The threat of Iran and North Korea developing and testing ballistic missiles is real and it keeps growing, the chief of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency Henry Obering said on Wednesday at a seminar on Czech-U.S. cooperation in missile defence. General Obering said that the process of extending the US missile defence shield to Central Europe, with a radar base in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, must start as soon as possible in view of the increasing missile threat from Iran. The Czech Republic has been negotiating with the U.S. on the possible stationing of a radar base on its territory for nearly a year, but the country has not yet made a firm commitment to host the base.
Czech institutions for disabled children are still using caged beds to keep patients under control, in violation of a law which bans their use, the BBC TV reported on Tuesday. The station’s investigative reporters are said to have found caged beds in five out of eight facilities for mentally disabled children in the Czech Republic. The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has denied the accusations but said it would investigate the matter. The controversial issue of caged beds hit the headlines two years ago when J.K.Rowling, British author of the popular Harry Potter novels, made a public appeal that they be banned.
Wednesday marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Jan Palach, a Prague student, who set himself alight on Prague’s Wenceslas Square in protest of the general apathy that followed the Soviet led invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968. His funeral was attended by thousands of people and he became a symbol of Czechoslovak resistance. Students and politicians, including Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, gathered outside the Philosophical Faculty on Wednesday to commemorate Jan Palach’s sacrifice. The faculty has also presented its projects for next year’s 40th anniversary of Palach’s death.
An agency against social exclusion designed to improve the situation of people living in ghettoes is due to start work at the end of January, the Minister in charge of human rights and minorities Džamila Stehlíková said on Wednesday. The agency is to improve communication between local authorities and inhabitants of the ghettoes. Some 80,000 people, mainly Romanies, currently live in ghettoes. The agency was originally meant to start working at the start of this year but was delayed by organizational and technical problems.
The Czech rules of waste import will be tightened this year. An amendment to the law on waste disposal, drafted in reaction to new EU requirements, was passed by the Senate on Wednesday. The new legislation is designed to protect the country against illegal waste dumping by providing for a stricter registration of imported wastes. The Czech Republic has been fighting in the long run against the import of waste from abroad, mainly from Germany, where its disposal is much more expensive.
Prague Mayor and deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Party Pavel Bém remains the most popular Czech politician, according to a recent poll conducted by the STEM agency. Mr Bém enjoys the support of 52 percent of respondents. He is followed by two Social Democrats - deputy chairman Bohuslav Sobotka and chairman Jiří Paroubek. The popularity of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and other Civic Democrats has decreased.
The České Švýcarsko National Park in North Bohemia known for its unique sandstone formations is seeking to be included on the UNESCO world heritage list. The national park is located across the Czech-Saxony border and the two countries have jointly applied for the listing. If approved, the park could appear on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2010. The Czech Republic is the last of the Visegrad Four countries not to have any UNESCO-listed nature area.
The Czech born, US-based author and illustrator of children’s book Petr Sís has received the American Library Association Award for his latest book The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain about his life in former Czechoslovakia. The book has already won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book award and several other prizes after it was issued in the U.S. last September. An exhibition reviewing 30 years of Petr Sís’s work will be launched in New York next week. Prague Mayor most popular Czech Politician
Czech ski-cross champion Tomáš Kraus, the reigning world champion, has finished first in a World Cup race in France’s Flaine. The silver medal went to Enak Gavaggia from France and the bronze to Swiss Richard Spalinger. Tomáš Kraus has dominated European and world ski-cross events in the last few years. He won the European championship in 2003 and the world championship in 2005 and 2007.