The Czech Foreign Ministry has put on hold plans to build a new Czech embassy building in Washington D.C. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Jiří Schneider the final decision on the project must be made after the general elections by a government with a strong mandate. The former centre-right government had planned to invest half a billion crowns into a new embassy building which would also serve as a cultural centre. The caretaker administration had started looking into the project and claims that the final cost could double. Building work, which was to have started early next year, is likely to be postponed.
The week-long Prague Pride festival, which supports the LGBT community and tolerance towards all sexual orientations, began on Monday in Prague. This is the third year that a Pride festival is held in Prague and this year will feature many musical performances, public discussions, art exhibits and other events. On Saturday, the traditional Pride parade will take place in the center of the city. Last year, around 15,000 people attended the parade and organizers are expecting even greater attendance this year.
In 2012, the Czech police force wiretapped eight percent more telephone numbers and 17 percent more people than in the previous year, according to information released to the Czech News Agency on Monday. The police tapped more than 6,200 phone lines last year, tracking the communication of almost four thousand people. The greatest number of taps was ordered by the National Anti-Drug Unit and the organized crime unit. Most often the police used wiretapping in 2012 in drug-related cases as well as during investigations of crimes, thefts and extortion. The police also purposefully jammed the phone signal in 34 instances during the year in order to prevent potential bomb detonation.
One of the leading local real estate developers, the Developer Central Group has expressed an interest in purchasing the so-called Dancing House in the center of Prague for a quarter of a billion crowns. The developer announced that they want to house a museum of architecture and design in the modernist structure, co-designed by the world-famous architect Frank Gehry. The building’s current owner, CBRE Global Investors, said a few weeks ago that they want to sell the Dancing House. The building, which was completed in 1996, was originally meant to house a library, theater and a café, but the Dutch investor at the time opted for commercial use of the space. Currently, it houses offices and a restaurant on the top floor.
The former head of the Hungarian police during World War II in the now Slovak city of Košice and convicted war criminal, László Csizsik-Csatáry, died in Budapest over the weekend at the age of 98. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Mr. Csatáry was in charge of transports of thousands of Jews from the Košice ghetto to the death camp in Auschwitz in 1944 and was given a death sentence, in absentia for war crimes by a Czechoslovak court in 1949. In the same year he fled to Canada, where he stayed until his Canadian citizenship was revoked in 1997. He was discovered to be living in Budapest last year by a reporter and was subsequently placed under house arrest. In June of this year Csatáry was indicted for war crimes in Hungary, but the Budapest higher court suspended the case a month later, since he had been already sentenced in Czechoslovakia.
Leadership of the Party of Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites has announced that they are planning to ask some, if not all, members of Jiří Rusnok’s caretaker cabinet to consider running on the party’s ballot in the next parliamentary elections. Deputy chairman of the party Vladmír Kruliš said that the party considers Mr. Rusnok’s ministers to be experts in their fields. Others, though, have criticized the current government for being a cabinet made up of friends of President Miloš Zeman, who is also the founder and honorary chairman of the Party of Citizens’ Rights.
The Libavá military training zone in the Olomouc region will open its doors to the public for the second time this year for one day on Saturday 24 September. The zone will be open to cyclists and hikers who are interested in exploring the paved roads and almost untouched wilderness in Libavá. Around 3,700 people attended the White Rock event in the spring of this year and the organizers received very positive feedback. Cyclists will be able to ride on more than 100 kilometers of bike routes, while other visitors may walk or take advantage of a minibus provided by the organizers of the White Rock event. Similar open door days have been held at Libavá since 1994.
The cost of outsourcing services in some Czech ministries has increased by up to 90 percent in the past two years, the Supreme Audit Office reports. An audit into the finances of the trade, environment and regional development ministries has revealed a significant increase in the use of outsourcing in all three institutions. The Audit Office says that in many cases ministries paid agencies millions of crowns to do work that should rightly have been done by ministry employees. This includes drafting bills and preparing tenders for which the ministries have teams of specialists in respective departments.
After a meeting with Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok on Monday, the archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka said that the majority of the restitution requests from the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic have been filed. So far, the Catholic Church has filed requests for the restitution of more than 11,000 properties around the country. The controversial law on the restitution of church property was passed last year by the center-right governing coalition. According to the law, the state has to either return property that was confiscated under communism or provide monetary compensation to 17 religious institutions. During the next 30 years, the Czech state is expected to pay out 59 billion crowns to the various churches and religious organizations.
A secondary school student from Prague has won the gold medal in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 at the 2013 Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship in Washington. Jiří Houžvička beat contenders from 81 countries to win the title and collected a five thousand dollar reward. Although still at school he says he sometimes lectures teachers on how to use Power Point in the classroom.
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