President Vaira Vike-Freiberga was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world's 100 most powerful women, dropping from 48th place to 63rd place this year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel tops the list for 2006, and last year's leader, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has moved to second place. Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, who was second on the list last year, took third this year. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who took third place last year, fell off the list this year.
A bear strayed into a village in northern Latvia, providing entertainment for local residents and fodder for bored journalists. Inguna Liepina, head of the Ramata district council, said the bear "performed" in front of residents for about 30 minutes. The animal is said to have behaved fearlessly and let people come within 20 meters. Authorities called the local school and children were taken by bus to see the bear, who was wandering outside the district council building. Specialists from the State Forest Service eventually escorted the bear back to the forest. "It did not hurry at all and took a nap before returning to the forest," Liepina said.
The Central Election Commission launched an information hotline for the upcoming general elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 7, said spokeswoman Kristine Berzina. Judging from the previous year, most calls will be inquiries about the nearest polling station. The hotline will also be open the day after elections so that people without access to the Internet or the press can call to hear election results. It is estimated that some 15,000 calls will be made during the hotline's operation.
Opposition party New Era, the ruling People's Party and opposition left-wing alliance Harmony Center have so far received the largest amount of pre-election donations. According to figures published on the anti-corruption bureau's Web site, New Era has received 181,212 lats (257,800 euros), the People's Party 178,427 lats, and donations to Harmony Center, including money to alliance member People's Harmony Party, totaled 167,305 lats. As many as 19 parties with a total of 1,024 candidates will run in this year's elections. Each party is allowed to spend no more than 280,000 lats, or 0.20 lats per voter, on its campaign.
Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks said he believed Latvia should get involved with finding a solution to the conflict in Lebanon. After a meeting between EU foreign ministers in Finland on the situation in the Middle East, Pabriks told the Baltic News Service about plans to invite Lebanese Prime Minister Fuoad Siniora to the next meeting "in order to discuss assistance in solving the conflict with Israel." He said the Israeli foreign minister should also be invited, adding that EU ministers had agreed that talks should also be started with Syria and Palestine. "A large number of countries still do not recognize the existence of the Israeli state, but the solution lies in negotiations, not isolation," said Pabriks.