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

Saturday, August 10, 2013

World Cup 2010: Greece seek big improvement at point of no return

• Euro 2004 winners cannot afford second defeat against Nigeria • Manager Otto Rehhagel dismisses over-defensive accusations The overriding belief within the Greece squad is that it is now or never. Following a lacklustre 2-0 defeat by South Korea in their opening match of the tournament on Saturday, Otto Rehhagel's men recognise that another failure to deliver against Nigeria in Bloemfontein ...


Earthquake damages homes in central Greece

ATHENS, Greece, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- More than 100 houses in a region in central Greece hit by a moderate earthquake were damaged enough to be dangerous, officials say.


75 Arrested In Human Trafficking Bust

MADRID — Spain's government says a joint investigation by Spanish and French police has busted a gang that allegedly was smuggling Chinese citizens into Europe...


Greece beats budget targets in Jan-July period-deputy finmin

Greece beats budget targets in Jan-July period-deputy finmin
ATHENS Aug 10 (Reuters) - Greece's central government posted a primary budget surplus of "about 2.5 billion euros" in the first seven months of the year, beating an interim target for a deficit of 3.1 billion for the period, the country's deputy ...

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Property bubble drives up prices, forcing families to flee the capital

With British buyers joining foreign investors in London's property frenzy, even outer areas are becoming unaffordable hotspots

Nestling in the shadow of the defunct 1930s leviathan that is Battersea power station, the 1,200 gleaming glass and metal apartments that comprise Chelsea Bridge Wharf in central London could not look more contemporary. Overlooking the Thames, barely a mile from the King's Road, next to a glorious park, it is an enviable location many thrusting professionals would be happy to call home.

But living at such an address carries a hefty price tag. A one-bedroom 463 sq ft (43 sq m) apartment with a small balcony is yours for half a million pounds. Yours, that is, if you move quickly. Such properties tend not to hang around for long, as few come on to the market.

Agents estimate that about 60% of homes in the development were bought by overseas buyers when they came on to the market a few years ago. Of the ones that went to international buyers, three quarters were bought as investments to be rented out.

In the crazy world of London property prices, paying more than £1,000 a square foot barely raises an eyebrow. London's residential property market is booming and prices are now way above where they were before Northern Rock imploded in 2008. It can't continue, say the doom-mongers. Yes it can, reply the bulls.

The boom – some say the "bubble" – has created its own citadel. Estate agents talk enthusiastically about "PCL" – prime central London – those parts of the capital where properties normally sell for more than £1m. Prices in this area are now 18% above where they were before the 2008 pre-crash peak. Buyers are falling over themselves to snap up properties. Viewings in prime central London are up by 15% compared with the previous year. The number of properties sold has increased by more than 8%.

Already in one borough, Kensington and Chelsea, the average price of a home is now above £1m. Several other boroughs, including Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster and Camden, are not far behind. Figures from the Office for National Statistics, out this week, are expected to confirm that prices continue to rise steadily.

Meanwhile prices in the "super prime" segment of the market – properties valued above £10m – are also sharply increasing. Having fallen 20% after the 2008 crash, they are now 10% above the pre-crash peak. "The higher the value of a property [before the crash] the more it's gone up," said Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, a property analysis company. It's almost as if the Lehman collapse never happened.

The influx of foreign buyers has been a key driver in pushing up prices. Between 2010 and 2011 many overseas investors, fearing the consequences if Greece were to quit the eurozone, bought up prime London real estate as a defensive measure, a hedge against falling prices elsewhere. Research published by upmarket estate agent Knight Frank suggests that 53% of PCL properties that sold for more than £2m in the 12 months to March of this year went to overseas buyers. Residents in the euro area countries accounted for 10% of the purchases. Investors from the "rouble bloc" came in a close second, at 9%.

Further up the value chain, foreign buyers become even more dominant, with the proportion of PCL properties worth more than £5m sold to non-UK nationals now close to 60%.

This "flight to quality" has exacerbated the huge difference in price between London and the rest of the country. Fathom Consulting, which provides economic analysis, estimates that a typical property in prime central London was worth just under £1.5m in the first quarter of 2013, compared with a little over £220,000 elsewhere for the UK as a whole. Unusually, though, the rise in prices since foreign buyers started buying up vast numbers of PCL properties in 2010 had been slow to filter across the rest of London.

"Central London usually leads the UK out of a downturn," said Liam Bailey, head of residential research at Knight Frank. "There's a ripple effect going outwards. But it didn't happen this time."

Until now. The majority of buyers now entering the London market are no longer from abroad, as confidence returns among British buyers. The relative strength of the share market has brought renewed optimism and there is an emerging view that the capital has emerged from the storm.

Other factors are playing a part. Government initiatives such as Help to Buy, which allows people with deposits of as little as 5% to buy properties worth up to £600,000, are helping to drive prices upwards. So, too, are low interest rates that make the cost of borrowing significantly cheaper. Signals last week from the new Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, that interest rates will continue to remain low until after the 2015 election will do little to dampen the bullish mood. Estate agents have been surprised by the buying frenzy. Knight Frank had forecast that prices in the PCL post codes would remain largely unchanged for 2013. Now it predicts they will grow by 6%.

Significantly, the rate of increase is now rising faster in London's outer boroughs than in the PCL postcodes, where they are showing signs of slowing. Prices in Kensington and Chelsea, for example, rose 12.2% in the 12 months to June 2012, but only by 9.5% in the year to June 2013. In contrast, growth in greater London in the year to June 2013 was 6.9% compared with 6.4% the previous year.

The ripple effect is spreading to some unlikely areas. In the 12 months to June 2012, prices in Dagenham fell 1.1%, according to Land Registry figures. In the 12 months to June this year they have risen 7.5%.

Research by Hometrack shared with the Observer suggests that some outer areas have become hotspots. Top-performing postcodes include the leafy streets of Barnes and Herne Hill, where prices have risen more than 50% since their post-2008 trough. New Cross has also seen prices rise more than 50%, thanks to improved transport links.

Is this a property bubble?

"My own view is that it isn't a bubble," Bailey said. "It's about demand. London is arguably the most dynamic place in Europe and people want to live here. It's an issue of supply. Supply is rising, but London has historically been undersupplied." Analysts at Fathom Consulting are more sceptical. They note that the euro has strengthened in value as fears of the eurozone's imminent implosion have eased. As a result, London's position as a safe haven is no longer so important. "The risk now is that a portion of those safe-haven flows that took place through 2010 and 2011, and were associated with fears about a breakup of the single currency, start to unwind," Fathom says. "In the event that these fears disappear completely, PCL prices could fall by around 10%."

History suggests that this drop would then ripple across the rest of London. But even if such a fall were to happen, it would mean nothing to the millions of people struggling to get on London's property ladder.

In March last year a study by the housing charity Shelter found that 65% of non-home-owning Londoners expected that they would never be able to buy a home in their local area. The typical deposit needed for a first-time buyer in London was estimated at more than £84,000. Nearly a quarter of London households – 700,000 – were renting from private landlords, up from 15% (445,000) a decade ago. Since then, prices in London have continued to soar.

Priced out of central London, many families cannot afford to live anywhere in the capital. Instead they move out, pushing prices up elsewhere.

"Every rise in house prices means thousands of pounds piled on to the cost of the average home, and a generation increasingly stuck in unstable private renting while their dream of home ownership drifts further out of reach," said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.

Or, to put it another way: what happens in London doesn't stay in London. The capital's property boom has dire consequences for the whole of the UK. © 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


Greek Orthodox Priest from Nazareth meets PM Netanyahu supporting IDF

PM Netanyahu Met this Morning with Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox Priest from Nazareth (Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Monday, 5 August 2013), met with Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth and spiritual leader of a forum for the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF, Naji Abid, ...


Report on tourism agency points to rife absenteeism

A new report points to lax management and widespread employee absenteeism at the Greek National Tourism Organization that has cost the agency an estimated 180,000 euros.The investigation, carried out by public administration inspectors at the end of last year, found that seven out of 10 employees could not justify their absence from the office on at least one occasion in November 2012. The ...


Stournaras eyes debt talks in November

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has said that talks on Greek debt relief could start in November provided preliminary data show that the debt-wracked country can achieve a primary surplus in 2013.In an interview with the Efimerida ton Syntakton on Saturday, Stournaras said that Greek society cannot tolerate any more across-the-board cuts to wages and pensions, adding however that there was ...


Papandreou Unwanted On Samos

Former Greek premier George Papandreou’s stay on the island of Samos hasn’t been a welcome one for him with residents angrily demanding he leave, unhappy that he had put big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on the populace while in office. Many residents gathered in a tavern on the island and said they were upset to have in in their midst and staying there. A poster appeared ...


Talk rife China?s Greek coach on way out

"DARKEST day in China basketball history." This was the poignant headline in one Chinese daily a day after the dethroned champions lost to Chinese Taipei and the chance to secure one of three continental slots to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain. It could also be one of the darkest moments in the coaching career of China's Greek mentor, Giannakis Panagiotis. "He might be ...


Greek team in Poland for Homeless World Cup

Eight Greek amateur soccer players arrived in the Polish city of Poznan on Friday to participate in the 11th Homeless World Cup, which runs from August 11-18 and includes the participation of street soccer teams from 64 countries.The draw for the tournament lineup is expected to take place Saturday, with the first kickoff scheduled on Sunday.Aged between 20 and 35, the Greek delegation comprises ...


A Japanese Crisis Nears

Japan has receded from the headlines of late but that's about to change. In the next two months, it's expected the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a decision on whether to increase Japan's consumption tax from 5% to 8% in April next year. If approved, consumer spending will take significant hit and given that it accounts for around 60% of GDP, hopes for an economic recovery could be dashed. If the tax hike is delayed on the other hand, rating agencies are likely to downgrade Japanese debt, resulting in increased interest costs - the last thing that the massively indebted country needs. International investors would also lose faith in Japan's turnaround strategy. Either way, it appears a lose-lose situation. Much less talked about is the impact on Japan from possible QE tapering in the U.S.. If America decides to cut back on money printing next month, and interest rates there rise as a consequence, that would put upward pressure on rates around the world. That's not what Japan needs given that only a small rise in rates would result in its government debt burden becoming overwhelming - interest rates increasing to just 2% would mean interest expense on government debt equating to 80% of government revenue. Either of these events may bring forward a Japanese sovereign debt crisis. Long-time readers will know that I view such a crisis as inevitable with the government debt load so large that there are no good choices left. Keep in mind that a Japanese debt crisis would have enormous global consequences. Unlike Greece or Cyprus, Japan matters. It's the world's third largest economy and a key trading partner to all of the large powers. How Japan plays out for the remainder of 2013 will be of critical importance to everyone. A quadrillion yen debt Over the past week, Japan celebrated an unusual feat: total government debt passed the one quadrillion yen mark. That's 1,000,000,000,000,000 yen (15 zeros if you're counting). Of course, it's not so daunting in U.S. dollar terms, at a measly US$10.5 trillion. Still, the debt versus the country's GDP is 230%, the highest in the developed world. And if you add in corporate and private debt, total Japanese debt equates to 500% of GDP.  It's a reminder of the enormous task that Japan's relatively new government faces: how does it reduce this staggering debt without impoverishing the country? We're about to get a further glimpse into whether the government is heading in the right direction when preliminary GDP figures are released on Monday. Optimists, including the vast majority of economists and stock brokers, suggest that Monday's figures will confirm that the economy is improving and the government's policies are having an impact. And on the surface, things do appear to be progressing: 1) Inflation has turned positive. The consumer price index (CPI) turned positive in June, +0.4% year-on-year (YoY). Core CPI, excluding more volatile items such as food and energy, was still negative however at -0.2%, though it was an improvement from the -0.4% of the prior month.


Greece slips further toward debt default as its credit rating is cut again

Standard & Poor's gives Greek economy the lowest credit rating in the world – and suggests it can only get worse Greece took a step nearer an outright debt default after Standard & Poor's cut its credit rating from B to CCC. The country is now only two notches away from S&P's benchmark default rating, which would signal it is unable to meet its debts. It is now the lowest rated economy in the ...


Ancient Greek statue found in goat pen

Athens police say goat herder and accomplice attempted to sell €12m marble sculpture of young woman for just €500,000 Greek police have recovered an ancient statue that was illegally excavated and hidden in a goat pen near Athens, and arrested the goat herder and another man who were allegedly trying to sell the work for €500,000 (£420,000). The marble sculpture of a young woman dates to about ...


Greek consumers feeling more vulnerable as crisis deepens


Greek consumers feeling more vulnerable as crisis deepens
Greeks appear to feel increasingly insecure about their consumer rights and believe they are exposed to a growing number of unfair and abusive commercial practices in the midst of the economic crisis. According to the European Union's latest survey on ...


Imathia man arrested for owing over 3 mln euros to the state

Police in northern Greece on Saturday arrested a 41-year-old man for outstanding debts to the state.The suspect, from Imathia in central Macedonia, is believed to owe more than 3 million euros to the state.No further details were ...


Minister promises swift compensation for quake damage

Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis has pledged that the victims of recent earthquakes in the Fthiotida region of central Greece will be quickly compensated for property damage.Speaking after a meeting at Kamena Vourla on Friday, the Socialist minister said a joint ministerial decision will soon be signed to accelerate procedures.More than 300 houses have been damaged after a ...


RGA files injunction against OPAP privatization

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) is continuing with legal proceedings against the Greek government and its granting of the exclusive right for online betting in the country to OPAP.On Friday the RGA submitted an injunction to the State Audit Council against the ...


Stricter rules for licensed tour guides

The Tourism Ministry has sent a circular to the police, the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) and regional authorities with a view to putting a stop to the practice of illegal tour guides, according to new legislation.Professional guides have to bear a card with their identity details, registration number and languages in which they are licensed to work. Translators are allowed only in ...


Greece names and prosecutes celebrity tax evaders

Singer Tolis Voskopoulos and retired basketball player Michael Misounof among 4,000 citizens identified, owing €15bn Prospects of Greece securing a debt deal that might save the eurozone from further turmoil was eclipsed on Monday, by the news that some of the nation's leading celebrities have been hoodwinking the taxman for years. As the world frets over the country's increasingly unmanageable ...


Greece nears deal over '?120bn rescue'

• Government in desperate negotiations with EU and IMF • Financial markets welcome imminent deal • Unions call more stoppages and street protests promised Greece's embattled government was tonight engaged in desperate negotiations to thrash out what is expected to be the largest bailout in history. The ruling socialists conducted fierce horse-trading with experts from the EU, European Central ...


75 Arrested In Crackdown On Smuggling Chinese People Into Europe And America


A joint Spanish and French police investigation has busted a gang that allegedly was smuggling Chinese citizens into Europe and the United States. The Associated Press reports.

The Spanish Interior Ministry says 75 people have been arrested, 51 in Spain and 24 in France, noting that some of the people trafficked ended up in the sex trade.

Two of the Barcelona-based are suspected heads of the organization in Europe. The gang's main European hub was Barcelona airport, which served as a stopping-off point for Chinese while false documents were prepared.

The AP reports that the gang allegedly charged up to $66,700 to transport Chinese nationals to the U.S., Britain, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, and Turkey.

People all over the world migrate and seek asylum for various reasons, most of them having to do civil unrest and war.

The Guardian notes that almost 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers, vast majority were from north Africa, landed on the coasts of southern Italy alone in the first half of the year, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

On Saturday at dawn he 60-foot-long fishing boat carrying about 120 migrants ran aground about 40 yards from a beach near the city of Catania off Sicily. Six people, who were apparently unable to swim, drowned.

Italian coastguard spokesman Roberto D'Arrigo told Sky Italia television that the 120 migrants were mainly from Syria and Egypt.

The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim group in Burma, began making the perilous voyage in rickety fishing boats to Indonesia after being systematically attacked by Buddhist monks.


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Walls: Travels Along the Barricades by Marcello Di Cintio ? review

A tour of the world's most disputed border areas becomes a forceful study in human suffering

To wall is human and, if the story of the Garden of Eden is true, to exclude is divine. Since the beginning of civilisation, people have built walls to keep things in, or out. The ancient Egyptians constructed massive mudbrick walls around their temples, wavy ones that represented the primeval waters of chaos and served to ensure the purity of their sacred enclaves by keeping out everyone but the priests. The Roman emperor Hadrian, with his usual efficiency, commissioned a wall, backed by a series of defensive forts, to protect his empire's northernmost frontier from a troublesome neighbour. Walls, it would seem, are part of the human story. But there are exceptions: the most unwalled country in our own time, enclosed by water on three sides and the world's longest fenceless border on the fourth, is Canada. What better subject for a Canadian writer, then, than to try to understand what it means to live alongside a wall?

In eight chapters, eight walls, Marcello Di Cintio visits some of the world's most contended regions to witness glaring examples of exclusion. Some are well known because they continue to make headlines – the illegal wall the Israelis have built to keep out Palestinians, for instance; and the barrier the US has constructed along its southern border to exclude Mexican migrants. Others will be less familiar. Who remembers that the Sahrawi people of the Western Sahara are still fighting to liberate their land from Morocco? Their struggle has been going on since 1975, when the late Moroccan King Hassan II led some 350,000 of his subjects to occupy the former Spanish colony. To back up their disputed claim that the land was historically theirs, the Moroccans built a series of walls. By 1991, when a UN-brokered ceasefire stopped most of the killing, the Moroccans had built the world's longest continuous wall, some 2,700km long and, like the shorter Great Wall of China (21,196km), visible from space.

Di Cintio has a good grasp of the specific issues that have led to the building of the Moroccan wall, as of the others he visits, the walls that separate Palestinians and Israelis, Turkish and Greek Cypriots, Indians and Bangladeshis, Africans and Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans, Protestants and Catholics in Belfast, and rich and poor in Montreal. Faced with the reality of each of these barriers – some, in truth, no more than fences – he looks back at history and politics to understand how the need for separation arose and invariably comes up with political or economic reasons.

And then he spends time with people whose lives have been shaped or destroyed by separation and exclusion.

Some of these stories are more immediate than others, the power of the narrative being in direct relation to the level of injustice meted out on people on the wrong side of the wall. It's not hard to empathise with Palestinians whose lives have quite literally been cut by the wall – for many of them, their land lies on one side and their village on the other. Similarly, for those of us inside Europe, it's easy to understand why young Africans would want to run at the border of Spain's North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, hands wrapped in cloth to stop the razor wire cutting. Many of them have already made extraordinary journeys across the Sahara to reach the Mediterranean, and this last obstacle is all that stands between them and Europe. These people see the walls as separating them from a better life. "In the imagination of a refugee," Di Cintio writes, having just heard a young Sahrawi describe somewhere she had only dreamed about, "any place on the other side of the Wall, wherever it is, must be beautiful."

Occasionally Di Cintio gets it wrong, as when he describes Palestine as "less a place than it is an idea". Millions of Palestinians would dispute that comment. More often he gets it right, as when he considers the ways people find to subvert walls, from climbing them to cutting through them, tunnelling under them, walking around them, decorating them – Banksy being the most famous of many artists who have decorated Israel's West Bank wall – and even to ignoring them. "An ignored wall ceases to be a barrier at all."

But ignoring barriers that divide your life, your land or your identity is easier said than done, as Walls makes clear. This is not a perfect piece of reportage: I wanted it to look deeper into the intellectual side of the argument surrounding exclusion barriers. Nor does it consider the future consequences for those people who live alongside walls: long after the physical Berlin Wall came down, for instance, the barrier lived on in the minds of Berliners. And nor do I feel Di Cintio justifies his upbeat claim, at the end, that "the urge to tear down barriers is a stronger impulse than the urge to build them". But what he does do, bravely and forcefully, and with impressive commitment, is to bear witness to the pain and suffering of people who live in the shadow of separation barriers. © 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


Kudos to our firefighters

The consistently high temperatures and strong winds this summer have raised the risk of forest fires in Greece, which are a common phenomenon in many parts of the country during the hot season.Despite the myriad challenges, however, the response so far this year by the fire department has been both swift and professional.The ...


Greek Businesses Evade Tax Man

Clients at Santorini bars live it up but many of the businesses don’t pay taxes at all Greece’s hopes of boosting the economy by cutting the Value Added Tax (VAT) in eateries from 23 to 13 percent for a five-month trial are failing from the get-go as inspectors have found about 50 percent of all businesses – mostly restaurants, bars, coffee shops and night clubs – ...


Half of Greek Businesses Tax Cheats

More than a million tourists are expected on Mykonos alone during a record-breaking year for visitors in Greece, but more than half the restaurants there aren't paying taxes. ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Nationwide spot checks by Greek tax inspectors have found that almost every other business is cheating the taxman in some way, as the debt-hobbled country's authorities struggle to improve ...


Chinese people-smuggling gang uncovered in France and Spain

75 arrested including suspected leaders of operation to traffick Chinese nationals into EU and US via Barcelona airport

A Chinese people-smuggling gang has been uncovered by French and Spanish police.

The Spanish interior ministry said on Saturday that 75 people have been arrested, 51 in Spain and 24 in France, including the two Barcelona-based suspected heads of the organisation in Europe. Some of the people trafficked ended up in the sex trade, the ministry said.

The gang charged up to £43,000 to transport Chinese nationals to Britain, the US, Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Turkey.

The gang's main European hub was Barcelona airport which was used as a stopping-off point for the trafficked people while false documents were prepared.Six migrants have drowned off Sicily after their vessel ran aground close to shore, according to the Italian coastguard.

Elsewhere, an 18-metre-long fishing boat carrying about 120 migrants ran aground at dawn on Saturday 40 metres from a beach near the city of Catania.

While most of the passengers reached the shore, the six who drowned were apparently unable to swim.

The 120 migrants were mainly from Syria and Egypt, an Italian coastguard, Roberto D'Arrigo, told Sky Italia television.

African migrants normally reach Sicily's more southern coast or the island of Lampedusa to the south, only 110km (70 miles) from Tunisia in North Africa. D'Arrigo said a migrant boat had never previously put in to Catania – halfway up Sicily's eastern coast – leading him to believe the boat had lost its way.

Thousands of immigrants seek the southern shores of Italy every summer, when Mediterranean waters in the Strait of Sicily calm sufficiently for small boats to make the crossing from Libya or Tunisia.

They come looking for work in the EU and many do not remain in Italy. Those who do, or who are taken into Italian custody, can be sent home.

Another boat carrying about 90 migrants arrived safely on Sicily's south-east shore on Saturday, near the town of Syracuse.

Last month Pope Francis, in his first official trip outside Rome, celebrated mass on Lampedusa to commemorate the thousands of migrants who have died at sea.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, almost 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers landed on the coasts of southern Italy in the first half of the year. The vast majority were from north Africa, mainly Libya, which has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The UNHCR said 40 people were known to have died crossing from Tunisia to Italy in the first half of the year, though it is thought that many deaths are never reported.

Last month the Italian coastguard co-ordinated the rescue of 22 migrants after their boat sank off the coast of Libya. But 31 others were feared drowned in the incident, including a baby and four pregnant women, according to the UNHCR. © 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