Welcome, 77 artists, 40 different points of Attica welcomes you by singing Erotokritos an epic romance written at 1713 by Vitsentzos Kornaros

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Diaspora: Online Project Documents the Greek Immigrant Experience

PRI's The World

New Diaspora: Online Project Documents the Greek Immigrant Experience
PRI's The World
Documenting the stories of this new wave of Greek immigration is the impetus behind an online project called New Diaspora. It's the brainchild of Nicolas Stamboulopoulos, who himself left Greece in October of 2009, just before the economic crisis began ...


From Greenland to Mount Everest, this is the season of reckless jaunts | Simon Jenkins

The quest for risk is part of human nature. It can't be suppressed by bureaucracy or it will resurface elsewhere

A young Briton dies trying to cross Greenland in a blizzard. Another goes missing while trying to sail the Pacific. Three climbers narrowly escape death in a mob fight on Mount Everest. Three sailors plan to pedalo across the Atlantic. That is all inside a week.

Chaucer noted that when April awakens into summer "people long to go on pilgrimages". Nowadays they long to go on reckless jaunts. This is the season when crazy tourism goes viral, when "gappers" dream up dangerous adventures and when no holiday is complete without some display of machismo. The latest to boom are base jumping, hang-gliding, cave-diving and cycling across deserts.

We once thought this was merely a British craving to escape the Health and Safety Executive. If boys can no longer dive into a local swimming pool, they will dive off a Greek cliff. If they are not allowed to ride a horse without a crash helmet and sack of insurance certificates, they will ride a bull in Pamplona. Take adventure out of Britain and you take Britain out of adventure. It is like casino banking. It goes overseas.

Back in time, taking risk was life and death. Miners, sailors, builders, quarrymen suffered appalling injuries to support their families. To early explorers danger was the price of discovery. Columbus would not have set sail in a pedalo. Edmund Hillary would not have climbed Everest without oxygen. Risking death as a pastime would have seemed irrational, except for sports with origins in military prowess, such as hunting, boxing and fencing.

The mad and mostly illegal sport of base jumping – from a cliff with a parachute – now sees some 15 deaths a year. One jump in 60 is said to end in a fatality and a successful jump is "one you survive". A high risk of death or injury attends pursuits such as motorbiking, big-wave surfing, altitude climbing and, a new craze, street luging. People even go sailing off the Somalian coast to defy the pirates.

All these people are seeking thrills which, by definition, they cannot find at home. Home nowadays is beyond tame. School pupils cannot swim in Snowdonia lakes without trained lifesavers on hand. Children cannot go kayaking without attendant motor boats. You need a safety course to go on a hill walk. Around all such activity hovers a dark cloud of negligence lawyers and compensation brokers. One leading firm tells customers the first thing to do after any accident is "prove another person was responsible" – presumably before bothering a doctor.

The idea that a personal quest for risk is something that cannot be suppressed but merely displaced is taboo in health and safety circles. The risk theorist John Adams of UCL has long championed what is known as the Peltzman effect, whereby people behave less cautiously where they feel more protected and vice versa. To Adams, "everyone has a risk thermostat, and may adjust it to the risk level he likes, regardless of the experts' best efforts to decrease the risk". Attempts to stifle or criminalise that thermostat merely induces a shift to other activities, often in ways that harm third parties. (It is said to be why politicians are so prone to adultery.)

Adams' chief example has long been the most dangerous thing most people do, which is use a public road. Making them truly safe – with barriers down the middle or by banning motorbikes – is considered politically unacceptable. To Adams, most other methods, such as seatbelts, helmets and signals, may make roads safer for drivers. But this increases their risk-taking, leading to more danger for cyclists and walkers.

In the same spirit, the skydiving pioneer Bill Booth noted that "the safer skydiving gear becomes, the more chances skydivers will take, in order to keep the fatality rate constant". They are not trying to die, but to maintain their level of thrill. It is a basic instinct.

Safety is now almost as big an industry as defence, and as dependent on irrationality for its sustenance. An army of inspectors, designers, equipment suppliers and roads engineers have a vested interest in denying risk compensation theory. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents excoriates Adams, retorting that "seatbelts save lives", without considering the lives of the wearers' victims. Any life saved is "worth" it, whatever the cost.

Risk assessment feeds on the resulting hysteria. Its practitioners increasingly take refuge in a belief that humans can be programmed for ever safer behaviour. Hence the idiot "risk assessment" box-ticking familiar to today's corporate employees.

The risk statistician David Spiegelhalter regularly points to some of the madder outcomes of this unreason. After 9/11, 1,500 extra road deaths were attributed to people turning from planes to more dangerous car travel. During the last bird flu hysteria, so much money and medical attention was diverted from ordinary healthcare that hundreds of extra deaths were ascribed to it (and none to bird flu).

The safety industry regularly proclaims itself in favour of "proportionate" risk – only "as safe as necessary". But necessary is always an upward ratchet. I have never come across an HSE inspector demanding a reduction in safety. Regular booklets and press releases seek to demolish "health and safety myths". But this is an industry that depends on an ever wider umbrella of hyper-security.

This lobby has no interest in risk. It will never seek to make domestic adventure tourism more adventurous, let alone more risky. I doubt if the HSE would sponsor a bungee competition or a helmet-free cycle race. The one risk it recognises is what would happen if there were an accident (nowadays always an "incident") after it had reined in its storm troops.

There are some risks I would gladly see displaced overseas. I would rather a hedge-fund manager got his adrenaline rush from Hawaiian surf or an African cave than by blowing my pension fund on a sub-prime derivative. I would rather a minister indulged himself in a Bali nightclub than risked all on an NHS sub-contract. Dangerous driving could well be displaced to the Sahara desert. If testosterone seeks an outlet in foreign climes so be it.

Whether young Britons are really being compelled to seek risk abroad by over-regulation at home is hard to prove. But pressing up against some danger threshold must be part of the human makeup. It cannot be repressed by bureaucracy, or it will merely resurface elsewhere. We admire young people who seek to do ostensibly stupid things abroad. We probably do so because we have suppressed their freedom to find such thrills, challenges and risks closer to home. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



Greece Arcadia Middle School raises 182166 pennies for patients

Greece Arcadia Middle School raises 182166 pennies for patients
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
GREECE — Every day during March, students at Greece Arcadia Middle School brought in pocket change, loose change and all the change they scouted out from beneath their couch cushions. When they added it all together, they raised more than $1,800 to ...

and more »


Greek far-right party in clash with Athens mayor

An attempt by the far-right Golden Dawn party to hand-out food to Greeks only in Athens, in defiance of a municipal ban, degenerated with the city’s mayor saying a party member tried to punch him and draw a gun. The punch missed its target, landing instead on a 12-year-old girl, Greek media said.


Austerity in Greece having impact on human rights, says UN expert

Austerity in Greece having impact on human rights, says UN expert
In 2010, to avoid a default on its international debt obligations, Greece reached agreement with the EU, the ECB and the IMF to implement deep cuts in government expenditure in exchange for an internationally sourced bailout loan. To obtain the bailout ...


Mario Draghi and the ECB haven't saved the eurozone

What we are witnessing is a touching belief in the ability and willingness of central banks to prevent investors suffering losses

Financial markets have a lot of faith in Mario Draghi. Too much faith, in all likelihood. They rallied last summer when the president of the European Central Bank said he would do "whatever it takes" to save the euro. And they rallied on Thursday when the ECB cut interest rates to 0.5%. Bond yields fell across the eurozone, hitting record lows in France and dropping below 10% in Greece. Stock markets liked the news, too.

But did the news warrant the upbeat response? Not really. Let's be clear, the reduction in the cost of borrowing for the eurozone was welcome. It was also signalled in advance, long overdue, and the bare minimum that the ECB could have delivered when recession is deepening quarter by quarter and Japanese-style deflation appears to be just around the corner.

Draghi hinted that the ECB might consider negative deposit rates, which would mean that banks would have to pay for the privilege of parking money at Europe's central bank. That threat, it is hoped, will encourage banks to lend rather than hoard their cash. And he said the ECB would consult with the European Investment Bank and the European commission about the possibility of measures that could boost credit flows to small- and medium-sized companies.

By no stretch of the imagination does this amount to a rescue plan for a eurozone facing a second calendar year of declining output and with unemployment at a record 12.1% and rising. The Bank of England had its Funding for Lending Scheme in place by the middle of 2012; the ECB is still at the drawing board stage.

This is perhaps not surprising. The ECB is a conservative institution, although it has become less so under Draghi's stewardship. Its freedom of action is constrained by Germany's insistence that the problems of the troubled countries of the eurozone are caused by the lack of structural reform, and not insufficient demand. It was clear from Draghi's press conference that the decision was not unanimous and it did not take a genius to surmise that Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank, was a dissenting voice.

So why are markets so chipper? We can rule out the idea that the ECB's rate cut will prompt a recovery in output. (Although it may help, at the margin, to underpin consumer and business confidence.) The decline in Greek bond yields suggests that the markets believe the risks of a break-up of the single currency have markedly diminished since Draghi issued his "whatever it takes" reassurance in July 2012. The immediate threat to monetary union is certainly diminished, but it is a heroic assumption – given the deepening slump, the recurrent sovereign debt crises and the structural differences between rich and poor countries – to imagine that the risk of break-up has disappeared altogether.

No, what we are really witnessing here is a touching belief in the ability and willingness of central banks to prevent investors suffering losses. In the early part of the last decade there was something known as the Greenspan put: every time Wall Street was in trouble, the chairman of the Federal Reserve would ride to the rescue with a cut in interest rates. In 2013 we have the Bernanke put, the King put and now the Draghi put. Bad economic news is treated by the markets as good economic news, because they believe lower interest rates or more quantitative easing will follow. Eventually one of two things happens: the recovery actually does arrive. Or reality sets in. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



Kim Kardashian freaks out during 'fish pedicure' while vacationing in Greece

New York Daily News

Kim Kardashian freaks out during 'fish pedicure' while vacationing in Greece
New York Daily News
First she got the painful "blood facial," claiming to never do it again, now the 32-year-old pregnant reality star is sharing her horrific — but hilarious — experience getting a "fish pedicure" while vacationing in Greece. Illegal in America? No problem.
WATCH: Kim Kardashian Freaks Out While Getting Fish Pedicure in GreeceGossipCop
Kim Kardashian Tries Fish Pedicure In Greece And Is Not At All A Fan (VIDEO)Huffington Post
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Golden Dawn MP 'swung at mayor of Athens but hit 12-year-old girl instead'

Member of parliament for Greek extreme-right party also accused of trying to pull out gun during incident at charity event

A member of parliament from Greece's extreme-right Golden Dawn party allegedly tried to punch the mayor of Athens on Thursday, swinging at him but reportedly missing and hitting a 12-year-old girl instead.

The confrontation came hours after police used pepper spray to prevent the nationalist party from distributing free food to Greek citizens only in the city's main Syntagma Square in defiance of a municipal ban the mayor had vowed to uphold.

Once a marginal group, Golden Dawn saw a meteoric rise in the polls in recent years, becoming the third most popular party as the country slid further into financial crisis and unemployment rocketed. Its members have been repeatedly accused of involvement in violent attacks against immigrants and others.

"The only thing these people know is the language of violence," said the mayor, Giorgos Kaminis, after the incident, in which he said MP Giorgos Germenis also tried to pull out a gun before being restrained by the mayor's bodyguards.

Germenis turned up at a charity event where Kaminis was handing out gifts to children of unemployed parents ahead of Sunday's Orthodox Easter.

"This man sneaked in, we didn't notice him … and he tried to hit me," Kaminis told Vima FM radio. "At the last minute my personal guards stopped him." The mayor said Germenis had a gun tucked into the back of his waist band, and attempted to pull the weapon out.

Television footage showed the mayor's bodyguards struggling with Germenis as a woman carrying a baby scurried out of the room. The security guards pinned the MP against a wall before marching him out of the building.

Greek media said the blow intended for Kaminis ended up hitting a girl, leaving her with a bruised forehead but no serious injuries. "Extreme actions, especially when their victims are innocent 12-year-old children, do not befit our democracy," said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou.

Golden Dawn issued a statement denying a girl had been hit and vowing to sue Kaminis and his security guards. For his part, Kaminis intends to sue Germenis for the attempted attack, the municipality's press office said. Police said they were investigating complaints against the MP for threats and brandishing a weapon.

Golden Dawn had announced it would hand out free Easter food to Greeks only on Thursday. Kaminis had banned any such events in the city's main square, and vowed Wednesday not to allow the "soup kitchen of hate" to take place.

But party members with Golden Dawn logos across the backs of their black T-shirts arrived more than two hours before the announced time with a truck carrying meat, potatoes and other goods and began handing out bags of food after checking recipients' identity cards.

Scuffles broke out with riot police, who used pepper spray to repel party members wielding Greek flags on thick wooden sticks.

Giving up on the idea of a charity handout in the capital's main square, the party moved the distribution to its own offices in downtown Athens – not far from where Kaminis later attended the separate municipal charity event.

"Today in Syntagma Square, the law was implemented against the Golden Dawn neo-Nazis who once again displayed their wares: racist hatred, the use of violence and bullying," said Fofi Gennimata, spokeswoman of the Socialist PASOK party that is a junior member of the governing coalition.

Though Golden Dawn rejects the neo-Nazi label, its website shows great fondness for Nazi literature and symbols. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Kim Kardashian freaks out during ‘fish pedicure’

First she got the painful "blood facial," claiming to never do it again, now the 32-year-old pregnant reality star is sharing her horrific — but hilarious — experience getting a "fish pedicure" while vacationing in Greece.


Golden Dawn's 'Greeks only' soup kitchen ends in chaos

An attempt by members of Greece's far-Right, anti-immigrant Golden Dawn political party to hand out emergency food rations to Greeks only was broken up by police firing tear gas on Thursday.