• 2001-10-11
PRIZED HUMORIST: Viliumas Malinauskas, 58, creator of the famous Grutas Park, in southern Lithuania, home to Soviet-era sculptures, has been awarded an alternative Nobel Peace Prize at Harvard University in the United States. The Lithuanian entrepreneur was awarded the prize on Oct. 4 in Boston, the daily newspaper Lietuvos Rytas reported. The Ig Nobel Prize awards, presented annually by real Nobel laureates, are granted to people whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced." "(Malinauskas) has quite a sense of humor," said Marc Abrahams, editor of humorous scientific journal The Annals of Improbable Research, which hosted the ceremony. The park, officially opened last April, contains around 70 sculptures. Besides Malinauskas, 11 more persons received the alternative prize, among them David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts for his partial solution to the question of why shower curtains billow inward and Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colorado for inventing Under-Ease, airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape.

DANGEROUS WALLS: The wall of a building in downtown Riga collapsed onto a street during demolition work on Oct. 3, but no one was injured, police reported. Municipal police officer Aigars Berzins said the wall collapsed onto the driving lane of the street shortly before 6 p.m. No construction workers were injured. A traffic jam formed while debris was removed from the street. Local residents on the street said the building had been abandoned for several years and no one lived there. Eyewitnesses said a car was slightly damaged in the incident.

Last year two people were killed and several others seriously injured when a shop ceiling caved in on the first floor of a building in central Riga. Prosecutors opened a criminal case against the building's owner and charged him with arbitrary construction causing grave consequences. The case has been sent to court.

DYSENTERY ON THE RISE: At least 205 people have contracted an acute intestinal infection at Tukums First Elementary School in the Kurzeme region, the Latvian National Environmental Health Center reported Oct. 8. Spokeswoman Zane Ontuzane said 138 people had been diagnosed with dysentery and registered by the Tukums Environmental Health Center. But epidemiological investigation into children who were absent from school revealed at least 205 cases of infection. Of the 138 cases, 120 are children and 18 adults. Fifty-one people were diagnosed with S.sonnei. Sixteen secondary ailment cases were discovered among family members of the schoolchildren, including 14 children. The investigation continues.

GENOME PROJECT FACES SETBACK: The terrorist attacks in the United States and the accompanying threat of economic recession may hinder the Estonian genome project's search for investors, warned an official. "The recent events in the United States are bound to brake the financing of the genome foundation," member of the board of the Estonian Genome Project Foundation Andres Metspalu told the Estonian daily Postimees Oct. 6. "The finance organization with which we were in talks was headquartered in the immediate neighborhood of the World Trade Center," he explained. The Sept. 11 suicide attack left the building which housed the investor without a single whole window. The company had therefore rented premises in a hotel and was still busy with moving arrangements, he said. "The investment climate, too, is not what it was," Metspalu added. The manager of the genome project foundation, Krista Kruuv, said the budget of the genetic data collection pilot project had been established at $2.5 million. The project, involving around 10,000 persons is due to be carried out in the counties of Tartu, Laane-Viru and Saaremaa.

I NEVER HUNT: Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has vigorously denied media reports he plans to go hunting with Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf when he visits Sweden. The Lithuanian daily Respublika reported on Oct. 5 Brazauskas wanted to do more than discuss political issues on his one-day visit to Sweden. The daily reported the Swedish Embassy in Vilnius confirmed the Lithuanian PM's plans to hunt Swedish wildlife during the visit. Brazauskas responded immediately by issuing a statement calling the newspaper report mendacious. He claimed officials from the two countries were only now working out the agenda and timetable for the trip. "I categorically state that I didn't plan to hunt and didn't express a desire to hunt during my visit to Sweden," Brazauskas said. The visit is provisionally scheduled for Nov. 19 or Nov. 20. In October of last year, King Carl XVI Gustaf and a group of friends from his school years visited Lithuania on a private visit. The Swedish monarch hunted ducks, partridges and other species of birds.

EX-MAYOR QUITS: Juri Mois, former mayor of Tallinn and ex-interior minister, is to leave Tallinn City Council. The chairman of the municipal council, Rein Voog, received a letter dated Oct. 4 from Mois asking him to suspend his deputy's mandate. Mois is a member of the Pro Patria Union party of Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar. The head of the Pro Patria Union faction at the City Council, Aimar Altosaar, said Mois had not explained the reason for his decision in his letter. But there was nothing extraordinary in suspending a municipal deputy's mandate, he said, adding that many current members of the council had replaced deputies who had resigned their mandates.