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Washington, DC --- The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation announced on February 17,  that it will be presenting its first 2012 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to the first head of state of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich. Dr. Shushkevich is renowned for his role in helping to dissolve the USSR, and for withdrawing nuclear weapons from the territory of Belarus. The Medal of Freedom is awarded each year by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to those individuals and institutions that have demonstrated a commitment to freedom and democracy and opposition to communism and all other forms of tyranny.


In the midst of a severe winter storm when heavy snow, high winds, and ice storms caused havoc and a quarter of million households went without power, there appeared a bright star at the Beneroya Seattle Symphony Hall, Saturday night.  The Seattle audience who dared travel to downtown Seattle were treated to an elegant performance of composer Peteris Vasks’ 1998 concerto, “Distant Light”, conducted by Olari Elts, a broadly admired and talented Estonian symphony orchestra conductor.  The Seattle Times in their Monday, 23 January edition had this to say about Olari Elts: “Saturday’s performance was led by Estonian Olari Elts, 40, another of the new crop of talented up-and-coming conductors we are seeing more of these days.  


The intensive Estonian Summer Institute will again be held at the University of Pittsburgh from June 4 through July 13, 2012.  Beginning and Intermediate Estonian will be offered.  This course is open to students of any age, including juniors and seniors in high school, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as to persons of any age not currently enrolled in a college or university. Partial and full scholarship aid is available. Apply by March 16 for scholarship consideration.


Amid all the chaos, including loss of life that the extreme freeze in Europe has brought, there is nevertheless a very bright and slick, shiny side to the unseasonably cold weather. Decent jää – ice. Ukraine, which has seen the largest number of casualties, over 100 since the beginning of February, is also home to masses of ice-fishing enthusiasts, who are out in droves on frozen rivers. Postimees recently published a fairy-tale photo of skaters on the canal leading up to München's Nyphenburg Palace. Similarly dreamy, yet infrequently occuring scenarios were playing out on natural ice throughout areas with more moderate climates.


A banner seen in front of a Neste gas station in Tallinn this week features a reindeer and the smaller print reads: Soome talvediisel, Finnish winter diesel. Parim kuni -32° C juures. The best up to -32° C. And on the bottom left: Sõidame soodsalt, Let's drive profitably, i.e. for less. (Soodne = advantageous, favorable, profitable. Soodne hind is a good price. ) Diesel vehicle drivers are living on the edge here, since -32° is precisely the forecast low for most nights in Eesti for the first week of February.  Next door at the Estonian-owned Alexela gas station (Neste Oil is a Finnish company), a similar banner had been hung above the snowbanks. Instead of a põhja/põder (reindeer), its product promoter is a jää/karu (polar bear). 




January 18, 2012 --- The Estonian American National Council, Inc, (EANC) has named Linda Rink as its new Executive Director.  L. Rink will assist the Board of Directors with developing and implementing programs and strategies, and will be responsible for EANC’s day-to-day operations, including bookkeeping, marketing, and communications. Before joining EANC, Rink was President of Rink Consulting, a marketing services agency in Philadelphia.  Her industry background includes marketing positions at Hunt Corporation, Amtrak, Seagram and Quaker Oats.  She holds a B.A. degree from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.


ERR News - Under the guise of intellectual property rights enforcement, Europeans could become victims of the US political system's dependence on corporate money. The Wikipedia-led blackout on January 18 in protest against SOPA and PIPA appears to have been a big success. The blackout raised awareness among the general public about the nefarious effects of the legislation and forced many in Congress to reconsider. It would be a mistake, however, to think that the internet is only under threat in the United States. The same forces that are at work trying to push the anti-piracy web censorship bills through the US Congress are at work around the world. In Estonia they are working through the American Chamber of Commerce in Estonia (AmCham) and the US Embassy, which are actively lobbying the Estonian government for stronger anti-piracy laws.


The Organizing Committee of the 34th Gatineau Loppet unveiled details of the next edition of the biggest cross-country ski event in Canada. The 34th Annual Gatineau Loppet will take place on Feb. 17-19, 2012. Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, a passionate skier who has taken part in several Worldloppet events, will be in the Outaouais in February for the Gatineau Loppet 51 km classic. The Embassy of Estonia will mark the event with a souvenir for every child who participates in the Mini Sport Éxchange Outaouais.


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