The American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is set to visit Prague in early July to sign a Czech-American agreement on siting a US tracking radar on Czech soil, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg announced on Wednesday. Mrs Rice was originally scheduled to arrive in Prague in May but her visit was postponed. Even after the deal is signed, the treaty will still need to be approved by the Czech Parliament and signed by President Václav Klaus. Mr Schwarzenberg has been elected to sign the treaty on behalf of the Czech Republic
The Czech crown set a new record of 24.36 against the euro on Wednesday morning. Finance analysts say the Czech currency may strengthen all the way to 24.30 crowns per euro. The crown has climbed steadily against both the euro and US dollar in recent months. It is currently more than 14 percent stronger than a year ago.
Petr Zelenka, a male nurse who was sentenced to life imprisonment for a series of murders, has lost his appeal. The High Court in Prague on Wednesday upheld the verdict issued by the regional court in Hradec Králové earlier this year. Mr Zelenka committed seven murders and attempted another ten between May and October 2006 by administering lethal doses of the blood-thinning drug heparin to his patients. Experts confirmed that Mr Zelenka is sane and fully responsible for his actions.
The Czech branch of Greenpeace plans to sue the military police in case it doesn’t return things confiscated from the Greenpeace activists who were evicted on Monday from their camp in the Brdy military area. The activists occupied the site for more than six weeks in protest of the planned US radar base which is to be built there. The head of Czech Greenpeace Jiří Tutter values the seized property at hundreds of thousands crowns. The military police spokesman said they were willing to return them if the Greenpeace activists prove to be the owners.
Insurance fraud in the Czech Republic has risen by 50% in the first quarter of this year. The Czech Association of Insurance Companies says that one in five insurance claims is fraudulent. The most common type of fraud concerns car insurance and property damage claims. At the same time, insurance companies claim that they are more successful in fighting against this type of crime.
The State Institute for Drug Control has started comparing the price of medicines in the Czech Republic with those in other EU countries in order to set health insurers' reimbursements according to the lowest EU rate and push Czech pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices. The change is expected to affect mainly patients suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease or depression who will end up paying more in pharmacies. Insurance companies say the money saved will be used to subsidise more expensive drugs.
Prague City Hall councillors have approved several changes to the new parking system, including a new 10-hour parking card for visitors as well as relief from parking fees for family members taking care of elderly or handicapped relatives. The proposal has yet to get City Hall's full backing. Prague has recently introduced paid parking zones in some of its districts in order to discourage people from driving to the city centre.
The Czech Academy of Sciences has launched a pilot project of a digital mathematics library. The library is set to become part of a network of digital libraries all over the world in the future. The website is mainly designated for students and researches, but it will also be accessible to the public and its use will be free of charge.
Organisers have reported that American actor Robert De Niro – a two-time Academy Award winner - will be attending this year’s Karlovy Vary Film festival, held in early July. The prominent actor will receive the Crystal Globe for outstanding contribution to world cinema. Robert De Niro will be opening the festival with his most recent film, What Just Happened, premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The cabinet has approved the issuing of a valuable tender to clean up environmental damage caused by former state-owned companies, according to press reports on Tuesday. The contract, which will go to one company, could be worth up to CZK 115 billion – over USD 7 billion. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek admitted awarding the huge tender to one firm involved the risk of corruption. But he said the fact it would receive so much attention lessened that danger. Minister Kalousek said a one-contract approach was necessary, as otherwise the Czech Republic would not succeed in repairing environmental damage by 2015 and would face sanctions.
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