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295. Bulgaria and Greece to build an electric transmission network

News BG: 2008-11-10

The construction of an intersystem electric transmission network "Maritza Iztok - Nea Sanda" was discussed during the meeting of the Economy Minister and the Greek Minister of development Hristos Folias.

The project can start by the end of 2008 and end by 2011.

The two ministers signed a declaration on intentions, which calls for an intensification of the cooperation in the field of power engineering.

These agreements increase our mutual energy security and the general development of new and clear sources of energy, the Greek Minister of Development Hristos Folias said.

Greek investment in Bulgaria has increased two times in the first six months of 2008. This was announced during the meeting.

The Economy Minister Petar Dimitrov informed his Greek colleague that the electric transmission network "Chervena mogila - Shtip" will be officially opened on December 15 2008.

294. Should Kids Be Able to Graduate After 10th Grade?

Yahoo News: 2008-11-08

High school sophomores should be ready for college by age 16. That's the message from New Hampshire education officials, who announced plans Oct. 30 for a new rigorous state board of exams to be given to 10th graders. Students who pass will be prepared to move on to the state's community or technical colleges, skipping the last two years of high school.

Once implemented, the new battery of tests is expected to guarantee higher competency in core school subjects, lower dropout rates and free up millions of education dollars. Students may take the exams - which are modeled on existing AP or International Baccalaureate tests - as many times as they need to pass. Or those who want to go to a prestigious university may stay and finish the final two years, taking a second, more difficult set of exams senior year. "We want students who are ready to be able to move on to their higher education," says Lyonel Tracy, New Hampshire's Commissioner for Education. "And then we can focus even more attention on those kids who need more help to get there."

But can less schooling really lead to better-prepared students at an earlier age? Outside of the U.S., it's actually a far less radical notion than it sounds. Dozens of industrialized countries expect students to be college-ready by age 16, and those teenagers consistently outperform their American peers on international standardized tests.

293. Kinomania 2008 International Film Festival starts on November 7

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-07

Kinomania 2008 has arrived. Drawing in spectators with an opening ceremony screening of Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's 2008 docu about the Rolling Stones, at Sofia's NDK (National Palace of Culture) on November 7, the film festival's entire programme promises to enthral.

Featured in the 22nd year of the festival will be the cinema of countries like France, Great Britain, Italy, the United States and Russia (as part of the Year of Russia in Bulgaria). There will also be special programmes dedicated to Asian, documentary, animation and tango films.

The festival, which continues until December 3, is being held in the Sofia movie halls Lumière, Dom na Kinoto, Odeon, Euro-Bulgarian Cinema and hall 1 of NDK, and in Plovdiv at Lucky Cinema. All films have Bulgarian and English subtitles.

From the United Kingdom, films to be shown include Incendiary by Sharon Maguire, which looks at how a woman continues her life after her husband and son are killed in a terrorist attack 9November 16, 7.30pm, Euro Cinema; November 20, 9pm, Lumière; November 23, 5pm, Dom na Kinoto); Becoming Jane, a biographical portrait of Miss Austen before fame hit, directed by Julian Jarrold (November 8, 7.30pm, Odeon; November 16, 6.30pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 18, NDK hall 1, 6.30pm); This is England, Shane Meadows' drama of a young boy who befriends skinheads (November 21, 9pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 26, 9pm, Lumière; December 2, 7.30pm, Euro Cinema); and David Lean's 1955 classic, Summertime, in which a solitary American lady finds... love in Venice (November 8, 2pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 9, 2.30pm, Lumière; November 13, 7.30pm, Odeon).

Also worth checking out are the Coen Brothers' film Burn After Reading (2008), which looks at the fate of a CIA disk after two fitness instructors find it (November 8, 9.15pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 15, NDK hall 1, 8.30pm); Lubov morkov/??????-???????, which means love carrot in Russian, is a comedy by Aleksandr Strizhenov (2007) that addresses a couple's lack of love and their treatment by a famous doctor; and El Ultimo aplauso, German Kral's 2008 documentary about a group of tango singers' final performance (November 15, 6pm, Odeon; November 16, 5pm, Lumière; November 20, 7pm, Dom na Kinoto).

There are many more films, of course, that deserve attention; watch The Sofia Echo for more details.

Cinemas in Sofia

NDK hall 1: 1 Bulgaria Sq, tel: 02/ 916 63 69

Lumière: 1 Bulgaria Sq (behind NDK), tel: 02/ 916 63 69

Dom na Kinoto: 37 Ekzarh Yosif Str, tel: 02/ 980 78 38

Odeon: 1 Patriarh Evtimii Blvd, tel: 02/ 989 24 68

Euro Cinema: 17 Alexander Stamboliiski Blvd, tel: 02/ 980 41 61, 988 00 84

292. Bulgarian tourism: many questions, good wishes for the future and no answers

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-06

Would the Bulgarian tourist industry survive the global financial crisis? What precautions need to be taken so the influx of foreign tourists remained steady? Is the country ready for the imminent ski season? Those were only some of the questions raised at a news conference that attracted members of the tourist guild to discuss the future of the industry on November 4 2008.

Recently the UN World Tourist Organisation (UNWTO) issued a warning that local and regional authorities should allocate at least two per cent out of their budget to market tourist products.

It is a well-known fact that the Bulgarian State Tourist Agency receives an annual budget of six million leva, which is not nearly enough to advertise what the country has to offer on the international market. At the news conference, professionals requested the budget for 2009 to be increased to 20 million leva.

Vetko Arabadjiev from the Union of Investors in Tourism said that the industry should focus on how to win back through special offers the thousands of Bulgarian tourists who prefer to holiday in Turkey and Greece. He believed that the financial crisis would not affect the type of tourists that come to Bulgaria usually families or individuals who would only have funds for one holiday a year.

Arabadjiev suggested that Bulgaria should be promoted more aggressively abroad as a cheap destination with a good quality of service. The state needs to secure preferential airplane tickets on charters servicing Varna and Bourgas airports. Arabadjiev wished that the Government would create favourable conditions for the development of infrastructural projects.

I think we should concentrate on the law for tourism that so far has undergone 16 amendments and there is another one on the way, said Irina Naidenova of the Association of Bulgarian Tour Operators and Travel Agents (ABTTA). Most of the clauses are contradictory and do not regulate the relations among all players on the tourism market. In addition, Naidenova pointed out that the law did not ensure a unified system for categorising tourist facilities.

Petya Slavova from the Union of Bulgarian Tourism Industry (UBTI) said that her organisation is initiating several anti-crisis moves. We will meet members of political parties that are capable of ruling the country, and I do not think that we should try to convince them that culture and tourism will make us rich.

Slavova also said that UBTI intends to meet archaeologists, historians, musicians and diplomats to probe their personal experience of how best to enhance Bulgaria's image abroad. In the row of planned meetings, Slavova also mentioned future talks with Italian, Turkish or Croatian ministers who could provide lessons on how to develop a successful tourist industry.

Bulgaria could very well count on its spa and wellness tourism, Stefan Sharlopov, a hotel owner and a large-scale investor, said. However, hotels that offer spa tourism should be certified by the European Spa Association. Otherwise, we could push tourists away by advertising spas in every hotel, where at some places there is just a jacuzzi and a single couch for massages, conducted by random people, Sharlopov said. Certification is a very expensive procedure, he said, and so far there are only two certified spa hotels. One is in the process of getting a certificate and five have applied for one.

Asked whether Bulgaria was prepared for the pending ski season, participants replied that the winter resort of Pamporovo may suffer because the nearest airport in Plovdiv is not equipped for bad-weather landing. So potential tourists need to be directed to Sofia and travel from there to Pamporovo. Compared to the number of visitors in the season 2006/07, tourist numbers this winter are expected to record a 30 per cent decrease.

No mention was made as to whether other resorts such as Bansko and Borovets were ready to greet tourists for the season.

291. US presidential election: Barack Obama wins

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-05

Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia; as battleground states became landmark states in a historic victory, it became clear that Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States.

As Obama supporters revelled in victory at a rally in his home state of Illinois, joined by their fellows across the nation and across the world, where the story of the first African-American to become president-elect, and at that on a promise of a changed and renewed America, had captured imaginations.

Victory was more than decisive - Obama beating McCain by 338 to 155 electoral votes, CNN reported.

In a concession speech, John McCain urged all Americans to join him in supporting Obama - "whatever our differences, we are all Americans" - in facing the challenges ahead. A visibly emotional McCain called for calm as jeers rose from his supporters at references to Obama.

Incumbent president George Bush, whose term ends when Obama is sworn in as president on January 20 2009, reportedly congratulated his successor soon after networks reported the Obama triumph. The very fact of Bush's unpopularity in office and his grave missteps abroad and at home are seen as contributing to the electorate having opted for change in the form of Obama, and a significant strengthening of Democrats in both houses of congress.

After a prolonged, expensive and bitter battle, the final act went relatively smoothly and quickly. At the outset, McCain had, so networks said, two of his four initial must-win states, South Carolina and Georgia, but initially clarity on Virginia and Indiana was still awaited, until networks said that Obama would take Virginia. CNN then projected West Virginia would go to McCain.

Obama was soon more than a third of the way to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency. Most major networks accorded Obama victories in a list of states that had been expected to be bagged by the Illinois senator, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, his home state of Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. To this list was added, not long after initial reports, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Michigan, and after some time, New Mexico. Iowa's seven votes put Obama over the 200 mark.

McCain won Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, but it remained too early to say whether he would pull off further must-win victories in Ohio and Florida. Defeat in Pennsylvania represents a significant setback for McCain if confirmed by further reverses. An announcement some time thereafter that the Republican candidate had won Louisana and Utah was unlikely to have revived hopes in the McCain camp.

As several commentators pointed out, no Republican candidate has won the White House without first getting Ohio. After Pennsylvania, it was a major body blow. In the next few hours, other results and consequent projections made it clear that the blow was fatal.

Obama, however, going by the projected results, did not achieve the landslide on the scale of the "Reagan revolution" results that some had forecast. While Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1984 with 525 votes to his opponent's 13, bettering his first-term victory of 489 to 49, the Obama-Joe Biden's ticket's defeat of McCain-Sarah Palin is relatively closer to the margins of the Bill Clinton victories of 1992 and 1996.

Networks universally reported long queues, while reporters and callers spoke of queues of lengths extraordinary in US elections for decades. In the competition for ratings, CNN had a rabbit to pull out of the hat, as it made television history by projecting one of its reporters into its New York election centre as a holographic image, live from Chicago, thanks to technology reliant on 35 high-definition cameras used to relay a full-length body image.

Exit polls indicated that nationally, the economy was the key issue for the majority of voters, trailed by Iraq and terrorism at a distant second and third, respectively. The economic woes that reached crisis point some weeks ago have been seen as decisive in winning the election for Obama, to whom Americans are turning for solutions to this crisis, along with solutions to other domestic and foreign policy priorities.

290. Czech town celebrates Day of Bulgaria

News BG: 2008-11-04

The Czech town Ceske Budějovice celebrates today day of Bulgaria.

Main organizers of the event are the Bulgarian embassy in the Czech republic and Euro Direct České Budějovice.

Throughout the day the visitors will be able to attend lectures and cultural events connected to Bulgaria.

The Czechs will have the chance to explore the exhibition Beautiful Bulgaria. The ceremony will be attended by the Bulgarian ambassador Zdravko Popov and the director of the Bulgarian cultural institute in Prague Boyan Panchev.

The chief of the Bulgarian state agency on tourism Stela Baltova will make a presentation on the topic Bulgaria Your exact aim, which will be directed to the tourist branch.

The presentation will finish with tasting of Bulgarian wine.

Later in the day a lecture on Bulgaria as a new EU member state will be given in the university in the town.

The entrepreneurs are also not forgotten. They will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the conditions for business in Bulgaria through the presentation Bulgaria a business partner.

The day of Bulgaria will end with an exhibition of the archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov accompanied by the performance of Bulgarian folk songs.

After the end of the program the guests will have the possibility to taste the traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

289. 78% of foreign investment - concentrated in Sofia

News BG: 2008-11-03

"In 2007-2007 78% of foreign investment in Bulgaria is concentrated in Sofia and for the last 15 years - 50 percent of foreign capital is invested in Sofia".

This was announced by the deputy mayor of Sofia Minko Gerdzhikov on an international conference for the application of the Lisbon strategy for regional development of Sofia.

The conference is carried out in the building of the Sofia city-hall. According to Gerdzhikov, able-bodied Sofia citizens are 700 000 people, while the average work salary is 31% higher compared to the rest of the country and is 287 Euro.

Prerequisites for attracting a large percentage of foreign investors in the capital are the location of the city, where three trans-European corridors cross each other, the lower salaries than the average European salaries and the big number of Bulgarians with university degrees graduating each year.

Among the most developed sectors in the capital are the real estate business, transport and communications. 33 percent of the country's GDP is produced by the capital and it increases each year by 13-15%.

288. Driving with lights on for the winter

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-01

All motorists should have the light of their motor vehicles on while driving during the day as of November 1 2008, the Traffic Act says. The period for driving with lights applies for winter months and ends at the end of March 2009.

The practise was enforced last year in an attempt to bring the number of road accidents caused by lack of visibility. Now all motors vehicles should have their light on otherwise motorists would face fines of 20 leva. In the first 10 days after November 1, the Traffic Police officers will only warn motorists for the new rule and check their lights. After that policemen will be in their right to impose fines.

According to Traffic Police statistics, quoted by Bulgarian-language Novinar daily, last winter a total of 233 people have died in road accidents, of which 74 were pedestrians.

Traffic Police data also said that 40 per cent of the victims were killed in dark sections of the roads. To change this statistic, the police together with municipalities will check street lights especially around bus stops and pedestrian crossings.

Police's projections based on their statistics are that 135 people will die on Bulgarian roads by the end of 2008.

Beside the lights, winter tyres and windscreens will also be on the Traffic Police's check list. Usually, with the coming of the winter season, workshops in Sofia and other big cities are jammed with people wanting to change their summer tyres with winter ones.

The best thing to do is to call and book a reservation in advance otherwise people risk going from one shop to another and waiting for the mechanics to have a free window. In that case,those who buy new sets a tyres from the shop usually receive privileged treatment.

The change of just the two tyres on a two-wheel drive vehicle usually costs about 20 leva. The price of a middle-ranked brand new winter tyre varies between 80 to 120 leva.

287. Leading architectural studios short-listed for design of Government centre

Wise Property: 2008-10-31

The Regional Development and Public Works Ministry has short-listed six architectural studios for the design of a Government centre, meant to rise on the area near the sixth km of the Tsarigradsko Chaussee Boulevard in Sofia, Dnevnik daily reported.

Out of 19 applicants, the ministry short-listed Foster+Partners, a London-based firm led by world-renown architect Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid Architects, French studio Dominique Perrault Architecture, Obedinenie G-3, the studio of Bulgarian architect Georgi Stoilov, Italian studio Massimiliano Fuksas Architetto and consortium ADAIS proekt with Stoilov presiding over 18 companies involved in design, construction and planning.

The selected six studios need to present their initial concepts by February 2009. Their projects will be evaluated by an international jury, which will choose one firm to be commissioned with the design.

The Government centre would spread on 60ha, and the initial plans envision the construction of administrative buildings, hotels, residences for diplomats and sports centres.

Meant to be carried out as public-private partnership, the Government would seek investors that would fund the costs of the project. Instead, the investors would be given the right to build offices and shopping centres on sections of the same plot.

286. British Producers with remixes of Bulgarian hits

News BG: 2008-10-30

British producers and artists will remix a selection of Bulgarian hits on occasion of the 75 anniversary of the British Council.

The music project called "Switched On!" will develop in the following phases:

First Phase - choice of songs

Bulgarian songs from the beginning of 1991, the year in which British Council opens its first office in Bulgaria, up to 2000 will be chosen by fans at the site of the project.

Suggestions for songs will be accepted until November 15.

Second Phase - Voting

Fans will vote for their favorite songs and the first ten will be chosen for remixing.

The voting will take place from November 15 to December 6.

Music producers from the United Kingdom and Bulgaria will make remixes of the chosen songs in January and February 2009.

At the end of February a remix workshop will take place in Sofia.

The end of the project will be marked by a huge party in Sofia's party centre "4KM", where the winners will be presented.

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