Tuesday, March 31, 2009

News 3.31.2009

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Copyright (c) 2008 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

By: Christian Falvey

* The three parties in the outgoing coalition and the main opposition
party have reached a preliminary consensus on a deadline for early
elections.

* Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has put forward several alternatives
for the tenure of his ruling coalition

* The Israeli President Shimon Peres has concluded his state visit to
the Czech Republic

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Four parties reach general consensus on date of early elections
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The chair of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek said on
Tuesday that a preliminary agreement on early elections had been
reached between himself and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. A morning
meeting between the Civic Democratic Party, Social Democrats, Christian
Democrats and the Greens, reportedly resulted in a general consensus
among the parties on a date of no later than October 20. Mr Paroubek
also announced he would offer Mr Topolanek a proposal within the day
for altering the parliamentary term of office set out in the
constitution. The Czech government is currently "in resignation" after
losing a no-confidence vote last week.


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PM Topolanek puts forward potential timelines for the tenure of his
cabinet
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In related news, Prime Minister Topolanek on Tuesday put forward five
alternatives for the tenure of his ruling coalition. The first suggests
the government remain in place for roughly a week, the second until the
end of April, when the parties are to agree on measures to counter the
current economic crisis. The third and forth proposed dates extend to
the beginning and end of June, respectively, after elections for the
European Parliament and the completion of the Czech EU Presidency. The
final alternative is that the government would remain in place until
early elections. Mr Topolanek also stated on Tuesday that as the chair
of the majority party he wants to form the new government himself,
though he need not remain at its head. The opposition Social Democrat
Party has so far resisted all proposals for the government to remain in
place for more than a few weeks, and is promoting the appointment of a
caretaker government.


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Israeli President concludes Czech state visit
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Israeli President Shimon Peres has concluded a two-day state visit to
the Czech Republic on Tuesday, meeting the outgoing Prime Minister and
former president Vaclav Havel. Following a meeting with Czech
counterpart Vaclav Klaus on Monday, Mr Peres said he expected
significant progress in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this
year. He later visited the Terezin memorial to victims of the Jewish
Holocaust. The Terezin fortress was used as an assembly camp for Jews
before they were sent by the Nazis to their deaths in concentration
camps.


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Senators considering first ever emergency session for Lisbon approval
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The upper house of parliament may be convening for an emergency session
to force a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, the Civic Democrat Senator Jiri
Stritesky said on Tuesday. Such a convention would be the first in the
chamber's history. The Social Democratic Party is moving to get Lisbon
ratification on the Senate agenda through the standard process.
Nonetheless, the party has insisted on an April Senate vote and has
stated that they have the necessary signatures of all party senators to
potentially convene an emergency session. The execution of such a
session is however a difficult endeavour in terms of timing and
practicality, and head of the Senate Premysl Sobotka has stated his own
view that convening it would be technically impossible. The Czech
Republic is one of four EU member states that have yet to fully ratify
the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech Chamber of Deputies passed the treaty in
February; Senate approval is still required before the Treaty can be
signed by the president and ratified.


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Site chosen for President Obama's keynote Prague speech
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US President Barack Obama is to deliver his only public European speech
at Hradcanske namesti - one of the main squares near Prague Castle - on
Sunday morning, the American Embassy in Prague has announced. The site,
which offers a panorama of the Czech capital's skyline, has been a
topic of heavy speculation over the past month. Prior to his address,
which is expected to centre on nuclear disarmament, Mr Obama will be
meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and will afterwards be
attending an EU-US summit at Prague's Congress Centre. A meeting with
former Czech president Vaclav Havel is also planned for the weekend.


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One in four Czech families not limiting their spending
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A survey for the month of March made by pollsters STEM and released ion
Tuesday has shown that only 25% of Czech households have seen no
difference in their spending habits. Meanwhile, 14% of families
reported themselves to be living "from one payday to the next", which
is an increase from previous years. More than half of the families
surveyed reported they are able to cover their standard expenses,
however are not in a position to save for more expensive purchases.


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Rivers rising in South Moravia
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Rivers at three locations in South Moravia reached second degree
emergency levels on Tuesday. Rainfall has also swelled five other
rivers in the region to "increased awareness" levels. Water management
experts expect the surface levels to continue to rise through Tuesday
and Wednesday, however the end of the week is expected to see dryer
weather and higher temperatures. The region of Moravia, the eastern
half of the Czech Republic, is frequently on alert for flooding, most
recently in early March. Heavy flooding in the area in 1997 and 2002
led to deaths and significant material damage.


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Ministry of Environment signs carbon credit deal with Japan
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The Czech Ministry of Environment signed a major contract for the sale
of carbon emission credits with Japan on Monday. The deal covers 40
million credits but the final selling price was not revealed. The Czech
Republic stands to be a big seller of carbon credits under the Kyoto
climate change protocol which allows countries that have cut pollution
of the key greenhouse gas to cash in by selling their unused
allocation. Minister for the Environment Martin Busik said the country
stands to gain up to 25 billion crowns under the emissions trading
system over the next four years. Cash received will be used for
environmental project such as ecological heating of homes and blocks of
flats.


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Government approves compensation for student victims of Communism
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Students who were forced to discontinue their studies for political
reasons by the Communist regime after it came to power in 1948 and
until 1956 can claim compensation under a proposal approved by the
government on Monday. Compensation of up to 100,000 crowns can be
awarded with individual applications being vetted by the ministries of
education, defence and interior. The Ministry of Education said up to
900 people stood to gain from the measure when it was originally
proposed but that total has now fallen to around 300.


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Government backs reduced VAT for high labour services
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The government approved moves to cut Value Added Tax on some labour
intensive services at its Monday meeting. The measure should shift a
series of services, such as dining in restaurants, getting a hair cut
and bike repairs, into the lower nine percent sales tax bracket from
the current 19 percent. The broad plans have already been backed at EU
level. The step, aimed at saving jobs during the current crisis, is
estimated to cost the Czech budget between 3.0 billion and 6.0 billion
crowns a year.


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Weather
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Mostly sunny skies are expected with maximum temperatures reaching 17
degrees Celsius by the end of the week.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Articles posted on www.radio.cz today
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Special
"I hope we will be thought of as an honest broker" - Milena Vicenova on
the Czech EU presidency
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This Tuesday marks the halfway point of the Czech Republic's EU
presidency. On a recent visit to Brussels, I met one of the people
instrumental in organizing the Czechs' time at the helm, Milena
Vicenova, the Czech Ambassador to the European Union. In the calm of
her Brussels office, just a few days before Prague made headlines for
the fall of the centre-right government coalition, Ms Vicenova
discussed how the presidency had been going so far. For her personally,
it has meant a great deal of hard work:

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/114761

Current Affairs
Working at NY's Met "special", says Czech conductor of Rusalka Jiri
Belohlavek
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Antonin Dvorak's Rusalka, the story of a water nymph who falls in love
with a human prince, has just been performed for the last time this
season at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The Met's production
starred the soprano Renee Fleming and was directed by the renowned
Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek, who spoke to Radio Prague on the eve
of the final performance.

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/114749

Current Affairs
Back to future overhaul of Prague's Karlovo namesti under consideration
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Prague's biggest square, Karlovo namesti could be getting a facelift
which could transform it from being a scrappy green traffic
intersection into something much more attractive. Moves to push forward
changes have taken another step with a lively three hour public meeting
over the transformation.

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/114748

Current Affairs
Does curtailed programme spell snub for Obama's Czech hosts?
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Four days to go until Barack Obama visits Prague and it seems the US
president has rather scaled down his itinerary, with reports that plans
to have dinner with the Czech head of state Vaclav Klaus have been
dropped: instead Mr Obama - who US officials say will be tired after
G20 and NATO summits - is apparently going to have a private dinner
with his wife Michelle. Would that represent a snub to his hosts? After
all, both the Czech prime minister and president have criticized Mr
Obama's approach to the financial crisis, and the latter is a climate
change denier. I asked Erik Best, a US journalist in Prague:

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/114747


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Radio Prague Today 3.31.2009

Articles posted on www.radio.cz today

Special: "I hope we will be thought of as an honest broker" - Milena Vicenová on the Czech EU presidency

This Tuesday marks the halfway point of the Czech Republic's EU presidency. On a recent visit to Brussels, I met one of the people instrumental in organizing the Czechs' time at the helm, Milena Vicenová, the Czech Ambassador to the European Union. In the calm of her Brussels office, just a few days before Prague made headlines for the fall of the centre-right government coalition, Ms Vicenová discussed how the presidency had been going so far. For her personally, it has meant a great deal of hard work:

Current Affairs: Working at NY's Met "special", says Czech conductor of Rusalka Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák's Rusalka, the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince, has just been performed for the last time this season at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The Met's production starred the soprano Renee Fleming and was directed by the renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, who spoke to Radio Prague on the eve of the final performance.

Current Affairs: Back to future overhaul of Prague's Karlovo náměstí under consideration

Prague's biggest square, Karlovo náměstí could be getting a facelift which could transform it from being a scrappy green traffic intersection into something much more attractive. Moves to push forward changes have taken another step with a lively three hour public meeting over the transformation.

Current Affairs: Does curtailed programme spell snub for Obama's Czech hosts?

Four days to go until Barack Obama visits Prague and it seems the US president has rather scaled down his itinerary, with reports that plans to have dinner with the Czech head of state Václav Klaus have been dropped: instead Mr Obama – who US officials say will be tired after G20 and NATO summits – is apparently going to have a private dinner with his wife Michelle. Would that represent a snub to his hosts? After all, both the Czech prime minister and president have criticized Mr Obama's approach to the financial crisis, and the latter is a climate change denier. I asked Erik Best, a US journalist in Prague:

Security Council expansion talks tabled; G20 invites developing countries to the table

View wireless version here: http://r.smartbrief.com/resp/pihssuoRBqfWvDCibSlJBVRuCK


 
March 31, 2009 | News covering the UN and the worldSign up | E-Mail this

$50 billion World Bank fund takes aim at falling commerce

World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced today the creation of a $50 billion trading program to boost trade by addressing a shortfall in trade credit that has adversely affected commerce across the globe. The move comes as leaders of the G20 gather in London amid hopes they will be able to forge a joint strategy to address the dismal global economic outlook. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/Reuters (3/31)



It is totally against women's rights. This law makes women more vulnerable."

Shinkai Karokhail, Afghan MP, discussing a law that eliminates a woman's right to refuse sex with her husband. Get the full story



UN Dispatch: Today, there is a remarkable alignment of interests among those working for women's rights and health, youth empowerment, global justice and environmental protection. The ICPD agenda is central to all of those concerns -- and there is much to be gained by building new alliances with these movements.

UN Dispatch


United Nation
  • Security Council expansion talks tabled
    Britain called off a meeting to discuss adding as many as six seats to the UN Security Council after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Chinese foreign minister declined to attend, essentially putting the kibosh on the proposal. UN diplomats said China and the U.S. thought the expansion would prove politically divisive. The Washington Post (3/31)
Development Health and Poverty
  • G20 invites developing countries to the table
    At the G20 summit, member countries will invite 10 developing countries to join a key economic council that will allow them greater access to and direction of activities by organizations such as the International Monetary Foundation. In addition to creating new monetary policies in the future, nations such as China, India and Brazil will have new responsibilities in supervising the 25 largest banks in the world. The Washington Post (3/31)
  • Guatemala drives out river blindness
    Persistent education efforts and distribution of anti-parasitic drugs combined with firm political will have all but eradicated an epidemic river blindness in Guatemala. It might signal an end to the disease in the Americas for good, according to two studies published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. AlertNet.org/Reuters (3/31)
  • Other News
Development Energy and Environment
  • U.S., Canada seek buffer zone against pollutants
    U.S. and Canadian officials have asked the United Nations Maritime Organization to create a coastline "emissions control area" restricting the permissible levels of smog and particle pollution in a bid to improve air and water quality and protect the health of people living in coastal communities. AlertNet.org/Reuters (3/30)
  • Agencies concerned North Korea has assembled nuclear warheads
    Intelligence agencies believe North Korea has assembled about a half dozen nuclear warheads capable of reaching Japan, Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group said today. The assessment comes amid high tensions regarding North Korea's plans to launch a communications satellite in the coming days over Japan and worries the test launch might be cover for ballistic missile testing. Google/Agence France-Presse (3/31)
Security and Human Rights
  • At trial, Khmer Rouge official seeks forgiveness
    Kaing Guek Eav, the first former Khmer Rouge official on trial in connection with the regime's murderous reign, offered an apology to the Cambodian people. Kaing is charged with superintending the deaths of as many as 14,000 of his countrymen while he was in charge of the Tuol Sleng prison. The New York Times (3/31)
  • Karzai backs law that would deny wives right to refuse sex
    Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai agreed to back legislation that eliminates the right of women to refuse sex in marriage. Those politicians who opposed the bill, which regulates gender relations among the Shia minority, were threatened with violent reprisals. The UN Development Fund for Women, in a report, noted the law, "legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband". The Independent (London) (3/31)
  • Homophobia destroying lives
    Persistent homophobia across Europe continues to force gays and lesbians to live in hiding, damaging peoples' health and careers and preventing them from reporting incidents of homophobic crime, according to the findings of a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights report. Western Europe is broadly more open to same-sex relationships than countries in the East. AlertNet.org/Reuters (3/31)
  • Hundreds die in migrant shipwreck off Libya
    More than 200 African migrants traveling off the coast of Libya in hopes of reaching Italy might have drowned after their ship capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Another vessel carrying 356 people that began experiencing difficulty was rescued. BBC (3/31) , The New York Times (3/31)
  • Survivors of Congo's wars bear psychic scars
    The BBC offers a slide show of images from the Centre Sosame, one of the few remaining open mental health facilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The center is filled with patients who have been gathered from across the area, some of them considered incurable. BBC (3/31)
Peace and Security
  • Iran offers to contribute to Afghanistan rebuilding campaign
    Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh, the Iranian delegate to a Hague conference on Afghanistan, offered a major conciliatory gesture to the U.S. in saying Iran would contribute to the rebuilding campaign in the beleaguered nation. The delegate reiterated the frequent criticism Iran has levied at the NATO campaign in Afghanistan and suggested increasing the troop complement there would not improve the situation. Akhundzadeh also said Iran would help combat the proliferation of poppy. The Guardian (London) (3/31) , The Washington Post (3/31)
  • Turkey balks on Danish chief appointment to head of NATO
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is acting to block the appointment of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to succeed Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as the chief of NATO. Erdogan's animus stems from the refusal of Rasmussen to apologize for a 2006 series of political cartoons that satirized Muslim belief. Financial Times (3/30)
  • Other News
Assistant Operations and Administrative CoordinatorAsian Development BankWashington, DC


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