Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Behind this week’s headlines

Economic prospects

Portugal’s minister of finance said today that growth in the first quarter and the decline in inflation to 4% in May was “good news”. He added that it opened up good prospects for the rest of the year.

More US visitors

The travel industry in Portugal has rebounded well from the COVID pandemic  and more Americans than ever are visiting. The number of American tourists in 2022 increased by 27% and their spending increased by 51% compared to 2019. The US is now Portugal’s 4th largest market, according to a report in TravelPulse, which is said to be the most visited travel trade website in the world.

Madeira tourism

April was a record month for tourism in Madeira in that a total of 923,000 overnight stay were recorded by the regional statistics office. This was 10.9% up on the same month last year. It is the first time more than 900,000 overnight stays have been exceeded.

New bank rules

A new law that came into force yesterday prevents banks for charging from changing account holders in the event of death. It also stops them charging for photocopying documents.

Youth Day security

It has been announced that more than 10,000 officers will be mobilised to ensure good policing and safety during the World Youth Day celebrations, which will take place in Lisbon on the first week of August and be attended by Pope Francis as well as many thousands of young people from around the world.

International street art

It has been announced that the old marine equipment factory of the Portuguese Navy in Lisbon will be the venue for this year’s international street art exhibition. It starts June 21 with works by 18 Portuguese and foreign artists.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The impact of a Trump come-back


Most political leaders across Europe must be horrified at the notion that Donald Trump may be re-elected President of the United States.

The main concerns in Portugal are about Trump’s denial of global warming and his criticism of NATO countries. This could cause more climate, military and economic insecurity.

The election is still more than a year away, but European officials are already preparing for a Republican defeat of the democrat Joe Biden with whom Europeans have got on exceptionally well.

The United States has become a strongly divided nation, largely because of Trump. An increasing number of Americans are choosing to move to Portugal. Nearly 1.4 million people of Portuguese descent live in the US today, but the number has been decreasing. Meanwhile Trump continues to have many millions of far-right followers all across America.

There are concerns that the present close cooperation between the US and the EU on all major issues could abruptly end with a government led by Trump or even his current far-right rival Ron DeSantis.

A recent fact check by the broadcaster CNN reported that “Trump has been using wildly inaccurate figures to minimise the threat of climate change.” For example, he has repeatedly defended his opinion by using “imaginary statistics” on the non-extent to which sea levels are expected to rise. Yet accurate figures on rising sea levels are precisely one of Portugal’s biggest climate change worries. Tourist resorts as well as towns and cities are expected to be flooded if not submerged if the levels continue to rise as feared. Trump told Fox News last month that talk of sea level rises was all “nonsense”. As for the severe or extreme droughts and wildfires predicted as we head towards summer, Trump apparently could not care less.

While Portugal is well known to be one of the most vulnerable countries in Europe to climate change, the United States is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter and, like China, India and Russia, it is still not doing enough to bring down CO2 levels. It is likely to do even less under a Trump administration.

On the war in Ukraine, Trump said last week that ending it would be a priority for him. On the surface that sounded good. In typical Trump rhetoric he went on to say he could end it in 24 hours, but didn’t say how. The trouble with this sort claptrap, on top of Trump’s past harsh criticism of NATO, is that it could weaken the bipartisan support for the alliance across the America Congress and amongst the American people. Having escalated into a full-scale war, the situation in Ukraine is now threatening to expand and bring Europe back to an even more precarious situation than when Trump was last in power up to a year and a month before President Putin’s “special military operation”.

Trump and Putin share a common characteristic: they disregard the truth.  Putin shows no sign of ending the war, but it is clear he would greatly welcome a return of Trump to the White House. The Kremlin leader must be well aware that European countries have scaled back their military capabilities since the Cold War. Europe could not replace the US dominance in providing weaponry and ammunition for Ukraine, meaning Russia could soon be victorious and Ukraine could cease to exist as an independent sovereign state.

Portugal has provided military equipment to Ukraine, though on a far smaller scale than other European countries, especially the UK and Germany. All European countries, including Portugal, but more especially the UK and Germany, are now going though an economic crisis. As of last week, Germany is in recession.

The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis have disrupted the EU economy. In Portugal, an improved outlook amid persistent challenges is forecast.  Meanwhile, the further tightening of Western sanctions against Russia announced at the G7 summit in Japan last week indicate that the sanctions have so far failed in the face of strong Kremlin resistance.

So much is hanging in the balance with Trump’s re-election hopes. What are his chances of winning? Opinion polls place him well ahead of his only republican opponent, Ron Desantis. Polls also suggest that public support for Biden’s staunch backing of Ukraine’s war efforts are falling, but that the odds are in favour of him winning a second term. That could well change in the months ahead.


Wednesday, May 24, 2023


 Behind this week's headlines

Madeleine search

The search at the Arade reservoir near Silves for remains of Madeleine McCann began yesterday and is continuing today. The search is expected continue tomorrow. German police with the full cooperation of Portuguese police, and British police in attendance, are hoping to find conclusive evidence that the German sex offender Christian Bruckner killed Madeleine in 2007. Bruckner, who frequented the area being searched, denies any involvement in Madeleine’S disappearance.   

Economic deficit to surplus

The Bank of Portugal announced on Monday that the Portuguese economy showed an external surplus of €996 million in the first quarter of this year compared with a €1.54 billion deficit in the same period last year. Inflation is expected to remain below 3% at least for several months in the second half of this year.

Unemployment down

The government announced on Monday that the number of unemployed people registered at job centres fell in April by 3.5% compared with the previous month, and by 6% year-on-year.

Football investigations

The Attorney General’s office has revealed that six investigations are underway and that the Public Prosecuter’s Office is looking into  Portugal’s three top clubs – Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto – regarding deals worth more than €228 million.

Pope to visit Fatima

It is now clear that while on his 5-day visit to Portugal to celebrate World Youth Day in Lisbon, Pope Francis will go to the Sanctuary of Fatima. He will arrive in Lisbon on August 2, visit Fatima on August 5 and return to Rome on August 6, the World Youth Day Foundation has announced.

Atlantic countries meet

The Portuguese government yesterday in Porto hosted a meeting of representatives from European Atlantic countries to “strengthen the Western vision of the European Union and the future of Europe,” in the words of the Portuguese secretary of state for European affairs.  He stressed the importance of the ocean in the ecological and digital transition.

Bildebergeg report

A report is probably now in circulation among the political, business, financial and academic elite who attended the private Bindeberg meeting in the Pestana Palace Hotel last week. The report will not be seen by anyone other than those who attended this or previous Bildeberg meetings.

Naval ungrading announced

The chief of staff of the Portuguese navy says there has been an operational, structural and generic renewal that has brought about significant change to the navy. This has been furthered by the defence minister launching a tender for the acquisition of six new patrol vessels.

Alagoas Brancas protest

Members of the Save Lagoas Brancas movement held a demonstration at the offices of the Algarve Commission for Coordination and Regional Development (CCRD) in Faro on Monday.  They intend to continue their relentless opposition to a plan by the Lagoa City Council to allow the destruction of the Alagoas Brancas wetland to be replaced by new commercial buildings. The movement is appealing for more supporters.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Elite Bildeberg meeting in Lisbon

Top leaders in talks - all very private

The chief organisers of the latest Bildeberg meeting will be circulating a report on it. Frustratingly, no one other than those affiliated with the group will see the report or gain any knowledge of its content.

 More than 120 highly influential leaders attended the exclusive meeting in Lisbon, prompting the usual howls from conspiracy theorists amid silence from the participants.

Among the guests who gathered on Thursday for the start of the three-day meeting were top officials from companies such as OpenAI, Google and Microsoft. The political titans included former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba. Portugal’s president and prime minister were there to greet them in the Pestana Palace Hotel.

The Bildebergers are named after the Dutch hotel where their first private meeting was initiated by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1954. They have been holding very private meetings annually in different countries ever since.

According to their severest critics on both the political left and right, the Bilderbergers are planning a new world order, a global take-over by the super-elite.

Where does the truth lie?  The Bilderberger organisation says it was originally set up to prevent a third world war. Its focus has moved on to bolster free market Western capitalism. A third of attendees at their meetings are politicians and the rest experts from business, finance and  academia. Two-thirds are from Europe, one third from North America. They provide “a forum for informal discussions to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.”

The official rules of the meetings state that participants are free to use any of the information they receive provided they do not divulge either the identity or affiliation of any of the individuals they received information from. Participants do not take part in any official capacity and are not bound by the conventions of their office. As individuals they are open to “take time to listen, reflect and gather insights.”

Furthermore, according to the Bildebergers, “ there is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken and no policy statements are issued.” A private report after each meeting is circulated only to former as well as the most recent participants. Even in this report, speakers are quoted only by the country they are from.

The broad subjects under discussion in Lisbon were believed to be similar to those at last year’s meeting in Washington DC. They included AI, NATO, Ukraine, China, India, energy transition and fiscal challenges.

Prince Bernhard (1911-2004) was an enigmatic character. A formidable armed forces commander during World War II, he helped create the World Wildlife Fund, but was deeply implicated in a bribery scandal involving the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.

 The many other prominent people who have attended one or more Bilderberg meetings include royalty such as the Duke of Edinburgh, King Charles III (formerly Prince Charles), Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain, the American banker David Rockefeller, British prime ministers Edward Heath, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.... the list goes on and on. Needless-to-say, each meeting demands a heavy security presence.

Most if not all attendees seem perfectly respectable, so what’s all the fuss about? Even the most moderate sceptics call the meetings “secretive”. Others regard them as “sinister”. Many critics worldwide believe the Bildebergers represent “a shadow world government” that is seeking total domination. But is it likely that after 69 years of private or even “secretive” meetings, leading university academics would remain silent if some dreadful overall plot was being formulated?

Could it be that by those spreading hysterical disinformation about these meetings are a far greater danger to normal, rational folk than the Bilderbergers themselves?

Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Behind this week’s headlines

Portugal and Iceland
Portugal’s prime minister has been on an official visit to Iceland this week. It was clear from statements by the prime ministers of both countries after their meeting in Reykjavik on Monday that they are focused on common challenges, especially in the fields of combating climate change and protecting the oceans.  These are clearly top priorities.

 Friendly China visit

A delegation representing Portugal Communist Party (PCP), lead by its secretary general, is now on a visit to China. It is at the official invitation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is said to be simply in the context of the “friendly relations between the two parties.”

Football tax inspection

It has just been confirmed that the officers of FC Porto, one of Portugal’s top three football clubs, is being searched by tax inspectors. This follows similar searches in the Lisbon officers of FC Porto’s two biggest rivals, Benfica and Sporting.  

Save Alagoas Brancas

Environmentalists, particularly those opposed to the plan to destroy the Alagoas Brancas wetland next to the city of Lasgoa, have been invited to attend a demonstration outside the CCDR offices in Faro next Tuesday starting at 4pm. 

Protesting scientists

More demonstrations over employment conditions have been taking place in Lisbon, this time by scientists. Hundreds of them gathered at Lisbon University yesterday to protest against job insecurity. A much smaller group of scientists protested outside the ministry of environment in Lisbon last week about the inaction of various governments on climate change.

Vatican stamp criticised

One of Portugal’s top bishops said yesterday that the image on the World Youth Day commemorative stamp launched by the Vatican was “in very bad taste.” World Youth Day is to be celebrated in Lisbon from 1 to 6 August. The stamp depicts the pope and a group of children standing on Lisbon’s discovery monument, which harks back to colonialism.

Water quality risks

Concerns are being expressed that groundwater levels in the Algarve have become so low that there is an increasing risk of salt water seeping into the soil. A warning on this has just been issued by the region’s director of agriculture.

Alentejo wine fair

It was announced on Monday that wine-lovers will be able to view if not taste more than 450 wines at a ‘Wines from the Alentejo’ event in Lisbon’ to be held on the 2nd and 3rd June.


Sunday, May 14, 2023

The battle against breast cancer

A research project in Portugal, now nearing completion, has developed a new drug that will likely offer an unprecedented remedy for women with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) severely reduces the chances of survival. It accounts for about 15% of cancer cases, but no specific treatment has been available. The best that could be done so far was to surgically remove the tumour and give a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs that are known to work against other types of cancer.

“After some time the body often creates defences against this cocktail and it no longer works,” says Dr Andrena Valenta who works at the University of Lisbon. Once such resilience has set in the cancer becomes all the more aggressive

Dr Valenta and her research partner, Dr Helena Garcia, have been concentrating on a one-year project called CanceResolution that runs to the end of this month. It is focused on ruthenium, a rare silvery-white metal known to be well tolerated by the human body. Their experiments show that a ruthenium-based drug they and their team have developed may halt the growth of TNBC cells and stop them from spreading. 

“So far from a toxicity point of view, the drug’s profile looks good,” says Dr Garcia. “Our studies show that 24 hours after administrating the drug, there’s a high concentration of the compound in the tumour, but in the surrounding blood and urine it’s almost gone. This means the secondary effects of our drug should be low.”  

In Portugal as in other European countries, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. The public awareness, diagnosis, treatment and survival rates of early cancer have all increased over the past decade. Just before a three-day international conference on all this was being held in Berlin last week, a panel of experts in the United States published a report aimed at greatly reducing all forms of this deadly disease.

The report advised that all women should be screened for breast cancer every other year from the age of 40. In Portugal it has been generally accepted that women should be screened every other year between the ages of 50 and 69. With early detection and prevention, patients are said to have an 80% chance of survival. Mammogram tests involving small doses of X-ray can detect early signs.

Normal chemotherapy treatment can have very harsh side-effects, ranging from nausea and lack of appetite to exhaustion and hair loss. This is because drugs that attack the cells of fast-growing tumour cells often attack healthy cells as well. Radiography is not a cell-based treatment, but it too can mean patients suffering severe side-effects. Surgery in which cancer tissue is cut out can be a fast method to remove a tumour, but if cancer tissue remains undiscovered, the cancer may continue to develop.

Many cancer-inhibiting oral drugs have been licensed and put on the market to help with the treatment of such illnesses as chronic myeloid leukaemia and melanoma, as well as breast cancer. Unfortunately, there are numerous safety concerns with these oral drugs. The absorption rate of about half of them is influenced by the patient’s diet, so their use confronts patients and medical staff with additional challenges. A multidisciplinary approach may be necessary, involving physicians, nurses and pharmacists.

Much hope is offered by therapies said to fight cancer by reinforcing the body’s immune system. When fully functional, our immune system protects us against infections. Many clinical reports have been published about relatively new therapies. Dendritic cell-based treatment uses the patient’s own blood cells to boost the immune system so that it recognises and destroys cancer cells. 

There is good reason to be optimistic about future trends in Portugal as a consortium that brings together the Champalimaud Foundation and several Portuguese companies funded by the Plano de Resiliencia e recuperacao has a project called ‘MetaBreast’ to improve breast cancer surgery through digital technology.


Wednesday, May 10, 2023


Behind this week’s headlines

 ‘Europe Day’ unity

The speaker of the Portuguese parliament said yesterday - officially recognised as ‘Europe Day’ - that the European Union was the result of efforts by Europeans themselves to avoid a new war on the continent. The Portuguese president called for “an active, leading, more determined, more decisive than ever” European Union that knows how to unite for peace and solidarity “without illiberalism or nationalism.”  

Hottest April ever

Southern Portugal and Spain had their hottest April on record with temperatures at the end of the month above 30C and close to 40C in some areas. So far, May has been very hot and it’s still springtime, so summer is expected to be exceptionally hot.

Strikes by nurses

Nurses are planning to strike on Friday this week. They will hold a demonstration in front of the ministry of health in Lisbon. They are demanding better working conditions and the hiring of more professional staff. Operations and appointments were cancelled in the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon two weeks ago when nurses went on strike demanding the employment of more nurses and complaining about such requirements as having to carry patients on stretchers in hospital corridors.

Measles outbreak

Measles cases among children are rising across Europe. The risk of catching this viral illness is increasing because it is highly contagious. It is most common among children aged between one and four, though anyone who has not been vaccinated can catch it.

Water efficiency

An internal study released yesterday claims that the growers of fresh fruits and nuts in Portugal are much more efficient in the use of water than their counterparts in the United States.  Here, farmers reportedly use 30% to 40% less water.

Drought worries

The agriculture and food minister declared on Monday that 40% of southern Portugal is already in a drought situation requiring aid for farmers from the EU. The irrigation situation for Algarve golf course is so serious that they want to be connected to waste water systems rather than depend on normal public fresh water sources.