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PM expects communication with president to continue smoothly despite recent criticism

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said he does not expect recent criticism of the president to complicate communication between the government and Prague Castle. The prime minister recently criticised the head of state for – in his view – joining the ranks of populists when he addressed an anti-migrant rally at Albertov in Prague on the public holiday of November 17. In an interview for Hospodářské noviny last week, Mr Sobotka suggested President Miloš Zeman had legitimized xenophobia. On Monday, ahead of a trip to China, the prime minister said he and the head of state were due to meet soon to discuss foreign policy.

Country’s largest insurer agrees on 2016 plan

The executive council of the country’s largest insurance company VZP agreed on its health insurance plan for 2016, the board’s chairman Jiři Běhounek announced on Monday. The insurer, he said, would provide 152.8 billion crowns for health care in 2016, a rise of four percent year-on-year, for almost six million clients. For the second straight year the company fill reserve funds; the insurer is also counting on rising costs in treatment. The firm will now send the proposal to the Health Ministry. It will have to be approved by the government and later in Parliament.

Czech National Library loses “Blob building” appeal

An appeals court has upheld an earlier ruling ordering the Czech National Library to pay compensation to an architecture studio which argued that a design by the late Jan Kaplický should not have won a tender to build a new building for the institution. According to the court, the National Library will have to pay HŠH architecti 1.6 million crowns (the difference in financial rewards for third and second place finishers) for choosing Mr Kaplický’s design even though it did not meet the requirements of the competition in 2007. The latter’s futuristic design, nicknamed “the Blob”, divided public opinion and was never built. Overall, the sum to be paid out, with interest and legal fees, totals almost 3 million crowns.

Cardinal Duka rejects criticism of mass for president

Cardinal Dominik Duka has rejected criticism for celebrating a mass last week for the country’s president at Lány church - the first time such a mass was held there since the state acquired it in 1921. The news was released by Cardinal Duka’s personal secretary Milan Badal. The representative said the mass was in no way connected to the president’s appearance days earlier at Albertov, where he appeared with members of Bloc Against Islam. Around 50 people signed an open letter to Cardinal Duka to complain; his secretary outlined that the mass had been agreed long in advance.

Farmers and local councils threatened by refusal to pay power support says ministry

The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade warned Monday that farmers and local councils could be hard hit if a stand-off with the country’s energy regulator over support payments for 2016 continues. The ministry pointed out that around a third of the state support which threatens to be blocked is earmarked for bio-gas facilities which have been constructed by farmers and many local Czech councils. Since loans were taken out on many of the projects, the situation is even graver, the ministry added. The energy regulator is refusing to sign off on around 40 billion crowns of support for 2016 because it says the aid has not been cleared by the European Commission.

Nearly 230 tonnes of foodstuffs donated in national food collection

Some 228 tonnes of foodstuffs was donated during the Czech Republic’s third national food collection on Saturday, organisers have said. Over 470 shops, including stores owned by major chains, took part in the drive in which members of the public donated non-perishable foodstuffs for redistribution to the needy. Around 2,000 volunteers and shop staff took part in the collection.

Police arrested bomb threat man who shut Main Station for two hours

Police have arrested a man who made an anonymous bomb threat against Prague’s Main Train Station on Sunday. It was closed for over two hours with trains diverted to other stations, while the Metro station serving it was also shut down with trains only allowed to pass through. It was not the first such threat against the busy railway station this year but came amid heightened security over fears of further terror attacks on Europe.

Euro MP Petr Mach re-elected as leader of the Free Citizen’s Party

Euro MP Petr Mach has been re-elected as leader of the Party of Free Citizens in online voting, receiving support from 65.7 percent of delegates. Three others, Roman Kříž, Petr Hampl, and Miloslav Bednář had challenged for the post; Mr Kříž was a distant second behind the winner with 15.6 percent. The result means that Petr Mach, barring unexpected changes, will lead the party for two years up until the 2017 national election. The Party of Free Citizens received 2.47 percent in the election, finishing well below the five-percent threshold needed to make it into the Chamber of Deputies.

New polar bear cub born at Brno Zoo

A new polar bear cub was born at Brno Zoo at the weekend to Cora. In the past the female raised the cubs Bill and Tom and later Nanuk and Kometa. The cubs became one of Brno Zoo’s main attractions; years that saw successful births saw significant increases in the number of visitors – a record 320,000 in 2008, for example, compared to the usual 250,000 or so. The successful breeding of polar bears in captivity is an extraordinarily complex process, say experts.

NHL: Fleishmann helps sink Islanders with short-handed goal

Montreal forward Tomáš Fleishmann picked up a loose puck and scored top-shelf against Greiss on a breakaway against the New York Islanders on Sunday. The goal was short-handed; Montreal are currently 1st in short-handed goals this season, with five. Fellow Czech Tomáš Plekanec picked up an assist later in the game. The Habs won 4:2. Montreal also beat the Islanders on Friday and have climbed back to second spot in the standings in the NHL.