The International Documentary Film Festival currently running at Jihlava has screened a film about the only Soviet bloc spy who apparently infiltrated the CIA. The documentary describes the achievements of Czechoslovak spy Karel Kocher. Kocher who worked at the CIA from 1972 after emigrating to the US. Kocher refused to take part in a debate which was organised in conjunction with the screening. A book about his life was published two weeks ago.
Former foreign minister and presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg has hit out against what he described as the Czech hysteria about the current wave of immigrants coming into Europe. Schwarzenberg said the reaction was probably explained by Czech pettiness and an inferiority complex. His comments were made during a Prague conference Saturday about the Czech Republic’s place in a globalising world. Schwarzenberg has previously suggested that the Czech Republic should be ready to take many more immigrants and match the generosity of neighbouring Germany on a per capita basis.
The Šumava National Park has opened a wolf observation site at its visitor centre in the town of Srní. Observation of the two adult wolves and four cubs is possible from 300 metre high observation posts. The wolves are enclosed on a 35 hectare site comprising mature forest and rocks. The park hopes that public exposure to the wolves will help erode some of the ingrained prejudices against them. The wolf enclosure opened to the public on Friday.
Czech number one womens singles player Petra Kvitová has won through to the finals of the WTA finals in Singapore. Kvitová qualified by beating Russian Maria Sharapova 6:3, 7:6. The Czech had to turn around the second set after Sharapova appeared in control. The Czech will face Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. It’s the second time that Kvitová has qualified for the season ending WTA showcase finals. The Czech’s form had been mixed in the qualifying group while Sharapova confidently qualified for the semi-finals.
The Czech pavilion at the world exhibition, Expo 2015, in Milan has been awarded the bronze medal for its architectural merit. The gold medal was awarded to Britain and the silver to Chile. The Czech pavilion was made up of used modular containers with the architects behind the idea Chybik&Krystof Associated Architects. The Czech pavilion has already won a series of awards from organisers, visitors, and the media. The pavilion was chosen as the most visitor friendly and the restaurant was placed among the best three at the exhibition.
The Czech Ministry of Finance has upped its economic growth predictions for this year to 4.5 percent and for 2016 to 2.7 percent. The ministry’s previous figures in July put growth this year at 3.9 percent and next year at 2.5 percent. One of the main factors in the upward revision is the much firmer growth at the start of the year and the fact that low oil prices have helped boost consumption. Higher EU funding, increased wages for public workers and pensioners, and selected tax cuts have also contributed, the ministry said
Non-government organisations have criticized the Czech government for failing to come up with a new proposal that would allow foreigners from non-EU countries to pay into the mainstream Czech health insurance system. Instead, the non-EU foreigners must pay more to private insurers and get less cover in return. A government amendment again fails to address the basic problem, they said, and only creates more obstacles to access to the public system. Around 462,000 foreigners live in the Czech Republic. Those without permanent residency or EU membership can only be covered by the Czech public insurance system if they have full residency permits or are employed by Czech companies. Private health insurance fails to cover common health problems such as diabetes or early births and companies can cancel insurers’ policies without giving reasons.
The Czech government is planning to release 100 million crowns by the end of this year to help countries worst hit by the refugee crisis. A further 68 million crowns for the same purpose should be found for next year according to a proposal to be put to the Czech Cabinet on Monday. Part of the money will contribute to EU funds established to help refugees in Syria and Africa. Fund will also be directed towards the World Food Programme and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which is providing a large part of the help in Syrian camps.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has defended the whistle blowing site in a video conference appearance at Jihlava’s documentary film festival on Thursday night. Assange, currently a virtual prisoner in the Ecuador embassy in London, brushed off charges that WikiLeaks concentrated solely on US and Western secrets. He told his Czech audience that US authorities were the biggest generator of secrets in the world. WikiLeaks had revealed secrets from Russia, China, Peru, and Kenya as well, he said, admitting thought that the site’s main language is English. Russian member of the punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Aljochina, also took part in the debate saying she hoped Assange would be released soon from his three years in the embassy evading an extradition order to Sweden.
Prague City Hall is renting out a large part of its real estate portfolio at prices below their market value. That finding has been arrived at by the Institute for Planning and Development. The report by the institute said that Prague is losing out between 100 and 300 million crowns a year through cut price rents for office, commercial, and retail real estate that it owns. Prague city authorities own around a thousand non-residential properties with around half of them unused. The institute is the capital’s main body for urban planning and architectural development.