The weather warmed up and rain came. With a Czech delegation in attendance, the U.N.’s worldwide climate change conference commenced in Bali. The management of the state-owned energy monopoly, ČEZ, made the owners of Mostecká uhelná společnost an offer to buy the northern Bohemian company’s coal mines for 28 billion crowns. St. Nicholas and his contingent of devils and angels visited Czech households again. Parliament approved a budget that will cross the trillion-crown mark for the first time in the country’s history and increase the national debt by 70 billion crowns. Czech teachers went on strike to protest the scandalously low wages and politicians’ lack of interest in communication. PISA 2006, an extensive international assessment of students’ education, detected a commonly known fact—although 15-year-old graduates of Czech elementary schools know a large quantity of data, theories, and formulas, when they try to apply that knowledge in practice they fail the most of all 57 countries surveyed. “Czech students have very serious problems with unfamiliar texts: when they are asked to analyze them and deduce conclusions, they fumble,” the Czech press cited from the conclusions of the report. “That’s like in Belarus,” said Milan Urban, deputy for the Social Democratic Party, after Miroslava Němcová, as the presiding deputy over the budget debate, switched off his microphone as he was giving “factual remarks” because he had exceeded his time limit. The Pendolino, a high-speed train serving Prague-Ostrava and Prague-Vienna, derailed near Prague without causing any injuries. Former President Václav Havel and several other globally renowned writers signed a letter criticizing European and African political leaders for not putting the humanitarian crises in Zimbabwe and the Darfur region of Sudan on the agenda of their meeting in Portugal “out of cowardice”. Current President Václav Klaus, accompanied by cabinet ministers and the Moravian-Silesion regional commissioner, opened the first seventeen-kilometer long stretch of the Ostrava-Bohumín highway, which local companies managed to build at a cost of 14 billion crowns. Thanks to scientists’ efforts, it was learned that the brains of anorexia sufferers are incapable of taking pleasure from achievements. The police commenced a massive search for František Procházka, a G4S Cash Services employee who stole 560 million crowns from the company safe; “It’s a burglary that will rewrite the history of Czech crime,” Hospodářské noviny business daily characterized Procházka’s record loot. The chairmanship of the Christian Democratic Party recommended that the party’s national committee propose that Jiří Čunek—removed from power after a drawn-out corruption and social benefits abuse scandal—be returned to the government. “In my opinion, it would be a successful suicide attempt by the government,” remarked Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (Green Party), who concurrently announced that he would resign from his own post if Jiří Čunek rejoined the cabinet.
News agencies announced that, after eliminating the opposition and arresting some competing candidates, Russian President Vladímr Putin had won the election again in a landslide victory. “Today, our threat is no longer communism, but overall impudence and our inability to reflect; our fascination with communism prevents us from dealing with the real threat – Islamic extremism and post-communist Russia. Moreover, in the attitude toward communism and Nazism there is an undue optimistic conviction that it was the worst evil the world could ever encounter—it doesn’t please me to say this, but we should realistically admit that some much worse war and much bloodier dictatorship could await us; at least that is how it has always been,” wrote political scientist Bohumil Doležal in his analysis of the eighteenth year of “facing up to communism”. An exhibition on the Battles of the Isonzo—which took place in the mountains of present-day Slovenia during World War, and in which many Czech soldiers fought and died heroic deaths on behalf of the emperor, only to be quickly forgotten at home—opened in Brussels. Lidové noviny won a prestigious European Newspaper Award for the quality of the front page of its “Orientace” section. Players from Dortmund took the top five seats in the second annual Czech championship in the Indian table game carrom, where Czech, Indian, and German players competed in Prague’s Smíchov neighborhood. A team of NASA experts arrived to examine pellets from Mars found near Česká Lípa.