The leader of the Social Democrats, former prime minister Stanislav Gross has rejected the statements of some Polish MPs who link the Unipetrol corruption scandal with the controversy surrounding the purchase of Mr Gross's Prague apartment. Stanislav Gross denied the allegations saying the sale of Unipetrol to the Polish company PKN Orlen was approved by the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla last year whereas Mr Gross bought his flat in 1999. Some Czech media suggest that the privatisation of the oil and chemicals group Unipetrol might have been manipulated and bribes amounting to hundreds of millions of crowns were involved.
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed an amendment to a law banning the transformation of hospitals owned by regions into business companies. The amendment will now go back to the lower house which is expected to override the president's veto as the two parties which pushed it through, the Social Democrats and the Communists, have a comfortable majority in the chamber. The Health Minister, Social Democrat Milada Emmerova, says she wants to prevent the transformation of hospitals as she believes they would no longer provide a full range of health care but concentrate instead on more profitable branches of medicine.
One of the two smaller parties in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats, have said they will not support the removal from office of the Supreme State Attorney Marie Benesova proposed by the Justice Minister Pavel Nemec of the Freedom Union. The Christian Democrats say they are convinced that politicians must not influence decisions in criminal cases. Relations between Ms Benesova and Mr Nemec have been tense for several months because of certain criminal cases and the crisis culminated a few days ago when Minister Nemec launched disciplinary proceedings against the Supreme State Attorney.
The chairman of the opposition Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, has decided to step down from his post. In a statement for the CTK news agency, Mr Grebenicek said his staying at the head of the party would be pointless, stating the party's programme orientation as the main reason of his move. A spokesperson for the Communist Party said that until October 1 when his case will be discussed by the Central Committee, Mr Grebenicek will not talk to the media. The 58-year old Miroslav Grebenicek has been chairman of the Communist Party since 1993.
One of the founders of Roma studies in the Czech Republic, Milena Hubshmannova, was killed on Thursday in a car crash in South Africa. One other person, a South African man, also died and three others were seriously injured. Hubshmannova, a professor at Prague's Charles University, was born in 1933 and was one of the Czech Republic's foremost specialists in Roma culture. After the fall of communism in 1989 she helped found the department of Roma Studies at Charles University. Other projects included numerous translations from Romany to Czech. Milena Hubschmannova was 72.
On Sunday the Czech Republic sent its first delivery of humanitarian
aid for victims of hurricane Katrina in the United States. Comprising
some 24,000 blankets, 600 camp beds, as well as a number of hall-sized
tents, the aid is the first of its kind from the Czech Republic to the
US. Its sending was coordinated within NATO, also the first time the
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has taken part in organised aid to
the United States.
The US Ambassador to Prague, William Cabaniss, was on hand at a ceremony on Sunday to accept the aid offer, noting the symbolism of the gesture on September 11th, four years after New York and Washington were struck by the terrorist attacks.
The Czech aid package is worth 25 million crowns, the equivalent of around one million US dollars. The Czech Republic is also ready to provide part of a field hospital, fire-fighters, and experts in removing environmental damage.
Czech ice hockey star has departed for the US to return to the NHL, where he will honour his commitment to the New York Rangers. The forward, who led the Czechs to gold at this year's World Ice Hockey Championships in Vienna, played in Europe throughout the NHL lockout, first for his hometown of Kladno, and then Russia's Omsk. Departing on Sunday from Ruzyne airport Jagr was in good humour, reportedly telling journalists he hoped to shed a few extra pounds during training camp.
An unmanned plane flown at an exhibition during NATO Day on Saturday held in the north Moravian town of Mosnov, crashed shortly after take-off. But, a spokesman has said the public was not in any danger. Further details are to be released by the Czech Army on Monday. The plane, a "Sojka" which weighs some 140 kilograms and has a wing span of four metres, was hit by strung winds before going down.
In related news, a poll conducted by the SC&C agency for the Czech
daily Mlada Fronta Dnes has suggested that a majority of Czechs do not
feel threatened by the possibility of a terrorist attack. Of 381
questioned some 70 percent said similar attacks to those that hit New
York and Washington four years ago, or London this year, were unlikely
in the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said on
Saturday that that the risk of attacks could never be ruled out,
especially since the Czech Republic is both an EU member and a member
In September Czech officials have planned exercises on the Prague metro line to analyse how effectively the city would respond to a terrorist strike.
Retired tennis star Ivan Lendl will be named on Sunday to the US Open's Hall of Fame. The Czech-born player won the final three times at Flushing Meadows in the years 1985 - 88. In all, Lendl appeared in 8 finals, tying Bill Tilden's record from 1918 - 1925. Lendl, who became a US citizen in 1982, played some of his most memorable matches against US-born player Jimmy Connors and American star John McEnroe.
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