The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill to add two significant legislatively-recognised days to the Czech calendar. The bill, which passed easily in the lower house, will see January 16 become Jan Palach day in memory of the student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia and onset of the Normalisation period; March 28 will commemorate the date of birth of 17th century pedagogue, philosopher and religious thinker Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius). The amendment – if approved by the Senate and signed into law – will come into effect on August 11 – Jan Palach’s birthday. He would have turned 65 this year.
Social Democrat MP Stanislav Křeček has been elected as deputy to the country’s ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský. On Wednesday he received 83 of a possible 164 votes, defeating Filip Dienstbier (the candidate Mr Varvařovský had reportedly wanted to see in the job) receiving only 37 votes. The 74-year-old Křeček, who was nominated by the Senate, has been a member of the lower house since 1998. His seat in the chamber will be picked up by Social Democrat Gabriela Kalábková.
Czech and Italian police have found the body of a Czech businessman who went missing last month, Czech Radio’s Regina reports. The man disappeared in France where he travelled to allegedly conduct business. Investigators found his remains in a roadside ditch in northern Italy. An informer reportedly led police to the body. Five suspects in all are wanted for kidnapping and murder.
This year’s flu season was markedly worse than in previous in terms of related deaths, the Chief Hygiene Officer Vladimír Valenta has said. The flu claimed 124 lives; 88 percent of those who succumbed were suffering from other respiratory illnesses or had heart conditions. According to the hygiene officer, a large part of the population underestimated the benefits of getting a flu shot; only five percent get the shot, compared to the EU average of 20 percent. Most of the flu cases this season were A/H1N1.
A total of nine people have now been charged with the sale of the illegal drug ecstasy at a recent high school graduation ball where a 19-year-old student died. Investigators are still awaiting the results of the toxicology report to confirm whether she overdosed. All nine suspects in the case have been remanded in custody. Eight of those charged are youths between the ages of 19 and 22; each faces a potential 10 years in prison if found guilty in the manufacture and distribution of the illegal drug. The ninth suspect is a man in his early 50s, who could face up to 12 years in jail. Over the last year, he is suspected of having sold 10,000 tablets of the drug.
The Mountain Rescue Service in the Beskydy Mountains has issued a statement warning hikers or ski alpinists to stay off the upper ridges of the peaks in the area due to the danger of avalanches. The Beskdy Mountains saw an additional 15 centimetres of snow overnight, with the total amount at the top of the mountains ranging between 100 – 120 centimetres. The Beskydy’s Lysá hora has the most: 150 centimetres.
Star forward Jaromír Jágr has joined the Boston Bruins from the Dallas Stars. Jágr, who is 41, is the 10th leading goal scorer in the history of the NHL and is perhaps the greatest Czech hockey player of all time. He is regarded as having a genuine chance of winning the Stanley Cup with Boston, which is also home to Czech centre David Krejčí. The Bruins are Jágr’s sixth NHL club.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, is due to arrive in Prague on Tuesday evening for a short visit. Mr. Barroso will be welcomed by the Czech president, Miloš Zeman. On Wednesday morning the two officials will raise the flag of the European Union above Prague Castle; the move will signal a marked change from the era of the previous Czech president, Václav Klaus, who refused to fly the EU flag. President Zeman will also sign an addendum to the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty enabling the creation of a rescue fund, which is also something that his eurosceptic predecessor refused to do.
A former senator for the Civic Democrats must begin serving a prison term, a court in the north Bohemian town of Chomutov ruled on Tuesday. Alexandr Novák, who is also a former mayor of Chomutov, had been avoiding going to jail on health grounds. However, the court found that he was not too ill to serve a four-year term for corruption. Police arrested Mr. Novák at his office shortly after the court’s verdict was announced on Tuesday and brought him to Pankrác prison in Prague.