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April 24th 2008

Two men have been found dead on board a ship coming from the Ivory Coast. The captain had found stowaways aboard and stopped  in Puerto del Rosario to have them removed. A total of thirteen stowaways were found on board, but two had not survived the journey. Four more were hospitalised. The boat, the MS Rosa Delmas was headed for the northern Spanish port of Vigo.

The nineteenth Island Book Fair will have a very special guest this year – Cuban writer Zoe Valdes. This is part of the festival that takes place in Plaza de la Paz, in the capital from April 23 and 27
Other writers include Genoveva Torres Cabrera, Elsa Lopez, Elisa Ramos and Cecilia Dominguez. As is the custom at this festival, it’s not confined to books. There will also be theatre, music and story-telling. As well as the main events n Puerto, there will be corresponding events around the island. Mario Cabrera said that it’s a great event for an island where, just 19 years ago, it was difficult to find a library. Leaflets are available with details of all the events, for adults and children.
And don’t forget that April 23 is World Book Day.

A recent survey has found that 65 percent of Spanish people admit they cannot speak, read or write English. Bulgarians, Hungarians and Turks are the only ones who admit to speaking less English than Spaniards. A strudy by consultancy firm Ipsos has found that a total of 70 percent of Spaniards recognize that English is important, but just four percent are learning it. There has been horror at some of the results.
The report says that 17 percent of Spaniards can read English, 14 percent can understand it and only 11 percent can speak it. It’s been dubbed " the Latin of the 21st century."
Of course, the question of money rears its head - in 2006, 105,000 Spaniards travelled abroad to study - 94 percent of them to learn English. Another 45,000 took a government grant to travel abroad, with the majority heading to England or Ireland , according to the Spanish Association of Promoters of Courses Abroad, which estimates revenues for the sector at EUR 300 million. A four-week course abroad costs between EUR 2,500 and EUR 3,000, putting it out of the reach of many families.
An added note is that here in the Canaries, President Paulino Rivero, has announced that over the next academic year, 50 teaching staff will be selected form 60 schools to take part in an intensive programme to train as ‘bilingual teachers.’ They will, of course, be reimbursed for this. The teachers will be sent to Scotland for five months, followed by training at home. These 60 schools will be the launch of the bilingual programme and it will continue that over the next four years, it will be increased to more than 200 teachers.
The money that’s being spent on this comes from the regional funds; however, it’s these same funds that are not available to sort out the on-going teachers’ pay claim. There will be a day-long strike on April 24 as part of this campaign. The teachers claim relates to a salary scale that is not on a pr with other civil servants as well as pupil-teacher ratio.

The Government is to spend more than 125 million euros on public school transport over the next five years. This will bring the total number of routes up to 725. This year, the budget is about 10 million euros, each of the following three years, it will be just under 25 million; and in 2013, the spend will be 15 million. Fuerteventura will get an increase of 42 routes. Hiring of vehicles over the years will include major safety measures.

Watch out for roadworks next month in the Antigua area. Road widening is the major work. Improvements will also take place at the Pozo Negro exit. The second phase will be done after the summer, as far as the roundabout at Gran Tarajal. The road surface will be improved, ensuring better safety for drivers.

Rain may stop play in sporting events but in Barcelona, thunderstorms may have been one reason why there were some 200,000 visitors to the recent International Tourist show.
Once again, Fuerteventura was top of the class at the weekend event. Mainland Spanish tourists continue to come here with the numbers increasing regularly. There has been a huge increase in the last year, of just under 62 percent over this time 2007. This is the highest increase of mainland Europeans. New airline connections have played their part, with Spanair departing from Barcelona, Easyjet from Madrid and Ryanair from Girona. A lot of interest in Barcelona came from those interested in the activities available and leisure centres.
One of the main innovations this year was a specific area dedicated to gay tourism.

Corralejo may get a much-needed facelift if local tourist councillor Nereida Calero has her way. Over the next weeks, the La Oliva tourism Department will be taking a long hard look at the town and what it has to offer tourists. Calero believes that more than sun and sand are needed as visitors expect more. The survey will be done in the main tourist areas, including the beach and the airport. Calero believes that facilities such as health spas, gastronomy, activity holidays and leisure centres may be the way forward.

The Aristocrats!
Mayor Art Madrid of La Mesa, Calif., apologized in February for an incident the week before when police found him, along with a female city employee, passed out about 10:30 p.m. Madrid was lying on the sidewalk near an SUV; the woman was in the driver's seat with her legs sticking out the open door; and vomit littered the area. [San Diego Union Tribune, 2-27-08]
A patient reporting for an appointment with dentist Norman Rubin in Smithtown, N.Y., in March told the New York Post that Rubin was in the otherwise-empty office, passed out, drooling, with a gas mask on his face. (Rubin later told the Post, in defence, that it was, after all, his lunch hour.) [New York Post, 3-20-08]
The Continuing Crisis
Dirk Opalka (whose fox scored 96 of 100 possible points) won best in show at the World Taxidermy Championships in February in Salzburg, Austria, beating over 100 competitors in the art of stretching animal skin over fake bodies so the critters look better than they ever looked alive. The attention to detail was astonishing, according to a dispatch in Der Spiegel, on such features as a stag's nostrils, a hyena's lips, a hamster's whiskers, the neck length of a female peregrine falcon (precisely 5.5 cm), and the proper rosiness of a bat's anus. [Der Spiegel, 2-29-08]
In March, the Tokyo High Court reversed the conviction of pinup model Serena Kozakura, who had been found guilty of kicking a hole in the door of her former boyfriend's apartment so she could break in and scream at him. Kozakura had appealed, claiming that the man had made the hole himself, and as evidence, explained that she could never have squeezed through it, anyway, because her breasts are too big. That argument apparently won the day, creating enough "reasonable doubt" to overturn the verdict. [Agence France-Presse, 3-4-08]
Two German air force sergeants were suspended in December after being caught in a side venture selling sausages based on an old family recipe requiring human blood. Their first batches were made with their own, but as they began mass-producing, they had allegedly asked their colleagues because, according to instructions from one of the men's grandmothers, all blood must be "fresh." "Do not use too many breadcrumbs," she had written, "but if the blood starts to curdle, stir in a teaspoon of wine vinegar." [Daily Telegraph (London), 3-3-08]


April 17th 2008
Coca Cola drinkers need not worry. There’s plenty of their favourite bevy available. This is despite a Coca Cola ship in Puerto del Rosario going up in flames recently. It’s still not known what caused the fire at about 17.30 when the employees of the Cobega company were told about the fire that subsequently destroyed the ship. The flames spread rapidly, helped by the prevailing wind and was still burning at 23.00 that night. The interior of the ship presents a desolate appearance at the moment. Cobega in Lanzarote and Gran Canaria has been involved with distributing Coca Cola here.

The Bahia Real hotel is where 450 area managers and German tourism agents have been staying for the National TUI Congress. This is the first time the congress has been held on the island. The various authorities of the Cabildo and a wide representation from Tourism met General manager of TUI in Germany, Volker Böttcher, and the director general of Leisure from TUI Travel Hasso von Düring Obviously, having the Congress here is excellent for tourism.
Águeda Montelongo, Tourism councillor, said that the presence of all these managers was one of the biggest tourist events that has happened in the island, as it creates a good impression and demonstrates that Fuerteventura is a consolidated destination. This is what the agents will bring home with them. A spokesman for TUI said that the island is the second most important destination for the company in the Canaries. Having joined with First Choice last year, TUI is the biggest tour operator in Europe.
General Manager of TUI Volker Böttcher said that Fuerteventura is a very important destination for the company, especially in winter. He noted that while the eastern Meditterannean countries are getting popular, Fuerteventura will continue to attract visitors as the infrastructure is in place, hotels are of good quality and the weather is good.

You could be in line for a tax rebate of as much as £11,000 if you paid tax on a property before last year’s rule changes. EC nationals were taxed at higher rates than Spanish nationals, in contravention to EC laws. A legal firm claims that around 4,500 Britons and thousands of others should be able to claim rebates at a total cost of about 50 million pounds to the Spanish government.

The V11 National Telecommunications Congress is taking place in Corralejo this week. The Director of the Canary Agency of Investigation, Innovation and Information Society, the Cabildo president, Mario Cabrera and La Oliva mayoress, Claudina Morales inaugurated the congress on Wednesday. The meeting is a get-together of experts in new technologies. One of the objectives is to improve communications among the rural populations where there is a ‘digital gap’. Speakers include Juan Ruiz Alzola, the general manager of Canary Agency of Investigation, Innovation and Information Society as well as New Technology councillor, Andrés Valerón, who will present details on the various network projects around the island.

All-inclusive holidays are top of the list in Pajara with 60 % of all beds. This could be a loss of 11 million euros annually to the commercial sector. About 58,70 % of the tourist beds in the municipality is taken with hotel complexes and apartments that offer all-inclusive rates as against accommodation only or half-board. If these clients were half-board, it would mean an increase of 30.616 euros daily and about 11.174.840 euros a year, according to Town Hall estimates. The study indicates that 37.5% of the tourist complexes offer everything included for visitors.

However, 42 businesses out of the existing 208 in Morro Jable have closed, mainly snack bars and restaurants, a figure that actually amounts to 20 %. In Solana Matorral, 15 businesses have closed, 23 have never opened and just 151 remain out of the original 189.

Tourism advisor Rita Martin, has taken part in a Tourism Fair as head of a delegation that explored the possibility of Chinese tourism. She said that it was a trip that also involved Shanghai and Hong Kong, as China is their target of an agreement of Competitiveness and Tourist Quality 2008-2020. Chinese visitors look for circuits and they can be accommodated with a circuit of the seven islands. A group of Chinese tour operators will visit the islands in the next while. It’s also possible to target specialist holidays as in the honeymoon market.

Weird news from Spain
A thief seen forcing his way into a funeral parlour in Burjassot (Valencia) hid in one of the glass cases where coffins are displayed for mourners to keep vigil when he was disturbed by police arriving at the scene The plan was unsuccessful, as the 'corpse' was visibly breathing and his casual clothes were not of the kind usually chosen by undertakers for their dead clients. The burglar, who has a long police record, has been charged with attempted robbery.

A private clinic in Cadiz has been fined 6,000 euros for making female nurses and health assistants wear skirts in their health centres. The company which owns a chain of health centres in Andalucia has been ordered to pay the fine for requiring their female nurses to wear skirts. Officials considered that the company was infringing equality legislation by insisting on the skirts and removing a productivity bonus payment of 30 euros a month from the nurses who chose to wear trousers.

MADRID, Spain - A man making his first visit to a home he bought in a foreclosure auction found the former owner's mummified body sitting on the living room couch, police said Tuesday.
Coroners estimate the woman's remains had been there since 2001, when she stopped making payments on the residence in the coastal town of Roses in Spain's northeast Catalonia region.
The body mummified instead of rotting partly because of the salty seaside air in Roses, a Catalan regional police official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
The woman, in her mid-50s, was estranged from her children in Madrid, and no one had reported her missing. She was not identified by officials.
Police said her death also went undetected because her ground-level apartment is in an area of vacation homes with a high turnover of travelers. In addition, police said, the woman spent a lot of time in Madrid with her mother. The whereabouts of the mother was unclear.
Roses Mayor Carles Paramo told the newspaper El Mundo it was normal that no one missed the woman because in housing developments like this one "people are not minding other people's business."

April 10th 2008

We’ve all noticed the hikes in supermarket prices over the past few months. This has been worrying the Cabildo not just of Fuerte, but of neighbouring Lanzarote. Both Cabildos recently got together to discuss the best way of dealing with the situation. They want to find a solution to what they see as the unreasonable prices consumers have to pay, mainly because we live on one of the two most easterly islands of the archipelago. Of course, part of the problem is that imported goods in Tenerife and Gran Canaria have risen in price. If we want these goods, the shipping costs involved in getting them here increases the price even further. One of the ideas proposed by the respective island governments to at least regulate prices was to encourage supermarket chains which up until now have not shown interest in setting up on the islands to open up new branches in order to break into the “closed” shop which is operated at present by the three chains operating in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

Regional Airline Islas Airways is making it easy for residents of any of the islands to travel to others in the Archipelago on interisland routes. They have announced a fixed price of only 16.56 euros per journey for residents. According to a company spokesman, this measure aims to make interisland travel available at all times at a reasonable price, not just when there are promotional offers. The company has plans to increase the number of planes in this coming year and of increasing the La Palma, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and the two main islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. They are also working on new price system for groups of residents. Reliability, punctuality, the best prices and timetables and passenger convenience are the main aims of the company, which has, since beginning to operate five years ago managed to achieve its objective of uniting the Canary islands. More information and the possibility of buying tickets online is available on the company web site

Good news for Britons hoping to buy into the Spanish property market. The recently re-elected Spanish Socialist Party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised to bring in some positive changes. The changes promised will mean that people looking to buy in Spain will have better protection through more regulation of the sector. The party also wants to encourage buyers to purchase their property through mortgage providers, and by doing this they can have a tax-free allowance of up to 60,000 euros.

If you’ve been wondering what type of birds have been seen recently around the Caleta area, worry no more. They are the European bee eater or Merops apiaster, migrating from Sub Saharan Africa over the Straits of Gibraltar.

The Spanish government intends spending 12 billion euros on road building and improvements. The work will be done in conjunction with private companies, bringing the total spend to around 20 billion euros for work to be competed between 2009 and 2012. This will also give a boost to the construction industry in the present difficult circumstances.

The Ayuntamiento in Puerto del Rosario has installed a series of eight information panels at various points of the capital. The aim of the panels is to indicate places of interest to those visiting the town.
Snippets of interesting information in Spanish, English and German have been written on each of the panels, recreating the exciting events of the history of the island’s capital. The panels have been financed by the Ayuntamiento – a cost of €15,000. They have been researched and made by specialists from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria University. Plans to make further panels giving information about the rural areas of the islands are also in the pipeline.

Bones from the Copper Age were unearthed at a building site in Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia. Building work had to stop when about 300 skeletons were unearthed at the site. Archaeologists reckon they could be about 5,000 years old and are possibly the bones of the founders of the city. The skeletons of dogs and ceramic items have also been found at the site.

Fuerteventura had almost 8,000 unemployed in March, the highest of all the islands. This is an increase of about 4 % on February. In the INEM offices every day, there are people looking for work.

World Health Day was celebrated this week with special emphasis on children and young people and their health. More than 1,400 students from 4th level were in the plaza of La Paz for the IX Muestra Insular de Salud, entitled ‘Right to the Protection before the abuses, the maltreatment and the development ”. There were various workshops to give the students information about healthy life habits and the prevention of illness.

Weird or what?

Irish director-playwright Paul Walker's production of "Ladies & Gents" opened for a March run in New York City 29 blocks north of Broadway in a public restroom. According to an Associated Press report, the entire play takes place among the porcelain in a bathroom in Central Park, portraying "the seedy underside of 1950s Dublin," with the audience of 25 standing beside rows of stalls, near "spiders, foul odors and puddles of questionable origin." Walker proudly admits that he wanted to take the audience "out of their comfort zone" to create "a different energy." Actor John O'Callaghan recalled that rehearsals were especially difficult: "One man actually came in and had a pee right in front of us."

Italy's highest appeals court ruled in March that it is not illegal for a woman to lie in a police investigation if the reason is to cover up her adulterous affair. Court of Cassation judges said that her honor is more important than providing intimate information about her lover.

When Johnny Diablo's year-old vegan restaurant failed to catch on in Portland, Ore., last year, he converted the space into Casa Diablo's Gentlemen's Club, which is what he believes is the world's only vegan strip club. He has no rule against meat-eating dancers, he told Willamette Week newspaper in February, but won't permit leather, fur, silk or wool outfits on stage (no "murder victims" in the club, he said).


April 3rd 2008

A major IT congress will take place in Corralejo on April 17th and 18th. The congress is organised by the the Canarian agency of Investigation, Innovation and Information of the Chamber of Commerce. World experts in the field will participate in the VII Congreso Nacional de Telecentros. They will discuss technology improvements to those living in rural areas. Speakers include the general manager of Agency, Juan Ruiz Alzola and the chamber’s New Technology advisor Andrés Valerón. World experts include the ex-director for Development in Stockholm, Luis Abascal; the co-ordinator of the network somos@telecentros for Latin America and The Carib, Maria Lourdes Acosta. One of the objectives of the congress is to create a Canarian Telecommunications network.

A new craft shop is to open in the airport. The shop is now located at the bottom of the escalators, a location that has not been very successful. The new shop will be located on the top floor, beside the rest of the shops. And a new craft shop is to open in Puerto del Rosario, beside the tourist office.
Puerto del Rosario will have an Artisan Fair on the second Sunday of each month. And the timetable for other new craft fairs is: Antigua: 8 – 11 May; La Oliva: 6 – 8 June; Betancuria: 30 May; 21 September; Betancuria

The Department of Health in the UK has announced that from 1st April 2008, British nationals who permanently reside in Spain will have to present the Spanish equivalent of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if they need medical treatment whilst visiting the UK or any other EU member state. The new rule applies to UK nationals who live in Spain and make Spanish Social Security contributions or live in Spain while receiving a state pension or long term incapacity benefit from the UK through the registration of an E121. The lack of a Spanish EHIC could result in people being considered as a private patient. The Spanish equivalent of the EHIC can be applied for at a Spanish social security office (INSS).

Keep an eye out for the Puppet Theatre that is making the rounds of the various towns on the island from next week,

The La Oliva Ayuntamiento has realised that the younger members of the population represent an important percentage of the municipal electoral roll. A new Youth office has opened in Corralejo, offering offers information and specific advice. The office is located in Calle Huriamen, next to the Municipal Auditorium.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am – 2pm and Wednesday and Thursday 4pm – 8.30pm as well. Teléfono 928866329, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
:The office will give advice and information on such subjects as leisure activities, studies, travel, youth hostels in Spain, employment, International Youth cards. They will also be providing courses in dance, theatre and percussion in the Municipality, thanks to the Association of Dance, Art and Experimental Theater D-ARTE,

The Ayuntamiento of Pájara has not given a licence for the construction of a new five-star, 658-room hotel. The original licence was granted in 2001 by the Coalición Canaria. But this permission has now expired and there has not been a new application.

Only 4 per cent of Canarian families have received the 'cheque bebé', the Government grant for a third child. This has been described as lamentable by the Association of Familias Numerosas de Canarias. The grant, of up to e3,500, has only been applied for by 838 families, just 4 per cent of those entitled to apply. Apparently some 20,000 families are entitled to apply for the grant

April Fool jokes
Pigeons Retired from Army Service
Yesterday (28th March 2008 ), the Spanish army said goodbye to its carrier pigeons after 150 years of service. A short ceremony was carried out by an army colonel who thanked the unit for the loyal service provided over the years, noting that new technology has made their services obsolete.

In 1957, a BBC television show announced that thanks to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees prompted a barrage of calls from people wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti at home.

Sweden in 1962 had only one television channel, which broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to receive colour pictures by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen. In fact, they had to wait until 1970.
In 1996, American fast-food chain Taco Bell announced that it had bought Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, a historic symbol of American independence, from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens called to express their anger before Taco Bell revealed the hoax.

Burger King, another American fast-food chain, published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the "Left-Handed Whopper," spe- cially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. The chain said it received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original "right- handed" version.
Discover Magazine announced in 1995 that a highly respected biologist, Aprile Pazzo (Italian for April Fool), had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. The creatures were said to have bony head plates that became burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speed -- a technique they used to hunt penguins.
Noted British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on the radio in 1976 that at 9:47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, in which Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, would cause a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth's gra- vity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of the planetary alignment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds of people called in to report feeling the sensation.

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