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Czech report
by Euro Reporter
2012-05-17 10:43:56
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President of Czech Republic to give keynote at Heartland climate summit despite backlash over murderer billboards

Companies are abandoning the Heartland Institute left-and-right following the conservative group's controversial climate change billboard campaign, but Czech President, Václav Klaus, is sticking with the group, reports the Guardian. Although he criticized the Heartland's short-lived campaign, Klaus is still planning to be the keynote speaker at the Heartland Institute's upcoming annual climate change summit, which gathers prominent climate denialists from around the world. The Heartland Institute has been embroiled in controversy since early this month when it compared those who accept the science of climate change to mass murderer Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber.

Klaus' spokesperson told the Guardian that the President of the Czech Republic was "principally against non-serious, aggressive and provocative billboard campaigns of the kind the Heartland Institute used recently."  Despite this, the spokesperson confirmed that Klaus would still give the keynote speech at the Heartland summit, though several other attendees have dropped out. A prominent denialist of climate science, last year President Klaus referred to climate change as a "communist conspiracy."

Troubles for the Heartland Institute began earlier in the month when the group unveiled what was intended to be the first in a series of billboards that showed the grizzled face of Ted Kaczynski with the line, "I still believe in Global Warming? Do you?" The group had planned to follow-up this billboard with others featuring Fidel Castro, Osama Bin Laden, Charles Manson, and hostage-take James J. Lee. However they pulled the campaign after 24 hours following severe criticism, including from some of their supporters.  The Heartland Institute has lost a bevy of financial supporters over the last couple weeks following the billboard campaign. The companies jumping ship—from State Farm Insurance to alcoholic beverage company Diageo—have cost the Heartland Institute hundreds of thousands of dollars in expected donations this year, according to financial documents leaked to the press earlier in the year by climate scientist Peter Gleick. Another casualty of the campaign was Heartland Institute's insurance policy program, which has decided to split from the institute after many of its financial supporters pulled their support over the group's climate stance. The insurance group intends to change its name and start-up independently soon.


Restitution plan may unlock vast church lands

Wires hang out of the walls, windows are smashed and the grass grows tall in the gardens of the once-elegant archbishop's residence in Cervena Recice, a 16th-century chateau left to rot after the communists took over in 1948. Bent on building a society free of religion, the communists seized the chateau, of the diocese of Prague, and thousands of other church properties and threw clergymen into labour camps and prisons or forced them into exile.

When Communist rule ended in 1989, the residence was caught up in a disagreement over which it belonged to, part of a bigger dispute that has tied up about six percent of the Czech Republic's total forests and fields that once belonged to mostly Christian churches. Now the government plans to return $4 billion of property and pay $3 billion in financial compensation over 30 years - about 3.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product combined - to the churches, about four-fifths of it to the Catholic Church.

The plan, which a clear majority of Czechs oppose, was approved by the lower house of parliament in an initial vote in February when the government was enjoying the strongest majority in 20 years. Although a political crisis in April has reduced that majority to a handful of votes, the bill is still expected to pass. "What has been stolen has to be returned, otherwise there is no meaningful democracy here," said Petr Gazdik, caucus leader of the coalition's conservative TOP 09 party, the main backer of the restitution plan.


Feel poorly informed about reforms

The Czech government is informing citizens on its reforms insufficiently and poorly, according to the latest poll conducted by the STEM agency and released to CTK Friday. On the scale from one to five, where one is the best and five the worst rating, most respondents or three-fifths assessed the government's information campaign on reforms with four or five in terms of its open communication on the reforms' impact, the comprehensibility of information on the prepared reforms and the interlinking of the planned steps.

According to the poll, the ministers' justification of the reforms' necessary character was assessed slightly better as only 53 percent of the polled gave it the worst rating of four or five. The average rating given to the government for its justification of the reforms was 3.64. The comprehensibility of the government information on reforms was assessed with 3.83 on average and the openness of the information campaign was given 3.95.

The government's assessment has worsened since the previous poll, but only slightly. Supporters of the government coalition parties, the Civic Democrats (ODS) a TOP 09, have assessed the government communication better giving it three on average.

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