President Valdas Adamkus has proposed direct elections for mayors and district heads. "I believe that direct mayoral election is the only adequate way of making progress in our state structure. We should go as far as [direct elections for] the heads of districts because they are closest to the people and have the best sense of social pulse," the president was quoted as saying. He expressed hope that Parliament would hear his call. Discussions on direct mayoral elections have been ongoing for the past several years, yet mayors are still elected by municipal councils. Direct mayoral elections would require a Constitutional amendment, which has been approved for discussion during Parliament's fall session. Constitutional amendments require the support of at least 94 members of the 141-seat Parliament in two consecutive ballots held with a three-month break.
Adamkus doubted whether banning rebroadcasts of the Belarusian state television in Lithuania was really necessary. "These [broadcasts] provide a good opportunity of seeing what life could be like in Lithuania hadn't the country regained independence and turned toward democracy," the president's spokeswoman Rita Grumadaite told the Baltic News Service. The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission banned cable TV from re-broadcasting the state-run Belarusian television channel due to disinformation. Observers see the state-run Belarusian television as a tool for spreading anti-democratic propaganda of Lukashenko's regime.
Many dead gulls were discovered on an ice-locked lake near Kaunas this week, but an analysis established that the birds died of bad feed and not of bird flu. Martynas Genys of Kaunas County Food and Veterinary Service said that veterinary specialists collected some 50 dead gulls off the ice. As he explained, molecular analysis established that the birds did not die of the flu virus. The gulls are believed to have died from bait left by fishermen. More dead birds were found on the lake covered with frail ice, which makes it impossible to collect all the carcasses. No bird flu cases have been reported in Lithuania so far.
The Guggenheim (U.S.A.) and Hermitage (Russia) museums may open branch offices in Vilnius in 2009. Such a possibility was discussed by Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas and Hermitage Museum Director Mikhail Piotrovski last week in St. Petersburg. Ieva Balcinskaite, head of the public relations service of Vilnius City Municipality, told the Baltic News Service that Zuokas met with the head of Gugenheim Museum in New York last year. The plan to set up a joint branch office was discussed in view of close cooperation between the two museums. The head of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the director of the Hermitage are planning to travel to Vilnius in the coming two months to discuss all the possibilities of establishing a branch office, Balcinskaite said.