News

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Search continues for missing plane in Cambodia

Bad weather and difficult terrain are hampering the search for 22 people, including three Czechs, who were traveling on a plane that is believed to have crashed in southern Cambodia on Monday. The Russian-made plane disappeared from radar screens while traveling over a mountain area just 30 miles from its destination. More than 1,000 rescue workers have been scouring the dense forests in the region with only vague eyewitness accounts to guide them. The local authorities say they have little hope of finding anyone alive.

The Czech Foreign Ministry on Tuesday confirmed that three Czechs - two men and a woman, aged 19 to 21- boarded the plane, but has not released any further information about their identity.

Poll indicates high degree of corruption

More than three quarters of Czech firms say they have experienced corruption within their business activities, according to a survey carried out by the business daily Hospodarske Noviny. Half of the respondents said they would pay a bribe if it secured new orders for them. Four out of ten entrepreneurs polled confessed to having given a bribe on at least one occasion to further their company's interests. Earlier this year the Czech Justice Ministry unveiled a broad anti-corruption plan including an amendment to the penal code which would introduce tougher punishment for both offering and accepting a bribe, as well as for failing to report a serious case of bribery. The ministry's anti-corruption plan likewise envisages special training for judges, the establishment of special anti-corruption "panels" and anti corruption agents and a special hot line for anyone who wants to report a case.

Decision on Cunek's bribery case to be made in August

The investigation of the corruption case involving Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek will be completed sometime in August, according to Arif Salichov, the state attorney who recently took over the case. The state attorney said he would ask for new evidence, review all the given testimonies and hear a number of new witnesses before making up his mind whether to file charges against Mr. Cunek. The police have accused the deputy prime minister of accepting a half a million crown bribe while he was mayor of the town of Vsetin, north Moravia in 2002.

The case has rocked Czech politics for the past six months, with the deputy prime minister disregarding calls for his resignation and insisting that he is innocent of any wrong doing. The case even provoked a motion of no-confidence in the centre right government last week, which it survived. Prime Minister Topolanek has said he would dismiss Jiri Cunek only if corruption charges were filed against him.

President signs bill on establishing institute for study of totalitarian regimes

President Klaus has signed a bill proposing the establishment of an institute for the study of totalitarian regimes. The institution, to be created before the end of the year, is to examine the Communist and Nazi eras. It is expected to collect, analyze and make accessible to the public documents relating to the totalitarian periods of the country's history. The establishment of the institute was vehemently opposed by left wing politicians, who claimed it would be a waste of tax-payer's money and would make it possible to politically influence the interpretation of history.

Czech Doctors' Chamber rejects proposed health reform package

The Czech Doctors' Chamber on Tuesday rejected Health Minister Tomas Julinek's health reform package saying that it did not address existing problems and would harm both patients and doctors. The package was criticized as being "cost-saving oriented" and doctors slammed the idea of having to collect fees from patients themselves. The chamber also criticized the fact that the state did not plan to increase health insurance payments for children, pensioners and the unemployed in the next two years.

Row over privatization of hospitals may reach EC

A row over the privatization of ten health care facilities in central Bohemia may reach the European Commission. The opposition Social Democrats say they are prepared to file a complaint with the European Commission unless the sales are halted. The party mainly objects to the price for which the hospitals are being sold calling it daylight robbery. Under the agreements reached the region will receive 466 million crowns for the hospitals but the leading opposition party maintains that their value is an estimated 1.2 billion crowns. Richard Dolejs, head of the party's central Bohemian branch says the region gave preferential treatment to selected business entities which is at variance with European law.

Health Minister Julinek dismisses Prague's chief hygiene officer

Health Minister Tomas Julinek on Tuesday dismissed Prague's chief hygiene officer Vladimir Polanecky and Zlin's hygiene officer Olga Groschlova, citing poor management. Mr. Polanecky countered that his sacking was a political decision, based on the fact that he is a member of the opposition Social Democrats. A spokesman for the Health Ministry said that an in-depth audit would be made in both institutions.

Border towns fear illegal waste imports could worsen after Schengen expansion

The planned enlargement of the Schengen border free zone on January 1st of 2008 has evoked concerns on both sides of the Czech-Austrian border, says Tuesday's edition of Lidove Noviny. While Austria fears growing crime, the mayors of some Czech border municipalities are afraid of the growing amount of illegal imports of foreign waste. Villages in the vicinity of Kaplice now have to dispose of tons of waste in the nearby forests and along the roads that are evidently brought there by Austrian tourists, the paper says. On the other hand, the mayors welcome the introduction of joint Czech-Austrian police patrols within which Austrian policemen can operate in Czech border regions and vice-versa.

Suicide-attempt turns into manslaughter

A Prague court has sent a man who killed one person and seriously injured another in an alleged attempt to commit suicide to three years in jail. He has also been banned from driving for a period of ten years. The verdict was manslaughter although initially Tomas Kosar was suspected of murder. On the fatal day Kosar first swallowed some pills and then got into his car and drove it into an oncoming vehicle on the road. The woman driving it died and another passenger was seriously injured. The state attorney pointed out that someone who wanted to commit suicide would have driven the car into a tree or over a cliff without the risk of harming others in the process, but he had no evidence to support the theory that Kosar had selected a specific car with the intention of killing or harming its driver.

Weather

A cold front moving across central Europe is expected to bring overcast skies and rain over the next few days with day temperatures between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius. A gradual improvement is expected at the close of the week.