Wednesday, September 26

Romanian Report

From the original Ovi magazine (Ovi lehti in Finnish)

Low birth rate harming Romania

Romanian President Traian Basescu said this week that he is worried his country was “going through a demographic desert” because of a drop in birth rates since 1990. “In 17 years, Romania has lost 1.4mn people due to emigration and the lower birth rate,” Basescu said during a conference on population in the central town of Sibiu.

“Today, we count only one child per woman. If this birth rate remains as it is, we will only have 16mn residents in Romania in 2050, 11mn in 2075 and 8.5mn in 2100,” he warned. Romania currently has 21.6mn inhabitants.

In other new, tens of thousands of migrant workers from Romania are to be blocked from working in Britain amid concerns that economic migration is placing new strains on public services. Ahh, here we have the intricacies of the EU in all its glory.

Bromsgrove volunteers help out in Romania

A group of volunteers from the UK witnessed first-hand the importance of this year's fund-raising subject of the Day of Kindness (September 18th) when they visited the slums of Romania.

The week-long expedition was organised to raise awareness of one of Europe's poorest and most disadvantaged countries and was hailed as a life-changing experience by some of the volunteers on their return. The trip saw them discover the reality of the struggle many Romanians endure each day with no running water and very primitive sanitation.

For more on raising funds for The Smiles Foundation, call John and Joan Mayo on 0044 1527 875602 or log onto:

Best women handball teams in Europe

The 2007 Women’s Champions Trophy will take place in Vâlcea, Romania from 22 – 23 September 2007. Vâlcea is no stranger to top handball events and the city is steeped in handball traditions. The arena in Vâlcea was renovated and used for the preliminary and main round of the 2000 Women’s European Championship.

The competition in Ramnicu Valcea is held for the first time under the name Champions' Tournament, called Europe's Supercup previously. The participating teams are Slagelse DT (Denmark) - winner of Champions League 2006-2007, Zvezda Zvenigorod (Russia) - winner of EHF Cup, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea and Lada Togliatti, invited by the European Handball Federation (EHF).

Talking of balls, do you know why snakes don't have balls? It's because very few of them can dance.

Tuesday, September 18

Chinese executional tricks

From the original Ovi magazine (Ovi lehti in Finnish)

As we get closer to the Olympic Games year criticism is coming more often about different things, therefore Peking had to do something, even if that something is just for show. The Chinese Supreme Court has ordered judges to be more …sparing in the application of death penalties.

To this there are two sides, such as there are two sides in my head while reading this and trying to understand what the Chinese state - justice is totally controlled by the state - is after. I should be happy for the Chinese coming one step closer to understanding that respect to human life comes on many levels or shall I be my usual cynical self?

Yes, they are going to reduce the number of state members that were convicted for economic scandals to the death penalty but - and this is a huge 'but' - since who’s going to get capital punishment: a former state member or a strong opposition leader? And to become even more cynical, do they mean that they are going to reduce the number of convicted from nearly 4,000 to nearly 3,999 and the actual executions from the 1,770 in 2005 to 1,769 this year?

Why are they doing this? Is it to keep all the NGOs from asking everybody to boycott the Olympic Games? That’s definitely a good reason for the Chinese communist party. The Chinese communist party has come a long way since the days of its founder, especially after the Cultural Revolution that came to clean up the party. Actually, if the ideas of the Cultural Revolution had any effect in today’s China the leaders of the party should be the first to be shot.

China has always been a huge market, which even the church realized centuries ago when, aside from the preaching, the monks and the missionaries always tried to make business with the Chinese. Today there is cheap labour, low costs and a society that learns to be consuming; a paradise for western companies.

The most amazing thing about the whole case was the detailed instructions the Supreme Court gave. For example, murders triggered by family disputes should not always lead to the death penalty, alike to crimes for …passion! But, the best of all comes last: those convicted of economic crimes should be treated more ‘leniently’ if they help to recoup money that was defrauded. Most likely the last one is because if they continue the way they have been leading over the last few years everybody in the central committee of the Chinese communist party will be executed!

It is only days since we published another article about capital punishment and it was for the 30 year anniversary of the last execution with guillotine in France. In that article I was talking about China and I feel a personal irony that only a few days after the Chinese Supreme Court took the decision, just as I said, to understand that the eye-for-eye punishment only makes us equally murderers, with the sentenced.

Either they are making a positive first step towards the exclusion of capital punishment or the Chinese state may just make me really angry by naively thinking that they can manipulate NGOs and democratic governments with stupid announcements like that.

Belgian Report

From the original Ovi magazine (Ovi lehti in Finnish)

Raikkonen wins third-straight Belgian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso cut McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton's world championship lead to two points as Kimi Raikkonen took a dominant win at the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps. This was Raikkonen's third-straight Belgian Grand Prix win and it allowed Ferrari to secure the constructors' championship title.

However, Ferrari actually won the constructors' title in Paris last week when the FIA World Motor Sport Council decided to strip McLaren of all its constructors' points for 2007 following evidence that they received a systematic flow of information from a spy within rivals Ferrari for nearly three months this year. The FIA fined McLaren £50m.

However, the Belgian grand Prix was further overshadowed when McLaren revealed they may file a complaint against rival team Renault about alleged use of technical information. Just where this domino effect of corruption and allegations will end remains to be seen and there is a real danger the sport will be plunged into the same disrepute as Italian football faced last year.

Belgium no longer for sale

This week Internet auction website eBay withdrew an unusual second-hand sale item, the country of Belgium, which had attracted an offer of 10 million euros. "Belgium, a kingdom in three parts" was posted on the Belgian eBay site as offering "plenty of choice" despite the caveat that it comes with "300 billion of National Debt", although the accompanying text said the kingdom "can be bought as a whole (not recommended)".

EBay spokesman Peter Burin said the site could not host the sale of anything virtual or "unrealistic", the Belga news agency reported. The 'vendor' was named as a former journalist, Gerrit Six. Offering his lot at an initial price of one euro ($A1.67), he saw 26 subsequent bids culminating in the 10 million euro offer today before the auction was halted.

10 million euros isn't too bad for a country famous for… famous for, errr, chocolate, beer and… errr… Anyway, 10 million euros isn't too bad for a country other than Belgium.

Belgium's worst crisis for 177 years
100 days have now passed since Belgium could boast of a government. Despite increasingly desperate calls by Belgium's King Albert for national unity, the federal state has hit its worst crisis for 177 years after national elections on June 10 failed to produce a government and coalition talks descended into ugly squabbling between francophone Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish.

The 39-year old Flemish IT consultant has had enough. "The Belgian franc is gone. Our football team never wins anything anymore. The monarchy cannot even appeal to the politicians to stick together. It is time for us to get a divorce," he said. "With the best will in the world, you can not build a country on a shared taste for mussels, chips and beer - no matter how tasty."

See, 10 million euros is too much.

Sunday, September 16

Bulgarian Report

From the original Ovi magazine (Ovi lehti in Finnish)

Bulgarian Arrow Suspect killer turns himself in
Police investigating the murder of an arrow-shot Iraqi citizen said the suspected killer has turned himself in. The 41-year-old Iraqi national died after being shot with an arrow in the centre of Bulgaria's capital city of Sofia on Tuesday. Unofficial reports identified the suspect as Filip Dimitrov, 28. He has a criminal record for theft and drug possession.

Investigators told the agency that the motive for the murder was not clear but it was not an attempt to settle scores with the victim, Ali Mohamed Taher. The tragedy took place in front of a shop on the central Tsar Simeon Street where Taher worked. He was rushed to Pirogov Emergency Institute shortly after the shooting but doctors could do nothing to save his life. Police found a crossbow, the weapon used in the murder, as they searched the home of the suspect.

It was Einstein who said, I don’t know how WWIII will happen but I’m sure that WWIV will be fought with bows and spears. Think of it, we didn’t even start WWIII and somebody has already started practicing for the fourth!

Bulgaria's Pleven 1st Mall

The central Bulgarian town of Pleven will soon sport a mall after the reconstruction of the former town bank building is finished. Central Mall Pleven will cost almost EUR 9.2m and has been built by Niya Ltd, a construction and investment company. The mall will cover a total of 11,000 square metres across a built-up area, 7,000 of which will be used for shops.

"The five-storey building will house 40 shops," said Yani Stoimenov, CEO of NIA Procon, the company that will deal with the shop rentals. The mall will also have a two-level cinema, a bank, two restaurants, two fast food restaurants, cafeterias and a huge children's playground. The mall is scheduled to open for visitors in September 2008.

I don’t know if I should be happy or feel sorry for them, since the good old days when kids used to play football in the streets and the backyards is replaced by Pleven's cafeterias, pubs, neon signs and multiplex cinemas!!!

Fix Prices for Pre-Election Campaigns' Airing

Bulgaria's state-owned television channel will charge the political parties, which will participate in the local elections in October, BGN 135 (10 Bulgarian Leva equals 5 euros) for a minute of debate aired in the media.

The candidates for mayor will have to dig deep in their pockets and pay BGN 600 for a minute-long pre-election campaign video aired on the National TV and the state-owned satellite channel in the 12 am to 12:30 pm time zone. The price goes up three times for the same service if the videos are aired during the day. The price for a minute-long pre-election address on the state radio air will cost BGN 90, a minute of political debate will cost BGN 30.

The regional state TV channels will charge the participants in the mayoral race BGN 30 for a minute of debate. A minute of airtime for introductory and closing pre-election campaign videos on the Bulgarian National Television is set at BGN 1,000. The government on Thursday set the prices. They were fixed on the basis of the media time prices that were set for the MEP candidates Bulgaria elected earlier in the year.

Set prices? Equality in front of the screen? I think the point should never be how much the candidates will spend on televised advertising spots but where did they find the money to do so, especially while the Bulgarian people literally fight to have food on the table every day.