President Václav Klaus on Wednesday appointed Civic Democrat Martin Kuba the new industry and trade minister. Mr Kuba, a medic by profession, has for the last three years served as deputy governor of the South Bohemian region, where the Temelín nuclear plant is located, a factor that reportedly played a crucial role in his appointment. Prime Minister Petr Nečas rejected media allegations that Mr Kuba had close links to a shady power figure of the party’s Civic Democrat organization in southern Bohemia.
His predecessor at the ministry, Martin Kocourek, was last week forced to step down after he failed to explain the origin of millions of crowns that appeared overnight on an account belonging to his mother.
In related news, Civic Democrat MP and the vice-chair of the lower house’s influential budget committee, Michal Doktor, on Wednesday left his party in protest against the appointment of the new industry and trade minister. Mr Doktor, who was among the candidates for the post, told reporters that the new minister, Martin Kuba, was a great liability to the party due to his ties to unofficial power structures. However, Mr Doktor said he would continue to support the centre-right government in the lower house.
President Klaus signed a new Labour Code into law on Wednesday. The most significant changes include new rules for severance packages; tightens the rules for fixed-term employment contracts and relaxes those for laying off employees. As of January 2012, employees will receive a severance package of one monthly salary if they worked in their company for less than a year; two monthly salaries if they are laid off after up to two years in their firm, and three salaries if they worked there for two years or more. Employers will be able to offer their employees fixed-term employment contracts for a maximum period of three years.
The Czech government on Wednesday rejected the Education Ministry’s plans to limit the numbers of students at humanities-focused secondary schools by tests for pupils at elementary schools. Education Minister Josef Dobeš was planning to introduce nation-wide tests for 5th and 9th grade pupils; only those who pass would be allowed to study at humanities-focused secondary schools while the rest would become apprentices. After the government’s session on Wednesday, however, Mr Dobeš said these tests would only serve as a tool for comparing individual elementary schools, and for ensuring each pupil has reached a standard level of education.
The current spell of cold weather has claimed its first victim this year after a homeless man of around 60 years of age died of exposure in Prague on Wednesday morning. A spokeswoman for the city emergency rescue service said the man was found dead in a street in the Řepy district of Prague. The spokeswoman said nine people had been taken to hospital with hypothermia since mid-October.
Two polar bear cubs that were born in the Brno zoo on Tuesday died soon after birth, a spokeswoman for the zoo said. According to curators, the two cubs died on Wednesday morning and their mother Cora ate them. However, the zoo still hopes the 13-year-old Cora will give birth to more offspring in the future; in 2007, she gave birth to the twins, Tom and Bill who became a huge attraction for visitors.
More than a million vehicles were produced in the Czech Republic between January and October this year, which is 12 percent more than in the same period last year, the country’s Automotive Industry Association said on Wednesday. The production was mainly driven by exports, which rose by 12 percent; sales at home dropped by around 1 percent. While the two major carmakers, Škoda Auto and Hyundai Nošovice, increased their production of cars by 19 and 21 percent, respectively, the production of trucks dropped by nearly 10 percent.
The 20th annual National Student Design Award was on Wednesday presented to Anna Marešová for her set of vibrators for women called Whoop De Doo. The jury said her work represented a modern functional design, and appreciated products’ practicality as well as the author’s courage and sophistication. Other awards went to students who designed a lamp in for growing plants, a road bridge, a Braille book and other things. All nominated objects will go on display in a gallery and a shopping mall in Prague.
On the eve of the 22nd anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution of 1989 that ended the communist rule in the country, an open-air photo exhibition in Prague’s Náměstí Republiky was opened on Wednesday, exploring links between the fall of communism in Europe and the events of the Arab Spring. The exhibit, entitled Almost Velvet Revolutions, present some 40 images from Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the protests that have shaken the Arab world. The exhibition runs until November 30.
The runner-up in this year’s World Series of Poker, Martin Staszko, arrived in his home town of Třinec, in the north-east of the country, on Wednesday. The local town hall awarded the poker star a commemorative medal and a flannel shirt, his signature attire in which he played at the Las Vegas tournament. Mr Staszko said he would wear the shirt at all big tournaments in the future. The 35-year-old former car factory manager, who won some 100 million crowns in prize money, also told reporters many people were approaching him asking for financial help.
The Czech national football team beat Montenegro 1:0 in the second leg of the EURO 2012 playoffs on Tuesday, and advanced to the championship’s final tournament on a 3:0 aggregate. The Czechs were on the defensive for much of the game but several superb saves by goalkeeper Petr Čech prevented the home side from scoring. In the 81st minute, Petr Jiráček netted the killer goal, ensuring the Czech team’s advance to the final tournament held in Poland and Ukraine next year. In the tournament’s draw, the Czech team will be seeded in the weakest Pot 4.
The current spell of cold and wet weather will continue for days to come, with overcast skies, fog and daytime highs of around 5 degrees Celsius.