The Czech reality show 'Unmasking', which made world headlines late
last year by offering a look into the daily lives of gorillas at Prague
Zoo, has announced a "winner". With broadcasting of the programme
coming to a close, the 200-kilo male Richard emerged as the winner
having received the most text-messages from viewers. The proceeds from
telephone messaging will go towards charity - the funding of a nature
reserve in Africa.
The project was first launched on November 7th by Czech Radio in conjunction with Czech TV - "rivalling" local reality shows with human participants. As the winner, Richard the gorilla receives twelve melons - a play on the Czech slang word 'melouni' meaning "millions".
Israeli citizen Yakov Moshalyov has been extradited to the Czech Republic to face trial for endangering the public in a grenade attack that took place in Prague in August 2004. The suspect, formerly a Soviet citizen, is believed to have been involved in a feud between Israeli crime gangs. The grenade was thrown at the vehicle belonging to an Israeli casino owner. 18 bystanders suffered minor injuries. Police have indicated Mr Moshalyov will be remanded in custody; if found guilty of the attack he could spend between 8 to 15 years in prison.
Antonin Pecenka, the man in charge of the forced administration of the
country's largest state-owned health insurance company, the VZP, has said
the insurer should take up a 5 billion crown loan (the equivalent of
almost 211 million US dollars). Mr Pecenka made the statement on a Sunday
TV debate programme, suggesting that taking such a loan was one way the
troubled insurer could eventually recover. Until now, the insurer has been
reeling from significant debt, issuing late payments to doctors and other
health workers, prompting the threat of strikes.
But, on Sunday, on the same television programme, the outgoing head of the VZP, Jirina Musilkova, said she opposed the organisation taking on the loan, stressing there was no way the firm could guarantee liability.
The leadership of the Social Democratic Party has struck former agriculture minister Jaroslav Palas from its candidate list for the region of Moravia-Silesia, ahead of national elections this year. On Friday, the prime minister called for Mr Palas to recall his candidacy on his own, but he refused. Mr Palas first fell out of favour with the prime minister last year, with Mr Paroubek criticising the former minister's role in what he has called the "disadvantageous" sale of the state's share in the Setuza food-processing company. Mr Palas has dismissed the prime minister's allegation and may appeal the Social Democrats' decision to strike him from the candidate list.
In related news Health Minister David Rath has said he will join the Social Democratic Party ahead of national elections in June. Mr Rath, who is heading the party's Prague candidate list, told journalists on Saturday he would consult the move with other Social Democrats and join the party in the year's first quarter. Mr Rath is the only unaffiliated member of the Social Democrat-led government, which also counts the Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Union.
The right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats have once again come out strongly against the health minister, on Saturday calling on Mr Rath to apologise for recent statements describing the "looting" of regional hospitals. It is not the first time Mr Rath and the country's largest opposition party have clashed. After being named to the post of health minister last November Mr Rath along with members of the Civic Democratic Party including its chairman Mirek Topolanek, have repeatedly traded words in the Czech media, with the Civic Democrats in the past calling on the health minister to step down.
Delegates in Prague have elected Milan Kubek as president of the Czech Medical Chamber. On Saturday Mr Kubek, the head of the Trade Union of Doctors in the Czech Republic and a close associate of Health Minister David Rath, defeated his closet rival Martin Jan Stransky by a difference of 25 votes out of 323 ballots cast. Earlier in the day the health minister himself had expected to speak at the venue, to indirectly endorse a candidate and Mr Kubek was considered one of his favourites. But, Mr Rath was refused the floor by a majority of delegates. Speaking to journalists prior to the vote, the health minister said he considered Milan Kubek an "excellent candidate".
Representatives in Central Bohemia have agreed on a loan for four regional hospitals in financial trouble, hospitals that did not renew contracts with the Czech Republic's largest state-run insurance company, the VZP this January. The region is willing to lend the hospitals 50 million crowns - the equivalent of around 2.1 million US dollars - to cover losses for the care of VZP clients, which the insurer has not covered. The hospitals will have to repay their debts as soon as they receive VZP payments, at the latest by the end of 2006. Both Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the Health Minister David Rath have promised that the VZP will retroactively cover the cost of care.
The former Czech football international Tomas Repka is set to rejoin Sparta Prague, eight years after leaving the club. The tough 32-year-old defender will play two more games for English Premier League club West Ham United, before signing a three-year contract with Sparta. Repka said he wanted to return to Prague to be with his family.
Czech senators Karel Schwarzenberg and Jaromir Stetina have said they have been refused visas to Belarus where they planned to meet representatives of the political opposition. Mr Schwarzenberg and Mr Stetina said they were not surprised that they had not been granted visas by President Alexander Lukashenko's regime. The Belarussian Embassy said it would not comment on the issue.
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