TOP O9 chairman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has received the required number of signatures to officially launch his presidential bid. Mr Schwarzenberg received the signatures of all 40 of the MPs from his own party and the affiliated Mayors and Independents party. The foreign minister said that the real pre-election struggle would now begin, and that he was happily and resolutely prepared for it. He is currently trailing at around 6% in opinion polls, in which former PM Jan Fischer retains a sound lead above all others.
Two of the suspects involved in the corruption scandal around MP David Rath have been released from prison. Dr. Rath and five others have been in prison since May, when the then-governor of Central Bohemia was arrested after receiving seven million crowns in a box. According to the Czech Press Agency, the head of the company Konstruktiva Branko, Pavel Drážďanský, has been released, as has the chairman of the company Puro-Klima, Martin Jireš. David Rath himself is currently appealing a verdict on bail. He and ten others are charged with bribery and manipulating public tenders.
The Health Ministry also unveiled plans on Thursday for the first ever reform of psychiatric care. Deputy health minister Marek Ženíšek announced that the reform would primarily involve shifting care from large institutions to smaller centres closer to the patients and with the goal of achiving the European standard of psychiatric care. The Czech Republic, he said, could receive up to six billion crowns from the European Union for the reform. At present, 20 psychiatric facilities treat about 600,000 patients each year and have beds for 9,000. Ženíšek said that the options included reducing the number of beds, closing entire pavilions or entire facilities.
Police in the eastern city of Ostrava have closed a 23-year-old missing-person case after receiving positive DNA evidence. The missing woman, who was 81, was reported missing in the summer of 1989 after she left her home and did not return. Forest workers found her partial remains at the end of last year and her DNA was matched with that of her son. The evidence suggests that the woman had gotten lost in the woods, as her family had feared.
Firemen evacuated some six hundred children from a primary school in Karlovy Vary on Wednesday due to a potential gas leak. The measure was taken after the children began saying they were not feeling well. Five were taken to hospital with minor signs of poisoning, however police say none of the children are at risk. The gas was found to have merely wafted in to the school from outside and the children were allowed back in after the building was ventilated.
Police in north-eastern Bohemia have uncovered two fully automated marijuana-growing facilities. The product was likely intended for sale in nearby Poland and win over some of the black market there through low prices. The facilities were equipped with machinery worth an estimated 700,000 crowns. Drugs worth about five million crowns were found on the premises. Four men – two of them Poles – were arrested in connection with the case through raids made in recent days. If convicted they could face up to 12 years imprisonment.
Health Minister Leoš Heger has agreed with spirits manufacturers on a joint approach to preventing alcohol use among minors. A new bill on addictive substances is to cover prevention among minors, alcohol sales methods and modify health controls and fines. The Health Ministry said that under the proposed bill, those who sell alcohol to minors could face not only the current financial penalty of up to three million crowns, but could also lose their licences. The Ministry is giving its proposals to a inter-ministerial coordination group that the government created on Wednesday. The group has two weeks to submit the new legislation to the government which will also enable authorities to crack down more on bootleg producers. The move comes in the wake of a serious outbreak of methanol-related deaths from bootleg liquor, which estimates say makes up 20 percent of the spirits market.
Sales of passenger cars in the Czech Republic grew by almost 3% between January and September, the Car Importers Association has reported. However, demand has slumped in the last three months, dropping by 4% in September. The top-selling manufacturer was Skoda Auto, which maintained its market share of over 30% with 40,144 cars sold. Hyundai came second with 11,688 cars, followed closely by Volkswagen with 11,011. The following positions were occupied by Ford, Renault and Kia. Companies bought nearly 60% of new cars, with the rest was purchased by households. Customers preferred small cars, which accounted for almost one-quarter of the market, followed by medium-sized (19%) and lower-medium (16%).
Police in Prague are undertaking special security measures in anticipation of Thursday’s football match between Sparta Prague and Spain’s Atlétic Bilbao. Police have assessed the European League match as high risk and anticipate hundreds of incoming fans. The police directorate has activated nearly 300 additional officers. The management of both football clubs are also assisting in increasing the security measures.
The Prague Institute of Chemical Technology has developed a new method of measuring the methanol content in spirits without opening the respective bottle of alcohol. The method, based on Raman spectroscopy, is markedly cheaper and faster than classical tests, and has proved highly reliable. It can moreover be undertaken with the help of a small, mobile device which can be used anywhere in the field. Scientists developed the method in response to the recent outbreak of methanol-related deaths when the institute was inundated by requests from the public to verify the safety of spirits people have at home.
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