November News Round up

'Cruel' methods of fishing and hunting could lead to jail
FISHING and hunting using traps, poison, explosives or any other cruel or destructive methods could land the culprit up to two years in jail.
Ecologists have warned that a forthcoming amendment to the Spanish Penal Code means that inhumane methods of catching fish or hunting game will soon be reclassified as a 'crime'.
Any methods that can lead to animals and birds that are not intended for capture being caught will also be considered illegal and could attract a prison sentence of between four months and two years.
The reason for this is that many endangered species end up seriously injured or dying slowly and in extreme agony as a result of hunting 'accidents'.
In fact, these account for around 20 per cent of the population of threatened breeds of birds and animals.
Also, some 12 million protected species of birds have ended up being killed accidentally during hunting, or deliberately hunted, in the last 15 years.
They end up with their feathers destroyed, or covered in sticky chemicals which lead to a slow and painful death.

Compensation for prisoner wrongly accused of rape
A MAN from Cádiz who spent 13 years in jail for a crime he did not commit has been awarded 555,000 euros in compensation.
Rafael Ricardi, who has a disability that prevents him from working, was sentenced in 1996 for the rape of an 18-year-old girl.
But DNA evidence from the girl's clothing revealed in 2009 that he had been wrongly convicted.
Rafael's lawyer, Antonia Alba, commented, “and you know how people get treated inside for this type of crime.”
She called for compensation in the sum of 10 million euros both on this basis and because of her client now living in extreme poverty and being homeless as a result of his recent release from jail and inability to work.
Add to this, even if he had been completely able-bodied, it would be practically impossible for an ex-rapist to get a job.
Alba calls Rafael's compensation from the State 'a real cheek', considering it insulting after what he has been through.
She is attempting to obtain him an 'extraordinary credit' from the Ministry of the Economy.
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The cost of parking in the street: from Barcelona to Bilbao
PARKING by the hour in Barcelona is more expensive than anywhere else in the country.
Recent research by the Pro-Civil, Economic and Social Rights' Association (ADECES) of street parking bays in 18 Spanish cities shows that the Catalán capital charges anything up to three euros an hour for parking.
Tariffs of 2.42 euros per hour in 'blue zones' and 2.94 euros in 'green zones' are nearly three times the amount people pay in the average provincial capital.
Blue zones in the 17 capitals and in the Spanish-owned city of Ceuta on the north coast of Morocco attract fees of around 84 cents per hour, with green zones costing up to 1.18 euros per hour.
For blue parking bays, the highest prices in the country are in Madrid, Pamplona, Sevilla and Bilbao, which cost 1.10 euros per hour – again, less than half that of Barcelona – whilst the cheapest, at 50 cents, are found in Murcia, Zaragoza and Ceuta.
Only 11 provincial capitals have 'green zones', which are more expensive than blue ones.
The most expensive of these, after Barcelona, is Madrid at 2.10 euros, followed a long way behind by Oviedo, Sevilla, Granada and Salamanca at 60 cents per hour; Murcia at 50 cents, and Valladolid at 30 cents, with Palma de Mallorca somewhere in between.
Annual parking fees for residents vary drastically across the country, from 7.60 euros in Toledo through to 197 euros in Ceuta, 144 in Granada, and 135 in Salamanca.
Sevilla falls roughly in the middle at a cost of 72.50 euros per year, whilst Logroño (La Rioja) charges 29 euros; Santander, 27; Madrid, 25 euros, and Palma de Mallorca, 24 euros.
Barcelona charges 48 euros, with discounts of between 12 and 24 euros for motorists with no parking fines or municipal debts incurred within the past year.
ADECES says that cars are the most lucrative tools for councils and regional governments when they seek to claw back money for their coffers.
Parking fines, speeding tickets, parking fees, and car tax all allow them to amass millions of euros a year for doing very little.

Air
Berlin launches new Valencia routes but rules out Castellón for the time being
AIR Berlin has launched direct flights from Valencia to Vienna, as well as new routes to Amsterdam and Basle via Palma de Mallorca.
But its sales director for Spain and Portugal, Pablo Caspers, says at present there are no plans for Air Berlin to operate from Castellón airport.
“It's not a question of having an airport there – it's a matter of putting yourself on the tourist map,” Caspers told Castellón airport's management.
“I'm not telling you to do your homework; but I'm suggesting you promote yourself to put yourself on the map for those destinations and origins that you hope to attract.
“It's not enough just to have an airport nearer to this area than the one in Valencia, because passengers can just get a bus to travel the extra 80 kilometres, just as they do in Tenerife's only international airport to get to all other parts of the island.
“You need to promote yourself as a tourist destination in your own right.
“We're not saying we won't base ourselves in Castellón, but at the moment, for the summer of 2011, we do not have any flights planned.
“Additionally, the airport is not even officially open, and we still do not know when it will be.”
Caspers made reference to the delays in the opening of Ciudad Real airport, just south of Madrid, which led to losses for airlines.
“They need to have an aircraft and crew on standby for months in advance,which means losses to the company when no flights can take off,” he stressed.
The sales director also commented that Castellón airport has thus fair only aimed its advertising at the British market.
“Start promoting yourself in German-speaking countries, and then we'll talk,” he concluded.
This said, Air Berlin says it is happy with its expansion within Valencia airport, where it is now offering a direct route to Vienna, and flights to Amsterdam and Basle (Switzerland) via connecting flights in Palma.
“We're doing very well without having received any government grants,” says Caspers, making a pointed dig at Ryanair.


Florists shift 6.5 million euros' worth of flowers over Hallowe'en weekend
FLORISTS in the Comunidad Valenciana sold a whopping 6.5 million euros' worth of flowers in just one weekend, thanks to All Saints' Day.
The day after Hallowe'en is a national holiday in Spain, when it is traditional for people to tidy up and decorate the graves of their loved ones.
Along with free bus services to the cemeteries, this means a colossal amount of flowers shifted.
In the province of Valencia alone, residents spent a total of 3.8 million euros on flowers, whilst in Alicante, they spent 1.6 million and in Castellón, 1.1 million euros.
The most popular flowers bought were roses, chrysanthemums, gladioli, lilies and carnations.
Florists have tended to wait for orders to be placed this year rather than stocking up in advance, fearing that the recession might lead to people cutting down on their flower spending this All Saints' Day.

ITV test evaders cause thousands of fatal accidents per year
SOME two million vehicle-owners per year do not bother with an ITV test, complains test centres.
The equivalent of an MOT in Spain, the test has to be taken every two years for cars between four and 10 years old, and once a year for cars over 10 years old.
Cars of less than four years old only need a bi-annual test if the vehicle has been used as a hire car or a courtesy car.
The association of test centres, the AECA-ITV, has called for the ministry of traffic to intervene, since it applies a tax of 3.54 euros per test and is therefore losing money.
Not only that, but cars that have not had an ITV are not guaranteed to be roadworthy and can therefore put other motorists' lives in danger.
The ministry of traffic, or the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT), earns around 30 million euros a year from ITV tests.
And according to AECA-ITV, those who do have their cars checked religiously have a 'moral right' to call for the DGT to monitor and sanction those who do not, since their own lives are being put in danger by these people each time they are out on the road.
If just 15 per cent of ITV-evaders were rounded up and forced to have their cars inspected, there would be 1,500 fewer accidents on the road – reducing the number of injuries by 2,000 and the number of deaths by 75.
Additionally AECA-ITV points out that test centres are state-run because if they were to be privately-owned, there would be a proliferation of new ones on the market attempting to undercut each other and this would 'seriously compromise quality'.
Despite this, the call for ITV centres to be privately-run and subject to the same competitive environment as other non-public businesses has led to numerous protest marches across the country.
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Rajoy threatens to scrap same-sex marriage if he wins elections
LEADER of Spain's opposition, Mariano Rajoy, says he will scrap the law allowing same-sex marriage if he is voted in during the 2012 elections.
The right-wing PP party's position looks stronger than ever now that many members of the public have lost confidence in Zapatero's socialist government due to their poor handling of the recession.
But lesbian and gay voters – particularly those in an established relationship – are now in a quandary as they could see their fundamental right to be treated in the same way as heterosexual couples be snatched from underneath them.
Rajoy, PP leader and Zapatero's rival, says he 'does not care' if the Constitutional Court is in favour of the law allowing same-sex and mixed-sex couples to marry under exactly the same terms and conditions.
He says he 'does not like the idea of marriage' except where there is a man and a woman involved, and considers it 'unconstitutional'.
Rajoy also wants to scrap the recent abortion law reform.
He says it is 'completely wrong' for a 16- or 17-year-old girl who falls pregnant to have an abortion without her parents' permission, or without telling them.
Rajoy considers abortion to be a 'violation of the right to life'.
Additionally, he has publicly stated that he will not follow Zapatero's example of ensuring there is an equal number of men and women on the cabinet.
When asked whether anyone with his attitude to women should be allowed to head up the country, Rajoy stated: “Nobody ever gets it right all the time, and anyone who thinks they're always right is very wrong.”


'Facebook from beyond the grave' via touch-screen headstones
TOUCH-SCREEN cemeteries are set to be the new multi-media tool for All Saints' Day.
The programme, Cementerios 2.0, will allow people to find out at the touch of a button where in the graveyard a given person is buried, and get a potted biography of the person in question.
It will also allow family members and friends to write messages for each other and to leave notes of recent visits.
As well as being helpful for those who want to visit the graves of family members and friends, the tool could also allow people to learn more about famous figures buried in the town in question.
Developed by technology firm Aido, the touch-screen programme could be introduced in Valencia, where visitors to the cemetery can find out about the famous 19th-century artists Joaquín Sorolla and Mariano Benlliure, and the early 20th-century novelist Blasco Ibáñez.
The latter two had houses in the city which are now open to the public as museums and shrines to their memory.
These digital headstones have been described as a type of 'Facebook from beyond the grave' and are already in use in Japan and parts of  Holland.
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Lottery scam targets the elderly
NATIONAL Police are attempting to locate victims of a widespread lottery scam throughout the provinces of Valencia and Alicante.
However, they believe many of those affected are embarrassed to report the matter in case they are seen as 'greedy'.
The scam mostly involves selling lottery tickets that bear winning numbers for a fraction of the prize, the bearer claiming that he or she is unable to collect the funds for various reasons.
They would then take advantage of the victim's surprise at having come into a fortune by stealing money and valuables from their homes.
The lottery tickets would later turn out to be fakes and the numbers on them totally random.
Police say the gang – of which two men and four women aged from 24 to 40 have been caught – targeted mainly elderly people.
About 22 people have been conned in this way, and the gang are also thought to have been behind three aggravated burglaries.
They are found to have been operating in Dénia, Elche, Valencia, Pedreguer, Xirivella, Paterna, Torrent, Quart de Poblet, and various parts of Andalucía.
After raiding a house in Armilla (Granada), police seized around half a million euros in cash, a fake disability certificate, hundreds of thousands of euros' worth of jewellery, fake credit cards, and four cars – a Kia, an Opel, a Ford and a Lexus.
They are now attempting to find the owners of the jewellery in order to return them.
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Mercadona in Gandia to charge for carrier bags
GANDIA'S branch of Mercadona is 'experimenting' by charging for carrier bags in a bid to cut plastic consumption by 50 per cent.
The cheapest option is two cents a bag, for the ones that are normally given out free, and larger, more resistant bags are available for 10 cents.
These can be used up to 10 times, says the supermarket's management.
Shoppers can also opt for a 60-cent bag that they can use time and time again, similar to the 'bags for life' sold in Carrefour which can stand at least 50 uses.
The supermarket chain says its aim in the beginning is to 'see how customers react' and to attempt to meet legal requirements concerning the use of plastic.
New laws in force now require supermarkets to reduce their consumption of plastic bags by half.

 A third of companies in Alicante have no active trade
ONE in three companies in the province of Alicante does not carry out any business activity whatsoever as a result of the recession, chilling statistics reveal.
Marketing and risk management consultants Iberinform say over half a million firms in Spain are in this position, and include 28 per cent of those in Alicante.
This is the number of companies that have not had to pay any taxes on profits in the past two years or more, and translates to around 14,000 firms.
The figures are not much more optimistic in the province of Valencia, where 23 per cent of companies do not have any trade, or in Castellón, where 21 per cent are dormant.
These statistics are only exceeded by Madrid, where 39 per cent of companies have no business activity, and Ceuta, the Canary Islands, Navarra and Andalucía, where 30 per cent of companies are dormant, says Iberinform.
But not all of these are firms that are simply not managing to make a profit – a large number are fronting companies, which could face fines of between 1,200 and 60,000 euros.
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Xàtiva-Alcoi rail link will not be scrapped, says ministry
THE ministry of public works has denied rumours that it plans to scrap the Xàtiva-Alcoi railway line, which serves 300,000 passengers a day.
Mario Flores, regional minister for infrastructure and transport, claimed this was the case, but the central government hotly refutes the suggestion.
Additionally, they say the Generalitat Valenciana has not invested 'a single euro' of the funds that it promised to stump up to maintain the railway link.
“We do not know where Flores got this information from, but it is certainly not true that the Xàtiva-Alcoi line is due to be closed,” stresses the ministry.
Sailor spends 20 hours on top of capsized boat in high seas
A 58-YEAR-OLD man spent 20 hours out at sea after his boat capsized over Hallowe'en weekend, leading members of the search party to believe he was dead.
Alberto Paz, a dentist from Canals who enjoys fishing as a hobby, set off at 10.00hrs to catch some cuttlefish on Sunday morning from the port of Oliva.
He and his wife Paqui had been staying in the area for the bank holiday weekend.
When he did not return after four hours as planned, Paqui reported her husband's disappearance.
Coastguard helicopters and planes combed the entire coast from Gandia to the Cabo de la Nau in Jávea throughout the night.
Alberto was finally found at noon on Monday sitting on top of his 3.5-metre fishing boat, which had capsized.
The plucky sailor reveals that he was heading back to port after two hours out on the water when he was hit by a strong wave and high winds, turning his craft over.
Alberto managed to grab a lifejacket from the remains of his belongings, which were floating in the water.
Once he had put the jacket on, Alberto then managed to save a torch, a bottle of water and two mobile telephones, and decided his safest option was to get on top of the boat, even though it was being swept south by a strong current.
He claimed he even managed to sleep a bit on top of his craft.
Alberto says he knew people were out looking for him when he saw helicopters overhead.
The fisherman managed to keep reasonably warm thanks to his lifejacket, and by keeping his legs submerged in the water and constantly moving to give his body a sensation of warmth.
However, he had been on the water for 20 hours before finally being discovered and airlifted to Dénia hospital.
At the time of going to press, Alberto is expected to be discharged in the next few days, but is being kept under observation after suffering from exposure and dehydration.
His wife, Paqui, says the search team were 'excellent' and responded very quickly.
She says it was 'hope that saved her' and believes that her husband's strong constitution and quick thinking was what kept him alive.
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Burglar drowns syphoning fuel from moored yachts

A MAN has drowned whilst burgling a number of moored boats in the port of L'Ampolla (Tarragona).
He is thought to have been syphoning fuel from the crafts when he accidentally fell into the water.
Police were called out at around 10.30hrs last Thursday when a nearby resident discovered the body.
The deceased, 41, is said to have an existing criminal record for burglaries.

Patients infected with Hepatitis C awarded compensation
SEVEN dialysis patients at the Santa Tecla kidney hospital in Tarragona will receive 52,000 euros each in compensation after being infected with Hepatitis C.
The virus is believed to have been passed on to the patients in 2009 as a result of an infected needle being used to extract a drug from a bottle.
Although infected needles were not thought to be used on the patients, it is believed that this one needle may have contaminated the supply of drugs.
The seven patients were called to the hospital in December last year to warn them of the situation.
According to the regional ministry of health, each bottle of the medication should have only been used on one patient, and then destroyed.
The hospital, which is managed by the multinational firm Fresenius Medical Care, has been found guilty of negligence after a case led by the Catalán Patients' Ombudsman was taken to court.
Property rent costs plummet in Catalunya
RENT prices continue to fall in Catalunya, reaching an all-time low of an average of 400 euros a month.
The cheapest part of the region to rent a property is the L'Ebre district, where the monthly cost has fallen from last year's 450 euros to 400.
It is now 100 euros a month cheaper than the average rental property in Tarragona and half of that in the metropolitan areas of the region.
In Lleida, rent has fallen by 8.3 per cent, although this is half the fall experienced in the L'Ebre district.
This said, rental contracts have increased in number by 34.2 per cent in this area, with 730 being signed in just three months compared to 1,127 in the whole of 2009.
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Councils freeze taxes and offer monthly payment plans
TORTOSA council has agreed to freeze taxes this coming year, and will offer homeowners the opportunity to pay monthly without interest for their property rates.
Villarroya town hall claims it already offers monthly and three-monthly payment options, whilst Forcadell council merely plans to move the payment cut-off date for property tax to another part of the year.
In Amposta, all taxes for 2011 will be frozen except for water rates, which will go up by an average of 1.5 per cent, and the IBI rates, which will be subject to a Catastral – land registry value – review.
Mayor Manel Ferré says 'even rubbish rates' have been frozen, despite the collection company's having increased its fees by three per cent for 2011.
Speaking of water rates, he says Amposta – along with Ascó and Xerta – have some of the lowest fees in the province of Tarragona.
In the meantime, Amposta town hall has given the green light to the development of the new Urbanisation Eucalyptus.


Pedestrians more likely to be killed than drivers or passengers

ONE in four road deaths in the province is Castellón is caused by pedestrians being run over, according to statistics from the traffic department.
They say the number of fatalities have increased by 60 per cent in the past year.
Some 52 per cent of people run over are killed in urban areas and on pedestrian crossings.
The highest-risk age group is the over-65s, who account for 41 per cent of the total. 
With the recent deaths of Pascual Lázaro from Castellón and 17-year-old Iván Arnau Flor, from L'Alcora, who were killed when they were knocked down by a bus in Cabanes, the number of pedestrian fatalities for the province is now higher than in the whole of 2009.
Spain as a whole is a high-risk area for pedestrian deaths, with 14 per million inhabitants – the second-highest in Europe after Slovenia's 18 per million, says the RACE.
Such accidents usually occur at night or in the evening, when visibility is poor, and are mostly caused by either pedestrians crossing in unmarked areas or by drivers jumping red lights.
One in four drivers ignores pedestrian crossings, says the RACE's research.

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