Famagusta church ‘re-opens’

Source: incyprus.philenews.com

Hundreds flocked to the mediaeval Ayios Georgios Eksorinos church in occupied Famagusta yesterday, for the first Greek Orthodox service in 56 years, described as the largest gathering of Greek-Cypriot faithful in a service held in the occupied territories since 1974.

Ayios Georgios Eksorinos, situated within the walled city, had been abandoned from 1957 because of an outbreak of inter-communal violence.
Officiating was Constantia-Famagusta Bishop Vasilios, with Mayor Alexis Galanos and the municipal council attending.

In his sermon, Vasilios made extensive reference to a famous work by mediaeval writer Leontios Machairas, who had provided ample evidence of the city’s leading role in the strengthening of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus.

Famagusta, the Bishop said, is referred to as the city ‘of one church for every day’, with 365 temples built within its boundaries.

It was, Vasilios stressed, a financial and commercial hub for the region and became an axis of political developments on the island for a long period, during and beyond mediaeval times.

Given the line of succeeding conquests of Cyprus by Christians of different dogmas, Famagusta is marked with many architectural gems of historic significance, such as St John’s Cathedral where the kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem were crowned, as well as Saint George of the Greeks.

The Famagusta Bishop congratulated organisers for their initiative to reopen the church for the first time since 1957 and said that ‘this is the first but not the last service that will be held’.

On a practical basis and in spite of the political difficulties, Famagusta Municipality and a Church committee have taken up the responsibility of holding services on a regular basis, with voluntary input from locals who want to see another rare piece of cultural heritage preserved and brought to religious life.

Ayios Georgios Eksorinos, an imposing structure of clear architectural influence, was built in the 14th century, during Venetian rule and has been turned into a concert hall.

It’s one of the better preserved churches in the occupied north but does however require extensive conservation work, due to humidity damage to the icons and frescoes.

Alex Perry dumped from David Jones, replaced by Martin Grant

Source: News.com.au

Designer Alex Perry

Designer Alex Perry Source: Supplied

DAVID Jones has celebrated the signing of designer Martin Grant after having “deleted” high-profile designer Alex Perry.

David Jones has held an intimate fashion parade at its Elizabeth Street Sydney flagship store, showcasing a collection of elegant, black outfits and modern geometric patterned dresses, created by Melbourne-born Paris-based designer Martin Grant.

Outfits by Martin Grant, who designed the new Qantas uniforms, will be available at the department store from February, while the Alex Perry brand will be “exited” from August.

Alex Perry joined David Jones after defecting from Myer in 2007, but a David Jones spokeswoman said sales of the brand have declined over the past three years.

“The deletion of this brand enables David Jones to reallocate this floorspace to new brand Martin Grant and to high performing brands such as Camilla World and Rachel Gilbert,” group executive merchandise Donna Player said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Martin Grant, who attended the launch event, said he was honoured to have secured representation in his home market, adding that he is “excited that my collections will be available locally in Australia.”

Martin Grant’s designs are worn by actors and celebrities, such as Cate Blanchett, Juliette Binoche, Blake Lively and Kate Hudson and are stocked in high-end department stores around the world, including US stores Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Greek Parliament approves budget for 2014

Source: Ekathimerini

The Greek Parliament early on Sunday voted a budget for 2014 into law with 153 MPs in the 300-seat House voting in favor despite reservations among many in the coalition to backing further austerity.

The budget was backed by all but one of the coalition’s 154 MPs — Aris Spiliotopoulos of conservative New Democracy was absent — with 142 MPs voting against the bill and one present.

Speaking before the vote, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that economic recovery was in sight, referring to a primary surplus predicted in the budget, and accused the leftist opposition SYRIZA of undermining the government’s efforts toward recovery. “For the first time after many years, we will not need to borrow for our needs,” Samaras said, adding that unemployment was set to drop from next year. The premier even quoted the late Nelson Mandela toward the end of his speech, declaring, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Earlier leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said that approving the blueprint was the “road to the continuation of destruction for Greece” and said that it would not be revised by Greece’s troika of foreign lenders but by SYRIZA which would come to power and “get rid of the troika.” He said a writedown to Greece’s debt was the only solution.

In his speech Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said SYRIZA’s alternative economic plan — which would involve the nationalization of Greek banks — was a “nightmare scenario.”

The budget, which foresees a 0.6 percent growth rate for next year and sets out 5.6 billion euros in spending cuts and projected tax revenue, received the backing of coalition MPs though many indicated, over several days of debate in Parliament, that they would not lend the same support to other reforms in the works, chiefly a controversial unified property tax which is to be submitted in Parliament on Tuesday.

However, the budget still lacks the approval of Greece’s troika of foreign creditors, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, who left Athens last month after failing to reach an agreement with government officials on reforms and on a fiscal gap for next year. EC spokesman Simon O’Connor said in a Twitter posting on Saturday night that “a full negotiating team” would return to Athens in January once the government has made further progress in implementing reforms. “Technical discussions” would continue next week,” he said.

Greece’s parliament has approved a tough budget for next year, including further spending cuts of €3.1 billion ($A4.71 billion), aimed at ending the country’s deep recession.

The coalition government, which enjoys a narrow majority in the 300-seat chamber, scraped through with 153 deputies backing the 2014 budget in a late evening vote.

The move came as Greece’s troika of international creditors – the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – announced they had delayed until January their next trip to Athens.

Senior auditors from the so-called creditor troika had been expected to return to Athens on Monday to resume an evaluation of pledged Greek reforms.

The EU-ECB-IMF decision means talks on unblocking €1 billion in bailout funds are postponed.

The budget approved by parliament foresees a return to growth for the embattled Greek economy.

But earlier on Saturday a spokesman for EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said the international negotiating team would not return to Athens until next month “after the authorities have made further progress in implementation” of reforms demanded by Greece’s creditors.

An agreement with the troika is necessary to unblock the €1 billion instalment of financial aid pending since the summer.

Athens has been keen to wrap up the talks before it assumes the rotating EU presidency in January.

The creditors and Athens disagree on the level of a forecasted financing gap for 2014 and the measures that need to be taken to cover it.

Discussions are reportedly stumbling on the issue of a new property tax, debtor property auctions, layoffs in the state sector and the slow pace of privatisation.

The government is under pressure from the troika to loosen a moratorium on home foreclosures but such a measure is likely to be opposed by several ruling party MPs and could risk the cohesion of the conservative-socialist coalition.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stressed in parliament that the country had “achieved a number of reforms which many had considered impossible”.

The changes made are “enormous,” he said, citing fresh competitiveness and a drastic reduction in the budget deficit.

Greece’s budget for 2014 has not yet been approved by the troika and could yet be amended in the coming months with new austerity measures that the Greek government has thus far rigorously opposed.

As it stands the budget foresees a 0.6 per cent growth in GDP for next year after six consecutive years of recession. A four per cent contraction is expected this year.

Great day in ‘Annacropolis’: Annapolis Greek community proud of Pantelides’ victory

Source: capitalgazette.com

Annapolis Inauguration

Annapolis Inauguration

Christos P. Panagopoulous, Greece’s ambassador to the United States, speaks at Mayor Mike Pantelides’ inauguration. Pantelides is of Greek and Cypriot heritage.

Pantelides Royal Restaurant

From left, Jimmy Walker, a cook at the Royal Restaurant since 1932; owner Savvas “Sam” Pantelides, the grandfather of Mayor Mike Pantelides; and Fay Mason, a waitress since 1945, look over old menus in a photograph from 1976.

Pantelides Royal Restaurant

Andre “Butch” Pantelides, an uncle of Mayor Mike Pantelides, places a “Closed” sign in the window for the last time as the Royal Restaurant at 23 West St. shut its doors for good in 1976.

Annapolis holds its inauguration of the City Council and new Mayor Mike Pantelides.

Theano Panos Platt, a first-generation U.S. citizen, isn’t a blood relative of the new Annapolis mayor. But when election officials counted the final ballots and the tally favored Mike Pantelides, it was as if her own son had won.

Platt said she cried tears of joy “like at the birth of a child.” Her elation doubled because she knew the occasion came on his saint’s name day.

During Pantelides’ inauguration Monday, supporters provided commentary on Twitter. One hashtag may have said it best: #Annacropolis.

And when the new mayor had to choose where to go after taking the oath, it was only fitting to have a “small gathering of friends and family” — about 50 people — for a meal of lamb, potatoes and Greek pastries at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, the focal point of the local Greek-American community.

After a nail-biter election won by a 30-year-old political newcomer, city residents of Greek extraction are claiming Pantelides’ win as their own.

Many who share Pantelides’ roots said the campaign’s hard work and integrity reflected the new mayor’s Greek and Cypriot lineage.

That he’s two generations removed from the motherland but still wears his heritage proudly is a hopeful sign to them, not just for the city, but for the welfare of Annapolis’ Greek community.

A small band

Just 0.5 percent of Annapolis’ population — about 180 people — claims Greek ancestry, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Approximately 450 families are congregants at the Greek Orthodox church, which draws from Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties and the Eastern Shore.

The Census estimated that Anne Arundel County has 5,000 residents of Greek extraction, accounting for a little under 1 percent of the population.

The community is tied by family, faith and a common language, often still spoken in bits and pieces at home.

They’re a close-knit ethnic and religious group that still sends their children to Greek Orthodox dances, youth socials and basketball tournaments in the hope they’ll find lifelong friendships and romantic attachments there.

Harriet Adam, whose parents and grandparents are Greek, said all the Greek kids who grew up with her in Annapolis thought they were “cousins,” even if they weren’t.

Much of the Greek community came to Annapolis in the ’30s and ’40s. Relatives or friends already in the United States sponsored immigrants.

They planted roots in communities where they had connections, opening businesses and eventually raising enough funds to build a Greek Orthodox church downtown on Constitution Avenue.

At one point, naturalized Greek-Americans operated close to two dozen restaurants in Annapolis.

Pantelides’ grandfather, Savvas “Sam” Pantelides, opened the Royal Restaurant on West Street, where the BB&T Bank is today, after immigrating from Cyprus in the 1940s.

A newspaper ad for the restaurant showcased Sam’s wit. In 260 words, he described his philosophy of life, which he believed was full of contradictions and misunderstandings:

“If he is in politics, he is a grafter and a crook; if he is out of politics, you can’t place him because he is an undesirable citizen … Life is a funny road, but we all like to travel it just the same.”

Greek brothers

Pantelides filled last week’s inauguration with signs of his Greek heritage, making it one of the most unusual ceremonies in memory.

His priest, the Rev. Kosmas Karavellas, gave the invocation. Two prominent dignitaries — Greece’s ambassador to the United States and the consul for the Cypriot embassy — delivered speeches.

It was an appropriate epilogue for a campaign that drew donations from friends and extended family of Greek heritage throughout the region. When Pantelides won, Karavellas said, Greek parishes nationwide contacted his church with congratulations.

A line in the new mayor’s speech — a pledge to make Annapolis again the “Athens of the East” — went viral online.

The pride transcended party lines. U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat whose district includes Annapolis, supported incumbent Mayor Josh Cohen in the election. But he called Pantelides the night before the election to say he looked forward to working with him if he won.

On Monday, Sarbanes was no longer a partisan. He was Pantelides’ Greek brother.

“With this audience, I probably would have preferred to be honored as Ioannis Sarbanes,” he said, using the Greek version of his name.

A long tradition

In taking public office, Pantelides is following a tradition old enough to make Annapolis look newfangled.

“Greece is recognized as the birthplace of democracy. The philosophers that came from that country — there’s so much that started there,” said Steve Samaras, an Annapolis jeweler who is of Greek heritage.

“Even to this day, we feel that sense of pride, especially children that have been raised in Greek households,” Samaras said.

The word “democracy” comes from the Greek word demos, which means “commoners,” and kratos, meaning “rule.”

Platt said Greek culture and politics go hand-in-hand because of the emphasis on public service and viewing one’s community as a family.

“You can’t walk into a Greek restaurant or a cafe or a village somewhere and not hear the rumblings of the politics going on, whether it’s in the next town over or the next country. Politics has always been an engaging topic,” she said.

In his new office at City Hall last week, Pantelides looked around at the blank walls, considering how to decorate. The coffee table had a single book in the center — one on Cyprus.

“I should Greek the place up a little bit,” he said. “We’ll Greek it up somehow.”

He can’t speak the language fluently, but understands some of it. And he has picked up other cultural traits.

“If there’s a room full of Greek people, you have to talk over another person to get your point heard,” Pantelides said. “But I don’t think it’s come up in department meetings yet.”

Pantelides isn’t Annapolis’ first Greek-American chief executive. John Apostol was mayor from 1973 to 1981.

Apostol’s campaign was another exciting time for the local Greek community, remembered Samaras, who owns Zachary’s Jewelers at the foot of Main Street.

His grandparents, who were Greek immigrants, were “worker bees” for the campaign, along with Pantelides’ father, John Pantelides. They held signs and made phone calls.

“I felt a very strong sense of my roots,” Samaras said.

Slovenian and Greek troubles to dominate Europgroup talks

Source: irishtimes.com

Fears Ljubljana will need euro zone’s sixth bailout, while Athens may miss €2b surplus target

Slovenian prime minister Alenka Bratusek, whose government has pledged to avoid seeking official help from EU and IMF. Photograph: EPA/Andrius Ufartas

Slovenian prime minister Alenka Bratusek, whose government has pledged to avoid seeking official help from EU and IMF. Photograph: EPA/Andrius Ufartas in Brussels.

Euro zone finance ministers meet today in Brussels amid mounting fears about the Slovenian economy, and continuing difficulties with the Greek bailout as the troika once again postponed a visit of its full review team to Athens.

While significant progress was made on new bank resolution rules at a meeting on Friday in Berlin between German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and a select group of European finance ministers, ministers will today focus on the fiscal situation in specific euro zone countries, before turning to banking union at tomorrow’s meeting of all 28 European finance ministers.


Potential sixth bailout

Ministers will be updated by the Slovenian finance minister on the financial situation of the former Yugoslav state, which is battling to avoid becoming the sixth euro zone country to seek a bailout.

The small country of two million people has been badly affected by falling exports, weak consumer spending and problem loans in its banking system. Results of stress tests on the country’s banks, which are predominantly state-owned, are due later this week.

While the government has pledged to inject €1.2 billion into its banking sector, it is expected that the banks will need about €5 billion. However, a senior eurogroup official stressed that euro zone officials believe such a figure “would be manageable” from Slovenia’s own resources.

The government of prime minister Alenka Bratusek, which has pledged to avoid seeking official help from EU and International Monetary Fund lenders, survived a confidence vote in the Slovenian parliament last month.

Meanwhile, a European Commission spokesman confirmed that talks between Greek officials and the troika of international lenders will now not fully resume until January, though a reduced team will travel to Athens on Wednesday to resume technical discussions, amid continuing disagreements about the scale of adjustments needed for the Greek programme.

While the Greek parliament passed its 2014 budget over the weekend, the eurogroup has yet to sign off on the latest instalment of Greece’s rescue package, amid disagreements over the scale of Greece’s fiscal gap for 2014.


Austerity intolerance

Greece’s international lenders believe the country may miss its budget surplus target by €2 billion unless it finds new savings. This figure is disputed by Athens, which is opposed to imposing further austerity on a country that has already undergone severe economic retrenchment.

Greece, which assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in January, is approaching the end of its sixth year of recession. It has the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone, at over 27 per cent.

The European Commission forecasts the country’s debt to gross domestic product ratio will peak at 176 per cent this year. While the two Greek bailouts, worth about €240 billion, are due to end in a year’s time, there are concerns that the country may need further funds, amid reports of a funding gap of up to €10 billion in its rescue programme.

Scientists discover huge freshwater reserves beneath the ocean

Source: News.com.au

Scientists discover freshwater under the ocean.

Scientists discover freshwater under the ocean. Source: ThinkStock

SCIENTISTS have discovered vast reserves of fresh water located deep beneath the ocean that could prevent a global water crisis.

A new study published this month reveals that an estimated half a million cubic kilometres of low-salinity water are buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves around the world.

The water is located off the coast of Australia, North America, China and South Africa, reports Science Daily.

“The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” says lead author Dr Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University.

Dr Post says that while scientists knew of freshwater under the sea floor, they thought it only occurred under rare and specific conditions.

“Fresh water on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages,” Dr Post said.

These reserves were formed over the past hundreds of thousands of years when on average the sea level was much lower than it is today, and when the coastline was further out, Dr Post explains.

“So when it rained, the water would infiltrate into the ground and fill up the water table in areas that are nowadays under the sea.

“It happened all around the world, and when the sea level rose when ice caps started melting some 20,000 years ago, these areas were covered by the ocean,” he said.

Dr Post says that these aquifers (underground layers of water) are protected from seawater by the layers of clay and sediment that sit on top of them.

The aquifers are similar to the ones below land, which much of the world relies on for drinking water, and their salinity is low enough for them to be turned into portable water.

So how can we collect this hidden water source?

“There are two ways to access this water – build a platform out at sea and drill into the seabed, or drill from the mainland or islands close to the aquifers.”

But Dr Post also has cautions for the countries closest to the non-renewable freshwater deposits, saying that we should take care not to contaminate the seawater and subsequently the aquifers.

“We should use them carefully – once gone, they won’t be replenished until the sea level drops again, which is not likely to happen for a very long time.”

Before and After: IKEA transforms Bear Cottage in Manly

Source: thelifecreativeblog.com

Welcome - HEM

I love a feelgood moment – especially when it involves decorating and homewares. Throw in my fave store for on-trend affordables (that’s IKEA) and you’ve got a decor transformation dreams are made of. A few weeks ago, a 25-strong IKEA team from the Rhodes and Tempe stores got together to do-over two family suites at Bear Cottage in Manly, making the lives of the families who stay at the hospice all the more comfortable!

The whole concept for this makeover was to give the spaces the families used at the hospice a bright and fresh feel, while ensuring they operated from a practical perspective and had plenty of durability. The cottage is 12 years old, so has been the recipient of some wear and tear over the years (making this transformation very timely indeed).

Here are some of my fave shots from the makeover and why I love them:

FAMILJ - Lounge B

Above: The power of a well-executed feature wall is illustrated perfectly here. Notice how the rug unifies the space perfectly and picks up the colours in the couch and cushions? The soft hues make the room feel incredibly calm.

HEM - Lounge C

Above: Orange and blue are an undeniable power couple and their magic really shines in the living space above. The room feels lively but not overwhelming. That’s because the furnishings have been kept to a minimum. I also love those yellow chairs; very summery.

Below: A monochromatic colour scheme like the one here brings a real sense of serenity and calm (exactly what you want in a bedroom). The wall canvas gives some visual interest, while the netting above that cot injects some whimsy into the space.

HEM - Master Bedroom A

“Bear Cottage is designed to be a home away from home to support families who are caring for a child with a life limiting illness in the comfort of a homely environment”, IKEA’s Sustainability Manger Richard Wilson tells me. “IKEA is honoured to have been able to make such a difference to Bear Cottage and the environment provided for these families”.

Kudos to the team at IKEA. I’ve been a long-time fan of their furniture and homewares – and I love what they’ve done with it in this transformation!

Brain Cancer Cells Hide While Drugs Seek

Source: ScienceDaily.com

A team of scientists, led by principal investigator Paul S. Mischel, MD, a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has found that brain cancer cells resist therapy by dialing down the gene mutation targeted by drugs, then re-amplify that growth-promoting mutation after therapy has stopped.

The findings are published in the December 5, 2013 online issue of Science.

“This discovery has considerable clinical implications because if cancer cells can evade therapy by a ‘hide-and-seek’ mechanism, then the current focus (of drug therapies) is unlikely to translate into better outcomes for patients,” said Mischel.

In recent years, new cancer therapies have emerged that target tell-tale gene mutations to identify specific cancer cells for destruction. Unfortunately, a variety of “resistance mechanisms” have also emerged, among them incomplete target suppression, second-site mutations and activation of alternative kinases or enzymes that maintain growth-promoting signals to the cancer itself.

“Most research is aimed at developing better drugs or better drug combinations to suppress these downstream signals,” Mischel said. “However, one thing that has not been carefully considered is whether cancer cells can modulate the levels of — and thus their dependence on — the target of the drug, evade therapy, and then re-acquire the oncogene to promote tumor growth when the drug is withdrawn.”

Mischel and colleagues, including Webster K. Cavenee, PhD, and Frank B. Furnari, PhD, of the Ludwig Institute and the UC San Diego School of Medicine, investigated the behavior of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common malignant primary brain cancer in adults. More than 9,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the United States and effective treatments are limited. The tumors are aggressive and resistant to current therapies, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The median survival rate for newly diagnosed GBM patients is just 14 months.

GBM is characterized by a mutated variant of the epidermal growth factor receptor known as EGFRvIII that is found on extrachromosomal DNA in cancer cells. EGFRvIII promotes tumor growth. Some new drugs kill cancer cells by specifically suppressing or inhibiting EGFRvIII, but lose effectiveness as drug resistance soon develops.

The researchers found that this resistance may be due to the cancer cells temporarily dumping their extrachromosomal EGFRvIII, which essentially renders them invisible to drugs looking for that particular mutation. When the drug therapy is halted, the EGFRvIII reappears at previous levels and accelerated tumor growth resumes.

“This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first demonstration that reversible loss of an oncogene on extrachromosomal DNA can lead to targeted cancer drug resistance,” said Mischel, who hoped the findings would “shift the discussion about what directions need to be taken to improve the success rate for targeted cancer treatments.”

It’s unthinkable and unfair, but children come here to die and Bear Cottage makes it OK

Source: DailyTelegraph

Where children come to die

The Bear Cottage Hospital for Children in Manly. Source: News Limited

WALKING through the doors of Manly’s Bear Cottage immediately leaves a lump in your throat and sick feeling in your stomach – this is a place where children come to die.

It’s unthinkable, it’s unfair, but it’s inevitable and, remarkably, Bear Cottage makes it OK.

The Bear Cottage is warm and welcoming.

The Bear Cottage is warm and welcoming. Source: News Limited

Because when you gather the strength to step into one of only two Australian hospices for terminally ill youngsters, you discover senior nurses dressed as fairies, Christmas lights twinkling and cheeky toddlers zipping down the hall on scooters – their cheerful normalcy making the pain bearable.

The cottage itself is warm and welcoming.

Bright books fill the shelves, colourful quilts line the beds, handmade artworks decorate the walls and toys are tucked into every nook and cranny.

Children zip down the halls of Bear Cottage.

Children zip down the halls of Bear Cottage. Source: News Limited

And it’s these little things that make all difference.

Since the cottage opened 12 years ago, its been the home away from home for the families of more than 600 dying children.

Some have made it, but, heartbreakingly, most haven’t.

However, they won’t be forgot.

Their innocent faces are forever plastered on one of the walls within the facility – and nursing unit manager Narelle Martin, who has worked at the cottage since it opened, remembers every single one.

Nursing unit manager Narelle Martin remembers every face.

Nursing unit manager Narelle Martin remembers every face. Source: News Limited

“There are so many people who have touched me – it’s a real privilege to know so many special kids,” an emotional Ms Martin said as she admired their pictures.

“And the strength and resilience they show is incredible, and it has really taught me so much.

“Some of them I think ‘how do you get up every day to face another day’ and they say ‘but look at that person and what they are going through’ – they really are amazing.”

Bear Cottage can house up to eight children and their extended families, even including two private two-bedroom apartments.

Bear Cottage can house eight children and their extended families.
Bear Cottage can house eight children and their extended families. Source: News Limited

The cottage is one street away from the beach.
The cottage is one street away from the beach. Source: News Limited

Located a street away from the beach, ocean views and vast outdoor space make the tranquil environment one of peace and calm: a world away from the hospitals the young bodies are used to.
Some have cancer, others have rare genetic neurological disorders. They come for respite for a week at a time, but if it’s at the end of their illness, their stay is open ended.

Ellie is one of the little girls racing around on her scooter, here to support her big brother, who is at the end of his life.

She’s dressed in matching pink fairy gowns with a tiara-wearing senior nurse better known as ‘Princess Rosalia’.

She’s happy, distracted for a moment from the heartbreak her family is experiencing.

Costing $3 million a year of mostly community donations to operate, Bear Cottage has a holistic approach to care, including a full-time play therapist, while using music and art therapy to help children get the most from their stay.

The cottage offers play therapy including music and art.

The cottage offers play therapy including music and art. Source: News Limited

They have interactive televisions for the bed-bound, treatments from volunteer reflexologists and massage therapists, a spa, outdoor music area, wheelchair swing, a games room, multi-sensory room – and loved pet dog, Frankie.

“It is really a big home, and not just for the children, but for their families,” Ms Martin said.

Bear Cottage recently launched a Mum Boot Camp well-being program, giving six stressed out mums six months of support to look after themselves, and their children – with guidance on nutrition, help from motivational speakers, exercise programs and tips to survive the hard times.

“A lot of our mums are isolated, have low self-esteem and are in a space that is so hard to get out of,” Ms Martin said.

“The first part they come for a week, and we look after their child and once a month they come for the weekend as a follow up.”

Katrina Young, a 38-year-old from Sydney’s Allambie Heights, is one of them.

Katrina Young with her daughter Hannah.

Katrina Young with her daughter Hannah. Source: News Limited

Ms Young said the staff at Bear Cottage had given her and daughter Hannah great strength – particularly after the death of Hannah’s identical twin sister, Amelia, last May.

The eight-year-old girls suffered Rett syndrome, a severe genetic disorder of the nervous system, affecting all body movement, as well as scoliosis, autism and epilepsy, with Amelia suffering her first seizure at just 14 months of age.

Confined to a wheelchair, Hannah can’t talk, is fed by a tube, and unable to use her hands, relies on her mum for everything.

“Christmas last year was really difficult and all those firsts without Amelia were so hard,” Ms Young said.

“When it changed to the New Year I was so sad because Amelia wouldn’t be part of that year with us, and birthdays are really hard because they are identical.

“Boot camp came at the right time for me because when Amelia was in hospital all the time I didn’t get the chance to eat properly – you only eat what is in the cafeteria or what can be put in the microwave – and then after Amelia died it just got harder with a lot of emotional eating.

“At first I was just worried about Hannah because she and Amelia were so close, but she is doing a lot better. She is still sad, but she is doing better.

“Now I am ready to start looking after myself.”

Resident dog Frankie.

Resident dog Frankie. Source: News Limited

Ms Young said her girls had been coming to Bear Cottage for three years, during which time Amelia, who was physically weaker than Hannah, suffered some 23 pneumonias.

“She couldn’t fight any longer,” the single mother said.

Seanne Lavender’s daughter Gaby has been coming to Bear Cottage since it opened 12 years ago.

Talking to The Sunday Telegraph just before the Port Stephens family left the facility for the last time, Ms Lavender was devastated that Gaby, who had just turned 18, was no longer eligible for care. She now falls into the age bracket for adult palliative care.


'We are lucky to have her': Seanne Lavender and her d...

‘We are lucky to have her’: Seanne Lavender and her daughter Gaby. Source: News Limited

With a rare mitochondrial disorder leaving her unable to metabolise glucose and carbohydrates, Gaby wasn’t expected to live past the age of one.

“We are very lucky to have her, she has far exceeded all medical expectations – her brain was dying at 10 weeks of age and all her vital organs were starving of energy,” a tearful Ms Lavender said.

“She is fed by a tube, she can’t swallow, she can’t walk, is vision impaired and has epilepsy.

“Gaby can’t speak or communicate in any meaningful way, but she can sing.

With three other children, Ms Lavender said struggling to care for Gaby left little time for the rest of their family – a fact of life changed by Bear Cottage.

“Coming here meant we could actually spend time with the other kids, because we trusted the staff to be with Gaby and we could take the kids for a walk on the beach, or to have an ice-cream,” she said.

Going home for the last time, Ms Lavender said she was forever grateful to Bear Cottage and its staff.

“The people here have been our family, and we will really miss that.”

* To support Bear Cottage, phone 9976 8300 or visit http://www.bearcottage.chw.edu.au

Το ίδρυμα του Ωνάση σκόνταψε σε… ξένα χέρια

Πώς ο Σταύρος Νιάρχος κερδίζει (μετά θάνατον) τον Αριστοτέλη Ωνάση; Την ώρα που το Ιδρυμα Νιάρχου μεγαλουργεί, το Ιδρυμα Ωνάση μοιάζει, λένε, με κερδοσκοπικό όχημα στα χέρια του….

δρα Αντώνη Παπαδημητρίου. «Πόσο έξαλλος θα γινόταν άραγε ο Αριστοτέλης Ωνάσης, αν μπορούσε να δει πως το όνομά του πέρασε πίσω από αυτό του παλιού του αντιπάλου, του Νιάρχου, στη σημερινή Ελλάδα της φτώχειας;» Με αυτά τα λόγια αντιδρούν παλαιοί, παραγκωνισμένοι σήμερα συνεργάτες του στο γεγονός ότι το ίδρυμα «Σταύρος Νιάρχος» πρωταγωνιστεί στην προσπάθεια ανάτασης της χώρας με δωρεές εκατοντάδων εκατομμυρίων ευρώ στην ελληνική κοινωνία.

Την ίδια ώρα το κοινωφελές ίδρυμα «Αλέξανδρος Σ. Ωνάσης» υπό την καθοδήγηση του προέδρου του (και ταμία) δρα Αντώνη Παπαδημητρίου αναλίσκεται σε αμφίβολης αξίας δράσεις. Οπως, για παράδειγμα, μελέτες για την αναμόρφωση της Πανεπιστημίου, βραβεύσεις, υποτροφίες ολίγων και τη στήριξη δικών του δραστηριοτήτων, σαν την (υπόσχεση για) επένδυση 30.000.000 ευρώ στο Ελληνικό Επενδυτικό Ταμείο, που αποτελεί έναν ξεκάθαρα κερδοσκοπικό μηχανισμό γερμανικής έμπνευσης. Ακόμα κι αν πραγματοποιεί άλλες δράσεις, είναι «άγνωστη η έκτασή τους, εξαιτίας της παροιμιώδους αδιαφάνειας με την οποία διοικείται το ίδρυμα» σχολιάζουν παράγοντες που ανήκουν στο κύκλο των ελληνικών ευαγών ιδρυμάτων.

Την ίδια ώρα, πληθαίνουν τα δημοσιεύματα που προσάπτουν στο Ιδρυμα Ωνάση (την παρακαταθήκη που άφησε στη χώρα του ο χρυσός αυτός Ελληνας) δουλειές με Τούρκους, Σύριους και παράγοντες που συνδέονται με ιρανικά συμφέροντα. Οπως και για τη φορολογική του συνεισφορά στη χώρα, καθώς χρησιμοποιεί ως έδρα το Vaduz του Liechtenstein. «Οπου υπάρχει καπνός υπάρχει και φωτιά» λένε οι επαΐοντες συμπληρώνοντας πως αν και δύσκολα μπορεί κανείς να πει ότι υπάρχει κάτι το μεμπτό στις πράξεις της διοίκησης, αυτού του βεληνεκούς τα ιδρύματα πρέπει να αποτελούν φάρους κοινωνικής ευσυνειδησίας και ηθικής λειτουργίας».

Στον αντίποδα, το Ιδρυμα Νιάρχου ρίχνει εκατοντάδες εκατομμύρια ευρώ για να πολεμήσει τη φτώχεια, αλλά και να καταστήσει την Αθήνα πολιτιστικό κέντρο της Μεσογείου με το Κέντρο Πολιτισμού – Ιδρυμα Σταύρος Νιάρχος στο Φάληρο, όπου το 24ωρης λειτουργίας εργοτάξιο θυμίζει πολύβουο μελίσσι. Ο συνολικός προϋπολογισμός του έργου είναι 566.000.000 ευρώ και χρηματοδοτείται εξ ολοκλήρου από το Ιδρυμα Νιάρχου, ενώ εκτιμάται ότι θα έχει ολοκληρωθεί τον Νοέμβριο του 2015.

Πέραν όμως αυτών των ποσών, από το 1996 μέχρι σήμερα το ίδρυμα «Σταύρος Νιάρχος» έχει εγκρίνει συνολικά τη διάθεση 1 δισεκατομμυρίου ευρώ μέσω 2.400 δωρεών σε μη κερδοσκοπικούς οργανισμούς σε 109 κράτη ανά τον κόσμο. Από το σύνολο των δωρεών του ιδρύματος άνω του 80% του συνολικού ποσού έχει διατεθεί σε οργανισμούς και πρωτοβουλίες στην Ελλάδα. Τελευταίο δείγμα γραφής, η πρωτοβουλία των 100.000.000 ευρώ που αποσκοπεί κυρίως στο να συμβάλει στην ανακούφιση των δυσμενών συνεπειών από την οικονομική κρίση βοηθώντας εκείνους που έχουν περισσότερη ανάγκη να αντιμετωπίσουν τις δύσκολες αυτές συγκυρίες με τον λιγότερο επώδυνο τρόπο.

Την ώρα όμως που αυτά πράττει το ίδρυμα του Σταύρου Νιάρχου, οι άνθρωποι που ανέλαβαν τη διοίκηση του Ιδρύματος Ωνάση, του ιστορικά εμβληματικού ανταγωνιστή του, «πάγωσαν» τις πρωτοβουλίες τους. Ας δούμε τι γράφει η επίσημη ανακοίνωση του ίδρύματος:
«Το Διοικητικό Συμβούλιο του Ιδρύματος Ωνάση κατά τη συνεδρίασή του τον Μάιο του 2010 αποφάσισε τη διακοπή του προγράμματος χορηγιών σε φορείς στην Ελλάδα και το εξωτερικό. Το Διοικητικό Συμβούλιο του Ιδρύματος προχώρησε στην ανακατανομή των διαθέσιμων, σύμφωνα με τη διαθήκη του Αριστοτέλη Ωνάση, ποσών αποκλειστικά για τα δικά του προγράμματα: υποτροφίες σε Ελληνες, υποτροφίες σε αλλοδαπούς για ελληνικές σπουδές, Βραβεία Ωνάση, το Θυγατρικό Ιδρυμα στη Νέα Υόρκη με τις ετήσιες εκθέσεις του και το Πρόγραμμα Επισκεπτών Καθηγητών κλπ., τα οποία συνεχίζονται κανονικά. Η Στέγη Γραμμάτων και Τεχνών του Ιδρύματος Ωνάση, η οποία ξεκίνησε τη λειτουργία της το φθινόπωρο του 2010, θα απορροφήσει μεγάλο μέρος των πόρων του Ιδρύματος».
Τρία χρόνια λοιπόν ύστερα από αυτή την απόφαση αίσθηση προκάλεσαν δύο αποφάσεις του προέδρου του Ιδρύματος Ωνάση, δρα Αντώνη Παπαδημητρίου, καθώς ήρθαν με διαφορά λίγων ημερών. Είχε βέβαια προηγηθεί προ έτους και η επένδυση δεκάδων εκατομμυρίων δολαρίων στη δημόσια εγγραφή ναυτιλιακής στη Wall Street.

Τώρα (τέλη Νοεμβρίου) το Ιδρυμα Ωνάση ανακοίνωσε ότι θα επενδύσει 30.000.000 ευρώ στο Ελληνικό Επενδυτικό Ταμείο μαζί με τη γερμανική κρατική τράπεζα KfW και (ίσως) με την Ευρωπαϊκή Τράπεζα Επενδύσεων. Το ταμείο αυτό όμως δεν είναι κοινωφελές. Θα διέπεται από τους νόμους του Δουκάτου του Λουξεμβούργου και θα έχει ως καταστατικό στόχο την εξασφάλιση κέρδους για της επενδυτές του. Εμφανίζεται έτσι φειδωλό και με στόχο το κέρδος, σε μια προσπάθεια που θα μπορούσε να στηρίξει την απασχόληση.

Την ίδια ώρα βγάζει από τα ταμεία του 100.000.000 δολάρια για να αγοράσει τέσσερα πλοία του κλυδωνιζόμενου στόλου του πλουσιότερου Τούρκου επιχειρηματία, του Mehmet Emin Karamehmet. Παράγοντες της Ακτής Μιαούλη, που δεν θεωρούν «εφοπλιστή» τον Αντώνη Παπαδημητρίου και εκτιμούν ότι έχει ως προτεραιότητα τη δημόσια εικόνα του και τις σχέσεις του με την εκάστοτε «αφρόκρεμα», σχολιάζουν πως δεν τα πήρε καν σε τιμή ευκαιρίας, ενώ απορούν με την κίνηση, καθώς δεν αφορά δεξαμενόπλοια -στα οποία παραδοσιακά το όνομα Ωνάση δραστηριοποιείται- αλλά φορτηγά.
«Είναι μια σπεκουλαδόρικη κίνηση, όπως αυτές που κάνουν πολλοί άλλοι, οι οποίοι όμως δεν είναι επιφορτισμένοι με την παραγωγή κοινωνικού έργου» αναφέρουν. Τα αγόρασε δε «σίγουρα όχι σε τιμές ευκαιρίας, όπως θα περίμενε κανείς, εξαιτίας των πιέσεων που δέχεται η ναυτιλιακή του Τούρκου» αναφέρουν ναυλομεσίτες. «Είναι σαν να τον ξελασπώνουν» αναφέρει λιγότερο επιεικής εφοπλιστής. Η ναυτιλιακή του Ιδρύματος Ωνάση, η Olympic Shipping, έχει στόλο με 13 τάνκερ.

Για τη δε Στέγη Γραμμάτων και Τεχνών που λειτουργεί στη Συγγρού το ίδρυμα, πολλοί είναι εκείνοι που εκτιμούν ότι «περίσσευε στην Αθήνα του Μεγάρου Μουσικής και του Κέντρου Πολιτισμού Σταύρος Νιάρχος, που είχε προαναγγελθεί». «Είναι σαν ο δόκτωρ Αντώνης Παπαδημητρίου να ήθελε μια δικιά του σκηνή» λένε κάποιοι.

Η κριτική στο management της δεύτερης γενιάς των συνεργατών του Αριστοτέλη Ωνάση δεν είναι καινούργια. Πολλά έχουν γραφτεί και ακόμα περισσότερα ψιθυρίζονται. Μεταξύ αυτών, και η ηθική ένσταση ότι έχουν μετατρέψει ένα από τα εμβληματικά ελληνικά ιδρύματα σε «οικογενειακή υπόθεση» και πως έχουν de facto αποκλείσει από τη διοίκησή του τους νόμιμους κληρονόμους και συγκεκριμένα την Αθηνά Ωνάση. Δεν είναι λίγοι άλλωστε εκείνοι που αποδίδουν την αποξένωσή της από τη χώρα στη συμπεριφορά του ιδρύματος.
Η εμπλοκή σε υπόθεση με λαθραίο πετρελαίο

Πλήγμα αποτέλεσε για το προφίλ του ιδρύματος και η προ μηνών εμπλοκή του σε υπόθεση λαθρεμπορίας ιρανικού πετρελαίου. Συγκεκριμένα, ναυτιλιακή ελεγχόμενη από το ίδρυμα πούλησε δεξαμενόπλοιό της σε εταιρικό όχημα συμφερόντων του Δημήτρη Καμπή, ο οποίος κατηγορείται από την Ουάσινγκτον για παράβαση των διεθνών κυρώσεων επί του Ιράν και ειδικότερα ότι λειτουργεί ως βιτρίνα για να μπορεί να εξάγει πετρέλαιο η Τεχεράνη.

Ο Καμπής αγόρασε τα δεξαμενόπλοιά του από διάφορους ιδιοκτήτες, πλην όμως σε μάλλον υψηλές τιμές, σύμφωνα με πηγές της αγοράς. Ενα από αυτά το αγόρασε από το Ιδρυμα Ωνάση. Για να γίνει αντιληπτή η βαρύτητα της υπόθεσης αρκεί να αναφερθεί πως οι business Καμπή με το Ιράν θεωρούνται από πολλούς πως αποτελούν τον πραγματικό λόγο που παρέμεινε προφυλακισμένος στον Κορυδαλλό από το καλοκαίρι μέχρι την περασμένη Τρίτη ο Βίκτωρ Ρέστης. Αλλες πηγές θυμίζουν πως προ διετίας είχε πουλήσει πλοία του σε Σύριους επιχειρηματίες. Τίποτα το παράνομο, αλλά σίγουρα όχι κάτι που ταιριάζει με την εικόνα του «προστάτη των γραμμάτων και των τεχνών».

Με έδρα το Liechtenstein
Για να γίνει αντιληπτό το πώς δουλεύει το Ιδρυμα Ωνάση αξίζει να αναφερθεί πως το κοινωφελές ίδρυμα «Αλέξανδρος Σ. Ωνάσης» συστάθηκε τον Δεκέμβριο του 1975, σύμφωνα με την επιθυμία του Αριστοτέλη Ωνάση και με έδρα του το Vaduz του Liechtenstein. «Ο πολιτισμός, η παιδεία, το περιβάλλον, η υγεία και η κοινωνική αλληλεγγύη» αναφέρονται ως οι βασικές προτεραιότητες του κοινωφελούς ιδρύματος.

Ολα τα έργα του χρηματοδοτούνται αποκλειστικά από τα κέρδη ενός αυτοτελούς και θεσμικά ανεξάρτητου ιδρύματος με επιχειρηματικό χαρακτήρα, με το όνομα «Ιδρυμα Αλέξανδρος Σ. Ωνάσης», με έδρα επίσης το Vaduz του Liechtenstein, το οποίο δραστηριοποιείται κυρίως στους τομείς της ναυτιλίας και των επενδύσεων σε ακίνητη περιουσία και χρηματοοικονομικά προϊόντα. Το 50% των εσόδων του με βάση το καταστατικό πρέπει να πηγαίνει σε κοινωφελείς δραστηριότητες.

Οσο όμως και να ψάξει κανείς για ισολογισμό δεν θα βρει τίποτα. Ούτε απολογισμό κοινωνικής ευθύνης. Η μόνη εμφανής συμβολή στην καθημερινότητα των Ελλήνων είναι αυτή του Ωνάσειου Καρδιοχειρουργικού Κέντρου, που παραδόθηκε το 1992 και κόστισε 75.000.000 δολάρια. Αυτό ωστόσο έγινε από την προηγούμενη διοίκηση και όχι από αυτήν του δρα Αντώνη Παπαδημητρίου.

Το θέμα αποκτά διαστάσεις, καθώς οι καιροί που ζουν οι Ελληνες είναι τόσο δύσκολοι ώστε να χρειάζεται κάθε δυνατή βοήθεια προς την κοινωνία. «Οχι βραβεύσεις, πολιτιστικές εκδηλώσεις και κινήσεις αυτοπροβολής, αλλά έργα από τα οποία να μπορούν να ζεσταθούν, να τραφούν να στεγαστούν και να αναρρώσουν Ελληνες» αναφέρουν κύκλοι που παρακολουθούν τη φιλανθρωπική δραστηριότητα στην Ελλάδα εν γένει.

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