Temperatures fell to record lows at 75 monitoring stations around the country on Saturday night. The forecast that Saturday would be the coldest night of the winter so far proved right, but the arctic temperatures of over - 38 degrees Celsius in places fell short of the 1929 record of – 42 degrees measured in Ceske Budejovice, which remains unchallenged. Meteorologists say the worst of the cold snap should now be over with a gradual warming expected next week. The last two weeks of February should bring day temperatures at between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius and more snow.
Over 600 homeless people spent the night in emergency shelters set up by Prague City Hall to fight the loss of life in the cold snap. There are an estimated 4,000 homeless people in the Czech capital and over twenty of them have frozen to death since the arctic spell hit. NGOs and support groups, which normally have strict rules regarding who is allowed into their shelters, now open their doors to anyone who comes along even if it means that people spend the night on the floor or on chairs. Despite this many homeless people prefer to stay where they are putting their lives at serious risk.
Air pollution is reported to have worsened in several parts of the country over the weekend. The situation is reported to be most serious in some parts of Moravia and Silesia where dust particles in the air are eight times higher than set norms. A state of alert likewise remains in place in central Bohemia where health norms are exceeded twice and the quality of the air is also reported to have worsened in Prague which had been relatively better off in the past few days. Meteorologists say there is unlikely to be a significant improvement mid-week with an expected onset of windy weather. Doctors have warned ill people, children and the elderly to stay indoors as much as possible, also because of the frost.
Whitney Huston fans in the Czech Republic are mourning the loss of a star. Her death has become the number one topic on social networks with people remembering the singer’s fantastic voice and incredible talent – an enormous potential that was never fully realized. Music critic Jan Rejzek who is to comment the live transmission of the Grammy Awards for Czech viewers told the CTK news agency there were plans for Jennifer Hudson to sing one of Houston’s hits in her memory.
Another poll has confirmed that the former prime minister Jan Fischer is the people’s top choice for president. Shortly after a poll by the Median agency put Fischer strongly in the lead, a survey by SC &C has confirmed his position. According to this latest poll Fischer would get 25 percent of the votes, followed by economist Jan Svejnar with 13 percent and entrepreneur Tomio Okamura with 9 percent. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who will also run for the post, would likewise get 9 percent, up from 6 in the Meridian poll. Mr. Schwarzenbery recently noted that Jan Fischer was his most serious rival saying that during his time at the head of an interim cabinet he had not done much and consequently botched nothing.
A survey on Czechs and internet shopping has shown that approximately thirty percent of Czechs shop for goods on the internet – either occasionally or on a regular basis. Although the number of internet shoppers has increased by 150 percent in the past five years, the Czech Republic remains below the EU average in this respect. According to Eurostat the EU average is 43 percent with the most internet shoppers to be found in Great Britain where 71 percent inhabitants favour shopping on-line.
The Korda family once again boasted an Australian Open champion on Sunday after golfer Jessica won her maiden LPGA title in the same city where her tennis-playing father Petr claimed his only grand slam in 1998. The 18-year-old American, in just her second year on the elite women's tour, had started the day a shot ahead of the field but prevailed only after a six-way playoff at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Korda sank a birdie putt on the second playoff hole to see off the challenge of Americans Brittany Lincicome and Stacy Lewis, South Koreans Hee Kyung-seo and So Yeon-ryu as well as Paraguay's Julieta Granada.
People in twenty Czech cities have joined the international protests against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement ACTA. Critics say the treaty, which aims to establish international standards to enforce intellectual property rights, amounts to internet censorship and is in violation of privacy laws. Government websites in many countries have been hacked in protest. Although the Czech Republic signed the agreement in Tokyo in late January, its ratification in this country will not be easy. The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection has described it as problematic with regard to existing legal guarantees of individual rights and Prime Minister Petr Nečas said last week the government would suspend ratification until it had analyzed the possible impacts of the treaty.
A study conducted by Equality, a UK national support organisation for the Roma, has shown that a number of Roma children who had previously been placed in special schools in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, were successfully completing primary and secondary education at integrated, mainstream schools in the United Kingdom. The average attainment of Roma pupils aged 9-15 in numeracy, literacy, and science at UK mainstream schools was just below average. Only a small percentage of the overall cohort of Roma pupils (2 to 4 percent) at schools surveyed were regarded as requiring special education needs because of learning difficulties or disabilities that made it more difficult for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age. For these Roma pupils, this extra help is given within the mainstream school. The Czech Republic is now in the process of integrating Roma children who had previously been placed in special schools into the mainstream. However the effort is meeting with considerable opposition from teachers who say that children who come from special schools will slow down the pace of education for the rest of the class.
Low salaries in the sphere of social services are undermining the quality of care for old, disabled and helpless persons, according to health and social care trade union leader Dagmar Žitníkova. Mrs. Žitníkova warned that there was a massive drain of experienced and qualified staff and if measures were not taken to correct the problem, the system of care for old people would soon break down. Social care workers earn around 10,000 crowns a month, which is markedly below the country’ s average monthly gross salary of 24,000 crowns. Some 43,000 people work in social care services in the 10 million strong Czech Republic.
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