Greece superintendent to seek community input

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Continuing her drive to reach out to interested Greece residents, new Superintendent of Schools Barbara Deane-Williams has scheduled public focus groups this month and next to talk about the district’s direction and goals.

“As I started my entry plan and began meeting with stakeholders, one of the common themes that came up early on was a desire for people to pull together and look at our opportunities to move forward in a positive manner,” said Deane-Williams, who took over the 11,800-student district on July 1.

The meetings will help Deane-Williams identify Greece’s community vision and values.

 

An executive summary of her 100-day entry plan — subtitled “Access to Success: Every Student, Every Day. One Vision, One Team, One Greece” — is posted on the Greece Central School District website.

In a district marked in recent years with high-level administrative turnover, flagging state assessment scores and an unspectacular graduation rate, Deane-Williams said a main focus is on increasing student achievement. In coming months, she plans to develop and make public district goals.

“The expectation will be for continuous improvement,” she said. “As a superintendent, I am truly focused on having our students achieve on-time graduation, and ensuring that those students are college or career-ready when they graduate from Greece Central.”

As part of her continuing efforts to make the district more open and accessible, Deane-Williams said the district’s website will be redesigned to make it easier for community members to navigate.

The district is investigating ways to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter in order to become more responsive and communicative.

 

“We’re also looking at ways to increase interactive dialogue,” she said. “I’m taking some time to develop community and parent survey tools, so folks who have no interest in focus groups have the opportunity to use digital tools (for) their input.”

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Greece urges action to boost EU bailout fund

ATHENS, GreeceGreece’s finance minister on Tuesday urged European officials to hurry up implementing decisions to strengthen the bloc’s bailout fund.

Evangelos Venizelos said in a conference call it is important to “quickly and fully implement” decisions on the European Financial Stability Fund’s new role _ taken at last month’s EU summit that approved Greece’s new euro109 billion ($155.5 billion) bailout deal.

A finance ministry statement quoted Venizelos as saying that to do so would send the message that countries using the euro are able to back their common currency.

July’s Brussels summit agreed to give the EFSF powers to buy bonds on the secondary market, and intervene in countries before they are in full-blown crisis mode. The fund is set to grow to euro440 billion ($628 billion) after its expansion is approved by national governments, most of which are waiting until the end of the summer vacation season.

Participants in Tuesday’s conference call included eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, the ministry statement said. It said talks focused on implementation of the summit decisions, and private sector participation in the new Greek bailout.

Greece is dependent on international rescue loans, as its debt crisis rendered borrowing from international markets prohibitively expensive.

But the country is maintaining a market presence through short-term debt issues, and on Tuesday raised euro812.5 million in an oversubscribed 26-week treasury bill auction _ for which it will have to pay interest of 4.85 percent, marginally less than last month.

Greek stocks also posted mild gains with the Athens bourse’s General Index ending 0.19 percent up, a day after hitting a 14-year low following the U.S. credit rating downgrade.


Economic Hardship Makes Greece Travel Difficult

Updated 08/08/2011 01:03 PM
By: Valarie D’Elia

Greece’s economic troubles have affected travelers visiting the country for leisure as well as its citizens. NY1’s Valarie D’Elia filed the following report.

“Greece is heaven on earth, everyone is welcome to Greece,” says one taxi driver.

But his words come with a sense of irony. He, along with his fellow Santorini taxi drivers protesting recent austerity measures, made it more like hell for tourists visiting in peak season.

“The taxi drivers strike was fairly significant, they disrupted much of downtown,” says traveler Kevin Brogan from Pasadena, California. “Transportation to and from the airport had to be by mini van, so taxi drivers wouldn’t think there were limos trying to work around them.”

The taxi drivers are back on the road for now, but that’s not the end of tourism troubles.

In September, the Value Added Tax levied at restaurants and bars will rise to 23 percent from 13 percent.

Unlike the VAT on merchandise, tourists can’t recoup any of it.

That could keep them away from restaurants that are already losing almost half of their revenue.

“Forty percent down,” lamented restaurant manager Raymond Rukaj. “Forty percent down from three years ago. It’s been way down, business.”

When it comes to haggling with shop owners, there are few bargains to be had.

“We haven’t really tried dealing or making any purchases, so no and no one has approached us with deals,” says Sally Browne from Minneapolis.

All of this on top of an unfavorable exchange rate doesn’t bode well for tourism.

“I can’t remember the last exchange rate, $1.42, it’s a little pricey. We feel like we are helping the recession here,” says Brogan.


Greece urges action to boost EU bailout fund

ATHENS, Greece —
Greece’s finance minister on Tuesday urged European officials to hurry up implementing decisions to strengthen the bloc’s bailout fund.

Evangelos Venizelos said in a conference call it is important to “quickly and fully implement” decisions on the European Financial Stability Fund’s new role – taken at last month’s EU summit that approved Greece’s new euro109 billion ($155.5 billion) bailout deal.


A finance ministry statement quoted Venizelos as saying that to do so would send the message that countries using the euro are able to back their common currency.

July’s Brussels summit agreed to give the EFSF powers to buy bonds on the secondary market, and intervene in countries before they are in full-blown crisis mode. The fund is set to grow to euro440 billion ($628 billion) after its expansion is approved by national governments, most of which are waiting until the end of the summer vacation season.

Participants in Tuesday’s conference call included eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, the ministry statement said. It said talks focused on implementation of the summit decisions, and private sector participation in the new Greek bailout.

Greece is dependent on international rescue loans, as its debt crisis rendered borrowing from international markets prohibitively expensive.

But the country is maintaining a market presence through short-term debt issues, and on Tuesday raised euro812.5 million in an oversubscribed 26-week treasury bill auction – for which it will have to pay interest of 4.85 percent, marginally less than last month.

Greek stocks also posted mild gains with the Athens bourse’s General Index ending 0.19 percent up, a day after hitting a 14-year low following the U.S. credit rating downgrade.


Greece, South Korea Ban Stock Short-Sells

Greece, South Korea Ban Stock Short-Sells

People are reflected at an index board inside the Athens stock exchange August 9, 2011.

As global stock markets have plummeted in the last few days, both Greece and South Korea have banned the short-selling of securities – the attempt by some investors to make money by betting that their holdings will decrease in value.

Monday, Greece ordered a halt in the short selling of stocks, and South Korea did the same on Tuesday. In both countries, stock indexes fell sharply in the aftermath of Standard Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. government’s credit rating and cost investors billions of dollars in losses.

That led stock exchange officials in Athens and Seoul to impose the short-selling ban in an attempt to curb speculation by investors that their markets would fall even further.

In short-selling, the stock seller does not actually own shares of a company. But the seller borrows the shares, likely from an investment broker, and sells them, on the expectation that their value will fall. At that point, the investor can buy them back at a lower price and keep the difference as profit. If the shares rise in value, the investor would lose money.

Some financial analysts say the bans may not have the desired effect of ending the stock sell-off. But one South Korean market official said short-selling “triggered market instability.” One Greek official said the practice was “really having an effect” on the Athens market as it fell to its lowest point in 14 years.

The Greek ban on short-selling extends to October 7, although could be lifted sooner. South Korea imposed a three-month ban.

 


UPDATE 1-Estonia gets S&P upgrade, shows way for Greece, others


Tue Aug 9, 2011 10:58am EDT

Aug 9 (Reuters) – * SP upgrades Estonia’s rating to AA-
from A

* Rare positive move amid European debt woes

* Supportive Nordic banks reduce financial sector risks

(Adds quotes, c.bank quotes, background)

By David Mardiste

TALLINN, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Euro zone minnow Estonia earned a
ratings upgrade from Standard Poor’s on Tuesday, reaping the
benefits of an internal devaluation focused on slashing public
wages that serves as a possible model for struggling economies
elsewhere in the currency bloc.

Estonia, which had a fixed currency peg before
adopting the euro this year, had to slash spending and raise
taxes as it sank into recession in 2009, when its output plunged
14 percent. It has since begun an export-led recovery and is
expected to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the
crisis-hit euro zone this year, with the central bank
forecasting a 6.3 percent expansion.

SP raised Estonia’s long-term sovereign credit rating to
AA-minus from A and said the outlook was stable.

“Should Estonia continue to post sustained growth without
generating internal, primarily fiscal, or external imbalances,
we could consider raising the rating over the next several
years,” SP said in a statement.

The rating agency said a return to excess reliance on
external debt or an unexpected widening of the fiscal gap would
lead to a ratings cut.

Like Baltic neigbours Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia had to
cut back on public sector spending in the face of the recession
to stop its budget deficit getting out of hand.

It was also able to draw on substantial budget reserves
built up during earlier years of strong growth.

The Baltic cutbacks were a forerunner of the medicine
prescribed in the past year or so to euro zone nations Greece,
Ireland and Portugal as they were forced to seek international
bailouts.

“The ongoing debt crisis in Europe highlights once again the
importance of keeping public finances in check,” Estonian
central bank deputy governor Ulo Kaasik said.

“Estonia must follow its budget strategy and post a
consolidated budget surplus in 2013,” he said in a statement.

SP praised Estonia’s “consensus-driven policy framework,
economic flexibility, transparent and productive public sector,
sound fiscal management and strong economic growth prospects”.

“We expect policy to remain predictable, prudent, and
supportive of growth over the ratings horizon,” it added. SP
raised Estonia’s short-term rating to A-1-plus from A-1.

For 2011, SP said it expected net exports to contribute 1
to 2 percentage points to overall GDP growth.

It said it expected investment associated with sizeable
inflows of European Union aid to be a main driver of GDP growth
over the next few years, with a recovery in private consumption.

SP said Estonia had also been helped by the fact Nordic
parent banks had been supportive. From 2008 to 2010 they
injected capital into their Estonian subsidiaries equal in total
to more than 5 percent of Estonian GDP.

It said wealth levels were a rating weakness. Although it
expected GDP per capita to rise to $20,000 by 2014, it would
still be below the ‘A’ median of $24,500.
(Reporting by David Mardiste; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Susan
Fenton)

($1=.6907 Euro)


Greece Travel: Highlights and Must-sees

 

Greece Travel At A GlanceGreece Travel At A Glance

Greece travel offers Kiwi travellers a myriad of natural wonders, ancient sites and architectural marvels.

The stark natural beauty and remnants of ancient civilisations have attracted visitors to Greece for centuries. Its pretty islands cast like precious stones across the Aegean Sea, together with the Greeks’ unsurpassed joie de vivre, combine to make Greece a truly unique destination with everlasting appeal.

In Athens see such classical ruins as the Parthenon and Acropolis. The Greek Isles beckon with Santorini and it’s violent volcanic history including the enormous volcanic eruption in 1450 BC, said to have destroyed legendary Atlantis.

Mykonos’ narrow streets, whitewashed houses, churches and a raging nightlife to Crete’s high mountains, long sandy beaches and fertile valleys, home to Europe’s first advanced civilisation, the Minoans, not to mention Rhodes with a virtual treasure trove of art and history.

Greece Travel - Greek Island HoppingGreek Island Hopping

Greek Island hopping is the best and easiest way to explore the Greek Islands. Try to visit the islands outside the height of the European summer, preferably May to early July or in September when you can avoid the swarming tourists and experience a more peaceful break.

Our pick of the many islands – and they all offer stunning scenery and have the warm Aegean Sea at their doorstep – would be Santorini, Naxos and Mykonos.

Each island has its own unique flavour: Santorini has the most beautiful sunsets backdropped by whitewashed villages and azure blue roofs; Naxos is characterized by its venetian town, many picturesque and wonderful mountainous villages, the fertile valleys, the long golden sandy beaches and the crystalline turquoise waters; Mykonos island is famous for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, its exciting nightlife, its picturesque whitewashed houses and blue domed churches and magnificent sandy beaches; Thassos as the Green island and its crystal clear beaches.

When to go:
Between Apr-Sep. Outside of these months can be cold (extremely cool in the north) and wet in some areas. High season (Jul-Aug) is hot and humid. This is also the time when the winds can get up causing havoc to ferry schedules. From end of November to early April most tourist facilities go into hibernation – they are either closed or drastically reduced.

 


Greece Travel – Walking and Cycling Holidays

 

Greece Travel - Walking  Cycling HolidaysWalking Cycling Holidays in Greece

You get a very different view of things on a walking or cycling holiday, travelling at your own pace, there’s time to notice things you would miss from a car or coach. You get to know the place you’ve chosen intimately and absorb the sights, the scents, and the atmosphere, in a way that you never could on an ordinary holiday.

Headwater offer a selection of walking and cycling holidays throughout Greece and ‘Ancient and Classical Greece’ is proving a huge favourite. Roman castles, Byzantine churches, Ottoman palaces, world-famous classical sites unchanged over the centuries attract many tourists every year.

Some say there is a huge rise in interest in these types of holidays as Kiwis are active outdoor types who enjoy getting a little off the beaten track and exploring areas properly when they travel.

Accommodation on these tours is in small family-run hotels with particular charm – from converted castles, to working farms and stylish villas. Breakfast and most dinners are included, making the most of regional specialities, but lunch is up to you – often the experience of shopping in markets for interesting delicacies, local breads and olive oils is a highlight in itself.