Former Czech president Václav Havel has condemned the 18-month house arrest a Burmese court imposed on opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday. Mr. Havel said he considers the verdict "scandalous" and typical of "the political cynicism of one of the toughest totalitarian regimes in the world." Aung San Suu Kyi has spent more than 13 years under house arrest. Her latest sentence was to expire in May of this year, but she was given another sentence on the pretext of having let an uninvited U.S. citizen spend a night in her house. Commentators say this is clearly an attempt to prevent her running in next year's elections.
According to the internet news site iDnes, Prague City Hall has admitted mistakes were made in the ongoing reconstruction of Charles Bridge and, has said it would pay the owner of the bridge – that is itself - a fine of 54 thousand crowns. The quality of reconstruction work has repeatedly been criticized by the Inspection Office of the Culture Ministry which pointed out what it called visible mistakes in the stone railings, saying the work was insensitive to the historical value of the bridge. Criticism also came from the Prague Heritage Institute which said more stones were being replaced than was absolutely necessary and that the new stones had not been well-chiselled. There have even been calls for some of the reconstructed parts to be taken apart and re-done properly. It is not clear whether any of the mistakes made are going to be rectified, but City Hall has said it would proceed with greater caution in the future. The reconstruction of the bridge is to continue until 2012.
President Václav Klaus has signed into law an anti-smoking bill, which will require restaurant and pub-owners to choose between allowing – or banning - smoking on their premises. The amendment is a long-sought compromise on an issue that has proved particularly sensitive in this country. Anti-smoking activists say the law should have gone farther to protect non-smokers, while opponents say it violates personal freedoms. Besides outlining provisions for restaurant and pub owners, the bill defines public areas where smoking is banned and introduces tougher sanctions for selling tobacco to minors. The new legislation will come into effect as of July1st of 2010.
The national Economic Council – an advisory body set up to help the government deal with the economic crisis is to end its work by September, Jiří Rusnok, one of the council members told Czech Radio on Tuesday. Mr. Rusnok said the council was now working on a closing report assessing the state of the country’s economy and providing a prognosis for the immediate future.
The Czech Republic is high on a list of EU states affected by invasive species, i.e. plants and animals not native to the continent which are upsetting the natural eco-balance. According to a survey commissioned by the French daily Le Soir, the Czech Republic is the fourth worst affected country in the 27 member block, after Britain, Belgium and France. The economic losses caused by invasive species across the EU are said to amount to 12 billion euros a year. There are currently estimated to be some 2,000 invasive species in the Czech Republic.
The Christian Democrats will spend 30 million crowns on campaigning ahead of October’s early general elections, party chairman Cyril Svoboda told reporters on Tuesday. The campaign will be primarily funded from a 25-million-crown loan from the Česká sporitelna saving bank, which the party intends to repay from state contributions for mandates won, sponsors' gifts and membership fees, Svoboda said. The two strongest parties, the right-wing Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats plan to spend some 230 million and 190 million crowns, respectively, on their election campaigns.
A regional court has imposed a year-long driving ban on the head of the traffic police department in the town of Hradec Králove who was caught drink-driving last year. Jiří Novák is to be dismissed from his post and will also have to pay a 25 thousand crown fine for the transgression. Both Novák and the state attorney have appealed the case, Novak because he disputed the validity of tests ascertaining the alcohol-content in his blood, the state attorney because he considered the verdict to light.
Lukáš Novák, the country’s champion firefighter from Ustí nad Orlicí, east Bohemia, has won the gold medal at the World Police and Fire Games in Vancouver for the second time in succession. Novak won both the individuals’ category and the teams category, helping the Czech team to victory. The Czech firefighter collects medals wherever he goes –last year he won the Best European Firefighter competition in Germany.
Star goalie Dominik Hašek suffered his first loss since returning to the ice for the Czech team Pardubice. After a successful start and shutout by Hašek last week in the season opener, Pardubice lost to Slavia on Monday by a score of 2:3. The game was tied 2:2 at the end of the third period, but was won by Slavia on penalty shootouts.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs announced on Monday that unemployment in the Czech Republic was up last month by just under half a percentage point to 8.4 percent. In July 2008, unemployment in this country totaled 5.3 percent. The number of unemployed in the Czech Republic rose last month by over 22,500 to 475,560 people. The areas with the highest unemployment rates were Most in North Bohemia and Karviná in North Moravia, while Prague continued to register the lowest number of jobless in the country, with an unemployment rate of just over three percent.