Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek met with Cardinal Miloslav Vlk on
Friday evening in hopes of ending a 13 year long dispute between the
Catholic Church and the state. Both claim to be the rightful owners of
St. Vitus' Cathedral, one of Prague's main landmarks. Last week, a
Prague district court ruled in favour of the church but the state plans
to appeal the verdict.
The two-hour meeting between the prime minister and the cardinal failed to produce a compromise solution. Mr Paroubek proposed the Church declare the Cathedral is owned by the Czech nation but plays an important role in its management. The Catholic Church on the other hand recognised St Vitus' Cathedral as part of the cultural heritage of the Czech state and a symbol of Czech nationhood but insisted ownership rights be decided by a court.
The Animal Liberation Front says it is responsible for releasing into the wild over 1,000 foxes and minks that were bred at a fur farm near the eastern town of Svitava. Animal rights activists have welcomed the move but some fear the foxes will find it hard to survive in the wild. The farm owners say they have lost over one million crowns (a little under 41,000 US dollars) and will have to close down the business before they acquire new breeding animals.
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, is facing criticism from a number of
politicians, who say Friday's address marking the 87th anniversary of the
foundation of Czechoslovakia was too political. Besides stressing that
Czechs should value their independence, President Klaus warned of European
integration and EU rules and regulations.
To Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek such anti-EU sentiment was misplaced as it is not shared by the majority of Czech citizens. The Communist Party's Pavel Kovacik believes the President took the opportunity to use the address as a pre-election speech - the general elections are to be held next year and the chances of a victory for the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats, which Mr Klaus founded, look promising. Most of the leading Czech press also criticised the presidential address, saying that Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president, would have supported European integration.
A reception organised in Havana to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of independent Czechoslovakia had to be relocated to the Czech Ambassador's residence, the AFP news agency reported. The event, which initially was to be held in a luxurious hotel, was dubbed as counter-revolutionary because it was attended by wives and close friends of Cuban political prisoners. Hotel management refused to host the event following orders from the Cuban authorities.
An anonymous bomb threat was also called in to the Prague headquarters of US broadcaster Radio Free Europe at around 3pm on Friday. The building was evacuated as a precaution and police reportedly found a suspicious package on the grounds. RFE was forced to disrupt its transmission. Police have not said if the caller gave a motive, but the radio headquarters have been considered a likely target for a terrorist attack, and the building at the top of Wenceslas Square has been under armed guard since 2001.
This Friday is a national holiday in the Czech Republic, marking the 87th anniversary of the founding of the first Czechoslovak state. The "Velvet Divorce" of January 1993 saw Czechoslovakia split into two separate states, the Czech Republic, which continues to celebrate the October 28 holiday, and Slovakia, which no longer does. To mark the occasion, the seated Czech president traditionally lays a wreath at the statue of the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas G Masaryk, and receives foreign diplomats at Prague Castle.
Meanwhile, in Prague, some seventy Czech neo-Nazis demonstrated outside the German embassy on Friday to demand the release of Ernst Zuendel, a far-right extremist who is in prison in Germany for the crime of denying the Holocaust. The Czech Jewish Communities' Federation, the Czech Council for Victims of Nazism and other civic groups earlier this week criticised Prague City Hall for granting permission for the neo-Nazi demonstration to go ahead. About twice as many people turned out for a counter protest at the embassy organised by the anti-racism group Tolerance, with the support of Czech politicians including MP Tatana Fischerova, and Senators Karel Schwarzenberg and Jaromir Stetina. Two neo-Nazi demonstrators were arrested, but police said the event passed without major incident.
Researchers at the International Agency for Cancer Research in Lyon, France, have said that adding cruciferous vegetables like cabbage to one's diet can help reduce of lung cancer. The French agency had compared some 2100 lung cancer patients with a similar number of healthy individuals from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and several other Eastern European countries where cabbage is a normal part of the diet. The French study found that eating vegetables from the cabbage family at least once a week cut cancer risk for people with inactive versions of certain genes, which are carried by two out of every three people worldwide.
Czechoslovak statehood day in recent years has also been marked by rallies of the far-right and racist skinhead groups. Some 100 far-right extremists rallied in Ostrava, the third largest Czech city. Organised groups of skinheads from Brno, the regional capital of Moravia, and from neighbouring Slovakia were also present, police said. Anti-fascist groups took to the streets to counter demonstrate and several arrests were made.
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