A thirty-five year old mother remains in critical condition after
contracting the swine flu virus in the 29th week of pregnancy. Doctor in
Ustí nad Labem were forced to perform a Cesarean section on the pregnant
woman on Friday in the hope of saving her life. She is now in an induced
coma and breathing with the help of a ventilator. The baby girl is reported
to be free of the virus and is said to be doing as well as can be expected.
The authorities report close to 500 cases of swine flu, with a marked increase in the past ten days. Four schools have been closed down and many hospitals have closed their doors to visitors.
President Václav Klaus has hailed his predecessor in office Václav Havel as the central figure of the Velvet Revolution which toppled the communist regime. Sitting next to Mr. Havel at a concert to mark 20 years of freedom and democracy, Mr. Klaus had warm words for his ideological rival, saying that whatever differences they may have on internal and external issues, he perceives Václav Havel as the man who had made all this possible, the central figure of the Velvet Revolution. He said it was now up to the Czechs how they would use the freedom they had acquired.
A railway tunnel under construction near the town of Jablunkov, in the eastern part of the country, collapsed in the early hours of Sunday, bringing rail transport between the Czech Republic and Slovakia to a standstill. Although the route was not being used the rail-track now in operation was too close for safety. The tunnel was empty at the time and experts are now assessing the cause of the accident.
On Friday Prime Minister Jan Fischer personally took the signed Czech copy of the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty to Rome, formally concluding its ratification by all member states. The Czech Republic was the last country to ratify the treaty and place it in the depository of the Italian Foreign Ministry, where all EU documents are kept. The Lisbon treaty will take effect on December 1st opening the way to significant changes in the workings of the 27-member block. An EU summit, scheduled for next Thursday is to decide who will fill key posts in the new EU structure, such as the post of EU president and EU foreign minister.
The hero of the Velvet Revolution, former president Václav Havel is at the centre of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism. Among the VIP guests who attended a panel debate with students at Charles University were former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, French philosopher Andre Glucksman, British writer Tom Stoppard and Polish historian and journalist Adam Michnik. The celebrations will culminate with a concert on Saturday night to which Mr. Havel has invited world artists close to his heart – Lou Reed, Joan Baez, Susan Vega and Renee Fleming. The show is titled “It’s finally happening” – the slogan that tens of thousands of Czechs chanted in the streets during the Velvet Revolution.
A truck carrying 24 tons of onions brought traffic to a standstill on the main road to Domašov near Brno on Saturday morning. The truck got into a spin and turned over, spilling tons of onions onto the road. The driver was unhurt but fire-fighters spent four hours picking onions off the road and unloading the rest of the cargo so that the truck could get towed away.
US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Ellen Tauscher is expected in Prague on Monday for talks focusing
predominantly on anti-missile defense. Ms Tauscher is scheduled to meet
with the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, and the leaders of the two
strongest parties in the country, the Civic and Social Democrats.
After scrapping Bush-era missile defense plans for Central Europe, the Obama administration has expressed interest in building a missile defense system that would be part of NATO defense structures. According to diplomatic sources Washington has already submitted specific proposals under which the Czech Republic might join the emerging project, but no details have been released.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer paid an official visit to the Vatican on
Saturday, where he was received by Pope Benedict XVI and other leading
Catholic Church dignitaries. The Czech prime minister gave the Pope a
commemorative gold medal minted on occasion of the 20th anniversary of the
canonisation of St Agnes of Bohemia. Mr. Fischer also laid flowers on the
graves of the previous pope John Paul II and Czech Cardinal Josef Beran.
Relations between the Czech Republic and the Vatican are hampered by the fact that the Czech Republic has not yet ratified the Czech-Vatican treaty on bilateral relations. Both countries' representatives agreed on the text of the treaty, which also concerns the position of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, in the late 1990s, but the Czech Chamber of Deputies failed to approve the document in 2003. The Vatican does not intend to change the text of the original treaty and still expects the Czech Republic to ratify it in its present form.
President Václav Klaus has signed into law a bill which will reduce the salaries of state employees and constitutional officials by 4 percent in 2010. This includes all civic servants, MPs, senators, judges and state attorneys and should save the state close to 127 million crowns. The measure is only valid for a year and was approved in light of the economic crisis.
Serving mass at St. Vitus’ Cathedral on Saturday, just days before the country’s freedom anniversary, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said the Velvet Revolution had provided a fine opportunity to re-embrace spiritual values along with the country’s newfound freedom. He said Czechs had failed to take advantage of it, becoming excessively materialistic in the past twenty years. The Cardinal said that St. Agnes, who was canonized by Pope John Paul twenty years ago this week, could serve as a fine example to the public. A princess of royal blood, Agnes gave up her birthright and a life of luxury in order to live a life of piety and care for the needy.
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