In the News 18.8.08

Medusa in Hlučín, Emmons in China and 1968 in gallery

Written by Naďa Straková
Aktuálně.cz CzechNews


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STUDÉNKA TRAIN CRASH. Last week saw the clean-up works in Studénka after the horrific train crashed Friday August 8 into a collapsed bridge obstructing the railway near the town of Studénka close to the Moravian city of Ostrava.

The international train, travelling from Poland to the Czech Republic, carried a number of passengers who were on their way to see the Iron Maiden concert in Prague but never actually made it.

Two men were arrested in connection to the train accident. Both are employees of the construction company that was in charge of the bridge reconstruction and both are said to be experts in their field.

A special police investigative team called Comenius should answer two things: who is responsible for the bridge collapse and why there was no speed restriction imposed during the bridge reconstruction. The train was traveling 140 km per hour.


CZECHS IN GEORGIA. The war in Georgia has influenced lives of a few Czechs as well – while tens of Czech tourists and contract workers were being evacuated from Georgia earlier this week, as the threat of further bombardment from Russian fighter planes loomed large, Jaromír Štětina, Czech senator from the Green Party, wasted no time and rushed straight into the war.

Example of white collar recklessness? Far from it. Before he entered politics, Štětina had made a name for himself through his war-reporting skills, which saw him cover many conflicts across Europe, Asia and Africa, including the ones in the Caucasus. Senator Štětina talked to Aktuálně.cz about his motivation to enter the war zone in person, praising George Bush and August 1968 echoing in Georgia.

Two Czech journalists working for the weekly magazine Reflex Tomáš Tesař a Marek Hudema together with a cameraman and reporter Ondřej Pořízek were attacked and robbed on Tuesday evening by unknown gunmen in Georgia.


GEORGIANS IN THE CZECH REP /video/. Have a look at a demonstration that was organized by Georgians living in the country in front of the Russian embassy.


EMMONS´ LOVE STORY. For the first time in its history, the Olympic Games´ gold medal chart was led by the Czech Republic. At least, for a day.

The first gold medal in Beijing was not won by China, as expected, nor by their big rival the United States but by the Czech Republic.

Kateřina Emmons, born Kůrková, won the 10 meter air rifle round on Saturday, August 9.

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Quite unexpectedly, at least for Kateřina, as she confessed later on, a few days later she won the silver medal in the women’s 50m rifle 3 position shooting event.

Kateřina Emmons married Matthew Emmons who was known until Friday as the American who famously squandered a gold medal by firing his final shot at the wrong target at the 2004 Olympics.

From now on, Emmons will be better known as half of a hot-shooting U.S.-Czech couple that won three, and possibly four, medals at the Beijing Olympics — incorrigible love birds who snatched headlines from the sharpshooting China hosts.
Besides the gold and silver medals won by Emmons, David Kostelecký won men´s trap gold.


OMINOUS August 21, 1968. “In those days anything was possible, but everything was also mixed up, it was definitely a tragedy, but at the same time, how many times would I have had the chance to ride down Wenceslas Square on a tank?” Josef Koudelka wryly commented at a press conference to kick off the exhibition Invaze 68 (Invasion 68), which is now being held in the Old Town Hall gallery.

The exhibition, which runs until September 13, is an offshoot of the book of the same title and offers a concentrated view of the first days of the Warsaw Pact invasion.

“We would like to publish Invaze in Russia; there are publishers who are interested in it, but they can’t come out with it. The political climate in Russia doesn’t allow it, which only illustrates the situation,” commented the photographer regretfully. But Koudelka himself has allegedly forgiven the Soviet soldiers. If you would like to know why, you can see his answer here.


KAPLICKÝ WANTED DOWN SOUTH. “My České Budějovice citizens understand me,” is what Britain based architect Jan Kaplický could be claiming in the fashion of Wolfang Amadeus Mozart after the town of České Budějovice has proved more understanding for modern architecture than Prague has recently.

Jan Kaplický and his Future Systems studio seems to have failed with his design of the National Library dubbed blob in Prague but his Congress and Concert Hall Centre bearing the name of Antonín Dvořák, one of the most famous Czech composer, is to be built in the town of the Budvar beer.

Jan Kaplický´s new project, already nicknamed manta ray, is to be built at the site of former barracks.

“There is no modern acoustic hall in the region, so we welcome this one,” said Antonín Kazil from the South Bohemian Society of Friends of Music, which initiated the project, hoping to see a “more solemn place for their annual Emma Destinnová Music Festival”.

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JELLYFISH IN HLUČÍN IS LIKE TIGERS IN AFRICA. Monty Python´s famous line “A tiger in Africa?” could resonate in a little village of Hlučín in north Moravia these days. A rare species of jellyfish appeared in a local lake, surprising many, including the local hygiene experts. As much as tigers are impossible to be spotted in Africa, medusas were last seen in ČR decades ago.

While these translucent umbrella-shaped creaturest are unwanted in the seaside, in the lake of Hlučín everybody seems to be enjoying their unexpected company. Never mind the sting and never mind the tiny size – 1 cm. 


SKYSCRAPERS SCRAPING THE SKY TOO MUCH. If you follow your cause persistently and with much zeal, you may achieve your coveted goal regardless missing the power and connections.

The environmental NGO Arnika have been criticising the plan for the construction of way too tall skyscrapers on Pankrác for many years without any support of the local town hall or Culture Ministry, filed the case with the UNESCO and here we go – UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, the skyscrapers must be lowered, otherwise they would damage one of Europe’s best preserved historical city panoramas.

And there is more to than just Unesco´s crticism, if Prague ignores UNESCO’s decision, it may be withdrawn from the World Heritage List sooner or later.


BEETLEGATE IN INDIA. The have not got a written charge but they knot they will be sued. That´s the reality of two Czech scientists that were arrested at the end of June for what the Indian authorities claim to be illegal bug collection.

The two men – Petr Švácha and Emil Kučera – have been released on bail and have talked to Aktuálně.cz on a number of occasions. This time they complain of having their right violated when in prison.


SEVEN THOUSAND ON THE RUN. It is not only notoriously known names like Tomáš Pitr or Radovan Krejčíř, convicts who have been sentenced but are on the run. In fact, it is thousands of men and women who escape serving their jail sentence as well.

Paradoxically, the state might consider itself lucky because of this situation.

Currently, about 7,000 people who have been sentenced are avoiding jail. If all of them were suddenly to give in and were imprisoned, the current prison facilities would not suffice.

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LANGUAGE TEST FOR FOREIGNERS. The first foreigners who want to apply for permanent residency in the Czech Republic can do the Czech language test in less than a month. As of next year, passing the test will be a necessary condition for all who want to settle down in the country.

To show the applicants what the test will be like, the Education Ministry has launched a new website, Čeština pro cizince, which also comprises an English version.


MAFIA IN CZ. Ombusdman (public defender of rights) Otakar Motejl has criticized the way the Czech Republic is presenting itself to foreigners, many of whom experience corruption when first coming into contact with Czech authorities.

According to Motejl, bribery during the application process for visas and long-term permanent residency is common-place. The situation at Prague’s foreign police inspectorate and at consulates in Ukraine, Russia and Vietnam is practically intolerable.


MONETA NON GRATA. The month of September will say goodbye to the 50 haléř piece. It is the last remnant of the haléř coin group, as the 10 and 20 haléř coins were abolished in 2003.

The popularity of the 0.50 haléř coin was never high and one could often see the coin left on shop counters.

However, one group of people did not find the elimination with enthusiasm – card players. This popular Czech pub activity will have to change its rules.

“50 haléř coins was ideal for playing cards. It was light to carry them around and were of low value. Now we will have to raise the bet up to 1 CZK,” said one of card-players for Czech TV news bulletin.

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