Weekly News Update: July 30th-August 5th, 2018

  • Another week, another heatwave, and sadly, more fires. Another bog fire started this week in the Mazsalaca region on the border of Estonia. Due to the natural composition of the bog, it was impossible to put out the fire before it spread, and it will be difficult to fight due to quagmires. Luckily, the fire has not spread to the nearby forest. This is only the latest fire in the country, with major ones in Valdgale near Talsi, in Salas novads near Jēkabpils, and in Ķemeri National Park more or less under control. Despite some long-awaited bursts of rain and thunderstorms throughout Saturday and Sunday, the dry weather and fire hazard is expected to continue for the near future.https://eng.lsm.lv/…/big-bog-fire-raging-near-estonian-bor…/
  • More bad news for the Latvian agricultural industry; African Swine Fever has broken out on the “Druvas Unguri” farm near Saldus, meaning that more than 15,500 swine will need to be culled. The government has already allocated €367,000 to assist in the culling process, but the farm could receive more than a million euros in emergency relief funding. The culling process began on Saturday with the destruction of more than 1,000 swine, and according to state regulators has so far gone according to plan.https://eng.lsm.lv/…/state-allocates-367000-for-culling-pi…/
  • A large number of state-funded “budget places” at universities both in Rīga and throughout the country remain unfilled. This situation is due to a decrease in the overall student population of Latvia since 2008 and a slight increase in the amount of budget spaces offered by universities this year. The fields with the most unfilled spaces include education, physics, math, and linguistics. The same report also found that around 20% of students in these “budget places” do not complete their studies to graduation.
  • https://www.lsm.lv/…/augstskolas-budzeta-vietas--aizvien-n…/
  • “Pasažieru vilciens,” (PV) Latvia’s semi-public passenger train corporation, is entering the next phase of buying 35 new electric trains. The trains will cost a total of between 150 to 200 million euros, and the first trains are expected to be delivered in 2020 with all trains delivered by 2023. PV has been attempting to buy new electric trains since 2009, with all trains supposed to have been procured by 2012, and the former board of directors is currently under criminal investigation for having spent more than 2 million euros despite no progress having been made.https://www.lsm.lv/…/jauno-vilcienu-iepirkuma-vertes-ne-ti…/
  • Fake News Alert! A flier posted at more than ten bus stops in Rīga warned people of a new invasive poisonous spider that has supposedly migrated to Latvia due to climate change and provided an emergency number to call. Although the spider in the picture is real (found only as far north as Poland), experts say it is completely harmless. Rīga city police released footage of a man on a bike hanging the posters, and an artist from the “Disidents” exhibition named “SOME1” has claimed responsibility for the posters. State police are still determining whether they will press criminal charges against the perpetrator, who could face fines of up to €210.https://www.lsm.lv/…/pieturvietas-riga-izlimetie-plakati-p…/
  • In other FAKE news… a political flier has been distributed around the city of Jēkabpils claiming to come from the organization “Re:Baltika,” a small spelling variation of The Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism “RE: Baltica.” The flier featured some reprinted work done by the organization, but RE:Baltica representatives quickly discounted the idea that they had published and distributed it, and were worried that political factions were attempting to discredit their work as politically-motivated and biased, and damage their trusted reputation.https://eng.lsm.lv/…/reporters-say-pre-election-newspaper-…/
  • Former Speaker of Saeima (parliament) Solvita Āboltiņa was appointed to be the next ambassador to Italy. The promotion marks a stunning change of fortune for the controversial former leader of the Vienotība faction just months after she was expelled from her own party due to a long series of scandals and public relations disasters. The appointment has drawn criticism due to questions regarding Āboltiņa’s qualifications and the fact that the promotion was overseen by foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, also a member of Vienotība.https://www.diena.lv/…/rinkevics-aboltinas-darba-pieredze-u…
  • Latvian Roman Catholics have begun the yearly pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Assumption in Aglona, the most important place in the country for Catholics. Although the gathering will not be until August 15th, group of pilgrims have already departed cities throughout Latvia by foot. One group has also been walking along the entire Latvian border since May. To follow the pilgrims on their journey, you can follow this day-by-day live report (in Latvian) on LSM:https://www.lsm.lv/…/dziva-reportaza-cela-uz-aglonu.a287130/
  • On Saturday, Latvia’s under-18 (U18) national basketball team beat Russia 91-80 in the FIBA European Championship tournament to set up a finals showdown with defending champions Serbia. This is Latvia’s first ever finals appearance in the European U18 finals, and will take place today at Arena Rīga since Latvia is hosting the tournament this year.http://www.fiba.basketball/…/hosts-set-up-final-date-with-d…
  • The long-awaited IKEA on the eastern border of Rīga in the town of Stopiņi has finally been completed. This will be the first Ikea in Latvia, meaning that it will no longer be necessary to drive down to Lithuania to shop there. http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/good_for_business/…