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)

Respecting Elders: Maya Angelou Clip Sparks Courtesy Debate

NEW YORK (AP) — Put a handle on it.

If you don’t know what that means, you might not call elders by “Mr.,” ”Miss” or “Mrs.,” insist that your children do the same or demand it for yourself. If you’ve heard the term, you’re likely familiar with the history of the politics of respectability and what that means to some African-Americans, pro and con.

Are you from the North or the South? A small town or big city native? From a religious, school or immigrant community that uses elder honorifics? Perhaps you’re Professor, Doctor or Judge.

All of the above were widely debated on social media last week, focused on an old talk-show clip of the late Maya Angelou sharply chiding a young woman for addressing her as Maya rather than Miss Angelou before asking the poet and memoirist for her views on interracial marriage.

“I’m not ‘Maya.’ I’m 62 years old. I have lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, you have no license to come up to me and call me by my first name. That’s first,” she said to claps from the audience. “Also, because at the same time, I am your mother, I am your auntie, I’m your teacher, I’m your professor. You see?”

Angelou, who was black, apologized later in the show to her questioner, also black.

Pierre Phipps, who tweeted the snippet, has heard from all sides since then and said opinions are varied and plentiful. After his March 14 tweet sent Angelou’s name trending on Twitter, Phipps said the Kim in the clip reached out.

This is a selfie provided by Kim Watts. Watts was chided by the late Maya Angelou for addressing her as Maya rather than Miss Angelou before asking the poet and memoirist for her views on interracial marriage before a taping of the talk show “People Are Talking” in 1989. (Kim Watts via AP)

Turns out she’s Kim Watts, 49, an educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Watts told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that she doesn’t have a Twitter account but friends and family alerted her to the hub-bub. She said she was a 20-year-old college student in 1989 when she went on a class trip to San Francisco to sit in the audience for a taping with Angelou of the talk show “People are Talking.”

“Her response threw me off. It was a little awkward for me, but at the same time it was like, oh my God this is Maya Angelou,” Watts said. “I remember feeling like, oh my gosh I insulted one of my icons, a person I look up to.”

Watts said she got a kick out of people new the clip thinking she was still a teen.

The 29-year-old Phipps, whose Twitter handle is @PrinceCharmingP, can’t remember where he found the vintage exchange when he tweeted it out with: “I can’t wait to turn 30 so I can read one of yall for calling me by my first name like this:”

He told the AP in an interview that he was surprised at the attention the tweet has received, especially among young people who disagreed with Angelou. She died in 2014 at age 86, and also favored the title Dr. in light of her numerous honorary doctorates.

“They think Miss Angelou’s response was very elitist. They were really, really pissed about it,” said Phipps, who lives in Los Angeles and writes for television. “We’re living in progressive times and a lot of people said once they turn 18, they feel like they have an even platform no matter how old you are. History is no longer playing a part in how we go about our everyday lives. History is becoming history.”

Phipps grew up in Chicago, but he has plenty of older female relatives from the South, including Mississippi and Alabama.

“It’s an unwritten rule on respect for elders in which a lot of us were born and raised to ‘put a handle on it,'” he said. “Me personally, coming from a strong black Southern family, I didn’t see anything wrong with her response. Everyone is raised differently.”

Watts, who was adopted as a child by white parents, said she was not raised with the courtesy title tradition or practice for elders in her life.

“I wasn’t thinking about that in the moment,” she said of her encounter with Angelou. “I like that this conversation, though, is focused on respect. Given my age now, I can see both sides of it.”

Carrie Salow is a 55-year-old mother of two girls in Phoenix, where she moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan, when she was 15.

“I absolutely expect my teen daughters to call their friends’ parents Mr. and Mrs., and I expect the same,” said Salow, who is white. “The kids who live across the street from us are now young adults, in and out of college. They still call me Mrs. Salow and I feel it is appropriate.”

Valencia Bey, 49, was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in nearby Oak Park, Illinois. She spent most of her summers in Shelby, Mississippi, with her maternal grandparents and extended family.

“You just did NOT call elders by their first name,” said Bey, who is black. “I was taught by folks who felt the way Ms. Angelou did. Addressing someone as Mr. or Miss was a sign of respect, especially those who came from the Jim Crow South, where calling a grown black person by their first name was a sign of disrespect. White people would purposely not call them Mr. or Mrs. or Miss to reinforce that they were considered inferior.”

Against the backdrop of African-American history, such honorifics are heavy indeed.

“Like Angelou, our elders have lived lives some of us can only imagine, especially if they grew up in a society that was founded on white supremacy,” wrote Britni Danielle, in a piece about the tweet at Essence online.

“Often times, they weren’t given the respect they were due by the outside world, which regularly sought to humiliate and dehumanize them at every turn. Those who did dare speak up and demand their propers did so knowing the price could be steep,” she wrote.

The 55-year-old Lucy O’Donnell, with a nearly 18-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son in Los Angeles, was raised in Arlington, Virginia.

“Two of my daughter’s friends initially addressed me as Mrs., and I have to say I hadn’t even given it a thought until then. I told them that they were welcome to call me by my first name but that if it was important in their households to address adults more formally that was fine, too,” said O’Donnell, who is white. “Both switched to Lucy pretty quickly. The only tradition I can’t abide is Mrs. and a husband’s first and last name.”

Danielle acknowledged young blacks responding to Phipps’ tweet who thought Angelou was out of line, writing:

“We live in a time where some people don’t really value the things and people who came before them. That’s how we get shirts declaring, ‘I’m not my ancestors,’ or people looking to cancel dead Black writers like Angelou because they do not like an answer they’d given decades ago without understanding the context of the times.”

In 1951, Angelou married Tosh Angelos, a Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother.


By LEANNE ITALIE Associated Press

Golden Visas, Airbnb Replacing Tenants with Tourists, Investors in Greece

From the grimy, graffiti-filled anarchist stronghold of Exarchia, to the new trendy area neighborhood of Koukaki under the Acropolis with views of the Parthenon, whole swathes of buildings that were rentals or empty during Greece’s economic crisis are being filled.

Not with tenants but legions of tourists using short-term rentals like Airbnb or rich foreigners scooping them up to be eligible for five-year residency permits that come with European Union passports if they spend at least 250,000 euros on them.

That’s even if they don’t live in them, but rent them out, at far higher prices than what what beleaguered Greeks have been paying they try to scrape by and now are seeing themselves displaced by overnight or weekly or short stays in their former apartments now housing a transient parade of people from the United States to China to Russia and elsewhere.

It’s the selling of Athens through the so-called Golden Visa program which provides the residency permits and passports for rich foreign investors who bypass the notorious Greek bureaucracy that can even hold up dual citizenship or residency permit requests from those in the Diaspora.

In a feature, The New York Times reported on the Golden Visa and Airbnb twin phenomena that have combined to give some Greeks a bonanza in selling or using previously devalued properties for short-term rentals, but squeezed out others who can’t afford their apartments or are being pushed out to make way for the waves of tourists and new owners, particularly from China.

That has coincided with the Aug. 20, 2018 end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros from international creditors and with Greece showing signs of a rebound, despite the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA delaying or blocking major investment projects such as the $580 million makeover of the port of Piraeus by the Chinese company Cosco which runs it, and obstacles for a near one-billion euro development of the old Hellenikon International Airport on Athens’ coast.

Carrie Law, CEO of Juwai.com, a Hong Kong-based real estate investment group, told the paper that Greece is now a magnet for Chinese with enough money to buy property, because of the Golden Visas and that they don’t have to live in the properties they acquire.

She said many Chinese buyers come to Greece with suitcases filled with cash, the easiest way to get their money out of China, although it has led to investigations in that country over whether residents were circumventing money transfer laws and with critics saying the program can be used for money laundering and to hide criminal cash.

HIGH RISE CITY

New hotels with views of the Acropolis are going up, leading residents in areas around the famed site to get the government to temporarily ban those blocking their view but with an investor boom underway, including the swank hotels and residential buildings apparently aimed at bringing in big buyers or lucrative short-term rentals that can bring in far more money than a monthly rent for what had been devalued apartments, some as cheap as 200 euros a month.

It’s not just in Athens, but in the most desired islands, such as Corfu and Santorini, where the foreigners are snapping up properties to qualify for the visas, with the effect of pricing out local residents, many of whom still trapped by austerity and the effects of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.

In some neighborhoods such as Koukaki, restaurant and taverna tables that used to seat local residents are now daily turnovers of fresh faces of tourists renting the places for short-term stays, bringing in money but changing the character and culture.

Stavros Siempos, 53, the owner of Pantopolion, a grocery in Koukaki that sells feta cheese, olives and other traditional Greek products, sair Airbnb has driven out his regular customers who can’t afford to live there anymore.

“We don’t have Greek neighbors anymore, we have Airbnb neighbors,” he said. But it is good for business, he added. “We’re better off now, because tourists have money,” he told The Times.

The Golden Visa program has drawn about 10,000 investors from China, Russia and other non-EU countries, bringing in about 1.5 billion euros in the real estate sector, Enterprise Greece told the paper, with Chinese investors making up 40 percent of that.

GOODBYE, BARCELONA

Between the investors buying properties and Greek owners converting them to Airbnb it has led to a shortage of affordable rentals. “It’s like what happened in Barcelona, where everyone was forced from the center,” said Maria Dolores, a young artist who lived there before moving to Athens four years ago.

She and three roommates were evicted from a €400-a-month rental in Athens in November as the landlord weighed converting it to an Airbnb or selling to a foreigner, the paper said.

On paper, it’s been good for how much money it’s bringing in, unless you’re one of those evicted from an affordable apartment and unable to find another.

The popularity of short-term rentals, which Greek hotel owners have complained about, hasn’t kept big hotel investors and chains from developing more luxury hotels in Athens, whose revival has been helped by the $643 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation on Athens coast.

If Piraeus and Hellenikon are developed, a major US casino owner said Greece’s capital could become one of the world’s hotbeds for tourists and bring as many as 50 million visitors by 2030. A record 33 million came in 2018 and another record could come this year.

Big investors, including Thomas Cook and Wyndham Hotels, are pouring billions into the tourism sector, and dozens of hotel and resort projects are opening or underway, according to Enterprise Greece, the government agency promoting investment and trade. “We are seeing renewed investor confidence in Greece,” said Grigoris Stergioulis, the agency head.

Private equity funds are also investing in Greek real estate investment trusts. And some are starting to buy mortgage- or property-backed securities sold by Greek banks that are looking to unload piles of troubled mortgage loans accumulated during the crisis, the paper added.

In 2018, when the bailouts ended, real estate prices rose by nearly 2 percent, the first increase in nine years, according to the Bank of Greece. Building permits jumped more than 10 percent, reversing a seven-year fall, coinciding with the heart of the crisis and real estate investment grew some 20 percent in a year.

The number of units converted to short-term rentals was reported to have grown 400 percent in the last five years, leading the government to consider restrictions on how many nights a year they could be let out although enforcing laws in Greece is difficult.

Argiro Fouraci, 29, a teacher who lost her job during the crisis when landlords couldn’t find tenants, said five apartments in her family in Koukaki for years are now being advertised through Airbn and bring her family 400 euros each a month, reviving their lives.

recently began renting five apartments that have been in her family for years. A teacher who lost

Yannis Anastassiadis, CEO of Anastassiadis Group, a real estate company that works with many Chinese investors, said companies typically renovate an apartment and then sell directly to clients seeking visas.

Lefteris Potamianos, President of the Athens-Attica Real Estate Association, said the visas have helped revive the market but pushed up rental costs in some areas as much as 30 percent, a prohibitive rise for many Greeks suffering from austerity who can only sit and watch while where they used to live has become a kind of quick-turnover hotel.