Doctors around the country closed down their offices on Thursday in
protest at late payments from the state-run health insurance company VZP.
Around a fifteen hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the Health
Ministry building in Prague in support of the private doctors' strike. The
doctors were joined in the demonstration by pharmacists and dentists, and
by some politicians from the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats.
During the protest there were calls for the resignation of the Health Minister Milada Emmerova, who was blamed for the current cash-flow crisis. Talks between Mrs Emmerova and doctors are to continue after a two-hour meeting on Thursday afternoon ended in deadlock.
The Austrian firm OMV has taken over the Czech chain of petrol filling stations Aral. OMV's director said that they planned to invest up to 5 million US dollars in the chain. He said that Aral stations will all adopt the OMV logo within the next six months, but he would not say how much OMV had paid for the company. The deal will make OMV the chain selling the largest volume of car fuel in the Czech Republic. The Polish petrochemicals concern PKN Orlen had also been interested in buying Aral.
A billboard campaign has been launched to warn drivers to approach railway crossings with caution. There will also be warnings published in Czech newspapers. The campaign will be financed till the end of the year by Czech Railways, and a sponsor is being sought for it to continue next year. In 2004 there were no less than 600 hundred accidents on railway crossings, nearly a quarter of which do not have barriers. The Transport Minister, Milan Simonovsky, pointed out that, ironically, most accidents are on crossings where visibility is good.
The legal committee of the European Parliament has recommended that MEP Vladimir Zelezny, the former director of the Czech commercial television station Nova, be stripped of immunity. The final decision is to be made at an EP plenary session in late October. At a closed meeting, the committee approved the proposal by the rapporteur, Austrian Social Democrat Marie Berger, that Mr Zelezny should be put at the disposal of Czech authorities to investigate three charges, for which the Czech judiciary had asked for his parliamentary immunity to be removed.
According to a report by the UN Children's Fund released on Wednesday disabled children in Eastern Europe continue to be confined in segregated facilities and special schools, suffering from stigma and discrimination. The report says that although the approach to disabled children in the region has been improving, there is not enough state support. Experts say that the fact that so many children are placed in institutions reflects economic desperation which leads struggling families to put their children in care for want of alternatives, as well as a traditional communist-era attitude that institutionalisation is the best solution.
The Radio and Television Broadcasting Council has decided to fine the commercial TV stations Prima and Nova for the content of their respective reality shows, VyVoleni and Big Brother. TV Prima was fined 5 million crowns (200,000 dollars) and TV Nova will have to pay 4 million. According to council chairman Petr Pospichal, both channels broke the law by broadcasting scenes potentially threatening the moral development of juveniles before 10 pm.
The government has decided to award the Czech Brain prize to Armin Delong, the founder of electron miscroscopy and initiator of the production of world-competitive electron microscopes. Together with the award Professor Delong will receive one million crowns (over 40,000 dollars). Armin Delong, 80, is best-known for his pioneering work in holography, emission electron microscopy and slow electron microscopy. Most recently he has focused on low-voltage scanning microscopy which is used in biology.
Police detained the suspected murderer of TV Nova technician Michal Velisek on Tuesday night. David Lubina, 31, confessed to the murder in Prague's central Karlovo namesti square on September 13. Lubina was charged with murder and extortion. According to police, Lubina harassed a young woman in the square. When Velisek came forward to assist the woman, the attacker shot him in the arm, and continued shooting after Velisek fell to the ground. Michal Velisek, a father of a one-year-old daughter, did not survive the attack.
On the eve of Thursday's scheduled doctors' strike, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek called on the private practitioners to cancel their strike. After Wednesday's negotiations with health insurance companies, Mr Paroubek said he expected some accommodating steps from them, too. Private doctors in the Czech Republic are going to strike on Thursday over chronically late payments from the state-run insurance company VZP.
The chairman of the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has said his party will support a Senate-proposed amendment to the criminal code banning all promotion of the communist ideology. The amendment was initiated by a group of opposition Senators and a movement called "Let's Ban the Communists". Mr Topolanek said he didn't wish the Communists to return to power after next year's elections. He said however that the amendment would probably be refused by the lower house where the leftist parties, the Communists and the Social Democrats, have a majority of 11 seats. The Communist Party currently enjoys some 13.5 percent of voter support.