Efood Delivery Workers Stage Protest in Athens

efood protest
Efood delivery drivers protest in Athens on Wednesday. Credit: Twitter/ Panikos

Delivery drivers for the Greek app Efood staged a large protest in the center of Athens on Wednesday afternoon in the wake of massive backlash the company faced over worker’s rights.

Hundreds of drivers for the Greek food delivery giant Efood protested on their motorbikes, after the firm sent messages to 115 of its drivers threatening not to renew their contracts unless they joined the company as freelancers, potentially accepting no benefits and less stable employment, or lose their jobs.

The Efood drivers began their protest at the Pedion Tou Areos Park in central Athens, and demonstrated through the city until they reached Efood headquarters in Neo Iraklio, a northeastern suburb of the Greek capital.

Employees demonstrated against the company’s actions in other cities across Greece as well, including Thessaloniki, Larissa, and Volos.

Workers pushed to accept freelance status protest Efood

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.

Last week, Efood drivers — which the company claimed had lower ratings than others — 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 refused the freelance position, “there is no possibility of renewing their existing contract,” the company’s text read.

The message provoked shocked reactions on social media, with users going so far as to delete the Efood app from their phones and leave poor ratings for the service online.

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.

Efood’s rise as first online food delivery service in Greece

Much like its current decline, Efood’s ascendance to the top of food delivery in Greece was rapid.

Formed back in 2012 as the first online food delivery distributor in the country, Efood’s growth had been meteoric. It took only three years for its creators, the Kyrkinis brothers, to sell it to German mogul Delivery Hero for 22 million Euros — while retaining their position as CEOs.

From 2012 to 2015, Efood delivery managed to successfully overcome the effects of the financial crisis (when Greek businesses started dropping like flies) and create an unparalleled brand name, soon selling it to the German company. In the past two years alone, on account of the lockdowns due to the pandemic, its profits stood at 64.488 million Euros – over 21 million more than in 2019.

Efood’s income from commissions alone rose by 13,400,000 euros to 46,143,000 euros in 2021.

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

In a statement released late last week, Efood stated that the message was an “erroneous communication,” and assuring that the company was not out to take advantage of its workers.

It said “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 whom 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.

Autumn in Mainland Greece At its Best: Must Do Trips

Mainland Greece Autumn
Lake Kastoria. Crédit: Mageiamaya – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Planning your vacation to Greece in autumn can be a fun and exciting experience, but to take the trip is even better, simply because nature’s beauty in Greece during autumn mainland is almost magical. For those who seek a colorful countryside with a mysterious glow under different shades of orange and red, or for those who wish to be intoxicated by the scent of nature after its first rainfall, this trip is an absolute must!

Elati, a mountain escape

Autumn in Greece
Elati, Arta. Credit: Harry Gouvas/ CC BY-SA 3.0

The picturesque village of Elati, 30 kilometers from Ioannina in Epirus, imposing and amphitheatrically built on the verdant slopes of Mitsikeli Mountain, overlooks the mountains and forests of Tymfi from an altitude of 950 meters (3,116 feet).

Its rich vegetation is beautifully supplemented with beautiful stone houses, cobblestone paths, ornate stone arched bridges, watermills and churches.

In Elati and the surrounding area, besides the natural attractions, you will have the opportunity to enjoy an array of interesting outdoor activities. This mountainous area, featuring canyons and rivers, are ideal for hiking, climbing, mountain biking, canoeing or kayaking, rafting, and other sports.

Kastoria, a fairytale village in Greece

Kastoria Fairy tale in Mainland Greece
Kastoria. Crédit: Despina Michailidou – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The beautiful city of Kastoria, standing proudly on the shores of the majestic lake Orestiada in West Macedonia and surrounded by imposing mountains, charms all visitors at first glance.

In Kastoria you will feel as if you are in a fairytale, drinking in the spectacular view of the city as it is reflected in the crystal clear waters of the lake.

The area hosts more than 70 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, all with unique exterior decor, as well as rare paintings.

During your stay, you can also wander around the splendid 19th century mansions once owned by wealthy fur merchants in the traditional neighborhoods of Doltso and Apozari, but do not forget to visit the highlight of Kastoria, the “Dragon’s Cave,” a spectacular cave with seven underground lakes on the north side of the city.

Monemvasia is the perfect spot for an Autumn vacation in Greece

Autumn in Mainland greece
Monemvasia. Crédit: JustinW, CC0

Located on the southeastern side of the Peloponnese, Monemvasia  is an impressive medieval village, with buildings all made of stone, originally founded by the Byzantines in the sixth century. It was later occupied by the Crusaders, as well as the Venetians, and the Turks.

The Castle Town is divided into two parts that transport you on a journey back into the past. In the upper part of Monemvasia, you will have the opportunity to explore the remains of old Byzantine buildings.

In the lower part of the town, visitors can admire the ruins of breathtaking historic buildings, such as the Muslim Mosque, a 16th century structure that now is home to an Archaeological Museum, as well as an array of Byzantine churches.

Xanthi is ideal for nature lovers

Xanthi Natural Mainland Greece
Nestos River in Xanthi. Crédit: Adamantios – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Nature lovers will be amazed to discover that the city of Xanthi in Thrace is home to an unspoiled paradise.

Take the opportunity to explore the serpentine Nestos River, its delta, the Drymos Forest, Lake Vistonida, and the village of Erimanthos, definitely  a must to do trip for the exploring lovers.

North of Xanthi — the birthplace of influential ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus — you will find Pomakochoria, a cluster of approximately 40 small mountain villages of great architectural and cultural significance.

Don’t forget to try archery, bird watching, canoeing and kayaking, cycling, hiking, horseback riding and off-road driving if you happen to visit Livaditis, Nestos and Vistonida.

Spend your autumn on Mt. Pelio in Greece

A stone bridge outside of Tsagarada, Pelio. Credit: Grigoris Koulouriotis/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Located on the southeastern part of Thessaly, near Volos, Mt. Pelion is a large mountain of extraordinary natural beauty, dotted with over 20 traditional Greek villages and a plethora of magnificent beaches.

Makrinitsa, Milies, Portaria, and Tsagarada, with their grey stone roofs, unique architecture, and paved pathways are some of the villages you should not miss during your stay in the area.

The most popular beaches on the mesmerizing coast around Mt. Pelion are Agios Ioannis, Horefto, Damouchari, Fakistra and Mylopotamos.

The legendary “Mountzouris” narrow-gauge train, which connects Milies with Ano Lechonia, is among the top attractions of the area, and also serves as an unconventional way to explore the mountain and some of the traditional villages on its slopes.

Livadeia has a rich ancient history

Livadia is the perfect spot for an autumn trip to Greece. Crédit: Thanas Todhe (Guri Q…, CC BY 3.0

Livadeia the capital of the Boeotia regional district in central Greece, is situated approximately 135 kilometers (83 miles) northwest of Athens. With a population of approximately 21,000, it grew up around the base of Mount Helikon.

The town of Livadeia is referred to as “Mideia” in the works of Homer, the epic poet and author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century BC, Pausanias, reported that the place was named after Levados, the Athenian hero who persuaded the local people to build the town at its current location on the banks of the Herkyna River.

It is famous across Greece for hosting the Oracle of Trophonios Zeus and for participating in the War of Troy. The Pre-revolutionary period mariner Lambros Katsonis was born in Livadeia, one of the first towns to revolt against the Turks under the leadership of Athanasios Diakos.

Pinduoduo Founder Suffers Biggest Loss of Wealth in the World

Pinduoduo colin huang
Pinduoduo connects rural farmers with e-commerce users directly. Its founder Colin Huang has suffered the biggest decrease in wealth in the world this year. Credit: Public Domain

Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang has suffered $27 billion in losses — the biggest decrease in wealth in the world this year.

Huang founded Pinduoduo, also known as PDD, a Chinese technology platform centered on agriculture. PDD was the largest platform of its kind in China, connecting rural farmers with distributors and consumers on its interactive website. By 2019, roughly 12 million farmers were working with PDD to connect directly with its users.

PDD plummeted in value after China’s President Xi Jinping tightened his grip on the country’s private sector companies. The crackdown has had the most dramatic effect on internet platforms like Alibaba and Tencent.

Pinduoduo takes huge hit after President Xi cracks down on tech

But PDD has taken the biggest hit of them all, with the company’s market value going from $178 billion to $125 billion. Huang owns 28% of PDD and has grown his company into an e-commerce superpower over the last six years.

PDD’s growth had taken place at an astounding rate. In March of this year, the company announced that it had reached 788 million active users, surpassing competitor Alibaba’s 779 million user base. Huang had simultaneously stepped down as chairman of the board after previously leaving his CEO title in July of 2020.

“The departure had an air of inevitability about it in light of Huang’s resignation as CEO last July,” Robin Zhu, a Bernstein analyst, said. “But the timing came as a surprise, and skeptics will note that the China internet sector is 0-for-1 when iconic founders leave the building.”

“I hope that my stepping down as the Chairman of the Board will aid this young person into independent adulthood,” Huang said in a letter to shareholders, speaking metaphorically about the life of the company. “Though I can no longer become a true scientist myself, I would feel very lucky and blessed if I have the chance to become a research assistant to a future, possibly great, scientist.”

Huang is now worth $35 billion after losing $27 million with PDD’s stock value crash. The loss represents the biggest drop in the 500 members of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan also loses billions in wealth

The China Evergrande Group’s Chairman Hui Ka Yan has also recently lost $16 billion in wealth due to the real estate group’s debt crisis. 

Evergrande shares fell 4% as focus there shifts to Thursday when the company is due to make bond interest payments, amidst its deep liquidity problems. This has led to widespread speculation that a potential Evergrande default could affect the world’s second-largest economy and possibly lead to a “house of cards” event, similar to the one the Lehman Brothers collapse led to in 2008.

The crisis has been brewing at Evergrande, China’s second-largest real estate company, for months and the company had warned that it was facing a liquidity crunch that has left it without money to pay off its debt obligations, which cumulatively stand at over $300 billion, equivalent to 2% of China’s GDP.


Cyprus President Reportedly Snubs Archbishop Elpidophoros Over Turkey Event

Elpidophoros Cyprus
Archbishop Elpidophoros (far left) at the opening of the Turkevi Center in New York. Credit: Turkish Presidency

The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday cancelled a scheduled meeting with Archbishop Elpidophoros in New York because, according to reports, the Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America attended a ceremony for the opening of the Turkevi Center (Turkish House).

The ceremony, held on Monday in Manhattan, was presided over by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar was also present.

Anastasiades, who is in New York for the 76th UN General Assembly, had been scheduled to meet with Elpidophoros as part of his contacts while in the US.

Cyprus Presidents’ tight schedule a polite excuse?

According to state broadcaster CyBC, the official reason given for the cancellation of the meeting was Anastasiades’ tight schedule, but reports said it was actually because the Archbishop had attended the opening of the Turkevi Center.

The Turkevi Center, which will become the hub of Turkish culture in the US, will also house the UN’s permanent mission for Turkey and the Turkish Consulate General.

In a message on social media, Elpidophoros said he congratulated Erdogan on the opening of the Turkevi Center. He added that “as always I insist on the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the re-opening of the Halki Theological School, and supporting the rights of religious minorities of Turkey.”

However, Elpidophoros’ presence at the ceremony created negative reactions among some Greeks and Armenians. The Armenian National Committee of America said on Twitter:

“Shunned by the DC establishment (hawks, doves, and everyone in between) – desperately seeking allies – Erdogan recruits Azerbaijani diplomats, representatives of the illegal Turkish occupation force in Cyprus, and the Greek Orthodox Church for this staged photo op in NYC.”

Source close to Elpidophoros responds to criticism

Greek media report that a source close to Elpidophoros said that the archbishop had accepted the invitation from the Turkish diplomatic mission without knowing at that time who else had also received the invitation to attend the event.

The same source reportedly said that if Elpidophoros had known that the Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar would be present, he would have declined the invitation.

He added that, in any case, the Archbishop took the opportunity to remind Turkey’s obligations regarding religious freedoms, the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the re-opening of the Halki Theological School.

Erdogan calls again for a two-state solution on Cyprus

Meanwhile, Erdogan called on the international community to recognize the international status of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus during a speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

He said that “a fair, lasting and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue is possible only through a result-oriented, realistic approach. While the leader of one of the two peoples on the Island, which the United Nations considers as equal, can address you, it is not fair that the other leader cannot make his voice heard on this platform.”

Rosetta Stone Discovery Shed Light on Ptolemaic Dynasty

Rosetta Stone recreation
A giant recreation of the Rosetta Stone at the Place Des Ecritures in Figeac, France, the birthplace of Jean-François Champollion, who was the first to translate it. Credit: Bautsch at de.wikipedia/Public Domain

Recent research and excavations around the ancient Egyptian city of Thmuis, the place where the events recorded on the Rosetta Stone took place, is shedding new light on the turbulent events of the Ptolemaic era.

As everyone knows, the Rosetta Stone has gone down in history for being the missing linguistic link back to ancient Egypt, allowing us to finally be able to understand the meaning of the hieroglyphics that recorded the entirety of Egyptian history.

Until the writing on the Rosetta Stone was deciphered, no person on Earth knew the meanings behind Egyptian hieroglyphics because they had never been translated into Ancient Greek or any other language.

Inscribed thousands of years ago with the text of the Third Memphis Decree, which was crucially written in three different scripts — Egyptian hieroglyphics at the top, Egyptian Demotic in the middle, and Ancient Greek at the bottom — the Rosetta Stone was discovered by French troops from Napoleon’s army when he invaded the country back in 1799.

The stone is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was most likely moved in late antiquity or during the Mameluk period, and was incredibly eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta.

It was discovered there in July 1799 by French officer Pierre-François Bouchard during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt.

Study of the decree was already underway when the first complete translation of the Greek text was published in 1803. Jean-François Champollion announced the transliteration of the Egyptian scripts in Paris in 1822; it took longer still before scholars were able to read Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and literature confidently, however.

How the Rosetta Stone was Decoded by Linguists

The most crucial steps in the decoding of the Rosetta Stone were the initial recognition that the stone offered three versions of the same text, which was realized immediately back in 1799; that the demotic text used phonetic characters to spell foreign names, which was realized in 1802; and that the hieroglyphic text did so as well, and had pervasive similarities to the demotic as well, which linguists proved in 1814.

Later, linguists established that phonetic characters were also used to spell native Egyptian words in research that was undertaken between 1822–1824.

It is incontrovertible proof that the Greek language – like so much of Greek culture — played an essential part in the passing on of knowledge throughout the centuries to modern times.

Recognized instantly for providing the Ancient Greek translation of an Egyptian law, it is one of the most famous archaeological artifacts in the entire world.

However, it was so unfortunately so invaluable that it was seized by the British and transported — like so many other artifacts of world history — to the British Museum, where it is, like the Parthenon Marbles, still on display today.

The gray stela, made of granodiorite, is just as stunningly elegant today as it was in antiquity, but it is the meaning it has imparted to the understanding of world history that makes it so priceless.

Rosetta Stone copy
A touchable copy of the Rosetta Stone, located at the British Library in London. Credit: Kacperg333/CC BY-SA 3.0

However, the story behind the laws that were written down on the stone are fascinating in their own right, and they impart a great deal of knowledge to us today of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which of course began when a soldier of Alexander the Great was chosen to be Pharaoh.

One of a series of carved stelas that were erected all around Egypt as the Great Revolt, which took place from 206–186 B.C., unfolded, these stones were inscribed with the Third Memphis Decree.

This law, issued by Egyptian priests in Memphis in the year 196 B.C. to laud the achievements of the fifth Ptolemaic ruler, would also serve as evidence supporting the cult of the young king.

Ptolemy V, who ruled from 205-180 B.C., rose to power as a six-year-old boy after his father, Ptolemy IV, who reigned from 222 to 205 B.C., passed away.

The young pharaoh was not over the age of 14 when the decree was inscribed on the Rosetta Stone, with the recording of the law in three languages so that no one could fail to understand it — or fail to be impressed with the young Pharaoh’s power.

The decree in effect chronicles Ptolemy V’s victory over a group of native Egyptians who were violently resisting Hellenistic rule in the Nile Delta. Little about the revolt has been known — until recently, when archaeologists began excavations in the part of the delta that was the scene of the bloody fight.

Only a few surviving pieces of text and inscriptions, including most notably the Rosetta Stone, address the revolt against the peoples’ Egyptian Greek overlords.

Now, at Thmuis, archaeologists have found evidence of violence and death, which they believe are the first-known remains of the uprising. These discoveries are leading to an enriched understanding of the Rosetta Stone itself, which is often just seen as a kind of dictionary in three translations.

Greek Ptolemies Fought to Retain Power in Egypt

In reality, it contains the history of an Egyptian Greek ruler who was struggling to hold onto power in the ancient land across the Mediterranean.

At Tell Timai, in the Nile Delta, where the ancient city of Thmuis was once located, researchers recently unearthed the first physical evidence from the time of the Great Revolt , which was referred to in the text of the Rosetta Stone.

They found an unburied skeleton of a male amidst a layer of destroyed pottery kilns in a layer in which there were other marks of major devastation. The man’s remains bore unmistakable signs of having been violently killed. While many kilns around him had been destroyed, other buildings had been constructed atop them.

Located just 40 miles from the Mediterranean coast, Thmuis is under a huge tell, or artificial mound, which forms after many years of settlement in one area. They are commonly seen in the Middle East as well.

The city was once located along the now-dried-up Mendesian branch of the Nile River. Originally founded as a smaller satellite settlement to the vital port city of Mendes, less than half a mile to the north, it was basically an industrial suburb.

Mendes itself had served as a major religious and political nexus as long as 5,000 years ago. Thmuis, which means “new land,” was later founded in approximately the middle of the first millennium B.C. along an important transportation and trade corridor connecting the Mediterranean Sea with Upper Egypt.

Egypt Asks for Return of Rosetta Stone, Receives Fiberglass Replica

The place was known in antiquity for its perfume production, with the manufacturing process including the infusion of olive oil with an array of scented flowers and herbs. This led naturally to the need to produce the small ceramic vessels, or aryballoi, for the precious scents.

The kilns used for the pottery production were just those that were destroyed in the revolt.

Impassioned calls for the Rosetta Stone to be returned to Egypt were made in July 2003 by Zahi Hawass, the Secretary-General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. These requests asked that the stele be repatriated to Egypt, because, as Hawass said, it was the “icon of our Egyptian identity.”

Rosetta copy
A fiberglass c copy of the Rosetta Stone sits in the public square in Rashid (Rosetta) Egypt — the city where the original stone was found. Credit: TheEgyptian/CC BY-SA 3.0

He repeated the proposal two years later in Paris, listing the stone as one of several key items belonging to Egypt’s cultural heritage.

In 2005, as a sop to Hawass the British Museum presented Egypt with a full-sized fiberglass color-matched replica of the stele. This was initially displayed in the renovated Rashid National Museum, an Ottoman house in the town of Rashid (Rosetta), the closest city to the site where the stone was found.

In November 2005, Hawass suggested a three-month loan of the Rosetta Stone, while stating that the eventual goal was a permanent return of the priceless stone. In December of 2009, he proposed to drop his claim for the permanent return of the Rosetta Stone if the British Museum would simply lend the stone to Egypt for three months for the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza in 2013.

The replica now stands for all to see in the public square of Rashid (Rosetta), Egypt.

There is now an entrenched opposition among national museums to the concept of repatriation of objects of international cultural significance such as the Rosetta Stone, but noises have been made recently in an effort to placate those who continue to demand the return of their national treasures.

In response to repeated Greek requests for return of the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon and similar requests to other museums around the world, in 2002 over 30 of the world’s leading museums — including the British Museum, the Louvre, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City — issued a joint statement declaring that “objects acquired in earlier times must be viewed in the light of different sensitivities and values reflective of that earlier era” and that “museums serve not just the citizens of one nation but the people of every nation.”

For now, the Rosetta Stone still lies in its place of honor in the British Museum — but it stands forever in human history as the missing ancient Greek link back to the glittering place that was once ancient Egypt.

Greek Anti-Vaxxer Assaults, Sues School Principal

Antivaxxers march in Athens recently. Credit: Greek Reporter

A 37-year old anti-vaxxer father in a Thessaloniki suburb assaulted his son’s female school principal on Tuesday for asking for the unvaccinated child’s self test results before allowing him to enter school premises.

Ioannis Sarigiannidis, who is a Covid denier, reportedly pushed the principal hard and prevented the other kids from entering the schoolyard after she asked for the child’s rapid test results, as Greek law requires.

The principal immediately called the police, who arrested Sarigiannis. The prosecutor charged him with disruption of a public service and insulting, and he was then allowed to return home.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. On Wednesday, Sarigiannidis refused to bring his son to school claiming that his son was in shock, “just like all of his school mates.”

Die-hard anti-vaxxer sues — and is sued

He added that his son will take three days off until Friday, the day his case comes before the court. The man claims he will be appearing without a lawyer, saying that the contract he has with the school is binding and mentions nothing about either the “illegal mandates concerning the Covid self tests, or the masks.”

Sarigiannidis went a step further, saying that he will be suing the school principal in the amount of 2.7 million Euros, based on the existing contract between the school and the pupils’ parents, which doesn’t include mandatory vaccinations. He added that these charges will be pressed “as is fitting for the illegal and outright criminal actions undertaken by teachers and the Health Ministry.”

Concerning Tuesday’s episode, the anti-vaxxer father claimed that he pushed the principal aside in order to get his son inside the school “because she was in my way. It’s not her school, she works for us and is obligated to teach our kids and tone up their psychology in this difficult world we live in.”

Anti-vaxxer claims vaccines are of “questionable origin”

Regarding vaccines, Sarigiannidis claimed that they are of questionable origin and no one accepts responsibility for their effects. He added that he will continue escorting his son to school every day, and will even place him in his classroom by force. According to reports, the boy went to school all last week carrying the obligatory Covid self test and a mask, escorted by his mother.

The anti-vaxxer father said that his son complained to him about the use of his mask and he stood by his son. The man referred to the pandemic as “alleged,” adding that he was not convinced that his son was in danger from being infected. The teacher’s union representative said that the child had never complained about either the self test or mask use in the previous days.

She added that the boy was embarrassed by the episode caused by his father.

The anti-vaccination cohort is relatively numerous in Greece, where polls show that almost one in four Greeks refuse the vaccination, are scared, or simply don’t believe the pandemic is real. In the first weeks of September, several demonstrations against the vaccination have been organized in major Greek cities, with thousands of people shouting “fake news” slogans and sporadically even clashing with police forces.

NASA Picks Landing Site for VIPER Moon Rover’s Search for Water

The first rover on the Moon. NASA has just found a landing site for its new robotic Moon rover mission. Credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, CC BY-NC 2.0

NASA has selected a landing site for its upcoming Moon mission. The space agency will be sending a robotic rover to the polar regions of the Moon to search for ice and water.

NASA’s engineers have been preparing for years for the mission. Scientists have long had their eyes on the water ice that exists on the bottom of the craters on the Moon — identifying it as a potential source of hydration and oxygen for future astronauts, as well as fuel to help send them back to Earth or deeper into the galaxy.

The new rover mission has been dubbed VIPER, an acronym for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, and NASA has now selected the exact crater the vehicle will spend 100 days traversing after it reaches the Moon in 2023.

VIPER Moon rover will traverse crater on Moon’s south pole

VIPER will arrive on the Moon’s south pole and explore the 45-mile-wide Nobile crater there. Nobile was created after an object impacted the surface of the Moon. The crater — which is permanently cloaked in shadow — is one of the single coldest areas in the entirety of our solar system.

“The rover is going to get up close and personal with the lunar soil, even drilling several feet down, which will totally help us redefine what we know about our moon,” Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s planetary science division, said during a teleconference held on Monday.

NASA selected Nobile after considering  “critical parameters, such as Earth visibility — for communications from the moon to Earth — sunlight terrain that’s well suited for the rover to navigate through, and most importantly, of course, the expected presence of ice and other resources,” said Glaze.

She added “while analyzing all these constraints, one study area came out ahead of all the rest — maximizing science return and flexibility to help ensure mission success once Viper is on the moon.”

The agency has dedicated a great deal of energy towards the strategizing and forethought for the selection of this specific lunar crater. And regardless of whether or not they uncover water in Nobile, they will have considered VIPER a success:

“If we find that there’s no water in any place we look, that is a fundamental discovery,” said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER’s Lead Project Scientist, “and we will be scratching our heads and rewriting textbooks again.

“We really don’t know where that water is so we had to find a place where we could cover significant distances — and by significant distances I mean tens of kilometers — going in and out of thermal regimes that included everything from permanently shadowed craters with literally 50 Kelvin temperatures to areas that transitioned to a balmy 110 Kelvin, and then all the way up to 250 Kelvin,” Colaprete elaborated.

NASA had given a contract to Astrobotic Technology Inc. of Pittsburgh to send VIPER to the Moon by the end of 2023. VIPER’s expenses have reached nearly half a billion dollars, and NASA will be compensating Astrobotic with an extra $226 million for getting VIPER to the Moon’s surface.

Erdogan Calls on UN to Recognize Turkish-Occupied Cyprus

Erdogan UN Cyprus
Erdogan insisted on a two state solution for Cyprus at the UN General Assembly. Credit: Turkish Presidency

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the international community to recognize the international status of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus during a speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

He said that “a fair, lasting and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue is possible only through a result-oriented, realistic approach. While the leader of one of the two peoples on the Island, which the United Nations considers as equal, can address you, it is not fair that the other leader cannot make his voice heard on this platform.”

Erdogan calls for equal status for Turkish Cyprus

He added that Turkish Cypriots are the co-owners of the Island, and that “for a solution, it is necessary to reaffirm the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot people.”

Erdogan also spoke about the security situation in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, warning the international community that Turkey, which he claimed has the longest coast in the Mediterranean, cannot be ignored.

“The continuation of the calm environment in Eastern Mediterranean is in our common interest. We hope that the problems regarding maritime boundary delimitation will be resolved within the framework of international law and good neighbourly relations,” he said.

He added, however, that “for this, it is necessary, first of all, to abandon the understanding whereby Turkey, which has the longest coast in Eastern Mediterranean, is ignored in the region. Our proposal to organize an Eastern Mediterranean conference, in which all actors in the region will take part for dialogue and cooperation, is still on the table.”

On the disputes with Greece on the Aegean Erdogan stressed the need for bilateral dialogue.

New ideas put forward by Anastasiades on Cyprus issue

Earlier on Tuesday, Cyprus president Anastasiades said that his meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had taken place in a creative atmosphere.

He added that new positions and ideas were raised over how a dialogue could be reignited ahead of a lunch with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and Guterres due to take place in New York on September 27.

“We have listed the views, positions over how a creative dialogue without prerequisites can be restarted. I have developed some positions and ideas and we have agreed that everything related to the Cyprus issue will also be discussed during the lunch we will have on the 27th, with Mr. Tatar,” he said. “Let us hope that everything will go smoothly, so that there is a new outlook for Cyprus.”

However, as Greek Reporter reported on Tuesday, Anastasiades is not as optimistic as he would like to be about the informal tripartite meeting.

Anastasiades pointed towards comments made from the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot camp – specifically, proposals for a two-state solution and recognition – as a black mark on the peace process.

“I’m not as optimistic as I would like to be in the face of repeated statements by either (Turkish President Recep) Erdogan, or (Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut) Cavusoglu, repeated by Tatar,” the president said.

He also criticized what he argued is a “Neo-Ottoman” agenda by Turkey, saying it impacts not only Cyprus but also Greece, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Armenia.


Etna Volcano Erupts Again; Volcanic Smog Reaches Greece

Etna volcano
Mount Etna erupts again on Tuesday sending thick ash plume over Sicily. Credit: Twitter/Kjett @volcanoaddict

Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, erupted again on Tuesday, generating an ash plume that quickly rose to an altitude of almost 15,000 feet (4,500 meters).

There have been no reports of damage as of press time.

The smog or vog (volcanic smog), a visible haze comprised of gas and an aerosol of tiny particles and acidic droplets created when sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other gases emitted from the volcano, has reached Greece.

Greek meteorologist Sakis Arnaoutoglou posted a photo recorded by the Sentinel5p/Copernicus satellite which shows that the volcanic smog has already crossed the Ionian Sea and has reached the Peloponnese.

Etna volcano
The smog has reached Greece. Credit: ADAM Platform via Sakis Arnaoutoglou

Mount Etna, towering above the Mediterranean island of Sicily, has been experiencing a busy season this year. Scientists say that it has erupted more than 50 times in the first nine months of the year.

The amount of lava Etna has emitted since Feb.16 added 100 feet (30 meters) in height to the volcano’s southeast crater. One of Etna’s four summit craters, the southeastern peak now stands at a little over 11,000 feet (3,357 meters) high, having surpassed the 10,900-foot (3,324 m) northeastern crater, which had dominated the volcano for four decades.

Volcanic plumes can reach very high altitudes and can potentially impact air traffic. A similar plume emitted by Etna in early April was detected at the altitude of 23,000 feet (7,000 m). On ground level, sulfur dioxide can irritate the human respiratory system and trigger conditions such as asthma in susceptible individuals.

Scientists warn that Etna may create tsunami

Recently, as reported by Greek Reporter, scientists have warned that Mount Etna is slipping eastwards into the sea and could trigger a catastrophic tsunami.

Scientists are concerned the slow movements that have been measured on Mount Etna’s southeastern flank could escalate and result in part of it collapsing into the Mediterranean.

Such an event would put Sicily and the Ionian Sea at risk, as debris enters the water, possibly causing devastating waves.

However, researchers monitoring the site say all they can do for now is “keep an eye” on the active volcano as there is no way of telling whether this acceleration will come within years or centuries.

Etna volcano covered by lava flows that occurred 300,000 years ago

Mount Etna is thought to have begun its life as a submarine volcano that slowly grew above sea level as it erupted, time and again, gradually increasing its height with solidified lava, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. It’s now largely covered with historic lava flows from eruptions that took place up to 300,000 years ago.

Etna covers an area of 1,190 km2 (459 sq miles) with a basal circumference of 140 km (87 miles). This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Teide on Tenerife in the Canary Islands surpasses it in the whole of the European–North-African region west of the Black Sea.

In Greek mythology, the deadly monster Typhon was trapped under this mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder and the king of gods, and the forges of Hephaestus were said also to be underneath it.

One view is that the word Etna is from the Greek αἴθω (aithō), meaning “I burn”, through an iotacist pronunciation.

According to both Greek and Roman mythology, the god Vulcan (Greek: Hephaestus) had his blacksmithing forge located under mount Etna. Vulcan was the Roman god of blacksmithing. The volcano is also known as Muncibeḍḍu in Sicilian and Mongibello or Montebello in Italian (the Italian word literally means “beautiful mountain”).

Facebook Portal Go: the Social Media Giant’s Next Gen of Video Chatting

Facebook Portal
Mark Zuckerberg announced a new generation of Facebook Portals today on a livestream. Credit: Anthony Quintano, CC BY 2.0

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg debuted the newest generation of Facebook Portal video chatting devices on Tuesday on a livestream hosted by the social media juggernaut.

The new Portal “Go” and Portal+ devices feature an array of new built-in features, including Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa. The two new devices will retail for $199 and $349. The portal Go has been redesigned with a compact 10-inch screen as well as an improved, standalone battery. The Portal Plus further refines the original 14-inch Portal introduced three years ago. You can preorder both models as of today and they will begin shipping on October 19.

This is the first rejuvenation of Facebook’s Portal line of devices since 2019. The Portal Go boasts a wide-angle camera lens that senses movement in its frame and automatically follows the subject, panning and zooming in on their behavior while keeping them in focus.

Previous Portals have had to be constantly connected to a power source — the Go is the first device of its kind to have an independent battery source embedded in the device. It also has Bluetooth connectivity and supports music streaming platforms like Spotify.

Will Portal has a helpful list of additional features like built-in Alexa, Bluetooth support, and the ability to sync with Google, the device’s central focus stays the same: video chatting. The product’s improved sophistication in the realms of camera angle, lens, focus and motion capture along with battery life, are all at the service of the video call experience.

Portals are also able to connect video calls with other devices using Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp platforms as well as Zoom.

Facebook’s Portal one of many expansions for the company

Facebook has steadily expanded beyond the realm of social media and networking apps in the last few years. The company also plans to release a cryptocurrency coin called Diem.

Zuckerberg said that Diem’s users will transfer money just like they send each other their photos of a party. The revised digital currency product Diem is specially designed for users to transfer money for a cheaper fee, easily.

This ease of use will attract more potential users to the social networking site as well, he hopes. There is also another new subsidiary of Facebook that works as a digital wallet, called Novi, providing affordable access to certain financial services. Facebook will be one of the 26 investors with the same roles and responsibilities as the other investors, such as Shopify, Spotify, Uber and Lyft.

The blockchain will allow for real-time transfer of Diem Stablecoins. The cryptocurrency plans to register as a money services business with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the group said.

Stablecoins are digital currencies pegged to a fiat currency. California-based Silvergate Bank will issue the Diem USD Stablecoin. Silvergate will manage the Diem USD reserve. Diem said it would launch a pilot of the Stablecoin.