The ‘Lost Antetokounmpos’ of Greece

antetokounmpo biopic
Giannis and his brother Thanasis in Sepolia, Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0

There are thousands of undocumented kids in Greece, like Giannis Antetokounmpo who, along with his brothers, was effectively stateless for the first 18 years of his life, having no documents from either Nigeria or Greece since his parents had entered the country illegally.

Antetokounmpo, who was born and raised in Sepolia, Athens was given Greek citizenship only after he was drafted into the NBA in 2013. Just this week, his mother Veronika and his brother Alexandros, also born in Greece, officially were given the same privilege.

The Greek government at the time realized the marketing potential that Giannis’ talent would bring to Greece, and therefore gave him the papers that would enable him to travel to the US and pursue his dream.

He, however, was among the exceptions. Tens of thousands of other men and women who have been born in Greece are not so lucky. Success on the international stage seems to be a rare way of obtaining Greek citizenship or official documents.

But being drafted by the NBA should not be a prerequisite for any young person in order to obtain what is obvious for many, the citizenship of the country where he or she was born.

Undocumented in the country they were born

For an individual without official documents life can be really tough. The simplest daily task requires a Herculean effort to be completed. Finding a job, sending your children to school, accessing health care services, or even being able to rent a house are things that most of the time are impossible. Let alone the psychological impact of having your birth country reject you and classify you as an undocumented foreigner.

The example of Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brothers is striking. All they had was a paper from school with their name and a simple word next to the field of nationality: ”Allodapos,” which is Greek for ”foreigner.” Neither a passport nor an ID card.

This single word was enough to make their lives difficult. Giannis and his family could not even board a plane, since ID was required for their trip. But, of course, it is not just traveling that bothered them. “When his basketball team in Greece was traveling by plane for a game he had to travel alone by bus,” says Giannis Tzikas, a cafe owner at Giannis neighborhood of Sepolia and a family friend of the Antetokounpos.

Antetokounmpo
The Antetokounmpo brothers holding the NBA trophy at the Parthenon. Credit: Giannis Antetokounmpo/Facebook

Speaking with Greek Reporter, Tzikas, explains how Giannis, Alexandros and the rest of the young boys of the family struggled with racism and rejection due to the color of their skin.

When he saw Alexandros, Giannis’ young brother, being friends with youngsters who were not up to his family’s standards, he asked him to stop following them.

It was then when Alexandros said ”but, Sir, I’m a child as well, I want to play but no one wants to play with me.”

Tzikas was shocked; it was that moment when he realized that things most people take for granted are what migrants like the kids of the Antetokounmpo family need the most: to be accepted.

To be accepted in a society that, according to Tzikas, has members who, hypocritically now congratulate them but “used to call them derogatory names, and were chasing them with broomsticks.

“We all know that most migrants are willing to take any job in order to survive in the country where they live. That’s what Giannis Antetokoumpo did when he left high school.

”He came to me and said now that I finished school, I can work,” Tzikas tells Greek Reporter. The cafe owner, however, told him that instead of getting a low-paying job, he should keep on playing basketball. This is perhaps what changed Giannis’ life forever.
The example of the Greek Freak is a clear indication of what the children of undocumented migrants have to go through. They have to find any kind of low-paying job in order to assist their families; they often can’t afford the ”luxuries” of sports.

These people also, of course, have to deal with something even worse: The fear of deportation.

The Stories of Manolis and Sam

In an interview with Greek Reporter, Manolis (Manuel) Oogkounlegie and Sam (who did not want his last name on record), two young men in their early thirties who were raised and still live in Greece, spoke about their personal experiences in the country regarding racism, life opportunities and nationality; at a time when everyone loves a young man who looks so much like them, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

When asked about their feelings regarding the fact that the nationality laws in Greece change often and make it either easier or more difficult for second-generation migrants to obtain Greek citizenship, Oogkounlegie was clear:

”It annoys me; it annoys me very much, I’m not going to lie. It makes me angry. There are so many kids who were born here, myself included, who are denied their rights,” he says with frustration.

”We went to school, we studied, we graduated, our friends are here… I’ve been saying these things for so long, that I’m afraid I’ll sound quaint,” he adds.

He was born in Greece to parents who had come to the country decades ago. He was raised in this country, he went to school and learned the language, he even graduated from a nursing school.

Manolis studied to become a qualified nurse. However, he’s not working as a nurse right now.

”I work in a bar-restaurant until I find something better or create something on my own,” he says in what seems to be the norm for every young Greek nowadays.

”Psychology intrigues me a lot,” he adds.

Unfortunately, the 32-year old is still waiting for his citizenship application to be approved.

When he talks, his accent is purely Greek; there is no way one could say that this man is not Greek. He is just like Giannis in this way, whose Greek accent when he speaks in English makes everyone smile with pride.

Manolis now lives in Kipseli, a densely-populated downtown Athenian neighborhood. Kipseli is his home as it is to thousands of other individuals who happened to be lucky enough to be born with official documents, unlike himself.

Waiting for citizenship since 2017

A similar picture is painted by Sam as well. ”I submitted my citizenship application in 2017 when the law changed. I’m still waiting,” he says calmly.

Sam is 34. He studied in Greece to become an accountant but now works as a paramedic, helping doctors and nurses save the lives of people in the country.

However, his voice becomes more emotional when he explains the difficulties he has to face all the time.

”Greece does not recognize the documents issued by Nigeria. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Their explanation was that there is widespread corruption there; this is the most racist thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” he told Greek Reporter in obvious frustration.

After explaining the unbearable bureaucratic procedures he had to go through to obtain just a single proof of his birth, Sam remembered how rude an employee of a diplomatic office was to him at one time.

”Nobody asked you to come to my country. If you don’t like the way I do my job, you can just leave,” were the words Sam said were spoken by the bureaucrat while he was trying to validate a document from Nigeria.

Changing Laws

Citizenship laws have changed four times in the last decade in Greece. As a general rule, progressive governments make the procedure easier, but conservative administrations overturn these policies, making it more difficult for second-generation migrants to obtain Greek citizenship.

”Laws change all the time,” Manolis pointed out.

”I know people who haven’t even started their applications yet because they ask from them way too much.” Of course, the problem with documents is not the only obstacle here. Social exclusion used to be — and unfortunately continues to be — an issue.

Both Manolis and Sam said that he never had to endure violent or racist aggression by anyone as part of living in Greece. ”It could be due to my body type. I’m a big guy,” they both said, pointing out a scary fact: The weaker you seem, the more chances you have to be attacked.

Greeks remember the storming of flea markets by Golden Dawn members in 2012 and 2013, where poor migrants became the innocent victims of hate.

However, both Manolis and Sam agree that these incidents are not widespread; they hardly even happen now. Fortunately enough, the vast majority of the Greek society is tolerant indeed. It’s a very small but loud minority that causes trouble.

”It was during the times when Golden Dawn was prominent here when everyone was scared,” Manolis recalls. ”Things were happening to other people; I didn’t even know them, but I was feeling like these attacks on them, were attacks against me,” he said.

Sam shared a similar story. He wasn’t personally attacked or racially abused, but had to face many difficulties when he was trying to find a job. Even when he got one, nothing was easy. The lack of official documents or a visa make things tough in regard to services or healthcare, he explained.

Giannis Antetokounmpo case highlights hypocrisy

”This is why the situation with Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is so hypocritical by some individuals. It drives me crazy,” he adds.

”Giannis did it. Shouldn’t this now turn into food for thought for all these people? Have they wondered whether there are other Giannises in this world? Not just in sports, what about teachers, for example?” Sam asks.

”If they get the opportunities they need, they’ll achieve so many things; they’ll help in so many ways,” he states. ”Unfortunately, many of them are trapped and they can’t raise their heads above this situation.” Sam speaks with regret for all those unknown heroes, whose dreams are hindered for reasons that are beyond their control and are still difficult to understand.

“All these people are people with dreams, talents, and hopes. They graduate from Greek schools, many of them continue and become students at Greek universities. They are ready to offer their services to the economy of this nation, and yet, the difficulties of not having official documents as the children of illegal immigrants pose obstacles to every single step they take. To their enrollment, their graduation, their job applications, their entitlements, everything. This is why many are frustrated.”

This is why Sam and Manolis themselves are saddened by this reality. However, they are not abandoning their efforts.

As Manolis said, ”this is where I was born and raised.” This is not just “a” country for him. This is his own country.

That’s why him and Sam never wanted to leave the country.

”I’d only leave if I found something much better professionally, that would allow me to progress my career,” Sam explained. ”However, I don’t intend on leaving, no,” he added.

Like Antetokounmpo, Thousands of Those Born in Greece Remain Undocumented

Thousands upon thousands of people, particularly second-generation migrants, may have been born to parents who came here illegally, but who know no other homeland but Greece. They have to cope with the same struggles as their parents, despite them being born in the country and raised as Greeks.

Nikos Deji, head of Generation 2.0, a non-profit group consisting of people having different origins who work together to promote equal participation in a diverse society, says that estimating the numbers of second-generation kids awaiting citizenship is very hard, given the lack of reliable statistics.

“A few years ago, we came to the conclusion that around 200,000 young people were entitled to Greek citizenship. I am sure that this number has grown since. Only a fraction of them have actually been successful. Many have already left the country,” he tells Greek Reporter.

Deji says that there is no political will to offer these second-generation migrants equal rights. “The authorities prefer to keep them as ‘hostages’ instead of processing their applications,” he states.

He explains that they would rather offer occasional citizenships according to political propaganda, or clientele expediency. This is what happened with Antetokounmpo. “He was an exception to the rule. Second-generation young people cannot rejoice with the success of Giannis,” Deji states.

The law states that the acquisition of Greek citizenship for those entitled to it should be completed within a period of 18 months. The activist explains, however, that “Unfortunately, there are applications lagging from 2016. Young people remain for years without papers. Born in Greece, but remain migrants in their birth-country for years.”

He tells Greek Reporter that the government promised to create an agency that would speed up the process. “The agency was established in the fall of 2020, but it remains inactive. There is no personnel. Zero applications have been processed since then. It is a joke.”

Hypocrisy is a Greek Word

Deji believes that the triumphant messages many Greek public figures and politicians have sent after Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to the first NBA title in half a century, smack of hypocrisy.

It appears that politicians are attempting to steal some of the limelight of a global icon who they originally did not appreciate.

He recalls the example of former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who granted Greek nationality to Antetokounmpo. Samaras had opposed a 2010 law of the center-left government of George Papandreou that would have given rights — including citizenship — to second-generation migrants whose parents had come here illegally.

When he assumed office, he sent the law to Greece’s highest court, which annulled it.

A few months later, when Antetokounmpo was drafted into the NBA, he welcomed the basketball player’s family into his office and announced that they were being granted Greek citizenship after many years of being stateless.

Antetokounmpo Greek citizenship
Antetokounmpo and his parents were invited to former Prime Minister Samaras’ office and granted Greek citizenship in 2013. Credit: PM’s press office

Several politicians in Greece back then had no time for Antetokounmpo. Today, as the “Greek Freak” became the King of basketball, the same people who were once sarcastic about his name and African roots, are displaying affection and pride for his achievements.

Current PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship, was among those who voted against the legislation to give second-generation kids citizenship in 2016.

Antetokounmpo was stateless in Greece until His NBA Draft Candidacy

Antetokounmpo, like dozens of thousands of second-generation migrants from every corner of the world, was stateless and black in Greece during the 1990s and early 2000s when racism and xenophobia were on the rise.

As the son of African immigrants who had come here illegally, he was perpetually vulnerable to attacks by racist militants, and to threats of deportation to Nigeria, a country he had never even visited.

He sold watches, handbags and sunglasses on the streets of Athens to survive. Before he was drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA draft, he was just another black kid on the street.

“Eight years ago, eight and a half years ago, when I came to the league, I didn’t know where my next meal would come from. My mom was selling stuff in the street. Now I’m here sitting at the top of the top. I’m extremely blessed,” the Greek Freak said in remarks to the press on Tuesday.

He was speaking of a time when the fascist Golden Dawn party — now a criminal organization — became a powerful force in Greek politics. In his neighborhood of Sepolia, Golden Dawn came in first in the local elections of 2014.

Racism, xenophobia in Greece

The mood of the day was brilliantly captured by Pyrros Dimas, the most decorated Greek athlete in the Olympics and widely considered as one of the greatest weightlifters of all time.

Dimas was born to ethnic Greek parents in Albania. He described racism and xenophobia in a recent interview: “When I was getting into a bus I always grabbed the highest handle so my hands could be seen. I was afraid that if someone lost a wallet, I would be accused of stealing.”

The three-time Olympic gold medalist said that Greeks are racist towards the weak and the poor. “If I did not become an Olympic champion, I would not have been easily accepted…The same goes for Giannis (Antetokounmpo).”

“If he was left selling CDs, he would simply be a black man selling CDs. He was drafted in the NBA and this forced (former Prime Minister) Antonis Samaras to invite him to the PM’s residency and offer Greek citizenship. This is hypocritical.”

“Greeks eventually loved us because we gave what every nation loves the most: pride,” Dimas said.

There are thousands of kids like Antetokounmpo not allowed to unleash their potential in Greece. Born in the country, but without citizenship and all the associated rights that come with it. Although the country has made strides in combating racism, there is still a long way before the nation offers full rights to those who are stateless but not as famous and successful as Antetokounmpo and Dimas.

France Recalls Its Ambassadors to the US and Australia after AUKUS Announcement

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French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled France’s ambassadors to the United States and Australia in response to AUKUS. Credit: Remy Juan, CC BY-SA

French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled France’s ambassadors to the United States and Australia in response to the AUKUS alliance between the two countries and the United Kingdom.

Macron is recalling the ambassadors in retaliation against Biden’s announcement of the US and UK’s plan to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines, a decision he made without consulting the French president.

“At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to immediately recall our two ambassadors to the United States and Australia to Paris for consultations,” said Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister. “This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States.”

This act by Macron intensifies an already heated move by the US, as Biden aims to signal dominance to China on the international stage. Le Drain also clarified that the ambassadors would be going directly back to Paris– a drastic diplomatic measure that clearly signifies that a significant break between the countries has formed. Le Drain also said that France perceived AUKUS as a betrayal of trust.

A crucial aspect of the AUKUS alliance is Australia backing out of a $90 billion submarine deal with France in order to move forward with nuclear-powered submarines. The severity of Le Drain’s language and Macron’s actions suggest that this disagreement will have a lasting effect on the relationships between all countries involved.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared to minimize the impact of France’s announcement:

“We cooperate closely with France on shared priorities both in the Indo-Pacific region and we’ll continue to do so here in the Security Council,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “Good friends have disagreements, but that’s the nature of friendship and that’s — because you’re friends, you can have disagreement and continue to work on those areas of cooperation.”

She added: “We will continue to work with our French colleagues on areas of cooperation and address any tensions in our relationship, but we don’t see those tensions changing the nature of our friendship.”

France recalls ambassadors after Biden’s bold AUKUS announcement

These diplomatic maneuverings are part of a larger movement headed by Biden to counter China’s growing international power. Biden hopes that working with other nations will strengthen the global position against China. But in doing so, he has potentially lost an ally in France.

The US, UK and Australia will hold meetings over the next months to discuss cyber security, developing technologies, and defense. The AUKUS alliance hopes to strengthen the nations ability to engage with contemporary security threats.

Although the three nations explicitly stated that their partnership is not specifically about China, Biden has made it clear that countering China’s autocracy with democracy is one of the primary goals of his foreign policy.

AUKUS believes that suppling Australia with nuclear submarines will give the country the ability to function at a more advanced military level. Nuclear submarines are capable of moving at faster speeds and withstanding greater amounts of stress than standard submarines.

The US and the UK are working together to form teams capable of helping Australia obtain nuclear submarines within the next 18 months. The new plan is at the expense of Australia’s $90 billion deal with France for normal submarines.

DNA Analysis Sheds Light on Minoan and Mycenaean Genetic Origins

 

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“Saffron Gatherer” from a Minoan fresco in Akrotiri, Santorini. Credit: Public Domain

For the first time, scientists have obtained genetic material and analyzed genome sequences from the ancient Minoans and Mycenaeans, who lived three to five thousand years ago.

The new analysis suggests that the Minoans and Mycenaeans share a great deal of their genetic heritage.

Dr Iosif Lazaridis, from Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, and colleagues focused on burials from the Minoan civilization, which flourished on the island of Crete from 2,600 to 1,100 BC, and the Mycenaean culture, which has existed across Greece from 1,600 to 1,100 BC.

Dr Lazaridis explained that most of the people who created these civilizations appear to be local — deriving between 62% and 86% of their ancestry from people who introduced agriculture to Europe from Anatolia (modern Turkey) in Neolithic times, starting from about 7,000 years ago.

Genetic differences and similarities between Minoans and Mycenaeans

But the Bronze Age Mycenaean and Minoan skeletons revealed ancestry from populations originating in either the Caucasus mountains or Iran. Between 9% and 17% of their genetic make-up came from this source.

In addition, the team’s paper in Nature journal reports, the Mycenaeans — but not the Minoans — show evidence of genetic input from people who lived further north, on the flat grasslands that stretch from eastern Europe to Central Asia. Between 4% and 16% of their ancestry came from this northern source.

While the Mycenaeans are known to have spoken an early form of Greek, the earliest recorded language spoken by the Minoan people on Crete – known as Linear A – can be read but not be translated, implying that it belongs to a distinct, but unknown, group of languages.

Modern Greeks descendants of Mycenaeans

After genetic analysis, the Mycenaeans have also been linked to modern Greek people.

New emerging DNA evidence suggests that living Greeks are indeed descendants of the ancient Mycenaeans, who ruled mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from 1,600 BC to 1,200 BC.

The evidence comes from a study in which scientists analyzed the genes from the teeth of 19 people across various archaeological sites within mainland Greece and Mycenae. A total of 1.2 million letters of genetic code were compared to those of 334 people across the world.

Genetic information was also compiled from a group of thirty modern Greek individuals in order to compare it to the ancient genomes. This allowed researchers to effectively plot how individuals were related to one another.

After comparing the DNA of modern Greeks to ancient Mycenaeans, a genetic overlap was discovered that suggests that these ancient Bronze Age civilizations laid the genetic groundwork for the contemporary Greek people.

Mycenae, the kingdom of the mythical king Agamemnon, is the most important and richest palatial center of the Late Bronze Age in Greece.

Myths related to its history have inspired poets and writers over many centuries, from the Homeric epics and the great tragedies of the Classical period.

Activists Accuse Google, Apple of Caving to Pressure from Kremlin

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Google and Apple are accused of bowing to Kremlin pressure in the banning of an app that would have enabled Russian voters to access information. Credit: The Pancake of Heaven! /CC BY-SA 4.0

Activists from Russia’s embattled opposition on Friday accused tech giants Google and Apple of caving to pressure from the Kremlin after they removed a voting app from their stores on the first day of the country’s parliamentary election.

The app had been created by allies of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who had been poisoned last year, purportedly by the Russian government, for his bold stance against Russian president Putin.

Navalny, who had been allowed to be transported to Germany for treatment after his poisoning, survived the attempt on his life only to return to Russia to continue his campaign against the entrenched political system there.

The Russian opposition figure was jailed in March of 2021 on charges that he supposedly violated the terms of an old, politically-motivated conviction.

His political compatriots were subsequently barred from running for office because of their association with Navalny.

The app created by his adherents would have provided Russians with information on those running for office in a bid to make a stand against the ruling United Russia party which supports longtime President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny’s movement was outlawed by Russian courts in June, prompting an outcry from the West that the country was stifling all political dissent.

Some members of the upper house of the Russian Parliament met with representatives from Google and Apple representatives before the election in order to tell them to remove the app.

If they refused to do so, they would face penalties, including fines and criminal prosecution.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan was also summoned to Russia’s Foreign Ministry before the election, where he took complaints that the app amounted to American meddling in the internal affairs of the country.

Google then removed the app from its offerings after being told that Google employees living in Russia could even be jailed, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to reporters after asking not to be identified.

Russia’s national communications regulator Roskomnadzor also demanded that Apple and Google take the app off their platforms, threatening fines if they did not do so.

There has been no immediate response from Apple and Google on the matter.

Navalny ally Leonid Volkov, bluntly accused the technology giants of giving into pressure in what he described as a blackmail campaign on the part of the Kremlin.

Volkov, who now lives outside Russia, posted a message on telegram declaring “This shameful day will live long in memory.”

His fellow political exile Ivan Zhdanov, who also supports Navalny, stated that the US companies’ action amounted to “a shameful act of political censorship.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had warm praise for Google and Apple, saying that Moscow welcomed their removal of the voting app, adding that they had acted in the “spirit and letter of (Russian) law.”

Reuters reports that it verified that the app was indeed not available for Russian users from Apple’s AppStore or Google Play. Those who had downloaded versions of the voting app suddenly discovered that they were not working.

However, some virtual private networks, or VPNs, allowed users to get around the restrictions so that they were able to download the ap.

Navalny’s friends and allies have published detailed information elsewhere on the internet, however, giving much-needed background on the candidates running against the United Russia party.

The national election closes on Sunday evening. It is being viewed as a test of the strength of Putin’s political power while living standards are declining and Russia is increasingly isolated from he West.

Although experts state that United Russia is experiencing a dropoff in support, Putin’s party is still expected to win the election, after the most wide-ranging crackdown on its opponents for many years.

This plebiscite, which will be Russia’s first to employ electronic voting on a wide scale, has already experienced denial-of-service attacks, which a government ministry attributed to foreign IP addresses from the US, Germany and Ukraine.

Putin, who has been in power in some capacity since 1999, faces another presidential election in 2024. United Russia’s super majority in the State Duma, which has a total of 450 lawmakers, enabled Putin to ram through constitutional changes which allow him to run for office again — even possibly staying in power until 2036, when he would be 94 years of age.

Border Crisis Heightens for Biden as Thousands Camp Under Bridge

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Border Crisis
The area under the bridge between Del Rio Texas and Mexico is flooded with migrants as they try to get into the United States. The majority of the migrants that have created the newest border crisis are from Haiti. Credit: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Over 10,000 migrants trying to make their way into the United States are now camped under the Del Rio, Texas bridge separating Mexico and the United States in the latest border crisis, with thousands more apparently on the way in the largest migration seen in years.

Although more than 195,000 people were arrested by US Border Control authorities in August alone, a seemingly endless stream of humanity is still coming from the South, with many of them economic migrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela — while some of them are asylum seekers from Cuba.

More than 10,000 migrants are currently waiting under the bridge, hoping to be processed by US authorities at present, but according to US Representative Tony Lozano, there are thousands more on the way, “almost as if this is a flash mob,” he stated to reporters.

The Del Rio bridge connecting Texas to Mexico is now a makeshift camp for those who hope to enter the US, mostly as economic migrants.

The US Supreme Court reinstated the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, prompted by coronavirus concerns, which stipulates that migrants must stay in Mexico while awaiting a decision on their case.

However, on Thursday a federal judge blocked the rule turning away those attempting to cross the border. The ruling is supposed to come into effect in two weeks’ time.

In recent months, the numbers of migrants that were sent back to Mexico as part of the policy gradually declined.

Haitians Make up Majority of Migrants

The Biden Administration had sought to end the practice, which requires asylum seekers and economic migrants to wait in Mexico, not in the US, in centers that are full to bursting.

A number of migrants told reporters they have already received paperwork from US border officials, and their cases are currently waiting to be processed.

Haitians make up most of the throng hoping to cross over into the US.

Government officials and human rights groups believe they are most likely part of a new wave of migrants heading to the US after fleeing to South American after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Recently, another quake in Haiti took place, just months after the President of the country had been assassinated.

Border Crisis is “Worst of worst-case scenarios”

A new wave of migrants headed north almost immediately after Joe Biden was elected President, apparently in hopes that a less stringent immigration policy would be enacted by the incoming Democratic president.

Since then, record numbers of migrants have crossed the border while Texas governor Greg Abbott pledged to keep building the border wall along Texas’ southern edge that had been stated under the previous US administration.

Del Rio Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano told the Washington Post that the current migrant debacle is the “worse case of worst-case scenarios.

“I need the administration to recognize that there is a border crisis happening in real time right now and it has dire consequences on security, health and safety,” he stressed.

He added that there appears to be a more sinister aspect of the crisis as well, noting that many of the migrants now at the border arrived in buses; this appears to be part of an ongoing human trafficking operation.

The US Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement the agency was increasing staffing in Del Rio to facilitate a “safe, humane and orderly process”.

Drinking water, towels and portable toilets have been provided, the statement added, while migrants wait to be transported to facilities.

FDA Issues Ban on Drones Over Bridge, Impacting News Coverage

The Biden administration, which pledged to change the US’ immigration policy, has faced sharply increased border crossings and a political backlash over its seeming inability to stop the human tide from Mexico.

Late on Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration placed a two-week-long flight restriction for the airspace atop the bridge that is nw the epicenter of illegal immigration along the Texas border.

This prevents journalists from obtaining overhead photographs or video footage of the enormous crowd that has gathered there.

“We’ve learned that the FAA just implemented a two week TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) over the international bridge in Del Rio, TX, meaning we can no longer fly our FOX drone over it to show images of the thousands of migrants. FAA says ‘special security reason,’” Fox News reporter Bill Melugin tweeted angrily on Thursday evening.

Crowd Doubled Since Tuesday

The reporter added that his organization has been employing drones for months as part of the normal coverage of news events, and there has never been an issue in the past with the practice.

“We have reached out to the FAA to ask for clarification on why this TFR was implemented,” Melugin tweeted. “We haven’t heard back yet. Will update if/when we do.”

The FAA responded by stating “The Border Patrol requested the temporary flight restriction due to drones interfering with law enforcement flights on the border.

“As with any temporary flight restriction, media is able to call the FAA to make requests to operate in the area.”

The FAA ban sparked criticism from conservatives on social media, including Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

“What a coincidence,” Cotton tweeted. “The FAA better be ready to explain to Congress why they’re suddenly blocking the media from covering Biden’s border crisis.”

One migrant, named Carlos, is a 27-year-old Venezuelan. After deciding to leave his country, which has devolved into a socially and economically failed state, he made his way to Mexico, hoping to cross over into the US. Per his estimates, the camp under the Del Rio bridge had doubled in size just since he came to the area on Tuesday.

He told reporters from Reuters that be believed there were 400 families ahead of him in the line awaiting processing.

Mexican and American officials both acknowledge that there are many more people now making their way to the area.

Palindrome Inscription Found on Ancient Amulet in Cyprus

ancient greek amulet palindrome cyprus
The ancient amulet found in Cyprus features a palindrome in Ancient Greek. Credit: Jagiellonian University in Krakow at Paphos Agora

A team of Polish archaeologists in Nea Paphos, Cyprus have unearthed a 1,500-year-old two-sided amulet depicting a palindrome inscription written in ancient Greek.

Palindromes are phrases that are read the same both forward and backwards.

The amulet’s 59-letter inscription reads:

“ΙΑΕW ΒΑΦΡΕΝΕΜ ΟΥΝΟΘΙΛΑΡΙ ΚΝΙΦΙΑΕΥΕ ΑΙΦΙΝΚΙΡΑΛ ΙΘΟΝΥΟΜΕ ΝΕΡΦΑΒW ΕΑΙ,” which roughly translates to “Iahweh [a god] is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.”

Although written in ancient Greek, there are a number of spelling errors, indicating the creator and owner of the object were not educated or may not have been native Greek speakers.

Ancient amulet found in Cyprus features ancient Greek, Egyptian gods

The amulet is particularly unique and strange in that it features a fascinating image on the other side, which includes references to ancient Egyptian and Greek gods.

On its other side of the palindrome, the amulet features three main images, one of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris lying in a boat, a cynocephalus, or a god with the head of a dog, and the body of a man and the ancient Greek god of silence, Harpocrates, sitting on a stool.

A crocodile, snake, moon, and star are also shown on the amulet.

Osiris, who is depicted on the amulet wrapped up like a mummy, was the Egyptian god of the underworld.

Perhaps most strangely, Harpocrates is depicted holding his hand up to his lips, and the cynocephalus is shown doing the same, mimicking the gesture of the god.

Both the cynocephalus and Harpocrates are shown with lines across their bodies, perhaps indicating that they, like Osiris, were meant to be mummified.

In the case of the cynocephalus, there are images of the creature mummified. Yet, Harpocrates is never depicted this way anywhere else.

This may indicate that the creator of the amulet was not familiar with the religious imagery surrounding Harpocrates, but knew how to depict the ancient Egyptian figures.

Christianity was official religion at the time

Amulets such as this were used for protection since ancient times in many pagan beliefs.

During the sixth century, when the amulet was found, Christianity was the official religion of Cyprus. Yet clearly, pagan beliefs were still quite strong in the country during the period.

The artifact was found in a 2015 dig at the ancient agora of Nea Paphos, southwest Cyprus, where archaeologists have been working for a long time.

The agora used to operate as a gathering place for the worship of the ancient goddess, Aphrodite.

“Paphos, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, was a center of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities. Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace was on the island of Cyprus, where her temple was erected by the Mycenaeans in the 12th century BC and continued to be used until the Roman period,” noted UNESCO.

Why an American Think Tank Brands Bitcoin ‘a Scam’

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bitcoin ponzi scheme
A think-tank called Gravel Institute believes that Bitcoin is a scam. Credit: Onov3065/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

An American think-tank called the Gravel Institute recently released a new video explaining why it believes Bitcoin is a scam akin to a Ponzi scheme.

Writer and economist Doug Henwood spoke in the video explaining why he believed Bitcoin resembled the structure of a Ponzi scheme and other historical scams.

Henwood quickly outlines the format of Ponzi schemes, where criminals take money from their victims and promise to invest that money, while actually cycling it back to earlier investors. Henwood said what was key to note about the relationship between Ponzi schemes and Bitcoin was that Ponzi schemes tend to fail because they run out of money to move between investors — something he compared to Bitcoin’s limited supply of tokens, capped at 21,000,000.

Henwood also highlighted the fact that bitcoin is not backed by anything at all, and it is infrequently used as actual currency as crucial parts of his argument.

The economist said that once bitcoin began to really accrue value after 2017, the token became almost entirely speculative — people’s interest in buying bitcoins was in holding them in the hopes that their value would increase: “Why use bitcoin as currency when it might be worth more money later?” was the logic Henwood espoused.

Gravel Institute video outlines why they think Bitcoin “is a scam”

But he claims that this dynamic has a dark side. If bitcoin is purely speculative, and only backed by the blockchain’s ability to guarantee electronic transactions, people are simply buying bitcoin waiting for more people to follow them and buy as well — driving the value up and providing them a return on this investment. This is where Henwood’s comparison between bitcoin and Ponzi schemes becomes salient.

Henwood had written extensively about his position on cryptocurrency before appearing in this video for the Gravel Institute. In a previously published essay, he wrote that even though Bitcoin “fails as money,” it had “acquired a vivid life as a speculative asset. But unlike more conventional speculative assets, its value is completely immaterial.

“Stocks are ultimately claims on corporate profits, and bonds are a claim on a future stream of interest payments. You can say no such thing for bitcoin. Its only value is what someone else will pay for it later today or maybe tomorrow. And now they’re trading futures on it, which takes speculation into a fourth or fifth dimension.”

Henwood also notes that the way novelty and branding — a hallmark of Dogecoin and other Elon Musk-supported tokens — affects a coin’s value is a major red flag: “And what a speculative mania it is. Everyone wants to be part of the action.

“Bitcoin imitators are sprouting daily. The other day, speculators forked over $700 million to a company, block.one, for a cryptocurrency that doesn’t really exist and, according to its sponsors, has no purpose.

“The company has disclosed almost no information about itself, and almost nothing is known about its founders. And early on Thursday morning, the Long Island Ice Tea Corp., which sells nonalcoholic beverages, changed its name to Long Blockchain, and its stock price promptly more than doubled. The firm has no agreements with any cryptocurrency promoters, nor does it have prospects for any. The mere name change did the trick.”

Afghan Refugee in Greece Awarded Scholarship to Study in US

afghan refugee scholarship use lesvos greece
Arezu and her mother Mariam. The Afghan refugee has been offered a scholarship to study in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Credit: UN Council for Refugees/ Marios Andriotis-Konstantinos

Arezu, a young Afghan refugee living on the island of Lesvos, Greece, was awarded a scholarship to study in Boston recently.

The 12-year-old girl fled Afghanistan with her family when she was just seven years old. Her mother, Mariam, was eight months pregnant when the family took the dangerous trip from their native northern Afghanistan to Turkey.

When they arrived in Greece, the family lived in the notorious refugee camp Moria, which was known for its overcrowded and what some consider inhumane conditions.

Arezu, who comes from a country where women and girls are facing extreme obstacles to education, is exceptionally eloquent and talented academically.

Afghan refugee learned Greek in one school year, at top of her class

The young refugee, who came to Greece without knowing a word of the language, managed to learn Greek in one school year, and even got the highest grades in her class. She speaks four languages.

She was among the only 34% of school-aged refugee children who have access to education and can attend a secondary school.

“School is good. I love Greek people. But sometimes it is difficult. Some days are good and some are bad,” Arezu stated.

The young Afghan refugee was offered a fully-funded five year scholarship from the International School of Boston after acing the entrance exam and interview.

Arezu’s dream is to become a doctor so that she can help those in need.

“I want to go (to Boston), I want to stand on my own feet. I’m excited and I can’t wait to study and to become a doctor so that I can help others and my family. I want to be a cardiologist or maybe a neurosurgeon,” the girl stated.

Arezu’s passion and drive may come in part from her mother Mariam, who worked in education in Afghanistan. She pushed to have her daughter registered in a school on Lesvos, which was difficult for the refugee family.

Arezu awarded scholarship to school in Boston

Mariam reflected on the difficulties of arriving in a new country as a refugee, stating:

“You must start over again and step by step, people will see your capacities and doors will open for you. Everyone is different. You must make a goal and follow your path and it will be achieved. I’m always on the positive path and this brings the positive people to me.”

The talented girl’s mother Mariam began working as an interpreter almost immediately upon arriving at the Moria camp, and continues her work helping women as an interpreter for victims of gender-based violence.

Arezu and her family are looking forward to the talented girl’s trip to Boston, where she will continue her education.

“We need to think outside the box…because you learn more things outside the box. It’s like a cage, you need to be a free bird,” the young Afghan refugee living in Greece stated.

 

Greek Delivery Giant Efood Faces Major Backlash Over Worker’s Rights

Efood
Efood, the largest food delivery service in Greece, urged workers to become freelancers or lose their jobs, sparking a massive backlash. Credit: Mosieur J, CC BY 2.0

Efood, Greece’s largest food delivery service, sent out a text message to 115 of their employees urging them to become freelancers, possibly accepting no benefits and less stable employment, or lose their jobs.

For ten years, Efood has been the dominant food delivery service in Greece. The app services thousands of restaurants across the country, allowing them to use their own delivery drivers, or those employed by Efood.

Late on Thursday, Efood drivers, which the company claimed had lower ratings, received a message stating that, in the hopes of “increasing the productivity of the fleet” of drivers, and in the company’s “broader strategy,” Efood would only renew the workers’ contracts if they accepted a freelance position with the company.

If workers refuse the freelance position, “there is no possibility of renewing their existing contract,” the company’s text read.

Contracts for delivery workers are set to expire at the end of this month, and it is unclear whether they will be renewed for many drivers.

“Cancel Efood” trending on Twitter as workers pushed toward freelance positions

Many social media users and union leaders in Greece said that they considered the message a form of “blackmail,” shocked that the company would treat its workers this way after delivery drivers faced difficult conditions during the pandemic, when food orders increased exponentially.

Worker’s rights advocates in Greece argued that the freelance model, which is prevalent in the US, allows companies to employ workers with little security and without offering them benefits like insurance and social security.

Users called on their followers and friends to delete the Efood application from their phones and leave bad reviews for the service. The hashtag #cancel_efood is the top trending topic in Greece on Twitter on Friday.

Union: Greek delivery giant “blackmailing” employees

The Hotel, Tourism, and Catering Union slammed Efood’s message to its drivers, calling it “blackmail.”

“The message that many delivery workers received from the company, that their contracts would not be renewed…is a tool with only its benefit as a purpose, so it can be free of workers and insurance rights of deliverymen.”

The union released in a statement saying that Efood is “blackmailing its employees with low ratings with the dilemma — unemployed, or a coworker. In this case, ‘coworker’ means using the government’s new labor law for freelancers, which means a six-month contact that frees the company from offering insurance and Christmas and Easter bonuses,” according to the Union,.

It then urged Efood employees to organize and speak out against the company.

The labor law was passed in mid-June under great controversy and in the wake of major protests organized by labor unions.

Unions say that the new law will bring longer hours and weakened workers’ rights. The most disputed part of the bill allows employees to work up to 10 hours on one day and less time on another day of the same week. Unions fear that will enable employers to force workers to accept longer hours.

Text “does not express philosophy and culture of company,” says Efood

In a statement, Efood stated that the message was an “erroneous communication,” and assuring that the company was not out to take advantage of its workers, stating:

“Efood’s stance of safeguarding the rights of delivery workers is non negotiable. We condemn yesterday’s erroneous communication, as it does not express the philosophy and culture of the company.”

A total of 3,700 people, of which 3,000 work in delivery, are employed by Efood in Greece.

In response to the boom in business due in large part to the pandemic, Efood is looking to expand, hoping to create 7,500 additional positions at the company by 2022.

Liver: The Source of Emotions, According to Ancient Greeks

Prometheus
Prometheus (1762) by Nicolas Sébastien Adam. Louvre Museum. Credit: Public domain

For the ancient Greeks the liver played an important role in both divine and ordinary daily life. Even the terms used today such as liver, hepatitis, hepatoma, hepatology, derive from the ancient Greek word “hepar” which means liver.

According to the ancient Greeks the “hepar” (liver) was the center of the soul and the source of emotions; They believed that the liver had the divine ability to regenerate after a small incision, which is the case and which we can see in the stories of the punishments of Prometheus and Tityus.

The legend of Prometheus

Prometheus
The torture of Prometheus. Credit: Salvator Rosa / Wikimedia Commons /Public domain

According to Greek mythology Prometheus was the Titan friend of mortals; he believed that men were worthy of possessing some things that were only allowed by the gods.

The first trick he played on Zeus was when he made a sacrifice and divided it into two parts: on the one hand he placed the meat and entrails covered with the skin of the animal; and on the other hand the bones covered by the fat of the ox; he told Zeus to choose which part the gods would eat and which part they would leave for men.

Zeus, deceived, chose the fat and bones.

Zeus was enraged when he realized that he had chosen the less desirable portion. Men then burned their sacrifices to the gods, offering them the bones and eating the meat.

Angry with this deception, Zeus forbade fire to men, prompting Prometheus to undergo his great feat of stealing the fire from Mount Olympus and bringing it to men.

Zeus later took revenge on humanity and Prometheus; his revenge on humanity was when he breathed life into Pandora, a woman who later opened the amphora that had all the misfortunes that Zeus desired for humanity.

His revenge against Prometheus was torturous; He chained Prometheus and sent an eagle to eat his liver; as he was immortal, the liver grew back every day, the eagle would eat it again every day and the cycle would go on forever.

The Punishment of Tityus

Tityus
Tityus eaten by vultures. Credit: Tiziano / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Tityus was a minor character of unbridled lust according to Greek mythology; he was a giant measuring about a “third of a stadium.”

Tityus’ crime was the attempted rape of Leto, Zeus’s lover and the mother of Apollo and Artemis; Hera instigated Tityus to commit the crime when Leto was traveling from Panopeo to Pito. He ripped her dress and attempted to rape her.

Leto’s screams attracted the attention of her children, Apollo and Artemis, who struck Tityus with her arrows; other versions of the story say that Zeus threw a lightning bolt at him.

Tityus’ punishment was being thrown into the abyss of Tartarus, where snakes and vultures ate his liver forever.

The Odyssey mentions Tityus thus: “I also saw Tityus, the son of the august Gaia, lying on the ground, where he occupied nine yugadae. Two vultures, one on each side, gnawed at his liver, penetrating his entrails with their beaks, without his being able to push them off with his hands.”

Other important facts about the liver

The liver
The liver. Credit: Henry Gray / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The liver is a complex organ that performs many important functions:

  • Stores energy in the form of sugar
  • Stores vitamins, iron and other minerals
  • Makes proteins
  • Makes bile, which is necessary to digest food
  • Aids in digestion by helping to absorb fat and vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • Process old blood cells
  • Helps “cleanse” the blood by removing many medications and toxins, including alcohol
  • Helps the body resist infection by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
  • Maintain hormonal balance

Today we know that the liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate itself, unlike the other organs of the human body.

So it no longer seems so incredible to believe why for the ancient Greeks the liver was the most important organ, or why it played such a prominent role in Greek mythology.