Icy blast blamed for 4 deaths
A cold spell and snowstorms are sweeping across parts of central and eastern Europe, disrupting power supplies, travel and schools. Four people have died in Bulgaria over the past few days, and Wednesday was the coldest day of the year in Moscow. In Britain, where the problem has been heavy rain, the government’s emergency committee met Wednesday to find ways to help people living in villages that have been flooded since the Christmas period. Bulgaria’s heavy snow and strong winds have left dozens of villages in the eastern half of the Balkan country without electricity and water.
Amnesty measure approved
Ukraine’s parliament on Wednesday passed a measure offering amnesty to those arrested in two months of protests, but only if demonstrators vacate most of the buildings they occupy. The move was quickly greeted with contempt by the opposition. The measure was put forth by a lawmaker from the party of President Viktor Yanukovych, who is casting about for a way to end the protests, which are calling for his resignation. The measure was a softer version of an earlier proposal to only offer amnesty if all protests dispersed. But the opposition regards the arrests during the protests — 328 by one lawmaker’s count — as fundamentally illegitimate.
Education deficiency studied
At least 250 million of the world’s 650 million primary school age children are unable to read, write or do basic mathematics, according to a report Wednesday commissioned by the U.N. education agency. The report found that 130 million are in primary school but have not achieved the minimum benchmarks for learning, and almost 120 million have spent little or no time in a classroom including 57 million youngsters who are not attending school. The independent research team that wrote the report for UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, calculated that the cost of 250 million children around the world not learning translates to a loss for governments of around $129 billion annually.
Compiled from wire reports.