Damian Mac Con Uladh

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Misleading headlines accompany launch of Greece’s guaranteed minimum income scheme

In General, Greek crisis on 15 October 2014 at 12:18 am
Screengrabs of the misleading headlines on the government-controlled ANA news agency

Screengrabs of the somewhat misleading headlines on the government-controlled ANA news agency

It sounded too good to be true: on Tuesday, Greece’s state-run ANA news agency announced that the government was launching a scheme that would ensure “700,000 persons” would receive a guaranteed minimum income.

“Govt presents ‘minimum guaranteed income’ for 700,000 persons,” trumpeted the main story on ANA’s English-language site, while its parent Greek-language site declared “«Δίχτυ ασφαλείας» για 700.000 δικαιούχους ανακοίνωσε η κυβέρνηση”.

On both sites, the story was illustrated with photographs of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, who attended and spoke at the launch of the measure, as did the deputy premier, Evangelos Venizelos, and the labour minister, Yiannis Vroutsis.

“The implementation of the measure will start on a pilot basis in 13 municipalities and will cover a [sic] 7 percent of the population, that is 700,000 persons,” read the ANA wire on the launch. (Or, as it said in in Greek, “Το πρόγραμμα θα εφαρμοστεί πιλοτικά σε 13 δήμους της χώρας και θα καλύψει περίπου το 7% του πληθυσμού δηλαδή 700.000 άτομα.”)

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Loukanikos, Greece’s famous riot dog, barks his last

In General, Greek crisis on 9 October 2014 at 1:17 pm
Loukanikos at a demonstartion on Syntagma Square. 5 October 2011 (Photo: Odysseas Gp/Flickr)

Loukanikos at a demonstartion on Syntagma Square. 5 October 2011 (Photo: Odysseas Gp/Flickr)

The death of Loukanikos, the Greek “riot” or “protest” dog that so fascinated the world’s media for his antics during austerity-fuelled disturbances in Athens city centre, has been announced.

Breaking the news, Avgi, a daily newspaper affiliated with Syriza, said the dog had died peacefully, some months ago, in the home of a man who has cared for him over the years.

So great was the celebrity canine’s fame that he was included in Time magazine’s top 100 personalities of 2011.

The dog, who was found wandering the streets at a young age, was named “Thodoros” by the person who took him in.

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Remembering the Greek Jews who participated in the Auschwitz revolt 70 years ago

In General, Greek history on 7 October 2014 at 10:46 pm
KZ Auschwitz, Einfahrt

Auschwitz, after liberation in 1945 (Photo: German Federal Archives, image 175-04413)

Today marks the 70th anniversary of a revolt by Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in which 60 Greek Jews are believed to have participated and died.

The 1944 uprising was led by members of the Sonderkommando, so-called “special units” comprised predominantly of Jewish inmates whose tasks included the disposal of bodies who had been murdered by the Nazis in the gas chambers of the extermination camp.

Sonderkommando members received special treatment and privileges in return for these compulsory duties. But because they had direct knowledge of the genocide being committed in the camp, they faced certain death as the Nazis followed a policy of gassing special unit members every four months and replacing them with new arrivals to the camps.

The revolt on 7 October 1944 was launched by Sonderkommando members who were aware that their deaths were being scheduled. A few weeks before, some 200 of their number had been tricked into going to the gas chambers, where they were murdered. This left the remaining Sonderkommando teams even more anxious about their fate.

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Cello haze: an Athens cellist’s tribute to Jimi Hendrix

In General on 7 October 2014 at 10:13 am
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Cellist Fernando Nina in front of a mural to Jimi Hendrix, by arist Insane 51, in the northern Athens suburb of Halandri (Photo: Facebook)

Mention the name of the great Jimi Hendrix and what instrument comes to mind? A guitar certainly, but not a cello.

So what happens when you perform some of Hendrix’s masterpieces with an instrument generally associated with chamber music and orchestras?

In a music video produced last month in Athens, Greek cellist Fernando Nina takes Hendrix’s “Purple haze” and blends it with contemporary dance, street art and Hendrix’s own aesthetic.

Entitled “Cello haze”, the video, which also features modern dancer Foteini Passa, was shot on Nea Smyrna Square and in Halandri in front of a mural depicting Hendrix, by street artist Insane 51, at the 9vita Home Bar.

Currently studying in Germany, Fernando (25) has won more than a dozen prizes at international music competitions and has been an Onassis Foundation scholar since 2012.

‘We’re dying to pay our taxes’

In General, Greek crisis on 6 October 2014 at 9:42 am

This is the transcript of a “Reporter’s notebook” piece I did for BBC Radio Scotland’s “Good Morning Scotland” programme that was broadcast on Saturday 4 October 2014. 

Like thousands of citizens, Nikolas Elliniadis had left it to deadline day to go to his bank, in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, to pay the first of six instalments of Greece’s new property tax, the latest levy to hit a population beleaguered after five years of austerity.

Finding a long queue, the 70-year-old pensioner took a number, sat down and prepared himself for a long wait in the crowded room as flustered officials tried to process a last-minute deluge of property tax remittances.

In many cases, these were being paid with pensions that had been distributed only the day before.

An hour and a half later, after saying he wasn’t feeling well, Elliniadis collapsed.

He was having a heart attack. Although his fellow customers and the emergency services did what they could, he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

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Greece is the only EU country without guaranteed minimum income, report finds

In General, Greek crisis on 26 September 2014 at 10:36 am
poverty is the parent of revolution and crime

‘Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime’ – Aristotle. Graffiti in the Exarchia district of Athens (Photo: aestheticsofcrisis/Flickr)

Greece is the only EU country not to have implemented a guaranteed minimum income and is among the most sluggish in adopting programmes to address social inequality and aid citizens living in extreme poverty and social exclusion, a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Office (GPK) has found.

This is despite the fact that six in ten citizens are living in or at risk of poverty, the GPK report (pdf), which was published on Thursday, said.

“The demand for social responsibility on the part of citizens is pronounced but what the state offers is characterised by fragmentation and administrative problems. Thus the social safety net is characterised by inefficiency, while at the same time there is are no expectations that income lost due to the economic downturn will be replenished in the near future,” the report stated.

The government has said that, this month, a new €20m, six-month pilot programme will begin in 13 municipalities which will provide what it says is a minimum income. Monthly payments will range from €200 a month for a single person on no income to €400 for a married couple with two underage children with no other earnings.

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Vassilis Paleokostas: Greece’s Robin Hood?

In General on 25 September 2014 at 10:27 am

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It certainly is the stuff of movies and now that an extensive and gripping feature article detailing his life, bank-robbing and kidnapping exploits and two helicopter prison escapes has appeared on the BBC, fugitive Vassilis Paleokostas (48) could certainly expect that someday his fascinating story could make it to the silver screen.

Researched and written by Los Angeles-based British journalist Jeff Maysh over many months, The Uncatchable takes an immersive approach to explain the biography of a man dubbed Greece’s Robin Hood, because of his legendary habit of distributing the proceeds of his crimes to people in need: from poor farmers, girls needing dowries and migrants.

For the article, Maysh spoke to many people who know Paleokostas, including his father, Leonidas, and Costas Samaras, aka the Artist, who was a mentor to the young Paleokostas and his brother. Alket Rizai, the Albanian hitman who fled with Paleokostas in the second helicopter escape, also spoke to Maysh from his prison cell.

The Trikala-born brigand, who remains at large, would certainly take great pleasure if a movie ever materialised, considering his life-long love for action movies, a passion that developed when his family moved down from the mountains in the 1970s and got electricity for the first time. Indeed, when police swooped in on him in 2008, they found a DVD of Ransom and the Al Pacino movie Heat, about two veteran bank robbers evading the cops.

Golden Dawn figures jailed for attempted murder

In General on 23 September 2014 at 10:38 am
Golden Dawn members outside the migrant detention centre in Corinth. Inset: Vasilis Siatounis (Photo: Ethnos.gr)

Golden Dawn members outside the migrant detention centre in Corinth in 2012. Inset: Vasilis Siatounis (Photo: Ethnos.gr)

An Athens court on Monday handed a former member of Golden Dawn’s central committee and local election candidate for the neonazi party a 11½-year prison sentence after it found him and an accomplice guilty of attempted murder and the possession and use of weapons.

The Athens mixed jury court found Vasilis Siatounis and Athanasios Stratos guilty of participating in a gang attack on the Antipnoia anarchist space in Kato Petralona on 30 June 2008, in which a Greek and a Spanish national were stabbed. Stratos received a 13½-year prison sentence for his role in the attack.

Four people were attending a Spanish language course at the centre, when a man wearing a helmet entered the room yelling “Greetings from Golden Dawn! You’re going to die, w*nkers!” He was followed by a group of 10-15 people holding knives and batons, who, following orders, set about attacking those inside, wounding two people, one of them seriously. According to the prosecutor, the room was left “covered in blood and unrecognisable” after the “cowardly invasion”.

Identifying Stratos as his assailant, one of the victims said he was hit on the head with a chair and was stabbed in the knee and buttocks. He subsequently spent 20 days in hospital and required eight blood transfusions.

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Video shows Golden Dawn’s No 2 teaching children to chant ‘Heil Hitler!’

In General on 22 September 2014 at 10:45 am
Photographs showing a younger Christos Pappas giving a Nazi salute against a Nazi flag backdop surfaced last October. Now a video has emerged of him showing young children how to give fascist salutes (Photo: Ethnos.gr)

Photographs showing a younger Christos Pappas giving a Nazi salute against a Nazi flag backdop surfaced last October. Now a video has emerged of him showing young children how to give fascist salutes (Photo: Ethnos.gr)

The deputy leader of neonazi Golden Dawn instructed young children on how to chant “Heil Hitler” and give the Nazi salute, according to a video recording made public by a leading Sunday newspaper.

In the video clip, published by Kathimerini, Christos Pappas can be heard encouraging a young boy, dressed in a traditional Greek costume and wearing a swastika armband, to say “Heil Hitler” while holding a small Nazi flag.

When the boy does as he is told, Pappas praises him by saying: “Well done, my brave man. Well done, my boy!”

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Samaras’ righthand man used SMS to tell Golden Dawn MPs how to vote

In General on 19 September 2014 at 10:15 am
Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris (L) and former cabinet secretary and close Samaras aide Takis Baltakos (Photo: Star.gr)

Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris (L) and former cabinet secretary and close Samaras aide Takis Baltakos (Photo: Star.gr)

Takis Baltakos, former cabinet secretary and right-hand man of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, maintained direct lines of communication with Golden Dawn, even to the point of instructing the neonazi party on how to vote in parliament and congratulating its MPs for their rowdy behaviour, a daily newspaper has revealed.

Baltakos was forced to resign in April after a video surfaced showing him engaged in what appeared to be a friendly conversation, in his parliamentary office, with leading Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris.

While Baltakos admitted to having “coincidental meetings” with Golden Dawn figures, a series of reports published in the Efimerida ton Syntakton (Efsyn) daily on Thursday and Friday show this interaction was “not limited to social contact and gossip”, according to Efsyn journalist Dimitris Psarras, who has authored a number of books on Golden Dawn.

He said Baltakos sent messages, via a conduit, to Kasidiaris advising him on how Golden Dawn MPs should vote on issues which were dividing the then three-way coalition between New Democracy, Pasok and Democratic Left.

Baltakos relayed his messages via Theodoros Zoubos, a research assistant in Kasidiaris’ parliamentary office. One message, sent by Zoubos to Kasidiaris on 5 February 2013, read: “Takis Michalolias and Takis Baltakos have just been to the office.”

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