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The 110-million-year-old sea turtle is a bellwether of marine ecosystem health
The 110-million-year-old sea turtle is a bellwether of marine ecosystem health. Where there are healthy wild populations of sea turtles, there are healthy oceans sustaining them. Unfortunately, sea turtles today are highly threatened and their numbers are rapidly diminishing.Longline fishing, which kills an estimated 40,000 sea turtles annually, along with shrimp trawling, coastal development, ocean pollution, global warming, and hunting, have caused an unprecedented decline in sea turtle populations.
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Greece Has the Highest Corruption Indices in EU
17 September 2006 | 17:01 | FOCUS News Agency
Athens. Greece has the highest corruption indices according to the charts of all international organizations – from the International Monetary Fund to the World Bank, the Kathimerini newspaper writes. Greece is considered the most corrupted state in the 25-member bloc. Its corruption level is even higher than the one in countries of the third world, such as Chile and Egypt. However, corruption in Greece exists on a social and political level and is not connected to any political party since it flourished during the governments of the socialist PASOK Party and the New Democracy, the newspaper comments.
Island Zakynthos in crisis over drunk Brits & oral sex
The Greek tourism minister is to hold
emergency talks on the holiday island of Zakynthos on Monday amid outrage at the
behaviour of British tourists.
The island's MP, Dimitrios Varvarigos. has called for tourists committing acts of gross indecency to be put on trial and jailed for up to three years.
Those who have gone home should be sent back to Greece for trial, he says.
The photos splashed across papers last week were taken in the resort of Laganas on the island's south coast, which used to be better known as a nocturnal breeding ground for loggerhead turtles.
But, over the past two years, it has become a favoured destination for British teenagers in search of sun, sand and cheap alcohol.
The town has seen behaviour including drunken orgies, vomiting in the streets and frequent fights. Police have closed down several of the most notorious nightclubs.
Laganas was formerly noted for its loggerhead turtles
Young Britons already had a bad reputation in Greece after similar behaviour in resorts on the islands of Rhodes and Crete.
The town's deputy mayor, Stavros Papadatos, blamed holiday reps and the Greek proprietors of hundreds of bars and clubs in Laganas for encouraging drunkenness.
"Every night each one of them must make around 1,000 euros (£700) organising pub crawls. It's on those crawls that young British girls and boys appear to lose their minds," he said, according to a report in the Guardian.
Of the tourists shown in the papers committing indecent acts, Mr Varvarigos said: "We're talking about a lot of people.
"As many as possible should be located, extradited if need be, and made to bear the consequences," he insisted.
"Under Greek law that might mean prison sentences of two or three years."
Flights from Australia to Zakynthos for 179.- AU$ 179.-
Holiday hell for Limerick sun-seekers
LIMERICK holidaymakers, who were stranded for more than 25 hours at a tiny airport on the Greek island of Zakynthos say that "it was a nightmare end to a dream holiday”.
The 200 disgruntled passengers from Limerick and Cork finally arrived home to Cork airport on Monday morning.
And one Limerick girl, who bought her package holiday from Limerick Travel said that most of the passengers on the Cork to Zakynthos flight now plan to take action against tour operator, Panorama.
The Annacotty girl said that their flight back to Cork was at 4am, and they were exhausted anyway as they were flying in the middle of the night. But this was only the beginning of a 25 hour ordeal for the holidaymakers, which involved "a scarcity of food and drink, exhaustion and finally being put up in a nightclub hotel”.
"The worst part of it was just constantly being lied to,” said the holidaymaker who said she was too embarressed to be named. "Originally we were told that there was going to be a two and a half hour delay because the plane wasn’t able to take off in Cork because of mist. But there ended up being major delays on this flight and we were never informed. The reps just kept fobbing us off. They even ran away at one stage because they were too scared to tell us that the flight was delayed again,” she said.
After being told that their plane would "definitely be there at 1pm”, the passengers were then informed that their plane had been diverted to Athens "because there was no room for it to land”.
"The English reps were just totally incompetent and they kept lying to us. It got to the stage where we didn’t know if we would ever get home. There were hardly any seats in the cramped airport and there were loads of families with young children and babies. One pregnant woman just freaked out at the reps at one stage. It was almost like a riot; people were screaming and breaking down crying and cursing at the reps because they were just so exhausted and hungry. The worst thing was that many people didn’t even have any money left from the end of their holidays and the prices were just extortionate at the airport,” she said.
She said that "all war broke loose” when they were later "kicked out of the airport into the blistering heat because there was no room for them to remain in the departures lounge”.
"We were left out in heat for more than two hours because the airport was packed. After demanding water, the reps finally brought out a large container, but they told us we had to show our tickets before getting it. They were literally guarding it. One man just lost it, saying we had been there for more than 12 hours and they knew well who we were at this stage. He said that we were being treated like animals and that "we may be Irish but were not stupid and how dare they make fools of us”.
He then said that nobody was to show their tickets as a protest. Eventually some children passed his so called picket line to get water, because the parents were too embarrassed to pass him.”
Adding to their discomfort, she said that there were "loads of feral cats and dogs lurking around the airport outside”.
Concerns were then voiced amongst the holiday makers that the pilot and crew may run out of flight hours. The Annacotty girl said that the reps were constantly asked if this was a possibility. And both the reps and eventually the head rep from Panorama assured the passengers that the pilot had plenty of flying hours left and that they would definitely be flying at 6pm that evening.
"At 6.30pm we became suspicious and noticed that all the Panorama reps had vanished. We later found out that they had left the airport to go to their offices, because they didn’t know what to say to us. Eventually this new rep that we hadn’t seen before came to calm us down an hour or so later, but she still didn’t have any news.”
At 9pm that night, the exhausted holidaymakers were finally told that they were being put up in a hotel in the party resort of Laganas, because the flight crew had in fact ran out of flying hours.
Most of the group had been staying in the quieter resorts of Kalamaki or Tsivili. And she said that many of the families were shocked when they "basically pulled up in front of a nightclub”.
"The hotel we were booked into had disco bars on both sides of it and a nightclub below it. One woman said that there was no way that she was staying in this place with her children, as there were girls wearing half nothing all over the place. At this stage the rep said that she could sleep in the bus if it didn’t suit her. They were just so rude and didn’t give a damn about us,” she said.
"Most of the holiday makers didn’t get any sleep that night because the hotel was throbbing with the beat of the nightclub and there was also no hot water in the hotel. But the final straw came the next morning when we were en route to the airport at 6am. Someone from the bus noticed luggage strewn all over the road and it transpired that the reps had forgotten to close the boot of the bus. It was just like a comedy. And when people started giving out, the reps told us to keep quite as they didn’t ‘appreciate the comments from the back of the bus’,” she said.
The passengers were all stranded in the plane on the runway for another hour before being authorised to leave.
"And despite constant promises that we would be getting breakfast at the airport or on the plane that morning, we ended up getting nothing. The air hostesses on the flight home said that they had been told nothing about breakfast. Children were literally screaming for food,” she said.
The Annacotty girl concluded by saying that the reps were not one bit apologetic, and "were just totally unprofessional in the way they dealt with the situation”.
Other flight delays occurred last weekend when Irish holidaymakers were stranded for 24 hours in Malaga, Spain. And passengers were also stranded in Cork for nearly 12 hours before their flight to Spain took off.
The delays have centred on Shannon-based new charter company Eirjet. Eirjet does contract work for travel companies such as Panorama and Falcon holidays and concerns have been expressed that the small operation does not have large numbers of aircraft at its disposal.
Panorama, tour operators for the Zakynthos flight told the Limerick Post the return journey to Cork was delayed because the Eirjet crew had gone over their flight-hour limitations and needed rest. They also apologised for the "unprecedented and unfortunate delays”.
tourists blamed for damage to turtles' haven
FOR thousands of young British tourists, the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the Ionian island of Zakynthos are the perfect setting for revelry and holiday romance. Each summer the coastline is transformed into an adult playground as tourists hold late-night beach parties before dancing in the clubs and bars.
Their antics, though, are threatening the survival of the loggerhead turtle, which has, since time immemorial, relied on the once tranquil coastline to complete its rather more sedate breeding pattern.
Now the European Commission is taking the Greek Government to court for failing to protect the unique habitat from the 200,000 British holidaymakers who visit the island each year.
A month after his appointment, Stavros Dimas, the EU Environment Commissioner, has threatened to impose a hefty daily fine on his country for failing to safeguard the environment needed for the turtle, known as the Caretta caretta, to thrive. He is awaiting a full written response from Greece about what it will do to save the turtles’ breeding grounds.
A European Court judgment three years ago condemned Greece for not protecting the breeding grounds, particularly at Zakynthos’s Laganas Bay.
The noise from beach parties and nightclubs is preventing turtles from crawling on to the sands to bury their eggs. Instead, many are releasing their eggs in the sea, where they will not hatch.
Those that do venture on to the beach guarantee their offspring only limited odds of survival. Some eggs are smashed as the sand is churned up by beach buggies, dug into by children or pierced by spikes from parasols.
The hatchlings that emerge after neary two months face further perils. Because the turtles rely on shimmering moonlight to guide their scamper to the sea, many are becoming disorientated by neon lights from nightlife and so head in the opposite direction, invariably to their deaths on busy roads.
So great was the concern for the survival of the species that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a campaign urging people to write to the Greek Prime Minister to express their concerns.
“A total of 11,000 e-mails were sent to the Greek Government,” Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of Species at WWF, said. “We are delighted that the EU has taken such decisive action against the Greek Government and now hope this will force it to finally act to protect the habitat of these endangered turtles.
“It is simply not acceptable that beaches once protected for turtles are now the domain of sunbathers, swimmers and ice cream vendors.”
Environmental campaigners in Greece are less optimistic.
“The situation at this stage could not be worse,” Lily Venizelos, president of the Mediterranean League for the Protection of Sea Turtles, said. She has been battling the political and tourism establishments for more than 20 years. The European Commission gave Greece a December deadline to answer charges that it was reneging on a promise to spend €90,000 (£60,000) on a protected environmental park at Laganas Bay. “An answer was supposedly given,” Vasilis Kouroutos, the league’s secretary said, “but we never saw a draft. Even now we don’t know what’s in it. The Government gives us a thousand excuses and nothing else.”
· Zakynthos is one of the last and most important nesting areas in the Mediterranean for the loggerhead turtle
· In summer up to 900 turtles lay eggs on the southern beaches of Laganas, Gerakas, Sekania, Dafni, Kalamaki and Marathonisi
· The male turtle never leaves the sea
· Females return to the same beach 30 years later. Only one in a thousand will reach the reproductive age of 30· Loggerheads are highly migratory and make some of the longest journeys of all marine turtle species
Disco Cameo at Ag. Sostis-Porto Koukla and the horror for Caretta-Caretta
Experiences of a special kind on Zakynthos.
The small island off the coast of Agios Sostis - Porto Koukla is home to the wildest disco of Zakynthos, a fact which we were able to realize on our vacation to Zakynthos this year. Like every year, we made a trip to the nice tortoise island "Marathonisi" and could not believe, how it could be possible that a protected space has to suffer under the wildest disco music, the island of Marathonisi is at a distance of 7 to 8 kilometres.
As we like to go hiking, we often walk as far as the southernmost part of the island of Marathia-Keri, where also a hotel complex is situated. While walking there, we were able to see why so many rats crossed our way,
a large pile of trash, but there is a nice view all over the bay. Even from that part,the disco could be heard, although it was 10-12 kilometres away, how do the guests like it there? We are unable to understand that permits are granted by the authorities of Zakynthos for such sound installations with this sound intensity (audio installations are prohibited in this area). For many years millions have been spent by the EU to protect the bay of Laganas and other parts of Zakynthos. What we saw were tourists being shipped by motor boats, who then trampeled the protected areas of the beach. Last year at least members of the WWF were there, who took care that the people did not get too near to the nests, this year these people were not there. What we saw there, lets us doubt the usefulness of the millions given to Greece to protect the Caretta-Caretta. Luckily, there are still other islands which take the wish of tourists to find peace and quiet more seariously.
Hubert Sterner – Liechtenstein
Customs of Greece
Ah, it's kourabiedes time again, and the mellow aroma of melomacarona
cookies will soon be filling Greek kitchens
the traveller to Greece, remember that many offices, businesses, restaurants,
and other amenities may be closed or keeping unusual hours during the Christmas
season. Turkeys have invaded Greek Christmas customs, and so travellers from the
U.S. will find this bird prepared for Christmas feasting. In some areas, the
holiday is preceded by a time of fasting. For Greece, the season is in full
swing by December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas, when presents are exchanged,
and will last through January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany.
general, don't expect Christmas displays, lights, or other Western decorations,
except of course in the windows of expatriates and the relatively few Greeks who
have adopted Western customs. Greece is an oasis of non-commercialism when it
comes to Christmas.
in Greece is a traditionally a solemn, religious holiday. Throughout the
festivities, there is never any question about whether Greece is remembering the
Christ in Christmas. Beautiful carols called kalandas have been handed down from
Byzantine times and add to the reverent quality of the celebration. And can the
remote Greek villages, with whitewashed walls, stone corrals for the precious
livestock, and clear starry skies be very far in spirit from a night in long ago
other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so benign.
Mischievous and even dangerous sprites called the Kallikantzari (or
Callicantzari), prey upon people only during the twelve days of Christmas,
between Christmas itself and Epiphany on January 6th. Descriptions of them vary,
and in one area they are believed to wear wooden or iron boots, the better to
kick people, while other areas insist that they are hooved, not booted. Almost
invariably male, other regions see in them the forms of wolves or even monkeys.
In folktales, the twelve days of their power figure in a "wicked stepmother"
story where a young girl is forced to walk alone to a mill through the twelve
days, because her stepmother is hoping that the Kallikantzari will snatch her
households keep fires burning through the twelve days, to keep the spirits from
entering by the chimney, a curious inversion of the visit of Santa Claus in
other countries! The "yule log" in this case used to be a massive log
set on end in the chimney, burning or at least smouldering for the entire
period.Protective herbs such as hyssop, thistle, and asparagus were suspended by
the fireplace, to keep the Callicantzari away. Other households, perhaps less
devout, were reduced to simple bribery and would put meat out for the
Kallikantzari - again, this seems to be a more substantial snack than the milk
and cookies put out for Santa. On Epiphany, the ceremonial blessing of the
waters by the local priest was believed to settle the nasty creatures until the
next year. Some local festivals still include representations of these entities,
which may be a survival from Dionysian festivals.
links on the Greek celebration of Christmas:
A Greek Christmas
Greece Taken to Court over British Tourists
By Geoff Meade, PA Europe Editor, in Brussels
von 06.09.2004 14:51-
racist attacks all over Greece after footbal game in Tirana
ATHENS (AP) - A Greek-American man was arrested early Sunday for allegedly stabbing to death an Albanian man and critically injuring two more in a violent aftermath to the Greece-Albania World Cup qualifying match the day before.
Albania upset European champion Greece 2-1 in Tirana.
The 22-year-old man, identified as Panagiotis Kladis-Xifitas from Chicago, is suspected of stabbing to death a 20-year-old Albanian on the Ionian island of Zakynthos. Two more Albanians critically injured in the incident were hospitalized with knife wounds.
The suspect was to appear before a public prosecutor late Sunday.
Turtles pay a high price for Olympics
By Harry de Quetteville in Zakynthos
The endangered loggerhead turtle has lost its most important sanctuary in the Mediterranean after the Greek government forced the closure of a marine park by diverting funds to the Olympic Games.
Government economists privately admit that the Olympics are acting like a cash sponge in Greece, and while summer sportsmen are promised state-of-the-art venues, the country is cutting other costs to balance its books.
The beaches of Zakynthos Marine National Park were previously under 24-hour guard during the nesting season from May to August. But the eight staff and 36 wardens have not been paid for almost a year after the Greek ministry of environment and public works, which is responsible for both the park and much Olympic building work, cut all its funds.
"The government says that it has not renewed the salaries of park employees because it is spending all its money on the Olympics," said Kostas Grimanis, a spokesman for the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, known as Archelon.
Volunteers, including several Britons, have taken up many of the duties of absent park wardens since May. They say that local tourism bosses have begun aggressively expanding their businesses, moving in to exploit the beaches that were once the preserve of the turtles.
Last year more than 1,200 loggerhead nests were recorded in the park. So far this year, about 450 have been noted, with some sites formerly popular with the turtles now barren.
Abandoned Cher set to join Sonny in UK
By Kris Hall
ANIMAL lovers Susan and Celia Gaines went on holiday to Greece to see loggerhead turtles, native to the island of Zakynthos.But it was a bedraggled stray dog that won the hearts of the travelling mother and daughter - and months on arrangements have been made to bring their new friend back to south Bucks.Susan, of Bishopstone, near Aylesbury, said: "After settling in we went for a walk around the surroundings. Relaxing by the pool Mum noticed a stray dog wandering around."Each day we saw the dog who we named Cher. She was very thin, unsteady on her feet and so hungry it was trying to eat some paper. It pulled at my heartstrings straight away."Where others may have simply ignored the pooch's plight Susan and Celia did the opposite, seeking out an animal welfare group on the island.The couple saved food from the hotel breakfast and evening meal and kept Cher well fed and watered, and island volunteer Beryl came to examine her.Tests revealed the mongrel was malnourished, had distemper affecting her sight and to top it off was pregnant with eight pups - which were put down to save her.Susan added: "Our flight home was full of talk about Cher. In the care of Beryl and her husband, Cher began to get better, putting on weight and even wagging her tail."Now healthier and rid of disease Cher is preparing for a 1,000 mile trip back to Bishopstone to be reunited with her new loving owners.Celia, added: "We've already got a dog called Sonny so they will make a right pair. It's horrible to see such beautiful animals so badly neglected."An English couple drive to Zakynthos twice a year to help Beryl in her work. Next time they've offered to bring Cher back. She is being chauffeured to England."Animal welfare organisations in south Bucks have commended the actions of mother and daughter.
A RSPCA spokesman said: "The lengths this couple have gone through to improve the life of one dog is amazing. They have set a great example."
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