Greek Minister, Union Leader in Battle of the Little Bullhorn

ATHENS – Unrepentant and still defiant after a series of outbursts and provocations, Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis kept a stranglehold on a bullhorn while speaking at a protest of hospital cleaners as the head of the union tried to take it from him.

Polakis and Michalis Yiannakos, who have tangled verbally frequently in a war of words, this time were arguing over who should speak to the workers who were demonstrating outside the Health Ministry.

Already facing a prosecutor’s probe over a phone call with Bank of Greece Gov. Yannis Stournaras that was secretly recorded and released, Polakis is being sued by the union of hospital workers whose members he reportedly called “trash.”

Polakis is a surgeon who hasn’t been practicing since serving the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and didn’t explain his comments as he had worked with hospital employees in his previous profession.

“Polakis, while speaking to journalists, called me and my colleagues trash,” said Yiannakos, the President of POEDIN, which has been upset with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA government for health care cuts the Premier said he would stop before breaking his word as he did in saying he would reverse austerity measures.

Footage showed Yiannakos shouting and trying to take the bullhorn from a resistant Polakis as the minister was speaking to the crowd, trying to convince them the ministry was trying to help them as they said it wasn’t.

Cleaners on short-term contracts, like thousands of other temporary civil servants, want life-time permanent job guarantees at hospitals or an extension to their contracts. The union called a work stoppage for them at hospitals on March 21.

Drawing New Democracy Fire, SYRIZA Backs Turkey Mediterranean Energy Hunt

The major opposition New Democracy lashed out at new Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos for backing Turkey’s push to look for energy in the Eastern Mediterranean where it has claimed some of the same waters as Greece.

Katrougalos and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meeting in Antalya,agreed that Turkey should not be excluded from hunting for oil and gas even though Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t recognize Greece’s Continental Shelf, Laws of the Sea and sent warships off Cyprus in a bid to keep foreign companies from drilling.

In a statement – Greek political parties rarely speaker to reporters or give news conferences, preferring press releases – New Democracy Shadow Foreign Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos accused the government of breaking with the country’s stated forieng policy positions and supporting Turkey, which has been raising provocations in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

Koumoutsakos, saying SYRIZA is giving Turkey a path to taking over Greek sovereign waters, noted that Katrougalos was speaking a day after the trilateral summit between Greece, Israel and Cyprus, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Katrougalos disregarded the criticism. “The respect for international law in general and the Law of the Sea in particular are constants of our national foreign policy, which underpin and do not question the sovereign rights of our country,” he said, without noting that Turkey doesn’t recognize those laws, only those to its advantage.

Katrougalos defended Cyprus’s “self-evident” right to manage the reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) – parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize – but didn’t explain why Turkey doesn’t have the same rights there he said it has in the Eastern Mediterranean.

He also repeated Greece’s support for Turkey’s European Union prospects, said Kathimerini, saying it was in the best interests to have “a friendly European Turkey on our eastern border.”

POS Law Unenforced, Greeks Slowing Use of Cards for Payments

ATHENS – Despite a law requiring the use of Point-of-Service (POS) machines that take credit and debit cards, to slow the use of cash that’s behind unstoppable tax cheating in Greece, customers and clients have cut back on the so-called “plastic money.”

Many professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, have the machines as required but some say they are out of order and encourage payment by cash without giving receipts so they can hide their income, unlike salaried workers bearing the brunt of a nearly nine-year-long economic crisis who have been targeted by austerity measures.

Greece also stipulates that people don’t have to pay unless they get a receipt but that’s gotten around by offering customers and clients lower bills and fees if they pay by cash so both sides can evade taxes.

Some 25 percent professionals required to install POS machines have not recorded a single transaction over the last couple of years, according to data presented by the commercial director at Cardlink, Antigonos Papadopoulos, at the 6th Digital Forum organized in Athens by Ethos Media, said Kathimerini.

There were no reports of any investigations or arrests or prosecutions although Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos had admitted the government has failed to rein in tax cheats it promised to round up.

The event, which showed the latest trends in online payments, heard that 25 percent of the points of sale (PoS) installed in 2017 and 2018 remain inactive. That amounts to almost 175,000 of the 700,000 terminals installed.

The annual value growth of electronic transactions conducted via Greek bank cards (excluding those by tourists) rose by 14 percent, against 17 percent growth in the same period of 2018 and 40 percent in 2017. Papadopoulos said this was because of the slow rise in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that fell 25 percent during a nine-year-long crisis.

Thousands of self-employed professionals, also including, accountants, engineers, electricians, and even taxi drivers, have installed card terminals to comply with legislation, but hardly ever use them.

The newspaper said it had reviewed the statistics banks have collected regarding the use of card terminals by key professional categories notorious for being tax evaders and found such low use there was evidence of continued dodging on income.

Lawyers – officers of the court sworn to uphold the law are the ones who most break it – with 90 percent not using the POS machines and putting the cash for services in their pockets, the statistics suggest, matched by engineers.

They were followed by electricians, with 80 percent of them accepting cash only, and accountants, at 70 percent. It’s only 38 percent for doctors but those who used them to show compliance reported their income was only 200 euros ($245.50) a month, far below the average income for that profession showing only occasional use of the POS devices.

Three-quarters of dentists accepted at least one card payment last year, which is explained by the costly nature of the work performed, preferring card payments as they reduce the risk of clients building up large arrears, the paper said.

As for taxi drivers, more than 30 percent did not use their card terminals last year, while 80 percent of bakeries accepted at least one payment by card although the scheme was designed to capture all purchases and services not just some or a few.

Lithuanian Man Pleads Guilty in $100M Internet Fraud Case

NEW YORK (AP) — A Lithuanian man who duped Google and Facebook into transferring over $100 million into accounts he controlled pleaded guilty to wire fraud Wednesday.

Evaldas Rimasauskas, 50, of Vilnius, Lithuania, entered the plea in federal court in Manhattan, where Judge George B. Daniels set a July 24 sentencing date.

The charge could carry as many as 30 years in prison and a fine of as much as $1 million or twice the crime’s proceeds. The plea deal he reached with prosecutors said Rimasauskas faces almost certain deportation once he finishes behind bars.

Rimasauskas was extradited in August 2017 to New York from Lithuania after his arrest there in March 2017. He has been detained since.

According to court documents, Google sent over $23 million and Facebook nearly $100 million to bank accounts he controlled.

Google, of Mountain View, California, has said it has recouped its money. Facebook, of Menlo Park, California, has said it recovered most of its money.

According to a plea agreement, Rimasauskas has agreed to forfeit $49.7 million, including money in financial accounts in Cyprus and Latvia.

The plea agreement also recommends that he be sent to prison for at least nine years.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Rimasauskas devised “a blatant scheme to fleece U.S. companies out of $100 million, and then siphoned those funds to bank accounts around the globe.”

“Rimasauskas thought he could hide behind a computer screen halfway across the world while he conducted his fraudulent scheme, but as he has learned, the arms of American justice are long, and he now faces significant time in a U.S. prison,” Berman said.

In court, Rimasauskas said he carried out the scheme from October 2013 to October 2016.

Prosecutors said he created a company in Latvia that bore the same name as an Asian-based computer hardware manufacturer and then sent fraudulent phishing emails to Google and Facebook to steer money to his accounts that were supposed to go to the legitimate hardware company.

Once the money arrived, Rimasauskas transferred funds to bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary and Hong Kong, prosecutors said.

He then used forged invoices, contracts and letters to make it appear that executives at Facebook and Google had authorized the transactions, the government said.

“I fully understand these actions were fraudulent,” Rimasauskas told Daniels through an interpreter.


By LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press

Mother Russia: South Florida Sees a Boom in “Birth Tourism”

MIAMI (AP) — Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States to give birth so that their child can acquire all the privileges of American citizenship.

They pay anywhere from $20,000 to sometimes more than $50,000 to brokers who arrange their travel documents, accommodations and hospital stays, often in Florida.

While the cost is high, their children will be rewarded with opportunities and travel advantages not available to their Russian countrymen. The parents themselves may benefit someday as well.

And the decidedly un-Russian climate in South Florida and the posh treatment they receive in the maternity wards — unlike dismal clinics back home — can ease the financial sting and make the practice seem more like an extended vacation.

The Russians are part of a wave of “birth tourists” that includes sizable numbers of women from China and Nigeria.

In this photo taken on Jan. 24, 2019, Denis Wolok, the father of 1-month-old Eva’s father, shows the child’s U.S. passport during an interview with The Associated Press in Hollywood, Fla. Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women, like Wolok’s wife, Olga Zemlyanaya, travel to the United States to give birth so that their child can acquire all the privileges of American citizenship. (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

President Donald Trump has spoken out against the provision in the U.S. Constitution that allows “birthright citizenship” and has vowed to end it, although legal experts are divided on whether he can actually do that.

Although there have been scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion, coming to the U.S. to give birth is fundamentally legal. Russians interviewed by The Associated Press said they were honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even showed signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.

There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.

The Russian contingent is clearly large. Anton Yachmenev of the Miami Care company that arranges such trips, told the AP that about 150 Russian families a year use his service, and that there are about 30 such companies just in the area.

South Florida is popular among Russians not only for its tropical weather but also because of the large Russian-speaking population. Sunny Isles Beach, a city just north of Miami, is even nicknamed “Little Moscow.”

In this photo taken on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, Ilya Zhegulev, a journalist for the Latvia-based Russian website Meduza, his son Ivan and his wife Katya pose for a photo during a walk to the playground in snowy Moscow. Last year, Zhegulev sold two cars to finance a trip to California for him and his wife so she could give birth to their son and acquire a U.S. passport for their son. (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

“With $30,000, we would not be able to buy an apartment for our child or do anything, really. But we could give her freedom. That’s actually really cool,” said Olga Zemlyanaya, who gave birth to a daughter in December and was staying in South Florida until her child got a U.S. passport.

An American passport confers many advantages. Once the child turns 21, he or she can apply for “green card” immigration status for the parents.

A U.S. passport also gives the holder more travel opportunities than a Russian one; Americans can make short-term trips to more than 180 countries without a visa, while Russians can go visa-free only to about 80.

Traveling to the U.S. on a Russian passport often requires a laborious interview process for a visa. Just getting an appointment for the interview can take months.

Some Russians fear that travel opportunities could diminish as tensions grow between Moscow and the West, or that Russia might even revert to stricter Soviet-era rules for leaving the country.

In this photo taken on Jan. 21, 2019, people walk past a lifeguard booth painted in the colors of an American flag on a beach in Miami Beach, Fla. The Miami area is popular among Russians not only for its tropical weather but also because of the large Russian-speaking population. Sunny Isles Beach, a city just north of Miami, is even nicknamed “Little Moscow”. (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

“Seeing the conflict growing makes people want to take precautions because the country might well close its borders. And if that happens, one would at least have a passport of a different country and be able to leave,” said Ilya Zhegulev, a journalist for the Latvia-based Russian website Meduza that is sharply critical of the Kremlin.

Last year, Zhegulev sold two cars to finance a trip to California for him and his wife so she could give birth to their son.

Trump denounced birthright citizenship before the U.S. midterm election, amid ramped up rhetoric on his hard-line immigration policies. The president generally focuses his ire on the U.S.-Mexico border. But last fall he mentioned he was considering executive action to revoke citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil. No executive action has been taken.

The American Civil Liberties Union, other legal groups and even former House Speaker Paul Ryan, typically a supporter of Trump’s proposals, said the practice couldn’t be ended with an order.

But others, like the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for less immigration, said the practice is harmful.

“We should definitely do everything we can to end it, because it makes a mockery of citizenship,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an outspoken Russian lawmaker, said the country can’t forbid women from giving birth abroad, and many of them also travel to Germany and Israel.

“Trump is doing everything right, because this law is used as a ploy. People who have nothing to do with the U.S. use it to become citizens,” Zhirinovsky said.

Floridians have shown no problem with the influx of expectant mothers from Russia.

In this photo taken on Jan. 24, 2019, Olga Zemlyanaya, an interior design blogger, holds her 1-month-old daughter Eva in Hollywood, Fla. Zemlyanaya, who gave birth to a daughter in December, was remaining in Miami until her child is issued a passport. “With $30,000 we would not be able to buy an apartment for our child or do anything, really. But we could give her freedom. That’s actually really cool.” (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

Yachmenev, the agency manager, says he believes it’s good for the state because it brings in sizable revenue.

Svetlana Mokerova and her husband went all out, renting an apartment with a sweeping view. She relished the tropical vibe, filling her Instagram account with selfies backed by palm trees and ocean vistas.

“We did not have a very clear understanding about all the benefits” of a U.S. passport, she said.

“We just knew that it was something awesome,” added Mokerova, who gave birth to a daughter after she was interviewed.

Zemlyanaya said that even her two nights in the hospital were a treat, like “a stay in a good hotel.”

In contrast to the few amenities of a Russian clinic, she said she was impressed when an American nurse gave her choices from a menu for her meals.

“And then when she said they had chocolate cake for dessert, I realized I was in paradise,” Zemlyanaya added.

She even enjoyed how nurses referred to patients as “mommies,” as opposed to “rozhenitsa,” or “birth-giver” — the “unpleasant words they use in Russian birth clinics.”

Zemlyanaya said she was able to work remotely during her stay via the internet, as were the husbands of other women, keeping their income flowing. Yachmenev said his agency doesn’t allow any of the costs to be paid by insurance.

In this photo taken on Jan 19, 2019, a doctor performs an ultrasound examination for Svetlana Mokerova in Miami Beach, Fla. Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women, like Mokerova, travel to the United States to give birth so that their child can acquire the privileges of American citizenship. (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

Most of the families his agency serves have monthly incomes of about 300,000 rubles ($4,500) — middling by U.S. standards but nearly 10 times the average Russian salary.

Yachmenev said he expects that birth tourism among Russians will only grow.

Business declined in 2015 when the ruble lost about half its value, but “now we are coming back to the good numbers of 2013-14,” he said.

___
By IULIIA STASHEVSKA Associated Press

Associated Press writers Curt Anderson in Miami and Varya Kudryavtseva in Moscow contributed to this report.

In this photo taken Jan 19, 2019, Svetlana Mokerova, a fitness instructor, speaks to a doctor in Miami Beach, Fla. “We did not have a very clear understanding about all the benefits” of an American passport, she said. “We just knew that it was something awesome.” (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

In this photo taken on Jan. 19, 2019, Svetlana Mokerova, 25, fitness instructor takes a selfie in Miami Beach, Fla. Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States to give birth so that their child can acquire all the privileges of American citizenship. Mokerova and her husband went all out, renting an apartment with a sweeping view. She relished the tropical vibe, filling her Instagram account with selfies backed by palm trees and ocean vistas. (AP Photo/Iuliia Stashevska)

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.