Daily Archives: May 3, 2016

Rare whale washes ashore in Victoria

A whale that died on a beach in Victoria at the weekend may be a rare dwarf sperm whale – the first time the species has ever been recorded in the state.

A WHALE THAT died on Saturday after being stranded at Red Bluff, Lake Tyers Beach in East Gippsland may have been a rare dwarf sperm whale.

If so, it would be the first time the species (Kogia sima) has ever been recorded in Victoria.

Fire management staff on their way back from controlled burning operations were called to retrieve the 2.4m female whale, which died soon after stranding itself on the beach, according to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) in Gippsland, which made the report on its Facebook page yesterday.

A post-mortem was conducted by staff from the DELWP and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources – with early indications leaving them “fairly confident” the whale is a dwarf sperm whale. 

The dwarf sperm is the smallest of the whales – even smaller than some dolphins. It has a distinctive underslung jaw and a more pointed snout than the pygmy sperm whale, from which the dwarf sperm was recognised as a distinct species in 1966. 

Stranded dwarf sperm whales have previously been recorded in Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Whales and the Northern Territory, and a live sighting was reported in South Australia in 2006.

The whale is now with Museum Victoria where, where they will be able to confirm the species around mid-way through next week. If confirmed as a dwarf sperm whale, the rare specimen will be added to the museum’s Natural Sciences Collection.

Source: australiangeographic.com.au

Chinese bidder withdraws bid for world’s largest cattle station, S Kidman & Co


The sale of the world’s biggest cattle station, S. Kidman & Co, is in doubt after it was caught in a “political crunch that was unworkable”, its chief executive says.

Kidman’s preferred bidder, Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Pengxin Group, withdrew its bid on Tuesday, days after Treasurer Scott Morrison blocked the sale for a second time, saying it was not in the national interest.

Mr Morrison on Friday gave Pengxin and its Australian partners 96 hours to revise their bid, but Kidman chief executive Greg Campbell said that timeframe was “ridiculous” and the only option was to withdraw the offer entirely.

“Given that there are four sizeable companies involved with directors and shareholders in four continents and four time zones, it was a ridiculously short timeframe to do anything,” Mr Campbell said.

“So in discussion with us, they have withdrawn their application from FIRB [Foreign Investment Review Board] and withdrawn their bid for Kidmans.”

The S. Kidman & Co portfolio is Australia’s biggest private land holding, comprising 1.3 per cent of the country’s total land area and 2.5 per cent of all agricultural land.

No new bid until after election

Mr Campbell said Pengxin might submit another bid, but it would not happen until after the federal election.

He feared the Treasurer’s decision risked slamming shut Australia’s foreign investment window, considering that Pengxin had just bought an agricultural operation in Brazil for $378 million.

“Capital does flow around the world and, in this case, capital has flown to a competition business in Brazil that will definitely be competing on beef and grain markets with Australian products.”

Mr Campbell criticised the Coalition’s handling of the sale, saying Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s calling of a double dissolution election had scuttled the sale.

He said when Kidman’s preferred buyer applied for review board approval in November, an election was thought to be 10 months away, which would have allowed “ample time for such a consideration to be made”.

“But an earlier than expected election and incredible delays in the decision process led to a political crunch that became unworkable,” Mr Campbell said.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride and the politics of this thing have been particularly difficult to read. We have had periods where in all logical assessment we had addressed all of the commonwealth’s concerns.”

These measures included excising the Defence-sensitive Anna Creek and The Peake stations, which overlap the Woomera weapons testing range, reducing the total land portfolio to 77,000 square kilometres from 101,000.

But Mr Campbell conceded the Coalition was “under pressure from various quarters and in this case finally chose not to approve the 80 per cent Chinese, 20 per cent Australian consortium”.

He said the Kidman family was adamant it did not want to carve up the portfolio further and said although some Australian buyers had expressed interest, their offers had not come close to the value of the landholding.


Πυρκαγιά στον ιερό ναό του Ευαγγελισμού στην Μελβούρνη


H Πυροσβεστική κατέβαλλε προσπάθειες να περισώσει ό, τι μπορούσε από τον αρχαιότερο ελληνορθόδοξο ναό της Μελβούρνης.

Άγνωστα παραμένουν μέχρι αυτή τη στιγμή τα αίτια πυρκαγιάς που εκδηλώθηκε στον αρχαιότερο ελληνορθόδοξο ναό της Μελβούρνης τον ιερό ναό του Ευαγγελισμού της Θεοτόκου, πριν από λίγη ώρα. 

Άνδρες της Πυροσβεστικής κατάφεραν να σβήσουν την πυρκαγιά η οποία όπως όλα δείχνουν ξεκίνησε από τους εσωτερικούς χώρους του ναού, και πιο συγκεκριμένα από τον γυναικωνίτη της εκκλησίας, σύμφωνα με τις πρώτες εκτιμήσεις. 

Όπως ανέφερε στο «Νέο Κόσμο» ο εφημέριος του ναού πατήρ Κοσμάς Δαμιανίδης, μετά το πέρας της σημερινής ακολουθίας, πιστοί που έφευγαν από το ναό είχαν την εντύπωση ότι μύρισαν καπνό, εντούτοις κανένας δεν είδε κάτι τέτοιο. 

Ο ομογενής Κώστας Παπακωνσταντίνου που διατηρεί κατάστημα κοντά στο ναό και είναι και επίτροπος στην εκκλησία ήταν ο άνθρωπος που είδε πρώτος τους καπνούς και ειδοποίησε την Πυροσβεστική υπηρεσία. 

Παρά το ότι το μέγεθος της καταστροφής δεν έγινε ακόμα γνωστό, ο κ. Παπακωνσταντίνου ανέφερε στο «Νέο Κόσμο»  ότι το ιστορικό προσκυνητάρι της εκκλησίας, το «αρχαιότερο» ελληνικού ναού της Αυστραλίας, όπως είπε ο επίτροπος, καταστράφηκε ολοσχερώς. Εμφανής είναι επίσης και η καταστροφή τμήματος της σκεπής του ναού. 

Στον τόπο της πυρκαγιάς έσπευσαν άμεσα δεκαπέντε οχήματα της Πυροσβεστικής και η κατάσβεση της πυρκαγιάς δεν πήρε περισσότερο από μισή ώρα. 

Αυτή τη στιγμή η κεντρική οδός Victoria Parade, όπου βρίσκεται και ο ναός, παραμένει κλειστή καθώς όπως ανέφερε η Πυροσβεστική στο κτίσμα του ναού υπάρχει αμίαντος, υλικό επικίνδυνο για την δημόσια υγεία. Ο δρόμος Victoria Parade, θα δοθεί στην κυκλοφορία όταν οι αρχές το κρίνουν ασφαλές. 

Ο  ιερός ναός του Ευαγγελισμού που βρίσκεται στο κέντρο της Μελβούρνης είναι μια από τις παλαιότερες εκκλησίες της πόλης και η δεύτερη ελληνορθόδοξη εκκλησία που ιδρύθηκε στην Αυστραλία, μετά την Αγία Τριάδα του Σίδνεϊ.

Ο ναός χτίστηκε το 1901 από την Ελληνική Κοινότητα Μελβούρνης και Βικτωρίας και για πολλά χρόνια ήταν ο μόνος ελληνορθόδοξος ναός στην Μελβούρνη.  

Πηγή:Νέος Κόσμος

Airport concession ruling imminent


The Greek Parliament is expected to approve the concession contracts of 14 regional airports this week.

The Greek Parliament is expected to approve the concession contracts of 14 regional airports set to be operated and upgraded by the Fraport-led consortium, following the Orthodox Christian Easter weekend.

According to a report in Kathimerini, the draft law is almost ready and expected to include two concession contracts, each referring to seven airports, in relation to the the tender that was proclaimed by state privatisation fund TAIPED.

To have reached such an advanced level, the Greek government is believed to have secured the approval of the country’s Competition Commission, in addition to the opinion of European Commission competition authorities that the contracts do not constitute a state subsidy.

With people of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other civil servants preventing Fraport officials from entering the airports, the biggest obstacles reported at the terminals of Thessaloniki and Cephalonia airports, passing of the law is expected to ease pressure.

Questions have emerged, as to who is in fact backing those preventing the entry of Fraport officials to the Makedonia Airport.

While in Cephalonia’s case, protesters appear to have been encouraged by a so-called referendum carried out by the head of the Ionian Islands’ Regional Authority on the concession of the airports.

Though an online poll showed 75 per cent of voters were against the concession, it was noted than only 3 per cent of the region’s 200,000 registered voters took part.

source:Neos Kosmos

Is Greece heading for another election?


Faced with another impasse, Alexis Tsipras might resort to a drastic measure, but heading to the polls could prove to be a tricky gamble, exposing Europe’s weaknesses.

Somewhere in Alexis Tsipras’ office there should be an inscription, stating in golden writing: ‘WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, TRY HOLDING AN ELECTION.’ And boy, has all else failed.

After weeks of negotiations, held mostly behind closed doors at the Athens Hilton Hotel, between the Greek government and officials from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism, talks once again reached an impasse, the two sides failing to bridge differences over a set of contingency measures to be taken, on top of the ‘regular’ package already agreed upon.

Agreement would have greenlit a meeting of the Eurogroup (the 19 countries within the euro currency) to review the bailout program, unlock funding for Greece and pave the way for debt relief. Hopes are waning as Greece missed the second of the deadlines the government had set for a conclusion of the review; after missing an April 22 deadline, it was hoping for the Eurogroup to have unlocked bailout by May 1. Now the Eurogroup is set to meet on Monday 9 May, much to Greece’s disappointment.

Alexis Tsipras made a desperate attempt to persuade the European Council President, Donald Tusk, to call an extraordinary EU leaders’ summit to discuss the Greek program, but to no avail.

This leaves Greece in a dire state, once more cash-strapped, facing default by the end of June; according to several government sources, the government is already scraping the barrel, allocating any money left in insurance funds, public hospitals, municipal councils, the parliament and other public sector organisations to the Bank of Greece. Critics state that this desperate course of action has left the public hospitals in Greece with funds that can barely cover their needs for the next couple of weeks – reports of cancer patients unable to access treatment have been all too frequent, as of late.

It all unfolds as a deja-vu of last summer, when the Greek economy was gasping for air, while Tsipras and then minister of finance, Yanis Varoufakis, were once again entangled in negotiations, in what proved to be a risky game of chicken, leading to the near-collapse of the Greek banks.

And, once again, rumours of elections have begun to resurface, starting from the German media, then making the rounds throughout Europe. Various unofficial reports confirm that both the government and the opposition in Greece are gearing up for snap elections, which could take place as early as 12 June.

It is unclear what the mandate of a snap election would be. Alexis Tsipras won two consecutive stand-offs – in January and September 2015 – with two completely opposite mandates, first promising to reject the package of reforms and austerity measures included in the bailout deals that have all but strangled Greece, then – after he failed in the process of negotiations – doing a U-turn and campaigning on the implementation of the measures they agreed upon.

Now both contenders seem to back the bailout deal and the only parties opposing austerity measures are neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, the communist party and an array of small, leftist parties, most formerly affiliated with SYRIZA, with no hope of even entering the parliament.

With the opposition taking a slight lead in recent opinion polls, the only outcome that could be expected would be for a ND-led government of moderate pro-euro, pro-reform parties, or even for a government of ‘National Unity’, with a clear mandate to implement the set of – largely unpopular – reforms set out in the bailout deals: privatisations, slashing of wages and pensions, abolition of worker’s rights. There is only one reason for Tsipras to go down that road, given that there’s a big chance of him losing the elections, and that is to strong-arm EU officials into conceding to a favourable bailout review. With elections looming in Spain, after the Socialist majority failed to reach an agreement with the anti-austerity leftist party, Podemos (and was reluctant to form a government with the right-wing conservatives, for fear of meeting the fate of the Greek socialist party, PASOK, which has not recovered from forming a coalition with ND) – and, more importantly, with a UK referendum on whether to stay in the EU altogether scheduled in June, the last thing the EU wants is another front of instability, especially given the risk of a new win for Tsipras, if he opts to campaign for keeping austerity measures limited to what has already been agreed upon.

In a recent analysis, Bloomberg suggested another option for Tsipras: a referendum on the lenders’ proposals. This further enhances the deja-vu effect, reopening the recent wounds of last year’s referendum, when the Greek people expressed their opposition to the bailout deal, only to see the government ignore the outcome and concede to a set of harsher austerity measures that further crippled the middle class.

Both options undermine whatever progress has been made so far in the talks between Greece and its lenders and leads the country to an almost certain default. Hence, pragmatists seem to agree that the situation leaves Tsipras with only one option: to concede to all the creditors’ demands. If only it were that simple.

Recent numbers show Greece showing a surplus, if only by a marginal 0.7 per cent of the GDP, and all sides agree that it has met its bailout commitments. The two sides have already agreed on ’95 per cent’ of upfront measures equal to three per cent of Greek GDP, but the lenders insist on Greece pre-emptively legislating additional belt-tightening measures equal to two per cent of gross domestic product, which would kick in automatically, if the government falls short of the budget targets envisaged in its bailout agreement.

Greece rejects this proposal as unconstitutional. Laws in Greece are voted to take effect immediately and cease effect only when another law is voted; there’s no provision for contingency legislation. The Greek side, has, in turn, proposed to establish a permanent budget correction mechanism, to be activated in case of deviations from targets, which would see to the implementation of €3.6 billion in standby measures, in case of failure to reach the primary surplus goals of 2018 and only then. This proposal has been met with sympathy by many among the European creditors, not least among them German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, but it has been met with resistance by the IMF. Trying to reconcile the two sides, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who presides over the Eurogroup, acknowledged the “legal constraints” that the EU “can’t and won’t break”, while promising that a way around them can be found.

“We will design [the mechanism] in a way that delivers credibility … and (is) legally possible,” he said.

It is this kind of attitude that has seen the EU institutions distancing themselves from the member states. When the states’ legislation is seen as irrelevant and the outcome of an election cannot affect the policy implemented on a country, then elections altogether become redundant, or worse, are reduced to becoming leverage in negotiations between opposing sides.

“Only a fool or an arsonist would want elections at this time,” stated Dimitris Papadimoulis, a SYRIZA MP, who is the vice-president of the European Parliament, echoing the prevailing view of elections as a factor of instability. Nothing would underline the EU’s political failure better than this kind of demonising of the election process as playing with fire, and this is precisely what gives Tsipras permission to use the elections ‘threat’ as leverage.

It’s a risky gamble for Greece: if it fails, the country once again faces the threat of being expelled from the eurozone, or even the EU altogether, left to deal with the refugee crisis on its own, becoming Europe’s dumping ground for desperate asylum seekers – an option that many in the EU welcome. But there is an even greater danger; by showing this kind of disdain towards member state laws and to elections in general, the EU practically devalues democracy as a whole, in favour of the financial doctrine imposed by the markets, via the IMF. Even a technocrat, Italian economist Mario Monti, who briefly served as his country’s PM to tackle the crisis, went on to express his concern that the EU is going through a crisis which would see it head towards disintegration.

The combination of the refugee crisis and the terrorist threat, topped by an ongoing financial instability, has put the EU under unprecedented pressure and the only winners so far are the nationalist movements and parties emerging throughout the continent.

Yes, somehow, playing with fire is the appropriate term to apply in this scenario.

source:Neos Kosmos