The S-Card project for electronic social benefits payments, which has so far cost the Czech state 82.54 million crowns, will cost more than five million crowns to close down, Labor Minister František Koníček said at a press conference on Tuesday. The S-Card system will be terminated gradually until through the end of next March. The more than 270,000 current holders of the S-Card will be offered to receive social benefits payments either through the post office or by transfer to their bank accounts. The project was spearheaded by the former labor minister Jaromír Drábek, who was hoping to save the ministry money on distribution of benefits, though the plan was highly criticized by politicians and the public. Last week, the lower house approved a bill that terminates the project.
Culture Minister Jiří Balvín confirmed the decision of his predecessor Alena Hanáková in naming of art historian Jiří Fajt to the position of director of the National Gallery. Mr. Fajt will officially become director from 1 January, but starting next month he will begin preparatory work. He was first appointed by Mrs. Hanáková shortly before her resignation to replace the previous director Vladimír Rösel, whom she dismissed earlier this year. Mr. Fajt worked at the national gallery from 1993 to 2000, and has been lecturing at universities in Germany and the Czech republic for the past few years.
The first public trial connected to the methanol poisoning tragedy last year began in Ostrava on Tuesday. The defendants, Petr Hlava and Marek Ženíšek, allegedly sold over 70 bottles of alcohol with false labels last October, most of which contained a lethal amount of methylalcohol. The police claim that the two men did so knowingly and could have caused hundreds of fatalities. In the end, one man died and six others were hospitalized and some will suffer long-term health problems as a result of ingesting the toxic drink. The man who died was the 31st victim of the so-called methanol affair, during which 47 people died as a result of drinking hard liqueur containing lethal amounts of methanol.
Jiří Rusnok’s caretaker cabinet approved two controversial ambassadorial appointments even before its confidence vote last week, the daily Lidové noviny wrote on Tuesday. According to the paper the cabinet approved a number of ambassadorial appointments in late July including that of former first lady Livia Klausová to Slovakia and that of former astronaut and Communist MEP Vladimír Remek to Russia. Both nominations were at the center of a highly public dispute earlier this year between President Miloš Zeman, who supported them, and then foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who was strongly against the candidates. Because of diplomatic protocol, the government’s approval of the two candidates has not been officially confirmed, ahead of approval by the host countries, but the prime minister indicated that the appointments had been pre-negotiated with Moscow and Bratislava.
Hammer thrower Lukáš Melich became the first Czech to win a medal at the Athletics World Championships in Moscow. Melich took third place in the hammer throw final on Monday night, throwing just short of the 80-meter mark, behind Hungary’s Krisztián Pars and Poland’s Pawel Fajdek, who took the gold with 81.97m. And in the 20-kilometer speedwalking race on Tuesday morning Anežka Drahotová finished seventh, reaching a personal best and matching the Czech record.
The extradition hearing for the American Kevin Dahlgren, who is suspected of murdering four relatives in Brno, will begin in Virginia on 12 September, according to information provided by the Czech embassy in the United States. The Czech police suspect Mr. Dahlgren of murdering his cousin, her husband and two children and their house in Brno, when he was also staying, in May. He subsequently travelled to Vienna and flew to the United State. With information from the Czech police, FBI agents arrested Mr. Dahlgren upon his arrival in Washington. American courts rarely approve extradition of its citizens to be tried abroad.
The head of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, has set for his party the goal of winning up to one-third of votes in early elections expected this autumn. Mr. Sobotka told news website iDnes that he hoped his party in Prague would clinch 25 percent. The party chairman will himself run in the South Moravia region, where he has won as party leader twice before. Polls have repeatedly shown the Social Democrats would win easily if elections were held today, while the right-of-centre Civic Democrats could face a major drop in numbers. The Civic Democrats’ speaker of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová, meanwhile, has suggested the elections should be delayed by a month, to prevent key legislation from being swept off the table.
Caretaker Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok handed his resignation to President Milos Zeman on Tuesday morning, after his cabinet failed to win a vote of confidence in the lower house last week. Mr. Rusnok’s government will remain in office until the next general elections. President Zeman appointed the interim government in early July, despite criticism from the Chamber of Deputies. The lower house is scheduled to vote on its dissolution next Tuesday and if the motion is approved, the president will have to schedule early elections within 60 days.
Famous Russian-America singer-songwriter Regina Spektor is performing at the Prague Castle on Tuesday night. The concert was sold out already at the end of June, after which the organizers released another 100 tickets, which sold within days. Spektor is on a tour promoting her latest album What We Saw From the Cheat Seats. The last time she played in the Czech Republic was at the Colours of Ostrava music festival in 2010.
Police in the Indian state of Goa have extended the detention of a 19-year-old Czech man, who is suspected of brutally killing a 24-year-old Czech woman at a seaside resort, according to a report in The Times of India. The body of the young woman, who suffered multiple stab wounds and cuts, was found last Wednesday in the hotel room she shared with the suspect. The man was later found unconscious in the vicinity with a large knife next to him. The man denied any wrongdoing, though later the Indian press reported that he had confessed. India does not have an extradition agreement with the Czech Republic and if convicted, the man could face a life sentence, according to Indian law.
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