Sunday, April 12, 2009

Time to apologize to Witches

Starhawk writes in On Faith :

I've always thought that the ability to apologize gracefully is a mark of a good leader. We all make mistakes--even popes, and whole religious traditions. An apology is a way to take responsibility, to signal a change, and to assure the world that it won't happen again.

And if apologies are being given out, Witches would like one. It's more than time that the Catholic and Protestant Churches both apologized for centuries of persecution of Witches, Pagans and those they deemed 'heretics' for believing something different than standard dogma. How about an apology for the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent the Eighth, in 1484, that made Witchcraft an heresy and unleashed the Inquisition against traditional healers, midwives, and any woman unpopular with her neighbors for being too uppity? It's high past time to apologize for the Malleus Maleficarum, a vicious document written by two Dominican priests in 1486 that created a whole mythology of Satan worship, attributed it mostly to women, and unleashed a wave of accusations, torture, and judicial murder that have haunted us ever since. An apology won't do much good, now, to those accused, tormented, and destroyed because someone coveted their property or needed a local scapegoat, nor to their children left motherless or fatherless centuries ago. But it might clear some air.

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World's most important 6-sec drum loop

This fascinating, brilliant 20-minute video narrates the history of the "Amen Break," a six-second drum sample from the b-side of a chart-topping single from 1969. This sample was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music -- a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures. Nate Harrison's 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.

Big Brother

The cartoon, by Kate Evans

View the cartoon here

[ via Creative-i ]

Tzimis Panousis - 'Kaggela Pantou'

From Wikipedia :

Panousis made his first appearance in the mid 1970s, performing in various pubs, with his band "Mousikes Taxiarhies" (Musical Brigades). Panousis was the vocalist and main composer of the group. Their first (unofficial) album was "Disco Tsoutsouni" (Disco Weenie) released in 1980. It was an illegally published tape, many songs of which were later rerecorded for the band's official debut, their eponymous album in 1982. The band went under the alias "Alamana's Bridge" to make a guest appearance with two songs in the compilation album "Made in Greece". In 1986, Mousikes Taxiarhies was disbanded and Panousis went solo.

[ ... ]

Panousis has had several run-ins with the Greek authorities. His second album, Musical Brigades (“Μουσικές Ταξιαρχίες” in Greek), was briefly withdrawn from circulation in 1982 because of the ostensibly blasphemous lyrics of a love ballad. In 1984, censors placed beeps over some of the lyrics in Mousikes Taxiarhies's third album, "An I Giagia Mou Ihe Rouleman" (If My Grandma Had Wheels).

In 1997, a court battle with well-known Greek singer George Dalaras began. Panousis had frequently been making fun of Dalaras in his live shows, showing money coming out of his mouth whenever he sang. The court ruled that Panousis would be charged with a one million Drachmas fine (approximately $3,000) every time he mentioned Dalaras by name on-stage. Panousis's response to that, was to call him "the unmentionable" in his shows from then on, and use his famous on-stage quip, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have 3 million drachmas to spare: Dalaras, Dalaras, Dalaras!”

All this has contributed to the depiction of Panousis as a highly controversial artist. Some regard him as a modern-day Aristophanes while many consider that his pranks and commentaries are of bad taste. Panousis often uses offensive language, while the advertising posters of his depict provocative images. In one instance, he replaced the cross of the Greek flag with a communist hammer and sickle, for which he was charged with a four-month probation. In another instance, he appeared dressed as a priest with a medallion hanging around his neck which depicted the head of a chicken instead of Mary. This elicited the angry reaction of Archbishop Christodoulos, the former head of the Church of Greece.

Large protests erupt in support of Tamils

Spontaneous protests have erupted in London as a result of the ongoing state violence in Sri Lanka. On Monday, over 500 Tamil youths blockaded Westminster Bridge, which remained closed overnight. On Tuesday and Wednesday large numbers gathered outside parliament and had reached at its peak up to 3000 to call on Gordon Brown to 'open his eyes' and work towards securing an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Under the banner 'Stop the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka' up to 200,000 people marched in Central London on Saturday 11th April.

Police tactics were again violent, with unprovoked attacks on demonstrators. On Wednesday morning Tamil flags were being confiscated under the Terrorism act. Demonstrators reported that police used truncheons and dragged protesters across the ground. A three-year-old's leg was reportedly broken in the process. Seven people have been arrested, two under the terrorism act on suspicion of carrying articles supporting proscribed literature.

More than 300,000 Tamils are currently under siege by the Sri Lankan forces. Aerial bombardments and shelling of civilians are continuing. Children and elderly are dying as a direct result of the aerial bombardment. There has been increased violence in Sri Lanka following the capture of Tamil territory. It is estimated more than 70,000 people have already died in the conflict.

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'The days of the "stiff upper lip" seem numbered' - America's invasion of Britain

From 51st State? American trends challenge British ways :

The pending loss of the Antiquarius Center is part of the wider, inexorable Americanization of Britain, where rich veins of eccentricity are being snipped as American customs catch on.

Remember the dapper English gentleman? Shoes polished and dressed to the nines? He's often found in blue jeans, an open shirt, and sneakers these days.

And those bad English teeth, neglected for years? Tooth-whitening is catching on, a l'americaine. There has been a surge of cosmetic surgeries as more women — and teenagers — embrace the Hollywood ideal and have their breasts enhanced and wrinkles Botoxed. Pillbox psychiatry is catching on too, with record numbers gobbling antidepressants, and Britons are turning to fast food at such an alarming pace that obesity among young people is reaching epidemic proportions.

A Prozac-popping, surgically enhanced nation of overweight slobs? Sometimes it seems dear olde England could almost be the 51st state.

The cultural mood is changing along with the physical landscape. Harried British physicians are more likely than ever to prescribe antidepressants, in part because the waiting list for individual psychological therapy under the government-run National Health Service is so long. The mental health charity MIND reports that roughly 34 million prescriptions were written in Britain in 2007, more than a 20 percent increase over the 27 million prescribed just two years earlier.

Alison Cobb, senior policy director at MIND, said publicity from America is an important reason why growing numbers of British doctors turn to antidepressants as a first resort.

"Part of it is the literature and endorsement message we were getting from the USA," she said. "In terms of the profile, and the brand recognition, with Prozac in particular, there was an American influence in that."

Another factor is the public's increasing desire to seek treatment for depression rather than endure it with typical British stoicism. The days of the "stiff upper lip" seem numbered.

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Obama's New World Order

by Stephen Lendman
10 Apr 2009

This article addresses Washington's financial coup d'etat in the context of discussing Michael Hudson's important, very lengthy and detailed April 5 Global one titled: "The Financial War Against Iceland - Being defeated by debt is as deadly as outright military warfare." It reviews its key information in advance of Hudson's April 15 scheduled appearance on The Global Research News Hour to discuss.

What's true for Iceland holds everywhere, including the developed world, the idea being to enrich finance capitalism through state-sponsored debt bondage and neo-feudal impoverishment. The global economic crisis was no accident. It was long ago hatched, and has been brewing for years, gestating, percolating, then bubbling into the 2000 tech crash, a mere prelude for today's greater one spreading everywhere like a cancer but hitting the developing world and most indebted nations hardest.

Hudson: "Iceland is under attack - not militarily but financially."

Like many others, "It owes more than it can pay" and is bankrupt. It was planned that way, and the idea is to strip-mine the nation and its people of their resources, enterprises, assets, land, homes, jobs and futures through perpetual debt bondage. Bankers get enriched. Nations and people, however, are discarded like trash, with the IMF as enforcer, to be reinvigorated with an additional (G 20-pledged) $750 billion, quadrupling its resources to $1 trillion if fulfilled.

Wall Street and Western European bankers planned it and now ordered the government "to sell off the nation's public domain, its natural resources and public enterprises to pay (its) financial gambling debts." Also, raise permanent taxes at the worst possible time, then suck the maximum wealth from the country leaving behind an empty hulk and impoverished, desparate population. It's called dystopia Merriam-Webster defines as: "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives," the opposite of utopia under conditions of deprivation, poverty, disease, violence, oppression, and terror, much like in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Permanent debt bondage "is as deadly as outright military" defeat. Loss of livelihoods and assets leave people vulnerable to sickness, despair, and early deaths, much like what happened to post-Soviet Russia under Washington-imposed "shock therapy:"

-- 80% of farmers went bankrupt;

-- around 70,000 state factories closed;

-- unemployment became epidemic;

-- a permanent underclass was created;

-- poverty rose from two million in 1989 to 74 million by the mid-1990s, and in half the cases it was desperate;

-- alcoholism and drug abuse soared;

-- so did HIV/AIDS 20-fold;

-- suicides also and violent crime four-fold; and

-- the population declined by 700,000 a year; by 2007 it was 10% lower than in 1989 because of sharply reduced life expectancies.

Iceland, the developing world, and the West take note. This cancer is heading everywhere, courtesy of banker-imposed diktats, mainly from America and the UK. They insist Iceland "impoverish its citizens by paying debts in ways (they'd) never follow" even though the government has no way to do it.

No matter. "They are quite willing to take payment in the form of foreclosure on the nation's natural resources, land and housing, and a mortgage on the next few centuries of its future" - perpetual debt bondage no different than the spoils of war under permanent occupation.

However, in this case, debtors are convinced to pay voluntarily "to put creditor interests above the economy's prosperity (and) national interest." Their indebtedness comes at a huge cost - "chronic currency depreciation (and) domestic price inflation for many decades to come."

Contrast this to how developed countries, like America, handle debt - by inflating (not deflating) their way out to pay it off with cheap (reduced purchasing power) money because inflation erodes its value. It's simple - by printing money and running budget deficits the way Washington did after Nixon closed the gold window in August 1971, ended the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement, and no longer let dollars be backed by gold or converted into it in international markets. A new monetary system creates money like confetti, and lets us spend and live beyond our means, then have developing and indebted nations pay the price.

In recent years, dollar weakness and price inflation "wiped out much of the US international debt." The Iceland model turns "this inflationary solution inside violation of traditional credit practice." Instead of currency inflation, Iceland "inflate(d) its way into debt, not out of it, (by) indexing (it) to the rate of inflation," thus guaranteeing "a unique windfall for banks at the expense of wage earners and industrial profits." The result: destruction of its traditional way of life.

Iceland must "repudiate this debt bomb" to escape. It's indexed to inflation and "will never lose value." It's caught in a destructive whirlpool creating economic shrinkage, falling assets and wages in the face of perpetually burgeoning debt, the same global model needing to be exposed and renounced "now." Otherwise, economies will be hollowed out, "capital formation will plunge," people will be impoverished, and many won't survive.

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Greek tourism takes a hit - and why that may not be such a bad thing

From Daily demonstrations cutting into Greece's tourism draw

Athens - Greece prides itself on its history as the cradle of democracy and has long used that fact as a major tourism draw.

However, an influx of activist democracy that some say has gone too far - ongoing strikes paired with almost daily street demonstrations since last December - has been putting a crimp in that tourism industry.

Businesses, luxury hotels and automated teller machines are boarded up, access to Athens' ancient city centre is cut off to traffic and riot police stand guard at every street corner.

'You cannot really plan on doing anything because suddenly you have a group of people protesting in front of you,' said Vicky Valanos, a tourist
from Holland.

Combined with a global recession, the protests, which have gone on for months, are causing serious worries in the tourism industry.

'Normally, people who visit another foreign country check the weather report,' said Valanos. 'But here you need to check if anyone is striking or protesting beforehand - and if they are, that means you are not able to get around because transport stops and businesses shut down.'

Tourism season isn't in full swing, but the industry is already feeling negative effects from the protests. Visitors to Athens in recent months risk being turned away from the country's most popular tourist sites - the Acropolis - as culture ministry employees open and close it at the drop of a hat to protest against job cuts and pay delays.

Greece's Finance Minister, Yiannis Papathanasiou has said it is unclear how badly the financial crisis would affect the country's vital tourism industry as the credit crunch hits potential vacationers.

But Giorgos Drakopoulos, director if the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), said the violence has affected the country's image in a negative way.

'Fortunately, we believe that this is only short term and we will be back to business as usual - Egypt and Indonesia managed to bounce back after various bombing attacks which occurred in their countries.'

Businesses insist tourism has already suffered from the daily outbreaks of extremist violence in the capital since riots rocked the country in December. Those broke out after the fatal shooting of a teenager by police ignited anger amid unemployed young Greeks.

Tourism is destructive, in anybody's language

Article Abstract:

Mass tourism is extremely negative. It encourages pretence and fake traditionalism, and does not create anything positive. It cheapens history and works of art and architecture, and largely ignores local culture and traditions. It contributes little to local economies, and encourages selfishness and greed. However, there are some cases in which satisfying the needs of tourists can bring benefits for local people.
author: Morris, Jan
Publisher: Financial Times Ltd.
Publication Name: The Independent
Subject: Retail industry
ISSN: 0951-9467
Year: 1998

From Swedish tourism bad for environment :

Swedish wanderlust comes at a high environmental price, according to a new study. Stefan Gössling, a lecturer at Lund University, has calculated that ten percent of Sweden's combined carbon dioxide emissions can be traced to the tourism industry.

Gössling carried out his studies in collaboration with Michael Hall, a researcher from New Zealand. Their findings show that Sweden emits double the average for the global tourism industry, which stands at 5 percent, according to United Nations body UNWTO.

The airline sector is the highest contributor, producing a third of the tourism industry's carbon dioxide emissions, Svenska Dagbladet reports.

Stefan Gössling believes that the tourism industry in Sweden lacks a crisis mentality on the climate change issue.

From Video Shows Destructive Side of Jamaica's Tourism Industry :
By Dawn Marie Roper

KINGSTON, Jamaica, October 28, 2008 (ENS) - The Jamaica Environmental Trust on Thursday night launched "Jamaica for Sale," a 92 minute video documentary highlighting disturbing issues behind the island's normally rosy sun, sea and sand tourism image.

"We want to raise hard questions about the tourism industry, especially in light of the recent rise in a certain kind of tourism. There are costs. We are asking questions about these costs," said Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of Jamaica Environmental Trust.

The video features the faces and voices of Jamaicans and other Caribbean personalities talking about life in the wake of a burst of construction of mega-hotels across Jamaica's coastline. The film shows how gains from tourism development come at a high price to the people.

"Government is selling of beaches and sometimes entire islands. This cuts off local citizens from having a say in what happens around them," said Mimi Sheller, a sociologist from Swarthmore College in the United States.

The film features small hoteliers and other citizens talking about the wide scale removal of the mangroves, wetlands and the breeding grounds of indigenous birds and turtles.

Early in the film, construction workers detail the ill-treatment and low wages they receive from the Spanish hotel developers.

From Mass tourism: Is it exploitation? :

Pope John Paul II has branded mass tourism the new form of exploitation.

The most widely travelled pontiff in history dismissed tourist villages as places where people seek superficial exoticism and lack "any real contact with the culture of the place".

The globetrotting Pope, who next month departs for his summer holidays in the mountains near France, said a certain type of tourism can transform "culture, religious ceremonies and ethnic festivities into consumer goods".

Does tourism create exploitation? Or does eco-tourism bring prosperity to much needed areas? What effect has tourism had on the culture, economy and environment in your area?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The Pope is bang on. As a resident of the Caribbean, I daily see the detrimental effects of tourism on our societies. In the name of tourism, Caribbean people are becoming second class citizens in their own countries. Tourism is very much the new plantation for the Caribbean. Yet I'll admit that as small economies with not many development options, tourism is an important industry both from the standpoints of employment and export earnings. I would like to see a more wholesome tourism in the Caribbean, a tourism which does not exploit local people through paying low wages, promoting prostitution, etc, but which is based on fairness and respect for our people.
Reudon Eversley, Bridgetown, Barbados

The Pope is right to speak out. The tourist industry is guilty of trying to crystallise the disparate and complicated cultures of the world into bite-sized, palatable and 'quaint' chunks for the public to devour hungrily. It's creating a dull, flat homogeny where the world is typified by patronising symbols such as whitewashed buildings in Greece and sangria in Spain. There is more to the world than this!
Richard West, Birmingham, UK

The Pope is absolutely right. Commercialised tourism didn't exist for thousands of years and yet the 'third world' didn't starve to death then. Maybe western countries insisting that these countries should 'modernise' and thus destroy perfectly sustainable forms of existence caused the current problems. More western exploitation and interference through tourism is not going to help!
David Slater, York, England

What about all the communities that rely on tourism? How will they cope if people don't travel?
Jay, South Wales

I fully agree with the Pope. I was born in a little town on the south coast where we used to go sea bathing and roam around freely. Today, the beaches are dotted with exclusive "foreigners only" resorts, we are afraid to let our young sons and daughters go to these beaches. A large percentage of local boys and sex workers are said to be infected with AIDS. A predominantly Buddhist country now sees half- clad westerners roaming around in holy cities and posing next to sacred statues! The people in the industry turn a blind eye as they want the dollars.
Rohan, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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I'm grateful the Pope has said the whole idea of tourism has been hijacked by selfish capitalists. The people today who for example come to safari tours of Africa are not interested in learning the cultures at all but to splash money in posh hotels and beaches, exploit the local population. It is common practice to find hotels and campsites priced in dollars benefiting the rich Westerners and depriving the local population. Who then benefit are the capitalists who also happen to come from the Western world.
Byaruhanga Aloysius, Kampala, Uganda

People go to various tourist spots for many reasons: to know more about the places they visit, to have a break from the monotonous life and to have some relaxation, to learn something new, etc. It is good to visit tourist spots. Unfortunately, some tourists fail to respect the culture of places which they visit. For example, some Westerners who visit the beaches in Goa think that they are in a "nude" world and go nakedly on the beaches, ask young girls/boys to give massage to them and take delight in breaking all norms. Some who visit religious places do not want to learn how they should behave.
Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda (Indian)

Tourism has destroyed a way of here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We were once home to the largest Amish/Mennonite population in the USA, but because of mass tourism we have lost over 40% of the original Amish/Mennonite population and over 65% of what was once their land is now gone to development. It deeply sickens me how much the Pennsylvania Dutch (German) has been exploited to the extent that prediction models have suggested that by the year 2020 not only will Amish/Mennonite farms as we know them all but disappear from Lancaster county - but so will their language and their way of life.
Volker Kohlhaus, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA


Sometimes, law and order take a back seat to tourism, putting trusting tourists at risk without their knowledge or consent. For instance:

From Tourism officials downplay N.O. murder rate

People responsible for marketing New Orleans to the outside world hope this recent crime wave is a statistical blip that will not hurt the long-term image of New Orleans.

"Certainly from the visitors angle, it doesn't help," said Beverly Gianna, vice president for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau Inc. "We do get calls asking about crime stats but it certainly is not what it was 10 years ago."

Gianna said a decade ago, when New Orleans had more than a killing a day, her staff routinely fielded calls about the murder rate.

"We had to get past that issue before talking about the positives of the city, but it is not as much of an issue anymore," she said.

Gianna said she knows of no events or conventions that have bypassed New Orleans because of crime. She said tourism hasn't been noticeably affected either.

From Study: Murder rate is even higher

The new study, by demographer Mark VanLandingham, aims to fix the main flaw in previous per capita murder estimates for 2006: It takes into account the large change in New Orleans' population during the year, with far fewer people in the city at the beginning of 2006 than at the end. That change raises the murder rate substantially.

For instance, using the highest static population estimate VanLandingham found in his research, 201,000, would produce a murder rate of about 80 per 100,000 people, still significantly lower than the new study's conclusion. Using the figure New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley has offered -- 275,000, based on an estimate rather than research -- the murder rate would fall to just 58 per 100,000 people.

VanLandingham, a professor in the international health and development department of Tulane's School of Public Health, sought to bring hard fact to a debate between the Police Department and critics who say the it has downplayed the crime problem.

"It's part of this big policy debate: How bad is the murder rate?" VanLandingham said. "It was a question that could be answered. And I wanted to do it right, come up with a correct estimate."

The study also shows a steadily increasing murder rate since 2004. The murder rate for 2004 was 57 per every 100,000 people. In 2005, the year Katrina hit, the rate was 65 per every 100,000 people, according to VanLandingham's study.

According to his study, the 2006 murder rate was 68 percent higher than in 2004.

From Wife accuses Portuguese cops of death cover up

Marie, 57, of Holborn Terrace, Ryton, Gateshead, had to take the agonising decision to turn off her husband’s life support machine after he was confirmed to be brain dead.

She is furious with the police conclusions and is demanding they re-open the case. She says a Portuguese neurosurgeon who treated David in Lisbon told her his black eye was caused by a punch.

And the extent of his injuries, according to the experts, indicate the blow was so fierce it would have literally knocked him off his feet.

Now the former bank worker is taking on the Portuguese authorities, accusing the police of an inept investigation into the 64-year-old’s death.

[ ... ]

“I have written to the Portuguese authorities in the strongest terms saying they have not treated my husband’s death as a serious crime. I cannot accept their findings. I’m determined to carry on for his sake and to help me come to terms in my mind that I have done everything for him.”

Grieving Marie believes not enough is being done by the Portuguese police to protect holidaymakers. She said: “A receptionist in Lisbon told me the police are encouraged to treat incidents with tourists in a low profile manner.”

France: Gov't wants to outlaw balaclavas during protests

From France 24 :

10 Apr, 2009

After recent violent acts of vandalism that rocked protests in Bastia and Strasbourg, French Interior Minister Michele Alliot Marie has announced her intention to crack down on “those who hide their faces beneath masks and balacalavas”.

Recent clashes in Strasbourg during the Nato summit and again in the Corsican city of Bastia… For French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, enough is enough. It is high time to do something against violent protestors who face off against police and damage property. Her solution: to forbid protestors from wearing masks, hoodies and balaclavas during rallies.
“I've established that, within the crowds of protestors, there are a certain number of people who haven't come to defend their ideas at all, but to wreak havoc while hidden in the crowd under their balaclavas,” she declared at Wednesday's council of ministers.
Alliot Marie asked her team to come up with quick measures against this kind of incident, resulting in a new bill which may be introduced in the Lopsi,  France's main reference law concerning domestic security.
Members of the ruling UMP party have started to tackle the issue. MP and UMP member Didier Julia proposed a bill aiming to outlaw “the wearing of balaclavas or any other means to mask one's face during public protests and gatherings".

The bill is directly inspired by an existing German law, in force since 1985, that forbids all people from taking part in a protest “in any kind of dress that conceal's one's identity, or gives the possibility of concealing it”. Those who break this law risk a fine at best, and at worse, a prison sentence.
Difficult to enforce

The German police has not assessed the effectiveness of the law, but for Oliver Tolle, head of Berlin's police forces, it makes a real difference: “Thanks to the ban on balaclavas, we can identify and arrest people who are preparing acts of violence more easily ” he claims.

In reality, the law remains difficult to enforce. And it didn't stop protests against the G8 summit in Rostock (in the north of Germany) from turning violent. Youths wearing masks violently clashed with police forces in a cloud of tear gas and smoke.

In Greece, where weeks of violent riots broke out after the police killing of a teenager, the government has also announced its intention to outlaw the wearing of balaclavas during protests. “We have planned certain measures to guarantee civil peace, notably by ruling that wearing a balaclava when committing an offence will bring a harsher sentence,” declared Greek Justice Minister Nicos Dendias on February 17.

Greece to reactivate Olympic cameras against crime, unrest-PM

8 Apr, 2009

ATHENS (AFP)--Facing rising crime and extremism, Greece must reactivate a controversial surveillance system originally introduced for the Athens 2004 Olympics, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Wednesday.

"Our country...has faced a steady rise in crime for years. It is lately also facing an increased, more acute expression of extremist activity," Karamanlis told parliament.

"It is make use of the (Olympics-era) technology and know-how including cameras and the C4I system," the PM said, referring to the overall surveillance network that coordinated security during the Games.

"We have decided to activate the system after the necessary legal procedures," he said.

Karamanlis' government has been swamped in recent months by a surge in arson attacks and bombings against mainly state, police and bank targets that the authorities seem powerless to stop.

The attacks intensified after the fatal shooting of a teenage boy by police in December that unleashed a wave of youth protests marred by violence and looting in several Greek cities.

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Amnesty International criticizes Greek police in wake of youth uprising

Submitted by WW4 Report on Thu, 04/09/2009

Amnesty International said in a media statement on March 30 that it is calling on Greek authorities to to address long-standing problems in policing in the wake of this year's youth uprising. The briefing highlights patterns of alleged human rights violations by police against civilians, including excessive use of force and firearms, torture or other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and denial of prompt access to lawyers.

"Time and again police officers in Greece have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators or denying them their rights when in detention. The police response to the recent unrest is the culmination of an entrenched pattern of serious human rights violations by law enforcement officials," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia program director at Amnesty.

Since the end of the protests in January, Amnesty International has been receiving a mounting number of allegations of violations by police. The organization said it has brought a number of cases from Decembe and January to the attention of interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in which police officers were alleged to have arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated and detained peaceful protesters. The detainees, including minors, were often prevented from promptly contacting their lawyers.

"These incidents should be used as a catalyst by the government to launch a wide-ranging commission of inquiry that would investigate not only recent events but also systemic issues, including training of police on the use of firearms and of force," Duckworth said. (Sofia Echo, March 30)

Ancient Greek spring festivals

From Greek Festivals :

Anthesteria:    Festival of the Vine Flower
In Athens, as in other Ionic cities, there was a custom each spring to celebrate the "Festival of the Vine Flower" This is  a feast of the dead as well.

APRIL "Anthesterion:
 It is the eighth month amongst the Athenians, sacred to Dionysos. It is so called because most things bloom (anthein) from the earth at that time." -Suidas 'Anthesterion'
As the Greek year began about Sept 1 this would mean APRIL

(Anthesteria), parts of which were sacred to Dionysus as Lord of the Vine.
Day 1: Pithoigia ("Opening of the Wine-Jars") the jars of new wine were opened. Then master and slave partook of the wine, side by side.
Day 2: Choes ("Pitchers") The second day was known as "Beakers", on which they blessed the new wine and competed in drinking from it to the sound of trumpets. On that day, children had a holiday from school and were supplied with small beakers in order to participate in the festivities.

The festival began with a drinking contest, where the men in silence, at a separate tables consumed wine. The slaves were allowed to participate in this contest as equals. Athenians considered Choës a day of defilement: citizens painted house doors with pitch and chewed buckthorn leaves while ancestral spirits, the Keres, were though to have filled the city.

Swinging like Erigone: During the day, the virgin Athenian girls let the boys push them in swings, associating themselves with the tragic figure of Erigone. Erigone's swingingWoman seated on a swing, 530-520 B. C. memorialized the sacred love-death of the tragic Erigone who hung herself after discovering her father dead in a well.
Her father was Ikarios, the first man Dionysos showed how to make wine and whose death came at the hands of the ungrateful villagers he had first shared the nectar with as they believed he had poisoned them. Before Erigone's death she marries Dionysus and the girls would sing a song where they would touch the grape at the height of their ascent.  The Roman poet Ovid has her become the god's wife by eating a grape, but in Aristotle's time a song of Erigone was penned by a famous erotic poet. Kerényi notes this rite that has roots as far back as ancient Crete and Sumer, judging by unearthed statuettes of swinging girls. Erigone's swinging symbolizes the moment of death and love, a theme rarely explored by artists in the present.

This playful ritual formed a prelude for another sacred marriage, that of the Athenian queen with Dionysos.
Dionysos in procession on a ship-cart

Day 3: Chytroi ("Cooking-Pots") Pots containing cooked vegetables and seeds (traditional food for the dead) were left out for the wandering spirits. However, precautions were taken to prevent the spirits from coming too close: people chewed hawthorn, smeared their doors with pitch, and tied ropes around the temples. At the end of the festival, they drove out the spirits, saying, "Out you Keres, it is no longer Anthesteria!"

SACRED MARRIAGE or hieros gamos: It was probably on this day--actually on the evening of the day preceding, since for the Greeks the new day began at sunset--that the sacred marriage or hieros gamos was celebrated the sacred marriage of a mortal woman to the god.

A public procession bacchanale.JPG (28033 bytes)(pompe) set forth, in which Dionysus' image was paraded through the streets of Athens in a ship driven on wheels. Accompanying it, were bands of participants dressed as satyrs and maenads.
On reaching the Temple of 'Dionysus in the Bog' - some distance outside the walls - there took place the ritual marriage of the Queen to Dionysus.

Dionysos was formally wedded to the Basilinna, wife of the Archon Basileus (King Archon). The bride was escorted from the sanctuary of Dionysos in the Marshes to a building called the Boukoleion ("ox-herd building") in or near the Agora. Before the ceremony fourteen noble women called Gerarai ("ladies of honor") made offerings at fourteen altars in the sanctuary.

The union of queen and god took place just after sunset at the end of Choës in the Boukolion, a small house in the Agora, "the bull's stable," which was the ancient official residence of the king. A reference to bull's role as a sacred amimal for many millennia.

The wedding, a fertility rite, is explained by the myth that in earlier times the Athenian hero Theseus gave up his bride, the Cretan princess Ariadne, to Dionysos.

To be Queen would be a great honor and the only woman in the room when the rites were administered. Perhaps the wife of a civic magistrate given the title of 'the King Magistrate', who was, among other things, supervisor of religious affairs or another chosen for mysterious reasons. The groom might be a priest of Dionysos or the Archon Basileus, dressed and masked as Dionysos.  

Most of what is know of this rite comes from an orator's speech protesting the choice of a non-Athenian for queen, the basilinna.
"This woman offered the unspeakable sacrifices for the city; she saw what as a non-Athenian she ought not to have seen. A woman such as this entered the room that no other of all the many Athenians enters save only the wife of the king. She administered the oath to the Venerable Ones who attend at the sacred acts, she was given to Dionysos as wife, she conducted for the city the ancestral practices towards the gods, many sacred, secret practices."
(Burkert, Greek Religion, p 239.)

The Greater Dionysia in Athens
Greater Dionysia was celebrated in Athens in the late spring for five days.  Pisistratus, in the second half of the sixth century B.C., introduced the cult of Dionysos in the city as an addition to the popular rural one.

Dionysian theatre was noted for its democratic nature for everyone was invited to be entertained. During the celebration business life stopped, prisoners were freed in order to participate.

In the city, this festival opened with a phallic parade, in which the god's image was born through the streets of Athens from outside the walls and brought to the Temple of Dionysus on the slopes of the Acropolis. After completion of the sacrifices, the image was now born to the theatre dancing floor (the orchestra) accompanied by torch bearers - and there it stood throughout the presentation of the plays over the next several days but not before the komos, or revel, a night-long feast and celebration.

AGRIONIA, an ancient Greek festival, which was celebrated annually at Orchomenus in Boeotia and elsewhere, in honour of Dionysus Agrionius, by women and priests at night. The women, after playfully pretending for some time to search for the god, desisted, saying that he had hidden himself among the Muses.

"And he is permitted to kill anyone he catches, and in our own time Zolius the priest did so."

The tradition is that the daughters of Minyas, king of Orchomenus, having despised the rites of the god, were seized with frenzy and ate the flesh of one of their children. At this festival it was originally the custom for the priest of the god to pursue a woman of the Minyan family with a drawn sword and kill her. (Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. 102, Quaest. Graecae 38.)
1911 Encyclopedia -- Volume 1 Index

Rural or Lesser Dionysia
The Rural Dionysia would see repeat performances of the plays in areas outside of Athens. The Greeks loved their dramas - and people would travel from all over to witness these competitions. They lasted for almost six days, and included processions, songs, dances, and feasts.

 During the Hellenistic Age, after Alexander had brought Greek culture to the places he conquered, no city was complete without its Greek theater. Special seats of honor were reserved for Priests of Dionysos.

This festival took place during the month Poseideon (December), at various times in the various demes (villages) of Attica, the countryside around Athens. A feature of the celebration was a procession in which a large model of a phallos (a male organ) was carried along, accompanied by a noble lady serving as Basket-Bearer with a basket of raisins or other fruit. A billy-goat was led along to be sacrificed to Dionysos.

On  the second day of the festival, there is the Askôliasmos, a contest to see who can balance longest on top of a greased, inflated wine-skin (askos). One-legged games such as standing on one leg, one-legged races, one-legged tag with the raised leg, one-legged hopping endurance were also enjoyed.

These traditions were the foundation the Romans built the more elaborate and widely celebrated Saturnalia upon.

The spring festival in Greece

From Ancient art and ritual by Jane Harrison :

The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were performed at Athens at a festival known as the Great Dionysia. This took place early in April, so that the time itself makes us suspect that its ceremonies were connected with the spring. But we have more certain evidence. Aristotle, in his treatise on the Art of Poetry, raises the question of the origin of the drama. He was not specially interested in primitive ritual; beast dances and spring mummeries might even have seemed to him mere savagery, the lowest form of "imitation;" but he divined that a structure so complex as Greek tragedy must have arisen out of a simpler form; he saw, or felt, in fact, that art had in some way risen out of ritual, and he has left us a memorable statement.

In describing the "Carrying-out of Summer" we saw that the element of real drama, real impersonation, began with the leaders of the band, with the Queen of the May, and with the "Death" or the "Winter." Great is our delight when we find that for Greek drama Aristotle divined a like beginning. He says:

"Tragedy--as also Comedy--was at first mere improvisation--the one (tragedy) originated with the leaders of the Dithyramb."

The further question faces us: What was the Dithyramb? We shall find to our joy that this obscure-sounding Dithyramb, though before Aristotle's time it had taken literary form, was in origin a festival closely akin to those we have just been discussing. The Dithyramb was, to begin with, a spring ritual; and when Aristotle tells us tragedy arose out of the Dithyramb, he gives us, though perhaps half unconsciously, a clear instance of a splendid art that arose from the simplest of rites; he plants our theory of the connection of art with ritual firmly with its feet on historical ground.

When we use the word "dithyrambic" we certainly do not ordinarily think of spring. We say a style is "dithyrambic" when it is unmeasured, too ornate, impassioned, flowery. The Greeks themselves had forgotten that the word Dithyramb meant a leaping, inspired dance. But they had not forgotten on what occasion that dance was danced. Pindar wrote a Dithyramb for the Dionysiac festival at Athens, and his song is full of springtime and flowers. He bids all the gods come to Athens to dance flower-crowned.

"Look upon the dance, Olympians; send us the grace of Victory, ye gods who come to the heart of our city, where many feet are treading and incense steams: in sacred Athens come to the holy centre-stone. Take your portion of garlands pansy-twined, libations poured from the culling of spring. . . .

'Come hither to the god with ivy bound. Bromios we mortals name Him, and Him of the mighty Voice. . . . The clear signs of his Fulfilment are not hidden, whensoever the chamber of the purple-robed Hours is opened, and nectarous flowers lead in the fragrant spring. Then, then, are flung over the immortal Earth, lovely petals of pansies, and roses are amid our hair; and voices of song are loud among the pipes, the dancing-floors are loud with the calling of crowned Semele."

Bromios, "He of the loud cry," is a title of Dionysos. Semele is his mother, the Earth; we keep her name in Nova Zembla, "New Earth." The song might have been sung at a "Carrying-in of Summer." The Horæ, the Seasons, a chorus of maidens, lead in the figure of Spring, the Queen of the May, and they call to Mother Earth to wake, to rise up from the earth, flower-crowned.

You may bring back the life of the Spring in the form of a tree or a maiden, or you may summon her to rise from the sleeping Earth. In Greek mythology we are most familiar with the Rising-up form. Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, is carried below the Earth, and rises up again year by year. On Greek vase-paintings the scene occurs again and again. A mound of earth is represented, sometimes surmounted by a tree; out of the mound a woman's figure rises; and all about the mound are figures of dancing dæmons waiting to welcome her.

All this is not mere late poetry and art. It is the primitive art and poetry that come straight out of ritual, out of actual "things done," dromena. In the village of Megara, near Athens, the very place where to-day on Easter Tuesday the hills are covered with throngs of dancing men, and specially women, Pausanias saw near the City Hearth a rock called "Anaklethra, 'Place of Calling-up,' because, if any one will believe it, when she was wandering in search of her daughter, Demeter called her up there"; and he adds: "The women to this day perform rites analogous to the story told."

These rites of "Calling up" must have been spring rites, in which, in some pantomimic dance, the uprising of the Earth Spirit was enacted.

Another festival of Uprising is perhaps more primitive and instructive, because it is near akin to the "Carrying out of Winter," and also because it shows clearly the close connection of these rites with the food-supply. Plutarch 2 tells us of a festival held every nine years at Delphi. It was called from the name of the puppet used Charila, a word which originally meant Spring-Maiden, and is connected with the Russian word yaro, "Spring," and is also akin to the Greek Charis, "grace," in the sense of increase, "Give us all grace." The rites of Charila, the Gracious One, the Spring-Maiden, were as follows:

"The king presided and made a distribution in public of grain and pulse to all, both citizens and strangers. And the child-image of Charila is brought in. When they had all received their share, the king struck the image with his sandal, the leader of the Thyiades lifted the image and took it away to a precipitous place, and there tied a rope round the neck of the image and buried it."

Mr. Calderon has shown that very similar rites go on to-day in Bulgaria in honour of Yarilo, the Spring God.

The image is beaten, insulted, let down into some cleft or cave. It is clearly a "Carrying out the Death," though we do not know the exact date at which it was celebrated. It had its sequel in another festival at Delphi called Herois, or the "Heroine." Plutarch says it was too mystical and secret to describe, but he lets us know the main gist.

"Most of the ceremonies of the Herois have a mystical reason which is known to the Thyiades, but from the rites that are done in public, one may conjecture it to be a 'Bringing up of Semele.'"

Some one or something, a real woman, or more likely the buried puppet Charila, the Spring-Maiden, was brought up from the ground to enact and magically induce the coming of Spring.

These ceremonies of beating, driving out, burying, have all with the Greeks, as with the savage and the modern peasant, but one real object: to get rid of the season that is bad for food, to bring in and revive the new supply. This comes out very clearly in a ceremony that went on down to Plutarch's time, and he tells us it was "ancestral." It was called "the Driving out of Ox-hunger." By Ox-hunger was meant any great ravenous hunger, and the very intensity and monstrosity of the word takes us back to days when famine was a grim reality. When Plutarch was archon he had, as chief official, to perform the ceremony at the Prytaneion, or Common Hearth. A slave was taken, beaten with rods of a magical plant, and driven out of doors to the words: "Out with Ox-hunger! In with Wealth and Health" Here we see the actual sensation, or emotion, of ravenous hunger gets a name, and thereby a personality, though a less completely abstracted one than Death or Summer. We do not know that the ceremony of Driving out Ox-hunger was performed in the spring, it is only instanced here because, more plainly even than the Charila, when the king distributes pulse and peas, it shows the relation of ancient mimic ritual to food-supply.

If we keep clearly in mind the object rather than the exact date of the Spring Song we shall avoid many difficulties. A Dithyramb was sung at Delphi through the winter months, which at first seems odd. But we must remember that among agricultural peoples the performance of magical ceremonies to promote fertility and the food supply may begin at any moment after the earth is ploughed and the seed sown. The sowing of the seed is its death and burial; "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." When the death and burial are once accomplished the hope of resurrection and new birth begins, and with the hope the magical ceremonies that may help to fulfil that hope. The Sun is new-born in midwinter, at the solstice, and our "New" year follows, yet it is in the spring that, to this day, we keep our great resurrection festival.

We return to our argument, holding steadily in our minds this connection. The Dithyramb is a Spring Song at a Spring Festival, and the importance of the Spring Festival is that it magically promotes the food-supply.

Do we know any more about the Dithyramb? Happily yes, and the next point is as curious as significant.

Pindar, in one of his Odes, asks a strange question:

"Whence did appear the Graces of Dionysos,
With the Bull-driving Dithyramb?"

Scholars have broken their own heads and one another's to find a meaning and an answer to the odd query. It is only quite lately that they have come at all to see that the Dithyramb was a Spring Song, a primitive rite. Formerly it was considered to be a rather elaborate form of lyric poetry invented comparatively late. But, even allowing it is the Spring Song, are we much further? Why should the Dithyramb be bull-driving? How can driving a Bull help the spring to come? And, above all, what are the "slender-ankled" Graces doing, helping to drive the great unwieldy Bull?

The difficulty about the Graces, or Charites, as the Greeks called them, is soon settled. They are the Seasons, or "Hours," and the chief Season, or Hour, was Spring herself. They are called Charites, or Graces, because they are, in the words of the Collect, the "Givers of all grace," that is, of all increase physical and spiritual.

~ more... ~

The rite of Spring

Stravinsky's 'Sacre du Printemps', performed by the Béjart Ballet

Antonio Vivaldi 'Cello Concerto in Am, RV419 Allegro' and Orff Carl 'Catulli carmina Exodium'

Ostara - the original Easter

Antwerp station flash mob dance


image from

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