The new American Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Richard Graber, has arrived in Prague. A forty-nine year old lawyer, Mr. Graber studied at Boston University. He has appeared as a commentator on the popular US news show Larry King Live, and prior to his diplomatic appointment Richard Graber led the Republican Party in Wisconsin and acted as spokesman for President George Bush during the election campaign of 2004. Mr. Graber succeeds William Cabaniss as the US Ambassador in Prague.
Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova have won the women's doubles at the
WTA tournament in Portoroz, Slovenia. The victory came effortlessly as
a member of the opposing team, Emilie Loit of France, had to withdraw
from the final after injuring her wrist in the semifinal match.
Meanwhile, the Czech national team has earned a place in the Davis Cup rankings thanks to a dramatic match played in the Netherlands. Victorious in a key men's doubles match, Czech players Tomas Berdych and Martin Damm defeated the Dutch duo of Peter Wessels and Rogier Wassen in 3:1 sets, 6:7 (4:7), 5:7, 7:6 (7:2), 6:7 (4:7).
In an interview for the Saturday edition of Prazsky Denik, former Social Democratic prime minister Milos Zeman says that he will not support the current Social Democratic leader, Jiri Paroubek, at the next party congress due to be held in spring 2007. Mr. Zeman says he made the decision to withhold his support for the party's current leader after Mr. Paroubek addressed him harshly on Thursday, saying that Mr. Zeman should behave as a regular member of the Social Democratic Party, and refrain from receiving other leading politicians as guests at his home. Tensions flared after news of the current Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty's visit to Mr. Zeman earlier this week Mr. Zeman, who lent his support to Jiri Paroubek in the spring general election campaign, says that he will no longer assist the Social Democratic Party—a party he helped build in the 1990s.
Tomas Butta has been elected as the new patriarch of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. Mr. Butta won the requisite number of votes in the first round, with 375 of 557 in his favour. The new patriarch will be sworn in at a ceremony on September 28 in Prague's St. Michael's Church on the Old Town Square. Tomas Butta was born in 1958 in Prague and became a priest of the Hussite Church in 1984. The Czechoslovak Hussite Church is the third largest religious institution in the Czech Republic, with about 100 000 members.
During the course of this weekend, the presidential residence of Lany near Prague is opening its doors to the public. The Prague Castle administration decided on the open door event to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the purchase of the Lany chateaux, which is the official residence of the head of state. During the course of the past 50 years, the baroque chateaux has only been opened for public viewing twice, during the months of March and September 2000.
The Czech capital, Prague, is under a high-alert security watch. At an
extraordinary overnight session that began at 23:00 on Friday night, the
Czech cabinet decided to increase security measures in the capital
city—effective immediately—because of a possible terrorist threat.
Prague's Ruzyne airport has implemented what are being described as
"massive security measures," though no flights have been
cancelled. The city centre and other possible targets are also being
patrolled by additional specialized police units, and the police chief
says that there is no need to call for the army's assistance at this time.
On Saturday morning, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said that it is
the first time that the Czech Republic faces such a concrete threat.
Shortly after the measures were announced, a bomb threat was called in that resulted in the closure of Prague's metro line 'C' for about an hour. No explosive was found.
The daily Pravo's on-line service, Novinky, writes that the terrorist threat is related to the Jewish New Year, and that Prague's Jewish district of Josefov likely faces the most serious threat. Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that he would neither deny nor confirm the reports. Authorities have said that the situation in the Czech capital is connected to Friday's developments in Norway, where four men were arrested and police are said to have uncovered a terrorist plot to bomb the Israeli and American embassies in Norway.
Svatopluk Karasek has been dismissed as the government's human rights commissioner. In an interview for the daily Pravo, Mr. Karasek said that he was dismissed without reason, and the paper notes that the Civic Democratic cabinet did not make the information public at its regular press conference following the Wednesday decision. Reacting to the news at a press conference on Saturday, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said that while he and Mr. Karasek did not always get along and are not men of the same blood, Mr. Karasek did his job well since being appointed in November 2004. Mr. Karasek has been replaced by former Civic Democratic MP Jan Litomisky.
Police in Prague were involved in a dramatic car chase in the Czech capital late Thursday. The chase at close to midnight put police on the tail of a stolen Peugeot, driven by a 17-year-old car thief. The suspect purposely drove into the opposing lane - into on-coming traffic - to try and lose his pursuers. He was said to be going at 150 kilometres an hour. According to reports, police shot and hit the car's tires a number of times, but the chase ended when the stolen car hit another vehicle. The suspect suffered light injuries.
The foreign ministers of the Visegrad Four and the Baltic states have agreed to join forces in an effort to achieve a visa-free regime for travelling to the United States. At the instigation of Czech Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra they agreed in New York City on Thursday to form a so-called "Coalition for Visa Equality" within which they will coordinate future steps. Of the newest EU member countries, only Slovenian citizens are exempt from visas when travelling to the US.
The majority of members of the editorial staff at the Czech weekly
"Respekt" have handed in their notice in protest of proposed changes at
the weekly. The step was taken on Thursday. According to one source the
daily has lost some 80 - 90 percent of its writers. Milos Cermak,
strategic director at the paper, was brought in to introduce changes to
try and turn around the weekly's flagging fortunes: for four years now
the daily has operated at a loss. Mr Cermak told the Internet server
idnes.cz he didn't understand the rationale behind the staff's
decision, saying he had given guarantees that coming changes would not
affect "continuity" of authorship, nor change the target readership.
Respekt was one of the first weeklies to emerge following the Velvet Revolution: it has roots in the samizdat - "illegal" writing published clandestinely in Communist Czechoslovakia prior to November 1989.