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Babiš tells MPs ahead of no-confidence vote he won’t resign over “pseudo-affair”

Ahead of Friday’s no-confidence vote in his government, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said in an emotional speech before parliament that the “lies” journalists had spread about the “kidnapping” or coerced disappearance of his son had trigged the vote, and he has no intention of resigning.

The opposition had initiated the vote following Mr Babiš’s son saying in an interview that he was deliberately kept abroad to avoid him being questioned about his father’s alleged illegal use of EU subsidies worth about 2 million euro. The Czech prime minister insists that his son is mentally ill and went to Crimea during the period in question of his own free will.

The no-confidence vote is due to fail as the junior coalition party, the Social Democrats, will abstain from the vote, and the opposition is nine votes short of the 101 needed for the move to pass. However, the Social Democrats are calling for Mr. Babiš to resign and for another member of his ANO party to take up the post.

In his speech to the lower house, Mr Babiš said he would never step down over this “pseudo-affair” and again accused journalists of exploiting his son’s condition to obtain what he called “a false and unethical report.”

ČNB deputy governor Vladimír Tomšík set to become Czech ambassador to China

Vladimír Tomšík, the deputy governor of the Czech National Bank, is in line to become the country’s next ambassador to China, pending approval from Beijing. This according to an interview with President Miloš Zeman published Friday by the daily Mladá fronta Dnes.

The current Czech Ambassador to China, Bedřich Kopecký, is reportedly being pushed out for having signed on to a call by diplomats from other EU countries, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan and Switzerland, for Beijing to respect human rights.

Prague ready to invest EUR 80mn into new car parks

The new Prague City Council is looking into investing some 80 million euros from the municipal budget into creating new car parks and parking spaces in the Czech capital.

Adam Scheinherr, the city’s Councillor for Transport, said solving the parking problem is among the Prague City Council’s priorities.

Czech team head to Amazon River to study hallucinogenic drink “ayahuasca iowaska”

Czech scientists are preparing for a research trip to the Amazon Forest to study a hallucinogenic drink used by indigenous South American people, known as “ayahuasca iowaska” or “yagé” for short.

The Czech team will be led by neuroscientist and leading researcher of psychoactive substances Tomáš Páleníček of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Yagé is used by people in the Amazon River basin in spiritual rituals and is believed to have for the healing properties. Under clinical conditions, its therapeutic effects have been demonstrated on people suffering from depression.

However, the long-term effects of yagé on the brain have not been studied, according to Páleníček.

Kindertransport survivor, RAF fighter Kurt Taussig given honorary Teplice citizenship

Kurt Taussig, a Czech Jewish child sent to Britain on one of the famed kindertransport trains organised by Sir Nicholas Winton ahead of WWII, has been granted honorary citizenship in Teplice, his birthplace, at the age of 95.

Sir Winton saved the lives of 669 Jewish children, including Kurt Taussig, through the kindertransports. In total, the descendants of Sir Winton's rescued children today number around 6,000 people.

About one in six children on those trains later fought in uniform against Hitler as adults. Taussig, who left Teplice at age 15, went on to fight the Nazis as a pilot with a Czechoslovak unit under RAF command.

Japanese carmaker Toyota set to buy out French partner at Czech plant

Owners of the TPCA car factory in Kolín, central Bohemia, may soon be parting ways. PSA of France and Toyota of Japan have agreed to end production of small cars at the Czech site by 2021, the French daily Les Echos reports.

The car companies Toyota, Peugeot and Citroën formed the TPCA joint venture in 2002. The Japanese carmaker is expected to take over PSA's stake, but no final decision has been announced.

The TPCA plant in Kolín has an annual production capacity of 330,000 vehicles, a mark last achieved in 2009, before the global financial crisis. For this year, the plant is due to roll out only 200,000 cars.

“Plastic People” to mark 50th anniversary at Prague’s Akropolis

The Plastic People of the Universe, an underground rock band persecuted by the secret police in the 1970s, will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a concert at Prague’s Akropolis Palace on December 1.

Unable to perform openly, the band was forced underground and became a focal and rallying point for dissidents, most famously Václav Havel.

It was partly in protest over the Plastics’ prosecution that then playwright Havel and others formed the Charter 77 human rights initiative.

Moravia-Silesia plagued by smog

Air pollution in the Moravia-Silesia region has worsened, the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute reported on Friday. At several monitoring stations in the region, including Třinec and Český Těšín, the amount of dust particles in the air has more than twice exceeded permitted levels.

Moravia and Silesia are one of Europe’s most polluted regions due to heavy industry located on both sides of the Czech-Polish border. Air pollution is a problem especially in the winter months, when the situation is aggravated by coal heating.

Weather outlook

Saturday should be cloudy with freezing rain and snowfall likely throughout the Czech Republic. Daytime highs should range between 4 to 8 degrees Celsius.