Costa del Sol News - 19th August 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Moroccan move on Alhambra was a ‘bad joke'

Reports had indicated Morocco wanted half of revenues from the Granada palace

By Dave Jamieson

DIPLOMATIC eyebrows were raised last week when news broke that the government of Morocco had announced it wanted half of the revenues from ticket sales at the Alhambra Palace in Granada. The 14th-century Moorish palace and gardens attracted 3.3 million tourists last year and form Spain's most visited tourist attraction, generating 453.9 million euros for the city.

It was reported that Morocco's prime minister, Abbas El Fassi, had confirmed that the country's culture minister had written to Madrid, citing the Palace's Muslim origins and stressing the "brotherhood" which exists between the two countries. Morocco was said to want to establish a joint company with Spain to manage the monument and share the profits.

However, it later appeared to have been an elaborate hoax. The Moroccan Embassy in Madrid strenuously denied the story and Rabat issued an official statement confirming that no such approach had been made to Madrid. It described the false report as a "joke in bad taste" and an "irresponsible act".

The fake news item is now thought to have first appeared in Alerta Digital, an online newspaper, which gave a Moroccan paper, Nador City, as its source. Nador City's director, Mohamed Alali, denied angrily that it had ever published the story and promised to take legal action against any media which had wrongly attributed it to the paper.

Average wait time for surgery is 54 days

The new figures put Málaga on a par with the Andalucía-wide averge

By Oliver McIntyre

PATIENTS using the public health system in Málaga province wait an average of 45 days for a first appointment with a specialist, 54 days for a surgical intervention and 17 days for a diagnostic test, according to the latest data from the Andalucía Health Service (SAS), pertaining to the first half of this year.

The figures, presented by Andalucía health chief, María Jesús Montero, mark a significant reduction in wait times in comparison to December 2010, the last time the data was reported. The wait for a specialist appointment dropped by three days, and for surgery and diagnostic tests by four days each.

The 54-day wait for surgery puts Málaga on a par with the Andalucía-wide average while the wait for diagnostic tests is just below the region-wide average of 18 days. However, the wait time for a specialist appointment, at 45 days, is the longest of any province in the region, though still well below the 60-day maximum set by SAS in its own guidelines.

For surgical procedures in general the established maximum wait time is 180 days, though for around 70 common surgical procedures the maximum wait is set at 120 days. Within the group of procedures with a 120-day maximum, the average wait time in Málaga is 45 days, according to the latest figures.

Pope arrives in Spain

Benedict XVI's visit raises criticism over €60M cost

By Dave Jamieson

POPE Benedict XVI is due to arrive in Madrid today to attend the World Youth Day celebrations in the city. However, the cost of the pontiff's four-day stay in the city has caused criticism.

The Pope will arrive at Barajas Airport at midday where he will be welcomed by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. He will then travel in the popemobile to the offices of the Vatican's nuncio in Madrid, Archbishop Renzo Fratini. His official welcome will be held this evening at 7.30 when he will meet the young pilgrims who have gathered in the city over the last few days, in Plaza de la Independencia and later in Plaza de Cibeles.

During his stay, he is expected to deliver a number of addresses which may include criticism of the secularisation of Spanish society, although the exact content of these has not been made public. Before he leaves on Sunday evening, Pope Benedict will also meet academics and seminarians, and open a new centre for the disabled. After a final mass, he will announce the venue for the next World Youth Day in 2014.

However, the cost of the event has been criticised by many as it comes at a time when people are suffering from painful budget cuts. Organisers of World Youth Day put the price of the event at up to 60 million euros, plus the cost of security.

This includes the cost of building a 200-metre long stage where the Pope will deliver the final mass, the installation of hundreds of water fountains, 20 giant TV screens, and installing showers at the public schools which are being used to house pilgrims from outside Madrid.

Sleeping gas used in apartment robberies

Residents woke up dizzy, nauseous and with headaches

By Dave Jamieson

POLICE say that burglars who broke into at least six homes in Rincón de la Victoria last week used a sleeping gas on their victims. The thefts took place early last Friday in La Cala del Moral area of the Costa del Sol seaside municipality.

Residents said they were unaware of what was happening until they woke up in the morning feeling faint, dizzy and nauseous, with headaches and sore throats, and in some cases, vomiting. The thieves took only cash, ignoring laptops, cameras and other portable goods in the affected homes, but their owners found their purses, wallets and handbags in their gardens with all the money missing.

The thieves are believed to have taken advantage of the fact that many residents had their windows open at night because of the hot weather. There is concern in the area now, as the gas used can have harmful effects on children, the elderly and people with poor health.

The burglaries took place in five of the 24 blocks on the same complex and always in first-floor apartments, because the ground-floor flats have metal security bars on the doors and windows. In some cases, the burglars took car keys, but apparently changed their minds about stealing the vehicles when they saw that the garages had CCTV cameras. Guardia Civil officers are continuing to investigate the thefts.

Murder victim was stabbed 13 times

The body of the 45-year-old woman was found by her son

By David Eade

THE 45-year-old woman who was found dead inside her apartment in Calahonda last Thursday had received 13 stab wounds. The information was released by sources close to the investigation and the Guardia Civil say that at present they have not ruled out any motives.

The victim was discovered at around 4.45pm last Thursday in the Mansión Alhamar in Calahonda close to the beach. The building has historic links having formerly been a hunting lodge used by Franco. One of the woman's sons discovered her and called the 112 emergency service.

The woman was originally from Buenos Aires but held Spanish nationality and had lived on the urbanisation for some time. Her son found her inside her apartment on her bed with numerous knife wounds. The son says he went to his mother's home to check on her after trying to contact her all day without any success.

Party laughing gas warning

Gas used as an inexpensive way of getting high

By Tom Cain

GUARDIA Civil and National Police have been told by the interior ministry to investigate the sale of laughing gas in bars and pubs.

The alert was sent out after officers in Oviedo, Asturias, detected a growing trend among 14 to 18-year-olds who were buying the gas and using it as a cheap form of getting high.

Officers in Málaga province have been told pay special attention when checking bars. Although as yet, National Police officers have not detected the sale of the gas in this area but they believe it is only a matter of time before that happens.

Under current legislation it is not illegal to possess or use laughing gas but selling it could be classed as a crime against the public health.

Experts say that overuse of the gas could cause people to black out or have breathing difficulties. It could also affect the nervous system and provoke uncontrolled movements of the legs and arms.

Laughing gas or nitrous oxide is used in small quantities as an anaesthetic for minor operations and in cartridges for soda syphons. It can be purchased in shops that sell equipment for hotels and restaurants and on the packaging it states very clearly that users should never breathe in the gas because it can damage your health.

Those that have used laughing gas say it causes euphoria and at a cost of between two and three euros for a cartridge it is an extremely cheap and quick way of achieving a feeling of wellbeing .

Junta to set up medical ethics committees

These groups will debate on sensitive issues such as how to provide a dignified death for terminally-ill patients who request it

By David Eade

THE ANDALUCIAN parliament passed the country's first law regulating the rights of patients who were faced with terminal illnesses in March 2010. It also laid out the obligations of the medical profession.

The need to draw up a law providing for a dignified death was highlighted in the press after Inmaculada Echevarría, a 51-year-old Granada woman suffering from muscular dystrophy who had been bedridden for two decades, launched a legal campaign demanding to be allowed to die in peace. She achieved her objective on March 14th 2007 when doctors were given permission to disconnect her respirator.

Now the Andalucía ministry of health is to establish committees which will debate and vote on issues of ethical medicine. They will start work in September and one of the key features of their make-up is that they consist of housewives, farmers, teachers, police officers - normal, every day citizens who will debate these complex issues.

The Andaluces will be pioneering these committees in Spain and how they deal with these sensitive ethical issues and dignified death will be monitored closely. They will also debate the help that should be given in the final stages of a person's life, the declarations of the living will and what support those with scant prospects of survival should receive.

Medical staff also have their own ethical standards and for many they will have moral beliefs that object to life support being withdrawn. In those cases they will not be asked to act against their conscience.

Violence flares between police and 15-M 'indignants'

Protests started in Madrid on Tuesday and spread to regional capitals at the weekend

By Dave Jamieson

POLICE efforts to clear Madrid's Puerta del Sol last week, only succeeded in reigniting nationwide protests.

The demonstrations stem from May 15 when the first gatherings calling for political transparency and an end to the economic crisis were organised ahead of regional and local elections. They have come to be known as the 15-M movement while their members are the "indignados."

Last week's events began on Tuesday, when police moved in to dislodge the last remaining 15-M protestors from the Puerta del Sol and the nearby Paseo del Parque.

Immediately, messages on social networking sites called for people to go to the square but police cordoned the area off and closed the metro station, strictly controlling access. Thousands gathered in nearby streets shouting their anger for several hours.

On Wednesday, an estimated 1,500 indignants gathered, blocking Gran Vía and other city centre streets. The metro station remained closed and police again controlled access the Puerta del Sol.