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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-10-07
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PÌ: Fast-track legislation to tackle high pricesPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday urged the leadership of Greece's development ministry to quickly push through legislation designed to regulate the operation and supervision of markets and prices, after an unannounced visit to the ministry earlier that day.
"We must all go above and beyond ourselves to deal with the problems," he stressed in statements to reporters.
Karamanlis said he had asked the ministry to fast-track draft bills setting up a body to supervise markets and granting more powers to the Competition Commission.
He also called for the maximum frequency of market inspections and the prosecution of certified offences involving price-gouging to the full extent of the law.
During his visit, the prime minister was briefed on the efforts currently underway at the ministry to curb high prices and demanded that government action be faster, bolder and more efficient.
Referring to the international economic crisis, Karamanlis said that economies were undergoing sharp shocks, with strong upward pressures on inflation. Along with the long-term imbalances of the Greek market, these were increasing the pressures on households, he added.
"I am well aware that the unemployed, those on low pensions and those on low incomes in general are finding it hard to get by," Karamanlis stated.
He described the problem of high prices as "difficult and complex" and stressed that the government's efforts sought to minimise the impact of the economic crisis on the market.
Karamanlis' visit to the development ministry was the first in a series of unannounced inspections he will carry out at several ministries in order to learn about the progress in government actions and initiatives to combat the country's problems.
Replying to reporters' questions after the visit, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros denied that the premier's decision to start from the development ministry had special significance or indicated a poor performance in the ministry's campaign to curb price hikes, stressing that no interpretation should be given to the order in which the visits were carried out.
 Obama as ... HerculesIt's undoubtedly a Herculean task, and the fact that a first-term US senator from Illinois apparently has a better than average chance of becoming America's first African-American president certainly hasn't escaped the attention of Greece's sizeable expatriate American and Greek-American community.
In fact, approximately 150 Barack Obama supporters gathered in the Athens franchise of the ubiquitous Hard Rock CafÃ© last Friday evening to watch the tape-delayed debate between the "number twos" on the US presidential ballot, Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's running mate.
In keeping with the ancient legacy of the host country and to the unabashed joy of local Obama campaign organisers, the hottest item on sale at the campaign stand was none other than the "Baracko": gold-, silver- and copper-plated commemorative coins sporting a likeness of Barack Obama as â¦ Hercules, complete with a lion's skin.
Located almost midway between two icons of Hellenic heritage, Greece's 19th century neo-classical Parliament building and the quintessence of "classical", the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, the touristy eatery on this evening was packed mostly with whooping and cheering Obama-Biden supporters instead of the usual assortment of out-of-town visitors.
In crediting the paternity of the "baracko", local Democrats Abroad vice-chairwoman and Obama in Greece campaign head Yvette Jarvis -- herself one of the most recognizable American ex-pats in Greece for more than two decades -- says her friend Ann Papazoglou initially came up with the fundraising idea by comparing the Democratic candidate's campaign for the White House with mythical Hercules' epic "Twelve Labours".
Jarvis, a Brooklyn native and currently a special adviser to the Athens mayor on immigration issues, said support by Americans and Greeks alike for Obama is absolutely unprecedented, the same goes for interest by eligible citizens to register to vote. Although impossible to measure due to the mail-in absentee ballot process, estimates run as high as 100,000 eligible voters in Greece for US elections.
"Greeks, despite whatever so-called 'anti-Americanism', still believe in the American dream, and Barack Obama proves the point that they are not idiots to believe in this dream," said Brady Kiesling, a noted career US diplomat who resigned his post at the US embassy in Athens five years ago in protest to the Iraq war, while watching the debate on one of the two floors reserved by the Obama campaign for the evening.
Both Jarvis and Kiesling emphasised that the 2008 campaign has piqued the interest of US citizens in Greece who are usually indifferent to political developments an ocean away, noting that previous Democrats Abroad functions drew, at most, 50 people.
With a smile, Jarvis proudly shows off a yearbook published by the Obama campaign, "50 states and Greece," she says, pointing to two photographs of Obama supporters posing in front of the Acropolis in April 2008, and two months later, waiving to motorists from atop a cutting-edge pedestrian bridge built for the 2004 Athens Games.
Caption: Supporters of the Obama-Biden ticket watch a tape-delayed version of first and only debate between vice-presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, during a campaign event in downtown Athens' Hard Rock Cafe on Friday, Oct. 3, 2008. ANA-MPA / KATERINA MAVRONA.
 Gov't on banking systemÁ government spokesman on Tuesday again reminded of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' statement regarding the domestic banking system, namely, that it is absolutely secure, when asked to comment if a draft law guaranteeing deposits in local banks is being considered. As regards the so-called Social Cohesion Fund, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros cited detailed comments by Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, according to which, relevant announcements will be made within the few next days and weeks. "The social dimension of the 2009 State Budget is a given," he stated, pointing out that credit and social spending will be increased 13 percent compared to 2008. Moreover, in response to press questions, Antonaros accused main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou of "making promises to everybody", resorting once again to his own and his party's favorite practice, warning of a new policy of hidden taxes, a tactic he said was implemented by PASOK governments roughly 80 times in 10 years. "Besides the heating oil allowance, additional benefits announced by PASOK would have amounted to roughly one billion euros in just one year," he stressed. Referring to a VAT rebate proposed by PASOK, Antonaros said it is not allowed in the EU and if implemented would mean subsidy cuts, pointing out that "displaying a sense of responsibility when exercising economic policy is necessary, especially in the current conditions." "The government was elected a year ago for a specific term in office," he said, adding that it has the volition and the parliamentary majority it needs to implement the premier's pledges. CAPTION: File photo shows government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on 26 February 2007. ANA-MPA/M. Kiaou.
 Fire at Lidl warehouseÁ fire that swept through the main warehouse of the Lidl supermarket chain near Thessaloniki early on Tuesday afternoon was showing signs of abating following a swift response by the fire brigade, which dispatched roughly 50 firefighters to the scene. Welding jobs conducted on the roof of the warehouse, located in Agios Athanasios, northwest of the northern Greek city, was apparently the cause of the blaze, which spread quickly to flammable materials stored inside. A company spokesperson told ANA-MPA that the specific warehouse was the first to be built by the German-based company in Greece in 1998 and has been in operation since 1999. Caption: Fireman battles a major fire that swept through a warehouse owned by the Lidl supermarket chain in Thessaloniki on Tuesday. ANA-MPA - Nikos Arvanitidis.
 15th Defendory Int'l beginsThe 2008 Defendory International, the "15th Specialised Exhibition of Conventional Systems for National Defence on Land-Sea-Air" was inaugurated on Tuesday at the Hellinikon exhibition centre, site of the former Athens airport, by Deputy Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis.
Opening the exhibition, Plakiotakis said that events of this kind allowed Greek Armed Forces staff to learn about the latest advances made by the global defence industry and allowed Greece's defence industry to explore possible partnerships and collaboration with those of other countries.
He repeated the government's support for the domestic defence industry, both private and state-run, noting that it was a robust sector whose activities benefited the Greek economy.
The deputy minister then toured nearly all the pavilions at the exhibition, with stops at the Russian and Italian pavilions, where he was met by his counterparts in both countries, and the U.S. pavilion, where he was received by U.S. Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard.
On the sidelines of the exhibition, Plakiotakis also had formal meetings with his counterparts from the Czech Republic and Cyprus.
Taking part in the 2008 Defendory are 38 individual countries and NATO, while invitations have been accepted by representatives of 50 countries. It will run until October 11.
Among the highlights will be an airshow that will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday above Faliro Bay in Athens by the French aerial acrobatics squadron, an event organised by Faliro Mayor Dionysis Hatzidakis and the French Embassy in Athens.
Caption: Deputy Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis cuts the ribbon at the inauguration of the 2008 Defendory International defence systems exhibition that opened at the Hellinikon exhibition centre in Athens on Tuesday. ANA-MPA - Giorgos Christakis.
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