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In the first quarter of 2011, 73 percent of European and 64 percent of Latvian households had access to the Internet, the EU statistical office Eurostat reports. Internet access has considerably increased both in the EU and Latvia over the past five years. In the first quarter of 2006, the Internet was in 49 percent of European and 42 percent of Latvian households. This year, the highest proportion of Internet access was registered in the Netherlands - 94 percent, followed by Luxembourg and Sweden - 91 percent each, and Denmark - 90 percent. The lowest internet access rate was recorded in Bulgaria - 45 percent, Romania - 47 percent, and Greece - 50 percent. In 2010, the Internet was available in 62 percent of Lithuanian and 71 percent of Estonian households. In 2006, the figures stood at 35 percent and 71 percent, respectively.
A new minor planet has been discovered for the first time by the Baldone Observatory in Latvia, using a Schmidt Telescope, reports LETA. The planet was given the name Baldone after being discovered at the university’s Astronomy Department’s observatory in the town of Baldone. The new minor planet is the 15th in the Solar System that has been given a Latvian name. The asteroid or minor-planet Baldone is part of the main asteroid belt between the planets of Mars and Jupiter. It was discovered by Latvian astronomer Ilgmars Eglitis. The diameter of the asteroid is about 1.5 kilometers, and it orbits the sun once every 3.73 years.
47,444 Rigans have been given the status of needy resident this year (11-month statistics), which is 11 percent more than in the same period last year, says the Riga City Council’s Welfare Department, reports LETA. The number of needy residents still remains very high, and it has been growing by an average 6 percent every month from January 2010 to April 2011. Since April, though, this number has been decreasing by an average 565 persons, or 2 percent, each month. If this trend persists, the number of needy residents in Riga could return to the level of August 2010, when 30,488 people had the status of needy residents with the Riga Welfare Services. Fifty-four percent of needy residents are of legal working age, and it is this group of needy residents that has been decreasing the fastest. According to the State Employment Agency’s data, the number of unemployed residents registered with the agency’s Riga branch has dropped from 37,935 in February, to 30,139 in November.
President Andris Berzins has submitted to Saeima Constitutional amendments on granting the status of a state language to Russian, reports LETA. At the same time, the president has also sent a letter to Saeima Speaker Solvita Aboltina (Unity), in which he emphasizes that “making Russian the second official language would mean to abandon Latvia as a nation state, which in turn would contradict the spirit of the Constitution and the ideas that served as a basis for the proclamation and restoration of Latvia’s independence.” Berzins says that he has turned to the Constitutional Rights Committee and requested its assessment of the matter. The president confirms that he is ready to actively participate in uniting society. The necessary number of signatures for staging a referendum on granting the status of a state language to Russian has been collected, the Central Election Commission announced on Dec. 19.