The annual Bohemia Jazz Fest kicked off on Wednesday with a concert of the Miroslav Hloucal Quartet and the Australian duo The Baker Suite at Valdštejn Gardens in Prague. Thus began the seventh year of what Down Beat magazine has called the biggest free jazz party in Europe. Concerts will also take place on the historic town squares of seven other Czech cities.
The latest forecast released by the Czech Banking Association expects the Czech economy to fall by 0.6 percent this year, while previously it had reckoned with stagnation. The reason behind the predicted drop is a slump in household consumption, a drop in incomes and high unemployment. The CBA also revised down its economic development outlook for 2013 predicting a 1 percent economic growth compared to the 2 percent increase it forecast in April.
Police investigating the death of regional court judge Miloslav Studnička say they have no indication of foul play. At a press briefing on Tuesday investigators said they found no traces of a struggle and have no reason to believe that judge Studnicka’s death was linked to his professional activities. The judge was found dead in his country home in the Nový Jičín area on Monday, with a throat wound. The police are not ruling out suicide or a tragic accident. The situation is complicated by the fact that the bleeding judge was savaged by his own dogs before the police found him. The circumstances of his death have caused widespread speculation since judge Studnička presided over a number of high-profile criminal cases in the Czech Republic including that of arsonists who left a toddler in Vítkov with severe disabilities in a racially-motivated attack; all four received stiff prison sentences.
A newly introduced vehicle registration system continued to cause problems on Tuesday after completely collapsing on the previous day. Offices around the country reported long lines of clients waiting to register a vehicle and have appealed to car owners to give them time to get the system up and running again. The system was overhauled as it was transferred from the interior to the transport ministries.
In related news, the head of the anti-corruption police Tomas Martinec on Tuesday dismissed claims that one of his subordinates had in recent days met with a person close to the finance ministry in connection with the investigation of the questionable purchase of Spanish CASA planes. The weekly Respect alleged that such a meeting had taken place putting it in the framework of ongoing speculation that Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, who approved the deal as then-finance minister, had tried to influence the investigation and had even threatened one of the investigators on the case. Mr Kalousek has admitted to contacting detectives by phone, but insists he made no threats and has since requested that the allegations be investigated.
The two most likely contenders in the second round of presidential elections would be former caretaker prime minister Jan Fischer with 32 percent public support and former prime minister Miloš Zeman with 17 percent support, the Median polling agency reported on Tuesday. Mr. Zeman has already collected the necessary 50,000 signatures for registration, Jan Fisher started collecting them this week. Mr. Fischer who has served as EBRD vice-president since September 2010, has taken unpaid leave for his election campaign and plans to resign from his post upon registration.
A Czech tourist bus full of children returning from holiday in Italy caught fire on the A2 highway in Austria. No one is reported injured, though the bus was completely destroyed by the blaze. According to the APA news agency the driver stopped the bus just a few meters from a tunnel and the children quickly escaped to safety. Preliminary estimates suggest the fire was most likely caused by a technical defect.
The Czech Food Inspection Office has launched a new web reporting on poor-quality or dangerous food products on Czech supermarket shelves. The office set it up in reaction to the growing number of products that inspectors found to be inadequate or even health damaging. Many stores were found to be selling goods long past their expiry date and the quality of many products did not correspond to what was on the label. The new web, at potraviny.cz ,had 350 items on the day it was launched.
Parliament’s Mandate and Immunity Committee has advised deputies in the lower house to strip Vlasta Parkanová from TOP 09 of her immunity, opening the way for prosecution. Ms. Parkanová is suspected of abuse of public office and breach of trust in connection with a 3.5 billion crown purchase of CASA military transport planes while she served as defense minister in 2009. According to an independent assessment the planes were overpriced by 658 million crowns. The former defense minister has come under fire for not commissioning an expert assessment on the price, though the Institute of State and Law has concluded that no such assessment was required under Czech law. Ms. Parkanová says her conscience is clear. The lower house is to take a final vote on whether to give her up for prosecution later this week.
A group of people staged a mock funeral procession at the Narodní Trída metro station in Prague on Tuesday to protest the station’s closing down for a two-year period due to construction work in the vicinity. Critics say that wheelchair-bound metro users will lose one of the few metro stations with barrier-free access. There are only two other stops with barrier free access on the Prague B line –Florenc and Smíchov – with lifts in the latter currently being out of operation.
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