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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Notes from Spain – Fraudster found



In news reports here in Spain, it’s often the case that apprehended criminals are not identified by name, though sometimes we’re given his or her initials in a newspaper article. I imagine it was particularly difficult for the authorities to name a fraudster they caught since they might be wondering which alias is actually his real name!

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The fraudster in question has more than 100 previous convictions and 20 warrants for arrest, but for the last six years the police couldn’t locate him!  The litany of his crimes: fraud, domestic abuse, slander, libel, assaulting an officer of the law, making threats, causing injuries, violating a sentence, electricity fraud, identity theft, harassment, falsifying public documents and failure to turn himself in to prison. (I’m puzzled by that last one, I must admit! Shouldn’t he be under arrest and taken to prison?)

A lengthy investigation and a stakeout finally located his house, which was surrounded with security cameras. When the police raided the place, it seemed empty – but there was a secret hideaway, a control centre for scanning the grounds. He was found hiding behind a sofa – nobody knows if he might have been watching an early Dr Who DVD.

His crimes also involve the internet, with numerous fake profiles on social networks. Some of his profiles stated he was the president of a computing multinational, a UN inspector and a politician. He had more than 40,000 followers.

He set up web pages that provided cover for his scams. The fake company websites contained plaudits from other businesses and national press, also of dubious authenticity.

A certain number of his violent and threatening behaviour are related to victims who discovered his fraud.

He was rarely seen in public, for obvious reasons.

He’s now in custody.

There’s probably potential for a story in there!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Massive e-book sale - last day today!

Your chance to bag some good value e-books from Crooked Cat Publishing!

Their autumn sale is on - books across all Amazon sites - for 99c/99p

This is the UK site; https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_3_12?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=crooked+cat+publishing&sprefix=CROOKED+CAT+%2Caps%2C350

For others, just search for 'Crooked Cat Publishing' and be spoilt for choice.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Crooked Cat Publishing sale today until 23 September

Your chance to bag some good value e-books from Crooked Cat Publishing!

Their autumn sale is on - books across all Amazon sites - for 99c/99p

This is the UK site; https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_3_12?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=crooked+cat+publishing&sprefix=CROOKED+CAT+%2Caps%2C350

For others, just search for 'Crooked Cat Publishing' and be spoilt for choice.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

AUTUMN E-BOOK SALE 21-23 SEPTEMBER

Your chance to bag some good value e-books from Crooked Cat Publishing!

Their autumn sale is on - books across all Amazon sites - for 99c/99p

This is the UK site; https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_3_12?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=crooked+cat+publishing&sprefix=CROOKED+CAT+%2Caps%2C350

For others, just search for 'Crooked Cat Publishing' and be spoilt for choice.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Notes from Spain – appalling ‘tradition’



You’d think that most Spanish municipalities in Spain would like to feature strongly in Wikipedia. That’s not the case for the town of Valmojado.   

This is their entry:

'Valmojado is a municipality located in the province of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. According to the 2012 census (INE), it had a population of 4216 inhabitants. They kill young bulls in becerradas:'

If you’re wondering about that last sentence, the colon points to a distressing video which was taken by the animal rights group Pacma. It was taken at a local fair in Castilla-La Mancha. It shows a young calf, between one and two years old, being repeatedly stabbed in the bullring of Valmojado.


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The squealing of the dying calf can be heard despite the cheers and clapping from the crowd.

It’s an annual event. The participants must be really proud of themselves, indulging in this sickening cruelty.

Apparently, the town hall issued a statement in response, defending its residents against the insults levied since the video was shown, insisting that the calves form part of a ‘serious tradition’. Seriously?

On 10 September, thousands of Spaniards congregated in Madrid to protest about this cruelty and also bullfighting.

Surveys show public support for bullfighting has waned. An Ipsos Mori poll from January carried out for animal welfare organisation World Animal Protection found that only 19 percent of adults in Spain supported bullfighting, while 58 percent opposed it.

While certain regions have banned bullfighting, it isn’t going to go away quite yet. Spain's first pro-bullfight lobbying group, the Bull Foundation, made up of breeders, matadors and aficionados, was set up last year.


Monday, 19 September 2016

Despicable people



It seems incredible that despite the worldwide abhorrence of the trade in ivory, that the slaughter of these noble beasts still continues. Last week conservation groups from around the world called for a global ban on the domestic trade in ivory.

Eh? Thought the trade was already banned? No. International trade was banned in 1989 – 27 years ago, but internal markets could still trade… Who thought of that stupidity? May have been pressure from South Africa... Yes, there probably has been the need to cull a certain number of elephants in a particular region due to destruction of the habitat, encroachment on human communities; so their ivory is fair game, no pun intended.

Well, it comes as no surprise that the internal markets in countries such as South Africa to some extent serve as a cover for illicit ivory sales for the international market, and inevitably they encourage poaching.

Some 10,000 delegates from 192 countries met in Hawaii for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). I hadn’t heard of the IUCN, yet it was founded in France in 1948 by Julian Huxley with laudable aims; though considering the decimation of so many animal species one has to question its effectiveness.  They do supply a ‘red list’ of endangered species – see here.

The first continent wide aerial survey of Africa revealed that 30% of elephants living in savannah grasslands – 144,000 – were lost to poachers between 2007 and 2014.

Estimates by Charity Elephants Without Borders suggest the remaining 352,000 elephants is being slashed by 8% per year. Smaller elephants dwelling in jungles have declined even faster, by 60%; easier prey, harder to find the poachers.

‘The shutting down of domestic ivory markets,’  the president of the Wildlife Conservation Society said,  ‘will send a clear signal to traffickers and organised criminal syndicates that ivory will no longer support their criminal activities.

We should also pause for a moment and give thanks to the many rangers, anti-poachers and conservationists who have died in their efforts to thwart the poachers. Money is one of the issues when protection of the species is concerned. The cynic in me has to ask how much of the cost of flights to Hawaii could have been diverted to funding more rangers, more protection?

Last month, eco-investigators TRAFFIC stated that while thousands of antique ivory items were still on sale in London, it found no new ivory there. That has to be good news, surely?

Towards the end of this month, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will gather in Johannesburg.

***

CITES also figures in my novel Blood of theDragon Trees, published by Crooked Cat Publishing.

What’s it about? The blurb runs like this: Laura Reid likes her new job on Tenerife, teaching the Spanish twins Maria and Ricardo Ch├ívez. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved with Andrew Kirby and his pal, Jalbala Emcheta, who work for CITES, tracking down illegal traders in endangered species. Yet she’s undeniably drawn to Andrew, which is complicated, as she’s also attracted to Felipe, the brother of her widower host, Don Alonso.

Felipe’s girlfriend Lola is jealous and Laura is forced to take sides – risking her own life – as she and Andrew uncover the criminal network that not only deals in the products from endangered species, but also thrives on people trafficking. The pair are aided by two Spanish lawmen, Lieutenant Vargas of the Guardia Civil and Ruben Salazar, Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de las Canarias.

Very soon betrayal and mortal danger lurk in the shadows, along with the dark deeds of kidnappers and clandestine scuba divers…

Partial Amazon review: Visitors to Tenerife will recognise the beauty of the island in Nik Morton's evocative descriptions of what the island has to offer to the tourist, but few, if any, will recognise the darker side so vividly portrayed in this novel… Nik Morton takes the story along at a fine pace, and readers of his past novels will not be disappointed in his narrative, his characterisation and careful plotting. – Michael Parker, author of The Boy from Berlin and other thrillers.

The reviewer also stated: ‘No doubt the fiction is inspired by Morton's ability as a thriller writer, and not something that he has uncovered by stealth.’ True enough, but I did do a great deal of research, some of it distressing, to comprehend the background of this filthy trade.

As it happens, I was so captivated by some of the characters in this romantic thriller that I used them in the third adventure of ‘The Avenging Cat’, Cataclysm, which is mainly set in China, where the ill-gotten products from the endangered species end up.

Blood

Cataclysm




Sunday, 18 September 2016

Health Nanny statistics


We all know what Mark Twain thought of statistics. They have their uses, granted, to identify a possible trend, to establish cause and effect, but sometimes I suspect we in the public domain take it all with a pinch of salt (though not too much of that, of course!)

The news/media reports are not helpful, since they provide only a soundbite, a few paragraphs, and don’t always cite the sample population size the results from which the latest survey is gleaned.

Take the pronouncement by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies in January this year: “the beneficial effects of alcohol are an old wives’ tale”. She also said something along the lines of “Whenever I consider having a drink of wine, I decide if the risk of cancer is worth it.” In effect, “There was no safe level of alcohol.” Poppycock.

The whole abstinence quango is exposed here, if you’re interested.

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The initial ‘units of alcohol’ formulation was at its inception arbitrary, anyway. The latest UK recommended ‘dosage’ of alcohol per week for men and women is 14 (it used to be 14 for women, 21 for men). This doesn’t take account of the different strengths of beer and wine, not to mention spirits. It doesn’t take account of the size of individuals. It’s a scare story, designed to make us feel guilty.

‘An international study of about 6,000 men and 11,000 women for a total of 75,000 person-years found that people who reported that they drank more than a threshold value of 2 units of alcohol a day had a higher risk of fractures than non-drinkers. For example, those who drank over 3 units a day had nearly twice the risk of a hip fracture.’ – Wikipedia, unit of alcohol. Now, that I can believe!

Yes, of course, excessive alcohol intake is dangerous, it seriously affects internal organs, it can destroy health and families. Yet the majority of people throughout the world drink moderately, and research worldwide has suggested that imbibing red wine in particular is good for you (in moderation); it’s part of the Mediterranean diet, as it happens!

Yes, we should exercise more.

Yes, we shouldn’t eat junk food.

Yes, we shouldn’t drink to excess.

All of these assertions about doing harm to our health suggest that we indulge in a continuous diet of junk food, live a sedentary life-style in front of the TV, and guzzle booze till we fall asleep.  If you have a balanced diet and drink moderately, what’s the problem?

These pontificators are not only wrong, they’re insulting. Insulting our intelligence.

It’s the Nanny State mentality. Nanny knows best. [I was going to title this post ‘Health Nazis’ but I’ll settle on ‘Health Nannies’ – though ninnies might be as appropriate.

It’s ‘blame the moderate majority for the excesses of the minority’. It’s easier.

Cheers!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Notes from Spain – Parasol wars


Fine weather for summer – that’s why there are a lot of fines being dished out, perhaps…

Fines?  Yes, authorities around Spain are fining folk who use parasols to establish a claim on sections of beach, much like those folk who ‘reserve’ sun-loungers at hotel pool areas.

Apparently, every day as dawn breaks, individuals troop down as close to the water’s edge as possible and erect their parasols (and sometimes with chairs, tables and even cooler boxes). Then they go back to their holiday chalets, hotels or wherever for some hours, secure in the knowledge they’ve secured a prime spot for when they do eventually turn up.

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War has been declared on this selfish practice. New bylaws have been implemented or existing laws are being rigorously enforced in several coastal towns. Local police have been known to remove the items that turn a public space into a private space. Recovery of umbrellas removed can cost 30 euros.

Where fines are applicable, they can run to between 150 and 720 euros. Though finding the owners of the umbrellas does pose a problem: the offending umbrella owner considers he or she is better off abandoning it and buying another, rather than paying a fine!