A coach driver who caused a crash in which 20 people died has been denied an early release from prison. A court in Brno refused Pavel Krbec’s petition to be freed half-way through an eight-year jail term. The judge said the driver had not shown remorse for causing the accident which occurred in south Bohemia in March 2003.
The head of the smallest party in the coalition the Greens says they will pull out of the government if restrictions on heavy trucks on Czech roads are not extended to cover Fridays all year around. Greens leader and environment minister Martin Bursík called for a cabinet meeting to discuss the matter after, following negotiations with hauliers, Prime Minister Topolánek said talks on the subject had been postponed until the second half of August. Mr Bursík said introducing year-round restrictions on Friday evenings was part of the coalition agreement; if they are not introduced, the prime minister will have to look for a new coalition partner, he said.
Czech-Slovak produced film Bathory went straight to the top of the box office charts in the Czech Republic following its release last week, its distributor said. The movie by Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko is about the 16th century countess Elisabeth Bathory, who is sometimes described as the greatest female mass murderer who ever lived. Over 75,000 Czech viewers saw it on its opening weekend, the highest number for any film this year. Bathory’s budget of CZK 320 million (USD 22) makes it the most expensive film ever produced in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
The Czech-based car maker Škoda Auto increased its sales by 17.9 percent in the first half of this year, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. Between the start of January and the end of June the company sold over 360,000 cars. The greatest increase in sales was recorded in eastern Europe. Russia has seen the biggest upswing in Škoda sales, with a rise of over 80 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, is making a three-day visit to the Olympic Games in Beijing next month. However, Mr Topolánek told reporters he would arrive on August 13, meaning he will miss the opening ceremony, which takes place five days earlier. The Czech cabinet had recommended that the prime minister stay away from the opening following a violent Chinese crackdown on Tibet earlier this year. Mr Topolánek said on Tuesday he had accepted an invitation from the Czech Olympic Committee to support the country’s athletes in Beijing.
Klaus Toppmoller has ruled himself out as a candidate for the post of manager of the Czech national football team. The German coach told a newspaper there were two points on which the prospective appointment foundered – the Czech football association’s insistence that he move to the Czech Republic, and its refusal to hire Toppmoller’s assistants. The new Czech manager is due to be unveiled on Thursday, with the most likely candidate said to be Jozef Chovanec. It would not be his first stint in charge: he held the job before Karel Bruckner, who stepped down after Euro 2008.
An audit that seemed to clear controversial politician Jiří Čunek of corruption has not actually been completed. The website tyden.cz reported that 700 pages of information about his personal finances had not been supplied by Mr Čunek to the US agency investigating his books. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – who threatened to quit the cabinet if the Christian Democrats leader was not exonerated – said the audit would continue. Mr Schwarzenberg told the newspaper Lidové noviny on Tuesday that he had also ordered an audit into the work of the police and the state attorney’s office in connection with Mr Čunek. The latter resigned as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development in November because of an investigation into allegations that he took a bribe while he was mayor of a town in Moravia. When the state attorney definitively halted that probe he returned to cabinet. Jiří Čunek has been involved in a series of controversies, including over seemingly racist comments he made about Romanies.
The great American jazz guitarist John Scofield played a concert on Prague’s Old Town Square on Monday night. Scofield, playing his only show in Europe this year, told the 5,000 fans in attendance that he had heard about Prague decades ago from Czech musicians Miroslav Vitouš, George Mraz and Jan Hammer. The concert was part of the annual Bohemia Jazz Festival which features different Czech, Slovak and international musicians on different nights; after a second show in Prague on Tuesday night it travels to a number of other towns and cities.
Creamfields Central Europe, an open air dance music festival that took place near Břeclav, South Moravia over the weekend, was hit by a sudden storm on Saturday night. The two main stages collapsed and a DJ suffered light injuries as a result. The storm, which lasted for some two hours, made the majority of the 7,000 or so visitors leave the venue and also marred many of the performances. The organizers said they lost millions of crowns in consequence.
Several former Czech dissidents and politicians expressed their sympathies over the death of Poland’s Bronislaw Geremek, an anticommunist dissident and one of the founders of the Solidarity movement, who died in a car crash on Sunday. Former Czech President Václav Havel said that “Geremek’s death is not only a loss for Poland, but for all of us who strive for a free and decent world”. Former Czech dissident and later the first post-communist foreign minister of Czechoslovakia Jiří Dienstbier said that Mr Geremek was “a great personality who understood very well what needed to be done to rid Poland of various burdens of its nationalist past and to become a prominent and active member of the European family”. Czech European Affairs Minister Alexander Vondra said he was profoundly shaken by Mr Geremek’s death and that it was a great loss for Europe.
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“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery