Joe Biden Faces a Challenge Winning over Progressives

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden says he has “the most progressive record” of any Democrat running, or mulling a run, in 2020. But many progressive activists disagree.

As the former vice president inches closer to a third White House run, several moments in his long career loom as immediate political liabilities. From his vote for the Iraq war to his key role in passing a bill that made it harder for debt-ridden Americans to declare bankruptcy, Biden would have to reconcile his past with a party that’s moved to the left.

Biden leads many early polls, but his handling of those issues will determine whether that support fades in a primary fight. He is aware of his critics, using a speech last week before friendly Delaware Democrats to declare himself a progressive while also describing some of his detractors as “the new left” and defending his record. But several progressive activists are urging him to do more to address doubts about his progressive credentials by owning up to past missteps and developing a forward-looking agenda that recognizes the Democratic base’s center of gravity has shifted.

“For him to actually own the label of progressive, he needs to acknowledge and reconcile that prior harm — not just in words, but by putting forth a policy agenda that’s really rooted in challenging white supremacy and economic exploitation,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the activist group Center for Popular Democracy.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, amid growing expectations he’ll soon announce he’s running for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As for Biden deeming his record progressive, she warned that “simply labeling yourself something doesn’t make it true.”

Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the activist group Indivisible, described Biden’s progressive self-definition as “a confusing comment” given the number of other prominent liberals in the Democratic primary.

“He’s going to need to reconcile his record on policy with where he is now and what kind of policies he’s proposing as a presidential contender,” Greenberg said, adding that “if he’s trying to understand what animates the new left . I’d recommend that he talk to grassroots leaders on the ground.”

A Biden spokesman declined to comment.

The 76-year-old Democrat has expressed some regrets for past actions. He was contrite in January about supporting a 1994 crime bill whose stiffer sentences fell disproportionately on minority offenders, telling an audience that the bill’s harsher punishment was “a big mistake” that has “trapped an entire generation.” He has called his vote to support the Iraq War “a mistake.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a photograph with members of the audience after speaking to the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, amid growing expectations he’ll soon announce he’s running for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

And Biden is known for pushing the rest of his party leftward on some key issues. He backed same-sex marriage in 2012 before Barack Obama did, effectively nudging the then-president into his corner on what was a politically volatile issue. He was also a lead architect of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and later used his perch as Obama’s vice president to advocate for sexual assault victims, particularly on college campuses.

Sen. Chris Coons, who holds the Delaware seat Biden occupied and is a close ally, said he read Biden’s “most progressive” comment as a way of championing the Obama administration’s accomplishments on health care, climate change and other fronts.

“On the core issues progressives claim to care about most, Joe Biden actually has a record of leadership,” Coons said in an interview. “Anybody can give a great speech on a college campus, but actually getting things done . that’s something worth talking about and running on.”

But progressives say he’ll have more atoning to do, should he enter the 2020 race.

Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser at MoveOn.org who worked with Biden during her time in Obama’s administration, predicted “there are things he’s going to have to answer to.”

“Sometimes you’re so popular, and then you jump into an election, and then you become less popular,” she said. “He could avoid that by just going head-on and dealing with it from the get-go.”

FILE – In this March 12, 2019 photo, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington. As the former vice president inches closer toward a third White House run, several moments in his long career loom as immediate political liabilities should he decide to join a Democratic primary already stocked with more than a dozen candidates. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Even as Biden leads most early polls of the sprawling Democratic field, those surveys can’t gauge how much of his advantage stems from voters’ favorable views of his role as Obama’s vice president — and whether that wellspring of goodwill would fade if Biden enters the presidential race to criticism from liberals.

Activists looking to push the party toward a progressive agenda aren’t prepared to give Biden a pass based on Obama-era successes.

“You can only go so long on the coattails of a former president, no matter how well-liked a former president is,” said Charles Chamberlain, chair of the progressive group Democracy for America.

Biden’s advisers have talked for weeks about the prospect of assuaging concerns regarding his age and ideology by tapping a younger running mate early in the primary, before the Democratic nomination is secured. Those discussions, which have not coalesced into any firm decision, at one point focused on former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and have shifted to former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who met with Biden in Washington last week.

Allying with Abrams could bear fruit in bolstering Biden’s relationships with progressives, but she’s also being heavily courted by Democratic elders to challenge Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia in 2020 and has yet to rule out a presidential bid herself.

“There is an important dynamic to having your name considered as part of the national conversation because someone like me is not often on that list,” Abrams, a 45-year-old African-American woman, said last week at a conference in Washington.

Even if Biden adds younger, more left-leaning energy to his prospective ticket, some activists won’t be deterred from scrutinizing elements of his past. In addition to his votes on bankruptcy, the crime bill and the Iraq War, Biden is likely to face further questions about his treatment of Anita Hill during the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his recently resurfaced 1970s remarks against the use of busing to diversify schools in his home state.

“I don’t think his choice of running mate will matter that much,” said Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid, whose group worked to elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other rising young liberal candidates in 2018. “Biden can’t trick progressives who are at the center of energy in the Democratic Party right now into rebranding himself into someone he’s not.”

President Pavlopoulos’ Message to Greeks abroad for March 25 National Holiday

ATHENS – President Prokopios Pavlopoulos, in a message for Greeks abroad on the March 25 national holiday marking the launch of the 1821 Greek Revolution against Ottoman Rule, on Friday said that this day should be a day of inspiration for every Greek and a source of national lessons. He called on all Greeks to create a solid front of shared responsibility and coordination of their actions to promote the country’s interests, while always respecting the societies where they live and prosper.

He expressed the Greek people’s gratitude to the Diaspora, underlining that they are a precious and integral part of the nation which has greatly contributed to the country as it followed its historic course, according to its heritage and destination.

Seminar – and Diving Tour – on BlueMed Program in Alonnisos on April 6-7

Amateur scuba divers and professionals will have an opportunity to visit the underwater archaeological site at the Peristera shipwreck off the shores of Alonnisos, as part of a seminar regarding the BlueMed programme for Underwater Museums and Diving Parks and Knowledge Awareness Centres that will be held on the island on April 6-7.

The two-day seminar entitled “The BlueMed on Alonnisos. For marine cultural heritage and planning its management” is organised by the Thessaly Region and the culture ministry’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. The tour will be followed by a series of discussions, lectures and presentations at the Town Hall the following day, which are open to the public.

The seminar programme is as follows:

Saturday, April 6: “Diving at Peristera” at Steni Vala, Alonnisos (11:00-15:00) – The Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities will organise an underwater tour of the Peristera Shipwreck in Alonnisos, a visitable underwater archaeological site. The shipwreck as found at a depth of 25 metres near the islet Peristera in the 1990s and excavated by the Ephorate, revealing one of the largest Classical-era shipwrecks ever found in the Aegean.

The merchant ship was carrying more than 4,000 amphorae when it foundered near the Sporades islands and the large number of amphorae, the excellent state of the shipwreck and the clarity of the waters and the deep in the area combine to create a unique attraction. The Peristera shipwreck, which is within the North Sporades National Marine Park, is among those chosen by the culture ministry in the North Sporades and Pagasitikos Bay to be converted into a visitable archaeological site with guided diving tours.

The Ephorate and Thessaly Region, in collaboration with other agencies through the BlueMed European programme are examining ways to make the area’s marine wealth accessible to the public, both for those that know how to dive but also those that cannot.
Those interested in joining the diving tour are asked to carefully read the conditions of participation, posted in an announcement on the Thessaly Region website at:  https://www.thessaly.gov.gr/main.aspx?catid=78&id=16077#.XJSQOygzbIU. The necessary supporting documents must scanned and e-mailed to eeabluemed@gmail.com by March 26 and those selected for the tour will be notified by March 29.

Sunday, April 7: Seminar open to the public at the Alonnisos Town Hall, from 10:00-13:00. This will include presentations by archaeologists on the Peristera shipwreck, excavation and conclusions, the lecture “Maritime Routes and Ancient Shipwrecks in the Central Aegean”, a talk on preserving the natural heritage of the Alonnisos-North Sporades National Marine Park, a presentation of the importance of the BlueMed programme for Thessaly and the North Sporades islands, as well as talks on planning to create visitable underwater archaeological sites, an open discussion. This will be followed by an afternoon training seminar for diving professionals.

Vaccinations Shunned, Greece Flu Death Toll Hits 122

ATHENS – With many Greeks typically refusing vaccinations, the flu virus death toll has jumped to 122 since October, 2018, the month when people are advised to get the shots, said Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) reported.

Citing the latest data in its weekly report, KEELPNO said that three patients who had contracted the virus died between March 11-17, and that another seven patients were admitted to the intensive care units of Greek hospitals.

Despite the deaths, there has been a lessening of the flu, the center said, noting that fewer people are seeking medical help, but as it advised people to get injections.

Annual flu deaths are common in Greece as many people don’t believe in vaccinations.

In February the number of serious cases was 226 with 219 treated in Intensive Care Units the agency said, and only 29 of them had been inoculated. The average age of those treated in ICUs was 58.

The union of union of Greek hospital workers, POEDIN,  said the numbers were likely higher and disputed KEELPNO’s data, with fears it could keep mounting during the dangerous mid-winter period for the disease.

SYRIZA Governor Charged for Deadly Greek Fires, Floods Too

ATHENS – After being charged for breach of duty among other counts in the deaths of 100 people in July, 23, 2018 wildfires in Greece, Attica Governor Rena Dourou was one of a group of officials blamed for catastrophic 2017 floods in the town of Mandra that killed 25.

A months-long 66-page prosecutor’s investigation into the causes of the floods in the western Attica municipality that also injured 13 and caused huge damage to homes and infrastructure, has pointed to negligence by local and regional authorities, noting that no flood prevention works had been carried out to avert such a disaster, said media reports.

Dourou is one of the most prominent politicians who is a member of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and had deflected any blame for anything before the reports over the floods and fires accused her of negligence.

After geological experts had said the floods were preventable if the government hadn’t allowed unlawful construction blocking water run-off the report said Dourou’s office was lax, citing a lack of any registration of illegally built structures and no marking of the area’s creek beds.

The investigation reveals other details over liability assigned to regional and municipal officials, as well as to the state-run forestry bureaus, the same pattern of blame assigned to government authorities over the fires showing no one was in charge, there was chaos and confusion and critics blaming appointments of unqualified political friends to offices.

Rainstorm hits Mandra, western Attica on June 26 as bad weather swept across parts of Greece. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Antonis Nicolopoulos)

One of the major charges was that no anti-flooding works were undertaken by the regional government’s services, although similar flooding occurred in 2014-2015 and as the government had promised to rectify the problem of unlawful building.

After the fires, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said more than 1100 unlawful buildings would be razed but there haven’t been any reports that has happened.

Prosecutor Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou brought multiple misdemeanor charges for the floods, including negligible homicide, being filed against nine current office-holders and forestry bureau officials.

Besides Dourou, the list includes Mandra Mayor Ioanna Kriekouki, Elefsina Mayor Giorgos Tsoukalas and Megara Mayor Grigoris Stamoulis. The charges include manslaughter through neglect, grievous bodily harm, provoking floods through neglect, violating construction regulations and breach of duty.

The report said Dourou’s office and other municipal officials failed to conduct any anti-flood works despite technical studies and approved funding to support such a project, with the 2014-15 floods also cited.

It noted the failures to act contributed to the “massive destruction”brought by uncontrolled construction in dried-out river beds, the inadequacy of technical works and the “complete nonexistence” of flood prevention works in mountain areas, the report said.

Particular blame was directed at the Municipality of Mandra, which the report accused of “criminal neglect and violations” including the unlicensed construction of a sports stadium on the bed of the Soures stream.

The charges come as SYRIZA is trying to revise penal codes for more lenient sentences for government officials convicted of embezzlement, the possession of Molotov Cocktails and lesser penalties for state officials found guilty of gross negligence in their response to natural disasters.

Floods Show National Security Threat Posed by Climate Change

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AP) — The Missouri River floodwater surging on to the air base housing the U.S. military’s Strategic Command overwhelmed round-the-clock sandbagging by airmen and others. They had to scramble to save sensitive equipment, munitions and dozens of aircraft.

Days into the flooding, muddy water was still lapping at almost 80 flooded buildings at Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, some inundated by up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) of water. Piles of waterlogged corn cobs, husks and stalks lay heaped everywhere that the water had receded, swept onto the base from surrounding fields.

“In the end, obviously, the waters were just too much. It took over everything we put up,” Col. David Norton, who is in charge of facilities at the base, told an Associated Press reporter on a tour of the damage. “The speed at which it came in was shocking.”

Though the headquarters of Strategic Command, which plays a central role in detecting and striking at global threats, wasn’t damaged, the flooding provided a dramatic example of how climate change poses a national security threat, even as the Trump administration plays down the issue.

It is also a reminder that the kind of weather extremes escalating with climate change aren’t limited to the coasts, said retired Rear Adm. David W. Titley.

“We’re probably do need some walls — but they’re probably levees. I would say those are the kinds of walls we need,” said Titley, founder of both the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change and the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University. He was referring to the administration’s proposal to take money from the military’s construction budget to build President Donald Trump’s desired southern border walls.

The late-winter floods that have swept over Plains states starting last week — breaching levees, halting Amtrak trains, and killing at least three people — are also the second major inundation in less than a decade to hit the air base outside Omaha.

It would takes weeks or more for scientists to determine if the Plains flooding, or any weather disaster, was caused or worsened by climate change, which is occurring as emissions from coal, oil and gas alter the atmosphere. But federal agencies and scientists around the world agree that climate change already is making natural disasters more frequent, stronger and longer.

The military has warned in a series of reports under past administrations that climate change is a security threat on many fronts. That includes “through direct impacts on U.S. military infrastructure and by affecting factors, including food and water availability, that can exacerbate conflict outside U.S. borders,” the federal government’s grim climate report said last year.

But Trump has belittled his own government’s warnings. During a January cold spell, he tweeted his wish for “a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming!” In response to security warnings on climate change, the Trump administration has allowed a physicist who rejects scientific consensus on manmade climate change to start organizing a White House panel to make its own determination.

Responding to an AP inquiry, the White House’s National Security Council did not directly address whether the administration sees climate change as a national security threat, but said it takes the issue of climate change seriously.

But the Trump White House’s national security strategy mentions climate only in the context of “countering an anti-growth energy agenda” for fossil fuels.

Department of Defense spokeswoman Heather Babb said the department “works to ensure installations and infrastructure are resilient to a wide range of challenges, including climate.”

“DOD will focus on ensuring it remains ready and able to adapt to a wide variety of threats – regardless of the source – to fulfill our mission to deter war and ensure our nation’s security,” Babb said.

Under the Trump administration, unlike in previous administrations, the Pentagon has offered little public comment on climate change as a security threat. The Pentagon’s guiding star of defense planning, known as the National Defense Strategy, does not even mention climate change.

That leaves it to former military leaders to raise the alarm about how climate change could affect national security. Retired Brig. Gen. Gerald Galloway said that worsening bouts of weather — floods cutting off troops’ way in and out of bases, high waves complicating landings, heat waves depriving aircraft of the lift they need to fly — are all problems the military could be dealing with.

Military bases are launch platforms and you “can’t fight a war unless you’ve got a place to leave from,” said Galloway, a member of the Center for Climate and Security’s advisory board.

Titley predicted Offutt Air Force Base would prove the latest military installation to have racked up $1 billion or more in damage. Hurricanes struck North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune in September and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in October.

The current political atmosphere discourages any big efforts building up base defenses against climate change, said Titley, who also served as chief operating officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Defense Department officials “by and large know what they need to do, but it’s very hard for them to do. White House dynamics are the White House does not want to hear about it,” he said.

“The Pentagon is really between a rock and a hard spot here,” Titley said.

Earlier heavy flooding at Offutt has prompted the base to start raising its levee by 2 feet this year, said Maj. Meghan M. Liemburg-Archer, spokeswoman for Strategic Command.

Sandbagging had held back 2011 floods at the base. The flooding that poured in starting March 15 was worse, Norton, the base’s support group commander, said.

“It was all hands on deck,” Norton said. “All through the night, we worked. It was thousands of people, in total, working to sandbag, move in huge Hesco barriers; a whole host of people clearing equipment out of facilities, moving munitions … even crews doing things like disconnecting power. It was a massive effort.”

More than 30 aircraft were towed to higher ground or flown to other locations. Crews hauled out loads of equipment, engines and tools.

By Saturday, the flood had rolled over a third of the base, swamping more than 1.2 million square feet of buildings.

Though Strategic Command headquarters escaped flooding, it had to cut staff to a minimum as high water blocked roads. The command holds down a range of responsibilities, including global strike capacity, missile defense, nuclear operations and strategic deterrence.

Inundated buildings include the 55th Wing headquarters, the massive Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility and a building that houses the 55th Wing’s flight simulators.

About 3,000 feet of the base’s 11,700-foot runway is submerged.

“The good news is that no one on the base was injured,” Norton said. “We know how lucky we are.”

Touring Offutt, the base’s fire chief, Dave Eblin, kicked one of the soggy corn cobs strewn throughout the base. Asked whether there had been some type of fodder silo that ruptured nearby, Eblin just laughed.

“No, it came in from the fields. Miles of corn fields around the base,” he said, nudging at the cob underfoot. “It clogs everything: engines, boat motors. It’s everywhere.”

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By MARGERY A. BECK, ELLEN KNICKMEYER and ROBERT BURNS Associated Press

Knickmeyer and Burns reported from Washington. AP science reporter Seth Borenstein contributed, also from Washington.

Cyprus Routed San Marino 5-0, Netherland Wins as 2020 Qualifying Begins

The stars of last year’s World Cup had to dig deep as European Championship qualifying began Thursday.

World Cup finalist Croatia nearly dropped points against Azerbaijan, only to be saved by a fine curling shot from Andrej Kramaric for a 2-1 win. Belgium needed two goals from Eden Hazard to defeat Russia 3-1 after a costly Thibaut Courtois error allowed the Russians back into the game.

The Netherlands failed to qualify for the last two major tournaments but showed no sign of nerves in a 4-0 win against Belarus. Memphis Depay gave the Dutch an early lead and finished with two goals and two assists.

BELGIUM’S BATTLE

Even with Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne missing through injury, Belgium took a big step toward qualifying by beating Russia, its main rival in Group I.

Cyprus’ George Efrem, second left, celebrates his goal against San Marino during the Euro 2020 group I qualifying soccer match between Cyprus and San Marino at the GSP stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Youri Tielemans’ early goal for Belgium was canceled out when a Courtois gave away the ball in a rare blunder which allowed Russia’s Denis Cheryshev to score. A new-look Russia team struggled to track Hazard and when defender Yuri Zhirkov tried, he ended up tripping the Belgian and giving away a penalty which Hazard converted.

Belgium could have scored more but for Michy Batshuayi hitting the post and having another shot cleared off the line.

Far away in Central Asia, perennial outsider Kazakhstan celebrated a rare win over an established football nation, beating Scotland 3-0. Cyprus routed San Marino 5-0 in the third Group I fixture.

CROATIA TESTED

Ever since losing to France in the World Cup final, Croatia has struggled to replicate the form of its greatest ever tournament showing.

Relegation in the Nations League last year was followed Thursday by a come-from-behind win over lowly Azerbaijan in Group E.

Azerbaijan — by far the lowest-ranked of all next year’s 12 European Championship hosts — took the lead with a fine solo goal. Ramil Sheydaev sprinted down the right flank in the 19th before striking the ball over the goalkeeper.

Cyprus’ Ioannis Kousoulos, seocond right, reacts with his teammates, after scoring against San Marino during the Euro 2020 group I qualifying soccer match between Cyprus and San Marino at the GSP stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Azerbaijan then sat back to defend, frustrating Croatia, who came close with headers from Andrej Kramaric and Luka Modric. Croatia finally leveled in the 44th thanks to Borna Barisic’s quick reactions to jab the ball in on a rebound.

A moment of skill from Kramaric finally cracked the tenacious Azerbaijan defense as he cut in from the left flank and curled the ball in at the far post.

“It was difficult, more than we expected,” coach Zlatko Dalic said. “We were patient, persistent and deserved this win.”

There was violence ahead of the other Group E game as visiting Hungarian fans clashed with Slovakian supporters and police. Slovakia beat Hungary 2-0.

FAST-STARTING DUTCH

Memphis Depay needed just 50 seconds to score as the Netherlands continued its fine form from the Nations League with a straightforward win over Belarus in Group C.

The Dutch failed to qualify for the 2016 European Championship and 2018 World Cup, but are now unbeaten in five games including Nations League wins over the last two World Cup champions, Germany and France.

Depay backheeled a pass from Denzel Dumfries for Georginio Wijnaldum to score in the 21st, then converted a penalty in the 55th. His cross for Virgil van Dijk to make it 4-0 in the final minutes capped a dominant display. The defender has now scored three goals in his last four games for the Netherlands.

Netherlands’ Virgil Van Dijk celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s fourth goal during their Euro 2020 group C qualifying soccer match between Netherlands and Belarus at the Feyenoord stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Northern Ireland ended a four-game winless run by beating Estonia 2-0 in the other Group C game. That helps its chances of reaching the European Championship for the second time ever, following a run to the last 16 in 2016.

POLAND EDGES AUSTRIA

After a poor 2018 for Poland, its first game of 2019 offered fresh hope in a tight 1-0 win over Austria in Group G.

Poland arrived at last year’s World Cup fresh off a dominant qualifying campaign, but went on to finish bottom of both its World Cup and Nations League groups.

Krzysztof Piatek scored the winner in the 69th minute as Austria failed to clear the ball from its penalty area. That ended a six-game winless streak for Poland, including friendlies.

Also in Group G, Israel drew 1-1 with Slovenia and North Macedonia beat Latvia 3-1.

NEW FORMAT DEBUTS

There are a few key differences to European Championship qualifying this time. The top two teams in each group qualify automatically, but third place no longer means a shot at qualifying through the playoffs.

That safety net is now for the 16 teams who performed best in their Nations League tiers last year but who don’t end up with automatic spots.

That means Scotland is assured of a second chance to qualify in March 2020 even though a top-two finish now seems unlikely following its surprise opening-day loss to Kazakhstan.

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By JAMES ELLINGWORTH AP Sports Writer

Associated Press writer Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.

Militants Step Up Athens Attacks, Toss Grenade at Russian Embassy

ATHENS – With critics saying the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has emboldened anarchist assaults on a number of targets in Greece’s capital, assailants suspected of belonging to a left-wing militant group threw a hand grenade at the Russian Consulate March 22, causing minor damage and no injuries, Greek authorities said.

Police sent a bomb disposal team to the consulate after cameras showed two people on a motorbike throwing a small object in the early hours of the morning at the fence beside the consulate’s security guard post, reportedly causing minor damage.

Despite the government promising tighter security for embassies after previous attacks, including against those from Germany and Israel, no security guard was at the post at the time, reports said.

Police cordoned off the area around the consulate, located in a suburb north of the city center.

Forensic experts search the area outside the Russian consulate in Athens, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavakis)

Greece’s counter-terrorism police were investigating the attack that came in the wake of the government trying to repair relations with Moscow after two Russian diplomats last year were expelled after being accused of trying to undermine a deal Greece made to change the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to North Macedonia.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack, which it said would not affect “the traditional and inherently long-term friendly relations … with Russia.” it said a thorough investigation would be carried out to catch the perpetrators.

Authorities were examining a motorbike found partially burned in a central Athens neighborhood.

Greece has a long history of small groups that periodically attack symbols of state authority, wealth or foreign diplomacy. They usually plant small explosive devices that don’t cause injuries although a package bomb exploded in a car holding former Premier Lucas Papademos in 2017.

Police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as the investigation was ongoing, said they suspect the attack was carried out by a leftist militant group called the Popular Fighters Group, which had claimed responsibility for a bombing against the offices of SKAI TV and a  newspaper in December.

Forensic experts search the area outside the Russian consulate in Athens, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavakis)

Authorities were also investigating whether other active militant groups might have been behind the attack as Greece is awash with terror groups and the notorious Rouvikonas group which has vandalized many targets around the capital with none of the ringleaders being apprehended, leading to charges Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is soft on crime.

The Popular Fighters Group, known by its Greek acronym OLA, is considered responsible for several bombings and shootings since it first appeared in 2003, when it fired shots at the offices of Greece’s conservative New Democracy party.

It has also carried out shootings against the residence of the German ambassador in Athens, fired a rocket against the offices of a car dealership and planted bombs outside the offices of Greece’s federation of enterprises, a bank and a courthouse.

None of its attacks have caused any injuries and a SYRIZA minister said the assaults weren’t serious but just political acts.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

Forensic experts search the area outside the Russian consulate in Athens, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavakis)

Eleni Giannopoulou’s Impressive First Solo Art Exhibition in NY

NEW YORK – Art has the power to communicate what is often difficult to express in mere words. Artist Eleni Giannopoulou spoke with The National Herald about her first solo exhibition in New York, titled A Collection of Things that Float, now on display at the Hionas Gallery, 356 Broadway in Manhattan, through March 30.

She told TNH that she started out studying painting, but eventually found her true passion for art through sculpture and installations incorporating sculpture and found objects. The talented artist’s first solo show clearly demonstrates her skill and artistry in the dynamic, immersive installation of sculptures that simulate the basic forms and composition of boats and floating vessels.

Giannopoulou brings together organic materials, discarded mass-produced objects, and various ephemera collected piece by piece during recent travels to New York and Mexico, as well as her native Greece to construct her fleet, regardless of each item’s original use or intended outcome. This process, according to the artist, is “both corrosive and integrating, often relying on forcing the amalgamation of unrelated materials.”

The Boats by Eleni Giannopoulou. (2018-2019) variable dimensions, Wood, Aquaresin, Wire, Copper Wire, Found Objects, Dryft Wood, Expandable Foam, Metal, Aluminum Solder, Ceramic Clay, Epoxy Resin Clay, Fabrics, Leather, Enamel, House Paint, Nails, Plaster, Hydrocal, Fabric Hardener, Feathers, Fishing Line, Airdry Clay, Oil Paint, Glass, Pigments, Bones, Cotton, Metal, Saliva, Olive Oil, Shellac Varnish, Silicone, Plant Matter, Soil, Dust, Key Shavings, Linseed oil, Wax, Coffee, Porcelain. Photo by Juan A. Lobato

The artist’s focus begins with investigating the anatomy of a boat, then she looks beyond that by examining the tenuous relationship humankind maintains with nature; how boats are, in a sense, designed to control what cannot be controlled. The boat is a vessel, and it is its emptiness that creates the necessary displacement of water to keep it afloat.

Giannopoulou told TNH that her mother is from Crete and her father from Thessaloniki noting that “I grew up watching the cargo ships coming in and out of the port of Thessaloniki and big ferries would take me and my family to my grandparents’ home in Crete. Since 2015, large numbers of refugees displaced by war started using Greece as a point of entry to the European Union. When news arrived that many of their makeshift rafts were capsizing in the Aegean Sea and claiming lives, the very idea of a boat took on new meaning.”

Giannopoulou’s integration of found materials and use of repetition in the series act as forms of meditation and memorial for those refugees whose lives were lost, as well as a way to engage with a subject matter that can evoke a range of emotional responses, from the tragic to the nostalgic. Together her floating armada, as it were, represents a voyage that is beginning and ending all at once.

The tremendous attention to detail is impressive in Giannopoulou’s powerful, thought-provoking artwork. Each part tells its own story. The work Family Meal, for example, serves as a personal journal of intimate moments of the artist’s life: a table set for four floats on a barge of thin pieces of wood; within this model of a piece of her childhood home, seemingly mundane objects become items of comfort. Shoe Box touches on the strangeness of and the comfort we derive from collecting and holding onto certain objects that have little value beyond mere sentiment. Delving even further into her own memories and psyche, Giannopoulou’s Twerking Workshop and Whatever Floats Your Boat investigate sensuality and pleasure, while Find From Another Time and Not Holding Hands explore ideas of intimacy and relationships in a manner that seems wholly aware of their own sentimentality.

The May Pole by Eleni Giannopoulou. (2019) variable dimensions, Wood, Boat Parts, Teeth, Bones, Epoxy Resin Clay, Fabrics, Horse Hoof, Aqua Resin, Hair, Cotton, Glass, Iron, Drift Wood, Wire, Threads, Plastic, Tulle, Glass eyes, Embroidery, Copper, Fishing Line, Found Objects, Key Shavings. Photo by Juan A. Lobato

Giannopoulou trained at the Angel Academy of Art in Italy before earning her MFA at the New York Academy of Art. In 2014, she won first prize in the Art Renewal Center International Scholarship competition. She is a three-time recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant and a recipient of the Panepinto Family Foundation Scholarship and the David Kratz and Gregory Unis Scholarship. She has also been awarded with the Chubb Fellowship from the New York Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited in Florence, Miami, Toronto, New York, Mexico City, and Athens. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. More information about Giannopoulou and her work is available online: elenigiannopoulou.com.

Hionas Gallery was founded in 2011 by Peter Hionas. The gallery’s founding mission is to invite contemporary and emerging artists, working in all variety of media, to participate in monthly exhibitions to showcase their latest work and artistic vision. In late 2018, after closing its Forsyth Street space on the Lower East Side and following a brief hiatus, the gallery returned to Tribeca with a new space at 356 Broadway. More information is available online: www.hionasgallery.com.