The Greek taxi drivers are striking again – e

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Land of Smiles ranked among best destinations

Thailand has been voted the 4th top World Best Destination, up from 19th last year, according to the UK magazine Conde Nast Traveller’s Travel Awards.

Phuket now ranks among the World’s Top Island Destinations.

Italy took 1st place followed by the United States and Turkey. Thailand was trailed by France, India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Greece.

According to Conde Nast Traveller, Italy was also ranked high for its culture and cuisine, while South Africa offers the best scenery and Turkey outdoes the competition for its value for money.

Among the ranks of the World’s Top Island Destinations, Phuket was ranked 10th, but was given high scores for value for money and for hospitality; according to the magazine, the island resort was a place where one can find “luxury-on-a-budget and a friendly welcome”.

Among the top nine in this category are the Greek Islands, the Maldives, Bali, Barbados in the Caribbean, Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, the Balearics in the Mediterranean, Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, St Lucia in the eastern Caribbean and the Seychelles in Indian Ocean.

The survey also listed the best hotels in Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. Four hotels here were listed among the top 20: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai (3rd), which has the highest standard comfort of accommodation, the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai (12th), Anantara Phuket (14th) and Amanpuri in Phuket (17th).

For the top Overseas Business Hotels, the Upper House in Hong Kong lead with top marks for ambience/decor and standard/comfort of accommodation, while the Sukhothai Hotel in Bangkok ranked 20th among the worldwide best business hotels.

Among worldwide destination spas, Chiva-Som International Health Resort in Hua Hin was voted the 2nd best with high scores for accommodation and service/staff, while the leader in this category was the BodyHoliday of LeSport on St Lucia, which gained top marks for exercise programmes and facilities.

The Six Senses Spa at Six Senses Samui, on the other hand, was the winner of this year’s overseas hotels top spa, gaining credit for offering an individual approach and body treatments.

In the airline category, Virgin Atlantic was the winner for long-haul holidays with top marks for luggage handling, convenience of scheduling and punctuality/efficiency, while Emirates provided the best in-flight entertainment. Singapore Airlines has the highest standards of service/staff, while Cathay Pacific has the best loyalty reward scheme.

Among low-cost airlines, the lead was taken by Bmibaby, a British outfit, while Air Asia (3rd) received high marks for being value for money, and the UK’s Jet2 was noted for its child-friendliness.

Regarding the world’s best airport, Hong Kong International Airport bagged 1st position with top marks for design/layout and shopping/duty-free facilities, followed by Singapore’s Changi International Airport and London Heathrow’s Terminal.

For more details, visit www.cntraveller.com/awards/readers-travel-awards/the-readers-travel-awards-2011/

Seoul mates

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has joined hands with Happy Korea by KTCC and GMM Grammy to introduce an online competition to take two lucky couples to Seoul.

The winners will have a chance to follow in the footsteps of two travel programmes _ Wake Club and Sisterday _ to explore the South Korean capital for three days.

The winning prize also includes accommodation, a guide and round-trip tickets. Other prizes for lucky winners include iPads, iPod Nanos and USB flash drives.

For more information, visit www.visitseoul.net or call 02-539-7387 ext 43.

Airlines update

– Low-cost airline Nok Air will launch a direct flight from Bangkok to Phrae on October 1.

It will fly three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) using a 34-seat SAAB 340B charted from Siam General Aviation or Nok Mini.

The reservations can be made today at www.nokair.com.

– The Air Transport Rating Agency has launched its first annual study on the world’s top 10 safest airlines.

The Geneva-based agency used data from historic accident rates combined with 15 other criteria such as net financial results, average fleet age in service, in house maintenance capability and dedicated flight academy pilot-training facilities.

The top 10 safest carriers in alphabetical order are: Air France-KLM, AMR Corporation (American Airlines, American Eagle), British Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.

– Emirates will launch daily non-stop flights from Dubai to Rio de Janeiro and extend to Buenos Aires on Jan 3 next year.

The expanding routes to the two South America cities also offer an alternative choice for travellers from Thailand to explore Brazil and Argentina, said Khalid Bardan, Emirates’ area manager for Thailand and Indochina.

The airline plans to use Boeing 777-300ER aircraft offering eight First Class Private Suites, 42 lie-flat seats in Business and 304 seats in Economy for the new routes.

Hotels update

– Accor will open Mercure Krabi Deevana as its first hotel at Ao Nang, Krabi in October. The hotel will have a chic design with contemporary low-rise buildings. It will feature 213 rooms and suites, each with a private balcony, a restaurant and bars, three large outdoor swimming pools, a kid’s pool and a spa as well as meeting and events facilities.

The hotel is about 30 minutes’ drive from Krabi International Airport and 20 minutes to the city.

Visit www.mercurekrabideevana.com for more details.

– Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn Bangkok will be open in December. Located near Surasak BTS station, the hotel will offer 390 rooms and suites with sizes ranging from 30sqm-78sqm. The hotel will also have a family floor with facilities for families with children, a play room, three restaurants, a swimming pool, a fitness centre, an internet corner, an executive lounge on the 32nd floor, grand ballrooms, three meeting rooms and two boardrooms.

– Hilton has opened the Conrad Koh Samui. Located on a 63-rai plot of land on Ao Thai Beach, the hotel features 80 villas with private plunge pools and sundecks. Each villa is built in contemporary Thai-style, with the options of one or two bedrooms. They come equipped with iPod docking station, a LCD flat-screen with a DVD player, an oversized bathtub and glass-walled rain shower.

Other facilities include restaurants, a lounge, a spa, a fitness centre, an outdoor yoga pavillion, an on-site diving and sailing centre and a pier.

Conrad Koh Samu is 28 kilometres from the airport to the west side of the island.


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Greece imposes new property tax to meet deficit targets

‘We are faced with a shortfall of about 2 billion euros,’ said Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, adding that the economy would shrink by about 5.3 per cent this year. He has blamed the budget shortfall on a bigger than expected recession.

‘Our immediate priority is the full respect of the budget targets for 2011 … the tax on real estate is the only measure that can be applied immediately and produce results.’

Speaking from the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Venizelos said the tax will cost citizens from 0.50 to 10 euros (0.68-13.65 dollars) per square meter. It will be in effect for a period of two years and collected through electricity bills.

The finance minister said that a ‘national effort’ was needed to combat renewed rumours circulating throughout Europe that Greece will default on its debt and be forced to exit from the eurozone.

The European Union’s economy commissioner, Olli Rehn, welcomed Sunday’s move by Athens, saying that it ‘will go a long way to meeting the fiscal targets’ – while also reminding Greek officials that promised reforms must be implemented to ‘ensure funding from its partners.’

Greece was granted a 110-billion-euro bailout loan in May 2010 linked to strict austerity conditions. It was also promised a second bailout worth 109 billion euros in July.

Inspectors from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been in the country earlier this month to decide whether it can receive the next 8-billion-euro tranche of the first bailout.

But they suddenly cut short the visit on September 2 after disagreeing with Greek officials over the size of the budget shortfall and its case. The official line was that they were granting the Greeks more time for ‘technical work.’

According to reports, foreign auditors have pressed Greece to speed up privatizations and focus on structural reforms and spending cuts, namely cutting down on the large number of civil servants.

Rehn said European Commission staff members would be returning to Athens within days to offer ‘technical support.’ The inspectors’ review could be completed by the end of the month if ‘Greece meets the conditions,’ he added.

Speaking to journalists, Prime Minister George Papandreou vowed to save the country from bankruptcy by passing the necessary reforms agreed with the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank, despite a deepening recession.

‘We have to act now … I am not going to let my country go bankrupt,’ the prime minister said.

‘I prefer that all of us lose something, rather than for us to lose everything forever.’

The ruling Socialist PASOK government, under the leadership of Papandreou, has had to slash salaries and pensions as part of a wave of painful austerity measures to secure the international loans.

Those efforts have sparked large scale public discontent and have seen their ratings drop in polls.

A poll in the Sunday edition of Kathimerini newspaper showed the main opposition conservative New Democracy party 4 percentage points ahead of the ruling party – 32 to 28 per cent.

In a bid to ease public anger, the government also decided Sunday to cut a month’s pay from all elected officials, including Greece’s head of state.

More than 20,000 people, from taxi drivers to students, took part in violent demonstrations in Thessaloniki on Saturday against the austerity measures and rising unemployment.

‘;
PrintArticle();//–

Athens – Greece imposed an extra property tax Sunday on top of existing austerity measures in order to meet deficit targets agreed with international lenders.

‘We are faced with a shortfall of about 2 billion euros,’ said Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, adding that the economy would shrink by about 5.3 per cent this year. He has blamed the budget shortfall on a bigger than expected recession.

‘Our immediate priority is the full respect of the budget targets for 2011 … the tax on real estate is the only measure that can be applied immediately and produce results.’

Speaking from the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Venizelos said the tax will cost citizens from 0.50 to 10 euros (0.68-13.65 dollars) per square meter. It will be in effect for a period of two years and collected through electricity bills.

The finance minister said that a ‘national effort’ was needed to combat renewed rumours circulating throughout Europe that Greece will default on its debt and be forced to exit from the eurozone.

The European Union’s economy commissioner, Olli Rehn, welcomed Sunday’s move by Athens, saying that it ‘will go a long way to meeting the fiscal targets’ – while also reminding Greek officials that promised reforms must be implemented to ‘ensure funding from its partners.’

Greece was granted a 110-billion-euro bailout loan in May 2010 linked to strict austerity conditions. It was also promised a second bailout worth 109 billion euros in July.

Inspectors from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been in the country earlier this month to decide whether it can receive the next 8-billion-euro tranche of the first bailout.

But they suddenly cut short the visit on September 2 after disagreeing with Greek officials over the size of the budget shortfall and its case. The official line was that they were granting the Greeks more time for ‘technical work.’

According to reports, foreign auditors have pressed Greece to speed up privatizations and focus on structural reforms and spending cuts, namely cutting down on the large number of civil servants.

Rehn said European Commission staff members would be returning to Athens within days to offer ‘technical support.’ The inspectors’ review could be completed by the end of the month if ‘Greece meets the conditions,’ he added.

Speaking to journalists, Prime Minister George Papandreou vowed to save the country from bankruptcy by passing the necessary reforms agreed with the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank, despite a deepening recession.

‘We have to act now … I am not going to let my country go bankrupt,’ the prime minister said.

‘I prefer that all of us lose something, rather than for us to lose everything forever.’

The ruling Socialist PASOK government, under the leadership of Papandreou, has had to slash salaries and pensions as part of a wave of painful austerity measures to secure the international loans.

Those efforts have sparked large scale public discontent and have seen their ratings drop in polls.

A poll in the Sunday edition of Kathimerini newspaper showed the main opposition conservative New Democracy party 4 percentage points ahead of the ruling party – 32 to 28 per cent.

In a bid to ease public anger, the government also decided Sunday to cut a month’s pay from all elected officials, including Greece’s head of state.

More than 20,000 people, from taxi drivers to students, took part in violent demonstrations in Thessaloniki on Saturday against the austerity measures and rising unemployment.


History brought to life as Battle of Marathon re-enacted

MARATHON, Greece — Sweating beneath heavy armour, a group of die-hard archaeology fans brought the Battle of Marathon to life this weekend on the coastal plain where the fate of Europe dramatically changed 2,500 years ago.

Gathering from Europe, North America and Australia, the re-enactors staged a three-day event of combat, archaic culture revival and commemoration at Marathon Bay never before seen in Greece despite its rich archaeological heritage.

For many of the participants, it was also a personal pilgrimage after long years of arduous preparation and unfulfilled hope.

“It’s a dream come true after 10 years,” said Hywel Jones, a printer from Wales who came to Marathon with his wife Stephanie to fight as a Greek hoplite, the heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Most of the re-enactors had spent thousands of euros (dollars) on travel expenses just to get to this small town 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Athens that is better known for the long-distance race held here every year.

They brought with them family members as well as hand-made armour and kit crafted over the years at great personal cost.

“I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that standing around is $1 million in kit and travel fare,” said Christian Cameron, a Canadian novelist and former US navy career officer who headed preparations for the event.

“What you see today is the product of 11 years of work,” added Andy Cropper, a university lecturer from England’s Sheffield region and member of a British historical revival association who arrived with several sets of Greek, Persian and Scythian armour in tow.

“It was worth spending the money because it’s such a unique event, as a Greek re-enactor, to be able to be on the field of Marathon,” he told AFP.

The re-enactors initially had to persuade their hosts in Greece that this was the correct moment to commemorate the 2,500-year anniversary of the 490 BC battle in the bay of Marathon.

“Originally everybody thought it was last year, and of course it wasn’t, as there’s no year ‘zero’,” Cropper noted.

Few in number but no less determined, the group showed they meant business from the start, setting up camp near the presumed battlefield, sleeping on straw-filled mattresses and serving up a simple diet of vegetables, fruit, cheese and water in wooden bowls and cups.

Spare armour was quickly put to good use among the combatants as a set of last-minute cancellations and the loss of a large contingent from Bulgaria left the event badly short of Persian adversaries.

“We would have had 15 more hoplites but what we really missed is that the Bulgarians were Persians, and that would have helped us a lot,” Cameron said.

Organisers had initially hoped for a turnout of 200 but had to settle for 50 battle-ready Greek hoplites and a handful of Persian archers.

They were also refused permission from the Greek culture ministry to access archaeological sites such as the tomb of the Athenian warriors slain in the battle, and the ancient Agora and Acropolis in Athens.

But the municipality of Marathon was more amenable, providing logistical support and allowing the group to hold a memorial ceremony to honour the Greek and Persian fallen at the battle’s victory monument.

“I think the town would like us to come back every year,” Cameron said, though the cost to the participants makes an immediate re-run unlikely.

“I think it would be three years,” he notes. “They want to do it again, we’ll do it better. Fifty people is a start, 500 is an achievable goal.”

One of history’s most famous military engagements, the Battle of Marathon is also one of the first to be recorded by chroniclers.

It gave its name to the world’s premier long-distance running event, inaugurated during the first modern Olympics in 1896 in honour of an Athenian messenger believed to have run back to the city to deliver news of the victory, and subsequently dying of exhaustion.

Although only the citizen armies of Athens and Platea fought against the Persian levies that day, the battle galvanised the warring Greek city-states and demonstrated that the Persian Empire, the superpower of the age, could be defeated.

“People argue that it is the battle where the Greeks saved Western civilisation. People can equally argue that it was the moment at which a great civilisation, the Persian civilisation, lost control of the West,” Cameron said.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
More »


Germany keen to buy solar-generated electricity from Greece

ATHENS — Greek Prime Minuster Georges Papandreou confirmed Sunday that Germany was keen to import solar-generated electricity from debt-ridden Greece.

He told a press conference in Salonika that he planned to travel to Germany late this month to discuss the project with Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting of German industrialists.

“We can supply the Germans with 10,000 to 15,000 MW”, he said, underscoring the urgency for Greece to fight “corruption and bureaucracy” which in the past have derailed several investment projects.

Papandreou spoke of a “huge interest” by the Germans for Greece’s renewable energy resources in view of of their plan to phase out nuclear energy and doubts about the political stability of Arab Mediterranean countries.

“There was a (solar) project in the Sahara, but it is in jeopardy because of the political turmoil,” he added.

His remarks also came as German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said Europe could no longer rule out an “orderly default” for Greece as it struggles with a crippling debt crisis.

“To stabilise the euro, we must not take anything off the table in the short run,” Roesler, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, wrote in the column for the conservative daily Die Welt to be published Monday.

“That includes as a worst-case scenario an orderly default for Greece if the necessary instruments for it are available,” he said, reviving an idea that surfaced last year to grapple with the turmoil wracking the eurozone.

Eurozone leaders announced a 159-billion-euro ($223-billion) rescue package for Greece in July, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Sunday that the Greek government must not waver in its reform drive.

After a recent visit by a German official as part of a joint bid to boost investment to spur a Greek recovery, the German environment ministry said it was looking into a project to set up 20,000 hectares of photovoltaic systems to turn solar energy into electricity for export to Germany.

Press reports said the mammoth project dubbed “Helios” (the Greek God of the sun) would have an initial budget of 20 billion euros and would create between 30,000 and 60,000 jobs in Greece.

German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler is due to visit Greece next month to further a bilateral cooperation accord on developing renewable energy.

Athens is trying to attract investment in renewable energies to replace jobs lost due to the recession which has been exacerbated by the austerity measures demanded by the EU and the IMF in exchange for a multi-billion euro rescue package to deal with the crippling debt burden.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
More »


Germany May be Ready to Surrender in Fight to Save Greece


Enlarge image

Euro Crisis Draws G-7 Fire as Merkel Mulls Bank Aid

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives to speak during debates over the federal budget at the Bundestag on September 7, 2011 in Berlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives to speak during debates over the federal budget at the Bundestag on September 7, 2011 in Berlin. Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Group of Seven finance chiefs meeting in Marseille, France, agreed that central banks will “provide liquidity to banks as required” to maintain the resilience of the banking system and financial markets. Bloomberg’s Peter Cook reports on Bloomberg Television’s “Taking Stock.” Pimm Fox also speaks. (Source: Bloomberg)

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner talks about President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan and its impact on the economic recovery.
Geithner, speaking with Peter Cook on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop,” also discusses the European financial crisis. (Source: Bloomberg)

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Axel Merk, president and chief investment officer of Merk Investments LLC, talks about his decision to sell the euro.
Merk also discusses Greece’s sovereign debt crisis. He speaks with Matt Miller, Carol Massar and Peter Cook on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Vincent Truglia, managing director at Granite Springs Asset Management, talks about the likelihood of a possible default on Greek sovereign debt.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos dismissed “rumors” of a Greek default, saying the nation is committed to “full implementation” of the terms of a July agreement for a second aid package. Truglia speaks with Lisa Murphy on Bloomberg Television’s “Fast Forward.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Richard Lacaille, chief investment officer at State Street Global Advisors, talks about Juergen Stark’s resignation from the European Central Bank’s Executive Board.
Lacaille also discusses the euro-area debt crisis and investment strategies. He talks with Andrea Catherwood on Bloomberg Television’s “Last Word.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Germany may be getting ready to
give up on Greece.

After almost two years of fighting to contain the region’s
debt crisis and providing the biggest share of three European
bailouts, Chancellor Angela Merkel is laying the ground for what
markets say is almost a sure thing: a Greek default.

“It feels like Germany is preparing itself for a debt
default,” Jacques Cailloux, chief European economist at Royal
Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, said in an interview.
“Fatigue is setting in. Germany could be a first mover or other
countries could be preparing too.”

Officials in Merkel’s government are debating how to shore
up German banks in the event that Greece fails to meet the
budget-cutting terms of its aid package and is unable to get a
bailout-loan payment, three coalition officials said Sept. 9.
The move capped a week of escalating German threats that Greece
won’t get the money unless it meets fiscal targets and investors
raising bets on a default.

Ring-fencing their banks and a hardening of rescue terms
risk isolating Germany and unnerving global policy makers
already fretting that the region’s political tussles are roiling
markets and threatening growth. Underscoring the tone of weekend
talks of Group of Seven finance chiefs, U.S. Treasury Secretary
Timothy F. Geithner told Bloomberg Television that European
authorities must “demonstrate they have enough political will”
to end the crisis.

Credit Risks

European bank credit risk surged last week to an all-time
high and the euro fell by the most against the dollar in a year.
Investors have doubts whether Greece, whose two-year notes now
yield 57 percent, will implement austerity moves fast enough to
get a sixth payment from last year’s 110 billion-euro ($151
billion) bailout.

The Greek government’s top priority is “to save the country
from bankruptcy,” Prime Minister George Papandreou said in a
Sept. 10 speech in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. “We
will remain in the euro” and this “means difficult decisions,”
he said.

More evidence of rifts at the heart of policy making was
exposed with the unexpected Sept. 9 announcement that Juergen Stark, a German, will quit the European Central Bank’s executive
board over his opposition to the ECB’s purchases of bonds from
debt-laden countries.

“Stark’s departure could be seen by financial markets as
another indication of growing disenchantment in Germany towards
the euro,” said Julian Callow, chief European economist at
Barclays Capital in London. “This could complicate Germany’s
involvement in additional bailout programs.”

Marseille Gathering

At the G-7 gathering in the French port of Marseille, ECB
President Jean-Claude Trichet and European Union Economic and
Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said they knew nothing
about the talk in Germany of the so-called Plan B to protect
banks. French officials said they weren’t working on a parallel
proposal and Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer said his
country’s banks have the capital to withstand a Greek default.

BNP Paribas (BNP) SA, Societe Generale (GLE) SA and Credit Agricole SA (ACA),
France’s largest banks by market value, may have their credit
ratings cut by Moody’s Investors Service as soon as this week
because of their Greek holdings, two people with knowledge of
the matter said on Sept. 10.

Moody’s said in June that the three banks were placed on
review to examine “the potential for inconsistency between the
impact of a possible Greek default or restructuring,” and the
companies’ current rating levels.

Deutsche Bank

German banks were the biggest holders of Greek government
bonds
at the end of 2010 with $22.7 billion, according to data
from the Bank for International Settlements. As of June 30,
Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s biggest bank, had 1.15 billion euros
of net sovereign risk to Greece, down from 1.6 billion euros at
the end of 2010.

The aim of the contingency plan is to shield German banks
from losses from a possible Greek default, which has a more-than
90 percent chance of happening, prices for insurance against
default show.

The plan involves measures to help banks and insurers that
face a possible 50 percent loss on their Greek bonds if the next
portion of Greece’s bailout is withheld, said the three
officials, who declined to be identified because the
deliberations are being held in private. The successor to the
government’s bank-rescue fund introduced in 2008 might be
enrolled to help recapitalize the banks, one of the people said.

Merkel Policy

The discussions aren’t intended to shove Athens out of the
euro, said Klaus-Peter Flosbach, budget-policy spokesman of
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social
Union
in parliament.

“It would be of central importance to keep the possibility
of contagion in the euro zone as low as possible,” Flosbach
said in an e-mail. “In any case, we’re not looking into pushing
Greece out of the euro zone.”

Fredrik Erixon, head of the European Centre for
International Political Economy in Brussels, said Germany’s
concern is broader than Greece, which is in its third year of a
deepening recession, and centers on how its banks and economy
would cope if the debt crisis spreads.

“Germany is preparing for the worst, which is that the
crisis in the euro zone is going to be much bigger for
everyone,” Erixon said.

German Critics

German lawmakers, who are scheduled to vote Sept. 29 on a
second Greek aid package and revamped rescue fund, stepped up
their criticism of Greece after an international mission to
Athens suspended its report on the country’s progress two weeks
ago.

“There can be no doubt” that Greece must fulfil the terms
of aid to receive it, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
said in Marseille. “Everybody must stand by the agreements.”

With a loss in her home state of Mecklenburg-Western
Pomerania this month, Merkel’s coalition has been defeated or
lost votes in all six state elections this year as voters reject
putting more taxpayer money on the line for bailouts. Merkel has
also antagonized markets and fellow leaders by initially holding
out against aid for Greece and demanding investors pay a share
of the assistance.

Fifty-three percent of Germans oppose further aid for
Greece and wouldn’t save the country from default unless it
fulfils terms of the rescue agreement, Bild am Sonntag reported,
citing an Emnid poll of 503 respondents conducted Sept. 8.

Greek Response

After European markets closed last week, Greek Finance
Minister Evangelos Venizelos dismissed “rumors” of a default
and said his nation is committed to “full implementation” of
the terms of the July accord for a second aid package.

Venizelos told reporters in Thessaloniki yesterday that
budget measures, including a special levy on real estate, will
be enough to meet targets set for 2011.

The market fallout served as the backdrop for the G-7 talks
where Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Europe’s woes
were the “number one” topic and that Greece may even need to
quit the euro if it can’t consolidate its budget. Geithner said
authorities “need to do whatever they can do to calm these
pressures” and that rich European nations need to provide
“unequivocal” support for their weak neighbors.

G-7 officials vowed to “take all necessary actions to
ensure the resilience of banking systems and financial
markets,” and to make a “concerted effort” to support a
flagging world economy. They detailed no new policies.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Simon Kennedy in Marseille at
[email protected];
Brian Parkin in Berlin at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Hertling at
[email protected]


Westerly resident named AHEPA’s global leader

Supreme President.

Quite an impressive title. But for John Grossomanides, who holds that title with the international AHEPA organization, it’s the culmination of nearly three decades of work on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based Greek fraternal organization.

“I span the globe,” quips Grossomanides of his new responsibilities.

The Westerly resident has been active for some 27 years in the AHEPA Rose of New England Chapter 110 in Norwich, which he says is the state’s largest with 115 members.

“If you asked me twenty-seven years ago if this day would happen, it certainly wasn’t a goal. I joined the group because of the camaraderie. Then I slowly got involved at the chapter level, the regional level, the national level,” says Grossomanides, a senior clinical pharmacist with Advanced Pharmacy Concepts in North Kingstown, R.I.

He knows that as supreme president, there will be plenty of travel, which Grossomanides says he can accommodate with his work schedule. “A lot of the functions we do fall on the weekends or evenings. You kind of schedule around, a banquet here, a meeting there,” he says.

“I will,” he adds, “be on the frequent flyer list for sure.”

AHEPA stands for American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, and it’s the leading organization representing this nation’s 3 million Americans of Greek heritage as well as Philhellenes, or friends of the Greek community.

Grossomanides’ father John is an AHEPA lifetime member, and besides Grossomanides longtime affiliation with the Norwich chapter, he’s also active with the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in that city.

He was elected supreme president in July during AHEPA’s annual supreme convention in Miami Beach, Fla. His election to AHEPA’s top post is the culmination of a steady rise in leadership within the fraternal organization. He served two terms as supreme vice president and supreme secretary.

As supreme president, Grossomanides serves as AHEPA’s chief executive officer and principal spokesman of its domain, which covers the United States, Canada, Greece and Cyprus. In addition, AHEPA has sister chapters in Australia and New Zealand. The organization’s roots go back to 1922, when it was established by Greek Americans to fight prejudice. Over the decades, AHEPA has joined with other organizations, including the NAACP and B’nai B’rith, on the international stage to fight discrimination and prejudice.

Grossomanides says AHEPA’s mission has been unwavering: to promote the ancient Greek ideals of education, philanthrophy and civic responsibility, for both families and individuals, through community service and volunteerism.

Grossomanides says the Norwich AHEPA chapter is an active one and it has participated in many civic activities as well as fundraising for charitable works in Greece. “My chapter is just thrilled to pieces (with his election). This is a huge honor to have the national/international president belong to the local chapter,” he says.

AHEPA has raised funds to restore the Statue of Liberty and raised about a half-million dollars after the devastating forest fires in Greece to help replant olive gardens and donate fire and rescue equipment to some of the affected villages.

Grossomanides says he’s proud of his Greek heritage and his AHEPA work, as well as his deep Greek roots in Westerly.

“My grandparents when they settled, they settled in Westerly after they came over from Greece. Their friend had a little diner to work at … we’re now going on our third generation of living in Westerly,” he says.

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In their words: Oregonian readers respond to the question, ‘How did you get …

I never thought I would get breast cancer. No family history and I was an extremely healthy 59-year-old. After failing every test — mammogram, repeat mammogram, biopsy, surgery, second surgery for invasive cancer — I felt like I had been pushed out of a plane. I really had no control of my outcome. I was usually pretty positive and upbeat, but I couldn’t think my way out of this disease.

Finally, after surgery I started radiation therapy. I still couldn’t believe this was happening to me. But as I laid on the table for my first radiation treatment, the music playing in the treatment room was Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

I had never heard that song but it meant something to me. Something wonderful. I was going home. I would show up every day and listen to a different song every day and I would beat this cancer. And every song was bringing me a new message. No song is ever taken for granted these days. And I am beating cancer!

— Trudie Williams
Portland

I was diagnosed at age 49 with breast cancer. While I healed from surgery and dealt with successive chemo treatments, I found myself using sewing as a form of self-therapy. Though a novice sewer, I sewed a barnyard-themed play quilt for my little grandson. It helped me to channel my thoughts to more fun times ahead. During the radiation treatments that followed, I imagined myself and my husband enjoying a wonderful vacation on the island of Santorini, Greece, a place that my husband took me a year later.

What transpired was what dreams are made of; my love of travel took my husband and me to Germany, where we lived for the next two years and explored all corners of Europe. Now I’m back in the Pacific Northwest, my cancer is in remission, and I’m looking forward to all that life still has to offer.

— Teri Gilbert
Port Orchard, Wash.

When I found a lump in my breast last fall, I was able to get into the Breast and Cervical Cancer program through Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This took a huge weight off my mind since I was temporarily without insurance, and they focus on making sure women get diagnosed early.

I decided to deal with my breast cancer as if it was an injury, not an illness or disease. In my mind, I could fix what was “broken” with the mastectomy, chemo and radiation treatments, and everyone at Providence St. Vincent’s offered great support.

Even though we normally ate very well, my naturopathic doctor at NCNM (National College of Natural Medicine) had all kinds of special supplements, homeopathic remedies and vitamins to recommend. I went to an acupuncturist, too. My husband stepped up and took on more of the household chores and pampered me. I focused on staying active, and luckily I worked at a nursery so I was able to be outdoors and work with plants. My boss and the women I worked with were always cheerful and upbeat, so going to work was a joy and took my mind off myself. Friends and family from around the country emailed and called regularly and I felt comfortable sharing my treatments, since one of them may have to deal with cancer at some point in their life, too.

I want to be open about what I went through and really appreciated all the women I didn’t even know who approached me with stories of how long ago they had dealt with it, too. Now I am even more diligent about taking walks and not worrying too much. I feel VERY fortunate to have rediscovered what good friends I have, and I will never take any of them for granted.

— Mary Reisenauer
Lake Oswego

Life isn’t easy. Life with cancer is worse. When you find out you have cancer your first thought is you are going to die. Your mind races in all directions as you try to process what is going to happen to you and your loved ones.

For me it was having to decide how my life was going to change and what I was going to do about it. At the time, I was caught up in struggling with my mom’s recent death — due to cancer — and having to take care of myself, my husband and his father who had recently moved in with us and was also ill. The chemo treatments began, the nausea set in, the hair fell out, and the crawling from the bedroom to the living room began as it was too painful to stand and walk. I did my best. Then life changed again, and as the road to recovery began, so did the next change in my life. No time to feel sorry for “me” anymore. Life had to move forward in a positive direction, as I had family to care for.

The pain left and I was once again able to stand on my feet, walk straight and hold my head high. I didn’t die. I was reborn into a new life and left the old one behind. The journey continues, 13 years cancer free and I am moving forward. The sad part: My husband and father-in-law are no longer here to watch me live my life.

— Patricia Stevens
Milwaukie

I found THE LUMP Sept. 29, 2009. By Oct. 13 it was out. I chose to have chemo and then radiation. In the middle of radiation a nodule was found in my lung, really by accident (they were looking to see if I had had a clot in my lung).

Then on Sept. 7, 2010, I had a lobe removed for cancer. It was not a metastasis!

So now my fear of breast cancer is almost nil, while I have a tough time dealing with the much worse statistics of lung cancer.

I work on enjoying every day as much as I can.

Today, my sister called to tell me she had a suspicious mammogram and is having an ultrasound. I can only pray for her that it’s nothing.

— Maryanne Leipper
Troutdale

A survivor must realize that, in fact, she is a survivor. She was a survivor from the moment she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When we understand this, we know that we never lost our life. We really have nothing to get back. It was there all the time, throughout surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and the emotional trauma of it all.

Life was always there but it had changed.

Knowing that, we move on with the reality that all of life is about change. Nothing stays the same. Change is not necessarily bad, it just is. We might want to resume the activities that we were involved in prior to breast cancer but we must open ourselves to the fact that life is, indeed, different now. We learn to live a “new normal.”

We are not the victims, we are the heroes. We begin living our life with this new direction knowing that if we beat cancer we can beat most anything. So it is not about getting life back, as life never went anywhere. Every breath we take, as survivors, makes us realize that our life was there all the while. It had just changed color.

What was once brilliant yellow was transformed for a brief moment in time to a washed out, pale gray. The glow returned, the sun is shining again and what we once thought was yellow has turned to gold.

To savor the Oregon sunrise and sunset, with its azure, crimson and topaz majesty and feel the surging indigo water of the Pacific Ocean makes one realize that living in the moment is a precious gift we give ourselves.

— Marilyn Reihs
Portland

Surviving breast cancer turned out to be much more challenging than I thought. I knew the physical aspect would be hard. I prepared myself. I was fortunate to have found the best oncology surgeon and plastic surgeon in the Oregon/Washington area. I was secure in knowing that my physical care and recovery were in good hands.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional fallout that occurred toward the end of my recovery. You concentrate so hard on getting past the surgeries, chemo, radiation … being brave for the world to see, that when you have a moment to consider what you’ve been through … you crash. At least I did.

I had a loving husband, family that was there for me. I had friends calling to say, “Let me know if you need anything.” That was all great, but when I had the really hard questions — What do I do now? Will I see my sons grow to be men? Will I be around to see my grandchildren get married? Is this the time to update my will? WHO AM I NOW??? — I had no one to confide in who had gone through this.

My nurse navigator kept reminding me of an organization called Breast Friends, located in Tigard. “Call them,” she said. “They have workshops and a lot of experience with this.”

When I finally came to the realization that I simply could not do this alone, I called, and the voice I heard was Sharon Henifin’s. Immediately, I felt comfortable enough to tell her what I was feeling; and she related to every fear I had. She had a workshop called Thriving Beyond that I might be interested in attending.

I didn’t know it then, but Breast Friends (Becky and Sharon) would save my life. I had a place to go to with all my questions and feelings that I couldn’t explain. A place where I could be completely honest about what I was experiencing; and since they were survivors themselves, they were able to relate on a level no one else could, unless they’d gone through breast cancer.

“No! You’re not crazy for feeling the way you do.” “We’re here to help you get through this.” These are the words that make all the difference when you doubt what your future might bring. I am able to look at my life as the blessing that it is, on a level that I would never have gotten to, had it not been for everyone who helped me.

Breast Friends was instrumental in my success with my mental recovery. I joined an all-women breast cancer survivor dragon boat racing team called Pink Phoenix, which surrounds me with amazing women who enjoy and celebrate their lives after cancer, paddling on the water.

With any luck, I can pay it forward and help other women navigate the emotional waters of breast cancer. I got my life back, richer than I’d ever dreamed.

— Linda Adams
Beaverton

There was nothing to “get back,” nothing lost. Life is a continuum, a series of events and endeavors and impacts. I am not a “cancer survivor” any more than I am a joy survivor or heartbreak survivor or windfall survivor or influenza survivor or childbirth survivor.

Life isn’t about tragedies and triumphs; it’s about, as (Rudyard) Kipling said, treating the impostors the same. Cancer (which is nothing more than really ambitious cells) was — is — a thread in my tapestry, a page in my book. It will always be part of who I am, just as will my brown eyes, my son, my skinny wrists, my long-dead father, my life partner, my memories of Bangkok, and the stars over my creekside hardwoods. Life is closed-end for all of us, and we integrate everything that happens, for good or ill, from moment to moment.

I am a person who had cancer, and it wasn’t the worst thing, or even the second- or third-worst thing, or the best thing; it was just a thing.

— Lane Browning
Portland

I left working as an executive for a Fortune 500 company for a better quality of life. I wanted to return to a life where I woke up in my own bed in my own home every day. Shortly after my new carefree life began, and working only part time, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments forced me to look thoughtfully at my life and my career path.

With my health returning, I decided to start my own business. I had already faced fear and risks, (so) starting a new business at age 51 seemed mild in comparison. I was familiar with wicking fabric from workout clothes but could not find anything comfortable for sleep. Now, seven years later we are a successful business in a niche market. My company, Haralee.Com Sleepwear, makes beautiful wicking garments for women suffering night sweats due to cancer treatments, menopause, humid climates or just a high internal thermostat.

Never in a million years did I think a breast cancer diagnosis would lead to a new career as an entrepreneur helping other women get a better night’s sleep!

— Haralee Weintraub
Portland

After having a single mastectomy and chemo following my March 2008 diagnosis, I spent a lot of time writing my thoughts and feelings down in a journal. I allowed myself to cry. I surrounded myself with people I loved and who loved me. I took daily walks even when I didn’t feel like it because I knew exercise was important in my recovery. I ate healthy.

I did what my doctors told me because I have four sons, parents and siblings that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to. I am proud to say I have been cancer-free for three years now. I have stayed involved in helping others who are on this journey.

— Denise Bacon

Ground zero. It was Thanksgiving Day. Even after more than two months there was still a thick dusting of dirt and ash in and around the area. The occasional breeze contained the odd, acrid smell of death. From my vantage point, it was eerily quiet except for the slow and steady stream of dump trucks, their precious contents being taken to carefully specified locations. The smiling and hopeful faces lovingly posted on memorial walls were a powerful reminder that we must never forget.

One week earlier, I had been deployed as an American Red Cross volunteer to provide mental health services to victims of the World Trade Center disaster. Only days prior to that my doctors, thankfully, told me the suspicious areas of my recent mammogram were probably nothing to be concerned about and to go ahead and go to New York. With concern for my health tucked in the back of my mind, I headed toward an experience that would forever change my perspective on life.

I worked in one of the many Red Cross Service Centers located in Lower Manhattan. For 10 days I had the privilege of sitting with hundreds of people, each with a remarkable story of survival. Many were so traumatized that the unspeakable horrors could only be shared by sitting quietly with someone who cared. Every night, after an exhausting day, I entered the survivor’s precious stories into my journal, vowing that I would always remember each of them.

Shortly after I returned home, a biopsy determined that I did have early stage breast cancer. On one hand, I was stunned. What? Not me! I’m not ready for this! Am I going to die? On the other hand, having recently witnessed the unending strength and courage from the Sept. 11 survivors, I knew that my problem was small by comparison. I knew that their examples of survival would be a great source of hope to me.

In the weeks and months that followed, I trudged through seemingly endless doctor appointments, trips to Portland, surgeries and other treatment procedures. All the while I knew that I was one of the lucky ones — not only because my cancer was caught very early, but also because I had been given a profoundly wonderful gift from the people I met in New York. Whenever I felt my courage waning, I simply opened my journal and read the stories of these courageous people. I was instantly uplifted by their strength.

One year later I was asked to go back to New York on the anniversary of Sept. 11 to work with survivors. I eagerly went, but when I came home, once again I was diagnosed with breast cancer. More fear, more treatment. But also, more stories of courage and hope to boost me through the difficult process again. One might think I would never want to return to New York! But that is where the source of so much of my strength lies — with those heroes who shared their stories with me.

I am fully recovered now, and deeply saddened to think that that is probably not the case for many of those people who touched my life so deeply. All I can give them now is the continued promise that I will never forget. So, to Ella, Vince, Richard, Daniel, Carol, Jeanette and the hundreds of thousands of other people directly affected by this tragedy, you are in my thoughts every day … and I am grateful.

Oh, and I still (draw pink or red heart here) New York!

— Mary Jo Wood
Tillamook

In 1985, I was treated for osteopenia at OHSU. Having never had a mammogram, my doctor wanted me to have one. I resisted this for two months, as there was no history in my family of breast cancer. After several requests I finally had a mammogram — and the sad diagnosis of breast cancer in the right breast was made.

Lumpectomy was just being made an option and I had an upper right segmental resection involving 21 lymph nodes followed by radiation that same year.

Each year another mammogram was done. In 2000, breast cancer occurred in the right breast again with a total mastectomy followed by chemo and then Tamoxifen. The Tamoxifen made me uncomfortable all of the time so I quit after two years.

In November of 2006, I was diagnosed with cancer again — this time in the left breast. Within two weeks, one daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at OHSU and my other daughter with breast cancer in Longview.

Within a short period of time, all three of us had bilateral mastectomies. We could have each been devastated, but without rationalizing it, we each were strong enough to weather it through, knowing that it was the only thing we could do for each other.

It is difficult to say whether we are stronger because of this. I can only know that I am immensely proud of my daughters and the dignity they portray.

— Edith Henningsgaard Miller
Astoria

When my doctor told me I had breast cancer in November, 1998, my response was, “No, I don’t.” Then reality set in. The next two weeks were a flurry of wonderful cards, lunches, two crying sessions and a lot of encouraging words from family, friends and co-workers.

I had my mastectomy at St. Vincent’s Hospital on Thanksgiving Eve. My two doctors and all the nurses were wonderful.

When I was discharged, I made a promise that when I retired, I would give back by volunteering at the hospital. I started volunteering eight years ago and then six months later I also starting working on call. Now I’m working at the ICU/CRU receptionist desk five nights a week and loving it.

Who would have thought that my distressing news would have resulted in having the best job I’ve ever had?

— Diane Reed
Tigard

The phone rang on May 10 this year as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner for our company visiting outside on the deck with my husband. I answered and listened to the caller, my mind suddenly frozen. I hung up the phone and it was as though I had stepped into a river rafting boat with no paddle, unable to control its direction.

When we were alone later that evening, I told my husband the call was our family doctor to let me know my biopsy from the previous Friday showed malignant cancer cells in my breast, and I had an appointment with an oncology surgeon the following Monday.

The river rafting boat took me everywhere I needed to be physically in the next 21 days, but my mind couldn’t seem to get up to speed. Was I dreaming this? Should I be crying hysterically? How will I tell my children? What about my work at the office? Precisely three weeks later, I underwent a double mastectomy.

The river rafting boat came ashore on June 2 when I came home from the hospital. There were the tubes and discomfort, the ability to nap at the drop of a hat, but no pain. Test results revealed I would not require any radiation or chemotherapy. Flowers arrived. Friends came to visit. Neighbors brought over meals. Three weeks later I returned to work a few hours a day. My co-workers hung a huge banner and had morning treats to welcome me back. Lots of hugs and relief and well wishes! I participated in a Relay for Life cancer walk. It seemed strange to be there wearing a survivor T-shirt.

I think that is when this odd sensation came over me which I have finally labeled Survivors Guilt. Somehow I had dodged the proverbial bullet — no follow-up treatment except for an appointment in December with my oncologist. The physical healing continues and prostheses purchased. Still the nagging persists that I was truly one of the lucky ones, having only to take Arimidex for the next five years.

A tiny 1 mg pill every day for 60 months — how does that possibly begin to equate to the hundreds, maybe thousands of women who after surgery go through the ugly but life-saving chemo and radiation treatments, tired, nauseated and barely able to get through each day? Nagging, nagging, in the back of my mind.

I decided I did not want to even mention my surgery to people I met who did not know what I had been through oh such a few short weeks before. Truly I felt guilty that I had no outward sign of this terrible disease called breast cancer. So I am quiet now and only answer questions from those who know the story. My hope is I can soon put this in perspective

So how will I get my life back? With the unfailing, unflappable love and support of my husband, family, co-workers (a truly marvelous group) and my faith.

Breast cancer attacks on many fronts, not just in one’s breast tissue. Hooray for all the survivors who continue to fight back after surgery and for those of us who are fortunate enough to miss the treatment aftermath!

May we all find the peace needed for our new lives, no matter the journey.

— Carol M. Barstow
Clackamas