HAVE FUN LEARNING WITH U3A

29 September, 2008

Retirement beginning to bore you? Liven up you life by going back to school at the U3A – University for the Third Age – in Fuengirola. Registration is now open at the Ark Christian Fellowship Hall, Las Rampas, from 11 am to 1 pm, on September 30th and October 2nd and 3rd. You can also register on Enrolment Day on October 6th. Courses range from Scrabble, Poetry, Health and Your Body, Computer Improvers Workshop, Spanish for Beginners, Patchwork, and Golden Age of Spain, just a few of the 40 courses on offer. One novelty this year is a series of talks on the Spanish Civil War, to be given by Muriel Pilkington from the Town Crier. Membership of the U3A costs 25 pounds and entitles members to participate in as many groups as they wish. More details are available on U3A’s website: http://www.u3acostadelsol.org.

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THE ODYSSEY SAGA CONTINUES

15 September, 2008

The El País newspaper has reported that thousands of people descended from the owners of the cargo of gold and silver coins which are now in the hands of the US company Odyssey Marine Exploration can claim their share of the wealth. The coins come from a shipwreck which Odyssey lifted from the seabed early last year. Odyssey claims the ship was lying in international waters “somewhere in the Atlantic” and that the booty belongs to the company while the Spanish government claims the ship is Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes, a warship which was sunk by the British in 1804 off the Cadiz coast, and that the booty therefore belongs to Spain . The newspaper sent a reporter to the Archivo de Indias in Sevilla, which contains thousands of documents dating back to colonial times, to get to the bottom of the matter. He discovered that the larger part of the coins, 697,621 pesos, belonged to 130 Spanish merchants and that only 253,606 pesos belonged to the Crown, according to first hand accounts of the ship’s last fatal journey. By law, the merchants’ direct descendants can now claim their share. The case was complicated a few weeks ago when Peru claimed that the coins were minted from silver and gold mined there and form part of that country’s patrimony. The Peruvian government has said it will make a formal claim to the booty if this turns out to be the case. Will the Brits now put in a claim for “spoils of war”? The saga continues.


ALL CRASH VICTIMS IDENTIFIED

1 September, 2008

By the end of last week, the government’s fears that it would not be possible to identify all the victims of the Spaniar crash proved to be unfounded. By Saturday, all 154 bodies had been identified and were being escorted by grieving families to their places of origin for burials that were attended by hundreds of people. The Spainair flight from Madrid to the Canary Islands crashed shortly after take-off on August 20th. Only 18 of 172 passengers and crew survived the accident. One of the air hostesses who survived told investigators a passenger who was a pilot remarked as the plane went down the runway that there was something wrong. The MD82 plane veered into a dry river bed just after take-off from Madrid’s Barajas airport. It then broke up and burst into flames, setting light to surrounding vegetation. Experts had to use DNA analysis, fingerprints and dental information to identify some of the badly burned bodies. Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said last week that was the main reason why the identification process was taking longer than expected. Reporting to Parliament last Thursday, Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez said Spanair had considered switching the aircraft at the last minute after the flight had been delayed for about an hour because of a problem with an air temperature gauge. She said Spanair “told the airport control centre that it had decided to continue with the plane, which is the one that crashed”. A Spanair spokesman said the company had at no time considered changing planes but had merely told the control centre that another plane was available if necessary. According to the newspaper El Pais, sources close to the inquiry have said the plane may have lacked sufficient engine power during take-off. The paper reported that video footage showed the plane travelled much further along the runway than normal before getting airborne. The government has promised a full investigation into the crash, which is the country’s worst air accident in 25 years.


GIB NO BIG DEAL

1 September, 2008

A survey by El Mundo newspaper has shown that almost 90% of Spaniards do not think they would be getting bargain if the Spanish government gave Melilla and Ceuta to the Morocco in exchange for Gibraltar. Just over 70% said two cities are as Spanish as any on the mainland, and 5% said they should be handed over to Morocco.


HOME OWNERS TO STOP PAYING MORTGAGES

1 September, 2008

The more than 200,000 owners whose homes in the Valencia region are in danger of being demolished under the Coasts Law have said they are going to stop keeping up their mortgage payments and will send all their money to foreign banks if the government in Madrid does not do something to help them. The president of the National Platform for People affected by the Coasts Law (Pnalc), Carmen del Amo said it made no sense to carry on paying for a house that is going to be demolished. She said Spanish banks, many of which are currently suffering a liquidity crisis, will be badly hit if the Platform’s members carry out their threat. Some 85% of those affected are Spanish, while the remaining 15% are British or German. The Coasts Law was passed in 1988 to stop construction close to beaches which was destroying the country’s coastlines. However, very little effort was made to enforce it until last year, when Environment Minister Cristina Narbona began what the members of the Platform call her “crusade” against them. Last July, the Platform took the case to the European Parliament’s Petitions Commission which has called for an investigation. The law affects not only private homes but hotels, restaurants and a variety of businesses.


CONSUMERS TAKE ON THE BANKS

1 September, 2008

Increasing numbers of disgruntled bank clients are deciding that enough is enough, and are taking steps to make banks explain all those little commission charges which keep popping up in their statements. As one client said: “Who’s going to make a fuss about such small sums?” It’s an attitude the banks have been able to take advantage of, until recently. A spokesman for the Spanish Confederation of Consumers and Users (CECU) said more and more people are now taking on the banks. One Madrid businessman has managed to force a bank to reimburse €27 when it couldn’t tell him exactly why he had been charged that amount. The CECU spokesman said complaints against banks doubled last year, when the Bank of Spain ordered banks to return €1.43 million that they had charged “unduly”. Those small sums add up, said the CECU spokesman, and why should consumers help to make banks even richer.


EU SETS DATE FOR POPULATION DECLINE

1 September, 2008

An official EU study, released last Tuesday, shows that Europeans will begin their long foreseen demographic decline – when deaths exceed births – in just seven years’ time and that some rural areas – notably in Poland, Bulgaria, Eastern Germany, northern Spain and southern Italy – would empty out completely. The report does not explore the reasons for differences in European fertility, but it does hint at the profound economic and social changes likely to unfold during the next half century, as the proportion of older people grows steadily. The document did not spell out these likely shifts, but they could include reduced funding for schools, heavy burdens on welfare and social security systems, and perhaps even a political push for much larger immigration, which is currently deeply out of favour with most European voters. According to the report, Germany will lose its status as Europe’s most populous nation and several East European nations will experience a sharp drop in numbers, with populations shrinking by a quarter or more. By contrast Cyprus, Ireland and Luxembourg would all boost their numbers by at least half. The report said immigration would not, on current trends, make up the shortfall in the working age population. EU officials stressed that the European projections should be treated with caution because they assume current trends continue and that there is no change of policy to deal with the looming demographic crisis. But for Europeans the economic implications of an aging population are stark. The Eurostat report says that in 2008, in the EU’s 27 nations, “there are four persons of working age (15-64 years old) for every person aged 65 years or over”. In 2060 “the ratio is expected to be two to one.” Amelia Torres, a European Commission spokeswoman, said the EU needed to stabilize its finances, increase employment and make structural reforms related to pensions. Last week, German researchers from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development said that without immigration, the EU’s population will shrink to 447 million by 2050.