The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, has welcomed the selection of two politicians to fill new high level posts in the European Union. Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy will be the first president of the European Council, while Catherine Ashton of the UK becomes the bloc’s foreign policy chief. Mr Fischer said both names suited Prague, adding that they had the skills to do well in the positions. He said he felt close to Mr Van Rompuy, who like him, is an economist by training.
Swine flu has claimed the life of a fourth victim in the Czech Republic. Hospital officials in the West Bohemian town of Karlovy Vary said that a 56-year-old man had succumbed to a generally poor state of health, complicated by the H1N1 virus. Another three patients with the illness are currently hospitalised; two of them are in critical condition. The four deaths in the Czech Republic in which swine flu was a contributing factor have all occurred over the last month. Karlovy Vary is one of the regions with the highest incidence of swine flu cases in the Czech Republic.
A woman who helped her husband escape from prison by attacking his police escort, has been taken into custody even as she recovers from gunshot wounds in hospital. In the case the media has dubbed the “Czech Bonnie and Clyde”, 28-year-old Dagmar Tauchenová opened fire on prison guards escorting the prisoner to a nearby hospital. Mr Tauchen had been sentenced to five years for safe-cracking and committed suicide when police caught up with them on the run. Ms Tauchenová is incapacitated after being shot in the lung as she tried to get away. The fact that she will now be moved to a high-security hospital underscores the gravity with which the judicial system views her offences, for which she faces eight years imprisonment.
Czech’s interest in politics has reportedly declined considerably over the last 18 years, according to a study published on Friday by sociologists from Brno’s Masaryk University and the agency SC&C. The study suggests that while 80% of people followed politics daily or several times a week ten years ago, only half that number do so today. The declining interest in politics is moreover shared across age groups and education levels. While the vast majority of people rate democracy as at least a “relatively good” way of running the country, that number dropped from 92% in 1999 to 80% in 2008. The poll was conducted among 2,000 people in the years 1991, 1999, and 2008.
A homeless man in Tachov, near the western German border, who was sleeping in a paper rubbish container is dead after collectors inadvertently dumped him into the compactor. The refuse collectors only realised what was happening when they heard the man scream from inside the compactor and were unable to stop the machine in time. The victim was 25 years old.
The Žižkov Television Tower, the tallest structure in Prague, has come in second place in an online poll ranking the ugliest buildings in the world. The poll was conducted by the website VirtualTourist.com. According to the patrons of the popular website, the only uglier building on the planet is the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore, USA. The 216-metre tower, which is often compared to a rocket launch pad, has stirred controversy since its completion in 1992. In the year 2000 a number of enormous black babies created by the artist David Černý were added to the building’s façade as a temporary art project and were later kept by popular demand.
A new charter airline, Eurovia Air, plans to operate in the Czech Republic. According to the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes the company, which is the work of an Ostrava businessman, will begin operations in the spring of 2010 and intends to compete with the large carriers. The newspaper writes that the company does not yet possess planes, but that travel agents are already listing it in their catalogues for next year. Eurovia Air is to exclusively serve clients of Czech travel agencies headed for seaside destinations.
The sale of new computers in the Czech Republic dropped in the third quarter of 2009 by 12% year-on-year. The sale of 317,590 computers did mark an increase of 89% from the previous quarter, however. A more marked slump was recorded for desktop computers, sales of which were down by 40% compared with the same quarter last year. The best selling brand was Acer, followed by Hewlett-Packard and Asus.
The actress and singer Lucie Vondráčková received gold and platinum albums on Thursday for her two-disk CD, Fénix. Fénix has sold 30,000 copies since its release in June of 2008 and won the 29-year-old first place among female singers in the Album of the Year poll. Ms Vondráčková is the daughter of artist Jiří Vondráček and the niece of the popular singer Helena Vondráčková.
The Czech government has approved a plan to deal with the swine flu pandemic that will see more people vaccinated than was originally planned. Provisions are in place to vaccinate nearly one million people against the H1N1 virus, the minister of health, Dana Jurásková, said on Thursday. Almost 100,000 doses have already been delivered to the Czech Republic, with vaccinations due to begin at the start of next week. The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the country now stands at around 650. The chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít, says the Czech Republic is likely to see a swine flu epidemic at the start of next month.