Wednesday, September 30, 2009

News 9.30.2009

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

News Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

By: Jan Richter

* Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has received Germany's Golden Hen
award for his role in 1989.

* The country's foreign debt in the second quarter of 2009 dropped to
1.47 trillion crowns.

* The only remaining contender for Czech Airlines has offered one
billion crowns for the state-owned carrier.

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Unimex-Travel Service offers one billion for CSA
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The only remaining contender in the privatisation tender for Czech
Airlines, a consortium of Czech firms Unimex and Travel Service,
offered on Wednesday one billion crowns, or nearly 58 million US
dollars, for 92 percent of shares of the state-owned carrier. The Czech
government will take two weeks to assess the offer.

The consortium of Unimex and Travel Service is the only contender left
in the tender after the airline Air France-KLM pulled out in August,
and Russia's Aeroflot was excluded over from the final round.


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MPs block Prague airport privatisation
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In related news, Czech MPs approved on Wednesday a bill preventing the
government from privatising Prague's Ruzyne Airport. The bill, proposed
by Social Democrats, also received support from Communist and Christian
Demcorat MPs. The Social Democrats are concerned that selling the
airport at a time of the economic crisis would result in a loss for the
Czech state. Plans for the privatisation of Ruzyne Airport were
approved last year by the cabinet of PM Mirek Topolanek.

The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by
President Klaus. Observers believe however that Parliament's upper
chamber, with its majority of right-wing senators, will return the bill
to the Chamber of Deputies.


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Former president Vaclav Havel receives Germany's Golden Hen award
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Former Czech president Vaclav Havel received the Golden Hen award in
Berlin on Wednesday in recognition of his courage in the revolutionary
year of 1989, as well as of his life-time political work. During his
four-day visit to the German capital on the occasion of the 20th
anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr Havel will meet with
German President Horst Kohler, former German head of state Richard von
Weizsacker as well as the former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.


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Havel warns of rising authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe
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In related news, Vaclav Havel has warned against the rise of
authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. In an interview for the German
weekly Die Zeit that will appear on Thursday, Mr Havel also criticized
Russia over the killings of independent journalists.

Reflecting on the two decades since the fall of communism, Mr Havel
noted that all the fundamental objectives set down in 1989 were
reached. However, the changes took much longer and were much more
difficult than he expected, the former Czech president added.


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Foreign debt in Q2 2009 drops to 1.47 billion crowns
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The Czech Republic's foreign debt dropped in the second quarter of 2009
by 17.9 billion crowns to 1.47 trillion crowns, or more than 85 billion
US dollars, according to figures released by the Czech central bank on
Wednesday. The debt accounted for around 40 percent of the country's
GDP. Central bank officials said the drop was caused by a decrease in
obligations of the banking and commercial sectors, as well as by the
strengthening Czech crown.


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Global Finance: Czech National Bank's governor among world's top seven
central bankers
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The US-based Global Finance Magazine has put the governor of the Czech
National Bank, Zdenek Tuma, among the world's top seven central bankers
for 2009. According to the magazine, Mr Tuma responded well to the
imminent economic slowdown by trimming rates in August last year, a
move that proved successful. The only other European top graded central
banker was European Central Bank's Jean-Claude Trichet.


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Army receives first Pandur armoured vehicles
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The Czech army received on Wednesday a delivery of 17 Pandur armoured
vehicles from the Austrian manufacturer, Steyer. The first series was
made in Austria while the remaining 90 vehicles commissioned will be
produced in the Czech Republic. The army plans to integrate the Pandur
II wheeled armoured vehicles into the armament of Czech mechanized
units, deployed on foreign missions, particularly in Afghanistan.

The Czech Army signed a 14.4 billion crown, or nearly 84 million US
dollar deal with Austria's Steyr arms manufacturer in 2006; the deal
was later cancelled over the Austrian company's failure to meet some of
the contract conditions. The Czech government finally approved the
purchase in March last year.


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Richard Medek becomes Czech Radio's CEO
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The acting director of Czech Radio, Richard Medek, was elected the new
CEO of the country's public broadcaster on Wednesday. Mr Medek, who was
appointed the acting director after the Czech Radio Council removed the
previous CEO in July, said his priorities included a 10 percent job cut
and a licence fee raise. Mr Medek was previously Czech Radio's
programme director, and has also worked in several commercial media
outlets.


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1989 Freedom Train arrives in Prague
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The Freedom Train commemorating the escape of thousands of East Germans
to West Germany via Prague in the autumn of 1989, arrived in the Czech
capital on Wednesday. September 30 marks 20 years since thousands of
refugees, camping on the premises of West German embassy in Prague,
were allowed to emigrate to the West. The Freedom Train will leave for
Bavaria on Thursday retracing the historic journey, with a group of
former East German refugees.


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Prague affected by massive blackout
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Several parts of Prague, including the city centre, were affected by a
large-scale blackout on Wednesday morning caused by a substation
failure. The power cut, which lasted for some 50 minutes, caused severe
traffic jams around the city due to dysfunctional traffic lights.
Authorities said electricity supplies were re-established by 10 AM.


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Weather
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Colder weather should continue for the rest of the week, with overcast
skies and rain showers throughout Bohemia and Moravia. Highest day
temperatures should range between 12 and 17 degrees Celsius.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Articles posted on www.radio.cz today
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Czechs in History
Leos Janacek, the composer for a new republic
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The first two names always given at the top of the pantheon of Czech
classical music are Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana; the third is
invariably Leos Janacek. Probably the most innovative of the three,
Janacek likely lags behind the famous duo only because even today, 80
years after his death, musicians, musicologists and music lovers are
still reassessing those innovations, which took classical music into
uncharted territory.

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/120767

Current Affairs
September 30 marks 20th anniversary of dramatic announcement that East
German refugees in Prague could emigrate to West
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Two decades ago the attention of the world's media was on the West
German Embassy in a normally quiet corner of Prague, where thousands of
East Germans were living in a makeshift camp, desperate to escape from
communism. On the 30th of September, 1989 the then West German foreign
minister made a dramatic announcement: those refugees were free to
emigrate to the West.

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/120763

Current Affairs
Czech ministry mulls imaginative airport lifeline for struggling airline
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The Czech Republic could give rise to what appears to be a unique model
for the aviation sector. Government officials are looking into the
option of Prague's lucrative state-owned airport taking a stake in the
struggling state carrier, Czech Airlines.

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/120762

Current Affairs
Constitutional Court could give verdict on Lisbon in "one month to six
weeks"
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A group of right-wing Czech senators have filed a new complaint against
the Lisbon treaty with the country's Constitutional Court. The
complaint looks set to further delay Lisbon ratification, and may leave
the Czechs the last in Europe to approve the document. With eurosceptic
President Vaclav Klaus threatening to hold up Lisbon ratification for
as long as possible, there has been speculation that MPs may turn to
the courts themselves in a bid to force his hand.

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/120761


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Radio Prague Today 9.30.2009

Articles posted on www.radio.cz today

Czechs in History: Leoš Janáček, the composer for a new republic

The first two names always given at the top of the pantheon of Czech classical music are Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana; the third is invariably Leoš Janáček. Probably the most innovative of the three, Janáček likely lags behind the famous duo only because even today, 80 years after his death, musicians, musicologists and music lovers are still reassessing those innovations, which took classical music into uncharted territory.

Current Affairs: September 30 marks 20th anniversary of dramatic announcement that East German refugees in Prague could emigrate to West

Two decades ago the attention of the world's media was on the West German Embassy in a normally quiet corner of Prague, where thousands of East Germans were living in a makeshift camp, desperate to escape from communism. On the 30th of September, 1989 the then West German foreign minister made a dramatic announcement: those refugees were free to emigrate to the West.

Current Affairs: Czech ministry mulls imaginative airport lifeline for struggling airline

The Czech Republic could give rise to what appears to be a unique model for the aviation sector. Government officials are looking into the option of Prague's lucrative state-owned airport taking a stake in the struggling state carrier, Czech Airlines.

Current Affairs: Constitutional Court could give verdict on Lisbon in "one month to six weeks"

A group of right-wing Czech senators have filed a new complaint against the Lisbon treaty with the country's Constitutional Court. The complaint looks set to further delay Lisbon ratification, and may leave the Czechs the last in Europe to approve the document. With eurosceptic President Václav Klaus threatening to hold up Lisbon ratification for as long as possible, there has been speculation that MPs may turn to the courts themselves in a bid to force his hand.

Report finds fault for both sides of Russian-Georgian war; Tsunami devastates Samoa islands

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Report finds fault for both sides of Russian-Georgian war

A nine-month investigation into the Georgia-Russia war, conducted by Heidi Taglivini for the European Union, found Georgia was not justified in its decision to shell the capital of South Ossetia, finding little evidence for the Russian invasion Georgia claimed to be repelling. But the investigation found Russia broke international law by seizing Abkhazia, a different breakaway republic in Georgia, as well as South Ossetia and decided neither region has the right to secede from Georgia. The Wall Street Journal (9/30)



We have broken the fall, but 2009 will continue to be a difficult year, and 2010, when much of the stimulus support runs out, remains highly uncertain."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Read the full story.



UN Dispatch: The Saudi authorities have decided that the large symbolic value of vaccinating haj pilgrims for polio, and the lesser epidemiological value, outweigh the risk to individuals of vaccine derived polio. I think they're right, and it certainly fits with Islamic values of community. But it wasn't a choice without trade-offs.

UN Dispatch


United Nation
  • UN ramps up criticisms of Sri Lanka camps
    United Nations officials have stepped up their criticism of camps housing more than 250,000 of Sri Lanka's displaced Tamils, calling on authorities to ramp up efforts to end their forced confinement. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the situation risks increasing feelings of bitterness among Tamils at a time when Sri Lanka is trying to overcome decades of conflict. Google/Agence France-Presse (9/29) , BBC (9/29) Email this Story
  • Eide: Afghanistan is at a crossroads
    Afghanistan needs to make serious decisions soon to address deteriorating political and security situations, says Kai Eide, the United Nations' special representative to Afghanistan. Authorities need to overcome allegations of fraud and certify results of Aug. 20 presidential elections before a new government can craft a plan to address the Taliban-led insurgency. The UN also removed senior diplomat Peter Galbraith from his role as Eide's deputy. Galbraith and Eide reportedly had clashed over the UN's response to allegations of widespread fraud in the recent Afghan ballot. Google/The Associated Press (9/29) , BBC (9/30) Email this Story
  • Violations leave little room for peace, UN investigator reports
    A lack of accountability for war crimes in the Middle East drives conflict and impedes any hopes for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, United Nations inquiry investigator Richard Goldstone warns. Goldstone's remarks came as he presented his final report on violations of human rights and international law to the UN Human Rights Council. Israel and Hamas have dismissed the report's finding, albeit for different reasons. The New York Times (9/29) , BBC (9/30) Email this Story
Development Health and Poverty
  • Crisis response leaves World Bank cash strapped
    The current, record-setting pace of lending to poor countries in response to the global economic crisis will leave the World Bank in a financial crunch by the middle of next year, Bank President Robert Zoellick warns. Bank officials are looking to raise capital from donors and through lending activities. Reuters (9/29) Email this Story
  • Other News
Development Energy and Environment
  • Tsunami devastates Samoa islands
    An 8.0-magnitude earthquake off the coast of the Samoa islands region caused a powerful tsunami that killed at least 89 people and wiped out several small villages. U.S. President Barack Obama authorized federal aid for American Samoa, while a Red Cross worker on Samoa reported crashing waves 10 feet tall. The New York Times (9/30) Email this Story
  • Climate change to drive mass malnutrition
    Malnutrition rates in poor countries will soar unless steps are taken to mitigate the growing effects of climate change, says a study from the International Food Policy Research Institute. Lower crop yields and rising food prices, the study warns, will add another 25 million children to the ranks of the world's hungry. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (9/30) Email this Story
Security and Human Rights
  • Elderly most vulnerable to abandonment
    The elderly are the demographic most likely to be left behind when a natural disaster or conflict forces populations to flee, leaving them vulnerable to violence, robbery and sickness. Some humanitarian groups would like to see the creation of a United Nations agency dedicated to the needs of those older than 60. AlertNet.org (9/29) Email this Story
  • Clinton to introduce UN resolution on sexual violence
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will chair a UN Security Council session on human rights and sexual violence -- where she will introduce a measure calling for a special representative tasked with preventing sexual violence during armed conflicts. Some critics say international intervention has led to an increase in sexual violence, citing accusations of sexual abuse among UN peacekeepers. The Christian Science Monitor (9/30) Email this Story
  • Other News
Peace and Security
  • Analysis: China tolerates Iran's nuke plans for the sake of growth
    A number of multibillion-dollar energy deals between Iran and China highlights the difference between the diplomatic goals of Washington and Beijing with regard to Iran's nuclear program. U.S. officials say China is more reluctant than Russia to jeopardize lucrative business arrangements with Iran, including imported oil and energy investments. Tougher sanctions against Iran likely would cause the price of oil to rise, threatening the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. The New York Times (9/29) , The Washington Post (9/30) Email this Story
  • Chinese ramp up security for anniversary parade
    Chinese officials are applying extreme security measures in advance of the official parade Thursday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Tens of thousands of students marching in the parade have been pledged to secrecy, while entire apartment buildings along Tiananmen Square have been abandoned. Critics say the inconvenience associated with restricted speech and materials is a security precaution but also a message intended to demonstrate the Communist government is in full control. Los Angeles Times (9/30) , The Guardian (London) (9/30) Email this Story
  • U.S. minds lessons of Iraq when dealing with Iran
    Though analysts are asking for more evidence before making any conclusions about the secret Qum nuclear plant in Iran, the dispute about Iran's nuclear ambitions is a narrow one. The U.S. holds the view Iran stopped its work to design a nuclear warhead in 2003, a far more conservative assessment than those of Germany, Israel and the U.K. Though the U.S. views the secret plant as a provocation, neither U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates nor U.S. President Barack Obama has put the U.S. on a war footing. The New York Times (9/29) Email this Story
  • Mumbai attack group remains capable of more assaults
    Militant leaders and intelligence agencies agree Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for a major terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in November remains largely intact and capable of launching similar attacks in the future. Pakistan began prosecution of seven men charged with planning the Mumbai attack but continues to face criticism from India for failing to dismantle the group. The New York Times (9/29) Email this Story
  • Former Reagan aide denies wrongdoing in work with Sudan
    In an effort to curry favor with the U.S., Sudan has hired former Reagan-era National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane -- known for his prominent role in the Iran-Contra scandal -- to advocate on behalf of the regime in Khartoum. The arrangement has the government of Qatar officially employing McFarlane because U.S. sanctions prohibit doing business with Sudan. Working in a legal gray area, McFarlane has not registered with the U.S. government as a lobbyist or agent working on behalf of Qatar or Sudan. The Washington Post (9/30) Email this Story
  • Other News
AVIPA - Contracts & Grants Specialist, KandaharInternational Relief and Development (IRD)Kandahar, Afghanistan
Chief of Party, Humanitarian Assistance to IraqInternational Relief and Development (IRD)Arlington, VA
Chief of Party, CAP IIIInternational Relief and Development (IRD)Baghdad, Iraq


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