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News in brief

Thursday, December 20

Nikoloz high on the list of popular Georgian names

The first name Nikoloz is among the most popular names for boys in Georgia, according to the Civil Registry Agency (CRA) of the Justice Ministry.

There are currently 22 034 men aged 16 and over named Nikoloz in Georgia. The name was particularly popular for children born in the 1970s and 1980s.

The CRA presented the statistics to mark Saint Nicholas’ Day, celebrated by the Orthodox Church of Georgia on December 19.

A new CRA computer database contains key details of all Georgian citizens. All Georgians 16 years and over are required to carry ID cards, which are free of charge upon application. (Prime News)

Opening of gas distribution network postponed

The official opening of a gas distribution network, originally scheduled to for December 19, has been postponed for a day.

Energy Minister Alexander Khetaguri, and Zurab Janjghava, director general of the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation were due to open the network yesterday. A 30-kilometer section of the Fardabani–Navtlughi gas pipeline has been added to the gas distribution network. (Prime News)

Traffic restricted due to snowfall

Movement on a number of Georgian highways is restricted due to heavy snowfall.

The Roads Department announced that large vehicles are banned from traveling on the Mleta–Kobi section of the Mtskheta–Stepantsminda–Lars highway.

Traffic is completely banned on part of the Khaishi–Mestia highway due to the possibility of avalanches and only vehicles with snow tracks can use the Eredvi–Kheisi section of the Tandzrisi–Ditsi–Kheiti highway. (Prime News)

New insurance company enters Georgian market

Insurance company Archimedes Global Georgia officially launched on December 19. It is part of the Israeli company Archimedes Global and will offer health insurance at European standards, a spokesman commented. (Prime News)

15th anniversary of Azerbaijan-Georgia diplomatic relations marked in Baku

On December 18, first deputy Foreign Minister Nikoloz Vashakidze met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov at a ceremony marking the fifteenth anniversary of diplomatic ties between Georgia and Azerbaijan. The delegations discussed bilateral cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry. (Black Sea Press)

Majority MPs wear Saakashvili’s red hats and scarves

On December 18, 150 ruling majority MPs attended parliament in red scarves and hats as a sign of their support for National Movement party presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili.

The hats and scarves, which were distributed by Saakashvili’s campaign headquarters, bore the number five in reference to his position on the ballot paper. (Black Sea Press)

Embassy: application fees for US visas to increase next year

Effective January 1, 2008, the application fee for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa will increase from $100 to $131 and the application fee for U.S. immigrant visas will increase from $335 to $355. This increase allows the State Department to recover the costs of security and other enhancements to the visa application process. This increase applies both to non-immigrant and immigrant visas issued on machine-readable foils in passports and to border crossing cards issued to certain applicants in Mexico.

Applicants who paid the prior application fee before January 1 will be processed only if they are scheduled and appear for a visa interview before January 31. Applicants who paid the prior application fee and appear for visa interviews after January 31, 2008 must pay the difference before they will be interviewed.

The State Department is required by law to recover the cost of processing non-immigrant visas through the collection of the Machine-Readable Visa application fee. Because of new security-related costs, new information technology systems, and inflation, the Machine-Readable Visa fee is lower than the actual cost of processing non-immigrant and immigrant visas. In fact, the $100 fee was already lower than the cost of processing non-immigrant visas when the fee was reviewed as a part of the cost of service study in 2004. The Department has been absorbing the additional cost. We are now collecting 10 fingerprints from each applicant, and the cost charged by the FBI to review those fingerprints no longer allow us to do this. The application fee has increased twice since 9/11, the last time in 2002. (US Embassy press release)