MPs vote to erase their 7.4-million-euro debt A handful of MPs present in a depleted Parliament yesterday voted to exempt themselves and their colleagues from paying penalties amounting to 7.4 million euros imposed on them by the House after they illegally exceeded the budget for pre-electoral spending in 2000. Fines incurred for excessive spending in the lead-up to the 1996 elections had similarly been wiped off the record. HUMAN TRAFFICKING Athens rejects damning report by US State Department Athens yesterday rejected a US State Department report that placed Greece among the 19 worst offenders in terms of allegedly not doing enough to clamp down on the trafficking of humans. «I believe the report is quite subjective in many points, and, I would say, unacceptable,» Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris said. «An effort to deal with this problem is being made in Greece, and, of course, with greater urgency,» he said. He noted that Greece could not be treated as a «third-class» country while others that were the source of trafficked women and drugs were placed in a higher category. IKA ACTION First of seven 24-hour strikes begins Protesting Social Security Foundation (IKA) doctors launch the first of a series of seven 24-hour strikes today, obliging clinics across the country to operate on skeleton staff and handle only emergency cases. IKA doctors want permanency for 5,500 colleagues on short-term contracts. Meanwhile, hospital doctors yesterday confirmed their participation in the civil servants union strike on June 18. Matricide A 50-year-old woman who killed her mother after repeatedly attacking her with a knife and then an axe nearly two years ago in their house in Peristeri was yesterday sentenced to eight years in jail by an Athens court. A 10-year sentence was reduced after the court acknowledged that Eufrosyni Arvanitaki had acted in rage over long-standing differences with her mother Maria Hadzistamatiou, 79. Arvanitaki – who grew up in institutions and was moved to a reformatory so her mother could cohabit with a lover – claims her mother drove her to prostitution and alcoholism. Museum The Ministry of Culture late on Tuesday approved sweeping refurbishment plans for the earthquake-damaged Athens National Archaeological Museum ahead of the 2004 Olympics. New features will include air-conditioning, access for disabled visitors and fire exits. Stephanopoulos Greece will help Australian companies bid for lucrative contracts linked to the 2004 Athens Olympics, President Costis Stephanopoulos said yesterday at a joint press conference in Canberra with Australian PM John Howard. Australia is not currently on the list of countries eligible for government contracts but Stephanopoulos said he was «sure this problem will be resolved» after Howard’s July visit to Athens. Conscript suicide A 29-year-old conscript based at Soufli, in the northeastern prefecture of Evros, died after shooting himself in the head with a rifle belonging to his uncle, army sources said yesterday. The soldier – who has not been named – had taken leave and was staying with his uncle who lives near the base. Frigate away The frigate Spetsai set off for the Persian Gulf yesterday, on its way to replace the Psara. which has been carrying out patrol and escort duties in the Indian Ocean for the last three months as part of the US-led military operation «Enduring Freedom.» The Psara and its 226-strong crew will begin its return journey on June 30. PPC suit A professor of toxicology yesterday told a Kozani court that the anemia death of an employee at an electrical power plant in western Macedonia was caused by highly toxic chemicals contained in the factory’s generators. Lambis Lambropoulos was diagnosed with an acute form of anemia in 1996 and died in a US hospital in October 2000. His wife is seeking 586,940 euros in compensation. Planet saved? Planet radio station is expected to go on the air again next Thursday after the station’s owner agreed yesterday to pay some of their outstanding wages by then, and more the following week.