Παρασκευή, 4 Απριλίου 2014

How Parti Quebecois Fell Into Its Own Trap!

Quebec crucial elections

Justine Frangouli - Argyris

Pauline Marois, the premier of Quebec and leader of the Parti Québécois, had a carefully prepared recipe whose ingredients entailed calling early elections, handily winning the race and creating her party’s first majority government in over a decade. Buoyed by positive poll numbers showing her in a commanding position, she confidently proclaimed April 7th election day, expecting to garner full power in the National Assembly.


At the outset, Marois touted her highly controversial Quebec Charter of Values, which aimed to abolish the wearing of religious symbols amongst select public officials in the line of duty, that was popular among the electorate as it encouraged the French-Canadians’ historical march towards secularization.  Already distant from the Catholic Church, this new charter was to accelerate Quebec’s path toward secular status by diminishing the symbols of other religions and cultures, thereby creating the perfect scenario for a solid Parti Québécois victory.


However, a nonchalant Madame Marois, in an attempt to appease the radical hardcore of her party that continues to aspire for nationhood, began musing about another referendum aimed at independence for the province.  Not only did she begin openly discussing the plebiscite as if the provincial election had already been won, but her controversial stance regarding the fait accompli of a majority government led her to announce to a disbelieving electorate that an independent Quebec would retain the Canadian dollar and a seat at the Bank of Canada as a sovereign nation in a political and economic union similar to that of the European Union.


Pauline Marois’ election campaign was suddenly out of control. Instead of putting forth a plan for the future of the economy and a sound fiscal policy for the province, her focus resulted in a frenzy for Quebec independence. 


As if the swirling rumours of an upcoming post-election referendum were not enough, the premier unveiled what she believed to be her ace in the hole in the name of star candidate and Quebecor media magnate Pierre Karl Peladeau who quickly pump-fisted on air that Quebec was ready to claim its independence and that he desired that his children live in an independent Quebec.


Pauline Marois brought Monsieur Peladeau into the political game in a quest to inspire confidence among the business world for Quebec independence.  However, this proved a fatal mistake as the Parti Québécois is a left-leaning political entity and the entry of Pierre Peladeau into the fray alienated many supporters who evidently did not take warmly to the inclusion of a tycoon among their ranks, especially one feigning social interventionism on behalf of the weak.


In fact, Pierre Peladeau’s track record in his dealings with the unions at his media empire never endeared him with the voters of Quebec and the Parti Québécois’ traditional blue collar base as he presided over a bitter, two-year lockout of his employees that ended with 75% of those locked out eventually losing their jobs. The suspicion with which Peladeau was viewed peaked while at the same time exposing the premier, who refused to make the details of her personal wealth public by claiming that she had submitted copies of her tax returns to the National Assembly’s ethics commissioner, as emanating from the same elite circles of Quebec’s plutocracy.


Today, mere days before the election, Pauline Marois’ campaign is in freefall and badly trailing her rival, Liberal Philippe Couillard, in the polls. By choosing to openly flaunt the card of an unwanted referendum and sovereign Quebec, she is caught in her own trap.  And by inadvertently bringing to light the aspect of her privileged profile, she has fallen out among the province’s populace.


Regardless, whoever is elected premier on Monday has a daunting task ahead.  For, Canada’s French-speaking province is saddled with lower economic growth and higher unemployment than the rest of the country and is struggling with a huge debt load that continues to spiral out of control, swelling from 37.6 billion dollars in 1990 to 175.5 billion today and leaving no illusions about impending cutbacks to the bloated public sector and government spending.





Τρίτη, 11 Μαρτίου 2014

Violence Against Women Lurks Everywhere!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
Huffington Post

I had known my girl friend for many years. We had formed a close bond since my arrival in Montreal, our families socialized on a regular basis and our children grew up playing together. She seemed to lead a perfectly normal life in a middle-class home complete with big car and big smiles in the annual Christmas photos.

Until, one day, she knocked on my door and I could barely recognize her. Pale and weak, she was a mere shadow of herself. Stunned, I asked what was wrong and, amidst streaming tears, she revealed that she had been subjected to a life of perpetual martyrdom during her 15 years of marriage and that her husband had raped her emotionally and physically, even to the point of threatening her life.

I was shocked. How could my friend from across the street, a successful corporate lawyer, who, along with her husband, a CEO in a big international company, formed an enviable power couple that looked to fit so well together, be hiding so much violence and so much pain? Immediately, I offered her a place to stay and, a few days later, when she had composed herself, took her to a skilled family lawyer to begin divorce proceedings.

This story awakened me from the deep slumber of my orderly life. Soon, I began to come across other similar tales of human excess and it was then that I realized that behind every locked door of every house hid a potentially unknown story.

I became aware, that, according to Statistics Canada, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, an alarming number for a society that claims to be progressive and vocal about the equality of the sexes and human rights.

My experience was greatly enriched by a recent visit to the "Shield of Athena," an organization created to offer support, guidance and shelter to women who suffer physical and mental violence within their family environment. Founded in 1991, "The Shield of Athena" has provided the women of the Greek and other ethnic communities of Montreal with information and assistance through a public awareness campaign in their language of origin.

Its director, Melpa Kamateros, explained that the organization was formed by a group of Greek women in order to offer services to the women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.
"At first, we began with the Greek community but now we serve women from 17 different ethnic communities as our social workers and personnel speak 17 languages.We are a non-profit organization for victims of family violence that provides emergency shelter and professional services to battered women and their offspring. Our support, intervention and prevention services are culturally and linguistically adapted to meet the needs of most of Montreal's major ethnocultural communities."
 Melpa Kamateros goes on: "At first, we had to confront the dilemma of Greek battered women who were reluctant to discuss the violent situations at home, partly because they did not speak the language but also because it was a social stigma to divorce their husbands. However, the extreme violence of men who are alcoholics or addicted to violence often ends up forcing these helpless ladies to seek out "The Shield of Athena." 

"Eventually, we were able to develop extended support services and counselling for the victims. We hired skilled professional social workers to listen to the women's problems and provide them with psychosocial support. Also, with our access to a team of professional lawyers and knowledgeable bureaucrats, the organization supports those who seek legal action and state resources in their quest to escape from an environment that is very violent," she concludes.

In extreme cases of violence, "The Shield of Athena" provides shelter for the battered women and their children for a limited period of time. There, they can stay during a transitional period until they recover mentally and find their way back to a normal life. The shelter can accommodate a few mothers and children at the time and it's often the police, the community or a friend who will bring the victims to us. Today, 40 percent of the women are of Greek origin while 60 percent come from other communities as the new ethnic communities are experiencing serious problems of domestic violence. "The Shield of Athena" has broken the language barrier with our social workers and liaisons able to provide guidance in 17 languages.

On the occasion of International Women's Day, which was celebrated March 8th, it is sad that violence against women and children still lurks in the developed countries. However, I would like to say that violence is not a shame for those who suffer it but that it is shameful for those who practice it.

Follow Justine Frangouli-Argyris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Justinakion

Κυριακή, 16 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Dr. Kimon Valaskakis: There is always a danger of Grexit as there is of Brixit

By Justine Frangouli-Argyris

The stark contrast between the stance of the International Monetary Fund and the European Union on the Greek debt crisis is all too evident with the IMF insisting that Greek debt will have to undergo a new haircut while Germany stands pat on a policy that considers any such discussion to be taboo.

The finance ministers of the Eurozone continue to anticipate the troika’s next report so they can release the most recent, long-delayed tranche to Greece, while the troika itself still waits for the country to show economic progress.

The data received by the troika from Athens, however, are often conflicting, with the Greek government claiming that it is running a primary surplus of €691 million for the current fiscal year.

Analysts continue to comment that, as things are evolving, Greece will not be able to respond to the enormous debt burden it faces.

According to Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, Greek debt rose after the haircut of 2012, recently reaching an astonishing 175% of GDP.

The economist, Dr. Kimon Valaskaskis, an expert on the EU, responds to questions on the outlook for Greece in the following manner.  “The recovery is fictitious. In the last six years, Greece lost a quarter of its GDP and now has huge unused resources, 27% unemployment and almost 60% youth unemployment. The divide between rich and poor is very high and presents a clear danger of class warfare that could bring about, God forbid, major social unrest. We must remember that Greece underwent a very tragic civil war immediately following World War II and many of the root problems of that conflict are recurring.

On whether a danger of a “Grexit” still exists, Dr Valaskakis notes, ”there is always danger of a Grexit just as there is of a Brixit (British withdrawal). The same thing is true for Italy and even France if LePen were to win. The key challenge is not withdrawing from the Eurozone but, rather, reforming the entire zone. Greece's wthdrawal would neither help Greece nor the Eurozone.

How can the Greek debt be eliminated since the Germans continue to refuse to consider any reduction plan?  ”The cancellation of Greece’s debt, along with a strictly enforced explicit development strategy, is a much better option. Although Germany resists this approach so far, if things heat up and there is a real danger of political collapse, everything will be reconsidered. Necessity is the mother of invention.” 

What solution can put Greece back on its feet?  “A development plan that will enhance and use Greece's competitive advantages, of which there are many, with a clean reset, sort of like when you reboot your computer. This could be part of a Europe-wide new “Marshall Plan.” The contours and configuration of such a plan could be designed in a relatively short period of time.”

When can we expect a recovery? “No sustainable recovery can happen without a true rebooting of the economy along the lines discussed above. The austerity policies that have been a complete failure should be replaced by a strong expansionist policy encouraging entrepreneurship. In this context, the Diaspora Greeks can be very useful in helping finance such a new expansion.”

Kimon Valaskakis Ph.D
Ambassador of Canada, RET
President, New School of Athens
Professeur Honoraire, Université de Montréal


Δευτέρα, 10 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

An Ultra Marathon of Hope

Justine Frangouli-Argyris

The debt crisis has hit the young population of Greece the hardest. Today, some 465,000 children in the country live below the poverty line, 22% subsist on a diet that lacks animal protein, 37% are without adequate heating, 28% are housed in unhygienic homes, 23% live in poor environmental conditions and 10% of elementary and middle school students suffer from “food insecurity.”


Mothers continue to abandon their children in orphanages and nurseries at an alarming rate because they can not provide for them and the situation is worsening rapidly. The "Smile of the Child" organization  assisted 10,927 children last year compared to 4,465 in 2012 and the "Children's Village SOS" is currently providing for 900 families compared with a mere 47 five years ago.


Recently, two athletes, Apostolos Baranowski and Rannelle McCoy, decided    they wanted to make a difference and improve the lives of the destitute Greek children. “We need to take immediate action to help those most affected by the crisis. The time has come for a line to be drawn in the sand. A time to say enough is enough and take a stand against poverty in our community,” says Apostolos.

The two Greek runners will attempt to run a grueling, 100km, non-stop “ultra- marathon” on the weekend of July 19th, 2014, in the United Kingdom. The course will follow in the footsteps of the Romans and Vikings with the finish line placed at the 3,000 year old stone circle of Avebury, a route that is considered extremely challenging and poses many technical difficulties.


“We will be running under the banner of “Hellenic Hope,” a charity committed to raising funds in support of non-profit organizations in Greece working with children who are suffering the consequences of the current socio-economic crisis,” Apostolos states.www.hellenic-hope.org


Apostolos and Rannelle have two main goals:


1) to raise $100,000US to help ease the suffering of the Greek children;


2) to inspire members of the Greek community at large to make a difference and rise above the misery that engulfs their daily lives.


“For most, the idea of running 100km non-stop seems impossible. Many people in Greece share the same opinion when it comes to the current economic crisis. They believe it to be an impossible situation. We want to show our fellow citizens that nothing is impossible when we work systematically and relentlessly towards a goal. It’s time to start helping each other, to start caring, to change old attitudes that have held us back for so long. To stand up and be counted,“ says Apostolos.


Apostolos and Rannelle are two seasoned endurance runners who compete in national and international “ultramarathons”. Rannelle is the current women’s record holder for the Rodopi Mountains “Adendurun” 164km (100 mile) trail adventure race with a time of 29h 50m---smashing the previous record by a whopping 2.5 hours! Apostolos recently returned from the Chicago Marathon where he flew the Greek colours as a member of “Team Greek America” and, in the process, raised funds for a worthy cause. They both live in Athens and are very passionate about helping their community.


Apostolos and Rannelle believe that every last penny should go to those who need it most and, as such, have decided to cover their own expenses and travel costs. They encourage the Greek communities around the world to make their fund raising goal a reality. “$100,000US works out to $1,000US per kilometer,” they claim.


The two Greek runners will take the harsh route in the name of the Greek chidren who are suffering the crisis to their bones, a moving initiative for the most delicate cause of all!

 For donations to this important cause check here:

Δευτέρα, 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Sam Chekwas, the Nigerian who was selling pirated books!!!

We Greeks are ready to believe everyone who sells Philhellenism. Lately, I ve noticed a video going around presenting  Sam Chekwas, a Nigerian who had once a Greek bookstore in Astoria. This man was selling pirated copies of my book "The Lonely Path of Integrity". Hundreds of copies were seized at his store and a legal process began, only to be stopped by his Eminence Archbishop Spyridon who  wanted to forgive  Chekwas for his wrongdoings.

Please, check the background of people who present themselves as heroes!!!

Archbishop Spyridon's Biography on Sale Illegally
The illegal printing and marketing of The Lonely Path of Integrity, written by Justine Frangouli, has been denounced by Exandas Publishers. The book, an authorized biography of Archbishop Spyridon, former Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, was first published in December 2000.

Purchasers of the book have alleged that thousands of pirated copies are being sold in various US cities, mainly by bookseller and publisher Sam Chekwas, the owner of a bookstore in Astoria, New York.

Chekwas's illegal activities have been reported both to Exandas Pubblishers and the District Attorney of New York by Stephania and Charis Nikolaou who had bought 100 copies of The Lonely Path of Integrity a few days ago.

However, Exandas Publishers did not limit itself to this alone.

Publisher Magda Kotzia has made a formal complaint to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Publishers-Booksellers, the Association of Athenian Publishers-Booksellers, the Organization of Collegial Administration of Works of Word (OSDEL), the Publishers' Association of Scientific Books, the Publishers' Association of Books and the Book's National Center.

The denunciation stresses the following: "Exandas Publishers denounces the vast fraud, and the theft of intellectual ownership protected by international laws. However, it refrains at present from taking any legal measures in its effort not to compromise in any manner the prestige of the former Archbishop of America, given that the matter pertains to his authorized biography. Exandas denounces the fact that Sam Chekwas sells and resells pirated copies of the book "I Monaxia Enos Asymvivastou" (The Lonely Path of Integrity) in large quantities. This fact constitutes a danger for Greek literature, given that the said publisher has remained the sole distributor and promoter of Greek books in the United States, while he is also preparing a Greek book fair with the participation of Greek publishers."

The denunciation concludes: "We also call upon Greek publishers to denounce the act of Sam Chekwas through public communications in the Greek and American Press and to take all proper measures in order to stop the illegal circulation of pirated copies of our book in the United States."
[Translated from Greek]


Avalaible  at  www.amazon.com

Pirated Copies of Spyridon's Biography in the US
Exandas Publishers denounce their distributor in America for marketing pirated books

Sam Chekwas denies the charges, but does not name his supplier

By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Exandas Publishers, some ten days ago, brought grave charges against Sam Chekwas, a New York bookseller and publisher, for illegally printing and marketing the authorized biography of Spyridon, former Archbishop of America. The biography is entitled The Lonely Path of Integrity and has been written by journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris.

The charge was first made public by the Athens News Agency in a press report by the Agency's correspondent in Canada who also happens to be the author of the biography. The charge gives as sole evidence the denunciation made by Stephany and Harry Nicolaou, a couple who had bought 100 copies from Mr Chekwas and who upon opening the boxes "were shocked to find that they had purchased pirated copies, a fact, according to the press report, they reported to the Greek publisher and to the New York district attorney."

The announcement states that "Exandas Publishers denounces the vast fraud, and the theft of intellectual ownership protected by international laws. However, it refrains at present from taking any legal measures in its effort not to compromise in any manner the prestige of the former Archbishop of America, given that the matter pertains to his authorized biography."

As soon as Proini became aware of the charge, it repeatedly asked Exandas Publishers and the author who meanwhile got in touch with us to provide more facts, including putting us in touch with the Nicolaous and informing us in detail about the charge made before the district attorney. The publishers refused to do so on the grounds that the district attorney had already taken up the matter. According to Proini's information, Ms Nikolaou is a former employee of the Archdiocese who was dismissed a year after Archbishop Spyridon's resignation.

At the same time, since the Exandas announcement spoke of "thousands of pirated copies sold accross the US, mainly by bookseller and publisher Sam Chekwas," our newspaper put these charges to Mr Chekwas himself.

At first, Mr Chekwas told us that he did not remember the Nicolaous and that he had never sold anyone 100 books. The next day he confirmed that he had in fact sold such a quantity of books to some couple. He also stated that apart from the 300 copies received from Exandas Publishers, he had been supplied with only 150 other copies by a book wholesaler in Athens. As his wife was at that time having a baby, our contact with him was broken off for a few days.

In the middle of last week, we were able to locate two alleged pirated copies. The first came from the batch of 100 bought by the Nicolaous and the second from a package of ten copies purchased by another individual. The difference in books sold by Exandas Publishers is obvious, particularly as regards the cover and the photographs.

Concurrently, as a result of contacts with various stores that market the biography and with individuals who have bought it in bulk from Mr Chekwas, our newspaper was able to find that they had taken delivery of more than 550 copies in total.

When our charges were brought to Mr Chekwas's attention, we received the explanation that he too had seen some copy which had not seemed to him to be authentic. Nevertheless, as exclusive distributor for Greek publishers in the US he was not able to cite any measures taken by his bookstore to protect his own interests and those of Exandas Publishers.

When we asked him to name his other Athenian supplier, apart from Exandas Publishers, we were told that as he was planning to go to Athens after Easter he himself wanted to speak to the Athenian supplier first and to investigate the charges.

When one of several self-contradictions he had made was pointed out to him, he told us that there is also another supplier from whom he buys books in Athens (a fact that he had initially concealed) and that until he himself had investigated every aspect of the matter, he did not wish to make any further statement. However, he denied any personal responsibility. He described the figures for the sales of the book as "fantasy" and added that he is the victim of a "conspiracy." He did, however, tell us that he had written to Exandas Publishers and to the book's author, Justine Frangouli. Although he told us that he would send us copies of the letters, he has so far not done so.

A charge against the philhellene Nigerian publisher and owner of the sole Greek bookshop has also been made by another Greek-American lady from Michigan. She had sent him the sum of 3,000 dollars of which a thousand was to be used for the purchase of books to be sent free to certain recipients, while the rest was for the publication of a new book to promote Greek literature.

Mr Chekwas, who cashed only the check for a thousand dollars, sent the lady receipts for the books, before, however, sending them to the addressees. The receipts showed that the books had been paid for, not by the Greek-American lady, but by various recipients. Mr Chekwas explained that, being currently out of stock, he would send the packages as soon as he had been supplied with more books. Yet, since a problem had arisen with the lady from Michigan, he would return her money. The Exandas announcement urged those who had purchased "pirated copies" to return them to the bookseller and demand the immediate return of their money.
[Translated from Greek]


Σάββατο, 1 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Honoring altruism in the Holocaust!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
This past Monday, on  Holocaust Remembrance Day, a beautiful ceremony took place at Montreal’s City Hall.  During this moving commemoration, the “Righteous Among the Nations” medal and certificate was awarded, posthumously, to Angelo Chalikias, a Greek who saved the life of the Jew, Niso Moustaki, during the Second World War.
The distinction was presented to Chalkias’ widow, Philomena, and his children, Jimmy and Olga, by Israeli Consul-General, Joel Lion, and the Canadian Society for Yad Vashemin in the presence of Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, and Greece’s Ambassador to Canada, Eleftherios Angelopoulos, as well as many dignitaries from the Jewish and Greek communities.
The accolade was given to late Angelo Chalikias in recognition of the Jewish people's gratitude for having saved late Niso Moustaki, a Jew persecuted in Greece by the Nazis during the war, at great risk to his own life.
The tribute was meant to shed light on one of the hundreds of stories of Jews in wartime Greece who were victimized by the Germans and on the courage of the many Greeks who risked life and family in order to hide the hunted.
The events that led to Niso’s rescue began in mid 1944. On June 7th  of that year, the German and Greek police ordered the Moustaki family, along with many other Jews living on the Ionian island of Corfu, to congregate on a football field.
Until that day, Niso had been living a comfortable and happy life with his family, swimming and partaking in various sports and enjoying the company of friends. Besides his brother, Shlomo, who sought refuge with his family in a non-Jewish home, the rest of the Moustakis, including Niso’s father, Mordechai, his  stepmother, Rosa, and his brother, Shalom, with his wife and three children, were taken to the soccer pitch without any forewarning.
Two days later, the SS and the police, with the assistance of the Wehrmacht,  initiated the deportation of 1,850 Jews from Corfu to Auschwitz. The process began with the transfer of the Moustaki family and the other Jews living in Corfu to the old fort of the island from which they boarded a ship bound for the neighboring island of Lefkada. Upon their arrival in Lefkada, they were immediately emprisoned in a concentration camp without food or water for several days.
Soon after, Niso, who had been studying the patrolling Nazi guard for days, decided to escape. When the opportunity arose and with his father’s blessing in hand in the hope that at least one member of the family might survive, Niso made a run for it. To avoid being caught, he hid in shops, slept in vineyards, and for a short time, joined up with a group of rebels.
Then, one day, Niso, in dire need of a shave, walked into a barber shop in the small Lefkadian village of Spanohori. There, he was approached by a man who identified himself as Angelo Chalikias and who told him he recognized him as his father regularly frequented Corfu to buy soaps from Niso’s father.
Upon exiting the barbershop, a collaborator of the Nazis attempted to arrest Niso, only to have Angelo appear and whisk him away, claiming that Niso was under his responsibility.
For the following months, Niso would enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Chalikias family which consisted of Angelo, his father, Dimitri, his mother, Olga, and his four sisters, Efthymia, Mavreta, Cleo and Andriana. The family refused Niso’s offer to work in exchange for the food and accommodation they provided.
Dressed as a peasant, Niso would try and mix with the locals. In case he needed to ' disappear,’ the Chalikias home, perched on top of the hill among the vineyards, provided excellent coverage.
Angelo confided that, despite the German surveillance, a boatman was sailing between Corfu and Lefkada and he asked Niso if he wanted to send a letter back home. But, instead of a note, Niso decided that he would go himself. Angelo tried to dissuade him from such a dangerous journey but Niso was adamant in his decision so Angelo provided him with his identity card, replacing his own photo with that of Niso’s.
Pretending to be fishermen, the two arrived at the port of Lefkada where Niso was to depart after nightfall. With tears in his eyes, Angelos refused to leave until he was certain that the boat carrying Niso had cast off.
Niso arrived safely and remained in Corfu until the liberation. Eventually, he left for Israel and settled in Kibbutz Ein Harod where he was married to Malka Amramand and had three daughters. Besides his brother, Shlomo, the entire Moustaki family was executed in Auschwitz.
For his part, Angelo Chalikias continued to participate in the resistance in Greece until war’s end. In 1949, he married Philomena and a year later, in Thessaloniki, they had a son, Dimitri . Seeking a better life for his family, Angelo emigrated to Ottawa, Canada in 1957. Two years later, Philomena and Dimitri followed him to Montreal where his daughter, Olga, was born in 1963.
In 1957, Niso began a correspondence with the Jewish Community of Ottawa. In one of his letters, he wrote, "After he (Angelo Chalikias) heard my plight, through his own free and good will…took it upon himself to hide me...He endangered both his own life and that of his family.”  The letters were discovered by Angelo’s  family after his death in 2012, at the age of 92, and were sent to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority).
On February 19th, 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Angelo Chalikia as “Righteous Among the Nations.” To this day, this honorary distinction has been received by 315 Greeks, including the blessed Archbishop of Athens, Damascus, and Princess Alice of Vatemvergis.
Last Monday was a day of remembrance for the Jews but also a day of honoring the altruism of those who aided their plight during the Second World War.