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Greeks closing the digital gap > Digital Greece campaign May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web.
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Greek Government targets closing the digital gap with EU by 2009 > A 15-month campaign will aim to sharpen awareness of vast benefits

“We are making rapid progress, we can do even better,” would have been an apt slogan for Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis at his presentation yesterday of his Ministry’s new campaign, “Digital Greece.”

The campaign, he said, aimed at acquainting Greek citizens with the new information and telecommunication technologies (ITT), in which they have long been considered to be among Europe’s laggards. Alogoskoufis said the country had made rapid progress in the last three years and now possessed a satisfactory telecommunications infrastructure, but the vast possibilities afforded by ITT were still largely untapped by individuals and businesses.

“Many of our citizens have not grasped the huge benefits that can accrue from tapping existing potential,” he said.

“Digital Greece” which is being launched today, will last 15 months and will be implemented through most media such as television, radio, press and Internet by Ashley & Holmes. The cost, 4 million euros, will be met through the European Union-subsidized Information Society program.

According to Alogoskoufis, the penetration of broadband Internet services this summer is projected to reach 6.5 percent of the country’s population, from just 0.1 percent in 2004. The government is targeting the EU average by 2009. “We have to move faster to make up the huge technological gap that separated us three years ago from the other European countries,” Alogoskoufis said, adding that technology was not an end in itself, but an instrument for making everyday life easier and more productive.

The Ministry’s special secretary for digital convergence, Vassilis Asimakopoulos, said “Digital Greece” or Psifiaki Ellada in Greek, has its own Internet portal > www.psifiakiellada.gr

The portal’s introductory page presents a virtual city that will “gradually begin to be inhabited by digital services.” However, the portal is still under construction, is available only in Greek, but yes, you can view some of the TV campaign’s clips, that is if you are interested!

Odd World > Mayor to go hungry for beach reclamation May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
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The Mayor of Athens’s beachside suburb Hellenikon, Christos Kortzidis, said yesterday he will go on hunger strike as a means of pressing the central administration into helping remove illegally built businesses from local beaches.

Kortzidis said the marina that hosted the sailing event for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games should remain public property and called on Government Ministries to help stop construction activity in the area.

The Mayor of the southern suburb added that the Municipality was organizing protest action involving local residents in a bid to reclaim the beach area.

Authorities appear helpless in stopping the spread of nightspots in Hellenikon and other beachfront areas of Athens, as legal loopholes and corrupt officials provide an ideal environment in which illegal businesses can operate.

Good Luck to all students for their exams! May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Education.
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The first round of University entrance examinations begins tomorrow as some 145,000 senior high school students are preparing to battle it out for just over 82,000 places at Universities and Technical Colleges (TEE).

Meanwhile, a new study indicates that the cost of organizing these exams exceeds 20 million euro. According to math teacher Stratos Stratigakis, this figure only accounts for the logistics and manpower, including the seven-member supervisory committee allocated to every school. The cost of producing the exam papers is not included in this figure, he said. 

This is the first year students will be sitting exams for six subjects instead of nine and the third year that stricter entrance requirements a grade of at least 10 out of 20 in each exam, will be in effect. Most students are due to finish their exams by the end of May and the rest by June 2. The school graduates’ exams will be followed by those for TEE students which conclude at the end of June.

Global tourism industry leaders aim to go green May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Tourism.
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The world’s leading tourism companies are trying to agree on ways to fight climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from hotels, cruise ships and airliners, the head of a major tourism association said last week.

Geoffrey Kent, Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which represents the leading 100 companies in the sector, said last week he expected members to begin implementing some of the measures in about a year. “I believe it is our responsibility to come up with an overall agreement to follow within our own council of members,” Kent said in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of a global meeting on the environment and tourism. “By the end of the year, we’ll probably come up with some really good and concrete challenges for WTTC members.”

The tourism industry is expected to contribute to 10.4 percent of the world’s economy in 2007 and is responsible for 231 million jobs, according to the WTTC.

There are no exact numbers as to the volume of carbon emissions that tourism releases into the atmosphere, but the industry is dependent on construction, airline and sea travel and other activities that are often blamed for climate change. Kent said he expected some of the WTTC measures to make some tourism companies more cost-efficient. WTTC members include US hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide Corp and the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

“Climate change is actually going to make them save money,” he said, adding that he believed companies that cut as much as 40 percent of carbon emissions would become more energy-efficient and save money. He said airlines had been overly criticized, however, for the role they play in climate change: “Airlines are being demonized, because it’s easy for government officials to lift their finger at them, but they only contribute 1.6 percent of the problem, compared with 40 percent of emissions in new buildings.”

Kent said it would also be important for governments to show tourists they care about sustainable development and are taking measures to limit the impact of tourism on the environment.

“Any country that doesn’t show concern for the environment will lose tourists,” said Marta Suplicy, Minister of Tourism for Brazil, which was recently nominated for a sustainable tourism award.

Her Greek counterpart, Fanni Palli-Petralia, said it was important to support sustainable tourism and not repeat what she said were errors of the past. “If we do so, we’ll have no tourists.”

An end to the sludge lake on the islet of Psyttaleia May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment.
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The long-drawn-out affair of the ‘sludge lake’ on the islet of Psyttaleia off the coast of Piraeus, where special tanks are brimming with an estimated 250,000-300,000 tons of Athens city waste, will soon be over, officials said yesterday.

Piraeus Prefect Yiannis Michas said the plant, which will have a capacity for drying up to 330 tons of sludge daily, will start operating on June 1. In addition to the problem of its disposal, the ‘lake’ has also given rise to persistent protests by residents of the Piraeus Municipality of Perama, who are taking the brunt of the bad odor coming across from the islet. To date, quantities of the sludge, which has been described as a ‘time bomb’ for the Saronic Gulf, have been shipped for drying to special plants in Germany. The dried-out product is considered to be thermally equivalent to lignite.

Cyprus mulls oil permits May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Oil Crisis.
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Cyprus could issue licenses for oil and gas exploration in the east Mediterranean by the end of this year, the island’s Foreign Minister said yesterday.

Exploration plans by Cyprus have angered Turkey, its northern neighbor, with which it has been at loggerheads for decades. Cyprus says it is its sovereign right to explore for hydrocarbons, but Ankara says this could complicate already troubled peace efforts on the ethnically divided island.

“I believe that before the end of the year the first licenses for exploration will be issued,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Giorgos Lillikas said during an official visit to Warsaw.

Cypriots say provisional data suggest there are oil and gas deposits in a sea area separating the island from Egypt to its south and Lebanon to its east. The internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government plans to open 11 areas, or “blocks” rimming the island’s south for exploration.

Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities have lived divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup, resulting in the occupation and military contol of the island’s northern part. 

Turkey has in the past warned exploration plans by Greek Cypriots could stoke tensions in the region. A Turkish oil company, TPAO, announced plans to also start hydrocarbon exploration in the east Mediterranean in early May.

At present oil majors can purchase seismic data and two-dimensional templates of the Mediterranean seabed from Cyprus. The data will be available for purchase until the end of August, at which time companies can apply for exploration permits.

“I believe that around the end of September, maybe beginning of October, the government will start analyzing these offers,” Lillikas said. “I hope the results will be promising and positive, so we will be able later to contribute by energy supplies to the energy security of the European Union.”

Part of the area open for exploration abuts Egypt’s NEMED block, where Royal Dutch Shell is extracting natural gas.

Oakland’s Greek Festival May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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Annual event promises food, dancing, art, photography and lectures

Get out your excess vowels, stock up on clashing consonants and prepare for a torrent of tzatziki, spanakopita, saganaki and kourabiedes during the 35th annual Greek Festival at the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the Oakland hills.

The festival of food, music, dancing, art, photography and lectures on Greek history and culture begins today and runs through Sunday. There will be performances by Greek dancers, cooking demonstrations from various chefs including James Wimborough, executive chef of Evvia Estiatorio in Palo Alto, who will prepare some of his favorite Greek recipes on Saturday.

Members of the cathedral will welcome home singer Margarita, who left for Greece three years ago to participate in “Fame Story,” the Greek version of “American Idol.” Since then, she has been performing to huge audiences at several popular nightclubs in Greece and just finished a new CD. She will perform Friday and Saturday nights at the festival.

Oakland A’s radio personality Marty Lurie will broadcast his show live from the festival on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. And UC Berkeley classics professor Kim Shelton will lecture on “Excavations in Greece: How archaeologists bring life to ancient Greek life.”

There will be cultural artifacts on display, and tours of the massive cathedral itself. Built in 1960, the spectacular church dome is copper on the outside and gold-anodized aluminum on the inside, giving it a heavenly golden glow behind portraits of the apostles and the icon of the head of Christ, a 40-foot wide painting, which may be the biggest icon of Christ in the country.

And of course there’s the food. All week long, volunteers have been preparing treats in the cathedral’s large kitchens, producing boxes of baklava and trays of loukoumades.

About 20,000 people are expected during the three-day event. The festival is at the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 4700 Lincoln Ave., Oakland. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6; free today before 4 p.m. and on Sunday after 5 p.m.

Free parking with shuttle-bus service is available at the neighboring Mormon Temple, the Cerebral Palsy Center, Head Royce School and the Woodminster Amphitheater. Premium parking in the cathedral’s parking pavilion is available for $10. For more information, call (510) 531-3400, or visit www.oaklandgreekfestival.com