The Czech Defense Ministry has confirmed that it is planning to sell its military airport near the west Bohemian town of Plzeń without a public tender. The airport is to be sold to its current tenant –the firm PlayStation Plzen –by the end of the year. The firm’s director Michal Čermák said he planned to turn it into an international airport and logistics centre. The price of the property and assets is estimated at several hundred million crowns. The Defense Ministry has come under fire for not holding a public tender on such a significant sale.
A former political prisoner has said his communist jailers used physical violence and drugs to get the admissions they wanted. Jan Janku, 88, who was jailed in the hardline 1950s, told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes that the investigator on his case beat him senseless, knocking out some of his teeth in the process, and when he failed to force from his the admission he wanted he gave him cherries injected with a drug that resulted in hallucinations, insomnia and headaches. Although historians suspected former communist prisoners were being given drugs, none of them ever publicly confirmed this to date.
The head of Prague’s Troja Zoo Petr Fejk has confirmed that he is being considered for the post of director of the Bohemian National Hall in New York. The hall, built in the late 19th century by Czech immigrants, re-opened last year following a major re-construction and will once again serve as an important social centre, housing the Czech Centre and other Czech institutions in New York. Mr. Fejk said that assuming he got the job his role would be that of a manager and he would represent the Czech Republic on a cultural and social level. Petr Fejk has served as director of the Prague Zoo for eleven years during which it underwent a major transformation and is now rated the seventh best zoo in the world.
The adoption of up to 30 bills that should bring Czech legislation in line with EU directives will be delayed due to the early general elections scheduled for October 9-10, the CTK news agency reports. All bills that the current parliament will fail to pass by then, will fall through and will have to be submitted again to the new government and the new Chamber of Deputies. As a result, the adoption of these bills could be delayed by up to half a year. One of the bills the Czech Republic is to pass on the basis of an EU agreement, is the proposed reduction of VAT from 19 to 9 percent for certain services such as hairdressers, shoe repairers and restaurants. The lower house has approved the bill in the first reading, with two more still to come.
Prague hospitals have issued a call for individuals to donate blood as soon as possible, since mid-way through the summer supplies are running thin. In the summer, blood shortages often occur because individual donations decrease, along with the number of organizations that are able to sponsor blood drives, Czech Radio among them. Donors of all blood types are welcome, but there is an urgent need for type A positive, A negative and O negative blood donors. In view of the swine flu people returning from abroad have been asked to wait a week before donating blood.
Czech jazz singer Eva Pilarová turned 70 on Sunday, with a concert that marks close to half a century on stage. Four times winner of the Golden Nightingale award Pilarová has performed just about every genre and recorded dozens of solo albums, favouring jazz and swing. She was a member of the famous Semafor and Rokoko theatres and in the course of her long career has sung with the likes of Jiří Suchý and Jiri Šlitr, Waldemar Matuška and Karel Gott.
A thirty-two-year-old woman from the town on Havířov, Moravia, has admitted to murdering her friend for money. The woman broke down when faced with the weight of the evidence against her, saying she had stabbed her forty-six-year-old friend repeatedly in the heat of a row over money and left her to bleed to death. She was arrested just hours after the attack when she turned up at a hospital to have her own wounds attended to.
Romany groups from central Europe have established a new umbrella organization to help fight growing extremism. The organization, named Association of Romany Civic Initiatives of Europe, was established at a Romany conference in Mělník this weekend. It currently comprises 19 groups and is chaired by Ivan Veselý, head of the Dženo group. Mr. Vesely said that Czech and Slovak Romanies had agreed to form a support network against neo-Nazis, for instance by demonstrating together in trouble-sports. He said that Czech and Slovak Romanies could also travel to Hungary to support the Roma minority there. The Mělník conference also focused on problems relating to emerging Romany ghettos, unemployment and education.
The latest scandal surrounding Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek has sparked a debate on whether certain restrictions should be placed on the work activities of former intelligence officers. Mr. Topolánek was secretly filmed while on holiday, in the act of meeting with lobbyists and business leaders and it has now emerged that the photographs, which were leaked to the press, were taken by former intelligence officers. This has resulted in accusations that politicians use former intelligence officers for their own political ends. Czech law does not restrict former officers in their work activities but according to David Ondračka, head of the Czech branch of Transparency International some restrictions would be reasonable.