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Barroso Calls up Intl Meeting over Fears of New Russia-Ukraine Gas Crisis

Sofia Weekly – The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, declared Friday he feared Europe might face a new Russia-Ukraine natural gas crisis within weeks.

During the second day of the European Council Summit in Brussels, Barroso expressed his concern that the delay of payments for Russian natural gas supplies on part of the Ukraine was likely to lead to a situation like the one in January 2009 when a Russian-Ukrainian dispute led to a cutoff of Russian gas supplies for much of Europe, BGNES reported.

Barroso announced that the European Commission was going to host next week an international meeting of European gas companies, member states, and international financial institutions in order to help rectify the situation by figuring out a way to help the Ukraine pay for the natural gas it receives from Russia as well as to discuss new energy projects.

“We need to protect the European citizens”, the EC President told journalists after the end of the European Council Summit.

The Ukraine is badly affected by the global economic crisis, and had to ask the EU for help with a USD 4,2 B loan in order to be able to pay off its debts to Gazprom.

Over 80% of Russian natural gas supplies for EU and other European states are transited through the Ukraine.

American Vonn extends Super-G streak, World Cup lead

Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo., won her fourth consecutive super-giant-slalom race Sunday and promised to chase more trophies on the women’s World Cup circuit after a successful stop in Bansko, Bulgaria.

“There is no conservative skiing for me,” the 24-year-old Vonn said. “I have to be really aggressive — that’s my strategy.”

After three races in Bulgaria, the defending overall World Cup champion widened her lead in the standings to 391 points over second-place Maria Riesch of Germany. Vonn also moved into contention for the Super-G season trophy a day after clinching the downhill title, joining Picabo Street as the only Americans to win back-to-back downhill titles.

Vonn won the Super-G in 1 minute, 14.49 seconds, sweeping aside concerns caused by an injured thumb and a bruising fall in training three days earlier. Fabienne Suter of Switzerland was second, 0.58 seconds behind.

“I think all my disciplines are better this year,” Vonn said. “Super-G has been the best season in my life, above and beyond what I expected this year.”

Vonn has been competing with her right thumb in a splint since she required surgery after slicing a tendon on a champagne bottle while celebrating after winning a gold medal at the world championships in Val d’Isere, France, last month.

“It’s definitely very painful when I’m starting and also in slalom,” she said. “I think it also affects my balance. I was able to win today. I’m happy that it’s not holding me back too much.”

Lizeroux triumphs: Julien Lizeroux of France won a men’s World Cup slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for his second victory of the season.

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished 11th and retained a narrow lead in the overall standings. Kostelic has 837 points, two more than Benjamin Raich of Austria.

Americans excel at nordic worlds: The United States entered the nordic world championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, in the usual fashion, with modest goals. One medal might have been perceived as a success.

But the Americans collected six medals, including four golds. In the 35 previous world championships since 1925, the U.S. won a total of three medals — a gold, a silver and a bronze. The U.S. gold medalists this year were two-time winner Todd Lodwick, Lindsey Van and Bill Demong.

“It’s absolutely incredible to have six world-championships medals. I’m speechless,” said Lodwick, who is from Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Bobsled

Holcomb is golden: Steven Holcomb took “The Night Train” to the top of the podium at the world championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., lifting the weight of a 50-year drought from the U.S. men’s team.

Holcomb was the class of the field on all four runs of the four-man competition at Mount Van Hoevenberg and piloted the black USA-1 sled to the gold medal. It was the first triumph for the United States in four-man at the world championships since Arthur Tyler won in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1959.

“I can’t believe, finally, after 50 years we got it done,” Holcomb said. “We were definitely the team to beat today. It all came together.”

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/othersports/2008800721_digs02.html

“Baba Marta” brings spring to Bulgaria

All Bulgarians celebrated Sunday a centuries-old tradition — exchanging “martenitsas,” which are red-and-white interwoven strings, on the day of Baba Marta and the shining sun spelled nice, and warm weather ahead, local press reported.

    Eagerly followed on March 1 every single year, the tradition of giving your friends “martenitsas” brings health and happiness during the year and is a reminder that spring is near.

    Baba Marta (Grandma March) is a feisty lady who always seems to be grudging at her two brothers, and the sun only comes out when she smiles. As folklore often goes, there are different versions of the Baba Marta tale. One says that on that day she does her pre-spring cleaning and shakes her mattress for the last time before the next winter — all the feathers that come out of it pour on Earth like snow — the last snow of the year.

    The “martenitsa” tradition is thought to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s first Khan Asparuh, who sent a white string to his wife to tell her he survived a battle.

    People are supposed to take off their “martenitsas” when they see the first signs that spring has already come — a blooming tree, a stork, or a sparrow.

    When the “martenitsa” is taken off some tie it to a tree – one that they’d like to be especially fruitful. Others place it under a rock and based on what they find there the next morning guess what kind of a year this one would be.

    The “martenitsa” now comes in all shapes and sizes — from Guiness-worth giant building packages to two tiny simple strings gently placed on a newborn’s arm. Children usually compete who will get the most and often walk around more ornate than a Christmas tree. However, it always bears the same meaning — a lucky charm against the evil spirits of the world, a token for health and a sign of appreciation.

Bulgaria Divided in Two by Snow Storms

Snowfalls and blizzards divided Bulgaria in two parts. The north and the south were disconnected for hours. Three avalanches have closed Petrohan passage in Stara Planina. Dozens of cars and buses got stuck in the snowdrifts. Several buses were turned by the storm. Bulgarian armed forces came to help.
The situation in the whole country was calamitous. “In Central and South Bulgaria the situation was most critical”, explained Doncho Atanassov from the National Road Agency. “2000 machines are on the roads cleaning the snow”, he pointed out. “It is better not to start a trip if it is not urgent. And yet if someone decides to travel these days for passing from northern to southern Bulgaria I recommend Vitinya passage”, Atanassov added.

http://paper.standartnews.com/en/article.php?d=2009-02-21&article=26744