Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bid to conserve south coastal sites

Hopes are being expressed that the most spectacular stretch of coastal habitat left unspoilt along Portugal’s southernmost shore can be turned into a nature reserve rather than being blighted by two more resort urbanisations.
The area lends itself perfectly to ecotourism through conservation, but local homeowners who advocate this are concerned it may be too late.
The coastal stretch in question lies between the fishing hamlet of Benagil and the iconic headland of Nossa Senhora da Rocha, all within the municipality of Lagoa in the Algarve.
It encompasses Praia da Marinha, considered by the Michelin Guide and other travel organisations to be one of the top ten beaches in Europe and among the most beautiful coastal settings in the world.
Scholars and naturalists have long recognised the area to be of special geological and archaeological importance as well as of significance in terms of flora and fauna.
But the planning approval for the two adjoining projects code-named UP11 and UP12 would mean the destruction of large tracts of natural habitat rich in biodiversity. This would be to within a few hundred metres of the shoreline, considerably less in parts than the normally legislated 500 metres, it seems.
The plans envisage hotels, luxury villas, apartments and a golf course. Despite being the biggest private development programme ever proposed in the Lagoa municipality’s history, little has been divulged publicly since the projects were first approved more than eight years ago.
A small group of residents in one of the most directly affected communities has recently learned that it could be years, perhaps decades, before sufficient funds are available to allow detailed infrastructure planning and construction to proceed.
Officially, however, it is thought to be only a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ construction goes ahead. The promoters are thought to be seeking investors overseas, most likely in China and the United States.
One of the project-aproved sites, comprising 230 hectares, is currently being offered for sale at €115 million.
Despite previous claims to the contrary, it seems that no environmental impact studies have ever been carried out in the area - or perhaps were even required - not that environmental impact studies are ever entirely independent and impartial anyway.
Concerned local residents say that in an area of such unique geological importance, with biodiversity which can no longer be found elsewhere along the now heavily urbanised Algarve coast, it should be of the utmost importance that a proper impartial environmental assessment be sought by the government before irreparable damage is done.
The projects were accepted by the relevant authorities in Lisbon and Faro as well as Lagoa in the belief that they would create jobs and be of considerable economic benefit. Although it has never been explicitly explained who would benefit, the projects could be expected to generate profits for investors, national or international construction companies and resort operators, as well as taxes for the local municipality.
An unsightly backdrop to this, however, is that Lagoa and other Algarve municipalities feature half-built, multi-storey blocks long abandoned and derelict. They have been eye-sores for years and look like remaining so for years to come due to the lack of sustainable guarantees for the planning and approval of project funding.
The group of homeowners suggesting that the area be turned into a nature reserve point to the ever-growing, sustainable profitability of ecotourism. It has proved so in many parts of the world in recent decades.
Ecotourism has the advantage of attracting increasing numbers of visitors all year round by appealing to other than just the sun and sand holiday crowds or winter golfers. It is more adept at providing incomes for local communities than foreign investors and would represent an overall more sustainable long-term investment for the area, allowing the natural beauty, historic heritage and eco-diversity of this unique area to be fully conserved.
Those contemplating such a nature reserve in Lagoa have no illusions it will be easy to establish. They realise too it may be a race against the time.
Our research so far, however, indicates that the area may qualify for backing from the UNESCO World Heritage organisation, hence we are seeking help from experts in the field and supporters alike,” said a spokesperson for the group.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fatima ‘third secret’ still in dispute

Allegations persist that the Vatican is continuing to cover up the truth about the ‘third secret’ said to have been disclosed by the Virgin Mary exclusively to three Portuguese children on 13th July 1917.
Ongoing reports of papal obfuscation and lies did not deter big numbers of pilgrims gathering at the Shrine of Fatima near Leiria for the 99th anniversary of the secret visions. The pilgrims have come from many countries, including such places as China, Indonesia and Costa Rica, as well as Italy, Ireland, the UK and the US.
Recently, however, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI felt moved to issue a formal denial of any wrong-doing over the third secret controversy.
The generally accepted belief is that apparitions of the Virgin Mary, popularly know as Our Lady of Fatima, were witnessed on the 13th of each month between May and October 1917.
The Vatican has described the apparitions as “undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern times”.
The main visionary, 10-year-old Lúcia Santos, became a cloistered nun and in 1941 wrote accounts of the secrets. The first two emphasised the horrors of hell, the threat of more world war, and the danger to humanity of Russia replacing Christianity with communist totalitarianism.
Sister Lúcia delayed writing about the third secret until ordered to do so by her local bishop. Her one-page letter dated January 1944 was kept by the bishop of Leiria in a sealed envelope until it was conveyed to the Vatican in 1957 for safe keeping in the Secret Archives of the Holy Office.
Critics claim that successive popes “suppressed” the information until the year 2000 when John Paul II deemed that its publication was appropriate. His secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, declared that the third secret was the Virgin Mary’s prophesy of the attempted assassination of John Paul on 13th May 1981.
The announcement was received by many Catholics with incredulity. An “interpretation” by another of John Paul’s top officials, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, only added to the international outcry. Traditionalist Catholics denounced it as part of the “heresy” that had infiltrated the papacy since the modernising Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
Many Catholics have long believed that the third secret predicted a satanic takeover of the Catholic faith and that each pope since the Second Vatican Council has been the Antichrist.
Ratzinger succeeded John Paul as Benedict XVI but resigned, the first pope to do so in almost 600 years, in the midst of scandals over alleged corruption within the Vatican and widespread sex abuse perpetrated by priests.
The third secret cover-up allegations resurfaced as this year’s celebrations were getting underway at Fatima in mid-May.
A former German priest and professor of theology, Ingo Dollinger, was quoted as saying that his long-time friend Cardinal Ratzinger had confided that what the Vatican had published about the third secret was not complete.
According to Dollinger, Ratzinger told him that the published part of the third secret was authentic, but that the unpublished part referred to “a bad council and a bad Mass that was to come in the near future.”
Dollinger had said much the same thing about Ratzinger before. He was quoted nine years ago as saying his conversation with Ratzinger had been “burning in his mind.”
This all tallies with apocalyptic “crisis of faith” warnings that have been rife among traditionalist Catholics for decades.
As pope emeritus in the shadow of the present Pope Francis, Benedict has remained largely silent on all matters, but he obviously felt he must speak out about the latest Dollinger allegation.
A statement from the press office of the Holy See read: “Several articles have appeared recently, including declarations attributed to Professor Ingo Dollinger according to which Cardinal Ratzinger, after the publication of the third secret of Fatima (which took place in June 2000), had confided to him that the publication was not complete.
In this regard, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declares ‘never to have spoken with Professor Dollinger about Fatima’, clearly affirming that the remarks attributed to Professor Dollinger on the matter ‘are pure inventions, absolutely untrue’, and he confirms decisively that ‘the publication of the third secret of Fatima is complete’.”
The only thing that is really clear about this issue is that someone is not telling the truth.
Of course, exposing the truth can get people into trouble. A Vatican court last week convicted a priest and a public relations executive for their involvement in leaking secret documents to two journalists. The priest has been jailed.
The leaked documents allowed journalists to expose the workings of a Vatican commission set up in 2013 to advise Pope Francis on reforming the deeply flawed Roman Curia, the Vatican’s civil service that Francis once called “the leprosy of the papacy.”
Unfortunately, the leaks did not shed any further light on the third secret of Fatima.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Can the silly season get any sillier?

Britain’s oldest ally has been trying to make sense of the hullabaloo over the referendum, but it hasn’t been easy.
For example, last weekend Tony Blair said Britain might want to change its mind. And he was talking about Brexit, not the Chilcot report.
Many of the 17 million who voted for Brexit have already changed their minds, but that’s as much use to the 16 million who voted to remain as Tony Blair’s regrets over Iraq.
Back in February, it was “after a huge amount of heartache” that Boris Johnson finally made up his mind to stab his friend David Cameron in the back and campaign for ‘leave’. What he really had in mind was to take over the prime minister’s job.
After their Brexit victory, Michael Gove suddenly changed his mind about supporting Johnson for the Tory leadership and decided instead to betray Boris and run himself.
Andrea Leadsom used to think that leaving the EU would be “disastrous” for Britain. Then she changed her mind, campaigned for Brexit and now sees herself as the new Margaret Thatcher. There is at least one major difference. As even Mrs Leadsom may recall, the lady (the grocer’s daughter) was “not for turning”, i.e. changing her mind.
Theresa May campaigned for Britain to stay in. Now she is the most likely person to be tasked with formally leading Britain out.
For the sake of the party and Britain it must be May”, asserted the Daily Mail as the Tory leadership contest got underway this week. Before the referendum. one of the most vehement critics of ‘remain’ campaigners like Theresa May was none other than the Daily Mail.
Sinister plots were being hatched over on the other side. Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary colleagues want him to step down. The majority of the Labour Party voters want him to stay. But Corbyn is not for quitting or changing his mind, not just yet anyway.
The referendum ‘debate’ was steeped in scaremongering, misinformation and lies. It has produced distrust, division, depression, desperation, fears and tears. And for what? Britain is coming out but no one knows where is it going.
It’s a bit more than a mess. According to the media, “the Conservative Party is in flames,” the Labour Party is “tearing itself apart” and “imploding”. Brexit has been likened to a revolution, but no one is talking about carnations.
National votes on sovereignty could become fashionable so we’d better sort out the right plural: referendums or referenda? Millions of Brits, including expats, have petitioned for a second referendum on EC membership. Independence ballots could be in the offing in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Spain... and, yes, Portugal.
A fortnight after the UK referendum, Britain has no proper government. So what’s new? After two general elections since early last December, Spain still had no proper government either. Britain has Scottish separatists. Spain has Catalans.
Portugal is not exactly a pillar of political stability. It’s minority Socialist government is deeply pro-EU, but it depends on the support of the far-left who want little or nothing to do with Brussels.
The government was“saddened” by Brexit and doesn’t want a Portexit, but it does want less austerity. The IMF wants more. Portugal has less than three weeks to correct its excessive deficit and avoid fiscal sanctions from the European Commission. If sanctions are imposed, the Left Bloc plans to demand a referendum on EU membership.
Whatever happens we have the bedrock of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance. But maybe it’s just as well the alliance is based on the Treaty of Windsor of 1386. The United Kingdom wasn’t around in those days. Portugal signed the treaty with England which the UK looks like becoming once again.
Unfortunately the alliance is not infallible. If only there had been a referendum in 1588 the Portuguese probably would have voted against remaining in their union with Spain. The Spanish Armada that set sail from Lisbon to invade England would never have happened.
Rest assured there are not going to be any more attempted European takeovers. Blighty has balls. The Little Englanders have their country back.
Fantasy and fiasco to the fore. Probably plenty more to come. It’s high summer, the “silly season”. And it’s measuring up to be the silliest imaginable.