Czech President Vaclav Klaus has agreed to name David Rath the new health minister on Friday. This ends a battle between Prague Castle and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who failed to persuade the president to appoint Mr Rath a fortnight ago. At the time, Mr Rath headed a professional chamber representing doctors and President Klaus feared it could lead to a conflict of interest. Mr Rath gave up the post on Wednesday.
A group of environmentalists have been protesting against the practices of a tar and benzol processing plant in Moravia on top of its 100 metre high chimney. The four members of the Czech branch of Greenpeace mounted the chimney on Tuesday morning, accusing the plant's management of producing chemicals that are hazardous to our health. Equipped with a laptop and an internet connection, the group managed to collect 1,500 electronic signatures supporting their cause within 24 hours. Fearing an intervention in the protest would result in injury, the police say they will detain the group when it descends the chimney.
Two out of every five Czechs believe that EU membership has affected their lives more than necessary, the results of an opinion poll suggest. The STEM agency, which conducted the poll says the number of Czechs with this opinion is growing. A growing number of Czechs also believe that ministers, deputies, and senators enjoy too much influence over the ordinary citizen and would like to see more of the power transferred to trade unions and the local authorities.
The Czech Interior Ministry says there are no secret CIA facilities holding members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group in the Czech Republic. Wednesday's edition of The Washington Post reports that the CIA's most important Al-Qaeda captives are questioned and held at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe. The Czech Interior Minister, Frantisek Bublan, says the Czech Republic is not the country in question. He added that one month ago, Prague declined a request from the US government to consider granting asylum to Guantanamo Bay detainees who were not linked to the Al-Qaeda and face persecution in their home countries.
Senior officials from the ruling Social Democratic Party have called fugitive billionaire Radovan Krejcir a liar and coward for his claim that he had lent the party 60 million crowns (roughly 2.4 million US dollars) in return for a promise to help him obtain ownership of a state company. They also dared Mr Krejcir to file a libel suit in the Czech Republic. The Social Democrats have taken the view that Mr Krejcir aimed to intentionally harm their reputation, and coordinated their response. Krejcir who fled to the Seychelles in June is wanted for conspiracy to murder, extensive fraud and money forgery. Extradition efforts floundered after it became clear Mr Krejcir - and his family - had obtained citizenship in the Seychelles a few years ago.
Deputy Health Minister David Rath has confirmed a decision to step down as the head of the Czech Doctors' Association, an announcement made on a commercial radio station Tuesday morning. His decision will take effect on November 2nd. Until now, Mr Rath's position as head of the Doctors' Association has been a major hurdle preventing his being named health minister. President Klaus twice refused to name Mr Rath to the post, on the grounds his naming would be a clear conflict of interest.
People who have unresolved restitution claims to land or property have until the end of this year to file their claims. The opposition Civic Democrats on Tuesday failed to extend the restitution deadline by another four years, largely due to opposition from the Social Democrats and the Communists. The extension by four years was part of a proposed amendment to the law on land.
The lower house of Parliament has approved a series of tax cuts which will primarily benefit people whose monthly income is below 30 thousand crowns. The bill was approved unanimously, although the opposition Civic Democrats criticized the ruling coalition for not effecting tax cuts which would benefit higher income groups as well. Finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the measure would affect 90 percent of all tax payers and would reduce income into state coffers by an estimated ten billion crowns. Approximately four million people who make under 30 thousand crowns a month would save around four thousand crowns per year, higher income groups are expected to save less money. The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate.
The first Czech on-line daily without a paper edition was launched on Tuesday. Aktualne.cz aspires to become a leader in the sector. Its founders believe that the initial investment of 35 million crowns /1.41 million dollars/ will be recouped within a year, with 90 percent of the magazine's revenues coming from advertising.
The chairman of the Lower House Lubomir Zaoralek on Tuesday unveiled a deputies' Code of Ethics to the assembly but was challenged by senior members of the opposition Civic Democratic Party who said the move was an empty gesture and Zaoralek himself was untrustworthy. The proposed code is meant to set an ethical framework for relations between politicians and lobbyists, the acceptance of gifts by public figures and the practice of hiring family members as assistants. The Civic Democrats said they were willing to engage in a serious debate only if Mr. Zaoralek defended his own reputation first, apologized to the public for "his excessive use of government helicopters" and explained how he had hired his own assistants.
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