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Friday, April 28, 2006

The 100th Edition of the BEING HAD Times
Pensions raised, Milinkevich jailed, a last few words on Chernobyl and the usage of nuclear power

From the Top

Belarus increases labour pensions


The indexation of labour pensions will raise the average pensions to Br259,600 ($120.74)
Labour pensions Belarus will increase by 7.7 per cent May 1, 2006. Corresponding decree #274 was signed by the head of state on April 25, BelTA has been told in the president’s press service.

The move aims to improve financial security of pensioners and to keep the growth tendency in sync with the growth of incomes in the economy.

The pensions paid by the labour and social security bodies will be increased for 2 million 445 thousand Belarusian pensioners.

The pensions are indexed proceeding from the average wages of workers in the country in the first quarter, 2006, BelTA was told by Valentina Koroleva, the chief of the main department of pension security and social insurance of the ministry of labour and social security.

Additional expenses of the social security fund of the ministry of labour and social security to pay pensions will total Br44 billion. Valentina Koroleva noted that a cash inflow into the pension system has been stable in Belarus allowing the country to create a necessary reserve.

The indexation of labour pensions will raise the average pensions to Br259,600. “Pension of each pensioner will be calculated individually taking into account his/her wages, track record and eligibility for bonuses and benefits,” Valentina Koroleva said.

By the way, in connection with the changes of the subsistence wage the benefits will rise by 2.8 per cent starting from May.

Belarus Jails Main Opposition Leader; Arrests 3 Others

From:New York Tmes
Alexander Milinkevich will now be serving 15 days arrest for hooliganism ostensibly for “provocations” against the government at this time.
April 27 — The authorities in Belarus arrested the main opposition leader today and swiftly sentenced him to 15 days in prison, after accusing him of participating in an unauthorized rally the day before against President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko.

The arrest of Aleksandr Milinkevich, who challenged Mr. Lukashenko in last month's presidential election, intensified a crackdown on political opponents in the wake of unusually strong public protests against a vote denounced as a fraud. Mr. Milinkevich, a 57-year-old former physics professor, had faced many warnings but, until now, had not been imprisoned.

In Sofia, Bulgaria, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assailed the arrest of Mr. Milinkevich as "reprehensible," saying that "the United States roundly condemns this act and sincerely hopes that the Belarus government accepts the will of the international community that it act in accordance with accepted international principles in the treatment of political opposition."

NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, also condemned the arrest on behalf of the NATO and European Union envoys' meeting in Bulgaria's capital, calling it anti-democratic. He called on the Belarus government to release Mr. Milinkevich immediately "and to refrain from these kinds of actions."

"I think the Euro-Atlantic community cannot accept these kinds of things in the heart of Europe," he said.

Another opposition politician, Vintsuk Vyachorka of the Belarussian National Front, was arrested late Wednesday following a rally of several thousand people on the 20th anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The date has traditionally been commemorated in Belarus with protests against Mr. Lukashenko's authoritarian rule.

Two more political leaders — Sergei Kalyakin of the Communist Party and Aleksandr I. Bukhvostov of the Labor party — were also arrested today in what appeared to be a concerted sweep-up of Mr. Lukashenko's critics.

"This is a political action, a political sentence," Mr. Milinkevich told the judge who tried, convicted and sentenced him within hours of his arrest this morning, Reuters reported from the capital, Minsk. "Leaders of leading political parties are behind bars."

The European Union and the United States have sharply criticized the post-election arrests. Both have imposed travel restrictions on Mr. Lukashenko and 30 other officials in retaliation for what Western governments called electoral fraud and subsequent repressive measures against the opposition.

A senior State Department official said in a telephone interview that the United States and European Union were preparing additional punitive measures, including financial sanctions against Mr. Lukashenko and others. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department protocol, called the latest wave of arrests "a last gasp effort to maintain control over things."

But a leader of the human rights organization Charter 97, Andrei Sannikov, said the arrests underscored Mr. Lukashenko's defiance.

"He's challenging Europe," he said in a telephone interview from Minsk. "He's saying you can make whatever statements you want, and he will do whatever he wants."

Mr. Milinkevich finished a distant second, with 6 percent of the vote in last month's election compared to 82 percent for Mr. Lukashenko, according to the government's announced results. They were met with skepticism at home and abroad. The election outcome prompted a week of protests, centered around an encampment on October Square, which the police ultimately broke up five days later.

Several hundred protesters were arrested and sent to prison immediately following the vote. Most were sentenced to 15 days in prison and have since been released. However, a second presidential challenger, Aleksandr V. Kazulin, remains in detention on more serious charges of having organized anti-Lukashenko protests. If convicted, he could face as many as six years in prison.

Since the protests, Mr. Milinkevich has continued to campaign, during meetings with Lukashenko opponents in Belarus and with prominent state and political leaders in Europe.

He was on his way to an interview with an opposition newspaper in Minsk when special police officers arrested him this morning, his spokesman, Pavel Mozheika, said in a telephone interview.

There was some legal confusion over Wednesday's rally. The authorities had announced that the gathering could be held, though not on October Square. Some protesters gathered near the square anyway, and Mr. Milinkevich addressed them there. The protesters then marched to the Academy of Sciences, where the rally was authorized, and on to a park.

Leader of pro-Russian party says excluding it from Ukrainian coalition ignores voters' will

From:Kiev Post
Viktor Yanukovych and President Viktor Yushchenko
A pro-Russian opposition leader warned Thursday that forming a coalition government without his party would ignore the will of one-third of voters in Ukraine.

Viktor Yanukovych said only his Party of the Regions can form the basis of any coalition. "There is a party that won in the parliamentary elections, that is supported by huge number of voters, more than one-third of the voters," Yanukovych said.

The Party of the Regions won the most votes in the March 26 election, but failed to obtain a majority, forcing Ukraine's top political parties into difficult coalition talks. So far Yanukovych's party has been sitting on the sidelines as the nation's 2004 Orange Revolution allies have tried to hammer out their own coalition despite deep personal animosity between President Viktor Yushchenko and his estranged ex-prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The important thing is not what the future coalition is called - Orange, democratic or something else - the main thing is how fast it will be able to manage the especially difficult tasks facing Ukraine," Yanukovych told journalists Thursday.

He called on all political forces that entered parliament to unite for the sake of political stability and the country's economic development and to resist pressure form abroad.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that sits between a resurgent Russia and the European Union, has long found itself in the middle of geopolitical tug-of-wars. Russia gave its strong backing to Yanukovych when he sought the presidency in 2004, while the West championed the people power protests that helped usher the pro-Western Yushchenko to power.

"These geopolitical games must end .. politicians must unite around the national interests of Ukraine," said Yanukovych. He did not criticize any country in particular.

Russia protests CE Committee of Ministers' comments on Belarus

From:Ria Novosti
Andres Herkel
Russia is disappointed with the response by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to the recommendation from the council's statutory body that Belarus should hold fresh presidential elections, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Andres Herkel, rapporteur on Belarus and Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) Belarus subcommittee, said on April 13 that elections in the former Soviet republic should be held again, since the previous ballot, which ended with a landslide win for incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, was problematic and opaque for observers.

The Russian ministry said the committee's response had given a "distorted, non-objective evaluation of the recent parliamentary elections in Belarus."

"The demonstrative refusal for even-sided dialogue with the legitimately elected leadership of Belarus is absolutely inconsistent with the norms of civilized intergovernmental communication," the ministry said.

"Unfortunately, we reiterate that the arguments we have continued to present to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers have not been heard. It is particularly alarming that the decision on April 26 by the Council of Ministers broke the culture of consensus, ignoring the opinion of the side in disagreement with the majority," the statement said.

PACE said that, in addition to limited rights for observers at the elections, the opposition did not have the same opportunities as the ruling political group in Belarus.

EU dangles visas for prisoners offer to Belarus

From:Euro Observer
The EU is dealing with Belarus as if it is a feudal state and has been holding European prisoners for ransom
The EU has hinted it might take names off the Belarus visa ban list if Minsk releases political prisoners, such as opposition leaders Alexander Milinkevich and Alexander Kazulin.

"That is one of the criteria that is very much there," top-level EU diplomat Pirkka Tapiola said at a debate in Brussels on Thursday (27 April), following an emotional appeal for help by the two politicians' wives.

Other steps toward democratisation, such as better access to free press, will also be taken into account while considering taking names off the list, he added.

"We have demanded a number of times that prisoners are released. We deplore this very much," said Mr Tapiola, the Belarus policy advisor to EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana.

"We are extremely concerned about the fate of your husbands," European Commission eastern Europe director Hugues Mingarelli added. "We are doing our best to release them."

Mr Milinkevich was thrown in jail for 15 days on Thursday morning after addressing a 10,000 strong anti-government protest in Minsk on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster on Wednesday.

But Mr Kazulin, arrested shortly after the 19 March presidential elections, is up on charges that could see him put behind bars for several years.

The EU on 10 April extended its visa ban list from six to 37 Belarusian politicians after the OSCE deemed the 19 March vote to be a sham.

Member states and the US are also preparing to try and freeze the foreign financial assets of those on the blacklist, including billionaire president Alexander Lukashenko.

A decision on the freeze is expected on 15 May, but US diplomats told EUobserver that "major banking centres" believed to be holding the cash are not keen to play ball.

Put Belarus on G8 summit
Mr Milinkevich's wife, Ina Kulei, and Belarusian opposition activists present at Thursday's debate also called on the EU to put Belarus on the agenda of the G8 summit in St Petersburg in July.

"Russia holds the chair of the G8 and we want pressure to be put on Russia to end its support for the regime in Belarus," Alexander Atroshchankau, from the militant youth movement Zubr, said.

The commission's Mr Mingarelli indicated that Belarus is on the table "in all of our political dialogues with Russia" but that "we have to recognise that so far this has had little effect."

Russia is the "800 pound gorilla in the room question" on Belarus, Mr Tapiola said.

Both men indicated the EU is seeking ways to work more flexibly with Belarusian NGOs and opposition candidates in the 2007 to 2013 EU budget period.

Mr Mingarelli said that a commission charge d'affaires, based in Kiev but spending most of his time in Minsk, will soon begin work to better grasp the needs of local activists.

The EU is also exploring ways to target Belarusian companies which directly enrich the political elite in the country – but so far there is no clear way of imposing trade bans without hurting the general Belarusian public.

Moment of truth
In a rare moment of self-criticism by Brussels, Mr Mingarelli admitted that the EU's previous aid efforts for Belarus have achieved little due to the EU's tough NGO funding rules.

"It is true that we have not been able to do what you ask us," he stated. "I'm sure we could be more efficient."

Brussels and old EU member states' attitude toward Belarus has improved in the past two years in the eyes of MEPs such as Latvian conservative Aldis Kuskis however.

Pointing to the spectacle of Mr Mingarelli sitting in the same row with young Zubr activist Mr Atroshchankau, he said "two years ago we couldn't get anybody [from the commission top brass] to come to a meeting like this."

World needs to heed lessons of Chernobyl

From:Daily Yomiuri on-line
Thoughts from Japan are quite grave when it comes to thinking about things nuclear.
Twenty years have passed since the nuclear power plant disaster on April 26, 1986, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, that is regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power.

No accurate estimates have been made about how many people will die from cancer due to radiation exposure attributable to the accident.

On top of long-term health problems, problems of poverty have continued to afflict victims of the Chernobyl catastrophe and the matter is far from settled.

In September 2005, the Chernobyl Forum, led by U.N. organizations including the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, released a report on estimate fatalities.

According to the report, about 60 people were killed through direct exposure to radioactivity immediately after the accident and it is estimated that there will be about 4,000 deaths in the future from radioactivity-related cancers.

The report surprised experts around the world, since it had been widely forecast shortly after the accident that fatalities would likely run into tens, or even hundreds, of thousands.

The report aroused strong criticism from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, areas that were all subjected to radioactive contamination, for underestimating the gravity of the disaster.

Varied doses of radiation

In response, the WHO released a new report this month that stated that if those living in areas with relatively low levels of contamination were taken into account, fatalities from Chernobyl-linked cancers could possibly reach 9,000.

There is, however, considerable uncertainty about the accuracy of the WHO figures.

In making its forecast, the WHO adopted a formula that was applied to the connection between exposure to radiation and cancer deaths in respect of the atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The way Chernobyl accident victims were exposed to radiation, however, was markedly different to that of the victims of the atomic bombs, which may lead to considerable differences in long-term damage.

In the atomic bombings, those affected were subjected to the same dose of radiation over their entire body.

In the case of Chernobyl, most of the victims, except those who were working close to the reactor at the time of the accident, were exposed to radiation when they either inhaled radioactive substances from the fallout from the accident or consumed food polluted by radiation.

Radiation doses in the Chernobyl accident, therefore, varied according to individual victims and different parts of their bodies.

Little is known about the impact of radiation exposure on human health. In particular, the scientific verification of causal links between exposure to low levels of radiation and development of cancer is extremely difficult, except for thyroid cancer in infants.

Nature, Britain's weekly journal of science, in its April 20 issue, pointed out that evaluation of the long-term health effects of low-level radiation exposure in the Chernobyl accident would be impossible without comprehensive epidemiological surveys covering several million people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

In addition to health concerns, various social and economic woes have been weighing heavily on victims of the accident.

According to the United Nations, those who have been designated by the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia as sufferers of the Chernobyl disaster total about 7 million. Expenditure for medical and livelihood assistance programs have become serious fiscal burdens for the respective governments, it says. Such costs in Ukraine, for example, account for about 3 percent of the entire state budget, or 600 million dollars a year, the U.N. reports said.

The United Nations considers this a regrettable state of affairs and has claimed that those who should really be entitled to government assistance in connection with the Chernobyl accident number no more than 100,000 to 200,000, arguing that the governments concerned should refrain from squandering cash on sloppily devised relief programs.

No end seen to tragedy

Is it possible to persuade accident victims that relief measures should be suspended?

Those who have been compulsorily resettled from areas within a 30-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant and those living in areas still contaminated with radiation are said to be suffering from a great deal of mental stress, contributing to a wide range of illnesses.

A colleague recently visited the accident-affected areas and, after interviewing a number of victims, said many people told him that, compared with before the accident, it has become more difficult for them to make a living. Some who had lost relatives to cancer looked on the brink of desperation.

There seems to be no escape from the aftermath of the Chernobyl catastrophe in the foreseeable future.

What is evident is the fact that a major nuclear accident, should it occur, would give rise to irrecoverable chaos in all aspects of society, far beyond health problems resulting from radiation exposure.

The misery caused by the Chernobyl accident should be a valuable lesson for vigilance to ensure the safety of nuclear power.

Should we fail to learn from this profoundly tragic accident, the anguish of the victims would be all the more hopeless.

Chernobyl and the nuclear lobby

From:Euro Observer
EU Observer: Nuclear continues to menace the world, as we see in Iran for example. Chernobyl showed that it could be described as 'stored violence'.
The fact that 20 years after the Chernobyl disaster, we have such widely varying reports on its impact just highlights how corrupt and corrupting nuclear power is.

The truth is still a victim in this propaganda war, where the nuclear lobby is trying to protect its hoped for revival, spurred by climate change. It is a disgrace that the UN has put its name to a whitewash report, suggesting an unbelievably low impact. That was an insult to those affected, the citizens of the world - its constituency.

For a proper analysis of the overall impact of Chernobyl, your readers might like to consult an international scientific study by the European Committee on Radiation Risk, which involves people who actually know what is happening on the ground and who consider wider effects, not just immediate deaths.

It also works around the inadequate radiation standards used today, which national radiation institutes are now starting to realize are based on blinkered science.

Nuclear continues to menace the world, as we see in Iran for example. Chernobyl showed that it could be described as 'stored violence'.

The sun delivers 15000 times humanity's total energy needs, and will do so safely for the next 3 billion years. Let's stop wasting time with nuclear, and harness nature's continuing gift, which cannot ever cause the kind of problem directly experienced by the unfortunate people of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

Belarus might build nuclear power plant in future - Lukashenko

GOMEL. April 26 (Interfax) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has suggested that, eventually, Belarus could face the need to build its own nuclear power plant.

"Sooner or later, but we will come to the development of our own nuclear power industry. And believe me, this is a most serious issue for this country's security," Lukashenko told journalists in Bragin in the Gomel region on Wednesday.

Finnish parliamentary delegation meets opposition figures in Belarus

Liisa Jaakonsaari
A group of Finnish parliamentarians have visited the Belarus capital Minsk. The visit is the first by parliamentarians of a European Union country since the EU imposed a ban on travel to the EU on a number of leading figures in the country. The ban was imposed in reaction to perceived irregularities in the recent elections in the country.

In addition to the opposition figures, the group also met with one of those banned from travelling to the EU - MP Mikalai Charhinets.

On Wednesday, Liisa Jaakonsaari (SDP), who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament, as well as MPs Eero Lankia (Centre), and Suvi-Anne Siimes (Left Alliance), met Alyaksandr Milinekevich, the best-known Presidential candidate of the opposition, as well as Tatyana Protko and Garri Pogonyailo, leaders of the country’s Helsinki Committee, which is under the threat of being disbanded.

On Tuesday the group held discussions with Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Mikhnevich as well as Mikali Charhinets, who is also the chairman of the Parliament’s committee of foreign affairs and national security. Charhinets is one of the 31 leading figures in Belarus who, on the tenth of this month, were banned by European Union foreign ministers from entering the EU.

According to the EU, those on the list of banned Belarus politicians had violated electoral and human rights norms, and suppressing the civic society.

Jaakonsaari said that the Finnish delegation was aware that the country’s leaders might try to use their visit to promote their own purposes.

With this in mind, Jaakonsaari said that the members of the group made a point at all of their meetings of underscoring the importance of the release of political prisoners.

Jaakonsaari said that the official meetings had two goals: first, the aim was to assure the country’s leaders that the tougher line taken by the EU has the support of the parliaments of the member states. Second, the leaders were promised that if Belarus changes its policy on human rights and democracy, the EU would be willing to cooperate.

Jaakonsaari also said that the opposition figures that they met did not object to the group’s meetings with the country’s leaders, provided that they would convey a clear pro-democracy message.

The Finnish Parliamentary visit is linked with the upcoming Finnish Presidency of the European Union, which begins in July.

According to the web site of the Parliament of Belarus the Finnish guests had "taken up the observance of human rights in Belarus with respect to opposition leaders". According to the item, Charhinets had said that the country abides by its own laws and punishes those who violate them.

Before moving on to Minsk, the Finnish MPs took part in a seminar in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, where researchers and opposition politicians from Belarus explained the situation of their country.

At the seminar, Aleh Manayeu, head of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS), said that a survey held after the recent elections in Belarus suggests that the official 83 percent of the vote won by President Alyaksandr Lukashenko was exaggerated by about 20 percentage points.

Solzhenitsyn against Russia emulating Western democracy

Alexander Solzhenitsyn
MOSCOW. April 27 - Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in an interview to be published on Friday, said that Russia had "thoughtlessly" sought to copy Western democracy, which "is in a serious state of crisis."

"We have opted for the most thoughtless form of imitation. And yes, present-day Western democracy is in a serious state of crisis, and it's still impossible to foresee how it will try to overcome it. But the right way for us is not to make replicas of models but to seek physical and moral well-being for the people without abandoning democratic principles," Solzhenitsyn told the newspaper Moscow News.

Solzhenitsyn also accused NATO of plotting to put Russia under its control and slammed Ukraine for "fanatically suppressing" the Russian language.

"Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to them, NATO is methodically and persistently building up its military machine - into the east of Europe and by continentally surrounding Russia from the south. This involves open material and ideological support for 'color' revolutions, the paradoxical forcing of North Atlantic interests on Central Asia," the former Soviet dissident told the newspaper Moscow News.

"All this leaves no doubt that this amounts to preparations for the complete encirclement of Russia and then its loss of sovereignty," he said.

Belarus refugee makes good in Tucson

Raisa Moroz (left), with her husband, Valeriy, and their daughters, Yelena and Marina, upon arrival at Tucson International Airport in 1996
Raisa Moroz was perplexed when her father's best friend announced that he was leaving Belarus in 1979. Sixteen-year-old Raisa asked the man, a newspaper publisher who was Jewish, "Why are you leaving? You have everything." He told her, "When you have family we'll talk about it again."
Sitting in her Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona office, Moroz, who is the program coordinator for adult education and new Americans, and director of the Melton School, says she now understands. In 1986, "giving birth to my first child, I was asked, Why are you crying? If you don't like it here go to Tel Aviv and have your baby there.'" Faced with such blatant anti-Semitism, she started to rethink life in Belarus.

At midnight on April 3, 1996, Moroz, her husband, two daughters, and in-laws arrived in Tucson, part of an influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union to the United States. But the story of life in Belarus stays with her.

I never thought I would ever move from the country I was born in. But when I had my child I was so protective of her. I started thinking more about "sins" toward me when I was middle school age. My teacher pointed out to the whole class that my papers were not accurate, that there were so many mistakes she crossed out that she had dirt under her nails. She was trying to humiliate me, and the other students knew what she was doing. At the parent-teacher conferences in front of all the parents she would say that I was her right hand. I was afraid to send my child to child care because of these memories.

In the early '90s, when my daughter was between four and six years old, with the help of Jewish federations all over the world, they opened Jewish Sunday school and we started to get some information on Jewish holidays, Jewish events around the world, Jewish heritage.
My hometown of Mogilev, Belarus, had eight synagogues before the revolution in 1917. They were taken over by the government and used for art exhibitions and sport clubs. All those years my family and I knew we were Jewish but nothing else.

I have some childhood memories about the only Jewish holiday I knew, which was Passover. The reason I knew about it was because my Christian friends would always come up to us and say, "No doubt it will be rainy on Passover and very sunny on Easter because God loves us and doesn't love you." The other reason I knew about Passover was because my father baked matzah underground when he was a child.

The funny thing is, when I started to do my Shalom newsletter for the new American community in the late '90s at the Federation, I found a book that said we Jews pray for rain for the crops. I was so amazed I was telling everybody. I had my childhood memory tucked in my head that God doesn't like us.

When first we took our daughter to Sunday school we met more Jewish families, and we realized that some of them were leaving. Some of my relatives started to leave for Israel, but I didn't want to go; I was really scared that my brother would be drafted and killed in the war there. We were talking about what to do when suddenly an invitation came from the U.S. government to go to the embassy to be accepted as refugees to the United States.

We all came here through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and were assigned to Tucson through Jewish Family & Children's Service. Fred Klein, who was the director of resettlement services at JFCS, and our caseworker, Masha Gromyko, who spoke Russian, met us at the plane. My family spoke zero English and I spoke two percent. At 1:30 a.m., Fred took me to his office to call my parents to assure them we were safe. Then he took us to our apartment. The first pleasant surprise was when he placed my in-laws and us in two different apartments. There was food in the fridge and everything that we needed.

The next morning, when we went outside, we were looking around and we couldn't read any of the signs. I told my husband, "Let's not go too far from the apartment. We may not be able to find our way back."

I took English as a second language (ESL) classes for a few months and started a volunteer job with the Department of Economic Security. When I went with my husband, Valeriy, who was a piano tuner, to find a job, the Muller Music School wanted him to work as a volunteer for three months. "I'm a volunteer," I told them, "but my husband needs to support his family," so they hired him. In 1997, I was hired at JFCS as a part-time receiving clerk before the position at the Federation opened 14 months later.

At the Federation today, Moroz has been the bridge for new Jewish Americans who know "almost nothing about their [Jewish] heritage" until they begin to participate in educational programs or join local synagogues. Although only one family from the former Soviet Union immigrated to Tucson last year, Moroz continues to run Passover Seders, Purim parties and other programs for the new American community.

Within two years after Moroz's arrival, her parents and her husband's twin brother from Moscow resettled here. For Moroz and her family, Tucson "feels like home now." Her daughter, Marina, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Arizona. Moroz says she ordered Jewish-star earrings that her younger daughter, Yelena, 12, wears as a sixth-grade student at Magee Middle School. In Belarus, she says, "I was wearing a Jewish star pendant under my clothing. Now I wear it outside so everyone can see I'm Jewish."

Belarus bars residence permit marriages

the bill was brought about in consideration of a presidential decree regarding "Prevention of slave trade consequences"
Belarusian police will be able to file a suit for annulling a marriage with a foreigner or a stateless person if the marriage was contracted in order to receive a permanent residence permit. The Marriage and Family Code amendments, which enable such suits, were entered a bill, which the Chamber of Representatives' international affairs and CIS relations commission recommended for the agenda of the spring session of the Belarusian parliament.

Belarus deputy interior ministry Viktor Filistovich told a sitting of the commission, the bill was brought about by the necessity to bring Belarusian laws in compliance with the law "Legal status of foreign persons and stateless persons in the Republic of Belarus", which had come into force on February 5, 2006, as well as Belarusian president decree #352 "Prevention of slave trade consequences" of August 8, 2005.

The bill has 10 clauses, with 8 of them listing proposals to amend certain laws – "Health care", "Refugees", "State dactyloscopic registration". Besides, the Criminal Code, the Administrative Violations Code, and the Marriage and Family Code will be expanded.

In particular, an article of the Criminal Code, which provides for punishment for foreigners or stateless persons, who trespass the state border, will be expanded to introduce criminal responsibility for exiled foreigners and stateless persons. Viktor Filistovich explained, the article is expanded in line with the law "Legal status of foreign persons and stateless persons in the Republic of Belarus", which introduced two mechanisms for expulsion of foreigners and stateless persons from Belarus, namely deportation and expulsion. Earlier Belarus had deportation only.

Besides, the commission sitting tabled bills on ratifying a Belarusian-Indian agreement on mutual legal aid in criminal cases and a Belarus-Thailand agreement on evasion of double taxation and prevention of income tax and property tax evasion. The commission recommended including these bills into the spring session agenda to the Council of the Chamber of Representatives.

Belarus offers Gazprom 1.5bn in projects

From:The Peninsula (Qatar)
MINSK; Belarus offered Russia’s gas giant Gazprom joint projects worth $1.5bn in the energy and chemical sectors yesterday but remained silent on whether it would cede control over gas transit pipelines.

Last month Russia, a key ally of President Alexander Lukashenko, threatened to raise gas prices to ‘European levels’ unless Belarus transferred control over its pipeline system to Gazprom. The firm exports through Belarus about 20 per cent of its gas to Europe. The rest goes through Ukraine. Talks on new gas prices for Belarus, which buys gas at about $47 per 1,000 cubic metres, are expected to start in May.

Belarus calls UN to abide by objectivity principles in data dissemination

Belarus supported the idea on developing UN regional informational centers and preservation of multilingual approach in the UN information activities
Belarus called the United Nations Organization to abide by objectivity principles in data dissemination during a regular session of the UN Committee on Information which is currently held on New York.

According to the spokesman for the foreign ministry of Belarus Andrei Popov, the Belarusian delegation drew attention to the necessity of considerable extension of the UN information activities as well as the number of subscribers. Belarusian representatives called the UN public information department to continue giving priority to information which is of prime interest for the developing countries and those in transition.

Belarus supported the idea on developing UN regional informational centers and preservation of multilingual approach in the UN information activities.

The attention of the participants was drawn to the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe and the events to be held at UN headquarters – Special General Assembly Commemorative Session and photo exhibition “Chernobyl 20th anniversary: from tragedy to recovery” organized by the worst affected states.

Belarus proposed to increase efficiency of the UN web-site’s page on Chernobyl issues, to ensure its regular update in all official languages of the Organization.

According to the Belarusian foreign ministry, when addressing the delegations of the UN member-states UN Under-General-Secretary for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor stressed the readiness of the public information department to render assistance in information support of the Chernobyl initiatives. He noted that Belarus was right in its remarks on the need to maintain the Chernobyl page and assured that the information on it will be promptly translated into the official languages of the Organization.

USA deliberately discredits Belarus’ image in the area of religious freedom

Popov: We have an impression that the US authorities deliberately discredit the international image of Belarus
The USA deliberately discredits the image of Belarus in the area of freedom of conscience, spokesman for the foreign ministry of Belarus Andrei Popov stated when commenting upon a request of BelTA on the US Department of State’s 2005 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

“We have an impression that the US authorities deliberately discredit the international image of Belarus, intentionally giving a small coverage of positives processes in the country in the field of religious freedom and keeping them back from the American and international public”, he said.

Andrei Popov stressed that the US Department of State continues to use the official information of government agencies of Belarus quite restrictively despite that the information was given to the American side on its request.

“I have to repeat that the general information stated in the report on Belarus is far-fetched,” the spokesman for the foreign ministry noted. According to him, the main claims of the American side are based on information received from unreliable sources which has nothing to do with reality as well as on the stale data in connection with which the Belarusian authorities had already taken measures.

Andrei Popov hopes that the US Department of State will not distort the facts and make use of the data provided by the Belarusian state agencies when drafting a report for 2006.

“We also believe it logical that when drafting the regular report the Department of State pays more attention to the religious freedom and manifestations of anti-Semitism in its own country. We suppose that this would be a true demonstration of the US adherence to democratic values so vigorously propagated by the US Administration,” the spokesman concluded.

Belarusian delegation to attend SES and CIS events in Moscow on April 28

A working meeting on formation of the Single Economic Space /SES/ with the participation of a Belarusian delegation will be held in Moscow on April 28. The Belarusian delegation will be headed by vice premier Andrei Kobyakov, spokesman for the foreign ministry Andrei Popov informed.

According to him, preparation of a set of 38 documents on formation of the international legal-treaty base for setting up customs union as well as documents on simplification of public travel within the SES will be considered.

A special session of the CIS economic council will be held in the afternoon. The agenda includes issues on further development of the Commonwealth.

Andrei Kobyakov is expected to hold bilateral meetings with representatives of some CIS member-states.

Only Freedom

From:Charter '97
Alyaksandr Milinkevich
The dictatorial regime has cast into prison the leader of the Belarusian opposition Alyaksandr Milinkevich and the leaders of democratic parties Syarhei Kalyakin, Vintsuk Vyachorka and Alyaksandr Bukhvostau. Yesterday KGB officers seized and beat up the leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Lyabedzka. The former candidate for presidency Alyaksandr Kazulin has spent a month in the remand prison already. The list of political prisoners is growing all the time and has several dozens of names already. Thus the regime is trying to turn time back and plunge Belarus into an abyss of fear and dictatorship. But it’s too late: it belongs to the past. Only Freedom has future.

The country has become different today. And the dictatorship has realized that perfectly on March 19, after trying to deceive the nation once again and to impose the dictator that has grown hateful, for the third term. Dozens of thousands of people, despite of the threats of the authorities, have taken to the streets of Minsk to raise their voices in favour of changes. The number of Belarusians who are ready to fight for freedom, is growing with every day.

One can see that looking at young people in jeans, with blue bandannas and badges “For Freedom!”, who are swarm in the streets of Belarusian cities today. One could see it in courage and heroism displayed by Belarusian patriots every day. One can see that by protest actions in Belarus that go on non-stop since March 19. No matter what the dictator would do today, the longing for freedom cannot be stopped.

The words of Antonio Banderas’s character in the film “Imagining Argentina”, a film about the junta in 1976-1983 in Argentina, come to one’s mind: “You would never be able to subdue one thing, which is finally to kill you, and it’s a Dream”.

Today nobody can subdue a dream of millions of people about a free Belarus.

My Chernobyl

From:The BR23Blog
BR23 remembers Chernobyl
1986. I was ten. My dad, a Ph.D. in physics, came home from the applied physics research institute. I think it was 28th or 29th of April. It was early evening, about 5 or 6PM, it was sunny and warm, unusually warm for the season. I was standing next to our TV set (an old black-and-white Belarusian “Horizont”). Dad was pale, and when mom entered the room he said: “Something bad has happened. Something really bad. My colleagues who listen to Voice of America and Radio Liberty heard the reports that there was a nuclear explosion at an Ukrainian power plant.” Coming from the family of two physicists being ten years old I already knew what radiation means, and I already read some book about Hiroshima. When I heard my dad saying the words “nuclear explosion” my whole body froze. I was standing next to the TV set, and I had this weird repetitive thought: “Now there are hundreds of radioactive rays pulsating through me and through this room. If I concentrate really hard I can maybe see them.” It felt as if air around me became violet and electrified. I asked my dad: “Can I see the radioactive rays?” He said no. I asked then: “What do we do?” “Nothing”, dad answered.

Soviet television reported about the accident only 4 or 5 days later. In the evening news “Vremya” they said there was a “minor fire” at some unknown Ukrainian power plant. The “small fire” produced the radiation fallout equal to 500 Hiroshima bombs. 70% of it landed in Belarus. Especially sad now is that most of the attention is directed at Ukraine, and Belarus is ignored. Also inside Belarus Lukashenka’s government downplays the negative effects of radiation.

100 issues

From:Adam Goodman, editor of the BHTimes
Producing an on-line gazzete is a lot like digging potatoes; it takes a lot of time, a lot of work and you never know what is down there until you start digging.
The BHTimes was started last September for purely economic reasons and this is absolutely the truth. We didn’t have enough money so as a means of trying to expand the readership I added on this news page in the hopes of attracting a bit more attention to my regular blog. Making a news page was not my first thought, I played with several ideas for blogs that might have some sort of interest for people, but eventually I settled on the idea of covering Belarusian news because it seemed to be something I could speak relatively knowledgably about and was obviously connected to everything else I was doing here. I mean, I am living here and therefore I thought I could put a unique spin on things.

I don’t really know what I had been expecting from the production of this gazette. I knew that it was going to be a little bit more expensive in terms of time and money ( the internet bill is much larger than it was), but I was hoping that this would turn out to be only an investment, and that there would be some kind of return.

There has been.

Over he last half year I have received probably five times the mail I had previously received from my blogging. I have gotten some press attention, been called to do interviews, been asked for statements and opinions from both press sources and students looking to hear something different about Belarus. I have been called to the mat for the editorial policy; at first for supposedly being wishy-washy and then for not going along with the anti-Lukashenka media hysteria surrounding the elections. I have been congratulated for “telling the truth”, reprimanded for telling lies, and have regularly been called all sorts of names, both good and bad.

Now, as far as this goes, I make no claims of journalistic talent here; I certainly could have done a lot more about getting interviews with public figures and I could have added a lot more writing than I did. But for sure I am not out here simply copying news stories either.

What The BEING HAD Times is, and has been for the last 100 issues is a balanced review of news from the Republic of Belarus. And to my mind being balanced means considering both sides of the argument. Finding a reasonable (peaceful) answer to a problem between two opposing sides requires listening to each other and this means allowing both sides to speak. This is all that I am doing here. I don't print every article I find, that would be impossible as well as unnecessary, but I do print what is being said out there regardless of whether or not they are pro or con- the only real criteria is that the thought has to have at least a reasonable amount of legitimacy to it.

So really, what is the truth here? Is Alexander Lukashenka a dictator? Yes. But folks, HE WAS POPULARLY ELECTED HERE AND THIS IS THE TRUTH!! Is he bad for Belarus? Not necessarily. The country is not rich in resources, it does have an ideological preference which is not of the western model and because of this, Mr. Lukashenka seems absolutely to suit the needs of his constituency. And he really does work at the job so this is not a matter empty corruption. So I for one agree and support that he is the president of Belarus and I think as much as anything, I really, really wish the west would get this point already.

Do you want to say that you don’t believe this, that the elections were rigged and that the Belarusian press services only lies and spreads propaganda? Well, the biggest example of propaganda of the last month came from the west concerning the Ukrainian elections. Ukraine’s elections were considered “free and fair” but Belarus’ was rigged. Why was this so? Well, to me this had everything to do with the results of the Ukrainian vote allowing for a pro-western coalition to retain power even though Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions, a pro-Moscow group, won the most votes. See what I mean? When the west got to retain power in Ukraine the elections were fair but when they were told to go jump in the river by Belarus, it was a rigged deal. It’s all just a war of words except that at the bottom line, it is the people of Belarus who end up suffering the most. They are the ones who must pay for all of the empty rhetoric as the fight continues over which thoughtless group gets to exploit and utilize them.

So this is why I have not supported the west unilaterally on these pages despite pressure to do so. This does not mean that I agree with the suppression of free speech or that I completely agree with a wholly state run economy, but clearly there has not been a whole hell-of-a-lot of honesty or even any reasonable ideas coming from the western side of the curtain concerning the economic and political situation for the FSU. And also frankly on his side, Mr. Lukashenka has kept things together; he seems to have the best interests of his country at heart, he definitely has the support of his people and therefore he also has mine. If I thought that the west had something real to offer Belarus or even if I thought that what they had to offer was even fair, I would have joined in with the crowd. But I don't, so the BEING HAD Times is what you get.

To me all of the rhetoric that is out there simply means that the debate is still open and this is why you get both Belta and Charter ’97 to read here. This is why the president always gets the top position on the page and why I also print stories allowing Milinkevich and Kazulin and Lebedko and Lungvall and BR23 and Viasna to speak here as well. I did have a ZUBR jeans “16” up once, but I don’t place any symbols or flags on this page regularly and I do edit out the boring and repetitive “Lukashenka, called the last dictator of Europe” tag whenever I find it in stories- and believe me, it is in A LOT of stories. And this is what I think real journalism is at least supposed to be about: Trying to tell the truth about what you are speaking of and presenting it is such a way that people can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong.

I do think that The BEING HAD Times has been reasonably successful in this regard and to a point, has also been successful in making an impact on other Belarusian media. I say this because one media spot basically stole my “two sides of the argument” theme; another started listing normal Belarusian news stories along side its opposition rhetoric (whereas before that had only derided the government), and still another actually started to pay attention to the facts of their stories more, rather than just trash talking. And believe me, for all of this I am happy and I very much enjoy being a part of the Belarusian blogging community- even if (outwardly) they don’t seem to like me very much.

But most of all I think the BHTimes has been successes because it has given me an opportunity to meet a lot of people who I would never have otherwise had the chance to. I have also been much more involved in things and I think that this is as important as any economic assistance that has come along. For sure I get sick of sitting here all night sometimes and I really wish that Belarus would figure out a way not to be so damned expensive with their internet time, but all in all, I always still seem to have the energy to get up and make another edition; And I have made 100 of them so far.

Thank you all for reading me and for tuning in from time to time to see what is going on.