- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

Russia proposes Mars trip by 2015
MOSCOW Russian space officials Friday proposed an ambitious project to send a six-person team to Mars by the year 2015, a trip that would mark a milestone in space travel and international space cooperation.
Russia's space program hopes to work closely with NASA and the European Space Agency to build two spaceships capable of transporting the crew to Mars, supporting them on the planet for up to two months and safely bringing them home, said Nikolai Anfimov, head of the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building.
The roughly 440-day trip is expected to cost about $20 billion, with Russia suggesting it would contribute 30 percent.
NASA spokeswoman Delores Beasley said Friday that the Russians have not submitted any formal plan. Because of demands from Congress to scale back costs, human travel to Mars has not been on NASA's agenda recently.

Few Georgian troops sign up for U.S. training
TBILISI, Georgia The United States is spending $64 million to train troops in ex-Soviet Georgia to fight al Qaeda-linked terrorists but the Georgian military can't get enough of its soldiers to sign up for the program.
The first U.S. military instructors arrived in Georgia this spring, and the Georgian Defense Ministry announced a competition for servicemen who want to take part in the training.
By the time the two-week competition for the first 500-member battalion wrapped up Friday, only about 100 people had applied, a Defense Ministry official said. The main barriers to application, he said, were costs for a required medical examination and travel to the capital, Tbilisi, for interviews.
The military now offers interviews outside the capital and free medical examinations to lure more applicants.

Belgian Jews, banksnear compensation deal
BRUSSELS Jewish Holocaust survivors moved closer to an accord with Belgian banks over compensation worth more than $50 million for cash in accounts whose owners died in World War II, both sides said Friday.
The money would come on top of a payment to Belgian Jews of some $53.5 million promised last month by the government, insurers and the central bank for stolen assets and unclaimed life insurance policies.
The survivors originally asked for $58.4 million from the banking association, and the banks offered $43.8 million. On Thursday, the parties agreed on $53.9 million.

Births decline in Portugal
LISBON The number of babies born in Portugal dropped in 2001, the first decline in five years, the national statistics institute INE reports.
There were 112,825 babies born in Portugal in 2001, a 6 percent decline from the previous year. INE did not offer an explanation for the decline in births.
While one in five babies was born to a woman between 30 and 34 in 1991, the number born to woman in the same age bracket rose to 27.4 percent by 2001, meaning more women are having their babies later.
The statistics institute said Portuguese women were having children at a later age, and an increasing number of babies are being born out of wedlock. The vast majority of babies 76.2 percent were born to married couples in 2001, but that figure is smaller than in previous years, the institute said.
Portugal's population stood at just over 10 million people in 2001.

Weekly notes
A schizophrenic man who broke into the house of former Beatle George Harrison and attacked him with a knife three years ago was released from a secure British mental hospital last week. Michael Abram had been found not guilty by reason of insanity after breaking into Mr. Harrison's house in 1999 and repeatedly stabbing him and attacking his wife, Olivia. Mr. Harrison survived the stabbing but died last November of cancer. … The vast art and music collection of pianist Arthur Rubinstein fetched almost $800,000 at auction, French auction group Poulain-Le Fur announced. The collection's most valuable piece, a book of sheet music including Frederic Chopin's "Fantaisie-Impromptu" Opus 66 and 10 other manuscripts, got more than five times the estimated price, selling at $330,000. Russian cellist Mtistlav Rostropovitch paid $7,000 for a letter from the collection signed by composer Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky.

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