Today’s photo – Many thanks to Pete … Ship in Funchal harbour Wednesday 3rd February
“The natural beauty of the place really is staggering though unfortunately, many visitors don’t get to appreciate all that the island has to offer. Too many remain in the capital, Funchal, and delighted by its pretty cobbled streets, gorgeous gardens and stunning situation fail to venture into the rugged interior. Those who do will be rewarded by towering mountains, breathtaking views and a taste of rural life that has hardly changed over the past century. What a refreshing change from the usual hurly-burly of life in London!” ONE FOR THE GOURMETS
“The wheels were lowered. The plane was coming in to land. And yet, from the window, all we could see was a fast-approaching mass of blue. Unless an aircraft carrier made a last-ditch appearance on the scene we were all going to get very wet. I nervously made a mental note of the location of my lifejacket. The Portuguese girl in the seat next to me dug her Nancy Dell’Olio nails into my arm. Then miraculously, at the very last, Madeira sprang out beneath us. A tiny porcupine of an island, each of its rocky prongs holding a spectacular viewpoint on its tip. The plane of passengers burst into spontaneous applause.” THIS IS NOTTINGHAM
Many thanks to Elaine for this whopping contribution from yesterday’s news top stories :
FRONT PAGE NEWS
Pollution of the pond of Lugar de Baixo. This is "an untapped potential", according to the environmental agency Quercas. The Lagoa do Lugar de Baixo is a unique coastal habitat for migratory birds from the North Atlantic. Yet it is polluted with rubbish and has not been cleaned for five years. The proposed environmental education centre lacks facilities and is only half used. In 2005, a group of students from Ponta do Sol removed 19 bags of rubbish. A guide to the birds that visit the pond was published by the DRA but there has been little other work on this area of 3,500 square metres which is one of the main points for bird watching in the region. The Regional Director of the Environment explained that the protocol with the local offices of Tourism, Environment and the Society for the Development of the West Point (SPDO) was not realized. He said it is the latter who own the area and they must make the first move. The pond is polluted by both rubbish deposited by humans and rotting vegetation. The local council know about the degradation and the mayor said he had already contacted the DRA about a joint cleaning operation. The DRA recognize the importance of the area as a place of ecological sensitivity but deny responsibility for the management or cleaning of the area and state the responsibility belongs to the owners SPDO. Eight years ago, Quercus made a 46 page report on the environmental restoration of the area and proposed that a frequent analysis of the water quality was needed. Obviously, this has fallen on ‘deaf ears’.
Left Bloc takes the Jornal da Madeira to the Committee at São Bento. The extensive debate on the Portuguese media, specifically any pressure from the Government of the Republic and schemes to control the media, takes place shortly in the Assembly of the Republic and will include the ‘case’ of Madeira. All opposition parties require clarification by José Sócrates on issues related to some media, in particularly any attempt to purchase TVI by PT, the end of ‘Jornal de Sexta’ of Manuela Moura Guedes, the case of Público and recent controversy involving the journalist Mário Crespo.The Left Bloc has promised to forward a request for a parliamentary inquiry into the situation of the media in Madeira, in particular the Jornal da Madeira. The Left Bloc (BE) is limited at a regional level as it has only one deputy and cannot ask for a parliamentary inquiry. Pressure on journalists and media companies and the situation of Jornal da Madeira, owned wholly by the Regional Government, are some of the things that over the years, the opposition have denounced in Madeira. Recently, in the Assembly of the Republic, the CDS raised the issue of unfair competition caused by the Jornal da Madeira receiving several millions of Euros per year from the Regional Government.
Carnival maintains 2009 funding but attracts fewer tourists. Current forecasts indicate 10% fewer tourists – 62% – than 2009 but the budget is still 350,312 Euros. The decrease is thought to be because the Carnival is early this year, whereas last year it was at the end of the month. A manager of the hotel sector, António Trindade, said that over the past three or four years, the hotels have been practically full. They must concentrate on the traditional British market in future years, as there are no new emerging markets. The Carnival events are being increased this year with a new Carnival attraction on Sunday. Friday is children’s day, 1,100 taking part in the ‘Carnaval das Crianças’ between 10.30 – 12.00 at the Placa Central da Avenida Arriaga . Between 15.00 – 17.30 along the Avenida Arriaga, ‘Carnaval Solidário’ has 200 participants, followed by a party in the Jardim Municipal, organized by the Association for Community Development. On Saturday evening, 1,095 take part in the main parade, ‘Cortejo Alegórico’, which starts at 21.00. There will be fireworks ten minutes beforehand at the Parque de Santa Catarina. The OCM plays at the Praça do Município from 22.00. A new parade on Sunday between 21.00 – 23.00, ‘Carnaval das Avenidas’ (Carnival of the Avenues), involves three of the groups that participate on Saturday: ‘ Fura Samba’, ‘Caneca Furada’ and ‘Os Cariocas’. There will be one group performing at each of the following locations: central area of Avenida Arriaga near the Sé, in front of the Regional Secretariat of Tourism and the Pier. This new idea is to act as a bridge between the main event and the following Tuesday’s ‘Cortejo Trapalhão’ which starts at 16.00. Program on the official Tourism site in five languages.
Carnival with varied agenda at various locations in the region. The Carnival parade in São Vicente takes place at 10.30 on Friday 12 February, taking the theme International Year of Biodiversity. Participating are all the local schools, social services institutions and day centres. After the procession, the council has prepared a variety show in the Municipal Gardens.
Vandalism and arson at Santo António. Early yesterday morning, vandalism and an alleged arson attack on two trucks caused more than 100,000 Euros of damage. The one that was vandalized had the windows broken and the interior ransacked and the other had the front tyres set alight. This is possibly linked to another suspected arson attack. A fire broke out at the Complexo Desportivo do Marítimo, an infrastructure to support the youth and veterans of the football club. Damage was not as bad as first expected; damaged electrical wiring, paintings, aluminium and glass.
LREC and Meteorology interested in partnership. The Regional Laboratory of Civil Engineering and the Institute of Meteorology of Madeira are interested in forming a partnership to study the climate and landscapes of the region.They would combine data from the weather stations and automatic monitoring stations of LREC to help prevent natural disasters.
Free JM costs each Madeiran 16 Euros. The media agency Lusa has calculated that every year, each person in Madeira ‘pays’ 16 Euros for the Jornal da Madeira. Lusa arrived at this conclusion by dividing the four million Euros that each year the Executive transfers to the Jornal da Madeira by the population size of 255,000. The newspaper also receives advertising revenue. It is distributed free to some outlets. The published opinions are all assigned to the PSD and the Government. These complaints have also gone to the Competition Authority and the EU. In comparison, every Portuguese resident subsidises the three state-run media channels: RTP, RDP and Lusa by less than 15 Euros each year. Most of the money transferred from the State Budget goes to RTP which has a number of public channels: RTP1, RTP2, Madeira, Azores, International, Africa and RTPN.
BE protest against millions to Barreiros. The Left Bloc has calculated that the 31 million Euros the Regional Government will spend on the remodelling of the Estádio dos Barreiros would create about 1,100 jobs in the region, a decrease of almost 8% in the number of unemployed. This justifies a protest vote in the Legislative Assembly against the "waste" in the construction of the stadium of Clube Sport Marítimo. This would be a significant number of jobs at a time when the region has more than 14,000 unemployed and companies are going through a serious crisis. For the BE deputy, the Government has shown "not to be socially and politically serious or responsible in defining their priority areas for action."
Coelho accuses the judges of being "subservient". José Manuel Coelho, (PND) compares the courts of the Region to the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil in the 1960s. He says the judges "persecute" the democrats. "The judges are not independent and are subservient to the jardinista regime." In the court case of the PND directors of the journal Garajau, Coelho accuses the Government of defamation. At issue are the texts in the journal that accuse the lawyer Cunha e Silva of being a legal advisor to the Port of Funchal and not declaring this income to the Constitutional Court. Coelho accuses the Government of abusing taxpayers’ money to pay the lawyer Garcia Pereira to defend Cunha e Silva when it is a case of "personal issues". Garcia Pereira is one of the most expensive lawyers in the country, receiving 5,000 Euros every time he comes to Madeira, at a time when there are plenty of unemployed local lawyers.
Madeira guarantees the State more IVA than claimed. The Minister of Finances said that Madeirans pay less tax, IVA (VAT), than the rest of the Portuguese, used for political opportunism by Alberto Jardim. The rate of IVA is 30% less in Madeira and the Azores than the mainland, but Teixeira dos Santos left out the fact that this reduction only applies to consumers and not the companies that import goods and services that are consumed in the region. These reductions in the Azores and Madeira are allowed by the EEC and are designed to compensate for the higher transport costs of imports to autonomous regions. In his speech, Teixeira dos Santos hinted that Madeira is prejudicing the Portuguese taxpayer. Yet the State receives revenue from purchases that are bought in Portugal then imported to Madeira. The State also benefits from Portuguese telecommunication firms and banks based in the Free Zone. Madeirans generate more revenue; the income per capita (per person), without compensation from the State, is 33% higher than the Azores. The Azores benefit from a compensation of 471 Euros per capita whereas Madeira receives only 172 Euros, to compensate for IVA generated in the Region but not paid on the Continent. The income per capita is higher in Madeira than the Azores because of income generated by tourism and the higher cost of living. With a PIB (GDP) 45% higher than the Azores, the IVA revenue of Madeira is 35% higher than the Azores. — Usual spurious arguments as they are not comparing like-for-like: Continental Portugal, Azores and Madeira. No indications of the relative cost of living in all three areas.
Prime Minister denies giving directions to PT for the purchase of TV station. José Sócrates announced that PT had a "strategic intent" on buying TVI but this was totally beyond the control of the government. In Face Oculta, a case presently in the Portuguese courts, there is strong evidence that there was a plan involving the Prime Minister to control the TV station TVI. This case involves wiretapping to investigate allegations of corruption and economic crimes related to business enterprises of the State and private enterprises. There are 18 defendants.
Today’s news headlines from the front page of the Diário de Notícias :
Man dies two hours after release from hospital - A fall yesterday sent the sexagenarian to hospital. He was released yesterday, but he wanted to stay in as a hospital inpatient. But he returned to Campanário. A little later he died.
Controversy keeps 46 families without a home. Five years later, the Council of Santa Cruz and the Housing Institute discuss the Salão complex. And the works don’t go forward.
Intensive Care invade the AVC Unit. The hospital department that deals with stroke patients is taking in more inpatients from intensive care, than there are actual stroke inpatients. The Hospital of Dr. Nélio Mendonça, in Funchal, says "It’s a matter of priorities". The clinical director of the Health Service Region (SESARAM), Miguel Ferreira, explains that the situation is not new, but adds that it is a timing problem.
Today’s main news headline : UNESCO Ambassador evaluates the ‘Rabaçal Case’ – The disagreement over the cable car project in the mountains moves on to a new stage : discussion between the opposing parties in front of the international representative. The trip to Madeira was to be low-key, but the opinion of the UNESCO representative will be decisive regarding the building of a cable car in the Laurissilva forest. The ambassador and an inspector spent two days here trying to understand the scope and impact of the proposals, and why environmental groups were so against it and sent a petition with thousands of signatories. The visit was kept confidential, but it is known that on Monday the ambassador spent the day in the area of Rabaçal, along with officials representing the Natural Park, Forestry, and the Environment, as well as the company promoting the project. The beautiful landscape that would be affected by the project is the subject of the main photograph on today’s front page, and if the UNESCO representative took one look at that they would for sure be thinking no, no, no! I really really hope the plan is shelved, and if it is it would be doing debt-ridden Madeira a real favour. This project will cost a small fortune that will surely never be recovered through tourism revenues. In fact I reckon the plan can only really still be in existence through the sheer stubbornness of Uncle Bertie’s pals, as the economic case against the project must have overtaken the environmental case long ago.
The main sport / football headline today : Benfica ‘bury’ their rivals Sporting – Thrashed (4 – 1) by the reds in Alvalade [Sporting's stadium].
Winner of the Portugal Cup may not qualify for UEFA. Fifth place in the league will give access to Europe. If all goes to plan Porto will occupy the other place in the final against Benfica, but have to get past Académica first tonight (SIC 8.15 pm). As both the big teams will probably finish in the top five in the league, I doubt whether they will really care about this method of entry to the Europa League, but should Académica pull off a miracle tonight … well then that would be a different story.
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