February News Round up

More parking and bigger terminal at Valencia airport
DEVELOPMENT minister José Blanco has pledged to start on the second expansion of Valencia airport, at a cost of 135 million euros.
It will include more parking spaces, a larger terminal, better air traffic control and runways.
Work is expected to start on it in 2011.
Additionally, the high-speed train from Valencia to Madrid is hoped to be a reality by this December, Blanco reveals.
The regional government hopes to have the new infrastructure in place next year, which will be the 25th anniversary of Spain's joining the European Union.
A further 42,000 expats moved to region last year
IN the past year, a whopping 42,000 foreigners have settled in the Comunidad Valenciana, bringing the total up to 889,340.
This is in spite of a recession that has forced many expatriates to return to their country of origin.
Additionally, the number of foreign residents expected to arrive in the region in 2009 was around 6,400 less than the true figure.
A total of 462,368 expatriates live in the province of Alicante, with 315,145 in Valencia and 111,221 in Castellón.
The province of Valencia has absorbed half of the increase in the number of foreigners in the region in the past year.
Immigration minister Rafael Blasco says the Comunidad Valenciana is the only one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions that has 'established a real and effective commitment to helping foreigners integrate and with legal support'.
Formula One 'cannot clash with America's Cup'
OWNER of the Swiss team Alinghi, which is due to compete in the 33rd America's Cup on Monday, Ernesto Bertarelli says the Formula One European Grand Prix would 'not be compatible' with the sailing competition if they were to be held in the same summer.
There is a chance that the next America's Cup could be held in Valencia, but now that the motor-racing street circuit is up and running, the European Grand Prix takes over the city for a week.
It has been held in August in the last two years, but Valencia city council has changed it to the month of June.
This would be the best time of year to hold the America's Cup, because the water conditions are optimum, Bertarelli reveals.
But the crowds, chaos, infrastructures and extra security workers needed for the Formula One would mean the America's Cup could not take place at the same time.
Dog poo costs a month's wages in Benidorm
DOG-OWNERS who do not pick up after their pets could face fines of up to 1,000 euros, the mayor of Benidorm, Agustín Navarro has announced.
At present, allowing pooches to foul in the streets and leaving it behind would involve a penalty of 150 euros – on the spot if caught in the act.
But Navarro wants to see fines stiffened to act as a greater deterrant.
“In some parts of the town, the level of dog-mess is just untenable,” commented Navarro.
He stated that, following a lengthy awareness campaign, 'now is the time to act' and 'there are no excuses'.
Those who are caught in the act will automatically be fined 1,000 euros.
Minor offences currently attract fines of up to 150 euros; more serious ones from 150 to 450 euros, and very serious infractions, from 450 to 900 euros.
But Navarro wants to see dog-owners fined 1,000 euros even for minor offences.
“This is not about raising more money for the council, but a contingency campaign that seeks to nip this negligence in the bud,” Navarro goes on.
In most towns in the Comunidad Valenciana, minimum fines of between 150 and 300 euros are levied on people who do not clean up their dogs' mess.
However, 1,000 euros is closer to the average monthly wage of a person working in Spain.
High street and seafront works 'to be finished by October'
PEÑÍSCOLA'S main high street will be fully built and open to the public by October, confirms mayor Andrés Martínez.
Work is under way on the second phase of the southern end of the main Paseo, or boulevard.
Part of this road, near the beach known as the Playa de las Viudas, is being pedestrianised.
Regeneration works along the shoreline are also under way, and should be finished by the autumn.
Gaza student of Castellón university unable to leave Israel
SPAIN'S embassy in Tel Aviv is taking every action within its power to allow a 23-year-old Israeli to study a masters in peace, conflict and development at Castellón's Jaime I university.
Ayman Qader has been awarded a grant, along with 13 other students, to take up courses at Castellón's university, but due to the political climate and disputed territory they live in, they have not been permitted to leave the Gaza strip.
He has a degree in English and was due to start his masters degree on February 8.
But the constant struggle between Israel and Palestine, and the blockade Israel has subjected Gaza to, has so far stopped the youngster from following his ambitions.
Juan González Barba, vice-ambassador for Spain in Tel Aviv, says his team's efforts appear to be bearing fruit.
Qader has been given a visa by the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Amman (Jordan) is attempting to arrange for him to leave the country via this city, and later Egypt.
Palestinians from Gaza are unable to leave Israel via the main Ben Gurión airport in Tel Aviv, but have to cross through into Jordan instead.
Masses of cash to create jobs
A MULTI-MILLION-EURO budget to beat unemployment in the Castellón area has been described as the most ambitious ever.
The city has set aside 180.9 million euros, without any financial assistance from the central government, nor increasing taxes.
Councillors voted unanimously for the move, stressing that investment in creating employment is the only way out of the recession for the city.
Castellón airport charter flights to Russia
THE elusive Castellón airport could link the Costa Azahar to Russia, Germany, France and Holland when it eventually opens.
Tourism bosses from the city made contacts with representatives from the likes of Kuoni, Hastel Travel, Thomas Cook, and TUI during the recent international tourism fair in Madrid, FITUR.
All of these expressed their willingness to offer charter flights from the aerodrome in Vilanova.
Surprisingly, negotiations are further ahead with Russian travel agencies than those in Europe.
Provincial tourism manager Enrique de Pablo claims that flights to the former Soviet Union could be open by the end of this year.
“We are putting together the product and creating brochures, and we're going to open a website in Russian,” De Pablo reveals.
“We're looking at the end of the year or the beginning of the next.
“There won't be any problem with contracting charter flights.”
But with Castellón airport's construction having started in 2004 and no sign yet of any planes leaving the terminal, it remains to be seen whether this will become reality within such a short space of time.
Gas boiler explosion leaves two in serious condition
TWO people have suffered serious smoke inhalation and gas poisoning after a boiler blew up in their home in Tortosa.
Lluís S.P., 89 and María Concepción R., 61, were treated in Barcelona's Creu Roja hospital.
They were found unconscious by their cleaning lady, who arrived at the house at around 09.25hrs on Thursday.
She rang the emergency services, and an ambulance took the victims to Tortosa's Verge de la Cinta hospital.
Given the seriousness of their condition, they were taken to the hospital in Barcelona, where they are being treated in a hyperbaric chamber.
Fire brigade chief 'not told of colleagues' death' on the job
COLLEAGUES of four firemen who lost their lives whilst fighting a blaze that had broken out in L'Horta de Sant Joan in July did not find out about the tragedy for another 12 hours, emergency services revealed this week.
The head of the fire brigade was not told about his colleagues' deaths until long after the inferno had been put out.
Sources from the ministry of the interior, who handled the rescue operation by mobile phone, revealed that they did not want to put the survivors off their work or upset them when they were in the middle of trying to control a massive forest fire.
Four of the emergency workers perished in the blaze at around 08.00hrs on July 21, but the rest of the squad did not hear about it until 19.45hrs that evening.
Officers from the Mossos d'Esquadra – Catalunya's answer to the Guardia Civil – began searching for the culprits the following day.
A nearby resident told police he had seen two men near the Mas de Sotorras mountain, who have since been identified as A.P. And L.F.
It is not known whether they have been found guilty, or whether the blaze was started by accident or deliberately.
Sports centre, car park and office blocks for Tortosa
TORTOSA has announced that it will build a new sports centre this year with the help of its government grant to improve facilities and provide employment.
Known as the Plan Estatal, or 'Plan E', each and every town in Spain has been given money from the central government to carry out renovation works and provide new and improved services, with the work going to local building firms.
The centre will have two training grounds and one for competition purposes, six changing rooms, seating for 300 people – which could increase to 600 on competition days, and will be located along the new El Canal high street.
Tortosa will also build a marine base for rowing practice alongside the river Ebro, and a new car park in the Carrer del Comerç.
Additionally, it has plans for nine new office buildings and six workshops for local firms.
The old National Police station will be renovated and work will be carried out on the river Ebro near to the town to prevent flooding, with a new garden area near the station. 
Protest over Ascó's nuclear plant plans
DOZENS of protesters gathered outside the town hall in Ascó (Tarragona) to voice their disapproval of the planned nuclear waste plant that authorities propose to build in the town.
Carrying banners proclaiming 'no to the nuclear cemetery' and 'Catalunya has said no', they clamoured and chanted their discontent just as the weekly council meeting finished.
A resolution was approved in the Catalán parliament in March 2008 against plans to install the nuclear storeroom.
Residents have said it would be 'a death certificate' for Ascó if it went ahead.
Experts on the subject say the version of a nuclear power plant shown on the popular American cartoon series, The Simpsons, both idealises the notion and creates confusion.
A further 12 towns in the area have written to the ministry of industry offering to house the plant instead.
Guardia Civil officers from outside the region, and the Mossos d'Esquadra, were on call during the protest, but it was said to be peaceful and passed without incident.
RYANAIR will open a flight route from Reus airport to Pisa, near Florence (Italy) starting from May this year.
The Irish-based airline has announced that three flights a week will leave Reus for the city of the leaning tower starting from May 1, meaning around 40,000 extra passengers per year will pass through the Costa Daurada airport.
Flights will be scheduled for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Ryanair already operates in 26 countries and offers more than 1,000 routes connecting 150 destinations.
Around 7,000 people work for the company, which transports 66 million passengers per year.
Dad and son suspected of arson on own restaurant
A FATHER and son have been arrested in Reus on suspicion of setting fire to the restaurant they run.
It is believed that they deliberately started the blaze in order to claim on their business insurance.
Police reveal that the suspects were arrested last week over the incident, which occurred on July 1, leaving the premises a total loss.
The sum insured on the burnt-out building and its stock and equipment was in region of 300,000 euros.
Mossos d'Esquadra reveal that the arsonists used petrol to start the fire, after manipulating a gas valve inside the building.
The owners of the premises, Menlong C., 44, and his son Runzi C., 19, have been taken in for questioning.
Officers say only these two men would have known which gas valve to tamper with in order to start the fire.
Police have already ruled out that the blaze was started by burglars, since the till was full at the time and the electrical appliances had not been taken.
Most-wanted bank robbers tracked down
THE region's most sought-after bank robbers – who have been on the run for more than five years – were finally caught this week in a spectacular police round-up in Les Borges del Camp.
They are said to have been behind a minimum of 12 hold-ups, during which they amassed a total of 314,000 euros from banks in Teruel, León, Zaragoza and Castellón.
This was after they had been in jail for several years.
J.J.S.M, 53, had been on the Guardia Civil's wanted list for more than five years after he was identified during a hold-up on a branch in Calahorra (La Rioja).
He managed to flee the scene in a getaway car with a fake registration number.
The suspect and his gang are said to have carried out their burglaries in disguise, and had numerous wigs, clothing and firearms stored in their homes.
They are said to be the most prolific and elusive bank-robbery outfit in more than 30 years.
Police say they would burst into the branches and threaten the staff with revolvers until they handed over the contents of the safe.
Ontinyent palace restored
A CASH injection has been given to Ontinyent to restore its beautiful 13th-century palace.
The Palau de la Vila, also known as the Palau de la Duquesa d'Almodóvar – no relation to the film director – has been awarded 600,000 euros to give it a facelift.
Ontinyent local authorities are thrilled with the news of the regional government grant, saying: “it covers nearly all the works needed, and in these days of recession it means it has freed up our funds to invest in other causes.”
The third phase of the restoration started 18 months ago and is nearly finished.
Only two elements are left to install, including the lift and staircase, which is being put back together by students at Valencia Polytechnic.
Although a major tourist attraction in itself, the palace is also home to Ontinyent's tourist information office.
But the upper floor will be open to visitors when the work is complete.
From Xàtiva to Tinseltown
XÀTIVA'S old town is being used as the backdrop to a film about a young writer seeking a house in the country to detox from his cocaine habit.
The flick was shot in Valencia and Xàtiva in 2007, and will now be premièred in the latter in the next few weeks.
It stars three actors from Xàtiva, who made their début performance in the movie.
The main character has just won a major literary award, but feels empty, disenchanted and misunderstood, the producers reveal.
He is under pressure from his publishers to hand in the manuscript for his latest novel, but is hindered by his drug habit.
El Mono, as he is nicknamed, seeks refuge in a house in the country.
His house, in real life, is just outside the town, near the castle and the Cova Negra, and can be seen from Xàtiva's historic quarter.
El Mono is played by Abdelatif Abdeselam, who has already won a Goya award as a director for Best Short Film of 2008.
Alongside his co-star, famous actor Óskar Ramos, are three thespians from Xàtiva – Toni 'El Indio', Maribel Marzal and Victorino Díaz.
The film will have a second première in Valencia in March.
'Dangerous' road resurfaced after years of complaints
FOLLOWING years of protests by residents, Castelló de Rugat will finally resurface the road leading to the Pobla del Duc.
Townspeople say the Camí La Pobla used to be full of pot-holes and that it was impossible to drive along it safely.
Those who regularly use the road described it as an Odyssey.
Despite being a country road, the Camí La Pobla sees a heavy volume of traffic every day.
Now, after thousands of complaints, the council has laid new tarmac, making it safer to use.
Peace prize for high school
ALMUSSAFES high school has won an award for promoting peace in the home thanks to its awareness programmes of domestic violence.
The school has carried out a series of workshops, lessons and other activities with pupils to teach them that violence is not the answer.
Some 500 students took part in seminars run by the Centro de la Mujer, the Local Police and other town authorities.
This is the first time a school in the Comunidad Valenciana has been granted the award, named 'IRENE 2009: Peace begins at home'.
Albaida slammed over 'illegal' building practices
ALBAIDA council has come under fire for allegedly allowing illegal building works to be carried out.
The opposition, the socialist PSPV party, claims that the owner of a listed building ripped down the façade and that the mayor, Juan José Beneyto, has not taken any action against the offender.
Those living in listed buildings are obliged to maintain them, but keeping them in the original style as much as possible.
The owner of the house in question is said to have destroyed the unique and historic Virgen del Rosario tiles on the front of the property, which is against the law.
People to pay up over water works
CAMPAIGNERS in L'Alcúdia are complaining that vital works on renovating and extending the mains water network will be paid for out of the townspeople's pockets, rather than from municipal funds.
Compromís per L'Alcúdia claims users will have to pay an extra euro a month for two years and four months until the water board has clawed back the 160,000 euros it has spent on the mains system.
They claim that some households could see a rise in rates of up to 15 per cent.
Compromís per L'Alcúdia had previously protested over decisions to privatise the town's water supply, since it led to a 25-per-cent increase in rates.
Don't blame residents for torching my car, says mayoress
RESIDENTS in Bolbaite are not to be blamed for vandalising councillors' cars until proven guilty, stresses mayoress Práxedes Palop.
Two weeks ago, the mayoress' car was the subject of an arson attack just before a major council meeting that was aimed at approving controversial development plans in the town.
Luckily, she was not in her car at the time, and the attempts to set fire to it were thwarted.
Police suspect the act may have been carried out by residents who were against the town plan.
The building work was approved at the meeting by a majority vote.
But Palop says she does not want to point the finger at people living in her town unless and until there was concrete evidence.
She has also thanked her colleagues, other organisations and the townspeople for their support during this worrying time.
Ikea in talk with regional government over Paterna store plans
IKEA representatives were due to meet with the regional government this week to work out what the Swedish furniture chain's intentions are.
Recently it was revealed that the plug had been pulled on plans for an Ikea store in Paterna, near Valencia, to be opened in September 2012.
It was the multi-national flat-pack chain that called the meeting, reveals minister for industry and commerce, Vicente Rambla.
Rambla says his government wants to 'get to know more directly what Ikea's intentions are' and that “whatever negotiations exist at the moment, they must be carried out with the ultimate discretion and to everyone's best interests.”
But although Paterna is Ikea's first choice as a site for its store, other locations in the Valencia area may be considered if it does not go ahead.
Although mostly welcomed, some local furniture providers are concerned they will lose business, and 'green' campaigners worry about the loss of natural countryside if a mass hypermarket were to be built on top of it.
Firefighter injured putting out blaze
A FIREMAN suffered serious injuries when he attempted to put out a blaze in Mislata on Wednesday.
He had to evacuate 30 residents from a block of flats above a carpentry outlet which caught light.
Shards of broken glass embedded themselves in the victim's eye, meaning he had to be taken to the military hospital for treatment, as Mislata health centre does not have its own casualty department.
He is said to have been since discharged.
L'Eliana raises cash for Haïti
L'ELIANA residents and local authority figures have raised more than 6,000 euros for the victims of the earthquake that rocked Haïti.
One of the most recent events held included a charity art auction, of which 80 per cent of works donated were sold with a profit of 3,055 euros made.
Ticket-sales for various other events, a bar service and a raffle for prizes donated by local businesses brought in another 2,500 euros whilst a further 700 was amassed through donations.
Many of these donations were collected at the local leisure centre in L'Eliana last weekend.
Mountain climber critical after fall
A MOUNTAINEER who became injured whilst climbing the Peña de Guaita peak between Sagunto and Puzól last week had to be rescued by firefighters.
The victim, a 32-year-old man, was flown to Valencia's La Fe hospital with a fractured pelvis, multiple bruising and head injuries.
He is said to have fallen off a cliff of some six metres in height when his rope snapped.
Medics have reserved judgment over the seriousness of the climber's condition and whether he is likely to recover.
Beaches could be open for Easter...weather permitting
BEACHES all along the coast from Valencia to Jávea should be ready for visitors in time for Easter, just in case the weather picks up by then.
The regional government has been forced to call a halt to renovation works on the El Marenyet beach in Cullera, and various others in Bellreguard, Piles, Dénia and Jávea as a result of the torrential rain and high winds.
But it has pledged to invest 1.65 million euros in beaches along the Valencia province coast alone, and similar figures for the Costa Azahar and Costa Blanca.
Representatives from the environmental ministry say that, weather permitting, the beaches will be ready for tourists by Easter, which comes early this year.
If further storms occur, however, the beach cleaning works may have to start again from scratch.
Among the work needed is the creation of a false line of dunes between Cullera's Marenyet beach and the houses along the seafront.
Swine 'flu numbers plummet
SWINE 'flu numbers in the Comunidad Valenciana have fallen through the floor, following the initial scare in the spring of 2009.
Figures by the Carlos III Institute of Health reveal that only 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants have been recorded since the start of this year.
In the last week, a total of 8,000 people in the whole of Spain were said to have contracted the AH1N1 virus.
They class these figures as 'pre-epidemic', suggesting they have fallen far below the number of cases seen when the news first broke out about the disease.
Just two months ago, nearly 373 people per 100,000 inhabitants were said to be ill with swine 'flu.
And in Spain as a whole, this dropped from 29 to 21.6 in the last week.
High-risk cases have been vaccinated against the disease, and no fatalities have been reported in Spain since the autumn.
Polop mayor murder suspect's credit cards examined
IN the latest twist in the case of Polop de la Marina's murdered mayor, police are investigating credit-card payment made by the victim's successor.
Juan Cano was arrested in November in connection with the shooting of former mayor Alejandro Ponsoda two years previously outside his front door.
The popular leader had been on the council since a teenager and had had an uninterrupted 12-year reign.
He left behind two daughters, then aged 25 and 27, one of whom was carrying his grandchild at the time of his death.
Guardia Civil officers are now searching bank records back to January 2004 relating to the numerous credit cards held by Cano.
The suspect was employed by the CAM bank for many years, and police have sent a legal order to its directors obliging them to disclose all information relating to their client and former staff member's financial movements.
Various witnesses and other arrested suspects have claimed that Cano was a regular visitor to the Mesalina brothel in Alfaz del Pi, of which three doormen were taken into custody in November.
They claim he took part in meetings in the VIP room of the brothel in the summer of 2007 that involved plots to kill the then mayor.
Officers say they are looking for any sums of money withdrawn that may have been paid to a hitman employed to murder Ponsoda.
They are also investigating the SIM cards of his mobile telephones.
As yet, no new evidence has come to light.
Free vibrator offer for disco punters comes under fire
A NIGHTCLUB near Valencia has hit the headlines after offering free vibrators to the first 400 girls who stepped through the door.
The Cuomo disco in Mislata said its free gifts 'disappeared within minutes'.
Staff even claim some girls bought several entry tickets in order to get their hands on numerous vibrators.
This is not the first time the club has resorted to such basic promotion tactics, since it held a similar party in September.
On this occasion, the girls were able to choose between different colours, models and sizes.
The party came under the name of  'Fever Cuomo, vas a vibrar' ('Cuomo fever, you're going to vibrate').
It was only open to girls aged 20 and over, and cost eight euros a ticket.
The company offering the vibrators, Blue Rain Sex, and the nightclub's bosses, came under fire from various pressure groups who said that it was encouraging 'inappropriate behaviour' and made 'mere frivolity' of 'a subject as important as sex'.
In fact, the housewives' association and the regional consumer organisation took it one step further and reported the club to the police.
Mayor of Mislata, Manuel Corredera, revealed that this was the third party of its kind in Cuomo.
“We understand that it does not involve any illegality,” he commented.
“It is aimed at adults, people over 20, and run by a private company, so we cannot object.”
Various experts on the subject hold different views.
Leading sexologist Carmen Lorente says vibrators “are not dangerous. Their use is extensive and it's the order of the day.”
But adds: “Handing them out in a disco is perhaps not the most appropriate manner, because it can lead to erroneous behaviour and trivialise sex, which should be an intimate act.”
Missing diver found after extensive search
COASTGUARD workers and Red Cross volunteers rescued a diver in difficulties off Santa Pola beach following an extensive search over the weekend.
The man was said to have been diving without equipment in the area near the lighthouse on Saturday morning along with several others, who raised the alarm when he vanished.
Emergency services set off at around 11.30hrs, and took two hours to find him.
They spread out all the way along the coast, and took the Salvamar Polaris lifeboat – moored in Alicante port – out to sea.
The diver was found alive and apparently unharmed, rescuers report.
Recession causes people to neglect dentists' appointments and eye tests
PEOPLE'S health has taken a nosedive as a result of the recession with some 16 per cent of Spain's residents giving up going to the dentist and the optician.
Research shows that the average household spends 1,289 euros per year on eye-tests and dental check-ups, a cost that is out of the reach of most people's pockets due to the credit crunch.
This amount of money ranges from 13 to 18 per cent of the average annual income in Spain, meaning that thousands of people have had to give up their dental treatment and are unable to afford to replace their spectacles when necessary.
The latter has a much more serious impact where residents need glasses for driving, since poor vision can lead to road accidents.
Overall, the average household in Spain has had to cut down their costs seriously in education, transport, heating and food in order to make ends meet.
Others have stopped taking non-life-saving, but nonetheless necessary, prescribed medication in order to save money.
The ministry of health and social policy is attempting to devise a benefit programme offering reduced-cost dental treatment to hard-pressed families, concentrating mainly on dentists' appointments for children aged between seven and 15.
Teen's ex faces 52-year sentence for her murder
THE self-confessed murderer of teenager Marta del Castillo Casanueva could face 52 years in jail when he stands trial.
Of this, 35 years are for murder, 15 for having raped her and also held her down whilst she was raped by another suspect, and two years for 'moral cruelty' to Marta's parents for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of their daughter's body.
The victim, who was 17 at the time of her death last January, reportedly asked to meet ex-boyfriend Miguel Carcaño, then 20, because she had heard he was spreading unpleasant rumours about her.
They became involved in a row at Carcaño's house in Sevilla, where he lived with his older stepbrother Javier.
Carcaño told a judge that he had thrown an ashtray at his former partner in temper, knocking her unconscious, and that he had panicked and thrown her in the river Guadalquivir when he thought he had killed her.
He later changed his story and said he had taken her body to a rubbish dump just outside the city.
But later statements and investigations suggested Marta had been gang-raped by her ex-boyfriend, his friend Javier – then aged 15 – and possibly others.
The younger suspect has been released due to legislation restricting the length of time young offenders can stay in custody pending trial.
Carcaño's older stepbrother is thought to have helped remove the body, and his girlfriend is believed to have stayed behind in the house with 15-year-old Javier to clean up the evidence of the killing.
A year-long search in both sites mentioned, as well as in a ditch alongside Miguel's house, have proven fruitless.
As a result, the four suspects could be forced to pay the ministry of interior the 600,000 euros it has spent in trying to find Marta's remains.
None of the suspects is willing to reveal where they dumped the body.
The prosecution service considers that this has aggravated the situation, causing additional pain to Marta's parents and two sisters, since they are unable to give her a proper funeral.
As a result, the proposed sentence has been extended by two years.
Numerous protest marches have taken place in Sevilla, and a Facebook group has been set up calling for life sentences for those involved in the killing.
America's Cup sets sail in Valencia
THIS Monday, the long-awaited 33rd America's Cup will kick off in Valencia between the two disputed title-holders of the previous edition, BMW Oracle and Alinghi.
Tension abounds in and out of the water, since long-winded legal battles and bitter disagreements between the two teams mean that there is considerable animosity between their leaders, Ernesto Bertarelli and Russell Coutts.
It was the Swiss team, Alinghi's victory that led to the 32nd America's Cup being held in Valencia in 2007, since in the same manner as the Eurovision Song Contest – the winning country becomes the host venue for the following edition.
But when Switzerland won the world's oldest sailing tournament, following this protocol was a little tricky.
The result of the 2007 America's Cup meant that there has been ongoing dispute over whether Alinghi, or USA team BMW Oracle, were the defenders – or cup-holders – meaning that the 33rd edition of the competition has been brought forward and will feature only these two competitors.
It was originally due to be held in the United Arab Emirates, but one of the teams protested that the city in question lacked the necessary infrastructure and was unsafe, being in politically-disputed territory.
Yet the other team quite rightly argued that Valencia's sailing conditions would be far from optimum in February.
Valencia won the honour, however, and the competition will start on February 8 with 40-mile regatta.
If, after the second regatta, there is a tie, a third will be held.
Should weather conditions hold out, the competition will be over by Valentine's Day, but organisers have kept the period from February 15 to 26 in reserve just in case.
Unlike the 32nd America's Cup – which was held in July, allowing spectators on and off the water to enjoy it in bright sunshine – heated rooms with comfortable seats will be set up for those who want to follow the action.
Each regatta could take up to five hours, and they will be televised live across the globe.
Enormous television screens will be set up in rooms at Port America's Cup in Valencia for spectators to watch the white-water duel.
Retirement age could increase to 67 in Spain
PROPOSALS to raise the state retirement age in Spain to 67 have been met with a barrage of protests by residents, particularly the younger end of the working-age population.
The general workers' union – Comisiones Obreras, or CCOO – says increasing pensionable age by two years will do little to guarantee a state fund for retirees of the future and will only mean a lower monthly income for anyone who packs up work from 2027 onwards.
Along with various politicians, they call it 'unjust', 'unfair' and an infringement of residents' rights.
Young people currently in work are horrified at the idea of not being able to retire at 65 – unless they have a substantial personal pension fund.
It is rare that Spanish workers pay into personal pension funds, since the state pension is generous enough that most residents can comfortably live on it if they do not have a mortgage, rent or dependants.
The average figure for Spain is between 800 and 870 euros per month.
For this reason, the maximum that can be paid into a private pension in Spain is around 8,000 euros a year, irrespective of the fund-holder's earnings.
A group has been set up on Facebook called, Yo no quiero trabajar hasta los 67 ('I don't want to work until 67').
It opened on Friday, January 29, and within three days already had 241 members.
These included many manual workers, who comment that they will be physically unable to continue in their line of work by the time they are older than 65.

Additional information