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Respekt Weekly Round-up

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Last Week – Respekt 6/2010

Freezing temperatures subsided and snow fell again. Chief Public Health Officer Michael Vít contracted swine flu. A group of Czech hydro-meteorologists flew to the Antarctic to measure the ozone layer. In order to prevent the constant theft of unguarded equipment and save money during the financial crisis, Czech Railways shortened the opening hours of heated waiting rooms at its railway stations. Eleven cows died in a fire at a farm in Horní Bludovice near Karviná. Insurance companies announced that 2009 was a record year for insurance fraud. “Understand – this is a public tender, and I don’t buy those, nor do have any idea how to go about that,” Antonín Charouz, the businessman famed for failing to pay off a seven-billion-crown debt to IPB, declared to journalists after his Ford import company won a contract to supply cars to Czech Post; one of the tender’s conditions called for the cars to have a maximum load capacity of 1,600 kg, a criterion that only Ford can meet on the Czech market. The Golden Lane at the Prague Castle was closed down for emergency reconstruction that will last for a year. A plethora of congratulations and expressions of admiration accompanied Zbyněk Hejda’s 80th birthday celebration on Candlemas on February 2. A voluntary network of restaurants was launched in Brno whose members donate their unsold lunch specials to humanitarian organizations, which then hand them out to the homeless. Twenty years passed since the disbanding of the StB, the Czech Republic’s communist-era secret police organization. “That was a long time ago and this person has long been helping to ensure law and order and to protect our citizens,” regional politicians from Ústí nad Labem explained to MF Dnes reporters why they could care less that current Ústí Regional Chancellor Ales Konopásek had worked as an StB officer at the agency’s Prague headquarters before 1989 where he was tasked with keeping tabs on Czechs who had fled the country for political reasons. The endangered cuckoo was voted the Bird of the Year 2010 by the Czech Ornithology Society. Milan Kundera accepted the title “honorary citizen of Brno” from the city’s mayor in his Paris apartment. It became clear that a group of ČEZ employees tasked with confronting customers who don’t pay for their power were initially trained to fire pistols at human targets, arrest people stripped to their underwear and cut off the heads of chickens enclosed in cages; thanks to a lawyer representing dozens of allegedly unauthorized power consumers, the public learned that one of the offenders had committed suicide when the ČEZ commando showed up at his house, an incident which they recorded on video. “Stop and do some exercises!” a “smart” head rest is said to instruct to dozing drivers; the carmaker Škoda teamed up with the Department of Informatics at the University of West Bohemia to develop the new safety device. Newspapers reported that Switzerland has taken steps to hold a referendum on whether domesticated animals have a right to legal representation in court during cases of abuse, torture or death. Zdeněk Štybar became the cyclo-cross world champion. The Vatican refused to choose a successor for retiring Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk again, and information leaked that Pope Benedict XVI’s reluctance may stem from impressions he took away from his visit to the Czech Republic last autumn. “If I knew I could die whenever I want, every day would be as dear to me as a million pounds; if I knew I could die, I would live,” the Czech press cited the words that famous British writer Terry Prache – who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – used to persuade those attending one of Britain’s famed Dimbleby Lectures about the merits of euthanasia. A man with snowshoes was found frozen to death by Plešné Lake in the Bohemian Forest. The first hundred volunteers applied for summer jobs in Hustopeče to save a national treasure: a half-century old almond tree grove planted in the city by the chocolate-maker Zora for its own use but later abandoned when it began importing almonds from California for practically nothing. With an annual income of 210 million crowns, Miklos Salamon, CEO of the mining company New World Resources, ranked first on the list of best-paid managers in the Czech Republic. Global servers pulsed with news that the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi had been scattered over the sea near South Africa on the 62nd anniversary of his death.

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