Holidays in Greece? Do Greeks Benefit?

According to estimates put out by the Greek Alpha Bank, 2013 was a record year for tourism in Greece, with more than 18 million tourists.

The blogger Pitsirikos finds all the hype over the figures hypocritical because, at the same time, over 70 percent of the Greek population did not go on holiday:

“I don’t know how happy someone who can’t afford to go on holiday in his own country can be when he hears that the number of foreign tourists has risen….

“Countless tourist operators have had to close down because the Greeks couldn’t go on holiday and because the foreign tourists with their all-inclusive bracelets don’t spend any money in the local economy. Trying to pitch the large number of foreign tourists as a success is an insult to our intelligence.”

Source: Eurotopics, February 14

Does Vladimir Putin Have a Sense of Humour?

Readers of last week’s exchange between Putin and Edward Snowden during a Q&A TV program had reason to think so. In that exchange, Putin indicated that both of them had had a relationship with intelligence services at one time and that they could talk to each other like professionals.

That was amusing.

But an account of this exchange in the Moscow News of Monday, April 21, is not amusing at all.

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden defended his question to President Vladimir Putin in The Guardian on Friday, a day after he asked the Russian president about government surveillance in Russia.

Snowden, coordinating with The Guardian through the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in an op-ed that he asked Putin whether Russia ran a widespread surveillance program to get him on the record denying the suspected activities, adding that his answer was “suspiciously narrow” and “evasive.”

After a somewhat lengthy conferral with the television presenter for a Russian rephrasing of Snowden’s English question, Putin answered by drawing a comparison between the whistleblower’s experience at the U.S. National Security Agency and his own time with the KGB and saying that Russia only uses limited surveillance when approved by a court order.

The question brought Snowden a wave of criticism from Western observers, with Economist editor Edward Lucas telling The Wall Street Journal that the question made him “look like a propaganda patsy of the Kremlin.”

Snowden said in his op-ed that he knows his appearance “could be misinterpreted,” but said that it was “rare opportunity to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media outweighed that risk.”

While Snowden hoped that Russian media would take up the task of challenging inconsistencies in Putin’s response, others have been disappointed by the lack of attention to the content in the president’s answer.

Andrei Soldatov, a journalist mentioned by Snowden as а prominent critic of the Russian surveillance system, posted on his Twitter account Friday: “Something about the society we live in: while Snowden’s question to Putin is hotly debated in English, I don’t see much of debate in Russian.”