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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eurozone patience with Greece waning

Finance ministers in the eurozone are losing patience with Greece, says Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, as the country submits its 2014 budget.

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UPDATE 1-IMF sees no urgent funding needs for Greece

UPDATE 1-IMF sees no urgent funding needs for GreeceReutersWASHINGTON Nov 21 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund sees no urgent financing needs in Greece as the indebted euro zone nation can still draw on its own cash buffers in the next few months, the Fund's spokesman said on Thursday. Greece's ...IMF sees no 'acute' financing pressures on GreeceEconomic TimesIMF sees no 'acute' pressures on GreeceNinemsnIMF Sees Enough Greek Liquidity Buffers in Coming MonthsBloombergall 7 news articles »

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Fikay Eco Fashion: banking on buses and boats

Rethinking Fikay Eco Fashion's distribution model helped founder Aaron Jones stay true to the firm's ecological principles

Aaron Jones at Fikay Eco Fashion found a way to cut costs and help the environment by transporting his recycled-packaging bags, wallets and cases from Cambodia to Britain by bus and boat, rather than by plane. The logistics rethink requires a bit more forward planning – the journey takes up to 40 days, rather than two – but it cuts carbon emissions and saves an estimated £22,000 a year in transport costs.

Jones, a 22-year-old final-year student of international enterprise and business development at the University of Essex, started Fikay in 2011 after a gap year in Asia. He spotted bags made from cement sacks and old fish-feed packets – featuring striking tiger, elephant, eagle and cobra designs – for sale at a market in Cambodia, and started researching the supply chain.

After months sourcing and selling test items to friends and family in the UK, Jones decided he had a viable business idea and ploughed in funds from his student overdraft, family and friends.

Fikay works with a Cambodian organisation that provides microloans to local women to buy sewing machines. The company pays them "fair wages" to make bags, satchels and wallets: in a country where the minimum wage is $80 a month, Fikay's workers earn an average of $150 to $250.

"We pay a fair, competitive wage to local villagers who create our bags out of locally sourced, recycled materials," says Jones. "This gives them the opportunity to learn valuable skills that permit them to have a sustainable, effective way out of poverty."

For every sale, Fikay makes a contribution to a school in Siem Reap, in north-west Cambodia – where eight of the workers are based – providing stationery and helping with school fees. Jones's dream is to build schools in the areas where his workers are based.

When Fikay launched, Jones flew stock from Vietnam to the UK. It was quick and easy, but expensive and damaging to the environment, he says. Now, he transports the products by bus from Cambodia to Vietnam, which has better freight-shipping facilities. Then around 80% of his goods make a 30-40 day journey by boat to Tilbury docks, in Essex, with the remaining 20% travelling by air.

"Transporting by boat is trickier to plan," says Jones. "But since 90% of the business is wholesale at the moment, it's OK. If I get an order for 600 to 1,000 units wholesale, then, typically, that has a lead-in time of two months."

As well as being better for the environment, the cost savings are huge, with transport by boat costing as little as $2 (£1.25) a kilogramme, compared with about $9 by air.

Fikay has started selling wholesale to retailers in Russia, Italy and Greece, and is launching a crowdfunding project to sell its first recycled-packaging guitar cases. Jones is also working with an NGO to expand into Rwanda and Uganda.

"When I started Fikay, I knew I wanted to try to make money – but not at any cost," says Jones. "We have made a strategic decision from day one to take ethical responsibility for every part of our supply chain and we want our logistic arrangements to build communities as well as making commercial sense."

Find out how you can enter our Small Business Showcase here. All entries that meet the criteria are published online.

Small Business ShowcaseSmall Business Showcase ShortlistedNick Meadtheguardian.com © 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


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Post-crash economics: some common fallacies about austerity

Propositions in economics are rarely absolutely true or false – what is true in some circumstances may be false in others

The period since 2008 has produced a plentiful crop of recycled economic fallacies, mostly falling from the lips of political leaders. Here are my four favourites.

The Swabian Housewife: "One should simply have asked the Swabian housewife," said German chancellor Angela Merkel after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. "She would have told us that you cannot live beyond your means."

This sensible-sounding logic currently underpins austerity. The problem is that it ignores the effect of the housewife's thrift on total demand. If all households curbed their expenditures, total consumption would fall, and so, too, would demand for labour. If the housewife's husband loses his job, the household will be worse off than before.

The general case of this fallacy is the "fallacy of composition": what makes sense for each household or company individually does not necessarily add up to the good of the whole. The particular case that John Maynard Keynes identified was the "paradox of thrift": if everyone tries to save more in bad times, aggregate demand will fall, lowering total savings, because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth.

If the government tries to cut its deficit, households and firms will have to tighten their purse strings, resulting in less total spending. As a result, however much the government cuts its spending, its deficit will barely shrink. And if all countries pursue austerity simultaneously, lower demand for each country's goods will lead to lower domestic and foreign consumption, leaving all worse off.

The government cannot spend money it does not have: This fallacy – often repeated by British prime minister David Cameron – treats governments as if they faced the same budget constraints as households or companies. But governments are not like households or companies. They can always get the money they need by issuing bonds.

But won't an increasingly indebted government have to pay ever-higher interest rates, so that debt-service costs eventually consume its entire revenue? The answer is no: the central bank can print enough extra money to hold down the cost of government debt. This is what so-called quantitative easing does. With near-zero interest rates, most western governments cannot afford not to borrow.

This argument does not hold for a government without its own central bank, in which case it faces exactly the same budget constraint as the oft-cited Swabian housewife. That is why some eurozone member states got into so much trouble until the European Central Bank rescued them.

The national debt is deferred taxation: According to this oft-repeated fallacy, governments can raise money by issuing bonds, but, because bonds are loans, they will eventually have to be repaid, which can be done only by raising taxes. And, because taxpayers expect this, they will save now to pay their future tax bills. The more the government borrows to pay for its spending today, the more the public saves to pay future taxes, cancelling out any stimulatory effect of the extra borrowing.

The problem with this argument is that governments are rarely faced with having to "pay off" their debts. They might choose to do so, but mostly they just roll them over by issuing new bonds. The longer the bonds' maturities, the less frequently governments have to come to the market for new loans.

More important, when there are idle resources (for example, when unemployment is much higher than normal), the spending that results from the government's borrowing brings these resources into use. The increased government revenue that this generates (plus the decreased spending on the unemployed) pays for the extra borrowing without having to raise taxes.

The national debt is a burden on future generations: This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious. The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.

But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations. Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred. They will be worse off. But you will be better off. This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.

The principle is exactly the same when the holders of the national debt are foreigners (as with Greece), though the political opposition to repayment will be much greater.

Economics is luxuriant with fallacies, because it is not a natural science like physics or chemistry. Propositions in economics are rarely absolutely true or false. What is true in some circumstances may be false in others. Above all, the truth of many propositions depends on people's expectations.

Consider the belief that the more the government borrows, the higher the future tax burden will be. If people act on this belief by saving every extra pound, dollar, or euro that the government puts in their pockets, the extra government spending will have no effect on economic activity, regardless of how many resources are idle. The government must then raise taxes – and the fallacy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So how are we to distinguish between true and false propositions in economics? Perhaps the dividing line should be drawn between propositions that hold only if people expect them to be true and those that are true irrespective of beliefs. The statement, "if we all saved more in a slump, we would all be better off," is absolutely false. We would all be worse off. But the statement, "the more the government borrows, the more it has to pay for its borrowing," is sometimes true and sometimes false.

Or perhaps the dividing line should be between propositions that depend on reasonable behavioural assumptions and those that depend on ludicrous ones. If people saved every extra penny of borrowed money that the government spent, the spending would have no stimulating effect. True. But such people exist only in economists' models.

EconomicsEconomicsAusterityGovernment borrowingRobert Skidelskytheguardian.com © 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


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Merkel praises Greek government efforts as troika leaves Athens without a deal

KathimeriniMerkel praises Greek government efforts as troika leaves Athens without a dealKathimeriniOne day ahead of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's two-day visit to Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday hailed his administration's efforts to contain the nation's deficits. However, the Wall Street Journal reports, Merkel warned ...Greek government insists end of austerity is in sightThe GuardianInternational lenders say questions remain over Greek reform progressReutersGreek economy seen contracting less this yearSan Diego 6Fox News -Washington Postall 185 news articles »

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Greece doubles budget surplus forecast

Greece more than doubled its forecast for a primary surplus this year.

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Greece faces no 'acute' financing pressure, says IMF

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it saw no near-term "acute" financing pressures on Greece under its international bailout program. "We believe that Greece's financing needs in the coming months can be met from the existing liquidity buffer ...

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Greece say fair play saved Romania from World Cup forfeit

By Graham Wood ATHENS (Reuters) - An act of sportsmanship by Greece coach Fernando Santos and team director Takis Fyssas saved Romania from the possibility of a forfeited 3-0 defeat in the first leg of their World Cup playoff last week, they claimed on Thursday. The Greeks said they alerted Romanian officials before the game in Athens after they named only two goalkeepers because first choice ...

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Greek government insists end of austerity is in sight

2014 budget presented to parliament ahead of meeting between prime minister Antonis Samaras and Angela Merkel

Amid growing political tensions at home – and increasing exasperation in Europe – the Greek government insisted today that it was finally exiting years of recession as it presented parliament with its 2014 budget.

Ahead of a highly anticipated meeting between the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and the EU's most powerful leader, Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel, Athens' ruling alliance announced that it expected the country's defunct economy to grow by 0.6% next year

"The sacrifices of the Greek people are paying off," said the deputy finance minister, Christos Staikouras, after finance minister Yannis Stournaras had submitted the bill, adding that the debt-stricken nation would – for the first time in more than a decade – post a primary surplus in 2013.

In further good news, Staikouras revealed that the budget balance – exclusive of interest payments – was expected to exceed €810m, a long-cherished target that would make the country eligible for much needed debt relief. At almost €320bn, Greece's gargantuan debt load is by far the highest in the western world.

Presentation of the 250-page budget came as Athens concluded strained negotiations with the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international bodies that have kept its economy afloat with bailouts worth €240bn since May 2010.

After more than two months of on-off talks, the lenders – known collectively as the "troika" – wrapped up a quarterly review of Greece's economic programme saying that while progress had been made, "a few issues remained outstanding".

Elsewhere, the criticism was more blunt. "Many finance ministers of the Eurozone are starting to lose patience [with Greece]," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch Eurogroup president, echoing the growing disgruntlement that has returned to haunt the country's ties with its creditors.

In sharp contrast to other rescued nations on the periphery of Europe, "Greece still has plenty of work to do", he told the Greek daily Ta Nea, referring to mass layoffs in the public sector, privatisations and other structural reforms Athens has so far put off adopting.

Much of the rancour has focused on the size of a fiscal gap which by 2014 the troika estimates could be as much as €2.9bn. The budget black hole, which opens the prospect of yet more austerity being imposed on a population that has already seen its disposable income drop by 40% since the eruption of the crisis, has placed Samaras's two-party coalition under increasing pressure.

With a four-seat majority in the 300-seat house, MPs have signalled they will vote down extra measures if called upon to pass them. In addition to slashing 25,000 civil servant jobs by 2015, foreign lenders are demanding that the government dismantle the country's loss-making defence industry, close more than 100 public sector organisations and enact a new round of across-the-board pay and pension cuts.

This week, in one of the most dramatic signs of the toll the debt drama has had, the National School of Public Health said the life expectancy of Greeks had dropped from 81 to 78 years since the crisis began. Unemployment is over 27% and poverty levels have also shot up.

In a climate that has become increasingly volatile, the prospect of further belt-tightening has not only sent tensions soaring within the government – which narrowly survived a no-confidence motion on 10 November – but has been met with bitter hostility from the anti-austerity political opposition, led by the radical left Syriza party, currently frontrunner in polls.

Yesterday the party's leader, Alexis Tsipras, joined cleaners protesting against dismissals outside the finance ministry where he vowed that "when we are in government, together we will clean the troika away".

With the rhetoric at such heights, the ruling coalition is refusing outright to implement further cuts.

Stournaras, who has described fresh measures as "dangerous and unnecessary", is adamant the shortfall can be covered by improved tax collection and better management of the social security system.

In a bid to defuse the stand-off, Samaras is expected to appeal to Merkel to intervene when he holds talks with the German chancellor in Berlin on Friday. The prime minister will tell Europe's most powerful leader that Greece's political stability will be put at risk if it is made to adopt more austerity, aides said. On the eve of the talks Merkel sounded upbeat, telling a business conference that changes Greece had implemented were "absolutely remarkable".

But her spokesman warned against over expectation, saying Samaras's visit to Berlin was more about informing the leader than negotiating with her.

GreeceEuropeAusterityEconomicsEuropean Central BankEuropean UnionInternational Monetary Fund (IMF)Helena Smiththeguardian.com © 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


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Greece Doubles Estimate of 2013 Budget Surplus

But the reforms have come at a cost: Greece's economy is now in its sixth year of a deep recession—with only an anemic recovery forecast for 2014—that has shaved a quarter off economic output and sent unemployment to 27%. Mr. Samaras ...

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Liverpool Confident Of Beating Arsenal To Signature Of Prolific Greek Striker ...

IBTimes.co.ukLiverpool Confident Of Beating Arsenal To Signature Of Prolific Greek Striker ...caughtoffsideLiverpool are hopeful of beating off stiff competition in order to sign Olympiacos front man Kostas Mitroglou in a cut-price deal worth just £7 million when the winter transfer window opens again for business in the new year, according to reports in ...Liverpool Plan January Bid for Free-Scoring Greek Striker - ReportIBTimes.co.ukKostas Mitroglou Reportedly Set for Liverpool Transfer Bid in JanuaryBleacher Reportall 10 news articles »

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Eurozone ministers are 'losing patience' with Greece

Washington PostEurozone ministers are 'losing patience' with GreeceBBC NewsEurozone finance ministers are losing patience with Greece, said the head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, as the country submitted its 2014 budget. Greece will exit its six-year long recession next year with 0.6% growth, the budget said.Greece predicts end of recession, slight return to growth in 2014Washington PostGreece Doubles Estimate of 2013 Budget SurplusWall Street JournalGreece submits 2014 budget amid troika tensionsDeutsche WelleDaily Mailall 152 news articles »

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Greece sees higher budget surplus, still at odds with lenders

Greece more than doubled its forecast for a budget surplus before interest payments this year, hinting at light at the end of the tunnel for its battered economy and boosting its chances of securing more leeway on its debts to the EU and IMF. In a revised budget plan for 2014, Athens confirmed it would emerge from a six-year recession with growth of 0.6 percent next year. Athens also predicted a ...

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Greece to submit 2014 budget without rubber stamp from troika

KathimeriniGreece to submit 2014 budget without rubber stamp from troikaKathimeriniAnother round of talks between the troika and Greek government officials in Athens on Wednesday failed to yield any results and, as a result, Greece is due to submit its 2014 budget to Parliament on Thursday without the final approval of its lenders ...

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Vanishing Cyprus: Poisoned Loans

While citizens across the Eurozone are squeezed with crippling austerity measures, today’s 28 million unemployed prove that EU policies have not worked for the greater good of the people. Realistically, employment was never a part of the EU master plan but domination was! Fusing independent nations into a supranational corporation controlled by bureaucracy and governed […]

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Dijsselbloem: “Losing Patience” With Greece

Eurozone finance ministers are “losing patience” with Greece, Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a Greek daily, as the crisis-hit country prepared to unveil its next budget on Thursday. “Many finance ministers of the eurozone are starting to lose patience,” Dijsselbloem told Ta Nea daily after a lecture in The Hague on Wednesday. A statement issued […]

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Greece Sees End of Recession in 2014

Six years into a deep recession and with the economy still shrinking, and 3 1/2 years after $325 billion in international bailouts, Greece should – maybe – begin to see growth again in 2014, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said just before presenting the budget to Parliament. That came, however, as envoys from the country’s […]

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Europe’s “Hope Ceiling”

By Ioannis Patrikakis* The current state of affairs in the Euro zone clashes with the basic principles of Aristotelian Ethics philosophy. Aristotle is describing a “flourishing state of the mind,” (Evdaimonia), as the perfect aspiration for all human beings. After the Greek bond bubble ended chaotically in 2009 and the irresponsible former Greek finance minister–George […]

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Greece Submits 2014 Budget as Troika Leaves Athens

Greece submitted its 2014 budget plan forecasting a bigger surplus before interest costs this year than previously ... transfers received from the euro area corresponding to European Central Bank profits on Greek bonds, which are not accounted ...

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The Greek Merchant Fleet is “Sinking”

The Greek Merchant Fleet is “Sinking”Greek Reportership owners According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the merchant vessels that are registered at the Greek merchant navy hardly reach the number of 1,909. This number shows that there was a loss in the power of the Greek merchant navy ...

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Greek budget predicts higher surplus, maintains growth target

After nearly going bankrupt and crashing out of the euro zone last year, Athens has been buoyed by more ... of raising 3.56 billion euros from privatisations next year. Greece's EU/IMF lenders have yet to sign off on the country's latest budget plan.

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Greek budget predicts higher primary surplus this year

Athens also confirmed its economy would return to growth next year after a six-year recession, posting growth of 0.6 percent. Posting a primary surplus makes Athens eligible for debt relief from international lenders that have bailed out the ...

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Greece predicts slight return to growth in 2014

ATHENS, Greece—Greece's deputy finance minister says the economy is expected to emerge from its recession and grow slightly next year.

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Greece, No Austerity Budget

Greece, No Austerity BudgetNPRAudio for this story from Morning Edition will be available at approximately 9:00 a.m. ET. In Greece, the government is submitting its 2014 budget to Parliament. That's despite still being locked in negotiations with the country's international ...

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Greece: Marathon of safety

MSCI has reclassified Greece as an emerging market. How should investors react?

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Move to bring Greek ex-minister to court

Prosecutor proposes Papaconstantinou face trial on charges of tampering with memory device containing a list of alleged tax evaders

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Greek government forecasts smaller economic contraction this year as it presents budget

ATHENS, Greece - Greece's deputy finance minister says the economy is projected to contract by 4 per cent this year, slightly less than the originally expected 4.5 per cent. Christos Staikouras says the improved figure was the result of "tough sacrifices ...

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Greek budget shows economy projected to shrink 4 percent in 2013 against original 4.5 percent

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Greek Economy Seen Contracting Less This Year

Greek ReporterGreek Economy Seen Contracting Less This YearABC NewsGreece's deputy finance minister says the economy is projected to contract by 4 percent this year, slightly less than the originally expected 4.5 percent. Christos Staikouras says the improved figure was the result of "tough sacrifices made by the ...Greek Road Fund ClosureGreek ReporterGreek budget submitted before deal with creditorsWNCNInternational lenders say questions remain over Greek reform progressYahoo!7 NewsFox News -Washington Post -Irish Timesall 56 news articles »

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Greek government submits budget but deal with international creditors still elusive

Greece's government has submitted its 2014 budget to Parliament despite still not having reached a deal with international creditors on what austerity measures need to be taken next year.

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Questions remain over Greek reform progress

Some issues remain open on Greece's progress in economic reform, international lenders said today, after an examination of the country's efforts to meet conditions needed to secure further financial aid. The European Commission, the European Central Bank ...

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Seven sentenced over Olympia robbery in Greece

Seven men were sentenced by a Greek court on Wednesday in connection with a high-profile museum robbery in Olympia last year, a judicial source said. In February 2012, armed thieves broke into a museum dedicated to the ancient Olympic Games and made off w... ...

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Mayor's murderers finally off municipal payroll

More than three years after they were convicted for the murder of the mayor of Pangaio, in Greece's northern Kavala region, to which they had confessed, two municipal workers have finally been laid off and deprived of their monthly salary, Kathimerini und... ...

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Troika inspectors see progress in talks, set for return early December

Greece's international lenders on Thursday hailed progress in talks with the country's officials on demanded austerity measures, noting however that a number of issues “remain outstanding.” The EU/IMF team will return to Athens next month. Here is the tro... ...

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Issues with Greek economic reform remain

Some issues remain open on Greece's progress in economic reform, international lenders said this morning. The comments came after an examination of the country's efforts to meet conditions needed to secure further financial aid. The Troika of the European ...

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EU ministers 'losing patience' with Greece: Eurogroup

Eurozone finance ministers are "losing patience" with Greece, Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a Greek daily as the crisis-hit country prepared to unveil its next budget on Thursday. "Many finance ministers of the eurozone are starting to lose ...

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McGinty Statement on Greek Issues

HARRISBURG, Pa. --- Katie McGinty, Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, today released the following statement on key issues affecting Greece: With more than 56,000 residents of Greek descent, Pennsylvania ranks among the top 10 states for ...

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Students in Greece say they have been abandoned

Students in Greece say they have been abandonedCyprus MailCYPRIOT university students in Greece said yesterday they could not secure the necessary paperwork to complete their government grants, scholarships or student loan applications because of the ongoing strikes in Athens and accused the education ...

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Construction to bring new Greek housing

Construction to bring new Greek housingLSU The ReveilleAs a handful of construction projects are wrapping up this semester, bigger projects are on the horizon including new plans for Greek housing and another new residential hall. The majority of projects still in planning phases have completion dates set ...

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Student Affairs surveys diversity of Greek life

Student Affairs surveys diversity of Greek lifeDaily Trojan OnlineThe Office for Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Development, a department of USC Student Affairs, is conducting a survey among the Greek councils in order to “assess the perception of diversity and tolerance in the Greek community” and allow the ...Fraternities, sororities see record number of studentsUTA The ShorthornSororities, fraternities fight against stereotypesStateHornet.comall 5 news articles »

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Greek festival helps students learn history

The sights, smells and sounds of ancient Greece filled the halls of Salisbury Academy creating a hands-on experience in which the curriculum came to life during the Greek Festival. After a unit of integrated study, second- and sixth-grade ...

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Atlantis rewrites Greek mythology as a fun fantasy adventure

Atlantis rewrites Greek mythology as a fun fantasy adventureA.V. ClubSince 2007, TV Club has dissected television episode by episode. Beginning this September, The A.V. Club will also step back to take a wider view in our new TV Reviews section. With pre-air reviews of new shows, returning favorites, and noteworthy ...

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Santos keen to discuss Greece contract

Santos keen to discuss Greece contractSBSSantos's contract is due to expire before the finals, but he is keen to continue his good work after Greece achieved back-to-back FIFA World Cup qualifications for the first time. "We are in Brazil and we are pleased," he said after the second-leg draw ...Santos ready to discuss new Greece contractAustralian FourFourTwoall 2 news articles »

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Santos: It is a victory for the Greek people

Fifa.comSantos: It is a victory for the Greek peopleFifa.com"I know that this qualification is important to me, for the players, but also for the Greek people," said Santos. "It is a message of hope and faith. Belief in our abilities and hope that the wheel will turn and we will find ourselves overcoming the ...Greece World Cup ticket "victory for Greek people" - SantosYahoo Singapore NewsRomania 1 Greece 1 (agg 2-4): Greeks survive freak own goal to seal ...Daily MailVictorious Greek Team's Warm Welcome HomeGreek Reporterall 188 news articles »

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Vatican unveils restored catacomb with frescoes showing 'female priests'

Women depicted in scenes show they were priests, say activists; they were just praying like everyone else, says Holy See

The Vatican has unveiled newly restored frescoes in the catacombs of Priscilla, known for housing the earliest known image of the Madonna and child, and frescoes said by some to show women priests in the early Christian church.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, presided over the opening of the "cubicle of Lazzaro", a tiny burial chamber featuring fourth-century images of Biblical scenes, the apostles Peter and Paul, and one of the early Romans buried there in stacks, as was common in the age of antiquity.

The labyrinthine cemetery complex stretching for miles under northern Rome is known as the queen of the catacombs because it features burial chambers of popes and a tiny, delicate fresco of the Madonna nursing Jesus dating from around AD230-240., the earliest known image of the Madonna and child

More controversially, the catacombs feature two scenes said by proponents of the women's ordination movement to show female priests: one in the ochre Greek chapel features a group of women celebrating a banquet, said to be the banquet of the eucharist. Another fresco in a richly decorated burial chamber features a woman, dressed in a dalmatic – a cassock-like robe – with her hands up in the position used by priests for public worship.

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, which includes women who have been excommunicated by the Vatican for participating in purported ordination ceremonies, holds the images up as evidence that there were female priests in the early Christian church.

But Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent of the Vatican's sacred archaeology commission, said such a reading of the frescoes was pure "fable, a legend".

Even though the catacombs' official guide says there is "a clear reference to the banquet of the holy eucharist" in the fresco, Bisconti said the scene of the banquet wasn't a eucharistic banquet but a funeral banquet. He said that even though women were present, they weren't celebrating mass.

Bisconti said the other fresco of the woman with her hands up in prayer was just that – a woman praying. "These are readings of the past that are a bit sensationalistic but aren't trustworthy," he said.

Asked about the scenes, Ravasi professed ignorance and referred comment to Bisconti. The Vatican has restricted the priesthood for men, arguing that Jesus chose only men as his apostles.

The Priscilla catacombs are being featured in a novel blending of antiquity and modern technology. For the first time, Google Maps has gone into the Roman catacombs, providing a virtual tour of the Priscilla complex.

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Florence gears up for 63rd Greek Food and Pastry Sale

Florence gears up for 63rd Greek Food and Pastry SaleWBTW - Myrtle Beach and Florence SCFLORENCE, S.C.---The Transfiguration of Savior Greek Orthodox Church will kick off their 63rd annual Greek Food and Pastry Sale on Thursday afternoon. The sale features thousands of delicious Greek pastries—from baklava to ├ęclairs and more, and has ...and more »

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Liverpool prepare £7million bid for Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou

Mirror.co.ukLiverpool prepare £7million bid for Greece striker Kostas MitroglouMirror.co.ukHe has scored four hat tricks this season - one fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo - and has bagged a stunning 14 goals in 10 league games for his club, as well as six for Greece in his last seven matches. He first came to Rodgers' attention as a star at the ...

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Ancient Greek gears: the mystery of the first computer

Ancient Greek gears: the mystery of the first computerIrish Times (blog)On examination, the bronze lump turned out to be a complex assemblage of gears, a mechanical device previously unknown in Greek civilisation. Inscribed signs of the Zodiac suggested that it was probably for astronomical rather than navigation purposes.

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World Cup fever grips Greece after draw

Daily MailWorld Cup fever grips Greece after drawTVNZ"You have made us super proud" and "Greece go worldwide" were just two of the jubilant headlines splashed across the front pages of Greece's sports papers today, as the country celebrated qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals. A 1-1 draw in the ...Romania 1 Greece 1 (agg 2-4): Greeks survive freak own goal to seal ...Daily MailGreece qualifies for 2014 World Cup with 1-1 draw in RomaniaKathimeriniRomania 1-1 Greece (agg 2-4): Ethniki seal Brazil berthGoal.comUEFA.com -CBC.caall 184 news articles »

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Larissa: Candidate for European Green Capital 2016

Larissa, the largest city and capital of the Thessaly region in Greece, is among the 12 cities from 11 different countries that have entered the EU competition to become European Green Capital 2016. Mayor Costas Tzanakoulis declares that Larissa has put forth many efforts to improve the environmental conditions. An eventual distinction could offer many […]

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