Movie on Homer’s Odyssey Starring Ralph Fiennes Shot in Greece

Movie Homer Odyssey
Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes star in an epic based on The Odyssey. Credit: Elena Ternovaja, CC BY-SA 3.0 and Dick Thomas Johnson, CC BY 2.0/Wikipedia

An epic movie based on Homer’s ancient Greek classic, ‘The Odyssey’ is in a post-production phase after it wrapped up filming on the Ionian island of Corfu in the spring.

Starring Ralph Fiennes as Odysseus and Juliette Binoche as his beloved wife Penelope, production of  ‘The Return’ started in Corfu and the Peloponnese, before continuing in Italy, Variety reports.

Fiennes and Binoche are reuniting for the epic twenty-five years after ‘The English Patient’.

Movie Odyssey
The ‘Return” will be released in American theaters in 2024. Credit: Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street, which has picked up the rights to the film, will release it in theatres in 2024.

Variety says that the film is an Italy-Greece-UK-France co-production. Directed by Academy Award nominee Uberto Pasolini, ‘The Return’ will also star Venice Film Festival Best Young Actor Award winner Charlie Plummer.

Synopsis of the movie based on Homer’s Odyssey

Here’s an official synopsis for the film, shared by Variety: After 20 years away, Odysseus (Fiennes) washes up on the shores of Ithaca, haggard and unrecognizable. The King has finally returned home but much has changed in his kingdom since he left to fight in the Trojan war.

His beloved wife Penelope (Binoche) is now a prisoner in her own home, hounded by her many ambitious suitors to choose a new husband, a new king.

Their son Telemachus (Plummer), who has grown up fatherless, is facing death at the hands of the suitors who see him as an obstacle in their relentless pursuit of Penelope and the kingdom. Odysseus has changed too.

Scarred by his experience of war, he is no longer the mighty warrior his people remember. But he is forced to face his past in order to rediscover the strength needed to save his family and win back the love he has lost.

Odyssey according to Homer

The Odyssey, like the Iliad, is divided into 24 books, corresponding to the 24 letters in the Greek alphabet.

Within the middle section of the poem (Books 9-12), Odysseus describes all the challenges that he has faced trying to get home. These include monsters of various sorts, a visit to the afterlife, cannibals, drugs, alluring women, and the hostility of Poseidon himself. These challenges resemble those of earlier heroes like Heracles and Jason.

Odysseus’s return to his island, however, is not the end of his woes. He finds that 108 young men from the local vicinity have invaded his home to put pressure on his wife Penelope to marry one of them. A stalemate exists, and it is only resolved by an archery contest at the end of the poem, which then leads to the slaughter of all the suitors by Odysseus and his son, Telemachus.

Peace on the island is eventually restored through the intervention of Athena, goddess of wisdom, victory, and war.

In the Iliad, the hero Achilles faces no such challenges, indicating that The Odyssey has a very different idea of heroism.

Spyware Discovered on the Phones of European Parliament Members

Spyware European Parliament
European parliament. Credit: Europarl/ CC-BY-SA 2.0

The European Parliament said on Wednesday it found traces of spyware on the phones of elected politicians and staff on its defense subcommittee.

Members and staff in the chamber’s subcommittee on security and defense (SEDE) have had their phones hit with intrusive surveillance software tools, the institution said in an internal email, seen by Politico.

All lawmakers in the subcommittee have been advised to take their phones to the institution’s IT service to be checked for spyware.

Parliament’s Deputy Spokesperson Delphine Colard said in a statement that “traces found in two devices” prompted the email calling on members to have their phones checked.

“In the given geopolitical context and given the nature of the files followed by the subcommittee on security and defense, special attention is dedicated to the devices of the members of this subcommittee and the staff supporting its work,” the statement said.

The European Parliament is on high alert for cyberattacks and foreign interference in the run-up to the EU election in June.

Politico reported in December that an internal review showed that the institution’s cybersecurity “has not yet met industry standards” and is “not fully in line with the threat level” posed by state-sponsored hackers and other threat groups.

One member of the security and defense subcommittee went in for a routine check on Tuesday, which resulted in a discovery of traces of spyware on their phone. The member told Politico it wasn’t immediately clear why they were targeted with hacking software.

Spyware in Greek socialist leader’s phone

The new revelations follow previous incidents with other European Parliament members targeted with spyware.

In 2022, Greek member of the EU Parliament and opposition leader Nikos Androulakis was among a list of Greek political and public figures found to have been targeted with Predator, a spyware tool.

A scan on his phone revealed a suspect link, which allows the hacker full and constant access to the mobile device, including passwords, photos and contact folders, web browsing history, text messages, and voicemail among other things.

“Revealing who is behind such sick practices and on whose behalf they act is not a personal matter,” Androulakis said at the time. “It is my democratic duty.”

Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola previously also faced an attempted hacking using spyware.

Last June, the European Parliament, based on a year-long investigation into the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware, passed a resolution saying that the illicit use of spyware has put “democracy itself at stake.”

The resolution which was adopted with 411 votes in favor, 97 against, and 37 abstentions, called for credible investigations, legislative changes and better enforcement of existing rules to tackle abuse.

It asked the Greek government to “urgently restore and strengthen the institutional and legal safeguards”, repeal export licenses that are not in line with EU export control legislation, and respect the independence of the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy.

Hermes, the God of Thieves in Ancient Greece

Hermes in Delos greek mythology
Hermes is portrayed as being on the Greek island of Delos on this krater. The god of messengers and thieves is an important figure in Greek mythology. Credit: Egisto Sani/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In Ancient Greek mythology, Hermes is known as the herald of the gods; he is in charge of protecting travelers, as well as thieves and liars, and he also guides souls to the underworld or Hades. For his great cunning and insight, he is also considered the god of thieves.

Initially, Hermes was a god associated with the underworld. In ancient Greece, he was worshiped as “the god of the way between the lower and upper world.” This position gradually expanded to include roads in general and then borders, travelers, sailors, and commerce.

A mischievous god since his childhood

Hermes was born to Zeus and Maya, daughter of the titan Atlas, and one of the Pleiades. The legend goes that he was born on Mount Cilene in Arcadia in a cave. However, some traditions say that his birth was on Mount Olympus itself.

In the very first hours of his life, he somehow escaped from his cradle, making his way across the countryside and stealing some of Apollo’s oxen. In Homer’s works The Iliad and The Odyssey, although this tradition is not mentioned, Hermes is characterized as a cunning thief.

Other versions place the theft of oxen at a time much later in the life of the god. His cunning was such that in order not to leave footprints and be discovered, Hermes donned sandals and led the oxen to Pylos, where he killed two and locked the rest in a cave.

The god Apollo, thanks to his ability to prophesy, discovered that the culprit of the robbery of his cattle was Hermes; he then went to Cilene to accuse him in front of Maya. She showed the child in her cradle to the god, but Apollo brought the child to Zeus and demanded the return of his cattle. Hermes refused, but Zeus ordered him to comply with Apollo’s demands.

However, Hermes, seeing that his statements were not believed, took Apollo to the place where he had hid the oxen and then returned. When Apollo then heard the sweet sounds of Hermes’ lyre, he was so delighted that he remained with the animals, and later, the two gods became close friends.

Apollo gave Hermes his shepherd’s golden rod, teaching him the art of prophesying by means of dice, and Zeus made him the herald of the gods of the netherworld.

Hermes and his role as a Greek god

The main characteristic of Hermes in Greek mythology is the role of herald, or messenger, of the gods. He was a messenger when eloquence was required due to his great ability as a speaker in achieving the desired goal; hence, the tongues of sacrificed animals were typical offerings for him.

Hermes was also the god of prudence and skill in all relationships of social exchange. He is the god of deception, of the uncertain, of what happens from one place to another, and that is why he was also responsible for taking the souls of the dead into the afterlife. Hermes was renowned for doing everything he accomplished, whatever it was, with a certain skill, dexterity, and even grace.

His symbols were the rooster and the tortoise, and he is recognized by his bag, his winged sandals, his petals, a wide-brimmed hat, and his herald’s staff.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek religion, Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, although inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics, such as that of his being the patron of commerce. In the Greek interpretation of the Egyptian gods, he is compared to Thoth.

First Case of Down Syndrome Found in Ancient Greece

Down Syndrome Ancient Greece
The skeletal remains of the Down syndrome girl and her elaborate necklace. Credit: AMNA

The first confirmed case of Down syndrome in Ancient Greece was found on the island of Aegina, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications.

DNA analysis on the skeleton of a girl aged 12-16 months, who lived in the 13th century BC, in a Mycenaean settlement near the village of Lazaridis, showed that the child suffered from Down syndrome.

The syndrome is a genetic condition where a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. This means that they have a total of 47 chromosomes instead of 46. This can affect how their brain and body develop.

The girl was buried wearing an elaborate necklace made of 93 beads of faience and vitreous, as well as six of cornelian, a finding indicative of the care he received in life and death.

Down syndrome ancient Greece
This neckless was worn by the child. Credit: AMNA

The excavation has been carried out since 2005 by the Department of History and Archeology of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (EKPA). To date, a settlement and its cemetery have been uncovered.

The findings, as the director of the excavation, emeritus professor of Archeology at EKPA, Naya Polychronakou-Sgouritsa, told the Athens Macedonia News Agency (AMNA), demonstrate that the settlement of the Lazarids flourished in the two centuries of the Palace period (the 14th and 13th centuries BC) and played an important role in the events of the time in the wider Argosaronic Gulf.

In 2010 the excavation in the settlement brought to light an unexpected find, a small box-shaped tomb, dated to the 13th century BC.

How scientists uncovered the Down syndrome girl of ancient Greece

The find was soon to become very exciting for archaeologists: inside the grave were the bones of a small child along with an elaborate necklace.

Immediately they transferred the find together with the soil that surrounded it to the Conservation Unit of the Museum of Archeology and Art History of the Greek National Academy of Sciences, to be carefully cleaned and preserved.

The osteological research carried out on the skeletal material by the bioarchaeologist, Dr. Eleanna Prevedorou, found that she had morphological characteristics of skeletal changes indicative of a very serious chronic disease or diseases.

In other words, she was a little girl “who spent most, if not all, of her life very ill and suffered from intense pain”, as Prevedorou tells AMNA.

Later genetic analyses of samples of the material carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany, revealed that this little girl also suffered from Down syndrome.

“However we do not yet know whether and to what extent the severe health problems detected osteologically were associated with the syndrome”, Prevedorou explains.

This finding is very important, as it is the first time that a case of Down syndrome has been identified in Greece during antiquity, emphasizes the professor emeritus of EKPA, Naia Polychronakou-Sgouritsa, clarifying however that “there may be others, which however have been examined by a large institute, such as Max Planck.

Only a few cases of Down syndrome have been recorded in humans in ancient times, mainly because of the difficulties in identifying genetic disorders in ancient DNA samples without the use of modern techniques.

What Did India Learn From the Ancient Greeks?

Ancient Greek India
A woman from India in traditional clothing. Ancient Greece and India interacted in antiquity. Credit:Amitsah8888 /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The interaction of the two great ancient civilizations of Greece and India, which began with the invasion of Alexander the Great in 327 BC and lasted for more than two centuries, has been the subject of numerous books by Indian and Western scholars over the years.

While visiting Greece in 2018, Ram Nath Kovind, the then President of India, praised the contributions of Alexander the Great to the history of his nation.

“The most famous Greek to come to India was of course Alexander the Great. He arrived at the head of an invading army in 326 BC—but he left as a friend,” Kovind wrote on Twitter.

alexander the great
Mosaic of Alexander the Great in Pompeii, c. 100 BC. Credit: Public domain

The historical presence of Greeks in India and the way the two civilizations interacted has always been controversial, says Dr. Richard Stoneman, a scholar and the author of a book on the subject in a recent interview with Greek Reporter.

“The British scholars who were the first to really look at the art of ancient India in the middle of the nineteenth century assumed that there was wholesale influence from the Greeks on India. Then there was a big reaction among Indian scholars, who said that actually India invented everything without any outside influence whatsoever,” he explains.

An influential book, “They Came, They Saw, but India Conquered,” written by the historian A.K. Narain in 1957, is characteristic of this later line of scholarly thought.

But Stoneman maintains that one must find a happy medium between these two extreme theoretical positions.

Ancient Greek IndiaHis book, titled “The Greek Experience of India—Two Centuries of Greek Presence,” attempts to do just that. “I hope that my book provides a middle gound which would help someone understand the two-way interaction between the Greeks and the Indians, during those last centuries BC.”

Stoneman, an honorary visiting professor at Exeter University in the UK, says that his new book is “focused on how the ancient Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, set about understanding India.”

His work delves not only into Alexander’s invasion of the Indus Valley in 327 BC—the first large-scale encounter between Greek and Indian civilizations—but also into the era that followed, when Hellenic-style successor kingdoms ruled by strongmen rose and fell in northwest India and Bactria, its neighbor to the west.

The presence of these Hellenic states in that region of the world and their occasional forays even further east created a zone of Greco-Indian contact, influence, and exchange, as well as occasional conflict, stretching from Central Asia to the Ganges.

Stoneman argues that the two civilizations influenced each other in the arts and philosophy, but as he points out “in many ways the influence primarily went the other way, from India to the Greeks, although of course, there are many instances where Greek influences are very perceptible.”

“This happened chiefly in painting and sculpture,” the researcher says. He relates that large-scale sculpture began to be created in the city of Mathura in the third century BC, and about two centuries later, another school of sculptural art, heavily influenced by Hellenistic models, developed in Gandhara in today’s northern Pakistan.

Ancient Greek India
An Indo-Corinthian capital with a palmette and the Buddha at its centre. Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Public domain

Art is “most important, evident” Ancient Greek influence on India

Stoneman declares that “Art is the most important, the most evident, and the most lasting feature of the Greek influence in India.”

“From the very first moment that Western scholars and visitors set eyes on Gandharan art, they were immediately struck by the stylistic similarities to Hellenistic art, the kind of relative realism of the depictions and the style in which the figures are depicted,” the author notes.

“I think you can see the same in the earlier art of Mathura,” says Stoneman, “which is particularly interesting because until the third century BC there was no large-scale sculpture in India. All there was were small scale, mainly clay, figurines, and bronze workings the size of one’s hand.”

“But when the Greeks arrived in northwestern India suddenly they started making life-size or even larger statues out of stone,” Stoneman explains to Greek Reporter.

Ancient Greek India
The story of the Trojan Horse was depicted in the art of Gandhara. This shows interaction between Greece and India. British Museum. Photo Source: Wikimedia commons/ Public domain

“There are many similarities to Greek statues. Gandhara is very widely recognized as being very much influenced by Greek and Roman art. The Mathuran style is stiffer, not as flexible or fluid as Greek sculpture, but still there are similarities because they are of large size and they are in important respects realistic,” he states.

The British scholar notes that there are also small details, such as how the subjects’ drapery is depicted with the naturalistic folds, as well as the knots in their tied sashes, which also proves the extent of the influence of Hellenistic art in India.

Stoneman also points to a second area analyzed in his book which is the interaction between the two civilizations in the realms of philosophy and the sciences, saying “Indian scholars are very ready to admit that sciences in the early centuries of the AD era were much influenced by Greek mathematicians and astronomers.”

But what is really interesting is the way these philosophical ideas interacted, he notes. The Greek philosopher, Pyrrho of Elis, who traveled with Alexander, was himself influenced by Indian philosophy. Soon after that, he says, we find a great deal of interaction of ideas and theories between the two cultures.

“The philosophical ideas of Democritus and Epicurus have remained a living tradition in Sanskrit philosophical thought for a thousand years,” Stoneman argues, referring to the primary sacred language of Hinduism which has been used as a philosophical language in the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

During the two centuries of the Indo-Greek era, the philosophical interaction between Greece and India was very productive for later civilizations, states the author, who points to its influence on the development of the philosophy of skepticism.

The author refers, as an example of this, to “The way that skepticism seems to be rooted in a Buddhist perceptive, which denies permanence to anything at all. We see very interesting echoes of that in the philosophy of Epicurus. We also know that later Greek philosophers were interested in Indian thought. This kind of mystical perspective on the universe is very much shared…”

Globe-trotting Greek Photographer in Athens Exhibition

Visitors at Terra Incognita photo exhibition at Technopolis, Athens.
Terra Incognita travel photography exhibition runs until Sunday, February 25, 2024 at Technopolis, Athens. Credit: Athanasios Maloukos

The free entry exhibition of awarded Greek travel photographer Athanasios Maloukos has entered its final week on show at Technopolis in Athens under the auspices of the Embassy of Mexico and the Consulate of the Ivory Coast.

The showcase, titled Terra Incognita, comprises over fifty ethnographic images from the photographer’s travels around the world spanning fifteen years. These chronicle customs, festivals, rituals, and the everyday life at faraway lands among some of the world’s most isolated populations.

Maloukos has been scooping up international photography awards since 2012 and was most recently awarded Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 at the homonymous international competition.

As he prepares for his next mission in the exotic Mozambique, he tells Greek Reporter about his personal journey as a photographer, moved by the comments he received from the show’s visitors.

From amateur to awarded photographer

Maloukos was intrigued by photography since his student years, trying to see through his lens what he saw around him “with a different perspective that captured life in a specific frame and focused the interest in a delimited setting.”

“Starting out as a simple photographer, it was impossible not to become interested in capturing human expressions at some point,” he adds. “So, the marriage of photography with my other interest, travel, occurred naturally.”

Over the course of time, he sharpened his photographer’s eye, but his travels also became more demanding. However, it was only when he was prompted by his friends that he decided to participate in a photography competition in 2009.

“The participation alone in a competition, and indeed an international one, is an unknown aspect of photographic knowledge, where you have to renounce your own personal or emotional connection to an image and be able to perceive how other people receive your creation, but without this becoming an end in itself,” the photographer explained.

Visitor looking at an image at the Terra Incognita photo exhibition at Technopolis, Athens.
When participating in competitions, photographers need to renounce their own personal or emotional connections to images so as to be able to perceive of their creations through the eyes of others. Credit: Athanasios Maloukos

Greek travel photographer’s international awards

Maloukos was eventually granted his first award in 2012, when he won first place at the International Photography Awards in the Travel Special category. He was among five finalists for the Discovery of the Year award.

He has since received numerous awards and gold medals in international photography competitions, such as the Best New Talent of the Year and Best Portrait Photographer of the Year at the Prix de la Photographie de Paris. His most recent recognition was the Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 award for his series on Siberia’s Shamanism.

“It is not often that the judging panel is surprised by images, but in 21 years we have never seen these Siberian shamans, here on the icy landscapes of Lake Baikal,” the competition’s jury commented. “These images have fantastic and intricate detail.”

Terra Incognita photo exhibition at Technopolis, Athens.
Terra Incognita photo exhibition at Technopolis, Athens. Credit: Athanasios Maloukos

A turning point in the photographer’s work

The Terra Incognita exhibition in Athens includes Maloukos’ most iconic shots from as far back as 2007, taking visitors on a colorful journey to spectacular, little known areas and events around the globe with the help of a digital QR catalog which tells the story of each image and its people.

Looking back at his evolution as a photographer, Maloukos tells Greek Reporter of an incident that caused his photographer’s eye to “completely change direction.”

“During a touristic trip to Peru, which coincided with the country’s national holiday, and while I was in a small village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, there was the customary parade of small children dressed in traditional Quechua costumes,” he recalls.

“The mayor of the village invited me on stage, where the officials were standing, and then to a small celebration, to take photos. This was the first time that I felt I was becoming a local, and although the experience was very short, I [realized] the importance of being accepted into a community and participating in their daily or even festive activities. Since then my photographer’s eye has become more specialized and more human-centered,” Maloukos concludes.

This unique quality is strikingly reflected in the Terra Incognita showcase.

School pupils looking at an image at Terra Incognita photo exhibition at Technopolis, Athens.
School visit to Terra Incognita photo exhibition at Technopolis, Athens. Credit: Athanasios Maloukos

Among thousands of visitors who visited the show, including many Greek schools, Maloukos singles out one particular comment made by a young boy admiring a photograph of the Golden Temple of the Sikh, a spiritual space that welcomes people from all religions and doctrines.

“Right now, in this exhibition, I feel like I find myself in such a temple,” the student said in awe.

* Terra Incognita is at Technopolis, Athens until Sunday, February 25, 2024, 10am-10pm. Admission is free.

Greece Is India’s Gateway to the EU, Mitsotakis Says in New Delhi

Greece India
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Mitsotakis and his spouse Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki in New Delhi. Credit: Press Office of the Greek PM

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis highlighted the importance of Greece in India’s efforts to get closer to the EU during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday.

He emphasized that thanks to the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor, the future is brighter and “one only has to look at the map to see that Greece is India’s gateway to Europe.”

“Certainly, to achieve this, peace and stability must be achieved in the Middle East,” stressed the Prime Minister.

Mitsotakis spoke of significant progress in deepening strategic cooperation in security, defense, and cyber security.

The Greek Premier noted that “we are focusing on renewable energy sources, on shipping, on infrastructure and we want to learn from the Indian miracle of Informatics.”

Greece India
Press conference by the two leaders. Credit: Press Office of the Greek PM

Greece, India in “strategic partnership”

The Indian Prime Minister referred to the visit he made to Greece last August, during which the two countries agreed to elevate their relationship to a “strategic partnership” and argued that the visit of Mitsotakis to India is an “amazing opportunity.”

He stated that today’s discussions were “extremely satisfactory” and underlined that the goal is to double trade between the two countries by 2030. Modi also stressed that there are new opportunities for defense cooperation between the two countries.

The mobility and migration partnership agreement between the two countries was among topics discussed, Modi said. “We held discussions on finalizing the mobility and migration partnership agreement as soon as possible. This will help [in] emboldening our people-to-people partnership,” he said.

“It will constitute a very important step towards strengthening our cooperation in issues such as illegal migration, fighting human trafficking, but also offering young Indians an opportunity to come and work in Greece and benefit from the growth of our economy…,” Mitsotakis noted.

Greece India
Mitsotakis and his spouse at the monument of Mahatma Gandhi. Credit: Press Office of the Greek PM

Accompanied by his spouse Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki, the Prime Minister arrived at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he was received by Modi. He then laid a wreath at the monument of Mahatma Gandhi and left a message in the visitors’ book.

The last prime ministerial visit from Greece to India took place in 2008. The Greek PM is accompanied by senior officials and a high-powered business delegation. He will also visit Mumbai before returning to Athens.

Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis, who is also in New Delhi, amplified Greece’s role as India’s gateway to the EU. Greece hopes to become an integral part of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) and to be India’s gateway to the European Union, he said.

According to Gerapetritis, this ambitious connectivity project will “enhance the strategic importance of the regions involved, both economically and from a geopolitical aspect, while promoting peace and stability.”

Pointing out that he had come at the head of a business delegation of one hundred Greek entrepreneurs seeking to explore the prospects for collaboration and cooperation, he also highlighted the opportunities offered by the EU-India relationship for promoting stability and prosperity, including a large market with half a billion consumers, highly trained labor and a single market without trade barriers, among others.

This is a developing story.

Greek-Australian Singer VASSY Wins Prestigious Award, Releases New LP

VASSY pictured receiving the EDMA Icon award in 2023. Credit: VASSY / EDMA

Greek-Australian singer Vassy Karagiorgos, better known by her stage name VASSY, recently won the Song Writers Platinum Plaque from the US National Music Publishers’ Association for her 2014 hit “Bad.”

“I have received other Plaques before, but getting this Gem is Rare,” VASSY wrote on Instagram. “It’s such an honor to be recognized & acknowledged.”

“The timing was serendipitous as yesterday was the same day my new LP Supreme dropped,” she added.

With the new LP Supreme, VASSY is returning to her artistic roots and tracing her steps back to an earlier era of her creative output.

“Supreme showcases my eclectic range,” she said. “I started in music as a jazz singer, then evolved into an indie pop artist who eventually transitioned to the dance world, crowned as Queen of EDM.”

“I love making dance records, but Supreme gave me a chance to incorporate those earlier sounds into a framework that’s more authentic to my origins,” she explained.

VASSY added: “I missed the freedom in the studio to be more versatile and create songs with no pressure to fit a certain format. I love having the ability to go from quirky indie pop records to jazzy, soulful Afro beat / Latin inspired tunes…It’s fun expressing my voice through various genres and styles of music.”

It follows a decade as one of the premier vocalists in dance music—a vaunted career that has seen her score a 14x certified platinum record for her David Guetta-collaboration “Bad” and a 9x platinum song for her Tiësto-collaboration “Secrets.” She is the first woman ever to win the EDMA Icon Award.

VASSY hits the US charts

About a decade ago, VASSY relocated to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for music. She was born and raised in Darwin, the daughter of two Greek immigrants to Australia.

The decision to leave home paid off, and VASSY can now point to several number-one hits and accolades throughout her career, having become an international dance music icon.

She was initially discovered by Australian Radio Station Triple J after she won song of the year. Her single We Are Young reached the number-one spot on the US Billboard Dance Chart, making her the first Australian artist to achieve a number-one hit with her solo single debut release.

In 2020, the artist joined music’s “1,000,000,000 List,” which honors musicians who have surpassed a billion streams for their work. She was honored for the song “Bad” on which she collaborated with David Guetta and Showtek.

Then, in 2022, VASSY surpassed her previous record for streams when “Bad” was viewed over two billion times across all streaming platforms.

Last year, her song “Pieces,” featuring Bingo Players and Disco Fries, was also a massive hit and reached the top of the US dance charts.

Shadow Economy in Greece is Shrinking, IMF Says

IMF Shadow economy Greece
IMF warns AI to hit almost 40% of jobs worldwide. Credit: World Bank Photo Collection / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The shadow economy in Greece fell to 16 percent of GDP in 2021 according to the latest report by researchers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The report titled “Recent Trends of Informality in Greece: Evidence from Subnational Data” notes that the shadow economy recorded a significant decline in Greece from 2013 to 2021, excluding the year of the pandemic in 2020.

Shadow economy or informality according to the term used by economists, consists of transactions between individuals, or individuals and businesses, without being registered.

It includes bribes to state officials, merchandise bought and sold in cash with no records showing, businesses and individuals providing goods and services without issuing receipts, money not declared for taxation and so on.

According to the report, the shadow economy strengthened at the height of the debt crisis, reaching 30 percent of gross domestic product in 2013. The increase is attributed to the severe recession, the deterioration of tax incentives and the further weakening of the payment culture. From these levels, the shadow economy fell to 16 percent of GDP in 2021.

There are also significant regional variations in the reduction of the shadow economy, ranging from 5 percent of (local) GDP in Western Macedonia to 18 percent of GDP in Crete. More generally, the decrease is greater in Attica and the islands, and smaller in more remote parts of the mainland.

According to the International Monetary Fund researchers, this shrinking of illegal money is also reflected in the increase in tax revenue by 4 percent of GDP.

The significant reduction of the underground economy in Greece in recent years is thanks to several factors, according to the IMF:

  • The enforcement of stricter regulations against financial crime and tax evasion;
  • greater flexibility in the labor market, such as in working hours;
  • increased incentives to officially report irregular activities;
  • significant progress in digitalization, including improving infrastructure and improving digital public services, that has helped integrate the self-employed;
  • the modernized employment information system, which has curbed undeclared labor.

Greece’s Central Bank says the shadow economy is larger

Last October Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras put the size of the shadow economy significantly higher at  20.9 percent of GDP.

The central banker said that the problem of tax evasion is an international one, but noted Greeks spend €40 billion more than they declare as income.

In the period 2015-21, this excess spending ranged from €36 billion to €49 billion, the central banker said.

Total declared income for 2021 was about €84 billion, of which 79 percent came from salaried workers, including merchant marine employees. These categories, who can’t hide their income, which is taxed at its source, pay disproportionately high taxes.

About 70 percent of taxpayers engaged in a form of business activity, or who are self-employed declare annual incomes less than €10,000. And 37 percent of individual taxpayers declare income of up to €5,000.

Stournaras said tax evasion was more evident among self-employed and very small enterprises, but tax evasion was notable also in indirect taxation with Greece recording the fourth highest VAT gap in the EU, equal to 19.7 percent of total VAT (or 3.0 billion euros).



Summit of Experts in Athens to Delve Into Generative AI

Generative AI Summit
The summit will delve into AI’s capabilities and its transformative impact across different sectors. Public Domain

A generative AI summit will be held in Athens, Greece between February 29th and March 2nd with the participation of dozens of experts from around the world.

The summit, which will be held at Eugenides Foundation, will delve into AI’s capabilities and its transformative impact across sectors of public policy, legal, consulting, and finance.

It will also explore how generative AI can inspire creativity and innovation in product, healthcare, food/nutrition, and fashion industries as well as its role in education, marketing, people, and customer experience by enhancing communication, creativity, and collaboration.

In July 2020, the hype and buzz around GPT was brand new. In just under four years since that time, GPT is no longer an alien term, and generative AI is pretty much everywhere. Since 2020, large-scale commercialization of AI, driven by OpenAI and its founder Sam Altman, spurred the likes of Google, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and other tech majors to double down on AI.

Many doubted it at first, but GenAI is now well and is truly the future.

A panel of experts from Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Nvidia, and Trible will discuss how generative AI can facilitate product design, prototyping, user interface, user experience, testing, and feedback. This track reveals how generative AI can help product managers and developers create innovative and user-friendly products with tools and techniques.

Another panel will explore how generative AI can enhance content creation, customer segmentation, personalization, and social media marketing. It will demonstrate how generative AI can help investors and financial institutions make better and informed decisions and optimize performance with insights and tips.

Please follow the link for the full agenda of the summit.

What is generative AI?

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence technology that can produce various types of content, including text, imagery, audio, and synthetic data. The recent buzz around generative AI has been driven by the simplicity of new user interfaces for creating high-quality text, graphics, and videos in a matter of seconds.

The technology, it should be noted, is not brand-new. Generative AI was introduced in the 1960s in chatbots. However, it was not until 2014 with the introduction of generative adversarial networks, or GANs, a type of machine learning algorithm, that generative AI could create convincingly authentic images, videos, and audio of real people.

On the one hand, this newfound capability has opened up opportunities that include better movie dubbing and rich educational content.

It also unlocked concerns about deepfakes, or digitally forged images and videos, and harmful cybersecurity attacks on businesses, including nefarious requests that realistically mimic an employee’s boss.

Related: Top Scientists Selected to Advance Artificial Intelligence in Greece