The headlines this week in Lisbon were occupied by two Russians – Marat Safin and Yevgueny Kafelnikov. The first qualified for the semi-finals of the Tennis Masters Cup, the second defeated himself with unenforced errors and lack of concentration. Good luck to Safin in his game against Agassi. Friday 1st December was marked by the celebration of Independence from Spain (Portugal had been under Spanish occupation from 1580 to 1640). This year, for the first time, a new nationalist movement called 10th June movement (after the date which marks the Day of Portugal) made a public demonstration in downtown Lisbon, the old part of the city which was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1755, inciting the Portuguese to not give away their identity. What the Spanish failed to do through military power, they are now doing through their banks – buying Portugal. The giant earthquake took place on an unusually hot day on 1st November, 1755 – still today the residents of Lisbon comment to each other when there is a hot day out of season “it seems there will be an earthquake today”. Lisbon is built on a geological fault line and another earthquake could happen at any moment. The downtown area of Lisbon is reported to be rotting away. This area was built on land reclaimed from the river Tagus, the widest river in Europe after the Volga, on a construction supported by wooden stilts. These stilts are under water and if they are rotting, Lisbon’s historic centre could collapse. There are better areas to make demonstrations. As usual, the hottest city in Europe has temperatures of 23єC but the rains have returned after years of drought. It rained so hard this week that various families lost their homes in floods and it even rained inside an operating theatre in Lisbon’s children’s hospital, Estefвnia. The ear operation on a boy had to be suspended. Next time it is better the surgeons take an umbrella with them. The weather took a turn for the worse, but Claudia Schiffer brightened things up on a visit to Portugal’s winter golf tournament. Finally, the Portuguese judicial system found an innovative way to tackle the huge backlog of court cases : a mega-amnesty, with all “hot” cases, involving public figures and large companies from 1988 to 1995 declared void. In the USA, election results are classified as Too Close To Call. In Portugal, judicial processes are deemed Too Hot To Handle – so they are prescribed. Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravda.Ru, Lisbon

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