A recent survey by the Public Health Agency found that a staggering 18.2 percent of schoolchildren aged 13 -15 smoke daily. The survey results, released on Jan. 19, revealed that more than a third of the young smokers started before they were 10 years old. Over 80 percent of schoolchildren have tried smoking, the survey found. About three quarters of the children who smoke reported having tried to quit sometime in the past year, while more than 91 percent said they could quit if they really wanted to. The survey, which canvassed 3,362 respondents, found that boys are more likely to start smoking at a young age than girls.
President Valdis Zatlers began an official trip to Germany on Jan. 22, where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Kohler. During his meeting with Kohler, Zatlers discussed the upcoming German culture year, titled "Essentia Baltica 2008," and other topics surrounding culture and education. With Merkel, on the other hand, he discussed EU-Russian relations, the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and security issues surrounding the mission in Afghanistan.
An international survey released on Jan. 18 found Latvia ranked 11th most active country in the world in the fight against climate change. The survey showed that the three countries strongest on climate change were Sweden, Germany and Iceland, while the three worst countries were Saudi Arabia, the United States and Australia. Valdis Blisters, head of the climate and renewable resources department of the Environment Ministry, said the good result could be attributed to a drastic reduction in emissions, and the country should further develop its climate policy to move higher on the list. Lithuania ranked 20th, while Estonia came in at 35th.
The Latvian-language daily Latvijas Avize reported that when a local businessman caught his 22-year-old babysitter and her boyfriend laying naked, smoking and drinking cognac in one of his bedrooms on Jan. 17, he threw the still nude couple out of the house. The businessman rushed home after receiving a phone call from his neighbor claiming that the baby was screaming and had been left untended. Upon his arrival home, the businessman threw the couple's clothes out of the window, called a taxi and gave the driver 100 lats (142 euros), instructing the driver to take them home without clothes. The businessman said he was surprised by the scene, and had believed that the babysitter was doing a good job.
As a part of its Challenge to Civic Involvement project, Providus, a prominent Latvian NGO, revealed on Jan. 22 that For Fatherland and Freedom party lawmaker Juris Dobelis used the most offensive language during parliamentary sessions in 2007. His party registered as the worst offender with 64 cases of offensive or discriminatory language during a session. The Greens and Farmers Union came in second with 18 cases and the leftist For Human Rights in United Latvia third with five cases. Most of the cases involved offensive language toward non-Latvians, but a number of others were directed at sexual minorities and ethnic minorities.