News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Residents set to relaunch hunger strike over water
The group in rural Valle de Abdalajís say officials have not kept promises
By Oliver McIntyre
A GROUP of Valle de Abdalajís residents are set to relaunch a hunger strike after they say officials have failed to fulfil promises of running water and improved access roads to their homes in a rural zone of the town.
In early October of last year the residents - including Briton Darron Craft - ended a hunger strike after four days, when officials agreed to carry out the work. The residents had already staged a month-long town hall sit-in but it wasn't until they launched the hunger strike that authorities promised to take action
Under the agreement, the Diputación de Málaga was to draw up the plans for bringing water to the zone, and the Junta de Andalucía to pay for the work, which was expected to start in January. The town hall committed to upgrading the access roads to the zone, with a million-euro budget funded in part by the Junta's Agriculture Department and in part with money paid to the town by state railway infrastructure company Adif as compensation for damage caused to the local aquifer during work on the AVE train line.
But the residents say none of the promised work was carried out.
Nerja's musical mastermind dies at 80
Composer and conductor Neil Richardson played major role in BBC orchestras
By Dave Jamieson
THE composer of the theme tune to the BBC quiz Mastermind died last Friday morning. Long-time Nerja resident Neil Richardson was 80 and passed away after a short illness.
Locally, Neil will perhaps be best remembered for his appearances at the Boatyard Bar on Sunday afternoons where he filled in the intervals in the regular jazz band performance with his stunning keyboard skills. But it is less well known that Neil was one of Britain's foremost composers and arrangers for 50 years and worked with some of the greatest names in music.
He created much of the output of the BBC Radio Orchestras in the 70s and 80s, was instrumental in creating the BBC Northern Orchestra in 1975 and was its conductor for many years. Many of his compositions were for collections of library music, incidental music for films and television and not commercially available, which is where Approaching Menace was found and adopted by the BBC for Mastermind.
KILLER ON THE RUN
International warrant issued for Irishman convicted of killing his wife
By David Eade
AN Irishman who was convicted of manslaughter after his wife fell from a balcony to her death at a Marbella hotel in 2000 is now the subject of an international search and capture warrant.
Michael Dermot McArdle was convicted of manslaughter at Málaga court in October 2008 but was released on bail pending his appeal. The appeal was dismissed last month by the Constitutional Court after the Regional Supreme Court had also upheld the verdict.
The court ordered the Irishman to surrender himself to the authorities by September 15 and the arrest warrant was issued last Tuesday after he failed to do so. It is now operative in Spain and once translated will be in effect in Europe with the Gardai in Ireland on alert for the Dundalk man.
Although the incident took place in 2000 the case was not brought to trial until 2008, largely because Mr McArdle had contested extradition in the Irish courts.
The case dates to February 2000 when Mr McArdle, his wife Kelly-Ann Corcoran and their three-year-old son stayed in room 421 at Marbella's Meliá Don Pepe hotel. On February 11 at around 7pm, after an angry row, his 28-year-old wife fell from the balcony of their room and two days later died in Hospital Costa del Sol.
US soldiers bare (almost) all to help the horses
Troops from Rota pose for calendar to benefit Alhaurín equine shelter
By Dave Jamieson
A PHOTO shoot in Alhaurín el Grande this month will generate funds for the local shelter for abandoned horses. US military personnel from the Rota base in Cádiz gave up their time to be photographed with the animals for a 2011 calendar.
The men made the three-hour journey to the CYD Santa Maria recovery centre which provides help to ill-treated and abandoned horses. It is presently home to about 40 animals with a further 30 being looked after privately.
Like every voluntary animal care group, the centre is desperately short of funds and by selling advertising space on the calendars, then retailing around 1,000 copies, they hope to generate a large amount of cash.
It is not the first time that the American soldiers have helped the centre. Every year, around 30 of them arrive to help out by mending roofs, constructing water supply pipes, painting and helping with anything else that is required, in addition to which they provide a US-style barbeque for the centre's volunteers.
This year, however, was a bit different as a number of the soldiers, selected for their physiques, posed shirtless alongside the horses to create the pictures which will be included in the calendar. The aim, they said, is to make the finished product attractive to women but entertaining for everyone.
The calendars, which will retail for 12 euros each, will be available for purchase on the centre's website (www.asociacioncydsantamaria.es).
West Nile fever detected in Campo de Gibraltar
Four cases reported, including two in humans
By David Eade
FOUR cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the Campo de Gibraltar and wider Cádiz, including two cases in humans. The virus is normally confined to livestock but it can also be contracted by people, largely from mosquito bites.
Last week the Cádiz province health delegation confirmed that a 77-year old Benalup man was in hospital with West Nile fever. He was taken to the Puerto Real hospital, where he made good progress and has been released.
The Benalup case came on the heels of another case the previous week in Chiclana, where a 60-year-old man was hospitalised then released. The sub-delegate of the Andalucía government in the Campo de Gibraltar, Tomás Herrera, has stated there are also two reported cases in horses, one in Tarifa and the other in Los Barrios.
Sr Herrera said authorities "have increased all the controls" in rural zones of the Campo de Gibraltar with the objective of preventing any possible spread of the virus. He stressed that at present the level of infection was "minor."
Technicians from the regional government have taken blood samples from animals grazing on land in Tarifa and Los Barrios. In addition, the two affected horses have had their blood samples sent to a laboratory in Córdoba to confirm they have the disease.
Online paedo bust nets more than 100 suspects
The accused shared hardcore child-porn files on peer-to-peer websites
By Oliver McIntyre
IN A massive nationwide swoop last week police nabbed more than 100 suspects for possession or distribution of child pornography, including some in Málgaga province.
Fifty-seven people were arrested - including some police officers- and another 47 named as formal suspects in the operation, which officials say was made possible by the use of a high-tech Norwegian software programme provided to Spanish authorities by Interpol.
It allowed officers to search the Web and monitor some 20,000 internet connections, identifying suspects in 32 provinces across the country.
In a coordinated three-day action more than 400 officers from 36 National Police departments swarmed into 97 homes or businesses, seizing 328 hard drives, 42 laptop or notebook computers, 21 CPUs, 13 pen drives, eight memory cards and hundreds of CDs and DVDs.
One of the detained is accused of producing child-pornography materials. Police officials say the man, a gardener by profession, had taken videos of his two nieces, aged seven and 14.
Water hike for all in 2011
Junta's new infrastructure surcharge will increase bills for all users
By Oliver McIntyre
DESPITE many town halls announcing freezes on local taxes and fees for 2011 - a municipal elections year - consumers in Andalucía are to be hit with an increase in their water bills, no matter what town they live in.
The water hike is due to the introduction of a new canon, or surcharge, introduced by the Junta de Andalucía to raise money for sewage treatment infrastructure.
The canon is two-pronged, including a fixed monthly charge of one euro plus a variable charge based on usage.
In Málaga city, for example, the hike next year will mean in increase of 1.90 euros a month - or nearly 10 per cent - for an average household consuming 15 cubic metres, according to calculations by municipal water company Emasa.
That increase will be even greater in coming years, as the variable portion of the surcharge is being introduced gradually between 2011 and 2015.
The variable charge is 10 cents per cubic metre for those who consume between two and 10 cubic metres a month; 20 cents per cubic metre for those who use 10 to 18 cubic metres a month; and 60 cents per cubic metre for consumption of more than 18 cubic metres a month.
It will be implemented gradually over the next five years - 30 per cent in 2011; 45 per cent in 2012; 60 per cent in 2013; 80 per cent in 2014; and reaching 100 per cent in 2015.
At the end of that period, taking the example cited above for Málaga city, the overall increase in the monthly bill - including the one-euro fixed fee plus the variable charge - would be four euros.
The surcharge, while collected by the town halls or their water companies, goes directly to the Junta de Andalucía, not to municipal coffers. Indeed, the town halls themselves, along with other water suppliers, are to be hit with a canon of 25 cents per cubic metre for water lost from the supply network due to leaks or other problems.
The canon was approved as part of the new Andalucía water law passed earlier this year, but its application will not be official until the regional government's 2011 budget is finalised.
Paid leave for parents of severely ill children
Government plan would benefit around 2,000 people at a cost of 6 million euros
By Oliver McIntyre
PARENTS of children with cancer and other severe illnesses are to receive paid leave from work so they can be with their child, under new legislation the government could approve before year end.
Under the scheme, when both parents are working, one of them will have the option to take full or partial leave from work - subsidised by the government - in order to take care of the ill child.
The plan was unanimously approved by the congressional health commission in a bill urging the government to create the benefit so working parents can take time off "during the hospitalisation and treatment of a child diagnosed with cancer or with any other serious illness that requires hospitalisation."
"We believe that children with such diagnoses have the right to be with their parents, at least with one of them," said Conxita Tarruella, the commission spokesperson for the Convergencia i Unió party, which put forward the motion.
The secretary of state for Social Security, Octavio Granado, last week stated that the measure is affordable given that it would affect only around 2,000 people a year at a total cost of roughly six million euros.
Sr Granado said that studies have already been underway to determine the best way to establish the benefit and to determine the illnesses that would be included. The measure could be included in the pension system reform package that the government aims to approve before the end of this year.
Costas law 'not damaging' to foreign residents
July's IVA increase is cited by business association Fecoma as being the principal cause
By Oliver McIntyre
AS THE summer sales season came to a close this week, Costa retailers reported mixed results, with higher sales figures but no corresponding increase in profits.
The strong sales but flat profits were the result of very steep markdowns from the outset of the sales season and the increase in IVA tax (VAT equivalent) at the beginning of July, which the traders say they did not pass on to customers.
While final figures are not yet available, Fecoma, the business federation in Málaga province, says preliminary data suggests sales were up by around four to five per cent compared to the same period last year. However, while there were more individual sales, the average amount of each receipt was lower.
Fecoma cites the IVA increase as the principal cause, but the Al Andalus consumers' association points to the heavy discounts - noting that the sales season was excellent for shoppers. "The sales were very good, similar to last year, with discounts of 50 to 70 per cent right off the bat," said Al Andalus's vice president, María Huelin.
Fecoma is already strategising for the next sales season, continuing with its long-standing push for the Junta de Andalucía to reduce the length of the official sales period, at least during the winter sales. Currently, the winter sales run for two months, from January to February, which Fecoma says is too long because they practically outlast the cold weather in the province, meaning people no longer want to buy winter clothes.
The two-month summer sales period, from July to August, is not so problematic, says Fecoma, as the Málaga climate keeps shoppers interested in summer clothing well beyond the sales.