US president Barack Obama is faced with making a new nomination to fill the long vacant post of US ambassador to Prague. Time has run out for the current nominee, presidential ethics advisor Norman Eisen to be cleared by the current Congress meaning that a new name must be advanced or Eisen nominated again. Congress failed to clear Eisen’s candidature after it was advanced at the end of June. The result of the long delay will be that the Czech Republic will go into the new year with two years clocked up since the last US ambassador left his post. President George Bush junior’s ambassador Richard Graber left in January 2009. Analysts say the long vacancy is damaging Czech-US relations. Congress convenes again in January.
The Ministry of Justice has proposed sweeping changes to a 30-year-old law aimed at improving the selection and performance of legally certified experts. The decisions and recommendations of such experts are often crucial in deciding legal disputes. The ministry, however, admits that conditions for selecting experts and ensuring their competence are lacking under the existing rules. The planned makeover of those rules was unveiled at the ministry on Tuesday. They will seek to introduce financial penalties and disqualification and seek to strengthen the conditions for selecting experts. The suggested changes should be passed on to the government by the end of the year and could become law by the autumn of 2011.
Heavy overnight snow has complicated transport in parts of the Czech Republic. Between 5 and 15 centimetres of snow fell overnight with up to 20 centimetres in the mountains. Snow has cut three rail routes around the northern city of Liberec and one in central Bohemia. Most main roads are cleared but authorities have warned that great care should be taken on secondary routes. Most departures at Prague airport were normal but delays were posted for many arrivals. Police found the body of a man on Monday who is believed to have died from the freezing conditions. If confirmed, he would be the 17th victim of the cold so far this winter.
Concentrations around 500-times the legal limit for the cancer causing substance vinyl chloride have been found in groundwater at a site between the central Czech towns of Prostějov and Olomouc, according to a local paper. The high levels were found in a bore hole at one site with around 200 times the legal limit at another site nearby. According to the paper, the chemical has leaked from containers at a bankrupt chemical plant and contaminated the groundwater. Many local people have stopped using pumped water but hundreds still have to rely on it. A company has been contracted to survey the contamination and suggest ways of cleaning it up.
More than two months after local elections, politicians Hradec Králové have agreed on a new council to run the city. The city was the last major centre in the country where negotiations had failed to come up with a workable administration following elections in October. A breakthrough was made this week when the TOP 09 party agreed to return to the negotiating table with a view to forming a centre-right coalition That five-way party coalition will have the backing of 21 votes in the 37-seat council. The coalition has nominated doctor and leader of the Hradec Democratic Club, Zdeněk Fink, to be mayor.
A poll conducted by the Median agency, published by the Czech newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes, has suggested that Czech-born economist Jan Švejnar would win the most votes if direct presidential elections were held. According to the survey, the 58-year-old economist, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008, would garner 30.7 percent of the vote if his name were put forward by one of the political parties. The poll suggests he would beat potential candidates such as the Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg or the former chairman of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka. But less than 10 percent would choose Mr Švejnar "on their own".
Current President Václav Klaus will complete his second and final term in office in 2013. There is a possibility that direct presidential elections could be introduced, if the current government and the opposition Social Democrats continue to back the idea. Currently, the president is elected in a joint session of both houses of Parliament.
Czech police would reportedly like to see reflective vests made mandatory for pedestrians walking on roads in poor weather or night between villages and towns – reaction to the high number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the Czech Republic in recent months. In November alone 33 out of a total of 82 people who died on Czech roads were on foot. The police would like to see the provision added to legislation due to be discussed in the lower house in January.
According to experts, motorists have far more time to react to a pedestrian in reflective clothing, spotting them from 200 metres. Someone in regular white clothing, by comparsion, would be spotted at 55, and someone in dark blue only at 18 metres, making an accident far more likely. The idea has gotten general backing from some lawmakers including the deputy chairwoman of the lower house Kateřina Klasnová. Not all, however, are in favour, saying the law would be difficult to enforce.
Czech police say they have caught a serial robber of banks, post offices and betting shops with 46 separate crimes to his name. The 29-year-old from the Klatovy region in the west of the country has been described as above average intelligence, which probably accounted for him evading the police for so long. He changed the masks he wore during hold ups, wore boots of different sizes to confuse investigators and even changed the hand he used to grip the air pistol used during raids. Police say he often selected target locations during bike rides in the country without further preparation, timing his attacks just before closing time so that they coincided with his train connections home. Most of the raids took place in the Plzeň region.
Hockey's Sparta Prague have suffered their second defeat in a row in the Spengler Cup, underway in Switzerland. After losing 4:3 in their opener against Servette Geneva on Monday, Sparta were outclassed a day later by Petrohrad. The Czech team was defeated easily by a score of 4:1, outperformed in the match and unproductive on the powerplay. The finals of the competition will be held on December 31.
Czech and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech lost 1:3 to London rivals Arsenal in a top of the table Premier League clash on Monday night. The Arsenal win puts them second in the table with Chelsea in fourth spot with 31 points, six points off leaders Manchester United who have a game in hand. The loss means that Chelsea and Čech have failed to win any of the last six games. Czech captain Tomáš Rosický came on for the last three minutes of the game for Arsenal.
More snow is expected in the coming days with day temperatures of between minus 4 and minus 8 degrees Celsius. Night temperatures may drop to minus 12 degrees on Wednesday night and Thursday morning and could even fall to around minus 20 in some place. Temperatures should pick up by Friday.