Prague Mayor Pavel Bem - an avid mountaineer - is making final preparations before he and a team of fellow climbers depart for Mt. Everest next week. They leave next Saturday for Tibet. Mr Bem and five others on the team will attempt to ascend Mount Everest along its northern face, with the final ascent planned for sometime between May 5th and 15th. According to the mayor, the team will try to reach the top without relying on bottled oxygen, although members will have the gear along. During the mayor's absence, his office will be run by Deputy Mayor Rudolf Blazek.
The village of Trokavec, near the Brdy military base in central Bohemia, has held a local referendum on the issue of a possible US radar base. That could be built in the region as part of the United States' planned missile defence shield in Europe. The US has formally requested both Poland and the Czech Republic to host missile and radar bases on their territory, but public opposition remains high. In the referendum in Trokavec - a village of one hundred inhabitants - 71 people voted "against" the base while 1 person voted "for". The result is only of symbolic value. The Czech government has made clear it will seek parliamentary approval for the US request rather than hold a national referendum.
Singers Matej Ruppert and Anna K. triumphed at the annual Andel (Angel) awards on Saturday evening given to the country's best musicians by the country's Academy of Popular Music. The pop group Krystof was voted band of the year, and also recognised for best song and best Pop & Dance album. Composer Karel Svoboda, who took his life earlier this year, was inducted "in memoriam" into the Music Hall of Fame. The award was picked up by his son Petr and his wife Vendula.
EU officials, members of the Czech government, as well as former Czech president Vaclav Havel will attend an international conference in Prague on the history and future of the European Union on Tuesday. The event will mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which established the original ECC, or European Economic Community. Other participants will include Czech European commissioner Vladimir Spidla and the Delegate for European Affairs Catherine Colonna, and others. The Czech government will be represented by the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
Czech forward Jaromir Jagr helped his team the New York Rangers crush the Boston Bruins in ice hockey action in the NHL on Saturday. Jagr picked up three assists in the game while fellow Czechs Petr Prucha and Michal Rozsival picked up goals apiece in the 7-0 win. The Rangers have edged into the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference. In other NHL action the Caroline Hurricanes' Josef Vasicek picked up a goal and two assists in his team's 7-2 victory over New Jersey. Also, Tomas Plekanec helped his Montreal Canadiens edge Toronto 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out. The Canadiens are one of five "Original Six" teams currently struggling for a play-off spot.
A 26-year old Czech ski alpinist (ski mountaineer) fell fifty metres in Slovakia's Tatra Mountains on Sunday, suffering serious injuries to her spine and pelvis. The skier lost her balance on a cliff edge when buffeted by strong winds. Poor weather conditions prevented rescue crews from making use of an emergency helicopter. Mountain rescue service members set out to recover the injured woman on foot. They were met by the woman's compatriots carrying her on a makeshift stretcher. She is now being treated in hospital.
In related news, the opposition indicated on Sunday that the government should take the Trokavec result seriously. Communist MP Jiri Dolejs told the CTK news agency that the result needed to be taken into account, an opinion also voiced by the Social Democrats. Government party members also reacted, including Christian Democrat MP Michaela Sojdrova, who called Trokavec residents' views "important". Green Party MP Katerina Jacques reportedly stated that it would be "good" for the Czech Republic to hold a national referendum on the issue but only once the country had "enough information".
Czech singer Karel Gott has won the overall TyTy award for most popular TV personality, awarded yearly in the Czech Republic. The awards ceremony was televised in the Czech Republic on Saturday night. Mr Gott also triumphed in the best male singer category, while Lucie Bila won in the best female singer category. In other categories: Miroslav Donutil and Daniela Sinkorova were chosen as the country's most popular actors. The annual TyTy awards are voted on by TV viewers themselves.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again warned against the placement of US bases in central Europe as part of a broader US defence shield. He said that the project would have a negative impact on relations between Russia and NATO. It is widely expected that the proposed US shield will be the main issue for discussion at the NATO-Russia Council meeting set for next month.
According to the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek is going to present a proposal to the government introducing a flat income tax rate of 15 percent as part of planned reforms. He is expected to put forward the proposal in two weeks time. The rate is lower than was previously expected. Currently the amount of income tax one pays in the Czech Republic depends on one's overall yearly earnings and those are rated along a four-point scale. Mlada Fronta Dnes points out that the new rate, if approved, will most benefit those earning incomes upwards of 35,000 crowns per month. At the same time, the finance ministry has said that under the proposal it will raise tax allowances. If the government backs the plan and it finds backing in the Lower House of Parliament, the changes could come into effect in 2008.
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