Police this week arrested a six-member gang operating in the area of Domažlice, suspected of producing and selling the illegal drug pervetin (methamphetamine). The detained are two women and four men ranging between 20 and 37 years of age. Police suspect the gang began operation in the area last April. So far, there is evidence of the production and sale of 70 grams of the drug but the amount produced was much higher, the head of the Domažlice police Lubomír Martinec said. Members of the gang allegedly travelled to Poland as well as Germany to buy over-the-counter medicine used in the drug’s production.
The Czech Republic can expect a growing number of lawsuits following Thursday’s decision by the country’s top court in favour of gambling regulation, Czech Radio’s Radiožurnal reports. The court struck down legislation allowing sites to continue the operation of video lottery terminals until 2014. Ivo Valenta, the head of Synot Holding – one of the largest distributors of lottery terminals in the country – told Czech Radio the firm had had a 10-year license and would take steps to recoup its investment, filing in the Czech Republic and Brussels if need be. Under Thursday’s ruling individual towns can decide whether or not to completely ban gambling. SPELOS, the Czech association of lottery system operators, has warned that complete bans would lead to hundreds of millions of crowns in damages.
The Finance Ministry, in a new macroeconomic forecast, has revised the country’s economic outlook downward, expecting stagnation in 2013 and 1.2 percent growth in 2014. By comparison, in January the ministry predicted 0.1 percent expansion for this year and rise of 1.4 percent for the next. The outlook may further worsen, said the ministry´s spokesman Ondřej Jakob. Factors include developments in the euro zone as a majority of Czech products are exported to euro zone countries. The Finance Ministry expects the euro zone economy to contract by 0.3 percent this year. The moderate worsening of the estimated economic development this year reflects unfavourable data from the first quarter, analysts confirmed.
U.S. President Obama has awarded Czech-born Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun the Medal of Honour posthumously for his extraordinary heroism while serving with the 3d Battalion of the US army during combat operations in the Korean War. The Medal of Honour is the highest US military award. Speaking at Thursday’s ceremony President Obama said Chaplain Kapaun had walked bravely through enemy fire to provide comfort and medical aid to injured and dying soldiers. He died in a POW camp in 1953. Members of Chaplain Kapoun’s family and a number of Korean War veterans looked on as President Obama handed the Medal of Honour to the chaplain’s nephew.
Czech Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Petr Pavel awarded military honours on Friday to Czech as well as Slovak soldiers who together trained policemen and pilots in Afghanistan over the past several months. At the ceremony, the defence minister expressed appreciation for their work and happiness that all had returned home safely. General Petr Pavel noted that the security situation in the Afghan province of Wardak where they operated had been complicated. The Czech mission in Afghanistan has seen changes, such as the number of soldiers deployed decreasing. The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), for instance, ended its mission in the Logar province in Afghanistan in January after five years.
The first public elementary school in the Czech Republic to introduce school uniforms has said, eight months on, the project has been a success. The principal of Zš Františky Plamínkové in Prague 7, Josef Koudela, expressed the conviction that the uniforms (worn by the first-years) had helped the children better identify with their school. A recent poll by SANEP suggests that 40 percent of Czech parents support the idea of school uniforms; some psychologists are opposed, however, questioning their usefulness. The Education Ministry has stayed on the sidelines on the issue, leaving the decision up to individual schools.
With warmer spring temperatures, this weekend is expected to be the last of the season for ski hills still open. Many have already shut down for the spring and summer but several across the country still boast good conditions, including sites in the Krkonoše Mountains such as Harrachov, Špindlerův Mlýn and Medvědín. Even areas no longer running lifts, for example in the Jeseníky Mountains, still have 94 centimetres of snow – ideal for cross-country skiing, meteorologists have noted.
The Constitutional Court on Thursday scrapped a lottery law provision enabling video lottery terminal sites with a licence from the Finance Ministry to operate until the end of 2014. The court complied with a Czech town´s complaint that the provision thwarted the effective regulation of gambling by towns. The Finance Ministry will now likely have to withdraw all licences that run counter to town hall directives. The verdict may apply to as many as tens of thousands of lottery terminals, the Czech news agency reported. A day earlier, operators said they feared intervention by the court would increase illegal gambling as well as trigger a series of court disputes.
Several members of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes’ academic council announced their resignation on Thursday following the sacking of the institute’s head Daniel Herman a day earlier. Mr Herman was dismissed from his post by a six-member supervisory board. Critics blamed politics as playing a key role given the presence of new board members elected by the opposition Social Democrats. Members of the academic council who stepped down in protest include its chairman, Professor Michael Kraus. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk also resigned.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda on Thursday took aim at police charges of breach of trust against 10 councillors – including himself – at City Hall. Interviewed by Czech Radio, the mayor said the charges were a political attack meant to discredit the council ahead of upcoming municipal elections. The 10 officials are charged in connection with a controversial smart card system in Prague: the card is used as a travel pass and for other services. The councillors have filed a legal complaint against the state prosecutor overseeing the case.