Shadow Health Minister David Rath has called on Christian Democrat MPs to vote for a Social Democrat proposal to abolish health fees. Mr Rath has also stated that he intends to call on Green Party MPs to do the same. Both the Greens and Christian Democrats are members of the coalition government, which introduced the controversial health fees early this year. The Social Democrats have long signalled their opposition to the fees and recently attempted to introduce legislation to abolish payments for minors and seniors. Concurrently, the Social Democrats are seeking to abolish the fees in regional hospitals as they put together local governments following their recent election victories. At present, Czechs pay 30 crowns for a prescription, 60 crowns for a day in hospital and also 60 crowns to visit a doctor. The government argues that the fees are essential to raise money and also combat absenteeism.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bém has slipped from his long-standing position as the county’s most trusted politician, suggests a new opinion poll by the STEM agency. The Social Democrats first deputy chairman Bohuslav Sobotka came first in the survey. Mr Bém had led STEM’s polls for about a year, but his recently announced leadership challenge against Civic Democrat head Mirek Topolánek is viewed as the most likely reason for the slip down to third place, below Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who is in second place. Mr Sobotka is viewed favourably by 55 percent of respondents in the new poll, while Mr Bém enjoys 47 percent support. Other top political figures are also listed, with Social Democrat head Jiří Paroubek enjoying 46 percent support and his Civic Democrat counterpart Mr Topolánek 21 percent support.
The government cabinet has agreed on a number of proposals, during a meeting on Wednesday. Amongst these is allowing father’s of newborn children to be able to have one week’s holiday. Other proposals include the creation of an institute to help parents as well as laws designed to make work hours more flexible. In a separate move, the cabinet also approved three of four healthcare reform proposals put forward by Helath Minister Tomáš Julínek, with the most controversial part dealing with health insurance being shelved. The proposals must all be approved by the Czech Parliament, Senate and President before becoming law.
The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has stated that he hopes that the Czech presidency of the EU, coupled with a new administration in the US, will help move forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The comments came as the Minister visited with the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in Prague. The Czech Foreign Minister also added that the Czech Republic hopes to use its good relations with both the Israelis and Palestinians to move forward the peace-process, which envisions a so-called “two-state solution”.
A team of Czech scientists have announced the discovery of a substance which causes the apparent self-destruction of cancer cells. The scientists working in the Czech Science Academy’s Molecular Genetics Institute, along with colleagues in Prague Institute of Chemical Technology and the First Medical Faculty of Charles University, stated that the method involves using lasers directed at cancer cells that have been injected with photosynthetic chemicals. Numerous tests were carried out on laboratory mice and also tissue cultures, with the results proving to be effective; the results have been published in several medical journals. The scientists have announced that this method could hail a significant step forward in the treatment of cancer.
Unions representing workers of Tesco stores in the Czech Republic have issued an ultimatum to the retail giant: address chronic understaffing of face strikes. The ultimatum comes after intense negotiations between union representatives and the retail giant. Tesco is accused of understaffing its stores, particularly with Christmas approaching, leaving its staff chronically overworked. Tesco has stated that it is working to address the situation, hiring more help over the Christmas period.
A member of the government’s Council for Roma Community Affairs (RZRK) has warned that the country faces civil unrest if the government does not address attitudes towards Roma with greater immediacy. Writing for the Roma website Romea.cz, Cyril Koky warned the Prime Minister and other members of the government that they are underestimating the situation in the Czech Republic. The comments follow a recent clash between the far-right Worker’s Party, which marched on a Roma area in northern Bohemia. He also called on the current Minister for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities Džamila Stehlíková to resign.
Levels of corruption during the admittance process in Czech universities are low, according to a study by Transparency International. The corruption watchdog group conducted a survey of 4370 students, of which most did not reveal involvement in corrupt practices to secure a place in Czech universities. However, the report suggests that many have indirect or hearsay experience with such practices. The report also found that many Czech students are unaware as to their rights during the university admissions process. However, Transparency International has warned that this survey is by no means definitive as the largest number of respondents came from law faculties. Instead, TI notes, the survey is designed to open up a discussion about the often heard allegations that some schools indulge in nepotism and even bribery during the admissions process.
The Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek, has given his support to proposals to outlaw far-right Workers’ Party. The proposal was drafted by Interior Minister Ivan Langer at the start of this month, but has been given extra impetus by an incident on Monday, in which around 1000 riot police clashed with an estimated 500 protesters from the Workers’ Party protesting at a largely Roma housing estate in Litvínov, northern Bohemia. Sixteen people were injured during the incident, in which police used water canons and other measures to break up the demonstration purportedly held to oppose positive discrimination towards Roma. In an interview following the incident, Mr Topolánek stated that the perpetrators must be severely punished, and also added his backing to the proposed law. Before the Workers’ Party is outlawed, the legislation must be assessed by various government departments and approved by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Greenpeace Czech Republic has reportedly invited US scientist Theodore Postol to challenge the effectiveness of the proposed US anti-missile radar base to be located in the Brdy region of Bohemia. Mr Postol, who is a professor of Science, Technology and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a prominent critic of US missile defence programmes going back to the 1990s.
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