• 2002-01-10
CHARGED: Latvian prosecutors pressed charges against a United States national on Jan. 4 who was detained last November in central Latvia for sexual abuse of minors. Thomas Stephen Pendleton was charged with involving minors in the production of erotic and pornographic materials. If convicted, Pendleton faces a prison term of up to five years. He will remain in police custody. "He says he refuses to admit being guilty, but in substance admits his guilt in his statements," said prosecutor Maris Leja. Although Pendleton is a U.S. citizen, he will stand trial for crimes committed in Latvia under Latvian laws. Leja said the case could be sent to court in a month and a half. Pendleton, 58, was detained in the town of Limbazi. He has visited Latvia frequently, claiming he was working on bicycle tourism routes. He visited schools offering to teach children English. He engaged in conversations with children, exchanged addresses with them, and occasionally visited them at home, staying with their families. Photographs of naked children and medicines were found in his belongings.

FESTIVE GLUTTONY: During the first days of the new year more people than usual have turned to Riga's largest hospitals complaining about stomachaches. Christmas and New Year's Eve are traditionally associated with a lot of eating and drinking in this part of the world. The number of people turning up with stomach and intestinal complaints at Riga Hospital Number One increased between 15 percent and 20 percent after the holidays. Such increases are commonly seen after all Latvia's major holidays - Easter, Independence Day, Midsummer Night, Christmas and New Year's Eve. "People fail to follow their appropriate diets," said the admission ward chief of the Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital, Ludmila Klimova. Janis Kotlers, assistant on duty for surgery admissions at Gailezers Hospital, also in Riga, said the number of patients complaining about stomach problems has increased by an average of 10 people a day since Christmas.

WRONG TURN: Former Lithuanian mountain skiing champion Rolandas Seliukas died on a slope in a Vilnius suburb on Jan. 6. Seliukas, 32, ran into a tree when he attempted a steep hill at a speed that eye-witnesses said must have been about 70 or 80 kilometers per hour. Paramedics were called to the scene, but their efforts to save his life were fruitless. Seliukas won multiple championships and competitions in various age groups in Lithuania, and participated in a number of competitions in the former Soviet Union. He won most of his victories in the 1980s.

DEADLY ANCHOR: Two Lithuanian sailors were killed during an accident in the Philippine port of Davao on Jan. 2. Three more are in hospital with injuries. The accident occurred on the ship Lyra belonging to the Klaipeda Transport Fleet when equipment used to lower an anchor collapsed and fell on sailors in a rubber boat. Davao's port administration was informed of the incident, dispatched a rescue boat and rushed all five victims to a nearby hospital. The seamen who died were identified as Antanas Kukturovas, 37, and Vasilij Chodokro, 50. On Jan. 3, the Klaipeda company sent a specialist to investigate the accident and four new sailors to join the crew. Philippine and Klaipeda authorities, port specialists and work safety authorities have launched a probe. The reasons for the accident are still unclear. The Klaipeda company purchased the Lyra, a 113-meter refrigerator manufactured in Japan, in December 1991. The 19-member crew was on its first trip.

POSTAL THEFT: About 55 kilograms of large parcels mailed for Christmas to Estonia from the United States in late October and early November were stolen, making it the biggest mail theft in Estonian history. The original weight of the six parcels was 81.7 kilograms in the shipment papers, but postal workers in Tallinn found that only 27.2 kilograms were left. Most were gifts Americans had sent to their Estonian relatives and friends. "I don't remember any theft of this size," said Tallinn Mail Center deputy director Malle Turk, who has a service record of 30 years. Only the parcels' torn wrapping could be delivered to some addressees. One Jarva county addressee refused to accept what remained because it contained the wrong things. Only hangers remained from the contents of another parcel from an elderly lady who plans to return to her native country soon and regularly sends her own clothes to Saaremaa. The unregistered surface mail parcels arrived in Tallinn via Riga in a sea container. As even the mail bags had been torn open, the Latvians repacked what they presumed to be the contents of the Estonian parcels into five bags. The Latvian Postal Service has sent a notice to the U.S. Postal Service but has received no reply.

NEW BOSS: The new head of Delegation of the European Commission in Latvia, Andrew Rasbash, who arrived in Latvia on Jan. 2, hopes he may be the last EC delegation head in Latvia if the Baltic state soon joins the European Union. The new head will present his accreditation to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Jan. 22. An economist by education, Rasbash has worked for the EC since 1978. The previous EC delegation head in Latvia, Gunter Weiss, retired at the end of 2001 after having spent two terms in Riga since 1996.

IF YOU CAN'T JOIN, COUNTERFEIT: Three Lithuanians suspected of counterfeiting euros were detained last week in Avila, northern Spain, the regional Spanish daily La Rioja wrote on Jan. 8. Police suspect the detainees, aged 21, 23 and 30, of forging documents and counterfeiting euro notes and coins. They were found with suspicious euro notes, German marks and other currencies, the authenticity of which is being checked. The Lithuanian nationals also had six passports and thirteen Visa Gold and Visa Platinum credit cards, the daily reported. The euro started to be circulated in 12 EU member states from Jan. 1. Reports about illegal immigrants from Lithuania living and working as extortionists in Spain have become quite frequent in the national and local press.