September 1st meant "back to school" for 1.4 million Czech pupils, after their two-month summer holiday. This year some 88,500 entered the first grade, while around 139,000 students began high school. Education Minister Petra Buzkova paid a visit to a primary school in the Central Bohemian town of Melnik, while Czech president Vaclav Klaus visited two schools in the South Bohemian town of Pisek.
Officials from Poland's public prosecutor's office have said it is likely the office will seek to question Czech politicians in connection with the privatisation of the Czech petrochemical company Unipetrol earlier this year. The Czech Republic's stake in Unipetrol was bought by Poland's PKN Orlen concern. In recent days reports as well as video footage have surfaced linking the former head of the Czech government office, Zdenek Dolezel, with a possible bribe in the sale of Unipetrol, a charge he has denied. Now, according to unofficial sources, the Polish public prosecutor's office would like to question two high-standing Czech politicians in connection with the sale: Czech Finance Minister Bohumil Sobotka and former prime-minister Stanislav Gross.
A number of insurance experts in the Czech Republic have indicated in a new survey (conducted by the CTK news agency) that recent floods in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the devastating Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., could have a wider impact in raising home insurance rates - both in the Czech Republic as well as abroad - next year. According to observers Hurricane Katrina alone will hit global insurance companies hard, and in the survey experts say companies may choose to compensate for damages of around 26 billion US dollars by raising rates on different markets.
Czech Radio has launched a new 24-hour station specialising in programmes about science, technology, and nature. Called "Leonardo", the station now broadcasts on the internet and as of October along with other Czech Radio stations it will be available in digital form in the DVB-T system. Leonardo is one of Czech Radio's four digital projects, along with the news station "Radio Cesko", the classical music channel "D dur" and a youth channel due to start broadcasting at the end of 2005.
In related news, Czech president Vaclav Klaus has called the Unipetrol case "serious" although he did stress on Thursday he wasn't drawing conclusions. The leader of the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, meanwhile, called on the prime minister in a letter to make public all documentation compiled by Polish officials. In Mr Topolanek's view recent developments have "cast doubt" on the transparency of the Unipetrol sale earlier this year.
The leading American scholar of Czech theatre, Professor Emeritus of Theatre at the University at Albany, Jarka Burian, has died at the age of 78 in the United States. Jarka Burian was born in 1927 to a Czech family living in New York. He served at the University of Albany from 1955 to 1993, and also taught at Cornell, Berkeley and a number of other universities. He published many books on Czech theatre. His work "Modern Czech Theatre: Reflector and Conscience of a Nation", published in 2000, was described as the definitive historical and critical study of Czech theatre of the last century."
The Czech government has approved a bankruptcy bill that should facilitate bankruptcies and increase creditors' powers. The Czech Republic has long been criticised for its existing bankruptcy legislation with proceedings dragging on for years and creditors in the end receiving only 17 percent of their claims, the lowest percentage in the EU. Bankruptcies in the Czech Republic by far exceed settlement with creditors. Some 4,000 petitions for bankruptcy are filed every year in the Czech Republic, while the cases of settlement number just several dozen.
The last two Jas-39 Gripen supersonic fighter jets ordered by the Czech government from Sweden have arrived in the Czech Republic, completing the replacement of the country's ageing fleet of Soviet MiGs. The Gripens will be leased for 10 years for almost 20 billion crowns (850 million dollars), after which the country has an option to buy them or return them to Sweden. The Czech Republic is the first NATO country to employ Gripens in its air-force. Hungary will start using them next year. Poland opted for US F-16s and Slovakia will modernise Russian-made MiG-29s.
The famous astronomical clock on Prague's Old Town Square will be out of order for a couple of months. From September to mid-November experts will carry out maintenance work on the clockwork, dial and the decorative wooden statues. The cost of the repair work is estimated at 2.5 million crowns (100,000 dollars). The clock was made in the 15th century by clockmakers Mikulas of Kadan and Hanus of Ruze.
The Finance Ministry has announced that government ministers are demanding 61 billion crowns (2.5 billion dollars) more than has been approved in the state budget proposal for 2006. In July the cabinet approved a draft budget with a deficit of 76.4 billion crowns. The cabinet is expected to approve the state budget bill for 2006 in September. After that, the bill will go to the lower house of parliament.
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