The Education and Science ministry proposed on March 22 that degrees obtained in the Soviet Union should be equal to the current doctoral degree. A person with a Soviet degree will have to submit their degree, their original thesis paper, and a Latvian translation of the paper to the council of whichever science sector relates to their topic for review. A commission of three experts will have 10 days to evaluate the academic paper. The council's decision will be based on the report of these three experts. Previously, it was up to employers whether to accept a soviet issued degree.
A gas explosion in Riga cafe on March 26 has killed two people and wounded two.
The people killed 's all women 's are thought to have worked in the cafe. The cafe was connected to Secondary School Â¹ 3, from which all school children and employees had to be evacuated due to fire and smoke in the building. The suspected cause of the explosion is a faulty gas tank. Police have launched criminal proceedings into violations of safety regulations with grave consequences.
Parliamentary speaker Indulis Emsis has refused a nomination in the next presidential elections by the Farmers Union on March 24, opting instead to keep chairing Parliament. Emsis was nominated for the post on the basis of his experience in politics. Emsis, however, felt that he had a duty to chair the Parliament and could not abandon it for higher office. He also noted the success of current President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and that, should he accept the post, she would leave him "very large shoes to fill." The only candidate for president that has been announced so far is former Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete of the New Era party.
The Riga Regional Court on March 27 decided to uphold the previous court's ruling on the arrest of Aivars Lembergs, the mayor of Ventspils. Lembergs was moved from the National Police pre-trial detention center to Matisa jail in Riga on March 16. About 70 people gathered by the court building in support of Lembergs, who is accused of bribe-taking on a large scale and faces charges of blackmail, money laundering and providing false information in his state official's income declaration. The Ventspils mayor plead not-guilty to the charges.
A new Latvian-American agreement that is expected to speed up court proceedings in child kidnapping cases is due to take effect on May 1. The agreement is targeted at situations where one of the parents has illegally taken a child to the U.S.A. It allows the other parent to turn to the Children and Family Affairs Ministry, who will then send the complaint to the U.S. department of state. The U.S.A. is now obliged to find out the whereabouts of the child and launch court proceedings. Latvia has already concluded similar agreements with many Western European countries.