Daily Archives: May 22, 2015

Με την Παλμύρα, η ISIS ελέγχει τη μισή Συρία και τα σύνορα με το Ιράκ

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Το τελευταίο συνοριακό πέρασμα προς το Ιράκ έχει καταλάβει η ISIS κατά την προέλασή της γύρω από την Παλμύρα και την ανατολική Συρία τα τελευταία 24ωρα, η οποία πλέον έχει τον έλεγχο της μισής συριακής επικράτειας -περισσότερο από κάθε εμπλεκόμενο μέρος- έστω κι αν πρόκειται κυρίως για έρημο.

Στην ίδια την Παλμύρα, ανησυχητικές αναφορές μιλούν για συνοπτικές εκτελέσεις και εγκλωβισμένους αμάχους, ενώ εκφράζονται φόβοι πως οι τζιχαντιστές θα αξιοποιήσουν την «ευκαιρία» για καταστροφή των μνημείων. Ό,τι μπορούσε να απομακρυνθεί έχει μεταφερθεί στα δυτικά.

Oι τζιχαντιστές της ISIS έχουν επενδύσει αρκετά και στη μάχη στο επικοινωνιακό πεδίο: Το αρρωστημένο σίριαλ με τους αποκεφαλισμούς ομήρων στην κάμερα, η φρικαλεότητα με την οποία εκτελούνται αιχμάλωτοι (αποκορύφωμα, το βίντεο με τον ιορδανό πιλότο) και τα πλάνα με τις βαριοπούλες να διαλύουν αρχαία αγάλματα συμπληρώνουν την εκστρατεία της ISIS στο Ίντερνετ (με τις στρατιές υποστηρικτών στα κοινωνικά δίκτυα) που επιτελούν τον πολύ πρακτικό στόχο στρατολόγησης νέων μαχητών σε μία οργάνωση που «διαφημίζει» έτσι την ενίσχυσή της.

Οπότε, το έντονο ενδιαφέρον της διεθνούς κοινότητας για τα ανεκτίμητης αξίας μνημεία της Παλμύρας μπορεί να καταλήξει ένα επιπλέον κίνητρο για καταστροφές, ως καλή «ευκαιρία» για νέες εικόνες που δείχνουν τη «δύναμη» της ISIS.

Στο καθαρά στρατιωτικό πεδίο, με την κατάληψη της Παλμύρας, πάνω στον άξονα σύνδεσης της Δαμασκού με τα ανατολικά της, οι οργανώσεις που παρακολουθούν τις εξελίξεις στη χώρα επισημαίνουν πως η οργάνωση ελέγχει πλέον τη μισή συριακή επικράτεια. Στην ουσία, μεγάλο μέρος των περιοχών που ελέγχει η ISIS στη Συρία είναι έρημος.

Επιπλέον, οι τζιχαντιστές πήραν επίσης τον έλεγχο του συνοριακού περάσματος Αλ Ουαλίντ Τανέφ μεταξύ Συρίας και Ιράκ: Έτσι, ελέγχουν ολόκληρη τη μεθόριο, με μοναδική εξαίρεση ένα μικρό τμήμα στο βορρά που ελέγχεται από τους Κούρδους. Στην εικόνα προστίθεται η προέλαση των τελευταίων ημερών στην ιρακινή πλευρά, στο Ραμάντι.

Οι ανησυχίες επικεντρώνονται επίσης στην τύχη όσων έχουν μείνει στην Παλμύρα και το σύγχρονο Ταντμούρ. Οι υπηρεσίες του ΟΗΕ ανέφεραν, σύμφωνα με το BBC, ότι αναφορές θέλουν τους τζιχαντιστές να εμποδίζουν αμάχους που προσπάθησαν να διαφύγουν.

Η ομάδα «Συριακό Παρατηρητήριο Ανθρώπινων Δικαιωμάτων», που συγκεντρώνει πληροφορίες από τη συριακή επικράτεια, έχει αναφέρει ότι τουλάχιστον 49 άτομα σκοτώθηκαν όταν οι τζιχαντιστές μπήκαν στην Παλμύρα.

Πρόκειται στην πλειονότητά τους για μέλη των συριακών δυνάμεων, πολλοί από τους οποίους αποκεφαλίστηκαν.

Πηγή:in.gr

Greece’s best Eurovision entries

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Michalis Rakintzis singing the famous S.A.G.A.P.O.

Elena Paparizou can’t get all the fame for Greece’s impressive Eurovision entries. Neos Kosmos looks back at some of the most memorable acts presented by Greece.

Elena Paparizou – My Number One

Paparizou brought Eurovision to Greece thanks to his amazing song in 2005.
It had the hot girl factor, an impressive reveal near the end of the song where Elena played makeshift strings that appeared from a dancer’s back, and it was damn catchy.
“You’re my lova… undercova… you’re my only passion and I have no otha.” Brilliant!
Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5Sju9fTLUk

Michalis Rakintzis- S.A.G.A.P.O

Say the PASSWORD…
Horrible accents, off key for most of the song, and consumes reminiscent of the Backstreet Boys millennium tour, what’s not to love? Unsurprisingly, this song came 17th in the 2002 competition but has remained a favourite for die hard Eurovision fans.
Do yourself a favour and watch it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiTOVNRS-vw

Sofia Vossou – Anoixi

This 1991 classic was a huge hit in Greece, and rightly so. It was nothing but Sofia Vossou’s voice filling the stage, making the hugely difficult song sound like it was effortless.
Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s27fw44U7Qk

Kaiti Garbi – Ellada Xora tou Fotos

Kaiti Garbi was the sex symbol of the 1993 Song competition, shimmying her way through a very catchy tune and demanding attention with a very revealing dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination. But, she nailed her song on stage, and made it into the top ten of the final.
Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l80k0jw2an0

Antique – Die For You

Greece enters the 21st century and finally sings a song in English, albeit the chorus.
Elena Paparizou takes her first stab at the Eurovision stage as the lead singer of duo Antique. While she looked nervous, she had impressive dance moves and a song that truly represented the early 00s. Die For You got Greece third place… almost a predictor of what was to come with Paparizou’s second attempt.
Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cnE7FrqSdQ

Sakis Rouvas – This is Our Night

After the success of Shake It in 2004 when he came third, Sakis Rouvas’ next try was looked at as a sure thing.
No expense was spared for 2009 This is Our Night. The song was flawless (there was a key change) the stage performance included a magic conveyor belt, a phallic platform that rose up at the end of the song and vigorous dancing.
It might have looked impressive on paper, but it was a hot mess on stage.
Sakis actually almost gyrated out of his white shirt, his vocals were off thanks to his demanding dance routine and the big reveal at the end was just too much.
Sakis was left deflated and disappointed, actually apologising for his quite respectable seventh finish.
Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnAJjXuY5YM

source:Neos Kosmos

Australian ark sought for Skyrian horse

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The Skyrian horse is one of the rarest equine breeds in the world. Photo: Skyrian Horse Society.

Campaign begins to give endangered species a home in Victoria’s High Country.

Victoria may become the latest outpost in efforts to save a unique breed of horses from the island of Skyros.

The species is considered a descendant of the mounts Achilles took to Troy and those used by Alexander the Great (as featured in the Parthenon Frieze) but their numbers have reduced alarmingly in recent decades.

Today, the Skyrian horse is one of the rarest breeds in the world, with fewer than 100 breeding mares worldwide.

Carrying the torch for the Skyrian horse in Australia is business consultant Margaret Moore who runs a farm and holiday retreat in Mansfield on the edge of Victoria’s High Country.

Ms Moore’s plan is to bring a group of horses to the state as part of a global effort to breed the species, but transporting them to Australia may cost up to $170,000.

A similar breeding group was successfully exported to Scotland in 2005. There the herd has grown to over 20.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos, Ms Moore said that six animals – two stallions and four mares – were needed to have a reasonable gene pool and start a herd in Victoria.

“It costs $30,000 per horse to fly an animal from Europe. This charge includes two to three weeks quarantine at either end of the journey.

“I need to ship probably from two or three locations – Corfu and Skyros and possibly Thessaloniki – and pay the transport costs to Germany where they would go into quarantine.”

Ms Moore is currently developing a fundraising campaign and will approach long-haul airlines with a view to sponsoring the horses’ journey to the southern hemisphere.

“This is a very expensive exercise but I believe it is vitally important to Greek heritage, the breed and the maintenance of endangered species,” she said.

As part of the initial promotion of the project, Ms Moore plans to undertake a sponsored ride on another ancient equine breed – Norwegian Fjord horses – along the railway trail from Tallarook to Mansfield.

Fundraising efforts are also to be supported by Melbourne’s Hellenic Museum, with CEO John Tatoulis having expressed a personal interest in the initiative.

“I have a keen interest in horses – being a rider and having owned them in my youth. I’m also cognisant of the fact that the Skyrian breed is endangered, and measures to protect the breed should be encouraged and supported.

“The Skyrian horse is an integral part of Greek history and culture and its role as such should be appreciated and celebrated.”

Margaret Moore is keen to contact Australians of Skyrian descent who may be interested in becoming involved with the project, and who may be able to share their families’ memories of the horses on Skyros.

Enquiries about the Australian Skyrian horse project should be sent to: info@moorehouse.com.au

source:Neos Kosmos

Brisbane set to show all things Greek

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Thousands of Greeks and honorary Greeks will attend, including Prime Minster Tony Abbott.

Brisbane’s biggest celebration, the annual Brisbane Paniyiri Greek Festival is on this weekend and is bound to attract well over 60,000 people.

Brisbane Paniyiri is not only the longest-running Australian Greek festival but also Queensland’s largest cultural festival. The Greek Club and Musgrave Park in West End are gearing up for a big celebration this weekend honouring all things Greek.

The Paniyiri Greek Festival is celebrating its 39th year over 10 days, with events culminating over the 23 and 24 May weekend and with more than 60,000 people taking part in this journey of discovery, culture and celebration.

One of the strongest and most vibrant Greek communities has been established in Brisbane since the 1920s, which is the reason that fired a group of Greek Australians with the passion to share their culture and love for all things Hellenic with Brisbane back in 1976.

The team decided to create a platform introducing dance, music and Greek cuisine to the rest of the community, welcoming multiculturalism.

“Musgrave Park in South Brisbane will transform into a Greek marketplace with many food stores and local entertainers, delivering the biggest, longest and most fun Paniyiri festival featuring attractions that will include zorba dancing, plate smashing and traditional Greek delicacy eating,” Chris Cazonis of the Paniyiri Organising Committee tells Neos Kosmos.

“The secret food of Greece is showcased at the stalls filled with mouth-watering dishes, mezedes, plenty of Greek beer and wine set to satisfy even the most demanding tastebuds.”

Greeks and honorary Greeks will attend, including state and federal officials as Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be launching the weekend celebrations.

“Kitchen whizzes, magicians and TV stars – all set to ‘go Greek’ at Paniyiri 2015, along with seven-time world champion surfer Layne Beachley and her rocker husband Kirk Pengilly of INXS,” he adds.

The 20-hour long Brisbanthon will also include its own much-loved version of the popular TV show Greek Dancing with the Stars, which will be returning in 2015 with celebrities from Channel 7. Special guests and judges as well as stars from 97.3FM and Radio 4KQ will be taking part in activities all weekend, broadcasting live from the paniyiri carnival rides and amusements pit.

The fun won’t end there as Home & Away stars George Mason and Bonnie Sveen, as well as My Kitchen Rules 2015 contestants Annie and Lloyd are set to appear at the popular festival. Moreover, Christopher Wayne (one half of the famous Naked Magicians), has a variety of aces up his celebrity sleeves.

“The Greek Orthodox Church will conduct tours accompanied by the Byzantine Choir for the music lovers, and cultural films will also be screening to keep the cinephiles satisfied,” Mr Cazonis says.

“Literature and philosophy lectures will also be held at the festival by Major General Smith, Dr Vlas Efstathis, Emeritus Professor Bob Milns, Susan Kellett and Anna Efstahiadou.”

“Greek-born, Brisbane-raised storyteller Melina Mallos is set to launch her first children’s bilingual English/Greek picture book Catch that Cat!- targeted at children aged 3 to 6 years- at this year’s Paniyiri Greek Festival over the weekend.”

Visitors will have the opportunity to take part in a world record Zorba Till You Drop attempt. On the main stage, famous Greek dances, the likes of Sirto, Kalamatiano and Sousta will be performed to music played on traditional Greek instruments including the bouzouki, tarabuka, lyra and laouto. Narissa the belly dancing queen will entertain the ladies, giving away her secret moves.

Meanwhile, the less daring can try grape stomping, olive and honey puff eating competitions,a pasta eating competition at the main stage and the return of The Best Greek Coffee Barista Competition.

The Greek Club will be a hive of activity with the popular traditional Greek Cooking Program, featuring Queensland’s culinary greats, making sure visitors won’t get hungry, while more than 30 food stalls will showcase the tastes, recipes and secrets of food and drinks from all corners of Greece.

“Just to spice things up a bit, this year festivalgoers are expected to down huge amounts of culinary delights produced by more than 100 stall holders,” he says.

“Handmade artisan pastry chef Ilias the Greek and raw super food treats producer Miss Bliss Treats will join a host of great Greek cooks and flavours, too.”

“Some 300,000 honey puffs, more than 100,000 souvlakia, almost 12,000 dolmades, 18,000 coffees, 1,600 kilograms of grilled haloumi, 10,000 sheftalies (Greek Cypriot sausage), 1,000 kilograms of calamari and another 1,000 kilograms of char-grilled baby octopus are bound to be exterminated during the gastronomical tours.”

The street adjacent to Brisbane’s Greek club will be closed to traffic to facilitate the main festival and side-show alley. The venue is accessible by public transport although limited parking spots are available in the nearby areas.

Tickets: $10 adults (13+), $3 all pensioners, children free admittance. Tickets online at www.paniyiri.com

When: Saturday 23 from noon, Sunday 24 May from 10.00 am
Where: Musgrave Park, 29 Edmondstone Street, South Brisbane
*For more information visit www.paniyiri.com or contact Kath Rose & Associates on 07 3357 9054 / 0416 291 493.

source:Neos Kosmos

Εurovision:Australia not the silent viewer anymore

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Australia will have some decisive power in the Eurovision final this year. Greek Australians will have the chance to vote for the motherland. Will our 12 points go to Greece?

The sequins are fastened, wind machines at the ready. Here we go … the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest is finally here!

While the eyes of the world focus on Austria, a very similar sounding nation on the other side of the world is getting ready to take part.

Guy Sebastian will be our one and only chance to see Australia continue in the Eurovision Song Contest, with a win automatically giving us the chance to participate again.

No win, we’re out forever. Our spot in the final is sadly a special one-off, a nod to our obsession with the song competition for its 60th anniversary.

Having begun in 1955 as a way to unite Europe in a non-political, non-confrontational way, the Eurovision Song Contest has evolved to become a worldwide phenomenon watched by millions.

In fact, it’s the most watched non-sporting event in the world.

Back home, the song contest has had a unique following. SBS first broadcast the contest in 1983, giving migrants a chance to follow along with the madness and feel a little closer to home.

Now, Eurovision isn’t just for Aussies with an ethnic background, it’s found a place in the gay community and in the young who are captivated by its theatrics.

Commentating this year for the sixth year in a row are Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang, with veteran SBS weekend newsreader Lee Lin Chin taking up the duty of being Australia’s voting spokesperson.

No precedent with Australia’s inclusion

Speaking exclusively to Neos Kosmos before getting on a plane to Austria, Sam Pang says this year is filled with unknowns.

“There’s no real precedent for this, everyone will be finding out at the final,” he says about Australia’s inclusion in the song contest.

“It really is that unknown. I have no idea what will happen.”

Pang admits that with the interval act performance by Jessica Mauboy last year and Guy’s inclusion this year, it’ll be hard to top it for the years to come.

“I don’t know where to go after this, it’s probably the peak,” he admits.

“The only way it can keep going down this track is if Guy wins.”

That might not be such a difficult prospect.

Guy Sebastian and his song Tonight Again is tipped to reach the top five of the competition, with odds on Wednesday predicting Guy will finish fourth behind Sweden, Russia and Italy.

Judging by the number of ballads in the competition this year, Guy might be in with a fighting chance for the win, as Tonight Again has an upbeat, Motown feel, something very in at the moment.

In Austria this week, Guy said he’s been shocked by the production values of the show, and the sheer size of the stage, but says he’s feeling extra prepared.

“We’ve talked about every shot, the pyros, everything is really analysed. It’s just so well oiled,” he said.

“By the time the night comes, I would have run it five or six times.”

Sam Pang is a fan, but also says he has a soft spot for Greece’s entry, One Last Breath performed by Maria-Elena Kyriakou.

“I really like Maria-Elena’s song,” he says. “If she throws in a wind machine, then maybe she can tick all the boxes.”

Greece’s hidden political message

The song was one of ten voted into the final on Wednesday at the first semi-final, and will be up against Australia’s Guy Sebastian.

While it’s illegal to include overt political commentary in Eurovision songs, many have likened Maria-Elena’s One Last Breath to Greece’s current political and economic turmoil. The lyrics can be construed as having a hidden message:

“I’m begging you take me
out of this firing hell.
Come back and save me –
What happened wasn’t fair.
Nothing left. All that I have
is one last breath.”

Greece’s current government has been arguing that the terms of its bailout package haven’t been “fair”. It could be said that it is using its “one last breath” to fight for hope for its people.

Amazingly, with Australia in the mix and being given voting rights, we could be seeing a number of our points heading Greece’s way thanks to our large local Greek and Cypriot community.

Greek Australians have been very loyal fans of the contest, and have voted ‘unofficially’ with SBS’ live voting channel for years. In 2009, they crowned Sakis Rouvas champion despite Norway’s Alexander Rybak taking the title.

Who will Greek Australians vote for?

But the question remains, will Greek Australians vote with their hearts or vote with patriotism this time around?

If Cyprus’ John Karayiannis enters the final with his ballad, One Thing I Should Have Done, Australia’s votes could be skewed to the Greeks and Cypriots.
Neos Kosmos’ Facebook has been filled with commenters conflicted about their vote.

One reader lamented the fact that she’s Greek and her husband is Cypriot.

Sam Pang says he’s as much in the dark about where Australia’s votes will go as the next man.

“I know there’s a massive Greek community, there’s a lot of Italians, Maltese are everywhere,” he says.

“I have no idea what will happen.”

Because Australia has voting powers it does mean that Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro have to be on their best behaviour. While it isn’t their style to insult acts, they have been told by SBS management that there are things they can and cannot say.

“So Julia and I can’t come out of the back of a song and say, wow, I won’t vote for that one,” Sam says.

When Sam and Julia began commentating Eurovision six years ago, they were very much the black sheep of the huge media cohort.

While most countries would stick to their own acts, Julia and Sam would interview anyone and everyone, getting hilariously kooky interviews. Because they interviewed so many acts, more often than not they would have interviewed the winner, giving them a huge upper hand for the broadcast.

Their style was never mean, a change from the sometimes overt commentary many Australians were familiar with thanks to Terry Wogan. “It’s not just enough to make jokes, you’ve got to celebrate the event,” Sam says.

Australians will be able to watch the Eurovision final live at 5.00 am AEST on SBS 1 or hear it on SBS Radio 3. SBS 1 will repeat the broadcast at 7.30 pm on Sunday night.

How to vote

For Australians to vote they will need to tune in to the LIVE Eurovision broadcast on Sunday May 24 at 5.00 am AEST on SBS ONE or SBS Radio 3.

To vote they will need to text or call the numbers that appear on screen during the live broadcast. There is a limit of 20 votes per phone number.

This will make up 50 per cent of Australia’s vote, while the other 50 per cent of the vote is decided by a National Jury in each participating country.

source:Neos Kosmos

Aυστραλία:Ξεκίνησε η δίκη των αμαρτωλών Καθολικών ιερέων

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Ο Philip Nagle, ένα από τα θύματα των παιδεραστών Καθολικών ιερέων, κατέθεσε για τη δική του θλιβερή ιστορία κακοποίησης από ιερέα. Φώτο: AAP/Megan Neil

Απίστευτες αποκαλύψεις στις δημόσιες ακροάσεις του Ballarat.

Η Βασιλική Επιτροπή που συστάθηκε για να ερευνήσει την υπόθεση των σεξουαλικών κακοποιήσεων παιδιών από ιερείς της Καθολικής Εκκλησίας ξεκίνησε τις δημόσιες ακροάσεις στο Ballarat.

Μερικοί από τους πλέον διαβόητους παιδεραστές της Αυστραλίας, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των Gerald Ridsdale, Robert Best και Edward Dowlan, θα καταθέσουν, με τον έναν ή τον άλλον τρόπο, για τη «δράση» τους τα χρόνια της παντοδυναμίας τους, από τη δεκαετία του 1950 έως και του 1980.

Ο επικεφαλής της Επιτροπής δικαστής Peter McClellan προειδοποίησε τους δικηγόρους, τα μέσα ενημέρωσης, τον κλήρο, την αστυνομία και τα θύματα ότι θα ακουστούν όλες οι ιστορίες μία-μία και πολλές θα σοκάρουν. Στην πρώτη, μάλιστα, κατάθεση, ακούστηκε ότι από τους 33 μαθητές σε μία τάξη του δημοτικού σχολείου St. Alilius, σήμερα οι 12 δεν είναι στη ζωή. Ο μάρτυρας κατηγορίας πιστεύει ότι τα άτομα αυτά πιθανότατα αυτοκτόνησαν εξαιτίας των ψυχολογικών προβλημάτων από την σεξουαλική κακοποίηση από τους Καθολικούς ιερείς – δασκάλους τους.

Πηγή:Νέος Κόσμος

No return for Russia to G7, warns Merkel

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The EU’s Eastern Partnership “is not an instrument for pursuing an expansionist EU policy”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, as the Riga summit began yesterday.

The partnership “is not directed against anyone, it’s not against Russia”, she said.

But Russia cannot yet rejoin the G7 group of leading nations, she added. “So long as Russia does not comply with basic common values, a return to the G8 format is not imaginable for us.”

The G7 meets in Elmau, southern Germany, next month as Russia is exerting pressure on ex-Soviet states to join a Moscow-led “Eurasian Union”.

A far-reaching EU-Ukraine association agreement has angered Russia. The Ukraine crisis erupted after the last Eastern Partnership summit, in Lithuania in November 2013. That was when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – an ally of Russia – refused to sign the association agreement, in an abrupt reversal of policy.

Protests

He fled from Kiev in February 2014 amid vast anti-government protests in which more than 100 people died.

The pro-Western government, formed after fresh elections, signed the association agreement, but the crucial free trade part of it was suspended until January 2016 so that Russian concerns about it could be addressed.

“It’s not ‘either or’ – partnership or not – so we are ready to talk about worries over the economic association with Ukraine,” Mrs Merkel told the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.

But she stressed that it was each partner state’s “sovereign decision if they want to forge close ties . . . nobody has a right to block that path”.

EU leaders are concluding talks with their counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. There is much alarm in Latvia and its Baltic neighbours, Estonia and Lithuania, over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The three Baltic states were under Russian domination during decades of communism.

The EU trade and association agreements aim to encourage ex-Soviet states to adopt EU standards not only in trade, but also in human rights and governance.

Chancellor Merkel said the agreements were tailored to the situation of each partner state individually. The EU would respect the wishes of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus to maintain close ties with Russia, she said.

source:Irish Independent

Tony Abbott insulting Australia’s intelligence on asylum seekers: Bill Shorten

Prime Minister Tony Abbott holds a press conference at Liverpool City Council, Sydney, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Mr Abbott was announcing infrastructure plans for the newly announced Badgery's Creek Airport but ended up fielding many questions on the shock resignation of NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell following yesterdays ICAC revelations. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING

Labor leader Bill Shorten has accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of “insulting the intelligence” of Australians by refusing to offer any assistance to the thousands of asylum seekers fleeing danger and persecution. 

Tony Abbott shouldn’t dumb down the issue to saying either we take these people or we do nothing

Mr Abbott has taken a hardline stance against the plight of up to 7,000 people who have fled Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat, saying “nope, nope, nope” when asked on Thursday if Australia would respond to the crisis by resettling some refugees.

A Rohingya migrant mother watches as her child drinks water after they arrived in Indonesia by boat.A Rohingya migrant mother watches as her child drinks water after they arrived in Indonesia by boat. Photo: Reuters

The group includes members of the Rohingya minority group in Myanmar, which the International Crisis Group recently described as “progressively marginalised from social and political life“.

Mr Abbott expanded on his comments on Friday and said he would “say or do nothing” that would encourage people to get into boats.

“Any suggestion that there is some kind of special resettlement program here in Australia for people taking to the sea in boats just encourages people smuggling,” he said in Tasmania.

Rescued migrants sit on an Acehnese fishing boat upon arrival in Indonesia.Rescued migrants sit on an Acehnese fishing boat upon arrival in Indonesia. Photo: AP

“It would be utterly irresponsible of me or anyone to suggest for a second that we will reward people for doing something so dangerous.”

Mr Shorten, speaking from Melbourne just as Mr Abbott finished his press conference, said thousands of migrants were making a “terrible choice” because they realised “they’re not safe in their own homes”.

“Tony Abbott is insulting the intelligence of the Australian people when he says on the one hand, it’s not Australia’s problem at all and [to] leave it to the government of Myanmar to sort out,” he said.

Norfouna, a Rohingya migrant child, poses for identification purposes at a temporary shelter in Indonesia.Norfouna, a Rohingya migrant child, poses for identification purposes at a temporary shelter in Indonesia. Photo: Ulet Ifansasti

“If the government of Myanmar could sort these issues out, people wouldn’t be fleeing.

“On the other hand, Tony Abbott [gives the impression] the only alternative is to resettle all these people in Australia.

“That’s not true and that’s not necessary.”

Mr Shorten said Australia should work with its countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia “who are getting these people, to see what we can do to help”.

“Tony Abbott shouldn’t dumb down the issue to saying either we take these people or we do nothing,” he said.

“Australia’s a smarter, more generous nation.”

The Indonesian government has rebuked Australia for refusing to resettle any refugees, arguing Australia is a signatory to the Refugee Convention and could not ignore the crisis.

The United States and other countries such as Gambia have said they will help in the resettlement of the refugees.

source:smh.com.au

Constantopoulou criticized by police officers’ union

The policemen’s union, POASY, accused Parliamentary Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou of failing to show the appropriate respect for the force after she criticized an officer on Wednesday for not allowing protesters to pass Parliament.

“It is clear that such actions do not serve our primary goal, which is to improve the relationship between the police and the public,” said POASY, which represents some 40,000 police personnel.

It added that through her actions, Constantopoulou compounded the stereotype of policemen as the people’s enemy.

The parliamentary speaker said Thursday that she was attempting to ensure that Parliament would not be seen as hostile towards citizens and accused the media of distorting her actions.

“When cancer sufferers did not have medicines, when there were no drugs at hospitals, some TV stations were not paying their taxes,” she added as part of her attack on the media.

source: ekathimerini.com

Negotiations drag as Tsipras seeks political support at Riga meeting

Ahead of a meeting late on Thursday between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of an EU leaders’ summit in Riga, the Brussels Group continued its negotiations.

Despite expressions of optimism from the Greek side, European officials indicated that little progress has been achieved in the talks.

Apart from the key sticking points of pension and labor reform, officials were said to have different views on how to reform value-added tax rates. The Greek side wants three VAT rates – at 7 percent, 14 percent and 22 or 23 percent – while the creditors are said to want two rates – one at between 10 and 12 percent and one at between 20 and 23 percent.

In the event that the creditors’ “two-rate” scenario prevails, the cost of several products currently in the low 6.5 percent VAT bracket, chiefly medicine and books, will increase significantly as will the cost of services on many Greek islands which enjoy a reduced VAT rate of 6.5 percent. Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said yesterday that Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis assured her there would be no changes to VAT this summer. She noted that rival destinations to Greece have a VAT rate up of to 10 percent.

Pensions remained a point of contention, with creditors pushing for the abolition of early retirements and for the so-called 13th pension not to be restored, as well as labor reforms with the government insisting on the gradual restoration of the minimum wage and collective bargaining.

Talks also focused on primary surplus targets which are said to be close to 1 percent of gross domestic product this year and 1.5-2 percent next year. There was also discussion about a 30 percent reduction to the solidarity tax on income being revoked for those with an annual income above 30,000 euros.

Despite the slight momentum in the talks, European officials were rather downbeat. “We are still far from an agreement,” one told Kathimerini. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was also very skeptical, saying reports from representatives of creditors suggested talks were progressing “very hesitantly.”

“What I know from discussions with the three institutions does not back up the optimism arising from announcements from Athens,” Schaeuble told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Suddeutsche Zeitung, citing an unnamed European official, said Greece’s current loan program is likely to be extended again into the fall, with some 4 billion euros in loan money to be unlocked in exchange for the implementation of some reforms. The report was dismissed by Varoufakis as “science-fiction scenarios.”

source:ekathimerini.com