Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fitch, Moody's and S & P: Look Who's behind the Rating Agencies...

 A quick look at who's behind the Big Three Ratings Agencies

The three rating agencies have done it again...

The same agencies who gave AAA ratings to the sub-prime mortgages and weren't 'able' to foresee the Lehman crash of 2008 and its disastrous consequences for the world economy...

Those same ratings agencies that downgraded most of the poor PIIGS and especially Greece...

In Greece's case, the downward spiral sparked by the downgrading of her sovereign debt and the lack of fast and decisive action to nip it in the bud by the leadership of both Greece and the EU has led to an unparalleled credit crisis in Europe with explosive consequences....

Well, these very same, theoretically independent agencies, who instead of being sidelined because strictly speaking they lost their credibility back then,  these agencies  have now put several of Europe's AAA countries on watch, and now we'll all have to sit back and watch the fireworks, hoping we won't be burned en masse by the flying debris...

Have they gone too far? We will soon know...

Update 5 February 2013: The USA has announced it will be suing one of these agencies, Standard and Poors, or S & P as itis known, over the Sub-Prime Mortgage Rates... Justice? Hopefully!

Read about the Ratings Agencies on Wikipedia

Friday, September 16, 2011

Maria Callas - La Divina - The Legend - The Woman

Maria Callas as Medea

On 16 September 1977,  the world farewelled one of the most exceptional opera singers ever and  Greece one of her most gifted children of the diaspora...

Maria Callas died, of heartbreak some say, leaving behind her a legend. To this day, so many years later, that legend has remained undiminished. 

Maria Callas, the woman who gave the world the definition for DIVA...

Maria Callas - La Divina - the Divine One...

Maria Callas - Golden Global Greek...

Our father's great love for this brilliant performer meant that we grew up with Maria Callas... not literally of course, and when Callas passed away we felt like we had lost a member of our family. As we had most of her recordings in our record collection, Norma, Tosca, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Aida, Carmen and others, we would often sit with our father in our 'saloni', the visitor's room, where our stereo was and listen to that magnificent voice flood the room, transporting us to La Scala, Covent Garden or Epidaurus...   That room was always our father's refuge and his record collection his great joy. 

Whenever we heard Maria Callas' voice we knew he was sad, mad or just nostalgic for Greece, the homeland he would never see again...

You can hear some of his favourite and some of her most famous pieces, by clicking on video widget 'Maria Callas - The Collection' in the sidebar on the right hand side of the blog.

I remember reading everything about her that I could, and Arianna Huffington's (then Stassinopoulos) biography of her, Maria Callas - The Woman Behind the Legend, was fascinating indeed although I later learned that it was also controversial. Maria Callas' life and especially her love for another legendary Global Greek, Aristotle Onassis, meant that her life often gave the tabloids and the gossip columnists a great deal of material to work with. 

I also remember the trail of goose bumps I got when I visited Verona's Arena, the site of Callas' debut at the Verona Opera Festival in 1947, the city where she lived with her mentor and husband,Giovanni Battista Meneghini. The same feeling that I got at Milan's La Scala - the legendary Opera House where she gave some of her finest performances.

 Milan's Legendary La Scala Opera House

Earlier this year, the Athens Concert Hall hosted an exhibition  in collaboration with La Scala, of rare and magnificent costumes worn by Maria Callas in her great operatic roles.

Our photos taken at that exhibition are our tribute to the brilliant, determined and very talented Global Greek woman who was Maria Callas on this special day... a woman who was a citizen of the world, but didn't hesitate to say in an interview in Greek when she visited in August 1957, to sing at the Athens Festival at the Herodus Atticus Theatre...

'I especially belong to the Greek people,  I may have married an Italian, the whole world may have bestowed honours upon me, but my blood is Greek, and no-one can erase that' 

Hear Maria Callas' interview, in Greek, below ... and then check out the beautiful costumes from her legendary performances in the pictures which follow. 

Maria Callas and Christos Lambrakis

The Athens Megaron celebrating its 20th birthday 
pays tribute to Maria Callas

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - The Day That Changed the World...Lest we Forget!

New York's landmark World Trade Centre ... 
Before 11 September 2001,
the day that changed the world...

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see the Twin Towers couldn't fail to be impressed by the sheer technical achievement involved.  I took this photo during one of the popular tourist Circle Cruises,  never dreaming that just a few years later I would be watching the devastation of their destruction from our living room in Athens...

For all of us who watched  the dreadful events that unfolded before our eyes in a live, full colour, stream of horror on that day in 2001, it soon struck home that the reality we were watching was so much more horrific and unthinkable than anything Hollywood would ever have been able to come up with. 

As the first plane flew into the tower I don't think any of us could believe what we were the second one did the same, we knew something terrible was going on... as the day and the day's events unfolded, as more news came to light about the other planes and the crashes, the whole world realised that the unthinkable was happening, the USA was the victim of a carefully planned and meticulously and callously executed terrorist attack... a terrorist attack that would leave its mark for years to come...

The self-sacrifice and heroism of New York Fire Department and Police personnel who rushed to rescue the stranded despite the dangers, the chaos and the appalling conditions which prevailed.

Greek American FDNY firefighter Peter Critsimilios, honoured by the Thessaloniki Fire Department for his heroism, is one of the Greek American firemen who was on the front line during those days. At the honouring ceremony he shared a little of the horror of those days with us...
'The morning of 9/11 the United States, and N.Y.C., the NYPD, the PAPD and the FDNY got knocked to our collective knees. 

That afternoon, we stood back up again.

My fire unites responded to the W.T.C. early the next morning.; We were met with a scene of complete devastation. Fires continued to burn in, around, and under the debris pile. We put on our helmets and went to work. While at the site the FDNY changed, adapted, and evolved. We worked till exhausted and then simply rolled up our coats laid our heads down on them and went to sleep.We woke up again and went back to work. This proved to be too physically and mentally draining, so our tours of duty were changed to 24 hours on and 24 hours off. This schedule was modified even further to allow quicker rotation and quicker rest periods. 

This was not an environment to work tired and dulled. If you stood in one place too long the bottom of your boots melted.Large pieces of steel, some weighing 10-20 tons were at every conceivable angle and could crush you at any moment.The air was filled with acrid smoke.The footing was dangerous. There were voids 30-40 feet deep. In some places, the rubble pile was 7-8 stories high and extremely unstable.This was a place that could still hurt you, could still kill you. 

When our knees became burnt, bruised, and cut, we procured kneepads so that we could work more efficiently.If a tool did not work, we modified it; we adapted it to the task at hand.
We were fluid, we thought of our feet.We were getting the job done....'
Read  all of Peter's speech

America's Greek Community counted 39 of its own among the  2983 people who lost their lives so tragically on that day in September in 2001 - a day which started out like so many others but soon turned into one of the most devastating in America's recent history - a  day which would change the world forever, but especially for those who lost their loved ones... 

Joanne Marie Ahladiotis 27
Ernest Alifakos 43
Arlene T. Babakitis 47
Katherine Bantis 48
Peter Brennan 30
Thomas A. Damaskinos 33
Anthony Demas 61
Constantine (Gus) Economos 41
Michael J. Elferis 27
Ana Fosteris 58
Jimmy Grekiotis
Kenneth G. Grouzalis 56
Steven M. Hagis 31
Vasilios G. Haramis 56
Nicholas John 42
John Katsimatides 31
Danielle Kousoulis 29
Thomas Kuveikis 48
James Maounis 42
Philip William Mastrandrea, Jr 42
George Merkouris 35
Stilianos Mousouroulis—-
Peter C. Moutos 44
Nikos Papadopoulos/Papas 29
James N. Pappageorge 29
George Paris 33
Theodoros Pigis 60
Daphne Pouletsos 47
Richard N. Poulos 55
Stephen E. Poulos 45
Anthony Savas 72
Muriel Fay Siskopoulos 60
Timothy Patrick Soulas 35
Andrew Stergiopoulos 23
Michael C. Tarrou 38
Michael Theodoridis 32
William P. Tselepis 33
Jennifer Tzemis 26
Prokopios Paul Zois 46

(source: Maria Karamitsios for USA Greek Reporter) 

Greek American actress Anthoula Katsimatides is the sister of one of those 39 young Greek Americans, John Katsimatides. Anthoula is on the board of directors of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum , and was the liaison to the family members of those who were murdered in the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 terrorist attacks. She also  served as Governor Pataki's liaison to the September 11th families, and last Friday, September 9, 2011, was chosen to ring the bell at the NYSE, in memory of those who fell so needlessly...

Talking to the New York Daily News about the annual memorial service, Anthoula had this to say...

'These past 10 years, while there has been no memorial yet to visit on the anniversaries, I have found great comfort through the simple, reverent reading of the names on the site of the attacks. I am surrounded by people who are connected to these names, and, like me, they know that each name represents a life of someone who was loved and who was loved by us as family members. I am also reassured to know that my brother and the nearly 3,000 others are being remembered as people - not as numbers, facts or statistics...' Read more:

You can also listen to Anthoula tell John's story tonight on the Discovery and Science series Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero in episodes 5 & 6 from 9-11pm, on the Science channel today Sunday 11 September, 2011 from 5-11pm.

The total destruction of St Nicholas, the little Greek Orthodox church at the bottom of the twin Towers, and the only place of worship in the area, was a great loss for the Greek Community. The ongoing battle with the Port Authority of New York to ensure that this historic little church can be rebuilt on Ground Zero, its original site, continues, after the discussions came to an abrupt close in 2009, despite the fact that all seemed to be going well, and it seems that the case will be decided on in the courts.

Last year we wrote that it is up to all of us in the Global Greek World, and especially the Greek American Community to ALL ACT NOW to ensure the continuing presence of St Nicholas, the little Greek Orthodox Church that was sacrificed on that black day, 10 years ago, when terrorism came to the USA and changed the course of history forever! 

To see how you can help rebuild, go to the St Nicholas website

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I AM BACKinGREECE... A Wonderful Initiative in Support of Greece!

Photo Source: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

We were thrilled to see this T-Shirt make headlines around the world this week!
German MEP, Global Greek Jorgos Chatzimarkakis (R),  gave it to EU Commissioner Olli Rehn (L) during a seminar on the Greek Crisis at the EU Parliament in Brussels on September 7, with Greek Minister for Development and Competitiveness, Michael Chrisochoidis looking on. 

Created by Catherine Sparkes,
an English textile designer, and her husband Nikos Arnaoutakis, this gorgeous T-Shirt won't just  generate positive feedback for Greece during the economic crisis. Catherine and Nikos are doing their bit for Greece, announcing that all profits from the sales of this T-Shirt will go to the Greek Solidarity Fund. 

Photo Source: I AM BACKinGREECE

" Ένιωσα την ανάγκη να αντιδράσω στην κρίση. Έκανα ενα μπλουζάκι που λέει "Eπέστρεψα στην Ελλάδα", αλλά και παράλληλα "Υποστηρίζω την Ελλαδα". Φορώντας όλοι το μπλουζάκι μεταφέρουμε ένα θετικό μήνυμα ! Τα έσοδα θα δοθούν ως βοήθεια στην Ελλάδα. Εύχομαι η πράξη μου αυτή να είναι το έναυσμα για παρόμοιες κινήσεις και από άλλες "δυνάμεις" δημιουργώντας μια πραγματική βοήθεια σε τούτη τη χώρα..."

"I felt I needed to react to the crisis. I created a TShirt which says "I'm Back in Greece"  and at the same time, "I'm Backing Greece". By wearing this TShirt we're sending out a positive message! Profits will be given to help Greece. I hope this move of mine will inspire similar moves by other 'powers', thus creating real help for this country...
I hope that this will lead to other ideas and create a surge of positive energy and inspiration to move forward. Greece needs to revive and find its old glory. "

 Listen to the song in the video clip below. It was created specially for the occasion by Catherine and Nikos,  and sung by their daughter, Maria..

I'm BackinGreece

Greece needs an anchor to hold against the tide
Now with the crisis don't run away and hide
Seeped in history a source of so much pride
Time to stand up and fight don't have to be on any side
I am back in Greece returning to my roots
I am back in Greece and here I'm going to stay
I'm backing Greece, springing up new shoots
I'm backing Greece, backing it all the way.

They gave us new rules that we must abide
Like the ancient warriors pick up our swords and fight
Let our strong hearts to be our guide
Really we're in for a stormy ride

When all the raging forces subside
The lessons we have learnt will be wide
Putting all our differences aside
Living in harmony side by side.

I am back in Greece returning to my roots
I am back in Greece and here I'm going to stay
I'm backing Greece, springing up new shoots
I'm backing Greece, backing it all the way.

Lyrics : Catherine Sparkes,
Music & guitar : Nikos Arnaoutakis,
Voice : Maria Arnaoutaki

Catherine and her husband Nikos Arnaoutakis established their company, ZOE, meaning life, in the beautiful town of Aghios Nikolaos in Crete, 22 years ago.

ZOE, established in Greece as one of the leading brands in T-shirts in the tourist market, has outlets all over the Greek Islands and mainland.

Catherine worked in Hong Kong and London for British Fashion Companies and then established her own brand which sold through many of the major fashion stores in London and New York.

In 1988 she moved to Greece and realized that there was a gap in the market for T-shirts with good designs. Using the tremendous wealth of inspiration from Ancient Greece she set about creating her own designs, with great success.

Recently the company also launched a very interesting Greek themed watch collection.


From all of us in the Global Greek World :
  Congratulations on a great initiative!  
Καλή Επιτυχία, Best of Luck!


To show your support and buy the T-Shirt Click here 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Photo of the Day: Where is Long John Street? Athens or Treasure Island??

Δεν Ήξερες Δεν Ρώταγες? 
When in doubt ask... preferably a historian!!! 

 Makrygianni Street, also known as... Long John Street
Source: Lucia C, Athens. 
Thanks for passing on this gem!

Whoever was responsible for translating the sign above - if it's  bona fide - might be at the top of the class in English, his/her knowledge of Greek history however leaves a lot to be desired ...

Can you imagine what they would have done to that other great freedom fighter, Kolokotronis???!!!...

For those that don't know, Giannis Makrygiannis was a Greek merchant, military officer, politician and author, best known today for his Memoirs. Starting from humble origins, he joined the Greek struggle for independence, achieving the rank of General  and leading his men to notable victories. Following Greek independence, he had a tumultuous public career, playing a prominent part in the granting of the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Greece and later being sentenced to death and pardoned. Read more about him on Wikipedia

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kalo Mina & Xronia Polla! It's the 1st of September!

There are so many people celebrating their nameday today that we decided to just take a screen shot of our nameday sidebar featuring the very popular eortologio widget and wish all those celebrating, Xronia Polla kai Kala, along with our very best wishes for a great month to all our friends out there!

It is going to be a hard month for those of us who live in Greece, with new austerity measures being rumoured but we are still in holiday mode and we are staying positive!

Kalo Mina - Xronia Polla kai Kala!!! 

PS There's a very interesting story behind all the names - the list includes 40 young women, 40 virgins - ΑΔΑΜΑΝΤΙΝΗ, ΚΑΛΛΙΡΟΗ, ΧΑΡΙΚΛΕΙΑ, ΠΗΝΕΛΟΠΗ, ΚΛΕΙΩ , ΘΑΛΕΙΑ, ΜΑΡΙΑΝΘΗ, ΕΥΤΕΡΠΗ, ΤΕΡΨΙΧΟΡΗ, ΟΥΡΑΝΙΑ, ΚΛΕΟΝΙΚΗ, ΣΑΠΦΩ, ΕΡΑΤΩ, ΠΟΛΥΜΝΙΑ, ΔΩΔΩΝΗ, ΑΘΗΝΑ, ΤΡΩΑΔΑ, ΚΛΕΟΠΑΤΡΑ, ΚΟΡΑΛΙΑ, ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗ, ΘΕΟΝΟΗ, ΘΕΑΝΩ, ΑΣΠΑΣΙΑ, ΠΟΛΥΝΙΚΗ, ΔΙΟΝΗ, ΘΕΟΦΑΝΗ, ΕΡΑΣΜΙΑ, ΕΡΜΗΝΕΙΑ, ΑΦΡΟΔΙΤΗ, ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΑ, ΑΝΤΙΓΟΝΗ, ΠΑΝΔΩΡΑ, ΧΑΙΔΩ, ΛΑΜΠΡΩ, ΜΟΣΧΩ, ΑΡΗΒΟΪΑ, ΘΕΟΝΥΜΦΗ, ΑΚΡΙΒΗ, ΜΕΛΠΟΜΕΝΗ, ΕΛΠΙΝΙΚΗwho were martyred because of the brutal way they were murdered along with their teacher  ΑΜΜΟΥΝ. ( Read the story in Greek)


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