Svatopluk Benes - one of the country's leading actors in the years of the first republic - has died at the age of 89. Mr. Benes starred in many black and white movies of the time alongside the country's best actresses Adina Mandlova, Lida Barova and Natasha Gollova. He remained active up until 1990, both in film and theatre productions, but had been bed-ridden in the last four years. " He was a perfect gentleman such as are not born in this day and age" one of his colleagues said about him, following news of his death.
Czech health minister Tomas Julinek has watered down his health reform plans in the face of widespread criticism. According to Saturday's edition of Lidove Noviny the minister has promised to exempt people living below the poverty line from having to pay health care fees. If the planned reforms win approval in Parliament Czechs would find themselves contributing directly to the cost of treatment: 30 crowns (the equivalent of around one US dollar fifty) for each visit to the doctor's; the same for individual prescriptions; 60 crowns per day in hospital and 90 crowns for emergency care. The proposed changes have met with strong criticism from the opposition as well as from the Ministry of Social Affairs, patient's organizations and the Minister for Human Rights Dzamila Stehklikova.
The Russian papers report that, on his first state visit to Moscow, Czech President Vaclav Klaus allegedly "turned a deaf ear" to Russia's criticism of the US missile defense system which Washington would like to locate in the Czech Republic and Poland. The Russian daily Rossijskaja Gazeta says that Mr. Klaus refused to accept Russia's arguments and failed in his own attempt to convince President Putin that the US missile defense system would not present a threat to Russian security. The controversial issue topped the agenda of the Czech president's talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, but although the two sides failed to reach agreement, they stressed that this dispute would not in any way mar cooperation in other spheres.
Around two and a half thousand people are taking part in a techno-party near Vitkov in Moravia. The police are monitoring the event and there have been no disturbances or complaints from the villagers. Meanwhile, another techno party has got underway in the Karlovy Vary region in west Bohemia. In this case the police anticipate problems. The party was unannounced and although the organizers have approval from the owner of the premises they do not have permission to pass through neighboring fields and meadows to get there. Around 50 police officers are now on the party grounds and are trying to prevent it from spilling over onto private land. There have been no conflicts or disturbances for the time being.
The EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla has welcomed Holland's decision to open its labour market to the EU newcomers admitted in 2004. Mr. Spidla said he was sure the move would benefit the Dutch economy. The Dutch authorities said workers from the newcomer states would find job opportunities mainly in construction and agriculture. Czechs interested in seeking work in other EU states can do so freely in Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and shortly also in Holland. Movement of labor restrictions remain in Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Denmark. The German magazine Der Spiegel says in its latest edition that Germany might maintain restrictions on the influx of foreign workers from the EU newcomer states until 2011, the farthest possible deadline.
Czech-born financier Viktor Kozeny, wanted both by the Czech and US authorities on corruption charges, has been released on bail from Nassau's Fox Hill Prison in the Bahamas. Kozeny, now an Irish citizen, made a huge profit from the coupon-privatization scheme in Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s and left the country before he could be prosecuted for embezzling property worth up to 16 billion crowns. He is also accused of being the driving force behind a multi-million dollar bribery scheme in Azerbaijan in which US investors lost huge sums of money. Kozeny is charged with conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and could face a 25 year prison term in the United States if convicted. He has appealed a verdict that enabled his extradition to the United States and was released on bail after US lawyers missed the date of a hearing that would have completed the extradition process. The hearing has been re-scheduled for June 23rd.
The Czech Republic opened its account at the Ice Hockey World Championships with an 8-2 pounding of Belarus on Friday. "In North America they would call that game an old fashioned butt-kicking," said Belarus coach Curt Fraser. "It wasn't pretty." The Czechs were world champions in four of the last eight years but Czech coach Alois Hadamczik was not making any predictions. "Today is only the first day so it is too early to talk about favourites," he told reporters. "Next is Austria and we are the favourites so we must play like favourites."
According to a poll conducted by the STEM agency three quarters of Czechs believe that there is discrimination on the Czech labor market. Respondents said age, pregnancy and health were decisive factors in this respect. The feeling that discrimination takes place was stronger among women than men. Out of 1200 respondents polled, 87 percent said people were discriminated against because of their age, 75 percent cited pregnancy and motherhood and 72 percent mentioned physical and mental handicaps. Other reasons given were race and sexual orientation.
Czech scientists from the Prague Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry have developed a highly promising drug against cancer. According to the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily, the drug has shown fantastic results when tested on animals. Stomach and throat tumors in dogs melted away in just six days after the animals were injected with the drug. The American firm Gilead has reportedly started testing the drug on several thousand patients in the United States. The drug is effective for cancer of the lymphatic nodes, on stomach cancer, chest cancer, on spleen and thymus tumors. If all goes well the new drug could be on the market in approximately six years, the paper writes.
The Czech newspaper Pravo has reported that police have concluded their investigation into a corruption case involving former mayor of Vsetin and current Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. According to the daily's Friday edition, investigators will propose the state attorney prepare the case for prosecution. Mr Cunek is alleged to have accepted a 500,000 crown bribe from the owner of a real estate firm in return for the sale of the majority stake in a Vsetin housing company. Both Mr Cunek and the company owner have denied any wrong-doing. The investigation into the deputy prime minister's business dealings has complicated his position in the government for some time, with coalition members the Greens earlier calling on Mr Cunek to step down.
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