The former director of the commercial TV station Nova Vladimir Zelezny appears to be back in the limelight. His photo dominates the front pages of the three main national dailies today. Mr Zelezny, who was elected senator last year, has founded a senators' group together with three senators for the Communist Party and another independent senator, five being the minimum number required for establishing such a group.
The coalition government's health care commission has come up with two options of possible assistance to indebted regional hospitals. After a meeting that ended late Wednesday night, Health Minister Marie Souckova did not specify the alternatives, saying only that they would depend on the financial results of the hospitals, their liabilities and obligations. She added that the leaders of the governing parties should receive the proposals next week. The government commission was set up to find ways of stabilising the financial situation in the health care sector by the end of 2003. This means shortening the payment schedule of health insurance companies and resolving the debts of hospitals, which were transferred to the regions by the government in January.
While today's Czech newspapers lead with a wide variety of stories, almost all the front pages feature photographs of the British pop singer Robbie Williams, who played in Prague on Tuesday night. Tickets for the long sold-out concert were being sold for ten or more times their face value, such was the demand to see the singer, reports PRAVO.
There's a mix of stories on today's front pages, from the launch of Krystof II - the second nationwide police crackdown on bad driving - to allegations of serious mismanagement of the entrance exams for one of the most prestigious academic bodies in the country: the law faculty of Charles University. LIDOVE NOVINY, meanwhile, features a front-page photo of Spanish heir to the throne Prince Filipe, showing off his bride-to-be, 31-year-old TV presenter Letizia Ortiz. And why that is of interest to anyone in the Czech Republic is beyond me...
Health Minister Marie Souckova has indicated she is less than enthusiastic over weekend results from the Czech Medical Chamber's conference, held in Brno. That meeting saw David Rath, the body's president, earn a confidence vote and retain his post, with Mr Rath receiving 156 votes in his favour and 72 against. All the same the conference was not without controversy: many delegates refused to take part in the vote on the grounds the conference had been manipulated. Meanwhile, speaking on Sunday the health minister said she respected Mr Rath's reconfirmation, but stressed she was unsettled by what she called "unresolved issues". One of Mrs Souckova's concerns, for example, is inappropriate finance management by the chamber's executive body. She cited the example of an outstanding 1.2 million crowns the chamber owes the country's tax bureau, a discrepancy that came to light after auditors began investigating the chamber's books. The case is currently being continued by a special commission as well as by the police.
David Rath, aged 37, has been given a vote of confidence to remain the head of the Czech Medical Chamber, after delegates on Friday voted 156 in his favour, 72 against. Dozens of delegates, however, left the conference room while voting was taking place. The complaint: that the conference had been manipulated. A total of 320 delegates attended on the first day. Meanwhile, the chamber's executive committee was also given a vote of confidence earning a three-year mandate. David Rath dismissed accusations the conference had been manipulated. Instead he highlighted successes that had been reached, including the defence of specialist licences that had been challenged by the Chamber's audit commission. Still, Friday saw six hours of difficult deliberations with sharp exchanges of opinion amongst supporters and opponents of the current leadership. The conference continues on Sunday when Health Minister Marie Souckova is expected to attend.
The determined rescue efforts that went into saving a group of eleven Russian miners trapped 700 metres underground for six long days has been a closely watched story - and today's papers finally bring relief - the struggle is over and the blackened, tired faces of the rescued miners look out from the front pages. It was a nightmare but it is over, one of them says.
Czech-born Jesuit priest Tomas Spidlik - one of 30 Vatican priests elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II - is shown on several front pages this morning wearing his red cardinal's cap or "biretta" and receiving congratulations from his colleagues. Also on the front pages today - Health Minister Marie Souckova, who seems to have averted disaster after finding money for the country's indebted regional hospitals.
Regional hospitals which have been labouring under huge debts are to get a relief-aid package from the government. The Cabinet on Tuesday earmarked 2 billion crowns which is to help clear debts accumulated up until the end of 2002. The move will give some hospitals teetering on the edge of bankruptcy a new lease of life.
Regardless of how it may have gone out of fashion elsewhere Prague remains a city of smoking and smokers. If it is the city of a hundred spires it is also a city of a thousand pubs - and in every one the bluish-brown smoke wafts close to the ceiling as you enter. Say you don't smoke? In Prague, friend, you will. Hell, this is the only city - the only city - where I have ever seen a bicycle courier lighting up. A bicycle courier.
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