Heavy snow is causing traffic complications across the Czech Republic. The situation is reported to be worst in Moravia, the eastern part of the country, where traffic has been seriously disrupted, despite the fact that maintenance crews have been working around-the-clock. The police report a number of chain accidents on the D1 highway from Prague to Brno and have warned drivers not to set out if they can postpone their trip. Long cues are forming on the city’s highways and the Transport Ministry ordered the Rozvadov and Břeclav border crossings to be closed to trucks for several hours on Friday in order to give maintenance crews a chance to clear the roads. Over half a meter of fresh snow is expected to fall over the weekend.
A Czech court has issued the first-ever house arrest verdict in the Czech
Republic. The ruling is in line with a new criminal code, effective as of
this year, which introduces house arrest as an alternative form of
punishment for light offenders. The 12-month house arrest sentence was
handed to a 46-year-old man for attacking and injuring another man under
the influence of alcohol. The victim had to be hospitalized. The verdict
means that the offender will be able to continue working but is not allowed
to leave his house between 8pm and 5am for a year. If he violates these
conditions he will be sent to prison for eight months.
The introduction of this alternative form of punishment is complicated but the fact that the authorities do not have functioning electronic tags at their disposal. Until they do so, probation officers will check on the offender several days a week.
Doctors report a heightened number of respiratory infections after a lull resulting from the school holidays. In Prague the number of infected patients is up by 80 percent, although doctors say it could be higher since not all people who are sick see the doctor. It is also not clear how many of those infections are caused by the dreaded H1N1 virus. Eleven people have died of swine flu in the past week alone, bringing the overall death toll to 67. Laboratories have confirmed over 1,300 cases so far, but only a small percentage of patients are tested for the swine flu virus.
The Green Party has said it will not back any bills leading to an increased budget deficit in 2010. Party leader Ondřej Liška made the announcement shortly after a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Jan Fischer on Friday. The 2010 state budget currently projects a record deficit of 163 million crowns (i.e. about 5.3 percent of GDP) and bills on social spending which the left-wing parties are trying to push through could raise the deficit by another 12 billion crowns. Prime Minister Fischer, who has urged fiscal prudence, is now meeting with the leaders of all parliamentary parties in an effort to keep the deficit in check.
Writer Ivan Klíma has been presented the Karel Čapek Award by the Czech
Pen Club. Mr. Klíma, 78, is one of the country’s most famous
contemporary writers, whose work has been translated into several
languages. He has written over 30 books and dozens of short stories and
essays. Among his better known works are Lovers for a Day, A Ship Named
Hope, Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light, My First Loves and My
The Karel Čapek Award was established by the Pen Club’s Czech branch in 1994 and is presented to outstanding writers bi-annually. Other holders of the award are the former president and writer Václav Havel, Arnost Lustig, Jiří Kratochvíl and Josef Topol.
The Prague City Court on Friday handed fugitive Czech businessman Tomáš Pitr a six-year sentence for fraud, delivered in absentia. Pitr was found guilty of financial machinations and mismanagement of property that caused damage exceeding 700 million crowns to a number of state-controlled companies. Another man, a former associate of Tomáš Pitr, was also convicted in connection with these crimes.
The Czech Defense Ministry is to receive the first of four CASA C-295 transport planes on Monday, according to the ministry’s spokeswoman Lucie Kubovičová. The new transport planes will gradually replace the fleet of Soviet-made Antonovs which the military acquired in the 80s. The CASA planes will serve both at home and on foreign missions, including emergency humanitarian situations. The 3.5 billion crown contract includes logistic help, spare parts and training programmes.
Fuel prices increased at the beginning of this year as expected, with the price of top-selling petrol Natural 95 up by 4 percent, currently selling at an average of 29.61 crowns per liter, and diesel-oil up by 4.2 percent at 28.14 crowns per liter on average, the Czech Statistical Office said on Friday. The rise in fuel prices was expected and has been caused by an increase in consumption tax, VAT, the price of oil on world markets and by the weakening of the Czech crown to the dollar.
A keeper at Prague’s Troja Zoo has become the hero-of-the-day after diving into a moat to save a young orangutan from drowning. The incident happened in the Indonesian Jungle pavilion where an artificially constructed moat serves as a natural enclosure for the troupe of orangutans. Pagy, aged nine, was playing in a palm tree when a part of it broke off and he toppled into the two-meter deep moat. His keeper – a young woman – dived in and gave him first aid to bring him back to life.
After a meeting with the head of the Christian Democrats Cyril Svoboda on Thursday, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he would back Svoboda’s suggestion to investigate all members of a government committee in charge of public tenders. The tenders that the committee awards involve sums upward of half a billion Czech crowns. Mr. Fischer said the proposed measure would be debated at Monday’s government session. Mr. Svoboda believes that it is possible the investigation will reveal irregularities and that some large public tenders may need to be cancelled. One example of such tenders is a multi-billion crown contract for the removal of environmental damage in Czech forests.