- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

Medal for freedom

After wrapping up an eventful visit to Washington this week that included talks with President Bush on missile-defense plans and a visa-waiver program, the Czech prime minister took a moment to recognize a Cuban political prisoner.

“The Czech Republic had 40 years of communist occupation after being occupied by Nazi Germany,” Mirek Topolanek told guests at a reception at the Czech Embassy. “That is why we try to help others. … We vividly remember those days of repression.”

Mr. Topolanek presented the Prime Minister’s Personal Medal to Dr. Oscar Biscet, a Cuban psychiatrist sentenced to 25 years in prison for advocating human rights. Dr. Biscet remains president of the board of directors of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, a Havana-based nongovernmental organization whose members are repeatedly harassed or arrested.

Dr. Rigoberto Rodriguez, a Cuban-American psychiatrist from Florida and a member of the board of directors, accepted the award for Dr. Biscet.

“We are grateful to the Czech Republic for their support for human rights in Cuba,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Last month, Ambassador Petr Kolar met with Dr. Biscet’s wife, Elsa Morejon, in Washington to express his “sorrow and regrets over the ongoing imprisonment” of her husband, the Czech Embassy said.

Last year, Mr. Bush awarded Dr. Biscet the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.

In their White House talks, Mr. Topolanek and Mr. Bush discussed plans for a missile shield to protect Europe and the United States from attacks from rogue nations such as Iran. The United States plans to install a radar system in the Czech Republic and missile interceptors in Poland.

Interior Minister Ivan Langer, who accompanied Mr. Topolanek on the trip, signed an agreement with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that sets the stage for Czechs to travel to the United States without visas by the end of the year.

Capping carbon

European Union Ambassador John Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, is no leprechaun. But he thinks he knows where a pot of gold lies — in Wyoming.

He set off to the “Cowboy State” this week to discuss ways to prevent carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants from polluting the atmosphere, saying his mission is dedicated to “turning Wyoming’s coal into gold.”

Mr. Bruton thinks Wyoming, which accounts for one-third of the U.S. coal production, is the ideal laboratory to advance the technology of “carbon sequestration,” which involves “capturing” carbon dioxide and storing it in natural locations, such as forests or oceans.

“Wyoming has the highest level of CO2 emissions per capita of any U.S. state, as coal-burning is their major source of electricity,” the ambassador said before he departed Washington on Wednesday. “There is no doubt that coal-burning has an impact on the climate.”

“But,” he added, “my message to Governor [Dave] Freudenthal … is not that they stop producing coal. Coal is such a cheap source of energy that it is unrealistic for us to scrap it in favor of other energy sources.”

Under current technologies, capturing carbon dioxide would increase the cost of electricity per megawatt hour by more than $20. However, Mr. Bruton thinks Wyoming utilities could benefit financially by pursing carbon-dioxide sequestration, building clean-burning coal plants and adopting a European-style “cap-and-trade” policy, under which polluters pay non-polluters under a complex formula for the right to emit carbon dioxide.

The potential for profit, Mr. Bruton added, lies in China, which is frantically building dirty, coal-fired power plants and quickly becoming the world’s worst polluter.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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