Greece’s animal house

first_img ‘The Greeks are depression-proof’ By David Patrikarakos POLITICO Road Trip “Our best year was in 2010 when we got 330,000 visitors,” he says reading from an index card. “It dropped to 317,000 in 2011, and then 300,000 in 2012. But over 2013 and 2014 things have been stable at 310,000 paying visitors. We get many more visitors than that but we arrange free visits for orphans, people with special needs and so on. The average ticket price last year was €13.10 but you have to deduct the VAT from that, which with the new bailout measures is increasing all the time. ”This is a problem. “Last month VAT went to 23 percent — I’m not sure how exactly it will affect the business but the crisis will. The shit this country has been going through for the last four years … The zoo is a lively place, and we are always improving: making enclosures bigger, bringing in new species [this year the zoo is adding elephants to its collection], so the zoo has not remained stationary; we have 100,000 fans on Facebook. We hope visitors will increase despite the crisis. There are four million people in Athens proper and five million in the wider area — all people who can visit the zoo on any given day without difficulty. Normally with these sorts of figures we should have a million visitors per year but zoos are not yet fully integrated into Greek culture; and in the midst of a crisis it’s not something that’s so easy to manage.” Indeed, the crisis has made many things difficult to manage. It is almost a cliché to speak of a Greek humanitarian crisis. But as it turns out, there was very nearly an animal crisis, too. Crisis Greece has left no part of society untouched. Lesueur leans back in his chair and starts to tell me the story.* * *It begins in early July. Greece had introduced capital controls, which closed the country’s banks and put limits on both ATM withdrawals and payments that banks could make and receive. A few days later, Lesueur was sitting in his office when he received an email. It was from the company that supplies the zoo with the special food required by its anteaters and dolphins — food that cannot be found in Greece.“Anteaters can eat ants of course,” says Lesueur “but they eat about a kilo of food a day, which would be millions of ants — obviously pretty much impossible to provide. Instead, special food containing proteins is imported from abroad. Dolphins eat fish, which in Greece is plentiful, but the country has no herring, and dolphins live on herring and blue whiting. These are fished in the Atlantic and then frozen and shipped to us.” Politico Road Trip Later that day, he found a message from his banker on his phone: “Call me,” it read. “I called back and the guy on the phone asked me, ‘what influence do you have in the government?’ I said I had none. It turns out that the bank had received a phone call from a ministry, which gave them instructions, apparently on behalf of the president’s office, to the pay the bill immediately. The next Tuesday the food was shipped and arrived in time.”Lesueur leans back with a smile of satisfaction. He did have other options to pay. The sum was manageable and his son, who is based in the U.K., had offered to pay from his own account. But that is not the point, he tells me. Public opinion had pressured the government into acting. It was perhaps one of the few times that the worst effects Crisis Greece could be avoided.But, much like his fellow countrymen, Lesueur can’t see much farther into the future. “Now we have a stock of fish until the end of September,” Lesueur says. “There are still capital controls but things have been relaxed, and every week the limits for corporate transactions are increasing — plus there is now a precedent for this payment. I am relaxed. I feel confident that everything will be OK now.” ATHENS — Flamingos pose on large rocks protruding from shallow pools of water. On etiolated legs, almost too frail to hold up their plump bodies, they strut delicately around their enclosure, leaving little splashes in their wake with each step. A little further away, with considerably less decorum, monkeys hang from wooden beams, shrieking at passers-by.The Attica Zoological Park, in the Athenian suburb of Spata, is the only licensed zoo in Greece. At around 20 hectares (50 acres) it is larger than the London Zoo, and considerably newer. The zoo was originally founded as a bird park in 2000. Now it houses over 340 species, and around 2,200 animals.It’s a private zoo, the dream of Jean-Jacques Lesueur — a man with an interesting story. Lesueur moved to Greece from France in 1969, and has been here ever since. He initially worked in executive search, and became the first corporate head-hunter in Greece. After a spell running his own firm he started a publishing company in the mid-80s, specializing in magazines. Playboy and Reader’s Digest were amongst his biggest sellers. He eventually sold up and, decided now was the time for a career change: An animal lover since he was a child, Lesueur decided to set up a zoo. * * *I meet him in the early afternoon. The September sun in Greece is still baking hot. He is 71, but with his trim figure and full head of silver hair, he could be 20 years younger. We shake hands and then hop on one of the zoo’s buggies to take a tour. “In 2002 I started bringing in the first mammals,” he says as we negotiate a series of winding tracks. “I initially had 12 acres and then 15 acres and now 50 acres. We never made a lot of money, but we grew in size. I have invested a lot of money in the place personally, and growth has also come from reinvesting all the profits we make.”From the very beginning, Lesueur was determined to make the zoo a success. The variety of animals — including some I had never heard of, like the Scarlett Ibis, a luminously red bird — is impressive. We pass African penguins, leaf-eating monkeys, and two-humped camels from Mongolia. Turning a corner we see wild asses, which ironically are almost extinct in the wild. They come from Somalia, explains Lesueur, and the country’s ongoing civil war means there are only 300 left. “Or even less, no one really knows,” he says with a shrug.I see the big cats: A jaguar (the most dangerous animal at the zoo, I am told) peers moodily down at us from his high perch, while across the way two pumas take shelter from the sun under wooden planks. A little further on we are greeted by a cacophony of hooting. “Singing Gibbons,” says Lesueur by way of explanation, nodding to several monkey-like creatures gathered on a ledge. “It’s how they communicate — and sometimes it’s a mating call.” I ask about the most popular animals in the zoo: “All the emblematic species,” Lesueur says, “the types of animals you’d expect to see in a zoo: lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants.”Our tour finished, Lesueur takes me into his office. The walls are covered with framed pictures of birds. Animal paperweights, notably a clear glass tortoise and lion, clutter his desk. Despite the crisis, he tells me, things aren’t too bad.Crisis Greece has left no part of society untouched. Anteaters at Athens’ zoo | ATTICA ZOOLOGICAL PARKThe zoo, Lesueur explains, receives 1.5 tonnes of food from the company every three months, for which it pays on a 60-day credit basis. But the capital controls had spooked the supplier. Lesueur taps into his phone to find the email: “In view of this uncertain financial situation we request that any future payment of bills be paid in advance,’” he reads. “That was first week of July,” he continues. “I wasn’t too concerned. I had stock until mid-August and I thought the capital controls would last only for a week or two. But I called my bank and said ‘I have a payment to make before August 5, what do you think?’ The guy at the bank said he didn’t know but as far as payments are concerned everything was blocked. He told me they had received 44 payment applications to the committee and only four had been approved. I suddenly realized we’d be running out of fish in 20 days.”Racing against the clockLesueur called the supplier and told them to immediately send him the invoice, which he passed on to the bank. It wasn’t an exorbitant sum — €6,000. A few days later, he called the bank again: “Right now the only payments being approved are for medical supplies,” he was told.It so happened that a few days later Japanese TV came to the zoo and asked him about the capital controls. He still felt confident things would be OK. “I didn’t realize what I facing,” he says. Then Reuters came. “I told them the story. They quizzed me a lot so I said let me call the bank, which still couldn’t give me a date for when the capital controls would be lifted. Then I really began to worry.”An aerial view of the zoo | ATTICA ZOOLOGICAL PARKBut help was just about to come. The article was published and went global. “Suddenly I was getting emails from people all over the world wanting to help,” Lesueur explains. “Greek TV came and asked me what I was going to do; I said I don’t know. By that time the invoice had been in the hands of the bank for 10 days and nothing had happened.”By late July, Lesueur had been on every Greek TV and radio channel, and told his story to almost every national newspaper. “My bank still had no news: ‘Maybe in two weeks [we can do something],’ they said. But the next day was the last day I could get the food in time; I needed a week to arrange for the refrigerated trucks to go to pick up everything.” Also On POLITICO Athens’ heart of darkness By David Patrikarakos last_img read more

Rock films, floating companies and treatment centres

first_imgJuke box Dury: City firm Field Fisher Waterhouse advised debt fund Aegis on financing Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, a film about the life of pop singer Ian Dury (pictured). Aegis intends to commit $50m (£33m) to film funding in total. Cheltenham firm ­Wiggin advised the film’s ­producers. Nuclear stake: Magic circle firm Linklaters advised energy company Centrica on taking a £2.3bn stake in British Energy, the EDF-owned operator of eight nuclear power stations in the UK. EDF and Centrica will also enter a joint venture to build four nuclear power stations in the UK. As part of a separate joint venture, EDF and Centrica will plan the construction, operation and decommissioning of four European reactors. City firm Herbert Smith and US firm Sullivan & Cromwell advised EDF. Magic circle firm Allen & Overy advised Centrica. Turkish energy: Magic circle firm Freshfields advised German energy supplier EnBW on establishing a joint venture with Turkish conglomerate Borusan, to invest €2.5bn (£2.2bn) in energy projects. Turkish firm Somay Hukuk Bürosu advised Borusan. Telecoms float: City firm Herbert Smith advised US investment bank Goldman Sachs on its role in the flotation of telecoms company Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Magic circle firms Linklaters and Freshfields and US firm Cleary Gottlieb advised Hutchison, its parent company and ­related Hutchison subsidiaries. Treatment centre: ­Birmingham firm Wragge & Co advised the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust on signing a contract for a multi-million-pound treatment ­centre at the Lister hospital, Stevenage, with Clinicenta, an NHS partner organisation. The Lister Surgicentre is expected to open in April 2011 and will treat more than 15,000 NHS patients a year. City firm CMS Cameron McKenna advised Clinicenta.last_img read more

Intelligence February 2007

first_imgArgentina: A consortium of Néstor Otero, Emepa and Ferrovías has won a 30-year concession to build and operate a transport interchange in Mar del Plata. Completion is expected to take 24 months at a cost of 23·5m pesos, including a station funded by the federal government.A second batch of ex-Portuguese Railways rolling stock purchased by the federal government was dispatched from the port of Setúbal on January 14, comprising six diesel railcars, 18 diesel-electric locomotives, 13 EMU cars and 11 passenger coaches.ALL has begun work to re-open the Fátima – Rojas branch to freight traffic, in order to serve a new river port at Brazo Largo. Austria: In December the Land of Salzburg began negotiating to take over ÖBB’s 760 mm gauge Pinzgaubahn during 2008. It would be renamed Nationalparkbahn and operated by Salzburg AG. Flood damage which had brought plans for closure will be repaired at a cost of €12·9m, using funds allocated to the line until 2014. Czech Republic: A KC750m project to revitalise Praha Hlavni station was formally launched on December 14. To be completed by November 2011, the work is being part-funded by the EBRD and undertaken by Czech firm Metrostav as subcontractor to Italian firm Grandi Stazioni, which has a 30-year contract signed in October 2002 to manage commercial and retail spaces at the capital’s main station.Canada: VIA Rail has introduced Interac Online payment, allowing customers of three banks to use internet banking to make payments when booking tickets.Europe: On January 9 SNCB and SNCF signed an agreement to create the Sideros joint venture to provide transport and logistics services to the iron and steel industry. This will involve the creation of a pool of specialised wagons, freeing-up investment resources for new equipment. Germany: Regional transport authority ZVON has selected Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn to take over passenger services from Cottbus to Zittau and Forst and from Görlitz to Hoyerswerda and Bischofswerda in 2008. They are currently operated by Veolia subsidiary Lausitzbahn and DB Regio.Philippines: On January 16 Finance Secretary Margarito Teves signed an agreement with Export-Import Bank of China for a US$500m Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan for the 45 km Northrail Project Phase 1, Section 2, from Malolos to Clark. An agreement to upgrade the existing North Luzon Railway was signed by Northrail and China National Machinery & Industrial Corp, and an agreement for upgrading South Luzon Railway Phase 1, Section 1, was signed by PNR and China National Technical Import & Export Corp.Russia: Rosneft-Sakhalinmorneftegaz has put up for sale the 230 km Okha – Nogliki 1 067 mm gauge railway in northern Sakhalin, with all buildings and stock.Slovakia: Civil engineering firms Dopravoprojekt and Infraprojekt have established DI Koridor to undertake the development of a rail link to Bratislava airport. ZSR has put the cost at KS940m, with half of the funding to come from the EU and half from the state budget.Slovenia: Work began in December on a two-year upgrade of the Pragersko – Ormoz section of Pan-European Corridor V. The EU is contributing €14·6m towards the €36·m cost of the work.South Africa: Work is expected to begin next month on the construction of a 69 km rail link to Majuba power station from Ermelo on the Richards Bay coal line. Utility company Eskom has allocated R1·8bn for the project, which it expects to complete in 2010 to relieve pressure on the existing line to the power station.A R3·2bn refurbishment of 1 600 suburban EMU cars over the next three years has been announced by South Africa Rail Commuter Corp. CEO Lucky Montana said Metrorail is operating on a ‘knife edge’, with only 3 200 operational vehicles out of the fleet of 4 600.Spain: Acciona Rail Services has become the second private freight operator to be awarded a safety certificate by ADIF. Under a five-year contract with Unión Fenosa starting at the end of January, it expects to haul 600 000 tonnes of coal a year from the port of Gijón to a power station at La Robla using a two locos and 33 wagons, acquired at a cost of €12m.Sweden: Following the deregulation of night trains in Sweden in January, from January 31 to March 4 Connex is operating an overnight service between G?teborg and the Jamtland winter sports resorts of Åre, Duved and Storlien, using Class 142 electric locos supplied by Hector Rail.Switzerland: On the weekend of December 16 a train undertaking a series of over-speed test runs in the Lötschberg base tunnel reached 280 km/h, setting a new Swiss speed record.last_img read more

Samaritans, Wildlife Trooper Save Stranded Seal

first_imgFacebookTwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享When a seal pup turned up alone and in harm’s way on a beach near Ninilchik on Saturday, good Samaritans stepped in and called Alaska Wildlife Troopers. NOTE from ASLC: In most cases, young wildlife found alone are not abandoned. Normally their mothers are out of sight, but nearby. If you see a young animal you believe to be orphaned, report your concerns to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office or Alaska Wildlife Troopers post nearest you. Responding Wildlife Trooper  Cassandra Hajicek of the Soldotna Post: “Eagles were attacking (the pup) and he was unable to fend them off.” According to Troopers: “Last we heard, the little fella was looking healthy, eating, and settling into a safe and nurturing environment.”center_img For a listing of AWT posts, visit https://dps.alaska.gov/awt/contact The Samaritans snatched the seal pup and cared for it until Wildlife Trooper Hajicek arrived, according to Troopers.The seal was transported to Soldotna where Alaska Sealife Center staff were waiting to take him to their rehabilitation facility in Seward.last_img read more

Guilbeau: It’s Cajuns at LSU with Omaha at stake

first_imgGlenn GuilbeauGlenn GuilbeauBATON ROUGE – Cajuns and Tigers living together for a weekend! This could be dangerous.Or do you not remember the 2002 NCAA Regional in which LSU and UL Lafayette met three times, and there was a bat throwing incident and so much anger from both sides that the regular season series ended for several years?Alex Box Stadium has hosted seven NCAA Super Regionals, a best-of-three series with the winner advancing to Omaha, Nebraska, to play in the College World Series. Alex Box Stadium has never hosted an All-Louisiana Super Regional … until now.Whether you call the Cajuns UL or ULL or USL or SLI or Louisiana, they will be at LSU or Louisiana State or Louisiana A&M for two or three games.No. 3 seed UL Lafayette, 44-19 and just 56 miles from Baton Rouge, will play No. 2 overall seed and No. 1 ranked LSU, 51-10, beginning Friday or Saturday in one of eight Super Regionals around the nation. The Cajuns beat Rice, 5-2, Monday afternoon to capture the NCAA Houston Regional shortly after LSU defeated North Carolina Wilmington, 2-0, to win the Baton Rouge Regional.LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and baseball coach Paul Maineiri are lobbying for a Saturday start to the Super for rest purposes because they feel the Tigers were slighted by the NCAA, which made LSU play on Monday at noon instead of on Sunday night. Since the Cajuns also played on Monday, that could actually help LSU’s argument for a Saturday start.Imagine that. LSU and UL Lafayette bonding together for the greater good of a Saturday start. The Legislature would likely roll over in its paperwork. What’s next? Mixed individual seating arrangements with a Cajun fan next to a Tiger fan next to a Cajun fan?Perhaps a compromise by host LSU is in order to secure this apparently absolutely necessary Saturday start if the NCAA had a sinister sense of humor. If LSU agrees to call UL Louisiana “Louisiana” from here to eternity, LSU gets the Saturday-Monday Super Regional with Monday as the “if necessary” game. If LSU insists on calling the Cajuns ULL and/or Louisiana-LAFAYETTE, the Super Regional will be Friday through Sunday.“LSU would forfeit before they would call us Louisiana,” Cajun Jack tweeted on that matter Monday.The Cajuns’ quest to be called “Louisiana” is comical and ridiculous at times, but who can blame a school for trying to better itself or image through better name recognition? What is more comical and ridiculous is how incensed LSU fans, LSU employees and even some in the LSU media get about a much smaller school trying to call itself “Louisiana.” As if that’s going to hurt LSU. Reigning football national champion Ohio State has seemed unperturbed by Ohio University 75 miles away.But enough of that for the rest of this week. In the end, names mean very little. This could be a classic Super Regional by any name.Interestingly, the Cajuns are said to be not nearly as good as their team last year, which was ranked No. 1 during the regular season, beat LSU 4-1, and finished 58-10 and a win away from Omaha after losing a home Super Regional to Ole Miss, 5-2 and 10-4, following a 9-5 win in the opener. LSU, which was eliminated by Houston in the Box in the NCAA regional round last year, is fortunate that Cajun team is not headed to Baton Rouge for a Super Regional this year.This LSU team is much better on offense than a year ago. And if Jared Poche (8-1, 3.05 ERA) continues to pitch as he did Monday with the way Alex Lange (11-0, 1.76 ERA) is on fire, Lange and Poche are about as good as Aaron Nola and Poche were a year ago. LSU is third in the nation in hitting at .320, but know that LSU pitching is also 11th in the nation in ERA at 2.88 and has the only sub 3.00 ERA in the SEC.The Cajuns, though, will come to Baton Rouge with supreme confidence and a coach, Tony Robichaux, who loves the underdog role — particularly when the favorite is LSU. This is a team that beat Rice, 7-6, in the ninth to open the Houston Regional, then beat Houston, 2-1, Sunday with two in the ninth after not recording a hit through the first seven and two-thirds innings.This is clearly not the Super Regional foe LSU wanted. A big state school never wants to play a smaller, upstart one with so much at stake. With Omaha on the line, Big State University does not want to deal with all the hate from Want To Be State U.This is a dangerous Super Regional for LSU.last_img read more

‘I would NEVER have sold Leyton Orient if I knew’ – Barry Hearn on talkSPORT

first_imgFormer Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn has told talkSPORT he would never have sold the club if he foresaw their nosedive to the bottom of the Football League and into financial meltdown.Orient are facing liquidation after being served with a winding-up order over unpaid tax bills, and will appear in court next month in an attempt to save their future.After 19 years in charge of the London club, Hearn sold Orient to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti in July 2014, after they had been denied promotion to the Championship following a penalty shoot-out defeat in the play-off final.But their fortunes have plummeted under Becchetti’s ownership, with Orient now sitting second from bottom of League Two and six points adrift of safety.And Hearn has slammed the Italian for the ‘inept’ business decisions made under his leadership, insisting the money he has put into club should have seen them become an established Championship outfit, instead of one on the brink of relegation from the Football League pyramid.“It’s horrible, really horrible – no one could have foreseen this,” he told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast.“It looked like the perfect exit for me three years ago, and the perfect future for Orient. We all thought we’d found a passionate owner with loads of money who had ambition, and goodness me, you just could never ever foresee anything as bad as this.“I don’t regret selling the club because I’d done 19 years, a big shift, I’m not far off 70 now and there’s a certain time when you just say, ‘boys I’ve done enough’.“But if I had known it would turn out like this, I would never have sold the club. We couldn’t have known, though. It looked perfect.“We needed some success and we had it – we were a kick away from getting into the Championship on a budget of about £1.5million a year and it was a very well-run club.“It seemed to be the natural exit route for me, but when a billionaire doesn’t know how to run a business, you’re staggered, because there have been so many inept decisions it’s scary.“What type of person does this? Where I come from, in my lifetime, we pay our bills, we pay our dues and we take what cards God serves us.“So for me to see Leyton Orient in the papers with the Inland Revenue claiming money – it’s abhorrent to everything I stand for.“I liked the guy initially, he had that sparkly personality and ego perfect for an owner of a football club, and he told me we was going to put in loads of money to the club.“And, to be fair to him, he has. He’s put in another £7m or £8m – at a lower league club do you know what you can do with that type of money if you spent it wisely? You can become a Championship club!“But ten managers in two-and-a-half years says it all – you should sack yourself after ten managers.” The club reportedly owe around £250,000 and with the Italian chief admittedly willing to sell the club, it is still uncertain whether he will pay up.Hearn refused to put pressure on Becchetti to settle the debts, but did assure fans that he will help the club in whatever way he can as they stare into the barrel of potential liquidation.However, he ruled out any added financial support, saying any assistance he provides will be on an advisory basis.Hearn added on the club’s debt: “It’s a drop in the ocean to a man who gave me £4m for the club, but I am never going to tell anyone how to spend their own money. That’s the individual’s choice and he is the owner of the club, so all this conversation about ‘what shall we do’ is irrelevant whilst he is still the owner.“I’m not a massive fan of supporters’ trusts, a lot of them just want to play Championship Manager and this is the real world, and I know there are people in the trust that understand that.“But we’ve got to be realistic. There are a lot of fans out there who want to take ownership of their own club, but just don’t have the money.“They’re trying to raise £100,000, but do you know how long that lasts in football? About five minutes.“Will I help? I’m a fan of the club, of course I’ll help, but I want to see a sustainable plan.“There are crazy people out there who could probably give them [financial] help, but I’m out of it. I don’t have the time, I’ve got a big business to run, I’m enjoying my life and I’ve done my bit.“But I’m still available for advice, and there’s going to be other help they need. That’s not a problem.”Listen to talkSPORT’s interview with Barry Hearn IN FULL above. 1last_img read more