law aims to increase discipline in the regional governments, which have accumulated unpaid bills after they were shut out of public debt markets and saw their tax revenues collapse. Spain’s 17 regions owed pharmaceutical companies 6.37 billion euros at the end of 2011, lobby group Farmaindustria said today in a statement. That debt has risen 36 percent from a year earlier as payments were delayed by an average of 525 days, according to the group, which has urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to sell bonds backed by the unpaid bills in a program that would be guaranteed by the government. Credit Line As regions including Valencia suffer from a liquidity squeeze, Montoro has offered the states a credit line to allow them to pay unpaid bills. The government will seek tighter deficit plans in return, he said. The budget law will prevent spending rising more than projected economic growth, while giving debt redemptions and interest payments priority over other public spending. The ratio of debt to gross domestic product will be limited to 60 percent, Montoro said. The PP or its allies govern in most of Spain’s 17 regions, strengthening the government’s hand to reorder public finances. The regions, which missed their combined budget goals in 2010 and 2011, control about a third of public spending and hire half of the countries’ public workers. “We have seen the willingness of all the regional governments that Spain should have a new budget-stability law,” Montoro said today.

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Psycho gang boss set for arrest over Maria killing

 

THE net is closing in on the 30-year-old criminal who is suspected of murdering Romanian teenager Maria Rostas. Sources say that gardai should be able to re-arrest the psychotic south city gangster "within weeks" after the discovery of the body of the tragic 18-year-old in the Dublin Mountains on Monday. The criminal is in Cloverhill Prison where he is on remand and facing trial for a number of serious criminal offences. He is also the chief suspect for a number of other serious crimes including a pub murder last year. The development comes as authorities in Romania contact-ed the family of the Roma teenager who gardai believe was savagely sexually abused before being shot in the head. It is understood that the family of Maria (Marioara) Rostas, including her father Dimitri, will travel to Ireland to bring her body back home to Romania for burial. Sources are still unsure whether the victim was taken to a house near Newry to be violated by a notorious underworld figure or whether her ordeal involved being assaulted over a number of days in a house in Pimlico before being shot dead and her body dumped. The chief suspect, along with some of his closest associates, was arrested in December, 2008. But they were all released without charge. When arrested, the chief suspect was wearing a bulletproof vest in bed. Gardai have always worked on the theory that Maria was shot dead in the upstairs room of a derelict house in Brabazon Street just days after being abducted as she begged on East Lombard Street on January 6, 2008. The Brabazon Street property was later gutted in a fire which was started by criminals in a bid to destroy evidence. CANDLES The chief suspect is the number one target for gardai and it is understood that a strong case is being built against him. "This maniac is one of the most dangerous criminals in the country. Certain information has been received which indicates that he saw the devil in her eyes which caused him to freak out and shoot her," a source said. "Despite being an absolutely evil individual, he has some kind of strange religious beliefs and is very afraid of the devil. He is all into candles and altars and stuff like that." The investigation has been helped because the victim's remains were very well preserved after being so tightly wrapped in plastic bags. The Herald revealed that two major south Dublin criminals helped the chief suspect bury the body of the tragic teenager. Sources have revealed that the south city gangster enlisted one of his closest associates to help dispose of her body after he shot her. The suspect's pal was so terrified that the gangster would murder him after burying Maria that he brought a close relative with him to help in the dig.

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Bulgarian gangster Tihomir Georgiev has contract on his head

 

Tihomir Georgiev — known as the Butcher Of Bulgaria for his reputation for slicing off fingers and ears of his enemies — is due to be extradited this week. He is suspected of two murders in Bulgaria and could face at least 18 years in jail if convicted. But crime bosses — furious he tried to cut a deal by giving evidence against his former paymasters before going on the run — are taking bets that he will not see out the year. They have issued orders Georgiev, 43 — caught at a gym in Bermondsey, South London, after a tip-off from The Sun — must be killed behind bars. A source said: "His chances are slim to say the least."

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Britain, US and France send warships through Strait of Hormuz

 

This deployment defied explicit Iranian threats to close the waterway. It coincided with an escalation in the West's confrontation with Iran over the country's nuclear ambitions. European Union foreign ministers are today expected to announce an embargo on Iranian oil exports, amounting to the most significant package of sanctions yet agreed. They are also likely to impose a partial freeze on assets held by the Iranian Central Bank in the EU. Tehran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation. Tankers carrying 17 million barrels of oil pass through this waterway every day, accounting for 35 per cent of the world's seaborne crude shipments. At its narrowest point, located between Iran and Oman, the Strait is only 21 miles wide. Last month, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Iranian navy, claimed that closing the Strait would be "easy," adding: "As Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water." But USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear-powered carrier capable of embarking 90 aircraft, passed through this channel and entered the Gulf without incident yesterday. HMS Argyll, a Type 23 frigate from the Royal Navy, was one of the escort vessels making up the carrier battle-group. A guided missile cruiser and two destroyers from the US Navy completed the flotilla, along with one warship from the French navy.

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Two arrested after headless burnt body is found in 'suspected gangland execution'

 

Two men have been arrested after a man was beheaded and set on fire in a suspected gangland execution. Firefighters discovered the headless body on fire after being called to a wooded area off a car park in Wellington Street, Stockport, in the early hours of this morning. After extinguishing the blaze they found man's head nearby. Forensic officers remove the body in a covered body bag at the murder scene where the body of a decapitated man was found on fire at 5am this morning Two suspects, aged 29 and 31, were arrested prior to the body being found - on suspicion of possessing shotgun cartridges - following an incident at a Stockport flat. On the way to the police station, about 5.10am, officers were alerted to a fire following a call from a nearby casino and the body was discovered. It is feared the victim - a man in his 20s - was killed during a 5am rendezvous at the flat before being wrapped in a duvet and dumped. The scene of the grisly discovery is just 150 yards from the town's magistrates' court and a police station. Forensic officers and the tent where the body of a decapitated man was found on fire at 5am this morning Today, as a police cordon was put up around the murder scene, tests were being carried out on the body to establish where he was killed. It is believed the man was decapitated with some kind of bladed instrument, either a sword or a knife. Further tests will be undertaken to establish whether petrol was used in an attempt to destroy the body. The suspects were arrested at a first floor flat where the 29-year old jobless suspect was believed to live alone. Police questioned two female relatives who are believed to live in Wales. One neighbour said: 'There were always shenanigans going on inside that flat - so much so I would switch a fan on inside my place to drown out the noise so I could go to sleep. 'In the early hours of the morning before the body was found I had heard one such rumpus with lots of shouting going on so I put my fan on as normal.

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

 

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

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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

3 years after US accident, boat washes up in Spain

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spanish participants more active

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutritional changes with frying

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

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

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

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

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

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Underworld bankers Daniel Keenan and Andrew Barnett who laundered £17m of drug money are jailed

 

Two underworld bankers who laundered more than £17million in drug money have been jailed for a total of 17 years. Daniel Keenan, 41, and Andrew Barnett, 45, used a stolen identity to clean up proceeds from a massive cocaine and heroin dealing operation by making currency exchanges They were caught out when police stopped Barnett with £500,000 in cash stuffed into a satchel. The pair were subsequently linked to Ian Kiernan, who was jailed for 20 years in 2001 for his key role in one of Britain's biggest-ever drug smuggling plots. Andrew Barnett (left) and Daniel Keenan (right) laundered the vast proceeds from a cocaine and heroin ring by making currency exchanges Barnett was stopped on 26 November 2009 near Marble Arch carrying a satchel found to contain 535,000 euros in 200 euro notes. He also had a receipt from a nearby money service bureau called Interchange. Convicted blackmailer Keenan contacted the police station a few days later, claiming he had asked Barnett to carry out the transaction, and was promptly arrested on suspicion of money laundering. Investigations revealed Keenan used a stolen identity to set up his Interchange account. Since opening the account in April 2008, Keenan and Barnett had made more than 300 transactions totaling more £17million. The money was generally brought in for exchange in £20 notes in large bags. The pair admitted money laundering but initially claimed the cash came from illicit gambling on horse racing. But after a two-day hearing at Southwark Crown Court they admitted knowing that that bundles of cash had come from drug deals. This is some of the money recovered by police from the pair, who were caught when officers stopped Barnett with £500,000 worth of currency stuffed into a satchel Jailing Keenan for 11 years and Barnett for six years, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said the offences were 'hugely successful' and committed while Keenan was on license from prison. He told Keenan: 'Interchange was visited more than 400 times as you or others delivered cash amounting to a total of £17.5million. 'I accept that initially you thought you were being used to launder the proceeds of illegal gambling. 'But eventually the amounts of money involved must have made it clear that they could only come from the most serious of crimes - sale of Class A drugs. 'You yourself signed for 58 deliveries amounting to £12million while your assistant Mr Barnett signed for about £5 million. 'When police detained Mr Barnett you came up with a number of explanations and produced quantities of false paperwork to try and justify your business which included the use of other people's identities.' Daniel Keenan is here seen on CCTV counting out huge piles of banknotes. Keenan and Barnett laundered more than £17million in organised crime profits Barnett had claimed he was simply acting on behalf of Keenan and was paid £200 each time he want to the Interchange. Drug baron Ian Kiernan had been jailed for 20 years and banned from racecourses for 10 years after a Jockey Club investigation found he was involved in corruption in horseracing. The head of the syndicate, Brian Wright - dubbed The Milkman because he always delivered - was jailed for 30 years in 2007. The link between Kiernan, described as the drug ring's storeman, and the launderers was only discovered in December when police investigated Keenan's mobile phone records. Prosecutor Mark Fenhalls said: 'When Mr Keenan's phone records were looked at they showed that that most of the calls were made to his partner, then his mum, and then Kiernan, in that order.' He was found to have been in contact with Kiernan - who was on temporary licence from HMP Latchmere - on all but one of the days on which transactions of more than £400,000 were processed. Keenan was serving a five-year sentence for blackmail and consiring to defraud the clothes shop Monsoon when he met Kiernan in jail. The court heard Barnett visited Kiernan in prison in 2003, Mr Fenhalls said it was 'inconceivable that Barnett... did not know that he was assisting Keenan to launder the proceeds of cocaine dealing on a vast scale. 'No other explanation or inference sensibly arises from the available evidence.' Barnett, of Twickenham, Middlesex and Keenan, of Egham, Surrey, admitted converting criminal property. Keenan also admitted fraud by false representation, having a fake passport and possession of articles used in fraud, a fake bank card.

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Drug smugglers and dealers to get law thaw in UK

 

Drug smugglers and street dealers could avoid prison in the UK even if caught with heroin, cocaine or thousands of pounds worth of cannabis, under new guidelines on drug offenses published by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales on Tuesday. The new guidelines, to come into force next month, on February 27, were put out following a three-month public consultation. They cover importation, supply, production, permitting premises to be used for drug-related activities, and possession offences. "Drug offending has to be taken seriously. Drug abuse underlies a huge volume of acquisitive and violent crime, and dealing can blight communities. Offending and offenders vary widely, so we have developed this guideline to ensure there is effective guidance for sentencers and clear information for victims, witnesses and the public on how drug offenders are sentenced,” said Lord Justice Hughes, deputy chairman of the Sentencing Council, as quoted by the British media. According to the official website of the Council, the guidelines intend to distinguish the leading players in drug smuggling from those in subordinate roles such as drug mules, who may be coerced or misled into carrying drugs. It will mean that sentences are based on a court’s assessment of the offender’s role, and on the quantity of drugs involved, or the scale of the operation. Reports suggest offenders who play a “limited” role in gangs, including low-level dealers and so-called drug mules, who bring narcotics into the country, could now face community orders rather than jail sentences. This particular draft received major support during the consultations. Drug barons playing a leading role in large-scale offences such as smuggling and supply will continue to face long prison sentences, as will those who sell directly to the public, especially to children. Police have suggested that gang leaders would be able to escape jail by claiming that they were lesser members. “How can a court be expected to differentiate between the person who says, I am very low in the chain, and those high up?” questioned Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, as quoted by The Telegraph. “No matter how big a role I played, if I was in their shoes and arrested for drugs I would say I was a low-level player or forced into it. If they can see a loophole, then of course they will go through it.” Under the new guidelines, dealers caught with 6kg of cannabis, valued at thousands of US dollars, or 20 ecstasy tablets, could now avoid prison and receive a community sentence. Heroin and cocaine dealers deemed to have played only a “minimal” role and workers in small cannabis “farms” could also escape custody.

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