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Campaigners join forces to protect the environment November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment.
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Increasing number of groups banding together > Despite its bucolic appearance, the Axios River, which flows into the Thermaikos Gulf in northern Greece, is one of the most excessively exploited in the country and heavily polluted by chemical and industrial waste.

Five separate environmental campaigns are under way to oppose government projects, ranging from plans for a soccer stadium at Elaionas, western Athens, to a tourism project at Crete’s Toplou Monastery, which the campaigners believe will degrade the environment.

“These five projects have one thing in common,” said Ilias Yianniris, head of the Open Space Watch, “namely they are the result of the state’s mistaken policies.”

One is the diversion of the Acheloos River, which is to be discussed by the Council of State tomorrow as the Panhellenic Movement Against the Acheloos Diversion stages a demonstration in central Athens. It is the fifth appeal to the Council by the residents of Mesochora, in the prefecture of Trikala. The village is to be inundated by dam waters if the river is diverted.

“Anyone who raises their voice in protest against the Mesochora dam is being called a traitor,” said resident Voula Vlachou. “No one is telling the truth, not to the Thessaly farmers nor to anyone else about the criminal repercussions the diversion will have.”

The movement brings together groups from several parts of the country, even from Larissa, which benefits from the diversion. “The Acheloos diversion will not save Thessaly, moreover the water shortage on the plain of Thessaly is artificial,” claimed Giorgos Hondros, a member of one of the groups fighting to save the river.

Hondros said that over 90 percent of the residents of Mesochora were against the project. A better solution and one proposed by the experts, he added, was to ensure that Thessaly’s own water reserves were more rationally managed. The establishment of the nationwide movement against the diversion had led to an effective environmental group with an emphasis on rivers and water resources generally, he said.

“The issue of saving the Acheloos River has now transcended the purely local level,” he said. “The Asopos and Arachthos rivers are two more typical examples. It is time to stop the exploitation of state property by private firms,” he added.

In a recent meeting in Ioannina, members of the Arachthos River Protection Committee proposed setting up a joint organization for groups fighting to protect rivers threatened by over-exploitation and poor management. Over-exploitation of river waters is just one aspect of the problem. The Asopos, Evros, Axios, Aliakmonas and Pineios are all being affected by drainage for irrigation or by major sources of pollution from within Greece or outside its borders.

Elsewhere, the lease of the Olympic badminton hall in the Athens district of Goudi, now the 2,500-seat Badminton Theater, without any previous approval of an environmental study is the object of a protest by a committee of local residents. “A metropolitan park was proposed by three Prime Ministers, but has never been formalized,” said committee member Nikos Georgiopoulos.

Twenty-five residents of the area around Elaionas along with the Committee to Save Elaionas have appealed to the council in protest at the overpricing of the site owned by the National Bank by as much as 13 million euros. “The area could be another green space for the city center,” said committee member Spyros Pilitsis.

A Ministerial decree approving the environmental study for the Kavo Sidero project in the prefecture of Lasithi on the island of Crete is the object of an appeal to the Council by EcoCrete, The Pan-Cretan Network of Environmental Groups. They claim that the tourism project will severely degrade the natural environment around Toplou Monastery. Finally, the suburban rail network is under fire from residents of areas through which it passes; they are calling for the track to be diverted underground.

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Greek scientists blaze way in solving Internet questions November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Science, Technology.
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Experts at i-sieve are developing content-filtering technology > Researchers Giorgos Paliouras, Vangelis Karkaletsis, Thomas Biziliotis, Timos Kouloumbis, Constantinos Spyropoulos and Costas Handrinos.

In a tiny office with just a couple of computers and a coffee machine, the firm known as i-sieve, set up in 2004 by a group of researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research (NCSR) called “Democritos,” the fate of a Hollywood director has been decided, a Mexican advertising campaign for a deodorant has been changed and the discovery made that Adidas wasted 200 million dollars at the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany.

The firm, i-sieve technologies, is a Democritos spin-off company whose researchers have developed content-filtering technology to tune into the opinions of millions of people from all corners of the earth who use the Internet for everything from products and services to candidates for the leadership of political party.

The job assigned to i-sieve is to use artificial intelligence to analyze the content of websites. These online media analysis methods are based on an innovative system of thematically organizing Internet content developed at the Software and Knowledge Engineering Laboratory at Democritos.

“In effect, this is an algorithm which we train to search the Web for what interests us and to classify it,” explained Costas Handrinos, the Director of i-sieve. A typical project is their input to MedIEQ, which reviews and controls the accredited or filtered medical websites.

“About 80 percent of Internet users around the world visit medical sites and 40 percent of these people say the information they obtain affects their final decisions regarding their treatment,” said Evangelos Karkaletsis, one of the co-founders of i-sieve. “As a result, the information they get from the Internet is important; someone has to guarantee the reliability of these pages. The data that is valid now could, in the next few seconds, change as the content of the site changes. This is where we come in. We have developed specialized engines to search for the medical content of websites on the basis of specifications set by doctors. The objective is cooperation between search engines so that the results are linked to the credibility of a site.”

The company’s biggest customers are foreign advertising firms, mostly members of the multinational Interpublic Group, that interpret prevailing trends among Internet users for corporate clients and advertising campaigns.

“The system can provide a real-time view of various aspects of the Internet, special interest sites, blogs, forums, chat rooms and so on, and pinpoint references of interest to each search and to classify them automatically, for example, positive, negative, neutral,” explained Giorgos Paliouras, a Democritos researcher and co-founder of i-sieve.

It is something like a passive opinion poll, as on these sites users express their views spontaneously and these are monitored by the algorithm.

One job was for a major Hollywood studio. “We investigated trends regarding a top director’s latest film. We found that users blamed him because the film had flopped. There was a very negative buzz about him on the Internet. The data we collected persuaded the studio to stop working with the director.”

Before the World Cup in Germany in 2006, Adidas had spent 200 million dollars for exclusive television advertising, no other firm would be linked to this major sporting event. At that time the ratio of Internet searches on Adidas and Nike was 3:10. When the tournament was over, it was up to 7:10. “Was it worth 200 million dollars? Considering that Nike swept the Internet with just one videoclip of Ronaldinho, without paying even a cent, probably not,” said Thomas Biziliotis, an Internet advertising analyst.

Insurance hike likely for drivers November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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Drivers are likely to be hit soon with an increase in car insurance premiums as Greece adopts an EU directive that ups indemnities payable to traffic accident victims.

According to the EU directive, total compensation payable for a car accident involving fatalities will have a maximum of 5 million euros or will be determined by the number of victims involved. In the latter case, 1 million euros will be awarded for each victim, up from the amount of 500,000 euros which currently applies in Greece.

Greece is likely to adopt the option for the total 5-million-euro sum, according to sources. «The two choices have advantages and disadvantages,» said Fokion Bravos, President of the Hellenic Association of Insurance Companies.

Other industry sources said compensation amounts are too high for the Greek market and that implementing either choice could result in a company going bankrupt. A draft bill on the issue is expected to be made public next week.

Push for more organ donors November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness.
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Organ transplant recipients yesterday called for a concerted campaign to boost public awareness about organ transplants in Greece, which has one of the lowest rate of organ donors in Europe.

Speaking ahead of today’s National Organ Donor Day, citizens who have undergone transplants said more donors were needed to cut long waiting lists. Antonis Gialelakis, the 39-year-old President of the National Transplant Organization, said he was lucky to get his heart transplant within a week of diagnosis in 2002.

Most patients are not so fortunate, waiting an average of six years for a transplant. Some 900 are on a waiting list. But with just eight donors per million of the population, not all of them will get the organs they need.

To make matters worse, there has been a steady drop in the number of transplants conducted in Greece, with just 150 this year as compared to 242 in 2006 and 280 in 2005.

Widespread public ignorance about transplants is a big problem, according to Christos Svarnas, President of the Panhellenic Association of Kidney Transplant Patients. «The public has not really taken in the idea of donating organs,» said Svarnas, 53, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2001. He called for more television commercials at peak viewing times.

A key barrier to organ donation are objections from relatives of brain-dead donors. Nikolaos Voulgarelis, whose son was left with brain damage after a car accident, respected his son’s wishes and committed his organs for donation. He appealed to others to follow his example. «His death was unfair, but because of him someone else lived,» Voulgarelis said.

Information kiosks will be set up in Syntagma Square today with details about organ donation.

Police given approval to use cameras November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Police & Crime.
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Evidence is admissible in court > Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas yesterday gave police the green light to record street protests with traffic cameras and use the footage as court evidence if criminal acts were committed during the demonstration.

“The protection (of protesters) is understandable only if they demonstrate in a law-abiding manner and not illegally,” said Sanidas.

The decision allows police to position closed-circuit cameras for public gatherings, such as protest marches and sports events, and then to use any incriminating videotape evidence to identify and prosecute those who have committed crimes.

Sanidas clarified however that police do not have the right to confiscate footage from television crews or passers-by for the purpose of using it as evidence in court.

Greece spent some 250 million euros on the surveillance package for the Athens Olympics in 2004, part of which was used to purchase and install some 300 CCTV cameras. But the cameras are not being used due to the intervention of the privacy watchdog, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD), which recently fined police 3,000 euros after finding that 49 of its cameras were still not operating with software that blurs people’s faces.

The watchdog also found that images from some of the cameras were kept for more than seven days, thereby breaking privacy provisions. Sanidas’s decision comes at a time when police are expecting an increase in street demonstrations due to controversial reforms being prepared by the conservative government in education and the social security system.

Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said there needs to be a balance between personal rights and the interests of society. “Society’s interests are too big to be sacrificed in the name of individual interests,” he said.

Skopje urged to decide November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
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New talks at UN today; Athens calls on FYROM to reach a deal

Greece has warned the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that «the time for decisions has come» as the two countries are set to embark on a new round of talks on the name issue at the United Nations today.

Writing in today’s Kathimerini, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos suggests that Skopje faces a crucial decision about its future. «It now falls to the leadership in Skopje to choose between a Euro-Atlantic future of cooperation and good neighborly relations, or an arrogant, intransigent stance that will inevitably lead out of the European and Euro-Atlantic framework,» he writes.

Greece has indicated it will block FYROM’s bid to join NATO and the European Union unless the two sides can find a mutually acceptable solution to the use of the name «Macedonia.»

«The name issue… will define the future of the region and the relations of our countries,» according to Koumoutsakos. «And these relations must not be poisoned by irredentist propaganda and provocative actions.»

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis also suggested yesterday that Skopje should come to the negotiating table with a «constructive attitude and clear positions for a better future.» Bakoyannis is due to fly to London on Monday to hold talks with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. The FYROM issue is likely to be raised during the meeting.

Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopolos said yesterday that the round of talks set to start today would perhaps be the «most crucial» since the «Macedonia» dispute arose between the two countries 16 years ago.

NetMed sale mulled November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Media Radio TV.
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Naspers Ltd, Africa’s largest media company, is considering selling its Greek and Cypriot pay-television operator, NetMed NV.

«Keen interest has been expressed from several potential investors,” Cape Town-based Naspers said in a statement to South Africa’s stock exchange today.