Thursday, August 16, 2012

News 8.16.2012

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

News Thursday, August 16th, 2012

By: Dominik Jun

* Senate rejects government plan for VAT hike.

* Unstable Motol children's hospital wing won't necessitate evacuation
of site, says initial report by structural engineers.

* David Rath faces new allegations of siphoning public funds to
advisers linked to fraud scandal.

* The sacked head of the Prague Public Transit Company accuses his
board of bowing to political pressure while Prague's mayor expresses
anger over the decision.

* The Czech Senate has rejected a controversial church property
restitution bill.

Senate rejects government plan for VAT hike

On late Thursday evening, the Czech upper house voted to reject a key
component of the government's fiscal consolidation package - a
controversial rise in VAT tax rates from 15 to 21 percent. The
opposition Social Democrats hold 41 seats in the 81 seat senate.
Despite an in-person appeal by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek
urging the upper chamber to pass the plan, 50 out of 72 senators
present voted "no" including one member of the leading coalition party,
Civic Democrat senator Jaroslav Kubera. The assembled representatives
were forced to vote twice after a technical glitch annulled the first
attempt. In order to overturn the Senate's decision, the lower house
will now have to find 101 votes in favour of the measure. The Social
Democrats have opposed higher VAT rates on the grounds that they will
harm the economy, which is currently in recession, with GDP contracting
by 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012.

Structural engineers: Motol children's hospital won't require evacuation

According to a report issued on Thursday by structural engineers
examining the children's section of Prague's Motol hospital, the
facility will not require evacuation to address structural concerns.
The B wing of the hospital, built in 1964, was found to be unstable
during ongoing reconstruction work after it was discovered that the
building had moved by as much as ten centimetres in one month.
Reconstruction efforts were halted as a result as experts moved in to
assess the site. The children's facility, which is one of Europe's
largest children's hospitals, was opened last June after a major
reconstruction which cost 4.4 billion crowns. 212 children are
currently housed at neighbouring wings - the B wing, however, remains
empty and in need of repair. Accumulations of sub-surface ground water
are believed to be behind the instability. Experts will decide next
week whether to resume reconstruction efforts.

David Rath faces new allegations of shady conduct

Former Central Bohemian governor David Rath, currently remanded in
prison on charges of corruption, faced new revelations on Thursday
related to alleged misconduct. According to a report published by
Hospodarske Noviny, Rath used public funds in his region to pay
external advisers a total of 5.63 million crowns. Three advisers on the
list are reportedly also reportedly involved in an alleged scheme to
defraud hospitals via manipulated contracts for equipment - Rath is one
of the accused in this case. According to the report, the three figures
are Patrik Tomsu, spokesperson for Central Bohemia's hospitals - paid
1.35 million and lawyers Jan Mach and Ales Burianek - paid around 1.3
million each and both also serving on the boards of several local
hospitals. Mr. Rath, who was arrested in May on suspicion of taking
bribes related to fraudulent activities, has denied any wrongdoing.

Under fire DPP head accuses board of bowing to political interference

The sacked head of the Prague Public Transit Company, or DPP, which
manages the city's transport network, has accused politicians of trying
to interfere in the way it is managed. Vladimir Lich was unexpectedly
sacked from his post as chairman of the board of directors on Wednesday
and made the comments in an interview with Mlada Front Dnes on
Thursday. The DPP held an extraordinary General Meeting the same day to
discuss the future of Lich, deciding to also strip him of his post as
managing director. Lich was targeted after filing lawsuits targeting
former tenders signed by the DPP, arguing that they may have been
closed on unfavourable terms to the company. The board voted for
Wednesday's removal in an 8-15 decision with two Civic Democrats and
five members of TOP09 as well as one independent member supporting the
move. The Thursday sacking came via a 3-5 vote. The board's members
have denied there is a connection between Lich's actions and the
firing. Reacting to the dismissal, Prague's mayor Bohuslav Sobotka
described it as an attack on principles and pledged to try to reform
the existing DPP board, replacing those who had voted in favour of
removing Lich. Former manager Magdalena Ceskova has been named as
Lich's replacement.

Wanted Czech extortionist arrested in Ireland

Arnost Herman, a 47-year-old Czech citizen wanted in the Czech Republic
for fleeing the country before completing a prison sentence for
extortion and violent assault has been apprehended in Ireland. Herman
was sentenced to six years by a court in Hradec Kralove in 2010; he was
accused of belonging to an armed gang who loaned money to businesses
before resorting to violent methods to secure repayments with
exorbitant rates of interest between 2002 and 2008. After fleeing the
country, the Czech Republic issued a European Arrest Warrant, seeking
his extradition if apprehended by a fellow European nation. Herman was
arrested on Monday in County Roscommon in the north of the Republic of
Ireland, according to local police. His lawyer has reportedly applied
for bail.

Czech Film Week to showcase nation's cinema in Israel

Czech cinema is to be celebrated in Israel from August 19 to September
8 via Czech Film Week. Screenings will take place across the country in
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rosh Pina, Sderot and Holon. Both old
classics such as "Loves of a Blonde" (1965) and "Closely Watched
Trains" (1966) as well as newer films such as 2011's "Long Live the
Family" will be screened. The producer of the latter, Radim Prochazka,
will be in attendance at the festival. The event is co-sponsored by The
Czech Center in Tel Aviv and the Czech Embassy.

Social Democrat presidential candidate expresses support for gay
adoption and registered partnerships

Jiri Dienstbier, the Social Democratic candidate for the 2013
presidential elections, has expressed his support for new laws to
permit gay couples to both enter into registered partnerships and adopt
children in the Czech Republic. Discussing his position, Dienstbier
stated that he believed that no institute could supplant an upbringing
provided to a child by a stable couple. Recent opinion polls have
Dientsbier achieving around 6% support while independent candidate Jan
Fischer leads the pack with 34.5%, according to the Meridian agency.

Sharp rise in petrol prices

Fuel prices have risen sharply in the last week with the most popular
type, called "Natural 95", increasing in average price by 58 halers to
37.40 crowns per litre. Other fuels such as diesel have also seen a
similar trend. In Prague, prices have risen to as high as 38.2 crowns
for "Natural 95", while the Ustecky region has the lowest prices in the
country, around two and a half crowns cheaper per litre. The rises
reflect increasing crude oil prices on the global market - the Czech
Republic has seen a consistent rise in fuel prices since mid-July and
an overall trend of rising prices since January 2009.

Senate rejects church property restitution bill

The Czech Senate on Wednesday rejected a controversial church property
restitution bill that would give the Catholic Church and other
religious groups some 135 billion crowns worth of property, most of it
as financial compensation, in return for possessions confiscated by the
communist regime in the 1950s. The upper house, controlled by the
opposition Social Democrats and Communists, rejected the bill with 43
votes out of 77 present. The opposition sees the legislation as unfair,
and claims it would return more property than originally taken away.
The bill will now return to the lower house; Prime Minister Petr Necas
on Wednesday expressed confidence that coalition MPs will find the 101
votes to overturn the Senate veto.

Czech Helsinki Committee finds eighth of job ads discriminatory

The Czech Helsinki Committee, an NGO focusing on human rights, has
found that an eighth of Czech advertisements for job applications that
it sampled were discriminatory. The organisation looked at ads placed
on the popular jobs website and found that many, thanks to the
Czech linguistic way of adding genders to names - such as "asistent"
for a man and "asistentka" for a woman - were directly excluding
members of the opposite sex. The analysis also found numerous cases of
age discrimination in ads. Additionally, the Committee also found that
around five percent of ads for housing contained subtle mechanisms to
exclude minorities or foreigners. In total, 12,000 advertisements were
examined in the study.

Largest Czech flower show opens in Olomouc

The Czech Republic's largest summer flower show has opened in the
Moravian city of Olomouc. The annual affair, called Flora, displays
hundreds of flowers and herbs to visitors from across the country. The
event is held at the Flora Olomouc Exhibition Grounds and also
highlights newly cultivated flowers. Last year, Flora attracted an
estimated 37,000 guests, with its spring show attracting 65,000. The
event will last until Sunday.


Partially overcast weather is expected with some showers in the east
and clearer skies in the west. Temperatures will be in the 27 degrees
Celsius range and are forecast to increase steadily through to next

Articles posted on today
Senate torpedoes church restitution bill

After hours of debate the opposition-controlled Senate on Wednesday
rejected a controversial bill on the restitution of church property.
Under the legislation the state would secure the transfer of part of
the land and property seized by the communist regime in the 1950s and
pay tens of billions of crowns in compensation for the rest. The bill's
opponents have questioned the scope of the restitution -amounting to
135 billion crowns -saying it is inflated and arguing that the country
can ill afford such generosity at a time of tax hikes and cost cuts.
Spy games turn real as eavesdropping technology spreads

When is the last time you used your mobile phone? Did you say anything
important? Are you sure no one else was listening? There are rising
concerns in the Czech Republic about the increasingly common use of
devices that can intercept your daily mobile communication. Masha
Volynsky has more.
Czech branch of Doctors without Borders: five years of rewarding work

The Czech branch of Doctors without Borders was established in 2006 and
has grown rapidly in the five years of its existence. In 2011 it sent
volunteers to 48 missions in twenty-one countries, not only doctors,
but nurses and logistic staff both from the Czech Republic and
Slovakia. I spoke to its director Pavel Gruber about its early
beginnings and present challenges.

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