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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

PAOK draws 1-1 at crosstown rival Aris

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — An own goal by Haris Economopoulos gave PAOK a 1-1 draw against Aris in the Greek league Sunday.


Olaitan wins Greek title with Olympiacos

SuperSportOlaitan wins Greek title with OlympiacosSuperSportNigerian midfielder, Michael Olaitan collected his first Greek championship medal with Olympiacos on Saturday as Thrylos wrapped up the title with five games to spare. Olympiacos defeated Panthrakikos 2-0 at Stadio Georgios Karaiskáki after goals from ...Michael Olaitan: Eye on Nigeria's World Cup PartyTHISDAY Liveall 3 news articles »


Greek Authorities Investigate Caratzas, Likely for Espionage

Greek-American publisher and business consultant Aristide D. Caratzas is being investigated by the Greek Justice Department for reasons unknown to him and undisclosed to him by the authorities, he told TNH, even as the authorities searched his home on March 14 and seized a number of documents. Most likely, Caratzas, who consults various Israeli companies […]

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The Greek in One Arts Plaza closed

The Greek in One Arts Plaza closedDallas Morning News (blog)He added that the Greek's closure will not affect Jorge's business. One Arts will announce two new restaurants — one local, one national — “soon,” says spokesman Hamilton Sneed. Those two restaurants will replace the Greek and Cafe des Artistes.


Greece protests over government plans to sell off historic national buildings

The GuardianGreece protests over government plans to sell off historic national buildingsThe GuardianGreece's cultural gems have become the focus of renewed protest on the streets of Athens following the cash-strapped government's announcement of plans to include prime properties around the Acropolis, and other landmark buildings, in its privatisation ...


New Polls Cause Stir in Greek Political Scene

Recent opinion polls have been a cause for irritation for the leadership of SYRIZA. The polls that have been published during the


Kudos To You On Toronto Greek Heritage Month

I would like to extend our gratitude to Ethnikos Kyrix/The National Herald for highlightingsignificant events organized by the Greek Community of Toronto in recent months.

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Restarted Greek Toll Roads Cash Cows

Tolls from four major highways on which construction stopped for two years during a crushing economic crisis brought in 1.25 billion euros for Greece.

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Ukraine's fallen statues of Lenin are not just a rejection of Russia

Some attack them and others guard them. Yet if Ukrainians looked at Yugoslavia, they'd see neither Russia nor the EU is the way forward

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Lenin.

Back in 2011 Ukraine was preparing to host Euro 2012. The government decided to release a promotional video titled Switch On Ukraine. Among the sites shown in the video was Liberty Square in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv. But something was missing. When the sun rose over the square, instead of an 8.5 metre-high statue of Lenin there was only an empty plinth. Someone had digitally erased the politically problematic icon.

In 2013 another statue of Lenin, this time in Kiev's central plaza – once known as October Revolution Square and now known as Euromaidan – was smashed by angry protesters using sledgehammers. Many have correctly identified this as the key point in Ukraine's political crisis. According to one estimate, of the nearly 1,500 Lenin memorials across Ukraine, protesters have destroyed around 100 of them, from Poltava to Chernihiv, from Zhytomyr to Khmelnytskyi.

This is nothing new of course. During the very beginning of the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia, I remember vividly how communist and anti-fascist monuments were torn down by nationalists who believed that democracy had finally arrived. Some urinated on them, others blew them up. In the period from 1990 to 2000 at least 3,000 monuments were torn down in Croatia alone.

Is the monument mayhem in Ukraine any different? It is: last week, residents of Kharkiv – the same town where the symbolic erasure of Lenin started in 2011 – installed barricades around the statue of Lenin after fending off an attack by Euromaidan revolutionaries. Even if the protesters weren't defending the image of Lenin so much as exhibiting their attachment to Putin this is a remarkable state of affairs.

To return to the former Yugoslavia for the moment: according to the last statistics from the World Bank, the unemployment rate among young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 57.9%. This ex-Yugoslav state is not yet part of the European Union, but is already approaching Greece's 60% rate. The newest member of the EU, neighbouring Croatia, is third in the union when it comes to youth unemployment, at 52%.

So this is what we got by getting rid of communism and entering the EU. Croatia and Slovenia are part of the EU, but according to the latest news, Russia's Rosneft hopes to take over Croatian oil and gas firm INA along with its Slovenian counterpart Petrol. In another ex-Yugoslav state, Serbia, Gazprom is already present and holds 56% shares of the Petroleum Industry of Serbia.

Here, an insight from Hegel's Philosophy of History might be useful. He said that "by repetition that which at first appeared merely a matter of chance and contingency becomes a real and ratified existence". What Hegel teaches us is the following: the first act of "erasing" Lenin in Kharkiv, in 2011, wasn't a matter of chance but an indication of thing to come – the real demolition of Kiev's Lenin in 2013. Similarly, the total failure of the "transition" of ex-Yugoslav states from communism to the "democratic" EU might well prefigure the real failure of Ukraine's "transition".

The current fight in Ukraine is not only a fight over closer ties with Russia or the EU. It's – even if the protesters don't realise it – a fight over Lenin's heritage.

Some 75 years ago, Leon Trotsky described the situation as though he was writing about today's deadlock: "Ukraine is in a state of confusion: where to turn? What to demand? This situation naturally shifts the leadership to the most reactionary Ukrainian cliques who express their 'nationalism' by seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or another in return for a promise of fictitious independence."

So what was his answer? A united, free and independent worker's and peasants's Ukraine.

It is for this reason the spectre of Lenin is still haunting Europe: the fallen statues all around Ukraine don't symbolise merely Putin's Russia or the failed project of communism. They demonstrate, through correspondences with fallen statues elsewhere, that neither Russia nor the EU can be the answer.

UkraineRussiaEuropean UnionEuropeSerbiaCroatiaBosnia-HerzegovinaSrećko © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Ancient Greek Trireme Used for the Movie “300″

Greek ReporterAncient Greek Trireme Used for the Movie “300″Greek ReporterOlympia trireme If you decide to watch the movie “300: Rise of an Empire” you will see a replica of the ancient trireme “Olympias.” One might wonder how the filmmakers were able to make an exact replica. The truth is that they asked the Greek Navy to ...


Ukraine and Russia agree truce as Crimea votes in referendum

Brief respite for beleaguered troops as Ukraine defence minister strikes deal with Russia's Black Sea fleet and defence ministry Ukraine denounces referendum: all the latest - live

Russia and Ukraine have agreed a truce in Crimea until 21 March, Ukraine's acting defence minister has announced, in a move that appears to reduce tensions between Moscow and the western-backed government in Kiev.

Speaking on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting, Ukraine's acting defence minister, Ihor Tenyukh, said the deal has been struck with Russia's Black Sea fleet and the Russian defence ministry.

"No measures will be taken against our military facilities in Crimea during that time," he added. "Our military sites are therefore proceeding with a replenishment of reserves."

The agreement provides some respite for Ukraine's beleaguered troops, who have been trapped on their military bases and naval ships since Russian forces began occupying the peninsula on 27 February. Ukrainian soldiers have been encircled ever since, in some cases without electricity. Local residents have smuggled in food to them amid a nervous standoff with the Russian military.

But there seems little doubt that Ukrainian forces will be evicted from Kremlin-controlled Crimea once the truce expires on Friday. Crimea's deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliyev, said on Sunday troops would be given safe passage out. He predicted that eastern Ukraine would be next to join Russia.

"Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv have the same situation (as in Crimea). Seventy-five per cent of people want to join Russia in eastern Ukraine," he told journalists near the parliament building in Simferopol.

There was further turmoil in Donetsk when pro-Russian protesters stormed the prosecutor's office and removed the Ukrainian flag from the roof raising a Russian flag in its place. Riot police deployed to protect the building made little effort to stop the crowd, which later dispersed.

The government in Kiev has accused Moscow of deliberately stirring up tensions in the east by bussing in professional activists and provocateurs from across the border. In a series of ominous statements, Russia's foreign ministry has said it may be forced to act to "protect" ethnic Russians – an expression that appears to provide a rationale for future military incursions.

On Sunday, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said he was concerned about the escalation of tensions in the south and south-eastern regions of Ukraine, Reuters reported.He blamed the febrile mood on "radical forces" acting with the "connivance of the current Kiev authorities". The Kremlin refuses to recognise Kiev's temporary government that it says came to power on the back of a "fascist" coup.

Putin telephoned the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Sunday and told her the referendum in Crimea, condemned by the west, complied with international law. Putin and Merkel reportedly agreed that more observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should be deployed in east Ukraine. Existing observers were refused entry to Crimea by pro-Russian checkpoint guards.

But on Saturday, Russia vetoed a US-drafted motion in the UN security council in New York, which had declared the Crimea referendum invalid. China – a consistent ally of Moscow –abstained.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has promised to take action against separatist "ringleaders" whom, he said, had upended his country's independence "under the cover of Russian troops". He said: "We will find all of them – if it takes one year, two years – and bring them to justice. The ground will burn beneath their feet."

Ther conflict spread from the ground to the internet, with several Nato websites targeted by hackers calling themselves CyberBerkut, after the Ukrainian riot police who were disbanded by the Kiev government. Crimean officials said their referendum website was also hacked.

Pro-unity rallies took place at the Maidan in Kiev on Sunday, the scene of Ukraine's revolution that led to the president, Viktor Yaunkoych, abandoning his office and fleeing to Russia last month. Some of those who attended were Crimeans who opposed secession and who said they had left the peninsula in recent days following threats and pressure.

Antonina Danchuk, 30, who lived in Simferopol until two years ago, and studied Greek and English at its university, described the referendum as a "fake". "It's illegal," she said. "My Crimean friends who are there are afraid to go out and build their own Maidan. They're not voting. People with Russian passports are being allowed to vote."

Danchuk said she was not opposed to Russia , but to Putin and his expansionist policies. "I'm ethnic Russian. But I feel my nationality is Ukrainian. We've stayed in Ukraine for 22 years. We want Putin to leave us alone. We don't want Crimea to be a part of Russia."

Danchuk's mother Larissa, 62, arrived in Kiev on Saturday from Crimea's regional capital, Simferopol, travelling by train. She said she had taken part in anti-secession rallies dressed in the Ukrainian national colours of blue and yellow. She had also taken food to trapped Ukrainian sailors.

"We were protesting outside Simferopol theatre when two cars pulled up. Men with guns got out. They told me: 'If you want to stay alive clear off.' Of course I left. A similar thing happened two days ago at another demonstration next to the [Taras] Shevchenko statue. A man – not local – came up and said: 'What are you doing? Where are your papers?'"

Larissa said she was born in Russia's far east but had lived in Crimea for 37 years. "The whole referendum is taking place at the point of a Kalashnikov. It's improper, and organised by Moscow." She said she did not know how long she would stay out of Crimea but said she wanted to return for her grandson's impending birthday.

Danchuck, her husband Taras and their one-year-old son Lyubomyr had driven to the Maidan in a black saloon car decorated with anti-Putin slogans. One read: "Crimea=Ukraine". Another described the Russian leader as an "executioner". Lyubomyr sat placidly in his pushchair, wearing a yellow and blue scarf, above a sign that read: "Putin is a poo".

Meanwhile, Dave Young, a British expatriate who has lived in Kiev for nine years, turned up at the Maidan on Sunday waving a Union flag with the words: "Ukraine-Great Britain". Young said he was unimpressed by David Cameron's handling of the Ukraine crisis. "His response has been limp and apathetic. He's seemed more concerned with protecting the interests of the City than doing what is right."

Young said he feared the crisis in Ukraine raised profound questions for Europe and its values. He said: "There is a fundamental argument here about the right of a country to decide its future. God knows how long Russia has been planning this action but it's clear they don't want Ukraine to stand as an independent nation."

"The whole of Europe needs to realise this is a pivotal point. After here, what next? If this state falls where next?"

UkraineVladimir PutinEuropeRussiaLuke © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Obligatory Greek Lessons in Occupied Areas of Cyprus

Greek ReporterObligatory Greek Lessons in Occupied Areas of CyprusGreek ReporterGreek language lessons will be obligatory from now on in all elementary schools in the occupied areas of Cyprus. Meanwhile, according to the Athens News Agency-Macedonian News Agency (ANA – MNA), the Supreme Education Council decided to ...


Federation Celebrates 75th, Crowns Miss G.I.

NEW YORK – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York celebrated the 75th anniversary of its establishment with a dinner dance at the Stathakion Center in Astoria on March 8. Earlier in the day Sotiria Irene Sotiropoulos was elected Miss Greek Independence and will grace the Federation’s float along with her sister “Misses” […]

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The Sisyphian Task Of Dealing With The Troika

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who incurred the wrath of the gods and was punished by being compelled to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down.

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With George Osborne's 2014 budget comes the hope of a speedy recovery

Government's remedy and austerity medicine appear to be being swallowed, but this treatment will continue for years

The countdown to the election starts here. For George Osborne, his fifth budget on Wednesday is an opportunity to rehearse the main Conservative theme for 2015: a severe Labour-induced sickness means the economy remains a suitable case for treatment.

This is not quite what Osborne envisaged four years ago. When he took over, the economy was growing briskly and there were hopes that the recession of 2008-09 would be like the others of the post-war era: painful but relatively short lived. It didn't turn out that way.

The economy lost momentum during 2010 and flatlined in 2011 and 2012. It has only been in the past year that the economy has at last shown a bit of vim. For the chancellor, the upturn came in the nick of time.

Sure, he would have preferred an earlier recovery. No question, it would make his life a lot easier had real incomes been rising rather than falling throughout this parliament. But he is encouraged that polling shows the public has more faith in the government's remedy than in any alternative cure and seems prepared to keep swallowing the austerity medicine, even though the treatment will continue deep into the next parliament.

Osborne has been upfront about the state of Britain. It is a poorer country, he says, as a result of the financial and economic crisis of 2007-09. But he has a subsidiary message for voters: "Labour's to blame, not me".

The first part of his argument is true. It will not be until later this year that national output returns to its pre-crash levels, a slower recovery even than in the 1930s. Rising population over the past six years means real living standards have fallen steadily. The only comparable period in living memory is the mid to late 1970s. The post-recession Britain is not only a land of food banks but also where there is a growing army of the working poor.

The notion that this is all Labour's fault, however, is nonsense. The last government made mistakes, some of them real stinkers. But they were mostly sins of omission – such as failing to rein in the City and doing too little to halt the continued decline of manufacturing – rather than sins of commission. The financially-deregulated, debt-driven, London-dominated economy that blew up so spectacularly in 2008 was one Labour inherited rather than created.

Osborne has also made his own mistakes. The deficit reduction programme announced in 2010 was too rapid and too crude, a fact the Treasury has subsequently acknowledged by reversing some of the cuts to infrastructure spending. Bracketing Britain with Greece was harmful to confidence. Putting up VAT was a mistake. The budget squeeze meant monetary policy – interest rates and quantitative easing – has been asked to do too much.

That said, Osborne has been a more subtle chancellor than his critics allow. Slower growth has meant higher than expected deficits throughout this parliament but he has not sought to stick to the plan with even deeper cuts. That has aided the recovery but means the deficit programme now extends almost until the end of the decade.

The case for the chancellor is that he did the best he could in the circumstances. Had he not shown a willingness to get tough with the deficit, the financial markets would have punished Britain. It would have been more difficult to sell government bonds, and this would have pushed up the cost of long-term borrowing. As it is, the commitment to austerity has kept the bond market vigilantes at bay, allowing the Bank of England to keep official interest rates at a record low of 0.5% for the past five years. The pick up has been slow, in part because the British economy is dominated by financial services and in part because of the crisis in the eurozone. The case against Osborne is that austerity has held back recovery but not delivered the promised turnaround in the public finances. In the end, the tough plans of 2010 have been watered down so that they are now similar to the deficit reduction strategy sketched out by Alastair Darling. The bond markets have not come gunning for Britain even after the loss of the AAA credit rating. In the meantime, he has squandered a golden opportunity to use a period of historically low interest rates to borrow for capital projects that would do more to raise the economy's long-term growth rate than all the fiddly tax changes he has announced in his budgets and autumn statements.

Had things gone according to the original plan, this week's budget would have been more generous, with tax cuts designed to whet the appetite for the main course a year hence. With the deficit still running at £100bn a year, Osborne is a bit boxed in. There will, of course, be some feelgood measures but he has to be careful not to scare the markets, not to provoke the Bank of England into early increases in interest rates and not to give the impression to the public that it is job done.

What the chancellor has going for him is an economy that is likely to grow by 3% in the last full year before the election, which should give him a bit more leeway to be generous in the 2014 autumn statement and the 2015 budget. What's more, Osborne is aware that only once since the second world war has a party been returned to office in the first election after losing power, and that was Harold Wilson's minority administration after the three-day week in 1974.

Risks abound. The recovery is vulnerable to a setback, either from an external source such as a war between Ukraine and Russia or a hard landing in China, or as the result of slowing consumer spending caused by weak real income growth. Both Osborne and Mark Carney are uneasy about the fact that the recovery has begun with a massive investment deficit and the balance of payments in such bad shape. Austerity fatigue has not yet set in, but is likely to do so if the recovery falters.

The political risk is that Osborne is reading the voters wrong. Certainly, the electorate is sending out conflicting signals. It senses there was something unhealthy about the pre-crash economic model and that lifestyle changes are needed. It feels that austerity has somehow been deserved even though those primarily responsible are not the ones being hurt. It knows a recovery dependent on rising asset prices is no recovery at all, but is munching on the property bubble happy pills all the same. Analysing what all these guilt complexes and id impulses means for the election requires the skills of a CG Jung rather than a JM Keynes. The economy, it would seem, is not the only suitable case for treatment.

Budget 2014BudgetGeorge OsborneLabourUkraineRussiaMark CarneyAusterityLarry © 2014 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 sends tax inspectors to anger management seminars

Amid violent exchanges between debt-ridden country's people and its mandarins, classes will teach tact and diplomacy

Until Greece's economic meltdown, anger management was an alien concept at the country's finance ministry. Patience and politesse were qualities sorely missing in interactions between Greeks and officials tasked with prying duties out of some of the nation's most talented tax dodgers.

Today these are the buzzwords flying around the ground-floor training room at 1 Handris Street. For tax inspectors attending mandatory seminars at the government building, anger management, like patience and politesse, are now seen as essential prerequisites of an increasingly stressful job.

"Today, in Greece, everyone is either unhappy or angry when they have to go and pay at the tax office," Fotis Kourmouris, a senior official at the finance ministry's public revenues department said. "There is a lot of negative emotion … in the framework of better customer service, classes in psychological and emotional intelligence had become necessary."

An alarming rise in violent incidents against tax officers prompted Athens's fragile two-party coalition to launch the training. With more and more levies being slapped on ordinary Greeks – while the rich and well connected are perceived to get off scot-free – inspectors have found themselves at the sharp end of popular rage. In recent months visiting auditors have been chased out of remote villages, hounded out of towns and booted off islands by an increasingly desperate populace.

"We've had multiple cases of violence at tax offices by angry members of public, including physical assaults; shots were fired in one case, and one attacker came with an axe," said Trifonas Alexiadis, vice-chairman of the national association of employees at state financial services.

Around 4,000 tax office employees are required to attend the EU-funded courses, which cover such challenges as attendees dealing with an imaginary rude-caller moments after their spouse has filed for divorce.

"Every employee who deals with customers will attend them over the next six to eight months," said Kourmouris. "We are not only trying to improve relations but break the vicious cycle. Tax offices blame citizens [for the country's fiscal woes] and citizens blame tax offices for all their problems. It is important that trust is rebuilt."

More than four years after the eruption of Greece's debt crisis, tax evasion remains at the root of its perilous economic state. Government officials put tax arrears at over €60bn (£50m), the equivalent of almost a fifth of public debt.

Although headway has been made in plugging the country's leaky tax collection apparatus – starting with the enforcement of a highly unpopular property tax – catching dodgers is still a tricky business. Wealthy Greeks in particular have become ever more ingenious at escaping the taxman's glare.

In an atmosphere of record poverty and unemployment, the government's failure to bring high-profile tax evaders to justice – despite the identities of around 2,000 suspected Greek tax evaders with bank accounts in Switzerland being revealed – has exacerbated the sense of inequity.

A welter of new tax laws has further fuelled public anger. Since the outbreak of the crisis, close to 30 new levies have been introduced by governments desperate to augment empty state coffers. "Too much pressure is being put on people who can't pay," said Alexiadis, who suggested that in such circumstances the classes were not only ill-conceived but "juvenile and unnecessary".

Standing in line on the first floor of a graffiti-splattered tax office in central Athens, the accountant Heracles Galanakopoulos agreed. "They produce a law that nobody understands and then produce another three to explain it. By the time people get here they are really very angry," he lamented, pointing around the room of bulging paper files and ill-tempered personnel.

"I myself spend at least five or six hours a day reading up on all these new laws and still can't keep up. Anger management is a nice idea but in a system that is so absurd it's not going to make a jot of difference."

GreeceEuropeHelena © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Civil procedure reform in Greece

KathimeriniCivil procedure reform in GreeceKathimeriniCome the end of spring, the long-awaited and much-acclaimed bold reform of Greece's weary civil justice system will at long last be realized and will radically amend the ways that our civil courts operate and their rulings are issued and executed.


How Russians Became Crimea's Largest Ethnic Group, In One Haunting Chart

Crimea may have a majority Russian population today, but it hasn't always been that way.

The peninsula's dark history of ethnic cleansing is visible in the following chart from Reuters.

The chart shows a collapse in the population of native Crimean Tatars from 34.1% in 1987 to zero in 1959, marking brutal harassment leading up to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's forcible deportation of the entire population in 1944, with nearly half dying in the process. It took decades for the population to climb back to 12% by 2001.

While the population of Ukrainians and especially Russians rose, the percentage of the population falling into an unlisted category also fell from more than 20% in 1921 to around 5% in 1959. This was a consequence of the deportation of Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and other groups.

With a history like this — and a similarly tragic history across Ukraine — it's not hard to see why many say it is unfair not to mention illegal to make Crimeans take a referendum on joining Russia.

SEE ALSO: How the West can beat Russia and take back Crimea in the end

Join the conversation about this story »



Rise of far-right in Greece down to economic crisis, says Jean-Marie Le Pen

euronewsRise of far-right in Greece down to economic crisis, says Jean-Marie Le PeneuronewsJean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France's far-right National Front party, has said the rise of Greece's far-right party Golden Dawn is a result of the economic crisis the country is embroiled in. Several Golden Dawn party members face accusations by the ...Golden Dawn MP Quits, Cites “Criminal” ActsGreek ReporterGreek far-right lawmaker deserts Golden Dawn partyReuters UKGreek lawmaker leaves far right Golden Dawn party after 18 years, denounces ...Edmonton JournalThe Times of Israelall 15 news articles »


Golden Dawn MP Quits His “Criminal” Party, Called Coward

The extreme right Golden Dawn party has one of its 18 Members of Parliament who quit, saying he was not aware of its activities.

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Former Tax Chief Says High-Level Tax Cheats Protected

The former head of the Finance Ministry’s tax inspection department said she quit in late 2012 after the government effectively quashed a probe into high-level tax evaders.

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Greece Pushes For Troika Deal

Greece raced to meet a self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement with its international lenders and get a delayed nine million euro installment.

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Olympiakos Takes 41st Soccer Title

Nelson Valdez and David Fuster scored to lead Olympiakos to a 2-0 win over Panthrakikos in the Greek league and its 41st championship.

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Greek State Phone Bill: 285M Euros

The Greek government is setting up an electronic system to monitor the phone calls of all workers and ministers, including the Prime Minister.

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Charges Greece Protected Tax Cheats

The former head of the Finance Ministry’s tax inspection department who quit her post in late 2012 said she did so because


Greece Races To Finish Troika Deal

Greece Races To Finish Troika DealGreek ReporterGovernment officials were talking with the Troika on a series of contentious issues but the obstacles remained the same: 153 unfinished reforms, delays in overhauling the civil service, and a lag in breaking up professional monopolies to make Greece ...


Big Food is in wilful denial about the harm sugar does to our children

Only by improving processed foods can we tackle obesity among the young. Just beware hysteria about fruit

I don't believe that anyone chooses to be fat. The Gallup International survey of 57,000 adults revealed that health is what mattered most in life, followed by a happy family environment. So how can this be reconciled with the statistic that 60% of UK adults and one in three children are overweight or obese?

It is partly because a fundamental misunderstanding among the public – and the scientific community – has interfered with our collective ability to curb this epidemic. The belief that we make our food choices deliberately, and that they reflect our true desires, sustains the status quo and obscures the reality that decisions about the food we consume are often difficult to control.

As Professor Theresa Marteau, director of the behaviour and health research unit at the University of Cambridge points out: "We are heavily influenced by automatic behaviours… where the desire for instant gratification far outweighs less assured and more distant rewards."

It is this instinctive behaviour that has been exploited by a food industry that has handsomely profited from ensuring cheap junk food is available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The further manipulations have been rightly put under scrutiny in recent months, with the exposure of hidden sugars in foods not normally associated as being junk, such as salad dressings and even "low fat" or "healthy" cereals.

A group of interested parties, including myself, launched Action on Sugar this year. Our aim is to press the food industry into reducing added sugar in processed foods. We are not telling you – despite some of the screaming "sugar is toxic" headlines – that bananas and oranges are evil.

The food industry's classic response is to say that the ingredients are listed on the label, knowing full well that many consumers will purchase a food item based upon the way it's promoted, not its nutritional content. The fact that many products in a single portion come close to, if not exceed, the recent World Health Organisation limits of six teaspoons of non-milk extrinsic sugar (NMES) is as clear an indication as any that this issue is way beyond one of simple personal responsibility. Regulation to protect consumers and children is clearly needed.

NMES includes any sugar added to food in processing, as well as fruit juice and smoothies. Fruit juice lacks the fibre of whole fruit, which slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream and makes you feel full more easily. You can easily down a glass of juice made up from six apples and still feel hungry, but try eating more than three whole apples and you'll struggle.

In addition to overwhelming scientific consensus that added sugar is a source of unnecessary calories, there is mounting evidence that the effects of excess consumption are independent of body weight. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine last month revealed that those who consume more than 25% of calories from added sugar trebled their risk of cardiovascular death compared with those who consumed less than 10% from added sugar, even among the non-obese.

However, the industry remains in denial. On BBC Newsnight recently, the president of Coca-Cola Europe said his company's nine sugar-lump laden drink had the same number of calories as half a croissant or a cappuccino. Coca-Cola says that it's OK to consume its "happy" calories as long as you exercise, but this is not in keeping with independent scientific evidence. It matters where the calories are coming from.

The erroneous message that has promoted calorie restriction over good nutrition has proved to be the lottery win for diet companies. In the United States, the weight-loss industry generates a staggering $58bn in revenue annually, despite long-term studies revealing that the majority of individuals regain virtually all of the weight lost during treatment, irrespective of whether they maintain their diet or exercise programme. And such fad dieting that encourages rapid weight loss followed by regain is detrimental to health.

With all the attention on sugar, we mustn't neglect the other dietary villains. The excess consumption of refined carbohydrates found in white bread, pizza bases, burger buns and chips, combined with the excess salt and trans-fats in processed meat, continues to have awful consequences. On Friday, a study revealed that greater access to takeaway shops was associated with a greater body mass index and higher odds of obesity.

The traditional Greek/Mediterranean diet of oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, vegetables and yes, plenty of whole fruit (and, happily, a moderate intake of red wine) has the strongest evidence base for reducing heart attacks, strokes, dementia and cancer. Such a diet, also low in refined carbohydrates, may even be the best for athletic performance, according to one of the most respected sports medicine scientists in the world, Professor Timothy Noakes, of South Africa. Prof Noakes discusses its merits in Cereal Killers, a documentary that has its UK premiere in London tomorrow. It has been adopted by the Australian cricket team under the guidance of their physician, Dr Peter Brukner, and it clearly hasn't done them much harm in their recent performances.

Meanwhile, Big Food continues to peddle pathology with impunity, spending billions targeting children with junk food advertisements and even co-opting "respected" scientific bodies. Last week, Professor Ian McDonald, chair of the UK's Scientific Advisory Committee on nutrition, who has admitted to receiving substantial amounts in research funding from Coca-Cola and Mars, declared that his board will ignore the new guidance from the WHO on sugar limits. How he can continue in his current role when his credibility has been so badly compromised is beyond me.

When I met health secretary Jeremy Hunt a few weeks ago, he said there was no silver bullet to tackling the obesity epidemic and wanted a plan of action. But he already has one. It's been just over a year since Britain's doctors submitted a 10-point plan, following a one-year review of the evidence on policies to tackle the obesity epidemic. These included a tax on sugary drinks, banning junk food advertising to children, restrictions on fast food outlets near schools and compulsory nutritional standards in hospitals.

Not a single proposal has been implemented. Political ideology continues to trump scientific evidence and the interests of Big Food continue to take precedence over our children's health. According to Britain's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, our continued failure to act may result in the first generation of children that will be outlived by their parents. That is a truly chilling prospect that can no longer be ignored.

Aseem Malhotra is a cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar

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