The average per capita alcohol consumption (pure alcohol) in Latvia was 8.7 liters in 2005, the central statistics office shows. Residents older than 15 years consumed 10.2 liters of pure alcohol, nearly a 1.2 liter increase from 2004. The most popular alcoholic beverage was beer, 61.5 liters of which was consumed per capita, up 2.46 liters year-on-year. The alcohol-related death rate shrunk by half from 583 cases in 2004 to 236 in 2005. A total of 668 people died last year from illnesses caused by chronic abuse of alcohol, up from 589 the previous year.
The two teenagers who staged an unauthorized picket during Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Latvia in October appealed a district court's warning against them. The animal rights activists were caught protesting the British National Guard's bearskin headdresses outside the British Embassy in Riga. The two youth, Marina Slaikovska and Ainars Rusins, were dressed in bear costumes and therefore broke a protesting law that forbids picketers from concealing their faces. The Riga City Ziemelu District Court issued a warning as punishment. The two protestors denied their guilt and asked the court for a full acquittal, arguing that their protest was just a minor infringement because "there was nothing provocative about it and the public order was not disturbed."
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis was elected as chairman of the right-wing People's Party for a four-year term. Kalvitis, who was the only candidate for the post, was elected with 810 votes to eight at a party congress on Dec. 9. The new chairman said the party must start paying more attention to development in order to attract stronger intellectual potential and better involve society in political processes. Kalvitis was first appointed to lead the government in December 2004, and his present government was approved on Nov. 7, 2006.
Parliamentarian Sandra Kalniete, representing the opposition New Era party, will participate in discussions on the European Union's institutional crisis Dec. 15-16. During the talks, organized by the European Parliament in Florence, experts plan to develop proposals that would help future EU presidencies solve the current "crisis" after France and the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution. The committee plans to complete the work by spring 2007, submitting the final document to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.