Czech transport unions have called a day-long nationwide strike on Monday expected to paralyze public transport in Prague, Brno and other cities and towns. The country’s railways will also be affected. No trains, busses, or trams in the capital are expected to run. Blockades have also been planned on the D1 motorway and other major routes. The announcement on Friday followed a last-minute meeting between the unions and the finance minister a day earlier. The strike is aimed against the government’s reforms, including changes to health care and an overhaul of the country’s pension system. It is not clear how many union members will take part. It is set to begin in the early hours of Monday.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas, meanwhile, responded to the unions on Friday by saying the government will not budge in the face of protests which he said took citizens hostage. He did say the government was prepared to discuss some parameters of the reforms. In a statement released by the Office of the President, President Václav Klaus also criticised the move by the unions, calling it “political blackmail”.
In related news, the country’s police have made clear they will be out in force on Monday to try and maintain the flow of traffic despite plans by the miner’s union – which is joining the strike – to block key motorways and inter-city routes. The police will also try and maintain order if situations become heated. Because Monday is a regular work day the force has said it will begin implementing necessary steps a day earlier. Sunday regularly sees heightened traffic as weekenders return home. During the strike, the police will be relying on the force’s helicopters to also help monitor developments.
A thirty-member medical team led by Czech-born surgeon Bohdan Pomahač has successfully performed the third full face transplant at Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital. The Associated Press reported that the latest transplant involved Connecticut resident Charla Nash who was blinded and heavily injured two years ago in a frenzied attack by a friend’s chimpanzee. The team also performed a double hand transplant but that was not successful. A family spokesman said that Mrs Nash developed a number of health problems following surgery and only recently recovered consciousness. Mrs Nash’s brother told AP that she looked “fantastic” regarding the transplant itself. The first full face transplant at the facility, also led by Dr. Pomahač, was conducted in March of this year on 25-year-old Dallas Weins.
Czech soldiers back from Afghanistan received honours from Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra on Friday, the same day a funeral was held for their fallen colleague, Robert Vyroubal, killed recently in the province of Wardak by a roadside bomb. Soldiers on the square in Lipník nad Bečvou, who served in a helicopter unit in the conflict-stricken country, held a minute of silence in their colleague’s memory. The defence minister described the difficulties of serving in Afghanistan, saying the Czech Republic had been lucky to avoid similar losses in recent years.
Members of the Communist Party have slammed proposed legislation recognising resistance fighters who fought against the totalitarian regime that ruled Czechoslovakia for more than 40 years. The bill is in a second reading in the lower house of Parliament. Communist MP Marta Semelová charged the bill was an attempt to distract attention from more what she called more pressing matters, while deputy party leader Stanislav Grospič said the government aimed to glorify its heroes, while taxpayers fronted the bill. Under the proposal, members of the third resistance will receive the status of war veterans and receive compensation accordingly.
The head of the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority, Jakub Šebesta, has strongly criticised Germany for how it handled information in the E.coli outbreak that killed 30 people and left some 2,000 ill. In an interview for the Czech news agency Mr Šebesta stressed that the German authorities made mistakes by stating that cucumbers imported from Spain were responsible, a claim which did not hold up in laboratory testing. According to the Czech inspection head the crisis which ensued, in which consumers have shied away from buying fresh produce, will heavily impact sales this year across the EU. He also stressed that 100 samples tested in the Czech Republic had all proven negative. On Friday, news sites reported that new evidence most likely tied the deadly E.coli outbreak to bean sprouts produced in Germany.
By contrast, a poll conducted by Medea Research released on Friday has suggested that the majority of Czechs are not afraid they might be affected by the E.coli outbreak in neighbouring Germany. Around 66 percent told pollsters as much, while 27 percent said the opposite. According to the poll, seventy-percent of those buying fresh produce do so at large-scale supermarkets; 14 percent buy at smaller grocery stores. To date there has been only one confirmed case of E.coli in the Czech Republic: an American national who had recently visited Germany.
Police have charged two male suspects, aged 29 and 56, with the theft of a 60 kilogram bronze bell from a chapel in the Karlovy Vary region. The theft occurred on Thursday evening. Damages incurred are worth 45 thousand crowns a police spokesman said. A similar theft was also thwarted in Božinčany, when police arrested a 30-year-old for the theft of a 16 kilogram metal item inscribed the symbol of the Olympic Games.
The Italian opera diva Cecilia Bartoli reportedly captivated her audience on Thursday in her first performance in the Czech capital. As part of her brief tour of Europe, the acclaimed mezzo-soprano performed several arias by the Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, to the sold-out Rudolfinum concert hall. One critic likened Ms Bartoli’s performance to the “dance of the butterfly”. The Italian singer was accompanied by the French Ensemble Matheus, conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi. Ms Bartoli is set to sing in Prague again in October.
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