The Czech telecommunications authority on Monday launched the first round of an auction of frequencies for the fourth-generation mobile networks. All three mobile phone operators active in the country – T-Mobile, Telefónica and Vodafone – are taking part in the auction, as well as the firm PPF Mobile Services which aspires to become the fourth nation-wide operator. The asking price for the frequencies is 7.4 billion crowns; the results of the auction are to be announced on November 28.
Students who were expelled from universities for political reasons between 1957 and 1989 are not entitled to receive compensation, the Supreme Administrative Court has ruled. The government in 2009 granted a compensation of 100,000 crowns, or some 5,000 US dollars, to university students expelled after the communist coup of 1948 until 1956. The ruling is related to a case of a man who was expelled in 1977 for religious activities; he was granted compensation by a lower court but the Supreme Administrative Court overturned the verdict, arguing that the numbers of students expelled were highest in the period immediately after 1948 while these people suffered more than those expelled later.
The Czech NGO People in Need says it has helped more than 12,000 families in northern Afghanistan this year to overcome the effects of last year’s drought and this year’s extensive flooding. With funds from the EU, the UN and the UK government, the group helped organize public works in the affected areas and provide jobs for thousands of people who cleared water canals and wells, built walls and repaired roads, bridges and schools. People in Need also donated farm animals and seeds to 1,200 Afghan households. In total, the Czech NGO helped some 74,000 people in Afghanistan this year, the group said in a press released on Monday.
Police are investigating alleged human rights abuses that occurred in a disabled people’s home in Zašová, in the north east of the country, the news website aktualne.cz reported on Monday. A spokesman for the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry said a recent inspection of the facility discovered that several criminal acts might have been committed; the patients were reportedly submitted to house arrests, were banned from watching TV and drinking coffee, and were forced to use communal showers. The ministry recommended the Zlín region administration, which runs the home, dismiss the director of the facility.
A 58-year-old man with methanol poisoning was admitted to hospital in the north-eastern city of Olomouc at the weekend, a spokesman for the hospital said on Monday. The man had high levels of methanol in his blood, and suffered from severe disturbances of consciousness. The police have against warned against the consumption of alcohol from unknown sources. The recent outbreak of methanol poisonings has claimed the lives of 33 people, mostly in the north east of the Czech Republic.
Members of the Rally Commission of the Czech Motorsport Federation have scheduled a meeting next week to discuss safety measures and possible restrictions. The move was prompted by a tragic crash on Saturday which claimed the lives of four people (a little girl and three young women) aged seven to 20. The accident happened during an amateur event in southern Moravia called the RallyShow Uherský Brod (not part of Czech championship). One of the cars flew off the road and grazed a concrete post before barreling into the onlookers. No one in the vehicle was hurt. Police are investigating whether the driver was at fault or if there was technical failure. Along with the four killed, two others were injured and had to be taken to hospital; their injuries are not life-threatening. At the scene, police psychologists attempted to console relatives and friends of the victims. Since 2002, at least 14 onlookers have died in similar incidents in the Czech Republic. In September of this year, a fan at the Barum Czech Rally was also hit by a race car and killed.
In related news, the two racers whose Mitsubishi Lancer flew off the road, causing the tragedy, said strong winds had contributed to the accident. Michael Bartoníček and his brother Josef, well-known lawyers by profession who have been racing ten years, ruled out technical failure. Mr Bartoníček also said in an interview for idnes that they were traveling at a speed of 150 kilometres an hour when they left the road. He said that words could not express what they felt after they learned those killed had been a little girl and three young women. He added that he and his brother would try and contact their families at a later date. The families, meanwhile, are reportedly considering legal action against the race organizers, saying the area where the accident happened was in no way marked off as dangerous.
Czech President Václav Klaus has outlined his stance on a number of issues ahead of a three-day visit to Austria next week, discussing nuclear energy policy, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after WWII, and EU integration. In an interview for Kronen Zeitung, the Czech head-of-state said he could not understand sharp Austrian opposition to nuclear power, saying he believed it was a political game between politicians and activists rather than the real opinion of the public. Nuclear-free Austria has for years protested against the Czech Temelín nuclear power plant, situated 60 kilometres from the borders of Austria and Bavaria, challenging its safety. Two new blocs are to be built in Temelín in future. The third and fourth blocs are to be completed in 2025. When asked about his rejection of possible demands of Germans and Austrians forced to leave their homes in Czech border regions after WWII, Mr Klaus said the past could not be changed nor should it be turned into a political issue. The Czech president also repeated his longstanding view of the EU, saying the present model of European integration was a mistake.
The head of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka has said that his party will not block the government’s tax package in the Senate, which will boost the country’s two VAT rates and income tax for high earners. He made the statement on a Sunday debate programme, making clear that blocking the legislation now would lead to chaos in taxes next year, something the Social Democrats wanted no responsibility for. The Senate, where the Social Democrats have a majority, has until December 10 to discuss the bill, leaving precious time for the bill to pass. A filibuster at this time would only hurt, the opposition leader made clear.
A 63-year-old man who was hospitalized a month ago in Frydek-Mistek in the east of the country after drinking alcohol containing wood spirits died on Sunday. The man is the thirty-third person killed by methanol, in an outbreak of poisoning tied to bootleg liquor that was illegally released on the market in mid-September. Twenty of the deaths were in the region of Moravia-Silesia. More than 60 people face charges over the methanol affair; roughly half of them have been remanded in custody.