The New York Times, in an article from September 7, cited a US national intelligence report from 1991, now declassified, stating that both the Soviet Union and Iran but also states such as the former Czechoslovakia (then a communist regime) provided chemical agents, delivery systems or training to Syria pre-1991. In the 1980s, Syria built up its chemical weapons stockpile and weapons arsenal despite opposition from an “expanding group of nations”, according to the daily. Some of those weapons, it suggested, may have been deployed in the attack on civilians in Damascus on August 21. American President Barack Obama is currently weighing oppositions against the Assad regime; the Czech Republic, like some of its neighbours, has stated it favours of a diplomatic solution over a military strike.
The chairman of Public Affairs, Vít Bárta, has announced he will run in the upcoming election under the banner of Dawn, a political movement founded by tourism expert turned senator Tomio Okamura. Mr Bárta will head the candidates’ list in the region of Plzeň and faces the Civic Democrats’ Jiří Pospíšil and others. Mr Okamura strongly welcomed Mr Bárta as a candidate, saying – in his view – the leader of Public Affairs (the upstart party in the last election) was the only minister who had taken seriously anti-corruption recommendations put forward by the government’s economic advisory council, NERV, seriously. Over the course of the last three years, Public Affairs was first a coalition member, continuing in the opposition after the party splintered into two groups, one of them LIDEM formerly led by Karolína Peake.
Volunteers for Svetluška, a Czech NGO raising money for the blind in conjunction with the Endowment Fund of Czech Radio, hit Czech streets on Monday in various towns and cities as part of a annual pledge drive. Six thousand volunteers, dressed in black & white, wearing the characteristic Svetluška logo, asked for support. One on the main faces of the programme, in the long-term, has been Czech musician and singer Aneta Langerová.
The Czech Environmental Inspectorate has halted the planned demolition of the former Setuza chemical plant in Lovosice after it was discovered the site housed many tonnes of hazardous chemicals. The information was confirmed by spokeswoman Simona Ciganková. Compounds of radioactive elements were also among the chemicals found in the plant. Inspectors will inform the Regional Office´s environmental section, Lovosice Town Hall and the State Office for Nuclear Safety about the situation, the spokeswoman said. The inspectorate will also launch administrative proceedings on sanctions against the complex's current owner. As a company, Setuza produced technical lubricants, oil bases as well as fodder mixtures.
Senior police officers are leaving the anti-corruption and financial crime unit of the Czech police, the internet news site Novinky.cz reports. The news report says there is growing discontent in the unit ahead of a planned overhaul under its new chief Milan Komárek. According to Novinky this state of affairs dates back to a dispute between Prague High State Attorney Lenka Bradáčová and the units’ former chief Tomáš Martinec who left his post in May as a result of the highly-publicized controversy. The stated aim of the planned overhaul is for the unit to work on fewer, but more significant cases, and to develop closer cooperation with other units of the police force. The officers who are leaving are reported to be experts in the field.
About a hundred of people joined "a kissing protest" outside the Russian embassy in Prague on Sunday in support of homosexuals living in Russia. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples kissed outside the embassy. Similar protests have been taking place in other European capitals. In June Russia passed a law according to which people spreading information on "non-traditional sexual relations" among minors face high fines or imprisonment.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a crime suspect who have benefitted from the New Years Amnesty declared on January 1 by then-President Václav Klaus, will stand trial. The defendant, Jiří Štepánek, was caught after nine years spent on the run in the Caribbean; he is charged with fraud connected to the former ownership of an car dealership. His case was reviewed by the Supreme Court at the request of the Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman. The court has struck down amnesty in cases where suspects attempted to avoid justice. In another case, Milan Šenfeld and Martin Čihula face charges of tax evasion.
Ecologists from the NGO Friends of the Earth have called on the Czech Environmental Inspectorate to look into logging at the Šumava National Park which they charge has devastated areas. They maintain that loggers had broken the law, operating in areas that were off limits. In their view, heavy machinery damaged not only a tourist path but the ground soil in places. Loggers, they alleged, also cut down trees in an area where nature is meant to be left untouched. The national park management has not yet reacted to the allegations.
Expert analysis commissioned by Germany’s opposition Green Party, has questioned the safety of the Temelín nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. The latest issue of the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on the matter. According to the magazine, the study cast doubt on the quality of welds between Temelín’s pressure vessel and the surrounding cooling system, arguing that their quality was not well-documented or that existing documentation contained mistakes. The matter has been raised before and Czech experts found no defects in construction. Germany’s environment minister, Peter Altmaier, according to the publication, also saw no reason to press for additional tests at the Czech plant, earning him criticism from opponents of nuclear energy in Germany.
The 60th annual vendage or grape harvest celebration in Mikulov in southern Moravia attracted record numbers at the weekend: some 50,000 visitors between Friday and Sunday to the town of 8,000. The mayor would like to see an increase of 20,000 more next year. At Mikulov Castle, visitors were able to taste from 400 different local samples in competition. The harvest celebrations included amphitheatre performances by well-known Czech pop groups such as Nightwork and Olympic.
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