Friday, March 30, 2012

News 3.30.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Friday, March 30th, 2012

By: Jan Velinger

* Outgoing education minister Josef Dobes has tendered his resignation
to President Vaclav Klaus.

* The international weekly The Economist has taken note of the
"lobbying" scandal in Prague and its possible implications for the
ruling Civic Democrats.

* The head of the opposition Social Democrats has slammed the
government over recent scandals.

* A district court has rejected an appeal by the state attorney's
office for lobbyist Roman Janousek to be banned from travelling abroad.

* Czech figure skater Michal Brezina completed a stunning performance
in the men's short program at the world championships in Nice on
Friday, putting him second place.

Education minister hands in resignation

Outgoing education minister Josef Dobes has tendered his resignation to
President Vaclav Klaus. The two met privately at Prague Castle on
Friday morning. Mr Klaus was a supporter of the embattled minister, in
the past calling him "the best education minister the country had had
since the fall of communism". However, Mr Dobes came under fire for
mishandled education reforms and the mismanagement of EU funds, as well
as a highly-controversial decision to extend accreditation at the
troubled law school in Plzen. While he said his official reason for
resigning was 2.5 billion crowns in planned cuts to his ministry's
budget (which he warned would negatively impact teachers' salaries)
many believe the step was a last attempt to save face rather than be
dismissed by the prime minister. A successor has not been named yet.

Students say "goodbye" to education minister

In related news, students held a happening in front of the Education
Ministry in Prague on Friday celebrating Mr Dobes' resignation;
activists are primarily opposed to his reforms in higher education -
which include plans for the introduction of tuition fees and other
changes. In the happening, students released a picture of Mr Dobes tied
to helium-filled balloons. Organisers have made clear they will
continue to protest the governments' reforms which they argue are a
threat to academic freedoms.

International weekly takes note of lobbying scandal

The latest edition of The Economist has taken note of the "lobbying"
scandal in Prague and its possible implications for the ruling Civic
Democrats. In a short article this week, the daily gives a run-down of
the main points of the affair, including how secret wiretaps recorded
in 2007 revealed apparently highly-inappropriate conversations between
ex-Prague Mayor Pavel Bem and powerful lobbyist Roman Janousek. The
scandal broke in Prague last week after bits from the tape were
transcribed and published by the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes.
Discussed in the tapes were sales of city and state property as well as
office appointments, suggesting the measure of influence Mr Janousek
had during Mr Bem's mayoral term.

The Economist also notes the use of the expletives, bizarre coded
language, and nicknames by the former mayor and lobbyist and points out
that neither of the two had disputed the tapes' authenticity. The
weekly and others suggest that the scandal could strongly harm the
Civic Democrats, of which Mr Bem is a member. The former mayor has
suspended his membership until he clears his name. The case is
currently under investigation.

News agency: PM turns down meeting request

In related news, former mayor and Civic Democrat MP Pavel Bem
reportedly asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Petr Necas next week
and was refused, the Czech news agency, CTK, said. According to the
press agency, Mr Bem wanted to discuss his support for the government.
The prime minister, though, declined the meeting by saying he had
already spoken to the ex-mayor on Monday, adding there was little more
to discuss. Mr Bem, once considered the "crown prince" of the Civic
Democratic Party, as well as a long-time protege of its founder,
President Vaclav Klaus, was earlier called on by the prime minister to
give up his mandate in the Chamber of Deputies, which Mr Bem has
refused to do.

Social Democrats slam government over Bem and Janousek

The opposition Social Democratic party has slammed the government in
connection with the recent scandals, calling on MP and embattled former
Prague mayor Pavel Bem, the head of Public Affairs Radek John and
Interior Minister Jan Kubice to leave politics. The head of the leftist
party Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday charged that the steps were needed to
improve the political culture in the country. Regarding specifics,
opposition party leader said explanations on how wiretaps were leaked
from BIS in the Bem-Janousek affair were needed, adding - in his view -
that Prime Minister Necas was not taking strong enough steps. Mr
Sobotka also charged that both Mr John and Mr Kubice had ties to
lobbyist Janousek, Mr John reportedly having worked at one point for
one of his companies, and the interior minister through a family
connection. Earlier this week, Mr Kubice said he would not step down
over the manner in which police handled Mr Janousek's arrest last week
after he fled the scene of a drunk driving accident, saying he would in
no way influence the investigation.

Court says no to travel ban

The Prague 4 district court has rejected an appeal by the state
attorney's office for lobbyist Roman Janousek - charged with grievous
bodily harm and endangering others while under the influence of alcohol
in a car accident last week - to be banned from travelling abroad.
Prosecutor Jitka Rybenska told the Czech news agency on Friday that the
papers were filed at the beginning of the week; a day later, however,
the court denied the request. A spokesman for the court would not
elaborate. In related news, the woman who was seriously injured when
the suspect hit her with his car, a Porsche Cayenee, last Friday is in
better condition. The spokeswoman for Motol Hospital has said that she
will be released from hospital next week.

News site: Forty-two year-old schizophrenic man shot and killed after
attacking police

A 42-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia was shot and killed
at his father's home in Otrokovice, South Moravia, on Thursday after
police responded to a neighbour's call about possible violence.
According to idnes, a police patrol responded at around 7 pm getting
the parent out of the apartment before the son, who suffered from heavy
schizophrenia, barricaded himself inside one of the rooms. When the
police entered, the man attacked them with an axe. He was shot at close
range; an attempt to resuscitate him proved futile. After the incident,
both the police and the man's father had to receive trauma counselling.
The General Inspection of the Security Services is investigating the

Tennis: Stepanek and Paes make it to Miami Masters doubles final

Czech tennis player Radek Stepanek and his doubles partner Laender Paes
have advanced to the title round at the Miami Masters. The duo defeated
the top-seeded Bryan brothers of the US in the semi-finals by a score
of 6:4, 6:4, and got all the way through the tournament without
dropping a single set. They will face Canada's Daniel Nestor and
Belarus' Max Mirnyi for the championship.

NHL action: Jagr gets three assists

Only a few games remain in the NHL regular season but a number of Czech
players made their mark on Thursday, including Jaromir Jagr, who earned
three assists for the Philadelphia. The Flyers defeated the Toronto
Maple Leafs by a lopsided 7:1. Philadelphia have already clinched a
place in the Stanley Cup playoffs and are currently fifth in the
Eastern Conference. Toronto, by comparison are well out of contention
(fans at the stadium for the game even began a 'Let's go Blue Jays!'
chant at one point - referring to the city's baseball team). On
Thursday Czechs earned assists or scored in seven games.

World Championship figure skating: Brezina 2nd after short skate

Twenty-two-year-old Czech figure skater Michal Brezina completed a
stunning performance at the world championships in Nice, France, and is
in second place following the completion of the men's short program.
The skater scored 87.67 points (the sixth-best finish in the men's
short program ever, idnes noted). He finished behind Canada's Patrick
Chan who had 89.41. 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan
scored 85.72 and is third.


Overcast conditions and showers are expected into the weekend; daytime
temperatures are expected to reach highs of around 9 degrees Celsius.

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