News New US ambassador to Czech Republic approved by Senate
The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed the US president’s proposal for top lawyer with Czech roots, Andrew Schapiro, to be the country’s ambassador in the Czech Republic. The current ambassador, Norman Eisen, is due to quit the Prague post in August. Schapiro is said to be close to the president, having been a fellow student of law at Harvard University and later going on to help with the financing of Obama’s political campaigns. He is currently a practicing lawyer at the firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, known for its business litigation. Schapiro’s mother left Prague in 1939 in fear of Nazi persecution.
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In the ice hockey play-off semi-finals, Sparta Prague turned around their losing run against Třinec on Wednesday night. Sparta led throughout and eventually won 4:1 to close the best of seven series 1:2. The duel continues Thursday night with Sparta seeking to again benefit from home advantage and tie the series 2:2. Sparta’s Jaroslav Hlinka and Robert Sabolič each scored twice in front of the over 10,000 spectators. The match ended with a series of bad tempered brawls.
Czech Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec has said that more than a thousand new applications have been received from ethnic living in Ukraine to move back to the Czech Republic. The minister told Czech Radio that based on previous experience the applications would be dealt with within two years and around half the applications would be accepted. Applications from Eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between separatists and the government is at its worst, have been prioritized, he said. Minister Chovanec and prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Wednesday visited a facility which is temporary housing around 80 of the first wave of Ukrainian Czechs who have returned to the country. The Czech community in Ukraine was mostly established in the nineteenth century when farm workers and craftsmen sought out new opportunities there.
Police are investigating six people in connection with rigged tenders at Prague’s Na Homolce Hospital, according to statements by police and the state attorney’s office in Prague on Wednesday. The charges are linked to tenders for medical, legal, consultancy and accounting services held by the hospital with bribes allegedly sought for winning the orders. The former director of the hospital, Vladimír Dbalý and head of accounting at the hospital are among those charged, according to reports. Dbalý was already at the centre of other proceedings against seven people launched by police last year. Police in February recommended criminal charges be brought against them over the digitalization of archives and purchase of equipment.
The Constitutional Court has called for the Supreme Court to come up with supplementary arguments why a runway should be regarded as a re-worked land surface rather than a separate construction. The question is at the centre of a dispute over whether Příbram airport was rightly privatized by the Ministry of Defense and sold to the private company Air Station. Part of the runway lies on private land, with the owner opposing the transfer. If the runway is regarded as just a reworked surface, as the Supreme Court argued in an earlier ruling, then it cannot be sold separate to the land and the previous privatization is called into question.
The state budget surplus more than halved to 19.9 billion crowns in January to March compared with the first quarter of 2014, the Ministry of Finance announced on Wednesday. The lower figure was the result of both lower revenues and higher spending. Revenues from excise duties on tobacco products have slipped by more than 13 billion crowns and VAT earnings are also down. Revenues were boosted a year earlier by the 8.5 billion crown auction of broadband capacity. Spending has increased on capital programmes jointly funded by Czech and EU funds, the ministry said.
Trees amounting to around 150,000 cubic metres of timber have been felled in recent high winds across the country, the state forestry company announced on Wednesday. Around a fifth of that total occurred in the Šumava National Park, where winds reached up to 112 kilometres an hour on Tuesday. Park management are warning visitors not to walk in the forest due to the danger of falling trees. Rail connections and power lines across the country have been cut due to the high winds. Winds are expected to abate across most of the country on Wednesday and Thursday but heavy rain and snow is expected in the following days. Up to 20 centimetres of snow could fall on high ground in the south-west of the country, according to the national weather office.
The last vehicles from the US convoy quit the Czech Republic just after noon on Wednesday. Three groups left barracks just outside Prague early in the morning heading for the border crossing at Rozvadov in the far west of the country. The final destination is the Bavarian base at Vilseck. The convoy continued to be enthusiastically greeted by bystanders waving US flags on the final leg of the journey through the Czech Republic. The convoy spent four days in the Czech Republic on its way back from NATO exercises in the Baltic States.
The state attorney for South Moravia has halted criminal proceedings against the woman who stabbed a 16-year-old student to death. The attorney said that she was not mentally stable when the attack took place and had been treated earlier. The decision to halt proceedings is not final with the move still needing to be approved by the Supreme State Attorney. The attack took place in October last year when the woman arrived at a middle school at Žd’ár nad Sázovou stabbing three students as well as a police officer called to the scene. The woman had been released from care a few months earlier following a similar attack at a school.
Bosses of public broadcaster Czech Television and police are investigating how private companies allegedly used opportunities to sponsor programmes to dodge taxes. The daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported Wednesday that a handful of companies repeatedly inflated the sponsorship totals so that they could be written off against their taxes. The difference between the real amounts paid and higher amounts billed were returned to them. Sums involved amounts to tens of millions of crowns, according to a source quoted by the paper.
In football, the Czech Republic lost 0:1 in the friendly against Slovakia on Tuesday night. The sole goal came in the 49th minute when Ondrej Duda shot low from distance with the bounce leaving Tomáš Vaclík embarrassed in goal. Czech manager Pavel Vrba fielded an experimental teams with established players, such as Petr Čech, Tomáš Rosický and David Lafata, absent. A series of substitutions and a heavy pitch and blustery conditions also had an impact. The loss follows on from the disappointing draw against Latvia on Saturday.