According to the annual report by the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, problems with alcohol abuse are growing among Czechs. Approximately one in twelve people have a problem with alcohol. Some 160 thousand adults have at least five glasses of alcohol a day. The monitoring center estimates that around 600,000 people in this country may be alcoholics. The use of illegal drugs last year was highest in the past decade, with three quarters of them using methamphetamines. Although cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug in the Czech Republic, the number of regular users is decreasing. The number of heroin users has decreased by more than half in the past ten years.
Social Democratic chairman Bohuslav Sobotka announced on Tuesday that he wants his party to hold a referendum to confirm a possible future coalition agreement with the ANO and Christian Democratic parties. The referendum could be held in January. After a meeting on economic issues with ANO representatives on Tuesday, Mr. Sobotka is planning to meet with the Christian Democratic chairman Pavel Bělobrádek on Wednesday to discuss tax policies.
The awards for the best pictures in the Czech Press Photo competition were awarded on Tuesday at the Old Town Hall in Prague. The main prize was award to the Czech Press Agency photographer Michal Kamaryt for his picture of former Central Bohemian governor David Rath through a window in an elevator at a courthouse. The Prague Grant award for pictures of changes in the Czech capital was given to Eduard Erben for his photographs of senior citizens performing unusual sports around the city. An international jury was selecting from almost 3,600 photographs submitted by around 300 authors. The best photographs of this year’s Czech Press Photo competition will be on view at the Old Town Hall until the end of January.
The smog alert, which was issued by meteorologists on Sunday, has been called off in the Moravian-Silesian region. As a long-term solution to the air pollution in the area, the Ostrava city hall is planning to plant hundreds of thousands of new trees around the city, which should separate industrial zones from residential ones and help collect dust participles in the air. Smog alerts are a common occurrence in winters in the Ostrava region, as well as in the Karvina, Frydek-Místek and Třínec regions, which are all industrial centers.
The Czech Health Ministry has issued the first license for the import of medical marijuana. The Czech company Elkoplast Slušovice was granted the license to import three kilograms of marijuana from the Netherlands, which will be sold for medical purposes in a pharmacy in Zlín. Another company has also fulfilled all the requirements for importing medical marijuana, but has not requested a license yet. The sale of medical marijuana in pharmacies was legalized this summer, but the drug has not been made available yet. Czech doctors are now able to prescribe at most 30 grams of medical marijuana per month to patients with chronic pain symptoms as well as illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer or AIDS.
Economic experts from the Social Democratic Party and ANO agreed on Tuesday morning on a common goal to pass a law introducing mandatory property declarations for politicians and public servants, if they were to become partners in a future government. The head of ANO’s MP’s group Jaroslav Faltýnek said that the agreement so far was that property declarations will be made mandatory for all citizens in 2015 for property costing more than 20 million crowns. After the negotiations on Tuesday, ANO representatives also said that progressive taxation and other points on which there is no agreement with the Social Democrats so far will not need to be included in the possible future coalition agreement. Tax policy is one of the thorniest issues between the two parties.
A new film about Major Zeman, a detective from a popular Communist-era police TV series from the 1970’s, is in the works, according to the new server iDnes.cz. Script writer Josef Klíma has confirmed that he was commissioned to write a script about the retired police major, and actor Vladimír Brabec, who played the lead role in the Thirty Cases of Major Zeman series, said he has been approached about the role. The production team may have difficulty getting the permission to use the name of the character from the children of the series’ original scriptwriter and director Jiří Sequens. Recently a number of films have come out in the Czech Republic, reviving famous movie and TV personalities from the so-called normalization era.
The police have cracked down on a drug-smuggling ring in a nation-wide operation involving close to 300 officers. Nineteen people were arrested of whom thirteen have so far been charged with the production and trafficking of illegal substances. The operation involved house searches around the country during which the police uncovered three illegal laboratories and confiscated large quantities of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, hash and marijuana.
Potential coalition partners, the Social Democrat and ANO parties, remain divided on tax policies, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said. The parties are in talks on forming a coalition government along with the Christian Democrats; they have agreed on a series of issues including austerity measures, ways to boost economic growth, and others; however, the ANO party refuses the Social Democrat plans to raise corporate taxes and to introduce property checks. Leaders of both parties are to meet again on Saturday.
Social Democrat officials are to meet with church representatives on Thursday to debate the possibility of revising the law on church restitutions. The meeting will be attended by representatives of the Czech Bishops Conference, the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Federation of Jewish Communities. The Social Democrats consider the scope of the restitution law excessive and are pushing for a revision which would alleviate the burden on the state budget. Under the law the country’s churches will receive 75 billion crowns worth of land and property confiscated by the communist regime and get 59 billion crowns worth of compensation money for the rest, to be paid by the state over a period of 30 years. In addition to righting the wrongs of the past, the agreement will enable churches active in the Czech Republic to gain full independence from the state by 2030.
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