Greece uses emergency powers to end garbage strike

Greece used emergency powers to order garbage crews back to work Tuesday to remove 17 days worth of rotting trash from the streets of Athens, as a campaign of strikes escalated against austerity measures to be voted on this week.

Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou issued the civil mobilization orders, generally used for national emergencies and rarely required to solve labor disputes, as the country braced for the protests to culminate in a general strike on Wednesday and Thursday.

The general strike is expected to ground all flights and halt most public services, and unions plan to disrupt a vote in parliament Thursday to pass the toughest austerity measures since Greece’s financial crisis began two years ago.

The highly unpopular new measures include tax hikes, further pension and salary cuts, the suspension on reduced pay of 30,000 public servants out of a total of more than 750,000, and the suspension of collective labor contracts.

The crisis has already taken a heavy toll on jobs. Unemployment in July rose to 16.5 percent, from 16 percent in June and 12 percent a year earlier, according to the national statistical authority. The total number of unemployed exceeded 820,000.

Meanwhile, European countries are trying to work out a broad solution to the continent’s deepening debt crisis, ahead of a weekend summit in Brussels.

“The situation is exceptionally difficult, because there is great uncertainty in Europe, great uncertainty internationally,” Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in a meeting with the country’s president, Karolos Papoulias. “People … are making big sacrifices. We are carrying out a patriotic duty because we have to save the country.”

Venizelos also tempered expectations for reaching a definitive deal on a second rescue package for Greece at a European Union summit this weekend. The second bailout, worth euro109 billion, was initially agreed in July, but crucial details remain to be worked out.

“We must not have great expectations for Sunday’s summit,” Venizelos said. “We will seek what is best for the country and the eurozone. Everyone understands that if Greece is saved, the eurozone will be saved too. And the reverse is also true: if the Europeans fail on Greece they will not be able to safeguard themselves.”

Railway workers and journalists joined ferry crews, tax officials and lawyers on Tuesday in the strike blitz against the austerity measures.

Greece’s embattled Socialist government needs to pass the new measures — which some of its own backbenchers have threatened to block — to receive the next euro8 billion ($11 billion) installment of the original euro110 billion package of international rescue loans that have been keeping it afloat since May 2010.

“It must be understood that we are fighting a war here,” the finance minister said. “If some people think that we live under normal circumstances and we are implementing a policy we want to implement of cutbacks and austerity, they are very much mistaken.”

Greece, still frozen out of long-term borrowing markets, on Tuesday successfully auctioned euro1.62 billion worth of 13-week treasury bills. The country had to offer buyers a slightly higher yield, 4.61 percent compared with 4.56 percent at the previous sale last month. Investor interest was slightly higher, with the auction 2.86 times oversubscribed.

The government has said it will run out of cash in mid-November if the next bailout loan installment is not forthcoming.


The Mindlessness of Tourism: A Modern Plague on Our World

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Still, it’s an extraordinary number.

And it will continue to escalate.

In the first half of 2011, international tourism grew by nearly 5 percent to a new record of 440 million arrivals.

UNWTO forecasts that over the next twenty years, the number of international tourists will rise by 3.3 percent every year — by the year 2030, there will be 1.8 billion international tourists.

This means that, on average, an additional 43 million additional international tourists will fly the friendly skies each year.

“The next 20 years will be of continued growth for the sector,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in a statement. “This growth offers immense possibilities as these can also be years of leadership, with tourism leading economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability.”

Much of this growth in tourism will involve the emerging markets, especially China and India.

UNWTO estimates that by 2030, the emerging economies will receive 58 percent of all global travelers. Fewer people will go to the “traditional” tourist destinations like Europe and North America.

Moreover, in terms of cold hard cash, international tourism receipts reached $919 billion last year — which suggests this will become a trillion-dollar business very soon.

In New York City, where I live, tourism is booming and has likely “saved” the town during the throes of the crippling recession.

According to official data, 48 million (both foreign and domestic) tourists visited the city last year, up from 45.6 million in 2009. All told, they spent $31.5 billion during their stay – on hotels, food, drinks, transportation and God knows what else.

The top foreign tourists to New York last year came from Britain and Canada (about 1 million each; France (about 600,000); Brazil (also 600,000) and Germany (528,000). The numbers from China/Hong Kong amounted to about 266,000, but I suspect that figure will rise in the coming years.

The fact is, tourism is a huge moneymaking enterprise that virtually all countries want more of.

But let me present a contrarian view — I think tourism is a plague that is destroying cultures and permanently damaging societies.

While I concede that tourism generates tremendous revenues (and much needed jobs), I feel that it has become a vulgar, tacky and somewhat pointless endeavor that does nothing whatsoever to benefit of either the traveler or the people in target countries.

I am making a strong distinction between “travelers” and “tourists” – travelers voyage to foreign lands in order to immerse themselves in native cultures and experience something truly different and unique. Visiting other countries can be a profoundly life-altering or life-enriching experience.

I have been lucky enough to travel extensively in my life and I have treasured every journey I have made.

But “tourists”? Well, they’re only interested in spending money, having their passports stamped, and boasting to their friends back home that they’ve been to other places.

I have seen Americans in Europe who refuse to learn even the rudiments of the local language, refuse to communicate with the local people (unless they are fluent in English) and do little or nothing to explore the local culture. They go from hotel-to-tourist site-back-to-hotel, all the while taking photographs and writing inane post cards home.

I have seen Americans in Paris (Paris!) go for lunch at McDonalds, and then go to an American-style sports bar to watch NFL football games.

But I am not limiting my criticism to the Americans.

I have seen waves and waves of British holidaymakers invade Spanish beaches like Benidorm or Corfu in Greece, solely for the purpose of drink, sex and sun (which are fine, but completely bypassing the incredibly rich cultural treasures the rest of those countries have to offer). They may as well be in Miami or Atlantic City or Blackpool.

I have seen masses of Japanese and Chinese tourists in Paris and Rome who move in groups of up to forty people, led around by a tourist guide who speaks their language, and visit tourists traps (while staying at hotels very close to said tourist traps) and never ever have any meaningful discourse with the local people.

I have seen English-speaking foreigners in France refuse to utter a single world of French; spend their time in bars or the hotel restaurant watching BBC (or CNN) and they go on shopping expeditions to stores that the hotelier steers them to.

I have even seen Americans in England who are so baffled by some of the local accents that they looked like there were in a “foreign country” (despite the shared language and culture of the U.S. and UK).

I have to wonder — why on earth do these people take the time and trouble (and money) to make a trip overseas if all they’re going to do is the exact same things they do at home? Why do they bother?

I think part of the answer is that travel has become viewed as a “normal” and “routine” thing to do — almost “de rigueur” in the modern world. There is also a kind of a snobbish attitude against people who have not travelled overseas (at least in New York from what I have witnessed).

But, as I see it, most travelers have no business (nor a compelling reason) to go to foreign countries, because they are completely unwilling to learn anything about the host nation’s culture (or are wholly unprepared to make the necessary adjustments and compromises required to delve into a foreign culture).

Tourism, at least from the American point of view, is all about “re-creating” the comforts of home in distance places, so that tourists will feel comfortable – and, of course, spend money.

This is why there are now western-style resorts/bars/hotels in such (otherwise “exotic”) places like Bali and Phuket, Thailand.

And this very act of excessive commercialization is defeating the very purpose of travelling.

Related to this subject, of course, is how rapid globalization is gradually making the world more homogeneous. London and New York are increasingly becoming like mirror images of each other – even cities further afield like Tokyo and Seoul are gradually imitating the Anglo-American styles in fashion, culture and lifestyle.

Mass global communications has started the process of destroying regional accents (a course that is irreversible). Too many tourists have also permanently destroyed some of the priceless ancient monuments of Greece and Cambodia, for example – although those nations desperately need the tourist dollars and euros.

Eventually (perhaps in less than fifty years?), every major city in the globe will be similar, if not identical. At that point, the very notion of travelling will become utterly moot – flying from New York to Rio de Janeiro will have all the charm and excitement of taking a bus to Baltimore.


Packyourbags Holidays Experiences Growth In Long-Haul Bookings

Long-haul holiday bookings now represent a much larger share of Packyourbags Holidays bookings.

Tunbridge Wells, Kent (PRWEB) October 18, 2011

Packyourbags.com, one of the UK’s leading online retail travel agents, originally began its life selling purely package holidays to the Mediterranean. Over the years it has grown the number of holiday locations it promotes and now features destinations worldwide.

Whilst sales have steadily increased for long-haul bookings, it has only been this year where Packyourbags.com has really seen this type of holiday become a much larger slice of their pie.

The destinations that have played a significant role in the growth of Packyourbags.com’ long-haul bookings are The Gambia, Mexico, in particular the resort of Cancun, and South America, with trips mainly to Peru including the Inca Trail.

Packyourbags.com Managing Director Mark Kempster commented, “I’m delighted to see our hard efforts in developing packyourbags.com being rewarded with more and more UK consumers using Packyourbags.com as a source to find exciting and competitively priced long-haul holidays. This is a trend we’re working hard to continue, especially with the imminent launch of our new dynamic packaging system.”

Kempster continued, “In future the new online search and booking system will search the site for the best individual deals on hotels and flights to then marry these together to produce potentially better deals than purchasing a traditional package holiday, we will be making an announcement in the coming weeks when the site upgrade has taken place.”

Currently Packyourbags.com is promoting the following fantastic deals to its three standout long-haul destinations –

  • Gambia from £289 per person for 7 nights, departing 20 November 2011

  • Cancun in Mexico from £905 per person for 7 nights all inclusive, departing 01 November 2011
  • Peru + the Inca Trail from £2,049 per person, 11 days, departing 26 October 2011

With October half term fast approaching Packyourbags.com still has plenty of last minute holiday deals to the Mediterranean, search for Greece holidays, Turkey holidays and not forgetting Spain.

For the best available deals call 0800 652 5986 or visit Packyourbags.com.

# # #

Lucy Watt
Packyourbags.com
0800 652 5986
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Greece: 48-hour strike 19-20th Oct

Transport 18/10/2011

A new strike is planned throughout Greece on the 19th and 20th October. The strike will commence at midnight on Wednesday until 11:59pm on Thursday.

Travellers should expect most shops and public banks to be closed during this 48-hour strike. Customs at all major airports will also be affected, as well as all public transport. From 14th October, all taxi drivers and immigration officers have been on strike. From 17th October at 6:00am to 19th October 6:00am, ferry and ships have remained docked.

It is highly recommended that all travellers planning on visiting Greece in the next week contact their travel agents to arrange an alternative.

The strike comes as a reaction to Greece’s latest austerity measures. The strikes are organised mainly by public sector union ADEDY as it opposes wages and pensions cuts and ‘labour reserve’. The strikes will be accompanied by protest marches. A large protest will be taking place on Wednesday in Athens, the Greek capital.

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