Thursday, November 8, 2012

Eight holiday scams and how to avoid them


Visa stamp in passport (© Getty Images)
It’s a jungle out there. For all the beaches and basilicas you might see, going on holiday to foreign lands risks all manner of currency cons, pretend policemen and pilfered passports. The sensible just stay in Britain, and rent a bungalow in Bognor. But if you’re determined to head abroad, then at least be vigilant. Here are eight of the commonest tourist scams – and how best to sidestep them:
The speedy visa
It seems a pain to apply for a visa for the likes of Burkina Faso, Borneo or Bolivia in advance, so you decide to get one on arrival, which the guidebook promises is possible. However, when you come to the gates, Carlos the Customs Officer gives you two options: a ‘speedy visa’, for which pleasure you pay an extortionate charge (payable to Carlos, please), or a normal one, for which you need to wait. And wait. And wait…
Solution: Get your visa sorted in advance, and make sure you do so via the relevant country’s embassy. Resist using agencies or third-parties; they generally charge high fees.
The tour rep with an agenda
Often witnessed in souks, one of the oldest ruses in the scam book sees guides take you into shops run by their friends, and pressure you into a purchase – it’s in their interest, as they’ll get commission. Or, a variation on this, recommending a restaurant run by their brother, mother or twin sister’s aunt’s boyfriend’s neighbour.
Solution: Always be wary when a guide suggests you enter a place of business, and remember you’re the boss: if you want to buy or eat somewhere else, you darn well can.
The currency conners
Learning a foreign currency can be difficult. Swindlers can take advantage of naivety in various ways: a corrupt cashier providing the wrong denomination of notes, a shopkeeper lopping off a zero or a barman giving you, say, Czech koruna (50 to £1) instead of Polish zloty (six to £1). Watch out too for retailers billing you in sterling rather than the local currency, and applying their own exchange rate; suffice to say, they don’t use’s latest figures.
Solution: Be alert, and learn the local currency quickly, including recent exchange rates. Only change money at the most official-looking places, and never accept sterling abroad.
The early-morning reception call
Here’s how this one works: very early in the morning, after you checked in late the night before, the hotel reception rings up; they forgot this when you arrived, but they just need your bank details for security reasons. You mumble them out, and then return to your forty winks. They, meanwhile, make an early start on the year’s Christmas presents.
Solution: Be vigilant with details, and say you’ll pay cash for any charges, please. At the end of your stay, ask for an itemised bill. You’ll be amazed how often this request leads to the receptionist realising that they’ve made a mistake.
Taxi (© Getty Images)
The illegal taxi
If you think British taxi drivers are a rip-off, wait until you meet some of their equivalents abroad. The problem always stems from bogus cabs; often these look like the genuine article from the outside, but quickly reveal themselves not to be so. You might be ferried to completely the wrong hotel, so another taxi can ‘rescue you’ for a prohibitive fee, or charged far too much in the absence of a meter. In the worst cases, you’ll be driven up a dim side-street and efficiently relieved of all valuables.
Solution: As best you can, ensure the cab is official; the driver should have ID and a meter. Attempt to arrange a fee upfront if possible, but don’t pay until you’ve reached your destination. Try not to put any luggage in the boot – it’s amazing how often those keys can go missing…
The not-so-complimentary nibbles
Ah – everyone loves some free bread or olives between a meal. It’s the sign of a good restaurant, don’t you think? A nice free appetiser bef… what? What’s that? It wasn’t free after all? It’s on our bill? They’ve charged how much?
Solution: Easy – learn the local word for ‘free’, point at said aperitif and ask the local Manuel just how complimentary these pre-dins snacks really are.
The fake policeman
This classic involves a man in plain clothes approaching you and claiming to be a policeman. Thus follows an elaborate explanation – a hunt for a suspect; a local crackdown on counterfeit currency – of why he needs to see your passport, wallet or both. Hand them over, and he’ll just be back in a minute…
Solution: Ask to see identification in the first instance. If money or a passport is demanded, rather than refuse, suggest you do it at the station (although don’t accept a lift) or say you’ve left both at home.
The damaged hire car
At the airport, you check in your Renault 19 and it’s all smiles at the car hire desk. But, back home, your credit card bill a few weeks later reveals that the car-hire company’s charged you a Ferrari’s worth of pounds for alleged damages that you know are made up.
Solution: The easiest way out of this hole is to avoid it altogether. Mark any damage before you hire the car and take photographs afterwards. Always ask for an official ‘all clear’ receipt when returning the car.

For Cameron, Obama's win is a warning

The prime minister might end up learning the wrong lessons from the US president's re-election, argues Adam Bienkov.

As it became clear that Barack Obama had won, David Cameron immediately congratulated the man he called "my friend" and said that he looked forward to working with him for "the next four years."

For Cameron, Obama's victory proved that incumbents can win, even when unemployment is high and growth low.

It proved that he can win despite his opponents promising all gain and no pain.

And it proved that after a long, messy time in government, voters won't necessarily hand back control to the people who caused the mess.

But if David Cameron believes that Obama's victory guarantees his own re-election, then he is in for a nasty surprise.

Because what Tuesday's result really shows is that time is running out for the conservative movements both in the US and the UK.

"Their remaining supporters are overwhelmingly pale, male and stale"

In America, the Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections.

Their remaining supporters are overwhelmingly pale, male and stale, amid an electorate that is more diverse by the year.

In the UK, the Conservative vote is also in steady decline, with non-whites, northerners and the young, increasingly less likely to vote Tory.

Government cuts and controversial reforms to the NHS have also damaged trust in the party.

Meanwhile Cameron's hopes that a review of parliamentary constituency boundaries would cancel out bias against his party were dashed by the Lib Dems, in revenge for the Tories refusing to allow House of Lords reform.

And just as the Tea Party forced Mitt Romney onto marginal and unpopular positions, so too have the Conservatives forced Cameron onto issues that most people don't care about.

While the public worry about jobs and growth, the Conservative Party obsess about abortion and Europe.

"The Conservatives are pushing Cameron eyes-shut, arms-folded into the abyss."

Cameron failed to win a majority against Gordon Brown, largely because he hadn't done enough to change this perception.

Winning after five years in government now looks even more difficult.

But in order to stand a chance, the Tories need to drastically change their image, and they need to rapidly retreat from the margins of public debate.

Both of these look increasingly unlikely to happen.

Just as Republicans are using Romney's defeat as an excuse to go even further right, so too are the Conservatives pushing Cameron eyes-shut, arms-folded into the abyss.

Of course Ed Miliband is no Barack Obama, and the Conservative Party have not descended to the extreme positions taken by the Republican right.

But if you want a picture of Cameron's future, then don’t imagine him standing victorious in front of a stadium full of screaming fans.

Instead just think again of that guy called Mitt Romney. And imagine him explaining to his supporters why once again they have fallen short.

Rita Ora suffers nip slip on stage, cringe

It's happened to the best of performers. From Nicki Minaj to Madonna.
Rita OraRita Ora suffered an awkward nip slip. Copyright [WENN]And last night, poor Rita Ora suffered a cringeworthy nip slip as she performed on stage.
And it's not as though Rita was strutting her stuff in a little venue where no one really saw. She was only at blimmin' Wembley Arena.
Serious cringe.
Rita OraRita Ora looked amazing during her gig. Copyright [WENN]Rita was wearing a white jumpsuit with the zip pulled right down at the front - and it seems that in her flurry to get on stage and strut her stuff, she forgot to put her bra on.
But she can be forgiven, seeing as Rita was actually zooming all over London - after her performance at Wembley she then motorbiked to the 02 arena for another show.
She even tweeted a snap of herself next to the motorbike, sporting a stylish crash helmet.
Rita OraRita Ora was performing two gigs last night - and jumped on a motorbike between them! Copyright [Rita Ora]She tweeted the photo alongside the caption:"ON MY WAY TO MY SECOND SHOW OF THE NIGHT!! THIS IS HOW WE ROLL!! #SYLTONUM1 #CULTURECLASH."
Following her second performance, Rita took to Twitter again to tell fans she was (understandably) a bit knackered.
The singer said: "'Goodnight! 2 shows in a row I'm done. i need sleep. goodnight!"
Well, we reckon after two shows and a recent tour of America, AND a succession of number one singles, Rita Ora's nip slip is probably the last thing on her mind.

Kim Kardashian you *might* have overdone the leather (we won’t mention the shades)

Kim Kardashian has been making some very...err...interesting fashion choices lately.
Kim KardashianKim Kardashian went for an all-out leather look. Copyright [Rex]We all know that Kim Kardashian is a fan of leather, but we think that today's ensemble might just be a little too much.
 And that's before we've even got onto those shades.
Kim Kardashian has touched down in London-town (sorry, we couldn't resist) with her sisters in her full-on leather outfit.
Kimmy K donned a pair of her trademark black leather thigh-high boots.
However, she then teamed the boots with a shiny leather jacket and a pair of weird sunglasses.
Kim KardashianKim Kardashian went for leather boots and a jacket. Copyright [Rex]At first we thought the shades were actually an eye mask. Well, what do we know. Either way, we think they're slightly unnecessary given that it hasn't been sunny in London for what feels like a million years.
Shades aside, Kim Kardashian seems to have a bit of an obsession with leather at the moment.
From peplum tops to leather leggings, to mini skirts to jackets, we don't think we've seen her in an outfit which doesn't involve some form of the stuff.
Kim KardashianKim Kardashian without her weird shades. Copyright [Splash]However, given how cold it is in the UK at the moment, at least Kim Kardashian will be cosy.
During her stay in Blighty, Kim Kardashian also seems keen to have a get together with Kate Middleton.
The reality star said: "We'd love to [see Kate Middleton], are you kidding? We all love her! I'd call her up and ask her to lunch. She's amazing."
Maybe Kim could give Kate a pair of those sunglasses. Now that we'd love to see

I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Line Up: Our first impressions

Today ITV officially announced the full line up for this year's 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here'.
The I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here line up has been officially announced. [ITV]

With this year's celebrity campers jetting off to the Australia today, omg! gives its verdict on what we expect from this year's batch.
The most likely to 'do a Myleene': Helen Flanagan
Helen will more than likely be spending her time under the waterfall. [ITV]
She's spent the majority of the last 12 months posing with her boobs on show so we reckon that Helen will feel right at home standing in a bikini underneath the camp's resident waterfall. And we're sure quite a few male viewers won't mind either.
The most likely to not be phased by the bushtucker trials: David Haye
David Hayes shouldn't find the bushtucker trials too difficult. [ITV]
The former World Boxing Association heavyweight champion claims that his biggest fear is 'losing'. Well if this is the case David should be pretty darn good when he is faced with the gruesome bushtucker trials.
The one who won't cope with the lack of food: Colin Baker
Colin may find the rations difficult to stomach. [ITV]
We're not being rude here, the Doctor Who veteran has admitted that he would give up alcohol 'at the drop of a hat' but when it comes to eating 'there isn't a fridge he wouldn't be able to raid in the middle of the night'. Good luck with the beans and rice Colin.
The most likely to keep the camp in high spirits: Brian Conely
Brian will keep the campmates laughing [ITV]
Comedian and presenter Brian Conely is seen rarely without a smile. The former face of ITV entertainment is probably looking to relive his glory days so expect a stream of jokes- both good and bad.
The most likely to be challenged by the bush tucker trials: Eric Bristow
Eric could find the trials a challenge. [ITV]
Yes, technically speaking Eric is a sportsman. But when you consider his sport is darts we can't imagine Eric will be the most active member of the camp. Still, he could surprise us all and take home ten stars in the first bushtucker trial.
The most likely to throw a showbiz hissy fit: Hugo Taylor
Hugo will be a long way from luxurious Chelsea. [ITV]
Former 'Made in Chelsea' star Hugo couldn't be further out of his comfort zone in the middle of the Australian jungle. We predict his first reaction to the camp will be along the lines of: 'What do you mean we aren't sleeping under 500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets?'
The early favourite to win: Charlie Brooks
Charlie could be the early favourite to win. [ITV]
After spending the best part of a decade on our screens portraying the scheming Janine Butcher, Charlie is arguably one the most well known celebrities this year. If she manages to come across as anything but her on screen alter ego then we think she is in with a good chance of being crowned Queen of the Jungle.

The mum of the camp: Linda Robson
We suspect Linda will be the mum of the camp. [ITV]
The 'Birds of a Feather' actress seems to be the safest bet on becoming camp mother to the younger contestants. She's already admitted that the most difficult part of the show will be leaving her family behind but we're sure there will be more than a few petrified celebs she will be able to Mother.
The controversial one: Nadine Dorries
Nadine could ruffle a few feathers in camp. [ITV]
Outspoken Conservative MP Nadine looks like she could be this year's controversial contestant. Already ruffling feathers in parliament- MP's have called for her suspension for even signing up to the show- we can see Nadine spearheading some of the camps most heated of debates.
The eye candy of the camp: Ashley Roberts
Ashley will be bringing some glanmour to the jungle. [ITV]
It seems that ITV have taken it upon themselves to keep as many members of the Pussycat Dolls in pocket as possible. Nicole Scherzinger's former band mate spent most of her time looking pretty when performing in the popular group so we expect much of the same from her in the jungle.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Celebrities support superstorm Sandy victims

Bon Jovi and Christina Aguilera were among many stars the televised hurricane Sandy concert (© AP)
A whole host of A-list stars have come out to support those affected by last week’s devastating superstorm Sandy, which swept across several states on the east coast of America. Hundreds of thousands were touched by the storm, with many left without electricity and water and some rendered homeless. Over 100 people have so far been confirmed dead as a result of the worst storms to hit America in decades.
The American Red Cross joined forces with NBC over the weekend to put on a live televised concert – Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together – which included guest appearances from Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel, Steven Tyler, Mary J Blige, Tina Fey, Danny DeVito and Whoopi Goldberg.
The TV appeal, hosted by The Today Show’s Matt Lauer, raked in almost $23 million, which will all go towards helping those affected by the storm and the re-building of the worst hit areas of the US. Bon Jovi performed an unplugged version of Living On A Prayer, while Steven Tyler, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen sang a rendition of Under The Boardwalk, to raise awareness of the New Jersey coastline that was one of the worst hit areas.
Christina Aguilera, who hails from New York, took to the stage during the telethon for a touching performance of her hit Beautiful.
Ben Stiller was spotted helping out at a shelter in New York (© PA)
Away from the TV screen, Ben Stiller was spotted helping out at a shelter in Brooklyn, New York, serving food to those in need.
He tweeted: “Lots of respect for all the people working at homeless shelters and those still not able to get home or power. @NYCDHS
Alec Baldwin is also said to have visited New York University students at their shelter following their evacuation last week.
Lady Gaga has helped to raise awareness of those hit by the storm by sharing an unreleased demo she wrote when she was 16, entitled No Floods. The singer’s track has been online since 2009 but she has shared it again in honour of those who were impacted in her home city New York, including her family.
"I wrote this song when I was 16. so weird to hear it now because of hurricane. 'NO FLOODS' hope this will cheer u up,” she tweeted to her millions of Twitter followers.
The Born This Way singer has also promised to help those in her native city as soon as she has a spare moment in her busy tour schedule.
Plenty of other celebrities have shown their support on Twitter over the past few days, sending their wishes and urging people to help by donating money.
Denise Richards tweeted: ‘Love & prayers to those devastated by the hurricane… please help by texting REDCROSS to 09000 to donate $10 to disaster relief #Sandy.”
Katy Perry said: “Sending east coasters light and love. Especially light!”
She later followed up with: “You've sent love and light to the East Coast. Now it's time to send warm meals and shelter! Text RED CROSS To 90999 to donate $10 now.”
Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria has used Twitter to share the stories of others, by retweeting people who have helped out in the aftermath of the hurricane. She has also been urging people to donate to the various charities that are providing aid to those who need it the most.
“God bless all the emergency crews and volunteers who are working hard on the east coast! #SandyHelp,” Eva posted.
British star Ricky Gervais, who now lives in the US, helped to raise awareness of an unofficial New York marathon that took place. Over a thousand people took part by running four laps of Central Park, and he was there to support them.
“In Central Park watching all the runners just doing the marathon anyway. Brilliant. Hope everyone who sponsored for charity still pays up,” he posted.

Rodgers salutes superb Suarez

Luis Suarez, centre, was on top form against Newcastle
Luis Suarez, centre, was on top form against Newcastle
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hailed an "unplayable" Luis Suarez after the Uruguay striker rescued his side once again in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle at Anfield.
Suarez scored a brilliant equaliser after controlling a long ball from Jose Enrique with his shoulder before dribbling around goalkeeper Tim Krul. Suarez underlined his all-round danger to Newcastle when Magpies captain Fabricio Coloccini was shown a straight red card for a foul on him late on.
"I thought he was unplayable. Coloccini getting sent off was frustration," said the Reds boss. "I don't think he could get near him (Suarez) today. He has been a great player over these last number of years for Newcastle. Suarez is so bright, so clever, he's a world-class striker. On that form today he really frustrates and provokes defenders."
The 25-year-old has now scored seven goals in his last nine league matches - more than half of Liverpool's total for the entire season. The only downside to the performance was that, once again, Liverpool could not finish off their numerous opportunities.
"It's five draws in 10 league games and of those draws we should have won at least three of them," admitted Rodgers. "That is the margins we are working to at the moment. I thought our performance was outstanding. We were terrific. First-half our possession and intensity was relentless but we switched off just before half-time."
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew saw his side extend their run at Anfield without a league win to 18 matches.
Yohan Cabaye's goal gave him hope they could end that sequence and although he went to speak to referee Anthony Taylor on the pitch at the final whistle he had no real complaints about the red card.
"It was a tough day for us. I honestly felt that when we scored the first goal it would win the game," said Pardew, who said he did not think they would appeal Coloccini's sending-off.
Pardew added: "We had made it very difficult for them, as sharp as they were because they passed and moved the ball really well, and I felt we could get that second goal on the break.
"I went to see the ref at the end because I wanted to see what it (the red card) was for. He said it was dangerous intent. Looking at the video it doesn't look too good from one angle in particular."

X Factor style wars


    We're halfway through the ninth series of the X Factor and so the leading ladies have decided to heat things up a bit. Both Nicole and Tulisa looked stunning on Sunday night's results show, but which look do you prefer? Remember, you can tweet us @MSNHer

    Style wars: Nicole v Tulisa
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    Which judge do you think looks best?

    Thanks for being one of the first people to vote. Results will be available soon. Check for results
    1. 72 %
      823 votes
    2. 28 %
      314 votes

    Is Simon Cowell rekindling his romance with former fiancee Mehzgan Hussainy?

    Could Simon Cowell be rethinking his engagement to Mehzgan Hussainy?
    Simon and Mehzgan split back in February. Copyright: [PA]

    Simon has been spotted out and about with Mezhgan in Beverly Hills 'running errands'.
    Now, they hardly looked all smoochy and we do know how close by Simon likes to keep his exes, just ask Sinitta, so we reckon this could be a whole load of nothing.
    Not to forget that Simon has previously called his engagement to Mehzgan, 'one big mistake' so we find it hard to believe either would be running back together.
    But then again, who 'runs errands' with an ex?!

    Simon split with the lady with the hardest to pronounce name in the world back in February after a two year engagement.
    When Simon announced he was planning on getting hitched the world collectively gasped at the thought of Mr X Factor settling down.
    After all Simon was never exactly a one woman type of guy, was he?
    And since the split he has basically proved us right for gasping time and time again, after being linked to countless ladies.
    Just recently Si was linked with Jenson Button's ex, Louise Griffiths after the pair were spotted on a series of romantic dates and ol' Lou seemed simply smitten.
    Simon has since been linked recently with Louis Griffiths. Copyright: [wenn]
    However, just weeks before that the minted X Factor mogul was spotted snogging the face off Carmen Electra.

    Tess Daly gets boobs out on Strictly Come Dancing, new Holly Willoughby alert?

    Tess Daly is known for her amazing figure - she was a model, after all - and we're used to seeing her flaunting her long legs and flat stomach.
    Tess DalyTess Daly flaunted her impressive cleavage last night. Copyright [BBC]However, this weekend on Strictly Come Dancing, Tess Daly drew attention to her boobs - so much so that it actually reminded us of Holly Willoughby's daring ensembles when she was hosting Dancing on Ice.
    Tess Daly looked amazing in a bright red dress with a low V neckline which showed her cleavage to perfection.
    The dress also featured a very daring split up the front - cue us gawping/staring/girl crushing.
    Tess DalyTess Daly usually favours higher necklines. Copyright [Rex]Back to the boobs, though - Tess' cleavage sent Twitter into an absolute flurry, with viewers questioning whether the Strictly host has had a boob job.
    One tweeter said: "Has Tess Daly always had big boobs? Where have they come from?"
    Another commented: "Has Tess Daly overinflated her boobs this week?"
    Holly WilloughbyHolly Willoughby was the queen of daring necklines during Dancing on Ice. Copyright [Rex]A spokesman for Tess Daly refused to comment on the boob job rumours last night.
    However, we don't think Tess has resorted to surgery - we're just used to seeing her more covered up as she usually favours high necklines and glamorous full-length gowns.
    But if she keeps up these cleavage-flashing ensembles, then we reckon she could very well steal Holly Willoughby's Best Boobs on TV crown.