discarded lies: thursday, april 26, 2018 3:01 am zst
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A Thief's Tale
The following took place in a small village somewhere in the Mediterranean, this past summer.

Late one night, a guy steals his neighbour's car and and drives out to the next village. There, he steals a goat. He starts driving back to his village, but he loses control of the car and he lands into a ditch. (No word if the goat had anything to do with this accident.) The guy gets out of the car and starts walking around in the country roads until he finds a tractor in a field. He steals the tractor and starts driving back to the ditch where he left the car and the goat. He gets lost on the way though, and on top of that, the tractor's engine dies and the tractor stops in the middle of the road. Our thief walks back to his village, steals another neighbour's tractor and goes back to the ditch where he left the car and the goat. When he gets to the ditch, he decides he'll use the tractor to get the car out of the ditch, all he needs is some rope. But he doesn't have any rope, so he walks to the next village, goes to the church, climbs up the bellfry, cuts the rope off the church bell, and takes the rope with him. He then walks back to the car, ties the rope between the car and the tractor and tries to move the car out of the ditch. But the car's engine has been damaged in the crash and one of the tires is also damaged, the car is undrivable. So our thief puts the goat in the tractor and drives the second stolen tractor back to his village. By then it's morning and unfortunately for him, another of his neighbours, who happens to be the owner of the very tractor he's driving, sees him driving the stolen tractor and holding a goat and calls the police who arrest the thief and fall over laughing with his confession. The goat was returned safely to her owner.

Moral of the story? I have no idea.
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A 'historic' visit no one noticed
In a 49-Year First, Greek Leader Visits Turkey. Of course Greece has been too busy to notice because everyone is engrossed by the sexual and financial adventures of corrupt politicians and journalists.

The Greek Prime Minister visited Turkey in order to further improve relations, which, according to the above article and the Turkish media, have greatly improved lately. Here are some of the great improvements that have happened in fairly recent times:

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and still occupies Northern Cyprus. Thousands of Greek Cypriot refugees have lost their homes and property and 1,619 people are still missing. These people, including women and children, were arrested by the Turkish army and were transported to Turkey where they were imprisoned. Turkey will not give any information about them. Greece is not pressing the issue and I have not heard a Greek politician talk about the missing Cypriots since...never that I can remember.

The Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church still lives in a state of siege, receiving death threats from nationalistic groups, echoing the death of Bishop Chrysostomos. Turkey still refuses to recognize the Patriarch as the religious leader of 200 million Christians.

Turkish planes regularly invade Greek air space and at least two Greek pilots have lost their lives in these military dogfights by the two NATO partners.

The Turkish government still demands that the Muslim minority in Northern Greece be considered Turkish Muslims and not Greek Muslims and does all it can to stir anti-Greek sentiment in the Muslim communities of Thrace. Undercover cameras have caught one of the representatives of the Muslim community calling for the murder of Greeks. He was afterwards invited to a talk show where the Greek journalists bent over backwards to show him there were no hard feelings and they were sure he didn't mean what he said.

Greek fishermen in the Eastern Aegean islands are regularly terrorized by Turkish patrol boats in Greek waters. The Turkish navy forces them to flee under threat of gunfire and destroys their nets. No word from the Greek government on these Turkish invasions that occur on a regular basis. When the Greek fishermen contacted the media about this, there were a couple of news reports about it and the journalists nodded sympathetically, "Ah, near Imia", as if that explained everything, and went back to discussing more important things like the government's conspiracy against journalists and how the government is forcing them to take millions in bribes.

What was the Greek Prime Minister thinking when he deposited a wreath at the statue of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and murderer and persecutor of millions of Greeks? Did he think about the Pontic Greek genocide and the millions of refugees from Asia Minor? Or was his mind on more important things like finding ways to avoid firing a corrupt MP so that his party can keep a majority in Parliament?

A historic visit perhaps but useless, pointless, and at a most unfortunate time.
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Daddy, tell me the DVD story again!
Once upon a time, in the small Mediterranean kingdom of Donkeythistlelandia, Big Fat Toad was General Secretary in the Ministry of Culture and Pretty Butterfly worked as a temp in his office. Pretty Butterfly's contract was soon to come to an end and she wanted a Permanent Position in the Ministry, one that would guarantee her the Luxury Cushion that all public employees receive once they get appointed to a state job: lots of money, lots of bribes, and minimum amount of work. But the Luxury Cushion is another fairy tale for another time.

Just a few days before Christmas, Big Fat Toad jumps from the 4th-floor balcony of his home. He survives the jump but thanks to his attempt none of the country's Good-n-Honest journalists were able to have a peaceful or joyous Christmas because they had this suicide attempt to cover and since they're all earnest and hard-working people, they put their holidays aside and set forth to discover the reasons for Big Fat Toad's jump. The same evening, Dragon Lady, who is BIG channel's top Good-n-Honest journalist, announces on the BIG news that Pretty Butterfly accompanied by her lawyer Ugly Slug had visited BIG channel a few weeks ago and wanted to show them a DVD. She met with Dragon Lady and Mister Manager, BIG channel's head of news and programming. Pretty Butterfly informed Dragon Lady and Mister Manager that she had sex with Big Fat Toad in order to secure a Permanent Position but it didn't pay off at the end and she didn't receive the Luxury Cushion. She offered them a DVD showing her having sex with Big Fat Toad but Dragon Lady and Mister Manager shook their heads disapprovingly and admonished Pretty Butterfly and Ugly Slug that they're not the kind of people who watch Toads and Butterflies having sex, and refused to see or take the DVD.

After Dragon Lady's announcement, the Just Justice Department became very interested in Pretty Butterfly and her DVD and called her in for questioning. Was she blackmailing Big Fat Toad and led him to a suicide attempt? Just Justice threw her in jail over Christmas while they thought about things and decided they would reconvene after the holidays and think about things some more.

Donkeythistlelandia applauded Dragon Lady and BIG channel for having journalistic standards and merry Donkeythistlelanders patted each other on the back happy that all was well in their pretty land where Big Fat Toads and Pretty Butterflies get their just rewards.

But they didn't live happily ever after. In fact the happiness didn't even last a fortnight, thanks to five million euros and a black trashbag.

It all started with A Few Innocent Questions from The Little People: "Did The Government know about the DVD and is that why Big Fat Toad jumped? Is Pretty Butterfly telling the truth that Big Fat Toad was corrupt and took bribes? If The Government knew about the DVD, who delivered it to them? Was it Pretty Butterfly? Or was it Someone Else?"

One of the Good-n-Honest journalists who were investigating this mysterious and serious DVD affair was Pissed Off. Pissed Off has two weekly talk shows on the Other channel and is co-proprietor, along with Good-n-Honest journalist Bumbling Drone, of the popular newspaper, "First Thought". Pissed Off and Bumbling Drone had been friends for a very long time, years and years and years, maybe even three. When they first opened "First Thought", they took a bath together to celebrate, and they ate grapes and drank champagne like people used to do back then. But all that changed when Pissed Off announced on his show that hours before Big Fat Toad jumped, Pissed Off had received several phone calls from Celebrities and Others, wondering if he was going to talk about "The Big Fat Toad Scandal" on his show that night. Pissed Off said he had no idea what they were talking about and had no plans to cover Big Fat Toad at all. And then, Pissed Off dropped the bombshell: he announced that he's leaving "First Thought" and that Bumbling Drone was the person who gave the Big Fat Toad and Pretty Butterfly DVD to The Government and Pissed Off considers Bumbling Drone responsible for Big Fat Toad's suicide attempt.

Donkeythistlelandia came to a pause. People stood still, taxis actually stopped, bread quit rising, and parachutists hung in mid-air. When the country came back to life, Everyone wondered, like you are right now: "Bumbling Drone?! But he's a Cee-Oh-Em-Em-Eye-Ee! Why would he help a right-wing government?!" The answer, bloggie mou, is simple: he had a black trashbag and he didn't know what to do with it. So he stuffed five million euros in it and deposited it in a French Bank.

But the French Bank was required to tell the Greek Bank that Bumbling Drone deposited an amount significantly larger than the 100,000 euros allowed to go un-noticed by the Greek Bank. And the Greek Bank lifted its eyebrow at Bumbling Drone and The Government started investigating his finances. So Pissed Off puts one and one together for The Little People: Bumbling Drone was being investigated for the five million euros and to shake off the investigation he offered the DVD to The Government. And worse than that, Pissed Off only just now found out about all this thanks to a Good Friend Who Is A Government Official who went to Pissed Off's house as a middleman to offer Pissed Off a deal: The Government would drop the investigation into Bumbling Drone's finances if Pissed Off would back off from The Big Fat Toad Scandal. "Wait, wait, wait!" said The Little People, "you mean Bumbling Drone had the DVD too? You mean Pretty Butterfly went to your newspaper with the DVD?" "Well, duh!" answered Pissed Off. "So how come and you didn't know about it?! And how come and Government Officials come and ask you for favours?!" asked The Little People. Pissed Off will get back to them later about that.

All this finally comes to the attention of the Just Justice Department who call in Bumbling Drone for questioning. Not about the five million euros, that's another fairytale, but whether he's the one who gave the DVD to The Government, especially since The Government has already confirmed that it was indeed Bumbling Drone who gave them the DVD. So then Bumbling Drone announces that he's not the only who has seen the DVD, Dragon Lady from the BIG channel has seen it too!

Oh, the horrors, the shock... "Dragon Lady?! But... But she said she didn't watch it! She's not that kind of person!" said The Little People.

"I have evidence!" says Bumbling Drone.

Enter Sidekick, another Good-n-Honest journalist and BIG channel's court jester, who has a very big mouth and a very small brain. The same day that Dragon Lady announced to her public that BIG channel is not "that kind of channel", Sidekick gave an interview to "Cappuccino", another newspaper, where he told his colleague that Dragon Lady saw the DVD and described the contents to everyone in the BIG channel, including him, and he gave a very graphic description of Big Fat Toad and Pretty Butterfly doing the you-know-what. Bumbling Drone took that interview to the Just Justice Department to prove Dragon Lady a liar. Sidekick immediately protested that he was joking, it was not an interview, Dragon Lady never let her eyes fall upon any sex scenes, the "Cappuccino" journalist made it all up. Sidekick dared "Cappuccino" to publish any evidence they had, because they didn't have any evidence, did they, and if they had any evidence that he said those things, he'd go back to his village in Crete to collect snails for a living, the filthy, dirty liars! So "Cappuccino" took his dare and published the audio of the interview, the whole damn thing, and it was pretty damn damning. No word yet on when Sidekick leaves for Crete.

Following Pissed Off's example, other Good-n-Honest journalists started dropping names and publishing bank account details and recorded interviews of private conversations with their colleagues. It turns out that Ugly Slug, Pretty Butterfly's lawyer, was Bumbling Drone's roommate in college. Ugly Slug is being investigated by Just Justice as well, it's said that he's the one who was doing the blackmailing, going to various tv channels and newspapers and offering the DVD for the sum of 150,000 euros. Pretty Butterfly is still in jail, poor Big Fat Toad is still in the ICU, and the Good Friend Who Is A Government Official and sets up dirty deals between The Government and the Good-n-Honest journalists, will most likely lose his position. One can hope.

And all this because, as Donkeythistlelandia's National Comedian said, "a fat man cheated on his wife."

Have you had enough for tonight?

Me too.

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A Shocking Concept
There are three neighbouring villages in Greece that share a grade school and kindergarten. They don't have a kindergarten teacher yet this year because the previous teacher retired and a new teacher hasn't been appointed yet. As a goverment official explained, that's because Greece recently had elections and the country is in an upheaval as political appointees come and go.

The kindergarten school is new and fully equipped, it's just waiting for the teacher to come unlock the door and start the school year (which started three weeks ago). This year's kindergarten class has only ten students, children from all three villages. Upset that their kids are missing school, the parents in the area called a television station to air their complaints and a tv crew went to assess the situation. One mother complained that the State is not looking after them and what are they supposed to do with their kids while they work? The village baker had taken her daughter to work with her, a delicious-looking little girl sitting on the bench next to some equally delicious-looking loaves of bread; another little boy hangs out with his grandma, helping her weed her garden. A morose-looking mom was rocking her son in the schoolyard's swings while she complained that he's lonely and he cries all day until his sister comes home from grade school but if the State had sent a teacher he could be in kindergarten and have fun with other kids and not be lonely anymore.

The tv crew then interviewed the county's administrator, who played with his glasses and pensively announced that "the State should bend with kindness to embrace and fix this situation."

As I watched this very tragic story of kindergarteners without a kindergarten teacher, a radical thought came to my mind: Why don't the grandmas, moms, dads open the school and teach the kids themselves? I've never taught kindergarten so I don't know how difficult it can be but having shocked myself at the novelty of such a concept as parents taking charge of their kids, I came to an even more radical conclusion: Teaching kindergarten cannot possibly be that difficult. You have the kids paint for an hour, play in the yard for another hour, give them a snack, read them a story, have them dance a little and maybe sing a song and send them home. Parents could get organized and take turns playing teacher one-two days a week for a couple of months. It's not like it's going to permanently damage kindergarteners to have Mom as teacher one day and Aunt Sophie the next.

So why are the parents not doing just that? I'm sure it hasn't even entered their minds. Greeks expect the State to take care of things while they complain that the State never takes care of things. This mental rut and attitude leave no room for volunteerism and self-initiative.
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My mom always carries a knife in her purse. It's a medium-sized knife, pretty sharp, wedged in the bottom of her bag, and its blade is wrapped in a white handkerchief. She's been known to use it at the most random opportunities, like for example the time we were going out to lunch when she suddenly starting yelling "Stop! Stop the car!", knife already out and ready. She dropped her purse on the car floor, searched the depths of the back seat for a plastic bag or any sort of container (and ended up taking my cd holder), and took off for the middle of the field where she had spotted some innocent dandelions. I just sat in the car and pretended I didn't know her.

If I say Greek food, what's the first dish that comes to your mind? For most non-Greeks, it would be any of the classics, moussaka, tzatziki, gyros, baklava. I bet none of you would say "Dandelions!" But Greeks love eating weeds, wild mallow, wild mustard, dandelions, purslane, milk thistle, they're all considered delicacies and after a good rain the Greek countryside is littered with little old ladies with big knives, searching for the best crop of weeds.

I've never known a more useless and time-consuming food group than weeds. You have to hunch over and dig in the dirt with the knife to get them out with their root intact, shake the dirt off each one of them individually, then you must wash them several times to get all the rest of dirt off and cut any roots that are tough, and you need to do all this as soon as you get home from picking them so they don't wilt. Then you boil them half to death and you serve them with olive oil and lemon, or you stuff them into a pie with some cheese. Okay, I'm not saying they're not good; a nice pie with sow thistle and feta, who can pass that up? So I'll eat the pie but would I go pick the weeds to make it? No, I wouldn't. My mom not only goes to pick the weeds, she considers it the highlight of her week, tells all her friends about it and takes to a select few a piece of the pie or a bowl of the "horta", the green mushy mess that we Greeks are enamored with. Mama and her friends like to exchange weed tips - "there's a field not far, you go past the bakery and turn left and then drive about 20 miles, it has the best donkey thistle!" and they also like to reminisce about great weed moments - "I once found a wild radish that was as big as my hand but so tender!"

Picking weeds is becoming a lost art in Greece, our moms and grandmas are the last generation that knows the difference between wild mallow and poison ivy and there aren't many people nowadays who consider hours spent digging in the dirt for food a form of entertainment. But the thing with my mom is that she doesn't keep her habits in Greece, where other little old ladies also carry knives in their purses for similar reasons, she insists on doing the same thing here when she comes to visit. I've learned to avoid her weed-picking expeditions and even the last time she screamed for me to stop the car because she spottted the perfect patch of purslane in a field next to the sheriff's building, I refused and told her to go back later on her own. I have enough troubles, I don't need a criminal record as well.

During one of her visits in the U.S. she was weed-picking in a field in some ritzy suburb that hadn't been completely developed yet, and a car stopped and the people asked her if she was hungry and needed food. I wonder what the Good Samaritans thought when she showed them her bag of weeds and lectured them about how precious these weeds are and how healthy and good for you they are, "much better than McDonald's!" but mainly I'm just glad I wasn't there because I would have died of embarrassment. Another time she came home with one shoe, the other one had sunk in the muddy field where she was picking weeds and she couldn't get it out. But she said the dandelions in that one field were definitely worth a shoe.

Weed pickers are very particular about where and when they pick their weeds, you can't just pick any old weed from any old field any old time you feel like it. Weed picking can only be done the days after a good, long rain, when the baby weeds are sprouting, and they must be picked before they make flowers. You can't pick weeds from your yard because what if the dog or the cat peed on them? And even if you don't have a dog or a cat, your neighbours have cats and you can be sure that those cats have come over in your yard and peed on the dandelions you might have been interested in picking because cats are mean like that. Also, you can't pick weeds from the middle of an orchard or a vineyard because they'll have pesticides and you certainly don't want to eat pesticides, do you? And you can't pick weeds from the side of the freeway, because they have too much pollution on them. You can only pick weeds from "virgin" fields, uncultivated areas in the middle of nowhere.

The reason I thought of all this is there was some documentary on Greek tv, I don't know what about, I had it on mute. But there was this big field and in the middle of it was a little old lady holding a plastic bag with weeds and waving a big knife at the camera and that just made me think of how I wouldn't really mind a nice piece of dandelion pie.
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A little too late
Turkey probes journalist's murder amid huge public outcry. Where is the huge public outcry every time a journalist is tried for "insulting Turkishness"? Greece said the murder of Hrant Dink was aimed at undermining Turkey's efforts to join the EU. This has nothing to do with the EU, the murder came out of a culture of nationalism in a country that demands silence about its past and I don't understand why Greece is ignoring the fact that Christians in Turkey are being terrorized on a regular basis.
Dink was one of the taboo-breaking critics of the official line on the mass massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which he labeled as genocide, and was last year given a suspended six-month jail sentence for insulting "Turkishness."

Nationalists had branded him a "traitor" and Dink wrote in his last article that he worried about his safety.

"The murderer is the traitor," declared the mass-circulation Hurriyet on its front page Saturday, while the popular Sabah headlined: "The greatest treason."

Despite the controversies, the soft-spoken and often emotional Dink had won many hearts here as a sincere activist for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, who denounced also Armenian radicalism and most recently a French bill in October to jail those who deny that the 1915-17 killings of Armenians constituted genocide.

Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler rejected charges of negligence, saying that Dink had not asked for special protection.

The press condemned the murder as a "national disgrace" and called for the journalist's funeral, scheduled for Tuesday, to become a mass event in the name of democracy and peace in Turkey.
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The "militancy" that never left
I don't know what Karolos Grohmann was thinking with this headline: Fear of return to militancy in Greece. Mr. Grohmann, even the Greek media call it terrorism now and it's not making a comeback, it never went away.

Of course it could be that the media called it terrorism because it was the American Embassy that was hit this time and we all shat in our pants thinking of the possible consequences. The continuous terrorism that Greek citizens are subjected to, the firebombs, the destruction of businesses and property, the attempts on journalists' and politicians' lives, we don't call that terrorism, that's just every day living in Greece.
Revolutionary Struggle has emerged as the most serious domestic threat since the dismantling of November 17 in 2002, adopting anti-US rhetoric in statements to the media.

"No one expected such a powerful terrorist strike, an attack on the American building which is a symbol of tight security measures (in the country)," the daily Eleftheros Typos said. "For Washington, it was a huge insult."
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Feta, glorious feta
I have a well-known reputation for being a feta cheese addict - my family doesn't call me zorkettafeta for nothing - and I feel like a traitor to my native country which has exclusive rights to the feta word, but it's time to come clean: I'm not crazy about a lot of the Greek feta cheese and never have been. I've always preferred French feta or Danish feta or even Bulgarian feta sometimes (I know, I oughta be shot) and I think the reason for this is because the non-Greeks don't use goat's milk in their feta. When I'm in Greece, I only buy feta from a few trusted sources who have the peppery, non-goaty kind, but in restaurants, it's almost guaranteed that I'll never eat the feta in the salad on on the sidedishes because it's too goaty and even though I warn the waiter beforehand that I don't like goaty feta and he reassures me it's not goaty at all, guess what: it still stinks of goat.

Anyway, the reason for this rant is because the article says that according to the official Greek guidelines, feta is made from sheep's milk, with not more than 30 percent goat's milk added. Well, I have issues with that too.

First of all, I don't believe that it's only 30 percent goat's milk, the feta I've been exposed to is more like 80 percent goat's milk (or at least it feels like it) and second of all, why do we even need that 30 percent? There is no reason to have goat's milk in feta in this day and age! For that matter, there is no reason to have goats!

I'll stop here for now, I just want to register my vote for a non-goaty feta, is all. It's not too much to ask.
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Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier
Serving in the military voluntarily is a luxury afforded only to strong and rich countries, I think. Since Greece has been at war with Turkey off and on for over 100 years now, and since even today the Greek-Turkish relations are semi-stable but consistently unreliable, Greeks have maintained a strong military force on the borders and in the Aegean which means mandatory service for all males. But what about people who don't want or are unable to serve in the Army? I thought this case was very sad:
Georgios Koutsomanolakis, 46, was sentenced to a suspended 24-month prison term for insubordination by the Military Court of Athens on 23 May 2005. He had been initially charged with insubordination in 1979, at a time when there was no alternative civilian service in Greece, because as a Jehovah's Witness he refused to serve military service on religious grounds. He fled Greece and was granted political asylum in Germany, where he has been living since then. He was arrested and detained on 12 May 2005 on the island of Rhodes while visiting his parents, and on 16 May he was transferred to Korydallos prison, Athens, where he remained imprisoned until his trial.
Conscientious objectors now have the alternative of civil service but apparently it's "punitive both in law and in practice and encourages discrimination."

Greece: Conscientious objectors -- persecution is not the solution. I wonder how conscientious objectors are treated in other countries.
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Turks and Greeks
Today Greece commemorates the 1821-1831 War of Independence, the revolution that freed Greece from the Ottoman Empire which had ruled over the Greeks since the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

I found the subject boring in grade-school history class but that's because I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to have a grandfather who relished telling me these stories, embellished and re-enacted of course, complete with dialog between Turks and Greeks ("Die, infidel!") and with extra attention on the special details, like the impaling of Athanasios Diakos who was roasted on a spit "and he didn't cry once!" However, my favourite was Laskarina Bouboulina who was usually in charge of annihilating my brother's toy soldiers.

I haven't read about the Greek revolution from a Turkish perspective, I wonder how that is taught in schools there and what stories do Turkish grandparents tell their grandkids.
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A national pastime
Greece is a leader in Europe when it comes to gambling, people bet on everything, from soccer matches to the Oscars, Olympics and Eurovision. The most popular betting game, "Pame Stoihima" (Let's Make a Bet), took in 1.6 billion euros in 2004. A similar game took in 1.4 billion euros in Britain - a country whose population is more than five times that of Greece - which means that on a per capita basis, each Greek spent almost six times as much on betting as each Brit. Given that the per capita GDP in Greece is $22,800 compared to $30,900 in Britain, and the Greek unemployment rate is 10.8% compared to Britain's 4.7%, it makes me wonder where do Greeks find the money. And it can't be large wages either, the average Greek salary is €800 which must be much less than the average British salary if one assumes that the British salary is comparable to French or German average salaries which range between €1,600 and €3,000.

So we're a country of gamblers, poor but optimistic.
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The way of the Balkans
Another European butcher is dead. After starting a blood bath that lasted ten years and left hundreds of thousands dead and millions homeless, Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison cell, quietly, of a heart attack. How did he obtain the antibiotics that killed him? I don't really care. I do regret that he didn't live to hear a guilty verdict but at least he didn't have a hero's death, he died in jail and his name will forever be associated with Srebrenica and massacres and mass graves. And for what? Bosnia is now a divided country run by five presidents, two prime ministers and a host of international agencies. Unless people think it's a good thing to have ethnically segregated neighborhoods, schools and police forces.

His family wants a state funeral but I doubt that will happen. He'll still be honored, I'm sure; for many Serbians, Milosevic is a hero who defended his country from outsiders trying to break it apart, a warrior who stood up to America.

All I can say is I hope men like Slobo and his gang of murderers never come around again but I don't believe that they won't. This is the Balkans after all.
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Solidarity like totally rules, dude!
With all the protests against the Mohammadoodles lately, some of us may have forgotten the riots that happened in France a few months ago. Not to worry, Greek anarchists are keeping the memory (and the flames) alive.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Greek newspaper "Eleftherotypia" received a phone call that a bomb was about to explode at a central Athens branch of the French bank BNP, as "an act of solidarity with the rioters of the French ghettos." The bomb, which consisted of one and a half kilos of dynamite and a timer, fortunately did not cause too much damage. The day before the bank bomb, there had been an arson attack at the Renault dealership at an Athens suburb. Four cars were doused with gasoline and set on fire. Eleftherotypia again received a telephone call from someone who said that the attack was organised by a "group of comrades" (no, no one from bloggie was involved that I know) and that it was "an act of solidarity towards the imprisoned revolutionaries of the organisation 'Action Directe' who are being held in French prisons for the last 19 years. The struggle continues".

Yes, the struggle continues, against parked cars, apparently. Here's a little background on Action Directe. By the way, for the last 30 years Eleftherotypia has been the favourite medium for terrorists who like to call the newspaper to give warnings about pending bomb explosions or to explain their motives about murders they've committed. The newspaper used to publish these rambling "manifestos" of murder, thus giving the killers the attention they craved.

Meanwhile in Salonica -- yes, we have anarchists in Salonica too. We may not be the capital of Greece -- as we rightfully should be since our city is smarter and prettier and gosh darn it people like us -- but we're not that woefully unhip as to not have anarchists. Anyway, in Salonica, someone set off three small bombs in two cars belonging to a Swedish diplomat. Okay, this one does not have to do with the French riots, I admit, but check it out: Eleftherotypia got the obligatory phone call which explained that this time the attack was a -- were you going to say "an act of solidarity"? You'd be right! The arson attack was "an act of solidarity towards bank robbers and people who are accused of belonging to the N17 terrorist group."

If someone has a good explanation about the correlation between cars of Swedish diplomats and Greek bank robbers, I would like to hear it. Oh, and I have another question: since everyone and their uncle is being phone-tapped in Greece, would it have killed the spies to tap Eleftherotypia as well?
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Spying on the Prime Minister's Wife
So I heard in the Greek news yesterday about "the biggest bomb to explode in Greece in years", a "very hot potato", and I saw various journalists taking turns between being outraged and being outraged and shocked that cellphones of several Greek ministers, military and police officers were tapped including the Prime Minister's cell phone as well as the cellphone used by the Prime Minister's wife. So who tapped them? The article doesn't mention specifics, just that the tapped phones diverted calls to other cellphones that had been used "in a central Athens area where many foreign embassies are located". However, a government minister and several journalists pointed fingers at the US embassy (where a cell phone used by a Greek employee of the embassy was also tapped).

The phone taps were discovered accidentally; Vodafone customers had been complaining that their text messages were not reaching their destinations and spyware was found when Vodafone examined the problem. The company immediately removed the spyware and when they discovered the numbers being tapped, the company president contacted the Prime Minister directly regarding "an issue of national security".

Since the spyware was removed before alerting the authorities, there's no hope of tracking down the culprits. Or so we've been told.

I think it's possible that it was the US that did the spying in the interest of securing the Olympic games from any terror threats. But if that's the case, why did they let it go on for so long and risk getting caught? I would think that once the Olympics were over, they would drop the taps.
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'The city whose praises are sung'
A small love note to my hometown: Thessaloniki - Greece's 'showpiece' city. Take that, Athenians.
Thessaloniki, Greece - "We have nothing against Athens being the capital because we have been given an even bigger honour - living in the most beautiful city in Greece," taxi driver Nikos Papazoglou jokes about the rivalry between the country's two main cities.

Driving along Thessaloniki's waterfront promenade overlooking the Thermaic Bay with the city's landmark, the 15th century White Tower in full view, one instantly understands why it is celebrated as the "mother of Macedonia" and "the city whose praises are sung".

Shaped by centuries of outsiders, Thessaloniki is a city whose former occupants have left a definite imprint - from the Roman ruins dotting the numerous squares and markets to the Old Town with its Turkish flair and a downtown core so overloaded with Byzantine churches and chapels that it has been designated a World Heritage Site.

Once glorified as an important commercial centre and port during the 18th and early 19th centuries, Thessaloniki has suffered countless disasters over the years, including a devastating fire in 1917 that miraculously left most of the monuments and buildings standing - including a large section of the Byzantine city walls.

While Thessaloniki was never quite rebuilt according to the grand plan of French architect Ernest Hebrand, namely because of the 130 000 Greek refugees from Asia Minor that flooded the city between 1922 and 1923, the city was still developed into a more liveable metropolis than Athens; stimulated by its university, international trade fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival held in November.

It is surprisingly easily accessible by foot with central avenues running parallel to the seafront and cross-streets densely planted with shade-providing trees.

A good place to start is Aristolelous Square, a pedestrianised strip lined with beautiful buildings, trendy bars and outdoor cafes. From there you can walk to all the main sites of Thessaloniki without much effort.

You can catch glimpses of the city's ancient Roman influence at the Roman agora which is still being excavated and where an odium and two galleries have been discovered, as well as at the Arch of Galerius, constructed in the fourth century to celebrate the Roman victory over the Persian army.

Nearby lies the church of Saint Dimitrios, the patron saint of the city, with its 13th century crypt and mosaics, and the church of Saint Sofia, modelled after the world-famous one in Istanbul.

One should also not miss the magnificent Rotunda: A circular construction that was originally intended to serve as the mausoleum of Emperor Galerius but instead has served variously as a church and mosque.

Turkish influence is still very much evident today in the walled Kastra quarter, otherwise known as the Ano Polis or old Turkish quarter, located on the hillside beyond the modern slew of streets.

There pockets of Ottoman buildings which miraculously survived the fire still stand, as well as a Byzantine fortress complete with seven towers which later served a prison.

For most visitors, one sight which should not be missed is Thessaloniki's exceptional Archaeological Museum as well as the smaller Museum of Jewish Presence. The latter is intended to reflect the important past of the Jewish community in this city since the 15th century, who were the victims of deportations during WW2.

Also interesting is the Ataturk Museum, where the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born in 1881 in this house on Apostolou Pavlou Street.

Thessaloniki's ancient sites may be the basis for visiting this city, but the food and Anatolian-inspired eating establishments will also delight.

The Ladadika district, the only part of town to survive the great fire, once served as storage and trading place for olive oil. Today, its tiny buildings have been beautifully restored to host an array of traditional and gourmet restaurants as well as trendy bars and cafes.

Dominating an entire corner of the Ladadika is the charming Bristol Hotel. This neo-classical building has been restored with old-time finesse to operate as the city's only boutique hotel.

Also worth trying is the Modiano Old Market, a lively bazaar filled with meat and fish restaurants or the "Louloudadika" or "flower shops" that now host dozens of unique tavernas.

Thessaloniki is accessible by air directly from most European cities and can be reached by train from cities in Europe like Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia, Moscow and Ljubljana. Visitors can also travel to and from Istabul with a new overnight sleeper that takes a little over 11 hours.

A street near the center of Salonica - The streets are much worse in Athens.

Aristotelous square - Whoever took this photo must be an Athenian, he thinks Aristotelous Square is in Bulgaria.

Salonica by day - Athens is uglier.

A walk by the White Tower - Athens doesn't have a tower.

The Arch of Galerius - Notice that Galerius didn't bother to visit Athens.

Salonica by night - I bet you Athens doesn't even have a night.

The wharf - You think Athens has a wharf like this? You're wrong!
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They're asking for it
Do you think this is true? A woman who dresses provocatively wants to be sexually harassed by men. A study showed that fifty percent of Israeli men think it's true and I think that a large percentage of Greek men feel the same way.
The study, conducted among 250 women and men aged 18-60 and headed by Dr. Avigail Mor of the Women Studies program at the Tel Hai Academic College, aimed at identifying the gender differences in the perception of responsibility for sexual harassments.

According to the survey, 51 percent of the men believe that a woman who dresses provocatively is "looking to be sexually harassed," and that it is therefore "OK to hit on such women."

The men also stated that in these cases sexual comments, touching or fondling do not constitute harassment.

Meanwhile, 86 percent of the women respondents said that such behavior is equivalent to harassment.

The participants in the survey were also asked for their opinion on a scenario in which a female employee flirts with her boss, later changes her mind but continues to suffer sexual hints and advances by her employer.

Half of the male participants in the study said that this situation cannot be classified as sexual harassment, because the woman's behavior led to the man's actions, while 86 percent of the women claimed such behavior constitutes harassment.

"These alarming findings represent the atmosphere in the Israeli public, and account for the high rate of sexual harassments in the country," Dr. Mor explained.
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The issue of the day
I watched the Greek news last night and noticed the news anchor gloating over President Bush's mea culpa in regards to faulty intelligence and the Iraq war. She mentioned it again a few times in order to make sure we really understood how wrong Bush was, and in the next news segment, consisting of a panel of journalists, the same news anchor tried to make this "the issue of the day." Much to her disappointment, it was not to be. A very upset panel member yelled that the issue of the day was the EU parliament's decision to approve a proposal for retention of internet and telephone data as part of an anti-terrorism bill. Never mind that the proposal has been approved by the European Union's parliamentary committee on civil liberties, the journalist kept yelling at other panel members "what are you going to do about this, this is unacceptable, our civil liberties are being trampled, the CIA and the Americans have access to our records!" When his fellow journalists pointed out that this same data is collected at present as well, the bill just extends the retention period, he went even more ballistic, screaming that the zeppelin that was used for security in the Athens Olympics was taking pictures of him. Finally, the show host asked him why was he so worried, had he done something wrong? The hysterical guy calmed down and admitted he hadn't and they went to commercial.

No one mentioned the elections in Iraq except in passing; as one of the journalists said, "who cares."
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What shall we blow up today?
Life in Greece is never boring: Explosion rocks Athens. A blast damaged a post office near the Ministry of Finance in downtown Athens and the anarchist organisation (there's an oxymoron for you) Revolutionary Struggle, which has previously set off other bombs while protesting something or other, is thought responsible for this attack too. Meanwhile, the American ambassador in Greece set off a tempest in a Greek-coffee cup when he claimed that members of the terrorist organisation 17 November are still at large. I think he's right and I think it's part of a bigger problem that Greece has with terrorism.

A journalist said that after the Olympics, Greece sighed in relief and let her guard down. I don't think that's the case. I believe that Greece has become comfortable with terrorism and terror attacks have become part of everyday life in Greece. Greeks will march and protest if the price of bread goes up by two cents, yet for all the decades that the 17 November murderers killed and attacked with impunity, there was never a march or mass protest against them.

Next week, some other previously unknown group will explode something or other--if not next week, the week after that. Once again, no one will protest, there won't be any arrests, anonymous "masked young men" will be blamed, some Revolutionary/Adversary/Contrary gang of idiots will brag about the attack in some long rant justifying their madness and that will be that.

Some things never change in Greece and that gets boring.
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Cypriot dogs and Englishmen
Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as Chatham House, issued its verdict on the Cyprus situation, an island forcibly divided and its northern half occupied by Turkey. The Institute concluded that no solution is possible because power sharing between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities "will almost certainly lead to the two sides squabbling over even the smallest issues." The article states that the hopes for a "Cyprus miracle" have been dashed.

I don't know if anyone expects a miracle but the issue is much bigger than "squabbling". I would like to know what does Chatham House think of the murders of Anastasios Isaak and Solomos Solomou, surely they were more than squabbles over the height of a footbridge?
The two United Nations Civilian Police had observed two Greek Cypriot demonstrators being set upon by two groups of Turkish Cypriot demonstrators who proceeded to beat them with brutal force. The two United Nations Police went to the assistance of one of the Greek Cypriots (Isaak), and were finally able to push aside the Turkish Cypriots, including three Turkish Cypriot policemen, who were still beating him, it was too late. The location of the killing inside the United Nations buffer zone was about 95 metres from the National Guard cease-fire line and about 32 metres from the Turkish Forces cease-fire line.
The world's chief peacemaker, Kofi Annan, said that because progress in Cyprus "has been negligible," he saw no reason to appoint yet another special envoy to Cyprus. I guess Kenan Akin, Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources and murderer of Solomos Solomou, knew what he was talking about back in 1996: "Why are you making the killing of a dog sound so important?" Why, indeed.
What has become known as "the Cyprus problem" has been festering since 1963 when the British-imposed constitution broke down amid clashes and arson between the two communities, which have lived apart since.
Here's a more detailed perspective on this "Cyprus problem".

Thanks to Ellas Devil for his excellent post and links.
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In the land of ethnic cleansings
Not to take attention away from "the greatest threat to world peace" or anything, just checking the old Balkan tinderbox for a minute: Greece, Albania enter fresh row over minority issue. Greek President Papoulias suspended a visit to Albania because Chams (ethnic Albanian Muslims) protested demanding compensation about property rights originating since the end of World War II when they were expelled from Greece.
Protesters were demanding compensation for or restitution of properties confiscated by the Greek government during the end of WW II as some 35,000 Chams were expelled from region of Chameria in Greece ( bordered with south-east of Albania). They were given Albanian citizenship in 1953.

Chameria is a region located in North-western Greece, in the province of Epirus, prefecture of Thesprotia. It has a size of approximately 10,000 square kilometres with a population of approximately 150,000. The name Chameria derives from the ancient river Thyamis, present day Kallamas.

“In 1913 Chameria was formally assigned to Greece. In 1923 the Chams were excluded from the 1923 Lausanne Treaty of Obligatory Exchange of population between Greece and Turkey, having been recognized as an ethnic Albanian minority. In 1944 tens of thousands of Moslem Chams were expelled from Greece against their wish and, consequently settled into Albania. They were constantly denied the right to return to Chameria despite the normalization of relations between Albania and Greece in 1987. They were subject to harsh persecution by the Albanian communist regime", says in its web-site the US based Chameria Association.
For more information on the subject read 'the Cham issue' and 'the Cham tragedy'.
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A little too close to home
Am I scared of the bird flu? I don't know, should I be? I feel that I should be panicking but I'm not panicking, which is sort of strange for me, so maybe this means that I *really* should be panicking. Seriously, is a flu pandemic around the corner? And are we prepared? Actually, forget the last question, I know we're not prepared. So, what do we do?

Greece tests bird for deadly flu strain
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A Conference on Genocide
I thought it was a good sign when Yusuf Halacoglu, head of the Turkish Historical Society, asked for a multi-national inquiry to look into the Armenian genocide. He may not have been as outspoken as Orhan Pamuk but it was encouraging to see that leading voices in Turkey were willing to speak up about coming to terms with the past. However, last week an Istanbul court banned a conference about the genocide. The conference moved to another location where hundreds of Turkish nationalists protested, waving flags and chanting slogans, such as "This is Turkey, love it or leave it."

(a thimbleful of cognac to barnstorm)
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Orhan Pamuk facing charges for speaking the truth
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Inbreeding's Bad, Mmmkay?
The infant mortality rate among Israeli Arabs is more than twice as high as that among Israeli Jews, and no, you can't blame the zionist occupation. It's because of inbreeding and poor hygiene.
The lead article in the August issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal reports success in lowering infant mortality rates among Arabs in the Western Galilee. These rates being generally twice as high among Israeli Arabs as among Israeli Jews, by 2002 an Israeli health program launched in the late 1980s had lowered the rate among Western Galilee Arabs to about 1.5 that of the Jews in the area.

The program found three main factors causing the high rates among the Arabs: infections, home births, and diseases resulting from inbreeding. About 40 percent of Muslim and Druze women and 70 percent of Bedouin women in the region were found to be married to first- or second-degree relatives.
The "home births" complaint should be combined with "infections", because plenty of Americans do home birth with no heightened infant mortality rate. The difference must be that Arab midwives aren't as pathogen-conscious as American ones, and education could improve that. Education can also prevent new inbred marriages from happening, though it's an uphill battle in Arab society. Cousin-marryin' (especially first cousins) is very popular and thought to be the best match you could possibly make. In fact, a lot of love songs are about yearning for your cousin.
Through an information campaign, the infant mortality from infections and home births has almost been eliminated in Western Galilee. The health program is now trying to tackle the inbreeding problem, using ultrasound screening for pregnant women in consanguineous marriages, articles in the media, and study days for health workers, schoolteachers, and religious and community leaders on the harmful effects of inbreeding. The program emphasizes the fact that consanguineous marriage is in no way mandated by Islam.

Rooted in ancient custom, consanguinity is nonetheless widespread in the Arab world; for example, a 1989 study in Iraq found 53 percent of the subjects to be consanguineously married. One result is the prevalence of extended clans that lead to nepotism and lower levels of identification with the state. The clan structure is a major factor in the Arab world’s endemic corruption and lack of civil society.

But if, as the Israeli study highlights, inbreeding is also a major cause of disease, another conclusion seems inescapable. Just as modern medicine recognizes genetic sources of many physical illnesses, modern psychology recognizes genetic components in many psychological problems including criminality. Presumably, a region where inbreeding is rife—and reinforced through successive generations—should also have a greater frequency of such mental ailments. Though, not surprisingly, there seem to have been no studies in that regard given the delicacy of the subject, the high levels of social pathology, violence, and terrorism in the Arab world suggest that inbreeding is one of the causes.

Such observations are not, of course, comfortable because they are likely to inspire absurd charges of racism. Racism, of course, is not the issue; inbreeding is equally bad for all kinds of people, but Arabs happen to practice it. Indeed, in today’s world it is found mainly in a salient extending from Morocco to Southern India.

Skeptics about attempts to reform or democratize the Arab world often point to Islam as a factor more fundamental than political practices such as elections. It seems they should also emphasize the separate problem of inbreeding. Although it would require great resources, it may be that programs like the Israeli one in Western Galilee could contribute more to helping the Arab world overcome its problems than strictly political reforms for which it may not be ready.
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Whites Officially A Texas Minority
...just barely (50.2% of people living in Texas are not white people).

Texas Now a Majority-Minority State-now that's a crappy headline. Mine is much better, because unlike the AP, I'm not afraid of someone thinking my headline is racist.
EL PASO, Texas - Texas has become the fourth state to have a non-white majority population, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday, a trend driven by a surging number of Hispanics moving to the state.

According to the population estimates based on the 2000 Census, about 50.2 percent of Texans are now minorities. In the 2000 Census, minorities made up about 47 percent of the population in the second-largest state.

Texas joins California, New Mexico and Hawaii as states with majority-minority populations — with Hispanics the largest group in every state but Hawaii, where it is Asian-Americans.

Five other states — Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Arizona — aren't far behind, with about 40 percent minorities.

Public policy analysts said these states and the country as a whole need to bring minority education and professional achievement to the levels of whites. Otherwise, these areas risk becoming poorer and less competitive.

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said lawmakers need to start with immigration reform, while striving to bring minorities' education and salary levels in line with Anglos.

"Immigration is good for the United States ... it's important for us to keep our doors open, but we need to keep an eye on the people coming in," Frey said. "While initially it will be a state problem, eventually it will be a national issue, and education is the best way to deal with it."

Complications from the cultural shift aren't likely to be exclusive to states that already have majority-minority populations, Frey said.

Nevada, for instance, has seen a massive influx of minorities in the last 15 years, reducing the percentage of Anglos since the 1990s from nearly 80 percent to about 60 percent. Such a rapid shift is likely to cause growing pains that include trying to balance the needs of a bigger and younger minority community with an aging Anglo community, Frey said.

"That's the kind of state that is going to have to deal with quick transition," Frey said.

Though some areas may never see this shift, the country as a whole is expected to continue the trend first noticed more than a decade ago.

The nation should be more than half minorities by 2050, said Steve Murdock, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

"If you look in the 1990s, in every one of the 50 states, non-Anglo Hispanic populations grew faster than Anglo populations," Murdock said. "It's a very pervasive pattern."
Your children will speak Spanglish. The ones who don't speak Chinese, anyway, when the Communists invade and send us all to slave away in their underground sugar mines.
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