There were at least seven attacks using laser pointers on planes landing and taking off at Prague Airport last year, Karel Mündel of the Czech Airline Pilots Association told reporters on Wednesday. While they can momentarily blind pilots and even cause serious damage to their eyes, police have been hamstrung in their efforts to deal with such abuse of lasers as it is not currently illegal. Pilots have therefore called on lawmakers to outlaw it, as has been done in other countries, saying they regard laser pointers as a new danger to civil aviation in the Czech Republic.
A group of 40 Czech legislators have called for the Nobel Peace Prize to be presented to Chinese dissident and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. Mr Liu is currently serving an 11-year jail term for “subversion”. A statement nominating him for the award was signed by representatives of all the parties in the Czech Parliament except the Communists. Senator Alexandr Vondra, himself a former dissident, organised the petition. He said he had asked selected lawmakers to sign on the basis of their own involvement in human rights issues in the past. Liu Xiaobo is one of the founders of Charter 08, a Chinese human rights initiative directly inspired by Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77.
Heavy snow on Wednesday caused disruptions to rail and road transport in several parts of the Czech Republic. This followed fresh snowfalls of up to 25 centimetres on Tuesday night. Strong winds further complicated the situation. Around 20 local train lines were blocked, though all major lines were passable. Roads were closed in some places, and four districts declared a state of calamity. Much of the Czech Republic has been covered in snow for almost two weeks, with the capital Prague seeing more snow than at any time in the last three decades.
A woman of 77 died when an ambulance she was being carried in was involved in a collision with a truck in Nošovice, north Moravia on Wednesday. Two other patients, aged 78 and 81, were injured in the crash, which occurred when the ambulance skidded on an icy patch of road, turning over several times before hitting the truck. Another ambulance was involved in an accident on Wednesday when it got stuck in snow at a level crossing near Nový Jičín and was hit by a train. Nobody was injured.
There are now between 2,000 and 3,000 Vietnamese-run večerky (corner stores) in the Czech Republic, a senior member of a Czech Vietnamese business association, Nguyen Nam, said at a Prague conference on the retail industry on Wednesday. He said, however, that while the grocery business was growing, Vietnamese traders reported stagnation in textiles sales. Mr Nam said one sign of the growing importance of Vietnamese retailers was that the large Czech wholesaler Makro was now advertising in their language.
If elections were held right now, the Social Democrats would come first with 33 percent of the vote, suggests a new poll conducted by the internet-based agency SANEP. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they would vote for the right-of-centre Civic Democrats. The new party TOP 09 would enjoy 13.5 percent support, the poll indicates. The Communists placed fourth in the survey with just under 13 percent. Both the Christian Democrats and the new grouping Public Affairs (Věci veřejné) would just attain the 5 percent of the vote needed to make it into the lower house, the poll suggests.
CzechInvest says it mediated investments worth CZK 17 billion in 2009, a fall of CZK 10 billion on the previous year. The state agency, whose task it is to attract foreign companies to the Czech Republic, also said the total number of new investment projects last year was one tenth lower than in 2008. Of the 184 fresh investments in 2009, almost half were in the field of research and development, which the head of CzechInvest, Alexandra Rudyšarová, said was proof that overseas firms were coming to the country to launch ever more demanding businesses.
The Ministry of Health is planning to increase noise limits on motorways in the Czech Republic by five decibels, E15 reported. In 2006 the government decided on a highway noise limit of 60 decibels during the day and 50 decibels at night. The newspaper said the change would affect both limits. The World Health Organization considers noise of above 42 decibels to have negative effects on the health of nearby residents, while noise of 55 decibels and higher is believed to prevent healthy sleeping. E15 suggested one of the possible reasons for the change in the law was an attempt to avoid having to build anti-noise barriers.
Brno restaurant owner Richard Hošek has launched a new initiative aimed at feeding homeless people in the Moravian capital. From Wednesday, he will collect leftover lunches from restaurants around Brno and deliver them to the city’s homeless community, which numbers around 1500. The entrepreneur was inspired by a similar project in Germany. The leftover meals will be brought to a central location where Brno’s homeless can pick them up.
A series of concerts entitled Czech Festival 2010 was launched in London on Tuesday night with a performance by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra at the city’s Cadogan Hall. The orchestra played pieces by Bohuslav Martinů and Antonín Dvořák and was conducted by Libor Pešek, who was head of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for over a decade. Czech Festival 2010 runs until February 20.