Members of the Czech government have roundly welcomed news of the death of Osama bin Laden, killed by US Special Forces Sunday evening. Prime Minister Petr Nečas called the death of the al-Qaeda leader an important milestone in the fight against terrorism and the struggle for a safer world. The death, he said, was a signal to those who lack respect for the law and human life that they will not go unpunished. Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg sent his congratulations to the United States and noted that while the primary villain had been defeated, the struggle against terrorism would continue for decades. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said bin Laden’s killing was an important act that showed that justice is inevitable, no matter how slow in coming.
The deputy chancellor to President Václav Klaus, Petr Hájek, called the report of bin Laden’s death a media fantasy. Mr Hájek, who is one of the president’s closest colleagues and has often publicised exceedingly controversial opinions, told the news website Parlamentnilisty.cz that the terrorist leader was a modern fairytale of good and evil for adults, and that he had died as he had been born, under nearly mystical circumstances. Mr Hájek has frequently suggested that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were orchestrated by the United States itself. President Klaus has not commented on bin Laden’s death.
Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda was sent an envelope containing TNT last month, the weekly Euro writes. The envelope is also reported to have contained photographs of the mayor’s wife and child who someone had followed for a day. Police confirmed the report though declined to give further information. Mr. Svoboda has been the target of anonymous attacks since last December when he received text messages threatening his child and the tyres of his wife’s car were punctured.
The first round of newly implemented leaving exams has begun in secondary schools around the country. On Monday 62 schools began oral exams; written exams will be held from May 30. The new exams include Czech and a second subject, either mathematics or foreign language. Students must then take other tests in common subjects. The system of secondary school leaving exams has been in preparation for 14 years and has been a topic of much disagreement. Mock exams held last October resulted in exceptionally high fail rates.
A poll released by the CVVM agency on Monday suggests that 95% of Czechs agree that immigrants to the Czech Republic should conform to the local way of life and learn to speak the language. Three-fifths said foreigners should assimilate as much as possible, a view was shared mainly by persons over 60 and poor people. Only 5% said foreigners should have the right to have their own way of life. A majority of Czechs would also like the foreigners to have a knowledge of Czech culture and history, receive Czech citizenship, stay in the country for at least ten years, and take part in the social life in their neighbourhood. Most of those questioned in the poll agreed that a command of the Czech language helps immigrants not to be regarded as foreigners. The respondents considered it less important whether the foreigners owned real estate in the country, whether they married a Czech or what their race was.
Newly appointed Interior Minister Jan Kubice has named his first deputy for internal security. The new deputy, Jaroslav Hruška worked with Mr Kubice in the organised crime department of the police and was in charge of the team investigating the unresolved murder of businessman František Mrázek in 2006. In his first week after taking office, Mr Kubice dismissed four of the deputies installed by the previous interior minister, Radek John. Mr John was dismissed from his position for poor performance in the wake of a corruption scandal involving his party, Public Affairs.
About a third of the 80,000 species of plants and animals in the Czech Republic are at risk of eventual extinction, the Environment Ministry reports. According to a conservation status inventory compiled by the ministry, only a fifth of the species monitored have a status of ‘least concern’. Among the hundreds of species that have already disappeared are 627 invertebrates, 22 vertebrates, 118 higher plants and 84 types of mushroom. Already endangered species have suffered particular decline, with the number of critically endangered plants and animals doubling between 1979 and the year 2000 to roughly 500.
Former head of the Czech anti-corruption police Libor Vrba says it is untrue that the police were paid excessive bonuses. In an interview in Monday’s Hospodářské noviny, Mr Vrba also dismissed the accusation that he helped cover up the theft of special funds for paying informants. These speculations, he suggested, may have been motivated by an effort to distract the anti-corruption squad from investigating serious cases. Suspected misuse of the informant fund was revealed by a recent audit ordered by the new chief of the anti-corruption police, Tomas Martinec. Libor Vrba left his post in February.
Police in the region of Karlové Vary are searching for three men who robbed a cash transport van near the western town of Cheb on Monday afternoon. Investigators say the perpetrators made off with hundreds of thousands of crowns after assailing the vehicle at a petrol station. They then escaped towards Germany in a grey-green Volkswagen Tuareg. No one was injured in the robbery.
The Czech Statistical Office reports it has received 16.8 million completed census forms thus far, a fourth of which were sent online. Census officials are now digitally scanning the forms and conducting a duplicity check. The census was beset by a number of problems, with many people complaining that officials never arrived or did not arrive when they were supposed to, causing enormous queues in post offices. The 2011 census ended on March 25.
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