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Will Cyprus’ real friends please stand up? February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Oil Crisis.
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It is obvious that the whole issue about liquid gas exploration off the southern coast of Cyprus has been blown out of proportion in a game in which we are new, or even, amateur players.

Yet, Turkey’s insistence to have a say in the whole matter makes one wonder if Ankara knows something we don’t. Or is it simply making a lot of noise as it often does in order to divert world public opinion as far away from its internal troubles as possible.

Asking the experts (and there are only a handful in Cyprus) we can conclude that if there are significant gas reserves, and assuming that these lie along the same strain of gas finds in Egypt’s offshore Nile Delta area, then it will take several years to explore, let alone develop. This would cost Cyprus or any potential partner several billions of dollars to tap and produce, with a return on investment not in our sights for at least 15-20 years.

On the other hand, if Turkey’s threats are to be taken seriously, it’s about time Cyprus asked its true friends to stand by its side. Such friendship is not developed lightly through casual assistance provided during an international crisis, nor by the exchange of diplomatic missions and the subsequent signature of a host of bilateral agreements. It has to be cultivated slowly but surely over a long period of time, something which has obviously been Cyprus’ weak point in its back-seat foreign policy of several decades.

Hiding behind the premise that ever since Cyprus joined the European Union it is obliged to follow a common foreign policy is a lame excuse. Britain, Spain, Poland and Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany and France, are prime examples of the non-implementation of a common foreign policy, which they often manipulate to suit their needs (or that of their trans-Atlantic patrons).

Turkey is a major financier through its state-owned enterprises or private businesses in most of our neighbouring Middle East countries. All Cyprus has is a handful of investors taking their production facilities to nearby plants, or making small investments in the retail, services, telecoms and hotels businesses.

Cyprus played a major role in the evacuation of western nationals and other victims of last summer’s war in southern Lebanon, a gesture much appreciated even today. Yet Ankara has deployed peacekeepers along the southern border in order to help maintain the calm between the militant Hezbollah and Turkey’s main ally, Israel.

We are not suggesting that Cyprus too deploy hundreds of troops or police units in order to contribute to regional peace. However, the lack of a proactive foreign policy with little if any incentives given to Cyprus-based companies to invest heavily in the Middle East, is costing us in terms of finding true allies in the area.

Cyprus must embark on a major foreign policy campaign and help Cypriot companies take great strides in the economic development of the region, even in the reconstruction of Lebanon.

Instead of remaining silent bystanders and reacting to crises, Cyprus should find the opportunities and seek to become key players. This is what Turkey does and always seems to come out on top. We could at least take a leaf out of Turkey’s foreign policy book by building on their successes and learning from their mistakes.

If we do not establish strong ties with our neighbours, then we will continue to remain without any serious allies and shuttle from one Islamic conference to another, seeking support for yet another washed-down resolution “in favour of Cyprus.”


Flaxseed oil lowers blood pressure February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness.
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A diet rich in the plant omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) reduced blood pressure by up to six percent, says new research from Greece.

In the UK alone, there are an estimated 10m people with hypertension, defined as having blood pressure higher than 140/90mmHg. The condition is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

“The magnitude of the hypotensive effect (5mmHG or 3-6 percent) is certainly clinically relevant, and is expected to considerably reduce the overall CVD risk in these patients,” wrote lead author George Paschos in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

How the study was done
The researchers, from Harokopio University and Laiko Hospital in Athens, recruited 59 middle-aged men (average age 53) with abnormal blood lipid levels (dyslipidaemic) and randomly assigned them to receive either the omega-3-ALA-rich flaxseed supplements (8g per day) or omega-6 linoleic acid-rich safflower oil in a prospective, two-group, parallel-arm study. The ALA-rich diet gave an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1.3:1, while the LA-rich diet gave an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 13.2:1.

After 12 weeks of supplementation they report that the men receiving the ALA-rich flaxseed oil supplements were found to have reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressures, falling from 120 to 100mmHg and 80 to 72mmHg, respectively. These falls equated to a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 3,1 percent and diastolic blood pressure of 6,3 percent. The omega-6-rich LA supplement did not significantly affect blood pressure, said the researchers.

“Our results indicate that increased ALA intake can bring about a significant decrease in SBP and DMP by approximately 5mmHg or 3-6 percent,” wrote the researchers.

Exact mechanism unclear
The mechanism behind the effects is not clear, they said, and may be due to the effect of the omega-3 metabolites, prostaglandins, on a variety of blood pressure regulators, including control of salt and water balance, control of blood flow in the kidneys and effects on heart output. Future studies are needed, they said, to further clarify the underlying mechanism(s).

The study does have several limitations, said Paschos, the most notable of which being that the dose of flaxseed given is not readily achievable in a conventional diet.

“However, several products like cooking oil, margarine, salad dressing, and mayonnaise fortified with ALA can be produced by the industry, and inclusion of these foods in the diet has been shown to substantially increase dietary ALA intake to levels exceeding those used in the present study,” he wrote. “Hence we believe our results could be applicable in practice.”

The study was funded by the Greek Ministry of Development, General Secretariat for Research and Technology.

Cypriot and Greek PCC-Terna to develop Marina West February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Business & Economy.
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Marina West Real Estate Company has appointed PCC-Terna as the main contractor for Bahrain’s iconic Marina West development.


Ground breaking for the Kingdom’s largest gated beachfront residential community takes place this month with completion of the 345,000 square-metre residential, retail and leisure development set for December 2009.

Under the terms of the multi-million dollar contract PCC-Terna has overall responsibility for the design and construction of the entire project and is bringing its extensive expertise and experience with similar projects of this magnitude in Europe and across the Middle East to ensure the synchronisation of all aspects of the undertaking. This includes the logistical challenge of bringing in a 6,000-strong on site workforce at its peak.

‘PCC-Terna is the ideal contractor for this project as its combined and complementary strengths and capabilities, which emanate from the extensive local experience of Bahrain’s Poullaides Construction Co. WLL (PCC) which is of Cypriot origin and the proven track record of Greece’s second largest contractor, Terna S.A. ensures a superior understanding of our requirements to correctly bring our vision for Marina West to life,’ said Ahmed Abubaker Janahi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AAJ Holdings Company, the company representing Marina West.

Marina West will offer more than 1,280 luxury apartments and penthouse suites through its 11 residential towers and more than 7,000 square metres of the development will feature a full range of leisure, recreation and entertainment facilities. Among these will be a marina, private beach and comprehensive high quality retail offering.

‘The appointment of PCC-Terna as the main contractor for the project marks a major milestone in the development of Marina West and follows a thoroughly detailed selection process. Resources are currently being mobilised to the site and this month’s ground breaking will be immediately followed by a programme of ongoing activity to ensure delivery by the end of 2009,’ said Eric Tromans, CEO for ReeMoon, the project’s developer.

The 33-month program to construct Marina West essentially involves five phases. The first phase comprises the detailed architectural, structural and electromechanical design of the 11 towers. Piling works to create the foundations of the towers begins imminently, following which the construction of the superstructure of the towers will commence. A two-storey ‘podium’ structure to provide car parking and commercial premises will subsequently be followed by the final phase which will focus on the completion of the marina and all remaining external works.

‘The construction sector in Bahrain currently presents a host of opportunities and we see Marina West as being pivotal among these. We are indeed excited to have been selected, and of course, to working with the visionary personalities behind this development,’ added Christos A. Poullaides, Managing Director of PCC.

‘The unique aspects of this undertaking include the fact that Marina West is the first development of its kind in Bahrain and the logistics involved in this project are challenging. This includes the provision of manpower and we are already in discussions with the Ministry of Labour to determine commonalities between our human resources needs and the availability of relevant Bahraini human resources.’

Asteco Property Management is the exclusive sales and leasing agency for Marina West’s 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom freehold apartments, duplexes, simplexes and penthouse suites, which begin at a price of BD 47,000 with floor space ranging in size from 92 to 447 square metres.

Related Links > http://www.pccbah.com

Greek Intracom Defense unit signs new contracts February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Greece’s Intracom Defense Electronics, a unit of Intracom Holdings, said it has signed two new agreements worth 4 million us$ within the framework of its ongoing cooperation with Northrop Grumman.

The first agreement has a duration of 12 months and is related to the production of the most recent version of electronic radar modules for F-16 aircraft, for the international market.

The second agreement has a duration of 16 months for the production of radar warning receiver electronics for the selfprotection systems of the F-16 aircraft.

Intracom Defense Electronics added that the new agreements are within the framework of the cooperation between the two companies in radar and self-protection systems for programs for the Hellenic Ministry of National Defense, NATO, as well as the international market.

The city is the distillation of a history that has still not ended February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Three homes on Diogenous Street in Plaka that were merged and renovated by Yiannis Kizis & Associates.

plakahomes.jpg  Yiannis Kizis argues that cities like Rome are the result of a mixed cultural product. “The city is the distillation of a history that has still not ended. Large portions of the population live in buildings that date back a century or two that have managed to survive until today due to a process of constant intervention and changes to their use and arrangement. This is something we are not used to here in Greece,” says the architect. “In Greece, we still have the same attitude toward the fate of monuments. When an intervention does take place, it is normally just to salvage the building rather than to incorporate it into the natural flow of change.”

The two neoclassical buildings on the corner of Stadiou and Amerikis streets that have been in a derelict state since the end of World War II are a common, familiar sight. Until recently, the only part of the buildings to be put into use was the ground floor, and that in order to house stores.

These buildings that are small in scale and owned by the Spiliopouleio Foundation, and listed for preservation by the Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, will be incorporated into a new building complex designed by Yiannis Kizis and Associates for the Pireos Group.

“These buildings were complete wrecks when I visited them,” says Kizis. “Their interiors were complete ruins and only the fronts could be preserved. These buildings are now going to return to the life of the city through a process which will redefine their use. And when there’s nothing left to salvage, all I have is its former appearance to hang on to. This tells me something: that here, at this spot in the city, there used to be something else.”

The new and old must coexist discreetly February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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The former Athens Stock Exchange in its 1880s grandeur. (Yiannis Kizis & Associates, 1998 study)

 athensstockexchange.jpg  Architect Yiannis Kizis believes that a project needs to be loved by the public, so it can become a functional part of everyday life in the city.

His knowledge of and love for his work allow him to take certain liberties when undertaking renovation projects. “The new and the old must coexist discreetly,” he says. “And love, in terms of love equaling knowledge, gives you the right to make ‘surgical interventions.’”

The architect has already undertaken a plethora of projects all over the city, and one can only wonder how much more he could achieve in a more mature and tolerant society. In the case of the old Athens Stock Exchange building on Pesmazoglou Street, the central hall, which displays all the grandeur of the 1880s architectural idiom, is reached through an interwar arcade that has been given back its art deco elements. “It is like an antechamber for the modern-day urbanite, who stands 125 meters away from the main building and therefore has to gradually penetrate the 19th century atmosphere to reach it.” The art deco arcade leads to a closed courtyard with a crystal parapet covering an exit that is younger in age. “I have kept this as part of the illustration of the building’s successive historical phases,” says Kizis.

Architecture weaves the fabric of society February 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Yiannis Kizis & Associates, a firm that has done numerous renovations in Athens, gives old buildings the chance to re-enter urban culture

yianniskizis1.jpg  yianniskizis2.jpg  Architect Yiannis Kizis in the courtyard of the Benizelos family mansion in Plaka. The historical home, which dates to before the liberation of Athens, belongs to the Athens Archbishopric and Kizis’s firm has been commissioned to renovate it. (Left). A model for a new building complex to be erected on the corner of Stadiou and Amerikis streets in central Athens.(Right).

Architect Yiannis Kizis makes a surprising confession when he says, “Unfortunately, I have been identified with restorations and ancient monuments.” Behind the closed doors of his office, sitting at a table and surrounded by bookshelves he has designed himself, the architect ponders the course of his creatively rich career. This creativity is based firstly on composition, the art that adds small pieces to the puzzle of our culture and heritage, and then on restoration, the know-how of intervention.

Kizis and his associates have, in fact, gained something of a lustrous reputation over the years for working miracles with old edifices. A map of Athens with the buildings this firm has worked on indicated with flashing lights would look like hundreds of fireflies caught in a bottle.

One of the their most recent and reputed projects is the Pireos Group’s City Link in downtown Athens, in which Kizis’s firm had a solid say-so concerning the changes to the vast building complex that used to house the Army Pension Fund.

Kizis is a man of few words, in life and in his architecture. He is a published writer and has spent years studying and researching architecture around the world. His architecture, be it designs for new constructions or renovations of existing buildings, is not about making a splash. “I want there to be a lasting interest in the buildings, not a sense of awe-struck admiration,” he says. “I want the layman to overcome the stereotypes and fixations that surround monumental architecture.”

There is an entire culture in Greece concerning modern monuments, a prevalent culture of contradictions and blaring contrasts that waffles between a desire to preserve, at all costs, even the most inert pieces of an often manufactured ideological past and complete apathy regarding the fate of anything that belongs to past. Kizis’s philosophy is nowhere to be found here; it does not lie in the golden mean between academic conservatism and a pragmatism that has been imported from abroad. The architect goes beyond these contradictory extremes, arguing that the concept of intervention on an architectural work of the past is an act of almost political, realistic vision.

“For a building to live again, to be given a new lease on life, it must be given modern elements that will help usher it into a new era,” says Kizis.

A staunch believer in the possibilities offered by modern technology, Kizis has developed a stolid stance as to how he defines his priorities and on the manner in which the individual perceives a work of architecture that has been chosen for renovation. “A building, by its very existence, participates in a broader public dialogue. The manner in which a building reflects new definitions, how familiar it is, how well incorporated into its environment or how ‘friendly’ it is, is an issue for debate. I am very happy when I succeed in providing a space with a feeling of familiarity and intimacy. Because a dry architectural approach does not help it to become a part of the fabric of society, we often risk losing the forest for the sake of a tree.”

Like the layers of human societies, each one leaving its own imprint and aura on the cycle of life, cities making their way into the future tend to hold on to their utilitarian elements. For Kizis, the usefulness of a building has to do with intangible things as well as with the tangible, when, “in the process of prioritization, a particular building can be seen as a calculable cultural asset.” Then, that particular building, as a single unit in a city, acquires a new dynamic that will claim a role in the future of the city, gaining a few more years of life before it is once more included in the prioritization process.

The level of maturity of a society, of a city, is very much defined by its levelheadedness and sense of daring. In Greece, what tends to prevail is extreme statements and diffidence. “In developed countries, the scope for innovation in architectural interventions is very broad,” says Kizis. “Many people are shocked by I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, but the hype that surrounds it has launched the museum two centuries into the future. I suspect the same will happen with Milan’s La Scala theater, which has been radically renovated by Mario Botta. Societies that have an urban history of 1,000-plus years are taking the risk to constantly experiment.”

In the case of City Link in central Athens, Kizis says that “there have been some strong expressions made that go beyond the limits of a simple renovation.” Among them are a crystal fissure, the Spyrou Miliou Arcade ceiling, the placement of a Fernando Botero statue at the entrance of Pireos Bank and the crystal facade of the Pallas Theater. “Crystal and stainless-steel technology allowed me to create translucence and to highlight the penetration of public space into the theater area. This, of course, has to do with Voukourestiou Street being a pedestrian zone,” says Kizis, explaining the architectural concept of the Pallas Theater’s glass front looking out onto the paved road.

“Of course, the fact that on an international level, architecture is in an experimental phase has had a catalytic effect in Greece. We are also getting very positive signs from the relevant authorities at the ministries of Culture and Public Works and Physical Planning, who are increasingly supporting more progressive views. They only do this of course once they are sure that any given project will preserve as much of the authentic material as possible,” says Kizis.

According to Kizis, the oft-requested quick fix presents a number of other problems, including not being able to discern between the truly old and the new. “We often see a history that never existed being built. In some areas, we can see where a kind of cultural background has been manufactured from scratch. Take the King George Hotel in Syntagma Square or the Electra Palace in Plaka with their new neoclassical facades. There is, of course, an international clientele for hotels who will pay to have a room that gives the illusion it was part of some grand old mansion. Revivals have always succeeded in gaining ground, but in the 19th century there was a prevalent proclivity for romanticism. Today, in contrast, the demand for glamour is leading to the construction of a history that never really existed.”