A new government analysis has criticised the Czech state’s efforts to combat the illegal market in alcohol in the last two years. The report – due to be discussed by the cabinet on Wednesday – says that state bodies failed to carry out controls or to prosecute criminal activity sufficiently. Moreover, there was poor communication between the various agencies responsible. In September, the government banned the sale of all spirits for nearly two weeks after a series of deaths related to drinking bootleg liquor containing methanol; to date thirty-three people have died and several more have suffered permanent damage to their health.
Czechs spent CZK 7 billion crowns, or around $350 million, on books in 2011, according to a report by the country’s booksellers’ and publishers’ association released on Tuesday. In the first report of its kind, the association said the average price of books sold last year was CZK 240 crowns. Some 16,000 titles were published in the Czech Republic, which was around 7 percent less than previous year, and 15 percent less than in 2008, when a higher VAT rate for books was introduced. The report also says there are around 550 bookstores in the country and some 50 specialized booksellers. One of the specific features of the Czech market is the important role played by wholesalers that run their own retail and online bookstores.
A court in Ústí nad Labem has handed four people jail terms of five to nine and a half years for the trafficking of people to the United Kingdom. The court heard how a man and woman in the north Bohemian town enticed at least five people to the UK on the promise of work. The judge said they had then “literally sold” their victims to two others, who were convicted in absentia on Tuesday. The victims had most of their salaries for working in a bakery near Birmingham withheld, were forced to live in one room and received little food.
The police have appealed for witnesses of Saturday’s rally accident which killed four people near Uherské Hradiště in the southeast of the country. The police have also asked for any video footage and photographs of the crash. The accident happened during an amateur rally in Lopeník when one of the cars swerved off the road and hit a group of onlookers, killing four people including a seven-year-old girl. The police have not yet raised any formal charges in relation to the crash; the driver of the car blamed the accident on strong wind. Czech motor-racing authorities have meanwhile called for changes to the rules of rally events.
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.
President Václav Klaus on Monday vetoed a bill on cinematography which would enhance public support for Czech filmmakers and increase incentives for foreign productions working in the Czech Republic. Under the draft legislation, the state fund for the support of cinematography would annually hand out up to 300 million crowns half of which would come from commercial TV broadcasters while foreign film productions shooting in the country would be reimbursed for 10 percent of their expenditures and 20 percent of additional costs. However, President Klaus said the film industry was a business that should not be funded with public money, and suggested the biggest problem of Czech cinema was not a lack of money but rather a lack of creative invention. The bill now returns to the lower house of Parliament which can override Mr Klaus’s veto.
Former prime minister Jan Fischer has increased his lead in the Czech presidential race, according to a new poll by ppm factum. The poll suggests that 28.1 percent of people would vote for Mr Fischer. Another ex-prime minister, Miloš Zeman, was second in the survey, with 19.4 percent of respondents saying they would cast their ballots for him. Since September, Mr Fischer’s lead over Miloš Zeman increased by some 3.5 percent. The poll also shows that around 10 percent of voters would support Czech-Japanese entrepreneur Tomio Okamura while the Social Democrat candidate, Jiří Dienstbier, would receive 8.8 percent of the vote.
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.
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 Interior Ministry on Monday rejected a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court which said that over several years, the police wrongly required employees to take unpaid overtime. Under Czech law, police officers, fire fighters, customs officers and members of the prison service can be asked to do up to 150 hours in unpaid service; however, the court ruled that overtime duty could not be planned long in advance, which was at least sometimes the case. Police trade unions said the verdict applied to members of the security forces, and could in effect costs the state budget up to two billion crowns. But police and ministry officials believe the verdict is related to one specific case in which overtime duty was poorly justified.
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