Some of the Czech Republic’s top musicians and music critics have been reacting to news of the death of American pop star Michael Jackson - many recalling the star’s sole performance in Prague 13 years ago. The singer performed to 120,000 fans at Prague’s Letna plain in 1996 – the second biggest-ever concert in Czech history. Like their counterparts abroad, members of the Czech music scene said the late star had had an enormous influence on popular music. Czech musician Ondřej Hejma called Jackson’s death “a huge loss”, not least because the singer had planned a major comeback. Michael Jackson was 50 years old.
The Czech daily E15 has reported that a Czech company, LOM, owned by the Defence Ministry, will likely upgrade and overhaul between 50 and 60 transport helicopters for NATO and the European Union. The daily cited company head Jindřich Ploch as saying the order would be the biggest since the Czechs joined NATO and the EU. The helicopters are needed for both military and humanitarian missions in areas in southern Europe, Africa, as well as for missions in Afghanistan. Ten other companies could also take part in the project, the daily wrote.
The death toll from flash floods in parts of the Czech Republic has risen to 12: one person in southern Bohemia lost their life on Thursday and another in Moravia after she was unable to receive medical aid. 11 people have died in central and northern Moravia alone since flash floods first hit earlier this week. The highest flood alert levels in the region have since been lowered with water levels now mostly falling. Many residents have been staying at emergency shelters since roads, gas and electricity supplies were damaged. 11 remain in hospital. On Thursday the government offered to send 1,000 soldiers to help with clean up operations, with the authorities releasing hundreds of millions of crowns in emergency aid.
The Czech FA on Saturday is to agree on a new leadership, including a new chairman, with former player and international football coach Ivan Hašek listed as the favourite for the post. He is rivalled only by Luděk Vinš, the owner of Viktoria Žižkov, for the job. Both candidates are seen as able to bring needed changes to the FA, including an increase in funds in different sectors, as well as improved publicity and improved management regarding the national team. Mr Vinš announced his interest in the post well in advance, Mr Hašek only later, due to a coaching job in the United Arab Emirates.
An opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested that President Václav Klaus’ approval rating has fallen to its lowest since 2003. 55 percent of respondents expressed trust in the president, down some 15 percent since the beginning of the year. By comparison, the country’s interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer fared better, enjoying a rating of 61 percent. According the STEM, the drop in the president’s popularity could be related to his refusal to sign the Lisbon treaty after the document was approved by the Czech parliament.
In related news, the Czech Ambassador to Moscow Miroslav Kostelka has taken issue with a statement which Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek made in an interview he gave a Moscow radio station while in Russia. In the interview, Mr Paroubek maintained that ties between Russia and the Czech Republic had worsened significantly over the last three years, when the Czech Republic was led by the former centre-right government. The Czech ambassador said he disagreed with the statement, suggesting that although there had been some wrinkles at the political level, ties between the two countries overall remained very good.
Czech tennis player Radek Štepánek has advanced to the third round at Wimbledon after winning a difficult five-setter against Italian Potito Starace. The score was 6:4, 4:6, 6:2, 4:6, 6:3. Tomáš Berdych also made it through to the third round after defeating France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets.
Unknown assailants made off with more than 8 million crowns in cash on Friday after holding up a security truck in the Czech capital. According to reports, the robbery took place before noon, after security company employees had picked up the funds at a Prague post office. One of security men was slightly injured in the incident and had to be taken to hospital. The thieves escaped in a car which was later found by a nearby forest. The vehicle had been set alight in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.
The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Jiří Paroubek, has invited Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to visit the Czech Republic if his party (the second-strongest in parliament) wins the early election in October and he is named prime minister. He made the statement in Prague on Friday, a day after taking part in a political convention in Moscow, during which he spoke with Mr Putin. The Social Democrat leader called the potential visit by the Russian prime minister “logical” given the increase in trade between Russia and the Czech Republic. The visit would be Mr Putin’s first as prime minister, although he visited as Russia’s president more than three years ago.
Representing the Czech presidency of the European Union, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said in Israel that the EU considered the building of houses in Jewish settlements on the West Bank a serious obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Mr Kohout made the comments after talks with Israeli and Palestinian politicians on Wednesday. He said a recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he for the first time acknowledged the right of Palestinians to their own state was a first significant step towards a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East.
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